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Illumination by Kanna37

Taken

A silent Kagome stared at the now defunct well with dismay and barely held anguish.

It seemed as though Naraku had wanted to make sure that she could never leave him, and had chosen to do that by destroying her way home.

Oddly enough, Sesshoumaru did not condemn her for her upset, leaving her to her thoughts with grace. It seemed he understood her pain, and did not wish to make matters worse for her.

But it left Kagome in turmoil – she hadn't expected to be trapped here with no way home. What was she to do now?

Apparently, Sesshoumaru was also a great deal more intuitive than anyone gave him credit for.

“You will stay with this one, miko.”

There was no need to speak more – she understood his words immediately. But she was surprised.

Voice a little husky from repressed tears, she asked, “What would you have of me, a useless castaway in a time not my own? I have nothing to give in return for your largesse.” She looked down sadly at that thought... What use am I to anyone, now? Other than finding the shards – and they're almost all found and in my hands. Then what?

“Must there be a use beyond simply being?” he queried, eyeing her oddly, his voice neutral. “Perhaps that is all that is needed of you,” he finished, even as he turned to lead Ah-Uhn from the clearing, her once more astride the dragon.

She thought about that for a while. He needs me to just be... me? “Illumination,” she sighed sadly, understanding, and he glanced at her over his shoulder, his eyes deeply golden in that moment.

“Illumination,” he agreed, then turned back to face their path, and nothing more was said for some time.

It's the same as Naraku – and yet, so different. Sesshoumaru... he isn't a sociopath. He's harsh, and has a moral code that is completely different than mine. But that's because he is different. He's youkai, and I'm ningen. She studied him surreptitiously as they traveled, glad of the quiet, and the fact that he wasn't trying to force anything from her.

Neither Inuyasha, or Naraku, would have been able to do the same.

Still... How do I illuminate his soul? I don't understand what he expects from me. With Naraku, it was different – he told me exactly what he wanted from me, at least. But here... I'm just floundering along. And I don't know how long he will be content with just my presence. Once he no longer is..

Then what?

She sighed inwardly and left those thoughts alone for the time being, not seeing any use in worrying about things she couldn't foresee. But that left a hole in her mind – one that wanted to fling her over the edge into hysteria at the knowledge that she wouldn't be able to see her family again.

Wrenching her mind away from that despair, she looked around idly at the forest they were walking through, and then she frowned... walking through... “Sesshoumaru-sama? Why are we walking, and where are we going?” she asked, eyes plastered to his swaying silver locks.

He paused in his step for just a moment, and then continued on at his chosen pace once more. “We walk because it is what I desire at this moment. As for your second question, we go where the spider goes – I will not stop until he is dead,” he said, and Kagome shivered at the implacable note in his voice.

Nodding to herself, she had to admit she was not surprised at his continuing quest to kill the spider hanyou. Implacable was truly the best word to describe the daiyoukai walking ahead of her – once he had something in his sights, he never stopped, never let go of it until he'd done whatever it was that needed done. And at this time, what needed done in his eyes was killing Naraku.

That brought her thoughts back to the spider, and she closed her eyes, wondering if she would truly ever be free of his presence, or influence in one way or another. Would even this terrible, powerful youkai Lord be able to keep her safe from Naraku's twisted desires?

But then a rather soothing thought occurred to her – he no longer had any of the jewel. In his arrogant assumption of superiority, he'd given all of it over to her to hold, and that meant that she had most of the jewel herself.

It occurred to her, rather belatedly, that in all the confusion of that little fight, the shard that Kikyou had been carrying had been forgotten. “Oh, damn,” she said softly to herself, “I wonder where it went once she died?”

Ah-Uhn came to a halt, then, and she looked up, surprised, into calm golden eyes. “You wonder about this, miko?” he asked, holding up a shimmering shard for her inspection. Wide-eyed, she nodded. How did he know? “H-hai... how did you get that?”

He waited for her to take the shard, then once again began walking. “During the fight with Inuyasha, I picked it up from where clay miko had fallen.”

“And you give it away so easily,” she murmured, as she watched the shard purify in her hand before tucking it away in her pouch. “No other youkai I have ever known has turned the power implicit in the jewel away. Why are you so different, Sesshoumaru-sama?”

There was silence for a time, and she didn't think anything of it – he wasn't much of a talker. But he chose to answer her query, and that was a surprise.

“It is false strength that can be taken away most easily. I have no need to depend on such a thing with its inherent weakness.”

Kagome nodded thoughtfully at his words. “You're right – after all, I have what I have because I and the others have taken them away from others who were depending on them for strength.” She looked down at her hands for a moment. “I almost feel... odd... that you don't want me for the shards. Since the tama was pulled from my side, anytime someone wants me, it's for that. It's... nice,” she said shyly.

“You forget Naraku. While he did want you for your ability to find the shards, he also wanted something else from you, miko,” he said coolly, eyeing her over his shoulder, wanting to see her reaction.

He was pleased to see her shiver with what was obviously revulsion. Naraku was not just dark, like all youkai were – he was mad, and it was clear that Kagome's purity would only exacerbate that insanity. While the spider might not have realized it, in his case, allowing her light to illuminate his soul would have only exposed him for the creature of death and destruction that he was.

As evening began to darken the skies above them, Sesshoumaru turned and began leading them in a different direction, and Kagome watched quietly as the foliage around them began to change. Before long, all plant life was gone, leaving them traversing rocky terrain at the bottom of a gorge. Within a few minutes, he had led them to a cave hidden amongst the boulders, and indicated that she should dismount.

Stiffly, sore after so many hours in a saddle, as she was not used to such, she slid down from the dragon's back, landing on her feet with a wince. After a moment, she reached around and patted Ah and Uhn's heads, thanking them for the ride, then watched as Sesshoumaru unbridled them and sent them off to find themselves some food.

Something occurred to her, then, as she turned to face the Silver Inu... “Sesshoumaru-sama? Where are Rin, and Jaken?” she asked, confused. It was rare that he was without them trailing along at his heels.

“We will join them at a later time,” he replied after a moment's consideration. With that, he motioned for her to follow him, and she did, staying close. She had the feeling that Naraku wasn't all that far away.

With silent efficiency, Sesshoumaru had a fire going quickly in a cave he'd obviously prepared beforehand – there was plenty of wood gathered, and the cave even boasted a small pool of cool water at the back that drained off into a stream that flowed out of the cave along one wall.

There was also a huge pile of furs and blankets to one side of the fire, and Kagome eyed it longingly – it looked comfortable, and she would be happy once bedtime came.

Within minutes, he had produced a supper for her of dried meats, rice balls, and hot tea, which she was extremely grateful for. He watched silently as she ate, his gaze thoughtful.

Finally, uneasy with his silent scrutiny, she cleared her throat. Before she could speak, however, he did.

“I am curious, miko, about your stay with Naraku. Tell me of it.”

She blinked in surprise, then frowned as she thought about it. She really had no desire to go back over it, but...

“I don't know what you want to hear, Sesshoumaru-sama – could you be more specific?”

“I was. I wish to know of your interactions with the spider. You will tell me.”

Meekly, she nodded, not wanting to anger the daiyoukai with the dangerous temper. Though cold most of the time... he could heat very quickly, and she didn't want to risk it.

“At the beginning, when I first woke, it was mostly just him taking care of my injuries.” She looked uneasy for a moment. “But then... he started telling me what happened... when he took me from Inuyasha. It was strange... I knew he was telling me what was strictly the truth, but he was... I don't know, slanting it to suit himself, I guess. I don't think he realized I knew what he was doing.”

She waited a moment for him to speak, but when he didn't, she continued.

“His mind is so dark, you know, it's not just his soul. He would be so nice to me, and then so cruel to everyone around him right in front of me, like he thought I wouldn't care about anyone else. It was like he didn't realize that I saw things differently than him, even though he claimed to want me for my light.”

“He probably did not. In Naraku's world, everyone thinks like Naraku,” he replied after a moment. “That is why he cannot understand this ones disdain for the power of the Shikon no Tama.”

Kagome considered that for a while, then nodded. “You're right. He's egocentric.” She shivered. “And he's watching. He's not too far away, waiting for his chance to take me back. I've never been afraid of the dark before... but his darkness frightens me,” she admitted, her voice wavering. “I think... that if he were to get his hands on me again, I would rather be dead than forced to live with the nightmare that is Naraku's soul.”

Ice in his gaze, Sesshoumaru calmed her fears. “I will not stand the spider to touch what is mine, miko. You need not fear his darkness again.” His golden gaze flickered for a moment. “The only darkness you should be concerned with, is mine.”

Speechless, she stared at him, stunned at his outright proclamation that she belonged to him. “I'm... yours?” she questioned after a moment.

He merely quirked a brow at her, his expression rather arrogant, and her brows furrowed.

“But that doesn't say anything at all, Sesshoumaru-sama... your... what?” she asked, confused.

She was in no way expecting his reply.

“Mate, or wife, whichever term you prefer, it matters not. But by the time we leave this cave, we will be joined as one, and your light will belong solely to me... forever.”

Shocked beyond anything she'd ever imagined, she stared at him, eyes so wide the whites were showing all the way around.

And Sesshoumaru continued to stare at her, no compromise in his gaze. “I have not watched over you and protected you for so long, only to allow you to go to someone else. You have always been mine to claim, miko, from the moment you challenged me in my father's remains, whether you knew it, or not, matters little.”

She found she had nothing to say to that. After all, what girl didn't want the best?

There was no denying that Sesshoumaru was the best of the best – you couldn't get any better than him, especially in this era she found herself stuck in.

The silence deepened between them...

But it was not a bad silence.

~oOo~

Kagome peeked at Sesshoumaru shyly, finally noticing that there was only one pile of bedding in the cave.

Now, young as she was, naïve she wasn't... and two people in one bed usually meant certain things would be happening. Virgin as she was, she was also, by the standards of this time, and even her own time, old enough for sexual consent, being as she had passed her sixteenth birthday several months before.

But those thoughts were pretty scary... after all, Sesshoumaru was absolutely gorgeous, and she... was not. Oh, she didn't think herself ugly, or anything, despite Inuyasha – if she was so ugly, he wouldn't have gotten all jealous over Koga, or Hojo. But she knew that she was certainly no match in beauty for the youkai Lord sitting quite comfortably across from her, and staring into the fire contemplatively.

Maybe he had meant wife in a platonic way? Like... in name only? She had to ask...

“Sesshoumaru-sama?” When his eyes flicked up to meet hers placidly, she blinked at the lack of cold in his eyes; they were warm and almost tender as they landed on her. She blinked again in surprise, then shook herself and asked her question.

“Umm, when you said wife, or mate,” she murmured, blushing cranberry, “you meant as in name only, ne? After all, I am human, and you don't like humans.”

He looked amused at that question. “For humans, I suppose such a thing is possible, a marriage in name only. But youkai... we mate, miko, and there is no way to take a mate, without actually mating. I used the term wife, for your sake, but the truth is you will be my mate – with all that the word entails.”

Kagome swallowed heavily as she took in his words, a bit of panic reaching her eyes. “B-but... why me?” she squeaked, thoughts of a naked Sesshoumaru as terrifying as they were arousing.

“There is no answer for that question other than because I want you, little priestess,” a mocking smirk tilting his lips upwards. He eyed her panic with amusement, and stood, moving towards the cavern opening. Coming to a halt in front of it, he drew Tenseiga, and thrust it into the stone, bringing up a barrier that shimmered blue over the opening, rendering anyone outside unable to get inside, or even see inside. Once that was done, he turned to consider Kagome, before striding over to her, and holding out his hand.

Eyes wide, she hesitated, but he did not move, and finally, she gathered enough courage to slip her tiny hand into his much larger, elegantly male one, allowing him to pull her up to stand before him.

“What is it that you fear, I wonder?” he murmured, watching the barely controlled panic in her eyes.

“I've never done anything like... like this!” she whispered vehemently. “Of course I'm scared! And you didn't even ask, you just told me, and... and...”

He put a finger to her lips to halt her words. “I am your protector now, miko, and as such, I make the decisions that will affect your life. I choose to protect you as a mate, rather than as a ward, as I do Rin. And I am aware that you are untouched... but you will not be by tomorrow, this I promise you,” he rumbled darkly.

She looked up at him with an expression almost despairing, to his unseen surprise. “Sesshoumaru-sama, you can't! It isn't suitable! And you can hardly... hardly-” she lowered her voice ashamedly, “-want to do that with... me. I'm too human. There's no way you could be physically attracted to someone like me. And besides,” she said, trying to throw up every objection she could to deter him, “you need heirs, right? I can't give you that – they would be hanyou!”

He chuckled, and she almost choked, falling silent and staring at him with awe. He flicked a careful finger down her cheek, eyes almost pensive as he watched her. “Your efforts are in vain, little one. You think that this one would mate a female he did not desire? I am not so foolish. As for heirs?”

Here, he met her gaze directly.

“I am fully aware of the future you come from. And it was not hard to deduce that in your time, there are no youkai – at least, not openly. So it was not difficult to understand that the time will come when I will no longer be the Western Lord. What need, then, have I of heirs?”

Kagome's gaze softened on him, knowing that the future she came from, a future where Lords no longer existed, would probably be painful for him. To lose the title his family had held for so many thousands of years? “So you have no need of children,” she said slowly, thinking about that.

“I did not say that, Kagome. I said I have no need of heirs... or at least, no need for full-blooded heirs. In the world you come from, pups born of both our blood would be a boon, I believe. Whether that is the case, or not, however, is moot. What the future may hold, this one knows not for certain, but we will meet it together, as mates, whatever may come.”

Unable to think of anything else to say, she stared up at him, mesmerized, frozen in place, literally not knowing what to do in that moment, or how to respond – not even really taking in the ramifications of his words.

Sesshoumaru, however, did not suffer from such a problem.

“It is time to prepare yourself for bed, miko... this one has waited long enough to claim your light for himself.” Looking at her with open amusement, he said, “There is also the added benefit for you, Kagome,” chuckling once more at her shock at his use of her name, “once mated to me, Naraku will have no choice but to leave you alone – once mated, you cannot mate another, not even if I were to die.”

She looked thoughtful at that; while he might find such a thing amusing, she certainly did not – it did, indeed, sweeten the already admittedly sweet, though terrifying, deal. Of course she was attracted to Sesshoumaru – what woman with functioning eyes wasn't? Didn't mean she wasn't scared stiff about it. But since she apparently had no choice in the matter anyway, keeping Naraku away certainly made her feel a bit better about the whole thing.

“Are you sure?” she finally murmured. “About Naraku, I mean?”

“Even if mating were not so, Kagome, I would never allow the spider to touch what is mine. You need no longer fear the hanyou, even now.”

Nodding, she took a deep breath, and then stepped back from him, seeking her yellow bag that contained all she still owned in the world... the only things she still had from home. He watched silently as she puttered around, obviously trying to draw things out a bit. He knew that he was trampling all over her human sensibilities, but he couldn't find it in himself to care. Once claimed, she would settle down into her place as his mate quite easily. She was merely uncertain of herself.

He would not allow that to continue...

As she moved to take clothing with her to the little pool of water at the back, obviously thinking to change into them, he spoke up. “No, Kagome – you will have no need of those clothes.” He reached into Ah-Uhn's saddlebags and pulled out a thin silk yukata and held it out to her. “You may wear this, instead.”

She took it from him hesitantly, once more blushing and unable to meet his gaze. “O-okay,” she mumbled, turning around and heading back to the pool, even as she realized that she would have to undress in front of him, as there was no privacy in the cave whatsoever.

Wincing, she wondered what he would say if she asked him to turn around, and glanced surreptitiously at him, only to find him already doing so, staring out of the cave entrance. Grateful for small mercies, she hurriedly changed into the yukata, and then began to rinse herself clean, after brushing her teeth. She pulled out her hairbrush, but before she could start, Sesshoumaru addressed her.

“Allow me, Kagome. Grooming each other is part of being mates.” That caught her attention – did that mean she would be allowed to brush his hair? She shivered pleasantly at that thought... she'd always wanted to get her hands on his beautiful, shimmering silver locks.

“Oh... okay,” she said, placing the brush in his outstretched hand, and then sat on the pile of furs that made up the bed. He sat behind her, and she sighed as he began to slowly brush her hair, relaxing despite herself.

“Tell me, little mate, why, when you realized who had taken you from Kagura, did you relax into my hold?”

Blushing fiercely as he called her mate, she tried to figure out what to say. Finally, reluctantly, she decided to just tell him what Naraku had told her.

“When I was with Naraku, he told me several times that you wanted my light, too. I didn't believe him, but when I saw who was pulling me away from Kagura, I couldn't think of any reason you would have to kill me at that particular point, since I wasn't crossing you, so I decided that I would be better off with you, than Inuyasha or Naraku.”

“Hn.” He continued to brush her hair, pulling the brush through from scalp to tip. “What else did he tell you, I wonder?” he murmured.

She stiffened a little, but said, “He said some things I didn't believe at all... like that you always followed me when I was with Inuyasha, watching over me in secret. I scoffed at that, which made Naraku angry,” she finished, a shiver running down her spine.

“How ironic,” he said softly, running careful fingers through her hair, “that when he spoke nothing but the truth to you, you did not believe him.”

“S-so that was true?” she gasped, taken aback.

“Did I not say earlier that I had watched over you and protected you? He spoke nothing but the truth on that score. It is unfortunate that I was not nearby when he took you – I had some other business to attend to. He knew quite well when to strike, I believe; however, such a chance will not come again. For until the spider is destroyed, you will not be out of my sight.”

She could sense the anticipation inside Sesshoumaru at the thought of destroying Naraku... the desire to shed blood, and she flinched, knowing that he was bloodthirsty at times as a youkai. But she was not, and though she'd killed her fair share of youkai, she didn't look forward to dealing out death... ever.

So different... how can I ever adjust to thinking of things that way?

She didn't realize she'd said that aloud until Sesshoumaru answered her. “I do not wish for you to adjust to my views as a youkai. I wish you only to remain Kagome. It is your differences that attract this one... your differences that make the light of your soul so bright.”

Setting aside the brush finally, he reached up and cupped her shoulders, sliding his hands down her arms languidly and smiling in satisfaction when she reacted, goosebumps pebbling her skin even through the silk of the yukata as she gasped faintly. With a smirk, he reached around to the tie at her waist, tugging it lightly.

“I would suggest unwrapping yourself. I will take this time to prepare myself for bed, as well, miko.”

And just like that, Kagome froze, listening intently to the male behind her moving around. She could hear the sound of slithering silk, and with a blush, and a racing heart, she pulled the blankets towards herself, and holding them up over her body, slowly disrobed, setting the yukata next to the furs she was laying on. Eyes closing in maidenly modesty, she lay down, afraid to open her eyes and spy the rather overwhelming male preparing himself for her bed... by stripping.

Despite his beauty, Kagome had never really thought about what he would look like nude – but it seemed as though that was about to change, because he was standing at her feet, and ordering her to open her eyes and look upon him.

“Come, Kagome – you must become familiar with my body, as I will with yours. Such coyness has no place in a mating.”

Red from her hairline down to the edge of the blanket, she peeked out shyly, finding him standing before her with no hesitation whatsoever – completely nude.

She gulped, her eyes widening. Barely able to draw a breath, she looked on him naked for the first time, and almost passed out.

He was perfect. Tall, well-built, he didn't carry any of the over-muscled bulk she so despised in bodybuilders of her time. Well defined cords of muscle shaped him, with not one ounce of excess fat anywhere. The stripes that ran around his wrists found an echo on his hips, shoulders, and ankles.

But it was that one certain part of him that had her in a panic. He was far too large to ever fit inside a human woman, she was positive. And she blurted just that out to him, even as he moved to crawl into the bedding with her. He looked at her with laughing eyes, and suddenly, she wasn't panicking so much, instead, she was just breathless.

“I assure you, Kagome, we will fit. Izayoi was smaller than you, and my father as endowed as I, and as they were able to produce the whelp, I can positively state that you will be able to receive me.”

“Oh,” she whispered, quite unable to make any further sound as she watched him crawl up towards her warily.

He tilted his head at her, wondering. “Tell me... why did your family not arrange an advantageous marriage for you?” It had just occurred to him to question that...

Her manner eased a bit at such a nonchalant query. “In my time, most marriages aren't contracted anymore – very few families do things that way. We aren't considered adult until we're eighteen, and we choose our own husbands much later than that, usually,” she said.

He blinked at that. “Indeed? So you are not even an adult in your era,” he said musingly, even as he moved closer to her. “No wonder you seem so timid of me.”

She choked out a laugh. “Oh, that's not why – its just because you're intimidating, Sesshoumaru-sama.”

The daiyoukai cocked a a slender brow at her. “Come now, wife – is it not a little odd to be so formal with me, especially in these... particular circumstances?” he murmured, looking down at her with hooded eyes.

“Uhm, I s-suppose so, my lord,” she squeaked, now even more intimidated than before.

“Say it with me now, Kagome,” he responded, “Sesshoumaru. It is not that hard, I assure you.”

A reproachful look crossed her face at that, and with her lower lip suddenly pouting just a tad, he couldn't resist the temptation, and lowered his head to nip at the tender little morsel. As her taste burst across his senses, he purred, and taking advantage of her gasp, he claimed her mouth for his own, not taking any account of her startled jump whatsoever.

Kagome thought she had to have died and gone to heaven, because there was no way her first real kiss was being given to her by the most gorgeous male of any species she'd ever seen. This just couldn't be happening. Perhaps she was still back in Naraku's castle, and dreaming?

But as the kiss continued, growing hotter as he stroked her tongue and the roof of her mouth languidly, as though he had all the time in the world to enjoy just kissing her, she melted, unable to fight what he was doing to her – it was simply delicious. He was delicious.

He sure knew what he was about, too, drawing back just enough for her to breath when she needed it, without actually losing contact with her mouth, nibbling and kissing along her full lower lip, and then returning to taste her fully again. He did this for a good long while, until she was little more than a puddle on the furs, and then he began to move slowly over her cheek to nip at her ear. She jerked, startled; she'd never known just how sensitive her earlobes were until that very moment.

By now, she was laying on her back again, and he was hovering over her, still definitely the instigator of this encounter. Encouraging her to tilt her head, he accepted her unknowing submission, and explored every inch of her neck, nipping here and there until she was so drenched in his scent that even humans would be able to pick up his personal scent on her.

Mine, he purred to himself, her light is all mine. She is all mine. He was more pleased than he had ever been over anything else in his life.

He decided to say it aloud – he wanted her to hear him claiming her. “Mine, miko. You are mine, now, always... nothing can change that ever. So many have craved you,” he murmured darkly, his eyes capturing hers with their swirling red and gold, “and I am the one that has you. I will take great pleasure in watching them all realize that it is too late for them.”

Kagome didn't know what to make of what Sesshoumaru was saying, but the truth was, she was barely aware of his words, anyway. His hands, moving restlessly all over her body, his kisses along her neck and shoulders all quickly pulled her under, and she had no way to fight him. She whimpered with the intensity of what she was feeling; she was almost afraid she would be drowned in the waves of passion he was thrusting her into.

But Sesshoumaru had no intention of allowing her to drown in anything, no... he would protect her even when in the throes of passion, wrapping himself around her and submerging himself in her incandescent soul while sheltering her from the storm with his own heavy, dark soul.

Illumination....

Pulling back slightly, he took the blanket she had used to cover herself and pushed it away, slowly uncovering her young, but still mature, form to his wanting eyes. A feral growl issued from him; as she blushed, wide-eyed and uncertain, his eyes dropped to half-mast and a wicked smile lit across his face.

“You blush so beautifully, though it is completely unnecessary – your body was formed to bring me pleasure, as mine was created to do the same for you. And I will,” he whispered silkily, his eyes finally flicking up to meet hers. “You will never want for pleasure in our bed, Kagome, I promise you that.”

She swallowed heavily even as he tilted her chin up and continued paying attention to her neck and pulse. It felt so good – like nothing she'd ever felt before. And she wanted to keep feeling it – to never be forced to give up the youkai lord that was making her feel this way.

A gasp was ripped from her throat as he brought his long, lean body down along hers; the eroticism of feeling his body pressed to hers rendering her speechless with wonder. She could feel every dip and rise in his flesh, and she could certainly feel his hardness pressing into her thigh. Hot and heavy, it lay like a brand against her, burning her, leaving her breathless.

In that moment, she felt so feminine and dainty, being dominated by the male above her leaving her feeling thrilled rather than angry or threatened. And she felt desired, something she would never have believed this particular male would make her feel. It was a seductive thing, and she willingly went under as he moved his caresses down her body to her pink-tipped, quivering breasts.

Her throat froze in the moment he took one furled nipple into his mouth; she couldn't even breathe, her voice was lost in the shock of pleasure that skittered down her spine and straight to her core, setting her on fire. Her eyes widened when he moved over to the neglected tip, suckling it into his mouth and biting down just enough with his fangs to coax a harsh moan from her.

He purred at the sound, the vibrations rippling through her body and sending her over the edge in the first orgasm she'd ever had; her body arched off the furs as she twisted and strained, barely able to see as her vision first inverted, then exploded with white light as she cried out in overwhelmed wonder.

Sesshoumaru leaned back, watching in fascination as she came just from the little amount of foreplay he'd given her. He was more than pleased at her responsiveness to his touch – he'd never had a more passionate response from any female he'd ever bedded. It excited him... and left him eager for more.

Loving her scent even more now that she'd released, he lowered his head and continued to nibble, suck, and lick his way down her body, leaving her sobbing in pleasure and almost incoherent. Every sound that passed her lips spurred him on, heating his blood and surging his youki to hitherto unforeseen heights. Whimpers, moans, groans, and even a few small growls were like erotic music to his ears, and, desiring to completely cover every bit of her beautiful, slender young body in his scent, he coaxed her over on to her stomach, moving right back up her flesh just as slowly as he'd moved down the front of her.

Hard as steel and in pain, Sesshoumaru swept her heavy fall of midnight locks over one shoulder, nuzzling her neck as he pressed himself to her sweetly curved backside, rolling his hips into her with a relishing sound that passed over her ear, raising goosebumps on her neck and back. He rolled his hips into her again, clamping his jaw over her shoulder as he did so. The dominant aspects of the position were not lost on Kagome, and she moaned his name in submissive pleasure, baring her neck for his attentions, acting instinctively - proof positive that humans weren't that far from animals when it came to instincts, whether they liked to admit to it or not.

A deep rumble poured out of him, vibrating her entire body as he released her shoulder and licked up her neck as he continued to pulse his hips into her soft, firm backside.

Kagome could feel his heavy erection pressing into her, and slipping down to where her body ached for the feel of him, sliding sweetly in her wet heat to brush across her clit, eliciting a choked moan of his name once more that stroked his desire ever higher.

“Sesshoumaru,” she whimpered, almost afraid of the pleasure he was drowning her in. It was unlike anything she'd ever known, and virgin that she was, she didn't know how to handle it. She didn't understand how someone who seemed so cold could be so hot against her back and between her legs – even his manner with her had suddenly become much warmer, as though he were wrapping her in his own soul's warm darkness, just as he basked in her light.

“Yes, mate?” he murmured in reply to her call as he nuzzled further into the nape of her neck, gently biting down and then nibbling his way back around as he growled in pleasure, his scent covering her body sending him into his own state of heavy demand. It was time – he could wait no more, and with that thought, he pulled away after once more rolling his hips into her, enjoying the feel of her softly scented arousal coating his hardness.

She whined at the loss of him; he smirked arrogantly at the knowledge that he had been the one who had gotten her into such a state. He knew without a doubt that if Naraku had tried this same route, seduction, rather than courting, she would have fought him, terror in her eyes and tainting her beautiful scent.

But with him, she didn't fight – she succumbed immediately without any argument, responding beautifully and with an innocent abandon to his every caress that touched him in ways he wasn't quite prepared for. It hardened him even more, and with a groan of pleasure and pain, he turned her once more onto her back, catching her hazy gaze with his own heavy-lidded one.

One taste, he mused, I must have one taste first, before I take her forever as mine.

“Prepare yourself, little miko,” he husked darkly as he slid down her body and pushed his way between her thighs, opening her to his gaze, and his touch. Before she could do more than stiffen in shock, he was tasting her, his slightly rough tongue stunning her mind as if she had been hit.

She arched off the furs again, a garbled cry assaulting his ears, and he purred into her, even as he made sure to collect every bit of her spilt nectar that he could, her taste calling out his youki even further. His eyes hazed and went red, then, and with a last long, decadent lick, he growled deep in his chest, moving back up her body to position himself where he now desperately needed to be. She had absolutely no idea how long he had wanted this, wanted her, and now he was finally poised to take her light for his own.

“Look at me, Kagome,” he rumbled, sliding his big hands up her arms to cup her face demandingly, not moving until her eyes slitted open to stare at him in dazed passion. Even then, he wasn't sure she was really seeing him; she was so far gone in her pleasure that she had already descended into the precipice.

It was time for him to join her.

His eyes glinted darkly red as he bent to her collarbone and nipped, his fangs piercing her skin just slightly and drawing a tiny drop of blood. The scent and taste electrified him, as did her answering whimper. He moved slowly, surging forward just a bit, then retreating a little before moving back, rocking into her a little deeper each time. He watched carefully as he did; noting the uncomfortable expression on her face, he bent to kiss her, even as he opened his mind and began to channel her discomfort and the beginnings of her pain into his own body. He relished in the edge the pain gave to the pleasure he was almost drowning in. Being inside this woman was like nothing he'd ever felt before as her soul opened to his the same as her body was, and he shuddered in a pleasure so intense it bordered on agonizing as her light enveloped him for the first time.

Kagome, who'd been tensed terribly as he slid inside her, relaxed as the pain disappeared from one moment to the next, leaving her feeling merely full to the point of bursting instead, and she gasped as he finally came to a shuddering halt within her, the head of his cock pressed deep against the mouth of her womb and unable to go any further.

It was clear that he would not fit were he any bigger, and Kagome could only be glad that he wasn't – she didn't want to find that she couldn't take him. That would not bode well for this relationship she'd been commanded into so suddenly.

He held in place for several long, breathless moments inside her, and then as she relaxed a bit more, her sheath clenching and releasing around him, he pulled back with a hiss, and then surged heavily forward again, burying himself just as deeply as the first thrust. And with wide eyes, her jaw dropped open as she gasped at the feel of it. That action was nothing more than an invitation to the inu Lord; before she even knew what he was about, he had stolen her breath again with a kiss that was just as deep as his thrusts were in her lower body.

Just like that, he had taken her over, rendering the sum of her existence to his presence within her flesh. Incoherent, all Kagome could do was gasp and shiver and moan, her sounds as old as the earth and just as enticing to the daiyoukai stretched out atop her as any sounds he'd ever heard in his life. She clutched at him, grabbing his shoulders as though afraid to let go, her tiny, rounded nails digging deeper into his flesh than he'd have figured they could, and he enjoyed every bit of it, purring deeper as it only added to the already overwhelming pleasure.

It was incredible. He couldn't think of any other word to describe what taking her was like. She felt like perfection, her body matching so well to his own, her softness cradling his hardness and clenching around him like a hot silk vice. It was mind-blowing, every thrust and withdrawal rendering him even more stunned at just how magnificent she felt wrapped around him in passion. Every whimper and moan into his mouth only made him kiss her again, over and over as he'd pull away just enough to let her breath for a few moments, and then come right back in to take her mouth over again.

He could feel her soul rising against his own, its light dazzling and beautiful, awing him at the matchless depths of her purity and the sheer size of it. It was completely obvious now why Kanna's mirror had been unable to hold her soul, despite its status as a void. Her soul was too large, too bright, too powerful to ever be held by such a thing. But he... oh, he could, and would hold it, wrapping his own dark one around it and protecting it from everything that would ever even think to endanger or darken it.

It was his, she was his, and what was his, he never let go of – ever. She would be no different; if anything, he would hold to her until the earth ended and eternity died. Not even the kami would take her from him, because if they tried, he would assault the heavens themselves with all his power to take her back.

It hadn't taken all that long, really, as this was her first time, to overwhelm her nerves with pleasure, and he could feel her completion hovering just out of her reach as she desperately strained for it. Levering himself up from her sweet mouth, he watched her, his eyes mere slits as he quickened his pace and force. Within moments of his heavy, fast rhythm, she finally came, throwing her head back and arcing her neck into prominence as she gasped out his name in shocked tones.

“Mate,” he growled, his tone scorching her, setting her right back on the path to another orgasm just with its intensity, combined with his barely controlled visage and hot, molten gaze. His lip curled as she began to tighten again, and with a bare, stark expression on his face, he pulled away from her, his shaft quivering as it left her warmth. With no warning, he flipped her over, setting her onto her hands and knees before pressing her shoulders down, and re-entering her with jarring impact, startling a cry out of her.

“Oh, kami,” she gasped, her mind barely functional. She was only able to focus on him and what he was doing to her, her nervous system simply overwhelmed and unable to function on a more than minimal level, taking in only what was directly affecting her. And his hard, powerful thrusts were pretty much it, as well as his claws digging into her hips, and the feel of his heavy balls slapping against her clit as his head dropped back in savage and overwhelming pleasure.

Lips drawn back from his fangs, Sesshoumaru's jaws were clenched tight as he became totally focused on his own pleasure, knowing that his was pushing hers along with it. Feral, focused, he rode her hard, driving them both up the slopes towards the cliff and poising them there, ready to fall into oblivion.

Kagome could only barely hold herself up under his driving rhythm, everything within her body winding up so tight she couldn't even breath anymore, and she knew that if he didn't finish soon, she'd pass out, because she was already starting to see black along the edges of her vision.

And with one final, harsh, unspeakably perfect thrust, the coil inside her burst, sending her screaming into the void of the little death as she did indeed lose consciousness for several moments. She didn't even notice as he rode her down, his own pleasure exploding from him and filling her, and he forced her aura into submission, winding his own immortal essence around her in protective layers as he howled out his conquest of the little miko he'd wanted for so long.

For endless moments he shuddered within her and all around her, his hips locked against her as he pulsed heavily within her. Finally, he finished, lowering himself over her back to catch his breath for a few moments before rolling over onto his side and taking her with him.

She moaned as she came to, her still-dazed mind slowly taking in that she was laying on her side with Sesshoumaru curled around her, his hold possessive and pleased. She could do no more than take notice, however, still panting heavily and trying to regain her sanity.

He was not afflicted in such a manner, however.

“Now you belong to me, Kagome,” he said, his wicked voice doing terrible things to her with its dark, satisfied tone. “And all those others who had wanted you will be left in darkness, because I will never share you – or your light.”

Something inside Kagome clenched tightly at his words – they were possessive in the extreme...

And a very clear warning, as well.

~oOo~

Morning came too soon for Kagome as she drifted awake to a certain soreness in her body, and a sense of being watched.

Slitting her eyes open cautiously, she looked around from her position on her side, but didn't see anything but the cave wall. Turning onto her back slowly, she pulled the blankets up to her chin, and sat up, turning her head to meet Sesshoumaru's warm, pensive expression.

She blinked, once again taken aback at the unexpected warmth in his usually icy gaze.

“Why do you look at me that way?” she asked quietly, almost timidly. “With that look in your eyes... usually, you're so cold, but...” she trailed off, flushing with embarrassment as he quirked his brow.

“Do you think I would be so to my own mate? My ice is for everyone else – but it is not welcome here between you and I. We will, after all, Kagome, be together for a very, very long time.” He watched her languidly from his spot near the fire, already dressed and ready to face the day.

Her eyes widened a little at his assertion. “Uhm... w-what do you mean by a 'very long time'? I'm still human – I won't live that long compared to you, Sesshoumaru-sama,” she said hesitantly, that fact oddly causing a thrill of pain somewhere in the vicinity of her heart.

“Why do you think I would ever give up something that is mine?” he asked, cocking his head to the side questioningly. “I would not have claimed you only to turn around and let you go in the short time that humans are given on this earth. No... you will not escape me, Kagome. Not death, neither time will free you of the grasp I have on your soul.”

He regarded her for a moment, then finished with, “And I do seem to remember telling you that formality was rather inappropriate between us, mate.”

Kagome looked away, unable to hold his gaze as his words brought back what those particular words had led to last night, her flush deepening, and her hands fidgeting where she had wrapped them back up in the blanket.

Sesshoumaru eyed her for a second, amusement lighting his eyes as he noted her embarrassment. I wonder... will she always be so innocent? If the events of last night haven't changed her, she probably will.

“Come, mate, it is time to get up and ready yourself for the day,” he said, finally removing his eyes from her and giving her a little breathing space. “After all, I still have a spider to kill.” His voice went cold on the last words, and Kagome shivered – she was glad that he no longer looked on her as an enemy.

He could be so single-minded and implacable when it came to something he was hunting, and it was frightening in some ways. His intensity was overwhelming when in that mood, and it didn't even matter which lust he was catering to when on a particular hunt – his attention didn't waver from it for an instant until he'd gotten what he wanted.

With his eyes turned away, it seemed the best time to put the robe on and go to the pool of water to wash up, and so she slipped into it quickly, scurrying out of the bedding and to the back of the cave, bag in tow behind her.

Ten minutes later, she presented herself before him, dressed and ready to go, and he inclined his head in acknowledgment, standing and moving to the entrance of the cave, the already put out fire still smoldering slightly behind him. He stepped outside, and motioning for her to join him, picked her up and set her on Ah-Uhn, who was already saddled and bridled.

“Do you know where Naraku is hiding?” she asked, shivering. She could still feel the spider somewhere close, and despite Sesshoumaru's assurance, she couldn't help her fear of him.

The daiyoukai tilted his head into the morning breeze and closed his eyes, analyzing the scents carried on it, and then lowered his head in thought. After a few moments, he began to walk, saying over his shoulder, “He is close. Once we reach a suitable place for his attempted ambush, he will attack. I will kill him then.”

Kagome nodded to herself, not surprised that he'd picked up on Naraku's proximity. She let her mind wander over all the happenings of the last few days, and frowned after a while as it finally occurred to her wonder about Sesshoumaru's actions in the confrontation with the others yesterday.

“Sesshoumaru?” she said slowly, feeling odd speaking to him without formality, and he tilted his head slightly towards her, letting her know that he was listening. “Why... why did you kill Kikyou yesterday?”

It was silent for a time, and she was beginning to think he wasn't going to answer, when he finally spoke. His voice was flat and cold as he did. “There was more than one reason. But most prominent was her danger to you.” He flicked a glance over his shoulder at her. “I feel no remorse for what I did, Kagome. I enjoyed the feel of her treacherous throat in my hand, and dissolving it engendered no guilt within me. Does that bother you?” he asked.

She thought about that for a while, but finally shook her head. “A little, maybe. That enjoyment of killing... it's foreign to me. I've killed, too, I know that – but I've never enjoyed it. Still... I realize that it's different for you, as you're youkai, and I'm not, there's things about you I'll never understand, since I don't have a common frame of reference,” she said pensively.

“I have no desire for you to be youkai. I wish you to stay as you are. The understanding that we have... it is enough,” he said mildly, the ice once more gone from his voice.

He doesn't want to change me... he doesn't want me to be anything other than Kagome, she thought, with a peculiar feeling of relief. It had been so long since she had been wanted for herself, or not taken for another and then put down for her inability to be that other, that she almost didn't know how to just accept it.

Nothing more was said for some time as Kagome lost herself in her thoughts, and Sesshoumaru waited for Naraku to realize that he had lost. He couldn't wait for the spider's attack, wanting nothing more than to spill his blood – after taunting him with his loss.

But after a little while, Kagome couldn't keep the question to herself any longer... “Sesshoumaru?” she said softly, continuing when she knew he was listening. “What... what made you change your mind? I mean, about... me. A Human. You tried to kill me several times, and it just, I don't know... makes me wonder.”

She could see his face in profile, and it was easy to see he was thinking on her words. She gave him silence and waited patiently. Finally, he said, “In the beginning, I desired nothing more than for you to stay out of my way. But then... over time, I became fascinated, seduced, if you will, by the light of your soul. My darkness wanted it, wanted you, and I could only fight myself for so long.”

“I never thought that you would admit to making a mistake, you know, about me,” she said, a bit awed. “I would have thought it against your personality.”

He paused in his step and looked at her fully for a long moment, and then continued guiding Ah-Uhn along. “Do you really think me so hidebound? Or is it that you think I am unable to do so due to pride? I am not such a fool, miko. It only wastes time to let your pride keep you from changing your behavior – and I have no desire to spend my life stuck in the shadow of my mistakes, unable to move forward. Unable to change. A being who cannot change will die. And of all things, this Sesshoumaru will always adapt. Never forget that.”

She fell silent again as she took in his words, and now that she'd heard them, she couldn't say she was surprised. Sesshoumaru, it was true, was one being that would not be defeated, not even by himself, and he was right – if you couldn't admit your mistakes and change, then you'd eventually die.

“I see,” she exhaled slowly, then stopped.

He waited for her to say something further, but when she did not, he spoke. “Are you displeased that I changed my mind about you, mate? That I decided I would have your light for myself?”

That surprised a blink out of her, and she stared at him for a moment, before a furrow appeared on her brow, and she sank into thought. Am I? Am I upset that he claimed me, because his ideas about humans, and me, changed? Honestly... “No... I'm not upset. How could I be upset that you realized that just because I'm human doesn't mean I'm worthless?”

“That does not answer the second part of my question. Are you upset that I claimed you?” he reiterated.

She shook her head. “I meant no to both parts of your question,” she said gently, though she blushed to be speaking so openly about what had happened between them last night.

“And yet... I cannot help but wonder why you would be so accepting of being claimed by one who until now, you saw as an enemy.” He did not look at her, but Kagome could almost see his curiosity in his posture.

“That's...” she sighed and looked down, “that question has a lot of answers, really. And just so you know... I haven't seen you as an enemy in a long time.” She caught his sideways glance, and smiled. “But anyway, when I was with... Naraku, and he told me what he wanted from me, and also told me about you, while I didn't believe him at first, I couldn't help but think that if I was going to be taken for such a reason, I...” she blushed harder, to his instant fascination, “-would rather it have been you, than him.”

He didn't say anything, but she knew he was listening intently, and wanted her to finish, so she did. “And then, when I saw that the well was gone, I felt so alone. But when you told me that I was yours, I thought that since I was here, and could never go home, then I'd have to make a life here, and like before, I'd rather have you than someone I don't know at all.” She blushed even deeper, under his gaze, and finished, “And besides... what woman wouldn't be attracted to you? You're the most beautiful guy I've ever seen, and though I'm pretty young, I'm not blind.”

A slight smirk tilted one corner of his mouth, though she didn't see it, since it was on the side facing away from her. Beautiful, am I, little onna? “That is good to know, Kagome,” he said complacently, one hand running through his silky locks, to Kagome's envy.

“Uhm...” she murmured, staring longingly at his hair. “You said last night that... mates... groom each other, ne?” she asked. He inclined his head in the affirmative, and Kagome finished, “Does that mean... can I brush your hair, too?”

He bowed his head slightly once again. “If you wish. This one would welcome whatever advances you choose to make towards him. Such things only draw a mated couple closer, and since mating is forever, that can only be a good thing.”

Kagome shivered a little at the deep note in his silky baritone voice – and the thought that they would be together for, well... forever. That was a rather scary word, and it made her think... there would be no others for eternity?

“I don't know much about inuyoukai,” she confessed, a suddenly uneasy thought going to what she knew of mortal inu. They weren't all that faithful... “but I know that normal inu... well, they aren't the type to stick with one female...” she trailed off, uncertain now. She didn't want to offend him but she had to know.

He chuckled, and she once more gaped at him in awe, that sound, and the fact that he was openly showing amusement that wasn't dangerous or sarcastic, still surprising her.

“Would such a thing bother you? Were I to take concubines to my bed?”

That question brought a sharp pain to her chest, and a scowl to her face. “Yes! I'm not about to share, Sesshoumaru. And damn it, you owe me that, at least. After all, you didn't even ask me about this whole-” she waved a hand around in the air, “-mating thing! It's the least you could do – I mean, what's good for the goose, is good for the gander, you know, and so, if you want to do such a thing, then I should be allowed, too, ne?” she asked sharply.

A low, resonating growl rolled out from him, then, and he stopped in his tracks to turn to her, eyes reddening and cheek stripes going jagged. “That will never happen, miko. You are mine, and I will not share you with another, ever,” he said warningly.

“Then I expect the same courtesy, Sesshoumaru,” she said quietly, her eyes sad.

He eyed her, the redness leaching away as he took in what she was saying, and he had to admit, he was pleased that she felt as possessive as she obviously did towards him.

“My question on the matter was, perhaps, not well done,” he finally admitted, once he calmed. “And to answer yours... no, inuyoukai are not like mortal inu. We take one mate, and one only. After all, how could you break an eternal bond merely to rut one that you have no care for?”

A sigh met his words, and a small relieved smile, and he could not resist – not even with Naraku moving in, hoping to take the small miko back. He leaned in and took her lips without hesitation, sweeping inside her mouth as she opened for him easily and naturally. His clawed hands clenched with desire against her back where they'd come to rest, and he had to forcefully pull himself away from her, watching as she panted and pulled in air like a desperate woman.

Naraku was closing with them, and now was not the time to indulge himself in her any further.

Eyes closing for one moment, he clamped down on his desires with iron control, and when he opened them again, they were iced over and dangerous. “Ah-Uhn, guard her,” he said, as he reached over and drew Bakusaiga with an elegance that denied the danger implicit in the motion.

Kagome, confused at first at his withdrawal and suddenly cold demeanor, understood when his hand moved towards his sword, and her heart beat faster at the knowledge that Naraku was coming. The dragon turned and moved faster than she thought possible across the ground, going to stand behind Sesshoumaru at a little distance, keeping the daiyoukai between them and their enemies.

Naraku arrived first, settling to the ground before Sesshoumaru, followed by all of his incarnations, save Kagura, who hovered just above them all on her feather. And incredibly enough, even though he held none of the jewel any longer, it was truly him – not another one of his puppets.

With a sneer, he eyed the daiyoukai holding his sword so calmly before him, not bothered at all by the fact that he was facing several opponents. “So, you think you can defeat all of us?” he sniffed, disdain in his voice.

Sesshoumaru shrugged, even that motion elegant and graceful. “Is there any one of you here that is truly worth my effort, hanyou?” he asked tonelessly.

To Kagome's surprise, Naraku opened his ubiquitous baboon pelt, and drew a sword of his own, though it was apparent that this one was merely a sword, and carried no power. I didn't think he knew how to use a sword! But then it occurred to her – even if the youkai he'd taken in didn't know how to wield a sword, Onigumo, the human bandit, had. But it was no odds that he was nowhere near as gifted with a blade as Sesshoumaru, and so Kagome wasn't concerned with that part of things.

What she was worried about, was Kanna, Kagura and Hakudoushi.

But she wasn't the last to notice that Sesshoumaru himself didn't appear to be concerned at all, and she decided to stay out of it unless it appeared that she was needed.

“A sword, Naraku?” Sesshoumaru asked, amusement in his voice at that sight. “Are you truly that much of an idiot? This one was defeating his teachers hundreds of years before you were even born. Why do you even come against me, hanyou?” The scorn he felt towards Naraku was thick in his voice, and served to enrage the spider even further.

“I've come to take back what's mine, dog. The miko's light will be mine, not yours!” he shot back angrily, motioning his incarnations back.

At that, the daiyoukai actually chuckled, sarcasm liberally coating the sound. “Are your senses so poor that you cannot tell that she will never be yours? She is forever beyond your reach now, vermin – she belongs to me.”

Stunned, Naraku looked from Sesshoumaru to her. And then rage swept into his red eyes - the truth of the inu's claim was written on her face. He didn't say another word, he simply attacked.

The moment that he did, Kagura swept her feather towards Kagome, frustrated rage on her face, making Kagome blink at her in confusion. What's she so upset about?

“Bitch! How did you get one like Sesshoumaru to want you?!” she hissed as she moved to attack.

Kagome brought up her bow, aiming dead center at Kagura's chest, suddenly understanding her anger. “Hey! I didn't ask for all this stuff to happen to me!” she yelled back, still holding her weapon steady on her attacker.

Kagura faltered at that, her confusion obvious. “What do you mean by that?”

“Just what I said! He didn't exactly ask me, ya know! So you can just shove it, Kagura. Don't make me purify you.”

The wind sorceress flicked disdainful fingers at her. “As if you could. Since I don't have my heart, I'd just regenerate.”

With a smirk, Kagome nodded. “Sure... but it would still hurt like hell, and take a long time for you to heal. Is it worth it?” she asked.

Eyes narrowed, Kagura considered that, and finally, reluctantly, snapped her fan shut completely, and moved back to hover near the others who were watching the two males fight.

That was when Kagome turned her own eyes on the fight, and her eyes widened in awe – Naraku and Hakudoushi were both taking on Sesshoumaru.

And he was whipping them both.

Neither male had managed much in the way of hits on the daiyoukai, but they were both showing signs of wounds – especially Hakudoushi. As she watched, spellbound, the boy tumbled out of the fight, tripped up and injured more by Sesshoumaru's whip. Kagome narrowed her eyes on Kanna, who had joined Kagura on her feather, and noticed the girl attempting to get a good position to use her mirror.

Oh, no you don't! she thought, bringing her bow up again and targeting them both. When the two noticed her flaming arrow pointed at them, Kagura cursed, and then moved back from the fight.

“Don't try it again, Kagura, 'cause if you do, I'll nail you, just like I said I would!” she shouted.

Keeping her bow to hand, she turned her attention back to the fight, and just watched, still awed as Sesshoumaru proved who the master at combat truly was. Even as Hakudoushi intervened again, knocking Bakusaiga away and into the top of a nearby cliff, the inu Lord simply reversed his maneuver, and leaped to grasp his sword once more, at the same time avoiding a blow by Naraku. As he grabbed his sword from the rock, he pushed off from the cliff-face, and moved straight as an arrow back at the spider, his powerful swing barely caught in time on Naraku's blade.

The impact, however, knocked the hanyou backwards quite a distance, and it was clear that he barely managed to retain his balance enough to land on his feet. Sesshoumaru, however, landed lightly on his own feet, stopped, and spoke mockingly to the injured spider. “How pathetic, hanyou. You thought you could take this one down? Obviously, you are more a fool than I had previously surmised.”

At that point, Naraku cast away the sword and sprouted his tentacles, letting loose his disgusting half-spider form. “Then I'll just have to convince you otherwise, Sesshoumaru. Even if I cannot ever have the miko now, I can kill you both and take the jewel back!”

“No, you cannot kill me, and you cannot kill her. The only one to die here today will be you,” he replied, and without further ado, sped forward to once more engage his enemy in combat.

But it occurred to Kagome at that moment that Sesshoumaru actually couldn't kill Naraku – because his heart, like Kagura's, was elsewhere. The most he could do would be to decimate him, forcing him to flee again so that he could hide and regenerate himself.

It took a few moments to remember that she had most of the jewel. With that came the realization that she could be the one to give Sesshoumaru the ability to kill Naraku. Because the only reason he'd been able to separate his heart from himself and remain alive was through the power of the jewel, meaning that his heart was linked to it. All she would have to do would be to pour her power into it, forcing her purity to find the link with the spider's heart, and travel along it. Once his heart was purified, Naraku could be killed easily.

Hope lit her eyes when she realized that the end to the being that had haunted their lives for so long was so very close so suddenly, and she took ahold of the jewel, allowing her purity to rise to the surface and begin to infuse the chunk she held in her hand. Focusing on the power within the jewel, it didn't take long to find the link to Naraku's heart, and she immediately began to force her reiki down through it with a ruthlessness Sesshoumaru would have been proud of, not taking any notice of the sudden, shocked screech that came from the hanyou as she did.

Sesshoumaru, to his credit, did not falter in his attack, even as the hanyou desperately attempted to get away from him to get to Kagome and the jewel. And he did not miss the fact that Kagura didn't move to help her so-called master in any way. Apparently, she was hoping that whatever was happening would be the end of the one who'd enslaved her since the moment of her creation.

Hakudoushi was too injured to help, even if he'd wanted to, and Kanna made no move that Kagura did not allow, and so, as Naraku's heart disintegrated into ash inside the vessel he'd placed it in, Sesshoumaru finished him, allowing Bakusaiga's power out to destroy the hanyou's body completely.

Kagome looked up at that last, despairing scream from Naraku, his eyes meeting hers with a look of hurt and betrayal that made her feel strangely regretful that it had all come out as it had. She could not help but feel badly for him – he was frightening, but in the end, he'd wanted to be loved, and gone about getting it in the only way he understood... forcefully. It was just too bad that he had been as warped and damaged as he had been.

Putting the jewel back inside its little pouch, Kagome waited for Sesshoumaru to join her. She wasn't surprised when the daiyoukai moved with steady purpose to the limp figure of Hakudoushi and reversed his sword, thrusting it through the incarnation's chest and not removing it until the boy was completely destroyed.

She looked away, not being able to watch, but knowing that it had to be done – Hakudoushi was vicious, a true sociopath in his dark father's image, and he could not be allowed to live.

It was finally over.

 

INUYASHA © Rumiko Takahashi/Shogakukan • Yomiuri TV • Sunrise 2000
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