Chapter 13 Bindings
Do not walk away
into the night without me
lost in midnight’s call.
There was a sudden pulse of energy that filled the old miko’s hut. Kaede turned around, her single eye wide with surprise, to see Kagome and Joben touched with the pink light. Joben bolted upright, and shrieked, “The spider!”
The pink light, lighting the room up almost too bright for comfort, faded back into Kagome’s body nearly the same moment her head touched the floor. For a brief moment, InuYasha stood still, his triangular ears laid back and his amber eyes wide with disbelief, looking at the beige and blue wrapped form of his wife crumpled on the ground.
The spell suddenly broke, and InuYasha bounded across the room like a red and silver flash and carefully picked Kagome up and moved next to Kaede. The old miko looked puzzled, as she pursed her lips and laid a hand on the girl’s forehead for a moment.
“I don’t know what she did, but that was an incredible burst of spiritual power,” Kaede began. “But I didn’t expect –“ Suddenly, before she finished that thought, she was shoved closer to the wall by the protective arms of the hanyou as the area around her other patient burst into a sudden chaos of sound and motion.
“Kuso,” InuYasha growled, holding Kagome closer and more protectively as he swathed her in his sleeves.
Kaede peeked out around the shoulder of the hanyou to see Joben struggling to get up off the pallet where he had been laying. “Let me go!” he yelled as he wrestled with the bedding. Finally, kicking the sheet that was entangled with his leg, he leapt up.
Akina, still clutching the cloth she was using for cold compresses, followed him up, knocking over the bowl of water she was using to cool his fever as she moved forward to reach her husband. It spilled across the wood floor, puddling next to the pallet that Joben had been laying on, unnoticed. She tugged on Joben’s kosode sleeve. “It’s all right, Husband! You’re at Kaede’s hut. You’re safe!”
Joben turned around and looked at her, eyes wide with fear. “Let go of me, woman! Don’t stop me now. I have to get away from the monster! Don’t you hear her coming?” He lurched to the doorway. Realizing his wife had not let go of his sleeve, he shook his arm free and shoved her away. Akina shrieked as she slipped in the spilled water. Her head hit the wall and she slid to the floor, landing in the puddle.
Tomeo and his sons ran into the hut at the sound. In the full grip of his panic attack, Joben leapt off the raised wooden floor and onto the dirt-packed entrance way, and head lowered, tried to shove the headman away from the doorway, but Miroku, following him, tackled Joben and managed to knock him to the ground. The distraught man screamed something incomprehensible as he fell.
“Damn it, Joben,” the old man said. “Haven’t you caused enough trouble for one day?”
For a brief moment, Joben’s eyes met those of the headman’s, and he snarled.
“We need some rope!” Miroku yelled. He straddled the struggling man, pinning his arms to the ground. Keitaro, still sporting bruises from his earlier encounter with Joben, joined Miroku as he struggled to keep the flailing man under control.
Toshiro pushed past his father, who was staring wide-eyed at the scene in front of him. Kaede passed a long roll of bandages to the young man, who nodded, and bent over to begin trussing Joben.
As they bound the troubled man, Tomeo sighed, and looked over to the other side of the hut. “Are you all right, Kaede-sama?”
She nodded, and tossed another roll of bandages to Miroku. From the back of the hut, Sango picked up the water bowl, then helped Akina to sit up and get out of the puddle. As she watched Miroku carefully tie strip after strip of bandages around her husband’s arms and hands while Joben fought to get free, Akina wailed.
Eyes closed, Yoshiyuki sat seiza, knees spread appropriately apart, after he finished his kata workout. As the glow of the workout calmed and his breathing grew deep and steady, slipped into a meditative pause. The morning sunlight warmed his face while he concentrated on acknowledging, but not focusing on, the world around him: the songbirds that flitted nearby, the itch of his skin beneath the splint that still held the bone in position, the touch of wind on his forehead, the scents of tree and temple and garden.
As part of the background of sounds, he heard the soft miaow of the cat who had adopted him, and then heavy footsteps, the rustle of fabric, and an oomph as the old priest sat down close. Yoshiyuki resisted the urge to open his eyes or react, and instead tried to allow his awareness spread out further, brushing past Mushin’s aura, to the woods beyond. His company said nothing as he continued his meditation. Suddenly though, he touched something painfully unpleasant, and his eyes popped open. Shaking his head a little, he bowed towards his sword, rolled his shoulders, and moved into a cross-legged posture.
Mushin watched him carefully. The young samurai seemed drawn and fatigued. Dark circles touched his eyes. But as his arm healed, Yoshiyuki had started dressing his hair back in a tea whisk topknot, and always took time to dress properly. And each day, he practiced his kata as well as he could. Whatever darkness was haunting him had yet to break through his determination.
The old monk’s eyes grew distant, and he broke the silence. “Once upon a time,” he began, “There was a young samurai, the son of a famous swordsman who wanted to be great like his father, but felt like he had disappointed him because he was not very good at it. One day, he ran away from home and came to the house of a warrior monk, renowned for his skill, and falling on his knees, begged the man to take him as a disciple.”
Yoshiyuki looked at the old man, slightly impatient.
“The monk had one of his students test him. ‘You need to do something else with your life, young man,’ the master told him. ‘You cannot fulfill the requirements of being a great swordsman.’
“The young man would not take no for an answer. ‘I swear that I will give up everything else and work hard. How many years will it take to become a master?’
“‘The rest of your life,’ replied the sensei.
“The youth looked crestfallen, but persevered. ‘I will become your devoted servant and do whatever it takes. How long will it take if I do that?’ he asked.
“‘Maybe a decade,’ the monk informed him.
“The young man hung his head, concerned. His father, even though he was disappointed in the lad, was getting old, and he knew that the day was coming soon when he would need to be his support. Ten years sounded like forever. ‘If I work as hard as possible, how long would it take me?’
“‘Oh, maybe thirty years,’ said the sensei.
"The young man grew angry. ‘What? I would undergo any hardship to master this art as quickly as possible! Why do you say first ten years and then thirty?’
“‘If you’re that determined, then you’ll probably need to be here seventy years. Those in as much of a hurry as you are to get results seldom learn easily or well.’
“Suddenly, it dawned on the young man that the monk was rebuking him for impatience, and that whatever it was that he wanted to master, it would be a long, hard road. Bowing respectfully to the sensei, he said, ‘I will stay with you however long it takes, and do whatever you think I need to do to become a master.’”
Mushin looked at the young man. “You seem like a young man who understands that it takes as long as it takes. But have you found your master?”
Yoshiyuki shrugged, took a deep breath.
“Meditation is good,” Mushin said after a moment. “Even for a warrior like you. It is good to see you practice regularly.”
“That is what my sensei told me as well,” Yoshiyuki said. “He used to recite this to me:
“Where is it that you can set your mind, O Warrior?
"If you set your mind on the enemy's actions, your mind is taken by the enemy's actions. If you set your mind on the enemy's weapon, your mind is taken by the enemy's weapon. If you set your mind on the sword in your own hand, your mind is taken by the sword in your own hand. Nowhere put the mind, mind will be everywhere.
“And he would say that the only way to learn this is by meditation. But I do not think I am very far along that road yet,” the young man said, sighing. “Putting the mind nowhere is something I have not mastered.”
The old priest chuckled. “Your sensei is a wise man,” Mushin said.
“Was,” said Yoshiyuki, pursing his lips into a tight line. “He was betrayed to the Takeda. And they took his head. Along with nearly everyone I knew.”
The old priest sighed. He reached out and placed a hand on the younger man’s shoulder. “The first noble truth: all is suffering. Some of us receive a larger share of that than others. I knew there was a shadow over your soul when I first met you.”
Suddenly, the bright morning light felt chill and not as bright, as if an invisible cloud passed over the sun. Mushin played with the beads on his rosary. The cat who had run away when the priest came and sat down earlier, ducked out from behind the bushes where she had been hiding, a lizard squirming in her mouth. With a soft cry, she ran over to the young samurai, and jumped into his lap, and rubbed her head against his chest.
For a moment, the air grew very still, as if pausing for something. The young man said nothing, slowly stroking the cat’s fur. A darker shadow passed over his face as he swallowed. “I was bound by my father to revenge him,” Yoshiyuki said finally, shattering the silence.
“Maybe it’s how you pass through this shadow that will lead you down the road to your true master. Do you know who betrayed your people?” Mushin wiggled his fingers at the cat, who miaowed silently at him, almost a hiss, back arched.
“Yes. It was a youkai.”
“I see,” said the old monk. “That can make it harder. Some youkai are almost impossible to defeat, especially alone.” He scratched his chin. “My foster-son spent a long time trying to kill the youkai who cursed his family, and even after joining a group of exceptional companions who also were hunting the youkai, it still took most of a year and nearly killed him before the youkai died.”
Yoshiyuki stared into the tree line pensively, and chewed his bottom lip. The cat miaowed. He looked down at her and stroked her back. When he looked up, his eyes glittered with a hard light. “My father’s ghost will not rest unless I do this.”
The old man nodded. “Well, my foster-son should be here in a week or two. His intended bride was raised by taijiya. Her clan had been involved in the business for generations, until the youkai Naraku wiped them out. Perhaps, if you wait and talk with them, they can help.”
The cat leaped on Yoshiyuki’s shoulder and began to purr. “Maybe I should,” he said.
InuYasha lowered himself against the back wall of Kaede’s hut, far away as possible from all the activity on the other side of the room, a limp Kagome still clutched in his arms. Sitting between a storage chest and a shelf the miko stored herbs, he nestled her head carefully and gently against his shoulder, her legs between his, allowing him to curl as much of his body around her as possible and carefully draped the fabric of his suikan sleeves over her. He rested the scabbard of Tessaiga across his propped up knees, where he could get to the blade immediately if necessary.
He planted a small kiss on Kagome’s head, and noted that her breathing was slow and regular, and she had no smell of sickness. He could hear the steadiness of her heartbeat. But she was very pale, and her aura felt wrong to the hanyou.
“What happened, Koibito?” he said softly, snugging one arm firmly around her waist. “You need to wake up. I don’t know what to do next.”
Across the room, Akina wailed loudly enough to make him wince and lower his ears. Glancing that way, he saw Sango helping the woman move to a drier part of the floor, while putting down a cloth to soak up spilled water. In the dirt floor entrance way, he watched as Miroku and the others finished binding Joben, who continued thrashing on the dirt. Lowering his face closer to Kagome, and hugging her even closer, he reflexively gave voice to a low, threatening growl. Footsteps nearing him broke his attention. He looked up. A tired and worried Kaede knelt down next to him.
“Cease your growling, InuYasha,” the miko said. “You will frighten Akina and Tomeo, and she for one has had enough fright for today. Joben will get no chance to harm Kagome.” She rested a hand on the girl’s head. “Kagome-chan released a huge amount of spiritual energy, more than was good for her body. I’ll make a tea that might help.“
“Keh,” he said. “What in the hell is going on?”
“I’m not sure we know yet. I need to examine Joben.” The miko turned her one eye back to InuYasha and looked at him probingly. “Excuse me for asking, InuYasha, but I need to know this. You did make Kagome the wife of your body last night, did you not?”
The hanyou blushed. “Why are you asking me that, Baaba?”
“I am not trying to embarrass you, boy. Miko often lose their spiritual powers when they lose their body’s innocence. Some would have expected the joining of a miko and one with youki to cancel it out. It’s obvious that she is far from stripped of her spiritual powers.”
InuYasha looked down at Kagome nestled in his arms and kissed the top of her head. “She is my wife in every way.”
“I’ll make the tea, and then we’ll see what happens next.” Kaede left InuYasha and moved to the fire pit to put the kettle on.
The binding process complete, InuYasha watched Miroku slapped an ofuda on the troubled man, and Joben slumped into unconsciousness.
“That’s too much excitement for one day,” Miroku said. “Everybody all right?”
“Kagome-chan is still unconscious. Akina’s taken a nasty lump on her head, and I think both you and Keitaro have a few more bruises,” Kaede said. “Move him back on the pallet so I can examine him again.”
Keitaro and Toshiro lifted Joben back onto the pallet. Miroku followed, and sat down at the foot of the pallet. Akina, looking at laying there, battered, tied up and unconscious, his clothes torn in the struggle, covered her face with her hands and began to sob again, but she made no move to move closer. Kaede patted her on the shoulder as she walked by, then knelt by Joben.
“I thought you said life was getting too quiet since Naraku died,” Toshiro quipped, joining the monk.
“Ah, my friend, it’s easy to laugh when you aren’t the one with the bruises.” Miroku rubbed the back of his neck and rolled his shoulders. “You somehow must live a charmed life.”
“I could remedy that,” Keitaro volunteered, brandishing his fist.
Tomeo came up and wrapped his arms around his son’s neck, pulling the fist down. “What did you do, Miroku?”
“I used an ofuda that blocks a person from being controlled by a youkai or ghost,” the monk explained. “I don’t know if Joben will return to normal until we get rid of whatever it was that attacked him.”
“Then we have more to do,” Tomeo said. “And we need to find what happened to his brother.”
Kaede rested her hand on Joben’s head. “His fever is gone.” She pulled the small bandage off of his neck. There was a black scar where the puncture wound had been. “Kagome-chan has healed the bite.” She looked back at InuYasha. “Healing is hard work. I’m not surprised she passed out.”
She sighed. “His aura, though, is still troubled. You may be right, Miroku-sama. There’s more here than a simple youkai attack. Otherwise, he should be perfectly fine.”
Hisa, her dark eyes serious and her face pulled into a frown, pulled the door mat aside and looked in. “Husband, you need to come out here,” she said to Tomeo.
A loud keening wail could be heard from outside of the hut. Kaede thought it sounded like Chiya.
“Someone found Heitaro.”