Of foxes, partings, and gifts for Sesshoumaru
The Evil in Men's Hearts
Chapter 8: Gifts
This Great Bodhisattva Vow --
It shall be all-penetrating,
A shining light of wisdom and compassion,
An inconceivable light
Illuminating our inner darkness,
Enabling us to see our ignorance,
Our unquenchable desires,
Our own deep, awesome true reality.
---from the Juseige (slightly modified)
As Jomei pushed an overhanging branch out of the way, he realized wasn't exactly sure how he got to where he was.
Where he was was lost in the forest. He stepped carefully down the trail he was following, filled with low growing branches and rough brush near to ground. The path itself was quite narrow. There was something odd about it as it meandered through the trees and the occasional meadow. He thought, at first, it was a human trail, but something tingled as he walked it. Perhaps a deer path? There was a tiny touch of something supernatural. It wasn't jyaki, he was sure. It was far too pure, light.
Sometime during the night, he got totally lost in the storm and wandered until he found a shallow cave where he passed out, drenched, feverish, confused. Each thunderclap seemed to have echoed in his head. In the morning, when he finally stepped out of his shelter, he didn't recognize anything.
His face throbbed from where he was scratched by the Kitsune the night before. He felt lightheaded.
He chanted morning prayers as he walked, but his words seemed to be eaten up by the woods around him, muffling in the still air..
"A Tathagata's eye of wisdom
Penetrates even man's self-centeredness,
Penetrates conditioned and unconditioned equally,
Piercing the depths of inner darkness."
"Inner darkness," he mused. "What about darkness during the light of day?"
He thought for sure by now he would have run across some sign of humans - a hut, a field, a village. But as the day passed noon, he had found no sign. The forest he wandered in seemed to go on forever. Forested mountain guarded either side of his path. He had forded two shallow, swift streams. Beyond that, all he saw was wild.
Suddenly, a white shape darted in front of him, a quick moving animal.
"A fox?" he wondered. The back of his mind screamed, 'Watch out!', but the rest of him ignored it.
The fox's white fur seemed to glow. As he looked at it running away from him, he noticed a wisp of smoke, the type that curls out of a hut signalling home and hearth, off in the same direction. With a shrug, he followed the path the beast pointed out.
Kagome packed the last of the cooking things away in her pack as the four of them contemplated the kitsune's story. The air was very quiet, and she noticed the sound as the wind picked up and swayed through the pine trees nearby.
"You've heard of Jomei?" asked Hazuko, raising one ginger-red eyebrow.
"We had a run-in with some of his disciples last week." said Kagome.
Hazuko nodded briefly. "I had heard there was some new sect moving into the eastern reaches of Lord Sesshoumaru's holdings." He looked at InuYasha and Kagome.
InuYasha moved next to Kagome as she finished packing and wrapped a protective arm around her. "They caught us by surprise, and what they wanted to do deserves retribution. They were waiting for Jomei, but we got away first. This type of muck doesn't need to be spread here." InuYasha said. His eyes flashed red. "If I catch his scent, I will track him down and kill him."
"So that's why you're here. You came to see Lord Sesshoumaru about this." said Hazuko. "I know that you seldom come here."
InuYasha nodded. "My brother and I have....our differences. If he needs, I come, but mostly I let him go his way, and he does the same for me. I have my forest and village. But some things he needs to deal with. He is the Daiyoukai."
"I would agree with that." Hazuro said, standing up. "I'm getting anxious to go home and see what's happened to my library. Injuries are injuries, but rare books are sometimes a tragic loss. And my students might come looking, too. But I do thank you greatly for your care last night, friends."
Matsuo had been very quiet during this exchange, thinking about how he had been sent, and wondering what his master had in mind next for this renegade priest. Finally, he stood as well.
"Always the scholar, eh?" said Matsuo
"That is my calling. Inari knows why." he said.
"I will accompany you back home, " Matsuo said to his friend.
"I would appreciate that." the kitsune said. He looked at his friend thoughfully, realizing at last there was something deeper going on. He wondered, idly, if Matsuo would tell him anything.
"I bring you a gift, Nephew." Teijo said.
Sesshoumaru looked out at the ocean from a high place near the castle. The wind, and his youki pulled at his long silvery hair and his white silken clothing. A strong smell of sea and salt and change touched the air. His face remained impassive.
There was a muffled sound as the bodies of the two ningen monks hit the ground behind the youkai. They were bloody, bound and gagged, but still breathing, still wearing their armour, but carefully unarmed.
"And why would I want a pair of humans?' Sesshoumaru asked.
"These are special. They are sohei, Buddhist monks belong to a sect that believes all youkais should be liberated through death so they can be reborn as humans. They believe humans who are connected to youkais should perform hard service in retribution and penance so they too may be reborn in time to find the way to Nirvana.
"I found them in the woods stalking your own ningen," Teijo said. "They were discussing how to immobilize Jaken to kidnap Rin. I took them out while they were watching. I do not believe the girl noticed."
Sesshoumaru's face grew hard, and he swallowed, struggling to keep composed.
"Your brother should be here before nightfall. He will tell you a story about how he had a run-in with the same group. This IS one of the ways the ningin will be encroaching on you and yours. Nor is it the only way. Times are changing."
Sesshoumaru turned, looked at the two monks. Suddenly, he kicked one hard.
"Morio." he said.
A young armoured Youkai stepped forward. "Have these two taken to the dungeon. We will want to know what they know."
'You will need to talk to me before it's over, Sesshoumaru."
"When the time comes, perhaps." he said, then walked off.
Teijo smiled wryly. "Things, it seems, are accelerating," he said to no one in particular.