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

Chapter 171

InuYasha carried the futon outside to the side of the house where he had set up a permanent clothesline. It was clearly midmorning. Already, the birds who greeted each day with singing, had done their announcement to the world, and had gone off to busy themselves with making a living, and the dew had just about burned off the grass he was walking through.

"I really didn't need this today," he said, spreading the cloth over the line. "Fell off a roof, got insulted, listened to Michio all night, and Yasuo, and now this."

"Living in a community is different from living alone," a voice to his right said.

InuYasha swerved around, hand on sword hilt, to see the grinning face of the kami Kazuo looking at him.

"You – " the hanyou said, irritated at being sneaked up on. "I thought you said you couldn't appear like this very often."

"I shouldn't," Kazuo said, rubbing his cap back and forth over his head. "But I've been busy in the village this morning. The other family kami and I got together to cook up a plot maybe to help out with that stupid yamabushi."

The hanyou turned back to the clothes line, to finish smoothing out the futon. "About time, after you dumped him on everybody."

"There are reasons," Kazuo said, leaning on his hoe. "You'll see, eventually."

InuYasha ran his hand across the top of the futon, smoothing a wrinkle, taking more time than he usually would have. "You sound like Tameo and Tsuneo, cooking up plots to take care of things."

"Well," the kami said, walking to the other side of the line where he could look the hanyou in the eye, "they get it nature, Tameo and the others. They are our descendants, after all. But it took good timing. I had to wait until that houshi partner of yours and Tameo were walking close enough, and then I panicked the yamabushi to go running after a phantom."

Frowning, InuYasha looked up at Kazuo. "Haven't you done enough to him yet?"

Kazuo took a deep breath. "This time it was for his own good. The houshi-sama actually looked at his aura this time. He's a smart man, that Miroku-sama. I think he got a glimmer of what's behind all of this. And he knew just what to say to calm that guy down."

"Too smart for his own good sometimes," the hanyou said, turning to head back to the house. "He misses things he ought to catch. Look how he let Chiya trip up Sango."

"That," Kazuo said, following InuYasha, "that was unfortunate. Chiya . . . well, she's always been a problem child. Tsuneo's family kami gave up on her a long time ago."

InuYasha stuck his hands in his sleeves and stopped for a moment, scowling. "So we all have to put up with her instead?"

"No," Kazuo said. "There's something in the works for that, too. Pay attention to your dreams."

Saying that, he tapped his hoe on the ground, and in a flash, was gone.

Across the village, near the river, Miroku continued his impressive performance of his spiritual powers to the small group who had gathered in front of the house where Chiya was to stay.

"Usually," he said, standing in front of the building, "I would call upon Kwannon of the Thousand Arms."

"Usually?" Tameo asked. "But not this time?"

"The issue with Chiya-sama is complex," Miroku said, with his most serious and professional face. He tapped his staff once, making the rings jingle, as if in emphasis. "Instead, I will call upon the Medicine Buddha and his twelve generals. Perhaps, all of them working together can untie this knot she's tied herself, and the rest of us, up with."

"She has done that," Tsuneo said. "Since none of us or our kami seem to know how to deal with her, perhaps this will help."

"Uncle," Hiroki, Tsuneo's nephew said. "You make her sound hopeless. All of you do."

"Maybe not hopeless," Tameo said, but let his voice trail off as he scratched the back of his neck.

Tsuneo, crossing his arms, turned to look at the headman. His eyes were very said. "No need to make excuses for her. We all have been making excuses for her for too long."

"Maybe twelve generals can keep her in line," Susumu said, resting his hand on Tsuneo's shoulder, but his tone was doubtful.

"The Medicine Buddha is good at healing minds and hearts and bad karma," Miroku said. "If this won't work, I'm not sure what else will help."

"Anything will be an improvement, even if it only lasts while she is here," Tsuneo said, nodding. "Please begin."

Miroku walked around the small house, chanting sonorously in a language no one understood. As he walked, he tapped his staff at each of the four corners of the house. The air began to feel charged.

Hana looked up at the sky. "My hair feels funny, like it does sometimes during a thunderstorm."

"That's his spiritual powers, child," Tameo said. "He's good at this thing."

Finally, the monk stopped in front of the door. He placed a small rectangle of paper over the lintel. "Om. -samudgate sva-ha," he chanted. "O great Medicine Buddha Yakushi, heal the souls of all who dwell in this house."

The ofuda began to glow with a bright blue light for a moment, then returned to being a normal piece of paper with odd symbols written on it, and then, it slowly melted into the wood of the wall.

"Ooh," the girl Hana said. "Did you see that?"

Hiroki, Tsuneo's nephew, crossed his arms. "Let's see if it works when Chiya-obasan gets here."

"Let's hope so," Tsuneo said standing nearby. "You're going to find it uncomfortable up here, Hiroki-kun, if she doesn't."

"M...m...me?" the young man said, dropping his arms and looking at his great-uncle. "But I thought I only came up here because Haha-ue asked me to bring up the supplies."

"Well, you'll be coming here to fetch and carry whatever Chiya-chan needs for the first tenday," Tsuneo announced. "She always was fond of you, nephew. You being here will help her, as well as Kisoi. Maybe by the time that tenday is passed all this will be over. Maybe even before. I'm counting on you to help."

"She's always liked your jokes, Hiroki-kun," Hana said.

"But what about . . . " Hiroki started to say more, but saw the look in his uncle's eyes, and taking a deep breath, bowed.

Miroku turned back to the little group. He looked obviously tired from the energy he had been using. "Well, that's done as best as I can."

"Good, good," Tameo said, nodding. "I am sure it will help, Houshi-sama. Every little bit helps. And from the energy you put out, I know this was more than a little bit."

The others nodded.

"Shall we fetch our two house guests?" Susumu said, looking at the monk with new respect. "Who should we bring up first?"

Miroku leaned on his staff. "I would suggest the yamabushi."

"I was thinking that," the headman said. "Maybe if he was out of sight -"

"Tsuneo-sama!" a man's voice said, interrupting Tameo.

The group turned around to see Eiji hurrying up to join them. He looked quite unhappy.

"Eiji?" Tsuneo said. "Is there something wrong?"

The guardsman stopped, and caught his breath a moment. "Yes there is," he said. "Your daughter tried to kill herself in my daughter's sleeping place. You must come and take her away now. I wanted to help, but this is beyond what I can handle."

Tsuneo covered his face with his hands, and groaned. "I must be cursed."

Miroku looked at Tameo and Susumu. "I guess that answers which one first."

"Indeed," the headman replied.

Back up on the hill, InuYasha looked at the ground where the kami had stood just a moment before. "You know, old man, I will never get used to you doing that."

Almost like a gust of laughter, a burst of wind made the trees around him sway. But before he could do anything else, his ear swivelled at a sound coming up the path towards his house.

"I'm really getting tired of all this," he said as he walked around to the front of the building to see Daitaro, Shinjiro, and another man heading his way. The newcomer, a thin, and sharp faced man, but with a pleasant manner, was pushing a handcart laden with tools, laughing at something one of the other men had said.

Daitaro spotted him and waved. "InuYasha! I see our little friend found you at home. I was hoping he would."

The hanyou gave a curt nod, and tried to hold his face in a neutral position. "Yeah, the brat found me. Wasn't expecting to see you here today."

"I didn't know this was going to happen until after we parted last night," the old farmer said. "Tsuneo thought it might be easier for him today if I brought Choujiro along instead of coming himself," the old farmer said. "Who was I to say no?"

"Couldn't wait for this afternoon, now could you?" InuYasha said.

"Work begun sooner is work sooner done," Daitaro said, tilting his head, not quite understanding InuYasha's irritation at their visit.

"I think," Shinjiro said, "Perhaps the timing might have something to do with Haha-ue's threat to bean him with the stew pot for being in her way."

Daitaro rubbed the back of his neck. "There was that, son. But I seem to recall what happened when you lifted the lid to the pot she had on the fire."

"How was I supposed to know she was fixing something for tomorrow?" the younger man asked. "I'm getting tired of all of this. Maybe I should just go run off with Erime and come back in a week. Maybe everybody will have calmed down by then."

"If only it was that simple," Daitaro said. "But you have to give the women their time to celebrate."

"They do like that," Choujiro said, nodding.

"Still, it'll be over soon," Daitaro said, patting his son on the back. "And then Erime will be part of the household, and your okaasan will stop giving us dark looks because we stay around the house too long when she's trying to get some work done." He looked up at the hanyou. "But why should we have waited to the afternoon? I thought this was all arranged by Tsuneo already."

"It was before last night," the hanyou said. "But last night should have changed things. You didn't hear yet?"

"Hear what?" Shinjiro

"Sayo had her baby. We were up all night at Toshiro's." InuYasha stuffed his hands into his sleeves.

"Damn," Daitaro said, rubbing the side of his head. "Don't tell Chime yet. She'll split in half trying to be in two places at once, and I don't think she's up for that."

Choujiro, though, smiled broadly. "About time," he said. "Maybe soon she'll be able to keep up with that brood of hers once again. Daiki-kun means well, but nobody is as good at making him behave as Sayo-sama is. He's just at that age, and he knows just how to drive Yasuo-sama mad, while still getting into all sorts of trouble."

"He doesn't get over here very often, but I've heard tales. Kind of reminds me of myself at that age," Daitaro said, nodding at Choujiro's explanation. "Boy or a girl?"

"Girl," InuYasha said. "Why?"

The old farmer gave a relieved sigh. "Good. Nobody wanted a third boy to chase after."

"Feh," InuYasha said. "You'll be doing your own chasing soon enough, with Aki coming into your house."

Daitaro nudged his son. "That's why I keep this one around."

Choujiro and InuYasha chuckled. Shinjiro, though, didn't look quite as pleased.