Kurama held a handkerchief to his nose, blocking out the pollution that was clogging the air. The memories of the garden from earlier that day were dim in his mind now that he was submerged in so much smog and toxic fumes.
"It's so hot I can feel my brain frying inside my skull," Yusuke complained as he wiped the back of his shirtsleeve to his forehead. The action only served as a temporary solution to keep the sweat out of his eyes.
"We're almost there," Kagome assured him as she read a map she had purchased from a street vendor a half-hour before. She had tried to use a computer tablet, but couldn't pick up any Internet.
"Are you certain that's accurate?" Kurama asked glancing down at the map in Kagome's hands skeptically. It didn't seem to be the most detailed of maps. Kagome closed the map up; following the proper lines to do so, then handed it to Kurama but didn't answer.
"Do you think that means no?" Yusuke whispered to Kurama as they watched the young woman walk away from them. Kurama shoved the letter towards Yusuke and hurried to catch up with Kagome.
She reached into the burlap messenger bag she had strapped over her shoulder and pulled out a pair of sunglasses. She turned to him and slipped on the sunglasses obscuring her blue eyes. "We're going to the temple at the top of that," she said pointing directly ahead.
One of the biggest structures Kurama had ever seen loomed before him. "Doesn't that seem out of place here?" Kurama asked, impressed by the sheer size of the structure.
"Well Mexico City is built upon the ruins of the Aztec empire. And it's only been about 600 years since Cortez came," Kagome explained.
"So what exactly did the clue tell you that led you to come here?"Kurama asked. He would have liked to have seen the clue himself. He trusted that Kagome was an intelligent woman, but he didn't trust anyone's mind as much as his own.
Kagome grinned at him as she took his wrist and began to hurry towards the pyramid. "It said, don't drink the water for his revenge will find you."
"Moctezuma's revenge…," Kurama said with a groan.
The next riddle read something about llamas and the people of the clouds, the Chachapoyan. "We have to go to Peru now?" Yusuke groaned. "We just got here though!"
Kurama glanced at his old friend coldly. "You're the pilot. You're paid to fly, not to complain."
"Way to show the love," Yusuke grumbled as he crawled into his pilot's seat. He turned to look back at his passengers. "I know that it's like eight hours earlier here than it was in Turkey, but we are going to have to sleep eventually you know."
"Sure," Kagome agreed. She met Kurama's questioning gaze. "We'll rest after we find Sir Slate's kids and solve all these riddles." Yusuke cursed under his breath as he started up the plane and took off. Kagome continued to stare at Kurama.
"What?" He finally questioned.
"Those two people from before…" Kagome began. Kurama quirked an eyebrow, silently urging her to continue. "They are friends of yours?"
'Now she's prying. If you had just kissed her senseless she wouldn't be so nosy now. But no! You had to sit back and let her think about things, didn't you? Now we have to answer her.'
'Shutup Youko. I knew your silence was too good to be true.'
"They were both once friends of both mine and Yusuke's. We all worked together when we were in high school," Kurama explained. He wasn't the only one that needed to share some back story. "When were you going to bring up the fact that you're a priestess?"
Kagome's cheeks flushed at the question and she began to fidget. "Oh, well there just didn't seem to be a proper moment to bring it up is all," she said shrugging her shoulders and avoiding his eyes.
"I see," Kurama answered.
'Ask her how it is that she was able to find the clues so easily,' Youko demanded.
'I'll ask my own questions, thanks.'
"How is it that you were able to find the last couple of clues so easily?" Kurama asked his research partner. "Were you tracking the spirit energy trails?"
Kagome blinked in surprise at the accuracy of his questions and thoughts. "Were you able to feel the energy too?"
Kurama crossed his arms and lounged back as far as his safety belts would allow. "You want to tell me how you learned to master your priestess skills? I was under the impression that the actual harnessing of the spiritual powers was no longer practiced."
"Oh, well," Kagome trailed off. She was trying to think of the best lie to tell him without revealing her secret life.
"And I'll know if you're lying," Kurama warned, as if reading her thoughts.
"Very well, but you're going to think I'm insane." Kagome took a deep breath as she tried to collect her thoughts. "When I was a freshman in high school, on my fifteenth birthday I fell down the well behind our house. My family lived in a shrine. And actually I didn't fall down the well, I was pulled into it by this centipede demon."
"Don't stop now," Kurama encouraged.
"It seems that I was the reincarnation of a priestess from 550 years ago and when she died, she was buried with the Shikon no Tama. The jewel was born inside my body and that's why the centipede demon attacked me. She wanted the jewel," Kagome stopped when she noticed the golden glint in Kurama's emerald eyes at the mention of the jewel. "Have you heard of it?"
"What demon hasn't heard of the Shikon no Tama?" Kurama asked. Youko had always wanted to find the jewel just for the challenge of it, but it no longer existed during his time. Hard to find something that didn't exist. However, he'd never considered time travel in his schemes. Kurama narrowed his eyes at her. "Don't pretend that you didn't already know I was a demon either."
"You don't seem like a demon….exactly." She cleared her throat. "So, basically I met a hanyou and he saved me from the demon and the Shikon no Tama was shattered and we began to collect the pieces. Eventually we had a group of friends that searched for the pieces and fought against a powerful demon that maliciously killed many people."
"Naraku?" Kurama guessed.
"Yes, his name was Naraku," Kagome agreed. "Who are you exactly?"
'Oh let me tell her!'
"Once I was Youko Kurama, a demon that lived about three hundred years ago." Kurama pondered how he should explain his situation as an avatar. "Unlike you I was not reborn as a reincarnation. I am more…a merge of two souls in one body."
"Sounds crowded," Kagome said looking at him critically. She seemed to be trying to assess the purity or impurity of his spirit.
'You have no idea.' '
"Did you say something?" Kagome asked, thinking she heard Kurama mutter the words, 'You have no idea.'
"No, nothing. I didn't say anything."
"So, any particular reason why your old co-workers were trying to kill us back in Spain?" Kagome questioned after a few more minutes lapsed by. She glanced out the window of the plane, seeing the landscape flash by. It wouldn't take but perhaps half an hour to get from Mexico City to the capital of the Inca world.
"They weren't trying to kill us," Kurama assured her.
"How do you figure that?"
"If Hiei really wanted to kill us he would have released his dark dragon. I'm not sure if I could defeat that if he unleashed its power against us," Kurama confessed. Nor would he want to face Hiei in a duel to the death. He didn't have the heart to kill one of his best friends, even if they had a falling out.
"That's comforting." Kagome mumbled.
There were two old friends, youkai from who met during the Feudal Era, that enjoyed gambling. One had managed to coerce Prince Koenma to loan him two of his best Spirit Detectives. The other had manipulated the two people in question for years by granting them opportunities in the archeological world. The one masquerading as Sir Slade wanted Kagome and Kurama to work together in an intellectual treasure hunt. The other wanted to impede their mission.
"Yo! How long is it going to take them to get here?"
"I gave them a one week time limit," was the answer from the one masquerading as Sir Slate.
"What? A week!"
"Ah come on, sit back and enjoy the show my friend."
"Doesn't look like I have much choice, does it?"
"Not any choice at all. At least there aren't any actual children who's lives are in jeopardy."
The one that had defeated Koenma in a gamble laughed. "That was a nice touch. Nothing like desperation to make a team act cohesively!"
"Why are we going to Peru?" Botan called from over her shoulder.
Hiei merely glared at her, refusing to answer. He was annoyed that an entire week of his life would be wasted on some stupid scavenger hunt. Or rather, in this case, he was on an anti-scavenger hunt.
"Fine, don't answer," Botan blew her blue bangs out of her eyes and petted the neck of the donkey she was riding. She wanted to try riding a llama, but apparently they don't really bear the weight of people too well. They were more useful in hauling supplies. If she rode the llama in her spirit form then she would have spooked the poor simple creature.
The fresh mountain air was a relief in comparison to the polluted and congested atmosphere of Mexico City. The air was cool from the coast, with the fresh salty breeze from the Pacific. They had, thankfully, already passed through some of the thick portions of rain forest.
Hiei had used his ability to manipulate both fire and ice to kill all mosquitoes and other insects that had tried to bother them. She was grateful for his actions on that part of their quest so she wouldn't press him too much about participating in conversation with her.
"The Incas were rather interesting people," Botan began. "When someone of royalty died, they didn't bury them and forget about them. They would dress them in fine clothing and have them served by the most competent and pleasing servants. They would carry them around to festivities."
Try as he might to steadfastly remain silent, Hiei had to say something about this. "They carried around their dead ancestors?"
"Yes, and their bodies were remarkably well-preserved."
"I'd hope so." Hiei shuddered at the thought. He then gave Botan a cold glare. "Don't think that I'm carrying around your lifeless body should you die."
"What's a quipi?" Yusuke asked, looking at the intricately braided and knotted wire necklace type thing in his hands.
"Don't touch that!" Kagome snapped, carefully removing the artifact and placing it back in the airtight box it had been stored in for nearly 500 years. "It's like a journal and a map combined. It tells the date and location of something."
"So this Naymlap, was he a real person or just some god to these cloud people?" Kurama asked from his location on the other side of the burial chamber. He lifted up a small figure of an ebony panther before setting it back in its place gently.
Kagome shrugged. "I honestly don't know. The studies of ancient America was never my focus in school."
"Nor were they mine." Kurama walked back over to Kagome's side to look down at what she held. "So have you figured out how to open it yet?"
The woman grunted but didn't answer as she continued to try and twist and pull the odd object in various directions.
'You should just take it from her. I'll figure it out. I can open it. Of those present, who's the master thief?'
"Do you mind if I were to try to open it?" Kurama asked politely, trying to ignore Youko's persistent boasts about being able to open the puzzle quickly.
Kagome didn't protest and handed the puzzle box to Kurama.
He examined the small jade puzzle. It looked fairly simple. It reminded him a bit of a Rubric's cube. He ran his nails along the smooth surface, hoping to find some sort of catch. It was very minuscule, but he discovered the locking mechanism and opened the box.
Kagome and Yusuke both peered down with him at the contents of the box. Within was a copy of a book. "Is this a joke?" Yusuke asked as he pulled the hardback book out of the box.
"No, it's a scavenger hunt," Kagome corrected.
"The story of Gilgamesh," Kurama announced. He met Kagome's gaze. "Have you read the tale? I'm afraid that I have not."
Kagome shook her head. "No, but I know the gist of it. And I know it takes place in ancient Sumeria or in modern day Iraq."
Yusuke groaned. "But we just came from Turkey!"
Kurama laid his hand on Yusuke's shoulder in an attempt to comfort his exhausted friend. "Then you should know the way well."
"Okay, seriously, it's been four days. I have to sleep," Yusuke said with a big yawn.
"I can fly the plane while you sleep," Kurama said. "Once you set course and put it on autopilot I will monitor the ship's activities," he said. "Just give me the basics."
"You want me to give you the basics and you'll fly the plane?" Yusuke asked. "Are you nuts? No, thanks, I don't plan to die again any time soon." He looked between the two of them. "I need a five hour nap. Then we'll leave. No arguments."
"I think if you could teach Kurama the basics and then place the plane in autopilot we could be more efficient, especially with your friends chasing after us," Kagome said sweetly.
Yusuke groaned and clutched his head in his hands. "Fine!"