(Author's Note: I originally wrote the rough about 1.5 years ago, but as usual, I ended up revising and revamping the entire chapter since most of the events in Sister, Sister would have made it outdated. I've decided to add a few more original characters, so this story is going to be loaded with a mixture of both. (Grins? Who are they? You'll see!)

Also, to those who might be confused by Yashira and Yajuumaru's back story, please read my SISTER, SISTER fic where they first appear. Please R&R if possible, I don't bite unless someone flames me. It's only then when I take out the baseball of Doom and swing.)

Glossary:

Baka-yarou – stupid bastard

Hanyou - Half demon

Taijiya – Demon Hunter

Houshi – monk

sama - honorific

chan - honorific

tachi - plural

itoto – little brother

hakemi –Miko-Top - blouse - etc

yukata- male robe

ookami - wolf

February 28, 2004 - May 16, 2004

By Yashira

Fire and Ice

Part 1

"Get out of my way, you bastards!" The words spill effortlessly from his mouth as half-startled villagers spin around with confused looks. Gaping stupidly at the white-haired terror racing right at them and screaming every obscenity known to humankind, they don't even move. It's as if they're a herd of deer who have walked right into oncoming traffic. "Bakayarou!"

Dodging bratty little kids, a bunch of housewives heading towards market, and a group of old men -one of which has just stopped to raise a finger as if to say, "Oh, look! A hanyou," - Inuyasha almost manages to avoid plowing through the startled throng. Almost. Except for the little accident with the peddler's cart, he's relatively unscathed. Well, it was either him, the people, or the cart of chickens right in front of him… stopping suddenly was not something he had even bothered to consider.

The amount of noise and frightened squabbling as white feathers cascade upward in an avalanche of snow, has screaming roosters and chickens going everywhere! And trailing behind this mess of fowl confusion is Kagome, Sango and Miroku.

"Damn it, Inuyasha!" Miroku, swinging that gold staff of his on reflex alone, hits the first luckless chicken that comes his way. Right on the broad side of its derriere, much like a tennis player slamming a serve, the poor chicken goes flying over the heads of all passerbys. Cluck! Three pair of heads wear that classic anime-manga styled 'teardrops'. "We're going to have to end up paying for this!"

"Since when do you ever pay for anything, Houshi-sama? ACK! GA-CHOO!" Sango spits out the feathers which are pouring down on both her and Kagome as she hefts Hirakotsu just in the nick of time to prevent yellow yolk -of a thrown egg - from splattering over them. "Isn't it the 'Let me bless this house and stay the night for free" with you?"

"Sango-sama, I'm hurt that you would think that." Though he spoke it seriously and readied his staff for his next defensive moment, Miroku still manages to find himself on the unlucky receiving end. When hitting an egg with the flat of a staff, a person sometimes tends to forget the important things. Eggs are fragile, you have to be careful with eggs.

"Keh, serves you right for being so slow!" Inuyasha calls back, barely taking a moment to register the feather-yolk chaos he's left behind, as he glides, this time smoothly, from another merchant's cart towards the rooftops of the homes and shacks above. The buildings here are not like the comely shacks and huts of Kaede's village. Instead of wood and dirt, stone masonry and ironwork have been used to build up the homes as if miraclously trying to mimic modern Japan life 400 years from now. Within moments, as the cool brush of a spring breeze presses against his clothing, Inuyasha slips from view.

"Damn, it is not a game." Huffing angrily, more upset that her Hirakotsu has to be used as a shield against the vengeful yolk than the weapon it's suppose to be made for, Sango gestures absently towards the now gone Inuyasha. "Look at him! What does he think he's doing? We're to fight together, not scattered like- like- " Brown eyes glancing at Miroku as her words coming out quicker than she had intended, Sango has the decency to look away from his egg covered face. "-broken egg shells."

"I know, I've never seen him so mad before!" Pulling feathers from her uniform, and tossing the white fluff casually to the side, Kagome also finds it difficult to look at Miroku without laughing. Only he could pull off that serious affronted look while being covered in yellow yolk. Flashing brown eyes elsewhere, in hopes to quell that bubbling laughter which wants to tear free from her lips, she now sees that the mass of gathering people has grown. This did not look good. People were beginning to mill about in what looked like the start of a mob. All eyes turn towards them and Kagome knows it will only be a matter of time before more than just eggs and chickens are tossed about. Without Inuyasha to protect her, she'd have to rely on her companions: Sango and Miroku. It isn't that she doesn't think they're capable, but-

"Don't say it." Eyes closed, brows drawn in as if to reflect either heavenly contemplation or preparation to kill, Miroku takes a huge breath to forestall whatever jokes the two girls might be thinking.

"But Houshi-sama, could you have not-"

Violet eyes spring open, fixing Sango with a look that says, Yeah, I could have used my head to remember about the differences between an egg and a metal staff, but I chose to ignore that fact for reasons which still elude me. What he verbally says instead is simply, "You see that alley way? In about several seconds, that nice peddler and owner of that cart who by the way, has impeccable aim for throwing eggs at us, is going to come over and do some rather loud damage to our ears. I rather NOT be here when he does that."

"What happened to paying for- er.. " Even if Miroku is serious about paying for the damages, it only takes Sango one look at the irate peddler, who currently is hopping up and down and squishing the last of his eggs in a fit of anger, for her to change her sentence mid-swing. The chicken owner looked like someone who, if given a dull stick, could still find a way to decapitate a person with one good, solid stroke. "Okay, I think I may be beginning to see your point. Let's go, Kagome-chan."

"Hai." Nodding her agreement, Kagome follows Miroku and Sango into the alleyway which cuts from modern looking homes. For some reason, they make her feel homesick. I thought I left all the concentrate at home

Although, as she glances about at the buildings, she's overcome with an odd feeling. The buildings on the outside are made of stone and look clean, but was that just a front? A mask to hide the dilapidated wooden walls they now draw past? Kagome isn't sure, but she knows she's surprised that it takes only several steps to leave the world of sunlight and angry chicken owners, to enter this place. Like something from out of a sinister and foreign sci-fi world, she feels disorientated. The walls are high, the doors and windows are boarded up –from the inside- and she gets this uncomfortable tingle in the back of her head. She does not like this place and wishes that Inuyasha was with her.

Is he even thinking about her? About them? She wants to say yes, but the deep gutted feeling in her heart says otherwise. Ever since he found out he had a sister, his thoughts have been muddled and confused. Miroku and Sango have told her to be patient about it, but it's so incredibly hard. First it was Kikyou, who had walked into his life to disturb what lies between Kagome and Inuyasha and now it's Yashira. Yeah, sure, it was silly to get jealous over someone who shared his blood, but Kagome just can't help her own feelings. She misses Inuyasha's attention and finds it unfair that she has to share him with someone else… again. Why can't it just be them?

At least, Kagome realizes, as she stumbles after her friends, that she should be thankful for small favours. Right now, Yashira is miles away chasing after a different youkai with Kaede, Shippo, Myoga and Yajuumaru, while Kagome is here with Inuyasha, Sango, and Miroku. Maybe thanks should go to Naraku for sending out TWO vicious, town-wrecking youkai instead of one - forcing them to split their main group in half to go after them. She knows it's selfish to think like that, knows it's wrong, but it's too late to take back that thought. It's already been expressed. At least Kikyou's not here to remind her what she could lose if Inuyasha decides to choose her. And when it wasn't Naraku, it was Kikyou. Why did it always go back to Kikyou?

"Oh my god, Houshi-sama, what is that smell?" Sango's voice interrupts Kagome's depressing thoughts with its cringe of disgust as she wades through several dirty, nasty looking pools of water scattered along the alleyway. All matter of refuse and garbage seems to be tossed here in order to be forgotten; much like the alleyways back home in Kagome's world. Impossible, the thought which wants to break through her senses suggests that she's actually walking through a lane towards her home from school, but that just can't be. This was surely no Bone Well, but a rather unkempt and stinky alley. Just what was going on here? Sango's voice drills through her startled thoughts, and this time Kagome finds herself reaching to plug her nose. The reek in this place was horrible. A week old cat's litter box had nothing on it. "It's like something died here."

"If I had known how bad this place was, I would have taken my chances with the chicken owner." Miroku now glances back towards Kagome, making sure she's still with him, but he looks startled by the vacant view behind her. Light pitches in from the open spaces between the homes, but it fades into nothingness the further down it has to go. It means that the alley floor is mired in a darkness mimicking night… except night was never this creepy. "Is it me, or has anyone else noticed how dark it is in here? Someone should have followed us, by now, but I don't see or hear anyone." As he slows down, forcing the others to stop as well, Miroku lifts his egg-covered staff as if he's about to ward someone or something away. "I don't feel anything malicious, but there's something-"

Sango lifts thoughtful brown eyes to look at Miroku, as she tries to rally the next plan of action. "It's just the smell; it reeks. Houshi-sama, let's find a way out right now and stop playing games."

He looks affronted as his eyes convey the feeling that he wasn't playing around. "As much as I want to, have you seen any, Sango? We will just have to go back the way we-"

"Look, there's a light ahead!" Without further thought to her interruption and trying not to gag from the fumes of the place at the same time, Kagome barely has time to point to a shimmer of brightness ahead. It hangs like an abandoned bed sheet between two shadowed walls, but she does not question the incongruency of light and dark now. This place has given her a headache by making her think too much on things better left unquestioned. She makes an uncermonous dash towards it. "I'm going!"

"Me too," Sango replies, relief spilling free, as she dodges past Miroku to avoid stepping through a particularly wretched looking pool of collected water. Water in her opinion, should never look like puke green. "Yuck! And you wanted to go back through this? Never trust a man with egg on his face."

Running his fingers over the yolk still sticking in his hair, Miroku lets out a frustrated sigh. "I guess she likes me since she only mentioned the egg and not what I stepped in earlier."

A delightful chuckle first shudders and then reverberates through the air as a woman's voice –both low and husky – speaks appreciatively. "So you've come here, then? To my precious little city, how time saving and considerate you are." Her voice breaks for a moment allowing the vacant emptiness to suffocates the air around her as if it were a vacumn. Like the alleyway, it contains the same sort of darkness, except the blackness is a hundred times more sinister here.

With a powerful flash, a flicker of green witch light glares into being and in its unholy birthing it illuminates a pool suspended in darkness. Scattered images dance along this sheen of water like live electric currents as they reveal head after head of different people. It was like changing channels with the mute button on. There's no sound, there can't be when she uses water as a medium to spy on her enemies, but the images are enough. They show her what she wants: the Inuyasha-tachi.

"Ah, so that's where you are going?" Though it was spoken like a question, the speaker's voice is highly amused as if finding that the outcome of this game she was playing had already been decided in her favour. "I can't say I disagree, but… well, we'll see how it goes." A long, pale-azure hand emerges from the darkness, materializing as if from nothingness, to still the flickering images that bombarded her scrying pool.

With the loss of the images, the place completely fades to black.

"What the hell did you three step in?" Refusing to even draw near to the three stinking humans, Inuyasha stands poised and ready to flee should anyone one try to come too close to him. With his left sleeve hanging over the corner of his mouth, his golden eyes glare accusingly at each of them. "YOU STINK!"

"It was Houshi-sama's fault," Sango moans with the same disgust, though hers is directed more to her reeking outfit. The black Taijiya's uniform no longer smells of chicken feathers, instead it stinks as if something had crawled into her clothing to die ten years ago. Slamming her Hirakotsu down with a crash, she tugs at the uniform as if she could jerk the smell away with a mere touch. "He said "let's go through here" and we did."

Miroku, standing there coated in half-baked eggs and reeking twice as strongly as Sango, raises his hand to interrupt. "We wouldn't have had to go in that way if someone," and here he rolls his violet eyes at Inuyasha, "didn't smash right through a chicken cart and leave us behind."

That comment was met with the resounding, "Keh."

"You did catch her, though?" Kagome, who had been waving her hands about, trying blow the smell away, lets out a depressing sigh. That alleyway may not have been paranormal, but somehow it has imparted a bit of private hell to her clothing that she just knows won't wash out with detergent. "Right?" She feels ill, that headache from before is acting up, but she forces herself to swallow before fixing Inuyasha with that questioning look. "Riiiight?" She also notices that Sango and Miroku are also watching Inuyasha who has suddenly averted his eyes from them. Kagome has the sneaky suspicion that trouble is brewing.

"Well-"

"Oh, I can't believe this." Miroku sets his staff down before throwing furious hands up into the air "You said, LET YOU HANDLE it! You said WE'RE TOO SLOW! How did she manage to get away from you?" Being in the sun with egg on your face tends to resolve any monk of their heavenly like patience. "Your sister wouldn't have let her get away."

That's a low blow. The golden pair of eyes that fixed on Miroku said as much. "Well, she is not here. I AM! But I'm not going to answer any questions until you WASH THAT STINK off your bodies," though his voice is typically sulky and pout like - proving that he had lost their intended prey – Inuyasha's threat to leave is potent. He's quite adamant that they stop stinking first.

"Fine, fine." Miroku concedes, picking up his staff with a sigh, knowing that he can't get far when Inuyasha is like this. If there's one thing he knows about dog demons, it's the pig-headed stubbornness they have. "You wouldn't have happened to find any hot-springs or an inn worth staying at?" After wandering through the bigger parts of the town, noticing that the cobbled roads lead away to bigger, cleaner areas, it was obvious that the place was a lot bigger than they had expected. It wasn't a town or village at all, but a city. Something they usually didn't run into on their Shikon no Kakera quest.

"Well, you're not going to go pulling that stunt of bad omens…"

"Inuyasha, I'm offended that-"

"Your innocent act won't work on me…"

"Oi…oi…"

The look in Yajuumaru's eager green eyes - as he watches the way her chest rises and falls, the way her black hair flutters gently down her shoulders, or even the way her blue eyes narrow when she's thinking - would have made a guard dog nervous. The pun is not intentional since she is part dog and he's part wolf, but it does makes him wonder. What if his patience is derived from what he is? Although it really doesn't matter since he's content to just devour her presence with hungry, starved looks… even if Yashira often points out the embarrassment it causes her. She claims it makes her feel as if he's undressing her in front of their friends. Though he laughs when she says it, he finds he rather likes the idea. If only she would allow it.

When he does speak, his voice is smooth and soft like silk. There's usually a vulnerability in his speech, raw and open in his weakness for her, but it's tamed down at the moment. "How is he?" His question gives him an excuse to stop thinking about what he wishes to do to Yashira.

"I think-" A loud slurping sound follows the accompaniment of a slap as a small flea – now flat – floats rapidly to the ground, "He's okay." Yashira's blue eyes narrow on Myoga as a scowl darkens her pretty face. Though Myoga and Yashira had eventually met, some weeks prior, the information exchanged between them had been relatively little. He did confirmed Yashira's relationship to Inuyasha – about her being his older sister – but that had been just about it. If she wanted more information on Mikada – the miko who had raised her to hate her youkai side and who had stolen her away at birth for reasons only known to herself – Yashira would have to find the woman herself.

"Do I look like Inuyasha to you? I swear that brother of mine spoiled you for too long. How many times do I have to tell you, stop biting me!" Damn flea, the one thing she does know about Myoga is that he likes her blood. It's gourmet, he claims. When she next meets up with her itoto, she's going to have words about his flea.

"I almost died out there. You couldn't just indulge an old flea? You both share the same blood." Myoga mutters the last as he lands dangerously close to Yajuumaru's bare feet.

There's a narrowing of emerald eyes as the tree lord slides his fingers deftly over the flea before proceeding to squeeze gently at first. "Hmm?" It is a common practice by some demons to exchange blood as a sign of mating. Yajuumaru is of the belief that if anyone would be taking Yashira's blood, it will be him. "Want me to finish the job?"

Myoga is visibly alarmed by Yajuumaru's soft spoken threat – though aptly punctuated by the press of his fingers and angry glare. He quails in reply, his entire body shaking at the same time. "It was only a little, I do it to Inuyasha all the time."

The undercurrent in Yajuumaru's voice is deadly. Like the siren pull of a fast running river, it seems safe on the surface, but one false step and under the churning angry waters you go, never to be seen from again. "Yashira, is not Inuyasha, AND since she's MY mate, I'm incline to agree." Not yet, a voice screams in his thoughts, she's not yet! But Myoga doesn't have to know that. What may not be fact now, will one day be… at least Yajuumaru believes she'll become his lover soon enough. "If you want to bite her again, I'll just forget that you're suppose to be a friend and test how really squishable you are."

GULP! The answering swallow, as Myoga stares up into the grinning face of this quarter wolf demon, makes him think suddenly of the Ookami Prince that bothers Inuyasha and Kagome. Maybe it's just the tail, but there's something Kouga-like in the grin. Perhaps it's a wolf trait shared by all, but right now all Myoga knew or cared for, was to NOT get on this demon's bad side.

"Yajuumaru, please put him down. He's already given his message, I need you here." The old, neutral voice belongs to Kaede's and it echoes from her perch on the hill they're sharing. They'd been chasing a youkai, one of two sent out by Naraku to cause trouble, and it led them in this direction, through hilly and woody country to this bleak landscape. Though there's a lot of woodland, most of which – according to the way Yajuumaru's phrased it – are sleeping and don't want to wake when he speaks to them. Yashira has suggested that it might be due to his being part tree-demon, as oppose to full, which prevents him from working his complete magic over them. While he argues against that, saying instead that it's the strangeness of the land which accounts for the Trees vague and confusing answers, he can't help, but wonder if she might be right. Could partial breeding really affect wood demon mastery?

"What do you need me for?" He's guessing that the venerable old miko wants him to talk to more trees in case they can pick up the trail of that rogue youkai, but he's not sure. There's an edge to the woman's voice that makes him thinks she has other plans. Flicking the annoying flea away, carefully navigating around Yashira and the sleeping Kirara, he approaches Kaede. "What do you need me for?"

Kaede adjusts her quiver, keeping it from sliding from her tired shoulders, as she points an aged finger to a small plume of smoke just becoming visible from beyond the valley of woodland ahead. "I'm thinking it's a fire, but-"

"You think it might be a sign from Shippo?" The question came from Yashira as she drops down beside Kaede and scans the landscape in front of them with thoughtful blue eyes. She doesn't look tired, but occasionally Yajuumaru will notice a wince or an uncomfortable stirring in her movements; it worries him. He knows she hasn't fully recovered after her ordeal with Naraku, but the woman has stubborn pride like her brother. Refusing to stay behind in the village to recover, she insisted on going with them. In all truth, Yajuumaru doubts he would have just left her behind to go hunting after this new threat, but that doesn't stop him from still thinking, "what if."

"Mm, yeah." Kaede replies, her tone hinting that like Yashira she did not want to send both Shippo and Myoga into the woods as scouts even though it was necessary to get a preliminary lay of the land ahead. "Myoga's report bothers me, and as for Shippo…"

"He's been gone too long, I agree." Yashira pushes a strand of black hair from her face, blue eyes running thoughtfully over the dreary landscape ahead, as she adds with an afterthought, "You don't suppose that what Myoga saw to the south is what's currently happening there?" Though she says it not, the first thought on everyone's mind is the possibility that Shippo is in trouble. It brings a flow of worry-lines furrowing along her face. Yashira has promised to protect Shippo in place of Kagome and she has never broken her word to a human before.

Kaede's blinks as she realizes the importance of it. "If that's true, then we better get over there now. We don't have a moment to spare."

"If it's true," and Yashira reaches out, her fingers to stay Kaede, "I don't think it's wise to throw all of us in at once. We don't know what's happening, or if Shippo is really there." Deftly she rises to her feet, her black skirt swirling around her ankles, as a determined look shines anew on her face. "One of us should go." The decision is made without even consulting them, and it's obvious that Yashira's nominated herself because she's already moving forward with that determined and arrogant look of hers. That much hasn't changed. She's still the determined, headstrong woman who has always relied on the only person she's known best… herself.

"Hold on!" Yajuumaru is already on his feet, his fingers digging into the fabric of her hakema to latch firmly onto his beloved's arm. He can feel the stubborn strength in her body as she tries to pull from him, the determined will struggling against his, but it's not enough. Unless she really wants to defy him, she'd best get out of her human form first by tossing aside her acorn-shaped pendant. Hiding her hanyou form leaves her considerably weak in the muscle department. "If we don't know that he's there or not, then I'll go. I'm far more suited than you are Yashira. I can slip through trees, remember?"

Though he wears his golden yukata with ornate burgundy highlights – the very one he had fashioned himself to wear for her - he slips out of it easily enough, allowing the fabric to shimmer and fade out of existence as if it had never been. Kaede immediately averts her aged, and venerable eyes as Yashira's face –betrayed by a blush of accusing red – looks scandalized. "Can you give us some warning, next time?"

Yajuumaru's finds this amusing. She's never been this embarrassed before. Could it be Yashira is afraid of public intimacy? Reaching out, wrapping both his tan, muscular arms around her waist in order to pull her soft form against his, he whispers softly, "I'll be back soon, beloved." He's delighted to see that her face has gone as scarlet – flushing like an overripe tomato. Lowering his open mouth to her throat, he imparts a warm, wet kiss that lingers along her skin like wildfire, before suddenly bounding away towards the nearest tree.

"Such a pretty puppy. I wonder if you have silver hair like your brothers," purring softly, the voice which speaks sounds spoiled, childish. Though there is a hint of huskiness that suggests she might be older, the tone does not change much. "I'd love to play with your hair… and brush it, but you consort with those nasty mongrels. I'd have to curtail that, you know."

As with the mysterious voice of that first speaker who scryed with water, the current speaker is also unseen, and hidden in darkness. Although with the first there had been a circle of illuminated water, here instead was a pool of flaming gold. Flickering tendrils shift continuously, replacing each flame with a different face, as the intensity of the crackling fire grows. "I'd have to curtail a lot of things, but then it will be worth it you know. Just you and I…"

Her laughs break into giggling as a finger appears, rose-tinted red, to wave at the flames to extinguish their brightness into non-existance.

With a low whimper, as he desperately clings to his perch on the blacken tree branch, Shippo prays for help of any kind to show. Surrounding the pine tree he's in - one of the few trees that have somehow escaped the fire relatively unscathed - are a pack of reddish-brown wolves. Howling fiercely at the little kitsune while pawing frantically at the ground, they circle the tree with drool-dripping mauls. Shippo is to be their next glorious meal. "Go away and leave me alone! If Inuyasha was here, he'd show you what for!" His cry only serves to make the wolves hungrier, causing some of the braver ones to try scrambling up the tree bark to get at him. They don't succeed, but that doesn't mean they'll stop trying though.

The wolves, either from lack of understanding or pure spite, just will not leave him alone.

"I don't know why I said I would do this," Shippo whines, his small fingers clutching the branches as he tries to fight back the tears. Scouting is a dangerous thing and he's just a kid. Is he just simply trying to pull his weight, to show Kaede and the others that he's not useless, or is he turning stupid? Youkai, as they grew older sometimes did stupid things. (Knowing this as fact because Inuyasha, was obviously older, and he did stupid things that got him SAT) Glancing down at the wolves, seeing that they have still not gone, he lets out another shrill scream, "LEAVE ME ALONE, do you really want to get on my friends' bad side!" In answer, some of the wolves began to head butt the tree in earnest alerting Shippo to the awful fact that the wood he scrambled onto for safety is no longer stable. Sure, the Pine tree had swayed before, twisting a little to the left and right, but it had never started to bend as if he were going fishing!

"AAAAAAAAAAH! Somebody!" He should have known better. Even if a tree looks relatively unharmed in a forest fire, there could still be something wrong with it. It sways even lower and he's able to see something that churns his stomach into a million butterflies. There's a long uneven crack running up the bark and in between that is air. Either this tree was long since taken by termites, or the fire had burnt the center out!

Seeing that their yummy little morsel was being delivered to them by the praying tree, the wolves begin to snap their heads up, sharp teeth seeking to tear into kitsune sirloin with anticipation. Most of them come away with nothing but air, but some of the wolves have actually caught hold of the branches. They begin to tug the wood as if they could pull Shippo down the rest of the way! It's with a terrrified cry, that Shippo's tenacious hold is lost, causing him to fall towards one particular gaping maul! "IYA!"

"Sorry fellows, he's not for eating," the hand which plucked Shippo from the brink of Wolf A La cuisine lunch was none other than Yajuumaru's. Having heard the poor kitsune's screams, he had come running in time to catch the little boy by the scruff of his yellow fox-tail. The tree lord was grinning at Shippo as if this was something he dealt with everyday. "We were getting worried about you. You alright? You think I should let you finish them off, first?"

"Yajuu-Yajuumaru!" Blue eyes brim with tears of relief and weariness as Shippo scrambles up and over the Tree Lord's bare arm to perch protectively behind his muscular back. In the back of his young mind, he wonders why Yajuumaru's naked, but he doesn't ask it now Shippo is more concerned with getting back to the safety of the others. "Thank the gods!" After reaching to grasp against the braid of his friend's hair for support, and making sure he's nestled safety, he turns about and sticks his tongue at the defeated wolves. "I told you to leave me alone! NYAN NYAN!"

The pack of wolves issue a collective growl as if finding Shippo's words almost as infuriating as the interference of this naked, smug man. The lead wolf, a mottled red hound with way too many teeth than brain cells, decides to return an answer the best way it knew how. Lashing out with his horrible, vicious teeth and gleaming claws, he went for the nearest thing – Yajuumaru's bare and vulnerable thigh!

"Look out!" Shippo screams, his voice going shrilly as he clings tightly to Yajuu's throat, "he's going to bite!"

Yajuumaru's hand, not even narrowing into a fist, slaps at the wolf with lightning quick reflexes. Though his green eyes only have a hint of anger as he back handles the upstart, the grip of his fingers on the wolf's reddish pelt when he catches it unaware shows the fury in Yajuumaru's gaze.

A squeal of pain escapes the animal as it rolls backwards, spinning wildly on its haunches. Some of the other wolves, perhaps hoping to gang up on the Tree Lord, in this moment of confusion, have just discovered how stupid their mistake is. "Seems you fellows don't want to understand." HE'S NOT FOR EATING! Sending that ringing mental blast with the same force of a mountain falling from the moon to Earth, Yajuu hopes they will finally understand that to go against a Wolf-youkai – even if he's only a quarter – will only end badly for them.

"They're running away!" Shippo's voice is clouded with awe and surprise as he watches what was left of the pack hitch tails between their legs and scramble off. Interesting enough, Shippo feels like this reminds him of speedy, departing Kouga after Inuyasha's tried to whoop his ass for something. "They're running! Yatta!"

Yajuumaru, however, stands there as if he's been offended. With his hands on his hips as he watches the departing wolves go - disappearing into what was left of the char-broiled woods - he looks extremely put off. "You would think they'd recognize a wolf demon when they see one. I shouldn't have to prove my superiority! God knows I do enough of that with her!" The her in question, obviously being Yashira.

"I thought I was going to die." Shippo's soft little whimper cuts through Yajuumaru's moment of affrontation to remind him that he doesn't have time for being annoyed. The others are still awaiting word over Shippo and after the tribulation the little guy went to, it might be best to get him to familiar and friendly faces as soon as possible.

"Everything is okay now; I'll take you back." Though he speaks with a stiff upper lip, a bit of his initial anger fades into pain. He's not wounded, not the least bit hurt by the wolves, but it's the holocaust to the woods around him that does it. The flourishing trees and wild life are gone, replaced only with smoldering remains of ash and blacken stumps and a sky as impassive like a desert's floor. Whoever did this is going to pay, he would make sure of it.

Shippo could only nod his relief, his fingers tangling into Yajuumaru's hair, as the sleep of exhaustion reached threatening fingers to shut his eyes. "Thank you."

"Your welcome," but with a relief nearly bordering on shame at having shown more concern to him than to a tree, Yajuumaru is glad Shippo can not see the somber shadow clouding the Tree lord's face. He waits for several moments, listening to the ragged breathing of his companion soften and pan out into the rhymthic one of deep, unwakeable sleep before he reaches to touch a tree stump. Perhaps now, he can gleam some sort of answer – the least he could do in this situation – but what he finds instead is a nightmare.

A wave of immense pain and terror rips through Yajuumaru's nerves as if he has just impaled his foot and entire leg on a 10 foot steel pipe which is also just hit with lightning. Ungodly fire so blistering hot and unbearingly furious devours everything in its path like freshly laid kindling and nothing is left to chance except…

Jerking sharply away, his breathing laborious and deep, a flood of sweat has lined his face and arms as Yajuumaru's mind actually tries to block out what he's seen. It doesn't make sense, none of it does. What could have that sort of power to rain fire from an otherwise clear day and yet leave a pack of wolves untouched – unhurt- and waiting for Shippo?

Yash! He would have to talk to her about this, she might provide some answers where his own mind refused to go.

Straining to keep the fear in his voice at bay, Yajuumaru speaks the last in a whisper. "Just what has Naraku awaken this time?"

End of Part 1.