"She has looked upon that form twice now. Judging from her past actions, I doubt that she will allow this to pass without questioning it. A distraction will be necessary," a voice announced coolly.
"And the Jewel?" a female voice responded, her tone equally distant.
"It will be difficult to get near it for the time being. The miko is under the half-breed Tennō's watch, and the Jewel has obviously integrated itself into her body fully. She is able to utilize its power to protect herself."
"I will have the boy keep a close eye on her once she returns to the court. We will wait to strike until we can be certain that she is vulnerable."
"As you wish, my Lord. As to the distraction, do you have any preferences?" the female voice inquired.
"I leave that to you. I will be moving on my own end. I require only that you make enough noise that I remain concealed as I work," the man replied.
"Then I will keep you in the shadows, as always, my Lord."
"Do not disappoint me, or you know well what the consequences will be."
"…Of course, my Lord."
Kagome blinked slowly, emerging from slumber. Stars glowed brightly within the line of her sight and for a moment she was disoriented. She sat up in her futon, feeling the chill of the night air as the blankets slipped from her torso.
"Kagome? You okay?"
She looked up, catching sight of Inuyasha sitting across from her on the other side of a small fire. Slowly she began to recall where they were.
Just the day before the village had held Kaede's final rites. Kagome had stood at the head of the funeral pyre, Inuyasha at her side as she presided over the ceremony.
She had not shed a tear during the proceedings, forcing herself to see Kaede's spirit out of the world with dignity. It was no good to release a soul into the afterlife by drowning it in tears, and Kaede would not have wanted her to cry, she knew.
Shortly after the ceremony she had excused herself in order to go set up the protective barrier. There were a number of spiritual stones stored in the temple, tools that Kaede had used throughout her lifetime to channel her spiritual energy.
Kagome had taken these and set them around the perimeter of the village, Inuyasha trailing behind her as she worked. Once the stones were set up, however, she was at a bit of a loss. She had no real idea how to go about creating a barrier on her own.
Still, she sat herself in the center of the village and closed her eyes, focusing her spiritual senses on the stones. She could feel the remnants of Kaede's spiritual energy within them, and she began to funnel her own energy into them as well.
The stones reached a point where they were practically thrumming with the combined spiritual energies of the young miko and her mentor. Slowly a barrier began to grow up around the village, forming as if guided by an outside will. Kagome continued to feed her power into it until she was certain it would hold strong even when she was gone.
She felt drained immediately afterward, her body protesting vehemently all her recent abuses of it. Inuyasha carried her back into the village to say her farewells, grumbling under his breath all the while about her lack of common sense.
She informed the villagers that as long as they were within the boundaries of the village they should be safe from any youkai attacks. They seemed to accept this reluctantly, though it was obvious that they had still hoped she would decide to remain with them.
A rather dark look from Inuyasha kept any of them from daring to vocalize this.
He stepped away for a moment, though, when her family came to say their goodbyes. Kagome had little idea what to say to them, her guilt over what had happened to the villages still lurking in the back of her mind.
Her mother seemed to sense her discomfort, enveloping her without a word in her warm embrace. Kagome pressed her forehead against her shoulder, remembering with a wave of nostalgia how she had done the exact same thing as a child.
"My little girl," her mother murmured, bringing up a hand to stroke the hair back from her face. "So much like your father. Always trying to help everybody. Listen, Kagome, listen to me, alright? We all know you're trying. The villagers know it, too. They're just upset right now."
"But nothing worth doing is ever done easily, and you must remember that. It's only been a month! I have faith that, with time, you will do what you set out to do."
"And depending on that young man of yours for a little help every now and then wouldn't hurt either. He's made it obvious that he's more than willing to help you."
Kagome lifted her head, blinking at her mother. She glanced over to the spot where Inuyasha stood, arms folded as he looked off into the distance. She felt a flush creep hotly up her throat and over her face, realizing with a jolt what the two of them must look like to the villagers.
She pressed hand to her rapidly reddening face, eyes wide as her free hand came up to wave in a gesture of negation.
"No, mama, Inuyasha and I aren't-"
Her mother cut her off with a chuckle and a shake of her head.
"There's no need to deny it. I think I've lived long enough to be able to tell when two people are good for each other. He's very handsome, by the way. I'm glad you were finally able to meet someone that you can feel comfortable with," she said.
Kagome knew her face must have been as red as Inuyasha's haori by that point. She floundered, attempting to refute the assertion, but her mother merely leaned in and pressed a kiss to her forehead.
"Your home is always open to you here, if you need it, Kagome. And your family is always behind you, whatever happens," she said gently, looking down into her face. "You understand?"
Kagome felt a small smile tip up the corners of her mouth, looking up into her mother's gentle brown eyes. Perhaps the village could not forgive her, but it was obvious that her family had never given up on her. It was comforting to know.
"I understand, mama," she said softly. "Thank you."
She had hugged Souta and her grandfather good-bye, as well, promising to try and come back to visit under happier circumstances. She also made them promise to come for her in the capital if ever something were to happen to them or the village again. Whatever happened, she told them, she would never abandon them or her home.
Shortly afterwards she and Inuyasha had headed out towards the next village, the sun sinking low in the sky as they left. The Taira remained behind to help with the reconstruction, Sango's father promising Kagome that he would send some of his men back to the other villages that had been attacked to aid the survivors.
They had discussed it briefly and decided the best way to handle the matter would be to bring any survivors from the wrecked village into either her village or one of the other villages that she would erect a barrier around. That way they could be certain of safety and the comfort of help from the other villagers.
"Oi, anybody there?"
The words, along with a light rapping of knuckles against her temple, brought Kagome back to the present. She blinked up at the hanyou crouching over her, shaken from her recollections.
"Thought it was best to snap you out of it before you started drooling on yourself or somethin'," Inuyasha scoffed, rapping once more on her head before he sat back.
Kagome flushed faintly, frowning.
"I don't drool," she protested, though her hand came up unconsciously to check both corners of her mouth.
"Ha! The hell you don't," he returned. "A few hours into the night and your futon's practically a puddle."
Kagome blinked, her face heating further.
"You watch me while I'm sleeping?" she practically squeaked, a little mortified at the idea.
That wiped the smirk off of his face rather quickly. His face took on the hue of his haori.
"O-Of course I don't! I mean, I don't gotta sleep as much as you humans do, and it's my job to look out for you anyway and…"
He trailed off, obviously realizing that he had given himself away. He spun away from her with a too-loud scoff, marching back over to his side of the camp stiffly.
Kagome blinked, a chuckle welling up in the face of his discomfort. He was only looking out for her, even if he had caught her drooling.
"Well, thank you for watching out for me. I appreciate it," she called after him.
He blinked, some of the red fading from his cheeks as he eyed her over his shoulder. He puffed up a bit, obviously a little pleased at the praise.
"Feh. Whatever. Now go to sleep so we can hurry up and get to the next village early tomorrow morning," he ordered.
"Yes, yes," she sighed, laying back in her futon and closing her eyes once more.
She had set up no protective barriers around their camp, despite it being in the middle of a forest. Inuyasha had ordered her not to, telling her to save what little strength she could recover for the villages. Even so, she felt entirely secure in the knowledge that Inuyasha was watching over her.
"Good night, Inuyasha," she said softly, liking the ritual of it perhaps a bit more than she should have.
"Night, Kagome," he murmured in return, and she suspected he enjoyed it a little bit, too.
In the next few days a routine of sorts developed. Early in the mornings Inuyasha would carry her into the next closest village along the river. They would meet with the village head and Kagome would explain what had happened and what she intended to do.
For the most part the villages agreed readily to her offer, already all too familiar with the havoc that youkai attacks could wreak on an unprepared village. Some, though, were hesitant and suspicious, especially when it came out that Kagome had been serving in the court.
They mistrusted the court and everything about it. It had never been there for them before, they asserted, and they had no reason to depend upon it now to help them.
However saddened Kagome was to hear this, there was little she could say against it. Inuyasha looked on at these exchanges, his expression grim. She could only imagine how it must make him feel to hear such things.
Still, she was eventually able to persuade even the most stubborn of them that she was only concerned with keeping them safe and that there would be no court strings attached to the service. Protective barriers were raised, though little gratitude was expressed in return.
They never remained in the villages overnight. Many of the villagers seemed wary of Inuyasha, some even hostile, and Inuyasha seemed equally uncomfortable in their midst.
Thus Kagome made a point at the first village of stating her preference towards moving on before nightfall, ostensibly for the sake of getting a head start to the next village the following morning.
She and Inuyasha spent the nights camped out in the woods together. Under other circumstances this might have worried her, her powers too weak at the end of each day to form any sort of protection. However, all throughout each night she could feel the gaze of the hanyou upon her, watching over her. She slept soundly.
On the fifth day of their travels together, they reached a village that was tucked back among a range of small mountains along the river. Something about the place felt different to Kagome, though she could not say exactly how or why. Inuyasha seemed to feel it as well, something in his stance becoming tense as they drew near.
The reaction they received from the villagers upon their learning about Kagome's court connections went further to confirm that something was indeed off. Certainly some of the other villages had been mistrustful of her, but the reaction from the villagers there was nothing short of violent.
They attempted to force her out bodily and only Inuyasha's protection prevented this from happening. She pleaded with the hanyou not to hurt them, to give her a chance to understand what was happening, but it was difficult when all the men in the village stood armed and ready against only the two of them.
"Please," she called, trying to peek out from behind the solid wall of hanyou rooted squarely in front of her. "Please stop this. We are only here to help. There have been youkai attacks recently-"
"My village will gladly take its chances against the youkai, if more court interference is the alternative," the village headman cut her off, though his eyes and sword were locked onto Inuyasha's movements in front of her. The hanyou's lip curled in the beginnings of a warning snarl.
"What do you mean, more interference?" Kagome asked, placing a restraining hand on her protector's shoulder. "I have not seen any sign of a court presence here in this village."
"Of course not! It was destroyed five years ago along with most of our village! The presence of the Konoe clan house nearly got us all killed. It's taken us this long to even get back to the point of scraping by, and we won't have the court coming in here to drag us down again!"
Kagome opened her mouth, another question half-formed on the tip of her tongue, but paused as she felt a sudden shift in the hanyou before her. His shoulders felt as if they had been pulled taut like the string of a bow. The little she could see of his face from over his shoulder had lost its fierceness, replaced instead by blank disbelief.
"Inuyasha?" she murmured softly.
He blinked, his head turning vaguely in her direction though his eyes remained distant.
"My mother," he spoke lowly, almost more to himself than to her. "This was my mother's home. This was where she was killed."
Kagome felt her eyes grow wide. Almost without conscious thought she grabbed Inuyasha's arm and began to pull, leading him back out of the village. He blinked, coming back to himself a bit, but still allowed himself to be led along.
The villagers jeered as they went, cheering their departure, but Kagome chose to ignore it for the moment. They could come back and try again once they had sorted themselves out. Inuyasha had to come first.
She tugged him along until they were a safe distance outside of the village's borders before spinning to face him. Her hands came up to the sides of his face, forcing him to meet her concerned gaze.
"Are you alright?" she asked, searching his eyes with her own.
"I-I'm fine, wench," he blustered, flushing as he swatted her hands away. "I…was just surprised, that's all. I just didn't think I'd ever actually come here. Where she..."
He trailed off, his gaze turning inward once more.
"Then…this is where your mother's clan lived outside of the court?" Kagome ventured softly.
"Yeah. The Konoe clan. This village must've been on their land. My mother…after she had me, things…got rough for her in the court. So she…after awhile she thought it would be better if she came out here to live. Just...just until things calmed down. But she..."
Kagome bit her lip, reaching out to grasp his hand.
"She didn't come back?"
"There was an attack. Band of raiders took the place by surprise. No one from the clan survived," Inuyasha said tersely. The hand beneath Kagome's curled into a fist.
"Let's go, Kagome," the hanyou interrupted, turning away abruptly. "They obviously don't want us here, and they might try to hurt you if go back again. So let's just go."
His pain was obvious, even after so many years. He had never gotten a chance to say good-bye. To see her one last time. He had been no more than a child and one day she had simply been gone. Of course it would still hurt him.
"I…I think we should stay," she called hesitantly after him.
He paused, though he did not turn to face her. His shoulders tensed.
"Please, Inuyasha. I can't imagine how painful this must be for you, but…don't you think you should at least take the chance to say good-bye? To pay respects to your mother's grave? You might never get one again."
"It's obvious, how much you must have loved her. And I'm sure she must have loved you, too. So…please, just stay to say good-bye. So that both of you can be at peace."
He was silent and still for a long moment. Kagome waited, praying he would take the chance to unburden himself if only a bit.
At last he turned to her. His expression was uncertain, hesitant. Kagome instinctively held out a hand towards him.
"I'll be with you if you want me to be, or I'll wait here if you want me to," she offered hopefully.
He sighed, tromping forward to seize her outstretched hand in his own. He started back towards the village, tugging her along after him.
"C'mon, then. Since you obviously ain't gonna let this go," he grumbled.
They avoided going directly into the village this time, preferring not to have to deal with the villagers for the time being. Instead they skirted around the edges, searching for any sign of where the Konoe residence might have been.
After almost half an hour's search they came to the easternmost part of the village and a large, open plot of grassy land. Littered over the surface of it was a series of grave-markers, varying in shape and size. A graveyard.
Inuyasha paused on the outer edges of the plot, his face darkening. He had yet to let go of her hand, and Kagome tightened her hand around his in silent support. After a long moment, he started forward.
The majority of the graves seemed to belong to villagers who had died in the raid, judging from the writing on the headstones. Though headstone might have been too extravagant a word to describe the grave markers, many of them little more than stones with a few crude kanji carved into them. The poverty of the village was obvious.
Kagome felt she could understand the villagers' rage somewhat, the sweeping plain covered as far as she could see with graves. They had obviously lost a lot in the raid. And they were not the only ones, she thought as she glanced at the hanyou beside her.
His eyes lingered over each headstone they passed, a brief flash of relief lighting in them as each one failed to be the one they sought. His hand continued to tighten around hers in grim anticipation, though, as each one brought them one step closer to his mother's.
They reached a place where the plain began to slope upward into a hill. Atop the hill was a section of graves set apart from the rest. Even from a distance it was easy to see that moss had grown up over many of the headstones on the hill, their care far more neglected than all the rest.
Inuyasha came to halt at the foot of the hill, his gaze fixed on the graves atop it. Kagome turned to look at him, waiting quietly.
"Those graves…no one's been taking care of 'em like the others," he murmured, though he did not look at her as he spoke.
Kagome glanced back up the graves, nodding slowly. No offerings of incense or food sat before any of the headstones. Grave rites were clearly not being observed there.
"They smell different, too," the hanyou continued. "Familiar."
"…The Konoe clan graves?" Kagome ventured slowly.
Inuyasha nodded, though he did not move. For several minutes he merely stood there as if rooted to the spot, staring up at the graves. Kagome watched him silently, waiting for him to be ready.
At last he released her hand and began to stride up the hill with purpose. She scrambled up after him, reaching the top several seconds after he did.
He was kneeling before one of the stones by the time she caught up, his nose nearly pressed against it as his brow furrowed in concentration. Kagome frowned, blinking at the odd sight.
"Inuyasha?" she said, taking a step toward his bent figure. She could hear the snuffling sounds as he scented the stone.
He took one last, long sniff before turning to look at her. His brows were drawn together sharply, his confusion evident.
"It smells like my old man," he said, though he did not sound like he quite believed it. "This whole place smells like my old man."
"Yeah. It's barely here anymore, but it's his scent."
"Perhaps he came to visit your mother, then?" Kagome suggested.
Inuyasha shook his head, his mouth curling back bitterly.
"No, not my old man. He never came to see us in the court, not even once. And she wasn't his wife. She wasn't even one of his concubines. He…he wouldn't have come here," he said, his look darkening.
"But his scent is here, you said. What other reason could there be?" Kagome replied gently, her heart aching at the way he spoke of his own father.
The hanyou's gaze dropped, his eyes boring into the earth beneath him for a long moment. At last he stood, turning and starting in among the headstones.
"Inuyasha?" Kagome called, hurrying after him.
"We're here to find my mother's grave, right?" he said, not bothering to slow down for her. "Let's quit wasting time and get it over with already."
Kagome frowned, uncertain how to respond. The subject of his family was obviously a painful one for Inuyasha, and she was afraid to prod too much lest she open old wounds. For the time being she decided to hold her tongue and allow him to work through it on his own.
It did not take much to locate his mother's grave, even amongst so many others. The graves atop the hill were arranged roughly in a number of concentric circles radiating outwards with a single grave sitting directly in the center.
The headstone that marked it was by far the largest one on the hill and the only one upon which no moss had grown. Inuyasha froze at the sight of it, standing several feet away. The sharpness drained instantaneously from his face, and for a moment Kagome felt as if she were seeing him as a child. He looked vulnerable.
She placed a hand gently on his arm, wanting to offer her support in some way.
"That's her," he said unecessarily, looking for all the world like he could not take another step forward.
"I know," Kagome said gently. "Let's go see her, alright?"
Her hand slid down to grip his wrist lightly, tugging him onward. He followed along with little resistance, blinking when they reached the headstone. A small frown creased his brow as they both caught sight of the tiny kanji etched alongside the larger kanji that depicted the name of Inuyasha's mother, 'Konoe Izayoi'.
The tiny kanji, invisible from a distance, read simply: 'Beloved mate'.
Kagome glanced from the writing to Inuyasha's face, trying to gauge his reaction. His face was unreadable, though, a mercurial mix of emotions seeming to vie for dominance.
"Inuyasha…it must have been your father. Who else could have written it?" Kagome said hopefully. "He…he came for her."
Inuyasha shook his head, nearly taking a step back from the grave. She held his wrist firmly, refusing to allow him to run away from something so important.
"So he waited until she was dead!" he barked. "It took her being murdered by a band of raiders to make him come see her! Fuck that, Kagome, and fuck him! That bastard didn't deserve to be around my mother!"
He pitched forward, dropping to his knees with one clawed hand extended to scratch out the tiny message forever. Kagome gasped, reaching forward to stop him.
A flash of light blinded them both momentarily. Inuyasha fell back on his haunches, blinking rapidly to clear his vision. Kagome, on her knees beside him, did the same.
"Inuyasha," Kagome said, pointing to the ground beneath him as she regained her sight.
The earth of Izayoi's grave, just beneath Inuyasha's hand, glowed faintly. The hanyou blinked, frowning as he scooped some of the glowing earth up into his clawed hand.
Some of the soil fell away to reveal a small black pearl sitting in the center of his palm, emitting a soft white light. Kagome leaned in towards him to get a closer look at it, sensing a distinct youki besides Inuyasha's own swirling all around the small orb.
"What is it?" she murmured.
"I dunno, but it's got my old man's youki all over it," he said lowly, his gaze fixated on the small orb.
"This is your father's, as well?" Kagome asked, reaching in to tentatively pluck the jewel from his palm so that she could examine it more closely.
The glow was extinguished as soon as it made contact with her skin. Kagome frowned as she felt all of the youki recede back into the black jewel. She glanced up at Inuyasha, cocking her head curiously before pressing the jewel back into his palm. It lit up once more, the former Tennō's youki emerging to swirl around it.
"It only reacts to you," she said, looking up into his face. "Perhaps…perhaps because of your mother's blood. It seems your father left it for her, after all."
"Why bother?" Inuyasha bit out, scowling down at it. "What's some little rock after abandoning her for years?"
Kagome frowned, her heart sinking. She had suspected that his relationship with his father had been bad from the few bits and pieces that he had let slip, but she had never realized exactly how bad it was. He honestly believed that his own father had abandoned his mother and himself. She could scarcely imagine living with that kind of pain.
But, looking from the pearl sitting in his palm to the ever so carefully etched kanji on the headstone, Kagome could not honestly believe that that was the case. These were not the actions of someone who did not care.
She reached out slowly, covering the jewel in Inuyasha's palm with her own hand. His gaze shifted to her face, but she kept her own trained on their hands and the light peeking out from between them.
"You said yourself that your father had no reason to come here, right?" she said softly. "Your mother was not his wife. Nor was she one of his concubines."
"But he did come here. His scent is here, and who else would have carved those words on her grave? 'Beloved mate'. He didn't write it for others to see. He didn't make it big or grand. He wrote it for her, and for himself. He…he wrote it because that was what he felt."
"And this pearl. He left it for her, and it obviously reacts to her blood. It's filled with his youki. Don't you think…don't you think that maybe he just wanted some part of himself to be close to her, even in death?"
Kagome raised her eyes, meeting the hanyou's own and willing him to try and see things her way. To try and believe that his father had loved his mother, even if it was not in the most obvious of ways.
"Kagome..." Inuyasha said, his jaw set stubbornly against her words.
"I know that I do not understand what it was like for you growing up-how hard it must have been to grow up so close to your father and yet to have never seen him because of the circumstances," she cut him off, desperate for him to at least hear her out. "I am merely saying that I…I do not believe that loving someone is so simple a thing as merely being near them, or seeing them."
"You never saw your father, but I cannot help but feel that he saw you. Both of you. Why else would he have come here? Why else would he have named you as his heir, despite all odds?"
She held his eyes, watching as his expression slowly shifted into something reluctantly thoughtful. She curled his fingers closed around the pearl and patted his hand.
"Please think about, Inuyasha. I do not want you to suffer with this. And please talk to your mother. I am certain that she would want to hear from you. I will give you some time alone, alright?" she said, rising to stand.
She walked out to the far edge of the hill overlooking the plain, wanting to give him some time and space to say whatever he needed to say to his mother's spirit and to think about what they had found.
A small, hunched old man hobbled into her line of sight as she gazed out over the plain. He was coming from the village, making his way slowly towards one of the headstones with a pail of water in one hand and an offering of food in the other.
Kagome started down the hill towards him, intent on asking him a few questions while she could get him alone. It would be too difficult to deal with the entire village to get the answers that she wanted.
The old man stopped as he caught sight of her, the lines in his face deepening in an unwelcoming scowl. Kagome pressed forward, quickening her pace when he turned to go back to the village.
"Please, sir! Please wait just a moment!" she called after him.
"Go back to the court, miko. We don't need your kind sniffing around our village. Can't you see you've done enough damage?" he called bitterly over his shoulder.
His old joints did not allow for quick movement, however, and she easily overtook him. She came to block his path, forcing him to stop. He glared up at her from dark eyes set within the deep folds of his face.
"Please, sir, I only want to ask you a few questions. I have no intention of going back into the village right now."
The old man's mouth twisted bitterly, his eyes darting around her form. He heaved a sigh after a moment, obviously deciding that he could not outrun her. His eyes swung back to meet hers with defiant impatience.
"The graves up on the hill," she began, seeing his tacit acceptance. "Can you remember anyone ever having come to visit them to observe the rites?"
The old man scoffed, shaking his head.
"I'm sure you can see it yourself, but no one goes near those ones. Normally it'd be the job of the Konoe clan to care for 'em, but they're all gone. You'd think the court might send someone every now an' again, but obviously they don't give a damn, either. They're not ours, and they're not our responsibility. We didn' even dig the graves, so they're not ours to care for," the old man replied stubbornly.
"Wait, what do you mean you did not dig the graves?" Kagome broke in. "If you villagers did not put the Konoe clan to rest, then who…?"
"A big daiyoukai," the old man replied, stretching his arms wide to indicate its size despite the pail and food occupying his hands. "Came to fight off the raiders, he said, but he was too late by then. So he buried up the Konoe clan and ran off to track them down. Didn' look it at the time, but he musta been from the court. Never came back again, though, to visit the graves. Well, good riddance to more court nonsense."
Kagome frowned, ignoring the pointed jab at the end in favor of puzzling over the information that had just been given. Her eyes widened, two pieces clicking together in her head suddenly.
"The daiyoukai…was he an inuyoukai, by any chance?" she ventured, unable to keep the eagerness from her tone.
"Big white one," the man confirmed, though he looked wary of her sudden excitement. "Never gave a name…"
But Kagome was off and running back towards the hill as soon as the confirmation left his lips, calling a quick thanks over her shoulder as she went. She could hardly wait to tell Inuyasha, scrambling in an ungainly manner up the side of the hill.
She lost a bit of her speed at the sight of the hanyou, still kneeling before his mother's gravestone at the center of the rings of graves. His head was bowed, his hands pressed together around the pearl. He really did seem to be trying to talk to his mother.
Kagome approached slowly, reluctant to disturb him even with the information she now carried. One of his ears swiveled towards her as she neared. He raised his head to look at her, his eyes solemn. Kagome came closer, fighting the urge to reach out and stroke back his hair as she might a child.
"Did I disturb you?" she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
He shook his head slightly.
"No. I was just tellin' her about you anyway," he replied, his customary roughness almost entirely absent from his voice.
Kagome felt herself flush warmly, inordinately pleased to hear that he would talk to his mother about her. She pressed a hand to her cheek as if to suppress it, trying to ignore the slight fluttering in her chest as she met the hanyou's eyes.
"I-I found something out that I think you should hear," she said.
He frowned, his expression shifting into incredulity.
"I found one of the villagers alone out by the graves and wanted to ask a few questions," she answered his unspoken question, lifting her hands defensively as a hint of anger sparked in his eyes. "I wasn't in any danger, Inuyasha. It was just a little old man, all alone. He couldn't have done me harm even if he had wanted to."
He snorted derisively, shaking his head. Kagome frowned, but pressed on.
"He told me something interesting about the Konoe graves that I think you should know," she said. "The villagers did not bury the Konoe clan members. A daiyoukai did."
Inuyasha frowned, realization dawning slowly on his face.
"My old man…?"
Kagome nodded quickly, kneeling down at his side.
"I believe so. The old man said it was a big, white inuyoukai. He came here to protect the village-to protect your mother-from the raiders, but he arrived too late to stop them. He buried the clan before going to track down the raiders, the old man said. Don't you see, Inuyasha? He came here to save your mother and went after the raiders to avenge her death!" Kagome said, her eyes scanning his face intently for a reaction.
His brow furrowed deeply, his gaze dropping. After a long moment he shook his head.
"No…there's no way in the seven hells," he declared. "My mother…she wasn't his wife or mistress. The raid wasn't a big one. And even back then the Konoe were considered small fish in the court. There's no way they woulda let my old man out of the court specially to deal with the raid. They would've sent some soldiers, at best, but there's no way the Council let him outta the court for a woman who they didn't even acknowledge as being associated with him."
"Did they let you out to come protect me?" she returned pointedly, arching a brow. "Obviously he must have snuck out. Why else would you never have heard about it until now? And all of the evidence says he was here. He wanted to protect your mother so much that he was willing to defy the court to do it. He truly did love her, wife or concubine or not."
Inuyasha was silent, his eyes fixed on the ground as he tried to process this. Almost unconsciously his fist uncurled to reveal the small black pearl still glowing steadily in the center of his palm. His eyes shifted toward it, its glow reflected in them. His frown slackened slowly, the solemn, childlike look stealing over his features once more.
"I don't…I don't get it, Kagome. If he cared so much about us, why…?"
He trailed off, staring into the pearl as if it might offer him some sort of answer. Kagome bit the inside of her lip, watching him. Years of belief were not so easily discarded, after all, and his relationship with his father had obviously been almost nonexistent. How could he just suddenly accept that a man that he had barely known had loved him as his son?
Still, better that he try to work through it all now. It would be tragic if he were to go through his entire life believing that his own father had cared nothing for himself or his mother.
Kagome placed a hand lightly on his arm to get his attention. He glanced up at her, and she offered him a small smile.
"Your father loved you, Inuyasha," she said firmly, pressing his arm to emphasize her words. "I believe it, and I want you to believe it, too. You might not think so, but things like this are important. I want…I want you to be able to feel that your father loved you. I want you to be happy."
"I didn't even know him, Kagome," the hanyou said lowly. "And it's too late now. There’s no way of knowing what he thought about anything anymore."
Kagome sighed, her gaze lowering to the pearl.
"I'm sure if we could see him, he would tell you," she murmured, though she could sense she was hitting a wall with the hanyou that would not be so easily gotten past.
"Yeah," Inuyasha returned, his expression growing distant. "If we could see him…"
The glow around the jewel seemed to strengthen for a moment. Miko and hanyou both blinked.
It could have been an eternity or mere moments later that Kagome opened her eyes again. She felt as if everything around her had warped and stretched strangely, leaving her disoriented. She pressed a hand to her temple, trying to figure out why she suddenly felt so strange.
She looked up at the sound of the hanyou's voice. He sat in the same place, blinking at her with his face drawn in consternation.
"Did you feel that?" he asked. She nodded.
"What was it?" she asked. He shook his head.
"The hell if I know. All of the sudden…"
He cut himself off, ears twitching atop his head. His frown deepened.
"It's quiet," he said suddenly.
Kagome cocked her head, listening. He was right. There was not a single sound to be heard. Not the wind, not the chittering of birds. Nothing.
Her eyes met his questioningly and they both turned in unison to look around. Both froze, eyes widening.
"What is that?" Kagome gasped, scarcely able to believe what she was seeing. She brought up a hand to rub at her eyes, but the vision remained before her.
Inuyasha was silent beside her, unmoving. At length she turned to him, shaking his arm. Even that failed to draw his attention away from the sight in before them.
His lips moved numbly, forming words she could not catch. She leaned closer, trying to hear.
"Inuyasha? What is it?"
"My old man," he mumbled dazedly, loud enough for her to hear this time. "That's my old man."
Kagome's mouth fell open in surprise, her gaze whipping back toward the mass that had so shocked her before.
It towered above the both of them, the bones of what had obviously once been a great daiyoukai. Panels of armor still hung from its shoulders and chest, and the rusted remains of many swords still rested where they must once have pierced flesh. Great, cavernous eye sockets seemed to gaze down upon them, as if there were yet some remnant of life in the massive form.
"Your father?" she barely managed to get out, her mind working furiously. "By the kami…"
Somehow they had stumbled upon the final resting place of the great Inu no Taisho.