Continuing Tales

Chasing Methuselah

A InuYasha Story
by Sandra E

Part 7 of 13

<< Previous     Home     Next >>
Chasing Methuselah

Come to the edge, He said.

They said, We are afraid.

Come to the edge, He said.

They came.

He pushed them... and they flew.

In his dream-

The room is silent, broken.

The world outside his narrow little window is slowly dying. There could be a storm raging somewhere beyond-wild and natural and his-but it doesn't really matter. The ceiling above him is dark, hiding nothingness in its shadows, so he stares.

But he can't see, can't recognize anything, and his head is slowly beginning to ache. Little white spots are dancing somewhere above, pricking at his eyelids, begging him to blink-to just close his eyes and reach for that last obstacle to a deep slumber, and crush it, squash it like the insignificant little wall that it is-

-to sleep while life slowly floats away.

"Why doesn't it matter?" she asks then.

His head turns sharply to look at her. When did she come into his room? And why?

"Why doesn't it matter?" she repeats, and he shrugs, sliding his hands under his head, gaze back to the ceiling.

"I never said it didn't matter."

"That's worse than a lie," she tells him. "That's denial."

Delicately, she lowers herself to the mat, leaning on his knees. Her shoulders and back are gracefully arched, her jaw lowered in repose as she watches him with those big blue eyes.

"It's only denial if I see it as denial. I don't," he says with a slight smirk.

"What do you see it as?" she asks then, and suddenly, her fingers are searching for something. His hands. He decides to make it easy for her and sits up, stretching his back against the wall, hands coming to rest on the bedspread.

"You don't see well in the dark, do you?" he mumbles, reaching with his right arm. Soon, her fingers are lying on his palm, and absentmindedly, he rests his chin on her little hand.

"Are you trying to change the subject, or is this a really clever way to draw some dark parallel and impress me?" she smiles and shifts, bringing her knees onto the mat, nudging the bedspread so she could slip underneath if he'll let her.

"Do I impress you?" he lifts his gaze, nuzzling his cheek against the back of her hand. She keeps her eyes on his face, full of genuine surprise and wonderment and something so foreign to his senses that he has to let go.

But she grabs his wrist and slips her little hands in his. "Yes. Yeah, you do."

Their fingers are entwined now, and he leans back and slides lower, his back pressing against the thin mat beneath him. It's not an entirely comfortable position, so he fidgets until something clicks, falls right into place, completes that restless jigsaw puzzle. Her. On top of him. Breathing into his cheek, warm and tempting and his.

"It won't hurt, you know," she whispers innocently, fingers still curled around his.

"Now who's in denial?" he cocks an eyebrow, but brushes his lips over hers.

Death doesn't hurt.

"But my denial is optimistic," she sighs and slips off him. Before she can leave and disappear like the fragile little light that she is, he catches her and brings her back. She falls into the crook of his shoulder like she belongs there, so he kisses her forehead and smoothes away a lock of dark hair.

It feels like silk on his damp fingertips, so he adds, "Why can't you see well in the dark?"

She thinks for a moment, sharp nails tracing lazy circles on his chest, "Because I don't have to."

He nods, tightening his grip on her. "But what if you had to?"

Her fingers come to an abrupt stop. "Why would I have to?" She's looking up at him, her ankles rubbing against his.

"Because. Maybe there's someone else there that you need to see. Someone else you need, period." One hand goes back to her hair, playing and tugging and teasing until she mumbles against his chest, sleepily, childishly.

"That can't be the only reason, can it?"

He can't help smiling, a fine upturning of cold lips. He could get used to this. He is used to it. "No."

"Well? I'm listening."

"No. You're sleeping."

"And you're avoiding."

Here he grins, and draws her closer to him. "If you can see in the dark, if someone, by chance, comes along and turns on a light, then..."


"Then you know where you're going. What you're fighting for."

Her little nose is warm, barely a millimeter away from his. She hovers over him for a moment. "What are you fighting for?"

He kisses her, waiting for that pull, that detachment from reality, to start tugging at his conscience, but it doesn't come. It should. Doesn't he deserve it? Because-this isn't right.

But it's still happening. It's still real.

"So?" she breaks away, breathing unsteadily.

"I don't know," he nips at her jaw, eyes closed and-

He blinks and stares. Her face is there, right above his. "Peace. I think," he whispers absently, watching his hand. Five fingers. Lines and details telling him how long he'll live. Shiny, perfectly trimmed nails and dry knuckles. No kazaana.

She's smiling; specks of gold around her irises, tiny crease between her eyebrows, small, marring scar on that white flesh, and a beauty mark near her lips. Real.

"You can't fight for peace," she whispers into his mouth, peppering his lips with tiny, butterfly kisses. And a mumbled, "It's an oxymoron."

Out of the corner of his eye, he notices the window. It's closed, but there's a light peering into the room. Bright and spectacular and alive. Can it be morning yet? Did tomorrow come already? Didn't the world die when he wasn't paying attention?

She's standing somewhere now, distant and unreal, so he shakes his head. "Moot point. Can't see in the dark anyway." And just like that, a heavy burden presses against him. Glove, beads, kazaana.

"But what if you could see and there was no one there?" she asks quietly.

He frowns, and shrugs. It's still dark outside. Maybe tomorrow didn't come after all. Maybe the world died, and he just can't tell the difference.

"That, Kagome, is why it doesn't matter."

There was a crack in the theory.

That old, untested hypothesis that had kept him relatively comfortable, allowing him to believe in that childish myth. A golden middle. Somewhere between end of the line and middle of nowhere that was supposedly better than an actual spot on the map.

Miroku, the furyou houshi, hadn't been sleeping well. He'd attributed it to several varying factors, foremost of which were his accommodations. There was something inherently improper about staying at Takeda's castle. The place was haunted-literally and figuratively-with disturbing spirits; phantoms and apparitions that chilled him to the bone.

And while Sango seemed intent on disposing of them by herself, Miroku chose to immerse himself in the archives instead, trying to help out as much as she would let him. Inuyasha, on the other hand, had been eating a great deal (abusing Takeda's generosity to the utmost), and was complaining entirely too much about Kagome's unwillingness to return.

Miroku was quite displeased with Kagome's behavior himself.

She-she'd acted very irresponsible. And childish. And-and-

"Miroku-sama!" was all he could discern before he was blindsided by a very enthusiastic blur of energy.

"Ah. I see you've finally found your way back, Kagome-sama," he mumbled, his voice muffled by her hair. Did she just-

Hug his arm?

"Mh hmm," she said, practically crushing her fingers into his flesh. "Kirara was waiting for me! And-and thank you!" she squealed and disappeared, presumably in search of Shippou.

Miroku blinked, then reminded himself the girl was... occasionally demented.

Oddly enough, he immediately found himself feeling decidedly better, not quite knowing what had prompted his impromptu change of heart. He quickly finished flipping through a few archaic tombs-strangely bored with them all of a sudden-and retreated to the residential complex in search of his group. On his way there, he managed to pick up a rather aggravated kitsune-who'd been choking on a very salty catfish-and informed the child of Kagome's return.

Consequently, Miroku had to actually run after Shippou, as the little kitsune sped across the compound, screaming for Kagome, Kagomeeee! Unfortunately, Miroku couldn't quite begrudge the child, considering his own, rather unconventional, enthusiasm.

"Is Kagome-chan back?" asked Sango, poking her head out of her room, where she'd been trying to avoid Kuranosuke-sama's dotting entourage. "Never mind. Shippou-chan just exploded, so I'll take that as a yes."

Shyly, she rose and slid the thin divider closed behind her. Miroku had the oddest feeling Sango was expecting him to say something to her regarding the situation, but he just... couldn't quite find the right words. So, instead, he reverted back to his patented, charming self. Luckily, he hadn't gotten very far before Takeda popped up, seemingly out of nowhere.

"Ah! Sango-chan!" said Kuranosuke boisterously. "I fear our time together is growing short. Would you mind gracing me with your presence on this lovely afternoon?"

Sango blushed uncomfortably as another screen slid open, revealing an eavesdropping Shippou, a flustered Inuyasha, and a coughing Kagome. Miroku grinned, half expecting her to jump up and thwap Takeda with her backpack, but one glance at her sheepish features stopped him cold.

Huh. What had changed?

"H-hai," mumbled Sango, and quietly joined Kuranosuke for a stroll. Miroku waited before they were out of earshot to look at Kagome quizzically, but she immediately looked away with a guilt-ridden frown. Inuyasha nodded at Miroku in greeting, then went back to his feast of charred fish and spongy rice. Shortly thereafter, a war between the United Nations of Shippou and the Federation of Inuyasha broke out.

"Have they been like this since I left?" mumbled Kagome.

Miroku entered the room, looking at the stack of dirty dishes. "Worse."

Kagome shook her head, amused. "Inuyasha-"

"Can't talk," said Inuyasha, "busy eating."

Kagome giggled. Miroku felt a pang of something that felt suspiciously like jealousy.

"Okay then!" said Kagome happily. "While you two continue to cultivate several cardiovascular diseases, I'm going to have a look around."

"Mh hmmrrm," said Inuyasha and Shippou simultaneously.

Kagome paused, exchanging a glance with Miroku. "And-I'm going to wander off into the forest."

"Mh hmmrrm."

A small smile played about her lips-one Miroku wasn't quite used to seeing. "And then I'll stumble upon Sesshoumaru-sama."

"Mh hmmrrm."

Kagome raised both eyebrows. "And then I'll marry him."

"Mh hmmrrm."

Kagome huffed. "And then I'll have triplets with Miroku!"

"Mh hmmrrm," was the reply.

Miroku grinned wickedly. "Kagome-sama, I don't think they'd notice even if we were to, say, copulate right in front of them."

Kagome choked violently, which only encouraged Miroku further, an enticing itch tickling his abdomen.

"So. Shall we test that theory?" he whispered in her ear.

Kagome flushed, her cheeks deliciously pink, then-

-stormed out, grumbling.

Amused and oddly satisfied, Miroku grinned to himself, then left to join her outside. And-she was apparently waiting for him, leaning against one of the trees and running her fingers through her hair, trying to get rid of the drifting petals that had clearly ganged up on her.

"Need help?" he asked innocently, plucking one of the rosy petals out of her hair.

She shot him a glare. "No. You do. Professional help. A lot of it."

Miroku patted her head. "Your mood swings entertain and amuse me, Kagome-sama."

Kagome giggled, pushing him away. "How long do we have to stay here?"

Miroku pointed his staff toward the main house. "We've done what Kuranosuke-sama paid for while you were gone, therefore..."

Kagome hummed. "Good," she said, then spun around, grabbed his hand, and dragged him toward the lake. Eventually, she let go, and simply admired the scenery-the lush gardens, the boundless meadows, the low rooftops, the sparkling lake and its wild collection of koi-

"Mhmm," said Kagome softly, scrunching up her nose and balling up her little fists as though she'd finally reached a very important decision. "Sango-chan could be happy here."

Miroku tried not to gape stupidly.

What-what had happened? What had prompted such a drastic change in her? How could she preach to him about Sango's undying love and commitment one day, then come back and-

"Miroku-sama," she was staring at him sheepishly. "May I ask a question?"

Miroku resisted twitching. "Ah, Kagome-sama. I apologize profusely, but could you please repeat that?"

Anxiously, Kagome scooted closer to him, a few locks of her dark hair grazing his cheek. "What?"

"It's just that-" he began, feigning hurt, "I thought I'd heard you ask for permission."

Kagome looked torn between exasperation and glee. "Just answer me, Miroku-sama," she threatened, though her intimidation powers equaled those of a kitten.

Miroku grinned, beginning his slow trek across the pebbled shore, waiting for Kagome to catch up. Finally, she tagged him successfully, somewhere near the elaborate little bridge Takeda's ancestors had obviously built for celebratory occasions.

"You really don't mind this, do you?" she asked, watching his face for any sign of dishonesty. "Kuranosuke-sama and Sango-chan, I mean."

And though Kagome's question resembled a statement, he answered her anyway. "No. I'm happy if she's happy," he said with sincerity, then smirked mischievously. "Though, I fear Kuranosuke-sama is not nearly as handsome-or charming-as I am."

Kagome gave him a strange look, turning to leave.

"May I ask you a question now?" inquired Miroku quickly, before she had a chance to run away again.

With a wary grimace, Kagome wrinkled her nose. "Uhm. I suppose. But I will hit you."

Miroku hid a grin. "Duly noted," he said, then made a show of appearing hesitant. "That eight second rule. What the hell does it mean?"

Kagome blinked incredulously, and Miroku could've sworn she'd seemed slightly... disappointed. "What?"

"It's been bothering me for weeks," he explained casually, enjoying her lost little expression a little too much. "I haven't been able to stop thinking about it."

Kagome tilted her head. "You must've been really bored without me, huh?" she giggled adorably, crossing her arms.

Miroku started. "Wh-no. Uh. No. That is to say-"

His sudden discomfort (damn it, was she right?) seemed to amuse Kagome greatly. She was beaming brilliantly, watching him with a giddy grin.

"Hee!" she giggled happily. "Non-verbal Miroku! Never thought I'd live to see the day."

Miroku glanced to the side. No. He couldn't possibly. No. It would be wrong. And Kagome would be upset. And-

Casually, Miroku nudged her, watching with unusual satisfaction as she toppled over into the lake with a surprised, flustered shriek.

Oi. What was he, five years old?

Grinning wickedly, he waited for her to surface. And surface she did-incredibly wet and dangerous.

"I'm so reporting you to Buddha!" she bristled.

Miroku was laughing wildly before he could be persuaded otherwise. By the time he'd forced himself to calm down, Kagome was already sniffling fretfully.

"Help me out, Miroku-sama," she pleaded innocently, reaching out for him like a child. Miroku narrowed his eyes suspiciously.

"You realize, of course, I'm not about to fall for-" Here, Kagome whimpered miserably, and something deep inside Miroku's chest brutally protested his uncouth, abject behavior.

"Fine!" he huffed, resting his staff against a tree and kneeling on the gravelly ledge. "Grab a hold of my ha-"


Kagome let out a tiny yelp of pure, absolute glee, sticking her hand in the air as if to claim victory. She gave a proud huff of triumph, bouncing where she stood, soaked and happy and contagious. "And that, my humble audience, is why you shouldn't challenge the master!"

Miroku tried very hard to glare at her, but was failing miserably. "My robes take longer to dry, you know."

"And mine are 50% silk, you know. Pond water ruins the texture," she said, bursting with energy.

Grinning, Miroku poked her. "You're very shallow today, Kagome-sama," he said in much the same manner. What was she doing to him?

Instead of taking offense, Kagome giggled. "So-why'd you push me in?"

"Did I? Your, er... body must have slipped."

"I see," she said.

"No, you don't," he smirked.

"No, I don't," she agreed cheerfully, trying to climb out. Miroku watched her squirm and claw at the water. Inuyasha-if he'd been less attentive during meals-would have killed Miroku for even thinking about it, but-

"Let me help you, Kagome-sama," he mumbled playfully, dipping into the water. Slowly, he wrapped his arms around her waist and lifted her up, though he'd sort of... forgotten to... let go.

"Climb up," he coughed, loosening his grip. Kagome nodded slightly, and very, very quietly slid to his back, in what was traditionally a stance associated with the hanyou. Piggyback, she'd called it once. Miroku could feel her heartbeat through his drenched robes-which were now peculiarly tight-so he wrapped his arms around her knees as hers slipped around his neck.

Everything was so incredibly slippery and wet and warm that Miroku began questioning his-currently stalwart-virtue. Then, as her fingers accidentally brushed across his chest, Miroku-who'd never been able to resist such temptation-took a deliberate step forward, which prompted Kagome to bounce against him, and press her dainty-

"What are you guys doing?"

Miroku looked up wildly, trying to focus. "Shippou?" he asked incoherently.

Shippou observed them skeptically for a moment, his little head tilted, then-

"I want to play, too!" he shrieked jauntily, and launched himself at them with a piercing scream.

It took Miroku several attempts to dislodge the kitsune from his head-and several more to get everyone out of the lake safely (though he'd briefly contemplated holding Shippou's head under the water for... an eternity). Finally, once Shippou had shaken off excess water-splashing everything within a mile radius in the process-the child explained that the group was ready to depart from Takeda's castle.

Promptly, Kagome scampered off to thank Kuranosuke-sama for his hospitality (though she hadn't exactly had a chance to enjoy it), while Miroku busied himself with a recurrent conversation Inuyasha insisted on having: the potential location of the next shard. By the time Miroku had time do to any definite thinking, it was already sundown, and the group had settled for the night.

It was one of those rare, peaceful evenings, so Miroku postponed his meditation in favor of sleep. Except, sleep refused to come. Probably because Kagome and Shippou were babbling and giggling and Miroku was kind of hungry. Thus, he kindly decided to help Shippou rummage through Kagome's backpack.

"Hey," chirped Shippou excitedly. "What's this? Kagome? Hmm? Kagome?"

"Aiee!" was all Miroku could comprehend as Kagome dove for an absurd-looking... doll?

The fuzzy white toy sprang up, then smacked into a tree bark. Kagome rushed to pick it up, cradling the thing protectively.

"Sorry, Mr. Simian Jr.!" she told the doll, then looked up, oblivious. "What?"

"Oh... nothing," grinned Miroku, watching her. "I'm just trying to understand why you apologize to inanimate objects."

Kagome blushed prettily. "Hff. You obviously weren't here when we fought Yura of the Hair," she pouted.

Shippou's head snapped up. "Yura of the Hair?"

And as Kagome launched into a lengthy tale-one that seemed to involve skulls and demons and, oddly enough, a comb-Miroku nibbled on a pocky (pocky!), and couldn't help but wonder if his children would be as exhausting.


With a covert glance around the camp, Miroku frowned thoughtfully.

Sango-Sango seemed generally... disinterested with the notion. She was often reserved-admittedly, one couldn't quite blame her-and only showed real affection toward Kirara. Actually, now that he thought about it, Miroku came to a startling conclusion.

Sango was very similar to-to Inuyasha.

Neither had any qualms about endangering their own lives to save someone in need (though Inuyasha made sure to appear grouchy and annoyed for fear of ruining his reputation), but... on closer inspection, both Sango and Inuyasha were somehow... withdrawn.

Perhaps they weren't even aware of it. Perhaps they thought they were close to others. Perhaps it wasn't in their character to be-to be...

After all, they were warriors first, and everything else second. It was quite feasible that they would change with age-Inuyasha, if he ever accepted Kagome as Kagome; and Sango, if she lived long enough to have children.

But. Miroku... did he want to wait? Could he? Sango was in love with him, yes, and Miroku had to produce an heir within a year. So... he was behaving impracticably. What difference did it make? A child was a child, regardless of its mother's affections, or lack thereof.


"-and so, a long, long time ago, the emperor of heaven decided to invite all the animals to a banquet1," Kagome was telling a very sleepy Shippou, clearly finished with her first story.

Shippou sniffled tiredly, snuggling deeper into Kagome's lap. "Even the fox?"

With a soft giggle, Kagome nodded absentmindedly, watching the flames lick at the night sky. "Of course."

"And the dog?" murmured Shippou as Kagome brushed the bangs away from his little forehead.

"Yes, even the dog," said Kagome with a tiny yawn. "He actually finished the race, and became the eleventh animal."

Shippou shifted, clearly on the brink of slumber. "And the fox?"

Kagome's eyes widened helplessly. "Uhm, oh. The-the fox... er. Well, you see... the fox-"

Miroku grinned. "-Wasn't the fox third?"

"Third...?" said Shippou joyfully, smacking his lips and curling up with a deep, content sigh, surrendering to sleep.

"I thought the tiger was third," frowned Sango, fluffing one of Kirara's tails. "There's no fox in the-oh." She glanced between Kagome and Miroku, tilting her head. "You shouldn't lie to a child."

Inuyasha grunted affirmatively. "You shouldn't coddle him so much, either."

Slightly chagrined, Kagome tucked the little kitsune in, grumbling to herself. "I'm not coddling him. He's still practically a baby-"

"He's a demon!" snapped Inuyasha, poking the fire violently. "And he's not a baby. He can take care of himself."

Miroku stretched, rubbing his eyebrow. "I believe you're missing the point, Inuyasha," he yawned. "Just because he can doesn't mean he wants to. Or, that he should have to."

Inuyasha scoffed, Sango was looking undecided, and Kagome-

Kagome seemed eager to pounce. "Exactly!" she clapped her hands, turning to Sango. "Wouldn't you agree, Sango-chan?"

Sango looked as though she'd rather not answer for fear of siding with Inuyasha. "I don't know," she said instead, "but I do know we'll wake him up if we keep shouting like this."

And so, looking as though they'd been admonished by a disappointed parent, both Miroku and Kagome settled back, curling on their sides and accidentally catching each other's eye through the ebbing hearth dividing them. Giggling quietly, Kagome stuck out her tongue at him.

Miroku grinned, forcing himself to ignore the reaction his body was having to that pink, little tongue. "You haven't finished the story, Kagome-sama," he said as quietly as he could.

"No, but Shippou's asleep, so it's kinda... pointless," Kagome whispered back.

Miroku pouted. "One is never too old for a good story," he pointed out.

Kagome raised both eyebrows. "You certainly are," she taunted pleasantly. "Although, I suppose there's always the story of Little Red Riding Hood," she laughed quietly, then tried to compose herself. "You'd-you'd certainly like the subtext."

Intrigued, Miroku leaned forward, warming his hands on the fire. "Mhmm?"

Kagome flushed and curled up around Shippou, glancing away. "Um. Never mind."

"Tell me," he said.

"No," she said.



"Tell me!"

"I don't want to anymore!"

"Why not?"

"Why do I need a reason?"

Miroku grinned, feeling oddly invigorated and untroubled and mischievous. "You can't possibly expect me to fall asleep without gaining this seemingly unattainable knowledge, Kagome-sama."

Kagome pouted. "Well, I do."

"That's not very polite."

"Yes, well-neither is tossing unsuspecting people into some stupid river!"

"Technically, it was a lake-"

"Ooh-you-why can't you just-"

"-GO TO SLEEP ALREADY!" snarled Inuyasha from his perch on the tree, ears twitching irritably. Several plants around him immediately lost their leaves; birds, of every shape and size, fled with a cacophony of squawks and shrieks; and Shippou jumped up dazedly, aiming his little fists at an invisible enemy.

"Well," sighed Sango tiredly, "at least we've spared Naraku the trouble of searching for us. Unless he's become deaf-"

"And dead," added Kagome petulantly.

"-he's probably on his way here as we speak," finished Sango accusingly.

For a moment, Miroku found himself wishing Kagome would say that little three-letter word, but to Miroku's disappointment, Inuyasha remained punishment-free. The hanyou grumbled an obviously strained apology, then sprawled grumpily across a thick branch, successfully ignoring the world around him.

Miroku dared a glance at Kagome. Her shoulders were shaking with repressed giggles. Miroku chuckled to himself softly, deciding he wouldn't be the one to break first. He wouldn't realize it until much later, but this little exercise in control would become almost a nightly ritual.

The next several days sped by happily.

The group-seemingly refreshed and less tense now that Kagome was back (and fighting with Inuyasha)-had found a small, pleasant village. Most of its inhabitants were grateful to Inuyasha for exterminating their local pack of demons (though, he'd done it quite by accident), and so, encouraged and relaxed by the addition of another shard, the group spent five enjoyable days doing absolutely nothing.

Actually, the little village was so likable, and its people so kind, that Miroku fleetingly entertained the thought of retiring here once the jewel was completed.

On the sixth day-when the wet weather was reaching its peak-Inuyasha politely demanded ("MOVE IT!") they accompany him to old Toutousai's latest hideout. Once the Tetsusaiga was thoroughly inspected (and Inuyasha thoroughly insulted), the group journeyed back to the village at a leisurely pace. The scene was almost idyllic; a strange sort of internal peace seemed to drift around them, and-

"Would you stop with the flowers already, runt?" grumbled Inuyasha.

Shippou plucked another wet dandelion, scurried up Inuyasha's arm, then blew hard. Inuyasha attempted to drop-kick him into the Northern Lands. Shippou quickly retreated to the relative safety of Kagome's arms.

"Inuyasha is so mean!" he whined. "I'm going to-I'm going to-"

"Finish a sentence?" smirked Inuyasha, then froze, sniffing the air and exchanging glances with a now-panicking Shippou. Kirara growled.

"What's wrong? Inuyasha...?" asked Sango, frowning.

But Inuyasha ignored her. He scowled, then rushed toward the village. And when the remainder of the group caught up with him, Miroku-

-felt his heart sink.

The sky had never looked quite like that before.

It was breaking right before Miroku's eyes. Long lines of fast-moving, grotesque demons and spirits appeared to be baptizing the daylight, plunging into the ground; the sharp, slashing sounds of their massacre softened by the pouring rain. The dirt under his feet seemed to sizzle, and all Miroku could see were villagers, strewn about like broken toys.

"You need to leave!" he shouted at them frantically. "Now!"

"Houshi-sama," said a somber voice. "They're dead."

Miroku flinched, gripping his staff. "There might be survivors. There are always survivors."

Sango turned away, apparently intent on ignoring him. "Inuyasha," she said professionally, "Kirara and I will take the north side-you and Houshi-sama-"

"Stop telling me what to do," groused Inuyasha, though he was obviously predisposed to comply. Promptly, he selected the largest demon in the vicinity, and lunged. Miroku, on the other hand, dealt with the remainder, trying very hard not to notice everything else that was getting pulled into the kazaana.

Broken doll's head. Kettle. Bloody rag that looked remarkably like a child's-

"We really should stop staying in villages," said Inuyasha much later, when the sun was kissing the horizon and the sky was blissfully barren.

"Uhn," agreed Sango, leaning against Kirara and inspecting the wreckage that had been their haven just this morning. "Well. Time to dig out the graves again."

"Uhn," grunted Inuyasha irritably, "it's all we ever do."

And so they did, working in silence and trying to refrain from any abstract reflection. It was much later, when the last little grave had been covered, that Miroku noticed the inauspicious absence of a certain-

"Where's Kagome?" asked Inuyasha, wiping his forehead and sniffing the air, his eyes darting around anxiously.

"The inn," was all Shippou would say as he nestled against Kirara.

"I'll get her," offered Miroku, trying to quash the uneasy feeling building within him.

He searched for her quietly, approaching the [surprisingly intact] inn with quick, angry strides. Can't. Can't think about that now.

"Kagome-sama?" he grumbled as he poked his head inside. The place smelled of dampness and carnage and-

Kagome was standing near one of the wooden benches, frozen and horrified. He heard her call his name and his breathing quickened, fueled by fear. What the hell was she looking at?

"Miroku-sama," she trembled, and he followed her line of vision.

The corner. A family. Huddled together. Dead. Small, hissing demon. Feeding. Slurping. Blood.

"Kagome, don't look!"

He disposed of the demon quickly, slicing at it violently and shuddering with disgust.

The blood-the blood seemed thicker than Miroku remembered, dulled by the lifeless light, and he didn't want to see any more.

Swiftly, he covered Kagome's eyes, and pulled her away angrily. "I told you not to look!"

He'd opened his mouth to scold her as though she was a child, and then-

And then he realized he was acting irrationally.

He hadn't wanted her to see, fine. But, why?

She didn't have to see it, because-because she didn't belong here. She was too soft. Too innocent.

An insistent little voice inside leapt forward to remind him Kagome had seen such scenes before. So... why was he so worried about her reaction?

I don't want her to change.

"I'm sorry," she was saying, trying to remove his hand from her mouth. "I'm sorry," she repeated, and somehow-peculiarly, surprisingly-found herself in his arms.

And as her head tucked itself under his chin, Miroku wondered exactly why he didn't want her to change. Finally, when her fingers had started digging into his flesh a little too ardently, he decided to drag her outside and-

"I don't want you to die," she whispered, and for a moment, Miroku couldn't feel anything but the parts where she'd been tugging at his forearms. "I don't want anyone to die anymore. And-and-don't say it."

Miroku tilted his head, gently pushing her away so he could see her face. "Don't say what?"

Kagome untangled herself from him, staring at the ground. "'Join the club'? Because you-because you always say something like that when I say something... stupid."

Horrified at the nearly indecent relief sweeping through him, Miroku stood there, staring at her.

She's never going to change.

"Kagome-sama," he said gratefully, "one cannot live without dying. We have to accept death as part of-"

"Promise me you won't."

Miroku blinked, startled. "I'm sorry?"

Kagome looked up at him. "Promise me you won't die."

For a very long moment, Miroku's throat refused to work. Finally, after his heartbeat had decided to return to its regular rhythm, he pasted a grin and said, in a deep-hopefully confident-voice, "I promise."

It had been a message.

Naraku's version of a postcard.

A demon-starved, ugly, prostrate-gave them their instructions, then crumbled to dust. And so now, they had it.

They had the location of Naraku's new fortress.

Within a week, they'd reached the foggy valley just beyond the Northern Lands. Both Inuyasha and Miroku insisted Kagome stay with Kaede, but she'd refused. Miroku noted, with some small, morbid sort of satisfaction, that she'd been very attentive to him. But then again, she'd clung to Inuyasha for days, as well, asking the hanyou to promise her he wouldn't get himself hurt.

Miroku frowned.

Not the time for this.

The woods thinned, and Miroku wondered whether they would find this fortress burnt to the ground, as well.

But the narrow path widened and there it was, big and foreboding and imposing, with a misty barricade that spanned so widely, it practically hid the fortress from view. And somewhere amidst that cold, blue brilliancy, his eyes landed on a silhouette, familiarly dressed and staring indifferently into the silent night.


A soft gasp to his left. Kagome-

And when the priestess stepped away, they could see. Another figure stood there, cloaked in the shadows. Its white fur shone bright and sharp under the moonlight, and Inuyasha stared, bewildered, before he spoke, in a voice Miroku had never heard the hanyou use.

"Kikyou," he growled to himself uncertainly. "Get away from him."

"What is she doing with Naraku?" asked Sango, gritting her teeth, and tightening her grip on her weapon. "Inuyasha-"

"Don't-don't hurt her," said a trembling voice. "Please, Sango-chan. Miroku-sama."

Miroku spun around.

"She's-she's not a bad person," continued Kagome desperately as though it took an incredible amount of control and discipline. "We have to help her."

Inuyasha stared at Kagome, his jaw slack and his eyes wide. Sango looked displeased, while Shippou bit his lip, looking torn.

Personally, Miroku wasn't exactly enthusiastic about the situation. He could barely suppress the instinctive rage and anxiety he invariably felt around that damn spider. The added complexity of trying to make both Inuyasha and Kagome see the dead priestess for what she really was-a vessel of hate and vengeance-was definitely inconvenient.

"Let's just take care of Naraku," he said firmly. "We'll deal with... other matters later."

Inuyasha snapped out of his stupor. "Yeah."

And just like that, the hanyou sped off, leaving the rest to shout warnings after him.

"Inuyasha!" yelled Sango as Kirara transformed, her fluffy paws surrounded by flickering flames. "You can't take him on alone-and-ooh, that idiot!"

Miroku privately agreed. Experience and common sense were both screaming, 'Trap!' inside him-after all, it had been entirely too easy to find Naraku's new fortress. Moreover, Naraku very rarely-if ever-appeared without his devout minions. Something was horribly off about this whole thing.

"Kagome-chan, stay here," said Sango stiffly, mounting Kirara and setting off after Inuyasha.

Miroku's blood boiled. He could never think straight around Naraku. Today was no exception. With a quick glance at Kagome (bow, check-arrows, check), he quickly reached the barrier, picturing all the ways Naraku's head could be spliced open.

"Ah," said a deep, bored voice from beyond the baboon pelt. "They've come to play."

The hair on the back of Miroku's neck prickled.

"Playtime's over," hissed Inuyasha, gripping his Tetsusaiga. "Kikyou, what the fuck are you doing?"

Kikyou watched the scene calmly. "Supervising," she said. "Naraku tends to forget."

"Forget what?" asked Inuyasha desperately, his ears twitching.

"That only I am allowed to kill you, Inuyasha," said Kikyou softly.

Stealthily, Miroku nodded at Sango and Kirara, who were slowly rounding the barrier, trying not to think of how utterly imbecilic Inuyasha was.

Kikyou wanted him dead. Did the hanyou think that was romantic or something? There was absolutely nothing romantic about death.

Miroku unwrapped his protective beads, and then-

-all hell broke loose.

Kagura, from somewhere beyond the barrier. Puppets. Hundreds of mindless minions. Kikyou, unemotional, watching from the sidelines. Hiraikotsu and Kaze no Kizu and-

-those damn poisonous insects.

With a grunt of frustration, Miroku closed his fist. Fine! He'd just take care of these bastards manually.


Miroku froze.

"Houshi-sama!" shouted Sango again as Kirara roared and charged toward one of the larger, serpent-like demons. "Kagome-chan-!"

That was all it took.

Miroku swung his staff, slicing through a demon that was blocking his view, his eyes searching for Kagome. They'd told her to stay put, so why the hell-

Son of a-

She was making him so angry, this girl.

Why? Why would she leave the relative safety of the woods? Why would she tangle herself in this mess? Why would she be approaching Kikyou?

Pulse racing wildly, Miroku tried very hard not to count the numerous flocks of demons swarming around the priestess-soul snatchers not excluded-and scrambling up the small hill that divided the area, he tugged at his protective beads.

Inuyasha's too far away. He'll never make it in time.

Neither would Miroku.

A persistent insect was buzzing around his head, as if its only assignment was to taunt Miroku. But its mocking was pointless. Miroku knew. He knew he couldn't use his kazaana. Not now. Too many demons. And the poison. And-

-Kagome was speaking to Kikyou-

-a mass of tangled, misshapen demons was soaring through the air, headed for Kagome's back-

-Kikyou wouldn't move a finger to help Kagome, he knew. He knew-


In a whirlwind of confusion, Kagome and Kikyou had turned to look at him; Kikyou with indifference; Kagome with guilt and worry and horror. Frowning deeply, Miroku tried to steady his hand-his aim seemed to be off, his proficiency decreasing with every poisonous insect the kazaana pulled in-hoping Kagome would realize she. Needed. To. Get. Out. Of. The. Way.


By some small miracle, she seemed to understand. Then, to his dismay, she grabbed Kikyou's hand and tugged her away into a hollowed trench, where they would most likely be protected from the winds.

Now that Kagome was safe-though obviously insane-Miroku flinched, wrapping his fingers around the protective beads, ready to close his palm. He could feel the uncomfortable warmth he now associated with Naraku's miasma spread through his arm, then his shoulders, his neck, his face-

Keep going.

He'd lost count of the demons, figuring it was best to take out as many as he humanly could. Inuyasha and Sango could take care of the rest. It was okay. It was. He'd survived these stupid bugs before. Twice, was it? Hell, he was probably building up a tolerance to them, an immunity, and-


Miroku knew the exact moment his kazaana fractured.

He could feel it pinch at his skin-didn't hurt much-and he could certainly feel the lacerations widen and stretch and carve themselves into his palm, his flesh tensing and tightening around his bones.

"Miroku," someone was saying, very close to him. "Miroku-sama, stop." Fingers-icy and trembling-were wrapping around his shoulder, then lower, carefully tugging on his glove and protective beads. With a sharp exhale of breath, he snapped out of it and quickly closed his fist, collapsing against whomever was holding onto him.

"Miro-kun, please, are you-"


He wanted to open his eyes, vaguely aware how much he was leaning against her and wondering how long she could actually support his weight before they both toppled over to the ground and-

She was holding his hand in both of hers. Blindly, he tried to push her away. One moment of carelessness, and his knuckles would loosen, his fingers would stretch out, and-

Kagome would be gone.

"Go away," he mumbled as her legs gave out and they collapsed to their knees, his head buried in her shoulder. Briefly, he managed to open his eyes and saw Kikyou standing over them, watching them with an unreadable expression. He could also see the few remaining demons closing in, rushing toward them, howling and wailing ominously and-

Kikyou waved a hand.

Before closing his eyes again, Miroku could see the demons drop lifelessly to the ground and the priestess walk away.

"Please," Kagome was whispering, "hold on. Please." She laid him on the ground gently, and he could feel her hair brushing against his cheeks, cooling him down. "Drink this. Please!"

She sounded so frantic and so lost and so thoughtful that he had no choice but to comply. His throat stung as the liquid slid down, burning and scalding as it went. After a few moments-during which he found himself feeling very warm and comfortable and so close to a wonderful feeling of peace-Miroku blinked his eyes open.

Kagome's features slowly came into focus; she was sitting up, silky hair cascading down her shoulders, tickling his forehead. He was too sleepy to note his head was in her lap. He raised a hand to his face, an odd trickling sensation trailing near his lips.

A disturbingly coppery taste lingered in his throat as he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.


That-that was new.

He'd never bled before, so why-wait. He tilted his head back, neck rubbing against Kagome's lap. He wasn't bleeding.

She was.

Her cheek was smeared with blood, marred only by a few long lines created by what Miroku presumed were tears. Idiot. Why'd she have to come out from that makeshift shelter-why did she-

"Don't forget," she murmured soothingly, pressing her palm to his forehead. "Don't forget. You promised."

And as he slipped into unconsciousness, all Miroku could think about was how much he wanted to ask about that cut on her cheek-to ask if it hurt-to ask if...


He was so incredibly nauseous.

But he'd forced himself to stumble outside, away from the comfort of Kaede's hut, and followed the old man-Mushin.

Mushin, for his part, looked around, picked a spot, and sat on a fallen tree trunk. He was silent for a while, so Miroku sat opposite him, picking at the grass.

"I couldn't, you know," said Mushin suddenly, looking off into the distance. "I couldn't repair it this time."

Miroku froze, every muscle in his body tensing.


"Idiot," continued the old man, staring at the ground and chugging from his bottle. "I told you last time to take it easy, didn't I? Didn't I? Practically ripping your hand in half is not taking it easy. Idiot."

Feeling empty and numb, Miroku ran a hand through his hair. "So," he said, concentrating on keeping his breathing steady, "what are my options?"

Mushin wouldn't look at him. "Options? Options? Are you serious?"

With an inward shrug, Miroku took the bottle away from Mushin, and took a generous mouthful. "I'm not cutting off my hand, so that's out."

Mushin's face was unreadable. "Kill the bastard."

Miroku hummed. "Working on it," he said, then paused thoughtfully. "If for some unforeseeable reason I should fail-"

"-you'll die," said Mushin coolly, taking his bottle back and swallowing heavily.

"I'm not going to die," said Miroku just as coolly. "I'm going to live longer than you, old man. Except, unlike you, I'll keep my hair."

Mushin nodded absentmindedly, slouching over his bottle.

Miroku tapped his fingers on his knees, then abruptly stood up. "Don't tell anyone."

Mushin paused. "Not even the girl?"

"Hmm?" asked Miroku, though he'd already had his suspicions.

"The younger one, with the-the talking."

Well, then. Especially not the girl.

"It's just... she seemed worried about you," said Mushin casually, though Miroku could feel the man's old eyes bore into him judiciously. "I didn't think you'd ever let a-"

"If you tell her, I'll kill you."

Mushin laughed boisterously, though the lines around his eyes spoke of great fatigue. "You plan to hide it? And then what? Disappear mysteriously while they're busy having tea?"

Miroku flinched. "I'm nothing like him," he said.

Mushin shrugged oafishly. "Perhaps. But at least your father had the decency to-"

"Um... am I interrupting? Mushin-sama? Houshi-sama?"


Miroku arranged his features into a courteous expression. "Of course not! Even if you were, I'd rather spend time with a beautiful woman such as yourself than this old man who smells like cheap sake."

Sango flushed and tried to look aggravated, but failed miserably. "Yes, well-Kaede-sama insisted I bring you back. You need to rest, Houshi-sama."

"Ah," said Miroku theatrically, spreading his arms wide and trying not to flinch as his palm throbbed painfully. "I see," he continued thoughtfully, rubbing his chin. "Mushin, let me translate for you. You see, this young lady is trying to get me in bed, and-"

Sango seethed. "I can't hit you because you're still recovering, but, believe me, you'll be feeling the wrath of my Hiraikotsu in a fortnight."

"Ooh," he teased weakly, "the wrath of her-"

"Shut up," said Mushin, lending his heavy shoulder for support.

Gratefully, Miroku leaned against him as the trio began their return to Kaede's hut.

"Not a word," muttered Miroku darkly.

Mushin shrugged.


He was so bored.

And angry.

Kagome hadn't come to see him.

After all her righteous gibberish about him promising not to die, it seemed as though she didn't really care when it came right down to it. Miroku had heard from Kaede that Inuyasha had been seriously wounded by Kagura before both sides decided to retreat. So, it was reasonable that Kagome would've stayed by Inuyasha's side. It shouldn't have been so surprising the two of them would be inseparable, and-

Someone cleared their throat discreetly. Miroku cringed. It was fine. Only Kaede-sama. She would understand.

With a shaky exhale, Miroku lowered himself onto the mat, his face contorting in pain. Kaede watched him impassively, her beetle-black eyes scrutinizing every inch of him. A dismal sort of grayness was seeping through her uneven, wooden windows, offering him an excuse to snuggle deeper under the soft, fur-like covers.

Wait. Fur?

"They're Kagome's," said Kaede as if she'd read his mind. He gave her a startled glance, and was preparing to inform the old priestess of her complete and utter creepiness, when-

"Miroku-sama!" "Miroku!"

And before he knew what hit him-literally-Miroku was choking on a very excited kitsune.

"Shippou-chan!" giggled Kagome, tugging at his fluffy tail. "We've talked about this, remember?"

Shippou beamed up at her, then smiled at Miroku. "I'm glad you're not dead," he said happily. "But that was pretty stupid of you and-"

"Shippou-chan," chided Kagome. Shippou wrinkled his nose.

"Well, it was," he complained, then went to sit in the corner, playing with those odd, colored quills Kagome had brought him.

Miroku blinked up at Kagome, his features softening. No. Remember. You're angry.

"How's Inuyasha?" he asked calmly.

Kagome's face lit up. Miroku frowned. "Oh, he's fine! Won't take the medicine, as usual, but-" her fingers flew to his forehead. "Yes, uh huh, the doctor's diagnosis is in," she said thoughtfully, "you're insane."

Miroku's anger melted instantaneously. "At least I'm not alone in my madness," he raised an eyebrow. "What were you thinking?"

Kagome's shoulders slumped as she averted her eyes. "She-Kikyou-sama is just... confused," she began awkwardly. "She loves Inuyasha. I know she does."

Miroku winced, feeling guilty for ever being upset with Kagome. "Have you gone home yet?" he changed the subject, not quite sure why. "You've been here for-"

"-two weeks," nodded Kagome.

"Won't your family be worried?"

Kagome smiled an odd little smile. "It's not my family that I'm worried about."


The anger came rushing back before Miroku could stop to think. Him again.

"Besides," she continued perkily, "I've been helping Kaede-baachan take care of you. I think that justifies my staying here!"

Ruefully, Miroku glanced at her. "You've come to see me?"

Kagome blinked. "See you? I've been here most of the time." She gave him a worried look. "You sleep a lot, you know."

She'd been with him?

Miroku grinned sheepishly, lifting his hand to her cheek. "How's your cut?"

Cheeks pink, Kagome wrapped her fingers around his hand and lowered it back to his side, practically tucking him in. "You better tell me if your kazaana is hurting," she mumbled, her blue eyes focused on a crease in the covers.

Miroku flinched. He didn't exactly want to be reminded.

"Um," she added hastily. "When you get your foot out of the grave, that is."

Miroku tried to sit up, but she gently pushed him back down. Frowning, Miroku schooled his features, and said, in a firm, steady voice, "I can take care of myself, Kagome-sama."

Kagome smiled brilliantly. Miroku's stomach tightened with unease, and something... he couldn't quite distinguish.

"Just because you can doesn't mean you want to," she quoted him happily, "Or, that you should have to."

With a startled breath, Miroku looked at her.

And there was that crack in the theory.

Because she was right. He had absolutely no objections to Kagome taking care of him. But-if he allowed her to get any closer (as if he had a choice now), if he allowed himself to stay around her-his imaginary golden middle would disappear.

And as Kagome kept watching him as though he'd vanish if she stopped paying attention, Miroku knew, with absolute, undeniable certainty, that yes-

He was utterly, definitely, unquestionably doomed.

Chasing Methuselah

A InuYasha Story
by Sandra E

Part 7 of 13

<< Previous     Home     Next >>