Disclaimer: what can I say? After watching SAO I fell in love with it. But I don't own SAO, or Inuyasha, or Bleach. Not mine, lumping them all together though... that is my idea.

Chapter Three Floor 20 May 16th 11:08 a.m.

Kagome glanced back at her guild. Zangetsu and Chad were working out well for the guild, Zangetsu had probably done more for Souta in his grief than she could. Chad had proved to be a pillar of support, a week with them in the guild, and she no longer wondered how the two of them had managed on their for so long. Zangetsu's idiotic but quick thinking and Chad's determination to get them out, it was really more surprising she had been there for their close calls.

But the two of them being good for the guild was not doing good things for her crush.

Zangetsu got more attractive every single time she talked to him. It was getting scary because last time she had slipped up he'd reacted and saved her before Souta had even noticed. It sorta meant he either watched her more closely then her brother did or he was really that skilled to keep track of everyone while fighting himself. She could do it, she had to, but for him to wordlessly swoop in and take care of it for her without lording it over her was incredible.

Seeing him in calm, every day places made her appreciate what a figure he cut, even here where lots of people had done things to stand out. Plenty of people had been in different bodies and faces and even genders before their real selves were exposed but knowing his height and proportions were the same here as outside was drool inspiring.

And here she was daydreaming again, she should be thinking about what house they were going to buy, today was the day, they were getting the club house. Everyone was in their casual clothes and only her, Chad and Zangetsu were still carrying their weapons. And the guys were walking slow just kinda taking their time. She was power walking.

On second thought she was the one probably most excited about the house.

Not that, that had been why she had walked faster then them. That had been her head in the clouds and her new habits that helped her be leader. Inuyasha had liked to lead the way or cover the back of the group, depended on the day and where they had been, Miroku had always covered the rear. Unless there was some sweet talking to be done.

Thinking about him had her wishing he was around to bargain for the house.

Then her ears caught the sound of a hushed cry for help. Caution and habit had her using the listen skill in a passive manner, it allowed her to know the guys were chatting about food they missed, and TV and anime they would have to catch up on outside. Someone needed help.

Without thinking she had used her sprint skill, here on the lower floors she had heard orange players stalked, that was probably what was going on.

Following the sounds of pleading she arrived, two guys, a lone girl, her search skill highlighted two more guys hiding. It either was a trap with a staged rescue for her benefit or those two were afraid to try and help. Ignoring the two hiding she knew her skills were high enough they'd have to be thirty or better to even seriously hurt her.

"Let the girl go."

The two guys paused, Kagome could see they had the girl's menu up and appeared to be trying to make her touch her screen, Kagome saw the name Maiko.

The girl looked normal enough though the purple eyes had to be game added, the two boys pinning her less normal. One looked like a pirate with his goatee, and his hair was a color brown she knew only from the game, it was not something she had ever seen outside. The last of the two was less of a boy, slicked by silver hair was more gray then she was use to when thinking of silver. Inuyasha's sparkling silver white and Sesshomaru glinting silk, far better then this game made color.

Their weapons seemed to be an axe and a spear both of which they had laid down to struggle with the girl. Her weapon seemed oddly absent. It was possible they had tossed it away or carried her away from it, or been broken, but she had an almost full bar of health. It was looking more and more like a trap.

Drawing her sword she smiled nastily down at them. "I said let the girl go, I don't like to repeat myself."

Slowly they got off her, the silver one slowly reached for his spear, Kagome smirked at him and put the tip of her blade to his nose. "Stop that, I wouldn't want to have to kill you, take you into town that's another matter."


Kagome mentally rolled her eyes, took the group long enough. "Here."

The girl that had been getting up, scurried behind her, Kagome tried to keep an eye on her while controlling the two guys on the ground in front of her. A third distraction came into play as the two hidden men started moving, their hiding wasn't good enough, she could hear and see them. It had to be a trap.

She really kinda wished the guys would hurry up.

The two burst from the bushes but Kagome didn't pay them any heed, she twisted around and caught Maiko by the wrist, she yanked her around and flung her into the two charging fools. The short sword Maiko had, must have been stashed behind the place they wanted the victim to be standing, it cut her as she threw the girl away.

Ignoring the glowing slice in her hip she waded into the pile she had made using the girl. The two boys who had been the fake attackers were orange, the other two weren't and neither was the girl, but Kagome knew a practiced trap when she saw one. Breaking the spear she used her hilt to butt Mr. Silver in the face, his pirate companion got kicked in the chest hard enough he went flying. Heartlessly Kagome stepped on the girl she had thrown and pointed her sword at the two struggling guys left.

"I suggest all of you stop struggling, my friends will be here soon and I would kill you."

"But you'll be orange."

Kagome eyed the fool who had spoke, his bright green eyes stunned her a little as the color reminded her of Shippo but his black hair and expression cleared her mind. "My friends are my guild, they'll understand if I had to kill some scum who only stay green to lure people into traps."

The girl under foot struggled and Kagome didn't think, she kicked her in the side rolling her to be with her little friends. A quick glance at her own stats showed she wasn't even in the yellow.

Mentally she was counting down, Zangetsu should be here already-


Turning she saw her guild threading the woods, but her instincts kicked in as she heard the whoosh of a weapon, the wound was intended as a killing wound and had she been anything other than a front liner it might have been, so her reflex slice across the center of the girl was probably understandable. The result however was not what she was expecting.

The girl froze, her image shuddering and in an instant she shattered.

For a moment no one said anything and Kagome stared at the open space, she had just ended a human life on reflex.

Did this make her a murderer?

The brown haired orange player freaked out screaming about his sister, he made to attack her, she put her blade to his face and in a flash of sprint Chad and Zangetsu grabbed his arms holding him immobile. Kagome put her feelings to the back burner and focused on making sure no one else died. "I suggested you come quietly, now I'm telling you. Do it or be killed."

For a moment the guy's eyes burned her, the hate and accusation in them, it made any sympathy she might have had die, he was an orange player, this had been trap, they had just miscalculated. His sister paid the price, but given she knew he had no doubt killed at least three others she found his feelings meant nothing.

He must have read it in her face because he slumped, the fight in the lines of his body dying away, the other three had already surrendered, the fear on their faces making it clear while they were willing to kill, faced with being killed they crumbled.

Souta took hold of one, Zangetsu took over holding the brother and Chad picked up the silvery guy, Suke-Oniki grabbed the green eyed one. She took a few minutes grabbing any and all of their stuff laying around, then she took point. Marching out of the woods they walked towards town, but as they got close a NPC guard reacted, turning toward them with intent. Kagome stopped remembering all at once Orange players can't normally enter safe zones.

Right now, no matter how much she was not thinking about it, she was orange, and would be orange for several hours if not the next day. "Zangetsu, you and Yasha go find one of the big three guild's leaders and bring them here to do something with them. I need someone to stay with me and vouch for my character, and someone should probably go into town and buy some rope so we can tie them up."

A few quick looks Chad planted himself at her side, crossing his arms and looming over their prisoners, Zangetsu and Yasha took off running into town. Suke-Oniki sighed but grinned. "I'll get the rope."

So in silence she and Chad stood ready, but not with weapons ready, over their huddle of four killers. Time ticked on and Kagome found as she stared at the four, the four that seemed to be trying to decide if making a run for it would work, she felt nothing.

The death of that girl was the same to her as if she had killed a demon, or even a floor monster.

Just as the four foolishly were about make their move Chad acted a second before her, his hands coming down on the brother and the green eyed one, in his deep voice he simply stated: "Don't do it."

Kagome found herself swallowing her surprise before a wry smirk came to her lips. "What he said, because I would just kill you, too much work other wise."

Three of the four stared up at her, before fear crossed their faces and the rebellion brewing faded before it got started, but the last one: the brother glared, then he spat on her, casually she moved back before resuming guard. But he needed her to react, so he started cursing her out. The names he started with were almost nostalgic for her. Amused, she simply ignored him.

Then he switched to degrading her actions, she was beater, she was a fake green player, she was just like them. She controlled her guild with sex. That made her laugh, and cruel as it was she leaned in and asked coldly. "Like your sister did?"

The lunge didn't surprise her, but her hand practically moved on it own as she slapped him hard enough to knock him down. "Like to dish it, but can't take it. Pathetic."

The guy went to snarl something, no doubt foul, but Chad put one of his large hands on his shoulder and pushed down hard enough there was a flash of fear. "Enough."

He directed the word to the Orange Player, but Kagome caught the unease in his eyes. The large stoic giant was afraid of her. For a moment she felt shock, it was a slap of cold water, the sudden thump of hitting the ground after a free fall, she had killed in front of her guild and reacted with nothing. Showed no sign of guilt, remorse or fear for her actions. She just went on like it was a normal cave crawl. Of course there would be consequences for that.

Hurt clutched at her heart and she looked away from Chad to control the pain, he could leave any time, she wouldn't make him do anything. That was when Suke-Oniki appeared from the town edge and rushed towards them with rope.

The next fifteen minutes was spent stripping them of anything and tying them up. Who ever this little killer guild was they had been doing very good, there was nice pile of coin and equipment to be divided. She stuffed it in the guild account and put it away, looking at the profit they had made off this made her feel a little ill.

Carefully not meeting Chad's eyes she crossed her arms and focused on keeping her face unreadable. Zangetsu and her brother were taking their own sweet time. Admittedly the people she sent for might be on the front line today which would mean a great deal of running.

It had crept on to half an hour since Suke had come back with the rope and the brother was back to seething, she could see he was gonna cuss her out again. As if he mattered.

Five-ish minutes later the outburst she had been expecting happened. Both Chad and Suke-Oniki looked taken aback and then offended on her behalf but she instead just let the words flow over her. Then he went on, and on.

She had never really started listening but about the time he seemed to be running out of steam she finally saw Zangetsu reappearing with her brother and five others. "Oh good here they are."

The burst of louder curses caught her ear and finally looked down at the bundle of tied Orange players. It was mean of her but she was annoyed he hadn't taken the hint the first time. "Did you say something?"

Then was a moment of silence as he stared up at her, his mouth hung open and she could see out of the corner of her eye even Chad and Suke were stunned. Zangetsu and Souta were hurrying up, their partners being Thinker, Kibaou, Heathcliff, Asuna, and Godfree. The Liberation and the Blood Knights, good.

"You Soulless Cunt!"

Kagome couldn't help quirking an eyebrow, her lips twitching with amusement. That was one slur she damned well had no truth to it, she had seen her soul more than once after all. To her surprise Zangetsu slid to a stop next to her and with a vicious glare leveled on the punk, strangely shutting him up. He turned to her and in a strangely official tone reported in. "We found Thinker and-" his eye twitched. "His third. The Knights of the blood oath: Heathcliff and Asuna and Godfree."

Nodding to them in greeting she noticed Asuna eying her cursor. "What did Zangetsu and Inuyasha tell you?"

"Merely that you encountered Player Killers and captured them. Please explain what exactly happened." Heathcliff was respectful but something about him struck her as strange. He made her uneasy.

This wasn't new, putting her discomfort with the man to the side she nodded and started: "We were coming here looking to buy a house for head quarters, as we walked I took point and had passive listen on out of habit. I heard a cry for help and sprinted over for a look. I found the guy with the mustache and the one with silver hair pinning a girl seeming to be trying get her to use her menu, I drew my sword and noted with my search skill the other two hiding in the bush."

Pausing to take a breath she launched right back in. "Then ordering the two off the girl I let her hide behind me and threatened them; waiting for the others to notice I was missing, that was when they called for me. I called back to them and that was when the girl and the other two struck, I grabbed the girl and used her to knock all the guys to the ground and broke the silver haired guy's spear. With that I stepped on the girl to pin her and threatened all of them. I kicked the girl to side when she almost toppled me, and that is about when the rest of my guild caught up- right?"

"yeah- about then- yep." and Chad silently nodded.

Taking a deep breath she went on. "I turned to greet them and explain when the girl grabbed her sword and came at me again, the others of her guild scrambled for weapons but I just reacted. Sliced her from hip to shoulder. Hers caught me in the chest. But mine killed her and we took custody of these four."

Heathcliff and Asuna were nodding, Godfree was glowering at the four and Thinker looked troubled, but Kibaou was angry. "You killed a green player!"

Her loathing of him struck. "Do you want a demonstration- Dumbass. I didn't mean to kill her, our levels were just too different."

Thinker put a restraining hand on Kibaou's shoulder and Heathcliff glared at him before turning to look at their prisoners. "Well this is the first time we've captured Orange Players. What do we do with them?"

There was a minute of quiet as all eyes fell on their defiant four.

"It's simple to me, we lock them up or kill them."

Kagome couldn't help but smile at Zangetsu, he clearly didn't mind her accidental actions.

"We have the Black Palace."

She looked at Thinker. "You would take custody and responsibility for keeping them locked up?"

He looked at Kibaou who was nodding fiercely, and Heathcliff who was looking to his seconds. Heathcliff turned to Thinker and admitted. "That seemed to be the best idea, we have no place we could use as a prison, the Knights of the Blood Oath don't even have a home yet."

Thinker nodded once, "Then we are agreed- I would however request assistance transporting them as me and Kibaou will not be enough."

Kagome put her two cents in. "Chad, Suke-Oniki, and one of you could march the two green into tower and use the gate. Zangetsu and two others could handle the other two the long way, unless someone has crystals..."

She could have smacked herself. "Wait they had two crystals- We'll use their supplies, people just need to be ready manhandle them when they land."

Asuna nodded at her, "Good thinking."

Heathcliff also nodded. "Asuna go back to take command at the front, I'll help Thinker getting everything ready, Godfree help watch the two oranges well we get the two green settled and get ready for our Orange prisoners. Give us one hour to have people on standby for their landings?"

Kagome waited until Thinker was nodding his consent before she nodded as well. Everyone seemed in agreement, so Heathcliff, Thinker, Kibaou, Chad and Suke-Oniki turned and picked out the two green players and lead them back towards town. Asuna having already gone that way to return to the front. Kagome took note of the time, one hour from now then.

With a sigh she walked a few steps back to a tree and sat down using it as a rest. The day hadn't yet reached noon and she was ready for it to be over. Killing someone because she was too strong- there was a new one.

"HEY BITCH!" Flicking her eyes over to the two remaining prisoners she found the brother glaring at her, he seemed to be trying to kill her with his eyes.

"You fucking proud of yourself you arrogant cunt!?"

Kagome was all set to tune him out again when Souta opened his gob. "Stop cursing out my sister you asshole!"

There was a moment where she saw the brother was taken aback, shocked even, but then something dark flickered through his eyes and she knew what he was going to say next. It made her heart pound and she felt like snarling as he dared to say it.

"Guess I know who to kill first."

Souta went pale, shocked by the death threat from another human. Giving into the urge she smiled nastily and made her promise. "Whether you escape in here or wait to hunt me down outside, in the end the result will be the same; even if I have to deal with the body clean up."

That was when Zangetsu took action, in a quick motion he took the left over rope and tied it around the guy's mouth, gagging him. Souta spluttered with startled laughter and Godfree smirked even as he looked troubled. Zangetsu turned to her, offering a half smile, clearly he was trying to be supportive. His next words sealed the deal. "Figured I should shut him up before someone ends up killing him."

Letting her sneer fade she gave him a short smile before leaning back into the tree, closing her eyes to drift into a meditation. Time ticked away and five or so minutes before mental clock ran out she brought herself out of it to find Zangetsu and Godfree talking and Souta practicing with his sword and buckler.

Hopping to her feet she was pleased to see Souta promptly sheathed his sword, and Zangetsu broke off the conversation to focus on her. Nodding to them she turned to the two grumpy prisoners. "So you two will be handed teleport crystals, now admittedly there is nothing to really stop you from choosing some other gate than the first floor but I don't think I have to go in to detail about how others are likely to react when they find two tied up orange players in the middle of town. So go to the first floor and go to prison or go else where and die. I don't care either way. We clear?"

The one not gagged nodded rather frantically, agreeing in a heart beat but the brother glowered at them, his eyes shooting daggers. Kagome cocked an eyebrow at him fixing a polite smile on her face, "Your choice."

Turning to Godfree she found him eyeing her with a strange expression, not fear or caution, and not so clear cut as respect, but he seemed to be regarding her with something else. Was he trying to gage her? Make an estimation of her true level of ruthlessness? That seemed likely.

Looking to Zangetsu and Souta she found both of them scowling at the prisoners. It was a jolt to realize but Souta was doing his best to copy Zangetsu's scowl. Shaking that off she went forward and stood the silver haired one up. Waiting the last minute she then pulled the first crystal, and placed it in his tied hand, "It's up to you."

Stepping back she was pleased to see him gulp and then teleport to the Black Palace.

Rid of him she turned to find Zangetsu had lifted the brother to his feet, Zangetsu's face was an unusual mask of potent menace. She supposed she could understand how her baby brother, who was mostly incapable of looking scary might want to learn how to do that.

Pulling the second crystal, she waited for Zangetsu to remove the gag and then placing it in his hand she stepped back. The brother who's name she only now noticed as Katsu-michi, stared at her, he seemed to be trying to burn her face into his mind.

If he was trying to scare her he was failing.

He spoke in his first reasonable tone, the venom in it was soft, almost sweet. "I'll remember you Archer- Inuyasha."

The cold intent in it made her fingers twitch, the urge to end him now was strong. It was a mistake to let him go now when his plan was so very plain. Zangetsu showed the same misgivings. His eyes were offering to kill him now, she could see he would kill him if she asked. But it would be murder if they killed him now- she was cold and tough but not that cold. "I'll be waiting for you loser."

Hatred flared in his eyes but he left for the Black Palace in a flare of blue light.

Turning to Godfree she forced a bright smile. "Thank you for your assistance, the Knights of Blood Oath have allies in the Guildless."

He nodded. "You have done this floor a service, and made the game a little safer for all."

"If you hear of more orange players I and probably a number of my guild will come to assist. We can not allow them to think murder and mayhem will be allowed."

He nodded his face falling, "I didn't pay as much attention to the plight on the lower floors as I should have. We front liners need to pay more attention."

"I agree completely." Zangetsu's voice was touched with lingering outrage, and frustration.

She nodded, and Godfree agreed once more before turning to return to town. The three of them watched him leave. There was a moment of quiet and Kagome heaved a deep breath. "How long until Chad and Suke come back do you think?"

"Depends on whether they are helping put the two Oranges away or if they were just staying to see the two made it."

Running hand through her hair, Kagome agreed with Zangetsu, "That makes sense."

"NEE-CHAN! Why did you let him talk to you like that?!"

Turning to Souta she saw he was back to being flushed with anger, the outraged wail reminding her of when he was younger and still squeaky. "What was exactly was I suppose to do Yasha?"

"You could have gagged him sooner. Suke-Oniki said you ignored him cussing you out the whole time me and Zangetsu were getting help."

"When did he tell you that?"

"He sent a message ten minutes before we arrived."

Kagome thought back to the time while waiting, she'd believe she missed him doing that. She had been pretty zoned to stay calm and not think about how she scared Chad. Shrugging she gave her brother her only answer. "He could say what he likes, but I know between the two of us who was in the wrong. For example there is no way I am actually 'soulless'."

Souta stared at her dumbfounded.

She couldn't stop the giggle at the look on his face. "What? he called me soulless at one point, I could hardly keep a straight face. Everything else he said I've heard from one person or another. Nothing any of them have to say matters. They don't know me, and-" she trailed off realizing admitting she often pictured the beat down she or Inuyasha, or even Sango would give them to calm herself. Not normal there. "They can't hurt me with words unless I let them."

"Admirable as that is Archer did you ever think about how it disturbed us, your guild, to hear someone say those things about you? Without a word of protest from you?"

Kagome barely had back the wince at Zangetsu's words, okay he had a point, as a leader she needed to be an example and tolerating lots of abuse wouldn't win her points with them. "I didn't at first. But my reaction bothered Chad."

"What? No way." Zangetsu's disbelief stung.

"While he and I waited for Suke-Oniki to return with rope, we stood ready to grab them if they tried to run for it. They were working their nerve up and just before they went to bolt he stopped them with a few words of warning. I added that if they ran for it I probably would have just killed them for being annoying. We went back to standing guard when KM decided to goad me, he spat at me and when I ignored that aside from the dodge he started calling me names, beater, fake green player and on, until he said I was only leader of this guild, because I am a girl and bribed you with sex."

Zangetsu and her brother looked ticked on her behalf so she didn't stop the smile as she told them what she said back. "So I said 'like his sister'."

Both of them choked, Zangetsu's lips curled in a half grin, and Souta started snickering.

She went on her own lips twitching, remembering the shocked faces. "Needless to say he was pissed and lunged, I slapped him to ground and poured some salt on that wound 'Like to dish it, but can't take it'. He started to come back for more only Chad stopped him. But he shot me a look- I don't know him as well as you but it looked like fear."

Zangetsu was frowning now, not so much with disbelief but in thought.

Souta watched him with her, both of them wanting to hear why his friend reacted like that. He looked at them and shrugged. "I have two guesses. He actually was afraid for you, you being hurt and loosing your temper. Or he was remember- some stuff from outside. As big as he is, he has lost a spectacular number of fights, so he might have been remembering one of those times. However if he didn't say anything to you, he put it to side as his problem rather than yours. He's quiet like that."

"So in other words until I push him to the breaking point he wouldn't tell me when I do something that bothers him."

Zangetsu nodded, his scowl less deep and more resigned. "I've known him for seven years going on eight and I still don't know everything about him. He's a deep well. But he's always had my back and I've got yours."

Kagome took that as nothing that had happened today changed his mind. Souta came over and gave her a tight squeeze, she could tell unlike Ichigo who accepted some times people died her brother was more bothered by the accidental death.

Floor 20 May 16th 7:57 p.m.

Kagome looked up at the rustle, Souta gripped his sword defensively, worried that for the second time today he would have to defend her. But instead Zangetsu exited the bushes, he nodded to her and turned to Souta. "So Inuyasha, I'm here for my turn on guard duty, with her dinner, Chad is likely ordering yours this very minute. You're off for the night."

"And you're going to be here the whole night?"

He shrugged. "Chad was gonna get some sleep and come re-leave me in six or so hours."

Souta gave him a strangely suspicious look before he nodded and took off for town. They had moved into the woods after someone saw her cursor and came out with a dozen others to kill her. Her guild really saved her ass in this case, explaining they encountered the orange players in the woods and she accidentally killed their bait player. No they might have been planning on staying here, buying on this floor but Kagome felt this was no longer the case. Everyone here would know her as the accidental killer. So tomorrow when she was green again they would go up a floor or two to look for houses. She actually like the idea of moving to floor twenty-one, they might be able to buy a house with a hot spring. That would make baths even better.

Zangetsu offered her a bag with a hot dinner, stew, bread, and three bottles of sake. Pausing she looked up at him with a smirk: "Trying to get me drunk again?"

He shook his head violently. "I just knew you couldn't go get it if you wanted it, I wasn't sure how you would be feeling now that the shock has worn off and with some more time without all of us around."

Looking up at him Kagome felt her features fall into a frown. "Yasha spent four hours trying to get me to talk about my feelings. I- don't feel terribly guilty. At least I don't think I do."

"Eat-" Zangetsu slid down the tree opposite her taking Souta's spot. "That's okay too- I know the first time I knowingly killed someone I didn't feel- right. I'm explaining this badly. There were two different occasions... That happened. The first was when I realized the full gravity of what using a sword to fight with meant. I had killed before but thought nothing of it. They would rejoin the circle of life and souls and on- but then I found out through a friend I knew who I was fighting. He needed to be stopped, to move on- but it upset me to use a sword on him. It took my childish satisfaction of killing monsters out of it. I struggled- I had been killing people. I came to terms with it, because if they were good people they would want to be stopped."

Kagome couldn't help but interrupt. "Let me get this straight- you are talking about lost, corrupted, and evil souls right- I wasn't imagining you side stepping that they were souls."

He was still; his face lost in shadow, then he snorted and crossed his arms. "I suppose I'm too use to avoiding admitting I see dead people."

She couldn't contain her snort. "Congratulations, so do I- some times. I'm sure others I don't notice. But souls that are lost and in danger of becoming corrupt – I should tell you some time about- well anyway you were saying."

In a dead pan tone he gently ribbed her. "Tease. Taunt me with stories from someone else with powers- cruel. But the second time, that time I knowingly killed, I had to, he wouldn't have stopped killing because in his mind he was doing it for the right reasons. I ended up killing him because I disagreed. I have since killed eight others and freed countless corrupted souls, but honestly I have never truly killed by accident. I have won in ways that trouble me. But accident- no. So I can't tell you how to feel, I just want you know, you are not alone and no one that was here today is going to turn away from you."

That declaration brought tears to her eyes. That was what she was afraid of. Unsure of how much he could see she just buried the emotions in eating, the stew was average fair but she was strangely hungry. Probably a hold over from her travels, unlike a lot of people she never 'just' skipped a meal, no matter how upset she was; she ate when she was ragingly furious, when she added salt with her tears, none of that had any effect on her stomach. Probably because she never knew when she'd need to run, or be in battle, or even on a few occasions where the next meal was coming from.

Finished and calm again she turned back to him. "Tell me more about your adventure?"

She couldn't fully see him but she got the impression he thinking about it, and she was right because a minute or so later he started: "My adventures start with my parents. My mother had above average spiritual powers, she moved to my home town of Karakura as a young teen and that was about the same time when a hundred year cycle started. There is always a place on earth where ghosts, portals, weird things are drawn what most don't know is that, that place lasts for one hundred years before moving. This century it's there. As an end result she caught the eye of my father, a powerful soul from the other side, see he's what is called a Shinigami."

"Death god?"

"Yep, but really they're just human souls with powers sent to help guide lost souls."

"Where can I lodge a complaint? They clearly suck at their jobs."

He snorted and chuckled a couple times before answering. "Don't I know it- but they can't be every where at once and their powers have limits."

She grunted, not sure whether she allowed his version or she still was mad at them.

"My mother helped my dad, and he in return ended up saving her life. But at a price, he was powerless, so he met my future teacher, Hat-and-clogs."

She cracked up, laughing at him for several minutes. He waited, rather patiently, even if she got the impression he wasn't as amused as she was. When she finally calmed down and quieted he started like he hadn't been interrupted. "He was aware of how to help, he gave my dad a normal-ish body to allow him to live normally with my mother. The two of them fell in love, my baka dad studied and managed to become a decent human doctor, and then they had me. I ended up absorbing everything about them as a baby. My dad's powers, my mother's, and the curse they sacrificed their powers for. I don't remember ever not seeing ghosts. Lucky for me they knew I wasn't crazy, but they didn't explain to me what I was seeing and why I should ignore it. I couldn't tell the difference between ghosts and living for a long time. Then when I was nine a- a hollow came for me and killed my mother. I didn't understand more than I ran after something and my mother screamed at me and then I came to with her clutching me- but dead."

Kagome winced. "Something else we have in common then."


"My dad, Souta's dad, our father. He was walking, we- me home from school. I was six, Souta wasn't quite one; we were planning what to get him. A car swerved off the road onto the sidewalk, the couple ahead of us died instantly, my dad had enough warning to grab me and put his back to the car. He saved my life, I escaped with only bruises. But he died before they got him out of the windshield. The driver was having a heart attack and died as well. They figured my dad jumped up onto the car rather then risk getting pulled under like the one other survivor. Some teen, I don't remember him much he was pretty beat up."

Zangetsu was quiet and she could feel the weight of his eyes as he contemplated the story. He mumbled somethin "-what are the odds-" then asked louder. "Did your mother remarry?"

"No, did your dad?"


"We moved to my Grandfather's, my mother's dad, home."

"Nope I never met my grandparents on either side. All dead. But I did end up meeting some cousins- not that I knew at the time. Because even after I gained Shinigami powers my dad didn't tell me."


"Yeah, I about fainted when he showed up in the middle of a big 'end of the world' battle. That was the best moment? Really?!"

"I hear you."

He shifted his arms crossing and uncrossing as he tried to control the remembered irritation. "Yeah- in your 'adventures' how many in your main group?"

Kagome frowned, and counted on her hand, her, Inuyasha, Shippo, Miroku, Sango and Kilala. "Six, but we did have a number of allies. Our end of the world battle we had-" Sesshomaru, Rin, Kohaku- Koga didn't count really but he had been a big ally. "Technically nine- wait..." the dragon of Sesshomaru's and Jaken. Forgot about them. "Eleven, but three of our other allies weren't there."

Now he mimicked her counting on his hand. "Well my core group is eight, three human friends who I accidentally exposed to too much of my power, and Shinigami. But I have another eight I know pretty well, but they often bring others. So when I need help I tend to end up with like twenty people."

Kagome mock pouted at him. "I wish I could call those kind of numbers, that would have helped a lot."

He snickered and turned to the topic to her. "So you know I mostly dealt with souls, good and evil- you however mentioned remembering being a Feudal era Miko and Demons."

Kagome shifted feeling guilty. "About that, I may have stretched it. See on my fifteenth birthday I was dragged to the past and had to fix what she screwed up. We in her life had been entrusted with a cursed Jewel. The Shikon No Tama. It was said to grant one wish. The secret was it would never grant the wish, it would twist it to it's corrupted purpose, driving many mad and if you met the qualities it was looking for it would eat you."

"Thats screwed up. But oddly something else we have in common. Mine was called the Hogyoku and while powerful and nasty it wasn't that bad. The main problem was the man holding it- but anyway you ended up where and why?"

"Some time there about 1500, fifty years after Kikyo died. See she wanted to be normal and not busy killing demons that came after the jewel day in and day out. She was cursed by a dark miko that when she fell in love with would be the death of her. She soon met Inuyasha-"

"Your brother's screen name."

She glared, if he kept interrupting she'd never finish explaining.


"He was a half demon. His mother human and his father was lord of the west. He was torn between two lives and hated it, he wanted to belong to one or the other. At first he was after the jewel so he could become a full demon and no longer fear stronger pure demons killing him. Kikyo felt sorry for him and didn't kill him, soon he was curious why she refused to finish him and she confessed she felt the same. Because she wasn't like other humans, she had powers and was responsible for the jewel. Quickly they fell in love. Kikyo decided the best thing they could do was have Inuyasha wish on the jewel to be a normal human so she would be free from her duties and they could marry."

"But isn't that like the very thing she was cursed not to be able to do?"

Kagome couldn't keep the snort back. She had, had a few of those very thoughts once upon a time. "Yeah, powerful- the most powerful she might have been but smart- not very. See the instrument to her demise was being fed by her hand, she had rescued a bandit, he had been burned very badly and was no longer capable of leaving the cave she had placed him, but his dark soul lusted after her, and when he learned of the jewel in her possession-" She couldn't help but shake her head. The web spun by fate and whatever other powers was tightly woven about, Kikyo, Inuyasha and Onigumo.

"Anyway he decided all he needed to was to take the jewel and then the world would be his: Kikyo, the freedom to move, and whatever else his heart desired. The Jewel had found the next set of players. Kikyo, Inuyasha and Onigumo." Kagome heaved a deep breath as the next part always made her sad.

"It started when Onigumo offered his useless body to demons, they of course also affected his soul, together this new being came together as Naraku: a shapeshifting half spider demon. He used his new body to take on Inuyasha's form, tricking Kikyo into believing she had been betrayed, and then quickly he attacked Inuyasha in her skin, making him think the same. By the time Kikyo had managed to return to the village she and her sister were staying in, it was aflame as Inuyasha looked for the jewel he coveted. She couldn't allow him to harm so many humans even if she still loved him so with the last of her strength she bound him to a tree using her powers to seal him. He slept, unaware of more than the woman he loved had finally shot him. Then with her last breath Kikyo ordered her sister to burn her body and the jewel so she could take it to the other side. But the jewel is insidious, even though she didn't say it aloud she wished to be happy with him in the next life."

Ichigo groaned. "There enters you, stage left."

"Got it in one."

Kagome swallowed a laugh as she could tell Zangetsu was listening with baited breath, he made a better audience than Souta.

"So here I am. Fifteen, and confused as hell how after being pulled down a well by a freaky woman with six arms and centipede's body I climb out of the well to find full forests, and bright sunshine and air cleaner than I had ever smelled. I wandered into the woods looking for people and found Inuyasha, he looked so peaceful pinned to the tree, arrow through his heart. Then the villagers found me and after tying me up and taking me back they brought Keade. Kikyo's sister, old now as for her it had been fifty years, but she knew me on sight. Freeing me she listened as I explained what happened, and she told me I was in Edo. Then the creepy centipede woman attacked."

The gulp was reflex, even after so many years she still remembered the fear and guilt of that night. "She killed three people and injured fifteen others, and she was screaming for a jewel, just like she had been when she pulled me down the well. So I knew she was after me, I caught her eye and took off running hoping to lead her back to well I came from. I didn't make it, I made it to Inuyasha's tree where he had woken up, he was still pinned, but he could talk and move his head. She knocked me down and I was sure I was going to die. I managed to not get eaten then by blasting her arms off."

Kagome chuckled at Zangetsu's snort. He had a point, that was a delay tactic. "Then Keade saved me with archers from the village, Inuyasha insulted me, mistaking me for Kikyo- I was mad coming down from the adrenaline rush, and I turned away from Mistress Centipede, she broke free of the ropes and rushed me, biting deep into my side before flinging me into the air."

The next part came out much quieter, she always hated remembering this was the start. "There was a splash of blood as my side tore open and out came a sparkling pink crystal. Keade knew it on sight as did Inuyasha and the two of them knew letting Mistress Centipede get it would be bad. But I was too slow, hurting and in shock, she used her long body to wrap me up against Inuyasha and began to squeeze while she ate the jewel. She began to change, turning darker, getting stronger. That was when Inuyasha asked me to pull the arrow. I figured some guy who was mean to me or the crazy centipede lady- I pulled the arrow out and Inuyasha was able to kill her easily, a few slashes of his claws and she was in pieces. But with the Jewel still inside her she began to heal."


"No kidding. I was told by Keade I should look for something glowing and pull the jewel out. So I did and the moment I did the body turned to bone. That was when Inuyasha turned on me demanding I give him the jewel. I was confused and refused, he tired to kill me and I ran for it again. Keade helped and used her limited spiritual power to trigger the enchanted beads Kikyo had made years ago. They landed around Inuyasha neck and she told me to pick a word to control him. Since I was utterly panicked and all I could picture was his dog ears I ordered him to 'sit boy'."

Zangetsu was silent, so she waited and soon he was laughing very quietly. "That's the first thing you could think of?"


"That must of have been humiliating."

"Yeah, I felt bad about it later, but mostly- it was convenient, I could make him duck, and if he annoyed me I could get even when he was so much tougher than me. The problem was that if I wasn't careful, Sit is a common enough word."


Kagome jerked her head in a rough nod. She wasn't sure how much more to tell him, she didn't want to talk about all of it, leaving out the splitting of her soul sound good, if he was so well verse in dealing with souls it didn't seem wise to talk about how well acquainted she had become with hers.

"What happened next? you're five hundred years in the past and have a half demon on a chain, and an evil jewel that came from your side."

"Well I wasn't careful with it, a minor demon, a crow demon got a hold of it and in my trying to use a bow, my first time using one, I broke the jewel."

"That couldn't be good, how bad are we talkin' three or four pieces-"

"Try a hundred or more. I shattered it and it exploded all across Japan."

"Well- you must have managed to get it in the end."

"Yeah, seven months of struggle, and lies. I ended up learning how to get home and go back and forth, Inuyasha could come too, that's why my brother used his name. He idolized him because by the time he met him; Me and Inuyasha had sorted our problems we would work together to gather the shards and at the end I would let him make a wish. Things didn't work out that simply of course. We learned how the jewel was made. Made four loyal allies, that in time honored tradition tried to rob or kill us first. Learned more about Inuyasha's father, and his older brother. Fought enemies his father made, and found out the truth of what happened that day between Kikyo and Inuyasha. We also met Naraku and he became our main enemy. Then we learned the jewel was aware, and that only one wish would work, one that would break the cycle of struggle and suffering. Can you guess what it was?"

Zangetsu shifted so he was sitting cross legged and his elbows were on his knees but his eyes were on her as he turned over what she had told him from his own view point.

Since he was sitting like this for the first time tonight she could see his face.

His normal scowl had the extra twist that was him thinking deeply, trying to consider it from all angles, but his eyes had an extra gleam in them tonight. He was enjoying this conversation, he was thinking about her question seriously, and he was still watching her as he thought.

"To disappear right?"

The laugh that escaped her was loud and full bodied. "Got it in one. It wanted to eat me and Naraku because Kikyo had made her wish, and Naraku made his, but Kikyo died before she could be consumed so I had to make a wish. But I stayed strong and ended it."

"But at a price. You lost those friends and never saw Inuyasha again."

Kagome couldn't have stopped her wince if she tried. That stung. It was true though. "I was gonna have to chose a side of the well no matter what."

Zangetsu leaned back against the tree again suddenly. "So that is what you meant."

Kagome searched her memory for what exactly he meant. "Sorry?"

"Well when you were drunk you talked about a lot things, trying to keep it light on detail but I couldn't help noticing- you think about your brother a lot like I think about my sisters. I know myself well enough to know I feel guilty, and I couldn't help seeing you feel the same way. You planned to leave the now and return to the past forever. But since you didn't, you feel you need to make it up to your brother."

His insight sent shivers down her spine. It had taken her most of a year post the closing of the well, and high school to understand herself that well. "Yeah, I suppose that's so- I realized after every thing and dating the first two years of college I want someone to understand why I won't leave my family again."

Zangetsu shifted, his legs uncrossed and he stretched one out straight before bending the other up so he could rest an arm over it. "I can understand. After my mother's death I became a brawler, I kept my grades high but I wouldn't hear a word against my hair or anything else, I got into a lot of fights. That's how I met Chad, he saved me from a fight against some high-schooler gang that was going to go too far. But then I learned he didn't, wouldn't fight to protect himself. Only someone else. So I asked him to fight to protect things I care about. And so I wouldn't get my ass kicked protecting his. He's been my best friend, but I know and he knows my sisters mean more, it would hurt and I would rather protect both, but if it came to them or him- Of course it's far more likely I end up dead in the fight and the three of them live."

Kagome couldn't stop the giggle. "Tell me about them? What do they like to do? What do they look like?"

"Well Yuzu- she's the younger of the two. They're twins, but non-identical. Actually they look like opposites. Yuzu's got hair lighter than mine, she's turned out just a beautiful as my mother- almost a look a like really. But she's a bit more bombastic- wrong word. More enthusiastic and naive, a bit like like my dad. She learned to cook and clean after mom died, she played mother to me and Karin, she loves Kittens and Puppies, and likes pink and cute things. She has lots of friends, and was thinking about nursing school or being an elementary school teacher."

Zangetsu paused thinking about his next words, his hand clenched as he suddenly started again. "Karin is tough, after mom died she didn't want anyone to worry about her so she stopped crying, like she broke her arm once and didn't shed a tear. So now that I'm older I suspect she and I actually take after mom more. She's boyish- loves soccer, hates skirts, and ribbons and bows. She's got dad's black hair, and his eyes but she's pretty calm, until she's pissed and then she has a vicious temper. She's protective of Yuzu but was the first one to notice boys. She also can see ghosts, but she isn't as strong as me, and Yuzu can only see without doing much. Karin had gotten a soccer scholarship and was thinking about her major."

Kagome couldn't help her smile at his wistful expression. He loves his sisters deeply, a blind person could see it. "What's your dad like? Besides being a Baka."

"Well he's a good doctor, runs a family/emergency clinic he's the only doctor but tends to have a student doctor or two he helps teach, and two on nurses, but both my sisters are practiced Candy-stripers. I have no talent for healing- none. I was studying to be a lawyer, I was looking to be a criminal law major but I had no clue whether it would be defense or prosecution. What were you doing before all this?"

"I was working on a history degree, likely so I could work on historical renovations and such. I like history for some unexplainable reason."

He gave a brief snort and nodded. "Some reason."

"So why do you call him a Baka besides he didn't tell you about the family history?"

Zangetsu groaned and leaned forward again, almost hugging his bent knee. "You sure you want to know?"

She grinned at him. "What else would you rather talk about? More details about your main villain with a sparkly rock?"

That made him snort. "Okay fair enough. He's hyperactive, running around shouting dramatically about whatever me or my sisters have said. He's called girls I was friends with his third daughter. He has a poster of my mother in the dinning room and when I insult him or punch him away from me he goes and wails at it like she'll comfort him."

"Okay that is weird, but you punch him?"

"I suppose that seems really violent but you have to understand I've been in Karate classes since I was I was like four or five years old; and about the time was I hit thirteen and starting to get into more serious fights. Teachers were complaining. He decided the best way to help was to train me to be alert all the time and he decided to help me keep my guard up. So he attacks me to wake me up in the morning, when I come home and possibly any time he thinks I'm distracted."

Kagome could help but blink at him, finally she came up with a comment. "OOOOkay. Yeah. He's a baka."

He nodded and leaned back to the tree. "Of course I won't lie, he's helped me and he does his best to provide for me and my sisters and he's told me all he wants is for me to live to a good old age and to be happy. So while most the time I blow him off, he's given some good advice."

Floor 20 May 17th 4:08 a.m.

Ichigo stared up at the false sky, he could just barely glimpse a hint of the fake stars. The forest blocked out a lot of light, but he could tell without glancing at his clock it was past late at night and starting to get into early morning. He had expected Chad to be here by now, but his friend might have over slept, stranger things existed in the world.


Startled he looked down and over to Archer, she had fallen asleep some time before midnight, he had let her since she needed the rest and that was the whole point of one of the guild standing guard. "You can keep sleeping."

She sat up before rising to cross the small clearing and sitting next to him. "I was cold. Chad-" the name stretched out as she yawned. "not here yet?"

"Nah- he must have over slept, after yesterday I can't be surprised. He hates the idea of Orange players."

"Everyone hates the idea of Orange players. I hate people like that. Their fucking bandits, that's what they are."

Blinking Ichigo couldn't help but be surprised by Archer's uncharacteristic swearing. She must be grumpy. It was four in the morning. "It's the nature of people I think. No doubt you remember the first night here, the panic in the streets, the people scream and begging for it to not be true. The despair. Not everyone is like us."

She laughed and cuddled into his side. "I sometime hate myself just a little..."

"What are you talking about?" He kept his voice soft because it seemed like she was falling back to sleep on his shoulder.

"-the way I feel here. I love it- life is closer to death... fighting monsters... it makes-" she yawned again. "Me feel alive."

And she was asleep.

Ichigo was a lot of things, he had been told he was oblivious, thick and unobservant. But he liked to think he didn't lie to himself. So the lust wasn't new that had been there from the very first moment he saw her, the admiration had been growing from that moment as well. But the protective pride- that was something he had found growing over the last month. He was proud he could keep up with her, but he wanted to protect her, he wished she didn't need to be so strong, to be so tough, so responsible, but by the same turn he was proud of her. He knew she was like him.

They had so much in common the conversation tonight only outlined more; so this tenderness, the urge to hold her tight to his side, to cradle her close, to apologize for being too slow... the guilt he felt that for one minute he had been lost to conversation and she stumbled into a trap. He knew he was lost, he loved her. Her temper, her humor, her skill, the fierce protection she offered her guild, but all of that paled compared to her love for her brother.

She is his equal.

Unlike any other, she proved that with her last sleepy confession, they were true equals. His hollow had called him out so long ago on feeling that way. The pleasure of a fight, the high of a risk, but just like her he felt guilty he enjoyed beating others and even killing. That was savage and wrong. Good people don't feel that way. He had come to terms with the fact was no matter what people said the best protecters were just a coin flip from the best villains.

Kagome like him was born for this. But no one wanted to admit they needed protecters, warriors any more. This was suppose to be a safe time, a peaceful time. That was why so many were struggling so badly here. They had liked to imagine, to pretend, but the fact is so few do well under this kind of pressure.

She seemed to be gathering a guild of people that did, maybe not as well as the two of them did, but committed front liners. He couldn't wait to see what the next year held.

Floor 20 May 17th 4:32 a.m.

Ichigo tensed as he heard someone coming through the trees, moving his hand from Archer's shoulder he gripped his sword watching the bushes. Soon a familiar, large form emerged. Ichigo relaxed nodding and waved.

Chad came closer, eventually crouching next to him. Ichigo could see Chad's face was serious, his eyes focused on Archer. Then his friend's dark eyes flicked to him and he knew Chad saw what he had only just realized.

Of course considering he had slid Archer's head off his shoulder and to his leg- it wasn't surprising. Chad knew he didn't typically let girls sleep on him.

"So I'm guessing you don't plan on going back and going to bed." it was said in a low whisper but that didn't hide the amusement in it.

There was that sarcasm again. He replied at the same volume: "No, I'll catch a couple hours here."

Chad's eyes went back to their sleeping leader, "You're not going to tell her are you?"

That made a smirk cross his lips. "Tell her what Chad? That I love her? Nah- she wants first and foremost to get her brother out of here. I respect that."

Chad frowned down at her, his brows creased with concern. Ichigo waited, if Chad was going to ask something he needed a moment to form the thought.

"How is she actually handling killing?"

That was a hard question. "I think she's alright. But honestly we'll only know for sure when she is fighting again. I would only worry about her freezing if fighting another green player."

"You sure about that?"

Ichigo thought about what she had said and met Chad's gaze, "The fact is she's fought before, and while she might not have meant to kill, the girl attacked first. Self-defense. Maybe in the real world she'll feel worse when she has more time to dwell on it, but for now, it's unimportant to her."

Chad set his jaw and they fell into silence again, this time Ichigo could see his friend was struggling with something. Maybe Archer had been more right than he thought about Chad being upset with her. "What are you thinking Chad?"

His friend took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I have been friends with you for years, we bled together and fought together; but when the others became our friends too they didn't- I didn't feel as loyal to them, it was to you first. But her- she … why do you love her?"

Ichigo was pretty sure Chad was just shaken because he had realized he was equally loyal to her. Chad didn't let many in and he had a wall of reserve with girls, he may have dated but he never had a steady girlfriend. His friend was afraid of hurting them. But Kagome shot right past that, and it scared Chad.

"Because on a basic level I think she and I are equals. We are alike but different enough, we are balanced I think, or we will be."

"So you do mean to tell her."

"Words are cheap, I'm going to prove it to her, and we're going to make it out of this death game and then out there we'll date." Ichigo eyed his nervous and uncertain friend. "Chad, Archer is strong and capable, she is reasonable. I have no fears."

Chad shot him a wicked smirk. "Sure you used your head to come to that conclusion?"

Ichigo frowned at his friend, but mentally didn't argue, it wouldn't help Chad settle down. "Chad what are you really scared of?"

His friend's shoulder slumped, and he craned his neck to stare at the sky. Silently he waited for the answer, when none came after five minutes he took at guess at what had actually scared his friend. "Chad our promise stands true. Archer matters to me and protecting her is all well and good but she can and does protect herself. All she really needs is backup and people to protect her brother."

Chad's head dropped back down and they locked eyes, Chad quirked a brow in question and he answered. "Chad if you ever disagree with her all you to do is tell her. She told me her slapping the brother upset you, she stopped defending herself for your comfort- she cares and I think you can trust her."

The face that had gone blank creased with a flash of guilt, before Chad rumbled in a horse whisper, "She didn't need to do that."

Ichigo smiled at him. "Be honest with her, she has taken responsibility for us in her guild, but she doesn't know us well enough to read everything correctly. She didn't realize you were more upset with yourself for approving of her slap down, or possibly for not having done it yourself than you were with her for having done it."

The guilty look was back and Ichigo smirked. Hit that one on the head then. "Chad I might be in love with the girl, but I am not blind to her big fault. She cares too much about how her friends view her and she is fearful of being abandoned or that she will loose our respect. So while you don't like to talk much, it would do you both good to spend some time doing just that."

Chad frowned but then slowly nodded, he gave him a nod, so he leaned his head back against the tree and closed his eyes.

Floor 20 May 17th 9:01 a.m.

Kagome woke at the snicker. Her right shoulder was on the ground, her head on something warm. Opening her eyes she sat upright, the sun shinning through the trees blinded her so she rubbed her eyes to clear them. Looking around the second time she found Souta looking up into the trees, Suke far off to the right and Chad was merely sitting with his arms crossed, where was Zangetsu... oh. The warm thing that had been her pillow was his leg, he was leveling a dark glare across the clearing at Suke and Souta. One of them must have laughed- Zangetsu was embarrassed but probably not angry or he would have woken her sooner.

Clearing her throat she was going to pretend her cheeks weren't pink. "So breakfast?"

Souta eyed her before putting whatever he was thinking to the side and nodded coming forward to sit down. He pulled out a bag and laid out the floor breakfast speciality, a breakfast cake made of eggs, bread, and likely 'rabbit or boar' meat. Scooting forward she grabbed one and dug in, the bland almost right food flavor no longer truly bothered her, just annoyed her. She did like the mix of textures.

Breakfast was mostly quiet, Souta shooting Zangetsu mild looks of curiosity and reproach, Chad seemed to be teasing Zangetsu some how if the increasingly dark looks were anything to go by, and Suke was amused and he had decided his survival would be st served by silence and no laughter, something he was actually struggling with. Not too surprising he did have a smart mouth.

Feeling a little like she had was trying to herd cats she decided to distract everyone. "So we will not be stationed on floor twenty. I vote floor twenty-one if we can buy something with a hot spring, but floor twenty-two is also possible what do you lot say?"

"Hot spring would be nice." Zangetsu was as uninterested in housing as ever.

"Obsessed you are!" Souta shot her a smirk. "But if it makes my dear sister happy." The angelic smile didn't hide the gleam of deviltry. Twerp.

"A hot soak to relax does sound nice." Suke sounded thoughtful, and possibly a little impatient.

All eyes fell on Chad and he shrugged. A man of many words as always. Then to her surprise he did add in something else. "I was thinking it would be nice to get some place with a proper office or library."

Kagome found herself surprised and in love with the thought. Dear god when had she last read something not connected to this damned game? She always read the news paper that came out weekly, but while she had seen books she hadn't touched one, not to even glance at. So since her homework. That was far too long ago. Now she wanted a book. "That is a good idea. So at least four bed rooms, a kitchen, hot spring and library."

Zangetsu frowned and leaned an elbow on his knee. "Do we have enough money? We didn't have enough money on the front line, but did we actually look at what it costs down here?"

"No." Kagome felt sheepish. "I figured if we couldn't find what we want we could go up or down depending on what we found and what is cost but I didn't look too closely, after all I know what we have, and we might be able to barrow money or possibly chip in personal funds, the guild budget is a guide line to me, we need a place to relax and call our own, I'm tired of living inn to inn."

Chad nodded seeming to understand, and Suke laughed, "Fair enough, having something here that is mine sounds nice."

Before anyone else could say anything they all got an alert that they, the guild had a message. Opening it Kagome was pleased if amused to find a long time friend had decided she was sick of partying on the front on the weekends and running an Inn on fifteenth during the week. She had sold out and was looking to join them.

Quickly sending off the invitation and their location, she looked at her five and mock teased them. "HOORAY! I won't be the only girl any more!"

"Callie's a member." Souta teased back.

"But we only see her Saturday and boss fights. This way I won't be so hopelessly out numbered everyday."

Suke-Oniki went to meet her, while the rest of them stayed away from the main road, being that she still was orange would likely be so for another hour and change. Kagome could just see the teasing in Suke's future, she and Souta had spotted at once he had a crush on the pretty girl: spiky, messy brown hair with a pink stripe in her bangs highlighting the starkly different eye color of almost black. She was a mid-range almost front liner, and she had been flirting with joining them for two months, however they had known each since floor ten. Her inn on floor fifteen was popular for the mixed food choice because she didn't have an NPC cook, she did it herself.

Kagome grinned as Souta filled Chad and Zangetsu in on the history with Yumioni, that she was a shield and long dagger user that she had front lined for six floors before stopping because she didn't have good guild and she had bought an inn, plus Yumioni hated the Liberation Front. She thought Thinker a fool and Kibaou a loose cannon.

She also had a personality conflict with Asuna, she thought the other girl was a self centered, drama queen. Kagome personally thought they were just enough alike to clash but not enough to grow to respect the other.

The girl that se had been thinking about burst into their quiet clearing with a great deal noise. "ARCHER! YOU FOUGHT ORANGE PLAYERS?! WHAT?! HOW DID YOU FIND THEM?"

"They had set a trap for the few players, but they caught me instead."

"Why did you kill one of the green players?"

"Accident mostly, she was the bait player and I was too strong, she was too weak. One good hit did her in."

"hun." the look on her face was contemplative. "What general level are you lot at?"

Kagome glanced at her stats. "Nearing level forty."

Everyone was nodding in general agreement. Yumioni pouted. "I'm twenty-eight. You're gonna have to baby me for a floor or two until I catch up."

Smiling Kagome patted her on the head, "Poor baby- we'll get you up to speed."

The next hour and a half was spent laughing and talking about adventures as well as home buying. Then she was green again. Setting off for town Kagome found she didn't hate how the last twenty-four hours had gone. She had a guild ready to stand by her through thick and thin.