Haru was studying at the kitchen table when the phone rang. Absently, she marked her place in the text with a scrap of paper and reached out for the receiver.
"Yoshioka residence, Haru speaking," she greeted.
"Haru? It's Kagome, we met a couple of weeks ago and you gave me some great advice?" came a female voice from the other end.
"I remember," Haru said, a smile creeping onto her face. "How are you Kagome?"
"Relative to what?" Kagome answered with a frazzled-sounding chuckle. "My education is back on track, but I really think I need your help again," she said.
"Tell you what, give me your address and I'll come over. It sounds like you need someone to really talk to, and not just over the phone," Haru suggested.
"Thank you!" Kagome said, and rattled off the name and location of her family's shrine.
Haru blinked in surprise at how close that was. "I'll be over in about fifteen minutes," she promised.
"See you soon Haru," Kagome farewelled, and then both girls hung up.
Haru closed her books and called down the hall to let her mother know where she was going and how long she expected to be, then she grabbed a coat and her keys and walked three blocks down and two blocks over, where she was met at the bottom of the shrine steps by Kagome.
The younger girl gave her a hug and as they climbed the stairs explained how she'd finally freed herself of her 'friends' and Hojo, and was now taking her courses by distance from a school that was physically located in New York City, and Kouga had finally gotten the message (and InuYasha was very nearly at the same point).
The two girls settled themselves in Kagome's room with hot chocolates and a bowl of barbecue flavoured crisps, and Haru raised an eyebrow at Buyo (Kagome's cat) who was staring at her in awe from the other girl's lap.
"So, you said something about needing help?" Haru prompted once they were comfortable.
Kagome nodded. "There was one other guy I forgot about last time," she said. "Sesshoumaru, InuYasha's older half-brother, a full demon."
"Dog demon, right?" Haru asked, checking.
Kagome nodded again. "Well, this ties in with my lack-of-training problem and the Kikyo problem," she said, and sighed deeply.
"Kikyo, the dead priestess you are supposedly the reincarnation of and who InuYasha is always comparing you to?" Haru said after a moment of searching through all that she could remember of Kagome's first out-pouring of troubles.
"That's the one," Kagome confirmed. "Walking about powered by a little bit of my soul and a whole lot of souls stolen from the freshly dead."
"That can't be healthy," Haru said. "For you I mean. Missing a part of your soul? I strongly recommend getting it back."
"I agree," Kagome said quickly, "but that would involve killing her, and I'm not big on killing to begin with. On top of that, InuYasha would throw an absolute fit at even the suggestion, and then if Kikyo was killed, by one of us or by Naraku or by anybody, then all the hard work I've put into getting him to realise I only like him as a friend will come undone because suddenly he won't have Kikyo to focus he romantic attentions on!"
Haru laughed softly and patted Kagome's shoulder consolingly. "You said something about having to 'sit' him all the time, and beads of subjugation?" she asked.
Kagome nodded. "Yeah, the first time we met and he tried to steal the jewel from me, Kaede put the beads of subjugation around his neck somehow, I still haven't learned that trick, and now I just have to say 'sit' and he gets his face planted into the dirt," she explained.
"Well, then every time he makes an advance, use your magic word and tell him why. Now, what's this about his older brother? Sesshoumaru?" Haru asked.
"Oh yes," Kagome said, groaning and rolling her eyes. "Kami, that demon is sexy!"
Haru laughed, then covered her mouth with her hands as her eyes danced at Kagome's clear frustration. "Sorry," she got out, though her hands still covered her mouth. "Do go on."
Kagome gave a sigh that could only be called maudlin, and pulling her hot chocolate close to her collar, began to explain.
"Okay, so InuYasha is always comparing me to Kikyo because she was a really powerful priestess when she was alive, but a couple of days ago I was having a little private 'me' time in a hot spring when Sesshoumaru came by. Now, normally I'd scream in the face of either a demon or a guy just standing there while I bathed, but this is Sesshoumaru, and even I know that screaming would only get me killed faster for having offended his delicate hearing. Anyway, he's got this little girl travelling with him like a ward or something, and while he sits down on one of the large rocks around the spring Rin – that's the little girl – strips off her kimono and joins me in the pool. I offer to wash her hair and back for her, and Rin is about ten, maybe eleven? And I notice while I'm scrubbing her back that she's starting to grow breasts."
Haru winced in sympathy for the girl developing early.
"Yeah," she said. "And she's only got the company of Sesshoumaru – a male dog demon; Jaken – a male toad imp, or minor demon, not sure about that actually, but he's about two feet tall; and Ah-Un, a two-headed dragon that Rin rides like he's a horse, but again, male. So Rin probably has no idea about these changes to her body and no one on hand to explain them to her. She's been travelling with Sesshoumaru almost as long as I've been on this stupid jewel hunt, and she was an orphan before that."
"So you gave Rin 'the talk', huh?" Haru asked.
"Yep. I pointed out that she would need to start wearing bindings over her chest soon, since they don't have bras back then, and when she just looked confused I gave her the whole talk. His sexy-ness was, I swear, blushing by the time I was done, and this is the guy I'm used to thinking of as all ice. I mean, first encounter he was just kinda normal and arrogant, but since then... and then suddenly! He didn't look at me when I moved to get out of the water, thank Kami, but he did ask me how someone as ignorant of the ways of the world as I was could be so knowledgeable."
"Blunt sort of guy," Haru observed.
"You have no idea," Kagome said, shaking her head. "Well, if he'd been InuYasha you can bet I'd have torn right into him before sitting him three feet into the ground, but it wasn't InuYasha, it was Sesshoumaru, and I wasn't keen on being killed, so I explained as calmly as I could about being from the future and having a very different sort of education to the ones generally received in that time."
"How'd he take that?" Haru asked.
"He offered to train me in exchange for tutoring Rin," Kagome said.
Haru blinked. "Well, that's great isn't it?" she asked. "That solves a lot of your problems quite neatly."
Kagome nodded, but the sigh she expelled said it wasn't that simple. "InuYasha and Sesshoumaru hate each other," she explained in answer to Haru's enquiring look.
"So?" Haru asked.
"So?" Kagome repeated, shocked by the question.
"Kagome, it's your life remember," Haru pointed out. "If you want to do something, then InuYasha shouldn't stop you. Sesshoumaru made the offer to help you, where InuYasha seems set to only point out your failings. Of these two, the one you're better off with sounds like Sesshoumaru to me," Haru said simply.
"And he's not exactly on Naraku's side either," Kagome said, "so that isn't a problem I guess."
"What does Naraku want anyway?" Haru asked. "You mentioned him, but didn't explain much."
"He's a half-demon," Kagome said, "and with the jewel shards he can regenerate himself and do all sorts of stuff that just makes my skin crawl. He wants the jewel so that he can become a full demon."
"I may be missing something, but how does owning a lump of rock make a half-demon into a full one? You mentioned that InuYasha wanted it for the same reason I think," Haru said.
Kagome nodded. "The jewel of four souls," she clarified. "The myth is that it can grant any one wish, and then it will cease to be."
"So why haven't you handed it over to Naraku?" Haru asked. "It's with the jewel that he keeps coming back right?" she asked quickly when Kagome looked horrified. "So if he makes his wish and the jewel vanishes, then he would be easier to kill, wouldn't he?"
Kagome's mouth hung open in shock, then she closed it and slowly put down her mug of hot chocolate, then shifted Buyo off her lap and took Haru's cup as well, setting it beside her own. Kagome then tackled Haru in a grateful hug.
"Thank you!" she said, holding onto the older girl. "Thank you! Thank you!"
Haru laughed at Kagome's enthusiastic gratitude and stroked her back, trying to get her to calm down.
"But what if the jewel doesn't vanish when he wishes on it?" Kagome asked when she was finally sitting upright and on her own cushion again, and sipping her hot chocolate.
"Then you've only got one lump of rock to get back," Haru pointed out. "Which is much easier than lots of little pieces."
Kagome nodded. "And I'll probably still be able to go back and forth," she said. "I mean, the first time I went through the well the jewel was lodged in my side, and I've been able to travel through without any jewel shards. The well is a bit odd about who it lets through and when and how though," she added.
Haru took a swallow of her hot chocolate and decided that Kagome needed to revisit the issue of Kikyo.
"Any training you get for your spiritual powers, you're likely going to have to go through twice if Kikyo having some of your soul is such a big deal," Haru pointed out.
Kagome agreed silently, stroking Buyo's fur.
"The first time I went back down the well after the jewel was shattered, I didn't have any jewel shards, but later, after Kikyo had been brought back from the dead, I couldn't get through until there were jewel shards at the bottom of the well already. Not a clue how InuYasha is able to get through though," she added.
Haru shrugged in agreement and commented that made no logical sense unless it was possible that all demons of a certain power were able to likewise.
Kagome froze. "Yura's hair..." she breathed in wide-eyed horror. "InuYasha isn't the only demon to come through the well," Kagome explained. "First was Mistress Centipede who dragged me through that first time, and Yura of the Hair sent her hair through after InuYasha one time, rather than coming herself."
"There you go then," Haru said. "It's likely that anybody could pass through the well if they know about it and have a certain level of spiritual or demonic power."
Kagome shuddered. "That is not a comfortable idea," she pointed out.
"All the more reason to get trained up as soon as possible. There has to be some way to seal the well against unwelcome intruders," Haru pointed out.
Kagome nodded, and set her mouth in a firmly determined line. "Right," she declared. "I'm going to take Sesshoumaru up on his offer for training, I'm going to tutor Rin, and I'm going to destroy Naraku!"
"And get your soul back from Kikyo and damn whatever InuYasha has to grumble about," Haru added.
Kagome smiled. "Yeah," she agreed. "That too."
The two girls laughed, and spent the rest of the afternoon organising what Kagome would be teaching Rin – and painting each other's nails.