A1969: well have I got a treat for you people. To thank you all for reading and reviewing, I present to you the longest chapter I have so far.
Inuyasha: someone's being optimistic!
A1969: of course! Because I realized I could do this! *Jaken magically appears*
Jaken: huh? What? Where am I? Ah! Lord Sesshoumaru! You're he—
A1969: *tackles Jaken* awwww! Isn't he really cuddly?!
Jaken: argh! Let go of me, you filthy human!
Sango: hey! Let me try!
Kagome: me too!
Miroku: *to Sesshoumaru* and why…does your toad suddenly have more fangirls than you?!
Inuyasha: Kagome! Don't!
Sesshoumaru: hn. What a bother.

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-Chapter Forty-

.:An Interlude, Part II:.

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Clara

The door to the roof burst open with a bang! as I flung it wide. I quickly shut the door, just as the shadow demons lurched towards me. There was a loud thud! as the demons struck the door, howling and keening. I quickly put up a barrier against the door and spun around.

The autumn wind blew cold against me as I ran onto the roof deck. To the far right was an empty helideck surrounded by unused floodlights. There was nothing to the left but the edge of the building.

Great.

It strongly reminded me of those movies where the protagonist runs up to the roof to escape. There were usually two outcomes to such a scenario—successful escape, or death. I quickly cut that thought. Now was not the time to be a pessimist!

I turned back to the door, which was faintly glowing with white light from the barrier. On the other side, I could hear the demons wailing shrilly. Please let that hold them…

From somewhere in the building, I could hear the sounds from an earsplitting fire-alarm. Good job, mom.

My phone suddenly rang, making me jump. "Hello?" I gasped, answering it.

"Clara!" Alexis snapped. I could hear the sounds of people walking briskly in the background. "I've asked everyone to evacuate the building, like you asked. Why aren't you down here? Where are you?"

"On the roof," I panted. "Listen, the demons are following me, but you can't let anyone into the building, okay? No police, no firemen, no nothing."

"That's a bit impossible," she said. "The alarm system connects to the fire department. They'll be here in a matter of minutes."

Quadruple damn.

A movement suddenly caught my eye. "I have to go," I said, snapping the phone shut. I stuffed it into my clutch and slung it over my shoulder. The jewel rattled around inside.

I glanced around me. My eyes widened in shock the moment I realized that the shadows on the roof were writhing and twisting, like a phantasmagoria of dark snakes. The shadows grew to take on a human shape, like so many others before them. Slits for mouths appeared on their blank faces, their teeth flashing in the light of the full moon.

"Jewel!" they wailed, long-fingered hands outstretched.

Was there no end to them?!

I turned and dashed blindingly towards the helideck. The demons scrambled after me, their footfalls nonexistent as they glided across the floor. I glanced behind me. They were gaining.

Gasping, I stopped just as I reached the edge of the helideck. The wind howled around me as I looked down at the two hundred foot drop. Far on the ground, I could see people spilling out of the building. Cars raced on the road. It was as if their noise called out for me to jump.

Dammit.

I turned back to the shadow demons that glided onto the helideck, their movements slow and deliberate, like a hunter stalking prey. Taking a page out of Yuki's book, I threw my arms out and willed a barrier to surround me. The demons immediately stopped, howling in fury.

One of them brushed his fingers against the barrier, and he immediately pulled back as light flashed where his fingers touched. I could try charging at them, like a bulldozer…

No sooner had this idea popped into my head, when I felt something grasping my foot. I looked down, surprised. A portion of my shadow twisted, and pulled away from the rest, long fingers wrapped around my ankle. It jerked and slowly grew in size.

"Jewel!" it wailed.

I pulled my foot away, and instinctively took a step back. I gasped when I felt nothing but air behind me and, a second later, I fell over the edge.

"Aaaargh!"

My eyes widened, and I felt my stomach vanish as the wind rushed past me, whipping my hair over my eyes. It was like one of those nightmares where you fall, and expect to wake up.

But there was no waking up from this.

As if to add wood to the fire, the demon on the edge of the building suddenly jumped after me, wailing as it reached towards me with long fingers. At least, I'll take one of them with me!

I held out my hands, and they glowed with white, purifying light. C'mon, a little closer, and I can purify you…

The demon fell closer, its hands several feet away from me. It suddenly let out a loud keening as light slashed it from head to foot. My eyes widened as the demon screeched, turning to ash as the light sliced through it.

"Sesshoumaru!" I said, surprised.

He caught me, and I instinctively wrapped my arms around his neck. "Are you injured?" he asked tersely, his arms tightening around me.

I shook my head. "I'm fine," I said. I suddenly remembered the fight we had…No, not now. There were more important things to take care of. "But listen, we have to—" Before I could even finish, he flew back towards the helideck.

My eyes widened in shock. The demons had increased in number, and their wails grew louder as Sesshoumaru hovered above them. He frowned, eyes fixed on the black hoard beneath us. He grasped my waist with one arm, and drew Bakusaiga with the other. Oh, damn.

"Sesshoumaru, wait!" I said.

He glanced sideways at me. "You can't…" Who was I kidding? "Be careful with the rubble," I amended. "There are people on the road below."

To my surprise, he nodded curtly. He held out Bakusaiga, and the blade glowed with a black light. "Meido Zangetsuha!"

The meido rushed towards the shadow demons. Their screeching grew louder as they were all pulled into the meido. The meido sent dust and rubble into the air as it hit the concrete. The dust cleared, and my eyes widened in shock—the meido had taken out a good chunk of the roof. I could see several empty rooms below, all of which were covered in dust and slabs of broken concrete.

Alexis was not going to be happy.

Sesshoumaru landed on the intact helideck. He set me down, and glanced around, eyes narrowed in concentration.

"Pests," he hissed.

The shadows on the roof immediately twisted and grew. "Jewel!" they howled as they stood.

This was bad. It looked as though there was no end to them. I bit my lower lip. What if…what if we took the jewel back to the Feudal Era? I immediately squashed that idea—we couldn't risk these things running through the city after us.

Sesshoumaru suddenly turned to the edge of the building, just as a red blur jumped over the ledge. There was a flash of light as Inuyasha drew Tessaiga from its sheath and pointed it at the shadowy hoard.

"Wind Scar!" he bellowed.

Oh, good Lord!

The Wind Scar rushed towards the shadow demons, and they disintegrated into ash as they were struck. Dust and rubble rose into the air, and I coughed.

"What were those things?" Inuyasha asked, landing beside Sesshoumaru and me. He carried Kagome on his back. He set her down, and turned to us.

"I'm not really sure," I admitted. "But, whatever they are, they keep on coming back. They keep growing from the shadows everywhere."

"Where's the jewel?" Kagome asked.

"Here." I held up my clutch. I suddenly felt it vibrate as the phone inside it rang shrilly. Sesshoumaru quirked an eyebrow, obviously annoyed. I quickly answered it. "Hello?"

"Clara, what on earth is going on up there?!" Alexis screeched, both furious and worried. "We heard explosions coming from the roof, and what was that flash of light? And was that you who fell?"

I felt my stomach doing somersaults. "How many people saw me fall?" I asked quickly.

"Just me and Abe," she said, amidst the sound of people shouting in the background. "I keep telling him he's had too much Chardonnay, and that he's seeing things. Now, will you tell me what is going on?!"

Inuyasha cursed as he held Tessaiga in front of him. The shadows cast by the rubble suddenly twitched. "I'll explain later, okay? Just don't let anyone in the building!" I quickly snapped the phone shut.

The shadows suddenly leapt into the air, and landed noiselessly in front of us. "Jewel! Give us the jewel!" they groaned, as they charged towards us. They were faster—much faster!

Sesshoumaru hooked an arm around my waist and leapt into the air. I gasped in surprise when I suddenly felt my feet leave the ground. He landed next to the door of the stairwell and set me on my feet.

"Stay here," he ordered. "Don't do anything foolish."

In the blink of an eye, he charged towards the horde of shadow demons, cutting them down with Bakusaiga. The shadow demons slashed at him with their long fingers, and he parried their blows.

"Jewel!"

I spun around. A shadow demon reached for me, teeth flashing. I grabbed the demon's wrist, and sent a blast of holy energy at it. It screeched and hissed, flailing its other arm as it tried to hit me. I ducked my head as it swiped its fist towards my face. The demon stopped moving, and let out a low wail as it slowly turned to black ash.

"Clara!" Kagome cried out, running towards me.

Despite the situation, I just noticed something that made me raise an eyebrow. "Why are you in your pajamas?" I asked.

"I didn't have time to get dressed, okay?" she huffed, eyeing the tattered dress I wore. "Unlike someone."

I cleared my throat. "Where's Inuyasha?" I asked.

She pointed behind her. I could see Inuyasha cutting down the demons with his Tessaiga. But it was useless—the moment the demons turned to ash, new ones would spring from the shadows on the roof.

Shadows…

"That's it!" I said, turning towards the helideck. "The floodlights! Kagome, let's try switching them on!"

Her eyes lit up. "It's worth a shot," she agreed, nodding.

I stared at the helideck. "The lever for the power is right over there," I said, pointing towards one of the floodlights. "You get the power, and I'll get the demons."

She immediately looked worried. "What?" she said. "That's dangerous! Besides, how will you do that?"

I raised my clutch. "I'll give them what they want. Once they're focused on me, they'll ignore you."

She bit her lip, hesitant. "Kagome, we've got to try," I insisted.

I glanced towards Sesshoumaru, who was slaughtering demons left and right to no avail—more demons sprang from the shadows, their unearthly voices piercing. A little farther away, Inuyasha parried the demons who were lunging towards him. Several times, Inuyasha looked as though he wanted to blast them all with Adamant Barrage, but he held back.

"Fine," Kagome agreed. "Be careful, okay?"

I nodded and took out the jewel. "Hey!" I shouted at the demons. I waved the jewel in the air. "You guys want this, right? Catch me if you can!"

Sesshoumaru threw a glare my way; but before he could do anything, the demons suddenly turned towards me. "Jewel!" they moaned as they glided towards me.

I sprinted towards the helideck, dodging the demons' outstretched fingers. The moment the demons started following me, Kagome rushed towards the floodlights. Seeing her run, Inuyasha abandoned the demons he fought and leapt towards her, keeping the demons at bay.

From the corner of my eye, I could see Sesshoumaru cut down several of the demons as he made his way towards me. I think this was something he would file under 'foolish'.

I reached the helideck, and spun around just as the demons began closing in. Sesshoumaru suddenly leapt from the throng of demons to land gracefully in front of me.

"You idiot," Sesshoumaru said, eyes fixed on the demons in front of us.

I clutched his sleeve, and he glanced at me from over his shoulder. "Trust me," I said.

For a moment, his eyes met mine, before he gave me a brusque nod. I smiled, then turned to the floodlights. "Kagome!" I called out.

"Now?"

The demons surrounded Sesshoumaru and me, their fingers outstretched, their voices wailing. "Now!"

The lights blazed, and I closed my eyes at the sudden glare. The demons' keening grew louder and louder. For a horrible moment, one of their fingers brushed against my neck, before I felt it disintegrate into ash.

I slowly opened my eyes. I blinked as the harsh light filled my vision. "They're gone!" Kagome cheered. "It worked, Clara!"

"No." Sesshoumaru's eyes were narrowed menacingly. At the far end of the roof, where the light couldn't reach, the shadows stirred again.

Inuyasha swore. "These bastards don't know when to quit, do they?!" he snarled, frustrated. Adamant slowly covered the Tessaiga he held.

"Inuyasha, no!" Kagome said. "It'll still be useless!"

Inuyasha looked as though he wanted to argue, but Sesshoumaru cut him off. "There must be a source," the demon lord mused quietly, golden eyes analytic.

"When you've stopped talking in riddles, you'll let us know, right?" Inuyasha said sarcastically.

Sesshoumaru ignored him. "These demons derive their power elsewhere," he went on as the shadows twisted and grew.

"The jewel?" I suggested.

"No. They desire the jewel to aggrandize their power," he said. "There must be another source."

Another source…

The image of a cherub-like little boy with blonde hair and green eyes suddenly flashed across my mind. "The painting!" I said, excited. "The shadows came from that painting!"

"Where?" Sesshoumaru demanded.

"Downstairs, at the ground floor," I said. "But I think the stairs are blocked off by—"

Sesshoumaru suddenly lifted me into his arms and, without warning, leapt off the edge of the building. I shrieked as I wrapped my arms around his neck, and the wind rushed past us as we fell. A small part of my mind felt grateful that, at least, he was keeping out of the light. The major part was paralyzed with abrupt fear.

"You seriously have to stop doing that!"

. . .

With a slash of his claws, Sesshoumaru tore through the tall window of the lobby. I inwardly winced with guilt as shards of glass came tumbling down. Well…it was better than going through all the people at the front entrance.

Sesshoumaru leapt through the broken window, and set me down, away from the slivers of glass. The lobby was deserted. It looked as though people had left in a hurry.

"Here," I said, striding across the lobby towards the door where the antiques were kept. I frowned, puzzled. The barrier I'd created earlier was gone. Granted, Sesshoumaru had no problems going through my barriers, but…

The door suddenly burst open, and a dozen shadow demons raced through, screeching. Sesshoumaru immediately pushed me behind him, and sliced through the demons with Bakusaiga. Their wails faded as they disintegrated.

I brushed past him, and ran along the rows of antiques. He immediately followed, easily catching up to me. Hanging at the end of one row, the painting of the little boy glowed with a dark light. Shadows poured from the edge of the gilded frame onto the floor.

"There," I said.

Wasting no time, Sesshoumaru rushed past me. Bakusaiga flashed as he sliced through the painting. It fell to the ground in half, the crash of its gilded frame echoing in the vast room. A loud, unearthly keening suddenly filled the room, making the hairs on my nape stand on end. The shadows on the wall twisted and writhed before darting towards the broken painting.

Sesshoumaru stood in front of me as the shadows merged together to form a ball of black light. "What's going on?" I asked.

"It's showing its true form," Sesshoumaru said calmly, as the ball of dark light grew. He held Bakusaiga out towards the wriggling mass of shadows, and the blade glowed with black.

"Meido—"

Suddenly, there was a flash of white from the shadow ball. The shadows suddenly vanished, disintegrating to ash, to reveal a little boy of four, with golden blonde hair, and startling green eyes—the little boy from the painting.

"Stop!" I shouted, grasping Sesshoumaru's sword arm.

Sesshoumaru narrowed his eyes at the little boy, sword still raised. The child stared at him with wide, fearful eyes. His clothes, like his appearance, were in no way Japanese, but they looked as though they belonged to a past era. He wore a richly embroidered brocade doublet, with matching leather boots. His chubby cheeks were tinged with pink.

"Lower your sword." I looked up at Sesshoumaru. "Please?"

"This boy was the source of the shadows," Sesshoumaru said, his tone clipped.

"He's just a child," I pointed out.

He turned his icy glare towards me, and I cringed. For a moment, he looked as though he wanted to retort, but, instead, he relented and lowered his sword. I turned back to the little boy, who quivered where he stood. Surely, this child wasn't the source of those shadows? He seemed too…innocent.

I couldn't tell where he was from but, judging from his clothing, he must have come from Europe. I switched to English. "Hello," I said hesitantly, stepping in front of Sesshoumaru.

The boy blinked. "Hello," he repeated softly. His accent was English. His eyes darted to Sesshoumaru, and back to me. He looked as though he wanted to run and hide.

"My name is Clara," I said carefully. I gestured to the demon lord standing behind me. "And this is Lord Sesshoumaru. Can you tell us your name?"

The boy hesitated. "Bradley," he whispered, his voice high.

I let out a breath. "Bradley," I said slowly. "Were you the one who made those shadows?"

"Yes," he admitted. His voice grew stronger, and his fear seemed to vanish. "But I didn't mean to hurt anyone! I just wanted to get out of the painting!"

I glanced towards Sesshoumaru. He frowned slightly, probably annoyed that he couldn't understand a thing we were saying. "I'll tell you later," I told him, in Japanese. He gave me a curt nod, and I turned back to Bradley, who was regarding Sesshoumaru with curious eyes.

"What do you mean, Bradley?" I asked him, in English. "Were you trapped in the painting? Why?"

He fidgeted. "Because they thought we were evil," he said slowly. "The priests. They thought Mama and I were evil, but we weren't! We were demons, but we never harmed humans! They didn't understand at all! They…" His green eyes suddenly watered. "They were mean! They…they purified Mama, and locked me up, because they didn't want to kill a child!"

And then he fell to his knees and cried, rubbing his eyes. I couldn't help it—I knelt in front of him, and hesitantly drew him towards me. Behind me I could feel Sesshoumaru tense, but I ignored him.

"They were mean!" Bradley wailed. The shadows on the wall suddenly twitched, and Sesshoumaru frowned.

"Shh! Don't cry!" I murmured.

"Just because we were demons!" Bradley sobbed, burying his little head into my shoulder. "We never harmed anyone!"

"I won't let anyone harm you," I said, pulling away.

It looked as though he couldn't hear me as he continued to cry. "I was so lonely! I've been in there for so long, and I couldn't move at all! I was frozen! And then," he hiccupped. "I…I…felt something powerful tonight. It helped me move again. I wanted it so I could get out! I didn't mean to hurt anyone, I promise!" He cried even louder.

I take it, he had sensed the jewel. "I know, I know," I said quickly, pulling him close. His little body trembled as he continued to sob.

I rocked him until his sobs gradually died down. He hiccupped, his pudgy arms around my neck. He fell silent for a moment. "He's a demon, too," he suddenly said, pointing at Sesshoumaru, who gave him a cold look.

"Yes, he is," I said, looking back at the demon lord. "But Sesshoumaru is a good person. He won't harm you."

He pulled away from me and sniffed. "You're a priestess," he suddenly said, staring warily at me. After letting out centuries of pent up emotions, he looked quite precocious.

I gave him a small smile. "Yes. But I won't harm you," I added hastily, when I saw him flinch.

"Hey!"

We turned towards the end of the row, just as Inuyasha and Kagome appeared. I stood up, carrying Bradley in my arms, who immediately buried his face in my shoulder, afraid.

"The demons are gone!" Kagome said, as they approached. They stared at the child in my arms. "Huh? Who's he?" she asked.

"He made the demons," I said, in Japanese. "His name is Bradley, and he was trapped in that painting. He tried to get the jewel to escape."

At the mention of his name, Bradley hesitantly looked up. Kagome's eyes brightened. "Aww! What a cutie!" she cooed.

Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru stared at her. Bradley blinked.

"He's from England, I think," I told Kagome.

She looked thoughtful. "His clothes are from another era," she mused. "So, there are demons in other countries, too."

The sounds of sirens suddenly wailed in the distance. "We have to go," I said, in Japanese. "It'll be hard to explain any of this."

. . .

We had to pass through the darker parts of the city to get to the Higurashi Shrine. The shrine grounds were dark, and the house was silent. The only light came from Kagome's window.

"Where are we going?" Bradley asked as we made our way to the well shrine. We'd decided that maybe it would be best if we took him to the Feudal Era. He clung tightly to me. As we had made our way back here, he had grown more talkative and less fearful.

"Bradley, before you were in the painting, did you remember the year?" I asked him.

The boy looked thoughtful, and then shook his head. "No," he announced.

"What about the king?" Kagome asked, switching to English. "Did you know who the king was?"

Bradley pouted, and his eyebrows met in the middle. "He had many wives," he managed.

"Henry VIII," Kagome said automatically. "So…I take it, Bradley comes from around five hundred years in the past," she added, in Japanese.

All this time, Sesshoumaru had remained silent. He hadn't said a word since we'd left the company, and—though I was used to his silence—this silence was somewhat unnerving. It was as if he was annoyed, somehow. Suddenly remembering that we still had an unresolved argument, I inwardly flinched.

"Where are we going, Clara?" Bradley repeated as Kagome slid the door to the well shrine open.

"We're going to take you five hundred years in the past," I said slowly as we stepped in.

"You can do that?" the child asked, his eyes widening. "Five hundred years? Before Mama died?"

Kagome and I glanced at each other, and even Inuyasha looked a little sorry at Bradley's hopeful tone. "We can try," Kagome said gently. The boy nodded, a look of determination on his face.

We stopped in front of the well. "Bradley, this well will take you back to the past," I explained. He twisted in my arms so he could get a good look at the well. "There are demons on the other side of this well, but not all of them are bad."

"There are other demons?" Bradley asked eagerly. Huh…eager was the least emotion I'd expect.

"I take it you haven't met many demons," I said, smiling.

The boy shook his head. "No, I have, before I was sealed," he said. "But…as the years went by…the demons sort of…disappeared."

My eyes widened in surprise. Kagome had a similar expression on her face. My gaze momentarily strayed to Sesshoumaru, who narrowed his eyes at my expression. I hastily looked back at Bradley.

"What do you mean, the demons disappeared?" I asked slowly.

Bradley shrugged. "I don't know," he said. "In the painting, I couldn't move, but I could still sense. I could sense the presence of demons before, but as the centuries went by…they vanished."

Vanished. The demons of the past had all vanished…

Why?

"We're getting old here," Inuyasha suddenly said, startling me and Kagome. I bit my lip. For a moment, I wondered…Should Kagome and I tell them about what Bradley had said?

Deciding that it could wait, I gently lowered Bradley to the ground. "One of us should go with him," I said, in Japanese. "And take him to Kaede's." Hesitantly, I turned to Sesshoumaru. "Can you take him, please?" I asked, trying to sound as supplicant as possible.

His eyes met mine for a moment, before he nodded curtly. "Bradley," I said to the boy, in English. "Lord Sesshoumaru will take you with him."

He reluctantly looked up at me, and I gently pushed him towards Sesshoumaru. The demon lord looked down at the demon child, who raised both his arms, as though expecting the former to pick him up.

Sesshoumaru looked down at him for a moment. To our surprise, he gently picked the child up, mindful of the spikes on his armor. Inuyasha's mouth hung open in astonishment.

Bradley stared at Sesshoumaru for a moment, and the demon lord stared back. The little boy suddenly giggled, and buried his face in Sesshoumaru's pelt. "It's so fluffy!" Bradley's voice was muffled, but he sounded delighted.

Kagome and I glanced at each other. At that moment, we didn't know whether to coo, laugh, or be amazed. Sesshoumaru merely looked indifferent, as though he didn't care that a child was currently nuzzling his pelt.

"Who knew you were good with children?" I told him, grinning. He raised an eyebrow at me, and Inuyasha sniggered. Realizing what I'd said, I blushed. "Anyway," I said, clearing my throat. I switched to English. "Bradley, Kagome and I will be there tomorrow, okay?"

The little boy nodded. "Will Lord Sesshoumaru stay with me?" he asked, leaning his head against that fluffy pelt. I had a feeling he and Rin would get along just fine, if they learned to understand one another.

I switched to Japanese. "He was wondering if you would stay with him for a while," I told Sesshoumaru. Asking him to take Bradley back was one thing, but asking him to babysit the child was another thing entirely.

"Hn," was all Sesshoumaru said as he turned to the well.

"He will," I told Bradley in English, as he peered at me from over Sesshoumaru's shoulder. He gave me a huge smile, then Sesshoumaru leapt into the well.

There was a flash of blue light. A moment later, shadowy tentacles crawled out of the well, carrying Bradley, who pouted, his arms crossed. "Lord Sesshoumaru's gone!" the boy announced.

"He can't go through," Kagome mused.

Bradley hopped off the tentacles, which immediately faded away. He landed, somewhat clumsily, on his feet. He held his arms out to me, and I lifted him off the ground.

"Now, what?" Inuyasha asked.

At that moment, there was another flash of blue light, and Sesshoumaru leapt out the well, landing gracefully beside me. I thought for a moment.

"I guess I could take him back to my house," I said slowly, in Japanese.

"Are you sure?" Inuyasha asked. "He's a demon, remember?"

"He's just a kid," I said. He gave me a look of pure disbelief. Bradley began playing with my hair. "Besides, I don't think he'll harm anyone."

"Yeah, we were all just hallucinating the shadow demons," Inuyasha said sarcastically.

Kagome gave him a shove, then turned to me. "Give him here," she said, holding out her arms. "I'll take him back to my house for a while. It looks like someone wants to talk to you." She said the last part in English.

I blinked, and turned to Sesshoumaru, who was regarding me with a stoic glare. I passed Bradley to Kagome. "C'mon, Inuyasha," Kagome called.

"Fine," Inuyasha said.

"Where are we going now?" Bradley asked as they climbed the stairs and stepped out of the well shrine.

It was suddenly very quiet. "I take it, you've no interest in returning," Sesshoumaru said, after a while.

I turned to him. "What?" I said, surprised.

"The child," he said.

Oh. "Bradley can't go through the well," I began slowly. "I can't just leave him to roam the streets. I'm going to take him home. I don't think my mother will mind." It was then that I remembered—I had never told him I was leaving the Feudal Era for a while.

I looked down at the ground. That's right—after we'd fought, I'd left with Kagome, and didn't even bother to say goodbye to him. What's more…I think I called him a monster when we had argued. I cringed. Even though we'd fought, he still came to help me. I felt guilty.

I kept my eyes fixed on the ground. "Hey, um…" I began. I could feel butterflies in my stomach. "Sesshoumaru, I…I'm really sorry for what I said to you yesterday…" Why was this so hard? "I mean…I…" I blushed.

He cut me off. "Only a fool apologizes for nothing, Clara," he said quietly.

I looked up at him. "But," I protested. "You were only just…You were only…"

"Concerned," he finished.

My eyes widened in surprise. For a moment, we stared at each other. I didn't know what made me do it. I took a step toward him, and wrapped my arms around him, resting my head against his fluffy pelt. For a moment, he tensed, and I thought he would push me away.

His arms slowly snaked around my waist, drawing me closer. I blushed. "I'm sorry," I said again. Really, I couldn't think of anything else to say.

"Hn."

I suddenly felt him rest his chin on my head, and my blush deepened. I didn't want to pull away. Besides…he was quite warm. We were quiet for a moment. In the silence of the well shrine, I wondered…Could he hear how fast my heart was beating?

Reluctantly, I pulled away from him. "I have to go," I said, turning to the steps. My cheeks felt so warm, I was surprised my head wasn't on fire yet. "We'll be back, though. I just have to make sure Bradley's fine."

I stopped and turned back to him. Did he look doubtful, or was I just mistaking that stoic look for something else? Maybe, but…

I reached behind me, and unclasped my locket. I approached him, hesitant. Standing on tiptoe, I clasped the chain around his neck, and smiled at him. He raised an eyebrow.

"That's very important to me," I said, letting the locket dangle against the white of his haori. "I can't stay away from it for too long, or I'll miss it."

"What are these?" he asked, flipping the pendant. My initials were carved on the back. How did he know they were there?

"My initials," I told him. "It's written with letters from another language, English. That's the language I used when I was talking to Bradley. The letters represent the initials of my full name—Clara Antoinette Rose. My father chose the name 'Clara', and my mother picked 'Antoinette'. My mother is half-French, you see." I realized I was babbling, and I blushed.

"French?"

"Meaning, she came from France, another country," I explained. "That's why she wanted me to learn how to speak French." On an impulse, I switched to French. "Vous êtes très importante pour moi. Je ne peux pas rester loin de vous pendant trop temps ou je vais te manquer." You're very important to me. I can't stay away from you for too long, or I'll miss you…

"The same accent," he suddenly said.

I blinked at him. "Pardon?"

"You spoke with the same accent on Kasai's mountain," he reminded me, his cold eyes intent. "Je t'aime."

My eyes widened in surprise—until I realized that he couldn't possibly know the meaning of those words. I forgot that Sesshoumaru seemed to have a knack for remembering foreign words.

"Yeah," I said. "I did…Uh…"

"You said it was nonsense."

"I…I did?" I stammered. I can't tell him…yet. I don't know…I just…I can't. "Anyway, I need to go, I have to explain Bradley to my mother."

And before Sesshoumaru could say anything else, I ran out of the well shrine.

. . .

The entire house was awash with light when I entered. I found Kagome and Inuyasha at the kitchen table with Bradley, who was eating chocolate pudding with a spoon. The demon child looked delighted as he ate with great gusto. Mrs. Higurashi was sitting with them, wearing a fluffy bathrobe over her sleepwear. Kagome and Inuyasha had just finished explaining about Bradley.

"My," Mrs. Higurashi said. "This is really unexpected." She turned to me. "Does your mother know about this?"

"I texted her," I replied. "She's on her way here. Actually, I'm a bit afraid of what she'll say when she gets here…We did destroy the roof of her building, you know." I looked towards Kagome and Inuyasha at the last part.

Kagome blinked. "You mean, Sesshoumaru destroyed the roof," she pointed out. Right, blame it on the absent person. I knelt on the cushion.

"Speaking of Sesshoumaru," Inuyasha said, eyes narrowed at me. "Why do you reek of him?"

I blushed. "That…that's none of your business," I stammered.

Kagome gave me a mischievous smile. "Well, that's what happens when you leave two people alone in a shed," she said, winking.

"Shut up!" I snapped. She was just as bad as Momitsumi and Rin!

Mrs. Higurashi turned to me, and smiled. "Oh, do you have a boyfriend, dear?" she asked politely.

My face burned. "D-don't be silly," I said airily, waving a hand. "He…he isn't my boyfriend…"

"Yet," Kagome added.

Inuyasha chortled, and Bradley looked up from his pudding. "Why is Clara red?" the little boy asked Kagome. There was chocolate pudding around his mouth.

"Because she's thinking of Sesshoumaru," Kagome answered.

Bradley turned to me, green eyes wide with surprise. "You and Lord Sesshoumaru are lovers?" he asked, tilting his head.

That's it. Two can play at this game. "Nope," I said, smiling at Bradley. I switched to Japanese. "We aren't lovers, unlike Inuyasha and Kagome."

The effect was instantaneous. Inuyasha and Kagome glanced at each other, their eyes wide with surprise, before they turned to Mrs. Higurashi. She looked astonished, her mouth a little 'o' of bewilderment. The kitchen was so quiet, you could've heard a pin drop. For a moment, Mrs. Higurashi was speechless, and then…

"Really?" she asked, turning to her daughter. She clasped her hands together, delighted.

It was Kagome's turn to blush. I was satisfied to see she'd gone as red as Inuyasha's haori. She threw me a look, and I shrugged innocently at her.

"Yes," she admitted. Beside her, Inuyasha looked equally red.

"This is wonderful!" Mrs. Higurashi exclaimed. "Oh, I'm so excited! I always did think the two of you looked so cute together!"

Kagome threw me a glare, and I smiled innocently at her. "Now, Inuyasha," Mrs. Higurashi went on. She suddenly sounded serious. "I'm so happy for you two, but I need to make something clear, okay?"

Inuyasha flinched. "Eh…er…sure, whatever," he said, flustered. He was so red, it made his haori look almost pink.

Mrs. Higurashi smiled. "Kagome is my one and only daughter. She and Souta are very precious to me," she said. Yeah…I think I knew where this was going. "I know you're a half-demon, but that won't protect you if you hurt her, understood?" Her smile was sweet.

Inuyasha's eyebrow twitched. "Uh…right," he said, as Kagome stared at her mother, her expression disbelieving.

"I'm so glad we got that settled!" Mrs. Higurashi said happily, clasping her hands.

At that moment, there was a knock on the door. Mrs. Higurashi excused herself to answer it, and came back a minute later with my mother in tow.

I quailed. Alexis's mouth was set in a thin line, her expression quite severe. Her hair looked somewhat disarrayed. She wore a coat over her beige evening dress. Oh, no…she had a hand on her hip. She only did that when she was really, really mad. I only knew one other person who could exude such a strong aura of maternal intimidation—Sesshoumaru's mother.

Kagome and Inuyasha both fidgeted. Bradley stopped eating, his emerald eyes fixed on Alexis. I chewed my lower lip.

"Do you want anything, Alexis?" Mrs. Higurashi offered politely, gesturing to the cushion on the table.

My mother smiled at her, though it didn't reach her eyes. She was mad. "No, thank you," she said, as she knelt across from me. Her gaze strayed momentarily to Inuyasha, then to Bradley, before turning back to me.

"So," Alexis began, eyes locking on me. For some reason, I couldn't help but think of the way a hawk zeroed in on its prey. "Are you wounded?"

I blinked. "No," I said.

"Then, explain away," she said, crossing her arms and narrowing her eyes.

I spent the next several minutes explaining. I told her about how I found the demonic presence in the painting, and about how the shadow demons had chased me to the roof to get the jewel I had; I told her how I had fallen from the helideck, and about Sesshoumaru, Inuyasha, and Kagome's timely arrival. I briefly explained how we fought off the shadow demons on the roof, before we decided to destroy the painting that was the source of the shadows. I finished by telling her about Bradley, about how we had planned to take him to the Feudal Era, but that he couldn't go through the well.

As I explained, Alexis remained as impassive as a sphinx. There were times when it appeared as though she wanted to interrupt, but she stopped herself.

After I finished, she exhaled. "You could have been killed," she said slowly. She paused, as though weighing her words. "The truth is, when you were telling me about your time in the Feudal Era, I wasn't worried. It sounded like a fairytale at the time, something out of a book, something completely harmless." Her eyes fell to the small dressing at my neck, and she frowned.

"But after tonight," she went on, shaking her head. "It's dangerous—I can see that clearly now."

It felt as though an ice cube dropped in my stomach. She couldn't possibly mean…

"I don't want you to go back to the Feudal Era," she said.

My eyes widened in surprise. Beside me, Inuyasha and Kagome both had similar expressions on their faces. "Mom," I said, "I can't do that. I…I have to help them."

She let out a breath. "Please, understand, Clara," she said. There was an almost desperate undertone in her voice. "I lost your Father just last year. I don't think I can take it if I lost you, too!"

I looked down at my lap. My hands shook beneath the table. I had planned on telling her about what Kasai had said about the jewel, but…I don't think I could…Not yet. Or maybe never. This was so frustrating!

"I'll be safe," I said slowly, looking back up to meet her eyes. "I'm not alone there, mom. I have Kagome, Inuyasha, and the others." Kagome nodded in agreement.

Alexis frowned. She opened her mouth to say something, thought better of it, and let out a sigh instead. "We'll talk about this tomorrow, after school," she said. "It's very late, and Lord knows we've overstayed our welcome."

She stood and turned to Mrs. Higurashi. "Thank you for putting up with us," she said.

"It's no problem at all, Alexis," Mrs. Higurashi said, smiling.

Sighing, I stood up. I suddenly felt something tug on my skirt. Bradley looked up at me with wide green eyes. "Mom," I said. "I was wondering if you won't mind me taking Bradley home with us. He has nowhere else to go. He won't harm anyone."

Alexis turned to us. Her eyes lingered on Bradley, who quickly hid behind me. He peered from behind my skirts, eyes fixed warily on my mother.

"If you must," she finally said. "Let's go home."

. . .

I sighed as I stared up at the dim ceiling of my bedroom. I pulled the duvet up to my chin, and carefully turned over to my side. Bradley was sleeping beside me, his blonde hair visible above the covers. He was wearing a white linen shirt that he had worn underneath his doublet. I made a mental note to buy him clothes tomorrow, after school.

Sammie was sleeping under the bed. She had refused to come out since Bradley had arrived, much to the little boy's disappointment. The moment we had arrived, Bradley had wanted to explore the house, but was much too sleepy. I was surprised that he needed sleep, like a regular child.

I thought of what my mother had said. "I lost your father just last year. I don't think I can take it if I lost you, too!"

Sighing once more, I pulled the duvet over my head and fell into a fretful sleep.

.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.

Sesshoumaru

I leaned against the Sacred Tree, my eyes fixed on the lightening sky, and a hand on my knee. I had returned to my era hours earlier, after Clara had run out of the shrine. Hn. That girl…

I stared at the pendant that hung around my neck. Taking it in my palm, I flicked it open. Immediately, that hauntingly sweet melody played, its sound echoing in the deserted forest.

My thoughts strayed to the events of last night. I had heard Kagome shouting for Inuyasha, heard that Clara had—once again—gotten herself into trouble. I frowned, recalling the anxiety I had felt as I rushed to where she was. I remembered the way she had stopped me from harming the little boy. She had pleaded, told me to lower my sword. I could not help but comply with her request.

That girl had a knack for protecting things that would be most detrimental to her. Or, perhaps, she was merely very protective of children? She was a young woman, after all.

A thought slithered through my mind, and I immediately pushed it aside.

I suddenly remembered the way she had smiled as she fixed the locket around my neck. Truth be told, I had felt both surprised and pleased that she had so willingly held me—I had not been expecting her show of affection. I recalled the pleasant ache in my chest when I held her in my arms.

To think that such a creature could make one such as I feel this way…

Hn.

The music promptly stopped, and I closed the locket just as Inuyasha's scent suddenly appeared in the forest. I had thought the fool would stay with Kagome. I immediately tucked the pendant amidst the folds of my haori, hiding it from view.

Inuyasha's scent drew closer, and I turned towards the edge of the clearing, just as the half-breed walked through the trees. Judging from his lack of surprise, I take it he had been aware of my presence. Job well done, Inuyasha.

He stared at me. He appeared wary yet, at the same time, curious. "You're here," he said, after a moment of silence.

"A very astute observation indeed, Inuyasha," I said, raising an eyebrow.

He glared. "Jerk," he muttered. "Why're you here, anyway?"

"My actions are none of your concern, little brother," I replied, my gaze turning back to the sky.

Inuyasha fell silent. I sensed that there was more he wished to say. "You…really care about her, don't you?" he suddenly said, after a prolonged silence.

I turned to him, somewhat surprised at his words, though I didn't show it. He seemed surprised as well. I chose not to dignify him with a reply.

"I mean, it's obvious," Inuyasha went on awkwardly. "You worry about her, you rush when she's in trouble. Heck, I think if you had things your way, you'd be pulling out Kohaku's shard."

"Oh?" I said. "Is it possible that you care for your elder brother, Inuyasha? How sentimental of you."

I was amused to see him looking flustered. A low growl rumbled in his chest, and I raised an eyebrow. Inuyasha made for very entertaining sport.

He crossed his arms, and glared. "I don't know how Jaken and the others put up with you," the hanyou huffed, scowling heavily at me. "In fact, I wonder how Clara manages to care about you, and not go crazy. You're an asshole."

Admittedly, I felt pleased at hearing that she cared for me. Hn…

"Speaking for yourself now, aren't you?" I asked.

Inuyasha crossed his arms. "Whatever, jerk," he snapped. Entertaining, indeed. "Do us all a favor. Stop acting all high and mighty, and get your sorry behind over there. This is my forest, remember?"

And before I could anything, the half-breed turned and walked away. Heh. Amusing indeed, little brother.

.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.

Clara

The alarm clock's loud shrilling startled me awake. Right…Monday (otherwise known as the worst day of the week). I fumbled for my alarm clock on the bedside table. I felt my hand brush groggily against it and, a moment later, I heard a loud crash! as the clock fell to the floor.

Sammie immediately began barking. My eyes flew completely open as I suddenly remembered what happened yesterday. I turned to check on Bradley.

He was gone.

I sat bolt right up. Oh, shoot—where was he?

I leapt out of bed, and quickly shut off the alarm. I grabbed my bathrobe, and threw it on as I ran out the door, heart thumping nervously. Sammie followed behind me.

"Tinette!" I said, as I ran down the stairs, two steps at a time. She was busy dusting a table in the hallway.

"Mon dieu!" Tinette exclaimed, seeing my disheveled hair. "Where's the fire?"

I hesitated. I don't think she knew about Bradley being here, but I was sure she would be suspicious of him. She had been Alexis's maid in France, when the latter had been a young girl. Tinette knew every member of our family, and not one of them looked like Bradley.

"Have you…seen a little boy of around four here?" I asked hesitantly. She raised her eyebrows. "Blonde hair, green eyes? A bit chubby? He's, er, my friend's…adopted brother, and I was babysitting him." That seemed like a fairly plausible excuse.

"He's with your mother, in the dining room," Tinette said, immediately returning to her dusting. "Though Madame Alexis said that the child was the son of her business partner."

I blinked. "Right, I meant, my mother's friend," I grinned at her, before turning towards the dining room. Sure enough, I could feel Bradley's demonic aura coming from the room.

I entered the dining room. Bradley was sitting with my mother at the table, a tall stack of pancakes in front of him. He was gleefully digging into his food, while Alexis was sipping a cup of coffee.

"You're awake!" Alexis said, the moment I walked in.

"Crara, reeshe cakes are werry goob!" Bradley said, through a mouthful of pancake.

"Don't talk with your mouth full," my mother gently scolded.

Bradley swallowed and grinned. Huh…it seemed as though my mother liked him. "I was thinking of taking him out to get him clothes," Alexis went on, as I sat down. Yup, she definitely liked him. "Lord knows you'll be very busy with school."

I hesitated, biting my lower lip. I switched to French. "Mom, you do know he's a demon, right?" I asked. Bradley looked up, curious at the switch. "I like him, but I don't think you could—"

"I'm quite sure he'll behave himself," she interrupted. "He seems like such a nice boy."

I exhaled. She could be very stubborn, at times. "Just…call me if something goes wrong," I said. Not even seven in the morning yet, and I could already feel a headache coming along.

"By the way," Alexis went on. "Be sure to bring an umbrella with you. The weatherman says it might rain today."

. . .

I walked into the school grounds, backpack slung over my shoulder. It felt strange wearing the uniform again—I had grown much too used to the haori and hakama I had worn these past few months. I looked around me. Students were happily talking to each other, some laughed loudly, their voices high.

Not just the uniform—being back here felt strange. Or, maybe it had to do with the fact that, while in the Feudal Era, I hadn't bothered to open a single book? Well, in my defense, I had supposedly been in a coma, anyway.

"Hey, aren't you Clara Rose?"

I turned, surprised. Behind me stood three girls. It took me a while to remember their names. I smiled at them. "Eri, Yuka, and Ayumi, right?" I asked.

They nodded. "We heard about your coma," the one called Eri said. "You were absent for months."

"Yeah," I said, hesitantly. Mom, seriously, a coma? Even to my ears, it sounded silly.

"It must have been awful," Ayumi said, clucking her tongue in sympathy. "What was the cause of it?"

"Uh…er…" What usually caused comas? I inwardly berated myself for not asking my mother.

I was spared from answering, however, when Eri suddenly glanced behind us, and waved. "Hey, Kagome!" she called.

Kagome ran towards us, grinning. "Hey!" she said cheerfully. She turned to me. "Long time no see, Clara."

I blinked. Oh, right—I was supposed to have been in a coma these past few months. "Kagome, right?" I said to her, and she nodded.

"Kagome's sickly, too," Eri said, sighing. "By the way, Houjo was looking for you, Kagome, he wanted to give you something."

I raised an eyebrow at Kagome, who smiled awkwardly. "I feel bad for Houjo, not knowing about your boyfriend," Eri went on, as we walked towards the building.

Boyfriend? These girls knew about Inuyasha?

"Don't worry, I'll tell him about Inuyasha when I see him today," Kagome reassured them. I raised an eyebrow at her, and she gave me a small shake of the head.

"How is Inuyasha, by the way?" Ayumi asked. "Is he still working at your shrine?"

"Er," Kagome said, as we took off our shoes and placed them in the shoe lockers. "He went home, actually, just yesterday."

"He lives with his elder brother, right?" Yuka asked.

I froze and stared at her. How the hell did they know about Sesshoumaru?

"Yeah," Kagome said, smirking at me as we walked down the hallways. "Though Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru hardly get along at all."

"Sesshoumaru?" Eri said, quirking an eyebrow at the name. "Is his brother a delinquent in a gang, too?"

I let out a laugh. They stared at me, surprised. "S-sorry," I said hastily. Really, the thought of Sesshoumaru as a delinquent in a gang was just too hilarious. "I just…saw something funny out the window."

. . .

The day went by slowly. This was mostly due to the fact that every class was torture—I hadn't bothered studying in the Feudal Era, and I was paying the price. Twice, I'd been called to answer in class, and twice I had to sit back down without giving the correct answer. It was embarrassing, really. Especially during Algebra, where I'd been called to answer something on the board. The teacher had sent me back to my seat after I stared at the board for nearly a minute.

I suddenly thought of what Sesshoumaru had said about Algebra. I scoffed. Nothing more than simple analysis…Yeah, right.

At least Kagome had it better. She'd brought her books with her to the Feudal Era, and had managed to do some studying.

The final bell rung at last, and I breathed a sigh of relief, before I remembered that I had to go to the principal's office. I sighed as I gathered my notebooks and stuffed them into my backpack.

"Hey, Clara," Kagome said as she came over. "Eri, Yuka, Ayumi, and I are headed to WacDonald's later. They want to talk about Inuyasha." She rolled her eyes fondly. "Do you want to come?"

"No, I have to go see the principal," I said apologetically. "By the way…How do they know about Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru?"

"They met Inuyasha, actually," Kagome said as we left the room and walked down the hallway. "I once mentioned that he had an elder brother, in passing. But you know them—they have a knack for remembering everything I tell them."

"Anyway," she went on, as we stopped in front of the principal's office. "I have to go, before they think I've run off. I'll see you around, Clara!"

I watched her go before I entered. The secretary smiled, and gestured for me to go in. The principal was a stern-faced woman who wore square spectacles on the bridge of her nose. She appeared to be in her mid-forties.

"Good afternoon, Ms. Rose," she said. "Sit."

I sat down, and waited nervously as she shuffled the papers on her desk. "So, to business," she said briskly. "Ms. Rose, I'll be frank—you're very much behind on your schoolwork. I know the fault is in no way your own"—I fidgeted—"seeing as you've been in a coma these past few months. Be that as it may, you'll have to put in more effort.

"Which means," she went on. "You'll have to study harder. You'll need to take up remedial classes, and extra homework."

Mon Dieu.

"I would advise that you participate in extracurricular activities, to earn credit. Your mother tells me you're a very good pianist. Why not join the Music Club?" She stared at me from over her spectacles. "Normally, I would advise you to stop, and enroll again next year, what with everything you've already missed out on."

My stomach plummeted.

"However, your mother assures me that you will do your best," she said.

I smiled weakly at her. "I will," I said.

Study harder…extra homework…remedial classes…extracurricular activities…Feudal Era…Naraku…

Kill me now.

. . .

The wind blew against me as I walked through the park. I'd decided to come here to clear my head. Children ran past me, their screams loud and happy. Couples walked hand-in-hand, blind to anything except each other. People jogged past.

I sighed as I sat on a bench beneath a tree. The tree's leaves were a burst of autumn colors, gold, red, and orange. They seemed so warm, in contrast to the sky overhead. The clouds hung low and heavy, and the wind that blew around me was cold.

There were so many things on my plate right now…

Kasai's words echoed through my head again, and I clenched my fists. Truth is, I was afraid of dying. What was worse, was dying and not knowing when you were going to kick it. For all I knew, I could keel over right now, and I wouldn't be any wiser.

And then, there was Naraku. The day I wouldn't be able to contain his darkness anymore, even with Kagome's help, was the day I knew I was going to die. What would happen then? Would they continue to find a way to defeat Naraku, and purify the jewel? And what would happen to my soul? Would it be one with the soul in the jewel?

To add more salt to the wound, there was Sesshoumaru…

What were we to each other, really? I remembered the way he held me, and I blushed. This was so confusing. Like, really, really, really confusing. I hadn't had that much experience with boys, much less someone like him.

Besides that, Bradley had said that the demons…just vanished. I felt my hands trembling. Vanished…Why? What had happened to the demons as the years went by? Would something bad happen to them, and to Sesshoumaru and the others? Would something wipe them out?

I bit my lip. And then, there was Alexis…

"You need to get acquainted with the board of directors, and everyone else who matters."

I knew that she expected me to take over when she eventually retired. But how could I? Setting aside the fact that I might die, there was the problem of school.

I wouldn't be able to do it—I couldn't possibly juggle all the extra schoolwork, the extracurricular activities, and the Feudal Era. They were just too much, just too different…

Different…

What if I didn't die, and we were able to defeat Naraku? What would I do then? Would I stay in the Feudal Era? Because of Sesshoumaru? I blushed. We hugged, so? It's not like…it's not like he asked me to be with him outright!

And what about my mother? Could I really just leave her behind, after what happened to my father? It wouldn't be fair to her at all…

A choice.

Eventually, if we made it out of this Naraku mess in one piece, I would have to make a choice. Between this world, and the Feudal Era…

I leaned against the backrest, and let out a heavy sigh as I stared up at the sky. The clouds were darker now, and there were fewer people in the park. The wind was colder.

Could I? Could I choose between this world, and everything in it? I had a life in this world—I'd been born and raised here, I had friends here, too. Not to mention, I had my mother here. But…I had people I cared about in the Feudal Era as well. I shook my head.

This was all so, so perplexing.

Something suddenly fell on my nose. I blinked as another drop of water fell. People were running quickly as it began to drizzle. I hastily stood, and fumbled for my umbrella. It seemed as though the weatherman was right.

No sooner had I opened my umbrella, than the rain began to pour more strongly. I walked through the park as the rain fell. Several people carrying umbrellas walked past me, their expressions flustered. With all the problems I suddenly had, did I look flustered, too?

I held out my hand towards the rain. My problems were like the rain—they seemed to pour down without mercy. I shook my head and continued walking. Maybe I could talk to Kagome later…

I suddenly stopped as I felt something.

I spun around, and my eyes widened in surprise. Sesshoumaru was standing several feet behind me, indifferent to the rain that was falling around us.

What on earth was he doing here!?

"You're soaked!" I said, rushing over to him. I held the umbrella a little higher over him. He was quite tall.

He stared at me. "It's nothing more than water," he said apathetically.

I raised an eyebrow. "You might catch a cold," I pointed out.

He blinked. For a moment, he stared at me with cold disbelief before it was quickly replaced with a stoic look. "I am a demon, that does not concern me," he reminded me.

"What are you doing here in the first place?" I asked, looking up at him. The rain continued to fall, but it was as though I didn't even notice. In fact…It was as if the problems washed away. Well, what can I say?

"I wished to ensure that the boy was causing no mischief," he said.

"Bradley is all right, you know," I said, smiling at him. "He seems to act like a regular human kid. My mother likes him a lot. She's taking him to go buy him something to wear, actually."

"Hn."

"Ah, wait!" I said. My hand dove into my pocket for my handkerchief. I held it out to him. "Here, use this to wipe some of the water off," I said. "I haven't used it."

He stared at me for a moment, before dropping his eyes to the piece of cloth I held. He took it, and I beamed at him. "Anyway, let's go," I said, as we began walking. "You wanted to see Bradley, right? I think he's at home, or still with my mother, shopping. In any case, they'll be back before dinner."

I grinned, looking sideways at him. I don't know…walking with him like this just…just felt nice, I guess.

Up ahead, a couple was walking towards us. The man and the woman stopped, gaping at the demon lord beside me, and I gave myself a mental kick. Of course—with the clothes he wore, the long mane of silver hair, the markings on his face, and the golden eyes he had, Sesshoumaru must've stuck out like a very, very, very sore thumb. I wouldn't be surprised if someone started taking pictures.

Sesshoumaru narrowed his eyes at the couple, and they hastily walked on, but not before I heard snippets of their conversation:

"A cosplayer," the man was saying.

"A very scary cosplayer," the woman agreed.

"Sephiroth?"

"But he isn't wearing the right costume!"

I sighed as a sweat-drop formed. "Sorry about that," I told Sesshoumaru as we left the park. The rain continued to pour in torrents. "They just found your appearance…odd."

"Odd?" I was surprised when he asked.

"Not 'odd' in a bad way," I said hastily, smiling apologetically at him. "You're actually very good-looking, it was just that they—"

Wait…what did I say…?

Eh…

I blushed, forcing myself to look ahead of us. "I mean…er…well…" Dammit, Clara, you're such an idiot. "I mean…you look all right." I could feel him staring at me. "It was just they've never seen…er…anyone quite like you before…yeah, that's right." Despite the cold rain, my face felt as though it was burning.

I snuck a peek at him. Was it just my imagination, or did the corner of his mouth twitch ever so slightly? I quickly brushed it off, and looked ahead of us. People stared from under their umbrellas as we walked by, but Sesshoumaru seemed indifferent to them all. Good thing, too. He could be very snarky, when annoyed.

I smiled to myself. Truth be told…being with him like this made me feel…happy.

"You're smiling," Sesshoumaru suddenly said, nonchalant. I blinked as I stared up at him. His cold eyes were curious.

Still smiling, I shook my head. "It's nothing. I just love the rain."

.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.

A1969: there you go. End of chapter.
Jaken: *strangled by Kagome* let go…of me! Lord Sesshoumaru, help your most humble servant!
Sesshoumaru: no.
Kagome: awww! He's really quite cuddly!
Sango: me next!
A1969: anyway…I was kinda thinking of making an Inuyasha fanfic, zombie apocalypse style (I just watched World War Z—don't judge!), but then I remembered…
someone has to have a sword that wipes out a thousand demons in under a frickin' second! *glares at Sesshoumaru* Who does that?!
Sesshoumaru: you're rambling.
Inuyasha: just use Tokijin. Kagome! Put Jaken down!
A1969: Tokijin is cheap. Ew. I've been downplaying Bakusaiga's power in this fic, because if I didn't, all fight scenes would be: "Sesshoumaru slashed Bakusaiga. Everyone died. The end."
Miroku: this is a good thing. So, you know, you can finish what you've started! And—Sango! Stop cuddling Jaken! Lucky imp…
A1969: by the way, I've been updating every week, so I can get this thing done. If, however, I miss out on a week, it's only because I'm updating my other fanfics. I've been focusing on this, but I can't abandon the others. So, heh…
Anywaaay…thank you all so much for reading and reviewing, putting this on alerts, favorites, blah, blah, blah. Oh, and thanks to those who've reviewed anonymously, or didn't log-in with their accounts! Review, please!