A1969: I won't even bother to say how long it's been. Sorry for the late update, everyone! I've been so busy, since our community duty actually began already. I have so much on my plate, so I'm really sorry for this uber late update! T.T

On a brighter side, thanks to all those who reviewed! :D Enjoy the chapter!

/.\./.\./.\./.\
Chapter Two
-T H E_A N N O Y I N G_W O L F-
/.\./.\./.\./.\

Beep. Beep. Beep.

I groaned and rolled over, not really in the mood to wake up. I mean—who actually likes waking up to the alarm clock's annoyingly incessant beeping? Not me.

Beeep. Beeep. Beeep.

I ignored it and turned over. I didn't want to go to school today—I'm sure Eri's going to ask us to go out, Yuka will be bubbly, Ayumi will be excited over a test...

Beeeep. Beeeep. Beeeep. Click!

Huh? Mom shut off the alarm...?

"Honestly," a distantly familiar voice said. "Kagome, if you refuse to get out of bed, you will be late—and I won't take responsibility for it."

I opened my eyes to see the familiar face of Annika Westerholme hovering above me. She raised an eyebrow. In a flash, I remembered where I was—Golden Acres Royal Academy...and today was the first day of school.

I immediately sat up. "Oh my gosh!" I exclaimed, placing both hands on my face. Annika was already dressed in the familiar pink and grey uniform of the high school students of GARA. "Quick, what's the time?"

"6:30," she said matter-of-factly.

She was kidding, right? School didn't start until 8:30; and I was sure that I'd set the alarm for 7:30 last night. I narrowed my eyes suspiciously at her.

"She tinkered with your alarm clock too, huh?" My door was open, and two dishevelled figures were standing there—Sango and Ayame. Both looked sleepy, their hair like haystacks. Their eyes were still droopy.

I blinked. "Be practical!" Anne snapped, glaring at them. "There're four of us now, and only one bathroom—naturally, we have to wake up earlier so as to not be late."

We all gave her sleepy/annoyed looks. "Look on the bright side!" Anne said as she marched towards the door. She walked out, but glanced over her shoulder at us. "I woke up at 5:30. Now hurry up, you lot! Breakfast will be waiting."

"Is she always like this?" I groaned, falling back on my pillows.

Sango and Ayame came into the room. I felt my bed bounce as they both flopped down on either side of me. "Oh yeah," Sango answered, yawning. "We were surprised the first time she tinkered with our alarm clocks, right, Ayame?"

"Mm," Ayame yawned. "I thought she was too forward—I mean, we weren't even close at all, and she...sheeee"—she yawned, covering her mouth—"she meddled with our clocks."

"You'll grow used to it," Sango reassured me. I turned my head towards her. She looked alert now, the sleep slowly fading from her face. "So," she went on. "Who wants use the bathroom first?"

/.\./.\./.\./.\

Annika's meddling with our alarm clocks was easily forgiven when Ayame, Sango and I went into the kitchen. There, on the table, were plates of eggs, bacon and stacks of toast, as well as a jug of milk. The circular table had been set for four. Annie herself was already sitting at the table, her hair in a bun, and glasses on her nose. She was reading a book, the title of which was obscured by the milk jug in front of her.

"Aw, Annie—no fair," Ayame said. She sighed as she sat beside Anne. "How on earth are we supposed to hate you for meddling with our sleep patterns, when you make one helluva breakfast?" She piled a liberal amount of bacon and eggs on her plate.

Sango sat down next to Ayame and, with a bit of hesitation, I took the seat Annie's other side. It felt weird to sit with them—I felt as though I was an intruder, that I shouldn't be here. I pushed those thoughts from my mind.

"Kagome, if you won't eat anything, I'll be very offended," Anne said, not looking up from her book. "Or rather...I'd think you have bad taste."

I blinked before sheepishly helping myself to food. "Anyway," Annie went on, closing her book and placing it in front of her. "Miss Cope came by earlier this morning, and gave me these." She opened the book and took out four pieces of paper. She held them out for each of us to see. "These," Annie continued, "are our schedules for the whole year."

We all snatched the pieces of paper from her. "Do we have any classes together?" Sango said quickly, her eyes darting down the paper in her hand.

I stared at the paper between my fingers. The top middle of the paper was embossed with the familiar rose seal of the Academy. It was the kind of paper that cost someone like me their week's allowance.

8.30 a.m.-9.30 a.m. -Calculus
9.30 a.m.-10.30 a.m. -Physics
10.30 a.m.-11.30 a.m. -Histories of the World
12.30 p.m.-1.30 p.m. -Organic and Inorganic Chemistry
1.30 p.m.-2.30. p.m. -Literature
2.30 p.m.-3.30 p.m. -Physical Education

I reread the whole thing, blinking. "Organic and Inorganic chemistry?" I muttered to myself, raising an eyebrow at the piece of paper. I looked up at Annie. "Isn't that sort of...a college subject?"

"GARA does things differently," Annie said, shrugging. "Besides, we are seniors, after all. It's only for our own benefit that we take up the subject." She suddenly leaned over and snatched the paper from my fingers. "Mmm...very good, Kagome—our schedules match."

"Lemme see!" Ayame said, snatching the paper from Anne. She compared it to her own, her eyebrows furrowing. "No fair!" she exclaimed. "Your schedules match up with Sango's! I'm the only one left out!" She pouted.

"Can I see?" I asked hesitantly. She handed her schedule to me, a pout still on her face.

I glanced at her schedule. It was exactly the same as ours, except that she had an additional subject after P.E.—trigonometry. "Trig?" I asked, puzzled.

"She failed trig last year," Sango offered, sighing. "So, they're making her take it up again."

"Yeesh!" Ayame shouted, pouting. "What's the point of triangles, hypotenuses, sines and tangents when all I wanna do is dance?" She glared at her schedule in my hand, as though it had thrown verbal insults at her.

"You dance?" I asked, perking up. I loved dancing!

Ayame nodded. "Ballet," she said. "I don't do hip-hop and punk—those are so...meh." She made a face.

"I always wanted to do ballet," I said, sighing. I fingered my toast absentmindedly. "But Mama couldn't afford it." I realized what I said and blushed with mortification.

Annie, Ayame and Sango only nodded. I couldn't see any conviction in their eyes, not even sympathy to make me feel sorry for myself. Instead, their eyes had a look that sort of said, That's alright. There was a short, awkward pause that was eventually broken by Ayame's cheery voice.

"So!" she said, standing up and clapping her hands together. She looked at me. "Seeing as this is Kagome's first day, why don't we drill her on what to expect?"

Sango grinned. "Good idea," she agreed, turning to me. "So, Kagome, what do you think you'll expect?"

I hesitated, biting my lower lip. "Uhm...embarrassment?" I hedged, shrugging.

Annie raised an eyebrow at me. "You'll only be embarrassed if you willingly let yourself be embarrassed," she pointed out. "Though, I'll be frank with you—there are a few students who won't take a liking to outsiders."

Ayame rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. "I get where this is going—Kagura and her posse, huh?"

Annie shrugged. I felt my stomach tighten when I thought of the incident with Kagura at the elevator. "Everyone at GARA knows what a snob that woman is," Sango added. "I don't think she'll notice Kagome much, anyway."

Annika shook her head, and crossed her arms. "She already has," she said. She briefly shared what happened at the elevator.

"That woman is unbelievable!" Ayame huffed. "She thinks she's queen of this school, or something! Yeesh!"

"Don't worry, Kagome," Sango said, smiling at me. "We got your back."

I stared at them. They seemed so decided. We hadn't even known each other for weeks, and already I felt as though they'd accepted me, as though I really was part of their small circle. I felt myself return Sango's smile. "Thanks," I said.

"Yes, yes, enough chitchat." Annika stood up and cleared her plate. She turned towards the sink with a certain, subtle grace. "If you people haven't noticed, class starts in 45 minutes—hurry up and eat!"

/.\./.\./.\./.\

It felt as though my knees turned to jelly.

The moment Annika, Ayame, Sango and I took a step out of the dorm, I felt as though my stomach had vanished. The hallway wasn't empty—there were a few girls walking back and forth, already in their uniforms. They seemed too absorbed in their welcome-back-to-school giggling to take any notice of us, which was a relief.

I followed Annika, Sango and Ayame down the hallway and towards the glass elevators, my feet seeming to pause with every step I took. I took a deep breath as the elevator doors slid open with a subtle hiss and we stepped in. Thankfully, the elevator was empty. I felt my heart begin to accelerate in my chest. The cheery elevator music did nothing to calm my hysteric nerves.

"You okay?" Sango asked, raising an eyebrow at me.

Annika and Ayame both looked at me. "I'm fine," I said, smiling.

Annie raised her eyebrow. "You make for a very bad liar," she said, smirking.

I blinked. Normally, I could lie...if my nerves weren't as frayed as they were now. "Just nervous," I admitted, absentmindedly tucking a lock of my hair behind my ear.

Ayame shook her head. "You've got nothing to be nervous about!" she reassured me as the elevator came to a halt.

I took a deep breath as the doors slid open and we stepped out. Students were walking along the hallway in pairs and in groups, most of them wearing the pink and gray uniform of GARA, but some were wearing blue long-sleeved blouses, black neckties and black skirts.

"The blue and blacks are college girls," Sango offered as we walked into the crowd. None of them glanced at us.

"College?" I blinked and glanced around.

"Kagura and her posse aren't around," Annie said, rolling her eyes. "Really—you shouldn't feed their oversized egos, you know."

"Sorry," I mumbled as we stepped out of the building. I blinked as the sunlight hit my eyes. When my vision had adjusted, I blinked again. The scene in front of me was like a cross between a park, a beach and a library. In the distance, I could make out splashes of pink and black milling across the banks of the lake, basking in the sun and the cool, fresh breeze. Students walked by our quarter, some chattering away, others with their faces buried in their books.

"Come on, Kagome!" Ayame's voice called.

I blinked and realized that my friends were already standing at the foot of the steps, staring at me. "Sorry!" I said as I took the steps two at a time.

"Hurry up," Annie said, her tone somewhat urgent. She adjusted her glasses, scowling. "I don't want to be here when—"

"Omigosh! They're heeeere!" A loud voice shrieked.

I glanced around, startled. Annika groaned while Ayame and Sango shook their head, sighing. Girls suddenly started screaming and running towards the first quarter as though their lives depended on it. They sped past us and we quickly retreated to the steps of our quarter to avoid the stampede.

"What's going on?" I exclaimed, glancing around for any immediate sign of danger. "Is there trouble? Should we call the guards?"

Annie only pouted and said, "Honestly." It took me a moment to realize that this was not directed at me, but at the crowd—which I suddenly realized was composed of girls. Girls?

"This is so annoying," Sango muttered darkly.

In a flash, I suddenly realized. "Oooh—the Elite?"

They were silent, their eyes narrowing at the crowd. I followed their gazes. From the top of the steps of our quarter, we could make out the whole throng of girls, all gathered around the first quarter. Why, it suddenly became very clear to me.

"Omigod, they're here!" several girls shrieked. The crowd's shouts grew even louder and more frenzied. A thousand chorusing banshees couldn't have been any noisier.

"Oh, look—here comes Kouga," Ayame said. Her eyes zeroed in on the double doors of the first quarter, which were slowly opening.

I glanced sideways at her. Unlike Annika and Sango, Ayame's eyes were...expectant? It certainly wasn't the same bored-dead expression that the other two girls wore. Hm...

The screaming suddenly grew louder and out of the door came Kouga, Inuyasha and Miroku. Kouga and Miroku grinned at the girls, waving at them. They screamed even louder as the boys descended the few steps to the grass. I couldn't help but giggle at Inuyasha. He looked flustered at seeing all those girls surrounding them. I let out a chuckle when a girl tried to touch his doggy ear and he quickly evaded her fingers by ducking his head.

I suddenly noticed that something was amiss. "Hey, I thought there were four of them?"

Annika shrugged. "Sesshoumaru? Who cares?"—a sudden groan of disappointment suddenly issued from the girls, and Annie blinked—"Never mind, I shouldn't have asked."

/.\./.\./.\./.\

After the little episode at the quarters, Annie, Ayame, Sango and I headed towards a green waiting shed just a little far off from the quarters. The shed had a vendo machine in them and the kind of chairs you sat on in the airport terminal. The shed was where students who didn't bring their cars waited for shuttles to take them to the buildings around campus.

To my discomfiture, there were three girls sitting on the chairs in the shed. Two of them held cups of steaming coffee—which smelled suspiciously like Starbucks—from the vendo. The moment Annie, Ayame, Sango and I entered the shed, they stopped giggling and turned their eyes towards us. Two of them were human, the other one was a demon.

I felt a lump in my throat as their eyes darted towards me and then away.

"Hey, Annie!" one of the girls greeted. She had a mane of shocking pink hair that fell to her back in a straight wave and startling emerald eyes—and pointed ears. Demon.

Annika grinned. "Hello, Pricilla," she said.

"What about me?" the human girl with chocolate hair and eyes said.

"Hey, Kim!" Ayame shrieked, bounding in front of the girl.

"Eeww," the girl called Kim said. "It's Ayame." She pretended to wrinkle her nose in disgust and then, a second later, everyone burst out laughing...everyone except me, that is.

"Oh, by the way," Sango said, still chuckling. "This is Kagome Higurashi, the scholar." She gestured towards me.

I felt my eyes widen in shock and my cheeks burn as the three strangers turned their eyes towards me. "Hi!" the last girl said. "I'm Amy Knight. That's Kim Darling and Pricilla Hawthorne."

"Hi," I said, somewhat shyly. Even their surnames sounded expensive...

Pricilla looked at me with her emerald gaze. "Wow, to think that anyone could pass that scholarship—you must be a genius," she commented.

I felt my face burn. "Not that smart," I said.

"She's being modest, I think," Sango interjected.

Pricilla laughed. "A rare trait, modesty," she said. "Everyone here flaunts what they have...except, of course, for a few." Her eyes wandered to Sango, Annika and Ayame.

Ayame playfully stuck out her tongue. "Whatever you say, Prissy."

"Here comes the shuttle," Annika said, glancing behind her. "Come on, you lot—we've only got thirty minutes before class starts!"

"We're not taking the shuttle," Amy said, sighing. "Yuki brought her car over from home, so we can use it all year round. We're just waiting for her."

Annika nodded and turned her attention to the vehicle that was approaching the shed. My eyes widened slightly when a sleek black Mercedes Viano pulled in front of the shed. This was considered a shuttle?

"Come on, Kagome," Annie said as she led us towards the van. She slid the door open and to my horror, the van was half full with students. The students' chattering immediately died down the moment the door opened, their eyes drawn to us.

Annika climbed in, taking the front row. She looked me, expectant. The other students followed her eyes—looking at me. I blushed.

"Go on," Ayame said, nudging me gently. I hesitated then climbed into the van, beside Annie.

That was when the whispering started. "New?" a voice whispered.

"I think she's the scholar from the slums," another voice answered. I felt myself cringing in my seat.

"Ignore them," Sango said as she and Ayame climbed in and slid the door closed. "They always act like children, sometimes."

I groaned. "Oooh—a charity case?" one student said aloud.

There was a chorus of laughter. "Excuse me," Annika said. Her voice was sharp and annoyed, eyebrow raised pointedly. "Unlike the rest of you babbling baboons, I am trying to mentally translate Shakespeare's Othello into Japanese—do me a favor and do something a little more productive with your mouths other than making noisy gossip."

I looked at her, my eyes wide. Whoa. Beside me, Ayame and Sango shrugged and I got that this was normal Annie behaviour.

The whispers suddenly stopped, though. Annie sighed and looked at me. "Thanks," I said.

But I could still hear my heart thudding in my chest—if this is what I encountered in a shuttle, what would I expect in a classroom?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

When I'd explored the entire academy, I didn't go beyond the administration building. I was always exploring the mountain, so I wasn't quite prepared when the shuttle drove past the administration building. The academic buildings—the colleges and the high schools—were all so picturesque!

The high school grounds looked like a cross between a park and a garden. Towering trees dominated the side of the building. In the front was a circular driveway, with a fountain in the middle. Rose bushes lined the driveway. The fountain in the middle was marble. In the middle of the fountain was a marble statue of a tennyo, with flowing robes and hair. She was holding up her hands and the water shot from her hands, into the air back into the fountain.

"I've always liked that fountain," Annika admitted as the shuttle suddenly came to a halt in front of the double doors.

Sango opened the door to the shuttle and hopped out, Ayame following close behind. I hesitated before I followed them out.

Students were already heading into the double doors of the high school. Most of them were in pairs, some in groups. But they all had one thing in common—they were all laughing loudly, anticipating what the new school year would bring. I inwardly sighed. I wondered what this year would bring. Would it be my stepping stone to success, as my mom often said it would be? Or would it just lead to me being ostracised?

"Kagome?" Sango's voice snapped me out of my musings.

"Huh?" I blinked. She, Annie and Ayame were already at the doors, waiting expectantly for me. "Coming!"

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Calculus was the first subject of the day, a subject that I'd had slight difficulty with in our old school. The moment the girls and I walked in through the doors, everyone was suddenly quiet, their eyes glued on us...on me. I gulped as we walked in, Ayame nudging me encouragingly forward.

The room was white, and brightly lit. It was air-conditioned, and the desks were just like the desks we had at our old school, except that these desks were polished mahogany. There was an LCD projector just beside the blackboard and a coffee vending machine at the back of the room.

The students themselves were a mix of all races, human, demon, white, colored, Caucasian, Asian, you name it. They were still staring as the girls and I took the four empty seats at the back, just in front of the coffee vendo.

"Ahem," Annika said pointedly, glaring at the whole room.

The students immediately resumed what they were doing before we came in—chattering. But this time, their chatter was mingled with whispers, whispers that I chose to wisely ignore. I didn't have to ignore them for long, however. Several moments later, the sliding door to the room slid open and, to my surprise, everyone in the room (except the guys) started screaming as the Elite waltzed right in.

Kouga, Inuyasha and Miroku came in. Miroku and Kouga were grinning from ear to ear as girls immediately began giggling. Inuyasha, however, looked grouchy. They took their seats in the center of the room (figures) and immediately several guys engaged them in conversation.

I watched as the girls tried to pull their attention away from the guys' talk of sports and cars. "Is it always like this?" I asked.

Annie sighed. "Oh, yes," she said. "Acting like a bunch of babbling baboons over three boys...ew. Where on earth is there dignity?"

"Where's Sesshoumaru?" I asked.

"He's in his first year of college," Annika said. "He would've been in his second year, if he hadn't skipped because of some trouble with diplomacy abroad, or something."

I was quiet now, staring at the group of popular boys in the middle of the room. One of the girls suddenly tried to touch Inuyasha's ear, and he once again ducked to avoid her probing fingers. I let out a small chuckle. Suddenly—maybe he heard me?—he turned his head towards me. Through the gap between people's arms, his golden eyes found mine.

His eyes widened in shock as a flash of recognition crossed his face. I felt my cheeks burn. He blinked at me and muttered a single word that, because of the din of the other students' chatter, I didn't hear. He narrowed his eyes at me, and my cheeks burned even further. He suddenly turned his attention away from me, and looked at the front of the room.

What...was that...about?

"Something bothering you, Kagome?" Ayame asked. She scraped back her chair. She was holding a cup of steaming mocha, straight from the vendo.

I shook my head. "It's nothing."

"Look, here comes Ms. Tsuruga," Annika said, nodding towards the doorway. A stern woman suddenly entered the sliding doors. She was obviously a demoness. She had on a pale lavender suit. Her eyes were coal black, as was her hair. Her pointed ears stuck out from her coal black hair which fell to her back in gently waves.

"You'd want to watch out for her," Annika warned. "She can't stand students who hate numbers."

"Quiet!" Ms. Tsuruga snapped, rapping on the blackboard with a thin long metallic rod.

I gulped. I was lucky that I could hold my own in Calculus.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Calculus flashed by with just one incident—Ms. Tsuruga had asked me, as the newcomer, to stand up and introduce myself to the class.

Blushing I had stood up, said my name, and immediately sat back down. Several seats in front of me, that boy, Inuyasha, gave me another perplexed look. What was with him?

Ms. Tsuruga didn't give us much to do, saying that we should enjoy this day of freedom as tomorrow, I quote: "All hell shall officially begin." Unquote.

The next two classes—physics and history—pretty much went along the same vein as Calculus. Only the Elite weren't in our classes. I think Annie was sort of grateful for that. I was also getting used to the staring. Though they stared, I hadn't heard them say anything about me, which was a relief.

"What's the next class?" Ayame asked, groaning, as we entered the cafeteria (which resembled the interior of a five-star restaurant).

We sat at a table near a picture window that had a view of the high school grounds. The table was set for four, and already there were covered dishes on it.

"Chem," Sango said, as she opened one of the covered dishes. She closed her eyes and sniffed appreciatively. "Baked oysters—I feel better now." She opened all the other dishes, and I saw that it was a full course—an appetizer of a salad, the name of which I didn't know, and the main course, which was beef in a rich creamy sauce.

I was self-conscious as we ate. Annika, Ayame and Sango all sat upright, and they were using their forks to eat the salad. The way they sat, the way they handled their food was all reminiscent of highly polished table etiquette. I became even more self-conscious as I picked up my fork, wondering if this was the right one as I dug into my salad.

"Kagome," Annika said, her eyes on my fork, her tone serious. "That's your meat fork."

I flushed, set it down and picked up another one. "Ignore her," Sango said, grinning. She was sitting beside Annie, across from me. She nudged Annie lightly with her shoulder. "You want to know something, Kagome? Ayame and I had no idea which fork to use on the first day here—we learned all our table etiquette from Annie."

Annika rolled her eyes and her mouth twitched slightly. "Someone had to teach you manners," Annika muttered. I watched, amazed, as she easily ensnared a lone pea with her fork in one fluid motion.

"Of course," Ayame muttered. "You Brits are always so meticulous about etiquette." Her tone was sarcastic.

"I take that as a compliment."

I hesitated. "Um, don't you guys use chopsticks?" I asked, the question for Ayame and Sango.

Sango shrugged. "Occasionally." She gestured towards a gleaming metal cone at the end of the table, near the window. There were chopsticks in it. "You can, if you want to."

"Never mind," I said, sighing. The food served today would not do for the chopsticks. I sighed again as I tried to eat my salad, this time with the right fork.

"Speaking of the devil!" We were all startled when a loud, gruff voice suddenly boomed from behind Annie and Sango, making us all jump in our seats.

"You...numbskull!" Annie shrieked, her voice sharp even though she was coughing from the food. An arm suddenly slung itself around Annie and Sango's shoulders.

"Hello, ladies!" I looked up, my eyes popping. Kouga's face loomed over between Annie and Sango's, his lean muscular arms gripping each of their shoulders. Whoa—Kouga, one of the Elite?

"Ko-Kouga!" Ayame stuttered, her eyes popping in surprise.

"Yo!" Kouga said, grinning at her.

"Let go of us, you baboon!" Annika snapped as she and Sango shrugged off his arms.

"Always so cranky eh, Duchess?" Kouga teased, that annoying grin still on his face. He glanced behind him, at a table where three girls were staring at him like they'd never seen a man before. "Mind if I grab this?" he asked, still grinning, his hand on the back of an empty chair.

The girls giggled and shook their heads. Kouga smirked at them, pulled the chair over to our table, between Annika and Sango, and sat down. My eyebrows shot up in surprise. Annika glared sideways at him, Sango let out a sigh of annoyance, and Ayame just blinked, her eyes fixed on him. There was a subtle crimson tinge just beneath her cheeks.

"Can't you see we're eating?" Annika snapped, setting her fork down.

"Eat away, Duchess," Kouga said, shrugging.

"I can't eat when I'm disgusted," Annika pointed out.

Kouga grinned. "That's why I'm here."

I glanced from Annika to Kouga and then to Sango. I thought that Annika, Ayame and Sango were just Everybodies, so—why was one of the Elite mingling casually with them?

That was when Kouga's eyes snapped to me for the first time. He blinked. "Huh? Who're you?" he asked, his tone bored.

I felt annoyed at the pompous arrogance in his voice. "I'm Higurashi Kagome."

"Higu—what?" he said, raising an eyebrow.

I felt my eyes narrowing at him. Yeesh—no wonder Annika had such a pinched expression on her face! The boy sitting across from was as courteous as a hyena!

"You've got ears, I'm sure you heard," I said, trying to control the annoyance.

"Oooh," Kouga said, rolling his eyes. "A smart one! So lemme guess—you're the charity case people have been talking about all day, right?"

All day? The thought was pushed aside by the annoyance building up inside me.

"And you're Kouga, Heir to the Eastern Lands, self-proclaimed heartthrob, annoying hyena, clueless moron—correct?" I snapped, before I could shut my mouth. I glared at him.

Kouga blinked, staring at me, his expression surprised. Annika and the others glanced at me, their mouths slightly open. I take it that no one ever talked that way to Kouga before. No, no one talked that way to one of the Elite before. I suddenly felt the tension in the air, tension coming from Annika, Sango and Ayame, as though they expected Kouga growl at me.

Kouga blinked again and his surprised expression changed back to an easy grin. "You're kinda cute when you're angry," he stated. The entire cafeteria suddenly went quiet.

My eyes bugged out and my mouth hung open. "What?" I snapped. I was suddenly aware of the silence in the cafeteria, a silence as still as the grave. I could feel all eyes glued on me and Kouga.

Kouga winked. "You've got ears, I'm sure you heard," he said, grinning tauntingly.

I felt myself blushing in annoyance. "Why, you...!" I hated it when people threw my own words back at me! I consciously picked up my fork, glaring at him.

"Careful!" Kouga said, suddenly sweeping back his chair and standing up. "You've got The Potential." His grin widened.

Whispers suddenly buzzed around the room like a swarm of hornets.

"Whoa—did you hear that?" a guy from the next table shouted for all the world to hear. "The scholar's got The Potential!"

"Oh Em Gee!" a girl squeaked. "To think that that charity case would have The Potential!"

I blinked. The what?

"Now, what's all the commotion about?" a gruff but cultured voice said above the din.

The noise gradually died down. I looked past Kouga, towards the double doors of the cafeteria, through which two figures strolled through. I had no trouble recognizing the main of silver hair of one of them—Inuyasha.

He and Miroku stopped at the doorway and glanced over at us. I froze. There it was again—that look of familiarity and uneasiness when he momentarily glanced my way. It vanished a second later, however, when both he and Miroku strode towards our table.

"Kouga, how could you bother these lovely, lovely ladies?" Miroku said, grinning down at us. "Hello, Sango—you look lovely today, as usual." I could swear I saw his teeth gleam like in the commercials for toothpaste.

Sango raised an eyebrow and I saw her lower lip jut out. "Pft, whatever," she said, rolling her eyes.

Miroku continued to grin as though she had found his compliment amusing, instead of annoying. "Well, Kouga—what're you waiting here for? We'll be late for the next class." He flashed another Casanova grin at Sango, who only rolled her eyes.

"I'll be seeing you around, Kagome," Kouga said and, to my embarrassment, he winked at me.

I blushed and pouted as they walked away, leaving behind a trail of astonishment that silenced the cafeteria. The moment the double doors swung shut behind the trio, the room started buzzing with chatter—all centered on what had just happened.

"Whoa—did you guys see that? Kouga hit on the charity case!"

"No! What does he see in her?"

"This can't be happening, can it?"

"Maybe it's just a fleeting fancy? You know, the same way we all find new gadgets fascinating?"

A gadget? They were comparing me to a gadget? I blushed. In the first place, I didn't want Kouga's attention! I was about to snap at the boy at the next table who was throwing snide glances our way, when I suddenly noticed it.

"Ayame?" I asked, blinking. "Are you alright? You seem troubled."

Ayame's eyebrows met in the center, and her eyes were lowered to her plate of half-eaten food. Her hand, which was resting beside her plate, was clenched ever so gently. At the sound of her name, however, she quickly looked up, and her troubled expression vanished.

"Me? Oh, I'm fine," she said, grinning—a little too unconvincingly, I couldn't help but notice. She took a sip of water—a little too hastily, I noted. She set down her glass. "Well, whaddya know?" she went on cheerfully as she pushed back her chair. "C'mon guys—we don't wanna be late for chem now, do we?"

From the peripheral of my vision, I saw Sango exchange a look with Annika. Something was bothering Ayame, and she wasn't being honest about it.

/.\./.\./.\./.\

The chem lab momentarily drove Ayame's troubled expression from my mind as we entered the room. The walls were a dirty white color. The west wall was covered entirely with rows of silver lockers, with electronic keypads on each. The east wall was covered with shelf upon shelf of chemicals, each labelled accordingly. Beside the shelf of chemicals, there were fume hood where the more toxic chemicals were stored. In the front of the room was a platform, where the teacher's table stood. Behind the teacher's table was an immaculate whiteboard. The tables in the room were built for two. The tops of the tables were made of polished granite. Unlike the other classrooms, this one wasn't air-conditioned, though.

The room was already filled with students. I blinked when I noticed that they were all standing near the teacher's table. The moment we walked in, all eyes zeroed in on us...on me. I inwardly cringed. What was that look in their eyes? It certainly wasn't there this morning.

I was about to settle down at a table when Annie stopped me. "We have to wait for Ms. Blanche before we get a table," she explained, pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose. "You see, she assigns us all lab partners for the entire year."

"Oh," I said simply. I stood up. I was about to follow them to the front of the room, when I hesitated. The other students—demon and human alike—were all looking at me. Some of them looked puzzled, others looked accusatory.

"I'm guessing news spreads fast here, huh?" I said, looking down as I followed behind Sango.

"Oh, just ignore them," Sango said. "They're just a bit shocked about Kouga, that's all. He's never really shown that much interest in any of the girls, you see. They're just surprised."

At that moment, the door to the lab slid open and in walked the Elite. The moment they walked in, the girls began giggling behind us, and nudging each other. Inuyasha, Miroku and Kouga walked in as though they owned the place. Miroku and Kouga walked in front, while Inuyasha walked behind them, in the middle. Eh...a wedge formation?

Kouga suddenly glanced in our direction, and his eyes lit up when he saw me. I flushed as he broke rank and strode towards me, leaving a confused Miroku and Inuyasha in his wake.

"Hey there, sweet," Kouga told me, grinning. "Hm...I didn't expect to see you again so soon—you must miss me that much, eh?"

The room suddenly went very quiet, so I could hear the blood rushing to my cheeks. Urgh! He was such a...a jerk!

"My name isn't 'sweet'," I snapped, glaring.

He winked. "Should I call you 'cute', then? You're pretty cute when you're annoyed." The gaggle of girls behind us began buzzing again, and even several of the boys craned their necks to get a good look at my reaction.

I blushed again, and I felt my eyebrow twitching. For an instant, I forgot that I was addressing the young lord of the Northern lands, forgot that I was just a commoner. In that instant, I did something I rarely did before—I blew up.

"You...you..." I stuttered. "You obnoxious buffoon!"

There was a collective gasp from the room. Even Annika, Ayame and Sango looked at me, surprised. Inuyasha's eyes flickered towards me, and then back to Kouga. Miroku looked amused, an easy grin spreading across his face.

"That's why I like ya," Kouga said and—to my astonishment—he slung an arm around my shoulder, drawing me close to him. I felt myself fall sideways against his chest. My cheeks burned even hotter than before. "You're not like the other girls here—they're so boring."

"What?" a random girl shouted.

"Boring?"

"Kouga! How could you? I got these extensions and nose job for you!"

"Boring...me?"

"How could you call us boring?"

"What's all this racket about?" a sharp voice snapped.

Everyone froze as a woman in a black suit and white lab coat strode into the room. She was a human with short black hair that reached just below her earlobes and curving to her cheek. Her bangs were straight, touching her eyebrows. Her eyes were brown, sharp, and they were narrowed at us.

"How dare you behave like a pack of hyenas in my laboratory?" she snapped. Her accent was...French? I couldn't be sure. Her eyes zeroed in on me and Kouga, and I realized that his arm was still slung across my shoulders. "I do not tolerate public displays of affection," she snapped at us. "If you're that impatient, find a room."

My eyes widened as I shrugged Kouga's arm off my shoulder. The professor narrowed her eyes at us all once more. From the periphery of my vision, I saw Inuyasha and Miroku stand by Kouga.

The professor nodded, satisfied that we were all in line. "Good afternoon. As you all may not know, I am Ms. Blanche. You may call me Ms., or professor, or professor Blanche. I do not like idiots making fun of this subject. You are to treat this subject with more respect than your parents. This lab is sacrosanct. Treat it like you would treat your temples—with dignity and respect. Understood?"

There was a collective murmur of acquiescence from the class. She nodded again, satisfied. "Those lockers over there have an electronic keypad in which you can enter your password to get your necessary lab supplies—they are by partner, so you will have to wait until I assign you a partner to open your lockers."

The atmosphere suddenly tensed. It was the same kind of tension that arose when a predator was about to pounce on his unsuspecting prey. I had a shrewd suspicion that the tension was due to the girls wanting to be partners with one of the Elite.

Kouga suddenly looked my way and grinned. I cringed. Hell no! I will NOT be partners with him! I'd rather skip the lab—despite how interesting it would be—than be partners with that annoying wolf!

Ms. Blanche pulled out an envelope from the pocket of her lab coat. "We will be drawing partners," she announced. She momentarily scanned the room and frowned. "Hm, late, eh?" she muttered. "Anyway, I will call you all one by one to draw lab partners. You will be best friends in this lab for a whole year, so work together! Hm...and as to whether or not you draw out someone you don't like...well, that's your problem."

Can this woman read my mind? I glanced uneasily at Kouga to see him still grinning at me. I cringed and looked away from him. Beside me, I heard Ayame let out a long sigh.

"So, Hirogata, you first!" Ms. Blanche said, holding out the envelope.

An athletic boy with black hair and eyes approached and drew from the envelope a slip of pink paper. He read it. "Donnel," he announced.

"Oh, man," a girl with pigtails said. "And I wanted Inuyasha." She sighed as she and Hirogata were assigned a table my Ms. Blanche.

"Taijiya!" Ms. Blanche announced.

Sango's eyebrows shot up as she approached Ms. Blanche. She drew out a slip of paper, and an annoyed look crossed her eyes. "Houshi," she said, visibly irked.

Several girls groaned as Miroku grinned and, together with Sango, walked towards a table in the center of the room. Annika, Ayame, and I glanced at each other...or rather, Annika and I shared a look. Ayame avoided my eyes. Eh?

Several more names were called, but I wasn't paying attention. Why did Ayame deliberately avoid my eyes? Was there something wrong? Or am I just being paranoid?

"Yorozoku!" Ms. Blanche thundered.

The blood froze in my veins as Kouga jumped in front of Ms. Blanche. "Oooh!" several girls gasped.

"Higurashi, Higurashi!" Kouga said loudly as he drew out a slip of paper. I could feel the sharp glares of the girls in the room.

I cringed. One of these days, I swore, I was going to stuff hydrochloric acid down his throat! "The nerve," I growled, turning to Ayame. "Is he always like this?"

"No." I blinked. Her tone was perfunctory, and she didn't look at me when she answered. Was something wrong?

"Drats!" Kouga's voice snapped me out of my musings. "Ayame." He glanced at Ayame, who blinked in surprise. "Ah well—can't be lucky all the time."

Ayame blushed as she and Kouga took the table near the window. "At least you're cute," Kouga muttered, which made Ayame's cheeks burn. Hm...

"It's just you and me, Kagome," Annika said. I glanced around. She must've meant among the four of us, because there were still several girls and boys standing around us...and Inuyasha. He was standing beside Annika, giving off an aura of pure impatience.

"Taisho!" Ms. Blanche called.

The remaining girls squealed as Inuyasha drew out a slip of paper. "Me, me, me!" a girl beside me said. She was actually crossing her fingers.

"Back off, Shira, he's mine!" another finger-crossing girl said.

"Dream on, the two of you!" another huffed.

"Higurashi." The gruff voice suddenly silenced the other voices.

I blinked. Inuyasha was looking at me with a disbelieving and exasperated look on his face. What was with this guy?

"What?" a girl snapped.

"No way!"

"First Kouga, now Inuyasha? You gotta be kidding me!"

I felt my cheeks burning as I approached Inuyasha and he led me to a table near the window. I sat in the chair next to the window and he sat right next to me. I could feel him tense beside me, as though he didn't like the thought of being next to me.

"What's your problem?" I muttered under my breath.

"What?" he asked in that gruff but cultured voice of his.

My eyes flicked to his dog ears. Drats. I'd forgotten that he had sharp hearing. His ear suddenly twitched in annoyance. Somehow, despite my annoyance, I found this funny. I let out a giggle.

"What's so funny?" he snapped.

"Nothing," I sniggered, forgetting my agitation.

Before Inuyasha could say another word, Ms. Blanche's voice cut across the room. "Westerholme!"

I'd almost forgotten about Annie. I looked at her. Only she and two girls were left without partners. Hm...would that mean that one of the girls would have no partner, or would there be a group of three?

Annika seemed to be thinking the same thing, because she had a puzzled look on her face as she drew out a slip of paper. Several tendrils of hair had escaped from her bun, caressing her neck. This only added to the confused and puzzled look she wore as she read the name on the paper.

"Taisho S.?" Annika muttered aloud. Her eyes darted to Inuyasha. There was only one Taisho in the room, wasn't there...?

The door to the lab suddenly slid open, and all pandemonium was unleashed. The girls in the room suddenly stood up and screamed in excitement, their eyes widening and popping open.

"NO WAY!" they screamed in unison.

I stood up to get a good view. My eyes popped in surprise. Sesshoumaru Taisho walked calmly between the aisle, oblivious to the screaming girls on either side of him. His eyes were cold and impassive, not glancing once at the girls who tried to catch his attention with their blood-curdling shrieks.

Sesshoumaru's eyes were colder than ever, and his mouth was set in a thin line, which made me believe that he found all the screaming annoying. I blinked. He wasn't wearing the same black uniform as the other guys—his uniform was white, with black lining. But, somehow, the white of the uniform and the paleness of his skin contrasted ever so slightly, and I understood why all the girls in the room were screaming their hearts out—frankly, saying that he was handsome was a complete understatement.

"Lord Taisho," Ms. Blanche said. "You're late." Not only did she address him with more respect and dignity, she also used the honorific. Hm...what made him so special, anyway?

Sesshoumaru tilted his head slightly to acknowledge her words. "Well," Ms. Blanche said, gesturing towards Annie, who only looked at Sesshoumaru with a look akin to...annoyance? I inwardly chuckled. I guess our group had a thing for being annoyed with the Elite. "Lord Taisho, this is your lab partner, Ms. Westerholme."

"No fair!" a girl shrieked.

"Four Eyes'll bore him to death!" another added.

Annie glared at the girls before she made her way past Sesshoumaru and towards the table behind Inuyasha and me. She sat down behind us, right next to the window, which she glared at. She was so absorbed with glaring at the window, that she didn't even look up when Sesshoumaru sat down gracefully next to her.

Inuyasha glanced behind his shoulder, at Sesshoumaru. "What the hell are you doing here?" he asked his elder brother.

"I am not obligated to answer you." Sesshoumaru's voice was like cold velvet, with a note of finality.

Inuyasha scoffed, then glanced back towards the front, where Ms. Blanche was handing out the security passwords to the lockers. I sighed as I let my thoughts drift. People were starting to criticize me already, for being a charity case, for being Kouga's current 'interest' and, now, because I was partnered with Inuyasha.

Yeesh, how unlucky can a girl get?

/.\./.\./.\./.\

"I seem to be getting unluckier with each passing subject," I said, sighing, after chemistry had ended and we were on our way to literature.

Annika, Ayame, Sango and I were the last ones to leave the room. Kouga had lagged behind, claiming that he wanted to walk with me to our next class. He'd relented when I gave him a look that could've melted ice.

"It'll pass, you'll see," Sango reassured.

"Even Kouga?" I wondered aloud.

Annie shrugged. "Perhaps," she said, nodding. "Maybe he just finds you refreshing, that's all. It'll pass, I think."

"I'm just lucky I wasn't paired with him in the lab," I said, sighing with relief. "I think I'd have to skip the subject everyday even if it meant failing it."

"Miroku's such a nuisance," Sango muttered. "Always talking to the girls beside us. You should've seen the look on Brian McKinley's face when his girlfriend, Ruri, started flirting with that womanizing idiot!"

We laughed. "How about you, Annie?" I asked. Even though Annie and Sesshoumaru were right behind Inuyasha and I, I still wanted to know. I'll admit that Sesshoumaru's silent demeanor sort of intimidated me, and I wondered if the same applied to Annie.

Annie chuckled, though it didn't reach her eyes. "I don't like him," she declared.

We stopped and stared at her. She shrugged. "He may be quiet, but he's got this 'I am-better-than-you-you-worthless-piece-of-filth' aura."

"You think he's arrogant?" I asked as we resumed walking. "But he didn't even say anything."

Annie shrugged. "What about you, Ayame?" I asked, smiling at her.

Ayame was looking ahead as she answered. "Kouga kept staring at you the whole while," she said. There was a funny note in her voice. "He kept trying to persuade me to tell him all about you—where you lived, what you liked, boyfriends you've had, and so on. It was annoying." Her voice was suddenly filled with bitter humor. "I told him to stalk you, just to get him off my back, actually."

As Annika and Sango threw glances at each other, I suddenly felt uneasiness welling up inside me. "Ayame...are you alright?" I asked.

She increased her pace so she walked ahead of us. Dread suddenly took hold of me as the suspicion I've held since the lab began suddenly sunk in. She liked Kouga, didn't she? And she was...jealous? Oh, man. This could not be happening. I cannot possibly be making an enemy out of my new friend on the first day of school!

I felt Sango nudge me gently forward and I walked faster so I kept up with Ayame. "Ayame, hold on," I said, grabbing her arm. She stopped, her back still to me. "What's wrong?" I asked, despite already knowing. "You've been a bit...moody since lunch."

Ayame sighed. And then she pulled her arm away from me. "Just leave me alone, Kagome, won't you?" she said. My eyes widened when I realized how helpless she sounded.

"Can't we talk?" I pleaded. "Please. It's...it's about Kouga, isn't it?"

She suddenly spun around, her fiery hair swaying almost dramatically past her face. Her eyes were hard. "I said leave me alone!" she snapped. I suddenly felt her demonic aura rise, and my eyes widened even further. Several students nearby stared at us. "Just leave me alone, won't you?" Ayame's voice rose in pitch, and I took a step back.

"Ayame!" There wasn't only accent in Annika's voice—there was something else. I couldn't figure it out, but whatever it was, it made Ayame widen her eyes in realization and surprise.

Ayame's demonic aura slowly faded away, and she slowly lowered her eyes to the ground. "A...yame?" I said hesitantly, still shocked from her temper.

"It's not fair," she whispered, her voice strained. She suddenly looked up at me, her eyes filled with tears. "It's just not fair!" She suddenly whipped around and ran across the hall, her fiery hair bouncing behind her. Several people turned to stare at me.

"Ayame, wait!" I shouted.

But she was gone.

/.\./.\./.\./.\

A1969: That's it for now.
Inuyasha: that was it?
A1969: hey! When did you get in here?
Inuyasha: I was here the whole time, stupid.
Kagome: actually, we just got here.
A1969: O.O oh well...the more the merrier, right? Haha! Anyway, I'm sure you've noticed, I sort of used the Japanese for what they are for the surnames. Like Sango Taijiya. 'Taijiya', as all those IY fans know by now, means 'slayer' or 'exterminator'. Sorry, I just couldn't make up any Japanese surnames, at the moment. Oh, and please don't forget to review!