Legacy of the Cursed Mask: The Wolf-Demon Crisis

A Fearful Theory

"Alright, Miroku! How the hell can you possibly know where the Reikikaega came from and how it got here?!" InuYasha impatiently demanded, scowling intently at the monk. "And do me a favor, and don't stretch it out! I've already put up with enough crap today, and it's still morning!!"

Is it still morning? Michiru asked humorlessly as he sat on the ground, propped up against a tree. I feel like I've been awake for a whole day with everything that's been happening!

With a heavy sigh, Michiru wished he had the strength to eve shake his head in dismay. Kagome's return, the confession InuYasha had given him and Kaname, the battle with the tree monster, the night he had spent in bed with Sango, Miroku's confession, the fantastic story Totosai had told them, and the demonstration of the Reikikaega's dangerous power. So much had happened in a very short amount of time, and the Kururugi boy suspected that, even if he wasn't recovering from being possessed by Ryuunosuke, he would be well and truly drained by this point.

Taking note of his weariness, Kirara growled tenderly and then moved to gently massage Michiru's cheek with her own. Grateful for this comforting gesture, the weakened Shikigami User looked on as his friends stared hard at Miroku with disbelieving eyes. "What I mean, InuYasha, is that the pieces of the puzzle are finally falling into place," the monk explained in a solemn voice. "Ever since we found the Reikikaega, there have been too many things that didn't make sense. Things we couldn't explain or understand."

"Indeed!" came an elderly voice from someplace nearby. "The sheer chaos we've been forced to cope with lately...how's an old man supposed to deal with such insanity?"

"Huh?!" InuYasha started, freezing in place as did a couple of the others. The half-demon whipped his head this way and that for a few seconds before pausing and narrowing his eyes in disgust. "Myoga?! Where the hell have you been hiding?! Have you been with us all this time?!"

"Why, yes, I've been right here," Myoga returned even as Michiru glanced about, and saw the tiny flea bouncing about on Kirara's head. "And I wasn't hiding, master! I simply wanted to hear what Totosai had to say, the same as the rest of you."

"Then why didn't you bother letting us know you were there?!" InuYasha demanded, clearly as frustrated and overwhelmed by everything that had happened that day as the rest of them.

"I thought you knew," Myoga admitted, sounding genuinely surprised. "But then, I suppose it's only natural that you would overlook someone of my stature..."

As the aged flea made a disappointed clucking sound, the half-demon growled irritably. "InuYasha, Myoga, please," Miroku told them, drawing everyone's attention to him once more. "Now, as I was saying, there was simply too much about the Reikikaega and how it came to be here in Tsuzumi Village that simply didn't make any sense. Too many things that didn't add up." Heaving a deep sigh, the monk swiveled his gaze upon the others. "But now...the pieces are finally falling into place. And I now have a theory that would explain everything that's been happening."

"What do you mean, Miroku?" Sango wondered, gingerly stepping towards the monk, a look of concern on her haunted face. The horror of what she had recently gone through still present. "What pieces are falling in place?"

"How we found a machine from the other world, buried safely beneath the landslide locking the road. Completely intact and with no sign of the person who flew it here. Carrying with it a sword so powerful and advanced that no one, not even Totosai, knows how it was made. Both of which we found just in time to save us and Tsuzumi Village from Naraku and his forces," Miroku carefully explained. "I've pondering all of this for some time now, trying to make sense of these things. " Then the monk focused on the aged blacksmith and added, "But it's only now, thanks to Totosai, that I've been able to fit all of the pieces together."

"Me?" Totosai wondered, gesturing at himself. "Wh-what did I do?"

"Aside from screwing up with the Reikikaega?" InuYasha snarked.

"First off was your detailed account as to how sophisticated the Reikikaega is, as well as your description of the knowledge and tools needed to create it, things that you yourself said do not seem to exist in this land. Second was your explanation that the Reikikaega and the Tetsusaiga were intended to be able to work together, as well as how the Reikikaega had so much in common with both the Tetusaiga and the Tenseiga. This of course meant that, whoever it was that created the Reikikaega, also had intimate knowledge regarding the two swords left behind by InuTaisho." Then Miroku narrowed his eyes and stared intently at the blacksmith. "But most important of all was your comment to Jiro, about learning more about the Reikikaega's abilities...in time."

"Huh?" Michiru frowned, perplexed by this enigmatic statement. "But...how's that important?"

"Because it reminded me of something very important, something that we all tend to forget at times," Miroku intoned, his voice becoming more forceful. "That the world beyond the Bone-Eater's Well, the world you, Kagome, and Kaname all come from isn't another world, but another time. A time five centuries in the future." As Michiru frowned his confusion, the monk again glanced about at the others. "Now, aside from Totosai and Myoga, we've all seen this world for ourselves. And so we have seen things that do not exist here in this world, in this time. And while I haven't seen much of your time, I saw enough to see strange machines and tools. A box that projected moving pictures like a living tapestry. A house that channeled water throughout its structure without it having to be carried by hand." As the blacksmith and aged flea gave slight noises of perplexity, the monk closed with, "Things that do not exist in this time."

"Uh, yes. I'm actually familiar with that," Myoga muttered, his confused voice clear that he didn't quite grasp what Miroku was getting to. "We've seen Kagome's bicycle, and her instant foodstuffs and other paraphernalia. So we are aware that...many changes have taken place over the centuries."

"Right. Now before I go on, let me summarize the events surrounding the Reikikaega's discovery," Miroku continued. "We found it in the jet after Michiru accidently uncovered it during the fight I had with him. And when we dug the jet up, we not only found it to be perfectly intact and functional, buried safely beneath the landslide that blocked the road leading out of Tsuzumi Village, but with the Reikikaega hidden within it. Both had seemingly been abandoned, and there was no sign of the person who had piloted the craft." Furrowing his brows in an expression of utmost seriousness, the monk went on to say, "And we found these things on the day before Naraku launched his assault. An assault that was timed to take place on the night of the new moon, when InuYasha is powerless. The two things that had proven so crucial to stopping Naraku, and we found them the very day before his assault."

Expressions of confusion wrote themselves over the faces of Michiru's friends, and he didn't doubt for a moment that a similar one was inscribed upon his own face. With Kaname putting this confusion into words by asking, "So...what are you saying, Miroku?"

"I'm saying that, if we look at it that way, as something that just happened to take place in that way, then it doesn't make sense at all. It's simply far too big a coincidence, us finding the exact things we needed to save ourselves and this village just when we needed them most, and that there was nothing to indicate what happened to the pilot. It simply doesn't make any sense at all." Then Miroku's expression hardened into one of utmost seriousness before he said, "However, if we assume that the person who created the Reikikaega or someone who was in league with that person intentionally took the jet back to a point in time just before the landslide blocked the road, flew it here to Tsuzumi Village, and then deliberately set it up so that both the jet and the Reikikaega within would be buried beneath it, safe and intact, and left it there knowing full well that we would come this way, that Michiru and I would fight each other - and in the process, unearth the jet and the Reikikaega within just in time for these things to save our lives - then it makes a great deal of sense."

As Miroku's words sank in, Michiru sucked in a horrified gasp, the monk's meaning suddenly becoming clear to him. And it was clear from the look on his sister's face that Kaname was also grasping the meaning of what Miroku was saying. Kagome also seemed to be seeing where this was going, but none of the others had caught on just yet, including InuYasha. "What the hell are you talking about?!" the half-demon demanded in a voice rife with frustration. "That doesn't make any sense at all!!"

"No...it makes perfect sense," Kaname protested, her voice low with astonishment.

As the half-demon and the others looked about at Kaname, Michiru solemnly nodded, thinking of all the sci-fi movies he had seen, the stories he had read. "She's right, InuYasha," the Kururugi boy intoned. "It would make sense...if we assume that one of us was the pilot."

"What?!" InuYasha breathed, his eyes wide with incredulity. "Wait - are you saying -?!"

"I'm saying that what Miroku means is...one of us stole the jet and brought it and the Reikikaega back here and buried them," Michiru weakly intoned, this revelation stealing what little strength he had. "That it was a version of us...from sometime in the future."

"Have you completely lost your mind, Miroku?!" InuYasha demanded, at his wits ends with all the stupidity and craziness he had been putting up with that day. "We're the ones who brought the jet back here?! One of us?!"

"A future version of one of us, yes," Miroku nodded without missing a beat. "I suspect that Kaname, or rather, a future version of her, would most likely be the one to -"

"But Miroku, that's not possible!" Shippo protested. "Kaname's been with us the entire time! How could she have buried the jet, or...?!"

As the little fox trailed off, his mouth giving out beneath the weight of the insanity he was trying to articulate, Michiru explained, "No, Shippo. Miroku's saying that it was a future version of Kaname, not our Kaname."

The puzzled squeak Shippo issued made it clear that Michiru's explanation had gone so far over his head that it was practically over the moon. Something Kaname took as a cue to clear her throat and nervously explain, "What my bro means, is...well, imagine a version of yourself, say...an adult version of you. The person you're gonna be when you grow up, okay?"

"Uh...okay," Shippo nodded, clearly not getting the point of this.

"Okay. Now pretend this future version of you, the adult you, somehow managed to come back in time, to be here. Right here and now," Kaname carefully continued. "If that happened, then there would be two of you here. The you we know, and the future you that you're gonna become someday. Does that make sense?"

As a puzzled groan escaped Shippo's lips, making it clear that he was trying to picture this and not quite succeeding, InuYasha growled and declared, "Whatever! It's still completely crazy!!"

"Is it, InuYasha?" Miroku asked in a completely unperturbed manner. "Wouldn't that explain the mysteries surrounding the Reikikaega and its arrival? How it and the jet managed to show up in precisely the right time and place to be of use to us? How the jet was buried completely intact and easily made ready to be used in time for the battle?"

"But - huh?!" InuYasha started again, only to frown when he felt a hand tugging at his shoulder. Turning about, he saw Kagome standing next to him, already retrieving her pencil and notepad. Frowning as she hurriedly scribbled something down, the half-demon then read for her, "'But Miroku, that doesn't make any sense! The Bone-Eater's Well only allows us to travel the same number of years back and forth! It's like a two-way street! We can't control how far back in time it sends us! And Michiru's pendants only allow others to use the Well! They don't allow us to go to whatever time we want!'" A beat passed before InuYasha looked up and jerked his thumb at the silent priestess. "What she said."

"That's all very true," Miroku admitted. "But you're forgetting about Utsugi. He was able to draw Michiru backwards in time using his Shikigami magic, without using the Well. And even if we subscribe to the theory that Utsugi chose Michiru to bring back here because of the connection established between our times by the Bone-Eater's Well, the fact remains that his magic provided an alternate form of time travel, that functioned quite differently. So it seems reasonable to assume that someone with similar magic could potentially find another way of travelling backwards in time. To a precise point in time, so that the jet could be buried beneath the landslide."

InuYasha was already opening his mouth to protest this inanity, only for his tongue to fall flat when he realized that Miroku had a valid point. Utsugi's magic had worked significantly different than that of the Bone-Eater's Well, and as powerful as he was, then there was no reason to assume that he couldn't have created a portal that led to a different time. And it's not like he's the only one who's been able to go between times without the Bone-Eater's Well, the half-demon thought, recalling previous adventures. Like Tsugumi, and...

"Then...hey, wait a minute!" Shippo piped up, having finally made the connection. "Then are you saying that...we stole the Reikikaega and hid it for ourselves to find?!"

"Not exactly," Miroku returned before glancing over at their resident blacksmith. "The fact is, I believe that Totosai is the one who forged - or rather, will forge - the Reikikaega."

A groan escaping his mouth, Totosai then closed it, looked like he was trying to say something intelligent, only to groan once more before massaging his head. "I'm starting to think I've taken too many lumps in the head lately. How could I forge a sword in the future when it's already right here?! I -!"

"I - I realize that this is somewhat confusing, Totosai," Miroku admitted, holding up his hand in a reassuring manner. "But you have to remember the time travel factor at work. As a result, we could acquire something even before it was made." Without missing a beat, the monk turned towards Kagome. "Take Kagome and the Kururugi twins, for instance. None of them will be born for roughly five hundred years, and yet because of the Bone-Eater's Well and it's power over time, here they are. Long before they were even born."

Pausing to study the modern members of the group, Totosai slowly nodded. "Yes, you have a point there. But - Miroku, it still isn't possible for me to do what you say! I have already explained that I simply don't have the tools or the skills needed to forge a sword such as the Reikikaega! And even though I have a great deal of knowledge regarding its workings, there is still a good deal I don't fully understand! There's no way I could accomplish such a feat!"

"In the here and now, perhaps," Miroku admitted. "But from what I've seen, the machines we encountered in Kagome's time, as well as what we've seen of the jet itself, then I believe it's likely that the needed tools exist in that time. And perhaps with Wyvern's help, it would be possible for us to enlist the aid of someone with the skills needed." As Totosai's mouth slowly fell wider open, the monk hesitated but a moment before concluding. "And that way, by working together with such a person or persons, you would be able to forge the Reikikaega."

Totosai looked ready to protest once again, but even as his mouth opened, he narrowed his eyes in thought. "Well...I guess that might be possible..." he hesitantly admitted. "I...I'd have to do additional research, expand my understanding on the forces at work within the Reikikaega, but...if I was working with someone with the right tools, then..." Heaving a deep sigh that made it clear he was swallowing his pride and getting a very sore throat in the process, the blacksmith confessed, "I suppose it would be possible..."

InuYasha really didn't like this. Miroku was making sense. Far too much for the half-demon to simply dismiss what he was saying. Even he had to admit that there was far too much about the Reikikaega's appearance that seemed impossibly coincidental, too much that could not be explained. And the monk's theory was perfectly filling in all the holes and confusion that surrounded the sword's appearance and it's capabilities. But even as the half-demon admitted this to himself, he frowned, for there was one major problem in this. "Even assuming that I buy all this, Miroku...why would we do this?!" the half-demon demanded. "Making the Reikikaega, setting all this up...that would take forever!! Why would we go to all that trouble?!"

"That's a good question, InuYasha," Miroku admitted. "Certainly, it would have taken a great deal of planning and preparation to set up something like this. Not even considering the time needed to forge the Reikikaega in the first place." But even as the half-demon was nodding, the monk frowned warily. "But let me ask you something; what would have happened if we hadn't found the jet and Reikikaega that day? What then?"

Taken off-guard by this question, InuYasha found himself momentarily perplexed, and it was clear that the others felt similarly as Shippo asked, "Wh-what do you mean, Miroku?"

"Think about it. When Michiru and I fought, he stopped when he first noticed the jet buried in the earth," Miroku began slowly. "But if that hadn't been there, then I suspect he would have carried on until his rage had been expended or the rest of you arrived to stop him. As a result, either I would have been injured, or you would have caught him acting out towards me. Either one of which would have made him look bad. There would have been an argument, and...perhaps things would have gone as they had before. Perhaps I...would have lied under those circumstances as well, in an attempt to divert blame from myself. Perhaps I would have been seriously injured. But in either case, we would have been severely divided by the infighting amongst us, just before the night of the new moon. The night Naraku attacked."

"Which is pretty much exactly what happened in real life," InuYasha noted in a sour manner.

"True. I don't deny it," Miroku admitted with a solemn nod. "But after that, I suspect things would have unfolded quite differently. Depending on what exactly happened, the infighting amongst us may well have been even worse than it was." Then the monk narrowed his eyes before saying, "But more importantly, InuYasha, you would have been trapped in your human form the night of the attack. Not only that, but the Tetusaiga would have been completely useless to us. As a result, we would have been incredibly vulnerable to Naraku's attack, as well as his new incarnation."

InuYasha really didn't like the way this was going, and a quick glance at the others made it clear that they felt similarly. "Now, given what happened, I think it safe to assume that Naraku would have deployed Kohaku to lure Michiru and possibly one or two others away from the village and into a trap, with Ryuunosuke ready to take possession of him. Only without InuYasha, it's very possible that, not only would we have failed to save Michiru, but Ryuunosuke would have been successful in killing one or more of us before bringing him back to Naraku's castle."

Feeling a shudder at this, the image of his best friend being taken by the monstrosity that had stolen Kikyo and so much else from him, InuYasha clenched his fists as Miroku continued. "Once the mask had possession of Michiru, Ryuunosuke would likely have done as it had before; transformed into the monster that attacked me and sealed my Wind Tunnel, rendering it useless, before transforming into the toxic clouds that rained acid blood upon the village. And without either the Reikikaega or the Wind Tunnel to stop Ryuunosuke, the blood would have eventually gotten through any barrier that we would have been able to create. And as a result, many people, possibly even the entire village and some of us, would have been killed." Giving this a moment to sink in, the monk scanned the others before adding, "But the worst would have been yet to come."

"The alliance..." Sango breathed in horrified realization. "Without the food and medicine here..."

"We would have nothing to buy in order to sustain the wolf-demons or Demon Slayers until they could get back on their feet," Miroku confirmed. "And not only would Koga and his friends lost face with the wolf-demons, they may have even gone to the extent of ousting him as leader. And with things so bad in the mountains, the wolf-demons and Demon Slayers would likely have gone to war. Or perhaps even worse, Naraku would have been able to take control of the wolf-demons himself."

"Wait - what?!" InuYasha snapped, having been thrown by this last bit. "Hey, I ain't a fan of those stinking wolves, but why in hell would even they be stupid enough to let themselves be lead by Naraku?! Especially after what Toma pulled?!"

"They would do so...if they didn't realize that it was Naraku that they were dealing with," Miroku informed them in a dire fashion. "Don't forget, InuYasha, Naraku has the ability to take on different forms. When my grandfather battled him, Naraku took on many different shapes and identities."

"Maybe, but he still has the same stench!!" InuYasha declared, wrinkling his nose at the foul reek that clung to Naraku and everything born of his flesh. "And don't forget about the spider-burn on his back! The wolf-demons would be sure to notice that!!"

"All things being equal, I would agree with you," Miroku nodded. "But don't forget that both Kagura and Kanna have demonstrated new powers and abilities in our recent encounters with them. Just as it seems likely that they learned these new abilities by studying Utsugi's Shikigami magic, then it's safe to assume that Naraku himself has also gained new abilities. Perhaps even the ability to disguise his scent, and obscure the burn mark that betrays him." As these words sank in, leaving InuYasha to hiss in disgust at such a possibility, the monk continued. "This also fits in with Naraku's agenda in regards to Toma. For if Toma had been successful in gaining leadership of the wolf-demon tribe, then Naraku would have been able to kill him and take his place, gaining the allegiance of the entire tribe in the process. But even without Toma, with Koga's failure to acquire the needed supplies to sustain the tribe and Demon Slayers, Naraku would still be able to take over by replacing a high ranking male wolf-demon, and usurp Koga's leadership. The Demon Slayers would have all been killed as a source of easy meat, and Naraku would have had the entire tribe at his command."

"It makes sense," Myoga mused in a worried manner. "We've seen what Naraku can do with the simple demons he typically musters. If he could take control of a large tribe of demons, such as the wolf-demons...I shudder to think of it."

Not blaming Myoga for this, InuYasha was brought back to the moment when Miroku stated, "I fear things would have been even worse than that. Remember, Kagura told InuYasha and Sango that Ryuunosuke's blood corrupted anything living which it touched, turning it into demonic flesh and sending it back to Naraku's castle. With all of Tsuzumi Village and its inhabitants wiped out, Naraku would have had ample flesh to craft a new, more powerful body for himself, as well as many new incarnations to command. He would have had all that power, including Michiru's Shikigami magic, as well as an army of demons at his command. While our own forces would have been decimated in the battle."

As InuYasha's insides continued to twist about, the meaning behind Miroku's words becoming clear, Shippo gave a nervous chuckle. "Well...I guess it's a good thing that didn't happen, huh?" Then the little fox glanced about the others around him, seeing nothing but solemn, fearful expressions, and added, "Right?"

As he slowly turned his eyes towards the youngest member of their little group, InuYasha thought of the things Miroku had said, the horrors he had just painted in his mind. And realized the truth that still eluded his friend. "You're wrong, Shippo," the half-demon gravely told him. "It did happen."

Shippo's eyes immediately swelled with horror, his mouth popping open. "Wh-what?!" he sputtered out. "What do you mean?! We - we didn't lose! We -!"

"But we did lose, Shippo. It's the only thing that makes sense," Miroku solemnly intoned. "As InuYasha pointed out, it would have taken a great deal of time and effort to craft the Reikikaega and arrange for it to be found in just the right time and place to thwart Naraku's schemes. And the only reason any of us would go to such trouble would be if it were our only chance to stop Naraku. The only way of saving everything." Once again looking at the group in its entirety, the monk lowly concluded, "Because we were already dead."

Kagome felt like her heart was about to stop at any second.

The scenario Miroku had just crafted for them was the stuff of a sci-fi story. Something terrible happens, so terrible that the only hope the heroes have is to go back in time in an attempt to make right what once went wrong. And Kagome had likely seen or read such a scenario more than once in various anime, manga, movies, or books. And while it had been entertaining, and though she could feel a sense of drama in how hard the heroes had fought to make everything right once more, she had never taken such a scenario seriously.

Until now. Until Miroku declared they were caught up in just such a situation. That in another time, a world in which the Reikikaega and jet had not been conveniently placed to help them save the day...she and all her friends had most likely died. Leaving Naraku utterly triumphant.

I...I can't believe it... Kagome thought, suffering a chill running down her spine as she looked about at her companions. InuYasha's face was screwed up with frustration, his fists clenched. Shippo's face had fallen in utter horror, while Kaname had paled several shades. Michiru looked like he had just been told he had some terminal illness, while Sango was glancing over at him with concern, her eyes filled with fresh horror. Totosai and Myoga alike gaped in fearful disbelief, all the while Miroku just stood there, every emotion under tight control, despite the fact that he had just proclaimed their deaths. Is he right? Did Naraku...actually win?! And the only way we could fix things was to...to...

Her thoughts breaking down, Kagome found her insides twisting about like she had just drank spoiled milk. From the very moment she had first fallen down the rabbit hole that was the Bone-Eater's Well and found herself in a world of demons and monsters, she had known immediately just how perilous her predicament was. She knew from the corpses she saw and the battles she and InuYasha fought together just how serious everything was, just how close the threat of death was each and every moment.

But over time, much of Kagome's fears abated. Part of this was because of odds of successfully completing their quest had slowly increased; gathering new friends and allies, InuYasha's acquisition of the Tetsusaiga and gaining new power, and her own increasing skills made survival that much easier. Another part of was the success she and her friends had enjoyed thus far; even at the beginning, when it had just been Kagome and InuYasha, they had survived hard-fought battles against powerful enemies. Yura of the Hair, Sesshomaru, as well as a horrible toad-demon. And with each new ally they gained, new ability or power their achieved, their strength as a team increased exponentially. They had fought against monstrous titans, horrors beyond imagining, and more, and were victorious. And while it was true that they didn't win every battle, their victories far eclipsed their losses or battles that had ended in draws. And most importantly of all...none of them had died. They had been battered, beaten, wounded...but they were all alive and well. Ready to fight, and stronger in the face of adversity.

But in a very real way, what had gone the farthest in easing Kagome's fears...was just how incredible everything was. How utterly impossible.

The more time Kagome spent in the world of Feudal Japan, the less 'real' it felt to her. The rules of her hurried and harried life in modern times didn't apply in this place. It felt more like the magical stories her mother and grandfather told her as she had been growing up. And thus it had become increasingly easy for her to treat her adventures in ancient Japan as a kind of Feudal fairytale. A story in which the heroes faced all kinds of adversities but ultimately triumphed, fought horrendous enemies and eventually slew them, and in the end, the princess was swept off her feet by the mighty warrior, and they all lived happily ever after.

But it's not a fairytale...no matter how much I wish it was... Kagome thought, recalling the disastrous confrontation she had had with Sango, in which she had physically lashed out at one of her best friends. The good guys don't always win, the hero doesn't always get a happily ever after...and the princess doesn't always get her hero...

As she paused and looked between Sango and Miroku, the monk began speaking again. "Now, I've given this a bit of thought. And judging from the way things happened to us, I'm almost certain InuYasha would have been killed in the battle." Flinching at this, Kagome watched as the half-demon growled angrily at this declaration. "He would simply be far too vulnerable in his human form. And I'm also sure that myself, Sango, and Jiro would have died, being humans ourselves, without any special powers. It's also likely that Shippo would have been killed, given how young he is. Azusa as well, seeing as she was in the middle of the battle and not one to back down, even against superior odds. And of course, Michiru would have been captured by Naraku and taken to his castle." As Shippo quavered fearfully and Sango and Michiru looked very much like someone was stepping on their graves, the monk turned towards the modern priestess. "All things considered, I think the only ones of us who would be likely to survive what happened under those circumstances would be Kagome, Kaname, Koga, and Kirara. Kagome has proven capable of neutralizing demonic powers and toxins by touch, even when those powers would be lethal. Kaname has her Shikigami powers, and Koga, his own enhanced powers. And then there's Kirara, who can fly and easily avoid dangerous situations." The two-tail growled at this, as if offended by the notion that she would ever abandon a fight. "I mean no offense, Kirara. You are as brave and noble a warrior as any I have ever met. But even you know when a battle is lost; when the only hope is to flee."

"I know I sure do," Myoga muttered nervously.

"And under those circumstances, you three and Koga would have realized that there was no longer any chance of defeating Naraku. Perhaps not right away, but as things quickly worsened..." Trailing off into a deep, sorrowful sigh, Miroku looked hard at Kagome. "And when that happened, I'm certain that one or more of you would have happened on the idea of using Kaname's powers to travel back in time. To make it so that we won this crucial battle. So instead of giving up, you tracked down Totosai, and set about finding a way of making everything right again. To use the same kind of magic Utsugi had used to bring Michiru to this time, so as to send us the weapons we would need to stop Naraku and prevent all of this from happening."

"Hmm...that makes sense, I suppose," Totosai admitted, making a thoughtful noise in his throat. "But Miroku, even assuming you're right and I was able to get the proper tools and such to create the Reikikaega...it would likely have taken years of work and research before I was even ready to make the attempt! And in that time -!"

"In that time, things would have gotten much, much worse in this world with Naraku running rampant," Miroku admitted with a nod. "But on the other side of the Well, you would have had plenty of time. You would have had the years you needed to design a sword of power, capable of defeating Naraku's evil scheme, and for Kaname to perfect her magic to the point where she could send it to us."

Her insides twisting about even more, Kagome swallowed a lump of bile in her throat before again scribbling a message onto her notepad. Once she was done, she held it up to Miroku, who read, "'I don't know, Miroku. This seems so impossible.'" Pausing to look the raven-haired girl in the eyes, the monk sighed and said, "I don't blame you for feeling that way, Kagome, but it all makes sense. It explains why the Reikikaega is so advanced; because it was created with a combination of Totosai's knowledge of magical, spiritual, and demonic forces, and the technology of your world, using techniques even Totosai has no knowledge of. It also explains why you were unable to learn anything about a jet disappearing when you went back home; because it hadn't been stolen yet. For all we know, that particular machine hasn't even been built in your time yet." Giving this a moment to sink, Miroku frowned thoughtfully before adding, "In fact, this may well explain a few more oddities from the last battle." Before anyone could ask him what he meant, the monk asked, "Totosai, you said before that the Reikikaega harbors a 'will' of its own, correct?"

"That's right. Just as the Tetsusaiga and the Tenseiga do," Totosai promptly nodded. "Why do you ask?"

"Because it occurs to me that the way the Reikikaega empowered the jet...that may not have been a simple accident," Miroku informed them. "Perhaps knowing of what Naraku intended for Ryuunosuke to do, you designed the Reikikaega so that it would steal energy from him and channel it into a nearby object. In this case, the jet."

A beat passed before Kaname asked, "You mean...you think the Reikikaega may have been...pre-programmed to help us stop Naraku's plans?"

Frowning somewhat at the modern phrase, Miroku eventually nodded. "Yes, I think that makes sense. Especially when you consider that the result of this was a large amount of highly-energized metal, perfect for Totosai to make even more weapons out of. Weapons to help us defeat Naraku." Then the monk raised an eyebrow and added, "For that matter, the Reikikaega may have been...pre-programmed, as you say, so as to help transform the crops from the village, making them stronger and healthier than normal. Or at least to offset any damage done to them during the battle."

To make it more likely that the alliance would get what they needed to survive, Kagome realized with a sharp pang. Miroku...he's right. This is all real! We...we all...!

"Alright, Miroku. I admit that this sorta makes sense," InuYasha muttered, sounding very much like Kagome felt; like he didn't want to believe what he was being told, but no longer felt he had a choice. "But even assuming that you're right about all of this, then what makes you think that we're in even more danger than ever?" Pausing to pat his new sword, the half-demon went on with, "We have the Reikikaega and the jet, we can make even new, more powerful weapons, and Naraku not only got nothing, but he also lost Kohaku and Kanna! If anything, I'd say things are looking pretty good right now!"

Buoyed by InuYasha's eternal optimism and determination, Kagome felt an upsurge of hope for a moment. A moment that turned out to be all-too brief when Miroku countered, "Because whoever it was who survived the battle and set the creation of the Reikikaega into motion would have had to spend a considerable amount of time here, in this time, in order to obtain whatever materials Totosai needed in order to create it. The fang of a powerful demon, just to begin with. And perhaps much more." As InuYasha wrinkled his brows, his expression making it clear that he realized Miroku had a point, the monk continued. "In which case, they would have been able to observe the aftermath of Naraku's victory, and what he had planned afterwards. And whatever those plans were, they must have been truly horrible. The Reikikaega is proof of that."

"Hmm? What's that?" Totosai got out, raising an ancient eyebrow at this. "What do you mean?"

"Totosai, you said before that the Reikikaega doesn't share the same limitations as the Tenseiga," Miroku asked in a solemn manner. "That it was designed to be able to revive a person more than once, and do whatever was needed of it, regardless of the consequences?"

"Aye, that's correct," Totosai confirmed. "What are you getting at, young man?"

"Are you saying that things became so...so desperate in that time that the people responsible for the Reikikaega...felt they had no choice but to give it such extreme powers?" Myoga nervously inquired.

"That's right, Myoga," Miroku nodded. "Whatever was happening, those that survived must've felt that giving the Reikikaega such extreme, unrestrained abilities was worth the risk, if it meant stopping Naraku."

"Or it could be because they were grief-stricken as a result of the loss of their friends," Totosai immediately countered. "Grief, sorrow, rage...such things make people do desperate things. Perhaps after losing their friends, those that survived were so determined to prevent them from dying again that they gave the Reikikaega more power than they should have." Lowering his eye bulbous eyes for a moment, the aged blacksmith added, "I know that as well as anyone can."

"I admit, that's a very likely possibility, but that's not all," Miroku returned. "You see, while we were able to defeat Naraku with the Reikikaega, we cannot assume that he came out of this empty-handed. There's still a danger that he was able to get hold of at least some demonic flesh. Nowhere near the amount he wanted, but still some. Perhaps enough for one or more new incarnations. And even if that's not the case, Naraku is bound to realize the danger he is in, with us now in possession of the Reikikaega and the means to create many powerful new weapons to use against him. Making him that much more desperate to tilt the odds back in his favor."

"We know that, Miroku," InuYasha grumbled. "We already figured that Naraku will be after the jet as soon as he can! And probably the Reikikaega, too!"

"Yes, but we should be wary of the things he'd be willing to do in order to lay claim to these things," Miroku reminded them. "As Totosai mentioned, it would be incredibly dangerous for us if people were to learn of the power wielded by the Reikikaega. If it's capabilities were to become common knowledge, we would have to deal with countless new foes, intent on claiming it. And the same almost certainly applies to the jet." Then the monk glanced over at Sango and added, "Don't forget what happened to Sango and her people. All Naraku had to do was inform the local demons that the strongest Demon Slayers of her people would be absent from her fort, and they were quick to attack it en masse. Overwhelming her people utterly."

As these words sank in, Kagome flinched and looked over at the warrior woman. Certainly, there was nothing fanciful about the horrendous tragedy surrounding her and her people. "Then...what now, Miroku?" Sango wondered, taking a step forward. "What do you think we should do?"

"For the moment, all we can do is recover as quickly as we can, so we be ready for whatever Naraku has in store for us, as well as find someplace where we can safely store the jet. In fact -" Cutting himself off, Miroku made a thoughtful expression before saying, "Sango...the Demon Slayers with the alliance were in the midst of making barrier stones to protect themselves and the wolf-demons when we left them, correct?" When the warrior woman promptly nodded, the monk suggested, "Then perhaps you could ask Daisuke to furnish us with barrier stones to help protect the jet. Perhaps even build a secure fortification where it could be kept safe from anyone that would seek to claim it."

Pressing her lips together, Sango considered the matter for a moment. "Maybe. Their resources are stretched pretty thin right now, what with the lack of supplies and establishing the new fort," she reminded them. "But once I explain the situation to Daisuke - if he could see the jet and the Reikikaega for himself, see how powerful they are...then I'm sure he'd help us in any way he can."

"Well, we were planning on telling Daisuke and Koga about the Reikikaega and getting their help in protecting it," Totosai reminded them. "Might as well take care of the jet as well while we're at it."

"And while you're doing that, I can look for a safe place to build a fort while I'm traveling," Miroku intoned with a nod.

As Kagome and the others gave Miroku a blank look, Michiru frowned. "While you're...Miroku, are you going to leave the village?" the Shikigami User asked. "But - they're gonna need you here. To help keep the jet safe."

Turning towards Michiru, his expression hardening just a bit as he looked at his victories rival, Miroku sighed. "I'm afraid that, without my Wind Tunnel, I would not be of much use in protecting either the jet or this village," the monk solemnly confessed. "That's why I planned to go see Master Mushin; to see what is wrong with the Wind Tunnel, and see if the damage done to it can be repaired."

"Master Mushin?" Kaname blankly repeated, glancing about at the others. "Who's that?"

"He's the guy who took care of Miroku after his father died. Consumed by his own Wind Tunnel," Myoga informed Kaname. "He also was a friend of Miroku's grandfather, and has intimate knowledge of the Wind Tunnel curse, and knows it as well as anyone save for Naraku himself can."

"That's right. As I've already said, we need to get back to full strength as soon as possible. Which for me means seeing about my Wind Tunnel," Miroku explained to them. "So, with your permission..."

"Of course, Miroku. Go on ahead," Sango nodded. "In fact...Totosai. While we're on our way to the mountains, perhaps you can drop Miroku off at Master Mushin's shrine?"

"Why, certainly," Totosai nodded. "If Miroku can show us the way, then Momo can get us to where we need to go." Then the ancient weapons maker frowned in thought, "But...if we split off from you, it might take a while for us to track you down at the mountains..."

"Well, maybe Shippo can show you the way," InuYasha promptly suggested.

Looking up in surprise at this suggestion, Shippo gestured at himself, gaping, "Me?!"

"Sure, why not?" InuYasha casually returned. "That way, you can help keep an eye on how things are going up at the mountains when you get there. And you can get even more footage of the Demon Slayers working on their new fort and everything for Wyvern! I'm sure he'd pay a lot for that!"

Kagome found herself glancing over at InuYasha, narrowing her eyes slightly. There was nothing wrong with what he was saying, in and of itself, and she had no doubt that Wyvern would pay top dollar for more footage of demonstrations of the construction methods employed by the Demon Slayers, and perhaps a few samples of their wares. But...why would he suggest that? the modern priestess wondered. It's not like he ever cared about the money, or...

"Well...I guess I could do that!" With that, Shippo turned towards Kagome and asked, "What do you think? Would that be okay, Kagome?"

Taken aback by this, Kagome could only look at her youthful friend for a moment before quickly considering the matter. After a few seconds of examining the matter from every angle and finding nothing wrong with the suggestion, she finally nodded and began writing down another message, which she then showed her little friend. "'Alright, then. Just be sure to take of everything while you're up there for me, okay?' Don't worry, Kagome!" Shippo concluded after reading her message, thumping his chest with his tiny fist. "You can count on me!"

Nodding to this, InuYasha declared, "Well, I'd say we're all set, then." Then he glanced over at Michiru, who still sat at the base of a tree. "What about you, Michiru? You good with this?"

"Yeah," Michiru nodded. "So...let's get going. It's time to put an end to the wolf-demon crisis...so we can get ready for whatever happens next..."

As InuYasha and Kaname nodded in assent, Kagome sighed warily. I just wish I knew for sure if we can be ready...for what the future holds...

Coming next in "Legacy of the Cursed Mask: Battle Across Time"...

"Somebody get Daisuke! Quickly!!" a Demon Slayer shouted as the sounds of battle raged within the fortress. "We're under attack!! The wolf-demons have betrayed us!!"

As Kaname came to the outskirts of Tsuzumi Village, she froze at the sight of the woman before her. She was clearly a priestess, marked as such by her red hakama and white haori. The woman had a bow in hand, and was surrounded by several of the serpentine creatures the Kururugi girl had seen before. But as Kaname stood there, observing the strange priestess, her eyes focused squarely on her terse expression, on the face that wore it.

"Omigosh..." Kaname breathed in surprise, feeling a slight chill run down her spine. "You're...Kikyo, aren't you?"

"I truly do apologize for this. Especially after everything that you have done for me," the samurai intoned as he stood tall against InuYasha, his twin swords in hand and glowing with demonic power. "But...I'm afraid I have no other choice."

"What are you talking about?!" InuYasha irately demanded. "Kurogasa, have you -?!"

"InuYasha, I hereby challenge you to honorable combat! A one-on-one battle!" Kurogasa intoned, his voice hard and serious, leaving no misinterpretation as to his intent. "If you win, I shall surrender my swords to you! But if I win, I will take a piece of the metal bird!"

"Naraku has somehow gotten hold of ten totemic statues representing the Shikigami powers that you and your sister have, boy," Kagura intoned, staring hard at Michiru and Kaname. "He's mastered much of their power, and even worse...he's managed to reclaim the Tokijin, and all the power it now holds."

Laughing manically in the heart of his castle, Naraku watched as the ten statues sent forth their power, connecting with one another to form a massive pentagram that surrounded him and the pot of flesh before him. "Yes, spirits of nature! Combine your powers! Give me your might!!" the foul malignancy commanded, his arms spread out wide to his sides as their power built up above him. "Break the barriers! Summon the power of Seiryu, the Azure Dragon!!"

With a sudden gasp, Kaname found herself falling squarely into InuYasha's arms. Exhaling sharply, sounding as surprised as the girl he now held, the half-demon looked down into the Shikigami User's eyes, with her looking into his in turn.

The moment grew longer, expanding with each second that passed, with their respective heartbeats the loudest things in the world as InuYasha slowly bent closer to Kaname...

"You...filthy...half-blooded freak!!!!" Sesshomaru raged, his eyes overflowing with red as the overwhelming aura of his new sword rippling furiously about him. "You and this entire village will die!! NOW!!"

"Hurry! Get out of the way!!" InuYasha cried out as lightning crackled about his frame. Forcing him to rush forward, the Reikikaega aimed squarely at the girl's heart. "I can't stop myself! Move!!"

But the girl didn't move. She simply stood there, frozen like a deer in the path of an oncoming truck. Allowing InuYasha all the time needed to drive the Reikikaega into her heart.

Just as the wolf-demons were about to rip Kanna to pieces, the mound of earth where Michiru had been buried suddenly exploded in a pillar of magical might. The confounded wolf-demons scattered away, utterly astonished by what they saw rising up before them...

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