So you may all notice a significant lack of typos and grammatical errors in this chapter. You can all thank my lovely editor, Blissfulnightmare's True Form, for this wonderful gift. In fact, if it were not for dearest Bliss, I would probably not have been motivated for another, what, six months? (laughs) Yeah, my updating skills are severely lacking. Anywho, Miss Editor and I are also working on fixing all of the silly errors in the rest of the story and revised chapters will be posted as soon as we're done.

Without further ado, enjoy the exciting chapter nine!

The Lord of Roses and the Shackled Dragon

Chapter Nine: Combat

The room was silent as the search party stared at him, and slowly his eyes rose to meet those of his master. "Hiei..?" Kurama asked in disbelief.

The black-haired demon's almond-shaped orbs were widened to shining, fear-filled moons at the sight of Kurama. Hiei was back outside before anyone could move, his possessions forgotten on the dusty floor. As the plant-wielder would have moved to give chase, Yusuke stepped in front of him, a rare, serious expression marking lines on his face. "What the hell was that all about?"

The usually calm and collected red-head found himself grinding his teeth in frustration. So close to the completion of his quest, and this dark-haired demon had no right to present himself as an obstacle. "Move," the command was laced with every drop of the venom he had harbored since meeting the cottage's owner. Said demon merely smirked, crossing his arms over his chest.

"You gonna make me, pretty boy?" Yusuke laughed. "It's my house."

"P-please, don't-" Yukina began, her voice trembling in fearful anticipation of the brewing fight. She was cut off by a cool hand on her shoulder, and glanced tearfully at Touya, who moved his head slowly from one side to the other. It was useless to try and stop them.

"Stand aside!" the fox attempted to order Yusuke again, oblivious to his affect on the female or his other companions. His fingers quickly moved to comb through his flowing red locks as he continued. "Before I am forced t-"

A fist collided with the smooth flesh of Kurama's face before he could conclude his threat. Jin moved quickly to swoop in and carry Yukina safely from the house as Touya took a step toward the fuming demons. "Kurama," he began, but faltered upon seeing the look in his cousin's eyes. They were rimmed with gold, and burning with cold fury and anticipation.

Yusuke's fist took flight once more, but this time was stopped before it could make impact. His flesh tore from the razor-like thorns protruding from a whip as the deadly weapon wrapped itself around its target; his arm was rendered immobile as Kurama held the device steady to stare callously down at his opponent. Seeming to ignore the pain of his bloodied wrist, the dark-haired demon twisted his body in such a way that he had a clear shot at his opponent. "Spirit gun!"

The fox was too quick for such an attack to land, but the woodsman had succeeded in getting Kurama to allow his weapon to slacken. The fighters jumped away from each other, strategies swirling frantically through their minds as they disregarded the damage done to the cottage. Kurama could have smiled at the turn of events; he fought so much better at a distance. He was no fool, however; an infant could sense the powerful energy quickly gathering at Yusuke's fingertip. Conscious to the necessity of speed to gain advantage in such a battle, the fox speedily raised his arm in preparation of lashing out with his Rose Whip. Less than a moment before the whip fell, Kurama's attention was forcefully shifted to a dark figure flying toward him. He barely had time to adjust the position of his weapon before the small body made impact, sending them both sprawling to the floor. To the fox's surprise, Yusuke made no move to take advantage of Kurama's vulnerability.

The haggard breathing of the fighters seemed to compose a tempo for the particles that fell from the ceiling onto the debris and remains of the cottage. As the sounds of battle faded into the failing light of the day, the scene grew eerily quiet to the ears of the demons in witness. All eyes were on the dust-covered form of the fire demon, who lay sprawled halfway across Kurama's chest. The fox's beautiful face remained plastered with shock at what had just occurred - his emerald eyes locked onto Hiei's slightly trembling body. The smaller demon still clung desperately to the plant-wielder, his eyes lidded tightly.

There was a long pause before anyone dared to move, let alone speak. In the same movement that removed his arms from around Kurama, Hiei brought himself to his feet. It took only a second before his crimson orbs summoned flaming daggers to direct toward the fox lord. Kurama blinked, moving slowly to revert his beloved weapon back into a seed before returning it to his hair and carefully rising to his feet. His eyes never left the fire demon's face, and, despite the intensity of Hiei's glare, the red-head found himself to be holding the fire-wielder in a sort of dull awe.

In a swift, subtle movement, Hiei brought his newly injured arm to his mouth and licked a stream of blood from the split flesh, effectively breaking the other demons from their shock-induced trances. "Hiei, I-" Kurama began apologetically only to be cut off by and angry outburst from Yusuke.

"Great job, fox-boy!" the woodsman shouted, taking a step toward the other two. "I wondered where the hell all the shrimp's injuries came from! I guess now we know!"

"You have no right!" the indignant shout from Kurama collided with the urgent attention Touya's words demanded. The outcome was more chaotic distress ringing throughout the household. Green and brown eyes glared as one at the ice demon, who had dared to interrupt their argument. Touya huffed angrily, gesturing with exasperation to Hiei before storming outside to join his mate and Yukina.

Hiei's silent growl effectively shut the mouths of both would-be opponents. Both demons found themselves burdened with shame once they took notice of the damage they had done to both the house and the fire demon that had sparked the combat. An awkward silence loomed in the air before Kurama extended his arm toward the spiky-haired demon. "Hiei, come here…"

The fire demon bared his teeth, backing away slowly before darting out to Yukina, who had knowingly prepared her supply of salves and bandages for the aftermath of the enraged demons. Yusuke and Kurama's eyes followed Hiei out of the house before they met in an unpleasant glare. "You wrecked my house," Yusuke said finally.

"You got in my way," Kurama countered. Before the pair could fall into another bout of shouting (and possibly flying fists), Touya and Jin stepped between them.

"Let's be friends," the wind-master said cheerily as his mate's glare clearly demanded that the fighting come to an end.

Gradually, tempers settled with the dust that coated the broken floor. As proven in most social aspects, enemies can push their anger aside to handle the task at hand. This is not to say, however, that said fury had fully dissipated; rather, it meant that Kurama and Yusuke were able to ignore it as long as greater problems presented themselves. Though admittedly not in the best of cheer, each demon tackled his (or her, in the case of Yukina) assigned task to the best of his abilities. As the cottage's kitchen had been thoroughly wrecked by the battle, Yukina and Hiei created a small fire outside with which to cook the stew. The rest of the group set about with the cleaning and repairs.

The best part about being demonic in nature is that one's abilities are more often than not immensely useful in some way. Most of the dust and small debris was cleared by Jin's wind, though the horned man received an angry glare from Hiei when the small tornadoes twirled a bit too close to Yukina's cooking. Once the larger pieces were cleared away by Yusuke and Touya, Kurama coaxed one of his more docile plants into creating a makeshift wall until more permanent repairs could be made.

When the work was finished, the group lounged around the camp fire, the air heavy with their silence as they consumed the delicious food presented to them. While Hiei stared critically into the flames, everyone else seemed to be content on looking anywhere but at the demons around them. Eventually, Yukina broke the stillness with her soft voice. "It's very nice to be having dinner with so many. Sometimes it gets so lonely with just Yusuke-kun and myself…" Not getting a response, even from the usually hyperactive Jin, she tried again. "So, um… How do you boys know… Hiei-sama, is it?"

A spark flared throughout the group, although it wasn't the type of spark the girl had been hoping for. Yusuke rolled his eyes. "Tch. Like it matters."

Kurama coolly raised an elegant red eyebrow. "And what does that mean?"

Jin intercepted the sparks that flew between the emerald and chestnut eyes. "C'mon, le's not figh', 'kay?"

The woodsman shrugged nonchalantly. "The shrimp wants to be here."

The fox leaned forward. "What is your point?"

Yusuke mimicked the movement. "Not with you."

"Y-Yusuke-kun," Yukina stuttered cautiously. The men turned their attention to her, and a blush rose to her cheeks at the attention. "D-don't be mean… Please?"

The black-haired demon snorted, and Kurama found a small smile spread itself across his lips. 'It seems our little pet brings home all sorts of fun,' Yoko grinned in amusement, finally making his opinion about the current situation known to his counterpart. Kurama fought the urge to roll his eyes at the typical reaction from the silver-haired fox. Despite himself, the fox-lord found himself cheered by the remark. 'We can only wait to see what happens next…'

Speaking of what happens next, does anyone have any suggestions? The tension here is very high and I can only wonder how Yusuke and Kurama are going to get passed this... Not saying that I'm going to use all of your suggestions, or any of them for that matter, but they could get the creative juices flowing.

So review and let me know what you think!

On another note, I shall be moving into a college dorm next month. I sincerely hope that this doesn't prevent me from writing, but I do know that things are going to be getting quite hectic. Wish me luck, guys.