I do not own InuYasha or any of the characters created by Rumiko Takahashi
As the men walked the short distance from Miroku's house to the little building he called a temple, someone was singing:
"Shrimp, why is your backbone bent?
I wrestled with the frog,
Yoi, yoi, yoi,
I wrestled with the frog
Yoi, yoi, yoi,
And he won."
The men who had come early for the free lunch were finishing their meal. One of the younger men, a relative of Toshiro's named Hisoki, stood up in the center of where they were sitting, and beating on a piece of wood like it was a drum and danced in slow, exaggerated movements as he sang.
"Frog, why do you croak so loud?"
Ryota, sitting down and finishing his rice, gave a loud imitation of a frog, to much laughter. Hisoki gave him an evil look, and a grin, and then continued:
"Frog, why do you croak so loud?
I am singing to the rabbit,
Yoi, yoi, yoi,
I am singing to the rabbit,
Yoi, yoi, yoi,
To go away.
"Rabbit, why are your ears so big?
To hear - "
"Obviously, you didn't hear us coming," Daitaro said, as the group reached the waiting workers. "Maybe you need to borrow the rabbit's ears?"
"Or InuYasha's," Shinjiro said. "Nobody in the village hears better than he does."
InuYasha, not sure how he liked having his ears pointed out that way, stuffed his hands in his sleeves. His right ear flicked.
"It's true, you know," Miroku said. "Ah, what I could do with hearing like yours."
"Feh," the hanyou said. "There's probably a reason why the kami made sure you had normal hearing."
That brought chuckles from most of the other men, who began to eat their last bites of food, or, if they were done, standing up. Kimi, Eiji's wife and a couple of other women began cleaning up, while Yaya, Isamu's wife, put on more tea water on the fire.
"Well, Ryota," Miroku asked. "Are we ready to get started?"
"We going to get started with him here?" one loud voice said.
Ryota and Miroku turned to look at the speaker, still seated on the ground. The young man, not quite finished with his meal, was staring at InuYasha.
His companion, seeing the glare, popped his last bit of onigiri in his mouth, then nudged him. "What's your problem, Yoshimi?"
Yoshimi turned partway towards his companion, not taking his eyes off the hanyou. "I don't have a problem, Tadaki. But what's he doing here?" His voice rose loud enough for everybody to hear. "Do you think someone like that silver-haired monster ought to be working on a temple?"
"You've been talking to Seiji again?" Tadaki asked. "You know Houshi-sama and InuYasha-sama are partners. If there was a problem . . . "
"Why not?" Yoshimi said, standing up, and shifting his glance to Miroku "He's my older brother. He's been out of the village. He knows things, maybe more than a monk who gets married does."
InuYasha took a deep breath, and his ears lowered a bit. He unfolded his hands and flexed the fingers of his right hand. Shinjiro and Genjo stepped next to the hanyou while Miroku started to move toward the workers. Eiji and his brother Haruo got up to join Ryota standing next to the monk.
"You need to cool off, Yoshimi," Tadaki said, standing himself. "You're going to bring bad luck on us today and someone's going to get hurt."
InuYasha started to move forward himself, but Daitaro rested a hand on the hanyou's shoulder. "Watch," the old farmer said.
InuYasha turned to look at the old man, who gave him a reassuring look. Lifting an eyebrow, he studied the calm face of the older man for a moment, then gave him a nod.
While Daitaro was slowing InuYasha down, another man's hand rested on Yoshimi's shoulder. The young man swung around and into the eyes of Masu, the man whose children had been rescued by InuYasha.
"I'm not particularly sure your brother's right on this issue," Masu said. "If it hadn't been for that man, my children would have been slaves or dead by now."
Yoshimi threw off the man's hand, and lifted one fist, clenched and shaking. " You call him a man? Kuso! You think no proper people could have rescued your brats? You needed a monster? My . . . my brother said -"
"I don't care what your brother says. I almost lost my children because of him," Masu said, giving the younger man a little shove. "How would your vaunted brother feel if it was Nakao dragged off? What if it was your sister, huh?"
"Shut up!" Yoshimi shoved Masu back, and people started gathering around the two to separate them. "Maybe we wouldn't even have had any bandits -"
Suddenly the length of Miroku's staff wacked the angry young man on the side of the head.
"Ack!" Yoshimi swirled around to face Miroku.
"As the rain falls on all plants, the Buddha's compassion is extended equally to all," Miroku said. "Even stupid fools like you. Are you saying InuYasha-sama is beyond the Buddha's mercy?"
"But . . . but," Yoshimi said, clutching his ear. "But he's a youkai!"
"What part of extended equal to all says youkai are not under the Buddha's compassion?" the monk said, looking at him sternly. "You think the Buddha can't use youkai, too? Who do you think attend Bishamonten and Benzaiten? Youkai. You're calling them evil?"
"Maybe this wasn't a good idea," InuYasha muttered.
"Just wait," Shinjiro said. "Don't know why Yoshimi showed up anyway. He hates working on roofs."
"Kimi-chan's cooking, no doubt," Daitaro said.
Yoshimi, ignoring the talk between Daitaro and his son, glared at the monk, then circled around, looking at the men standing there, some with crossed arms, all unhappy with him. Ryota gave his shoulder a little shove. "Are you trying to bring bad luck on us all, by picking a fight in front of the temple?"
Tadaki grabbed his friend's sleeve. "Come on, Yoshimi. You don't want to get the Buddha or his servants as mad as that guy got Tameo's kami the other day."
The angry young man looked at the monk, Ryota and Eiji, then shot one more look of hatred towards InuYasha. "On your own heads be it. When people start falling off the roof, it won't be my fault."
Pushing his way through the crowd, Yoshimi left.
InuYasha let out a deep breath, as did several other people standing around. The tension that had been building suddenly dissipated, and people began to mill around. Masu walked up to the hanyou.
"Yoshimi's wrong, InuYasha-sama," he said, bowing to the hanyou. "I'll never forget what you did for me. Anybody give you trouble, you just let me know."
Not sure of what to say, InuYasha just nodded.
Miroku swung around and looked at his friend, gave him a small smile, and began walking toward them. "InuYasha may be a man of few words, Masu-sama, but I am sure he appreciated what you did."
Masa nodded, and went off to join the other men.
As he left, InuYasha frowned, and looked at the monk. "What was that crap about Bishamonten and Benzaiten?"
"It's true," Miroku said. "Benzaiten is associated with a white dragon. Some even say it's her husband. And they aren't the only ones."
"Feh." InuYasha stuffed his hands in his sleeves.
"Well, don't go thinking to run off to be a companion of one of the kami," Daitaro said, patting him on the shoulder. "You got enough to do keeping up with us and that wife of yours. And I need you to help with my bull."
InuYasha shook his head. "You're strange, Daitaro."
"You just noticed that?" Shinjiro asked.
Daitaro began to say something, but before he could, Ryota clapped his hands. "All right, men. I'm foreman here today. It's time to get the old roofing down. Let's get to work."
With a little good-natured grumbling, a couple of the men grabbed ladders and leaned them against the wall of the little temple, and started climbing. Others picked up tools, and a few other latecomers straggled in. Among them were Susumu and Tameo.
"We just passed Yoshimi racing down the mountain like he ate a hot coal. Did we miss something?" Tameo asked.
"Not much," Daitaro said. "Here to work?"
"Not me," Tameo said with a smile. "Hey Ryota! You have any work for this guy?" He tugged on Susumu's sleeve.
"How come nobody thinks I've been working today?" Susumu asked.
"Maybe because you didn't work today?" the headman said.
"You think he can do anything besides use a bow?" Ryota asked, scratching the top of his head. "I don't know . . . "
Daitaro was trying very hard not to laugh, but Genjo and Shinjiro exchanged glances, and snickered.
Tameo scratched his head, as if thinking. "He's pretty good with a hammer."
"Might be worth something," Ryota said.
"He's not afraid of heights," InuYasha said, with a small, tentative smirk.
Susumu laughed. "You're right there, friend. Neither are you. Let's get to work."
Kagome and the other women, unaware of the scene up at the temple, reached Tameo's compound not long after Yoshimi left the temple grounds. As they walked up the path to the main house, Riki, Jun's wife, who was one of the women who worked for Tameo, was herding a group of children into a circle with the help of Yorime, Susumu's oldest daughter, settling them down to play a game. There were more children there than just Susumu's and those who belonged to the other people who lived at the compound. Some of them Kagome had never seen. A couple of boys played off in a corner together, while Mitsuo, clutching his horse, watched them with big, hopeful eyes.
Noriko, being carried by Kagome, tugged on her collar. "Go play?"
"Not yet, baby," Sango said, patting her on her head. "We have to go meet Hisa-obaasan."
The sliding doors to the big house had been pushed open, giving more light and a better view of the courtyard, and offering a welcome to the women as they neared.
"We're not the first, I see," said Mariko.
"No," Chime replied. "But look who's here already." She gave Kagome and Sango reassuring pats. "Akiko and Fujime are here already. I was hoping they'd show up. We'll have a nice time."
There were more than the two women Chime had mentioned. As the small group entered the beaten earth entry and slipped off their shoes, the chatter that had been going on quieted Kagome could see five women already sitting in the room, with their workbaskets and sewing pulled out. The big cabinet that usually stood against one wall had been moved out of the room, along with Emi's spinning wheel and loom to make more room to sit. Water simmered in the fire pit, and there were low tables of cakes and sweets waiting to be eaten.
"So the group from the hill has made it," one of the women said.
Hisa, turning around from where she was handing a pot of tea to her daughter Emi, stood up gracefully, and walking to the front, smiled. "Come in, come in," she said. "I'm so glad all of you could make it. This is going to be a lovely afternoon."
Sango stepped up first, with Yusuko in her arms. The young girl twisted around to look at everything.
"Your daughters, they're beautiful." Hisa walked up to Sango, and beamed at Yusuko, who looked at the headman's wife shyly.
"This is Yusuko," Sango said. "I put her in a blue ribbon, because it's even hard for me to tell which one she is sometimes." She put her daughter down.
Hisa bent towards the girl. "Hello, Yusuko. Would you like a sweet?"
The little girl nodded.
Noriko, wearing a bright red ribbon pulled on Kagome's sleeve. "Me, too!"
Kagome stepped up, and let the girl slip down. "And this one is Noriko," Kagome said.
"Ah," Hisa said. Both girls let Hisa take her by the hand and lead them towards a low table, where she handed them both a sweet cake from a tray.
Aomi, Emi's youngest daughter, who was sitting by her mother, got up, and walked up to the two girls. She showed them the toy she was holding, a little stick doll. "Play?"
Yusuko and Noriko looked at their mother, both a bit shy and interested. She reached in her basket, and took out the toys she brought for them. "If you want to, babies. But be good."
They nodded and walked slowly up to Aomi. The three of them moved to the edge of the verandah.
"Don't go far, " Emi said, smiling at the girls. "Do what Riki and Yorime tell you to do."
"Well, that's a good start," Hisa said. "Let's go sit down. There are some people here who really want to meet you."