The sun was beginning to set when Miroku awoke, though the evening was so overcast as to only allow the faintest of dull grey light to shine through the curtains of the hostel window. He sat up on the bare mattress and looked around the room.
Sango and Inuyasha appeared to still be fast asleep, the former lying on her side. He allowed his eyes to rest on her for a moment, smiling faintly—her winter clothing did little to hide her slender, distinctly feminine frame. Her sleeping face was relaxed, mouth open ever so slightly, and he watched her for another few moments before stretching and standing up.
Very quietly, so as to hopefully not wake up either of the room's other occupants, he moved to the door, opening it softly and moving out into the corridor.
Mr. Yoshida was putting away some of the paperwork on the desk, presumably preparing to lock up for the night, and looked up when Miroku entered the room.
"You know, usually guests who arrive here before midafternoon leave their bags here and explore the city," said the older man, watching Miroku. "In fact, usually the guests here don't actually live close by. I presume your presence has something to do with what happened to your father?"
"In a sense," said Miroku carefully, easing the door to the side corridor shut behind himself. "How much do you know about it?"
"Only what I heard through the news programs and the papers," said Mr. Yoshida, closing a drawer and sitting down at the desk, keeping his bespectacled eyes on Miroku the while. "There was an explosion in your father's labs—unknown cause, they say, although given that the nature of a laboratory is to conduct experiments, nobody really read too much into it. Mistakes happen. His son was believed to have died in the blast, though no body was found in the wreckage."
"Right." Miroku rubbed a finger against his chin, leaning back against the closed door. "…What do you, yourself, know about what happened?"
"What I just told you," said Mr. Yoshida blandly. Miroku stared back, expression equally blank, and at last the old man sighed. "Look, boy… I last spoke to your father a very long time ago. I only knew enough about what he—and you, I suppose, though you were very small then—was studying to know that it could very well be dangerous enough to have caused that explosion on its own. He didn't think so then, but I knew." He paused. "I also know that if you tell me anything here it will only get us both in trouble."
Miroku closed his eyes for a moment, breathing a laugh. "True enough. I meant to come out here to tell you not to speak of our visit, but I suppose that would have been unnecessary."
"Right you would be," said Mr. Yoshida. He opened another drawer and looked up at Miroku directly. "Why don't you get back to your room now?"
Feeling only a little bit ridiculous, Miroku nodded and opened the door to the corridor again.
Inuyasha was sitting up and watching the door when he reentered quietly. Miroku raised an eyebrow to his amber gaze.
"Did you think I'd left?" Miroku asked, glancing towards where Sango seemed to be stirring.
Inuyasha snorted. "Keh! I wouldn't put it past you, bouzu."
Miroku allowed himself a faint smile. "I'm wounded, Inuyasha, that you would have so little faith in me. Now Sango, she wouldn't have immediately jumped to conclusions, would she?" The faint smile turned into a radiant, beaming grin which he turned upon the half-awake girl on the other mattress.
Sango blinked at him, confused and pushing herself up sleepily on one arm. "Wha?"
Clapping his hands together (but quietly, in case there were other patrons in the hostel—unlikely, as touristry had gone down so much in the last couple of decades that he was surprised Mr. Yoshida could even maintain the place), Miroku closed the door and sat down on his own pseudo-bed. "Anyway. Now that it seems everyone's awake, there are some things we need to discuss."
Before Inuyasha could say something defensive, he raised one hand. "All of us. I will start; there should be no secrets between us at this point, since it looks as though we're all on the same side now. There's nothing any of us has left to lose." Except perhaps Inuyasha's pride…here's where he'll make some disgruntled noise.
Sango appeared to be wide awake now, sitting and regarding Miroku intently with dark brown eyes. "You'll… trust me with your story?" she said hesitantly after a moment, meeting his eyes as he looked over at her with a faint smile. "Even though we just met?"
"And what a meeting it was," said Miroku, laughing. "No… you're just as involved in whatever's going on as both of us are, perhaps from a different direction. And we'd be easy pickings right now if you tried to kill us—I'm too tired still to put up much of a defense, and I think Inuyasha's little better."
Miroku moved on his mattress until he was as far away from the door as it was possible to get without sitting on the floor. Sango leaned forward and despite himself, Inuyasha did too. With the last dusky orange streaks of sunlight fading through the curtains, the single lightbulb glowing a dim orange, Miroku leaned back on his elbows and gestured to himself.
"Ask away, then."
Sango raised an eyebrow, then laced her hands together between her knees. "Okay… you said your father is Yuusuke Tanaka, earlier. How much do you know about his work?"
Miroku's smile felt tight and wrong on his face, but he kept it up anyway. "Everything."
Sango blinked. "…Everything?"
"He trained me in all that he knew," said Miroku, training his gaze on one of the top corners of the room. "I know all of the magical laws that he discovered, how to use the ofuda, and how to sense demonic and spiritual energies. I also know about his work with a group called the Core, who were trying to suppress humanity's knowledge of the existence of demons." He looked at Sango. "He was working towards the end goal of finding a way to have demons and humans coexist peacefully… although he didn't have much hope of it happening within his own lifetime."
Sango drew in a short breath. Inuyasha's eyes were narrow as he watched them both, although the rest of his expression still spoke of confusion.
"He spoke to my mother a lot," said the hanyou after a moment, his voice almost imperceptibly strained. "Back when you lived near us. He… whatever he was working for…"
"You were a key part of it, yes," said Miroku, shifting his gaze to Inuyasha. "Proof that demons and humans could most definitely get along, for one thing." His smile turned wry. "And that they were closely enough related, biologically speaking, to… result in you."
Sango's eyes widened, and she turned to look at Inuyasha. "You're a half-breed?" In response to Inuyasha's sudden flush, she gaped at him. "But that's supposed to be impossible!"
Miroku shrugged. "As you can see, it isn't. Unfortunately, those who currently know this can probably be counted on one hand since… since the explosions, and skirmishes with a certain group of demons who wish to maintain the status quo."
"…Naraku," said Sango, her voice quiet, and Miroku looked over at her with a frown.
"Yes. I don't know his exact whereabouts, but my father and the people he worked with up until their deaths knew that name. They were trying to stop him."
"He's a demon," said Sango, her voice still soft. She looked down at the floor between her knees. "He's insinuated himself into the government somehow—my father was the head of the Taijiya. They were trying to find out who he is and to get him out of the picture, somehow."
Miroku thumbed his chin contemplatively. "That would be a tricky job… I was given the impression that he is very old, and very experienced at what he does." He leaned back on his elbows again after a moment. "In any case, he seems to be the main figure responsible for keeping humans in the dark about the existence of demons for the last few centuries. All for the sake of keeping himself in a position of power."
"So that's it?" said Inuyasha incredulously, his claws digging into the edge of the mattress on either side of him. "That's the whole reason why I've been hunted down my entire life? So some fucking lowlife demon can keep his cushy government job?" The fabric of the mattress made a distressed tearing noise, the thin, old fabric parting easily, and Miroku waved a shoe at him.
"Watch out, Inuyasha! We might have to pay for that if you damage it." He paused. "That is, I might have to pay for it."
"Fuck that," Inuyasha began, his voice a growl, only to be interrupted by Sango.
"No," she said, propping her elbows on her knees and leaning her shin on her interlaced fingers. "No, I think there may be more to whatever he's planning than that. There has to be. Not even a demon would do so much for such little purpose."
"How do you fucking know?" snarled Inuyasha. "You're just a human! What makes you think you know how demons think?"
"Maybe I don't know how Naraku thinks," Sango countered. "But even youkai have reasons for what they do—they wouldn't put all that effort into chasing something down, killing so many people, if they had nothing to gain from it."
Inuyasha's pupils were narrowed slits, eyes glowing golden in the dim light. He looked more inhuman than Miroku had ever seen him. It took him a moment to speak. "You know so little," he said, voice unusually soft given the fury in his expression. "There are monsters out there that you probably couldn't even imagine—"
"Yes, yes," Miroku said hastily, causing both of them to look sharply over at him. "I think we are all well aware of that. However, in this case I have to agree with Sango."
"There does seem to have been a purpose to many of Naraku's actions," said Miroku, leaning back on the heels of his hands. "Trying to find the jewel… his involvement with the results of my father's research… He has been known to have involved himself in quite a few establishments specializing in spiritual magic, and I am afraid he may have something to do with Kagome as well."
Inuyasha's eyes widened as he apparently forgot his anger. "With Kagome?"
Miroku looked over at him calmly. "I think, Inuyasha, it is time that you told your end of the story. I have a few suspicions, but nothing that can be substantiated." Who is this Kikyou?
Inuyasha blinked and sputtered as he found both of their eyes focused on him. "Wh—I… Keh!" He shifted backwards along his mattress slightly as all of his usual responses flitted through his mind. What makes you think…
Miroku's eyes, however, told him that he knew all of what might come. After a moment Inuyasha snarled and backed up to lean against the wall, studiously avoiding both of their gazes to instead glare intently at his own hands locked together over his knees. "Fine."
After a moment of expectant silence, he looked up again, the sullen anger shifting to gain a tinge of mild embarassment. "Uh… where do you want me to start?" he said.
"From the beginning, I suppose," said Miroku. "Perhaps from when you met Kikyou."
Inuyasha frowned anew, lowering his gaze once more. "...I think I met her a bit after you left for the city," he said, addressing Miroku without looking at him. "I think she came for the same reason you did, too—that she could help fix the situation somehow. They wanted to use me to get humans and youkai to accept each other, somehow."
Miroku nodded slightly. "I remember that. It might have worked back then, too—our parents were part of a group working towards that very aim. At that time there were some very charismatic, very effective people helping… You would have been the perfect symbol for them to use."
Inuyasha snorted and crossed his arms over his chest. "Sure. You wanna finish the story, then?"
"No," said Miroku mildly. "There are still things you know that neither of us do. However, I believe that there are some parts of your story that you may not know all the sides of."
"…Keh!" Inuyasha leaned back, scowling at the far wall. Everyone knows things I don't. And how did Miroku know that this was new information to him, anyway? After another moment of Miroku and Sango watching him with identical expressions of expectation, he rolled his eyes and then continued.
"Whatever. Kikyou was another part of that scheme. She was a miko, apparently a really strong one… she was supposed to stop the… the instability."
Miroku leaned forwards. "She was born with spiritual powers?" he said, somewhat startled. "…How did that come about?"
"Damned if I know." Inuyasha scowled. "I was a kid, okay? Nobody explained much of this shit to me."
"Well, whatever she did… did it work?" asked Miroku, still peering with interest at Inuyasha.
"…I… I think so," said Inuyasha, gaze dropping to the floor. "…It… I haven't…"
Miroku noticed Sango's confused face and turned towards her briefly. "The instability that we mentioned… Inuyasha used to have periods wherein his youkai blood would rise and temporarily obliterate his sentience. Completely unpredictable, too. He also would turn human for a night every month, though that didn't cause the trouble the other one did… is that still happening, too?"
Inuyasha hesitated a moment before nodding shortly. His face was tense and wary, irritated with having the secrets of his life being examined.
Sango nodded slowly. "I see. So they wanted to prevent this from happening?"
"Kikyou managed it," Inuyasha growled, pulling his knees up to his chest. "She stopped it all. All of it. It was like coming out of a fog… but it didn't stay unless she was around. They were talking about finding a permanent way."
"What happened then?" asked Miroku.
"Then… I don't know. Youkai attacked. Different ones—they killed the guards before Mother even realized anything was wrong. Using human bodies… so that no one could sense anything. Real humans. The youkai followed after…" Izayoi had carried him away, into the forest, but it hadn't worked. His strongest memory of her face was of that moment—watching her tearfully from the bole of a tree as she frantically scooped leaves over him and told him to be still, don't move, don't make a sound…
That also hadn't worked. The next memory he had was of being dragged out by hands and laughing voices, seeing her crumpled on the ground with her legs three feet away, and the clearing dissolving in the onslaught of a red, hideous fury.
"Ah." Somehow, Miroku had the sense not to pry further there. "…So, you survived and went on to live in the forest by yourself?"
"What else was I supposed to do?" snarled Inuyasha. "Run to the nearest town for help? I'm a freak. They wouldn't even believe that I was real, let alone take me in. And I'm fucking well not going to go looking to youkai for help." He glared at them both. "I can survive perfectly well on my own, anyway."
"I'm not arguing with your judgement," said Miroku hastily, holding up his hands. "No. But to continue… you met Kikyou again, later, didn't you?"
This was getting a little bit too recent for comfort. Inuyasha nodded.
"…Maybe a year ago…" Inuyasha leaned forwards slightly, gaze still averted, though his voice was tight with the effort of forcing himself to continue. "She found me… I'm not sure how. She'd been on the run too, living on her own, but within human society. I happened to be nearby when… uh… anyway, she sensed my presence."
Miroku nodded slightly, watching, and after a moment Inuyasha continued.
"She was… she'd been looking for me. And said she had found out a way to stop… everything. That she could turn me into… into a human."
Miroku and Sango blinked as one.
"A human?" Miroku echoed. "And… you agreed to this?"
"You…" Sango began, and then trailed off.
"Fuck off," said Inuyasha, quietly. "I'm not going to tell you any more."
"No, there is more yet that we need to hear," said Miroku. "What happened, right before I met you? We need to—"
"There is no more!" Inuyasha snarled, digging his nails into the edge of the mattress as if to keep himself from launching at Miroku's throat. "We met, and she fucking shot me! That's all! I have no idea why."
"Hmm." Miroku rubbed at his chin, giving little indication of having noticed the hanyou's ire. Sango looked between the two of them nervously. "There was really no hint of it beforehand?"
"If there had been, why the fuck would I have gone?!"
"All right, all right!" Miroku gave a small placating wave. "I'll leave it for now. Try to keep your voice down."
Inuyasha uttered a wordless growl, accompanied by the brief sound of tearing fabric.
Miroku sighed. "I suppose it's my turn now." He turned to Sango. "Did you by chance know of my father?"
"Yuusuke Tanaka," said Sango softly. "…I don't know much."
"You probably know of him as a scientist, with several labs and connections to most of the bigger businesses in the city." Miroku held up a hand when Sango opened her mouth to say something. "If you do know otherwise, I'll get to that, but for now, this was his public persona.
"While he did start off working with physical sciences, he found out very early on about certain… forces, which under the right circumstances could be controlled and acted an awful lot like magic. Of course, he immersed himself in testing all of its limits and how it could be manipulated; in doing so he got himself involved with the magical underworld, including youkai of all forms and various humans who had discovered these forces as well.
"There was a group of people who wanted to find a way to get the general public to accept youkai, for both groups to come to coexist in some hopefully peaceful way. There were obstacles here—one being that most humans don't believe youkai are even real, let alone be willing to work alongside them at the corner store. Youkai don't make that any easier, trying to hide all the time. But my father… he was working alongside them."
Miroku glanced at Inuyasha, who had been watching him silently with narrowed eyes the while. "One thing they needed was a symbol. The perfect option would be a hanyou, but hanyou are rare—and one who was not born either monstrous or insane, rarer still. This is why he, and by proxy I, became involved with you, Inuyasha."
Inuyasha muttered something that sounded like 'knew that part,' but kept his eyes on Miroku.
"At any rate… his interests after awhile pulled him back to the city. He trained me to use the magical forces he had discovered—we use objects called ofuda to control them."
Sango nodded, familiar with the concept already. "Your father… I believe he was in contact with mine. We were given ofuda paper in batches to use in certain jobs."
Miroku gave her a startled glance before continuing, somewhat slower than before. "…In any case… This last year. My father told me that he'd discovered something unsettling about the forces he'd taught me about, and that I shouldn't use them any further until he had looked into it. Then one night he called me while I was out—said he'd uncovered the problem, something was tainting the magic and I wasn't to come near the laboratory until he said I could." He gave a faint, wan smile. "That was when I saw the smoke and went running, of course… when I got there…" Long story short. "He told me that someone had been interfering with the magic that was available to humans, and that a curse would befall everyone who tried to use it." He hesitated briefly. "Essentially, the magic would begin to wear away at the user's body and eventually break away from their control." And then he died.
Sango watched him quietly; Inuyasha sat in silence, hands resting lightly on his knees. Miroku looked up again after a moment.
"…At any rate. I believe that the someone who placed this little trap may be the same one who arranged your mishap in the forest, Inuyasha," he said, looking over at the hanyou. "And possibly the one responsible for Sango's current circumstances."
"Naraku," said Sango quietly.