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Heated Blood by Imani Joain

Chapter 1: Chumbawamba

It's not that I'm drunk, Kagome told herself as she stumbled again, this time regaining her balance with the help of a young tree. It's more that I'm...mellow. A sigh, that morphed into a quiet giggle escaped her. Mellow, and really, really clumsy. It was only the second time she had ever drank sake – the first being in her own time at a cousin's wedding. She was pretty sure that the stuff they made in the feudal era must be stronger. At least, the bottle that Miroku had earned with his last 'exorcism' seemed unusually strong.

They were celebrating. It had been a year since Naraku's defeat, almost a year since Miroku and Sango had been married. No one had realized until they were setting up camp. Miroku was building a fire, Sango was helping Shippo fetch water, and Inuyasha was hunting. Kagome had pulled all of her bathing supplies out of her bag, and was looking for spices when her old school calendar book fell open on the ground. She pointed out the date to Miroku, and then to Sango and Shippo when they returned, and the others insisted that they celebrate. Sango and Kagome bathed quickly, and returned to camp to find rabbit meat had been added to the stew and Inuyasha had disappeared. Kagome felt terrible that she had been so thoughtless. It was also the anniversary of Kikyou's final death. The others tried to make her feel better. Miroku insisted that Inuyasha wasn't mad, he just needed some time to himself.

The adults had a drink, then another. They ate dinner and told stories. After a few hours, Kagome was able to forget about Inuyasha's pain and her guilt. She was able to stop reminding herself that he had to be responsible for his own happiness. Shippo fell asleep, but the sake in their cups always seemed full and Miroku told jokes that would have made Kagome blush if her face wasn't already flushed from the alcohol. Sango would have hit him, if she hadn't been married to him and already learned that there was no correcting his behavior. The couple shared a long look, and then Sango, her voice breathless and low, asked Kagome to check at the bathing site for a missing towel. It was a plea for alone time, Kagome knew. Familiar with the request, she nodded, as though she didn't know exactly what was going to happen at camp while she was gone. She grabbed her bathing supplies as she left, knowing she might need to occupy herself for a while. A long while, if Sango's husky laughter was any indication.

At least the water will be relaxing, she thought. Kagome straightened and looked around. She was sure she should have come to the stream already. She rolled her eyes in the semi-darkness of a full moon. The haze of sake allowed her to laugh at her own complete lack of direction rather than becoming frustrated. Twenty more steps, she decided, then I'll turn around and follow my own trail back. She was pretty good at that, at least. Although it helped that she generally made a messy track of broken branches and deep scuffs in the dirt where ever she walked. Clumsiness had it's virtues.

She took another ten steps, and a low warning pulse of youki beat against her. Kagome pulled herself up sharply, her senses on alert. She stepped forward slowly, and the pulse came again, harder. It was clearly intended to keep others away, but there was something about it that called the miko forward. She stretched her senses carefully, and she thought perhaps it was the sake, but her reiki flowed easily and gently, looking for the source of the warning.

A youkai. A massively powerful youkai. And it was in incredible pain.

Kagome gasped at the intensity of what she sensed. How the creature had not died or gone insane, she couldn't imagine. Warning or no, the miko from the future could not allow anyone to suffer if she might be able to help. She pushed forward through a thicket, following the pulse of youki. A branch snapped at her palm, cutting her, and the pain distracted her from the moment that she reached a small clearing. Rather than shock, she was confused by the sight before her. A powerful youkai, indeed. A daiyoukai, his back against a tree and his legs arranged in a position of meditation before him. His eyes were slitted, so narrow they were almost closed save for a paper-thin opening of red that burned in an unfocused gaze. The combination of alcohol and sudden pain clouded her thoughts so that all she could manage to say was, “Sesshomaru?”

 

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