Time Traveler Katsumi

Near and Far

{That night, at a certain temple…}

SCCHHHH…

The tree leaves shivered, rustling as an ominous wind swept through the darkened temple.

"Honored priest… in time, will this place be attacked as well?" a young man, one of the esteemed priest's acolytes, asked warily as a chill traveled up his spine. He and another fellow acolyte were supposed to be watching while the priest prayed this evening, should he have need of any assistance, in light of the recent attacks on other temples.

"Not 'in time'…" The elder priest said calmly, pausing in his prayers to address the young follower's concerns. "Already… I can feel evil energy closing in, above this temple."

"Eh!" The two acolytes exclaimed in alarm, breaking out into a nervous sweat, as they glanced up nervously at the ceiling, trying to sense the danger for themselves.

"You should hide." The priest advised them, but it was too late. The evil was already upon them.

"Hmm… it seems you can do a bit more than those we've met before you." It mused, sending a wave of kamaitachi into the temple.

SLASH!

"U… Uwah!" The two boys yelled, frozen in fear, as the priest ran in front of them, whipping out his prayer beads.

SHNKT!

"So, you've come… youkai!" He shouted, pulling the beads tautly in front of him, raising a protective barrier to block the deadly attack.

CRRRASH!

"How impertinent, putting up a barrier just like that." Kagura remarked as she stepped into view, holding Naraku's white infant in one arm and her fan in the other. She slid her fan open a little wider. It seemed this priest had some skill.

"Hmph… So, you youkai are the woman and baby I've been hearing about…" The priest said, keeping his guard up as he gauged his opponents. It was obvious Kagura was a force to be reckoned with, but that baby… 'This infant… compared to the woman… he is actually many times worse!' He realized, tensing, as a bead of sweat rolled down the side of his face. This was bad…

"Heh-heh-heh… Maybe this old monk will know something about the borderline between this world and the next…" The white infant said deviously, snickering. He seemed to be a lot better than the others they had already tried.

"!" The old priest gasped in surprise and alarm. What were they—!?

"I… It spoke…!!" The acolytes shouted with disbelief, also alarmed.

Monk… Will you be able to handle the next one?" Kagura asked, smirking ever so slightly, as she raised her fan to attack again. "Ryuuja no Mai!" She shouted, sending several swirling blades of wind crashing towards them.

KSHNKT! KSHNKT!

"Ugh!" The old priest grunted, gritting his teeth, as he strained to repel her attack with another barrier. He was getting too old for this crap!

—SNAP—!

The priest's eyes widened with a sick realization as he felt the tension in his string of prayer beads suddenly break, and he watched as the dark-red beads began to scatter as they flew up into the air. The old man cried out in pain and shock as the deadly wind vortexes pierced his body, mortally wounding him. His body hit the ground with a sickening thud. Though everything appeared to be happening in slow motion to the doomed priest, in reality Kagura's deadly attack had only taken seconds. The two acolytes were stunned.

'O… Our priest…!' They thought, too shocked to move.

"Uhn…" The priest groaned weakly as Kagura took a step forward, approaching him with the terrible infant in her arms. He was fading fast, barely able to move, but he managed lift his hand to his chest, sliding it into his kimono. The white infant smirked. It was useless.

"I'm going to take a peek into your soul…" He told the half-dead priest as Kagura laid him on top of the helpless old man's chest.

SH…

"!" The creepy infant gasped, frowning, as he realized too late that the old priest wasn't as helpless as he had seemed.

SHHRRRED!

"Wha…!" Kagura shouted in surprise, taken aback when a bright ray of holy energy suddenly shot out of the dying priest's chest, slicing the infant cleanly in half. "…" Kagura said as she watched both halves of its corpse fall lifelessly onto the floor, stunned. Did… that really just happen…?

"I… did… it…!" The old priest wheezed triumphantly, finally allowing his grip to loosen on the vajra he had kept hidden in his kimono, as he breathed his last.

'Ho… Honored priest!' The two acolytes cried in their minds, trembling in fear, as they mourned the death of their honored master and teacher. Fortunately for them, Kagura had more important things to worry about than how to off two scrawny fools that had allowed themselves to be paralyzed with fear.

'This… is really bad, isn't it?' Kagura thought, sweat-dropping, as she glanced back at the infant's split corpse. Naraku was gonna be so pissed…!

—∞—|—∞—

{Meanwhile, back in Tír na nÓg…}

[[Now, the first thing I need to teach you, before you can leave this room, is how to control your own thoughts and make proper use of telepathy.]] Gean stated once Katsumi had calmed down enough to listen to him after their little emotional episode. [[Right now Úna and I can hear virtually every thought that passes through your mind without even trying to… to be honest, you're such a fast thinker, it's giving me a bit a bit of a headache…]] He added, smiling wryly as he sweat-dropped. He was glad to see his granddaughter's pretty little head wasn't just for show, but when someone like her, who had such a terrifyingly complex, fast, and not to mention random thought process, was in 'full broadcast' mode, just trying to keep up with her was giving the two older faeries whiplash…! In addition, if she left the room in this condition, it would be virtually impossible for her to be able to keep a secret or have any sort of privacy from the other faeries.

"Oh, sorry…" Katsumi apologized a bit sheepishly, blushing as she rubbed the back of her neck and laughed a little nervously. She hoped they didn't catch a glimpse of anything too embarrassing…

[[It's all right. For the time being, we just ask that you be patient and remain in this room until we can give you permission to do otherwise. You see, this private healing room was especially designed to block the thoughts of its inhabitants from being heard by those on the outside, and vice-versa, in order to create a more relaxing healing environment since keeping your guard up while trying to recuperate from severe wounds can be tiresome.]] He explained patiently, smiling a little wryly in amusement at how pink his granddaughter's face had become, despite having done her best trying to suppress her flustered blushing. He knew she was curious about how they could make a room capable of being a telepathic 'cone of silence', but he didn't really feel like wasting time on a detailed explanation of that, so… [[But enough of that. Listen carefully, Katsumi, for what I am about to teach you is an ancient technique that has been passed down amongst our people for generations. This knowledge is sacred to us, and, therefore, must never be revealed to outsiders who may seek to abuse and misuse it. Sharing the secret wisdom of our ancestors with those who are not of faerie blood is considered taboo. You must take the knowledge I am about to impart unto you to your grave… Do you understand, Katsumi…?]] Gean said gravely, wearing the most solemn expression, as he fixed his young granddaughter with heavy, piercing glare. He needed her to understand just how severe this matter was to him and the others.

As direct descendants of one of the very first primordial beings to emerge from the cosmic energies that formed this universe and the many worlds planes existing within and around it, faeries had the unique distinction of being, at once, both the most powerful and the most fragile of all the races who walked the face of the earth. Because of their close link to the natural world and all of the pure, cosmic energy that flowed through it, they all had (on some level) the unique ability to manipulate the very fabric of space and time, which enabled powerful faeries, like Gean Cánach, to open and close a few wormholes here and there in order to travel between different dimensions and various planes of existence. However, to balance out these almost god-like powers, their physical forms actually have a rather incredible Achilles' heel. For faeries, everything within their bodies was connected. Their lives and spirits, along with all of their powers, were linked to one crucial lynchpin… If the wrong sort of person were to learn the secret behind how to control a faerie's lynchpin, then…

The entire race of Faerie could become endangered.

Katsumi furrowed her brow and frowned slightly while she concentrated on carefully considering what her grandfather had just told her. She didn't need to be a telepathic genius to understand the gravity of the situation. It was obvious how important this was to him, and this was not a decision that should be made lightly. For a brief moment, it occurred to her that maybe it would be better if she didn't learn whatever this secret was and just quickly returned back to Japan. She knew Rin, at least, must be worried about her if her wounds had been that serious… But then it passed.

She couldn't go back, not yet. Katsumi didn't want to return home empty-handed after suffering such a humiliating defeat at the hands of that bastard, Naraku, of all people…! Now that she was here, with a group of real faeries, she finally had a chance to learn more about this part of her and to, hopefully, get stronger as well. As much as she hated to admit it, her recent crushing defeat had just proved how weak she really was—It was so frustrating!

'I… want to win!!' Katsumi thought, clenching her fists so tightly that her knuckles turned white and her claws began to pierce the flesh of her palms, drawing blood. She had never been so afraid or humiliated in all her life before, and this mortified Katsumi. She couldn't just 'forgive and forget' the whole thing ever happened, not this time—This time, Katsumi wasn't going to be satisfied until she smacked that smug smirk off of that sick bastard's face!! Katsumi took a deep breath and slowly exhaled to calm herself before turning to face her grandfather again. She needed to stay focus on what she could do now, not sulk over spilled milk. "I understand." Katsumi finally replied solemnly, staring back at Gean Cánach, straight in the eye. A slight smirk tugged at the corner of his lips. Her gorgeous hazel eyes were smoldering fiercely with resolve and determination.

[[Excellent. That's an excellent look you have in your eyes, Katsumi. You'll be needing that sort of determination before we're through! After all, it's no simple feat… learning your True Name…]]

"My… 'True Name'…?" Katsumi asked, blinking. What was that supposed to mean? Didn't she already have a perfectly good name?

[[Yes, your True Name.]] Gean replied, nodding sagely. [[I mentioned it before, didn't I… that 'Gean Cánach' is only an alias? The reason I and other fairies go through the trouble of inventing extra names for ourselves is because each faerie's True Name holds a special, sacred power. Our very lives are linked to this name, and should another learn its true form, they could use it to enslave or even kill the faerie it belongs to… Our True Names are the lynchpin that connect us to the world around us and allow us to use our faerie powers. True Names are double-edged swords—they are both our greatest strength and our greatest weakness.]]

"I see… so, it's like a secret password we have to know in order to be able to gain access to our own, personal powers as well as to the 'worldwide web' of energy…?" Katsumi mused thoughtfully, trying to come up with a more modern analogy to help herself understand such an incredible and abstract concept more easily.

[[… Sure, let's go with that.]] Gean said, sweat dropping. Although he could somewhat see what she was trying to say from the flashes of images mixed in with her thoughts, he still wasn't quite sure what purpose this… 'computer' served… Well, no matter. As long as she got the point. [[Anyway, most faeries usually learn their True Name through a sacred dream once they have matured mentally enough to understand what it means, about the same time they begin to learn how to speak. The names given to us at birth by our parents are merely considered placeholders in our True Names' stead.]]

"But… I've never had a dream like that…" Katsumi said. She was pretty sure she'd remember something as trippy as dreaming about something as magical as a True Name.

[[No, to be honest, I'd be more surprised if you had. You are something of an exception to the rules, Katsumi, having been born of mixed blood.]] Gean explained, smiling wryly, almost apologetically. [[The less faerie blood one possesses, the harder it is to learn your True Name. It won't reveal itself to you so easily. But don't worry, there is a method through which even you will be allowed to enter into a sacred dream and discover your own True Name… Although, it is not without risks… Should you fail, Katsumi, it is possible that you may never be able to return from the dream world, which means your spirit would be trapped there, and your physical body would remain in a comatose state until it gradually wasted away. It's possible you may even just outright die spiritually and physically. No one knows for sure exactly what dangers you will encounter upon entering the dream world, since it varies with each individual, but it is generally agreed that the older one is, the more difficult and dangerous this method tends to become. The only other to have successfully completed and returned from their journey into the dream world after using this method as an adult was my great-great-great-great grandfather.]] He explained solemnly, obviously concerned for her safety. While this latest information certainly wasn't very encouraging, to say the least… Katsumi knew there was no turning back. Despite the danger, she didn't want to spend the rest of her life regretting a decision to give up without even trying. If she really wanted to get stronger, then she had to keep moving forward!

"I understand. Thank you for worrying about me, Grandfather… but this is something I have to do." Katsumi said, raising her head as she smiled up determinedly at him, clenching her fists. She wasn't going to back down. She was going to see this through to the end, and quickly return to Rin and Sesshoumaru and all of her other friends back in Japan, stronger than ever before…!

—∞—|—∞—

{Back in Japan…}

Cold, amber eyes stared up at the heavens above, watching the stars in the night sky. Everything was calm, peaceful… still. Jaken and Rin had both fallen asleep already, tired from a day's worth of traveling. It had been a long time since Sesshoumaru had been able to experience such an extended period of silence… and, yet, he found he couldn't enjoy this long overdue break at all. Not while Katsumi was…

A breeze blew past the daiyoukai as the wind changed directions, carrying a familiar scent. Sesshoumaru narrowed his eyes slightly. It was her.

"My, my. Such a scary expression! You're in a rather foul mood, I see… Are you sulking because Katsumi isn't around, Sesshoumaru?" Tsukihime asked as she descended from the sky, landing what she considered to be a safe distance away from him. Sesshoumaru furrowed his eyebrows slightly in irritation. This woman… had she no shame…?

"What of it?" Sesshoumaru demanded coldly, fixing her with a defiant glare, daring her to make another careless comment on the matter. "Do you, a mother who abandoned her own child to torture and humiliation, have any right to criticize me?"

A bead of cold sweat rolled down the back of Tsukihime's neck as she resisted the urge to take a step back and stood her ground. This was bad… judging by the wave of murderous intent radiating from Sesshoumaru, she could tell this brat was serious.

"Hmph. Is that so? Perhaps you have a point, seeing as how I could have interfered with Naraku's plan, had chosen to do so…" Tsukihime admitted rather sardonically. After all, she had foreseen these events with plenty enough time to spare to travel all the way to Ireland and track down Gean Cánach in order to request his assistance with healing Katsumi for after Naraku had finished with her. "But I did what was necessary. It was for Katsumi's own good, Sesshoumaru."

Sesshoumaru grit his teeth, infuriated that she had the gall to claim suffering so excruciatingly could have possibly been in Katsumi's best interest. He knew part of his anger was directed towards himself for having allowed himself to fall for Naraku's trick and leaving her own like that, but… Tsukihime had gone too far…

"Down, boy. Let me finish explaining before you decide to rip me to shreds." Tsukihime said, chagrined. His eyes had started to gain a red tinge, so she knew she was treading on dangerous ground. "While I'm glad to see you so concerned for my daughter, at the same time your lack of faith in her ability to recover from this is somewhat insulting!" She huffed rather indignantly.

"She had her wings ripped out." Sesshoumaru reminded her. "If you had heard her scream—"

"I did hear her scream." Tsukihime stated coldly, fixing the younger inu-youkai with a piercing glare. "In my vision I had to watch firsthand how much my daughter suffered at that hands of that bastard hanyou! I know what she's had to endure far better than you, who only saw the aftermath!" She growled, beginning to lose her patience with him. "But you underestimate Katsumi, Sesshoumaru. That girl may seem like a delicate glass sword compared to full youkai like ourselves, but she has an inner strength and will to survive that simply can't be matched. Don't be deceived. In reality, the reason that 'glass sword' shines so brightly is because it's made of an indestructible adamant. No matter how many times her body may break, that girl's spirit never will!"

"…" Sesshoumaru said as he stared at her, and the red tinge left his eyes, showing that he had calmed down slightly. Though he was loathe to admit it, he had to admit Tsukihime was right on this count. He had seen for himself how strong-willed and spirited Katsumi for himself during their time together. It was one of the things he come to admire about her, though he had only recently realized just how deep his attachment to her had become after the shock he had received upon seeing her lying there, nearly comatose…

"Rest assured, Sesshoumaru. What doesn't kill her only makes her stronger. It is times like this, when she had experienced the bitter taste of defeat, that my daughter becomes truly formidable. In order to properly motivate her to become stronger, a little suffering was necessary… And, as a result of this unfortunate event, you too have come to an important realization, have you not?" Tsukihime continued, smirking knowingly at him. "But in all seriousness, in a way it's rather terrifying how much my daughter's potential for growth will suddenly spike and begin increase exponentially at such an incredible rate. Katsumi will return, and when she does, she will be far stronger than she was when she left us."

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