"So I'm assuming this means you two settled your differences?" Miroku said smugly as he watched Kagome prepare the fish Inuyasha had caught that morning. She turned around sending her companions a quick smile before continuing on her breakfast.
"Did you have any doubts?"
"Inuyasha when it comes to you and social situations, I always have doubts." Unfortunately Miroku was a little too slow in avoiding the punch Inuyasha threw his way.
"Can't you two go thirty seconds without fighting?" Kagome said as she made her way over to the boys.
"Miroku wouldn't get hit so often if he wasn't such an idiot."
"As much as I beg to differ we have more important things to discuss, like what's our next move against Naraku?" Kagome fidgeted under Inuyasha and Miroku's intense stares. The underlying question, what are we going to do about your undead lover?, was the more accurate one to ask, but she was sure Miroku was simply trying to spare her feelings. Though to be honest she had gotten pretty good at dodging thoughts that centered around Hojo, but she couldn't avoid it forever.
Hojo had drawn his line in the sand and as much as it broke her heart, they were not on the same side. So where did that leave her? Her heart told her maybe the boy she had once loved was still in there deep down, and if she could bring it out she could save him. Yet her head was telling her to let go of her childish optimism, and to do what she needed to do...kill him.
"Well I say we just do what we've been doing. We keep moving and collecting the shards, and eventually Naraku will come to us." Inuyasha said nonchalantly, but everyone could see it for what it truly was. Which is why the grateful smile Kagome sent his way had him quickly bowing his head to hide his blush."Keh! Put out the fire and let's go, we don't have all day!"
Kagome and Miroku could only laugh at their friend's poor attempt to save face, so they decided to let him win this time.
Rage burned inside Akumu as he watched his beloved embrace that filthy hanyou. Who did that mutt think he was? To think that he was worthy or deserving enough to touch the most beautiful thing to ever come into his life.
"Turn it off." He seethed. The albino child slowly removed her mirror from his view and finally he felt his blood begin to cool. "Find Kagura, now." It'd been a week since he'd sold his soul to the devil and agreed to work with the wind sorceress, and he had shit to show for it.
"You called?" Oh how he hated that bored sounding, know it all tone of hers.
"We need to formulate a plan and make a move. I'm tired of waiting. We've been sitting here twiddling our thumbs like idiots for almost a week now."
"And just what do you suggest we do?" Silence ensued and Kagura smirked behind her fan. "Exactly, you have nothing. Don't let your jealousy get the better of you little boy, because it'll cost you more than you're willing to pay," Kagura removed her fan from in front of her face and closed it with an elegant flick of her wrist. "but since you're so impatient, I have something for you to do."
"Well it's not what we're used to but it's a start." Kagome said holding up their newly acquired jewel shard.
"We should start looking for somewhere to camp, it'll be getting dark soon." Miroku said from over her shoulder.
Soon the odd threesome had filled their bellies and settled down for the night, but Kagome's mind was restless. While Inuyasha had given her a reprieve on answering any questions about Hojo to Miroku or himsef, she knew she needed to find the answers for herself. Rolling over to her left she saw that Miroku was sleeping soundly under the same tree Inuyasha was perched in. Though his eyes were closed his ears twitched at the slightest sound alerting her to the fact that any move she made would be on his radar.
Though she had never been one for underhanded tricks it was of the utmost importance that neither Inuyasha nor Miroku stopped her. The barrier she put up around the tree was miniscule compared to what she was capable of. Any small amount of Inuyasha or Miroku's youki would send it crashing down but the point was not to keep them in, just to keep her movements silent.
When their chase for the shard had lead them to this place, it was immediately recognized by Kagome. It'd been a long time since she'd been back here, in her old village, and instead of feeling happiness or joy looking at the remains of her small town only made her sad.
"I'm sorry I don't have any flowers for you Midoriko-sama. This was a bit of a surprise visit." She said gently. The small rock in front of the castle was the only thing left of her teacher, marking her final resting place. Though she wasn't sure if she could be heard, Kagome poured her heart out to her fallen mentor. "I miss you so much Midoriko-sama, but there's one more person here I need to see."
On the other side of the village was a tomb that Kagome was all too familiar with. In the past she had visited this place often, until the torture of looking at his name on the small headstone had became too much. Falling in front of the decimated grave Kagome wept until she couldn't breathe. It was her fault. Everything that had happened to Hojo was her fault, and the guilt was consuming her.
"I've always hated your tears. It pained me anytime I saw you cry." Turning her head to look over her shoulder Kagome wasn't as surprised as she should've been that Hojo was standing behind her. Everything about him seemed the same. Genuine concern for her showed through his blood red eyes, and Kagome wished time could freeze if only for a moment, just for them.
"How did you find me?" Kagome said, coming to a stand and wiping her face.
"I've been watching you. I just wanted to make sure you're okay." Hojo said stepping closer to her. She wanted to move away, take a step back, but she felt...stuck. He reached up to run his fingers through her hair and she smacked his hand away.
"Was that before or after you tried to kill me and my friends?" The anger in her voice was palpable.
"I'd never do anything to hurt you Kagome-san you have to know that. Do you truly have such little faith in me?"
Tears pooled in her eyes, and as much as she wanted to stay strong and will them away she couldn't. "How much faith am I supposed to have in you Hojo, when you're working together with my greatest enemy?!" She yelled. "You're not the same person I once knew."
"Do you trust that half-breed more than you do me?" He reached for her again again and this time she didn't have the energy to push him away. She let him embrace her and for just a second she let herself relish in the moment, and she embraced him back. "I only have to do what Naraku says until he has the complete jewel. Then he'll release me and you and I can be together again. Isn't that what you've wanted all this time Kagome-san?"
"Naraku can't complete the jewel Hojo. If he does the world as we know it will end and my duty is to make sure that doesn't happen."
"Then we'll leave this world! We can go right now, damn Naraku and damn the jewel!" His eyes lit up as he excitingly grabbed her hands.
"Hojo-kun I can't!"
"Why not? Because of that silver haired half-breed you fancy?" Surprise and pain flickered in her eyes. "Who is he to you Kagome? Do you love him? More than you love me?" He dropped her hands and took a step away from her. The small amount of space between them felt a mile wide to Kagome, and all she wanted to do was be in his arms again.
"Hojo-kun please, don't be angry." She took a tentative step towards him as the anger in his eyes slowing began to dissipate. "I just...I don't know what to do." She whispered. He leaned down intent on kissing her, and Kagome soon found herself rising to her toes to meet him. Their lips met chastely at first, but soon her hands were clutching his haori and his fingers were tangled in her hair.
Kagome was the first to come up for air, and when her eyes locked with his she could swear the world stopped spinning.
"Remember everything that I said tonight Kagome-san, because I meant it all. When the time comes I know you'll make the right choice. I can tell you trust that half demon, Inuyasha, but I implore you to take caution with him. He's got some secrets of his own."
"What are you talking about?" Kagome asked, confusion written all over her face.
"Ask him about Kikyou-sama." Akumu stepped away from her and when the cloud of miasma disappeared, he was gone.
"How long have you been standing out there?" Kagome watched as Miroku gradually stepped out from the shadows. She couldn't read the look on his face, which only added to her anxiety. Inuyasha was supposed to be the brooding one, the one she couldn't read, not Miroku.
"Long enough to question whether or not convincing Inuyasha to bring you back with us was the right idea." The dark haired demon walked further into the clearing until he was standing a few feet in front of Kagome.
"I didn't know Hojo was here, I swear." She pleaded.
"Then what was the barrier for?" Kagome blushed under his intense gaze.
"I didn't want to wake you or Inuyasha. I didn't want either of you to follow me, but not because I was meeting Hojo. I just wanted to be alone, figure things out." He looked skeptical and she had half a mind to be irritated at the fact that he'd been spying on her in the first place, but instead she counted to ten and finished explaining herself.
"Earlier you said we needed to plan our next move against Naraku, but I know what you were really asking was what's our next move against Hojo. And the truth is I don't know. I know what I have to do, what I should do, and when I realized that we were close to my village I was hoping that coming here would give me some clarity. If anything I'm more confused than I've ever been." She turned to face Hojo's grave as if the answers she'd been searching for were suddenly going to pop out at her.
Miroku sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. Walking up to Kagome he placed a comforting hand on her shoulder, as he too looked into the grave of the boy she had loved. "It's hard to be mad at you when you look so sad." He said half jokingly. "Look, I have no idea what you're going through right now. You have no reason to take my advice, but I really think you should be careful around Akumu, er, Hojo. You can't trust him."
Kagome placed her hand over her friend's in hopes of finding some of the comfort he was offering. "I know. I'd like a few more moments alone out here if you don't mind." She said somberly. Miroku gave her a small smile and turned to head back towards camp, when her voice stopped him. "I'm sorry about the barrier."
Miroku shook his head in a negative fashion. "No harm, no foul. I've seen what you can do Kagome. I know if you didn't want either of us to get out I wouldn't be standing here right now." He said with a laugh.
"Miroku wait!" He stopped again waiting for her to finish her thought. He raised a brow at the blush that was quickly spreading its way across her cheeks. "I understand that I shouldn't trust Hojo or take what he says at face value, but is what he said about Kikyou-sama and Inuyasha true? Did they have some sort of relationship?"
"It's really not my place to say. Though I will say this, Inuyasha's no liar. If you ask him something he'll tell you the truth." With that Miroku continued on his way out of the clearing. Though he had confirmed that there was some truth behind Hojo's words, it was up to her to put on her big girl pants and ask Inuyasha himself.
She sighed and laid flat on her back to watch the stars. "Why me?" She whispered into the night. Her life had always been complicated, but this was just getting ridiculous.
Hope everyone is still reading and enjoying this story. I know the updates are sporadic, but I just write when the inspiration comes.
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