Disclaimer: I do not own InuYasha or anything associated with it. I have written this story solely because I enjoy writing.

Secret of the Cursed Mask: Michiru's Journey

Chapter 5: The Old Temple

"So that's all you can tell us?" Michiru asked with a note of disappointment. "You don't know anything else about the giant spider?"

"I'm afraid not," the old woman that had identified herself as Kakuju admitted. "The spider only recently began attacking the village, and its aura feels stronger than it has in the past. But as for what might be responsible for these things...I'm afraid I simply don't know enough to even hazard a guess."

"I see," Kagome frowned unhappily.

"And what about this Shikigami thing?!" InuYasha gruffly demanded. "Can't you teach this kid anything else about it?"

"Oh, I can teach him a great deal about the powers of the Shikigami. But not yet," Kakuju informed him. "For even though he can now command that power, your friend Michiru has yet to learn to manipulate it properly. I...hmm...I suspect that the best way of putting it would be to compare him to a young child learning to walk. He's gained the capability to stand up on his own two legs, but he still has to learn how to put one foot in front of the other while keeping his balance. And just as such a child has to learn these things before learning how to run, Michiru must practice what ability he has now before he can properly wield the powers of nature."

"Is it really that hard to learn how to use Shikigami?" Shippo wondered.

"Not exactly. But like any other skill, learning to use the Shikigami takes much time and practice. And I'm afraid that, since Michiru is so new to his powers, it will be some time before he can achieve his full potential." A beat passed as Kakuju gave a slight smile at Michiru and added, "But I suspect it will not be long before you are ready to learn more about the Shikigami."

"I...hope so," Michiru replied somewhat uncertainly. On the one hand, he knew that he needed to learn how to use his newly discovered powers as soon as possible if he were to survive in this world gone mad. But at the same time, he already knew that the skills he needed would not be honed in the relative comfort of this or any other village. They would have to be honed in battle. And that was not something he was looking forward to in the slightest. "Anyway, thanks again, Grandma Kakuju."

"You're welcome, all of you," Kakuju replied with a polite bow of her head. "I'm certain that we'll meet again soon."

InuYasha responded to this by growling in his throat and looking away. As Michiru was deciding that that was probably pretty good, all things considered, Kagome declared, "Now let's get going. We still have to find the villagers Michiru saw before."

"Right," Michiru nodded. "Goodbye, Grandma. Hope to see you again soon."

"Take care, Michiru," Kakuju replied, nodding once more even as Michiru and the others turned to depart.

Even though time had stolen much of her eyes' usefulness, Kakuju had learned to use her other senses. Some of which were senses that depended on something more than crude flesh. Indeed, the powers of the Shikigami allowed her to see far more than an ordinary person with perfect vision could ever hope to see.

But at the same time, Kakuju still retained the full use of her other senses. Her aged ears still worked perfectly, allowing her to easily hear the world around her. To perfectly hear a voice...that brought back much of the past.

That boy...he sounded somewhat like...him... Kakuju couldn't help but think, wincing at the painful memories this thought brought back to the surface. The voice was a bit different...but the manner with which he spoke, the kindness in his words...

A tear fell from Kakuju's eye, startling her somewhat. It wasn't like her to grow so close to someone so easily, not after so long a time of wandering alone as she had. But at the same time...

No. I can't let myself start drowning in the past again, Kakuju chided herself with a tiny shake of her head. But even so...Michiru...he's a good boy. I sensed that much about him when I first sensed his powers, and even more when I awakened them. And from what they told me, he's bound to need a great deal of help before he can find his way back home. I'd best look after him as best as I can.

With this in mind, Kakuju reached into the folds of her kimono and drew forth a talisman marked with a pentagram. As a pentagram spun into existence at her feet, the aged priestess channeled her power into the talisman, which then transformed into a bird that then took flight.

Now...let's see what happens next... Kakuju thought as the bird took flight. Moving to observe Michiru and his odd group of friends...

As Michiru and the others made their way back through Akebi Village, the modern teen couldn't help but feel a thrill as he looked at the palm of his hand. For floating above his bare skin was a hazy orb of brilliant crimson, a ball of magical power whose warmth he could feel radiating upon him.

Magic...real magic! Michiru couldn't help but think, an idiot grin splitting his face as he slowly began playing with the mystical power that he had conjured up. Something he had done simply to experiment with the power that Kakuju had awoken within him. And I'm the one actually doing it! It's not happening all on its own, not some out-of-control accident I have no idea how to control! But actual magic that I can control! I can't believe -!

"Michiru!" Kagome hissed, causing him to jump in surprise. The sphere of magic nearly dissipated even as he recovered and looked about to see his fellow time traveler shutting him a deadly glare. "What do you think you're doing?!"

"Huh?!" Michiru squawked in dismay, feeling somewhat like a little kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. "Wh-what do you mean?!"

"What do I mean?! That, obviously!" Kagome shot back even as she pointed at the magical energies in Michiru's hand. "Put it out already! People are staring at us!"

"Hmph! Like you yelling is helping," InuYasha muttered with a roll of his eyes. "Besides, what's the big deal? So they're looking at us! So what?!"

Kagome opened her mouth to counter, but before she could, Michiru hastily extinguished the magical sphere. "Uh, it's alright, you two!" he hurriedly proclaimed, putting his hands out as he placed himself between them. "I - sorry, Kagome. It's just...I was just...testing out this whole Shikigami thing. You know...trying to get the hang of it. So I can use it. Especially after all of the trouble we've already been through."

"Good thinking," InuYasha promptly declared. "The sooner you can use that weird spell you showed off when that big ogre tried to eat you, the better!"

Pausing to glare at the half-demon, Kagome sighed before speaking again. "Look, I understand what you're saying, but seriously! You can't wait to start fiddling around with that Shikigami thing until we're away from the village?! We don't want that kind of attention!"

"And I still say, so what?! Let 'em stare if they want!" InuYasha countered in a dismissive fashion. "Now that this kid's powers are awake, he needs to train so he can use them!"

"I realize that, InuYasha!" Kagome promptly shot back. "But there's a time and place for that sort of thing! The people of Akebi, they aren't used to this sort of thing! And we don't want to scare them! We need to -!"

"Hey! There they are!" Michiru cried out, freezing in mid-step. Even as InuYasha and Kagome stopped in a much more awkward fashion, resulting in them both hovering on the toes of one foot for a few seconds.

As Kagome and InuYasha frantically spun their arms about in an attempt to regain their balance, Shippo cried out. "What is it, Michiru?"

"Over there!" Michiru cried out even as he pointed down the path. "It's the villagers that were chasing me before!"

"Huh?!" InuYasha demanded as he regained his footing. "You're sure about that?!"

"Positive!" Michiru confirmed even as he sized up the two men, one of them fairly elderly, and the woman. "They were chasing me all over and trying to kill me! That's not the kind of person you forget!"

InuYasha gave a derisive snort at this. "Trust me, when it happens on a daily basis, those kind of people become one big blur." While Michiru was frowning somewhat at this, the dog-eared demon muttered, "Well, if you're sure it's them, then you better go ask them about where they found you."

"Right," Michiru nodded, the fact that he was no longer alone and powerless doing wonders for his courage. So without another thought, he made his way towards the villagers.

"Uh, are you sure this is a good idea?!" Shippo wondered even as Kagome finally recovered.

"There you are!" Michiru called out as he approached the trio of villagers with InuYasha a short distance behind. "You're the ones that came after me before!"

As soon as Michiru spoke, the trio of villagers looked up in his directions. A few seconds passed before the woman hissed, "Gosuke, that's -!"

"It's him!" the man called Gosuke growled in his throat. As he, the woman, and the elderly man advanced upon Michiru, Gosuke cried out, "Demon, give me back my daughter or so help me I'll -!"

"Hey, back off, pal!" InuYasha growled, interposing himself between Michiru and the villagers. "You want to get to this kid, you have to go through me first!"

"InuYasha, hold on!" Kagome cried out even as she moved to interpose herself between the demon and the villagers. Then she flashed Gosuke a reassuring smile and added, "Listen, you don't have to be afraid! This kid here isn't actually a demon!"

"Not a demon?" Gosuke blankly repeated. "Then - what's with his clothing?! And - your clothing, for that matter?!"

"Huh? Oh, these?" Kagome got out, pausing just long enough to tug at her own sailor-style outfit. "There just clothes. Ordinary, average outfits. Well, they're ordinary where we come from!"

"That's right," InuYasha piped up with a disinterested nod. "I've been to where they're from. And they all dress weird like that."

Gosuke frowned heavily even as he studied both Michiru and Kagome. "Hmm...come to think about it, I had heard about an oddly dressed priestess who's been seen around the village where Kikyo once lived. One who was traveling with..." Then his eyes rounded in surprise before he looked towards the crimson-clad demon. "Oh, my...are you...InuYasha?!"

At these words, InuYasha's eyes narrowed sharply. "Yeah. So what about it?!"

"Well, it's just - we've all heard about how you've been protecting the neighboring villages since you were resurrected! About you and your companions!" Gosuke hurriedly explained. But even as he was smiling shakily, he turned his eyes towards Michiru. At which his smile sagged like melting ice cream. "And...this boy..."

InuYasha didn't say anything to this. He just stood there, looking at Gosuke with what looked liked confusion. Almost like he couldn't believe that anybody was speaking favorably about him. But even as Michiru was considering this, Kagome jumped in and explained, "Oh, we just met him! Fact is, InuYasha saved him from a demon after you...uh...ran into him." Pausing to glance back and forth between Michiru and the villagers, she again focused on Gosuke. "But anyway, as I was saying, this kid isn't a demon. He's human, like you and me."

"It's true," Michiru seconded with a nod. "I was actually hoping to ask you for directions when I ran into you. I'm...a long way from home, to be honest."

Gosuke just stood there and frowned heavily as he studied the boy. "Hmm...you do seem pretty weak to be a demon..."

"You noticed that, huh?" InuYasha muttered even as Michiru gave the demon a look of dismay.

"That's right!" Shippo chimed in, causing Michiru to wince. "He's just a human! Well, except - mmph?!"

"Uh, that's right! He's just a human!" Kagome confirmed even as she covered Shippo's mouth.

Pausing to frown as Kagome continued to muffle Shippo, Gosuke then sighed. "Then...I guess we owe you an apology. I...we should have realized you weren't a demon sooner. But...were so panicked, we...we just saw your strange clothes, and..."

As Gosuke trailed off, Kagome frowned. "You were panicking? About what?"

"It's...my daughter," Gosuke admitted with a look of sorrowful despair. "She...was taken by a demon."

"A demon, huh?" InuYasha noted with a raised eyebrow. "You mean that big spider we've heard about?"

"Yes!" Gosuke confirmed with a quick nod. "It came to the village and took my daughter! So we all went looking for her, hoping that - well, I don't even know what we were hoping to do! But we had to do something!" Then the villager turned towards Michiru with shamed eyes. "And then..."

"And that's when I showed up, huh?" Michiru gathered.

"That's right," nodded the eldest of the trio. "When we saw your strange clothes, we all thought that you were the spider-demon or some other creature in disguise. It's just as Gosuke said."

"I see. I guess my clothes would seem pretty strange to you," Michiru assured them. "But...well, if it's no trouble, I'd like to ask you something."

"Of course," the woman of the group nodded.

With that, Michiru began to explain what had happened to him that day. He gave a heavily abridged account of his arrival, completely removing the time travel aspect of his story. But he did explain how he had fallen through the floor of his family's storehouse and found himself in a foreign land. "When I first arrived here, I was pretty freaked out," he concluded. "I didn't know what to do."

"That's understandable," said the woman, who had subsequently been introduced as Yone.

"But after I met InuYasha and the others, well...they think that there might be a clue as to how I got here in the first place somewhere near where I had first woken up. And since I ran into you shortly after I got here, I think you might be my best chance of finding where I had first woken up," Michiru continued. "So tell me something; the area where I first saw you? Did you see a well or something that looked strange? Anything that stuck out at all?"

To Michiru's dismay, Gosuke's response was to quickly shake his head. "No, I didn't see a well. Or anything that wasn't as it should've been." Then he frowned and looked back at his companions. "What about you two? After we split up, did you see anything unusual?"

As Yone shook her head, the old man that had introduced himself as Tagohei stated, "I'm afraid not. There was nothing of interest anywhere around there."

Deflated by this, Michiru sighed, "I see..."

"Dammit. We finally find the place, and we've got nothing to show for it," InuYasha grumbled ominously. "Talk about a waste of time..."

"That's too bad," Shippo murmured solemnly. "Guess we should head back to Kaede's Village."

"Uh, hold on!" Kagome hurriedly protested. Then she stepped closer to Gosuke and the other villagers. "Gosuke...what about your daughter? Did you find her?"

"No," Gosuke grimly admitted. "There's been no sign of her, and...the men that chased after the spider...they never came back. So...I don't know what we're going to..."

Then Gosuke's eyes lit up with inspiration. "Wait...InuYasha, we've heard about your exploits. How you and your friends and fought and defeated many powerful demons!" he cried out in desperate hope. "Is there any chance...could you possibly -?"

"What? Go after that spider?" InuYasha wondered in a gruff tone of voice. Even as Michiru noted the villagers' faces falling somewhat, the demon smiled. "Sure. We'll take care of that thing."

His eyes expanding in astonished hope, Gosuke breathed, "You - you'll really destroy it for us?!"

"And get our dear Sachi back?!" Tone added.

"Oh, thank you, thank you!" Tagohei chimed in.

"Hey, don't make a big deal about it!" InuYasha snorted derisively. "So this spider, it lives in an old temple, right? Which way to the old temple?"

"Just follow this path! It will lead you out of the village and into a rocky expanse! Once you're past that, you'll find the temple!" Gosuke eagerly informed them. "Just...please, bring my daughter back home...!"

"Sure, no problem!" InuYasha declared before starting down the path without another word. Kagome and Shippo were quick to follow. As for Michiru, he just stood there for a moment, not liking the way things were going, before deciding that it would be better to stay close to his companions.

As Michiru caught up with the others, Shippo was giving the demon a confused look. "Are you feeling okay, InuYasha?" the little fox wondered. "It's not like you to just volunteer and help someone like this!"

"Don't get any ideas, kid," InuYasha roughly retorted. "I'm just bored with all of this walking we've been doing. And after wasting so much time on this stupid trip, I could use some excitement."

"Oh," Shippo groaned sourly. "That explains a lot..."

"Besides, it's probably just some weak old demon that spends its time hiding in the temple," InuYasha continued. "I'll take it apart before it even knows what hit it."

"Uh, excuse me. But it might not be that easy," Michiru pointed out. "Remember what Kakuju said? About the spider seemed stronger now? And the villagers also said that it's been acting differently. So -"

"Oh, shut up!" InuYasha shot back. "What do you know about demons, anyway?! You only just got here!"

"Don't be rude, InuYasha!" Kagome scolded him. "Michiru's just concerned, that's all! And who can blame him, what with how new this all is to him?!"

"But that's my point! The kid doesn't know a thing about demons!" InuYasha countered. "Besides, after everything we've had to deal with, you honestly think I'm gonna have any problem with some dumb spider who lives in a damned old shrine?! One Wind Scar attack and this will all be over!"

Michiru had no idea what a Wind Scar was. Nor did he know anything about the kind of enemies InuYasha and the others had fought in the past.

But as he and the others continued down the path to the old temple, Michiru couldn't help but have a very bad feeling about what was to come...

As InuYasha and the others continued down the path, the half-demon noticed how quickly Michiru was to fall silent. On one level, that only served to reinforce the notion that the kid was a doormat, just doing whatever anyone else told him. But at the same time, even he had to admit that these were probably not ideal circumstances for someone from Kagome's world.

At least he isn't nagging me the way Kagome does, InuYasha noted as the kid continued along with the others. Then he noted their surroundings and added, Or panicking about this stupid place we're in...

The unlikely foursome had left behind the warm sun and pleasant trappings of Akebi Village in their wake some time ago. Now they were moving through the rocky expanse that Gosuke had warned them off, and while InuYasha had seen much worse places to be, he could see how this place would be unpleasant for humans. Steep walls of rock flanked the branching path on both sides, the vegetation was sparse and dangerous, and the entire area was filled with a deep fog that plunged the entire into a darkness as deep as midnight. And as the group continued forward, InuYasha's keen ears made him aware of various creatures moving about the area. And those creatures were not at all mortal.

Still, we've handled worse, InuYasha reminded himself, thinking of all of the times that they had faced off against Naraku and other horrible demons. And - okay, we'll have to keep an eye on Michiru! Make sure that he doesn't choke or anything stupid like that! But at least he can use some of his powers now! And as long as we can keep an eye on him, this shouldn't be any trouble!

Taking this thought and ramming it hard into his consciousness, InuYasha continued to make his way down the path. All the while keeping his senses keened, his nose constantly reporting the various demonic stenches that wafted across the landscape.

The group wound up taking a few wrong turns that ended in dead ends, with Michiru finding a few odds and ends along the way. Deciding that they were most likely all that remained of whatever humans were luckless enough to come this way before them, InuYasha throttled down his impatience. Because as much as he was loathe to admit it to anyone, he was concerned about both the spider...and the girl it had taken.

Damned thing's probably already eaten that girl... InuYasha thought irritably, his hand finding its way to Tetsusaiga's hilt. But we can at least stop it from killing anybody else! That is, assuming we can actually find the damned temple!

But even as this thought was stoking InuYasha's anger, the half-demon and the others rounded a bend...and found what could only be their destination.

It was an old temple, that much was clear. The aged structure had long since fallen into disrepair and was bracketed by numerous dead trees. Stark gray mountains lay in the background, and even at a distance, InuYasha could see numerous spider webs marking the structure.

"So...that's the old temple," Michiru groaned. Definitely nervous, but not truly afraid. "Looks like the perfect place for a giant spider to hang out in..."

"I-I'll say...!" Shippo seconded, definitely more fearful.

"Let's be careful," Kagome declared even as she brought forth her bow and readied an arrow. "We don't know where the spider is, but we don't want to give it a chance to take us by surprise!"

"Feh! Whatever!" InuYasha declared with a note of arrogance even as he unsheathed the Tetsusaiga. "Let's just find this dumb spider and kill it already!"

Without waiting for anybody to protest, InuYasha started forward again. He noticed Kagome groaned in frustration and Shippo gulping. Michiru just heaved a heavy sigh before moving to follow as well. And as one, the unlikely group advanced upon the aged temple.

With the very first footstep taken into the dilapidated structure, the boards began creaking ominously. Signaling to whatever demons lay within that a potential meal was their gate.

Which is just fine by me! InuYasha thought, tightening his grip on the Tetsusaiga as he and the others marched into the temple proper. His keen eyes already adjusting to the darkness, he began peering this way and that, scanning for any potential threats. Alright, you bastards! Come and get me! I'm ready for whatever you -!

There was a spark of crimson light out of the corner of his eyes. Reacting on sheer instinct, InuYasha whirled about to face the potential threat, roaring a cry of battle...

Only to cut himself off in mid-swing when he saw Michiru jumping back several steps and falling to the floor. A plume of magical light falling out of his hands and disappearing as he did so.

"Ow...!" Michiru groaned even as InuYasha stood there and stared at him.

"Michiru, are you alright?!" Kagome asked. Right before she turned and glared at the half-demon she was already blaming for what had happened. "InuYasha...!"

"Don't start with me, Kagome! I saw something out of the corner of my eye and thought it might be trouble, okay?!" InuYasha crossly declared. Then he turned towards Michiru and muttered, "You alright, kid?"

"Uh...yeah. Sorry," Michiru muttered apologetically. "With how dark this place is, I thought I'd try and use this Shikigami thing to help give us some light. I didn't mean to startle anybody."

"That's okay. But do us all a favor and remember that light doesn't just make it easier to see. It also makes it easier for any demons here to see you," InuYasha gruffly replied, once again reminded of some of the stupid mistakes Kagome had made back when she had first arrived in the Feudal Era. "Now stay close and be ready! We don't know where -!"

InuYasha was cut off by a hideous shrieking. Cursing himself for letting himself be distracted, the half-demon immediately whirled about to face the source of the noise. And witnessed a horde of demonic bats, crows, and even a skeletal wraith shrouded with a ghoulish cloak falling upon them.

"Waaaaaaa!" Shippo wailed in surprise, jumping back a few steps as the demons fell upon them. "Back off! Foxfire!"

Conjuring up a ball of green flame, Shippo used it to blast a few of the attacking demons. Kagome was already falling back closer to InuYasha as she fired an arrow. But the half-demon knew that her weapon wasn't as useful in close quarters combat.

Which means that it's up to me! InuYasha thought as he leaped at the attacking demons, brandishing the Tetsusaiga. With a roar of battle, the half-demon cleaved several of the attacking beasts in two, sending gouts of blood and gore spilling to the floor.

But even as InuYasha was landing from his attack, more demons were encroaching. As they closed in on Kagome, the reincarnated priestess in the midst of drawing another arrow, the half-demon quickly moved to protect her from another skeletal ghoul. Effortlessly killing another demon, InuYasha scowled when he heard Shippo crying out again.

"Dammit! This place is crawling with demons!" InuYasha declared even as he turned towards the latest threat. "Too bad for them that they're all a bunch of weaklings! And -!"

"Gah! Back off!" came Michiru's voice.

In an instant, InuYasha was cursing in his head. He wasn't accustomed to working with others; even in terms of their little group, he preferred working independent of the others whenever possible. Not only was he used to that sort of thing, but as a half-demon, he could take and survive much more punishment than his considerably more frail companions. And at that moment, he realized that he had momentarily forgotten about Michiru.

"Hang on, kid!" InuYasha gruffly began as he whirled about. "I'm - huh?!"

"Shikigami Attack!" Michiru continued, having been in the midst of conjuring up a couple of fireballs. His moves somewhat clumsy, betraying how unaccustomed he was to fighting, he still managed to throw the fireballs at a couple of crow-demons that were coming at him. One of the demons got its wing burnt and was forced to back off, but the other fireball landed squarely the in the other crow's mouth. The result was the bird exploding in a putrid cloud of smoke and scorched feathers.

InuYasha couldn't help but blink in surprise even as Michiru readied another fireball for the surviving crow. These attacks weren't even close to the spell that he had first seen Michiru use, and these crows were pathetic little things that he could effortlessly decimate with just his claws. But even so, it was good to see that he wasn't panicking in the face of danger.

Then again, Kagome got used to things pretty fast, InuYasha reminded himself. Hope this means he'll shape up soon. The last thing we need is to babysit a load of dead -!

"Hey, get off of me!" Kagome cried out even as a bat demon grabbed at her clothing. Not even bothering to load her latest arrow, she instead jammed the tip into the bat's face.

"Look out, Kagome!" InuYasha ordered even as he moved to cover her again. "These things aren't very strong, but there's a lot of them!"

"Yeah, I noticed!" Kagome nodded even as she prepared another arrow. "We better stay close, and -!"

"Aauuughh!" Shippo cried out again, prompting InuYasha to look about. To his dismay, the little fox was running about with more demons on his tail. And even worse, he was running towards Michiru, who was too busy lobbing fireballs at demons to focus on an ally.

This proved to be a mistake when Shippo crashed into Michiru, knocking the boy off-balance. "Huh - what?!" Michiru cried out, trying to figure out what was going on. Which left him open to a wraith that was shooting towards him.

"Back off!" Kagome ordered even as she fired an arrow at the wraith. As the Sacred Arrow shot forth, the energy it radiated pierced through the demon, dispelling the magic that sustained it and causing it to burst apart.

"Ugh - what - Shippo?!" Michiru cried out even as he recovered. "What are you -?!"

"Get it together, you two!" InuYasha ordered, spearing the little fox with a glare. "We still have more demons to deal with!"

"I know! I - ack!" Michiru cried out, caught between trying to pry Shippo off and addressing another wraith coming his way. He decided to focus on the wraith and conjured up another fireball. "Shikigami Attack!"

"Foxfire!" Shippo seconded, launching his own fiery attack even as Michiru launched his, The two magical attacks intersected before they reached the wraith.

To InuYasha's surprise, Michiru's Shikigami fireball seemed to wrap about Shippo's foxfire, causing it to glow with a brilliant blue light. The foxfire suddenly seemed to expand, growing in size and intensity, until it suddenly enveloped the wraith and several other demons. The foul fiends were suddenly immersed in the combined magics, screeching in pain. A screech that lasted until the forms of the demons were incinerated, rendered naught but ashes that fell to the floor.

In the wake of this attack, Michiru and Shippo froze up, their expressions having fallen in shock. But the effect that this had on the demons was even more profound. Having finally gotten it into their heads that this was not a meal worth fighting for, what few remained turned and left, flying away as fast as they could.

Which will probably last about as long as it takes for them to round up more of whatever's lurking in this damned dump, InuYasha scowled, refusing to place Tetsusaiga back in its sheath. Refusing to let his guard down for a second.

"Are you two alright?" Kagome wondered as she approached Shippo and Michiru.

"Uh - yeah, yeah! I mean, of course we're okay, Kagome!" Shippo declared, regaining some of the bravado he tended to have outside of battle. "I mean, how could we not be okay?! After all, Michiru had me to protect him!"

Michiru made an uncertain noise in his throat, as if he wasn't able to process the fox-demon's audacity. But before he could break his brain by trying to do so, Kagome spoke again. "Anyway, did you see what happened when your attacks collided?"

"Huh? Uh, yeah. I did," Michiru numbly nodded. "I mean...it seemed like they got more powerful when they combined."

"I know. But I wonder why," Kagome mused in a thoughtful manner. "Maybe there's more to this Shikigami power of yours than we know. A lot more."

"Well, whatever it is, we can figure it out later," InuYasha declared in a harsh voice that got everybody's attention. "We still have to track down that damned spider, remember?"

At first, Kagome looked annoyed. But then she sighed and nodded. "And don't forget about Sachi. We have to find her as well."

Like there's even a chance that she's still alive, InuYasha groused inwardly. He considered saying as much, but he decided that he was not in the mood to risk being sat. Instead, he just muttered, "Let's get moving. I don't want to waste my time on these small fry! It's time to take care of the damned spider!"

An instant later, InuYasha silently added, And the less time we spend here, the less chance of any of you getting hurt

He didn't say that, however. InuYasha had learned a hard lesson about exposing any sort of weakness in the face of a potential enemy a long time ago. And even though he had an easier time in letting down his shields with his current companions, those old, painful lessons had not been forgotten. And so he turned and continued into the temple, focusing on his senses to guide them to where they needed to go.

Kagome continued to scowl, but thankfully, she said nothing further. Instead, she groaned and moved to follow InuYasha. Michiru and Shippo were quick to follow, with the newcomer to their group pausing to glance back over his shoulder. Making certain that nothing was following.

Stay focused, kid, InuYasha silently said to the relative stranger. You're a long way from using your powers, and I don't want anybody dying on my watch...

And I thought things were bad, just walking to Akebi Village?! Michiru thought in astonishment as he and the others stood triumphant over what felt like the hundredth batch of demons that had swarmed in on them. This whole temple is one big nest of demons! This is like something out of that movie with all of those acid-bleeding monsters! How do people even manage to stay alive in this crazy world?!

Missing his comfortable home and life more than ever now, Michiru carefully eyed the remains of a nearby demon that were already breaking down, leaving nothing but its bones. They had been fighting through the temple for a long while now, exploring the various rooms and chambers. And with each room, Michiru felt more and more like this was the kind of place producers of horror movies would gleefully use for their movies. They hadn't found any human remains, but they happened upon various sheets of paper with fearful messages written on them. Michiru had also happened upon other odds and ends like crystal hairpins and armbands and more.

Probably left behind after demons found someone, and... Michiru thought, only to gulp and shudder at the image this conjured. His imagination now in overdrive with all of the stimulation it had been getting this day.

And this was something that wasn't helped at all when Michiru felt a hand landing on his shoulder. "Gaaahh!" he cried out as he whirled about...only to settle down when he saw who had touched him. "Kagome?!"

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you," Kagome immediately assured him. "I just...how are you holding up?"

Pausing just long enough for his heart to stop beating like a machine gun, Michiru then heaved a heavy sigh. "I...I'm okay, I guess. I never did like scary stuff like horror movies, and -" Then he cut himself off and again looked about their surroundings, and demanded, "I just - how do people actually manage to live with these things running around?!"

"A lot of them don't, kid. That's the problem," InuYasha gruffly declared. "I think we're getting close to the spider! Check this door out!"

Without another word, Michiru and the others moved to investigate. There was a significant amount of dust on the floor of the temple, betraying how long it had been since anything human had lived there. But there were strange footprints leading to and from the door. And the door itself was scratched and worn, showing that it had seen significant wear-and-tear. "Something's been using this door," Kagome noted, putting these observations into words. "And pretty recently, too."

"You think it was the spider?" Michiru wondered even as he observed the sizeable door.

"Pretty sure. I'm picking up this weird smell. Something's been through here, and recently," InuYasha declared.

"Then let's go get the spider and save Sachi!" Kagome declared, pushing past the others and taking hold of the door. Only to be brought up short when the door refused to slide open. "Huh?!" she started, pausing to glare at the obstinate obstacle. Then she gritted her teeth and tried again, but to no avail. "Ugh, it's locked! We'll have to - gah!"

Without warning, InuYasha rammed the Tetsusaiga through the door, tearing through it like it was soggy toilet paper. As Kagome and the others jumped back in surprise, he proceeded to hack the door apart, ripping out the frame and more before tossing it aside. "Not anymore, it isn't!"

As Kagome scowled and growled in her throat, Michiru groaned somewhat. "Uh, that was good work, InuYasha...but don't you think you should've warned us before doing that? Kagome could've been hurt, and -"

"That's what I was about to say!" Kagome declared, staring daggers at InuYasha. "What do you think you were doing?! You couldn't have taken five seconds to warn me before you rammed your sword into the door?!

"So what's the big deal?!" InuYasha hotly demanded. "What, you think I was gonna hit you by mistake?!"

"If I'd moved the wrong way, then yeah, it could happen!" Kagome instantly shot back. "Honestly, try thinking before you go ramming your sword into -!"

"Uh...excuse me?" Michiru broke in, cautiously raising his hand like he was back in class.

As one, Kagome and InuYasha swung their irate gazes at Michiru. "What is it?!"

Jumping back a step at their outraged expressions, Michiru required a moment to recover before speaking. "Well, it's just...with the way you two were carrying out...aren't you worried that the spider will notice all the noise? And that it'll be ready and waiting for us?"

A few seconds passed as the two of them considered this. Right before Kagome turned towards InuYasha and growled, "Hey, that's right! Nice going, InuYaha! Now you've cost us the element of surprise!"

"Hey, wait a minute!" InuYasha shot back. "You were the one yelling! And besides -!"

"Oh, like you weren't?!" Kagome demanded.

"And besides, if this demon has any brains in its head, then it noticed us the instant we arrived in this place!" InuYasha countered. "I've dealt with spider-demons before! They pick up on footsteps, voices, and - huh?!"

Feeling more and more exhausted, Michiru shoved his way past the bickering twosome. "If this thing knows we're coming, then we might as well go ahead," he muttered tiredly. Then he glanced down at Shippo and whispered, "Besides, I think I'd rather fight this spider then have to deal with them arguing..."

"Hey, I heard that!" InuYasha irately declared.

"So did I! And he started it!" Kagome added, jabbing her finger in InuYasha's face.

"I don't care who started it!" Michiru groaned, feeling like this moment he was a legendary camel and Kagome and InuYasha were a pair of straws. "All I know is that this is the last place we need to be arguing! I mean - okay, InuYasha? I can't blame Kagome for being upset. I mean, you really should've warned her or told her to get out of the way or -"

"See? What did I tell you!" Kagome smirked in triumph even as InuYasha glared at Michiru. "If you could actually think -"

"But Kagome, yelling at him didn't help!" Michiru broke in. "Couldn't you have...I don't know! Just asked him to be more careful in the future?"

"Yeah, why not try just asking me to do something instead of ordering me around?!" InuYasha demanded.

"Ha! Like you'd even bother listening!" Kagome snarked back. "Honestly, you're such a -!"

"Ugh! Now it's even worse!" Shippo groaned, massaging his forehead in visible pain. "Honestly, they're both such kids!"

Unable to argue with this, Michiru sighed and turned. Without another word, he started down the steps leading into the lower levels of the temple. Hopefully, once they see me moving, they'll stop arguing and start moving, he thought without much optimism. How have they managed to survive all of this time while carrying on like that...?

Shaking his head at stupidity he thought was confined exclusively to crazy harem anime, Michiru was about halfway down the stairs when he heard frantic footsteps overtaking him. "Hey, where do you think you're going?!"

As InuYasha again glared at him, Kagome nodded and added, "Yeah, you can't go wandering around down here by yourself! You've barely even learned anything about your powers yet!"

"Then can we please find Sachi and the...spider?" Michiru wondered, not the least bit enthusiastic about confronting a giant creepy-crawly. "The sooner we do that, the sooner we can get out of here!"

"Yeah! So stop wasting everybody's time with your fighting!" Shippo seconded, fixing the two of them with an authoritative glare.

A few seconds passed as InuYasha and Kagome looked at the two of them. Then they slowly glanced at each other, then snorted and looked the other way. "Ugh...alright, fine!" the demon growled before starting past Michiru. "Just don't run off on your own again, kid! Got it?!"

"Yeah, this place is dangerous, Michiru!" Kagome seconded as she moved to follow InuYasha.

Before long, Michiru and Shippo were again in the last position. With the Kururugi boy again heaving a deep sigh. "I think I'd rather deal with the spider than them arguing some more..." he muttered. "This must be what it feels like to be a babysitter...except that you don't get paid."

Heaving a knowing sigh, Shippo nodded, "I know exactly how you feel. Honestly, they're both such kids!"

Again wondering how this group had managed to survive this long if they could break out in an argument as easily as this, Michiru sighed once more and continued to follow them downstairs and through the basement of the temple. They continued to fight demons along the way, with InuYasha and Kagome thankfully putting their differences aside once more. Which was fortunate, because it was the demon who did the lion's share of the fighting.

I still wish I knew how I did...whatever it was InuYasha saw me do! Michiru couldn't help but think as they continued through the temple. I mean...these fireballs are better than nothing, but still -!

"Hold it," InuYasha spoke, halting in mid-step. As Michiru and the others also stopped, the demon narrowed his eyes and took a few sniffs of the air. "I smell blood..."

"Blood?" Michiru nervously repeated, not liking the sound of this at all. "Really?"

As Michiru once more wondered what kind of monstrosity they were dealing with, InuYasha nodded. "No doubt about it. Human blood. And the smell is strong."

"Let's be careful, InuYasha," Kagome urged him. "Remember what the villagers told us? About the spider's web?"

"Right. We need to be careful," Michiru nodded. "I've seen bugs get caught in a spider's web, and I don't want to wind up that way!"

"I know. But I didn't come all this way, just to turn tail now!" InuYasha declared, hoisting the Tetusaiga.

"We're not saying that!" Michiru immediately declared. "I'm just...we need to be careful. This is the spider's home, so he has a big advantage here. So..."

Trailing off uncertainly, trying to think how best to put what he was feeling into words, Michiru was brought up short when InuYasha snorted. "Tsk. You want to play it safe? Fine. The three of you, just stay here."

"Huh?!" Shippo started even as Michiru and Kagome reacted in surprise. "Wh-what are you saying, InuYasha?!"

"I don't care how strong you are, you'll get in trouble if you try and do everything by yourself!" Kagome seconded.

"Look, I - I wasn't saying that...I wasn't willing to help," Michiru piped up, feeling like he was responsible. "I just - what I meant was -"

"I know what you meant, kid. But it's better if I handle this, demon to demon," InuYasha stated, his voice not unkind. "You guys stay here. I'll kill this damned bug and be right back."

Without another word, InuYasha started down the hallway with the Tetsusaiga resting on his shoulder. As Michiru again wondered if he was somehow at fault, Shippo huffed in annoyance. "Ugh, he's always plowing on ahead without even thinking this stuff out!"

"There, Shippo," Kagome said in a soothing manner. "I know InuYasha might have sounded tough, but he's really just trying to keep us all safe."

"Then why doesn't he just say so?!" Shippo demanded.

"Oh, you know him," Kagome smiled fondly. "He's just too proud to say things like that."

Privately wondering why Kagome wasn't this understanding when InuYasha was actually close enough to hear her, Michiru just said, "I...see."

Giving a faint chuckle in her throat, Kagome looked like she was about to say something more. But before she could, her eyes went wide with surprise. "Wh-what the -?!" she started, immediately whirling about to look the way InuYasha had gone. "No - it can't be!"

Not liking the way Kagome was acting, Michiru just looked on as Shippo asked, "What is it, Kagome?"

After just staring down the hall for a few seconds, Kagome shook her head. "I - it's not possible," she began, the color draining from her face, "but...I sense it! I sense a shard of the Shikon Jewel!"

Michiru frowned, for these words had no meaning to him. But Shippo's eyes went wide with horror. "What?! But - how come you're only sensing it now?!"

"I don't know! But - I can definitely sense it!" Kagome declared with increased urgency. "There's definitely a Jewel Shard down here! Maybe more than one!"

"Uh...Jewel Shard?" Michiru blankly repeated. Then his eyes went wide with realization. "Wait - you mean that thing you told me about before?!"

"That's right! The Jewel Shards are what we've been looking for!" Kagome tersely explained. "Originally, the Shikon Jewel was one sphere. But - it got broken, and - now it's in all these little shards that are spread all over Japan!"

"And if demons get any of the Shards, they can use them to become more powerful!" Shippo seconded.

Finally understanding their alarm, Michiru breathed, "So...if the spider-demon has these Shards, then -!"

"Then InuYasha's in danger!" Kagome declared, already starting forward. "Let's go, Shippo!"

"Right!" Shippo immediately agreed.

"Uh, sure!" Michiru hesitantly seconded. "Let's -!"

"Michiru, hold on!" Kagome broke in, pausing to look back and hold her hand out towards Michiru. "I think you should wait here!"

"Huh?" Michiru frowned uncertainly. "But - if InuYasha's in trouble, then -!"

"I'm sorry, but you're just too new to this sort of thing!" Kagome declared. "Just stay here, and keep your eyes open for any small demons! We'll be back as soon as possible!"

"Right!" Shippo agreed as Kagome continued her forward charge. "Don't worry, Michiru! We do this sort of thing all the time!"

Groaning in his throat, Michiru tried to think of something to say. But before he could, Shippo bounded after Kagome. And before long, they had disappeared from view.

Leaving the Kururugi boy alone for the first time since InuYasha found him.

I...I can't just stand here and do nothing! Michiru thought, already taking a step forward. But this foot was left to hover in mid-air before uncertainly returning to the floor as he mentally added, But...what can I do to help?

And as he stood there and thought things over, Michiru couldn't help but feel that there really was nothing he could do to assist the others. He hadn't been in this world for even a day, he knew nothing about how anything worked, nor did he have anywhere near the experience he was certain that InuYasha and the others had to have in dealing with menaces such as this.

In addition, the fireballs that were presently the extent of Michiru's arsenal were barely able to destroy even one of the minor demons to be found in this place. And judging by the way Kagome and Shippo were acting, this spider was far removed from those tiny pests.

If only I could use that spell again! Michiru thought, his mind rife with frustration as he culled forth the vague memories he had of his encounter with the cyclops. I - I really appreciate that everybody's worried about me, but right now, all I am is a burden to them all! If only there was some way I could -!

"What the hell is this?!" came InuYasha's roaring voice. So fierce and penetrating that it immediately snapped Michiru from his thoughts.

Though that soon paled in comparison to how Kagome's subsequent shriek of terror sent chills down his spine.

"Wha -?! Kagome?! InuYasha?!" Michiru gasped out, fear clutching at his heart. "I - what's happening?!"

There was no answer to Michiru's question. And so before fear could claim him completely, steal his ability to act, he forced himself to break into a run. Dashing forth as fast as he could down the halls of the old temple, he soon found himself in front of an ornate doorway that was once likely a grand sight. But Michiru wasn't thinking about the decor or how it had fallen prey to the ravages of time and the demons residing there. He wasn't even thinking when he plunged through the door, crying out, "Everyone! Are you alright!? I - gahh!"

The horror that awaited forced Michiru to grind to a halt, for the interior of this chamber was as black and terrible a place as he would ever dare imagine. What once had likely been a majestic prayer chamber had long since been enveloped in huge layers of spider's web or broken down so that rock was exposed. As Michiru looked about, he saw his companions. Each and every one of them was trapped in mid-air, ensnared by even more web. InuYasha's arms and legs were spread out as far as they would go, while Kagome and Shippo were wrapped up in veritable cocoons.

And the creature that was responsible for all of this...

"My, my. So there's one more of you," hissed a foul face that only barely resembled that of a human. But this thing was not even remotely human.

Gasping in horror at the beast before him, Michiru couldn't help but shrink back a step. The thing that could only be the spider-demon that was now the terror of Akebi Village bobbed about with eager hunger as it focused on the Kururugi boy. It stood on eight massive, hairy legs, and had a body of poisonous purple. Huge, yellow horns sprouted from its forehead, and it glared at the boy with cruel, green eyes.

Sucking in a gasp, Michiru felt whatever courage he had abandoning him. Nothing, absolutely nothing, he had seen in this crazy world even came close to comparing to the demonic horror that perched before him. Its slitted eyes studying him like a restaurant patron would survey a gourmet meal.

"Don't you think you should run away?" the spider asked in a coy, cruel fashion. "Or did you come here to offer your blood to me as well?"

Nauseated by the sound of this thing's voice, Michiru was jolted when InuYasha shouted, "Get out of here, you idiot! You don't stand a chance against this thing!"

Jolted by these words, Michiru felt his legs trying to heed them. But then he looked about at his unlikely companions and took in just how helpless they were now. I - I can't run! If I do, that - that...thing will eat them alive! But - what can I -?!

As Michiru's eyes went from InuYasha to Kagome to Shippo and back, a strange sparkle caught his attention. Letting out a surprised gasp, he then focused on the source of the sparkle; a particular piece of rock that was part of the stone ceiling. I...is that...Serpentine Rock?!

In an instant, Michiru found himself flashing back to a short time earlier, when Kakuju had awoken his powers. It's made from what is known as Serpentine, the Kakuju in his mind explained once more, and thus, will react to the power you now wield.

React to...wait! The spell she showed me! Michiru thought, his eyes going wide with fresh hope. The spider's web...it's all connected to that section of rock! So maybe -!

"Aw...are we too afraid to even run?" the spider coyly asked, once again prompting Michiru to look at the eight-legged horror that was even now slowly approaching. "Then I guess I'll drink your blood first...!"

"Dammit, you idiot! Don't just stand there!" InuYasha roared desperately, straining futilely at the web restraints. "Run! Run already!"

"Please!" Kagome pleaded even as she thrashed about desperately. "You have to get out of here!"

"Quick! Run away!" Shippo cried out, so thoroughly bound that he couldn't even more.

But Michiru didn't run. He just stood there, glowering at the monster. Then he swung his gaze at the people that he had known only a brief time, but already evinced greater fear for his life than for their own. And then, finally, he again focused on the Serpentine Rock that hung above him.

Focused on the power he now knew lay within. And the knowledge given to him by Kakuju.

"Oh, flame burning bright!" Michiru began, the words coming freely and of their own accord. A hazy crimson pentagram spinning into existence at his feet. "Change form at my call! Grieving Flame!"

An instant later, a burning lion made up of the very fires Michiru was invoking erupted from the pentagram. The mighty beast gave a powerful roar before transforming into a surge of fire that struck both the Serpentine Rock and the webs.

The result was instantaneous. The rock shattered, exploding into a million pieces. And with it gone, the webs that held InuYasha and the others up in the air lost a critical anchor and the spider's prisoners were sent crashing to the ground.

"Wh-what?!" the spider gasped, skittering back as its web fell apart. Moving as fast as it could to avoid the flames that were ravaging its lair.

"Gah!" InuYasha cried out as he crashed to the ground.

"Ouch!" Kagome yelped as she fell.

"Waugh!" Shippo cried out as his web cocoon hit the floor, bounced, and then bounced about some more. "Hey - what - fire?!"

It was indeed fire. The flames of Michiru's spell had not stopped with destroying the Serpentine Rock. Even as Michiru looked on, tongues of flame ran up and down the many strands of web, devouring them greedily. And since all of the lines of web were interconnected in some way or shape, it wasn't long before they were surrounded by fire. Fire coursing up and down the walls, fire that surged across the floors. And as Michiru looked on, fire that raced about the webs that restrained InuYasha and the others, destroying their bonds.

With clear amazement, Kagome watched as the fires dissolved the webs, but failed to do anything to harm her or her clothes. It wasn't long before she was restored to how she had been before being caught. "What - how?!"

"Michiru freed us!" Shippo grinned happily.

"Yeah!" InuYasha declared as he leaped to his feet and brandished the Tetsusaiga. Glaring pure fury at the spider-demon, the silver-maned demon snarled, "Let's see how tough you are without your sticky crap!"

"Why...damn you!" the spider roared, well and truly infuriated now. Since it was so large and in a confined space, it had not been as fortunate in avoiding the flames Michiru had unleashed. And unlike Michiru's companions, it had also been burned by the spell. Even now, tongues of flame licked at its exoskeleton, devoured the hairs adorning its body. "I'll eat you alive...I drink you all dry!"

"Don't bet on it! Wind Scar!" InuYasha snarled even as he swung his sword. To Michiru's surprise, blades of energy erupted from the swung sword, carving furrows through the air before crashing into the spider. The hideous beast screeched in pain as massive furrows were gouged out of its body.

Even as Michiru was marveling at the power unleashed by the Tetsusaiga, the spider screeched in defiance and leaped up and away from the blast. As the remainder of the blast expended itself against the far wall, the spider was descending upon the small group, its fangs bared...even as it spat forth even more webbing at the group.

InuYasha and the others were quick to dodge. But Michiru hesitated just a moment too long, and his legs were snared.

"Ack!" Michiru cried out even as he fell down to the ground. "Oh, no! I -!"

"Not so fast, creep!" Kagome cried out even as Michiru froze, caught between trying to free himself and the spider. But it turned out that he didn't have to worry; even as he was conjuring another fireball, an arrow found its way into the spider's mouth. And to Michiru's considerable surprise, the horrid beast screeched in pain...right before the arrow exploded out of the other side of its body.

Huh?! But how did -?! Michiru started to ask, only to shake his head as the spider snarled and struck at Kagome with its foremost legs. No! I have to get free first! Then I can help!

With this, Michiru focused the fiery magic he held on the webs. As they started burning away, Shippo was peppering the spider with what looked like firecrackers. But while they kept the hideous beast distracted and confused, they didn't seem to be doing any serious damage.

In fact - is it healing?! Michiru mentally demanded even as he continued to burn away the webs. But even as he did so, he studied the spider and realized that it was already recovering. Before his very eyes, the flesh that had been blasted away was growing back at an astonishing rate. Oh, no -!

"Get on your feet, kid!" came InuYasha's voice. Before Michiru could do more than process his words, he was roughly hauled back up onto his feet, what little remained of the webs tearing away from his legs. "This isn't a time for lying around!"

Glancing between the dog-eared demon and the monstrous spider, Michiru momentarily struggled for words. "I - that thing, it's healing so fast! So -!"

"I know! It's got a Jewel Shard! Found that out the hard way!" InuYasha irately snarled. "Kagome, the Jewel Shard! Where is it?!"

"It's inside the spider! In its stomach!" Kagome tersely reported even as she fired another arrow.

"And there's only one way you'll reach it!" the spider hissed menacingly even as it turned its attention towards Kagome. "Care to see it...firsthand?!"

With, the spider charged at Kagome, spewing webs once again. Crying out in alarm, the modern girl jumped to avoid the strike, but this left her no time to ready another arrow. And the spider was moving very fast.

"No, Kagome!" Michiru cried out, conjuring up another fireball.

"Get away from her!" InuYasha snarled as he raised his massive sword, winds swirling about it.

And as he did so, Michiru was hit with inspiration. Suddenly recalling how his fireball had seemed to make Shippo's foxfire more powerful, he readied to throw his current fireball. And threw it right at InuYasha's sword even as he swung it.

"Hey! What the -?!" InuYasha cried out in surprise as the crimson fireball exploded about the Wind Scar, lacing the blast with a blue radiance. And as Michiru and the demon looked on, the Tetsusaiga's blast exploded in size and power.

But something went horribly wrong.

Before Michiru's eyes, the many bands of the Wind Scar began to waver and distort, careening in multiple directions. "I - oh no!" he cried out in horror. "Everybody, watch out!"

"Wha - ack!" Kagome shrieked even as one surge of power from the Tetsusaiga careened towards her. Her eyes widening in fear, the raven-haired girl flung herself out of the Wind Scar blast's path, just barely avoiding its wrath.

"Ahhhh!" Shippo cried out as he avoided another of the blasts. "InuYasha, what are you -?!"

"Don't look at me!" InuYasha immediately snarled, jabbing a clawed finger at Michiru. "This idiot over here is the one who -!"

"Scrreeeee-yarrrrghhh!" the spider-demon screeched, silencing everyone else. And as Michiru looked towards the monster, he saw that his effort had succeeded to extant. For while his fireball had caused the Wind Scar to go out of control, it had definitely increased its power. Even as several of the streamers of demonic power had spiraled out of control, most of them had found their intended target. And now the spider was being ripped apart, very nearly cut in half from the potent blast.

As the Wind Scar expended itself, however, Michiru noticed the spider's tattered body already beginning to regenerate. "InuYasha -!"

"You don't have to tell me, kid!" InuYasha snarled as he leaped at the broken arachnid. At the apex of his leap, he angled the Tetsusaiga's blade down upon the center of the spider's body. With a hideous shlucking sound and a huge spatter of blood, the crescent blade drilled into the sundered flesh, sending something shiny flying into the air.

Taking note of the object, Michiru studied its arc and starting moving. "I've got it!"

"Wait! No, don't -!" Kagome cried out, but it was already too late. Michiru easily caught the object in his bare hand.

"Hmm," Michiru frowned even as he moved to study the crystal. "This Shard...it feels..."

There was the sound of something falling, prompting Michiru to look up. As he did, he saw what remained of the spider falling to pieces. And that wasn't much; in the brief time he had been distracted, the huge spider-demon's remains had broken down almost into nothingness, evaporating into a putrid cloud that was rising up into the air. Leaving InuYasha to sheathe his sword and scowl as he marched towards Michiru.

"What do you think you're doing?!" InuYasha demanded as he approached Michiru. "That Shard's dangerous! Drop it already!"

Michiru gave a puzzled squawk, but before he could move, Kagome approached him from the side. "That's strange," she mused even as she plucked the Jewel Shard from his hand. "This Shard is - or was - tainted with demonic power! But...well, it doesn't seem to have done anything to you."

"Huh?" Michiru frowned, not liking the sound of this. Recalling the alarm and anger InuYasha had displayed at his touching the Shard, he then wondered, "Wait...are they dangerous? I mean, you let me hold that one before, and -!"

"The Jewel Shard I lent you was purified, Michiru. But this one was rife with demonic energies when it came out of the spider, and tainted Shards are extremely dangerous," Kagome tersely explained. Then she frowned and studied the boy. "But...it doesn't seem to have done anything to you. Are you feeling okay?"

"Huh?" Michiru frowned, pausing to take stock. Tempted to say that nothing had felt okay since he landed there, he instead sighed. "Well...I'm a bit freaked out, but...I don't feel any different. Or - well, I don't feel like I've been poisoned or I'm sick or...or anything else like that."

"Maybe this Shikigami thing of yours protected you from the Jewel Shard," Shippo suggested.

"Possibly. I guess it's the only thing that makes sense," Kagome decided. "But - well, anyway. Thank you so for much for coming to help us. I thought we were done for!"

"And we almost were done for when you screwed up my Wind Scar!" InuYasha declared with a touch of heat.

"InuYasha -!" Shippo swiftly countered even as Kagome scowled at him.

"No, no. Shippo, he's right. I really messed that one up," Michiru quickly conceded. When everyone turned to him, with InuYasha's eyes widening, he went on to explain, "After what happened when our attacks combined before, I thought that maybe I could also boost the Tetsusaiga's power as well. And with the way that spider kept healing from everything you were doing, I thought that...well, that might be our only shot. I didn't know that anything like that would happen." Then he heaved a sigh and bowed in apology. "Still, that's...that's no excuse, and...I'm sorry I put you all in danger."

The others just stood there in silence, with InuYasha looking utterly flabbergasted. But after standing there and staring for a few seconds, blinking in confusion, he gave a loud snort and looked away. "Well, everybody's safe now, so...that's what matters." Then he gave Michiru a sideways glance and added, "At least you're not totally useless."

Unsure of what to say to this, Michiru just stood there, making a strangled sound in his throat. But even as he was trying to figure out what to say, Shippo said, "That's just his way of thanking you. He's like that."

"Aw, shut up, Shippo!" InuYasha growled. "And kid - Michiru - well...just don't do anything stupid like that again, got it?!"

"Don't worry, I won't!" Michiru hastily vowed, holding up his hands before him. "But - I'm definitely going to ask Kakuju about it the next time I see her!"

"Good idea!" Kagome nodded. "But for now - hey, what's that?"

"Huh?" Michiru frowned, watching as Kagome looked off in the distance. Following her gaze, he found his heart falling into his stomach as he caught sight of an artifact of web that had survived the battle. An object that looked nothing more than a large ball of spider's silk. "Uh...what is that? I - spider's don't make cocoons, do they?"

"No, they don't," Kagome informed him with a note of alarm. "But...it could be an egg sack. Which means..."

As Michiru groaned at the thought of who knew how many baby spiders inside that sack, InuYasha grunted in disgust. "What are you two getting so worked up about?! There aren't any spiders in that thing!"

"Huh?!" Shippo started even as InuYasha marched up to the web bundle. "What do you mean?!"

"Just this!" InuYasha declared even as he started hacking the web sack open with his sword. A few seconds passed before the bundle fell apart...allowing the demon to lift a little girl from it. "Hey, there, kid!"

"Wow!" breathed the little girl even as she looked up at the demon. "Are - are you here to save me?"

"Ah...you must be Sachi!" Kagome declared even as Michiru sighed in relief. "And yes, we're here to save you. I - are you alright? You're not hurt, are you?"

Sachi gave a quick shake of her head. "No, not really. But...how did you know my name?"

"Your mom and dad asked us to get you back," Michiru explained.

"Are they gonna be relieved to see you!" Shippo chimed in.

"We're just lucky that that spider hadn't gotten around to eating you yet," InuYasha declared in a course but not unkind manner. "Now c'mon. Let's get out of here before anything else goes wrong!"

Unable to disagree with that, Michiru nodded and followed as InuYasha led the way back up to the surface.

"There you go," Michiru beamed at the little girl as the small group arrived at the entrance to Akebi Village. "Now you be sure to go right back home. We have some other business to take care of, so we'll be right back as soon as that's taken care of, okay?"

"Yes, of course!" Sachi assured him as she smiled broadly. "Again, thanks so much for saving me!"

As Sachi smiled and scampered off, Michiru, Kagome, and Shippo waved. "Now that Sachi's safe, we really need to talk to Grandma Kakuju. And thank her for teaching Michiru about the Shikigami," Kagome declared once Sachi was out of sight. "If it weren't for her doing that, we wouldn't have been able to destroy that giant spider."

"Good idea, Kagome!" Shippo nodded. Then he gave InuYasha a smarmy look and added, "We sure couldn't depend on a certain someone who said he'd take care of it...!"

Stung by this thinly-veiled insult, InuYasha growled in his throat. But before he could say anything, Michiru broke in and said, "C'mon, Shippo. I'm sure that InuYasha could've handled it if it weren't for that Jewel Shard." As the half-demon gave him a look of surprise, he went on to say, "But - yeah, I do want to thank Grandma Kakuju. And ask her about what went wrong before." Pausing to sigh, he then shook his head and muttered, "There's just so much that we don't know about this whole...Shikigami thing. And until we find out..."

"Right. So let's get going," InuYasha declared even as he started forward. Eager to start making sense of everything that had happened thus far...and hide the shame he felt at his earlier folly.

Dammit! How could I have made such a stupid mistake?! the half-demon demanded of himself. I just waltzed right into that thing's web and let it take me by surprise! And that's something that shouldn't have happened, Jewel Shard or no Jewel Shard!

It had been a stupid mistake. An amateur error that would have cost InuYasha and everyone else dearly if they had been dealing with a more formidable enemy like Naraku. And it still might have gotten them all killed if not for Michiru managing to free them all.

One thing's for sure; this kid's got more courage than I thought, InuYasha decided. He might be a bit of a doormat, but he didn't run out on us, even when we told him to. And...well, at least he admitted that he screwed up with that fireball. So having him around might not be so bad after all. Then he scowled, again thinking about how his attempt to combine powers had failed so miserably. As long as he can figure out how to use his powers better, that is!

With that, InuYasha and the others made their way to the small pond where they had last seen the wizened old woman. And even before they reached the pond, the half-demon knew that he would be there; the smell of old age made that clear.

Kinda like Kaede, InuYasha thought, giving a slight snicker. Only for the snicker to fall flat as he glanced at another of his companions. And...

"Ah, back already?" came an aged voice. Startled from the dour turn his thoughts were taking, InuYasha looked up to see Kakuju already looking at them, a wizened smile upon her lips. "And yet you've already experienced so much."

"Boy, I'll say!" Shippo declared with a nod.

"Indeed. In fact, I can already tell that you've learned something about using the power of the Shikigami. How to wield it in battle," Kakuju noted with clear satisfaction. "So...why don't you tell me what happened?"

"Alright," Michiru nodded. And with that, he began telling Kakuju about everything that happened.

As Michiru reached the end of his narrative, he paused to shake his head in shame. "I still don't know why things went wrong when I tried boosting the Wind Scar," he admitted once more. "I was actually hoping that you might be able to explain it to me."

"I see. I have to admit to being surprised that you defeated the spider. And despite your concern, it's obvious that you've gotten much better at using the power of Shikigami," Kakuju declared. "However, I fear that you will have to become much better at it in the near future."

"Yeah, that's obvious!" InuYasha grumbled, not one to tolerate it when someone who knew something he needed to know proceeded to ramble on instead of just spitting it out. "Now what happened when Michiru hit the Wind Scar with that fireball?! Why did it cause it to go crazy?!"

"Because, as I've said, the power of the Shikigami is a universal power. It exists throughout all of nature, and you are all part of nature," Kakuju began in a sage manner. "The Shikigami can do much more than break rocks or project balls of fire. For example, and as you've already gathered, it can be added to the power of other people. As long as they accept that power."

"Accept it?" Michiru wondered with a slight frown. "What do you mean?"

"What I mean is that...do you trust your new companions? Would you trust them not to abandon you or worse, no matter what?" Kakuju wondered in a keen manner. "And what about you? Do you trust this boy?"

Kagome opened her mouth to speak, but InuYasha proceeded to snort and demand, "Hey, we only just met this kid! And what does trust have to do with anything?!"

"InuYasha, don't be so rude!" Kagome growled, giving the half-demon a dirty look before sweetening her demeanor for the others. "I - well, of course we trust Michiru! I mean - you saved our lives!"

"I have no doubt that he did. But as InuYasha already pointed out, Michiru is a relative stranger to you. And trust is something that is something that is not easily given or earned," Kakuju explained. "Which, in the end, is part of the reason why your power went wild when Michiru tried to increase it."

"Part of the reason?" Shippo repeated. "You mean there's something else."

"Indeed. For while you were correct in that the Shikigami have the ability to bolster the powers of others, Michiru...the method you used was crude at best." Then Kakuju gave a canny smile and added, "Which is why I will now teach you the proper means of combining your powers with others, and more."

"Uh - really?!" Michiru started, clearly pleased and surprised.

"Yes. Not only have you proven that you can be trusted to wield such power, but it is clear that you will need to be able to do so in the times to come." With that, Kakuju gestured for Michiru to approach. "Just like before, Michiru. Just take my hand, close your eyes, and relax."

"Okay," Michiru nodded, already heeding Kakuju's words. Soon the modern boy was standing before the ancient woman, her hand upon his. And once more, a crimson pentagram was spinning into existence at their feet.

I wonder if this strange old granny has the same kind of powers Michiru has? InuYasha wondered to himself as a magical haze surrounded Michiru and Kakuju. It didn't take long for him to decide that this had to be the case. It makes sense. It'd be about the only way she'd be able to know so much about it. But if so - then how did she happen to be right here? Right near where Michiru first showed up here? Did she have something to do with -?

"There," Kakuju finally declared. Startled from his thoughts, InuYasha soon realized that the magical haze and pentagram had already faded away. "Now the knowledge of how to use the Shikigami and the spells you can call forth shall awaken in you as you increase your skills and capabilities. Already, you should know how to use a...certain spell."

"Right," Michiru nodded with a more confident smile. Then he turned towards the others and added, "Watch this!" Then he turned towards the pond and began an invocation. "Oh, flame burning bright, turn into a sword of wrath! Raging Flame!"

With these words, a pentagram spun into existence at Michiru's feet, right before a lion of flame exploded forth from it. A lion that shot above the water before lancing down upon it like a searing sword of fire, causing a massive plume of steam to billow up from it.

"Whoa!" InuYasha declared even as the steam washed over them all. "Now that was more like it, granny!"

Chuckling at this, Kakuju again focused on Michiru. "Also, now you should know how to better mingle your energies with those of others in order to increase their powers."

"Hmm...yeah," Michiru shakily nodded. "I mean...I'm still a bit uncertain, but - I think I've got it."

"Good. But just remember, you must build up the bonds of trust between yourself and the others in order to bond your powers with their own. Otherwise, the incident that happened before will be as of nothing compared to the chaos that can result of an improper merging of your powers," Kakuju warned him. "And as you practice and gain more experience, not only will you be better able to use the Shikigami to fight, but you will also learn the many other different powers they have."

"Really?" Michiru smiled hopefully.

"Yes, really," Kakuju nodded. "Now, then. I think you had best be off. There's still much that you must accomplish." When Michiru opened his mouth to speak, the old woman held out her hand to him. "But don't fret; I'm certain we will meet again."

Yeah...I don't doubt it, InuYasha thought, still having his doubts about Kakuju.

As for Michiru, it was clear that he didn't share the half-demon's cautions. But he still hesitated before giving a faint and smile and nodding. "Alright. Thanks, Grandma Kakuju."

"And now that that's settled, let's check in on Sachi and her family," Kagome suggested. "Hopefully, they'll have settled down somewhat."

"Oh, thank you all so much!" Yone openly wept as she cradled Sachi to herself. "Oh, my sweet Sachi...!"

As he cradled both his wife and his daughter to him, Gosuke also looked up at the small group. "Sachi, she...she told us all about how you saved her, and...thank you all so much for...for everything that you've done!"

Feeling a bit embarrassed by both the praise being lavished and the fact that they were present for such a display, Michiru blushed a bit. "Oh, I...well..."

"It's okay. And you shouldn't have any trouble with demons again. At least for a while," Kagome beamed even as she turned towards the demon. "Right, InuYasha?"

Giving a mild snort, InuYasha replied, "Yeah...but only because we have to face the damned spider and temple and all of the rest of it!"

Practically feeling the scowl Kagome was leveling at the demon, Michiru was about to speak when Gosuke spoke instead. "Of course. It must have been terrible!" With that, the villager surrendered his grasp on his family and approached the small group. "Here. I'd like for you to have this," he said, handing them a number of coins. "Please accept it as thanks for saving our daughter."

"Uh...money?" Michiru frowned even as he glanced about at the Gosuke's home. It was a frail-looking place, apparently crafted from whatever materials were just lying around. As bad as Kaede's home had appeared, this place looked even worse. Making it clear that these people did not have much money to begin with. "I don't know...I mean, with everything you people have to live with..."

"Please, take it," Gosuke implored him, holding the coins out even closer to Michiru. "Both as our thanks...and an apology for how we treated you at first."

"We know it's not much," Yone admitted as she continued to hold Sachi. "But...perhaps it will help you as you try and find your way back home."

Again, Michiru opened his mouth to protest. But before he could utter a single word, Kagome said, "I think we should take it. After all, they really are trying to apologize and...well, everything else." Before Michiru could respond to this, she leaned in closer and added, "Besides, we need money as well."

Michiru started to reply, but before he could, Kagome's point struck home. They also needed to buy things such as food and so on, and it was obvious that Kaede and her village simply didn't have the resources to fund their journeys. And given that he and Kagome were from a different time, it was a safe bet that their modern currency wouldn't do them an ounce of good in the Feudal Era.

Still feeling uncomfortable at this, Michiru then heaved a sigh and nodded. "You're right," he hesitantly stated even as he held out his hand. "In that case, I'll accept it. Thank you."

"No," Gosuke tearfully smiled as he handed Michiru the money. "Thank you. All of you!"

"Thank you!" Sachi happily chimed in.

As Michiru took and pocketed the money, wondering what exactly this amounted to in modern times, InuYasha declared, "We need to get moving. We still need to find out how you got here, kid."

"Right. And we don't want to be out on the road at night if we can help it," Kagome added with a nod. "There's still plenty of demons out there."

Groaning at the thought of again tackling that demon-infested path back to Kaede's Village, Michiru sighed. "Okay. I guess you're right." Then he turned towards Gosuke and his family and smiled for their sake. "Take care of yourselves, okay?"

"We will! And please, be safe on your journey!" Gosuke pleaded of them as Michiru and the others departed.

"Be safe, Michiru," Kakuju whispered as she watched through eyes not her own. Seeing but not really seeing through the power of the spirits. Through the power of her own familiars, even as Michiru and his companions started down the path back home. "You...who remind me so much of...him..."

"Ugh...we finally made it...!" Shippo groaned as Kagome and the others reached Kaede's Village. And with the exception of InuYasha, they were all as tired as the little fox was.

"I know how you feel," Kagome nodded as she mopped her sweaty brow. "I thought things were bad before, but with all of these demons running around..." Pausing to heave a tired sigh, she then flashed Michiru a kindly smile. "But...at least it wasn't as bad coming back."

At this, Michiru gave a tiny, shy smile. During their trip back from Akebi Village, he had been quick to put the power of the Shikigami to good use, bringing down more than his fair share demons. With all of the demonstrations of Michiru's Raging Flame spell, Kagome didn't doubt for a moment that the path to and from Akebi Village would reek of roasted demons for days.

"I'm just glad I was actually able to help this time," Michiru said with a slight shrug. "And...I have to admit, it's nice not feeling as...well - helpless in this world."

"Hmph. I know what you mean!" InuYasha gruffly declared as he continued forward. "Now let's get back to Kaede's and have something to eat! I'm starving!"

"I'm pretty hungry, too," Michiru admitted with a sheepish expression.

"So am I," Kagome added. "But first thing's first. Kaede's bound to be worried about us. First, we tell her what happened, and then we eat!"

Giving an impatient snort, InuYasha replied, "Then let's hurry back and tell her already!"

With this, the irate half-demon started moving even faster. Leaving Kagome to roll her eyes and shake her head. Honestly, when is he ever gonna grow up...?

Pausing to picture InuYasha in some kind of obedience school and tittering at the image of the trainers of said school struggling to keep him under control with a dog collar and leash, Kagome moved to follow. Michiru and Shippo weren't far behind, and it wasn't long before they arrived at Kaede's house. The instant they reached the door, Kagome pulled aside the simple beaded curtain that served as a door. "We're back, Kaede!"

"Oh. And welcome back, all of you!" Kaede replied, smiling good-naturedly as she turned to greet them. The aged priestess was tending to a pot of some form of stew. "So, did you find any clues as to how Michiru arrived here?"

At these words, Michiru sighed and shook his head. "No...we didn't find anything."

"But we learned about Michiru's power!" Shippo chimed in as he entered as well. "It's something called Shikigami!"

"Shikigami, you say?" Kaede repeated, raising an eyebrow at this. "They are spirits that are typically summoned by practitioners of Onmyōdō. Though some priests and priestesses are capable of creating them. Tell me more about what happened."

Without hesitation, Kagome and the others related to Kaede everything that had happened since their departure. They told about their encounter with Kakuju, the awakening of Michiru's powers, and the battle with the spider. "And it was just when InuYasha was about to be killed that Michiru saved him with the Shikigami power!" Shippo concluded. "And it's a good thing, too! Because you know how we can't ever depend on - ouch!"

"Shut it, Shippo!" InuYasha growled, driving his fist down into the little fox's skull.

"Why, you -!" Kagome started, instantly outraged at the half-demon's foul temper and predisposition to beating up on those that couldn't fight back. "InuYasha, sit!"

With a sense of satisfaction, Kagome watched as the rude and insufferable half-demon was sent crashing down to the ground. "Kagome, you didn't have to - here!" A bit surprised, she then watched as he bent down to help InuYasha. "Here. Let me help you up."

"I -!" InuYasha immediately growled, only to stop when Michiru slipped his hand beneath his shoulder and started helping him back up to his feet. "Now hold on, I -!"

"Now, Kagome, I know InuYasha shouldn't have hit Shippo, but don't you think that was...excessive?" Michiru wondered as the half-demon recovered. "I mean, can't you just ask him to -?"

"Hey, if you'd been hanging around this idiot as long as I have, then you'd know that this is the only thing that he listens to!" Kagome declared, folding her arms across her chest.

"That's right!" Shippo chimed in. "Just wait until you've had to put up with that bonehead for a few days! Then you'll see! That idiot is always picking on me!"

Looking somewhat discomforted, Michiru looked like he was about to say something more. But before anything else could be said, Kaede cleared her throat. "Well, whatever the case, Michiru, it would seem that if it weren't for you, then InuYasha and the others would be standing here before me. So...thank you for that."

Blinking a few times at this, Michiru sighed and shook his head. "No...to be honest, all I was really able to do was free everyone. And I wound up causing them a lot of trouble when I messed up trying to help InuYasha." As InuYasha gave him a look of surprise, Michiru sighed once more. "I have so much more to learn about this whole...Shikigami thing, or I'll just slow everyone here down."

"Even if it takes time, please don't push yourself too hard in trying to master your abilities. Or you'll ultimately do yourself and others more harm than good. Be patient," Kaede pleaded of him. "And now that that's settled, I think now would be a good time to relax and have something to eat."

"Hmph. Best idea I've heard all day!" InuYasha declared with a snort.

The rest of the day passed slowly with Michiru and the others eating a filling meal of stew and some odds and ends Kagome had brought from their native time. It wasn't long afterward that the sun descended beneath the horizon, shrouding the land in darkness. But it was a darkness far more complete than anything he was accustomed to.

No streetlights, no bedroom lights, no passing cars or bikes...nothing! Michiru thought as he sat outside of Kaede's small home. Glancing back at where the others except for InuYasha now slept, the demon having taken to some nearby trees to rest, the modern boy sighed and looked up at the sky. Well, except for the stars. And...my own light...

Glancing down at the small fireball he had conjured to help illuminate his first night in the Feudal Era, Michiru paused to study the sky. He just sat there for a long while, looking at the stars and a skyline so different from what he was used to.

Right until a voice asked, "Can't sleep, huh?"

"Huh?!" Michiru started, looking about for the speaker. Only to settle down somewhat when he saw that it was Kagome. "Uh...oh...yeah. I...guess it's...it's pretty obvious, huh?"

Nodding to this, Kagome moved to sit next to Michiru. "I was the same way when I first came here. I honestly thought that...I was trapped here forever! Everything was so...so different! No phones, no hot water, no lights or TV or anything!" Then she smiled thoughtfully and added, "But...it's not all bad here! The air is fresh, the water's clean, the skies are clear...it can be really beautiful here!"

"It's sure easier to see the stars," Michiru conceded as he continued to scan the skies above. "Even when we went camping, there were never so many stars in the sky."

"I know. It took a while to get used to that. Or how dark it could get at night." Then Kagome frowned somewhat and looked worriedly at the boy. "Michiru, you really should go to bed. I know it can't be easy for you, with everything that's happening, but...you have to get some sleep! You've already been through so much today, and if we're going to find out what brought you here, then you really need your rest."

"I know, I know. And there's still so much that I have to learn about this Shikigami stuff," Michiru agreed, still cradling the orb of light close. "I just...I can't stop thinking about everything that's happened. Every time I lied down and closed my eyes...it was like everything that's been going on, it just -"

"- kept bouncing around in your head and wouldn't stop?" Starting at the way Kagome said these words, Michiru looked about. And saw her giving him a sad smile. "Yeah. I went through that as well." She seemed to consider what she should say next, but then shook her head. "I...alright. Just don't stay up too late, okay?"

"Okay," Michiru nodded. "And...thanks, Kagome."

"No problem," Kagome nodded in response. And without another word, she made her way back to Kaede's house.

As for Michiru, he returned his gaze to the stars as he continued to sit there. Still studying the stars even as he wrestled with the chaos flooding his mind. I have no idea what's going to happen next. I'm trapped in the past that's crawling with demons and who-knows-what, I suddenly have powers that I don't even understand, and I have no idea how I can get back home, Michiru thought, summing up his woes as best as he could. But then he glanced back at the small house and added, But...at least I'm not alone. So...maybe I can get through this...

Then Michiru thought about the madness of that day and sighed. At least...I hope I can...

Author's Notes: Ugh, it has been a long and painful time since I've been able to update any of my works. I made the mistake of trying to take four classes in one semester in college, and needless to say, that is something I will not be doing again! But even so, I hope that you enjoyed this latest chapter! So please, read and review! And maybe check out my other stories?

Uruz 11, yeah, Michiru's having a rough time of things. Still, I had planned on adding some angst, simply because...well, that's what someone would go through in that sort of situation. Indeed, it's just way too easy for a fight to start between InuYasha and Kagome. As for Shippo, I think he intentionally sets off InuYasha, simply because he knows that Kagome will immediately sit him. Indeed, InuYasha has so much pride and so little faith in...well, much of anyone. So it's no surprise that he refused Michiru's help. But don't worry, the half-demon will learn to trust Michiru over time. I do agree that InuYasha, while crude, does have the best of intentions. And, ugh, all of those enemy encounters in the game...you just know that this will be agony for Michiru and the others. I still remember tearing my hair out over having to deal with them all! Ugh! Yes, meeting with Kakuju was a stroke of luck. I'm going to be exploring the fact that she was so nearby when he arrived later on in the story. Yeah, I'm still struggling to get my life back in order. And I get the feeling that things are going to be a struggle for everyone for the next four years *cough* Donald Trump *cough*. And I'm presently working on updates for all of my stories, including "Battle Across Time". And I'm going to be giving Sango a bit of spotlight in the next chapter, so look forward to that!

J4RRE77, wrong story. It's in Battle Across Time where Kagome's being a complete jerk. And I'm not planning on messing that up, so don't worry.

Greymon Leader Batx flashpoint, well, it seemed fitting to include some angst and so on. It's not something that people went into in regards to the game. I would've expected Michiru to be more upset about being trapped in the past. But then again, they didn't do a lot of angst with Kagome when she first landed in the past, either. So...yeah. And Michiru won't be figuring out all of the Shikigami animals. Not in this story, anyway. I will be developing Michiru and InuYasha's friendship, though it will take time for it to flourish. I'm just glad to finally be getting productive again. Being an emotional wreck sorta kills one's literary juices.

Fenikkusumaru 2.0, sorry, life has not been good to me. But hopefully, this is a good omen of things to come. Fingers crossed here.