Continuing Tales


A InuYasha Story
by Elementary Magpie

Part 3 of 10

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He woke almost immediately to the sound of discord in the Higurashi corner.

Mrs. Higurashi was arguing with Kagome's grandfather about staying in the hospital. As her mother, she had no intention of leaving the girl's bedside. The elderly shrine keeper feebly kept insisting that he would remain right here with her, praying, at least until Kagome awakened.

Mrs. Higurashi was looking worriedly at his trembling arms and haggard face, so Miroku stood up and asked, diffidently, "Excuse me, would it be possible for someone to direct me back to the Well? Now that I am sure that Kagome is safe, it is time that I return home to wait for Inuyasha." And kill Naraku. Which was not a lie at all.

Mrs. Higurashi immediately looked relieved, and so did the old man, he thought. Eventually it was decided that Grandfather Higurashi and Souta would both return to the shrine with Miroku, and stay there in order to guard against further damage.

When they emerged from the hospital, Miroku was surprised to notice that night had fallen. Which made sense, given how long they had been inside, but ordinary time had been swallowed by those perpetually glowing corridors. Although nighttime in this future didn't seem to be all that dark; there were lights everywhere and many of the buildings in and of themselves seemed to glow. The dull roaring sound he'd heard earlier seemed to be constant, coming out of the city itself.

By the time the "taxi" left them at the shrine, the lights were beginning to blur and run together across Miroku's eyes. The midnight sky was pale from all of the lights, but Souta insisted on fetching another oddly shaped hand lantern to help them pick through the burnt-out rubble of the well house. The building was in ruins, but the Well was intact. Intact, and covered with quantities of yellow ribbon covered in obscure characters: "Police."

"Are these charms we must remove?" he asked Grandfather Higurashi wearily.

"What? Oh. No, those are just police barriers, to keep anyone from falling into the Well. You can remove them if they are in your way."

Too tired to ask what a "police" was, Miroku lifted a corner of one ribbon, preparing to jump over the edge. Then he remembered: turning, he bowed politely to the man and boy, thanking them for their assistance and hospitality.

"Oh that's quite all right, young man," replied Grandfather Higurashi. "We are very grateful you brought Kagome to us in time. We wish you the best of luck in your return to your own era."

He was too tired, but it was time to go back and find Mushin and get the kazaana repaired, find Inuyasha and tell him where Kagome was, and then find Naraku and destroy him utterly. So Miroku jumped.

And landed on the well floor, hard. But as he peered hazily upward, the walls were still adorned not with the familiar ivy but instead with a rope ladder ascending up to the well mouth. As he stood stunned, Grandfather Higurashi's face appeared over the side of the well.

"What happened, Monk? Didn't the magic work for you?"

"Apparently not, Sir." He swallowed, tried to make his brain function again. "Perhaps the magic needs Kagome's presence to work," he tried. Now what should he do? Mushin, Inuyasha, Naraku: it was hard to think beyond that.

"Well, then, young man, it would be best if you came back up here and spent the night with us. Or several nights; I think it will be some days before Kagome is going to be up to jumping into wells."

Dazed, he thanked the shrine keeper as politely as he could manage and climbed back up into the future.

His vision dimming with exhaustion, he had only a confused impression of being led into a strangely shaped, two-story building on the other side of the main shrine. Souta brought him up a stairway and into a small room opulent with cabinets and trunks.

As he unrolled the futon, Souta was apologizing. "I'm sorry we don't have a more comfortable guest room than this. And the bed's so old-fashioned, but we haven't been able to get a new one yet..."

As Miroku sank onto the wonderful, soft, clean, mattress, he wondered drowsily what a new-fashioned bed could possibly be like, but the thought vanished as he sank entirely into the dark.

o o o

The next morning, the three of them went back to the hospital to see Kagome. But first they delayed long enough to provide Miroku with clean clothes and a much-needed bath. Souta explained the mechanics of the bathtub while Grandfather Higurashi rummaged through the shrine storehouse for old trainee's clothing that might fit.

The hot bath was nirvana and the Shinto trainee's pants and shirt were only a little too short for his tall frame.

The kazaana was a trickier problem. It was the painful throbbing of his hand that had awakened him once the deep edge of exhaustion was slept off. There had been fresh blood on the glove. During his bath, he examined yesterday's damage to the wind tunnel with alarm. There were five radiating gashes carved out from the bottomless center of his palm and a number of smaller cracks in between. Already, the kazaana looked wider than it had a day ago, five hundred years ago. And Mushin was temporarily on the other side of that damn Well, inaccessible until Inuyasha returned or Kagome recovered. He would have to repair it himself.

Luckily, he kept a needle and thread handy for post-battle robe repairs. Gritting his teeth against the pain, he stood over the sink in the Higurashi bathroom and tried to stitch up the gashes. It was hard to sew one-handed, peering under the protective beads. He couldn't figure out how to keep the knot at the end of each seam from being swallowed by the kazaana and beginning to unravel the rest. He was missing some trick of Mushin's, clearly. He cursed himself for not asking the old reprobate how it was done when he'd had the chance. He was shaking and sweating by the time he was finished, and the repairs still didn't look very stable. Well. It would have to do. Until Inuyasha got here.

The glove was another matter. Both Higurashis absolutely refused to allow him out of the house wearing it. A disgrace to the shrine he was now dressed to serve. And really, really dorky. Whatever that meant.

But he couldn't walk around with just the beads, especially not in the kazaana's current condition. After some futile arguing back and forth, Souta came up with a solution. "I know! Wait here! I just have to run around the corner..."

He returned in a few minutes, triumphantly brandishing a package that proved to contain a sort of stretchy, peach-colored glove that fit around the palm and down the wrist. "Here, they use these for sprained wrists and stuff. Your can wrap the beads around this and people will just think you are a very religious person with a sprained hand."

It didn't look as if it would be easy to access the kazaana wearing this new garment, but it was unlikely that he would need to do so in this era anyway. Miroku thanked the boy and carefully pulled on the glove, turning his back on the Higurashis while he did so in case of accidents.

When they arrived at the hospital shortly afterwards carrying paper cranes for Kagome and fresh clothes for Mrs. Higurashi, they found that the girl was awake and "taking visitors."

But first, the doctor and her mother had a series of warnings and restrictions to issue: She's very weak. Don't stay too long. No more than two people in the room at a time. Don't be too boisterous, or too loud. Don't say anything to upset her.

Mrs. Higurashi took Miroku aside. Bowing apologetically, she said, "Kagome is still very ill - she almost died. The doctors said that we should try to avoid upsetting her in any way. I know this will be difficult, but could you not tell her about your friends, that they died, just yet? I would be very grateful if you would wait until she is stronger."

"Of course," he replied. How close to death had she been?

Kagome, looking very pale and tired, was lying behind a blue curtain in a bed on a very high platform, thin clear tubes running from her arms to odd contraptions by the bedside. Under the tucked-in covers, she seemed to be wearing a robe even more shockingly scanty than her usual attire, but she had never looked less like an object of desire.

When her eye lit upon him, she rasped, "Miroku! How can you be here? Where's Inuyasha?"

It took all of his best verbal tricks to keep her from leaping out of bed immediately in order to go rescue Inuyasha from wherever he had gotten to. And once he managed to convince her that the half-demon would be along soon, she turned her questions to the others. That was much harder, but he managed to keep his face serene and his voice light: "They are waiting for us in the village." Not quite a lie. If his ofuda held against Naraku.

He got away from the room and her questions as soon as possible. He wondered if there was a best method for giving Naraku a lingering, painful death.

o o o

Back at the house that same evening, Grandfather Higurashi approached Miroku, hemming and hawing. "I remember that young men have many needs, many urges, and hmm, that's understandable. But Kagome has reminded me that you might not be aware of, hmm, certain arrangements that we make in this time, that are absolutely necessary, and hmm,..."

Miroku listened in growing embarrassment as the old man explained about a lethal disease called AIDS and the need to use a device called a "condom" when having sex. By the time the old man proceeded to bring out a number of these items and explain how to use them, it took an effort of will to keep from visibly cringing. Kagome thought so little of his self control that she felt it necessary, from her sickbed, to make sure that he was immediately informed of the hazards and practices of sex in her era? He had never felt such complete...doubt. Was this truly the sort of man he was in her eyes? In the eyes of his friends? He was shaken and ashamed and...lonely. He did not know how he would ever be able to look her in the eye again.

But of course, he did, the very next day. Because she was so very ill, and everyone was doing everything they could to avoid upsetting her, and he was completely trapped in her time until she recovered, or Inuyasha arrived.

o o o

Kagome was getting better, but very, very slowly. Miroku supposed that he shouldn't be surprised. He hadn't even imagined that a person could actually live without a spleen. But knowing that didn't help him much.

"Sitting still, doing nothing" had been fine when it was meditation, practiced to increase his spiritual powers. He had always done that quite well. But then you used those spiritual powers for something. Preferably killing your enemies. This just sitting, with nothing to do and no clear end in sight, was driving him crazy.

He could feel the kazaana all of the time now, picking at his palm. His awkward stitches weren't holding very well.

Not that he mentioned any of this to Kagome. If he did, that crazy girl would insist on injuring herself by jumping into the Well long before she was able to stand the strain and the whole exercise would have been pointless. So he gave here a serene and smiling face, protecting her from her do-gooder self.

And besides, she never once asked him.

When they weren't at the hospital visiting Kagome, Miroku tried to work off some of his impatience by exploring the shrine compound. It was interesting to see how the grounds had changed in five hundred years. Kagome's strange assumptions about the world were beginning to make a lot more sense. Sango would have liked this tidy, orderly place. It reminded him a little bit of the demon-slayer's village.

He didn't want to think about Sango. Or Shippo, or Kaede.

So instead he thought about Naraku. About the way he would hunt him down, as soon as Inuyasha arrived. About the vengeance he would take, as soon as he could get back through the Well.

o o o

The day that Kagome and her mother finally came home from the hospital, the Higurashis and their involuntary houseguest celebrated with a rousing bout of whispers and tiptoes. The temporarily bachelor household instantly converted to a convalescent regime. Days were measured out by the timing of Kagome's medications. The kitchen was devoted to invalid food.

Kagome didn't sleep well, many nights. There was no way to time the painkillers so that she didn't wake up in the middle of the night, pushed conscious by pain and unable to sleep again until time crept towards the next hour that she was allowed to take the drug. If her mother didn't wake as well, the girl usually called out to her for water or pillows or company. Mrs. Higurashi was always cheerful and solicitous, but she began to look even more wilted around the edges. Watching her, Kagome began to wilt around the edges too, biting her lip and trying to endure the midnight hours by herself.

If they went on like this, Kagome was going to take twice as long to heal. Miroku began to listen in his sleep for the small moans of her waking, began to quietly creep into her room, began to soothe her midnights with gentle conversation. He learned from Mrs. Higurashi which dose should be taken when, and how to tell time by Kagome's alarm clock. Mrs. Higurashi still often woke and joined her daughter, but sometimes she gratefully gave in to exhaustion and let Miroku take her place.

His job during these midnight visits was mostly to calm the fears that often returned with the pain. Kagome was frantic with worry about Inuyasha. He tried to reassure her, reminding her of all of the dangerous scrapes the half-demon had come out of so far. He tried to distract her, encouraging her to tell him strange and silly things from her childhood in this era. Sometimes he tried to make her smile by reminiscing with her about foolish moments from their journeys, but that was a more risky strategy. He avoided the subject of Sango and the others carefully, allowing her to keep the impression that they were waiting safely back in the village for them.

They invented a game for her, called "Not Making Kagome Laugh." It began when he had tried to amuse her with some nonsense tale, and she had complained that giggling hurt her stitches. He had immediately and penitently promised not to try to make her laugh ever again. Which had made her laugh even harder. So the game began: he would say absurd things in the most serious of voices, as if nothing could ever be funny again. She would try to reply in kind, try to not giggle. She didn't win the game very often, which worried him. It seemed cruel to be deliberately doing something that would cause her pain. But she explained that everything hurt anyway, and that she liked being able to make a joke out of the constant ache. It helped, somehow. Miroku was doubtful; his preferred response to pain was to do anything possible to avoid thinking about it. But he supposed that he had always known that Kagome was braver than he was.

Sometimes he missed his own time so much that hurt. Not the kazaana and Naraku and the fight to the death. The clean smell of the air. The wood smoke of their campfire. Shippo squealing with delight as he brought his latest drawing over to Kagome for approval. Sango.

He missed Sango, desperately. Missed having her by his side, to tease, to flirt, to enrage, to try and make her smile. Missed having her be his.

But as the static lonely days spun away, Miroku began to doubt. Had he ever really had her? It was frightening how quickly the plans they had made for their future together were becoming blurred, hard to remember. Was Sango's affection, their romance, just an equally hazy illusion? Had he ever really believed it would actually come true? Had she?

It was all Kagome's fault. Playing matchmaker. Dealing hope like a sake-seller to alcoholics.

He didn't want to hate her.

It was easier to focus on hating Naraku. On meticulously planning what he was going to do to him when Inuyasha arrived and carried him back through the Well.

o o o

They were in Kagome's room again, late afternoon, distracting her from the fading painkiller.

At a pause in the conversation, Kagome caught him looking at the dirt still caught under his fingernails. Giggling teasingly, she asked, "What in the world have you been doing lately to get so dirty, Miroku?"

Unburying the dead, he thought. "Digging you out," he said.

"You did? Oh. And, um, thank you! I guess it was a pleasant change from all of the burying people that you usually do, huh?"

He refused to cry. Smiling gently, he said, "It was a little too exciting at the time, Kagome."

"Oh." She blushed self-consciously, and Miroku was groping desperately for a way to shift this conversation before she inevitably asked what he thought the others were doing while they were gone when a loud voice interrupted from the window.

"Oi, Kagome! They told me you were injured. What's Miroku doing in your room?"

"Inuyasha! You're alive!"

"Of course I am! That stupid demon isn't going to hurt me! I'm alive and ready to take you back to punish Naraku once and for all for what he did to our friends."

"What he did?"

Oblivious to the girl's alarm or Miroku's frantic grimaces, Inuyasha turned his attention to the monk. "Don't worry, Miroku," he said soberly. "The village headman asked me to tell you that they buried them just the way you specified. I took a look, and the charms are all over the graves. You can check them when we go back."

"Graves? Inuyasha? Who died? Not--"

"You didn't tell her?"

"Kagome, I am sorry. The doctors thought it best that you not be upset. Sango and Shippo and Lady Kaede were killed when the hut collapsed on you. It was too late to save them."

"Shippo? Sango? Kaede? Dead? No! No! We are supposed to save them!" She looked at him like she had never seen him before. Then, "You jerk, how could you not tell me?"


"Don't talk to me! I hate you!"

Her agonized cries had brought Mrs. Higurashi into the room. "Don't shout so at Miroku, dear. I asked him not to mention it just yet. You were so sick in the hospital..."

"Oh Mama, Shippo, and Sango, and, and Kaede are gone!" Kagome flung herself crying, heartbroken, into her mother's arms.

Inuyasha shifted uncomfortably, muttering under his breath "No sense in not facing things right away, idiots." Miroku tried to stand as unobtrusively still as possible, wishing Inuyasha to Hell and himself with him.

Inuyasha, embarrassed, moved to leave the room. That prompted Kagome to cling to him, sobbing, begging him not to leave her too.

It was time to go.

Unnoticed, Miroku drifted away from the room. Drifted away, until eventually he found himself staring at the well house ruin. Inuyasha was here at last. He could finally go back and check Sango's grave for himself and see if Mushin could repair the kazaana...

Wait. The kazaana was here. In this future time. But that meant...

He suddenly felt very cold.

He returned in a daze to Kagome's bedroom to find Mrs. Higurashi offering both him and Inuyasha the indefinite hospitality of her house. She looked so strained that he tried to accept as graciously as his distracted state would allow.

Kagome was still looking at both of them as if they had betrayed her.

"There's no need for us to stay," Inuyasha interrupted. "Now that I know Kagome's all right I can take Miroku back through the Well and we can get to work finding Naraku. I'll come back and check up on Kagome later."

"No!" cried the girl. "I'm not letting you go back there without me! It's too dangerous!"

"Kagome is more correct than she knows, Inuyasha," said Miroku. "I do not believe that there is any purpose to be served by returning to our own time."

"What about the KILLING NARAKU purpose, idiot?"

"That's precisely it. I've been thinking. If my curse exists as long as Naraku is alive, then logically when he is dead the kazaana should cease to exist."

"Yeah, we know all that. So?"

"Well, the kazaana is still here, in my hand, in this time. Which should mean that Naraku isn't dead, in this time. Which means that we never succeeded in destroying him in the past. Since the presence of my kazaana here in the future reveals that Naraku survived our era still alive, the only thing you could accomplish by returning there would be to endanger yourself needlessly."

"I don't buy it. That the kazaana is here now just means that we haven't yet killed him in the past. Once we do that-"

"No, Inuyasha, I think that Miroku may be right," Kagome interrupted, wiping away her tears and looking worried. "Because there's a time theory paradox thing that says that if you go back in time you can only do what you already did, otherwise you would change your own future and cease to exist. In which case you would never have gone back to the past in the first place. And therefore wouldn't have changed the past. So you see? What we did in the past is already over. Going back won't change it."

"Humph. That doesn't make any sense."

"No, it does. I've researched a lot about it since I started going back through the Well."

At this point Miroku felt compelled to hedge: "The one problem with this theory, Kagome, is that, as you have frequently told us, there are no demons in this era. If that's the case, how did Naraku survive? If we didn't kill him in the past, how is it that he is not terrorizing people in the present day?"

"I don't know."

Mrs. Higurashi, who had been listening in uneasy silence to this exchange, interjected: "Perhaps something happened to him that limited his power?"

"WE did. So I'm going back to DO it," declared Inuyasha.

"No! Not until we've had time to investigate," insisted Kagome.

"How are we going to 'investigate' a demon here, among so many people? There must be hundreds."

"Millions. But I can still sense shards, and you and Miroku can still sense demonic auras. So we will wait until I am better and then begin searching, just walking and riding around. We'll start with Tokyo, and if that doesn't work, we'll begin checking out other cities. I mean, Mom, if it's OK with you for me to travel around with them here." She turned beseeching eyes on her mother.

Then they negotiated. Mrs. Higurashi did not want her daughter embarking on anything so dangerous and time consuming. Kagome pointed out that she was going to have to take the rest of the year off from school anyway after everything she'd missed lately. And she agreed not to begin the search until she was perfectly healthy. But search she must. "I'm the only one who can sense the Sacred Jewel, Mom. It's still my fault Naraku has so much of it, so it's my duty to get it back from him." That appeal to honor finally worked, though Mrs. Higurashi extracted a solemn promise that Kagome would go nowhere until cleared by her doctors.

At this, Inuyasha snorted, gripped the hilt of his sword, and began to turn towards the window. "Well, I don't have to wait around for you to get better. I can start looking now."

"No!" simultaneously cried Kagome and her mother.

"You can't go out hunting in Tokyo without me, Inuyasha," declared Kagome. "You will just get in trouble with the humans and warn Naraku that we are coming."

"Kagome is right, my dear," added Mrs. Higurashi. "Now is the time for planning for when she is well. In the meantime, we can start preparing by getting you and Miroku into proper modern clothes, so that you can blend in on the streets."

"Streets! It's much easier around here to do rooftops. And I still don't like sitting around doing nothing in the meantime."

"Stop fussing, Inuyasha!" cried the girl in frustration. "We will find Naraku and kill him once and for all for what he did to our friends! We will! Right, Miroku?"

Kagome looked determined and sad, but at least she wasn't crying anymore. Personally, Miroku was entirely with Inuyasha on this one, but it seemed best to smile and agree. So he did.

But it was an effort.

The kazaana was expanding steadily along the tears he had not been able to repair. Visible increments of skin were vanishing every day. At this rate, within a week or two the abyss would reach the edge of his palm, and then....

Kagome would eventually recover, and she Inuyasha would find Naraku and defeat him, of that he was certain. But Miroku was running out of time.


A InuYasha Story
by Elementary Magpie

Part 3 of 10

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