Sometimes, legends start on a beautiful sunny day. Some days, even beautiful days can go tragically bad.
Kagome wasn’t exactly sure where she was. The last thing she remembered was pain, being on the ground and pain raining down on her body.
She sat up. Here at least, she didn’t hurt at all, but at the same time, she didn’t know where here was. Memory of the pain and why she thought she should hurt faded fast as she looked around where she was. At first it seemed she was nowhere, some place peaceful, surrounded by light, soft, and comforting.
“Am I dead?” she wondered briefly, then dismissed the thought away as she realized she was breathing and could feel ground beneath her. She blinked her eyes several times, and slowly, the light coalesced into a garden. It was a summer garden, with lilies nodding in a comfortable, warm breeze.
“Well, there you are, Kagome,” said an old, but familiar voice she had not heard in a long time.
She swerved around to see the old, little man. He was all in white, the robes of a Shinto priest about to perform a sacred rite, wearing kosode, hakama, and a pristine saifuku . Only his eboshi headdress was dark. In his hand he held a branch of the sacred sakaki tree. Something about him glowed, and his face warmed into a gentle smile.
“Grandfather! What are you doing here? It’s been so long!” For some reason, it didn’t seem odd to see
She stood up, and ran over to hug her grandfather. Even though she was a small woman, her grandfather was only taller than her by virtue of his head dress.
“I’m not sure, child,” he said. “Perhaps the Kami have sent me to help you do something.” He stepped back once, holding her by her upper arms. “Let me look at you, girl. Dressed as a miko, are you?” He examined her red and white garments. “But did you ever marry that silver-haired youkai of yours?”
“Hanyou, Grandfather. Yes, we’re married. We have a son, too. You’re a great-grandfather.”
“Am I?” his smile beamed at her. “You must be sure to tell him all the tales I told you as a child, so he will know his true heritage someday.” He took her hand, and led her to a bench nearby. “An old man, my dear, needs to sit.”
They both sat down.
“Do you remember the tale I used to tell you about the hero who rescued the miko from the bandits?” he asked. “The story, it is said, started not far from where the Shrine is.”
She shook her head no.
“Odd,” said the old man, patting her hand. “After you left, I wondered if it were about you and your hanyou. The hero, it was said, was not fully human.”
“Would you tell me?” she asked.
“Of course. I think perhaps that is why I’m here.”
He took a deep breath, and began speaking with his storytelling voice, deep and sonorous. Kagome found it odd that when she heard him this time, that voice seemed to penetrate her memory instead of put her to sleep like when she was a young girl.
“The tale of the Miko and the Bandits starts as Yorime, the beautiful oldest daughter of Susumu the carpenter, and granddaughter of Tomeo, the village headman, stumbled into the center of the village about midday, out of breath and frightened, with news of a bandit raid.”
“I know Yorime!” Kagome said. “She was with me this afternoon. We had just gone to a meadow with her sister to see if we could find some Senburi leaves . . . ” Her voice dropped off as she had flashes of memory, of standing in front of two girls with her bow drawn, yelling for Yorime to run.
“Ah,” the old man said, smiling at her, and he patted her hand before continuing with his story. “The bandits, Yorime said, were just passing by the edge of town and had noticed the little group of women, and decided to grab the ones they saw – three women gathering herbs in a meadow on the north side of town. The women were her sisters Suzume and Aomi and the young miko. Frightened out of her wits, she ran back to the village to get help.”
Something was wrong. InuYasha didn’t know what it was, but he would swear that he could almost smell it. Unable to sit still, he worked on the wood pile, hoping some activity would help him shake his unease.
He was not really surprised when Miroku ran up, slightly out of breath.
The hanyou was standing there, in his white kosode with the sleeves tied back, surrounded by wood fragments and cleanly split pieces of wood. He looked up as he heard the monk draw close, the rings of his staff giving him away. Dropping a piece of wood onto the stack, he took in the smell of anxiety his friend was giving off, and the troubled look in his violet eyes.
“Something’s happened,” InuYasha said. “What is it?”
Miroku, looking mildly surprised, leaned against his staff. “Bandits,” the priest said, trying to catch his breath.
InuYasha nodded, and reached for the tie that held his sleeves back. “Anybody get hurt?” he asked.
“We don’t know yet,” Miroku said, swallowing. “They took Kagome and two of Susumu’s girls.”
For a moment, InuYasha just stood there, as if the information took a moment to register. Suddenly though, it felt like all the unease he had been feeling just punched him in the gut. “Damn it to the hells,” he said. “I knew something was wrong.” His right ear twitching, he took a deep breath, trying to clear his head, then reached for his suikan, and put it on.
“Where’s Atae?” he said as he tucked his sword into his obi.
“With Rin and Kaede,” Miroku replied.
The hanyou nodded and began moving down the path into the village as swift as he could go and have Miroku keep up with him. “How?” he asked.
They began to drop down the rise that would lead them past the first paddies. “Kaede said the girls had gone to that field on the north side of town to gather herbs,” Miroku said falling in behind him. “The field you can’t see from any of the village houses.”
“How come Kagome didn’t come and get me?” InuYasha said. “She knows I don’t like her going that far away from the village without me.”
The monk shrugged, hearing the note of frustration in his friend’s voice. “I don’t know. I wasn’t there. There were four of them,” Miroku said. “Kagome and Susumu’s three girls. I guess they thought they could get what they were looking for and get back.”
“I thought you said it was Kagome and two girls who were grabbed,” InuYasha replied.
“That’s right,” Miroku said. “Yorime said it was Kagome’s action that let her get away from the bandits and run for help.”
InuYasha hung his head and sighed. “Damn them to hell. They better not have hurt her.”
For a brief moment, Miroku felt a twinge of pity for whoever took InuYasha’s wife.
“Grandfather, where am I?” Kagome asked. “This just happened to me. Am I dead?”
The older man placed his hand on his granddaughter’s head. Suddenly, Kagome’s breath caught with the pain that swept over her body. For a moment, she was lying on the grass somewhere else. She could feel a moan escape from her mouth, and a hand brushed gently over her forehead.
“Be all right, Miko-sama,” said a soft girl’s voice.
“She’ll be okay, Suzume,” a slightly older voice tried to reassure her.
“Shut the bitch up.” This voice was harsh and angry. “Bad enough she took out Ichiro. I don’t need to listen to her groan. She’s lucky she’s still alive.”
Her mind tried to recoil from that voice. The bandit. Memories of how he had kicked her after she fell flooded her for a moment.
The hand was lifted from her head, and suddenly, she was back in the garden, all the pain washed away instantly.
“You aren’t dead, Granddaughter,” the old priest said. “But you look to be in grave danger. Where is your hanyou?”
“He’ll come for me, Grandfather. InuYasha always finds me,” she replied.
“Good,” he replied. “It’s too soon for you to come to this place to stay. Would you like me to continue the story?”
She nodded yes.
Her grandfather’s sonorous voice continued. “As the young Yorime told the tale of her harrowing escape to the men and women who gathered around her, the older miko who was the spiritual leader of the community sent a boy running to spread the word, and the village headman sounded the alarm. People gathered in the center of town as the news spread, not sure if the bandits were coming to attack them or not. Panicked women wailed about how they would never see the three women again, but the men gathered what weapons they had, and stood there, stony-faced, to do what they could do.”
As InuYasha walked through the main street of the village, his silver hair streaming behind him, his triangular ears straight and erect, people drew back as he and Miroku passed, overwhelmed at the intensity of his eyes, the hardness of his face, the swirl of youki that his anger wrapped around him. He could hear the whispers as he passed, some of pity, some wondering what he would do. Only one he heard blamed the bad luck of what happened on him.
Kaede stood in front of her house with Sango and a group of crying women. She looked up as he neared and pursed her lips. A young woman, maybe sixteen stood next to Kaede, her cheeks streaked with tears. Her eyes widened when she saw the hanyou and monk walking up to them, obviously afraid. Sango wrapped an arm around her, then whispered something in her ear, and she relaxed a little.
As InuYasha drew up to them, the girl bowed respectfully. “I...I am sorry, InuYasha-sama,” she said. Her voice was soft, not much above a whisper.
“Yorime was there when it happened, InuYasha,” said Kaede. She looked at the hanyou through her single eye, steadily but kindly. “She’s still quite shaken.”
He nodded at the older miko. “What happened?” he said, firmly, but not unkindly.
Yorime looked up at him. His eyes were intense, but clearly not angry at her. His triangular ear twitched, and although he was trying to hide it, she could see the worry on his face. Swallowing first, she began to speak. “Miko-sama saw them coming first. I was just coming out of the woods, and she yelled at me to go and get help. I saw . . . I saw her ready her bow and take aim as the first horse drew close. My little sister Aomi screamed as they drew near. She’s only 12. I...I was so frightened, I just began to run. I got here as soon as I could.” She sobbed, and turned into Sango’s arm.
“It’s all right, Yorime,” InuYasha said, gently. “You did good getting here to tell us what happened.” He gave her a ghost of a smile.
Turning to Sango, he asked, “Keep an eye on Atae for me?”
She nodded. “He’s inside with Rin and my kids. We thought it’d be better right now.”
He turned to Miroku. “Let’s go.”
As they were about to leave, Tomeo walked up with a group of men with an assortment of arms. His usual smiling face was strained, and his eyes were red.“We’re ready to go with you.”
“You think they’re still here?” Miroku asked.
“No. They’d have come into the village by now,” InuYasha replied. “But I’ll find them wherever they are.” The certainty in his voice was chilling.
“We were in the center of a meadow on the very edge of the village,” Kagome said, looking away into the distance but not really seeing it. “There was a stand of woods between the village and the meadow and a couple of dry crop fields between us and the nearest house. InuYasha doesn’t like it when I go too far out of sight of the village. It’s a dangerous place to be, sometimes. I should have gone back to the house and had him go with us.”
Her voice was regretful. She covered her face with her hands for a minute, then shook her head. “I heard them coming before I could see them, and should have started moving the girls out of the way then, but I just thought they were some of the local men at first. One of them was cursing out his horse for being a wretch. I looked up and saw them riding my way. They were dressed like soldiers.” She sighed. “Sometimes, soldiers from the Hojo pass through our village on their way back and forth between Edo and the villages north of us, or going on their way to Odawara. I didn’t think much of it.”
“I understand,” said her grandfather.
“I was in the middle of the field with Aomi and Suzume. We had found a stand of one of the herbs Kaede asked for. One of the men told the other he was a fool for stealing such a useless horse. I looked up again. This time they were nearer, and I could see they didn’t carry the Hojo insignia.”
She looked down at her hands, and interlaced her fingers together.“I should have left soon as I heard them, but I didn’t, and then I realized I wouldn’t have time. One of the men pointed at us. ‘They ought to make up for a bad trip. Toshiro?’ he said. And they started to gallop towards us.”
“I looked around. Yorime was bored hanging around her younger sisters, and was on the edge of the forest. I yelled at her to run and get help. And then I stood up and nocked my bow.”
“You are very brave, Granddaughter,” said the old priest. “The story never told us much about what the miko went through. Shall I tell you what the story says next?”
“Yes, please,” she replied.
“Shortly afterwards,” her grandfather continued, “the miko’s rescuer, sent by the Kami to watch over her, led the men north to discover what had happened. They say he was not wholly human, and had long, shining silver hair and wore armor of bright red. As they searched, they found a bow, the miko’s bow, which lay broken and discarded, and her quiver was on the ground. A horse had stepped on it. The men there would tell of how his eyes grew cold and hard when he found these things and how his anger flared as he headed off alone after the villains, too fast for any of the villagers to follow.”
The small group of men mulled around the field, looking, but not exactly sure what to do. It was obvious something had happened. In one corner of the field, blood splattered the grass, and there were bits of armor on the ground near the blood. Kagome’s bow lay near the blood. It had been slashed with a sword, and her arrows lay scattered around the area. Miroku picked up her quiver, thoroughly smashed.
“Damn it, Kagome,” InuYasha whispered as he studied the scene, his heart rising to his throat. “Why don’t you ever listen to me?” The hanyou knelt down and touched the blood, bringing it near his nose. He sniffed, looked over the scene in front of him, and let go a long breath.
Miroku standing near looked at the hanyou. “Is it . . . ”
“It’s not Kagome’s,” InuYasha said, standing up. “Must be one of the bandits. It doesn’t smell like anybody from the village.” He looked to the north, where the field was trampled. “But she was here.” There were lingering traces of fear in the air, her fear. “I bet she got one of the bastards.” He turned to face the group. “I’m going to track them down. You can follow if you want.”
Tomeo, looking down on the ground, picked up a scarf one of the girls had worn and stuffed it in his jacket. He clasped the hanyou on his red-clad arm. “The Kami bless you. Bring our girls back.”
“I will, old man,” InuYasha said. “You’ll have your granddaughters back tonight.”
His youki flared in his impatience and need to do something, strong enough to make the hair on the back of their necks stand up. No one but he, and perhaps the monk his friend, would realize how much of that flare was fear.
Miroku moved in front of him and made a sign of blessing. “Leave a trail,” Miroku said. “I’ll bring horses.”
InuYasha nodded, and loped off.
“Will he find them?” Tomeo asked, watching the hanyou streak away in silver and red.
“Oh, most definitely,” Miroku answered. “Let’s just hope he finds them in time. If anything happens to Kagome, I doubt if he’d stop before every last bandit in Musashi, or maybe all of Honshu is dead.”
Tomeo sighed. The older man looked weary. “I just want my granddaughters back.”
Miroku rested his hand on the older man’s shoulder. “He can do it, Tomeo-sama. Now if you have a couple of horses I could use . . . ”
“What happened, Granddaughter?” The old priest asked. “Can you tell your old grandfather what happened next?”
She closed her eyes, and found herself clenching her fists. “I...I...” she started. Taking a deep breath, she looked up at the sky. It was intensely blue, the type of sky that looked like it went on forever. Something about it was calming and spoke to her innermost being, and her palms relaxed.
“There were four of the bandits. The one who nudged the leader to come get us was young, maybe 16 or 17, not much more than a boy. He rode along side of the older man, but then spurred his horse to come closer. I put Suzume and Aomi behind me and sighted my arrow.
“All I could see was him charging me. Suddenly it was time. I let the arrow go.”
She sighed, and covered her face. “I’ve killed before, Grandfather. Wicked youkai who were attacking or trying to harm me or mine. It was my shot that killed Naraku. I’d even shot bandits on the run before. But . . . ”
“This time it was different?" her grandfather said, holding her hand between his.
She nodded. "He was so young. My arrow caught him in the base of the throat. His helmet flew off with the impact. I remember how wide his eyes got, For a split second he looked just like Souta did when he was surprised. And I froze with my arrow in my hand. Too much like Souta. I watched as he slipped off his horse, gasping for breath."
Kagome was silent for several minutes. "I don't know if he was the leader's son or lover or what, but the leader galloped ahead of the others while I was watching. The next thing I knew, he had knocked me down on the ground.
"He got off of his horse and ripped the bow out of his hands. I looked up at him and he punched me, hit after hit. I sort of remember one of the other men saying not to kill me, because the Kami would get him.” She looked at her hands. "I don't remember anything more than that, really. The next thing I knew, I was here."
“Sometimes, we’re called on for hard duty, child. The kami know what they are doing when they choose us for these things,” her grandfather said. "They must have more for you to do to send you here while your husband comes looking for you. I'll tell you what I know must have happened next.
"He ran swifter than the villagers could follow on foot or horseback, although the villagers sought to follow in his wake. The miko's protector discovered one bandit along the wayside, took care of him, and moved on. A quarter of a day later, he found the bandits making camp. The storytellers recounted later how he hid in the branches of a tree, watched the bandits make camp, laughing and talking about their plans for the three women they had caught. He watched the miko, thrown from the back of the leader’s horse, bound to the base of a tree, with the two girls hobbled to her. As they laughed, he made his plan."
The bandits had made no effort to hide their trail, and InuYasha had no trouble following their path. At one point, they had stopped and buried the person who had bled in the meadow, a shallow grave, not much more than a sprinkle of leaves and dirt. InuYasha kicked the light covering off of him. It was a young man, maybe 16 or 17, about Kohaku’s age. He had been wounded in the throat, and a bloody piece of linen was wrapped around it.
“Good shot, Kagome,” InuYasha muttered.
The hanyou almost left him like that, exposed, but the boy looked innocent and young in death, and he thought of Sango’s brother and the other young men in the village, and quickly, hastily, he covered the remains more fully.
Cursing himself for his softness, he went on his way. He did not have to run far.
InuYasha smelled them long before he saw them . . . smells of anger and sweat and blood, old leather and horses and, faintly, like a high note laying above the dreck of the rest, the sweet smell of his wife, alive, but his gut roiled when he realized her smell was mixed with pain. He took to the trees then, moving soundlessly through the canopy above them.
One of them, the smallest and oldest of the three, a short man with a grizzled salt-and pepper chin, must have had more spiritual awareness than the others, though, because he started looking over his shoulder as group headed down the path.
“What’s wrong, Dai?” asked his companion riding beside him.
Dai pushed the conical helmet he wore up and scratched above his ear. “Don’t know, Jiro. Something don’t feel quite right.”
His companion, tall and burley to Dai’s small wiriness, laughed and punched him in the arm. “Seeing spooks again?”
“Don’t laugh. Saved your butt that time we ran across that snake youkai,” Dai said, looking behind him.
“True that,” Jiro said. “But I don’t see nothing. At least it ain’t the miko’s doing.” He looked up ahead, to see Kagome’s unconscious body slung over the back of the horse in front of them. The two younger girls, bound and hobbled, stumbled behind it, tied to its empty saddle by long ropes.
“You think could be a black miko?” Dai asked.
“Don’t matter if she is, out cold like she is.” Jiro laughed. “But she’s sure is getting blacker where Toshiro beat her. You think if she was a black miko, she’d let us take her like this?” He spit. “She’d have had monsters chasing us down by the time we set a hand on her. Don’t see any coming out of the woods, now do you?”
Dai looked around at the trees overlooking the road. “Maybe something’s out there. I sure feel spooked.”
Jiro poked his comrade in the center of his back with the hilt of his sword while he was looking away, and Dai jumped. “Got ya!” the bigger man laughed.
Up ahead, Toshiro stopped by a roadside statue of Jizo, and pointed to the clearing beyond it and nudged his horse and the horse he was leading off the road.
“Looks like we’re going to camp for the night,” Dai said. “Maybe Toshiro thinks Jizo will save him from the kami for beating the miko.”
“Maybe. Yeah. Who knows? Might be a nice camp, too. Three of us, three women. Won’t be sleeping cold, that’s for sure.”
“In your dreams, Jiro. I think Toshiro’s got plans to sell the girls to a tea house. They’ll want them untouched if he’s gonna get maximum money for them. And this trip’s been so piss poor he’ll be wanting that, and you will to, if you have any sense.”
“Speak for yourself. Been too long since I felt a woman under me,” Jiro said. “The hell with the money. I’d just drink it all away anyway.”
“Anyway, there’s no way Toshiro’s gonna let anybody touch that miko.” Dai said. “I bet he’s gonna be a son of a bitch to deal with now that Ryo’s done got himself killed. The miko, who knows what he’ll do with her. I thought he was gonna beat her to death until you pulled him off of her. I hope we get to a town soon, or he might decide to get his knives out. If he wasn’t scared of the bad luck that would bring . . . ” Dai’s voice dropped off.
Jiro snorted. “You two belong together, you and Toshiro, always seeing ghosts and kitsune and monsters in the dark. She’s the best looking one of the bunch, even beat up like that. I’d take those red hakama off her in a second, conscious or not, give me half a chance.”
As they hurried up to catch up with the others, they didn’t see the amber eyes staring at them, digging into the branch he sat on.
“That definitely sounds like InuYasha, taking to the trees,” Kagome said, smiling a tiny smile, then, as she realized the reality of the situation, she swiftly dropped her blue-gray eyes to the ground. “I put him into so much danger, just because I didn’t want to walk back to the house . . . ” Her voice trailed off.
“Some things are meant to be, or there wouldn’t be stories to tell,” the old priest noted. “So, Granddaughter, how do you wish the story to end?” said the old priest.
“If I can’t have it never to have happened,” she said, looking at her grandfather, who shook his head no, “I would want InuYasha to come rescue me, take care of the bandits, and take me and the girls home. And not be injured himself.”
She sighed wistfully, lowering her eyes. “Home. It sounds so nice.”
Her grandfather patted her hand and smiled. “Your time with me here isn’t much longer, Kagome. Your body is beginning to call your spirit home.”
She knew he was right. She could feel herself fading, even as he spoke. A sudden urgency to know hit her. “But what will happen, Grandfather? How does this story end?”
He grinned at her. “You pretty much get your wish, child.” He blessed her with the sakaki branch. “Be happy, Granddaughter. Enjoy the life you have chosen, and know I love you, even if I didn’t always understand why you chose what you did or what you were going through.”
She smiled, touched his hand. Slowly though, her grandfather and the place she sat faded into darkness. The last thing she remembered before slipping into unconsciousness was her grandfather saying, with a gentle laugh, “May you get to spend some of your life without making legends.”
She almost had enough time to smile at that, and then all was dark.
Dai and Jiro rode into the clearing as Toshiro, with no comment, dragged the unconscious miko off of the horse, and tossed her on the ground. Kagome moaned a moment as she landed, but made no other sound or motion. His eyes were hard as he stared at the unmoving form laying there.
“Don’t die on me, Miko. You owe me. I plan to collect,” he said. He then tied the two girls to a tree nearby. “Take care of her,” he ordered.
The other bandits began securing their horses for the night, and digging through their bundles to make camp. Toshiro, squatting on the ground, had gathered a small amount of wood in the clearing and started a fire.
“Hey, Dai, go get some wood, will ya?” Toshiro said. “Not enough wood here to cook our rice. And I’m hungry. Don’t take too long.”
“Yeah, yeah,” said the wiry, grizzled bandit, dropping his bedroll on the ground, then headed for the woods beyond the clearing. “Always me. Forest like this ought to have plenty of deadwood. If the tanuki don’t get me.” He was soon out of sight, down a dip and around a bend.
“Damn,” said Jiro, pulling food supplies out of his bag. “I’ll be glad to get back to someplace not out in the forest. Someplace with pretty girls, where I don’t have to eat my own stinking cooking.” He wandered over to where Suzume was sitting. “Pretty girls to serve my dinner, pretty girls to pour my sake and keep my bed warm at night.” Suzume tried to shrink away, but he grabbed her by the chin and looked at her. She squeezed her eyes shut tight.
Suddenly, Jiro found himself lying on the ground staring at Toshiro’s eyes, the man’s foot firmly on his chest. His hand rested on his sword hilt. “Leave the girls alone. We’re taking them to Uwara. After we make the sale, you can have your sake and women.”
Jiro held his hands up in a peacemaking gesture. “Whatever you say, Toshiro-sama.”
Toshiro took his foot off of the man’s chest. “We just need to get out of this cursed land. Why I let Ryo talk us into coming this way . . . Been nothing but bad luck the entire trip.” He went back to sit by the fire. “Start cooking.”
Jiro went back to his supplies and put rice in the pot. “I wonder what’s taking Dai so long,” Jiro said as he poured water over it.
“Probably jerking off,” said Toshiro as he threw small bits of wood onto the fire.
Jiro laughed. “Maybe he ran into a Kitsune. I hear they can transform into beautiful women.”
“Do you ever think – ” Toshiro started. Suddenly the air was filled with an edgy energy and a low threatening growl that started softly but gained quickly in intensity.
“What in the hells was that?” Jiro said. He stood up and looked around the clearing.
The horses began to panic. Two of them reared, and pulled out of their constraints, running off.
“Youkai,” Toshiro said, and stood up, drawing his sword.
Jiro heard a noise behind him. He turned to look at it, and missed the flash of red and silver drop from the tree branch overhead. Suddenly he felt an arm, far too strong to budge, wrap around him, pinning his arms.
“So you’d take those red hakama off the miko in a second, conscious or not, would you?”a voice hissed into his ear. “Be glad I don’t have time to do to you what you deserve.”
Jiro started to speak, but never could voice the words as InuYasha ripped out his throat.
Aomi and Suzume screamed at the flow of blood that poured out. Kagome stirred slightly.
“Who the hell are you?” Toshiro said. His eyes widened at the silver hair and canine ears.
InuYasha let Jiro’s body fall to the ground.
“Your death for taking what is mine,” the hanyou said.
“An inugami! I KNEW she was a dark miko,” Toshiro said. He raised his sword and moved forward. “I could smell it on her.”
Lifting his clawed hand, InuYasha’s eyes narrowed, and he yelled, “Sankon tessou!” swiping at the bandit as Toshiro began to his. Toshiro’s eyes grew big as the blades of youki light cut through his body, and he fell to the ground.
“Ryo,” the bandit said simply, and then died.
Carrying an armful of dried dead sticks, Dai walked into the clearing. InuYasha swerved and took a step towards him.
He dropped his load of sticks, standing wide mouthed and panicked. He fell down on his knees and whimpered, “Don’t kill me, Youkai-sama. Please don’t kill me!”
Suddenly, Kagome moaned loudly and called her husband’s name. He turned and looked at her, laying on the ground, with the two frightened girls hovering next to her. InuYasha pulled Dai up by his hair. “You’re lucky I’ve got more important things to do. Get the hell out of here. Tell anybody you see what happens to those foolish enough to raid my village.”
“Yes, Youkai-sama. Assuredly, Youkai-sama.” The bandit backed away until he felt it was safe to turn and he ran down the road, heading into the evening.
InuYasha turned around, and stepping over the bodies, walked back to the girls.
“InuYasha-sama, are you going to hurt us, too?” asked Suzume, tears running down her face.
His ears flattened, sensing the girls’ distress, and feeling bad about their having to be frightened. He knelt down, and cut at their bonds. “What do you think?” he asked.
“No?” squeaked Aomi.
“That’s right. I’m gonna take you home where no more bad men will try to hurt you.” He rubbed her head, then turned as he heard Kagome stir.
Her clothes were soiled with smears of dirt and some blood, and she had a large bruise on the right side of her face. He knelt down next to her, and cut the bonds around her wrists. Her eyes fluttered as he worked through the rope, and just a touch of a smile brushed across her lips.
“I knew you’d come get me,” she whispered.
He scooped her gently into his arms, ran his hands gently through her hair, crushed her gently to his chest.
“Baka woman. Don’t you ever scare me that way again.” His lips brushed gently against her forehead.
“I’ll try,” she said, snuggling her unbruised cheek against his chest. “Take me home, InuYasha. I want to go home.”
“Yeah,” he replied, standing up, lifting the frail woman who was the only real home he knew. “Let’s go.”
Far away in time, if not in location, a small girl sat next to her great- grandfather’s knee.
“So what happened next, Great-grandfather? What happened to the miko?” asked the girl. She had intense blue-gray eyes.
“Well, let me think. About halfway home, the group of travelers made it back to the village. The monk met them halfway and took charge of the two tired and exhausted sisters, placing them on his horse while he led them back home, while the silver haired hero carefully carried the little miko in his arms, saying little. As soon as they returned, the girls returned to their mother’s waiting arms and the hero disappeared into the older miko’s hut. Less than an hour after their return, the legend began as the village was buzzing with tales of how the hero had rescued the miko and the maidens. It was said that later that evening, village headman, dressed in his priestly white, walked up to the shrine and gave thanks to the kami, and that the hilltop by the shrine was filled with a soft pink light. And seeing that, the people knew all was right in the world.”
“Yay!” said the little girl.
A young man, dressed in the robes of a Shinto priest, popped into the room. “Sorry I’m late, Grandfather. The ceremony took longer than I expected.”
“That’s ok, Souta. Me and little Katsumi had a good time.”
“Great-grandpa tol’ me a story, Daddy,” said Katsumi said. “Story about the miko and the hero.”
“Did he?” Souta said. “He used to tell me that story too. I used to want to be just like the hero.”
“You a hero, Daddy,” said the little girl, hugging her father round the neck. “I’ll be the miko!”
They walked out of the room.
The old man remembered his granddaughter Kagome, who of all the people he repeated the stories to, never seemed to be able to remember the old tales.
“Your future, my legend,” he muttered, and contemplated the strange ways of time..