The Evil in Men's Hearts Chapter 5 - Waypoints
As the rain falls on all plants,
the Buddha's compassion is extented equally to all.
--The Teachings of Buddha
The faults of others - are they not easy to see?
The faults of our own - are they not most difficult?
Dawn filtered into Miroku's consciousness, and he sat up slowly. Sango's bedroll lay next to his, but she still lay sound asleep. He looked across the clearing to where InuYasha held a sleeping Kagome. InuYasha, propped up on one arm, his amber eyes staring thoughtfully into space, while his other arm held her her closely to him..
Miroku stood up, stretched, and moved over to the fire, stirred it, added some fuel.
"Morning, InuYasha." He grabbed the kettle, filled it with water from a bucket, put it on the fire. Once, seeing InuYasha and Kagome wrapped together that way, he would have hazarded a jest. Those times were gone. Instead, his face remained pleasantly neutral while he looked for the makings for tea.
InuYasha, breaking his thought, nodded a greeting at his friend, then gently shook Kagome.
"Time to wake up, Kagome. I'm going fishing." he said, getting up. He picked up his haori where he had draped it over them like a blanket, shrugged it on. Quietly, he walked out of the campsite and off towards the stream.
Kagome, her blue black hair scattered across her pillow, protested a little as he got up and removed his warmth, trying to snuggle deeper into her blanket, but then hgave up and sat up. "Well, I guess it's morning."
Later, after even a protesting Sango had to give in and wake up thanks to Miroku's persistance, and InuYasha had come back with fish, the four friends sat around the campfire, early morning light filtering through the trees.
"How many mornings have we done this, I wonder?" asked Sango. She yawned, sipped her tea.
"It's been a lot." said Kagome. There was a touch of nostalgia in her voice as she finished preparing their breakfast. Fish and rice balls. She suddenly hungered for the taste of instant ramen, but pushed that thought aside. "At least this morning we didn't have InuYasha telling us puny humans to hurry up and get moving."
"Feh!" he replied, smiling. "That's because I got tired of you crying 'Just five more minutes!' every time I woke you up. And I was hungry."
She handed him some fish and rice and smiled back.
"Well," Miroku said, accepting his own breakfast. "How far is it to Sesshoumaru's castle? How long do you think you'll be?"
"About a day and a half from here." InuYasha replied. "But I have no idea how long it'll take. My bastard brother may just blow it off, and we'll come right back home. Or not. At least five days. Maybe more."
Miroku and Sango exchanged glances. She looked at him wistfully, but uncertain. He nodded to her.
"I'd like to return to the village," Sango said. "Miroku and I could rescue Kaede from Shippou. I know that Kohaku has to be lonely."
She looked down on the ground, as if embarrassed. Miroku took her hand.
"That's not a bad idea, " said Kagome.
"We talked about it last night," Miroku said. "If we leave from here, we're less than two days away."
"Suit yourself," InuYasha said, standing up. "Although I'm sure Kaede can use the break."
The group broke camp, said goodbyes, and moved in opposite directions.
Jomei held the fan in his hands as he walked.
It was blue and silver and iron, a gussen, a war fan. The ribs were designed to be a weapon. When he opened the fan, the following verse was written on it in red characters:
Mistake false for true
And name that which is true false --
Miss the truth of life
If he had not found the fan this morning, he would have considered his meeting with Matsuo a dream. But when he had gotten up at sunrise, he found the indentation where the youkai had been sitting, and this fan. The fan - a symbol, a warning, an invitation.
And yet the whole thing seems so....wrong to him. Youkai monks? Youkai chanting sutras?
"I take refuge in the Buddha," he chanted. "I take refuge in the Dharma. I take refuge in the Sangha."
Leaning against his staff, he put away the fan, opened his bamboo canteen and took a drink.
His mind screamed trap. The fan was bait. The meeting was bait. Kukai's Hand, the biggest bait of all. His sensei had longed to find that particular artifact. With that artifact, he had been taught, he could release all those with youki, jyaki to move on into the next life straight to the Pure Land. Why would any youkai want to help him find this thing? It had to be a trap.
Yet the road up ahead of him, heading west, winding and travelling through rock and hill and forest, so far had no feel of evil aura about it. He would continue this way, at least for the time being.
"I take refuge in the Tathagata of Immesurable life!" he said, then began going down the road.
It was late afternoon when they came across the old hut, InuYasha carrying Kagome on his back. It was a small stone structure with a sound looking roof. On a small rise, it was free of nearby trees and had a clear view in three directions. The fourth faced a rocky area in the hill behind it.
"Let's stop here," said InuYasha. "I've stopped here before. Hut was in pretty good shape last time."
"Some reason you want to stop this early?" Kagome asked, as she got off his back. "Ah, it feels so good to stretch."
She took a few steps, straight-legged, stretching her knees. He rotated his shoulders and looked up at the sky.
"Going to rain tonight. I can smell it. You want a roof over your head when it hits?" he said. "We could have tried for a village, but..."
InuYasha let his words trail off.
Kagome, standing beside him, reached up putting two fingers to his lips. "I don't know when I'll want to go back to a village I don't know." she said.
He gave her a wry, sad smile. Turning, he opened the door to the small building, looked in. Inside, it was fairly clean, with only some leafy debris blown in since the last time it was used.
"Don't think any animals have been using it as a den lately," he said, sniffing the air. "Doesn't smell like fresh human or youkai traces either."
He placed her bag inside the hut.
He sighed. "I need to go hunting. Keep your bow near."
"I will." she replied.
After watching his red draped shape slip off into the woods beyond the clearing, she swept out the hut with a branch, and gathered wood to make a fire. The afternoon light was wonderfully sweet and non-threatening, with only a few clouds in the sky, but InuYasha was rarely wrong about weather changes. By the time he returned with a pair of rabbits in hand, she had a fire started in the fire pit. Serious clouds were beginning to build up.
They finished the last few chores of the evening fairly quietly, preparing the hut for the night, fetching water, laying out bedding, cooking dinner. But then, there wasn't anything left to do but sit and wait.
"How long has it been since we've gotten to be alone like this, InuYasha? In a room, under a roof, just you and me?" Kagome asked, looking at the fire as the rabbits roasted over the fire.
"Just me and you, without even the brat?" he said, looking thoughtfully. "Been awhile." He poked the fire with a stick, watched the sparks rise up.
She looked down, smiling. and reached out and touched his hand.
He moved closer, draped an arm around her shoulder. There was a clap of thunder nearby, quite loud. Kagome jumped at the surprising sound.
"I see the storm has come." she said, snuggling in tighter as she listenend to the rain fall, in loud heavy drops.
"Told you, " he said. He rested his chin on her head.
"This feels so good, but I'm hungry," said Kagome. "You think the rabbit's done?"
"Hmmm....probably," he said, not moving, except to lazily run a single claw along her thigh in lazy circles.
Suddenly, he bolted upright, pushed her away as he grabbed Tessaiga. "Wait here."
"What is it?" she said, reaching for her bow.
"Youkai. And very near."
He pulled back the door to run out when suddenly, a slender redheaded man, rain-drenched and bleeding, with elegant fox feet tumbled forward into the room.
“Kitsune!” said Kagome.
“Miko!” yelped the fox.
“Damn it,” InuYasha whispered. Kagome shot him a glance.
The kitsune stood up, looked at them both, then passed out.