punkish furball – It is! It is an update! X3

Words to Ponder:

Hello, all! Pardon the delay, but this chapter was monstrous! When I get to a point in any story where I decide to follow the original anime/manga/whatever, those chapters always give me the most trouble. That being said, I hope you all think this latest installment is a satisfactory blend of the original storyline and what I added. It's also well over 10,000 words if that helps too…Don't hurt me! DX

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Chapter 16: The Way Things Are

Kagome sighed before she took the initiative and crouched down until she was eye level with the excited child. After dubbing the host club a "reverse harem"—quite accurately in Kagome's opinion—she proceeded to hand out labels left and right rendering her friends shocked and speechless with the terms she used.

"Excuse me, but are you lost?" she asked with a kind smile.

"Kagome, come back over here with us!" Kaoru whispered and motioned for her to step back.

Hikaru added just as feverishly, "I have a feeling she's just getting started!"

"Dry up, you two. She's a little girl. I think I can handle it."

As soon as Kagome finished speaking, the little girl made a small noise in the back of her throat before her face lit up with a large openmouthed grin.

"You're the bad boy type!" she gushed, "A rebel with a pure and gentle heart!"

Kagome frowned as she stood to her feet. She muttered, "So much for that idea."

"We tried to warn you. At least your description is a few ranks about 'twincest'," Hikaru griped.

"And 'glasses character'," Kyoya added.

Haruhi let a sigh typical of the long-suffering.

"I don't know which is worse. The fact that a small child clearly knows what all of those terms mean, or the fact that we're actually disputing which one of us has the better one."

Kagome grinned. "You're just upset that she called you a bookworm."

Having evaluated the other host club members to her satisfaction, the little girl turned her sights to Tamaki. Her demeanor completely changed as she looked at Tamaki with teary eyes full of adoration and wonder. He cringed and braced himself for whatever he was about to hear.

"Big brother?" she whispered. Within seconds, she broke into a short run and lunged for him with her thin arms reaching for his neck. He had no choice but to catch her before she fell.

"My big brother is blond, so you have to be him!" she declared.

Collectively, Haruhi and Kagome uttered, "Huh?"

"You have a younger sister?"

"Why didn't you tell us?"

"I definitely do not have a younger sister!" Tamaki insisted as he tried to pry the girl's arms from his neck, "As far as I know, I'm an only child."

"Senpai, I know you're an airhead, but how can you not know you have a sister?" Haruhi asked. She stiffened when she heard someone clear his throat behind her. She looked over her shoulder and spotted Mori and Honey with Kagome standing between them.

"Oh. Never mind."

"Well, they do look alike," Honey suggested, trying to be helpful, "Maybe they are related."

"Are you sure? The only similarity between them is that they both have blond hair," Haruhi retorted, "Kagome and Mori-senpai look more alike than they do."

The two mentioned siblings looked at each with Mori raising a single eyebrow and Kagome tilting her head slightly to the left, both curiously examining the other. Their hair and skin colors were similar, although Mori's were a shade or two darker than Kagome's. Their features were also of similar sizes and proportions particularly their eyes and nose. Kagome's were noticeably softer considering she was a girl, but the two were clearly brother and sister.

"We do look alike. I never really noticed before," Kagome admitted then looked at Haruhi with sly grin.

"You must have spent a lot of time looking at the two of us to notice." She playfully added. "Or maybe just one of us."

Haruhi blanched and averted her eyes with a quick turn of her head. "Not really! It's just really obvious. Anyone would be able to see it."

"I don't think so!" Kagome sang, teasing, "I think someone has a crush!"

"Huh? What are you saying?"

Kagome threw her arms around Haruhi's neck. "I love you too, Haruhi."

"Get off me, you dork!"

"Not until you say it back!"

Honey giggled as he stood beside his cousin and watched the two girls play. Mori may not have known, but he had an inkling that Kagome, just like himself, knew exactly who Haruhi liked.

"As entertaining as this is—" Hikaru began.

"—maybe we should focus on the matter at hand," Kaoru finished.

By now, Tamaki managed to pull the girl way from him and held her at an arm's length away, and the girls quickly composed themselves so they could help with this peculiar situation.

"Tell me, little one, what is your name?" Tamaki asked.

She answered sweetly, "Kirimi."

"Kirimi-chan," he said as he placed her on the ground in front of him, "I'm afraid you made a mistake. I don't have a little sister."

Kirimi whimpered and sorrowful tears welled in the corners of her eyes.

"Really? But you're blond just like me," she said, sniffling, "So you have to be my brother. You have to!"

When Kirimi bent her blonde head, Tamaki was already hooked. He gathered her back in his arms and twirled her around, laughing to lift her spirits.

"Such a cute little angel! As of today, I will be your older brother!" he announced for all to hear.

"Hooray!"

"Senpai, I know tend to get carried away with your emotions, but you shouldn't say such irresponsible things to a child that young," Haruhi scolded.

"It's not irresponsible! I'll take such good care of her!" he replied but kept his focus completely on the child he held, "She's coming home with me!"

"I don't think that's what she meant," Kagome dryly remarked, "We have to figure out where Kirimi-chan came from and get her back to her real family. A girl her age couldn't have wandered too far on her own."

"Indeed," Kyoya agreed, "We should first find out if she really has an older brother who attends Ouran Academy."

"Sounds good," Haruhi said, "Senpai, Kirimi-chan is clearly more comfortable with you, so ask her what her surname is and we can work from there."

Before Tamaki could do as Haruhi requested, a dark, creepy voice echoed throughout the music room.

"Kirimi…Kirimi…" the voice drawled.

Everyone looked at the entrance to see a handsome blond and blue-eyed boy peeking his head through the doorway. Kagome recognized him immediately even a majority of the others didn't. She now knew who Kirimi's real older brother was too.

Now those two look alike, she decided.

Before the boy could step further inside, he was surrounded by an older man and woman carrying darkly colored garments.

"Young master, you forgot your cloak."

In a quick flourish, the duo garbed the blond stranger in a black cloak and dark wig. When the host club could see their latest visitor again, he was a more familiar sight with a distinctive yellow puppet on his right hand.

"He's Nekozawa-senpai!"

The woman stepped forward and bowed before she began to speak.

"Please forgive our intrusion. I am Kuretake, a maid employed by the Nekozawa family, and this is Kadomatsu, the family's personal secretary." The tall bald man nodded after she introduced him.

Ever polite and not as shell-shocked as her peers, Kagome stepped forward and bowed before their guests.

"Pleased to meet you and to see you again, Nekozawa-senpai," she said, "I'm guessing you came here to pick up Kirimi-chan, right?"

Kuretake nodded. "That is correct."

"What?" Haruhi exclaimed, "You mean Kirimi-chan is Nekozawa-senpai's little sister?"

"The two of them are completely different," Hikaru and Kaoru said in tandem.

"It's true," Kuretake confessed, "Master Umehito suffers from chronic photosensitivity and is especially vulnerable to bright lights. As such, he must always cover himself with a black cloak and even hid his beautiful blond hair with a dark wig or he will undoubtedly collapse when exposed to brightness!"

Kadomatsu readily picked up where Kuretake left off.

"On the other hand, Mistress Kirimi absolutely loathes dark places, putting her at constant odds with her own kin."

Kagome's eyebrow twitched as she shared a deadpanned look with Haruhi. It seemed rich people weren't the only ones with a flair for over-the-top theatrics. Their staff was equally eccentric.

After he heard the explanation, Tamaki set Kirimi on the ground and gave her a gentle nudge, so she could approach her real brother. Kirimi quickly recognized the two people her family employed, but she eyed Nekozawa warily as he took a step toward her.

"Kirimi, so this is where you've been hiding," he said with the same low inflections as before, "I've been looking for you everywhere."

Kirimi shrieked in fright and clamored back into Tamaki's arms where she knew it was safe.

"It's a monster!" she cried and pressed her face into his neck.

"It's alright," Nekozawa continued, "Beelzenef is not to be feared. The Nekozawa family has worshiped cat shaped objects for generations."

"Hate to break it to you, senpai, but she's afraid of you, not the puppet," Haruhi clarified with little tact and showed no remorse when her senior visibly wilted.

"Don't tell me you really didn't realize it," Kyoya added, "She's completely terrified."

"But how can that be?" Nekozawa lamented.

"It's because of the way you're dressed!" Hikaru and Kaoru declared and answered to rip the heavy cloak from Nekozawa's body. He held onto it like a vice, refusing to let them have an inch.

"No!" he pleaded, hugging the clothes to him, "Don't do it! I'll die! I'll die!"

"In that case, let's make the room a little darker!" Honey suggested and rushed to close all of the curtains. He stopped when he heard Kirimi's panicked screams.

"It's too dark!" she protested, "Make it stop!" Tamaki was quick to console her.

"This is a real problem," Kagome assessed, "I suppose Nekozawa-senpai has a reasonable excuse to avoid light places, but it's normal for kids Kirimi-chan's age to be afraid of the dark. Seems like a real no-win situation."

She cringed when Nekozawa wilted again.

"But she'll probably grow out of it as she gets older!" she hastily added, "Everyone does!"

"With someone like Nekozawa-senpai lurking around, I doubt it," Hikaru murmured under this breath.

"I'm afraid it is very likely they won't be able to overcome their differences," Kuretake stated in a more serious tone than this situation permitted, "This tragic situation between their two opposing personalities is the reason they have been called the Romeo and Juliet of the Nekozawa Family!"

"So that would make them…star-crossed siblings?" Kagome asked. For some reason, that phrase left an odd taste in her mouth.

"But Romeo and Juliet weren't siblings, and the situation between them is completely different from this one," Haruhi explained.

"Oh, I know that!" the maid admitted, giggling, "It's just a little something I came up with to make everything sound a little more dramatic."

Haruhi sighed. "So you just made that up on the spot."

"And it doesn't exactly help better the situation between Nekozawa-senpai and Kirimi-chan. How is it she doesn't know who her own brother is?" Kagome questioned, "Do the two of them live separately or something?

"Something akin to that," Kadomatsu answered, "Once again, Master Umehito's condition prevents him from seeing his sister even when they are both at home. Due to his sensitivity to the light, he occupies a separate wing of the family estate. Because of this separation, Mistress Kirimi often looks for him in the mansion but avoids all dark and dimly lit rooms. She eventually found a portrait of the Master in traditional attire and has become taken with the idea her older brother is a prince." He paused and glanced in Tamaki's direction.

"Coincidently, your friend bears a strong resemblance to that portrait."

"Nonsense! How dare you suggest such a thing?" Kuretake shouted, startling both her mistress and her master, "Master Umehito is far superior, a noble descendent of the Tokarev dynasty of Russia!"

"Tokarev? Don't you mean 'Romanov'?" Tamaki asked. To him, that seemed like a more believable relation when he considered Nekozawa's obvious love of the occult.

"Oh hush, senpai," Kagome told him, "Now's not the time to get distracted by something like that."

Besides, she knew for a fact it was true. While she puddled around the kitchen of the Nekozawa family's villa during the host club's trip to the beach, Kagome managed to convince Nekozawa to stay and keep her company while she cooked instead of retiring to his bedroom like he planned. She asked the odd but good-looking young man about himself and learned his family developed a large fortune in firearms over several generations. He was a surprisingly good conversationalist and an even better listener.

Just when he agreed to join her and rest of the club for dinner, Kagome flipped the wrong switch and turned on the kitchen's fully powered lights instead of the fixtures purposefully dimmed to accommodate Nekozawa's condition. Unfortunately, he was rendered unconscious, and his staff retrieved him and put him to bed.

"After Mistress Kirimi began searching for her brother, she discovered he currently attends Ouran Academy and tried on numerous occasions to extend her search to the high school," Kuretake continued to explain, "We tried to keep her placated with stories featuring princes, but we eventually ran out of fairytales and fables and started reading her shōjo manga that features any princely characters."

"Shōjo manga? Is the really the next logical option after Cinderella and Snow White?" Kaoru asked, "It doesn't help with improve Nekozawa-senpai's image at all."

"You got that right. No wonder Kirimi-chan thinks Tamaki-senpai is her brother with examples like that," Kagome said, shaking her head. She read more than her fair share of shōjo manga in elementary and middle school, so she knew exactly what Kirimi was exposed to.

"And what is that supposed to mean?" Tamaki huffed.

Kagome countered, "You tell me, ero-senpai. You tell me."

"So it is true. Kirimi does not accept me as her older brother even though I pray every night that she will one day embrace the darkness!" Nekozawa said sounding slight manic.

"You have it totally backwards." Hikaru commented. His brother nodded.

"You should become more accustomed to the light."

"Come with me, Mistress Kirimi. It's time for you to go home," Kadomatsu said as he stepped forward to retrieve the little girl.

"No!" she whined and clung to Tamaki, sobbing, "I don't wanna go home with you! I wanna stay here with Big Brother!"

"Shush! It's okay. It's okay," Tamaki tried to sooth her and held her tighter.

Although his form was completely hidden, it was easy to see Nekozawa crumble into infinitesimally small pieces.

"Nekozawa-senpai?" Kagome quietly addressed the shaken teen.

Nekozawa seemed to ignore her as he took a tentative step back. It wasn't long before he turned tail and ran, disappearing down the hallway.

"Don't worry about me!" he yelled without looking back, "Just take care of Kirimi for me, Suoh! Be the big brother I can never be!"

"Nekozawa, wait!" Kagome called out and ran after him.

Tamaki automatically took a step forward to follow her only to stop when he reregistered the weight of the little girl he held in his arms.

That's right, he thought, Kirimi-chan has to be taken care of first.

Before he could say anything, he caught Kyoya's eye and watched him point at the door. Mori was already down the hall.

With a knowing smile, Tamaki set Kirimi on the floor and crouched down in front of her.

"Big Brother?" she asked, confused.

"I'm sorry, Kirimi-chan, but I'm not your real brother," he confessed.

"You're not?"

"Yes, but don't worry! He's still out there, and he's even more handsome and princely than I am. So you know what we're gonna do now?"

Tamaki grinned when Kirimi shook her head.

"Every member of the Ouran Host Club is going to help you and your big brother finally reach each other!" he declared, "When our own elder and younger sibling team return with Nekozawa-senpai, we will commence with Operation Transform Nekozawa-senpai into the Bright, Princely Character of Kirimi-chan's dreams!"

Kadomatsu and Kuretake gasped.

"You mean to change the Master from a prince of darkness to a prince of light?" she asked in disbelief.

Kadomatsu vehemently shook his head. "Surely it can't be done!"

"Don't fret!" Tamaki assured them, "After all, Mori-senpai and his commoner sibling, Kagome, were just like these two, unable to reach each other because they came from two different worlds. Now, after Kagome joined the host club, they're just another example of the club's unmatched success in making the dreams of each and every one of our clients come true!"

Haruhi balked when the pair of servants actually appeared to seriously consider Tamaki's offer.

"Hold on, senpai! I know you got swept up in the moment, but you shouldn't make promises you can't keep!" she fussed. For once, she hoped she could nick his craziness in the bud before it got out of hand. "And, what's more, the host club had nothing to do with the relationship between Kagome and Mori-senpai! They become closer on their own! Don't stretch the truth just to win them over!"

Tamaki chastised her with a quick wag of his index finger.

"Oh, ye of little faith. Kagome and Mori-senpai aren't our only trump cards. Don't forget that we have a secret weapon that's perfect for situations like this!"

"And that would be?" she probed. She had a feeling she wouldn't like the answer.

Hikaru and Kaoru readily joined Tamaki to introduce their so-called trump card.

"The host club's ultimate asset—"

"—an expert in all this otaku—"

"—who has broken down the art of molding personas and shaping characters to a science," they finished in unison.

When Haruhi heard that unmistakable and unforgettable laughter, she realized exactly who their ultimate weapon was.

I was right. I don't like it.

-O0o0O-

"Nekozawa!" Kagome shouted as she quickly cornered the morose teen down one of Ouran's many long corridors void of any windows letting in ambient light. Mori was right behind her.

She stopped in front of Nekozawa's hunched form at the end of the hallway smiling despite everything that transpired. The reason he left so abruptly was one she was intimately familiar with, so she knew exactly what he needed right now, kind faces and understanding words.

"You got farther than I thought. I didn't think it would be this hard to catch up to you!"

"Kagome?" he quietly addressed her.

"Well, that's new," she commented, "I'm glad you finally feel comfortable enough to call me by my real name."

Nekozawa couldn't help but let a short laugh leave his mouth. "I'm just surprised you came after me. I might resemble him, but I'm not Suoh. I'm not the kind of guy pure maidens of light like you prefer."

Kagome shrugged and asked, "So what if you're not like Tamaki-senpai? It doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you. And it definitely doesn't mean you should give up and run away without trying!"

"But I—" Nekozawa tried to interject, but Kagome shook her head and continued to speak.

"If you don't try, things will never change. You have to make an honest effort if you want to improve your relationship with Kirimi-chan. As both and little and a big sister, I know exactly what I'm talking about." She paused and loved over her shoulder at Mori.

"And as the big brother to three younger siblings, Takashi-san will vouch for me."

Mori nodded and ruffled Kagome's raven head. He didn't know she realized he decided to follow her when she was focused on Nekozawa. Every time she acknowledged him, even if it was only for a single, unimportant moment, it made him happy.

Nekozawa smiled as he watched them. While he didn't share his familial woes with Kagome before now, she eagerly told him about her current relationship with her new family particularly her older brother and his classmate, Takashi Morinozuka. If Kagome hadn't told him, he would have never guessed the two of them had problems relating to each other. To make matters more difficult, he knew Kagome never directly shared her concerns with Mori or anyone else.

From what he and Kagome discussed and what he saw right now, Nekozawa could tell the distance between them shrank considerably, but there was still something that prevented the relationship from being all it could be. Kagome's politeness was a very admirable attribute of hers, but it would be her undoing if she didn't learn break certain habits.

Nekozawa shared a brief look with Mori and grinned. He may not have shown it, but Mori was as eager to help him as his sister. The two of them were elder brothers united in the struggle against obstinate, oblivious but undeniably adorable little sisters.

Interpreting his silent reverie as acceptance, Kagome suggested, "Why don't you come back with us? If I know Tamaki-senpai and the others, I'm sure they already have a plan in the works to help you out."

"Alright," Nekozawa agreed with a quick nod, "I'll do whatever is necessary to become closer to Kirimi and be acknowledged as her big brother. I'll make an effort if you will."

"That's what I want to hear," Kagome remarked, "But what did you mean by that last bit? Is there something specific you need me to help you with?"

Nekozawa shook his head as he stepped closer to Kagome and poked her in the nose with one of Beelzenef's arms.

"It's nothing. Forget it and lead the way, light maiden."

Kagome pouted and glared at the hand puppet then Nekozawa then Mori. They were both wearing the same faint, barely their smirk like they realized something she didn't.

What is this about? Since when are they close? she thought. Whatever they were up to, it had to be harmless, but she didn't like being left out.

"I don't think so. Maybe I changed my mind about helping you," she huffed. She yelped when she felt Mori place his hand on her head again.

"Don't be like that. Beelzenef apologies," Nekozawa said.

Kagome ignored him even when he flexed his hand to make the yellow cat nod. She couldn't hold back when she felt the puppet hug her cheek and giggled.

"Okay, okay! I'm back on board," she said as she gently pushed Beelzenef away, "Let's head back to the others before I change my mind."

As Kagome walked back to the host club with Mori on her left and Nekozawa on her right, she thought Kirimi would be much more receptive to her brother if she saw him like this. He wasn't exactly a prince, but he was playful and sweet, someone who could calm you down and cheer you up in a pinch.

All he has to do is be himself, she thought, hopeful. Whatever the others planned, she was sure they couldn't mess that up.

Then it happened. As soon as Kagome opened the door to Music Room #3, her hopes were dashed just as quickly as they were conceived.

"There you are!" Renge declared as she grabbed Nekozawa by the cloak and pulled him with her.

"Get in here!" she continued to shout, "We have work to do!"

"Renge? What are you doing?" Kagome questioned as she reached out to stop her manic friend. Unfortunately, once Renge was on the move, there was very little that could stop her.

"There's no time to explain! We have to get started as soon as possible. Just change and meet the rest of us in the back! I have my work cut out for me with this project!"

Kagome weakly lowered her hand and watched Renge literally drag Nekozawa away kicking and screaming to another section of the host club.

"Hang in there, Nekozawa-senpai," she said before departing for the bathroom to slip out of today's cosplay. It was safe to assume that the host club would not be able to perform their usual services today.

-O0o0O-

Nekozawa closed his eyes and took a deep breath. This was it. With the help of the host club, he'd finally be able to reach Kirimi. It all came down to this.

"Your golden hair as it flickers in the candlelight…" he said, his voice rich and mellow, "…your shining skin of ivory…your smile, more mysterious and beautiful that a rose illuminated by the moonlight…yes, it's almost as if…as if…" Nekozawa grinned, sheer excitement coursing through him.

"You were a cursed wax doll brimming with pure malice!" he finished, cackling. He didn't have long to enjoy himself. A quick whack to the base of his neck made him drop to his knees.

"Wrong!" Renge admonished, standing over his cowering form. "Who the hell told you to say that, you idiot! All occult terms are off limits! Get that through your thick skull!"

"But I—" Nekozawa was silenced with another swift, precise blow.

"No excuses!" she yelled, "Try again and do it right this time!"

Kagome sighed as she watched Renge wail on an uncloaked and vulnerable Nekozawa yelling advice on how to behave more princely over his screams of terror. She should have went with Kuretake and Kadomatsu to help keep Kirimi preoccupied like Haruhi.

"When I agreed to help Nekozawa-senpai, this is not what I had in mind," she remarked.

"Then what do you propose we do?" Hikaru asked, "He can't use words like that or he will just scare Kirimi-chan more than he already does."

"I understand, but this isn't getting him more accustomed to the light," she countered.

Renge abandoned her meter stick and chased Nekozawa around the dark room, shining him relentlessly with her evil beam. This approach would lead to nothing but failure, but Nekozawa didn't complain. If he wanted to go through with it, Kagome wouldn't stop him. She only hoped he'd be more receptive to her advice after Renge was finished with him.

"In fact, so much negative reinforcement might be making it worse," Kagome decided.

Hikaru shrugged. "You can call me the ass twin for saying so, but, if he can't handle Renge's flashlight, there's no hope for him."

"Keep going, Neko-chan!" Honey cheered, "You can do it!"

Mori agreed as he stood beside him and added "wax doll" to the list of forbidden words and phrases on the chalk board. They had only been at this for an hour, and he nearly covered the entire surface.

"For goodness' sake, get up!" Renge demanded, standing over Nekozawa with her hips cocked to the side, "All of your efforts have been absolutely horrendous. This can't be all your determination is worth!"

"It isn't, but it's hard for me to picture that as Kirimi."

Nekozawa pointed to Tamaki's teddy bear—Kagome knew he still kept it!—dressed in an identical copy of Kirimi's schoolgirl uniform with a blonde pigtailed wig.

Renge sighed and folded her arms over her chest. "I normally wouldn't be so generous, but, since we're pressed for time, I guess we have no choice. We'll have to move to plan B."

Hikaru looked at Kagome and grinned when she diverted her eyes.

"That would be your cue, plan B," he told her.

Kagome's eyebrow twitched as she stood her ground. "I refuse."

"Come on," he continued, "You're the one who wanted to help, right?"

Kagome angrily stomped her foot. "This is not what I had in mind! I'm not doing it!"

When she went to change as Renge instructed, Kagome found an identical copy of the Ouran Academy middle school division's uniform for girls in the place of her normal clothes. Before she could retrieve it, her prisoner cosplay was mysteriously spirited away and stored with the other costumes under lock and key. She had no other choice but to wear the outfit unless she wanted to walk around in a sports bra underneath her taped torso and her Hello Kitty undies. When Kagome joined the others, Kyoya was ready with his camera along with everyone else who kept their cell phone ready to snap a few candid shots.

Tamaki stepped toward Kagome, grinning at her sour disposition. "Come now, cricket. As a little sister, you are the best choice to stand in for Kirimi-chan and channel her spirit of youth and innocence!"

"Shut up! Even if you were being serious, there's no way I'll pass for Kirimi-chan! She's over ten years younger than me, and we look completely different! You didn't even dress me in the same outfit she wears," she retorted, "You just want to keep dressing me up like your own personal baby doll!"

"Stop fussing!" the twins said as they pulled Kagome to the armchair where Kuma-chan was placed and tried to force her to sit down.

"Let me go!" she shouted, but Hikaru and Kaoru wouldn't give up.

Appearing vaguely interested in their struggle, Kyoya looked over his notebook and said, "You make a valid point, Kagome, but we couldn't get and replica of Kirimi-san's clothes in your size on such short notice. Just bear with it and it would be over quickly."

Kagome stopped squirming long enough to direct her frustration at Kyoya. "So you happened to have a middle school uniform in my size for an occasion like this, huh? I'm not buying it! You're just as bad as everyone else!"

"If the outfit is really too bothersome for you, maybe this will be more suitable attire."

Kagome's eye twitched again as she unwittingly sunk into the armchair. Hikaru and Kaoru let her to go to retrieve a mannequin wearing a vibrant pink, two-piece outfit consisting of a sleeveless, high collared top and matching miniskirt mid-thigh in length. The top completely exposed the figurine's stomach, and the heart-shaped opening under the collar would have revealed an indecent amount of cleavage if it had any breasts. There was even a black, wavy wig pulled into pigtails on the mannequin's head leaving no doubt who the entire ensemble was for.

"Where the hell did you get that disgusting thing?" Kagome shrieked.

"Excuse you!" Hikaru responded, affronted, "This is an exclusive piece from our mother's latest collection."

Kaoru nodded and began to explain. "After we told her you and Haruhi didn't wear the swimsuits we picked out for you, she came up with a whole new line based on both of your body types. She doesn't take rejection like that well."

Kagome rolled her eyes. "So you tattled on me to your mom, so you can get me to wear that!"

"Don't be so self-centered," Kaoru admonished, "Our mother happens to be a designer of unparalleled style and visions who takes great pride in her work."

"When you refused to wear her designs, she was motivated to create a whole new line." Hikaru cheekily added, "Now's as good a time as any for you to try it. I hope you won't disappoint her again."

Before Kagome could reply, Tamaki stood in front of the mannequin, openly admiring the skimpy outfit.

"Remarkable," he whispered, "Your mother made this with only Kagome's measurements?"

"Of course she did! As I said, Hitachiin Yuzuha's style and fashion sense are completely unmatched by any other designer," Kaoru praised, "And this is just one outfit we have from the collection based on Kagome's figure."

"There's more?" Tamaki asked, excited.

Hikaru nodded. "Then there's other line based on Haruhi. It doesn't contain pieces as revealing this one since she's so underdeveloped, but they are no less appealing. Of course, you won't get the complete picture until they wear them."

Tamaki squealed and closed his eyes in sheer joy.

"I want to see it!" he cried, "I really want to see, Kag—"

He only stopped when he noticed the murderously look on Kagome's face as she stood in front of him with the mannequin tightly clutched in her hands.

"Kagome?" he sheepishly asked her. He screamed when she threw the figure at him and reduce him to a crumbled heap on the floor.

"I am here to help Nekozawa-senpai, not put on a private peep show for you!"

Kagome took several breaths to calm down before she turned and looked at Nekozawa apologetically.

"I'm sorry about this," she said, "I really do want to help you."

"But you are!" Nekozawa insisted, "It's not that bad. With Renge's advice, I can actually picture Kirimi and practice how I should behave."

"Really? Even when you look at me?" Kagome asked, pointing to herself with her index finger.

"Well, I—Not exactly. What I mean is—"

Kagome sighed before Nekozawa could finish speaking and sat down with Kuma-chan in her lap. "If it's what you really want, I'll go along with it. Try some princely dialogue on me!"

"Alright," Nekozawa said and cleared his throat while he gathered his thoughts. He wasn't sure if replacing the teddy bear with Kagome was a good thing or not. Kuma-chan didn't resemble Kirimi, but Kagome didn't resemble Kirimi for completely different reasons.

"You skin is smooth and pale, gently kissed by the golden flames of the setting sun," he whispered, reaching out to gently take her hand, "Your beautiful eyes glow like precious sapphires and pierce through the darkness of night. And your hair, as black as the glossy feathers of the mysterious raven, is made of finely spun tendrils of pure wickedness!"

Kagome remained still as Nekozawa cupped her cheek. "Turn to the darkness, maiden of light! Forsake the light of day and walk beside me in darkness forever!"

"He really can't help himself," Hikaru said, shaking his head, "I thought putting Kagome in for the bear would make it easier." He grunted when Kagome tossed the teddy bear in his face.

"I didn't think it was that bad," she remarked, "It's a lot nicer than some of things I've heard."

"Seriously?" Nekozawa asked, "I tried not to get too carried away…"

Kagome nodded. "It was actually kind of cute, Nekozawa-senpai."

Nekozawa blushed. "Cute? You really mean that?"

"Sure! But, remember, you're not trying to impress me."

"Right! I'll try again."

Tamaki huffed and turned away from them, still holding the mannequin Kagome chucked at him. He muttered, "I didn't think it was that cute."

"You're not the only one," Kyoya commented.

Tamaki thought he was referring to himself until he heard the piece of chalk in Mori's hand snap with his eyes focused on Kagome and Nekozawa. In the back of his mind, he was glad that his brotherly protectiveness was directed at someone else, but as he considered what was happening right now…

You did good, senpai…

Feels better, doesn't it?

About earlier, I'm sorry…I didn't mean those things I said.

You're such a goofball.

Tamaki-senpai…

If we're going to have date number two, we should get going.

Senpai…

His relationship with Kagome certainly changed from that moment when she first entered the host club, but it happened over several months. Seeing her interact with Nekozawa so easily produced an unsettling feeling in his stomach. It was the same feeling he had when Kyoya discussed his date with Kagome during their last break. He didn't understand this feeling any more than he did on that day; all he knew was that he didn't like it.

Could she really have warmed up to Nekozawa-senpai that fast and without me noticing? Is he really the kind of boy she likes?

Kyoya's voice broke him for his troubling thoughts.

"Tamaki, are you alright?" he asked.

He nodded. "I'm fine, Kyoya. It's just…"

Kyoya readily understood what Tamaki failed to put into words. He said, "I know what you mean. Rather irritating, is it not?"

"I think that this is going not work much longer. Ignoring it like this," Tamaki said. Their princess wasn't only their princess.

Kyoya sighed and pushed his glasses back on his nose. "I suppose you are right about that, but now's not the time to discuss it."

"What's going on?" Kaoru whispered to his surrounding peers, "I get the feeling they're nothing talking about the situation with Nekozawa-senpai anymore."

"Seriously?" Renge remarked, exasperated, "How is my training supposed to stick where you're all losing focus?"

"Maybe it's time we tried and different tactic?" Kagome suggested, "This character training session isn't doing much good."

"No way! We just have to work harder to break Nekozawa-senpai's inclination toward occult terms," Renge protested before she turned her attention back to Nekozawa.

"As I've said before, an air of aloofness and mystery is good for darker character types, but anything overtly occult and arcane, especially fashion, is a no go!" she explained, "Nekozawa-senpai, I want you to try again with Kagome standing in for Kirimi-chan since you respond better to him, but you have to look at him with the eyes of your heart. If you do that, you will see Kirimi-chan in his place!"

"Oh good grief," Kagome muttered but remained in the armchair against her better judgment.

"The eyes of the heart, huh?" Tamaki said as he turned away from Kyoya and looked at the mannequin again, cold and expressionless with no resemblance to Kagome at all. However…

***the following thought is brought to you by Tamaki's Inner Mind Theater***

Tamaki gulped as he looked at Kagome's lithe form propped in his lap with her arms around his neck. She hummed while she twirled his flyaway strands of hair around her slender fingers and coyly crossed and uncrossed her legs making her pink skirt shift over her thighs. Before he could be tempted, Tamaki looked away only to peer through the heart—shaped window to her ample bosom.

"Tama-senpai," she sang, "Est-ce que tu me vois?"

"What?" he asked, dazed.

Kagome giggled and playfully tapped his nose before she repeated her question in Japanese.

"Do you see me, senpai?"

Unable to speak, Tamaki nodded as he directed his gaze to Kagome's sweet face. She gave him a slight smirk before gently coaxing his face closer to hers.

"Tama-senpai, you're so cute!" she exclaimed, "I have just one more question for you, mon amour. Embrasse-moi, s'il vous plaît?"

***this has been a production of Tamaki's Inner Mind Theater***

"Oui! Oui! Mille fois oui!" Tamaki zealously cried, holding the mannequin tightly.

Renge grinned and turned her attention back to her new protégé. "See, Nekozawa-senpai? It's easy! Just follow Tamaki's example, and you'll do just fine."

"Is it really that simple?" Nekozawa muttered to himself as he looked back and forth between his unconventional character coach and his reluctant study aid. He still couldn't see Kirimi in Kagome's place.

"Not that I'm doubting your methods, Renge-chan," Kagome interjected, "but Tamaki-senpai isn't the best model for Nekozawa-senpai to follow for something like this. His imagination is always in overdrive, so doing crazy things comes easy to him."

"Just whose methods are you calling crazy? I'm the expert here!" Renge shrieked.

"Again, I'm not doubting you!" Kagome insisted.

"Kagome does have a point, Renge," Kaoru said, "Nekozawa-senpai has to follow the example of someone who has similar mannerisms."

Renge huffed, folding her arms over her chest. "I suppose it does make more sense when you put it that way. It's your turn, Kyoya-senpai!"

Kyoya momentarily stilled, pausing long enough to look away from his notebook. "Just what are you suggesting I do, Renge-san?"

Hikaru grinned and said, "Follow Renge's instructions and look at this with the eyes of your heart until you can see Kagome!"

He tossed a new and improved Kuma-chan wearing a replica of Kagome's old middle school uniform he inexplicably acquired and a long black wig on top of Kyoya's notebook.

"Out of all of us, you're the most calm and reserved. Show us what you can do, Kyoya-senpai!"

"Have you guys completely lost it?" Kagome asked, stifling her laughter, "Kyoya-senpai would neve—"

Her voice wavered when she noticed Kyoya's fingers tighten on the spine of his notebook and a foreign color highlight his normally pale cheeks. His eyes were hidden by his glasses making it hard to guess what he was thinking.

"Don't tell…"

"Is he actually…"

***the following thought is brought to you by Kyo—

"Excuse me," Haruhi tersely announced herself as she entered the dark room.

"Kuretake-san and Kadomatsu-san had to return to the Nekozawa family home, and Kirimi-chan's been asking to see Tamaki-senpai." She paused and narrowed her eyes when she spotted the scantily clad mannequin Tamaki held.

"If you can waste your time with disgusting things like that, you can spare a few minutes to entertain her."

"Disgusting?" he tearfully repeated. He couldn't help it if Renge's suggestion was so tempting! He would have gladly traded the life-sized figurine for Kagome if she wasn't preoccupied with Nekozawa. As upset as he was about the recent development, he still wanted to help him.

"What's the problem, Haruhi? You doing like children?" Kyoya asked. The teddy bear was now completely out of sight.

Haruhi shrugged. "Well, it's not that I don't like them, but I just spent the last hour or so reading shōjo manga to Kirimi-chan. I didn't know they're actually full of reverse harems and debauchery! I really need to take a breather."

"Where did Kuma-chan go?" Hikaru whispered.

"Dunno," Kaoru answered, "I didn't see Kyoya get rid of it."

"I don't care!" Kagome hissed, "I just want to forget what almost happened. How did you guys even get a copy of my old uniform for a teddy bear anyway?"

"Well, we—"

"Big Brother…?" Kirimi called out from the hallway, her soft voice cutting Hikaru off. She peeked in through a small crack in the door with tears started in their corner of her eyes.

"This room is dark and scary!"

"Kirimi-chan," Haruhi said as she walked up to her then crouched down to her level, "I told you to wait in the other room until I got Tamaki-senpai." She leaned away when Kirimi began to cry.

"What's wrong little one?" Tamaki asked. After setting the mannequin aside, he rushed for the door and picked Kirimi up. He brought her into the brightly lit hallway, smiling as he rocked her back and forth.

"There, there, calm down," he told her, "There's nothing for you to be afraid of."

Kirimi giggled, her fears instantly erased when Tamaki began to twirl her around. Nekozawa turned away from them and lowered his head until his blond fringe covered his eyes.

"Nekozawa-senpai?" Kagome asked, hesitantly reaching for him. He abruptly stepped away from her and took the flashlight Renge held.

"I am a handsome, princely Big Brother," he mumbled, trembling as he turned away from everyone else and pointed the flashlight at himself, "I am a handsome, princely Big Brother. I am a handsome princely Big Brother! And I'm not afraid of this flashlight!"

Everyone waited as Nekozawa pressed the button on the flashlight and shined a bright beam of light directly into his face. He bit his lip to hold in his screams of fright and stood his ground.

"Self-inflicted evil beam!" he cried.

"I can't believe it! Neko-chan actually did it!" Honey exclaimed, impressed with his classmate. Mori thoughtfully hummed and began to softly clap.

"Nekozawa-senpai has come a long way!" Renge declared almost in tears, "He is able to shine a flashlight in his own face! I had my doubts in the beginning, but my character training is an absolute success."

"Bravo," Hikaru and Kaoru chorused in a low monotone voice. They clearly weren't as impressed as the others.

Kagome sighed and rose to her feet. She wasn't sure exactly what Nekozawa accomplished, but, if he was happy, so was she. And, if all this craziness was over and done with, she could change out of this uniform and into her normal clothes.

"You did it! Your sister is going to be so thrilled!" Tamaki said as he walked back into the room with Kirimi in his arms. He placed her on the floor and gave her a little nudge in Nekozawa's direction.

"Look there, Kirimi-chan! That is your real Big Brother!"

Kirimi hesitated but took a few steps toward Nekozawa, who still had his back turned.

"Kirimi," Nekozawa said and slowly turned to face her with the flashlight still turned on and pointed at his face.

Kirimi stiffened when she saw his face eerily shadowed by the light pointed at his face under his chin.

"It's a monster! Go away!" she shouted and took off as fast as she could into the hallway.

"Kirimi! Wait!" Nekozawa shouted and tried to stop her, but she was already gone.

"I guess that didn't work after all," Haruhi dryly commented although she felt bad for Nekozawa's predicament.

"Oh, Kirimi," Nekozawa whispered as he sank to his feet in defeat. There was nothing more he could do.

"Nekozawa-senpai?" Tamaki address him as he knelt by his side. Because Kirimi preferred him to her own brother, he felt guilty.

"I've had enough of all this," Nekozawa said as he looked up with a defeated look on his face, "Even if I continue with this special training, there no guarantee Kirimi will ever accept me as her older brother." He took a deep breath, trying to fight back the urge to cry.

"I think Kirimi would be better off if you acted as her brother in my stead, Suoh."

"But that's ridiculous!" Tamaki retorted, wearing a frown, "You are the one Kirimi-chan wants to see, not me. If you really care about her, you will do whatever it takes to win her over! If the training isn't working for you, we can try something else. Don't give up!"

"Well, if we're going to try a new tactic, at least we can get some light in here while we think," Hikaru said as he opened the curtain. He looked out the revealed windows, making a noncommittal noise in the back of his throat when he saw something in the courtyard.

"Hey, look. Kirimi-chan hasn't made it out of the courtyard yet."

Kaoru joined him and looked as well. "There's something else down there with her. It's just a cat though. Nothing to worry about."

"A cat, huh?" Haruhi commented as she joined them, "I guess you weren't kidding before, Nekozawa-senpai. Your family really does love cats if strays warm up to you guys."

"Even if it's just a cat, someone should go get her before she leaves the academy grounds," Kagome remarked and started to walk to the doorway to do just that.

"I'm coming too!" Honey declared and skipped off to join her with Mori at his side.

"What a minute!" Nekozawa yelled and quickly ran up to the window to look with the others.

"It's true that cats are revered by our family, but it's not the case for Kirimi. Cats are what she is most afraid of!"

"She's afraid of them?" Haruhi repeated as surprised as everyone else in the room.

Then, without warning, Nekozawa ran a short distance from the window before he charged and leaped through, breaking the glass, and landing on the ground below. Without missing a bit, he took off and sprinted to Kirimi, calling out her name.

"Nekozawa-senpai!" Tamaki shouted.

"Oh no!" Haruhi called out. "He's not wearing his cloak!"

"I think you would be more concerned with the fact he jumped out a two-story window," Hikaru remarked, teasing.

"Now's not the time to make jokes!" she replied with a slight hue of pink in her cheeks. She could admit what she said sounded silly but only in her own thoughts.

"We have to do something!"

Before Haruhi or anyone else knew it, a dark brown blur whizzed passed them and jumped out the shattered window to join Nekozawa and Kirimi in the courtyard.

"What the—?"

"Go-chan! Go-chan!" Honey cried as he ran back to the window with Mori running ahead of him.

"Honey-senpai, what happened?" Haruhi asked.

"When we heard glass breaking, Go-chan grabbed something from her backpack and ran back in here," the tiny senior explained before he looked into the courtyard. He blanched when he saw Kagome outside following behind Nekozawa. When he heard the heavy but fading footsteps of Mori's feet as he ran outside, Honey knew he would take care of Kagome. That meant the duty of taking care of everyone up here fell to him.

"You let my poor, sweet Go-chan jump out of the window! What were you thinking?"

-O0o0O-

"Kirimi!" Nekozawa shouted as he continued running toward her.

The sound of his voice caught Kirimi's attention. When she turned to face him, her eyes lit up in recognition. She ignored the presence of the cat, who decided she was too much trouble and wandered away. The boy running to save her looked exactly like the portrait in her family's home, the proud and handsome prince. She smiled and jumped into his arms as soon as he was close to her.

"Big Brother!" she exclaimed, "It really is you!"

Nekozawa froze in amazement as his arms automatically circled around Kirimi's little body so she wouldn't fall.

Big Brother. She called me Big Brother!

Composing himself, Nekozawa smiled as he placed his sister down on the ground. He crouched down in front of her and said, "There is no need to be afraid, Kirimi. I promise I won't let that cat or anything else come near you, alright?" He pulled out his puppet, delighting when Kirimi giggled as he made it nod in agreement.

"This is Beelzenef, and he'll help me protect," he told her, his voice growing strained, "With him, I will…I will curse…curse—" With a pain filled groan, Nekozawa fell flat on his face. The adrenaline wore off, and he lost the last bit of his strength.

"Big Brother!" Kirimi shouted in alarm, "Are you alright?"

Before Nekozawa could answer, a shadow appeared above him, covering him and Kirimi from the bright sunlight. He looked up and saw Kagome standing beside them with her pink umbrella.

"Kagome?" he uttered.

"Lucky for you, I always keep this thing handy whether I need it in a sudden downpour or to block the rays of the sun," she replied with a short laugh.

"Thank you for all your help," Nekozawa said as he propped himself up even though he was still weak.

Kagome nodded and turned her attention to the little girl

"See, Kirimi-chan? Isn't a brother like this much better than ones in your comics?" she questioned, "A prince of darkness who braves the light he fears for the one he loves the most." She paused and playfully added, "And he is really cute in his own way, don't you think so?"

Once again, Nekozawa was overcome by heat, but it did not come from the sun.

"Light maiden…" he mumbled, unsure of what he should say.

Kirimi thoughtfully looked at the two teens before she smiled and nodded. "Uh-huh!"

"Great!" Kagome remarked, "Now you hold this while I try to call Kuretake-san or Kadomatsu-san to take you home. When I ask for it, tell me the number to your house, okay?"

"Sure!"

Kagome gave Kirimi the handle of her umbrella before pulling her new cellphone from her pocket, the one familiar item she found when she was looking for her normal uniform. After he failed to contact her with Mori's phone, Akira ordered and gave her a phone of her own, something called a Galaxy something or other, with all the bells and whistles preinstalled and all contacts she'd ever need programmed in the address book. He's been acting stranger than normal, so she accepted it without complaint although she still couldn't operate it properly.

"On second thought, maybe you should call them," Kagome said and held out her phone to Nekozawa, "Are you feeling well enough to manage that?"

"Certainly," Nekozawa replied and took the offered device.

Above them, the host club looked down into the courtyard through the shattered window. After giving them a thorough chewing out, Honey left after Mori did.

"I can't believe the both of them jumped form the second story," Haruhi said, "but I suppose it all worked out."

"If you say so," Renge remarked with a sigh, "All of my training's gone to waste, but I guess it's all worth in the end since I got to see another facet of Kagome-kun's character in action! Who would have thought he'd have a soft spot for Nekozawa-senpai? What a joy to watch!"

"I guess this means we're done for the day, right?" Haruhi paused as she waited for a reply.

"Senpai?" she asked when she did not receive an answer. From the corner of her eye, she saw Tamaki looking into the courtyard with his blond fringe covering his eyes.

"Senpai?" she repeated, concerned, "Are you okay?"

"Yeah. Club activities are done for the day," he finally answered, "Good work, everyone."

Before anyone could question his dull and listless response, Tamaki left the room and made it downstairs just in time to see the Nekozawa family's servants arrive to collect the two siblings. Kagome waved at Kirimi as she rode on Kadomatsu's shoulders, so she could hold the umbrella over Nekozawa's head. Tamaki then realized he wasn't the only one who left the music room to see the rebel host.

"Kyoya?" he addressed him.

"You were right. Things cannot continue the way they are," he replied, "and I believe it would be better if we didn't delay any longer."

Tamaki nodded. "Right, I am surprised you decided to discuss it so soon."

"Even I can admit I was wrong," he acknowledged, "Besides, don't you want to get it out of the way as well."

"I do," Tamaki said, "It's just…strange. I don't know why I feel like this. Nekozawa-senpai is from a good family, and he's not a delinquent or someone who would treat Kagome badly. But the thought of him near her especially since he knows she's a girl…" He turned and looked at Kyoya.

"Is this what Mori-senpai feels whenever he sees Kagome with a boy?"

Kyoya snorted a laugh. Tamaki really didn't have a clue. He truly was isolated during his childhood in France.

Not that I'm any better with certain relationships, Kyoya considered. At least, they could learn together.

"Something like that," he remarked.

They turned their attention to Kagome and watched her put her phone into her skirt pocket before she turned around to return to the host club. She wasn't surprised to see them behind.

"Hey, guys," she said, "Miss me?" Kagome didn't wait for a reply as she approached the two boys.

"You know, being quiet and serious isn't like you, senpai not like at all," she said to Tamaki then glanced at Kyoya, "Same goes for you tiptoeing around what you really want, Kyoya-senpai. It's not cute, ya know."

Tamaki couldn't help himself and replied, "I guess we're not like Nekozawa-senpai. He is your type, isn't he?"

Kagome rolled her eyes. "It isn't like that between us. He's a good listener and gave me some good advice. Actually, I was the one who gave it to him first, but he did suggest that I take it too. So here I go."

Kagome took a deep breath and averted her eyes, mentally preparing herself for what she was about to say.

"Kagome?" Tamaki asked her when she didn't speak.

"Don't rush me!" she snapped, "It's difficult to put into words. I'm still not exactly sure what I want to tell you."

"Not saying what's on your mind isn't like you, but it doesn't make you any less cute," Kyoya remarked. It was nice to see her so flustered after what he and Tamaki endured today.

"I like you!" she blurted looking exactly like the bashful schoolgirls who confessed to them daily whether it was during host club hours or not.

"There was a boy I liked a long time ago," Kagome began to explained, "Well, maybe not as long as that implied, but it seems like it was an entire lifetime ago for me. Anyway, I haven't seen him since I transferred to Ouran Academy, but we do keep in touch." She snorted a laugh before continuing again.

"Well, at least we planned to, but it didn't work out that way. The point I'm trying to make is that I never actually told him I liked him, and we sort of danced around each other, not telling the other how we felt. I guess it had to do with the kind of person he was and who I was at the time."

Kagome knew she was babbling, but Tamaki didn't interrupt and Kyoya continued to listen so she kept talking.

"He was awkward with expressing his feelings, and, when it came to that, I felt too awkward to address it first if you can believe that. There was also another girl in his life. She used to be his lover." Kagome frowned. She didn't like that word.

"She was much more to him than just that, but I don't feel comfortable talking about it. She was his first love, but the two of them were forced apart. I've been told more times than I'd like to remember that I resemble her especially by him. Granted, he didn't bring it up too often, and he eventually stopped all together. He usually said it when he was frustrated with something I said or did that was different from what she would have done in the same situation, or when we actually ran into her. Either way, it always hurt to hear him say those things. It was like he was saying that Kagome was never enough even though I cared about him…loved him as much as I did.

"There was a place in his heart that would always be hers, and I could never reach it. That's why the situation with Nekozawa-senpai rubbed me the wrong way from the very start. I know you only wanted to help him, but I couldn't help but be reminded of those times when Kagome wasn't enough."

"That man is a fool," Kyoya abruptly stated.

Kagome blinked owlishly. She wasn't expecting either of them to say anything. "Wha—?"

"I agree," Tamaki earnestly remarked, "While I'm sure his princess is lovely in her own right, she could never compare to you, Kagome."

Kagome huffed. That was exactly the kind of thing Tamaki would say.

"You never met Kikyo," she retorted.

"But, Kagome—" Tamaki began, but Kagome cut him off.

"I know you mean well, but, there's no denying what's undoubtedly true."

InuYasha, she absently thought, are you with her now? Is that why you haven't come for me?

Truthfully, Kagome didn't mind hisabsence or even miss his presence until she was reminded of him today. That made her feel much worse. Even though Naraku was defeated and the Shikon Jewel was complete, Kagome could still freely pass between both eras. She didn't have to choose between the past and the present and tried to balance her time in between the two. She fussed over Sota and Shippo as they continued their studies and excitedly told her everything they learned. She supported Sango and her mother, two strong woman who were capable of much more than anyone else thought possible. She listened to the stories of Miroku and Kaede and her grandfather, knowing exactly which tales she should accept with a grain of salt. InuYasha was her dearest friend able to transcend time and be with her in both time periods. The Higurashi shrine was her home, always was and always will be, watched over by the omnipresent Goshinbaku who welcomed and protected everyone she held dear.

After she moved and transferred Ouran Academy, Kagome realized that, without her knowledge, she worried about the past less and less, and her continued stay in the modern time seemed more permanent than before. She loved her friends and family on the other side of the well and would love them until the day she died, but she didn't need to be with them every minute of every day. They were happy with a place and purpose as Kagome was slowly but surely finding her own. Kagome wasn't sure which sentiment was more frightening: her shift in priorities or her overall acceptance of it.

However, there was still one loose end Kagome couldn't ignore. Kikyo was still roaming around Edo maintaining her existence with her soul collectors and the negligible fragment of Kagome's soul. The topic of the undead priestess continued to be a sensitive subject and, for the most part, the group avoided speaking of her openly. Kagome's life was not compromised by the having an incomplete soul, but the fragment Kikyo kept longed to become one with her again and fought against the clay shell that contained it. Kagome always thought it was very painful for Kikyo when they were both close to each other. If she was willing to go through so much pain just to continue existing, Kagome decided she would wait until Kikyo let go of her soul on her own.

But, no matter what era she was in or how much she grew from the naïve middle school girl she was, Kagome always saw Kikyo as a constant reminder of what she was not. Kagome bore the reanimated priestess no ill will, but, in her mind, the facts were the facts and even she couldn't deny them. She knew the cool and regal beauty would mingle perfectly with the prim and proper, the rich and elite of Ouran Academy unlike her. Kikyo was exactly the kind of girl prestigious families like the Morinozuka or the Haninozuka would accept as a daughter, groomed and polished to perfection. The kind of girl the Otori family and the Suoh family would readily accept.

Even an artificial flower with no fragrance or vitality of its own was still beautiful.

"Bellflowers are elegant and beautiful," Kagome said with a sad smile, "Crickets are noisy and bothersome. No one really wants a pest like that around."

"Tell me, exactly what advice did you give Nekozawa-senpai?" Kyoya asked, surprising Kagome again.

"I told him to make an effort and to be himself if he wanted to change his relationship with someone he cares about deeply. This is supposed to be my effort to do the same," she answered. She blew up her bangs in annoyance. "Some effort, huh?"

"Indeed," Kyoya remarked, "You were brazen enough to approach us outright, but you got caught up in your emotions even though you always scold Tamaki for doing the same thing."

"Kyoya!" Tamaki shouted, but his friend was not done.

"You're loud and irrational and oblivious nearly everything, especially if it concerns you," Kyoya continued, "You have an irrepressible drive to help other people at the expense of yourself while you hide your own hurts and faults with a smile, a false, plastic smile that should never grace your lovely face. You're one of the only people who can catch me off guard, and, to put it bluntly, you make me crazy."

"Kyoya," Kagome asked, wondering what he was trying to say. It wasn't like Kyoya to ramble on like she did. Listening to him made her heart beat rapid and irregular like the fragile limbs of a terrified cricket.

"But I like this feeling, and I like crickets," he confessed, "If I wanted a flower, I could easily acquire one. Flowers bloom rather easily when you know what to do, but crickets, particularly one single cricket, are much more difficult to obtain. Especially one that keeps jumping even when I tell her not to."

Kagome swallowed, hoping to sooth her dry throat. She asked, her voice barely a whisper, "Do you…do you really mean that, Kyoya?"

Kyoya rolled his eyes and stepped toward her to gingerly cup Kagome's cheek. "You know me better than that, don't you? But, if it needs to be said outright for you to understand, I don't waste my time with petty games."

When Kyoya touched her, Kagome relaxed and leaned into him. It made her feel like most of the tension, the indecisiveness and torment, left her body and mind completely.

"I guess I do know, but a little reinforcement every now and again is something I would appreciate."

"If I must, I will gladly accommodate you," he said before he leaned forward and kissed Kagome's temple. When he pulled away, he looked at Tamaki who watched the exchange, spellbound.

"Tamaki, do you have anything to add?" he asked, startling him.

"Me!" he squeaked. He cleared his throat before he spoke again.

"Well, I—that is to say—I!"

Kagome chucked as she stepped away from Kyoya and approached Tamaki. "Leave it to you to be flustered when it really matters. But it's one of the things that makes you who you are, Tamaki. And it makes you really cute too. Much cuter than you are when you're jealous of someone else."

"Cute?" he repeated, his face gaining a rosy tint.

Before she could blink, Kagome was on her back with Tamaki between her legs with his arms around her neck as he peppered her face with kisses.

"Cute!" he cried, happy, "She said I was cute!"

"For some reason, this scene is very familiar," Kagome murmured to herself, "If I knew paying you a complement would have gotten you out of that funk you've been in and out of since we decided to help Nekozawa-senpai, I would have done it sooner."

"Well, I do like it when you complement me," Tamaki started to explain as he placed one last kiss on Kagome's cheek, "That's not the reason why I'm so happy. Like Kyoya, I have something I want to tell you."

"Go ahead," Kagome encouraged him to continue, "I'm all ears."

Before he could say anything, Tamaki felt a sharp sting on the back of his head before he was thrown away from Kagome.

"Hentai chop!" Satoshi declared wielding his customary wooden sword.

Tamaki moaned in pain as he pulled himself from the wall Satoshi threw him against. As he expected, Mori and Honey were close by. Of course, the Morinozuka brothers would show up before he got the chance to confess how he felt to Kagome like Kyoya did.

With Tamaki out of the way, Satoshi stood over Kagome with a worried expression on his face.

"Nee-chan, are you alright?" he asked as he helped Kagome to her feet. He didn't wait for her answer before he continued speaking.

"What were you thinking jumping out of the window like that? How could you be so reckless?" he admonished, "Even if it was only from the second story, you could have seriously gotten hurt. Don't ever do anything like that again or I'm going to start going to the host club every week to make sure you don't! Clearly Taka and Mitsukuni can't keep an eye on you on their own."

Kagome nodded, guilty she didn't consider how everyone else would react to her abrupt actions. Luckily, she knew exactly what would cheer Satoshi up. She wouldn't have to wait until she and her brothers returned to the Morinozuka estate to continue making an effort.

"I'm sorry," she replied, "I never wanted to make you worry about me. After all, as your big sister, I'm supposed to do that for you."

Satoshi sighed and grinned. "I guess so, but you're such a complicated girl. Anyone looking after you needs all the help he can get, Nee-chan. I swear I never met a girl as troublesome as you are. Then again, you wouldn't be my Nee-chan if you were like any other girl."

Kagome nodded, happy. "Well, since you think I'm so troublesome, maybe I should start some kind of training regimen at home so I won't get into troublesome situations so often. Would you help me out, Satoshi?"

"Of course I will, but you didn't have to ask my permission! You have just as much right to us the family dojos as—"

Satoshi stilled and stared at Kagome in wonder and awe.

"Satoshi, are you—?" Kagome began to ask, but she suddenly found herself in the same position she was in less than five minutes ago with Satoshi on top of her with his arms around her neck.

"Nee-chan, I'm so happy!" he exclaimed, "You finally dropped the honorifics!"

Kagome giggled and hugged Satoshi tighter. "I'm your big sister. I'm supposed to make you happy. I'm sorry it took so long for me to realize that, so I'm going to try harder to make sure that I do."

"Don't worry about it!" Satoshi said, 'I knew you would stop using them sooner or later. Besides, I love you, Nee-chan! I would have waited as long as I had to!"

After a few more seconds of watching, Mori grunted as he grabbed Satoshi by the collar and set him back on his feet before he helped Kagome up.

"I guess since he's the big brother, Taka's supposed to punish me when I get out of line," Satoshi mumbled, sheepishly scratching his neck.

"Well, you had poor Go-chan pinned to the ground! Takashi had to do something," Honey insisted.

"Now, now," Kagome said as she brushed the dirt from the back of her skirt, "Since everything's over and done with, let's pick up Chika-kun, so we can all go home together and cook dinner. It's been a while since we were able to do that."

"Dessert too?" Honey asked, excited.

Kagome leaned forward and tapped his nose. "What's a good meal without dessert, Mitsu-kun?"

"Hooray! I want cake!" he cried, "Red velvet with two layers and extra cream cheese icing. And cookies too! Sugar cookies with strawberry icing. And fresh strawberries on top!"

"You got it, but I think we better stop by the grocery store first. Let's go, Satoshi…Nii-chama."

Kagome looked at Mori as she anxiously waited for him to respond. She hoped she chose the right title. Mori didn't exactly strike her as the kind of guy who would insist on being addressed as "-sama" or "-san". She got the idea to use "-chama" from Kirimi.

Then again, using "-chama" makes me sound like a little kid, she thought, dismayed.

Finally, Mori pressed his hand to the top of her head just like he always did. Even so, he was still unreadable.

"Nii-chama, is something wrong?" Kagome asked.

"No," he said before he bent down and kissed her forehead. When he pulled away, Mori gently took Kagome's hand in his.

"Let's go home."

"Of course," Kagome replied, beaming from ear to ear. She couldn't wait to get home.

Before they all left, Kagome turned to where Tamaki and Kyoya still stood.

"See you two tomorrow!" she called out.

Kyoya and, surprisingly, Tamaki remained quiet and waved as the group of relatives walked away.

"Kyoya…" Tamaki groaned. He was happy Kagome was making an effort to become closer with her brothers, but he didn't get the chance to tell her how he felt. He wasn't sure if another opportunity would occur after he missed this one.

"Don't worry, Tamaki," Kyoya said, grinning, "You can tell Kagome you love her tomorrow. The real one."

Tamaki blushed and shouted, "Oh shut up! Besides, don't act like I was the only one that got caught up with the eyes of the heart!"

"I have no idea what you're referring to," Kyoya stated in a clipped tone with no hints of his earlier teasing.

"Don't deny it! If Haruhi didn't interrupt us when she did, you would have—

-O0o0O-

Kagome hummed as she rested her head on her fist with her bent elbow resting on her thigh. She was usually more attentive when she was with her guests, but she packed nine boxed lunches last night for every member of the Morinozuka and Haninozuka families, herself included, after supper before she finally went to bed. Needless to say, she was more than a little tired.

Dinner consisted of tonkatsu, breaded pork fillets, served with pickled vegetables, rice, and miso soup. After cooking a meal with Tamaki and Kyoya, Kagome decided her relatives were much better at helping her in the kitchen. She used the leftovers to make each bento. She either used the fillets to make sandwiches or chopped them up and served the pieces over rice with curry she made a few nights ago. She made sure Satoshi's was extra spicy, and Honey got an extra serving of dessert.

"Kagome?" Rei asked, "Are you alright?"

"Yeah, just tired," Kagome answered then yawned without bothering to cover her mouth.

"Sorry," she mumbled halfheartedly.

"It's okay!" her regulars gushed, wholeheartedly approving of her rebel behavior.

"Pardon me, ladies," Kyoya said as he approached them, "I apologize, but there is a special guest who has designated Kagome for this time."

"Really?" Satoko whined.

"Time really does get away from us when we're spending it with Kagome-kun," Tsukiyo said.

"It's not like you have to go," Kagome said as her three regulars prepared to leave, "I'm sure whoever this is won't mind." She turned to Kyoya wearing her usual bored expression.

"Well, send her in, I'm as ready as I'll ever be."

Kyoya grinned and tapped Kagome's nose. He told her, "As you wish."

Kagome huffed and turned her head as her current guests cleared the way for her new arrival to hide her pleased smile. She was afraid Kyoya would act like nothing changed and was extremely pleased that he didn't. They only problem was that Tamaki hasn't spoken to her since yesterday.

"That's no way to greet your guests, ya know!"

Kagome turned to see Tamaki plopping next to her in the space Tsukiyo and the others vacated.

"Hello, cricket!" he said as he pulled her into his arms and kissed her cheek.

"Tamaki-senpai, what the hell are you doing?" she asked, blushing fervently, "You can see me any ol' time you want to!"

"I know I can, but isn't this what you do when you like someone?" Tamaki asked, the bravado he displayed just moments before fading, "Spend time with him?"

"Ah!" Rei cried, "What did Tamaki-kun just say?"

"Tamaki-kun likes Kagome!" Satoko answered, "Could he really mean…?"

"BL? As in boy love? As in yaoi?" Tsukiyo squealed, "It's too good to be true!"

Ignoring her frantic fans, Kagome asked, "What do you mean by that?"

"You know, what happened yesterday," he answered, hesitant, "Unless…I mean—did you…did you not mean to include me in what you said?"

Kagome quietly gasped at Tamaki's nearly whispered admission before she quickly reassured him. She gently brushed his bangs from his forehead and kissed him right in the center in full view of the entire club and their guests.

"I did mean for it to apply to you," she told him, "I'm sorry if I upset you."

Tamaki glowed and readily received Kagome's affections, sighing happily. "I understand, but a simple 'I'm sorry' isn't enough for me to forgive you."

"Well, what do I have to do to be forgiven?" Kagome asked with a quick roll of her eyes. She knew Tamaki was only teasing her.

Tamaki hummed before he stretched out on the sofa until he rested his head in Kagome's lap. "You're going to let me stay right here until I forgive you."

"Alright, you big baby," she replied, making sure she was still in character while she petted Tamaki's hair, "Do whatever you like."

Hikaru and Kaoru intruded on the peaceful scene, ready to stir things up.

"Don't tell me you two designated me?" Kagome remarked when she saw them, "I have enough on my plate as it is."

"Don't get too cocky, Mr. Rebel," Hikaru said, "The boss isn't your only special guest."

"We're just bringing him to you," Kaoru added. They both parted to make way for her guest's appearance who wore a dark cloak over his uniform.

"Light maiden, hello," Nekozawa greeted her.

"Nekozawa-senpai, what are you doing here?" Kagome asked, "Are you feeling better after your episode yesterday?"

"I'm here to see you, fair maiden of light," he answered," I wish to give you my thanks for all of your help and extend an invitation to the Black Magic Club."

Tamaki grumbled and tightened his hold around Kagome's middle.

"I'm glad we could help you, senpai," Kagome replied, "And I appreciate the offer, but my place is here in the host club."

Tamaki nodded against Kagome's stomach, tickling her.

"I see," Nekozawa said, "That is unfortunate. We were hoped you had a change of heart."

"We?" Kagome repeated.

The lights suddenly dimmed as a short figure garbed entirely in black entered the room with a butchered version of the standard villain laugh.

"Kukukuku…"

"What is this? A skit?" Rei hypothesized as she whispered to Tsukiyo. Other host club patrons who were looking in on the situation between Kagome and Tamaki chimed in with their own theories. The hosts also watched, curious to see what would happen.

"Could Nekozawa-san be involved in a love triangle with Tamaki-kun and Kagome-kun?"

"How scandalous!"

"Hello," Kagome cautiously greeted the newcomer, gently petting Tamaki's hair when he tightened his grip for different reason than before. She didn't find this situation as scary as he did, only odd.

"Greetings, being of light," the figure said before its dark hood was pulled back.

"Kirimi-chan?" Haruhi asked, confused, "Don't tell me she's into the occult now."

Hikaru shrugged. "I guess they decided to switch from reading her shōjo manga to something a little darker."

"Any particular reason you came to see me, Kirimi-chan?" Kagome asked the little girl.

"You're a rebel who shrouds his pure heart with a cloak of darkness," Kirimi declared, "I have decided no matter what you will marry my big brother and become a princess of darkness! He will not lose to anyone!"

Kagome only blinked owlishly. "Huh?"

"It really is a love triangle!"

"Does that mean Nekozawa-senpai's joining the host club?"

"Absolutely not!" Tamaki shouted, finally removing himself from Kagome's lap. He grabbed Nekozawa by the cloak and shook him with some much force his hood fell back.

"I forbid it! You will never take Kagome away from me!"

"Calm down, Suoh!" Nekozawa tried to explain, "I'd never do that! I swear I had no idea Kirimi planned to say all that!"

Kirimi giggled and grabbed Kagome's hand, pulling her out of her seat.

"Come with me!" she cried, "You're going to love it at our house! We can even get you a cloak like ours so we can all match, okay?"

"Wait a minute, Kirimi-chan!" Kagome yelled as she tried to pull away. She stopped resisting when Kirimi looked at her with her big blue eyes full of tears. Ignoring Tamaki's puppy dog eyes was one thing, but ignoring the sweet, pleading gaze of a little girl was another matter entirely.

"I guess going for a short visit wouldn't hurt," she relented.

Kirimi squealed happily and began pulling a limp and complacent Kagome with her.

"Wait a minute!" Honey shouted, frantically waving Usa-chan in the air, "Don't take Go-chan away!"

Tamaki gasped in horror before roughly tossing Nekozawa to the ground. "No! Kagome stays here with me!"

"No, Kagome's ours!" Kirimi countered.

Tamaki lunged for her and Kagome only to be tackled to the ground by Nekozawa who held him tightly around the waist.

"Let go of me!" he shouted as he dragged himself and Nekozawa along the floor.

"I'm sorry, Suoh, but I won't let you hurt Kirimi," Nekozawa grunted.

"Damn it! Since when are you so strong?" Tamaki grumbled when he noticed he was going nowhere fast while Kagome and Kirimi were already entering the hallway.

"Kirimi!" he hollered, "Bring Kagome back to me! Please!"

Kirimi paused before she turned her head and stuck her tongue out at him. "I don't have to listen to you! You're not my Big Brother!"

Tamaki's face blanched. He was sure he could appeal to Kirimi directly if he just asked, but it seemed she didn't like him as much as she did yesterday. He began crawling on the floor again with renewed vigor.

"Just wait until I get my hands on you! I'll get Kagome back even if it kills me!"

"Not a chance! You'll never defeat my real Big Brother!"

Tired of watching Tamaki and Kirimi go back and forth, Haruhi stood up and shouted, "Senpai! Get a hold of yourself! You're having a shouting match with a three-year-old child!"

"She started it!" he retorted, "If you want do something about it, why don't you help me?"

Haruhi sighed and retreated to the attached kitchen. "I'll go get more refreshments."

"That's not what I meant!" Tamaki yelled, frustrated.

"Don't worry, boss!" Hikaru and Kaoru said in unison before they both flipped on the light switch, lighting the room completely once more.

Nekozawa screamed and scrambled to cover himself from the bright lights. "Murderers! You're going to kill me!"

Kyoya sighed before following Kagome and Kirimi into the hallway. As good as this little fiasco would be for business, he couldn't allow Kagome to be forcibly taken to the Nekozawa household. He'd get her back without too much fuss. After all, he was not above bribing a toddler.

"Kirimi-chan," he said sweetly to the little girl, laying it on as thickly as he could, "I'm afraid Kagome is unable to visit your home today, but you can stay here as long as you like. Would that be okay?"

Kirimi puffed up her cheeks, aggravated. "Nuh-uh! I don't have to listen to glasses characters either!"

"Was that really the best you can do?" Kagome asked, wry.

Kyoya countered with a raised eyebrow, "I don't see you trying to get away. Some bad boy. You can't even get away from a little girl."

Kagome snorted. "You can say that all you want, but making a little girl cry isn't going to help my image."

"Not as much as this predicament is anyway," Kyoya replied, "Seems like we may start offering a new package if Nekozawa-senpai doesn't mind helping out every now and then."

Just as Kyoya said, the entire host club clientele was abuzz with excitement as they eagerly watched the unprecedented series of events unfold.

"This is all so exciting!"

"I love it!"

"Me too!"

"I want to see more!"

In the midst of all of the madness, there was only one thing Kagome could do.

"Nii-chama! Help me!"

-O0o0O-

punkish furball – That's a wrap! I hope you all enjoyed and look forward to more updates. Until then, TCB! ^_~*

(revised 06.27.2015)