InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ The Coyote Child ❯ Chapter Five ( Chapter 5 )
By Terri Botta
Disclaimer: I don’t own Inuyasha. Sole copyright belongs to Viz and Rumiko Takashi. I’m poor so don’t sue.
Rating: R for later chapters.
Summary: Inuyasha and Kagome are asked to adopt a coyote-hanyou baby from Arizona.
Email feedback to: email@example.com
A/N: The basis for some of the events in this chapter were derived from the following website:
Belagana - white man
Hataalii - medicine man
“What was it?” Kagome asked as he closed the bedroom door behind him, munching on the potato chips his son had tossed him. ‘Mmm, kettle chips. Not bad.’
“Yukio and that Cree girl ordered room service,” Inuyasha replied.
“Emma? He’s up with Emma?”
He nodded and finished off the chips, throwing the empty bag into the trash.
“Hmmmm,” she answered, rolling onto her back in the bed.
“Oi, leave him alone,” he warned.
“I wasn’t thinking of interfering,” she protested but he saw her pout.
“Sure you weren’t,” he replied, undoing the tie on the waistband of his sweatpants and sliding them off.
“What are you doing?”
“Getting into bed with you. What’s it look like I’m doing?”
“Mou,” she sighed as he slid under the covers and snuggled up.
She was still dressed in her nightshirt, but it was a button-up one and easily removed. He knew because he’d already taken it off of her once already.
“Mmmmm,” he murmured, nuzzling her neck. :Mate.:
She kissed him dutifully. “You’re just trying to distract me from thinking about our son.”
“I’m trying to get you to leave well enough alone. Yukio’s an adult. What he does with his love-life is none of our business. If you try to meddle, you’ll mess things up.”
“I will not. Look at Souta and Hitomi. I didn’t mess that up, did I?”
“Only because that boy finally figured out he had a spine and told the girl he liked her.”
“Oh and you never had any trouble telling me how you felt,” she teased.
“Of course I didn’t. I told you how I felt all the time. You just weren’t listening to me,” he countered, whuffing into her hair and sliding one leg over hers.
“I can’t believe you just said that.”
He snickered and licked her throat. She moaned softly and relaxed.
‘Yeah, that’s it…’ Four hundred and sixty years and he hadn’t lost his touch.
“I just… I just hope he finds someone to love him. He’s so alone,” he heard her whisper.
‘Then again, maybe I have.’
He sighed and backed off a little, but still held her. She turned her head to look at him, her eyes searching for him in the darkness. He, on the other hand, could see her perfectly.
“This is the first time I’ve seen him even look twice at someone since Miaka died.”
“All the more reason to let it alone,” he insisted.
She sighed again, but it was one of defeat. “I just want him to be happy.”
“I know. So do I. But we have to let him do this on his own.”
He smelled the anger enter her scent and braced for an outburst.
“Why? We kept silent when he mated Miaka. You and I both had doubts about her. We both thought she was too weak for him, but we said nothing and look what happened.”
“I know. But sometimes pups have to make their own mistakes before they learn. I don’t think Yukio will fall for another weak woman again. He’ll be a lot more cautious this time.”
“What if he’s too cautious? What if he’s so afraid of getting hurt again that he won’t open up enough to let someone love him?” she argued.
“If he does and the woman gives up on him, then she isn’t the one. You think I would have opened up to you after Kikyou if you hadn’t put yourself in my face every chance you got? If she’s worthy of him, she’ll prove herself, just the way you did.”
“Inuyasha…” he heard her breathe in awe and he fluffed a little with pride, then her scent tinged with sadness and he frowned.
“But… do you think you would have even given me a chance if I hadn’t been Kikyou’s reincarnation?” she whispered softly.
Now it was his turn to get irritated. “How can you even say that? After all this time?”
“It’s a legitimate question. I thought you hated me in the beginning.”
“Keh. If anything your resemblance to Kikyou actually worked against you at first. I wanted nothing to do with the woman who had killed me. Remember when you broke my seal, I had no idea that 50 years had passed. For me, it was only moments between when she shot me with her arrow and when you revived me. I woke up hating Kikyou. It wasn’t until after… when I realized we’d both been betrayed…”
“That you realized your hate was unfounded,” she finished.
“Do you think Emma could be Miaka’s reincarnation?”
“Huh? No, I don’t think so. While your scent is unique, there is a similarity to Kikyou’s. Hers is completely different from Yukio’s mate. Also, if it is her, she found him immediately in the next incarnation and she couldn’t have learned much in the between years,” he replied.
“Maybe she felt she had to right the wrongs she had done to him and couldn’t wait for a few lifetimes to pass.”
He shook his head. “No. We both knew Miaka wasn’t the one for him. They were never devoted to each other the way we are.”
“He was devoted,” she corrected.
“It only counts if it goes both ways,” he countered. “She didn’t feel the same way. Why else would she have made him watch her die? She wouldn’t even let him kill her quickly so she wouldn’t suffer. She wanted to hurt him as much as she could. True mates don’t try to destroy the other. No, I don’t think she’ll ever look for him and that’s probably a very good thing.”
“I agree. I just hope she doesn’t hurt him.”
He drew her closer and nuzzled her chin. “If she does, we’ll give her to Eri and let her take care of it.”
She winced. “Ouch, that was cold.”
“But efficient. You know Eri wanted to shred Miaka. If we don’t give her a crack at the next female who breaks Yukio’s heart, she’ll just take matters into her own hands. If we tell her to stop short of killing the girl, at least she has some chance of survival.”
“That makes an awful kind of twisted sense.”
He shrugged. “Just trying to reduce the bloodshed. I liked her grandfather. I’d hate to see anything happen to her that wouldn’t heal… eventually.”
She snorted. “There’s that ruthless protective streak of yours.”
“When you or my pups are involved? Hell yeah.”
“I suppose I shouldn’t talk. I’d kill to protect those I love.”
She sighed and nodded sadly. “I know.”
He nuzzled her and kissed her cheek. “But I don’t think we’ll have to worry about that this time. Just let it be and see where it goes. He’ll either give her a try or not.”
He saw her nod reluctantly. “Okay. You’re right.”
“Feh. I know I’m right, wench. Now kiss me or I’ll think I’ve lost my touch.”
She giggled and complied. “I love you.”
He smiled and pulled her close. “I love you.” :Mate.:
Sounds from the bedroom woke him and he opened his eyes to see Lori and Billy coming out of their respective rooms right before dawn. He sat up from his makeshift bed on the couch and watched them, but they merely nodded at him without speaking as they exited out the patio door of the condo. He could see them through the glass, facing East as the sun came up, and he was mentally scratching his head when Emma’s soft voice interrupted his ponderings.
“They’re performing a ritual to welcome the sunrise,” she explained.
“Do they do this every morning?”
She nodded. “Usually, although today is the first morning we’ve had a room that faces East. They had been doing it in the room, but it’s nice for them to be able to actually face the sunrise. If they were home, they would have come out of their hogans and greeted the sun properly, but when they are traveling they make do the best they can.”
From his spot in his lap the pup started fussing to be fed, and Yukio had to smile.
“And this one begins his own Dawn ceremony to welcome his morning feeding,” he joked, making Emma snicker.
“You have such a wry sense of humor.”
He shrugged and kicked off the blankets as he stood. “Blame my father,” he replied, carrying the pup to the kitchen for feeding.
“Were you able to get more sleep after our late night snack?” he asked casually, mixing the formula and filling the bottle.
She leaned against the counter and placed both hands on the smooth surface. “Oh yes. I slept pretty well after. That sandwich was really good.”
He nodded in agreement as he held the bottle up for the pup to feed. “Yeah. Mine was too. They have good service here.”
“My guess is that your uncle would accept nothing less.”
He raised an eyebrow. “You’d be right.”
She shrugged. “I know a few people like that.”
“Heh. My sister Eri is one of them. Perfectionist to the max. She and Uncle get along swimmingly as they say.”
Emma smiled. “Ah. I see. And what does she do?”
“She’s a fashion designer. A good one too. My mother has a few of her dresses.”
“Wow. That sounds really neat. Where does she live?”
He shrugged. “Anywhere really. She tends to go where the fashion shows are. When it’s not The Season, she tends to haunt Paris or Milan. She prefers warmer climates.”
The Cree woman nodded. “And she is a hanyou as well?”
He shook his head. “No. She is my parents’ only full-blooded youkai pup. She’s a neko-youkai, a cat. Her parents were killed when she was a little kitten and the people who killed them brought her to us. Seems they didn’t mind slaughtering the adults but they balked at murdering a pup.”
He saw her frown with disapproval. “How very nice of them.”
“Yeah, wasn’t it? Anyway, she’s a spitfire but she gets things done. We depend on her to plan all of our gatherings and parties.”
Emma laughed. “I’ll bet she’s good at that.”
“You have no idea. She planned my parents’ four hundredth wedding anniversary and… wow it was a party. Folks are still talking about it.”
The look on Emma’s face revealed that he’d made a mistake and he realized what he’d just said. He’d been so intent on the pup and the small talk that he’d forgotten that he was talking to a simple human who knew nothing of youkai lives or ways.
‘Shit,’ he gulped and waited for the fallout.
“Four hundredth wedding anniversary?” she gasped. “Your parents are four hundred years old??”
“Ahhh… a little older than that actually. That anniversary was sixty years ago.”
He was glad she wasn’t drinking anything because she probably would have spit it all over the counter, but it suddenly dawned on him that her shock might actually work to his advantage. He’d wanted to discourage her from pursuing him and, perhaps now that she knew how old hanyous and youkai could get, she would give up on him and seek a saner life with someone else. He saw her forming a question, and trying to decide the best way to ask it, and he had an inkling as to what she was going to say so he wasn’t surprised when she actually spoke.
“And how old are you?”
‘Old enough to be your great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather.’ “I was born in 1547.”
“15… Oh my god,” she answered, and he saw her grip the edge of the counter.
He shrugged. “My uncle is older by a good two centuries, maybe more. To be honest, I don’t really know how old he is.”
“I… I think I need to sit down,” she admitted, grabbing one of the stools from the counter and slumping into it. “I… I had no idea.”
The pup had finished eating so he draped him across his shoulder to be burped. He needed changed too.
“Well, it’s not like we advertise it. We don’t go around with ‘Warning: Older Than Dirt’ tattooed on our foreheads. Although a few of us have it tattooed on the back of our necks,” he joked, tossing in a Monty Python reference. It earned him a little smile, although it was shaky.
“No. I guess you wouldn’t. May I say that you look remarkably good for your age?”
He smiled. “I’m told that I don’t look a day over three hundred.”
She smiled back, but it was nervous. “How long will you live?”
“To be honest, I don’t really know. Mine is the first generation to really make it out of puberty. Prior to the 1700’s, hanyous were killed as a matter of course. No one really knows how old we can get. I do age, so I know I’m mortal. Right now the estimates are that mammalian hanyous like me can probably live between a thousand and fifteen hundred years. But that’s just a guess. I could live to be two thousand or I could die before I reach 900. We don’t know,” he replied, shrugging. “My brother Tetsu is a dragon-hanyou. Dragons are about as immortal as you can get. Tetsu’s dragon aunt guesses that he could live to be ten thousand, maybe even twenty thousand, years old. There is some precedence for the dragon-hanyous. There was one who was six thousand before he was killed.”
She shook her head. “I cannot imagine living that long.”
He looked down at the pup in his arms. Who knew how long a coyote-hanyou could live. “It isn’t easy. The world changes almost faster than we can keep up. It’s a real struggle sometimes, but some things make it worth it; like a mate and a family. My parents’ pups are what’s kept them going all this time.”
“Your mother said she was human. How has she been able to live so long and look so young?”
“My parents are a unique case. They stopped aging 460 years ago because of a magic spell.”
“A magic spell?”
“It was more of a wish actually, that had unexpected consequences. It’s a long story.”
She might have pressed for more information, but Billy and Lori came in from the patio and interrupted them.
“Good morning,” Lori greeted as she came over to them.
“Good morning,” he answered. “Would you like me to make some coffee?” he asked, indicating the complementary bag of coffee next to the coffee maker.
“That would be very nice, thank you,” Lori replied.
“Here. Take him and I’ll get the pot going,” he offered, handing the Navajo woman the pup.
“Thank you,” she said, cradling the pup against her chest.
“It’s not a problem,” he assured her as he filled the carafe with water and set up the coffee maker with the filter and coffee grounds.
“We’re leaving early, yes?” she asked.
“Yeah. Shortly after breakfast. The sooner we get on the road, the sooner we’ll get to Kayenta. Just as soon as I’m finished starting the coffee, I’ll go check on my parents.”
“Don’t bother,” his father’s voice interrupted. “We’re awake.”
He looked over to see Inuyasha standing a few feet away, fully dressed in a dark red button-up shirt and a pair of black pants. It struck him as odd that his father wouldn’t be wearing his usual jeans and t-shirt, then he realized that Inuyasha was dressing the way he would if he was going to a ‘power lunch.’ The message was subtle but quietly commanded attention and made people look to him as an authority figure.
‘Of course. We’re headed into the Navajo Nation today and he wants to make a lasting first impression.’ He didn’t bother reminding his father that he made a memorable impression no matter what he wore.
“Good morning, Inuyasha,” Lori said, averting her eyes in respect.
His father grunted in reply and looked to him. “Oi. Coffee ready yet?”
He glanced at the coffee maker. “Almost.”
“Good. Your mother’s in the shower. She’ll be out in a few. Where’s David?”
“He was getting up just as I was leaving the room. He’ll be out shortly,” Billy answered.
Inuyasha nodded. “Good. We’ll leave as soon as we get packed up. Hotel is offering us a complimentary breakfast in the dining room if we want it.”
‘Ah the perks of knowing the owner.’
“That would be very nice. I know we will be traveling a long way today,” Lori agreed.
“Yeah. I wanna be on the road by eight.”
Yukio surreptitiously looked at the clock and saw that it was just after 6:30am. ‘Hmmm, hour and a half. Not that much time, especially if we are going to eat breakfast. I don’t have time for a shower. I’ll have to take one when we get to the hotel tonight.’
“Oi, pup needs changed,” his father announced.
“Ah. I’ll take care of it,” Lori offered.
He cringed inwardly, feeling sheepish. ‘Damn. I forgot about that.’
The coffee was ready so he poured cups for himself and the others. It was a rich Kona blend, but then that was to be expected considering the caliber of the hotel and the class of the suite they were in. His mother came out of the bedroom just as he was finishing his cup, so he went in to change his clothes and pack up his stuff for the trip. Afterwards they loaded the cars, headed to the dining room for breakfast, and they were on the road by 8:30.
The trip down through Utah was long but beautiful. The route took them across Fishlake National Forest, down past Canyonlands National Park and into Monument Valley. Much of it was on secondary roads that wound their way through the rugged landscape, and numerous campers slowly lumbered along the route with them- much to his father’s irritation when they were stuck behind one.
They passed the Navajo Twin Rocks about thirty kilometers north of the Arizona border and entered the Navajo Reservation via Mexican Hat in Utah. Yukio really noticed a difference in how the land felt the moment they crossed the border, as if they had passed through an invisible barrier that marked where White men’s land ended and Indian Territory began. His mother noticed it too because she stopped speaking for a moment during the soft conversation she was having with Lori in the backseat. His father just made his usual ‘hrmph’ sound but that told him that he was also aware of the change.
They were 20km outside of Kayenta when Lori suddenly gasped and fear spiked in her scent.
“Stop the car!” she cried.
“What the?” his father said, but slammed on the brakes just in case.
“Lori, what’s the matter?” his mother asked as they came to an abrupt halt.
“That,” the Navajo answered, and tilted her head towards a small yellow-brown animal just ahead of them.
‘Is that what I think it is?’ he thought, feeling a little shiver run up his spine.
“Coyote,” Lori breathed.
The coyote was just sitting there on the shoulder about ten meters away, then it got up, trotted into the road and sat right in the middle of it, facing them. He heard car doors opening and closing behind them, and turned to see that David, Billy, Emma and Michael had exited the minivan. Lori got out too and hurried to meet them.
“What the hell is going on?” Inuyasha complained.
“I’m not sure,” Kagome answered, then opened her car door and got out.
“Oh what the hell,” his father sighed, and stepped into the road.
He followed suit, doubling back to pick up the pup from his car seat because the infant had started to fuss. Emma met his questioning gaze but silently replied with a small shake of her head.
‘So she doesn’t know what’s going on either.’
“What is it?” he heard his mother ask.
“Coyote has cursed the road. We cannot cross its path,” Billy explained, eyeing the coyote- who had still not moved- warily.
“What do we do?” Kagome questioned.
“We don’t have a rifle,” Michael commented.
“I have cedar in my pack but we can’t go anywhere until coyote yields the road,” Lori added.
“So we just stand here waiting to get run over,” Inuyasha snorted.
“If we cross Coyote’s path we’ll be cursed,” Lori said patiently.
His father rolled his eyes. “Cursed, huh? I’ll take care of this.” :Mate stay. Beta-male with me. Bring pup,: he ordered in inu-youkai and turned to face the coyote.
Yukio dutifully followed and stood at his father’s shoulder as they walked up the road to where the coyote sat waiting, its tongue lolling out of its mouth.
“I don’t like the feel of this place,” his father murmured quietly.
He nodded. “There are youkai here. I can smell them.”
“The scent is old, but something’s passed through here within the last few days.”
“It’s not coyote,” he commented, scenting the air again.
“No. It’s not.”
They stood, shoulder to shoulder, facing the coyote. The animal met their gazes with unflinching yellow eyes, but there was nothing strange about the coyote’s scent.
“There’s no youki. This is just an animal,” he said.
“He’s a messenger,” his father replied, never taking his eyes off the coyote. “Show him the pup.”
He nodded and turned the pup in his arms to face the coyote. The animal stopped panting and immediately focused its eyes on the child. The pup blinked and made a soft burbling sound. The coyote yipped then barked twice in a high voice. It unnerved him because he didn’t really get the translation.
:Lesser-male yield the path,: he heard his father order.
The coyote didn’t answer, but it did stand up. Then it shook itself off and walked nonchalantly off the blacktop. His father gave a nod and a grunt of approval before turning around and making his way back to the Jeep where the others were waiting for them.
“Okay, let’s go,” Inuyasha said, opening the driver’s-side door.
“We can’t. We have to break Coyote’s curse first,” Billy replied.
“And how do we do that?” his father asked irritably.
“Normally we’d shoot the coyote, but since we don’t have a rifle we either need to cleanse the path where the coyote walked or wait for another vehicle to come along and cross the trail ahead of us,” Michael explained.
“I’ll get the cedar from my pack,” Lori offered.
“Keh. Whatever,” Inuyasha groused.
The Navajo woman was reaching into the back of the Jeep when they heard a loud horn blaring. Yukio snapped his head up and reached for Kenshuga, noting in his peripheral vision that his father was doing the same for Tessaiga, but it was only a camper coming down the road. It crossed into the other lane and lumbered past, coming to a gradual halt but not before it had ‘broken’ the imaginary line made by the coyote.
“Hey, you guys okay?” the driver called from out of the window. He was a White man and looked like the textbook American tourist complete with sunglasses and a visor cap.
Michael raised a hand and waved, a tense smile on his face. “Yeah! We’re fine. Thanks though!”
“You sure? You’re parked in the middle of the road.”
“Yeah. We had some trouble, but it’s fixed now,” Michael assured the man.
“Okay then. Bye.”
They waited as the camper slowly began pulling away before turning to each other. Emma caught his eye and gave him a little smile along with a shrug. He smiled back and sent her a look that said, ‘Yeah I know, but what are you gonna do?’
“We can go now,” Billy announced.
“Wait. You said that anyone who crossed Coyote’s path would be cursed,” his mother commented shrewdly.
“Yes, but it’s been broken now so it’s safe,” Billy answered.
“Does that mean the curse has been transferred to that man in the camper?” she pressed.
The Navajo man shrugged. “He was Belagana. He won’t notice. He’ll just think he has bad luck.”
His mother frowned and he knew immediately what she was planning to do. He smiled to himself as he saw her set her jaw and march to the rear of the Jeep. She opened the tailgate and moved the luggage aside to get to the storage compartment under the floor so she could pull out the bow and arrows she kept in each of their vehicles. She set the arrow, aimed and fired at the back of the camper.
“Ike!” she shouted and the purifying bolt streaked through the air to lodge soundly in the spare tire fastened to the rear of the camper. “There. No more curse.”
“And no more spare tire either,” Inuyasha pointed out.
Kagome huffed and returned the bow to its hiding place. “May it be the only bad luck he suffers on this trip.”
“Feh,” his father answered, but Yukio saw the twinkle of pride in his eyes. “Let’s go.”
Snickering and shaking his head, he handed the pup to his mother so she could put him back in the car seat and got into the Jeep. A moment later, he heard car doors slam behind them and knew the rest of the Natives had gotten back into the minivan. His father didn’t bother to make sure they were ready before turning on the engine and putting the Jeep into gear. As they passed the spot where the coyote had crossed, he looked out the window to see if the messenger was still there, but the animal had disappeared.
Half an hour later they rolled into Kayenta and checked into the Holiday Inn just after 5pm local time. It was a nice little place with a Southwestern adobe façade done in concrete and ochre colored plaster. They had one of the hotel’s suites with a connecting adjacent room, making it a two-bedroom suite with a pull-out sofa. They were a bed short, but Yukio offered Billy the cushions from the couch because the Navajo didn’t mind sleeping on the floor. In the morning Michael would lead them to his grandmother’s hogan approximately two hours away where they would meet with the pup’s mother and decide what would be done.
Dinner was eaten at a local Mexican restaurant which was an adventure because neither he nor his father had much tolerance for spicy foods. So while everyone else was heartily digging into their chimichangas and burritos, he and his father were busy picking the chili peppers out of the fajitas they’d ordered, much to the amusement of the locals and staff. These people were practically fed chilies with their mothers’ milk, and the bright red and green peppers were considered a staple. Gringos’ sensitive stomachs were enough to make them shake their heads and chuckle.
Afterwards, they returned to the Holiday Inn where his father immediately went into the bedroom and closed the door, and the Natives went into their room to prepare for bed. Emma was oddly distant and quiet during dinner, and seemed preoccupied. He attributed her somber mood to their earlier conversation in the suite, and the thoughts that must have been running through her head during the nine hour trip down. It wasn’t every day the average human met someone who was over four centuries old, and he had no doubts that she was probably thinking about the ramifications of getting involved with someone that long-lived. At least he hoped so.
He, on the other hand, was suffering from indigestion so he wasn’t thinking about much else outside of Tumbs EX. He stretched himself out on the couch and tried to find a comfortable position while his mother went in search of an open drugstore.
Yukio burped again and groaned miserably. “Damn, I should have ordered the quesadilla,” he complained, rubbing his rebelling stomach.
“I doubt that would have been much better,” his mother told him softly, handing him a couple of antacids and a glass of milk. “Here. These should help.”
He reached up from his reclining position on the couch and accepted the medicine gratefully. “Thanks. I’m glad you found a place that was open past five.”
Kagome nodded and sat down next to him as he downed the pills and milk.
“About the same as you, he’s just louder about it,” she answered with a small smile and a shrug. “He’s lying down now.”
“Where’s the pup?”
“Lori has him.”
There was a sad wistfulness in her voice and he perked his ears up, momentarily forgetting his discomfort.
“Okaa-san? Are you alright?”
“I called home. I talked to Tetsu and Ian. Everything is fine there. Ian misses us.”
He nodded, lowering his ears. “I miss him too.”
“I told him we’d be home in a couple of days,” she added, looking at her hands. “I’ll be glad when all of this is over.”
“Me too. Do you think the pup and his mother will come back with us?”
“I don’t know. The Navajo are certainly very frightened of Coyote. I don’t think either the baby or his mother are safe living on the reservation. Even if the people living around her could be convinced that the baby is harmless, there would still be a lot of others who think differently. They would be in constant danger. Without the protection of the baby’s father…” She trailed off but he understood her meaning perfectly.
“You know Otou-san will never let anything happen to the pup or his mother.”
She nodded. “I know. But there’s something not right here.”
“Both Otou-san and I sensed youki when we crossed the border.”
“Yes, but there are other powers at work here, sacred powers, but their protections are weakening. There are those who would take advantage of the opportunity.”
He sat up, concerned by what his mother had just told him. “Do you think we should let Uncle know? I’m sure he could arrange for someone to come.”
“I don’t know if that would help. This is not Japan and the magic is different here. It would have to be someone who knew how to work with this energy.”
“It’s our fault,” Lori’s voice interrupted and they turned to see the Navajo woman standing behind them. She was holding the pup, but he’d been changed into a fresh onesie for bed.
“My people have lost their way,” she continued, handing the pup to Kagome. “The Belagana world with its bright lights and modern conveniences lures them away from our traditional path. Many of our young people are seduced by Belagana pretty words and empty promises. Life on the reservation is hard and poor. Many of them hope for better things beyond our borders, but most will never rise above the color of their skin.” She sighed and looked out the picture window in the suite to the sparse view of streetlamps and storefronts.
“Our way is fading, and so the Blessings fade as well. Even now many of our Medicine People know only a fraction of the ancient ceremonies, and some Sings have been lost almost completely. I know of two hataalii who desperately need apprentices in order to pass on their knowledge before they die, but those who are willing to make the time and sacrifices to walk the Dineh path are fewer and fewer. Our youth turn their backs on us and walk the Belagana way of disharmony and ignorance. We are the instruments of our own destruction.”
Yukio felt a twinge in his heart. He knew all too well what Lori was talking about. All over the world, humanity was steadily contributing to its own demise by living too fast, too wasteful and too arrogantly for the earth to sustain them. The result was massive disease, disasters and birth defects. Many of the gentle Earth youkai who had been so instrumental in preserving the natural world had perished and only a handful were left. Other youkai who used their powers to maintain the balance also found their numbers dwindling in the face of pollution and loss of habitat.
The carrion-eaters, however, were increasing in population. Youkai who fed on death, pain and fear were experiencing booms in the number of births because their food sources were so plentiful. There were even places where carrion-eaters disguised as humans had infiltrated governments and assumed high-ranking positions of power, where they used their influence to spread discontent and terror to further their own ends. He and his clan fought hard against the rise of the carrion-eaters but sometimes he wondered of it wasn’t a losing battle, especially since the humans seemed so willing to contribute to their own deaths.
“It doesn’t have to be that way. I am sure someone could be found who wants to learn, if your hataalii would be willing to teach someone who was not Navajo,” his mother offered.
“That, too, leads to our destruction. Many of them would not be willing to teach someone who was not of the People. They would not want our sacred ways to fall into Belagana hands,” Lori answered.
“But if Navajos aren’t interested in learning, what choice do you have? You risk losing the knowledge forever if you don’t do something. I know of at least one Earth youkai who would love to learn your ways. They are good and gentle beings who live for many centuries. They could help you preserve your history and your sacred paths,” Kagome argued.
Lori closed her eyes and bowed her head. “I know. Just look what turning our backs on our Ways has brought us,” she whispered, motioning to the pup in Kagome’s arms. “Coyote disguised himself as a human and walked among us. He mated with one of our young girls and none of us were the wiser until it was too late. If not for fear of terrible retribution from Coyote, I probably would have let the girl’s father kill the baby. Her grandmother must have very strong faith to have stayed his hand. Even now I am not convinced we are doing the right thing. To make the wrong choice could mean disaster for my people.”
He heard his mother gasp and saw her clutch the pup closer to her chest. He sat up a little straighter and shifted to a more defensive position, just in case.
“Don’t blame an innocent baby for being born,” Kagome countered, her voice full of worry and hurt. “It’s not his fault and he didn’t ask to be here. He should not have to pay for the mistakes of his parents with his life.”
Lori looked at her with a mixture of sorrow and pity, and he didn’t like the look at all.
“You don’t understand. Coyote waits. And Coyote is always hungry.”
His mother’s face grew cold and she stood up, holding the pup close to her. “I’m going to bed now. I’ll see you in the morning.”
As always, the Navajo woman refused to look Kagome in the eye, but she did nod that she understood and remained silent as Kagome carried the pup into the suite’s bedroom and closed the door.
“I will retire as well,” she said.
He nodded. “I’ll give you the cushions for Billy,” he replied, standing up and pulling the two firm pillows out.
“Thank you, although I am sure he is already asleep. He is well used to sleeping on the floor and the carpet in this room serves as fine cushioning,” she said, accepting the cushions.
“Take them anyway.”
She nodded. “Thank you. Good night.”
Without another word, she turned and disappeared into the other room, closing the door behind her. After she was gone, he pulled out the folding bed and sat on the edge of it, staring out the window. Lori’s words disturbed him, especially because if there hadn’t been people like his mother and father who were dedicated to saving hanyou babies, neither he nor any of his siblings would ever have made it out of diapers. He understood the Native woman’s concerns, but nothing could condone the murder of an innocent, helpless pup no matter who its father was.
‘Coyote waits and Coyote’s always hungry.’ “Keh,” he snorted and let himself fall backwards to the thin mattress.
Outside in the darkness the distinctive cry of a coyote howled mournfully in the night.