Chapter 10: Fox Tales
The Evil in Men's Hearts
Chapter 10: Fox Tales
It is too clear, and so it is hard to see.
A dunce once searched for a fire with a lighted lantern.
Had he known what fire was,
He could have cooked his rice much sooner.
Hakuzo felt the warm sun on his face. He sat outside of his ransacked house breathing the sweet clean air untinged by blood and fear and strangers, and let his mind rebalance in the sunlight. After a time, though, the faint touch of another's youki touched his. He acknowledged it, did not break his concentration.
Matsuo came and sat down beside him.
The Kitsune sighed, opened his eyes. "Once," he said, "A priest was asked by a farmer to recite some sutras for his dead wife. The farmer asked the priest if his wife had gained merit for the recitation.. The priest replied, 'Not only your wife, but all sentient beings gain when the sutras are recited.'
"The farmer thought a moment. 'Perhaps other folks in the afterworld would take advantage of my wife, taking her share of merit. If you could, could you say them just for her? Just to be safe?' The priest, sighing, explained how it was a Buddist's desire to offer blessings and wish merit on every living being.
"The farmer thought about this a bit, and said. "What a noble teaching! But I have such a baka neighbor who is always trying to take advantage of me -- could we leave him out of all those sentient beings?'
"Ah, the temptations of attachment - to wish to exclude those who have wished us ill and offered us hurt."
"Have you gone through your library yet? " Matsuo asked.
"Not yet." he replied.
"Sesshoumaru's on his way, I think." Matsuo said, looking into the distance.
'Sesshoumaru?" the kitsune asked. "Why?"
"To see what Jomei did to your house, I believe. I ran into Master Teijo last night. He told me that a couple of Jomei's sohei were caught stalking that human girl he cares for."
"That is interesting." He stood up. "Then let's go make some tea. The kitchen's not too much of a disaster."
Kagome peeked out at Sesshoumaru from behind InuYasha's back.
"Jomei?" she said. "How--"
"Oi, Brother, you're full of supprises today." InuYasha said.
Sesshoumaru looked at them, giving away nothing really from his impassive face. His only concession was a raised eyebrow as he scrutinized them both. "Follow me. We will sit and talk."
He lead them to a nearby meadow, where Jaken, Rin and Ah-Un waited.
"Getting ready to travel?" InuYasha asked.
"I am....hunting.' said Sesshoumaru.
Sesshoumaru and InuYasha took seats in the meadow.
"Hello, Kagome-sama. Is Kohaku with you today?" said a soft voice.
Rin had quietly came up to the couple, today wearing a fine yellow kimono with a green obi. She had grown a little since they had seen her last, but Kagome suspected she would never be very tall..
"Not this time, Rin-chan. He's with Sango and Miroku."
The girl seemed dissapointed. Kagome remembered that they had spent a lot of time together before the jewel was purified. .
"Please tell him I asked about him," Rin said. She took a seat not far from Sesshoumaru.
"Well, if you are hunting Jomei, Brother, you will want to stop at Hakuzo the Kitsune's house first. He was there. Jomei attacked Hakuzo."
Sesshoumaru lifted an eyebrow. "Your arrival is fortunate. This ningen sent others that threatened what was mine. I had not known this ningen was going to make it so easy for me and come so close." He gave a slight, feral smile. "Tell me what you know."
"He's some sort of missionary priest, helping others set up temples. Don't know how he ended up in the Western Lands, but we had a run-in with his people back at village called Kita. They were displeased with Kagome and me travelling together. The fuckers tried to use stink pellets and ofuda on us, but we got away. Found out that they were saving us for when Jomei got there so they could dispose of us." InuYasha tensed at the memory. Kagome took his hand.
"Miroku told us that Jomei was the leader of a sect that believes he's doing the Buddha' s will to liberate souls if he kills a Youkai," Kagome said. "We'd never heard of them them before, although they had contact with the Slayer's village before it was destroyed."
"The new ningen who would be supreme leader does not like the sohei. He has been chasing them away" Sesshoumaru said. "Tell me, Little Brother, how you knew about Hakuzo."
"He found us." said InuYasha. "He was wounded. We helped him."
"You will come with me," Sesshoumaru said, standing.
The house they came to turned out to be abandoned. By the level of weeds in the yard around it, it may have stood vacant for two or three years, its owners no doubt the victims of bandits or sickness, or perhaps the endless fighting by humans that went on between warlord and warlord. The house hadn't been burnt, though, so maybe the owners had run off, and met with a different fortune.
Miroku lifted the hanging door. The inside seemed empty of creatures or other occupants at the current time. The others followed.
Sango quickly brushed the dust out. She sent Kohaku and Shippou off to gather firewood.
She watched her brother walk off into the distance. He had gotten some more growth, but he still remained quiet, thoughful, and cutely freckle-faced. Yet he was no longer deeply withdrawn or plagued by nightmares. Sango thought, as she often did, what a miracle Kagome and InuYasha had wrought for Kohaku to still be with them, unpoisoned by all the evil Naraku had used him for. When they purified the Shikon no Tama, wishing for Kohaku, they had both given up dreams of their own - Kagome the way home to her family, InuYasha any chance to become one or the other. Kagome remained trapped here and InuYasha remained Hanyou. And Sango knew she could never ever thank them enough.
"I'm so tired of travelling, " Miroku said, plopping down near the firepit. "Where is Koku?"
"He went down to the stream to get some water. If it's any comfort, he told me that we should reach our destination tomorrow."
'Well, that's something. I mean, we hadn't even made it home, just to Kaede's village."
"Yeah, I know."
She began to build a fire in the fire pit.
"My beautiful Sango," he said, just watching her. "Is there something you would like me to do?"
"You could cook." she said, feeding the tiny flame she had started bits of dry wood.
He sighed. "I thought you might say that."
"I am much better throwing Hiraikotsu at youkai than I am at using cooking pots. I do hope you realize that before we are wed." The fire was going well, and she fed it some larger pieces of wood.
"Having eaten your cooking enough, I am under no delusions." He smiled at her.
Blushing prettily, she stood up. "I'm going to find the boys. We need more wood, and they're taking long enough."
She stepped out of the hut and nearly ran into Koku, the reason they were even there. He was an older man with a twinkle in his eye and a likeable way about him. Looking for someone to help his village with some troublesome rat youkai, he had found them them in Kaede's village on their way home. He was trudging up the path with two buckets of water.
"Excuse me, Sango-sama." he said. "Where do you want the water?"
"In the hut. Have you seen Shippou or Kohaku?"
"Just a little behind me, I think."
He entered the house.
"Tell me a story," Shippou said as dinner was finished..
The small kitsune looked up at Sango with his bright green eyes. "Kagome always tells me stories."
He sighed, missing the woman who was most like a mother to him.
Sango smiled gently at him "Don't ask me. You don't like how I tell stories."
"Don't look at me," said Miroku. "My stories all involved lovely young ladies, and I don't want to get my beautiful Sango upset with me."
She glared at him slightly, saw the mischief in his face, then smiled.
"I'll tell you one," said Koku, smiling.
Shippou bounded over to sit next to him. Koku took a drink of his tea, shifted and sat more comfortably and began:.
"A long, long time ago, a kitsune met a tanuki."
"Like me and Hachi?" Shipou said.
" 'Hey, Tanuki!' the fox said. 'I know you and I are the best two in all the world for transforming into other people and things. But who of us is better at it?' Koku contineued.
" 'Why, that's easy,' said the tanuki. 'It's me, of course!'
"'O yeah?' the fox said. 'Prove it!' So they decided to have a contest.
"The kitsune knew that the tanuki had an interesting habit. Whenever he would see an image of Jizo-sama, the bodhisattva who especially watches over children and travellers, he would get hungry. So the kitsune, running to a place where he knew the tanuki would be passing, went and turned himself into a statue of Jizo. When the tanuki passed by, he saw the image, and said, 'Hmmm...I'm hungry. Time to eat.'
"The tanuki sat down, took out some riceballs. He offered one to Jizo-sama, bowed his head. When he looked up, the riceball was gone. He got confused, wondering if he had even put it there. So he put out another one, bowed his head, and prayed 'Namu Amida Butsu,'and raised his head right away. The riceball was also gone! He put ut a third riceball, but this time, lifted his head before the prayer was through.
"What he saw was this: the statue of Jizo-sama was standing there with a half-eaten riceball in its hand. The tanuki yelled "Hey!" and grabbed the arm. Suddenly, the statue turned back into the Kitsune's usual form. The fox smiled up at the tanuki and said, "Now it's your turn."
"The tanuki was unhappy about how the Kitsune tricked him, and so he thought a moment. 'About noon tomorrow, I'm going to change into the lord from the castle and come by this road. Be sure to be here and watch."
"The kitsune was there waiting the next day, waiting to see. Finally the procession reached his hiding place. First, there came the sweepers yelling 'Down! Everybody down!' Next came a long line of samurai, and then finally, the palanquin in which the lord was riding. It was all very impressive and majestic. The fox was amazed at his friend's skill, and ran over to the lord's basket.
"'Tanuki-sama! Tanuki-sama!' he called, "You have beaten me. This is amazing.' But this was not a transformation by the tanuki at all; it was the real thing. One of the samurai carrying a staff came over to the kitsune. The Kitsune was beaten indeed, and severely."
"Hey, the tanuki cheated!" said Shippou.
"And the kitsune made a joke out of holy things. Perhaps Jizo was being compassionate, letting the kitsune learn a lesson that would teach him something he needed to learn?" said Miroku.
Koku smiled at him.