1I do not own InuYasha or any of the characters created by Rumiko Takahashi

Chapter 191

As the group of people in front of Kaede's house looked down at the unconscious form of Seiji, Fumio clapped InuYasha on the shoulder. "I've been waiting to see someone to that to Seiji for a long time." He grinned at the hanyou. "That made this irritating day worth living through. And in one blow. Impressive."

InuYasha looked at the blacksmith with a surprised, bemused look, while a ripple of laughter went through the gathered crowd. There were murmurs of approval that went through the group. The hanyou's ears followed the voices, and it began to dawn on him how much pent-up anger there had been against the drunken man.

"Now you know why I want him in the village guard," Susumu said.

"He'll be a handy one," Fumio said, nodding.

Other villagers, including the boys who had been trailing Seiji, joined them. One of them looked up at the hanyou, amazement in his eye.

"You took Seiji-sama down in one hit?" the boy said, hero-worship clearly in his voice. "I've seen him wrestle five grownups before they got him down when he's been like that."

"My friend is very capable that way," Miroku said, tapping his cane once. Another boy came to stand next to Chikayo. "He also knows what to do to young men who irritate others by singing rude songs."

Chikayo swallowed, remembering trailing the monk earlier in the morning. His friend nudged him.

"Don't remind me, Chikayo-kun," Susumu said. "That was a painful day. But Fumio's right." Susumu nodded at the hanyou. "You did a good thing." He looked at Eiji. "I think we ought to take him to the lockup. He's going to be ready to jump everybody when he comes to. I don't want to be around if he's not locked up then, and Chichi-ue has too much for me to do today. Not a good day for me to play in the woods."

"You should just go to work on one of Chichi-ue's fields," Kinjiro said, joining the crowd. "He'd never think to look for you there."

There was a snicker of laughter from the crowd. Susumu gave his brother a cocky grin, and laughed with them.

Seiji shifted but didn't reach consciousness. Eiji nodded. "The lockup would be good. You have some rope? I don't want to be carrying him and have him come to on the way there."

"Actually I do," Susumu said, pulling a length of it out of a bag he had strapped to his side. He moved towards Eiji. "Wasn't sure what we'd have to do with that yamabushi. Houshi-sama," he said nodding towards the monk, "smoothed that way for us, but I don't like going in unprepared."

"A wise man," Miroku said. "Better when you can smooth the way, but always be ready for the worst."

"Keh," InuYasha replied, sticking his hands back into his sleeves.

While the men chattered, Mariko helped Kagome to her feet, who was still sitting on the ground, her gathering basket turned upside down and surrounded by a scattering of the herbs she had collected earlier in the day. The baby strapped to her back gurgled at the young miko, taking everything in with wide eyes. "Are you all right?" Mariko asked as Kagome took her hand.

"I...I think so," the young miko said, dusting off her backside, and straightening her carry cloth, which had gotten twisted when she fell. "I wasn't expecting that." She bent over to pick up her basket and looked with dismay at its scattered contents. "My whole afternoon's work!"

A girl of about six, whose mother had joined the crowd, picked up a bunch of wild mustard and handed it to her. "Here, Miko-sama!"

"Thank you very much," Kagome replied, taking the bunch and putting it in her basket. The girl pleased, giggled and ran back to her mother's side. Mariko grabbed another bunch and handed it to the miko.

"I think the rest is too scattered," she said.

Kagome nodded. "At least the basket didn't break." She looked down at the limp form Eiji was huddling over. A line of spittle dribbled down from the corner of his mouth, and the impact point where InuYasha hit him was starting to bruise. "Is...is Seiji-sama always like this?"

"Always," Koume replied, crossing her arms. Her brows knit together in solid disapproval. "I would stay out of his way if I were you. He's more trouble than he's worth."

"I don't know if always is the right word," Fumio said, giving his wife a small frown which she ignored. "He's not usually this willing to push other men's wives around."

"Bah." Koume patted Kagome's shoulder. "Come by the house for tea," she told the young miko. "I will tell you stories. Sometimes the men," she said, shooting her husband a glance, "don't know all the truth."

"Because you hide things," Fumio said, scratching the back of his head.

"No, we don't," Koume said.

"Oh yes, you do," he replied. "Remember the time when Toshiro's youngest began mooning over Kimi?"

"That's because I knew he'd outgrow it," the older woman said. "And I was right."

"That's besides the point," Fumio said, crossing his arms. "You didn't tell me until he was almost useless to his father. I wonder if you do that to drive us crazy or if you're afraid we'd do something."

Mariko, watching the banter of the older couple, laughed. "Maybe both."

Susumu shook his head. "You sound like Emi, Mariko-chan. But really, Kagome-chan, Seiji's gruff on his best days." Susumu tied Seiji's hands together with a firm knot. "Haha-ue says he always looks like he's eaten something that makes his gut hurt. And that's on his good days. Most other days you can see the anger, just below the surface, barely in control. Koume-sama's right. It pays to stay out of his way if you're going to tell him no. But when he's been drinking, he . . . well, you saw what he did today."

"What he does too often," Eiji said. He looked like he was about to spit, but then changed his mind. "Sometimes, we only know about it later, when we see Maeme or one of the boys with a new bruise." Nakao's dog wandered into the group, saw the unconscious man, and went to him, giving him a small lick. Seiji stirred a little. Eiji shooed the animal away. "Get out of here, dog. I don't know why you act like that. He's kicked you often enough. And we don't want him to wake up yet."

The dog whined, but contented himself with sitting near the front door of the miko's house. One of the boys walked over and began to pet it.

"You know how dogs are," Susumu said, cutting the length of rope with a knife. "They don't always know when to get away from the person hurting them." He moved towards the man's feet. "Too much loyalty."

InuYasha's ear flicked, and he shifted a little. Kagome, seeing this, and wondering if he was thinking about his past, rested her hand lightly on his arm. He gave her a quick look and a smile, then glared down at the drunk man while Susumu tied Seiji's feet together.

"Feh," InuYasha said, glaring at the unconscious man. "Seiji's lucky he didn't do anything more than shove you. And that I could smell the sake stink on him. Otherwise . . . "

She gave him a tight, but understanding smile. "But I'm all right," the miko said. "I think I stumbled more than he pushed me down."

"You're too nice, Kagome-chan," Koume said, shaking her head. "Don't make excuses for him. He's earned whatever karma throws his way." She looked up at InuYasha. "If you ask me, it'd been better if you had done more than knock him out." She looked towards Kaede's house. "You can take him on without any worries. But other people . . . "

The door to the house lifted, and the old miko, followed by an anxious-looking Sukeo, stepped out.

"Yes, InuYasha is very capable," Kaede said. She looked down on the limp form the men were binding. "And it was nice of him to put an end to all that noise. But still, are you finding more work for me to do? I didn't expect to need to treat the whole family. How hurt is he?"

"What are you doing to my Otousan?" Sukeo said, his face switching between anger and worry and relief and back again, as if he were not sure how to react. He made a step towards the men, then, as if thinking better of it to stay next to the miko.

"He broke the peace today, son," Susumu said. "Being drunk in the middle of the day and causing a big scene. We're going to take him to the lockup until he sobers up." He grabbed the man's ankles and nodded to Eiji, who slipped his hands under the man's shoulder. He looked up at the old miko. "I don't think we'll need you, Obaasan. InuYasha hit him in the jaw, one of those punches that knock people out. He's not going to feel good when he comes to, but I don't think he's really hurt. It was a good punch, too. Caught him totally off guard."

Together, the two men stood up, bringing Seiji up with them.

"Damn, he weighs more than he's worth," Eiji said adjusting his hold to keep a good grip on the man. "I'd rather carry stone than this dead weight."

"I could – " InuYasha began.

"Not today, cousin," Susumu said. "We don't need you. Stay with Kagome-chan. Now when it's your turn on the watch . . . this is what we get paid for." They began to walk towards Tameo's house.

"What's going to happen next?" Sukeo said. Maeme cautiously stepped out of the building, and went to stand next to her son.

The village guard stopped and looked at the youth. "He'll sleep it off," Susumu said. "After he calls me every evil word he can think of, and he calms down, we'll let him go, but I doubt it will be before noon tomorrow. And then it'll be up to the elders."

"Up to the elders?" Maeme said, surprised. "Why this time?"

"He shoved the young miko-sama," Fumio replied. "Plenty of us saw it. That at least is one reason."

"But . . . but . . . " Kagome said.

"Feh," InuYasha said. "Tell your father not to make a big deal about it on my account. I want the least to do with that piece of . . . " He looked up and saw Maeme and Sukeo looking at him and sighed. "Just tell Tameo to keep him away from me and mine. I won't promise to hold back if he comes looking for Kagome again."

Susumu nodded."I'll do what I have to," he said, shifting the man's weight. "But I'll tell him you said that. Come on, Eiji. Let's get this heavy stone where it belongs."

"About time," Eiji said. "My arm's not going to last forever." The two men walked off.

Kaede looked at Maeme. "I am sorry you had to see that, child."

Maeme seemed to shrink inside of herself. "I...I...you . . . " Her voice, soft as it was, trailed off into a whisper.

"It's safe to go home now, Okaasan," Sukeo said, resting his hand on his mother's shoulder. Nakao's dog, leaving the village boy who was keeping him company, escaped to come stand by Sukeo and nuzzled the boy's ankle. Sukeo looked down to see the dog looking up at him hopefully. "Otousan . . . he'll be better in the morning. You know it. We should go."

She nodded. "Let's go get your brother." The two of them disappeared back into the house.

The crowd began to drift away. Miroku watched the boys walk off and turned to InuYasha.

"I think," the monk said, "that I have had far too interesting of a day. I shall go home, talk with my lovely wife, play with my children, and throw ofuda on anybody who disturbs me before tomorrow." He tapped his staff. "Or maybe something even worse." He turned to walk off.

"Tell Sango I'll talk with her tomorrow," Kagome said. "And she can tell me all about it."

Miroku, not turning, lifted his hand and waved his fingers to let her know he had heard.

He turned to leave.

"He must really be tired," Kagome said, looking at him, then looking up at her husband.

"I guess," the hanyou replied. "Sometimes, even the bouzu is too tired to gossip."