Author's Note: This story is inspired by Aprill May's incredible work, Void.
Introduction: While throwing up names for a new awards community, I stumbled upon the Japanese concept of rokujou, the six emotions: anger, pleasure, hatred, joy, sorrow and love. I just had to write a (very short) story based on them.
Miroku walked along the dusty road, his sandals kicking up small clouds of dust. It was an uncommonly hot day in Feudal Japan even for noon as the Inu-tachi were traveling. The monk was sweating bullets in his dark-coloured, heavy robes which unhelpfully absorbed a lot of the heat.
Though they didn't feel the heat as badly as he did, it was having an effect on the others. Shippou was sprawled over Kagome's shoulder as Kirara was on Sango, both limp and panting. Sweat trickled down the faces of both the girls, sticky and worn from exhaustion.
As they went, the rhythmic jangling of his shakujou accompanying his every footstep began to lull him to sleep.
I wonder what will happen first, he thought. Will I cook to death, or will I collapse and die of heatstroke?
"Inuyasha," came Kagome's voice all of a sudden, "can we stop for a while? The heat is terrible!" Miroku could have kissed her.
The red-garbed hanyou, the self-appointed leader of their little group stopped and eyed her. "It isn't that bad," he snapped. "We have plenty of ground to cover before nightfall anyway; we can't afford to stop for a break."
Before Kagome could open her mouth to argue, Miroku interrupted smoothly. "I agree with Kagome-sama, Inuyasha. We'll end up falling sick if we continue to push ourselves. Let's just rest for an hour or so, until the sun has dipped a little, before we resume our journey."
The hanyou snorted, finding himself outnumbered before giving way gracelessly. "Feh. Fine, then. Weak humans. We'll stop for a while."
Kagome gave Miroku a grateful look as they moved off the dry, cracked road into the welcoming shade offered by the forest.
Every one of the travelers noticeably perked up once they were out of the sun's glare. "Let's find a stream!" squealed Shippou excitedly, hopping off Kagome's shoulder and scampering into the undergrowth. Kirara sat up as well, leaping from her perch and dashing to join him.
Miroku smiled indulgently, watching as the pair of bushy tails disappeared. The robes suddenly seemed to weigh heavier on him than they usually did and he ached to take them off. Perhaps he would go for a swim, or maybe even entice Sango and Kagome to join him. Why not? It was hot enough as it was.
"What're you smiling about, monk?" growled Inuyasha from his side: In his daydreaming, Miroku had not noticed his presence.
The monk shook his head, grin still in place. "Nothing. Nothing at all, Inuyasha."
"Keh." Unconvinced, the hanyou switched his attentions from his closest male friend to Kagome. She walked slightly ahead of the men with Sango, the two engaged in a private conversation. Both their moods had improved, thanks to the break and the prospective cool stream Shippou had set off to find.
The last time he had calculated, Miroku had been traveling with Inuyasha and Kagome for about a year now. While seemingly nowhere near to completing their shared quest to defeat Naraku and restore the Shikon jewel, they had made remarkable progress despite the size of their motley crew.
It was him who had set them all on Naraku in the first place. His race against time to close his Kazaana had given them a goal, a direction and pressure to beat the clock. With a tinge of guilt, Miroku realized that although they all had their own reasons for pursuing Naraku, he was the one responsible for their constant tension, the ever-present shadow of death dogging their footsteps.
Miroku wished his friends would stop worrying for him; he had accepted the inevitability of his death long ago. He could sense that they were more concerned then he was. The young monk had decided, years ago, that he would enjoy his life the best he could as he traveled on his mission to destroy his family's curse. In fact, Miroku wished that they would have more concern for themselves.
There was proud, brash Inuyasha: he wanted the Shikon jewel to become a full demon so he could be worthy of his father, though Miroku doubted his goal remained the same, now that he had fallen for Kagome. Stubborn, determined and blunt, the hanyou was a fierce but loyal friend.
Kagome, the warm-hearted miko from the future, was a mystery to all except him. He would not even try to understand her – aren't all men destined not to understand women? – and just accepted her for who she was without question. She was in love with Inuyasha as well, but their feelings for each other remained unexpressed.
Shippou, the orphaned kitsune, who had clearly adopted Kagome as his surrogate mother and looked up to Inuyasha as an older brother. He was still innocent, despite all that he had witnessed in his short life.
And there was Sango.
Never had Miroku met a woman so strong and yet blessed with rare beauty; a study in contradictions. She could dispatch a horde of demons in a wink of an eye then blush prettily like a village maiden whenever he paid her a simple compliment. A fearsome, implacable warrior with only one weakness: her younger brother Kohaku. He served Naraku as a mindless puppet, all his memories erased.
She would cry herself to sleep every night when they encountered Kohaku, her sobs muffled by her blanket. He would stay awake, listening to her tears and wish he could do something, anything.
Not just for her, even. For all of them, for staying at his side and treating him as a friend.
"Oi, Miroku! Daydreaming again?"
Inuyasha's strident voice jolted Miroku out of his musings and brought him back to the world. They were standing beside a pleasant river, large enough to swim in. Shippou had already stripped and was splashing in the water.
"Come on, guys!" Laughing, he slapped the surface of the water, wetting the adults.
Kagome quickly shod her shoes and socks, dipping her feet into the water. "Ah, that feels good!" she sighed. "Come on, Sango-chan!"
At her friend's insistent tugging, the slayer reluctantly shod her sandals and sat on the riverbank. Slowly, a smile spread over her face.
"You're right, Kagome-chan, this is wonderful."
In answer, the younger girl put her hand into the water and scooped some of it at her friend. A playful water fight ensued, Shippou joining in with gusto.
Miroku turned to Inuyasha, a salacious gleam in his eye. "That looks like fun. What say we join them, Inuyasha?"
He needed no further encouragement, the dog demon baring his fangs in an identical grin. The two boys went further downriver to cross it, so as not to alarm the girls. Crouching on the opposite bank and rolling up their sleeves on the pretence of washing their hands, they dunked their arms into the stream, sending huge waves over the girls, soaking them.
"Inuyasha!" shrieked Kagome, staring down in horror at her wet white blouse. "Sit!"
He was pulled downwards into the water with an almighty splash which drenched her and Sango again.
Miroku fell back on the grass, laughing at the miserable expressions on their faces. Inuyasha's was particularly priceless as he climbed out of the water, looking like a drowned rat.
"Houshi-sama!" shouted Sango, barely able to keep a smirk from her face as she climbed into the water and waded over to him. "You look terribly dry. That's not good, on such a hot day like this."
"Oh?" He sat up, his lips twitching, eyes alight with mischief.
She grabbed his hands and pulled, yanking him into the cool water. When the splash he created had subsided somewhat, a few ripples were left on the surface of the water.
"Houshi-sama?" Sango waited, her brow furrowing anxiously. Still Miroku did not surface.
Suddenly, she felt a familiar hand on her ass.
She spun around to try and slap him but was too slow, her movements hampered by the water. Quick as a flash, he had dived back into the water and swum off to safety.
"One of the first things I learned back at the temple was how to swim," he remarked cheerfully, wringing out his robes on the riverbank. "I had to; otherwise if I slipped and fell as I meditated under the waterfall, I'd drown. Not a pleasant way to go."
She climbed out of the water, her cheeks burning with anger and stood over him. Hiraikotsu was clutched firmly in one hand.
Miroku let her whack him with her weapon, laying half-dazed on the ground as he watched her stalk off back to Kagome's side.
"That idiot pervert," she huffed. "Why can't he keep his hands to himself?"
The afore-mentioned pervert tentatively rubbed the growing lump on his skull, his fingers gingerly exploring the sore area.
For a man like Miroku, it was definitely well-worth the pain to run his fingers over that wondrous butt. He could never grow bored of or be deterred by Sango's ass.
An absent smile in place, he sat up and began fumbling with the knot of his kesa, untying it and taking the heavy cloth off his body.
A spluttering sound came from where the girls were.
"H – Houshi-sama! What do you think you're doing?"
"My clothes are soaked, Sango," he answered nonchalantly, now working with the ties of his black koromo. "I need to dry them, I can't shake myself dry like Inuyasha."
He gestured in the direction of the hanyou, who was on all fours, shaking himself in a doglike fashion. Kagome got safely out of range of the flying droplets and rummaged in her backpack to find a change of clothes.
"Hey, once you're all dry, we're setting off again," announced Inuyasha. Kagome stared at him.
"Can we eat lunch first?"
Inuyasha's ears perked up at the mention of food, though he kept the scowl on his face.
Miroku smirked. For all his bluster, it was really Kagome who in charge. Now dressed in only his thin under kimono, he removed the top, leaving the pants and fundoshi in place, walking downstream to find a convenient place to hang his clothes.
As he spread the thick material over the rocks, he could not help but to heave a sigh. It had been a foolish mistake to let himself get wet, even if it was for the sake of entertaining Sango. The koromo and kesa would not dry quickly and he had to hope that the mildewed smell of improperly dried clothes would not linger.
Returning to the others, he found Kagome dressed in a fresh set of her strange kimono, toweling Shippou dry. Sango, surprisingly, was still clad in her wet clothes.
"Sango, won't you get out of those wet clothes?" he called. "You'll fall sick."
She leveled a fierce glare at him. "You pervert."
He held up his hands in the universal sign of peace. "Really, such accusations are uncalled for. I'm merely concerned about your welfare."
Kagome took Sango by the hand. "Here, Sango-chan, I have some clothes for you to wear."
She shook her head. "Thank you, Kagome-chan, but I can easily wear my slayer suit while I wait for my clothes to dry." Picking up her blue carrying cloth, she walked off into the woods for some privacy.
Miroku watched her go, a tinge of regret on his face. Kagome sighed and shook her head, letting Shippou run off before she attended to herself.
"Where's Inuyasha?" he asked, trying to lift the awkward silence.
"Hunting. You know, Miroku-sama, you shouldn't do that to Sango-chan."
He blinked in surprise. "Hmm?"
"… You care about her, don't you?"
Miroku smiled. "Of course I do. I care about you too, Kagome-sama." His hand snaked out towards her ass but was thwarted by a lightning-quick snap of her towel.
"That's not what I meant, you incorrigible pervert," she huffed. "Oh, never mind. Why do I even bother?"
Kagome turned her back on him as Sango emerged from the woods. She had opted to leave her armour plates in the carrying cloth, sheathed from head to toe in form-fitting black.
He gulped inaudibly. The outfit left very little to his imagination.
"Don't even think about it, you lecher," she warned him, going over to lay out her wet kimono with Kagome's clothes. "Unless you feel like losing a hand."
"I would be honored to lose it to you, Lady Sango," he smiled.
She growled at him, her face bright pink.
Inuyasha returned from hunting to shoot an irritated look at him. "Your skull must be damned thick if you keep risking your neck like that, bouzu." He tossed the game – two rabbits – at Kagome. She in turn thrust them at Miroku.
"Here, Miroku-sama; keep your hands occupied."
He went down to the river to clean, gut the rabbits and chop the meat up into bite-size pieces.
The image of laughing, sopping wet Sango filled his mind every time he looked at the calm water.
He had not seen her so carefree in such a long time. Sango's happiness was infectious and even now, little over an hour later, it still made him smile.
If only there was a way to keep her happy. Naraku had taken away so much, dooming her to a life spent in pursuit of revenge.
He blinked, finally noticing the meat under his hands had turned into mince.
"Miroku-sama?" called Kagome from the fire. "Are you done…?"
She eyed him strangely as he deposited the mince into the pot but bit her lip, deciding not to say anything.
Shippou and Kirara drowsed by the fire, worn out by the exertions of playing in the water. Kagome knelt by the fire, stirring the contents of the pot and adding seasonings now and then. Sango and Inuyasha had started a discussion about fighting, of all things, leaving him to his own thoughts.
"It's strength that wins fights!" insisted the hanyou.
Sango shook her head, her unbound hair fluttering over her shoulders. "Not necessarily. Skill tips the balance. Brute force channeled wrongly loses battles."
"Food's ready!" interrupted Kagome cheerfully, passing around the bowls.
Miroku took his gratefully and ate with little fuss, not noticing the little quizzical looks Kagome kept shooting at him. The monk's attention was mostly focused on Sango.
Guarded violet eyes watched her every move as she ate and continued to argue genially with the dog demon; the tilt of her head when she pondered a point, the merry sparkle of her eye as she refuted him, her tinkling laughter when Inuyasha finally conceded defeat and hunched over his food, grumbling inaudibly. Kagome had to cheer him up with another helping of stew.
When they had finished, the monk got to his feet, dusting off his pants and walked off to retrieve his clothes. Kagome shuffled over to Sango once he was gone.
"Hey, Sango-chan, don't you notice anything strange about Miroku-sama?"
The slayer eyed her friend suspiciously. "Not really much from usual," she said skeptically. "Why do you ask?"
"He seems rather… dejected, don't you think?"
Sango harrumphed, a sound which made Inuyasha's ears twitch in mild curiosity.
"That pervert, he's probably unhappy he didn't get to grope me multiple times today!"
The younger girl heaved another long sigh, then smiled and shook her head. "Oh… never mind."
There was no point in working on the slayer when she was still angry at Miroku.
Author's Note: In case you were wondering, the rabbits in this chapter were intended as a warning for the plot bunnies hovering around my house.