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*What* Insertion?


Chapter One
Got A Problem Or Two?



"Wake up, kid.  You alright?"

After a few seconds, the second kid started to show signs of life.  The officer who found him watched as he propped himself up on his elbows and looked around him with an expression that could only be described as amazement.  He didn't even bother looking at him; he seemed transfixed by the night sky and the buildings around him.

For a few minutes, the officer watched the kid as he sat unmoving.  Can't imagine any shops where he got his clothes, the officer thought.  Looks like something out of some sort of fantasy novel.  He shook his head.  I should've given up reading those books a long time ago; it's starting to mess with my head.

After a few more seconds, the kid breathed a relieved sigh.  His voice quiet and hoarse, he spoke: "Your plan worked.  You actually convinced her to release us.  The next question is: where are we now?"

The officer stared at him.  What is he talking about?  He shrugged.  Oh, well.  Now we have to find this kid's parents and ask what he's been doing out so late on his own.

He reached out a hand, intending to help the kid up.  "Excuse me, kid.  You need help?"

The kid's head spun around and faced him eye-to-eye.  "Who are you?"

-------

Before Curtis or Inuyasha could answer Phibrizzo's question, a mature voice asked: "Excuse me, kid.  You need help?"

When their host's head turned, both of them noticed who was speaking to them: a Japanese policeman.  However, they both felt the sudden need to take over when Phibrizzo asked suspiciously: "Who are you?"

"I'm Officer Bent," the officer said.  "You need help getting up?"

When Phibrizzo hesitated for a moment, Inuyasha spoke up.  "He's giving you help, kid.  We don't know where we are, so take it where you can get it."

Will you be quiet?  I get the stupid point! Phibrizzo growled mentally.  He accepted the officer's hand and got pulled up.  I just don't like humans, that's all.

"You got off easy," Officer Bent told him.  "There was another kid who looked like he got attacked from behind; the others are waking him up now.  I'm surprised nothing's happened to you."

Phibrizzo shrugged, saying nothing and not letting his expression give anything away.

"Anyway kid, where do you live?  It's a little late for you to be out and about," the officer said.

"If I knew, I'd tell you," Phibrizzo answered flatly.  "I fell asleep, and the next thing I knew was you waking me up."

Officer Bent frowned, tapping his chin.  "What about your parents?"

Guys?  I need a little help here, Phibrizzo thought, slightly nervous.  I'm not too good at pulling the "sad puppy eye" deal.

-----

Inuyasha smirked as he took another look at the rows of buttons.  "One quick save coming up.  Paper, rock, scissors!"  Jabbing a button labeled "Teary Eyes", he turned to look at Curtis.  "Well, at least we know that its one of those 'modern-day' worlds."

Curtis nodded as the viewport became slightly distorted.  "Yeah, but which one?"

-----

Officer Bent stepped back a bit as the kid's eyes clouded over and allowed tears to pour down his face.  "Mom and Dad are gone," the child whimpered.

Hmm...parentless, and apparently homeless as well.  I feel sorry for him; who knows what he's experienced since then?  "I see.  Kid, what's your name?"

The kid wiped his eyes.  "It's Phibrizzo," he choked out.  "No last name."

"Strange name."

Phibrizzo tilted his head.  "I came from a strange family.  Dad said once that he wanted a name no one's tried before."

The officer nodded.  "Well, kid, the best I can---"

"Hey!  Get that kid back here!  He's injured!" Bent's partner shouted, catching his attention.

-----

Curtis perked up a bit on hearing that exclamation.  Sounds vaguely familiar.  Where did I hear that before?

-----

Phibrizzo's head turned towards the source of the voice.  "Who's that guy talking about?  Me?"

Bent shook his head.  "No.  Remember that other kid I told you about?  My partner and another officer were supposed to wake him up and see if he was alright.  Sounds like he wasn't alright, got scared and ran off."  He gave Phibrizzo a once-over.  "You look okay except for some redness on your arms and face.  Doesn't look too serious, but you should be careful in the sun for a little while."

Standing too close to the Lord of Nightmares can do that to a guy.  "Okay, so now what?"

The officer tapped his chin for a second.  "Well, the best I can do at this point is to drop you off at an orphanage.  From there, we can see if anyone's willing to adopt you.  You willing to go through this?"

Phibrizzo hesitated for a second.  "Can I have a minute to think about this?"

"Sure.  Just try not to take too long, okay?"  Officer Bent smiled at him, then pulled out a small device and started speaking into it.  Phibrizzo toned him out as he contacted the duo inside his head.

Guys, I hate to admit it, but I need your help again.  Curtis, you probably know this better than Inuyasha.  His voice became curious.  What's an orphanage?

There was a crashing noise inside his head.  Checking to see what it was, he noticed that Curtis had somehow fallen forward onto his face.  "Phibrizzo," the human groaned as he pushed himself up, "you have a lot to learn about how humans operate nowadays.  To start you off, the orphanage is basically a place for kids to stay until someone else is willing to take them in.  There's more to it, but that's the gist of it.  Get it?"

Phibrizzo nodded.  So I should just do what the guy says before we decide what to do next?

"With a person like him," Inuyasha stated, "that's usually a good idea.  I may not know a whole lot about this time, but I do know that people like him are around to help make sure there's no trouble."

Another nod; with that, Phibrizzo cut the connection and looked up at Officer Bent.  "Okay, sir.  I'll do it."

-------

Right when the Officer started up the car to head to the orphanage, the first thing Phibrizzo did was clench the seat with both hands; the sound and motion of the strange contraption carrying him to the "orphanage" was enough to temporarily terrify him.

Meanwhile, Curtis had gone back to his own chamber to wait out the ride.  Examining the controls and screens on the side opposite the entertainment center, he saw what Phibrizzo was doing.  "Easy there," Curtis said calmly.  "There's no need to be afraid."

Easy for YOU to say!  Phibrizzo snapped mentally.  What is this stupid contraption, anyway?

"I believe the modern-day citizens of this country call it a 'car'," Inuyasha explained.

Curtis ignored the sarcasm.  "I can't really explain how it works; it gets somewhat technical, and I don't get it much myself.  All I can say is that it makes for a nice way of getting around."  He turned his attention back to the controls, fiddling with them for a few seconds before focusing one of the screens on the driver.  "Just sit back and enjoy the ride, and you'll get to the orphanage soon enough."

Although Officer Bent didn't hear the conversation, it was easy for him to note Phibrizzo's nervousness as well.  "First time in a car?"

"Yeah," Phibrizzo groaned, shuddering violently.  He was no longer clutching the car seat out of fright, but covering his eyes didn't prove to be any better.

"Just take it easy, kid," Bent said soothingly, not taking his eyes off the road.  "Don't be scared.  It'll be alright."

Slowly, Phibrizzo removed his hands from his face.  Yeah.  Maybe it won't be so bad.  Heh...maybe it'll be like enrolling with one of those theatrical troupes and taking up acting, he added, his eyes twinkling with suppressed laughter.  He head turned a bit, noting the passing scenery.  Never seen so many tall buildings before; these make the towers built by the dragon race seem puny.  How do they manage that?

"You're asking the wrong guys," Curtis said.  "I'm no engineer."

Phibrizzo ignored him as he continued looking around him.  Guess this is what it amounts to when humans are the dominant race on the planet.  During one of my personal missions, I stayed in a town packed with humans.  Man, they were so easy to fool...

Half-listening to Phibrizzo's monologue, Curtis adjusted one of the monitors in front of him so that the screen's view aimed out the side of the mazoku's head.  "This is neat," he told himself.  "I can't understand more than a few Japanese words when I'm awake, but when I'm in here its as if the signs are running subtitles through my brain.  I should ask Inuyasha for more clarification, though."

He continued watching this as Phibrizzo rambled on.  ...the mayor had the nerve to ask me what I knew about those artifacts.  It was humiliating having to hold in a sharp reply, but I needed to keep him and the others busy long enough in order to fulfill my true objective: to ensure that Dynast's minions had enough time to drain the artifacts' power and---

"Um, Phibrizzo?"

Curtis looked up, slightly startled out of his thoughts.  It took a moment for him to realize that Officer Bent had spoken to Phibrizzo.  "Yes?" came the mazoku's answer.

"We're here," Bent said.  "I'll speak with the owner, then I'll be leaving you here and heading back to see if my partner found that other kid.  I'm pretty sure you'll be able to handle it here until someone adopts you."

Well, here goes.  "Okay.  Thanks a ton."

----

The owner of the orphanage was a bit surprised when she first met Phibrizzo.  After introducing herself, the first thing she asked was: "How'd you know there's a costume party going on in our study hall?"

One of Phibrizzo's eyebrows raised.  "I didn't.  This is how I always dress."

In the back of his mind, he heard Curtis sharply snap something like "Dough!"  He made a mental note to ask him about that later, turning his attention back to the lady.

"Um...why do you dress like that?  Boys your age don't pick that kind of attire."

"I don't have anything else, for one thing," Phibrizzo told her.  "Besides, I've gotten somewhat used to it by now."

The lady shook her head.  "We can fix that later.  For now, you can meet most of the other children here and get something to eat; you look like you haven't had a decent meal in quite a while."

Phibrizzo blinked.  She can actually tell?  Even though I don't eat that much, its not like I have an actual stomach or anything.  Shoving that aside, he nodded.  "Okay."

As the two of them walked the short distance towards the study hall, Phibrizzo had something to ask someone else.  Alright, what was with that 'dough' thing earlier?

"That wasn't 'dough'," Curtis said, displeased.  "That was 'd'oh!'  It's much sharper, spoken loudly, and used to indicate exasparation at a mistake, an accident, or stupidity.  You took a big risk saying that; do we really need awkward questions being asked about where you're from and what not?"

Okay, okay! *sigh* You can stop jumping down my throat whenever I do something stupid.  I can shoulder the responsibility myself!

"We can worry about who's being stupid later," Inuyasha spoke up.  "In the meantime, don't we have a party to enjoy?"

----

It hadn't taken long for Phibrizzo to decide that the atmosphere of a party just wasn't for him.  Silently conversing with Curtis and Inuyasha, he found out that they weren't much of party people either.  The reason why none of them didn't seem to enjoy things too much was standing a meter in front of them, talking at high speed and ignoring the mazoku's discomfort.

I don't like girls, Phibrizzo muttered to the people he still called "parasites".  I don't like them at all.  Do they attend some sort of school in order to learn how to be extremely cute?  Its making my insides churn!

"You don't have any insides, but that's not the point," Curtis said, nibbling at what looked like a cheese sandwich.  "For most of them, acting all cutesy comes naturally.  You're capable of it too, you know."

Phibrizzo sighed.  Great; can't believe I've been reduced to this.  Whatever happened to the ferocity and evil tendencies I used to have?

"We'll tell you about that later," Inuyasha said before his host could get depressed.  "There's food and stuff over there.  If he's right, it's not like you can actually get sick by it or anything...so there shouldn't be any harm in picking something at random.  Go on and try it already!"

Unsure at Inuyasha's spoken suggestion, Phibrizzo reached over and grabbed a cup.  Ignoring the chatterbox near them, he filled it up with a liquid which Curtis identified as "fruit punch".  Hesitating for a few seconds, he sipped at it.  Blinking once or twice at the tanginess, he downed the rest of the drink in one go.

-----

Inuyasha looked up suddenly as the ceiling, walls, and floor started to glow a bright green.  "What on earth..." he growled.  "Phibrizzo!"

There wasn't any response.

"Hey, kid!" he shouted, knocking on the wall behind him.  "You still there?"

Only two words answered him:

"So...sweet...."

Curtis could be heard laughing from the opposite chamber.  Inuyasha shook his head.  "What's with these people?" he muttered, wondering what was happening.

-----

The instant he swallowed the drink, Phibrizzo knew that he would eventually regret it; he could feel a sudden surge of energy pulsating through him, threatening to send him on a mad dash throughout the orphanage.

But for now, he didn't care what would happen; it was bliss.

He could hear what the people around him were saying.  "He's acting like he's never had fruit punch before..."  "He looks the part, that's for sure..."  "What, the fruit punch or the costume?"  "Both."  "Does he look okay?  He has that weird smile on his face."

"So...sweet...." Phibrizzo heard himself say, his awareness going dim.

In the back of his mind, one of the two occupants was chortling loudly.  This didn't last very long, and after a minute or so Phibrizzo found the buzz diminishing a little.  He shook his head to clear what was left, saying: "Wow.  That was too much of a rush."  We're going to have to talk again later, guys.  That just wasn't natural.

Two things happened at the same time.  First, the girl next to him asked if he was alright, to which Phibrizzo answered in the affirmative.  Second, a middle-aged man in a dragon costume got up from where he was sitting and approached him.  "Excuse me, young man.  May I have a word with you, please?"

Puzzled, Phibrizzo slowly nodded his head.  This couldn't be a coincidence; he'd barely been in the room for ten minutes.  Surely the man couldn't want to adopt him that quickly, right?  Unsure of what else to think, he followed the man towards the other end of the room, grateful to be away from the female chatterbox; her face looked too much like Amelia's as far as he was concerned.

-------

After speaking with the dragon-costumed man---during which Phibrizzo had to restrain himself from making several sarcastic remarks---he was convinced that everyone was out to get him.

Apparently the man had lost his only son to some sort of sickness several weeks back, and had dropped in to visit the orphanage from time to time since then seeking to dispel his wife's grief.  He couldn't find the right person to fit the family's needs, but he kept on coming, knowing that someone would show up sooner or later.

It just so happened that Phibrizzo happened to appear.  The man told him that if he hadn't caught the attention of everyone around him, he probably would've missed him.

As the man began signing the adoption papers and getting information from the orphanage's owner, the disgruntled "kid" started a conversation of his own.  So I'm supposed to be spending time with him?  You and your ideas, fatso!

"Come off it, Phibrizzo," Inuyasha shot back.  "Leave him alone.  He's just suggesting what's best for us, okay?"

Phibrizzo's tone took on a pleading edge to it.  But I'm supposed to be a mazoku, not an average "human"!  Why have I lost my edge?  Why am I even going along with your plans, anyway?  I'm the one who's supposed to be in control around here!

"Remember what the Lord of Nightmares said before she zapped us here?  You're not connected to your homeworld anymore, in case you forgot," Curtis reminded him.  "The elements that were available to sustain you back then are not available here; being here has basically turned you partially human.  I found that out when you drank the fruit punch a few minutes ago."

Phibrizzo almost screamed, although he was careful enough to restrict his temper to his mind and not show it outwardly.  How could you possibly have figured that out?!

"It's just a theory," Curtis said.  "I'll tell it to you later after everyone thinks you're asleep, okay?  Now, perk up.  It looks like he's done signing the papers.  Off you go!"

As Phibrizzo got up and followed the man out the door, Curtis could hear Inuyasha sigh quietly over the speaker.  "Things have certainly been problematic for this kid, haven't they?"

Curtis nodded.  "No kidding," he murmured, looking on as the metal walls and ceiling glowed a soft red for a few seconds.  Reminding himself quietly to figure what that was about, he returned his attention to the nearby monitors---

---and vanished.

-----

Even though he was still simmering from the knowledge that he wasn't a complete mazoku anymore, Phibrizzo could still tell when one of his occupants disappeared.  It would've been alright with him if Curtis never returned, but the human was back in his head by the time he settled into the man's car.  I really wish you'd stop that, he stated.

Curtis looked around for a few seconds, then seemed to remember where he was.  Gathering himself, he stared towards Phibrizzo's line of sight.  "You mean disappear like that?  It's not like I have any control over the time I wake up back home."

Something twitched at the edge of Phibrizzo's conscious thoughts.  "Home..."  He shook his head, not wanting to distract himself.  He didn't care whether he was part-human or not; in his mind, he was a complete mazoku as far as he was concerned.

His new stepfather heard him say this as the car pulled out of the parking lot and drove on.  "That's right.  We'll be arriving at your new home shortly.  I think you'll like it there."

Phibrizzo folded his arms over his chest and stared at the front seat.  "Um, excuse me for asking, 'step-dad', but you never told me what your name was before this started."

A nervous chuckling ensued from the brown-haired man, who had moved back the hood on his costume.  "I guess I got so wrapped up and excited about bringing someone home that I forgot to tell you; I'm sorry.  My name's Marcus Kaden."

----

Curious and curiouser, Curtis mused, absently tossing a pen in the air.  I know I've heard that name before, but where...?

----

"Hmm...Phibrizzo Kaden.  Sounds a bit unusual, but...what do you think?" Marcus asked thoughtfully.

"It's okay," Phibrizzo murmured.  He thinks that's unusual?

Marcus nodded.  "Glad you like it.  Now, my wife has a habit of going to bed early; we're going to have to wait until tomorrow before you can meet her.  By the way, did you already go to school before you came to the orphanage?"

"No, I haven't," Phibrizzo replied.  "I know how to read and write in both English and..."

"Japanese," Inuyasha's voice growled.

"Japanese, and do some math, but other than that..."  Everything else I know probably won't be of much use here in this world, anyway.

After a momentarily pause, his new stepfather finally answered him.  "I see.  We'll have to bring you up to speed on what you've missed; when we register you at one of the schools, I'll tell your new teacher what you know already.  I have to say, though, being able to read and write in both languages is pretty amazing at your age."

Phibrizzo shrugged.  "Nothing big; just a talent."  And its not the only talent I've got, but you don't need to know that, do you?

From the man's expression in the mirror, Phibrizzo could tell he was smiling a little at his remark.  "One last thing: is it true those clothes you have now are all you have?"

A nod.  "Yes.  These clothes, this wristband, and this bracelet are all I have.  If you don't mind, 'father', I'd like to keep them."

"I don't have any problems with that, but you'll still need a few extra things from the store; otherwise, you won't blend in too well with the others.  There should still be a place open.  Do you want to come with me, or would you prefer to go home and get some sleep?"

Phibrizzo put one hand near his mouth thoughtfully.  I should go with him; its not like I have to sleep much anyway.  You guys know that.

"Tell him that you'd like to go to your new home and have him go on ahead," Inuyasha spoke, smiling.  "He's less liable to worry when we go on our little tour."

"A little tour?" Curtis asked.  "Inuyasha, what are you thinking?"

"I'll tell you when we get there," Inuyasha said.  "But for what I'm thinking we should do, we should try to at least get the layout of the surrounding area."

I don't know about you guys... "Could you take me 'home', please?  Um...father?"  I've got to get used to calling him that!

Marcus nodded.  "All right.  As long as I'm taking you there, I can show you where you can sleep."

Phibrizzo didn't answer, instead staring out the window at the passing buildings.  I'll never get used to this...

------

Not long after their conversation, the two of them arrived at Marcus's home: a decent two-story house surrounded by variations on the same theme.  After giving Phibrizzo a brief tour of the house and showing him where he could sleep for the night, Marcus said "good night" and left to see what open clothing stores he could find.

As Phibrizzo stretched out on the small bed, he gazed at his new room (sparse as of now, but that would change eventually).  When he wants to get something done, he doesn't kid around, does he? 

"No, he doesn't," Curtis said, his mind preoccupied.  "Inuyasha, what are you thinking?"

"I'm thinking we take a little tour," Inuyasha explained.  "We need to know our way around, right?  While that guy's gone and your new stepmother asleep, could you ask for a better time to find out?"

"I suppose so..." Curtis mumbled to himself.  Phibrizzo wasn't too sure about the idea; he'd been hoping somewhat for Curtis to clue him in some more about what to expect in the 'modern-day' world.

"I'll take that as yes."  Inuyasha folded his arms triumphantly and smiled.  "Phibrizzo, look out the window for me, could you?"

Arching an eyebrow, Phibrizzo stood on the bed and opened one of the windows.  He leaned outside, craned his head left and right, then pulled himself back in.  "Now what?" he asked quietly.

"Shouldn't be a problem."  Inuyasha stepped towards one side of the chamber...the side with the buttons on it.  "That fence there is easily inside my jumping range."

Something in Phibrizzo's mind clicked, and his eyes widened.  Wait a second!  Your jumping range?

"Yeah, that's right.  To accomplish this, I believe a little roof-hopping is in order!"

Hold on!  I never said you could do...

It was too late by that point; Inuyasha had pressed the button labeled "Switch", putting himself in Phibrizzo's place.  As for his host, he had to finish his sentence inside the pillar of green liquid.  ...that.  Oh, no.

----

Inuyasha stretched his arms, taking in the breeze that filtered through the window.  "Great to be out here again," he whispered as a small strand of white hair fell in front of his eye.  Pushing it away, he took a quick look down at his side to confirm that the Tetsusaiga was hanging there.  Smiling, he pulled himself onto the window ledge and propelled himself onto the fence.  From there, he leaped straight up onto the roof of the next house and started to build up his speed...

"Let's see what this place is made of!"

----

The professor was used to unusual sights; his studies in geography and anthropology had prepared him for these in many ways.  He was one of those people who could probably say he'd seen it all and not be rebuked for it by his colleagues.  However, nothing could've prepared him for the phone call he received that night from a long-time friend of his.

"Hello, Gerald."  Even without being able to see his face, the professor could tell that his caller seemed rushed.  "I doubt you're going to believe this..."

"I'm pretty sure I will," Gerald interrupted.  "What is it?"

"I was finishing up grading some of my students' papers when something landed on top of my home.  When I looked outside, I caught a glimpse of this white-haired kid in English medieval attire jumping from rooftop to rooftop.  He had a *sword* with him, of all things."

Gerald remained silent for a moment, not sure what to say.  "You're not going to laugh, are you?" his friend asked.

"No, I'm not going to laugh," Gerald finally said.  "I'm sure there's a perfectly logical explanation behind all this."

A sigh.  "You don't believe me, do you?"

Gerald nodded.  "Right.  I don't believe you."

"It's true, though!  I know what I saw, Gerald!  Can't you just contact the police and tell them there's a strange kid wandering around with a sword?  Who knows what would happen?"

"Look, Mark---"

A barely audible *thump* caught Gerald's attention before he could talk down his friend.  Dropping the phone, he raced to the window.  Sure enough, there was *something* leaping from building to building along the street; it looked vaguely like a white-haired child moving at inhuman speeds, and it matched the description that his friend Mark just provided.

Slowly moving back to where he was before, Gerald slowly walked back to where he was sitting before and picked the phone back up.  "Mark?  Are you still there?"

"Yes, Gerald.  What just happened?"

"I think you know what just happened.  Do you have Inspector Maguire's work number?"

--------

"I don't like this," Curtis kept repeating to himself, holding onto his chair with as iron a grip as he could manage.  "Not at all."

"What's not to like?" Inuyasha growled as he continued to circle the area, paying no mind to the occasional car that drove by.  "I do this all the time."

"Easy for you to say," Curtis snapped.  "You're not the one scared of heights around here.  Noooo.  You're making twenty-foot jumps and making it look routine!"

"Pipe down, would you?  I'm trying to see if there's anything going on here we need to know about, and you should do the same!"

"You're really incorrigible," Phibrizzo's voice grumbled over the speaker.  "I'd been hoping Curtis would tell me more about this world, and you're not helping very much.  How soon are we going back?"

Inuyasha shook his head.  "How soon?  We couldn't have been out here for more than ten minutes!"

Curtis didn't like being reminded of that.  Feels more like an hour.

A sharp cry caught Inuyasha's attention, and he slowed to a stop.  "Someone's being attacked," he snarled, turning his head a bit.  "I'd recognize the smell of fear anywhere."

"Leave it to dog boy to recognize the situation by its scent.  What, the scream didn't give it away?"

"Ssssh!" Curtis hissed.

Inuyasha bolted in the direction of the scream, halting when he reached a ledge that overlooked its source.  "Typical," he growled quietly, peeking over the edge before stepping back.  "Why is it that every time night falls, someone feels obliged to attack or rob any random people?"

Curtis nodded.  "Looked like a young jerk with a knife doing something stupid.  It's bad enough he has to rob someone, but to rob a woman with a couple kids looking on?  That's just asking for trouble a la police.  He's got three people right there in front of him who could describe him to them."

"They won't need to."

"Why not?" Phibrizzo and Curtis asked in unison.

"Because he's not getting away."

Both of them imagined that confident smirk of Inuyasha's as he jumped from the ledge and landed directly in the young punk's path.

-----------

The young man didn't really like people much; he'd been mistreated throughout his youth, and he'd gotten bad grades in school consistently.  Those were merely the sparks that led to him spiraling downward into despair.

Right now, he needed to find some way to make ends meet.  Relieving this woman of her money seemed the way to go.

There was a sudden shout from one of the kids, and then another person landed right in front of the would-be robber.  Overcoming his initial shock, his eyes narrowed.  "Out of my way."

"If you even think about harming these people, you're going to have me to deal with," the white-haired kid brashly warned.  He laid one hand on what appeared to be a beaten-up sword.

Man, this kid's way out of date.  "I said, get out of my way!" the punk shouted, taking a step towards him.

The kid looked up at him and shook his head; for a brief moment, the punk thought that his eyes actually glittered.  "Why does everyone always want to do it the hard way?" the kid muttered, tightening his grip on the sword and unsheathing it fully.  There was a brief glare as the sword changed shape...

-----------

The woman was nothing short of stunned as she mentally reviewed the events leading up to where she was now.  A punk with a knife cornered her and her two kids before they could enter their home, and was demanding her money.  Another person, this one the strangest kid she'd ever seen (White hair and ancient-looking clothes?  Bizarre!, she thought) had jumped in front of her and blocked her assailant's path.

What clinched it for her was that huge sword that came from out of nowhere.  I'm dreaming, her brain kept telling her.  So are you.

The more logical part of the woman's mind shook it off as the smaller kid charged forward.  The teenage attacker must've been as shocked as she was at the appearance of the sword, because he remained rooted where he was until the kid knocked him off his feet with a sweep kick.  He probably just wanted to intimidate the other person.  I don't know where he got such a big sword, but how can he even hold such a thing, let alone actually run with it?  It doesn't make sense!

As for her attacker, he remained where he hit the ground, his knife forgotten and his speech temporarily impaired.  The other kid's head turned slightly.  "Hey, lady!  Are you going to get the police over here, or aren't you?  I don't want to watch him all night!"

Forcing herself to nod, the woman unlocked the door and entered the house, intent on reaching the phone.  Her kids trailed behind her reluctantly, cheering as they entered the safe confines of their home.

-----

"Looking back on what happened a few minutes ago, I'm glad you decided not to use the Tetsusaiga after all," Curtis said, slowly munching on something.  "You have no idea how much lawn and driveway repairs cost around here."

Inuyasha didn't keep his eyes off the cowering would-be thief as he heard the noisy sirens approaching.  He didn't like the concept of money, but he decided to take that up with Curtis some other time.

"You guys still use gold and silver to pay for things, or has that changed too?" Phibrizzo asked from his spot in the green pillar.

"Phibrizzo, the economics of this world are so messed up that 'complex' doesn't even begin to describe them," Curtis told him as he finished eating whatever it was.  "Where I'm from, we use paper money and coins containing very little silver.  Just don't get me started about inflation and overspending and things of that nature."

"You're right.  I don't understand that at all."

"Better hang tight, Phibrizzo.  It's going to be a long ride."

The noise level reached its peak as the police car parked in front of the house.  The doors opened, releasing several cops.  They ran towards the two of them, but quickly halted when they noticed Inuyasha.  "Excuse m-me, but..." one of the policemen stuttered.

"This is the guy you're looking for," Inuyasha said, sheathing the Tetsusaiga and noting that the woman he'd rescued had come out of the house.  "The people in the house behind me asked for you to get over here.  I was just holding down the fort."

Slowly nodding their heads, the cops went to work.  One of them raised the hoodlum up, snapped handcuffs on him, and led him away; the other one went to question the woman about what transpired.  Inuyasha turned away and was about to leap onwards when a call from the first policeman stopped him.  "Excuse me, kid?"

Inuyasha bristled for a second, but reminded himself that he both looked and sounded like a kid...albeit a kid with messed-up white hair and a huge sword, but still a kid.  "Yeah?"

"You wouldn't happen to be from the Nerima district by any chance, would you?"

Inuyasha blinked.  Inside, so did Curtis.  It was the former who did the talking, though.  "I...don't think so.  How come?"

The policeman shrugged.  "It's just that with the sword, hair and all, I thought you were one of the weirdos from that area.  Just a thought."

Inuyasha didn't bother responding, opting to jump up to the house's roof instead and resume his trek.  Hey, Curtis.  How long did we watch that punk for?

After a few seconds, he got his response.  "About ten minutes.  It's been a bit more than twenty since we left."

"Can we just go on back?" Phibrizzo complained.  "Like right now?  What if 'father' is on a roll and makes it back sooner than we think?"

"You guys worry too much."  Despite this remark, Inuyasha altered his route a bit so that it led straight back towards their new residence.  "I didn't think you cared about such things.  When our paths collided, you seemed a lot meaner.  What's with that?"

Phibrizzo didn't bother replying to that.  He wasn't really sure he liked the answer to that question, anyway.

-----------

Place: Kaden residence
Time: Late evening

After a few minutes more, Inuyasha was able to return to the Kaden residence and slip back into their new room without anyone noticing.  Phibrizzo's worries were unfounded; his foster father must not have gotten back yet.  The hanyou rematerialized back inside the mental chamber; upon doing so, he sat down several meters away from the 'switch' area, smiling briefly.

Phibrizzo stretched as he regained control, kicking his boots onto the floor.  "Finally," he whispered, closing the window and digging into the bedcovers.  His eyes remained open, though, and narrowed as his first question occurred to him.  Alright, you two.  First things first: what do you mean when you say I'm 'half-human'?

After a few seconds without either of them saying anything, Phibrizzo was almost ready to ask aloud...and then this strange music began playing.  After listening to it for a few seconds, he thought that it sounded rather...ominous.  Shaking his head, he asked: Now that you've decided to try to creep me out, could you answer my question?

(BGM -- Opening narrative segment, from "Metroid Fusion")

"Sorry about that...thought it would be neat to have some background music.  Anyway, the 'half-human' line's exactly what it sounds like," Curtis explained, walking away from the wall and returning to his chair.  "Thanks to your link with your world being broken, you've basically become a mix of two races.  As far as I can tell, you've got a partial digestive system and a few senses; there may be more, but that's all I can think of right now.  You can taste things now, but the system stops at the stomach.  After that, everything left is turned to energy.  In some cases, the process goes a lot faster than that...but I'll get to that later."

"You mean like when he drank that stuff earlier?" Inuyasha asked.

"Yep.  Means he'll have to be careful not to drink too much fruit punch, etc. or else he'd be a typical victim of a sugar rush."  A large cup appeared in Curtis's hand.  "Speaking of fruit punch, I think I'll have some myself," he added, following his statement with a few gulps.

Shame, really.  That drink was rather tangy.  What about that part about the "senses"?

Curtis stopped drinking and set the cup down.  "Well, after I woke up last time, I looked up stuff on nerves and skin and what not.  Basically nerves send information from different parts of the body to other parts, like from the brain to the stomach."

Explains why you're always eating or drinking something each time I look at you.  Phibrizzo chuckled a bit, both mentally and audibly.

Curtis didn't take offense at that statement, although Phibrizzo was sure that a large sweatdrop rolled down the side of his head.  "Anyhow, when certain skin areas are touched lightly, it sets off some kind of minor nervous reaction.  Reflexes kick in, and a laugh response is triggered...basically, it's not really pretty."

Meaning what?

"Simply put, it means you're ticklish," Curtis deadpanned, drinking some more of the fruit punch.

Inuyasha snickered, then almost fell over laughing.  "That's rich!  That is really rich!"

I don't see what's so funny about this!  Phibrizzo said indignantly, tightening his grip on one of the blankets.  Sounds humiliating to me!

"Maybe so, but it's still nice to have a sense of humor."  Curtis looked around for a few seconds.  "Any other questions?"

Phibrizzo expressed an annoyed sigh.  He was definitely not pleased.  Okay, I've got one.  That guy said I'd be going to one of the local schools starting tomorrow.  What's the school system like?

Curtis shrugged.  "You mean here in Japan?  I have no idea.  Next time I wake up, I ought to check into that; maybe the one you're attending's similar to the elementary school I went to at that age.  Inuyasha, what I told him earlier isn't that funny."

Inuyasha settled down, although he had to struggle to keep his smirk from becoming a grin.  "Whatever you say, pal.  Whatever you say.  Just let me know when it's over, would you?"

"Okay, sure.  On the other side of the whole 'half-human' equation, Phibrizzo, you can't destroy stuff just by snapping your fingers anymore.  Most of your energy was dispersed when you arrived, meaning that you can't switch back and forth between your current form and your mazoku form...essentially, you're stuck.  I noticed that when I discovered how long it had been between the time the Lord of Nightmares sent us here and when you woke up.  If you'd kept your energy, you would've awakened right away."

Phibrizzo's grip on the blanket clenched even tighter, and his eyes narrowed again.  I think I'm starting to regret letting you talk to her.

"That's a really dumb thing to say," Inuyasha growled before Curtis could respond.  "You know what would've happened if you carried out your plans without us butting in.  I haven't seen the proof of it myself, but from what I've heard it sounds nasty.  Just give the human life a shot, would you?  You might actually enjoy it."

This coming from you?  What do you know about the human life, anyway?

Inuyasha smiled knowingly.  "You'll see.  I think Curtis knows what I mean, right?"

Curtis nodded.  "You can get used to it if you only tried, Phibrizzo.  You've observed how humans in your world interacted with everything around them, and now you get that chance yourself in a new one.  Bad habits aside, I think that even in your condition you'll be able to have some fun...and so will we."

How so? Phibrizzo thought, scoffing.

"Your constitution, aside from what you picked up on your arrival, is still mazoku; you don't need to worry about this world's typical criminals.  And note that I didn't say that all your energy was gone; you've still got some left.  Don't get the wrong idea, though; it's going to be strictly for self-defense only.  Inuyasha's gonna see to that."

Heh.  If I don't have anything more to fear than humans with simplistic weapons, what do I have to worry about?

"Keeping a handle on your desire for people's negative emotions."

Phibrizzo's eyes widened.  What for? he asked, trying not to panic.  I can't just forget about needing them!  If I'm not allowed to have any, I'll shrivel away into nothing!

"You won't need them.  Why do you think that stomach of yours is there?  Besides, I think depression's bad for it anyway.  If what that officer said earlier is right...eh, skip it.  Anyhow, while you're at school later, I'm going to see if I can get some more things set up in here.  Try to act like a normal kid while you're there, okay?  And don't let the comments of others bother you."

After a few seconds, Phibrizzo's eyes returned to their normal width.  "Curtis...I despise you," he grumbled audibly.

"So what else is new?"  Curtis shrugged, then stretched and got up.  "We've got plenty of time before sunrise, so I'm going to find some things to do," he said, switching off the background music...and replacing it with something else.

Phibrizzo blinked, then relaxed slightly.  His eyes slowly fell closed as he focused entirely on what was happening within.  That actually sounds neat...better than that ominous stuff.  What music is that, anyway? he asked, noting that a dim glow allowed his two passengers to see.

(BGM - Sonata No.8 op. 13 in C minor)

"Classical music.  A man named Beethoven wrote it close to two centuries ago."  Curtis sat down again and quickly gulped down the rest of the fruit punch.  Pausing for a minute as the music continued, he focused for a bit.  Several boxes with colorful labels appeared next to him.  "Hey, Inuyasha?"

"That's me.  You guys done yakking yet?"

"For now, anyway.  Want to come over here?  I've got a few games here that I'd like to show you."

-----

The rest of the night was uneventful, aside from another of Curtis's brief disappearing acts.  Marcus had returned home not long after the trio's discussion and had went to check on his foster son.  To all outward appearances he seemed to be asleep, so Marcus had walked away with a pleased smile.

What he didn't know was that while the half-mazoku's eyes were closed, Phibrizzo was silently trying to decide whether to have Inuyasha attack the Curtis-controlled area of Western Australia and end his turn there, or try to wrest control of Iceland and Greenland from the hanyou while he was at it.

Basically, the trio spent the rest of the night playing "Risk".  Even though Phibrizzo couldn't actually play in person, he had Inuyasha make all his moves for him.  Strategy was something the former dark lord knew all too well, and it paid off as he won six out of seven matches (the seventh being won by Inuyasha).  The other game that Curtis had brought out remained unplayed, so the human set it aside for the time being.

-----

Finally, the words came: "Phibrizzo?  It's time to get up."

Inuyasha immediately got up from his spot in Curtis's chamber, intent on getting back to his own place.  "Interesting game you have back here.  Maybe we can see how many times you can lose, Curtis," he said, smirking as Phibrizzo's eyes opened.

"I stink at strategy games, okay?" Curtis huffed.  "Go on and get back."

"Then why'd you introduce the game to us, anyway?"

"Inuyasha!" Curtis growled, exasparated.

The hanyou's laughter continued as he went back to his chamber.  He could hear Curtis mutter something about smart-alek dogs, but decided not to take offense for the time being.

-----

"That man must be really happy," Phibrizzo mumbled as he examined a handdrawn map, "or else he wouldn't have let me get to this place on my own."

"Your new guardians are just happy to have someone in the family," Curtis said.  "They missed their son, and now they've got a new one."

"In any case, it's not like we can't take care of ourselves if the need comes up," Inuyasha added.

The morning had certainly been busy.  First they had met Phibrizzo's new foster mother: Sylvia, a black-haired woman who seemed somewhat sickly; Marcus had told him it was because she'd been constantly grieving over the loss of her son.  Sickly or not, shortly after they'd introduced themselves Phibrizzo had found himself engulfed in a monstrous hug.  Needless to say this embarrassed the half-mazoku to no end; Inuyasha seemed torn between looking pleased and cracking up.

It didn't occur until after he'd been released from the woman's embrace that the wave of happiness he felt from her should've worsened his condition.  At the time, he'd passed it off as a consequence of being transported to this world.  But still, I don't want to become entirely human, he remembered thinking.

Shortly after they ate, Marcus showed Phibrizzo what he had purchased from the clothing store; since his son had been roughly the same size, he had a good idea what to get.  Out of the selection that had been bought, Phibrizzo decided on a pair of black pants and a purple T-shirt (he kept the bracelet and wristband, however) but mentioned to the "parasites" that he could probably do one better.  Curtis had suggested that he look up information on silkscreening; afterwards, once he knew how the process went, he'd be able to imprint an image or phrase of his choice onto the shirt.  Phibrizzo had filed this information away as he pulled on several newly bought sneakers (that kid and I must've been more similar than I thought, he mused).  All in all, he wasn't too sure what to make of modern clothing.

Having time to spare, Marcus called the school and told the administration what he could about his adopted child.  After some discussion they agreed to put Phibrizzo in one of the lower grade levels.  Before they'd left, Curtis had commented to him that he'd probably stand out a bit; he was easily at least three inches taller than most of the other kids in the class, and no one else (except maybe the teacher, but even that was unlikely) had hair as long as his.  Phibrizzo just shrugged it off, not seeing what the deal was.

Finally, Marcus had quickly drawn a map of the general area and gave it to him, indicating where the school was on the map.  After several hugs from he and Sylvia, Phibrizzo was finally able to leave.

I'm never going to get used to this.  Honestly.

Bringing his mind back on track, Phibrizzo took another look on the map.  So far, he seemed to be heading in the right direction.  "When you woke up last time, Curtis, were you able to check on that information about the different schools?" he asked aloud.

"Never got a chance to check," Curtis grumbled.  "I felt utterly miserable when I got home, so I pretty much stayed in bed all day."  There was a pause.  "Strange.  I don't dream about this during the day.  I wonder why not..."

"You told me during our round of 'Risk' that you're sometimes a bit of a night person," Inuyasha suggested.  "Maybe it just depends on how much you're thinking about it during the night opposed to during the day."

Curtis blinked.  "Wow, Inuyasha.  Never thought of it like that."

A slight shrug.  "I have my moments.  Kagome's talked about stuff like that before."  Inuyasha stood up.  "Hey, brat.  How far away are we from the school?"

Phibrizzo's right eye twitched slightly as he checked the map.  About three blocks, he thought, noting that a few other kids were walking nearby.  And don't call me a brat, mutt.

"If you're going to call me names, be a bit more original!" Inuyasha warned.

How is calling me a 'brat' original? Phibrizzo inquired, chuckling.

"Because you're supposed to be too old to be one," Inuyasha said.

Yeah, canine, but still...

"Alright, how about this one...firebrat?"

FIREBRAT?!  That's where I draw the line!

Curtis stood up, irritated.  "Guys, that's enough.  If I can decide to not call Phibrizzo a psycho anymore, Inuyasha, you can do the same.  Same goes for you, Phibrizzo."

Inuyasha nodded, his voice silent.  Phibrizzo just grumbled something inarticulate, but decided not to argue the point. 

-----

The rest of the walk to the school was spent in silence.  Upon their arrival, one of the faculty members met up with Phibrizzo and told him which class to go to.  One his way over there, he noticed that a shorter brown-haired kid was walking along the same path he was, and pointed out as much to Curtis and Inuyasha.

Something about the kid set Curtis's nerves on edge.  "Now I know he looks familiar.  I just can't place the name, but I'm sure I've seen him somewhere before."

Another one of those popular "television" characters from your homeworld?

"I don't know.  Guess we'll be finding out soon, huh?"

-------

"Class, we have a couple new students here today."  The teacher motioned towards the door, and the first kid walked in.  He seemed somewhat tall to be in this grade, but it wasn't entirely unusual.  The teacher had learned from the principal that even though he was fluent in two languages, most of his general education (with the exception of some math) was sorely lacking (that, and the fact that his age didn't match his height); thus, they'd placed him in this grade.  "Please.  Introduce yourself."

After a moment's hesitation, the kid bowed ever-so-slightly and put one hand behind his head nervously.  "Hi.  Name's Phibrizzo Kaden.  I'm kind of new to the area, so...I guess it's good to see all of you."

Most of the other students smiled; a few of them even waved, and the new kid relaxed just a bit.  The teacher nodded, wondering for an instant how he wound up with that name but dismissing it as he watched the other new student walk in.  "How about you?  Introduce yourself, please."

The kid nodded and smiled, turning to the class.  "My name's Conan Edogawa.  Nice to meet you."

------

Inuyasha nearly jumped backwards when he heard a startled shout coming from the opposite room:

"Whaaaat?  No way!"