(A/N: Sorry, this one's more of a chapter-ette...)


I openly gape at the scene before me. "...Hiei?"

He glares at the broken flute in his hand. "That may have been the most annoying sound I've ever heard."

Kuwabara sighs in relief, "Nice job, Hiei."

I watch the fire demon for a moment, then snap my gaze back to Alli and kneel at her side. "Alli... you okay?" With a little struggling, she eventually lets me pry her hands from over her ears.

Small tear trails are present on her face, but she doesn't look like she's in pain anymore. Her eyes are still closed.

"That flute..." I murmur. "What the hell was it?"

"Is she alright?" Kurama asks, also looking her over.

I nod, "Yeah, but she probably has the mother of all headaches right now."

Slowly, Alli stirs, her eyes opening just a little.

"Before you ask, no, you're not dead," I joke half-heartedly.

"Oh, I know. Being dead wouldn't hurt this much..." she mutters, sitting up carefully. She puts a hand to her head gingerly. "Ouch... What happened?"

"You passed out when Takana started playing her flute again," Kuwabara says. "I don't get it, though. To the rest of us, it was just annoying..."

"Where is it?"

Yusuke jabs his thumb towards the corpse. "Hiei snapped it when he took her down. That's when the wolves stopped freaking out, too."

Said demon walks over to us, pieces of the instrument still in hand.

Alli looks up at him with slightly clouded eyes, probably from the dizziness. "Thanks."

"Hn... Here." He drops the pieces next to her.

She takes the two halves and holds them together. "..."

"What? What is it?" Yusuke asks, obviously curious.

"...It's called the Druid's Shinobue. I've only ever seen it in a book on demonic relics." She hesitates, "It lets a demon spread their spirit energy with the sound, and they can control any animal that hears it. All they have to do is think a command while they play."

"But why did it have such a harsh effect on you?" Kurama questions.

"Probably because I'm so much like an animal. The humanoid part of my brain was unaffected, but the animal part of me wanted to listen. My body was fighting itself." A low whine interrupts her and gets her attention.

The wolves have gotten back to their feet, and the alpha is slowly padding his way over.

I notice that Kurama grips his rose-whip as though he's ready to fight it off if he has to.

The wolf sits back on its haunches in front of Alli, whimpering like a puppy.

Alli smiles a little. "It's okay..." she assures him, then reaches out and pats his muzzle. "You couldn't have done anything."

He nudges her arm, then licks at the scratches on her arm.

"Back to normal, then," I decide, getting up from the ground. I help Alli up, too.

She wobbles a little, still shaking off the effects of the flute. "Thanks, guys. I owe you."

Yusuke waves it off, "Ah, don't worry about it. Hiei's the one who took her out, anyway." He turns and starts to leave the reserve. "I'll let Koenma know what happened later. Let's go."

Kuwabara follows almost automatically, then Kurama, who spares one more glance at Alli to make sure she's okay.

Alli calls Hiei's name. "Got a minute?"

He stares at her for a few seconds, then shrugs his response.

"Go on," she tells me. "I'll catch up."

This throws me a little, and I glance between them. "...You sure?"

"Yeah. I'll stop at your place on my way home."

Though I'm still unsure, I nod, "Okay." With that, I turn and start following the others. 'Why does she need to talk to Hiei?'

Alli's P.O.V.

I wait until the others are out of earshot, then turn to Hiei.

"What do you want?" he asks coldly, as usual.

"Just to ask you something," I say calmly. "Why did you wait so long to do anything?"

He narrows his eyes at me. "What are you talking about?"

"I know you were there when I was cornered. I saw you. Why did you wait?"

Hiei pauses, his glare unwavering. "I made the mistake of thinking you could defend yourself. If you weren't so weak, my assistance wouldn't have been needed."

I barely react to his insult. "Then why did you step in?"

"Because the idiot sensed me in the trees. If I'd stood by and let the fight go on, no doubt he would have mentioned it to Koenma. That would mean more restrictions on my probation."

'So he did it to save his own ass...' Despite my desire to beat him senseless, I nod and start walking away. "Thanks, Hiei." I ignore the feeling of his eyes boring into my back.