It's safe to say Waka probably suffers the most in this story, but I'd say Oki is probably a close second...
Well now. I said there'd be no more filler but chapter this is slightly filler-ish so... I lied xD
My my, look where we're heading next.
Issun noticed Yami and Ninetails exchange a glance a few moments after Tero vanished. Yami gave what was presumably supposed to be a shrug and flicked his mechanical hand, sending a message to the other demons. Immediately they all turned and fled over the top of the hill and out of sight.
"Yes!" Issun whooped, hopping back up onto Ammy's head once more. "Ha ha! We did it! We beat Tero! We saved Ammy!"
"I doubt your input had much effect, my little bouncing friend," Waka teased.
"At least I'm still in one piece!" Issun protested. "And anyways, without my help, you— whoa!" He gasped as Ammy moved and he fell off her head once more.
The goddess hurried over to Waka, who smiled and reached down to pat her head. "I'm glad you're safe, Amaterasu."
She nudged his chest with her nose, letting out a quiet whimper.
The prophet winced but managed to keep smiling. "Don't worry about me, ma chérie, I'm fine."
"Bah," Issun muttered. "Half-baked prophet."
Amaterasu glanced around, finally noticing Kaguya and wandering over to her, giving a happy bark.
"Huh…?" the woman blinked.
"Ammy's just thanking ya for saving her!" Issun laughed, hopping over and this time deciding against jumping onto the wolf's head in case she went racing off again.
"Oh… well, you're very welcome, Amaterasu," Kaguya smiled. She added modestly, "it's not as if I was the only one involved though."
The goddess glanced around at everyone on the field, her tail wagging.
Then she stopped.
"What's the matter, furball?" Issun asked.
The wolf let out a faint whimper, her ears slowly moving back against her head. Then she took off down the side of the hill.
"Ammy…" Issun murmured, realising where she was going. "Hey Ammy, wait up!" he hopped after her.
By the time he'd reached the bottom of the slope, Amaterasu was already standing by the limp puppy, nudging his face with her muzzle. Chibi didn't react.
She threw back her head and let out a sorrowful howl.
"Sorry, Ammy," Issun sighed as he finally made it over to her. "It's my fault… I was the one who got Chibi caught…"
Amaterasu looked over at him, letting out a quiet whine and nudging him with her nose, nearly pushing him over. She wasn't blaming him.
"Damn, Ammy, you're way too forgiving," Issun tutted, jumping onto her head once more and preparing for any sudden movements. "Still, I know there's one freak I'm never forgiving, and for once it's not that half-baked prophet."
The goddess barked, nodding.
"Right. We gotta avenge Chibi, right?"
She nodded again, even more determined.
"Okay then! We gotta hunt down Tero!"
Ammy turned and raced back up the hill. Luckily Issun was prepared this time and managed to stay on her head. The wolf halted when she reached the place they'd last seen Tero and stood, sniffing the ground.
"Furball, you do remember he can teleport, right?" Picking up a scent wouldn't do anything if there was no trail to follow.
Amaterasu blinked, and then huffed despondently.
"Looking for Tero, eh, ma chérie?"
"Go away, fruitcake," Issun tutted. "We don't need your help. Go find a bandage or something."
"It's only a flesh wound," Waka shrugged. "Why are you trying to find Tero, Amaterasu?"
"To avenge Chibi, of course!" Issun snapped. "You do realise he's dead because of that guy!"
"Still, Tero is dangerous. It might be too risky to go after him."
"Yes, he's dangerous," Issun repeated. "And that's why we gotta stop him before he thinks up some new crazy plan to kill Ammy!"
Waka was silent for a moment, as if he were thinking over what Issun had just said. "Très bien. But if you're looking for him then I can't help. You should try asking Kaguya."
"Kaguya? How would she be able to find him?" Issun tipped his head to one side in confusion.
"Um… I-I can see what's happening pretty much anywhere in Nippon…" Kaguya spoke up, walking over having heard her name. "I might be able to find out where he is…"
"Whoa… seriously?" Issun gaped. "You can see what's going on, like, anywhere? Wow… I wish I could do that… heh…"
Ammy gave a quiet grumble.
"Right, right. Anyways, so you can really find Tero?" Issun asked, getting back to the main point.
"Yeah, though it might take me a few minutes to search everywhere."
"I don't care if it takes a few hours; you're a miracle, honeypie!" Issun cheered.
"Okay, I'll look now." Kaguya closed her eyes.
Seems like the opposite of 'looking', Issun thought, although he didn't say it out loud. Sitting back on Ammy's fur to wait, he looked up at the sky. Now that they had the goddess back, the sun seemed a lot brighter.
The people who'd been in the fight were heading back to Kamiki now. Kuni and Nanami hung back, not wanting to leave Chibi behind, and Issun felt genuinely sorry for them.
Don't worry, guys. We'll avenge him for you.
"I can't find him anywhere," Kaguya sighed after a few minutes of silence.
"Dammit," Issun groaned. "You sure?"
"Yeah. He's not anywhere in Nippon."
"Where the heck did he go then!?" Issun exclaimed. Tero wouldn't have gone too far away, but if he wasn't in Nippon…
Hmm… what if…
"Kaguya, how far can your powers search?"
"I'm not sure… I know I can search Nippon, but I haven't tried looking any further…"
"Do you think you'd be able to see what's going on in the north?"
"The… the north? You mean Kamui?"
"Yeah. Any chance you can look there?"
"Well, I can try…"
Issun waited as Kaguya closed her eyes again, using her mind to search the lands. He could only imagine what that must be like. Of course, if Issun had that power it probably wouldn't be the lands he was searching… but still.
Then she gasped.
"Really? Where is he?" Issun persisted, jumping up.
"I can't tell exactly. There's too much snow. I think there are some demons there as well…"
"Demons?" Issun blinked. "But why would he need demons in Kamui…?"
Then it hit him.
"Wep'keer. He must be heading there. Boy, does that guy have anger issues…"
"So we're heading to the north now?" Waka spoke up. "Okay, I'll have to meet you there."
"We don't need you, fruitcake! Get lost!"
"Charming," the prophet rolled his eyes. "I'm not going to leave Amaterasu to face that man on her own."
"She's not on her own. I'm going too!"
"And your presence does what, exactly?"
Ammy gave a bark.
"Bah. You're right, Ammy. We gotta get going," Issun turned away pointedly. "If the prophet wants to come too he'll have to catch up."
The wolf gave something that might have been a shrug, cast a last glance at Waka, and raced away in the direction of the tunnel to Kamui.
The second they emerged into daylight, Issun was hit by the full blast of the cold. Kamui was just as freezing as ever, but at least the snowstorm that had been here before seemed to have stopped.
"We gotta be careful, Ammy," he warned.
Ammy tried to glance up at him and barked.
"Ah… yeah… I knew that… of course he won't even know we're following him," Issun laughed to cover up his mistake. "But still… we should be careful anyways. At least your fur is mostly white."
The wolf glanced around at the snow before running on along the barely-distinguishable path. Issun was amazed by how quickly the scars on her side had healed. It had only taken them fifteen minutes to get through the tunnel to Kamui and already it was hard to see where the wounds had been.
He glanced at the scars that were still on his arms from the fight against Blight a few days ago and considered that being a god must be very handy at times…
They soon came to a small clearing with four piles of snow in it, which once had been torches but because of all the recent snow they'd been put out. Issun looked over at the igloo at the side of the clearing.
"Wonder if Oki's seen Tero," he shrugged. "Shall we go ask him?"
Amaterasu nodded and padded towards the snow house. She stopped just outside the door.
"Hey, Oki!" Issun called. "You around?"
"Eh. Guess he ain't in," he shrugged. "C'mon, Ammy, let's go."
Ammy didn't listen to him. She was sniffing at the door.
She nudged her way past the cloth in the doorway which kept the snow out.
"Hey! Furball, don't you know it's rude to go barging into people's houses?" Issun tutted. "Wait… Oki?"
The Oina warrior was sat staring into the fire dismally, and didn't seem to notice them arrive. His mask was pushed up over his hair, which looked even scruffier than usual, and his eyes were red, almost as if he'd been crying…
"Hey, Oki!" Issun shouted, hopping in front of him and silently glad to be near the warm fire after being out in the snow. "You just gonna ignore us forever?"
Oki jumped as the poncle appeared in front of him. "Issun…? How long have you been here?"
"Geez, you look terrible," Issun commented, not bothering to answer the question. "Did something happen? Don't tell me Kai rejected you or something."
Oki flinched; looking upset, he glanced away.
"Oh wow," Issun muttered. "Hey, don't worry, Oki, it'll be okay."
"No it won't," Oki choked. "Nothing will ever be okay! Wep'keer was attacked by demons a few days ago and Kai… Kai…!" He broke off, burying his face in his arms.
It was then that Issun realised what he was talking about.
"W-wait, you mean… the demon attack… Kai was…"
"One of the demons hit her… I tried to get her away from the village but we were attacked… and I couldn't do anything…!" Oki sobbed. Issun could tell he was crying now.
"Kai…" the poncle breathed. He'd known Kai for years, ever since he found her lost in Yoshpet and had helped her find her way back to the village.
Kai… is dead…?
He could feel a tear rolling down his own face, but he wiped it away hurriedly. As much as the news had hit him, Oki was upset enough already. If Issun started going on about Kai now he'd only upset the guy even more. He swallowed hard and tried to remember why they'd come here in the first place.
"Oki, you haven't seen a guy in a black coat around here anywhere, have you?" Issun asked.
The Oina warrior didn't reply, and for a moment Issun wondered if he'd even heard the question. Eventually he lifted his head and wiped his eyes, as if trying to disguise the fact that he'd been crying even though they already knew. "No, I haven't seen anyone. I haven't been outside for a while…"
"Oh, okay," Issun shrugged. "We think he's heading for Wep'keer with a bunch of demons… we could use an extra fighter?"
"I want to protect the village, but…" Oki clenched his fist. "I can't. I couldn't even save Kai."
He really is upset, Issun thought to himself. Oki had always seemed so self-confident when it came to fighting demons. "Well, okay then. We got Ammy with us anyways; we can deal with that freak and his demons."
Issun hopped back over to Ammy and jumped onto her head once more. "C'mon furball, we'd better make tracks. Tero could already be at Wep'keer by now."