Continuing Tales


A InuYasha Story
by Elementary Magpie

Part 2 of 10

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The climb out of the well was taking too much time, the rope ladder twisting back and forth, his one free hand slipping on the rungs with sweat and blood. With every upward grab for the next rung, Miroku had to let go of the ladder and wedge his shoulder and head against the wall in order to keep Kagome's not-dead-please weight from pulling them back down to the bottom. After the initial flare of his ofuda, it was too dark, but as he struggled upward, Miroku began to be aware of a flickering light growing high above on the shadowed ceiling. Of the smell of smoke, and old wood burning. His charm had set the well house on fire. Then he had to climb faster, but he couldn't climb faster and Kagome was too limp in his arms...

The voices above were the compassion of Buddha.

An old man, quavering: "What could be causing that smoke?"

A boy, high-pitched shriek: "Look grandpa! Fire on the ceiling!"


"Help" cried Miroku. "Here in the well"

Faces appeared over edge of the well. "Who are you, young man?" asked an old man, peering down at them.

"Kagome!" cried the keener-sighted boy.

The old man cried out as he too noticed the girl on Miroku's shoulder. "What have you done with my granddaughter?"

"I am Miroku, one of Kagome's traveling companions," he gasped, urgent. "Kagome has been badly injured. Please call your healers!"

Then the man and boy were reaching down, Kagome lifted from his back. Out of the well, but still not safe, as the smoke became thicker and the fire's crackle deepened to a roar. As he pulled himself over the lip of the well, Miroku saw that the man and boy were too slow, struggling with Kagome's limp body. And the fire was too fast, so he pulled her into his arms, and ran through the smoke, ran up the steps, ran towards the rectangle of clear sunlight above.

Outside, the open light and whirling space drove him to his knees, uncertain. The air smelled like burning metal and the setting sun made Kagome's blood glow, and underneath everything there was a dull roaring that might or might not have been sound of his own laboring veins.

The boy, following close, paled at the sight of his sister's blood, squeaked "I'll call an ambulance," and set off at a run.

The old man was wailing and beating his fists against Miroku's back. "What have you done to our Kagome?"

"I didn't ... Naraku collapsed a hut on top of her. I found her…. She needs help now!" What was an "ambulance"? What should he do now? The old man kept trying to take Kagome out of Miroku's arms, but the monk held on, uncertain, trying to find a comprehensible landmark in the unfamiliar space.

Running footsteps and a woman's cry, "Kagome! What have you done to her?" Kagome's mother? Again the same accusations, the same denials, the same attempts to pull Kagome away, but Miroku held on, afraid to let her go too soon.

After a confused eternity, everything changed, very quickly. A wailing sound, heavy footsteps coming up stairs, and then he was surrounded by men and women in odd white livery who were talking to him authoritatively, telling him to put her down, let them get to work on the girl. As he stumbled back at last, they clustered around her with strange instruments, talking to one another in quick bursts of unfamiliar words, all in that odd accent that Kagome also had. He looked around, dizzy, to see the woman and the old man talking to other white-clad men, gesturing to the burning well house, explaining her condition in half truths: "…a fire…roof fell in…"

More liveried people were asking him irrelevant questions. Are you hurt? Do you need assistance? No. No. Please help Kagome. He was confused by their concern, until he remembered the blood and the dirt on his clothes. The wailing sound kept getting louder.

When he turned back to Kagome, they were gently picking her up on some sort of stretcher. They were carrying her down the shrine steps as more white-uniformed men streamed upwards, dragging snakelike things that spit water onto the burning well house. They were carrying her down the steps and into something that looked like a giant white lacquered box with fat black wheels. With a shriek and a roar, the box-thing sped away down the road, wailing, with Kagome inside. Miroku stood swaying on the steps, a little above where Kagome's family had clustered at the bottom with the fire-fighting people. What had happened? Was she still alive?

Then Kagome's family was climbing into another one of the lacquer carriages, beckoning him to follow them. The moment he collapsed into the seat next to the boy someone slammed the door shut and the thing accelerated with a jolt and a roar, hurling along in the same direction Kagome's box had gone.

It was confusing, sitting still after so very long, and still so unsure if he had done the right thing. The strange journey to the "hospital" that followed didn't quite make sense: enormous shining buildings passing by lighting-fast, hundreds of people, flashing lights, and constant loud roars and shrieks as more of these strange carriages dodged one another at breakneck speed. He thought later that it might have been fascinating if he'd been less worried, or less tired. But just then it all barely had time to register on his exhausted mind before they were stopping in a curved white colonnade in front of one of those shining buildings.

He followed the Higurashi family through an extraordinary glass door into a wide, low room that was somehow both bustling and calm. While Mrs. Higurashi was asking after Kagome to a white-clad man behind a counter, a similarly dressed woman came up to Miroku and asked him how he was injured. Before he could reply, the boy and his grandfather converged, babbling explanations to the official and pulling the monk with them towards the counter.

Mrs. Higurashi turned around with a distracted air. "They are taking her to the operating room," she told them, incomprehensibly. "I have to sign some release forms, and then we should go to the surgery waiting room on the third floor." Her eyes focused on Miroku and she frowned. "Souta," she said to the boy. "Please find somewhere for our…guest…to clean up and then meet Grandpa and me in the waiting room when he's done."

Souta gave a self-conscious nod, and tried to lead him across the room as Mrs. Higurashi and the shrine keeper hurried away in the opposite direction.

Miroku balked. "What have they done with Kagome?" he asked. "I need to see-"

The boy's answer made no more sense than Mrs. Higurashi's had. "It's OK. They are going to operate - to sew up her wounds. We can't go with them because it has to be sterile. When they sew her up, and for the antibiotics, and they have everything they need to do a blood transfusion if that's necessary, and -"

Souta was babbling, afraid. As if to convince himself more than Miroku. An old habit, keep them calm, asserted itself, and Miroku stopped arguing.

Bursting with nervous importance, Souta led Miroku back through the reception room, looking around anxiously at every sign posted on the walls and doors.

"Hey! Stop hitting me! What did I do?" The high-pitched childish voice stopped Miroku in his tracks, whirled him around.

"Shippo?" Here? How-? No. The crying came from a black-haired, tailless, human child, fighting not with a white-maned half-demon but with his equally black-haired human brother.

After a moment, Miroku realized that someone was tugging on his sleeve. Souta. "Sir? Are you all right?"

Miroku stared at him. Forced himself to smile reassuringly. "Perfectly fine," he lied. "Please forgive my distraction. I will follow faithfully from now on."

"Oh," said Souta. "OK. The men's room is right here."

The boy led Miroku through a swinging wooden door into a small tile-covered room. There were two metal booths along one wall, and a series of porcelain basins, some waist-height, some lower, along two others. The waist-height basins were clearly for washing; Miroku looked around for a source of water. Souta watched him in confusion for a moment and then said, "Oh! You don't know modern plumbing, do you?"

"I fear not," Miroku replied, wondering why any of this was important. "Should I?"

"Oh, well," Souta said, adopting an authoritative gravity almost out of keeping with his small frame, "Here's the sink. You get water by turning these knobs, the red one for hot, the blue one for cold. And the soap's here…"

Souta continued to point out features of the room like the "urinal" and the "toilet" while

Miroku pulled off his blood-soaked, dirt-encrusted outer robe. After folding it neatly out of the way, Miroku leaned over the sink and began to rinse the blood off of his hands and glove and the cuffs of his blue under-robe. He rested his forehead on the mirror over the sink and watched the blood from his hands run down the drain. He noticed that the kazaana hurt, a great deal. He wondered what was happening to Kagome. Sewing her up? It hurt to think of so determinedly unique a girl as Kagome reduced to just another object of a tailor's craft.

"Wow, you have a lot of scratches," remarked Souta, looking at him with an uneasy frown. "You should get a doctor to look at them. And why try to clean that ragged glove thing on your hand? The other one is gone anyway. Best just to take it off entirely or someone around here will think it is unhygienic."

"I can't remove the glove or the beads," said Miroku, straightening back up and wondering what 'unhygienic' meant. "They keep my wind tunnel safely closed."

"Wind tunnel? What's that?"

So Kagome had never mentioned his curse to her family. "It is an abyss, a, a - Kagome called it a 'black hole' - in my hand, placed there by a demon's curse. If I didn't seal it, it would suck in everything around us."

Shouldn't they be checking on Kagome's progress now?

"Cool," said Souta. "But I can see how that would be inconvenient. Well, I guess you should just sort of keep you hand out of sight in your sleeve, just in case."

When Miroku was as clean as he could reasonably manage without a full bath, Souta led him back through the reception room, into a tiny cabinet that lurched and shuddered and then opened back up to deposit them in a completely different shining hallway. Dazed, he followed Souta into a room full of high-backed stools and worried looking people who included Mrs. Higurashi and her father-in-law. "It's a waiting room" explained Souta, who seemed to have appointed himself unofficial interpreter to Miroku. "This is where we wait while the doctors operate on Kagome."

Then they sat.

And waited.

When the silence grew too long, Mrs. Higurashi bravely tried to do the polite thing. "Have you been traveling with Kagome and Inuyasha for very long, Sir?"

"Some months now, Mrs. Higurashi." Apparently, Kagome hadn't mentioned him to her family either. But-

"Oh! You must be the monk Kagome brings the soda for."

He blinked, astonished that Mrs. Higurashi should know such a thing. It was, as it turned out, almost the only thing she knew about him. And he didn't understand why that hurt. So in defense he kept his answers polite, noncommittal. No, he had not known Inuyasha before Kagome came. Yes, a Buddhist. No, just a monk. Yes, for years. No, no family left.

Then they asked him about Inuyasha and their other companions, whose names Mrs. Higurashi all seemed to know quite well. That hurt too, but he told them calmly enough that he didn't know where Inuyasha was and that the others had died in the collapse that had injured Kagome.

Mrs. Higurashi was genuinely horrified and grieved to hear about their deaths. He thanked her politely, wondering if he was ever again going to feel even slightly as if circumstances were under his control.

The introductory conversation concluded, silence crept over their corner of the "waiting room."

Miroku shifted in his seat. The strange, high-backed stools were hurting his spine. But no one seemed to be sitting on the shining floor in this place. A humming sound seemed to come out of the very walls. The air smelled strange, a little like lightening. He looked at the dirt under his fingernails. Harder to get out than blood. Please don't let Sango become another Kikyo. Please let Kagome be all right. He shook his head sharply and looked up around the room.

A girl in a hospital uniform paused outside the door, flirting with a co-worker. The tilt of her head, the set of her shoulders, the way the bangs fell, just that curve of her cheek - it could have been Sango. Would she hit as hard as Sango, if he put his hand…? His mind shifted, habitual, lovingly, to the detailed plans he'd been making for the night he'd finally get to unwrap that green kimono, peel back those black leggings, find out how far down those blushes really spread…

The girl giggled, high-pitched, not Sango, and he was back in the hospital waiting room, eyes full, hands trembling, cold.

Not now. He blinked, took in a deep breath, and sat up straighter on his odd "chair." Letting out the breath, he looked around determinedly.

His desperate gaze landed on Kagome's family. Now that his responsibility for guiding Miroku was completed, Souta sat rigidly still, pale and tense, looking fearfully at the waiting room door. Grandfather Higurashi, on the other hand, sagged weakly in his chair, mumbling prayers. Mrs. Higurashi was looking at both of them with worry in her eyes. Old habit took hold again; Miroku cleared his throat and asked the boy to explain how the "modern plumbing" worked in the men's room.

Souta perked up, launched into a somewhat rambling and technical explanation of pipes and valves and reservoirs. Kagome's grandfather, listening more and more intently, finally interrupted with corrections, elaborations. They disagreed about details, Souta certain, grandfather authoritative. As they wrangled, both seemed…relieved. Relieved to be talking about something besides Kagome, relieved to have something to do besides wait. Miroku noticed Mrs. Higurashi watching them, her face easing slightly, also relieved. So when the subject of plumbing had been exhausted, he pasted his best look of innocent wonder on his face and asked about the overhead lights.

For the next four hours, then, that was his job. Whenever Souta's face tightened, whenever grandfather sagged, Miroku played the astonished, curious yokel. For the next four hours, he collected contradictory sets of facts about electricity, elevators, air conditioning, television, intercoms, and linoleum flooring from Kagome's menfolk.

By the time the doctor called Mrs. Higurashi to the waiting room door, he was nearly blind with fatigue. But not trembling. And none of them had cried.

Until Mrs. Higurashi came back, happy tears in her eyes, a smile on her face. "The surgeon was able to repair the damage. Kagome is going to be all right!"

Grandfather burst into tearful prayers of thanksgiving, Souta let out a yell of delight and jumped up to hug his mother.

Miroku sagged in his chair. All right. For some reason, he had to blink his eyes several times. Kagome was going to live. Some of the long day's fear began to drain slowly out of his body, to be replaced by a bone-deep numbness. As the Higurashi family happily commiserated with one another, he rested his head back against the waiting room wall, closed his eyes, and finally let himself slip away.


A InuYasha Story
by Elementary Magpie

Part 2 of 10

<< Previous     Home     Next >>