Chapter 15: Things Going Bump in the Night
Midnight discussions, a bit of a fight, and a white snake.
The Evil in Men's Hearts
Chapter 15: Things Going Bump In the Night
Appearance and intention --
how they ensnare when well used!
Even if they suspect
something behind the surface.
When you set up the ploy,
you win by letting them do the action.
--Adapted from Yagyu
InuYasha jumped up almost immediately from where he had been sleeping against a base of a tree next to Kagome's bedroll.
"Kagome!" he said, wrapping his arms around her. He sat down, pulled her into his lap.
"InuYasha, you're alive!" she cried, turning towards him and burying her face in his chest. She fisted his haori, holding tightly, as if she might lose him. "It was so real. I could feel you," she sobbed. "You were so cold..."
"Hush," he said, resting his cheek against the top of her head. "It was just a dream."
"It was so real. You were dead, under the bodies of Kirara and Shippou, all dead. And Sesshoumaru, too. So many others. I could smell the blood. I could hear the flies." she said.
He rocked her gently, making soft comforting noises. Hearing a footstep, he looked up. Sesshoumaru stood before them, his white clothes and hair shadow wrapped and touched with red by the low fire burning near her bedroll.
"I heard the miko scream in her sleep," he said. As careful as the daiyoukai was about letting emotion show in his face, he looked a her with some concern in his eyes.
"I...I had a nightmare," Kagome replied, pulling away from InuYasha just a little so she could glance at him.
"You have taken her as your mate, Little Brother." It was a statement, not a question.
InuYasha nodded, stroking her hair. "Right after we got Naraku."
"She has kept her miko powers?"
"Yeah." InuYasha said. "Why shouldn't she?"
"Most would consider it amazing that miko spiritual powers could co-exist when bonded to someone with Youkai blood, much less having lost the purity of her body."
Kagome sat up in InuYasha's arms, turned up her palm, and watched the aura around it grow clearly pink.
"Nobody's got a heart purer than Kagome," InuYasha said. "That's what counts."
"I see," said Sesshoumaru. "Stay close to together, you two. Rinji may mean peaceful forest, but strange things happen here. Nightmares and dreams ought not to be ignored. We are just at the edge. If the forest is reaching out to you already, Miko, you will surely need InuYasha's strength."
"I saw you and InuYasha dead, Sesshoumaru." Kagome said. "And many other youkais, stretched out on a battlefield. It was a warning. A woman asked for my help."
"It was just a dream, Kagome," InuYasha said, pulling her closer to him.
"Perhaps," said Sesshoumaru.
Jomei was trying very hard not to fall asleep.
He stumbled down the trail, even though it was quite dark. Surrounded by trees lifting up their arms like midnight soldiers leading him on, he carefully walked down the trail, lit only by the moonlight. For some reason, it seemed the way before him opened up, prepared for his tired feet, step after step. He had no trouble with his footing, stumbling over neither rock nor root nor unlevel ground.
Sleep had become the enemy to him. No matter what wards he put up, no matter what ofuda he used, no matter what prayers he said, every time he closed his eyes, it seemed that he saw his sister's death over and over and over. Even now, he could remember the sound of her hopeless voice, the panic, the anguish in his mother's eyes, the sound of his father's axe falling. Sometimes he saw it as he did as a child, sometimes, as if he were her Youkai lover, sometimes as if he were his mother. Almost every time he woke up, he would see that damned white fox staring at him.
"Am I in Hell?" he asked. "Sentenced to wander forever reliving that day?"
He was so tired. He stopped, took a drink of water. Yesterday he ran out of food. But he wouldn't go thirsty. He kept crossing streams. Or was it the same stream, he wondered. Was he walking in circles?
" Namo Amida Butsu, Namo Amida Butsu" he chanted. "If this is Hell, please help me Jizo! I know I'm not a child but remember that bad priest you went to help who only bowed to you every now and then. I know --- Now which way do I go?"
He came to a fork in the road. As far as he could tell from looking at them, both ways looked the same -- narrow, tree lined, mostly level. He started to the right, but saw something moving across the path. No, make that crawling across the path. It was a white snake, long and as round as his wrist. It should have been hard to see in the darkness, but somehow, it seemed to glow softly in a clear white shimmer. It reached halfway across, and began coiling up. As he watched, the snake rose up a bit, stuck out it's tongue and looked at the monk.
"No," he thought he heard the snake say, in a soft, hissing voice."This path leads to death. Do not walk here."
A shiver went up his spine, and he slowly backed up.
"Then I will go left," he said, not taking his eyes off the snake until he had gone left enough to be out of its sight.
InuYasha sat and held Kagome for what felt like a long time, rocking her, stroking her hair, holdinging her closely, but she wouldn't relax and go back to sleep. She sat there in his arms, tense and unspeaking, only staring into the fire.
Suddenly, he picked her up bridal style and began running with her.
"InuYasha! What!' she said as he grabbed her.
"I'm getting us somewhere private, where we can at least talk without waking everybody up.. You need to do more than stare into the fire." he replied. "You need to sleep. I've never seen you this upset over a nightmare."
"I've never had a nightmare that seemed that real." she replied.
Moonlight filtered through the trees as he ran with her, playing with the shadows, and the wind danced in his silver hair, giving him his own ghostlike shimmer. Suddenly though, he stopped, his ears twitching.
He whispered to her, "There are youkai nearby...and humans."
Putting her down, he turned around to see Teijo and Matsuo. Teijo motioned for him to be silent, then waved him on to follow.
He whispered, "Stay behind me and out of the way, Kagome. You don't even have your bow."
Moving very quietly, they came across a group of five warrior monks, resting around a small fire. One, wearing his hood, kept watch, sitting on the ground, but his hands clasping a naginata. Teijo motioned Matsuo, armed with his staff to the left. He circled to the right, where the guard sat. InuYasha unsheathed Tessaiga..
Suddenly, Teijo grabbed the guard up, ripped his throat with a clawed hand. The man gurrgled as the blood squirted forward, and dropped his naginata. The naginata hit one of the monks who sat up instantly, with a yell. Blocking his opponent's sword draw by jabbing the butt of his katana handle into his chin, he pulled his scabbard back, freeing his sword, which he raised in an overhead arch to come crashing down on the monk.
InuYasha jumped in with a yell, almost simultaneously and quickly eliminated the monk closest to him. Matsuo had knocked one of the monks unconcious, and was concentrating on the second when Teijo stepped in and made short work of him.
Kagome was impressed with how quickly it happened.
Matsuo bound the unconscious monk and heaved him ovver a shoulder. "Take him to Sesshoumaru?' he asked.
"Thank you," he said, turning to InuYasha. "It made the job simpler."
InuYasha didn't think his uncle needed him at all.
They had made good time, it seemed. The roads dwindled to paths, but they were over smooth ground, lightly forested that was flat and easy walking.
Koku had assured them that tomorrow they would get to Rinji and the job he had for them.
Miroku had found a good campsite. It was near water, had shelter from any nearby roads, and a good place to lay out the bedrolls. There was no hint of rain. Sango and Shippou had gone hunting and come back with several plump rabbits, which Miroku made into a stew. They had a good time talking around the fire, Even Kohaku laughed some at a silly story that Koku had told them. After the good rabbit stew and good talk, everybody settled down for some serious rest.
Later, after everybody else was sound asleep, Koku got up, and rummaged in his bag, and took out a large mallet. While he was doing this, something about him changed. He grew stouter, and his peasant clothes transformed from poor simple hemp cloth to something soft and silky. He himeself began to glow with an internal light, neither human ki nor jyaki, but something warm and happy that would fill the watcher with hope and the knowlege that luck is on their side. He hefted his mallet and struck it on the ground. A soft blue light shimmered over the entire campsite, and as it touched the sleepers, they each stirred a little, and made soft sounds. Even Kirara mewed, opened one eye.
"No, you need to sleep, my friend," he said, touching her lightly. You need to be a part of this too."
The firecat purred softly, fell back asleep.
There was a scratching in his bag. He opened it up, and out popped a rather large rat who ran to sit on his shoulder.
"Well, hello, friend. You've come to keep old Daikokuten company? There will be no oni to fight today." he said to the rat. The rat wiggled his nose and brushed his whiskers in acknowledgement.
He walked to the edge of the clearing. "Good luck friends. I have errands to run. I am sure Benzaiten will take fine care of you. I leave you with Daikoku's blessing."
And with that, the kami walked off into the night.