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

Chapter 122

The two miko retraced their steps, heading back for the road and to the field where Tameo was. The headman was just covering up some seeds he had planted. He stood up stiffly, leaning on his hoe, and dusted his hands off. Looking around, he spotted the two women, then tipped his rush hat back a bit to watch them as they headed in his direction.

He moved over to the fence railing that marked his property line. "Ah, cousins. Somehow, after all that noise, it's not surprising to see you to again so quickly. Sorry your herb gathering got interrupted."

"It sounded a bit more urgent than what we were doing. The herbs will be there later," Kaede said, shifting her basket on her hip. "Who yelled?"

Tameo pushed his hat all the way off, pulled a small towel out from where it was tucked into his obi, and wiped his forehead. "Kinjiro and Aki, who else?"

"I thought it sounded like them," Kagome said, nodding. "What happened?"

"I'm not sure," the headman said, putting his towel back and readjusting his hat. He picked up his seed bag, worn and stained, and draped its straps over his head. With a quick tug, he smoothed it into place.

The younger miko frowned as she watched. "Shouldn't you be seeing what happened? I couldn't make out the words, but Aki sounded like he was in trouble."

"When is that boy not in trouble?" Tameo asked, shaking his head. "But Susumu and InuYasha showed up right after you left for the meadow. They went to investigate." He put his hoe over his shoulder. "I've done enough here this morning. I suspect it's time I ought to go see what's happening."

He climbed over the fence with surprising grace for a man his age, but oomphed as he landed. "Don't know why that feels harder to do every year," he said, shaking his head before he turned back to the women. "Well cousins, shall we go see what that fool boy managed to do this time?"

With a nod from Kaede, they began to walk.

"So what were they supposed to be doing?" the older miko asked as she following her cousin. He was leading them away from the village towards a stand of trees.

"Mulching the field on the other side of the wood lot," Tameo said. "Where Susumu was supposed to be helping before he ran into your husband, Kagome-chan."

Kagome looked down, a bit embarrassed. "I'm sorry," she said.

"I'm not," Tameo said, grinning at her. "Actually, I'm quite pleased how it turned out."

The young miko looked up, confused. "Why?"

"Well," he said, chuckling a little, "First of all, it allowed me to finish what I was doing before dashing off to see if my son needed any help - "

He was interrupted by Aki screaming, "Don't hurt me!"

The two women looked at each other.

"I suspect," Kaede said, patting Kagome on the hand, "InuYasha and Susumu have arrived."

Tameo shrugged. "Let's hope it's that. Otherwise, it means that boy finally pushed my youngest over the edge, and the thought of telling Tsuneo that news, with everything else going on in his life right now, is not something I'd even want to imagine."

Kaede sighed. "He does have his hands full. Morio . . . "

"Eh," Tameo said, pulling off his hat for a moment so he could scratch the back of his head. "I'm not sure about how we're going to deal with that one." He put his hat back on. "People have been dropping by to talk about it, and tell me he's done this or that, and its only been three days since it happened. Well, one thing at a time. First we find out what this scoundrel is up to, then we let Hisa and that monk have their afternoon. Tomorrow will be enough time to do something."

"Perhaps," the older miko said, nodding.

They neared the wood lot. Not far from the road, they could see Aki sitting on the ground, curled up in a ball, with Susumu next to him, and InuYasha and Kinjiro staring at the boy.

"Well," Tameo said. "It looks like nobody's killed anybody yet, so things might be looking up."

"Do you really think . . . " Kagome asked, shaking her head. "I can't believe that Kinjiro would . . . "

"After hearing Kinjiro rant about the boy yesterday, I wouldn't put anything past anyone," Tameo said, turning left to join up with the others. "I just hope Daitaro knows what he's getting in for. He's not as young as he used to be."

"Nor are you, cousin," Kaede said.

He put his hand in the small of his back. "And don't I know it. Been sitting in the office too much lately. I hope I get the stiffness worked out before the barley's in."

The three of them walked up to the cluster of men as Aki slowly pulled himself up into a sitting position.

"Oh, he's had a run-in with something," Kagome said, frowning at the streaks of blood she saw on his face. "And why is InuYasha out of his jacket?"

"I guess we'll find out in a moment, child," Kaede said.

InuYasha heard them talking, and turned their way. "We've got company."

"Well, Otousan, come to join the party?" Susumu asked. "And you brought help, I see. That's a bit of good luck." He patted Aki on the shoulder. "Just the person that needs to look at you, boy."

Aki looked up at the men anxiously. "Are . . . are you sure she'll want to take care of me? I heard . . . " He swallowed. "Can . . . Can Kaede-sama really turn someone into a frog?"

InuYasha shook his head. Kinjiro snickered. Susumu frowned at his younger brother, but then turned toward Aki and gave him a friendly grin "I asked that question once, too. Shinjiro had me totally convinced she did that. But, no, I've never seen her do it," the guard said. "If she could have, I bet she would have done it to me when I was your age."

"There was a point I think Chichi-ue would have paid her to do it if she could," Kinjiro remarked, still snickering a little.

"I might have," Tameo said. "You deserved it. Just ask your Okaasan."

"That bad, huh?" InuYasha asked, grinning.

"Well," Susumu said, shrugging. He stood up. "I guess after we – "

His story got interrupted by Kaede. "What got to you, boy?" she asked as she knelt down and got a good look at him. Taking his chin, she looked at the scratch marks. Two of them were quite close to his left eye. She picked up his hands and saw more marks on the back of his hands and his wrists.

The boy let the miko examine him, but he looked at her wide eyed and a bit afraid, swallowing hard, unable to say anything.

"I'm not going to bite you, boy," Kaede said. "I just want to know how you got hurt."

"He decided he was tired of working and went where he shouldn't have," Kinjiro said, scowling.

"Wouldn't be the first boy who's done that. Even a younger son I know has done it a time or two," Tameo said. He tapped his hoe once, and gave Kinjiro a knowing look, which made Susumu grin.

"See," he said to the boy, "even my brother isn't always perfect."

Kaede cleared her voice and looked up at the men. "Well?"

InuYasha lifted his jacket over his left shoulder. "He climbed a tree and disturbed some nesting birds," he said. "They didn't like his company. The boy couldn't get down, so I went up and got him down before they could do any more damage."

"Birds?" Kaede asked. Aki nodded. " Nesting birds can be quite determined. I've seen small birds chase off a hawk before. You're lucky they didn't hurt you worse than they did." She ran her thumb along one scratch, examining it, and he winced.

Kagome moved next to her husband, and reached up to touch the small wound on InuYasha's cheek. "Doesn't look like they liked you either."

The hanyou shrugged. "It'll heal, and a lot faster than his will."

Nodding, she looked at his arm, and saw the new rip where the bird had gotten too close. "It's a shame your kosode won't." She plucked at the fabric to examine the small tear.

"Sorry about that. I put my jacket over the brat before I got him out of the tree. His stupid leg chain had gotten snagged on a branch. I figured the way the birds were flying at him that his eyesight was worth a little more than my shirt."

"You're right," Kagome said, giving him a small smile. "But at this rate I'm going to learn a lot about mending."

He gave her a sheepish grin and began to shrug back into his jacket. "How are his eyes?" he asked Kaede.

"His eyes are all right," Kaede said, "All the blood seems to be from the cut on his forehead and his cheeks." She looked at the boy. "You, young man, were lucky."

"He would have been luckier if he hadn't tried climbing that tree instead of working," Kinjiro muttered, frowning.

"I – "Aki began, but thought better of it, and instead just nodded.

"That might well be true," Kaede said. "But I need to put something on those cuts to keep them from getting infected. I don't have what I need with me. We'll have to take him to my house."

Kinjiro nodded. "Might as well." He moved over to his cart, and started picking up his tools."I can see we're not going to get anything else done this morning."

Kaede began to get up, but Aki tugged on the old miko's sleeve. "Please," he asked. "Have you seen my obaasan? Is she better? Haha-ue came to see me, but nobody's told me about how my obaasan is doing."

The old miko sighed, and gave the boy a sympathetic look."She's tired and weak. That . . . that yamabushi makes too much noise, and she's not getting enough rest. Hana-chan said they were thinking of moving him to the house near the river. Maybe then, if things quiet down, she can start to get better."

"Is she . . . is she . . . " He tried to finish the statement, but couldn't. He hung his head back down. "It's all my fault."

"No, child, it's not all your fault." Kaede stood up. "In fact, very little of what you did caused her to be ill."

The boy nodded, chewing his lip. "They told me today it was Morio-sama's magic that hurt her." He looked up at the gathered men. Susumu nodded in affirmation. "It wasn't me?"

"That is what caused it, boy," Kaede said. "Have you been blaming yourself?"

He looked down at his feet.

The old miko patted him on the shoulder. "It wasn't your fault she got sick," she said. "But you can help her get better sooner by listening to Kinjiro-sama and Daitaro-sama. It would do her good to see you, but you cannot go see her until you show that you can behave. That's what Tameo-sama told me."

"That's true, son," the headman said.

"If I do what I'm supposed to, they'll let me see her?" he asked, looking at the men around him.

Tameo nodded.

"Now let's get you to my house so I can take care of those wounds," Kaede said. "Kagome-chan, you can go home with your husband. If I'm not there at the start of the woman's meeting, let Hisa-chan know what I'm up to."

The younger woman nodded.

Kaede began to walk off, then turned to Susumu and Tameo. She gave them a look with her single eye that was almost worthy of one of Hisa's looks. Susumu looked back at her with a nervous grin, as if he expected to be scolded. "When you go to the monk's this afternoon, please try not to let anybody fall off the roof. There's been more excitement in these last few days than this old woman really needs."

The village guard nodded. "We'll do our best."

Kinjiro got behind his cart, and began pushing. With a nod, the miko, Aki and the farmer began the walk back to the village.

"So now what?" Susumu said.

His father draped an arm across his shoulder. "Well son, now that you've spent most of the morning convincing InuYasha to join the village watch, you can take your brother's place doing the mulching. There's a good hour until lunch."

Susumu chuckled. "Trying to get some honest work out of me, Otousan?"

"It's either that, or go help your Okaasan. Your choice," Tameo said.

"You're a clever man, Otousan," Susumu said. "Mulching it is." He turned to InuYasha. "I guess I'll be seeing you this afternoon."

"Looks that way," InuYasha said. "Some things, neither one of us can get out of."

Chuckling, Susumu said his goodbyes, and then following Tameo, headed off to finish the work his brother had left undone.