Obligatory Disclaimer: I clearly do not own any of the characters within (even those who may or may not be originals), any of the settings, concepts, or other potentially copy-written works within this piece. I am merely a vessel; A messenger who conveys a story, nothing more, nothing less.

WARNINGThe following fictional work contains content of an explicit nature which may be too much for certain readers. If you are under the age of 16 or highly sensitive to extreme violence, it is not recommended that you read this. If you are easily bothered by death, blood, gore, general violence, or other such highly detailed scenes it is not recommended that you read this. If you fall within any of this warning, please click the back button on your browser NOW.


The young woman coughed as she walked, her footsteps echoing in the darkness. Reaching up with one hand, Kagome pulled her coat closer around herself while attempting to balance a paper bag of groceries and her purse in the other. She let out a slow breath, the heat condensing into a thick cloud that chilled and warmed her at the same time as she moved through it. Her eyes stayed on the path ahead, never looking out among the semi-empty and quiet street.

Suddenly, she came to a halt, pausing in the dim moonlight before taking a deep breath and making a run to pass by the dark depths of another alley. It wasn't that she was afraid of the dark, per se, but that she was terrified of possibilities. When she made it to the other side, crossing into the hazy, yellow light of a street lamp - one of the few on the street - she let out a sigh of relief. She was almost there, almost home; she would be safe then. Her feet carried her without her even compelling them to do so, as if her body was ready for the warm safety of her apartment, too.

Her pulse sped slightly at the concept of the danger around her. This wasn't a horrible neighborhood, but it was older and there were less people out, particularly so late at night. Being alone was proving to be difficult and she honestly couldn't say that she would mind if her mother asked her to return home. Going back to those days of childish innocence, when days were always sunny and nights were always balmy, was just a fantasy, of course, and she realized this and had to face the facts.

Her face fell into a frown and she paused in her movements. The air had chilled greatly. She looked up just as the first few rain droplets fell from a cloud-covered night sky.

"Just great." She muttered, rushing quickly for her apartment building and pushing her code to open the lock. It beeped once, and the light went red. She rolled her eyes and repeated the action only to get the same response. Trying one more time, and ignoring the little voice in her mind that reminded her of the definition of insanity, she let out a scream as it once more denied her access.

As the rain picked up she decided to try one last thing before getting irritated and calling her mother to come pick her up. With slight hesitation, she reached down and opened the door. The lock clicked free, and she let out a heavy sigh. The door had been broken for some time, according to residents, and despite them all putting in work orders it never seemed to function properly. Either way, she was inside and that was all that mattered now.

She went up the stairs, giving a nod to "Keyhole Man" in apartment four as she passed, knowing he was watching her. He watched everyone. No one was entirely sure why or even who he really was. All they knew was that he was an elderly man. She assumed he must be lonely.

When she finally reached her apartment, number eight, she reached into her pocket to fish out her keys only to have the bottom of her bag fall out at that moment. Letting out a cry, she knelt down, gathering her things and sighing as she picked up her carton of eggs. One of them had smashed. She heard a door click from behind her and turned to see her neighbor coming over to help her out, giving a smile as he assisted.

Miroku was a kind person, if not a bit of a flirt, but he was loyal to his long time fiancée Sango, despite his flirtatious ways. "How have you been?" He asked, trying to make polite conversation in light of the situation.

Kagome shrugged. "As good as ever, I suppose. How was that job interview you went to the other day?"

"Nothing so far," He said with a sigh. "I'm afraid I may have to move out if nothing opens up. I can't keep making the payments with odd jobs; they just aren't paying enough."

She nodded in understanding, taking up a few more of her items only to stop as the sound of someone coming up the stairs filled the stairwell. Kagome reached out to take up a few more of her things, trying her best to get them out of the way. "I'm sorry! This will take just a few more moments! I…"

Her jaw dropped as a foot crushed her strawberry Pocky as its owner continued his way up the stairs, ignoring her entirely. Her face soured, and she frowned, taking up her abused candy and glaring where he had gone. "Mr. Grumpypants" as Kagome liked to call him, lived up in apartment twelve. He appeared to be a professional of some sort, as far as she could tell. Always dressed well and always in a hurry, she barely even knew him except by reputation. Other than "Keyhole Man", he was the creepiest person in the building.

He was certainly the meanest. She let out a sigh and reached up to open the door to her apartment, allowing Miroku to help her bring her things in before going back out to clean up the spilled egg. At least they were moderately decent men. She was sure that if there was ever trouble Miroku would come running and "Keyhole Man" might just call the police. "Mr. Grumpypants" would file a complaint with the apartment manager saying she was disrupting his peace. She decided that she'd had enough of thinking of the strange people she shared an apartment building with.

Bidding farewell to Miroku, she meticulously locked the several varieties of home security she had. A chain, sliding home with satisfaction, a bolt, turning with a sound thunk, and the lock on the door itself, of course, giving a peaceful click that signified she was home at last, safe and sound.

With a yawn and a stretch, Kagome padded across her apartment, putting away her food as the rain began to pitter-patter against her window and create a peaceful environment for her to enjoy. She made her dinner and took a long, luxurious bubble bath while listening to her mp3 player play her favorite tunes. Soon enough, it was time for bed, and she went through the house, turning everything off to assure she wasn't being wasteful before climbing into her bed and curling up.

Her eyes fluttered closed as the rain intensified outside, thrashing wind and sheets of water against her window in a rhythmic pattern. This accompanied by her music, helped her to feel less alone in the empty apartment, and soon she was fast asleep.

Lightning struck hard, shaking the building, and Kagome shot up out of bed, her heart racing as she took a few deep breaths. Her skin was covered in sweat, clothes clinging to her chilled flesh. She reached up to run a hand through her hair. The mp3 player selected the next song and she frowned, staring down at it for a moment before giving a shrug. It wasn't supposed to repeat so she couldn't have been asleep very long.

Getting up, she reached down to scratch at her stomach absently before walking to the bathroom and taking a drink. With a sigh, she came out of the bathroom, turning to head back to her bed when the lightning crashed, thrusting the dark apartment into light once more. The hairs on the back of her neck stood as she swallowed and turned to look into the gaping wide emptiness of her door.

She stood there for a few moments, unsure what to do. Hadn't she locked the door? An uneasy feeling grew in her stomach as she walked over to the doorway. Her eyes attempted to adjust to the darkness, but she found it difficult to see. Why wasn't the stairwell light on?

With a frown, she reached for the light switch to her living room, flipping the switch. For a few moments she simply stood there in the darkness, confusion playing in her mind as she tried to figure out what was going on. Thunder rumbled and when the light filled the room she noticed that there was no one on the stairs before her. Giving out a sigh, she frowned. Perhaps she had forgotten to lock it? She was pretty sure she had remembered.

Looking down, she noticed her emergency flashlight was still plugged into the wall. With a nod, she took it up and stood, fiddling with the switch and trying to get it to operate. Just as she managed to get it to light a scream came from downstairs. Kagome's heart skipped a beat and for a moment she stood, frozen and unsure what to do. A door upstairs slammed open with a smack and she heard the heavy knocking as someone ran down the stairs.

When he got to her, he paused, looking down at her and taking the flashlight from her hands, before continuing down the stairs in a rush. Kagome frowned, following him and feeling a mixture of anger and confusion dancing around in her mind. She had never seen "Mr. Grumpypants" move so quickly. Yeah, he was usually fast, but not that fast.

When she finally reached the bottom of the stairwell and made her way down the marble entry towards apartment one, the manager's apartment, she noticed that he was kneeling there before a young child. Rin, the manager's young granddaughter, was crying into his chest as he held her, staring into the darkness of the apartment.

He stood, lifting the child in his arms, and Kagome momentarily felt bad for calling him "Mr. Grumpypants" all this time. He seemed so caring with the girl. She followed him, unsure what else to do and feeling slightly secure in his presence, as he entered the apartment. Kagome watched him as he moved, almost animal-like in his shorts and a wife-beater, hair loose from its usual tie. She had to admit, he was actually rather gorgeous to look at when he wasn't scowling.

The thunder crashed outside once more, causing the child in his arms let out a cry and dig deeper into his chest. He entered a small room, filled with stuffed animals and porcelain dolls. A small motion lamp in the corner was still operating, splashing the small space with dashes of colorful butterflies and flowers and filling the room with a soothing sound. For living in such a small place in a less affluent part of town, it was a very nice room. It had a cozy and lazy feel to it that was soothing.

He tucked the child in bed, checking the room thoroughly. He looked under the bed, in the closet, picking through the stuffed animals, assuring the window was locked… like a protective father he made sure that Rin was safe before he returned to her side and placed a reassuring hand on her head. No words were spoken, but the child seemed to understand and nodded, turning to go back to sleep.

When they left the room, closing the door behind them, Kagome looked to him – she still wasn't sure what his name was. "Does she normally cry from thunderstorms?"

Kagome hadn't lived there long enough to know if this was a frequent pattern for the child. He stared at the open doorway of the apartment before going through the living area and checking all the rooms just as thoroughly as he had Rin's. He returned to Kagome's side, finally speaking for the first time that she had ever heard in her few months living in the apartment building. "Stay here. Do not leave Rin. If someone enters the apartment you are to go inside the room; close and lock the door behind you. Do not come out until I tell you otherwise. Understood?"

Her eyes widened and she nodded, suddenly feeling unsure of what was happening. Everything was so confusing, and she was having a hard time making sense of it all! Thunder rumbled and for a few moments the apartment stayed dark before light filled the area once more. Kagome stared hard at the front door, not sure who might come through.

When her neighbor returned he seemed both relaxed and concerned. He went over to the door and shut it quietly, locking the bolt firmly before returning to sit on the sofa, facing the front door. He gestured for Kagome to join him and she did, sitting in a chair near him. "What is going on?"

Her voice was shaky and it was clear she was still confused, not that he could blame her. He leaned back, staring at the door with an unusual expression. "I'm not entirely sure yet. Kaede is missing. Rin was left here and found herself alone. She woke because of the thunderstorm, clearly."

Kagome frowned. "Where did Kaede go?"

"I do not have the answer to that. However, I noticed a few things when we came down here." He shifted in his seat and pulled something out of his pocket, holding it up. A mini tape recorder, what did that have to do with anything? "I found this on Kaede's bed."

She felt an unusual heaviness fill her stomach. He sighed and pressed play, waiting as the tape snapped and rewound itself to play from the beginning. When it finally stopped a voice filled the room, raspy and clearly male.

"Welcome to the game! You are the first players selected to participate. This game will continue until one of the pre-determined plots has been chosen and completed through your actions as a character. The rules of this game are simple. At given intervals you will be allowed the option to continue the game, if you choose not to continue a penalty will be announced and you will have the choice to continue or accept the penalty. No cheating allowed! If it is not a part of your character, you may not use it unless given permission. Any person you come in contact with, aside from the child, automatically becomes part of the game from henceforward. You will have to return to this place and start from the beginning of the plot whenever a new player enters the game. If you do not comply with the rules, you will die. If you try to run away, the apartment manager and her granddaughter will die. Now then, on with the game! You will find an envelope in the microwave. Please open the envelope and retrieve the contents now. There will be a thirty second pause in this recording for you to do so."

Kagome frowned and stood, going to the kitchen and opening the microwave to find a manila envelope inside. She brought it back and opened it, revealing several sheets of paper and a twenty sided dice. The voice on the recording continued.

"Congratulations. You have obtained the dice and character sheets from the microwave. You have both leveled up. Please choose a character sheet to define yourself. Further instructions can be found on these sheets. Remember, that you must follow the rules of the game as set forth in this recording. If you do not, you will die. This is the end of this message."

For a few moments the empty sound of blank nothingness on the recording filled the living room with white noise before he pressed the stop button, setting the tape recorder down with a sigh. He leaned forward, running his hands through his hair, as if making a heavy decision.

"What are we going to do?" Kagome wondered out loud, still in shock from all of this. He stared at her in irritation, taking up the character sheets and staring down on them. She frowned and sat forward, eyes narrowing at him suspiciously. "You don't mean you are going through with this craziness! We have to call the police!"

His face twitched, and he stared back at the little girl's room behind him before giving another sigh. "Try if you like. It is unlikely that the phones work. My cellular was missing, as well, and the front entry – the only way in or out of the building, was closed off."

Her brow furrowed. "Closed off? What do you mean by that?"

As if he had no time for her questions, he handed the flashlight back to her. "See for yourself; just don't waste that for too long. We need to conserve the power as we don't know how long this is going to take."

She huffed, taking the flashlight and stomping over to the door, pausing with her hand just above the door knob. Her heart was pounding in her chest and her instincts gave the distinct alert that someone or something was on the other side of that door. Shivering, she turned on her heel, a wide, fake smile plastered to her face as she went over to him again, setting the flashlight down on the table. "Just tell me what you saw, please."

He didn't look at her, too busy perusing the documents, but gave a nod. "Someone has sealed the door off with cinder-block and cement."

She leaned back, rolling her eyes. "You have to have been seeing things. How could cement dry in such a short time anyway? It's only been a couple hours!"

He looked at her this time, raising an eyebrow curiously. "How do you know this?"

She pulled out her mp3 player, still running through her playlist, and held it up. "My mp3 player only has so much music on it. I don't have time to listen to more than this so I never see the point in putting more. I listen to it when I go to sleep. It had only about five hours of music on it – by the time I went to sleep more around four and a half – and when I woke up, just before Rin screamed, it was still playing. See, it's still playing!"

He held out his hand to her, waiting for her to give it to him, and after a sigh, she gave in. He examined it carefully before fiddling with the controls and shaking his head slightly. He handed it back to her. "I suggest you look through your playlist carefully before you come to any more conclusions."

She frowned. What was wrong with her playlist? Taking the mp3 player back, she quickly went through the menus to her playlist, staring down in horror. Her playlist had doubled. All of the songs were duplicated.

Someone had been in her apartment. In her room – messing with her things while she slept!

Her heart skipped a beat, and she suddenly found herself taking quick breaths as her brain tried to wrap around that information without including fear. It wasn't happening. When she started to hyperventilate a hand came over to rest on hers and she jumped until she saw that it was him, trying to comfort her. Tears welled in her eyes and began to drop down her face, one by one, as the sensation of having her personal space violated filled her completely.

"Kagome, I need you to calm down. You have to help me with this. We have to do this for Rin."

She sniffed, pausing in her fright at her wonder. He knew her name? They had never been introduced. "How… how do you know my name? I don't even know your name!" Fear gripped at her sanity, shaking it about like a rag doll as she considered that it was possible that he was the one behind all this. He seemed awfully calm, after all!

"Kaede told me your name before you even moved in. My name is Sesshomaru Fukuzawa. Here, choose one of these." He handed her the papers, taking one for himself and reading over it more thoroughly.

She took the papers, staring at him. Sesshomaru… she rolled the name around in her mind, trying to match it with his personality. It was rather fitting, really. He was almost ethereal, like a fairy tale creature or some kind of god in his appearance. His skin was smooth and pale, his hair a snowy white, and his eyes golden amber. She was sure most of those features were impossible to get through average human genetics.

"Focus, please." His voice came out firm and commanding but eerily calm, as if he was not afraid at all of the situation they were in. She let out a heavy breath, reaching up to wipe at the tears on her face before staring down at the pages. The first page read:

Rogue – a light armor, close combat melee professional that is limber and able to fend off most attacks. Deals moderate damage and has moderate abilities, armed with throwing daggers and a single dagger. Number of throwing daggers will be dependent on roll of dice.

She frowned and set that page aside, looking at the next.

Doctor – a support role that can wear cloth armor only, cannot deal much damage other than enough for basic self-defense. Strong logical thinker who has high skills in healing but if damaged will suffer greatly, has a medical bag and is armed with a baseball bat. Medical supplies will be dependent on roll of dice.

She raised an eyebrow, setting that aside and looking at the next one.

Shaman – between a doctor and a rogue, can only wear cloth armor but can deal more damage using a flamethrower. Strong critical thinker but low to moderate skills in healing. Fuel supply for flamethrower will be dependent on roll of dice.

With a sigh, she set that aside, looking at the next one.

Hunter – a light armor, ranged combat melee professional that uses a bow and arrows to attack. Useful in drawing attention of enemies or in dealing damage to assist the warrior but has lower health than a rogue and lower logic than a shaman. Arrow supply will be dependent on roll of dice.

Kagome looked at him curiously. "What did you choose?" She had never played games like this before.

"Warrior, it's a tank role. I'm the one who will take the most damage and deal with most of the problems along the way. I need you to choose a support role for now. I would suggest either doctor or shaman. We don't know how long this will last or if we want to include others yet so for now I will need the healing abilities you can provide."

She nodded, understanding and taking up the page for the doctor role. Letting out a deep breath, she settled back to read the page in more detail.

For the doctor, please roll the dice given and say the job class and number, out loud. She frowned, reaching for the dice without looking, only to have her hand bump into another. Looking up, she noticed Sesshomaru was also reaching for the dice. She blushed and gave a small bow, pulling back as he took up the dice and gave it a toss.

It rolled around on the table for a few moments before settling on a number. "Warrior, fourteen." Sesshomaru announced, sitting back and waiting.

A knock was heard at the front door, causing both to jump, and Sesshomaru rose, going to the door to peer out before slowly opening it. When he did, there was a cardboard box labeled "warrior" in the doorway. He looked around before pulling it in and closing the door. "No one was there."

Kagome felt a chill crawl up her spine. Who could be doing this? "What did you get?"

He opened the box to reveal a set of hand crafted armor, including a breast plate, a medium sized round shield, and a sword. "I would have preferred a gun, but this will have to do." He said as he felt the weight of the sword in his hands. It felt natural and easy to handle.

Kagome reached down, taking up the dice. "Should we try to see who is delivering the items?"

He nodded, moving the box out of the way before positioning himself by the door. She came to stand beside him, letting the die fall and watching as it rolled about before stopping. Her eyes widened. That couldn't be good. She swallowed hard, looking up at him with a worried expression.

Sesshomaru looked down at the die and sighed, eye twitching at her roll. She was beginning to be more trouble than she was worth. "Just go with it. Perhaps we can find more supplies later."

She nodded. "Doctor, one."

Laughter could be heard from somewhere – it seemed to be coming from everywhere. "A critical failure!"

Once again, someone knocked on the door, but this time Kagome reached down and yanked the door open, hiding behind it as Sesshomaru swung out with the sword, almost as if he had been using a sword his entire life. She waited and he stood there for a long while, not moving. "No one is here!"

She was surprised, both at his revelation and at the tone in his voice. He was clearly frustrated. Of course, she couldn't blame him. She couldn't understand how no one could be there. Going around, she looked down to see another cardboard box, this time labeled "doctor".

With a sigh, she hauled the box in, Sesshomaru closing the door behind her in irritation. Opening the box revealed a set of scrubs, a small plastic baseball bat, and a Hello Kitty plastic lunch box. When she looked inside the lunch box she found: a box of Hello Kitty themed bandages, a bottle of witch hazel, two rolls of gauze, a roll of medical tape, and a finger splint. Kagome sighed and looked at Sesshomaru with a sad expression. "Sorry."

He shrugged, pulling the armor on. "There is no reason to feel sorry. You have done nothing wrong. We are in an unusual situation that is beyond our control. I will not hold it against you. Just use those wisely."

She nodded as she pulled the scrubs on over her night clothes. They didn't do much but they did cover more skin. She only wished she had shoes. After they were properly outfitted the voice filled the living room once again.

"You will knock three times and step through the door to face your first challenge when you are ready. Once you have entered the room you may not leave until you have completed the task given to you. How much time you spend is irrelevant. You may eat, sleep, and other such tasks in the manager's apartment as needed."

Kagome looked to Sesshomaru for guidance, feeling unsuited for this entire situation. He seemed so grounded, and so certain as to what he would do, but when he reached up to knock on the door, he hesitated. He turned to stare at her for a few moments, the rain pouring in sheets outside, thunder rumbling in the distance. "I will do all I can to get us out of this."

Warmth spread through her and she gave a nod. "I trust you." She wasn't sure why she said that, but she knew it was true.

He knocked on the door three times before opening it and stepping through, Kagome following close behind. Both turned to look at Rin's room, hoping they were doing the right thing in leaving her behind. When they entered the darkness and closed the door behind them, suddenly they heard a lock click and knew they were stuck in here until they finished the given task.

A light came on, shining brightly and filling the room. Both stared in amazement as they were not in the entry lobby of the apartment building but were instead in what appeared to be a large warehouse full of… sand? The whole room was marked in squares of even sizes with spray paint save for a small area where they stood, right by the door. The voice came out of nowhere again.

"Welcome to your first challenge! Do you like the game minesweeper? I particularly enjoy it! Next to you there will be a bucket full of colorful flags. There are only enough red flags to mark areas which are certain doom. For this game, numbers will appear and inform you of where potential mines are located. Don't step on one or your game is over for good! You have three hours to complete this challenge and move on to the next part of the plot, enjoy!"

Kagome felt her stomach twist and she looked at Sesshomaru who seemed like he was ready to punch someone. She wished that was an easy way out of this. With a sigh she stepped forward, staring at the various squares near them. "I'll do this. You stay there."

He seemed surprised. "What do you mean? You can't…"

She cut him off, turning to glare at him. "What do you mean I can't? What have I done this whole time, Sesshomaru? Rely on you to handle this situation and for what? I can't expect you to expend yourself for this sick joke. You're too valuable to people – like Rin, who is depending on you even more than I am. I'm just some stupid girl who is too afraid to face what is happening."She turned away from him, staring down at the sand and took a step forward onto one of the squares. Both held their breath and waited as a screen in front of them revealed a number 4 in the space where Kagome stood and a number 2 in the upper left from where she stood.

She sniffed and thought carefully. "If that is two and this says four then these three…" She fished into the bucket of red flags on her arm and pulled out three, placing them carefully in the square directly in front of her, to her right, and in the upper right from where she stood.

"What about the fourth one?" Sesshomaru asked, a hint of concern in his voice. He would much rather she allow him to take on this burden.

"Don't know yet…" She said, her voice low in her concentration as she stepped onto the number 2 and practically did a dance in place. "Gotcha!"

On the screen it showed empty spaces nearly entirely around her. The space directly beneath her remained and diagonally below that was a 1. "If that is one and this is two, and that is four, then this must be it!" She stabbed a flag into the space beneath her before turning to look up two spaces ahead of her. There was a 3.

She went over to stand on the 3 and a space before her and the one diagonally to the left cleared up, a 2 appeared above the one to her left and a 6 appeared in the upper right of the one before her. She let out a slow breath and nodded, stabbing flags in the necessary places. This went on for hours, Kagome was finding each space trickier than the last and Sesshomaru was growing frustrated.

"Is there anything I can do?"

"I told you, no!" Kagome growled out, glaring at him as she wiped at the sweat on her brow. Finally, she finished placing all of her flags. "There!"

Nothing happened.

She frowned and stared at him, wondering what was up. "Perhaps you have to fully clear all squares." He said as he pointed to one directly by him. She sighed and followed the safe squares back to him, staring down on the uncleared space.

"I don't think I miscalculated. It wasn't as hard as the ones I play at the office…" She mumbled, a furrow forming in her brow. "Step back." He didn't appreciate being ordered around, going over to stand before the square defiantly. She gasped, reaching up as if to stop him. "Sesshomaru, no!"

"I'll trust you." Was all he said as he stepped forward onto the square. There was a crash and a heavy rumbling as the room filled with a white light. Kagome screamed, rushing towards him, only to run right into him. She fell, nearly landing on a square she had clearly marked with a red flag, when he caught her.

They stared at each other, eyes wide and neither certain of what they wanted to do. Slowly, carefully, he lifted her in his arms and stepped back into the safe area by the door before setting her down. Both turned to look at the screen which showed a giant smiley face. They had cleared the board.

Kagome felt sick, and Sesshomaru angry at being toyed with like this. He turned and yanked open the door, surprised to see the manager's apartment as they had left it. They both entered the room, staring around in slight confusion. Kagome squeaked as the door slammed shut behind her and Sesshomaru spun around, as if ready to attack, but there was nothing to kill.

She felt like crying, but she knew she couldn't and so she turned to look at him. He had already turned away, going across the apartment to Rin's room and opening the door to check up on her. Kagome watched as he gently knelt next to the child, assuring she was unharmed, before coming back. He sank into one of the seats in the living room, looking out the window at the rain. "I wonder what time it is. It looks as if no time has passed but it feels like hours went by." She pulled out her mp3 player, staring down at it and wishing it had an accurate timepiece. He watched her, also wondering. "That thing doesn't tell time?"

She shook her head. "It's just a cheap one. It only plays songs."

"I wouldn't have expected you to be that type."

She shrugged, heading towards the bathroom. "I'm not ashamed that I am frugal."

"Don't spend too long in there."

Kagome rolled her eyes. "Just because I'm a girl doesn't mean I will spend forever in the bathroom."

He didn't look at her, still watching the front door of the apartment carefully. "I only meant that we do not know how safe it is to be apart for lengthy periods of time."

Well now she just felt silly. She blushed slightly out of nervousness and nodded, going to the bathroom quickly and returning so fast that she hardly had a chance to dry her hands. He had only added to her stress in the situation. "Is it safe to leave Rin alone then?"

"No."

Kagome sat next to him on the couch, sitting as close as she could while trying not to be overbearing. "So why are we leaving her alone?"

Sesshomaru frowned slightly. "It is better for her to not know she is in danger. She knows Kaede is gone but does not know why or about this 'game'. We are going to have to try to be as quick as possible and finish this so we can find out who is doing this and how we can get free of the situation."

She nodded before licking her lips, feeling a heavy weight in her stomach build as she leaned towards him. "What if we never finish or we fail?"

He turned to her, pulling back sharply at their close proximity. "Failure is unacceptable."

They looked at each other, as if seeing the other for the first time. A small smile came to her face. "You know, you're not as bad as I thought you were."

He raised an eyebrow at that. "Just how bad did you think I was?"

She shrugged. "I have nicknames for everyone in the apartment building. Miroku is "Unemployed Pervert" and the guy in apartment four is "Keyhole Man"…"

"And what did you call me?"

"Mr. Grumpypants."

He had the dignity to look miffed at her choice. "I am not grumpy, simply busy."

"You stepped on my pocky."

"You were in the way."

"I asked you to wait just a moment."

"I didn't have time to wait."

"What was so important that you had to step on my pocky? It was really rude."

He sighed and reached up, pinching at his nose. "I had an important phone call I couldn't miss, and I needed some documents in order to assure I was prepared."

Kagome pouted slightly, leaning back. "That couldn't wait just a few minutes?"

"It was very important. More important than pocky, I assure you."

"What was so important that you couldn't even throw back an apology?"

He pointed back towards the room where Rin slept. "That child."

Now Kagome was both confused and intrigued. "Rin?"

He nodded. "I will purchase you a case of pocky if you will just let this go and realize there are sometimes reasons for things. I do not mean to be rude to you or any other resident of the apartment building; I simply have no time to waste on being polite most days."

She was about to retort when someone knocked at the door, the sound echoing in the dark room. Kagome gave him a questioning look and he went to stand by the door, sword ready. She followed suit, going to the door and reaching down slowly towards the handle, feeling less and less happy about this whole situation.

Kagome pulled the door open, her heart racing and her hands sweating as she felt the knob try to slip from her grip. Sesshomaru swung out only to pause as someone on the other side screamed. Her eyes widened, and she darted around the door, looking to find none other than Miroku on the other side. "Miroku? What are you doing here?"

He seemed confused, not only at the fact that they attacked him but at their state of dress. "I could ask you the same thing," he stated as he collected himself, dusting himself off as they all calmed somewhat. "I came to ask the manager if she needed assistance in checking the breaker box as the electricity seems to have been cut off."

Kagome looked at Sesshomaru curiously, and they looked back at Miroku, both asking simultaneously:

"Do you know what time it is?"

Miroku raised an eyebrow at their antics and sniffed, reaching up to scratch at the back of his neck before looking down at his watch and giving a small laugh before compressing the light button. "It's only half-past ten."

Kagome took a step back, nearly falling over, and Sesshomaru reached out a hand to steady her. No time had really passed. She was almost certain of it. "I went to bed at nine." Her voice came out softly, as if she was trying to contain her emotions before she broke down crying. She couldn't understand how such little time had gone by when they had spent hours solving the minefield puzzle.

Her brow furrowed, and she raced for the living room, looking through the drawers in one of the end tables before pulling out a pen and piece of paper. "What are you doing?" Sesshomaru asked, leaving the door open for a bewildered Miroku to follow them into the apartment, closing the door behind him.

"Writing down the time…" She looked up at Miroku suddenly, reaching out to wave at him and beckon him closer. "Give me your watch!" She cried out and his eyes widened before he took it off and gave it to her. She fastened it to one of the lamps, staring at it intently. "Every time we go into the next stage we should write down the time on this watch. That will let us know how much time has passed."

Miroku couldn't take any more of this and sighed. "What is going on?"

Kagome and Sesshomaru turned to stare at him before sitting down solemnly. The rain continued to pour outside as they explained what was going on and showed him the remaining job classes available. He was a bit confused and finding it hard to believe all of this was true, but they played him the recording and showed him the items they were given.

He frowned and read over the data sheets once more before making a choice. He took up the dice, giving it a toss while Kagome and Sesshomaru both held their breaths. "Shaman, sixteen."

A knock on the door and once again, a box marked "shaman" appeared. He opened the box, finding a heavy brown trench coat, a grey fedora, a medium-sized first aid kit, and a small flamethrower, tank just slightly more than half full. Miroku let out a sigh. "I would hate to see what might have happened if I rolled less."

Kagome flinched, and Sesshomaru put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. "We all must work with what we are given."

As Miroku put on his coat, flamethrower, and hat, he returned to them, ready to talk some strategy. "So the kid, Rin, is in bed still but the manager is missing?" Sesshomaru nodded. "And it's just the three of us, so far?" Miroku continued, considering all the possibilities. "What if we leave Kagome here to be with the kid while the two of us go to deal with whatever may come next?"

Kagome fought hard against the sensation of worthlessness that was growing within her, but Sesshomaru merely tightened his grip on her shoulder before responding. "She is a valuable member of this group. I believe it should be done fairly by lots to see which of us stays."

Miroku nodded. "I meant no offense. I was merely trying to protect the girls."

It was Sesshomaru's turn to face some unusual emotions. He felt a touch of possessiveness fall into place in his heart at the idea of another male trying to guard the two females. When it came to Rin, the idea was not entirely foreign to him. However, he was still mulling over the idea of being so protective of his neighbor. She was just a young woman that he happened to live near. They barely spoke and typically, apparently, he did things that upset her greatly in his haste to assure he did not miss important events.

Even so, he couldn't shake the idea that she was now under his protection and no other male would have rights to her until he decided he was finished guarding her. It was an animalistic instinct that he tossed around in his mind for a few moments until the female in question spoke. "I appreciate your concern, Miroku, but we have to all work together on this. We don't fully understand what is happening."

They all agreed on that, at least. "What should we use to decide who goes and who stays?" Miroku asked, not wanting to get into a huge heated debate on the matter.

"The dice?" Kagome suggested, pointing to the twenty sided dice sitting innocently on the table. Miroku shrugged and reached for it, only to be stopped as Sesshomaru's hand came over his.

"Wait, we have no idea how he will respond to using this dice in this manner."

Miroku frowned. "What else can we use? Do you usually sleep with change in your pockets?"

Sesshomaru hated to admit that the pervert had a point. "Fine. Whoever rolls highest stays."

"Agreed." Miroku responded, and Kagome nodded before he took up the dice and tossed it casually onto the table. "Fifteen! Top that!"

Sesshomaru, feeling a bit of his competitive nature fall into play, took up the die and rolled it. "Twelve."

He handed the die to Kagome, who stared down on it. She wasn't sure what to hope for. Rolling the die she watched, holding her breath as it rolled around before falling off the table. Everyone looked at each other before looking down at the die. "Twenty."

The disembodied voice came from nowhere again. "Natural Twenty! Congratuations! The Doctor has now been granted immunity for three turns. She cannot enter the next three stages and your party is now reduced by one for the duration of the game! Upon each return, all party members will roll before entering the next stage to see their odds in successfully joining the party."

All three groaned.

"Just great!" Kagome screamed out. Tears welled in her eyes, and she bit down on her lip, turning to look out the window at the rain. What if something happened to one of them while she was here? She was a fairly useless doctor as it was but it was her job to support them, was it not? A twisting sensation filled her abdomen and she suddenly felt sick to her stomach.

She and Sesshomaru had been through quite a bit already and their relationship had taken leaps and bounds. They had to trust each other in a way they never expected to. She wasn't sure if that was why she was suddenly feeling as if she were letting him down by not being there for him.

Miroku let out a sigh, heading to the bathroom, and for a few moments Sesshomaru simply stood there and watched Kagome with interest. The way her emotions played across her face as the dim moonlight and occasional lightning danced in the room and gave her an odd intensity was fascinating. She seemed so broken over this new turn of events. He sighed and moved to kneel before her, reaching out hesitantly, hand hovering above her head as he reconsidered if he wanted to touch her so intimately.

His hand drew back and he stomped down on the strange feeling of possessiveness that rose in him once again at seeing a single tear trickle down her face, glittering in the dim lighting. "Kagome…" She nearly jumped, reaching up to wipe at her face and turning to him with a pathetic little expression, not unlike a lost puppy. He sighed slightly and tried to give her a reassuring expression, although he wasn't sure he could provide it in the situation they were in. "You'll be doing me a great favor by watching over Rin while I cannot. Please do this for me."

As if she had never been sad about it, Kagome smiled and nodded. "Of course! I'll take care of her. You have nothing to worry about!"

Sesshomaru wanted to reach out and hug her, kiss her on the forehead, pat her on the head… something. He wasn't sure why he felt such an urge and decided it was best not to follow through. This situation was temporary. He couldn't afford unexpected delays with his plans. He hadn't even dated a woman since… since her and he wasn't about to get involved with another. Forcefully tossing aside his desires, he stood and went to stand by the door, waiting for Miroku.

The pervert returned and Sesshomaru reached up, knocking on the door, giving Kagome one last look before heading into the door. She called out to them before they disappeared into the darkness. "Good luck!"

Sesshomaru fought against the tugging sensation in his abdomen and the little voice in his head that wondered why he was leaving them both behind – they were so helpless. When the lock clicked behind him and Miroku his mind cleared and he focused, trying to make out what might be out there. A dim light flickered to life overhead, sending the room into a foggy yellow haze.

"There are two doors before you. Only one of you will be allowed to enter each door. One door leads to your greatest desires and the other leads to your greatest fears. Within those you must solve a puzzle in order to escape and return to this place. You must wait for each party member before exiting this stage."

Sure enough, two doors appeared. One red and the other blue, neither was decorated nor had any marking, they didn't even have door knobs! Sesshomaru turned to look at Miroku who was smirking. "I particularly favor blue."

Sesshomaru watched as his neighbor went through the blue door, leaving him with the red one. He took a deep breath, clearing his mind before going to push the door open and stepping through. It closed behind him, leaving him in absolute darkness for a few moments before a light in the distance appeared. A child screamed and he felt a chill run up his spine as he recognized it as Rin, running towards the light, he tried to catch up to the screaming girl but seemed unable to do so.

"Rin!" He called out, his lungs beginning to burn as he pushed himself further, desperate to catch up to her. "I am coming!"

Finally, he saw her silhouette standing in the distance, beside an open doorway, staring into it in fear and shock. The child backed up slightly, bringing her arms up to cover her face as if there was something entirely horrible on the other side the door. "No! Go away! Go away!" The child screamed out, desperate for whatever it was to disappear.

Sesshomaru felt something within him rip open; he had to get to her. He growled out, forcing himself to move and trying his best to reach Rin before whatever was on the other side of the door could get to her. Just as he was within arm's reach of the child, he watched in horror as she reached through the doorway and snatched the screaming child up, dragging her through the door as it slammed closed.

He rushed to the door, trying to open it and finding it, too, had no door handle. "Rin!" Sesshomaru's pulse raced as he slammed against the door with his shoulder but it would not budge. "Give her back! She doesn't want to be with you!"

Laughter filled the room. "But she is mine! You gave her to me!"

A sick feeling filled his stomach as he heard her voice filling his ears. "No! I didn't!"

"Yes you did, Sesshomaru! You signed away your rights! You said you weren't ready to be a father and told me to do as I pleased!"

He rammed against the door once more, trying to fight against the ache in his chest. It was true. He had let Rin down… his own flesh and blood, his own child. Had he known he wouldn't have made the same mistake and would have taken the girl and fled.

Had he only known what would happen, things would have gone differently.

His eyes slid closed as he pounded against the door one last time. The light overhead flickered and shuffling could be heard from behind him. Suddenly a voice, gentle and scared at the same time, came to him. "Daddy?"

Sesshomaru spun around, looking down on the child with a bit of trepidation. She was dressed in a little white nightgown, a small doll in one hand, her beautiful hair loose around her cherub-like face… a face that was splattered with blood - blood that dripped down to coat her gown, seeping through to cover her wide eyed body in a macabre display of innocent life meeting horrific death.

He knelt down, holding his arms open for the girl and she fell into them, clinging to him and crying lightly. Petting her head, he closed his eyes tightly, fighting against the horrible thoughts that welled within him. "It's okay, Rin. I'm here."

"But you weren't there, Daddy. You weren't there to save her." She whispered into his ear, almost accusing but still so gentle and sweet. Sesshomaru was sure he was going to be sick.

"She made her own decisions, Rin."

"You could have saved her."

"I didn't know she was at risk."

"You could have saved her!" The child's voice rose.

"I didn't even know where you were!"

"You could have saved her!" Rin screamed, angry and full of pain and longing.

Sesshomaru let his head fall forward, pulling the girl closer to him. "You're right. I could have saved her. If I hadn't been so stupid and had just taken care of you both from the beginning, things would have ended differently. She was always so free spirited and refused to be tied down. How could I have known she would have sworn such loyalty to a cruel monster like Naraku?"

Rin wrapped her arms around him, pulling closer to him as she continued to cry. "You could have saved her," her words spoken like a quiet mantra now.

"I could have saved her. If I had only known she was going to allow someone so violent and abusive into your lives, I never would have let her go. She expected it, telling me the whole time that our relationship was only temporary, that she never intended to settle down. She was free, like the wind, she didn't want that. I respected that."

"You could have saved me." The voice was huskier and he turned to look down, seeing Kagura's face for the first time in years.

With a nod, he agreed. "I could have."

"Why didn't you?" Her voice was shaky, as if she really did want to know, but by now Sesshomaru knew that this fantasy was not reality but was based on his own subconscious thoughts. Rin had never blamed him for what happened. He doubted Kagura would have, either. He blamed himself.

Looking into her eyes, deep eyes that he had not seen in years now, he found himself drawn to old emotions. "Would you have wanted me to chase you?"

A broken smile appeared on her lips and he knew the answer. "No. I wanted to be free… like the wind."

He sighed, pulling her closer to him as if she would float away. "Why did you stay with him? He was dangerous and you knew it."

She nodded. "I know. I couldn't explain it. It's like he had a part of my heart that made it where I could not escape. "

They went silent for a while, holding one another in the darkness. "Rin is still terrified of thunderstorms."

"I'm sorry. I didn't know he would do that. I knew he was dangerous but I had no idea that he would do something so terrible to our child. She was so innocent."

"I'll protect her."

"You should have protected her from the beginning."

His grip tightened and he nodded. "I should have."

"You were a coward."

Sesshomaru winced as a sharp pain stabbed through his heart, and he turned away from her, unable to face the truth. It wasn't as if he had done anything in particular. It was what he didn't do that caused such trouble, in fact. He knew he had to face his part in this. "I was."

"Did you love me?"

His mind came to a screeching halt at those words and he looked down on her, surprise etched on his face. She smiled at him, looking as she always did, and she stretched up to kiss him gently. He gave no reply. When he pulled back to look at her the expression on her face was filled with pain and guilt. "Kagura…"

Blood began to pool in her eyes, like crimson tears, flowing down her alabaster skin. She made a gurgling sound, as if something was caught in her throat, and blood began to ooze out of her mouth, slowly at first before picking up speed. Sesshomaru did not let her go, knowing he deserved this fate. He had failed them both so horribly by letting go far too early.

The blood began to fill the room so quickly that he was knee deep in it before Kagura's body exploded in a mess of entrails and blood, splattering against the door, against his body, knocking against the single light above them and causing the illumination to swing back and forth, throwing the room into random bouts of darkness and light. Blood began to rain down from the ceiling, filling the room with its thick coppery fragrance.

A splash came from behind him, followed by a gasp. "Will you fail me, too?"

He froze, his heart suddenly racing as his mind tangled about those words and he turned to see Kagome standing a few feet away, staring at him with such uncertainty. No. No! She trusted him! She stepped forward slowly, as if the thickness of the blood was hindering her steps, reaching out for him. "Kagome, I…"

She let out a cry as something pulled her under the sea of blood, and Sesshomaru took only a few seconds to decide what he would do, diving into the blood to go after her. He couldn't see. He couldn't feel anything but the swishing of the blood. His eyes closed and he found himself losing to an unknown specter, an instinctual fear of drowning throwing warning signals up and trying to convince him to let her go.

He couldn't. He promised. He would not fail another. He owed it to himself to not let go. He pushed forward and suddenly found her in his arms, pulling her close to him as the room began to flood with blood, bathing them both in the thick fluid. He kicked up, swimming up to the top of the bloody sea, lifting her head up out of the red choppiness that was now beginning to wave back and forth like the ocean tide. She was losing color and was not breathing. He turned her around, reaching securely around her rib cage to try and pump some of the fluid out as they bobbed up and down in the waves.

She coughed up the liquid and he turned her back around, reaching up to wipe some stray strands of hair from her face as she took slow staccato breaths. "Kagome, can you hear me?"

Kagome did not respond, coughing as she struggled to breathe. The sky filled with thunder. Lightning crashed as the room continued to fill at startling speeds. He could no longer see the door or the light, and he wondered where the ceiling was.

In the distance, he could make out the silhouette of a ship, an escape just waiting for them to take it. He began to move that way only to stop when he heard a scream from behind him. Rin.

Clinging to Kagome, he began to swim towards Rin. It did not matter how far he had to go. He would get to her and save her, but he would not let Kagome down, either. He would save them both.

Just as exhaustion began to kick in, he saw the child crouching on a tiny island. He dragged Kagome up onto the sand and reached for Rin, pulling her into his embrace, shivering from the sudden cold of the wind against his wet body. "I will not fail either of you. I will protect you both!"

Just as he made this declaration a huge surge built and the wave came to crash down on them, pulling the three back into the bloody sea. Sesshomaru struggled, trying to keep them all above water, but found that Kagome suddenly weighed so much more than she had before. Was he just getting tired?

She began to sink and Rin cried out. "Let her go! Let her go! We don't need her!"

Sesshomaru frowned and shook his head. "No!"

Kagome's head sank into the liquid, and he fought to keep his grip on her while still holding onto Rin. Bubbles began to surface and pop as Kagome attempted to take in air and failed to do so, inhaling more blood. Sesshomaru let out a growl and took a deep breath, ignoring Rin's cries to let Kagome go as he dove under the blood and pressed his lips to Kagome's, forcing air into her lungs.

Kagome's eyes snapped open and suddenly there was an explosion of light. The water around them began to warm and clear and, despite initial struggling, they could all breathe. The area was dark, with a hazy light, and a heavy rhythmic thumping filled the void they were floating in.

"Sesshomaru?" Kagome's voice came to him, despite the fact that her eyes were now closed and she was curled up, holding Rin in her embrace before him. His own eyes felt heavy and he began to nod off, wondering how he had heard her when she had not actually spoken. He decided to respond, just the same.

"Yes?"

"I trust you."

Suddenly, he couldn't see anything and the fluid began to drain as an excruciating pain filled him. The next thing he knew he was falling and then… he was back where he started, looking at Miroku who had an entirely horrified expression on his face.

"You must have got the greatest desire one…" Miroku said with a shudder. "I was chased by all these men. It was horrible! They were looking at me … me… lustfully!"

Sesshomaru decided not to go into details, giving a shrug, but his mind thought over what he had experienced. It had been terrifying at moments but the truth was that he did feel more at peace with himself, with what had happened. Better yet, somehow… someway… he had a feeling that Kagome had really said those last words to him. He wasn't sure how, but he could feel it.

He hadn't fully come to terms with the idea of feeling so happy at those words, but he was. He decided that he had enough of Miroku going on and on about the horrors of men feeling affectionately towards him and opened the door to the apartment, entering only to pause before breaking out into a run. Rin's door was wide open.

His heart raced as he ran into the room, staring at the empty bed with wide eyes. He lifted the blankets, ripping off the sheets and pulling up the mattress in his haste to find them. They were not under the bed. He went over to the closet, tossing aside carefully placed stuffed animals before throwing open the tiny white doors to shove aside little dresses, blouses, and skirts… finding no child or woman. Where were they?

"Missing something?"

He spun around to see Kagome standing there with a small smile on her face and a sleepy Rin in her arms. The child yawned and looked at him through hooded eyes. She pouted. "Daddy… what did you do to my roooom?"

Kagome's eyes widened, and Sesshomaru knew that he would have to explain. Later. Right now he had to fix his daughter's room. He re-situated the bed, placing each sheet on just right and folding down the corners of the blankets before tucking them in neatly. Then he proceeded to walk over Kagome, taking Rin from her gently and placing her down on the bed. After draping the sheet and tucking the blanket he topped it all off with a final kiss on the forehead.

Rin giggled a little and curled up into her blanket but frowned as the adults began to leave the room. "Daddy!"

Sesshomaru turned around, a questioning look on his face. The child pointed at the closet expectantly with a look on her face that clearly said "how could you?". He smiled and nodded, going over to check the closet before closing it firmly. "We'll pick up your animals in the morning, Rin."

She yawned around the next few words, giving a nod. "Okay, Daddy."

Kagome felt her heart warm at that and followed him as he closed the door gently, giving her an apologetic glance. "Daddy?" She said the word with a smirk.

He raised an eyebrow. "You have a problem with that?"

She shook her head, going over to sit on the couch. "It suits you."

Sesshomaru blinked. He hadn't expected that. He followed her into the living room, taking a seat on the couch beside her and watching as Miroku helped himself to the Kaede's food and drink. When he returned he had a glass of tea and some toast with jam on it. He was still mumbling about men and the horror of his existence.

"So what happened this time?" Kagome wondered, leaning back into her seat as she pulled her legs up onto the couch.

"We had to pick a door and behind each door we had to face either our greatest desire or our worst fears. Miroku had an… interesting, experience, didn't you?" He looked to Miroku, who was mumbling to himself still. "Miroku?" Sesshomaru raised an eyebrow and his voice slightly. "Miroku!"

The dark haired man jumped and screamed, pouring tea all over himself as he cried out. "No! I will not bear your children!" Tears welled in his eyes and he curled up on the chair, rocking himself.

Kagome just blinked. "Okay then… it was that bad?"

Sesshomaru shrugged. "Mine wasn't that bad." He was not about to tell her about blood oceans, crying children, women exploding, and him basically kissing her to give her oxygen. He was still trying to come to terms with it himself!

Kagome stretched and yawned. "Well, while you were gone I fell asleep on Rin's bed." She reached up and scratched at her head, a frown furrowing her brow. "I had the strangest dream."

Miroku let out a sob. Kagome sighed, standing up and going over to him, taking him by the hand and leading him to Kaede's bed. He was like an obedient child, too in shock to know how to respond or what to say, unable to even comprehend what had just occurred. She wondered if he had wasted all his fuel on what happened out of sheer shock.

When she returned, Sesshomaru was looking at Miroku's watch and recording the time. "A few minutes have passed – about fifteen."

She went over to him, a curious look on her face as she looked at the watch. "Really? It felt like I was asleep for longer."

He nodded. "Time is not passing regularly, it would seem."

Sesshomaru turned to go towards the kitchen and get some water when Kagome's voice broke the silence. "You were in my dream."

He looked at her, a touch of surprise evident on his face, and she flushed, staring down at her feet. "Was it a good dream?"

She fidgeted. "I'm not sure. It wasn't entirely bad. It was confusing."

"What happened?"

She took a deep breath, turning to flop down into the chair before her and stare out the window at the rain outside. "I was in… red water… like blood, and I was drowning. You saved me."

He nodded, taking out a pair of glasses and filling each with cool water before returning and handing one to her. She took it with a grateful smile, downing half in a few quick swigs. He sat on the couch, facing the front door and looked at her out of the corner of his eyes. "Were you scared?"

She shook her head. "No."

Sesshomaru was surprised. He had expected her to be terrified of such events. "I would think such things would be frightening."

Kagome smiled wistfully and nodded. "I suppose it would be normally but, I felt safe. You were there, and I knew I could trust you to save me." She snorted, looking over at him. "I sound like such a child, don't I? You went through some crazy times, I am sure, and here I am going on about some dream."

He took a slow drink of the cool water and let out a sigh. "It wasn't a dream."

Her eyes widened. "What?"

"What you experienced happened."

Her expression contorted into a mixture of confusion and fear. "What do you mean it happened? Like really happened?"

He nodded. "What you felt was a dream was actually what happened when I entered my door. Well, part of it."

She stilled and took a few moments to digest this information before responding. "What happened before that?"

Sesshomaru frowned slightly and leaned back, closing his eyes. "I faced some older demons I had been ignoring for some time."

"About Rin?"

"Yes, Rin… and her mother."

"She must have been beautiful."

He froze and raised his head, eyebrow going up curiously. "What?"

"Her mother must have been beautiful."

Sesshomaru looked away, a crease furrowing his brow as he considered that statement. He had honestly never thought about it like that. Was Kagura really beautiful? He had never looked at her in that light. Perhaps he had simply never allowed himself. She was only a temporary part of his life from the start – maybe he had never considered her beautiful out of protecting his own heart from the pain of her inevitable departure. Kagura was… one of the first souls who had ever seen him as more than what appeared on the outside.

He met her in college. They were fairly young, just barely out of grade school, and he was in the library studying diligently. Already, gossip spread that he was not someone to be trifled with. Most feared him, some thought he was conceited, others thought there was something wrong with him. None ever gave him a chance past their base concepts of who he might be.

None until one day when he was in his own little world, a mountain of books surrounding him, she came up and threw a document on the desk, interrupting his reading. He had been shocked, to say the least, but hadn't responded at first, simply taking the paper by the corner and sliding it aside as if it were something dirty. Kagura hadn't been bothered and had merely drug one of the heavy wood chairs from a neighboring table to sit next to him with a smirk.

He winced at the sound the chair made against the carefully waxed floor and frowned, wondering why she had done that, looking up apologetically at the librarian and a few other students who were all glaring at them. Turning with a hiss he began to admonish her only for his eyes to widen when she leaned forward and kissed him thoroughly.

That was how their relationship began. He had never pursued her, never even shown an interest in her, but she had been relentless. He decided it was no harm to let her have her fun so long as she did not get in his way. For the most part, she did exactly that. He would study and she would be there quietly at his side for hours until she'd had enough and decided he needed to do something else.

After packing up his things she would drag him away from his books, pulling him away from the only world he was comfortable with and thrusting him head first into her own. The paper she'd tossed at him was a flyer for some kind of party… a mixer or something. He wasn't sure what those were and had never really been interested. Still, she had been obedient enough while he studied so he indulged her. Besides, with her around he was more prone to care for himself in ways he normally would have neglected. He ate, slept, and even – dare he admit it – had a little fun.

Then, one evening, several years later, she had poked and prodded his trust and pride to the point where she convinced him to consume his first taste of alcohol. They were sitting in his dormitory, she going on about how lucky he was to have parents who would pay for such a nice private room and how very big his bed was, he fighting the urge to puke his guts up out of masculine pride. For every one drink Kagura downed he consumed two, trying to prove himself to her, him, and the whole world.

The next morning he woke nude in his bed. Alone. There was no note. She simply left, never even saying goodbye.

Just as quickly as their relationship had started… it was over.

Graduation day came and his mother and father were doting over him, despite their own discomforts – neither wanted to admit to him that they were getting a divorce because his mother discovered that his father had an affair and had produced a child out of wedlock. Sesshomaru felt a tinge of hurt at how his father had damaged his mother's trust in him so easily and a bit of jealousy at how he learned that his father had brought his "new family" to celebrate in Sesshomaru's accomplishment.

When his father left him with his weeping mother, Sesshomaru vowed to never make the same mistake and have a child without marrying first.

After receiving his diploma he waited to see Kagura, one last time, but her name was not called. He frowned, knowing that they might not pass in day-to-day studies because of their different fields of interest but had expected to see her today. He had wanted to say goodbye.

That evening, as he was packing his things, he received a phone call. Within a span of a few hours he had broken his promise to his mother.

Sesshomaru shook himself of the thoughts lingering in his mind and looked to Kagome with a smile. "She had her own unique appeal."