Legacy of the Cursed Mask: The Wolf-Demon Crisis

A True Love Revealed

As Sango made her way up the stairs of Kaito's home, she felt an enormous weight upon her shoulders. A weight that far exceeded that of her shattered Hiraikotsu's reassuring heft. A weight that made simply walking up the stairs feel like she was climbing a sheer cliff with a boulder strapped to her back.

She had had long days before, where one thing happened after another in such rapid succession that trying to keep up with everything had left her somewhat staggered. As a Demon Slayer, Sango had become somewhat accustomed to such things. It had been part of her life, and even after the loss of her home and her old life, she had had to deal with more than her share of such exhausting days.

But at that moment, Sango couldn't remember a day that had been so utterly and thoroughly exhausting as this one had been. Her wearied mind could barely keep track of how what had been a fairly peaceful morning had been spoiled by Kagome's venomous argument with Kaname, and had quickly degenerated from there. With one painful event leading to another, leaving the Demon Slayer more frayed and exhausted, until at last it had culminated in a battle that should never have happened. A battle that had left her own efforts utterly thwarted.

Miroku was about to confess! Sango thought, and not for the first time that evening. Everything was in place! Just a little bit longer, and Michiru's name would have been cleared!

In her mind, Sango knew that, even if Miroku had confessed, that would not have brought an immediate end to the torment plaguing her and her friends. There would have been anger towards the monk for his deception, and Kagome would certainly have been stricken by the revelation that the monk whom she had defending and advocating so ardently was actually guilty, would likely have gone into a state of denial and outrage. Possibly even lead to a measure of infighting amongst them. But in the end, it would have allowed them all to get past the monk's treachery, and begin the healing process.

But the confession had never taken place. and instead, Sango was faced with an even greater level of confusion and trouble than she had been before.

Miroku had saved Michiru's life during the battle with the demon Totosai had created. Sango had seen it happen, had even watched as the boy she loved had been sent tumbling to the ground, an easy target for the monstrous tree-beast. Had felt her heart cry out in agony when she realized what an easy target he had been for the beast, had fought with everything she had in order to get past the countless gnashing heads that had been coming at her from every side. Only for everything she had...to not be enough. The loss of her Hiraikotsu hindering her to the point where it had been utterly impossible for her to rescue the one she loved. Leaving her unable to do anything but watch as Miroku fought the battle she wished she could have fought herself, using his spiritual powers to blaze a trail to Michiru and give Kirara the chance to escape with him.

On one level, Sango was grateful beyond belief for this. Grateful that the one she loved had been saved, and on another level, that some of her faith in Miroku's heart had been salvaged. That while he had acted against the group, had betrayed Michiru, that he was still good at heart. That the things that had initially drawn her to him remained intact, that there was still a line that he would not cross to get what he wanted.

But at the same time, she also knew that this rescue would make things that much more difficult. Kagome would take it as that much more proof that Miroku was in the right, and thus would be that much harder to convince of his guilt. It also provided the monk with an opportunity to claim his innocence, to say that if he truly wished Michiru dead, than he could have easily allowed the monster to take his life.

And perhaps worse of all, Sango had lost a key opportunity. Jiro and Azusa would be leaving tomorrow with a shipment of supplies for the alliance, and as soon as they were gone, so would be a large part of the leverage she had invoked to force Miroku to confess his sins.

She could still wait for Koga to return, Sango knew. The wolf-demon had promised to come back with enough people to transport the supplies they had been able to purchase, and she could use that to force a confession out of Miroku. But she had no way of knowing how long it would take for them to arrive. They could appear the next day, or the day after that, or perhaps even later. So much depended upon the current situation in the mountains, and with so much trouble and unrest still plaguing the wolf-demons, Sango knew that there could be delays. And every delay they suffered gave Miroku another chance to get out of this. To find some way of turning the situation to his advantage.

And we can't afford that. Not after everything that's happened, Sango somberly thought as she reached the head of the stairs and turned down one of the hallways. Painfully aware that there was another option at hand.

To make good on her threat to Miroku. To tell the others herself of his misdeeds, to make it clear he was the guilty one, not Michiru. To explain her reasoning to them, and if need be, make him face the consequences of those actions.

She could do this. Sango knew that. It would be painful for them all, but it would bring closure to this nightmarish mess.

But at the same time...Sango didn't want to.

Announcing Miroku's guilt and forcing him to face judgment, whether it be at the hands of the group or the alliance, would not end the infighting that now plagued them. It would do nothing to sway Kagome's mind, or any others who might still believe in Miroku's innocence, or who were at least reluctant to accept his guilt. It would not lead to any real healing of the rifts that now permeated their team, and even if Miroku weren't turned over to the alliance, further broken bonds would more than likely result in the monk being forced to leave the group altogether. And with everything that had happened, with Naraku's most recent machinations and the clear signs that he was gaining increased power, they couldn't afford to be short even one member in battle. For even one person could make the difference between victory and defeat.

And even beyond that, there was still a part of Sango's heart that held such warm feelings towards Miroku, made her remember all the kindness he had shown her when she had been hurting. This part of her had been pushed to the breaking point when she had put him in the position of having to confess his misdeeds; the Demon Slayer simply didn't know how much more her tattered heart could take.

But...I still have to do something. I have to put an end to this...somehow... Sango thought , pausing in mid-step. Wrestling with memories and emotions that allowed her no peace, no respite. But...how...?

Furrowing her brows, the Demon Slayer cudgeled her mind for ideas, for even the slightest idea on how to deal with this situation. But after several seconds passed, Sango let out a wearied sigh of defeat. Her attempt to force Miroku's confession had taken much of her emotional strength, and had left her torn even in the short time since her confrontation with the monk. The tense time that followed in addition to the horrendous battle had pushed whatever emotional strength she had had left to the limits. And as physically and mentally exhausted as she was now, Sango found that she was simply not up to the task of dealing with the situation at hand.

Maybe this will seem a bit easier after a goodnight's sleep, Sango thought unhappily. This thought unable to chase away the niggling doubts that still gnawed at her, the Demon Slayer frowned and turned her focus elsewhere. In the meantime...there are still a few things I need to check on tonight.

Forcing these tasks to the forefront of her mind, and thus allowing herself to shove her niggling fears aside for the time being, Sango started forward again, her hands clenched and eyes narrowed. Doing everything she could to keep herself under control as she made her way to one of the rooms in Kaito's home, a room that was presently under guard.

At Sango's approach, the two half-asleep members of the town militia snapped to full awareness, their hands reaching for their weapons before they realized who it was approaching. "Uh, Lady Sango," one of them muttered out, looking rather sheepish. "I, uh..."

"That's okay. I'm sorry to surprise you," Sango returned pleasantly, looking from one face to the other. "So...has there been any trouble? Has Kohaku...?"

"No. I'm afraid that there hasn't been so much as a peep out of him," the other guard replied in a sympathetic manner. "He's been taking his meals and so on, but beyond that..."

Nodding as the guard shrugged helplessly, Sango watched as the other one added, "To be honest, I'm not even sure why you still think he needs guarding. It's fairly obvious that this boy isn't going anywhere anytime soon."

"Maybe, but..." Sango started momentarily unsure of what to say, Of how to explain just how thoroughly duplicitous Naraku was. That it seemed like the moment that things were most peaceful and innocent was the moment that their malignant nemesis showed his hand, and often brought them all to the brink of disaster. "You'll understand if we...don't want to take any chances."

"Can't say I disagree with you there," the first guard reported. "Do you want to check up on him?" After a moment's hesitation, Sango nodded. The guards bowed slightly before parting for her, allowing the Demon Slayer to move forward and slide open the door. To look upon the sole occupant of this tiny room.

Kohaku... Sango thought, her already heavy heart sinking that much more as she looked at her younger brother. The only human family she had left in the entire world. And a beloved sibling that she had fought long and hard to win back from Naraku.

A person that she found that, at that moment, made Sango want to cry just from looking at him.

It's so wrong... Sango couldn't help but think, comparing the ensorcelled youth that was presently sitting with his back against the far wall of the room to the cheerful boy she had known while they had been growing up, and even to the somewhat hardened but still wonderful brother she had had a chance to spend time with before Naraku had stolen him away once again. The bright, compassionate, and lively person that she knew to be Kohaku a far cry from the seemingly mindless creature that their nemesis had once again reduced him to. Something that was just recognizable as being human, but lacked the spark of life that made a person truly a person. As repellant as the samurai Naraku had killed, only to rouse them into an undead state for the purpose of attacking her and the others. He shouldn't be like this, he...

Wincing at this shift in her thoughts, Sango clamped down on herself and shoved them to the side, at least for the moment. Thinking about what should be wouldn't do her or anyone else any good. She had to deal with what was, not what wasn't. And at that moment, Kohaku was still ensorcelled by Naraku, and until that spell was broken, he would remain in this mindless state, a potential enemy that could be roused to attack and loot and kill at Naraku's whim. And as much as she wanted to be with him once more, to hold him in her arms, the Demon Slayer knew that she could not take that chance. Even with her brother's weapons taken from him, he could still kill a person in their sleep, if so ordered by his master. All it would take would be a moment's carelessness on their parts to allow Naraku to strike.

Frowning as she once again focused on Kohaku's lifeless eyes, Sango sighed before closing the door. "Thanks, you two," she told the militia men as she glanced between them. "Just...don't let your guard down. If anything happens..."

"We'll deal with it, Demon Slayer," one of the militia men spoke up even as Sango trailed off.

"Without hurting your brother, of course," the other one chimed in with a kindly voice.

"Of course," Sango replied, hoping against hope that it never came down to that. That Naraku would ignore Kohaku for a time, at least long enough for them to take him beyond the malignant demon's reach. "Good night to you both, then."

As the militia men politely bowed their heads, Sango continued through the Feudal manor, and soon found herself at the door of the other prisoner they kept, the one that they no longer bothered guarding. Pausing before the door, the woman warrior carefully, hesitantly cracked it open. Just enough to be able to peer inside, and see Kanna all curled up on the floor in one of the corners. With only the steady rising and falling of her side to indicate that she was breathing.

I wonder what we're going to do with her? Sango thought, making no sound as she closed the door and started away from the tiny girl's room. She might not be dangerous, but it'll be dangerous for her if we were to take her along with us everywhere we went. As this thought sounded in her mind, the Demon Slayer couldn't help but think of all the horrid demons that she and her friends had to face up against, more-or-less on a daily basis. As fearful as Kanna was now, it was all too easy to see her panicking at the face of even a minor demon. And a dangerous journey like this was far from an ideal situation in which for her to recover from what had happened to her. Ideally, I'd like to find someone to take care of her for us, but she's barely coping with dealing with us as it is! I can't imagine her being able to accept total strangers! Then the Demon Slayer pressed her lips together and added, Besides...I did promise Kagura that we'd look after Kanna. But...

Another problem. Another problem on a seemingly endless mountain of similar problems that Sango could think of no real solution to. And another thing that she was forced to shove to the side for the moment, knowing that it would have to be dealt with eventually. Besides, there's someone else I need to check up on right now...

With this in mind, Sango pressed forward, moving that much faster, as if to outdistance the many burdens she carried, if only for a moment. So much so that, in less than a minute, she had arrived at her destination, and found herself knocking on another door. A moment later, a somewhat raspy voice was heard asking, "Who is it?"

"It's me, Sango," the warrior woman gently replied. "Listen, uh...I know it's late, but...can I come in for a moment?"

"Of course! Come right on in!" Nodding to this, Sango then slid the door open, and was greeted with the sight of Kaname crouched next to her brother, who was currently lying on his cot. Michiru also had a damp towel decorating his head, and a familiar feline curled up on his chest.

"Hello, Michiru," Sango began, a tiny smile appearing on her lips at the sight of her beloved, despite his current condition.

"Uh...hi, Sango," Michiru returned, managing a more pained smile of his own even as Kirara opened her eyes and looked up at the Demon Slayer.

"I see Kirara decided to keep you company," Sango remarked in a somewhat teasing manner before meeting the two-tail's gaze. "I was wondering where you'd disappeared to."

"Oh...yeah," Michiru got out even as Kirara mewed her own response. "Well, she...after we got upstairs, she...I guess she wanted to...check and see how we were doing, and..."

"Don't you mean how you were doing, bro?" Kaname commented, her still-sore throat doing nothing to detract from the teasing nature of her words. "Considering the fact that the first thing she did when she got here was curl up on you and go to sleep!"

Chuckling at this, her mirth increasing by the way Michiru blushed in response, Sango then sighed before seating herself next to him. "So how are you doing?" the warrior woman asked, studying the towel on his forehead. "Are you feeling any better?"

"Ugh...a bit..." Michiru admitted with considerable displeasure. "I got a few new bruises along with this lump, but...other than, it's not too bad."

Despite knowing that Michiru was almost certainly sugarcoating his condition to a degree, Sango eventually nodded. "I'm sorry, Michiru," she told him, her heart sinking somewhat as she leaned in closer. "I..."

"Huh?" Michiru started, becoming a bit more alert as he met Sango's gaze. "What do you mean? Sorry...for what?"

"I..." Sango started, only to sigh in defeat. There was no way she could explain to Michiru that, in a very real way, she was responsible for him getting hurt. That she had forced Miroku to summon them altogether, and had put them in the path of the hideous monstrosity that had very nearly killed them. Had placed him in harm's way when he was already so weak and exhausted.

In her mind, Sango knew that she had done what she had had to do. That there was simply no way that she could have known of the demonic nightmare that would appear to attack them that evening. But this did nothing to change the fact that her heart remained heavy with guilt. That not only had her actions had had put someone she loved in the path of danger, but that she had been completely helpless to save him.

"I...no. It's nothing," Sango ultimately lied, unable to think of anything else she could say under the circumstances. "Listen, uh...I just wanted to see how you were doing, and...if you needed anything. Okay?"

His expression making it clear that he wasn't entirely convinced by Sango's statement, Michiru frowned pensively. "Well..."

"Actually, Sango..." Kaname broke in. As the warrior woman looked up, she saw a thoughtful look on the Kururugi girl's face. "Now that you mention it, it might be a good idea to get some more towels. And maybe some more medicine. You know, just in case."

Noting the uncertain look prompted in Michiru, Sango moved to stand up. "Alright, then. I'll be right back with -"

"No, no, you don't have to do that!" Kaname protested, an impish smirk quirking her lips as she got up herself. "You just wait there. I'll be back."

"But...no, wait. It's no trouble, really," Sango insisted as Kaname made her way to the door. "I can..."

"Relax! I can get them myself. And besides..." Kaname then paused, turning to look at the both of them as she slid the door open, "...I'm sure my bro would rather have you looking after him than me!"

Sucking in a breath, Sango felt her cheeks flush with embarrassment. Without thinking, she looked at Michiru, whose own cheeks had turned red. "Uh, sis, I - oh!"

It took a moment for Sango to figure out what had cut the Shikigami User off; Kirara had leapt off of him and was now making her way over to Kaname's side. "You want to help, Kirara?" the Kururugi girl inquired, to which the two-tail responded with a gentle mew. "Okay, then!" Breaking out into a full-fledged grin, Kaname gave them a wink before closing the door behind her.

For a long time, Sango could only stare dumbfounded at the door, her wearied mind barely able to process what had just happened. "Ohh..." Michiru groaned, drawing the Demon Slayer's attention as he lay his head down upon his pillow. "I think she's trying to tell us something..."

"So do I," Sango admitted, casting another glance at the door. "And she wasn't very subtle about it, either."

With a weak shake of his head, Michiru declared, "Kaname's never subtle when she gets like this..."

Unable to disagree with this, Sango again looked at her beloved. And as she did so, she felt an odd tugging at the corner of her lip. "Still...I'm sure she's right about one thing." When Michiru focused on her, the Demon Slayer added, "About you wanting me to look after you?"

Blinking a few times at this, Michiru's lips then popped open, his cheeks burning even brighter. "Uh, well...!"

Caught between regretting this bit of teasing and stifling the urge to titter at it, Sango shifted about so that she was lying on the floor next to Michiru. "Besides...after everything that's been happening...I...I really would like to...be with you. For...a while, anyway?"

Again, Michiru rapidly blinked his surprise. "Really...?"

Nodding, the Demon Slayer studied the one she loved, knowing that there was a greater truth to her words than she was willing to admit. For she still felt badly about how things had gone that day, that her efforts to restore Michiru's tarnished name were a failure thus far, and thus wanted to comfort him. And at the same time, she wanted to be comforted herself. She wanted it in the same way as a person dying of thirst wanted water. She wanted - needed to take her sorrows and worries and concerns and forget about them all, if only for a single night.

She wanted to be loved. And so Sango gently, carefully wrapped her arms about Michiru and drew herself closer to him. "Really," was all she said before gently pressing her lips against his own. A tender kiss that seemed to surprise him, but eventually he relaxed in her arms, and even managed to wrap one of his own arms about her. The two of them snuggling even closer together, sharing each other's warmth and love as sleep slowly encroached upon them both.

Whew! They sure didn't lose any time! Kaname thought, barely able to keep the giggles that were working their up her throat from tumbling off her lips. The sounds of tender romance taking its course just loud enough so that she could hear them a short distance away from the door. I get the feeling I'm going to have to find someplace else to sleep tonight!

Not minding this at all, Kaname ventured away from the room, aware that the demonic feline was walking right alongside of her. "You know something, Kirara?" she commented, giving the two-tail a playful wink. When Kirara cocked her tiny head to the side, the Kururugi girl added, "At the rate those two are going, I get the feeling that Mom and Dad won't have long to wait before they have a grandchild or two on the way!"

As these words escaped her lips, Kaname placed her hands over her mouth to keep excessive amounts of laughter from following, lest she risk rousing anybody trying to get some sleep. A task made that much more daunting and difficult when Kirara let out an enthusiastic meow and started rubbing up against her legs. "Oh, you like that idea, huh?" she asked, careful to speak in a hushed manner. Kirara gave another enthusiastic meow. "Yeah, so do I." With this admission, she smiled that much more before quickening her pace. "C'mon! Let's give my bro and future sister-in-law plenty of room!"

When Kagome woke, it was to the familiar sound of her alarm clock blaring, a sound that had her slowly slogging her way back to the waking world, her eyes reluctantly fluttering open. When they did and the sleep cleared from them, she found herself in a simple room of the Feudal Manor instead of her own comfortable bedroom.

Which would explain the kinks in my back, Kagome thought sourly as she stiffly rose from her simple bed. It's times like this that I wish that western beds had gotten over to Japan about five hundred years sooner.

As Kagome blearily looked about her room, she focused on the dratted alarm clock that was still sounding for her attention. Groaning inwardly, she hit the off button with more force than was necessary to switch off the cursed device. "Oh, why did I set it up...?" she tried to say...only to start when no sound came out of her mouth.

Wh-what the -?! Kagome thought, only to be stricken when her mind cleared enough for the memories of the previous day to surge forth in force. Oh, that's right! I lost my voice, and...and Sango had almost forced Miroku to take the fall for Michiru! And if Totosai hadn't shown up with that monster, then -! Again, she was jolted with memories, these of last night shortly after everyone had returned to the house after that battle. With everyone exhausted, several of them injured, and all of them wanting little more than to go to bed and get some much needed rest. At which point Kagome had realized that she had been granted a limited chance to make things right once more, and so had set up her alarm clock to wake her up early enough to make certain that everything was in place.

Not quite seven, Kagome noted as she glanced at the clock, heaving a deep breathas she ordered her thoughts. Okay, the first thing to do is find out where InuYasha is. And make sure that he can't screw anything up! With this, the modern priestess rose from her bed, indulging in a few stretches to work the kinks out of her system before hurriedly dressing. Pausing just long enough to grab the notepad and pencil that was now her only means of communication, she exited her room and proceeded downstairs.

When Kagome arrived on the first floor, the first thing she did was make her way to the kitchen. When she arrived, she found Tamoa was there, already hard at work on preparing breakfast. Pausing to knock on the doorframe, the raven-haired girl watched as the lady of the house jumped somewhat before turning to see what the source of the sound was. "Oh, Kagome!" she got out, placing her hand over her chest. "I'm sorry! It's just...you startled me there."

Smiling nervously and giving a helpless shrug, Kagome began writing her response on the notepad before showing it to her hostess. "'I didn't mean to surprise you. Sorry'," Tamoa read before giving a slight frown. "I take it that you can't talk yet?" The schoolgirl could only shake her head in regret at this. "I'm sorry. I know some good herbal blends that do wonders for abraded throats. Would you like me to make some?" Quickly writing down her response, Kagome held it out for Tamoa to read. "'Thank you. I'd really appreciate that.' Okay, then."

It's just too bad you don't have any magic that could heal my throat right now! Kagome thought, wincing at the thought of magic. Heaving a weary sigh, she proceeded to write out her next question.

"'Where are InuYasha and the others?' Well, I assume most of your friends are in bed right now," Tamoa answered after reading the message. "Sango told me about what happened last night. You know...that demon?" Kagome gave a quick nod to this, at which the matron of the house shook her head in slow remorse. "Listen, um...I mean no offense, Kagome, but...I have to admit to being worried. All these demons attacking...we've dealt with demons in the past, mind you! But they were always small things! Nothing at all like...like the creatures we've had to deal with recently! And..."

Holding up her hand even as she nodded her understanding, Kagome quickly wrote down her response. "'Believe me, I understand. But hopefully, it won't be long before we're able to leave'." After reading this, Tamoa gave a sad frown and added, "I'm sorry to be this way, Kagome. But...Father's still not well, and...well, my children, they might be away on a business trip, but...well, I want them to still have a home to come back to, and..."

Again, Kagome nodded her understanding. It was an unfortunate reality to their existence in the Feudal Era, as well as their seemingly endless battle with Naraku. As long as that murderous demon lived, she and her friends were forever in his sights, and thus anybody who happened to be around them at any given time was at risk of being pulled into their constant battles for the Shikon Jewel Shards. And even beings who weren't obsessed with the power of those Shards had made targets of the group, either because they had something they wanted, or they viewed InuYasha and the others as possible threats to their petty, grasping machinations.

And that's not the only thing that's a possible target right now, Kagome thought as she wrote down another message. "'I really am sorry for all of this. But I promise, as soon as we can, we'll be gone. And we'll be sure to take the...jet with us'? Oh, yes, the metal bird!" Giving a weary smile of comprehension, Tamoa nodded and answered, "Now that's something I will happy to never see again!"

Unable to blame their hostess for feeling this way, Kagome quickly wrote down another question. "'Anyway, I'm going to go over to Densuke's place in a bit. There's something I want to ask him about. And you don't have to hurry with breakfast; I get the feeling that everybody's going to be sleeping in this morning'. I don't doubt it," Tamoa read, heaving a deep breath. "Alright. I suppose it can't hurt to let everyone sleep in a bit. Especially after everything that's been happening."

Thank you, Tamoa! Kagome thought, smiling and giving the woman a polite bow of her head. With that, she turned and started on her way. That gives me a bit more time to take care of my next problem! Namely, a certain arrogant jerk named InuYasha!

With this in mind, Kagome started towards the room where the half-demon was staying, hurriedly reviewing the situation in her mind. After returning from the battle last night, she had given a lot of consideration as to how to save Miroku from having to ruin his reputation by taking the blame for Michiru's misdeeds, and while she still wasn't sure how the Kururugi boy had been able to so thoroughly deceive Sango, the modern girl had come to a few conclusions regarding the matter.

First and foremost, Sango wasn't doing what she was doing out of cruelty. During the night, after her anger and frustration had subsided somewhat at being presented a chance to spare Miroku the onerous fate being forced upon him by the Demon Slayer, Kagome had found herself thinking back to the confrontation outside of town. And as she did so, she began to see that, at least from Sango's perspective, her demands were perfectly sensible. The infighting that had resulted from Michiru's deception was damaging the group's ability to work and function well together, and unless something was done to correct the situation, it would undoubtedly get worse before it got any better. Something that they couldn't possibly afford, not with Naraku always looking for any weakness that he could exploit in them.

And we all know how good Naraku is at that, Kagome bitterly thought, recalling the deception that had cost Kikyo her life, as well as his manipulations of Kohaku and so many other acts of cruelty. Besides, Sango's a Demon Slayer. It's possible she or someone else she knows had to deal with a situation like this. Someone who had become a danger to the rest of the Slayers, and had to be put in their place or something.

And from the perspective of a Demon Slayer, a professional warrior who had to depend on her fellow warriors and the ties that bound them, Kagome could even see Sango's actions making sense. But at the same time, it was obvious that Sango didn't want to have to make good on her threats. She has said as much herself.

Just as she said that she loved Miroku, Kagome thought, focusing once more on that part of the conversation. She might have said that she didn't love him in that way, but she still said she loves him! Replaying that part of the disastrous conversation in her mind, the modern priestess nodded, for she clearly recalled Sango saying these words. So she's still put off by his lechery and all that. That makes sense. And with her being suckered like this, it's no surprise she that she'd be mad at Miroku and say she loves someone else. But the fact remains that she doesn't want to have to have him hurt or killed!

Even as she thought these things, Kagome knew that the next part was the tricky one. On the one hand, there was no way Sango could possibly blame Miroku for not confessing last night. He had been doing what she had demanded of him when the attack happened, and after the battle, everybody was too tired and injured from the battle to listen to such things. But at the same time, there was always the danger that the Demon Slayer might decry the monk anyway, simply to see this onerous business brought to a close.

I have to hope that she listens to her heart for a while, and doesn't try anything like that, Kagome thought, somewhat less confident that Sango would listen to the true love that the modern girl knew to be there. Still...Sango herself said that punishing Miroku wouldn't help us. So...there's still a chance that she won't do anything drastic. At least, not today.

Finding that this bit of reasoning made good sense, Kagome nodded, and considered the next matter. Assuming Sango left things well enough alone, at least until after Jiro and Azusa had gone home with the supplies so desperately needed by the alliance, then that gave her time to recover her lost voice, as well as to act on Miroku's behalf and find some way of setting Sango straight as to where the guilt truly lay.

And I will set her straight! After all, she has no proof that Miroku's guilty! Kagome declared inwardly, thinking back to last night. She told Miroku she knew he was lying, but she never said how she knows it! And neither did InuYasha! So until I hear otherwise, the only thing they have is Michiru's word that he's not the one who screwed up. And as far as I'm concerned, after seeing all his little temper tantrums, that means precisely zip!

Which brought her to her next problem; as long as InuYasha had her camera and the incriminating recording to hold over her head, Kagome was in a bind with him. Which means that I have to get it back from that idiot, and fast! Because if he shows Sango that video...!

Wincing at the thought of this, as well as how readily the half-demon could destroy any and all chances of her managing to reason with Sango, Kagome then shoved it out of her mind. I'll check his room. If he's not there, I'll look around, see if I can find it. And if he's there...

Again, Kagome winced, simply because she didn't want to think about what would happen if she walked in on InuYasha. If he was awake when she arrived, she could likely find some excuse to explain away her presence. But if he was asleep, and woke up to find her searching his room...

No. Don't even go there, Kagome told herself as sternly as she knew how, memories of the ugly confrontation she had had with the half-demon twisting about her insides. Another sign of how Michiru's deception was eating away at the group that had become her second family. You have to get that camera back, or Miroku's life will be ruined, and Sango will wreck herself trying to have a relationship with the wrong guy! A relationship he's tricking her into, and that can't possibly work, anyway! Taking this mental image and shoving it straight and true into her mind, of Sango ruining her life for someone who clearly didn't deserve her, all the while Miroku suffered unduly from the looks of suspicion and mistrust shot at him by those who had once been his friends, Kagome heaved a deep breath and girded herself for what she was about to do.

InuYasha will be mad about the camera even if you don't get caught, Kagome told herself, reminding herself as to the half-demon's exceedingly keen sense of smell and how easy it was for him to read scents in order to interpret what has happened. And even if he couldn't, as soon as he finds out that the camera's missing, he'll know it was you, so deal with it! You have to get that camera back! Then you can get to work on proving Miroku's innocence!

With this in mind, she then focused on the door, as well as the residual jitters she suffered. Forcing herself to move, Kagome took hold of the door, and carefully, quietly slid it open. Placing her eye to the narrow crack, she glanced about the room's interior. And winced in dismay when she saw the familiar form of InuYasha slumbering on the floor.

Great. That figures, Kagome muttered inwardly. Pausing to shake her head and wondering who or what she had managed to tick off to wind up being stuck dealing with such grief, she took a slow, deep breath, and studied the situation. Oh, well. Just be glad that InuYasha can sleep through just about anything when he wants to. And make sure that you're out of there before Tamoa starts breakfast!

Fully aware of how quickly the half-demon responded when it came to food, and hoping that last night's battle and having to deal with Totosai will have left him so tired as to sleep through her intrusion, Kagome heaved one final breath before cautiously sliding the door all the way open, and gingerly stepping inside.

Okay...if I was InuYasha, where would I put that camera? Kagome wondered as she glanced about the room's interior. To her dismay, there wasn't much in the room; a chest, a couple candleholders whose candles had burnt down to almost nothing, and a folding screen that could be used to divide the room or conceal someone while they were dressing. Oh, no...

Getting a very bad feeling about this, Kagome silently crept over to the chest. Glancing over at the prone half-demon, once again making certain that he was unaware of her presence, she then looked at the chest, and slowly opened it up. And winced unhappily when she saw it was empty. Please don't tell me...! she thought as she glanced about at the candles. Quickly seeing that there was no way that they could be used to conceal a camera, she went over to the screen, and looked it over, front and back. Quickly finding nothing.

Oh...great... Kagome groaned unhappily as she looked over at the still-slumbering half-demon. Guess I should've seen this coming. Where else would InuYasha keep the camera...except on himself?

Her heart sinking, Kagome simply stood there, looking at the half-demon. It was one thing to try and sneak around his room without rousing InuYasha's attention, even if he was wearied from the previous night's events. It was a far different thing to try and search his body, when all it would take was one wrong move to wake him, and ruin any chance she had of getting the camera back.

Still... Kagome thought, pressing her lips together as she considered the matter. It looks like I don't have any choice. Not if I'm going to save Miroku and give him and Sango a happy ending.

Almost half a minute passed as Kagome worked up the nerve to make the next move, and when she finally closed in on the half-demon, she moved with far greater caution than she did before. Kneeling down next to InuYasha, she carefully eyeballed him, searching for any bulges in his kimono, anything that would indicate where he had hidden the all important camera. But ultimately, she could see nothing out of the ordinary.

Of course, with all the folds and those baggy pants and those open sleeves...he could have hidden it anywhere in there! With this thought in mind, Kagome considered the matter, trying to figure out where exactly InuYasha would have hidden the camera. She couldn't afford to simply go rifling all over his body, trying to figure out where it was. Not only would that be an open invitation to disaster, but if anyone were to happen to come in there while she was searching...

It'd make what happened after that fight with Yura of the Hair look like nothing! Kagome thought, her cheeks coloring with humiliation when Kaede and a group of children had happened upon her and InuYasha while they had been arguing, and had gotten the wrong idea. Swallowing the lump of bile that formed at this, Kagome again took a deep breath and studied the half-demon. So...okay. If I were InuYasha, where would I hide it?

It probably wouldn't be the sleeves of InuYasha's kimono, Kagome soon decided. While there was certainly enough room in them to hide the camera, she knew from experience that there were no convenient pockets or anything to conceal something like a camera in them. Leaving the camera loose and possibly tossed out into the open if InuYasha were to flop about in his sleep. And as for the pants, the legs also had plenty of space to hide something like that, but without any pockets of any kind, there would be nothing to keep it securely in place. And besides, trying to root around in his pants is just asking for trouble, Kagome decided, her insides knotting themselves up at the thought. So...that would mean that...it might be tucked in his belt, but...where? I can't see any sign of it!

Frowning in silence, Kagome studied the belt that typically held the Tetsusaiga in place. There was nothing to indicate that the camera was anywhere in that region. Even as small as it was, it was still more than large enough so as to make a noticeable bulge. So where could it be?! Again, Kagome considered the matter, only to suffer a pang as she thought, Oh, no...don't tell me... could he have buried it somewhere?!

Just the thought of this very nearly gave Kagome a heart attack. If InuYasha had decided to bury the camera, then she was effectively doomed. The half-demon could have picked any number of hiding spots out in the woods where he could bury the modern device well and truly out of sight, and without any idea of where he might have hidden it, the odds of Kagome tracking it down were next to none. A situation made worse by the fact that InuYasha would have no such difficulties, and didn't know enough about modern electronics to know how easily being mired in dirt could foul it up.

But even as she was struggling to keep her composure, Kagome frowned in consideration. On the surface, burying the camera would be a good way to keep her from getting it, but it also meant that InuYasha wouldn't have it himself, at least not directly. It also meant running the risk of someone or something else happening upon the camera before he could return for it, and with the incriminating footage the only thing he had to keep Kagome from interfering with Miroku's forced confession, she couldn't imagine him being willing to leave the camera out of reach for even a moment.

So it has to be on him somewhere, but where?! Kagome thought, as she scrutinized the half-demon, searching for likely spots to start searching. It's not like he's got any hidden pockets to slip it into, or -!

"Kagome...!" came a low, familiar voice. One that was tinged with gloating triumph, and that froze the modern priestess in place.

Oh, no...! Kagome thought, slowly, inexorably turning towards the half-demon's head. Already envisioning his slitted yellow eyes glaring balefully at her, his fangs bared dangerously. He's -!

"Sit!" Practically falling over at this, as well as the nasty chuckle that followed, Kagome just barely caught herself before she planted her face upon the floor. Upon recovering, she sat up straight and looked to see that InuYasha was still sound asleep. He wasn't looking at her, wasn't snarling at her. He was just chuckling lowly, his lips curled into a dangerous smile as he muttered, "Not so...funny when...you're the one...stuck with those...damned beads, huh? Now...sit, girl!"

Her heart thundering in her chest as the half-demon chuckled some more, Kagome eventually calmed down enough for her sudden panic to fade, and subsequently be replaced with annoyance. I don't believe this! That's what he's dreaming about?! Glowering at InuYasha and wishing she could show him what she thought about his unconscious fantasies, the reborn priestess eventually sighed in silence. Oh, well...at least he's not awake. Not yet, anyway. But I still have to figure where he could have - oh!

The idea exploded into her mind with such force that Kagome was initially blinded by it. It was so utterly and perfectly simple that her first instinct was to kick herself for not thinking of it sooner. If InuYasha wanted the camera someplace close by, but it wasn't on his person and it wasn't anywhere in the room else in the room, then it had to be hidden someplace in his bed. And since he didn't bother with his covers, then there's only one place to look! Kagome thought as she stared at the half-demon's head. And more importantly, the pillow it was presently resting upon. He probably slid it under there!

It made sense, Kagome decided, and it fit in with the half-demon's personality. After all, InuYasha knew that there was no way she was going to give up on proving Miroku's innocence. He had to know that she would try and reclaim the camera, and so he had slid it beneath his pillow, certain that any attempt by Kagome would be enough to wake him up.

Of course...he might be right. But even as Kagome suffered this dour thought, she straightened herself up. She didn't have a choice. She simply had to get that camera back. It was Miroku's only chance, and the only hope of making things right again. And so, with every ounce of stealth she could muster, the school girl crawled about so that she was at InuYasha's side, and after a moment's studying to find the best approach, she placed her hand flat against the floor and gently slid it under the bed. Please, just stay asleep for a little while longer!

Silently pleading for whatever fates that watched and waited for chances to amuse themselves at the expense of people like her to just back for a little while longer, Kagome carefully felt about beneath InuYasha's pillow, being as careful as possible not to do anything to disturb him. She did so for what felt like an eternity, always on the alert for even the slightest sign that she would be discovered.

Oh, c'mon! Where are you?! Where -?! Kagome wondered, thoughts of InuYasha having buried the camera again encroaching upon her mind when her hand finally found something smooth and hard just off to the side of the half-demon's head. Ah ha! Finally! she thought, very nearly fainting with relief. Now, to get out of here before - no, don't even think it!

Unwilling to risk jinxing herself after coming so far, Kagome took a moment to steady herself before gently wrapping her fingers around the camera, all the time watching InuYasha's face for any sign that he might awaken. As soon as she was certain of her grip, she began pulling at small object, exercising supreme caution so as to not disturb the half-demon.

Seconds rolled by with agonizing slowness, seeming to expand into an eternity. Sweat slowly beaded up on Kagome's face as she slowly dragged the camera closer towards her, half-expecting InuYasha's eyes to shoot open and glare pure death at her.

But that never happened. And finally, after what felt like hours of nerve-wracking effort, Kagome finally managed to pluck the camera out from under InuYasha's pillow. Yes! Thank you, Totosai, for giving me this chance! the school girl cried out inwardly, making a mental note to properly thank the aged blacksmith for his incidental aid when her voice recovered. Not giving whatever fates might be watching a chance to foul things up, the school girl carefully made her way back up her feet. As quietly as she had entered, she exited InuYasha's room and slid the door closed behind her.

Now...just one more thing, Kagome thought, one last pang of concern making itself known as she studied the camera. Even as she cautiously distanced herself from InuYasha's room, she popped open the port where the memory card was. To her relief, it was still in place. Whew...that's a relief. If he'd taken this out... But even as this thought registered, she sighed in relief. After all, there would have been no point in InuYasha removing the memory card, not when he needed the camera itself to play the incriminating video for Sango.

Still, no sense in taking any chances! Kagome thought, putting more and more distance between herself and InuYasha's room. As soon as I get back to my room, I'm gonna check this card - and then erase it! Experiencing a sense of relief at the thought of being freed from InuYasha's hamhanded attempt at blackmail, she quickened her pace that much more. And as soon as that's done...I guess all I'll be able to do is wait and hope that Sango doesn't do anything before Jiro and Azusa are gone. But once they're out of here, I'll be able to get Miroku to go away, see Mushin or something. At least long enough to figure out how exactly Michiru managed to sucker everybody into thinking he's completely innocent. And once that's done...

Again, Kagome's imagination began conjuring images, this time of her friends. For a brief moment, she could see InuYasha being unhappy, but ultimately grateful to her for revealing the truth. Sango would likely feel guilty about her unwarranted treatment, but grateful that she knew the truth. Just as Miroku would be grateful to be cleared and once again back in the arms of the woman with whom he belonged. Shippo would be astonished by everything, but glad everything would soon be back to normal.

And as for Michiru and Kaname... Kagome thought, some of the rage that had followed her throughout the previous day returning. Prompting her to envision the look of shock Kaname would have when she realized that her faith in her brother had been misplaced, while Michiru hung his head in despair when he realized his gambit had failed and the faith the others had in him was forever shattered. Maybe this will get them to grow up a bit, and stop acting like a pair of spoiled brats who just have to have their own way.

Sounding her disgust in her mind, Kagome then gave a slow shake of her head. For the simple fact of the matter was that, before Michiru let his jealousy of Miroku get out of control, the twins had been good and trusted friends. Still, Sango was right about one thing. We can't afford to let ourselves be divided like this, the modern girl thought somberly. I just hope we can things back to normal, and soon!

I really wish things would get back to normal, Shippo thought wearily as he sat himself down at the dining table. The scent of good food doing nothing to relieve the tension the fox-demon felt as he watched his friends and allies made their to the dining room and sat down as well. I might feel a babysitter most of the time, but even that was better than having to deal with this!

When Shippo had arrived, roused from his snug bed by the scent of breakfast cooking away, the first person he had seen there was Kagome. And when he had seen Kikyo's reincarnation, he had been inspired to hope that things might finally be getting better, for while it was clear that her voice was still gone, Kagome had smiling pleasantly, obviously in far better spirits than she had been the previous day. And so the little fox had been inspired to hope that things might finally be getting back to normal.

These hopes had been promptly dashed when by the sound of feet stomping furiously, heralding the arrival of InuYasha. When the half-demon appeared in the dining room, muttering furiously beneath his breath, metaphorical plumes of smoke rising up from his ears that seemed a lot less metaphoric than Shippo with. Made even worse when InuYasha caught sight of Kagome, and stopped dead in his tracks. The two of them looked at each other, their eyes meeting as InuYasha's expression twisted into one of supreme disgust, like he was glowering at one of Naraku's incarnations.

But what made this even worse was the fact that InuYasha didn't say anything. Didn't yell, didn't snarl, didn't do anything to express just what had made him so visibly angry with Kagome. He just stood there, glowering at her, growing even more furious when she met his glare with a smile. A wicked smile of pure contentment, like that of the proverbial cat that had eaten the canary.

For a long, terrifying moment, Shippo was certain that InuYasha would explode at any second. But eventually, the half-demon's gaze flickered at the little fox, causing him to cringe, before he returned his attention to Kagome and muttered in a low, ugly voice, "You and I are gonna have a lot to talk about later, Kagome."

As the half-demon sat down at the table, his features twisted and controlled, Shippo gulped nervously. InuYasha wasn't acting like himself, not in the slightest. When he was angry with Kagome, or anyone else, he made his displeasure clear right on the spot. It didn't matter that Kagome could normally smash him right into the ground or anything else. InuYasha acted first, and maybe thought later. The fact that he didn't want to air his grievances when anyone else was watching made it clear that this was not just another dispute. Leaving Shippo to wonder and worry what else could have possibly happened since last night to leave InuYasha in such a volatile mood.

As InuYasha continued to stew and fume, while Kagome still smiled in that disturbing manner, the rest of the group slowly filtered into the dining room, each of their expressions leaving Shippo even more ill at ease. Miroku looked exhausted, like he had utterly failed to sleep the previous night, while Kaname was sporting another strange self-satisfied smile, one that Kagome noticed and caused her to frown. But even as Shippo was attempting to fathom the importance of this, Jiro appeared with Azusa a short distance behind, the Demon Slayer oddly quiet while the wolf-demon's brows were still furrowed in annoyance. Finally, Hachi appeared, the tanuki clearly in a subdued mood, with Totosai appearing a short time later. The aged blacksmith looked so utterly exhausted that it was almost like he had been dragged from an early grave. And when he joined them at the table, looking as if he would collapse at any second, it felt as if this was the final confirmation that this day would not be a pleasant one for any of them.

Seeming to sense the ill moods of everyone present, Tamoa did her best to force a pleasant expression onto her face as she entered the room with breakfast in hand. "Good morning, everyone," their hostess spoke, her voice making it clear that she didn't feel it was all that good herself. "I...I was told about what happened last night. I know how hard this must all be for you to deal with, but...I do hope that you'll be able to relax a bit this morning."

Azusa gave Tamoa a sideways glare, and InuYasha continued to stew irritably. It was ultimately Kaname who nodded and pleasantly replied, "Thank you, Tamoa. We all...appreciate that."

"Indeed," Miroku seconded. "I apologize if we appear ungrateful, but..."

"No, no, it's quite alright," Tamoa assured them. "So much happening, and all so quickly...it would take its toll on anyone." This said, she continued to serve them their first meal of the day, offering kind words to each of them before pausing at the blacksmith's side. "And how are you this morning, Master Totosai?"

"Ugh...thinking about what I wouldn't give to have the stamina of my younger years right now," Totosai moaned blearily, his bulging eyes sagging like partly-inflated balloons.

"Oh, my," Tamoa murmured sympathetically as she served him. "Sound like you all had a bad night. I'm sorry."

"Hmph! Don't be sorry for that stupid old fart!" Azusa sneered dangerously. "After all, he's the -!"

"Azusa," came Jiro's voice, the Demon Slayer speaking in a firm, authoritative manner. Visibly starting at this, the redhead turned to glower at him just as he added, "I think it's better if we don't bother Tamoa with...certain matters. Wouldn't you agree?"

Her glare intensifying at this, Azusa looked as if she was about to challenge this statement. But even as she opened her mouth, Jiro narrowed his eyes that much more, causing the she-wolf to pause. "Hmph!" she finally snorted before sticking her nose into the air. "Whatever!"

Satisfied that Azusa had been silenced for the time being, Jiro turned his attention to Tamoa. "Sorry about that. However..."

"It's quite alright. I understand," Tamoa nodded before continuing to serve them. Only to pause when she came to two seats that had yet to be filled. "Um...where's Michiru and Sango?"

"Oh, you don't have to worry about them," Kaname immediately piped up, though her voice was still somewhat worn. "My bro's still resting, and Sango...she's kinda wrapped up in something." Cocking her head to the side, she added, "If you want, I could take them their food for you."

"Thank you. I'd appreciate that," Tamoa nodded appreciatively. Smiling her response, Kaname rose from her place to the table and let their hostess guide her to the kitchen. A short time later, the Kururugi girl emerged with a tray in hand, laden with two identical breakfasts. "Now you be sure to hurry back. You don't want your own breakfast getting cold."

"Don't worry. I'll be back in a minute," Kaname nodded thoughtfully.

As Kaname disappeared from view, Tamoa let out a low, heavy sigh. "Well...now that's that taken care of, I better get something for my husband and father." Then she gasped in the manner of someone who had almost forgotten something and added, "Oh, and I still have to get Kohaku and Kanna's breakfast ready as well."

"Perhaps you should wait a bit. At least until Sango comes back from...whatever she's doing," Miroku suggested in a soft manner. "She's the only one of us that Kanna isn't afraid of, so..."

"Right, of course," Tamoa nodded. "Still, I better get to work."

As Tamoa made her way into the kitchen, Shippo frowned to himself and looked at the empty seats. Where is Sango, anyway? he asked himself, glancing about at the others present. Taking note of the way that InuYasha, Kagome, and Miroku were also studying those same seats. And getting a very bad feeling as a result.

As Michiru slowly woke up, he became aware of a warm, comfortable feeling.

It was like he was snuggled up in a blanket of pure joy, one that filled him with peace and utter contentment. So much so that it left Michiru unwilling to completely awaken and leave it behind. And so, a smile creasing his face, he shifted about beneath his covers somewhat...and felt something soft and warm rubbing up against him.

Huh? he wondered, just alert enough to realize that there was something next to him. His mind still too fogged to make sense of this, Michiru found himself prompted to wake up just enough for his eyes to flutter open. And was immediately greeted by the sight of Sango's face. The lovely warrior clearly asleep herself, a slight smile tugging at her lips, and her arms wrapped about Michiru's frame, just as his were wrapped about hers.

Sango?! Wh-what -?! Michiru initially panicked, his cheeks burning with surprised embarrassment. But before he could do more than, the memories of the previous night returned to him, leaving him to sigh in memory. Oh...right... he thought, recalling the way the two of them had hugged and kissed and snuggled together, eventually curling up under his blanket as sleep slowly fell upon them both. Oh, I hope this isn't just a dream...

For a long time, Michiru was content to lay there, enjoying the warmth he shared with his beloved. But after a long time of simply looking at, studying her lovely features, he found himself leaning in a bit closer to her. Just enough to plant a small, tentative kiss on her forehead.

To his surprise, this tiny gesture was enough to prompt Sango to wake up as well. Her eyes shooting open in an instant, the Demon Slayer was instantly awake and alert, her expression immediately shrouded with initial confusion. But like Michiru, she soon recovered, blinking a few times before smiling gently. "Good morning, Michiru."

"Good morning, Sango," Michiru replied.

After placing a quick kiss on Michiru's lips, Sango asked, "Did you sleep well?"

"Yeah," Michiru replied, hugging his beloved that much more firmly. Quirking the corner of his lip, he cocked his head to the side. "In fact, I had the most wonderful dream last night."

"Really?" Sango wondered, raising an eyebrow at this. "What was it about?"

Shifting about slightly, Michiru paused to study his beloved's face for a time before finally saying, "I dreamt that I was in heaven, being held by an angel." Giving this a moment to sink in, he then added, "Oh, wait. That's right; I wasn't dreaming." With that, Michiru punctuated this statement by placing a kiss on Sango's lips.

Starting somewhat at both these words and the kiss, Sango could only look at Michiru for a time before smiling that much more broadly. "Be careful, Michiru," she told him, a hint of a tease in her words as she pulled herself closer to him. "That sounded like the kind of thing Miroku might say."

Wincing somewhat at this statement, Michiru lay there for a time, before replying, "Maybe...but it's also something that I wouldn't say...except to someone I love."

"I know," Sango returned with a kiss. The Demon Slayer shifted about somewhat, her exquisite form rubbing Michiru's body in ways that would have led to him reacting in ways beyond his control if he were a bit closer to being recovered. "So are you feeling any better?"

I feel wonderful, Sango, Michiru immediately thought, buoyed by both her warmth and her love. But even as he considered saying this aloud, he realized with a bit of dismay that what she wanted was a wholly accurate report as to his physical condition. "Um...better, I guess," he answered, taking stock of his present sensations. "My head's still hurting a bit, but...it's not as bad. And...I am feeling a bit stronger now."

Nodding to this, Sango studied Michiru for a time before deciding, "Still, I think it'd be best if you stayed in bed, at least for a little while longer. We can go out a bit later." Pressing her lips together, the Demon Slayer visibly considered the situation. "Right now, I better go downstairs and see what's happening. Tamoa's probably got breakfast ready by now."

As Sango moved to get up, Michiru frowned in disappointment. He wasn't hungry, and even if he was, he didn't care about breakfast, or any other meal for that matter. He didn't want to go outside, or anyplace else. All he really wanted at that moment was to continue being with the woman he loved. But even as he realized that she had a valid point, and was forced to remind himself that they couldn't just lay about in bed all day, a quiet knocking was heard just outside the room. "Bro? Sango?" came Kaname's voice. "It's me, Kaname. Are you two...decent?"

A slight giggle escaped Kaname's lips, the implication of which was not lost on the two lovers. Hurriedly glancing at each, both their cheeks burned before Sango leaped from her bed while Michiru flopped back, pulling his blanket over him. "Uh, I'm coming, Kaname!" the woman warrior announced as she straightened herself out, still wearing her clothes from the previous day. Once she was apparently satisfied, Sango slid open the door and looked out it. "Yes?"

"I'm sorry to disturb you two, but...Tamoa just finished making breakfast," Kaname announced, still smiling in a somewhat naughty fashion as she held out a tray. Even as wearied as he was, Michiru could still detect the scent of a good, warm meal. "I told her I'd bring it up for you."

"Oh. Well, thank you, Kaname," Sango answered, accepting the tray. Then she paused and frowned before asking, "Wait a minute...what about Kohaku and Kanna? Has Tamoa -?"

"She's working on their breakfasts right now." Then Kaname glanced into the room, an impish smile tugging at her lips as she looked at her still-flustered sibling. "Still, I think you...should have some time before she's done, so...why don't you two sit back and relax for a bit? I'll be back to let you know when she's done."

"Uh...but -!" Sango initially protested, only for her attempt to fall flat in her mouth as Kaname scampered out of sight. Leaving the Demon Slayer there, looking from her to Michiru to the food she now held, before at last sighing in defeat.

"I'm sorry, Sango," Michiru told her, despite not being sorry in the least that he could spend more time with her. "Um...I'll be okay if you want to go down and see Tamoa, and..."

Sango's features tightened somewhat as she considered the matter, before managing a weary smile. "No, that's okay. I'm sure Kaname wasn't joking about their breakfasts not being ready yet." Then she made her way back over to Michiru, and carefully sat down next to him. "Besides, I think we'd better eat up before our food gets cold."

Though not entirely certain that Kaname wasn't at least exaggerating matters to a degree, Michiru found that he wasn't in the mood to argue. And as he slowly propped himself up, only to find himself again in Sango's arms, he found that he certainly couldn't complain about her decision. Especially when the lovely warrior looked gently at him and murmured, "Here. Let me help you with that."

And so, Sango assisted Michiru, moving him so that he was almost propped up against her. And so the two of them began to enjoy their morning repast, with the Demon Slayer aiding the recovering magician in partaking in his breakfast.

So far, so good, Kaname thought with a distinct sense of satisfaction as she thoughtfully ate her breakfast. Her still worn throat doing nothing to detract from her enjoyment of the meal, or the way the relationship between her brother and his girlfriend was progressing. I just hope nobody decides to check and see how my bro is. Or try to find Sango, for that matter. Then she smirked in a knowing fashion as she glanced about at Miroku and Kagome. Still...it's too bad I can't tell them about this. If only because I'd love to see the look on their faces when they explode!

A slight chuckle sounding in her throat, Kaname watched as her brother's tormentors glanced time and again at the unoccupied seats, clearly wondering where Sango could be. Clearly seeing the unspoken frustration they felt. And loving every moment of it. After everything Miroku had done to ruin Michiru's reputation, all for the sake of trying to win Sango back from him, not to mention all the tricks and scams he had pulled even in the short time Kaname had been with the group, she couldn't help but wonder why in blazes anybody would be willing to tolerate his presence, let alone take his word over that of her brother's.

At the same time, she was also enjoying this bit of payback that Kagome was suffering for her own abusiveness. For while Kikyo's reincarnation had been a good person and even a friend over the course of this journey, she had also proven herself to so impossibly stubborn and locked into her own thinking and what she herself wanted that it made her impossible to deal with when you dared to disagree with her.

I wonder if there's a spell I can use to knock some sense into her thick head...and Miroku's lechery out of his? Kaname found herself idly thinking, her lips quirking into a devious smile at this thought. One she quickly concealed by placing a wad of rice in her mouth and thoughtfully chewing it. Only to start when she felt something painfully pricking at her nose. Ow! What in the -?!

Without so much as a thought, Kaname dropped her chopsticks and hurriedly smacked her nose. Only to start when she heard what could only be described as an elderly voice yelping in pain. Withdrawing her hand, the Kururugi girl watched with some dismay as a familiar figure floated lazily down to the table, having been left as flat as paper. "Myoga!" she cried out in dismay. "Oh, I'm sorry! Are you alright?!"

"What's that?" InuYasha started, the first thing he had said since coming to the table that morning. Narrowing his eyes, he glared at the tiny figure that was now returning to a more three-dimensional shape, he then gave a nasty snort. "Well, well, Myoga! I was beginning to wonder where you had run off to!"

"And a good morning to you, Master InuYasha," Myoga replied in an even manner.

"I'm sorry I smushed you, Grandpa Myoga," Kaname earnestly apologized, feeling a great swell of humiliation at this. "You...kinda surprised me there."

"I appreciate that, Lady Kaname. But you needn't worry; I've suffered much harsher blows in the past," Myoga assured her, glancing over in InuYasha's direction at this.

"Yeah, I bet," InuYasha muttered smugly. "So what brings you out of hiding? I haven't seen you around since you got back with Totosai!"

Though somewhat perturbed by InuYasha's ire towards the elderly flea, Kaname was prevented from anything about it when Myoga responded, "My apologies, Master InuYasha, but I was doing a bit of investigating around the village. Listening in on the local gossip and so on, trying to learn of anything of value." The old flea than paused for a moment before adding, "That's how I learned about last night's...incident. And...well, I saw the beast's stone carcass, and...tell me, how is everyone?"

"How are we?!" Azusa sneered nastily, giving the old flea a murderous glare. "We almost got eaten alive by a damn tree that this stupid old fart turned into a nightmare!" Jabbing her thumb at Totosai, she added, "That's how we're -!"

"Azusa!" Jiro started, his brows furrowed as he glanced about their surroundings. "Not so loud! We don't want this getting around."

"Eh, you don't have to worry about anybody listening in, Jiro," InuYasha muttered grouchily. "Tamoa's off delivering breakfast to her family. And don't worry, she's nowhere close enough to be able to hear us."

"Hmph! For once, that stupid mutt is right," Azusa grumbled. "So relax! No one's close enough to be able to hear us, Demon Slayer."

Taking note of these words, as well as the way Azusa seemed to ask 'How stupid do you think I am?' without actually asking, Jiro looked at her for a time before bowing his head. "I see. I'm sorry, Azusa."

Giving a slight smirk to this, Azusa contented herself to sit back as Myoga looked at Tetsusaiga's creator. "What in the - Totosai? You created that - that thing in the field?!" the old flea demanded, his voice rife with astonishment. "But - how - why -?!"

"Through a colossal miscalculation on my part." Totosai then went into a brief retelling of what had happened the previous night, as well as his reasons for experimenting with the Reikikaega. "Anyway, after what happened, I had to spend most of the night out there, working to conclude my experiments."

"My goodness. To think that the Reikikaega is capable of all that...!" Myoga gaped in astonishment. "And...what about these other experiments? Were there any other...incidents?"

"Hmph. A couple," InuYasha muttered sourly. "A few of his test subjects went kind of crazy, but it wasn't anything that I couldn't handle."

"Yes, and more importantly...we were confirm my theory," Totosai reported in a weary manner. "The Reikikaega's power is far in excess of what I initially believed." Dragging himself up into a straighter posture, the aged blacksmith glared intently at Myoga. "In fact...if it were to ever fall into the wrong hands...it could possibly be even more dangerous...than even the Sounga itself."

At this statement, everyone there save for Kaname, Jiro, and Azusa looked up at the aged blacksmith in horrified astonishment. "Sounga?" Miroku repeated, having paled several shades at this. "Totosai, are you sure about that?"

"As certain as I possibly can be, without knowing how exactly the Reikikaega was created," Totosai reported blearily. "That sword is so powerful that -"

"Wait. Hold on a second," Kaname broke in, visibly confused at this point. "Sounga? What's that?"

"One of the Three Swords of Supreme Conquest, Kaname. One of three blades wielded by InuTaisho, InuYasha's father," Totosai reported in a low, serious voice. "But unlike the other two blades, it was not crafted from his fang. Instead, it was a sword forged of great evil and treachery, possessed by an evil dragon from the very depths of hell. And thus was far more powerful than either Tetsusaiga and Tenseiga, and even worse, was capable of dominating the minds of virtually anyone who ever dared to take possession of it."

"InuYasha's father was the only one we know of who was ever able to subdue Sounga's evil power," Myoga explained. "Everyone else who ever took hold of it was swiftly brought under Sounga's control, and was forced to kill and lay waste to all that lived. To make matters worse, not only was it more destructive than Tetsusaiga, but it was also capable of resurrecting its victims as undead slaves of its will."

As Jiro and Azusa reacted to this, both expressing concern and disbelief, Kaname gulped somewhat. "Undead slaves?" she repeated nervously. "You mean...like what Toma did to those wolf-demons."

"In a way. But Sounga's creations were even deadly, as they were filled with a toxic miasma, even more potent than Naraku's," Miroku reported.

"And...you think Reikikaega...i-is even more dangerous than that...?" Shippo asked fearfully.

"Potentially. Fortunately, however, Reikikaega doesn't seem capable of taking over its wielder as Sounga could," Totosai reported with a sense of weary relief. "It has a will of its own, mind you, just as Tetsusaiga and Tenseiga do. But as near as I can tell, it can't force you to do something you don't want to." Growing more curious, Kaname opened her mouth to ask something else, only for Totosai to hold up his hand in negation. "I promise, I explain everything to you all later. After I've had a bit more time to rest and gather up my thoughts...and once you're all in the same place."

"Why is that?" Miroku wondered with a raised eyebrow.

"Hmph! Because the old goat doesn't want to have to tell this story twice," InuYasha muttered sourly. When the rest of the group swung their gazes towards the half-demon, he gave Totosai a nasty glare before adding, "I asked him about it earlier. And all he said was that it'd be too dangerous for him to tell us whatever he has to tell us more than once."

"And with good reason, InuYasha. I assure you of that," Totosai replied a bit more blearily, ignoring the blatant sarcasm in the half-demon's words. "And in any case, it would take me quite a bit of time to explain everything to you."

"How come?" Shippo wondered, his tail flashing about in eagerness. "Why can't you just tell us what Reikikaega can do?"

"Because it's not that simple, little fox. For while I have ascertained the nature of Reikikaega's power, I still can't be certain as to what exactly it can or can't do," Totosai explained, looking even wearier. "And for you to understand the nature of its powers, I'd have to first explain how exactly I know about these things. And I'm afraid that will take a bit of time." Then he shifted his bleary eyes at InuYasha before adding, "Besides, I'd rather not risk nodding off while I'm trying to explain everything. I've already had my share of lumps because of this whole thing!"

InuYasha gave a loud, impatient snort at this, even as Kaname smiled and nodded. "That's okay. We've waited this long for some answers. Another few hours won't hurt," she decided, glancing about at the others. "Besides, this gives us some more time to enjoy breakfast, and...do anything else that needs to be done today."

"Well, that makes good sense," Myoga decided, giving a thoughtful nod as he folded all four of his arms. "So tell me, what are your plans for today?"

Miroku opened his mouth to answer, but before he could say anything, Kagome had brought out a small notepad and pencil and began writing something on it. As the others looked on, she then handed the notepad to Jiro. "What is it, Kagome," the Demon Slayer wondered, furrowing his brows as he studied what was written. "Hmm...'The first thing we have to do is get that shipment of food and supplies ready so you and Azusa can get it back to the alliance.' Oh, right, of course," Jiro commented, returning the notepad. "We discussed that yesterday."

"Oh, that's right!" Kaname murmured as she recalled that conversation. One of the many things that had happened during the long day they had been forced to deal with yesterday. "I'd almost forgotten about that!"

"So did I, for that matter," Miroku admitted, something that garnered a snort from InuYasha. The monk glanced over at the half-demon, as if wondering what had prompted this rude gesture, but ultimately shrugged before returning to the matter at hand. "Still, you're right, Kagome. We should get to work on that as quickly as possible. The sooner the alliance gets those supplies, the better."

"And the sooner I'm back home, the better I'll like it," Azusa muttered sourly.

While Jiro was giving a slight roll of his eyes, Hachi gave a reluctant sigh. "Oh, boy. I guess I better eat up while I have the chance, then," the tanuki groaned unhappily. "So...how much am I gonna have to carry, anyway?"

"As much as possible, I'm afraid. The more food and medicine we can get to the mountains, the better," Miroku declared. "I suppose the first thing we should do is talk to Densuke, get together everything we need for this shipment, and - oh? Kagome, what is it?"

Starting at this, Kaname looked over to see Kagome hurriedly scribbling something on her notepad. With a broad, cheerful smile, the modern priestess handed it over to Miroku, who studied the message. "'You don't have to worry about that, Miroku. I already talked to Densuke about it earlier this morning. He said that as soon as we're ready, all we have to do is head to the main storehouse, and he'll have people standing by to help load up Hachi for the trip.'" Blinking a couple times, the monk eyed Kagome for a time before shrugging. "Why...thank you, Kagome. That was most...efficient of you."

"Yeah. Sure was," InuYasha sneered disgustedly even as Miroku returned the notepad.

Something in the half-demon's voice caught Kaname's attention, as well as that of everyone else there. "Pardon me, Master InuYasha, but...you don't seem to be quite yourself this morning," Myoga declared, something the Kururugi girl silently agreed with. "Is something troubling you?"

"It's nothing, Myoga," InuYasha hurriedly muttered, averting his eyes. "Let's just say that I've some business to take care of later, and leave it that for now, okay?" The flea demon looked as if he would press the matter, but then the dog-eared warrior speared him with a look that left him utterly silent. "So, when do we get started on that?"

There was another pause as Kagome wrote out another message and handed it to Jiro. "'We should get going on that right away. There's no telling what's been going on at the mountains while we've been gone. The sooner we get supplies up there, the better!' I agree, Kagome," the Demon Slayer decided, returning the notepad. "The situation in the mountains was bad before, and it's probably only gotten worse while we've been gone. We should leave just as soon as possible." Now it was Kagome who reacted strangely, a broad, brilliant grin flashing across her face as she accepted the notepad. But before Kaname could give any consideration to this, Jiro went on to say, "However, I was thinking that it might be a good idea to bring Michiru with us as well."

"Michiru?" InuYasha started, furrowing his brows at the Demon Slayer.

"What do you mean?" Kaname wondered with an edge of concern. "Why do you want to bring my bro along?"

"Because of his condition, Kaname," Jiro explained in a gentle fashion. "He may be recovering from what happened to him, but he's still very weak. Without any assistance, it will probably take at least a week or so before he's recovered enough simply to travel. Even longer to get back into fighting condition, and from everything I've seen, you can't afford to wait that long."

"That's for sure!" Shippo quickly agreed.

"But Haruna and some of the others have a great deal of experience treating such exhaustion in Shikigami Users. So it's likely they'll be able to help Michiru get better faster," Jiro continued. "At the very least, it can't hurt to try."

"Right. Good idea. We'll ask him about when he gets up" Then InuYasha cast a sideways glance at Kagome before adding, "And maybe we could ask Sango if she'd like to go along with him. You know, to keep him company and everything."

At this statement, the broad grin Kagome had been wearing instantly vanished. And was turned into a full-fledged frown when Kaname chimed in with, "That's true. I'm sure Sango would love to keep close to my bro and all."

"I think you're right, Kaname. From what I've seen, it's pretty obvious that the two of them have gotten quite close to each other," Myoga commented to the tune of a slight, knowing chuckle.

Furrowing her brows at the tone of the old flea's voice, Kagome hurriedly scribbled out another message and showed it to him. "'What do you mean, Myoga?' Well...the fact is that I saw something in passing, and..." Myoga then hesitated, his strange needle-like mouth seeming to frown as he added, "Well, in all honesty, I'm not sure I should be talking about it. I mean...it's just not the sort of thing that one..." Myoga trailed off as Kagome scribbled out another message, this one more quickly than before, and slammed it in front of the aged retainer.

Kaname had had a bad feeling about what it was Myoga was speaking of. A feeling that got even worse when she read the message; 'Spill it already before I really get mad!'

"Okay! Okay! There's no need to get so upset, Kagome!" Myoga protested, holding out his hands as he frantically leapt up and down. "I had just gotten back from looking at the stone carcass, and I was making my through the house when I spotted Kirara lying down just outside of Michiru's room."

"Outside of Michiru's room?" Miroku asked, seeming to pale a bit more at this.

"That's right! Anyway, I was wondering what she was doing there, and where Sango was and all that, so I decided to slip inside and ask about it!" Myoga paused in his frantic leaps, and as Kaname considered what she could do to stop it without resorting to violence, the aged flea blurted out, "Imagine my surprise when I saw Sango and Michiru in bed together!"

The instant this was said, it was like a bomb had gone off in the dining room. Miroku's face turned a deathly white and he looked like he was about to faint, Kagome shot to her feet, her features twisted in horrified astonishment as metaphoric flames of outrage flew up from behind her, InuYasha just sat there for a moment before a broad grin exploded upon his face, Kaname groaned despondently, Jiro and Azusa looked on in confusion, all while Shippo leapt into the air and seemed to hover there. "What?!" he cried out in surprise, his little legs motoring as he continued to hover in place. "Michiru and Sango are -?!"

"Well, it's not like they were undressed or anything like that!" Myoga quickly elaborated. "They were just - you know, cuddled up in bed together and -!"

"Cuddled...together...?" Miroku squeaked out, his eyes round as saucers as he slumped forward.

As Kagome grew visibly more outraged, InuYasha just smirked in a knowing fashion. "Heh? So Miroku and Sango are 'made for each other', huh?" the half-demon sneered derisively. "Well, you got the girl right, but not the guy!"

As InuYasha chuckled nastily, Kagome's hair seemed to curl up to form perfect demon horns. As for Kaname, realizing that Sango's location was no longer a secret, decided that there was only one thing she could really do under the circumstances. "C'mon, everyone! Don't make such a big deal about it!" Then she leaned in, shooting Miroku a devious look as she prepared to rub some more salt in his wounds. "It's not like this is the first time they've slept with each other!"

This revelation hit Miroku like a fist to the face, sending the monk toppling over. While it was also throwing more fuel on Kagome's metaphoric flames, Shippo started, "Wha -?! You mean - they're like a couple now?!"

"Well, they're sleeping together. They're kissing each other. They're dating," InuYasha declared with obvious enthusiasm. "I think we can safely say that they're - and where do you think you're going?!" Surprised by this shift in the half-demon's words, Kaname looked up just in time to see Kagome dash out of the dining room, trailing plumes of fire and smoke behind her. "Oh, no you don't, Kagome!" InuYasha growled as he leapt to his feet. "Get back here already!"

Watching as InuYasha went chasing after Kagome, Kaname couldn't help but sigh sadly. Because one way or another, her brother's peaceful time with the woman he loved was about to be brought to an extremely unpleasant end. I guess there was no getting around that, she decided unhappily. And...well, they would have to get up and get out of their room sooner or later...

"Miroku? Hey, Miroku?!" Brought back to the moment by Shippo's voice, Kaname looked about to see the little fox perched next to the prone monk. "Are you alright?! Miroku!" The monk didn't respond at first. He simply lay there, a look of consummate horror on his face as Shippo took hold of his shoulder and gave him a good shaking. "Miroku, c'mon! Say something already!"

A pained, muted groan was the only sound Miroku made at first. He didn't move, didn't look about. Simply lay there, looking like he had just been stepped on. As Shippo continued to shake him and Kaname and the others looked on, wondering if they should do anything, with the Kururugi girl privately wishing she had a camera to capture this moment for posterity.

"Miroku!" Shippo bellowed, snapping Kaname from her thoughts, as well as Miroku from his dazed state. The monk promptly flew up into a seated position, his eyes still like saucers. "Whew! You starting to worry me!" the fox-demon announced, bouncing up onto the table to look Miroku in the face. "Are you alright?"

"Am...am I...?" Miroku got out as he slowly blinked his eyes. After a few seconds of this, the monk visibly recovered, giving a quick shake of his head as his features slowly returned to normal. "I...yes, Shippo. I'm...fine now, thank you." As the little fox visibly sagged in relief, the monk let his gaze fall to the floor for a moment before taking a deep breath and straightening himself up. "Listen...Shippo, could you do me a favor?"

"Well, sure!" Shippo promptly answered. "What is it?"

"I need you to go get InuYasha and Kagome back here," Miroku explained in an even fashion. "Then I want you to go tell Michiru and Sango to come here as well."

Now it was Shippo who needed a moment to recover as he processed this request. "Uh...well, I'm sure I can get Michiru and Sango down here, but...I don't know about InuYasha or Kagome!" the little fox finally admitted. "You know what those two are like when they get like this! Even without her voice, you know they'll be fighting like crazy!"

"Not when you tell them what I wish to talk about," Miroku replied, his voice low and seeming bereft of emotion. "Now, please listen to me, Shippo. This...isn't easy for me to say..."

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