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

Chapter 190

Seiji, sitting in a corner of his house, picked up the sake jug, took a drink and wiped his face with his sleeve. "Where's Tameo?" he said. "His stupid cousin. What does that miko think she is, keeping me from my boy like that?" His words slurred, an effect from the sake he had been drinking, but it had done nothing to remove the anger from his eyes. "Stupid bitch. Elders need to tell her a thing or two."

The drunken man tipped the jug back again. "She acts just like Mitsutada did. Thought he was special just because they made him a gashira." He stretched out his legs, then arched them up at the knees. "Got all high and mighty, but he was a farmer's son too, no better than me. I taught him about cutting a man's face. That last battle . . . " He gave a dark, satisfied chuckle. "Didn't see that coming, did you, Mitsutada? Hope you like hell."

He tried to take another drink, but only a trickle came out of the jug, and he threw it across the room. It hit against the wall, making a dent in the wood, but surprisingly didn't break. Instead, it rolled in a half circle before coming to rest.

"It's past lunch time," Seiji said, letting his head loll to one side. He stared at the fire pit. There were no flames coming from it, no pot simmering from the chain, nothing sitting on the tripod. He rubbed his midsection, then scratched under his arm."Damn it, woman. Get in here and put some food in my belly!" His voice was loud and threatening, but there was no answer in the small and empty house. He got to his feet, slowly and unsteadily. "Where is that worthless piece of ugly? I'm hungry."

He lurched towards the front door. "Woman, where are you?" he yelled as he lifted the door mat. A chicken, startled by his noise, squawked and ran behind the house. He stumbled out, past the garden where he had grabbed Nakao, and onto the main street. "Maeme! Get your butt home," swaying towards the center of town. "You're going to regret hiding from me, woman."

A small gang of boys began to trail behind him at what they thought was a safe distance.

One woman, hearing the noise, stepped out of her house. Seeing the drunken man and spotting her son, she rushed over to grab her boy. "You know better! What did I tell you about Seiji-sama when he's like this?" She waved her arm at the rest of them. "Go home!"

The boys scattered for a moment, but soon as she brought her son inside, they regrouped.

Seiji leaned against one of the legs of the watch tower, closing his eyes for a moment as he tried to get his bearings in his drunken haze. "Stupid woman," he muttered. "Why do you make me do this to you?" He rested his forehead against the wood. "Maeme!" he yelled.

The group of boys began to laugh, and a few adults stepped out as well. Koume, her hands stained brownish with dye, walked down to the street, followed by her husband, Fumio, who was wearing his blacksmithing apron and holding a hammer. Koume sighed.

"At least he's not in our family," Fumio said. "I'd hate to have to brain another fool."

"Maybe I should go back, to make sure Nahoi doesn't see this," Koume said, crossing her arms. "I know Kimi-chan's with her, but last time Seiji went on a tear she had nightmares for weeks. I think he reminds her . . . "

"Stupid ass," Fumio said. His grip tightened on his hammer. "Do what you think you ought to."

She nodded but didn't move. Soon she was joined by Mariko, coming back from the river with a basket of wet clothes.

"Again?" the younger woman said, putting her basket down as she watched.

"Again." Koume sighed. "He's starting to do this more and more. The elders need to do something."

One of the boys started singing.

"How many buckets,
how many buckets of sake
how many buckets of sake
did it take to get him drunk?"

"Hey, Chikayo, shut up or go home," Fumio said. "You're going to get hurt."

The boy looked at him, and frowned, shaking his head. "I'm not afraid."

Jun, pushing a cart with chopped straw for the fields, stopped next to them. "It's not about fear, you know."

"Now what happened this time?" he asked.

Fumio shrugged. "Sounds like his woman wasn't home."

"I don't blame her," Jun said. "I'd be far away from home if I had to put up with the likes of him."

Chikayo, undaunted by what the grownups were saying, started the next verse.

"How many buckets,
how many buckets of sake
how many buckets of sake
did it take to get him to smell like that?"

One of the other boys held his nose and waved his hand. "Smells like you when you've been cleaning out the cow shed, Chikayo."

The laughter grew louder. Suddenly Seiji lifted his head and looked at the group of boys, as if he just realized they were singing about him.

Fumio sighed, and looked at Jun. "Ready to do a rescue?"

The farmer nodded.

"How many buckets,
how many buckets of water
how many buckets of water
will it take to make him sober?

"How many buckets,
how many buckets are in the sea?
how many buckets are in the sea?
It'll take that many."

There was a roar of laughter from the boys. Seiji, though, growled and bent down to pick up a rock. The group seeing this, began to scatter, until the intoxicated man fell forward and landed flat on his stomach.

"Maybe we won't have to do a thing," Jun said.

"Doubt it," Fumio said. "Someone's got to get him home. And warn off his woman until he gets his head back."

Koume looked around. "I wonder where she got off to?"

"Maeme!" the prostrate Seiji yelled. "I want my lunch. You stupid piece of shit. This is all your fault."

The laughter died off. As he lay there, Someone prodded him with a stick. "You're a worthless excuse of man, Seiji," said an old female voice. "I'm glad my ojiisan's not here to see how you turned out. He'd never outlive the shame."

Seiji peered up into the face of Hisako. The old woman scowled at him. "You old hag," he managed to say as he lunged for her walking stick.

He missed, and instead, she smacked him on the side of the head with it. "Don't call me names." She smacked him again on the other side of the head before he could react. "I'm not the one laying drunk and stupid in the middle of the road. I'm not the one whose wife is at Kaede's taking care of a son his father beat."

She smacked him once on the top of the head. "Go home, fool, before Ojiisan's ghost decides to return and do something about what a shame you are himself."

And turning, the old woman walked off.

The adults watched as the old woman marched off towards her home.

"She's got guts," Jun said. "You have to give her that."

While they watched, Seiji slowly got to his feet.

"How many buckets," Chikayo began to sing, but the drunken man wasn't paying any attention.

"I know where you are, Maeme!" the drunk roared. "I'm coming to get you."

"I think we better follow," Jun said. "Keep your hammer ready."

"I will," said the blacksmith.

InuYasha and Kagome took their time coming back from the meadow.

"You're not mad at me, are you?" the hanyou asked as they neared the village.

"What makes you ask that?" she said, shifting her gathering basket from one hip to the other.

"It's just that you got me to put you down soon as we got close enough for you to walk," the hanyou said. "And you haven't said very much."

"I told you, my leg was starting to hurt," Kagome replied.

"I offered to rub it for you," InuYasha said, his ear flicking.

"I know," she said. She gave him a knowing smile. "I just thought maybe if I let you do that, there would be more that just rubbing my leg to follow, and I really want to have time to check with Kaede-obaasan."

He gave her a crooked grin. "You think you know me, huh?"

Her eyes had a twinkle, and she gave him a smirk worthy of any that he had given her. "Let's just say I discovered you like to touch."

InuYasha stopped walking and pulled the young miko close to him. "You're right," he said. "I do. And I'll never get enough." He kissed her lightly on the forehead. "So what were you thinking about?"

They began walking again, passing the first fields and houses of the village. "Oh, being married," she said. "I was thinking about Shinjiro and Erime getting married tomorrow."

"Do we really have to go?" InuYasha asked.

"I think so," Kagome said. "There will be a lot to eat, and pickles."

"Everybody thinks I'll do anything for pickles," the hanyou said, crossing his arms and stuffing his hands in his sleeves. "I just like them, that's all. I like how they feel in my mouth."

"I know," she said, reserving any opinion about what her husband might be willing to do for pickles. "But it's something that we were invited. It's usually just family that go to weddings. I guess that means Daitaro and Chime have decided we belong to them."

"As often as he comes around, the old man acts like he does," InuYasha said, nodding. "I guess that's a good thing."

Kagome nodded. "I know you didn't have a lot of good stuff with your family after . . . well, after you were alone." She looked up at him to see how he would react, but he merely nodded. "But it's good to have family. Look at my family - Mama, Ojiisan, Souta . . . " Her voice drifted off, and suddenly her cheerful look turned inward, a bit sad. Shaking her head, she put her smile back on. "Chime-ojiisan reminds me of my aunt. It's nice to have people who want us to be family."

"Yeah," the hanyou said. "I guess. Sure better than how my family behaves."

They passed by Tsuneo's house and waved at Amaya who was working in her garden, and then past Toshiro's when suddenly InuYasha stopped, his ears pointing sharply ahead and his body stiffening. Kagome could hear faint voices coming from the direction of Kaede's house.

"What is it?" she asked, resting her hand on InuYasha's arm.

"Trouble," he said, his face hardening. "Someone's yelling at Kaede. Let's go." He grabbed his wife, threw her on his back and hurried towards the noise.

There was a small crowd gathered in front of the old miko's house. Four men - Eiji, Jun, Kinjiro and Fumio were standing in front of the old miko's front door. Miroku stood nearby, as did about half a dozen of the village women. In the center of this knot was Seiji.

"Damn you all," Seiji said, lurching towards the door. "I know my rights. She's my wife. Let me go in."

InuYasha let Kagome slip off his back, and together they pushed into the crowd.

"What happened?" Kagome asked Mariko.

"He's drunk, and his wife is inside with Kaede," the woman told him. "He beat up his son earlier today. Not the first time she's hidden out with Kaede until he sobered up."

"Yeah," InuYasha said, sliding in next to the miko. "He does this every few weeks. Sometimes, Maeme can get away. Sometimes . . . "

"He's a troubled man," Miroku said, moving next to the young couple.

"Brutal. He's been brutal since he was a boy," Koume said, looking up at the monk. It was obvious she did not share his compassion about the drunken man. "He's no better than . . . well, the one who hit my daughter." She spit. "Why we put up with him . . . "

"Shut up," Seiji said, turning around to face the group. "Get out of here. It's not your business."

"It is our business," Susumu said, joining the crowd and standing next to InuYasha. "The peace of the village is definitely my business. Go home, Seiji, and sleep it off."

Seiji's eyes glared. "Go get screwed, you . . . you . . . you coward," he said, lurching towards the village guard. "Go hide behind your pet youkai, why don't you?"

"I'm not hiding behind anybody," Susumu said, standing up as tall as he could. "But you need to go home."

"Me?" Seiji said. "How can I go home when my woman and children are holed up in Kaede's house?"

"They'll come home when you're sober," Eiji said. His voice was tight, controlled anger, and his glare matched it. "You already took your anger out on one son. Leave the rest of them alone."

"Me?" the drunken man said again. "You all go home. What are you all here to watch? Get back to your own places."

He looked the crowd over, turning slowly. "Get out of here!" He noticed InuYasha. "Especially you, you freak."

InuYasha frowned harder, and rested his hand on his sword hilt.

Seiji stepped forward. "And you . . . you . . . pretend miko. Think you can come here and act so high and mighty."

"Seiji-sama," Kagome said. "I -"

InuYasha threw his arm in front of her, cutting off her words. "Don't talk to this slime. He's not worth the air you're breathing."

"What are you going to do, Youkai? I can't have my woman. Why should you have yours?" Suddenly, he lunged forward, giving Kagome a shove on her shoulder. She fell backwards, landing with a loud oomph.

"Here comes trouble," Susumu whispered.

The rest of the crowd grew silent. The only sound was Seiji's laughter. "You going to eat me, monster? Eat me, already."

With a quick glance to assure himself of her safety, InuYasha turned back to the drunk. "I'm not going to eat you, you bastard," InuYasha said, "But you can eat this." He pulled back his arm, and with a blindly fast release, landed a solid punch on Seiji's jaw.

The man fell backwards and crumpled in a heap. InuYasha turned around to help his wife back to her feet.

"Is he dead?" Koume asked.

Eiji, who had hurried to the downed man's side, shook his head no. "We should be so lucky."

A/N 1) a gashira is a low-ranking officer in Japanese foot soldier units at this time.

2) I love to respond to each and every comment you're willing to send me, but if you're not signed in, I cannot do that. I'm not sure if it was from some changes that they made on the FF servers recently or not, but I got a lot more anonymous comments this time than usual. If you didn't get a reply to your comment today, it's because they had you signed off.