My night dream of you
just a pale imitation
shatters in your light.
Yoshiyuki sat in the neglected garden on the temple grounds, idly watching the young cat that had followed him on his walk earlier in the day. The cat was stalking something nestled in a clump of weeds, moving silently. A few long and leggy red flowers struggled to grow through the weeds and grass that had taken over their bed, although looking at them, Yoshiyuki wasn't sure if they themselves were not weeds choking out other, more desirable flowers. Long fingers of grass pushed through the beds except where they were shaded out by taller shrubs. The cat, almost hidden by the growth, paused in its stalking, shook its hindquarters, then suddenly leaped, causing a toad to jump out of the weeds.
"You need more practice, little one," he said. "Toads perhaps are not the best prey for someone like you. You would do better looking for mice." The cat hopped into his lap, and began rubbing it's head against his undamaged hand.
Footsteps moved over the the weedy foot path towards him, and Yoshiyuki looked up.
"I see you have found a little friend," said Mushin, plopping his heavy body next to the younger man, his mustache huffing with his breath. The old priest looked at the cat and wiggled his thick fingers at it. The cat chose to ignore him and began washing a paw.
Frowning, he pulled his hands back into his sleeves "Cats, for some reason, do not seem to like me," Mushin said. "Perhaps it's because I am a priest. The teachings say that cats were one of the four beasts that refused to weep when the Buddha passed beyond." Wiggling his fingers one more time, he sighed at the cat's disinterest. "I like them better than they like me.
"She was on the road right outside of the temple grounds and found me when I went walking this morning," Yoshiyuki said. "She followed me back. I hope you don't mind."
"Ah. Just like a pretty girl to follow a good looking young Samurai," the old priest said. "What a pretty diamond mark on her forehead. Reminds me of my foster son's intended's cat. She's yellow, though, with black marks, not black and white."
"You have a foster-son?" Yoshiyuki asked.
"Yes. His father was a priest here once, but died, and I raised him. Grew up into quite a young man. His intended is quite a woman, too. She was trained as a --"
"Mushin-sama, are you here?" called out a deep voice just on the edge of the garden. "I brought some sake, and I've got some news."
"Is that you, Hachi?" the old priest called out.
"Who else would bring you sake, old man?" said the voice. A figure came out from behind a tree. Walking on two legs and dressed like a human, it had the face of an animal, something like a raccoon. Yoshiyuki tensed up. This obviously was a youkai.
"You ever met a Tanuki, Yoshiyuki?" Mushin asked. "They can be tricky fellows, but this one is nicer to old priests than some cats I know."
The young man shook his head no, and automatically reached for the tanto blade he kept in his obi. Not finding it, he remembered it was not there, but back in his room with his armor. He looked down at his hands, then back up at the priest, who was smiling. "You're not bothered by this? You're friends with youkai?" he asked.
"Some," said Mushin. "Hachi, for instance, always has the best sake. And he shares."
Sango walked up to the house. Still dressed in her everyday kosode and wrap skirt, she clutched a bundle of clothes in her hands.
"Oi, Miroku," she called out as she neared the house.
He hopped off the veranda. "Yes, Sango my dearest?" The monk smiled at his intended as she walked up towards him. "Have you come to set me free from my exile here?"
"Where's InuYasha?" she asked, looking around.
"Taking a bath," he replied. "I was trying to get him to do something to calm down. I was afraid he was going to start to tear up something."
She smiled slightly. "Are you going to be like that when we get married?"
"Oh, just as tense, I'm sure, although I doubt if you'll have to worry about me taking out a tree that could fall on the house." He sighed. "Watching a tense and bored InuYasha is not really my idea of a good afternoon."
"There is that advantage," she replied. Their eyes met for a long, lingering glance. Suddenly breaking it, she thrust the bundle she had been holding into his hands. "It's time to get him dressed. Here. Please try to get him to wear these. Kagome spend a lot of time working on them.
"When you get InuYasha dressed, have him come down to Tomeo's. And Kaede wants to go over the ceremony with you. I'll try to keep Shippou away as long as possible, but no promises."
She half-turned away, and he grabbed her hand. "We'll be as quick as possible," he said.
She gave a small smile, a quick kiss on the cheek, then took her hand back. "I've got to go do Kagome's hair and get ready. Come down as soon as you're done!" She hurried down the path.
Miroku dutifully took the bundle in the house and delivered the clothes and his instructions. After what he thought was a reasonable amount of time, he stuck his head into the doorway.
"Well," said Miroku "Are you ready?"
A fully dressed InuYasha walked out onto the veranda. But it was an InuYasha that he hadn't seen before.
"I feel strange," said InuYasha. "You sure I need to wear this and not my fire rat clothes?"
“Yes, I am sure," said the priest. "It is important to wear new clothes for your wedding. It is the sign of starting something new and significant in your life, and it is auspicious. Any way," he said, resting his head back against the wall of the house, "Sango and Kaede and maybe Kagome would kill me if you showed up there in your fire rat robe. Evidently, they worked quite hard on your outfit."
InuYasha stepped out onto the veranda dressed in the black and white of his wedding ensemble. He tugged on the sleeve of his doboku jacket. The black silk of his jacket was decorated with mon that looked suspiciously like the Goshinboku, worked in white. Beneath that he wore a fine silk kosode, also of black and under that, a white. Black hakama. A white obi went around his waist, where he had already tucked in Tessaiga.
"Very striking, all silver and black," said Miroku. "You will no doubt take Kagome-sama's breath away and the village girls will be green with envy."
InuYasha turned and looked at him, ready to say something rude about Miroku teasing him, but the gentle light in the monk's eyes had none of the lewdness he expected, but a clear sincerity, and perhaps a little envy of his own. "Keh," he said, blushing, and instead, stared down at his feet. "My ankles feel naked. I'm used to the strings. It feels weird to feel the bottoms of my hakama swish around."
"Then practice walking," Miroku suggested. The hanyou sighed, and walked back and forth on the veranda.
After three trips back and forth, he stopped in front of Miroku. "How much longer?" he asked.
"If you are ready, we can leave now," Miroku said. "Sango told me to send you to the headman's house. And remember, be nice to Shippou when he shows up. He will be standing on your side since you have no other relatives here and you've already promised to take him in. It'll be bad luck if he has a lump on his head and he's crying once we start the wedding ceremony.
"Feh," InuYasha replied. "Let's go."
"So what's the news, Hachi?" asked Mushin. "Come sit down. Meet Yoshiyuki who's here for awhile until he feels better. Tell me everything."
Yoshiyuki found himself staring at the strange youkai in front of him who bowed in greeting. The Tanuki walked with perfect ease on tiny feet peeking out below his voluminous hakama. He wore a well-made kosode and a purple kataginu of some sort. Behind him he proudly sported the banded tail of his type. His face was marked with the black mask of all Tanuki, but his youki was not particularly uncomfortable to be around, like that of an oni. Instead of feeling uneasy by his mere presence, Yoshiyuki found himself opening up to the strange being, wanting to be amused. He had heard about youkai that existed that did not mean humans ill, but he also knew all the stories about how tricksters like Tanuki and Kitsune would treat the unsuspecting and unwary. The cat, on the other hand, took one look at the youkai, and dashed back into the weeds.
"Oh, you want the news? That's thirsty work, Master Mushin," the Tanuki said in his deep, but mellow voice, sitting down next to the two of them. He reached into his sleeve and managed to pull three sake bowls out. "You must have a drink first. I insist."
Hachi slung the sake jug from around his back, and skillfully poured the sake, just a little in his bowl, but a very full bowl for the two humans.
Mushin, his red nose gleaming in the afternoon light, picked up the bowl, took a sip. "Ah, excellent as usual, Hachi," he said before gulping down the next sip.
Mushin nudged Yoshiyuki, who was staring down at the bowl in front of him like it was some strange potion. "You must try it. We wouldn't want Hachi to feel you didn't like his sake," the priest said.
The younger man gingerly took the black bowl up, and gingerly took a sip and was pleasantly surprised by its quality. "This is very good," he said. The Tanuki bowed his head slightly in appreciation.
"You are so kind to take care of an old rundown man like me," said Mushin. "So what's the news?"
Hachi drank some of his sake, downing nearly half of it. He looked around him. "You really need to do something with your garden, Master Mushin. It really is getting run down," said Hachi.
"So's the whole temple," Mushin replied, sighing. "But there's just so much a worn out old man like myself can do." He took another gulp out of his bowl. "So what's been happening? Have you seen Miroku lately?"
"Well. Master Yashuo has left on pilgrimage, and I hear the novices at his temple are rejoicing," Hachi said, deftly refilling his and the priest's sake bowls. "I was on my way to see how he's doing. On the way there, I saw this beautiful woman playing Shamisen in Oiwake. She's a new girl there at the last teahouse on the road to Kyoto. I could have stayed there a month listening to her play, but she has a jealous customer, and I had to leave." The Tanuki sighed, took a drink of his sake. "Ah, the softness of her voice. The skill of her fingers, the way her sleeves danced as she moved... 'The touch of his hand, like a promise in the morning' she would sing..." Hachi's voice drifted off.
"What happened? Did her jealous friend come in while you were pretending to be him?" said Mushin.
"Alas, yes, and I still have the lumps for it. I will try transforming into something else next time." Hachi took a big drink of sake, and sighed. "Remember that goldsmith who tried to cheat you three years ago when you were having some work done on the temple?"
"Kintaro? How can I forget?" said Mushin, draining his cup. Hachi topped it off again.
"This time he tried to cheat a Kitsune. Kitsune got him, though. Had him go to a house in Annaka by pretending to be the maid of the lady of the house. Had him take a whole tray of trinkets with him, and when the maid went in with the tray, suddenly the whole house disappears, and the trinkets with it...Kitsune ran off in fox form. Shame, though, all the people in Annaka are feeling sorry for him. He must not have cheated them enough."
Hachi reached into his kosode and pulled out a small bag. "The Kitsune sent these to you. I told him what Kintaro had done, and he thought it would be a good deed to make it right.
"The wheels of fate turn in strange ways, sometimes," said Mushin, pocketing the pouch. "Thank you, friend. So, what have you heard from Miroku?"
"Oh yes. I was down there last week. Master Miroku is very busy. They've asked him to stay in the village where he's been this last year. He is getting a house built, too. Who would have ever thought Miroku could have eyes only for one woman? After all that time I traveled with him, I'd have never guessed it." Hachi drank more sake. "He said he may be up this way soon. He wants to ask you something or have you do something, I forget which." The Tanuki took another sip of his sake.
"Oh yes. Master InuYasha's getting married. To that strange girl who used to travel with him." His voice trailed off and he finished the sake in his bowl. "The touch of his hand, like a promise in the morning, waiting for the night," he muttered. His head began to nod, and suddenly he was asleep.
"Damn Tanuki never could hold his sake," Mushin said, draining his bowl. "InuYasha and Kagome getting married? That's interesting. Wonder what his brother will think."
He fell silent, his eyes grew heavy, and he slowly slumped to one side. Suddenly the air was pierced with a loud and definite snore.
The cat crawled out from the weeds and began to rub Yoshiyuki's knee. "Tanuki and Kitsune benefiting a temple. A Tanuki quoting poetry. A priest calling a youkai friend," he said to the cat. "Is this the real world?"
The cat jumped into the bemused young man's lap, leaving him to ponder upon the mysteries of the world.
By the time they got to Kaede's hut, Shippou found them. He too was dressed in new clothes, a jacket and hakama of bright blue, with a new white bow for his hair, and was sitting in front of Kaede's hut, playing with his top.
"InuYasha?" he said, looking up and seeing Miroku and the hanyou approach. "You look..."
"What?" InuYasha said, scowling. "And don't jump on me."
"Uh, alright," Shippou said, untensing from the jump he was about to make. "Kagome's gonna be really surprised."
"Keh." InuYasha crossed his arms over his chest.
"I'll leave you two to head out to Tomeo's house," said Miroku, grinning. "Kaede wanted to talk to me before the ceremony starts. And Shippou, don't make InuYasha mad." He lifted the bamboo mat and entered the hut.
"Come on, InuYasha," said Shippou, bouncing ahead of the hanyou. "They're waiting for us!"
Tomeo's house was about halfway through the village. Shippou was filled with excited energy as they made their way there. He would run ahead, then run back. There were a surprising number of people out, watching them as they went. Two of the older women on the road stopped the boy, and gave him some treats wrapped in paper, which he put into his sleeve. After that, he ran back to InuYasha, trying to hurry him up.
"I've never been in a wedding procession before." Shippou said.
"Keh," InuYasha replied.
"Kitsune like to get married when it's raining while the sun shines," the boy chattered. "But its just sunny today. Does that bring bad luck?"
"No," InuYasha replied.
"Are you sure I have to spend the night at Kaede's tonight? I want to start living in my new room."
InuYasha sighed. "Yes," he said.
They passed two girls not much younger than Kagome, who giggled as the two of them went by. "Congratulations!" the youngest one said.
Shippou yelled back their thanks. "How come you're so tense?" he asked InuYasha. "You better not be planning on doing anything that'll make Kagome unhappy, baka!"
"Shippou!" he said in a low and threatening voice. He caught himself starting making a fist to bean the boy, but remembered what Miroku said about causing bad luck today. Fortunately, they arrived before he gave into the temptation.
Tomeothe village headman and his wife were sitting on the veranda in front of their house dressed in festive clothing. His wife, seeing the approaching hanyou, went inside. The headman, old and a bit frail, but with an open and friendly smile,stood up, and walked down the step.
"Congratulations, InuYasha-sama, on this auspicious day!" he said with a courteous bow. His dark eyes twinkled beneath his gray eyebrows.
InuYasha, taken back, bowed in return. "I don't know why you've done this, but thank you for making this day something special for Kagome."
The older man smiled. "You don't remember, do you?"
InuYasha shook his head.
"Once, when Kikyou-sama was fighting a youkai who came for the jewel. There was a small boy who got in the way and almost killed by a snake youkai. But a certain silver-haired hanyou scooped him up and out of the way before he could be attacked. That small boy was this old man."
"That was you?" InuYasha asked. He looked thoughtful for a moment. "I remember that day. There were more youkai there than we realized. Kikyou was irritated with me for letting the villagers see us together..." His voice drifted off.
The older man smiled. "It's funny how the wheel of fate turns sometimes. I would like to ask you since you have no family here if I and my wife could stand on your side at the wedding ceremony."
"You...you would want to do that?" said InuYasha.
The older man nodded.
"Th...thank you," the hanyou said.
Suddenly, the shoji door slid open. Kagome stepped through the doorway, walking carefully in the unfamiliar geta she had put on. InuYasha's mouth went suddenly dry at the sight of her in long robes of shimmering silk. A beautiful red and white uchikake, worked in a crane pattern covered a long kosode of white silk. Her hair was pulled back into a low pony tail.
"She looks like a hime," said Shippou.
"Yeah," said InuYasha.
Kagome, her eyes focused on the ground where she was stepping, paused and waited a moment, until Sango stepped out of the house and helped her with her train. She looked up and met InuYasha's gaze. Suddenly blushing, she looked down at her hands.
"InuYasha looks...amazing," said Sango, softly, but still loud enough he could hear it.
Kagome took a deep breath. "Amazing," she repeated. Looking back up at him, she smiled. Carefully she stepped off the veranda and went to stand next to InuYasha.
"Last chance to change your mind," he said, looking straight ahead, afraid of the wash of feelings he couldn't quite describe that had come over him. She smoothed her clothes and the others got into line.
"No way," she replied. "Sango would kill me."
"Or me," he said, taking her hand and give it a little squeeze.
"We're ready," Tomeo said.
They began to walk.