Walks and Talks at dinner time, Kami, Human, and Youkai
The Evil in Men's Hearts
Chapter 20: Rice Time
Always working alone, always walking alone,
The enlightened one walks the free way of Nirvana
With melody that is old and clear in spirit
And naturally elegant in style,
But with body that is tough and bony,
Passing unnoticed in the world.
The rat trailed ahead, sniffing as it meandered. They were walking through a forest of pine trees, filled with the sweet scent of pine and deep shadows. Brown needles crunched under his feet as he moved further along the trail. The trail was going uphill. He could hear the sound of running water.
"She always did like this place," he muttered, although I never understood quite why."
He plopped himself down on a large rock, looked down the trail to see how far he had climbed, happy to feel the warmth of the late afternoon sun on his face. The rat noticed him sitting, came up and nuzzled his leg.
'"Hungry, friend? Let me see what we've got today."
Opening his bag, he took out a rice ball, and gave a large part of it to the rodent, who ate it happily. Off in the distance, he began to hear the soft sounds of the biwa playing, melodic and melancholy, and then came the the soft touch of her aura as it drifted out as soft and as lovely as the sweet notes of her music.
"Ignore the darkness," came a gentle voice singing.
"Ignore the darkness
that keeps us apart, my love,
ignore the shadow --
let no curtain hide,
let no barrier divide
the way of your feet to me."
"Ah, friend Nezumi, I do believe that the lovely lady wants to see us," he said. Opening a silver flask, Daikokutan took a long drink, then stood up, reshouldering his large white bag. "Are you refreshed? Ready?"
The rat nodded and they began to walk.
Kagome smiling shyly, brought over bowls of rice porridge to where Matsuo and the monk were sitting.
"I am sorry I do not have any suitable soup," she said. "All we have is some rabbit stew, but I thought the rice would be good."
Matsuo gracefully took the bowls from her hand hands. "Thank you, Kagome-sama. It was very kind of you."
"Kagome-sama!" said Rin, following behind her. "Lord Sesshoumaru sent me to ask if you would have some soup for me?"
Kagome took the little girl's hand. "Of course, Rin. And rice, too"
They walked back to where InuYasha sat watching the stewpot, a flash of red near the middle of the camp. Rin happily chattered about a particularly large butterfly she had just seen as they walked away.
"Hmf," said Saicho. He sat there, unmoving, eyes scowling, kneeling on the ground. His bound hands lay in his lap, a bandage still wrapped around his head. "You take food from a woman like that?"
"Like what?" Matsuo asked as he made preparations to eat, taking out some small dishes and chopsticks, laying them carefully on a black cloth.
"She is partner to that...hanyou."
"Yes. He is her husband, by youkai and human custom," Matsuo replied, looking carefully at the man sitting next to him.
Saicho spit. "Youkai don't marry. She is unclean."
"You do not know much, monk," Matsuo said, sighing. "There is nothing unclean about Kagome. She has strong spiritual powers and knows much about healing. It was she who dressed your wounds before you woke up. Do not talk like that in the presence of her husband. He takes her honor seriously."
Saicho said nothing, but continued to look across the campsite. Both Teijo and Sesshoumaru had left.
Matsuo took a small plate, dishing out some of the rice. Taking a small cup, he poured some water. Putting it to the side, he gasshoed and chanted:
"Oh, all you hungry ghosts
We now offer this food to you;
May all of you everywhere
Share it with us together.
"The first portion is for the Three Treasures,
The second is for the Four Blessings
The third is for the Six Paths.
The first taste is to cut off all evil
The second is to practice all good,
The third is to save all beingsl
May we all attain the Way of the Buddha."
He placed one of the bowls before Saicho.
"We venerate the Three Treasures and are thankful for this meal, the work of many people." he said.
Saicho stared down at his bowl, unmoving. "I am not impressed with your show of piety, Youkai."
"You are free to eat or not eat," Matsuo said, sighing. He reached around the other man's back, removing an ofuda he had placed there. "I am free to offer. I won't untie your hands or feet, but for the moment, I will give you freedom to move to eat."
Matsuo picked up his ricebowl and began to eat, as he watched Saicho stand up slowly and begin to stretch. The next thing he knew there was a bowl of rice in his face, and he felt the impact of his own staff against his head.
MIroku stared at Shippou and the white shape in front of him
"Tsukikage, eh?" Miroku said.
"Yeah." said Shippou. He sat down next to the fox and hugged her around the neck.
Sango walked up behind Miroku. "Shippou, why did you walk off?"
"Tsukikage was trying to get my attention. You all were so focussed on finding Koku that you didn't even see her," Shippou said.
"Oh my," Sango said, looking at the fox. The fox tilted her head, looking her in the eye. "It's not like we can talk to foxes like you do, Shippou. I mean, that's a kitsune thing."
"Oh, that's right. I forgot." said Shippou.
Tsukikage walked around Shippou, sat down on her haunches, and stared intently into Miroku's violet eyes.
"Tsukikage-sama, why do you look so familiar to me?" Miroku asked. "They say that white foxes are either a sign of calamity or a messenger from the kami. Which one are you, pretty lady?"
"Don't you say bad things about her," said Shippou, his eyes flashing angrily at Miroku. "She's a spirit fox! Can't you feel her aura?"
"The only ki I feel right now it that of a naughty kitsune who ate my last rice cake last night," Miroku said.
"Uh...." said Shippou. "But she's still nice! Don't you say anything mean!"
"She's going to take us to Koku," said Kohaku, walking up to join them. "Didn't you hear what she just said?"
Saicho dashed into the forest, clutching the staff in one hand, and the small sharp blade that he had cut the hobbling rope on his feet with. He had been amazed to find that it had been overlooked when they had taken his weapons, but it felt like a present from the Kami, and he wasn't about to miss the chance. He knew he only had a little opportunity to get away, with nothing to mask his scent or hide his tracks, and he could hear noises behind him, but still he ran.
The trees here were mostly pines, and the air was filled with the smell of their resin, and he kept to them, hoping that the fragrance might at least make it harder for them to scent him. He was headed downslope, looking for a stream, something to give him an edge, when suddenly, a gray and silver shadow dropped in front of him.
"Greetings, Sohei," said Teijo.
The monk held the staff carefully, automatically positioning his hands into the most stable grip, moving into a ready posture, the staff held in a chudan level pointing at Teijo. The ground he stood on was sloped slightly, and strewn with rock and broken branches, not the place he would have preferred to fight an enemy like this youkai swordmaster, but the staff felt good in his hands.
Teijo unsheathed his sword. "I will not let you find your martyrdom, Sohei." he said.
Sachio could feel the tingling at the back of his neck that signaled the rise of youki. "Namu Amida Butsu," he whispered.
Teijo began to execute a shomen-uchi, raising his sword up in preparation for the downstroke, ane Sachio replied with a foward lunge towards his throat, which with lightning speed, and perhaps his ki, Teijo avoided, easily missing the followup hit to the ribs. They sparred this way two or three times, when suddenly, the youkai smiled, grabbed the staff and pulled it out of the sohei's hands, knocked the human onto his feet, and placed the butt of the staff on his throat.
"You come from Kagu," he said to the prone man. "Does Master Genno still terrify the young students?"
"Not as much as he used to. He was getting too frail for that, the last time I left." Saicho said. His eyes grew wide. "How did..."
Teijo sheathed his sword. "Your style. I studied with him, a long, long time ago. It'll be a sad day when he can no longer terrify a class of students."
He yanked the monk up to his feet. "You will not run away again, or I will let Sesshoumaru have you. You will not like that. Amida has sent you here to learn. Keep your eye, your heart, and your mind alert. Stay with Matsuo. Otherwise, you will die with unfulfilled destiny, and I will have to go back to Kagu and report to your teachers what type of student they released."