some things going bump in the night...
The Evil in Men's Hearts
Chapter 14: Night Visits
To live in nothingness is to ignore cause and effect;
This chaos leads only to disaster.
The one who clings to vacancy, rejecting the world of things,
Escapes from drowning but leaps into fire.
From the Shodoka
"This has to be one of the most unusual groups I've travelled with," Hakuzo told Kagome when they stopped for the evening. He had just come back with an arm filled with firewood, put it down, and sat next to her.
They had made camp early, mostly after Kagome complained loudly to InuYasha how tired she was, and he was able to get Sesshoumaru to agree. And she was tired. Her feet hurt from trying to keep up. InuYasha had travelled as rear guard and hadn't wanted to carry her, and Sesshoumaru had set a brisk pace.
Kagome sat by the fire, checking the rice pot, remembering fondly the days of ramen soup, and how fast it was to feed to people. Instead it was rice and soup and whatever InuYasha brought in from his hunting.
"Remind me how I never want to travel with a group of Inu Youkai again. One or two, maybe, but never four." Kagome replied.
"I'm surprised you haven't decided to tell us all to go to hell and returned home, Kagome-san." he said. "It can't be the easiest thing for a miko to put up with all the youki. Particularly with those three needing to work together and setting off sparks. At least Matsuo isn't part of the tension."
"I've travelled in Sesshoumaru-sama's company before during the search for Naraku. At first InuYasha and his brother acted very...well...abrasive towards each other, but towards the end, they were able to work together as allies, if not friends. But with whatever is going between Teijo and Sesshoumaru, it has made it uncomfortable,." she admitted.
"That's a story in itself that goes back a long way between the two. I need to let one of them explain it to you." he said. "I'm just an humble scholar. I'm not brave enough to get in the middle of an Inu Youkai family squabble."
She made a wry face. "I can understand that. I've done it a couple of times."
Rin came up shyly next to Kagome.
"Kagome-sama, may Rin sit here with you?"
"Of course, Rin-chan. "What have you been doing since we stopped?" Kagome asked.
"I helped Ah Un find a meadow near here. Then I thought I heard Sesshoumaru-sama, so I came back, but it was InuYasha-sama instead. He was fishing in the stream we got the water from."
"I'm sure that means we'll have fish for dinner," Kagome said. "Better than just rice and dashi."
"Rin-chan, You like flowers, I know," said Hakuzo. "Do you know the story of the white and yellow chrysanthemums?"
Rin shook her head no.
"Well then, I'll tell it to you. Once, a gardener saw two chrysanthemums growing in a field, one yellow and one white. He took a liking to the yellow flower. 'Yellow Flower, would you like to come home with me? I'll treat you kindly and help you become far more lovely than you are now.' he told her, and she agreed. Waving goodbye to her sister, she went off to her new life."
InuYasha strolled into the campground with his fish.
Hakuzo continued his tale. "The gardener treated Yellow Flower very well, and her petals grew long, and her leaves shined and she looked perfect. Sometimes, though, she would think of her life in the field, and her sister, White Flower, and feel sad because she knew her sister had no one left to talk to. But when the gardener came by, she would forget all about it and be happy with him as he worked to make her more beautiful."
Kagome motioned for InuYasha to come sit by him. She helped him prepare the fish for cooking.
"But one day, a man came to the gardener, and said he was looking for a flower he could use to put on his lord's crest. The gardener walked him through the garden, and showed him Yellow Flower. The man said, 'No, my lord would like a chrysanthemum, but Yellow Flower is too elegant and fancy for what he wants.' and he went away.
"After leaving the gardener, the man came to the field where White Flower was. She, in her simple beauty was perfect. 'White Flower, would you like to be the object of my lord's crest? I would take you to his castle where you would have a very good life.' White Flower agreed, for she was lonely in her field, and so the man carefully took her to his lord's castle where she grew happily. The Lord was delighted with his White Flower, and soon artists came and painted her face on all the family's things. She no longer needed to look at herself in a mirror, for she saw her simple white face on lacquer boxes and robes and the family's most prized possessions.
"Alas, for Yellow Flower, for in becoming such a pampered lady, for one day, she felt something horrid pass through her leaves, and she died. The gardener's attention to making her beauty more elaborate had stolen her health. But White Flower, carefully allowed to be her own beautiful self, not something she wasn't, lived a long and happy life in her lord's castle."
Rin smiled. "I like that story, Hakuzo-sama."
"Rin, would you go tell Jaken that dinner is nearly ready?" Kagome said.
She nodded and got up.
"Have you seen Teijo or Matsuo?" Hakuzo asked InuYasha.
InuYasha expertly skewered the last of the fish and placed it over the fire to cook, then got up and poured water over his hands. "Not for awhile. I saw them together, heading off towards the east."
"I'll go take a look," said the kitsune, then walked off.
"Did you see Sesshoumaru?" Kagome asked.
"I think he was checking something he had scented. He was headed downstream last I saw him."
"So we make camp and everybody goes wherever?" she asked. "I think I have a bad feeling about this trip."
"Feh." InuYasha said, putting the last fish to the fire. "I suspect Sesshoumaru is out hunting for himself. He really doesn't like most ningen food. Who knows what Teijo is up to."
"If you want, Matsuo, you can spend the night with the others. I'll rejoin you in the morning." Teijo said.
They had walked a good bit away from the main camp. Out of sight, out of hearing, out of smell of the others.
"I thought they might rest easier without me there. Sesshoumaru is troubled by my presence. InuYasha, loyal without questioning, is bothered by Sesshoumaru's unease." he admitted.
"Sesshoumaru has trouble seeing obligations and loyalties beyond his blood and pack," said Matsuo.
"That, and he blames me for the way things turned out," Teijo said.
Matsuo raised an eyebrow, knowing that Teijo was leaving things left unsaid, but remained quiet and unsurprised. Teijo-sensei often left things about his obligations left unsaid.
"I will stay, Sensei." said the monk.
"Then let us meditate on this:
'When you try to stop activity by passivity
your very effort fills you with activity.
As long as you remain in one extreme or the other
you will never know Oneness.'"
Later, Matsuo lay sleeping beneath the trees where he and Teijo had set up camp, away from the others.
A soft, shimmering light hovered a small distance away. Teijo sat up, saw the light, felt the hairs at the back of his neck stand up. A white fox looked at him, patiently, flicked its tail, then turned, began to walk off towards the light, looking back once to see if the youkai was going to follow.
He stood up and quietly began to follow the fox towards the light.
She stood there, in a clearing, her white robes shimmering like moonlight, her presence radiating something that was neither ningen ki nor youki, but something more. She smiled at him gently, while the fox came and sat at her feet. Her eyes shined kindly, and she had a gentle smile, but there was something about the beauty of her person which was both inviting and frightening and comforting at the same time.
He swallowed, breathed deeply. The red stone he carried in his robes began to radiate heat, heat he could feel through its wrappings and his kosode. He had only seen her one time before, and his whole life had been changed.
"Benzaiten-sama," he whispered.
"Yes, Teijo. It is time for you to come talk with me."
Kagome found herself in a gray place, lit with a soft light that had no obvious source.
"Welcome, little sister," a soft woman's voice said.
Out of the grayness, a lovely woman in a red kimono stood in front of her. She had brilliant green eyes. and ebony black hair. She was obviously youkai.
"Who are you?" Kagome asked.
"I need your help, little sister."
"Who are you? Why?"
"If you do not help me, those you love who have Youkai blood will die."
The gray that surrounded them parted.
Kagome saw a battlefield of dead and dying Youkai.
"This could come to pass without your help." said the woman.
Kagome walked over to the nearest group of bodies, where she saw a flash of bloodstained white Sesshoumaru lay there, dead and mutilated. She saw a gravely wounded Kirara, hiding the form of a cold and unmoving Shippou with his throat slashed.. Saw another body half buried by the others, bloody, red, and silver, and when she uncovered it, it was a cold and lifeless InuYasha.
"Help me, sister."
Kagome woke up screaming.