Chapter 3

The next morning, after a light breakfast of leftovers and fresh tea, the small party went out to make their farewells.

To their surprise, Inuyasha was talking quietly to the elder and as they joined up with him, two women brought baskets filled with bread, cheese and sausages up to the half-demon, which they presented to him with deep bows of respect. To everyone's surprise and amazement, Inuyasha nodded politely, picked up both baskets in one hand, and then scowled at his companions and barked, "What? Let's go!"

Shaking her head, Kagome settled her pack and followed Inuyasha out of the village and back on the road.

Kagome walked alongside Inuyasha for about twenty minutes, talking to Shippo and answering his non-stop questions about her life in the future. Eventually, he quieted enough for her to speak to her friend walking alongside.

"Inuyasha, why did those ladies give you the baskets of food this morning?"

His only reply was a grunt.

Smiling, Kagome persisted. "Seriously, Inuyasha, preserved foods like that," she nodded at the baskets he was carrying, "are a lot more valuable than most fresh foods. And both of the women looked pretty happy about giving them to you. So…why?"

"Feh," he snorted as a faint blush appeared on his cheeks.

"Hey, dog-boy, what did you do to make them give up the food, threaten to bop them or something?" asked the little kitsune.

"Hush, Shippo, don't tease him," Kagome said, placing her hand firmly on top of his head. At this, the kitsune looked up at her, shocked that she had interfered in the squabble between Inuyasha and himself, and even more shocked that she seemed to be taking the hanyou's side.

"Please, Inuyasha, why did they give …"

"Feh," he interrupted. "I just swapped some fresh game to the elder's wife." He snorted, "I don't think they've had any fresh meat in a looong time." He paused a moment, and then added "She was the one who asked if there was any game left in the forest."

Laughing, Kagome said "Well, I guess we can have sandwiches again for lunch today." After a moment, she continued, "If you keep providing food like this, I won't need to bring so much Ramen, although I'm going to have to start bringing mustard and spices to cook with."

"Hey," he said, with a shocked look on his face. "You can't forget the Ramen!"

"Just kidding! I would never forget, I know how much you love it," she answered with a giggle and a mischievous grin.

For the rest of the morning, the party continued along the road as it followed the course of a small river. As sun rose high in the sky, they approached a crossroad that led over a shaky looking bridge that crossed the river.

Finally, Miroku spoke up. "I believe that this might be a good place to have our next meal."

As they stopped, Kagome dropped her pack with a small sigh, and asked, "Inuyasha, may I have the baskets, so I can see what we have to work with for lunch?"

Inuyasha simply handed her the baskets and loped off towards the nearby woods without a word.

Frowning, Kagome watched him until he disappeared into the trees. Kneeling next to the baskets, she quickly inventoried the contents and decided that she would make sandwiches again, but with onions, cucumbers, and fried mushrooms this time.

Starting her stove, Kagome placed a small amount of cooking oil in the frying pan, and sautéed the mushrooms and onions together while she prepared the rest of the materials. This time she asked Sango to make the tea, while she showed Shippo how to slice the bread into somewhat even slices.

As she worked, Kagome explained to Shippo what she chose to use to make the sandwiches today, and why it was different from the day before.

"You see, although I could have made the sandwiches the same way as yesterday, by varying the filling…"

"Filling? What's that?" The little kitsune interrupted.

"Don't interrupt, please. It's rude."

"I'm sorry," he apologized.

"That's okay. As I was saying," she continued, "the filling is pretty much whatever I decide to put between the two slices of bread. It might be meat, cheese, fish, vegetables or a combination of any of them. Sometimes the filling is hot, sometimes it's cold." Pausing as she divided the sandwiches on to different plates, she added, "other than trying to make sure it tastes good, I try to balance it nutritionally, as well."

"Nut-notrix-n…I can't even say that word; what doe's it mean?" He asked, almost desperately.

"Well, nutrition is the study of food. Specifically, what types of food are best for staying healthy," Kagome replied.

"The best kind of food? I know what that is! It's CHOCOLATE!" Shippo shouted.

At that, both Sango and Miroku began to laugh loudly. Kagome just shook her head and said, "No, dear. Chocolate is NOT the best food. Just because it tastes good, that doesn't mean that it actually IS good. In fact, chocolate has almost no nutritional value at all, and if you eat too much of it, you may find yourself becoming rather fat."

"But, Kagome, you give us chocolate to eat all the time! How come we aren't fat?" asked Shippo.

"Well, first, I don't give out chocolate all the time. Usually, I just share out a single candy bar between all of us after dinner. That amount of chocolate won't cause any harm, not even to someone as young as you are. And secondly, we all lead a somewhat active life, which tends to prevent any of us from getting fat." As she spoke, she passed out the plates of sandwiches to everyone, and accepted a cup of tea from Sango in return.

"An active life? Well, I suppose our search could be described as 'active'," mused the monk. "Although most unbiased observers would probably use some other term."

"Like what? Frantic? Suicidal? Insane?" laughed Sango.

"Yes, those are good words," replied Miroku. "But, so are words like 'necessary' or 'vital' and … 'justice'.

Finishing her lunch, Kagome looked around to see if Inuyasha was coming back. Not seeing him, Kagome sat back down, closed her eyes and 'felt' for him using the same sense that she used to detect Shikon shards and demonic auras. Breathing slowly and calmly, she felt Myoga, Kirara and Shippo's auras as, first, a small, hard green light (Myoga), a churning, red/orange flame (Kirara), and then, a smaller, softer brown light (Shippo) close at hand. Pushing her senses out farther, she felt the entire forest as a single, slowly pulsing, very faint blue light with a moving red glow that was approaching quickly.

"Inuyasha." She sighed softly to herself. Opening her eyes, she said "Inuyasha will be back in a few minutes; I'm glad, his sandwiches will still be warm."

As she filled a fresh cup with tea, she asked "Sango, is Kirara well enough to carry us back to Kaede's village?"

"Well, I think she can carry two or three of us, but not all of us yet."

"Hmm, I'll talk to Inuyasha after he's had lunch. Maybe he will take me with him so we can get home by this evening."

As she spoke, the young hanyou came to a stop and dropped cross-legged to the ground next to her and asked, "So, what's for lunch?"

Kagome handed him a plate filled with sandwiches and a cup of tea that she had prepared and covered with a towel until he returned. "Here you go, eat up."

Smiling, Miroku started picking up plates and said, "Come on, Shippo, let's get started on the dishes."

While they carried the dishes down to the river, Kagome and Sango began repacking the backpack with Kagome's cooking supplies and the fresh food they had received that morning.

As she waited for the cleaned dishes, Kagome spoke up.

"Inuyasha? Would you mind if this afternoon Shippo and Miroku rode on Kirara with Sango, and if I traveled with you? I would very much like to be back in Kaede's village before nightfall, and…"

"Huh? You want to…go with me? Why?" As he spoke he had a sandwich in one hand and a cup of tea in the other, his expression was puzzled and questioning.

"Lots of reasons," she said. "Including that we can travel much, much faster this way and, well, there are a couple of things I need to talk to you about."

"What kinds of things?" Inuyasha asked, frowning at her for a moment before he started to eat his sandwich again.

"Private things," turning, she looked back at the river, "things concerning small ears."

Turning back to face him, she asked quietly, "Please?"

"Huh. Alright, I'll carry you back to Kaede's village."

At this, Kagome smiled and touched him gently on the shoulder before turning and walking down to the river where the dishes were being cleaned.

Later, as she helped to load their supplies on Kirara's back, Kagome spoke up. "Myoga, would you do me a favor?"

"Of course, Lady Kagome, I would be delighted to help you in any way possible."

"Thank you, I would like you to talk to Shippo and assess his level of knowledge concerning demon lore in general, in kitsune lore and history specifically."

"Huh? But…Kagome, why do you want Myoga to do that? I could just tell you instead," the little kitsune objected.

"Yes, dear. You could, but I would not be able to determine any gaps in your knowledge, so I've asked Myoga to do it for me."

"But…"

"No, dear. Please go with Myoga and do as I've asked," she said firmly.

"Okay, but…will I see you tonight?" Shippo asked plaintively.

"Of course, we'll be meeting at Kaede's village in a few hours." Kneeling down, she gave the little boy a big hug before handing him up to Miroku.

While they watched their friends fly up into the sky on Kirara's back, Kagome strapped her quiver and bow onto her back.

Dropping to one knee, Inuyasha simply said 'Lets go."

Climbing up, Kagome flattened herself tightly to his back and held on with all her strength.

Holding on to her legs with his powerful hands, he leaned forward and leaped towards the forest, reaching top speed quickly as he jumped from treetop to treetop.

Quickly, Inuyasha settled down to a smooth and very fast passage across the top of the forest. Much higher up, though not very far ahead, Kagome could see Kirara running across the sky.

Lifting her face into the strong breeze created by their passage, Kagome closed her eyes and laughed out loud.

His ears flicked at the sound of her laughter. "You sound happy, Kagome."

"I am happy," she said. A moment later she added, "I've missed this."

"Missed what?"

"This," she clarified, "I've missed being carried like this by you. I don't think you've carried me like this in over a month."

"Oh," he said. Pausing while landing on the ground on the far side of the forest, Inuyasha began running at a very fast pace with occasional long leaps to clear obstacles.

After a couple of minutes of silence, he spoke up again. "I didn't know you liked it when I carried you. You always seemed to want to ride on Kirara or your bicycle, or even just walk."

Kagome nuzzled her face into his long, flowing silver hair for a moment before answering. "It's true that I do like to walk or ride my bike a lot. But, as far as riding on Kirara, well, I've been doing that more to give you some space than because I preferred to ride on her back." She paused a bit, than added softly, "I like it when you carry me." Blushing, she whispered, "You make me feel…safe."

"Uhh…um…ahh," he stuttered a bit before trailing off into silence.

The silence lasted for about ten minutes as they continued to travel, each fully occupied with their own thoughts.

Finally, Inuyasha spoke up. "What was it that you wanted to talk about? About Shippo, I mean."

"Oh, well, I've been thinking about him a lot lately, and well, I don't know if he is typical for kitsunes his age, but for humans he would be considered very bright, and…" she trailed off, then spoke up again. "I just think that he should be doing more than traveling with us. I mean, he tries to help, but he's just a kid! He needs to learn things, more than just fighting and tricks he uses to cheer us up and make us laugh."

"Maybe he cheers you up, but he's a pain in the butt to me!" Inuyasha snapped.

Kagome sighed, "I know, and I'm sorry. That's mostly my fault, I'm afraid."

"Huh? No, it's not; he's just a pain in the butt, that's all. It's not your fault, Kagome!"

"Really? And what happens when he does irritate you? Who does he run to for help? Me. And all too often I end up saying the 's' word, don't I?" Kagome said in a sad voice. "Well, I can't change the past, but I can change how I act in the future. I'm going to talk to mama about some advice on childrearing…"

"Child! Shippo's not a child, he's a demon!" Inuyasha burst out.

"Yes, he is," she stated firmly. "Demon or human, he is still a little boy who lost both of his parents. He deserves better than to be left to grow up wild and uncontrollable. He is a sweet little boy, but he has the makings of a terrible brat if we don't make some changes right away."

"Is that why you wanted him to ride on Kirara?"

"Partly. I asked Myoga to talk to him, because Myoga is the oldest demon among us, and can better see what areas Shippo needs to learn about. For the most part, I wanted to talk to you without Shippo nearby, which can be difficult.'

"That's for sure!" he broke in, "the runt is always hanging around you."

"Actually, Inuyasha, I was talking to Sango yesterday and she told me something very interesting. Would you like to hear it?" Kagome asked.

"Feh"

"I'll take that as 'yes'," she said with a smile. "Sango told me that when I go back through the well, Shippo usually mopes around for a couple of hours, and then he starts getting closer to you."

"What? What are you talking about? That's crazy!" he spluttered. Coming to a stop, he set her down on the ground, turned around to face her, and said, "He hates me! He's always doing stuff that drives me crazy!"

Smiling at the confused hanyou, she said, "Actually, I think it makes perfect sense. From Shippo's point of view, staying close to you is the best possible place to be."

"What!"

"Seriously, of everyone he knows, you, Inuyasha, can keep him safe from anything. I mean, look at it: the Thunder Brothers killed his father, and you killed them to avenge his father's death. And then you let him come along with us."

"Hey, you're the one who wanted him to stay with us!" he said defensively.

Stepping closer, Kagome gently laid her finger across his lips. "Shhh. It's okay. I know I wanted him to come with us, and I still want him to stay with us. But," lifting her finger away, Kagome continued, "from Shippo's point of view, it was your decision, not mine."

"Huh? But – but, that's not, uh, I mean… that doesn't make any sense!" he stammered.

"Yes, it does. Especially from Shippo's perspective," she stated firmly. "According to Myoga, demons in general and kitsunes in particular, are very patriarchal. Which means that to Shippo, only your decision counted."

Watching his confused expression, Kagome almost laughed, but resisted the temptation. Finally, when it seemed that Inuyasha wasn't going to speak, she spoke up again. "I think that Shippo is unaware of why he acts the way he does, but he truly does look up to you. He just doesn't know how to show it appropriately."

"Appropriately?" He asked, dumbfounded.

"Appropriately," she said firmly. "All we have to do is to teach him the right way to behave."

"And … just how do we do that? Any time I try to talk to him, he does something to piss me off, and then I just bop him on the head."

"We show him by example, the proper way to behave. This means that you have to control your temper, and that I have to stop petting and holding him when the two of you disagree." Taking a deep breath, she continued, "And my using 's' to interfere between the two of you has just been making it worse."

"What!" He said in disbelief.

"I've been making it worse," she said again. "I'd like to try making it better instead."

Looking straight at her, Inuyasha reached out and gently traced the curve of her cheek with his claw, causing a shiver to run down her spine. Turning around, he knelt down and said, "Climb on and hold tight, we've got a lot of ground to cover."

As she climbed onto his back, Inuyasha said, "I don't know if I understand everything you've just told me…but I think I want to try doing things in a different way. Who knows, maybe it will work?" He laughed a bit and then added, "Anything would be better than him pissing me off and then getting bopped all the time." With that, he started off even faster than he had been going before.

Kagome merely hugged him close and whispered "Thank you, thank you very much," and then lay her head on his shoulder and relaxed for the rest of the journey.