InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ Chronicles ❯ Paying the Piper ( Chapter 72 )
[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]
~Paying the Piper~
“Shippou?” Sango gasped, staring at the child who bounded through the door of Kaede's hut with a happy smile plastered to his face.
Miroku's face paled despite the shocked smile. His arm was well bandaged, and he hugged Shippou, looking like he was ready to pass out from the surprise of seeing the kitsune, alive and well. Behind the kitsune, InuYasha frowned and shook his head, silently asking Sango and Miroku not to mention the incident. Both nodded in agreement.
“Kagome said you got hurt,” Shippou remarked as he skittered over to Miroku to inspect the bandages.
Miroku managed a weak grin. “I'll live. Luckily it wasn't so bad despite Norimitsu's poison claws.
InuYasha snorted. “Keh. You're so pathetic, Miroku. Heal already. It's time to hunt some bastard.”
“I want to go,” Shippou remarked as he ran over and hopped up onto InuYasha's shoulder.
Kagome caught the look on InuYasha's face and intercepted the kitsune before the hanyou could dole out punishment for the perceived lack of respect. “InuYasha's right, Shippou. It'd be too dangerous.”
Shippou stared at Kagome with a thoughtful frown before turning to stare at InuYasha. “But aren't I safest with you and InuYasha?”
“As true as that may be, I'd be happier knowing you are safe here, with Kaede.”
Shippou sighed, obviously unhappy with the prospect of being left behind. “All right,” he muttered.
InuYasha sighed. “While the monk's healing, you need to finish your training, Kagome,” he remarked with a slight sneer directed at Miroku for still being injured.
“So how were you able to find a way to return?” Sango asked as she checked Miroku's dressing.
InuYasha sank down on the floor, his back to the others as Kagome knelt down to look at Miroku's wound, too. “Tetsusaiga. It's stronger than ever, if you didn't notice.”
Kagome rolled her eyes at the unmistakable bragging in the hanyou's tone. She grinned to herself as she dug out her first aid kit, glad that her friends had found her bag, after all.
“How did you accomplish that, InuYasha?” Miroku asked with a wince as Kagome sprayed antiseptic on the abrasions.
InuYasha's ears twitched as his back straightened. “I figured it out, is all,” he grumbled.
“How did ye manage to purify the Shikon no Tama?” Kaede cut in.
Kagome dropped the spray can. InuYasha pretended not to have heard the question.
“That,” Miroku commented as he stared at Kagome with a mixture of surprise and amusement, “is a whole new shade of red . . . . Why is that, Kagome?”
“InuYasha?” Sango asked cautiously, leaning to the side to see a little bit of the hanyou's face.
“We're obviously missing something here, Sango,” Miroku remarked lightly.
“There!” Kagome announced with a nervous laugh as she put away the first aid kit. “You'll be fine . . . just fine!”
Miroku and Sango exchanged confused looks with Kaede. “What are ye not saying, InuYasha?”
InuYasha snorted. “Dunno what you're talking about,” he growled. “Anyway, nothing happened.”
“What do you mean, nothing happened? The sacred jewel couldn't have just purified itself,” Miroku remarked.
“Why don't ye tell us exactly what ye were about when the jewel was purified,” Kaede prompted.
Kagome stared at her hands and winced, her cheeks growing almost painfully hot. “What we were . . . ?”
“We weren't doing anything special,” InuYasha cut in with a snarl. “So back the fuck off!”
It didn't matter that Kagome knew that InuYasha was just trying to shut them all up. His words still stung. She blinked back sudden tears. “Excuse me,” she rasped out as she shot to her feet and fled the hut.
Miroku stared suspiciously after the miko. “What aren't you telling us?” he asked quietly.
“I ain't telling you anything you don't need to know,” InuYasha growled.
“They're mates,” Shippou said without looking up from his tablet of drawing paper.
“What?” three voices exclaimed in varying stages of shock.
InuYasha's flush darkened. “Damn it—”
Miroku suddenly laughed. The harder he laughed, the redder InuYasha's face grew, and the redder his face grew, the madder the hanyou became. “Are you trying to say . . .” Miroku managed between bouts of laughter, “that you were doing that when the jewel purified?”
When InuYasha didn't answer, Miroku's laughter escalated to the point that he wasn't making a sound at all. more of an exhalation than an actual laugh, the monk was in serious danger of passing out from lack of oxygen—or from the very volatile hanyou who was glowering at him as though he'd rather sharpen his claws on Miroku than endure to any more of his teasing.
But when Sango and even Kaede burst into laughter, as well, InuYasha growled viciously and turned on his heel, leaving the rest of his supposed `friends' to their amusement. `Kagome . . . where did she run off to now?' Sniffing the air, InuYasha leaped off toward his forest, hot on the trail of his mate's scent.
Miroku finally wound down to chuckles, wiping his eyes free of the laughter-induced tears. “I suppose I'll have to apologize for that later,” Miroku remarked with another chuckle.
Sango shook her head, unable to hide her lingering smile. “I've never heard of such a thing . . . is that even possible?”
Kaede nodded slowly. “Certainly. The union of two souls is, in and of itself, a ritual of purification.”
Unable to help himself, Miroku flopped onto his back as laughter took control of him once more. “Did you see their faces?” he gasped out, clutching his stomach as he rolled from side to side in his amusement.
“Miroku, if you make fun of them, you may not live to see our wedding,” Sango warned. “InuYasha hadn't ever taken well to teasing . . . .”
Miroku laughed even harder. “I know . . . but their faces! So red!”
Sango tried not to laugh again. She really did. But Miroku was right. The memories of the nearly crimson faces were almost too much to think about without wanting to laugh. She giggled. Kaede's deeper chuckling added to it. Shippou stared at all of them as though they'd lost their minds.
`How could he?' Kagome fumed as she ran through the forest. She realized that he hadn't really meant what he'd said. Common logic assured her of that. Still, she couldn't quite help the anger, the upset, that InuYasha could sound so gruff, so callous about something that she thought was so beautiful, so untainted.
Add to that, the embarrassment of exactly what they had been doing when the jewel had purified, and Kagome was certain that she was going to die of angry mortification before it was all said and done. `You're upset because he didn't say how wonderful it really was? But you know you'd be mad if he had done that, too . . . Face it, Kagome, there wasn't a good answer for that, and you know it.'
She made a face but kept running. Blinking in surprise as she stared up at Goshinboku, Kagome didn't realize this was where she had headed. `Was it automatic?' she wondered. `Because this is where I first met InuYasha . . . .'
With a disgusted sigh, Kagome sank down under the tender spring leaves. Sunshine filtered through the boughs, dappling her with sprinkles of light. `Rain would better suit my mood,' she thought with a grimace. Resting her chin on her raised knees, Kagome wrapped her arms around her legs and moaned softly. `Even if he didn't really mean it, it was a really awful thing for him to have said.'
“You aren't allowed to take off by yourself, wench.”
Kagome didn't even bother looking at InuYasha. He stood next to her, arms crossed, tapping his foot impatiently as she made her best effort to ignore him.
“What are you mad at me for?” he growled as he hunkered down next to her. “The monk was the one making all the stupid comments.”
She did look at him then. “Just him, huh?”
InuYasha's ears flattened as his shoulders slumped. “You mean that? I didn't mean it that way,” he grumbled, unable to meet her gaze.
She shook her head. “That really doesn't make me feel much better.”
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the unmistakable blink, blink, and quickly looked away. “It's not going to work, InuYasha. That really wasn't nice.”
“Keh,” he snorted, giving up the `cute' approach. “Did you want me to tell them? About us? Because I don't have a problem telling them. I figured you did.”
Kagome could feel the flush creeping up her cheeks again. “I don't have a problem telling them that at all,” she argued. “I just didn't necessarily think that we needed to tell them what we were doing when the jewel purified.”
“That's what I said!”
“You didn't . . . You said we weren't doing anything special!”
“I didn't mean it like that!” he bellowed. “I meant we weren't doing anything that they needed to hear about! How would that sound? I was claiming you as mine when the jewel decided it was pure . . . .”
Kagome counted to twenty in her head before she even dared answer. Stabbing him with a formidable glare, she slowly remarked, “And now all of Musashi has heard you.”
That shut him up—for about ten seconds. Face reddening, InuYasha pulled his pouting face and scrunched up his shoulders. “Like it matters. They'd all find out, anyway. That damn kitsune already told them that I claimed you.”
“How does he know?” Kagome asked, pressing her hands against her flushed cheeks.
“Keh! He's got a nose, doesn't he?”
She narrowed her gaze on him even more. “Well, duh! I'm not stupid, you know!”
“I never said you were!”
“You don't have to say it when you so eloquently implied it!” she yelled back.
“Quit putting words in my mouth, wench!” he bellowed.
“Then quit making it easy for me to do it!”
“Mates don't fucking yell at each other!”
“You started it, baka!”
“But you're louder and shriller, wench, and you can't call me a baka, either!”
For a moment, InuYasha looked like his head was going to explode. Staring at her in complete exasperation, Kagome knew the blast was coming. “Because mates don't do that!”
“Well, if the shoe fits—”
Rolling his eyes heavenward, InuYasha threw his hands up in the air to ask, “Why did I ever want to bind myself to an impossible woman like you?”
Kagome shot to her feet, towering over the still squatting hanyou, and, balling her fists at her sides, screamed, “Because you love me, baka!”
“Yeah?” InuYasha snarled as he clamored to his feet, too. “Well, you love me, too, wench!”
“That has to be the most demented way to state your feelings for one another that I think I—or the rest of Musashi—has ever heard.”
InuYasha and Kagome turned to stare at the monk, who had managed to sneak up on them during their yelling match. Sango stepped up beside the monk though she, at least, was trying to hide her amusement.
“Aw, Sango . . . isn't that sweet? Matching shades of `Purifying-the-Jewel'-red.” Turning a speculative gaze on the woman beside him, Miroku blinked a few times before asking, “Say . . . you wouldn't have a jewel in need of purification, would you, my sweet? All for a good cause, you know.”
`Please, dear heaven, if there are any gods listening, open the earth and swallow me now,' Kagome pleaded in her head as InuYasha started to growl, advancing slowly on the monk.
“I'll give you ten seconds to move it, lecher, before I give a whole new meaning to `Monk-in-Pain',” InuYasha snarled.
Miroku tried not to laugh . . . . He failed. Sango rolled her eyes and pushed Miroku toward InuYasha. The hanyou leapt at the monk but missed as Miroku sidestepped him, wisely bent on self-preservation.
“Now, now, InuYasha . . . you can't kill me before I get married . . . I want to see if it's really as `nothing special' as you claimed . . . .”
“Fucking dead,” InuYasha snarled, drawing Tetsusaiga.
“InuYasha!” Kagome yelled, stepping between the monk and the hanyou. Miroku's laughter died out as he stared in wonder at the vibrant blue blade. “Stop it! Miroku's just joking!”
“You unlocked the power of Tetsusaiga?” Miroku asked quietly, staring from the blade to InuYasha and back again. “How did you figure it out?”
InuYasha snorted as he dropped the sword back into the scabbard and grabbed Kagome before leaping into the higher branches of Goshinboku. “The same way we figured out how to purify the damn jewel,” he hollered down. Kagome groaned, burying her face in InuYasha's haori as the hanyou had the nerve to snort.
Miroku sighed. “That is so unfair,” he remarked with a slow shake of his head. “They purify the Shikon no Tama and strengthen Tetsusaiga, all by—”
Sango laughed. “We'll see you back in the village,” she called over her shoulder as she took Miroku's hand and dragged him back into the foliage. “Come on, houshi-sama, before you embarrass them both enough that Kagome doesn't save you.”
Miroku chuckled but let Sango lead him away. “Gives a whole new meaning to the idea of `Red Tetsusaiga, doesn't it?”
“I heard that,” InuYasha snarled.
“Well, that was humiliating,” Kagome muttered with her face still buried in the haori. “I think I'm done showing my face anywhere, ever again.”
InuYasha snorted. “They'd find out sooner or later, anyway,” he explained a little too reasonably.
Kagome sat up and glowered at him. “There are some things that aren't anyone else's business, you know.”
He shrugged then sighed. “Kiss me, wench. You owe me.”
She frowned. “I owe you?”
“Keh! I'd say! All that work to save the kit, and for what? To lose yet another fang to that demented bastard of a brother of mine. What the hell is he going to do with this one? He's starting some sort of sick collection . . . .”
Kagome closed her eyes at the reminder of how close they'd come to losing Shippou and let InuYasha pull her back against him as a shiver ran up her spine. “I don't know what you're complaining about,” she remarked as she reached up to rub his ears, “since your fangs grow back over night.”
“I'm not complaining,” he informed her. “I was pointing out the obvious . . . and you still haven't kissed me.”
She grinned. “I wouldn't want to hurt your tender little jaw, InuYasha.”
He heaved another sigh but let her play with his ears. “I didn't say it hurt,” he pointed out.
She frowned. “What does Norimitsu really want? It doesn't make any sense. Why does he hate you enough to kill you?”
InuYasha shrugged. “I don't know. So far as I can tell, he had a grudge against my old man. Maybe that's the real reason he's like that. I don't get it though. Why does he care about Mother's diary enough to have a fake made? And how did he know I'd come after it?” Staring out over the treetops, InuYasha seemed as though he was a million miles away.
“What are you thinking?” she asked quietly.
He started out of his reverie but shook his head. “Nothing.”
She didn't like the strange sadness on his face. As though he was remembering something that had hurt him before, InuYasha wouldn't meet her gaze as he stared down at the forest floor. “You can tell me, you know. You're not alone anymore.”
He finally looked at her, the vaguest hit of a smile starting to surface on his features. “I know. I just keep feeling like there's something I'm missing, something Mother's diary is supposed to tell me that I haven't gotten to yet.”
Kagome sighed. “We can go back, if you want to finish reading it.”
He shook his head. “I need to know how she died. I remember hearing her, but . . . I never knew what happened. I have to know.”
She nodded and hugged him, kissing his cheek gently. He turned his head, stared into her eyes, the churning gold flowing into itself. He closed his eyes just before his lips touched hers.
In the quiet of the falling evening, InuYasha let her hold him, let her shelter him, and just for once, let her protect him.
Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Chronicles): I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga. Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al. I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.