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

Chapter 146

The door mat rattled shut as InuYasha walked back into the house. Kagome looked up from her cooking, and didn't like the tenseness she saw in how her husband was carrying himself, or the look on his face.

She gave him a gentle smile as she bent over the fire to see how done the rabbit she was grilling was. "I heard voices outside. Who were you talking to?" Kagome asked. "Everything all right?"

He nodded. "I guess. It was just Miroku," the hanyou said. Moving gracefully in an easy glide that did nothing to relieve the sense of aggravation he was radiating, he walked over to the firewood cradle and picked up several pieces. Hopping up on the raised floor, he walked over to the opposite side of the fire pit from Kagome, where he added them neatly on the stack he kept there, his eyes, rather broody, avoiding hers.

"Do you think it's going to get cold tonight? That looks like a lot of wood," she said.

"No. Just wanted to make sure there was enough." He grabbed one of the big kettles. "I could start heating the bath water."

"If you want to," Kagome said, "Although it is a little early. You might want to wait until the soup is done. There'd be more room. It won't be that much longer."

"Feh." He put the pot down.

She lifted a lid off the soup pot, and added a small handful of vegetables. "It was a hard afternoon. I hope Sango's doing all right."

InuYasha shrugged. "I don't know. Miroku didn't mention how she's doing."

She looked into the pot, and added the rest of her chopped vegetables. "I wonder if Daitaro has any more mushrooms. That was the last of them."

"We can ask, I guess." His right ear twitched.

"So what did Miroku come over for?" Kagome said. "I hope he wasn't trying to get you to go back to his temple."

"No," the hanyou replied. He picked up a stick, and poked at the fire. "He's just trying to figure stuff out. The things Chiya did - he really didn't expect any of that. Although how someone as nosy as he is, missed it . . . "

"It sounds like a lot of people missed it. He's not the only one," Kagome said. She tasted the soup, frowned, and turning, added a pinch of some dried herbs to the mixture. "A lot of people will be trying to figure things out tonight. Michio-sama, Tsuneo-sama, Hisa-obaasan . . . "

"What about you? It sounds like she threw some ugly your way, too," InuYasha asked, throwing the stick in the fire and moving next to his wife. "You trying to figure things out, too?"

Kagome reached out and touched InuYasha's head. "I'm just trying to figure out how someone can act like Chiya did." She gave the soup a stir, a taste, then put the lid back on. "That's better."

"Don't ask me." InuYasha shook his head as he stuffed his hands in his sleeves. "Even trying to think about it makes my head hurt. I'm tired of trying to figure people out."

Kagome gave him a sympathetic nod, then turned back to her work table and began slicing some pickles.

"Figuring people out is hard work." She looked over her shoulder, to catch his nod, and then took a long slow breath as she tried to figure out how to shake the withdrawn mood he was settling down into. An eyebrow went up as she thought of something.

"I say we don't think about it any more tonight. I'd rather not have a person like Chiya be with us at dinner time."

"Feh," InuYasha said. "She's not ever coming here."

"She is if you're still thinking about her." Kagome stopped her slicing, and picked up a piece of pickle and handed it to her husband.

He lifted an eyebrow at the offering, took it, and popped it into his mouth. "Maybe you have a point."

"I know I do," she said, returning to her cooking. "I can think of other things I'd much rather do this evening."

The tone of her voice caught his attention, and he got the slightest touch of a smile."So what you would rather do this evening instead of talking about that bitch?"

"Eat dinner, take a nice bath," she said. She wiped her hands and moved a little closer to him.

InuYasha pulled her close, nesting her head under his chin. "Anything else?"

"Oh maybe," Kagome said, leaning into his hold. She let her hand rest on his thigh. "But only if it's just me and you."

As InuYasha let Kagome improve his mood, Tameo patted Tsuneo on the back. "So friend, are we ready to get this plan started?"

The men were walking up the hill toward the temple. Tsuneo looked at the village headman. "You're sure Kisoi agreed to this?"

Daitaro offered Tsuneo a drink from his bottle. The elder shook his head. The old farmer shrugged, took a tiny sip, and stoppered the jug."You heard him, man," Daitaro said. "He liked the deal. Living down in the house near the river's a lot better place than that shack he shares with his woman Nana and their kids. Give us time to fix his place back up. He liked that part a lot."

"And enough rice to make it through the year won't hurt. This way he won't have to hustle extra jobs from me and Toshiro to make ends meet," Tameo said, nodding. "I've tried to bring him in as one of my hands, but he's a proud man. Even though he can't make enough to support himself on his little bit of land, he doesn't want to go that route. But this . . . it's paid work. He gets to keep his pride."

Daitaro nodded. "And with three boys the right age, maybe we can keep that man-child entertained enough until we figure out what to do with him."

"You think there's anything we can do with him?" Tsuneo said.

"Well, the kami wanted us to do this, so there has to be some good from it," Tameo said, scratching the back of his neck. "Don't know what, but he's never been very capricious. Something'll work out. Besides, it'll get him out of your woman's hair."

Tsuneo took a deep breath, nodding. "That alone will be worth something. I just hope Kisoi knows what he's getting into. And that his wife won't squawk too much."

"Or that daughter of yours," Tameo said, giving his companion a sympathetic look.

Tsuneo rolled his eyes and shook his head. "Oh, she'll squawk," he said. "She's always been a great one for that. But until or if Michio changes her mind, she won't have a lot of choices. Until Haname-chan is better, there's no way she's coming under my roof. Those two are like flint and steel even when they both feel well."

"True, true," Daitaro said. He picked up his jug, looking thoughtfully at it, sighed, and shook his head, letting it drop back into place.

"That's why we'll be sending other people around every day to check on things. Maybe it'll keep the peace," Tameo said

The group fell quiet for a moment as they neared the work site. They could hear hammer blows as they grew closer. Ryota barked some command that was impossible to make out, but whatever it was, it was followed with laughter.

"Not quite done yet, from the sound of it," Daitaro said. "Still, sounds like they're having a good time. But I bet Susumu really won't mind being pried loose a little early."

Tameo laughed. "You're probably right about that one."

Back at Kimi's house, Chiya faced a group of not nearly as amused women.

"What did you say?" Chiya asked, glaring at Koume. She got to her feet. "You think I don't really care about my children, Koume-obasan? You think I planned this afternoon?"

"Chiya," Kimi said, "please sit down."

The angry woman ignored her. "I didn't plan any of this. It's not my fault that . . . those people were at Hisa-obasan's sewing party. What was she thinking? It's not my fault that . . . that white haired freak was at the temple. How dare a youkai show up at a holy place!"

Everybody but Kaede also got up. The old miko continued working on her medicine, although she did glance up.

Koume, though, was not so placid. "I'm tired of this, woman. You've brought this on yourself."

Chiya moved around the fire pit to stand in front of the older woman. "I did what?" She held her fists clasped in front of her body. It looked like she didn't know if she wanted to strike out or cover her face, and instead, just clasped them.

The old woman was not intimidated. "It's not our fault you decided to insult everybody you had the chance to this afternoon either. Even after what happened, you're still doing it. What were you thinking of, insulting the wife of the village headman in her own house?"

"She shouldn't have had that . . . monk's woman there!" Chiya said, dropping her arms. "It's a scandal!"

The older woman took a deep breath, and suddenly her face dropped whatever shreds of politeness she had left, and she leaned forward, wagging her finger like she was scolding a child. "That is enough out of you, woman," she said, taking a step closer."What's more of a scandal, that we have a happily married monk where we had nobody nearby to do the Buddha's work, or we have a woman who has children only six or seven years younger than he is fawning all over him every chance she gets?" She held her hands in front of her in a supplicant position, the way a person making an offering would, rocking side to side in mockery. "Houshi-sama, this. Houshi-sama, that. Please, Houshi-sama, have some rice cakes. Sorry I didn't make enough for your family. Please, Houshi-sama, I'm so sad. Here's a bottle of sake. Please chant the sutra for me. Please, please, please, pay attention to me!" She shifted posture, crossing her arms. "How dare you complain!"

Fujime and Kimi, shocked, pulled at Koume's arms. Chiya, shocked, just stood there, open-mouthed.

"Okaa!" Kimi said. "Please! Isn't it bad enough now?"

"But it's true, Kimi-chan," Koume said, shaking off her daughter. "Everybody in the village knows it. We've been talking about it for a long time now. And now we find out she's been doing everything she can to make his wife miserable." Her eyes narrowed, she crossed her arms in front of her. "And you call Sango-chan a scandal? Your husband should have kicked you out months ago."