Chapter 25: A Mix of Sentient Beings
Meetings and mercy on the road
When I was alive
the woman told the lone monk,
ghostly standing there,
her hair blowing in the dark,
once, I went to pray
and chanted there to Kannon,
Kannon of the thousand eyes,
and then I did die.
Every moon since then, O monk,
every moon since then
on the same day of the month,
Kannon sends me here,
free from the darkness of hell,
free to see the sun,
Kannon sits that day for me.
O Monk! Pray for me!
Adapted from Japanese Tales, Royall Tyler
Yuki continued her tale as Jomei stared at the white fox. **The next morning, the peasant found himself awake and ready to move down the road,** she said, ** but he learned how hard it could be when no one could see you. He was nearly run down by a cart as he stopped to tie his sandal strap, and finding food was difficult when no one selling food could see you to take your order or accept your money...**
Jomei found himself walking down a busy road as they neared the city. Merchants and farmers were laden, carrying their goods. He felt very hungry, but very frustrated. At last he came to some statues of Jizo with fresh offerings, and apologizing to the kindly bodhisattva, he took a rice ball just recently placed there as an offering, then eating it, hurried down the road.
Finally, tired of dodging travellers laden with baskets, pushing or pulling carts or swinging goods from yokes over their shoulders, he found a rock off the side of the road where he could sit and avoid all the dangers of trying to travel invisibly. Relaxed by the morning sun, his head began to nod as he watched the travellers walk by.
Suddenly a voice broke through his sleepiness. "Hey you!" he heard. It was a gruff voice, and at first, he ignored it. The voice called again. He opened his eyes, looked down. There was an angry looking man, red of hair and green of eye. He was dressed in rough, coarse clothing, dark red and blue, and from the looks of him, dirty. In his hand he had an ox goad. "Hey you, look at me!" the man yelled.
Jomei found himself looking side to side, looking at who the man could be yelling at. There was no one nearby.
"Who, me?" he said at last.
"No, I mean the Goddess of mercy. Of course you, dumbwit," he said, folding his arms and tapping the goad, a long piece of iron-tipped wood, on the ground.
"You can see me?"
"Yah, and you ain't no great shakes to look at either. I got oxen that look as good as you. You gotta be the guy Lady Akiko sent me to meet. You got the scroll?"
"Who are you?" Jomei found himself saying, sliding off of the rock.
"Call me Oushi," the man said. He shrugged his shoulders, tossed his head as if to loosen his neck, and scratched himself. "Well, let's go. Ain't got all day."
Tsukikage, dressed in her embroidered white kimono stood between Sesshoumaru and Teijo, hiding slightly behind a white fan.
Everything suddenly was silent. There was a flair of light, like her aura touched and bounced off the combat ready youki of the two she stood between. Suddenly, the breezes that had been rising between Teijo and Sesshoumaru stopped and the air was dead still.
"What--" Sesshoumaru began, still in his readiness posture, yet suddenly relaxing, looking at the woman in front of him. Teijo lowered his sword.
"You are a fox," he said after a moment. "And yet --"
"This is true, Sesshoumaru-sama." she said, bowing her head gracefully to him.
A noise came from the far end of the camp.
"Kohaku!" Rin yelled.
"Your brother has returned," said Tsukikage. "He and his pack."
Teijo watched the small procession. InuYasha walked up to them, his hand resting on Kagome's shoulder. A young Kitsune held her hand. A happy Rin had run up to a young man who must be Kohaku, who trailed behind a woman dressed in a merchant's class kimono and a man wearing the clothes of a monk, carrying a ringed staff. The woman carried a small two tailed cat, a neko youkai of some sort. The group moved smoothly and obviously with a lot of familiarity.
Hakuzo and Matsuo by this time had come up to stand near Teijo.
"What an interesting evening this has been," said Hakuzo.
Jomei found himself following the man through the traffic on the busy street. As they neared others, it looked like the people they neared froze in place, and began moving again as they passed. No one seemed to notice this strange wave they made through the traffic. Oushi moaned and cursed as they wandered down the way until they came to a large house. The house was filled with people, most who seemed distressed. The same strange effect followed them in the house. As they neared anyone, that person froze until they passed, not matter what they were doing. Oushi sniffed the air as they walked around.
"The brat's this way, I think." he said, leading him upstairs. He pushed open the sliding door to one brightly lit room. "Yep, this is it."
The room had a priest praying while a distraught couple sat next to a sick child who was suffering with what looked like fever.
"Ok, now here's your chance. You go put that scroll in the hand of the priest, and he'll realize it's there and start reading it. Once he reads it, the brat'll get better, and you'll be free to do whatever it is peasant guys like you do after you tell them what happened. Be sure they know that Kannon used the Youkai Lady Akiko to do this."
Jomei found himself searching for the scroll in his robes, grabbed it, and placed it in his hand.
"That's it! See ya around and have a nice life!" said Oushi, who plucked something off his head and immediately turned into a fox and ran off. Suddenly, the people in the room began to move again. The priest looked at the scroll which appeared in his hands seemingly by magic, unrolled it, and began to read:
"At that time there were rasetsu women.
The first was named Lamba,
the second was named Vilamba,
the third was named Crooked Teeth,
the fourth was named Flower Teeth,
the fifth was named Black Teeth,
the sixth was named Much Hair,
the seventh was named Insatiable,
the eighth was named Holder of Beads,
the ninth was named Kunti,
and the tenth was named Robber of the Essence and Energy of All Beings.
These ten rasetsu women,
feared by men,
feared by demons,
along with the ghost mother and her children and their retinues
in the presence of the Buddha spoke this vow:
"'Climb on top of our heads,
but do not trouble this soul.
No yasha, rasetsu,
hungry ghost, putana,
kritya, vetala, ghanta,
yakshakritya, human kritya;
nor any fever lasting one day,
nor any fever lasting two days, or three days, or four days, or up to seven days;
nor any constant fever;
nor any shape of man, woman, young boy, or young girl
shall trouble him,
even in his dreams.'"
Jomei suddenly found himself back in Tama's hut and in his own body, watching Yuki curled up in front of him.
**And so, after reading the prayer, the girl suddenly sat up, and all traces of her illness were gone.
After being greeted by her thankful parents, the girl suddenly saw the man who brought the scroll,
and pointed at him. 'That's the man I saw in my dreams! He's the one the Goddess of Mercy said would help me get well!' The parents, priest, and doctors questioned the man, and he recounted the strange tale of why he ended up in their house. After giving thanks to Kannon of the thousand eyes who uses even foxes and other youkai to accomplish compassion, they loaded the man up with presents and he went on his way back home.** Yuki concluded.
"Fox tales," said Jomei.
"True," said Tama. "Thank you, Yuki."
**Best rest well tonight,** said the white fox. **My lady thinks you will have company tomorrow.**
"Well, my sweet flower, you have all your pieces in play. What will you do now, sweep down on them with your dragon? Gather them together and play the biwa?" said Daikokuten, walking next to the kami. It was full sunset, and the last of the red light played with the clouds and cast long shadows into the garden where they were strolling.
The air was sweet with jasmine, and fireflies began to dance near the two. She walked gracefully across the moss touched paving stones until they at last reached a lantern. Passing her hand over the lantern, it began to glow softly. Nearby, there was the soft fall of water in the background, mixing with the soft sound of the breeze in the trees.
"I thought, perhaps, you might like to join me in a picnic near the fortress," she said softly. Turning to the woman who walked behind her, she asked, "Nyoko, are you ready to meet your brother?"
Lowering her head, the Kitsune woman whispered, "Yes."
"Atonement comes not without a price," Benzaiten said.