They were in a small hut filled with the smell of herbs.
“What happened?” the healer asked.
She was a small woman, gray-haired, who fit perfectly into the brown, drab hut she worked in. She wore a dull brown kosode and brown printed wrap skirt. Both were clean but stained from much use. The hanyou asking for her help thought, in a way that she looked like a dry root used for medicine. Somehow, he found that comforting.
“We were ambushed by that oni in the pass. We killed the oni, but before we got him, Miko-sama was thrown and cut her leg,” the hanyou said. He sat next to the woman laying on the pallet, his amber eyes filled with concern. The miko, her face bruised and her clothing torn and dirty, reached out, took his hand and squeezed.
“Is this what happened?” asked the woman, looking warily at the silver haired man holding the miko’s hand. She watched his triangular ears as they tracked her movements in the hut, his eyes never leaving the injured woman.
“Yes,” said the young miko through gritted teeth. Her black hair fanned out behind her, stringy with sweat. “Hurts. I think I caught it on a stick or something when I fell. Hard to tell - it all happened so fast.”
“You’ve also got some nasty bruises on your forehead,” the healer said. “Are you hurt anywhere else?” She made a side glance at the hanyou.
“I’ve got some scratches and bruises where the oni grabbed me,” she said.
The healer frowned and looked seriously at her patient. “I’ll need to examine you.”
The hanyou helped his charge sit up so that the miko could unfasten the ties to her chihaya, and he helped her shrug it off. She began reaching for the ties to her hakama, when the healer, suddenly scandalized, exclaimed, “Miko-sama! What are you doing? Send that youkai out of the room right now!”
The hanyou shot the healer a narrow-eyed glance and began to growl softly. The miko rested her hand on the red-sleeved arm of the hanyou. “It’s all right, InuYasha. Just wait outside. I am sure the healer-sama will take good care of me.”
“You sure?” he asked. She nodded.
“I’ll be sitting right outside, Kagome,” he said to her, running his hand over her head. “Take care of her,” he said to the healer, then reluctantly stood up and left the room.
Kagome slipped out of her hakama and loosened her kosode obi so the healer could examine her.
“Oh my,” said the healer, seeing the hand print bruises on the miko’s torso and arms. “I can make some compresses that will help with that, and some tea. You look like you were pretty battered.”
“I got caught off-guard. We knew the oni was near, but we didn’t realize where. He’d grabbed me before I could get out of his way.”
The healer began washing off some abrasions on her forehead, then wrapping it with a compress of cool water and fragrant herbs. Kagome could make out the smell of mint in particular. The healer returned to her supply cabinet and picked up a packet of herbs. Pouring them into a bowl, she poured hot water over the contents. “So it was an oni who did this,” she said, as she opened a chest and took out a long roll of bandage material.
Kagome looked at her quizzically. “Yes it was. I might be dead if InuYasha hadn’t been there with me to kill it. Ugly thing, too. It was green and horned, and smelled like it had been rolling in swamp water.” She shuddered. “And I won’t begin to describe its breath.”
“I’ve heard Inu youkai types were quite possessive. Isn’t the hanyou you travel with part Inu youkai? He certainly was hovering over you.”
Kagome winced as she added a poultice to a scrape she had on her side. “Haruno-sama, I was injured helping to protect your village. InuYasha-sama is my protector. Whether or not Inu youkai types are possessive has nothing to do with my injuries.”
The healer looked at her in a way that said she didn’t quite believe her. Worse, to Kagome’s mind, was the touch of pity mixed in. “You know your companion better than I do, Miko-sama,” said Haruno. “Still, it is surprising to see a miko traveling with someone of youkai blood. You have to admit that.”
Kagome said nothing in return.
The healer began to undress the bandage InuYasha had placed on her leg. Kagome winced “That’s a nasty gash. How did you get it again?”
“When the oni threw me, my leg caught on a branch as I landed. InuYasha cleaned and bandaged it, but we were trying to get away from the oni’s remains, so I’m sure he was mostly worried about getting the bleeding stopped so he could move me,” Kagome said.
The healer rinsed it with water from the basin she had been steeping the tea. It was still fairly hot; the sensation made Kagome suck in her breath. “He did a good job of cleaning it,” Haruno said. Adding a poultice, she deftly rebandaged it.
“He takes good care of me,” Kagome replied.
“I’ll give you some medicine to drink as a tea until it’s healed.” She went back to her cabinet, and returned with two pouches of herbs. “It may try to infect. This will help fight it off if it does.”
Kagome, shrugging back into her clothes, nodded. She stashed the herbs into her sleeve.
“Keep the poultices damp if you can,” the healer added. “If you want, you can stay here until you are more healed and able to walk home.”
“Is InuYasha welcome to join me?” the miko asked.
“I...I’m sorry, Miko-sama. But I just can’t let a youkai stay here. It just wouldn’t look right.” The woman looked down at her supplies. “But are you sure you wouldn’t heal better if you didn’t need to keep him under control?”
“What do you mean?” Kagome asked.
“We have a priest here who I am sure would be willing to restrict his movements until you were better.”
Kagome’s eyes flashed angrily. “This is what you would give the man who just saved your village from an oni? Lock him up with some sutra?” She struggled to her feet, swaying. Her face creased with the pain. “InuYasha!” she yelled.
He ran into the healer’s house. He looked at the healer, and he looked at the miko “Kagome?” he asked.
“Take me home, InuYasha.”
Several hours later, Kagome lay propped up against InuYasha’s chest as she stared into the flames of a campfire.
“You sure you want to camp outside, Kagome?” InuYasha asked, nuzzling the top of her head.
She nodded. “Better outside than around people who think it’s all right to seal people away who help them. That woman virtually accused you of beating me. If the villagers hadn’t brought the oni’s head back with them to show to the headman, who knows what would have happened?”
InuYasha sighed. “It’s the way the world works, Kagome. The Kami only know what would have happened if you told that hag that you were my wife.”
“She thought you were an Inugami, I think,” Kagome said. “That’s why she wanted to seal you, so I could get some rest without worrying about controlling you.” She shook her head. “She probably felt I wasn’t a good Inugami handler if she thought you had been battering me. She felt sorry for me.”
He wrapped his arms around her gingerly, swaddling her in the sleeves of his fire rat suikan. “Even foolish people can mean well,” he said.
“Will it always be like this?” she asked.
InuYasha took a deep breath. “Maybe.” But Kagome knew he meant yes.
“We’re lucky,” she said after a moment. “We’re lucky that Kaede is so wise.”
“We are, aren’t we?” he replied.
“Yeah,” she said, snuggling deeper into his arms.
“Go to sleep, woman,” he said, gently kissing the crown of her head. “Tomorrow we’ll be home.”
Thinking briefly of her friends, Kaede, Miroku and Sango, and how lucky they were to have people who knew who they were and accepted them, and how important that really was, she drifted off to sleep.