I do not own InuYasha or any of the characters created by Rumiko Takahashi
For a few moments, the gathered women stared at the doorway, unable to speak, and the only sounds were the sobbing of the children inside and the laughter of the children still playing outside.
The door to the sleeping room slid open, and Emi stepped out with Aomi in her arms. "What . . . what just happened? That was Chiya? I'm amazed Mitsuo didn't wake up."
"That was Chiya," Fujime said, picking up her needlework and making several furious stitches before she gave up, tucked her needle in, and put the fabric back in her basket.
"I . . . I . . ." Nahoi said. She looked around the room as the women's eyes began to look at her. She dropped her sewing in her lap, then put it aside.
Hisako reached over and rested her hand on Nahoi's wrist. "Well, I bet you didn't expect that when you let her tag along," she said. "You really can't be nice to some people. Look at what they do."
Nahoi nodded. "To disrespect hospitality like that . . . " Looking dazed, she stood up, bowing deeply to the headman's wife. "Oh, Hisa-sama, I am so sorry." Her voice was thick with regret and embarrassment. "I had no idea that she was going to behave like that. She told me she just wanted to pay her respects before going up to the temple." She choked a moment, then continued. " Please forgive me."
With a loud sigh, Hisa dropped to the floor, and covered her face with her hands for a moment, then nodded her head. "I know, Nahoi-chan, I am sure that's just what happened. Chiya . . . she can be spiteful, but I'm not sure what triggered this one."
Koume put her sewing down and went to stand by her daughter. "I've warned you about being too trusting of that woman before," she said. "You really need to learn to tell her no."
"I know, Okaasan, I know. Ever since that day with Yoshimi, I get so confused." She looked up at her mother with tear-glistened eyes.
The older women hugged her daughter. "Don't mention that bastard here," she said. "After what he did to you . . . I never want to hear his name again."
"I . . . I'm sorry," Nahoi said, looking at the ground.
"Oh child," Koume said. "None of that was your fault. Come sit down."
Nahoi shook her head, then turned to Kagome and Sango and bowed once more.
"I am so sorry, Miko-sama, Sango-sama. Chiya saw me walking here, and she insisted that she come with me. All I wanted to do was have Haha-ue's help with my weaving. If I had known what she was going to do . . . "
Kagome nodded, rocking Noriko.
"Sango-sama, and you, too, Miko-sama, you should come visit my workshop, please." She looked at her mother for confirmation, and Koume nodded. "Let me offer you something for the grief I've caused you."
"No, no," Sango said, shaking her head. "It wasn't your fault."
"Please," Nahoi said.
"I'd take her up on it," Koume said. "She's the best weaver in the village, that is, when she ties up her loom right."
"And bring your daughters," Nahoi said. "I have some ribbon that would be perfect for them."
Nahoi, bowing again, turned to Hisako. "Bring your sewing by my place later, Obaasan, and I'll finish the sewing. Okaasan, Hisa-obasan, if you don't mind, I just want to go home."
Koume, nodded and brushed her daughter's cheek. "Go check the red yarn I dyed yesterday. It might be dry enough now."
The younger woman nodded, gave her mother a sad smile, bowed again to the women, and left.
"So much grief that woman can make," Mariko said, watching her leave. "Nahoi's never been quite right after that . . . monster of a man left her for dead. And Chiya knew it, too."
Sango took a deep breath, wiped her eyes with her free hand.
Erime wrapped an arm around her back and gave her a small hug. "See, it's not you and your family that gives us sad thoughts and grief. Don't let her get to you."
"Erime-chan is right," Chime said.
"If . . . if she was a youkai, I'd know what to do," Sango said, trying to smile. "But . . . but she's Tsuneo-sama's daughter. And she does so much for the temple . . . "
"She likes to obligate people," Fujime said, frowning. "But that's no reason to put up with this. Have you talked about what's going on with your husband?"
"Not . . . not really," Sango said, and sighed. "Maybe he doesn't realize . . . "
Yusuko, sitting in Chime's lap looked at the older woman. "Okaa sad."
"I know, pretty one." Chime brushed the girl's bangs off her eyes. "We'll try to make her feel better. If you smile at her, maybe it'll help."
Yusuko rubbed the back of her hand against the tip of her nose, and looked at her mother, giving her a small smile, reaching over to touch her shoulder. "Okaa feel better?"
Sango gave her daughter a smile back, a little bittersweet. "Okaa will be, baby. Thank you."
There was a knock on the door, and Isao stuck his head in the doorway. "Do you need any help? Jun-sama heard the noise and wondered if he should send for Tameo or Susumu."
Hisa looked up at the youth, still bearing the healing bruises of his run-in with Aki. "Chiya-chan just left. That's what caused all the noise."
"Chiya-obasan was here?" Isao asked, surprised. "But she always talked like she hated to come over here, even for sewing." He looked down at his feet. "She doesn't like Tameo-sama very much."
"Nor me, Isao-kun," Hisa said. "You don't have to beat around the bush." Emi walked up to her and rested a hand on her mother-in-law's shoulder. She gave the younger woman a reassuring smile and patted her hand.
"Who does she like?" Kagome asked, rocking Noriko back and forth as the toddler calmed down "She was always nice to me in the past, but it seems now I'm a villain, too."
"That's a good question, Kagome-chan," Hisako said. "I've wondered it a time or two myself."
"I know it's not me," Sango said. She patted the back of her son as he nursed. "She doesn't think much of me or my children."
"Most of us have had runs-in with her from time to time, her getting on her high horse about something or the other," Mariko said. She bounced her son in her arms, and he gurgled at her, calmed down now that the other babies had stopped wailing.
"She wasn't here for very long, Isao-kun," Akiko said. "Be glad you missed her. She seems angry with you, too." She watched Teruko calm down her child for a moment, stroked the woman's hair, and moved back to her seat.
"It was long enough," Fujime said, getting up and walking across the room towards Kagome and Sango. "She did enough damage in that little bit that I would hate to think what she would have done if she'd been here all along. She knelt in front of the two women. Noriko, who had just about gotten her tears under control, looked up at her with wary eyes.
"You're too pretty to be crying like that, little one," Fujime said. She pulled her handkerchief out of her sleeve. "Here. Will you let me dry your eyes?"
Noriko shook her head no. Sighing, she handed the handkerchief to Kagome. "Maybe she'll let you," she said.
Kagome took the cloth. "Thanks." Carefully she wiped Noriko's eyes and nose.
"Well, I think this was more than her usual snit," Hisa said, standing up. "Come here, Isao. I want you to run an errand for me." They walked outside of the house.
Emi watched her mother walk out on the verandah with the boy. "I wonder what Okaasan is going to try to do?" Still carrying her daughter, she moved back to her seat. "It sounded awful out here."
"It was," Chime said, running her hands through Yusuko's hair. "Better?" she asked the girl.
Yusuko nodded. Aomi gave her a little smile, and sliding out of her mother's arms, walked over to the girl and patted her on the back.
Fujime, not paying much attention to the little girls, rested her hand on Sango's arm. "I'm so sorry you had to do through that, Sango-chan. Your daughters are beautiful. And you, too Kagome-chan. I cannot understand why someone would just come over to cause trouble. And we'd been having such a good time."
Sango nodded, looked down at Naoya, who was still nursing, and looked back up at Fujime. "Why?"
"Why am I sorry? Because you didn't deserve that," Fujime said.
Sango shook her head. "Why . . . Chiya? Why would she do something like that?"
"Chiya's . . . " Emi said, searching for the right word. Noriko slipped out of Kagome's arms to join Aomi and Yusuko. The three toddlers sat in front of Emi, doing something with their stick dolls that looked like a dance. "She can be sweet like a peach if you're doing something she likes or if she thinks you're a benefit to her, and then sharp like a sword if she disapproves. But I don't think I've ever seen her backbite like this in public before."
"She's very jealous and resentful," Teruko said. She moved her child over her shoulder and began pat on his back.
"Oh yes," Akiko said. "And her husband and father-in-law just can't keep her under control. I don't know why poor Michio ever married that woman."
"I hear," Koume said, "that she badgered him into it. I know Haname never approved."
"No, she didn't," Fujime said. "Oh, I remember the battles those two had. Still have. That's part of her problem, I think."
"She really does get resentful of anybody who gets into Haname-sama's good graces," Teruko said. Her child gave a loud burp. "Good baby," she said. "I made that mistake, and she's never let me forget it."
"But that doesn't explain why she's been so . . . " Sango said. She switched Naoya to the other side to finish nursing.
Kagome rested her hand on Sango's shoulder. "What has she been doing to you?"
"Ever since Miroku and I got married . . . " Sango said. "It's not usually what she does, so much as what she says."
"That's Chiya's way," Hisako said. "And it's what she says to others when you aren't there, too."
Hisa walked back in. She carried a jug with her, and lifted it up for the women's inspection. "I think that after all of that, we all deserve a bit of sake."
"My husband would agree with you, I suspect," Chime said.
"Your husband would agree almost any time was the right time for at least a small cup," Hisako said, chuckling a little.
"You mean there's times he doesn't?" Koume said. She began packing away her sewing.
As Hisa began serving the sake, she said, "Well, I hope Chiya won't be able to cause as much trouble at the temple as she did here."
"I wouldn't put it past her to try," Fujime said. "I'm sure she'll try to seem so holy and devout, at least enough to impress people there."
For some reason, Kagome began to laugh. It started as a giggle, and grew into a full-fledged laugh. And it wouldn't stop.
"Kagome-chan?" Sango asked, confused.
"Kagome-chan, are you all right?" Emi asked. She got up and moved next to her. "You haven't even had any sake yet."
"More than all right," Kagome said. "I. . . just had . . . the funniest . . . thought." Slowly she caught her breath. "You do know who's over at the temple helping with the reroofing?"
"Half the younger men in the village that could get away from the fields?" Fujime asked.
"That's not all," Kagome said, catching her breath. "InuYasha. She did all of that to make sure she was away from 'those type' of people, and InuYasha no doubt will be there standing on the roof, in plain sight, working with all the men. Or talking to Miroku. Poor Chiya-sama. There's no way for her to get away from what she thinks of as 'those people' today." She picked up Sango's hand. "Is that wicked of me to find that funny?"
Hisako and Fujime began to laugh as well.
"The Buddha, I've been told, doesn't like ugly," Hisako said. Hisa handed her a small cup of sake, and she took a small sip. "Perhaps she'll get a lesson about how to behave, instead."
Hisa smiled back, and poured a little of the wine for Kagome. "Oh, I suspect she'll get more there than she bargained for."
"That wouldn't happen to have anything with you sending that boy off on an errand, would it?" Teruko asked.
Hisa gave the woman a smile. "It may indeed," the headman's wife said. She stopped in front of Sango, and handed her a cup. "Now, Sango-chan, I want you to tell us all about what Chiya's been doing to you. I hope she's not the one making you feel you need to stay up on the hill and not come join us. But if she is, this will be the right time to put a stop to all that nonsense."