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   "It's good to see you, Sesshomaru."
   "Takako, what are you doing here?" Sesshomaru demanded, sheathing Bakusaiga.
   "I was only here introducing myself to your dear little brother." Takako answered, "Don't tell me you're concerned for them?"
   "I have no concern for Inuyasha, but I do hold concerns for his offspring."
   "I see. This is because you have children of your own, am I right?"
   Sesshomaru didn't say anything, but took an offensive stance. Takako waved her hand and said, "Don't bother, Sesshomaru. I'm not here to pick a fight. I'm merely here to say hello and pass through."
   The Lord of the West didn't say anything, but did watch as the Band of Seven came running towards the group, Bankotsu yelling, "Hey! Get away from them!"
   Takako laughed a little to herself then turned to face Bankotsu, "You've finally arrived, Band of Seven. My mistake, I mean Band of Six."
   "Bankotsu, she's the one responsible for killing Kyokotsu!" Kikyo screamed, which made Takako look at her with a deadly glare.
   "You should shut your mouth, girl."
   Takako's glare intensified and Kikyo suddenly started clutching her chest, screaming in pain. Bankotsu yelled, "Stop it, wench! She has nothing to do with you."
   The glare was broken and Kikyo gasped for air, taking it in as if it were a rare commodity. Takako turned her head back to the Band of Seven and said, "Do you care for her, Bankotsu? It's only natural. After all, you did lose your mother and sister to bandits."
   "You bitch."
   "Not only that, the entire time you and your comrades were the Band of Seven, you couldn't kill women because of that, am I mistaken?"
   Everyone's eyes widened in surprise; Inuyasha hadn't expected to hear that about Bankotsu at all.
   "Damn! She knows about that!" Bankotsu thought, "How does she know is my question."
   "I hear things on the wind." Takako continued, "Like how Inuyasha was once in love with the priestess, Kikyo."
   "Damn you!" Inuyasha screamed.
   "Oh, there's more. Inuyasha, who don't you ask your beloved wife just how much she loved you in order to return to your side. Seems to me like it was an obligation, not love."
   "Don't bring Kagome into this! I love her with everything I have!"
   "But does she still love you?"
   Inuyasha went silent but didn't want to listen to Takako. He knew Kagome loved him, but it did seem like he was spending too much time away from her now.
   "If you want to have a showdown, meet me in the northern mountains, where Mt. Hakurei once stood." Takako said, turning into a cloud of smoke, "Farewell, Inuyasha."
   With that, Takako disappeared, leaving everyone standing. Inuyasha stood up, as did the rest of his family, the Band of Seven walking over to them.
   "You okay?" Bankotsu asked Kikyo, helping her stand.
   "Yeah, I'm okay." Kikyo answered.
   Sesshomaru started to walk away until Inuyasha called, "Sesshomaru. Are you going after her?"
   "She must be dealt with immediately. I'm going to tell Rin and the children."
   "How about we go with you? I haven't seen them in a while."
   "Do whatever you please, Inuyasha."
   "All right. We'll meet you there."
   Sesshomaru nodded and walked away from them, Inuyasha turning to his family and asking, "You guys okay?"
   "We're fine, Dad." Minoru answered.
   "What are we going to do about Takako, Dad?" Tsuyonoru asked.
   "Isn't it obvious? We go after her." Inuyasha replied.
   "Don't you think we should get a good night's rest before hand?" Kagome asked, "After all, the kids are going to be..."
   "They're coming with us, Kagome."
   "It's about time they put their training to the test. They're adults now, Kagome. We need to let them get out there."
   "What about Sango and Miroku?"
   "Don't need to tell them. Here they come."
   As Inuyasha said, Sango and Miroku, along with their children, came running up to make sure everyone was okay.
   "Inuyasha, what happened?" Sango asked.
   "It was a demon named Takako." Inuyasha answered.
   "I've heard of her." Miroku said, "She's the Demon Lady of the East and has a terrible reputation of unfair trails for humans. Any human that enters her territory ends up dead."
   "Makes me wonder how the Band of Seven got out of there unscathed."
   "At the time, the Band of Seven was a fearsome group, Inuyasha. Not even the Demon Lady would dare try to go against them. Now that she's already killed Kyokotsu, I suspect that she'll pick off the Band of Seven one by one."
   "Does she really think that she can defeat us?" Bankotsu asked.
   "Big brother, she exploited your weakness." Renkotsu said, but that only got Bankotsu enraged.
   "Weakness? Caring for women is a weakness, Renkotsu?"
   "Forgive me, Bankotsu. I didn't mean..."
   "Let me tell you something, all of you! Just because I care about the safety of women and children doesn't mean that I'm weak! I have to honor the memory of my mother and sister!"
   "Bankotsu." Jakotsu said.
   "If any one of you dares to call me weak again, I'll chop your heads off without a second thought!"
   No one said anything and Bankotsu walked off, Kikyo calling out to him, "Wait, Bankotsu!"
   "Don't follow me!" Bankotsu called back.
   Kikyo only watched as Bankotsu disappeared into the woods, a sad expression on her face. Jakotsu came up to her and placed a hand on her shoulder.
   "Give him some time." He said, "When he's like this, it's best to give him a few hours."
   Kikyo nodded and Jakotsu left her alone to watch the direction where Bankotsu went. For the first time, she was genuinely worried about him. Why she didn't know, but she just felt that she had to go after him. Not even thinking anymore, she went into a sprint, everyone watching in surprise.
   "What are you doing?" Jakotsu yelled, but didn't get a reply. He huffed and sat down at the base of a tree, "This is why I don't like women. They never respond to anything."
   "It isn't that she didn't hear you," Renkotsu said, "she's full of determination. Whatever happened between her and Bankotsu is changing them both."
   "Then she needs to forget about him." Inuyasha said, shocking them, "Trust me, falling in love in the middle of a fight isn't a smart idea."
   No one said anything else for at least ten minutes until they all started to come up with a plan to defeat Takako.

   Elsewhere in the forest, Bankotsu sat alone, Banryu on his right, the wind blowing his braid without much effort. His eyes were lost in thought once again, until someone tapped him on the shoulder. He looked and saw Kikyo before turning away and saying, "Go away."
   Kikyo simply sat down next to him and didn't say anything. Silence permeated the area until Kikyo spoke up.
   "You're not weak, Bankotsu." she said, getting his attention, "I think you're doing a wonderful thing to honor your family's memory. I wish I could relate to you in that, but I don't. Losing family's something I wouldn't be able to handle."
   "The pain you feel's unbearable." Bankotsu added, "It's a constant weight that will never leave."
   "And you've carried that by yourself? Why haven't you relied on anyone else, like Jakotsu?"
   "They wouldn't understand."
   "I don't understand, either, but I want to. That way, you won't have to rely on yourself all the time."
   Bankotsu looked at Kikyo, who simply rested her head on his shoulder. The sensation wasn't familiar to him, so he wasn't sure about what to do.
   "Don't worry, this is awkward for me too." Kikyo commented.
   With those words, Bankotsu wasn't so on edge about the situation. He leaned his head on Kikyo's and just allowed the moment to continue, relishing the feeling.
   "So this is what it's like to have someone care for you." He thought, "It's comforting and relieving."
   Without thinking, Bankotsu allowed his arm to drape across Kikyo's shoulders, which she didn't seem to mind at all. Although, Bankotsu discovered a moment later that the reason she didn't mind was because she was asleep. He sighed a little and just watched her as she slept.
   "I have to admit, she's very beautiful. But she's Inuyasha's daughter. There's no way he'd allow his daughter into a relationship with a mercenary."
   The following moment was one that Izayoi (who was told to get her sister) would never forget for the rest of her life...the sight of the leader of the Band of Seven kissing her sleeping sister.
Seems like Takako and Sesshomaru have an old score to settle. In the meantime, Bankotsu falling in love with Kikyo could mean trouble for everyone. Will Izayoi tell Kikyo of Bankotsu's actions?
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October 24, 2012
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