Continuing Tales


A InuYasha Story
by Elementary Magpie

Part 5 of 10

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It was impossible how the days passed so sickening slowly, and so sickeningly fast, measured in Kagome's recuperation, measured in the widening kazaana. Because panic was pointless, and tears, Miroku tried to continue as normal, as needed. Soothing Kagome after a go-around with Inuyasha, deflecting the half-demon's impatience, helping the Higurashi family with as many chores as he could manage without actually opening his right hand. He kept it unobtrusively held in a loose fist all of the time now, afraid that stretching it open would accelerate the spread of the cracks. Kagome's family didn't notice, worried as they were about her. Inuyasha never noticed anybody except Kagome. And Kagome he took care to always approach with his left side forward.

He really, really, really wanted to get laid.

Barring that, a very great deal of very strong drink would do.

And if this had been his own time, he certainly would have tried to drown the moments in just those familiar ways. Even in this strange future, there were possibilities. The pretty girl who escorted her grandmother to the shrine every afternoon was definitely letting him know that he was welcome to follow her home. The woman who delivered incense and didn't look anything like Sango wore skimpier and skimpier skirts each time she came and kept dropping things on her way out of the courtyard so that she had to bend down to pick them up just where he would see. He had even begun to follow up, flirting the incense woman to the shrine gate, getting ready to try out an updated version of the well-worn line about his tragic--non-contagious--fatal condition. When he was stopped by the view from the top of the stairs, and what it meant.

Tokyo was enormous, stretching as far as he could see. Tokyo was full. Of people. No empty space anywhere in sight, beyond the shrine complex.

Nothing the size of his father's grave, at least.

And that was the final irony to Grandfather Higurashi's humiliating little talk about AIDS: that he didn't actually dare have sex with anyone at all. Tokyo was so full, and the kazaana was so fragile. Just one unconsidered move in the midst of passion, and he could kill hundreds of people. Not to mention the girl.

Drinking turned out to be similarly problematic. Even if he'd had any modern-day money or known where to find a sake-seller outside of the shrine, he still wasn't willing to risk the kazaana breaking in a tavern while he was too befuddled to find an exit. Like sake, like sex: Tokyo was still too damn full.

So. What were his alternatives?

Surprisingly, his Buddhist training was not the resource he had expected it to be in this situation. Hadn't he been taught that the only way to make your peace with the future was to make do with what the present moment can bring? That should have been easy. Making do with the moment was his specialty. It was just that his moments had rarely been so continuously frustrating. Then what about all of those helpful Noble Truths? Life is suffering. Well, no shit. Only by giving up useless desires can you rise above that suffering. Ah. Perhaps here was the source of his difficulty; Miroku had always had a problem sticking to strict orthodoxy on this point. He had always thought that the best way to rise above suffering was by doing whatever it took to get as much not-suffering for yourself as possible.

So he'd always done whatever it took. Even when women and wine weren't readily available, he had always been able to find some new evil to fight, search some new village for news of Naraku, study under some new teacher, master some new skill. It had never been in his nature to sit down in a temple and wait for fate, as his father had.

But now, he was trapped. No women. No wine. And there was nothing he could do. And it was this last thing, he was surprised to find, that infuriated him the most.

Not that he didn't try. Under the guise of solitary prayer, he unobtrusively paced out the dimensions of the shrine courtyards. He thought about wind velocity and airflow direction and minimizing damage to the buildings and he carefully picked his spot. But that wasn't a very time consuming endeavor, or a very large accomplishment. And, he was realizing to his dismay, he wanted to accomplish something.

Miroku had spent his life dutifully repeating the teachings that life's ambitions had no meaning, and he had thought that he believed them. But when it came down to it, he discovered that he had always assumed that if he kept travelling, kept fighting demons, he would reach his end by some heroic act, leave some useful legacy behind. Instead, what had he finally achieved? Learned to turn on an electric light. Made a demon-slayer jealous before he failed to save her life.

Useless desires? He needed accomplishment. Not this meaningless, empty wait.

o o o

o o o

The tearing pain in his hand woke him, the beads shattering, the howl of the supernatural wind. And in the shaking dark he heard a splintering, a tearing: wood, screens, cloth. The kazaana was breaking inside the house, and he hadn't been awake to notice the warning signs. And he tried to scream and he couldn't, as the wind sucked the air from his lungs, pulled walls and furniture and oh Buddha save him people, the Higurashis, Kagome, into the vortex, and --

He woke, shaking, drenched in sweat. The room was still and dark around him, the house silent and peaceful beyond. A dream. He rolled onto his back in the tangled sheets, breathing deeply. Go back to sleep. He closed his eyes and counted breaths, slow and deep. Just a dream.

His eyes flew open. A dream that could so easily come true. Miroku took another deep breath, let it out with a sigh. Sat up, reluctant. Just go back to sleep, right?

But the house wasn't safe.

So he straightened his shoulders, got to his feet, and gathered up the coverlet and the pillow. Quietly he left the room, walked softly down the hall, down the stairs, out through the front door.

"Hey Miroku, what's going on?" called Inuyasha groggily from his perch amongst the trees.

"Nothing, Inuyasha," replied Miroku softly. "I've just decided to sleep under the stars tonight. Good night."

A chuckle from the half demon followed. "Heh. Finally getting some sense, I see." Inuyasha's voice faded into the background as he kept on walking away from the house.

Lying on his back in the middle of the shrine's front courtyard, Miroku did try to pick out the familiar constellations, but they were all obscured by Tokyo's nighttime glow. He lay watching the strange, restless lights of the city for a long time before he slept.

o o o

o o o

In the days that followed, it occurred to Miroku once or twice that the easiest thing to do would be to just open the kazaana and get it over with. But the stubbornness that had kept him moving forward from the day of his father's death was habitual by now. For the same reason, he didn't ask Inuyasha to take him through the Well. Going back to the past for one last glorious battle was tempting. But that would be its own kind of admission of defeat.

Buddhism wasn't going to be any help, apparently. Pride would have to do.

So he kept on trying. Modern technology was turning out to be the best distraction he could find. It really was wonderful, the things these people of the future had devised for their own convenience. He delved eagerly into every mysterious gadget, demanding explanations and demonstrations from any Higurashi at hand. To Mrs. Higurashi's poorly concealed amusement--and open delight--he learned to use the vacuum cleaner, and operate the rice cooker.

Television was a modern distraction that Kagome and her family also liked. They had moved a futon and piles of pillows into the formal living room so that she could lie comfortably while they watched these incredible tiny lifelike moving stories. Inuyasha was inclined to scoff at this entertainment, but nevertheless hung around in the background wherever Kagome was. Miroku, on the other hand, was endlessly fascinated with the puzzle of how that simple box could project such clear images of what Kagome assured him were real actors - and actresses! It took a very forceful warning from Mrs. Higurashi to keep him from enlisting Souta in an investigation of the thing's entrails. That was not a frustration only because watching the future unfold on the glowing screen was interesting in its own right.

One evening, a little over a week after Inuyasha had arrived, Kagome, Souta, Miroku, and the half-demon were preparing to view a "movie" on the television. First they had to watch a series of the intriguing "commercials" that future craftsmen used to vend their wares on this device. One of these featured a fashionably suited and somehow familiar-looking merchant touting the healthfulness of his company's eating places.

Inuyasha's ears pricked forward. "Hey! That's the place with the demonic aura I told you about! Wacdnald's. And see? That guy looks a lot like Naraku's human form. We should go check it out."

"Don't be ridiculous, Inuyasha," scoffed Kagome. "He's the CEO of Wacdnald's Japan branch. He's just a businessman, and Wacdnald's is just a business. It's only a coincidence. Naraku wouldn't still be using the same human body after all of this time. And he certainly wouldn't survive all of these centuries just to become involved in fast food!"

"Well, their success with that greasy food could be considered a bit demonic," giggled Souta.

Inuyasha looked stubborn. "See? I'm telling you, we should go check out this guy right now."

Kagome looked daggers at brother and half-demon alike, drew in a deep, irritated breath, opened her mouth--

"What's a CEO?" intervened Miroku, automatically.

The flurry of competing explanations from Kagome and Souta only subsided when a blare of music announced the start of the movie.

The movie was "an American action film," which meant that the characters looked very strange, although they seemed to speak Japanese perfectly well. Souta explained that the American voices had been "dubbed," but Miroku wasn't entirely sure what that meant. According to Kagome and Souta, this was a very typical American action movie. The main characters were two men, one light, one dark, who seemed to have some sort of official enforcement capacity. The "action" consisted of numerous "gun" duels and high-speed automobile pursuits in which the two heroes battled the henchmen of a charismatic villain in order to stop something incomprehensible involving "nuclear" from happening. Miroku resolved to ask Souta about this after the movie was over, but found the dangerous escapades enjoyable--were guns really that accurate?--even without being precisely clear about the context.

About an hour into the movie, the heroes paused to have a shockingly open conversation about their feelings. The dark one revealed that he was planning to propose marriage to his longtime sweetheart as soon as the current battle was over. "OK!" cried Kagome and Souta simultaneously. "Expendable sidekick!"

"What's that?" asked Inuyasha disdainfully.

"Oh, in American movies the expendable sidekick is always the best friend of the hero," explained Kagome. "And he always dies in the second half, to make the hero's fight against the villain more tragic and personal and stuff."

"Yeah, and that personal conversation is the giveaway," giggled Souta. "The expendable sidekick always dies pretty soon after he reveals an unfulfilled love or ambition."

"Humph," Inuyasha dismissed, losing interest.

"That hardly seems fair to the sidekick," argued Miroku, irritated.

"But it's necessary for the plot. The finale wouldn't have nearly the drama without it," Souta pronounced like a pint-sized sage.

"Well, that's no reason to just cut short a man's life," he countered hotly.

He noticed that Kagome was looking at him in astonishment. "It's just a movie, Miroku," she said, puzzled.

"Not worth the time of day, if you ask me," interjected Inuyasha. "Kagome, I don't know why you waste your time with these things when you could be out looking for Jewel shards, or at least figuring out ways to find them, since you are still so weak you can't seem to get out of bed for very long."

Kagome flinched, and, looking at her unhappy face, Miroku felt his temper snap. Springing to his feet and crossing the room in a couple of strides, he took Inuyasha's shoulder in an iron left-handed grip. "Inuyasha, come outside with me for a moment," he said, pulling the surprised half-demon towards the door. "There is something we need to discuss."

Inuyasha's surprise got them through the kitchen and out into the yard, but then he angrily pulled himself away from Miroku's grasp. "What's gotten into you, Monk?"

Kagome is human, Inuyasha," he replied fiercely. "Humans are weak, and unable to always control their destinies. If you care about her as much as you claim to, then you must start accepting that there are things she will not be able to do, no matter how much she wants to."

Predictably, Inuyasha lost his temper. "And what business is it of yours how I treat Kagome? I don't need lectures on good behavior from any hypocritical womanizing so-called holy man!"

And before he did or said something even more foolish in response, Miroku turned his back on the angry half-demon and stalked away.

He found himself standing inside the main shrine, fists clenched, shaking with rage. Accomplishment? He was a fool. He wasn't even going to manage to teach Inuyasha how to behave properly towards Kagome before he ran out of time.

His temper was fraying around the edges like the kazaana, but that was no excuse. If he wasn't careful, he was going to become as irritable as Inuyasha. And he was damned if he was going to let that half-demon beat him in a contest of self control. Besides, surliness was no way to repay the Higurashis for the first genuinely opulent hospitality he had ever known.

It was just that he was so fucking angry, and so completely afraid. And the fact that there was nothing, nothing he could do about it was hollowing him out from within, as if the kazaana had opened a tributary inside his heart.

He really, really wanted to get laid.

Drinking homemade sake with Kagome's grandfather in the storehouse turned out to be his only alternative.


A InuYasha Story
by Elementary Magpie

Part 5 of 10

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