I do not own InuYasha or any of the characters created by Rumiko Takahashi
The room suddenly fell silent as all eyes turned to the monk and hanyou standing in the doorway.
Kagome reached over and patted Sango's arm. "It'll be all right. You'll see."
Sango nodded, and took a deep breath.
This was not missed by the monk as he stood in the entry with InuYasha right behind him. He could feel the hanyou's breath on his neck, but he took his time as he studied the room full of women. His daughters and his son, lay on a blanket near his wife. Several other children, mostly infants, slept near their own mothers. The women, pieces of bright fabric and baskets were scattered across the room, but Sango herself was surrounded by a small knot of women - Chime, Erime, Emi, and Kagome, with old Hisako near by, and Fujime sitting right in front of the sleeping children.
There was no sense of emergency in the room. As he looked at the gathered women, they looked back as he stood there, not yet stepping up, their glances curious and unsurprised for the most part, as if he was expected. Koume, though, met his eyes with something approaching disapproval.
"Did he really have to come?" Nahoi asked Hisako, looking embarrassed herself.
"He really did," the elderly woman said, speaking softly. "After what Chiya did, I'm surprised he's not knocking down the walls."
"I didn't mean anything bad when I let her follow me," Nahoi said.
"We know, dear," Koume said. "It was just one of those things."
"Sango?" Miroku said.
Sango, her eyes soulful and sad, looked up at him a moment before breaking her gaze and dropping her head, her cheeks coloring as if embarrassed by the whole event. Kagome, on the other hand, met his eyes, her look somewhere between expectant and angry, although the monk could tell that anger didn't seem directed at him.
"Get a move on, Bouzu," InuYasha muttered, nudging him a bit. "We need to figure out what's been going on. Kagome's all wound up, and it smells like Sango's been crying."
Miroku's brow knit together, and pulling his gaze from Sango's face, he nodded once. "Most confusing," he said, almost too soft for anyone besides InuYasha to hear as he turned to Hisa, who was sitting next to the fire pit, holding a teapot. "So what is it I should know, Hisa-sama?" he asked, in a much louder voice.
Hisa, returning his gaze with one equally penetrating, but not at all unsure or uneasy, rose gracefully to her feet, and bowed a greeting. "Ah, Houshi-sama, InuYasha. I see you made it down from the temple. It's always a little confusing when you come in at the middle of a conversation. Do come in. Sit down next to your wives, if you would like. I'm sure the women will be happy to make room for you."
"Indeed we will," Fujime said, moving back to sit with her daughter Akiko.
"Something's happened," InuYasha said. His right ear twitched as he watched Kagome, who gave him a little nod, but also a little smile, which let him know she was all right and under control. Seeing that he breathed a small sigh of relief.
"Of course we made it down," Miroku said, "With the message you sent with Isao, how could I not show up? That roof's not nearly as important." Miroku slipped off his sandals as he prepared to step onto the raised wooden platform.
InuYasha, wearing no shoes, stepped up before the monk was finished. Baskets and fabric were moved out of the way as he headed to Kagome's side. "This is going to be a day they'll talk about," he said as he walked across the room. "First we had trouble with that . . . that . . . " Hisa gave him a look, and he swallowed, hurrying to join Kagome. "With Chiya, and then we learned afterwards that there was trouble down here. Didn't waste any time after that."
Hisako, twisting her mouth into a knowing smirk, nodded at him as she moved a bit to give him room to sit down. "Ah, so Chiya-chan gave you problems up the hill as well?"
"Gave herself more," the hanyou said, seating himself with his usual easy grace.
Kagome raised a curious eyebrow as he sat down next to her. "Gave herself problems?" the young miko asked.
"You could say that," Miroku said, stepping up on the platform. "As angry as Michio-sama was with her, I'm certain she thinks so now." He began to walk across the room.
Koume, still resolutely sewing, looked up and quirked an eyebrow. "You'll have to tell us all about that." She took another stitch.
"When the time is right, Koume-chan," Hisa said.
For the moment Miroku only had eyes for Sango. Erime and Chime made space for the monk to sit down. But he stopped in front of Sango, instead of sitting next to her. Laying his staff down while being careful of the sleeping children, he knelt down and took her hands, looking at the red of her eyelids and the faint traces of tear tracks. "I would have never expected something troubling to happen to you in Hisa-sama's house, surrounded by the women here." His voice grew very gentle. "Will you tell me what happened?"
"It's . . . You know I didn't ask Hisa-obaasan to send for you," Sango said. The look in her eyes troubled him, seeing her uncertainty and a heaviness of heart that reminded him of the sadness that was there when she was grieving for her brother before he was freed from Naraku.
Miroku looked at Hisa, who nodded in confirmation. "It's true," the headman's wife said. She poured fresh water into her teapot. "But seeing what happened, I thought you needed to be here."
"It was something Chiya did?" He asked, giving her hand a squeeze.
Sango dropped her head again. "I didn't want you to think I was just being jealous. I wasn't being jealous at all. I was just sewing and talking to our daughters."
"I believe you," he said. She took a deep breath, but still avoided his eyes. "What happened that made Hisa-sama send a message like that to me? She said you were going to die of shame." Miroku dropped her left hand and slipped a finger under her chin so he could see her eyes. "What did she do?"
Sango chewed on her bottom lip.
"Let him know, Sango-chan," Chime said, gently.
Sango sighed. "Chiya showed up with Nahoi and began saying awful things."
"I didn't ask her to come," Nahoi said, distressed. "She found out I was coming and wouldn't leave."
Miroku nodded and looked at the young woman. She too looked troubled and even a little frightened. "I believe you, Nahoi-sama." He turned back to Sango.
"I feel so . . . so . . . stupid," Sango said, looking up at him. "If she were a youkai, or even a bandit, I'd know just what to do, and something like this would never have happened."
"You shouldn't feel like that, Sango-chan," Kagome said. "Sometimes, it's the people we have to live with that can be the hardest enemies. Taking down youkai can be easy next to dealing with them."
"Tell me," Miroku said. His look was still gentle, but his voice grew insistent. "What did she do?"
Sango nodded. "She said awful things about the twins and Kagome-chan."
"And you, too, Sango-chan," Hisa said. "Now is not the time to deny it. You have witnesses this time."
"What did that bitch say?" InuYasha said. "After seeing her light into Kimi, I don't think anything she'd do would surprise me." He took Kagome's hand and looked at her.
"She . . . she called the twins a litter," Sango said, looking down at the sleeping form of Noriko. "Like there was something animal-like because they're twins. Like I was an animal for having them."
Miroku brushed a stray hair from Sango's face. "There is nothing wrong with our daughters." His voice was soothing, but his eyes flashed as he too looked at his sleeping girls.
"That's what she did," Hisako said, nodding. There was a dark glee in the back of her voice, as if telling on Chiya gave her a special satisfaction. "Very nasty tone she had, too. Complained about how we had a married miko who was married to a man with dog ears and Sango-chan had a litter of babies. She wouldn't shut up and added it was a scandal for her to be living under the same roof as you, Houshi-sama."
"She said that to you, did she?" InuYasha said, looking at Kagome.
"She did." Kagome nodded. "It was the same sort of thing that Haname said when she was all wound up from the yamabushi's magic. This time, though, what she said about me didn't bother me at all. What she said about Sango . . . I wanted to . . . to . . . "
"To slap her?" Koume said, giving her a knowing look. There was a touch of approval and amusement in her eyes. "The way you bounced up when she started up on Sango . . . I was afraid you were about to hit her yourself."
"Maybe," Kagome said, nodding and giving Koume a sheepish look. Turning, she looked up at InuYasha, who, surprisingly, gave her a satisfied smirk. "When she talked about the girls that way . . . I sort of saw red. If Hisa-obaasan hadn't said something . . . "
"Wouldn't be the first time you were ready to jump on someone because they attacked someone you cared about," InuYasha said. He leaned over to whisper, "I told Miroku if Sango had been insulted you'd be ready to jump in. I should have bet him."
Kagome, trying hard not to giggle, gave her husband a small shove.
"I'd rather see you angry that way over a bitch like Chiya than sad," he said. "She's not worth getting sad over."
The young miko nodded.
"You hear that, Sango?" Miroku said. "InuYasha can sometimes speak wise words."
"Hey," the hanyou said, looking at the monk. "Sometimes?"
"She is a sad and unhappy woman," Miroku continued, ignoring InuYasha. "You know that, don't you? Nothing she can say makes you or our children less wonderful to me. She's eaten up by something dark in her heart."
"I know," Sango said. "It's just . . . "
Hisa moved next to Miroku, with teapot and cups in hand. "We discovered this has been going on a while, Houshi-sama," she said as she poured. "Today was not the first time Chiya has tried to cause problems for your wife."
"How come I never heard of it?" Miroku asked, looking first at Hisa and then at Sango, confused, and not just a little angry.
"Sometimes, Houshi-sama, it takes a while to put the pieces together," Hisa said. "Most of us hadn't realized this until today."
"The woman thing, I bet," InuYasha said, nodding.
"The woman thing?" Kagome asked. She looked at him, not sure of what he meant.
"Yeah, stuff that women keep to themselves," the hanyou said. "I was telling Miroku about it earlier. Like this sewing party. Or when you go talking to Sango about what's happening. Things you do that's woman to woman. I remember when I was a boy, seeing how women could be without a man ever getting a whiff of it going on." He sighed and shook his head, as if chasing a bad memory away.
"I think," Hisa said, smiling at InuYasha, "that your friend is a lot wiser than you give him credit for, Houshi-sama. We discovered that Chiya has been doing things to make Sango feel unwanted for quite a while now."
"Ever since that first village festival after you were married," Fujime said. "And she chased her away from my sewing circle and I didn't even know about it."
"And I heard her spreading gossip about Sango, more than once," Hisako said. "And it wasn't just her. Chisuzu, Benika, Sora . . . "
Hisa watched the monk as he moved to set next to Sango, settling down uneasily, as he continued to hold her hand. As the other women offered their information, Sango grew more withdrawn, her head bowed, and the monk more and more surprised by the conspiracy to make sure his wife felt unwelcome by what Chiya and her circle had done. Trying not to make Sango feel any worse, Miroku's face turned into a mask, although his free hand clenched and unclenched as he listened.
"Houshi-sama," Hisa said.
Miroku looked up at her.
"Would you and Sango-chan like a few minutes alone?"
The monk looked at his wife. Sango, not looking up, nodded.
"I think," Hisa said, standing up, "that the garden is looking particularly lovely right now. It would be a good time for us to get some fresh air, and give these two a few moments alone. Perhaps, we could say a prayer at the kami's shrine for them while we're at it."
There were nods of assent and one by one, the women stood up. Quietly, they slipped out of the house, taking care not to wake up the twins or Naoya.
InuYasha and Kagome were the last to leave. InuYasha tapped Miroku on the shoulder. "I'll be outside if you need me," the hanyou said.
Kagome looked at them both. "We'll both be near if you need us."
Miroku nodded, and watched his two friends step outside and slid the door closed.