In Fate's Right Hand
~ Chapter the First ~
Written: April 22 – 26, 2003
Rated: PG-13 (but PG for now)
Pairing: Mirsan (Miroku/Sango)
Disclaimer: Don't own it. If I did, it would only air in the wee hours on PAX and Skinemax (Cinemax) and be renamed "Hot, Steamy Tales of Passion in the Sengoku Jidai". But I don't, so it remains Rumiko Takahashi's Inuyasha. Lyrics are from Sarah McLachlan's "Black & White". (Yes, I will probably using a lot of her lyrics. But she's an amazing poet, and I can't help but be inspired!)
Spoilers: Takes place shortly after the events of Chapter 292 of the manga, "A Special Girl", somewhere before the end of Volume 30.
The road is long
the memory slides
to the whole of my undoing
I put away
I push it back to get through each day
and all I feel is black and white
and I'm wound up small and tight
and I don't know who I am.
The warm, mineral water of the hot spring did little to alleviate the pain in his hand, but it was a welcome change from the insomnia and nightmares that his futon promised. Here he could drowse against the rough hewn rock at the pool's edge and rest his eyes in relative comfort, his accursed hand buoyed by the warm water. Drawing on his spiritual training, he managed to clear his mind for the first time in days, focusing on his inner tranquility; feeling the ache in his palm lessen to a dull, far off throb as he mentally detached himself from his body. It wasn't quite the same as the waterfall technique, but it would do for the time being.
Errant memories surfaced in the back of his mind at the mention of his training; faint echoes of urgent shouts, a boy's anguished cries and the scream of tornado winds…the familiar, melodic click of prayer beads and soft muffled sobs. Fine, dark brows drew up in apparent displeasure at the resurgence of such unwanted memories, violet eyes dark with sorrow flicking open at the weight.
With a tired sigh, the houshi brought his gaze to the skies. It was a deep midnight blue and violet that met his gaze, scattered with the faint cold light of distant stars. The view seemed to calm his thoughts, as the anguished cries of times long-wished forgotten faded slowly, to be replaced by regained awareness of the throbbing ache in his palm.
Slipping to his feet in the hardly chest-high waters, Miroku raised his prayer bead-encased hand in solemn inspection; eyeing the small strip of indigo fabric that served as a barrier for the powerful kazaana in his palm with apprehension. He flexed his fingers experimentally, rewarded by the expected surge of pain; instigating an agonized gasp from the customarily well-restrained houshi.
Jaw clenched, he waited for the overwhelming wave of pain to subside, before continuing further in his investigation. He had a hunch as to why the kazaana had become suddenly so unbearable in the last several days, of which he had not yet looked into; he figured now was as good a time as any.
When the throbbing had returned to its regular, more tolerable level, he gently probed aside the edges of the cloth binding his hand. His brows, already etched with pain and apprehension, furrowed further, his face a mask of agonized stone at the sight before him. Twin, hairline cracks sprouted out from the center of his palm, one still thick with clotted blood. Miroku closed eyes of ever-darkening indigo, taking a shallow breath in an attempt to quell the surge of dread that had risen unbidden in the back of his throat.
Slowly replacing the fabric on his palm, the houshi's face became once more that of untouched stone. Fathomless, violet eyes gazed impassively once more on his curse-afflicted hand as he drew the prayer beads more securely about his wrist and forearm; fingering the familiar ceramic beads with a mixture of fondness and loathing.
If only they had the time, perhaps he would have been able to mend the tears in the kazaana; if not indefinitely, then at least enough to hold him out until Naraku had been successfully defeated. But time was running out. Each day was a race for the last shard, before Naraku's chilling detachment Hakudoushi could get his hands on it. There was simply no time for such drastic surgery, not to mention the amount of recovery such an operation would require. The cuts this time were far more severe than those made by the mantis youkai that had first lacerated his kazaana. It was more than likely that surgery was no longer possible.
Miroku continued to stare at the unseen void in his hand, his gaze so intent it could have pierced the fabric with will alone. The desire to clench his fist was overcome only by the throbbing ache that warned him from such heedless acts.
How long did he have then? He had always believed, almost religiously, that instinct would tell him; that some ingrained knowledge would become apparent to him when the time came. Everything would fall into place, and he would sense the mental death knell, so to speak. His father and grandfather before him had somehow known and had acted accordingly; separating themselves from those they loved in order to protect them from the winds that would soon consume them.
Should he leave now? Was he placing those around him in danger at this very moment? He liked to believe he had more time than that; more time to devote himself to his inherited mission. If he was to die soon, then he wished to spend as much of his remaining time as possible aiding in bringing about the downfall of the beast who had first placed the curse on his line.
Would he know, then, when the time came, in order to spare those around him?
His visage darkened further at the thought of his friends and comrades. Yes, he would be saving them from the winds themselves, but what of his own demise? He had grown more attached than he had ever deemed possible to his unusual traveling companions in the short time he had come to know them, and he knew that despite some appearances, they cared similarly for him as well. In the past, he had endeavored and been almost entirely successful at avoiding such attachments in preparation for the day he would be consumed by his cursed hand.
But somewhere along the way, he had slipped up. It had become apparent that first time he had tried to disappear with his kazaana wounded; to slip quietly away to face the fate that had been handed down to him from his grandfather. He had known then, when they wouldn't let him go—when they had come after him, hurt and furious at his determination to die alone, and he had been inexplicably relieved and touch by their concern—he had known that somewhere, he had failed in his mission.
It would have been impossible not to become attached to such a group, he thought with a bittersweet twist to his lips. Kagome, with her bubbly nature and ever-friendly smile; Shippou with his childlike antics, and yet surprisingly astute observations of those around him. Even Inuyasha, who seemed rough and insensitive for all appearances, was a devoted and stalwart companion to have around. Despite their obvious differences and occasional disagreements, the two men had nonetheless formed a distinctive bond; Miroku liked to think that, had they met under less dire circumstances, the two of them could have truly been friends, if not unlikely ones.
Miroku leaned back once more against the rock ledge, eyebrows drawn up with the burden of his increasingly troubled thoughts.
And then there was Sango. So much could be said about the taiji-a, but at the moment, it was but the image of her sorrow-filled face that plagued his mind. It was frustrating, how merely the mention of her name could send all of his clear-headed thoughts out the window. When she was near, his mind felt so unimaginably clear and at ease; when she was away, he was riddled with apprehension and self-doubt, his thoughts an incoherent mess. He had always been possessed of an unerring calm; a self-possession that gave him the outward appearance of a true monk, coupled with a somewhat worldly intelligence which had served him well in his travels.
And then there was Sango. It seemed sometimes, that through no knowledge or designs of her own, she could manage to wipe all sensible thought from the houshi's mind. The effect had been gradual; so gradual, in fact, that he had been completely unaware of her effect on him until only recently. It was as though, as his affections had grown slowly over time for the taiji-a, he had been drawing nearer and nearer to the edge of a steep cliff of which he now stood upon; furious winds buffeting him as he gazed down into the murky depths of a raging sea.
He was lost. He felt like a child once more, poised upon that precipice and waiting for the indefinite fall that would plunge him into the depths of his own despair and misgivings. He had been so sure, that time long ago when he had first left the sanctuary of Mushin's temple to continue his forefathers' mission, that matters of women were a simple affair.
"If you do not succeed in destroying Naraku in your lifetime, this task must be passed on to your heir. That is your sacred duty. If you do nothing of worth in your life, may you at least continue your line so that Naraku's curse will one day be avenged. That is the wish of your forefathers."
Mushin's words, perhaps the most lucid ever uttered by the souse priest, had remained always clear in his mind. He had remembered how the solemnity of the mood had been broken then by the old monk's lazy, drunken grin.
"Find yourself a woman willing to bear you a child, Miroku. It shouldn't be much of a problem for you…"
No, it really shouldn't have been, he thought ruminatively, unable to hide a small smirk at the thought. But there was no one here to see it but the night sky.
There was no denying Miroku had been a born charmer, with his enticing violet eyes and disarming smile. Even as a young boy, he could bring a grown woman to blush with his flirtatious ways, a talent which had drawn a regular flock of women to the temple for exorcisms and fortune telling before he was even able to comprehend just what it was that had lured them. He remembered how Mushin would chuckle good-naturedly, glad for the business to the temple; commenting on how the boy had taken after his father and grandfather, never truly alluding to whether that was something good or bad.
And then the day had come when Mushin had deemed him old enough to begin his duty-sworn mission. He had been hardly fifteen years of age, fresh-eyed and overconfident; brimming with boyish self-righteousness. He had just known that he would be the one to find Naraku; to destroy the youkai who had defeated his grandfather and bring an end to the curse on his line.
He had been so naïve.
But more than finding and defeating Naraku, he had been sure in his knowledge of women and their ways. And he had expected to find a woman willing to bear his child with relative ease.
Perhaps he had been right in that assumption, but only to an extent. Yes, there had been plenty of women, plenty of young girls as equally fresh-eyed and naïve as he and easily captured by his charming ways. But in the end, it had been he who was the truly difficult task. It was at the tea houses and brothels that he earned any real knowledge of women. Even as he gained eager consent from bright-eyed village girls, enchanted by the thought of wedding the mysterious wandering houshi, he found himself returning always to the tea houses; returning to the fleeting sanctity of a meaningless tryst, and away from the commitment he was want to obtain for the sake of filial duty.
Why? He had thought desperately, as time after time he graciously turned down each consenting reply with a careless smile and escaped into the willing embrace of cheap dancing girls and teahouse whores. He would lie there in the dark amidst the tangled bedclothes of another cheap establishment, ignoring the shallow breaths of the woman beside him, wondering at the hollowness that threatened to consume him as he stared at the rotting timbers of the ceiling. He felt empty, some vague emotion tugging at the corners of his consciousness and denying him rest.
And it occurred to him slowly, over months of this same pattern, that it was fear he felt. He feared being with those girls, those innocent girls uncompromised by barriers of time and unburdened by the looming hand of Fate. Was it right, to place the burden that was his own onto the innocent shoulders of these women? How could he possibly expect such an enormous sacrifice from a woman he hardly knew?
Somehow, both his father and grandfather had shouldered such a heavy task, despite the guilt and heartache. But Miroku was loath to follow in their footsteps in this respect. He would bear his family's bane; he would commit his life to hunting down the fiend who had first set the curse on his forefather and see to his demise.
But he could not bring himself to lay such a weighty task on an innocent. He would not; not even for the sake of his grandfather's vengeance.
He had felt some small amount of ease, then; the turmoil in his soul abating for the moment. For though he had continued to impose his empty request on the women he came across, he had since resigned himself to his fate, and the fate which he had decided for his forefathers. He was uncertain as to why exactly he continued such an act, if merely for the sake of his father's memory, but the familiarity of the time-worn lines succeeded somewhat in battling his inner demons as he continued his search for the youkai, Naraku.
From that point on, Miroku's sole purpose had become plain as day. Perhaps it was a small defiance of his forebears' will, but his determination to deny his line an heir only succeeded in strengthening his resolve to defeat Naraku's curse. With the possibility of an heir eliminated, filial duty lay solely in him, and he would not deny his ancestor's their vengeance.
It was sometime in his sixteenth year that a sense of one-minded determination had overcome him, and he had spent the next couple years focused solely on the task of seeking out Naraku; denying himself the company of others, if only for the occasional fleeting companionship of a tea lady, or the wealthy merchants he could beguile a night in luxury from … Along with the "gifts" he often acquired from such a transaction. He had no use for emotional ties; what social acquaintances he acquired were temporary and made only out of necessity. If anything, he avoided any real form of social interaction at all costs, perhaps for the same reason he turned down those women that accepted his hollow proposition.
Fear—though heavily concealed within the monk's heart and cloaked in the guise of a carefree smile and beguiling, violet eyes—was ever present within him, coloring all he did. Fear drove him to the solitude that he reluctantly pursued; obliged him the denial of his loneliness and compelled him in his single-minded pursuit of an age-old vengeance.
And it was fear, once again, that manipulated him now.