I do not own InuYasha or any of the characters created by Rumiko Takahashi
Shortly before Tameo reached his compound gate, Isao ran into the compound, making a beeline for the main house.
"Hey, Isao-kun!" Hanchi, one of the girls playing in the yard, held up the ball in invitation. Several other voices urged him to join in. He shook his head, which made the girl frown.
"I've got something to do first. Maybe later," he said, shrugging, then slowing down his run into a walk, he skirted the game area, and headed for the front door of the big house.
InuYasha watched the goings on with a mildly amused look."Hey boy," InuYasha called out. "You came in here like you were being chased by a youkai. Something going on up the hill?"
Isao ran up to the verandah, and bowed. "Not that I know about, InuYasha-sama. When I left, Ryota-sama was busy making Susumu-sensei hammer shingles, and everything looked like it was going well." He looked around, and not seeing the monk, added, "I hope all is well with Houshi-sama and his wife."
InuYasha's ear rotated around as if he were listening to sounds inside of the house. "They seem to be doing all right," he said after a moment. "So why'd you come down?"
"Another errand. Excuse me, please," the boy said, looking at the door, and swallowing, as if he were a bit nervous about it. "But do you know where Hisa-sama is?"
Riki saw his hesitation about the door and laughed, just a little. "Don't look so nervous, boy. She's not going to eat you." Something caught her eye, and she looked out over the field of children, where one of the toddlers was heading toward the road. "Yorime, go check on Yukinari. Don't let her wander off."
Yorime hurried after the wayward girl as Riki turned back to Isao. "She's not in the house right now. She took most of the women into the Kami's garden."
"Ah," he said, nodding "The message I have is for her. Tameo-sama and the elders are coming here. He asked me to bring a message. Do you think she'll mind if I go tell her?"
"You're being quite the messenger today," Kagome said. "How's your head?"
"It's fine, Miko-sama." His face, still bruised, looked a sorry shade of yellow and green where it had been injured, but the smile he gave her was genuine and his eyes were clear, if beginning to look a little tired. "It feels good to be able to do something today." He bowed again, "I better hurry. Tameo-sama and Tsuneo-sama were right behind me when I left."
"Then go, boy," Riki said. "But if they're at the shrine, stand back a little bit until you can catch their attention. And you look like you've had enough running around for one day. If you're feeling like you need to rest, be sure to let her know. She won't want you exhausting yourself."
Isao nodded, and hurried around the house.
"I wonder what that's about?" Kagome said, looking up at InuYasha, who shrugged.
"Even Tameo-sama gets a little nervous around Hisa-sama when she's entertaining the women," Riki said. She gave the miko a rather amused grin. "Don't ask me why. Hisa-sama almost never raises her voice or gives him a cross look. Still, he probably wants her to know he's coming in, without wanting to interrupt anything. I suspect he'll head right over to his office."
InuYasha snorted. "Man knows his wife well. Don't blame him."
Kagome gave him a look, raising one eyebrow, and then snickered.
As Isao walked up the path to the garden, Hisako, tired of waiting, seated herself on a large rock.
"Well," she said, resting her walking stick next to her, "this will be a sewing day we'll remember for a while."
"It will indeed," Koume said, settling down next to her. "We'll be talking about whatever put it into that woman's mind to pull a stunt like that for a long time. You would think that with everything that's happened to her mother and her nephew, and even with her brother, she would have known better." She shook her head. "I hope Haname feels better before she hears about it. This will really upset her."
"That child?" Hisako said, scoffing. "Do something sensible when she's not happy?"
Fujime walked up to join them."I wouldn't call her a child anymore. Look how old her children are getting."
"Bah," Hisako said. "Her boy acts older than she does. I tell you, I don't know how her husband and father-in-law put up with her."
Teruko walked up, frowning at the conversation, and decided to change the subject. "I wish I had as much time to put into a garden as this," she said. "It always feels so . . . peaceful here."
"Knowing Haruo, he'd make you plant it all in vegetables, even if you did," Fujime said. She pointed to a stand of azaleas, pink with blossoms. "Can you imagine that, planted with daikon? Or maybe burdock?"
"Not that spot," Hisa said, coming up to join the other women. "Hemp behind and eggplant in front."
The women laughed.
"It certainly would look a lot different," Akiko said. "More tasty, perhaps, and some of the vegetables are handsome anyway . . . but not nearly as tidy. Don't know if the kami would like it as well."
"Oh, he's a farmer kami. He'd probably like what could grow here just fine," Hisa said. "I'm just not sure he'd like all the coming and going it'd take to make it all work. He gets to have his peace and quiet this way. And it'd probably be Kinjiro's job to do it, and I'm sure the two of them would get into an argument when my son would try to tell the kami what to do."
This brought out several snickers.
"I think we'll leave it the way it is, then, Okaasan," Matsume, Kinjiro's wife, said, resting her hand on her swollen abdomen. "I would like my husband to live long enough to see his child."
Hisa reached out and touched her daughter-in-law's hand. "Me too," she said smiling. "I think we'll leave everything just the way it is."
Mariko, standing next to them, pointed. "There's that boy." She shifted her son, who she was carrying on her hip instead of her back. "The one you sent up the hill to tell Houshi-sama to come here."
Hisa turned around. "Isao-kun?"
"He's looking rather tired," Chime noticed, standing next to her daughter-in-law.
"It's his first day really getting back to work," Emi said, nodding. "I'm not surprised. I wonder what he wants."
Isao hurried up to the knot of women and bowed. "Hisa-sama."
"Ah, Isao-kun," the headman's wife said, giving him a friendly smile. "Is there something I can do for you?"
"Tameo-sama sent me with a message," the boy said, standing up. His eyes were still a bit nervous, and he chewed on his bottom lip as he watched her.
"Did he?" she replied, touching him lightly on the shoulder. "Nothing bad I hope?"
"Now what?" Hisako asked, scowling. "Today seems one of those days when there's always something else . . . "
"Now, Hisako-obasan, let the boy speak," Fujime said, resting her hand on the elderly woman's back.
Hisa noticed the boy's hesitation, but gave him a warm smile."Did he ask you to tell me in private? We can walk over to the other side of the garden if he did."
Isao's eyes grew confused. "I...I don't think so." He frowned.
"Go on, boy, we're not going to bite," Koume said. He looked up at her, as if afraid of just that.
Swallowing, he began. "He said he was coming home, he and Tsuneo-ojiisan and Daitaro-ojiisan, but if the women were still here, he would go to his office." He looked up at Hisa, scratching the back of his head.
"Is that all?" Hisa asked. "I'm surprised he'd send a message for that."
"No . . . no," Isao said. "He said . . . he said . . . " He looked up knitting his brows together. "Oh yes, he wants to ask you something, and said come talk to him when you had a chance."
"Huh," Hisa said, looking a bit perplexed. "I wonder what he's thinking about now."
"Oh, with Daitaro with him, no telling," Chime said, but smiling. "They're always figuring out something or other."
"Or drinking sake," Hisa replied. She tapped her chin thinking. "Well, you look tired, son. Maybe you should go take a rest. There's some food at Matsume's if you want a snack." Isao nodded. "Don't let Jun put you to work," she continued. "I think you've done enough today."
"Thank you, Hisa-sama." Obviously relaxing at that news, he turned to leave.
"Wait a moment, boy," Hisako said before he took two steps. "What happed to Chiya-chan up on the hill? We know something happened, but nobody told us what yet."
Suddenly he was aware of all the eyes turned on him. Koume chuckled at the look on his face.
"Uh," Isao said, looking up at Hisa, then the other women. "She and Michio got into a big fight, and he told her not to come home. And then Kimi-sama took her home."
"What?" Fujime said. Her eyes got large. "Michio told her what?" There was a murmur of voices behind her, also surprised. "My daughter-in-law took her home?"
He nodded, and almost shriveled under the women's glances. "Michio-sama told her not to go home," Isao said. He turned to Hisa. "May I go? My head is beginning to hurt."
Hisa nodded. "Go take some of the medicine if you want, boy. You've done good work today. Thank you."
Isao bowed, then headed out of the garden.
"Now that's an interesting turn of events," Hisako said, leaning on her cane as she stood up. "Those men were holding out on us."
Koume laughed. "I don't think we gave them much of a chance to catch us up, Obasan."
"But that doesn't mean we can't learn more," Chime said. "InuYasha-sama is sitting with Kagome-chan . . . "
"True, true," Hisa said. "And with Tameo heading this way, I suspect we can find out much more." She looked at the group of women. "Well, friends, shall we head back toward the house? This deserves some investigation."
"Indeed," Akiko said. "This is a story I want to hear in detail."
"What was Kimi-chan thinking?" Fujime said, shaking her head.
"Sounds like you need to visit your son this evening," Hisako said. "I am sure Eiji will hear more than he wants to hear of all the details before it gets dark."
"I am sure you're right," Fujime said. She tapped her chin. "That girl has too kind of a heart."
Filled with questions, the group of women headed back towards the house.
InuYasha, not aware that an interrogation was heading his way, stretched out his legs.
"I wonder how much longer Miroku and Sango are going to talk," Kagome asked, turning back to look at the house.
The hanyou shrugged. "Maybe not that much longer. Sounds like they're getting things worked out."
"You can hear them?" Riki asked, surprised.
"It's not like I'm trying to," the hanyou said. "It's just that I can hear more than most people." His ears twitched as she watched, then flattened as one of the girls playing shrieked. "Except maybe when the brats make noise like that."
"I'm afraid the little ones are gifted in making those sounds." The woman gave him a sympathetic look.
"I've noticed," he replied. "Huh, we're about to have company."
The door to the house slid open, and the adults swerved to look. Instead of Miroku though, it was Susumu's son Mitsuo.
"Where's Okaa?" the sleepy-eyed boy said. "I can't find Horsie. Horsie's scared!"
"Your okaasan's with your obaasan in the garden, Mitsuo-kun." Riki sighed. "Did she take Horsie away again?"
Mitsuo wiped at his nose. "I guess."
"You need to not bother the girls, Mitsuo-kun," the farm wife said, shaking her head. "Then she wouldn't take Horsie away from you so often."
The boy stuck out his bottom lip in an angry pout. "It wasn't me! Horsie did it! He wanted to walk across Neesan's hair."
Kagome leaned towards InuYasha. "You're sure this kid's Susumu's?" she whispered, too softly for anybody but InuYasha to hear. "That sounds like a Miroku excuse."
The hanyou barked a loud laugh at that. Having missed the exchange, Riki gave them an odd look, then turned back to the boy. "Then you need to tell Horsie to behave himself better. Let's go find you okaa, Mitsuo-kun. Maybe it's time that Horsie's punishment is over."
She stood up and held out her hand, and he took it, then she turned back to the miko and the hanyou. "Yorime's here, but do you mind watching the children a few minutes? This shouldn't take long."
"Of course we will," Kagome said, trying hard not to laugh at the pouty face on the little boy as he tugged on Riki's hand, trying to hurry her. "Take your time. We're not going anywhere for the moment."
Riki and the small boy firmly in tow began tracing the same route Isao had gone just a little while earlier.
"I knew today was going to be a little crazy," InuYasha said, after Riki left. "But not this crazy."
"It has been a little wild," Kagome said.
"First I get attacked by birds because of a stupid kid. Then I get to fall off a roof in front of everybody," the hanyou said. "Then I have to listen to that stupid bitch tell me off for no other reason than she was mad at the world."
"And then you get stuck babysitting," Kagome said, leaning against him.
"That, too," he said, nodding. One of the girls squealed rather loudly as she caught a ball, which got the hanyou to flatten his ears at the noise once again.
"Maybe it won't be for much longer," the miko said. "Isn't that Tameo and Daitaro coming up the walk?"
"I'm hoping," InuYasha replied. "Yeah, them and Tsuneo. And from the sound of it, the twins are waking up."
"Ah," Kagome said. "That might put an end to their talk."
"Maybe. Sango sounds a lot calmer," InuYasha said. "Don't take this the wrong way, but soon as we can I want to go home. I..." He swallowed, trying to phrase what he was trying to say without upsetting her.
She gave him a gentle smile, touching his hand."You're not the only one tired of all the people today," Kagome said "Sometimes, it's good to get away from them all. I want to go home, too"
There was a shout from the group of children. She looked up and watched the ball they were playing with rolling away from the group and toward the house. It ended up next to the miko's feet. Bending over, she picked it up, and looked at it. It was a temari ball, wrapped in a pattern of bright blue and green and red threads, dusted with little bits of grass and leaves from all the times it landed on the ground.
"I had a ball like this when I was young. But I think this one gets a lot more use than mine did," she said.
InuYasha picked it up out of her hands and turned it around in his. "Never had one like that," he said, handing it back to her. "Pretty."
"Yeah," Kagome said. "I don't think they were making them when you were a boy. Otherwise, I bet your Okaasan would have - they're made to show how much your mother loves you." She looked up at InuYasha, who seemed a little saddened by what she was saying. "One day, I'll make them for our children."
"You're right," InuYasha said, his voice a little distant. "My okaasan, she would have. She . . . she did other things."
Hanshi ran up and bowed to the two of them.
"Would you like this?" Kagome asked, holding out the ball.
"Yes, please," the girl said. She met Kagome's eyes with no fear, and looked at InuYasha curiously. He gave her a small smirk, which caused the girl to blush a little. "Thank you!" she said as she quickly turned and ran back to the game.
"Seems we might be a little tired of people, but the people might not be quite tired of us," she said. "I think you might have a little admirer there."
"Feh," the hanyou said, crossing his arms.
Kagome leaned into his shoulder. "It shows she has good taste."
Tameo waved at the two sitting on the porch as he grew close to the yard. As he did so, several things happened at once. Miroku slid the door to Tameo's house open, and he, Sango and the girls stepped outside. Hisa, leading the rest of the women, rounded the bend on the path to the garden, even before Riki and her two charges reached it.
"How . . . " Kagome said, looking at Sango. Suddenly, her arms were filled with Noriko, who dove into her lap. "Well hello. Did you sleep well?"
Noriko nodded. Yusuko, not to be denied, joined her sister.
Sango gave Kagome a bright smile, although her eyes were still a little red from the tears she had shed earlier. "Better, Kagome-chan. Much better." She looked up at Miroku who gave her a tender smile.
"I think we made a few things clearer," the monk said. "And if something like this happens again . . . "
"I'll know what to do," Sango replied. She bent down and picked Yusuko up, and handed her to Miroku. Kagome in turn handed Noriko back to her mother.
"Good," InuYasha said, and looked at Kagome hopefully. "Now maybe we can go home?"
Daitaro snorted as the cluster of men reached the verandah. "Why would you want to go home? We just got here!"
"Home?" Fujime said, as the women reached the house. "You can't go home yet."
The hanyou stood up, swinging left to right as he looked at the elders, who were laughing and the women who were gazing at him with an intensity he found a bit disturbing. "Why the hell not?"
"You and Houshi-sama have to tell us all about what happened to Chiya," Hisako said, tapping her cane on the ground. "You didn't think you were going to get away before that, did you?"