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Inuyasha came to a sudden halt, sniffing the air and swiveling his dog-ears in all directions while his eyes scanned the forest around them. The rest of the group came to a stop and looked at him in a funny way. “I smell a dragon,” he stated. This sent a shockwave of worry through the group and Miroku and Sango quickly took up defensive positions while Kagome hurried to prepare her bow.  It was then that Shippo sniffed the air and piped in: “Inuyasha you moron, its smell’s so faint its either really far away or hiding from something, plus its only a half-demon.”

“What was that, runt?!!!” came the reply followed by a flurry of punches to the head that sounded like someone knocking on a door.

Sango instantly snapped to attention, “A half-dragon?!”

“eh?” came the response from the rest of the group.

“We make camp here in this clearing tonight. Set up in the middle and build a gather wood for a fire, stay alert and if you sense any intrusion return to the group immediately.” Sango commanded.

“What the hell are you talking about woman?!” yelled Inuyasha ignoring her glare, “anything that comes for us is gonna hafta get past me, dragon or not. So just shut up and lets keep going.”

“SIT” *thump!* (if you don’t know who said that you are a sad, sad little being indeed)

Kagome stepped daintily over the prostate figure eating dirt before her and addressed her friend, while wondering what a half-dragon would look like, “Sango, what is it about a half-dragon that has you so worried?”

“Unlike with most other types of demon a half dragon is much more powerful than the full blooded version, that plus its almost night fall and the last thing we want to be doing is facing something like that in the dark. So everyone hurry and get to work, we’ll need enough wood to keep the fire going the entire night, I’ll explain more later.”

Later that night the group was gathered around the fire, all with their weapons at the ready. Circling the fire in clockwise order was Sango, then next to her Miroku, then Inuyasha, and then Kagome with Shippo on her lap. Prowling around them in her not-so-cuddly form was Kirara, her twin tails twitching violently as she kept a vigilant watch on the trees around them. The normally gentle fire-cat looked so high strung that the group were afraid to go near her, lest they accidentally get set on fire and torn apart.

Finally Inuyasha couldn’t handle the tension anymore and snapped,

“Alright already, are you gonna tell us what all this panic is about or are we just gonna sit here in silence waiting for the world to end?”

“Obviously none of you have ever encountered this kind of demon before.” Replied Sango.

“I’ve heard of dragons before,” piped in Miroku, “they’re very powerful and have special abilities beyond that of other demons, but they’re also very territorial and lazy, the only attack anything in their other than other dragons for food and are otherwise passive.”

“That is more or less true for the full blooded version but we’re talking about a half-blood, something much more… dangerous.”

“How so?”

“A half dragon, otherwise known as a soul mage, more or less takes on the physical appearance and mentality of its human parent, much like Inuyasha has, from its dragon parent it gains its demon powers: speed, strength and near immortality.  In addition, soul mages use a power that is the negative of the holy power used by monks and priestesses, and their minds are bonded to those around them. It’s this last ability that is key to understanding why they are so dangerous. The “soul binding” as it is called puts incredible stress on its fragile human mind as it is flooded with the mental nightmares of the world around it from the moment it thinks its first thought, this combined with the resulting lack of child innocence or naivety results in the half dragon being driven insane more or less with the first 13 years of its life. Any that survive this without being reduced to a gibbering mass are very rare but very dangerous abilities, especially adept at killing holy men or women.”

“That’s awful!” cried Kagome. Miroku and Shippo could only nod grimly.

Inuyasha sat in sullen silence, he could almost sympathize.  Being a half-demon meant that you were an outcast accepted by neither humans nor demons, and to date it had certainly made his life miserable.  But was he himself just a product of this xenophobia, other people’s issues thrust upon him? Maybe he once had but that had changed since…

“GRRrrrrrrrrrr”

Inuyasha was abruptly pulled from his thoughts by Kirara’s growl, and then he noticed a new scent in the air.

“HE’S HERE!”

Immediately the group sprung into defensive position: backs together, facing outwards with weapons drawn. However there was disappointing and rather anticlimactic lack of movement or sound from the shadows surrounding the range of the fire. They all knew he was there, they just didn’t know exactly where. Then Miroku spoke.

“Hellooo!” he sang in a childish voice.

“Miroku, this is serious!” snapped Sango

“It wasn’t me!” he cried.

“It was me.”

Everyone turned to give him a weird look. He had the half-grin on his face worn only by those who have nothing to lose and wouldn’t at all be bothered if he saw a tree playing a violin, the type of individual whose idle thoughts would cause others to lose sleep. This was the grin worn by someone who sees the world differently to everyone else and is quite happy about it.

“Miroku has agreed to lend me his mouth.”

“No I haven’t!”

“Yes you have. Subconsciously.”

“How?”

“Easy, all I have to do is get you to think about sex and you’re too distracted to resist!”

At this point everyone in the group, including Miroku and even Kirara (who was now looking uncomfortable, a rare sight among cats) dropped a bead of sweat. And our friend the dragon, while not being able to read thoughts directly, sensed the mental equivalent of a resounding group “oooooooooookeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey”.

“Enough! Shut up! Get out of my head!” Miroku screamed as began producing holy seals from the folds of his monk’s robe and slapping them on his face.

“Stop that!” Miroku didn’t stop… he only became more frantic. Suddenly his left arm stopped flailing about and started to move as if not controlled by the body it was attached to. It reached over and grabbed a handful of Sango’s arse. Acting out of reflex she smashed him over the head with her Hiraikotsu, knocking off all the seals and laying him out cold. His mouth, however, still seemed to be able to move, even if his mind wasn’t involved.

“Well I’m glad that worked, now everyone’s happy!”

“Goddamnit!” Sango was unsure as to whom to be angry at.

“You know you’re happy.”

At this point Kagome, who never likes seeing her friends hurt even by each other, stepped in.

“Please,” she pleaded, “just tell us what you want and leave Miroku alone!”

“What do I want?”

“Yes!”

“Well what does everyone want?”

“I don’t know!”

“Strangely enough neither do I. I guess I’m just curious.”

The awkward silence that followed this admission swept through the group like a rabbit on a caffeine high, except not. Then. Lo! There was noise.

“Wow, this guys a real nut job!”

“Shippo!”

But there was no response from Miroku and his mouth seemed to be as inanimate as the rest of his being, happily dreaming of things we won’t go into. Six sets of eyes watched his sleeping form warily, but those who are keeping track of these things will know that the group minus Miroku numbers 5, our Heroes soon caught on to this detail as well and dutifully jumped back and screamed.

“WHAAA!”

The stranger looked about 16 years old, he was about Kagome’s height and skinny as a weed, from the top of his head sprouted a rabid mess of black hair that came down to his jaw line. On the ends of his fingers his fingernails formed short claws, and his death’s head grin displayed unnaturally sharp incisors only slightly longer than the rest. His eyes were a deep red, like blood on snow, and they held slitted pupils, on the skin underneath his left eye was a black, thorn-shaped marking. Rather than clothes as we normally define them, he wore what appeared to be an amalgamated mass of black rags, belt’s and wrappings that looked like an impossible cross between flowing robe and skin tight ninja suit. In dog terms as seen by Inuyasha, the soul mage would have held a special place in his litter: runt.

“My name is Tenshii.”

“Inuyasha.”

“Kagome.”

“Sango.”

“Shippo.”

*meow*

Thus having made their introductions, and at a loss as to what else they should do; Inuyasha, Sango and Kirara attacked.  One instant the half-dragon was there about to be torn to shreds, the next he wasn’t.  The fact was that Tenshii was extremely fast, the kind of fast usually associated with a Doppler effect. So Kirara was somewhat surprised to find her intended victim behind her.  Tenshii moved his hands in an intricate gesture that resulted in a dark greed glow in the air which traveled forth like an aimed shockwave, tearing up the ground as it passed and striking Kirara mid-turn. To her it felt like being shot by 20 nailguns at the same time and had roughly the same effect, she was hurled through a nearby tree and into the one behind it where she slumped to the ground bleeding from a dozen wounds. In response Sango hurled her Hiraikotsu, but Tenshii deftly avoided the giant flying death and loosed another spell.  Sango was lifted about a meter into the air by the unseen energies that made reality crackle and shatter around her.  The “crucible” spell held her rigid and levitated for about a second and a half before disappearing entirely and dropping, limp as a rag doll and feeling like a piñata.  Now it was Inuyasha’s turn. The two danced back and forth in a blur, Inuyasha’s demonic speed allowing him to better engage his swift opponent. It soon occurred to him that that although the half-dragon had superior speed, he was relatively weak for a demon. (It should be noted that “weak for a demon” is defined as not being able to uproot a tree with your bare hands, Tenshii was still strong enough to lift a fully grown man with one claw and throw him across a standard sized hall).  While Inuyasha was busy assessing his enemies strengths and weaknesses, his enemy saw and opening and slashed a deep gash into Inuyasha’s shoulder. ‘Ok weak muscles, sharp claws, nice trade off.’ Inuyasha was not known for registering pain.  He responded with a full body tackle, which knocked Tenshii straight into the path of Kagome’s sacred seal arrow (the one no demon had been able to stop so far). Tenshii raised his hands and extended them palm forward. The glowing projectile stopped just before them and flared as its strained against the invisible barrier, Tenshii pushed back and the arrow flickered out and dropped uselessly. Kagome was dumbfounded, Inuyasha pounced. Just before he impacted, Tenshii opened his fist and a ball of fire blossomed from his palm and struck Inuyasha like a sledgehammer to the face. It was one of Tenshii’s favorite spells: Ifrit’s Fist. Kagome prepared another arrow, but the soul mage was gone…

In Keade’s village, at Keade’s hut. It was at that stage where the wounds are just finishing being treated and the questions are just about to be asked.

“It never ceases to amaze me how fast Inuyasha heals himself. Look, his eyebrows have almost grown back.” Intoned Keade in her in her wise old priestess voice, “By the way, you wouldn’t mind telling me what happened would you?”

“We were attacked… I think.” Kagome said uncertainly, “It’s all really very confusing actually. It was this weedy looking half dragon demon with a barb marking under his left eye.”

“Tenshii?!”

“Yes! How did you know?”

Keade sagged and released her breath slowly as she bought back old memories.

“He came to this village as a child a few years after Inuyasha and Kikkyo killed each other.  That incident was still fresh in the eyes of the elders at the time and they were wary about accepting another half-demon, but they took him in the hopes that he could be controlled. It worked and soon we two became close friends.  After about ten years the head elder, to whom Tenshii had sworn himself, died and soon after he disappeared. It was only after that we realized that when the head elder had died, Tenshii had been released from his pledge. I haven’t seen him in 34 years.”

“What! Are you saying you’re friends with that bastard?”

“Inuyasha! Be still or be ‘sat’!”

“Feh!”

“That’s not the end of it. Just before you got here I performed a ritual to reveal the location of any demons in this area. What I got instead was a flood of emotions: fear, confusion, anger, loneliness, and a brief image of the elder’s burial shrine. Now I realize that it must have been mental feed back from Tenshii’s soul binding.”

“What does that mean?”

“He’s coming home.”