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

Chapter 12: Looking to the North

Some time later, InuYasha and the others had returned to Kasasagi Town. As they made their way through the village, Kaname came to a stop, a strange expression on her face. "Ouch!" she finally yelped before slapping herself in the face. Then, as she brought her hand away from her cheek, she looked at it and stared.

"Kaname? What is it?" Kagome wondered as she turned to look at the befuddled Shikigami User.

"Oh, what delicious blood," came an elderly voice that seemed to be emminating from Kaname's hand. "This must be heaven…"

"I know that voice," InuYasha grumbled irritably before turning towards Kaname.

"Um, what is this?" Kaname stammered, more confused than anything else by the tiny burden in her hand. As the rest of them got closer so they could see what was in Kaname's hand, they were already mostly certain as to the identity of the owner of the voice.

"Well, well," InuYasha muttered crossly as he looked at the tiny flea-demon Kaname held. "If it isn't Myoga. Just when did you show up?"

Leaping up at the sound of InuYasha's voice, Myoga again landed on Kaname's hand, and turned towards the son of his former lord. "Greetings, Master InuYasha. It's been some time."

"Huh?" Kaname gaped uncertainly. "InuYasha…do you know this tiny person?"

"Sometimes, I wish I didn't," InuYasha snorted.

"Master InuYasha! How can you say such a thing?" Myoga sputtered unhappily, leaping up and down on Kaname's hand.

"This is Myoga. He's a flea-demon, and he's sort of like InuYasha's retainer," Kagome explained.

"Oh, I see," Kaname replied before returning her attention to Myoga. "I never dreamed that there could be demons this small…"

"Demons come in all sizes, sis," Michiru commented as he got closer. "Hello, Myoga!"

Starting at the Shikigami User's voice, Myoga jumped and looked turned to look at him "Oh, my word! Michiru Kururugi, is that really you? How in heaven's name did you ever manage to return?"

"That's a long story," Michiru stated smilingly. "Listen, we're heading towards the headman's house. Maybe later we can get caught up."

"That's sounds reasonable," Myoga agreed. "By the way, did you just call this girl your sister?"

"Right. Kaname's my twin sister," Michiru responded easily. "As I said, it's a long story."

"So I gather," Myoga gasped. "I'm looking forward to hearing it."

It wasn't long after that the group was at the headman's house, reporting on what had happened during the battle. The headman was gratified to hear the good news, and was glad to give them the money for their efforts. The only sour note to the ordeal were the numerous human skeletons that the group reported, something the headman had anticipated, but was still saddened by.

"Still, there was nothing you could have done," the headman told them, "and we are ever so grateful that you killed those demons before they caused any further deaths! Please, stay here at my home tonight, and recover from your battle!"

"Well…" Michiru thought, uncertain what to say. True, it was getting late in the day, and traveling at night was by and large a bad idea. However…

"Thank you. We'd deeply appreaciate it," Miroku smiled, taking the headman's hand in his own before anybody could say anything in protest.

"Excellent! Then it's settled!" the headman grinned.

They settled down for an early dinner, during which they told Myoga of everything that had been happening as of late. "That's quite an amazing story," Myoga noted thoughtfully as he sipped his tea. "Aid from a lord from Lady Kagome's world, Michiru's return…it would seem that quite a bit has happened in my absence. By the way, it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Kaname."

"Thank you, Grandpa Myoga," Kaname smiled, looking quite relaxed in this peaceful setting.

"In any case, Master InuYasha, I've come bringing news," Myoga told them. "I've recently learned of a strong, ominous demon power coming from the mountains in the north. Though I wasn't able to get many details, sickness and death have become commonplace in several human villages in the area, and demons have been incited into all sorts of violent behavior beyond their normal aggressiveness."

"So you think maybe Naraku is behind it?" InuYasha questioned, looking interested in what the old flea had to say at last.

"At the very least, it is a possibility," Myoga told them. "After all, there aren't many demons who can give forth such an ominous power. It certainly seems worth investigating."

"Agreed. In any case, we haven't found any other leads, so we might as well," Miroku decided, this idea being readily agreed on by the rest of them.

"However, if I may be so bold, I suggest we make a stop at Kaede's village," Myoga told them. "It might be best to send most of Michiru's pendants back to the other world."

"Huh? Why?" Michiru gaped, surprised at this notion.

"The pendants are a remarkable achievement, there can be no argument against that," Myoga admitted. "However, your design does have a flaw, for while the pendants enable you and your sister to traverse between the two worlds, they could grant that power to others, including those who should not be allowed such power."

"Oh, no…!" Michiru gaped in horror. "I was in such a hurry to make them, I never warded them against use by demons!"

"Indeed, and if they were to fall into the wrong hands, the results could be disastrous," Myoga intoned sagely.

As for Michiru, he just felt like kicking himself straight to the moon. "Oh, how many mistakes can a person make in one lifetime?" he groaned despondently. All he could do at that point was picture hordes of demons, all wearing pendants as Naraku sent them to invade his home beyond the Well, and feel like the most thoroughly complete idiot the world had ever seen.

"Hey, it's no big deal! We still have all of the pendants, right?" InuYasha growled. "So all we have to do is send most of them back, and put wards on the two for Michiru and Kaname!"

"Maybe Kaede will have something that would work," Kagome suggested hopefully.

"I sure hope so," Michiru said, still feeling like a colossal fool for such a blatant oversight.

"Also, there is one other matter that I believe we should discuss." Miroku intoned sagely. As all eyes were drawn to him, the monk looked at the Kururugi twins. "You see, something's been bothering for some time now. Since Naraku announced his return to the living world."

"What do you mean?" Sango frowned, scrutinizing the monk.

"I think it's safe to say that Naraku was intent on claiming the Sacred Jewel Shards we had gathered when he sent Kanna to ambush us at the village," Miroku spoke thoughtfully. "But when we discovered her…why did he suddenly reveal himself like that? Why did he show himself, and then have Kagura attack the village in order to cover his retreat?"

"Because he's a total bastard who gets off on making people suffer all for his enjoyment?" InuYasha grumbled impatiently. "C'mon, Miroku! Naraku's pure evil! Since when does he need a reason to be that way?"

"Naraku is evil, InuYasha. But he never does anything without a clear objective," Miroku commented.

Nodding slightly, Shippo looked about at the others and said, "I think Miroku's got a point! I mean, why would Naraku show himself like that? It doesn't make any sense!"

"Maybe he was after Kohaku," Michiru gently suggested. Wincing at the pain this sparked in Sango's eyes. "I mean…he's used him against us before. So…"

"That's likely part of the reason, yes," Miroku conceded. "But I doubt that was his entire objective."

"Then what? What could he possibly been after?" Kagome asked, holding up her hands in confusion.

Frowning intently, Miroku scanned his companions. "I suspect that Naraku's primary objective wasn't the Sacred Jewel Shards at all. Instead, I think he was after something else entirely. Something that only we could get him." Then he narrowed his eyes at the Kururugi twins. "I think he wanted you, Michiru."

Of all the things, Michiru could have expected Miroku to say, this had not even come close to being one of them. "Huh?" he sputtered, pointing at himself. "You think…he wanted me?"

"Yes. Or rather, he wants the power of your Shikigami," Miroku explained in his usual sage manner. "Remember, when we confronted Naraku when he was wielding Utsugi's powers, he very nearly defeated us. If Utsugi hadn't destroyed Naraku's barrier stone, we never would have survived that battle. And even then, it took everything we had in order to defeat him." Then the monk focused on Michiru, his manner gravely serious. "However, with Utsugi dead, there's only one Shikigami User who wields the same kind of power he had that Naraku knows of. Namely, you, Michiru."

Frowning in consideration, Kagome decided, "Well, okay, that part makes sense. And I can see how Naraku would want to get his hands on Michiru's Shikigami…"

"Right," Sango concurred. "And Kohaku…he knew about Kaname, and that she has those same powers. So that means that Naraku…he knows of them as well!"

Discomforted by the idea that the Kururugi twins might very well be targets for Naraku, InuYasha looked over at them before countering, "But that doesn't make any sense! How the hell does leaving us alive get him Michiru and Kaname?"

"Because if Naraku was somehow aware of what Kohaku saw and heard while he was with us, then he had to know that Michiru was working on a way to return to this world," Miroku replied in a firm, wary tone. "Now, it could be that Naraku came after us that way and took Kohaku back because he wanted to hurt us. To make us feel vulnerable. Desperate." Again, the monk focused on the twins, his gaze discomforting for them both. "Desperate enough to do everything we could to bring back one of our more powerful allies. And to make it possible for Naraku to claim him…and his power."

A dangerous silence fell on them all as they considered this dread possibility. "So…then what do we do?" Michiru finally asked. "You're not saying that…Kaname I should just head back and forget all of this, are you?"

Snorting nastily, InuYasha growled, "Heh! That sure would be convenient, wouldn't it?"

"I'm not suggesting anything of the sort," Miroku grumbled while Kagome shot the half-demon a nasty look. "The fact is that we may need their powers more now than ever. Especially if Naraku has some plan in store for their return." Closing his eyes and taking on a look of sage wisdom, he concluded, "I just believe that it would be best if we didn't publicize the twins' presence or their powers. Also, I think we should be on the alert for any attempt Naraku might make to separate them from us. Just in case."

"Right. Good idea," Kagome agreed before giving a sour look at InuYasha. "Wouldn't you say so?"

"Grr…well…" InuYasha growled, looking away from Kagome. "I…guess it makes sense."

"Okay," Michiru decided, seeing no fault in the monk's logic. "We'll be careful then. Right, Kaname?"

"You got it, bro," Kaname replied, though it was clear that she was bit unnerved by this possibility. Something which no one could blame her for.

"Yeah, well, whatever Naraku's got planned, there's no way I'm gonna let him get away with it!" InuYasha stated firmly.

"Right," Sango nodded. Then she looked about at the others and said, "In the meantime, I suggest we all get some sleep. We've got a big day ahead of, and we're gonna need our rest."

"Okay," Michiru agreed, and with that, they went to bed. Thinking of everything that needed to be done as they drifted off to sleep.

The sun rose early the next day, and it soon saw them traveling north. Their first stop was Kaede's village, where Kagome took back the majority of the pendants, leaving only two, which Michiru and Kaname took to Kaede for her aid in shielding them from the demon hands. It took the better part of the day, but soon sacred beads, especially enchanted to keep any and all demons at bay, replaced the simple threads Michiru had used.

As for Kagome, she delivered the various samples she and the others had gathered, as well as the various recordings they had made, and had them sent to Wyvern, who had already sent more food and medicine for their use. All in all, it was a busy day for them all, capped by Kagome and the Kururugi twins studying by themselves that evening.

Later that night, as Michiru lay in his cot in Kaede's house, he found himself restless. He knew he should be sleeping, but instead found himself filled with anticipation, wondering if Naraku really was behind what was happening in the north, or if it was something else. He wondered if Miroku was right, that the malevolent demon had hoped that he would return, all so that he could claim the powers of nature within him. He also found himself once again wondering if he was strong enough, if the power he had cultivated would be enough to help his friends, or if he would just be a burden.

I've been through this before, Michiru realized, thinking of the first time he had journeyed with InuYasha, Sango, and the others. But I know I'm stronger now. I know that…so why am I'm so worried?

Sighing, Michiru realized that he would not be sleeping easily that night. Instead, moving carefully so he didn't disturb Kaede, Kagome, or Kaname, Michiru crept outside and surveyed the village. I fought so hard to be here again, with Sango, InuYasha, to fight with them again…I guess I'm still scared of letting my friends down.

Sighing, Michiru made his way through the village, looking at the various houses, and finally made his way up the stairs that led to the memorial for Kikyo, Kagome's previous incarnation. As he looked at the memorial, he thought of the undead priestess who had saved his life, yet another victim of Naraku's deep evil. So many people have died because of Naraku…we have to stop him, no matter what!

"You really should be asleep, you know," came a voice from the dark. Looking about quickly, Michiru sighted InuYasha sitting on one of the tree branchs. "You may have all those Shikigami powers, but you're still human."

"Well, you may be a demon, InuYasha, but I know you need to sleep sooner or later," Michiru countered in good humor.

InuYasha contented himself to snort in response. There was silence between the two of them before InuYasha spoke again. "I really I thought we'd killed Naraku, you know," InuYasha stated, with neither anger nor sadness in his voice. "When we hit him with that blast…your Shikigami, Kagome's arrow, and the Tetsusaiga, he just started falling apart. Then…"

"I know," Michiru replied, recalling how InuYasha how cut Naraku in half, the evil demon appearing to disintegrate right before their very eyes. "I was sure he was dead, too."

"I won't stop, Michiru," InuYasha spoke softly, so gently that it almost seemed impossible that he was the one speaking. "I'm gonna kill Naraku. I have to."

"I understand," Michiru answered, knowing all too well the pain and necessity that motivated InuYasha, as well as the others. "And I'm gonna help. We all are."

"Yeah," InuYasha responded. "Yeah, I know."

After awhile, InuYasha dropped down from his perch to land neatly on his feet. "You better get back to sleep already," he snorted as he moved past Michiru. "You're not gonna be able to help anyone if you can't stay awake when we need you."

As the true meaning behind InuYasha's words made itself known, Michiru smiled. "Right. Thanks, InuYasha. You, too."

A slight smile appeared on InuYasha's lips just before the half-demon turned to leave. But as he moved away, he said one more thing. "It's good to have you back, Michiru," he stated, something that took the Shikigami User by surprise. But then InuYasha turned to look at him with a wry expression. "You wouldn't believe how mopey Sango was after you disappeared."

Once again, it took a couple of seconds for Michiru to look past the false toughness that disguised InuYasha's words to see what he truly said. As the half-demon left, Michiru finally felt somewhat relaxed. Making his way back to Kaede's home, he looked around this world he had fought to return to, he thought of the dear friends he had made, and the woman whom he loved with all his heart.

I will protect you, Michiru thought as he finally lay back down in his cot. I don't care what Naraku might have planned for me…I'm going to protect all of you…

Even as Michiru fell asleep, the woman whom he loved was looking up at the night sky, her own concerns keeping sleep at bay.

As Sango sat in a small field of flowers, gently stroking Kirara's fur, she too wondered if Naraku was the cause of the problems in the north, and if so, if she would have another chance to save Kohaku. She thought of the pendants Michiru had created, and the possibilities they offered her.

Kohaku would at last be safe, Sango thought, thinking of how Miroku's Wind Tunnel sealed when they had journeyed to Kagome's world. As long Naraku lacked the power to journey through the Well, as long as he was barred from that other world, then Kohaku would safe from him there, until the day came when they finally killed Naraku.

And yet, Sango was frightened by these thoughts. The very thought of sending Kohaku into that strange world, a world that was so alien, where there would be no one to care for him but people who were relative strangers, she couldn't help but think about how scared he would be. Also, if Michiru could create something that would give others the power to travel between times, did that mean that Naraku could do so as well?

At the very least, Sango thought it a possibility. Utsugi had been unable to bring Michiru to this time without Naraku's assistance; it was obvious that Naraku potentially had the ability to bend the power of the Tree of Ages to his will.

Then there was the matter of Michiru himself. Sango cared for the boy, that much she knew. What she felt for Michiru was something she had never experienced before, something she had never felt for anybody else, not even Miroku or Kohaku. Something that comforted her…and scared her as well.

He's from another world, a world completely different from this one… Sango thought hopelessly, thinking of the tremendous difference between the ages. Does InuYasha ever go through this with Kagome? Does he ever feel…out-of-place there? At this thought, Sango sighed sadly, for InuYasha was a half-demon. The world she lived in refused to accept his existence, so he was used to feeling out-of-place, no matter where he went.

As the night air whispered through her hair, she thought of the day that Michiru's first journey with them came to an end. When Utsugi lay there dead, with Michiru kneeling at his side, weaping at his passing. How Utsugi's spell had finally unraveled, releasing Michiru back to his own time…

This is it, Sango! But before I go, there's something I have to tell you! Sango recalled, the image of Michiru slowly vanishing before her eyes appearing in her mind, his words as clear as the days he had uttered them. Sango, I…love you…

Sighing, Sango looked down at the demon cat that had been her family's companion for generations. "What do you think, Kirara?" she asked, drawing the two-tail's attention. "What do you think about Michiru?" Kirara mewed affectionately in return, something that made Sango smile. "You like him, too. I know. But I…" As she trailed off, she wondered what it was that she was trying to say, what she truly felt.

"What am I supposed to do?" Sango asked, looking helplessly at the stars above. She thought of Miroku, with whom she shared a relationship that was rocky even under the best of circumstances. She thought of Michiru, a boy from another world who possessed magical powers she couldn't even pretend to understand. She thought of Kohaku, her family, of friends and enemies, of entirely different worlds that she should never have been able to see, let alone journey to. "This is all…just so much."

Taking a deep breath, Sango found her gaze shifting towards the north, and she found herself focusing. One thing at a time, she decided, thinking of Myoga's words. Naraku or not, it looks like we're heading into danger. I have to be ready.

Ever since Sango had joined InuYasha and the others, she had felt the drive to keep up with them, to push herself to her limits and beyond. InuYasha, Kagome, Shippo, Miroku, Michiru, Kaname, and even Kagome's friend, Janis, each had extraordinary powers. Sango was the only one of them that was only human, that had no special magic or powers, and as such, she couldn't help but feel the fear that she would one day let the others down, that she would be a liability to them.

"Well, Kirara?" Sango asked, never once looking away from the north, from their next journey. "Do you think we're ready? Think we can handle this?" When Kirara meowed her assurance, Sango smiled warmly. "Good. I think so, too." With that, Sango set Kirara on the ground before getting to her feet. "We better get some sleep, then. Tomorrow's going to be busy."

Heading back to Kaede's village, Sango thought of all her friends, and of the road that lay ahead, of the adventures and dangers that awaited them all…

To be continued in 'Legacy of the Cursed Mask: The Wolf-Demon Crisis'

Author's Notes: One part of the story comes to a close, while another looms ahead. Please, read and review!

I decided to break this story up into smaller stories, simply because I thought it would be more manageable that way. I just hope that all of you will be there for the next story in the 'Legacy of the Cursed Mask' saga!

Just so you know, the Janis Sango refers to is another orginal character who shows up in 'InuYasha: Secret of the Divine Jewel'. I'm toying with the idea of having her show up future stories, but nothing is decided yet.

Those of you familiar with this story will have noticed that I've gone and completely overhauled it, and even added two new chapters. For those of you wondering why I did so, there's actually a couple reasons. The first of them is the fact that, to be honest, there's quite a bit about this story I skimped on, simply because, very early on, I thought I had a flop on my hands. Reviews and readership were virtually non-existent, and I didn't put the kind of effort I should have into it.

The other reason is that, as I come closer to concluding the "The Wolf-Demon Crisis", I've got a major scene in mind. But for it to work, there's some stuff that I decided that I would have to expand on in this story. I just hope that everyone likes the results of my hard work.

For those of you like that sort of thing, I decided to include a glossary of Michiru and Kaname's current Shikigami and the spells that go with them. Just so that you all can keep track of them. An * indicates a Shikgami or spell that doesn't show up in the game, and was created expressly for this story.

Fire Shikigami: Lion

Raging Flame: A basic attack that shoots fire at one or two enemies.

"Oh, flame burning bright, turn into a sword of wrath!"

Grieving Flame: A counter-move that deals damage equal to that taken by the user.

"Oh, flame burning bright, change form at my call!"

Chaotic Flame: Mid-level attack that damages one or two targets, uses their energy to heal the user of the spell.

"Oh, flame burning bright, release your power!

Flame of Judgment: Mid-level attack that sends a wave of fire at multiple enemies.

"Oh, flame burning bright, shine your judgment upon us!"

Onslaught of Flame*: Sword-based high-level attack that sends out large fireballs at multiple enemies.

"Oh, flame burning bright, unleash the storm of your fury!"

Wind Shikigami: Bird

Sealed Blue Sky: Disables the special powers of enemy targets.

"Oh, overflowing blue sky, let ring your silent voice!"

Blue Sky Confusion: Confuses enemies so that they can't tell enemies from allies.

"Oh, overflowing blue sky, fill this space with chaos!"

Binding Blue Sky: Uses chains of wind to slow down or immobilize multiple targets.

"Oh, overflowing blue sky, bind these evil demons!"

Blue Sky Purification: Area-effect spell that cures poison and other negative status conditions.

"Oh, overflowing blue sky, fill this land with your cleaning winds!"

Blue Sky Calamity: Wind spell that destroys magical barriers.

"Oh, overflowing blue sky, clear these storm clouds from my path!"

Blue Sky Impact*: A basic attack that shoots a concentrated wave of air at one or two enemies.

"Oh, overflowing blue sky, release the gathering storm!"

Blue Sky Slumber*: Makes enemies fall asleep.

"Oh, overflowing blue sky! Sing the song of deepest sleep!" Blue Sky Slumber!

Blue Sky Blades*: Sword-based high-level attack that sends out blades of air at multiple enemies.

"Oh, overflowing blue sky, scythe away all evil!"

Executioners of the Blue Sky*: Causes critical damage to a single opponent.

"Oh, overflowing blue sky, scatter my enemy to the four winds!"

Water Shikigami: Fish

Great River Blessing: Restores 50% health to a single ally.

"Oh, mighty flowing river, give me your blessing!"

Great River Offering: Restores 75% health to all allies.

"Oh, mighty flowing river, ring with the sound of blessing!"

Great River Attrition*: Drains power from multiple enemies.

"Oh, mighty flowing river, cleanse these evil demons!"

Great River Torrent*: A basic attack that shoots water at one or two enemies.

"Oh, mighty flowing river, become the lance of justice!"

Light Shikigami: Dragon

Protective Light: Creates a protective barrier.

"Oh, brightly shining light, give me your healing power!"

Light of Judgment: High-level attack that uses up most of the user's health and power to attack multiple enemies.

"Oh, brightly shining light, hear my prayers and grant me your power!"

Miracle of Light: Healing move that uses up most of the user's health and power to fully restore health and power to allies.

"Oh, brightly shining light, hear my prayers and grant us salvation!"

Rain of Light*: Lights up dark spaces.

"Oh, brightly shining light, shine your radiance upon this place!"

Thunder Shikigami: Wolf*

Thunder Break*: A basic attack that shoots lightning at one or two enemies.

"Oh, furious howling thunder, unleash your wrath!"

Wood Shikigami: Snake*

Green Wood Shaper*: Manipulates and empowers wood and plants to create tools and weapons.

"Oh, towering green wood, spawn the implements of magic!"