Chapter 24: Water in a Kami's Hands
Strange dreams, reunion gossip and hot tempers
A tenth of an inch's difference,
And heaven and earth are set apart;
If you wish to see it before your own eyes,
Have no fixed thoughts either for or against it.
To set up what you like against what you dislike--
This is the disease of the mind:
When the deep meaning of the Way is not understood
Peace of mind is disturbed to no purpose.
The Way is perfect like unto vast space,
With nothing wanting, nothing superfluous:
It is indeed due to making choice
That its suchness is lost sight of.
Pursue not the outer entanglements,
Dwell not in the inner void;
Be serene in the oneness of things,
And dualism vanishes by itself.
The gathering twilight cast long shadows over the small circle of friends.
"We were getting ready to head out when this man named Koku met us by Kaede's village," Miroku began, leaning against his staff. "He told us of a demon problem in his village, and wanted us to come and deal with it. Last night, he told us we'd make his village today, but this morning, Koku disappeared."
"We spent most of the day looking for him, but with no luck," Sango said with a sigh. "I'm not an expert tracker, but I usually can find some sign. Nothing." She shifted her boomerang on her shoulder.
InuYasha looked puzzled. "There's no village near here," he said.
"You mean there's no village called Rinji?" Miroku asked.
"The whole valley's called Rinji," InuYasha replied. "Never heard of a village here. Everybody near here avoids it like the plague. In fact, most people say this area's cursed. Strange things happen, people come in and never leave, or talk about meeting odd things. It's just not a place people come to."
"Then why would Koku have lead us here? He was nice, and told me stories," said Shippou.
"It is strange," said Miroku. "He had a pleasant aura."
The group fell silent.
"So," Miroku said after a few minutes. "What have you been doing? Did you meet up with Sesshoumaru?"
"Yeah." said InuYasha. "We've been tracking Jomei, the guy who seems to be the leader of the sect that attacked us. They've been infiltrating the Western Lands under my brother's nose. Evidently, they had a plan to attack and capture Rin. You can imagine how that set with Sesshoumaru. Jomei seems to have gotten to the valley here. We've run into some of his other followers near here, too."
"Is Rin okay?" asked Kohaku, who had looked up at the mention of the girl's name.
"Yes, she's doing well," said Kagome. "She's with Sesshoumaru and the others back at camp." Turning to Shippou, she said, "We met a Kitsune called Hakuzo. He had a run-in with Jomei, but we helped him out."
"Am I going to meet him? " Shippou asked.
"Certainly. He knows a lot, too. He's been a sensei a long time. I think you'll like him."
"So what should we do now?" Sango asked.
"Maybe we should all go back to camp." Kagome suggested. "I left most of my things there, and I see we have a lot of catching up to do."
"That's not a bad idea." InuYasha said. "It's only about an hour's walk from here. And I'm sure Kagome would like to have someone human to talk to besides Rin."
"InuYasha!" Kagome said.
"Well it's true, isn't it?"
She sighed. "There is something about your brother and uncle..."
"Uh, InuYasha?" Shippou interrupted from where he perched from Kagome's shoulder. "Before we go, there's someone here you need to meet."
InuYasha looked around, and didn't see anyone. "Who, Runt?"
Shippou pointed to the fox. She looked up at InuYasha, amber eyes meeting amber eyes.
**Greetings, InuYasha-Sama,** the fox said. "Greetings, Miko."
"Her name is Tsukikage," said Miroku. "We're not sure exactly why she's here. She seems to be able to talk to everybody but Sango."
'Inari, are you involved in this?' InuYasha thought.
**My lady has asked me to stay with your group,** the fox said. **I will be going with you.**
InuYasha shoved his hands into his sleeves. "And who is your lady?" he asked.
**You will meet her soon. She sends her blessing.**
"Well, we could use a blessing. Let's head back before it gets too dark to see."
Yuki' s voice droned on in Jomei's head, and he continued to see the events she was relating as if he were there, kneeling before a high ranking youkai noblewoman, surrounded by a guard of oni.
The youkai woman continued to look down on the man.
Jomei swallowed. "How...how could I, a poor peasant, help such a wonderful person as you, Noble One?" he asked, his voice wavering as he spoke.
"Ah, there is a place for all of us in the scheme of things...poor peasants, frightening rasetsu, bodhisattvas. Come. Today, there is a small child sick in bed. The healers have no way to help her. Kannon has heard the prayers of her parents' frantic prayers, and have sent us. But we, who know the way to heal her, are warded against entering the house of the one we could help." The youkai noblewoman looked deeply as if she were reading his heart. "Will you carry our cure to this family?"
He looked down on the ground, his thoughts racing. What if it were a trap? Or perhaps, the youkai wanted this child dead? Looking back up at the woman, he pondered, taking a deep breath, and decided to err on the side of compassion. 'Kannon, help me!' he silently prayed, then at last, nodded. "Yes."
The woman made a signal with her fan. Two of her retainers, males who resembled boars, came up to him, each carrying a bowl, which they proceeded to pour over his head. His eyes grew hazy and his skin began to sting.
"Now, my peasant," said the woman. "You will find you can move freely everywhere. No human eye will be able to see you until you have completed your task. Once the sun has reached midmorning, we will send you a guide who will lead you to the place you are needed. Take this scroll with you. When the time comes, you will give it to the person who will heal the child."
He took the proffered scroll, stared at it like it might bite him, but placed it in his robe. Suddenly, the procession began to move across the bridge. When he finally dared look up, he saw nothing, no sign they had ever been there. But putting his hand back in his robe, he found the scroll where he had placed it.
"At dawn, my thoughts are on Kannon," he muttered." At night my thoughts are on Kannon! Bodhisattva of mercy, help me!"
Running across the bridge, he found a clearing sheltered from the road. Finding a rock to use as a head rest, he went to sleep.
Hakuzo felt Matsuo grab his sleeve.
"Sit," said the monk.
Carefully, Hakuzo dropped down next to the monk, not taking his eyes off the two InuYoukai standing in the center of the clearing, both unmoving. Matsuo began chanting the Heart Sutra quietly to himself.
"Prayer is good," said Hakuzo.
Youki swirled around the two Inu Youkai, stirring their sleeves and hair. Sesshoumaru's eyes were focused in a tight narrow gaze, intense, threeatening. Teijo, although standing in readiness, tried to minimize his aggressiveness. His eyes, although missing nothing, met his nephew's in a calm, relaxed manner.
The lack of challenge in his mode did nothing. If anything, Sesshoumaru's face grew colder, his eyes redder. "A kami talked to you?"
"We are stones on her go table," Teijo replied.
"No. This Sesshoumaru is not a game piece. "
Teijo began to recite:
"Water's shape is round,
sometimes water's shape is square
the way it is held.
When the way is clear,
the water will flow freely,
all obstacles gone.
When the way is blocked,
the water will stand and pool,
becoming a lake.
Streams can move boulders,
Floodwaters move a mountain
Still pools hold the moon."
Sighing, he said, "We are water in the Kami's hands."
"No!" shouted the younger youkai. "Why didn't you tell me?" His hand grew greenly. A green line of energy whipped out, almost catching Teijo who dodged it, moving too fast to see clearly.
"I couldn't." he replied. "I will not give you my life, Sesshoumaru. My work is not finished."
Again, Sesshoumaru reached out with the green energy whip. Again, Teijo dodged it with incredible speed.
"You are signalling, nephew. I can see when you are getting ready to whip out." Teijo said. "Where is your mind?"
"My mind is like the thousand eyes of Kannon, resting nowhere, seeing all." Sesshoumaru said.
"I see you remember your lessons," Teijo said. He unsheathed his sword, and it began to glow with an intense blue light, pooling down his arms and covering his body.
Suddenly, a white shape streaked across the clearing, turning into a column of white light. Slowly, the white light coalesed into the figure of a beautiful woman, dressed all in white, embroidered with pink blossoms. Her obi was a lovely dark pink. Her black hair glowed, and was decorated with many hair ornaments. She smiled a dazzling smile.
"Greetings, Lord Sessoumaru, Teijo. Your brother, Lord Sesshoumaru, will be here shortly. My name is Tsukikage. I bring a message from my lady."