The inhabitants of a certain small village had gotten used to the half-demon Inuyasha in the past year.

For five decades, he had been a tale to frighten little children with -- a violent, malevolent half-man, half-demon, with fiery eyes and razor-sharp claws, who had slain their beloved priestess, tried to steal the Shikon Jewel and laid waste to the village. During those fifty years, he had been pinned to a tree by a sacred arrow, apparently dead.

Now he was not only free, but they had gradually grown used to him. As time went by, they grudgingly accepted that he hadn't killed the priestess, nor was he violent if he was left unprovoked. Certainly not evil.

He could, however, be very short-tempered.


"What's TAKING her so long?" Inuyasha shouted. He leapt onto the rooftop, staring into the dense tangle of trees and vines. He could smell her scent winding off into that forest, in the direction of the dry well.

"She's only been gone a day and a half," Shippo said, idly licking a lollipop. "You didn't get upset when she was away for that whole week."

"She's supposed to tell me!" Inuyasha said heatedly. "When she has those exam things, she's supposed to tell me before she does it." He clamped a clawed hand on Shippo's small red head. "And what are you doin', following me around?"

"Keeping an eye on you," Shippo said placidly. "Kagome told me to."

"Well, you get that eye off me."

"How about the other one?"

"That one too."

Shippo pondered this for a moment, then held out his sticky lollipop. "Want some? I got plenty."

"Shut up and get lost, short stuff."

He hunched over, glaring at the trees, as if they might spit Kagome out at any moment. It annoyed him that she was always scooting back to her own era, claiming that her schoolwork was more important than finding more jewel shards. He had been there once or twice, but there weren't that many things that were different. Not to his eyes, anyhow.

What did she need that school for anyhow? He had seen it. She sat on her backside in a cramped little desk, listening to a middle-aged human drone on about things that Inuyasha couldn't even understand.

And always lingering at the back of his mind was another fear, that somehow she wouldn't be able to return. He just hated seeing her jump down and vanish. One of the worst moments of his life had been when he saw her face vanish into the darkness, betrayed and shocked.... because he had thrown her down.

He draped his long legs over the rooftop, letting his bare feet hang over the edge. Shippo pranced over to him on his tiny fox feet, hopped onto his shoulder.

"Didn't I tell you to get lost, squirt?" Inuyasha said tersely.

"Yep, but Kagome still told me-"

He didn't have time to jump away as a clawed arm shot out toward him. Shippo squealed as Inuyasha slammed him down headfirst into the rooftop. "I don't care what she told you," Inuyasha snapped. "I want you gone. I need to be by myself."

Shippo glared resentfully at Inuyasha, rubbing a grubby bruise on his cheek. "She's not gonna come back just because you want her too. If you're so worked up, why don't you go get her yourself?"

"Shut up. No way I'm gonna go beg her," Inuyasha said sharply. "Get that through your tiny head." He leaped down onto the ground and vanished into the forest.

Shippo frowned and wandered away, licking his lollipop. Inuyasha always got grumpy when Kagome was away.

Sango and Miroku were playing a checkers game that Kagome had given them, behind an old barn, and from the look on Miroku's face, Sango was beating him. Again. Shippo sat down on a bale of hay and watched placidly as Sango collected several of Miroku's pieces.

"I'm not sure why you won't play against Shippo," Miroku said finally.

"Because whenever I do, you come up to advise me, and you start stroking my legs," Sango said flatly. "Why can't you be more like Inuyasha and not grab every woman you meet?"

"Look at Inuyasha," Miroku said with a sly smile. "He doesn't get much joy out of life, does he?"

Sango pursed her lips. "King me."

"I'd love to."

Shippo wasn't sure what they were talking about, but he was fairly sure they wouldn't explain it to him "until you're old enough." He took the lollipop out of his mouth. "Miroku, Inuyasha's in a bad mood."

"He's always in a bad mood," Miroku said, reluctantly placing one of his captured pieces onto Sango's king.

"I asked him why he didn't go get Kagome, and he said 'no way,'" Shippo continued. "Why won't he go?"

Miroku smiled. "Leave Inuyasha alone for an hour or two, and I promise you, we'll have news of Kagome before too long. You know how he is. Paranoid about showing concern."

"King me," Sango said again.