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

Chapter 143

"You know," InuYasha said, stirring the fire, "I know Miroku thinks it's good to drag me into things like today, but . . . "

Kagome dipped up enough rice out of her rice barrel for their dinner, and put it in the washing bowl. "Too many people?" she asked, as she poured water over the grains to clean them.

"That's part of it," he said, not meeting her eyes, but frowning as he worked on the fire. "Don't know if I'll ever get used to people . . . well, acting like it's all right that I'm here." He threw some slivered wood on the coals, and blew on them gently to help them catch flame. Sitting up he looked at her. "All those years they didn't . . . I keep expecting something to happen. Like it did after that bitch showed up."

"Sounds like they still like you, in spite of people like her. Look at Daitaro and Susumu. They seem to really like you, and not just put up with you being Miroku's partner," Kagome said, swishing the rice around in the water.

"Yeah," InuYasha turned to grab some bigger pieces of wood. "Doesn't mean it still doesn't seem . . . well, weird. Look at Sango. Even I could see that Hisa and some of the other women think a lot of her, but she's never really felt like she was invited. Sometimes, what you expect is more real than real, I guess."

"That wasn't her fault or Hisa-obaasan's." Kagome carefully poured off the water into her slops bucket. "Someone was running interference."

InuYasha shrugged. "Doesn't matter why," the hanyou said. "It still feels . . . different or strange when you discover that the world's changed. It's like I'm so used to pushing against that wall of not being welcome that I feel . . . well, off-balance, I guess. It gets old. Right now, it just feels good to be home and away from everybody. Makes me tired or something."

"I agree with that," she said, nodding. She put the clean rice into the pot she was going to cook it in. "Sometimes, all of us need some quiet. Me, too."

"I guess," InuYasha said, agreeing with her, although his voice sounded a bit uncertain. He sat back, satisfied with how the fire was going. He looked over at Kagome, who was waiting to put the rice on the fire. "I think you can start cooking it now," he said. "Fire looks about right."

She nodded, and wordlessly put the pot on its tripod to begin cooking, and then returned to her table to begin chopping vegetables.

"Need any water?" InuYasha asked, dusting off his hands on his hakama legs.

She shook her head. "I have enough for dinner and the dishes."

"How about for a bath later?" He stood up.

"Yeah," Kagome said. She tilted her head and gave him a small, but appreciative smile. "A bath would be nice. I'd like to wash about half of this afternoon away."

"You're not the only one," he said, reaching up to scratch the back of his head. Fishing in his hair, he pulled out a piece of dry grass. "At least you didn't land in the dirt. My hair's going to need washing."

"I'm not surprised after what you told me. Talking about being off-balance - you falling off a roof," Kagome said as she rinsed a handful of greens. "You and heights go together so well." She looked up and gave her head a little shake. "You've managed to take me up and down places I'd never try to get myself. I know I don't have your sense of balance. I don't think I'd want to run around on roofs." She pushed the greens she had been cutting to the side, and began slicing an onion.

"Yeah. After this, I don't think I want to, either," InuYasha said, "at least when there's a roofing party going on. If Miroku needs another roof, I might help, but I'm going to stay on the ground." The hanyou moved over to where he had the extra water buckets. "Seems like every time I work on a roof, I break through and make a fool of myself." He leaned over and picked up two of them. "This is the second time, and Ryota was there both times - when we were putting the roof on this place, and now at Miroku's temple. He thinks the roofing kami don't like me."

She tried not to laugh, but couldn't help smiling. "Maybe it's not them? Maybe it's being around Ryota?"

"Whatever," he said, moving toward the door. "Works out the same. I just know I don't think I want to do any more of that for a while." He headed outside.

While Kagome attended to her dinner preparations, Fujime and Koume attended to other things. After a stop at Koume's house to leave Nahoi to her weaving, the two walked down the path towards the house Kimi and Eiji lived in. It was a snug little house, the second son's house, far enough away from the house Fujime shared with her husband Akimori, to grant them privacy, but close enough to the main house for easy access and sharing of the storage buildings and farming equipment.

A persimmon tree grew to the right of the house, and beyond that, clothes Kimi had hung up before lunch fluttered in the late afternoon breeze. There was something peaceful about the way it sat near the hillside.

The peace, though, was broken by the sound of a woman crying. "Curse him, curse him!" the voice said.

A cat, having enough of the noise, lifted its head, stood up, and moved off the verandah of the house for less disturbing quarters, stopping by the persimmon tree, where, hidden from view, someone was sitting. A hand reached out and scratched the cat behind the ear. Soon, it too was out of sight.

"Be glad that Eiji lives in his own house instead of under your roof," Koume said. "You could be listening to that in your own home all night."

"Bah," Fujime said. "Akimori would chase her out after the third outburst. You know how his nerves get any more. Lucky for her that Kimi has a kind heart and her own house."

"No doubt Fumio would do the same thing. Maybe even get a hammer from the forge to show her she meant business," Koume said, talking about her own husband, who was the local blacksmith, and made most of the metal tools for the village. "He is a quiet man, but when he has enough, he has enough."

"At least they live close. It's not like Haruo living on the other side of the village. I thought Eiji would move back in after his brother . . . " A shadow crossed her face, she took a deep breath and continued. "Well, I won't talk about the dead. Eiji said he was too comfortable where he was, he and Kimi-chan and the children. If I had known this day was coming, I wouldn't have bothered trying to convince him otherwise. Still, the heir ought to live with his parents. One day, maybe."

"Sometimes," Koume said, giving her friend a sympathetic smile, "things work out the way they should. Or maybe we just get lucky."

"True," Fujime said. She was about to say something else when a young girl of about ten got up from behind the persimmon tree and began moving toward them. She was a pretty girl, dressed in a blue and white kosode, with a matching blue ribbon holding her hair back, looking very much like a miniature version of Kimi. But she didn't have Kimi's composure, and in fact looked quite unhappy.

"Fujime-baachan! Koume-baachan!" the girl said, bowing politely to her grandmothers. "Haha-ue said that she thought you'd be coming by."

"She was right, Tazu-chan," Fujime said. "But why are you out here?"

"Haha-ue told us to leave when she got back from the temple," Tazu said, frowning. "She came home with Chiya-obasan, and made me, Rin-chan and Iya-chan get out of the house. Chiya-obasan was very sad. I would go to the temple to pray to Kwannon for her, but Haha-ue said the men were still working on it."

"They are," Koume said, nodding. "I believe your otousan is still up there."

"But what am I supposed to do?" Tazu said. She sucked on her bottom lip, obviously distressed. "Haha-ue sent Rin-chan to get Kaede-sama, and Iya-chan's brother came to get her, too. Everybody's gone home, and I can't even do my chores. I was going to cook dinner tonight for Haha-ue since she was busy all afternoon, but I can't even get the rice water because the bucket is in the house."

Koume smiled and rested a hand on her granddaughter's shoulder but looked at Fujime, an amused grin twisting her lips. "Listen to this. You won't hear that very often, will you, Fujime-chan? A woman complaining that she can't draw the water or cook?"

Fujime laughed. "Ah, Tazu-chan, enjoy the moment. There will be days in the future where you would love someone to chase you out of the house when it's time to cook dinner. But if you're looking for something to do, you can come home with me, and help me fix your Ojiisan's supper. And enough for your okaasan and otousan, too. I suspect they'll be needing it."

"Ah, that Chiya," Koume said, shaking her head. "She's disrupted so many things today."

"Well," Fujime said, "at least it wasn't a boring day." She looked down at her granddaughter, who was staring at her feet, still not quite satisfied with the way her afternoon was turning out. "Why don't you find your brother and tell him to come to my house for dinner? You know where he's at, don't you?"

"I think," Tazu said, looking at her grandmother a little doubtfully. "He was supposed to be working on the soybean field, but . . . "

"Well try seeing if he's still working there," Koume suggested. "If he's not, he's probably fishing with Akemi."

The girl nodded. "I know where they like to fish," she said, and took off.

A woman's voice shrieked from within Kimi's house. "Why? Why would he do this?"

"It doesn't sound like she's gotten it out of her system yet," Fujime said. "Not that I expected her to. Getting kicked out and even Tsuneo not wanting to take her in." Fujime shook her head. "She's in for some rough days ahead, I suspect. I just hope we won't be having to listen to this all night."

"You could come and stay at our place if it gets too nerve-wracking," Koume volunteered. "We're far enough away that you probably couldn't hear it. Maybe Kaede-chan can give her something to calm her nerves. Or better yet, make her go to sleep. People are going to need clear heads to help figure out what to do with her."

"We'll see," Fujime said, nodding. "I would rather the grandchildren not have to listen to that. I might send them over if I don't make it." She took a deep breath. "I guess we ought to stop talking and go see how Kimi-chan is holding up. Why she told Chiya to come home with her . . . "

They began to move toward the door when Chiya shrieked again, a wordless wail. The two women looked at each other.

"Maybe we should send Kimi to my house as well," Koume said. "She may have the patience of Kwannon, but this can't be good for her."

Fujime frowned and rubbed the side of her face with a finger, trying to answer that, when they were interrupted.

"Is that Chiya making all that noise?"

The two women turned to see Kaede coming up the pathway, frowning at what she was hearing, followed by Rin. Chiya wailed again.

"She really is wound up badly," the old miko said. "You were right, Rin-chan."

"Tell us about it," Koume said.

Rin looked around. "Is Tazu-chan here?"

Fujime looked at the girl and shook her head. "No, child," she said. "I'm afraid I sent her to look for her brother."

"Ah, Rin was hoping she could talk with her," the girl said, sighing.

"What happened? I haven't quite figured out what is going on," Kaede said. "I never got to get to the sewing circle today. Mitsunari and Shigeru managed to turn over a cart on themselves this afternoon, and I'd been taking care of them."

"Michio, how could you do this?" Chiya yelled.

Rin winced. Kaede looked at her young charge. "Would you like to go find Tazu-chan?"

The girl, looking at her shoulder at Kimi's house, frowned, then turned back around to Kaede and nodded. "Yes, please."

"I suspect you'll find her down by the river. Yoshi-kun's probably fishing, if I know him," Fujime said. "She's supposed to bring him back. We'll see how long it takes."

Taking her leave, Rin ran off, just as Chiya made another wail, louder than the earlier ones.

"I don't think this is good for young ones to listen to," Fujime said, crossing her arms. "I'm glad that child left. It's not very pleasant for us older ones."

"True," Kaede said, nodding. "So what did happen? And why is she with Kimi-chan?"

"Chiya's husband threw her out again," Koume said. "We were just about to check on Kimi-chan. At least we're outside. She's in the middle of things."

"It must have been a wild afternoon," Kaede said.

"Oh," Fujime said. "You don't know the half of it. We have a lot to tell you."