Continuing Tales

Chasing Methuselah

A InuYasha Story
by Sandra E

Part 5 of 13

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Chasing Methuselah

The grand essentials of happiness are: something to

do, something to love, and something to hope for.

Buddha was shorter than Miroku had expected.

But the divine creator's stature didn't quite matter at the moment, because Miroku-Miroku had ascended to heaven and reached ultimate enlightenment, at last.


This is how it was supposed be. Always. Licking and slurping and suckling and-

Kagome was watching him, instructing him, guiding him, flushed and anticipative and-

It tasted much better than he'd hypothesized. Yes, it was a bit messy and his inexperienced tongue wasn't quite familiar with the silky shape, but-

"Kagome-sama," he moaned between licks, "I feel I need to... mrrrm... thank you for entrusting me with-"

"Shh!" she hissed urgently, but her voice sounded strangely muffled as Miroku bent down again.

It was thoroughly inexplicable. He was absolutely gluttonous! He'd seldom imagined he could actually feel this... good; scarcely believed his first time would be with Kagome, and-

"Miroku-sama... faster, please!" cried Kagome eagerly, her eyes glazing over in utmost pleasure. "We-we have to finish before someone sees us."


Kagome shifted with a tiny little moan, clutching the softening object in her hands. "Mmmhmm-what did you-oh! Mm!-say?"

Impatiently, Miroku tore his lips away, the tip of his tongue refusing to curl back. "I said (lick), no one (lick lick) will see us."

Kagome shivered deliciously. "S-Shippou might. And need I remind you-ooh-how bad that would be?"

"What would?" asked a small, inquisitive voice.

Miroku froze.

The little kitsune in question had appeared before them without warning. Awkwardly, Miroku exchanged embarrassed glances with Kagome, who was blushing guiltily.


Perhaps-perhaps the child wouldn't notice-

"Kagome, what-ah! Pocky!" shouted Shippou, pointing a furious paw at the two. "My pocky! Why is Miroku eating my pocky? Kagome!"

Kagome offered the child a sheepish smile, rising cautiously and steadying herself against the tree that had been providing such adequate protection thus far. "Shippou-chan," she hummed pleasantly. "I brought enough for everyone, but Miroku-sama hasn't had a chance to try these before and-"

But Shippou was already frantically digging through Kagome's backpack.

Miroku grinned. Kagome narrowed her eyes.

"Congratulations," she whispered. "And hey, before you leave, don't forget to take the knife out of my back. You'll probably need it again."

Miroku raised an amused eyebrow. "Are you implying I've stabbed you in the back?"

"Several times," pouted Kagome, balling up her little fists. "First, you just had to jinx us, and then-"


Kagome trailed off, watching him incredulously as he licked her pocky again.

"I apologize," said Miroku happily. "I never should have doubted you, Kagome-sama. Delicious!"

Kagome flushed most horridly, and Miroku found his breath catching as a considerable amount of his blood rushed in a [currently] unwelcome direction. Squirming uncomfortably-and wondering why Kagome was still staring at him with that unfamiliar look dancing across her features-Miroku stepped away, coughing.

Which was most fortunate, really, because a very grumpy Inuyasha interrupted their less than idyllic scene within a minute. Almost immediately, the hanyou embarked on several very irritating, very loud, and, most important, very long, rants ("Stupid girl-food-jewel shards-hurry if we want to-idiot-I don't care-damn humans-where's that girl gone off to?-kill you-runt-keh-when's she coming back?-feh-idiot-").

"Inuyasha," warned Kagome eventually, nursing Shippou's fourteenth bump on the head, "I'll say it."

Inuyasha scowled, crossed his arms, then dropped to the ground with a petulant pout. Soon, the two were bickering-though Miroku didn't find it nearly as amusing as usual-and the scene would have continued indefinitely had it not been for Shippou.

And his big mouth.

"Miroku licked Kagome," he'd said, and Miroku took those three little words as his cue to act invisible for the remainder of the day. Unfortunately, the sweet, tangy taste of strawberries and chocolate lingered with him-persistent and maddening. So, right before suppertime, Miroku found himself unconsciously mimicking Shippou's actions, and hungrily circling Kagome's backpack-which was left so carelessly underneath Inuyasha's tree, unguarded and defenseless and full of pocky.

"What are you looking for?" asked Inuyasha, one leg dangling from a branch.

Miroku grumbled. Then, noticing Inuyasha's matted hair, stifled a laugh. "How many times did she sit you?"

Inuyasha twitched and hopped off his precious tree. "None of your business."

Amused, Miroku shrugged. "I suppose not."

Inuyasha paused awkwardly for a moment, then snarled at the ground. "She was babbling about some stupid poké thing-"


"I'm going to kill you," warned Inuyasha, then continued. "And all I said was, 'Who gives a crap?' and she sat me. Then I said something else she didn't like-but I can't remember what-and she sat me again. Then that stupid runt said something about Kikyou so I... hurt him a little bit and she triple-sat me. Four times."

Miroku winced.

"Was it something I said?" asked Inuyasha obliviously.

Miroku sighed.

No. It wasn't his job to fix this. It wasn't. Kagome and Inuyasha needed to take care of this themselves and-


"Look, just go back in there and-" he began, but Inuyasha cut him off rudely.


Miroku frowned. "Of course you can," he said slowly. "One foot in front of the other. It's called walking, Inuyasha."

Inuyasha growled impatiently. Miroku noted the guilty flush creeping up the hanyou's neck, as if he'd been caught doing something rather inappropriate-

"I'm going hunting," said Inuyasha confidently, though he seemed mildly flustered.

"I see," replied Miroku calmly. "For what?"

Inuyasha started uncomfortably, then quickly bared his fangs. "Stop meddling."

Miroku raised an eyebrow. "I certainly hope your outing will be of short duration. Will you return by suppertime?"

Inuyasha scowled. "No one'll miss me if I don't."

Stupid, blind, melodramatic son of a-

"Of course," said Miroku derisively.

Satisfied he was evidently off the hook, Inuyasha made to leave, but paused near one of the neighboring trees. "I can't have them both, right?"

Briefly, Miroku entertained the possibility. His eyes glazed over. Surely, the appeal of having two women-


While Kagome might be willing to... erm, do anything for Inuyasha, Kikyou definitely didn't seem the self-sacrificing type, as evidenced by her recent course of action. She was a selfish, bitter creature. Yes, her fate had been tragic, and yes, perhaps she and Inuyasha belonged together, but-

A small, lamenting sigh escaped Miroku's lips. How unfortunate Kagome hadn't fallen in love with him. He'd certainly find a way to appreciate her devoted disposition and-



Miroku looked around in alarm. Inuyasha was staring at him, annoyed and jittery. Pulse racing, Miroku cleared his throat. "No. No, I suppose you can't," he replied finally, wondering why in Buddha's name he'd just thought... that. He'd never been in love; he quite hoped he never would be, so why would he want Kagome to-especially considering Sango was-and-

"I strongly recommend you hurry back, Inuyasha," was all Miroku could say.

Inuyasha scoffed humorlessly. "Or what?" he asked, puffing out his chest.

Miroku paused for a second. "Or another hunter might come along to help relieve your burden."

Inuyasha observed him for a moment, frowning, then dismissed whatever thought he'd been pondering. "Doubtful, monk."

Miroku watched, irritated, as Inuyasha leapt away, with a countenance belonging to a man of great fortune and rank, of great promise and affluence, and blah, blah, blah. He hated him. He hated everything about him.


Hated? He hated Inuyasha? Why?

Aside from some initial altercations, Miroku had never disliked Inuyasha. Quite the contrary, he found the hanyou a suitable companion and ally. Occasionally, he'd even enjoy their comradely banter. And-and he'd learned to depend upon him. Hadn't Inuyasha saved his life-and vice versa-quite a number of times? So, why-

"Miroku-sama," said a cheerful voice.

Warily, Miroku spun on his heel. "Kagome-sama."

She cocked her head and beamed up at him. "You look-I'm sorry. There's no way to end that sentence without offending you," she grinned, then promptly grew frighteningly serious. "What-what's wrong, Miroku?" For a moment, that familiar concern flickered in her eyes, but Miroku was intent on ignoring it.

"Nothing's wrong," he said, proud of his delivery. "I was just... hey, I smell food!"

Kagome waggled her index finger in his face. "Nuh uh, mister. No dinner until you tell me what-oh."

She knows.

Stiffly, Kagome glanced at the ground. "Where's... Inuyasha?" she asked, though she already knew the answer.

"He went to take a bath," lied Miroku, schooling his features.

"Inuyasha? Bath?" said Kagome with one of her patented smiles. Unfortunately, Miroku could now identify it as fake.

"Nice try!" she continued perkily, still smiling, "I-I do appreciate it, though, Miroku-sama." With a gentle nod, she turned away from him and began her trek back up the path, feigning cheerfulness.

Miroku felt as if he were the one responsible for-for whatever the hell was going on.

Grumbling, he ran after her, mentally compiling ways to dispose of Inuyasha's corpse.

Dinner was a somber affair. Kaede insisted on keeping to herself, and Shippou devoured bowl after bowl of rice-succeeding in sharing most of his food with the ground in the process-while Kagome merely played with her chopsticks.

Miroku waited until Kaede bid them goodnight, and Shippou drifted off to sleep, to announce to Kagome that, considering both Sango and Inuyasha were away, he would stay in the same room-nudge nudge-to protect her-wink wink. When she didn't offer even a single protest ("Okay. Need a pillow, Miroku-sama?"), Miroku tried not to look so shocked. He watched her arrange her odd-though extremely cozy-looking-bedding, careful not to wake Shippou.


How could it not bother her?

How could she just go about, acting as if Inuyasha was right outside, perched on his damn tree? How could she pretend-


Kagome was always upset with Miroku when he, er... looked at other women in Sango's company. She was never tolerant of Miroku's wandering eye. In fact, while Sango would simply slap or thwack him, Kagome would give him that reproaching, displeased glare, as if saying she thought he was better than that. So, why, why was she letting Inuyasha-

"When's Sango-chan coming back?" asked Kagome sleepily, fluffing one of those large, unbelievably comfortable head-cushions she'd brought with her.

Miroku bit his lip in concentration. "Two days, I expect."

Kagome hummed and burrowed under her coverlet. Shippou smacked his lips, still asleep, and curled up under the quilt with Kagome. Miroku narrowed his eyes. That child was evil, he just knew it-

"Do you miss her?" asked Kagome carefully.

"I'm sorry?" he frowned, watching stubbornly as Shippou snuggled Kagome's hand. Kagome, in turn, played with the little blue bow in the kitsune's hair, a tender smile softening her features.

"Do you miss Sango-chan?" she repeated, steadfastly ignoring his gaze.

Miroku paused. Did he miss the demon exterminator? Certainly, he'd grown accustomed to her presence and her, well-her curves. But then again, he'd also grown accustomed to his companions leaving his side for prolonged amounts of time. The only real constant in his life-since he'd started this pilgrimage-was... heh. Shippou.

"I'm sorry," said Kagome quickly, burying her head under the thick coverlet. "You don't have to answer that."

So, Miroku didn't. Instead, he settled himself down on the floor, wishing Kagome had been thoughtful enough to bring some of those head-cushions-pillows?-for everyone, and asked, in a low, nonchalant voice, "Why the sudden interest?"

Kagome peeked at him beneath her fluffy cover. "Um, wh-what do you mean?"

Miroku shrugged one shoulder. "With all due respect, you've been acting a little strange recently." He grinned. "Well, not that you don't usually."

Kagome threw one of her cushions at him. He gladly accepted it as a peace offering, and made himself comfortable opposite her. "You know," he raised an amused eyebrow as he turned to face her from across the room, "I'm almost tempted to conclude all these odd questions-and scandalous behavior-are your way of telling me you're finally willing to bear me a son."

Kagome sat up abruptly, clutching her coverlet with a nervous frown. "Miroku, you have to tell Sango how you feel."

Miroku blinked up at her.

What the-?

"You have to tell her before some stupid lord takes her away and-"

Miroku gaped at the girl. What was she talking about? Tell Sango what? He-he wasn't in love with her. Given time-which he knew he didn't have-he probably might begin to feel... strongly about Sango, but... he hadn't the impetus quite yet. She was certainly beautiful and competent and he was attracted to her, but he couldn't let himself-


Miroku's head snapped up. "Kagome-sama," he began soothingly, "Sango should be allowed to make her own choices. With whomever. And you should worry more about yourself."

Kagome flushed, but refused to look away from him. "No, Miroku-sama. You don't understand-"

"I do understand," he snapped, sitting up. "But you can't plan other people's lives for them just because yours isn't working out the way you-" he trailed off at the stricken look in her eyes.

Crap. What the hell had possessed him to say such a thing? Truthful thing, yes, but...

Kagome slid under the covers, turning her back to him. Guiltily, Miroku laid back down, thumping his head against his headrest in frustration. He'd never had trouble speaking to Kagome before. Ever. He was the straightforward type; she was the straightforward type-it'd been working out nicely thus far. Why was he experiencing this ineptitude now?

"You're such a jerk," came a muffled grumble. Miroku glanced at the squirming bump under the quilt. "Sango-chan is in love with you."

Miroku averted his eyes. Kagome sniffled and turned around again, gathering a very drowsy Shippou to her chest, as if seeking protection from the little kitsune. Realizing his chances of falling asleep were quite minimal for the time being, Miroku untangled the sheet that had somehow wrapped itself around him, and sat up, Indian-style.

"Did you really mean it?" he asked softly.

Kagome scrunched up her nose with a pout. "That you're a jerk? Yes."

Miroku smirked. "No, about..."

Kagome sniffled again. "Yes," was all she said.

Miroku wasn't certain how to feel. So, predictably, he pushed this disquieting information as far back as he dared. He just-he hadn't really planned on something like this. He'd fancied himself safe, what with his promiscuous behavior and all. He thought his constant groping could have one of only two possibilities.

It would most likely gradually (or instantly) push women away. Or, (and he generally preferred this one), it would lead to gratuitous obscenity and much fun. There was no third option in his father's reference book. So, troubled and guilt-ridden, Miroku watched Kagome as she stared at an invisible spot on the wall behind him.

"Miroku," she said suddenly. "I have another question."

Miroku groaned.

Kagome paused thoughtfully. "Remember when you, erm, kidnapped me?"

Oh, crap. "Uh huh."

"How did you know to ride my bike?"

Miroku blinked. Then blinked again. Slowly, his shoulders began shaking with repressed laughter. Within a second, he was laughing loudly and happily and comfortably, and Kagome was scowling at him.

"Jerk," she mumbled, but the corners of her lips were twitching suspiciously.

"I'm sorry," said Miroku, still chuckling. "It's just-unexpected question-and-I don't know. I suppose I'm simply exceedingly adaptive," he grinned wickedly.

Kagome eyed him dubiously. Shippou shifted next to her, wrapping his little paws around Kagome's fingers. "I mean, I've been wondering," she pouted, "'cause one moment, I'm standing there, and the next, I meet this weird guy who's trying to ride off into the sunset. On my bike."

With an almost-wistful look flickering in her eyes, Kagome glanced at him. "Strange first meeting, wouldn't you agree?"

Miroku raised both eyebrows. She's been thinking about this? Why?

"Ah. Kagome-sama," he grinned playfully, "I regret correcting you, but that wasn't our first meeting."

Kagome blinked incredulously. "What do you-"

A very wicked smile tugged his lips up as he reminisced.

Lake. Moonlight. Glistening breasts. Wet-

"Unhn," he drawled lazily, his throat dry. "I'd noticed you the night before." Pause. "You were naked."

Another cushion flew toward him, but he ducked in time.

"Stop saying that!" she screeched, waking a very disgruntled Shippou, who turned over and went right back to sleep, mumbling about pocky-thieves and dogs.

Miroku smiled innocently. "It's true. You were bathing."

Kagome paled. "So, you... you saw me-"

Miroku beamed wickedly. "First of many delightful sights, I assure you." He paused, bringing two fingers to his chin pensively. "Of course, the very next day, you jumped me. So, really, one can't blame a man for assuming-"

Kagome moaned miserably. "I-I did that because you were three seconds away from killing Inuya..." she sighed.

No, no, no. I'm not letting you-

"Perhaps," mused Miroku playfully, then quickly segued into, "though I do seem to remember catching a very tantalizing glimpse of your lovely-"


"Good night, Kagome-sama," he grinned, and wrapped the sheet around himself, nuzzling into the soft cushions.

He could have sworn he'd heard her giggle, but the sandman had tapped his shoulder, so Miroku obediently drifted off, dreaming of strawberries, odd metal contraptions, and a very angry Sango.

Morning found Miroku struggling out of his tangled sheets, facing the end of a very pointy sword.

"Monk," greeted Inuyasha, his fangs bared and his Tetsusaiga gleaming dangerously. "What the fuck do you think you're doing, sleeping here?" he asked, clearly fighting to keep control.

Miroku scratched his eyebrow, pushing the Tetsusaiga away from his face. With an exaggerated yawn-during which his brain searched for an answer that wouldn't get him castrated-he stretched and glanced at Kagome, who seemed both concerned and pleased.

Hff. Probably happy Inuyasha's acting jealous.

"Not all of us are as apt when it comes to sleeping in trees," said Miroku finally, then, oddly enough, decided to retaliate. "I presume you slept well last night, Inuyasha?"

Inuyasha backed off, growling. "I've heard about a shard north from here. We're leaving."

And so they did, bidding Kaede a rushed farewell.

Inuyasha was sullen for most of the day, complaining about their lack of shards and grumbling about Kagome's reticent silence and cackling wildly when Shippou tripped and fell over a jagged rock. Miroku, on the other hand, had decided to walk ahead, enjoying the quasi-solitude. In time, he realized the southeast winds were picking up; a flurry of petals and dandelion seeds streamed past him, and an insistent breeze made his robes flutter about him, cooling him down and-

Kagome sneezed.

With an achingly evil smile, Miroku turned around, his eyes roaming purposefully. After all, if the winds were picking up, there were other-flimsy, short, enticing-things that were bound to ripple and tremble and expose certain-

Kagome sneezed again, but this time, as he was facing her directly, Miroku could see her totter precariously for a moment, then steady herself as Shippou whimpered softly.

"Kagome-sama?" asked Miroku worriedly, forgetting all about sneaking a peek.

Kagome sniffled. "I'm fine."

Inuyasha turned around, scowling, but his features softened instantly. Kagome's hair was flying all over the place and her cheeks were dangerously flushed. "What's wrong with you now?" he asked viciously, but his voice was edged with concern.

"Oh! Nothing!" lied Kagome, swaying on her feet. Lightning-fast, Inuyasha caught her, lifting her off the ground. Hesitant to intrude, Miroku approached the two as Shippou scurried up his robes and perched himself on Miroku's shoulder.

"You have a fever, Kagome-sama," said Miroku, reaching out to touch her forehead.

"No, I don't," she fretted, trying to push herself away from both Inuyasha and Miroku.

"What's wrong with Kagome? Kagome?" whined Shippou.

Miroku hummed. "We should return her to Kaede-sama's."

"But I'm okay-"

"Fine," agreed Inuyasha shortly.

"But I-"

"You're faster," said Miroku. "You take her back and catch up with me."


"No way," said Inuyasha, "I'm not trusting you to get my shard, monk. I'll get the damn thing myself. You stay in the village with her."

"Does no one care what I-"

"Why should I stay with her-?" asked Miroku huffily, feeling strangely apprehensive.

"Because Sango's not around to take care of Kagome if Kaede has to leave!" snarled Inuyasha.

Grumbling, Miroku acquiesced, but had to ask. "Since when do you trust me alone with Kagome-sama?"

Crickets chirped.

"Since she seems to," answered Inuyasha finally, and Kagome gave a soft gasp.

And as they began traveling back towards Kaede's village, Miroku pondered Inuyasha's words. The hanyou was certainly perceptive when. No. One. Asked. Him. To. Be.

But it seemed to be true. Kagome did appear to... trust Miroku.

A surprised, flustered laugh rolled off his lips.

Miroku spent the late afternoon bored out of his mind.

Kagome was feverish and sleeping. Inuyasha hadn't returned yet. Neither had Sango. And Shippou... Shippou was rambling aimlessly, sketching butterflies and Kitty!Kagome and, strangely enough-something Miroku had never seen Shippou draw-a sleek, black feline.

A sleek, black feline which bore a remarkable resemblance to Miroku.

Miroku amused himself for a few minutes, watching as the little kitsune drew a very pink neko Kagome tugging on the other kitten's tail ("That's you!" clapped Shippou happily), then made his way inside Kaede's hut.

Fleetingly, he wished Sango were back so he'd have someone to talk to, but then remembered how strained and awkward their conversations tended to be. Quietly, he searched for Kaede-sama-and upon finding the hut empty of all its occupants, with the exception of Kagome-Miroku knelt down beside the mat.

Kagome squirmed, and turned on her side, her eyes closed.

She's sleeping.

So. I should go.

But he didn't. Instead, he sat peacefully for a while, meditating. He was partially successful in reflecting upon some of his more abstract musings, when-

"I hate that he thinks he knows best," came a soft whisper. Startled, Miroku opened his eyes and tried to focus. Kagome was curled up childishly before him, looking at her splayed fingers.

"I hate that I can't hate him," she continued softly, a lock of hair clinging to her cheek, caught up in moisture.

Miroku leaned his head against the wall, touching his cold staff to his damp forehead. Why was she telling him this? The fever. The fever was certainly a likely source of this sudden need to confide in him. But why-

"And I'm sorry," she whimpered. "Do you hate me?"

Miroku stared at her. "Why would I hate you?"

"Because I told you about Sango," she mumbled feverishly. "You probably wanted to hear it from her. I spoiled it. I'm sorry."

Inexplicably, Miroku found himself-

-tucking her in. He was tucking her in.

"Like I said before, Kagome-sama," he told her blandly, "you should worry about yourself." And though he found the idea oddly unappealing, he suggested, "Perhaps you ought to go home for a while."

She untucked a corner he'd folded, and shut her eyes tightly. "I want to..." she said, and Miroku frowned.

"...I've noticed," he said before he could stop himself. And then, reasoning she probably wouldn't remember once her fever withdrew, he added, "So, who is he?"

Kagome's eyes shot open. "What?"

Miroku observed her for a moment. Everything had fallen into place. After all, Kagome had been smiling entirely too much for someone who'd just had her heart broken. And though, in the beginning, Miroku was certain her smiles and cheerful attitude were generally a pretense, now...

Now he thought otherwise.

There's someone else.

Inexplicably angered by this sudden insight, Miroku inched closer to watch her features for any signs of dishonesty.

Kagome sneezed, then burrowed deeper into the bundle of flowery covers. Since it seemed she wouldn't answer him, Miroku poked her.

"I have a fever. Go away," she pouted.

Miroku grinned. "I see. Tell me and I'll leave you to rest."

Kagome pushed away her covers in frustration. "You're"

"Irresistible?" he smirked.

"Annoying!" she shivered, so Miroku bundled her up again, enjoying her discomfort. He pondered the opportunity that had presented itself to him so readily-Kagome, alone with him, practically naked...

Kagome sneezed miserably.


"I want to go home because-" she sniffled, "I don't want to run into Kikyou. She's been visiting Kaede a lot lately."

Miroku tilted his head. "Hmm. Why do you think she's doing that?"

Kagome averted her eyes. "I don't know. But I don't want to be in the same room with her."

And though the answer was obvious, Miroku still felt compelled to ask. "Why?"

But Kagome didn't even flinch, surprising him greatly. "Because," she mumbled. "You know what happens when people see us together."

"No, what happens?" he grinned, pulling the covers up to her chin so as to distract himself from her bare shoulder and the slipping garment she wore.

She huffed, swatting his hands away. "You know. They look at me, then at her, then back at me and go, 'Hey, you kinda look like her. Only not as pretty.'"

Miroku chuckled. That certainly wasn't the answer he'd expected. Then again, this little girl wasn't quite as predictable as he would have liked.

"It's not funny," she said, then sneezed again. "You don't know what it's like to be treated as someone's reincar... umh, that is to say..."

Miroku watched an odd little blush spread across her rosy cheeks.

"She's not," he said, tucking her in again.

Kagome looked up at him, blinking. "What?"

"She's not prettier," he said thoughtfully, then quickly-

-hightailed it out of there.

With a flustered exhale, Miroku leaned against the hut, the cool breeze a comfortable relief on his skin. Why-why did he say that? And more importantly, why the hell did he leave? He'd just given Kagome a compliment-and he only indulged in those when he planned on succeeding them with his "Will you bear my child?" routine. That was their only purpose-compliments, they didn't...

Compliments were useless.

Stop... thinking... idiot.

And so, in the spirit of procrastination, Miroku, the monk, left in search of nubile village women who could entertain him until either one of his companions returned. It was during one such-particularly delightful-stroll through the thicket surrounding the hot springs-and several bathing women, of course-that Miroku was ambushed by a pleased-looking Inuyasha.

"Got it," was all he said, puffing out his chest as though awaiting praise. When none came, he scowled at Miroku-who was quite absorbed in his task-and said, in a disgusted voice, "How can you look at that? They're ugly."

Miroku gasped theatrically. "Why, Inuyasha, I'm afraid you don't understand at all."

Inuyasha scoffed, but peeked over Miroku's shoulder. One of the women shrieked happily, splashing the other two, oblivious to the two men watching them. Inuyasha squirmed uneasily.

Miroku smirked. "Inuyasha, my friend," he said, patting the hanyou on the back. "I'm glad to see you've finally grasped the importance of that old adage."

Inuyasha flushed uncomfortably. "Yeah? Which one, monk?"

Miroku grinned happily. "Beauty lies in the girl with the biggest breasts."

Two days later, Sango and Kirara returned, fatigued and disheveled, but in a satisfied frame of mind.

So, Miroku, of course, took the opportunity to greet the demon exterminator the only way he knew how, and was rewarded accordingly.

Kagome, on the other hand, was finally out of bed (though Miroku briefly noted the wet weather was dangerous for her), and Shippou was complaining how Sango never thought of him ("Kagome always brings me something back!"), while Inuyasha nudged them all ever so subtly ("LET'S FUCKING GO ALREADY!") to head south.

So, as they walked along a slippery road, getting soaked by the warm spring rain, Miroku couldn't help but observe Kagome as she chatted with Sango. She was twirling a very absurd-looking object she called an umbrella while a drowsy Kirara trailed behind them, swishing her tails.

And then, Kagome whispered something to Sango, and Sango promptly blushed, so Miroku scooted closer to Inuyasha, in an unprecedented show of fraternal affinity. Kagome scowled at them.

"What was that all about?" hissed Inuyasha conspiratorially.

Miroku scratched his chin sheepishly.

"Tsk!" chirped Kagome abruptly, apparently blissful now that the group was complete once again. "You guys don't understand how useful umbrellas are, do you?"

Sango gave her an odd little smile.

"For instance," said Kagome happily, "one of these (point point) can protect two people."

Miroku narrowed his eyes.

"So," continued Kagome, oblivious to the fact that Inuyasha had paused and was now sniffing the air suspiciously. "I was thinking, since Sango-chan deserves it most, she should have mine. Of course, considering it can, in fact, shelter two peo-"

"Shut up," growled Inuyasha, tensing next to Miroku.

"I don't sense any demons," said Miroku warily.

"Hey, don't tell me to-"

"No demons. Humans," Inuyasha grunted in affirmation. "Many of them."

The entire group fell silent, waiting. Soon, what looked like a modest regiment approached, slowing their march as they spotted them. The infantry-no less than twenty men-were all wearing dark robes and insignia Miroku couldn't quite place.

He watched, baffled, as one of the men fixed his eyes on Sango and, with a flick of his hand, ordered the rest to kneel before her.

"I hope I am correct in assuming you are Sango-dono... along with the demon-hunter party?"

"Yes?" Miroku answered for her, his bushy eyebrows drawing together suspiciously.

The man dropped to the ground, as the remainder of his company bowed respectfully. "I serve the Takeda family," he said to the wet gravel. "My name is Asahi Miwanosuke."

Sango seemed disconcerted, so Miroku took a step closer. The man bowed again. "My apologies, Sango-dono. I-I am here to speak with you concerning a very serious matter."

Sango seemed to echo everyone's sentiments when she said, "Eh...?"

"We-" continued the man, his words coming out in an almost frantic rush, "-we require your assistance. We need you to exterminate a demon that has been appearing every night near-near our castle. We don't care how you do it. We won't mind minor damage to our castle if-"

Miroku's eyes widened greedily. "Castle?" he murmured. Kagome was strangely quiet, looking about with apprehensive eyes.

The man reached inside his dusty robes and displayed a satchel of coins.

Lots... of... coins.

"We will pay this much," said the man, looking up at Sango anxiously, as if he were failing his ambiguous mission. "More if you're successful."

Sango gripped her weapon, squirming uncomfortably.

Miroku eyed the proffered reward. "This is ten... no, twenty times the usual amount."

Sango nodded her head. "I'm sorry," she told the man awkwardly. "It just sounds too good to be t-"

"Nonsense!" said a new, deeply amused voice.

Miroku looked toward the edge of the faded path. A man-slightly ruffled, but grinning despite his battered stature-stood watching. He was leaning against his ornate horse-a sure sign of either nobility or thievery-and tapping his protective hood in greeting.

"Long time no see, Sango," he said, approaching lazily.

Sango blinked, flustered. "Uh... who...?"

Kagome was at Sango's side in a flash. "Sango-chan? ^_^; You-you don't remember him?" she asked, and glanced at the man nervously, eyeing him with a curiously distressed expression.

Shippou, clinging to Kagome, yelped giddily. "She totally forgot about him!"

Sango colored. "I haven't-I just don't-"

"Well," grinned the man. "One can't blame her," he said, and in an impressive instant, Sango's hands were resting in his.

"It was a very long time ago, after all," whispered the man, though his voice was clearly distinguishable to the entire gathering.

Miroku frowned thoughtfully.

Kagome, who'd been staring at the scene and blushing, balled up her little fists. "Who does this guy think he-"

Sango said nothing. She stood there, her cheeks pink, as Kirara gave a soft mewl in the man's general direction.

The man, clearly smitten (Miroku wondered at the fleeting sense of relief and mild regret constricting his muscles), smiled gently at Sango. Sango flushed, averting her eyes.

Kagome seethed.

"My apologies. I quite neglected to introduce myself, haven't I?" asked the man softly. "My name is Takeda. Takeda Kuranosuke. I am the k-"

"NO!" shouted Kagome.

Miroku glanced at her apprehensively. Was she-was she trembling? Had her fever returned? What was wrong? Why did she look as though-

"I-I have to go home!" continued Kagome absentmindedly, as she frantically searched through her backpack.

"What do you think you're-" began Inuyasha worriedly as the rest of the assembled onlookers blinked at the girl's antics.

"Kirara?" whispered Kagome shakily, detaching a frazzled, anxiety-ridden Shippou from her sleeve. With a glance at Sango, Kagome handed the little kitsune to Inuyasha, and hastily climbed onto Kirara's back, wrapping her arms around the demon's neck as if she were afraid of falling.

And as he-once again-watched Kagome disappear into the foggy horizon, Miroku wondered why he was so concerned about her when Sango was the one currently in need of assistance.

Chasing Methuselah

A InuYasha Story
by Sandra E

Part 5 of 13

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