The Mysterious Springs

Searching for a Cure and Finding Trouble

Having spent a day on the present era, Kagome and Inuyasha went back to the Warring States Era to see if their friends had found a way to cure them of the water's effects. Shortly after their return, they sat down to make plans for their journey.

- "Well, you got any ideas on getting us back to normal?" – asked Kagome in a hopeful voice.

- "Maybe we did. Kaede-sama told us that the water from the another spring in the cave could be the cure for you both" – replied Miroku smiling at her.

- "Really?" – asked Kagome as her face lit up.

- "Yeah. We just need to go there again" – said Sango smiling at her friend.

- "Great! Let's get going at once!" – said Inuyasha as he got up, but he got softly whacked by Miroku's shakujou before he had even taken two steps.

- "Calm down, little beast. You should know that haste makes waste" – said as he made a gesture similar to the ones he would make for praying.

Inuyasha got Miroku's shakujou away from his head and glared at him as if he wanted to kill him.

- "Miroku, do that or say that again, and I'll make you pay" – he snarled.

- "He's right, Houshi-sama. You shouldn't tease him like this" – whispered Sango to him.

- "I can't wait to be back at my normal age!" – said Kagome with her hands together and her eyes sparkling, as if the situation between Miroku and Inuyasha wasn't happening right beside her.

- "By the way, Kagome... you look a little different from the last time we saw you" – said Sango with interest.

- "Oh, it must be the zouri I'm wearing and that I've got a white ribbon holding my hair in place now" – she said as she pointed to her feet and twirled around to show Sango the ribbon.

- "Maybe it's that. Still, they suit you very well- Aggghhh!" – she suddenly screamed as her face turned red, scaring Kagome. She turned in Miroku's direction and slapped him with all her strength – "Houshi-sama! How you dare do that!?" -

- "That's true, Miroku-sama" – said Kagome moving her pointer finger with a mischievous smile: she was acting just like a child would – "Looks like you're gonna never learn" -

- "I'm very sorry, Sango. I couldn't avoid it" – said Miroku with all the seriousness he could muster.

- "And be very careful with that, as if you ever dare do something like that to Kagome, consider yourself dead" – said Inuyasha showing his overprotective side, but unfortunately, this only increased Sango's anger, which also spread to the others.

- "If he's still alive after I'm done with him!" – said Sango.

- "Or me!" – added Kagome fired up.

- "And I'm next!" – said Shippou angry.

- "Eh... hehe... everyone..." – said Miroku laughing nervously as he stroked the palm mark Sango left on his face. Luckily for him, Sango calmed down shortly later.

- "Anyway, we'll set out tomorrow early. It's gotten pretty late already" – said Sango as she looked at the horizon: the sun was already setting and night was beginning to set in. So with nothing else to be added to the conversation, they went back to the village and spent the night at Kaede's hut.

The next morning was quite hectic, mainly because Inuyasha woke up with too much energy and couldn't wait until the others had awakened.

- "Hey everyone, get up! The sun's high up already!" – he said jumping around, trying to wake them up.

- "Ugh... you should let us sleep a little more..." – replied Kagome with a sleepy face.

- "You didn't wanna return to normal?" – asked Inuyasha as he stared at her confused.

- "Yeah, but I also wanted to rest!" – she replied enraged.

- "Sometimes I don't get you..." – said Inuyasha turning to look at one of the wooden walls.

- "You're so stubborn..." – said Kagome.

- "And you're stupid!" – said Inuyasha as angry as her.

- "Sit down!" – screamed Kagome, and with Inuyasha's face-first fall to the floor, the argument came to an end.

- "You've always gotta do that!?" – said Inuyasha irritated as he tried to get back on his feet.

- "You should wait until we're up..." – said Sango groggily, but she instantly screamed and slapped Miroku, who apparently was still asleep at her side.

- "Was there any need to wake me up like this, Sango!?" – said Miroku as he woke up startled.

- "Don't play innocent, Houshi-sama! You were being the pervert you always are!" – said an enraged Sango as she pointed to Miroku's right hand, which was located right behind her: by the looks of it, Miroku had already awakened since some minutes ago, but pretended to be asleep in order to stealthily grope her.

- "By Buddha's name, I have no idea what you are talking about, Sango" – said Miroku in a mock surprised and dignified voice.

- 'Liar...' – thought Shippou shortly after he woke up, stretching and yawning.

Breakfast wasn't any less tense, as Sango kept on throwing glares at Miroku every few seconds, while Kagome and Inuyasha seemed to be having a staring contest. Luckily, their mood improved when they finally set out for the valley.

- "Talking about a crazy morning" – commented Kagome as they walked through the hills filled with rocks in the way to their destination.

- "You still say it was my fault?" – replied Inuyasha angry, as Kagome insisted that he was who started the whole ruckus.

- "Want me to say that phrase beginning with "s" again?" – said Kagome to threaten him. Given this, Inuyasha had no other option than to simmer down.

- "Houshi-sama, you should learn a few things about how to behave from Inuyasha" – said Sango as they looked at both children.

- "But Sango, remember the curse that was put on my family…" – said Miroku in an attempt to excuse himself.

- "Which isn't gonna go away even if we beat Naraku" – interrupted Shippou in a very serious voice.

- "You would do well to keep your mouth shut, Shippou" – said Miroku irritated.

As that point, Inuyasha stopped for a moment to sniff the air: he had caught wind of a very unpleasant odor, which also was familiar to him...

- "Hold on. There's a nasty odor coming to us" – said he as his face twisted because of how disgusting that odor was to him.

- "What kinda odor is that?" – inquired Kagome.

- "It smells... like that rabid wolf" – snorted Inuyasha with rage.

- "What wolf...? No way... you mean Kouga?" – asked Kagome alarmed.

- "Yeah... but..." – Inuyasha didn't continue talking, and instead he just smirked. This was his chance to get rid of Kouga once for all so he wouldn't continue bothering him and Kagome.

- "Wait there! We can't let him see you two as you're now!" – said Sango as she looked around in search of a hiding place for her friends.

- "Keh!" – snorted Inuyasha with his typical bad attitude – "I don't care! This could've some perks that'd help me getting rid of him!" -

- "What you think isn't important right now, Inuyasha" – said Miroku to admonish him – "You should just go and hide with Kagome" -

- "They're right" – nodded Kagome. Inuyasha snorted again, but he had to go along with what they said.

They made Kagome and Inuyasha hide behind a large rock they had near and put some distance between themselves and them. They finished doing it just in time, as shortly later a blue whirlwind appeared from the distance, and from it Kouga appeared: he was a young man with blue eyes and long black hair tied in a ponytail with pointed ears. He wore brown pieces of fur around his waist, legs, arms, and forehead; and the breastplate of a black and silver armor over his chest. He also had a sword tied to his waist, but it was quite in a bad state because he never seemed to use it.

- "Hiya" – he greeted Miroku, Sango and Shippou without minding them much, and he began sniffing the air – "Kagome and the mutt are with you now?" -

- "Um... no, they aren't here" – said Sango, to which Miroku and Shippou nodded. However, their little lie didn't work in the slightest.

- "Don't lie to me! I can smell these two very close to this place!" – screamed Kouga, though he put on a face of suspicion – "But their odors feel a little weird this time…" -

- "Damn it! I can't stand that stupid wolf!" – groaned Inuyasha from their hideout.

- "Don't even think about going out there!" – said Kagome when she saw him unsheathing the Tessaiga and transforming it.

- "I don't care anymore!" – said Inuyasha as he jumped from behind the rock toward Kouga – "Didja call me, rabid wolf!?" -

- "No!" – screamed Kagome.

- "What the hell...!?" – said Kouga, but he reacted quickly and avoided Inuyasha's attack – "Mutt, what's up with that size? Got shrunk from bathing in hot water?" -

- "That's none of your business, you shit!" – screamed Inuyasha as he dashed to attack him, irritated after how Kouga made a fool of him.

- "SIT DOWN!" – screamed Kagome from her hideout, making Inuyasha fall to the ground as his sword left his hand and fell into the ground next to him, almost landing on his head. However, Kouga could see her as she did this, as she had peeked above the rock in order to scream at Inuyasha.

- "Kagome!?" – said Kouga when he saw her. It could be said that he only recognized Kagome by her scent, as he would have never recognized her through her appearance despite her not looking very different from how she would be when she was seven years older.

- "Oh no!" – said Kagome trying to escape from him, but Kouga was too fast for her. He ran right to where she was.

- "What happened? Was it because of something that stupid mutt did!?" – he asked as soon as he went up to her, and began looking at her with eyes of the size of plates.

- "No, Kouga… it's just…" – said Kagome blushing as she tried explaining the situation.

- "Get away from Kagome, goddamn wolf!" – exclaimed Inuyasha in rage.

- "You're no one to give me orders, mutt!" – screamed Kouga. He turned again in Kagome's direction, leaned a little to her, and held both of her hands with his own – "Kagome, I just want you to know that no matter the appearance you have, you'll always be my mate" -

Generally, Kagome just smiled at Kouga nervously or didn't really mind his comments, but in this occasion, this offended her.

- "Are you outta your mind!? How can you even think of telling me that while I'm a child!?" – said her as she blushed even further and thought he had to be crazy to be saying that. She pulled away from him using all her strength much to his shock.

A cold wind began blowing through the hills, as they all were left speechless when they heard what Kouga and Kagome said.

- "And you were thinking I was bad, huh? Sango?" – said Miroku as soon as he could talk again.

- "I really don't know who's worse, Houshi-sama" – said Sango, which left Miroku petrified.

- "You should be ashamed, Kouga!" – said a voice from the distance, and shortly later, another whirlwind appeared. From it, a girl similar to Kouga, but with red hair in twintails and wearing silver furs and a red armor breastplate appeared. It was Ayame: Kouga's fiancée.

- "You're Kagome, right?" – she asked as soon as she came up to Kagome's and Kouga's side.

- "Eh... yeah, it's me..." – replied Kagome a bit embarrassed.

- "I see you had a change in appearance... how old are you now?" – asked Ayame as she leaned toward her so their faces would be at the same height, as she gave her a smile.

- "I think... I'm about eight years old right now..." – replied Kagome looking at the ground.

Upon hearing that, Ayame straightened up and looked at Kouga with fury.

- "How can you say such things to a little girl like her, Kouga!?" – screamed Ayame.

- "Don't mention that, Ayame!" – said Kouga in a very foul mood – "Didja forget I made that promise to you when you were her same age?" -

That last thing was a slip of the tongue for Kouga, so he covered his mouth immediately in shock when he finished saying it, but it was too late because everyone else had heard it. Everyone was left petrified while another cold breeze blew throughout the hills.

- "Wolf... you've just dug out your own grave" – commented Inuyasha in a flat voice – "Weren't you saying you didn't remember anything like that?" -

- "Yes, and he's now bound to keep it. After all, said promise is far older than the compromise he wants to force Kagome into" – said Miroku, and upon hearing these words, Kouga comically turned into stone and broke into pieces.

- "Will you keep your promise now?" – asked Ayame overjoyed as she took the hands of her shocked fiance – "Now we know you never really forgot about it?" -

- "Forget it!" – said Kouga stubbornly – "My mate's gonna be Kagome!" -

Both Kagome and Ayame were really angry about this, as no one was expecting Kouga to be so stubborn.

- "Too bad the necklace and its spell only have effect over Inuyasha, because if I could, I'd be using it on you, Kouga!" – screamed Kagome enraged.

- "You can't tell a little girl she'll be your mate, especially after you promised marrying me! Stupid!" – screamed Ayame. She smacked Kouga on the head so hard that he was instantly knocked him out. Once Ayame calmed down, she picked Koga up and saddled him on her back.

- "She's scary strong…" – said Shippou scared.

- "That's what happens when you make a girl angry" – said Sango with a serious face, leaving Miroku with a scared face.

- "Okay, see you all later" – said Ayame as she walked away from the others and turned around to bid them farewell. She moved her head in Kagome and Inuyasha's direction - "Kagome, Inuyasha, take care until you're back to normal, okay?" -

- "Okay, and thanks!" – said Kagome with a smile.

- "Keh!" – snorted Inuyasha as Ayame enshrouded herself in a whirlwind with Kouga on her back, and she started going away from them at a great speed.

- "And we should get going too" – said Sango, and after they nodded in response, they continued walking.

At noon, they decided to stop to eat some lunch, so Sango got out a blanket and some food from Kagome's backpack and set them over the grass. It really looked like they were having a picnic.

- "So, what you wanna eat?" – asked Kagome smiling.

- "I want some of that instant ramen soup!" – replied Inuyasha with excitement.

- "Don't you get bored of eating that all the time?" – asked Kagome a bit surprised.

- "No, why?" – said Inuyasha as he looked at her dumbfounded.

Kagome just sighed in resignation as she went back to her backpack, now set on the ground next to the blanket where they were all sitting.

- "No, it's nothing" – she replied at last – "It's just I brought here other stuff to give our meals some variety" -

- "Like?" – asked Shippou with interest.

- "Some fruit and grains. They were all ideas Mom gave me, so you can check 'em out if you like" – said Kagome as she signaled to her backpack.

They had a very pleasant lunch, particularly thanks to the fruit juices Kagome had prepared with the help of her mother and brought for everyone. However, shortly after they finished eating and were sitting around digesting the food before continuing their trip to the valley, they felt…

- "I feel a presence. And it's approaching us!" – announced Miroku, which put him and all the others in alert.

- "Is it some kind of monster?" – asked Sango as she readied for fighting.

- "No, I can feel it too," – said Kagome – "I feel it's familiar, but I can't say yet who or what it is" -

- "I think I know who's that..." – said Inuyasha with an undecipherable expression.

- "Are you serious?" – asked Shippou shocked.

- "Yeah, but this isn't a good time for her to show up..." – said Inuyasha as he gritted his teeth and thought: – 'Damn, why!? Why she had to come here now!?" '

- "Why? Who is it?" – asked Kagome, which brought him out of his thoughts.

- "I'll only say it smells of soil and corpses..." – said Inuyasha with an expression that clearly meant they were better off not knowing it. The others just got spooked when he finished saying these words.

- "Wait a sec... you don't mean...?" – began Kagome, but Sango and Miroku finished the sentence for her.

- "Kikyou!?" -

- "Yeah, it's her!" – said Inuyasha very flustered – "We gotta hide at once!" -

However, Kagome was enraged from the way Inuyasha was acting...

- "Why?" – she told him in a sour voice – "Is meeting your beloved Kikyou like this so embarrassing to you?" -

- "Leave jealousy aside for a while, idiot!" – said Inuyasha angry – "I'm worried about what she could do to you while we're like this! Or aren't you thinking straight anymore!?" -

- 'Inuyasha now worries about me more than he wants to see Kikyou?' – thought Kagome astonished.

- "There's a cave in the hill below us!" – said Sango pointing to the ground with her finger – "Hurry up and go hide there!" -

Kagome and Inuyasha ran off and entered the cave. It was a good thing they did it so quicly, as a few minutes later, Kikyou appeared and walked toward the place where Miroku, Sango and Shippou still were, accompanied by her two Shikigami: Kochou and Asuka. Both had the appearance of young girls a little older than Kagome was at the moment, with Kochou wearing a yellow long kimono and Asuka wearing a blue one, both with brown eyes and black hair. Kikyou herself on the other hand wore a traditional miko outfit, and had the same hair and eye colors as Kagome, and in fact, it could be said that she looked extremely similar to her when she was in her normal form. However, Kikyou also appeared to be shrouded in a strange black aura this time around, which was completely unnatural to her typical appearance.

- "Inuyasha's friends… huh?" – said Kikyou when she was came close enough to talk to them.

- "Why did you come here, Kikyou?" – asked Sango cautiously. The black aura had put them all in alert.

- "Our paths happened to cross, that is all. However, I must admit that I felt Inuyasha was around the area and I wanted to see him…" – she looked around, and upon noticing that two people were missing, she turned to the three again – "And how is it that neither Inuyasha nor Kagome are with you now?" -

- "It's because they went to investigate a rumor we heard about Naraku…" – said Miroku sweating, but Kikyou noticed it wasn't true.

- "Bonzo, I can see you're lying from the way you're looking at me when you say that. Now tell me where they are, or I'll have to summon them here" - said her with irritation.

- "Kikyou-sama, their presence can be felt very close to us" – said Kochou with a voice so soft that it barely could be heard.

- "No way!" – said Sango flustered – "They went to a very faraway place from us!" -

But it was obvious that Kikyou could feel they were very close to their current location, so it was impossible to deceive her to keep her from finding Kagome and Inuyasha.

- "As you don't want to be honest, you leave me with no other choice…" – she turned to one of her Shikigami - "Asuka!" -

- "Yes, Kikyou-sama…" – said her as she and Kochou went closer to Kikyou.

- "What're they gonna do!?" – said Shippou, but Kikyou didn't bother replying: she had begun casting a spell alongside her Shikigami, and as soon as she was finished, a few spheres of white light came out from her and flew over to the cave where Inuyasha and Kagome were hiding.

- "What's this!?" – said Inuyasha shocked.

- "I think this is Kikyou's doing!" – said Kagome upon noticing they were emitting a great deal of spiritual energy. The lights surrounded them and began pulling them to the outside.

- "Dammit! I don't wanna go!" – said Inuyasha grabbing as hard as he could to one of the rocks in the cave with one hand.

- "I don't want it either!" - said Kagome as she grabbed to Inuyasha's other hand. However, the strength of the spell was more than what she could stand, and it ended pulling her out – "Inuyasha!" -

- "Kagome!" – screamed Inuyasha as he tried to reach her, but he couldn't do so, as he also had to keep from getting pulled out himself.

Meanwhile, Kagome was dragged over to Kikyou's location by the spell.

- "Who is this child supposed to be?" – said her as she looked at Kagome with annoyance – "Did I fail at casting this spell?" -

Kikyou's eyes focused on the bow and quiver Kagome was carrying on her back, and when she could stand up again once the spell nullified itself, Kikyou grabbed her by the face and began examining her in detail.

- 'Kaede!? No, impossible...' – thought Kikyou, but she noticed who it was when she began feeling her energy – "This energy… it's unmistakable, but… how can this little girl be Kagome!?" -

- "Damn, she figured it out!" – said Miroku spooked. He and the others stayed immobile with neutral expressions while Kikyou examined Kagome so they wouldn't raise suspicions by trying to help her. However, as soon as Kikyou realized who she was, they ran over to them to try rescuing Kagome, but they were bounced back a bit before they could reach them.

- "A barrier!?" – said Miroku as he hit the translucent purple screen with his shakujou.

- "We won't be able to help Kagome like this!" – said Sango as she stuck her Hiraikotsu on the ground with rage.

- "Kagome!" – screamed Shippou. The next instant, the inside of the barrier was enshrouded by something similar to a white mist, making them unable to see what happened.

Inside of it, Kikyou was keeping Kagome immobilized with her shinidamachuu, keeping her from using her powers or escaping.

- "How interesting…" – said Kikyou as she walked in front of Kagome before turning to face her – "My dear Kagome, you were already young and meddling enough when we met for the first time, and now it turned out to be that you have been reduced to half your true age" -

- "Leave me alone, Kikyou!" – screamed Kagome as she struggled against the creatures, but she couldn't do much against them.

- "Maybe I should just get rid of you at once now I have the chance..." – said Kikyou with an evil smile, ignoring Kagome's grunts as she tried to break herself free – "That way there won't be any hindrances between Inuyasha and I… and I'll be free to take him to hell with me…" -

- "How can you be so ungrateful!?" – said Kagome as she looked at the ground: she was beating herself up over having saved Kikyou's life after the events that took place at Mount Hakurei – "After what I did for you that time…" -

- "Shut up!" – screamed Kikyou, cutting off what Kagome was saying – "I never asked for your help that time! You just helped me on your own! ...And anyway, I already paid you back with the arrow I gave Inuyasha for you!" -

At that moment, the barrier opened briefly to allow Inuyasha enter as he was being dragged off to Kikyou's side by the spell, right as Kikyou was rising her bow and was readying an arrow.

- "Kikyou, what you think you're doing to Kagome?" – he said as he looked at her with eyes filled with bitterness and sadness.

- "Inuyasha? You too...?" – said Kikyou surprised, but her surprised face changed into a smile after a few instants. She rested her chin on one of her hands – "You look so cute like this…" -

- "I don't know what's happening to you now, Kikyou... but if you continue trying to kill a defenseless kid like this, I'll have to destroy you…" - said Inuyasha as he unsheathed Tessaiga and transformed it so Kikyou would understand he was serious. At that point, the strange aura that was surrounding Kikyou vanished away, and as if she regained her senses, the pupils on her eyes opened up further: it seemed like she had been under the control of someone else, yet still kept her consciousness.

- "Inuyasha, so you care more about Kagome than me..." – said Kikyou in a sad voice as she turned away and raised her hand to order her shinidamachuu to release Kagome and set her down gently over the grass. She turned to face Inuyasha a last time – "I'll wait until you're back to normal and you have settled all issues you still have pending…" –

She turned to Kagome – "I apologize for everything that happened today, Kagome… I think my negative emotions took hold over me, and I acted without making use of reason… I'm sorry…" -

She dissolved the barrier and walked away in silence as her Shikigami followed her, leaving everyone stunned and wondering what happened.

- 'Incredible, Inuyasha chose me... and he even threatened Kikyou with eliminating her if she didn't leave me alone!' – thought Kagome amazed. However, her happiness soon changed into darker thoughts – 'But… what could be powerful enough to force someone with such a strong will to act like that…?' -

- "Come on, let's get back on track and head for the valley" – said Inuyasha as he sheathed his sword again and began walking.

- "Yeah!" – replied Kagome cheerfully as she skipped behind Inuyasha.

- "Any idea about what might have happened in there?" – whispered Miroku to Sango surprised.

- "No at all, Houshi-sama…" – replied Sango as surprised as him.

- "And you think I can't hear you, huh?" – asked Inuyasha sourly.

- "Sorry..." – said Sango embarrassed.

- "I apologize..." - said Miroku with a nervous smile.

Meanwhile, Kikyou continued walking through the hills, with a destination only known to her.

- 'That girl looked not only like me, but also like Kaede when she was a child... How can that be possible?' – thought Kikyou astonished.

- "Are you okay, Kikyou-sama?" – asked Kochou.

- "You seem worried about something…" – said Asuka. Both shikigamis still had their neutral expressions.

- "Don't mind me, I'm fine" – replied Kikyou in a neutral voice. Despite this, she actually was sunk deep within her thoughts – 'However, that strange aura that took control of my emotions… What could it have been? I have the feeling that something ominous is soon going to take place in this world… And not even I know what will happen from now on…'

As for Inuyasha and the others, they continued walking, and when they reached a point in which the hills gave way to a large plain, they noticed someone else at the distance was walking toward them.

- "Who do you think it is?" – asked Kagome as she shielded her eyes from the sunlight with a hand to try and see who it was.

- "I dunno. I can't really tell it by their odor or appearance from here" – said Inuyasha as he sniffed to try getting the odor of the stranger, but it was in vain.

- "Well, we'll be able to tell it if we use this" – said Miroku as he took out the binoculars from Kagome's backpack.

- "That's a nice idea, Miroku-sama!" – said Kagome clapping excitedly.

- "It's pretty rare for him to come up with good ideas that don't include scamming people or womanizing" – said Inuyasha as crossed his arms and put on a surprised face.

- 'That comment was unnecessary, Inuyasha' – thought Miroku annoyed as he looked through the binoculars, but he was so spooked when he saw who it was that he almost fainted.

- "Houshi-sama, what happened?" – said Sango when she saw Miroku's shocked state.

- "It's..." – said Miroku, now as pale as a ghost – "It's… Sesshoumaru!" -

- "What!? It's even possible to have that much bad luck!?" – asked Kagome scared.

- "This is absurd! First the rabid wolf, then Kikyou, and now this!?" – said Inuyasha as he clenched his hand into a fist – "Well, I'm not gonna hide this time!" -

And he ran off to encounter Sesshoumaru.

- "Inuyasha, hold it there!" – said Sango as she futilely tried to stop him.

- "He's the biggest dork ever!" – said Shippou as they ran after him.

Sesshoumaru was standing near the border of a nearby forest looking at the sky. He had the appearance of a tall young man with long silver hair, golden eyes, pointy ears, and was dressed in a fine white kimono decorated with detailedly delicate red and purple patterns, which also had an armor worn over it. He wore black shoes and had two swords tied to his hip: one sheathed in a scabbard, and the another without any sort of protection.

Next to him, there was a young girl very similar to Kagome as she was currently called Rin, who had a ponytail on the side of her brown hair, brown eyes, and wore a checkered yellow and white kosode, but no footwear; a toad-like green creature with yellow eyes called Jaken, who wore a brown Shinto priest garb; and a large brown two-headed dragon-like creature called Ah-Un. Rin was playing around with the flowers in the ground while Jaken was watching over Ah-Un, which was lying peacefully over the grass.

- 'The air reeks of that useless bum Inuyasha… however, it smells differently from usual' – thought Sesshoumaru.

- "Uh, what is it, Sesshomaru-sama?" – asked Jaken upon seeing Sesshoumaru's behavior.

- "Sesshomaru-sama, are you okay?" – asked Rin worried.

- "Jaken, go away from this place and take Rin with you..." – said Sesshoumaru in his typical emotionless voice.

Jaken sniffed the air, and he immediately understood why he was given that order.

- "Oh, I see what you mean, sir…" -

Meanwhile, Inuyasha continued running toward Sesshoumaru.

- 'This will be it! Today I'll wipe off the superiority complex from that idiot Sesshoumaru at long last!' – he thought excitedly, and when he felt he was close enough, he unsheathed and transformed Tessaiga, and jumped to strike Sesshomaru from above.

- "Sesshomaru! I've come for you!" – screamed Inuyasha as he fell.

- "What...?" – muttered Sesshomaru as he looked up – 'Inuyasha?' –

Unfortunately for Inuyasha, his attack failed because Sesshoumaru immediately unsheathed one of his swords: Toukijin, and parried the strike.

- "I always thought you were stupid..." – said Sesshoumaru as they both had their blades locked – "But I never imagined you would be it so to the extent of trying to attack me while in that shape…" -

- "Shut your trap!" – screamed Inuyasha as he backed away a bit and tried to slash him again, but Sesshoumaru blocked him.

- "You are not just an insignificant hanyou now, but also a mere child! You are even more pathetic than before! Don't even think I will have mercy on you for that mere appearance change!" – said Sesshoumaru as they both separated and prepared to attack each other again.

- "I'm fine with that! Kaze no Kizu!" – he screamed as he swung Tessaiga to launch the energy waves, but Sesshoumaru effortlessly avoided them.

- "So you came prepared to die, I see... I will grant your wish then…" – said Sesshoumaru as he pointed to him with Tokijin. He launched an energy wave to Inuyasha, which struck him directly on the chest. Inuyasha tumbled into the ground, but he recovered and stood back up almost at once.

- "Damn you! I'll make you pay for that!" – screamed Inuyasha as he enshrouded his sword in crystal – "Kongousouha!" -

He launched a hail of diamonds to Sesshoumaru, and even though it was direct hit, it didn't show any signs of having caused damage to him, as Sesshomaru wiped the diamonds off from himself as if they were mere dirt.

- "I see you have progressed from our last encounter, but this will be your end!" – he said as he put his sword in horizontal position and an electrical current ran through it – "Souryuuhaa!" -

He launched at Inuyasha a large dragon-shaped blue beam of electricity, but Inuyasha just smiled in response.

- "Thanks, Sesshoumaru! I never guessed you'd help me to tear you apart!" – said Inuyasha as he swung his sword with force – "Bakuryuuha!" -

He launched an energy wave from Tessaiga that fused with part of the dragon beam, forming a whirlwind that clashed with the remainder of the Souryuuha, until they both disappeared: they both nulled each other out.

- "Looks like our powers are at about the same level, huh? Don't you think, Sesshoumaru?" – commented Inuyasha with a sarcastic smirk.

- "Never dare to compare yourself with me! I admit that your power has increased despite you being now an insignificant brat, but you will never be more than a hanyou! Nothing gives you the right to compare yourself to me or my father!" – said Sesshoumaru enraged. The fact that Inuyasha had said that simple phrase made him furious as rarely anyone had even seen him, as his eyes had a red shade to them, which always was an indication of him being about to transform into his true shape: a gigantic demon dog.

The rest of Inuyasha's group came in shortly later, with Kagome on the lead.

- "Inuyasha! Stop!" – she screamed at the distance, making Sesshoumaru focus on her.

- "So the same thing that happened to you happened to that woman as well," – he said as he made an evil smile while a black aura surrounded him – "This is going to be interesting…" -

As Inuyasha put on a shocked face, Sesshoumaru stuck Toukijin in the ground, ran over to Kagome, and before anyone could do anything... he took her by the neck, raised her, and began strangling her.

- "Let me go...! I can't... breathe!" – screamed Kagome as she struggled trying to get herself free from Sesshoumaru's grip.

Upon seeing this, Inuyasha ran to where they were to save Kagome, but...

- "Leave her alone, you bastard!" – screamed Inuyasha.

- "Useless fool..." – said Sesshoumaru in a mocking voice, as he showed he had a monster claw where his left arm used to be and used it to grab Inuyasha by the neck, making Tessaiga slide away from his hands and fall to the ground. Inuyasha tried to release himself from Sesshoumaru's claw, even trying to plunge his own claws and fangs into it, but he couldn't do anything.

- "Damn you... let me go! Sankontessou!" – he screamed as he tried to scratch him with his claws enshrouded in a golden aura, but it had no effect: the claw Sesshoumaru was using to keep him trapped was in fact a dragon one, and not even his attacks could scratch its thick scales.

- "Kagome..." – muttered Inuyasha bitterly. The color was beginning to fade from Kagome's face and she was about to lose consciousness from the lack of air, so Inuyasha plunged his claws on the palms of his hands, covering them in his own blood.

- "Hijinkessou!" – he screamed as he slashed at the air in the direction of the hand Sesshoumaru was using to strangle Kagome, launching a rain of crimson waves at it, but it had no effect: Sesshoumaru didn't even flinch at this – "Damn you… leave her alone…"

- "I will not until you both have died" – said Sesshoumaru – "I find it the most suitable for you both to end your days together…"

At that point, Sango, Miroku and Shippou finally came up to them, and they were horrified upon seeing the scene.

- "Sesshoumaru, leave them alone!" – screamed Sango as she readied her Hiraikotsu.

- "How can you!?" – said Shippou.

- "Release them!" – ordered Miroku.

Sesshoumaru just ignored everything they said. However, when the three of them tried to run to up to him to do something, Sesshoumaru looked at them menacingly:

- "Do not dare to take even one more step! If you dare me, I will squeeze their necks so tightly that their heads will come out from their bodies" –

- "Damn it!" – said Sango as she stuck her Hiraikotsu on the ground. Neither her nor the others could do anything to avoid it, so Sesshoumaru continued enjoying the view of his victims trying to get themselves free and breathe, as well as Inuyasha's attempts to attack him. However, he focused his gaze on Kagome.

- "This brat... she looks so much like Rin! How is this possible!?" – thought Sesshoumaru surprised as he saw how she was choking out on his hand, but he turned around and saw how Rin was seeing everything from behind a tree, with a terrified expression on her face.

- 'Sesshoumaru-sama, how can you treat children like this?' – thought Rin as she looked at him with tears on her eyes.

- 'Rin...' – he thought when he saw her, and immediately the black aura surrounding him dissolved and he released his grip on Inuyasha and Kagome, making them fall to the ground.

- "You both are lucky. If it wasn't because I would dishonor myself and my father if I killed you both as children, you both would be dead by now" – said Sesshoumaru in an altive voice. He simply refused to admit that he let his rage get the best of him and that was just about to commit an act he would have never dared to after Rin began traveling with him.

Inuyasha and Kagome began caressing their necks to soften the pain and let the air flow back into their lungs. After a few instants, Inuyasha stood up again, picked Tessaiga back up and sheathed it, but when he went back to Kagome to check how she was, he found her staring blankly at the distance, and before he could ask her what was wrong…

- "Where I'm, and who's that man?" – she asked in a much more innocent and curious way compared to her usual demeanor while she pointed at Sesshoumaru.

- "What?" – said Inuyasha confused like the others. However, they soon noticed that her memory medallion wasn't around her neck: the silver medallion was instead in the ground near her feet.

- "Ka..." – began Inuyasha, but Sango put a hand over his shoulder.

- "Inuyasha, remember how you have to call her when she doesn't have the medallion on" – whispered Sango worried.

- "Okay..." – Inuyasha breathed in deeply and sighed before asking her in a concerned voice – "Miko, are you okay?" –

- "Yeah, Inuyasha. My neck hurts a little, but I'm okay...- " she said with a smile upon seeing Inuyasha. She pointed at Sesshoumaru again while she asked Inuyasha with a doubtful and scared face: - "But… Who's that man?" –

- "He's Sesshoumaru. He's my older half-brother, and unlike me, he's a full youkai" – explained Inuyasha in a bitter voice – "You're better off staying away from him. He hates humans"

- "Gotcha – said Miko worried – "But who's that girl with him?" -

Inuyasha noticed she was talking about Rin because she was facing in her direction.

- "You'll find out by yourself" – replied Inuyasha as Rin was walking up to them.

- "By the way Inuyasha, where did these zouri come from?" – said Miko looking at her feet in amazement, as she didn't remember wearing these before – "I'm just a peasant girl, so I shouldn't…" –

- "Nah, don't worry 'bout it" – said Inuyasha smiling as he tried to come up with an excuse – "Kaede-obaasan managed to get some and bought them for you 'coz you were doing so well in your miko training" –

- "Hehe, it's embarrassing, but I wanna thank her for caring so much for me" – said Miko as she blushed and smiled.

- "Rin… stay here. I must attend to other matters…" – ordered Sesshoumaru.

- "Okay…" – nodded Rin while Sesshomaru walked away from them.

On the other hand, Miroku and Sango had picked up the medallion while Miko was talking with the others, and examined it.

- "Looks like Sesshomaru's claws cut the string that kept the medallion around Kagome's neck" – whispered Miroku to Sango, showing the part where the string seemed to have gotten cut of in a rather less-than-smooth way.

- "But I think we can fix it. There are lots of pieces of string and rope in her backpack we can use to repair it" – replied Sango.

And as they discussed this and began working on fixing the string, Rin was sitting over the grass talking with Miko and Inuyasha…

- "You're Rin, and you're Sesshomaru's attendant?" – asked Miko in a curious voice.

- "Yep!" – replied Rin smiling – "And you're Miko?" –

- "Yeah. At least that's the name they told me I had" – replied Miko a bit embarrassed.

- "And you're Inuyasha, Sesshoumaru-sama's little brother?" – asked Rin.

- "That's right" – replied Inuyasha. He eyed both girls as he thought – 'How could I be so stupid that I didn't notice it before! This kid is too similar to Kagome: her hair, her face... even their personalities are alike! Though they aren't completely identical in appearance...' -

- "How weird... I remember you were..." – began Rin, but Inuyasha covered her mouth with the hand and took her away, leaving Miko alone and looking at them weirded out. He let her go to tell her something after they were far away enough for Miko to not eavesdrop on them.

- "Look, Rin. You know I was older than I look now, but until Kagome's wearing her medallion again, we can't do or say anything that bring memories back to her, or she'll go crazy. And that includes telling her anything about her or me" – explained Inuyasha in a worried voice.

- "Okay..." – said Rin in an understanding tone. She smiled in excitement afterwards – "Then, Miko-chan's actually Kagome-sama?" -

- "Yeah, but we gotta call her Miko until she's wearing the medallion again" – said Inuyasha. With the topic cleared up, they walked back to where Miko was waiting for them.

- "What were you doing?" – asked Miko pouting – "It wasn't nice leaving me all alone like that!" -

- "It's nothing, Miko" – replied Inuyasha a bit scared. His face lit up because he got an idea – "Hey, you wanna play something?" -

- "Yeah!" – said Miko as she stood up energetically – "I'm kinda wanting to play with a ball!" -

- "Okay! Shippou, bring here the ball in the backpack!" – screamed Inuyasha.

- "Okay, coming!" – replied Shippou, so he went to the backpack, got the ball out; and he, Inuyasha, Miko and Rin began playing to pass the ball to each other. They spent a good while playing like this together, laughing and enjoying, until…

- "I think we're done..." – said Miroku after a while as he wiped off the sweat from his forehead – "Miko, come here please!" -

- "Aww... I'm coming, Houshi-sama!" – said Miko disappointed. Obviously, she didn't want to stop playing, but since she wanted to be a good girl, she went to where Miroku and Sango were while the others waited to see why they had called her.

- "Here you go, put it on" – said Sango with a smile as she showed the medallion to her once Miko got to them – "Remember it? It's your medallion"

- "Yup, it's what I've gotta wear to regain my memories. I don't know how I lost it in the first place" – she said a bit confused, but she changed her expression to a pleased smile when she took it from Sango's hand and put it on again. Her eyes blinked for a couple instants, and her smile only got wider after it.

- "And I'm back again" – said Miko in a pleased voice.

- "Kagome?" – asked Sango confused.

- "Yup. And excuse me, I think I'll go back to play with them for now!" – said her as she cheerfully ran back to the others.

- "That was unexpected" – said Miroku astonished as they looked at Kagome running back to the others.

- "Agreed, Houshi-sama" – said Sango as surprised as him.

They just kept on watching over as the children continued playing, and after a while, Kagome began teaching the others how the play volleyball. They continued playing until Sesshoumaru came back, which made them all stop and look at him with apprehension.

- "Rin… It is time for us to depart" – he said without bothering to look at the others.

- "Okay!" – said Rin, and she turned to the others – "See y'all later! Good luck!" -

She ran to Sesshomaru's side. Sesshoumaru noticed that Jaken had fallen asleep on the trees at the border of the forest, not minding what happened to Rin, so Sesshoumaru punched him on the head as punishment for not taking care of his duties. The three of them continued their way while Inuyasha and his friends went in the opposite direction to continue heading to the valley.

- "Well, did you have fun?" – asked Miroku smiling.

- "Yeah, even though I had to act a bit so Kagome wouldn't notice anything while she wasn't wearing her medallion" – replied Inuyasha as he put his head over his arms, which he had crossed behind himself.

- "I guessed as much, and thanks for that, Inuyasha" – said Kagome in a grateful smile, which made Inuyasha blush.

- "But I didn't think you'd wanna continue playing with us after you remembered everything" – told Shippou to Kagome in a surprised voice.

- "Well, it's been lotsa time since I last played like this. And besides, my mom told me it'd be better for me if I enjoyed this instead of thinking it was a torment" – explained Kagome giggling – "I had to begin behaving like the age I have now instead of behaving like my true age" -

- "Good decision!" – smiled Sango.

- "Yeah, you sound more like a kid now and all!" - said Shippou smiling - "Though you were even more kiddy as Miko..." -

- "Shippou, stop! You're making me have second thoughts about it!" - said Kagome blushing. She looked down embarrassed - "Though it's not really that bad, now I think it..." -

- "And who would've thought my cruel and cold half-brother had a heart" – commented Inuyasha as he raised his gaze to the clear sky. Kagome smiled at the topic change.

- "Yeah, he acts as if she wasn't anything to him, but he spared us just because he didn't want Rin to get scared of him, and so she'd have playmates for a while…" – said her as she thought of the reason Sesshoumaru had to refrain from killing them – "But… didn't you all notice he also had something like a black aura around him?" -

- "Now you mention it..." – said Inuyasha thoughtfully – "You're right. Kikyou had something like that around her too…"

- "Do you think there's some connection between that and the cruel way in which they were acting?" – asked Kagome to the others.

- "It's a possibility, but I'm afraid we don't have a way of knowing it" – replied Miroku as he closed his eyes – "However, I must add that these strange auras also emitted, though slightly, a kind of evil I've never felt before" -

- "Then it wasn't Naraku's work, Houshi-sama?" – asked Sango surprised.

- "It wasn't. Kikyou's and Sesshoumaru's odors were the same as always, except that I could feel a horrendous demonic power around them" – replied Inuyasha as he crossed his arms and covered his hands with the sleeves of his clothes.

- "I wonder what that means for us..." – asked Kagome worried.

- "Let's worry about that later," – said Sango as she put a hand on her friend's shoulder with a comforting expression on her face - "For now, we should focus in getting you two back to normal" -

They all nodded in agreement, and continued their walking. After a few more minutes, they reached the valley, and when they were about to enter the cave…

- "And we're just a few steps from going back to normal!" – smiled Inuyasha as he looked at the cave's entrance.

- "Right! I've enjoyed a lot being a kid again, but I can't wait to go back to my true age!" – said Kagome joining her hands and smiling.

- "Too bad you won't live enough to reach these springs!" – screamed an unpleasant voice, and instantly the sky turned dark and their mortal enemy, Naraku appeared surrounded by his barrier, and accompanied by his saimyoushou, and his extensions Hakudoushi, Kagura, and Kanna, as well Sango's younger brother Kohaku.

Naraku had the appearance of a tall young man with black hair and red eyes, and wore a blue long jacket with a black and purple kimono underneath, which had over it pieces of a silver armor seemingly made from bones that had a yellow and red eye over the central part of what would be the breastplate, a yellow sash, black boots, and had several green tentacles coming out from behind himself.

Hakudoushi appeared like a child a bit younger than Inuyasha and Kagome, and wore a completely white outfit customary of the era's noble children, had light pink hair and eyes, and carried a large naginata.

Kagura was a tall young woman with short black hair, part of it on a side ponytail; red eyes and who wore an elaborate kimono that had a white and magenta outer part and an exposed inner blue part that was kept closed by a long yellow obi. She also carried a little white and magenta fan on her hands.

Kanna was a young girl that had white hair, wore a white kosode and white zouri, as well as white flowers on her hair, and had black eyes, which had a perpetually blank stare. She carried a small mirror on her hands whose border was white too.

Finally, Kohaku was a young boy of around eleven years in age that had short brown hair, brown eyes, and wore a slayer outfit similar to Sango's, though his' had green parts where Sango had pink. He carried a small bone scythe that had a chain attached as his weapon.

- "Oh, how marvelous! It isn't another puppet, but Naraku himself on the flesh!" - said Miroku with evident sarcasm and disdain as he looked at Naraku with rage and repugnance – "You lost that habit after the events that transpired at Mount Hakurei!?" -

- "Do you want to die sooner, bonzo?" – asked Naraku irritated, having taken Miroku's words as an insult.

- "Naraku, you're a goddamn pest!" – screamed Inuyasha – "Always attacking when your opponents are in the worst shape possible!" -

- "Tsk, tsk, tsk. I would mind my tongue if I were you, Inuyasha" – said Naraku to mock him – "You don't want to get grounded and spanked for that, do you?" -

- "Shut your damn trap! Looking like this means nothing; as I'm gonna rip you to shreds all the same!" – said him as he whipped Tessaiga out.

- "You're no more than a coward!" – screamed Kagome as she readied her bow and arrow.

- "How weird... I was sure you couldn't remember anything" – said Naraku a bit surprised.

- "You were wrong! And I'll make sure you never forget your mistake!" – screamed Kagome as she shot a Sacred Arrow at him, which was blocked by Naraku's barrier.

- "What a surprise. So you can still use your powers" – said Naraku through his teeth – "And apparently the shard of Kanna's mirror I sent you didn't do nearly as much as I expected" -

- "So it was you! You tried to drive them both to madness!" – screamed Miroku enraged, which also infuriated all of them.

- "Mwahaha, exactly" – nodded Naraku with an evil smile – "But I don't care about that scheme being a failure, as I'll make this place your grave!" -

On the other hand... Sango was fighting with Kohaku, who was forcing himself to fight so Naraku didn't notice he already had regained his memories, as they could kill him instantly by removing the Shikon shard he had on his back.

- "Kohaku! Please, snap out of it!" – said Sango to call out to him desperately.

- "Onee-san... I'm sorry... but I've got to keep feigning for a bit longer" – thought Kohaku saddened as he continued avoiding Sango's half-hearted attacks.

- "Kohaku, please! I don't want to harm you!" – said Sango.

Back with the others, the battle didn't really seem to be going in their favor…

- "Aaaah! We're gonna die!" – cried Shippou.

- "Calm down, Shippou! We've gotten out of worse situations!" – said Miroku.

- "But none as dire as this one" – said Hakudoushi as he attacked them with his naginata, so Miroku had to parry his slashes with his shakujou.

- "You fight as dirty as your creator!" – said Miroku gritting his teeth.

- "Thanks for the compliment" – said Hakudoushi as he smiled evilly.

- "Miroku, what you think you're doing?" – screamed Inuyasha – "Let me take care of this! Get back!" -

- "Right!" – said Miroku as he stepped aside.

- "Kongousouha!" – screamed Inuyasha as he launched a storm of diamonds to Hakudoushi. He tried to put a barrier to block the attack, but as his barriers weren't yet as strong as Naraku's, the diamond lances broke it and gravely injured him, so he had no choice but to retreat.

- "I'm astonished. Who'd imagine they'd defeat Hakudoushi" – said Kagura surprised.

- "And he isn't the only one who'll get defeated here, Kagura!" – said Kagome as she prepared to shoot an arrow at her, but… - "What's… happening to me…? I'm feeling… weaker…" -

She felt something strange from behind herself and it was then that she noticed what it was: Kanna was trying to extract her soul with her mirror.

- "You will die now..." – said Kanna in an emotionless whisper.

- "I don't think so...!" – screamed Kagome as she used the little strength she had remaining to shoot a Sacred Arrow to the mirror, which absorbed it. However, given the great amount of spiritual energy she always put in her arrows, the mirror couldn't continue bearing it and cracked, forcing all the parts of Kagome's soul it had absorbed back out. They returned to her body and she regained her strength.

- "I should retreat now..." – said Kanna as she looked blankly at her mirror.

- "You won't get away!" – screamed Kagome as she shot another arrow, but Kanna merely vanished before the arrow had struck her.

- "This sucks!" – said Kagome angry.

- "Forget about her! We've got worse troubles to deal with now!" – screamed Inuyasha and with good reason: he had to keep avoiding Naraku's tentacles and energy blasts as well as Kagura's wind-based attacks, and if it wasn't by his small size, most likely he wouldn't have managed to do so.

- "Wait there! I'm going now!" – said Kagome as she ran to his side.

- "Are we practicing dance moves now, Inuyasha?" – laughed Naraku upon seeing the acrobatics Inuyasha was forced to make to avoid the attacks.

- "Shut your damn mouth!" – screamed Inuyasha.

- "This will be entertaining. I'll finish you off slow and painfully" – said Kagura in a delighted tone.

- "We'll see about that!" – said Kagome as she shot a Sacred Arrow at Kagura, and while she didn't hit her, it at least managed to nullify the wind she was manipulating.

- "Again with the old trick of nullifying my wind?" – said Kagura bored as she looked at what Kagome did – "Why do you even bother doing it now?" -

- "For this! Bakuryuuha!" – screamed Inuyasha as he swung his sword towards the ground, fusing the Kaze no Kizu with the energy from the remains of Kagura's wind and Kagome's arrow, forming a whirlwind that he launched at her.

- " What!?" – muttered Kagura surprised.

- "You're finished" – said Inuyasha in a satisfied voice as the Bakuryuuha repeatedly hit her. However, Kagura somehow managed to escape from it, taking Hakudoushi away with her – "Damn!" -

Naraku appeared in front of him, levitating in the air.

- "Looks like this is between us now, Inuyasha" – said Naraku with a very confident attitude.

- "It's payback time!" – said Inuyasha as he pointed his sword in Naraku's direction – "You'll pay for what you did to me and Kikyou!" –

- "And for all the people you've made suffer!" – said Kagome readying her bow and arrows.

- "Right! It's time to end this!" – said Miroku angry. Naraku began sweating upon seeing how he still had these three as their opponents, and before he could do anything, Miroku launched some ofudas in his direction in order to distract him.

- "Okay, it's time! Inuyasha, let's do you know what!" – said Kagome excited.

- "Right! Kongousouha!" – said Inuyasha as he launched the diamond barrage. Naraku was still distracted mocking Miroku for the ineffectiveness of the ofudas, so he didn't see the attack coming and took the full brunt of it, getting his barrier destroyed and severely damaged.

- "Kagome, do it now!" – said Inuyasha.

- "Okay! Hit him!" – said Kagome as she shot a Sacred Arrow while Inuyasha transformed Tessaiga in its crystalline form again.

- "Here I go! Bakuryuuha!" – screamed Inuyasha as he launched a crystallized whirlwind. With the combination of these attacks, Naraku was utterly destroyed to the point only one of his eyes remained, but he merely teleported himself out before they could do anything else.

- "Goddamn it all! It got away again! Aarrghhh!" – screamed Inuyasha in fury as he plunged his sword into the ground with force, while Kagome threw her bow to the ground.

- "Why!? Why he always has to run away when we're about to beat him!?" – said Kagome enraged.

- "Come on, calm down. At the least we're still alive. Remember that we can't defeat him yet, as we haven't found his weak point" – said Miroku to remind them.

- "Hell, I hate that bastard!" – said Inuyasha punching the rocky ground.

As for Sango, she had already finished her fight, though with no results because Kohaku was taken away by Hakudoushi and Kagura when they ran away. She walked up to them, knowing they were so distraught partially because their minds were now more childish.

- "Don't worry about it. Now, we should hurry and go into the cave before anything else happens" – said her calmly, though she was still sad because she couldn't get Kohaku back to her side.

- "Yeah..." – nodded Kagome and Inuyasha saddened.

Meanwhile, Kohaku, Hakudoushi and Kagura were flying back to Naraku's hideout in some distant place…

- "It was unexpected that they were so strong, even after being turned into kids" – commented Kagura.

- "You are such a fool, Kagura. You should know that appearances are deceitful" – said Hakudoushi.

- "You just say that because you're a kid yourself" – said Kagura mocking him.

- "Shut up" – replied Hakudoushi.

- 'I just hope that I'll be able to break free from this slavery someday…' – thought Kagura bitterly, as she was bound to Naraku because he could end her life if she tried doing anything aside of following his orders.

- "Onee-san, when the time comes, I'll tell you everything… but for now, I must search for a way to get rid of that baby…" – thought Kohaku, knowing that unless they destroyed the baby-shaped monster that contained Naraku's heart, they would never be able to truly defeat him.

- "What are you thinking, Kohaku?" – asked Hakudoushi.

- "About nothing... in particular" – replied Kohaku as he tried to keep his mind blank so Hakudoushi wouldn't be able to read his thoughts.

Back with Inuyasha and the others, they entered the cave, seeing it was still the same as when they came the first time.

- "Okay, it's time" – said Inuyasha as he went up to the blue water spring, took a bit from it with his hands, and drank it.

- "Weird... I don't feel anything different..." – said Inuyasha. But after a few seconds, he began shining in a white light, blinding everyone. When the light vanished, Inuyasha was there standing, back to his normal age and with his clothes adjusted to fit his size.

- "Aah! It feels great to be back to normal!" – said Inuyasha as he stretched – "Kagome, come here! It's your turn!" -

- "Err... Inuyasha" – said Kagome fidgeting a little – "I think I should do it elsewhere…" –

- "Eh? Why?" – asked Inuyasha confused.

- "My clothes can't readjust to my body when I change ages, right?" – she said as she blushed – "So my kosode could end up bursting if I try getting back to normal like this!" –

- "Okay, okay" – said Inuyasha a bit annoyed, but he got the point Kagome was trying to make - "So what're you gonna do now?" –

- "Just store a bit of that water in a bottle and drink it in a place where no one else can see you" – suggested Sango gently – "There's a forest with a clearing very close to this place, so you could change back there. I'll even go with you in case anything happens" –

- "Okay, thanks Sango-chan!" – said Kagome as she ran to her and hugged her. She took out a small bottle from her backpack and filled it with water from the spring afterwards.

- "Okay, wait for us here. We'll be back very soon" – said Sango as she and Kagome began leaving the cave.

- "Do you mind if I go too?" – asked Miroku with a mischievous smile, but this only got him a slap from Sango.

- "You got what you deserved" – said Inuyasha with a gesture of repugnance imprinted on his face.

After a short while, Sango and Kagome returned, the latter back to her normal age and wearing her typical school uniform.

- "This is great! I'm me again!" – she said cheerfully, to which the others smiled. She and Inuyasha took their medallions off and stored them in her backpack.

- "And you still can remember it all?" – asked Miroku intrigued.

- "Yeah. With all details" – replied Inuyasha smiling, to which Kagome also nodded.

- "Okay, we have no other business pending here, right? We should go back to the village now" – said Sango smiling.

- "You're right, Sango-chan. Just give me a second" – said Kagome as she winked.

They all left the cave, though Kagome was the last one to leave it. Due to this, Inuyasha waited for her at the entrance until she came up to his side.

- "It was about time! Why were you taking so long in there?" – asked Inuyasha irritated.

- "Because of this!" – replied Kagome as she showed him two bottles filled to the brim: one with pink water and another with blue water.

- "Why're you carrying that back with you? Do you wanna go through all that again?" – asked Inuyasha.

- "Yup, I thought it could be fun if we did it again at some other point," – replied Kagome as she smiled – "As long as we've got the medallions, nothing bad should happen to us. And besides, I now have some clothes I can use for when we turn into kids again" -

- "You're right. Well, it wouldn't be bad doing that when things settle down a bit around here" – said Inuyasha crossing his arms.

- "Let me guess, you liked the idea of having me as your friend when you were a kid?" – asked Kagome as she blushed a bit.

- "Yeah. Back then I didn't have any friends..." – he replied with a sad smile.

- "But now you've got us all" – said Kagome to remind him of that.

- "That's right. You all might be a pain in the neck sometimes, but… I've gotta say that it's better than being alone" – said Inuyasha as he looked up. Kagome was about to get angry with the first part of what he said, but she smiled upon hearing the rest.

- "By the way... you know we have sort-of alternate personalities when we have our memories sealed, right? I'm thinking it'd be nice to let them come out and play every now and then…" – said Kagome, feeling as if another presence was sleeping deep inside her soul.

- "In other words, to drink the water without wearing the medallion?" – asked Inuyasha.

- "Exactly!" – replied Kagome.

They focused their gazes on the bottles, with the liquids they contained shining brightly under the sunlight, and after Kagome stored them again, they began walking and stepped up the pace to reach their friends. They walked back to the village as twilight began setting in.

However... they didn't know this was just the beginning. Soon after, something different to everything they knew would come to this world… something that would put the destiny of not only their world, but also all others to be left hanging from a thread…


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