Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha or YYH


8/25/08 – 8/27/08

Kuronue listened absently to the little girl's chatter as he tried to sort through his thoughts on his near-death experience. He would've ­– should've – died in that forest, and if salvation hadn't come in the form of a strange, irritatingly-talkative child, he was sure he would have. Not that he was complaining – at least, not the surviving part. As for the child herself, he was beginning to regret not leaving her behind.

Less than three minutes and she was already talking his ears off.

"…So I put the water in my mouth…"

Licking his dry lips, Kuronue grimaced. No wonder he could taste human spit in his mouth. He was torn being amused that the girl had tried to give him water through her mouth, and disgust that she had actually done it.

"So, what's your name angel-san?"

Angel…? Following the girl's eyes to his wings, Kuronue blinked. Then, before he could control himself, he found himself chuckling at the girl's assumption. If nothing else, she was at least amusing.

"Angel-san?" she prompted again.

Deciding to scare the child a little, he corrected. "I'm a demon, not an angel."

The girl gave him a suspicious look. "A demon…? Not an angel?" she repeated, carefully examining his beautiful, black wings. Did that mean he couldn't bring back her grandpa? Her bottom lip trembled at the thought. She had thought…thought that he was an angel!

Kuronue shifted slightly, feeling strangely uncomfortable when he scented her unshed tears. Even though he was convinced that he didn't care, he found himself trying to comfort her anyway. "I'm not going to hurt you." he said, mistaking her tears for panic and fear.

"I-I know you wouldn't hurt me, demon-san." the girl answered, sniffling loudly before offering him a large, watery smile. "You're too nice."

Now, that was just plain insulting.

Narrowing his eyes, he said, "You trust too easily, human. How do you know I won't hurt you? Have you no fear of demons? Even in this state, I could easily end your life with minimal effort."

Kagome blinked. What did the state have to do with anything? And what was 'mini-male f-fort'? Blinking, she tuned out his words and asked her own question. "What kind of demon are you, demon-san?"

Kuronue's eye twitched. Had she even listened? Humans! They were all the same. Dumb and foolish! Still, deciding to amuse the child with an answer, he countered, "Isn't it obvious?" Lowering his eyelids to half-mast, he whispered, "I'm a bat demon."

The girl's eyes widened with excitement. "You mean like batman?"

Kuronue gave a disgruntled snort. He didn't know what 'batman' was, but he didn't like the sound of it. It sounded…stupid. "Human –"

"My name isn't human, dummy!" the child giggled.

Kuronue snorted. He hoped not. Or else he would be forced to reevaluate the human race's stupidity. "Then what is your name, child?"

"It's Kagome, demon-san!"

"Kuronue," he supplied. Somehow, the reference 'demon-san' rubbed him the wrong way. Had she felt the same when he called her human? Seeing the confusion in the girl's eye, he explained, "My name."

The girl clapped her hands in glee, surprising him that something as simple as a name could bring her so much joy. "Cur-Niue!" she happily chirped, causing his to wince at the butcher of his name.

"Kuronue," he repeated.

"Niue-chan!" she giggled loudly, flopping beside him in an undignified heap.

Looking heavenward for help, Kuronue silently asked for strength and patience where the human child was concerned. Looking down, he quirked an eyebrow in question when he felt the girl curl against his body, pressing her face firmly into side. Sighing, he felt his eyes soften slightly as he gently laid his hand on the girl's small head. For reasons beyond even his own understanding, he couldn't bring himself to push her away.

Closing his eyes, he decided to consider his strangely human decisions another time – preferably when his weakened body wasn't affecting his rational mind – for there was simply no other way to describe his sudden attachment to the human. Either way, he told himself, he could always get rid of the girl later if she proved to be a nuisance.

Yawning slightly, Kagome slowly sat up as she looked blearily around. "Good morning, Niue-chan!" she greeted, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. Yawning again, she looked back to find his gaze focused intently on a point in the distance. Squinting, she tried to see what he was seeing. However, no matter how hard she tried to look, all she could see were trees…and more trees. "Niue-chan…?"

Kuronue didn't answer as he struggled to stand, digging his fingers into the tree for support. Even though the bleeding had stopped, he was far from fully recovered. He estimated that it would take another week or so before he would be well enough to start looking for his partner.

Grimacing, he startled slightly when he felt the little girl wrap her arms around his uninjured leg, trying to support his weight. Though her efforts were largely (or purely) in vain, Kuronue felt oddly…touched? He snorted. Touched? What kind of sentimental fool had he become?

A streak of energy – the same one he had sensed before – alerted him to the presence of another demon. Placing a hand on Kagome's head to still her movement, he told her to hide. However, much to his growing ire, she violently shook her head in the negative. "I'm not leaving you!" she firmly told him, looking even more agitated than he felt, making him wonder if she could sense the demon's energy as well.

Gritting his teeth – half in pain and half in annoyance – he used the energy he had regained to form his favored weapon – a kusarigama made from the coldest ice known to demon-kind. Holding the scythe in one hand, he twirled the ball in the other. Even though the energy he sensed belonged to a low-class demon, he didn't want to take any chances in his weakened state.

"I will not warn you again," Kuronue hissed without shifting his eyes from the direction where he had sensed the unknown demon's approach. "Get out of here." After a momentary pause, he hesitantly added, "I'll be fine." He didn't stop to question why he bothered to assuage her fears instead of simply killing the disobedient child himself. All he knew was that he wanted her as far away from the battle as possible.

Giving his leg another warm squeeze, Kagome whispered a tearful, "Be careful," before reluctantly leaving his side. Immediately, Kuronue felt himself relax as he focused all of his attention on the demon that crashed out of the forest. Looking over his opponent, he reflexively felt his lips curve in a disgusted sneer when he realized that the demon had nothing but his massive size to boast.

"I smell a human!" the demon bellowed, his voice causing the earth beneath him to shake with the intensity of the vibrations. "Give her to me!" His jaws snapped, giving him a good view of the sharp sets of teeth that lined his mouth. "Give me the human, and I'll spare you."

Kuronue lifted an eyebrow, unimpressed.

Loosing its patience, the demon charged.

Bracing himself against the trunk, he lazily twirled the scythe in arching circles by the thin, string-like chain. Once the roaring demon was within range, he released his hold on the scythe, letting it shoot forward with unexpected speed and accuracy, and sliced the demon's head clean of its shoulders. The body crashed a moment later, causing a minor tremor as it landed a foot away from its head.

Unfazed, Kuronue slowly turned his head towards Kagome, waiting for her to run away screaming. He watched, feeling unexpectedly…hurt…as she stared at his with wide, disbelieving eyes. If her eyes opened any wider, he was afraid her eyeballs would pop out of their sockets.

Just as he was turning away, deciding to move on, he heard her whispered in an awe-filled voice, "Niue-chan! You're the bestest ever!" Stopping, he blinked in confusion as he waited for her to catch up with him. A little dazed by her fearless proclamation, it took him a moment to realize that she had latched onto his leg…again. Settling his hand on her head, he gave her a moment to finish her gushes of praise.

"…You're better than batman!" she grinned with childish abandon.

Kuronue snorted. One would hope so.

As they traveled by night later that day, going at an agonizingly slow pace due to his injured leg, Kuronue was forced to reconsider his earlier decision concerning the child. Did he really want to care for a child – a human child?

The answer was a resounding no.

He was a thief, and thieves (especially of the demon sort) simply didn't keep little children around – human or otherwise. Even if he wanted to keep the human child (which he didn't), he was positive Youko would be against the idea. He might even kill the girl. As far as his partner went, he wouldn't put anything past him.

Decision made, he concluded that it was best for all of them if he left her in the next human village. However, he would make sure the village was safe and suitable for a human girl. It would be a pity if she died now after he went through all that thinking and planning…

A loud rumble disrupted his thoughts.

Looking down at the girl beside him who had suddenly gone silent at the sound of the rumble, his eyes glittered with amusement. Turning his head away, he quietly listened for a moment, his sharpened hearing picking up everything within a three-mile radius.

"This way," he said, heading towards the path that he had been avoiding. From the corner of his eye, he watched as Kagome happily followed without question. It never ceased to amaze him how utterly trusting and infinitely foolish humans were. Still, he had a hard to suppressing the small smirk that graced his lips when the little girl immediately began chattering again about random things – nonsense mostly.

Seeing the road, he told Kagome to stay as he stepped into the path of a young couple, blocking their way. At the sight of them, the couple immediately screamed and reeled back in fear. "Demon!" they screamed, blanketing the area in a think layer of fear. They trembled, clutching at each other as they stared at the winged monster donning the face of an extremely handsome human.

"You have two choices," Kuronue drawled, folding his arms as he pinned the couple with a cold, calculating look. "You can leave your stuff or you can leave your lives." His eyes flashed, giving him an eerily dangerous look.

"H-Here!" they trembled as they placed their bags at his feet. Then, scooting past him, they made a run for the village – no doubt to warn the others.

Rummaging through the bags, he easily found the money pouch. Discarding the other things he found as junk, he returned to Kagome, handing her the money. However, to his chagrin, she refused to even touch it.

"You stole it!" she told him, frowning.

How perceptive, he duly noted. "In a sense of the word, yes, I did." he answered, wondering what was ailing her now.

"That's bad!" she told him, as if she was scolding a wayward dog.

Amusement immediately flickered in his eyes. "Oh?" he asked, leaning to his left to take the weight off his injured leg. It was a good thing it was dark, or else the humans would have seen his wounds. "And who told you that?"

"My grandpa," she promptly answered.

"He may have a point there," Kuronue conceded. "But," he grinned, allowing his sharp fangs to peek over his bottom lip, "Only sometimes." Knowing that he had baffled the child, he asked, "Do you want to know a secret?"

Jumping, Kagome giggled, "Yes, yes, of course!"

Leaning down so he could whisper in the child's ear, he said, "It's all right to steal as long as you don't get caught."

Kagome cocked her head in question.

"Think of it this way," he said, straightening his back. "You steal to make the world a better place. Obviously, if anyone lets their things be stolen, they don't deserve it. So, it's all right to steal things from stupid people."

"Really?" asked Kagome, looking highly skeptical.

"Really." he answered, feeling no shame or remorse over his statement. "Now come, your stomach is growling again."

Twining her hand around his fingers, Kagome looked up innocently and asked, "So it's all right to steal as long as you don't get caught?"

Kuronue smirked, "Of course."


Author's Notes: Well, there you have it, Kuronue's words of wisdom. :P Poor Kagome, she's going to be so corrupted after this. Anyway, thanks for the kind reviews! It's nice to know what readers think. :) Hopefully, I'll be able to reintroduce Youko next chapter.