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

Chapter 174

Chiya looked at her husband's eyes, eyes filled with anger and frustration and fatigue, but no softness, and she dropped her head and collapsed back onto the floor. The anger she had been aiming at Fujime dissipated as she curled in on herself.

"For . . . forgive, me, husband. I...I am so confused," she said, not looking up, her voice choking up as she fought the words out. "I don't know - "

Fujime snorted, interrupting the bound woman. "I don't want to hear any more of her excuses," she said, unfolding her arms. "I've done what I came to do, to keep her from doing something even more stupid. I've had enough. I'm going home."

For a moment, Michio turned to look at her. His face was a stoic mask, but his anger and shame were leaking from his eyes, and the twitch of his lips. He closed them once, took a breath, then opened them to give her an apologetic look. He bowed. "They told me what she tried to do this morning. I offer my apologies to you, and to you, Eiji, for having to put up with her. Thank you, Fujime-obasan, for keeping watch over this worthless thing I'm responsible for until I could get here."

She nodded, and gave him a soft, sympathetic, motherly look, the type a woman gives when she knows there is pain ahead, and there's nothing she can do about it. "Don't let her twist you up inside. She's not worth it."

Turning, she passed by the gathered men. Tameo made way for her to pass, Miroku nodded at her as their eyes met, but Tsuneo bowed.

"Thank you," he said.

Nodding, she sighed, then stepped out of the house.

"Let's get back to business," Tameo said. "That's why we're here."

"Business?" Chiya asked, looking up at him. Her voice quivered a little.

The headman nodded. "Official business. You know why we're here. After yesterday . . . "

Chiya looked back down at the floor. "I - "

"Be silent, woman," Michio said, his mask cracking just a bit.

"Michio-sama your husband, and Tsuneo-sama are here as the men who have charge of you," Tameo said.

"Bah," Michio said. "I haven't been in charge of this bitch since the day after we were wed."

Tameo coughed, but Michio ignored him as he looked at his wife. "And I have been a fool for putting up with you all these years," he said, stepping closer. "How many times am I supposed to put your stunts?"

"I'm . . . I'm just a weak and stupid woman," she said. She glanced up at him for a moment, her face drained white. "I...I..."

He stepped forward one more time, his right fist tightly clenched and half raised. "Be careful what you say, woman. I know what's been happening. I know how you treated me in public. I was there." He swallowed. "Tameo-sama and your Otousan tell me I'm too angry to make decisions yet, but if you say the wrong thing, I will. I will. And you won't like what I'll do. Nothing you don't deserve."

Susumu stepped up and grabbed his fist. "Steady, Michio."

The angry husband turned to the village guard and nodded, dropped his hand and took a deep breath. He turned back to Chiya and rubbed the back of the neck.

"I am so angry now that if I touch you, I will hurt you. If you say the wrong thing, I might do it anyway. The headman and Tsuneo-otousan are right. I'm too angry. I turn you over to whatever they want to do."

"As I was saying," Tameo said, wrapping an arm around Michio's shoulder and stepping him back away from his wife, "we're here on official business, to decide what to do with you, Chiya-sama. Houshi-sama is here, because of the fact we have witnesses that tell us how you've wronged him. He has a right to ask for satisfaction as well, and agree to what we decide."

Chiya bowed as low as she could with her hands tied. "Forgive me, Sensei," she said. Miroku looked at her, his face unreadable, and tapped his staff once, the rings jingling, but did not speak.

"Your husband has asked Tsuneo to take guardianship over you until he decides what to do," Tameo said.

"What else can I do?" Tsuneo said, sighing resignedly. "Have her going from house to house throwing her little tantrums, until someone doesn't want to deal with her and lets her kill herself or sells her off to a brothel down the road?"

"Serve her right," Michio muttered.

The bound woman looked up at her husband, eyes wide.

Tsuneo moved next to his son-in-law, and patted him on the shoulder. "What is done in anger cannot be undone, son."

"I know, I know," Michio said, dropping his head. He sounded defeated instead of angry. "Otousan, I didn't want to add this burden. But I . . . "

"What must be done, must be done," Tsuneo replied. He looked up at Tameo, then back at Chiya who was moving her lips, trying to speak. "Don't say anything, woman. I've never seen him this angry."

Chiya nodded once, and covered her face with her hand. Her body shuddered as if she was trying not to weep.

Michio watched her, his eyes narrowing once again. Tameo took him by the shoulders and swivelled him away."Do you give us permission to do what we think is right?" the headman said.

Michio, with one last glance at this wife, nodded.

"Then Tsuneo-sama will take charge of Chiya for the next two weeks." Tameo took a deep breath. "When that time is up, we will meet again and decide what to do next."

"Good," Michio said. "You don't need me anymore. I don't want to breathe the same air as this . . . this . . . this . . . " Unable to choose his words, he let out a sound that was somewhere between a groan and a wordless scream. "I'm going home. My otousan and my children need me."

Turning, he headed out the door. Chiya, no longer able to hold back, began to cry.

Up on the hill, Shinjiro frowned as Kagome took his hand, and began to wash his scraped hand.

"I can't believe I fell," he said. He pulled his hand back away from Kagome's hold. "I tripped over my own damn feet. That stings."

"Feet got too big for you again?" Daitaro said.

"I had just eased the log down." Shinjiro said. "Sandal strap broke, and I remember falling forward over the log. Next thing I know, everybody's looking at me."

"Is that what happened?" Kagome asked, grabbing his hand back. "Let me finish. You don't want to get an infection.".

He sighed. "I think . . . I guess," the injured man said. He started to tug his hand back. "You don't have to fuss over me."

"Better give in," InuYasha said. "If Kagome decides to treat your injuries, she's going to treat your injuries."

Daitaro laughed. "I remember a time or two . . . "

"Feh," InuYasha said, his ear flicking. "I was stupid and didn't know anything then."

Kagome looked up at her husband, this time amused, and he didn't miss the touch of triumph in her grin. Turning back to Shinjiro, she grabbed his other hand. "This one's barely marked. Looks like your left side took most of the damage." She rewetted her towel, and folded it. "Hold this on your chin."

"Heh," Choujiro said, looking down at Shinjiro. "You're going to look like you've been in a fight. You can tell that pretty girl of yours you had to fight off a rival. But you didn't have to do this if you didn't want to saw. I could have got somebody else."

"Not funny," the injured man said, pressing the cloth onto his chin. "Oh, Haha-ue's going to skin me."

"No, she won't, and you know it," Kagome said. "Why are all of you talking about Chime like she's so mean?"

"You haven't had to live with her these last couple of weeks," Shinjiro said. "Anyway, Chichi-ue started it."

"Don't mind me," Daitaro said, nodding. "It's an old game between Chime-chan and me."

"Strange game," Kagome said, looking at the old farmer.

"Maybe," Shinjiro said, sighing "But if I spoil tomorrow . . . "

"If you hurt too much, then I'll just pour more sake down your throat," Daitaro said. "She's been looking forward to this for weeks. If your neck's not broken, your leg's not broken, then you won't spoil anything, and you will give her a day to remember."

"All of this talk, so that Chime can have a good day tomorrow?" Kagome asked.

"Feh," InuYasha said, grinning at the old farmer. "It sounds like Chime's the one getting married."

"And Erime-chan," Shinjiro said. "She's enjoying it too. And her okaasan."

"Shows you don't know who weddings are really for, InuYasha. Just wait," Daitaro said, standing up. "One day, it'll be one of your children getting married. Then you'll know all about that. Wedding's not for the couple. It's for the mothers, so they can show off their skills, and get everybody too full of food and have a reason to put'em all in new clothes. And all the family will judge them, and tell them how well everything went and how all the luck gods will be happy. You two, not having any family around here, had it simple."

"You did," Shinjiro said, agreeing. "If it was up to me . . . "

"Some things aren't up to you, son." Daitaro offered his son a hand. "Think you can sit up? As long as you're my heir, important things like this are up to your okaasan. And when it's time, it'll be your wife's. Just remember that. It makes life a lot better."

Kagome chuckled, sitting up and resting her hands on her thighs. "Wonder what Chime would say if she heard you say that."

The old farmer rubbed the back of his neck."Oh, probably something about how wise I am."

"Or what a blowhard you are." Shinjiro snorted, but started to raise himself up on his elbows.

"Not too fast," Kagome said. "We need to make sure you're not hurt worse than you think." Moving behind him, she helped steady him up. "How's your head feel?"

"Like someone punched me in the chin," he said.

"You just sit here," Kagome said. "I'll be right back. I want to get something to put on those scrapes of yours."

"I don't think you need to do that," Shinjiro said.

"Don't try to stand up yet," Kagome said, moving away from the men.

"Might as well give it up," InuYasha said, right before turning to follow his wife inside. "She'll come hunt you down if you try to get away."

"He'll stay put," Daitaro said. "Wouldn't want to get a miko after him. That definitely would be bad luck."

Shinjiro sighed. "You and your luck. Don't know if it's bringing me any luck today."

"Bah," the old man said, swinging his sake bottle off his shoulder, and unplugging it. "You're still alive and able to get married tomorrow, right? The log didn't roll on you."

"You've got a point," he said, accepting the bottle from his father. "But my chin might disagree with you."

Daitaro chuckled. "What does a chin know? Take a drink and pass me the jug back. We have to think about what we're going to tell your mother?"

"How about the truth?" Choujiro said, kicking the downed log. "I wonder if I can get InuYasha to help me to move this hunk of wood when he gets back?"

The father and son looked at each other. Shinjiro took a drink, then passed the jug back to his father. "He does have a point, you know."

"Bah, you take all the fun out of things," the old farmer said, and took a drink himself.