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

Chapter 181

"What are you doing, Shippou-kun?"

Shippou, standing on a bucket, was reaching up to grab the basket Rin had sent him for, but jumped at the sound of the voice, almost a whole foot in the air. Landing with a thump, he turned around to see Tazu, Eiji's daughter, looking at him and laughing, her hand covering her mouth as she giggled.

"Don't scare me like that!" the kit said, frowning at the girl. He turned back to grab the basket.

"I'm sorry, Shippou-kun," Tazu replied, still giggling. "The look on your face! I just came to see if Rin-chan was here."

"Well, she's not," Shippou said, lifting the basket off its hook and jumping down to the ground. "She's up at Kaede's garden. Kaede's sleeping. She was up all night."

"Ah, I know," Tazu said, nodding. "Chichi-ue told me about Sayo's new baby. But why are you taking down Kaede-obaasan's basket?"

"Rin wants it," Shippou said, still frowning at the girl. "What's it to you, anyway?" He began to move to the front of the house, and Tazu followed.

"I was just asking," Tazu said. "Okaasan told me I was free to go play for a while."

The front door mat rattled, and Kaede stepped out of her house, looking a bit tired but alert. She stepped in front of the kit and the girl. Her single eye glared at them, causing the two children to freeze, although, as they looked up at her, a grin tried hard to touch her lips.

"Kaede was trying to sleep," the old miko said. "But a certain kitsune banging something against the wall of my house while he takes my basket off made sure that ended."

Shippou looked down at the basket. "Rin sent me to get it," he said, still not quite ready to meet the miko's eye. "I couldn't reach it, and the bucket was there. I didn't mean to trip carrying it."

This time Kaede sighed a little, but gave the small kitsune a nod. "It's all right, Shippou-chan. Is she working in the garden?"

He nodded. "She had some things she wanted to bring back."

"Well, off with you then," she said. "And Tazu, how are things at your house?"

"They came and got Chiya-sama," Tazu said. "Haha-ue said she needed a nap and asked me to go play."

"I'm not surprised, child." Kaede looked thoughtfully at the girl for a moment. "Why don't you go see what Rin is up to? I might go talk with both of your obaasans for a while. Make sure our fine kitsune friend here," she said, giving Shippou a little smile, "doesn't break my basket before getting to the garden."

"Hey," Shippou said, frowning at the implication.

"Come on, Shippou-chan," Tazu said, giggling a little. "I brought some chimaki to share. Koume-obaasan gave it to me. You can have one once we get there." She gave him a little shove. "I bet you've got some stories about what happened at your ojisan's since you were there last. You know Rin always likes those."

His frown relaxed at the word mochi, and when she mentioned stories, he began to get a gleam in his eyes. "Oh, I've got a good one!"

"Well save it for when you get there, child," Kaede said. "I'm going to make a cup of tea before making my rounds."

And with that, she went back into her house.

At the second son's house by the river, Chiya walked inside the small house, followed by Hana, her father, and Miroku.

"You will tell Hana or Hiroki if there is something you need from your house, daughter. Inishi-sama sent a few things over she thought you would need."

Chiya, looking around the little house, nodded. A spinning wheel was set up where it would get plenty of light, and baskets with fiber were stacked nearby. Against one wall, there were several chests. One she recognized, as it came from her own house. There was food warming in the fire pit. The smell of it reminded her she hadn't eaten anything yet; but she didn't know whether it made her feel hungry or sick to her stomach.

"You will stay here," Tsuneo said. "Nana and Kisoi will come by to check on you, and we will have various men working on the grounds making sure all is well. Stay away from the main house. If I find you have been disturbing that . . . that . . . Morio, it will not go well for you."

She looked at her father. His eyes were quite serious, and the set of his mouth told her he would take no nonsense. "Yes, Otousan."

"Don't be cruel to Hana-chan. I had to work hard to convince Akina-chan to let her come up here." He looked at the young woman who blushed for some reason, before turning her eyes back to Chiya.

"I...I was glad to come here, Chiya-obasan," Hana said. "I..." Her voice drifted off, not quite sure of what else to add.

"Thank you," Chiya said. "I...I appreciate it."

"If you drive her away," Tsuneo warned, "the only one left to come is Amaya-chan. I know how you two get along."

Chiya took a deep breath and let it out, then nodded. "Otousan, may I see my children? I know Asuka-chan must be having bad dreams . . . "

Tsuneo shrugged. "That will be up to Michio, daughter. They belong to his family, not mine. He gets to decide. I will ask him, though."

"I...I understand." Bowing her head, she went to sit by the spinning wheel, then looked up at her father. "Is...is there anything left for me to live for, Otousan? My husband, my children, my place . . . even my mother rejects me." She buried her face in her hands.

"That will be up to you, daughter," Tsuneo said. "So much has happened to me this week, I don't know any more. Don't make it worse than it has to be."

He spun around, and walked out of the house. Hana went to sit next to Chiya. "Would you like me to make you some tea, Chiya-obasan? There's some soup and rice, too."

Chiya unburied her face, but before she could answer, Miroku shook his head. "Not yet, Hana-chan. Chiya-sama and I need to have a few words. Please, would you go and tell Tsuneo-sama and Tameo-sama not to wait for me. I will catch up with them when I'm done."

Hana looked up at the monk, questioning, and then at Chiya, who lightly rested a hand on the girl's arm. She gave Hana a small, trembling, smile, meant to reassure, but which make the young even more uneasy. "It's all right, Hana-chan. Go do what Houshi-sama asks."

Taking a deep breath, Hana nodded, and got up at looked at the monk, whose face was unreadable, and back at her charge. "I'll be right outside. Call me if you need me." She headed outside.

As the door mat rattled closed, Chiya touched her forehead to the ground right in front of the monk's feet and grabbed for Miroku's ankle. "Forgive me, Houshi-sama! I have been such a stupid woman." Her voice cracked, almost a sob.

The monk stepped back once, and freed himself, tapping his staff on the floor, making the rings jingle as he looked at her, swallowing then breathing deeply as he put his words in order.

"When . . . " he began. He took another breath as she sat back up. "When I and my wife first decided to settle here, and I got permission to build a temple, you were one of the first people to donate anything to its raising."

"I – " she began but Miroku cut her off.

"You were always there when it came time to ask for the means to do my job as a monk. When it was time to hold lectures, you made sure there were lights for the room. You brought flowers for the altar." He took a deep breath. "It is the way of the Buddha for those who wear the robes not to toil in the fields or all the other ways men make their livings, so we are free to do the work of the Buddha. We learn humility, and our dependence on our fellow humans by needing them to supply us with the means we need to live and do the work."

"Houshi-sama," Chiya said, looking up at him. "I have tried to do my part."

"There is merit in helping," Miroku continued, "But it doesn't mean the donor owns the temple or the monastery or the monk. One cannot find the way to salvation merely by buying the attention of those who follow the way."

Chiya dropped her head.

"I...I am not the best monk. The Buddha and all the kami know that." He rubbed the back of his neck as he looked down on the woman. "Perhaps I should not have been so willing to accept what you were offering. I knew you weren't like Kimi-sama. She tries hard, harder than I do, to walk the eightfold path. Perhaps it would have been better for your soul if I had told you no."

She bowed her head to the floor again. "Forgive me, Houshi-sama. I am just a foolish woman. I only meant to do good by giving you these gifts."

Miroku tapped his staff on the ground once again. "One day the Buddha was walking through a village. A young man, having heard of him, came up to the Buddha and began yelling at him - how he was a fake, and misleading people, and how he was unworthy to teach. Instead of getting angry, the Buddha asked the young man about gifts."

"Yes?" Chiya asked, not sure where the monk was going with this.

Miroku nodded. "He asked the angry man, 'If you buy a gift for someone, and that person does not take it, who owns the gift?' And the young man said, 'I suppose the person who bought it owns it.' The Buddha nodded. 'And this is the way it is with your anger. I am sorry, but I do not wish that gift. You may keep it if you like." He swallowed. " I am far too angry with you now to deal with you as I should." He shifted his feet. "I need to give this gift back to you. The Buddha taught that we are not punished for our anger, but our anger punishes us itself. My mentor, old Master Mushin, in a moment when he was lucid taught me that there is no such thing as righteous anger. Even if you have been wronged, it is still anger. I do not want to be punished for my own anger at you, woman."

He took a step away, towards the door, but didn't turn around. "While I do this, you will stay away from my wife," he said. Chiya looked up at him, unable still to read his face, but saw the intensity in his eyes and nodded.

"You will not interfere anymore, spread no rumors, say no bad words against her or my children." He took one more step. "I may not be the ideal holy man, but you will not punish them for my actions."

Again she didn't speak, but nodded.

"You will not interfere with InuYasha, who has been accepted by both the elders and the kami of this village, and who has every right to the Buddha's protection."

That made her take a deep breath, but she nodded.

This time he turned, but looked over his shoulder. "If you do not, I will not come back as an angry husband, but as Monju Bosatu, with the sword of law to right what should have been righted long ago. If you were wise, you would spend the next weeks praying the Heart Sutra until you, too, can let go of your hurt and resentment."

With one final tap of his staff, he headed out the door.