This part was scribbled in a hurry when I should have been working on an essay on modernity. This is unedited, sorry for any mistake. As usual, C&C's are welcome!


Shizuru stood on the doorstep, exhaling a gray puff of smoke into the hazy night sky. She narrowed her eyes and looked at her brother. He hadn't changed at all, she thought. Physically, that is. He must have changed somewhat, inside. We all change inside.

"Yuusuke came by today," she remarked, oh-so-casually.

Kuwabara stiffened for a moment, then relaxed. "Doesn't he have a world to rule or something?" He scratched absently at an itch on his neck and shifted his weight.

Shizuru shrugged. "He came to see Yukina. He's..." She hesitated, wondering how to put it into words, wondering if her brother gave a damn. "He asked about Keiko," she finished rather lamely.

Kuwabara grunted. Yes, definitely changed, Shizuru thought. She looked down at the fragile ash clinging precariously to the tip of her cigarette and felt as if she wanted to sigh. Everything  changes. So fast. The years just pass by so fast. Sometimes she wished things would stay the same, as it was, eighteen years ago, before everything started falling apart.

She didn't sigh. Instead, she took one last pull on her cigarette and flung it away.

"Hey," Kuwabara protested.

"See ya around, little brother." She turned away with a wave of her hand.

"You want a lift home?" Kuwabara called. An elongated rectangle of yellow light appeared on the porch as the front door opened. Yukina stood in the doorway, drying her hands on a dishrag.

"Nah. It's just ten minutes walking." Shizuru included the Koorime in her wave. When she reached the gate, she turned around. Kuwabara stood with his back to her, facing Yukina. She had a hand on his arm and was saying something to him, her cool, lovely face earnest. Shizuru could not make out what they were talking about.

The gate swung shut with a creak. She walked down the deserted street, her heels making a slight clip-clop sound in the silence. Residential houses loomed on either side of her. She looked up and saw two silhouettes entwined together, framed in a yellow square.

Maybe she'd give Keiko a call. It had been a long time since they got together, after all. She took out her cellphone and started to punch in the numbers.


Blood dripped from steel.

He watched the droplets falling viscously to the withered grass, transfixed. Blood. The blood of those whom he had called comrades, if not friends. Blood stained the ground around him, it stained his clothes, his body, and dripped into his eyes.

It was just about now that he realized they had made a big mistake.

He looked up from his position on the ground at the black-clad demon standing in front of him, so still he might have been a statue. "No," he whispered, "Don't kill me... please... I'll do anything..."

The youkai did not seem to hear him. Red eyes regarded him calmly.

"We - we just wanted your wealth," he started blabbering, "We would have let you go. We wouldn't have  harmed you... Please... Don't..." He stared into the indifferent face above him, and his pleas died on his lips.  "Who - who are you?" he stammered.

Finally the mask of indifference dissolved and the demon smiled. "I am your death," he whispered, and raised his sword.

The youkai thief watched as the katana swung down in a flashing arc, droplets of blood flying everywhere from the blade. He opened his mouth to say something, just say something, that might perhaps save him or absolve him, he didn't know what. But as the blade plunged into his heart and blood filled his mouth, he found that it was far too late to say anything at all.

As his vision dimmed, he saw his killer turn away, examining his katana. The dying thief felt outraged for a moment that his death could be so easily dismissed but he was really in no position to do anything about it.

Soon the diminutive figure in black disappeared from his sight and was replaced by the more or less generally unwelcome grinning face of Death.

A crow launched itself from a tree and went beating against the red Makai sky.

Shizuru awoke to the harsh cawing of a crow just outside the window of her apartment. She blinked gritty eyes against the bright sunlight and peered at the clock on the nightstand. Almost noon. She buried her face in the pillow with a groan. At least it was Sunday and-

The phone rang. With a curse, she reached over and picked it up. "Hello," she muttered into the mouthpiece. Her voice sounded like sandpaper.


She groaned, covering her eyes. "Keiko. I'm sorry, I should have met you at the park half an hour ago. Wait, I'm coming now."

"Maybe we should do it another time," came the voice, small and tinny as it traveled wires and poles.

"No, no, no. Just wait a few minutes, I'll be right there." She hung up without giving Keiko a further chance at a protest. She got out of bed and padded to the bathroom. Looking at herself in the mirror, she grimaced, which just made it worse, of course. When had all those lines appear? She'd never noticed them before. Maybe it was just the light.

As she brushed her teeth, she wondered what to say to Keiko. Thinking of Keiko made her thoughts wander back to Yuusuke. Should she play matchmaker and bring them back together again? But there was Kenji...

Shizuru had met Kenji a few times in the past. He was a quiet, amiable, easy going guy, and obviously very much in love with Keiko. Keiko herself had seemed fond of him. What had made them go their separate ways?

And Yuusuke. Did he still have feelings for Keiko? Had he ever loved her? He must have, Shizuru was sure. He must have loved her at one point, before...

But that brought back unhappy memories, and she did not want to go there. Besides, it was all in the past. It had been eighteen years, and Yuusuke had to let go, sooner or later.

She got out of the bathroom and went to stand at the window, still in her nightshirt. That cawing was getting on her nerves. She could see it, a monstrous black thing perched on the swaying branch of the tree next to her window. She leaned out and waved her arms madly. "Shoo!" she yelled. "Go away! Shoo!"

The crow took flight in alarm, wings beating frantically, a splotch of black ink against blue.

 Part Three

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Nov 98