Long is the night to him who is awake;
long is a mile to him who is tired;
long is life to the foolish who do not know the true law.
If a traveller does not meet with one who is his better, or his equal,
let him firmly keep to his solitary journey; there is no companionship with a fool.
'These sons belong to me, and this wealth belongs to me,' with such thoughts a fool is tormented.
He himself does not belong to himself; how much less sons and wealth?
The fool who knows his foolishness, is wise at least so far.
But a fool who thinks himself wise, he is called a fool indeed.
---Dhammapada, Chapter 5
Kagome woke up suddenly, stiffling a sob in her throat, and sat up. "What an awful dream!" she said, shaking the webs of the nightmare out of her head.
The camp site was quiet and dark. It was hard to see the shapes of her sleeping companions except as muffled shadows. The campfire had burned very low, until it was mostly a deep reddish glow, giving off very little light. Kagome moved over to the fire, stirred it with a stick, added some twigs, and blew on it slightly to get some flame going, then added more wood. She didn't want to sit in the darkness. The night felt too cool, heavy and oppressive to her. She reached for her bag, pulled out a sweater, tugged it on.
There was the softest of thuds and the rustle of fabric behind her as InuYasha slipped out of the tree he had been sleeping in. In the months since the death of Naraku, Kagome and InuYasha had developed an easy intimacy, but he still preferred to sleep in trees when they were camping out.
"Oi, woman. It's too early to be up." he said softly, coming to sit down beside her, sensing her distress. "You were crying out in your sleep."
She her dark head against his shoulder. "Bad dreams," she said, leaning her head into his shoulder. "I decided to sit up for awhile."
"Yesterday was a hard day." InuYasha wrapped a protective arm around her, but his eyes carried a mix of sadness and guilt.
She nodded, bit her bottom lip. "I had a dream we were back there, and this time they didn't just knock you out. They had purfied all your Youkai, and you were laying there wounded and so still..."
"But they didn't and I'm here with you." he said.
"I overheard them. she said. "Before you freed me. Two of the guards talking. They believed that their Master Jomei was going to have you killed and was going to sell me off to a brothel. All so we could pay a karmic debt and acheive the Pure Land."
He tensed, then pulled her to him tighter, protectively. "Bastards. I was too nice to them when we were leaving the village."
They sat there, quietly for several minutes. InuYasha relaxed a little, but she could still feel the anger in him.
"I am sorry, Kagome. I didn't want you to have to deal what people would do to you because of me," he said softly. "If I wasn't such a selfish bastard, I'd have sent you home before the well closed. You don't deserve to this."
She sat up, took his face in her hands. "Don't ever say that, InuYasha. You are not responsible for all the evil in men's hearts. I am here because I know you and I choose to be."
Kagome lightly brushed her lips against his. "You are my Hanyou, and I love you." she whispered.
He pulled her closer, buried his face in her hair, her scent.
Later, at sunrise, Miroku would wake up to find them curled up together, sound asleep. Somehow he avoided the temptation to tease them.
The air here was touched by incense. Jomei, sensei, sohei, priest and monk stood before the small temple and looked over the small establishment. He wore the hood, hakama and dark robes of a sohei, a warrior priest, but his being radiated calm and peace, not aggression as he waited for his companion to catch up with him. There was something about him that inspired trust in his fellows..
Yashuo, the shrine keeper, a thin and tall man, walked with a certain hesitancy, as if one of his legs was sore, walked up to join the sensei. He sported an assortment of bruises and scrapes, as if he had just recently been in a fight Bowing in greeting, he found himself warming to the master.
"This is a good place for us, even when there are troubles like yesterday. We have an agreement with the village headman. If possible, if a youkai comes to the area, and we can take him safely, my brothers and I will try to ambush him," said Yashuo "He will help if necessary, and is pleased by the bounty that our temple supplies after such an event." They stopped at a garden behind the temple, sat down in the quiet morning sunshine.
"It is a good arrangement with so few of you here," said Master Jomei. "It is a good work to try to save those poor youkai when the opportunity happens. :
"No words of evil are in His Land;
No fear of evil doers, nor evil paths;
With sincere heart all beings worship Him.
Thus I prostrate myself before Amida Buddha.
His Land of infinite expediencies
Is without degenerate things or wicked beings...
"Yesterday I saw a Neko flying, and I could feel the auras that were travelling with it, strong youki. This reminded me how no wicked beings can obtain the Pure Land. What a sadness that such creatures, with their gifts of strength and long life, couldn't obtain salvation until after their deaths and rebirths as a human. They are all lost souls alive. As part of our work, we vow to save all sentient beings. The best we can do for these beings is free them to move on.
"It seems, though, like your and your brothers had a rough day yesterday. Let us discuss what happened." Jomei said.
"Ah, if you saw the Neko, then you have seen those people. There were two groups that showed up yesterday. First, a woman and an Inu hanyou came to the village." said Yashuo. "We used our tools, and were able to restrain the hanyou and his woman.
"Several hours later, two others came to the village. One wore the robes of a mendicent monk, the other was a woman in the armour of a taijiya. With them, was a youkai neko with two tails.. They evidently were companions of the first two. The priest asked some questions, discovered where the hanyou was, and disabled Matso, who was guarding him. Freeing the hanyou, they in turn freed the woman." said Yashuo. "I'm afraid we got a bit battered in the process."
"What an odd group" said Jomei.. " A woman and hanyou travelling with a monk and a woman taijiya? Youkai travelling with youkai destroyers?"
"The hanyou had been here before," Yashuo said. "It seems that his group has a reputation for fighting against vicious Youkai that threaten people. Someone told me that the woman he was with was a miko. She was not dressed like one, though."
Something about this situation tugged at the back of him mind. But he'd have to wait until later to deal with it. He stood up.
"Now, Yashuo, let's go and talk to the headman. Perhaps we still will want to compensate them for trying to help with the hanyou."
It was a meadow filled with spring wildflowers, not far from the castle. In it, a single person sat in lotus posture. Dressed in black robes his long, silver hair hung to the ground, bound out of his face into a pony tail. He had the pointed ears that marked him as youkai, and his face and wrists were marked by purple slashes, obviously Inu youki. Surprisingly, there was a peaceful aura about his person that was unusual in a person with such strong jyaki, not merely control, but something different.
Sesshoumaru entered the meadow, raised an arm to stop his small ward Rin from dashing into the field. This was a favorite play area of hers, and she was surprised at his motion.
"Sesshoumaru-sama?" asked a small green kappa by his side. "Is something amiss?" He looked across the field. "Could it be? Is that...."
The figure stood up, turned. A certain gentle laughter hid in his eyes as he looked at the trio. "Ah, nephew. There you are. What interesting companions you have!"
"Teijo. Uncle." Sesshoumaru replied. The only mark on his face that betrayed that this was a surprising event was a slightly raised eyebrow. "What brings you down from your mountain?"
"I believe your brother's coming to pay you a visit." Teijo smiled. "I believe I wish to be there."