He wiped down the bar, feeling content. It was quiet, peaceful. The only scents were lemon mixed with chemicals and the faint scent of dust that rose under his hands as he cleaned. He breathed in, sharper. Under that was the smell of alcohol and fruit, soaked into the wood. It brought to mind his regulars, people who would sit quietly and let their emotions roil through them until he came over and said, softly, "How are you?" or "Do you want to talk about it?" or "It'll be alright." And they would reply in their low, gravelly voices or high-pitched sobs, but only if it was just the two of them and sometimes it was, because the Aging Bar only attracted a certain kind of clientele.

But, he mused, they had not been coming as often. Perhaps there were less troubles in the world nowadays. There had been little darkness of late, his children and the hakua were capable of handling the few minor issues that had arisen. Really there was nothing for him to do except stand here and make sure everything was clean and orderly and perfect for when (if) his regulars arrived. And he was happy.

BANG -

"Help! We need help!"

"Ohmigosh nooooo!"

"Quit it! You're going to get blood everywhere!" Smack. "And stop being such a drama queen!"

"Owww! I'm already injured, you know?"

"Why did you have to bring them, anyway?"

"Didn't you want them to be healed?"

"Well yes, but -"

"It's too late to shelter them. They're involved."

"I'm sorry, but I'm bleeding all over the floor. So can we just get this over with?"

"As far as I'm concerned, you can just go die in a corner."

"Well, I'm so sorry that I fought the shin while you ran away with the humans, jerk."

"Are you trying to call me a coward for running away when Ry- when Akira needed me most?"

Shisui sighed. He could feel the killing intent mixed with pain coming from the last two who had spoken, and a general feeling of distress from the others. He should probably intervene before any more injuries were incurred.

So much for peace and quiet. But then again, this is what he was here for.

"Can I help you?" His soft voice drifted out, like a leaf on the breeze, and he heard them turn towards him.

While some of the auras that had barged through his (locked) front door were familiar, there were some that were totally new. And one that was strangely familiar yet not, like hearing your mother's voice coming from a stranger's mouth. It was disconcerting. Frowning, Shisui attempted to delve deeper -

"I hate to agree with him, but Kou is right. He needs treatment before his wound becomes any more serious."

Right. The task at hand came first. Enquiries could wait until lives were out of danger.

He sensed surprise coming from Kou's aura as he moved towards him. "Shisui?" he breathed. "Is that really you?"

"I think it is I who should be surprised," he commented dryly. "I had no idea you were still alive, and here you come suddenly barging into my bar with someone you profess to hate, two random humans, and another person who by all rights should be dead."

This pronouncement was met with silence, a great deal of surprise, and the sound of shuffling feet. "Who else is supposed to be dead?" asked a curious voice. It belonged to the child whose strange aura he had finally placed, the one that called out to him from memory.

Which was rather ironic.

"No one," Kou's voice said hastily. "I mean, Shirogane was supposed to be dead too, right?"

"Well yeah, but then whose the one you're supposed to hate?" came the suspicious response.

"Ummm..."

Looks like I spilled the beans, Shisui thought wryly. Oops. "Your wound," he said, covering up for Kou's inability to answer. "I need to treat it. Quickly."

"Right," Kou said hastily, and staggered as quickly as he was able towards the back room that Shisui pointed out. The new-old person made to follow him, radiating concern, but Shisui halted him with an upraised hand. "I'll take care of this," he promised gently. "He'll be fine."

And he would be. Shisui would see to it. Metaphorically speaking, that is.

"I need you to take a look at this one next," said Shirogane, when Kou lay passed-out on his couch in the back. He thrust the new-old person forward.

"What!" that person immediately protested. "My friends are in much worse shape than me! They should receive treatment first."

"As well as being told what the hell is going on?" suggested the other boy, whose aura brought to mind golden retrievers. He was immediately smacked on the head by the girl next to him, whose spirit was like a blade honed to a single edge. "Yeah!" she agreed, "we're a part of this we should know what's going on!"

"If you agree, then why did you hit me?" the dog-boy whined.

"It's my automatic reaction for whenever you open your mouth," the blade-girl replied without a trace of remorse.

Before a fight could break out, Shisui intervened. "Why do you want me to look at this one first?" he questioned, suspecting the answer but wanting it confirmed.

"He..collapsed suddenly, during the fight," Shirogane said evasively. Shisui was sure his face was a perfect mask to the others, but he could feel the emotions coming off the man and knew instantly it was more than that. "Do you remember anything about how the fight ended?"

"I...I remember the shin trying to stab me with his weapon, and then..." he frowned. "I, I don't, ummm, there was a lot of light...?"

Shirogane shook his head. "Please check him over," he requested softly to Shisui. "Your friends will be fine," he added to appease the new-old person, who was still a little agitated. At this, his agitation faded and he became resigned.

Shisui was surprised by the softness of Shirogane's tone, and the worry in his heart. But then again, if there was anyone he was going to worry about...

As he lead his next patient towards the back, Shirogane followed a few steps behind.

"Sorry for barging in on you like this," he apologized.

"No worries. I help those who need help," Shisui said simply.

"Shisui, you're to good for your own good," Shirogane replied.

And Shisui would have blinked at that, if his eyes were ever open.

[Black and White]

What the hell?!

Nanaya ran through the Black Palace, leaving a trail of blood behind him. Pain, rage and fear (although he would never admit to that last) frothed and boiled over, causing tears to stream from his one good eye. Who the hell was that guy?! How can he be so strong?!

It was like something out of a nightmare. Gasping, he tripped and fell to the floor, instinctively throwing out his hands to catch himself. Of course, he only had one now, so he pitched to the side and landed on his bad side, howling in pain. Then he froze. What if someone had heard that?

"You're such a goof!"

Too late. He looked up to see a young woman with bubble-gum pink hair seemingly floating in midair, staring down at him with a teasing expression on her face. "What happened?" Lulu asked him mockingly. "Did you get in a fight or something? You're such a screwup, geez!"

"So..." added another voice from the side. "You ran off with your tail between your legs after somebody took your arm?" Shiki, another shin, snorted. "How can you stand to live so pathetically? If I were you I would've offed myself years ago."

Staggering to his feet, Nanaya snarled at them. He had to at least put on a strong front, or he was finished. "You can get over yourselves now," he sneered. "The shin I encountered was out of our league. He would cut you two to pieces in an instant!" Maybe that was stretching the truth a little bit, but he had to make this guy sound as dangerous as possible so that the others wouldn't mock him for loosing. It wasn't that he was too weak. It was that his opponent was too strong. Yes, that might work. Why, if he made this mysterious shin out to be almost as strong as Lord Homurabi, then -

"Did you say you encountered a shin in the world of light?"

A voice curled out of the darkness, questing like tendrils of black fog. Nanaya shivered, and slowly turned around. He had once heard a saying that went, 'Speak of the devil and he shall appear.' Well apparently all one had to do was think of him and Lord Homurabi would appear, striding towards them at a leisurely pace without ever taking his eyes off of Nanaya. Sawaki and Hiryu trailed behind him, one on either side. "How interesting," he purred. "And I assume it was not one of us?"

Nanaya jerkily shook his head. "N-no my lord," he managed to stammer out.

"What did he look like?" questioned Sawaki, Lord Homurabi's top lieutenant and right-hand-man. Nanaya was surprised to see someone who was usually so calm and composed look anxious, almost...scared. That more than anything else today unnerved Nanaya and goaded him into speech.

"He had long, grayish-silver hair and blue eyes."

Sawaki paled. Nanaya was about to forget himself and ask what was wrong when suddenly -

"It's Lord Shirogane!" shrieked an excited voice above them. Lulu came bouncing down from where she had been perched in the air, giggling madly. "Oh, I just knew hecouldn't be dead! Hmmm, I may just have to go pay him a visit later on~"

"But who's Lord Shirogane?" questioned Shiki, puzzled, as Lulu twirled and pirouetted around the hall, giggling to herself. Nanaya was sort of glad to know that he wasn't the only one in the dark.

"He used to be my boss," Homurabi hissed at Shiki, who flinched. "But I don't really need supervision, now do I?" He turned back to Nanaya. "Is it true? What you've said?"

"Yes, sir," he replied, managing to keep the tremor out of his voice this time. "I heard someone call him Shirogane."

"I see," Lord Homurabi said softly. He looked once more at Nanaya. "You must be in a lot of pain," he observed, gesturing languidly at what remained of his right arm. "So why don't I free you from that pain right now?" he asked, reaching forward.

Dazed from pain and surprise, Nanaya realized too late what was about to happen. Lord Homurabi had grabbed the sides of his head with both hands and began to squeeze, laughing cruelly even as crunching noises sounded from his skull.

Aside from that, the last thing he heard was the sound of Lulu's giggling, until it abruptly came to a stop.


I'm baaaaack!

And let me tell you, it's been a heck of a few months. I won't bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say that I've been dealing with a lot of crap, and it doesn't look like it's going to slack off any time soon. *sigh*

On a side note, while this chapter is complete it hasn't been heavily edited, so there may be a few mistakes. Sorry 'bout that, but I figured you'd rather just get the chapter than have me hold onto it quibbling about verb tenses.

Lastly, I'm sorry for the long silence. I wanted to update sooner, seriously, but rl kept getting in the way. Thanks for reading. :)