InuYasha and Kagome get a moment's privacy. Sesshoumaru ends a problem. Teijo reveals something.
Who shall conquer this world
And the world of death with all its gods?
Who shall discover
The shining way of dharma?
Snap the flower arrows of desire
And then, unseen,
Escape the king of death.
He sat in his garden. It was early evening, and the jasmine was blooming, white star shapes cascading against the rocks and walls where it was planted, releasing its sweetness.
A calming oasis was this enclosed garden within the castle grounds. There were various plantings, trees, shrubs, and a pool Lotus floated and and koi swam in its waters. Several interesting boulders had been placed where thy lead the eye up and towards ithe beyond. It was a place one might find quiet, or meditate, or otherwise renew oneself.
This evening, he would put it to a different use.
Anger burned inside of him. "They dared try to take what is MINE!" he whispered. Even through his well schooled control, the anger he held in affected his youki. Those who could gave him a wide berth, not wishing to feel his aura contact theirs. He wanted to ease that anger. He wanted to see the eyes, the soul of a person who would attack, to taste their smell, feel their heartbeat.
Only one of the two had made it through interrogation. They brought the surviving monk to him in the garden, removed his bonds. He had been beaten. He smelled of sweat and blood and pain, yet also of peaceful resignation. One eye was quite swollen. He held his left arm.
Yet he was a trained warrior, even if ningen, and the monk had withdrawn into some deep internal place, holding himself at the ready, waiting..
"Ningen," Sesshoumaru said, calm, controlled. "Why are you here?"
The man looked him squarely in the eyes, ignoring the pressure of his youki, the feral look in Sesshoumaru's eyes that promised darkness.
The interrogators have extracted all of this information. Yet Sesshoumaru needed to see the man's reactions, to understand, perhaps, or witness what sort of truths the truths ningen held in his heart.
"I am the servant of Amida," the monk said, tiredly, but patiently.
"No," Sesshoumaru said, very quietly. "Tell me WHY you are here in the Western lands. Why you came into my holdings without permission."
"To preach the Dharma. To liberate youkai."
"Who sent you into my lands?" .
"My sensei. Jomei."
Sesshoumaru raised an eyebrow at the audacity of the answer . The serenity behind the man's responses, here, when tasting the threat of death impressed the youkai. "And what were you doing when Teijo captured you?"
"We had found a girl who was talking with a youkai. We were going to free her from her youkai contamination." The monk looked defiantly at the Daiyoukai. "If we had known who she belonged to at that time, we might have acted swifter."
Red swirled in Sesshoumaru's eyes. Whatever curiosity he had about the ningen's motivations and training paled. THIS was the reason he was standing in the garden, looking at this creature. He stood, drew himself into his full height, allowed his youki to focus in on the monk. The man shuttered.
Sesshoumaru gave a feral grin, the type of grin a dog gives before the attack. "I give you a choice." he said thickly. " Stand here and enter the Pure Land, or try to run. I would enjoy the chase. I have your scent. You will not be able to escape."
The monk closed his eyes, swallowed. "I will not run. Namu Amida Butsu. I take refuge in Amida --" he said.
The youkai, his questions answered, his judgment rendered, tore out the monk's throat.
"We'll get there in the morning," InuYasha said. "You are too tired. Better not face my brother yawning in his face."
Kagome was suprised when they stopped. It was late afternoon. They had only travelled maybe three hours after parting ways with the kitsune. But she didn't want to fight him on this one. She was tired.
InuYasha found a good campsite far enough away from the road for privacy and close enough to water, sheltered with trees.
"I think I've camped here before, " he said.
The fire ring was proof of it having been used from time to time, but from the look and smell of things, he knew no one had used it recently.InuYasha caught some fish Quietly, they set up camp, gathering wood and making a fire, prepared dinner prepared and ate dinner..
The evening was calming, starlit.
InuYasha thought about tomorrow, and what he would tell his brother, and wondered what his brother wuold want to do.
Sighing, he looked over at Kagome, at her eyes in the firelight. They seemed darker than they were in this light. He knew they were blue-grey, stormy colored, yet at the same time serene, kind. Tonight they were tired but still when they touched his created an aching deep in his soul. How could anybody not see how she was good, pure, amazing, and want her to do what those monks did?.
"What ya thinking?" she asked, as she put away the last of the dinner dishes. The fire touched her blue black hair with highlights, wrapped the lines of her face, her neck, her body in shadow and light.
"About you." he said.
She looked up, met his amber eyes, smiled softly. There were times like now, his white hair, his ears, his eyes, the way he carried himself, touched her heart in amazing ways. So otherworldly, so strong, so vunerable so beautiful. She had loved his beauty since the day she first saw him pinned to the Goshinboku.
She moved next to him and rested her head against his shoulder. And what were you thinking about me?" she asked.
"Oh, just what a stubborn, beautiful, baka, special wench you are," he said, wrapping an arm around her. "Putting up with me, with this life, giving up so much you could have had."
A brief wistful look touched her eyes, as she thought of her loved ones five hundred years away, totally unreachable. But it only stayed there a moment. "I'll always be with you," she said,.repeating a promise she made once upon a time. "With you is where I want to be."
"So you put up with Youkai and bad monks and greedy villagers who want to hurt you for being with me." He ran a finger across her lips, coming to rest his hand along her jawline
"I love you. I can't be anywhere else." she replied.
He bent over her, brushed his lips lightly against hers with each word. "Wife. Mate. Beloved. Mine." he said.
"Yours, always," she replied, returning his kiss hungrily.
Matsuo sat under the stars, next to a small fire, seeming in deep meditation, although his youki was disturbed, and restlessly swirled around him. If he were not shaven headed, his hair would have been swirling in its current.
Pine trees waved in the true wind, darker shadows in the night echoing his agitation. Intentionally, he breathed deep, letting the mindfulness he was searching for, follow the path of each breath, pulling thruogh his nose, into his lungs, out again. And yet, his mind was a bee, unable to settle, really. His mind went out and could trace the eddies of power, jyaki and spiritual, human, youki and something he didn't recognize.
"Your ki is a stormy ocean tonight, Matsuo."
Matsuo opened his eyes and looked into the cool amber eyes of Teijo.
"There is a wind blowing on it that is not mine," he replied.
"This is true." Teijo replied.
Teijo reached into his haori and pulled out a small bag. Unfastening it, he pulled out a small gem that glowed with an intense red.
He thought about it the first time he saw it.
"Behold Kukai's hand. In it beats the blood heart of Youkai," said the kami.
Teijo watched it, feeling the power contained in it as it rolled around in the center of his hand..
"That is what it is," said Benzaiten, Kami of good fortune, lover of kitsunes and snakes, one face of Inari. She glowed with pale, otherwordly light that Kami burned with. "This guards the heart and soul of what the youkai, in all their forms are."
"Why?" he asked.
"The time is coming when their survival will depend on this stone. Ningen, without meaning to, will strip away all that is magic, as their deeds based on what can be measured and made wipe out all wonder. Yet as long as the Heart exists, they will never succeed fully."
Benzaiten's eyes pierced him. He felt naked in her eyes.
"Why did you ask me, and not a kitsune? Or even a snake?"
"I need Inu loyalty and honor. Can you do this? Will you do this? The price will be high. The need of the Heart and all Youkai before family, friend, heart."
He closed his eyes, felt his balance, sensed the winds of destiny swirling.
"I will do it."
Many things had happened since then. Always, he kept to the path, the road the stone prescribed. He had to turn his back on his brother's need and watch him die, unable to act. He to reject his sister-in-law's pleas for aid, and let her son grow up a wild thing. Always, everything fell away from the need to protect the stone, to guard the way, to insure the future.
Matsuo looked at the gem in his hand.
"This," said Teijo, "Is my curse. Yet it will be our salvation. It is calling all the players together."
"We must be getting near to your brother's castle," said Kagome. She signaled to InuYasha to let her down from his back.
"Thanks. My legs needed that, " she said stretching.
"It's not far, "InuYasha said. Once we get around that next rise and past the bend in the road, you'll be able to see the castle."
"I can feel lots of jyaki." She said.
"Not surprising. Lots of high youkai here. You know what my brother's youki feels like. He's probably the strongest, but he's not the only one around here with strong youki."
They followed the road as it climbed and circled round a dark outcropping of rock. Amid the weeds and grasses growing in its cracks, Kagome noticed ward signs. She could feel the power from them, something, she suspected, to chase away the unwary human.
"Look, Kagome. There is the keep of the Inu no Taishou, the Daiyoukai of the West."
The castle rose on a rise higher than the road they were on, like a small mountain. It had massive white walls and dark sloping roofs. Guard towers rose away from the main building, projecting the image of control, strength, power. Kagome was highly impressed.
"All that time we were looking for the shards," she said, "I had no idea that this was his base. He was travelling so often that I thought he was just a nomad."
"Don't know if he stayed here any more than we stayed at Kaede's, but this was his home. This place has bad memories for me. He can have it." said InuYasha.
They began to walk around the bend, when suddenly, InuYasha pulled Kagome behind him, just in case. A lone figure moved into the center of the road. White on white. His amber eyes gave very little information out; his face marked with crescent moon and crest stripes was held passionless.
"Little Brother. Miko." he said with a slight nod of his head. "You will tell this Sesshoumaru everything you know about a ningen priest named Jomei."