Disclaimer: I do not own InuYasha or anything associated with it. I have written this story solely because I enjoy writing.
Legacy of the Cursed Mask: Battle Across Time
Author's Warning: This story is the sequel to 'Legacy of the Cursed Mask: The Wolf-Demon Crisis', so for those of you who haven't read it yet, I strongly recommend that you read it first before proceeding with this story. Still, for those of you who insist on reading this right now, this first chapter will be something of a review chapter to get everybody caught up on what happened in the previous story. For those of you who are returning readers, welcome back!
Chapter 1: Scattering To The Winds
A strong wind was blowing on Mount Kurama, a wind that pricked dangerously at the ears, nose, and beard of the aged man that felt them. The trees, bushes, grass, and other forms of plant-life rustled in a worrying fashion, as if they were calling for his attention. The earth tremored ever so slightly, and the light shining down from the sun and the shadows it cast danced about before his eyes in a way that called for his attention.
As the aged man studied these things, took in whatever import they might have, he frowned unhappily. Narrowing his eyes and reaching out with senses beyond those of the limited senses of flesh and blood, he continued to scrutinize them. Only for his studies to interrupted when a voice called out, "Master?"
Bristling at the unwanted intrusion, the old man looked towards the person who had spoken to him, a creature that was the image of a beautiful young woman. "How many times do I have to tell you that I'm not your master, girl?!" he irritably demanded. When the foolish creature he had taken in failed to respond, he heaved a deep sigh and asked, "What is it?"
"I have breakfast ready." A beat passed before she added, "I...I have been summoning you for breakfast for a little while now. So I came to see..."
Getting the gist of what she was trying to say, the old man waved his hand in understanding. "Alright, alright," he gruffly replied even as he again scanned his surroundings. Trying to make sense of what the spirits were trying to tell him. "I'll be along soon enough..."
The old man could sense the slight frown marking the girl's face without even turning to look. "Master, is something wrong?"
"When is there ever something not wrong with this damned world we all live in?!" the old man cynically shot back, not even bothering to protest her means of addressing him. She'd taken to him as her master early on in their relationship, and he knew there was no shaking her of that now. "However...it does feel like something is even more wrong than usual..."
"In what way?" the girl wondered, her frown deepening. "I sense nothing."
"Of course not. You're nowhere near to being far along enough in your training to be able to pick up on something like this!" the old man gruffly declared. "Something's happening, girl. And whatever it is, it extends beyond the forces of nature of this world! It reaches forth into the void, into the world of the spirits! It expands into the past as well as the future, not just the here and now!"
Glancing about her surroundings, futilely trying to interpret the forces of natures, the powers of the spirits, the girl asked, "So...what precisely is happening?"
"I don't know. Not yet, anyway," the old man irritably declared. For while there was precious little in this world that he cared anything about, those few things he protected to the best of his ability while protecting his anonymity. "But...I intend to find out..."
With this, the old man turned about and started back down the path he had taken to this place, moving with an ease and strength that greatly belied his age. Continuing to note the abnormalities in the forces of nature as he continued to trek down the path, the girl only a short distance behind him, he noted the way the animals skirted about warily, the way the river shifted and flowed. All of them further warning signs that something was gravely amiss, and likely to get even worse before it got any better.
Before long, the old man and young woman he had taken in reached their home; a simple home that would not be out of place in the many poor villages marking the landscape of Japan. It was a place that served their modest needs and provided shelter for both themselves and the scant few possessions they had. The few treasures they claimed to own.
Entering the simple house, the old man took note of the breakfast the girl had prepared, sniffed, and decided that she was definitely improving in her cooking ability before moving to the small storeroom he had made. Making his way towards the lone chest that sat in there, he opened it up, and from it withdrew a small, golden mirror. As he lifted the artifact up, he paused as always to study it, to think of the fond memories that it invoked within him, as well as the horrible tragedies he and others and suffered over the course of his long life. A tear would likely have fallen from his eye if not for the fact that he spent his tears a long time ago.
Instead, he took a deep breath before beginning his invocation. "Forces of the void, heed my call," he intoned, a glowing pentagram spinning into existence that framed his body, coming to appear slightly in front of him. "Reveal the mysteries beyond my sight. Reveal that which is to unfold, and those that it involves..."
As the old man's spell took shape, the pure surface of the mirror he held rippled, shimmering as it revealed another time, another place, and one of the people that was part of what was to come...
"Finally!" Janis smiled happily as she made her way into her room, already tearing open the lone bit of mail that had been for her that day. "It feels like it's been forever since Kagome's last letter!"
As Janis crashed onto her bed, she found herself thinking of her friend in Japan, as well as the amazing adventure she had shared with Kagome and all of the others in the past. Of the strange heritage she had come to learn of, the amazing powers she had once wielded, as well as the perspective she had gained into her own problems in life.
And so much...that I really do miss... Janis couldn't help but think as she looked over at the far wall of her bedroom, where hung one of the few things she had been able to hold onto after coming back from her trip down the rabbit hole; a naginata, a Japanese polearm, known as Akanemaru. It had been a gift to her from the god of Mount Habaki, a god of fire and iron, who had tempered and honed it to perfection. The only real thing she had left after her adventure in ancient Japan, save for some precious memories. Why did it have to end? Why did we have to...?
But even as Janis started thinking along those lines, she frowned. She had her grievances with her father, and she still hated having to leave friends she made every time he got another transfer, but she did try and keep those things back now, tried to appreciate the family she had. But losing those precious things still hurt. And losing what she had found in Japan was quite possibly one of the most difficult things she had had to deal with.
Right along with the fact that her dear friends were again facing horrible danger...and there was no longer anything she could do to help them.
But at least I can keep up with what's happening to them, Janis reminded herself even as she liberated the letter from the envelope. I'm just glad that Kagome's better at writing English than I am at reading Japanese!
Still unable to fathom how anyone could make sense of the chicken scratch that passed for written word over in Japan, Janis lay back comfortable and began to read. "Dear Janis, I hope things have been going better for you than they have for me. Because lately, it seems like everything has constantly been going from bad to worse!"
Really not liking the way this letter was starting out with, Janis continued to read. "As I already told you, Naraku has returned from the dead - again. Unfortunately, the compass can't help us find him, so we were trying to think of which way to go to start looking for Naraku when Myoga showed up and told us that something strange was happening in the mountains to the north. Since we didn't have any better ideas, we decided to go check it out."
"But right from the start, things started to go bad on us. First we almost got killed by an infestation of demonic grass that was wiping out a forest, then we ran into Koga and his friends, who told us that this absolute lunatic called Toma was trying to take over the wolf-demon tribe!" Janis continued to read, her eyes widening somewhat at this part. "It turns out that the wolf-demons have been having a lot of trouble lately. Some other tribes of demons had been moving in on them, and a lot of the animals had been getting sick and dying. So Toma was trying to take over the entire tribe. He had a lot of followers, and they'd been capturing monster demons so they could enslave them! The only thing is that the monsters were more interested in eating the wolf-demons than listening to anything that Toma said!"
Wincing at this, Janis immediately decided that she hated Toma already and hoping that he had come down with a bad case of dead, she continued reading. "Anyway, Koga had his own plan for strengthening the wolf-demon tribe, by forming an alliance with a group of Demon Slayers." Her eyes widening at this point, Janis had to read over this section two or three times, just to be certain that she had actually read what she thought she had. "Yeah, I know, it must sound crazy." Unable to argue with that, Janis shook her head in low amazement before continuing. "But it turns out that Koga is a good friend with the Demon Slayer leader Daisuke, who's pretty cool himself. Not to mention tough! He's got this attack called the Hand of Fate that does a lot of damage to demons, as well as a cannon made from the skull and ribcage of a huge, fire-breathing ogre. He's also partners with a silver phoenix called Kokoro, the same way Sango's partners with Kirara."
Deciding that Daisuke sounded like someone that they should be glad was on their side, Janis continued reading. "Anyway, Koga wanted to show his tribe some powerful humans to help sell them on the idea of an alliance with the Demon Slayers, so we agreed to go with him to the mountains. But as soon as we got there, we found out that things were even worse than we'd thought. Toma had all of his monsters in special cages set up so that he could unleash them on all of the wolf-demons any time he wanted! On top of that, he forced me, Miroku, Sango, and the twin twits into a tournament where we'd be fighting his monsters, one-on-one! And all it would have taken was for just one of us to lose, and Toma would have been the official ruler of the wolf-demons!"
"Huh? Wait a sec...twin twits?" Janis frowned, pausing to double-check and make certain that she had read that correctly. "I thought Michiru and Kaname were her friends! So why...?" Then the lovely blonde paused to consider the matter, recalling her time in Japan, as well as some of the nasty things she could and would say about InuYasha when the two of them were quarreling. "Hmm...maybe she and the Kururugis had an argument or something before she came home..."
Deciding that this made as much sense as anything, Janis returned to the letter. "Long story made short, we won the tournament, outed Toma as the monster he was and got him and his followers banished from the mountains. But that was only the start of our troubles! Shortly after that happened, we found these crystal stones that were poisoning the water and killing all the animals! And then when we went with Koga and his friends to meet with Daisuke to finalize the alliance, we were ambushed by Toma and his followers! And that's when things got really bad!"
Not sure if she even wanted to know what really bad meant in this case but resolved to find out, Janis continued. "It turns out that Toma had been working with Naraku to enslave the wolf-demons, and that his followers were only working for him because, if they didn't, he'd kill them and turn them into these monster zombies or absorb them! And Naraku, he was the one responsible for the crystal stones, and even worse, while Toma was keeping us busy, Naraku's demons were attacking Daisuke and his Demon Slayers!"
Letting out a low sigh at the thought of the trials and tribulations her friend had been facing, Janis shook her head sympathetically. "We were able to kill Toma, but thanks to Michiru's Shikigami not mixing well with Koga's Jewel Shards, he started being encased in crystal! So we had to split up to deal with everything that was happening! So InuYasha, Sango, Miroku, and Kaname went to the fort, while I was stuck with the jerk and Ayame, trying to save Koga!"
"Okay, I'm guessing that you definitely had a fight with Michiru, then," Janis decided, wondering just how bad a fight had taken place to so thoroughly sour Kagome's opinion of a friend she had once spoken so highly of.
Figuring that she would likely find out if she kept reading, Janis proceeded. "It was a nasty and scary time, but eventually, we won, and thanks to my Sacred Arrow combining with Michiru's Shikigami, Koga was saved and became even more powerful than ever!" Kagome's words continued. "Unfortunately, Daisuke's fort was destroyed, a lot of his people were killed, and most of his supplies were lost! So not only did they have to start over, building a new fort just outside the eastern caves of the wolf-demon mountains, but they had hardly any food or medicine left! And with the wolf-demons' own food shortage, that was bad trouble!"
Unable to argue with this, Janis continued to read. "So once everyone was healed up and the Demon Slayers were building their fort and everything, me and the rest of the gang went to Tsuzumi Village to trade for food and medicine. Koga came along with us, as well Azusa, a wolf-demon who has an even worse attitude than InuYasha, and a Demon Slayer called Jiro." Raising an eyebrow and wondering just how bad this wolf-demon was, the blonde continued with, "But even when we started negotiating for the supplies we needed, that jerk Michiru started causing trouble!"
Narrowing her eyes somewhat at this, Janis paused before continuing. "Now here's the thing. Michiru's got a crush on Sango." Again, the blonde paused, surprised by this revelation. "I didn't say anything about it before because I didn't think anything about it. After all, anybody could tell that Miroku and Sango are meant for each other!"
"That's not what I thought!" Janis muttered, recalling her first encounter with Miroku, who had lost no time in asking her to bear his child, as well as the way Sango had quickly lost her temper with his womanizing ways. "I always thought that those two were caught between kissing and killing each other! With Sango doing the killing!"
"Anyway, it turns out that InuYasha's bad attitude and short fuse have been rubbing off on him! Because one time, while we were sparring, he lost his temper with Miroku and started attacking with super powerful spells! And as if that wasn't bad enough, Michiru was trying to get between him and Sango!" Kagome's letter continued. "Miroku caught them together, then challenged Michiru to another fight! So of course, the jerk loses his temper again, and forced Miroku to use his Wind Tunnel to protect himself! He nearly killed Miroku in the process!" Frowning again at this, Janis paused to consider this even as she read on. "And as if that wasn't bad enough, when we confronted Michiru about it, he tried to lie his way out of it and blame everything on Miroku! And when Miroku was actually nice enough to offer him a chance to apologize and put everything behind them, that lousy creep blasted him with a spell before running off on us! I can't believe what a jerk he's being!"
"Hmm..." Janis paused, not liking the way this was going. The Michiru Kagome had originally described and the person she was ranting about in the letter seemed like two very different people. And she also remembered some of the nasty things she tended to say about InuYasha when she was in a foul mood. "I think I should ask InuYasha or somebody else about this before I jump to any conclusions about this..."
Making a mental note to do so, Janis read on. "And on top of all that - and you're not gonna believe this part - we found a jet fighter in the Feudal Era!" Her eyes popping wide open at this, the blonde was forced to reread this sentence several times before she was certain that she had read it correctly. "It was buried near Tsuzumi Village, and it was in perfect condition! And as if that wasn't crazy enough, there was a strange sword called the Reikikaega hidden inside of it! Myoga went with Kirara to go find Totosai so he can study the Reikikaega and find out more about it!"
"Wait...a modern jet fighter...buried in the past...with a sword hidden inside?!" Janis muttered, trying to make sense of this development and failing utterly in the process. "There's got to be one heck of a story behind that!"
"Anyway, I've been spending some time at home, trying to find out more about the jet and see if one's gone missing. But I haven't been able to find anything," Kagome's letter continued. "I'm probably gonna spend a little time, recovering from everything that's been going on lately, before heading back to the Feudal Era. I hope things are going better for you than they are for us right now. Sincerely, your friend, Kagome."
Having finished this latest letter from her Japanese friend, Janis let out a low whistle of appreciation. She had known from the instant she had learned of Naraku's resurrection that the lives of Kagome and all her Feudal Era friends would be getting much more complicated, but she could never have anticipated anything like this. Even if I still had the power of the Kamuitama, I'm not sure I could help all that much, she thought unhappily. I just hope that, whatever issues Kagome's having with the others, they can work through them. Then she allowed a tiny little smile to curl her lips. Preferably before I can spring my surprise on them...
"Now that's strange..." the old man muttered as he studied the images revealed in the mirror.
"What is?" asked the girl behind him.
"There's a twist in time," the old man answered, as surprised as was possible for someone who had lived through what he had. "Normally, time moves forward, and only forward, like a river flowing down the mountain. But something has twisted time, looping it about! Allowing for a specific point in the future to influence the here and now!"
A beat passed as the young woman considered this before asking, "Is that dangerous?"
"It certainly could be," the old man returned, raising a large eyebrow at the girl. "It's strange...almost like a loop in time. And it has the feel of divine power...like that of a Tree of Ages."
"I am familiar with the power of such a tree," the young woman assured him.
"I know you are. So you know why I'm concerned about such power; because there's always some moron who thinks they can take something like that and do whatever they please with it, and then they get all surprised when everything blows up in their faces!" Shaking his head in disgust at how stupid and worthless people could be, the old man returned his focus to the matter at hand. "We'll investigate it some other time. But first I need to finish figuring out this mess before we move on to the next one!"
With that, the old man continued to study the mirror, the image shifting from a strange girl to that of others...
As Akio Kururugi made his way through his home, he once again found himself thinking about how empty the Kururugi Shrine had come to feel in recent times.
The patriarch of the Kururugi family had long since seen this coming, of course. He had anticipated that he and his wife would have to deal with what was commonly referred to as empty nest syndrome when Michiru and Kaname had made their decision to return to the Feudal Era to once again help their friends in the past. But even knowing that it would likely happen had done nothing to ease the reality of it. Of how quiet the Kururugi household was in their absence. Of constantly expecting to see his children having breakfast or watching television or working on their homework. Of not being able to talk to them, to play with them.
To not be able to protect them, despite knowing that they were likely incredible danger.
But they made their choice, Akio reminded himself as he continued to wander his home. They wanted to help their friends. And we had no right to try and prevent them. Frowning slightly, the worried father lowered his eyes to the floor. It's been this way in my family for centuries; to reveal the truth when the time is right, and then to allow our children to find their own paths...no matter where they may take them...
For the first time, Akio felt as if he could truly appreciate the burden that his parents and grandparents and all of the generations of his bloodline have had to carry since the day the Kururugi Shrine had first been built. And out of all the burdens he had been forced to bear, this one was by far the heaviest.
Still lost in his musings, Akio continued forward, only to be brought out of his inner world when he gently collided with something. "Ohh!" came a gentle voice, one that he recognized instantly even as he looked up to see the source. "What the -?"
"Ah - I'm sorry, Fumiko!" Akio promptly apologized as he looked at his wife. She was a rare beauty with a full figure, smooth brown hair that was done up in a long ponytail, and the glasses she wore over her greenish eyes only seemed to add to her attractiveness. "I...I was thinking about..."
"The children," Fumiko concluded for him, taking him aback. Even as Akio struggled to muster a response, she smiled a sad smile. "You don't need to pretend, you know. You're as worried about them as I am."
For a moment, Akio considered how to respond. He thought about reassuring his wife that their children were more than capable of protecting themselves. About reminding her that they were not alone, that they had powerful friends at their sides. But even as he thought these things, he took note of where they were; right outside of Kaname's room. And as he realized that Fumiko had been losing herself in her memories and concerns just as he had, he knew that all he would be doing was telling her things that she already knew. And not telling her the things that she didn't know.
The things that she - and he himself - wanted and needed to hear.
"I know," Akio finally admitted, his brows furrowed as worry turned to frustration. "I know that they had to do this, but...I wish that..."
"That we could fight their battles for them," Fumiko concluded, nodding thoughtfully.
"Like in the good old days," Akio nodded as well.
"That's how it's always been for us, hasn't it? So much easier to take matters into our own hands, instead of watching and waiting and worrying," Fumiko noted with a slight smile.
"It certainly worked," Akio replied before heaving a deep breath. "But...maybe it's time we started doing something..."
A beat passed before Fumiko frowned. "You're not planning on going after them, are you?" she asked worriedly. "Akio, even if you did that, who knows how long it would take to find them? And how would Michiru or Kaname feel if we -?"
"No, no. Nothing like that, dear," Akio quickly assured her. "But...there's nothing to stop me from...checking up on them again, now is there?"
"Nothing except for me," Fumiko noted, raising an eyebrow at her husband. "And the last time you used your Shikigami to look in on them, you caught your son in a hot spring with Sango!"
"And Kaname and Kagome! Besides, Michiru was completely dressed in that hot spring! So it's obvious I wasn't interrupting anything...well, hopefully, nothing like what...it looked like," Akio got out, fumbling somewhat as he recalled the incident in question.
"Maybe so, but...you know how Michiru feels about Sango. And from what I could see, I got the feeling that his feelings were not unreciprocated. So I don't want to accidently intrude on their privacy or any of the others," Fumiko explained. But even as she said this, she frowned. "Still...if we could find out if they're safe..."
"I think I have a spell for that. But it would work better if I used the Tree of Ages to..." Akio began...only to trail off as something pricked at his consciousness.
A moment of silence expanded exponentially, prompting Fumiko to frown worriedly. "My love?" she asked, placing her hand upon his shoulder. "What is it?"
"There's something else here..." Akio murmured in a low, concerned voice even as he reached out with his own Shikigami. "Another presence...almost like..."
The old man hurriedly dismissed the image in the mirror, withdrawing his gaze from the point in the future that his Shikigami had drawn him to. "Damn...that was close..."
"What happened?" the girl wondered in a concerned voice.
"A Shikigami User...one of my own blood...centuries in the future," the old man breathed, caught between surprise and awe. "He sensed my presence in his own time...would have identified the power of the Shikigami if I hadn't retreated when I had...!"
"A Shikigami User? In the future?" the girl wondered.
"Don't sound so surprised, girl," the old man snorted. "Those wielding the forces of nature have existed within this land for centuries. I have no doubt that they'll continue to do so for centuries more." Unwilling to admit that even he felt a slight sense of pride that those of his blood would continue to carry on the traditions that he and so many of his clan had upheld for so long, despite his justly acquired disdain for most people, he returned to the subject at hand. "Something's happening, girl. Something that stretches across the ages, and somehow, those people in the future are tied up in all of it." Heaving a deep breath, the old man considered his next move. "I need to learn more if I'm gonna make sense of this...but I think I'd better focus on whatever's happening in the here and now..."
And so, the image in the mirror again shifted, revealing an odd trio...
"I don't like this, Lord Sesshomaru," Jaken whimpered as he trailed a safe distance behind the noble demon to whom he had placed himself in his service.
When Sesshomaru failed to respond, the girl that had been with them since Sesshomaru had decided to revive her piped up with, "Why not, Jaken? Why are you so worried about that pretty star? It's not in the sky anymore, so -"
"If I've told you once, Rin, I've told you a thousand times!" Jaken bellowed, waving the Staff of Two Heads frantically as he hopped about. "That thing wasn't a star, it wasn't pretty, and it most certainly is dangerous! Anything that could swallow up so many demons and emit so much power is extremely dangerous! And if you were to ask me, it'd be much better if we were to avoid going anywhere near it!"
"But we're still going towards where we last saw it," Rin pointed out in her typical obviousness and obviousness. "So that means that it can't be so dangerous! At least, I'm sure it's not anything that Lord Sesshomaru can't take care of!"
"I - I never said that it was!" Jaken nervously protested, darting a glance at the lord he serviced, the noble son of the Great Dog Demon, so composed and controlled, so unlike the half-blooded mutt, InuYasha. "But you have to realize that, if we're looking for that blasted thing, then there might be others who think they can tame it for their own use! So you can bet that we're going to be running into a lot of trouble, sooner or later!"
A beat passed as Rin considered this. "Lord Sesshomaru, do you think Master Jaken's right about that?" the human girl asked in a slightly concerned voice. "Do you think there will be others looking for that star?"
"Given how easy it was to sense, then yes," Sesshomaru replied in his usual curt manner.
Frowning slightly at this, Rin hesitated before asking, "Do you think...Naraku might be looking for it?"
Even as Jaken found himself thinking of the time when Rin had been kidnapped by Naraku to be used as bait in one of his traps, Sesshomaru replied, "Not himself. Naraku is too much of a coward to do something like that."
"But that doesn't mean he won't send Kagura or some other demon after it!" Jaken hurriedly pointed out. "I swear, that Naraku is the absolutely most disgusting creature I've ever met! Trying to manipulate Lord Sesshomaru, daring to lure him into a trap of all things! The nerve of him!"
For once, Rin had nothing to say to this. Instead, it was Sesshomaru who spoke. "He won't harm you, Rin," the demonic noble intoned in a voice that brooked no misinterpretation. "Naraku will not take you again."
As Rin looked up in response to Sesshomaru's words, the demonic noble continued forward, never once looking back. But just the same, his words caused her face to light up with joy, spurring her to move just a little bit faster. Leaving Jaken to groan despairingly. "That girl..." the green-skinned imp muttered, shaking his head for a time, just before something else clicked. "Wait...what about me, milord? Certainly, you wouldn't let Naraku take your most faithful servant, now would you?" When Sesshomaru completely failed to say anything, Jaken tried again. "Milord! Milord, you wouldn't...!"
Kikyo could no longer see the object of her current quest. But that did not matter to the undead priestess. She did not need to see it.
The power radiated by the brilliant blue artifact she had seen in the sky so many nights ago still radiated forth into the world, the disturbance created by its very existence calling out to her like a siren. And more importantly, several of her Soul Collectors had already seen the strange, metal bird that was her objective with their own eyes, allowing her to see it through them.
Power potentially beyond that of the Sacred Jewel awaited in Tsuzumi Village. And even more important to her, so did someone very precious to her.
We will meet again very soon, InuYasha, Kikyo thought to herself as her creatures carried her forward. Fate cannot be denied...
Hoofbeats echoed amongst the trees of the forest as the samurai continued onward, pushing as hard as possible to reach his objective. Ignoring his own mounting exhaustion, the way his body protested his ignoring the needs of decent rest and food.
Time was his enemy on all fronts, the samurai knew. The power that called out to him, that so disturbed the forces of nature, was a prize to any and all that desired such power, human and demon alike. He had no doubts that many others, like himself, had sensed the power that had shown so brightly in the night sky when the brilliant, lightning blue orb had first appeared. That kind of power would draw in the greedy, the wicked, the cruel, as well as those in desperate need of such power, or those who wished to use it for a righteous cause.
Including the beast that was his bane. The enemy he had sworn upon his life and the lives and graves of so many others to end.
Which is why I have to reach it first! I have to claim it before anyone else can! the samurai vowed as he continued to push forward with all of his strength and determination. No matter what happens, I will find that object! I will claim the power to slay the beast...so that my family and friends can finally rest in peace...
"So...three warriors are looking for an object of power," the old man muttered, his large eyebrows furrowed in displeasure as he surveyed other, vague images in the mirror. "And I sense others who may soon get mixed up in it as well." Shaking his head at this, he grumbled, "What is it with people that they always have to have more power?! It's like they're never satisfied! They always have to have more!"
As the old man harrumphed loudly, the young woman asked, "What object? What exactly are they looking for?"
Glancing over his shoulder at her, the old man retorted, "I'm about to find out..."
And with that, the glass of the golden mirror again rippled...
"Oh...!" Hachi groaned as a bundle was loaded onto his massively blobby flying form. One of many bundles already laden on him, similar to other bundles that lay in wait, ready to be loaded. "Just how much more am I gonna have to carry?!"
"As much as possible," Jiro informed the transformed tanuki in a relatively level voice. A voice that almost concealed the lingering agitation the Demon Slayer was dealing with as a result of recent events.
Not that he's the only one... InuYasha couldn't help but think as he watched the local workers load up Hachi for his trip to the mountains.
What the half-demon and his friends and allies had been through as of late was something InuYasha was still struggling to believe, let alone cope with. So much had happened as a result of Naraku's latest assault on them all, and so many people had suffered and died as a result of it all. And even in them, they who had survived, much had changed. And they were all tormented as a result.
Michiru was presently resting on Kirara's back, still drained physically and emotionally as a result of everything that had happened. Ever since the fight with Miroku, the Shikigami User had been forced to deal with more crap than any of them. First he had nearly been killed when Miroku had turned his Wind Tunnel in an attempt to force Michiru to leave the group and Sango behind, then the degenerate monk had framed the Shikigami, trying to make it seem that Michiru had lost his head and had nearly killed the monk instead. Kagome, having been under the belief that Miroku and Sango were meant for each other, had eagerly embraced the notion of Michiru's guilt and had quickly gone on a spree of condemning him. Even worse was that, during Naraku's attack, Michiru had been taken over by a demonic mask that had made him a puppet of Naraku's latest incarnation, very nearly forcing the Shikigami User to kill Sango and Koga. As a result, Michiru's strength had been badly drained, leaving him effectively bedridden.
The only things that have been going right for Michiru lately are the fact that the Demon Slayers will be able to heal him, and Miroku finally wised up and confessed to screwing him over, InuYasha thought, only to correct himself when he glanced over at another member of their team. And...Sango finally admitting that she's in love with him...
"Sorry to take so long," Sango apologized as she approached. At her side, a tiny girl with shoulder-length black hair and blue eyes, dressed in a white kimono, trembled visibly as she clung to the Demon Slayer. "It took a while to get ready, and..."
Glancing down at the girl beside Sango, who shrank behind the Demon Slayer, unwilling to even meet InuYasha's eyes. She trembled in fear, doing keep Sango between herself and the half-demon.
And once again, InuYasha could barely believe that this timid little creature had once been one of their most formidable enemies. That she had once been the Incarnation of Void...known as Kanna.
I saw it with my eyes and I still can't believe it! InuYasha thought, fingering the hilt of the sword they had found in the jet, the magical sword known as the Reikikaega. The Aura-Transmuting Fang had not only enabled him to retain his half-demon form on the night of the new moon when Naraku had last attacked, but when he had used it on Kanna and her mirror, it had depowered them both, rendering the little girl a full human, and thus forced upon her the burden of emotions, such as the constant fear she felt, now that she was in the constant presence of those that had once tried to kill her. Dammit...it's getting harder to think of her as the same person as...well, her.
"Didn't want to leave her room, huh?" InuYasha gathered.
"No. Kanna did decide to come with us to the mountains," Sango promptly assured him before glancing down at the girl in a reassuring manner. "But...she's still not used to people, so..."
InuYasha knew that. Ever since Sango had brought Kanna back after promising Kagura that she would take care of her, the former incarnation had spent her days huddled in the seclusion of her room, refusing to have anything to do with anyone save for the Demon Slayer. For while she retained all her knowledge and experience from her days as a demon, she had no knowledge as to how to deal with all of the emotions that had sprung up in her so freely after being transformed.
Just as InuYasha himself had difficulty with the strong human emotions that came to him during the night of the new moon...
Scowling at this thought, the half-demon focused on the others that were approaching. Kaname Kururugi, Michiru's sister, had her brother's belongings packed up in his backpack, while Shippo was marching alongside her. "Hey, you two," Sango greeted them with a wan smile. "Shippo, are you ready to go?"
"Sure am, Sango!" Shippo promptly assured her.
"And I've got my bro's stuff right here," Kaname announced, holding up Michiru's backpack.
As Sango accepted the backpack, Michiru frowned unhappily. "I...thanks, Kaname. I...I should've gotten it myself, but..."
"How could you have gotten it?! You can barely even move!" Shippo pointed out even as Michiru frowned deeply. A beat passed as the little fox processed this frown, then added, "Uh...that is..."
"No...I know, Shippo," Michiru sighed wearily. "I just...really hate this...that's all."
Not able to blame him for this in the slightest, InuYasha then looked about and realized that there was someone missing. "Hey, Sango? Where's Kohaku?" the half-demon wondered even as he glanced about for any sign of her younger brother. "Aren't you taking him with you?"
A dark shadow appeared on Sango's face at this. "Actually...InuYasha...I wanted to talk to you about that."
"About what?" InuYasha asked, already not liking the way this was going.
Pressing her lips together in an expression of concern, Sango heaved a deep breath before saying, "Look...we may have been able to get Kohaku away from Naraku, but he's still under Naraku's spell. And that means that...Naraku could have him do anything. He could have him attack us or anyone else without warning. That's why we still have him under guard." Nodding his understanding, InuYasha looked on as the Demon Slayer hesitantly admitted, "So...I decided that it would be better if I left Kohaku here with you and the others."
As Michiru gave Sango a wan look of surprise, InuYasha frowned and returned, "Well, if you think that's best, but...we're gonna have our hands full with the jet and everything else going on here. Especially if Naraku or someone else comes looking for it!"
"I realize that, but...InuYasha, you and I both know how delicate things are back in the mountains. Daisuke and Koga only recently finished implementing the alliance between the Demon Slayers and the wolf-demons, so there's bound to be...a lot of anxiety among them." Realizing that Sango was concerned about how good a job the two former enemies would be doing at getting over whatever issues they had had in the past, the half-demon nodded. "And the last thing they need is for anything to go wrong. And if Naraku were to take control of Kohaku and send him after the wolf-demons..."
Grimacing at the mental image this unfinished sentence produced in him, InuYasha listened as Kaname added, "Ugh, that's right. And with so many of the Slayers still injured or working to build their new fort, they probably don't have anybody to spare for guard duty."
"Exactly," Sango confirmed. "Now...I don't like this, but I do think this is the best thing for all of us. You'll be in a better position to keep an eye on Kohaku, and even..." The Demon Slayer's voice broke somewhat, something InuYasha knew to mean that she was putting considerable effort into keeping her emotions in check and buried deep beneath the surface. "Even if he were to slip away...I don't see how he could steal the jet. And Kagome's always got the Sacred Jewel Shards we have...so as long as we're careful, it should be safer to keep Kohaku here. At least, until we can find a way to break Naraku's hold on him."
At least one that doesn't involve killing him, InuYasha couldn't help but think, knowing that this was easier said than done. Kohaku was already physically dead; it was only the Sacred Jewel Shard in his back that sustained him, kept his body going. Unfortunately, that Shard carried with it evil spells laid on it by Naraku, allowing him to control Sango's brother. The surest way to free Kohaku from Naraku's spell would be to simply remove the Shard...but that would instantly result in Kohaku's death. And they had no way of knowing if simply replacing his Shard with one that had been purified would prevent something like that from happening. If only...
"We'll take care of Kohaku for you, Sango," Kaname promptly assured the Demon Slayer with a wan smile. "And...well, I could probably come up with a spell to...make sure that...nothing happens."
Nodding to this, Sango replied, "Thank you. I really do appreciate that." Then the Demon Slayer looked down at the girl by her side and added, "I just hope that...that it won't come to that..."
How did it come to this...? Kagome asked herself for what felt like the millionth time as she sat near the warehouse, barely even paying attention to the villagers that were loading up the precious burdens of food and medicine on Hachi. Knowing that she should have been happy that they had succeeded in their mission to help the alliance of wolf-demons and Demon Slayers...but ultimately too overwhelmed by her own inner torments to even think about it.
When Miroku had told her that Michiru had been the one to escalate the battle between himself and the monk, pushing Miroku to the point where he had had no choice but to use his Wind Tunnel to defend himself, Kagome had believed him immediately. After all, she had seen the signs of things deteriorating between the monk and the Shikigami User. She knew the kind of problems that arose when two guys had their sights set on the same girl. And most of all, she had seen Michiru go completely berserk on Miroku before. So despite Miroku's history of bending the truth in his own favor, she had no problem believing that Michiru had been the guilty party.
But now, after seeing Sango forcing Miroku to confess his sins, after hearing InuYasha tell her that he had not heard Michiru using any magic until after the Wind Tunnel had been silenced, and seeing how fiercely the Demon Slayer and the half-demon believed in the Shikigami User...Kagome was no longer as certain. In regards to Miroku's innocence...or anything else.
I was so certain that Miroku and Sango would wind up together...I wanted it to happen so badly...! Kagome thought despondently as she looked at the monk and the Demon Slayer. Sango was sitting next to Kanna, comforting the former incarnation to the best of her ability, while Miroku stood off to the side, keeping his distance from the rest of them, examining the palm of his right hand and the Wind Tunnel that lay beneath the cloth and sacred beads that bound it. Looking like he wanted to be anywhere else but among them. But...were things always that bad between them? Was it only the fact that Sango didn't have anyone else to be with that kept her and him together?
Kagome didn't want to believe it. She wanted to believe that it was just another trick, that Michiru had somehow done something to cloud Sango's judgment, that something would happen and the Demon Slayer and the monk would again find their way to each other's arms.
Because for her...the alternative was so much more unpleasant.
Like that of Sango and Miroku, Kagome's relationship with InuYasha tended to be rocky, even at the best of times. It took so little to start them fighting, and once they began arguing, they wouldn't stop until InuYasha was embedded in the ground. And then there was Kikyo, the undead priestess that was the half-demon's first love. Not to mention the fact that Kagome and InuYasha came from two very different worlds. There were just so many reasons why they could never be together.
Except, perhaps, in a fairytale.
In a fairytale, true love would conquer all, both for Miroku and Sango and even Kagome herself. In a fairytale, she could be certain that they would eventually triumph over Naraku. And in a fairytale, they could be assured of a happily ever after.
But this isn't a fairytale, Kagome reminded herself once more as she again thought of Miroku's theory regarding the jet and the Reikikaega; that they were artifacts from the future, a future even beyond her own time. A future in which they had all lost to Naraku, a future in which the only hope of survival had been to take the jet and Reikikaega back in time to that one crucial battle, to make right what had once gone wrong. If Miroku's right, we lost to Naraku! Most of us probably died! And he...Naraku would have Michiru's Shikigami powers and who knows what else, and...!
And as Kagome continued to think on the matter, it became even more painful for her. Because if Miroku's theory was correct...then she was part of the reason for such a tragedy took place.
If Miroku really had tried to kill Michiru or drive him off with his Wind Tunnel, then Kagome had unfairly turned on her friends and had been unjustly treating the Kururugi twins like criminals. She had helped foster the rift and the infighting that had been going on amongst them since that night. She had helped create an opportunity for Naraku to strike.
Kagome had helped cause her closest friends to die.
But is it really possible?! Could I really be...could all of that really be possible? Kagome thought, wanting nothing more than for all that to not be true. Could I really have been that wrong about...everything?! Glancing over at her friends in general and InuYasha in particular, she heaved a deep sigh. If only I'd listened to you then! Then maybe I...I...wait...
Something else was connecting in Kagome's mind. Something borne of a recent experience, from when the group had met outside of the village, determined to speak in secret with Totosai regarding the Reikikaega. And how Kaname had guaranteed that no one would be able to eavesdrop on them via her magic. By casting a spell around them that would ensure that no one else could hear anything. A spell potent enough to keep a wolf-demon's sensitive ears from detecting someone's voice, even when she was right next to the speaker.
What if that's the reason InuYasha didn't hear Michiru using any spells?! Kagome suddenly found herself thinking. What if he used his magic to keep us from hearing him so we wouldn't be able to get in the way of him going after Miroku?!
Inspired by this thought, Kagome began fleshing out this scenario in her mind. Michiru and Miroku were fighting, with things starting to get out of hand. Michiru realized that things were getting noisy and that his efforts could draw some undue attention, so in the middle of casting attack spells, he cast a spell similar to Kaname's that stifled any noise, thus ensuring that no one would interfere and that he wouldn't look bad in front of everyone, including Sango.
That could be it! Kagome thought, feeling a burst of hope as this scenario played out in her mind, with a villainous mustache appearing on Michiru's face in the process. No one was there to see it! And Kaname already showed us that a Shikigami User can block sound, and Michiru's more experienced than her! So he could easily do it in a fight! That burst of hope mounting, the reborn priestess looked over at Sango. I should talk to her about this! I need to...!
But before Kagome could even make a move, something else came to her. Her own words to InuYasha. No...I promised him that I wouldn't do anything or try and talk to Sango about this until after Michiru had recovered and they got back from the mountains, she reminded herself with a sense of reluctance, that flash of hope quickly dimming. And...if I was wrong about Michiru...then I don't want to make things worse by breaking my word as well...
Heaving a deep sigh, reminding herself that, until her throat healed and she was able to speak again, she was in no position to argue a point, Kagome lowered her eyes to the ground. I really want to be right... she couldn't help but think. I don't want...to have killed my friends...
I killed them all... Miroku thought as he stood a distance from the others, absently examining the palm of his hand, the cursed hand that held the Wind Tunnel. A generational curse that would eventually kill him as it had his father and grandfather before him, a curse that was his greatest weapon. A weapon that had been rendered useless in the latest battle by Naraku's latest incarnation.
Miroku looked at his hand...because it was easier than looking at those that he considered his friends. Easier than thinking about what his selfishness had wrought.
When Miroku had come up with his theory regarding the Reikikaega and the modern jet they had found, it had been inevitable that he also realized just how serious the impact of his own actions had been. That it had been his desire to keep Sango by his side, no matter what it cost anyone else, that had once result to the doom of everything.
Totosai confirmed that the Reikikaega was far too sophisticated and powerful to have been made in this time, Miroku reminded himself, glancing over towards the aged blacksmith, who was standing ready with Momo the bull. And we found it in the jet, a vehicle from the future. Clearly, they must have come forward from the future, using a method other than the Bone-Eaters Well, something we know that the power of the Shikigami can accomplish under the correct circumstances, and with the proper assistance. Utsugi bringing Michiru to this time originally proves that much. And the fact that we would resort to something like that indicates that the situation must have been critical. Leaving no other hope for victory...or even survival.
This all made sense to Miroku. It had made sense when he had first proposed this theory to his friends, and it made sense now. And at the same time, it also paved the way for his complicacy in everything that happened.
The infighting that had resulted of his deceit had certainly damaged their ability to trust in each other. Miroku had seen it for himself when he had witnessed the outrage on the faces of his teammates when he had come to their aid. And if not for the fact that they had been both distracted by the mystery of the jet and the Reikikaega, the team would likely have been focused on arguing amongst themselves then they had been. Or it could be that, without the discovery of the jet to prompt Michiru to stop his wrathful retaliation against Miroku during their fight, the outcome would have been worse. Whatever the case, there was no doubt that Kagome's anger towards Michiru and the other's mistrust of Miroku himself had made things worse during the battle, something made even more critical due to the fact that Naraku had attacked on the night of the new moon, when InuYasha lost his demonic powers.
What I mean is that you divided us, Miroku! Because of what you did, we were fighting against each other! We didn't trust each other! came Sango's voice in the monk's mind. And if it weren't for the fact that InuYasha and I saw through your deception, we might well have still been fighting amongst ourselves when Kagura and the rest of Naraku's forces showed up! And if that had happened, then all of us and everyone in Tsuzumi Village would likely be dead right now!
Sango... Miroku sighed inwardly as he looked over at the tormented woman warrior. You always were as wise as you are beautiful...
But even as he looked at Sango, he took note of Michiru. The weakened Shikigami User remained perched on Kirara's back, and his eyes rested on the Demon Slayer, an expression of sorrowful concern marking his features.
Sighed miserably at this latest reminder of Sango's choice, that she had turned away from Miroku and had declared her love for Michiru, the monk thought back to something that had happened earlier that very day, when he had first gone to the warehouse to see how the preparations for shipping the supplies were progressing.
Miroku had been making his way through the village, lost in his own thoughts and burdened by the ugly reality that had become his price to pay for his misdeeds, when he had encountered a trio of exquisitely beautiful girls on their way to clean some laundry. They had been such lovely things, full of bosom and ample posteriors, and were so pretty and cheerful. They were the kind that Miroku loved to tell fortunes to, to ask to bear his children, or even cop a quick feel if he had the chance.
But Miroku had done none of those things. He had not approached then, had not spoken to them. He had barely even looked as the three girls went about their business. Even his cursed hand, so quick to accost Sango even without his consent, had not reacted to their presence.
Miroku had felt no desire, no lust, none of his normal urges as the three girls had passed him by. All he had felt...was hollow and empty.
Because I'd lost the woman I truly loved. And none of them, while beautiful...can compare with Sango... Miroku thought, his shoulders slumping as he watched Michiru guide Kirara towards the lovely woman warrior. And it's because of those things...because of who I am...that I lost her...
As Miroku watched Michiru approached Sango, careful to keep as tight a grip as possible on Kirara as he spoke to her, the monk couldn't help but avert his eyes. He couldn't bear to look at the woman he had loved and lost turning towards the Shikigami User and smile, couldn't deal with another reminder that she had given her heart to Michiru, and that it was his to keep.
I had planned on telling Kagome the truth. Convincing her that I truly am to blame for this, Miroku thought miserably, considering his depowered Wind Tunnel, the loss of the trust his friends had once had in him. Then he looked over at Momo, considered his plans to go to Mushin, to see what could be done about his cursed hand. And most of all, he thought about what it would be like to continue to watch the woman he had loved and had once hoped to wed in Michiru's arms from now on, knowing that she was forever lost to him. But perhaps it would be...better for everyone...if I simply left...and did not return...
Though Michiru had not been with the group that long compared to the others, he had come to know their moods and the way they expressed them fairly well. And although Sango was certainly gifted at internalizing her emotions, keeping what she felt buried safely beneath the surface, the Kururugi boy knew her well enough to know when she was upset; the way her expression hardened, her movements stiffened. Precise, almost machinelike, every movement and word terse and to the point, but still holding a tremor to it. Betraying something deep inside that threatened to burst forth.
Sango was hurting on the inside. And more importantly, Michiru knew what was causing her this pain. More than just the agony of having to choose between himself and Miroku. More than the fact that her Hiraikotsu had been completely destroyed. Something even more terrible now haunted her.
Earlier that day, Totosai had been explaining to them what he had discovered about the Reikikaega and its powers, and how it had the ability to manipulate living souls and control magical and spiritual forces, to transform a person's aura and thus transform them as well. And most of all, it had a power akin to that of the Tenseiga; the power to bring back the dead.
A power that Jiro and Azusa had been quick to demand InuYasha use to bring back the many Demon Slayers and wolf-demons that had been killed as a result of Toma's and Naraku's manipulations.
Totosai had insisted that doing something like that would be a horrible mistake, especially considering the fact that they still knew so little about the Reikikaega and its full potential. But Jiro and Azusa had insisted, and even Shippo and Sango had been reluctant to challenge them, their own past tragedies likely tempting them with the possibility of being reunited with their loved ones.
Frustrated by his inability to convince them of the risk, Totosai had demonstrated the danger of invoking the Reikikaega's power by actually doing so, slashing Sango, Shippo, Jiro, and Azusa with the magical blade. The result was that the two demons had been transformed into mortal animals, a fox and a wolf, while the Demon Slayers had metamorphosed into monstrous, muscle-bound ogres.
The transformations had only been temporary, but in the brief time they had been changed, all four had been deeply affected. Shippo had broken down sobbing the instant he had reverted, and even the fiery she-wolf Azusa had plainly been disturbed. During his time as an ogre, Jiro had gone on a violent rampage and had visibly been disturbed by his actions after he had reverted. And as for Sango...
I can barely believe that was actually her... Michiru couldn't help but think as he continued to look at the woman he loved and tried to reconcile the person that was crouched next to Kanna, doing her best to comfort the former incarnation, with the creature she had become under the Reikikaega's influence. Not only had she become massively muscled and bestial, but she had eagerly hefted him up in her arms, pressed him against a tree so she could rub her exposed breasts up and down his body, kissing him relentlessly, and giving voice to intentions that he would never have been able to imagine Sango speaking of before.
On the one hand, Michiru could definitely feel his body reacting with pleasure to Sango's advances, and under normal circumstances, he would never have objected to being kissed so passionately by her or any of the rest of it. But at that time, he had been caught between fear, shock, concern, and shame. Fear because Sango had become far stronger and had been stripped of much of her normal inhibitions, meaning that her advances could have become a serious threat to his life and limb, shock that Sango could say or do any of the things she had done in her transformed state, concern for what would happen when she reverted or even if she would revert, and shame for feeling any amount of pleasure in her ministrations. For being utterly powerless to do anything to help her, or himself.
I know she must be upset about what she did, Michiru thought as he continued to look at her. And the way she kept transforming...almost turning into a full demon...I know she must be freaked out about that.
But just as Michiru knew this, he also knew that Sango would never admit to feeling that way. She was so used to taking whatever torments she felt and burying them away, keeping them as far out of sight and out of mind as was possible for her. Keeping them buried away so she wouldn't have to deal with them, so they wouldn't get in her way. But he knew that she still felt those things. And he was certain that, like Michiru, she was being tormented by what she had done.
So what do I do? Michiru asked himself, trying to think of some way of helping the woman he loved. If I try to get her to talk about it, she'll refuse. She'll just keep...bottling it up inside.
For a moment, Michiru considered what to do. He briefly considered letting it go, at least for a brief time. Hachi would soon be loaded with enough supplies to take to the mountains, and once he and Sango were there, it seemed likely that he would have more time to help her deal with what had happened. Especially if Jiro was right and the Demon Slayers could accelerate his recovery.
But almost as soon as this thought occurred to him, Michiru dismissed it. Sango had already experienced far more suffering over the course of her life, lost so much, been through so much. The notion that she now had a fresh burden of guilt to bear up under twisted Michiru's insides. The idea of sitting idly by and doing nothing, of being helpless once more, was even worse.
But what can I do? How can I get her to talk to me? How can I get her to understand that I'm not angry with her or that -? Michiru wondered, only for his eyes to round as a metaphorical light bulb lit up into existence over his head. A sudden jolt of inspiration quickly giving rise to an idea.
He wasn't certain if it would work. But as far as Michiru was concerned, anything was better than to sit around, doing nothing but watch Sango suffer.
Besides, it's not like we have to take off at the same time as Hachi, Michiru reminded himself as he glanced over at the increasingly burdened tanuki. And if it helps Sango...
His plan in mind, Michiru murmured, "Kirara, take me over to Sango, please." The two-tail issued a slightly surprised growl but soon complied. Careful to maintain as tight a grip as possible on the demonic cat and once again cursing Ryuunosuke, the incarnation of Naraku that had possessed him, turned his Shikigami powers against his friends, and in the process overused his powers and overwhelmed his body to the point where he couldn't even get out of his bed without the help of his friends, let alone take care of other, more personal matters, the Shikigami User made sure to remain stable as they approached the lovely warrior. "Uh, Sango...?"
Starting at the sound of his voice, Sango then looked about to see Michiru a short distance away. "Oh..." she breathed, her voice and expression still carefully controlled as she held Kanna close to her. "Sorry...I was just...thinking of something."
And I think I know what that something was, Michiru thought mournfully. Aloud, he said, "Uh, Sango...I hope you don't mind, but..."
Trailing off as he considered how best to say this, Michiru hesitated long enough for Sango to ask, "What is it? Is something wrong?"
"Uh..." Michiru hesitated, prompting a few looks from the others. "No, nothing's...wrong. But..." Pausing to take a deep breath, the Shikigami User forced a smile onto his face. "Actually...before we go, there's something that...I need to show you."
Her brows furrowing with confusion, Sango hesitated before replying, "What...now?" Noises of confusion issuing from her lips, the Demon Slayer looked perplexedly at the Shikigami User before adding, "Uh...Michiru, we...Hachi's almost fully loaded! We have to leave soon!"
"It'll only take...a few minutes," Michiru promptly assured her even as Kirara positioned herself so that he was even closer to her. "Besides, it's not like...we have to leave at the same time as Hachi."
Sango opened her mouth to answer, but for a moment, only silence escaped her as she looked over at the girl that still clung to her. "But...what about Kanna?"
"Well, she can come with us," Michiru quickly replied, giving Kanna a kindly look. "Sango, I know this is sudden, but...this really is important. And...it's probably going to be a while...before we come back, so..."
As Sango frowned more deeply, InuYasha spoke up from off to the side. "Eh, why not?" the half-demon declared, prompting the Demon Slayer to look about. "Go on ahead."
Giving the half-demon a surprised look, one that said that she had expected him to be angered at any form of delay, Sango asked, "Are you sure, InuYasha?"
"Course I'm sure!" InuYasha declared. "Like Michiru said, it's not like you and Hachi have to take off at the exact same time!"
Turning his eyes towards his friend, Michiru smiled, "Thanks, InuYasha."
"Just be sure not to spend a lot of time, doing whatever you have in mind," InuYasha snidely retorted with a wry look. "The sooner you go, the sooner you can get better, remember?"
Painfully aware of how much of a burden his condition had made him to the others, Michiru replied, "Don't worry, this won't take long." Then he returned his attention to the woman he loved. "So...Sango, please?"
Several seconds expanded into an eternity before Sango sighed and gave a weary smile. "Well...as long as it's alright with Kanna." Then she looked down at the little girl and asked, "What do you think, Kanna? Are you alright, coming along with me?" Nervously meeting Sango's gaze, Kanna hesitantly gulped and nodded, still clinging tightly to her. "Alright, then," the Demon Slayer replied just before looking once more at InuYasha. "We'll be back soon."
"Alright, Kirara," Michiru spoke, pointing off to the side. "That way." As the two-tail started off, following his directions, the Kururugi boy found himself hoping that this would work...
What does Michiru have in mind? Sango couldn't help but wonder as she followed the Shikigami User and Kirara, Kanna clinging tightly to her every step of the way. Where are we going? And what's so important that it...it couldn't wait until we got back from the mountains? Then she frowned slightly and wondered, Does it have to do...with what happened earlier? When I was...transformed?
Sango still couldn't believe what had happened to her earlier that day. More importantly, she honestly didn't want to believe it. In spite of having replaced the sandals and chest bindings that had been obliterated as a result of her being transformed by the Reikikaega. And despite once again being fully human and looking perfectly normal on the outside, she still felt sick on the inside. Sick at having all of the lust, rage, desire, and so much more that she normally kept under control being unleashed in a monstrously powerful body that was free to do whatever she wanted. And with her desires unleashed, all of her moral constraints blown away by her transformation, Sango had not only treated Michiru like a toy, but she had come dangerously close to doing something absolutely unforgivable.
Of course...it wouldn't have been the first time I'd done something like that... Sango thought miserably, recalling her confrontation with Miroku. And how she had blackmailed him into confessing his sins regarding Michiru, using the threat of judgment and possibly death at the hands of the alliance to force him into doing so. I've caused Michiru...I've caused everyone...so much pain...
Even as Sango was losing herself in the guilt and shame she did her best to keep buried away, her ears pricked at Michiru saying, "Ah, there it is."
Looking up in surprise, Sango realized that Kirara had come to a halt, and Michiru was looking towards a nearby building. "What is that?" she wondered as she studied the small building and its ornate design. "Is that a shrine?"
"It's called the Promise Shrine," Michiru explained with a wan smile. "I heard about it...the first time we were in Tsuzumi Village. And while I was...helping with construction...I found it." Then he looked over at Sango and smiled warmly, blushing slightly as he admitted, "I...I wanted to take you here...for a while now."
Glancing between Michiru and the Promise Shrine and back again, Sango wondered, "Why? What's so special about it?"
"I'll...show you. I..." Michiru started, only to frown as he shifted about. "Uh...Sango...?"
Not needing for Michiru to finish his sentence, Sango made her way to his side. Gingerly wrapping her arms about the Kururugi boy, she gently aided him in dismounting Kirara. "Thanks," the Shikigami User smiled in appreciation. "Now...could you...help me up the stairs?"
"Of course," Sango replied, only to hesitate when she realized that someone was still clinging to her like she was a lifeline. "Uh, Kanna...could you please wait with Kirara? Just for a moment?" As the timid former incarnation looked up at the Demon Slayer in clear surprise and renewed fear, Sango smiled and reassured her, "We'll be right here the whole time, I promise. We won't be out of your sight, not even for a moment, and Kirara will keep an eye on you. Alright?"
Blinking a few times in rapid succession, Kanna glanced fearfully at the mighty two-tailed demon cat before fearfully asking, "P-promise?"
"Promise," Sango assured her, pausing to rub her head.
Slowly and very reluctantly, Kanna relinquished her grip on Sango, allowing the woman warrior to assistance Michiru up the stairs of the Promise Shrine. As she did so, Kirara angled her two tails so that they protectively encircled the former incarnation, making sure to do so slowly so as to not startle the fearful girl.
Sadly watching as Kanna curled up against Kirara, fearful of virtually the entire world now, Sango assisted Michiru in climbing the stairs of the Promise Shrine. "Alright, Michiru...what's so important about this shrine?" she asked when they finally reached raised flooring surrounding the shrine proper. "Why'd you want to come here?"
Heaving a deep breath as he leaned against the wall of the shrine, Michiru looked at Sango as the two held each other. "This shrine is called the Promise Shrine...because it's where young couples come...to confess their love. To promise to be there for each other...to love each other," he explained with a warm smile. "So I thought that...I should bring you here. To promise you all of that...and more."
Blinking a few times in surprise, Sango then sighed and smiled at this sweet gesture. "Michiru, I...
"Sango...I promise you to that...what I feel is true. That I really do love you...and I want to be with you," Michiru assured her, moving in for a gentle kiss. "And it doesn't matter what happens. If you're sick or in pain or any of that, I want to be with you." Punctuating this statement with another kiss, he added, "And no matter what happens...you can talk to me about it. You can trust me."
Sango was about to say that she did trust him, but even as she opened her mouth, she realized what he was saying, and felt her heart sink. "Wait...Michiru...?"
"Sango...you don't have to...try and deny it," Michiru told her, his expression hardening slightly. "Remember what I said...back on Mount Houoh? That's it's okay for you to laugh and cry...and feel whatever you feel? That you don't have to hide anything from us?"
Her insides twisting about in guilt as she realized the thrust of Michiru's question, Sango sighed miserably and said, "Some things...I do have to hide..."
"No, you don't," Michiru promptly assured her. "Whatever happened back there, it wasn't your fault."
"Yes, it was," Sango promptly replied, not sure if she was talking about her actions during her transformation, her blackmailing of Miroku, of her other actions that had resulted in suffering, or some combination of the above. "I...should have been able to...to do something else. I should have..."
"No, Sango. It was the Reikikaega and its power. It changed you, the same way it changed Kanna," Michiru assured her. "Whatever happened, it wasn't your fault."
"But...Michiru...those things...what I did...they came from inside of me!" Sango declared, gesturing at herself as she spoke with even greater shame. "I wanted it! All of the things I did, I wanted it! That sword...it took away all of my restraint, all of my concerns and fears, and I reveled in it!" Shaking her head with greater shame, she mournfully declared, "You have no idea what I was about to do when Miroku changed me back! I...I didn't care that the others were there, or anything else! I just wanted...I was going to -!"
Sango was cut off when Michiru again kissed her, placing his lips upon her own with as much effort as he could muster. Surprised by this unexpected act, the Demon Slayer almost resisted, but as the tender emotion of this act filled her, she let go of her pain, if only for a moment. And so she clung to that moment and Michiru alike with all her heart.
Unfortunately, even a moment spread out into infinity was only a moment, and still passed all too quickly. And when the two of them finally broke their kiss, Michiru looked squarely into Sango's eyes. "What happened wasn't your fault, Sango," he gently assured her. "And whatever you were afraid would happen...didn't." Heaving a deep breath, he went on to say, "As far as me or any of the others are concerned...you did nothing wrong. So if we can...accept what happened...and forgive you...why can't you forgive yourself?"
Because I'm the one who has to live with the responsibility of what I did. And would have done, Sango couldn't help but think. She didn't give voice to this, however; she knew that Michiru was doing best to comfort her, to make her feel better, despite his own condition. And the last thing she wanted was to make him feel like his efforts were in vain.
Besides, Sango truly did appreciate what he was doing. And to an extent, it had taken an edge off of her guilt, despite not dispelling it entirely.
So instead she said, "Michiru...you know that things...won't be easy for us." When he frowned slightly, Sango went on to explain, "We're still from two very different worlds. And...making a relationship work between us...that will take a lot of work." But even as her statement caused Michiru's eyes to droop somewhat, she managed a slight smile. "But I will do whatever I can...to make things work out between us. To be with you. That's...my promise."
His expression brightening almost immediately, Michiru smiled with as much heart as he could muster. "Mine, too," he told Sango before once again kissing her. With this kiss lasting the longest of any they had exchanged at the Promise Shrine.
It was all too soon when the two of them finally parted, with Sango pausing to recover from their kisses before going on to say, "C'mon. We need to get going. Like InuYasha said, the sooner we get to the mountains, the sooner you can get better."
Nodding, Michiru replied, "Right."
It was with incredible reluctance that the two of them altered their embrace so that Sango was supporting Michiru so as to aid him in going back down the stairs. Forced to rely almost entirely on the Demon Slayer to remain on his feet, the Kururugi boy's legs were constantly threatening to buckle beneath him, sending him spilling down the stairs.
Saddened as always to be reminded of just how frail Michiru remained after their latest battle, Sango sighed inwardly. And he was still more concerned about my feelings than his own, she couldn't help but think. Michiru, I -
Michiru's foot slipped off the step he was descending upon. Whether there was something on it or the board was loose, Sango didn't know. All she knew was that, in an instant, the Kururugi boy was sent tottering horribly off-balance, causing him to slip partly out of her arms.
"Michiru!" Sango cried out in surprised horror as he tumbled forward. It didn't matter that they were only a couple steps off the ground and that a fall wouldn't be likely to hurt him badly. At that moment, the idea of him suffering more than he already had was unbearable.
The Kururugi boy tottered forward as Sango worked to regain her grip, but Michiru's tumble was pulling them both off-balance, and it seemed certain that they would crash down together. Right until Kirara darted up to them, providing a safe cushion for them to fall upon.
"Oh!" Sango cried out, the wind driven out of her lungs by their sudden fall. Startled by both the impact and the unexpected nature of their rescue, the Demon Slayer required a few moments to recover before smiling in relief and gratitude. "Thanks, Kirara. I really - huh?"
"Uh..." Michiru groaned even as Sango looked towards him, and realized that he had had a closer call than she had because he had not been able to support his own weight. But luckily enough, he had had another person involved in saving him from crashing to the ground.
To Sango's utter astonishment, Kanna had her arms wrapped around Michiru's legs and was helping to brace him up enough that he had landed safely against Kirara instead of crashing to the ground. When the Kururugi boy had started falling, the former incarnation must've thrown herself towards him almost instantly in order to help him.
Realizing that Michiru could not right himself, Sango quickly recovered and once again braced herself beneath him. "I've got him, Kanna," the Demon Slayer assured the little girl, still recovering from the astonishment that the timid creature she had become had acted so quickly and so decisively. "You can let go now."
As Kanna peaked out from the other side of Michiru's frame, Sango could see that her eyes had been screwed shut. Only now was she slowly opening them, looking nervously from the Demon Slayer up towards Michiru's face. And as Sango followed her gaze, she saw Michiru, though clearly as surprised as Sango was, smile gratefully at the little girl. "Yeah. But thank you, Kanna," the Kururugi boy told her, reaching down to gently massage her cheek. "I really do appreciate that."
For a time, Kanna just looked up at Michiru in shock, as if wondering why he was doing this, or possibly even why she had acted in the way she had to begin with. But after a short time, the shock slowly faded from her expression...and in its place, a tiny, tiny smile appeared.
As Sango looked at the two of them together, she couldn't help but smile. Things will be difficult in the future. There's still so much that needs to be done...for all of us. Then she sighed and again ran her free hand through Kanna's hair. But...maybe we can do it. Maybe we can...make it work...
I think I'm gonna be sick... the old man muttered inwardly as he dismissed the image of those of his blood from the future world, as well as their companions. What could get someone of my blood to spout such idealistic nonsense...?
Reminding himself that he had once been young and foolish in that way, and figuring that a few years of hardship would knock some sense into the boy, providing he lived that long, the old man considered the matter. "Well, we know what's got those idiots interested in that village; that metal bird's got enough raw power locked up inside of it to rip this blasted world apart!" he declared, wondering how in blazes a monstrosity like that had come to exist. "Those idiots are probably figurin' on making weapons or whatever out of it."
Disgusted by the fact that the world was so jam-packed with idiots, looking for new and better ways to kill and destroy, the old man turned towards identifying the driving force of this unfolding situation. And so his focus elsewhere turned towards a great darkness and cruelty, the kind of which he had encountered only once before...
One jar... Naraku raged inwardly, those two words running through his mind, carrying with them wrath, spite, malice, and disbelief far in excess of what would seem possible.
He had worked and planned so long for his assault on InuYasha and his pathetic band of misfits. After they had cost him the opportunity to take command of the wolf-demon tribe and thus spread his influence to the other tribes of demons in that area, he had decided to take advantage of the situation. He had known that Utsugi's descendant had been working to return to this time, and had even been aware that he had a sister that might well join him. And so he had used what knowledge and abilities he had been able to obtain during his brief alliance with Utsugi to craft Ryuunosuke, a creature born of his flesh that had been crafted for the sole purpose of claiming the power of Utsugi's bloodline for him, and more importantly, had been faultlessly loyal to Naraku, with no chance of rebelling like Kagura was wont to.
Naraku had spied on InuYasha and his feeble friends, took note of the rift that the monk had created amongst them, and had decided to move quickly, to take advantage of this betrayal before they could rebuild the bonds between them. He had worked tirelessly to make certain that, not only would InuYasha and his feeble allies would be destroyed and the power of the spirits would, at last, be his, but their destruction and that of Tsuzumi Village would furnish him with a legion of new incarnations to command, as well as a new body, all created by the superior demonic flesh that Ryuunosuke would provide for him.
And in the end, Naraku had lost both Kanna and Kohaku, though the latter could still be brought under his control at any time. And instead of enough raw demonic flesh for the legions and new body he had envisioned, all he had succeeded in claiming was one lone jar.
Just enough...for one new incarnation... Naraku fumed once more, still unable to fathom that his grandiose scheme had been utterly ruined by the appearance of two unforeseeable rogue elements that seemingly appeared out of nowhere. And now, InuYasha and his friends have that strange sword, but they also have the metal bird and all the power it contains! Power that is rightfully mine!
Naraku would get the bird, of course. And more importantly, he would find a way of claiming the sword that InuYasha had used to ruin his plans. For if the sword was capable of empowering the metal bird, it could do so for him. Creating the raw material for many powerful new weapons and armors for him to use.
And if it can transform Kanna into a full human... Naraku thought, his malicious mind seething with new possibilities. Then it can allow me to complete my transformation. And leave the last of Onigumi's worthless human weakness behind...!
With these possibilities dancing in his mind, Naraku then returned to the present, and the ugly realities he faced. His forces decimated, it would take some time to recover from disaster. And in that time, InuYasha and his friends would certainly do everything they could to lick their wounds and even exploit the new resources they had claimed. Unless I can keep them...suitably occupied. And a few whispered rumors about the metal bird...should go a long way in accomplishing that... Smiling at the thought of the misery a few power-hungry fools could cause, Naraku added, And that will give me the time I need...to craft the ultimate incarnation of my flesh...
Plans already taking shape within his mind, Naraku muttered, "Kagura."
A few moments later, Kagura appeared with the usual scowl that she wore around her creator. "What?"
Naraku scowled slightly at the attitude displayed by his second incarnation. Kagura was rebellious in the extreme and desired nothing more than to see him dead, to be free of him, with only the fact that he held her heart keeping her in line. But more and more, it felt like that wasn't enough; while she had succeeded in retrieving Kanna's mirror, she had failed to dispose of Kanna and had lost Kohaku to InuYasha and his pitiful group. And though Naraku had no proof, he had little doubt that these failures had been intentional. At the very least, a way for Kagura to spite him.
But as much as he wished otherwise, Naraku couldn't afford to simply dispose of Kagura, not after such a telling loss. So as he thought about how he would one day make her scream, he ordered her, "I'm sending you on a mission. It seems that Kurogasa...has returned."
Her eyes widening in clear shock, Kagura retorted, "What?! But that samurai fool has been in hiding ever since his village was wiped out! What is he doing?!"
"I suspect that he's been lurking in the shadows for some time now. Keeping out of my sight, but still searching for an opportunity to strike," Naraku explained. "And given the timing of his reappearance...I think it's obvious what he's after."
Her eyes narrowing, Kagura muttered, "The metal bird. He must have seen its transformation."
"And now he seeks its power for his own use. Which means he's certain to encounter InuYasha," Naraku muttered. "Therefore, I want you to seek him out and kill him before that happens. I do not need for InuYasha to gain another ally."
Frowning bitterly like she had just bitten into an overripe lemon, Kagura muttered, "Whatever. I'll go."
"Good. But whatever the outcome...do not return to the castle until I summon you," Naraku went on, punctuating this order with a piercing glare. "I have important work to attend to that requires my utmost concentration. I cannot afford any disturbances."
Heaving a deep sigh, Kagura continued to scowl. Naraku was certain that she was suspicious of his demand for privacy, but at the same time, her hatred for him would make her too eager to spend time away from him and the castle. Giving him the time and privacy he needed for his next move. "Very well, then," the Incarnation of the Wind muttered. "I'll tend to Kurogasa."
I very much doubt that. But such a task will keep too preoccupied to interfere with my work, Naraku thought even as Kagura turned on her heel and left. And it will keep you from interfering as I...recruit my new warriors. Warriors that will help to keep InuYasha and his friends...suitably occupied while I work...
Once alone in the central chamber of this cruel castle that was steeped in the darkness of greed and maliciousness, Naraku made his way over towards a nearby shelf, where lay Kanna's mirror. The object of silver and glass was all but useless now, it's powers drained away by InuYasha's new sword. But Naraku still had one use left for it.
Making his way back to the lone jar of demonic flesh that he had been able to salvage, Naraku dropped the mirror into it. Watching as it sank into the depths of the jar, he took a deep breath and set about his work. "Soon, I'll have a band of powerful new warriors at my command," he muttered as a deathly light began to well up around him, light that came from the arcane symbols he had inscribed on the floor. "And they shall give me all of the time I need to craft you...my ultimate weapon..."
Heaving a deep breath, Naraku began his invocation. "Lion of the flame..." he intoned, even as something lit up nearby. For on a nearby podium, there stood a red statue of a lion perched on a base inscribed with a highly detailed pentagram. A statue that even now glowed like a flame burning bright.
"Bear of the ice..." Naraku continued as another statue lit up, this one a blue-white bear. "Falcon of the sky...bull of the stone...koi fish of the river...wolf of the thunder...snake of the wood...turtle of metal..." With each title invoked, another statue lit up with its own elemental power. "Dragon of the light...and yatagarasu of the darkness." As the last two statues lit up, one a serpentine dragon, and the other, a three-legged crow, their powers became more intense, filling the chamber. "Heed me, spirits of nature, and reveal your powers. Unleash the power at your command, and fill my creation with your strength!"
With the invocation complete, the ten statues reacted to Naraku's command, sending forth their power to one another, connecting with one another to form a massive pentagram that surrounded both him and the jar of flesh that stood before him. "Yes, spirits of nature! Combine your powers! Give me your might!" Naraku commanded, his arms spread out wide to his sides as their power built up above him. "Break the barriers! Summon the power of Seiryu, the Azure Dragon!"
With these words, the powers unleashed united in the air above him, manifesting all ten of the Shikigami that represented the Kururugi family's powers of the forces of nature. And as the serpentine dragon circled the room, the remaining nine spirits infused the dragon with their might, causing it to change colors from a brilliant white to a shining azure. Roaring with power, the dragon circled about the room for a while before exploding in a wave of elemental might that shot down upon the jar, and the demonic flesh that was held within.
"Yes...!" Naraku hissed, watching as the flesh bubbled eagerly with the power shining down upon it. Shaping the raw material into his greatest creation...
"Of all the...!" the old man furiously breathed. For even as detached and unconcerned as he tended to be with the affairs of the world at large, even he couldn't disregard what was happening. "How did this fool ever manage to get his hands on those?!"
"On what?" asked the girl next to him. "What is happening?"
The old man glared in her direction for a time before muttering, "Something that should never have happened. And that certainly complicates matters." Then he looked back to the mirror as it shifted to another image. "And it looks like we haven't seen the sum of our troubles!"
In a dismal part of Japan, where even the warm light of the sun could not chase away the perpetual darkness, a figure dressed in the skin of a white baboon made his way towards a raised section of earth. A figure that approached the length of dirt, holding up a tiny sliver of crystal before shoving it into the soil.
Several seconds passed as the figure observed the earthen mound, waiting patiently as the Sacred Jewel Shard penetrated the layers of soil and found its target beneath. Waited and watched as the earth began to shake, the bones hidden beneath growing new flesh...
"Dammit all..." the old man spat bitterly, unable to believe his rotten luck. "That complicates things even further!"
"What's going on, master?" the girl asked, her voice tense with concern. "What is going to happen?"
"I can't say for certain, girl," the old man grumbled disgustedly. "All I know for sure is that something dangerous is going to happen. It's happening right now." Scowling fiercely, he then looked her squarely in the eyes before grimly declaring, "And there's no chance of whatsoever of us being able to avoid getting mixed up in this mess."
Heaving a deep sigh and wondering just how many gods he must have offended to wind up in such a situation, the old man grumbled, "There's no doubt about it; this is gonna be one hell of a pain..."
Author's Notes: There you have it! The first chapter of the new "Legacy of the Cursed Mask" story! It was considerably longer than I had expected it to be, but even though it is mostly a recap chapter for those who didn't bother to read the first two stories (hint, hint), I hope that it was still entertaining, and shows a lot of what you can expect to see in this story.
Demons of the arch angel, the next sequel is here. And we'll have some InuYasha/Kaname moments soon.
Dragoon Swordsman, thank you for the kind words. I really do appreciate them. I definitely agree that Miroku's willingness to pass on the Wind Tunnel curse is unforgivable, which is one of the reasons I had Sango address that concern while considering whether to choose Michiru or Miroku. It's like having a child when you know you have HIV. Though to be fair, Miroku might not consider it that serious on the basis that, if his father or grandfather had abstained from having a child, he would not be alive.
BruceNadeauJr, I'm not sure about adding more time travel parts. I don't want to overuse it, and as Professor Paradox from Ben 10 once said, "Time traveling is for immortals and fools". As for your other question, I'm afraid you'll have to wait and see.
Uruz 11, Well, it took me longer to update this time, thanks to the various crises that is my life. Still, I hope this chapter was worth the wait. I am glad that you liked Miroku's explanation regarding everything, as well as its implications. Yup, there is some darkness on the horizon for everyone, but maybe it won't be as bad you think. Or maybe it will. Wyvern's knowledge is dangerous, but keep in mind that he's been conducting research using old legends and scraps left over from the past. Now he has direct access to the things he's been trying to research. Just think of him as being like Sara Harding from Jurassic Park II, who was perfectly fine with going solo to an island overrun with dinosaurs in order to research them. And you're right in that we don't want Naraku finding out about Miroku's theory.
Codyy, well, women tend to find muscular men attractive, so...
The main reason Michiru didn't protest was he was too busy being in shock over what happened to Sango and her actions towards him. And don't forget about Sango running her bare breasts over his body while she was transformed. You'll have to wait and see what kind of consequences Sango's transformation will have. And don't worry about Michiru. He's long past tired of being a Squishy Wizard and getting laid up so frequently. So expect to see him bulking up, as it were. Kaname, too.
As for that Michiru/Kagura story...perhaps when my spare time isn't nearly so spare.
Jetty1, I know painfully well what it's like to get hit hard by life. Trust me on that. An InuYasha/Mortal Hombat mix-up, huh? I'm not a fan of MK, but it should make for an interesting read. I can't say at the moment if the person who brought the jet back is still around. As for Sango, as you saw here, Michiru managed to encourage to tell him what was bothering her. As you saw, Michiru isn't at all mad about what Sango did while transformed. And you're right, no one has done a story with Michiru and Sango getting intimate. Perhaps we should talk about that.
Yup, things are going to be picking up between InuYasha and Kaname. And I've never cared for Kagome dealing with all her issues regarding InuYasha by sitting him, and her general mistrust and abusiveness towards him. It's just plain wrong.
Xthenjazziesaid, we will be seeing more character development from Kaname and Shippo, because of the situations they'll be facing. And I'm glad you agree that time travel should have taken advantage of in canon.
blackshadow340, as you see here, this story will start out as T, but I may change it to M later on.
TheAuthorofTime, I never said that Miroku was not intelligent; only that his lechery makes him extremely distasteful to me. As for Kagome, I will be addressing her current situation and her trying to deal with her illusion that she was living in a fairytale being broken. But don't expect her to change overnight; this is a very difficult thing for her to deal with, so she might wind up taking two steps forward, and one step back, if you get my meaning.
Deiru Tamashi, it took me longer to update than I'd expected, but I hope this was worth the wait.
Greymon Leader Batx flashpoint, that is high praise indeed. A lot's going to be happening in this story, so look forward to it.
LeonioAria Niru, well, I think it's best to leave what happened to the gang in their defeat by Naraku open to the imagination. For one thing, I'm not sure I can do such a tragic defeat justice, and two, it leaves a lot more in the way of possibilities open to me.
Fenikkusumaru, I'll be contacting you soon in regards to what will be happening next.