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Life Imitates Art: The Virus

This is a scene from the film V For Vendetta released in 2005, based on a graphic novel written by Alan Moore in the 1980s.

00:03:00
Local Broker Reacts To Squatter's Agent

I finally get to react to a JP Sears Video! This is is based on the Squatter's Agent post

00:13:08
A Conversation With A Former Lesbian

This is a shorter version of a longer discussion.

Ingrid shares her personal experience and road to redemption. Lastly, we touch about the role of church and how it should improve to deal with the increasing cases of people struggling with identity confusion.

00:59:52
TSC: The Many Musical Film Scores Of Batman

In this edition of The Soundtrack Corner, I highlight the various themes composed for The Batman over the decades!

Films Highlighted:

  • Batman 1966
  • Batman 1989
  • Batman & Robin
  • Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm
  • Batman Begins
  • Dawn Of Justice
  • The Lego Batman Movie
  • The Batman
TSC: The Many Musical Film Scores Of Batman
TSC: The Top 5 Film Scores Of 2020

In this edition of The Soundtrack Corner, my coverage of the Top Film and TV scores from 2010-2020 comes to a close.

TSC: The Top 5 Film Scores Of 2020
The Unholy Man

The Unholy Man

The Unholy Man
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi

Watch #13hours with commentary by one of the heroes and survivors of #Benghazi Boon and former CIA targeted stationed there Sarah. You won’t find this commentary anywhere else! Exclusively on #rumble

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Why is Google burying my Unplugged Phone coverage? Some have been out for weeks and have way more views than other channels recently posting.

Exclusive Content Coming Soon To Locals!

There are lots of things in the works I'm excited to bring to Locals! Some are dropping sooner than others.

1) The Soundtrack Corner is returning with never-before heard content and new content in production!
2) Livestreams exclusive to Locals!
3) My never-before read teleplay for Teen Titans: Season 6 will publish here and on Substack! This is a work of fan fiction I wrote two decades ago.
4) This is the big one: The audiobook versions of The Many Misadventures Of Enoch Bellagio starting with Finding Love: But Not Really!

Stay tuned!

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Inuyasha: The Final Chapters
Epilogue

Toto-sai stared at the luscious green field and flower beds that was once a dark ruin.  Nature’s changing seasons eliminated all traces of Naraku’s destruction.  It’s been several of years since that final confrontation with the wicked demon.  Toto-sai reminisced of the life-changing event.  No one walked away the same.  He signaled to his trusty flying bull to carrying them to their destination.  After sometime, Toto-sai arrived at Lady Kaede’s village.  There children laughed and played.  Lady Kaede was much older and moved slower now, but she was happy to awake each morning knowing that her village, and the children at play will never have to worry about Naraku again.

 

              A teenage Kohaku practiced sword play out on the fields with a friend. Both of them were strengthening their skills as demon slayers.  Naraku, the worst demon of all, was gone, but demons remained on the land.  Lady Kaede’s village became a place desperate villagers turned to for help to exorcize demons.  This became good business for the village.  The head slayers were Miroku and Sango.  Miroku though was the main slayer.  Sango had other matters to tend to.

 

              Two toddler twin girls tugged at Lady Kaede’s skirt begging to come out of the porch to watch them run around outside.  Lady Kaede struggled to move at the little girls’ pace.  Sango came out of the house to help Lady Kaede.  She told the little girls to go play.  She told them that grandma Kaede would be there.  Lady Kaede braced herself on Sango’s arm, and placed another hand on Sango’s stomach unable to resist the urge to feel the child growing inside Sango.  The twin girls called out to Lady Kaede and their mother Sango as both of the girls ran in circles.  The women laughed at the little girls’ sport.

 

              A shadow appeared behind Sango and Lady Kaede.  The women turned to the approaching Sesshomaru followed by Jaken, Aun, and Kagura.  Sesshomaru came by to check up on Rin.  Lady Kaede pointed to the field where Rin was practicing sword play with Kohaku.  Sesshomaru cracked a smile.  He extended a small sack of silver for Lady Kaede.  Lady Kaede always refused his offer, but Sesshomaru likewise always insisted.  Sesshomaru took his leave with group and left to continue their travels helping others in need along the way.

 

              Sango and Lady Kaede sat on a wicker bench on the grass taking in the scenes of children playing.  For a moment, Sango thought of her husband Miroku.  She tried not to be so concerned about his safety.  After all, Miroku was exorcizing demons along with the aid of Shippo now a much more mature, and strong fox demon. 

 

There were times a large flying creature would pass over the village.  Members of the village rushed out each time hoping to catch a glimpse of a dragon and perhaps Raygan.  After the confrontation with Naraku, Raygan and Akemi parted ways hoping to one day return.  Sango only hoped to meet her friends again, but she also understood the responsibilities Raygan and Akemi had back on the mainland.  Right now, Sango truly missed more than anyone Kagome and Inuyasha.  Ever since Inuyasha transformed, the rest of the events that followed happened so quickly she never felt she properly said farewell to them.  She just hoped that they are well wherever it was they were.

 

*******

 

              Kagome looked at her watch.  Her class was only minutes from being excused.  She was in her last year of studies at Tokyo University.  Kagome would soon transfer to a medical school more focused on her field.  Becoming a doctor was a long road.  Finally, class was dismissed.  Some of the classmates wished her a good day.  She waved them goodbye and walked to the courtyard of the campus.  She proceeded to the adjacent public park to meet someone.  There on one of the picnic tables having lunch was a man intently pouring over papers trying to make sense of them.  Kagome approached him and asked if she can be of assistance.  He nodded and made space for her next to him.  Kagome looked over the papers.  It was an application to enter into law enforcement.  She looked at the black-haired, sharp-eyed man.  She smiled at him and kissed her fiancé.

 

              “You want to be a police officer?” she asked him.

 

              “What else can I do that will give me some action?  Traffic guards are boring.  Firefighters sit and wait.  I want to move!” he replied.

 

              “Oh, Inuyasha,” she laughed looking over the documents. “Ever the restless one.  I’ll help you fill this out.”

 

              The two lovers sat the picnic table in the beautiful, peaceful park in the middle of the one of the largest cities in world.  Here, no one worried so much about demons.  It was more civilized.  There was more to do and more to see, in a way.  Inuyasha took a couple of years to adjusting to life here especially as a human.  But he loved Kagome.  He wanted to be with her at all costs even if that meant leaving behind the only life he knew.  She was his world.  He choose to be human for her and returned with her to this industrialized world.  The well that connected both the old and new worlds collapsed shortly after they returned to Tokyo.  Though it was hard for both of them to be free from that past, they settled into their new life.  Kagome showed Inuyasha everything that needed to be known about the culture, engineering, science, and medicinal advances.  Of course she also showed him all sorts of foods.  Inuyasha learned to be at peace, and it was the food that he much preferred compared to the Feudal Era.  But in the midst of all this, it was Kagome.  She made it worth the choice, and he was glad he choose her.  His friends in the other time did not have to worry about the dangers of the jewel.  He wished them all well and a healthy life.  Especially for Koga.  He did end up marrying Ayame after all and became the new wolf clan leader.  Differences aside, they all made a great team when their support mattered most.

 

 

              Kagome pulled out an apple and took a bite out of it while looking over the application.  Inuyasha asked her if she was hungry.  Kagome told him she skipped lunch to finish up a paper.  Inuyasha took the application off her hands and put it in her backpack.  He got her backpack and books then said, “Let’s go eat.”  Kagome asked where.  “Let’s go to that ramen place!” Inuyasha responded excitedly.  He did not mind that he just finished a bowl of instant noodles.  He was always up for ramen.  Kagome got up and hugged his arm as they walked to the noodle restaurant.  “I’m craving a Coke too,” Inuyasha added.  Kagome laughed.  The paired walked away from the park enjoying each other’s company.

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Inuyasha: Chapter 12 - Part 2
The Final Confrontation

  Koga and Ayame fought off demons as s well-choreographed team.  Koga, aided by the Jewel shards in his legs, surrounded demons in a whirlwind.  Ayame twirled in the air slicing demons caught in the whirlwind.  The wolf pack tore up the small demons.  Ginta and Hakkaku took down demons like amateur fighters.  They did not notice Kanna sneak up behind them with a newly minted soul-sucking mirror.

              By the time Koga stopped running to warn Ginta and Hakkaku it was too late.  Ginta’s and Hakkaku’s souls were sucked into Kanna’s mirror.  Their eye pupils dilated to mostly white.  They hunched over as puppets. 

              “No, Ginta!  Hakkaku!” cried Ayame.

              “They can’t hear us, Ayame,” stated Koga.  “We know what to do to get them back!  I won’t let Naraku take my best friends from me as he did my clan!”

              Koga and Ayame engaged the demons swarming them.

*******

              Sesshomaru simply swiped his sword dispatching each advancing demon wave.  Kagura waved her fan blowing demons away.  Jaken stayed safely behind Sesshomaru’s cover.

              Inuyasha slashed and hacked away at demons as Miroku fought with his sword and staff.  Kagome repelled a wave or two of demons with her sacred arrows from atop of Kirara only when she needed to. Hachie and Shippo bounced all over the place knocking demons off their balance.  They all fought hard but there were just an overwhelming number of demons.  The waves seemed endless.  Miroku analyzed the situation and concluded to use his wind tunnel.  As he was removing the beads off his cursed hand, the buzz from the poison bees came over him.  He looked up frowning at the presence of the poisonous insects casually floating over all the action.  Miroku could not use his wind tunnel to his advantage.  He had no choice but to fight on.

              Inuyasha wiped out another wave of demons with Tessaiga.  He growled as another wave rushed at him.  Damn these are too many! He complained to himself.  “Naraku!” Inuyasha called out.  “We’re here already! You going to let your minions do the fighting for you, you coward?!” Inuyasha taunted the wicked demon.

              “As you wish, half demon,” Naraku’s voice echoed loudly over all the action.

              A giant creature with spider-like features crash-landed behind Sesshomaru and Kagura.  Jaken screamed his head off calling Sesshomaru’s attention to the wicked demon.  Kagura retreated at the sight of him.  Naraku finally emerged.  His first target was Kagura.  Sesshomaru got between Naraku and Kagura.

              “You finally come out of hiding, Naraku,” said Sesshomaru calm and coolly.

              “Dog demon,” Naraku spoke in distorted multiple voices.  “Do not come between me and my prey!” he eyed a frightened Kagura.

              “My business is with you, Naraku,” Sesshomaru responded lifting his blade Toukijin.

              Naraku smiled wickedly exposing his sharp fangs.  He immediately lunged at Sesshomaru without warning, but Sesshomaru dodged the attack with his super speed.  Sesshomaru struck Naraku on the back with his sword to little effect.  Angered that his sword was not Inuyasha’s Tessaiga, Sesshomaru realized his fight with Naraku would come down to using the claws on his right hand.  Naraku quickly swung around taking advantage of Sesshomaru’s momentary distraction, severed Sesshomaru’s right fingers, and broke his sword Toukijin.  Jaken rushed to his Master’s aid but was frightened away by the monstrous Naraku. 

Kagura unleashed wind strikes against Naraku drawing his attention to her.  Naraku sped at her while Kagura leaped out of the way striking at him again.  Naraku, however, was increasingly gaining speed.  He twirled at Kagura gashing her on her abdomen.  Kagura collapsed on the ground trying to pressure her wound.  Naraku loomed over her for the killing blow when the Tessaiga’s wind scar tore through him.  Naraku flew backwards.  Inuyasha charged followed closely by Miroku. 

Kagome rushed over to Kagura to check on her.  The wound was serious.  Kagome dipped into her arrow pouch to pull out First Aid ointments and bandages.  Kagura resisted assistance at first then accepted.

              Inuyasha faced off against Naraku.  He stared down the wicked demon.  Naraku was so focused intently on Inuyasha that he did not see Koga rushing at Naraku at full speed.  The wolf demon ripped off a couple of Naraku’s appendages sending sharp pains up Naraku’s spine.  The demon shrieked.  Inuyasha struck again.  Miroku threw demon seals at Naraku burning him wherever the seals made contact.  Naraku whipped out tentacle extensions from his body flaying them wildly at his attackers.  Koga dodged a few whips, but lost his balance over a boulder and tripped.  Naraku quickly picked him up by his legs and pulled him in closer to him.  Koga could not break free from Naraku’s grip.  Koga could only watch as Naraku used his pincers to dig out the jewel shards from Koga’s legs.  Koga screamed in pain. 

An arrow struck one of Naraku’s pincers forcing him to release Koga.  Kikyo reemerged.  Miroku rushed over to help Koga get clear of Naraku.  Kikyo released another arrow at the retreating Naraku.  Naraku dodged the arrow only to be struck by Inuyasha’s blade. Kagome joined the assault on Naraku releasing a sacred arrow at him but missing her target.

“Kagome,” Inuyasha yelled.  “Save your arrows for a better shot!  We have to slow him down first!”

              Kagome understood.  She ran over to tend to Koga’s wounds.  Miroku joined the fight against Naraku still unable to use his wind tunnel.

*******

              Jaken lamented his Master’s wounds.  The only thing Jaken could do was keep the charging demons away from Sesshomaru.  Toto-sai arrived to examine Sesshomaru.  By now Sesshomaru regenerated his fingers, but it was his heart he could not heal.  As powerful a demon as he was, Sesshomaru could still not understand why his father would deprive him of his right to the most powerful of the fang-forged swords: Tessaiga.  Inuyasha was wielding it.  It was Sesshomaru’s fight with Inuyasha that cost him his left arm.  At this very moment, Sesshomaru felt worthless, angry, and full of hate.  Toto-sai did not mind Sesshomaru’s emotions.  Instead, he focused on the broken sword.

              “I can re-forge this sword for you, Sesshomaru,” offered Toto-sai referring to his blacksmith abilities.

              “That sword is useless,” Sesshomaru rejected the offer.  “I need the Tessaiga in order to fight Naraku.”

              “Sesshomaru, you realize your father had other intentions and plans for you and brother,” Toto-sai tried to reason with him.  “The paths you and brother both took after receiving the swords have served you both on your journeys.  Do you not see it was destined to be this way?”

              Jaken noticed Sesshomaru did not care to hear Toto-sai’s point, but Jaken understood Toto-sai and felt compelled to support Toto-sai’s argument.  “Master Sesshomaru, if I may interject,” Jaken said humbly and nervously.  “Master Toto-sai makes a good point.  I realize that had you not received Tensaiga, Rin would not be here today.”

              Rin. Sesshomaru reminisced of the little human girl he resurrected.  He did not have compassion for humans back then, but the little girl took to caring for him.  Over time, Sesshomaru grew to care for Rin like a daughter.  Now he cannot imagine a world without her. Rin, I hope you are safe.  “Thank you, Jaken,” Sesshomaru’s reply shocked Jaken.  “Master Toto-sai, I now understand your point.  That does not change the fact that my weapons are too weak to fight Naraku.”

              “I know of a sword equally as powerful as the Tessaiga.  More so even.”

              “There’s no time to go on the hunt for a mythical sword,” Jaken stated the obvious.

              Toto-sai asked Myoga to fetch him one of Sesshomaru’s severed fingers.  “This, Sesshomaru,” Toto-sai held the clawed finger.

              “That is not a sword, Toto-sai,” Sesshomaru rebuffed.

              Toto-sai shook his head.  “The sword has been a part of you this whole time.  You just have not been able to wield it.  I believe now you are ready to use it.”  Toto-sai took a deep breath then breathed fire onto the severed finger.  Jaken shielded his sight from the bright flame.  Toto-sai handed the finger back to Myoga.  “Myoga, give this to Sesshomaru.”

              Myoga bounced over to Sesshomaru.  Sesshomaru reluctantly held out his hand.

              “No, Myoga.  Put it in his left shoulder,” instructed Toto-sai.

              Myoga murmured something under his breath then proceeded as Toto-sai instructed.  Myoga put the severed finger in Sesshomaru’s shoulder.  Not instantly but Sesshomaru felt a burning sensation on his left shoulder.  At first he thought it was the finger that was hot, but the sensation continued into his collar bone and down his spine.  He gripped his shoulder in pain.  Jaken demanded to know what harm Toto-sai was doing to Sesshomaru.  Toto-sai only watched silently.  Sesshomaru struggled, panted, and then exclaimed in pain as his left arm regenerated.  Out of his newly reformed wrist his old sword Bakusaiga emerged.  Sesshomaru panted and sweated heavily.  His eyes widened in disbelief at what just happened.

              “Master Sesshomaru, your arm!” Jaken was shocked too.  “Your sword!”

              “How?” Sesshomaru could not hide his emotions.

              “It is because you finally let go of your jealousy and intentions to steal the Tessaiga,” explained Toto-sai.  “You were so consumed by the sword, you were unable to be grateful for the gifts from your father.  Now that you have realized his gift to you, you have received his ultimate blessing: your arm and powerful sword!”

              Sesshomaru admired his restored arm and blade one more time before turning in direction of those fighting Naraku.  Sesshomaru now had the power to vanquish Naraku.

*******

              Ayame had little choice.  She had to help Koga, but she could not abandon Ginta and Hakkaku like this.  Kanna was hiding somewhere in the swarm of demons.  Without any clear sight of her, Ayame could not free her friends.  She ordered the wolf pack to go to Koga as she fought the onslaught of demons in search of Kanna.  Shippo and Hachie came over to give her a lift.  Ayame hopped on Hachie to get a better view.  From above Ayame could see Inuyasha, Kikyo, and Miroku battling Naraku.  Off to the left of that action, Kagome and the arriving wolf pack defended the wounded Koga.  Sesshomaru, Jaken, and Toto-sai were nearby too being surrounded by another swarm of demons.  Still no sign of Kanna, but Ayame spotted Kagura gliding away from the action.  A loud crack drew Ayame attention to the rear.  There she saw Sango dodging Kohaku’s attack while throwing her Hiraikotsu at demons.  Kirara ripped into demons attacking Sango from the rear.  Ayame was torn between helping Sango and helping Koga.

              “Take me to Koga then come back to help Sango!’ Ayame ordered.

              Hachie and Shippo quickly glided to Koga, dropped Ayame off, and flew back to aid Sango.

              Sango continued her frantic dodging and counter strikes.  She was exhausted but kept trying to get through to Kohaku.

              “Don’t you know that he won’t remember you unless Naraku is destroyed?” Kagura approached Sango.  “There’s nothing you can do for him right now except to remove the jewel shard he carries.”

              “But he’ll die!” shouted Sango angrily.

              “What choice do you have? Your friends are attacking Naraku right now.  Will you stop them from killing Naraku?”

              Kohaku stood still between Sango and Kagura.  Their voices had a familiar sound to Kohaku.  Something inside of him was trying to speak to him, but Naraku’s voice spoke loudly in his head instructing him to kill Sango and Kagura.  Kohaku tightened his grip on his cleaver.  Kagura and Sango waited for him to make a move.  Kohaku first threw his cleaver at Kagura.  She avoided the hit but fell hard on the ground holding her stomach.  Kohaku retracted his weapon, twirled it, and flung it at Sango.  Kagura took this opportunity to blow both Sango and Kohaku off their feet.  Sango fell among a hoard of demons forcing her to fight her way out.  Kohaku lay on the ground face down slow to get up.  Kagura hurried over in pain to Kohaku.  She pinned Kohaku to ground and tried to pry the jewel shard out of Kohaku’s neck.  Her stomached cramped in pain.  Kohaku hardly reacted to Kagura’s sharp nails digging in the back of his neck.  She could feel the shard.  She needed it to heal faster and become stronger to battle Naraku.  She finally pinched it and picked the shard out.  Kohaku’s blood dripped off her hand.  She placed it inside the gash Naraku made.  Immediately she started to feel a burning sensation.  The wound began to heal.  Her eyes turned red. She could feel some of her demon powers return.  Kagura grinned.  She got up off the motionless Kohaku.  Just when she was about to abandon the boy for Naraku, she spotted Kanna. 

              You die first! She said to herself.  Kagura ran up to Kanna slashing her fan sending powerful, piercing wind gusts at Kanna.  Kanna could not counter the powerful strike.  Kagura came down on Kanna and smashed her mirror.  Ginta’s and Hakkaku’s souls returned to them. They shook off their hypnosis and remembered what they were in the middle of.  They fought their way through to rejoin Ayame and Koga. 

Kagura grabbed Kanna by the throat.  “Finally, I get rid of you, you little brat!”  Kagura threw Kanna in the air and chopped her up with her fan.

Sango and Kirara finally got through the demon hoard to find Kagura floating away to battle Naraku, and Kohaku on the ground motionless.  She rushed over to him, held him in her arms with tears running down her cheeks.  Kohaku was dying.  In his last moments, he could recall Sango being a nice lady he met some time ago, but he could not remember that she was his sister.  He closed his eyes and died.  Sango lamented loudly as the demon hoard closed in on her.

*******

              Koga got up fighting back the pain in his calves.  Ayame and Kagome tried to get him to fall back, but Koga’s ego got the better of him.  “I can’t let women do all the fighting for me!”  He drew his sword and charged at a demon.  For a long time Koga was used to running at blazing speeds thanks to the jewel shards.  Now he was having a hard time jogging.  Koga felt crippled.  It only made him angrier.  He chopped and slashed at demons expressing his frustration at the loss of the jewel shards.

              Kagome saw Kagura flying on her feather to join the action against Naraku.  She leaped off near the epic battle.  Kikyo was using up her arrows hitting different appendages on Naraku each time.  Inuyasha swung and cut while Miroku repelled with his staff.  Naraku kept regenerating after every injury.  Kagura was determined to slow Naraku down and blow the insects away. She summoned the wind to clear the demons and insects away.  Without her full demon powers, she was not able to get the poisonous bees away. 

              Naraku turned to Kagura.  She stared him down.  Naraku summoned a deeper strength within him to lunge at Kagura faster than he usually moved.  Kagura did not expect such a quick, sudden move.  Naraku’s incredible speed caught Kagura off guard.  He extended his tentacles and wrapped them around her arms, legs, and neck and began to stretch her.

              “So you thought a jewel shard could give you the strength to face me?” Naraku detected the shard in her previous wound.  “Thank you for bringing it back to me!”

              Kagura’s eyes widened.  He stretched her beyond her reach and used his sharp fangs to dig into her midsection.  Kagura screamed helplessly.  The others only watched in shock as Naraku carried out his vengeance on his traitor.  Naraku finally chewed off her shard and swallowed it.  Kagura blacked out.  Naraku tossed her like a rag away from the field to be food for his demons.  The jewel shard Naraku recovered and swallowed only made him stronger. He laughed wickedly as the others looked on with weariness and exhaustion.  Luckily, Kagura’s efforts to clear the field allowed for Kagome to take a clear shot at Naraku.

              A sacred arrow tore through Naraku’s side.  He wailed liked a banshee reacting to the pain.  Inuyasha used the wind scar again but it just was not making enough damage against Naraku.  Just then a larger, stronger, smashing flash tore through the ground at Naraku.  Naraku was knocked off balance with a third of his body being maimed and burned.  Everyone turned in direction of Sesshomaru standing there with his restored arm and sword.

              “Sesshomaru?” Inuyasha was shocked.  “You got your Bakusaiga back!”

              Sesshomaru moved his head just enough to be considered a nod.  “Let’s end this,” said Sesshomaru.

              Everyone raised their weapons and attacked the retreating Naraku.  There was no place for the wicked demon to run or hide.  If he dodged the wind scar, he would get pelted with arrows, or demon seals, or a sacred arrow, or take a direct hit from Sesshomaru’s Bakusaiga.  For the first time since he betrayed his thieving friends as Onigumo, Naraku felt afraid.

*******

              Kirara kept fighting demons off Sango.  Sango would just not let go of her dead brother.  She lost her will to fight and purpose to live.  Revenge for her family and desire to rescue her brother were her motivation to get here.  Both of those things have been taken away from her.  Sango looked up at the faces of the demons trying to get her and Kohaku.  Kirara could not hold them off much longer, but Sango did not care.  She kept thinking about Kagura and Naraku.  There was still time to get revenge.  She wiped away her tears, got her weapons and cleared the demons surrounding her in one swoop.  Sango placed Kohaku’s body on Kirara and ordered Kirara to fly to safety.  Sango realized she could still honor her brother by giving him a proper burial.  The funeral, however, had to be put on hold.  She had a date with destiny.  Sango cleared the demons and threw her boomerang at Naraku’s back.  The impact of the powerful boomerang paralyzed Naraku giving the others a chance to hit him with everything they had.

              “Sango!” called Kagome.  “I’m glad you’re okay!”

              “Kohaku’s dead,” she replied in anger.  “I’m going to kill Naraku here and now!”

*******

              While just about everyone else was engaging Naraku, Kagura lay on the ground staring at the dark skies.  Demons were almost on her.  Poison bees covered the skies.  She was dying.  She could go any moment.  Her hope was to pass away before the demons gorged on her.  Kagura never envision her end would be this one: wounded, broken, and alone.  She continued staring at the sky coughing blood.  Everything was getting dimmer.  She had only one more wish left before dying.  But she knew wishes do not come true.  Getting her heart from Naraku only made her life more difficult.  Now here she was paying for that decision.  She sobbed quietly as the growling demons came onto her.

              Suddenly, a powerful wind picked up.  It was so strong the poison bees were blown away.  The demons then startled at the sound of a loud roar that shook the earth.  Kagura tried to stay conscious to see what was causing the stir.  A ninja dressed in dark yellow armor appeared throwing ninja stars at the demons nearing Kagura and slashing them away with her sword.

              Meanwhile, the rest of the group tried not to be distracted by the strange happening.  They refused to let Naraku out of their sight.  Each and every attacker took calculated hits at Naraku making him move slower and slower with each direct hit.  Naraku was feeling it inside:  his end was near.  If this indeed was going to final stand, he would make sure to take at least one of Inuyasha’s precious friends with him.  Naraku eyed Kagome.  Inuyasha immediately read Naraku’s intention.  Inuyasha scrambled to attack from a different position that would protect Kagome from a swift move by Naraku.  And that’s what Naraku counted on: Inuyasha’s love for Kagome.  Naraku faked an attempt at Kagome and instead jumped at and ran his pincers through Kikyo pinning her to the ground.

              “Kikyo!” shouted Inuyasha.  He got on Naraku’s back stabbing him repeatedly.  The others tried to take a hit but could not while Inuyasha was on Naraku.

              Naraku’s jerked at every stab of the Tessaiga.  He tried to get Inuyasha off him.  The others got ready for an opportunity to attack Naraku when sudden hail fire came down engulfing insects and demons.  The dark valley quickly lit up looking more hellish with the raining fire.  Once again a loud roar shook the ground and surrounding mountains.  Raygan had arrived with an army of dragons to wipe out the demons and insects.

              Inuyasha immediately knew what to do.  “Sesshomaru, take your strike!”

              Sesshomaru did not hesitate.  He could care less if he hit Inuyasha anyway.  Sesshomaru struck Naraku disabling him.  Inuyasha used the wind scar to further damage Naraku’s open wounds.

              “Now, Kagome!” shouted Inuyasha.  Kagome took careful aim at Naraku’s heart and fired a sacred arrow at her intended target.  Bull’s eye.  The wolf pack charged the severed remains to prevent Naraku from regenerating faster.  Inuyasha and Sesshomaru both struck down the Tessaiga and Bakusaiga using the combined power of their swords to finish off Naraku.  Both were direct hits.  “Now, Miroku!” Inuyasha ordered.

              Miroku removed the beads from his cursed hand.  This is for you, father. “Wind Tunnel!”  Miroku held on as he sucked Naraku and his remains into the void. 

              Naraku anchored himself to the ground holding on for dear life.  Miroku strained to hold the wind tunnel open.  The cursed hole on his hand got bigger.  Sango watched with concern as the wind tunnel grew so much it might even take Miroku too.  Kagome encouraged Miroku to hang on.  Sango took her boomerang and launched it at Naraku’s spider legs severing them all.  Naraku’s screamed in terror as he and his severed limbs were sucked towards the void.  Before Naraku could be fully consumed by the wind tunnel, Kagome threw a sacred arrow at a necklace on Naraku’s chest pulling out the Shikon Jewel.  Naraku wailed one last time as he was sucked into the void.  Miroku closed his hand with difficulty.  His garments were soaked in sweat.  The wind tunnel curse was gone.  A cramping sensation hurt his right arm.  He pulled back the sleeve to see that his arm had turned black.  Naraku’s poison immediately took effect.  Miroku collapsed seizing on the ground.

              Kagome, Shippo, and Hachie ran to him immediately, but Sango got to him first.  She dropped to her knees to check on him.  Miroku gagged.  Black blood oozed from his nose.  Sango could not take it anymore.  She had just finished watching Kohaku die without properly saying “goodbye”.  She did not want Miroku to die, but it seemed inevitable.  She needed him to know how she felt.  Sango just could not find the words.  She only kept repeating “Miroku, please don’t die!”

              Inuyasha darted the other direction to Kikyo.  Inuyasha picked up Kikyo and held her in his arms.  He worst fears were realized.  Kikyo was dying.  He was going to lose her again and this time forever.  At this moment, Inuyasha did not have the strength to say anything.  He looked into her eyes and wept.  Kikyo cried too.

              On the other side of the field, Akemi just vanquished some of the remaining demons with the help of Dragon.  As soon as the last demon she slew was confirmed dead, she hurried over to Kagura with healing ointments.  Raygan arrived too to treat her.  Kagura recognized his dark blue armor through her blurry vision.  Raygan! She forced a smile.  Raygan and Akemi treated her wounds, but they knew it was too late for Kagura.  Raygan turned to look at Kagura.  He did not need to say anything.  Kagura was well aware of her fate.  She smiled at the sight of Raygan.  It was not love she felt.  It was appreciation.  Raygan was the first being to ever look beyond all of Kagura’s wrongs.  And here, at her end, Raygan, after all the ways she wronged him and deceived him, was there for her.  Kagura felt better.  This was the way she wished to go.  She was not alone.  Raygan and Akemi stayed by her side as Kagura shed a tear and breathed her last breath.

*******

“Inu-yasha,” Kikyo finally say weakly.  “Inu-yasha?”

              “I’m . . . here,” he had a lump in his throat.

              “This is good-bye, Inu-yasha,” she said.

              “No, I don’t want it to be!”

              “Inuyasha,” she repeated his name.  “We were . . . not meant to be.  Search your heart.  You know . . . your true desire, your true love.  Let me go,” her tears flowed.  “Just keep the promise you made me years ago.”  Kikyo was happy to spend her last moments with him, but she also knew that the person that held Inuyasha’s heart was standing behind him.  Kikyo’s undead spirit only got in the way.  Even if she had survived the battle, there was nothing to stop her from disappearing from the earth.  For a long time now her outer shell has relied on souls of the newly dead to stay “alive”.  Now, with Naraku finally vanquished, she could let go of this world and leave other souls at peace.  Kikyo tried to make Inuyasha understand, but he was too emotional to admit she was right.  His tears fell on her face.  “Inu-yasha, thank you,” Kikyo kissed Inuyasha then dissolved into dozens of orbs.  The souls of the dead she trapped in her soul were free.  The others that watched stood in awe of the unexpected light show.  Inuyasha stayed on his knees weeping for Kikyo.

              Kagome was torn between tending to Inuyasha and being with Miroku.  She just stood there.  Heartbroken.

*******

              Sango looked into Miroku’s darkening eyes.  “Miroku,” she whispered his name.  “Stay with me, please!  Don’t leave me.  I love you.  I’ve loved you for a long time!  I couldn’t tell you before.  I didn’t know how.  You always seemed rude and ungrateful, but I knew, and I know.  I know you tried to talk to me many times about this,” Sango’s tears dripped off Miroku’s face.  “I love you, Miroku!” she finally broke down and wept bitterly.  All the emotions she bottled up inside, everything she ever felt just came out as heartfelt sorrow.  A hand touched her on the shoulder.  Sango tried not to look, but Raygan insisted.  Sango stared up at him surprised to see him.  Raygan asked for some room.  Akemi embraced Sango to comfort her.  Raygan took out the healing potion he could not get in time to save his sister.  This time it was soon enough for Miroku.  Raygan gave some of the elixir to Miroku.  A few seconds later he gasped and coughed.  Shippo and Hachie cheered.  Sango overwhelmed with joy.  Raygan got up giving space for Sango to be with him.

              “San-go,” Miroku coughed. 

              “I’m here,” she cried joyfully.

              “Will you – will you -” he struggled to finish the sentence. “Will you bear my children?” Sango kissed Miroku.  He took that as a “yes”.

              Kagome was grateful to Raygan and Akemi for their help in a nick of time.  She was still mourning for Inuyasha.  It was not jealously.  It was sadness.  She knew how much Kikyo meant to Inuyasha, and what Naraku did to tear them apart.  Still, she too loved Inuyasha.  She just was not sure if Inuyasha felt the same way.

              Toto-sai carried the rest of the Shikon Jewel to Kagome and handed it to her.  Kagome held the incomplete jewel in her hand.  She took out the rest of the shards from her arrow pouch.  She completed the puzzle fitting each shard into place.  The purple jewel gleamed brightly.  At long last, the Shikon No Tama was whole and in possession of its rightful owner.

*******

              Ginta and Hakkaku flanked Koga as he tried to walk.  Ayame and the wolf pack came too to reunite with the others to celebrate the bittersweet conclusion.  Sango and Miroku, Shippo, Hachie laughed with joy as they reunited with their wolf clan friends.  Raygan and Akemi exchanged introductions with the new friends. Kirara hopped onto Sango’s shoulder.

              “Sango?” a faint voice interrupted the jubilee.  Everyone turned to the voice.  Sango pushed through those that blocked her view of Kohaku. 

              “But, how?” Sango wondered how her dead brother was now alive and remembering her.  With Naraku now dead, Kohaku’s memories surely returned to him, but how could Kohaku come back to life?  Sango raced to embrace her little brother.  He buried his head on her shoulder thankful the nightmare was finally over. Sango peered over her shoulder and noticed someone walking far away in the distance.  Sesshomaru?

*******

              “Are you bringing her back to life too, Master Sesshomaru?” Jaken asked him.

              Sesshomaru stared at Kagura’s mutilated body.  He pondered to himself for a moment.  Jaken figured Sesshomaru would do the right thing and revive her.

              “Come, Jaken,” ordered Sesshomaru.

              Jaken was taken back.  “Um, Master Sesshomaru, I thought you intended to save her.”

              Sesshomaru walked away.

              “Perhaps you might reconsider,” Raygan approached them.  “Lord Sesshomaru, I am glad to see you well.” Raygan noticed Sesshomaru’s restored arm.  “I know you owe me nothing.  I, however, am indebted to you for saving the life of my dragon.  I would be remised if I did not plead for her life.  I, in fact, would not be standing here without her.”

              Sesshomaru looked back at Kagura’s body.  “You perhaps do not understand how it is that my sword is able to revive the dead.  It requires consent of my heart.”

              “I suppose you mean to not have any pity on Kagura?” concluded Raygan.

              “No,” Sesshomaru paused then continued. “That is not it.  I do, but if I revive her . . .”

              Jaken understood now.  Jaken has noticed why on several occasions Sesshomaru behaved colder or stranger than usual with Kagura.  It was not that he hated her.  It was that Sesshomaru has or had feeling for Kagura.  Now it all made sense to Jaken.  If he lets Kagura go, Sesshomaru does not have to be connected to someone else.  Sesshomaru already felt compromised with saving Rin.  He had to reconsider any decision that might put Rin in harm’s way.  He could not bear to lose her.  If Sesshomaru revives Kagura now, it would only give another opportunity for him and Kagura to grow their feelings, and then one day, Sesshomaru would have to say goodbye to Kagura when nature takes its course.  Sesshomaru is not one to express emotion, but Jaken has been around him long enough to know that Sesshomaru was and is a complicated demon.  He does not speak about his feelings, but perhaps it was time to give love a chance to grow.

              “Master Sesshomaru,” Jaken interjected.  “I now understand.  I can only advise you, Lord Sesshomaru, to follow your heart.”

              Sesshomaru fought himself inside for a while and finally came to a decision.

*******

Kagome finally got the courage to walk up to Inuyasha.  “Inuyasha?” He did not immediately respond.  She sat next to him.  “Inuyasha, are you going to be okay?”

“Kagome…” Inuyasha’s voice trailed off.

“I’m sorry about Kikyo,” Kagome too lamented her loss.

“She was long gone, Kagome,” he continued staring at the ground.  “I just – I just waited so long for this moment. Now I don’t know what to do. Or what I want…”

Kagome pulled out the Shikon Jewel.  “Are you referring to this?”

Inuyasha’s eyes gleamed.  The Shikon Jewel.  Here now in its entirety.  The jewel with the power to give its possessor whatever they desire.  Long had Inuyasha wanted the jewel for himself.  All his life he was always put down for being a half breed.  The jewel was his way of fixing that.  Over the years, Inuyasha changed his mind for why he wanted the jewel multiple times.  Now here is the jewel.  He asked her what she intends to do with the completed jewel.

“Honestly, I have no need for it.  You’re the person I know that has wanted this the most over anyone.  I’m willing to give it to you, Inuyasha,” she looked at him with caring eyes.  “But depending on what you decide, it will also affect my choice too.”

“What do you mean, Kagome?  What choice?”

“I have my own world and time to go to, Inuyasha,” Kagome did not try to let her attachment to Inuyasha get the better of her.

“Regardless of what I choose to do with the jewel, why the heck would you even want to stay here in this place?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” she teased.

Inuyasha nodded slightly.  “Me . . . too …” his voice trailed off.

“Inuyasha, I do love you,” Kagome finally confessed what everyone else knew.  “But I cannot tell you what to do with the jewel.  I give it to you to do as you please.”

“If I become a full demon, you can stay here in the Feudal Era and become a priestess, Kagome!” Inuyasha explained.

Kagome smiled then looked away in direction of the rising sun.  The orange glow growing in the sky was erasing away the longest night of their lives. “I don’t know, Inuyasha.  I have a whole other life waiting for me.”  A thought crossed Kagome’s mind about what Inuyasha said, but perhaps that’s what Inuyasha wanted: to be reconnected with Kikyo in some way.  By becoming a priestess, he was in a way getting to be with “Kikyo”.  Kagome is, or was, after all, the supposed reincarnated Kikyo.  Kagome did not like the idea even if the decision meant for her to be with Inuyasha.  Kagome was her own person with her own life and other world.  If Inuyasha was going to make a choice, it would have to be for Kagome or for himself.

Inuyasha stared intently at the Shikon Jewel.  There was a long silence between the two of them.

With the exception of Sesshomaru and Jaken, the rest of the survivors along with Raygan and Akemi gathered near the couple.  Neither of them had to ask what was going on.  They all knew this was the moment the path all of them had been on would bring them to.  Though there are members of the group that wished for the Shikon Jewel to be their own, Inuyasha had the right to it because of Kagome.  The group awaited Inuyasha’s decision of what to use the jewel for.  Once he made his choice, there would be no going back and the jewel would be dissolved forever.  The saga of the jewel shard hunt could never be repeated again.

Inuyasha finally stood up and turned to the group with Kagome at his side.  He had finally reached his decision.  Inuyasha brought the jewel towards his chest, made his wish, and absorbed the jewel into his body.  The power of the Shikon Jewel was being manifested.  It shined brightly forcing everyone to turn away as Inuyasha was transformed.  Inuyasha’s wish had been granted and the Shikon No Tama was no more.

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Inuyasha: Chapter 12 - Part 1
The Final Confrontation

Each of Naraku’s enemies have followed the scent of that evil demon.  The scent has led them to the last secret location of Naraku’s fortress.  In the last battle with Naraku, Inuyasha broke through barrier and fatally wounded Naraku.  Naraku disappeared and lay dormant in a cave deceiving a powerful priest into creating a barrier around his cave that would purify any demon that would try to come near.  Secretly, he was healing himself and trying to rid of the human heart of Onigumo.  Though he almost got rid of the heart, he was forced out of hiding and to relocate his fortress as soon as his powers permitted.  Naraku is still not fully restored.  In order to become more powerful he requires the entire Jewel of Four Souls.  With his human and half-demon enemies containing much of the rest of the shards, Naraku devised a trap to lure them in so that he can collect the remaining shards. 

              The barrier around his fortress was weakened.  His enemies took the bait.  Though his wind sorceress betrayed him, he still has the great ability to create more incarnations of himself to destroy his enemies.  His trap, however, would have to be more elaborate. 

              Destiny has been delayed for over fifty years.  The completion of the Shikon no Tama is at hand.  Naraku trusted in his own strength believing that at the end of the day he would possess the whole Sacred Jewel.

              Kohaku, Naraku’s possessed boy, has a shard buried in his flesh keeping him alive and enslaved to Naraku’s will. Koga the Wolf Demon has two shards in his legs. Kagome carries the rest of the shard pieces Naraku needs.

*******

              Inuyasha led the party consisting of Kagome, Sango, Miroku, Shippo, Kirara, and Koga.  Following behind at a distance were the exhausted Ginta and Hakkaku from Koga’s wolf clan. Further behind them were Toto-sai, Myoga, and Hachie.

              “Keep up, lazies!” ordered Koga to his wolf clan.

              Inuyasha cringed just at any time Koga opened his boisterous mouth.  He shrugged off his annoyance of Koga and focused on following the scent of Naraku.

              The ghastly weather made it difficult to see the distance.  Clusters of trees appeared in the purple fog as they continued on their way.  The clusters became more frequent and denser.  Eventually, they found themselves in a labyrinth of trees thick and thin.  The scent kept getting stronger as they got nearer, but the route became more difficult.

              “Which way do we go?” asked Kagome.  “We could be lost in this forest for days.”

              “No problem,” Inuyasha withdrew his Tessaiga.  “We’ll make a way!”  He lifted the mighty sword.  “Wind scar!”  The trees parted like the Red Sea.  “See? Naraku is going to have to do better than that to slow us down!”

              The party followed Inuyasha.  Every several yards he used the Tessaiga to cut a new path through the increasingly dense forest.

*******

              “I don’t know what to make of this,” exclaimed Ayame.

              A pack of wolves accompanied Ayame as she approached the dense forest following the scent of Naraku. The closely packed trees formed a sort of maze she had to navigate through.  The wolves stayed close to her keeping alert while she looked for passages to squeeze through. She gasped at the sound of a trees cracking and breaking.  For a moment she was alarmed, but then she picked up the scent of Inuyasha and Koga.  The wolves panted with excitement to see Koga again.

              Ayame and the wolves pressed through the thick forest following the familiar scents and the loud explosion sounds.

*******

              Inuyasha was determined to get to Naraku, but all the slashing was making him tired and fast.

              “Perhaps we might to able to glide over the tree, Inuyasha,” Miroku suggested the obvious.

              “That fog is too thick and the trees are tall,” Sango warned.  “It looks too risky and we can’t all be carried. Besides, the miasma still looks very thick up there.”

              “Damn, Naraku’s teases!” declared Koga.  “Can’t face us directly. Got to make things complicated.  No matter.  I’ll lead us now,” he turned to Inuyasha.  “You can rest, pup.  I got this!”

              Inuyasha frowned.  The rest of the group followed Koga’s lead.  Toto-sai, Myoga, and Hachie lingered.  The deeper they entered the forest the more afraid they grew.  A new scent and a few twig snaps startled Hachie.  Myoga quickly proceeded to hide in Toto-sai’s cloak.

              Koga and the others stopped too at the sound of the rustling nearby.

              Everyone released a sigh of relief at the sight of Ayame and her wolves.  Everyone except Koga.

              “Ayame! What are you doing here?” Koga asked looking shocked.

              “I’m here to help battle Naraku!” stated Ayame. 

              After a few formalities the group continued their journey through the tree maze.  Ayame and the other girls caught up with their exploits since their last meeting.  Koga walked at lead cringing his teeth.  All he thought about was how Kagome might get the wrong impression about him and Ayame.  In this case, Kagome would be right.  Koga is very insecure about marrying a female as strong-willed as Ayame.  She is his equal in nearly every way from bravery to good looks.

              Why did she have to appear now? Koga wondered. She has always followed me never giving me room to myself, always pretending to be in love. Okay, so we are betrothed to marry. That was not my doing! It was all arranged. Father said she is the best for me. Ha! What does he know? He wasn’t with her as long as I have been. I need a woman that’s relaxed like Kagome. Ayame is too, too strong willed. She’s brave enough to fight her own battles. Not that I’m complaining but it’s nice to be the stronger one! Well, I am the stronger one no matter what! And I got the shards of Shikon Jewel in me to make me that much stronger! Sigh, why do I feel as if I’m just rambling –

              Koga walked right into a tree. The rest of the group gave him puzzled stares. Koga growled, made up a fib as to why slamming into the tree was necessary for him to navigate through the forest, and then continued to cut left leading them through the forest

*******

              The somewhat watery reflection of the traveling party rippled from center to edge on Kanna’s mirror.  Naraku studied the party.  Quite of few of them have gathered thus far.  He knew more where on the way.  The demonic forest maze would keep Inuyasha and the others occupied until Naraku lured the rest of his prey.

              The demon kept looking at the mirror.  Though he was expressionless on the surface, inside his human shell there was a swelling of something he had not felt before: nervousness.  The ever powerful, the ever elusive Naraku deceived, killed, betrayed, possessed, and destroyed anything and everything to get ahead, to be one step closer to his goal of eternal immortality without any of his “human” weakness. This time, Onigumo’s beating heart got the better of him.  What he was feeling were the early steps of anxiety.  All of his enemies would soon be at his temporary hideout.  Naraku had already vowed to fight them all.  His slowly deteriorating powers need the whole Shikon Jewel in order to be not only powerful yet again, but the most powerful demon.

              The distorted figures on the mirror shifted to show a priestess walking alone.  As the priestess neared the dense forest she paused knowing she was being watched.  Slithery dark creatures carrying bright orbs drew near to her.  As they got near the orbs disappeared into the priestess’ body then ventured away in a hurry.  The priestess remained motionless then looked in the direction of the viewer of the mirror.  Naraku was startled for a moment. The priestess glared as if trying to burn a hole through the unseen stalker.  She then walked into the forest and faded from the mirror.

              “Kanna,” the evil demon stared out of the window of his dark quarters.  “Have you done as I instructed?”  Kanna nodded.  “Good.  Let me be.” 

Kanna left the room.  Faint rays of moonlight pierced through the fading miasma touching Naraku’s face.  The darkness in the room was not enough to hide the drop of sweat from Naraku’s brow.

*******

              The soft breeze brushed Kagura’s hair to the side.  The wind sorceress has been staring at the pond for what seems like an eternity.  In her heart she knows that Naraku has sinister motives for why he would he would lift the barrier of protection off of his hiding place.  Her heart was warning her to go and help those that helped her.  For a moment she regretted having a heart or else this would not be a conflict.  The irony.  There she stood staring at the body of water trying to create an image, an image of her life without troubles, stress, and responsibility.  She was free to choose how to live her life.  So why now does her heart weigh the choice of returning to Naraku, the sinister devil she has been trying to escape from all her life?

              Damn you, Naraku!  Will I ever be rid of you?

*******

              Sesshomaru proceeded through the twists and turns the strange forest made.

              “Lord Sesshomaru, there is something definitely strange about this forest,” analyzed Jaken as they navigated the forest.  “These trees seem to be watching us.”

              Nothing deterred Sesshomaru. He was focused on facing Naraku, though, he could not help but also think of Rin’s safety.  He did not want to second guess his decision to leave her with Aun.  Sesshomaru is no fool.  He is well aware that Naraku is devising an elaborate trap for all who come.  Still, Sesshomaru could not, or would not, miss this opportunity to face Naraku again.  He pressed on with Jaken in tow.

*******

Kikyo examined the paths between the trees.  There were many different foot prints going in all different directions.  She figured the trees moved forcing certain travelers to take different directions.

Naraku, you are playing with your enemies again, she thought.  Or perhaps you are delaying.  But why?

A few more soul eaters brought her souls of the freshly departed to Kikyo.  An unease came over her.  She was not certain if her soul carriers will be able to come through the deeper she ventured into the forest.  Her outer shell depends on the souls of the recently deceased to stay “alive”.  Without more souls to sustain her, she could very well die before seeing this through.  Understanding the risk, Kikyo proceeded anyway. Her desire for revenge far outweighed her livelihood.

*******

              Kagura stared at the open barrier.  All along the way there she kept rhetorically asking herself why she was there.

              This is ridiculous!  I should leave before it’s too late.  Her eyes stared intensely in direction of Naraku’s castle.  She clenched her fist over her hand.  Her heart raced.  I suppose this is what it means to have a heart. . . She crossed the barrier into the demonic forest.  I better live to regret this!

              Kagura looked down and follow what appeared to be freshly made footprints.

*******

              Kanna stood on the balcony of Naraku’s fortress.  She looked out in direction of the forest maze Naraku made for his enemies.  The view from the fortress was obscured by the evening mist and the miasma fog.  Kanna felt nothing.  She did not feel hate or sadness.  She did not feel happiness or joy.  She was not sure how she should react over the imminent encounter.  No matter.  She was prepared to perform her duty per Naraku’s instructions.

              The miasma started to lift.  The demon forest was visible now.  Kanna could see the trees rustling without wind.  Suddenly, many of the trees starting shifting moving into another formation like soldiers called into attention.  Naraku approached Kanna on the balcony.

              “It is time, Kanna.  Go to the field and meet them,” he instructed.

              Kanna slightly bowed and left.  Kohaku was already in position.  Naraku preceded to meditate.  Something – or things – began to move and shift under his flesh.  Naraku opened his mouth to let out a yell.  The sound was that of dozens of distorted banshee cries.  A dozen large spider legs branched out from underneath him.  His arms ripped into large crab-like pinchers.  His body turned into that of a large lion.  His eyes burned red.  His teeth sharpened and nostrils smoked.  He licked his lips with a reptile tongue.  Naraku was now battle ready.

*******

              Inuyasha and the group drew weapons and took a defensive formation as the trees continued to clear a path.  The trees thumped and creaked and rustled their branches and leaves.  As the trees retreated from the valley, the other travelers were revealed to the group. 

              “Sesshomaru, what the hell are you doing here?” Inuyasha cringed at the sight of his brother.

              Sesshomaru and Jaken calmly approached Inuyasha, Kagome, and the others.

              “Seriously, what are you doing here?” pressed Inuyasha.

              “I could ask the same of you, Inuyasha, but we both know the answer,” Sesshomaru answered.

              “You came here for Naraku too?” asked Kagome.  “Then this is great news!  We can all work together!”  Kagome was giddy over the fact that Inuyasha and Sesshomaru will work together for once instead of against one another.

              “Whatever!” snapped Inuyasha.  “We don’t need your help!  Get lost, Sesshomaru!”

              Koga tried to intervene, but Sesshomaru was obviously the more intimidating of the dog demons.  He figured it best not to get between the sibling rivalry.

              “Inuyasha,” Sesshomaru stared coldly at his brother.  “I’m here for Naraku, not you.  Let’s settle our differences some other time.  Now, Jaken and I will be on our way to his castle.”

              Inuyasha boiled, but before he reacted boldly, he froze at the sight of another forest wonderer: Kikyo.

              Kagome gasped.  Sango, Miroku, and Shippo were equally shocked to see Kikyo again.

              Oh, no!  Kagome thought jealously.  Inuyasha, please don’t lose your focus!  I know you still have feelings for her, but now is not to time to deal with it!

              But it was too late.  Inuyasha wasted no time speeding past his brother to rush over to Kikyo.

              The rest of the crowd just stood there not sure of what to do next.

              “This is awkward,” Koga finally broke the silence.  He approached Sesshomaru to introduce himself.  “Sesshomaru, I’m Koga.  I must admit, you look nothing like your brother.”

              “You will address him as Lord Sesshomaru, wolf demon!” interjected Jaken.

              “Hey, relax.  I’m just trying to make friends here,” Koga replied.

              “Lord Sesshomaru does not have friends.  He does not need any.  And he does not need any of you to help him against Naraku!” Jaken spoke loudly.

              Sesshomaru motioned to Jaken to be silent.  Kagome looked away from Inuyasha for a moment to speak for the group to Sesshomaru.

              “Master Sesshomaru, believe me, it is good to see you in a time like this,” Kagome said humbly.  “I don’t think it’s a coincidence we meet here like this.  We don’t have a choice in all this.  We must all face Naraku together.”

              “Yeah,” Sango stepped forward.  “It’s obvious he brought us all here.  He’s not careless.”

              “Naraku is sly and calculative,” contributed Miroku.  “He wants us all to be here.”

              “It’s his end game,” concluded Koga.  “Let’s make him sorry for messing with us!”

              Sesshomaru did not react, but Jaken knew the adventurers got their point through to Sesshomaru.

*******

              Inuyasha stopped short of Kikyo.  Kikyo stared straight at him without a reaction.

              “Kikyo,” Inuyasha was not sure if he should take another step forward.

              Inuyasha could not say more.  There was so much he wanted to say, so many thoughts on his mind.  He tried to find the words to tell her that he thought of her every day.  He wanted her to know how much he still cared about Kikyo, and how she’s the only one standing in between him and Kagome.  Inuyasha wanted to tell her how bad he wants to kill Naraku for ruining their relationship.  But he could not say anything.  Years of conflict, memories, emotions in between their last meeting.  There was just no way to say it all in a few sentences.

              “Inuyasha,” whispered Kikyo finally.

              Inuyasha could not hide his emotions.  Kikyo stared straight into his eyes.  All the emotions he had bottled up were forming as tears in his eyes.

              “Inuyasha, I am not here for you,” she said.  “I’m here for Naraku.”

              “Kikyo, I – that’s what I am here for too…”

              “We have both come a long way to get here.  Let’s not interfere with our revenge now.”

              “Kikyo, right now, I want nothing more than to be with you as we teach Naraku a lesson he will never forget!”

              A soul carrier arrived with another soul for Kikyo.  Inuyasha noticed there was only one soul carrier.

              “Kikyo, have you noticed your other soul carriers aren’t around?  They probably can’t get through here!”  Kikyo just stood there.  Inuyasha realized Kikyo was well aware of this risk.  “Kikyo!” Inuyasha grabbed her arms.  “Please don’t do this!”

              “I’m not leaving Inuyasha.”

              “But I don’t want to lose you again!” Inuyasha stared at her intently.  “This time you’ll be gone forever.”

              “Inuyasha,” Kikyo looked away from him.  “I been dead for a long time now.  I know this body is nothing more than a shell.  I still feel – something.  Of the very few emotions I can experience, I still feel for you,” she closed her eyes.  “I knew the risks coming here.  I did not know you would be here.  Still, I cannot stop now.  Naraku must be destroyed.  I want to kill him for taking away my happiness.”  Kikyo opened her eyes to meet Inuyasha’s.  “You were my happiness, Inuyasha.  I wanted to live the rest of my life with you peacefully.  Before I died and since I was resurrected, you and I have not been able to be at peace.  I’ve come to realize the fact that maybe we were just never meant to be.”

              “Don’t say that!” a tear streaked down Inuyasha’s cheek.

              “Inuyasha, this is the first time I’ve seen you cry,” Kikyo searched his face.  “Please listen to me.  We used to be close, but we also hardly knew each other.  We have to put that aside for now so we can be undeterred when facing our enemy.”

              Inuyasha did not understand that Kikyo was literally breaking apart inside.  She wanted to have him now that they met, but once again, it’s Naraku that stands in between them.  Inuyasha let her arms go and motioned her to join the rest of the group.

*******

              Kagome fought back tears.  She knew that Inuyasha harbored feelings for Kikyo after all this time.  She finally understood that Kikyo was the one standing between her and Inuyasha.  As angry as that made her feel, she could not blame Kikyo.  Or Inuyasha.  Right now, she tried to put that behind her to focus on the task before them all.

              Inuyasha guided Kikyo before the group.  Koga, Ayame, and the rest of the wolf pack introduced themselves.  Toto-sai, Myoga, and Hachie greeted her.  Kagome, Sango, Miroku, and Shippo welcomed her.  Sesshomaru and Jaken just spectated.

              Before they all got comfortable, a voice called out to them all to get their attention.  The entire crowd turned to face the source of the voice.  Kagura stood before them.

              “Before any of you try anything brash, let me inform you that I am here for the same reason you all are: Naraku,” she announced to the unconvinced crowd.  “Let me be honest with you.  I don’t care if any of you live or die.  I only care about killing Naraku.”

              “I think she’s telling the truth,” Koga admitted.

              “She is telling the truth,” Sesshomaru shocked everyone with the fact that he said something.  “Kagura, you are finally prepared to face Naraku, I see.”

              “Yes, Lord Sesshomaru.  I got tired of running and flying,” Kagura approached.

              “Just because you’re now an enemy of our enemy doesn’t make us friends,” Inuyasha shouted.

              Kagura made clear that she had no intention of being anyone’s friend.  What she did not say was that she was there for Raygan.  She actually felt a bit relieved that Raygan was not there.  But she still wanted to see him again.  One last time.

              “Enough with the small talk,” Kagura said firmly.  “We all took Naraku’s bait.  He’s going to make his move any moment now.  The trees have all cleared the field, or should I say killing field.  Lucky for us, we don’t need to reach his castle to face him.  That’s where our luck ends.

              “Well, alright then! Let’s do this!” Inuyasha commanded.

              Koga was about to argue his authority to Inuyasha, but Ayame horse-collared him.  “Just let it go,” she said.

              Inuyasha looked like a battalion leader.  He lead the entire group consisting of Kagome, Sango, Miroku, Shippo, Kirara, Toto-sai, Myoga, Hachie, Koga, Ayame, Ginta, Hakkaku, the wolf pack, Sesshomaru, Jaken, Kikyo, and Kagura.

              Naraku, you think you’re smart, but the dumbest thing you ever could have done was to get us all together at the same time! Inuyasha thought confidently they will be victorious.

*******

              The miasma was lifted.  The moon shone on the dark green valley below.  The trees stood at a distance like spectators in an arena.  Atop a plateau on the mountains ahead was a gothic structure.  No light came from it. Little would it matter.  Naraku was not intending to let the approaching travelers near the fortress.  He would meet them in the valley below.

Naraku was all Inuyasha could smell.  The scent only got stronger as they continued their cautious route to the fortress.  It came from all around them.  With the exception of the apparent rocky terrain up ahead, the walk seemed relatively smooth.  That’s what worried Inuyasha.  Just then a small refracted light up ahead caught the group’s attention stopping them on their tracks.

“What is it?” asked Miroku.

“It’s Kanna,” responded Kagura from the rear of the group with some concern. 

“She’s hiding behind one of those rocks,” pointed Ayame.

Kagura frowned.  Damn it! “Those aren’t rocks!”  Everyone turned to her.  Kagura kept staring in Kanna’s direction.  “Those are bodies.”

              “What do you mean, Kagura?” asked Kagome.

              “You know how you’ve come across a lot of villages destroyed by Naraku’s incarnations?  Did you ever wonder why you never found any survivors?” she pointed her fan in direction of the “rocks”.  “There they are.  The survivors.”

              “They all look dead to me,” analyzed Koga.

              The light refracted again.  This time the “rocks” started moving.  The bodies of the recently asleep got up slowly with weapons in hand.  Men, women, children stood up all under Naraku’s spell.  They stood hunched over like puppets.  Kanna was in the midst of them holding her mirror.  She motioned for them to attack the intruding party.  The zombie army shuffled and shift towards Inuyasha and the others.

              The group armed themselves.  Inuyasha raised his Tessaiga prepared to unleash the Wind Scar on the approaching army.  Kagome quickly rushed over to stop him.

              “No, Inuyasha!” Kagome ordered.  “Those people are still alive.”

              “Kagome, they’re going to kill us!” Inuyasha replied.

              “We can’t just kill them, Inuyasha,” she pleaded then turned to Kagura.  “Kagura, is there any way we can free these people?”

              “Well, you’ll have to kill Naraku, of course,” she replied coldly.  “But really, all of these souls are trapped in Kanna’s mirror.  You’ll have to destroy her mirror to free them.”

              “It’s worth a try,” said Miroku.

              “Are you guys nuts?” exclaimed Inuyasha.

              “I’m with Mutt Face on this one,” concurred Koga.  “There’s too many of them to get to Kanna unscathed.”

              “I didn’t come here to save anyone. I’m here for Naraku,” stated Kagura.

              Kagome continued to plead for the lives of the nearing attackers.  During all the arguing, Kagome did not realize that Sesshomaru had already gone ahead against the zombie army.  After Shippo pointed out to the crowd that Sesshomaru had already engaged the army, Kagome turned and watched in horror as Sesshomaru hacked his way through.  Kagura quickly followed releasing her wind blades on the attackers slicing and dicing them.

              Kagome cried.

              Sesshomaru – along with Jaken – and Kagura were being quickly surrounded.  Meanwhile, the large hoard was almost upon the rest of the group.  Inuyasha cringed.  They had to attack now.

              “We’re out of time!” Inuyasha prepared to engage.

              Miroku drew his staff.  “Spare their lives if you can!” Miroku announced.

              The rest of them nodded in agreement and attacked.  Koga quickly smashed through the attackers knocking them to the ground.  Ginta, Hakkaku, and the rest of the wolf pack struggled but neutralized a few.  Ayame leaped over attackers and moved to trip them from behind.  Sango and Miroku clashed weapons but never struck to seriously wound.  Kirara tipped enemies over.  Inuyasha knocked out members with the butt and sides of his sword.

              Shippo, Hachie, Toto-sai, and Myoga tried to comfort the weeping Kagome but were not sure how.  Kagome then thought of an idea.  It was so brilliant in her mind that she quickly composed and geared herself up. 

              “I need all your help,” she told her comforters.  They awaited her instructions.  “Hachie, I need you to carry me over the army to Kanna.  Toto-sai, you and Myoga can help me look for her.  Once we find her, we can destroy her mirror and end this!”

              “What can I do, Kagome?” asked Shippo eager to help.

              “If I can’t hit Kanna’s mirror from above, I’ll have to try from the ground.  That’s where I need you all to help me clear the area – without seriously hurting anyone.”

              Shippo was a bit concerned of actually engaging the army, but he agreed with the idea.  Immediately, Hachie transformed into a decent sized blimp for Kagome and Shippo.  Myoga rode along with Toto-sai on his flying bull.  They all floated over the battle scene searching for the wicked child with the mirror.

              In all the action and excitement, no one noticed Kikyo had gone missing.  No one except Inuyasha.

              Kikyo? He searched around the chaos.  “Kagome!” Inuyasha spotted Hachie and Toto-sai floating off in the distance.

*******

              “Do you see anything over there?” shouted Kagome to Toto-sai and Myoga.

              Both shook their heads.

              “Kagome,” Shippo quivered as he looked down at the hundreds and hundreds of zombies below.  “Do you think there are any people down there with arrows?”  Just then an arrow flew past his head.  Shippo yelped.

              “I saw a light down there!” Toto-sai pointed with his staff.

              Kagome peered over from Hachie in search of something.  All she could see were endless swarms of zombie villagers attacking.  Finally, she spotted someone standing still with a mirror in her hand.  It was Kanna.  Kagome drew an arrow against her bow and aimed it at Kanna hoping to hit the mirror.  She did not have enough arrows to take many chances so she had to make them count.  She readied, aimed, and released the arrow upon seeing a small glimmer in Kanna’s hand.  The arrow flew past Kanna and hit the ground.  Kagome did not want to chance wasting another arrow.  She needed most of them for Naraku.  Kagome ordered Hachie to land them near Kanna.

              “Uh, Kagome, how can I?” Hachie was scared but right.  There were too many villagers around Kanna.

              Shippo was sweating bullets but finally built the courage to take action.  He jumped off Hachie.  Kagome called out to him.  Toto-sai and Myoga watched with disbelief as Shippo fell onto the hoard of villagers.  Before reaching the ground, Shippo transformed into a giant ball roughly the size of young adult, and started bouncing villagers away to clear room for Kagome.  Inspired by Shippo heroics, Toto-sai floated down to head level, took a deep breath, and scared villagers away with his fire breath.  Myoga leaped off Toto-sai onto a zombie villager.  Myoga the flea stung the villager on the neck and briefly paralyzed him.  Myoga proceeded to the next villager.

              Hachie too was inspired by Shippo’s bravery.  He landed in the clearing Shippo made and dropped off Kagome to go join the fight.  Kagome, bow in hand and arrows on her back pouch, darted towards Kanna as Shippo and crew cleared the path for her.  When Kanna was in view, Kagome immediately drew another arrow, aimed it carefully, and released it shattering Kanna’s mirror.

              The normally quiet and expressionless Kanna gasped at the loss of her mirror.  Hundreds of orbs with comet tails burst out of the shattered glass into the air.  Those villagers that were still alive either wounded or unharmed, received their souls.  Their demeanor quickly changed.  They stood erect and shook their heads waking up from a terrible nightmare.  Inuyasha, Sesshomaru, Kagura and the others stopped their attack as the zombie assault drew to a halt.  Some villagers that came through sooner quickly gasped in fear at the sight of the demons Sesshomaru, Kagura, Koga, and Inuyasha.  Those villagers immediately scattered.  Those that were slow to go or wake were informed by Miroku and Sango of what just happened, and advised the villagers to clear the area quickly.  Ayame ordered the wolf pack to help usher away the villagers.  Those villagers that were strong and able, carried away the wounded.  Some of the deceased loved ones were carried too while most remained on the field.

              As the hundreds of villagers raced away from the area, Inuyasha and the attacking party caught the sight of Kagome and her group of adventurers that just saved the villagers and their companions.  For a moment Inuyasha stared at Kagome in a way he had never seen her before.  Normally, Inuyasha would be the one doing the saving or taking the initiative.  Here, everyone witnessed a different Kagome.  A stronger and braver girl than that which always sought the aid and protection from others, namely Inuyasha.  Kagome? He was awestruck.

              “Kagome!” shouted Inuyasha.  “Are you okay?”

              “I’m fine, but Kanna is getting away!” she replied.

              Inuyasha and the rest of the party hustled to join her and the others.  Sesshomaru continued at his calm pace unwavering.  Jaken followed his master closely.

              “I wonder what Naraku has in store for us next,” wondered Miroku out loud.

              “I really wish you wouldn’t have said that!” said Sango.

              Kanna did not get far.  She knew she could not reach the castle in time to save herself.  A voice inside her told her to stop and face them.  She did as the voice instructed.  Before her, the traveling party finally approached her ready to strike. 

              Then the ground rumbled.

              Inuyasha and the rest of the party stopped on their tracks just feet from Kanna.  Mounds were forming on the ground.  Something, or some things, were forming and coming from underground.  More and more mounds appeared all over the place.  The strong stench of Naraku filled the air.  This time more dense.

              Naraku’s demons! Figured Inuyasha.

              The mounds finally reached their peak.  Bursting from atop of the mounds were demons of all sorts, colors, and sizes.  Each emerged with either multiple heads, multiple appendages, wings, an odd number of eyes, or a combination of each.  All targeted the intruding party.

              “Now this is more like it!” Koga said excitedly.  “No holding back now!  Let’s get these suckers!”

              No one argued otherwise.  The group readied their weapons and attacked the charging demons hoard ferociously.

*******

              Demons were hacked, sliced, stabbed, jabbed, crushed, or maimed among other things.  The battle seemed to be going well so far for the adventurers Sango thought as she tore into a demon with her sword.  When she dispatched the demon, a cleaver tied to a chain wrapped itself around her sword.  As she turned to draw her sword from her attacker, she stared eye to eye with Kohaku, her zombie brother.  Sango froze.  She knew this moment had to come.  She had been preparing for it for a long time, but no preparation could change how she felt.  At this moment, she was torn between continuing the fight to help her friends, or just dropping her weapons and weeping bitterly.  Sango’s eyes filled with tears both of anger and sadness.  Her little brother.  The last surviving member of her family.  Her flesh and blood was standing in front of her with dead eyes.  Kohaku faced her sister but did not recognize or remember her.  Naraku had his memories locked away.  Kohaku retrieved his cleaver on his chain line, then twirled it for his next strike against Sango.

              “Kohaku!  My brother!  It’s your sister Sango! Please don’t do this!” Sango cried.

              Kohaku attacked.  Sango blocked.  He continued his attacked.  Sango would only defend not counter.

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