January 2008 - July 2009
Those that Follow the Jewel
(Author's Note: I've been working on this for the past year. On and off again when I've had time. I've always envisioned what happened to Miroku as the last part to this tale, though technically it would only be the beginning of a story for him. It's strange, but of all my stories I think I like this AU best as it gave me the time to explore my own style of writing and mingling it with characters not my own.)
By Yashira (Also Illusionary Ghost)
In a lazy motion, like wet taffy being slowly drawn apart in this contest of tug of war, Miroku watched in sickening fascination as the arrow spiralled its way towards Kagome. The girl was ghostly white, her face clenched in agonized fear as she stared down the incoming missile. A deer in headlights. "Move, Kagome!" He shouted, his voice coming out thick and unfamiliar so that he no longer recognized it. "No! Kagome!"
He felt the sickening crunch of muscle and bone connecting with that arrow even though he was unmarred by its passage. A spill of blood bloomed on Kagome's shoulder, puckering the white fabric with it's unsightly crimson sash. "Miroku," she murmured weakly, her legs caving under her ungainly weight and sending her crashing to the floor. The glare of school lights in the stairway flickered and went out before flashing twice to come back on as if some distant generator had kicked in. The Kagome lookalike was unmoved. Her face betrayed no sign of mercy or regret. It was a hard, ruthless face that greeted them as she reached easily for another arrow. How could anyone be so... heartless.
"No! No, you won't. You'll have to go through me." Miroku found himself in front of Kagome, his body a ready meat shield against the insane woman with the arrows. Already he could hear the intake as she set arrow to string. Did she not care that they were living breathing people? Gulping as she took aim - right at him - Miroku felt his heart stalling. He didn't want to die in this dingy old school that stank of old disinfectants and grime. The two were an odd blend in their opposites - what an odd thing to notice at a time like this. It was almost as if he was outside himself taking stock of the most mundane of things with casual disinterest. "Fine, shoot at me. Maybe I'll wake up and this will be some damn dream. Just do it, waking up anywhere else has to be better than this!!!" Oh man, he was delirious, he could hear the high pitch of hysterics colour his every word. Why should he care now? He was going to die and so was Kagome. ... Kagome. He had never told her how much he-
Kouga hit him from behind. Railed his nails, digging deep, to tear through the fabric to the flesh hidden beneath, the blood left Miroku in ribbons. "I don't like being ignored," grated the thick to Miroku's ears as the unwelcome weight shoved him face first into the floor. How could he have forgotten about Kouga? Too many things - too much at once - his senses were in overload. Despair crashed its terrible waves over Miroku's head, making him sinking so deep that it felt like a hole had opened to swallow him up. He wanted to scream, to run away from the sucking feeling that everything about him was falling in on itself, but that hard-edge of control that followed him everywhere, even now, won out in the end. Smothered unable to move, Miroku waited for certain death. "It's my turn to play with them! They're mine!"
"If you want to die with them," the Kagome-clone began effortlessly, her voice just as lifeless as her gaze, "Then who am I to stop you. Die." If Kouga had been human, he would have been dead when she fired that arrow. No man or woman could move that fast and be unwinded and unhurt. No one.
Laughing arrogantly, he tossed his head back and scratched the ground with one of his feet. "You're getting sloppy Kikyou." Kouga's taunt twisted his lips into an ugly sneer as his bushy eyebrows narrowed in contempt. "How the mighty have indeed fallen. Do you miss the dog-turd? Is that why your aim is so bad?"
Emotion marred that dead-empty face and Miroku found himself swallowing hard. The anger in that woman was like the subtle budge of Mount St. Helen in its early stages. It would brim and boil within, growing to distorted proportions before bursting. He didn't want to be around when the cork to that emotion blew. Another arrow shot forth, the speed incredible for human fingers, but once more Kouga dodged it! Was Kikyou human... or was she like this guy - a shadow of humanity, but engrossed in the limelight of monstrosity. And what was Miroku doing, wasting time?! Now was the time to get away with Kagome, while they were fighting each other!
A wilted flower in a pool of blood, her face flopped down, fingers unclenched, Miroku assumed the worse. "Oh my god, no... Kagome."
"Light... so bright... it pulls." Her voice was so faint, Miroku thought he was imagining it, but it caught the clone's attention too - the one Kouga called Kikyou. Already an arrow was pulled and notched, how did she move that fast?! "..But she fights its call... tainting it even more... It cries as she corrupts it... it's weeping...."
Kikyou's voice was deadly simple. "Die."
The building rocked on its foundation sending Miroku falling hard onto his knees. An earthquake? Now of all times? A foul curse escaped him as he choked on the falling dust which littered the air like some unnatural fog. What in the hell-? Could this day get any worse? The wall exploding at the far end, showering a mass of stone and plaster at him, was his quick answer. Someone up there really didn't like him and for a brief terrifying moment, he thought God had come in through the opening because a shape had began to resolve itself within the stray rays of moonlight filtering in from outside. Calm down, it's not God. It's...
That strange eared boy from before? No, it couldn't be! This was impossible! This guy looked... different. Hair bleached white and pointy dog ears stood out among the brilliant red haori he wore and golden, angry eyes gleamed in the fading light. Had the world gone mad? Was everyone a hideous monster?
"So, I'm not too late. Good."
This was...Inuyasha? Furious to the point of violence were barely words Miroku could use to describe the fuming expression on the boy's face as he held, what looked to be an impossibly huge sword swung over his right shoulder. Miroku had played Final Fantasy 7 once at a friend's house so he knew a huge sword like this should have been impossible to carry in real life, and yet Inuyasha held it as if it were a child's toy. "What... what is going on?" Miroku managed to cough through the smog of debris floating around. Surprisingly his voice came out deceptively soft. "Did you come to finish the job?"
"Inuyasha?" Kikyou's face had taken on some colour. She looked shattered a moment, her cheeks reddening to something dreadful, before recovering enough to recap her next arrow at him. Even Kouga had pulled himself together and was glaring at Inuyasha with contempt.
"So the dog has come sniffing has he?" Kouga's voice echoed beyond Miroku, rebounding through the walls with disgust as he scratched again at the floor with one of his padded feet. Were those claws instead of toes?
"This has nothing to do with you or Kikyou," and though his voice was gruff and angry, there was so much more in it. Emotion warring with duty, love filling up with hatred and... "Get out of here before I kill you... kill both of you!" Fangs were revealed in that snarl, but at this point Miroku didn't think there was much more that would surprise him. The dealer's hand had been tipped - the deck of cards played out.
"Inuyasha, you're not still upset by the whole Shikon no Tama incident, are you?" Miroku found that the more the woman known as Kikyou spoke, the more he disliked her. There was something too cold, too impersonal about the way she spoke. It was as if she were addressing a thing rather than a hot blooded human being. Even her aloof eyes made him feel he was staring at someone who thought herself so superior that anyone else was barely even a spec of dirt. "Lets forgot about all this... I'm sure you just want to come over to me and-"
"Don't address me by my name. You are a traitor! I want nothing to do with you." But Inuyasha's stance was too defensive, his tone too abrupt to be anything but a cover. Obviously, he'd been wounded with something that went far beyond the physical and it had not begun to remotely heal. Even Miroku could see this and in a way if their meeting had been different, if the world hadn't turn itself upside down on its trip to insanity, he might have thought that Inuyasha and himself had been cut from the same stone.
"Poor Inuyasha. You suffered the most. Alone, torn away from the light, but always seeking...lost, but you were never alone."
Miroku felt ice at the words, but he dared not look at Kagome. Why was she suddenly so full of pity for him? For HIM?! And at a time like this when she should be more concerned about her own life and the lives of those around her... like him. Did she not realize just how much Miroku was losing to be here with her?
But Inuyasha was listening to her. He turned his golden eyes towards Kagome with a hardly concealed glance and what Miroku saw made his nerves go numb. Though it was clear Inuyasha had once had a tight relationship with Kikyou by the way his reactions could so easily be provoked by her... he also felt something to Kagome. His Kagome. Why? They'd only just met! And in that brief meeting he had betrayed her... betrayed the both of them.
"I always thought," but he caught himself abruptly as if to gird himself against saying too much. In a world surrounded by enemies, he would be a fool to reveal a weakness that could decimate him. Turning his yellowed gaze towards Kikyou, he tossed his head back defiantly as if willing the moment into non-existence. It was clear to Miroku that Inuyasha meant to protect Kagome - his Kagome! "So you attack her? To get to me? I didn't know you were jealous, Kikyou." Inuyasha was scoffing now as he watched Kikyou's face darkened. He'd hit a mark apparently.
Kagome's delirium continued to grow and for the first time Miroku wondered just how deep that arrow had gone. "There's such a brightness... it spins, it calls... can't you see it. So bright and your hatred clouds it... you're smothering it...tainting it."
"We have to get her to a doctor." Miroku knew he had to see a doctor as well, the gouges, though not deep, still ached. Who knew what else could be wrong though, given that this wolf-like boy seemed human, but moved and leapt about as if he were something more. For all Miroku knew, this guy could have rabies. "She's hallucinating, she could be dying." Could be? With all that blood loss, she could simply be a single step away from death's door.
"She senses the Shikon no Tama," Kikyou's voice came out flat and lifeless as the arrow she held to bow had changed directions in one fluent motion as if it was water bending to the least resistance. "It calls and she wants to answer it, but she won't live to answer it. I won't let her."
"You will not kill her." Miroku's voice was hard, his body straightening from the protective crouch he had taken in front of Kagome. When had he moved to stand in front of her after Kouga had knocked him down? He could not remember. "I won't let you."
"Don't really have a choice, do you? No one, NOT even you will set their paws on the Shikon no Tama." It was Kouga who spoke as he flexed his hands - fingers still bloody with Miroku's life blood. Once again he sprang at Miroku who braced for the impact, knowing that he could never out run this boy. Great, not this again. Death by arrow or death by disembowelment - what a way to go.
"Kaze no Kizu!" Inuyasha? Harsh and furious, the voice shook the air with a blast of energy that was somehow both cold and hot. Kouga, more out of some inward sense of self-preservation, leapt out of the way to safety, but Miroku felt nothing more than that odd sensation as it washed over him.
"Shit, you bastard!" Feet spread apart, claws extended for the kill, Kouga's golden brown tail shook with a nervous swish before it visibly bristled. He was sweating profusely and attempting to wipe his brow with the back of his wrist guard as if to hide it. "If you didn't have that sword you wouldn't be so hot. Try fighting without it for once." Was that jealousy or hatred - probably both.
Kikyou words were an accusation and the scowl it received from Inuyasha almost had her smiling. Almost. "That'll be a fool's game. It would be like asking me to give up my bow, or for you to give up your agility. All this was a gift of the Tama... a blessing."
"It's a curse." Dropping in through the hole he had created, the dust and debris now settled enough to reveal the moon filled sky, Inuyasha's figure stood finely highlighted. The silver-white hair hung down his back like gossamer silk and his golden slitted eyes - once a deep nut brown - shone through the school's dingy light brighter cat eyes. Miroku had noticed all these subtle changes earlier, but somehow it all looked more intense... more emphasised. To notice such things, he must be going crazy. "All this is a curse. I never asked for any of it, but that doesn't mean I won't use it to stop you. That's something you shouldn't go forgetting."
"A bright warm light... Shikon no Tama," Kagome's soft murmur pooled around Miroku's ears, pulling at his senses acting in turn like a sharp scream to bring back awareness of her presence to the others. This was beyond delusional - could the Shikon no Tama they kept going on about really be responsible for this madness?
"Kagome," he began softly, but Inuyasha had already come in between them, his eyes seeming to soften only for her. The look left Miroku feeling sick.
"It's called to her... Even from here, it's touched is upon her..." Without warning, Inuyasha's hand came down hard on Kagome's arm, but was met with a spark of brilliant white electricity which crackled as if in handshake. Loud, explosively, it blew Inuyasha back several steps. "Miko." He glanced over to the watching eyes of Kouga and Miroku as well as to the impassive, stony gaze of Kikyou and barked a cruel laugh. "She's met the transformation and accepted it. Oh Kikyou, she's going to be more powerful than you ever were."
"What are you talking about?" Miroku had seen the light, saw the brightness of its purity blow up around Kagome like a balloon... protecting her from Inuyasha. Would it do the same to Kouga and Kikyou? And more importantly, would it hurt him too?
"The Shikon no Tama has claimed her? " Kikyou's voice lashed out in return. Her laughter was harsh. "That's a laugh. I came first. I am the eldest! The power is mine."
"So that's why you wanted to get rid of her so quickly. Did you know this would happen?" Kouga's eyes lit in such sudden self- revelation that Miroku had the most disturbing sensation. If things weren't already complicated enough, things were about to cartwheel to a whole new level. "Those marked by the Shikon no Tama are even more powerful then those who try claim it." All eyes turned in one motion to that wilted pile that was Kagome, but Kouga was already moving - a quick pounce that should have landed him right into Kagome's lap. "I'll make her mine!"
What surprised Miroku most was not his inability to move his own sluggish legs, but the fact that Inuyasha did not bothered to intercept Kouga. For all his bravado about protecting Kagome, he had stood resolutely still, his golden eyes merely expressionless - watchful. It did make some sort of sick sense when he watched Kouga get fried, nearly swallowed by what Miroku could only guess, was a 1000 volt jolt of pure white electricity though. Inuyasha had a good memory.
Head bowed with bangs covering his eyes, a low rumbling chuckle broke from Inuyasha. Slow at first, but it rose so fast that he'd thrown his head and begun cackling as if he were insane. "You thought you were gonna have access to the Shikon no Tama through her? You really are an idiot! Ha ha ha! No miko can be controlled. You should know that by now." They didn't even have to look at Kikyou to see the usually ashen face, so bereft of emotion, nod in agreement.
And then, out of nowhere, Kagome spoke. Her voice which had been distracted and dazed earlier, indicating that she was not all there, was plaintiff and weak - a head bobbing above the turbulent waters seeking a life line before being pulled sharply back under. "Inuyasha? Please.... please help me."
There was no heartbeat, no intake of breath as time stood still for Miroku. Kagome hadn't asked for him, hadn't even acknowledged that he was there. She'd ask directly for Inuyasha. Why?! Why did she do that? He'd been with her forever, faithful and loyal like a watch hound, Miroku had even been ready to die with and for her. So why was his world turning black and white in front of him. He opened his mouth to speak as if calling her name might be the only power to wake her from this nightmare, but the words were gone - stolen. Kagome, have you turned your back on me?
"You're the only one who can protect me." The sea of madness that had drowned her was eddying to a stand still, giving her a chance to break the surface once more to make a purchase towards the shore of sanity. So very soft, Kagome's voice was plaintive and weak. "The only one. Please help me."
Condemning, backstabbing words! They shot through Miroku like flashes of lightning, his face paling at their implications, but he was not the only one who stared with wide-eyed disbelief. The same face was rivetted nearly mirror like on Inuyasha. And yet Inuyasha offered a hand, almost tentatively as if expecting a blast of white hot electricity. It was falling apart, all of it. Miroku tried to run the situation in his head in different ways, to rationalize this upside down topsy-turvey turmoil which had collapsed the world he had once known. Kagome, who had been an entwined stem to his spreading branches, had been shorn free. He could see her and even reach out and touch her, but that's where it all ended. Her thoughts and feelings, that special essence that filled her mind and actions, held a wall so high and thick, he could not penetrate. Why had she shut him out?
Kikyou and Kouga were still there, dangerous figures, but shadows to him now. Miroku didn't care about them and he certainly wouldn't have cared if one of them had turned around and put an arrow or claw through his heart. He wouldn't have felt it anymore because his heart was a painful, bloody thing beating on the floor. Gone. Blessing or curse, what did it matter since Kagome was picking some stranger over him. She might as well have dug her own pale fingers into his chest. It all felt the same.
Falling, falling, falling... he felt the void descend and suck him down into the bleating depths of despair and beyond. So... very .... so very alone.
A rustle of wind circled his feet, clinging unnaturally around his pants as they made strange grooves up his shirt and down his left arm. This existence was flawed. What did it matter that the wind too had turned into something contrary? Vaguely, Miroku heard the voices, recognizing belatedly Kagome's cry of pain as Inuyasha pulled the arrow from her body to fling it, without even a parting glance at Kikyou, to the floor. What did any of this matter? The cold, heartless face of Kikyou, the over energetic and self-absorbed Kouga, the world-bearing -on-his shoulders Inuyasha.... all just fancy painted faces on this stage. What did any of them care of the pain he had been put through. They'd go on with their lives never giving a damn, never...
He hunched over, pain spasming hard in his left hand. Gah! What was going on? Depressing voices crooned at him with more thoughts of how miserable his existence had been, and he felt the first true stirring of fear tear into him. Kagome had been marked by the Shikon no Tama, and he'd assumed he'd just been looked over. Why would I think I wasn't of any less importance, he realized, feeling for the first time that his presence here had also been calculated for.
"Gaaaah!" Air was swirling up and around him, tugging at his clothing and black hair as if they were hands of mischievous sprites gone wild. This pain... this horribly unimaginable pain was something else.
"Miroku?" It was Kagome who spoke, though he was sure the others were staring by now, gaping or watching passively as the Shikon no Tama did to him what it had only done to Kagome moments before. Absently he noted that no one thought of killing him or putting him out of his misery. That was either a small consolation or a very big insult. "Are you alright?" Even within his own terrible agony, his dark eyes narrowed accusingly on her as if to slap her meek, left over concern away. She'd made her choice. He didn't need her sympathy or her pity now that she had Inuyasha.
"This was his... this was his goal?" Inuyasha's stunned expression galled Miroku. He wanted to knock that self-knowing air right out of him. He was sick and tired of everyone being one step ahead of him. Anger, resentment, pain.... desolation, loneliness, betrayal...cast off, left behind... each and every emotion radiated such an intense burning flame within Miroku that when he looked up directly at Inuyasha - when their eyes, black to gold, met - there was a visible spark of energy. I hate you. And for one brief, hideous moment, Miroku smirked. Cold, emotionless - it had stepped free from his wall of control and stood there - his freed demon - like a terrible scar.
Then abruptly, as if the world had simply stood still for that second, there was an explosion of sound and everything came rushing down at them. "No! Get away from him!" Inuyasha was already carrying Kagome when he dashed for the hole in the school wall. White hair flying behind him, golden eyes flickering back at Miroku There was no pity in those eyes, pity would have been useless. "He's going Kaza Ana any second now!"
I'm gonna do what? But Miroku knew it when it happened. His hand tore in on itself and he felt the hole devour his palm before he saw the pitch blackness of this new reality. It was there a moment, black as night and as hungry as the black holes he'd read about in science class, and then his vision blurred, blocked by the hard stone and steel rupturing in front of him - coming right for him! Hand out protectively, knowing it would do nothing to save him from being slapped in the face by the careening wall of stone, Miroku waited for death.
And again death seemed to elude him. With absolute amazement he watched the wall crumble in on itself, imploding like a collapsing sun shrinking to its death. It didn't matter what it was, but stone, plaster and mortar became rubble and then dust which was hungrily swallowed up by the black hole in his left hand. "What the hell is going on?" Heat seared his face as a gale of air roared in his ears, but he could do barely more than gape at the impossibility. The Shikon no Tama had done this to him. Changed. Different. He was not the same man from before - would never be that same man.
Absently, almost peripheral at the edge of sight and sound, he could have sworn he saw Naraku's deadly smile and heard his ghostly laughter echo in the wind. Impossible. They'd left him at the gate, the same gate they'd been forced through by gunshot by one of Naraku's lackeys. They... Kagome. Don't think on her, don't dwell on that stab of betrayal because it made it worse. He could feel the skin on his palm pull so hard that the pang of it stung tears from his eyes. Whatever was happening hinged on every dark emotion that Kagome and Naraku had wrung from him... and he couldn't let it consume him. It wasn't her fault, how could he blame her for choosing Inuyasha when he hadn't even announced his own feelings to her, but even acknowledging this was skirting on the edge of disaster. How he knew it would mean instant death, Miroku did not know save that it had to do something with Shikon no Tama.
That damn, fucking Shikon on Tama!
He hadn't wanted any of this! Just one simple life, going to school with a girl he had grown up with and fallen in love with. That was all. Why couldn't life be that simple, why did shit like this have to happen?
Because that's life.
Sango's voice came out of no where, her voice so despairingly sad, that Miroku thought she was behind him. A glance behind him proved she wasn't.
What the hell was going on? First he thought he'd heard Naraku who definitely wasn't there and now Sango? Was he losing his mind like Kagome? Hearing voices where no one else could? Thinking on how Kagome had been, a flower in bloom shaded by the wilting petals - two dualities that should not be possible, was the last straw. He would not be somebody's puppet or play thing. He would not let himself be manipulated by a THING. A bloody, useless inanimate object! NEVER!!! "I want none of this! I don't! Just go away and leave me alone!" His voice was hoarse, rubbed so raw, he didn't recognize it. "Go away! Just go AWAY!"
As if the moon light could change colour at the tip of a hat, Miroku was surrounded by a red, pulsating light. It couldn't have been more than a second, but he saw a small ball-shape object fly right to him as if he had been locked in the slow motion mechanics of a bad dream,. Fist around the stone, catching it as if he was Superman stopping a bullet, he felt it tremble in his hand. Like interlocking veins, fabric came to life around his fist to form some sort of hand guard. Black and purple, it took shape and colour as if it was a living growing being spewed forth from the stone within his grasp. He didn't dare ask what it was, he knew it without question.
The Shikon no Tama had found him.