Ten days earlier…
It was a very windy day.
The sun was bright and the air warmish, but fat, low, cumulonimbus clouds heavy with rain passed swiftly overhead. Blue sky was visible between the poofy dollops of cloud. The wind that carried the clouds also caused the trees of the forest to whip and thrash, silvery leaves whistling against each other and giving the impression that the forest was whispering to itself.
Kagome dozed on Inuyasha's shoulder, and he was content to let her. The weather was fair enough, and the day peaceful so far, and everyone deserved a day of rest. In Inuyasha's mind that meant a day of steady travel uninterrupted by any near-fatal battles. So, with no news of Naraku's current whereabouts, they were traveling inland, trying a new direction: south and west, hoping to at least stumble upon a jewel shard.
Lost in thought, Inuyasha was half a second slow-to-react when a branch he'd jumped on cracked and broke, and he felt Kagome swing away and then slam into his back.
"Gnuh," she grunted into his shoulder, awake but only half-aware.
"Sorry 'bout that," he said.
"'S okay," she said, "Was I 'sleep?"
"What time's it?"
Presently, Inuyasha felt Kagome's head fall back onto his right shoulder and the arm swung over his left shoulder go slack with sleep. He gripped her thighs more tightly and leaned forward to prevent dropping her should he accidentally go through a branch again.
He glanced skyward, locating Kirara about thirty feet above and to his left. Shippou snored on Sango's lap, and it appeared that Miroku had fallen asleep on Sango's shoulder, mimicking Kagome's position on Inuyasha. In fact, the priest's hands were barely gripping his shakujou, which lay across Sango's thighs – it was actually being held in place by Sango's elbows. Miroku, to all appearances, was drooling unconsciously onto Sango's shoulder.
Stupid lecher, thought Inuyasha, bet it's all for show. Less than ten minutes says his hand'll be on Sango's ass.
By sundown, the prophesied groping still had yet to happen, so Inuyasha conceded that Miroku must actually be asleep. When the first star began to show, Sango directed Kirara closer to Inuyasha and called out to him that they ought to stop for the night. Inuyasha nodded assent and began to descend from the canopy.
"I think I smell a river about half a mile away. I suppose you women'll want to bathe…"
Sango's face, tired from the day's travel, brightened, and she said, "Yes, I'd love to. And Kagome-chan is always up for a bath."
"Fine, fine," Inuyasha grumbled, and led onward.
Having found a suitable clearing, Inuyasha and Sango began the laborious process of waking up Kagome, Shippou, and Miroku. Well, laborious in Kagome and Shippou's cases. Sango simply shook herself from Miroku's embrace, and his resulting fall from Kirara's back woke him quite efficiently. Inuyasha, who knew the perils of a sleeping Kagome – actually, why had he let her fall asleep? She could have osuwari'd them both – was trying to figure out a peaceful and quiet way to wake her up.
Meanwhile, Sango was poking Shippou in the stomach. Kirara, now in her smaller form, and trying to be helpful, licked the kitsune's face. Her tongue had a sand-papery texture worthy of any cat and was an unusual-enough feeling to the poor child that it worked where Sango's poking had not. Shippou greeted them with a face of disgust and an, "Ewwww, Kirara, that scratches…"
Kirara mewed a reply and Sango cut in, "Shippou, Kagome and I are going to take a bath before dinner. Want to come?"
Inuyasha had laid Kagome down on the grass and was gently nudging her with his foot. He was taking care to stay as far away from her as possible, in case she accidentally sat him.
"C'mon, wench," Inuyasha muttered, "Wake up already."
Miroku, who had finished groaning and had removed himself from the ground, ascertained Inuyasha's difficulties and approached him, smiling evilly.
"Why, Inuyasha, surely there are far more pleasant ways to wake Kagome-sama up?"
"Yeah, like what," said Inuyasha, snappishly, "Groping her? Sorry, but I'm not a fucking pervert like you."
"I would never suggest something so base, Inuyasha. Really, you shame me –" Inuyasha snorted, and Miroku continued, "– but you could shake her shoulder, or call her name, or – didn't Kagome-sama tell us a story once where a man had to wake a woman up by kissing her? Give it a try!"
"Why, you!" Inuyasha roared, blushing, and made a swipe at Miroku, which the agile priest dodged. Fortunately, his shout had the happy result of waking up Kagome, and she captured Inuyasha's attention by asking, sleepily, "Why you yelling?"
"Keh, no reason. Go take your bath with Sango."
"Bath? Oooh, yes!" Kagome exclaimed, looking around for Sango. Spotting her, she called, "Sango-chan? Bath?"
"I was just getting the supplies from your bag, Kagome-chan."
"Oh, goodie. Let's go." And, Shippou in tow, they went.
The group passed a quiet evening and an uneventful night, but Kagome woke early in the morning to a bleary grey dawn and a tingling at the base of her spine. Fidgeting, she tried to go back to sleep, but only ended in knocking Shippou out of her sleeping bag. After that, she thought it must be around 6:30, and everybody would be waking soon anyway, so why not just get up? She wiggled her way out of the sleeping bag and replaced Shippou inside it, and turned to find Inuyasha glaring at her.
"Good morning to you, too," Kagome said.
"What're you doing up this early?" Inuyasha asked, and she realized he wasn't quite glaring, but staring almost anxiously.
"I couldn't sleep," she said, and she paused before continuing, "And, Inuyasha, I think I feel the presence of a jewel fragment. A strong one…"
Inuyasha's worried expression turned into one of vindictive satisfaction.
"Hah, only a day's travel and we've found one –"
"Yeah, but I don't how far it is or how many there are, and I can only sense that it's vaguely, vaguely –" Kagome paused to concentrate, swinging round until she had her back to the rising sun, "—west."
AN: Plodding along, singing a song, at the bottom of the beautiful briny sea!