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

Chapter 131

The quiet of the woods above the village was broken with the sound of an axe being wielded.

Tsuneo, walking under the trees, followed the sound until he reached a clearing where he found his son-in-law Michio, Chiya's husband splitting up some deadwood into firewood lengths. The old farmer leaned up against a tree and watched for a moment.

Michio, caught up in his work, split the dead branch he was working on into several pieces before he looked up and saw his father-in-law there. Tossing the pieces into a large basket, he looked up at the man and smiled. "What are you doing up here, Otousan?"

"I could ask you the same thing," Tsuneo said, walking towards the younger man. "I thought you'd be up at the temple with all the other men the monk could hustle."

"Ah, but I am, in a way," Michio replied. "They ran out of wood for the tea water. I got volunteered to round some up." He picked up the pack basket and slipped his arms in the straps. "There's no way Chiya-chan would have let me get by without showing my face, although I don't know what's keeping her away so long."

"Eh," Tsuneo said, shrugging. "You know Chiya-chan. Always has to be in everybody's business, even if she doesn't know when to stop."

Michio sighed. "That's true. She's been pretty worried about Okaasan. I hope she doesn't find someone to take out her worries on."

Tsuneo took a deep breath. "Let's hope."

"So," the younger man said. "What brings you up here?"

"The same sort of worries that has Chiya-chan running around the village, no doubt," Tsuneo said, with a sad shake of his head. "I was looking for some quiet before I go face figuring out something to do with that...Morio."

Michio looked down, a bit embarrassed. "I'm sorry, Otousan. I forgot how much trouble all this means for you. Is there something I can do to help?"

Tsuneo shrugged. "Help me find someone to take care of him? Keep Chiya-chan from causing trouble?"

The two men began to walk. "I wish," Michio said. "Have you ever figured out how to keep Okaasan from causing trouble?"

Tsuneo gave a bitter, but short laugh. "Not really. Hardheaded women we have, it seems. Don't want to beat them, don't want to send them away. All we can do is put up with them."

They could hear the sounds of hammering, and the voices of men working, but not really what they were saying as they walked, growing louder with each step.

"Who showed up?" Tsuneo asked.

"Pretty much who you'd expect," Michio said, holding on tightly to his basket straps as he carefully stepped over a fallen log blocking the path. He turned around and watched his father-in-law step over the same obstacle. "Some of the younger men. Isamu's family. You know how supportive they've been of Houshi-sama and the fact that there's even this little bit of a temple. Daitaro-sama and his sons. Even the headman and some of his people."

"A good crowd, it sounds like." Tsuneo joined his son-in-law on the other side of the log.

"The hanyou's there," Michio said, as if warning Tsuneo.

"I suspected he would be." The older man nodded. "He's the monk's partner and best friend, after all. And the more I've talked with him, the more I like him."

This surprised Michio, who looked at his father-in-law with wide eyes. "After everything that's happened, you can honestly say you like him?"

"Yes I do." Tsuneo put his hand on Michio's shoulder. "After how he behaved dealing with Aki and Haname, both . . . he could have asked for a lot, even ruined us. An honorable man, who doesn't pull rank. Been too much gossip about him."

"But what about all the old stories?" Michio asked. "All the things Haname and Joben were saying?" He shifted his pack load on his shoulders again.

"Who knows? Neither of us were around then. You've seen how he's behaved since they killed that youkai that tried to take out the village. Don't know what happened once upon a time, or why the magic really kept him pinned in the forest. I just know the man we're dealing with now." He began walking towards the temple. "Coming? I'm going to have a talk with Tameo if he's still there."

Michio nodded and the two men continued walking toward the temple.

As they neared the compound, they heard the brush rattle, and turning saw Isao pop out from behind a scraggly bush, out of breath like he'd been running. He held his hand to his chest for a moment. Tsuneo looked at him. The boy's bruises were going from dark purple to a greenish tinge, and his face was red, but there was no sense of panic about him.

Catching his breath, the boy bowed to the two men.

"What are you doing up here, Isao-kun?" Michio said, a bit harshly. "I thought you were staying at Tameo's. You aren't running off, are you?"

"No, no, Obasan," the boy said. "Hisa-sama sent me up here. I have a message for Tameo-sama and Houshi-sama."

While Tsuneo and Michio questioned Isao and Hisa poured sake for the women back in the village, InuYasha was sitting on the ground where the women were serving refreshments, watching Kimi poking at the fire under the hot water. He took a sip of his tea, and muttered very softly, "Hope Kagome's having a better time than me."

Kimi looked up, grabbing one of the last sticks of wood and adding it to the flames. "Excuse me, InuYasha-sama, what did you say?"

"Nothing that mattered," he said. He rolled his shoulders, as if trying to relieve some stiffness.

"Are you sure you feel all right?" Kimi asked. "That was quite a fall you took."

"Feh," he said, his right ear twitching. "It takes more than that to even slow me down."

"I believe that," Eiji said, walking up to where the two of them were. He rolled his shoulders as well. "I've seen a time or two where that little wife of yours did the magic that pulled you down to the ground, once or twice out of a tree."

"Kagome-sama did that to you?" Kimi asked, rather surprised.

InuYasha looked at his hands. "Probably deserved it."

Eiji laughed. "Funny how our women can let us know when we deserve it, even if it's not always in such a dramatic way. You're sure you're all right? No headache? Your back doesn't hurt?"

"Nothing much," InuYasha said. "A little stiff, but that'll pass in a few minutes. My body has a lot of practice healing."

Eiji sat down beside the hanyou. "Mine has lots of practice getting injured, but alas, it never seems to learn how to heal any better." Kimi handed him a cup of tea, and he nodded his thanks. "Those shingles are going to give it another chance to practice, though, by the feel of it."

"But think of how you'll feel when it's done, husband," Kimi said. She grabbed a small basket and went and sat down on the other side of the hanyou.

"Sore," Eiji replied.

This made the woman laugh. "I'm sure I'll hear plenty about it, husband, while you moan and get me to heat stones to put on all your tender places," she said, smiling.

"Ah, Kimi-chan, you know me too well," Eiji replied.

"I ought to," the woman said, opening her basket and taking out a needle and a thread winder. "You've only been that way since you were ten." She measured out a length of thread and threaded her needle.

"Heh," Eiji said, swallowing some of his tea. "I bet you know what I'm going to say before I say it."

"Some of the time, husband, some of the time." She looked up at InuYasha, holding the needle carefully in her right hand, then bowed slightly. "If you would let me, InuYasha-sama, I could help keep your sleeve from ripping any more. You wouldn't even need to take it off. It wouldn't be a proper mending, but it would keep you safer while you work."

Eiji took another sip of his tea, and smiled. "That's my woman. Always trying to be Kwannon of the Hundred Hands, taking care of everybody."

InuYasha looked at the petite woman next to him, his eyes knotted up in surprise. "You . . . you want to fix my kosode?"

"It'll only take a little while," she said, smiling and nodding. "I just thought with all the work going up and down on the roofs and shingling, it would be easier for you." She held up her needle. "Even for you, taking a fall can't be a fun thing."

Eiji gave him a friendly pat on the shoulder. "That's Kimi's way. She likes to spread a little light wherever she can." He finished his tea.

"My . . . my wife is that way, too," InuYasha said, still rather uncertain.

"Ah, I remember Kagome-chan from the old days. Yes, she always tried to be a ray of light," Kimi said, "although, I think at times, you were a bit much for her patience."

Yaya, Isamu's wife returned to the fire. "Isn't that the role for all men, trying their women's patience?"

"Speak for yourself, Yaya-chan," Eiji said. He stood up. "We're not all like that, are we, Kimi-chan?"

"If you say so, husband," she said, looking up at him. Her smile was real, but just a little mischievous.

"Eh, whatever. I better get back before they send someone after me." He handed Kimi his cup, then looked back at InuYasha. "You might as well let her take care of your sleeve. She won't leave you alone until you do."

"Are you saying your wife tries your patience?" Yaya said. She felt the side of the teapot she was holding, made a face and poured it into her own cup.

As she prepared the next pot, he chuckled. "Would I do that?" Patting InuYasha on the shoulder one more time, he grinned. "I'll see you back up on the roof. Shingles or not, it might be a little safer for the likes of me."

He walked off, leaving a bemused InuYasha behind.

"Hold up your arm, please, InuYasha-sama," Kimi said. "This really won't take very long."

He looked at Yaya, who nodded, and sighing he complied. "You're really going to do this?" he asked.

She nodded, taking the first stitch. "It's a small thing to do, you know." Deftly, she began whip stitching the rip closed. "This really won't hold it long, but it might keep you from ripping it any worse. Kagome-sama's going to have quite a bit of work fixing this as it is."

He nodded, his ear twitching as he watched her work. "I thought you were friends with Chiya," he said.

"I am, as much as anybody can be her friend," Kimi said. "She really doesn't let people get very close to her." She took another stitch and looked up at the hanyou, and looked at his questioning eyes thoughtfully. "You mean, you're surprised that I'm being helpful to you? You expected me to be like her and her mother and brother, and treat you like an outcast?"

InuYasha didn't say anything, but his look gave his answer away.

Kimi continued her sewing. "It's . . . well, how do I put it? I try to follow the Buddha's way. I was taught a long time ago by a traveling monk, 'As the rain falls on all plants, the Buddha's compassion is extended equally to all,' and 'If one is slow in doing good, the mind finds delight in evil.' I'm just a simple woman, and that's all the wisdom he could give me, but I do try to follow it. So," she said looking up at him, "I try to be like the Buddha, and do the kind thing."

"Maybe you could teach Miroku a thing or two," InuYasha said.

"Oh, Houshi-sama is a good man," Kimi said, looking up and smiling. "He just has to learn some more dharma lessons. And give them, too."

InuYasha snorted. "He's good at giving them, yes. Maybe a little too much for his own good."

While Kimi sewed on InuYasha's sleeve, Ryota surveyed the work the men were doing on the roof at the temple. Susumu and Shinjiro were huddled around one corner of the roof, where they were putting the final touches on the sheathing where the big leak had been, but on the other side, the men, having already done their patching and replacing the few boards that needed it, were beginning to shingle.

"Hurry it up," Hisako said on the other side of the roof. "I don't like walking on a slant for nothing."

"Patience, man," Eiji said, picking up a pack of cedar shingles. "These things weigh more than they're worth."

"Be glad they're not tiles," Ryota said from his side of things. "You'd really be complaining about the weight."

"Whatever," Eiji said, grunting as he hefted the pack up on a shoulder and moved to one of the ladders. "They're heavy enough."

Isamu, watching all of this laughed, but not everybody was so amused.

"They're getting ahead of us," Genjo grumbled as he replaced a section of roofing plank. "We're not even ready to start the shingles."

"Not your fault," Ryota said, clapping the younger man on his shoulder. "You had the side with the worst leaks."

"My luck," the young man said, tapping the board into place.

"It's not like the monk's giving a prize," Shinjiro said. "If he was, I'd be claiming for us for having the most preparation work. But it'll save his precious hall. I'm sure Kwannon will remember who saved his head from leaks."

"And we won't be long here," Susumu said, looking up. "We're almost done. We'll be shingling soon enough." He laid his hammer down and looked around. "Where's InuYasha?"

"He went down to get some tea," Shinjiro said. "After taking that fall, don't blame him. You need him?"

"I was hoping he could bring some shingles up," Susumu said. "We're almost through here. Maybe I should go look for him."

"You just stay put," Ryota said. "I need to go talk to Houshi-sama anyway. I'll go tell him."

"I get the feeling you don't trust me," Susumu said, trying to look hurt.

"Oh, I trust you well enough," Ryota said, looking back with mock sternness. "Well enough to get sidetracked by Eiji or one of the other men, and take an hour to get back to work."

"Ha," Susumu said, grinning. "You only think you've got my number. I'd only take a quarter of an hour."

"Don't believe him," Shinjiro said, looking up. "He'd take at least a half an hour, especially with Chichi-ue around to talk to."

"Oh, don't I know it," Ryota said, walking down the ladder.

Giving Masu an encouraging pat on the back as he passed him, the foreman headed to where the monk was drinking tea himself with Daitaro and Tameo. Laughter came from the little group as he neared.

"So, Ryota," Daitaro said, motioning him to come join them, "Are all these young backs going to get the job finished in time for dinner?"

"Maybe," Ryota replied. He shrugged. "At least we'll have the leaks finished. If we don't get all the shingles on today, I'll round up a crew and get in done in the next day or two. We've got the hard part done." He sat down.

Miroku sipped his cup of tea and looked at the building and watched the work progress."I didn't realize it would take so much work to get it fixed."

"Me, either," the foreman said, nodding.

"That's always the way of it," Tameo said. "It always takes longer than you expect."

"Funny, my foster father Mushin always told me that," Miroku said, giving the headman a serious nod, "but I always thought it was his fondness for sake that made it happen that way." He looked knowingly at Daitaro.

The old farmer laughed. "You can't blame me for today. I haven't had a drop. Saving it for when the work is done."

"Can't blame anybody, really," Ryota said. Yaya, one of the women helping, came over with fresh tea. She offered Ryota a cup, but he shook his head. "There was more water damage than I thought. No wonder you were getting leaks."

"At least it'll be done before the rainy season," the monk said. Yaya stopped and refreshed his tea. As Miroku watched the workers while he drank a sip of the fresh cup, Hisako dropped a handful of shingles off the side of the roof by accident, and stared at the way they scattered on the ground.

"Maybe," Daitaro said.

Everybody but Miroku laughed.

"So when are you and InuYasha going to get the Jizo image?" Tameo said.

"In a few - " Miroku was interrupted by a loud woman's voice.

"Kimi, what do you think you're doing?" Chiya's voice called out. "And what are you doing here, you . . . you . . . This is no place for youkai!"

"I knew today was too good to be true," Daitaro said, standing up. "Trouble again."