Gritting his teeth as he sped down the path, his three-sectioned staff in hand, Jiro kept his mind blank. He refused to imagine the many worst-case scenarios that were so easily inspired by his current situation.
Azusa was stalking a band of merchants. That much was obvious. The tracks in the brush, the snapped branches and all the other signs were there for anyone to see, and made it clear that someone her size had come through there recently. And it was equally clear that nothing human could move with that level of ease. Only a demon could have done this. A demon in human shape.
And Azusa's the only demon around that fits that bill, Jiro thought furiously as he continued to run as fast as his human body was capable of. Which wasn't as fast as a demon, unfortunately. If only I had known where the others were, then -!
Wincing, Jiro cut himself. There was no time to distract himself by asking 'what if'. He had to stay focused on the moment, to keep his mind clear and his senses sharp and on the alert. He had to be ready the instant he caught up with the merchants, for the instant Azusa detected his approach, she would either be in the midst of hunting her prey...or eating them. Either way, she won't be happy to see me! Jiro knew, his heart pounding as he tensed for battle. And if I let her take me by surprise, then I'll be signing my own death warrant!
Growling beneath his breath, Jiro took the image this inspired and used it to focus his mind. He wasn't dealing with an ally now. He was dealing with a rogue wolf-demon who would likely kill him to conceal her crimes, He was rushing into battle with a physically superior foe, and he had to be ready for the worst.
Even as he thought this, a loud blast of thunder filled the air, startling Jiro from his thoughts. And he was further startled when an intense, pained shriek followed it, one that startled many birds from flying from their perches. A shriek that Jiro immediately recognized as coming from a human throat.
Too late! was Jiro's initial thought. But even as he pictured Azusa attacking some faceless merchant, ripping out his or her throat in order to sate her hunger and prove her superiority, another blast of thunder was heard. Only this time, he realized that it wasn't thunder he was hearing. It was a strange sound, loud and booming, but not thunder. Not anything he had heard before. And it was then followed by another blast.
Not liking this in the least, Jiro slowed to a stop, his heart pounding furiously as he keened his ears, waiting for another burst of thunder to rip through the air. Several second passed, and there was nothing. Nothing but the silence of a forest filled with animals too frightened to move.
Something's happened. But...it isn't Azusa. She couldn't have made those sounds, Jiro thought, carefully analyzing the situation. A situation that was clearly more complicated than he had initially realized, and one that required caution, not just speed.
Starting forward again, Jiro quickly settled into an easy job that was easy to maintain and would allow him to come to a dead stop or leap to the side if he encountered a threat. All the while he kept alert, looking for any sign that he could be walking into an ambush of some kind, or anything that would indicate the presence of whatever was responsible for the blasting noises he had heard before. Tightening his grip on his staff, he moved onwards, his own footsteps inaudible to his ears.
"Ha ha! Would you look at that!" came a voice through the woods. Male. Unfamiliar. "Not so tough are you, bitch?!"
"That'll teach you a lesson!" came another unfamiliar voice. "We're not going to be the prey of you damned demons anymore! From now on, you'll be our meat!"
Demon?! Jiro thought, his eyes going wide. Azusa...is hurt?!
"I must say, it's gratifying for a merchant to be able to test his product. And so effectively, as well," came a third voice, this one much closer. "Now we can tell our clients that these beauties will rid them of demons with complete confidence!" There was a round of laughter at this, which was followed by the voice's own adding, "Of course, we're not quite done with this one yet..."
"Well, I think we can fix that," came the first speaker, his words spurring Jiro forward even faster. Whatever was going on, it sounded as if Azusa was the one in danger, not her intended prey. In fact, it was becoming increasingly clear that her little hunting expedition had backfired rather spectacularly. It also meant that he had very little time left before that loud, thunderous noise was heard again. And whatever was the cause of it, he knew that it would mean the death of an ally, something that the wolf-demons would look down on.
Accelerating like his life depended upon it, Jiro rounded a bend in the path, and was soon face to face with his quarry. Five merchants were standing before him, each of them holding strange metal tubes, with one such tube pointed at a figure laying panting on the ground. A quick check revealing it to be Azusa, and she was badly hurt, bleeding heavily from three large wounds. One of them was in her right thigh, the second in her shoulder, and the third was in her abdomen, which she was covering with one of her hands. Her face was frozen with pain and terror alike. The face of a person who knew she was about to die.
This was all that Jiro needed to know. While Azusa had doubtlessly had come after the merchants with the intent to slay them, she was still technically an ally. And that meant that he was duty bound to assist her. So without another thought, Jiro charged the merchants, his staff at the ready and a cry of battle tearing free of his lips.
There were times when Kagome couldn’t help but have mixed feelings about the Fuedal Era of Japan. On the one hand, when times were peaceful in the rural landscape of the times past, it was genuinely peaceful in a way that was almost impossible to find in the modern world. No honking horns, no city lights, none of the things all too common to Tokyo.
On the other hand, the peace was all too easily shattered. Something that had been driven home just a few minutes ago, when she, Shippo, Sango, Kaname, and InuYasha had met up at the center of town, looking for a place to share a quick lunch. Only to have InuYasha take off like a shot, his sensitive ears detecting trouble.
"Are you sure about this, InuYasha?!" Kagome wondered as she biked alongside him, looking hard at the half-demon. Shippo was sitting in her basket, a worried look adorning his cute features.
"Positive! Miroku was using his Wind Tunnel alright! And there were a bunch of other sounds as well!" InuYasha returned, his face creased with intensity. He knew that sound too well to be mistaken about it, and even with the various noises of the village, his sensitive ears more than up to the task of detecting it. More to the point, InuYasha knew that that sound meant that a friend of his was in danger. An image that had him pushing himself as hard as he could
While Kagome was being forced to pedal as hard as her legs were able just to keep pace with InuYasha, Kirara also accelerated "If Miroku’s using his Wind Tunnel, then it must be serious!" Sango gritted, one hand upon Kirara’s neck as the two-tail flew, her right grasping her Hiraikotsu. "We have to hurry!"
"Right!" Kaname agreed, perched behind Sango with her hands about her waist.
The quintet continued onwards, with InuYasha leading them past the fields of Tsuzumi Village, where the many famers tended to their crops. Down the road that had been blocked off by a landslide some time ago…and then screeched to a halt.
"What the…?!" InuYasha growled, scanning the terrain ahead.
"What is it?" Shippo asked, standing up higher to get a better look. What he saw was something none of them expected.
Michiru and Miroku were standing about, looking down at the ground. The area surrounding them was pockmarked with scorches and craters, as well as other signs of battle. And before them, half-buried in the earth, was something that shined in the sun’s light.
"What happened?" Kaname asked, looking perplexedly at the scene before them. "Did somebody attack them?"
"I don’t think so," InuYasha growled, sniffing the air. "I don’t smell anyone else in the area. Nothing human or demon."
Sango frowned deeply at this revelation. "But…wait a minute. If that’s the case, then what happened here?"
"Oh, don’t tell me Michiru had another tantrum!" Kagome groaned, shaking her head disdainfully. "That’s about the last thing we need!"
"Hey! My bro wouldn’t do something like that!" Kaname howled in protest.
"He already did once, remember?" Kagome reminded them, rolling her eyes at the memory of the sparring session gone bad.
"Hey! What’s that thing they’re looking at?" Shippo wondered, squinting at the reflective surface of the thing buried in the earth.
"Let’s find out," Sango declared, urging Kirara onward. The two-tail lifted towards the two males who had come to mean so much to her. "Michiru! Miroku!"
Turning about at her voice, Michiru’s face broke into an eager grin as the Kirara touched down upon the ground. "Sango!" he cried out, darting over to her, even as she slid off of the two-tail’s back. Then he looked around at the others. "InuYasha! Kaname!"
"Glad you didn’t forget I was here, bro!" Kaname grinned as she got off as well. Getting to her feet, she fixed her twin with a concerned look. "So what happened down here, anyway?"
"Kaname, you’re not going to believe this! None of you will!" Michiru returned, excitement tinged with just a bit of concern. Waving for them to follow him, Michiru returned to where Miroku was standing. "Come on! Over here!"
With frowns of confusion marking their faces, Kaname and Sango followed Michiru, while InuYasha, Kagome, and Shippo closed the gap. "What happened out here?" Kagome demanded, looking from one face to another in search of an explanation. "It looks like a warzone, and…!" Before Kagome could say another word, however, her eyes ballooned out of their sockets, her tongue falling flat in her mouth.
"Kagome?" InuYasha wondered, looking at her out of the corner of his eyes. "What is it?"
"And…what the hell is that?!" Kagome finally screeched, staring hard at the object that remained interred in the earth.
"What is it?" Shippo goggled, hopping out of the bike basket. Going over to investigate the winged vehicle, staring at the metallic wing that caught the light of the sun.
"I don’t know. I’ve never seen anything like it before," Sango admitted, staring hard at the object. Then she looked at her modern friends. "What about you, Kagome?"
"I…I know what it looks like, but…" Kagome fumbled, shaking her head in amazement as she went up to the thing. "But…that’s impossible!!"
"Hey…I’ve seen things like this before!" InuYasha got out as he knelt down, running his clawed hands across the smooth surface of the vehicle. Then he looked at Kagome and the Kururugis. "This is from your world, isn’t it?!"
"What?" Sango gasped, staring at the half-demon in shock. "Are you sure about that, InuYasha?!"
"Yeah. I’ve seen things like this flying over Kagome’s city," InuYasha returned, brushing away more of the dirt that covered the wing. "What’d you call these again? A…zet?"
"It’s a jet. A jet fighter, by the looks of it. It’s a kind of…flying machine from our time," Michiru explained as he joined his friends. While several incredulous glances were shot at him, he stared hard at the modern war vehicle, frowning as he evaluated it. "But…how did it get here?"
"It couldn’t have gotten here through the well! Look at the size of the wings! It’s way too big!" Kagome protested, gesturing at the span of the craft. A quick look was all that was needed by the others to see that she was correct; even the one wing that was above the ground was too wide to fit through the Bone-Eater’s Well.
"There’s more to it than that," Miroku cut in. When Michiru and the others looked up at him, the monk had a studious expression on his face. "You said that…this thing is capable of flight, didn’t you?"
"That’s right," Michiru answered. Then he smiled, understanding some of the confusion he was being met with. "Well, I understand that you might not believe it, but…"
"You don’t understand, Michiru. I don’t you when you say that this…jet fighter…is capable of flight," Miroku explained, holding up his hand. "But how did it become buried here to begin with? It doesn’t look as if it crashed here."
"Hey, he’s right!" Kagome exclaimed, her eyes bugging out again. "I don’t see any damage to it, but…how did it get buried here, anyway?" Then she took a closer look at the buried craft, a deepening frown gracing her lips. "For that matter…what happened to the pilot?!"
"The pilot?" Sango repeated blankly. Then her eyes widened in realization. "You mean that…someone actually rides on this thing?!"
"Right. Well, in it, actually. Look, see? There’s the cockpit," Kagome pointed, indicating the transparent bulge above where the seat was. "But…I don’t see anyone in there! There’s no body!"
Looking at the others, Kaname frowned as well. "But…if there’s no pilot…then how’d it get here?! Somebody must’ve flown it here, right?"
"I…guess so," Kagome returned, feeling like her brain was overheating from the very nature of the quandary facing them. "But…if that’s so, then what happened?! How’d a jet get here, and how’d it get buried?!"
"It’s as if whoever was flying this thing just…left it here to be buried," Michiru thought out loud, struggling with the idea even as he spoke it. "But…why would someone do that? And how’d it get here in the first place?!"
"I have an idea," InuYasha growled, moving up to the cockpit. "Instead of just standing around, asking questions, let’s open this thing up already! Maybe there are some answers in here!"
Watching as InuYasha drew back his fist, Michiru brought up his hand and rushed up to him. "Wait, InuYasha! Here, let me," he said, coming to his friend’s side. Quickly looking over the craft and remembering what he had seen of vehicles similar to this one, the Shikigami User soon located the handle. Grunting as he pulled it, Michiru succeeded in popping open the canopy.
"Huh. This thing sure looks strange. Even weirder than those other machines in that crazy world of yours," InuYasha commented as she scanned the controls of the craft.
"This is just getting crazier," Michiru commented, shaking his head in mystification. "It doesn’t look like there’s any damage at all in here! So why…?"
While the two of them looked, Kagome came up beside them and looked as well. "Hey, what’s that?"
"What’s what?" Michiru wondered.
"It looks like there’s something jammed in behind the seat here," Kagome explained, reaching in for what she had seen. There was then a zapping sound and the reborn priestess winced in pain, withdrawing her hand.
"Kagome! Are you alright?!" InuYasha demanded, looking at her in concern.
"I’m fine. I just got a little shock, that’s all," Kagome explained, wearing a confused expression. "This might seem crazy, but…the thing in there? It looks like a sword."
"A sword?!" InuYasha growled, his interest increasing. Easing Kagome away from the craft, the half-demon went to look for himself.
Sure enough, tucked behind the seat and just barely within view was a sword in its sheathe. "Well, what do we have here?" InuYasha breathed, reaching in to grab the object. A slight crackling of electric blue appeared about the weapon as his hand approached it. The half-demon hesitated for a moment, then growled as she wrapped his fingers about the sheath.
At the moment he made contact, the aura of lightning subsided, the weapon pulsating like a beating heart. A dangerous grin forming on his face, InuYasha lifted his prize from the jet, and held it up before him. It was a katana, similar in size and shape to the Tetsusaiga in its normal form. The cloth on its hilt was fresh and new, however, and showed no signs of wear or tear.
"Well, wherever this thing came from…its mine now," InuYasha declared, taking hold of the hilt. Drawing the sword a few inches from its sheath, the half-demon was rewarded by the sight of blue lightning crackling about the blade, and an electric humming.
"This is getting even stranger," Miroku commented, frowning intently. "Even assuming that someone from the other world flew this craft here and abandoned it to be buried for some reason, why would he or she simply leave this sword behind? It just doesn’t make any sense!"
"Yeah. Just thinking about is giving me a headache!" Shippo declared, rolling back on the ground as he placed his hands to his temples.
"Well, one thing’s for sure. We can’t just leave something like this just sitting around," Kagome decided, staring hard at the fighter. "We have to find out where it came from! And how it got here!"
"You know…it looks like this thing is in pretty good shape," Michiru thought aloud, considering the craft. "Now, I’m not an expert on these things, but…jets and airplanes and stuff…they all have flight recorders that record everything that happens to them. And if we could access that..."
"Michiru, there’s no way you could ever break into something like that!" Kagome protested. "Black boxes like that are loaded with all kinds of security!"
Nodding, Michiru answered, "I know, but my Thunder Shikigami might be able to do it! Computers run on electricity, and if can somehow use it to access that information…"
"Then we might be able to find out where this thing came from!" Kaname grinned.
"Good. The sooner we find out more about this, the better," Sango agreed, coming up beside Michiru and smiling at him.
While Michiru was blushing, laughing nervously at Sango’s wondrous smile, Kagome was frowning somewhat. "That’s one idea," she admitted tersely. "Or one of us could back home and find out if something like this has disappeared, and when and where it happened."
"Huh?" Michiru got out as he looked at Kagome.
"There’s a registration code on the side," Kagome explained, indicating the letters and numbers on the fuselage. "And this thing must have been buried just before the landslide that happened here. So all we have to do is take a few pictures and check it out back home."
"Oh," Michiru got out, blinking at the simplicity of it all. Wondering why he hadn’t thought of it himself, he raised his hands sheepishly and said, "Well…I guess that might work."
"Still, I think we should try to learn about it here as well," Kaname pointed out. "That’s a military jet, Kagome. It might not have been listed as being missing."
Kagome turned and looked at Kaname, and was about to argue her point. But before she could say a word, the crashing of feet was heard approaching. As the group turned about, they saw Jiro rushing towards them as quickly as he could. His hair looked even wilder than usual, and his entire body was driven with urgency.
"Michiru! Kaname! Please, come quickly!" Jiro cried out as he came to stop before them. His breathes coming out hard as he tried to recover, he looked desperately at the Shikigami Users.
"What is it?!" Michiru wondered, looking in confusion at the young Demon Slayer.
"It’s Azusa! She’s been hurt!" Jiro explained frantically.
"You stupid, useless bitch!!!!"Koga howled in outrage, staring hatefully at the redheaded she-wolf. "What the hell were you thinking?!!?!"
"Oh, shut up, you human’s pet!" Azusa sneered weakly. "Where do you get off talking to me like that?!"
"I’ll talk to you any way I want, bitch!!" Koga growled, his fists clenched and the crystals of his body shining with rage. "What is wrong with you, anyway?! Just when it looks like we’re going to be able to make the alliance work, you decide to try and screw everything up for both our peoples, just for some quick meat?!!"
"Like you never had human flesh before?!" Azusa countered nastily. "You know, back in the day when you actually had a spine?!"
Rolling his eyes, Michiru tried very hard to ignore the splitting headache he was developing from listening to the two demons argue. The group was back at Kaito’s home, where Azusa lay on a cot, three large gunshot wounds marring her body. Her skin was pale from the loss of blood, but this did not stop her from resisting him and Kaname, who were invoking the healing powers of their Water Shikigami to heal her injuries. While they worked, Kagome was applying ointment and bandage the wounds, and looking like she a headache very similar to those of the twins.
"Oh, get away from me, you, you, you…you humans!!" Azusa snarled weakly, looking at Kagome and the Kururugi twins in naked contempt. She tried to raise her claws against them, but ultimately lacked the strength to move her arms more than a few inches, let alone fight. "Just leave me alone, already! I don’t need your help!"
"Sure you don’t! Like you didn’t need help getting back here when you were lying back on that path, bleeding to death!" Jiro sniped wearily, looking disdainfully at the she-wolf. "If I hadn’t spotted your tracks leading out of the village and followed you, you’d be the one in somebody’s stomach!"
"Feh! What do you know, anyway?!" Azusa snarled, sticking her nose in the air as she folded her arms and looked away.
While the Kururugis and Kagome worked, making small noises of dismay, Sango leaned over their shoulders and examined Azusa’s injuries. Frowning, she looked at Jiro. "I’ve never seen injuries like these before," she admitted. "And you said it was a group of merchants who did this to her?"
Nodding, Jiro answered, "That’s right. They were using some kind of strange weapons that I’ve never seen before. They looked like metal tubes that spat out fire and smoke when one of them fired at me." As Sango digested this, the younger slayer looked back at Azusa. "They were getting ready to finish her off before I was able to get her out of there."
His eyes widening, Koga turned towards Jiro. "Metal tubes?" he repeated, his voice going up. "Are you sure about that?!"
"That’s right. They sort of reminded me of Daisuke’s cannon, only a lot smaller," Jiro explained, holding up his hands as if to indicate the size of the weapons. "Also, I didn’t detect any spiritual or demonic power from them."
"So they were mortal weapons? And they still did this much damage?" Miroku spoke, his own face shifting with surprise as he turned to the wolf-demon leader. "Koga, this sounds a great deal like…"
"Like those ‘guns’ I saw before. Yeah, I know," Koga growled, a shadow of worry forming on his face. He took a closer look at Azusa’s wounds, at her general condition. "And from the looks of it, they work pretty well on demons."
"I’m sorry, Koga," Michiru apologized, looking up at his friend. When the wolf-demon returned the look, Michiru lowered his blue-grey eyes. "I…I just didn’t know how…effective guns from...from here would be! I mean…!"
"Hey, this isn’t your fault, Michiru," Koga stated, his gaze hardening as looked Azusa in the face. "As far as I’m concerned, the only one to blame here is this brain-dead bitch!!"
Immediately outraged, Azusa looked straight at Koga. "Hey! I’m the victim here! Why is it my fault?!"
"You’re the victim?! Are you kidding me?!" Koga growled incredulously. "You’re the one who attacked those traders, remember?!"
"I was just hunting! You know, as if for food?" Azusa countered, her eyes burning hatefully. "Something I doubt you even remember how to do anymore!"
"Hey, my hunting skills are just fine!" Koga sneered. "But those traders had every right to defend themselves! Or did you expect for them to lie down and let you eat them?!"
"That’s different! Humans are prey! They’re meant to be eaten!!" Azusa declared, once again moving to shove Kagome and the twins away. "And if it weren’t for those noisy tubes, I’d have -!"
"Dammit, Azusa, haven’t you figured it out yet?!!" Koga roared, cutting through her whining like a knife through paper. As all eyes fell on him, the wolf-demon leader stood tall, and looked down on the redhead. "This isn’t just some random happening! There are a lot more humans then there are of our kind, and they’re changing! They’re getting smarter, more organized! Those with special powers are growing in number, and those with special knowledge are making weapons like those guns the merchants used on you! Soon it won’t be us hunting them! It’ll be the humans who are hunting us!"
"Then we’ll just steal their weapons and use them ourselves!" Azusa shot back defiantly.
"It doesn’t work like that, you idiot!" Koga snarled, leaning down glare right into her eyes. "We can’t just keep stealing from everyone around us! Because they’re the ones who know how to create! It’s the humans who are doing more than just stealing, more than just living like wild animals! They’re the ones who are learning, who are getting stronger and smarter! And you know what happens when you can’t steal from someone else, when you can’t live off of someone else’s work? You’re dead, that’s what happens! It almost happened to you today, and it’ll happen again and again, and then…"
Just as Koga reached a crescendo of fury, he went completely silent. A slight gasp escaped his lips as his eyes suddenly widened. Before the eyes of everyone there, his skin went several shades paler, a spark of fear appearing in his own eyes.
As Koga stood straight, stepping away from Azusa, the redhead looked at him in confusion. "And then what?!" she demanded, confused by Koga’s sudden silence. "Hey! What’s the matter with you, anyway?!"
"Maybe he just got sick of looking at you," InuYasha grinned, looking spitefully at the she-wolf. "Not that I blame him!"
"Hmph! What do you know, anyway, you half-breed freak?" Azusa snarled, leaning back.
"Ugh! Look, if you’re done complaining, you should really get some rest!" Kagome advised, closing up her medical kit before standing up. "You lost a lot of blood, and I don’t care if you’re a demon! You still need time to recover!"
"Hmph! Like you even care! Stupid human wench!" Azusa sneered as she looked away.
"Believe it or not, I do care! Though with the way you’ve been acting, I’m not exactly sure why!" Kagome retorted before she started away.
While Michiru and Kaname also stood and left the she-wolf’s side, Sango looked towards her fellow Demon Slayer. "Jiro, could you please keep an eye on Azusa?" she asked, her voice heavy with the strain of everything that had been happening. "I’m sorry, but…we still have to deal with that strange machine we found."
"Not a problem, Sango. I understand," Jiro returned easily, practically snapping off a dutiful salute as he took his three-sectioned staff in hand. "Just leave it to me!"
Smiling gratefully, Sango nodded as she turned to leave. "Thanks. I’ll have someone come here later to take over for you."
While Sango and the others departed, Jiro just kept standing straight with Azusa was glaring at him with ill-hidden frustration.
As for Koga, he slowly wandered away, looking as if he had seen a ghost…
The sun was setting as InuYasha and the others set up a campfire just before where the jet still lay buried. Its secrets still hidden, and more mysteries ahead of them.
As they sat about the campfire, InuYasha examined the sword he had recovered from the jet, while the rest of them kept shooting concerned glances at the impossible craft. "So what do we do now?" Kaname wondered, looking at the more experienced members of the group. "Any ideas?"
"Well, we definitely have to find out where that jet came from, and how it got here in the Feudal Era," Kagome stated, looking suspiciously at it. "But we also have to make sure that no one else finds out about it. I mean…I don’t even want to think about the kind of trouble something like that could mean for this world!"
"Agreed," Miroku nodded. "If one such vehicle could have made it to this world, then who’s to say what else could happen? Or whatever things could come to…or from this world?"
"So we have to find out if there’s another portal to the modern world," Michiru agreed quietly. "Not to mention where it is!"
"We also have to find out more about this thing," InuYasha spoke, holding up the sword to the sun’s fading light. "Damn! I just know there’s something special about this sword! I can practically smell it!"
"Oh? And what do we have here?" came an older voice that everybody recognized.
"Huh?!" InuYasha growled…just before he smashed his free hand down upon his chest. Withdrawing his hand, he stared down at it and growled. "Well, well, Myoga! I was wondering when you’d show up again!"
"Ugh…greetings and salutations, Master InuYasha," Myoga squeaked out as everyone there leaned forward to get a better look at their unexpected visitor. "I see that some most unusual things have been happening during my absence."
"Feh! A machine from the other world buried here? With a weird sword inside of it?!" InuYasha sneered. "Yeah, you could definitely say things have been unusual, alright!"
As quickly as possible, the group explained to Myoga exactly what had happened. "Anyway, I’m heading back home to see if I can find out more about the jet, and Michiru and Kaname are going to be doing some work on it here," Kagome concluded. "Still, we haven’t had a chance to try and figure out anything about that sword."
"Hmm. I see. A most interesting problem," Myoga mused thoughtfully. Looking up at InuYasha, the flea-demon hopped up to him. "Master InuYasha, would you be so kind as to allow me a better look at that sword?"
"Huh? Oh, sure," InuYasha growled, lowering the sheathed blade to the ground before the old demon. Gently drawing out some of the enchanted blade, the half-demon watched as Myoga hopped about, examining the mysterious weapon.
"Hmmm…" Myoga started, closely examining the sword. "Well, for starters, this sword was forged from the fang of a very powerful demon."
"Really?" Michiru spoke up. "You mean it’s like the Tetsusaiga?"
"Indeed, though…I don’t recognize the scent of the blade. There are so many other scents and sensations mixed into this sword. It’s almost impossible to tell them apart," Myoga admitted ruefully. "And it's very structure and design are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before."
"Yeah, I know," InuYasha growled, hefting the sword up again to look at it. Then his eyes widened again as he looked back at the flea-demon. "Say, Myoga, do you think Totosai might know something about this sword?"
"Hmmm…it’s possible," Myoga admitted, folding his arms in thought. "At the very least, he could provide greater insight into the nature of this…Reikikaega."
"Huh?" InuYasha started, his expression shifting to surprise.
"Reikikaega? The Aura-Transmuting Fang?" Kaname spoke wonderingly.
"Wait a second?! How’d you know the name of this sword?!" InuYasha demanded, staring hard at the flea. As Myoga started sweating fearfully, InuYasha raised his fist. "Come on, spill it!"
"There’s no need for violence, Master!" Myoga cried out, waving his hands in protest. "The name of the sword was written on the sheath! See for yourself!"
At this, InuYasha blinked several times in quick succession. Letting out a noise of surprise, the half-demon turned the sword about in his hands. Sure enough, the kanji for ‘Reikikaega’ was inscribed upon the side of the scabbard. "Oh," InuYasha finally got out, staring stupidly at the sword.
"And you never even noticed?" Shippo piped up in amusement. "Talk about a bonehead!"
"Shippo! That wasn’t very nice!" Kaname scolded. When the little fox-demon turned to look at her in surprise, he was faced with a disapproving scowl.
Somewhat mollified by having Kaname reprimanding Shippo, InuYasha returned his attention to the old flea. "Myoga, do you think you can get Totosai to come here and take a look at this?" the half-demon asked. "We need to guard that jet, and…"
"I understand perfectly, Master InuYasha," Myoga replied, bowing respectfully before looking away. "Sango, may I have Kirara’s assistance? It would help expedite my journey."
Nodding, Sango answered, "Of course, Myoga."
"Thank you," Myoga bowed. "I’ll be back with her as soon as I've found Totosai."
"I guess that means I have to have Hachi take me back to the well," Kagome decided. Then, heaving a sigh, the raven-haired girl then took on a determined expression. "Alright. We’ll head out tomorrow. The sooner we figure this all out, the better."
"Agreed," Miroku nodded. "There’s too much going on that we don’t understand."
"But before that, there’s still something I have to know," Kagome started, her tone menacing as she stood. Moving to stand between both Michiru and Miroku, she alternated from looking at one to the other. "What exactly happened out here between you two?! This whole place looks like a battlefield! And Miroku, why were you using your Wind Tunnel?!"
"Huh?" Miroku started, looking at Kagome with wide eyes.
"InuYasha said that he heard your Wind Tunnel before we got here!" Kagome explained, her features creasing with concern. "But why? What happened out here?!"
Looking at Kagome, Michiru felt a gaping pit open up in his stomach. Oh, no, he thought, the image of that fight returning to him. Of the shock and horror he had felt when Miroku had unleashed the abyssal void of his right hand upon him. How am I gonna tell them about…what he did?
While Michiru was pondering this, Miroku was sighing somberly. "Actually, Kagome…I’m afraid that was my fault."
Startled, Michiru looked up at Miroku in surprise. "Huh?"
"What do you mean?" Sango wondered as the others stared at the monk.
"Well…as Sango knows, I found her and Michiru together by the water earlier today," Miroku confessed, looking down at the ground. "And…I must admit, I…took it rather badly."
"Really?" Kagome replied, looking at Michiru in surprise. The Shikigami User just sat where he was, watching as the reborn priestess looked back at Miroku. "So? What happened?"
"I…was angry at Michiru, and decided to challenge him to another sparring match," Miroku confessed. "In retrospect, it was a foolish decision, but…I wasn’t thinking straight at the time. I just wanted to…to settle things between us."
"I…I see," Kagome replied, her disappointment clear. "But then why did you…did you use your Wind Tunnel?!"
"Again, I must take full responsibility for what happened," Miroku spoke sagely.
As he listening to Miroku speak, saw the remorseful expression he wore, Michiru relaxed, and even managed to smile. I guess…he must feel pretty bad about what happened, the Shikigami User decided. Well, I guess I can understand him…not being happy about me and Sango…being together like that. And it’s not like…he’s the only one who’s been going crazy over this…
As this thought ran its course, Miroku continued his explanation. "In any case, I kept pushing Michiru. He was angry…understandably so, and…"
"And he lost his temper and went crazy, just like time," Kagome concluded, shooting a killer glare at Michiru. While the Kururugi boy was looking up in shock, she added, "Is that what happened?"
While Michiru was gearing up to protest, his mind was numbed by Miroku nodding somberly. "That’s correct," he replied, much to the boy’s growing horror. "Given the intensity of his counterattack, I had little choice but to…use the Wind Tunnel to block it."
"What?!!?!" Michiru shrieked in outrage, staring at the monk in disbelief. "That’s not what happened!! You used the Wind Tunnel and tried to kill me!! You kept telling me to go back home, and…!"
"Oh, please! You really expect us to believe that Miroku would actually use his Wind Tunnel on one of us?!" Kagome demanded, staring wrathfully at Michiru. "He would never do something like that, and you know it!"
His mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water, Michiru just stood there, looking at Kagome. He thought of how he had once believed what she did, and struggled with her accusation. "But…that’s what happened!" he finally said lamely.
"Oh, please! Don't even think of trying to lie to us!" Kagome stated flatly. "Just admit it! You screwed up and lost your temper, just like before!"
"But…wait a minute…!" Kaname started, from Kagome to her brother. However, the Kururugi girl was clearly flummoxed by the sudden turn of events, and was unsure of what to say.
"Yeah, just hold it right there!" InuYasha growled angrily. "What makes you so sure that it’s Michiru’s fault?! You weren’t even here! None of us were!!"
"Look, InuYasha, I know Michiru is your friend, but get real!" Kagome countered, staring daggers at the half-demon. "Miroku would never use his Wind Tunnel unless his life depended on it! Which means that Michiru…!"
"Now, now, Kagome, let’s not be too hard on him," Miroku spoke sagely. Smiling as only he knew how, the monk looked squarely at Michiru. "After all, I was his age once. I know how easy it is to lose one’s head in battle, especially when a beautiful woman is involved."
"What?" Michiru gasped out, unable to believe his own ears.
"If Michiru will just admit his wrongdoing in this instance, I will gladly consider the matter closed," Miroku continued, his voice smooth as an oil slick. Holding out his hand to the Shikigami User, he smiled that much more deeply.
While Michiru just looked from Miroku’s face to his hand and back, the monk just kept smiling. "Come on, Michiru. Just apologize and it will all be done and over with."
"That’s right! You owe Miroku that much!" Kagome growled, her arms folded across her chest. His mouth slightly open, Michiru shifted his gaze to her, and found an unforgiving expression on her face. "If I were you, I’d be glad that he’s willing to let you off so lightly!"
"Hey, watch it, Kagome!" InuYasha growled as Kaname once again tried to plead her brother’s case. While Kagome countered and soon was embroiled in an argument, Michiru just stood there, looking about at the faces of his friends. He saw Shippo sitting there, unsure of what to do. He saw Kagome, already convinced of his guilt, practically screaming at InuYasha. And Sango…her expression was torn, and filled with pain. So much so that she looked away, and hid her face from everyone.
And then Michiru looked back at Miroku, who was still standing there, still smiling. His hand still outstretched.
In that moment, Michiru lost all capacity for thought. His stunned expression tightened into one of sharp, raging fury. The stabbing pain of betrayal twisted his lips into a snarl of pure hatred as spheres of Shikigami magic appeared in both his hands.
"You…you lying bastard!!" Michiru shrieked, sending both bolts of magic squarely into Miroku’s chest. The red spheres of force sent the monk flying into the air, crying out in pain as he tumbled to the ground.
At the sound of Miroku’s agony, everyone else just stopped and stared at the fallen monk. "Miroku!" Sango cried out, rushing over to his side.
While InuYasha and Kaname looked at the two of them, and Shippo darted over to join Sango, Kagome was turning to look at Michiru with a look of angry triumph. "So, you still expect us to believe that it was Miroku’s fault?"
"What…?" Michiru started, his sudden rage gone as he began to realize just what had happened. "But…I…!"
"Oh, knock it off! And to think that Miroku was willing to forgive you and that stupid temper of yours!" Kagome growled, her eyes narrowed into slits. "Honestly! Maybe we should just send you back home before you cause any more trouble!"
At this accusation, Michiru looked about, and once again looked at his friends. He saw InuYasha and Kaname staring at him with questioning looks. He saw Kagome’s accusing glare. And most of all, he saw Sango by Miroku’s side, looking at him with concern.
No… Michiru thought, shaking his head in horrified disbelief. No, no, no, no, noooo!!!!
Unable to bear looking anymore, Michiru turned on his heel and ran away. He ran into the woods, crashing through the trees. Wanting nothing more than to burn that horrid image from his mind.
"Hmph! I can’t believe this!" Kagome grumbled, turning about in disgust.
"Kagome…" Kaname protested, her voice hardening. When Kagome looked at the Kururugi girl, she saw none of the nervousness she normally displayed. "Look, I know you don’t like my bro, and I realize that…he’s been acting up a bit. But there’s just no way that…"
"Oh, come on!" Kagome cut in irritably. Then, taking a breath, she gave Kaname a more sympathetic look. "Kaname, I know Michiru is your brother, but you have to face facts! His temper is out of control! You saw what he just did to Miroku!"
"I know, but…" Kaname faltered. Completely unaware that InuYasha was looking at her somberly. Just before he turned his gaze to Miroku, and saw the smile he wore as he basked in Sango’s attention.
Just keep playing your games, Miroku. You’re not fooling me, InuYasha thought angrily, recalling what his own nose had told him about the battlefield. As the half-demon kept watching, he saw Sango looking in the direction Michiru had run off in. The unmistakable concern that was seen in her eyes.
You’re not fooling Sango, either, InuYasha added inwardly, anger twisting his guts. The only people you’ve got fooled are Kagome…and yourself.
"Damn him!!" Michiru cried out, bashing his fist against a wall of solid rock. The same rock that he had slammed into earlier, his rage and confusion causing him to slam right into it before he had even realized that it was there. A rock that had probably stopped him from running all night, stopped his flight from his own memories.
"Damn you, Miroku!! Damn you!!" Michiru swore, wishing nothing but evil upon the monk for what he had done. With a single lie, he had caused all of his friends, even his own sister, to view him with suspicion. And once again, Sango’s attention was upon Miroku.
Sango probably hates me now, all because of… Michiru thought despondently. With this thought came the image of Sango turning away from him, her eyes filled with the same angry disdain that had colored Kagome’s visage. Completing this picture was Miroku once again wrapping his arm about Sango’s shoulders, the two of them walking away.
Fury and despair mixing uncontrollably in his heart, Michiru drove his fists into the rock again and again. His knuckles were soon bloodied, his hands on fire with pain, and still he lashed out. He kept pounding against the rock until his fury was spent, leaving him hollow and empty. Unable to do anything but fall against the rock, tears of utter misery falling from his eyes.
Sango…I’m so sorry… Michiru thought miserably, sobbing beneath the moon, which was nothing but a sliver in the darkening sky…