Categories > Anime/Manga > Inuyasha > This Can't Be Good

(48) Listen

by Ithilwen 0 reviews

Once upon a time, there was a princess who lived in a beautiful village far from the ocean. It was an ordinary village, but she did not have an ordinary life. You see, the princess had magic eyes...

Category: Inuyasha - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure, Humor, Romance - Characters: Other - Published: 2005-11-23 - Updated: 2005-11-23 - 3234 words

(Bows to therhoda and Niamh for being benevolent betas for this tricky chapter.)
(Bows also to Niamh for her assistance with the mother of all Kurama arcs.)
(Bows also to a third person who shall be thanked by name later on.)

(Interior, modern Sesshoumaru's digs.)

TELES: How do human women put up with all these damned 'hormones'?

SESSHOUMARU: A better question would be, "How do human men?"

TELES: (Gives him a cutting glare.) The way I see it, you're putting up with nothing. (Ignores his glower.) Sesshoumaru, I realize you said it would be bad for the pup, but you don't seem to understand how serious my situation is. I really need-

SESSHOUMARU: (Passes out from exhaustion) Zzzzzzzzzz...

TELES: Gods damn it.

(Teles gets up to surf the Internet.)

TELES: A mortal body driven to distraction and my mate is too tired to help. (Sighs) Well, at least I still have you,

(An image of Kurama dressed up as Sephiroth flashes across the screen.)

TELES: WHAT the-?! ... It can't be! Youko Kurama, is that you?


"Tell me again," Miroku said with a threadbare calm.

Hojo put one hand to his forehead and took a step backward, stumbling predictably over his half-assed woodpile. Miroku fought the urge to roll his eyes. "My grandmother gave it to me," the boy explained, carefully setting himself down on an unsplit chunk of wood. "She told me to never take it off. I didn't."

Miroku touched one hand to his chin. They'd already been through this part of the matter. "Where did she get it?" he asked.

"She never said."

"Does she have other grandchildren? Why did she choose you for its bearer?"

"Something about needing all the help I could get. Look, Miroku," Hojo held out both hands, "my grandmother ...didn't like to explain things. She was a very strange person."

Strange? /Miroku nodded, rubbing his chin. /If she thought it prudent to hand an object of supernatural power over to this shining specimen of human reason, then "strange" is probably the least of it.

"Although..." Hojo put one hand to his chin. "There the time when I stuck my hand in the stove when I was a kid." He shook his head. "She told my mom that every baby does it once," he scratched the back of his neck, "but I ...uh..."

Miroku sighed. "You were something special?" he prompted.

Hojo blinked. "Funny, that's exactly how she put it."

"So the talisman can also protect someone from fire? It is not limited to-"

"Blowing people up? I don't know," Hojo admitted. "Until Inuyasha tried to steal it from me, I didn't even know it could do that." The boy looked down, fingering the clear stone.

"You said your grandmother was strange," Miroku tried a different tack. "Strange how?"

"Oh I couldn't speak ill of-"

"Hojo," he growled out the word with an authority that would have made Inuyasha proud.

"Okay!" the boy protested. "She was paranoid for one. She always seemed to think that people were after her. Never anyone specific..." Hojo trailed off. "We just guessed it had something to do with why she left Ireland." He shook his head. "A woman doesn't move halfway around the world to start a new life without a big reason, especially not the way things were when she was young."

Miroku barely heard the end of Hojo's comment. Something was nagging at him. "What else?"

"She didn't like to talk about her old home. Her stories -- like the one about the changeling -- were about the only things we didn't have to pry out of her."

The nagging feeling intensified.


"Just a moment," the monk put one hand to his chin.

There was something about the talisman that he was missing, something about it that he'd already known, but forgotten before. The monk closed his eyes.



What was the fire talisman? It was a source of power. It was an heirloom. It was a stone. It was a little ball that made things burn.

"...magic ball..." The voice in Miroku's memory was high and bright and far too calm. It was-

He slit his eyes open again, right onto that barely-evil gleam on the boy's collarbone.

"...taking care of the changeling made the women tired and used up."


"The changeling story was different from the others," Hojo continued with a searching frown. "She usually told the kind with lessons at the end. She always wanted my cousins and me to sit down and listen to... Miroku?"

/"What past sin did I commit that I must be cursed with such a disrespectful apprentice? Boy, pay attention when I tell you these things; there are lessons in them," /the memory of Mushin's voice cut like a razor through the knots in Miroku's mind. "Sometimes a story is more than a story. Now shut up and listen."

More than...

"Why don't you join us, Miroku?" He remembered Hojo's clueless smile. "I was just telling Rin here a story."


Sango was kneeling on the ground just outside Kaede's house, hiraikotsu propped up on her shoulder while, with only a little less grace than usual, she polished it with her free arm. Kaede rested a mat, probably fetched from inside, bundling herbs as she waited. Kagome sat by her elbow, nominally helping, but really just holding herself upright, like she had been since the night before. Kouga was standing a few feet off, never one to sit still. Inuyasha leaned with practiced nonchalance against Kaede's doorframe, and the fact that he was directly between Kouga and Kagome made no nevermind.

And all five sets of eyes lifted and came to rest squarely on Miroku as he moved toward them.

The monk fought the urge to scratch at the back of his neck. No pressure...

"Miroku..." There was an odd quiver to the light in Kagome's eyes. "Tell me that you've figured something out."

Once upon a time, there was a princess who lived in a beautiful village far from the ocean. It was an ordinary village, but she did not have an ordinary life. You see, the princess had magic eyes...

"Where did Hojo say his grandmother was from?" Sango asked carefully.

"I-er-land," Miroku answered carefully. "I don't know where that is."

"It's an island," Kagome chimed in, "on the other side of the world." She shook her head. "Why would a woman from Ireland move all the way to Japan? Especially in... Did Hojo say when his grandmother left home?"

Miroku shook his head, "No," he answered, "but he did say that she felt as if something was chasing her."

The princess would notice things that other people did not, a speck of light playing by the edge of the woods, a man no bigger than a cat walking from doorstep to doorstep with an empty bowl, a girl with tangled reeds for hair lying mouth-agape in the river. People always looked at her strangely when she spoke of such things, and she came to realize that no one wanted a princess with magic eyes. By the time she was sixteen, she knew better than to say one word.

"Hojo's grandmother had holy powers?" asked Kaede.

Miroku nodded. "From what he told me earlier, I think she may have had powers of some kind," the monk shook his head.

Kouga choked, "That idiot can purify things?" he demanded.

Kaede held up one hand. "Calm yourself, Kouga," she said wearily. "Neither Miroku nor myself has sensed anything at all unusual about this boy. He has no holy powers."

"Or they are buried," the monk added quietly.

"Thank heaven," muttered Kouga. "We have more than enough stupid priests running around causing all sorts of-what?" he demanded against the stares.

So when the princess saw one of her friends holding a baby that glowed with an unearthly light, she never thought of saying one word out loud.

The child had a sweet face, and wept piteously with hunger. Soon, all the village women were carrying and caring for the small visitor. It was as if they had suddenly gained a little prince.

No matter how much they fed the child - with food taken from their own children's mouths - it stayed as thin as a stick and wouldn't grow. The sight of the glowing baby sent a chill into the princess' heart, as if its tiny feet were treading heavy on her grave.

"At least this explains why he was afraid of Shippo," Sango said quietly.

Miroku could only nod.

But the princess swallowed her fears. The women in the village loved the frightening baby, for all that it never stopped crying. 'If they don't mind the extra work and worry,' she said to herself, 'then why should I?'

She swallowed her worry when gray hairs started to appear on their heads.
She swallowed her worry when she found wrinkles painted on their smooth faces.
She swallowed her worry when their bright eyes grew dull as mud.
When she could count the bones poking through their thin skins, she knew she hadn't worried nearly enough...

Kagome held in a mirthless laugh. "Jii-chan is always telling people that I miss school and act so tired because I'm sick," she shook her head, "but he's a terrible liar. Hojo probably took one look at Shippo and thought he'd found the real answer."

The princess had heard stories about such sprits. Some said that a person could drive out a changeling by tucking it to bed in hot coals. The princess made up her mind to try. She waited until the child's caretaker had the baby alone in its cradle near the fireplace, and then-

"Wait," Kouga's eyes narrowed. "She was going to throw her friend's cub in the fire?"
Miroku sighed, "In the story, it's not really a baby."

And then-

"Yeah, but how could she be sure? I mean-"
"Just let me finish."


"Now if humans/ usually /cooked and ate their cubs, maybe I could see it." Kouga frowned. "You don't, do you?"
"Kouga! "
"Let him finish, wolf turd!"
Kouga grumbled and shut his mouth.

Then, just as the princess crept up behind the cradle, a spark flew from the fire and landed on the changeling's face. The princess heard what sounded like a grown-up laugh, and saw the child toss something round into the air.

"So long as I hold tight to thee, no fire or flame can get to me," she heard.

Another spark leapt from the fireplace and sizzled to ash on the baby's skin, leaving not a mark behind. "So long as I hold tight to thee, no fire or flame can get to me," she heard again

"A talisman from a foreign demon," Kaede mused aloud.

The princess knew that she would have to try something else, but what? She decided to wait.
Weeks passed, and the princess' friends grew thinner and thinner, but still she hadn't thought of any way to help. She thought and thought, and nothing helped. She thought and thought until her head throbbed like a-

"No wonder Hojo doesn't put much stock in thinking."
"Shut up, Kouga."

One day the baby's caretaker, worn away to nothing, fell asleep. When the princess got up to cover her with a blanket, she saw the changeling from behind, tossing its ball. Without thinking, she reached out and snatched it right out of the air.

The changeling flew into a rage and told the princess to give him back his magic ball or he would burn her skin off. It didn't look much like a baby any more. She could see its wrinkled face and its hands like twisted roots, and the big fat belly it had gotten from all the village women's food and attention. The princess was so frightened that she turned and ran away, with the magic ball still tight in her fist.

The changeling followed her to the gate, yelling, "Give me back what's mine or I'll set your hair aflame."

The changeling followed her to the woods, yelling. "Give me back what's mine, or I'll set fire to your feet!"

The changeling followed her and followed her, all the way to the sea. "I'll see you burn from head to toe," it promised, "and cook everything in between."

"Oh, having magic eyes hasn't helped me," said the princess. "They've showed me what was true and false, but they can't show me how to get away."

"Give me back what's mine," the changeling called from the rocky edge where the gulls built their nests. The princess watched as the changeling gnashed its teeth. The princess watched as it eyed the hungry waves. The princess watched and watched.

The princess stepped backwards into the salt spray, and watched the changeling howl. She didn't need magic eyes to know that it was afraid of water.

The princess wanted to stay in her village, but she knew the changeling would never stop following her, not unless all the oceans of the world lay in between.

So the princess found a ship and sailed away, hoping that she carried away with her all the changeling's power to do harm.

"That's where the story ends," Miroku told them. "I asked him what happened next, but he didn't seem to understand the question."

Inuyasha gave a snort. "Did you ask him if the princess gave the magic ball to her idiot grandson to cut his teeth on?"

"Don't be so harsh, Inuyasha," Sango said gently. "Hojo has heard this story since he was a small child. He probably stopped thinking about what it might have meant."

"He stopped thinking about too many things," Kagome answered quietly.

"One thing is certain," said Kaede. "We cannot predict how the bone eater's well will react to the magic of this talisman."

Kagome looked up, mouth opening mutely.

"What do you mean, old woman?" Inuyasha demanded. "That the runt's magic bubble might mess with the well?"

"Kaede," Kagome held up both hands, "the well-"

"Can you really mean to risk your only means of traveling between worlds?" Kaede asked. "Can we risk losing you to time? Child, no one at all has returned to your Tokyo since Hojo came here. It may be too late already."

"But if we don't at least try, then Hojo could be trapped here forever!" Kagome protested. "That would be terrible!"

"Yeah!" came the tripled response. Miroku looked away sheepishly. So did Inuyasha and Kouga.

"So there's nothing you can think of?" Kagome fixed her large eyes on the priestess.

Kaede shook her head, "Hojo's talisman only seemed familiar to me because of it was of demonic origin. But demons are as varied as the lands they inhabit. I truly cannot say."

A silence settled over the group.

The wolf demon broke it with a snort. "I hate to say this," he said, "but I think we should try dog breath's idea."



"Not really. I-"

The dog demon gave Hojo a sharp push and he tumbled backwards into the well.

"Inuyasha!" protested Kagome

"What?" he asked. "Didn't he say that he tripped down the well in the first place? I'm just trying to help."

"Ow..." Hojo's voice echoed up past the vines. "I don't think it worked."

Inuyasha shook his head. "So much for the easy way."

"Let me try," Kouga offered. "Maybe you just didn't throw hard enough."

The top of Hojo's head appeared over the edge of the well. Dull brown eyes flicked like startled fireflies from Inuyasha to Kouga and back.

"Here," Kagome held out her hand to Hojo with the same leashed coldness with which she'd regarded him since the night before. "Hold these and try again."

Inuyasha's eyebrow gave a twitch as the glass vial passed into the boy's bruised fingers. "You're not giving him our jewel shards, Kagome!"

"The well doesn't work for me without the jewel shards," Kagome protested. "We have to try everything, remember?"

The conflicted growl seemed to pulse straight from the hanyou boy's clenching fists. "Fine!" he snapped, clamping one palm down on Hojo's face and shoving him backwards into the well.

"Mnerrph!" the boy squeaked as he lost his hold.

"Stop doing that!" Kagome stamped her foot.

"Ow..." Hojo's amplified whimper echoed up to them.

"Yeah!" remarked Kouga. "It was my turn!"

"Oooooooh!" Kagome shook.

"Guys?" Hojo's voice poked out of the well like a skittish gopher. "Are we almost done?"

Sango watched the scene in the clearing with a deflated calm. She barely noticed when the monk came to stand beside her.

"I could try jumping through /with /him..." Kagome's voice drifted across the grass.

"But what if his lousy essence plugs up the portal?" the dog demon pointed out. "I'm not carrying your broken ass all the way back to Kaede's."

"You know," Hojo suggested as he pulled his upper body over the wooden lip, "we could just climb down."

"No one asked you," snapped Inuyasha.

Sango swallowed the silence in her throat as she surveyed the scene beside the well. Inuyasha's ideas were more likely to help Hojo into an early grave than back to his homeland, but nothing she could think to say would do one bit of good.

A warning rustle murmured by her side. Her eyes narrowed. "As satisfying as I'm sure you find this, Houshi-sama..." she began. "I think we need to consider what will happen if Hojo cannot return to his own time."

"I know," Miroku answered. "It's a very depressing conclusion to come to..." his voice trailed like a finger against bare skin.

"This is serious," she insisted, shoving his arm away. "Hojo can't even tell a harmless demon from a deadly one."

Miroku shrugged. "But he does know how to shut up and listen."

"Don't be so blasé about this." She spread her hands toward the scene by the well. "If he won't break his promise to his grandmother, then he has to learn how to stay alive in our world - not to mention control an object of immense power. We can't have him underfoot when we go after Naraku and we can't leave him with Kaede. What are we going to do with him?"

Miroku's breath left his body in a defeated sigh as he looked up. "We're going to bring him to my master."


KURAMA: (Staring at cellphone) Hm. Looks like someone left me a message while we were putting the fear of hell into the administration. I hope it's my lawyer. (Clicks cellphone)

Tell him to bring pie.

TELES' VOICE: (Click.) Hello Kurama. It's me. I know we haven't spoken in a long time, but I wish to ask a favor. My situation is quite dire-

YUSUKE: (Chuckles) I didn't know you did damsels in distress, Kurama.

TELES' VOICE: -I'm in my third trimester, this stupid human body is driving me insane, and Sesshoumaru simply refuses to help -- (mutters) damned stubborn youkai. I saw a picture of you on the Internet in that Final Fantasy costume and now I know there's only one way to solve my problem. Please, for old time's sake? Call me so we can make arrangements.

. . ?

KURAMA: . . !

YUSUKE: Well my last comment just took on a new and scary meaning.

TELES' VOICE: Oh, and money is no object. (Click!)

KURAMA: (chokes)

I told you the Sephiroth costume was a good career move.

KURAMA: Quiet, you!
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