It was not the news she wanted to hear, and InuYasha knew it.
Kagome held up her hand. InuYasha rested his fingers against hers, each finger so much longer and larger than hers, each tipped with a pointed claw. Her palm was small, soft and delicate against his large calloused ones, roughened by work and sword and life. He slipped his fingers between hers, engulfing her hand in the firm protection of his own, fingers and thumbs covering hers securely.
He looked away from her hand and into her eyes, blue-gray, glittering in the fire pit’s light. There was worry in them, uncertainty.
“Why now?” she asked. “We’ve seen trouble before.”
“We’re not talking about bandits raiding the village, Koibito, or even youkai attacks. This is war,” he said. “You never saw much of it when we were chasing Naraku. But it’s coming. It was hard getting back from the east this time. The Houjou and the Uesugi are marching now.” He slipped his arm around her. “The Uesugi are trying to take Odawara, and there’s fighting going on north of us, too.”
He brushed his fingers lightly against her cheek. “I remember how bad it was when the Houjou began to take power . . . I don’t want you to go through that. You’ve never seen just how vicious humans can be on that scale.” His voice drifted off as he slipped back into memory. He sighed a little, shook his head. “Miroku and I had to dodge more than one patrol coming home this time, but I wouldn’t have wanted to face Sango if I hadn’t been able to drag his butt home.”
“I knew you had a rough time this trip. But why do we have to go?” she asked, her bottom lip trembling slightly. “There’s nothing here for them to fight for.”
“Where there’s war, there’s famine or sickness or worse. Men. We’re too close to Edo. When they start sending troops out, they’ll scour the village for food and supplies and men to turn into foot soldiers. You don’t know want to know what they’ll do with the women, especially the ones like Rin. And when that happens, people will blame me being here for their bad luck. Atae, too, just because of our youkai blood. And maybe even you. It’s happened to me before. I can’t take that chance, Kagome.”
He pulled her close, the fabric of his sleeves draping across her as if to shield her from everything outside of the walls of their house. “I saw my brother today, and that helped me make up my mind for me. Sesshoumaru’s coming to get Rin out of harm’s way, and he’ll help us get somewhere safe. You, Atae, Rin, Shippou . . . I don’t want anything happening to any of you. Especially you and Atae.”
He kissed her forehead. “Let me protect you, Kagome.”
As she lay her head against his shoulder, she thought back to one day, long ago, when he pushed her behind him, standing there with a sword he barely knew how to use, to face a foe he knew outclassed him, with almost the same words. She could stand her ground and maybe watch him shed his blood trying to keep her safe or give in, as painful as it was. No matter what, he would work to protect her with his last breath.
She looked up at him, gazed into his concerned, needy, hopeful eyes and sighed. She knew her history. It was going to be a rocky time ahead. And there was her family to think about, too. She thought for a moment about InuYasha’s childhood, and how hard it was. If anything went wrong, that would be Atae’s future. She thought about the villagers, and then her family. She couldn’t fight him on this one.
Swallowing hard, Kagome wrapped her arms around him, and sighed. “Yes, InuYasha,” she said. “You’re right. We’ll go.”
Kagome felt her husband relax in her hold.
“Thank you, Koibito,” he said, kissing her forehead. “Now,” he said, looking around the room, “Can you tell me where my son is? And what’s for dinner?”
The young miko looked up at him wide eyed, almost in amazement, then softly at first, but growing louder with each moment, she began laughing. It went on for quite a while until InuYasha wondered if he was going to have to get Kaede to come help.
It was a long time before she could explain to her husband just why that happened.