I do not own InuYasha or any of the characters created by Rumiko Takahashi
Tsuneo looked at Isao, knitting his brows together. "Let me get a good look at you, boy." He slipped a hand under Isao's chin, looking at the bruises. "You see these, Michio?"
His son-in-law nodded.
"I know Haname liked to think that Aki-kun mostly got in trouble because Isao egged him on, that it was Isao who was getting his cousin into trouble, but I've learned it wasn't like that, was it, Isao?"
The boy looked at Michio and back at Tsuneo. "I...I...sometimes I took the blame for him." He looked at his toes, avoiding the adults' eyes.
"You're loyal, son, and that is good," Tsuneo said. "But sometimes, it's right not to be too loyal." He looked at his son-in-law. "Isao wouldn't be bruised at all if Aki hadn't been the one leading. He got tossed by a cow because Aki ran away and left him to face her. Then I saw him jump Isao myself." He ran one finger over a bruise near his chin. "How's your head, boy?"
"No more headaches, Ojiisan," Isao said. He looked in the direction of the temple. "But I need to hurry. Hisa-sama made me promise to get to the temple as soon as possible."
Tsuneo nodded and let go. "We're headed that way ourselves."
Michio tugged on his basket pack straps. "In fact, if we don't get back soon, Kimi will no doubt be sending someone to look for me. She was getting low on wood for the tea water."
"Well, let's not keep her waiting anymore," Tsuneo said.
Michio nodded and they began walking, Isao walking briskly ahead of them.
"Aki-kun beat him up?" Michio asked, leaning towards his father-in-law and speaking softly.
"After Isao began confessing to the things that they had done, and he was already injured." Tsuneo sighed. "This has not been a good moon for our family. Haname, Aki, and Isao."
"No, it hasn't," the younger man said. "And Chiya . . . well, you know how she gets. Fretting, fretting about Haha-ue, complaining you're not letting her spend enough time . . . "
"If she didn't drive Haname so crazy, she could probably come visit more," Tsuneo said, sighing. "But she just doesn't know when to let go, and that bothers Haname up so much, and my poor wife . . . " He sighed again. "Kaede-sama assures me it's just a matter of time, but I don't know. She's not getting better yet, and she's starting to cough. And with that crazy man . . . nobody's getting any rest."
Isao turned back to the two men, looking at them with a serious frown. He chewed his lip. "Ojiisan, do you need me to come back home to help? I could talk to Susumu-sama. I bet he would understand and let me come back, at least until Haname-obaasan is better."
Tsuneo shook his head, but gave the boy a gentle smile. "No, son. You're the one person in the family I know whose luck is moving in the right direction, even if you had to run into a cow for it to start. You stay with Susumu." He scratched the back of his neck. "We'll figure out . . . something."
The boy looked at his granduncle and nodded. "If you're sure."
"I'm sure, boy." Tsuneo patted the boy on his shoulder. "Get well and over those bruises and learn everything you can."
"You're lucky," Michio said. "I know a lot of boys who would like to be in your place. Chichi-ue is right."
They grew close to the temple grounds, and could see the men as they worked on the roof.
"They really look busy," Isao said. "I didn't know there'd be so many people here."
"A lot, but it looks like there's a lot left to do. You think they'll get done today?" Tsuneo asked.
"They found some bad places under the roof boards," Michio said. "It slowed them down, especially on this side."
"Well, I hope they get enough done. I need to get Choujiro free to do another job," Tsuneo said. "I'm hoping to get him started tomorrow."
As they grew closer, they could see Shinjiro and Susumu up on the roof while other men milled around with supplies. Susumu, spotting them, looked surprised to see Isao, but waved at the trio.
As Tsuneo was about to call out to the men on the roof, suddenly, they heard a loud, shrill woman's voice, and several people began heading to the other side to see what the problem was.
"That sounds like Chiya," Tsuneo said.
Isao sighed. "I was hoping I would get here before she did,"
He began running towards the noise, but Michio grabbed him by the collar. "Why?"
"Uh, something happened at Hisa-sama's house today," Isao said, swallowing.
They watched as Tameo and Daitaro headed toward the noise.
"Did it . . . did it have to do with Chiya?" Tsuneo asked.
Isao took a deep breath. "I didn't hear what happened, but I know it involved Houshi-sama's wife. That's why Hisa-sama sent me here, to get the monk."
Michio covered his face with his hands for a moment and then uncovered them. "I told her to stay away from there. I don't know what it is between Chiya and the monk's wife, but . . . "
Tsuneo patted him on the back. "Well, the damage is done. Let's go see if there's anything we can do to make it better."
While the trio hurried to the temple, Chiya stood on the other side of the building, hands clenched by her sides. Yaya, who was coming back from serving tea to the elders, hurried next to her.
"Are you all right, Chiya-chan?" she asked, her brows knitting in confusion. "Did something happen to upset you?"
Chiya ignored her.
Yaya may have felt confusion, but InuYasha, on the other hand, had no such problem. As he looked at the angry woman in front of him and took in her scent, he could feel the growl starting in the back of his throat as his ears lay back at her verbal assault. "What the hell's your problem, woman?" he said, glaring back at her, look for look. Not thinking, he started to rise. "Something wrong with someone being nice to me?"
Kimi, nearly finished whipstitching InuYasha's sleeve tear, rested a hand to encourage the hanyou to sit while she completed her work. He looked at her as she held up her needle, uncertain, but scowling, nodded once and complied.
"This is a holy place," Chiya said. "Since when are they for the likes of you? And a pure soul like Kim doesn't need your contamination."
"Why you-" he growled, tensing to leap up as soon as Kimi was done. "I knew you were a bitch, but I didn't think you were ugly enough to do it in public like this."
Kimi touched his shoulder again, and gave her head a little shake. Then she looked up at Chiya. "I am mending InuYasha-sama's sleeve, which got ripped working on the temple roof," she said, taking another stitch. "It is the Buddha's way, you know, to be compassionate to all people. And it happened to him doing work for the Buddha. It's only right."
"You shouldn't even be touching him, a woman like you," Chiya said. "Ever since he's come here, there's been nothing but problems. It's one thing for him to fight the bandits, but we don't need youkai contamination here. You ought to know that. I thought you were different from all the other people here pretending to be holy."
Kimi laughed, which only made Chiya angrier. "I'm just a farmer's wife. Don't make me into something I'm not, Chiya-chan." Kimi finished her task, and InuYasha leapt up.
"Get out of my face, woman," InuYasha said, making a fist.
Chiya stepped back a moment, meeting InuYasha's gaze, then pulled herself up, not willing to stop her confrontation.
Yaya's eyes grew large. "Something must be wrong with you, Chiya-chan. Did you have a run in with a black kitsune spirit? Come sit down," Yaya said, pulling on Chiya's arm. "Have some tea. I'll go get Houshi-sama to come chase whatever's poisoning you away."
InuYasha's ears flicked as he heard people moving up behind him. "I got asked to be here, stupid. Not that it's any of your business. I have the right to go where I want to. And don't you dare talk bad about Kimi for wanting to be nice. You could learn from her, bitch."
Chiya glared. "Who are you to – "
"I think I'll be the judge of who has the right to be here or not," Miroku said, joining the hanyou, and resting a hand on his shoulder. "It's not your job to give Kimi dharma lessons, Chiya-sama. You know InuYasha even helped me building this hondo. And he'll go with me when fetch the image of Jizo for the village."
"You need someone to carry it home," InuYasha muttered.
"True, true," the monk said. "Jizo will remember your deeds, I am sure."
The hanyou snorted.
"I...I...I just didn't want anything to go wrong," Chiya said. She stamped the ground once, and threw off Yaya's arm, her face a mixture of anger and embarrassment and frustration. "So much has gone wrong these last few days." She looked up at Miroku, then at InuYasha. "So much. And so much has involved . . . him" she said, pointing at InuYasha, "or his wife."
"Feh," InuYasha said, stuffing his hands in his sleeves. He let out a long, slow breath, but his scowl didn't budge. "Nothing either one of us did. Not my fault your nephew's such a brat or your brother brings home the wrong type of people. Had to rescue that stupid Aki again today."
Chiya clenched her own fists. "But . . . but . . . "
"He did indeed," Tameo said, patting the hanyou on his other shoulder. "I was there, and so were my sons. You're lucky InuYasha showed up, or Aki-kun might have lost an eye. He had a pair of nesting birds really angry at him."
"The way he hollered you would have thought they had already done it," InuYasha said.
"He was a bit noisy," Tameo said, agreeing. "I'm sure Kaede-oneesan got him all fixed up though. Not the first boy she's seen who had a run-in with a bird."
"I doubt if he'll be the last," Daitaro said, catching up to the rest of the men.
"Oh my," Kimi said, trying to change the subject. She moved to check on the fire under the hot water, adding another stick, and looked at her dwindling supply. "I hope Michio gets back soon. We really need some more wood."
Yaya pulled on Chiya's sleeve again. "Please, Chiya-chan. Let's go over and sit in the shade and practice our mindfulness. That would be better than arguing."
Once again, Chiya ignored her, focusing on the men in front of her. "How can so much be going wrong with my father's household, Houshi-sama? You say it's not the hanyou's fault. But ever since that . . . that . . . " InuYasha's eyes narrowed as she spoke, and she swallowed, paused, and shifted her eyes back to Miroku. "Ever since the young miko-sama has returned, my family seems cursed. My nephew and cousin and Haha-ue and Ani-ue . . . "
"Sometimes, Chiya-sama, we earn our own karma," Miroku said. "And I'm afraid in this case, the karma was not triggered by InuYasha or Kagome-sama."
"Damn right it wasn't," InuYasha said. "I don't need to listen to all this crap. You all can talk this all out. I'm going back to work," He turned to leave, but Miroku stopped him.
"Not yet, InuYasha," Miroku replied, resting a hand on the top of InuYasha's shoulder. His face was stern and his eyes reflected the same anger the hanyou felt. "We need to get this settled."
InuYasha studied Miroku's eyes for a moment and he reluctantly nodded. The two men turned back to look at the woman.
"Now, Chiya," the monk started, but he was interrupted by a tug on his sleeve.
"Houshi-sama! Houshi-sama!" Isao said. "Hisa-sama sent me up here with a message."
Miroku turned around, surprised. He looked at the boy and Tsuneo and Michio standing behind him. Tsuneo looked at him apologetically. But Michio looked livid, glaring past the crowd to meet his wife's gaze.
She stepped back just a little at the look she saw there. For a moment, she looked at him defiantly, but as if suddenly coming to her senses, she dropped her eyes and sank to her knees.
"You said you need to get things settled?" Michio said, pushing past the monk. "I think you need more than that, Houshi-sama." He walked over to the fire where he dropped his pack basket. Turning, he pulled Chiya up by her arm. "But first things first. Wife, what in the hell has gotten into you today?"