YAY 34! I TOLD you Waka would show up! But wait... something ain't right.
As a side note, the chapter 25 (I think) reference was "Whaddaya mean, I don't work well with others?!" First spoken by Chuggaconroy in his Okamiden Let's Play. Nice work, whoever guessed it!
Chapter 34: Aw Crud
Waka sighed at the remains of his brutally damaged cap, and reluctantly put it away as he walked onshore. It was going to be a pain to explain his yellow hair to the curious, especially with all of the curses running loose, but he'd come up with somethi-
He was knocked to the side by the sheer force of the figure that blew past him, and he got up just in time to see Iris dashing towards the hill, where the temple reeked of evil power and seemed to smirk at all who passed.
"Me cherie, what are you doing?!" Waka scrambled to his feet, and quickly leapt over to catch up with her. Iris didn't answer at first, but kept running, tears streaming down her face in jagged patterns from the speed she was going. "Iris!" Iris snapped into stillness, so suddenly that her hair flew forward before it realized what happened. She looked at Waka, her eyes brimming with anger, sorrow, and disappointment. "Ma cherie, what has gotten into you?"
Iris stared for a moment, looking as if she was going to burst into tears, befor squeezing her eyes shut and shaking her head, teeth clenched. "I…" she muttered, fighting back the first drops spilling down her face, "I failed…"
"Iris, calm down!" Waka put a hand on her shoulder, and an instant later h was clinging to him, his shirt bunched in her fists, face buried in his chest. He froze, before gently putting his arms around her, looking down. A golden ribbon was wrapped around her wrist. "Iris, is that…"
"Tobi," she whispered, "he was… and the dagger… I failed him!" She let out a single sob, choked and painful. "I failed… he got killed and I didn't… I couldn't…"
"Iris…" Waka whispered as his mind put two and two together, gently smoothing her hair. "He probably knew."
"But he still… he's still gone…"
"I know… it is hard," Waka said, "to lose somebody, even if you only knew them for a short while… I know." Iris looked up at him, and he knew his eyes were betraying the calm expression he had, as memories of seeing demons slaughter the Celestials flashed through his mind.
"…You do know, don't you?" He nodded, and Iris sighed. "Something happened before I met you. Something big."
"Yes, ma cherie. But even more will be lost if we do not get the last artifact." Her eyes widened at his words.
"The sword! That's what I was here for- I think they said… Waka, come on!" She suddenly grabbed his wrist, and dashed towards the temple. "Rao… oh man, I sure hope…"
"What about Rao?" Iris didn't answer, but ran through the front gate, up to where the temple swirled with darkness. "Iris, what are you-?"
"No time! Rao's in danger!" Iris kicked down the front door-
"It looked unlocked…"
"Not the time, Waka!"
And swirls of darkness began to grasp at the clean air. Iris let go of Waka's wrist and began to dash in, but Waka found himself reaching out, fingers closing around the fabric that concealed the back of her hand. Iris turned to look back at him.
"I'll go in with you," he found himself saying, looking into the darkness that threatened to swallow her up. If they'd killed Tobi, then there was no reason they couldn't… he shuddered at the thought of her lying alone in the darkness, and quickly looked at her to remove the image from his mind. "If there are any foxes…"
"There aren't," Iris said, "At least… I think I got them all." She still nodded at him, smiling a bit. "But thank you." She turned back to the darkness, and they both cautiously stepped in.
It wasn't two seconds before a storm of statues surrounded them, all jeering and cackling. Iris wasted no time bringing her blade down, slicing them back and forth. Waka pulled out Pillowtalk, which glowed in the darkness, and got to work as well. There were thousands, jumping, punching, swinging, and they were coming from everywhere, forcing the two backwards. Waka felt something hit his back, looked to see Iris grimacing as she stabbed another.
"Iris!" Waka yelled above the jeers, "Do you have any exorcism slips?"
"Huh?" Iris glanced at him, before pulling a large one from her bag. "Like this?"
"Throw it at the ground!" Waka knocked down another. Iris frowned, but tossed it towards them.
For a second, nothing happened. Then, the slip burst, sending the demons flying backwards and causing them all to shatter, while simply knocking Waka and iris to the ground.
"Are you alright?!" Waka looked at Iris and quickly got up, running over to where she lay. "Iris?"
"…That was cool." Iris sat up, and Waka helped her onto her feet. "I think that's all of them." The darkness was pulling away, and everything changed – the room shrank, the statue reappeared, and the air became clean again. Iris looked around, and her eyes widened at a figure half-obscured by the desk. She dashed over behind it. "Rao!"
She was lying on the ground, impaled by what Waka recognized as the last artifact – the sword, now broken in half and covered in dried blood. Iris knelt down next to her, voice trembling as she whispered the priestess's name again.
"Ma cherie…" Waka walked over, putting a hand on Iris's shoulder as she nervously reached out to the body. "It's too late…" Iris looked grim now, grim and pale.
"Waka…" Iris said, "this body…" She turned it onto its back, and a skull looked back at her. "Has been dead for a long time…" She looked up at him. "That woman I saved… that wasn't…"
"Busty babe!" The door swung open, and Amaterasu roared with anger. "are you okay- girly?"
"Ammy, Issun!" Iris stood up. "Demons killed Rao!"
"That's impossible, we just gave her the Fox Rods!" Waka and Iris looked at each other, eyes wide.
"You don't think…" They both said, and realization set in. "QUEEN HIMIKO!" Neither one wasted any time running out. Waka grabbed her wrist. "This way, I know a shortcut!" He dashed towards the tunnel hidden in the mountain, with Iris right behind. A few moments later, Ammy was on their tails.
"Hey," Issun called furiously, "we're the ones who leave girly behind! This is backwards! WHAT'S GOING ON?!"