“Kaze no Kizu!”
InuYasha’s voice was harsh, almost a scream as he slammed the huge sword to the ground and five fingers of light raced towards the monster moving towards him. The oni, red and horned, but not too bright, blinked, and in the last second before the light wrapped around him, decided to throw his club at his attacker. Suddenly, he was engulfed, and with a dreadful moan, burst into an explosion of light followed by a rain of red and fleshy fragments.
InuYasha, after slamming his sword down, totally ignored the oni’s end, fixing his eyes on the club as it flew though the air. Moving in a red and silver blur, he jumped up and hit the club with the flat of his sword, knocking it off track, where it landed with a loud thwack, crushing the unfortunate shrub it landed on. Branches scattered all around it.
He flexed his knees as he landed from his jump, resting the huge blade of his sword over his shoulder and turned to his companion. The monk, having been knocked off his feet and pelted with leaves and branches, stood up, brushing the vegetation off his purple and black robes.
“You all right?” InuYasha asked.
Miroku stared at the remains of the bush beside him. A piece of wood from the shrub had hit him on the cheek and a small line of blood began to ooze where it had scratched him. Another piece had caught in his hair. Still staring, he reached up and pulled it off.
"That," the monk said, "was a bit too close for my comfort." Wiping his face with the back of his hand, he noticed the blood for the first time, and reached inside of his sleeve for a handkerchief.
“Keh,” InuYasha said, letting the Tessaiga transform into the battered old blade it looked like when not in use, and then sheathed it. "I don't remember you ever taking that long to get out of the line of fire."
"Eh," said the monk. "I'm not so used to targets coming out of the blue anymore, I guess." He stood up. "And, perhaps, I don't move as quickly as I did once," he said, giving the hanyou a wry smile. "Time does that."
InuYasha looked at his friend closely for the first time in a long while. It had been nearly twenty years since he had met a young and conniving monk who almost sucked him into oblivion. Smile lines now creased the corner of his friend's eyes and mouth, and a few gray hairs, nearly as silver as his own, marked his hair. It was just last month that the first of his daughters, Noriko, got married at the ripe age of 17. Time had bound them together through combat and shared experience and mutual respect, but now, InuYasha realized for the first time, time was taking its toll as well. He swallowed hard, suddenly realizing that just like his mother and Kaede and others he had known and loved, Miroku too was bound by time.
A chill ran through him like a knife. He swallowed.
Miroku looked at his friend who still looked nearly as young as the day they first met, and saw in that moment something like fear touch his friend's eyes, then the hanyou’s jaw tensed and the mask he wore when troubled snapped firmly into place.
Not understanding, he touched the hanyou’s arm. InuYasha clasped it, then leaned down, grabbed the monk’s staff and handed it to him.
"Well at least I won't have to be having to bring Sango any bad news today,” InuYasha said. “Let's get out of here."
The walk home was quiet and uneventful. Still, the monk wondered why his friend looked at him more thoughtfully than usual all the way back.