Chapter 47: Twisted


"Inu-Yasha?"

"Where the hell did he go?"

"Inu-Yasha!?"

x

He could hear them, quite clearly, searching the house below as he sat tiredly with his back to a stack of boxes in the attic under the odd, blue glow of the rune on the wall. He didn't know what to tell them. He ran his claws through his hair, his ears drooping, and he blew out a frustrated, worried sigh. What could he do? He frowned and closed his eyes, kneading his lids and feeling a sort of pressure in the back of his head.

What can I tell them? How could this happen? I... I want to find it. Catch it; help it? I don't know! Fuck! Am I the only one who can? How the fuck could this happen?

He heard bare footsteps rushing beneath him; heard the door creak open. He sighed, not wanting to answer any questions. What could he say? He had been up there for almost two hours. He didn't want to have to try to explain the fact that his own aura was twisting the very fabric of the beings of other creatures. How could he explain that?

x

The feet thudded up the stairs quickly and before long, Kagome's head poked up into the attic. She looked around with wide eyes and spotted him quickly.

"There you are!" she squeaked.

She slipped on the floor a little as she rushed to meet him, kneeling down before him and holding onto his shoulders.

"Why didn't you answer? What are you doing up here? Are you okay?"

He lied with the word, "Fine," almost instantly and Kagome bonked him firmly on the head.

"Seriously? You're seriously gonna say that? After you come and hide up here, which you've literally never done before, ever?"

She frowned at him and his eyes dropped to the floor and he muttered, "Sorry." Kagome sighed and scooted a little closer, wrapping him in a tight hug. For a moment he wished she hadn't, but he knew she was just worried. He felt a little better despite himself and, cautiously, put his arms around her waist. She leaned up into him and was in his lap before he could say a word, cozying up to his chest. He sighed and grumbled out an embarrassed, "Sorry," again. She was quiet for a little while and he felt himself starting to get a little anxious.

Please don't ask me what's wrong, please don't ask me what's wrong, please don't ask me-

"So," Kagome began- she drew away awkwardly and sat beside him- and looked at him curiously as she folded her arms behind her head, "What's wrong?"

Inu-Yasha held in a groan and he gulped, forcing out a weak, "It's nothing."

"Shut up," she laughed, "You honestly expect me to buy that?"

"No. Not really."

x

He didn't volunteer anything more and Kagome stared at him for a little while. His ears drooped and she rubbed her forehead, giving him a tired smile.

"You're too stubborn for your own good, sometimes, you know that?" she asked, "Well... How long you planning on staying up here?"

"Dunno," he replied.

"So... tell me what's wrong? You've been acting weird for the last couple of days. And now this, well... Hiding in the attic is pretty weird, my friend."

"Yeah, I guess," he admitted with a tired laugh, "You noticed?"

"Of course I noticed!" she exclaimed, "I spend, like, all my time with you, you think I wouldn't notice you acting funny?"

"Sorry," he said again, scratching the back of his head.

Kagome looked at him expectantly and when he remained quiet, she let out a frustrated groan and whined, "Yasha, please? I just want to help!"

"I know. I know," he said, "It's..."

He paused to consider and rubbed his forehead. He didn't know how to explain. He still didn't want to.

x

After a while of quiet, and knowing she had absolutely no intention of leaving, he cleared his throat a bit awkwardly.

"Okay," he said, "I... I was just thinking. About that youkai."

Kagome stared at him intently and nodded; waited for a moment before asking, "And?"

"And you remember how fucked up it was, right?" he asked.

"Yeah. Yeah, it felt..."

She shuddered and he nodded, agreeing, "Right. Fucked up. Well, in the hospital, I met... I met a youkai that felt really similar."

"What?" Kagome barked, "Is that-? Is that what freaked you out?"

"Yeah," he admitted, "And... Well, they told me he used to be normal. And I was thinking, maybe that guy used to be normal too. Maybe he could be helped."

The girl looked taken aback. She put a hand to her mouth for a second and Inu-Yasha could feel a sting of her worry inside him. He winced.

"And that... That's what you've been so worried about?" she asked.

He nodded and she smiled a little, pulling her knees up to her chest and wrapping her arms around them.

"What do you want to do about it?"

The hanyou paused to consider.

"I want... I want to find him."

"Okay."

He didn't offer anything more and Kagome stared at him intently, and then sighed threw her hands up.

"I swear, Yasha, you're going to drive me nuts," she said, "So what are you going to do?"

"Dunno. Start looking, I guess," he said with a shrug.

"What, right now?"

"Tomorrow, maybe."

He shrugged again and Kagome groaned and then grabbed him around his shoulders and pulled him to her tiredly. He felt a little weird, but he let her snuggle him into her arms, and couldn't help but blush when she kissed his forehead.

"What the hell scared you so bad?" she asked quietly.

"Nothing. I'm not scared," he replied.

"Whatever. You're weird," she grumbled, muttering, "Not scared my ass."

He didn't know what to say to her, so he simply stayed silent, especially as she began to caress his ears. He didn't know what to do with himself. Kagome stopped pressing, though. She knew he was lying, he could tell. He sighed.

"Sorry," he said again.

She nodded and kissed his cheek gently.

"Why do you feel so guilty about this?" she asked.

"I..."

He frowned, ears folding back against his head.

"I'll let you know when I find out for sure."

Kagome gave him a confused look, but she nodded and cuddled up closer to him, pulling one of his arms up around her shoulders. He took her hint and held her to his side; she smiled at him. He wished the small smile he gave her in return had been genuine.

oOoOoOoO

When Kagome went to bed, Inu-Yasha didn't join her. Staring into the dark of a mug of cooling coffee, he sat in the kitchen, stirring it absently with his finger. How could he sleep? He sighed to himself and his ears perked to the sound of a soft footstep entering the room to his right.

"Why, exactly, are you doing that?" Sessho-Maru asked.

Inu-Yasha looked up at him tiredly and shrugged. His brother stared at him intently and asked, "So are you going to continue acting like a child, or-?"

"Or what?" the hanyou growled, sounding more exhausted than angry.

Sessho-Maru continued to stare him down for a moment before taking a seat at the table across from him. At the same moment, Inu-Yasha heard a few more footsteps; listened to them stall just a bit beyond the doorway. Koga was eavesdropping, maybe even accidentally, but it didn't really concern him at this point, especially when Sessho-Maru announced, "Your temporary house is ready. You'll move in tomorrow."

"Fine. Thanks," he replied, "Just... write me some directions and I'll head straight there after-"

"What are you planning? You've been acting even more strangely than usual, little brother."

"I need to find someone."

Inu-Yasha frowned into his coffee again and Sessho-Maru looked at him with vague curiosity. He turned to retrieve a small piece of paper, and upon writing the new address on it and passing it to his brother, he gave him a sort of knowing look.

"That demon," he said.

"Yeah. I'm going in... I dunno, maybe a few hours? Trying to psyche myself up."

"I can't say I understand that," the youkai replied, "But... you will let me know what happens?"

"Yeah, yeah," Inu-Yasha said, "Will you take Kagome and Sota to the new place?"

"Not an issue."

"Thanks."

Sessho-Maru nodded and the hanyou finally cracked a smile.

"What?" his brother asked.

"Nothing. Just... Nah, nothing. Thanks."

Sessho-Maru's eyebrow raised just a little but he said nothing and then left the kitchen without a sound.

x

Inu-Yasha tapped his fingers against the table tiredly and before he could even ask, Koga stumbled around the corner.

"Inu-Yasha, I'm coming with you," he insisted immediately.

"Sure, if you want to," the hanyou said.

Koga looked almost as if he were about to say something, but then stopped short, looking surprised and then, quickly, took a seat across from him.

"Just like that?"

"Yeah, sure. Why not?" Inu-Yasha said, "It'll be dangerous, though. And I don't want to kill it, I just want to catch it."

"Catch it?" the youkai repeated, eyes wide, "But didn't it try to kill you? And Kagome?"

"Yeah, but there's something wrong with it," Inu-Yasha explained, "Anyway. I guess we can head out soon. No real point in waiting around, I guess."

"I'll get ready," Koga said quickly.

He was gone in the blink of an eye. Inu-Yasha put a hand to his brow and sighed, and finally got up and stretched his back out. He headed back upstairs and snuck back into his room as quietly as he could.

x

Of course, Kagome was still asleep. The hanyou quickly changed into jeans, a dark t-shirt and a grey, hooded sweatshirt. He pulled the hood up over his ears and patted them down. He heard the girl in bed shift and he turned to just see her open her eyes a little.

"Y... Yasha?" she asked groggily.

"Yeah. It's okay, go back to sleep," he said.

She sleepily waved him closer and he walked to her side, asking a quiet, "What's up?" She closed her eyes, but reached an arm up to grab him. When he bent down, she hugged him and smiled, groggily saying, "So cozy." He smiled and lifted her into a quick, gentle hug before slowly lowering her back down into the bed.

"I have some stuff I have to do," he said quietly, "Sessho-Maru's going to take you and Sota and Buyo to the new place today, okay?"

"...'Kay," she said quietly; she seemed like she was mostly asleep again.

She waved a hand in the air lethargically before she flopped. Inu-Yasha pulled the blankets up around her and left her where she was.

x

Out of the cozy, dark room, Inu-Yasha braced himself and then went downstairs to wait for Koga. The younger demon didn't take much longer and soon hopped down from the second floor in slightly torn jeans and his scruffy beige jacket. He met Inu-Yasha at the door, his tail wagging a little, and the hanyou peeked around him curiously.

"Your tail-" he began.

"Yeah, I know, it's just uncomfortable in pants, I try to leave it out when I can," he explained.

"Oh. Well, I was just going to say you should be able to shrink it back into your spine, right?" Inu-Yasha wondered.

Koga looked taken aback and he blankly said, "What?"

"Well, youkai can do that, as far as I know," he replied, "Alter bits of their appearance. My brother has a tail and he can hide it. Me, I'm hanyou, so in a way I'm sort of stuck in the middle here."

He pointed to the top of his head and Koga stared back at him and blurted, "I can do what?!" He spun, looking at his tail and then paused in his tracks.

"Sorry," he said quickly, "Going?"

"Yeah."

x

Koga followed him outside quickly and found Inu-Yasha paused in front of a metallic grey vehicle in the driveway, one that was a bit familiar. He leaned over and noticed a bit of a dip in the steering wheel through the window.

"Inu-Yasha, is that your car?" he asked.

The hanyou leaned over it and said a puzzled, "Yeah. Someone even tried to fix the wheel. And... repainted..."

"Makes sense, I guess," Koga commented, "Those guys who took you and Kags, they must've seen. I bet the plates are different, too."

Inu-Yasha leaned around the front of the car and then said, "Yeah, you're right," before getting into the driver's seat. The seatbelt was still broken, but that didn't really concern him. Koga got into the passenger's side and hunkered down in the seat. The hanyou started up the car and, carefully, pulled out of the drive and down the road.

x

"Nice, I was planning on just running there," he admitted.

He didn't want to confess how tired he was. The wolf didn't seem to notice.

"So, where to?" Koga asked.

"That college, where the demon was filmed," he said, "I kinda doubt he's still there, but we can probably pick up the trail."

Koga nodded and shifted on his seat a bit uncomfortably.

"You know where you're going?"

"Nah, I thought I'd just drive around, we'll end up there eventually," he said sarcastically.

Koga huffed but couldn't help a bit of a laugh.

"Fine. Sorry I asked," he said.

x

Sanno University, where the strange, canine demon had been spotted, was over an hour's drive away. The boys were quiet, mostly, and Inu-Yasha was starting to zone out staring at the road when he heard Koga let out a shriek. He jumped and pulled over quickly, slamming on the breaks as he careened onto the shoulder, shouting, "What?!"

x

Koga's face had gone white and he was sitting strangely in his seat, eyes wide.

"What's wrong?!" Inu-Yasha demanded.

"I... I..."

The okami's cheeks went red and he squeaked, "I... I was just thinking about it and-"

"What? Thinking about what?" Inu-Yasha asked.

"My... My tail, it's... it went..."

Koga looked utterly baffled and when the hanyou clued in, he groaned and put a hand to his forehead.

"Seriously?" he asked.

Koga nodded awkwardly and Inu-Yasha growled, let out a huff, glared out the windshield, and then couldn't help but begin to laugh.

"You moron," he said.

"Shit," was all Koga could think of to say.

oOoOoOoO

It was dark, around 3:00am Thursday morning, by the time Inu-Yasha and Koga pulled up to the campus of Sanno University, just a little ways off a main highway. It was made up of a series of blocky, pale gold buildings, lit only by a few street lamps. The large parking lot had few cars in it but scarcely anything else. Inu-Yasha parked near one of the lamp posts and got out, taking a cautious look around, ears alert as they could be under his hood. Koga was out of the car quickly, but he was walking a little funny, still looking a little uncomfortable. Inu-Yasha scoffed quietly, trying not to laugh aloud and turned his attention to the buildings around him. He tested the air for any out of place smells or the auras of any youkai, but came up empty. He wasn't sure what to do from there, and he looked to Koga.

x

"So," he said, "I'm thinking we take a better look around. Maybe the campus and the shit around it."

"What? We're not splitting up, are we?" he asked quickly, "No way, that's a terrible idea."

"You want to go together?" Inu-Yasha asked, "C'mon. Really?"

"It just sounds... bad. I know I'm out of the loop, but isn't that like the start of every horror movie ever? People split up and then one of them never comes back!"

Koga looked almost panicked. The hanyou put a hand to his brow and shook his head.

"This is real life, if you didn't notice," he said, "But if you're scared-"

"Of course I'm scared!" Koga said, frowning deeply, "I'm scared shitless of this thing, and if you had half a brain, you would be too!"

"Oh... Sorry to hear you have half a brain."

Koga looked back at him blankly for a minute and Inu-Yasha stared at him, stonefaced, until the wolf began to laugh despite himself.

"You asshole," he said, "Fine. is a shitty idea, still. Where should we check?"

Inu-Yasha grinned and then turned to check out the school.

"Just this campus for now," he said, "See if anything's weird. Or, I guess, if we can find where that video was taken. Just howl if you find something."

"Bleh."

"Don't be such a baby."

Inu-Yasha shoved his hands in his pockets and began to head off, grinning to himself as he heard Koga repeat, "Don't be such a baby," in a high-pitched voice, under his breath.

x

Strolling across clean sidewalks through the campus, even in the low light, was more nostalgic to Inu-Yasha than eerie, even with the task he was on. He had never been there before, but it reminded him of another university he had visited when he was younger. He had, by accident of taking too many online, university-level courses and achieving high marks, won a scholarship and had been invited to take a tour of a university. He had given up the scholarship, of course; was still too young and had no intention of going on passed high school - how could he, living the life he did? He wasn't even particularly smart, he just retained information easily and quickly, as most youkai did - but it had been nice to have been treated as a school-kid for once in his life.

x

He his eyes worked well even in the dark, but the lamp posts were helpful anyways. Nothing suspicious so far, though. A few students were at the school, he could smell them; heard footsteps a long ways away on the pavement. Before long, a demon's aura pinged his interest, but it wasn't the one he was looking for. However, hearing a tapping on a window, he paused and turned to look. Sure enough, the youkai was there in a second floor window, looking at him with bright yellow eyes, much like his own. She was a young woman in very casual clothes, almost pyjamas; hair dyed deep purple, with a telltale blue stripe on each cheek, much like Sessho-Maru's. He supposed it wasn't so uncommon to see tattoos in a university so she hadn't bothered to try to hide it. He was surprised to see her wave at him, much to the befuddlement of her friends. A bit awkwardly, he waved back. She grinned and continued on her way; Inu-Yasha did the same, his fur bristling a little.

x

It wasn't until he came to the next building that he realized it probably would have been smart to ask them if they knew anything. He cursed at himself and then continued on, alert as he could be.

oOoOoOoO

Koga, meanwhile, was all but tip-toeing around the opposite side of campus, eyes darting all around. He certainly didn't see that weird demon, and in all honesty, he had no idea what he'd do if he did.

Probably run like a bitch, he thought reluctantly.

He folded his arms to his chest and then, a bit out of habit, checked behind him. His lack of a tail was still making him feel very strange indeed. He tried to push his discomfort away and he hurried on his way, trying to figure out what to do. He walked and thought at once, only being snapped from his musings when he heard a distant, muffled murmur of voices. He perked up and stopped in his tracks, looking around for the source until he spotted few people from afar, inside the school as they walked in a group passed a small section of windows that were open just a crack. An idea came to him quickly and, hurriedly, he checked through his pockets. He found a pen in his jeans and there was some crumpled up paper at the bottom of his jacket pocket. He carefully straightened it out and folded it into a small rectangle, something that he thought- or maybe hoped was a better word- could be mistaken for a notepad. He spent a few moments searching for a door and then entered the school.

x

Inside felt cool and the halls were made of light tile that was very clean, outlined by a wall of small, grey and black lockers. Feet from far away echoed far in the distance, and he began on his way. It was early, but it wasn't long before he found a young man heading, in a dishevelled white button-up shirt, pushing his glasses up to tired eyes, towards a library. Koga felt a little bad, but stopped him quickly and, making up a quick story about a student journalism report, asked him what he knew about the monster video. The tired student didn't know much other than that a small group of people had taken the video nearby, so Koga thanked him and moved on quickly.

x

A few more questions to sleep-deprived students studying for early morning tests revealed nothing he could really use. He took a spot against the wall of the library, reviewing what little notes he had: more than one person saw it, it was in the woods nearby, a few of them thought it was a hoax.

x

He was scratching behind his ear absently with the back of his pen when the hair on the back of his neck began to bristle. A bit alarmed, he perked up, only to see a small group of girls eyeing him suspiciously from down the hall. The one with purple hair, garbed in a lazy t-shirt and her pyjama bottoms was a youkai. Koga tried not to gawk and cursed himself for not paying attention to another youki so close, but before he could make any sort of action, the youkai had strode up to him and the stood stock-still her aura testing his. He reciprocated without meaning to, but after a moment she simply said, "Hi."

"Hello," Koga replied a bit awkwardly.

"Wolf?"

"...Yeah. How did you-?"

"Dog."

She pointed to herself smiled a bit, saying, "Sorry. It's been a long time since I've seen another up close. I wanted to say hi." The wolf nodded and paused, unsure of what to say, but she quickly continued, "You look kind of young. You don't go here, I would have noticed. Why are you here?"

"I... I'm looking for some information about someone," he said a bit hesitantly.

The girl frowned and tilted her head, and after a moment her narrow pupils dilated.

"Weird. I saw another just a little while ago. Canine too, I think. In a hoodie."

"Oh yeah? He's, uh... he's my friend," he replied, "We're working on an... um... a thing together. He's uh... He's taking photos for it."

The girl looked at him a bit skeptically and he hoped he hadn't begun to sweat, though his face was feeling rather warm, not helped by the fact that the girl's human friends emerged a bit nervously from where she had; all of them were dressed much more properly than she was, but they also looked a lot more tired. She quickly looked over her shoulder and then turned back to him, her lips pursed and a frown on her face. She raised a finger and tapped her chin before whirling on them and ordering them to wait for a moment before looking back at Koga.

"You don't just see two youkai in one place like this very often," she said, "There was a bunch of guys, though. A week or so ago. They came by here in a bunch of trucks. Do you know anything about that?"

Koga's surprise was clear on his face before he could even hope to quell it and the other youkai looked almost triumphant for a moment and she asked, "Who are you looking for?" The okami was hesitant. She was a total stranger, but she was a youkai- he should be able to trust her, right? He couldn't help but hunch his shoulders as if trying to duck down and he beckoned her closer as he said, "The monster on that video. You know about it?"

The girl's eye's widened and she recoiled for a moment before grabbing him by the shoulders, saying, "My friend was there when it was shot. Hang on. What's your given name?"

"What? Koga, why-?

"Great, I'm Noriko," she said quickly before whirling on the girls behind her and said, "Okabe-chan, get over here, now!"

One of the girls, a short, spindling thing with straight, short brown hair and dark circles under her eyes, cautiously approached and asked, "Y-Yeah?"

"Stop being scared of boys, Choko!" Noriko laughed, "This is my cousin, Koga. He wants to know about the 'monster'."

"What?! No! He'll think I'm weird!" the girl squeaked.

Koga didn't know what to make of either of these girls, especially when the youkai pushed her friend towards him playfully and said, "No he won't," as the girls behind her called after them to ask what was going on.

"Go on, I'll tell you all about it later!" Noriko said, waving them off dismissively before turning to gaze on Koga again, "You do want to know about the monster, don't you?"

"Y-Yeah," Koga said, turning his attention to Choko, "You saw it? That... That thing on the tape?"

"Sort of...?" the girl squeaked, "I was with some classmates out across the highway. Towards the woods. They wanted to tell ghost stories."

If Koga hadn't known better, he would have been sure she had just scared herself into seeing something - she was scared just talking to him, and all he was to her was a boy - but the video assured him otherwise. He nodded and the girl took a deep breath.

"And this one guy was taking a video of everyone's reactions, because he's a jerk, and... and then we heard some noises," she continued, "I thought it was just someone trying to be funny, but then we saw that... thing? It looked like a werewolf or something. It was really scary."

Koga nodded again and asked, "Where were you, exactly?" The girl bit her lip and took a moment to look at Noriko nervously. The youkai nodded and gave her a reassuring smile and she took a deep breath and continued.

"In the woods off the highway," she said, "It's just a small strip. We were near a big stump and one of those trees that sort of grew in two, you know? Sort of a "y" shape."

Koga nodded again and jotted it down quickly and roughly on his folded piece of paper. Noriko watched him curiously and then said, quickly, "Choko, that should be fine. I need to talk with Koga-kun for a bit, family stuff. Okay?" The human girl looked a little flustered, but she nodded and said, "Okay. We'll catch up with you later, right?"

"Of course," she assured her, patting her shoulder, and when the girl headed off with a quiet "bye", the youkai pushed a little closer to Koga and lowered her voice, demanding, "Are you going to go find this place?"

"Well... Yeah," Koga said a bit hesitantly, "Thanks for the help."

She tilted her head.

"I want to come with you," she said rather suddenly.

The wolf was taken aback, his eyes widening and he barked out an abrupt, "What?" Noriko smiled a bit bashfully and she said, "I'm curious."

"It's dangerous," he said, "Really dangerous!"

"Dangerous? But isn't he just some weird youkai? We're youkai too, why would it be dangerous?"

Koga wasn't sure what to say to her and fumbled for a moment - She didn't know? It seemed so common knowledge with Inu-Yasha and Kagome! - before he said, "It's probably a lot worse than you think it is. I... I gotta go." He made to leave, but she grabbed his arm tightly with strong fingers, saying a bit shrilly, "Wait a second!" The wolf stopped, his heart starting to pound, and before he could stop himself, he snapped, "Have you ever had to fight another youkai?"

Noriko's eyes widened and she drew back a little, shaking her head.

"Well I have!" Koga said, fear kicking his voice a little higher, "I had to fight this one, he tried to kill my family! He was out-of-his-mind violent and even with my friend, who is one of the strongest people I know, we still barely got rid of him."

"But why...? Why would he...?"

"He was part of this thing... This program that catches demons to kill them," he insisted, "Don't you know about it?"

He was surprised when the girl's face paled a little and she raised a hand to her mouth. Koga felt like he had struck a chord with her and finally took a deep breath, letting out a quiet, "Sorry," but Noriko shook her head and rubbed a hand through her hair tiredly, her eyes focussed on the clean tile beneath her feet.

"My mom is human," she began, "I lived... human. I applied to university and that was that, but a year ago, some guys tried to kidnap me; they knew what I was."

"And you got away?" he asked, "I mean, right then?"

She nodded and said, "Yeah, but it scared the shit out of me."

Koga winced and rubbed his forehead. He didn't want to get this new girl involved with all of this. He bit his lip and, after a moment of hesitation, he patted her on the shoulder, assuring her, "I know what it's like. But... I gotta go. Please don't get involved with this shit."

x

Koga hurried away before she could say another word, and was outside before he had even realized it. He took a deep breath and scoured the area for Inu-Yasha, just in case, and happened upon a bit of movement from above, on the roof of one of the taller buildings. He looked quickly and was relieved to see who he suspected to be Inu-Yasha up there. He hurried to the base of the building and ducked around the side, craning his neck back to look up. It was about five storeys high.

Can I jump that?

He tilted his head. He had no idea. Bracing his feet, his stomach prematurely dropped, he gulped and he made a quick jump upwards.

x

He shot into the air, but it wasn't quite enough- it was easy enough to bounce off the side, though, and before he knew it, he landed on the roof, missing his footing and rolling across the concrete awkwardly. He grimaced and rubbed the back of his head, letting out an, "ow," and his field of view was promptly invaded by a familiar hanyou with his usual frown more puzzled than anything. He offered his hand and Koga took it gratefully and was pulled to his feet.

"Find anything?" he asked.

"Yeah, actually," the wolf replied somewhat proudly, and he held out his notes to the other boy.

Inu-Yasha took them and skimmed them, looking somewhat pleased and said, "Landmarks, huh? Good job. What did you tell people?"

"Journalism class or something," he said, shrugging, "Did you get anything?"

"Well..."

He beckoned for Koga to follow him and lead him to the edge of building and pointed over. There was a highway within view, and just past it was a narrow strip of woods.

"It's the only one in the area," he said confidently, "That's gotta be it."

"That's right, that should be it," came a female voice.

The boys whipped around and Koga immediately blurted, "Noriko?" as he saw the girl stride up to them, straightening her wind-blown hair as she strode up to them.

"You?" Inu-Yasha asked a bit blankly.

"Hi!" she said, and then pushed up to the edge of the building, commenting, "Ooh! I've never actually been up here! But, yeah, that must be it."

"Um, excuse me, but who the hell are you?" Inu-Yasha asked, baffled.

"Noriko," she said, and looked him up and down, "Yeesh, you're young too. What's your name?"

Inu-Yasha's fur bristled and he looked at Koga questioningly; the wolf shrugged and Inu-Yasha replied, a bit warily, "I'm Inu-Yasha, but... Seriously, who are you; what are you doing here?"

"I told you my name," the youkai replied, "And I followed Koga-kun. I want to know what's going on with this other demon."

"What?" he asked, "Do you know anything about this? What's your deal?"

"I could ask you the same thing," she retorted.

Inu-Yasha groaned and rolled his eyes and said, "You're the one who's crashing our party, here. Anyway, I'm all ready way too deep into this, I don't think you want to go there."

"What do you mean?" Noriko insisted, "Koga-kun, what's he talking about?"

Koga looked between the two and shrugged widely and Inu-Yasha rubbed his brow, unsure of how to deal with this new youkai.

"If we find this thing, shit's gonna get serious pretty fast," Inu-Yasha said, "If you're going to follow us, fine. Just keep your voice down and don't get in the way, okay?"

"Oh. Okay. I can do that," the girl replied.

Inu-Yasha wasn't certain, but at least now this stranger was aware. He rubbed his head and leaned out over the building to double check his trajectory.

"I'm going," he said, and with a quick and smooth movement, he was over the edge and to the ground.

x

The three made their way to the highway quickly- unnaturally, under the low light- and made their way cautiously into the woods across the two lanes. The trees weren't clustered too close, but it was enough to form what looked like a substantial patch of woods. Inu-Yasha's ears went up right away and he looked around. He didn't hear anything out of place and he looked at the others. Noriko was suddenly looking a lot more nervous and Koga was alert, though his face was sullen.

x

"I think I know where the others might have been," Noriko said quietly, "I mean... I know where I think someone might hang out around here."

Inu-Yasha nodded and she quickly started down the edge of the trees, and when she had pointed out what Koga was fairly sure was the right spot within just a few minutes, Inu-Yasha began to think that bringing her might not have been such a poor idea after all. Scents were faint and watered down, but Inu-Yasha picked up one that was familiar to him almost instantly; it made his fur bristle. He edged around a large stump and went a little deeper into the trees, following the scent.

"That's him, right? I think I remember," Koga said.

"Yeah," Inu-Yasha assured him.

He was quick to hunch over the dirt; there were huge, strange pawprints, a bit blurred through mud and rain. The confirmation was a bit eerie. Noriko squatted beside him and stared in awe for a moment before reaching out to gently touch the print.

"It's huge," she muttered.

"Yeah, it's from a seven-foot-tall monster," Inu-Yasha replied.

"I feel like we're hunting for the yeti," Koga joked, "Except... this thing is real. And dangerous."

Inu-Yasha snorted and Noriko let out a snicker, but the three youkai couldn't help but jump at the sound of steps through the forest. Inu-Yasha stood up straight and braced himself against a nearby tree, peering through the low light. He smelled humans- two of them- coming closer.

"Do you think that's someone else from the school?" Noriko wondered.

Inu-Yasha hoped so, but with his luck, he doubted it greatly. He shushed the two quickly and his eyes scanned the area until his gaze settled upon them and he gulped: his fears were confirmed. There were two humans in strange garb reminiscent of police in body armour, including what looked almost like tinted riot helmets, and yet they carried guns and a small device that the one ahead of the other seemed to be following.

"Oooh shit," Koga whispered, "What do we do? What are they doing?"

"Who are they?" Noriko added.

Inu-Yasha watched them a little more closely for a few moments before he muttered, "They're guys from Youki. I think they're doing the same thing we are."

"Youki? What? Isn't that what our auras are called?" Noriko asked.

"Yeah. Sorry, 'Youki' is the name of the group that hunts down people like us," Inu-Yasha explained, "...Only two of them. Weird. Especially since that thing was so powerful..."

"Maybe they don't think it'll attack them," Koga said, "It didn't in their building."

"Right, right," the hanyou mumbled, "Shit."

"What do we do?" Noriko asked, her voice a little shrill even as she tried to keep it low.

She looked between the boys anxiously, and when Koga put his main attention on Inu-Yasha, so did she. He took a moment to think, his eyes tracking the two men all the while.

"Okay," he said, "Koga, are you okay to track back to their car and wreck all their shit?"

"S-Sure," the wolf replied.

Inu-Yasha nodded and said, "Right. Cool, I'll deal with these guys. And you-" He glanced at Noriko quickly.

"You should get back to campus."

"Do you want me to call the cops?" she asked.

"No, they can't help us. I just don't want you caught in the crossfire," he said.

"You don't think-?"

"Have you ever been shot?"

"...I see your point."

Koga grimaced and said, quickly and quietly, "See you guys," before taking off in a blur, leaving nothing but wind behind. Inu-Yasha cut his eyes at Noriko and she bit her lip.

"I... I think I'll stay right here," she said quietly, "I don't want to make noise running away."

Inu-Yasha sighed and straightened up and, leaving the nervous girl behind, took to the tree branches silently.

x

His very deliberate, slow stalking went totally unnoticed- the two were focused on what he could see from above was something tracking energy patterns. They didn't see him, or Noriko, so he assumed it must've been tuned specifically to the specific creature they were looking for. However, when they turned and began to head back Noriko's way, it didn't matter who they were tracking at all. Inu-Yasha cursed under his breath and looked back, straining to see the girl through the leaves. He could still smell her; could hear her breathing speed up. A quiet, backwards footstep in the leaves, and then once more. If she would just run- She stepped again, too slowly, and the humans were getting closer at a pace the hanyou certainly didn't like.

x

Then, to his dismay, her phone rang.

oOoOoOoO

Koga was able to find the car very quickly; followed the human trail right to it where it was parked in some brush just off the shoulder of the road. It was black, as were all its windows, and it was a bit taller than a normal car with a sort of extended floor that struck him as odd as soon as he noticed it. First thing, he tried to peer through the black-tinted windows in the front, but couldn't make out anything inside. Touching the body of the car sent what felt like a static shock through his body -but much more intrusive- but it wasn't nearly enough to deter him. Without much thought, he grabbed onto the driver's side door and pulled it off the car and tossed it aside. The back door on the same side was next. The interior was just as black as the outside, but Koga's light-sensitive eyes picked up everything easily. There were several small panels of data in the dash at the front, a speaker and a wired in communicator of some sort, and immediately Koga realized that the car inside was much higher than what seemed to be normal. He grimaced and backed out to continue his inspection. Exploring the back seat he found weapons: guns- with some with sights, some with laser lights, some with tiny flashlights-, knives, bullet cases, all disguised in a box under the seats. He broke everything; even took the batteries out of anything that had them and pocketed them. He took the bullets as well.

x

The trunk was barren, but Koga didn't think that could be all there was to it. He poked around inside, running his claws all long the edges of the floor until he felt something give way. It was heavier than he expected, but as he lifted the floor panels out, he felt his stomach drop and instantly realized why the car's bottom was such an odd shape. There was some sort of container under the car, one that was certainly big enough to hold a person. Koga gulped but didn't dare stick his head in to check what else was in there, if anything.

x

It wasn't long before he had removed the rest of the car doors and, for good measure, cut all of the tires with his nails. He was feeling rather pleased with himself until a weird, static sound made him jump and his heart begin to pound. He ducked and scooted around to the driver's seat and could hear a voice not coming through fulling through the speaker. Hesitating for just a moment, he grabbed the communicated in his hand and crushed it. The speaker let out a feedbacky screech and Koga yelped, driving his fist through it and smashing it in until it was completely quiet. He had to suck in a deep breath to steady his beating heart and then he wrecked every remaining panel in the vehicle and after considering for a moment, ripped the steering wheel out too.

x

He drew back to survey his handiwork with a mixture of pride and anxiety. There was little to nothing usable left in there, he was fairly certain. He took a deep breath and tried to think over whether there was anything else he should do, a sudden, female cry from afar took him completely by surprise. It was far, but back the way he had come. His stomach sunk and, in a hurry, he took off back through the forest.

oOoOoOoO

When the closest man grabbed Noriko near her neck, Inu-Yasha didn't have time to react. She let out a howl of dismay and set forth a huge burst of energy that blew through the trees above, stripping the foliage and engulfing her in what the hanyou could only describe as a blue tornado, drowning out the sound of the phone. Inu-Yasha swore loudly and swung down from the tree, grabbing the second man and throwing him a few dozen feet away just as he reached for a weapon and then spun for Noriko. Before he could intercede at all, the man with her was thrown to the ground and the girl burst through the torrent of youki, her body warped into that of a huge, white dog the size of a horse. Inu-Yasha was shocked still as the howling, wild-eyed demon lunged at the human before her, grabbing him violently by the chest in her jaws and shaking him like a chew-toy before throwing him back into the underbrush. Jaws parted and panting in terror, her eyes wide, she lunged again, but, shaking himself out of his stupor, Inu-Yasha jumped before her, grabbing the thick mane of fur around her neck and pressing himself against her, saying, "Hey! Hey, relax, you got him, okay?!" She barked and whined, baring her fangs and the hanyou quickly realized that she had no idea what she was doing or how to communicate. She strained against him as the man she had thrown stirred, but Inu-Yasha quickly grasped onto her snout, running his fingers through her fur and shushing her gently, assuring her, "You're gonna be okay. Relax. You stopped him. Can you calm down?" Noriko's breathing slowed a little and her large, red eyes closed as she nodded a little.

"Good," Inu-Yasha sighed with relief, and then carefully let her go and said, "Stay here," as he turned to look at the downed human.

The one she had ravaged was bleeding and torn like he had been bitten by a shark. The hanyou grimaced and he squatted to check the man's pulse. He wasn't sure what exactly to feel when he felt the human was alive, but he drew back, rubbing his head only to hear the sound of a gun going off and feeling a sudden, searing pain through his chest. Noriko shrieked and Inu-Yasha let out a half-annoyed, half-alarmed, "Oh fuck!" before hitting the man hard in his helmeted face. There was a crack, a grunt, and the man's neck went limp, as did the hand that had snuck a gun up under the hanyou checking his pulse.

x

Noriko rushed up, whining, floppy ears pinned back and she pawed at him anxiously. He sighed and got to his feet, grunting with pain and touching the wound tentatively.

"Did it go through me?" he asked.

Noriko jumped from paw to paw and nodded, eyes wide and panicked. He said a simple, "Shit. Better than stuck, I guess." The other youkai whined and put a paw hesitantly on his shoulder and he laughed tiredly, saying, "I told you, you should have gone back to the school." She stuck her tongue out at him and huffed heavily through her nose.

x

A sound in the brush drew their attention, but no worry came from it as Koga came into view, demanding, "What the hell happened?!" He stalled in his tracks at the sight of Noriko and when he pointed to her and began to ask, looking at Inu-Yasha, he let out a yelp and asked, "Shit, are you okay?!"

"Fine. It's fine," the hanyou said, "Did you find the car?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I took stuff and I broke stuff, but... Shit."

He looked at Noriko and asked, "Are you okay?" She was shaky, but she nodded and Inu-Yasha patted her neck reassuringly. She looked at him worriedly and then anxiously whined. Koga looked at her and then at Inu-Yasha with confusion and asked, "Why can't I understand her?"

"I don't think she's ever done this before. I don't think she knows how to speak dog as a dog."

He looked at her.

"About right?"

She nodded and shifted anxiously again, looking at herself and pawing at her own shoulder. Koga looked at her worriedly and asked, "What is it? Are you hurt?"

She shook her head and did it again, her ears drooping and she looked at Inu-Yasha pleadingly.

"Oh. Oh! You don't know how to change back!" Koga said, grinning as he understood, "No worries, I'll show you!"

Koga stood stalk-still for a moment and, with a pulse of green energy, he surrounded himself in a shell of his aura and emerged in an instant as a mottled, tawny and black wolf. He was huge, but beside Noriko, he looked like a puppy.

"You're gonna have to just follow my lead, okay?" he said, wagging his tail as he looked up at her.

Noriko stared back at him in shock and woofed out some non-words and Koga laughed and said, "It took a lot of practice. Once you learn to speak in dog, you can figure out how to speak human languages pretty fast, since you're a demon and all."

She nodded and Koga turned his bright eyes on Inu-Yasha, saying, "This'll take a minute." The hanyou nodded and muttered, "I'm going to go check on these shits." Koga's tail wagged and the hanyou left Noriko's side and took a look the bitten man once more, trying to ignore the distracting aura-shifts going on behind him. He still had a pulse, but Inu-Yasha wasn't taking another chance- he took the gun and broke it in half and then searched the man. He found the tracker, a device about the size of a walkie-talkie but a little thicker, with a touch-screen display in the front. He thought about breaking it, but then pocketed the thing instead.

x

He had to walk quite a ways to get to the man he had thrown. His helmet had been dislodged the the man's face gave him pause. He certainly wasn't very old, maybe in his early twenties. Inu-Yasha almost felt bad. The young man's breathing was low, but he seemed all right other than the fact that his arm was clearly out of its socket and there was a faint smell of blood. He seemed like he would survive, though. The hanyou broke his gun as well and then stared at him and, after a moment, swore at himself and grabbed the man by the shoulder. The human shuddered and let out a quick and suddenly gasp, and Inu-Yasha growled out, "Shut the fuck up." The man's eyes snapped open and the fear in them made Inu-Yasha feel a little sick.

"You... Y-You-?!"

The human could barely choke out words and Inu-Yasha snapped, "Give me a fuckin' break. You should have known what you were getting into, now hold still." He couldn't help but feel furious. Of course this human should be scared of him now, but before, who had attacked whom?

"W-What the fuck are you-?"

Inu-Yasha shut the man up with a squeeze to the arm, and he soon let out a shrill scream as the hanyou shoved the arm back into its socket with a sickening pop.

"Fuck you! Oh shit, fuck you!"

"You're welcome," Inu-Yasha said sarcastically, "Whatever."

He stood up as the young man whinged and turned back to Koga and Noriko barely in time to see Koga become humanoid again, retaining his tail for a bit longer before it sucked back up into his spine. Noriko, to his surprise, was back to normal again within just a moment, though her hair, which had been dyed a vibrant purple, was now a bright silver.

"Ohhh my god," she said, a bit dazed, and her knees gave out and she would have dropped if Koga hadn't caught her.

"Thanks, Koga-kun," she said tiredly, "I should have stayed in bed, I think."

"Yeah, maybe," Inu-Yasha replied with a dry laugh, "You okay now?"

She nodded and said, "Thanks for calming me down, I... I don't know what I would have done if you..." She couldn't finish and shuddered, and then turned a glaring, yellow gaze on the conscious human who was clutching desperately to his shoulder.

"I would have left him right how he was, though," she growled, and then deliberately said, "Asshole," so that she was sure he would hear.

Koga looked at Inu-Yasha curiously and wondered, "Why did you help him?"

"He's not much older than us," Inu-Yasha said quietly, "I don't fuckin' know, I guess I just hoped- Never mind, fuck it."

He shrugged and turned on the young man to see him patting down his legs, undoubtedly looking for his gun.

"I broke it," Inu-Yasha said and the man couldn't help but look surprised, "Seriously, stop being a little shit. Get out of here or something. Before I change my mind and take your arm off this time."

The human looked legitimately frightened and awkwardly scooted back, struggling to get to his feet. Inu-Yasha didn't want to deal with the human any more and was starting to feel nauseous, but neither he nor the other youkai took their eyes off the young man until he had hobbled out of sight through the trees.

x

Noriko glared and then took notice of her hair and sighed, saying, "Damn it, I just got that done."

"Your stripes are darker, too," Koga pointed out.

The girl grimaced, but then looked at Inu-Yasha and her brow bent with concern.

"Kid, are you okay? He shot you, didn't he?"

"I'll be fine," Inu-Yasha replied honestly, "It's not a big deal."

Noriko nodded but looked a little hesitant, and then cautiously checked her phone that had so rudely given her away.

"Oh! ...Choko. Damn it," she sighed, "They were probably wondering where I went."

"You went to get your hair bleached," Inu-Yasha pointed out.

"What? Oh! Oh, you're right. That's what I did," she said, "And also to get some gum. To get the taste of blood out of my mouth; I won't tell them that part, though. Can you guys believe I bit that guy?"

"Yes," Inu-Yasha said.

"Yeah, of course," Koga agreed, "I would have bit him."

Noriko sighed again and rubbed her fingers through her hair tiredly.

"I think I'm done with this," she told them, "But..."

She pulled Koga over to her and patted down his pockets, much to his surprise, and pulled out the scrap paper he had and scrawled her phone number on it quickly before shoving it back in his jacket.

"I'm not cut out for this," she said, "But if you any computer programming done, you know who to call."

"Fair enough," Inu-Yasha said with a nod, "Sorry you got involved."

"It's my own fault," she admitted, "But thanks. Good luck with your search, ne?"

"See you later," Koga said.

Noriko nodded and put her hands into her pockets, and hurried off and out of the woods under the orange light of the rising sun, checking back and forth as she darted across the highway.

x

Inu-Yasha let out a deep sigh and pulled back his hood, rubbing his head- he felt absolutely exhausted.

"You okay?" Koga asked.

"Yeah. I've had worse."

"Just because you've had worse doesn't mean now can't be bad, too."

The hanyou laughed and he shook his head.

"It didn't puncture anything important and it went straight through me," he said, "It's not that bad."

Koga looked at him skeptically but then gave in and nodded, saying, "I guess we can finally get back to it?" Inu-Yasha nodded and grinned a little, pulling the tracker from his pocket. Koga's eyes widened and he held out his fist; Inu-Yasha punched it and he said, "Okay, let's get following this guy."

oOoOoOoO

Ah-Un woke Kagome up a bit before noon and ushered her out the door with kisses and good wishes before she was even really sure what was going on. Rubbing sleep out of her eyes, Kagome found herself at a car that seemed familiar, a dark one that seemed strangely formal. Traveling as if floating, a tall, thin creature- a demon, she was sure- approached her, all in black with long hands and a veiled face: she recognized him from when she and Inu-Yasha had rescued Miroku. Before she could even ask what was happening, the demon glided behind her, gently draping a coat over her shoulders with one hand and opening the rear door of the car with the other and beckoning for her to enter. A bit hesitantly, the girl peeked, and was surprised to see Sota and Buyo wave at her from within. She frowned, asking, "But where's Yasha and Koga?"

"Someone told me they're meeting us there," Sota said.

"Where?" Kagome asked.

"The new house," her brother replied.

Kagome felt a bit stunned but she nodded and turned to the demon behind her, saying a genuine, "Thank you," before getting in. The demon closed the door behind her and she found herself in a comfortable seat, though there was a partition between the driver and the passengers. Buyo scampered into her lap, joking, "Did you have a good sleep? We've been up since 7:00, you know."

"Whatever," Kagome said tiredly.

She hugged Buyo cozily against her chest and then looked at Sota, asking, "So, how are you doing?"

"Me? I'm okay," he said a bit absently, "This is all really crazy, though, huh?"

"What part?"

"All of it. Demons. Isn't that weird? Grandpa was actually right about something."

Kagome laughed and so did Buyo, and Sota smiled a little, saying, "And I swear that cat keeps laughing."

Kagome quietened and was taken aback, and Buyo's eyes widened.

"Dear cat-gods, I think he's starting to understand me," he said, starting to smile.

"Pretty weird, huh?" Sota asked a bit shyly.

"Honestly? Not at all," Kagome assured him, "I can understand him. I mean like, literally, with words and stuff."

Sota looked at her quizzically and then said, "Huh. That... That actually explains a lot."

"It does," Buyo agreed.

Kagome stroked his ears and smiled, saying, "Sounds like you're on your way to that, too. That'd be cool. But be warned, this cute kitty is a total hornball."

"Makes sense, he's probably making up for being sterile," Sota said.

Kagome stared at him blankly and said, "What?"

"Sorry. I was in science class and I asked something about kittens, I don't remember. Anyway, the teacher said boy calico cats are sterile."

"What? Seriously?" Kagome demanded.

"You got me," Buyo admitted embarrassedly.

"Aww!" Kagome cooed sympathetically, and then cuddled him close, "That's okay, Buyo, you're wonderful."

"Thanks, Kaggy," he replied with a purr.

"Now that explains a lot," she continued.

"No need to push it."

"Sorry."

Sota looked at the two of them in confusion and then said, "So, I'm just hearing the one side of the conversation, then?"

"Yeah."

"You really think I'll be able to hear him some day?"

"Well, if you can hear cat laughter, I would say yes."

Sota seemed pleased and shifted to try to get more comfortable in his seat.

x

Kagome relaxed with Buyo, warm and purring, on her chest and closed her eyes.

"Are you seriously going to nap? You just woke up!" Sota said.

"Well, what do you suggest? We can't see out the windows," Kagome asked, forcing herself up and tried to make herself a bit more awake.

"Talk to me."

"About what?"

"I dunno, anything! Tell me about... I dunno, tell me what's up with you and Inu-Yasha."

"Um... Well, he's my boyfriend. He's kind of frowny, but he's also the best," Kagome said, "I'm not sure what else to say."

"Fine. What about Koga?"

"Koga? Hmm," she mused, "Koga is pretty friendly, but you've seen that for yourself, I bet. For school, he was pretending to be my twin brother so we could stick together in classes, but we really started to think of each other like family, especially after that kidnapping sort of thing I told you about before."

"Right," Sota said a bit uncomfortably, "So he'll be staying, then?"

"I would hope so," Kagome laughed, "I hope you like him."

"He seems okay," he said, "Maybe I could hang out with him more. I wouldn't mind having a big brother. But, just one question."

"Yeah?"

"What is he? Like... Inu-Yasha's a dog demon, right? What's Koga?"

"Oh! Koga's a wolf," Kagome explained.

"And Inu-Yasha's brother, that guy who kind of looks a bit like a lady-"

"Shhh, never, ever say that in front of him," Kagome snapped.

"Right, right, sorry," Sota said quickly, "He's a dog, too? But he doesn't have the ears."

"They're half-brothers. Inu-Yasha's a hanyou," Kagome explained, "His mom was human. So they look a bit different."

"Ooooh," Sota said understandingly.

He nodded and the folded his arms to his chest and quietly muttered, "Kind of like a pretty lady, if that helps."

"Don't even go there."

"Okay, okay, I'm sorry, sheesh."

Kagome bit her lip, trying not to let a snicker out: she didn't want to admit how pretty she'd thought Sessho-Maru was the first time she had seen him as well, but she certainly hadn't thought he was a girl. She scoffed to herself and hugged Buyo closer, settling back in her seat.

x

The chatted for a while longer but before long, the siblings simply settled in a comfortable silence and Kagome's mind drifted. Sitting in the back seat with her brother reminded her of day trips with her mother. Thinking of her made her heart sink for just a moment when she realized that her mother wouldn't have their new phone number. She grimaced and stroked Buyo a bit nervously. Then again, her mother had said she was returning to Tokyo soon; Kagome was sure that they would able able to reconnect back at their home, Higurashi Shrine.

x

Her mind then wandered to Inu-Yasha and Koga, and she recalled what the hanyou had wanted to do. She knew he wanted to find that strange demon, but nevertheless, she sort of hoped that he wouldn't.

oOoOoOoO

When the car came to a halt, Kagome was taken off guard, and before she could voice any questions at all, her door was open and that spindly-limbed demon garbed all in black politely beckoned for her to exit. Kagome tried to hold in her surprise and she said, "Thanks," as she slid out of her seat and into the open.

x

She was surprised to find them in the yard of a two-storey suburban house with a low wall outlining the property except for the gravel driveway. A moving van was parked up front and, when Kagome peeked around it, she was almost surprised to see average, normal, human men carrying one of their couches into the house, which was, itself, a rather average, white-walled place with grey sections of roof and a small garden in front. There was a woman in suit directing the movers, but she soon turned around to see Kagome, Buyo, and the emerging Sota with a sort of motherly frown on her brow. She was middle aged; dark brown hair tied back loosely, and she approached them swiftly, saying, "I hope the trip was all right."

"It was fine," Kagome said, though she was clearly a little confused, "Who are you?"

"Taishio-sama asked me to arrive ahead of you to start having things set up," she said swiftly, "It's all taken care of, of course. I assume Mr. Black has treated you well?"

"Mr. Black?" Kagome repeated, and the woman pointed to the wispy, covered demon, who nodded his head politely.

"That's your name?" she asked, but the woman answered instead, "No, it's not, but he never says a word and is always dressed like that, so we don't have much else to call him."

"Oh," Kagome said blankly, but then turned to the demon and bowed politely, saying, "Thanks very much for all your help."

The demon bowed back and glided to the driver's side door again, disappearing inside.

"You'll be staying here as long as you need to," the woman continued, drawing Kagome's attention, "We've gathered all your personal effects that were salvageable, of course."

"Right," Kagome said, and quickly added, "I don't know if you'd know, but... I had some demon fangs, do you know if those are still here?"

The woman wrinkled her nose.

"Yes, and I recall they were particularly potent," she commented, "If you don't mind, why did you have those?"

"Oh, they're... They're like... mementos. From a friend who didn't make it," Kagome said.

She could feel her chest tightening simply at the thought of it, and the woman said a simple, "Ah," and changed the subject quickly.

"You and your family get settled, take a look around. I have a few things to attend to. I will be putting up a light barrier around your house. It will deter all unwanted guests, and the only demons on the property will be those allowed in by Sessho-Maru's orders."

"Oh... Okay," Kagome said with a nod, "Can I override it? I mean... with my one friend, I just sort of found him and brought him home when he was in danger, I'd hate to not be able to do that again if I had to."

The woman looked at her quizzically for a moment before she nodded and said, "I'll see what I can do," before gesturing to the house and walking away briskly through the garden.

"Yeesh," Kagome muttered, and then told her brother a quick, "Come on," and they darted inside the house as soon as they wouldn't be in the movers way.

x

The interior was clean and neat save for a pile of their boxes that was accumulating in the back of the front hallway, blocking off a closet at the back. most of the floors were a dark wood, and there were four rooms with traditional sliding doors along the main hall- the one in the back, right corner was a kitchen. Peeking around the boxes, at the back, there was a small other hallway that had a bathroom in one direction and two sets of stairs, one going up and the second going down, in the other. Hesitantly, Kagome tried to edge over the smallest of the box piles towards the stairs when Sota drew her attention.

"Kagome, what should I be doing?" Sota asked.

"Dunno, just stay out of the way, I guess," she said.

She fumbled over the boxes and yelped as she tumbled forward an onto the floor.

"Kagome! You okay?" her brother demanded.

She grunted and righted herself as she heard his feet slapping on the floor as he rushed towards her.

"I'm fine," she assured him.

She jumped up and straightened her hair with her fingers quickly and turned to see Sota looking at her skeptically and Buyo wondered, "You sure?"

"Fine," she repeated, and then hurried up the stairs.

x

Up there was another main hallway that branched off into bedrooms: three of them, with the beds and furniture all ready placed, if not a bit haphazardly, through them. Kagome was surprised, as there was supposed to be four people in the house, but then she realized that she and Inu-Yasha usually shared the same bed anyway and she bonked herself in the forehead as she thought, Of course! Duh! No point in having two rooms. Right.

x

Searching around a little more, there was a smaller, empty room and another bathroom as well. Kagome poked around the bedrooms again, testing the beds and checking dressers that turned out to be empty. She was distracted after a little while by the sound of socked feet heading up the stairs and cat paws making a leap to the top floor from somewhere.

"Kagome?" Sota asked.

The girl peeked out of the room she was in and hurried out into the hallway, saying, "Hi guys," before she lazily dropped to her stomach on the floor and invited Buyo into her arms. He gladly cuddled against her and she pet his neck with delicate fingertips as Sota plopped down to sit against a wall nearby.

"So how is it up here?" he asked.

"A bathroom and three bedrooms, and a study or something. Pretty empty so far. I guess I'll drag stuff up here once the movers are gone. What's up?"

"Just wanted to get out of their way," Sota admitted.

Kagome nodded and looked at Buyo, saying, "Do you like it so far?"

"Seems okay," Buyo said with a shrug of one shoulder.

"If it's okay with you, I'd like if you'd stay in our yard, okay?"

Buyo nodded and snuggled against her face before curling up, and Sota laughed and said, "I could have sworn he just nodded."

"He did," Kagome laughed and her brother put his hands to his forehead and sighed, admitting, "If I ever hear him start to talk, I'm probably going to scream like a little girl, not gonna lie."

Kagome snickered and rested with the cat for a little before she grabbed him in her arms and rolled awkwardly upright and decided to flop on a bed instead. She entered the room with the double-bed and placed Buyo cozily on the mattress and then, absently, took a glance out the window. The bedroom overlooked the front of the house and she could see two of the movers lifting their kitchen table into the house sideways, and one more following with an armful of boxes. Along with them, she noticed the middle-aged woman who hadn't given her name walking briskly between the corners of the property. Upon closer inspection, Kagome noted that she was placing spell scrolls up around the edges of the yard, much like what Kagome was familiar with from back home at the shrine. She didn't quite understand, but she assumed it had something to do with who would be allowed onto the property, like she had mentioned.

x

She watched for a little while longer to see the three men come back out of the house and close up the back truck. The woman approached the men and handed something over to them. Kagome could see her thank them but couldn't discern more when she moved with her back to the window. The girl watched a bit longer as the men left rather cheerfully to get in the moving truck and headed off; as soon as they were gone, the woman finished up in the final corner of the property and headed for the front door.

x

When Kagome heard it open, she pulled back from the window and headed for the stairs to meet the woman as she walked in.

"I hope it's to your liking," she said as she saw Kagome coming down the stairs.

"Yeah, it seems all right," the girl said with a smile.

"Will you be okay setting up the rest yourselves?" she asked.

Kagome nodded and then woman beckoned her down. She touched the ground and the woman took her hand in hers, and to Kagome's surprise, let out a gentle pulse of energy into her palm.

"You feel that?" she asked, and when Kagome nodded, she said, "That's the signature that I've placed on the seals around your home, so you'll recognize it."

"Oh, okay," the girl replied with a nod, and the woman asked, "Do you know how to read them yet?"

"Not... not really," Kagome admitted a bit shyly.

The woman shrugged a little and then pushed Kagome's hand into the energy a little, saying, "If you just concentrate a little, you should be able to start to get a message from it. Kagome bit her lip, but she nodded and stared at the faint glow intently, trying to pull some sort of feeling from it. She felt her brow heating up a bit but she felt a smidge of something she could only describe as a confirmation.

"I... I think I'm getting something."

"Good. Follow it along."

Kagome wasn't sure what that meant, but she tried to visualize in her mind that the feeling she had was a shape, and then traced along it until she was stuck with another sensation. She recognized it rather quickly as Koga's aura, and she quickly said, "This is my brother's. This aura."

"Right. Good. Think of that like a list, or a computer program. If you want a new aura approved in there, you just need to insert it around there."

"Oh! Okay. So it's... It's like weird code," Kagome said brightly, grinning as she was sure she was catching on.

The woman smiled and let her move her hand away, patting her affectionately on the shoulder before saying, "I'll head out now, if you're sure you're okay."

"I'm sure," Kagome said, "Thank you very much for your help."

She bowed and the woman smiled and headed out the front door once more.

x

As soon as she was gone, Kagome took a look at all the boxes and sighed, and then called, "Sota?"

"Yeah?"

"Everyone's gone, want to help me unpack?"

"No. But I will anyway."

Kagome laughed and rubbed her forehead as her brother scooted down the stairs to join her.

"Just... don't put out anything you don't think we'll need. Hopefully, we'll be going to our real home kind of soon."

oOoOoOoO

Unpacking was long and tedious, and trying to move a few of the things, as a twelve-year-old boy and a skinny, fifteen-year-old girl with next to no upper body strength, was both comical and completely pointless. They stuck to unloading boxes for the most part instead. There was less of their things than Kagome had anticipated- she guessed a lot of things had been wrecked in the attack on their home. Just thinking about it made her feel nauseous.

x

Kneeling on the floor, looking through what was left of what had been in their front closet, she realized the modified boots she had grown so attached to weren't there. She knew it was silly, but it was the one thing she knew was left from before her family had become a mess. She felt a sort of sinking feeling and, worriedly, asked, "Sota?" He was in the other room, shoving DVDs into a small shelving unit that supported their television in the living room.

"What?"

"Did you see my boots in here?"

"Your boots? You mean those big, clunky black ones?"

Kagome rolled her eyes.

"Yeah, those."

Sota was silent for a while and Kagome could hear the shuffling of cardboard and then replied with,

"No, maybe they got thrown out." The notion of it made Kagome feel much more upset than she thought it would have, and she took a deep breath to steady herself and let out a quiet, "Thanks for looking."

oOoOoOoO

The day was growing late and a heavy downpour had come out seemingly out of nowhere and, with at least the rooms mostly set up, what non-perishable food was left stuffed in the kitchen cabinets, and all the books and movies out and accessible, Kagome took to lounging on the couch in the living room with a book, trying to read. Trying being a key word: mostly, she continuously zoned out staring at the words on the page, wondering instead about how Inu-Yasha and Koga were doing. In a way, she really wished they had brought her with them. She didn't want to have to deal with the house today; it was exhausting. But then again, she wasn't keep on meeting up with that strange, black-pelted youkai ever again.

I guess... he probably left me behind to keep me out of it, she thought, I guess it was for the best.

x

She tried to focus on her book instead of worrying. She was almost certain that Inu-Yasha and Koga would be safe as long as they stuck together.

x

Kagome was able to lose herself in the words of the book for a while, even as the the rain began to pound heavily against the roof. She got up once to get a blanket and finally got cozy and relaxed as best she could.

x

She had coasted through five lengthy chapters when there was a hesitant knock on the door that jarred Kagome out of the pages of her book and she felt her heart drop for a moment as she froze and tried to hold to her place in the book.

Who the hell is that?

She didn't move at all until she heard another knock, one that was a little harder this time. Kagome got up cautiously and moved to the the front of the room, her finger slipping out of place as a bookmark as she went; she dodged around the armchair and pressed herself up against the wall and peeked passed the curtains, out the window towards the door. The angle didn't let her see much more than a dark shape. Another soft knock made her jump and Kagome gulped and she headed for the front door. She was immediately struck with a youkai's aura- one that wasn't entirely familiar, and yet she felt like something about it had hit her before- and she wondered if it was one of Sessho-Maru's that the barrier would let through.

I... I guess that makes sense. Who else could it be?

x

Feeling a little cold, Kagome opened the door. She was met with what was literally the last thing she had been expecting. There was a huge youkai standing just beyond the doorframe, black fur of his head and neck completely saturated, eyes of total, glazed blue lighting up upon seeing her. Kagome froze, her heart thudding deep in her chest, and couldn't help but gawk at the seven foot, anubisian creature in her doorway. He blinked at her hopefully, his arms wrapped around himself, his scruffy mane and ears plastered to his head by the cold downpour. His odd garb of grey and blue armour were strikingly familiar, as was the hole seared through the right side of the chest plate, revealing an odd burn that she knew that she herself had created. She was sure she would remember that twisted, jackal-like face until the day she died. She didn't know how to react, so she merely stared back at him, her mind rushing to try to figure out what was going on.

x

"Um…" the creature croaked, his deep and slightly warped voice quiet and shy, "Hello. I… I followed your scent."

Kagome merely stared back at him. She was completely at a loss. She had never expected to see this creature again, and had certainly never expected him to turn up at her house looking so scared and pitiful as he did. In fact, it would have felt more normal if he had lunged to attack her on sight.

"Um… Wh… What?" was all she could come up with.

Her confusion was blatant, but the droopy, wet monster before didn't seem to notice, drawing in a sniff against the cold.

"You're… all that I know here," the creature said sadly, and then looked into Kagome's eyes, his blue, glowing gaze a little frightened, "May I come in?"

He shivered and Kagome's heart went out to him before she had time to think rationally about any of it. She took a slight step backwards, though jumped to the sound of breathing behind her. She glanced backwards to see Sota standing, gawking, behind her. His gaze was locked on the strange, armoured demon. The stranger shivered and looked at the boy hopefully and Kagome took a deep breath.

It's not a trap. It can't be a trap. I don't feel sick like I usually do, she tried to rationalize, This guy... He must be legit, right? He got away. He must have gotten away.

She gulped, nodded to herself and turned to her stunned brother and said, "Sota, get some towels, okay?"

"T-Towels?" he asked.

"Towels," Kagome repeated.

The boy was gone in an instant and, quickly, Kagome stepped away from the door, beckoning the demon inside. His sodden ears perked slightly and he ducked through the door, trembling. Kagome carefully closed the door behind the large, black demon and asked, "Did anyone see you come here?"

"I do not think so," he said, "But I... I wasn't really looking, I'm sorry."

She saw him shiver and she put a hesitant hand on his arm. The armour was slick and cold as ice. She gulped.

"Hey, come on, let's get you warm," she said.

The demon's sodden ears perked up slightly and he posed no resistance whatsoever as she guided him to the couch. He kept his bright blue eyes locked on her happily as he sat down, his armour clinking around him. Kagome slowly sat beside him, and he took her hand in his, clinging to her as if to reassure himself a little tightly with metal fingers unnaturally lengthened and sharpened by the gauntlet. She felt a little uncomfortable, and confused as well, and she gently slid her hand from his, standing and moving around him just to get a better look at him.

"Ah," she said slowly, eyeing him up and down cautiously- That armour... What do I do about it?- "How did you say you found me, ummm…?"

The demon inclined his head.

"I followed your smell," he said, his ears drooping, "I remembered you, so I… thought you were a safe person to find…"

Kagome nodded.

"I'm sorry, what did you say your name was?" she asked.

The demon smiled at her shyly.

"Kemtau," he replied.

"Kemtau…" she repeated, "That sounds… different. Where are you from?"

"It is Egyptian, I am from Egypt," Kemtau said with a hurried nod, his tail wagging.

x

It was in that moment that Sota returned to the room with an armful of towels. He tossed them to Kagome before darting away, and she caught them a little awkwardly and passed them to the demon. He stuck his tongue out and shivered, putting one of the larger towels to his face and scrubbed at his fur, sniffing back against the cold. Kagome plopped back onto the armchair; watched him intently, not a clue of what to say or do.

x

"Um... Kemtau," she said after a while, "Are you...? I mean... Where did you come from?"

"Egypt," he repeated.

"Recently?"

"Oh! No, no, I'm..."

He looked puzzled.

"I'm not sure. There were rocks, I think. I stood up out of rocks in this dark building and I was scared, but I knew you were safe and then I thought I should find you."

"Do you know why?" Kagome asked.

He shook his head and looked a bit apologetic and Kagome couldn't help but be struck by how timid he seemed. It didn't match his appearance at all. She bit her lip and the sighed, saying "Okay, well... You keep drying yourself. Can you get that metal off of you?"

"No, I tried a bit but it's sort of stuck," he admitted.

Kagome grimaced and her mind rushed over her options, but she felt a bit stuck without her normal, demon friends around. She sighed and forced a smile for the newcomer.

"I'll get you something to eat... or... drink, okay?"

"Oh! Thank you!" he replied, clearly surprised.

Kagome nodded, getting to her feet on stiff legs and going to the kitchen.

x

Before even going to the fridge, Kagome went for the phone. She lifted it and stared, only then realizing she didn't know Inu-Yasha's cell phone number, or even if he had it with him. She chewed her cheek for a moment before she dialled Sessho-Maru's house. As soon as she heard the click she said, "Sessho-Maru? It's Kagome."

"You sound nervous," he replied simply.

Kagome bit her lip and then looked quickly into the other room. The youkai had wrapped himself in towels and seemed not to be paying her any mind, but nonetheless, Kagome hurried to the other side of the house and stepped out the sliding door, under the eves and out of the rain.

"Sessho-Maru, a weird demon just turned up at my house," she said, "The one that tried to kill Yasha and me; the one Yasha went looking for."

"You sound surprisingly calm," the youkai commented.

"That's just the thing, he's totally different," she said quickly, "His aura feels a bit different and he's actually coherent. He said he woke up in the rubble Koga kicked him into and knew my scent. He said he thought I was someone safe and found me. He sounds, I dunno, sort of out of it or something."

"He's from Youki?"

"Yeah, he tried to kill us," Kagome repeated, "But his aura before felt... like... really bad; it made me feel sick. He's just... here now. He seems really scared. What should I do?"

"Do you feel safe now?"

"I... I think so, but-"

"Keep him there. Have Inu-Yasha call me later. Okay?"

"Y... Yeah, okay," she agreed.

There was a click and the line went dead and Kagome pressed on the button to hang up the call rather hard. She took a deep breath and then went back inside, closing the door quietly behind her and then headed to the fridge. There wasn't much in there, and she quickly searched the cabinets and found that there were some ramen packets left. She grabbed down one and set some water boiling in the kettle.

x

It wasn't until the kettle clicked off to indicate it was finished that she realized she had no idea what the hell she was doing. She looked back at the demon on the couch and found him to be rather still, wrapped in towels to such a point that it was almost comical. She didn't understand, though, how he had gotten passed the barrier.

Guess it's not as strong as that lady thought. Figures.

x

She grimaced and then, quietly, prepared the noodles and then brought them to Kemtau before taking a seat in the armchair across from him. He accepted them gratefully but ate slowly despite his obvious hunger. Kagome was finding it all very surreal.

"You know," she said slowly, drawing his attention, "My boyfriend was looking for you."

The youkai cocked his head curiously and asked, seeming a bit baffled, "Oh! Why? Does he know me?"

"Sort of," she said, "And I sort of know you, too."

"The same way I know you?" he replied curiously.

"Not quite," Kagome admitted, "Do you... Do you remember how you ended up under those rocks?"

"No," Kemtau admitted, "I remember seeing you, then nothing for a while. Then rocks."

He shrugged one shoulder and continued eating, but Kagome felt like she had been punched in the chest.

But that means he-!? Oh shit.

She felt her eyes prick with tears before she could help in, but instantly the demon was looking at her worriedly, asking, "Are you crying? Are you all right?"

"Y-Yeah," Kagome lied, "I mean, I'm fine. I'm fine. And... Right, I'm Kagome, by the way."

Kemtau's ears perked high and he nodded and grinned at her- his fangs were still a bit terrifying, but Kagome couldn't help a tired laugh.

"I'm... I'm glad you got out of there, though," she said, "That wasn't a good place to be."

"Oh? Was it really bad?" he asked, "I do remember seeing some people. They didn't seem very nice. They had these weird... stick-looking things, but they made a loud sound and made my head hurt."

For the umpteenth time, Kagome felt a cold sting of dread and she asked, almost reluctant to know the answer, "The sound made your head hurt?"

"No, something hit me," and he pointed to the left side of his head, "Right here."

Kagome groaned and put her head in her hands and the huge demon seemed taken aback, exclaiming, "Oh! I'm sorry, have I said something wrong?"

"No. No, Kemtau, that's fine," she said staring at the carpet, "It's fine. I'll fix you up."

"Oh. No, that's okay, the cut healed quickly," he assured her.

"Of course it did," Kagome said, she tilted her head back and kneaded at her eyes, "Ugh. I'm sorry, Kemtau. I'll do what I can to help you out, though."

"I knew it," he said, tail wagging, "Thank you. I knew you were safe."

The girl nodded and smiled weakly, unable to stop herself from wondering if the bullet to the head was what was making him seem so out of it. He spoke Japanese almost completely without an accent, so any wonderings that she had that it might have just been due to a language barrier flew out the window. After taking a few more deep breaths and trying to calm herself, she got to her feet and approached him and, after hesitating for a moment, set out to dry his fur. He let her without movement or complaint, and she only paused upon reaching the strange armour he was wearing. It reminded Kagome of the casing Inu-Yasha had been forced into when he had been trapped in a room on his own, but the metal on Kemtau's body was thicker and more robust. When she came to the hole in the chest-plate, she cringed upon seeing the spot where the skin was dark and blotchy, with much of the fur burned away in a spiky, almost starburst-type mark. She wanted to apologize but stopped herself short: if he didn't remember it happening, she certainly didn't want to remind him, lest he remember the violence that had occurred. Despite his threatening appearance, his demeanour seemed so timid that she didn't know if he could handle something like that.

"You... You're going to be okay," Kagome said quietly; without thinking.

Kemtau's tail wagged, and then his ears perked up as Sota crept back into the room, knocking on the wall to announce his entrance.

x

"Um, sorry," the boy said shyly, "Um... You're... a demon, right?"

"Yes," Kemtau replied, "Hello! I'm Kemtau, who are you?"

"S-Sota," he said quickly. "Uh... Hi. Kagome, can I talk to you for a minute?"

The girl nodded and got up, following her brother out and close to the back door, where he hissed, "Why did you let him in?!"

"He... I... I don't know!" Kagome replied, flustered, "I see someone who's hurt at my door; I can't just leave him out there in the rain!"

Sota frowned but his lip pouted a bit and he muttered, "Fine. Is it safe?"

"I think so," Kagome said quickly, "He's... I mean, I met him before. He was stuck where Yasha, Koga and me where. You remember what I told you, right? About the big, black wolf-looking demon?"

Sota's face paled a bit and he squeaked, "Wait, that's-!?" Kagome hissed a shh at him and then nodded. The boy gawked for a minute and then said, "You really are crazy!"

"Shut up," Kagome grumbled, "It doesn't matter, anyway, if he needs help now, he's on our side."

"How do you know?" Sota demanded, "What if it's a trap?"

"I thought of that," Kagome said quietly, "But... Listen, every time these guys from Youki get involved, I get this very specific sick feeling and-"

"Oh good, you're psychic now, too?" Sota asked in exasperation.

The girl couldn't help a laugh and she patted her brother's head until he batted her away, and she explained, "No, it's more about aura sensing. It's not psychic." Sota sighed.

"Sis, you're weird. I love you, but you're weird."

"...Well... Yeah, it's true," Kagome admitted, shrugging, "Anyway. Of course I'm not one-hundred percent sure, but... I think... I think this is right."

Sota still looked nervous, but he nodded and Kagome grimaced and asked, "Did you see if we had any tools or anything while we were unpacking?"

"No, not that I noticed," the boy said.

Kagome sighed and ran her fingers through her hair as she tried to think of what to do about the armour covering the new youkai's body. She paced for a moment and then returned to the living room, trying to keep her composure.

x

She was surprised to see Kemtau, cross-legged and covered in towels, cuddling Buyo in his lap on the couch, stroking the cat very carefully with the tips of his knife-like fingers.

"Oh, so I seen you met Buyo," she said.

The youkai smiled and nodded, saying quietly, "I love cats. Where I'm from, almost everyone loves cats."

Kagome let out a quiet phew and Buyo voiced a snickering, "I think I'd like a place like that." The girl couldn't help a smile and sat down in the chair again, cozying up against the back and folding her knees to her chest. For some reason, hearing him say that made her feel a little more comfortable.

"Kemtau," she said curiously, "Where... Er... When did you come from, exactly?"

"I'm not really sure what you mean," he admitted, "You think I'm from a different when, too?"

"Maybe," Kagome admitted, "Most youkai who are here, right now, in this time, they got sent forward through time. Usually at least a few hundred years. Do you think you're from back then, too?"

"Oh... Well, maybe," he admitted, "This place... All those weird things running on wheels outside... It's nothing like where I'm from."

"Well, what kind of things did they have when you were from?"

"Houses weren't anything like this," he said, "They were made of mud bricks, I think. And hot. Not like this."

"Oh. What about city? Or town? What town were you from?"

"Hardai," he said almost proudly.

The name didn't ring a bell at all, but Kagome nodded and filed the information away in the back of her mind.

"I'll look into it later. Then we can find when exactly you were from," she said.

He nodded and stuck out his tongue a little as he turned his attention back on Buyo and, very gently, scratched behind his ears. Kagome watched quietly and then, curiously, wondered, "How did you learn Japanese?"

"Oh! You know, I'm not really sure," he said, "I think I must've picked it up somewhere. I just sort of knew it when I woke up."

Kagome frowned with confusion and then leaned back in her seat tiredly. She rubbed her brow and figured she couldn't do much more than wait for the boys to arrive. She wished they had brought their phones; their quarry had come home before they had even found him.

oOoOoOoO

Following the erratic track of a wounded demon nerve-wracking and a bit scary, though Inu-Yasha forced himself to remain as stoic as possible. Trying in the car was awkward, but with Koga manning the energy reader, it wasn't nearly as hard as he had anticipated. However, it certainly wasn't helping that Kagome was sending out faint pangs of worry and confusion every once and a while. He was shocked when the trail started to lead them towards Sessho-Maru's house but then doubled back; he hoped it was just a coincidence.

x

As rain began to pour later into the afternoon, Inu-Yasha was becoming increasingly grateful for the tech they had stolen. However, when they started to be led into the city, he couldn't help but feel a shock.

"Are you sure you're reading that thing right?" he asked.

"Yeah, pretty sure," Koga said, and he leaned his head sideways to look to the roofs of the stores lining the street they were traveling, "I guess he took the way up there, right? This place would probably be shut down if someone had seen him."

"Guess so," the hanyou replied, "But, I mean... Shit, he could have been through here a day or two ago, right? Could have been night."

"I guess," Koga agreed, "I really have no clue."

x

The trail led them to a park, where the reading was more concentrated, and Inu-Yasha parked and got out in the rain to check around quickly with the device mostly in the front pockets of his hoodie, but he quickly found that it must have just been a long stop. The trail continued around the other side of the park.

x

He hurried to the car and passed the tracker back to Koga as he got in the driver's seat.

"Not here," he said, "Stopped here, though."

Koga nodded and sat quietly for a while, staring at the the trail outlined for them on the small screen.

"Hey," he said after a while as he pointed out a turn, "What... What are we going to do when we actually find this guy? Do you think he's going to try to fight us?"

"I think he's going to try to kill us," Inu-Yasha said with a grimace, though his words were very matter-of-fact, "But I think he's hurt, so I'm pretty sure we can kick his ass."

"But you want to catch him, right?" Koga said, "What, you want to just knock him the fuck out and throw him in the trunk?"

"If we have to, yeah," he replied.

"And also keep him out of a crowded area if he starts to attack, right?"

"...Right."

Inu-Yasha sighed and came to a stop, asking, "Where to?"

"Left."

x

They drove on with Koga giving directions every once and while, and though Inu-Yasha certainly didn't want to say anything, he was getting increasingly nervous, and the sound of the rain and the windshield wipers slapping through the water was setting him on edge.

x

After what seemed like far too long, Koga called for Inu-Yasha to stop the car a bit anxiously. The hanyou did, trying to bite back his nerves, and he took a good look at where they were for the first time. He was surprised to see they were at a suburban house; normal looking enough, though the gravel driveway was more like a pond than anything else at the moment. The energy is was just barely palpable, but the hanyou felt confused more than anything.

"I don't smell any blood," he said, "You?"

Koga shook his head and he wondered, "So this is someone's house? He went inside someone's house?"

"This is fuckin' weird," Inu-Yasha grumbled.

He skimmed the place quickly, picking out curtained windows and and a front door that seemed completely intact. However, when he picked out the address, his stomach drooped and he stared blankly for a minute before shoving his hands in his pockets and pulling out the address Sessho-Maru had written for him. He matched it quickly and, unable to stop a quiver in his voice, Inu-Yasha asked, "Koga? We... We just passed a highschool a little ways back, right?"

"Um... yeah, why?" the wolf asked.

Inu-Yasha gulped. It was written on his directions.

It can't be.

He shoved the car into park and before Koga could even unbuckle his seatbelt, Inu-Yasha was outside in the rain and rushing for the door. He could smell Kagome from here, and he could smell that youkai as well.

x

His mind was a blur as he rammed his shoulder into the front door and it gave way without resistance and he stumbled inside, barking out the girl's name in panic. He was taken aback when she poked her head out of the closest room, eyes wide, and she said, "Holy crap, you scared me!"

"Me?! You?! I...! What?!"

He hurried for her and grabbed her into a hug as she stepped out of the room and he asked, "You're okay?!"

"What? Well, y-yeah," she said, "What's wrong?"

"It's here. It's at the house," he said hurriedly, "We gotta... Oh, shit, it's a new house too, and we're probably gonna break everyth-"

"Yasha! Yasha wait a second," Kagome said hurriedly.

She pulled back and pushed down his hood, running her hand over his bristling ears in an attempt to calm him, but in a quick moment, she noticed the splotch on his sweatshirt and asked, "Wait, what's this?" Before he could answer- or deny- behind him, Koga jogged in through the rain, calling, "Everyone okay?"

"Fine, Koga," Kagome said.

She stood on her toes and kissed Inu-Yasha on the forehead and then hurried to the front door, closing it behind a rather stunned-looking Koga and trying to lock it again, only to notice that the metal locking mechanism had snapped. She rolled her eyes and used the chain near the top of the door instead and then gave her adoptive brother a kiss on the cheek before beckoning for them to follow her. Baffled, Koga did, and so did Inu-Yasha.

"Wait, this... this is the new house?" the wolf asked hurriedly, "Holy shit, Inu-Yasha, it's-!"

"Guys, relax, please," Kagome said quickly. She brought them into the back room, a kitchen, and she hopped up to sit on the table saying, "Listen, and don't freak out, but... I know."

"You... You know?" Inu-Yasha repeated, baffled, "Kagome, what are you-? You need to get out of here, take Sota and-"

"No, no, Yasha, you don't get it. I know he's here. He's in the living room."

Inu-Yasha was about to protest again before her words registered and his eyes widened. All he could do was blurt out a baffled, "What?!" as Koga tried to scoop his jaw up from the floor.

"He got here about an hour or two ago," Kagome explained, "He asked to come in. He's napping in the living room with Buyo now."

"...He asked to...? Kags, are we talking about the same thing here?" Inu-Yasha asked.

"Yeah, that scary-looking black dog, or... jackal demon from the Youki place, the one that tried to kill us," Kagome said with a nod, "Or... That's who I'm talking about, at least, that's who you're talking about, right?"

Koga squeaked out a rather high, "Right," and Inu-Yasha locked eyes with her and was silent for a little while before asking, "You're serious?"

She nodded and looked at her feet, sighed and said, "He isn't like before. He's pretty coherent. He looked... miserable. He said he followed my scent here; that I was the first thing he remembered after whatever happened to him."

Inu-Yasha was silent, his mind whirring, and Koga nudged him and said, "That explains the detour near your brother's place." The hanyou frowned deeply and he said, pointing at Kagome, "He remembered you?" She nodded and Inu-Yasha began to pace, rubbing his forehead; the others watched him until he stopped and whirled on her, grabbing her shoulders as his eyes lit up.

"Your spiritual shot," he said quickly, "That must be it. That must be what snapped him free."

"Snapped him free of what, though?" the girl asked worriedly.

"Whatever was fucking with his head that let Youki control him," Inu-Yasha said.

"Right," Kagome said, but suddenly looked very sad; the hanyou's ears drooped and he edged a bit closer to her, asking, "Hey, what's wrong?"

"Um... No, nothing," she said quickly, "Um... A-Anyway, you guys, I'm... I'm glad it went okay for you guys and you didn't have to fight anyone."

Koga looked immediately guilty and he rubbed his head, looking at Inu-Yasha, and Kagome hesitantly asked, "What?"

"Well," Koga began a bit shrilly, awkwardly prodding the hanyou, "W-Well..."

"We ran into two guys from Youki," Inu-Yasha explained, and though Kagome drew in a sharp, fearful gasp, he quickly said, "It went okay, but they were looking for the same thing we were and so we took their tracking thing." Koga nodded quickly as Kagome sighed with relief and he pulled the energy tracker from his pocket to show her. The borders of the screen were flashing red now and indicating towards the direction of the living room. Kagome nodded but then leaned back, her eyes skimming the two and when she settled on the splotch on Inu-Yasha's sweatshirt, her eyes widened and became glossy in a second.

"Damn it, Inu-Yasha!" she cried, and she jumped off the table and grabbed him, demanding. "Are you okay?! Damn it!"

She knew; he could feel it, no need to deny it.

"I'm fine," he assured her, "It didn't hit anything and went straight out."

She girl knitted her fingers tightly into his sleeves and she looked at him with a pleading expression before she pulled him down to hug him quickly around his shoulders, but before he could reciprocate, she whirled on Koga, demanding, "What about you, huh?! Don't tell me you're hurt, too?" Koga held up his hands submissively, but the girl ignored him as he was about to talk, spinning around him and letting out a yelp.

"Your tail-?!"

"Oh! No, no, that's fine," he said quickly, "Inu-Yasha told me I could make it disappear and I totally could. Sort of wish I knew that sooner, to be honest."

He smiled bashfully and the girl looked at the hanyou, who nodded. Kagome took a deep breath and wilted, muttering, "What a messed up day. Yasha, let me patch you up, okay?"

"You don't have to-"

"Please."

He grimaced under her distraught expression and nodded, and then quickly, she grabbed him, kissed him, and hurried off. Inu-Yasha puffed out a sigh and Koga looked at him sympathetically before saying, "She said that demon's asleep now, right?" Inu-Yasha nodded.

"Good, I still don't think I'm ready to meet him for real yet. I think I'll go check out the house a bit," he said absently, "Check on Sota, maybe."

"Oh, uh... sure," Inu-Yasha said.

The wolf patted him on the shoulder and strode out, and it wasn't until Kagome had come back into the room, sniffling a little, with boxes of gauze pads and bandages in her hands, that Inu-Yasha realized that the wolf had been trying, politely, to leave the two of them alone.

x

"Hey," Inu-Yasha began, but Kagome quickly said, "Take that stuff off." He sighed but he slipped the sweatshirt off over his head without protest. The girl made him sit on the table and take off his t-shirt as well, but she was surprised to find the spot marked with his blood was only a little pinkish, instead of the wound she had obviously expected.

"Oh," she said a bit blankly and he said, albeit gently, "I told you. I'm fine." Kagome looked up into his eyes and wiped her own on the back of her hand; he put his t-shirt back on and slid off the table.

"I thought maybe you were just bluffing again," she said quietly.

"Not this time," he said with a laugh.

He put a hand on her head and ruffled her hair gently and she smiled. The hanyou finally felt her relief, but he didn't feel his own and he carefully pulled her into a hug, muttering, "I'm... I'm just glad that demon wasn't... you know."

"Tell me about it," she agreed.

She clung to his arms tiredly and he bent to put his forehead against hers. She was quiet against him, but his heart was blaring. He didn't realize he was shaking until she pulled back from him to hold his shoulders, saying a gentle, "Hey, relax, okay? Everything's weird, but we're okay, right? And that demon, he's here, and it's safe."

"Yeah, I know. It's just..." he said a bit awkwardly, "It's just... as soon as I smelled you from outside, I-"

"What? You could smell me all the way from out there?" Kagome asked, eyes widening, "Oh! Sorry. I know I didn't have a shower this morning, but I didn't think it was that bad!"

Inu-Yasha stared at her blankly for a moment and he said, "...What? No. No, I mean... Your scent. You don't stink. It's you're... oh." He rubbed his forehead and Kagome seemed to clue in and smiled bashfully.

"Woops. I ruined it, didn't I?" she asked, "You were going to say something really sweet, I bet."

Inu-Yasha began to laugh, and his smile made Kagome's face brighten considerably.

"It's fine," he said.

He kissed her forehead and she snickered and then took a few steps back and turning to a cupboard.

"Did you eat yet? I found some ramen. I know you like it, so..."

"I'm okay for now," he said, "Thanks. I was more wondering if I could talk to that demon."

"Oh!"

Kagome rejoined him and looked a bit speculative, tilting her head, and she said, "Well... He was asleep when I left him, but I think it might be best. I need your help to get that body armour off him anyways."

"Body armour?" Inu-Yasha repeated, ears drooping.

"You'll see," Kagome said, and she headed for the kitchen door.

Inu-Yasha made as if to follow her, but she turned and stopped abruptly, saying, very quietly, "Um, look. Just so you know, he doesn't... He doesn't quite..."

She frowned to herself and tried to find the words.

"He speaks kind of like a child," she explained, "I think it's because he got shot in the head. Just so you know."

The hanyou looked perplexed, but he nodded and Kagome mimicked him, saying, "Right," to herself before turning on her heel and heading back to the room Inu-Yasha had seen her come out of before. She slid the door open quietly to have Buyo slip out around her ankles, saying a quick hello to Inu-Yasha as he went. The girl disappeared inside and Inu-Yasha took a deep breath and followed.

x

Inside the sparsely furnished room, Inu-Yasha see over the side of the sofa clearly and he felt like his heart had plummeted into his stomach. There he was. The huge youkai was curled against the cushions, all but engulfed in towels, his twisted face seeming almost peaceful. Inu-Yasha tested his aura gently and the demon shifted a bit uncomfortably; the hanyou pulled back right away, but Kagome beckoned him into the room nonetheless. He gulped and went in, and she pointed to the cushy chair across from the couch. He sat on the arm of it, a bit on edge, his fur bristling as the girl approached the sleeping youkai and shook his shoulder gently.

"Hey, Kemtau," she said, "Can you get up for a bit?"

When his eyes opened to radiant, blue slits, Inu-Yasha had to stop himself from jumping.

"Kagome?" the huge demon said quietly, "Um... Okay. What's going on?"

He blinked groggily and sat up, yawning wide and rubbing his eyes. Inu-Yasha had no idea what to say and looked at Kagome in utter bafflement. He didn't know what he had been expecting, but it certainly hadn't been this. The girl smiled at him a little and held up one finger; she patted the other demon on the shoulder gently and then pointed Inu-Yasha out.

"Kemtau, this is Inu-Yasha. The one I said was looking for you, remember?"

Inu-Yasha was still at a loss, and was taken aback completely when the other youkai's ears perked up high and his twisted face split into a cheerful grin as he said, "Oh, hi! Guess you found me!"

"Y... Yeah. Guess I did," Inu-Yasha finally managed to say, "You escaped, then?"

"That's what Kagome said," he replied with a nod, "Why did you want to find me?"

Kemtau tilted his head to the side like a curious puppy and Kagome looked at the hanyou curiously as well.

"I, uh... I guess I wanted to help you. I met someone like you and I found out I might be able to help him, and I thought maybe I could help you, too."

"Someone like me?" Kemtau wondered.

"Yeah," Inu-Yasha said, frowning, "Don't you remember what they did to you at Youki?"

"...I'm sorry, but I don't get it."

His ears drooped, apologetic, and Inu-Yasha frowned a little deeper, trying to find the words. To his relief, Kagome filled in for him.

"Remember that place we talked about where those people who hurt your head were?" she asked, "They did something to you there that was probably pretty bad. You don't remember any of it?"

"No. I remember home," he explained, "Then there's a lot I'm missing. Then Kagome. Then missing a bit, and then the rocks."

"The... The rocks?" Inu-Yasha repeated.

There was a sudden sinking feeling within him and he looked at Kagome, trying not to look as aghast as he was; he understood now the reaction she had had in the kitchen.

"Don't tell Koga," she whispered quickly, before she turned to Kemtau and said, "Well, that's probably a good thing. Those people do bad things to a lot of people. They did them to Inu-Yasha and I too, and we do remember."

"Nothing like what they did to him, though," the hanyou added a bit grimly.

Kagome looked at him with a puzzled frown and, quickly, the hanyou got up off the armchair and moved to sit on the arm of the sofa instead, pulling some of the towels away from the large youkai and saying.

"Hang on, let's deal with this for a second."

Exposing the rest of Kemtau's body showed the thick, metallic armour and, to his surprise, the hole blasted through it by Kagome. He hadn't realized she had done so much damage. Just as he was about to start trying to get it off, Koga walked in behind them, words on the tip of his tongue until he saw contents of the room. Instead, he stared in shock and Kemtau leaned around Inu-Yasha to look, blurting out a bright, "Hello!"

"Oh! Ah... Uh... Hi," Koga said awkwardly, "I was... Uh... Hello. Yes."

He looked a little lost and Kagome couldn't help a laugh.

"Koga, meet Kemtau," she told him, and then, directing her words to the huge demon on the couch, "That's my brother, Koga."

"Oh really? He's a demon, though," Kemtau said, a bit confused, "Oh well, that's nice."

"It's a bit confusing," Kagome said, "First we were friends and he was pretending to be my brother for some other reasons, but then we sort of became close like family, so I just introduce him as my brother. It's easier."

She laughed and Koga's face flushed but he soon wore a goofy grin; Inu-Yasha rolled his eyes and said, "Hey, wolfie, you wanna get over here and help me get this armour off this guy?"

"Oh! Yeah, sure, I'll see what I can do," Koga assured him.

x

Inu-Yasha started before Koga had settled to try to figure out how to begin; he took a chunk out of the side and shoulderplate on the right. Kemtau grimaced and it was soon clear why. The armour from the shoulder, at least, had strange, metal barbs that had been poking into the demon's limbs. Inu-Yasha felt a deep, hot anger enter him, and he held it out to show Kagome. The girl's eyes widened and she hurried over to look. The blood on the spikes made her take a step back and she all but shouted, "Those assholes!" before she ran out of the room. When she returned, she had all the medical supplied she had wanted to use on Inu-Yasha plus a washcloth and a tupperware of water.

"Hurry so I can clean that stuff," she insisted.

x

The boys did their best, but it still took a while until the armour lay in a clunky mound on the floor, revealing a body sleek with black fur and yet still a bit distorted. Veins popped in strange places and the way the muscles bulged didn't look normal either. which would have left Kemtau rather bare if not for the fact that he was very furry and covered in towels as well. As Koga left to try to scrounge up something for the huge demon to wear, Kagome went right to work on his arms, dabbing away specs of blood and bandaging three spots on each side where the spikes had been much larger and had punctured the skin much deeper.

"Kemtau, I can't believe you didn't say anything," she muttered, "Didn't that hurt?"

"It was a bit sore," he said a little shyly.

The girl rolled her eyes and then shot a sarcastic glance towards Inu-Yasha.

"What?" he asked.

"You demons," she said, shaking her head, "Whatever. What the hell is the point of stabbing the hell out of his arms and back and stuff, anyway?"

"No idea," Inu-Yasha said.

He rubbed his forehead and tried to remember if he had experienced anything similar, but couldn't come up with a single thing like it- not that he could remember all of it himself, mind you.

"I'll ask my brother," he muttered.

"Oh. That reminds me, he asked you to call him," Kagome said.

The hanyou nodded and watched as the girl finished patching up Kemtau's right forearm. She stood and absently wiped her bloodflecked fingertips on her jeans. She looked, for a moment, at a loss. Inu-Yasha was about to ask her if there was anything he could do to help her, but she quickly straightened herself out and said, "I'll go clean myself up and... I think I want tea, do you guys want tea?"

Kemtau merely looked confused and Kagome said, "I'll make you some anyway. Yasha?"

"Sure," he replied.

She nodded and left, and they heard her call for Koga and Sota to answer the same question: both said yes.

x

Finally, Inu-Yasha could focus his full attention on Kemtau. The huge youkai, as frightening as he might look, really did come across as a bit childlike to the hanyou. He didn't seem to fully grasp what was going on.

Maybe it wasn't just the bullet to the head, he thought, Maybe it's the whole messed up aura thing?

His ears twitched back and forth and he settled back on the arm of the sofa, chin in hand, until he hesitantly asked, "Hey. How are you feeling?"

"Okay, I think," the demon replied.

"Do you feel confused or anything? Like, your head, how does that feel? And what about your aura? Does it feel weird to you?"

"My aura?" Kemtau repeated.

He grimaced, showing fang, and his blank, blue eyes narrowed.

"That's my energy, right?" he said quietly, "Yeah. It does feel weird. It feels... I don't know how to say it. It feels like it's running backwards or something."

Inu-Yasha nodded and felt- well, he wasn't really sure what he felt. It was a strange combination of absolute dread and relief all at once.

"Can I test it?" he asked, "Let me take a look at it."

"You can do that?"

Kemtau's eyes widened and his ears perked high, and he nodded quickly. Inu-Yasha took a deep breath and concentrated hard, bracing himself against the sofa as he let his aura flick out to touch Kemtau's. There was a reaction instantly, like a static spark, and they both jumped; the hanyou forced his energy through and into the other demon's nonetheless and closed his eyes.

x

Reading an aura was usually like reading a simple language to someone who knew how: a simple signature denoting certain attributes, such as strength, heredity, and mood. Every single person, human, demon, or otherwise, had one that was completely unique. Kemtau's, however, was different. Trying to pick something informative out of the aura was like trying to read an unfamiliar language, backwards, while stuck amongst the waves of an ocean storm. It made Inu-Yasha's head hurt almost instantly and set a pounding starting in his ears, but he forged ahead nonetheless, wondering how the hell his aura had gotten to be in that sort of state. Twisted was the only word he could up for to describe it.

x

However, delving a little deeper and Inu-Yasha found, to his utmost fear, one of the sources of the problems. His own aura, wedged into Kemtau's, something about it bending the energy completely out of shape and into something completely wrong. The hanyou's heart felt like it was breaking. He had hoped so desperately that he had been wrong.

x

He grimaced and reached out into Kemtau's energy with his own and his mark began to come back to him, clearing up a little of what seemed to be incorrect, but before long, the pounding in his head grew too great and he had to back out. His eyes snapped open and his ears folded back in pain, and he tried to stop himself from panting too hard. The other demon, however, was sunk back into the pillows, eyes wide, and, to Inu-Yasha's surprise, a little glimmer of the ring of an iris had appeared in eyes that had been solid blue just a moment before.

"What...? What did you-?" Kemtau stammered.

"I-"

"It feels a bit better."

Kemtau looked baffled and Inu-Yasha did, too. He couldn't believe what had just happened, but it had, and twice now. It was no coincidence. Shakily, he got to his feet and said, much to the other demon's confusion, "I'm so sorry," before he walked briskly, shaking, to the front door. He heard Kagome call for him, but he didn't answer and headed straight out into the rain, breaking the door chain without even noticing; plopping down on the front steps, his face in his hands.

x

Inu-Yasha wasn't one for much externalizing of his feelings, but for the first time in his life, he truly felt like crying. He was furious, and disgusted, and exhausted, and so, so guilty. His skin felt too hot and his head pounded with his heartbeat.

They used me. They used me for this?!

He bared his fangs and took in a deep, shaking breath. He almost instinctively got up to run when he heard even the first inkling that someone was coming through the door after him. Kagome's gentle voice greeted him, and before he could even look up, there was a warmth draped over his shoulders, and he quickly realized that it was a sweatshirt as Kagome made sure his shoulders fit inside and placed the hood gently over his ears.

"That's not like you to run out without covering up," she said, "What's wrong? What happened in there?"

He couldn't bring himself to move, really, and so, when he didn't answer, Kagome sighed and gently guided his arms into his sleeves and then lifted his face to meet hers as she knelt down in front of him. Inu-Yasha's heart thumped: with the rain pushing her hair down, she looked so much like when he had first seen her. He sighed and rubbed his brow, and he shook his head.

"Come on," she insisted, "What happened? What did you do? I felt you do a thing, and now Kemtau seems to look a little less messed up, at least."

x

He gritted his teeth and when her worried eyes met his, he felt like collapsing.

"I'm sorry," he said quietly.

"Wh...? Inu-Yasha, please, just tell me what happened? What's going on?" she said.

She brushed her fingers through his hair gently and he cringed, unable to hold her gaze.

"It's my fault," he said.

"What? What is?"

She looked baffled and he drew back, rubbing his head and sighing deeply, trying to calm his racing heart.

"Kagome, I... I don't know how to say this," he admitted, gulped, and folding his arms to his chest tightly, "It's... It's my... Shit. Kagome, they used my aura to do this to him."

The girl stared back at him blankly for a while and her head tilted to the side as she asked a simple, "Huh?"

"Can't you feel it?" he asked anxiously, "In his aura. It's mine. It's mine that's twisting it. That's what they did with me when they caught me the first time. They used my aura to... Oh shit."

He had to take a deep breath. Kagome's stared back at him with wide eyes and for a moment was utterly silent. Slowly, she snuck a bit closer to him and quietly asked, "You sure?" He nodded.

"Yeah, it's... It's why I was so weird at the hospital thing, I found another that was-"

Kagome kissed him before he could finish. He looked at her with surprise and she quickly kissed his forehead as well before squeezing him into a tight hug.

"Shut up," she breathed, "Just... Just shut the hell up, okay?"

"But-"

She kissed him again and he let out an involuntary whine, but remained quiet reluctantly when she pulled back and pressed her forehead against his.

"It's going to be okay," she assured him.

She said nothing more and, after a little while of only the sound of rain, the hanyou tentatively asked, "How?"

"I don't know. But we can fix this," she said.

"I don't know what I'm doing, Kagome."

"I know. I know," she insisted, "But we'll figure this out. We'll figure it out and- and we'll fix him, and everyone else like him. Got it?"

She lifted his chin to get him to look at her again, and though the guilt he felt made him feel like being sick, there was a glimmer of hope in her eyes that made him think that maybe she was right.

"O-Okay," he finally managed to choke out.

Kagome smiled a little and kissed his forehead again, and then squeezed him tight, which he finally reciprocated.

"And from now on," she said, "Stop running out into the rain to have your dramas, you idiot. It's too cold for this."

It surprised him when he couldn't help but laugh.

"I'm sorry. I'll try not to anymore."