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The Angry Spirits of the Forest - (10 Parts)


Niceguy

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I've been on a bit of a break from writing, but I managed to finish this one, just before going on hiatus. Right off, I want to give loads of credit to KawaiiKitty for working with me on this, doing quite a few really wonderfull illustrations. (So even if you don't care for the story, please stick around and check out the art!) This was truly a joint effort and she really deserves a ton of credit for the work she put into it.

Thanks KK! I had a great time working on this!

(And is there a way to insert an image and not have the 80% rescale applied? If anyone know how, pleae PM me.)

One more thing - slightly smaller props to J.R.R.Tolkien and Michael Ende. I lifted a little dialog from both The Two Towers and The Neverending Story (the movie, not the book!) that I found rather fitting. (Or you could just say I stole the idea, but I'd like to consider it an homage.)

So without further ado, please enjoy:

The Angry Spirits of the Forest

An InuYasha fan-fiction

Written by Niceguy

Illustrated by KawaiiKitty

Setting and all non-original characters are property of Rumiko Takahashi.

...

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[ONE]

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Whatever that wind is blowing, it's bothering my… nose… t-too… hat-SHOO!

The six weary travelers had been tracking the Sacred Jewel Shard for days. Kagome, the young girl with the ability to detect the Scared Shards, had only the weakest impression of where it was. She could detect its general direction, but despite three days of pursuit her sense of the shard's precise location grew no stronger. The shard was still on the move.

Luckily, InuYasha was able to supplement Kagome sixth sense for the jewel with his own demonically enhanced sense of smell. He could track their quarry, but its smell was either unfamiliar to him, or had been magically altered in an attempt to throw them off. Between the two of them, however, they would not lose the trail.

But after so many days pursuit, the signal Kagome was picking up started to grow in strength. It was still a few days march away – but it was no longer on the move and they were gaining on it. The six weary travelers tried to pick up their pace, but the wind was against them.

As the reached the top of the grassy hill they spied a village is the distance, beyond which lay an immense forest at the foot of a great chain of mountains. Ironically, as Kagome's ability to sense jewel increased, it seemed InuYasha's ability to pick up their quarry's scent was weakening. The young monk, Miroku, was the first to notice this.

"InuYasha, what's wrong? Has the trail gone cold?"

"Nah. It's this damn wind! It's blowing something down from the mountains that bugging… my… n-n-nose… HAAATCHOO! *sniff* Ugh… I'm also picking up the scent of human blood. *sniff* I think that village was attached recently. *sniff*"

As the two men leading the party conversed, the demon hunter, Sango, noticed that Kagome seemed bothered by something as well. Without wanting to attract attention, she quietly approached her friend. "Kagome? Are you ok?"

Kagome was rubbing her nose with her index finger. "Yeah," she whispered, "but *sniff* whatever that wind is blowing, it's *sniff* bothering my… nose… t-too… hat-SHOO! Hah… HaAAHSHOO! HATChoo *sniff* Ohhhh…"

Although their voices were low, Kagome's sneezes attracted InuYasha's attention. "Don't tell me you're getting sick now!" He yelled at her.

"I'm not s-sick, I… HAT-SHOO! *sniff* something's j-just m-making me snee… ah… sneeze! aaaAAHHTCHOO! Besides, *sniff* you sound as bad as I do!"

"That's cause I have a heightened sense of smell!" InuYasha reacted defensively, rubbing his nose, as if warding off another sneeze himself.

Miroku put his hand to his chin, pensively. "I wonder… Shippo, how are you feeling?"

The diminutive fox-demon was riding on the back of Kirara. "Well… *sniff* now that you mention it… *sniff*… my nose is all itchy too! Aaah… HAAAAH… HAHHTCHOOO!" The force of the little demon's sneeze sent him somersaulting backwards, off of Kirara.

"What about you Kirara?"

While Kirara couldn't talk, she made several pawing gestures which indicated that her nose was bothered as well. She made a sound like a sneeze, but Miroku couldn't tell if it was that, of if she was just trying to clear her nose.

"What are you thinking?" Sango asked him.

"I'm wondering if that forest up ahead is inhabited by the Shinrinyasha."

"*sniff* Shin… rin… wha?" Kagome asked in a stuffy sounding voice.

"The Shinrinyahsa are forest spirits. They take the form of giant moving trees. They look almost like a giant person that was carved from a tree, or turned into one - braches and all. I've never seen one, but the legends say that their pollen is a natural irritant to demons and anything… unnatural. It could explain why InuYasha, Shippo and Kirara seemed bother by the wind blowing form that direction."

"*sniff* They why… hang on… hat-SHOO! *sniff* Why am I sneezing then?" In the back of her mind, Kagome thought she might be allergic to something. Although she never got allergies at home, she had some friends that did. Was this what they felt like? She now felt horrible about every time she every told one of them that "all they needed was a little fresh air." 'This was awful!' she thought. 'A week of this would drive me crazy!' She almost hoped that she was just getting a little sick, not being sure what she could do about allergies back in this time period.

"I don't know," Miroku answered. "I've never heard of a human being affected."

The group trekked on. The three demons were only sniffling, but Kagome seemed to sneeze every few seconds. Not patient by nature and already irritated by his own condition, InuYasha's temper eventually got the better of him.

"Ashoo! … Hahshoo! … HAT-shoo! … HAAAHshoo!"

"ARE YOU GOING TO KEEP DOING THAT?!" InuYasha bellowed at Kagome.

"Thanks for the sympathy you big… jah…jah… JASHOO! JERK! *sniff* I can't help it! *sniff*… hat-SHOO! *sniff* I wish I could!"

"Yeah, InuYasha! Stop being so me… aaahh… me… AAAAHHH… meAAHHHTCHOO!... mean." Shippo finished his statement from the ground, his sneeze having knocked him off of Kirara again.

"Besides *sniff*," Kagome continued her verbal counterattack, "It's not like *sniff* you're doing… much… bet… ter… AAAHHshoo!"

"I'm doing just fine." InuYasha boasted. Kagome eyed him suspiciously. "Yeah. N-no p-problems here… ah…. *sniff*." Kagome narrowed her eyes, not believing a word of it. "Y-you w-won't hear… me… snee… ah… snee… AAAAHHHTCHOO!"

"HAH!" Kagome yelled, pointing at him, before she was racked by another sneeze of her own.

Miroku and Sango just shook there heads as Kagome and InuYahsa went on like this almost the entire way to the village while Shippo and Kirara suffered in relative silence.

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[TWO]

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Got any other bright ideas?

"YOU SHALL NOT PASS!"

"What?"

"YOU SHALL NOT PASS!"

The friends were met at the gate of the village by a contingent of guardsman brandishing spears. None of them actually wanted to fight the villagers, but after so much walking, and so much listening to Kagome sneezing every few seconds, InuYasha was short on patience.

"Whadaya mean?! We've been walking for days! Why… I… oughta… haaahAAAHTCHOO!" His hand had been moving closer to Tessaiga's hilt, but the sneeze pulled it away while he covered up. Kagome stepped forward, put a hand on InuYahsa's shoulder to calm him and tried to allay the villager's fears.

"We don't want to fight. *sniff* We're just looking for a place to *sniff* sleep and to replenish our supplies in… the… m-morn… ing… HASHOO! HASHOO! haAHTSHoo! Oh man!"

"SHE'S A DEMON TOO! NONE SHALL PASS!"

"I'm not a… a… aAHTChoo! Demon! Do I *sniff* look like a… de… mon… HAT-shoo!" She had been resisting the urge to rub her nose, but was now overcome.

The one appearing to be the captain of this rag-tag troop stepped forward. The others fell silent as he spoke. "You smell that fragrant dust in the air? The tree-spirits release that to keep the demons out of the sacred wood. It drives them crazy! Just like your friends there! It don't bother humans. So what's your story?"

"I don't… Ha-ha…AAAAshoo! know… AHTCH-oo! I… ah… I… ah-hah-*long inhale*-HATCHOO!"

The guards all started yelling again. "SICKNESS! ILLNESS! THE PLAGUE! UNCLEAN! UNCLEAN! NONE SHALL PASS!" Now convinced Kagome was bearing some dreaded illness, even the Captain could not restore order to his men. They were starting to thrust their spears more aggressively.

"*sniff* Got any other bright ideas, Kagome?" Inuyasha muttered derisively, wiping his nose with his sleeve.

Miroku stepped forward, trying to ply his trade in exchange for entry to the village. "I sense a dark presence surrounding this place!" he began boldly. "If you let…"

But he was cut of by the cackle of hysterical laughter coming from behind the guards. "HahahahHAAAAH! Oh sonny! Hahaha! Don't even try that one here! I used to run that scam all the time when I was a young traveling monk! AAAHhahahaHAAA!" An ancient looking man, scarcely four feet tall made his way through the guards, who made way for him deferentially.

"Village elder?" Several of the guards gasped. "But… But they're demons! And she has the plague!"

"Out of my way, you superstitious fools! We've just lost one battle, you shouldn't be so eager to start another!" The feisty old man scolded. He gave each of the travelers an appraising look. "Hmmmm… three demons traveling with a priestess, and monk and demon slayer? I don't think we'll have to worry about them. Come in friends. You may stay at the temple. You'll have to work a bit, but you'll find plenty of food and rest as well."

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[THREE]

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Traveler? *sniff* What d-did... hat-SHOO! Excuse me. *sniff* What did he look like?

After a satisfying meal, Miroku, Sango and InuYasha helped the villagers bury their dead, before going on guard duty with Kirara. While they strengthened diplomatic ties in the village, Shippo and Kagome were left to converse with the village elder.

"*sniff* So… you were attacked by tree-demons?" Kagome started.

"Heh-heh… Not demons my dear: Spirits. Guardian spirits of the forest. We have lived alongside the Shinrinyahsa for generations. They protect us from the demon tribes to the north by using their pollen to make the woods almost unbearable for them… and if any demon does make it too far into the woods, the tree-spirits are ferocious fighters. In return, we only log the portions of the forest that they deem are ready for harvest. We leave any areas and trees alone that they want preserved."

"But … hah … HAT-shoo! Excuse me… But why did they attack you?"

"We still don't know for sure. We have a treaty with them, spelling out our agreement that they will protect us in exchange for us respecting their boundaries. But there was a sacred tree that was accidentally felled recently. Some of the men misread the tree's marking and thought it was designated for timber."

Shippo was very interested in the story and jumped into the conversation. "*sniff* Oh boy! No wonder they were angry! Those sacred trees are the homes of other spirits, aren't they?"

"Oh yes. There live the kodama - spirits who spread health and green growth throughout the forest. The Shinrinyasha rely on them to support their own efforts. When a sacred tree is destroyed, those spirits living within it are lost as well. Their loss saddens the greater spirits, and also has a diminishing effect on the surrounding woods."

"Wow *sniff* its no wonder they attacked you!"

"But that's just it, little fox-demon! Our treaty acknowledges that mistakes will be made. The penalty for destroying a sacred tree is to raise one hundred new saplings to maturity. There is no provision for them to attack us."

"Then why… oh god… HAH-shoo! Excuse me… *sniff* Why do you think they attacked? What made them change?"

"The spirits have been restless for several days now. Ever since that traveler came through. He's the reason the other villagers were so suspicious of you."

"Traveler? *sniff* What d-did... hat-SHOO! Excuse me. *sniff* What did he look like?"

"I never really saw him, young lady. He wore a great white cloak. Its cowl was fashioned from a baboon's head and obscured most of his face."

Kagome and Shippo looked at each other in shock. "NARAKU!"

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[FOUR]

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IRON REAVER S-SOUL S-T-STEAAACHOOOO!

While Sango and Kirara went on patrol, InuYasha and Miroku helped the villagers bury what remained of their dead. There were almost three dozen loggers killed the day before, and they got a sense of not only what the village had lost but of what they might be up against themselves. Once they finished, Miroku had blessed the gravesites and the two of them went to join Sango on guard duty.

"Sango, have you heard anything?" Miroku asked.

"I'm not sure. There seems to be a lot of movement from within the forest, but every time I get close enough for a look it stops. Do you sense anything?"

"No. But the tree sprits are not really demons, so I wouldn't be able to. If they were corrupted by the sacred jewel, Kagome should be able to sense it, but she's still meeting with the village elder. InuYasha, can you smell anything?"

"HaraAAHTCHOO! *sniff* No. *sniff* I'm completely blocked up. I can't even smell you."

Miroku started to chuckle at InuYasha's remark when all three of them were startled by what looked like several giant, anthropomorphic trees crashing through the perimeter of the wood. Each stood over twenty feet tall, and while they caused no damage to the tree line, their footsteps shook the ground and sounded as if the entire forest was being brought down on top of them. As the first wave began their charge, another dozen emerged behind them.

Sango was the first to act. "KIRARA!" she yelled and the nekomata moved to attack the lead tree-spirit. Sango threw her weapon, Hiraikotsu, just as Kirara was thrown off by her target. The giant boomerang severed two of the trees-sprit's limbs before returning, but the tree spirit had several remaining and was not slowed. As she waited for the weapon to return to her, Sango was struck from behind by what felt like a giant club and fell unconscious. The Hiraikotsu sailed over her body and landed in the woods.

"SANGO!" Miroku yelled in horror as he loosened the binding on his right hand. "WIND TUNNEL!"

As the monk activated the black hole he carried as his curse, what looked like tons of debris flew towards him from the forest only to be swallowed up by the void. He was surprised however that only a single tree-spirit was sucked in. The rest stood perfectly still, appearing to resist its pull by taking root. Miroku cut off the power just as InuYasha jumped in its path to prevent Sango from being sucked in.

"Would you knock that off?! There's only one way to handle these guys… TESSAIGA!" But as InuYasha drew his sword, he was stunned to see that blade did not transform, instead retaining the dull, rusty appearance it had when inert.

Three of the spirits now focused their attacks on InuYahsa. Rather than lung forward however, the seemed reach toward the sky and quiver. Taking this for vulnerability, InuYasha attempted another attack. He almost failed to notice the nearly maddening burn that flared up in his eyes and nose.

"IRON REAVER S-SOUL S-T-STEAAACHOOOO!" Rather than leaping forward and swiping with his claws, InuYasha stood doubled over by the force of the sneeze. Seeing that he was prone, one of the tree-sprits struck him with a stout limb. InuYasha flew through the air in a wide arc and landed at the foot of another spirit on the other side of the field. Before he could move, InuYasha was crushed under the sprit's foot. Although not physically harmed, he was pinned as the behemoth took root in the ground, its tendrils tangling themselves around his limbs before tunneling deep into the earth.

Miroku raised his staff in defense. He looked around. Sango and InuYasha were down and Kirara was no longer in sight. He could not outrun the giants and his wind-tunnel proved ineffective. As the spirits closed in on him, he braced for the worst, knowing he was out of options. As he waited for what he assumed would be the final blow, he could hear Kagome and Shippo yelling to him. He looked over his shoulder to see the two changing towards the melee on the back of Kirara.

"NO! KAGOME! GO BACK!" *whack* Miroku was taken out with a single sweep of the tree-sprit's limb. His unconscious body landed several meters from where he was struck. Two more moved quickly to attack the village's remaining defenders. In a deftly coordinated move, one snatched Kagome, and Shippo (who was clinging to her shoulders), off of Kirara's back while another swept its limbs across Kirara's path, sending the giant demon-cat tumbling through the air, finally hitting the ground, unconscious.

"KAGOME! KAGOME! NO! LET GO OF ME! KAGOME!" InuYasha screamed as he struggled against his captor. As the three-sprits retreated into the woods, the one holding InuYasha began to tighten its grip, cutting off its prisoner's breath. Once InuYasha fell still, it released him and followed its brethren into the dense forest.

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[FIVE]

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I'm really sorry about this, Kagome.

Kagome would have been amazed how fast the tree-sprits moved through the forest. Despite their huge size and ponderous wooden bodies, they moved with impressive speed and grace without disturbing or damaging any of the surrounding flora. All of this, however, was lost on Kagome as she could barely open her eyes, or even breathe for all the sneezing. She was in the middle of a tramp of walking trees and the clouds of pollen that shook loose with every thunderous step filled her every breath. It bothered Shippo as well, but he was now so stuffed up that he'd stopped sneezing. He was getting very concerned about Kagome.

"*sniff* Kagome?"

"Haht-shoo!"

"*sniff* You OK?"

"HAAASH-shooo!"

"What're *sniff* What're we gonna do?"

"Haaah-SHOO! Ohhhhh!"

Shippo just patted her on the shoulders and tried to comfort her as best he was able. Since Kagome was out of commission, the clever little fox demon looked around and tried to formulate a plan. They were sitting in the high braches of one of the tree-spirits. Not much held them in place, but it would be a rather nasty fall. He figured they couldn't climb down without being noticed, but if he could inflate his body just enough to slow their fall they might have a few seconds before they were noticed if they jumped. Once he sensed a break in Kagome's sneezing he told her the plan.

"*sniff* What?!"

"We gotta jump Kagome! I'll float us down!"

"*sniff* No way Shippo! *sniff* We'll never make it!" The tree-spirits seemed oblivious to their conversation.

"It's our only chance! *sniff* Come on!" Shippo grabbed both of Kagome's hand and tried to jump down, but she resisted and they ended up balanced precariously on their high bough.

"Come on Kagome! *sniff* Trust me!"

"No! *sniff* It's too high!"

But as Shippo hung from Kagome's hands he knew there was no other way, and he didn't want to be taken all the way back to their lair. "I'm really sorry about this, Kagome." Hanging upside down, he hooked his legs over her outstretched arms and wiggled his fluffy tail in front of her nose, shaking loose the pollen that had collected on it.

"N-no… Ship… Shippo… Nah… Nah… NaaAAAH-SHOO!" She lost her balance with the sneeze and they fell towards the ground. Half way down, Shippo finally managed the shape-change, inflating himself and slowing their fall just enough to avoid injury despite still having hard landing.

At first they assumed they'd have to run for it, but the tree-sprits seemed unaware of the fact that they were free. The troop continued to move in the same direction without so much as a pause. Judging from their momentum, the strongest castle walls couldn't have slowed their pace. All the two fugitives really had to do was get out of the way and avoid being trampled. They quickly scampered to the side of the path, and hid under a giant tree root. The sprits seemed to avoid trodding on such things. Unfortunately, at the ground level, the pollen cloud was at its thickest. It stung their eyes and set them sneezing almost continuously until the thunderous march finally passed. It took several more minutes before either of their noses calmed down, and when they finally emerged from their hiding place all was quiet and the air had cleared considerably.

"*sniff* Where are we Kagome?"

"I don't know Shippo. *sniff* I can see the mountain through the trees over there, but we were moving so fast… *sniff* I'm not sure how far we are from the village." After taking a few minutes to blow their noses and get their bearings, they started back up the wide path they had being taken down. At some point, they thought, it had to lead back to the village.

After walking for over an hour, it still looked like they were in the same place, relative to the mountain. Only the sun had moved, and it now hung very low in the sky. They didn't like the idea of spending the night in this dense, living wood. They sat and took a break. At first both were too tired to speak, but Shippo was the first to notice the now familiar tickle creeping back into his nose.

"Ka…Kagome? I… hah… HAAAAH… HAAHTCHOOO!"

Before her own breath hitched Kagome leapt to her feet and instinctively reached for an arrow, but the quiver was empty; her arrows a casualty of the rough ride and the sneezing which doubled her over even while hanging from the high branches. They heard something that sound like wood being twisted before they were swept up effortlessly, and carried off of the path, deeper into the forest.

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[sIX]

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That sound you make! Are you a DEMON?!

As the sun set, Kagome and Shippo were being taken towards the base of the mountain, held firmly but gently by a new captor. As he was only a single tree-spirit, the pollen was not as thick as it had been in the large group, but each ground-shaking stride shook more loose from the enormous tree. For several minutes, all that could be heard were the giant's thunderous footsteps, followed by Kagome's high-pitched sneezes.

*BOOM*

"Hashoo!"

*BOOM*

"Hahyaht… shoo!"

*BOOM*

"HAAAAshoo-oo!"

A soon as they were sure they'd have no hope of finding their way back, the behemoth stopped. He raised his quarry to eye level to examine them. He seemed larger than the others, and Kagome and Shippo were now uncomfortably high off the ground. Although his nose itched like mad, Shippo was too scared to sneeze. Kagome, on the other hand, was too busy sneezing to be scared.

Shippo finally broke the uncomfortable silence. "Um… m-mister shinrinyahsa? Uh… what do plan to do with us?"

"DOOOO? HMMMM…" It spoke slowly, with a gravelly voice deeper than any human's, and more booming than any demon's. "WELLLL…. NOTHING… IF WHAT YOU MEAN IS... WHAT DO I PLAN TO DO… TO YOU…"

"Phew. *sniff* So… your not on their side then?"

"HMMMMM… I'M NOT SURE WHOSE SIDE I AM ON… BECAUSE… I AM NOT SURE… WHO IS ON MY SIDE. BUT WE ARE PLEDGED TO KEEP THE HUMANS SAFE… SO SAFE IS WHERE I SHALL KEEP YOU."

"Great! In that case… I… haah… HAAAAH… HAHHTCHOOO!"

With the sneeze, Shippo found himself quickly drawn close to the tree-sprits suspicious eyes. "THAT SOUND YOU MAKE! ARE… YOU… A… DEMON?!" It eyes almost seemed to catch fire when he spoke that word.

"Please! *sniff* I am a demon but *sniff* I'm a friend of the forest! *sniff* And the humans! I used to live in a wood like this one! *sniff* and my friend here is human! Please don't hurt me! *sniff* I just want to help!" The tiny Shippo was rightly terrified of the giant tree, holding him with an iron grip and a firey gaze.

"HMMMMM… HA… HAAAH… HAAAAAHHHHHH!" The tree now seemed to smile a little. "YOU… ARE… A… FOX DEMON… NO? I ALWAYS LIKED FOX DEMONS… WHAT… WONDERFUL MISCHIEF THEY WOULD MAKE… I HAVEN'T SEEN A FOX DEMON IN SO LONG… I'D FORGOTTEN WHAT THEY LOOKED LIKE!"

"Oh thank you! I was so frightened! But you really seem very nice!" Shippo was still held fast, but he was so high up that he was grateful for the strong support.

"BUT… WHAT OF YOU FRIEND? SHE'S… NOT LIKE ANY DEMON I'VE EVER SEEN…"

"She's not! *sniff* She a human!" Shippo managed to free an arm, and wipes his nose on his sleeve.

"BUT… SHE MAKES THE SAME SOUND AS YOU…" He now drew Kagome closer, to examine her. Moving deeper into the leaves did not help her condition any. "ARE YOU ILL… LITTLE HUMAN?"

"No… Hah… HAAAHShoo! I'm *sniff* aller… aller… AAAH-shoo! Allergic… to… you! HAAAT-shoo!" But she got the feeling that the tree-spirit did not understand. "I'm *sniff* human but *sniff* I'm seem to be affected the same… as… the… deeAAHSHoo! demons. *sniff* Worse actually." She rolled her eyes as she said that. "Hey… *sniff* if you guys are pledged to protect the humans, *sniff* then why'd you… ah… AAAHTChooo! …attack the village?"

"BOOO-RA-RUUUM! I HAD NO PART OF THAT! WE ARE A… PEACFUL RACE! BUT… THAT… DEMON… CAME. WITH THAT… JEWEL!"

"*sniff* Did he…hah… hatSHOO! Did he were a cloak, *sniff* with a baboon's head?"

The sprit's eyes opened wide upon hearing this, and his already uncomfortably tight gipped grew tighter still. "YESSS! YESSS! DO YOU… KNOW… THIS… DEMON?"

"Yes. And now I know we're on the same side too! *sniff* We're fighting that same demon! His name… is… NarAAACHOOO!"

"NARA-CHOO YOU SAY?"

Shippo couldn't help but laugh. "No silly! She sneezed again! His name is NARAKU!"

The tree-sprits eyes narrow in anger as he repeated the name. "NA… RA… KU!"

Kagome still had some questions. "But *sniff* even with the jewel… hang on… hah… HAAAHHTChoo! *sniff* why did the spirits attack? Was it over the sacred tree that was cut donw?" As soon as she said it, she'd hoped that he actually knew about it! She couldn't imagine how angry he'd be if that was enough to justify the attack. Fortunetly he reacted as if he not only knew, but was ashamed at how the sprits reacted. His "trunk" almost seemed to slump (or wilt.)

"HOOOOOMMMM… YES… IT WAS A SHAME… BUT... LOSING ONE LIFE… DOES NOT MEAN… YOU TAKE ANOTHER! THE HUMAN'S SHOULD HAVE PLANTED… 100 NEW SAPPLINGS TO ATONE… BUT… THEY WERE NEVER GIVEN… THE CHANCE!"

"*sniff* What happened?" Shippo looked as if he was a child hearing a bedtime story.

"THE… JEWEL… IT MADE THE ANCIENT ONE… ANGRY… IT FILLED HIM WITH… RAGE. HIS POLLEN SPREAD… AND MADE THE OTHERS… CONFUSED… AND SOON… THEY FELT AS ANGRY… AND VENGEFUL… AS THE ANCIENT ONE… BUT… THIS IS NOT OUR WAY…" The tree's voice started to sound sad.

"But how did… oh man… hang on… hah… HAAAHTCHOO!" Kagome rubbed her nose vigiorously with her index finger in an attempt to stave off more sneezing. "How did Naraku get so far into the forest? *sniff* Didn't your pollen bother him too?"

"IF IT DID… I DO NOT KNOW… HE DIDN'T SHOW ANY SIGNS… OF DISTRESS. THAT'S WHY THE ANCIENT ONE… AGREED TO MEET WITH HIM."

"So… *sniff* he was tricked?"

"YES… HE IS NO LONGER HIMSELF. HE NEVER WOULD HAVE APPROVED… OF ATTACKING… THE VILLAGE." Although still more booming than any human or demon they'd come across, the tree-spirit's voice began to grow quieter. His sadness now seemed mingled with shame. A drop of sap below one eye had the look of a tear. Shippo bent and hugged the limb that held him.

"It's OK. You, me and Kagome will find a way to fix this."

"Wait… *sniff* Will… *sniff* Will the other's attack again?"

The sprint seemed to grow taller as it stood up strait once again. Its eyes took on a distant look. "THEY ARE… ALREADY ON THE MOVE…"

"*sniff* Then we… hah… HAT-choo! We must go… hah… b-back! Hat-SHOO!"

"WHY…? WE CANNOT STOP THEM… THE VILLAGERS… MUST WEATHER THIS ATTACK… AT LEAST UNTIL… WE CAN GET MORE… HELP…"

"No! *sniff* You don't… *sniff* oh man!... ah-AH-tchoo! Understand! HATCHOO! InuYasha and the others will be ready for them this time! *sniff* InuYasha's really strong and… HAHT-choo! His sword could destroy everyone in one strike if… he… gets… thechanceAAH-CHOO! Quickly! We've got to head them off at… the… vil-lage.. HAAAHtchoo! Hurry! Please!"

Although he did not fully understand, the spirit started moving quickly back toward the village. He cradled Kagome and Shippo and advised them to rest while they could as it would be about a hour's march. Although she still sneezed with nearly every bounding step, Kagome did manage to get a little rest as they made their way back to the village.

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[sEVEN]

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I had them shaking in fear last time…

It took several hours for InuYasha, Miroku, Sango and Kirara to recover from the earlier battle, but after their respite they joined the village guard in making preparations for the next attack. The field over which the two previous attacks had taken place was now lined with tar. Archers with flaming arrows were positioned along the northern wall. If the tree spirits tried to cross the field, they would be surrounded by the one thing they were weak against: fire.

While Sango and Kirara scouted the perimeter of the wood, InuYasha and Miroku met with the Guard Captain and the Village Elder with a strategy that would make the defensive plan even deadlier.

"Each attack was merely a hit-and-run. But the second wave was much larger than the first. I think they fled because they didn't expect to encounter all of you," the Village Elder counseled the warriors.

"And that's the one flaw in these preparations," Miroku observed, "Given the change they will flee before the fire does any damage. But we noticed something before - when I activated my Wind Tunnel: they took root and remained in place. If we waited until they were in the middle of the field to light the fires, I could activate the Wind Tunnel. They would either take root and be consumed in the flame, or try to flee and be sucked in."

"I saw you on the field before," started the Guard Captain. "Won't that send flaming tar hurtling towards the village?"

"If I'm up on rampart, the tar on the ground shouldn't be affected. And even if it is, whatever doesn't end up getting stuck to the trees will get sucked into the void as well. I wouldn't advocate any plan that would risk harming the village."

"Yeah *sniff* and then I can jump in with Tessaiga and finish them off! I had them shaking in fear last time…"

But InuYasha was interrupted by the elder's laughter. "Heh-heh… you thought they were shaking in fear? Foolish boy." InuYasha bristled at that remark. "They weren't raising their hands in surrender…heh-heh… they were attacking!"

"*sniff* Wha...? How…?"

"What happened when you tried to activate your demonic powers?" The Elder asked, seemingly amused.

InuYasha couldn't even look the old man in the eye as he muttered his response. "I sneezed and the attack got all fouled up."

"And do you think that happened by coincidence? By raising their limbs, they caught the wind in their leaves. This increased the amount of pollen released in the area, and that was what disabled your attack. You'll need to take that into account if you plan to attack them again. *sigh* I just don't know… I'm concerned that it has come to this… What will happen I wonder…?"

"Elder!" The Captain snapped. "We are prepared this time! With this trap and our new found allies we are sure to be victorious!" It was clear from their posture that InuYasha and Miroku concurred.

"*sniff* And then you gotta help us rescue Kagome!" InuYasha looked at the Captain, who nodded in reply.

"Hmmmm… The impetuousness of youth. I am sure that we can win the battle. It is not even impossible that we could destroy every tree spirit in the forest! But what would that accomplish?"

"We would be safe!" The Captain declared.

"Would we? And who would defend us against the demons from over the mountains without the sacred wood acting as a buffer zone? The Shinrinyahsa have been our shield against them for generations. Before the Treaty of the Trees we fought with the demons constantly. Plus… they manage and keep healthy the very timber that we make our living off of. They even maintain the river to prevent it from flooding. You take for granted all they have done for us… and are ignorant of how tenuous our livelihood will be without them. Victory on the field may be irrelevant in the long run."

Miroku considered this in silence, but he saw no better options. InuYasha and the Captain were unmoved however and were about to launch a counter-argument when Sango burst in.

"They're here! Ready the militia!"

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[EIGHT]

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SIT, BOY!

Sango and Shippo woke just as they cleared the edge of the forest. They were a few hundred meters from where the attacks emerged and as Shippo wiped the sleep from his eyes, Kagome sized up the situation. She could see the archers on the walls, and could smell the tar in the field. No big mystery what was planned there. Seeing Miroku on the corner guard tower and InuYasha starting to charge the field, she figured out what they had in mind and knew they had no time lose.

"Quickly… get me to that guard tower!"

The lone tree sprit moved much faster than the attackers, who now numbered almost a hundred and advanced at a slower more deliberate pace. When they were within shouting distance of the tower, she called out for Miroku.

"MIROKU! STAND DOWN! DON'T USE YOUR WIND TUNNEL! STAND DOWN!"

"Kagome?" Miroku was confused to see her and Shippo, especially as they were being carried by one of the beings they were about to attack, but he signaled his compliance. He hoped she knew what she was doing.

"ARCHERS! FIRE NOW! BEFORE THEY REACHE THE TAR! QUICKLY! FIRE! FIRE!"

Seeing Miroku's compliance with the girl that was shouting to them, the Captain conceded as well and gave the order to fire.

'What are those idiots doing?!' InuYasha thought to himself, not aware of what was happening back at the village. A wall of flame now stood between him and his enemy, cutting him off as the trees began to retreat into the wood.

"Oh no you don't! TESSAIGA!" But just as InuYasha raised the sword that could kill a hundred demons in a single stroke, Kagome came into range behind him.

"SIT BOY!" And with that command, Kaede's necklace came to life and brought InuYasha down face-first into the ground. He was now helpless to do anything but watch the tree-sprits flee into the safety of the wood.

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[NINE]

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Like what happened to you when I got captured in the first place?

Following the battle that almost was, InuYasha and Kagome argued for some time. It took a great effort to convince InuYasha that the tree-sprits were peaceful by nature, and while he never fully ceded the point, he was intrigued when Kagome mentioned the Sacred Jewel shard. The five travelers met with the Captain and the Elder back at the temple to discuss their next move.

"*sniff* We need to get close enough to the spirit known as the Ancient One. Then I… can… gotta sneeze… ha… HAAATCHoo! *sniff* Then I can use my sacred arrow to remove the shard. *sniff* after that, he should return to normal!"

"*sniff* Assuming you don't sneeze and miss the mark." InuYasha teased under his breath.

"Like what happened to you when I got captured in the first place?" Kagome said, feigning sweetness in her tone.

"Yeah… well…" InuYasha took the hint and went back to sheepishly studying some spot on the floor.

At this point Miroku had a question for the Elder. "Do you have anyone who can lead us into their territory? How will we find them?" The look on the Captains face said that he didn't know the way, and wouldn't go within ten miles of the place if he did, having seen how many there actually were.

"Hmmmm… I'll take you," the Elder sighed. "I went there quite frequently in my youth. I was there with my Grandfather when he made the Treaty of the Trees with the Ancient One. It has been many years, but I know the paths well. It will be about three days march. Captain?" The Captain snapped to attention. "You'll need to make preparations for more attacks. Keep trying to drive them back with the fire, and don't harm any that you don't absolutely have to. I'm leaving you in charge here."

"Elder….?" The Captain was both moved by the trust being placed in him, and concerned for the old man's safety. But he regained his composure and stood at attention once again. "Yes, sir!"

"You there…" The Elder signaled to one of the guards. "Prepare rations and equipment for six people on a six-day march. And get this lot anything else they require." Although he had been little more than a spiritual counselor for many years, the old man was clearly excited about the prospect of leading an exciting quest.

Miroku, Sango, Shippo and InuYasha all indicated that they didn't need anything special, beyond a replenishment of food and water. They were used to traveling long distances on foot, and came into the village fairly well equipped. Only Kagome had any requests.

"I'll need a bow and… some arrows… and… hah… AHH… HATCHoo! Man! *sniiiiiiffffff* …and a hanky or two!" She punctuated her request by wiping her nose on her sleeve for what seemed like the hundredth time.

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[TEN]

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Shippo… No!

'A few handkerchiefs' ended up being just a few scraps of cloth discarded by the village seamstresses; but Kagome was grateful to be able to wipe her nose with something other than her shirt, and blow it more discreetly than by putting a finger on one nostril and exhaling hard out of the other. While InuYasha and Shippo insisted the handkerchiefs weren't necessary, once they tried them, they had to admit they helped. Most of the trip was otherwise uneventful. The old man told them stories of his adventures as a young monk by firelight, saving the more lecherous episodes for Miroku, after the others had fallen asleep.

After a three day hike, the party stood atop a tree lined precipice overlooking a low clearing. Tree spirits circled the clearing and stood almost still – looking like tall trees blowing in the wind. In the center was what looked like an ancient Banyan tree. If the other tree-sprits resembled giant people, the one in the center resembled a humongous spider or octopus – his many limbs and sprawling trunks took root in dozens of places around the clearing.

"That's the ancient one!" The Elder whispered in Kagome's ear, but as she looked at the sprawling banyan, she didn't need to be told. She could sense the sacred jewel, even at her current distance. She was also confident she could make the shot from here.

She drew an arrow and blew her nose one last time, just to be safe. Notching the arrow she slowly stood up. She was no longer camouflaged by the wood, but none of the tree-sprits seemed to notice. Her nose still itched, but a quick sniff was enough to ward off any sneezes for a few more seconds. She drew her bow and took aim.

"hah…"

"Shippo! Shh!" Miroku cautioned.

"HAAAH…." Shippo's eyes narrowed as he brought a finger under his nose.

"Shippo! No!" Sango whispered.

"HAAAH-AAAAAHTCHOOOO! *sniff* Sorry!" The little fox demon rubbed his nose with his finger as he apologized.

Shippo's sneeze drew the attention of the sprits, but Kagome was ready and loosed her arrow just as they turned around. Halfway to the target it erupted in purple light. The arrow plunged into the tangle of limbs that made up the ancient tree and found its mark deep with the writhing mass. With a flash of light, the Jewel Shard was ejected. The change in the Ancient one was immediate. What once roiled with anger now stood calmly, looking like it was at peace. They scampered down the embankment to retrieve the Jewel Shard. The trees surrounding the clearing merely looked on.

Kagome picked up the shard, and noticed that something was different. She could detect no trace of the anger that had tainted the shard. It felt purified, as if it had been cleansed in a way that she thought only herself or Kikiyo could have done. She felt a rush of sadness as she realized that it was the life force of the Ancient One that had purified the Shard. As she held this piece of life force in her hands, she felt an immediate connection and a thorough understanding of the immense love and wisdom possessed by the ancient spirit. But when she turned to face him, her fears were realized - the Ancient One was dying.

"No! *sniff* No! No! No!" She ran into a jumble of limbs and branches that seemed to embrace her as she lost herself in them.

She heard a voice that was almost as quiet as the wind. "thhhaaaank yoooouuuu chiiiiild…"

Tears started to fall from her eyes "I'm so sorry! Please… *sniff* don't die." To her hands it felt as if the tree was actually growing cold."

She felt something like a hand on her shoulder. She looked back, and up, and saw the tree-spirit that had helped them before. He seemed to smile at her. His voice was still deep and rumbling, but gentle now and lower in volume out of respect for the Ancient One. "This… was the only way… Do not weep child… You have done… a great thing today."

Again the voice like the wind spoke. "shhhwshshhhhesssshhh," they assumed that was the name of the sprit who'd helped them, "yooooouuuuu… kneeeew… yooooouuuu alooooone saaawww the eeeevil in the traveler clooooaaaked in whiiiiite… yooouuuu aaare wiiiiiise… guiiiide myyyy childrennnn and… accept the stewardship of the sssssacred foressssst... that I passsss tooooo…. yoooouuuu…"

With that final decree the last bit of life left the ancient tree. Kagome broke down, sobbing openly as she felt the limbs grow stiff and brittle around her. She felt a breeze in her hair as the last bit of life escaped. While just a moment ago she felt surrounded by love and warmth, now, sitting within the dead tree, she had never felt so profoundly alone and empty. The other tree spirits bowed in final respect and began to withdraw into the forest.

InuYasha, unfamiliar with the ways of the sprits, perceived their actions as callous. "*sniff* Aren't you even going to bury him… or something?"

The sprit that had carried Kagome turned to him to explain. "No… He must remain here…"

"*sniff* So you're just going to let him rot?"

"Yes." InuYasha was surprised that it was Kagome who answered. "He will go into the ground here… and… another scared tree will grow in this spot… won't it?" She looked up at the tree-spirit.

"Yes child… Every sacred tree marks a place where an ancient spirit passed on... A tree will grow here that will house the Kodama… And they in turn will bring more life to the trees in the forest…. We will… shepherd that life until the trees' voices grow quiet… or our own do... We must leave this place… It is sacred now… you should not return here…"

Kagome shed a final tear for the fallen spirit, but as she joined the Shard to the others she carried she felt comforted knowing that a small part of that spirit would always be with her. The journey back to the village was made faster by the tree-spirit's offer to transport them. While this shortened a three day journey to only one, for InuYasha, Kagome and Shippo, who could not stop sneezing for even a few minutes, it may as well have been a year. By the time they were back the village elder had re-affirmed both of their commitments to the former treaty, and the spirit even forgave the village of their obligation to plant 100 saplings in payment for felling a sacred tree. (Though the Elder still planned to do that anyway.) At the outskirts of the village, the travelers said their good-byes to tree spirit and waved as it went back into the forest.

[EPILOGUE]

After getting a full night's rest for the first time in days, the six travelers departed the next morning, fully stocked for the journey ahead. Without another jewel shard to follow northward, they trekked back the way they came. This came as a relief to InuYasha, Shippo and even Kirara, who probably could not have endured an extended trip through the forest. And while Kagome was sad that she would probably never see the tree-spirit again she had to admit, with a chuckle as she wiped here nose with a long since saturated scrap of cloth, that there was at least one part of her that couldn't get away fast enough.

________________________________________

Thank you for reading.

If you enjoyed this fanfic, click the link below for more...

http://www.sneezefetishforum.org/forums/in...;showentry=4581

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Niceguy - I know I've already given you more detailed feedback, but once again reiterating how much I love this. *Flails at all the Shippo* I love that little fox demon and I love how much of hinm was in this. :baaa: I saw this earlier when you had the in progress...do not read until complete and it took all my willpower to stay out of the thread.

And KK - awesome job with the illustrations. Loved them.

Great fic, great pics = happy Brigid

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OH. MY. GOD. Our very first Sneezy Picture Book!!! My hat is off to you two, good sir and madam!

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Did my eyes deceive me or was there no sneezy Miroku?... :proud: *teasing grin*

At any rate... I'm not that familar with the fandom- but that was very cute. :laugh:

"*sniff* We need to get close enough to the spirit known as the Ancient One. Then I… can… gotta sneeze… ha… HAAATCHoo! *sniff* Then I can use my sacred arrow to remove the shard. *sniff* after that, he should return to normal!"

"*sniff* Assuming you don't sneeze and miss the mark." InuYasha teased under his breath.

"Like what happened to you when I got captured in the first place?" Kagome said, feigning sweetness in her tone.

"Yeah… well…" InuYasha took the hint and went back to sheepishly studying some spot on the floor.

hehehe... that was one of my favourite parts... very cute.

KK- the Illustrations... Absolutely gorgeous as always. How is it possible that you can make me love these guys (especially Miroku) more and more everytime you draw something with them??

I definately look forward to see more work from you both- either as a team or separately. Great job. :bleh:

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Wow this is amazing. An illustrated story. I love it!

Thanks to both of you for your wonderful efforts.

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This is just wonderful! What an achievement for both of you! And such a brilliant idea.

And that sneezy Kagome; both as written and as drawn!

And at last I'm beginning to work out which character is which. Anime , here we come.....

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YAY! The story was great! I don't even know that series very well and I couldn't stop reading it @.@

The art is nice too! Good art, Good story, and sneezing, what more could a person want?

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That was fucking BRILLIANT!!!! Ooooh my GOD! Niceguy, you did SO WELL with all of the characters, especially Shippo! I know he's actually a little difficult to write (for me, anyway!).

Uuuh, and can I just thank you profusely for all of the lovely Inuyasha wrongness? :P Hnnggh fjasldkjf.....rarrrr yes. YES.

Sorry, I know you like detailed feedback, but I'm too busy giggling at the moment! :lol:

~Aku

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