Kagome stirred the large pot that hung over the campfire, soup to ward off the slight chill of the early evening air. Sango sat next to Kirara, cleaning her weapons while the neko slumbered contently beside her. Miroku sat nearby, seeming to meditate. The newest addition to their group, the western lord, sat behind her, leaned against a tree looking at all the world as if he owned it. He watched her closely, along with Inuyasha, who sat across the fire from her. She had grown used to them with time, both pairs of molten gold eyes, one studying her every move and the other holding a sorrow she could do nothing about. How different it had become in the four years she had roamed the feudal era, how much they all had changed with each challenge that had been overcome.
The biggest surprise had come when Sesshomaru had shown up three months prior. The happenings of that day still confused her a little. He had come from the sky, landing elegantly before them, followed by Rin, Ah Um, and a reluctant Jaken. He had just looked at her and Inuyasha, then informed them he would be joining the search for Naraku.
To say that Inuyasha did not like the idea would be a gross understatement, but Kagome had agreed. She asked that he would allow Jaken to take Rin and the fox kit, Shippo back to the western palace. Too many times had they been put in danger and she felt that they would be better protected away from the group. Both children had protested, along with the imp who was ignored, but Sesshomaru had agreed to her suggestion. He seemed to like that she had had them in mind, but looking back now, she wondered if he was just glad she had not asked for him and his brother not to fight. That was still a nearly every day occurrence, though it was more bickering now than sword play. They got enough of that while Sesshomaru trained Inuyasha to better wield a sword, claiming that it was his duty as the eldest to teach him.
Even more surprising, he was training her as well. Kagome smiled every time she thought of that conversation. “You want to what?” she had asked.
“Teach you how to wield your weapon. You are still inferior with it.” Sesshomaru told her in a detached way.
“You can use a bow?” She asked, her natural curiosity coming to the surface.
“You would question this one’s ability?” she almost swore he smirked at her when she immediately denied any such thing. He was quite good, even better than Kikyo was, but it was not like she had a lot of archers to compare them too. Still, she did her best to improve and met her sensei’s standards even when he drove her to the point of exhaustion.
“Lady Kagome?” Sesshomaru’s voice startled her out of her thoughts. The title was still new, but he felt that she had earned it. “What do you think has made the yokai hide in your time?” The question had been bothering him since he had heard them talking of the future. He could not imagine anything making him do so and five hundred years was nothing to those of his kind.
“I believe that it happened around the early seventeen hundreds, due to fanatical religious groups and early scientists desperate to make a name for themselves or to understand the world around them. I believe that the yokai populations were already on the decline due to humanities rapidly growing ones, then you add in crazy people trying to dismember you to see how you work. It makes sense that they would find a way to hide. Many yokai, humans, and animals were tortured while still alive.” She shivered at the memory of the books and scrolls she had studied on the matter. “I don’t know how anyone could do that to another living creature.”
“Your too soft, Kagome.” Inuyasha said, poking the fire with a stick, causing embers to flare and drift into the air. “The beast behind you is well known for that kind of thing.”
“Just so, Otouto.” His gaze never left where she sat, beginning to fill bowls to serve them, “But only to those who had betrayed me or as acts of war for information. Never to a weaker being without reason, such as a human or an animal.” Sesshomaru smirked slightly. His brother did not like his newfound companionship with the woman.
“Still,” Kagome turned toward him, “I understand that these are harsher times than where I came from, but I still think that if it must be done, you should just kill them and get it over with.”
“You are too weak, priestess. I have to kill less because of the fear that was installed in the minds of those who know that this one has tortured before and likely to do again.” Just because he somewhat was partial to her did not mean that he valued her opinion on his doings.
Her blue eyes softened slightly, causing a slight warming in his chest. It was a strange sensation only she and Rin seemed able to produce, though it was different with Rin. “You are wrong on both counts, lord Sesshomaru.” Inuyasha tensed, listening from across the fire. “One such as you has no need of torcher to instill fear in any being.” She half smiled, “and I guarantee you that I can be just as hard and fierce if needed, I just choose a different path. I don’t think that it makes me weak.” She turned back to her task, paying no mind to the flash of red in his eyes. She found that inuyokai were fairly easy to irritate.
Had it been anyone else, they would be severely hurt by now for daring to tell him he was wrong. Only his mother had had the pleasure previously, but two things saved Kagome his wrath. First was the respect she had earned with her perseverance and unwavering loyalty, both things greatly valued in inu society. The second was that with her words, she had recognized that he was powerful and worthy of great respect. She had become intriguing to him in the months they had trained and lived together in the search for Naraku.
It had begun simply enough. The spider continually fled and hid from him. he was determined that Naraku should perish and traveling with his brothers pack made sense as they encountered him the most and were nearly successful in ending his vulgarity on several of those encounters. After the first week, he had begun to respect the woman and his brother more.
His mother’s words haunted him as well, the last time they met she had told him that it was shameful to blame a child for his father’s death and inuyokai never abandoned a child of the blood. He was neglecting his duty which was something he was not known for. His lands and people, yokai and human alike, were well ordered and cared for. It was a matter of pride to him to keep up the standards that his father had set in his reign. He would never admit it, but his mother had been right. He had neglected and even harmed his brother, his father’s blood, and with that came shame. That was not something he would bear for long. His brother, blood and fang, belonged to the west and when this was over with, he determined that him and Kagome would both be returning with him. Naturally, the rest of the pack would follow as well, he was certain. This would take away the shame of his neglect.
Inuyasha gently took the bowl from Kagome, careful not to touch her while she avoided his direct gaze. Finally, he looked away, rather than see her move away from him. It had been over six months since she had touched him in any manner or met him eye to eye for more than a few seconds and he was sure it was slowly killing him inside. He remembered every pain filled moment of the day she had made the decision to stop loving him.
He had just come back from checking on Kikyo, wondering himself why he still bothered going. There was nearly nothing left of the woman he had felt so much for, only a prideful being that held contempt for him. He saw Kagome sitting on a stump at the edge of their camp, the tears he had come to expect absent from her eyes, though sadness clung to her. “Kagome?” he had asked, fear like no other welling inside him.
She had smiled at him, just a slight curving of her lips. “Let’s not do this anymore, Inuyasha. I am tired now and cannot live like this any longer.”
His eyes had burned. “You’re leaving me?”
“No.” That had been the first time she had avoided his gaze. “I still belong here and I do love you as a friend, but I will no longer hope for more, will no longer love you with all that I am. It is consuming me and I refuse to become that person, bitter and spiteful for all that I cannot have. I will not wait for you any longer.” Her smile widened briefly before she walked away, their companions eyeing him with pity.
That pain had been unmatched by any weapon, any claw, or any word that had ever cut through him. He was still staggered by the loss of her love. From that moment on, he had vowed never to seek Kikyo again, had kept that vow, but still saw no softening in her. To make matters worse, he could see the interest his brother was beginning to have for her, the fact that she was human and they were currently seeking a battle probably the only things stopping Sesshomaru from making a play for her. In time, Inuyasha believed his brother would anyway, overcoming his distaste for humanity in her case. Anyone could see that she was something more.
After they had eaten, Kagome began setting things out for the morning, the darkening sky above them slowly reveling a million stars above their camp. She took a moment to appreciate them before going back to her task. The days were going by faster now and slowly she was beginning to recover from the anguish being in love had caused her. She could not say that she was over him yet, could not help but feel she might never be completely. However, she was not torn anymore and becoming better with every breath, moving farther away from that ugly person she feared becoming had she kept on as it had been. She might have been partly Kikyo’s reincarnation, but she refused to follow her bitter path.
“Here, Kagome.” Sango tossed her a blanket. As she walked passed, a beaded hand brushed against her thigh, sliding across her curves, causing warmth and annoyance all at once. “Knock it off Miroku, I’m too tired to hit you right now.” She grumbled as she curled up in a blanket close to where Kagome still rummaged through her enormous backpack.
“I’m not.” Inuyasha said, smacking the monk in the back of the head. “Stop molesting the girls, letch.”
“I cannot help it, my friend.” He absently rubbed the back of his head while his eyes strayed to Kagome who so beautifully bent over her bag, “I’m cursed.”
“Perhaps we should cut the hand off.” Sesshomaru glaring at the man. Kagome might be human, but she had earned a place near him and he would not allow her to be disrespected.“He’s staring at my ass again, isn’t he?” Kagome sighed. “I wonder if you can make subjugation beads for a monk.” She pondered idly, ignoring his worried expression. Wrapping her blanket around her, she laid down close to Sango, under the shelter of a large tree. Inuyasha jumped into it, bracing his back against the ruff bark as he watched over those he cared for. After he had drifted off, Sesshomaru, who rarely actually needed sleep, propped himself against its trunk. He closed his eyes and allowed his yoki to spread out, a warning to any who would come near.