Disclaimer: no, I do not own Inuyasha. This causes me to spend my time writing some very strange things down—such as this ahem 'story.'

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"Where is it?" panted Kagome, quickly catching up with Sango. "Where's the mushroom?"

Sango pointed wordlessly at the small wailing fungus. "This means he was here," she said, her voice tight. "Whatever happened, he came right here and planted this signal."

"What… what could have happened?" asked Kagome in a small voice.

"I don't know," said Sango.

"Are we going back to the hut?" asked Miroku, catching up to them.

"No," said Sango. "That would be useless. Obviously they've either left on their own or have been… moved somehow."

Kagome gasped. "And Inuyasha… he's been hurt! He couldn't fight back… and it's all my fault, I left him alone…"

"It's not your fault, Kagome-chan" said Sango grimly. "There's no way anyone could have foreseen this." She smacked away Miroku's hand as it rose towards her face again. "Not now, houshi-sama!"

"We have to go help!" said Kagome, taking a step towards the mushroom as though it could transport them to wherever the hanyou and kitsune were. "Oh, what if they've been attacked by a youkai? Not only can't Inuyasha fight, but I haven't got my bow!"

"And I left Hiraikotsu at the hut," said Sango. "But we have to move quickly!" She pointed deeper into the woods, where another mushroom popped up and began to wail. "There!"

"Let's go!" said Miroku, determined not to be left behind this time. Now that his adrenaline was running, his sake-induced drowsiness was gone without a trace. He still had that very strange desire to touch Sango's face… but hopefully that would go away before too long. It wasn't natural, in his opinion, and if it got him the same reaction as a caress anywhere else, it wasn't worth the bother.

The mushrooms just kept showing up. Each time they reached one, another would be close at hand, wailing away. "I would be surprised if these things aren't enough to wake up the village," said Sango after a few minutes of running in silence.

"Too far away," said Miroku. He was panting slightly. "Though it wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing if they did… if there's something causing trouble, best it doesn't reach the people while they're all asleep and defenseless."

"Inuyasha was still asleep when we left," said Kagome, feeling the beginning of tears in her eyes. She blinked them back. Now was not the time to cry. "Wh-what if he hasn't even woken up yet? If they were attacked, he'd have only Shippou to take care of him!"

"Kirara's there, too," Sango reminded her, looking around for the next mushroom. It wails filled her ears, high-pitched and ringing. It was a sound that would have annoyed her had it not conveyed a message of danger.

"Yeah, but… what if… what if the thing that attacked them is really strong?"

"Or Naraku," said Miroku softly, but not softly enough. Kagome nearly stopped dead when she heard, and Sango shot him a glare.

"We'll deal with that possibility when we find them," Sango told Kagome. "Don't worry about it, Kagome-chan!"

"But… but what if Naraku has him?" said Kagome. "He could be…" she didn't even dare to continue. Could be torturing him. Could be… dead…

"Well, then we'll get him back," said Sango. "Come on, we have to keep looking!"

"Where in Musashi are these things leading us?" said Miroku in confusion after a few more minutes. "I think we've passed this stand of trees before."

Sango paused, looking back at the trees in question briefly before suddenly turning and staring at them intently. "You're… right," she said after a moment.

"What?" Kagome frowned. "But… why would that be? Is something taking them round in circles?"

Sango narrowed her eyes. "That would mean… it's toying with us."

"You mean it wants us next?" Kagome's frown deepened. "But why would it do that? I mean, no offence meant to the village, but that's where all the people are, after all."

"No, you're right, Kagome-sama," said Miroku, looking around and speaking over the wails of the next mushroom, which had made its noisy appearance attached to the underside of a hanging log. "Whatever this youkai is, it obviously is not just after ningen—it wants us specifically. What it's doing right now doesn't make sense otherwise."

"But why would it want…" Sango seemed to be holding back some strong emotion, and was not doing very well. Loathing shone in her eyes. "Then it couldn't be some average youkai… and the only youkai I can think of that would want us over a village full of people is… Naraku."

"Kuso," said Miroku in a moment of uncharacteristic swearing. "We have to keep going."

They dashed to the next mushroom, and the next, and then kept going, as there seemed to be no end to the things.

Kagome couldn't keep her mind from running wild. All the other times Inuyasha was left on his own… usually it was the other way around, with him leaving her for Kikyou, but what about those times when he was without her? She shivered, remembering finding him unconscious within Hakureizan, swathed in Naraku's tentacles. Another memory surfaced soon after, a somewhat longer time ago: after Kagura had turned the fearsome kaze no kizu against him, he had been alone then, too—except for Shippou—and he had gone to find Kikyou then, also. This was similar, wasn't it?

…Except that Shippou hadn't been in much danger then. The amount of mushrooms they were encountering scared her, quite frankly. He must really be scared, she thought worriedly. What's happening?

"This is disconcerting," said Miroku, panting more than ever. "I think this is at least the fourth time we have passed those trees, and the mushrooms never stop. We must have missed one somewhere."

"We're going in circles," cried Kagome. "What the heck is going…"

"Shhh!"

Kagome looked at Sango in surprise. The taijiya was staring up into the trees above them with that odd look on her face again.

"Something's laughing," said Sango.

Kagome listened hard, but heard nothing but the sound of the wailing mushrooms. They were standing right beside one and it was screaming into her ear. "I don't hear anything."

"It's stopped now," said Sango.

"But that means that we are coming closer," said Miroku.

"Yeah… but we're walking into its trap!" said Kagome. "It knows we're coming now!"

"We can't help that," said Sango grimly. "All we can do is walk in and try to dismantle it from the inside."

"Do you really think it's Naraku?" Kagome asked in a small voice.

Sango began to say something, then stopped. "Well… I would… but it seems a bit simple for his usual schemes," she said.

"So it could be something else entirely," Miroku finished for her. He frowned. "Or there's some part of it that hasn't been revealed yet."

That thought did not make Kagome feel better about their situation. But there was another mushroom to distract her, just a few paces away to her right.

Tense silence ensued for the next few minutes, until, very suddenly and entirely without warning, there were no more mushrooms.

"Oh, no," breathed Miroku, looking around.

"We're back at the hut," said Sango, staring at the small wooden structure in shock.

Kagome all but leaped forwards, running towards the hut. "Inuyasha!"

Miroku caught her around the waist and pulled her back. "No, Kagome! Don't rush in blindly, you don't know what's in there!"

Now Kagome truly did feel like crying. "But…"

Miroku began to advance on the hut, holding his shakujou out in front of himself almost threateningly. Perhaps it was the sake that made him feel braver—if it was Naraku, there was a good chance that they would all die there and then—and if that was the case, then he was glad he'd drunk the stuff. Behind him, Kagome stood biting hard on her lower lip. Sango joined Miroku, her eyes cold.

Suddenly the door to the hut burst open, and Miroku flinched. Sango flipped out one of her hidden wrist-blades (she never went without any weapon at all, and the wrist-blades were easiest to take around) and readied herself for a slash—then stopped, jaw dropping, as she watched Kirara bound out of the hut's open entrance, covered in what looked like half-chewed ofuda.

"What the…" she murmured as she bent down to pick up the small neko youkai. She held Kirara up and inspected the bits of paper attached to her. "These look like… Shippou's!"

A sneaking suspicion was beginning to creep up on Kagome. She began to walk purposefully towards the hut, when suddenly there was a flash of bright blue light from within the hut. Miroku felt an awful chill as he heard laughter—the same laughter, he supposed, that Sango had heard earlier. It was deep, low… thoroughly evil.

Kagome had started backwards at the flash of light, and now she had almost unconsciously settled into a fighting stance—as much as she could without her preferred weapons, her bow and arrows. She, Sango and Miroku stood, watching the hut for long seconds as the light faded and the laughter grew. Kirara twisted in Sango's hands as if trying to free herself.

Suddenly…

"BOO!" A huge form appeared in front of them all, blocking out their view of the hut… indeed, of anything else. Kagome screamed, Miroku bent his shakujou slightly with one convulsive movement of his hands, and Sango dropped Kirara. It took little more than a second to realize that the immense form was round, sporting four tiny, nearly-useless limbs and a large pair of unfocused eyes, before it vanished in a burst of smoke to reveal a hysterically laughing Shippou.

There was dead silence, filled only by Shippou's laughter. Suddenly, another voice joined in, uproariously, and the three looked up to see Inuyasha sitting high in a tree, clutching its trunk as he laughed just as hard as Shippou. The kitsune was, by this time, rolling on his back and screaming.

"Shippou…" said Sango softly.

"Inuyasha," said Kagome, equally softly.

Miroku tried vainly to unbend his shakujou. "You're both in for it now," he murmured. He did not seem displeased with this prospect.

"Oh, that was great!" said Inuyasha hoarsely through bursts of laughter. "The looks on your faces…!"

"How… how DARE you!?" yelled Kagome, striding over to stand beneath the tree. "You… we thought you were in serious trouble! Do you have ANY idea how worried I was?!"

"It… was… worth it…" the hanyou wheezed, still laughing.

"You BAKA! Were you hanging around the whole time, watching us worry? How could you be so heartless?" She screamed up at him.

Inuyasha got ahold of himself just enough to say, "and just why should I care? You left me on my own without anyone except for the runt to keep me company!" He indicated Shippou with a wave of one clawed hand. The tiny youkai was still struggling with peals of laughter. Sango was glaring angrily, seeming uncertain as to who she should glare at—Inuyasha or Shippou.

Kagome was taken aback momentarily. Miroku, who was beginning to see the funnier side of things more readily than the two women, muttered to himself, "well, in that case I suppose one can't say it was unexpected…"

Miroku was an easier target than the kitsune or the hanyou. Sango turned on him. "Are you saying this is our fault, houshi?"

Miroku put himself behind his slightly twisted shakujou. "Ahh... of course not, Sango! I simply meant that it should not have startled us that Inuyasha and Shippou would contrive something of this nature when left to their own devices!" He took a deep breath, and waited.

To his surprise, Sango blinked, and retreated. "I suppose you're right," she said. "Considering who they are…" She looked over at Shippou.

Up in his tree, Inuyasha was still laughing. "Your… faces…"

"So I suppose you think that gives you the excuse to do something like this?" yelled Kagome. "You really…"

She trailed off as Inuyasha, unbalanced by his laughter, gave a yelp of surprise and tipped backwards off his branch. He landed heavily on the ground beside the tree and lay there, unmoving.

"…Worried me," said Kagome, half to herself, and ran to him.

Miroku sighed, still holding his crooked shakujou tightly in one hand as he made his way over. "Oh, Kagome," he said, shaking his head as the girl gently lifted Inuyasha's head away from the ground. "Baka is a bit mild."

"I knew it," said Kagome, smoothing the hanyou's hair unthinkingly. "He's gone and knocked himself out again." She snorted in annoyance. "I hope he has the world's biggest headache when he wakes up."

Miroku could only grin. No you don't… He simply watched as Kagome threaded her fingers into the hanyou's thick silver hair and ran her hand through it slowly. She didn't seem to be overly concerned about moving him at the moment.

Sango walked up to them, holding the still-laughing Shippou up by the tail. The kitsune had a few sizeable lumps on his head, but neither the infant youkai nor any of the others seemed to care. "Well, houshi-sama, it looks like we're right back to where we began," she said. She eyed his shakujou. "Except that now your staff matches your personality."

"What, golden?" he asked, flashing her his best Cocky Grin. She shook her head in amusement.

"No, crooked," she said, and whacked Shippou on the head again when he started laughing harder.

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This is owari: the end.

Shakujou is Miroku's staff, the one with the rings, taijiya is youkai (demon) exterminator, baka is fool/stupid, and… ah… neko youkai is Kirara (neko being cat, and youkai being… well, I've already said it, haven't I?)… I can't think of any others, though I'm sure they're in there somewhere. And that's it!