Chapter Six - Spinning Thoughts After Dark
In the spring darkness
many things can be hidden –
like Sakura blooms,
love can grow, unseen by eye,
or malice send forth its buds.
On the far side of the village, in a large house surrounded by paddies and outbuildings, two people sat in the main room of their house.
“As I was saying, Tsuneo – ” one of them, an older woman, said. She was small, and looked to be about fifty. Dressed in a fine kosode with a pattern of blue and white checks, she sat next to a spinning wheel and was working hemp linen thread.
An old man, about the same age, looked up at the speaker, poked at the fire in the fire pit, threw another piece of wood in. His jacket and hakama were of dark blue indigo, wrinkled and stained with mud. A blanket of brown and green lay lightly around his shoulders. Sparks flew up when the wood knocked the coals that were already burning.
“Enough, Haname,” Tsuneo said, pulling his blanket close and staring into the fire. “I have heard enough complaining tonight.” He closed his eyes, as if not watching her would make her voice go away.
The wood caught, brightening the room for a moment. It was a larger room than most in the village. On the other side of the fire pit, Haname turned the spinning wheel, slowly drawing out a thread. The top of her head was covered with a bright piece of red cloth tied to keep the hair off of her face, but beneath that, dark eyes glittered and her pursed lips were set in a disapproving frown.
Tsuneo grabbed his sake jug and poured the sake into his cup. Drinking it, he made a face and swallowed, then ran a gnarled hand over his head and signed. His eldest son and his daughter-in-law were already in the back in their room of the house, away from the noise and contention in the front. His youngest son was sitting on the veranda, waiting for the voices to die down before he came into the house.
“It’s bad enough that we have that mononoke running around the village like belongs to him, but now that girl has returned . . . and I hear he has moved her into that hut he has back by the Boneeater’s well,” she said, winding the thread onto the spindle. “And that white specter they say is his brother. I’ve seen how he looks at that girl he left with Kaede. I get the shivers any time he’s near. I can’t believe the Kami are happy with that. Something dark’s bound to happen to us.” She reversed the turning on the spinning wheel and pulled more thread out of the bundle of fibers. “Why don’t you ever say anything in the village meetings?”
“Who says I don’t?” Tsuneo said, looking up at her with a fierce glare. “You think I just sit there quietly?” He wiped his mouth with the back of his sleeve. “You think I don’t complain? It doesn’t do any good. All they talk about how good it’s been about not having any bandits or problem youkai around the village anymore, thanks to those two brothers and the monk. And it’s not just the headman’s family, either. Mitsuo’s family agrees - ever since the girl and the hanyou rescued his grandson, they can do no wrong.”
“If only my brother were here. Then maybe we could get something done,” she said, sighing.
“If your brother were here, woman, we’d still be members of the smallest of the three families in the village, Tameo would still be head of the largest family and while he and his miko cousin still back the hanyou and call that woman the reincarnation of Kikyou-sama, there’s nothing me, you or your brother can do.” He took another sip of sake and refilled his cup. “Last time he was here, he was just one step away from the Daimyo’s men who said he was a bandit. You think that’ll do our family any good?
“And if youkai left, no doubt the monk and his family would leave, too, and maybe even close down that hovel he calls his temple. And where would you go to make your endless prayers to Kwannon?”
She made a noise in her throat, like she was about to say something, but chose not to. Instead, she turned her spinning wheel.
“We might be able to get rid of the hanyou. It’s happened before. I mean, Kikyou-sama had him pinned where he couldn’t hurt anybody. But not with his brother hanging around. It’d take a Kami to get rid of that one. And he won’t leave long as that twit of a girl’s here. And don’t you know Kaede-sama knows it, too.” Tsuneo knocked back the last of the sake. “Long as the girl stays with her, nobody’s going to say anything. Enough of this endless complaining! I’m going to sleep.”
He moved to the back, towards the room he slept in. Haname turned her spinning wheel while the thoughts turned around in her head.
While Haname spun her thread and argued with her husband, Miroku and Shippou made their way to Kaede’s hut, the rings on the monk’s staff jingling as he made his way through the dark.
“So why are we here again?” asked the small Kitsune.
“I am here because I need to ask Kaede something, Shippou-kun. You are here because you kept teasing my daughters when it was time for them to go to sleep, and I thought Sango was going to take Hiraikotsu out of storage and go fox hunting,” Miroku said, then tapped on the miko’s door frame.
“Does that mean you want me to spend the night here?” the Kitsune asked.
“Something like that, yes,” Miroku replied. Shippou crossed his arms and sighed.
The old miko lifted the edge of the door mat and saw the two standing in front of her. Stepping forward, Kaede looked at him questioningly.“So, Houshi-sama, what brings you to my house tonight? This does make two nights in a row. If you insist on showing up every evening at my house, people are going to start talking,” Kaede said, with only the slightest smile, but there was a touch of merriment in her voice.
Miroku chuckled as he bowed politely, dislodging Shippou from his perch on his shoulder. “You wound me, Kaede-sama. Surely you know what a sterling reputation I have,” he said in a tone of mock injury.
Kaede cleared her throat. Before she could say anything, Shippou, dusting himself off from where he landed in the dirt looked up at Kaede with big blue eyes and asked, “Is Rin still awake?”
“Yes, she is, and you may go in and see her, but none of your foolishness, Shippou-chan. It is getting late,” Kaede said firmly. The small Kitsune dashed into the house. She turned back to Miroku.
“And so, Monk, I know you came not just to bring Shippou-chan here,” Kaede said.
“That is true,” he admitted with a small smile. “I told InuYasha that I would discuss certain things with you. We both have seen how things are playing out, both yesterday and today. I hope you agree with me that getting these things settled sooner is probably better than later.”
“Ah, I suspect you might be correct, Houshi-sama,” said the old miko, nodding. “Come in.”
Miroku followed him into her hut. Rin, dressed in a pale blue sleeping kosode, was sitting in the corner, laughing at something Shippou had done that he had not seen, but evidently Kaede had.
“Shippou-kun, it is a good thing that Jaken-sama was not here to see your games,” Kaede commented, as Miroku slipped off his sandals. “You might find him using that staff of his to singe your tail.” Shippou grabbed his tail and covered it protectively.
“Jaken, Jaken, why are you so green,” Rin sang, still laughing, but suddenly, her eyes grew distant and her voice faded away, as if remembering something that made her suddenly sad. Kaede noticed, and sighed, but went over to the fire pit where she stirred the flames. Reaching to one side, she grabbed an iron teakettle and put it on to heat, then stood up and took a box off of a shelf.
“You may each have one of these,” she said, opening the box which contained treats. Rin looked in the box and delicately selected hers, then Shippou took another. “Rin-chan, take the lamp and go into the back room,” Kaede said. “And you too, Shippou-kun. I want to talk to Miroku-sama.”
“Thank you, Kaede-obaasan,” Rin said. She took a small bite of the sweet cake, then stood up, picked up the lamp and headed towards the back. Shippou popped the treat into his mouth, then turning in Miroku’s direction, made a curious but uncertain face. Miroku narrowed his eyes and gestured with his head towards the direction Rin was headed. With a little sigh, Shippou turned around.
“Did I ever tell you about Pocky?” he asked the girl as he hurried up to catch up with her. “Kagome used to bring it to me.”
They disappeared behind the sliding doors.
Kaede tended to making tea. After a few minutes, Miroku could hear giggles and the sounds of clapping, and Rin’s soft voice singing:
“If you ask the blossoms,
Sakura petals falling
in the breeze of spring
to tell you of the winter,
winter with its snow,
they'll say that they are petals,
blossoms in the wind.
Ask the trees about the snow,
ask the ancient trees.”
“It sounds like they have found something to do to amuse themselves, Houshi-sama,” said Kaede, pouring hot water over the tea. “Now you can tell me what is on your mind.” She handed Miroku a cup of the fragrant green beverage, and he wrapped his hands around the cup, closing his eyes while he gathered his thoughts.
“Like I said, outside, this is about InuYasha,” he began.
“And about Kagome-chan, and her return, is it not?” Kaede replied.
Miroku nodded. “I was talking with him today, and besides being overwhelmed by the fact of her return, he is rather unknowing about the customs involved. Even though he was there when Sango and I were wed, he was so torn up about Kagome-sama’s absence, I doubt if he even remembers much. I told him I would be his go-between and help get everything done right, although I am not exactly sure who needs to be gone to in this case.” He sipped his tea again. “And I am not sure if there would be any . . . objections in the village for the match.”
Kaede shrugged her shoulders, then took a sip of her tea, pondering her answer. “That has always been InuYasha’s lot, Houshi-sama. There will always be some who do not want youkai in their midst and will complain. Tsuneo’s family has never been particularly happy with InuYasha living here, especially Haname, his wife.”
“Haname? But she comes to the temple to offer incense to Kwannon almost every day,” Miroku said. “My daughters call her Obasan. Aunt Haname has given them more of their share of treats, too.”
“Not everyone who honors the Bodhisattva of mercy is merciful to all,” Kaede said. “I have heard her complaints.”
“Will this cause a problem? I do not believe anybody could separate InuYasha and Kagome-sama at this point,” Miroku said, his eyebrows knotting thoughtfully.
Kaede gave a comforting smile. “Ah, Monk. I do believe no one’s been able to separate them, really, for years, not in their hearts and souls, not even time. Even if people complain, I do believe we need to get them married as soon as possible, if not for his sake, at least for hers. He is willing, isn’t he?”
“ I will talk to my cousin tomorrow,” the old miko said. “ I know, as headman, he will want to do the best for the village. Let us hope it will be the best for those two as well.”
They lay in the darkness, spooned together under the quilt, only a tiny glow coming from the fire pit giving any light to the room. She woke up to the feel of his hand drawing lightly across her thigh.
“Umm, InuYasha,” she muttered.
He kissed the top of her head. “I didn’t mean to wake you,” he said.
“S’okay,” she replied. “Couldn’t sleep?”
He snugged his arm around her waist. “Been thinking.”
She rested her hand on his arm. “About what?” she asked.
“Life is never going to be the same, is it?” he said, letting his mouth graze the soft skin of her neck, planting small kisses there.
Kagome snuggled up closer against him. “No. Never,” she replied. His hand left her waist, smoothing over her smooth skin, down to her thigh, then moved up to cup her breast. She shivered slightly at his touch. “You think you can live with it?”
She gasped lightly as he ran the pad of his thumb across her nipple, as his hand wrapped around the soft, warm mound. “I suppose so,” he said, his voice lightly playful. His breath teased as his tongue traced the outline of her ear. “Some parts of it are very good.”
“You haven’t eaten my cooking yet,” she said, managing to pull away enough so she could roll onto her back, looking at his face, wrapped deep in shadow. “I have to learn to cook all over. I never looked to cook in a fire pit.” His eyes, though, heavy lidded, glowed. She reached up, drew a finger along his jaw line, outlined his lips.
InuYasha kissed her fingertip, cupped his hand around hers. “Don’t care,” he said. “We’ll eat Sango’s cooking until you learn.” Leaning over her, his mouth found hers, hungry for something besides food. Sliding his arms under her shoulders, he deepened his kiss, his tongue dancing with hers. “Don’t care if you ever learn. I’d live off air just to keep you here,” he said, then kissed her again.
Kagome’s hands slid under his hair as she wrapped her arms around his neck. “You’ll have to feed me more than air to keep me here,” she said, smiling.
“I’ll find something,” he murmured, his mouth drifting from her mouth to her neck. “Just tell me what you need.”
She rocked her hips against him, and pulled him closer. “Right now,” she said, “just you.”
“You have me,” he replied, lifting his head to gaze into her eyes. She swallowed at how even in the dim light his eyes seemed to pierce into her soul with their intensity. “Promise you’ll still be here when it’s morning, that I’m not dreaming.”
“Always,” she promised