How easy to cut
swift with but a single blow -
to avoid the cut
bearing down on you is hard.
Though he intends to strike,
though he advances to cut,
above all stay calm,
allow him yet to come forth,
allow him to strike out
as you keep your distance.
Making no contact,
his strike falls as a dead blow.
--adapted from Yagyu Munenori
Kagome awoke to the smell of cooking meat. Blinking her eyes against the light, she slowly stretched out and sat up.
"Good morning," InuYasha said. She turned around to see him sitting by the campfire, tending a roasting rabbit. He was wearing his kosode and hakama, and the sunlight glinted off his silvery hair. He cocked an amused smile her way as he watched her sitting there, letting the kosode she had used as a blanket slip away and reveal her state of undress.
"Like what you see?" she said, smiling back.
"As much as I liked it last night," he replied, testing the rabbit for doneness. "But you might want to get dressed. I wouldn't put it past someone to come looking for us."
She shrugged into her white inner kosode and picked up his suikan and handed it to him before she finished getting dressed. "It was so nice to just get away for awhile," she said, tying her obi. "I hadn't realized how tense I had become these last few days."
"It has been a wild few days." He took the rabbit off the fire, and using a flat rock, began to cut it into eating-sized pieces. Kagome came and sat down next to InuYasha, and watched as he picked up a piece of the meat with his claws, and lifted it to her mouth. She accepted the piece and began chewing thoughtfully.
"What do you think will happen today?" she asked.
"Hell if I know," he said, taking his own piece. "Never had much dealings with kami before. You still have bad feelings about things?"
She nodded. "There's something really dark not far from here. It's not youki, but I don't know what it is."
"Well, there's something more going on than just a crazy monk attacking youkai, that's for sure," InuYasha said. His ears began to twitch as he heard something.
"What is it?" she asked.
"Someone's coming. Stand up and get behind me. I'm not sure what it is yet." He stood with his hand on the hilt of his sword, waiting, as Kagome moved behind him.
There was a brief flash of light not far from where they were. Not long after, a small red-headed woman dressed in a pale blue kimono walked into the clearing.
"Another kitsune?" InuYasha said.
The newcomer smiled slightly, and bowed politely. "Yes, InuYasha-sama, another kitsune. I am Yuki. Would you please come with me? My lady asks for your presence."
In the heart of Rinji, a cold wind blew that made the heart feel uneasy. It danced around the small hut not too far from the ruins of the old keep, rattling boards. Inside, sitting among her fibers and her yarns, Tama pulled an extra kosode around her slender form tightly, and considered adding some more wood to the fire. Yet the light from the window near her loom was still bright and clear, illuminating the pattern of blue and white she was working on. It was not the first time she felt foreboding sweeping in on the wind. Living so close to the source of all that was dark here, she had gotten used to ignoring it. But today, there was something extra bitter in it.
She stirred the wood in her fire pit, poured herself a cup of tea, and went back to work at her loom. After tucking a red strand of hair behind her ear, she then stepped on the loom's foot control and threw the shuttle, suppressing the unease building in the back of her mind. To break the sighing of the wind, she sang as the passed the shuttle through the raised threads of her weaving.
"Autumn evening falls
and there among the wild pinks
and in the kudzu,
I ask what he thinks,
the little insect chirping.
"In the bush clover
they gather to sing their song,
In the pampas grass
they call there so long,
in the ague weed sweetly.
"Throughout the twilight
dancing in the bellflower,
in the golden lace
singing the hour
As the darkness gathers in.
"And yet their chirping
will pale into the background
when my eye sees you
a flash of light found
firefly silent in the night."
Suddenly a large rat, nearly the size of a cat, ran along side of her loom, and climbed up on a basket of yarn, and calmly began cleaning its whiskers and shiny black fur.
"Nezumi!" she said, quite startled. The rat looked up, and she swore it smiled.
"You sing as lovely as ever, Tama," said a warm and pleasant man's voice behind her.
She turned and looked, and saw Daikokuten standing in her doorway, his dancing eyes almost laughing at her. Standing up, she bowed formally. "It has been a long time, Koku-sama."
"It has indeed," the kami said, smiling gently at her. His face, though not that of a young man, broke into pleasant lines with his smile, and she relaxed as she watched. Suddenly, he took on a serious look as he stroked his beard and rubbed his cap against his head. "Too long since I've stopped by last, and it is my fault. Nonetheless, we may not stay and talk. It is time for you to leave."
"The darkness..." she said.
"Yes. " He held up the door mat to the hut, and from where she stood, she saw a column of stormy darkness rising up from the old ruins not far from her hut. The column reached up towards the sky, churning with winds not from the weather.
"I've never seen it that bad before, she said.
"Kukai's wards are failing. I do not know how much time we have left," said the kami. "Come with me. You do not want to be here if he breaks through."
She nodded, took his offered hand. With one last, fond look at her weaving, she followed him towards the light.
"Master Jaken, Master Jaken," said Rin. "Look at the sky!"
From where they stood, they looked into the sky at the ominous dark column. The small green youkai looked up, and a deeper frown than normal creased his face. "I must report this to Sesshoumaru-sama."
"What is it, Master Jaken?" she asked.
"I don't know," he said, running towards the daiyoukai. "Sesshoumaru-sama! Seshoumaru-sama!" he cried out as he was running, trying hard not to drop the staff he was clutching.
Ah Uhn also saw it, and began to act skittish, as if it was something that the two-headed creature would prefer to avoid.
"Is something wrong, Rin?" said Kohaku, coming up and laying a hand on the dragonet to quiet the creature.
"Look over there," the girl told Kohaku, pointing to the column.
Matsuo saw the children and turned to look in the direction they were pointing. "Is it..."
Teijo looked up from where he had been cleaning his sword. "The barriers are shaking," he said. Miroku left Sango, who was repacking their gear, and came and stood next to the two Inu youkai. "Behold a glimpse of the darkest hell, Yomi," Teijo said.
Tsukikage stood up, her silk skirts swirling around her, then cocked her head as if she were listening to someone. Straightening up, she said "We must go. Now."
White light abruptly filled the clearing. Suddenly all of them were somewhere else.
"Oh my," said Sango.