Of Rivers and Reality
It was a lovely place to camp out for the night, in a mountain valley far from the main road and any nearby villages. In the distance, fir trees swayed slightly in the breeze, and down here in the valley, where a small river, not much more than a stream, ran through the forest, they were joined by stands of birch and ash. Something about the air seemed charged with a special aura, inviting the traveler to be at peace.
Kagome dropped her armload of dead wood near their bedroll, laid out on a swath of soft grass above, but overlooking the stream and the path that followed it. Shaking the dust from the wood off of her sleeves, she looked at the stream and how inviting the water looked. Even up here, the day was hot and sticky, and they had been traveling hard, eager to get away from the last village with its prejudice and displeasure at a miko traveling with a youkai, and into a place where none of that pettiness mattered.
‘At least the Kami of this place accepts us,’ Kagome thought as she as she moved carefully down the path to the stream. It was easier to breathe here, with no disapproving eyes or whispers. A large broad rock along the stream had a drift of yellow wild flowers poked through the white rocks next to it. Slipping off her sandals, and hiking her hakama legs up, she sat down on it and dangled her feet into the water. The stream was cold, even this time of year, running from the higher mountains to the west where it started in the snow melt and ran through lands shaded by forest. Its coolness soothed the tiredness from her feet and sent a slight shiver up her spine.
The water in front of her spread out into a broad pool, half-shadowed by evergreen trees swaying in the warm breeze. Even though she found the water too cold, it didn’t seem to bother her husband. Upstream from where she sat, InuYasha, stripped down to his kosode and with his sleeves tied back, was standing motionless in the water. His muscled legs disappeared into the stream as he bent over and waited, staring intently into the flowing stream.
She watched him as the sunlight glistening on his silver hair, his ears erect and motionless in his concentration. There was a beauty in how he stood, how he carried himself that she never got tired of looking at. It always amazed her how so many people refused to appreciate that beauty and saw him instead as something threatening, otherworldly, unclean. Suddenly, there was a flash of movement quicker than her eyes could follow, and a fish was flopping on the river bank. He leapt up out of the stream, and grinned at her before he put his catch out of its misery.
“Dinner!” he said, sounding rather pleased with himself.
“I see,” she replied, smiling back.
As he cleaned his catch, she lay down, and closed her eyes, listening to the wind in the trees and the sound of the stream as it slipped downstream. She listened as InuYasha washed up and then walked off to make a fire - the sound of his flint and steel making scraping sounds as he struck a light, and then the sound of him blowing on the tinder followed by the scent of burning.
“Fish on a stick good enough?” he asked.
“Sure,” she replied sleepily. The late afternoon sunlight felt good on her face as she just lay there. A few minutes later, she heard a loud splash, and then shortly after, she could feel a tug on one of her feet.
She opened her eyes and raised up on her elbows.
InuYasha leaned forward on the rock she was sitting on, next to her legs, resting his head on his folded arms, letting the water buoy him up. rested his head. His hair stretched out behind him, floating in swirls caught by the current, giving her a lovely view of his unclothed legs and lower back. His eyes, amber and playful, met hers.
“Wanna swim?” he asked.
“Water’s too cold,” she said. Her voice, though sleepy, was carefully neutral.
He raised an eyebrow. “I’ve seen you wash in colder,” he replied.
“I just . . . I just don’t feel like it,” she said, laying back down and closing her eyes again.
InuYasha tilted his head to the side, looking thoughtful for a moment. He reached out, and tickled the bottom of her foot.
“That’s not going to work this time,” she said, drawing her feet up. She sat up, drawing her feet under her.
He hopped up on the rock, trickling water down his golden skin. She looked at him appreciatively, sitting there all wet silver and gold, like a water spirit, and a ghost of a smile graced her face, She reached out and ran a finger down his arm until her hand rested in the crook of his arm, but then her look darkened and she sighed.
“Kagome?” he asked, his voice hesitant and soft. “Did...did I do something to make you unhappy? The people at that last village were jerks – I’m sorry, but I just had to get you out of there and away from them.”
She looked up at him, her eyes shimmering a little with moisture. She raised her hand and cupped his cheek. “No, InuYasha, you didn’t do anything wrong. I’m glad you got me out of there,” she said. “Who knows what might have happened?”
He leaned into her hand, and his arm reached out and pulled her close to him. In the process, his silver hair began to drip cold water down the side of her robe.
“I just get irritated with people who want us to help them, and then they treat us like that,” she said. She leaned into his embrace, trying to ignore the way her clothes were getting dampened.
“I know,” he said.
She leaned his cheek against his chest, getting damper. “Just don’t ever change. I don’t know if I could deal with the world if you weren’t you.”
He stood up, and looked at her clothes. “You might not want me to ever change, but you look like you need to change your kosode. It’s awfully wet.”
She gave a half smile, but shivered a little. “Maybe so.”
“If you don’t want to get any wetter, you better move. I’m tired of all this water dripping down my butt and I think the fish is done.”
She got up. “InuYasha, don’t you — “
He began to shake his head, the water flying everywhere. She shrieked, and running through the spray, pushed him back in the water. Laughing she ran back to the campfire.
“Ha!” he said, coming up for air. “Made you laugh!”
“That you did,” she said as she donned drier clothes. “But if you don’t hurry, I’m going to eat all the fish!”