Legacy of the Cursed Mask: The Wolf-Demon Crisis

Inner Demons

As Miroku labored in the kitchen alongside Sango, a heavy silence weighed down upon him. As he helped her prepare breakfast for Kohaku and Kanna, his body carried out this task mostly of its own accord. For his mind and heart were weighed down by other burdens, things that became even more painful as he looked at the warrior woman that was now apparently beyond his reach.

I still can't believe...that it's over... Miroku found himself thinking once again as he studied the beauteous woman warrior that he had courted for so very long. That I've truly lost you, Sango...

No matter how many times the monk reflected upon this truth, he simply couldn't believe that this was really and truly happening. Almost since the day Sango first joined their little group, she and Miroku had made for a very effective fighting duo, and while off the battlefield, they had found themselves together more often than not, exploring, dealing with situations apart from the others, their respective upbringings and skills making them a natural fit for each other. True, the monk had indulged himself in the physical assets of other lovelies during their time together, and there was no arguing against that they had not had the smoothest of relationships. But he could tell that they had been growing closer together, and Miroku had been certain that it would only be a matter of time before the lovely woman warrior would bear his children.

But that certainty was now little more than a pile of ashes. Seared away by the burning moment when Myoga revealed that Sango had been asleep with Michiru. For even if they hadn't committed the act that Miroku had oft fantasized about, the very fact that the Demon Slayer was willing to even share a bed to that degree with Michiru felt like the final bit of dirt on his fantasy's grave.

It had been one thing to hear that Sango had gone out with the Shikigami User. After all, Miroku had entertained many a lovely young thing, despite his intentions for the Demon Slayer. And Sango herself had allowed herself to be wooed by the young lord Kuranosuke Takeda, if only for a brief time. But in all their time together, Sango had never shared a bed with Miroku, or anyone else, for that matter. She had always kept her distance, even when gravely ill or injured. The fact that she was willing to do what she had done made it very clear to Miroku that she meant what she had said the previous night.

That it was Michiru she truly loved. Not Miroku. And there was absolutely nothing the monk could do that would change that.

It was a bitter reality for him to accept, one that had basically left Miroku desolate and at war with himself. His conscious mind was overwhelmed with sorrow and regret over having lost this chance at true love, at having Sango swept out from under him so effortlessly, at being plagued with these impulses that had ultimately ruined his chances of making the warrior woman his. And as he found himself mired in these things, other, less pleasant aspects of the monk's personality made themselves known.

It's not fair... came one mental voice, one that pined for the love that Miroku had lost. I've been with Sango for so long...how can this happen?! Why did Michiru have to come back?!

It's not fair to blame Michiru for your own folly, came another, more penitent voice. Sango gave her reasons for breaking off her relationship with you. And they had everything to do with your own sins, not Michiru's.

He's a boy! A boy who has virtually everything! cried out an angrier voice. A home, a family, a life he can live without fear! He has all those magical powers! Why should he have Sango, too?!

It's Sango choice! the penitent voice spoke. She's the one who chose to be with him!

And who can blame her? came an entirely different voice, one that was filled with self-loathing. You lied to her and everyone else, you tried to destroy Michiru's reputation for your own selfish gain, you're constantly peeping and groping her, no matter how many times she's made it clear that she -!

But that's who I am! Miroku frowned vehemently, cutting off that rogue thought. I tried to subdue my desires and failed! They are a part of who I am!

And they're the reason Sango left you, that self-loathing voice declared.

No, Michiru's the reason Sango left you! the angry voice shot back. If it had just been the two of you, if there had been no one else, than she never would have left your side! You would have been able to marry her and have her bare your children and -!

And doesn't that say everything? That you would only be an option if there had been no other serious competition? came that self-loathing voice. Admit it, Miroku; you are no monk. You're a con-man, a liar, and -!

And who isn't these days?! demanded that angry voice. These lands are rife with bandits, thieves, conniving lords and demons who all live to exploit whomever they come upon! How else are you supposed to survive unless you take advantage of every opportunity you get?!

Even if that means going against the word of Buddha? came the penitent voice.

You are a monk! Your word is that of Buddha! sneered another, more conniving voice. You fight for the common good every day! You slay demons on behalf of others, you do more than most so-called 'real monks' ever accomplish! Certainly your efforts deserve to be rewarded!

And that attitude is another reason why Sango left you, the penitent voice decreed. She is a warrior with honor and compassion. How can you expect her to live with someone as soiled as you are?

Because you could have provided for her, and the children she would have given you, the conniving voice quickly rationalized. What can Michiru do for her? He doesn't even belong in this world! He has no real way of making a living, or providing for her! Clearly, you are -!

You're just fooling yourself, you filthy monk, the self-loathing voice cut in. Michiru has all that magic at his command, and an entire world of luxury to give Sango! Or did you ever consider the possibility that Sango might want to -?

No! She wouldn't! She couldn't! the angry voice shot back. Sango would never leave her brother behind!

And what's to stop her from taking Kohaku with her? the penitent voice wondered. Wouldn't he actually be safer in the other world, where there would be no chance of Naraku -?

"Miroku?" came a firm, yet dulcet voice, one that penetrated the inner turmoil that had been building up in the monk's mind. Letting out a barely audible gasp, he looked about to see the heart of his torment looking at him, a glimmer of concern in her eyes. "Did you hear me?"

"Uh..." Miroku got out, his mouth hanging limply open as he gathered himself up. Eventually, he let out a low sigh and admitted, "I'm sorry, Sango. I...my thoughts were elsewhere, I'm afraid." Giving a limp shrug, the monk asked, "What was it that you said?"

"I was asking you why you were wrapping fish in dried seaweed, and putting pickles in the rice porridge," Sango explained, glancing down at the dishes before the monk.

"Huh?" Miroku got out absently, blinking a few times before looking down at the dishes he had been preparing. Only to wince when he realized that Sango was correct in that he had been putting breakfast together all wrong. "Ah!" he cried out, dropping the fish he had been in the midst of wrapping like it was on fire. Immediately going to work in correcting his errors, the monk looked shamefacedly at the woman warrior. "I - I'm sorry, I - I didn't - I wasn't -!"

"No, that's...that's alright," Sango got out, slowly waving aside Miroku's concerns. "This hasn't been a good morning for any of us so far, has it?"

That, sweet Sango, is quite possibly the greatest understatement of all time, Miroku found himself thinking as he repaired his thoughtless damage.

A heavy silence fell down upon the monk, one in which niggling fears and doubts again began to assert themselves. Before they could once again rise up and overrun his mind, Sango again spoke. "Miroku, I...this isn't easy for me," the Demon Slayer hesitantly began. "But there's something I need to talk to you about."

Miroku knew the tone of voice Sango had just used. It was almost identical to the way she had spoken when she had been building up to the revelation that it was Michiru she loved instead of him. And thus it was a voice that had the monk bracing himself for the worst even as he hesitantly asked, "What is it?"

Pressing her lips together, Sango paused to heave a deep, cleansing breath, gearing herself up for what she was about to say. Even as Miroku was thinking that this was another bad sign, the Demon Slayer began, "First, I...I wanted to thank you." Starting at this, the monk shot Sango a perplexed look, to which she responded with, "For clearing Michiru's name."

Stung somewhat by this reminder of how things had changed so drastically in so short a time, Miroku required a moment to recover before replying, "I don't see what you're thanking me for." Then, after a beat, he added, "You didn't give me much choice in the matter."

Miroku hadn't meant to say that. The words simply popped out without him even thinking about it, and as soon as he realized what he had said, he found himself feeling even worse that he already did. But before he could apologize for his thoughtless statement, Sango responded with a sad little smile. "You're right. I didn't." Her gaze falling somewhat, the Demon Slayer fell silent for a time, leaving the monk even more regretful of his thoughtless words. "But...still, you had a chance, Miroku," the lovely warrior eventually continued. "After what happened with that monster, you could have tried to get out of it."

Nodding somewhat at this valid point, Miroku gave Sango a sad smile. "Perhaps," he admitted. "But that wouldn't have changed anything." Studying the beautiful women before him, the woman he had last, he gave a low sigh of remorse. "It wouldn't have changed how you feel about Michiru...and myself. Would it."

It was not a question, but even so, Sango gave a sad smile of her own. "You're right. It wouldn't have," she conceded. "But...still, thank you for...for doing what was right."

Unsure of what to say, Miroku eventually shrugged. "I'm...still not sure what you are thanking me for, but...you are welcome, Sango."

Nodding, Sango again took a deep breath, gathering herself up for what she was about to say. Already realizing that he was not going to enjoy what was to come, Miroku did his best to brace himself for what was to come. "But...more importantly, Miroku, there are...things that I need to settle with you."

"Like what?" Miroku wondered perplexedly. "You already explained why you chose Michiru over me, and I've -"

"I know that, Miroku," Sango broke in, using a soft, almost sad voice that was every bit as formidable as her sword. A heavy pause followed before she began again. "Miroku, did you...did you ever stop to think about what would have happened...if you had won?"

Still somewhat stupefied, Miroku furrowed his brows at this enigmatic question. "What do you mean?"

"When you threatened Michiru with your Wind Tunnel," Sango explained, her voice somewhat heavier. "Did you ever stop to consider what would have happened if you had won?"

A touch of guilt gnawing at his insides, fueled by the bad feeling that he knew where this was going, Miroku quickly protested, "Sango, please, you have to believe me. I had no intention of killing Michiru, or -"

"That's not what I was asking you," Sango broke in with a firmer tone. "When you used your Wind Tunnel on Michiru, you told him that you would only shut it down if he agreed to leave us and go back home." Giving this a moment to sink, the warrior woman asked, "So tell me something; did you ever stop to consider what would have happened if he had actually done that?"

Realizing the thrust of Sango's question, Miroku frowned pensively before admitting, "I...no." Then he gave a helpless shrug before adding, "In fact, at that point, I...I don't think I was really thinking at all anymore. Except about how...I losing you to him. I was...desperate to do...something."

Her eyes narrowing the slightest bit, Sango studied the monk for a time. "Miroku, I know what it's like to be desperate. I know how painful it can be to feel helpless, to lose something precious and be powerless to do anything about it. And I also know just how dangerous it is to let that desperation control you." As the monk found himself thinking of just how gross an understatement this was, of the many ways Naraku had used Kohaku against Sango to put her and the rest of them in dangerous positions, the Demon Slayer's features hardened. "But...let's say for the sake of argument that Michiru had left because that. That you had gotten what you had wanted. What then?"

After a moment's consideration, Miroku admitted, "I...I'm not sure what you mean."

"When we found out that Michiru was leaving us, do you honestly think it would have taken long for the rest of us to find out why? That you had threatened to kill him if he didn't?" Sango explained with an increasingly dangerous voice. "All you would have done is turn everyone here against you. And we would have lost one of our most powerful members, making it that much harder for us to defeat Naraku." Her eyes narrowed and her lips pressed tightly together, she added, "In fact, it might have become impossible."

"Impossible?" Miroku repeated, taken aback somewhat. "Sango, I realize that Michiru is powerful, but still, I think you're overstating matters a bit."

"Really?" Sango wondered with a raised eyebrow. "In case you've forgotten, Miroku, Naraku's new barrier is based on Utsugi's Shikigami magic. Even the Red Tetsusaiga couldn't do anything to it. Which means that our only real chance right now of getting through it is Blue Sky Calamity, which only Michiru can use."

It was certainly a valid point, Miroku inwardly conceded. But one he was quick to counter. "That spell may have been initially effective, but Naraku was able to make a new barrier that was impervious to it, Sango. Even before he gained control over Utsugi's body," he pointed out. "Besides, I'm sure Kaname can gain that same power as well. All we need to do is go to Mount Houoh, and -"

"- and that will take a lot of time, Miroku. And even if we can get a second fruit, we'll still need a Shikigami User that would know how to use it in order to give Kaname that power," Sango returned. As he was forced to consider this, the woman warrior added, "That's not to say that getting another fruit isn't a good idea. In fact, I think it would be wise of us to take her to Mount Houoh once we've dealt with the jet. But the fact remains that it will take time." Then she scowled at the monk and added, "And as for Blue Sky Calamity not working, Michiru is much more powerful now. He's proven that several times now. And even if his magic alone wasn't enough, there's no reason why he couldn't combine it with the Red Tetsusaiga. Their powers combined could be enough to break Naraku's barrier."

Another valid point. And it was one that Miroku had no counter for. "True," he finally admitted. "I...hadn't thought of that."

"And that's the problem, Miroku. You weren't thinking of what we need to do. All you were thinking about was yourself. You put what you alone wanted ahead of the good of everyone else here, and it could have cost us all dearly." As these words sounded in the monk's mind, Sango let her eyes fall somewhat. Her features softening, a light tremor running through her form. "Like I said, Miroku; I know what it's like to be desperate, to want something so badly that you make bad choices. To put your own interests ahead of what's best for everyone. I know what it's like to make that kind of mistake." An instant later, her features hardened, just in time for the Demon Slayer to turn her formidable gaze on the monk at full force. "But it's that kind of mistake we cannot afford to make. Never again."

"I realize that, Sango," Miroku promptly assured her, not just a little intimidated. "I've already vowed to make amends for my misdeeds. The mistakes I made will not happen again."

Nodding to this, Sango returned, "You're right, Miroku. They won't happen again." At these words, a chill rushed down the monk's spine. One that grew even worse when the warrior woman continued. "You saved Michiru's life last night, and you've cleared his name. So I'll forgive you for what happened." Then Sango's eyes narrowed into deadly slits. "But I'm warning you right here and now that I will be watching you. And if you ever dare do anything like this ever again, if you betray our trust in you...I...will kill you for it."

Feeling as if the temperature had plummeted to freezing, Miroku was initially tempted to ask if the Demon Slayer was joking. But before this urge could take greater form, the glare Sango aimed at him intensified. "I'm asking you, Miroku," she intoned in a deathly dangerous voice, "please don't make me do that. Because I promise you, I will...if I have to."

There was no doubt in Miroku's mind that she would make good on this promise. After all the times Sango had come so dangerously close to slaying her own beloved brother to protect others, he had no illusions that she would hesitate to end his life if she thought it in the group's best interests. Especially after his recent betrayals and manipulations. A lump of bile form in his throat and a cold sweat of fear forming on his brow, the monk issued a brief, silent prayer to Buddha before swallowing loudly. "I...I understand. I..."

As Miroku trailed off, his voice breaking up beneath the fear he felt, Sango nodded. "Good. And you may not believe it, Miroku, but...I really didn't want to have to go this far with this. But we cannot let this happen again. Not ever." Then her expression softened somewhat with a wan smile. "And...for what it's worth...I truly do hope that you manage to find someone who...who you can be with. Someone who will love you...the way I can't."

Someone who is as loving and beauteous and tolerant as you are, my dear Sango? Miroku couldn't help but think. I'm sorry, for while I may be a monk...I don't believe there's a miracle capable of making that happen. Not in this world, anyway.

With this dismal thought casting an even greater shadow on his already woeful thoughts, Miroku watched as Sango returned to her duties. In less than a minute, the breakfast she had been working was ready, and she was helping the monk finish the one he had gotten sidetracked with. "There. All done," the woman warrior announced with a sense of satisfaction. Looking as if their verbal confrontation had never happened. "We better get going. As soon as we take care of Kohaku and Kanna, we'll go meet the others."

"Right," Miroku nodded even as he lifted up the tray he had helped prepare. But even as Sango did the same, he frowned, thinking of something else. Something that could also compromise the team later on, and that he was relatively certain that she was not yet aware of. And if it came out in the wrong way and wasn't dealt with...

"Uh...listen, Sango?" Miroku began, again feeling a chill running up and down his spine as he prepared to speak. "There, uh...there's something I...would..."

"Come on, Miroku, let's go," Sango broke in, completely overpowering the weak voice the monk had been using. "Look, why don't you go on ahead? Tell the others I'll be down once I get Kohaku and Kanna their breakfasts." Again, the monk opened his mouth to speak, but was cut off when the Demon Slayer added, "We've got a lot to get done today, and not a lot of time to get it done in."

Starting at how easily he was being brushed off, Miroku felt his eyes go wide as he looked up at the Demon Slayer. "I...but...!" he tried to protest, but even as he sputtered helplessly, trying to get more words out. Only for his voice to give out completely when Sango left the kitchen. Not even looking back at him as she went about her business.

For a moment, Miroku thought about calling out to Sango, racing after her to tell her what needed to be said. But a moment later, the monk found himself wobbling somewhat, much of his strength fading after everything he had been through that day. He had lost Sango, he had put himself on the chopping block for InuYasha and the others to exhort whatever punishments they wished upon him, and the woman he loved had made it clear that she no longer trusted him the way she once had, and would watch him with a wary eye. And be ready to kill him if he ever strayed from grace again.

In that moment, he lost the will to care about much of anything. Let alone the situation he had tried to bring to Sango's attention.

Besides...I can deal with Kagome myself, Miroku thought wearily as he started forward, breakfast in hand. Maybe Sango and the others are away...I can...settle things with her. Straighten everything out...

"There you go, Kanna," Sango spoke as she set down the meal intended for the former demon. "I hope you enjoy it."

As always, Kanna was seated in the far corner of her room, eyeing those who visited her with anxious eyes. But her anxiety was somewhat lessened in Sango's presence; the now raven-haired girl had slowly gotten used to the Demon Slayer's presence, at least enough so that she accepted the food with only a moment's hesitation. "I...th-thank you..."

Somehow managing a smile for the quavering girl, Sango continued to crouch there, studying her for a time. "I really am sorry to take so long," she apologized with complete sincerity. "It's just...there's a lot going on right now that we have to take care of, and..."

"S-sorry?" Kanna piped up even as Sango trailed off.

Nodding, Sango then let out a weary sigh. "That's right. And I know it's no excuse, but...with everything that's been happening...there's just...so much to do, and..."

"Wh-why...s-sorry...?" Kanna sputtered out.

"Wh...why am I sorry?" Sango repeated uncertainly. Pausing to consider this request, she decided that she had not made her explanation as clear as she could have. Reminding herself once more that what Kanna was going through was extremely difficult, and that there were many things that she might not pick up on, she tried again. "Well, as I said; there's a lot going on right now. We need to deliver some supplies to the wolf-demons and the Demon Slayers today, and we're waiting for Koga to get back with more people to help transport even more supplies, and we still have to deal with the jet - you know, the metal bird? - and then..." Again, Sango trailed off as the enormity of the many tasks before her again settled squarely upon her shoulders. "But...that doesn't make it right for me to neglect your needs, so...I'm sorry."

"B-but...why...?" Kanna tried again. As Sango became more perplexed. "Wh-why...sorry...for m-me...?"

As these words sounded, Sango let out a tiny gasp as she comprehended what Kanna was asking, and with that comprehension, came a fresh pain in her heart. The little girl understood that the warrior woman and her friends had been busy recently, and that they would remain so for the foreseeable future. What she didn't understand was why Sango would feel the need to apologize for not tending to her the way she should be tended to.

And once again, Sango felt a great swell of pity for Naraku's former incarnation, for all it took was a moment's thought for her to realize the kind of life Kanna must have had under the dread demon's thrall. An emotionless creature who knew only Naraku's will, was subject to his every whim. And she knew just how thoroughly disposable his Naraku's incarnations were.

Something Kanna had to know as well.

For a long time, Sango struggled to find a way to answer the little girl's question, wondering if she knew what emotions were, aside from a means of manipulating others. Trying to think of a way of explaining such things to a girl who had only had emotions of her own for such a short time. She pondered and considered the matter, only to realize that, she simply didn't have any words capable of expressing what needed to be said, let alone in a way that the young girl could understand. So in the end, all she could do was look at Kanna, smile her sadness, and gently reach towards her. The former demon let out a tiny gasp of fear, and recoiled somewhat, carefully watching Sango's hand. But the Demon Slayer moved slowly, carefully, making certain to give the girl no cause for alarm...as she cupped her cheek and gingerly caressed it.

"Because I care," Sango finally told her. Watching as Kanna's eyes glanced down at the hand, then the warrior woman. "And you deserve to be cared for."

It was obvious from Kanna's expression that she did not understand, and though it saddened her, Sango knew that she couldn't expect her to. So she continued to rub the girl's cheek for a time before carefully pulling away. "Kanna...there's something very important I need to talk to you about. So I need you to listen very carefully. Do you understand?" The former demon gave a shaky nod to this. "I've been talking to Jiro, and he believes that the Demon Slayers back in the mountains can help Michiru recover. Help him get back his strength much faster than he would normally."

Her eyes widening somewhat, Kanna sputtered out, "R-really?"

"Yes, really," Sango nodded. "However, that means that he's going to have to go to the mountains when we take the supplies to the alliance. And...you should know that I'm going with him." This time, Kanna reacted by sucking in a gasp of sudden fear, and she was about to protest when the Demon Slayer held up her hand and added, "And that's why I need to ask you...if you want to come with us."

A fresh spark of fear appeared in Kanna's eyes, but this time, there was an equal amount of confusion. "A...ask...?" she began, gesturing at herself. "You're...a-asking me...?"

"Yes. I'm asking you if want to come with us," Sango confirmed with a nod. "You can stay here in the village with the others, if you like. I'll ask Kaname to keep an eye on you, take care of anything. Or you can come with me and Michiru to the mountains."

Her mouth popping open, Kanna's eyes flitted nervously about as she considered what was being offered. Not just whether she should stay in the village or come with Michiru and Sango, but the very fact that she was being offered a choice in her own life. "But - why -?" she started, clearly perplexed by this gesture. But then she gave a slight shake of her head, and tried a different tact. "The - Demon Slayers, they -!"

"You wouldn't have to worry about the Demon Slayers. Or the wolf-demons, for that matter," Sango quickly assured her. "Remember, you're not a demon anymore, so there's no reason for any of them to want to hurt you."

"But...N-Naraku...!" Kanna hurriedly protested. "He...I...a-at-attacked -!"

Anticipating what Kanna was trying to say, Sango nodded. "Naraku had you do something to one of the Demon Slayers, didn't he?" she gathered, and again, the little girl sucked in a breath of surprise. "He had you take control of him, and force him to destroy one of the barrier stones protecting the fort."

Once more, Kanna quaked in surprise, but that was surprisingly short-lived. Soon enough, she swallowed loudly, and then gave a hesitant nod. "Y...yes..." she somehow managed to push out of her lips. "I - I made..."

"Shhhh...you don't have to say anything about it if you don't want to," Sango quickly assured her, even as she pressed her lips together in thought. For while she was glad that she would be tell Daisuke beyond any doubt that Naraku was responsible for the apparent betrayal by the Demon Slayer that had set them up to be attacked, she didn't like the idea of manipulating anyone for any reason, even if it was just to get some information out of Kanna. "Daisuke already knows what happened," she exaggerated, knowing that all that they really had had was a theory that had made sense. "And I can guarantee you that he won't hold what happened against you. Whether you decide to come with us or not."

Still looking at her with anxious eyes, Kanna swallowed before asking, "Wh-why not?"

"Because we all know that you didn't have a choice; that when you were still a demon, you had to do what Naraku said, or else he would have destroyed your heart. The same with Kagura, right?" When Kanna gave another shaky nod, Sango smiled once more, feeling more at ease with the situation. "Now, I know Daisuke, and I know that he won't blame you for any of that. And if you were to come, then I'd be there the whole time."

There was a heavy pause as Kanna's eyes flitted about their sockets, as if she was considering this. "B-but...you said...I...c-could stay...?"

"That's right," Sango confirmed with a nod. "If you want, you could stay right here. And like I said; I'd make sure Kaname took care of you while I was away." As Kanna lowered her eyes, the Demon Slayer hesitated before going to say, "It's you decision, Kanna. Whichever you want to do is fine with me."

The former demon didn't respond. Her eyes continued to flit about, as if trying to weigh all the different possibilities. And in all honesty, Sango wasn't surprised, for in all likelihood, this was the first time Kanna had ever had to make a decision of any kind. Without emotions, without any real 'will' of her own, she had been completely dependent on Naraku for everything.

And now, Sango was forcibly putting her in the position of making a choice of her own.

She needs to know that she can make her own decisions...that she can think for herself... Sango thought, studying the damaged girl that was now in her care. But...am I pushing her too fast? I...I know that she can't just keep hiding away from the world; she won't survive like this. She needs to get out in the world, not keep hiding away from everything. But...I don't want to start just telling her what to do! That's what Naraku does! Heaving a deep breath, the Demon Slayer then frowned. But...the others are waiting, and we still have to get those supplies to the mountains...but...

"I...Michiru..." Kanna suddenly piped up, starting Sango from her thoughts. "Michiru...the D-Demon Slayers...will make him...b-better, right?"

"That's right," Sango confirmed. "Jiro's pretty sure that they'll be able to help him get better faster."

Anxiety seeming to build up exponentially in her face, Kanna met Sango's eyes. "Th-then...if...I can...then...I-I-I w-want...to go...with...Michiru...a-and...you..."

There was so much fear in that single sentence, and Sango couldn't tell if it was because Kanna was afraid of being punished for exercising her own will, frightened that she was now making such an attempt, or a bit of both. But it was an enormous effort on her part, there was no doubt about that. And despite everything, the warrior woman found herself smiling her approval and support. I know it'll be a long time before she's able to...live and function like...a person.

But even as Sango thought of how Kanna was starting from scratch in terms of all the formative stages of growing up, she couldn't but be relieved and not just a little proud that she was taking this first step. "Alright, then." The Demon Slayer gave this a moment to sink, watching the little girl's features, waiting as the fear diminished to a degree before adding, "Now, we're going to be leaving a little later today. So please, enjoy your breakfast. I'll come get you when it's time to go. Okay?"

Giving another of her nervous nods, Kanna answered, "O-o-okay..."

Smiling and nodding in response, Sango then rose to take her leave. As she closed the door to Kanna behind her, she let her smile fade as she considered the situation. She honestly wasn't surprised by the former incarnation's decision to come with them. Whether it was because Kagura had entrusted Sango directly with Kanna's welfare, or because she had kept the little girl safe during the battle and even later on, Kanna had attached herself to the Demon Slayer, and would not respond to anyone else. I just hope she starts opening up to the others, and soon...

Optimistic that Kanna would at least be responsive to Michiru, given that he had spared both her and Kagura, Sango started downstairs, having taken care of both the girl and Kohaku. Before long, she emerged from the front of the large estate, and found the majority of her friends standing in wait. Michiru still sat astride Kirara, with Kaname staying close to him. Miroku was waiting close to the door, and Shippo and Hachi were nearby as well. Totosai, Jiro, and Azusa stood off to the side, but...

"Hey, Sango," Michiru spoke up, his exhaustion painfully clear in his voice. "How're...Kohaku and Kanna?"

"The same. Though Kanna seems to be doing a bit better," Sango reported even as she once again scanned her surroundings. "Say...where's InuYasha? And Kagome?"

There was an ugly silence amongst the core group as they glanced amongst themselves, making it clear that none of them wanted to be the one that answered. Leaving it to Jiro to say, "Kagome ran out of here a little while ago. She...seemed very upset about...something..."

Making a sound of comprehension, Sango nodded, recalling the way Kagome had rushed away before. I always knew she would be upset about me and Michiru, even without everything that's been happening... the Demon Slayer thought mournfully. I guess it's going to...be a while before she's able to accept it... Letting out a weary sigh, she then composed herself and focused her attention on the others. "Here's hoping InuYasha can get her to cool down."

"I wouldn't get my hopes up," Shippo muttered grimly. "Kagome was pretty upset. And this is InuYasha we're talking about here!"

"True, that," Totosai seconded. "That sort of thing runs in his family...too bad he isn't as good as hiding his temper as his father was."

Groaning quietly in her throat, Sango frowned, considering what to do when Miroku asked, "Would you like me to see if I can find them?"

After a moment's consideration, Sango ultimately shook her head to this. "No, you have no idea where to go looking. And then we'd have to wait for all three of you to come back." As Miroku lowered his head, the Demon Slayer looked towards the Kururugi girl. "Kaname, could you send some of your scouts looking for Kagome? Just in case InuYasha can't get her to calm down on his own?"

"Sure, no problem," Kaname assured her, already reaching for her holster of cards. A few moment later, the cards were infused with the power of her Wind Shikigami and transformed into birds.

Watching as the scouts flew off in various directions, Sango nodded in satisfaction. "Alright. Why don't we..." Then the Demon Slayer paused as she recalled her own words from before. "Oh, wait, I almost forgot!" she muttered, smacking herself gently on the forehead. "I was going to stop by the warehouse, see how things are going with the supplies! I better -!"

"That...won't be necessary, Sango," Miroku gently interrupted, holding up his hand as he spoke. "I'll go check and see how things are going."

Again, Sango paused at the monk's offer, but this time, she saw nothing wrong with his suggestion. "Thank you, Miroku. I'd appreciate that."

Giving a slight bow of his head, Miroku returned, "Think nothing of it. I'll me you at the mine entrance soon enough."

Returning the monk's bow, Sango watched as he departed for the warehouse before turning towards the others. "We might as well get going, then. Miroku and the others know where we're going; they can catch up with us later."

"Hmph! If you ask me, they can all just get lost and stay that way!" Azusa sneered as Sango and the others started forward. "Especially that damned monk! That filthy piece of crap is the absolute worst human I've ever seen!"

"His actions have been shameful," Jiro chimed in.

"Shameful?! I can think of a whole lot of other things I'd call him!" Azusa shot back. "I just hope that filthy pervert's sickness isn't contagious!"

As Azusa continued her rant, Sango let out a low sigh. I knew this would happen...she thought, taking note of the silence of her close friends. No one, not even Hachi was saying anything in Miroku's defense or trying to stem the tide of the she-wolf's poisonous diatribe. And she could tell from the expressions they wore that, to one degree or another, they felt a similar disdain for the monk and his treacherous actions. It'll take a long time for them...for all of us to put what Miroku did behind us...for us to be able to work as a team again...

Which, as Sango considered the matter, was likely the reason why Miroku had been so eager to go on the errands he had volunteered for. The monk knew what he was in for, and wished to distance himself from the others.

And possibly me as well... Sango realized, hanging her head as she thought back to the time she had spent with Miroku in the kitchen. The things she had said to him, the expression of abject misery he had worn. Misery that had grown more and more prevalent as she had gone on to lecture him on the folly of his actions, and the warning she had ultimately given him.

But...no. That wasn't a warning. It was a promise, Sango corrected herself, feeling her heart clench as she flashed back to that moment. To the expression Miroku had worn when she had vowed to slay him, should he betray them ever again. I...I knew how hard this would all be. But...I...never thought I...that I'd feel...

What? Pleasure? came another aspect of Sango. A stern, composed voice, like that of a warrior. Like a true Demon Slayer. Satisfaction for finally doing what's right?

Sucking in a quick breath, Sango hurriedly squelched this errant voice. There had been no pleasure in what she had done. It had been an ugly thing, a necessary evil that she honestly wished that she had never had to commit.

Is that all? came that same voice again. Look at what Miroku has done to you! Toyed with your heart and body, shamed you with his dishonesty and conniving! Everything about him goes against everything that a true Demon Slayer should stand for!

As this thought echoed through her thoughts, Sango realized that it had a point. From a very young age, even before she had received her Hiraikotsu, had been trusted with any true weapon, her father and even her mother had drilled the importance of honor into her mind, into her very soul. That they had to be responsible with their strength and skills, to only use them for what was right. To defend those that could not defend themselves. While Miroku...

He uses his power and skills to benefit himself, first and foremost, that warrior's voice continued. Always trying to exploit women for his own pleasures, exploiting those in need for financial gain. He's corrupt; he deserves to pay for his crimes.

And he did. Sango realized that. There had to be consequences for actions such as his. But still, that didn't make what she had done any less difficult.

Did it? that warrior's voice returned. After all the times he's treated you as his plaything, teased you and toyed with your feelings, you can honestly say that you regret doing what you did to him?

Swallowing loudly as the bile in her stomach rose to her throat, Sango forced this voice back. Fought against the notion that there had been any pleasure at all in doing what she had done. "I did what I had to do..." she murmured beneath her voice, a low whisper that nothing with human ears could detect. As if she were trying to reassure herself. "I had to make sure this doesn’t happen again. I…had no other choice."

Is that what you really think, deep down in your heart? came another voice, one was softer and gentler. A voice that made Sango think of her mother, a kindly expression on her face as she sat and watched her youthful children. Wearing the kimono of a happily married wife, rather than the garb of a Demon Slayer. That there was no other way?

Shuddering at the implications of this voice, Sango frowned as that warrior's aspect was heard again. After all that Miroku has done to our friends…to me…to Michiru…because of his selfishness, he deserves everything he gets, that voice declared in a righteous tone. And if he ever does it again, he’ll pay for it with his life.

To her surprise, Sango found herself nodding to this. She had given Miroku every chance, every opportunity to repent his sinful ways. Every opening to the tell the truth. And instead, he had lied and lied again. His selfishness had nearly taken Michiru from her forever. His deceit had damaged the bonds that held the team together. And his unwillingness to accept the blame for his own actions had very nearly turned the group as a whole against the one she loved.

As she thought of these cruel transgressions, they spilled into her heart, bringing back all the pain Sango had felt at Miroku's betrayals. And as pain gave way to anger, she clenched her fists in unspent fury, her expression channeling her warrior's fury. Fury that grew at thought of Michiru actually leaving as a result of the monk's selfishness.

You have the right to be angry with him, came that motherly, womanly voice again. It will take time before you can ever trust him like you once did. But Miroku has done a lot for you as well. As these words cut through her fury, Sango again felt the sharp blades of guilt stabbing into her heart. You can't even begin to thank him for all he’s done for you. That he gave you back your life, your hopes, your future…

Frowning as her rage faded into gloomy clouds in her heart, Sango nodded. I know...and I meant it when I told him that. If it weren't for Miroku, I wouldn't be alive right now. And he did save Michiru, despite what else he did. Letting out a low sigh, the Demon Slayer glanced over at the boy that meant so much to her. The person she loved so dearly. That's why it was so hard for me to...to...

It wasn't that hard, came the warrior's voice once again. You enjoyed it. You've been waiting for that moment for a long time.

Stung by this thought from an errant of her own mind, Sango immediately shot back, No! I never wanted this! Never!

Didn't you? that warrior's voice asked again. All the times he touched you where you didn’t want to be touched? Taking advantage of your kindness only for his wandering hand or eye to break your heart? And then…when Michiru finally comes back to you, a chance for you to finally be happy, for him to love you for who you are, he nearly kills him just to get with you! A loud, mental snort punctuated this cruel declaration. After everything Miroku's done, nearly getting us all killed for his selfishness...it felt good to crush that selfish, greedy, perverted monk’s fantasy!

Stop it...! Sango weakly pleaded as she lowered her head, her bangs falling to cover her eyes.

Why should I stop? You did more to him than any time you hit him or ignored him when he did those perverted things to you or chased after another kimono. Another cold, merciless snort sounded as that warrior's voice continued. I still remember the look on his face. When you told him you didn’t love him and that you loved Michiru, I saw his misery. When you said you would go to the alliance if he didn’t come forward, I saw his tears. And even when he did as you asked, when you said that you’d kill him if he ever did it again, I saw his fear. And it felt great. To see that monk’s spirit crushed for what he did; to see him suffer, knowing that he’ll never be with you; to know that he’ll never get in the way of your happiness and your revenge against Naraku...

Stop it!!!! Sango shouted in her own mind, wishing that she could tear this cold part of herself out of her heart.

You think I enjoyed seeing Miroku suffer?! You think I wanted to go this far?! He should know from my mistakes with Kohaku what would have happened if he hadn’t cleared Michiru’s name!

True. But when you made those mistakes, did Miroku and our friends condemn you as you did him? asked that womanly voice. As this sounded in her mind, Sango gasped as if she had been punched in the gut. You remember when you betrayed your friends and stole the Tetsusaiga. The others were counting on you when you first joined them. But when you discovered that Kohaku was brought back to life by Naraku, all you cared about was your brother and taking revenge against that demon. As these agonizing memories again flashed through the Demon Slayer's mind, the womanly voice concluded with, And you remember what happened as a result...

Wracked with shame over that nightmarish time, Sango nodded. I nearly got us all killed that night, she thought, her insides burning with guilt as she flashed back to the moment when Naraku had urged Kohaku to start ripping at the life-giving Jewel Shard in his back. It had been obvious that he had been testing Sango, that he was baiting her into a trap, and despite this, she had rushed into that trap and betrayed her friends in the process. As a result, they had almost killed, with Kirara nearly dying after being exposed to the poison that flowed through Naraku's body.

And you remember what you did afterwards... the womanly voice urged.

Sango did. She had tried to leave the group, feeling that she deserve to be with them, to call them her friends. I was so afraid...and I knew that, as long as Naraku had Kohaku, I would betray them again, Sango thought, the pain of that horrible day welling up, even as tears began to appear in her eyes. And if I couldn't save Kohaku...

Then you’d kill him…and then yourself, the womanly voice murmured. Just like you nearly did when he hurt Kagome. And just like you would’ve done with Michiru when Naraku controlled him with Utsugi’s mask. Sucking in a pained breath at the sheer despair that writhed in this mental voice, Sango let her gaze fall to the ground as it added, If he had died...you would’ve joined him in death...

Sango could not deny it. She had come to need Michiru desperately. If she lost him...

There was no other way... Sango thought miserably.

There was no other way, said the warrior within.

You say that was the only way to clear Michiru's name, the womanly voice countered. But with friends like those you have, why would you do that?

As these words sounded in Sango's mind, she found her gaze turning towards the boy that was at the heart of all the chaos in her heart. He was still so weak from everything that had happened, too wearied to notice her glancing at him the way she did. What happened to Michiru.. was because of me, she thought miserably as the steely armor of resolve she had created to protect her during the events of late finally began to crumble. I love him so much...he’s done so much for me as my friend...my partner...and my love. I want to be with him...I want to be his wife...I want... But even as she thought of all the things she desired, all the possibilities that had come just within reach, another surge of despair slammed into her heart. But since he's come back, all I've done is make him suffer! He was so honest about his feelings...never pressuring me to...to love him as he loved me! He was so kind and patient, even though it took me so long to tell him that I loved him! And even after everything that happened, he...he still accepted me...

And you didn't want to lose that love. The love that you've struggled and hoped for and needed for so long, the woman murmured sorrowfully. The love you so desperately needed, and what Miroku was determined to chase away, all for his own selfishness. Sniffing loudly at this, tears finally falling down her cheeks, Sango nodded as she surrendered this point. Surrendered to her own misery and shame. That's why you swore to kill Miroku. Because you wanted to protect that love so much...that you're willing to kill one of your friends for it...

Unable to deny it anymore, unable to sugarcoat her own feelings or motivations, Sango nodded ever so slightly. "Yes..." she moaned, the shame she felt rising up like a sickly cloak, slowly choking the life out of her. "I..."

"Well, here we are!" came Kaname's voice, startling the Demon Slayer. Pausing in mid-step, she glanced about, trying to make sense of what was going on. "You need any help, bro?"

"Uh...I wish I could say I didn't..." Michiru muttered, exhaustion mixed with embarrassment.

As Kaname tittered at her brother's humiliation, Sango continued to look about, and soon realized that, while she had been lost in her internal torment, they had reached their destination. A short distance away was the opening to the mine from which Michiru and his sister had succeeded in retrieving the gold that had secured the alliance's future.

The place where...I blackmailed Miroku... Sango frowned, shuddering as she thought of her shameful actions the previous night. For a moment unable to believe it had been such a short time...since she had condemned a friend and fellow warrior.

"Whoa, hang on, bro!" Kaname squealed, more amused than concerned. "I don't want you falling on your face here!" A beat passed before the Kururugi girl asked, "Hey, Sango? Could you give my bro a hand here?"

Her heart skipping a beat at this, Sango again felt the shame gnawing at her as Michiru gulped and protested, "Uh...no, that's okay, Sango. You don't have to...I think I can..."

"No, that's okay," Sango quickly replied as she hurriedly mopped her face. Wanting to conceal her shame from the one who could chase away her sorrows, and fill her with love. "I...just give me a moment."

Once she was satisfied that she was more-or-less put back together, Sango made her way over to Kirara's side. Unsurprisingly, Kaname was smirking at having again put her and Michiru in close proximity to each other, while the Kururugi boy was blushing mildly at once again being put on the spot. "I...I'm sorry, Sango..." he muttered abashedly. "I...I don't mean...to be such a burden..."

"You're never a burden," Sango quickly countered even as she moved to assist. Wrapping her arms about Michiru's waist, she eased him off of Kirara, allowing him to gently down on his feet. But as he grunted at the effort needed to make his legs support his weight, the Demon Slayer heaved a woeful breath. I wish...I could say the same...

"Ugh...thanks, Sango...I really..." Michiru smiled appreciatively. Only for his smile to falter as tears once again began falling down the woman warrior's face. "Sango? What...what's wrong? What...?"

"Nothing," Sango quickly lied, shaking her head as she tightened her grip on the one she loved. Desperately pulling herself tightly against him. "I'm sorry."

"Sorry? For what?!" Michiru wondered, instinctively returning her embrace.

For being the real burden...for causing you so much suffering...and for everything that...that I've... Sango inwardly replied, only for her thoughts to break apart as she buried her face in Michiru's shoulder.

"Sango, what's wrong? Why're you...so upset?" Michiru asked of her, gently stroking her hair as he spoke. Trying to convey whatever comfort he could to the sobbing Demon Slayer. "C'mon...talk to me...what is it?"

I can't talk to you, Michiru! Sango wailed helplessly in her own mind. I wish I could...but...I'll never be able to tell you about this! About what I've done! Pulling herself even tighter against her love, the tears coming even faster now, she thought of the cruelties she was responsible. Of the things she had convinced herself were necessary. Of things that were eating away at her even now. Because if you ever learned the truth...you might hate me! And if that ever happened...!

At the mere thought of losing Michiru's love, of turning him against her in such a way, Sango broke down completely. Able only to stand in the Shikigami User's arms as he braced himself against Kirara, trying to bring a measure of comfort to her tortured heart.

"Damn, this is annoying!" InuYasha grumbled lowly as he marched through the fields on the outskirts of Tsuzumi Village. Heading towards the area where the jet had been discovered, following the familiar scent that was both a source of comfort and utmost aggravation for him. "Only Kagome can be this impossible to straighten out!"

Not that long ago, InuYasha had been in a fairly good mood. Michiru had finally been cleared in the eyes of virtually every member of their little band of misfits, he and Sango were together and building their relationship, and he had had the pleasure of giving Miroku a bit of payback for all of his shenanigans as of late, with the promise of even more payback to come. They were soon to be rid of Azusa, Michiru would soon receive help from the Demon Slayers in regaining his strength, Sango could repair her weapons, and they would finally be getting some answers out of Totosai. All in all, a good day by their standards.

So of course, Kagome was doing her best to spoil it.

As InuYasha continued to tramp along the path, barely taking note of the people around him, going about the business of their lives, he found himself caught between two very different impulses. The first and foremost one made him want nothing more than to let Kagome have it. To tell her off for all her impulsiveness and foolishness, to knock some sense into her thick head the hard way, and finally drag her off to the meeting and be done with it.

But then there was another impulse, this one prompted by a combination of past experience and the needs of the situation. For he knew just how stubborn Kagome could be when she wanted to or when things weren't going her way. And he had learned the hard way how trying to talk sense into her quickly led to an argument between them. And even though there was no danger of the reborn priestess sitting him or even being able to argue effectively, the loss of her voice had done nothing to detract from her argumentative nature. Trying to drive his point home by force would get him precisely nothing.

And it won't help Michiru, either, InuYasha thought, scowling as he considered the most important factor in this. For the truth was that Sango had been right; they had to mend the damage done by Miroku's treachery. And Kagome continuing to attack Michiru and Kaname because of her certainty in Miroku's innocence and persisting delusion that the monk and Sango were meant for each other would do nothing to help any of them. And I can't just stand around and let her keep doing this! Dammit...it was one thing when she came after me, yelling and using these stupid beads! I can take it! I hate it like hell, but I can take it! But Michiru can't, not in his condition! And he and Kaname shouldn't have to, either! And if Kagome keeps this up, all it's gonna do is make it worse for them, and harder for us to work together!

Which could easily spell disaster in their pursuit of Naraku. The malignant horror that was the bane of InuYasha's existence would be quick to take advantage of any openings provided to him, and the wedge Kagome was presently maintaining was very large and virtually an open invitation for Naraku to strike. They had been lucky in that the previous battle had depleted Naraku's resources to the degree it had, costing him Kanna and who knew how many demons. As a result, it would take time for him to recover from these expenditures. But the grace period this offered them wouldn't last long, which meant that they had to put an end to that rift, and quickly. Which meant that InuYasha had to do something about Kagome, get her to see reason.

Which is a hell of a lot easier said than done... InuYasha grumbled inwardly, knowing what he was in for. Trying to argue his point to Kagome would get him nowhere; he had tried that the previous night, and had only been able to secure Kagome's cooperation through blackmail. And Sango had tried to reason with her, and gotten slapped for her trouble. And I doubt that having her precious little fantasy world fall apart on her has made her any more likely to listen to reason, the half-demon grumbled with ill-humor. So...I'll have to come up with something she will listen to. Snorting wryly at this, he rolled his eyes. Yeah, no problem...

Even as he thought this, InuYasha found himself confronted by the massive slide that obscured the path ahead. And sitting on one of the many huge stones present, her head hung forward and her arms wrapped about herself. The picture of misery and outrage that had no outlet. Damn...this is not gonna be easy... the half-demon grumbled inwardly, wishing not for the first time that he was better equipped at speaking; Miroku's silver tongue would certainly be useful in this situation. But...oh, hell...might as well give it a try...

Once again grateful that he didn't have to worry about being interrupted by being slammed face-first into the ground, InuYasha marched over towards Kagome, frowning as he did his best to choose his words before giving voice to them. "Hey, Kagome," he began, trying to keep his aggravation from his voice and not being as successful as he would have liked. "Look, the others are waiting for us over at the mine. And...we don't have a lot of time to waste, so...let's head on over there. Hear what Totosai has to say, and..."

Kagome didn't move. Didn't so much as glance up at the half-demon, didn't acknowledge his presence. Just continued to sit there, wrapped up in her own little world.

Growling in his throat, already in a bad mood and Kagome's attitude only serving to make it worse, InuYasha scowled and decided to try a different tact. "Look, I get that you're mad about things not working out between Sango and Miroku! Half the village has probably figured that out by now! But sitting around and moping like this ain't gonna do anything to change how she feels! So why don't you stop sitting around, feeling sorry for yourself, and try and help out! We still have a lot of work to do, remember?"

Again, Kagome showed no sign of responding. Not even bothering to give the half-demon a glare of contempt.

His annoyance increasing, InuYasha folded his arms across his chest, sorely tempted to just march over to Kagome, pick her up, drag her to the meeting and be done with it. But he stifled that urge, reminding himself once again that that would do nothing to solve their long-term problems, or convince her to stop harassing Michiru and Kaname. And so, focusing on those two kindly faces, thinking of the unconditional trust they had placed in him, he forced back his anger, and tried to think of a way to reach the girl before him.

"This wasn't easy for Sango, you know," InuYasha began once again, the words coming with difficulty. "You heard her, right? It took her a long time to make this decision. To choose who she really loved." Knowing firsthand how difficult matters of the heart could be, even under relatively good circumstances, the half-demon paused to consider his next words before going on to say, "You don't like her choosing Michiru. I get that. But it's still Sango's decision. And...if she is your friend, then can't you at least try to support her here?"

This got a reaction from Kagome. The raven-haired girl lifted her head, giving InuYasha a perfect view of eyes that were bloodshot from tears, eyes that were narrowed into a hateful glare. And even though she couldn't talk, it was perfectly clear what she thought of the idea of supporting Sango's decision.

"Hey, you don't have to like it! But...just try and think about this from Sango's view, okay?" InuYasha tried, still struggling to find the proper words. "We both know what Miroku's like. And...it's not like you're a big fan of him spying on you when you're in the bath, or trying to grab your ass, either! Can you really imagine trying to settle down with someone like that?! How much of that sort of crap would you be able to take before dumping him, huh?!" Snorting at this, the half-demon glowered at the girl and added, "Or don't you mind his scams and lechery? After all the times he's conned us into a cozy house to stay at night?"

The way her glare intensified made it clear that InuYasha might not have chosen the best words in this case. Something that was made even clearer when Kagome shot up to her feet, scowling furiously as she turned and started away. "Hey, where do you think you're going?!" the half-demon demanded, his ire overriding his initial concerns as he darted up to her and grabbed her by her shoulder. Forcing her to stop and face him, he scowled and told her, "I'm not done talking to you! And I'm not going to be done until I've managed to knock some sense into that thick head of yours!"

Sniffing in disdain, Kagome averted her eyes, her scowl making it abundantly clear that she had no intention of listening to a thing the half-demon said.

Now InuYasha was getting even more annoyed. Not only was he failing to shake Kagome from her stubbornness, but he was failing to help his friends. Nothing he was saying was breaking through her one-track mind, let alone convincing her that Michiru was -

Wait, InuYasha thought, struck by sudden inspiration. Maybe that's what I'm doing wrong! I shouldn't be trying to tell her that, I should -!

As the half-demon's thoughts trailed off, his inspiration growing and solidifying into a genuine plan of action, he then glared at the obstinate girl before him. "Alright, you don't want to listen, Kagome?" InuYasha demanded, his ire growing when she didn't even bother to dignify his words with a look. "Then come on!"

With that, InuYasha grabbed Kagome by the waist and hoisted her up over his shoulder. Though she didn't have the use of her voice, he could still imagine her crying out in protest over his actions. And he could definitely feel it when she started squirming in his hands, and when she started beating him on the back. But while mildly painful, her blows were as of nothing compared to many of the other torments the half-demon had been forced to endure over the course of his life, and so he rushed back towards the village proper. It wasn't long before he reached the river, and came to one of the bridges spanning it. And as he scanned his surroundings, he nodded, for this was the perfect place for what he had in mind.

"Alright, you can get down now," he muttered gruffly before setting Kagome on her feet. As soon as she was standing, she tried to dart away again, but InuYasha quickly grabbed her by the shoulders and forced her to look him in the face. "I didn't say you could run off again!" he declared before spinning the modern priestess about so that she faced the village. "Now, look at the village, Kagome. Look at all the people there. Now, what do you see?"

Unsurprisingly, Kagome continued to refuse to be cooperative. She issued a mild snort as she looked away from the village, revealing that her teeth were clenched and her eyes closed. This act of immature defiance was like throwing oil on a fire; growling his frustration, InuYasha placed his hand beneath her chin and forced her head back to towards the village. "Look! At! The village! Kagome!" he slowly and angrily demanded through gritted teeth. "I'm not letting you go until you look! Got that?!"

Watching carefully, InuYasha watched as the girl gave another snort of aggravation before finally opening her eyes. Taking advantage of this opening, the half-demon released her chin and pointed towards where a group of children were playing. "See those kids playing over there, Kagome? Happy and carefree, even though they could have died less than a week ago?! And they would be dead...if not for a boy I'm proud to have as a friend."

Giving this a moment or so to sink in, InuYasha then pointed towards where a shepherd was tending to a flock of sheep. "Now look at that shepherd! See the way he's looking at the sky? See that look of fear on his face?" the half-demon demanded. "He's watching the skies for another storm like the one Naraku unleashed! Afraid that more acid blood will come raining down on him and his sheep, killing them all!" Giving a loud snort of contempt, he paused before adding, "And you can damn well bet that, every night before going to sleep, he's thanking his ancestors that someone we both know was here to save him, his sheep, and this village!"

InuYasha then pointed off to the nearby fields, where some farmers were still tending the massive crops that had been spawned by the pure aura of the transmuted jet. "And those farmers over there? The ones harvesting those huge crops?! They're bringing in enough food to last this village the entire winter! Kaname and Sango have been helping store those crops so they'll stay fresh and safe! They have food and they're all alive! Which they wouldn't be...if my friend hadn't been able to save them!"

Then the half-demon raised his outstretched finger up towards the mountains, far off in the distance. "You see those mountains? That's where the wolf-demons and the Demon Slayers live! That's where the alliance you kept telling me to give a chance is shaping up!" InuYasha reminded her. "Those bumper crops those farmers are harvesting? Well, that's where the food and medicine we're sending to the mountains are coming from! We have enough food and medicine now for both tribes to last them until they get back on their feet! And do you know why that is?!" Heaving a deep breath as he geared himself to speak once more, InuYasha then went on to say, "Because even though he had just been possessed by that cursed mask, even after being poisoned by Sango when she had been trying to save him, and even despite being in so much pain and so exhausted he could barely even move, Michiru still decided to get into that damn metal bird and fly me up to that storm cloud! He's the reason we won that battle, Kagome! I would never have been able to even get close to that damn thing if not for him!"

With that, InuYasha then spun Kagome about to face him. "Now look at me," he told her, his voice softening a degree. "After the Reikikaega had devoured that damned cloud, its power started to overload me. I was turning into a demon, Kagome! Even with the Tetsusaiga, I was still transforming!" The reborn priestess sucked in a gasp at this, astonishment wiping away much of the anger on her face. "Now, when Michiru flew that bird down to save me, he saw me. He saw me as a demon. So the other night, before you found me, I went to his room. I went to see him and Kaname, to tell them the truth. To tell them about my transformation, just like you wanted me to do right after what happened with Ryokage."

Now astonishment was giving way to confusion, Kagome's expression making it clear that she wasn't sure what this had to do with anything. "And do you know what happened? Do you know what they told me when I finished telling them that I was a monster? That there's a killer hiding inside of me?!" Even as Kagome looked at the half-demon with expectant, anxious eyes, InuYasha felt his heart pounding like he was right back there, in that moment. Looking at the two kindly faces, fearing their condemnation, never expecting what they would give him instead. "They told me that...they'd already figured it out. That after the battle with Ryokage, Michiru had pieced it together. He and Kaname realized that the only way you'd know that the Tetsusaiga could reverse my transformation was if it had done it before. That the Tetsusaiga had been made to suppress my powers!" Her lips popping open in surprise, Kagome brought her hand to her face as the half-demon nodded. "And when I asked them why they didn't say anything about it before then, do you know what Michiru told me?" Again taking a deep breath, the emotions of that moment very nearly as overwhelming now as they had been at the time, InuYasha told her, "Because he trusted me. Because he felt that the I must have had a good reason for doing what I did. Because...I am his friend."

Now Kagome's expression was one of pure astonishment, a reflection for InuYasha's own feelings that night. "Yeah. That's how I felt," the half-demon nodded shakily. "And that's the kind of person Michiru is. The kind that will do anything for his friends, who will fight as hard as he can, until his last breath, to keep others safe. He's the reason this village and everyone in it is alive right now! That those children over there are playing and not looking for a new home! That that shepherd is tending sheep and not corpses! That those farmers are harvesting crops instead of being souls harvested by Naraku! That this alliance has a chance instead war breaking out between the Demon Slayers and the wolf-demons as they start fighting over what little they each have left!" Then he lowered his gaze somewhat as the memories from that moment of unconditional acceptance returned. "He's more than a hero, Kagome. He's my friend. And you can bet that I'm damned glad that I found him in the woods when he first showed up." Then InuYasha allowed the anger he felt to return to his features as he growled, "And that's why I am not gonna stand around and watch you hammer him with accusations! I don't know if you're mad at him because you honestly think he's guilty, or you're just pissed that he screwed up your precious little fantasy world! And I don't care! Because I know he's innocent!" Kagome's expression became more shocked with each sentence the half-demon growled out. With her eyes bulging and her mouth popping open as he concluded. "So I am done watching you attack him and Kaname for no reason! You're going to stop it! As in right now! Is that clear?!"

Having said his piece, InuYasha released the girl, who immediately whirled away from him. For a moment, he was certain that she would turn and run once again. But instead, Kagome just stood there, her expression inscrutable as she studied the people who owed their lives to Michiru's bravery and selflessness. And while the half-demon was grateful that her voice was lost for the moment, he couldn't help but wonder what she was thinking. If she was finally leaving her obstinate thinking behind, or...

Frowning, Kagome then slowly brought forth her pencil and notepad, and began writing. Once she was done, she held up the message for InuYasha to read. "'Just tell me one thing; why are you so certain that Michiru's the one telling the truth?'," the half-demon read. "'None of us have any proof that he was, and we all saw him blow up during that...'" Trailing off into a scowl, InuYasha considered the question for a time before looking Kagome squarely in the eyes. "You really want to know?" he asked, his voice low with subdued anger. "Fine. I'll tell you. But only if you promise to listen. And I mean really listen!"

Exhaling a sigh that showed more than a trace of annoyance herself, Kagome then finally nodded. "Well, first of all, Michiru's my friend. I'd trust him with my life, Kagome. I can accept a lot of things, but him being a liar? Not a chance in hell." When the modern girl cocked her head to the side, her annoyance visibly increasing, he snorted. "Yeah, I know, that's pretty much what you think about Miroku. But that's not the only thing I got." Pausing to enjoy the puzzled look this got him, InuYasha went on to explain, "Now, Miroku's story was that Michiru went crazy with high-level spells, and that he was using his Wind Tunnel to block them, right?" Kagome gave a quick nod to this. "But Michiru said that Miroku used his Wind Tunnel to try and scare him into going back home, and when he managed to seal the Wind Tunnel, he lost his temper, and that's when he started with the spells?" Again, Kagome nodded. "Well, during the time I could hear the Wind Tunnel, I didn't hear any other magic. And I didn't hear any until after the Wind Tunnel sounds died out. Which means that Michiru started in with the spells after the Wind Tunnel was closed! Which fits in perfectly with what he told us!"

Sucking in gasp of surprise, Kagome brought her hand to her chin, her eyes flitting about in her sockets as if she were scanning the various elements that added up towards on inescapable conclusion. And when she reached that conclusion, she hurriedly writ something else on her notepad. "'Why didn't you tell us that be-.' I tried to!" the half-demon read, cutting himself off in annoyance. "But just like always, you couldn't be bothered to hear anything other than what you wanted to! And with Michiru threatening your precious little world of 'Miroku and Sango, Happily After Ever!', you were more than happy to take anything that took him out of the running as gospel!"

Now Kagome was doubly stricken, and hastily wrote out her response to this. "'But we all saw his go crazy on Miroku in that first sparring match, and -' Yeah, I saw it, Kagome! And I also heard Miroku egging Michiru on! Meaning that he wanted Michiru to lose his temper! He wanted to make Michiru look bad in front of Sango, so he'd look better by comparison!" Frowning at this, the modern priestess started to write again, but InuYasha cut her off. "If you're about to complain that that doesn't get Michiru off the hook for using powerful spells against us, don't bother. Because, believe it or not, I agree. He made a mistake with that. Hell, he'd probably be the first person to agree that using those spells like that was wrong!" Giving this a moment to sink in, the half-demon glared harshly at the girl before him. "But while Michiru may have screwed up by losing his temper - twice - he wasn't the one who decided to ruin someone else's reputation for his own benefit. He didn't nearly wreck our entire team by lying to cover his ass. That so-called honor belongs to someone else that we both know!" Her face falling more with each word spoken, Kagome finally whirled away from the half-demon, who then drove his point home. "And that's why Sango chose Michiru, not Miroku. Not just because he has more honor than Miroku, but he also has more respect for Sango, and everyone else around him."

Kagome didn't respond to this. Didn't try and write anything in return. She just stood there, looking out at the village that had been saved as a result of Michiru's courage, watched as the children continued to play, the shepherd tended to his sheep, and the farmers worked in the fields. Leaving InuYasha once again wondering what was going through her mind.

Dammit...I almost wish she could talk right now! InuYasha thought as his impatience got the better of him. I know I never would have been able to get even a sentence out if she could use these damned Beads, but all this silence is getting to me! What the hell is she thinking right now?! Is she gonna run on back home, or -?

Kagome lifted up her notepad and pencil, freezing InuYasha in mid-thought as she slowly, carefully wrote down her thoughts and showed them to him. "'You're right. Michiru did help save the village.'," the silver-maned warrior read. "'And this is Sango's choice.' Well, it's about time you -!" His emerging smile and relief that she had finally relented was wiped away even as Kagome again started writing. "'But I still think she's making a mis-' Aw, dammit! Are you kidding me?! After everything I just said, you still -!"

Holding her hand up and fixing him with a glare, Kagome then wrote another message and showed it the half-demon. "'I listened to you, InuYasha! Can't you at least let me finish?'," the dog-demon read incredulously. Growling in his throat as he studied Kagome's face, he then snorted disdainfully. "Fine! Whatever!"

Nodding to this, Kagome then began writing a new message. "'I still can't believe that Miroku would ever willingly turn his Wind Tunnel on any of us! Now, I know what you heard, but that's not conclusive proof. Just because you didn't hear something, doesn't mean that it didn't happen.' Hey, there is nothing wrong with my ears, Kagome! I -!" Again, the modern priestess held out her hand, and wrote a fresh message. "'And I still don't believe things could ever work out between Michiru and Sango. They have nothing in common, and -' Kagome, will you please just give it up al-!" Another raised hand and a hastily scribbled message cut InuYasha off. "'But there's nothing I can do about it right now. So here's what I am going to do'," the half-demon read, his immediate ire dying down somewhat as Kagome continued to write. "'I'm going to wait until after Michiru's recovered, and he and Sango get back from the mountains. Hopefully, by then, I'll have gotten my voice back, and then I can sit down and talk with her. I mean really talk with her,'." Pausing to consider this, InuYasha frowned, watching as Kagome wrote out another message. "'And until then, I won't say - or do - anything else on the matter. I won't get into any fights with Kaname - unless she starts them!'"

Studying these words, InuYasha frowned before shooting Kagome a glare. "I'm gonna hold you to that, you know." When the reborn priestess nodded, he sighed and considered the situation for a time longer before shrugging. "Well...I guess that's okay. Just so long as, when you start talking to Sango, you make sure to listen to her as well." Now Kagome a more familiar and more cranky expression, to which InuYasha snorted a laugh. "Alright, then. Let's go meet up with the others...and hope they didn't get bored and start looking for us - huh?!"

A fluttering of wings cut through the air, prompting InuYasha to look up, and then smile. "Hey, a scout!" he declared, taking note of the magical bird that was hovering a short distance away. "Must be one of Kaname's!" Chuckling at this, the half-demon looked at Kagome and shrugged. "Well, I guess I didn't have to worry, after all! Now, c'mon, let's get moving."

Nodding mutely as the half-demon started forward, Kagome quickly fell in line behind him. Okay, so I didn't convince Kagome that Sango and Michiru are right for each other. At least she's gonna back off of him and Kaname for a while, InuYasha thought with a bit of humor. That's still better than I had expected to get from her! Issuing a mild chuckle in his throat as he continued towards the mine, he allowed himself a tiny smile. Maybe things are starting to work out, after all!

This is a disaster... Kagome moaned inwardly as she allowed herself to be led by InuYasha through the village, her head hung with shame, humiliation, and the seeds of guilt. I...I just can't believe this is happening...!

And the more she looked over the utter and complete mess she was now in, the more Kagome felt like a bug trapped in a spider's web, struggling futilely to escape while the web's maker came looking for lunch. She had felt bad enough when Miroku had given into the pressure of the situation and confessed to being the one to escalate the fight between himself and Michiru. But now, after being confronted with InuYasha, she realized that the situation was possibly far more serious than she had originally envisioned.

I was so sure that Miroku was innocent here! That it was just Michiru throwing another tantrum! Kagome thought, quickly reviewing the facts that had led her to such an obvious conclusion. But...InuYasha's ears are a lot more sensitive than human ears! And if he really didn't hear any magic being used while the Wind Tunnel was in effect, than that means -!

Kagome shuddered at the inevitable conclusion that this led her to. Because if InuYasha was correct, then every day she had been with the group since the day they had discovered the jet, she had been tormenting an innocent person and his sister as a result of a lie.

But - no! I can't panic here! Just because InuYasha didn't hear any magic attacks doesn't mean that there weren't any! Kagome quickly told herself. Nobody actually saw the fight, right?! So - who knows what actually happened?

But even as she thought, Kagome found that InuYasha's words were making far too much sense for her to simply ignore. She already knew that Miroku had insulted Michiru during that first sparring session, but at the time, his explanation that he had simply been trying to goad the Kururugi boy into treating the practice fight like it were a real battle. But if InuYasha was right, and the monk had actually been trying to discredit Michiru in Sango's eyes, and that session had just been the opening volley in a campaign to smear the Kururugi's reputation...

No! It can't be! Kagome cried out in protest. This is still Miroku we're talking about, remember?! Yes, he's a lecher and a conman, but conspiring against one of us?! Trying to wreck Michiru's reputation?! There's no way he would ever do something like that, and that's final!

Even as she thought this, Kagome thought back to when their tiny group had come upon a Feudal nobleman, Kuranosuke Takeda. The youthful lord had been smitten with Sango, having encountered at a younger age, and when he had brought the group to his home, he had gone so far as to ask for the Demon Slayer's hand in marriage. And during the entire time Takeda had been doing everything in his power to woo Sango, Miroku had stood stoically by, doing nothing to interfere. And while it was clear he had not been happy that someone else was expressing an interest in Sango, and most certainly jealous, there was none of the ugliness that the monk was being accused of now. No scheming, no manipulation, no attempt to defame the Lord in Sango's eyes.

But then...Takeda was a Lord...he couldn't have left his manor, and there's no way Sango would have abandoned trying to stop Naraku or get her brother back... Frowning at this latest thought, Kagome began following it to its logical conclusion. So...it's not like he was any real competition...not like Michiru is, and - But as she neared the end of that trail, the modern priestess recoiled. No! There's just no way Miroku would try and kill Michiru and wreck his reputation and all that, and that's final! There's got to be...some other explanation!

Unfortunately for Kagome, she couldn't think of one. All she could think about was the dread possibility that InuYasha was right about what happened. The possibility that she had tormented and ostracized two good people and fellow warriors, and likely cost herself their friendship in the process. Oh, I don't believe it! If only InuYasha had told me about that sooner! I could've handled things a bit differently, and...! Shaking her head in disbelief that something so small could have such drastic repercussions now, she flashed back to that moment from not that long ago, when Sango had tried to explain her reasons for choosing Michiru.

Are you out of your mind, Sango?! Do you have any idea what you're saying?! Kagome remembered thinking even as the Demon Slayer slowly, carefully explained her reasons for choosing Michiru over Miroku. You're throwing everything you have with Miroku away, just like that?! The perfect love and relationship, and you're giving it up for that miserable, conniving little sneak?! These had been the last coherent thoughts the modern priestess had been able to think as she pictured everything she had done to facilitate the relationship between the Demon Slayer and the monk. To help them grow together, to overcome their problems so they could eventually move on to the bright future they deserved to have with each other. And as these things crumbled apart, with the final blow being how Miroku had given up on that happy fairytale ending, causing Kagome to flee from him and Sango as fast as she could, all the while thinking evil thoughts of the people she held responsible.

Damn you, Michiru! You've ruined everything! Everything, you self-centered bastard! Kagome remembered herself thinking as she had ran and ran through the village before finally settling down to sulk. I wish you had never come back! I wish you and that bitch of a sister of yours would just go away! Just disappear from our lives forever!

At the time, Kagome had felt no guilt for feeling these things. But now, with the possibility that Michiru truly had been innocent and Kaname doing her best to defend her brother looming in her thoughts, these hateful thoughts took on a different tone as she recalled a time long ago, when she herself had been strongly tempted to leave InuYasha and the Feudal Era behind. When InuYasha had confessed his love to Kikyo while Kagome had borne witness, when she had filled with pain...and hatred for the undying priestess.

If InuYasha's right, and Michiru is innocent...I really am a horrible person... Kagome thought mournfully as she flashed back to that moment when her rage had overwhelmed her, and sought out the easiest outlet. When she had struck one of her closest friends, and the way she and the others had reacted. She easily remembered Sango's expression of betrayal and hurt, as well as Michiru’s expression of sadness, and the words of anger InuYasha had given voice to.

Dammit, Kagome! came the half-demon's bitter words. That's always the way with you, isn't it?! The instant somebody dares to disagree with you, you belt them or sit them or do whatever you can to make their lives miserable!

Is that really...how InuYasha sees me? Kagome asked mournfully, glancing down at the hand that had left its mark on Sango's cheek. Is that...who I really am? Was I really acting so badly that he couldn't even tell me about not hearing Michiru using any magic?

At any other time, Kagome would have dismissed such a notion as being utterly ridiculous. She was aware that she was possessed by a stubborn nature, but that was hardly a crime. And besides, InuYasha was hardly innocent of that himself. But now, she found herself wondering if there was in fact some truth in the half-demon's accusations. Am I really that bossy when I don’t get my way?

Kagome frowned as she considered the matter, only for her frown to quickly deepen as she recalled her thoughts about wanting to straighten Michiru out and make him confess, as well as how she had coerced InuYasha into going with her to witness what she had assumed would be Sango's ultimate confession of love. And remembering her words to the half-demon when he had gone to confront the Demon Slayer when it had appeared she had chosen Miroku as her love. You take one step, and I'll say 'the word' so many times, you won't see daylight for at least a week!

And as she thought this, Sango's words also returned, rubbing fresh salt into her emotional wounds. You and I both know how Kagome is! the Demon Slayer said in her mind. Once she decides that she's right about something, it's almost impossible to convince her otherwise! It's like talking to a stone wall! She just goes on and on, defending her position, no matter how ludicrous it is!

I'm not that bad…am I? Kagome again asked herself as she once more glanced down at her hand. I...I can't really be...

"Hey! Kagome!" piped up an youthful, exuberant voice that managed to stir Kagome from her pained thoughts. Looking up and about, she watched as Shippo bounced towards her, unaware of her dire musings. "Are you okay?! Why'd you run off like that?!"

Even as Kagome was preparing to say that nothing felt okay, InuYasha retorted, "Eh, it's a long story, Shippo. Kagome was just bugged about something, that's all." Then the half-demon glanced about and noted, "Well, it looks like everybody's here. Hope things weren't too boring while we were gone!"

"You don't have to worry about us being bored," Kaname returned with a wry expression. "Azusa made sure we were kept busy."

Giving a snort to this, InuYasha eyed the irascible redhead, who was even then grumbling and growling with Jiro doing his best to keep her relatively calm. "Yeah, I'll bet." Then the half-demon focused on Kaname and asked, "So, why'd you send your scouts after us?"

"Sango asked me to," Kaname replied, glancing back at the Demon Slayer, who was presently nestled up to Michiru, who was sitting with his back against a tree and Kirara curled up at his side.

Considering this, InuYasha then glanced about the area and frowned. "Hey, where's Miroku at?"

"He went to check the warehouse, make sure that the supplies would be ready for us," Kaname reported as the half-demon and Kagome closed the distance with the rest of the group. "One of my scouts is with him, though. He's already on his way back."

"Good. The sooner he gets back, the sooner we can find out what the old man's figured out," InuYasha nodded.

While the two of them talked, Kagome found her gaze drawn to Sango and Michiru. And found her heart breaking apart even more when she saw the Demon Slayer clinging tightly to him, while the Shikigami User ran his hand up and down her back in a comforting manner.

This is so wrong... Kagome couldn't help but think.

But it was still Sango's choice.

There's no way anything could ever work out between them!

But they had the right to try.

They're from two completely different worlds! How could they possibly have a relationship?!

How could Kagome have a relationship with someone from another time?

Stung by this reality, Kagome sucked in a gasp, then sighed and lowered her face once more. Sometimes I wonder why I ever met him... she thought mournfully, watching as InuYasha continued to chat idly with Kaname, the two of them finally sitting down next to each other. If I'd known that it would hurt this much...

But even as she though this, Kagome shook her head, for this was an inner debate that was painfully familiar to her. For even as much pain as it caused her, for all the grief and misery her association with the Feudal Era had brought her, the agony of seeing the half-demon with Kikyo, there was no getting away from one simple fact.

Kagome wanted to see InuYasha. She wanted to be with him.

She was in love with InuYasha.

As this thought resonated with her, Kagome glanced over at Michiru, and frowned. I wonder...did he ever go through what I'm feeling? Considering the matter, the modern priestess found it likely that the Kururugi boy had. After all, they were both in love with people who had feelings for someone else. And knew the kind of agony they would be in for if that special someone chose someone else. And he came back...despite knowing the kind of pain he'd be in for if...

Letting this thought trail off, Kagome looked away from Michiru. There were just too many feelings, too much pain tied up with the Shikigami User and his role in the current state of things. But even so, she couldn't help but think back to a conversation she had had with Michiru after an encounter between InuYasha and Kikyo in Botan Village. I don’t want to see InuYasha and Kikyo together, Kagome's own words echoed in her mind. But, I’ll regret it if I don’t go, just because I’m not comfortable. Because I want to be with InuYasha. I don’t want him to die.

On one level, Kagome still couldn't believe that Michiru was fully innocent, any more than she was willing to believe Miroku had fell to the depths he was accused of. But at the same time, as the possibility that she had been wrongfully accusing him loomed in her thoughts for the first time, new thoughts were coming to her. I decided to stay because I wanted to be by InuYasha's side. The same way Michiru wanted to be with Sango, she reluctantly mused. How...how would I react if someone had told me to give up on InuYasha...?

Kagome frowned, for she knew for a fact that she almost had. But ultimately, she had sworn that, even though she could never come between him and his undead love, she would still love him. And she would do what she could for him. Even if they could never be together. I can never break the bond between InuYasha and Kikyo. I understand that. But there’s another thing I’ve come to realize, InuYasha. My meeting you was no coincidence. It’s more than that. Deep down, you must know that I want you to live, she thought, recalling the moment when she had resolved to be with InuYasha, no matter how hard and painful the road ahead became. Here’s the thing. I do understand one feeling that Kikyo has; something that we share. We’re alike in our desire to be with you again, came another vow from the past. I want you to be happy. I want you to laugh a lot. I don’t know what exactly I’ll be able to do for you. But I’ll always be by your side.

But as she returned from that moment of determination to the present gloom, Kagome shook her head once more. But...I haven't been doing that lately, have I...? she thought, shuddering as the possibility that she had been horribly wrong about all this returned to her. I haven't been doing it...for anyone...

Again looking at Sango, who continuing to cling tightly to Michiru, Kagome couldn't help but flash back to the moment when the Demon Slayer had made her fateful choice. The sentiment she continued to feel echoed in her mind by Miroku's words. How can you have a relationship with someone like that?

I don't know, Miroku! But I have to at least try to make it work! I have to, because I know that if I don't, I'm going to regret it for the rest of my life! Sango's voice echoed in Kagome's thoughts. Besides, Michiru was open and honest to me about his feelings! I owe him that much!

Even though she's making a mistake...Sango showed so much courage... Kagome was forced to admit. Choosing who she wants to love, even when she was afraid. Looking over at InuYasha, who was still conversing easily with Kaname. I wish I could be as brave as her...and as honest about my feelings...

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