Quest for the Second Bath
Dedicated with love to my dear friend and beta, Sari-15 . . .
"Master Totosai, have you been listening to a thing I've said?"
"Hmm? Wha . . .?"
Myouga the flea-youkai slowly shook his head, crossing his feet and both pairs of arms as he closed his eyes and heaved a heavy sigh. "I've been trying to tell you that InuYasha-sama—"
"Scratch my back, will you, Myouga?"
Myouga popped one bulging eye open and peeked at Totosai. "I need your help, and you're busy thinking about a back scratching? Oh, the life of a flea," he moaned.
"Help, you say?" Totosai replied, scratching his head as he pondered Myouga's words. "Help with what?"
"InuYasha-sama is on his way here!" Myouga yelled, bouncing to his feet and waving his arms wildly. "He has questions, and he said that you'll answer him or else!"
"InuYasha? He's got a foul temper, that one . . ."
"Yes, yes! Of course, of course! Master Totosai, you can't—"
Tuning out the flea as he scratched his arms hidden in the folds of his haori, the old sword-smith leaned forward, drawing a deep breath before unleashing a controlled stream of flame-breath to ignite the wood that he'd stacked to cook his dinner. 'It hasn't rained for nearly three weeks straight,' he mused as Myouga paced to and fro on the packed earth of Totosai's cave. 'Everything's dry . . . horribly dry . . . and dirty . . . and itchy . . .'
"—Be here any time, and you just can't tell InuYasha about the new powers of the re-forged Tenseiga," Myouga went on.
"InuYasha, you say?" Totosai scratched his chin thoughtfully. 'InuYasha . . . he helped me the last time . . . 'course, he thought he was training . . .'
"Yes, yes, InuYasha-sama!"
"What about him?"
Myouga shook his head and heaved a sigh. "He'll be here any time; that's what! He saw Sesshoumaru when he fought the Numawatari . . . he saw the Meidou-Zangetsuha . . . At the time, he came to you, remember?"
Totosai blinked, a rather vague expression on his face. "He did?"
"Yes, he did . . . you side-tracked him that time, however, by telling him that he required further training to master the Dragon-Scaled Tetsusaiga . . ."
Myouga shook his head. "Yes, you did. He saw Sesshoumaru a few days past, though, and he noticed that the Meidou-Zangetsuha has grown. Now he wants to know what sort of power the ability has, and since Sesshoumaru won't give him answers, he swears that he'll get them from you!"
"Hmm," Totosai mused.
"All right, old man, time to spill your guts," InuYasha growled as he stomped into Totosai's cave. Head held high, arms folded together under the cover of the billowing sleeves of his fire-rat haori, the hanyou twitched his ears. Striding over to the fire, he pulled Tetsusaiga from his waistband and sank down across from the sword-smith, laying the sword on the ground before him before resuming his cross-armed pose. "Tell me what you did when you re-forged Tenseiga."
"What's that?" Totosai demanded, the vacant expression blanking just a little bit more. "Who re-forged Tenseiga?"
Myouga sighed as InuYasha shot to his feet, fist aloft as he threatened to smack the old man upside the head. "You did, you old codger!" he bellowed.
"InuYasha-sama, perhaps you ought to calm down?" the flea suggested, hopping onto the hanyou's shoulder and inching ever-closer to his neck.
"Suck me and die, flea," InuYasha snarled.
Myouga stopped in his tracks and assumed an innocent posture. "But it's been so long since I've had a decent meal," he complained.
InuYasha snorted and sank back down. "Keh! I ain't a walking buffet, damn it!" Golden eyes shifting to meet Totosai's, InuYasha made a face. "Now tell me what you did to Tenseiga. What is this 'Meidou-Zangetsuha', and what does it do, exactly?"
"Are you sure it was me, InuYasha?"
Left eye ticking as his irritation escalated, InuYasha couldn't help the low growl that escaped as he fought to control his temper. "Yes, old man, I know it was you. You said as much the last time I came here."
"Give me your sword," Totosai demanded.
InuYasha opened his mouth to protest then snapped it closed, snatching Tetsusaiga off the earth floor before striding around the fire and thrusting the sword under Totosai's nose.
"What have you been doing with this, InuYasha? This blade is in terrible condition!"
InuYasha flopped back down and snorted. "Listen, Totosai, it ain't like I've been running all over, doing nothin', okay? I completed your screwed-up training with Yourei-taisei . . . fought Mouryoumaru . . . of course the blade's a little dull."
"Dull?" Totosai echoed with an incredulous shake of his head. Staring at the youkai blade, he heaved a sigh and dropped it into the magnolia wood scabbard. "I guess there's just no help for it. I'll keep the sword until you learn how to take care of it."
"The hell you will," InuYasha growled, standing up and striding around the fire pit to smash his foot against Totosai's head. "I take care of it just fine, thanks."
Totosai shook his head slowly. "There's a little crack in the blade. I can fix that for you."
InuYasha snatched the sword from Totosai's hand and squinted. "Keh! Fix it, then," he decided, handing Tetsusaiga over once more.
Totosai took the sword and sat back. "It might take me a day or two," he allowed. "Careless hooligan . . . you're bound and determined to break Tetsusaiga . . ."
"Watch it, old man!" InuYasha snarled. "Why the hell is it gonna take you so long to fix that measly crack? It took that long to repair it when Goshinki broke it, in the first place."
"It was broken?"
InuYasha growled and slapped his neck when Myouga dared a drink of his blood. The flea groaned and fell off the hanyou's shoulder. "Yes, damn it!"
"Careless, I say . . ."
"All right, already . . . two days, Totosai," InuYasha grouched, turning on his heel and folding his arms together under the billowing sleeves of his haori as he stomped toward the mouth of the cave.
"Make it three."
InuYasha erupted in a low growl but kept moving. ". . . Fine," he tossed back over his shoulder.
Totosai watched InuYasha's departure. He'd gotten his companion's two-tailed, fire-cat-youkai to bring him, and the sword-smith shook his head as InuYasha hopped onto her back and took off once more.
"Three days, Master Totosai?" Myouga questioned as he sat up on the floor.
"Why that long?"
"InuYasha's grown too dependent on Tetsusaiga," Totosai said slowly. "He needs to remember what it is like to fight without it."
"Kagome! Where do you want this?"
The young miko glanced up from her task of applying a tree-sap resin to the junction between two stout bamboo 'pipes'. Miroku, the itinerant monk, held up another long section of bamboo for her inspection.
"Over there," she told him, waving the little brush in her hand toward the end of the piece she was sealing. Miroku nodded and dragged the length of bamboo in the direction she'd indicated.
It had seemed like an easy enough idea: build a long pipe to siphon water out of the river and into the village so that people didn't have to walk so far for their water. Sure, there was a network of irrigation ditches that supplied the local rice fields, but the well in the village was running low, and the murky brown water that came from it often convinced Kagome that she would be dirtier if she chanced a bath in it than she would be if she didn't.
She could, of course, go home for a real bath, but the luxury of that seemed rather cruel when she thought about all the villagers who couldn't. The answer had come simply enough. Studying her history book a few nights ago via firelight, she had come across a chapter that talked about the primitive first attempts at water relocation, and, to that end, the idea had been born. The water would be forced through via the vacuum effect, and the end of the pipe that would end up in the center of the village could be plugged when not in use. It would benefit all the families, and that, Kagome was sure, would be worth the work.
"InuYasha's been gone awhile, hasn't he?" Sango asked as she stooped to retrieve the other clay pot of resin and another brush.
Kagome made a face. "He just doesn't want to have to help."
Sango laughed. "You think so?"
Wrinkling her nose, Kagome shot Sango a knowing glance. "I know so."
Shippou, the kitsune-youkai, skittered across the meadow and stopped long enough to spring onto Miroku's shoulder. Kagome smiled as she watched the youngster hop down and dart away.
Kirara's yowl announced InuYasha's return, and Kagome sat on her heels as the hanyou slipped off Kirara's back. Her smile faded when she noticed that Tetsusaiga was conspicuously missing from his waistband, and she set the resin pot aside, slowly pushing herself to her feet. "InuYasha? Where's Tetsusaiga?"
He snorted, chin lifting stubbornly as the hot, dry wind stirred the hair that framed his face. "Totosai wanted to fix it. There was a tiny crack in the blade."
She shook her head. "But the cracks all disappeared after your training with Yourei-taisei."
He shrugged. "Probably that damn Mouryoumaru," he grouched. "Stupid bastard . . . hiding in that fucking shell of his . . ."
She smiled. Over the time they'd spent together, hunting the shards of the Shikon no Tama, Kagome had grown accustomed to InuYasha's blustering. "So how long will he have it?"
"Keh!" InuYasha snorted. "Three days, he said."
Kagome sighed and reached out to pluck a leaf out of his hair. The wind was escalating, and while Kaede, the old village miko, had insisted that it meant rain, Kagome wasn't so sure. At this point, after nearly three weeks of overwhelming heat and no trace of moisture in the air, the thought of something as simple as rain seemed more like a wistful dream than an actual possibility. "Will you help us with this?" she asked instead, jerking her head back toward the piping they'd been working on since he'd left for Totosai's. It was almost completed, and when it was finished, Kagome swore that she'd get a nice bath in a real tub instead of a soak in a river or lake . . .
"I still think you're wasting your time, wench," InuYasha growled.
She made a face. "Of course you do, dog-boy. Just think of how much easier it'll be to get water, though."
"You know, you should help dig the trench," Kagome pointed out, gesturing at the villagers who were working without complaint.
"Why?" he challenged, eyes brightening as they narrowed on her in a calculating glower. "Because I'm a dog, and dogs dig in the dirt?"
"No, baka," she said with a sigh, "because you're bigger and stronger and faster, and because you like to help us pathetic humans."
He snorted at the near-warning in her tone and rolled his eyes. "Keh! Think again, wench! You're the one who's always making me do stuff—charity work . . ."
"Admit it, InuYasha. You like helping because you're a nice person," Miroku chimed in as he wandered over.
InuYasha snorted again. "Whatever, monk."
"He is a nice person," Sango added, pushing herself to her feet and brushing dried grass from the palms of her hands.
"I shoulda stayed at Totosai's to wait for Tetsusaiga," he grumbled, cheeks pinking as he wrinkled his nose and quickly turned away.
"InuYasha!" Shippou exclaimed, bounding across the meadow and leaping onto the hanyou's shoulder. "Why are you blushing?" he demanded, grasping InuYasha's ears to aide his plight as he scampered to the top of InuYasha's head so that he could lean down to peer into his face.
InuYasha grabbed the kit by the head and dropped him onto the ground. "Buzz off, brat," he snarled, stomping over to help the villagers digging the ditch.
Sango watched InuYasha's unceremonious departure as a smile twitched at the edges of her lips. "Do you suppose he'll ever realize why we do that?" she asked.
Miroku stared over her shoulder, violet eyes lighting with understated amusement. "Let's hope not."
Kagome giggled and turned back to finish sealing the seam in the pipes. "It's for his own good," she asserted. "InuYasha's a good guy, deep down." She flinched moments later when the abrupt crack of flesh meeting flesh echoed through the meadow.
"Watch the hand, monk," Sango said, her voice taking on a sharper edge.
Miroku coughed and stepped back. "Now, Sango, I meant that in the nicest possible way . . ."
"Pervert," Shippou grumbled, shuffling over to Kagome as he carefully rubbed the knot that had formed on his head.
InuYasha stretched out on the roof of Kaede's hut with a yawn and a heavy sigh. Peeking out of the corner of his eye, he could see the villagers gathered around the end of the pipe that stuck out of the ground, extended up a few feet, and twisted unnaturally to form an upside down u-bend. 'Musta taken awhile to find that piece of bamboo,' he mused. 'At least Kagome's stupid project is finished.'
He made a face. They should have been out looking for Naraku or Mouryoumaru—someone. If it hadn't been for Kagome's insistence that she had to come back for one of her legendary tests, they'd still be out scouring the countryside for both of them. While she'd been gone, he'd sensed a powerful youkai near, and when he'd gone to check it out, he'd been surprised to find Sesshoumaru fighting a lumbering, stumbling bull-youkai. Sure, InuYasha had seen the re-forged Tenseiga against the Numawatari, but this time, the fissure created by the blade had been bigger—stronger—and to that end, he had decided to talk to Totosai.
'If that damned old man would stop talking in fucking riddles,' InuYasha snorted, 'my life would be so much easier.'
He sighed and rolled onto his side, draping his arm over his raised knee almost lazily. 'And where the hell is that crazy old man? He said three days, and it's been three days . . .'
A rustle of excited murmurs broke out over the crowd as Kagome carefully uncorked the end of the pipe. A soft stream of water jettisoned from the spout. 'I'll be damned,' InuYasha thought as his eyebrows shot up in surprise. He hadn't really expected her plan to work. It had seemed a little far-fetched when she'd made the suggestion, in the first place. Grinning slightly, he flopped onto his back, tamping down the misplaced surge of pride at Kagome's accomplishment.
He could tell from the murmurs of the crowd that the unanimous decision was that Kagome ought to get to use the water pipe first, and he wrinkled his nose, deciding that there couldn't possibly be another female on earth who took quite as many baths as Kagome did. He couldn't say that her compulsion to be clean bothered him, but he did think that she carried it a little too far. She never really stank, anyway . . .
Sitting up suddenly when the low of the bull-youkai, Momo announced the approach of the sword-smith, InuYasha snorted and hopped to his feet, crossing his arms over his chest as Totosai, perched cross-legged on the beast's back, grew from a dot on the horizon. "'Bout time, you slow-assed old fart," InuYasha snarled as he hopped onto Momo's back and snatched the sword away from Totosai.
"What's that?" Totosai demanded, leaning over precariously, nearly toppling off the bull's broad back in his effort to see what was going on in the middle of the village.
"Nothin' that concerns you," InuYasha grumbled, trying to tug Tetsusaiga out of the scabbard. The sword was stuck but good, and he scowled at the sword-smith. "Oi, you old bastard! What the fuck did you do to Tetsusaiga?"
"Ehh? What's that?" Totosai said, only paying half-attention as he leaned down a little further.
InuYasha growled in complete exasperation, swinging the blunt side of the scabbard at the old man's head. Totosai toppled off the bull, landing in a patch of grass outside Kaede's door. The sword remained stuck fast, and with an irritated snarl, he hopped off Momo's back, lighting next to Totosai. "Tell me what you did!" he bellowed.
"Did I do something?" Totosai asked, slowly getting to his feet and scratching his head as he stared vacantly at the hanyou.
InuYasha ground his teeth together and uttered a fierce growl. "Tetsusaiga won't come out of the scabbard, Totosai—"
"Oh, that! It will. Give it time. I had to bind the crack. As soon as the binder cures, it'll be just like new—until the next time you break it, that is."
"Why, you . . ." InuYasha trailed off with a scowl, lifting his chin as he turned his head toward the east. He could smell the rapid approach of something vile. 'Youkai . . .' he mused.
"InuYasha!" Miroku called as he ran toward him.
"I know," InuYasha replied, stuffing Tetsusaiga into his waistband. Villagers were filing into Kaede's hut with buckets of water.
Kagome darted to his side, worry furrowing her brow. "What is it?" she asked, grabbing InuYasha's arm and trying to hurry him along.
"Dunno . . . whatever it is, it's big," he muttered, pulling Kagome onto his back and sprinting toward the forest. Miroku and Sango weren't far behind on the transformed Kirara.
The trees rumbled ominously as InuYasha soared above the tallest branches, scanning the horizon through narrowed eyes. Spotting the undulating body of the huge serpent-youkai, InuYasha dropped to the ground nearby, kneeling to let Kagome slip off his back as Kirara landed beside him.
The serpent spotted them and opened its gaping maw, spewing a noxious cloud of toxic breath. InuYasha snatched Kagome off the ground and set her down further away. "Stay back, wench," he ordered.
Kagome nodded, shielding her nose and mouth with the palm of her hand. Satisfied that she would stay out of the way, InuYasha turned and ran back toward the youkai. Sango tied her mask over her face as Miroku bent over her, protecting her from the fumes. InuYasha snorted as he sprinted past.
"InuYasha . . ." the snake hissed, black eyes dull in the shadows of the falling evening.
"Sankon-tetsusou!" InuYasha bellowed, drawing his claws back and slashing through the air. The snake's head shot to the side, avoiding the attack completely.
Unleashing another cloud of the toxin, the youkai seemed to be laughing at him. InuYasha reached for Tetsusaiga and jerked, gritting his teeth with a grimace when he remembered a moment too late that the sword was still stuck in the scabbard. 'Fucking Totosai . . . I swear I'll kill him when I get done with this vermin . . .'
"Hiraikotsu!" Sango yelled, voice muffled by the taijya mask she wore to filter out the fumes. The giant boomerang whistled through the air, dispelling the fog of putrid miasma.
The youkai followed the path of the weapon with his steely eyes. InuYasha took the opportunity to charge the beast. Flicking the end of its long tail, the youkai caught him in the ribs, sending him flying back. InuYasha lit on his feet, skidding across the ground. "I hate snakes," he growled, crouching low and springing toward the serpent once more. This time, the Iron Reaver, Soul Stealer attack connected. The youkai screeched furiously as InuYasha tore the flesh of its tail apart with his claws. Green tinged brown blood sprayed the trees, the earth, sizzling upon impact and leaving behind a thick, black goo.
"Don't do it, InuYasha!" Kagome yelled. "Its blood is toxic! You're going to poison the entire forest!"
The youkai laughed. "Catch me if you can, hanyou!"
Grimacing as the snake shot away into the trees, InuYasha growled in frustration, snatching Kagome off the ground as he sprinted past. "That bastard of a snake is heading toward the village," he growled. "Damn that Totosai and his half-assed repairs . . ."
"Totosai?" Kagome echoed, clutching InuYasha's shoulders as he leapt into the air. "What does he have to do with the serpent?"
InuYasha snorted. "The old coot 'repaired' Tetsusaiga, all right. He repaired it so well that it won't fucking come out of the scabbard."
He didn't have to see Kagome's face to know that the girl was upset by the news. Her hands tightened around fistfuls of his haori, and he heaved a sigh as he landed in the center of the village. The screams of the villagers echoed in his ears. The serpent slithered through the village, knocking over carts and scattering people, demolishing two huts and heading straight for the newly installed water pipe.
"No!" Kagome hollered. "InuYasha! Do something!"
"Open to suggestions, wench," he grumbled.
"Kazaana!" Miroku yelled as Kirara sailed overhead. Yanking off the prayer beads that sealed the void in his hand, the monk braced his wrist with his free hand as Sango slipped off Kirara's back, landing near Kagome. The serpent unleashed another fog of fumes.
"Don't do it, houshi-sama!" Sango called, hurling Hiraikotsu to intercept and dispel the toxin.
Miroku grimaced. Sango was right. Taking in the fumes would be the same as sucking in the Saimyoushou: he'd be poisoned. Wrapping the prayer beads around his hand once more, he gripped Kirara with his legs when the two-tailed cat veered sharply to the right to avoid the serpent's strikes.
InuYasha vaulted off the ground, taking another swing at the beast. The youkai twisted its head, striking so fast that the movement was nothing but a blur. It caught InuYasha around the abdomen and tossed the hanyou like a rag doll. He crashed through the roof of a nearby hut, his pained scream cut off by the abrupt impact.
"All right," InuYasha grumbled, pushing himself to his feet. "I'm done messing with you!" Leaping into the air, InuYasha reached into the rent fabric of his haori, drenching his fingers in his own blood. Drawing his hand back over his chest, he flung his arm in a broad arc, unleashing five glowing red blades of energy straight at the serpent's head. "Hijin-ketsusou!"
The Blades of Blood struck, each one echoing through the village as the squelching noise resounded in InuYasha's ears. The serpent-youkai drew itself up higher and higher, body trembling as its blood flowed from the wounds. Tail thrashing, the beast struck the bamboo water spout, forcing a tremor through the earth along the trench where the pipe was buried. The pipe snapped with a reverberating crack seconds before a jet of water spewed into the air.
InuYasha heard Kagome's soft groan as he lunged for the youkai once more. "Sankon-tetsusou!" he bellowed, claws cleaving through the youkai's head and straight down its body. Its dying shriek echoed through the air as bits and pieces of the creature rained down. InuYasha landed in the midst of the mess, flicking his hand to shake off the venomous fluids and using his free arm to shield his head from the falling water.
Lowering his arm to glance at Shippou before following the direction in which the youth was pointing, InuYasha blinked in surprise. The water was neutralizing the serpent's toxin. The black goo dissolved in the moisture, washing harmlessly away, and InuYasha shook his head when he realized that, standing as he was in the center of the flow, the poison had been washed off him, as well. "Well, wench, it looks like your water was good for something," he drawled as he strode away from the wreckage the youkai left behind.
Kagome tried to smile. In the end, she uttered a soft little moan and a heavy sigh as InuYasha flicked his ears to shake off the remaining water. "At least I'll get a bath out of it." She started toward Kaede's hut and stopped, whirling around to stare at InuYasha. Head cocked to the side, she finally smiled. "Why don't you use it, InuYasha? You deserve it."
He opened his mouth to argue as a pleased flush dusted his cheeks. He shrugged instead, folding his arms together under the sleeves of his haori and following along behind Kagome. He was filthy, after all, and the soak would clean his wounds well enough . . .
"Maybe we can repair the pipe," Miroku commented as he fell in step beside Kagome.
"Fat chance!" InuYasha interjected. "We gotta find out where Naraku and Mouryoumaru are. We're leaving first thing in the morning."
"But—" Kagome began.
"Can it, wench! We ain't got time for your little pet projects."
"It's all right, Kagome," Kaede said gently as the group neared her hut. A low rumble filled the air just before the first few, fat droplets of rain fell from the skies. "I told you it was going to rain." She pushed the bamboo mat covering the doorway aside then stopped dead in her tracks. "Who—what do ye think ye are doing there?" the old miko demanded.
InuYasha strode forward and shouldered Kaede aside. "You old bastard! What the fuck is going on?"
Totosai glanced up over the side of the wooden tub that had been filled with heated water. "Me? I'm getting my bath," he explained simply, scratching his head as he settled back against the side.
Kagome cleared her throat and stole a peek at Sango. "It's not that far to the hot spring," she said.
Sango coughed. "No, it isn't," she agreed.
"You geezer! That was my bath!" InuYasha snarled.
"Did Tetsusaiga ever come out of the scabbard?" Totosai demanded.
InuYasha erupted in a low growl. Kagome caught his arm and pulled him away from the door. "Come on, dog-boy. You can get cleaned up at the hot spring, too."
"Damn you, Totosai!" InuYasha yelled as Kagome continued to drag him toward Kirara. He grasped Tetsusaiga's handle and tugged, expecting the blade to remain ensconced in the sheath. It slipped free, and he stared at it in shock. Kagome sighed again then giggled.
In Kaede's hut, Totosai sighed, too, flicking the surface of the water with a gnarled old hand. It had been a good day . . . "InuYasha got some practice without Tetsusaiga, and I finally got my bath," he mumbled just before he broke into a little smile.
This one-shot is supposed to fit directly into the ongoing manga storyline, which was quite a challenge. Basically, at this point, it would pick up where the current story arc ends (that being the arc that encapsulates this week's manga, Scroll 441: Confrontation). Sari once said that she loved how I wrote Totosai, and while that is somewhat scary to me, it is also flattering. I love eccentric characters, which means that Totosai is right up my alley.
Happy Birthday, Sari! You've made me smile, made me laugh,
and provided me with your support and, most importantly, your
friendship, and for that, I adore you! Have a great day and year.
No one deserves it more than you!
Haori: outer coat.
References to the Numawatari (the lake youkai) and Meidou-Zangetsuha (Tenseiga's attack that creates a rip between this life and the afterworld) are from InuYasha manga scroll 425: Growth of the Sword.
Yourei-taisei is the hermit/youkai who furthers InuYasha's training with the Dragon-Scaled Tetsusaiga in manga scrolls 425-431.
Miko: Shinto priestess.
Shikon no Tama: Sacred Jewel of Four Souls.
Baka: idiot, fool, stupid.
Sankon-tetsusou: Iron Reaver, Soul Stealer.
Hiraikotsu: Sango's boomerang.
Taijya: (Youkai) exterminator.
Kazaana: Wind Tunnel.
Houshi-sama: Sango's 'pet name' for Miroku … highly respectful way of addressing a monk.
Saimyoushou: Naraku's poisonous bees (hornets).
Hijin-ketsusou: Blades of Blood.
Final Thought from Totosai:
At least I got m' bath …
Blanket disclaimer for The Quest for the Second Bath: 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.