I do not own InuYasha or any of the characters created by Rumiko Takahashi
The next morning found a relaxed InuYasha and Kagome walking down the hill into the village. They managed to get downhill without running into Miroku or anybody from Daitaro's household, but as they headed toward the main part of the village their luck changed.
"Yo, cousins!" Susumu said, waving at them. For once, he was dressed in farmer's clothes, a plain kosode, short hakama with stained knees, and on his head was a rush hat. He balanced a rake over his shoulder and stood next to another man, bowed under a large bundle of rice straw tied on his back.
"Getting out early today?" InuYasha asked as they reached the farmers.
"It looks that way." Susumu, smiling, dropped the rake to the ground, and leaned on its handle like it was a walking stick. "Have you met my cousin Koichi?"
Koichi nodded at the hanyou and miko. "Don't think we've ever had a chance to talk before."
Kagome bowed to the farmer. "I don't think we have. It is good to meet you."
"Heard a lot about you, Miko-sama," the farmer said. "Most of it's even good."
Susumu gave his companion a nudge. "Behave, Koichi." He looked up at Kagome. "Ignore him. He spends too much time in the barn. Off to see Kaede-sama?"
The young miko nodded, then raised an eyebrow. "Out of your guard uniform today? I don't think I've ever seen you dressed to do farmwork before."
Susumu chuckled. "Even I have to do my share of work in the fields."
"So you say," Koichi said, snorting. "If you want to call showing up once in a while your share."
"Well, I try," the village guard said. "It's not my fault things keep happening that I have to attend to."
"No bad boys for you to chase today?" InuYasha asked.
"Heh," Susumu said, shrugging. "I hope not. We got through yesterday without too much trouble, amazingly. Kinjiro is getting better at anticipating what he wants to do. We need some quiet times now."
"Things have been a little hectic lately," Kagome said. "But here's hoping. Maybe it'll start today."
"Not going to happen," Koichi said, shaking his head. "Not with Hisa-sama on a tear." He shifted the straps to his load."You catch up with me when you can, Susumu-sama. This isn't getting any lighter." He began to head out past the paddy fields to the dryland fields beyond.
"Hisa-obasan on a tear?" Kagome asked, turning back to Susumu.
"I wouldn't worry about it," Susumu said. "She's just getting ready for the women coming over this afternoon."
"Ah," Kagome said, nodding. "My mother would get like that before having visitors."
"Sometimes," Susumu continued, pushing back his hat, "it sort of . . . well, when she's like that, she intimidates the men around her."
"So," InuYasha asked, with just a bit of a smirk, ""From the look of things, you might be one of the ones she intimidates. That's why you're heading out to the fields today?"
Kagome giggled a little, putting her hand over her mouth.
"I really do have work I need to get done," Susumu insisted.
The group began moving toward Kaede's house.
"Uh," InuYasha said, looking at the village guard, "the fields are the other way."
"True, true," Susumu said, grinning. "But since I found you here, I thought I'd walk your way a bit. There's something I'd like to talk with you about."
"Talk, eh?" the hanyou said, putting his hands in his sleeves. "Funny how when people ask that, it usually means they want you to do something."
"Uh," Susumu said. He scratched the back of his neck. "That's what I tell my father when he says that to me."
They reached Kaede's house. Stopping in front, Kagome looked at Susumu, curiously, but decided it could wait. "Well, have fun with your discussion. Some of us have other work to do." And giving InuYasha's hand a little squeeze, she went inside.
"So, child," Kaede said, looking up as Kagome walked into her house, "You seem like the day off did you some good."
"I think so," the younger woman said. "It was a nice day. I got a lot done that I just haven't had time to do." She slipped off her sandals, then went over to sit near the older miko.
"Good, good. Perhaps child, with you having a husband to take care of, we might want to do that regularly." Kaede poured some tea in a cup and handed it to Kagome. "This old woman doesn't always remember that sometimes, a wife has to think of other things."
"Sometimes," Kagome said, nodding, picking up her teacup. "But really, I mostly did laundry."
Kaede smiled, and sipped her own tea. "Well, even laundry is something different, and that can be restful by itself."
"Funny," the younger woman said. "I was trying to explain that to InuYasha, but I'm still not sure he understood it."
The two women laughed a bit.
"Well," Kaede said, "I think today may be a little different, too. And perhaps it will be a bit busy before it's all over. But in a good way, no doubt, surely nothing like two days ago. Before you know it, things will be calming down again, and the village will go back to its normal, sleepy self."
"At least until the next special event," Kagome said, smiling. "Family festival next month?"
"Aye, there's that," Kaede said. "And after that the barley harvest. And then the village festival and the rice planting . . . " She returned the girl's smile. "There is always something. But with good fortune, no more bad yamabushi magic, and just the usual always somethings."
The old miko picked up the basket she had along side of her. "Even our work isn't always the same. Instead of making medicine this morning, we're going to check up on some people who aren't doing so well. There are times when there are enough ill people that it's just easier to go to them rather than trying to bring them all to my house. Easier on them, too. People who are ill often feel better in their own beds with their own families caring for them." She already had several packets of herbal medicine in the basket. But she went over to the shelf and plucked down a small ointment jar.
"I know that's the way I like it," Kagome said, nodding.
"And that will take care of the start of the day," Kaede said, looking over her shoulder. "We'll see what the afternoon turns up."
"The afternoon?" Kagome asked. She watched the older woman walk back to her basket and pick up her empty tea cup.
"Well, there's the meeting at Hisa's." She nodded as she accepted the empty cup from Kagome. "This will sort of be your introduction to a lot of the women here." Kaede put them on the nearby shelf.
"Should . . . should I be nervous?" Kagome asked, tilting her head to look at the old miko.
Kaede shook her head."No, I don't think so. Between being under Hisa's wing and with everybody talking about the kami rescuing you, the real problem might be you get too much attention."
"I . . . I've had a little bit of that already," Kagome admitted, standing up. "Momoe-sama asked me if I would bless her house. I was going to ask you about what I should do."
"Ah, that poor woman - she's certainly had a run of bad luck these last few years. Well, it can't hurt." Kaede said, and grew thoughtful. "What to do? I'll have to think about that. I suspect she's expecting something different than I would do. You certainly won't have any trouble purifying the house. Maybe some sacred salt might make her feel good, as something she can see. Or one of the old prayers. Let me ponder that a bit."
"But other things might keep us busy as well. I was particularly thinking that with all those men working on Miroku's temple, we might have an injury or two. I put together some salve and herbs for strains and hurts, just in case. And bandages." Kaede pointed to a box not far from the fire pit. "If something happens this afternoon, that box will have most of what we need."
"Better to be ready, just in case," Kagome said.
"Exactly." Kaede sighed. The two of them stepped off the wooden platform and put on their sandals. "Sometimes when you have this many men in one place . . . "
"Oh, I know," Kagome said. "And it looked like Miroku tried to corner every able-bodied man in the village into showing up."
"I'm pretty certain he at least asked them all. If we're lucky, they won't be falling over each other trying to compete for who's the best." Kaede shook her head. "Sometimes I wonder about that monk."
Kagome stifled a giggle. "So who are we visiting today?"
"Daisuke-sama is still not feeling well, and he's hurt his back, too. I thought perhaps he will be more cooperative if someone else is there when I dose him," Kaede said. "He can be rather obstinate. Sora's middle child has a fever. I think it will pass, but we should check on him." She picked up her basket off the wooden floor, and slipped into teacher mode. "Most of the time, children's fevers pass, but sometimes they get too high, or the child won't drink or other things, like their tummies won't hold food or their bowels won't stop running, so never underestimate them. More than one child I know has passed on because his mother waited too long to come get me."
"I remember once my brother got sick and had trouble with throwing up," Kagome said, lifting the door mat. "My mother was rather frantic."
"And we need to check on Haname and her family. Morio, poor man - we might need to start giving him something to calm his nerves." Kaede said, sighing as she stepped outside "From what I hear, he's been a real handful for Joben to handle." She shook her head. "And after that, I think we'll see if we can find any spring herbs ready for the picking. I am thinking the mitsuba might be coming in by now."
Kagome nodded and followed Kaede out of the house.
"Where's your husband, by the way?" Kaede asked, not seeing or sensing InuYasha near at hand.
"Susumu was here waiting for us. I think he wanted to talk to InuYasha about something. I'm guessing that's where he's at."
After Kagome left them, InuYasha and Susumu moved to the center of the village, where a tall, wooden tower stood, bare wood scaffolding and a ladder leading up it. At the top was a small platform with a rail, a small roof and a gong.
"Let's go up here. I want to show you something," Susumu said, standing by the ladder. He started climbing up. InuYasha, smirking, took a leap, bounced of two of the support bars and reached the top early enough to offer Susumu a hand up.
"Sorry," the hanyou said. "Just thought I'd take the easy way for me up."
"Couldn't resist it, eh?" Susumu said, not at all displeased. "I take it heights don't bother you at all."
"Not in the least," InuYasha admitted, moving to the far side of the platform to get a better look. "I probably feel safer up high than on the ground sometimes."
"Handy thing, that, not being afraid of heights," Susumu said, walking to stand next to him. He gripped the railing. "There are some men I've brought up here that I've almost had to carry down."
InuYasha snorted and crossed his arms. "This isn't tall at all. You should get up in some trees I've been in."
"I'll let you have the trees, cousin. You land better than I do, from what I've seen. But still, our watch tower is tall enough," Susumu said. "So, InuYasha, just look around you and tell me what you think."
InuYasha slowly circled. He noticed that from the platform, he could see most of the houses in the village, most of them scattered along the main street, although there were a few higher up on the hill to the north and a few scattered in patches around the fields. There was a view of the main shrine as well, up on the ridge that ran into the hill where he lived. He could see the edge of Daitaro's property, but not the farmer's house, nor Miroku's temple or home, much less his own home up near the top of the hill. But it did give him a good view of the road leading in and out of the village center, along with the paddy fields, and some of the dry fields beyond.
"You can see a lot," he said. "Be hard for anybody on the road or coming from the south to surprise you." He rubbed his chin. "Not the best view of the river though, or the east once the ground starts to rise."
"True," Susumu said. "Not much we can do about the river view. Too many rocks and trees. But anybody coming that way would have to cross the fields, so I don't worry too much about it."
The hanyou nodded. He watched Akemi, one of the boys who like to watch him fish, head toward the fields instead of the river, a hoe across his back. The boy looked up at the tower, caught sight of the two men, and waved.
InuYasha waved back, then turned around facing the north. "Better view than the tree I like to sit in."
"It's higher though," Susumu said.
"Yeah. And better for spying on what's going on," he said, looking at the village guard.
Susumu snorted. Another man walked by and called up to them. Susumu waved back. He turned back to InuYasha. "It's not really so good for spying. It's too easy to see who's up here."
"Probably a good thing," InuYasha said, leaning against one of the support beams. "Otherwise, Miroku would be up here all the time. Never knew anybody worse than him about wanting to know everything that was going on with everybody."
This time Susumu did more than snort. He laughed hard.