Disclaimer: I do hereby disclaim all rights and responsibilities for the characters in this gentle adventure... especially for the one who's in familiar territory. A nod of recognition is bent towards Rumiko Takahashi for her creative prowess where InuYasha is concerned. All due respect is also offered to Yoshihiro Togashi, whose fervid imagination is responsible for YuYu Hakusho.

An Affinity for Villainy

- 40 -
Needle in a Haystack

"Which mirror are you after?" Kagome whispered.

"An excellent question," Youko replied, scanning the glittering surfaces that decorated every wall.

An gaudily-framed mirror was prominently displayed on a pedestal in the center of the room, and she pointed to it, observing, "That one looks important."

"Glaringly so," the thief agreed. "Which is why we can safely ignore it."

"A decoy?"

Nodding absently, Youko prowled across the floor. "It may be a trap, or our collector may simply have terrible taste."

Kagome tiptoed towards a full-length mirror that drew her attention, but she gasped and stepped back when its surface shimmered. Her reflection was replaced by the image of a slim man with starry blue eyes and spun gold hair that fell in rippling waves around his shoulders. No, not a man! With a start, she realized that there were short horns peeping through his hair, and a pointed tail flicked idly just above the plush carpeting.

The devilishly handsome figure stepped right through the glass and gave his fur-trimmed collar a fluff and pat. "Youko Kurama," he said with a dimpling smile that held no warmth. "I'd be more flattered to have earned your notice if you hadn't just insulted my newest acquisition." Strolling over to the chunky mirror on display, he turned his head this way and that, preening. Whirling dramatically, he fixed his gaze on Kagome. "I see you've made a valuable acquisition of your own?"

She glared at the demon for all she was worth, but suddenly, her view was blocked by a strong back. Youko's protective stance might have given her more cover if their host's mocking smile wasn't multiplied in every single mirror.

- 41 -
Fool's Errand

Kagome put her back to Youko's and drew an arrow from her quiver. Notching it, she glared at the many reflections that surrounded them, and the kitsune nodded approvingly. Her guard is up. She understands battle.

Their foe went on, "It seems she cancels you out. Useful... though all that purity grates against my nerves. It's hard to believe she holds the interest of an old fox like you."

"My only interest is in the Mirror of Souls," the kitsune growled.

"Liar!" he playfully countered. "I've been observing you for quite some time, legendary thief. You're three times a fool!"

"Oh?" Youko countered, his tail bristling as their opponent's youki began to rise.

Energy crackled around the horned demon's body like tiny lightning bolts, and his blue eyes took on an ominous glow. "You were a fool to come here, you're a fool if you think you'll leave."

"That's two," the kitsune retorted lightly, shifting his weight.

With a sneering laugh, the he mocked, "Unlike you, I'm not fool enough to put what I hold dear at risk."

- 42 -
Calling the Bluff

"Which mirror?" Kagome muttered, trying desperately to sense any kind of ominous aura.

"I am unsure," Youko murmured over his shoulder. "If what he says is true, the Mirror of Souls may not even be here."

"I think he's bluffing."

"Why?" Energy swelled and burst towards them, and Youko scooped her up to avoid the blast. Setting her safely on her feet, he repeated, "Why, Kagome?"

"Hunch?" Making up her mind, she drew her arrow and aimed at a round mirror with a gilt frame that looked a little like Kanna's had. Turning several degrees, she notched another arrow and let it fly at a rectangular mirror.

"What are you doing!" shrieked the outraged demon. "Those are priceless!"

"And I'm betting that one is more priceless than the rest," she observed under her breath.

"Good!" Youko praised, his golden eyes fixed on their opponent.

Another bolt of raw power sizzled towards them, and once again, the kitsune whisked her out of danger. As soon as she had her footing back, Kagome's bowstring sang, and fragments of glass littered the floor. The collector roared his frustration and plucked a surprisingly small mirror from a niche. "The woman may not be to my tastes, but her soul is beautiful. You see, Kurama?" he taunted. "I'm a thief, too!"

Kagome gasped, frozen in place as she felt the power of the mirror latch onto her. Much like the time Kanna had tried to leech her life away, tendrils of chill nothingness tugged at the fringes of her awareness, sapping her strength and making it hard to breath. She clenched her fists and fought, dragging her gaze to Youko, willing him to seize the opportunity; however, the kitsune was riveted to the spot, staring at her with a stricken expression. "Kagome! No!" he begged.

End Note: These three drabbles were written for the Live Journal community fanfic(underscore)bakeoff and their Secret Ingredient for September 2011—Observe. These drabbles are 278, 178, and 300 words respectively. Posted on September 22, 2011.