If You Need Her
by Scribe Figaro
SESSION FIVE: GO HOME
Wonder if I'll always be with you.
Words can't say, and I can't do
Enough to prove it's all for you."
- Sister Hazel, "All For You"
Winter lay her mantle on the fields of Kaede's village, but the icy winds wrought in the mountains and poured down these hills did little to dampen the spirits of those living there. Cooking fires burned with greater vigor and the villagers strode purposefully and huddled together, but their rosy faces were no less cheerful.
Sango liked it here.
It had not snowed yet this afternoon, but it was coming. She could taste it, a sharpness in the air that was prelude to the entire world blanketed in white. It excited her, and instilled in her feelings she recalled having as a much younger girl.
She wanted to see the first snowflake fall.
She wanted to catch it on her tongue, taste the winter, taste the hope of a purifying cascade of white beauty that came to her, for her. She wanted the snow to be deep, deep enough to play in. She wanted to see Shippou make snow-angels and surprise her with what kitsune magic could do to the snow. She wanted to see Kagome make a snowman with dog-ears and laugh at Inuyasha's expression when he noticed. She wanted to know what would happen if she pelted Houshi-sama with snowballs. Would he bear it, or return the assault? Or would he smile that mischevious grin of his, and tackle her into a snowbank?
She of course had to have that particular thought on her mind as she heard someone approach her. It was all she could do to stifle a shout of surprise as she heard the crunch of sandals on frosted grass behind her.
Something warm and heavy fell on her shoulders. Eyes wide, she turned to her side to see the dark, heavy material of a traveling monk's kesa draped over her.
Miroku gave her shoulders a brief, friendly squeeze as he moved away from her.
"Houshi-sama," she said, worriedly. "This – isn't this only for your rituals? I can't use a mark of your rank to keep me warm, Houshi-sama."
"The kesa is a mark of my devotion to Buddha, and this particular one took me several years to weave. It's rather plain, but the stitching, while lacking in talent, was especially meticulous. As it is a symbol of my devotion, it should only be used to fulfill Buddha's wishes."
He sat beside her in a lotus position.
"If keeping a beautiful young girl warm on an evening that threatens snow is not Buddha's wish, then I know nothing of Buddha."
She pulled the blanket a bit tighter, crossing it over her chest. The material was soft, tightly-woven, and warmed her immediately.
"Thank you, Houshi-sama."
"You're welcome, Sango."
He sat beside her, his arms in his sleeves.
"It feels like snow," he said absently.
"I know," she said. "I'm not used to this sort of weather, but I do enjoy it. I've only seen snow a few times, when I was a little girl."
"It's important to stay warm then," he replied. "In my travels, I've been as far north as Hokkaido. One can get sick very easily if one is not used to cold weather."
She frowned slightly as she thought about this. Houshi-sama, a very young man traveling alone. Houshi-sama, a young boy with no family, with no home, with no one to nurse him from fever.
"I'm getting used to it," she said.
"Sou ka," he murmured. "I almost forgot."
From his robes he produced a small bottle, placing it in her hands. It was very warm, warm enough to be uncomfortable in her hands.
"I imagine this is not tea, Houshi-sama."
He smiled. "No, but as you should know, warm sake is even better, for a cold night such as this. It's a rather good sake, too. I assure you I wouldn't offer you anything but the best I could gather."
"Oh?" she asked. She cared little for sake, but she wouldn't argue that it was a good thing to have on a cold night. She removed the wooden stopper and took a sip, allowing the liquor to cool in her mouth. She was not very knowledgeable about sake, but recognized any sake with such a light taste must have been of high quality. She and Kohaku had once snuck some sake from a merchant, and she recalled it tasting of rotten rice.
As she lowered the bottle from her lips, she realized with annoyance that it was already half-empty.
"How much of this did you drink on your way here, Houshi-sama?" she asked dryly.
He chuckled as he took the bottle from her.
"None at all, actually. It's just that, on my way here, I came across a rather forlorn flea-youkai. It seems he spent quite a few years preparing for his battle with that demon, and he was understandably upset that he was unable to permanently seal it. I spoke with him for a while, and convinced him of the value of his efforts - that his capture of Asesu, however brief, was the only that could have allowed for his permanent capture."
He took a sip, and did not bother to wipe the bottle beforehand.
"If I should ever make a list of the easiest things in the world to do, one of them would be instilling confidence in a flea-youkai that has just consumed ten times his weight in sake."
He stoppered the bottle and set it between them, indicating she could take another sip whenever she chose. The small pile of snow on which it sat slowly gave way to the hot clay container, until the bottle was half-buried.
"Why did you do that?" he asked her.
Though over a day had passed, he had made no attempt to discuss the events leading to the destruction of the demon Asesu, and allowed her to recover without the burden of his concerns and questions. Now, from the tone of his voice, she knew he could wait no longer.
"It was the only way."
"Were you overtaken by that spirit? The one that sealed itself with Asesu?"
"No," she said. "It took control, but only because I allowed it. It was one of my ancestors, a close relative to Midoriko. That was how she knew the way to seal Asesu."
"You see now," she asked. "How I felt, when you took Asesu and fought him youself."
"That was different."
He did not answer.
"You died, Houshi-sama. You died, and your blood was on my hands. The time . . . the time before you were revived . . . those were some of my darkest days, Houshi-sama. I'm not sure I could survive something like that again."
"Things ended for the best," he said. "I hope you take solace in that."
"I try. I try, Houshi-sama, but it's very difficult."
He brought his hand to her shoulder.
"If there's anything I can say, anything I can do, to bring you comfort, please tell me."
"Only one thing, Houshi-sama. And that thing I know you will not do." She shook her head. "But if you did . . . if you asked me this thing . . . it would make it easier. This fight with Naraku, this horror that befell my brother, and the constant threat of my friends dying before me – all this would be easier, if there was something beyond it. A future, Houshi-sama."
She leaned against him.
"It would be easier, Houshi-sama . . . if you could just tell me . . . if you need me."
His hand brushed her cheek, and he turned toward her, and for a moment she looked into his eyes and saw everything, all his fears and desires, all his loves and hates, and his lips touched hers, very gently, and before she could react, the moment was passed, and her chin was on his shoulder.
"The day . . . when you know the answer to that question . . . when I can make a promise to you . . ."
He tightened his grip on her shoulder.
"I'm trying, Sango. I'm trying to get to the place where I can be truthful to you. I'm not there yet, but soon. I promise."
"I know," she said.
"It's too much, I know, to ask you to be patient for me. But I beg you, Sango. I beg you to give me more time."
"It's alright, Houshi-sama. It's no good to force it, to ask you a question you're not ready to answer." She was crying now, though they were quiet tears, and hopefully he did not notice them. "I just wanted you to know . . . to know not to hold back, because you might fear how I think . . . because of how I act . . ."
"Please don't cry, Sango. You won't be able to see the snow clearly."
She looked up, and behold, the skies had opened up before them. Very nearly a blizzard, she thought, for the ground was already beginning to turn white. As she turned to Miroku, she saw him looking upward, his face a look of fascination, as if he were a much younger person. A look of boyish enthrallment, his eyes wide, his face brilliant and smiling.
As she watched him, a large snowflake landed on his nose, prompting him to cross his eyes in an attempt to look at it.
Laughing, Sango fell backward, hair splaying behind her, arms spread, and snowflakes falling upon her wide-open mouth and melting on her tongue.
Far from them, a priestess's servant named Suiki, recently relieved of her duties, returned to her village, where she thought well of her deceased husband, and yet began to entertain thoughts of seeking another.
Farther still, a tennyo that had spent the better part of three centuries on Earth, many of which in the appearance of an old woman ascetic, or else a miko, shed her guise and returned home, receiving a grateful welcome in Heaven and the thanks of many relieved deities.
And somewhere north, Naraku continued to flee, no doubt taking advantage of their delay to set his traps. Sesshoumaru would be not far behind, nor Kouga, nor Kikyou, but their time here, far from danger, was limited just the same.
But for now, they were in a safe place. Inuyasha had gone to Kagome's home with her, and Shippou and Kirara were following Kaede, and hopefully assisting in her nightly chores.
And he and the taiji-ya?
They were home, or else, something close to it. He had never known the true home of his family, and had never held a strong connection to Mushin's temple. He had wandered so much of his life that the word "home" meant little to him.
But he knew, knew with sureity, that any place where he could sit beside her, and see her laugh, and hold her – that was home to him.
Here, beneath a sky that cast a celebratory snowfall upon them, nothing else mattered.
Author's note: I'm not sure what to say. This story has consumed one year and six months of my life. It has served as an emotional outlet for a lot of personal feelings, and a creative outlet for a lot of frustrating events I've seen in the Inuyasha series. It has - intentionally or otherwise - absorbed elements of my own personality and interests, and (I hope) betrays many hours of classroom and self-study in Japanese language, culture, history, and religion.
The original inspiration for this story came from a half-dozen fanfics I read in early 2003, but I would guess that the catalyzing element was the first couple chapters of Sango-sama's "Love Beyond Life." I wanted to explore a character death, but in a way that was different from any other. It's not uncommon to have character death in a story, or even to have a major character die in the first chapter. But no story I was aware of began with a major character being resurrected, with no indication of how or why he died.
So I ran with it. I never thought it would be this long. I've to date written 700 pages of text on this story, only a mere fraction of which has actually entered the story. I have written three full Sango/Miroku reunion scenes and at least eight endings. The actual story itself is approximately 126 pages and (ignoring my Author's notes) clocks in at about 49,000 words - plenty long enough for a novella, and not too shy of a novel's length. It's long enough that I don't think I myself would ever bother to read it if I came across it now.
I regret a lot, especially the fact that I began to think of the little song blurbs above each chapter as mandatory, though I really do think the first two songs - "Mad World" and "Go Home" - set the tone for the story especially well. I like my "Session" technique, and the use of Interludes to suggest time passing, though I regret that I established a pattern with the First and Second Interlude, only to break it with the Third and Forth.
But I still enjoy the beginning, and the ending, and the most important parts of the middle, and I suppose that's enough to say I'm proud of this story.
I've received hundreds of Emails concerning this story over the past 18 months, and just as many reviews. I doubt I'll be receiving many more now that this is done, which is a bit sad, but hopefully there are a few people out there interested enough to engage in discussion about my stories, or their stories, or the Inuyasha series.
I doubt I'll be doing another fanfic like this for a while (if ever), but I still spend time on my website now and then, so for a while, I expect that will have the most recent information on what I'm doing.
I humbly thank everyone for their fan mail and their support.