Face the Music
Chapter 16 – Mesto (sad)
Rating – M
Disclaimer – I do not own Inuyasha. I've merely borrowed Rumiko Takahashi's brilliant characters and put them into my own twisted imaginings.
Author's Notes –
This chapter was quite the trip. From trying to figure out the "morning after" to researching Japanese funerary customs, I found myself drowning because of my own ambition (as well as the random things that just seem to come out of my fingertips). This chapter mostly focuses on Miroku and Sango the next morning as well as the funeral of Miroku's mother. It's not as funny as previous chapters (I think I'm seriously lacking in the humor department in this one) but I find it hard to have a sense of humor about death (never mind that I have one of the most morbid senses of humor out of all of my friends).
Miroku woke up when the room was bright with the morning sun. Looking around in confusion, he took a moment to adjust to the fact that he was in his room, in his house, on his own bed. Lying across from him was Sango, who was still in a deep sleep. Blinking away the fuzz from his eyes, Miroku focused on Sango's face and smiled. As far as he knew, he'd spent the entire night with her and hadn't done anything stupid. With a sigh, he wondered why it was that when he didn't want to get laid that the girl was willing to spend the night with him, but any other time she refused him flat out.
Life was funny that way. Carefully rolling over, Miroku got out of bed and quietly left his room, allowing Sango to sleep as much as she needed to. He padded downstairs to the kitchen, where he found Mushin and Hachi sitting over a pot of coffee. "What are you doing?"
"Having breakfast," came Mushin's reply. "We were also making bets as to when you would be waking up."
"Ha, ha," Miroku said, walking over to the fridge and pulling out a carton of orange juice. "You think you're so funny."
"I happen to know that I'm hilarious. So, did ya get a hand on the girl last night?"
Miroku's back straightened as he turned to face Msushin. "She was vulnerable last night. I didn't lay so much as a finger on her." He screwed up his face for a moment before adding, "Though I don't know if I accidentally grabbed her while we were both asleep."
"Good for you, Master Miroku," Hachi said with an approving nod. "I always knew that you could behave yourself."
"Not much fun in it though," Mushin threw in.
Hachi shot him a dirty look before looking Miroku over. The young man had dark circles under his eyes, disheveled hair, and he still wore the clothes from the day before. His face was haggard, but there was still light in his eyes. "You look better than I thought you would."
Miroku shrugged. "I suppose I always knew that this day would come. I just find it hard to mourn a person that I hardly knew. The good times were so long ago that it makes it difficult to find something to miss and be sad about. It's easier just not to care."
Mushin whapped Miroku's hands with his always nearby folding fan, causing the young man to jump. "Don't say such blasphemous things boy!" he barked. "She was your mother and even if she didn't act like it she loved you!"
Looking at Miroku's startled expression, Hachi was reminded of a deer caught in the headlights. "What Mushin means is that in your mother's more lucid moments, she knew that she was neglecting you and was deeply sorry. She actually set up a fund for the Taji's to use for your expenses. Technically it was a direct monthly deposit from the family account into the Taji's account to pay for anything that you needed. She knew that she wasn't fit to raise you, so she was glad that Izayoi was willing to lend a hand. The two knew each other since grade school."
Miroku was once again startled. "They knew each other in grade school?"
"Yes," Hachi answered. "They were best friends. It was difficult for Izayoi to watch her friend deteriorate as she did, and that's why she was so willing to look after you. Old Taji would have left you, but Izayoi pleaded your case and swore up and down that she'd leave him if he didn't consent to looking after you. They assumed partial guardianship of you because your mother was deemed incapable. Though it is fitting seeing as Izayoi is your godmother."
"Was my mother Inuyasha's godmother?" Miroku asked quietly.
"Yes, but thankfully Izayoi's health has held out. After your father died, it was decided that Koga's parents would take on the responsibility of guardianship of both of you if something happened to Izayoi and her husband," Hachi explained. "It's been difficult and heartbreaking for all parties involved."
Miroku nodded, sitting down on a stool at the breakfast bar. He hadn't known that Inuyasha's mother and his mother had been childhood friends. However it did explain why Izayoi had always given him hugs and supported him when he thought that no one cared. He would have to find a way to thank her.
"So where's that pretty young thing that you slept with last night?" Mushin asked, ripping Miroku out of his thoughts.
"We slept in the same bed, we did not sleep together," Miroku answered tightly. "She's still sleeping."
"Wore her out?"
"Again, I did not sleep with her. We simply – gah! – Why am I even trying to explain this to you?" Miroku asked, frustrated with the way that Mushin was twisting every word that came out his mouth. "Her life hasn't been all roses and sunshine either, so I felt that she could use some rest after what she told me last night."
"How noble of you," Hachi remarked.
Suddenly feeling that his two companions were deliberately trying to make him feel as horrible as possible, Miroku grabbed his glass of juice and left the kitchen. "I'm going to the solarium. If you need me, you know where I am."
Hachi glared at Mushin after Miroku had walked out of earshot. "You just had to harass him about that nice, young lady, didn't you?"
Mushin merely shrugged.
When Sango woke, she realized that she was alone. She distinctly remembered that Miroku had been with her when she fell asleep, and she found it odd that he had left her alone. Then again, Miroku was proving to be full of surprises and it was possible that he was being considerate and allowed her to sleep longer.
Of course Miroku was also the biggest pervert she'd ever met and she would have completely accepted it if he had been sitting at his desk, watching her sleep.
Stretching out, she mustered herself to get out of bed and track down her wayward host. Deciding to start on the ground floor, she headed to the east wing first, hoping that he'd be in the unexplored region of the house. After finding a breakfast room and a music conservatory (complete with a beautiful grand piano and an antique harpsichord) she entered the solarium and found him reading the morning paper, an empty juice glass on the table beside him.
"Good morning," she said quietly, hoping she wouldn't startle him.
Miroku looked up from the paper and smiled pleasantly, which gave her the chills. His mother had just died, but he didn't look sad. Instead he looked like he did any other day of the week. Feeling a little angry, she walked over to him and bent over to glare at him eye to eye.
"Something wrong, Sango?"
"Aren't you sad at all?"
Cocking his head to the side, Miroku gave her an inquisitive look. "About what?"
"About what?!" Sango asked incredulously. "About your mother, that's what!"
"Sango, did you learn nothing last night? My mother was a negligent alcoholic. I'll be upset the day Izayoi dies, but my mother's passing was merely inevitable. Yes, I am sorry that she died in such a way, but I had been preparing for this for the last ten years. I find it hard to mourn the loss of a person who wasn't active in my life."
"I guess it didn't really sink in," she mumbled as she sat down at the wrought iron bistro table. "I was so close to my parents-"
"Yes, I figured that much," Miroku said soothingly. "Your loss was greater than mine. But for most of my life my mother ignored me so I really didn't think of her like my mother. I reserve that title for Izayoi, who raised me."
"Izayoi? Inuyasha's mother?"
"The same. A wonderful woman, I would have been a lost cause without her."
Sango pondered Miroku's bond with Inuyasha's mother. The woman had been an aide to Sesshoumaru's mother, so she wasn't without some social standing, but not nearly as high up as Miroku's own mother or her late husband. "Did they have a connection somewhere?"
"Your mother and Inuyasha's mother."
Miroku smiled slightly. "I was just informed this morning that they were close childhood friends. I'm not quite sure, but I'm thinking that either Izayoi's family served my mother's family, or they met through some strange series of coincidences and became inseparable. Who is to say?"
"You could always ask Izayoi."
Miroku answered with a soft laugh. Sango let herself revel in the sound, so light and musical. Perhaps it was better that he was able to move on. Sango remembered that her own grief had nearly consumed her, and if it hadn't been for Kohaku, she would have been lost. It had taken her nearly six months to laugh after her parents died, yet Miroku was able to do it the day after.
"I suppose I could. Perhaps after the funeral."
"When will it be?" Sango asked, knowing full well that the funeral would more than likely fall on the same day as the competition.
"Tomorrow, I think."
"But what about the social protocol? Won't people expect a viewing of the body, a large service – all the bells and whistles that go with these society deaths?"
"No, I think not. A private ceremony for close friends and family only should be sufficient. My mother hasn't been a part of society for ten years. No one will even notice, let alone care. On the odd chance that someone does care, they can always send me a floral arrangement or a casserole."
"Naraku is going to hate that."
Miroku smiled. "Yes, I'm sure he's heard about her death by now and has approached Sesshoumaru with our withdrawal papers. But I called this morning and told him that the show will go on."
By all accounts, Sesshoumaru was not a morning person. He woke at five in the morning every day, but the purpose was to give him a head start on the daily paperwork. By ten he was a social creature, but any time before that was dangerous. Even his own secretary and personal assistants would avoid him before ten. Jaken was the one exception, but even the little toad-man was careful in his actions and words so as to avoid any sort of conflict with his master.
When Onigumo Naraku showed up at his office at eight with a manila envelope in tow, Jaken knew that there would be a smack down in the executive office. He cleared out the few staffers before leaning up against the door to eavesdrop on the sure to be heated conversation.
Sesshoumaru didn't even bother to look up when Naraku entered. Nor did he look up when Naraku sat down. Instead he stayed focused on the paperwork hoping his visitor would take the hint and leave.
No such luck.
Naraku was just as stubborn as Sesshoumaru, and decided to initiate the conversation. "I've heard of the passing of Tsukiko Miyamoto."
Sesshoumaru didn't answer.
"She's the mother of your drummer, if I'm not mistaken."
Still no answer.
"Also, if I'm not mistaken, the funeral will be on the day of the competition."
"Which is a pity. I've brought the paperwork to formally withdraw your band from the competition. Really, all I need is your signature in a couple of places and we'll be done."
Sesshoumaru made an odd noise in this throat, which sounded distinctly like a rather feral growl. "Get out."
"Now, now, no need to get your underwear in a bunch. I was merely taking into consideration that a family member has died and that they will be unavailable."
"You make it sound like you caused her to die," Sesshoumaru answered icily. "Were you that scared that we'd wipe the floor with your pathetic excuse for a band that you had to resort to murder to assure your win?"
Naraku was unfazed by the blatant accusation. "Such a ridiculous notion. I merely want to respect the family in their time of loss."
"The family is Miroku only, and for your information the funeral is tomorrow."
"No public production?"
"Just a private funeral. Every one will be at the competition, as planned. And they will win. You may now leave."
"How gracious of you, Lord Sesshoumaru. Then I will see you all in five days. Good day."
Sesshoumaru glared at Naraku's back until he'd left the office completely before settling back into his paperwork. His mind wandered back to the phone call he'd gotten earlier that morning, and how oddly relieved he was to hear Miroku's voice on the other end of the line.
"Miroku, this had better be important."
"I just wanted to let you know that I'm arranging Mother's funeral for tomorrow afternoon. There's no way I'm going to have it on the same day as the competition."
"Why? Shouldn't you hold a public viewing and a formal wake?"
"Why should I? You know as well as I do that Mother has been out of society for the last ten years. The only people who need to say farewell will be there. Izayoi knows, Koga's family knows, and really, they're the only people who need to be there. Mother, as ignorant as she was, knew how much I loved my music. She wouldn't want me to miss the competition for anything, not even her own death. The funeral is tomorrow afternoon. The show will go on."
It had been oddly comforting to know that Miroku wasn't going to curl up and abandon his life just because his mother had died. If anything, this only served as more motivation for the young man to perform at his very best. Suddenly Sesshoumaru was struck with an idea. An idea that hinged on the cooperation of the rest of the band. Picking up the phone, Sesshoumaru dialed Inuyasha and hoped that his lead singer would support the decision.
The funeral was a small scale, private affair. The other band members and their families were present, as was Sango. She had been by Miroku's side constantly as he had sat in the solarium the whole day before, talking to florists and the proprietors of the crematorium.
The morning that Tsukiko was cremated, the special feast at the crematorium consisted of all of Tsukiko's favorite foods, which Izayoi had her kitchen staff prepare. The selection of food was varied, from traditional Japanese dishes to Tsukiko's favorite guilty pleasure, WacDonald's French fries.
Following the meal, Miroku, adorned in the traditional white family funeral robes, picked out the bones from Tsukiko's ashes and passed them around to the guests, each using a special pair of lacquered chopsticks. Following this, each guest paid 60,000 yen (Inuyasha paid for Kagome) and received a small floral arrangement in return. A second meal commenced as people recounted their memories of Tsukiko.
After each of the guests had left the crematorium, Miroku packed up the urn containing his mother's ashes and returned home, Sango at his side. Once to his house, he took it to the small traditional style room near the rear of the east wing and placed them on the shrine. The whole purpose of the room was for funerary purposes and Miroku couldn't enter the room without thinking about his father. Now he laid his mother's urn on the dias in the shrine and lit a stick of incense. Sango also lit a stick, and then gently touched Miroku's shoulder.
"You're hurting, I can tell," she said softly.
Placing his own hand on Sango's, Miroku sighed. "I took care of her. I forced her to bathe, to eat, and even get out of bed. Suddenly, I don't know what to do with myself."
"You have your music."
"I do. That's the only thing that's keeping me going."
"Then do what you do best. You're a heck of a musician. Your mother is proud of what you've accomplished."
Though Miroku wasn't sure of that, the fact that Sango had complemented his musical skills meant more than the word at that particular moment.
Thank goodness for the Internet. Not only does that mean that you get to read this, but it also means that I can do on-the-fly research for my fics. I used Japan Guide dot com for the information, which gave a very basic outline of Japanese funerary customs, which I happen to know that there are several variations of, but I went with the basic. Why? Because that's what Miroku wanted, duh. For the next thirty-five days (which I'm thinking that the story will wrap up in about seven) Miroku, Mushin and Hachi will be burning incense around the clock (no worries, special 12 hour sticks are just for night time use!). Now it's time to gear up for the big competition.
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