Searching for Shippo.

Yukitaka rested his soar back on the moss of a tall tree. It had been weeks since he had buried his aunt and uncle, and there was still no sign of Shippo. He would have lost hope, had it not been for the heart-wrenching awareness that he was alone in the world, as was Shippo. The thought of Shippo being alone and scared had driven him to travel Japan, looking for any sign of the kitsune. Yukitaka ducked low on the tree's roots and rested his head on his own fluffy foxtail. His black tipped ears twitched atop his head as he listened for any signs of danger. He decided that is was safe to have a rest under the shaded tree, as he had been traveling in the hot sun for hours. He heard a couple of villagers approaching on the dirt path, though they were too immersed in their conversation to notice his presence.

"A strange girl you say?" said the first man.

"Strange indeed. She was dressed most indecently, with the most outlandish clothing I have ever laid eyes on." said an older man.

"So the clothing made her strange?"

"No, no, no. She was strange because she traveled in the company of two demons! Without fear!"

"No fear and no sense of decency. What an odd girl."

"Another funny thing… she was as sweet a girl as I have ever seen! She was so kind to the children, and to the old innkeeper in the center of the village. She even cares for a young demon in her company. Cradles him like a baby! The strangest sight you'll ever see."

"What sort of demons? Were they violent?"

"Oh, quite! The dog demon was a brute! He went around yelling obscenities and complaining about every little thing! A real beast he was."

"Goodness! Did he harm the girl?"

"No, strange as it was. She must have some sort of power over him."

"A witch was she?"

"I don't believe so. Sweet girl, she was."

"What of the young demon?"

"Ah, yes. Cradled him like a baby. Cute little fellow, for a demon. He seemed quite fond of her as well… but not of the dog, understandably."

"What sort was it?"

"I'm no expert on demons now, but it had pointy ears, and a fluffy tail… like a fox I suppose."

Yukitaka jumped from his resting place upon hearing this news. He was amused by their conversation at first, but the end of their conversation convinced him that the young demon was Shippo. In one great leap he was standing in the path of the two men.

The old man grasped his heart and made to run in fear.

"Please," Yukitaka pleaded, "Please don't be afraid. I won't harm you. Please, tell me where they went… the strange girl and the two demons. I have to find them."

"I don't know, I tell you! I don't know where they headed. They left our village days ago. They headed east, that's all I know! Now leave an old man be, I beg you demon!" The man shouted in a pathetic voice. He began to get on his knees and beg.

"Don't do that! I told you that I wouldn't hurt you. That little kitsune is my cousin… I need to find him. Please tell me anything you know about them."

The man stood, but he was still fearful.

"I've told you all I know. My village is beyond that hill. Perhaps the innkeeper can tell you more about them… they stayed there just the other night. Cousin eh? Well, now that you mention it… you do had the same color hair, and your clothing is similar. My, the same feet too! Strange…"

Yukitaka smiled, hopeful for the first time that he had found his cousin. He thanked the man before bounding off toward the village. He heard the man yell a good luck to him before he disappeared over the hill.

The villagers regarded him with curiosity rather than fear. He assumed that he was not so strange a sight to them after housing a bizarre human, a kitsune pup, and an obnoxious dog demon. He paid no attention to them, as he was set on finding the innkeeper.

The innkeeper was an old, plump looking woman with a crooked nose. She was sweeping the doorstep, and muttering something unintelligible.

"Excuse me," Yukitaka asked politely, "but could answer a few questions for me?"

She stopped her swelling and squinted at him. It looked as if she were struggling to see him.

"EH? WHAT WAS THAT? SPEAK UP WILL YOU!" The old woman yelled so loudly that Yukitaka had to cover his sensitive ears. It was apparent that this woman was nearly blind and just about deaf. 'No wonder the villager was surprised that the strange girl was kind to this woman.'

Yukitaka repeated his request, but louder for the woman to hear.

"Do you know anything about the strange girl and her demon companions that passed by here?"

The old woman appeared deep in thought. She rested her chin on the broom handle, and stared off into the distance. She looked back at Yukitaka, as if noticing him for the first time.

"DO YOU HAVE A RESERVATION?"

Yukitaka sighed. This old woman couldn't possibly know anything about Shippo or the strange girl. 'People in this village have the nerve to call anyone strange?'

Yukitaka was pulled from his thoughts by a timid voice behind him.

"Um… excuse me. I work here with my grandmother. I know of the people you are taking about. The girl in the strange clothing?"

He turned to face the young girl. Over his shoulder, the old woman addressed her granddaughter. "DOES HE HAVE A RESERVATION?"

They ignored her.

"Yes, what do you know about them?"

"I heard that they are collecting fragments of the Shikon Jewel, which was scattered a short while ago. They are traveling east. I believe that the dog demon was called Inuyasha, and the girl was Kagome. That is all I know, sir."

Yukitaka thanked her for her help. He said goodbye, loudly, to the old woman before heading east. He heard her shout at her granddaughter.

"DID HE MAKE A RESERVATION?"

Yukitaka spent the next few months following rumors about jewel shards and the strange girl, Kagome. He learned of a demon called "Naraku," who was also collecting jewel fragments. Yukitaka made sure to stay clear of rumors involving that demon. Yukitaka was not a coward, nor was he weak. He was simply not aggressive by nature. His main abilities involved disguise and manipulating the earth. Over time, he managed to collect six shards from low-level demons. He kept their auras hidden from other demons using sutras and illusion magic. Yukitaka had no desire to use the shards for power. His only desire was to find the last living member of his family.

He learned more about the band of jewel-hunters. A perverted monk and a demon slayer had also joined their group. Yukitaka was worried that the strange companions Shippo has been in the company of for the past few months might have changed him. 'I wonder if Shippo will be the same as I remember him…'

He happened upon a villager discussing a shard rumor one afternoon. A badger demon in the west was apparently wreaking havoc on the forest. Yukitaka followed the rumor, with an everlasting hope that Shippo would have somehow heard the same story, and be there waiting for him.