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

Chapter 111

Leaving InuYasha to his work, Miroku headed down the hill toward the center of the village. As he neared the turnoff to Daitaro's house, he found Daitaro and Tsuneo leaning against a fence, talking. Okuro, Daitaro's prize bull grazed contentedly in the field behind the fence, ignoring the two men even though they were looking in his direction.

Once again, the monk's staff gave him away, and the two men turned to the road and watched him near. The bull snorted, looked, and turned back to his grazing.

"Yo, Houshi-sama!" Daitaro called out once he was within easy talking distance. "Out to see which village wife needs a good talking to about how to reach Paradise?"

"Village wives have as much right to salvation as any," Miroku said, walking up to the two men.

"True," Daitaro said, nodding as he turned to face the newcomer, but he gave Miroku a conspiratorial wink.

"Actually," Miroku said, coughing a bit at the old farmer's words, "I'm off to say sutras for Haname-sama. I believe in her case, there is more need than just preaching about the Buddha's way. "

Tsuneo turned to look at the monk. The strain of the last few days was clearly marked on his face, but something warmed in his eyes at Miroku's words. "Good man," he said. "My poor woman could use all the prayers you want to say. I don't know exactly what that bastard of a yamabushi did to her, but she had nightmares all last night." He spit. "Maybe what the kami did to him was what he deserved, but I'll be glad when I don't have to see his ugly face around my house anymore."

"Heaven sees things with different eyes than we on earth do," Miroku replied, clapping the man on his shoulder. "But I can understand your frustration."

"Good answer," Daitaro said. "About all anybody can say right now. Maybe it'll make more sense later."

Miroku nodded, and looked at Tsuneo thoughtfully for a moment. "When I stop by, I can leave her with this ofuda that might help," he said, reaching in his sleeve for a piece of paper marked with arcane symbols in black and red inks. He gazed down on it. "It can soothe the soul who's had magical abuse. I had planned on giving it to her today." He looked back up at the old farmer, sympathetically. "But if it's grief alone, I'm not sure it'll help with that. Grief is something that only time heals."

"If it can help," Tsuneo said, giving him an understanding nod of the head, "please do it. Even if it doesn't work on what's wrong with her, she might take some comfort from having it near her."

The monk nodded in return. "I'll do it, then." He started to walk off, but Daitaro stopped him.

"Is InuYasha back?" the old farmer asked. "I went up there yesterday afternoon, but they had gone."

"Evidently, they had some business to take care of," Miroku said, leaning on his staff. "He never did tell me what. But they're home now."

"Business?" the old farmer said. He scratched under his neck. "Probably the business of getting away from all of us for a while."

"He does that from time to time," Miroku agreed. "Although why he would want away from such excellent company . . . "

Daitaro barked a laugh, but Tsuneo nodded. "Don't blame him," he said, leaning back on the fence railing. "After yesterday . . . "

"Eh, well it's over," Daitaro said, shrugging. "Still, we may have dropped a lot on him that he's not used to dealing with, growing up wild like he did. One step at a time, that's what I always say. At least he came back."

"And I need to make the next step," Tsuneo said, pushing off from the fence railing. "Time to check out what he needs for that outbuilding of his."

"Want some company while you're at it?" Daitaro asked. "Be more interesting than trying to keep out of Chime's way this morning."

"Why not?" Tsuneo said, giving his friend a smile. He turned to the monk. "If you make it to my place, tell them I'll try to be home for lunch."

Miroku nodded. "Until later, friends." He headed down the road.

"He's not your usual monk," Tsuneo noted, watching Miroku head down towards the village.

"Well, I like him better than the proper monks I saw down in Odawara," Daitaro said, "The ones I saw were full of themselves and their holy ways, with damn little time for plain farmers."

"And grasping," Tsuneo added. He began walking in the opposite direction, heading up the hill. "The ones I've seen always have their hands held out."

"I'm not for sure that our houshi-sama's quite free of that particular trait, from some of the talk I've heard on market day," Daitaro said, chuckling as he followed. "I've heard he charges a lot to the big guys who hire him, although I've never really seen him turn away a poor man. But at least he doesn't do it here."

"A wise man," Tsuneo said. "And handy for us."

"True, true. And he has a good woman that keeps him in line," Daitaro said, grinning. "Even handier, with his eye for women."

Tsuneo guffawed. "Oh, I remember her big weapon. I'd stay in line if that was being aimed at my head," Tsuneo said. "Glad Haname never learned to use something like that."

"I hear they locked it up in the shrine," the old farmer said. "Might be a reason for that."

"Then it's probably a good thing your woman isn't trained the way the monk's wife is, either." Tsuneo grinned at his companion. "Otherwise, that head of yours would have surely been cracked long years ago."

"You might be right," Daitaro said, nodding. "Chime's never tried to brain me yet, and that might be the why of it. But if anything else goes wrong before the wedding she might just do it."

"Then you need to make sure it doesn't," the elder said. "I'd hate to have to go to your funeral. Where would I get my sake?"

Laughing, the men continued up the road.

While the two men walked on, InuYasha was nearly finished limbing the last of the trees he had chopped down. He flashed his axe one last time, and the final branch that needed to be trimmed came off the tree. Putting the tool aside, he grabbed the top of the trunk and began dragging it to where the other two he had already trimmed lay in their corner of the yard.

As heavy as it was, the tree gouged a trail in the dirt behind it. Right before he laid it down, Tsuneo and Daitaro made their way to the side of the house and watched, walking up that gouged dirt trail.

"Now that's rather amazing, one man pulling all that," Tsuneo said. "And not even using a chain or rope. Never saw anybody do something like that before, not without an ox."

"I've seen him do that type of thing before," Daitaro said, "And more. That boy has some power in those arms of his."

"Yesterday, he seemed just like one of the other young men," Tsuneo said. "A little wet behind the ears, but with a good heart. I knew some of the stories, but when he's just sitting there . . . "

"He really is," Daitaro said. "Just has these extra talents. Don't let those things color the truth of what you saw yesterday. I've been watching him a while. That was the real man we saw yesterday."

Tsuneo nodded. "I believe you."

InuYasha's ears flicked at their voices, the only sign that let them know that he knew they were there. Daitaro stepped up along side of the log. "If more people saw you do that, InuYasha, they'd sell off their oxen and just hire you instead."

InuYasha dropped the trunk into place, then dusted his hands off. He grinned at his company. "And if they did that, where would you be, old man?" he said. "Who would bring their cows to you and your bull?"

"Old Okuro would miss all the cows, that's true." Daitaro said, nodding. "And it'd be damn hard to keep him restrained. He'd be a moonstruck lover, looking for all his lost lady friends."

"You're too fond of that old monster," Tsuneo said, shaking his head. "Moonstruck lover."

"Well, why not?" Daitaro said. "He's been a good fellow. Lots of healthy children. We should be as lucky as him when it comes to all the ladies he's had his pleasure with."

"Good thing Chime isn't here listening," InuYasha said, picking up his axe and moving it to its place near the firewood rick.

"Oh, she knows him well enough by now," Tsuneo said, grinning, while giving Daitaro a friendly shove. "I doubt there's anything left to say that would shock her."

Daitaro snorted and rubbed his cap back along his head. "You're probably right," he said. "But she knows I'm all mouth. It's been a long time since I ended up sleeping in the barn."

"Maybe she just decided it wasn't worth it," InuYasha said, getting a drink from his bucket. "Too much effort on a lost cause."

"I suspect so," Tsuneo said, looking knowingly at his friend. Daitaro guffawed.

"So," InuYasha said as he watched the two old men, "What brings you two up here, besides the urge to tell bad jokes?"

"Ah, friend," Tsuneo said, attempting to regain a more dignified look. "The bad jokes are all Daitaro's fault. But as for me, I'd thought I'd come up to take a look at what you were talking about yesterday. The monk's not the only one who can organize work parties. That building of yours won't build itself by wishing."

With a nod, InuYasha dropped the ladle back in the water bucket. "I hope you know more than I do about what to do next." He began walking to the limbed tree trunks. "Here's my wood."

Tsuneo and Daitaro looked that the trimmed tree boles carefully, walking around them. Tsuneo tried to roll one over but couldn't. InuYasha gave it a little shove, and it turned.

"Those look like they'll make a fair bit of board," Tsuneo said, scratching under his chin as he considered them. "Still Choujiro'll need to look at them. He really is the best in the village at this sort of thing. They might split up, but he might want to saw them."

"Splitting takes less work," Daitaro said, tugging on his beard. "And the boards are usually stronger."

InuYasha crossed his arms, tried to slip his hands in his sleeves, and realized he wasn't wearing his jacket. He unfolded his arms and for a moment, he just stared at his fingers.

"But splitting takes more skill and the right trees," Tsuneo said. "We'll let him be the judge. He won't saw if he doesn't need to. Takes two people to do it right, anyway, but some trees you just can't split."

"True, true," Daitaro said. "And there's no good place here to set up a sawing pit."

InuYasha shrugged, not knowing that much about the subject. "Is it going to be enough?"

"Maybe," Tsuneo said. "We'll know more once it's in boards. Let's go see where you want to put the building up."

Kagome heard the men's voices talking about trees and boards, but wanted to get the last of her laundry done, and, since everything seemed to be going well, left them in InuYasha's hands.

She was on her last garment, her chihaya, the white jacket she wore as part of her miko clothes. The other things fluttered in the breeze as they hung up to dry, but the chihaya was being stubborn, not releasing the stains from her run-in with the oni.

"I wish, wish I had thought to bring a bar of soap with me when I came back here," she said. It wasn't the first time she voiced that thought while she was working. Scrubbing the garment longer didn't seem to do anything for the spots she was trying to get rid of. "Stupid youkai guts. Maybe if I put some vinegar in the water. Mama always swore by that."

She left it in the water, and went back into the house. Coming out, she carried a bucket and her vinegar jar. Putting the jacket and a fair amount of water in the bucket, she poured a hefty slug of vinegar into it as well.

"That's going to need some time. I think Mama always said to let it soak at least an hour. Maybe I'll go see Sango for a while and rinse it when I get back."

Drying her hands on her wrap skirt, she put up her vinegar, then went around the back to where the men were still talking.

Tsuneo paced off a square, and looked around him. "I think the location is good. There's enough room here. It shouldn't shade the garden."

"Miroku and Sango helped me pick the spot," InuYasha said.

Tsuneo nodded. "Looks like a good decision."

Daitaro frowned as he looked at the forest beyond the clearing. "What about that tree?" he asked, pointing to an oak tree that grew behind the area they were looking at.

"What about it?" Tsuneo said.

"Won't it be too close to the shed?" the old farmer asked. He moved over to the tree and looked up at it. "It's getting old and hollow. Be bad if a storm blows up and it falls."

Tsuneo turned around and looked at the landscape. "Doesn't look like it's tall enough."

"Eh, maybe you're right," Daitaro said, stroking his beard. "Let me pace it off." He began walking back towards the site Tsuneo was standing at.

InuYasha took a deep breath and rolled his eyes.

Kagome, watching her husband, worked hard at not laughing at the look on his face. She walked up to him. "Hey."

All the men turned to her as she spoke.

"Ah, Kagome-chan!" Daitaro said. "Having a good day?"

"I think so," she replied. "While you're busy here, I'm going to go to Sango's for a while. I had to soak my last piece of laundry. I'll rinse it out when I get back, so you can leave the tub where it's at."

InuYasha nodded. "I'll come down when we're through here."

Bidding the men farewell, she stopped to get her sewing basket, and headed down the hill.