I do not own InuYasha or any of the characters created by Rumiko Takahashi

Chapter 104

InuYasha came in and washed his hands as Kagome made their lunch trays.

"No more yelling?" she said.

"No more for the moment. It looks like that Aki's actually doing what Kinjiro's telling him to right now." InuYasha dried his hands and took his place by the fire pit. "Smells good."

Kagome ladled out their soup as InuYasha sat down at his place.

"It does, doesn't it? Let me know if you want me to try to make this stew myself," she said, handing InuYasha his bow. "So Kinjiro's working on the garden again?"

"Yeah. He had the kid cleaning up after the cow while he was doing whatever it is he does with hoes and seeds. From the looks of things, they had already cleaned up around the woodpile," InuYasha said, taking a sip of his soup. He rolled it around in his mouth and smiled. "It is good. Yeah, I'd like to eat this again."

"I thought you might," Kagome said, putting small dishes with pickles on both trays. "I'll be sure to ask when I go back there." She popped a slice of pickle in her mouth, chewed for a moment. "I don't know which pickles I like best, Chime's or Sayo's. Kinjiro certainly didn't waste any time. I suspect he's trying to get done up here today."

"It'd be nice if he does. Maybe things could go back to normal. But Daitaro is right." InuYasha picked up a slice of pickle, and looked at Kagome's plate, and frowned slightly. "How come you have more pickle on your plate than mine?"

Kagome gave him a teasing smile. "Because you always steal at least two of mine," she said. "Daitaro is right about what?"

"About Kinjiro loving to work." He ate the pickle thoughtfully. "You're right. Both of them make really good pickles. I like both of them a lot." He picked up another slice. "It's kind of funny. You know how irritated and complaining he was all day today during the meeting?"

Kagome nodded, and sipped her own soup.

InuYasha picked up an onigiri. "He was out there, listening to the brat, answering his questions, and as calm as I ever saw him." InuYasha took a bite of the rice ball. "That boy's full of weird ideas. Like nobody has to do drudge work but farmers. He was really surprised to see me chopping wood. He said he thought that we lived on magic, like I just waved my hand and things get done."

Kagome picked up a pickle slice. "Magic, huh? What, you're just supposed to wish food into the house and we eat?"

"I guess," he said. " It'd be nice sometimes. I wish I could get the rabbits to cooperate. Just take off their own hides and hop into the kitchen." He took another bite. "And the fish, too."

"And the rice cook itself," Kagome said, laughing a little. "But even better would be for the dishes to wash themselves and the laundry to wring itself out and hang itself up on the line."

"It makes you wonder what type of stories they've been telling that boy," InuYasha said.

"You know how it is with stories. People don't have to work, or babies appear in peaches, or magic bags produce endless amounts of rice." She play-slapped at InuYasha as he reached over to steal one of her pickle slices. "Or magical men steal their wives' pickles."

He popped it into his mouth and chewed it with great delight, smirking when it was done. "Or beautiful women fall through magical wells to wake up enchanted hanyous."

"Am I in a story?" she asked, smiling.

"My favorite one," InuYasha said, smiling at her. "Especially the part where even after the kami had separated them, she found a way to come back and bring him back to life the second time."

Kagome gave him a warm, almost misty-eyed look at that, and a beautific smile. He reached out, touched her cheek with the knuckles of his left hand. While she was distracted, he stole another pickle slice. As she noticed, she pushed him away, and gave him a big mock frown.

"All that to put up with his thieving ways." She finished her soup, and put the bowl down on her tray. "And that's why I have more pickles on my plate than you do."

InuYasha was trying to figure out something else to say when Kinjiro yelled.

"Dammit, boy, get back here now!"

"What's happening?" Kagome asked.

Something crashed, and there was the sound of wood falling.

"Stupid boy. That sounded like the wood pile. I bet he's trying to run," InuYasha said, getting up.

"Aki!" Kinjiro yelled again. InuYasha could hear something running through the brush at the edge of the meadow. He hurried outside.

Kinjiro was in the front of the house as InuYasha stepped outside. There was a tumble of firewood scattered to the side of the house, and from the mud stain on his hakama, he guessed that Kinjiro had fallen while chasing the boy.

Looking at the trees across the clearing, the farmer threw down his hoe.

"He ran?" the hanyou asked.

Kinjiro gave a curt nod. "Cut his leg rope with the shovel while I was on the other side of the garden taking a piss, then knocked over your wood again and disappeared into the brush. I knew I should have taken the time to find some chain. Where the hells does he think he's going to run to?"

"Don't know, but we'll find out. I never knew such a baka kid," InuYasha said. His face grew somber. "I'll find him. He can't get away from my nose." The hanyou dropped to the ground, stiffing, looking for all the world like a dog homing in on the boy's scent.

Kagome stepped out of the house, and watched Kinjiro gape at the hanyou while he searched for the scent trail.

"You've seen him do this before?" Kinjiro asked.

"Oh yes," Kagome said, crossing her arms, but looking approvingly at her husband. "It might look odd, but he knows what he's doing."

"I've got it," InuYasha said, and standing up began moving in the direction the scent led him, downhill in the general direction of Daitaro's house.

"That . . . was interesting," Kinjiro said. "I've never seen anybody pick up a trail like that."

"He's very good that way," Kagome said. "I don't think there's any way Aki-kun can get away now. I wonder where that stupid boy thought he was going to go?"

Kinjiro bent over and picked up his hoe. "Who knows? Maybe he still thinks his obaasan can keep him safe from everything. He has another thing coming if he goes that way. I think if he makes it all the way home, Tsuneo might actually send him off to Odawara, or even north. For a generally clever boy, he's being a real stupid kid."

"I can't disagree with that," Kagome said, and after her husband disappeared into the woods beyond, she walked back in the house.

Not knowing that InuYasha was narrowing in on his scent trail, Aki, breathing heavily after his mad dash downhill, crashed through a thicket not far from the start of Daitaro's fields. Here, the rounded green of the hill gave way to bare rock, a jagged uplift about the height of four men, studded with fern and vines wherever they could get enough soil to take root. The base of the rock was hidden with a thick growth of weeds. It was hard to get to; the only path in was a narrow deer trail, easy to lose amid the tangle of new growth and last year's dry brown grasses. Aki walked along the rock formation until he stopped by a small bush that had a small tatter of cloth tied to it. Pushing aside some tall, leggy grasses, he found an opening, a shallow cave barely big enough for a man or a couple of boys his size to squeeze into.

"Not going to find me here," Aki muttered, as he crawled into it. "Nobody's ever discovered me and Isao's hiding place, especially someone as stupid as Kinjiro."

There was a basket in the little cave. He reached in and pulled out a water container. "Glad I left this here," he said, and took a drink.

"Going to treat me like a slave," he said, wiping his mouth. "I'll show them who's a slave. Stupid Kinjiro. Work this. Work that. What does he know?" He put the bamboo water holder between his legs and looked at his hands, bandaged from blisters, scratched, like his arms from the mad dash he had just made. "Obaasan wouldn't have let them do this to me if she hadn't got sick because I got stupid and let them catch me. Morio said it would have worked. Everything was going fine. Then I got stupid. And why'd he do whatever he did that got the kami mad at him? Is the hanyou's magic that good? Or am I the bad luck? Isao never would have said that stuff . . . "

He leaned back and closed his eyes. "Maybe it is me. I ought to go to the mountains. Morio-sama said - "

Suddenly there was a big tug on his ankle, and as he yelled in panic, he was unceremoniously dragged out of the cavelet and hoisted up in the air.

"I wouldn't believe anything that dumb ass said." InuYasha glared at the boy. "What in the hell did you think you were doing, running away from Kinjiro like that? Aren't you in enough trouble already?"

Realizing who had him, Aki began to scream in earnest, thrashing and trying to kick with his free leg. InuYasha's ears laid back with the noise, but he merely grabbed the boy's other leg, and tossed him over his shoulder.

"You think your hiding place was that special?" InuYasha said. "Hell, I knew about it before your old man was even born. Once I caught your scent, I knew exactly where you were going. I suspect Kinjiro, or at least Susumu used it when they were your age. Maybe even Daitaro."

"Let me go!" Aki screamed. He tried lunging up and grabbing the hanyou's hair, beating his back, and once made a grab for his ear.

"You can have all the fun you want," InuYasha said, shifted him further down his back. "It's not going to keep me from taking you back."

He began trudging through the brush, not being particularly mindful if any of the bushes or branches he passed hit the writhing, panicked load he was carrying. One arm kept the boy's legs from kicking him, the other made sure that even with all his struggling, he wouldn't slide off his shoulders.

"The monster's got me!" Aki yelled, in the desperate hope that someone would notice and care. "He's going to eat me!" When nobody responded, he began pulling the hanyou's hair again.

InuYasha winced at a particularly hard tug, but didn't slow down. Slowly it dawned on the boy nobody was going to run to his rescue. Instead, he let out a string of foul words.

"Your obaasan know you talk that way, stupid?" InuYasha said as the boy paused for breath.

"You don't talk about my obaasan," Aki said. "You're just a monster. She's too good to be in the same room with you." He began struggling again to get free.

"You are the dumbest brat I know of," InuYasha said. "I think even Shippou is smarter than you. You aren't going anywhere, except back to Kinjiro. Maybe he'll still work with you. You'll be lucky if he doesn't take your back to your ojiisan. Tsuneo sure doesn't deserve a brat like you to ruin his day."

"Shut up, monster!" Aki said, and pulled as hard as he could on the hanyou's hair.

"Right," InuYasha said "You can call me a monster. But you, brat, you shame your grandparents. You ruin Daitaro's sake, let your cousin get hurt, and then beat him up yourself, and let your grandmother get so wound up she has to be held and sent to Kaede-babaa's so she doesn't hurt herself. Your games led to my wife being attacked. All I did was drag you out of that little hole before the wolves or the youkai got to you, and am getting you back to where your grandfather said you were supposed to be. But I'm the monster."

"I'm not the one with claws and dog ears."Aki said. "Shut up! Obaasan said you killed Kaede-obaasan's sister, and you made that monster attack us three years ago. My cat got killed when the shouki fell."

"No way," InuYasha said, "Haname is wrong. You can ask Kaede-babaa yourself. It was the same monster that attacked the village that wounded Kaede's sister and made her think it was me. Sorry about your cat. But me and Kagome, and Miroku and Sango, and even little Rin, we all almost got killed going after that guy. No telling what would have happened to the village if we hadn't got him."

"Don't believe you," Aki said, giving him one hard smack. "My Obaasan wouldn't lie. She's good!"

"Feh." InuYasha said. "Everybody lies sometimes. But I never said she lied, just that she was wrong. And what about you? What were you doing trying to beat up Isao for telling the truth? I knew it was you who threw dirt at my futon. I could smell you. I could smell you the day you ruined Daitaro's sake, too."

"Liar," Aki said, stopping his pounding. He turned his head to the side and tried to push up so he could see the hanyou. "If you knew it, how come you didn't do anything?"

"You and your cousin weren't worth my time," the hanyou said. "I had a lot more important things to do than let a brat bother me." He jumped lightly over a log in his way.

This jarred the boy, and his face bounced off InuYasha's back. "Hey, watch it."

"Hmph," the hanyou said. "I don't know why. That's about as nice as you treated me and Daitaro and everybody else you've been messing with."

Aki fell silent for a moment and gave up hitting, laying there without struggling. Once, when Inu skipped over a small boulder he gave a grunt.

As they cleared the brush, they found themselves near the fence of one of Daitaro's fields. InuYasha could see the road just ahead from it. "Won't be long now," he said. "We'll get home in a few minutes."

Instead of answering him, Aki moaned.

"Now what?" InuYasha asked.

"I need . . . I need . . . " the boy muttered.

"What?" the hanyou said, clearly irritated. His ear flicked.

"I'm going to be sick," the boy said, and started to gag.

InuYasha sighed and let the boy slide off his shoulder, keeping a firm grip on one arm as the boy bent over and began to retch.

Shinjiro, who had been working in the field near the road, spotted the two of them. Seeing the boy doubled over, he climbed the fence, and hopped down to watch Aki.

"Yo, InuYasha-sama," the farmer said. "What do you have there?"

Aki hacked and sputtered.

"A runaway," InuYasha replied. "And a smelly one at that. Lost his stomach getting packed around like a bag of rice."

Aki finished, spit, and looked up. He still seemed a little green, but tried to pull away from the hanyou toward the farmer. "Shinjiro-sama! Tell him to let me go!" Aki cried. "He's going to eat me!"

"We couldn't be that lucky," Shinjiro said. "I don't think InuYasha-sama's taste runs to troublesome boys."