Legacy of the Cursed Mask: The Wolf-Demon Crisis

From Zeroes to Heroes

"Ha! Way to go, sis!" Michiru cried out, almost faint with relief as the giant spider she was facing turned away from her. It's numerous eyes distracted by the even more numerous illusionary figures that now surrounded it.

"Quite impressive," Miroku admitted as he looked on. "I take it that this is one of the spells you mentioned before? The ones that you had been experimenting with?"

Michiru quickly nodded to this. "Yeah. It was in that book of spells dad gave us," he explained, glancing over at Kaname, who was presently drawing additional cards from the holster on her belt. "Okay, sis. This is it. Now take that bug down and -!" A screech of pure outrage split the air, cutting the Kururugi boy off, sending him back a step as he looked towards the source. "What the -?!"

"Oh, no...it's going to jump!" Sango gaped, her voice tinged with alarm. A beat passed as Michiru realized that she was right; the monstrous arachnid was tensing it's body, it's legs shifting about in a fashion he had learned to recognize during his encounter with the giant spider from Akebi Village.

But even as Michiru realized this, he smiled wryly and added, "Too bad it's facing the wrong way!"

"Huh?! But Michiru, it -!" Sango got out, breaking off when her prediction became reality. The immense spider lunged through the air, it's jaws open and ready to devour what got in its way. The illusory images of Kaname gave way to it without resistance, letting it continue flying right into the side of the cleft. Despite the savage clattering with which the spider impacted, sending shockwaves rumbling through the mountain stone, the Kururugi boy couldn't help but be reassured. A massive blow to the head certainly couldn't have done the spider's brain any favors. Hopefully, it had only succeeded in knocking itself out like a light, but even if it hadn't, it would likely be stunned, disoriented. Things that would give Kaname ample time to gear up for another Hyper-Star attack.

Unable to understand what Sango was so concerned about, Michiru stood by and watched as the spider slid down the side of the cleft, groaning miserably. A sound that was soon echoed by cries of pure terror. "Huh?" the Kururugi boy started, looking about for the source of the sound. "Wh-what...?"

"Oh, no! Look!" Sango cried, pointing up towards the top of the cleft. Following her outstretched finger, Michiru felt his jaw plunge to the ground when he saw what the Demon Slayer had anticipated. The crushing blow that the spider had inadvertently delivered to the rocks had sent shockwaves rippling throughout the entire area. And while they weren't all that severe where he and the others were, they were far more intense right above the point of impact. As a result, several wolf-demons that had been perched right at the edge of the cleft were sent over the side, screaming their fear as they tumbled down the side.

"Oh, no!!" Kagome cried out as they all took in the horror of the situation. Before their very eyes, over a dozen wolf-demons were plummeting into the cleft, bouncing off the rocky walls before crashing to the ground.

"Are they okay?!" Michiru wondered, glancing over at where Kaname stood. Unsurprisingly, his sister was gawking at the wolf-demons, apparently not paying any attention to the monster that had very nearly turned her into a snack.

As he looked at the spider, searching for any signs that it was recovering, Michiru was brought short when Miroku pointed out another problem. "For now, perhaps. But they won't be if they don't get out of there quickly!"

Michiru quickly realized what the monk meant. The wolf-demons had landed dangerously close to the spider-demon. To make matters worse, the titanic arachnid was recovering from its stupor, and slowly regaining its legs. It wasn't an immediate threat, but they didn't have much time. "We have to get them out of there!" the Kururugi boy realized as he turned to face Ginta and Hakkaku. "Quick! Let's get in there and help them out!"

"But - you can't do that!" Hakkaku sputtered in protest.

"What do you mean, we can't?!" Kagome repeated, indignant with disbelief. Fixing the two wolf-demons with a glare that would have made one of Toma's beast turn tail and head for the hills, she placed her hands to her hips and marched up to them both. "Those are your people out there! What, do you want them to end up that spider's breakfast?!"

"O-of course not, sis!" Ginta stammered out, petrified with fear. "But you heard what Ayame's grandpa said! If we try and interfere with the match, then Koga loses!"

"But what about your people?!" Sango demanded, looking over at the imperiled wolf-demons. "We can't just leave them in there!"

"I know, but don't worry!" Ginta told them as Hakkaku nodded in assent. "I'm sure Yorozuko will give the okay for us to help them!"

"Grandpa, we have to stop the match!" Ayame blurted, glancing between the aged wolf and the wolf-demons that were presently scurrying about the base of the cleft. Their cries of fear and confusion mounting as the massive spider below recovered and began surveying the tiny creatures that now surrounded. "The people down there don't have any weapons! They're helpless!"

"You don't have to worry, Ayame!" Koga growled, quickly rising to his feet. "C'mon, mutt! Or do I have to handle this by myself?!"

"Hmph! Like you even could?!" InuYasha grinned as he rose as well, taking hold of Tetsusaiga's hilt. Grateful beyond belief that the time for sitting and watching helplessly from the side was finally over.

Before they could make a move, both half-demon and wolf-demon were halted by a voice from behind. "Sure, go ahead! Be the hero! Rescue the helpless little weaklings!" Toma sneered, something in his cruel voice prompting InuYasha to hesitate, at least for a moment. "I'd be more than happy to see you forfeit the match!"

Jolted by this, InuYasha swung about to glare at Toma, aware that Koga was doing the same. "What?!" the would-be alpha snapped. "Dammit, Toma! Those are our people down there!"

"That's right!" Ayame seconded with considerable heat. "They're unarmed! If that monster of yours attacks -!"

"So what do you plan on doing? Killing my pet for your little human?" Toma inquired in a deceptively soft manner. "I thought you said they could take care of themselves."

"But -!" Koga started, only to stop when he realized that trying to talk sense into a bastard such as Toma was useless. Turning to Yorozuko, he pleaded, "C'mon, don't let this bastard pull this! These are our people we're talking about here!"

"I know, Koga," Yorozuko replied, not looking away from what was going on down below. Glancing down himself, InuYasha watched as the immense spider roared in hunger. A couple of the wolf-demons that had fallen had recovered, and had been quick to run towards the gate through which Kaname and the others had entered, but far more were either too dazed or injured to move, or were too scared to think straight, and were attempting to climb their way out of the cleft. "But the rules of this tournament were made clear. I'm afraid that you cannot intervene. Not without Toma's permission."

"And that's something that I'm not about to give!" Toma grinned cruelly. "Besides, if those idiots are so weak that they get themselves killed off that easily, then we're better off without them." While Koga fumed, his fists clenched with anger that could not be expressed in any other way, the rabid wolf sat back and smirked. "So why don't you sit back and enjoy the show? I know that's what I'm going to be doing!"

InuYasha didn't look at Koga as he growled his frustration. Didn't bother to see his face twist with loathing for Toma and the constraints that had been placed upon them. He didn't do so because he knew that he was doing the exact same thing at that moment. And after all the frustration he had suffered, watching his friends fight for their lives and tolerating Toma's presence, knowing that he couldn't afford to give him all the pain and suffering he deserved, he knew that seeing these things reflected on someone else's face would be the final blow to his self-control.

Instead, InuYasha clamped down, forcing his hand away from the Tetsusaiga as he looked down upon the wolf-demons below. Crying in fear, begging for someone to help them, even as the spider started towards them. And even as he cursed himself for his helplessness, he noticed something else. A slender figure of a girl, armed only with a wooden sword. Racing as quickly as she could towards the spider, a determined look on her face.

Realizing what her intent was, InuYasha felt his lips quirk into a reluctant smile. Go get 'em, Kaname, he thought before again looking at the spider. Just...be careful...

"Prominence of Flame!" Kaname invoked, releasing a plume of white-hot fire at the monstrous spider. All fear forgotten as she moved as she raced towards them.

Her attack scored a direct hit on the spider's body, eliciting a screech of pain as the hairs coating it burned, it's flesh scorched. The titanic arachnid turned just enough to glance in Kaname's direction, hissing in warning, before returning its attention to the wolf-demons that were scurrying about in a complete disarray, trying to get away from the mammoth monstrosity.

I guess it's decided that it'd have an easier time eating them than me! Kaname thought grimly. Unfortunately, it looked as if the spider was right. The wolf-demons were confused, scared, and were running this way and that, trying to get away from the mammoth beast, which for all its size was still faster than it's intended prey. I have to get its attention! Get it to stop chasing after them and start chasing me again!

Wincing at the very thought of this, Kaname gritted her teeth and continued forward, dodging the wolf-demons with the presence of mind to make for the gate she had entered through. Taking careful aim with sword, making certain not to endanger the spider's current prey, she called out, "Oh, furious, howling thunder, cry out in fury! Piercing Thunder!" This time a blast of magical lightning spat forth from her wooden blade, filling the sky with a wolf's howling as it struck home upon one of the spider's big, hairy legs. Again the spider screeched in pain, it's leg convulsing somewhat as it directed a glare at the Shikigami User, but then it looked back at the wolf-demons that were still scrambling about, and decided that feeding it's face was more important that destroying Kaname.

Ugh...if I weren't so scared, I'd be insulted! Kaname fumed, trying to think of something else. She wasn't eager to try Green Wood Madness again, given how spectacularly it had backfired the last time, and even her stronger attack spells weren't causing enough damage. The Hyper-Star Blaster was out; with all the wolf-demons running around, there was too great a danger of hitting some of them by accident.

Kaname wracked her brain, trying to think of something that might work. But even as she did so, she realized that she was out of time. The spider had managed to corner several wolf-demons that were still trying to make their way up the side of the cleft. Before her very eyes, it was bearing down upon the, screams of purest terror and despair filling the air. The cries of the doomed filling her ears, the Kururugi girl was spurred into action, a pentagram spinning into existence at her feet. "Oh, no you don't! Protective Light!" Her Light Shikigami flew forth, moving far faster than Kaname herself could have ever hoped to. And while she couldn't see the wolf-demons herself, that didn't stop her Shikigami from flying to them and surrounding them with a barrier.

Cries of fear were replaced with yelps of confusion as the Protective Light took shape, just as the massive spider bent down to strike. As before, however, the spider's immense fangs were unable to penetrate the magical shells, and instead ground against the magical light.

But that won't last for long! Not with the way that spider's going at them! Kaname realized with a grimace. Making matters worse was that the wolf-demons were effectively trapped; if they tried to get outside the Protective Light, the spider would be quick to make a meal out of them. And while this was giving the rest of the wolf-demons down there time enough to make themselves scare, she couldn't abandon those that were still trapped. I've got to get that thing chasing after me instead of them!

Again, Kaname ran through her magical repertoire, and was quickly coming up empty. The Hyper-Star was still her only spell capable of destroying the spider; none of her other spells, sword-based or otherwise, were powerful enough to incite that thing into attacking.

Then again...my sword isn't my only weapon... Kaname remembered, inspiration slowly taking root in her. Still, if this is gonna work, I'm gonna have to get in close to that thing. Real close!

With a loud gulp, Kaname started forward again, but with a good deal more fear than she had been feeling before. Every survival instinct she had told her that this was a bad idea, that the spider's focus on the wolf-demons made the chances of missing with the Hyper-Star almost nil. But even as she thought this, she shook her head. There was every chance that the spider would pick up on her energizing the attack long before she could launch it, and it had proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was capable of dodging the blast. Besides, with the Protective Light still up, it'll take longer to power up the Hyper-Star! I'll never get that ugly monster that way! Kaname told herself. No...this is my only chance! With this thought, she forced herself to keep going forward, drawing several cards from her holster as she did. Gotta keep going...and hope that thing doesn't notice me until I'm in position!

Fortunately enough, the spider was so caught up in its efforts to wrap its jaws around the wolf-demons that it paid no mind to Kaname's approach. Whether that was because it was lost in the instinctive urge to hunt or it had decided that she wasn't enough of a threat to worry about. Whatever the reason, the Shikigami User wasn't about to complain about her good fortune, and instead ran until she had a good, clear shot at the spider's head. "Okay, let's see if this gets your attention! Scything Blue Sky!" With this, Kaname swung her sword, releasing a massive crescent blade of air that shot up at the monster. The Scything Blue Sky struck home, leaving a massive gash along the side of the spider's head, causing gouts of blood to spray out all over the place.

Grimacing with disgust, Kaname jumped back from the rain of gore, unwilling to let any of it land on her. But it wasn't long before she had more pressing matters to deal. Even as she grimacing in disgust at the purple gunk that was spilling all over the place, the spider that was its source roared its outrage. Swinging it's head about, it looked down at its attacker, each of its awful yellow eyes narrow with hatred for the tiny speck that had injured it again.

Time seemed to slow down for Kaname, her body freezing up in response to her terror, her ears filled with the pounding of her own heart. For a moment, she forgot all about the power granted her by her Shikigami. She felt as weak and helpless as a babe in arms before the mammoth monstrosity as it considered whether or not she was worth the effort of devouring. But just as her courage was about to fail her completely, her attention was drawn by the frightened cries of those she wished to save. The wolf-demons that were still attempting to climb out of the cleft. They had paused in their efforts, and were looking uncertainly at her. Torn between hope and terror as they visibly wondered what was going to happen next.

No...I - I can't back down! I can't run away! Kaname thought, her courage returning as her blood seemed to catch fire. Sucking in a determined breath, she held up the cards in her hand, which then lit up with magical light. "Hey, spider! I've got a present for you!" With a grunt of effort, she sent dozens of cards soaring up into the spider-demon's face. The hateful arachnid growled at them, looking surprised as they flew up, but otherwise did not move.

Which was exactly what Kaname was hoping for.

Watching as the cards landed and adhered to the spider's face, with the majority connecting with its eyes, Kaname furrowed her brow, a pentagram spinning into existence at her feet. "Oh, flame burning bright!" she began even as the spider growled, shaking its head in an attempt to dislodge the cards. "Release the blossoms of destruction! Explosive Flame!" With this invocation, the magic of the Fire Shikigami within the cards caused each and every one of them to explode simultaneously. Kaname was momentarily blinded and deafened by the blasts, then very nearly bowled over when the spider screeched with such agony that she thought that the world had been knocked on its side. But she didn't allow herself to falter, and instead steadied herself by driving the tip of her sword to the ground and using it like a cane to wait out both the agonized scream and the flame and smoke from the blasts.

When the air had finally cleared, Kaname gasped in surprise when she saw the carnage her magic had resulted in. All but one of the spider's eyes had been ruptured and were spewing yellow ooze all over the place. The final eye was clouded with smoke, and was still painfully burning. But it was obviously still somewhat functional as the spider turned its head and locked that lone eye on her.

"Great! It wants to kill me again!" Kaname announced, delighted with her success.

The spider roared again, this time with rage as such as Kaname had never heard before. Rage that made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end as the spider worked its jaws, displaying its many horrid fangs.

"Great. It wants to kill me again..." Kaname moaned with considerably less enthusiasm.

She wasn't given any more time to think as the spider made its first attempt. Lunging forward with its massive jaws wide open, the Kururugi girl only had moments to conjure an attack. With a desperate swing of her sword, she sent forth a barrage of fireballs at the spider-demon's remaining eye. Though nowhere near as powerful as her Explosive Flame, it was more than enough to stop the spider's attack, again sending it to recoil screaming.

Glancing from the spider to the wolf-demons, Kaname's mouth fell open when she realized that they were not taking advantage of the situation. "Hurry! You have to get out of here!" she cried out, cupping a hand to her mouth even as she backed away from the spider. "As soon as it comes after me, you have to run! Got it?!"

Unable to risk waiting to see if the wolf-demons heeded her words, Kaname whipped out a few more fireballs before turning to run. Of course, there's no way that I can outrun this thing on my own! she knew, much to her display. Focusing on another untested spell, the Shikigami User invoked the power of her Wind familiar. "Oh, overflowing blue sky, sheathe me in the driving wind! Swift Blue Sky!"

As her Wind Shikigami emerged and enveloped her in its power, Kaname felt the air pressure about her shifting as her spell gave her complete control of it. Thus allowing her to greatly lessen the air pressure pushing down upon her from the front and the top, while increasing that pushing her from behind and below. As a result, the Kururugi girl not only became as light as a feather, but her speed increased so much that she was halfway across the cleft within a manner of seconds.

"Whoa!" Kaname cried out as she was forced to dig in her heels and shift the pressure before she wound up crashing into the far side. Wincing at the sudden pressure shift and the intense shaking as her feet ground across the ground, she then turned about to see what was happening. As was expected, the spider was pursuing, its one remaining eye fixed solely on her as it snorted and snarled its hatred. And the wolf-demons that were still within the cleft were making for the exit as quickly as they could. As she watched, Michiru and the others helped Ginta and Hakkaku usher the fleeing wolf-demons to safety.

Which means all I have to do is take this thing out before it can take me out! Kaname thought as she returned her attention to the unstoppable force of destruction that was now rushing towards her on eight huge legs. Yeah, no problem...!

Holding up her sword and bracing herself for renewed combat, Kaname was consigning her soul to whatever afterlife awaited her when a cry of fear and pain snapped her back to the moment. Her mouth popping open, she cried out in dismay when she saw a small wolf-demon who looked to be about Sota's age tumble to the ground. The little wolf-boy bleated in pain, then terror as he looked up to see the monstrous arachnid approaching. Cries that went unheeded by the other wolf-demons, still fleeing for their lives.

"No!" Kaname cried out, instinct taking over and propelling her forward. Fortunately, Swift Blue Sky was still in effect; within the span of a few seconds, she was at the little wolf-demon's side. Bending down on one knee, she wrapped her arms about his waist and dragged him to his feet. "Are you alright?!" Initially concerned about whatever injuries the wolf-boy may have sustained, these were promptly banished from her thoughts by the increasingly powerful quaking of the earth. Realizing that they were essentially out of time, Kaname stood, lifting the wolf-demon off his feet. "C'mon, we have to get you out of - huh?!"

They had just run out of time. With the tiny creature that had all but rendered it blind right before her, the spider screeched with impatient rage, and leapt into the air with its fangs bared and ready for the kill. Tumbling backwards with fright, Kaname watched as her death flew towards her. Her conscious mind flooding with terror, the Shikigami User felt the little wolf-demon wrap his arms about her, crying out in sheer terror. A cry that sparked something in the depths of her mind, penetrating her fear and reminding her that it wasn't just her life on the line. And with that realization, a deeper part of Kaname raised her sword and imbued it with the power of nature. Without even thinking about what spell she was casting, she called out, "Arrows of Ice!"

Swinging her sword with all her strength, Kaname watched as bands of moisture formed about it before being launched at the spider. In the span of a few moments, the moisture rapidly condensed into streamers of water, which then froze into arrow-like icicles before impacting with the spider. Each of the arrows struck a different portion of the monster's body, exploding and sending forth a spray of water that instantly froze into an icy shell.

Screeching with pain at this latest assault, the spider's outrage then turned to confusion as its angle of descent changed, sending it down towards the ground that much faster, and further away from Kaname then it had intended. Belatedly realizing that the additional weight of the ice was responsible for this, the Kururugi girl and her incidental charge watched as the spider crashed down to the ground. The ice breaking apart, the spider screamed with even deeper pain as chunks of its own body, frozen by the assault, shattered and fell away from it as well.

"Wha -?!" Kaname cried out, dumbstruck with awe as she watched more and more of the spider's hairy exterior break apart. The legs had been first, having been the first to absorb the impact, but as more and more chunks of ice fell away, she could easily see the fracture lines spreading across the demon's body like a perverse spider-web. As the spider struggled to rise up, the cracks continued to spread, causing even more chunks to break away and tumble to the ground, revealing pulpy pink flesh beneath.

Kaname's initial reaction to this sight was to groan in sheer disgust. But even as she did so, she realized that the spider was struggling to rise, screeches of pain punctuating its efforts to get to its feet. The Kururugi girl couldn't fathom what had happened, until she noticed that the spider's legs were bending beneath its own weight. Oh...of course! Spiders don't have any bones! They have an exoskeleton! she realized, her mouth popping open in surprise. The Arrows of Ice must've made it so brittle that it couldn't handle the landing!

And as a result, the spider was helpless, like a human whose every bone had been pulverized. Which meant that Kaname had been presented with a golden opportunity that she couldn't afford to squander. Getting to her feet, she moved so that she was between the little wolf-demon and the helpless spider. "Look, you better stay behind me. Okay?"

"Uh, yeah," the wolf-demon replied with a shaky nod.

Satisfied with this, Kaname reached into her holster and drew forth five cards. Immobile or not, the spider was still huge and terrible, and she wanted to finish it off quickly while she had the chance. "Reveal your hidden forces, Shikigami!" she invoked, the cards forming a pentagram about the tip of her sword. "Unleash your powers as one! Hyper-Star Blaster!"

As the power of the Hyper-Star built up, the spider lifted its head with tremendous difficulty. It's one eye focused on the building light of Kaname's spell, and seemed like it was about to explode as the spider gave voice to a screech of hatred and frustration. This was its last act in life as the Shikigami User unleashed the built-up power and sent it flying into the spider's mouth. Unlike Michiru's Hyper-Star, the blast didn't rip through the spider to come out the other side; instead, the demon's already savaged form burned bright red before it began to swell up horrendously. Huge, red welts rose up from its body, gouts of steam erupting from the before giving way to sprays of blood. The spider's body started to bloat and jiggle uncontrollably like a water balloon with too much water inside, before the internal pressure became too much, and the doomed beast exploded in a burst of light and thunder.

Knocked down again by the force of the blast, Kaname blinked in amazement as she looked at her handiwork. The spider's body had been reduced to little more than a few tattered scraps of flesh that lay strewn about the floor of the cleft. It's head and legs remained somewhat intact, but had been scorched black by the explosion that had ripped it apart. As the fact that she had won struck home, Kaname felt a grin spread across her face...just before the sky opened up, and a shower of the spider's pulverized innards rained down upon her in the form of a purple goo. Crying out in dismay, she immediately raised her arms to shield her face from the gruesome sludge, but by the time the perverse downpour had ended, she and the wolf-demon were soaked in the foul substance.

Groaning in dismay as she held up her arms and studied them, watching as foul-smelling gunk dropped down to the ground, Kaname heard the wolf-demon cry out enthusiastically. "Wow, I can't believe it! You actually beat that thing!"

"Hooray..." Kaname groaned anemically as she shook her arms, trying in vain to dislodge the gross goo from her body.

While Kaname was struggling to not completely gross out in front of the wolf-demon audience, she was brought back to the present by the sound of rapidly approaching footsteps. "Kaname! " came the woried voice of her brother. When she turned to look, she saw Michiru racing up to her, the rest of her human friends close behind. " Kaname, are you alright?!"

"Uh..." Kaname hesitated, quickly taking stock. "Well...I'm in one piece, if that's what you mean." Then she shook her right arm, wincing at the gobbets of demonic goo that flew off. "But I don't think anybody's going to want to touch me any time soon."

"I know the feeling!" Kagome murmured sympathetically. “Mud and blood and demon slime aren’t any of my favorite things, either!”

"Still, all things considered, I'd say that you did quite well out there," Miroku told her earnestly. "I'm only sorry that we weren't able to assist you."

"That's okay. I understand," Kaname replied as she got to her feet. Painfully aware of the goo that was dripping down from her and the wolf-demon. "Right now, the only thing I really care about is getting all this spider-goo off of me!"

"Understand? What are you talking about?" the little wolf-demon asked, completely unconcerned with the fact that he was also drenched in bug juice. "If you wanted to help, then why didn't you?! Didn't you see us fall down with that big, nasty spider?!"

"Yes, we did," Sango confirmed, her voice low and filled with sympathy. "Unfortunately, because of the rules of the tournament, we couldn't interfere unless Yorozuko allowed it. If we had, Koga would have automatically forfeited the match."

A noise of surprise escaping the young wolf-demon's mouth, Michiru frowned good-naturedly at his sibling. "Well, aside from being completely gross, you're okay, right?" Nodding to this, Kaname again grimaced at her condition. "I guess the first thing to do is to get you cleaned up. Bubbling Great River!" A pentagram spinning into existence at his feet, Michiru sent a wave of enchanted bubbles towards Kaname and the little wolf-demon.

As the many bubbles coalesced about her filthy form, Kaname sighed with tremendous relief as they began moving about, massaging her weary form and lifting away the disgusting glop she had been coated with. "Whew...thanks, bro!" she smiled, glancing over at the little wolf-demon. He was glancing between her and himself in confusion, looking much like a pillar of suds with eyes. Deciding that she probably looked much the same, she went on to add, "It's too bad we're nowhere near a hot spring. After today, I could really use a nice, long soak!"

"What are you talking about?!" the wolf pup demanded with an air of impatience. "Wh-what is this stuff?! What are you doing to me?!"

"Relax! It's just a spell to clean all the spider-gook off of you!" Kagome informed him with a good-natured smile.

"But...aw, c'mon! You don't have to do that!" the little wolf-boy told them. "Besides, I hate taking baths!"

"Hmm...maybe, but I think it might be best," Sango told him, bending down to look him in the face. "Spider-demons tend to have very powerful venom. And if there was any of that in that gunk, then it's better to get off of you as quickly as possible."

Venom? Kaname thought, her stomach twisting at the idea.

"Venom?" the wolf-boy frowned, not sounding nearly as impatient. "You mean that thing...might've been poisonous?"

"We don't know, but it's best not to take any chances," Miroku informed him. "As I recall, Michiru, you have a spell that can be used to counter poisons and such? It might be prudent to use it."

"Right," Michiru nodded, another pentagram appearing at his feet. "Now. Blue Sky Purification!" With this, his Wind Shikigami appeared, becoming a magical cleansing wind that Kaname could feel blowing away the hideous stench of the spider-gook that surrounded her, as well as any poisons that they might have contained. To Kaname's amusement, however, it didn't blow away the bubbles that were still scrubbing her down. Which was just fine by her; after everything that had happened, it sure felt good to have all the sweat and grime marking her lifted away.

Before long, both of Michiru's spells had run their course, and subsequently dissipated. Leaving both Kaname and the wolf-demon looking like they had just gotten out of the tub, and her clothes had been freshly laundered. In addition to this, the stench of the spider's remnants were completely dispelled, leaving nothing but clean, crisp air behind. "Whew. That's better," Kaname decided, pausing to glance herself over, just to make certain that not a trace of the vile goo remained on her person. Once satisfied of this, she turned her attention to the young wolf. "Now, all we have to do is get you back to your mother and father. I'm sure they're worried about you."

"Uh..." the wolf-boy hesitated, glancing about at the humans standing around him. "Are...are you sure? You...you don't have to, you know!"

"Yeah, we know," Kaname told him, smiling broadly as she bent down to look him in the eyes. "But it's no problem. We just want to help, that's all." Again, the wolf-demon hesitated before answering. It was clear he was dubious as to just how far he could trust the humans, people from outside of his tribe. But at the same time, Kaname could see childish curiosity warring with his concerns, as well as the realization that he was surrounded by his fellow wolf-demons, and was thus about as safe with these strangers as he possibly could be.

After a short time considering, the little wolf-boy finally decided, "Well...okay, If you really want to, that is."

"Okay! Now c'mon!" Kaname beamed before turning about and look up at the immense stone wall that stood before them. "Just be sure to stay close, okay?" The little wolf-boy gave a quick nod as she extended her hand. After a moment's hesitation, he took it in his own. "Here goes! Swift Blue Sky!"

As the magic of her Wind Shikigami surrounded both Kaname and the little wolf-demon, she smiled again and nodded. "Okay! Now hold on!" When he nodded again, she started forward, careful not to move too fast for her new companion.

Letting out a low sigh, Michiru watched as Kaname bounded up the side of the stone cleft, the magic of her Swift Blue Sky making the climb no more effort than a round of hopscotch. The little wolf-demon letting out whoops of joy as they made their way up to the top. Behind him, Miroku idly commented, "She's certainly come a long way."

"Yeah,:" Michiru agreed, unable to think of anything else to say at the moment. Pressing his lips together, he turned to his friends and told them, "Listen, I'm gonna go after her. Just in case."

"Okay," Sango nodded, smiling pleasantly. "Anyway, we better head back and get ready for our matches."

"Right, good idea," Kagome nodded in agreement. "Okay, just be sure to get back as soon as you can. The last thing we want is to give Toma anything he can use against us."

"We will," Michiru assured them, watching as his three friends and companions turned and started back towards the gate. Turning back to the wall of the cleft, he started forward at an easy pace, calling out, "Swift Blue Sky!" As his Wind Shikigami came forth, surrounding him in its magic, he cautiously followed his sister's example and made his way up the rocky wall. Since this was his first time using this particular spell, he moved carefully, making certain that he didn't wind up crashing into anything. Which gave him a bit of time to think.

The instant Kaname's initial Hyper-Star attack failed, Michiru had struggled to remain with his friends, to keep himself from rushing out to his sister's side and help her overcome the monster spider. This had become an even greater struggle when the many wolf-demons had come falling down into the cleft, a struggle that he knew the others had been hard-pressed to endure as well. And when he saw Kaname go back for the little wolf-boy, all but helpless before the immense spider descending upon her...

I thought I was having a heart attack! Michiru grimaced, recalling the way the entire world seemed to slow down at that moment. His entire body froze up with horror, with the absolute certainty that Kaname was about to die horribly, right before his eyes. And when he realized that the spider had been rendered completely harmless, he had very nearly fainted with relief.

But as he had gone up to Kaname with the others, Michiru came to the sobering realization that this would likely not be the first time he had to deal with this. That there could well be other times when Kaname would be faced with danger, and he would be unable to do anything to help her. And as he did that, other thoughts came to him. Thoughts of what would happen if the worst actually came to the worst...

No, stop! Don't even think about it! Michiru commanded himself as he reached the top of the cleft. It's not going to happen, okay?! The others have been fighting Naraku for a long time now, and none of them have died, so...

As he struggled to shove these fears aside, Michiru came to stand on the on the top. To his complete surprise, his fears were suddenly all but forgotten when he looked at the many wolf-demons standing before him...and watched as they backed away from him.

Huh? Michiru thought as he looked from one wolf-demon to the next, taking in their visages, realizing that they were clearly afraid of him. The fear wasn't of the same type he had seen the first time he had dealt with wolf-demons, when they had been duped into thinking that he was attacking and killing their kind on a daily basis, they weren't scared for their lives or angry at him or any of that. But there was a definite wariness to them, almost like that of a person who was dealing with a venomous snake that may or may not strike. But...why? It's not like I'm going to attack them!

Michiru pondered this for a few moments, but then ultimately dismissed it. Right now, he had to stay focused on Kaname. As soon as he thought of his twin, he frowned and started looking about. Fortunately, she hadn't gone very far; she and the little wolf-demon were a few feet ahead, asking if anybody had seen the boy's parents. "Hey, sis!" Michiru called out, started towards them. As he moved, he was aware of the wolf-demons around him taking a step or two back, making sure to stay well out of his way. "Sis?"

"Huh? Oh, hi, bro!" Kaname replied, glancing back in his direction before returning her attention to the wolf-demons. "So, anyway, has anybody seen this boy's -?"

"Shou," the wolf-demon broke in. When Kaname glanced down at him, he gave her a look and added, "My name isn't boy. It's Shou."

Kaname blinked a few times before smiling in a self-depreciating way. "Oops. Sorry about that," she told him with an embarrassed smile. "Uh, so anyway, has anybody seen Shou's parents? Are they around here somewhere?" Her question was answered with silence, as well as worried looks as the other wolf-demons looked amongst themselves. After a few seconds of this, Kaname gave an uneasy chuckle and tried, "Oh, c'mon! I'm not going to bite you or anything! I'm just trying to help Shou find his parents, that's all!"

"Yeah! What's the big deal?!" Shou demanded, looking bewilderedly at his fellows. "What's going on?! Where're my folks?!"

Taking notice now that one of their own was doing the talking, one of the nearby wolf-demons hesitated, glancing over at Kaname before saying, "Well, when you and the others fell down there, they headed off to find Toma, to see if he could stop the spider so you could all get out of there."

When a few other wolf-demons nodded their assent, Michiru rolled his eyes at the thought of Toma being of any help. "So they're with Koga and Yorozuko and the others?" When the wolf-demons nodded, he frowned in thought. "Well, they probably saw us come up here with Shou. So I guess the best thing we can do right now is just stay here and wait for them to come back."

"Sounds good to me," Kaname agreed with Shou nodding his agreement.

As it turned out, they didn't need to wait for very long. Less than a minute later, excited and frantic cries were heard, prompting the unlikely trio to turn and see two wolf-demons wading their way through the mass of their fellows, crying out Shou's name as they drew closer. Upon seeing them, the little wolf-demon's face split into a delighted grin. "Mom! Dad!"

"Shou! Oh, Shou, you're alive!" cried out what could only have been Shou's mother as she and the father raced up, nearly bowling Michiru and Kaname over as they raced up to the little wolf-demon. Throwing her arms about him, the mother drew Shou into a firm hug, very nearly crushing the boy against her chest. Gently murmuring his name over and over again, she lifted him up off his feet even as the father joined them, embracing them both. "You're alive. Oh, my little pup, you're alive...!"

"Aw, cut it out, mom!" Shou protested as his mother bombarded his cheeks with loving kisses. “Everybody’s watching!”

“Who cares about that?! As far as I’m concerned, they can watch all they want!” Shou’s father decreed in a voice filled with joy.

“That’s right!” Shou’s mother seconded, her voice heavy with tears of delight. “Let them see how glad we are to have our pup back!” Content to watch the family reunited, Michiru was given pause when the relieved she-wolf asked, “Oh, my little Shou…!"

Shaking his head with slow relief, Shou's father looked up from his son to Kaname. "I...I don't know what to say," he fumbled out, caught between nervousness and embarrassment as he spoke. "Thank you. Thank you for saving our son."

"It's no problem. Really!" Kaname replied, her cheeks coloring somewhat. "I mean, I couldn't let that big ugly bug hurt him! Or anybody else!"

Nodding to this, Shou's father frowned and studied the twins for a time. "You know, when Koga proposed allying ourselves with a bunch of humans, I thought he'd lost his mind," he finally said with a derisive chuckle. "I mean, what could humans do for us?! They were nothing!"

"Well, I wouldn't call these humans nothing!" Shou's mother commented in a wry manner. Then she cocked her head to the side and asked, "Tell me something; do those Demon Slayers of Koga's have any humans with powers like yours?"

Michiru was taken aback by this question, left frowning as he considered how best to answer it. "Well..." he began hesitantly, glancing over at Kaname, who shrugged her own helplessness. "I...believe so," he finally admitted, trying to say something to encourage the alliance without lying. "I've heard that there are strong spiritualists and people with other powers," he told them, recalling his conversation with Sango regarding Daisuke's people. "And as for the other Slayers...well, we have a Demon Slayer with us."

"That's right!" Kaname chimed in a with a smile. "So you'll be able to see what a Demon Slayer can do first hand!"

Shou's mother and father exchanged a look at this. Then they glanced down towards the cleft, where the spider-demon's remains were presently dissolving away, leaving behind little but shell and scraps of flesh. A few moments passed, and then the mother looked back at the twins and told them, "Well, if these humans of Koga's are even half as kind and brave as you've proven to be, girl, then I'll be more than happy to go along with this alliance."

There were a few hushed gasps from the other wolf-demons at this, gasps that were answered when Shou's father declared, "I'll say! All these damn monsters of Toma's have done is eat our food and kill our people! Good riddance to them!" Giving a loud snort, he then looked at his fellows and cried out, "This girl saved our child! I'd rather have her for an ally than a monster that no one can control!"

A beat passed as the wolf-demons looked from one to the other, myriad emotions flashing in their eyes. it was clear that something was still bothering them, though Michiru didn't know what it might have been. But at the same time, they were looking at the little boy, and the parents that had been terrified for him. And most importantly, the ruined hulk of a monster that had hunted their people without mercy. A monster that had been captured at the expense of their friends and loved ones.

Finally, after a seeming eternity, one of the wolf-demons glanced at the Kururugi twins and nodded. "I'm with you!" he declared, his voice harsh and resolute. "Beside, how are those things are supposed to be our salvation if one human can kill it off?!"

"Yeah, that's right!" another wolf-demon chimed in. "I lost my mate to one of those things!"

"And my friend!" a third cried out. With this, a seeming flood of complaints were unleashed against Toma and his regime. With everyone there giving voice to all the things that they had been forced to endure in order to gather and support the demonic beasts that had been brought there. The sacrifices they had been forced to make.

And as they did so, Michiru glanced over at Kaname, and smiled. Proud and grateful as never before to have her for a sister.

Though InuYasha knew that it was impossible, Toma looked like he was literally about to explode.

He had been cocky enough just moments before. So certain that Kaname would be killed trying to protect the wolf-demons in the cleft. So cold when informed that the parents of one of the imperiled had come to beg for his help, and so dismissive when he told the messenger that he wasn't in the mood to be bothered. And so certain of his victory when the spider-demon had pounced upon Kaname and one of his own, his entire body had been taut with excitement, a gloating, hateful grin stretched on his face. Only for all of those things to fall apart as the spider had when it's frozen exoskeleton had been shattered, leaving it a helpless target for the Shikigami User.

And now, Toma sat there, looking like he was about to explode in the same way the spider had. His entire body was flushed with barely stifled rage, grunts and hisses of hatred seeped out from between his clenched teeth. His knuckles were white as his claws dug into his own palms, looking as if he wanted to smash something, anything. all the while his two elbow girls were slowly edging away from him, clearly desperate to do anything to avoid inciting his wrath.

InuYasha didn't give a damn about either of them. All he cared about just then was the fact that his friends remained safe, and that the cruel beast that had so delighted in denying him the ability to help them was presently stewing in the juices of his own failure. "Well, well, what do you know," he grinned, determined to make the dregs of defeat that much more bitter. "I guess Kaname didn't need any help after all." When Toma swiveled his furious gaze at him, the half-demon grinned that much more. "And she even managed to save all those stinking wolves while she was at it. How about that?"

"Yeah, not too bad," Koga commented, enjoying this as much as InuYasha. "Especially considering that she's the new girl."

"Indeed," Robai seconded, glancing down at the cleft, where Michiru and Kaname were making their way back to the others. All the while being cheered by a number of wolf-demons. "And it seems she's caught the eyes of the crowd, too!"

Nodding, Ayame narrowed her eyes at Toma and told him, "Looks like they're having second thoughts about who they want as a leader. Wouldn't you say so?"

So close to erupting that InuYasha could very nearly feel the heat rising off of him, Toma breathed raggedly in and out, veins bulging from his forehead. "You fools...you think this is over?! You think you've won?!" Looking from one face to another so quickly that InuYasha barely saw him move, he then focused on Koga and roared, "I'm already the master of these people! Don't you dare forget it!"

"Hmph! In case you've forgotten, the tournament ain't over yet!" Koga taunted him.

"It is for you, you pathetic, human-loving fool!" Toma hissed, his eyes fevered with hatred. "Do you honestly think I care about any of this! So what if I lose a few of my pets! I will still be victorious!"

Snorting loudly, InuYasha snarled, "Oh, yeah?! And what makes you think that, rabid wolf?!"

"Because all my pets need to do is win one battle. Just one battle, and everything, these people, these mountains, this entire land, will belong to me!" With this declaration, Toma's face slowly contorted into a twisted, foul expression of demented triumph. "You see, I felt the auras of your human pets, Koga. All of them. And while four of them carried the feel of magic and spiritual power, one of them had no such powers. One of them was nothing more than a simple, weak little human." His grin spreading that much more, Toma glared deep into Koga's eyes, his eyes betraying his growing madness. "And no matter whatever powers the others might have, that human will certainly be meat!!"

A moment passed as InuYasha realized exactly who Toma was referring to. And when he did, he just gave the crazed wolf a cruel smirk, and told him, "We'll see about that."

"Exorcism!" Miroku cried out as he flew through the air, his Buddhist staff bending slightly as he whipped it towards its target. A moment later, it struck home on a sutra talisman, crushing it into the skull of the mammoth snake-demon that was his opponent. The strike enabled him to channel his full spiritual power into the snake, and though he was not as powerful as people such as Kagome and Kikyo, the strength he had cultivated proved to be enough to break apart the demonic power that allowed such a creature to exist. With a screech of pain, the snake flew back from the strike, dead before its head even came crashing down to the ground.

Coming down safely, Miroku gave a mild grunt of satisfaction before holding up his hand before him in a position of prayer. Barely paying attention to the groans of dismay that he heard, groans that did not quite mask the jubilant cheers of a smaller number of wolf-demons. Looking up at the wolf-demons above, he noted the faces of those watching him, and though some were filled with disgust, he noted that there were several actively cheering him on.

It seems that we're being successful in selling the idea of an alliance, Miroku thought with a hint of amusement as he started back to the others. The displays of power of his friends, and perhaps more importantly, the actions of both Kaname and the spider she had fought had not only shown that humans could be of value as more than a food source, but more importantly, how specious Toma's plans actually were.
Now, all the remains is to win this tournament, and we should be able to take care of him, once and for all.

With this thought in mind, the monk entered the gateway and rejoined the others. "Way to go, Miroku!" Kagome beamed as he approached them. "You sure made a show out of that round, what with that sutra trap you made for that snake!"

"Well, considering the number of new techniques Michiru and Kaname have been using, I'd hate to fall behind," Miroku told her in good humor. "Still, the next time Lord Wyvern sends you some of his artifacts, perhaps we could find a few items I could use."

"Sure, no problem! With all the stuff he's been sending me, I can't see how I'll be able to use all of it myself!" Kagome told him agreeably.

"Thank you very much," Miroku told her, genuinely appreciative of this. Then he sighed, and returned to the business at hand. "This is it, then. One more match, and the tournament's done."

"Right," Sango nodded, her tone and posture making it clear that she was ready for what came next. Tightening her grip on her Hiraikotsu, the Demon Slayer started towards the gate. Only to pause when Michiru edged forward. "Huh? Michiru, what is it?" she asked, rolling her head to the side as the Kururugi boy lowered his eyes. "Michiru, what is it?"

"I...I just wanted to say..." Michiru began, only for his mouth to fail him. He looked as if he were trying to say something in particular, but ultimately it seemed to be beyond him. So instead, he forced a smile into place, and told her, "Just..good luck, okay?"

Sango blinked a few times at this, but then smiled in return. "Thank you," was all she said in return, but the way she said it, the tender sweetness that formed her words, was something Miroku almost never heard. And it held a depth to it that furrowed his brows. But before he could say or do anything in response, she beamed at him and added, "But don't worry, Michiru. I'll be back soon enough."

With that, the Demon Slayer became all business. All real amounts of emotion faded from her face, her body tensed for action, and Sango made her way out the gate. Not giving indication that she heard the gate closing, or that Michiru was already standing at the gate, his hands clenched about the bars as he watched her advance. Or that Miroku was standing a short distance behind him, studying the boy that stood between him and the woman he loved, and in more than one way.

"It has all come down to this, my friends, my people," Yorozuko announced, his voice shushing the excited cries of the many wolf-demons watching. "So far, Koga's champions have defeated each of the beasts Toma has set against them. But still, it all comes down to this one round. So let it begin!" A few moments later, just like with the previous rounds, with the sound of one of the gates to the holding pens crashing down to the ground, followed shortly by a massive figure emerging into the cleft.

"I wonder what kind of awful monster Toma's sending out this time?" Kaname wondered nervously.

Miroku didn't know. He still couldn't see enough to be able to make out exactly what the opposition was. But he was concerned that this battle would be more arduous than the ones prior. And not because of Sango's lack of superhuman capabilities. While it was easy enough to release the demons into the cleft, it was obvious that it took some effort to return them to their places of holding, as well as to put the gates back in place. And while Toma clearly didn't care for the lives of his followers, he would soon run out of them if his decisions constantly led to them being killed. At the same time, he likely would not want his more powerful creatures injured needlessly, lest their wounds make them that much more dangerous. And given that all he would need was a single victory to win the tournament, it was likely that the creatures he had fielded thus far weren't among the strongest of his beasts.

But now Toma didn't have a choice. If he didn't win this round, than he would be disgraced in front of the entirety of his tribe, and forcibly exiled. He couldn't afford to hold anything back. Which meant that the creature Sango would be facing would likely be the strongest of the beasts he had.

As he reached this conclusion, Miroku couldn't help but be concerned. Perhaps we should have sent Sango out earlier, he thought, but then shook his head. Even though Sango had no special powers, she was by far the most skilled in the ways of battle, and was well experienced with combating powerful demons. Michiru and Kaname were powerful, but their lack of experience had gotten them both into trouble, something that they couldn't afford. Kagome was also powerful, but worked best when teaming up with others such as InuYasha. And as for Miroku himself, his best weapon was his Wind Tunnel, but while powerful, it could backfire against him if he demons he sucked into it were poisonous or possessed blade that could tear it even wider. Besides, most humans don't have Wind Tunnels. We want to advertise the capabilities of human warriors similar to those of the Demon Slayers, the monk reminded himself. And Sango is a very capable warrior. She's the most capable of dealing with any surprises Toma might have for us.

This was a rational explanation in Miroku's mind. It made perfect sense, and as an added bonus, Sango's going last in the tournament meant that her performance would make additional impact on the wolf-demons watching. But still, none of that did anything for the worried knot he felt in his stomach as the fifth and final beast stomped into view, bellowing its frustration.

"A bull-demon," Miroku murmured as he watched the foul monster emerge into the cleft, looking about at the wolf-demons that were watching, this time from a safer distance. It's eyes were pulsating with blood red, and huge clouds of steam rose up from its nostrils. It's body was thick and heavily over-muscled, and it's horns were huge, almost too big to belong to even this monstrosity. Making matters worse was the fact that this demon had clearly seen a great deal of battle; it's hide was scarred many times, its horned were chipped and worn.

Some might interpret such markings as a sign of weakness. But Miroku knew better. This bull had clearly seen many battles, and had clearly won more than its share if it were still alive. Meaning that it was not only physically strong, it was also experienced in battle.

Even as he thought this, the bull looked about the cleft, its gaze wandering before finally settling upon Sango. Upon seeing the only other living thing within its reach, its eyes narrowed dangerously, and extra-large gusts of steam escaped its nose. Clearly furious at its containment, it began scraping at the ground with one of its hoofs, eager for this chance to vent its rage.

Sango's response to this was to adopt a battle-ready stance, angling Hiraikotsu so as to be ready to launch. She reached into her sash, standing her ground as the bull bellowed its wrath before launching itself forward, snorting and grunting as the ground trembled beneath it.

"Sango...!" Michiru got out from between clenched teeth. His hands tight about the bars of the gate, his entire body shaking as the bull charged, every impact of its hooves echoing through the cleft as it closed the gap between itself and its target.

When the bull was halfway to her, Sango drew forth a small pouch from her sash, and with one easy motion, sent it flying at the bull's face. The pouch struck home on the bull's nose, releasing a cloud of poison powder. As that happened, Miroku couldn't help but smile. He had seen the effects of Sango's poisons on other demons, such as InuYasha. Not only was it very poisonous, but it also possessed an offensive odor that demons simply couldn't stand.

It was an odor the bull reacted to by bellowing in surprise and fury. Digging in its hooves, it slowly ground to a halt as it shook its head, trying to free itself of the offensive powder. Something that Sango was quick to take advantage of; before the demon had come to a complete halt, she launched her massive boomerang with deceptive ease, sending it flying at the beast's head. For a moment, Miroku thought he had overestimated this particular monster, and that Sango would be blessed with a quick victory. But the monstrous bull soon proved him wrong. It's eyes going wide at the sight of the spinning boomerang, it snorted before arcing its head as far out of its way as it could. The Hiraikotsu carved another notch in the beast's horn, then went on to gouge its way through its flank, leaving behind a wound that was several meters in the length.

But the strike was by no means fatal, nor did it impair the bull's movement. Making matters worse, it had made the bull madder, and though the Hiraikotsu was already spinning about to return to her, it wouldn't make it to her in time. Already, Toma's monster was bellowing its hatred as it again turned its gaze upon her. Rising up on its rear hooves, it thrashed its forelegs in the air before they came back to the ground, enabling the beast to charge once more, determined to put an end to the human responsible for injuring it.

Sango's response to this charge was to draw her chain from her sash before she bent her knees, tensing for action and giving them all an excellent view of her posterior. Unfortunately, any enjoyment Miroku might have had of the view was overshadowed by the shock he felt when Sango charged forward, twirling her chain about over her head. Unable to fathom what she had planned, the monk could only stand there and watch, fully aware of the distress and concern radiated by his friends. Of Michiru crying out Sango's name again.

Worried that Michiru might do something to interfere and thus spell their defeat, Miroku considered what to do to prevent this when Sango sent her chain flying towards the bull. The metal links wrapped about its right foreleg, at which the Demon Slayer flung herself over to the opposite side. The bull promptly altered course to intercept, but Sango quickly closed the remaining distance between them. A blur to Miroku's eyes, the woman warrior flung herself about the bull's ankle, wrapping the other end of her chain about it and pulling. The bull-demon, already somewhat off--balance by its attempt to turn and attack, bellowed in surprise as it was sent tumbling onto its side.

Even as the earth quaked beneath the falling bull, Sango was already in motion. Quickly drawing her sword, she raised it and drove it down deep into the demon's leg, right at the joint above its hoof. As the bull cried out in pain, the Demon Slayer withdrew her sword, then leapt into the air and delivered a crushing drop kick down upon the injured joint. Again the cleft was filled with the sound of the bull's agony, and Miroku was fully expecting for Sango to follow up with another attack. But instead, she hurriedly retreated from the bull, sheathing her blade as she ran.

Right, of course. Sango's sword isn't strong enough to cause any real amount of damage to a brute such as this. Miroku realized with a slight frown. She has to get the Hiraikotsu back.

Unfortunately, this break in Sango's assault was giving the bull the time it needed to recover. Shaking off the chain, the mammoth monster struggled to rise up. It's injured leg slowed it down, causing it to grunt and huff in pain as it got up, but ultimately, its fury and determination to survive were far greater than any amount of pain it was in. Once it was standing, it slowly turned about, favoring its injured leg, to face Sango. Charging just as she scooped up the Hiraikotsu from where it had landed.

Her preferred weapon again in hand, Sango simply stood her ground as the bull lowered its head, its mammoth horns aimed directly at her. Holding the Hiraikotsu out in front of her in both hands, she waited as the bull approached, snorting and bellowing pure killing hatred at her.

Then, without warning, Sango took her weapon and drove one end of it right into the ground. Positioning herself behind it, she held it in place as the bull's horns crashed into the Hiraikotsu. Stunned by the sound of the blow, Miroku could just barely see the Demon Slayer being driven back, her boomerang digging a furrow in the ground.

The bull screeched its rage, determined to overcome this tiny impediment. To bowl over the Hiraikotsu and trample its own under its hooves. But even as it dug into the ground, spurred on by pain and hatred, Sango took advantage of its single-minded approach and leapt into the air. Surprised by this move, the bull lifted its head up just in time to see Sango again whipping out her sword. With a fierce battle cry, she fell down upon the bull and drove the razor-sharp blade into the beast's nose.

Again the air was pierced with a screech of pain, and the bull tried to pull away. But Sango didn't allow it the chance, and instead pivoted about by the hilt of her blade, driving a powerful kick into the side of the bull's head. The force of the blow combined with the blade twisting about in the beast's sensitive nose knocked it off-balance, and its already injured foreleg buckled beneath it.

Not losing a moment, Sango released her grip on her sword, dropping back down to the ground. Hurriedly recovering her Hiraikotsu, she then leapt back up into the bull's face and swung the boomerang bone down onto its snout. Bone and cartilage audibly crushing beneath the blow, to which the bull released a howl of agony before immediately recoiling from the fierce Demon Slayer. Sango refused to give it any reprieve, and rushed in at its uninjured foreleg, smashing at the joint with the massive boomerang.

"Wow..." Kaname breathed as the bull struggled to remain on its feet with both forelegs. The immense beast howled and stumbled, barely able to support its own weight.

"This will put an end to you!" Sango cried out as she again leapt into the air. "Hirai -!"

"Reearrghh!" the bull-demon cried out, it's eyes wide with desperation. Snorting in pain and effort, it flung its head to the side, angling its head so that its horns arched towards its enemy. Her eyes going wide, Sango struggled to get her throw off before it was too late. With a desperate grunt, she fired off her Hiraikotsu, but it was immediately clear that her aim was off. The huge boomerang bone sailed off along the wall of the cleft, completely missing the bull even as its horn struck home, crashing into Sango and sending her plummeting back down to the earth.

"Sango, nooo!!" Michiru cried out, his voice rife with terror, like a boy waking up from a nightmare. The others there, Miroku included, made other, less prominent exclamations of concern as the Demon Slayer tumbled through the air. Through an act of sheer acrobatic skill and precision, Sango managed to land on her feet, but it was clear that she had not escaped the blow unscathed. Upon landing, she fell to her knee, just barely catching herself with her left hand before falling over, while she placed her right arm over her rib cage.

"Oh, no..." Kagome breathed while Kaname brought her hands to her mouth. Michiru continued to stand there, basically frozen, his knuckles white with tension. If it weren't for the fact that his jaw was basically clamped shut with fear, he would likely have already been casting some spell in order to protect the Demon Slayer. "Sango, get up! You have to get up!"

This announcement was the final blow to whatever emotional dams were keeping all their tension in place. Everyone there, including Ginta and Hakkaku, began crying out to Sango, pleading for her to stand up. Cries that became more desperate and pleading as the bull snorted loudly and took a slow step forward, clearly being careful not to push its injured forelegs too hard before it finally snuff out the annoyance that had caused it so much harm.

As for Sango, she grunted audibly as she slowly pushed herself back to her feet. Her face was creased with pain, however, and she remained hunched forward as she looked up at the monstrous demon...and smiled.

"It's all over," Sango grinned dangerously.

Stupefied by Sango's words, Michiru and the others just looked her in shock. The bull also looked surprised, as if wondering why its wounded enemy wasn't busy fearing for her life. As for Miroku, he frowned somewhat in confusion before he looked up, and smiled as he realized what was about to happen.

The Hiraikotsu, still flying through the air, was completing its circular arc and was coming at the bull-demon from behind. The horned beast's sensitive ears picked up on the sound at the last minute, prompting it to look up over its massive shoulder. When it saw the huge boomerang spinning towards it, it had just enough time to screech in surprise before it tore into its flank. Hiraikotsu continued to rip through the bull, finally crashing into its skull and smashing its head open. With one final howl of pain, the bull toppled to the ground, dead before it hit the ground.

"Sango!" Michiru cried out, his hands shaking as he opened the gate. Not giving any time to protest, he then flung himself out into the cleft, stumbling in his eagerness to reach her. Miroku and the others hesitated for just a moment before giving chase.

"Sango!" Kagome called out as they ran up to her. Michiru had already reached her, and had looked like he was about to throw his arms around her before hesitating, remembering her injured state. Leaving him to stand dumbly, unsure of what to do. "Sango, are you alright?!"

"Don't worry, I'm fine," Sango told them in an even, controlled voice. A voice that didn't quite conceal the fact that she was in pain. "I'm just a little banged up right now. That's all."

"A-are you sure?" Michiru fretted, his eyes focusing on the part of her rib cage she was still covering up. "I mean, it looked like you got hit hard, and -!"

"I'll be fine, Michiru," Sango returned, managing a pain smile that she aimed directly at him. As Miroku frowned somewhat, trying hard not to be distracted by this, the Demon Slayer looked up at the ledge where InuYasha and the others were watching. "But right now...we still have one more thing to deal with."

Nodding to this, Miroku followed Sango's gaze, and though he couldn't see InuYasha or anyone else from where he stood, he knew that the fate of the wolf-demon tribe now depended on what happened between the people up there. "And now...it's Toma's move..."

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