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

Chapter 120

Haname was lying on a pallet in the main room near the fire pit, resting under a blue and yellow coverlet with her arm thrown over her forehead. Hearing the door mat rattle, she groaned. "Don't tell me Setsuko is still fighting over the pickle tub."

"Not this time," Kaede said, dropping the mat behind her.

The sick woman turned over to face the beaten earth doma and sighed as she saw her visitor.

"So, Kaede, I see you're here to poke and probe me again," she said. Her voice was too soft, and her face looked worn and strained, even as she tried to pull her dignity together to greet her guest.

"That I am," the old miko said as she stepped inside. "Although if you would rather, I could put this off until tomorrow."

Akina was sitting near Haname, working the spinning wheel. As Kaede stepped out of her shoes, she wound the last length of thread onto the spindle and moved closer to her mother-in-law. Haname patted her hand as Kaede stepped up on the wooden platform then wrapped her fingers around her daughter-in-law's hand, as if she could pull the younger woman's strength into her.

She looked up at Kaede, and gave her head a resigned shake. "No, you're here, so we might as well. Help me sit up, Akina-chan, so I can hear her tell me how sick I still am."

There was more shouting from outside, which made Haname wince. Akina turned and looked in its direction. "If it were less . . . noisy around here, you would be doing better, Okaasan," she said, sliding her arm under the older woman's shoulders in preparation to move her.

"It is what it is," Haname said, lifting her head to help her daughter-in-law get into position.

Kaede walked over and sat down next to them, resting her basket on the ground next to her. "I've brought some medicine that might help calm him down. It might even make him sleepy."

"I hope it'll taste sweet, because I don't know if we can get him to take it any other way," Akina said, taking a firm grip on Haname's hand. "Are you ready, Okaasan?"

"You might try mixing it with sweet bean paste," Kaede said as she rummaged through her basket and pulled out a small container. "But be careful not to let the little ones get into it."

The younger woman nodded.

"I'll leave that up to you, Akina-chan, or maybe Amaya-chan might help" Haname said, steeling herself to move. "Let's get this done."

"He's still getting headaches," Akina said wrapping Haname's arm around her neck. "Maybe we can do it then."

Akina lifted Haname up as smoothly as possible, but it was obviously a strain for the older woman to move, and she closed her eyes and grimaced as she shifted, panting a little, and then coughing as she settled down into a sitting position. Unwrapping herself from her mother-in-law, Akina patted her on the back to ease her cough, and then tucked the blanket around her legs and waist. Haname took a moment to catch her breath, but once she had, she quickly shooed her daughter-in-law off.

"That's enough, Akina-chan. Enough fussing over me. I'm not an infant. Put on the kettle, will you?" she said, patting her daughter-in-law's hand and giving her a faint, fond smile. "I'll be all right. But I'd like some tea while I'm sitting up."

Nodding, the younger woman grabbed the tea kettle. "Would you like some, Kaede-obaasan?"

The old miko shook her head. "Not this time, thank you. Kagome-chan is outside waiting, talking to Amaya-chan."

Haname coughed again. "You could have brought her in with you, you know," she said, reaching for a cup of water. When she was done, Kaede grabbed her wrist to take her pulse. "I wouldn't have minded."

Kaede concentrated for a moment as she felt the pulse. Pursing her lips she touched the woman's head and neck and throat.

"Yes, you would have," the miko said as she did these things. "Perhaps not minded, but you would have felt the strain. You have enough strain in your life now without adding extra."

"Bah," Haname said, shaking her head. "My whole life is strain." She began to cough again. "Don't tell me I'm getting a lung fever."

"Not yet, maybe," Kaede said. "You are a little warm. You need to sit up as much as possible. Laying down too much will let your lungs clog up."

Haname sighed.

"If it's too hard for you to hold yourself up, you can either sit next to the wall, or put a chest behind you for a back rest," Kaede said. She rocked back on her heels. "Are you still having nightmares?"

The ill woman made a bitter, if wry, face. "Only when I sleep."

"If they get too bad, you can take a little of the medicine I brought for the yamabushi." Kaede rested the palm of her hand on the bridge of Haname's nose, so that it covered the area between her eyes. "It might help you sleep more soundly." Once again, the miko closed her eye. "Your aura is still troubled."

Haname pulled away. "And what do you mean by that, Kaede?"

"That you're still throwing off the effects of that spell. Perhaps if you could get some dreamless sleep, you would heal faster," Kaede said, rubbing her finger on the bottom of her chin. "Sit up as much as you can today, and take some of that medicine tonight. If you're not doing better in a couple of days, we'll try something else."

Sighing, Haname nodded. There were more noises from the yard. "Calming him down might help most of all," she said. "Akina, do you think?"

Akina sighed. "I'll try, Okaasan." She reached for the jar that had the medicine. "How much of it?"

"I'd try five drops in whatever it is you're going to give him," Kaede said. "You can give him a little more, but no more than ten drops at a time." She turned to Haname. "The same goes for you. Start out with five drops in a cup of tea." The miko stood up. "And only lie down if you are going to sleep."

Haname grabbed her sleeve. "Next time, don't leave her outside."

Kaede gave the ailing woman a small smile. "I'll remember that," she said. And picking up her basket, she made her farewells and then left.

Kagome was bending down over a patch of greens as Kaede walked down the pathway.

"This is the best size to pick them," Amaya said, breaking off a leaf of a slightly purple green and handed it to the younger woman. "You can let them get a little bigger than that, but if you want to use them for their greens and not roots, if the flowers start to bloom, they get bitter. Too much after that, they get too tough for anything but the compost pile. But you can pickle the roots."

"They come up early," Kagome noted.

"Yes, they're one of the first things I plant," Amaya said nodded. "Next year, be sure to get some in as early as possible. If you want, you can come by and ask questions. No doubt I'll be more ready to talk to you than Kinjiro."

Kagome laughed. "I suspect you would be. Is it just me, or does Kinjiro seem . . . well . . . a little pushy? And he thinks everybody ought to know what he's talking about in advance?"

"Ah, you've noticed that, have you?" Amaya smiled at Kagome, chuckling a little as she stood up and brushed the dirt off her hand.

"I think," Kaede said, joining the two younger women, "everybody has noticed that."

Kagome stood up. "Done already?"

"I am," the old miko said, nodding. "And we still have time to go herb gathering."

"It's a good day for it," Amaya said. "Let me know if you see any good stands of fuki. That might be just the thing for Haname-obasan right now." She rubbed her back. "If not her, at least me."

"There's usually some up there. I'll let you know if it's up enough," Kaede said, shifting her basket to a different place on her hip.

"Well, I want to get these greens in. They'll be good with lunch," Amaya said, picking up her own basket. "Be sure to come back, Kagome-chan. We'll talk some more about gardening. And stubborn young farmers!" After a polite bow, she headed back to the house.

"Now that was an interesting experience," Kagome said as they watched Amaya head back to the house. They, too, began walking. "She knows a lot about gardening."

"I've heard that," Kaede said, nodding as they made it back to the main street. "She's been in charge of Tsuneo's kitchen garden for a long time now. Some of the other women are jealous of her skill."

"I can believe that," Kagome said. "How is Haname?"

Kaede sighed and frowned a little. "I was hoping she would be feeling better by this morning, but she's still nearly as weak as she was two days ago. I've told them to make sure she sits up some; laying down too long, especially for an older person, can make the lungs weak, and she's already starting to cough."

"Really?" the young miko asked, surprised. "So soon?"

Kaede sighed. "Whatever magic and potion that yamabushi gave her, it's taken a lot out of her. I thought she would just need a couple of days to recover, but she's taking longer than I expected. We might have to try something more serious if she's not starting to get better by tomorrow."

Leaving the main road, they walked along the dyke between paddy fields, green with growing barley, until they reached the dry fields beyond. Kaede continued her lesson.

"I do grow a lot of herbs," Kaede said. "But for some things, wild herbs are much better than similar ones we can grow in the garden. And some won't do well in a garden, no matter what we do."

One of the younger boys was coming back along the same path the two women were taking. He looked at Kagome with great curiosity as they passed, but didn't say anything. Once he was past them, though, he broke out into a run.

"What was all that about?" Kagome asked, turning to watch him go.

"Boys being boys, I suspect," the older miko said. "Toshiki is Iya's brother. I've heard he's excitable. For some reason, I get the impression he's a bit afraid of me."

"You?" Kagome looked at Kaede rather surprised.

"You're not the only one people talk about, child," Kaede said, patting her hand. "Sometimes, even old mikos get in the gossip. I think Toshiki heard the rumor that I turn bad boys into frogs."

Kagome almost choked on that one, then both women laughed. They passed by several other people working in their fields, but no one else reacted like Toshiki. Instead they nodded or called out a greeting as the two went by. Soon they had reached the end of the paddy fields and the canals used to fill them and the start of the dryland fields.

Kaede pointed to an old oak left growing on the side of the path. "That tree is on the border of Tameo's fields," Kaede said. "If we pass to the right from there, we'll pass by a large field that he plants in beans and hemp and eggplants. On the far end of it, is one of the meadows I like to go to in the spring. It has a few trees, and a couple of damp spots, which are very good for some of the herbs we will be using."

Reaching the tree, they took the turn and walked toward the meadow. About halfway there, Kagome was surprised to find Tameo, not too far from the fence that marked the property line, actually using a hoe as he worked in the field. He was singing as he bent over the earth.

The two miko stopped and watched.

"Young man, young man," he sang,
"Where are you going,
I'm going to the sake shop
to buy a fresh jug.

"Young man, young man,
how will they measure it?
they'll put it on a scale
and weigh it right up.

"Young man, young man,
how much will it weigh?
It weighs quite a lot,
as much as Fujiyama."

"A lot of sake, cousin," Kaede said.

Tameo looked up, and put his hoe over his shoulder. "Indeed. Quite a lot."

"What would Daitaro-sama say about buying that much?" Kagome asked. "It seems to me that he would be complaining about the quality."

Tameo wiped his forehead with his sleeve, and laughed. "You'll have to ask him that one. He's the one who taught me the song. Maybe he wishes he could sell that much."

Kagome grinned and watched the old headman laughing. Kaede, evidently having heard that joke before, merely gave her cousin a smile.

"A good day to be out working," she said.

"Well, the work needed to be done," Tameo said, shrugging. "And we are a couple of days behind. And I've had enough paperwork to last me a while."

Kaede nodded wisely. "And the women are coming over this afternoon, too."

"There's that," he said. "You know my wife." He dropped his hoe, getting ready to get back to work. "Off to the meadow?"

"Indeed," the old miko said. "I think perhaps some of the mitsuba might be big enough by now. And Amaya has asked me to see if there's any fuki around."

"Saw some over there the day before yesterday, over by the low spot," he said. "Not sure what else. Still a bit early."

"I'm sure we'll find something," Kaede said.

"Good gathering," he said, and then lifting his hoe, he went back to work and singing.

"Young man, young man,
how much will you drink
from a jug as big as Fujiyama?
I'll drink it down to the bottom."

Shaking her head, Kagome tried hard not to giggle and followed Kaede to the meadow.