Disclaimer: I don't hold ownership of Inuyasha.

Kagome's ride on the female tengu's back was uncomfortable. The large wings beat rhythmically, forcing her legs into a cramped position each time they came up and pushing warm air into her face. They'd been traveling to Mount Kurama for a few hours now and the sun was directly above them. The tengu never gave their human passengers a chance to jump safely from their backs, staying high in the air and gliding on updrafts when their muscles began to tire.

Miroku was on a tengu next to and just below her, just within ten feet. She didn't know if it was luck that their rides were flying that close together or if it was the bond between the two of them, but she was glad for it. The monk noticed her looking over at him and he gave her an annoyed stare. She could almost hear him say: "It's your fault, you know." She stuck her tongue out at him and went back to studying the grounds speeding underneath them. In the distance, Mount Kurama rose out of the forest.

The group glided down into the trees and Kagome caught glimpses of huts nestled in the treetops. As they passed even more tengu walking between the trees on rope bridges turned to watch them. Most were almost completely human looking, but the arms of a few were replaced with wings much like the ones carrying the humans.

They approached a wide clearing with one tree in the middle of it. Hundreds of bridges connected it to the forest around them. Kagome was unceremoniously dropped onto one of the higher branches, hundreds of feet up. Around her, the village men were deposited with equal regard. Miroku was thrown into the trunk, the male tengu who had carried him sporting cuts and abrasions, as well as soon to be bruises. The pain that had begun to build when Kagome landed dissipated as the monk picked himself up and stomped over to her. He grabbed her shoulders and pulled her up roughly, sparks trailing threateningly along his arms but he ignored it. Miroku shook her a few times.

"Good going, idiot. Because of you, we are now deep in tengu country. If you hadn't noticed, I'm a Buddhist monk. Tengu don't like Buddhist monks, they try to kill them. This is all you're fault!" His eyes were dark, anger, annoyance, and just a bit of worry floating in their depths. "I hope you haven't gotten too attached to me, because I'm going to be dead in a few minutes!"

"You have nothing to fear, monk."

The group spun around at the deep male voice, unfamiliar and intimidating. The leaves on a neighboring branch rustled and a male and female tengu stepped into view. Behind them, an entourage of male tengu stood on a large bridge, decked out in elaborate uniforms of leather and silk. The female moved to stand next to the male that spoke and Kagome realized that they were twins. She was very beautiful where her brother was devastatingly handsome, even with their long noses. Her hair was long and braided, trailing over her shoulder and down to her waist. It was divided into halves, one side red and the other black, and her brother's shorter hair mirrored it.

The human men gathered in front of Kagome in a vain attempt to protect her. Without their weapons, however, there was nothing they could do should the creatures in front of them choose to attack. The female giggled at their defensiveness and waved a hand at them.

"Like my brother said, there is nothing to fear in these trees, human friends."

One of the village men snorted and muttered under his breath, "I'd hardly call kidnapping an act of friendship."

She looked startled. "Oh, dear. He didn't explain anything to you?" She turned to her brother and stamped her foot childishly. "I knew we should have sent someone else! Why didn't you let me send Magarime?"

Her twin rolled his eyes. "Maybe because she's as empty headed as a hollow shell?" He bowed to the humans in front of him. "Forgive Jiten, the one who brought you here. Our friend loves to play jokes, but does not know the difference between funny and terrifying."

This time Kagome couldn't hold back a snort. "Yeah, I get those two mixed up all the time. Look, since your friend didn't bother to tell us why we were taken, why don't you tell us?"

The male tengu's eyebrow ticked in annoyance while his sister giggled. "Oh, I like her. Alright then, please follow us. We will be much more comfortable in the grand hall. I don't suppose you humans like standing on such a narrow branch so high up, right?"

The group of humans realized just then exactly how thin their support was. Kagome took a step closer to Miroku out of habit, but the monk said nothing.

"Yes, I thought so. Come along then!" The twin tengu led the procession through the trees, their entourage following at the back of the group to catch any humans that slipped off the rope bridges or other branches they crossed.

The female tengu fell back to walk next to Kagome, eyes lit up in curiosity. "So, miko, what is your name?"

"Oh, um, I'm Kagome. How did you know I was a miko?"

"I can smell it. Your kind smell like rain to us."

"But rain doesn't have a smell, really. It's just ozone that's lower to the ground."


"Never mind. Does Miroku smell like that, too?"

"Miroku is the monk? No, he smells like metal. Very tangy. Not many tengu enjoy it."

"Oh. What is your name?"

The tengu blinked and laughed. "Oh how very rude of me. My previous self would be very disappointed in me. I am called Fuka. My brother is Choudo. The elders love silly names."

"What did you mean by 'previous self'?"

"When a monk or miko dies, a tengu is born. You idiots think that if you fall off the path of righteousness, your soul become a tengu, but it is if you die in battle that we are created. Monks become tengu like my brother, miko become me. Many more monks are willing to fight, though, so there are more male tengu than females. We don't have parents, so much as guardians when we are born. The elders name us, then give us to mature tengu to be cared for until we are old enough to take care of ourselves. Choudo and I just left our nest as soon as we could fly. Jiten stayed in his nest until he could change fully into a human. Many people think he's wrong in the head because of it."

As they neared what Kagome guessed to be the center of the tree village, children started coming out of doorways and from behind leafy barriers. Each one hand wings instead of arms, and a few had talons instead of human feet. Fuka saw here questioning looks and explained.

"Children start off fully bird-like. As they get older they gain better control over their demonic energy and can shift to look more human The more human parts, the older the child."

"How long does it usually take to fully master it?"

"About three hundred years. Tengu age slower than most demons. My brother and I have only just mastered our arms a few decades ago. We are what you humans consider adolescents."

"So you would be about fifteen then?"

Fuka frowned. "There is no accurate conversion between human ages and that of tengu. Each of us masters our forms at different rates. Where one may have mastered their head, another may already be done with their legs. First the head, then the legs, and last the arms are mastered. One is considered an adolescent once the arms are mastered, then an adult one hundred years after that. The time from adolescent to adult is the only constant number for us."

A few brave children scampered along with the group, one little boy even tucking the tip of his wing into Kagome's hold. She looked around and saw that the adults and adolescents were also following them, though less because of curiosity and more because everyone was headed to the center of the village. It seemed that as soon as word got out there were humans in their midst, no one want to miss out.

The village men that came with Kagome looked around in awe and a little bit a wariness at the creatures around them, but Miroku was highly uncomfortable. Choudo had slowed down when his sister did and was trying to engage the monk in conversation. Miroku was having none of it and eventually the tengu gave up.

They reached a large intersection of bridges and the crowd of tengu parted to make way for their comparatively smaller group. The twins led them through a hold carved through the trunk of a tree at least fifteen feet in diameter. On the other side, an amazing stadium was built in a little copse of trees, thousands of seats filled the circular area. In the middle of the stadium, a large tree grew noticeably isolated from the rest and an ancient looking tengu sat nestled in the leaves. He wore a robe made of silk and the same leather and silk outfits all tengu wore could been seen underneath.

Fuka and Choudo led the group of humans to the ancient tengu and bowed deeply before moving to the side. A previously unseen female tengu leapt down from the branches high above and landed in a crouch directly in front of Kagome.

"So these are the humans Jiten and his flock brought to us." She flipped her long red hair over her shoulder and scrutinized the human girl in front of her. "This one is the miko? She doesn't look like much."

Kagome reared back, indignant. "Hey!"

"Oh, relax. The fact that Jiten brought you to us means that you are the one we were looking for. Just think, you have a chance to save us." Then tengu wrapped her long arms around Kagome's shoulders and leaned in close. Their lips nearly brushed as she said, "You should feel honored."

"That's enough, Magarime. These humans are our guests and you're being rude." The female rolled her eyes and, in a flurry of feather, leapt to his side. The ancient tengu sent a disapproving look to his assistant. "Please forgive her. Unfortunately manners do not seem to suit her personality."

The humans just looked at each other, unsure of what to make of their situation. In unspoken agreement, the village men pushed Kagome forward as representative of their little group. Miroku, who had been at the back of the group as far away from the leader as he could possibly get, was pulled forward as well. He quickly joined Kagome at the front of the group by not-so-hesitant encouraging from the men. Kagome glared back at them all.

What a bunch of cowards.

Fuka stepped forward. "Tanshin-sama. This is the miko Jiten brought to us."

"Is that so? It is a pleasure to meet you, miko-sama."

"E-excuse me, but could you tell us why we were brought-"

"Kidnapped." Someone muttered from behind her.

"-here? No one's explained anything and it's not reassuring in the slightest bit."

"Ah, accept my apologies on behalf of my people. When we got word that on such as you made an appearance, we allowed our enthusiasm to take a hold of our common sense."

"What's so special about me?"

"Yes, I suppose an explanation is in order." He waved his arm and the crowd around them groaned collectively. It had been half a century since the last possible miko to aid them was alive, then tengu wanted witness what might come to pass. They all filed out of the stadium, some flying to avoid the crush. Once it was just the humans and the handful of tengu, Tanshin motioned for them to sit.

"Centuries ago, a powerful priestess by the name of Midoriko became the first miko-warrior like her monk brothers. She successfully defeated thousands of demons, many of the powerful demon lords of the time lost their lives to her."

Kagome felt a jolt of recognition at the name. Were the tengu after the Shikon no Tama?

"The last great lord, a dragon demon, fathered the left over armies of his fellows together. The others had attacked the miko-warrior alone and were purified for it, but this dragon demon was wise and knew numbers would push an attack in their favor.

He challenged her and the ensuing battle lasted days. Wave after wave of demon were obliterated. The dragon continued pushing them forward, heedless of their sacrifices and discontent festered. Finally, the dragon set out himself to fight, now that she was tired and weak. The two fought fervently, each giving as good as they got, but in the end the dragon lord won. As he stood with the miko dying at his feet, one of his generals stabbed him in the back and he fell next to her.

Anger and betrayal filled his heart. The miko asked him if he wanted revenge and when he said 'yes' she grasped his hand and combined their power to purify the demons hoards around them. As they lay there breathing their last, their souls burst from their chests and became one. It formed a jewel both wonderful and horrible. Over the years, demons and humans alike coveted the jewel for it beauty and power. It consumed two more souls to become the Shikon no Tama, the Jewel of Four Souls."

The ancient tengu broke out into a coughing fit and Magarime hovered worriedly. Fuka continued the story while her leader recovered his breath. "The jewel finally made it into the hands of a miko and was passed from priestess to priestess. A miko named Kikyo burned it with her body when she died and it has been lost even since. A legend the tengu has passed down over the years states that a powerful priestess who's soul has had contact with the jewel will appear and lead the tengu to its resting place. Then the tengu will be able to free the souls trapped within with the priestess's help and their first queen, the true queen, will be born." Fuka bowed low, her brother joining her. "Please, Lady Kagome, help us."

"But how do you know it's me you're looking for? I'm not even trained as a miko."

"Tengu have the ability to recognize souls, no matter the body. When you shoed up at the same village Kikyo was born in and held the same soul as she, we knew you were the one we were waiting for."

Kagome stared, at a loss for words. What does someone say in a situation like this?

Miroku must have gotten over his misgivings temporarily because he piped up with, "Why is it that you need Lady Midoriko's soul freed from the jewel?"

"Midoriko-sama's spiritual power is unmatched and cannot be destroyed by the demonic power of a tengu. Once she is freed and is reborn as a tengu, she will be able to return us to human souls again. We need her to purify us."

Kagome vaguely remembered being led (or maybe dragged by her connection with Miroku) through the trees in a confusing path of bridges. There may have been a few times where a child came to hold her hand, and once they passed through a crowd so tightly packed one of the village men blinked and asked, "Did I just get laid?" once on the other side, but her mind was too busy thinking over the previous conversation to really absorb it.

Miroku had thrown a few insults at the tengu, mostly aimed at their intelligence and lack thereof, but Choudo was quick enough to retaliate with barbs about Miroku's bathing habits (in which Kagome thought she heard the words pig, stick, and rice paddy).

She was brought back out of her musings by Shubousha, the middle aged leader of their group. He was a friendly, father type and Kagome couldn't begrudge his hovering.

"Are you alright, Lady Kagome?"

"Yes, I'm fine. This day has been rather taxing, though. I think I'm just going to get some shut eye if no one minds." The men, minus Miroku, all rushed to assure her that it was fine, insisted even that she rest. They resembled very overprotective, if rather annoyingly so, brothers and Kagome shook her head. Was there something about her that caused the males around her to either try to kill her or protect her?

She laid on one of the beds provided by their hosts, her back to the group so that they couldn't see her worried face. How was she going to get the courage to help these demons kill themselves?

Well, I managed to get this out before the New Year...though only by about half an hour. This chapter isn't as long as the other page wise (it's six and ahlf instead of nine), but it's equal wordcount wise, so it still counts I guess. Quick note: I've changed the myths/legends/stories about tengu to fit my story, just in case anyone feels like raising a stink about it. I know.

Name translations:

Fuka - wrong

Choudo - just/right/exactly

Tanshin - unaided

Shubousha - ringleader

Jiten - spin

Magarime - curve

Happy New Year!