AUTHOR'S NOTE: Another chapter of Down the Well! I needed a quick comedy break.
I've overlapped a little bit with the last chapter, which should've ended sooner than it did. At this point, the story actually starts moving past the standard "strangers in a strange land" motif that most "Inu-tachi In the Modern World" stories get into. I wanted to do something different. Never fear; it'll still be hilarious…I hope.
There is just the tiniest bit of seriousness here, though. At some point, someone has to tell Kagome that a person from 400 years ago would almost certainly feel VERY uncomfortable in the world we call home today—just as we would feel pretty out of place in the violent, often deadly Sengoku Jidai.
No one R&R'ed? Come on, people! You're leaving me hanging here!
SCROLL SIX: CLEANLINESS IS NEXT TO GODLINESS, OR EVERY LITTLE THING SHE DOES IS MAGIC
They walked in the front door. Since it was still in the afternoon, the place was nearly deserted. Miroku spotted an older woman sitting behind a desk. "Ah." He walked over and bowed to her; she got to her feet and bowed back. "Welcome to Love Suds," she smiled. She had probably been quite beautiful decades before. "There are two of you?"
"Yes, madame," Miroku replied formally. "We would like a bath and a massage, please." He bent closer and whispered to the old woman, "My friend has had a very hard day." He inclined his head towards Inuyasha. "He's been entertaining children all day at the anime store, which accounts for his strange clothing."
"And the ears," the old woman commented.
"Those as well. In any case, he needs a long bath."
She smiled wolfishly. "Of course, sir."
"As for myself, just a regular bath and massage. With pretty girls, of course."
"Oh, of course, sir. We have the prettiest girls in Kabukicho—perhaps in all of Shinjuku."
"How much?" She named an astronomical sum. Miroku reached into his pocket and pulled out one of the koban. "Will this be sufficient?" In the Sengoku Jidai, it would buy an inn and everyone in it for the better part of a week.
The old woman's eyes lit up with unbridled avarice. She recognized pure gold when she saw it, and if this young fool was willing to be parted from it, that was his affair. "How long would you like your friend's bath to be, and how many girls would you like to bathe you? One? Two? All of them?"
Miroku grinned. "I think one would be fine for each of us. Just make sure they're very pretty."
"Absolutely." The old woman's smile changed to the same smile Miroku had last seen on Kouga when the latter was confronted with a crackling roast deer. "Would you and your friend like 'the works'?"
Miroku didn't know what she meant by that, especially since the old woman had used a Japlish borrowed word, probably adopted for the benefit of American tourists, though again Miroku wouldn't have known that. It sounded good, so he nodded. "Then right this way, sirs."
Inuyasha spluttered a little when he and Miroku were separated—staying within line of sight of Miroku was the whole point he'd come into this weird-smelling place—but the girls were insistent, and Inuyasha was afraid they might start crying if he protested too much. (Plus, he had to admit, they were rather cute.) Miroku, for his part, needed no such prodding. The old woman was as good as her word: the girls were quite attractive, though, Miroku admitted to himself with some surprise, not as pretty as Sango.
The three of them—Miroku and two girls—entered the bath house. It was softly lit with blue light, the floor was made of cool tile, and the bath was heroic. There was a single long table, which was covered in warm towels. "Please take off your clothes," one of the girls invited Miroku. Both of the females wore kimonos.
"Certainly." Miroku's hands moved up to his shirt, then he stopped and put his plan into motion. He hoped Inuyasha wouldn't be too angry; after all, the hanyou was getting a free bath and massage, plus whatever this 'worksu' thing was, at the monk's expense. Kagome had translated the Sengoku Jidai's timekeeping to modern standards, so Miroku knew he had about five hours before they would meet back at the train station—Kagome having made that their rendezvous point in case any of them got lost. That was plenty of time to look around.
"Oh, I'm terribly sorry," Miroku told the girls in a rush. "I left my money in my car." He had heard that terminology for the rolling metal wagons Kagome's mother drove. "I'll be right back." The girls agreed—after all, they certainly would like to be tipped—and waited as he dashed out of the room. He hated to, because while the two females weren't as pretty as Sango, they were still more than pretty enough to catch his eye and seriously tempt him into asking The Question.
Once out the door, Miroku took a quick glance around, didn't see the old woman, and ran out the front door. Free again, he whistled merrily as he sauntered down the streets of Kabukicho.
Kagome sighed, long and hard. The day was becoming a disaster, and it was her fault…mostly.
She was having a good time. Then again, coming into the city with her friends usually was the best of times for Kagome. (She would count her forays with the Inu-tachi more fun if archdemons and other monsters weren't trying to kill her.) With Eri and the others, they would try on clothes, try new perfume, and eat at the food court, then maybe end a day of shopping with a movie.
The problem was, Sango wasn't like her other friends. Kagome gradually grew to realize that, while her school friends loved to try on new clothes—or even, secretly with a lot of self-conscious giggling, swimsuits—Sango had really no interest in the subject, said so, and worse, made sense.
When Kagome had her try on a long dress and puffy blouse, Sango had obeyed. When Kagome complimented her on how she looked—and she did look good—Sango had shrugged and said, "But it's useless in battle. The long dress would only trip me up."
Trying to find common ground, Kagome had then had her try on a skirt, shorter than even Kagome's school uniform. Coming out of the changing room, Sango had been red as a beet, tugging on the skirt continously, and sliding in the high socks she wore with the outfit. "You look great!" Kagome proclaimed, and it was true.
Sango looked in the mirror and hesitantly spun in place on one foot. "Oh, gods no," she said. "If the monk sees this, he'll permanently attach himself to my butt."
"Well, we don't have to buy it," Kagome admitted. Sango did have a point there.
"Then why am I trying this on, if we have no desire to purchase it?" She had a point there too, dammit.
With the clothes-trying-on an utter failure, Kagome steered Sango over to the perfume section. Again, it was no use. While Sango admitted that the scents were nice and smelled wonderful, she had no desire to allow Kagome to buy her any perfurme. "The body washes that you use make sense, because I smell fresh," Sango said. "But this perfume stuff would only give away my presence to an enemy. Naraku would smell me coming for miles away. And it gives me a bit of a headache." With the sales clerk staring at them strangely, not to mention angrily for the implication that neither Kagome nor Sango actually intended to buy anything, Kagome mollified the clerk by buying some of the aforementioned shampoo and body wash and led her friend away.
With all other options exhausted, Kagome led Sango to the food court. Hopefully here, at least, Sango wouldn't come up with some reason not to stuff her face. That part, at least, Kagome was right about. Sango had no trouble piling her plate high with yakisoba, shrimp, octopus, and a washtub-sized bowl of miso soup. Once they were seated, the taijiya tore into the food as if Naraku was going to take it from her at any given second.
"Sango," Kagome said after watching her friend devour half her plate in minutes, "are you having fun?"
Sango stopped and put the miso bowl down. "I suppose so."
Kagome didn't need her miko powers to know when someone was just being polite. "Be honest, Sango."
Sango shrugged. "The food is good."
"But trying on clothes, the perfume…none of that." Kagome smiled sadly. "And I know better than to ask about the train ride."
"No. Though beating up the groper was kind of fun," Sango smiled.
"So just what is your definition of fun?" Kagome asked, almost exasperated.
Sango leaned forward. "Kagome, there is something you have to realize. I don't belong here, in your time. Neither does Miroku, though that mad monk could probably get used to it. I don't know how Inuyasha can stand it. There's so many people here. The buildings…" Sango waved her chopsticks around "…are simply overwhelming. I might as well be on another world. In fact, I'm not entirely sure I believe you when you say this is merely the same Japan we live in, just four hundred years in the future.
"What you define as 'fun' is what we've been doing. You're having fun, that much I can tell, but it's not fun for me. Kagome, all my life, I've had very little…"
"But this is different!"
"Of course it is. But Kagome," Sango insisted, "I'm satisfied with what I have back home. I don't want more than the little I own. I don't want fancy clothes. I don't want all this around us. If I wanted rich finery, I would've stayed and married the nobleman. I was born a taijiya, Kagome, and it's quite likely I'll die as one."
"It's not fair," Kagome said. Her eyes began to fill with tears. To be born into poverty, starvation always a bad farming season away, marrying young, having children young, dying young? Kagome didn't want that for her friend.
"It is fair. Oh, it's not fair what Naraku did to my family and to Kohaku. I'm not saying that, and I will have revenge for it, in this life or the next. This is your world, Kagome. It's not mine. It can never be mine." Sango let out a sigh. "I'm sorry. I know that's not what you wanted to hear."
"No…you're right. I messed up." Kagome picked at her meal, not hungry now. She had made a huge mistake: Kagome had substituted the Sango she wanted to be with for the real thing. The real Sango was, as she said, satisfied with her short, violent life, and didn't want to change. Maybe it was meant to be like that, and Kagome was wrong to try and change her. Inuyasha was one thing—he was willing to adapt to Kagome's time, albeit for a short while, which was another problem—but Sango was another, and Kagome would be very wrong to attempt to force change upon someone who didn't want it. "So what would you like to do? We've got a few hours. I guess we could find the boys; see what they're up to."
Sango wolfed the rest of her food down, and insisted that Kagome eat up as well. Then they left the food court and headed back for the train station, Kagome despondent.
First they had to pick up Souta, and while finding him still merrily playing video games was no surprise, the fact that he was alone was one. "Where's Inuyasha and Miroku?" Kagome asked. Dread suddenly filled her stomach like Naraku's miasma.
Souta finished the game, gathered his things, and headed to the counter to buy the video game. (After all, the owner had let him play it for three hours.) "Oh, Miroku went off to Kabukicho and Inuyasha went after him."
Sango watched with growing alarm as all the color drained out of Kagome's face. "What's this Kabukicho?"
"The red-light district," Kagome breathed. Seeing Sango was confused, Souta helpfully added, "The sex place. Whatever that is." He paid the owner of the game store, and followed his sister and her friend out the door, wondering why both were wearing an identical expression of complete and total doom.
They arrived at the gate of Kabukicho quick enough, and Sango stared up at the entrance sign. Since it was still daytime, it didn't look like a wretched hive of scum and villiany. In fact, she couldn't tell it looked any different from the other buildings around it. All of them had huge garish advertisements and signs that she could only guess at. "This is it?" she asked, wondering if Kagome had the right place.
"This is it," Kagome confirmed angrily. Her mood had shifted from dank despair to rage in the few blocks between the game store and Kabukicho. "Trust me, Sango. It's like some of the demons we've fought. They look harmless until you get close to them. I've heard horror stories about this place." Actually, most of the stories she'd heard had been from snippets of conversation among the boys in her school, talking about how they'd love to go down to Kabukicho and "have a good time," then go on to describe such a good time when they thought she and the other girls were out of earshot. And gossip being what it was, some of the girls Kagome knew had a few tangy tales of Kabukicho as well that they had overheard. All agreed that it was strictly a place for dirty-minded guys to go to. It might look innocous to Sango, but to Kagome it yawned open before her like the gates to hell.
"Well, one thing's for sure," Sango said, squaring her shoulders, "we'll never find them just sitting here." She took a step forward, but Kagome grabbed her arm.
"Sango, we'll never find them in there! I heard Kabukicho has something like three thousand…um…places. Plus…" Kagome looked down at her shoes, twiddling her fingers in embarrassment "…I think I'm too young to go in there."
"I'm definitely too young," Souta spoke up. He had no desire whatsoever to find out what was in Kabukicho. If Mom found out he had been within eyesight of the district, she'd likely tan his rear end. Kagome might be able to get away with it, only because Mom gave her time-trotting daughter considerable leeway. (Too much leeway, in Souta's opinion.)
Sango snorted. "In my time you'd already be married off." She stared into Kabukicho, strangely satisfied. Now she had an enemy to fight.
"Sango, do you know what they do in places like this?"
"Of course. You think it's the first time I've been in a place like this? There was this one time…a demon got loose in Edo's brothels, disguising itself as a courtesan and seducing young men. It drained their—"
"Don't!" Kagome yelled, holding her hands over Souta's ears.
"I was going to say money pouches," Sango smirked. "We were called in to exterminate it. Trust me, I'm a lot more familiar with the Willow World—" she used Sengoku Jidai parlance for the world of prostitutes and entertainers "—than the monk thinks I am." She rubbed her chin in thought. "Let's try there."
"'Love Suds'? What makes you think they'll be there?"
"Women's intuition." Sango shrugged. "That and the fact that it says 'Be Bathed By Beauties' too."
"Onee-chan, I'm going to the arcade." Souta pointed to one down the street.
"That's a good idea—"
"I need some money, though."
Unspoken, with the link only siblings can share, Kagome knew what was going on. Souta still had money; the game hadn't cost more than half his allowance, and Souta managed his money well for a ten-year old. That meant that Souta was merely practicing the ancient art of extortion: if Kagome handed over some cash, Souta would in turn keep quiet about his sister going into Kabukicho. In other words, he wanted hush money. Kagome, her face darkening with equal parts anger and embarrassment, gave him the money. Souta, satisfied, strode happily towards the arcade.
"All right, Sango; let's go." Kagome squared her shoulders, wished she had her bow, and entered Kabukicho.
"This isn't half bad," Inuyasha remarked. There was no one in the room, which was just as well.
Soon after he had been separated from Miroku, the two cute girls had asked him to strip. He had demanded just what the hell for, and one of the women had explained that they needed to soap him up. At that point, he had nearly fled the place, but Miroku's point was valid: he did smell. Besides, when he was little, he had seen his mother bathe like this. Though Inuyasha had never known his father, his mother Izayoi was minor nobility, and she maintained a good amount of servants. They would lather her up before she got into the bath. He had never had the chance to try that, since once his mother died, Inuyasha had been on his own. Any claim to being a noble was gone, and he preferred it that way. Still, it might be interesting to see how his half-brother Sesshoumaru maybe lived, when he wasn't out killing everything which torqued him off, which was just about everything except for Rin…
So, against his better judgement, Inuyasha had stayed and done what the women asked. They had carefully soaped him, and it took a great deal of willpower not to react to two beautiful females running their hands over his skin. Inuyasha found it was easiest to catalogue when, where, and how Kagome had sat him since the day he had been cursed with Kaede's infernal beads of subjugation. The women were also very polite and never strayed beyond propriety. (This also is supposed to be a funny story, not a lemon.) Once they were done, they poured a bucket of cold water on him, which certainly helped cool any ardor he might have had. Then they motioned to the bath, bowed, giggled a little, and left.
Inuyasha got into the bath, and instantly relaxed. It was perfect, better than the best hot spring. The water even smelled good. It was also the right temperature. He found that, compared to other people, he preferred water to be warm, but not hot. Kagome liked her hot springs one degree cooler than live steam, and once, after she was finished, he had eagerly leapt in. He had just as eagerly leapt out, with a howl. This bath was perfect, and he wasn't being boiled like a lobster.
He leaned back, eyes closed, just luxuriating in the wonderful bath. His ears caught someone coming into the room, which surprised him. It wasn't Miroku; the tread was too light. Inuyasha opened his eyes and looked up into those of the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He amended that after a second: Kikyo had been prettier, but only because she had been his first love. Kagome…well, she might be as pretty as this woman, but that was debatable. The woman was tall, lithe, long-legged, and had a gentle fall of raven hair that framed an exquisite face, with gentle eyes. Her full lips were parted in a slight smile. Even her kimono was silky perfection. "Good afternoon," she said with a bow. "My name is Kikusui."
"Uh…" Inuyasha had to find his voice. "Uh, pleased to meet you. Inuyasha. I'm Inuyasha."
"Inuyasha." Her voice said the syllables with a liquid caress. "Such an unusual name." She crossed around behind him. "May I massage your shoulders, Inuyasha-sama?"
Inuyasha-sama? the hanyou thought. This is something new. Nobody's ever called me 'sama' before. I kinda like it. "Um, sure." Below the water, he flexed his claws, just in case. Someone this beautiful might not be human, though she smelled human. Hell, she smelled like lavender and strawberries. Her fingers dug into his neck and shoulders, finding the right points, getting the blood flowing. "Oh, that's just great," Inuyasha groaned in satisfaction. "I'll give you exactly an hour to stop doing that…"
Kikusui laughed, like a tinkling waterfall. "Your friend said you had a long day and needed relaxation."
Alarm bells went off in a deep part of Inuyasha's mind, since 1) he hadn't had all that long of a day and 2) Miroku never did anything without a reason, unless it meant grabbing some woman's rear end. Kikusui's fingers rapidly silenced those alarms, though, as she kneaded his neck, then worked her way up to his ears. Her placid expression faltered a little when she realized that the ears weren't fake, some part of a cosplay experiment gone wrong. Then again, this weird guy was a paying customer, and he was kind of cute, and the poor thing had a lot of scars for such a young man…
Inuyasha gave her an hour to stop the massage, but she stopped at ten minutes, which was just fine with him, because the hanyou had been reduced to a puddle, and wore a ridiculous smile on his face. "Did you enjoy that, master?"
Master? Oh, hell yeah. Up yours, Sesshoumaru, you aren't the top dog around here! Inuyasha smirked. "Yes, ma'am."
"I am so very pleased." Kikusui got up again, walked around the pool to stand before him, and untied her obi. Her kimono whispered off of her, and because this isn't a lemon, the author will allow you to use your imagination. Let's just say that Kikyo suddenly took second place in Inuyasha's competition for Perfect Womanly Body, and Kagome trailed a distant third. Each step a poem, she descended into the bath, then submerged herself, coming up with a lovely gasp, her hair now plastered down her back.
Inuyasha squeaked. He squeaked again as she advanced on him. "W-Wait…wait a second…"
"There's no reason to be nervous. Or embarrassed," Kikusui assured him gently. She wondered if he had ever done this sort of thing before. If not, she was going to enjoy educating him.
"B-B-But…" Had Inuyasha not been so flustered at all of the delectable female flesh before him, he might have figured out Miroku's plan. All he could think of at this point, however, was two things: one, that he really, really wanted to let Kikusui work her fell magic upon him (because surely someone this beautiful had to be magical in some way, and probably evil too) and two, that if Kagome found out, he was one dead hanyou. Somehow, his conscience managed to pound his hormones into submission and he spluttered, "I can't!"
Kikusui laughed softly. "Oh, I assure you that you can, Master Inuyasha."
"It's not that!" Inuyasha was backed against the side of the bath, with nowhere to run; Kikusui's lips were only centimeters away from his. "It's…it's…" Feeling her jasmine-scented breath on him, Inuyasha said the first thing that came to mind: "I'm married!"
Kikusui was about to say that she didn't much care about that: a good number of her clients were married salarymen. However, just as she was about to kiss this bizarre nutcase, she realized that they were no longer alone. She looked up. Framed between Inuyasha's twitching ears was a young woman—girl, really; she couldn't be more than seventeen, if that—whose expression went from shock, to horror, to incalcuable anger in one second flat. Fists clenched at the girl's sides so quickly that Kiksui knew she heard the knuckles crack.
"Inuyasha…" Kagome drew the maximum amount of venom out of every letter "…SIT!"
He still had the beads on, of course. They quickly drew him straight down, headfirst into the bath. Kikusui had been kneeling before him, so on his way towards the bottom of the bath--or Kagome's hoped-for target, the center of the earth--Inuyasha first impacted between Kikusui's impressive breasts, then her navel, then other points south. Kagome was filled with such wrath at the sight that Sango, who had been following just behind, seriously feared for the life of not only Inuyasha, but also the courtesan, the old woman who was still screaming at them that they couldn't go back there, and in fact everyone within a three-block radius.
Kikusui might have been well advised to either keep her mouth shut or flee in terror at this point, but instead, she stood up and leveled an angry finger at Kagome. "Hey. What the hell are you doing here? Get lost! He's my client!"
Kagome let out a strangled half-scream of rage and launched herself at Kikusui, tackling her into the other side of the bath from the nearly drowned Inuyasha. Kikusui knew how to defend herself quite well, but Kagome at this point was not a high-schooler girl with miko powers, but a five-foot-six instrument of terror. With reflexes honed in the unforgiving Sengoku Jidai, Kagome easily knocked aside Kikusui's clumsy block, fastened her hands around the other woman's neck, and began pounding her head into the tiles.
Sango skittered across the tiles to stop Kagome: already she could hear the old woman calling for the bouncer and the police, and the last thing she wanted to see in the time of the future was the punishment for being an accessory to first-degree murder. Somehow, she pried her friend off Kikusui—thinking to herself Good thing Miroku isn't here; seeing two women fighting it out in a bath would probably give him a seizure—and turned her around. "Kagome, stop! You can't kill her!"
"Why the hell not?" Kagome shouted back. "In for a penny, in for a pound! After I'm done with this tramp, I'm gonna kill Inuyasha too!"
Inuyasha had managed to get off the floor of the bath and gasped for air, at the same time saying, "Kagome, it's not what—"
"SHUT UP! SIT!" Inuyasha managed to throw himself out of the bath this time, though smashing into the tiles headfirst wasn't much of an improvement over nearly drowning.
"Kagome, stop; we've got to—" Sango suddenly shoved Kagome's head down and drove her fist into a man's face; he had rushed in wielding a truncheon, and Sango wasn't going to ask why. Stepping over the groaning bouncer, Sango used her not-unconsiderable strength to snag Inuyasha by the beads, the hanyou's clothes, and the maddened Kagome and drag them all out the nearest door, which luckily led to the alley behind Love Suds. She held off a horribly cursing Kagome long enough for Inuyasha to get dressed. In the meantime, Inuyasha stammered out a hurried explanation.
"I don't care!" Kagome howled back. "I'm still going to choke you to death with those beads!" She seized a double handful and began to twist.
Sango put Kagome in a half-nelson. "Kagome, stop!" she repeated for the tenth time in half as many minutes. "Think for a second! This makes sense!"
"How the hell does it make sense? She was naked and so was he!"
"Kagome, think! Inuyasha is devoted to you! When has he ever broken his word to you with another woman?" By the purple rage on Kagome's face and the pale of Inuyasha's Sango realized she had said the wrong thing. She acted fast. "Kikyo's different! You don't honestly think he's going off to do…that…with her!"
"Great gods, Sango!" Inuyasha shrilled. "Quit digging me a deeper grave!"
Sango shook Kagome. "He's not like Miroku! Whatever his other faults, Inuyasha is not going to run around on you or Kikyo!"
"Yeah!" Inuyasha insisted. "Listen to her, Kagome! I'm still a virgin, for heaven's sake!" That stopped both women cold. The hanyou turned deep red. "Well, it's true," he admitted quietly.
"Fine," Kagome snapped, her color returning to something resembling normal. She gave Inuyasha an I'll-deal-with-you-later look. "I suppose the next question is, where's Miroku?"
"And why the hell did he rope me into that?" Inuyasha wanted to know.
"Oh, I know very well why he did that to you," Sango said. Now her voice was the one that was brittle with anger. "He needed time and a distraction. I'm only surprised he wasn't the one with that woman." She stared at the sky. "But where did he go?"
Miroku was wondering exactly why he had ditched Inuyasha himself. Kabukicho was proving kind of boring.
Though Sango would not have believed it for half a second, Miroku was not interested in prostitutes. He much preferred the willing type, not something he had to pay for. Usually, his charm and good looks ensured that he had never needed those kind of services. With that aside, he found there wasn't much to do in Kabukicho; clearly, the district was the most active after dark, and that was still some hours off. Moreover, Kagome intended for all of them to be on the way back to her home by dusk. While Miroku was quite sure he could take care of himself, even in the modern world, the Higurashi family were being remarkably generous hosts, and he would not take advantage of their hospitality. He had some standards—something else Sango would have found hard to believe.
"Well, I hope Inuyasha enjoyed his bath," Miroku mused aloud. Hopefully the hanyou wouldn't be too mad at him. A good massage, being bathed by young maidens…yes, the hanyou probably needed something like that. Poor fellow, Miroku thought. Caught between two lovely women, both of whom have such power over him. He must be so very lonely and frustrated. I'm glad I only have Sango to deal with.
Perhaps it was the thought of Inuyasha, specifically the love triangle of Inuyasha-Kagome-Kikyo, that caused Miroku to spot the briefest flash of red in the crowds. He had drifted to one of the other entrances to the district, and whoever he spotted was outside of it, heading away from him. Curious, he walked out of Kabukicho and tried to get closer. It was tough against the press of the crowd—he was now outside one of Shinjuku's busier shopping areas—but finally he got enough of a look to tell that whoever it was, it was female, and it was wearing the traditional robes of a miko shrine maiden.
Miroku had seen enough of modern Japan to know that the old ways were not dead, but they certainly were not commonplace either. Other than the girls at Love Suds wearing kimonos, he had seen no other traditional clothing here. Seeing traditional miko robes was rare enough even in the Sengoku Jidai: miko rarely left the shrines they were charged to protect. Miroku got another glimpse: this woman had long, black hair. That in itself was, of course, not unusual; nearly all women in Miroku's time had black hair, and he could see that it was still the most common hair color in Japan. What was unusual was the way the woman walked. Miroku, in his travels, especially with the Inu-tachi, knew how warriors carried themselves. Kagome's walk was noticeably different from Sango's, despite their near match in height. Kagome walked with quick, almost unsure steps. Sango strode with the confidence born of a lifetime of training, a stride that said without words that the taijiya feared little. This miko, whoever it was, had that same step.
So had, for that matter, Kikyo.
It couldn't be her. Not after all this time, Miroku told himself, then checked that. Kikyo was, after all, technically immortal: made of grave soil and clay, the undead miko did not need to eat, drink, sleep, or even breathe. It was entirely possible that she could be still alive 400 years after he had last seen her. That portended much for his own future and those of the rest of the Inu-tachi, not to mention Naraku's. The glove over his hand was still there and he could still feel the wind tunnel, so Naraku was still alive somewhere. Which could mean anything.
Either way, he had to find out. If it wasn't Kikyo, he could get some nagging questions answered about the future of religion in modern Japan; he hadn't asked and Kagome hadn't told. If it was Kikyo…then there were a lot of unanswered questions.
He followed the miko through the crowd. It was dense enough that he couldn't close the distance, but her costume was such that it was easy to follow her. He figured out soon enough why it was hard to follow her: he was near Shinjuku Station. To Miroku's surprise, she went inside and, as he continued after her, she went through a device and swiped a card-shaped object. The device clicked open and let her through. Miroku reached into a pocket, found the train card that Kagome had given each of them, just in case they got separated, and aped the miko's motion. The device let him through just the same. He saw her board a train and just managed to squeeze aboard before the doors closed. The train hissed and then it was moving, on its way to somewhere. Miroku didn't know and could now barely see the miko through the crowded train, but he was going to follow her to the end of the line, if necessary.