Legacy of the Cursed Mask: The Wolf-Demon Crisis

Tampering With Forces Beyond Us

InuYasha was no stranger to what Kagome and other people from her modern world would consider to be the bizarre. And in truth, he was well-accustomed to events that would outright horrify even people from his native time and world. But even so, there were times and things that took him aback as well, things that staggered him and left him confused and uncertain as to what to do.

And though he would never admit it, InuYasha was in just such a situation at that moment.

A short distance away, the Tetsusaiga and the Reikikaega lay on the ground, surrounded by a vortex of their respective powers. The powerful winds of the heirloom blade and the electric aura of the enigmatic sword surrounded them both, keeping InuYasha and the others at bay. A storm that continued to build in intensity and power.

"Waaahh!!" Hachi cried out in alarm, backing away from the mighty storm even as Shippo clung to Kagome's leg for dear life. "What's happening?!"

That's what I'd like to know! InuYasha thought vehemently even as he watched the two blades, wondering what would happen next.

It wasn't long before the half-demon got his answer. As the Reikikaega's lightning danced about the interior of the cyclone, it crackled across the Tetsusaiga's surface, stabbing at it many times over. And as the power swept over the monstrous fang, it began to change. A wave of crimson power washed over the length of the Tetusaiga's blade, crackling with the power to dispel almost any barrier.

"What the -?!" InuYasha got, wondering why the Tetsusaiga would suddenly transform. But even as this question echoed in his thoughts, the Reikikaega's power continued to dance about the other sword's surface, and was transformed by the crimson light as well. Before the eyes of everyone there, the streamers of electric blue changed to a deadly red before leaping from the Tetusaiga and returning to the sword from whence they had come. And as the quartz-like blade of the Reikikaega drank deep of this power, the same red energy that currently burned in the Tetsusaiga exploded within the other sword as well.

"What...?" Kaname gasped as similar noises of confusion and surprise were heard. And as InuYasha continued to study the two crimson swords, he perfectly understood that confusion. For that coloring meant that the Reikikaega had somehow copied Tetsusaiga's power to destroy barriers.

Before InuYasha could give this any further thought, both swords flashed brilliantly, and returned to normal. Wondering what would happen next, the half-demon and the others looked on in anticipation as the winds of the Tetsusaiga wrapped about the Reikikaega, caressing it and stimulating it. As it did so, the crystalline blade once again changed, it's quartz-like surface becoming opaque and shining like polished glass and metal. Becoming like a mirror.

Wait a second...a mirror?! InuYasha thought, his eyes widening with realization as the winds of the Tetsusaiga shifted, glowing with power as they swept over the blade from which they had come from. And as they did so, the massive fang became as of polished glass, the storm the two swords were ensconced in reflected in its mirrored surfaces. Dammit, of course! That explains -!

Again, the two swords flashed, interrupted InuYasha's thoughts as they returned to normal. Only for the Reikikaega to again change, poisonous green clouds appearing in its crystalline surface. As before, the winds carried this power to the Tetsusaiga, transforming it similarly before the two swords flashed one more time and again returned to their normal states, and from there, slowly regressed to their shapes as simple, mortal swords.

The storm that the two blades had generated soon abated, allowing Totosai to make his way towards the Reikikaega. "There, InuYasha," the aged blacksmith intoned, holding up the Reikikaega. Once more, it assumed its true form as a sword of glowing crystal. Crystal that soon became crimson again. "Are you satisfied?"

His mouth popping open, the half-demon then shut it, then made his way over to where the Tetsusaiga lay and picked it up. Willing the heirloom blade to transform into a fang, he held it overhead, studying it for a short while. Then he narrowed his eyes, concentrating on the crimson power that he knew to lay within the Tetsusaiga. Obediently as always, the curved blade transformed, brilliant crimson washing over it. Then he concentrated on another image, one of a mirrored blade.

Once again, the Tetusaiga changed, red rapidly fading as its surface became as of polished glass. Hesitating just long enough to examine his own expression held within his reflection, InuYasha again willed his sword to change, and change it did, poisonous green flowing over the surface of the blade.

"Three powers..." InuYasha breathed, still barely able to believe what he was seeing. "The Tetsusaiga...it copied powers from the Reikikaega!"

"Just as the Reikikaega copied the crimson power held within the Tetusaiga," Totosai confirmed with a nod. "Something which the two blades would not be capable of doing unless their powers were in harmony with one another. Unless their powers were designed to be able to mesh together as one."

InuYasha didn't have anything to say to this. He simply continued to study both the Tetsusaiga and the Reikikaega, wondered what new abilities, new powers were now available to him. "But - hold on!" Shippo got out, drawing the half-demon's gaze as well as those of the others. "Where'd the Reikikaega get the powers Tetsusaiga copied?! I mean, I know the Tetsusaiga got that red power from that Blood Coral Crystal we got from Shiori, but where did the Reikikaega get those other powers?!"

"Ain't it obvious, Shippo?" InuYasha wondered, raising an eyebrow at his youthful compatriot. "It must've happened when I stabbed Kanna and her mirror with the Reikikaega! It must've absorbed her powers! That's why she turned into a human!"

"I agree. It makes sense," Miroku nodded. "The same applies to the green power. The Reikikaega must have absorbed it from Ryuunosuke when you slew him." Frowning in a thoughtful manner, the monk added, "That explains what happened when Totosai used the Green Reikikaega on that tree the previous night. Kagura said that Ryuunosuke had the power to corrupt, and was to transform the flesh of everything in the village into demonic flesh for Naraku to use. Clearly, the Reikikaega gained a similar power from him."

"Yeah, and it also explains this crazy attack the Reikikaega has," InuYasha went on, the piece of the puzzle falling into place. "After I used the Reikikaega on Kanna, I was able to use it conjure these - well, ghost-things that looked like whatever I was fighting."

"Ghost-things?" Totosai frowned perplexedly. "You mean...illusions?"

"Oh, no. They were real enough," InuYasha declared, recalling what happened whenever he used that particular attack. "When I used it on these blood-demons Ryuunosuke sent after us, the demons weren't able to touch the ghost-things. But the ghost-things were definitely able to rip them apart!"

"But how is that possible?!" Shippo demanded.

Making a thoughtful noise in his throat, Miroku considered the matter for a time. "The Reikikaega...it must have transformed the battle aura of the demons you were fighting," the monk soon concluded. "Transformed it into doppelgangers which it then sent against the originals."

"In other words, the Mirror Reikikaega is capable of reflecting the hostile energy, the battle aura of whatever you fight, back against the creature originating it in the form of mirror-image of that creature," Totosai went on, nodding thoughtfully. "Yes, it makes sense."

Glancing about at the others, still looking confused, Shippo then asked, "So does that mean that the Mirror Tetsusaiga can do that as well? And that the Red Reikikaega can destroy barriers?"

"It's possible...though in all honesty, I doubt it," Totosai soon responded. "Remember, the Tetusaiga and Reikikaega are two very different swords. Opposites that complement each other, like Yin and Yang. Therefore, while they both hold similar powers, it seems reasonable to assume that they would manifest such power in different ways."

This made sense, InuYasha had to admit. But even as he was considering voicing this sentiment, Kaname wondered, "But...where did the Reikikaega come from? And how did...whoever made it know so much about the Tetusaiga?!"

"Those are very good questions, my dear. But, sadly...I fear I cannot answer them," Totosai admitted, his head drooping with this admission. "I am a master blacksmith, and have much knowledge in the way of the forge. But I know of no one with the knowledge, tools, and skills needed to forge a sword such as the Reikikaega."

"Yeah, whatever. Right now, I don't really care who made that thing," InuYasha declared, moving on to other matters. "What's important now is getting the Tetusaiga fixed so I can use both swords at the same time." Pausing to look at the crystal blade Totosai still held, thinking of the possibilities that would come of being able to use both swords as once, the half-demon asked, "So how about it, old man? How long do you need to make my Tetsusaiga as powerful as that thing?"

A long, ugly silence fell in the wake of InuYasha's words. One that quickly gave him a bad feeling. A feeling that was made even worse when Totosai slowly looked up at the half-demon, and with a heavy sigh, replied, "Unfortunately, InuYasha...I am afraid I cannot do this."

A beat passed before InuYasha's jaw crashed to the ground in utter shock. "Wh-what?!" he spat out, sorely tempted to march over and give the old man a few new lumps on his skull.

"Why not?!" Shippo whined in surprise. "What, did InuYasha do something to make you mad again? Do you need him to -?"

"No, no, little fox," Totosai interrupted, waving his hand in negation. "It's not that I won't reforge the Tetusaiga...it's that I cannot." Pausing to sweep the group with his bulging eyes, the elderly demon issued another heavy sigh. "You see, when I told you that I knew of no one with the knowledge, tools, and skills needed to forge a sword such as the Reikikaega...I meant myself as well."

Now InuYasha was doubly tempted to leave Totosai seeing stars. "Are you serious?!" the half-demon demanded. "But - you said you could power up the Tetsusaiga with that stuff from the jet!"

"Yes. And I most certainly can do that," Totosai confirmed. "However, while I can increase the Tetsusaiga's power, I fear that I lack the ability to elevate it to the Reikikaega's level." Giving a somber shake of his head, the aged blacksmith confessed, "The knowledge, the tools needed to accomplish such a feat...they simply do not exist within this land."

"Then what the hell am I supposed to do?!" InuYasha irritably demanded. "Just put up with having those swords blow up in my face every time I try to use them?!"

"Wait! InuYasha, settle down!" Kaname broke in, making her way over to the half-demon's side. Placing a soothing hand on his shoulder, the Kururugi girl gave him a look before turning her gaze towards Totosai. "What about - whoever it was who made the Reikikaega? Would he - she - they be able to reforge Tetsusaiga?"

"I would certainly think so," Totosai replied with a wan nod. "Certainly, whoever it was who made the Reikikaega would stand a far better chance of remaking the Tetsusaiga than I would."

"Oh, great!" InuYasha muttered sourly. "Then all we have to do is track down whoever it was put the Reikikaega in that jet and dumped it under a ton of rocks for us to find! No problem!"

The instant these harsh words sounded, Kaname stepped away from the half-demon. "I...I'm sorry..." she murmured, lowering her head somewhat. "I...I was only..."

That same instant was all it took for InuYasha to feel like the absolute jerk Kagome so frequently accused him of being. Kaname had only been trying to help, after all. The same way she had been trying to help him just the night before when she had poured out her heart to him. And here I am, biting her head off for it, the half-demon thought, his heart sinking into his stomach as he watched Kaname retreat from him. She's not even getting mad about it or anything...she was just trying to help, and now she's...

"Hey, I...I didn't mean it like that!" InuYasha quickly assured her, placing his free hand upon her shoulder. When Kaname looked up to meet his eyes, he did his best to smile reassuringly for her. "It's just...I was hoping to get this taken care of quickly, that's all!" Growling hesitantly in his throat as he struggled for words, the half-demon shrugged helplessly. "I mean...tracking down whoever made Reikikaega, that's gonna take time, and we have all this other stuff we need to take care of!"

"Yes. And not just the situation in the mountains," Miroku pointed out as Kagome frowned in the background, narrowing her eyes at Kaname. "We still need to find someplace where we can take the jet where it will be safe from Naraku. Because once he's recovered from the last battle..."

"We already know that, Miroku," InuYasha grumbled, his lingering annoyance surging towards the most convenient target

"Besides...maybe tracking down whoever made the Reikikaega...won't take as long as you think," Michiru weakly suggested. "I...I still have copies of the map I got from the jet. If we follow that...well, it's at least a place to start."

As InuYasha considered this, he soon smiled and nodded. "Yeah, you're right." Then he made a face and added, "I still hate waiting, though."

"Yes, I know. That's something else you get from your father," Totosai declared with a rueful roll of his eyes.

"So are we done yet?" Azusa demanded impatiently. "Because in case any of you idiots have forgotten, there's a lot of starving wolf-demons waiting for their next meal!" Then she gave Jiro a nasty look before adding, "And a bunch of Demon Slayers who are probably looking petty tasty living right next to them!"

Rolling his eyes, InuYasha was about to tell Azusa off. But before he could say a word, Jiro held up his hand. "Uh, before we go back to the village...there's one more thing that we need to discuss." As all eyes fell upon the young Demon Slayer, he focused his eyes on the blacksmith. "Master Totosai, you...you spoke of a sword, the Tenseiga. A sword that you claim has the power to bring the dead back to life."

"Yes, yes, that's quite correct," Totosai confirmed with a nod. "What of it?"

"I just...wished to know...what exactly did you mean by, reviving the dead," Jiro explained. When Azusa gave an impatient snort, as if to demand just how big an idiot the Demon Slayer was, he went on to explain, "Do you mean to revive them as the living dead? As zombies? Or -?"

"I meant a true resurrection, boy," Totosai promptly assured him. "To be restored to full life, to be fully healed and restored. As if whatever had caused a person's death had never happened."

Blinking a few times at this, Jiro frowned mildly as his eyes fell upon the Reikikaega, still in Totosai's hands. "And you say that the Reikikaega...it has this same power."

Making a discomforted sound in his throat, Totosai shifted about before answering. "Well, I don't know for sure that the Reikikaega's powers work in precisely the same way," he cautioned the youth. "All I can say for certain is that my examinations indicate that it does have a power that is, at the least, very similar to that of the Tenseiga."

"And so the Reikikaega is also capable of restoring the dead to true life," Jiro intoned. When Totosai hesitantly nodded, the young Demon Slayer turned towards InuYasha. "In that case, I..."

Getting a very bad feeling he knew where this was going, InuYasha studied Jiro for a time before asking, "What is it, kid?"

Pressing his lips together, Jiro swallowed lightly before turning a steady gaze at the half-demon. "I...InuYasha, I must ask you...no, I must demand that you come back with us to the mountains."

"What?!" Azusa spat in pure outrage. "You've got to be kidding me?! Why the hell do you want to drag that albino freak back with us?!"

"Isn't it obvious, Azusa?" Jiro wondered, raising an eyebrow at the irate she-wolf. "So he can use the Reikikaega...to revive all the Demon Slayers that were killed by Naraku."

I should have known this would happen, Sango couldn't help but think as Jiro's demand echoed in her mind, as well as the minds of her friends.

When Sango had first learned of the power of the Tenseiga, the heirloom blade InuYasha's father had left to Sesshomaru, she had been staggered by the potential of such a miraculous sword. A sword that could revive a hundred people either dead or dying, heal them completely. And in a very real way, she was disappointed and even a little angered that even someone like Sesshomaru could label such a magnificent blade as being utterly useless.

Any sword was capable of bringing death upon someone. But only the Tenseiga could give them the gift of life. And when Sango had first learned of the Tenseiga's unique power, she couldn't help but think about what she would have done, had she been Tenseiga's wielder. She couldn't help but think of the graves back at the Demon Slayer village, filled with the bodies of her friends and neighbors. Of the bodies of her own father, as well as those of the other Slayers that had been drawn into Naraku's trap. And she pictured herself with the Tenseiga in hand, slashing it at their bodies, taking their souls back from the world of the dead, and restoring their bodies to life. Of getting back everything the hateful monstrosity Naraku had taken from her. And more.

So much more.

Over time, however, Sango had slowly, reluctantly, set such fantasies to the side. Sesshomaru was Tenseiga's wielder. Only he had the power to cheat death in such a way. And he was far too powerful for any of them, even InuYasha, to risk combating. InuTaisho's eldest son had centuries' worth of battlefield experience, and was powerful enough that even Naraku shied away from confronting him. And given his disposition, the Demon Slayer knew that there was no way Sesshomaru would use the Tenseiga for the purpose for which it had been created.

And in a very real way, Sango found herself somewhat afraid of employing such power. To rip her loved ones away from their peaceful rest, to tamper with such forces that were so far beyond human means...she had found herself wondering if any being, human, demon, or more, had the right to do so.

But now, as Sango looked at her fellow Demon Slayer, she saw all those temptations and possibilities flitting before Jiro's eyes. And perhaps even more frightening for her, she felt them herself as well. Because if Totosai was speaking the truth, then Sesshomaru was no longer the only one with the power to bring someone back from the world of the dead. That her stubborn, obstinate, foolhardy, but ultimately kindhearted and compassionate half-demon friend also wielded that power. And if that was indeed the case...

"Aw, don't tell me you actually believe that load of crap!" Azusa sneered derisively. "You honestly think some dumb sword can bring the dead back to life?! That's just stupid!"

"I've seen stranger things," Jiro returned in a solemn manner. "One time, Daisuke had brought me and some of the other Demon Slayers to investigate reports of a strange woman who carried the taint of demonic power. She never ate, never drank, and was seen in the presence of some strange lights. And so, the village that contacted us were concerned that she might be a threat of some kind."

Raising an eyebrow at this, Azusa asked, "And was she?"

"No. She was of no danger. She wasn't even a demon." Then Jiro's eyes narrowed somewhat before he added, "She was a simple potter and sculptor...who had died years before, and had been resurrected by demonic sorceress called Urasue, and -"

"What?" Miroku started, giving Jiro a surprised look. "You mean...you've met Enju?"

Now it was Jiro who looked surprised. "I - you know her?!"

"Yes," Sango returned, thinking back to the woman that, like Kikyo, had been dragged back from death by Urasue, all so that the cruel demon could use the priestess's abilities to fuel her own selfish ambitions. Enslaved her so that reborn potter could furnish Urasue with an army made of clay, bones, and ash, animated by the witch's cruel magic. "We met her when we destroyed the army that Kawaramaru was forcing her to make."

Now Jiro's eyes were bulging in astonishment. "You know - then -!" Pausing to shake his head in amazement, the younger Demon Slayer then heaved a deep sigh. "You people certainly have lived, all right..."

Sango was about to say something else, but Azusa broke in even as the Demon Slayer opened her mouth. "Wait a second...you mean you actually met somebody who'd actually been dead and brought back to life?!!?!" the she-wolf demanded incredulously. "I don't buy it! I mean...she was just a zombie, right?! Like those dead animals back home?"

"No, Enju was alive...after a fashion," Jiro informed her. "Urasue used demonic magic, coupled with the dirt, bones, and ashes from where Enju's mortal body had been buried to restore her to a psuedo-life. She looked perfectly human, but...well her body was not flesh and blood, and she needed the lingering animating energy from the souls of the dead in order for her body to function. But she was certainly alive in her own way, awake and alert and in full control of her faculties."

As Azusa's mouth popped open in surprise, Shippo asked, "Say, what about Enju? Is she alright?" As Jiro met the little fox's gaze, the tiny demon frowned. "Wait...you didn't...hurt her, did you?"

"No. Though Daisuke was considering it for a while," Jiro admitted. "We were very worried about the fate of the souls she was absorbing in order to maintain her body. But Kei was able to determine that the souls weren't being harmed. The energy Enju was using was lingering power that had been used to animate their bodies in life. Once the energy faded, the souls would move on to the next world, completely intact. So -"

"You're seriously serious?!" Azusa broke in again. "There are people out there that can actually bring the dead back to life?!"

"That's right," Jiro nodded, not at all perturbed by Azusa's interruption. "But...the methods I've heard of before all came at some kind of price. Like Urasue's." Then the Demon Slayer returned his focus to Totosai, and the magical sword the ancient blacksmith still head. "But...from what you've said, this Tenseiga's powers don't work that way. They actually restore a person to true life! And if the Reikikaega has this power as well..."

As Jiro's unfinished sentence fell upon them all, the things he had not spoken heard just the same, Totosai gave the boy a weary sigh. "Young man...I understand full well what you are thinking. And in all honesty, if I were in your position, I would likely make the very same demand that you just did. I am very old, and have seen much death in my life. Far more than I would wish for anyone to experience. And as I have already explained, I, too, have lost people precious to me. People I would dearly wish to see again, if only one more time." Giving this a moment to sink in, the aged blacksmith looked down at the sword he held. "But while the Reikikaega's powers are very similar to that of the Tenseiga, there is still so much that we do not know about it. And the risk -"

"To hell with that, old man!" Azusa broke in once more, moving in closer to the blacksmith and raising her fist in his face. "The Demon Slayer's right! If that damn sword can bring back the dead, then I say we use it! Do you have any idea how many of our people died because of Toma and his monsters?! All the people that have died because of those damn stones he dumped in the water?! I lost friends, old man! A lot of them! And if that sword can bring 'em all back -!"

"Wait a second...you have friends?!" InuYasha snorted, giving the she-wolf a nasty look. "And here I thought nothing could surprise me anymore!"

"Watch it, you stupid, filthy, half-breed -!" Azusa snarled, her words breaking down into a barely intelligible diatribe regarding InuYasha's breeding, background, temperament, looks, and more.

As Sango continued to look on, Azusa's insults rapidly giving rise to a heated exchange of barbed comments between her and InuYasha, she found her thoughts again drifting to fantastic dreams she thought she had long since set aside as being impossible. As she studied the Reikikaega, stared into its quartz-like blade, she saw so many possibilities. She saw herself and Kohaku, reunited with their father once more. She saw the people of her village once again in the land of the living, happily rebuilding the fort that had once been her home. She even saw the Demon Slayers she had helped Daisuke and the others bury joining their brethren at the new fort at the foot of the wolf-demon mountains, the looks of astonished delight when people were reunited with loved ones they thought were lost to them.

These thoughts were shattered when Totosai howled, "Enough, you two!!" Startled by the elderly demon's outburst, both InuYasha and Azusa broke off their diatribe in mid-insult and looked at him. Not giving them a chance to say anything or start yelling again, Totosai looked sternly at all of them. "Now listen well, all of you! As I said before, I understand painfully well what it's like to lose someone you love. And I can't blame you for wanting to bring them back. But believe me when I say that - for now, at least - it's simply too dangerous to try and use the Reikikaega in that way."

"And why's that?!" Azusa demanded snippily.

"Because - as Jiro mentioned - tampering with the powers of life and death usually carries with it a heavy price," Totosai gravely intoned. "In fact, part of the reason that the Tenseiga is able to restore people to true life is because it has limitations. InuTaisho respected the forces you wish to tamper with; he respected boundaries that even gods observe!" Then he looked down at the sword in his hand. "But the Reikikaega doesn't respect these limits! It's powers show no sign of any restraint! Whoever designed this sword intended for it to be able to break through any and all boundaries! To accomplish any task, regardless of the price that must be paid!" Holding up the sword to them all, he narrowed his bulging eyes and added, "As a result, there's simply no way of knowing what exactly would happen if it was used to revive the dead!"

Scowling at the blacksmith, Azusa folded her arms across her chest. "So what are you saying?! That we need to test the damn thing?! Then fine! I'll go find a squirrel or something stupid like that and break its neck! Then you can wave you magic sword over it and -!"

"Are you insane?!" Totosai howled, his ancient voice carrying with it enough force to send the she-wolf back a step. "These are the forces of life and death we're talking about here! There's no telling what could happen if we try tampering with them!" Then he again looked down at the sword in his hand. "And don't forget what we've already seen this sword accomplish! The transformation of life, reshaping the living to its own purpose! Harnessing more demonic power then I could have ever imagined and channeling it into a physical object! Even if the Reikikaega can revive the dead without consequence like the Tenseiga - and that's a very large if, mind you - if we were to make any mistake in using such power, then who knows what could happen?!"

"Aw, gimme a break, you dumb old goat!" Azusa shot back. "These people are already dead! What could possibly happen that could make them any worse?!"

"They could be brought back as something different than what they were when they were alive! Something monstrous!!" Totosai argued. "Unless we know precisely how to use the Reikikaega, there are simply too many things that can go wrong to use it carelessly!"

"Really?" came Shippo's disappointed voice even as Azusa was about to launch into another tirade. "I mean...are you sure we can't...try it out? I mean..."

As several disbelieving sets of eyes fell upon the little fox, Sango considered him. For while Shippo was still by far the youngest and least experienced of the group, she would have thought him far too sensible to suggest tampering with the forces Totosai had spoken in such a way.

But even as Sango thought this, she also remembered that the little fox was also an orphan. Shippo's father had been ruthlessly killed by the Thunder Brothers, Hiten and Manten, all for the sake of the Jewel Shards the fox demon had possessed. And although Sango did know the fate of Shippo's mother, she did know that he had lost her as well. And as Sango looked on at the little boy, saw the fear and hope and desperation that flowed mercurially in his eyes, she realized that he, too, had likely fantasized as she had about the power held by the Tenseiga. And hoped that that same power truly lay within the Reikikaega as well, with dreams he had likely thought impossible dancing in the back of his mind.

"The shrimp's right! What's the use of having something like this if we don't use it?!" Azusa demanded harshly. Then she looked over at Jiro and asked, "You're with me on this one, right, Demon Slayer?!"

A beat passed before Jiro nodded. "Yes," he assured the she-wolf. "I don't deny that there might be a risk in invoking such power, but given our situation, I'd say that the potential gains are worth it." As Azusa gave a smug grin, the younger Demon Slayer turned towards his fellow warrior. "What about you, Sango? You've seen what happened to our people! Don't you think we should at least try?"

Sango had seen the decimated remains of the Demon Slayers that had fallen as a result of Naraku's treachery. She and others had worked to bury them, to lay them to rest in the ruins of Daisuke's former fort. She had seen the controlled sorrow, the pain, and the anger they had all felt as a result of their loss and grief. And she also knew the temptations that Jiro and Azusa were experiencing now. The temptation of power, of being able to cheat death, to bring back those they loved in life.

But Sango had also seen the many ways that trying to wield such power could go wrong. She had seen Kikyo, who was but a fragment of herself, the soul she and Kagome shared split between two bodies, and the way her resurrection had affected them both. She remembered Utsugi, Kakuju's attempt at creating a 'replacement' for her dead husband. She remembered the undead soldiers Urasue had created, as well as the reanimated corpse soldiers Naraku had employed against them. All results of people tampering with forces beyond their kin, and the consequences...

Sango knew that the right thing to say was that Totosai was correct. That there was simply too much that they didn't know about the Reikikaega, too many things that could go wrong. That it just wasn't worth the risk.

But as she looked into the eyes of her fellow Demon Slayer, she again saw dreams that refused to die. She saw her father, her loved ones, and so much else. All of them possibly in reach.

"I..." Sango began, trying to think of a way to say what needed to be said. But even as she did so, the weight of the many burdens she carried pressing down upon. The burdens of responsibility and hope weighing down upon her shoulders, their weight intensified by the emotions she saw in Jiro's face. "I...don't know..." she finally said, averting her gaze. "It...could be dangerous...but..."

"Sango..." the warrior woman heard Michiru breathe, his wane voice a mix of compassion and concern.

"Feh! Whatever!" Azusa soon snorted, drawing attention from everyone once more. As Sango looked on, the redhead closed in on Totosai once more. "I still say we should at least try this sword! See what happens!"

Looking crossly at the she-wolf before him, Totosai retorted, "Listen, I've told you -!"

"You haven't said shit that made any sense!" Azusa interrupted, leaning in so close to the aged blacksmith that her nose was almost touching his. "You go on and on, but you haven't given me any reason why we shouldn't at least test this dumb sword!" Snorting loudly, the she-wolf then stood straight, folding her arms across her chest. "Give me one good reason, just one good reason why we shouldn't see if this dumb sword does what you says it does! Because if you can't, then I say we test it right here and now!!"

Totosai opened his mouth to protest, only to exhale irritably and slouch forward, his face a clear picture of frustrated aggravation. "You want me to give you a good reason why we shouldn't test the Reikikaega, see if it truly can bring back the dead?"

"You're damn straight, I do!" Azusa confirmed with an officious nod.

Narrowing his eyes, Totosai studied the she-wolf for a time before swiveling his gaze towards Jiro. "And I take it that you feel the same?"

"Yes, I do," Jiro confirmed with a quick nod. "Such power would be invaluable. We need to confirm whether or not this sword can bring back the dead, and as quickly as possible."

Frowning unhappily, the aged blacksmith swung his gaze about the rest of the group. "And what about the rest of you?" Totosai demanded, scowling dangerously. "Would any of you like me to give you a...good reason why we shouldn't tamper with forces we don't understand?"

"Well, I..." Shippo started, only to trail off nervously as Totosai glared in his direction.

As for Sango...her eyes had fallen upon the ground at her feet. There was just too much temptation, too many thoughts and hopes and fears and much, much more flowing through her heart for her to articulate. To even want to risk speaking, lest she betray just how conflicted she was, torn between old dreams and the realities of her past experiences.

Several seconds passed with no one else speaking. The long, unpleasant silence was ended when Totosai snorted. "Very well. You want a 'good reason'?" he asked in a deadly serious tone. "Then I'll give you one!"

An instant later, the cracking of electricity and the familiar whoosh of a blade cutting through the air was heard, followed almost instantly by two voices crying out in astonished pain. This was followed an instant later by the voices of several of her friends, crying out in horrified bewilderment.

Starting at these things, Sango looked up to see what had happened, only for her mouth to fall open in horror. Azusa and Shippo stood before her, writhing in pain. A glowing gash of electric blue circled their mid-sections, looking as if they had just been cut in half. And as Sango looked over at Totosai, saw him in a battle-ready stance with the Reikikaega crackling with power, she realized that was just what had happened.

Totosai had slashed Azusa and Shippo all the way through with the Reikikaega.

As the two of them continued to cry out, the electric blue power of the Reikikaega spreading over their bodies, Totosai continued to move, already bringing the enigmatic sword up for another strike. Automatically reading his body language and realizing who his next target was, Sango instinctively assumed a battle-ready stance of her own, reaching back for the Hiraikotsu...only for her hand to clasp empty air.

Looking back in shock even as she realized her own combat training had betrayed her, Sango's ears picked up the sound of the Reikikaega being swung once more. Giving her just enough time to watch as Totosai slashed at her. The Reikikaega's blade passed through her waist as easily as it did empty air, the power it carried with it exploded through her every nerve and muscle. Overwhelming Sango utterly.

Leaving her able only to scream.

"Old man, have you lost your mind?!!?!" InuYasha roared in angered disbelief.

Like the others, he had been too shocked and confused to even move when Totosai had lashed out with the Reikikaega, bisecting four of their number in the span of seconds with its crystalline blade. And like the others, he was now crying out in shock as the enigmatic sword's power coursed through their bodies, transforming them utterly.

Spreading forth from the initial slash, the Reikikaega's power washed over Azusa and Shippo. Bare skin was rapidly replaced with fur, flesh and bone shifted and change, assuming different proportions. The she-wolf howled as the energy flowed through her arms and legs, transforming hands and feet into much smaller wolf's paws. As the power flowed up her head, Azusa's red hair was obliterated, her feminine lips and nose stretching out into a wolf's muzzle. Howling and barking in shock, the she-wolf fell down on her four paws even as Shippo came down upon paws of his own. All traces of their demonic heritage washed away, rendering them a mortal wolf and demon.

As for Sango and Jiro, the energy flowing through their bodies also transformed them, though the metamorphosis they were undergoing was completely different from those of the two demons. As the Reikikaega's power flowed through their bodies, muscles bulged and swelled beneath Sango's kimono and the simpler raiment Jiro wore. The sandals they wore were strained by their growing feet before the straps burst apart. The cloth bindings Sango had wrapped about her chest strained at her bulging breasts before being utterly shredded, allowing them to burst forth. Claws exploded from their finger and toenails, and huge, powerful fangs filled their mouths. Sango's skin turned a bluish-green as a single horn sprouted from her forehead, while two horns appeared on Jiro's head, his flesh changing to a muddy red.

"Sango...?!" Miroku breathed in muted horror even as Hachi leapt up into the air, his fur raised in horror before he disappeared, leaving a cloud of dust in his wake. Michiru fell back gasping while Kirara cried out in feline horror. Kagome brought her hands to her mouth even as Kaname stepped backwards, gasping in astonished shock.

As for InuYasha, he just stood there for a time, studied their transmuted companions. Still trapped in their now ill-fitting garments, Azusa started running about wildly, howling panicked howls while Shippo yipped pitifully, instinctively running over to Kagome. The modern priestess quickly bent down and scooped the transformed fox into her arms, cradling him tightly to her chest and offering as much comfort as she could even as she stepped away from Sango and Jiro.

This was a good thing, InuYasha couldn't help but think, for while Azusa and Shippo had been stripped of their demonic forms and rendered unto mortal animals, the two Demon Slayers had been transformed into large, muscular ogres. They stood at least a head taller than they had before, and their formerly loose-fitting garments were now being strained to the limits by the monstrous musculature they both sported. Both their tops had been pushed open by their respective transformations, exposing monstrous amounts of coiled, steely muscle, and in Sango's case, a set of feminine assets that presently had Miroku staring with his jaw hanging wide open in astonishment in spite of his obvious concern.

But even though the transformation had empowered their bodies, it had apparently caused their minds to suffer. Jiro was growling lowly, massaging his temple as he screwed up his face in pain. Sango also seemed to be suffering, but she was staggering about in an almost drunken fashion.

"Sango...?" came Michiru's wane voice as he looked up at her, Kirara already shifting into her fighting form and taking up station next to the Shikigami user.

"Sango! Jiro!" InuYasha howled, only to start as Azusa dashed behind him, still howling herself. Pausing to glare evilly at the transmuted she-wolf, the half-demon returned his focus to his friends. "Listen, I...can you hear me?! Can you understand what I'm saying?!"

"I..." Sango rumbled blearily, pausing to glance in InuYasha's direction as she attempted to steady herself.

"Of course I...I can understand...!" Jiro growled, veins bulging from his forehead. "Arrghh...my head...!" Giving his head a shake, the transformed Demon Slayer then began looking about, only to narrow his eyes into deadly slits as they fell upon Totosai. "You!!" Jiro roared savagely, raising his fist overhead as he stomped over to towards the aged blacksmith. "What you do to me?!!"

Paling in the face of the monstrous creature he had transformed Jiro into, Totosai quickly took several steps back, holding up the Reikikaega as he did so. "I - I - I'm sorry, boy!" the sword maker sputtered out, paling as Jiro closed the gap between them. "But - I had to make you understand that -!"

"Shut up!!" Jiro roared, bowling over Totosai with the force of his voice. "You make my head hurt more! So be quiet!!"

Sounds of fear tumbled out of Totosai's mouth as the transmuted Demon Slayer closed the gap between them. Sounds that graduated to a scream of fright as Jiro swung his massive fist down towards him. But realizing what was about to happen, InuYasha cursed beneath his breath even as he shot towards the imperiled blacksmith. Mere moments before Jiro's ham-sized fist could find its mark, the half-demon scooped Totosai up and leapt up into the branches of a nearby tree.

"Get back here!!" Jiro roared hatefully, already starting after him. But even as InuYasha leapt to another branch, he glanced over his shoulder at the Demon Slayer, and noted that he wasn't moving very well. His movements were thick and clumsy, and he seemed to be on the verge over tripping over his own feet.

Must be the shock of whatever-the-hell the Reikikaega did to him! InuYasha realized, frowning somberly. For while Jiro was definitely a danger to them now, he hadn't asked to be transformed into the monstrous ogre he had become.

As InuYasha returned his attention to leaping to the next branch, he heard the sound of a wearied sigh. "Whew...thanks for the quick rescue, InuYasha!" Totosai heaved, sounding as if he was on the verge of passing out. "Another moment, and I fear that would have been the end of me!"

"Yeah, and it might still be!" InuYasha swore vehemently, the anger he had felt when he first seen his friends transforming returning in force as he glanced down at the blacksmith cradled under his arm. "Totosai, you have ten seconds to turn them all back to normal, or I'll go back there and feed you to Jiro myself!"

"You don't have to worry about that, InuYasha! They'll change back all on their own!" Totosai assured him. When the half-demon made a quizzical noise in his throat, the elderly sword crafter explained, "When I slashed them with the Reikikaega, I used just enough power to change them only temporarily! The Reikikaega's effects will soon wear off, and they'll change back to normal!"

"Yeah?! And just how soon is soon?!" InuYasha demanded.

"Oh, about...thirty seconds! A minute at the most!" Totosai assured him. "Then they'll - look out!!"

Totosai's warning was unnecessary. InuYasha's keen ears had already detected the sound of massive roots being torn free from the earth, the noise of a deep grunt of effort, and had realized what these things had meant. Quickly glancing back, he confirmed what his ears had told him when he saw Jiro hefting a monstrous tree overhead before launching it towards them. As Totosai bleated with fear, the half-demon quickly leapt out of the way of the improvised missile, allowing it to pass by harmlessly.

Watching as the tree tore through the branches of other trees, InuYasha realized that he had a problem. The creature Jiro had become was stronger than an average ogre, and he seemed to be getting better control over his new form. And while the half-demon would normally dispatch such a foe with no trouble using the Tetusaiga...this wasn't a normal enemy. This was a friend that Totosai had been stupid enough to turn into a nightmare. This was someone who had proven himself to be a brave warrior in battle, as well as a good friend. He didn't deserve Tetsusaiga's blade anymore than he had deserved the Reikikaega's.

But even as he thought this, InuYasha realized that he was in a bad position. Whether Jiro deserved it or not, there was no doubting the fact that, at the moment, he was a clear and present danger to them. And even worse, Sango had also been transformed and was close to his friends, some of which had been rendered powerless and were utterly and completely vulnerable. And if Sango was acting the same way Jiro was...

"Hang on, old man!" InuYasha snarled as he landed on another branch. Gathering his legs up beneath him, he hurriedly swiveled about so that he was facing in the opposite direction. Watching as Jiro closed the gap between them, the half-demon then sprang forward, leaping over his transformed friend.

Startled by this sudden shift in direction, the ogre that Jiro had become hurriedly skidding to a halt, tripping over his own feet in the process. Roaring furiously even as he crashed headfirst into the dirt, the transformed Demon Slayer wound up with a mouthful of dirt.

"Damn, Jiro!" InuYasha called out, pausing to look back at his transformed friend. "The Reikikaega might have given you some extra muscle, but it sure didn't do your brains any favors!" Laughing at this bit of wit, knowing full well the cocky remarks Shippo would have made under normal circumstances, the half-demon paused just long enough for Jiro to push himself back up to his knees, spit out the clods of mud and stone and root he had gotten a mouthful of, and turn his baleful gaze towards them. Growls of fury escaping his lips as he glowered at the taunting half-demon.

"InuYasha, are you mad?!" Totosai demanded. "We don't want to make that boy any angrier before he changes back!"

"That's right!" InuYasha conceded as he started leaping back towards his friends. "But we don't want him wandering off and eating somebody, either!" Effortlessly bounding back towards the others, he shot a deadly glare at the blacksmith. "So you better hope that they change back like you said they will! Or else you're gonna need a new brain, because I'll have bashed the one you have right now out of your head!"

Not bothering to see if Totosai was appropriately cowed by this promise, InuYasha continued onwards. Scowling worriedly as he thought, And you better hope that Sango hasn't hurt anyone because of your stupidity...!

"Uh...Sango...?" Miroku spoke nervously as he looked up at massively muscled ogress Sango had become. Looking caught between fear and horror, and an obvious case of raging hormones as his seemed inevitably drawn to the massive mounds of feminine flesh that presently hung exposed for all the world to see. "I...are you...?"

Whatever you do, Miroku, please, don't try and grope Sango right now! Kagome pleaded as she watched from a safe distance even as the others struggled with the situation. Kirara remained close to Michiru, her feline features confused and uncertain as she warily observed her transformed mistress stagger about, a dazed and drunken expression on her face, her cheeks flushed an odd reddish-purple. Kaname was trying to join her brother, but was also coping with a transformed Azusa, who was running in circles around the Kururugi girl, jumping and howling the whole time. Even as Kaname struggled to get the she-wolf to settle down, the fox that Shippo had become remained huddled up in Kagome's arms, trembling with fear and looking pleadingly into the reborn priestess's eye, as if begging her to help.

I...I wish I knew how to help you, Shippo! Kagome mentally assured the little fox, feeling completely helpless without the use of her voice. But - I don't know what to do! Pressing her lips together into an unhappy frown, she looked off in the direction InuYasha and Totosai had led the transformed Jiro. I'm starting to think InuYasha had the right idea about Totosai! Has he gone completely out of his mind?!

Wondering if old age had finally caught up with Totosai's faculties, Kagome looked on as Sango staggered forward, moving towards where Michiru and Kirara were. The Kururugi boy wore an anxious expression as the beast Sango had become closed in on him, his anxiety worsening as he struggled to move, utterly failing to do so. "Sango..." Michiru spoke nervously with an edge of concern. "Are...are you...how are...?"

"Sango, wait!" Miroku called out, rushing in towards the transformed Demon Slayer. Coming to stand right before her, he looked up past her enormous breasts. "I - listen, I -!"

A strange, drunken titter escaped Sango's lips as she came to a halt, very nearly falling down on the monk before recovering her balance. Taking a step backwards, the massive ogress required a moment to recover before she finally looked down at the person before her. "Oh...it's you," she got out, her voice sounding as tipsy as she looked. "What happened to you...Miroku...?" she asked, tittering as she spoke, "Shrink in the wash...?"

Blinking a few times as he continued to stare up at Sango, Miroku swallowed loudly before clearing his throat. "Uh...actually, it's you who has grown, Sango," the monk informed her. "Totosai, he...he struck you with the Reikikaega, and...well, it seems to have..."

"Oh, whatever," Sango muttered, suddenly looking bored. Without warning, she reached forward with one of her massive arms and swatted the monk out of her way. As Miroku fell to the ground, the transformed Demon Slayer swung her gaze about, her eyes falling on Michiru, prompting her to smile in a drunken manner. "Now, then, I...huh?" Narrowing her eyes somewhat, Sango tilted to one side as Kirara moved closer, putting herself between Michiru and her mistress. "Kirara...what are you doing...?"

Pausing to study the situation, and in all likelihood consider the best way to respond to Sango's inquiry, Michiru then answered, "Uh...I think she's just...worried, Sango." When the monstrous Demon Slayer frowned perplexedly, the Shikigami user added, "I...the Reikikaega...did something to you, and...well...you don't seem like...yourself, and..."

As Michiru's cheeks burned, prompting the Kururugi boy to avert his eyes from the monstrous feminine assets confronting him, Sango blinked a few times before giving a drunken titter. "Oh, Kirara...there's nothing to worry about," the Demon Slayer assured her companion, clumsily bending down to look the two-tail in the face, only to lose her balance. As Kirara jumped backwards, Sango fell forward and crashed headfirst into the ground right in front of where Michiru sat.

"Sango!" Michiru cried out in alarm even as Kirara moved towards her mistress's side, sniffing at her in concern. "Are...are you...alright?" The Kururugi boy continued to look worriedly at the Demon Slayer even as she unsteadily raised her head to look up at him. "I...how are you feeling? Are you hurting...?"

"How do I...?" Sango wondered absently, only to give a giddy chuckle. "I feel...good." Giving another chuckle, the massive ogress pushed herself up to her knees, then paused to look at the boy before her. A massive grin splitting her face, revealing a mouthful of razors, she then leaned forward and wrapped her arms about the Shikigami user. "Oh, Michiru!!"

"Wha- Sango?!" Michiru cried out in surprise even as the ogress unsteadily made her way back up to her feet, listing him up off the ground in the process.

"Come on, now, I want to go!" Sango cooed in a decidedly flirtatious manner.

"G-go...?" Michiru repeated blankly as he dangled helplessly in Sango's arms.

"Yes, to the mountains! So you can get all better, silly!" Sango told him in a teasing fashion. "What, don't you want to get better?"

Michiru hesitated for a moment before answering, "Uh - well...yes, of course, I -!"

"I know I want you to get better!" Sango broke in even as she leaned forward. Before Michiru knew what was happening, the monstrous Demon Slayer had him pinned against a tree, with her chest pressing against him. "I wanna par-ty!"

"P-party?!" Michiru sputtered.

"As soon as you're better...we're gonna have so much fuh-unnnn!!" Sango tittered wickedly.

"Uh...fun?" Michiru wondered nervously, sounding as uncomfortable about this as Kagome felt. "What...kind of fun...?"

Sango just tittered even more at this. "Well...let me ask you something," she began, smirking in a flirtatious fashion. "Have you ever thought about becoming a father?"

The instant this last word was heard, Michiru's cheeks turned such a bright red that Kagome thought for sure that his head was about to explode. "Um...well..." he hesitantly spoke. "Sometimes...I guess..."

Nodding at this, Sango leaned in even closer to the Kururugi boy. "Well, I've often thought about becoming a mother," she admitted in slightly drunken manner. "So after you get better...we can start on that." Then she gave another titter and added, "And that would be a lot of fun...!"

What?!!?! Kagome shrilled inwardly even as Michiru's eyes bulged in shock. Is this really Sango?!!?!

"And you know something else?" Sango continued, leaning in closer to Michiru to looked him squarely in the eyes, her chest pressing even more tightly against him. "Best of all, we won't have to worry about that stupid pervert of a monk getting in the way! Or that wimpy little schoolgirl, Kagome! We can -!"

Wh-wh-what did she just call me?! Kagome demanded inwardly even as Sango leaned her head against Michiru's and began rubbing his cheek with her own, her massive bodice moving up and down his body as she did so. All the while Miroku looked on from where he had landed with an expression of horror and consummate jealousy of his rival's predicament. I - does Sango actually -?! Then the modern priestess shook her head and scowled. No way! She's just...messed up because of the Reikikaega! Yeah, that's it, and -!

"Whew...I guess my bro isn't in any real trouble," came Kaname's voice, snapping Kagome out of her thoughts. "But how do we - hey!!" Starting at this sharp cry, the raven-haired girl turned to watch as the Kururugi girl jumped backwards as Azusa again howled frantically.

Groaning helplessly as the transmuted she-wolf again start running and jumping in circles about her, howling the whole time, Kaname held out her hands in a soothing manner. "O-okay, Azusa! I - I get it! You want me to do something to - to change you back! Is that it?" As soon as this was said, the transformed wolf-demon stopped circling in front of her and proceeded to bounce up and down in place, as if to say, 'Damn straight, I do!'. "Okay, fine! I understand! But I need you to settle down first!" Kaname instructed her in somewhat sterner voice. "I need to look you over, see what I can do to...huh?"

Noting the puzzled squeak to Kaname's words, Kagome frowned and focused on the two of them, trying to discern what had gotten her attention. It didn't take long for her to realize what that was: the same electric blue energy that the Reikikaega radiated was dancing about Azusa once more, starting at her head and paws. Within seconds, the electrical crackling grew much more intense.

Then that same noise sounded much closer to Kagome, drawing her eyes. To her amazement, the energy of the Reikikaega was appearing about Shippo as well, and as with Azusa, was rapidly increasing. Wh-what in the -?! Kagome wondered, only to cry out in surprise as lightning blue began washing over Shippo once more. As did so, his purely fox form began assuming the humanoid features she normally associated with him. In a matter of seconds, the little fox was a fox-demon once more, his cute little face looking up into hers.

"What the -?!" Shippo started as the residual power from the Reikikaega faded from where it had first appeared. Pausing to look down at his little hands, he studied them with mounting surprise before crying out, "I - I - Kagome!"

Shippo! You're back!! Kagome thought, practically swooning with relief even as Shippo leaped forward and wrapped his tiny little arms about her neck, tears of fearful relief pouring down his face. That means that whatever Totosai did to you all was only temporary! Pausing to return the little fox's embrace, she glanced over at Azusa, who was also in throes of the Reikikaega's power once more. It must be wearing off now! Which means that Jiro and Sango will change back soon as well!

The events playing out before Kagome's eyes seemed to bear out this theory. Just as it had happened with Shippo, Azusa was swiftly returning to her demonic form. As the last of the Reikikaega's power faded from her, the redhead fell down to her knees, heaving desperate breaths of relief. "Aw, damn!!" she heaved out, looking exhausted even as she studied her hands. "I can't believe that demented old freak actually...!"

Shuddering so badly that she was unable to complete her statement, Azusa then nervously rose to her feet. "So...how do you feel?" Kaname wondered as the volatile redhead proceeded to inspect her bodyparts, searching for any sign that her reversion had not been complete. "Are you hurting, or -?"

"Hmm...I don't think so," Azusa grumbled, leaning forward and glancing back over her shoulder at her tail, which she quickly waved about, making sure that everything was as it should be. "Uh...it sure looks like everything's...back where it belongs." Straightening herself up, the she-wolf paused to straighten her garments, which had been displaced by her time as a pure wolf. Once this was done, she looked down at her legs, jumped from one to the other, making certain that everything was moving as it should, before finally heaving a relieved sigh. "Damn...when I get my hands on that filthy old goat, I'm gonna...!"

As if somehow in response to Azusa's words, two figures suddenly flew forth from the wooded area. Coming down from his leap with no problem, InuYasha quickly surveyed the situation before rising up to his feet. "Well, it looks like you were sorta right, old man," he grumbled even as he dropped Totosai. "At the least Shippo and the bitchy wolf are back to normal." As the aged blacksmith groaned in pain, massaging his rear as it had taken the brunt of the fall, the half-demon scowled at the massive ogress. "But how come Sango hasn't changed back?!"

"Just give it a moment, InuYasha!" Totosai retorted, groaning as he struggled back to his feet. "I told you some might need longer to change back! She just -!"

"You!!!!" Azusa spat out, flames leaping from her eyes as she looked at the aged demon responsible for this. Without another word, the she-wolf leapt forward, claws at the ready. "Say your prayers, 'cause you're dead!!!!"

InuYasha's response was to rapidly draw the Tetsusaiga from its sheath, the heirloom blade immediately transforming into a monstrous fang. Aiming the tip of the mighty blade at Azusa, the half-demon forced the irate she-wolf to a halt. "As much as I'd love to watch this old goat get the beating he's earned, we've got bigger problems to deal with!" Not waiting for this to sink in, InuYasha glanced over at Kaname. "What's happened here?! Did Sango...?"

The meaning of InuYasha's unspoken words getting through, Kaname quickly shook her head. "No, not really. She smacked Miroku and called him a pervert, but..." Pausing at this, she then gestured at the monstrous ogress Sango was now, who was presently occupying herself by unleashing a barrage of passionate kisses on Michiru. "I...don't think she's a real problem just yet."

"Then we better hope she changes back before she becomes one!" InuYasha irritably declared. "We got other things to worry about right now!"

Scowling past the Tetsusaiga's massive, curved blade, Azusa snarled, "And what the hell could be more important than beating the hell out of that damned old fart?!"

InuYasha opened his mouth to retort, but before he could utter a single syllable, a distant thumping sound was heard. It wasn't long before it repeated itself, again and again, all the while sounds like branches before torn off trees and stones being turned to gravel were heard as well. Glancing back in the direction he had just come from, the half-demon smirked knowingly. "Why don't you ask him, bitchy wolf?" he asked, jerking his thumb back that way even as he grabbed up Totosai once more. "I'm sure he can explain everything!!"

Without another word, InuYasha effortlessly leapt over Azusa's head, with Totosai yelping in surprise as he was once again lifted up into the air. "What the -?!" the irate redhead shouted, disconcerted by the half-demon's leap. "What are you talking about?! Who -?!"

"Where is he?!!!?!" came a baleful bellow of pure outrage, one that instantly stilled Azusa's caustic tongue. Paling several shades, the bombastic she-wolf slowly turned to look towards the speaker even as he cleared the woods. And even though Kagome had seen the transformation that had rendered him in this state, it was still something of a shock for her as she watched Jiro, now a monstrous red ogre with a body seemingly made of nothing less than steely coiled muscle shoulder his way past two trees, which creaked and bent over in his passing. "Where that stupid blacksmith?!!?!"

The instant Azusa set sight on the transformed Jiro, she jumped backwards so quickly that she very nearly fell down on her tail, yelping in astonished confusion. "Wh-wh-wh-what the hell?!!?!" she cried out, her eyes bulging at the monstrosity approaching her. "D-D-Demon Slayer?! Is that - are you -?!"

For a moment, Kagome was shocked by Azusa's confusion. But an instant later, she remembered that the she-wolf had been transformed before the two Demon Slayers, and was probably too distraught by her own metamorphosis to notice what was happening around her. It was even possible that, as she had been panicking as a result of her transformation, Azusa had been left unaware that Jiro and Sango had been changed at all, especially given how the Demon Slayers' respective transformations had affected their minds.

As if to drive this point home, the red-skinned ogre glared at the wolf-demon before him, his eyes narrowing furiously as he bore his razor-sharp teeth at her. "I have a name, bitch!" he roared irately, his rage finding a new focus. "It's Jiro! Try using it for once!!"

"I - I - what??!!?" Azusa blurted out, staring at the transformed Demon Slayer in bug-eyed astonishment. "I - since when -?!"

"Now shut up!" Jiro snapped even as telltales sparks of blue energy appeared at the tips of his horns. "I've already got a headache, and that big...that b-big...arrrggghhhh!!!!"

"Aaahhhhhh!!!!" Azusa shrieked as Jiro fell to his knees, clutching at his head as the energy built in intensity, already beginning to ripple over his body. Within seconds, the monstrously huge Demon Slayer reverted back to his human form, leaving his stretched out clothing to hang like tents over his normal frame just before he fell forward.

As the last of the Reikikaega's power faded from his body, leaving Azusa to stare in amazement at him, InuYasha groaned in sympathy. "Damn...that looked harsh," he muttered, shaking his head somberly. "Uh...Kaname? Why don't you go see if he needs any help?"

"Okay," Kaname returned with a slight bow of her head before making her way over to Jiro's side.

Pausing to watch as Kaname assisted Jiro, with Azusa looking on in a confused daze, Kagome then winced at the sound of a fist connecting with solid bone. "Aughh!! InuYasha!" came Totosai's pained voice. Looking in the blacksmith's direction, the modern priestess watched as a good-sized lump rose up from his skull, with InuYasha glaring irritably at him. "What did you do that for?! I'm an old man, you know!"

"Yeah, and if you want to live to get any older, then you better tell me what the hell you were thinking when you used the Reikikaega on Sango and the others!" InuYasha demanded, glaring daggers at Totosai. "Dammit, what's wrong with you, old man?! You keep telling us about how dangerous the Reikikaega is, and -!"

"Uh...InuYasha...?" came Shippo's nervous voice.

Even as Kagome glanced down at the little fox in her harms, her gaze was again drawn to InuYasha when he snapped, "Not now, Shippo!" Pausing to glare at the tiny demon, the silver-maned warrior then returned his attention to Totosai. "Anyway, you keep telling us how dangerous the Reikikaega is, and then you do something stupid like this?!!?! Somebody could've gotten hurt, you idiot! Maybe even killed!!"

"I - I realize that there was some danger, InuYasha!" Totosai promptly admitted. "But - I had to make them understand the penalties of tampering with such powers! There's simply no telling what can go wrong when you try to control forces you cannot even comprehend!"

"So you decided to invoke those powers on them?!" InuYasha irately demanded. "Great idea, old man! What've you got planned next?! Maybe setting a few forest fires to show how bad they are?! Of all the -!!"

"InuYasha...!" Shippo tried again, his voice more urgent.

"I said, not now!!" InuYasha snarled, even as Kagome looked down at the little fox, wondering what he sounded so worried about. "You turned Sango and Jiro into demons, old man! Monsters! And if they hadn't changed back when they had, then -!"

"But they did change back, InuYasha!" Totosai protested. "I told you, I used just enough energy and slashed them so as to make sure the change was temporary, and only lasted for a very short time! I've learned enough about the Reikikaega to be able to figure that much out!"

"And if they had eaten somebody before they changed back?!" InuYasha shot back. "You're always getting on my case about me doing stupid stuff without thinking first, and then you do something like this?! Of all the -!"

"InuYasha!!" Shippo howled, waving his little arms at the irate half-demon.

Letting go a growl of pure aggravation, the half demon muttered, "I don't believe this." Then he swung his gaze at the little fox and snarled, "Dammit, Shippo! What the hell is it?!!?!"

"That!!" Shippo yelped, pointing off to the side. Grunting in annoyance, InuYasha followed the little fox's outstretched finger with his eyes. Only for the half-demon's mouth to pop open in surprised horror as his eyes bulged.

"What is it, you two?" Totosai wondered, angling himself so as to get a look himself. "Is something...uh-oh..."

Not liking the way this was going, Kagome looked down the line of Shippo's outstretched finger as well. Only for her mouth to fall open in the same horror as the others when she saw Sango with Michiru, for unlike the others, the woman warrior had not yet reverted to her human form. She remained a monstrous ogress, who was rubbing her chest up and down Michiru's body while the Kururugi boy remained frozen, his face burning with red.

As Miroku recovered and got back on his feet, his features were contorted with anger, horror, and a trace of envy at the treatment his rival was getting. Clearing his throat discretely, the monk studied the massive ogress the woman they had fought over had become before saying, "Uh, Sango? Don't you think you should...set Michiru down now?" The horned Demon Slayer shot Miroku a look of annoyance, to which he replied, "He's still recovering from everything that's happened, and...I really don't think he's up for this much...stimulation."

A beat passed before Sango snorted, "What's wrong, you two-timing pervert? Jealous?" As Miroku choked on this statement, the monstrous ogress grinned a mouthful of blades. "Hmm...maybe I should set Michiru down for a bit..."

"Uh...yeah, Sango..." Michiru intoned, his voice strained as his checks continued to burn. "This...tree is...awfully comfortable..."

"Well, why didn't you say so sooner?" Sango wondered, her voice becoming steadier, but at the same time, she was sounding less and less like herself. The flirtatiousness, the not-so-subtle teasing with which she moved, this was not at all the serious and composed warrior woman Kagome knew so well. "Here, let me set you down, nice and comfy...!"

As Kagome and the others looked on, watching in mute concern as the monster that was their friend gingerly set Michiru down, a voice sounded from behind them. "My word..." murmured Jiro even as the modern priestess darted a glance at him. "Is that...is that what...I looked like?"

"Uh...yeah," Kaname returned uncertainly even as she, Jiro, and Azusa cautiously drew closer to the monstrous ogress who was still fawning over Michiru. "More or less, anyway."

"What, you don't even know what you looked like?" Azusa wondered, though not in her usual nasty manner.

"I - I was aware that I had changed, but...not much else. My head hurt so much, and..." Shuddering somewhat, Jiro then frowned before asking, "But...why hasn't Sango changed back yet?!"

"That's a really good question," InuYasha muttered, glaring pure death at Totosai. "So how about it, old man? Why isn't Sango changing back?!"

"I - I don't know!!" Totosai returned, sweating nervously as he took a few cautionary steps away from the half-demon. "I cut Sango and Jiro at the exact same time! They were exposed to the same amount of power! They should've reverted at roughly the same time!" Pausing to glance down at the Reikikaega still in his hands, the aged blacksmith concluded, "I don't know what could be taking her so long!!"

"Yeah, well, you better figure it out, old man!" InuYasha vowed, brandishing his fist in such a way that left no room for misinterpretation of what would happen if Totosai failed. "Because if Sango doesn't change back, then I'm gonna...!"

Shuddering as InuYasha launched into a list of the many painful acts of brutal violence he would subject Totosai to, Kagome returned her attention to Sango and Michiru. There was still absolutely no sign of her reverting to her human self as she knelt down next to the Shikigami user, her movements increasingly more coordinated. "There," she cooed gently. "Is that better?"

"Uh...yeah. Thank you, Sango," Michiru told her, his voice making it clear just how disconcerted he was by what was happening. "Uh...listen...are you sure you're feeling okay after...well, you know? I mean...maybe you should lie down, relax a bit or..."

Chuckling once more, Sango looked down at the boy she professed to love. "You don't have to worry about me, Michiru. I feel wonderful...!" Heaving a deep breath, the transformed woman leaned back, breathing more and more deeply. "In fact, I...I don't think I've ever felt so good in my life!!" The massive ogress issued another tittering, only to pause and muttered, "Although..."

"Although...what?" Michiru wondered, looking worriedly at the transformed woman as she shifted about uncomfortably. "Is something wrong?"

"Ugh...this thing...feels a sort of tight!" Sango explained, her breaths coming more deeper and rapidly. As she did so, Kagome's eyes bulged as she realized that the Demon Slayer was correct; the top of her kimono was being stretched taut.

Oh, no...! Kagome thought as Sango grabbed hold of the hems of her kimono and hurriedly shrugged it off. Giving them all a perfect view of the way the musculature it had once was swelling once more. Don't tell me...!

"What the -?!" InuYasha gasped as the others looked on. Their expressions making it clear that they were thinking the same thing that Kagome was.

"Ah, that's better!" Sango sighed as she tossed her kimono top to the side. Her sigh of relief shifting to a mix of heightened breathing and gasping joy as the sounds of bones cracking and shifting was heard, along with the way her already massive body was bulging even more. "I feel...this is so...!"

"Dammit! Sango's changing even more!!" InuYasha spat out as the transformed Demon Slayer visibly swelled. "Totosai!!!!"

"I - I don't know what's going on!!" Totosai hurriedly protested. "This shouldn't - this isn't - this can't be happening!!"

Snarling in disgust for the old man, InuYasha reached for the sword he held. "Gimme the Reikikaega! Maybe it can turn her back!"

"Or it might make things even worse!!" Totosai protested.

"Well, we have to try something!!" Kaname protested. "Sango's turning into a full demon! She -!"

"What?!!?!" Miroku cried out in abject horror. As Kagome looked towards the monk, she watched him hurriedly rise to his feet, Kaname's words snapping him out of whatever daze he had been in. "No...Sango!!"

Acting on sheer impulse, Miroku reached into the folds of his robes, and hurriedly drew forth some of his sacred sutras as he rushed up to Sango. Lost in the throes of her renewed transformation, shuddering with delight, the increasingly large ogress didn't even notice the monk's approach until he threw the handful of sacred sutras straight at her back. Each and every one of the talismans struck home, with one of the landing squarely upon the scar that marked the spot where Sango had once been stabbed by her own brother.

The instant the sutra scrolls found their mark, they exploded into blue flames, causing Sango to screech in pain. Thrown out of the pleasured delirium she had been in, the ogress shot up to her feet before tumbling back to the ground, roaring in hatred as she began clawing at her back, seeking to remove the offending scrolls. "What the hell?! Who -?!" Sango screeched even as a telltale sparking was seen at the tip of her horn. "Who...arrrgghh!!"

Whew! It's about time!! Kagome breathed, vey nearly collapsing in relief as the Reikikaega's power once again appeared, washing over the transmuted Demon Slayer, reversing the damage it had done. The reversion took somewhat longer for Sango, during which she screeched and tumbled about on the ground. But as she slowly shifted back, Kirara took up station in front of Michiru, standing ready to deflect thrashing Demon Slayer from him if the need arose.

Fortunately, Sango didn't come close to where Michiru lay. And as Kagome and the rest of the group were able to reach her side, the Demon Slayer finally faded back completely to her normal human body. As the last of the Reikikaega's power faded from Sango's body, the woman warrior was left lying face-down on the dirt, groaning pitifully.

"Is Sango okay?!" Michire demanded from where he lay even as Kagome and the others circled their friend. "What's happening to her?! I...can't see anything! Is she alright?!"

I sure hope so! Kagome thought even as she looked down at the prone Demon Slayer, who was already shifting about, trying to prop herself up on her elbows. As she struggled, InuYasha doffed his fire-rat fur kimono and gingerly lay it on top of her.

"Sango?" Miroku began as the Demnon Slayer instinctively wrapped herself up in InuYasha's kimono. "How are you feeling? I didn't...hurt you, did I?"

"Ugh...my head...!" Sango groaned pitifully as she forced herself up. "What...where...?" But even as Kagome knelt down to try and help her, the warrior woman looked down at herself, took stock of her condition, then quickly scanned her surroundings and saw everyone looking down on her. "I...oh, no..."

"Welcome back, Sango," Miroku told her, looking fondly at the Demon Slayer and even extending his hand to her. "Good to see you're back to yourself."

Her eyes widening at this statement, Sango sucked in a gasp. Pushing herself into a kneeling position, she wrapped InuYasha's kimono more tightly about herself, her cheeks burning brightly. "I...did that...that really just happened...didn't it."

"Uh..." InuYasha started hesitantly, glancing about at the others, only to find that they looked as uncomfortable as he did. With a groan that said he was resigned to his fate, he sighed and muttered, "Yeah. Um...'fraid so. I..."

Before InuYasha could say anything else, Sango let out a strangled groan before placing her hand to her forehead. "Oh, noooooo..."

I can't believe I did that... Sango thought to herself, not for the first time. I simply can't believe that I...I...!

A short time had passed since Sango and the others had recovered from being struck with the Reikikaega by Totosai, and it had been time enough for them to compose themselves on the outside. The warrior woman's chest bindings, sandals, and a couple other things had been obliterated by her transformation, and she had found a few burst seams in her surviving clothes that she would have to mend sooner or later, but she had suffered worse in the past, and had gotten herself dressed well enough to at least pass for civilized company. Jiro's garments had suffered similarly, and since Azusa and Shippo hadn't grown as a result of their transmutations, their clothing remained perfectly intact. All it had taken was a bit of shifting about before they were once again looking as they normally did.

But none of them were the same on the inside. Sango knew that perfectly well. Shippo was still fidgety and anxious, and had his tiny arms wrapped about his frame. Azusa was pacing about nearby, a contemplative frown marking her face. Jiro wore a haunted look of fear as a result of his own experience, as well as something that looked like despair.

And as for Sango...she felt sick in her heart. Sick because she had honestly enjoyed being the monster Totosai had changed her into.

Sango had been aware that she had been physically transformed as soon as she had completely changed into the monstrous ogress the others had since described to her. She had been dazed, and a bit confused as a result, feeling as if a fog had wrapped about her mind, but otherwise, she had been aware and completely in control of her faculties. She knew perfectly well that she was no longer fully human. And not only had she not cared, but she had loved every moment of it.

The instant the transformation had been completed, the first thing Sango had become aware of was the power that flowed through her veins. Strength far above and beyond anything she had known in all her life. Even as hard as she had trained to build her strength and her skill, the warrior woman had never once imagined possessing such raw, absolute power. In that time as an ogress, she had felt like there was nothing her new body could not do. As if she could crush boulders with her bare hands, rip trees apart with the smallest of efforts. And it had been intoxicating.

But that was not the only thing enticing about her transformed body. For when she had taken on the form of an ogress, she had not only gained inhuman strength, but she had shed so much. Fears, inhibitions, concerns, so much had faded, allowing other things to come to the fore. Love, anger, desire, things that she normally kept at bay, simply because she felt she had to, had flowed freely without restraint. And when confronted with Michiru, the thing that had been given the most freedom was the love she felt for him. A freedom that she had taken full advantage of...to do something terrible to him.

I still can't believe that I - that I forced myself on him that way! Sango thought, never before feeling so totally ashamed of herself. Michiru...he can't even move! And I forced myself upon him! I shoved my chest at him, I...!

As she thought of this, Sango thought of all the times Miroku had taken advantage of her. Groping at her, peeping at her when she had been bathing, doing whatever perverted thing he could to satisfy his perverted desires. Treating her like an object of pleasure, not as a real person. And as she did so, she realized that she had just done the same thing to Michiru. She had made a toy of him, doing whatever she wanted when he was clearly uncomfortable and subtly protesting her actions.

The fact that she had spent the night in bed with Michiru made no difference. The fact that she knew the Kururugi boy would never condemn her for what had happened changed nothing. The fact that someone like Miroku would likely have enjoyed such an experience deeply did not absolve her from the fact that Sango had treated the man she loved like a plaything for her own personal satisfaction.

And after everything I've already done! Sango thought mournfully, the guilt she felt over blackmailing Miroku still alive and well in her heart. I...Michiru, I...

As Sango looked over to what Michiru presently lay, propped up by another tree and with Kirara at his side, still in her fighting form, the Shikigami user took note of her gaze, and managed a reassuring smile for her. A smile that said that he did not blame her for what happened. That all she would have to do is ask, and he would happily forgive her for her heinous actions.

But...I'm not ready to talk to him. Not after...what I've done... Sango thought mournfully, lowering her gaze once more. I'm not ready for forgiveness...I don't deserve it...

Already worn and tired from everything that had gone wrong this morning, even with the wonderful moments she had shared with Michiru, Sango barely noticed when Totosai heaved a weary breath. "Well...you asked me what could happen if we were to use the Reikikaega to tamper with life and death," the aged blacksmith intoned in a pained manner. "It may well succeed in restoring the dead. But as we've just seen...there may well be some very ugly consequences of such a resurrection."

"You mean uglier than the lumps decorating your skull?" InuYasha wondered in a snide manner.

Wincing at this, Totosai gingerly massaged one of the many, many said lumps that had taken up residence on his skull. Lumps that were the result of the beating he had taken from InuYasha and Azusa while Sango and the others had been putting themselves back together after his disastrous demonstration of the Reikikaega's power. "It serves the stupid old goat right!" Azusa growled as she continued to pace anxiously about. "I mean - I care about our wolves as much as any wolf-demon, but to be turned into one?!!?! Ugh! I could barely even think like that!"

Hoping that InuYasha didn't take this as an opening for another snide remark, Sango watched as Michiru chimed in, "Listen, Totosai...I know you were trying to make a point about...how dangerous the Reikikaega is, but...did you really have to go that far?! Somebody could have gotten hurt!" Then the Kururugi boy darted a nervous glance over at the woman he loved before adding, "And Sango, she...she almost..."

"I know, I know. And believe me, I genuinely regret what happened Michiru. I never expected either Sango's or Jiro's transformations to be so drastic." Then the aged blacksmith lowered his eyes, a thoughtful frown tugging at his lips. "And I simply don't know why she continued to change, either. I thought that..." As Totosai trailed off, he sighed, and then looked up at those around him. "Well, whatever the case, this proves that we know far too little about the Reikikaega to try and employ its capabilities haphazardly. Let alone to try and use it to tamper with powers such as life and death..."

Yes, I know, Sango thought sadly as that little dream that had remained with her, hidden from view, died a bit more. The vision of the magical reunion she couldn't help but imagination with her loved ones now tainted by them becoming as she had been. By them becoming the beast she had very nearly become herself.

Nodding sadly, Jiro sighed before admitting, "Yes, that much is obvious..."

"What?! You're going along with this?!" Azusa demanded, giving Jiro a scornful look. When the Demon Slayer returned her gaze, the wolf-demon hesitated a moment before saying, "Seriously, we already know that sword changes stuff! It turned a damn tree into a monster!! That doesn't mean something will go wrong if we try and bring our people back!"

A beat passed before Jiro frowned. "If Sango and I had changed back at the same time, then I might have agreed with you. But Azusa, we all saw what happened to her! Sango didn't change back until Miroku used those sacred sutras! And before that, she was changing even more fully! She looked like she was becoming a full demon!"

Shuddering at the memory of this, of the absolute ecstasy she had been caught up when she had started shedding even more of her humanity, Sango lowered her eyes as InuYasha sighed. "She didn't just look it, Jiro; she was. I could smell it when her human scent started fading."

"And I could sense her aura changing, too," Kaname chimed in somberly.

"Which means that the Reikikaegas powers are still unpredictable," Jiro intoned solemnly. "And given what I know about manipulating the souls of the dead..."

Nodding as Jiro fell silent, Totosai heaved a deep breath before glancing back and forth between him and Azusa. "Now...I know that both your hearts were in the right place. You only wanted to get back people you love, and that's perfectly natural for any compassionate creature." Then Totosai furrowed his brows. "But the fact remains that we know far too little about the Reikikaega to make such an attempt." A beat passed as Azusa looked like she was about to protest, but the blacksmith broke in before she could say anything, "I know I said that the Reikikaega is a sword of heaven like the Tenseiga, and thus has abilities similar to the Tenseiga...but the fact remains that there is a world of difference between the two swords! The Reikikaega's power far eclipses that of either the Tenseiga or the Tetsusaiga, and is capable of far more than both swords combined! And perhaps more importantly, I don't know it as well as the Tetsusaiga and the Tenseiga!" Giving this a moment to sink, the blacksmith again swiveled his gaze between the two of them. "I know what the Tetsusaiga and Tenseiga can do because I made them! I know their base abilities better than anyone because I am the one who built those abilities into them! Even the Sounga, I understand, because I watched my master Katashi forge it, and I had the information provided to me by the Fallen Dragons! But the Reikikaega is far more advanced in its powers and design! And there is still a great deal about its abilities that I have yet to be able to fathom! And to try and use it to bring back the dead when we still have no idea of the consequences...!"

As the aged blacksmith trailed off, the silence of what he didn't say spoke volumes. "We could wind up bringing them back as...creatures like I became," Jiro muttered somberly. "Or mindless animals, or...something even worse."

"And I'm sure you wouldn't wish to curse your loved ones to such a fate," Totosai told him. "Listen...I'm not saying that you should give up hope. But at the moment, there's still far too much we don't understand about the Reikikaega to attempt something so dangerous." Tilting his head to the side, the ancient sword maker gave a reassuring smile. "But I'm sure we will learn more about the Reikikaega in time, young man. And as we learn more about its capabilities...who knows? Perhaps it will become possible to do as you ask."

"In time..." Miroku muttered from off to the side, drawing a glance from Sango. "Could that...?"

"Perhaps," Jiro nodded, heaving a deep, reluctant sigh of submission. "Listen...InuYasha?" When the half-demon eyed the Demon Slayer, the younger warrior gave him a solemn look before saying, "I...wish to...apologize for...making demands of you earlier. Especially since..."

"Hey, you don't have to apologize for anything," InuYasha quickly assured him even as he tapped the Reikikaega, which once again slept safely in its sheathe. "I know what you're going through. And...well, if it does turn out that we can use the Reikikaega to...bring back your friends safely, then...I promise...I'll do it. Okay?"

A heavy silence passed between the two of them before Jiro nodded. "That's fair. I can accept that." Then the Demon Slayer looked over at Totosai. "What now, then? Shall we be going?"

"Uh, actually...I do have more thing I'd like to ask of you," Totosai informed him. As Azusa rolled her eyes, the blacksmith said, "You see...I have decided to come along with the two of you. To go back with you to the mountains."

Of all the things Sango could have imagined Totosai saying, this had not been among them, and it was clear from the reactions of the others, she was not alone in this. "What?!" InuYasha demanded. "Why the hell - we need you right here, old man! To help us figure out this crazy sword!"

"And that's one of the reasons I've decided to go, InuYasha," Totosai returned without pause. As the half-demon sounded his confusion in his throat, the blacksmith turned his attention towards Sango. "Now, if I heard you correctly, you said you were returning to the mountains as well?"

"Yes, that's right," Sango confirmed with a nod.

"Well...given what happened today, I think it would be a good idea I were to accompany you. Work with whatever spiritualists and magicians are among the Demon Slayers to determine why the Reikikaega had such a profound effect on you," Totosai explained. "Such knowledge could be invaluable in improving our understanding of the sword's capabilities. And preventing similar incidents from happening in the future."

That made good sense, Sango had to admit, and she definitely wanted to avoid disasters such as what had happened to her from happening again. But at the same time, she frowned and reminded Totosai, "But in order to do that, you'd have to tell Daisuke and who knows how many others about the Reikikaega and its powers!"

"I know," Totosai nodded immediately. "The truth is, I had originally planned for Daisuke, Koga, and perhaps a few others to be made aware of the sword's capabilities."

"What?!!?!" InuYasha barked irritably even as the others gave Totosai questioning looks. "I don't believe this! You drag us all the way out here, keep saying that we can't let anybody else know about this sword, and now you're saying -!"

"I'm saying that it would be dangerous if the wrong people were to learn about the Reikikaega and its capabilities! Which is why I insisted on doing things the way we have; to minimize the chance of that happening!" Totosai declared with enough force to cut through InuYasha's tirade before it could really begin. "Now, originally, I had intended to ask for Jiro and Azusa to explain to their leaders on my behalf the capabilities of the Reikikaega, and to make sure that only their leaders and whatever other persons they felt to be trustworthy were informed as to its nature! But with what's just happened, I feel it might be better if I explained it to them in person."

"But why would you want to involve them in this, anyway?!" InuYasha demanded impatiently.

"Because, InuYasha, we may well need all the allies we can get...to help protect the Reikikaega from all those that would seek to abuse its power." As this statement hung in the air, the aged blacksmith went on to add, "You've seen what the Reikikaega can do! It's power of transformation! Can you imagine what would happen if it were to ever fall into the wrong hands?!"

As these words fell upon them all, Sango shuddered as they inspired the dreadful image of Naraku, the Reikikaega in his hands. A sword potentially even more powerful than the Sounga itself, wielded by a monster who would not care about the potential danger that meddling with the forces it wielded implied.

"I know I can. Especially if Naraku were the one to claim it," Miroku gravely intoned, seeming to read Sango's mind.

"Yeah, I know," InuYasha scowled dangerously. "That bastard would have a field day, turning entire villages into monsters for him to sic on us!"

"That's not the only danger that would come of Naraku possessing the Reikikaega, InuYasha." As the Demon Slayer looked up along with the others, the monk tightened his grip on his staff. "The reason Naraku seeks the Sacred Jewel is so he can use its power to complete his demonic transformation. To become a full demon."

"Naraku?" Jiro asked, but before anyone could say anything, his eyes lit with comprehension. "That's right, I'd almost forgotten. Daisuke told me about him. Said that he's the demon that was backing Toma, and was responsible for the attack on the old fort." As InuYasha nodded to this, the Demon Slayer frowned, "But...complete his demonic transformation? You mean...he's a half-demon?"

"Not just a half-demon, Jiro," Miroku said by way of explanation. "You see, Naraku was created when a human bandit known as Onigumo gave himself, body and soul, to a horde of demons. The demons merged together with his evil heart, and became the creature we now know as Naraku."

Her eyes going wide with renewed surprise, Azusa demanded, "Wait...so there's another demon who used to be human out there?! And he's the reason Toma was able to cause us so much misery?!"

"That is correct. We also assume that Naraku is responsible for the crystal stones that were killing the animals near the mountains," Miroku went on. "For whatever reason, Naraku wished for Toma to be able to take control of the wolf-demon tribe. So it makes sense to assume that he also caused the foot shortage in order to set the stage for Toma's takeover."

Even as Azusa opened her mouth, InuYasha growled, "Yeah, we all pretty much figured that one out, Miroku! But what does the Reikikaega have to do with the Sacred Jewel?!"

"Nothing. Except that the Reikikaega can give Naraku what he desires." As several eyes looked up at Miroku in surprise, the monk continued with, "We already know that the Reikikaega is capable of transforming demons into mortals, and accomplishing the reverse, at least temporarily. And we've already determined that it can permanently transform half-demons such as Kanna into humans." Then Miroku narrowed his eyes and looked hard at the sword hanging from InuYasha's belt. "So doesn't it make sense to assume that the Reikikaega can also permanently change a half-demon into a full demon?"

As these words echoed about the tiny group, Sango felt a dread chill rush down her spine. What Miroku said made perfect sense, the Demon Slayer realized. Inflicting power upon himself and misery on all else were the two things Naraku existed for, and so he had done all he could do to gather the Sacred Jewel Shards so he could complete the crystalline sphere and complete his demonic transformation. Something that would, in all likelihood, render him utterly unstoppable.

But unlike the Sacred Jewel, the Reikikaega was intact and functional. It was fully capable of granting Naraku's dread ambition without need for him to seek out the remaining Jewel Shards. He could very easily use it upon himself, to achieve his final transformation into a demon, and in the process become so powerful that none of them would ever be able to stop him.

As these thoughts floated through Sango's mind, she looked about at the others present, and saw that they, too, had reached this inexorable conclusion. Kagome shuddered somewhat as Shippo paled horribly. Kaname inched over towards InuYasha while Michiru's expression furrowed with muted anger and horror. And InuYasha...he just looked at the mighty blade that could turn the tide of their war against Naraku against them, without any hope of recovery, and gripped its hilt.

"He'd have to get it from me, first!" InuYasha decreed. "Anyway, Miroku, that works both ways! If Naraku could use the Reikikaega to become a full demon, then doesn't that mean we can use it on him?! Turn Naraku into a full human?!"

Again, words became images in Sango's mind, but this time, they were images of hope. Visions of Naraku, deprived of his demonic powers, utterly and completely helpless at their feet. No power, no defense...no chance of returning from the dead as they dealt the final blow, ending his wretched existence.

"Of course it does, InuYasha. Assuming we can track Naraku down, something we all know to be easier said than done," Miroku confirmed, splashing an unpleasant bit of reality on Sango's fantasies. "However, the point is that Totosai is correct. If knowledge of the Reikikaega's abilities were to spread, then we would find ourselves under assault. Not just from Naraku, but from everyone else who would have reason to claim it's powers."

"That's right," Totosai nodded solemnly. "Just as it had happened with the Sounga, so many centuries ago, every bandit, demon, lord, or monster with greed in their hearts would set out in search of the Reikikaega, thinking only of their selfish ambitions. Willing to kill anyone and anything that stood in the way of claiming it. All the while uncaring of the potential dangers in wielding such power." Again, InuYasha opened his mouth to protest, but then the blacksmith broke in and added, "And while I have no doubt that you and your friends could stand up against them individually, how would you fare if you had to deal with such forces every single moment? If you had to deal with bandits, thieves, murderers, and worse, dogging your step every single day? If you couldn't afford to sleep at night because of the danger of an assassin in the dark?" Leaning in closer to the half-demon, the aged blacksmith muttered ominously, "What chance would you have against Naraku then?"

Despite InuYasha's normal bravado, even he had nothing to say to Totosai's fearful question. And in all honesty, Sango didn't blame him, because she knew how poor their chances of victory would be under those circumstances. The Reikikaega would make them a target for the worst of the worst, as well as well-intentioned extremists who had no idea the kind of forces they were playing with. She could very easily see bandits liking the idea of being able to transform themselves into monstrosities like the ones she and Jiro had become that day. And priests, priestesses, and other holy people seeing the Reikikaega as the means of eliminating all demons, once and for all. And more. So many more.

All the while, Naraku lurked in the darkness. Watching as their little group was forced to fend off one attack after another, laughing as their strength faded beneath the constant onslaught. Waiting patiently until at last their strength faltered, and then...

"That's why I feel it would be wise to inform our allies of the potential danger, both posed by the Reikikaega and those that would seek it," Totosai explained. "So that if the worst does come to the worst, and people do start learning of the Reikikaega's capabilities, then you will at least have friends and allies, ready to come to your aide, and help prevent it from falling into the wrong hands."

InuYasha opened his mouth at this, looking ready to protest. But even as he struggled to do so, it was clear that even he realized the sense in this argument. "Dammit..." the half-demon muttered sourly. "I hate having to rely on that mangy wolf..."

"I know you don't like Koga, InuYasha, but we may well need his help in the future. As well as the aide of the rest of the alliance," Miroku sagely stated. "And speaking of the alliance...Hachi, why don't you do go back to the village with Jiro and Azusa?" The tanuki made a quizzical sound in his throat at this, one that the monk answered with, "It's been some time since we left. In all likelihood, they have everything to start loading you up for the trip back to the mountains."

As Hachi blanched at the thought of the huge load he would be expected to carry, Jiro nodded. "Yes, of course. That's right. I'd almost forgotten, but..." Giving a helpless shrug, the Demon Slayer shook his head before turning towards the raccoon-dog. "We should head back now. Get everything loaded."

"Hmph," Azusa grumbled, though she still didn't sound as unpleasant as usual. "About time."

Looking back and forth between Jiro and Miroku, Hachi gave a low, reluctant sigh. "Well...okay, master. If you say so..."

Looking very much as if he was being led to the gallows, Hachi started back towards the village with Jiro a short distance behind. But before the tanuki and the Demon Slayer had taken more than a few steps, Azusa turned a nasty look at Miroku. "Hey, what about the rest of you?" she demanded irritably. "Aren't you coming?"

"Soon enough," Miroku returned before any of the others could say anything in response. "There's...one last matter I'd like to discuss with Totosai and the others. Nothing serious, of course. Just a minor bit of business."

Giving Miroku a stern look, as if he could almost hear the lie in the monk's words, Jiro asked, "Are you sure?"

"Positive. It's nothing that concerns you," Miroku assured him. "Trust me, we won't be long in joining you. It should only take us...five minutes, more-or-less."

The way Azusa rolled her eyes and Jiro frowned made it clear that neither were convinced. But even so, Sango didn't like the way Miroku was speaking. She knew him long enough to spot his lies, and while it was plain as day that he was lying, this was not a lie that was driven by the typical motivations of lust and greed.

There was something deeper driving his words. Something almost like...fear.

"Go on, you two. We might as well hear whatever it is he has to say," Sango told Jiro, hoping that her fellow warrior would be able to get Azusa to follow. "We'll be right with you soon."

The look Sango gave him dispelling his concerns somewhat, Jiro soon nodded. "Alright. We'll see you back at the village." With that, he turned back towards the village and started forward again. "Let's go, Azusa. We still have a lot that needs to be done."

Azusa paused for a time to glare at Miroku. Finally, she whirled about in huff, stuck her nose into the air, and started after Jiro. "Feh! Whatever!"

As the unlikely trio disappeared down the path, soon fading from sight, InuYasha folded his arms and glared at the monk. "Alright, Miroku. What's this minor bit of business of yours that you couldn't have brought up before?"

"A little white lie I concocted to give us some time alone," Miroku admitted, drawing a few looks from the others. "Because the business I want to discuss with you all is not at all minor. Not in the least."

"What do you mean?" Sango asked, frowning as she studied Miroku's features. This was not the sad, defeated man she had blackmailed earlier. His face was hard and resolute, as if he was in the midst of battle. "Miroku, what is it? What's going on?"

"What's going on, Sango, is that I think I now know where the Reikikaega came from and how it came to be here in this world. And most importantly, why it was created in the first place," Miroku intoned in a grave tone. "And if I am correct...then we may well be in far more danger than any of us could have ever realized."

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