The battle against Okami was over. Father was victorious. He returned home with Taichi after two days of fighting, exhausted and battered.
"She's finished." Father muttered to Mother, placing his protective gear down on the kitchen counter and stepping over to Mother and kissing her on the forehead.
But Mother flinched, "I thought you said you were going to drive her away. Have you killed her?"
Father closed his eyes and looked away, "It was with great regret that I used Ronin's Demonic Strength to defeat Okami. If I'd have wanted to end her intentionally, I would have done it on the first day, but no matter how hard we tried, how hard we fought, she just wouldn't turn back. So I had to." he looked at Mother again, who was horrified.
"All of the First's power...all his secrets...gone." Mother whispered.
"It's an insult to his name, but he would have done the same if he were put on the spot like I was." Father turned around and spotted me prying outside the kitchen. He smiled slightly at me and crouched to my level, "How are your studies coming along?"
Unsure whether his smile was genuine or not, I stepped forward until I was almost nose to nose with Father, "I...I did it." I whispered.
"You did what?" Father asked, raising an eyebrow at me.
I weaved my fingers in and out of each other, "I...summoned Aimi...my Inner Demon."
Father almost froze in shock, then raised both his eyebrows, so his sky blue eyes were wide, "You...did it?"
I nodded slowly, "I found the scroll under the floorboards. I felt it calling me. I heard Aimi calling for me. I signed my name right next to yours in my blood. And then I rode Aimi with Mother.
"It was incredible. Surely she is the youngest heir to summon her Inner Demon." Mother smiled proudly at me.
Father looked up at her then back at me. He moved his arms around me and pulled me in for a hug. My body stiffened.
"That really is incredible." he whispered into my hair as he rubbed my back, "I am...proud of you, Akemi." the word proud was forced, but even so, I felt my body relax again as I wrapped my arms around his shoulders.
I don't know what happened to Father that evening, but I liked his new character.
But again, Taichi was furious. He heard the whole conversation about Aimi and watched from his window as I summoned Aimi for Father to see outside the house. He didn't speak to me for a long time. That bond shattered.
He was mainly mad at me, but he was also mad at Father. He argued with him one night, asking him why it was I who was chosen to summon my Inner Demon and not him, but when Father explained it was for my own protection, Taichi got offended, asking Father if he favoured my own protection over his. He explained how the fight could have ended up so different if he had his Inner Demon as well. Father left the argument at that, cutting it short.
“Mother, can I do some training down in the field there?” I asked the next day, once Kori no Mura became calm once more. Mother was going to be at work all day, dealing with casualties, and the house was going to be quiet once again.
“Of course dear.” she smiled, pulling on her trench coat and tying the belt “Don’t forget to take Aimi. She will protect you.”
As soon as I stepped outside, I summoned Aimi in front of Mother so she could see I was doing as I was told. It was noticeable that Aimi had an excitable personality. As soon as the summoning was complete, he turned to me and jumped onto her hind legs, beating her wings at me so hard it was as if a gale brewed. I was shot off of my feet and tumbled into a pile of snow on the side walk. At first, Mother was mortified, but when I immediately stood up and dusted myself down, she giggled at me, and I joined in.
I mounted Aimi and she spread her wings as she started levitating off the ground. It gave me an excuse to find a quiet area of the village to train, but also have a glimpse of what it looked like outside. But I was disappointed to discover outside just looked like a wasteland. But today, I noticed a strange silhouette outside in the dusty snow. It let out what seemed like a deep growl or moan. This mass was abnormally big and shifting as if trying to get comfortable. I quietly commanded Aimi to land a few metres away from the mass, for safety reasons, but I jumped off and walked forwards out of sheer curiousity. Suddenly, a pair of shocking yellow eyes opened when I was less than ten metres away from it. I gasped and fell backwards in shock. The eyes glowed at me for a few seconds before a voice hoarsely sounded.
“Who’s there? Lord Korikage? Back for more?” a female voice asked.
“N...no. I..I'm Akemi.” I cried back.
“Akemi? Daughter of the fifth?” the voice growled again, but it's defensive tone was gone and instead it was replaced with curiousity, "Step forward."
Cautiously, I stepped forward until I made out the solidifying shape of a large wolf. And I knew immediately it was none other than Okami herself. She was still alive. But only just. Just like Father said, she was suffering.
“Akemi. Future Korikage. Did your father send you to finish me off?” Okami growled in disapproval.
“No. I came out to train. I promise, I meant no harm to you.” I squeaked.
The Wolf’s eyes blinked slowly and she started laughing at my pathetic fearful tone of voice, "Outside the gates? My my, what a naughty rebel you must be. Do you come outside the gates often?"
I shook my head, "I just got Aimi yesterday. I just wanted to explore the outside with her."
"My Inner Demon." I pointed to Aimi who was sniffing at nudging the snow with her muzzle.
"Get that creature away from me." Okami suddenly became hostile again, growling at Aimi, who just glared back, "I do not want to come into contact with another one." she clearly meant Ronin. The Wolf blinked again and let out a loud sigh. I saw blood leaking out of her body and head as she moved her body. There were many punctures caused by knives and all sorts of other blades matting the beautiful fur of the creature.
I bit my lip and then turned to Aimi. She looked back at me, and when I nodded, she disappeared in a puff of snow.
“Hmm. Leave me.” Okami whispered as her eyes closed, "Leave me so I can die. I have no meaning anymore. Yonaka is gone, why do I still need to be here?"
My eyes widened, "I thought you were looking for him. You wanted to find him."
Okami chuckled, "And look what good that did to me. No. It's too late now. I give up.”
"No!" I immediately shouted, "Don't you ever give up! Yonaka is out there and I bet he wants you to find him. You need to find him...I...I...I'll help you find him."
Okami's eyes snapped open, “Liar.” she whispered intimidatingly, but when I stood my ground, she made a huge effort to move her head closer to mine, and examined me closely. She gasped, "You're here." she whispered to herself, "The First. You're inside her."
I was a bit confused about what she meant by that, but before she could say anything else, her breath hitched and she let out a loud sigh.
"Okami!" I shouted out to her, "No, please don't die now. You have so much to do. So many incomplete tasks! You need to be strong and get through this. Please...do it for me...do it for Yonaka!" tears streamed out my eyes as I protested. I grabbed onto the fur of her neck and released some of my chakra into her.
A whine escaped Okami's mouth as my chakra spread to her body. The wounds on her body all closed up, and I could feel her heart and breathing slow down. That in itself made me relax.
Okami's whining stopped almost abruptly, and this time she had more strength to move. She stared at me, "You...are something else...why would you try your hardest...a small developing girl like you...to keep me alive?"
I smiled and whispered, “Because I want you to find Yonaka. And I want to help you find him. I know how it feels to be alone. I don't have any friends, my brother shuns me and Father is super strict and never around. It's just me and Mother, and if something were ever to happen to her, I would react the same as you.
Okami listened intently, "You would...do the same? You understand...accept what I did?"
I nodded quickly, "Of course."
Okami scoffed, but moved her head so it was resting right next to where I was standing, "There is no way I can return to what I once was before I was attacked. All my strength, all my energy, all my willpower is gone. I can't go back...I can never go back, even if I wanted to."
I sucked on my lip and thought, "What if I were to give you my chakra? All of it. It may not be much, but it could be enough! And...and I can give you more when I get older."
Immediately, Okami laughed, "I love your innocence. It's so pathetic I am actually starting to grow fond of you."
I went red with embarrassment, then I thought again, "Then...what if you use my body as a defence almost? You can share my body, and then we can travel together. I can help you find Yonaka that way, and as soon as we find him, I will release you."
Okami chuckled, "No offence, little Akemi, but how do I know you are not some little punk who wants to use me to look tough in front of your comrades?"
I let out a light laugh and replied, "You are just going to have to learn to trust me. Just like the First trusted you with his secrets."
She froze and hesitated, "You really are just like him." her eyes sparkled, "He is definitely your relative, but why so down the line does he finally show in someone?"
"Do you not see him in any of the others?"
She shook her head, "None. None of them have that spark you and he share." she then sighed, "Ok. I want to accept your deal. I am going to entrust you with all the forbidden jutsus and secrets I possess, personally, and the ones of the First. I will assist you with your any future events if necessary, but you will release me once I am reunited with Yokana."
I nod once and place my hand to my chest, "A shinobi's honour."
"Hmph." Okami grunted, before she closed her eyes.
Her body began to disintegrate into the air, spiralling above where I stood. What was left of her was a blue silhouette of her physical form, her soul. Her eyes then flashed open and the energy shot at me embedding it's way into my body through the flesh of a spot on my neck. I cried out more in shock than in pain. The feeling was tremendous. All the energy seeping into my, making my muscles all contract at once, almost to the brink of bursting. Even after it had calmed down, the feeling was still extraordinarily different to what I was used to before. What was left of my feeble body was engulfed by a foreign energy that flowed through my body. Nothing I was ever expecting to feel, even when I grow stronger.
Thank you, Akemi, I heard Okami's voice in my head, before it echoed into nothing.
I remained standing in the middle of nowhere for a while longer, just thinking about my decision. I now had a demon inside of me. That almost put me on the same level as a Jinchuriki, only Okami had no connections with any of the tailed beasts, even if she did have inhumane powers and multiple tails that thrashed around when she got mad.
"Akemi!" I heard a loud voice shout at me.
Whipping my head around, I spotted three Jonin from the village run up to me.
"What are you doing outside of the village? You know it's forbidden." one of them snapped as they approached.
I reluctantly took steps back, do they know what I have done?
"And to seal an unstable demon within you?" another tutted in disgust, looking me up and down.
I knew it, I thought, they are not going to accept this. I need to escape Kori no Mura. Hide away until I am old enough to face them again.
"We need to take her to Lord Korikage. Something needs to be done about her mistake." the first muttered to his comrades.
No! Father is the last person I want to find out. He'll get mad at me, and just as things were starting to look up between me and him.
I continued to take steps backwards, quickening my pace.
"Lady Akemi, you must return to the village. It's not safe out here."
I ignored them, even as their pace started to match mine. I turned around and broke into a run. The panic caused the foreign energy in me to flourish into a burst of speed. Speed that was not normal to me. I was a mere blur in front of the Jonin before I was gone, hidden by the uneven terrain.
"Akemi!" I heard the Jonin calling for me.
Akemi. You need to find a way to escape. They are just going to take you back to be tested on. They can't find out my secrets. Our secrets. Okami called to me.
Nodding slowly, I bit my finger and thrusted it towards the ground. Aimi appeared in a flourish of snow, but she could sense the panic I was feeling and didn't make a sound or get excited. Instead, she lowered her wings so I could climb onto her back, and lift off the ground into the air. I could see the Jonin watching me as I ascended higher and higher on Aimi's back, but they became out of sight in the bright snow.
I am really escaping from Kori no Mura. But for how long? How long can I keep this up? Where am I to go? Will we survive, Okami, Aimi and me?