When Kagome arrived back at the house, she realized all too quickly that she was going to have to deal with meeting Sesshoumaru much sooner than expected. Apparantly, he had been waiting by Kagome's cherry tree for the two females to return. She froze in place at the end of the path as she watched little Rin run up to her lord with a big grin and jump into his arms. Panic struck Kagome as she saw this. There was no way someone as cold as Sesshoumaru was going to tolerate a child grabbing onto him like that. She rushed over to them hoping to prevent an altercation.
"W-wait a second Rin..don't-" she stopped her sentence short as she witnessed something she was not expecting.
Rather than pushing her off, Sesshoumaru held the young girl for a few moments before gently setting her down before him. Down on one knee he stayed at eye level with her so that she could easily speak with him. Rin, with a big smile, presented her gift.
"Sesshoumaru-sama, Rin went and picked these flowers for you with Kagome nee-san!" She said as she put the flowers in one of his hands. Kagome was now right in front of the two of them, and upon hearing the little girl's statement, she was quick to object.
"I-I only showed her where she could find them.." Kagome started. But her breath caught in her throat as the dog demon's golden eyes glanced up to look at her.
He looked exactly as she remembered. Long and silky silver hair that reach past his back that was too beautiful to be human. Two magenta stripes on both sides of his face, as well as the blue crescent moon on his forehead. His clothing was the same as well; white kimono with a flower pattern, luscious fur, and plated armor. The only difference she knew of was that now, he had two arms rather than one. Realizing that she was staring at him for much too long, she quickly averted her eyes from his person.
Sesshoumaru said nothing as his gaze fell upon the miko standing before him. She had indeed changed. She no longer looked like a child, her eyes were softer-set, but most of all she no longer looked at him with that disrespectful glare. In the past Kagome had never shown respect toward him. She treated him no differently than she treated her human companions and his half-brother, Inuyasha. But now the girl, no, the woman before him was fidgeting where she stood, refusing to look him in the eyes, and acting as if she was about to collapse simply being in his presence. He appreciated her change in attitude, but it bothered him non-the-less. How could she have changed so dramatically in such a short amount of time? he thought.
Realizing he was ignoring his young ward, he abandoned his observations and returned his attentions to her.
"I see," he replied as he took the flowers from Rin. Rin's smile widened in satisfaction and she ran over to greet Ah-Un, who was patiently waiting close to the house. Once she was far enough away, Sesshoumaru discarded the flowers he was given at the base of the cherry tree. As he stood, he looked at Kagome to see that she continued to avoid looking directly at him.
"Miko," he began
"Y-yes" Kagome responded timidly. She could feel his gaze on her and it made her nervous.
"I wish to observe you and your home to see if I approve of Rin staying here." Sesshoumaru stated bluntly. He was not going to allow his young ward to live in this place if he found even the slightest thing wrong with her new environment.
"Isn't that a major invasion of my privacy?" Kagome asked with slight annoyance as she finally met his eyes once more. Her confidence was returning now that Sesshoumaru had tweaked a nerve. Kagome's temper had always been one of her strongest attributes.
"You will not argue with me on this issue miko, just go about the rest of your day as if my presence was no longer here." Sesshoumaru said with a hint of impatience. A feeling he recalled having with the Kagome of the past.
Kagome sighed, there was no opposing with this guy, "Very well then, just don't interfere with my training for today or I'll exorcise you." Something inside her felt different, it had been a long time since she argued like this with anyone. It was..empowering her.
Sesshoumaru was slightly taken aback by her unexpected threat, but he dismissed it accordingly. This young woman couldn't possibly be any stronger than she was back then; back during a time when he could have easily killed her.
Rin, who had been standing idly by observing her elder's conversation finally spoke out of concern.
"Sesshoumaru-sama, please don't fight with Kagome nee san.." she pleaded. Sesshoumaru and Kagome both looked in unison at the distressed child and then back at each other, with one final glare they went their separate ways. Sesshoumaru went to observe the property's perimeter while Kagome huffed into her house.
I swear, he'll still just as full of himself as he used to be she thought to herself as she pulled back the door covering to her home. Entering her house she proceeded to set her basket of herbs down on her dinner table. She also hung the bow and arrows she had been carrying across a nearby chair. She really didn't feel like doing anything now that an arrogant dog demon was going to be breathing down her neck. However, she really needed to get some things done before the sun went down. Eyeing her basket-full of wild herbs she needed to sort, she thought she might as well start teaching Rin about them. Kagome figured Kaede only ever taught her about the cultivated and dry herbs that were on hand in the village. Walking over to the door she called out to Rin who had gone back to play with Ah-Un.
"Rin, come here for a moment. I have something I want to show you.." she requested quietly behind a cupped hand, hoping Sesshoumaru wouldn't hear her. His sensitive ears however, easily picked up the miko's words and he turned to see Rin running into the house. Concerned, he walked toward the house just close enough to where he could see both of the females through an open window.
Rin ran over toward Kagome, who was sitting in a chair by the table, and followed her hand motions to sit on her lap. Kagome had a wide variety of herbs and flowers spread across the table for Rin to pick through and inspect. Sesshoumaru watched and listened as Kagome patiently explained what each herb could be used for. She told Rin all about the medicines, skin products, and even delicious teas each and every one of the different herbs could make. Before he knew it, he was no longer evaluating Kagome treatment of his young ward, but rather, was simply learning about plant uses. Perhaps it was the way that Kagome lit up when sharing her knowledge with Rin, which had him so engrossed in her lesson. Whatever it was, he had the feeling he was going to remember everything he was hearing whether he wanted to or not.
Just as Sesshoumaru was about to leave to continue his inspection of the property, he noticed a small movement out of the corner of his eye. What he saw was a small demon lizard carefully crawling out of the side of the miko's herb basket, completely out of the two females sight. A lizard demon in its tiny helpless form was no threat to anyone. However, if it decided to transform into it's stronger, much bigger self, it could become a serious threat toward humans. Walking toward the house he pulled back the door covering and reached out in preparation to eliminate the pest. Just as he was about to do the deed, Kagome reacted with incredible speed.
Without even looking up from the table, she reached behind herself and grabbed hold of one of her arrows hanging from the chair in which she was sitting. And, with a quick flick of her arm she jabbed the arrow into the lizard on the other side of her basket, beyond her field of vision. The arrow pierced the lizard directly in its center with deadly accuracy. Spiritual energy and instinct telling her where to aim. Rin was startled, but Kagome assured her nothing was wrong and the little girl went back to sorting the plants. Sesshoumaru just stood there in more than slight disbelief at what he had just witnessed. He had never seen the miko move like that before. And, although he hated admitting it to himself, it was impressive.
As the little lizard vanished into nothing, Kagome finally looked up to make eye contact with the dog demon standing in her door way. She wasn't shocked he was there. She had been aware of his presence the entire time he had been observing her and little Rin. She even knew about the demon lizard much sooner than he did. She had planned on exorcising it in front of this arrogant bastard simply to show him just how much he underestimated her abilities. Staring into his still slightly shocked face, she pulled the arrow back out of the table with a satisfied smile.
"Can I help with something, Sesshoumaru-sama~?" she asked with a slightly sarcastic tone
Sesshoumaru's eyebrow twitched upon picking up her disrespectful tone, but he kept his cool considering his young ward was present.
"No," he responded coolly as he left to return outside.
At this point Kagome couldn't even remember why she had been so nervous to see Sesshoumaru again. She was just having so much fun bickering with him. She was going to enjoy cracking into that emotionless mask of his little by little. And she had nothing to fear from him either. Kagome cared deeply for Rin and Rin for her. There was no way he was going to hurt her because that in turn would hurt Rin.
"Rin is finished!" the little girl exclaimed as she completed her last pile of herbs.
Kagome, realizing that she was supposed to be in the middle of a lesson, quickly praised her cute student. "Oh, good job, Rin-chan! You sorted them very well!"
The little girl smiled brightly.
"What do you want to do with Rin now?" Rin asked.
Kagome smiled down at her and said, "Well I need to do my daily bow and arrow exercises so why don't you run along and play," she continued "in fact I think I heard Jaken arrive earlier while we were busy sorting.."
"Really!? Jaken-sama is here too!?" Rin jumped down from Kagome's lap and made a bee-line out the door. Kagome chuckled as she heard the familiar shriek of the little toad's complaining as Rin squeezed him in a big hug. Apparently he had been trying to avoid such troubles by arriving secretly. She almost felt bad that she had sold him out, having experienced Rin's tackle of a hug herself earlier that day.
After quickly putting away Rin's sorted herbs into many different jars and boxes of different designs, she gathered her bow and arrows and headed out the door. With a quick look around, she noticed that Sesshoumaru was nowhere to be seen.
Huh, she thought to herself, I must have pissed him off more than I thought earlier. Believing him to be long gone, Kagome headed deep into the woods behind her house. An even smaller trail than earlier guiding her path.
A good fifty feet into the thicket, she came upon a small clearing. Kagome had placed targets, rings, and all sorts of archery practice equipment in the trees and bushes surrounding her. With a brief sigh she set down her tools and proceeded to clean and adjust them. After a quick overview of her targets, she was ready to begin her training.
Grabbing arrow after arrow, she rapidly pierced target after target. Her accuracy and speed had improved greatly over the last two years. She prided herself with never missing her target. She was no longer the defenseless little girl that she thought herself to be back then. She vowed to herself that she would never need anyone's protection ever again. She would allow no one to sacrifice themselves for her sake ever again. She wouldn't allow for any weaknesses in her mind or body. When training, she was the perfect example of a priestess. Her eyes were clear and steadfast. Her heart maintained a steady beat and her breath was never frantic. She remained poised and ready for anything from any direction.
Today she was in the zone. Every time her arrows hit their targets, they were either dead center or inches from it. And for reasons she could not comprehend, she was smiling as she trained. She never smiled during her practice. This was a time for her to keep her emotions in check and simply become one with her bow. But non-the-less a smile donned her face. Maybe it was because of all the fun she had been having with her new company. Or perhaps, she simply was happy to get away from them. No, that couldn't be it, she honestly liked taking care of little Rin and even..quarrelling with Sesshoumaru. It truly was fun.
As she continued practicing, she was so lost in thought that she didn't even notice the inquisitive dog that had been observing her for quite some time. Sesshoumaru had been making rounds through the surrounding woods when he spotted the young miko hard at work with her training. He had intended to merely glance at what she was doing and then leave, but something was compelling him to stay and watch. With one silent leap, he had propped himself on a wide branch of an oak. He sat with one leg dangling toward the ground and the other supporting his left arm, which in turn supported his head. Staying out of her sight, he watched her silently. He definitely didn't recognize the miko now before him. She showed no weaknesses in her defense. She moved rapidly with ferocity and strength, yet, she gave off a kind and gentle aura. She turned briefly to where he could see her smiling face and his expression softened slightly. She was truly intriguing, this human woman. Perhaps she-
His thoughts were interrupted as a speeding arrow headed right toward him. Wide-eyed, he had no time to react as the arrow drilled itself deep into the tree trunk, mere inches away from his head. In slight shock, he looked back down at Kagome to see her poised and ready to release another arrow. The miss of the first had been intended as a warning apparantly. With a swift, graceful stride Sesshoumaru leapt down to the ground as he avoided yet another buzzing arrow. Once he was out of the thick branches, Kagome was able to clearly see what and who she was shooting at.
"Sesshoumaru..?" Kagome questioned as she lowered her bow.
"I would appreciate it if you would stop firing those bothersome arrows at me." He stated as he walked toward her, slight agitation in his eyes.
"O-oh sorr-"She started to apologize but quickly stopped as her eyes met his.
Sesshoumaru was standing directly in front of her. Too close for comfort. And she could feel her earlier nervousness returning. She moved back a few steps to get away from being so close to him, but stopped as she noticed a trickle of red coming from Sesshoumaru's temple.
"Oh my God, are you bleeding?" she asked in disbelief
Sesshoumaru could feel the small amount of warm liquid on the side of his face. Apparently when the miko had shot her first arrow at him, she managed to graze him. Just the thought that a human woman had made him bleed was infuriating.
"It is not your concern, miko."
"Of course it's my concern!" She countered, "I'm the one that injured you after all."
After setting her bow and arrows by the closest tree, Kagome rummaged in her kimono sleeve and pulled out a small shell container. She opened it and Sesshoumaru noticed a uniquely scented paste inside. He watched her as she gently gathered a small amount on her fingertip.
"Now hold still for a moment, ok?" she asked in an anxious tone
Sesshoumaru, saying nothing in response, simply stood there as Kagome delicately rubbed the medicine on his right temple. The act was pointless, he was a full-demon after all and an insignificant injury such as this would heal in a matter of seconds. He was however, intrigued as to why the miko's attitude had changed so suddenly. Merely moments ago she was an intense warrior honing her skills in preparation for battle. And now, once again, she was simply a woman cowering before him, her hands shaking slightly as she treated his minor wound. For a few seconds Sesshoumaru actually felt his eyelids become heavy as he took pleasure in Kagome's gentle touch. Catching himself thinking in such a disturbing way, he grabbed the miko's arms and pulled it away from his person.
"Sorry, does it hurt?" She asked hesitantly. Kagome couldn't believe she had just done what she did. If it had been anybody else up in that tree earlier she could easily have killed them.
"No." he responded coolly
Kagome sighed as she returned the medicine to her sleeve pocket. Of course a little cut like that wouldn't bother the great Sesshoumaru, would it? She thought to herself. Pausing for a moment she questioned her words but why did I even asked that?
"Listen Sesshoumaru, the reason I told you to stay away from me when I trained was that I..become different.." she paused, "if that makes any sense."
"Indeed." He had definitely noticed the difference between the woman standing before him now, and the woman he had observed earlier. It was as if they were two separate people.
"Wait, how on earth could you understand that unless.." a sudden realization struck her and she could feel her face darkening, "U-um Sesshoumaru, how long were you in that tree?"
Sesshoumaru's eyes widened slightly. He could easily have told her that he had been observing her the entire time but for some reason that felt uncomfortable. Perhaps it was because he was so entranced when he saw her smiling face that he felt he couldn't answer. No that wasn't it. It was simply because the miko had managed to distract his usually dutiful self that he couldn't. In any case he still did not feel obligated to answer her. Without saying a word, he turned toward the direction of Kagome's house and began walking.
Kagome didn't even need him to respond to know his answer. He had obviously been watching her when she was training, and just the thought that his eyes were on her that entire time made her blush furiously. She had never let anyone see her when she trained before, and now that Sesshoumaru had she was utterly embarrassed. And it had to be Sesshoumaru of all people. He was obviously looking down on her abilities as he observed her. Of course he was. She was merely a pathetic human in his eyes after all. How was she going to face him again without feeling awkward? She tried earlier to show him up by defeating that lizard demon, but, it didn't even faze him. And now that he saw her awkward training methods, he was probably even more un-impressed.
She sighed as she slowly tried to calm herself down. Sesshoumaru was most likely already at her house, so she gathered her things and headed there as well. She just wanted him to leave already. She missed her quiet life with just herself and her home. However, she had made a commitment to watch over Rin and she would not back out of her promise. And she really liked the honest and cute Rin. It was only Sesshoumaru that made her feel uncomfortable. He was just too arrogant.
As she approached her home, she could feel her stomach crying out in hunger. How she had managed to forget to eat the entire day, she did not know. Perhaps it was due to the stress of having Sesshoumaru breathing down her neck that distracted her.
Once she arrived she spotted Sesshoumaru standing under her cherry tree. Surrounding him was his entourage of Jaken, Rin and Ah-Un. Fighting her nervousness, Kagome walked up to them and stood there like a young adult waiting to see if she got the job after a big interview. Jaken was the first to speak.
"Listen you pathetic human! Just because Sesshoumaru-sama has agreed to this doesn't mea-" He was quickly cut off by Sesshoumaru's foot.
Kagome perked up instantly at the dog demon's calm tone. She looked up to see him staring directly into her eyes. Blushing slightly she responded.
"After observing you and your home I have decided that Rin shall be allowed to stay here."
Kagome was completely shocked. She had more than expected Sesshoumaru to take Rin away after "observing" her. Why on earth was he actually letting his precious ward continue to be in her care?
"Your home is properly maintained and you possess more than enough strength and skill to keep Rin safe from harm." The miko was indeed stronger than she was years ago, that much he would admit. However, her constantly changing attitude toward him proved to be irritating. One moment she was quivering before his presence and the next she was being as disrespectful as he remembered her to be. Dealing with this from now was going to prove quite difficult for his patience.
Kagome was a little stunned by his words. Did..did he just compliment me? She couldn't believe the proud Sesshoumaru would actually compliment a human. Collecting her thoughts she looked over to see Rin running toward her. Falling over from the force, Kagome was once again sent to the ground by Rin's embrace.
"Yay! Rin is so happy Sesshoumaru-sama likes Kagome nee-san too!"
Kagome was shocked at the little girl's innocent words, and felt herself blush as she sat up. She looked up at Sesshoumaru to see if he had been affected by the Rin' words. He remained, however, as stoic as he usually was.
Sesshoumaru watched as Kagome picked herself off of the ground, Rin still in her arms. Once she set the little girl down, she immediately ran over to Jaken and Ah-Un to say goodbye as they prepared to depart.
Kagome and Sesshoumaru both stood there in silence under the cherry tree until Kagome finally gathered the courage to speak.
"Listen Sesshoumaru-sama, I know that you care for Rin and that your worried about her," she explained, "and I'm sure you don't fully trust me but..I can promise you I will keep her safe and happy."
Sesshoumaru was slightly taken aback by the miko suddenly showing his name respect. She had never once done so in the past and he wondered if she was up to something. But if she was giving her word to keep Rin safe then there was no reason to worry.
"Very well then, I leave her in your hands Kagome"
She couldn't believe what she had just heard. Sesshoumaru actually said her name! He had never done that before and in the past he only addressed her as "miko" or "wench". She blushed when she thought how wonderful her name sounded when it was said in his deep and smooth voice. Quickly dismissing her embarrassing thoughts she looked to see Sesshoumaru walking away. She simply stared at his beautiful form as the evening breeze blew through his hair.
Wait a second, if he's 'leaving her in my hands'..does that mean he won't come back? She sighed in relief at the thought. Having Sesshoumaru here had caused her way too much stress and if he wasn't coming back it would make it so much easier to concentrate on her task of caring for Rin. Looking over to her left, she saw Rin headed toward her.
"Rin, are you hungry? I'll make us some dinner, ok?" Rin was probably really hungry since Kagome never got around to making them lunch. In reality Kagome was the most starving; her blood sugar was so low she felt faint. Guiding Rin through the door she was almost in as well when she heard herself being called.
Sesshoumaru was almost out of her yard when he had turned around to speak with her one last time before leaving.
Kagome turned her head to answer him, shocked that he was taking such a long time to leave. But she wasn't too nervous since he most likely wouldn't be back.
"Yes, what is Sesshoumaru?"
"I will be returning here in three days time to check on Rin." He stated coolly
Damn. Looks like he's coming back after all. She thought unhappily to herself.
Without waiting for a response Sesshoumaru flew away with Ah-Un and Jaken following closely behind.
Throughout the rest of the evening Kagome and Rin had a quick dinner and collected Rin's things that had been delivered by some of the people in Kaede's village near nightfall. After setting up an extra futon for Rin, Kagome insisted that they turned in for the night. She was just too exhausted to entertain the little girl anymore. Laying comfortably in her own futon, Kagome realized she had not had a day quite as, eventful, as this one in two years. And that in a mere three days time, Sesshoumaru, the source of her new-found stress would be back once more.