Continuing Tales


A InuYasha Story
by Elementary Magpie

Part 9 of 10

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Higurashi Yoko once again sat at Kagome's bedside, once again in a hospital, and didn't know whom to be more furious with, her incautiously loyal daughter or that irresponsible young man from the past. Both of whom were now receiving the best care that the Japanese medical system could provide. Which had been a bit of a job to manage, in Miroku's case. But Grandfather had finally risen to the occasion, producing an elaborate excuse for the monk's lack of proper identification so comprehensively absurd that it could only be believed, immediately. He was back in Administration now, working on the paperwork. Leaving her alone to stare down at this most precious only daughter, and wonder if she was ever going be able to let her out of her sight again.

With a tiny sigh, Kagome stirred, and woke. "Mom?"

Yoko immediately put a smile on her face and leaned over the bed. "I'm here. How are you feeling, my dearest?"

Kagome's eyes focused on her, and she smiled. "OK, I guess." She wiggled experimentally. "My side hurts a little bit. What happened?"

"Nothing serious, thank goodness. You pulled out some of your stitches. They've given you a little fluid and some antibiotics just to be sure, but they aren't too worried. But I am! Kagome, what were you doing today?"

"I told you, Mom. Miroku's kazaana broke, and then Naraku came and he had the Jewel and he froze Inuyasha and I had to choose and -- Mom! Is Miroku all right?"

"He's fine," Yoko said, exasperated by her daughter's poor grasp of priorities. "I'm much more concerned about you. Kagome, how could you be so reckless?"

"I had to, Mom. I couldn't just let Miroku die. And Inuyasha helped me - Oh! We have to get him out of Hell as soon as possible!" Kagome began trying to sit up. "Do you still have the Jewel shards I gave you?"

Yoko caught her by the shoulders, gently helped her to lower back onto the bed. "Shhh, I have them safe here. But I don't understand, Kagome. Did you just say that Inuyasha is in Hell?"

Kagome's eyes dropped, and she looked strangely guilty. "I had to, Mom," she explained, watching her hand smooth back and forth over the edge of her covers. "Naraku made me choose. And Inuyasha's a half-demon -- he can survive being there for a little while." She looked up beseechingly. "But I couldn't let Miroku die-- Are you sure he is all right? Where is he?"

"Yes, he's fine," Yoko repeated, wondering what about this conversation was making her uneasy. "He fainted in the ambulance, so they just added some anesthesia while they operated on his hand. He'll wake up in a couple of hours -- they gave me his room number down the hall." Then it occurred to her that she had completely forgotten why this entire sequence of events should have been impossible. "But the surgeon didn't mention seeing anything like the kazaana. What happened? Is it safe?"

"He's safe, Mom. It's gone. The kazaana disappeared when Naraku died, just like we hoped." Kagome smiled, then looked at her urgently. "So will you go and check on Miroku now, please? To tell him what's going on when he wakes up?"

There had to be limits to how much Kagome worried about everyone but herself. And she had to understand that no one was important enough to make Yoko leave her side again until she was safely home.

If home was ever going to be really safe again. Darn that monk and his supernatural family feud. She could almost even...wish Inuyasha in Hell forever, if it meant that he did not come back to lure her daughter into any more risky adventures. "He'll manage fine without me, Kagome. My place is here with you."

And why should that statement make Kagome so upset? "No, Mom, please," she begged. "He shouldn't have to wake up alone. He can't."

"Kagome, what has gotten into you?" she asked. "Don't you realize that this young man almost killed you today? No to mention the damage to the shrine. He should have taken himself far, far away from us if he knew he was carrying a danger like that," Yoko added, somehow even angrier at Miroku because she could so clearly remember ordering him to remain in the Shrine complex.

"No, Mom. You don't understand. The kazaana wasn't that far along before Naraku... before the hut fell on me. I'm sure of it. I saw Miroku use it, just a few days before, and it was fine. He had months and months to live, Mom, not days. I think he hurt the kazaana getting me to the Well - I think that Naraku put too many demons in the way." Kagome put her hand on Yoko's arm, big eyes pleading. "He traded his life for mine. He traded his life, Mom, and never said a word."

And that ... that was... Yoko didn't have any ready mental categories for that. Stared at her daughter, tried to make it fit. "Oh, my dear, I'm sure it wasn't..."

But Kagome was continuing in a meditative voice, with a face caught halfway between wonder and guilt. "He cried so hard, Mom. He cried so hard, afterwards. It must have been horrible, waiting for it to happen, and I never even noticed."

Yoko grasped at the one part of this that she did know how to handle. "It's not your fault Kagome," she reassured. "You were so sick...and he probably didn't want to worry you..."

"He can't go back now, Mom," Kagome interrupted, completely forgetting her normal courtesy in her rush to accept the consequences. "The kazaana might return if he ever goes back to a time when Naraku is alive. He has to stay here now. We have to keep him here with us." Her eyes were wide and determined. "Please, Mom?"

And with a strange sense of relief, Yoko realized that at last she knew exactly what to do. The family had a debt of honor now. How do you repay someone for your daughter's life? "Of course he can stay with us, Kagome. It's the least we can do."

"Oh, thank you, Mom!"

"It's the least we can do," she repeated absently, mind busy with logistical details. They'd have to do something about a permanent ID -- Grandpa's ad hoc excuse might just do on a long-term basis, if they fiddled with the records properly. This was going to be quite a job. 'Thank goodness he already seems to belong here,' whispered a tiny corner of her mind, but she ignored it.

Kagome's was smiling. "So you'll go find Miroku now?"

"In a little while. I want to see you try to go back to sleep first."

"OK." And Kagome did relax back into her bed, allow herself to begin to drift.

Keeping her promise, Mrs. Higurashi kissed her beloved daughter on the cheek and stood up to go.

But as she turned towards the door, Yoko heard Kagome say in a very small voice, "Mama?"

"Yes, dear?"

"I lied."

"About what, Kagome?"

"About thinking that Inuyasha would be able to survive in Hell for a few days."

"Don't you believe that is true?" she worried.

"Oh, yes, I do," said Kagome, still in that very small voice, face turned into her pillow. "I mean that I didn't think about that at the time, when I shot the Jewel. I didn't think about anything at all except that Miroku couldn't die."

Yoko suddenly had the oddest feeling that she was sitting in a great, hushed hall, listening to a master storyteller coming to the end of a very long, long tale. "I see," she said slowly, through that calm.

There was a pause.

"Mama, what should I do?" asked Kagome, head still turned away, in her softest voice yet.

And for a moment past and present seemed to slide together, and Yoko felt as if it was still the day that she and her daughter had first had this conversation, standing beneath the Sacred Tree, puzzling over how to make the heart's choice manifest. "I have a lot of faith in you, Kagome," she said, as always. "I know you are a young woman who will ultimately chose the path that you believe to be right."

"Thanks, Mom," mumbled Kagome, relieved, smiling a little, relaxing back into sleep.

o o o

o o o

A little while later, Yoko was sitting by yet another hospital bedside, looking at the sleeping face of yet another member of her family put there by the quest for the Shikon Jewel. Family. Apparently. If Kagome had her way.

I don't think she even likes me very much. Well. You are in for a surprise, my boy.

If that was what he was. She wondered how old he was, really. Asleep, he looked so young. Bangs mussed, long eyelashes closed over the pretty eyes. Determined chin, sad, stubborn line of his mouth.

He traded his life for mine. And never said a word. It was still hard to get her mind around that. She couldn't quite reconcile it with her smiling, morally questionable houseguest.

Except that he had told her what was happening to him. I don't want to be the expendable sidekick. Just that once, just a bit too drunk to be careful. And she had not understood. How could she ever apologize?

How could she ever thank him?

Her attention was caught by a change in his breathing, a shifting of cloth as he woke up.

As Yoko watched, Miroku blinked into the hospital half-light, groggy and momentarily confused. Then he smiled a little, and without noticing that she was there, tried to move his arms and legs. He stopped with a little hiss of pain, looking at his right hand. And as he peered at the cast that covered his hand from fingertips to wrist, the contentment drained away from his face and was replaced by doubt. Then fear. Then a kind of horrified and hopeless resignation. And with an ache in her throat Yoko understood why Kagome had been so insistent that Miroku not wake up alone.

She moved her chair loudly. As Miroku turned startled to look at her, she fixed her eyes firmly on the bandaged hand and chirped, "Ah, my dear Monk, you are awake. You will be pleased to hear that the doctors are optimistic about your hand. Every bone was broken, some badly, so it will probably take one or two more operations to completely repair all of the damage, but they are confident you will eventually regain nearly full use." She chatted on cheerfully, still looking at his hand. "They put it in a cast, as you see there. That's a kind of hardened glue and cloth that keeps it immobile while it heals."

Only after a full minute of this chatter did she finally let her eyes wander to his face, found it relieved and tranquil once more. And curious. And then concerned. "Mrs. Higurashi? Is Kagome all right?" asked Miroku.

"She will be fine," she reassured. "Apparently people pull out their stitches all of the time. They've sewn her back up and are keeping her overnight for antibiotics and observation, just in case, but she should be ready to return to home tomorrow."

He smiled in deep relief. "I am glad to hear it. She was crazy to get in Naraku's way like that." He sobered. Looked her in the eye. "Mrs. Higurashi, I am so very sorry that Kagome was endangered on my behalf. I should have had the sense to go as far away as possible long before today."

And somehow that didn't seem so important anymore. "That's quite all right," she said. "Kagome explained everything. She also explained that you cannot go back to the past without reacquiring the kazaana. Since you have no family in this era, we would be honored if you would join ours."

Miroku had clearly been expecting something else. "You do me far too much honor," he stuttered.

"Not enough," she answered. "Kagome also explained that the kazaana broke far ahead of time because you used it to get her to the Well. We can never repay you for making such a sacrifice to save my daughter's life. It was bravely done."

He looked pleased, and then a little bit sheepish. "Not really brave," he admitted. "I was terrified, afterwards, when I realized what I'd done."

"I was talking about afterwards."

"Oh." And he actually blushed. Suddenly she liked him immensely. And decided that it was time she fully committed to this business of acquiring a second son.

"Now," she began briskly, "you are possibly not aware that in modern Japan all births are registered by the government, and this allows us to get proper identification, for health care, and school, and jobs and so forth. Of course, there is no record of your birth in this era, but Grandfather has come up with a solution. He's remembered some distant cousins, recently deceased. There were such eccentric, anti-modernist types that no one will be surprised to learn that they raised a son without ever registering his existence with the authorities. And their reclusive, back-to-the-land lifestyle will account for your unfamiliarity with the modern world. Grandfather has already begun the paperwork, but it would help if we could include as many accurate facts about you as possible. How old are you?" And seeing his blank look, she added, "Minus the five hundred years, of course."

Miroku looked dazed. "Is it Setsubun yet?" he asked.

"It was. While Kagome was in the hospital. Why?"

"Then I'm twenty," he replied.

So young. Good. Not so large a difference as she'd feared, five years. Not important at all, by the time Kagome reached twenty. And in the meantime, Yoko could hope that Miroku would be kept busy enough integrating himself into modern life, catching up on five hundred years of history, technological developments, and social customs, getting a modern education-- Ancestors, what were they going to do about college? He was too old for high school, but much too clever to be allowed out into modern Japan without some formal education to point him in legitimate directions. Perhaps they could... One thing at a time, Yoko! She smiled down at his puzzled face.

"You will have to take the Higurashi name, of course," she explained carefully, "in order to make the story plausible. I apologize that you will have to abandon your own family name."

"I am greatly honored to do so," he said, still dazed.

"As are we." They smiled at one another.

She put on her sternest face. "You must know," she continued, "that by joining the Higurashi family you agree to fulfill certain responsibilities."

"Of course," said Miroku, uneasy. "What would those be?"

Yoko hid her smile. "First, never do anything to reflect badly upon the family honor. Second, you will contribute to the upkeep of the shrine and maintenance of the family household according and to the best of your abilities. And third..." She gave him a very severe stare and he nodded apprehensively. "Third, Higurashis look out for one another. If you are in trouble again, tell us. There really can't be any exceptions to this rule -- may I have your word on it?"

Miroku's eyes widened. "I promise," he said, astonished and relieved, and with the beginning edge of happiness.

"Good." And Yoko found herself laughing at the sheer...everything of it all.

"What is funny?" he asked drowsily, starting to give in to the pull of sleep again.

"Oh, I was just thinking," Yoko said lightly, unable to keep the laughter out of her voice. "This is not at all the outcome I imagined when Kagome first climbed back out of that Well, talking about Sacred Jewels and a half-demon named Inuyasha."

Miroku's face changed, struggled a little more awake. "Inuyasha! I can't believe she sent Inuyasha to Hell," he mumbled. "And I'm worried about the new moon -- it's only a few days away and he probably shouldn't still be in Hell when he loses demon form." He turned his head back and forth against the pillow, trying to fight the drowsiness that was beginning to overcome him. "I'm wondering if Grandfather Higurashi has a copy of the Nagasaki Commentaries at the Shrine. If I'm remembering correctly, they make some mention of visits to Hell and--"

She stopped him with a gentle hand on his forehead, smoothing back the disordered bangs. "Not now, my dear Eldest Son. There's nothing you can do until Kagome wakes up tomorrow. There will be plenty of time for the three of you to come up with a solution then. Sleep now. Go to sleep."

And he obeyed her, unconsciously turning his face into her palm. Closed his eyes, sighed, and slept.

She sat by his bedside for a long time more. It was the least she could do.


A InuYasha Story
by Elementary Magpie

Part 9 of 10

<< Previous     Home     Next >>