The final chapter! Ta da! Thank you to everyone who has reviewed and said lovely, lovely things. And especially Shriannan, summerful21, Tawny, and Forever Day for having stuck with it and reviewed every single bloody chapter, you guys made my day several times!

At the beginning of this story I mentioned the possibility of a third and final installment. This is in the works - slowly - but there will be a shorter interlude story that takes place between this one and that one that should be out relatively soon so keep your eyes open!

As always, a million thank yous to my tireless beta, ilex ferox who has successfully kept me from looking like a total idiot for yet another story.


Chapter Twelve: Looking Down

9:27a.m., May 5th, Okami Fortress, Kuchinoerabujima

Mulch choked, spewing sake across the table. Amaterasu was so shocked, she didn't even recoil.

"No, no, no," she said, climbing unsteadily to her feet. "You're dead. I saw you die. There was blood everywhere. That human of yours was losing his mind."

Holly moved into the room, allowing the others to follow. As Kokoro circled behind Amaterasu, Holly shrugged. "I was dead," she agreed, smiling faintly at a memory, "but then I got better." Somewhere behind her she heard Butler snort quietly.

"Got better..." Amaterasu trailed off, staring at the elf, then down at her empty sake cup, then up again to Holly. "You're seeing her too, aren't you, dwarf?"

Mulch nodded slowly, never looking away from Holly.

"How?"

"It's a long story," Holly said. "Artemis and...Kannon helped."

At Kannon's name, Amaterasu tore her eyes away from the elf and glanced around at the others now encircling her. "You're here to take me in, aren't you?" It was more a statement than a fact.

Holly nodded.

"That's probably for the best," said Amaterasu, her voice surprisingly even. "To tell you the truth, I really just can't be bothered anymore. And it looks better getting arrested than just giving up."

"'S'true," agreed Mulch. "Way more street cred."

"Would you all mind just holding off for a few more minutes?" Amaterasu sat back down at the table. "Mulch and I are nearly finished the bottle."

Holly watched as Shancai picked up the spear from where it had been abandoned and passed it to Kannon. She looked over at Kokoro who was shaking her head, then back down to Amaterasu. "Would you like Butler and Artemis to go?" Holly asked.

Amaterasu shook her head. "You lot will have a warlock strip me of my magic for crimes against the People anyway. At least this way I'll get a drink out of it. You pour, dwarf."

Mulch finally turned away from Holly. He smiled at Amaterasu. "It would be my pleasure," he said.

And so they all waited, watching as Mulch filled the cups. The oddly-matched pair held up their drinks and, silently, toasted each other. After all, there was really nothing left to say.


3:00pm, May 5th, INA Headquarters, Inari-yama, Kyoto

As other officers came forward to take Amaterasu from Butler, Kokoro stood next to Holly, leaning in to speak with her over the noise. "We should have arrested her right away," the kitsune said. "Who knows what tricks she might have had up her sleeve."

Holly shook her head. "Kannon had the spear and Amaterasu had drunk half a bottle of sake, even if she'd wanted to - which she clearly didn't - there wasn't much she could have done."

"Still, it was a risk. Why bother?"

Holly shrugged. "She knew she'd lost. There wasn't any need to grind the point home. I..." Holly trailed off for a second. "I can sympathise, I suppose."

"You can sympathise with an intended mass-murderer," Kokoro repeated incredulously.

Holly laughed softly. "I can sympathise with wanting to finish with a bit of dignity," she corrected.

Kokoro shook her head. "Well, it's lucky for Amaterasu that you're in charge, then. Because I would have hauled her off then and there."

"That would probably have been the smartest response," Holly admitted, smiling. She turned to scan the room and noticed Artemis was watching them from the far wall. She looked at him as she spoke, "But I've always liked to think that a little faith in a person will pay off in the end."

Artemis smiled slightly and turned away, letting them finish the conversation in private. He knew they wouldn't have much longer to talk.

As if on cue, a techie sprite hollered over the hubbub, "Major Short, Commanders Root and Kuzu are calling for you."

Reluctantly, Holly left Kokoro's side.


9:13p.m., May 5th, Hyatt Regency Hotel, Kyoto

Everyone else had been sleeping for hours, but Artemis was restless and his mind even more so as it digested the events of the past twenty-four hours, turning them over and over again, sifting through it all. He'd been pacing the suite while everyone else had been sleeping and was in no mood for company. When he heard them rise he slipped out onto the balcony, the sheer curtains hiding him from view; The lights were on inside however, and, from where he stood, he could read their lips as they spoke. Watching them come to terms with each other let him ignore his own problems: it soothed him even more than sleep. And other people's privacy had never really been an issue for him.

Shancai sat on the arm of the couch, Longnu stood next to him. Kannon had taken the armchair.

Longnu laid a hand on Shancai's arm. He looked at her without saying anything. At last Longnu tightened her grip on his sleeve. "I'm so sorry, Shan," she said. "I should have talked to you about this. Before, I mean. I should have thought about it."

Shancai smiled crookedly. "Well," he shrugged, "I am a very good actor, I had everyone fooled."

Longnu shook her head. "Don't be stoic about this," she told him. "Not with me. The three of us, we should be beyond this by now."

"Did you think it was me?" he asked. "Did you think I was the traitor?"

"I thought about it," she admitted. "But I didn't believe it. Despite everything, I know you too well to believe that."

"Thank you," he said. His crooked smile grew a little. Longnu put her arms around his neck and hugged him. His smile grew even more.

Kannon rose and sat down next to Shancai on the couch, taking one of his hands in hers. "Do you think," she spoke softly, "that we might be able to come to some sort of arrangement? You are as dear to me as Longnu, Shan. I let my fear get the better of me as we were beginning our...hibernation. I didn't think it through. I would like to make it up to you."

Shancai looked at the two of them: the two people closest and dearest to him in the world. Artemis watched the fairy's thoughts pass across his face and understood them perfectly. He wanted to hate Kannon; he wanted to make Longnu jealous; he wanted to say 'to hell with the both of you!' and storm out in a cloud of self-righteous indignation. But he couldn't and he wouldn't. He would only be miserable if he did.

"I think we could," he said at last.

Artemis smiled to himself. At least someone would come out ahead at the end of all this.


10:03p.m., May 5th, Hyatt Regency Hotel, Kyoto

"You haven't slept at all, have you?" She came up behind him, sitting next to him as he turned to look at her.

Silently, he shook his head.

"You're not a robot, Artemis," she admonished him. "You haven't slept in over 24 hours."

"I know. I will. Soon. I simply...just not yet," he finished lamely.

She chuckled a little. "I don't have any magic right now, you know. If you faint from exhaustion I won't be able to help you."

"I'm sure a good slap would work just as well in that instance as a dose of magic," he said, smiling.

She returned his grin. "Don't tempt me, Fowl."

"Wouldn't dream of it, Short." His smile took on a different quality, slightly bittersweet. Holly bit her lip and looked away.

They sat like that, silently, for a moment and watched the city lights.

"It looks like one of those pictures of space you people are always getting so excited about," Holly said at last.

"The city does?"

"Yes."

"That would be nice, I think."

"What would?"

"If we were sitting on a balcony above an entirely new galaxy, watching the stars."

She turned a quizzical look on him, but he just watched the lights. The colours flickered and changed, moving across his face like a film.

"I feel so strange, Artemis," she whispered, finally addressing the metaphorical elephant on the balcony.

"I know." He looked back to her at last. She opened her mouth to say something but nothing came out; she simply kept looking at him, there in the almost-dark. She knew she had to speak soon or they would sit here like this forever, just looking at each other. It would be so eary to do.

"Did you really run away from home when you were three?" she asked finally.

"You saw that, did you?" He smiled, then frowned. What else had she seen during her brief stint in his mind?

Nodding, she shifted, getting comfortable. "Don't worry," she said, "I won't tell everyone what I saw."

"It isn't everyone I'm worried about," he admitted.

She smiled. "I promise to forget everything I saw. Does that make you feel better?"

"Only marginally."

She bit her lips again and looked away, down toward the far-off ground. "Artemis, some of the things I saw..."

A muscle in his jaw twitched. "Please forget them. Forget them all."

"Some of them were very flattering. I didn't know you thought so highly of me."

"Don't mock me," he said. "I'm fully aware of—"

"I'm not making fun of you, Artemis. I'm saying thank you. Besides, I'm sure you saw things I'd rather have kept secret." She smiled crookedly and put a hand to his cheek, brushing back a stray bit of hair.

He smiled, thankful for the change of subject. "Your first boyfriend did have hideous skin. Doesn't magic fix that?"

"Now who's mocking who?" She slapped his arm lightly.

"Who is mocking whom."

"Oh, shut up, Artemis." She bumped her shoulder against his, once, twice, before letting herself lean on him.

He smiled, content. She was alive and she was with him still. There was a space in him through which the wind blew, cold and sharp: a space she had once occupied and which no one would ever again be able to fill. But she was here with him, and he was happy with that for now. The rest could wait a little longer.

The End