The Evil In Men's Hearts
Chapter 4: Darkness and an Invitation
But though light of the sun is veiled by clouds and mists,
Beneath the clouds and mists there is brightness, not dark.
When one realizes shinjin, seeing and revering and attaining great joy,
One immediately leaps crosswise, closing off the five evil courses.
All foolish beings, whether good or evil,
When they hear and entrust to Amida's universal Vow,
Are praised by the Buddha as people of vast and excellent understanding;
Such a person is called a pure white lotus.
--From the Shoshinge
Kagome slipped into the hot mineral waters with a sigh of relief.
"It's been too long since we've gotten to do this," said Sango. "Too long since we've had some just girls time."
They were in a secluded hot spring, surrounded by trees. Between the rock rises the spring snuggled in and the vegetation, it was lovely and isolated.
"This is a part about travelling all over the countryside that I really miss," Kagome said. "All these lovely hotsprings."
Sango smiled at her, relaxed back into the water. "It seems strange to be talking like that," she said. "Not to always be searching."
"No more shards, no more Naraku -- everything we've been focusing on is done." said Kagome."Are you scared, Sango?"
"Maybe." she replied. "But it's taken Miroku so long to get back on his feet...healing from the wounds he got, healing from the old shouki poisoning, and then getting a house finished, and getting ready for the wedding. I haven't had time to think much.
"And how are you doing, Kagome?'
Kagome leaned her head back against a rock, closed her eyes. "There are days that have been really hard since the well closed. I really miss my mother and the rest of my family back there. But there's really little else that was home any more.
"But we finally ran out of Ramen and shampoo." she sighed. "I didn't realize the well was going to close up when it did, so I didn't get a chance to stock up. Sort of makes things real..."
"But what about you and InuYasha?" Sango asked.
"He's been restless. I think the villagers get nervous if he's around too much. But he's been encouraging my work with Kaede. I knew it wasn't going to be easy.. And I know he misses being able to talk with Miroku. It'll work out."
Their voices dropped off into silence for awhile.
"Wonder how Kohaku and Shippou are doing with Kaede?" Kagome asked.
"More importantly, I wonder how Kaede's doing with Shippou?"
"Well," said InuYasha, "The girls found the hot spring."
He was waded out into the middle of a quick flowing mountain river, fishing.
"And this surprises you?" asked Miroku, where he laid back on the river bank, looking at the clouds. it was late afternoon, far earlier than they usually made camp in the old days.
InuYasha kehed.. "No, only the fact that you are here instead of sneaking off. You are a reformed man, Miroku." He caught a fish, tossing it up on the bank. "Kagome's been missing Sango, I think."
Miroku sat back up, watched InuYasha toss another fish to the riverbank. "I've never quite understood how you can catch fish that way."
"If you got hungry enough, you'd learn." he said, amused. "Easier than understanding women."
"I believe you are correct! Sango wanted to go back to the slayer's village and rebuild, but she's been missing Lady Kagome, too. And Kohaku is so withdrawn. I wonder if moving there was really that good of an idea. But that's what she wants."
"You could come back to Kaede's village." InuYasha said.
Miroku almost got hit by a fish flying to join the others. "And you could come with us to the Slayer's village."
"Don't think I could get Kagome away from Kaede. Since the well closed..."
"How is the Lady Kagome taking that?" Miroku asked.
"Good days and bad. I wish it hadn't happened." He tossed one more fish up the bank. "That should be enough for tonight."
He stretched, then slogged out of the water, sat down next to Miroku, sighed. "The Jewel has not been good to her, sticking her here, taking away her chance to be with her family. Stuck her with me." He picked up a short branch laying on the ground, toyed with it.
Miroku looked at his friend. "She wouldn't have it any other way, friend. Even if there are people like Jomei and his disciples."
"Don't make it any better." InuYasha said. "The bastards wanted to sell her to slavers just because she was with me. I want to hurt them." He snapped the branch in half.
"It's not like that at Kaede's village." Miroku said.
"No, but I still make them nervous. Damn it, most of' em were raised with me being the monster their parents threatened them with if they were bad as kids. 'If you're not good, Inyasha will get off his tree and come eat you!' Anything happens to me, I don't know what they'll do. Kagome working with Kaede helps, I think."
He took one of the fish, began to prepare it "Shit. If these guys are starting to spread their poison in the Western Lands, even the village could become a problem. I don't even want what happened to my mother to happen to Kagome. I have to keep her safe."
"You think Sesshoumaru will do anything?" Miroku asked.
"I never know what that bastard brother of mine will do. He normally ignores the humans on his lands. But I know he cares about that brat who travels with him. I'd hate to see what would happen if anybody tried to pull Rin away from him. Look what happened when Naraku went after her. It's the type of thing I think he'd want to know."
InuYasha stood up with his fish, and started moving back to camp. "Wonder if the girls are done yet?"
Later that night, Jomei bolted upright, fully awake.
It was well after midnight, and he was camped out on the road on the way to visit the next temple on his circuit. His small camp was off the road, snuggled next to a rock outcropping.
He could feel the strong presence of youki touching his senses, setting his teeth on edge. By his campfire, he saw a shadow-wrapped person. This person had stirred the fire back to flame, although sitting far enough back to be difficult to see, and was chanting softly:
form does not differ from emptiness;
emptiness does not differ from form.
That which is form is emptiness;
that which is emptiness form.
The same is true of feelings, perceptions, formations, consciousness.
all dharmas are marked with emptiness.
they do not appear nor disappear,
are not tainted nor pure,
do not increase nor decrease..."
"The Heart Sutra in the middle of the night?" asked Jomei.
"I greet you, Master Jomei," the figure said, gasshoing in his direction, although not leaving the shadows. . The figure was dressed in the flowing robes of a monk.
"Who are you?" the monk asked.
"My name is Matsu, although I doubt if we have ever met.I suspect that neither I nor any of my brothers would really be welcome in your temples." He turned to face him, coming out of the shadows, revealing silver hair, a young face, and two light colored eyes. When the firelight hit them just right, they glowed. "I am, after all, Youkai."
"I have travelled a long way to speak with you, Master Jomei. My Master, Teijo, wishes to invite you to his temple. He and the monks of the Riverstone Temple bid you welcome. They have heard that you are searching for Kukai's Hand, and would like to aid you."
"Why would a youkai wish to aid me finding Kukai's Hand? Is it not the relic which will spell the end of youkai in this land?" Jomei asked.
"Master Teijo didn't give me the answer to that one," he said. "He only told me to offer you his aid, and that if you continue west you will meet up with the people who will guide you to Kukai's Hand. Thank you for sharing your fire with me. I will leave you to your rest. Go in peace."
With that, the youkai dressed as a wandering monk stood up, took his staff and slipped into the shadows.