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

Chapter 194

"What's the market like?" Kagome asked her husband as they neared the turn of the road that would head up the hill.

"I don't know," InuYasha said. "Nothing like the places in your time. Bunch of booths. People who try to sell you junk."

Kagome laughed at that. "That never changes. And they get very good at making you think you need it."

"Feh," the hanyou said, frowning. "People ought to be smarter than that." They reached the path heading up the hill and began their ascent.

"Too many of the smart ones started selling things, I guess. I should put a list together," Kagome said. "I'm going to need some more white cloth, I think."

InuYasha shrugged. "Whatever. Might as well get what we need before the rainy season starts."

The young miko nodded. "I'll talk to Sango. If some of the women are going, maybe she'll want to go, too. She was talking about getting some more cloth for the girls' clothes." Tapping her finger on her chin, she focused in thought for a moment. "I wonder if Kaede-baachan needs anything."

The hanyou sighed and rolled his eyes. "Just don't ask everybody what you can get for them. I can only carry so much. Miroku usually buys a bundle, and I usually end up carrying his along with whatever I get." He looked at his wife. "It gets bigger when Sango comes along."

Kagome laughed at that. "I wonder why."

InuYasha gave her a cocky grin. "Miroku is just a..." His words drifted off as his ears pricked up and his nostrils flared. Suddenly grabbing Kagome, he leapt up into the branches of a nearby tree. As she shrieked in surprise at the move, he pulled her close to its trunk.

"InuYasha, what?" she asked, looking up the hanyou as she pulled a small branch, just barely leafing out, away from her face. "What's wrong? You could have warned me."

"There wasn't any time," he said, shifting her so she could see the path underneath them. "Look down there."

As she watched she saw a large black animal hurtling down the path, head lowered.

"What..."

"That's Okuro," InuYasha said. "That's Daitaro's bull. You wouldn't want to be in his way when he comes running down the hill."

The bull slowed down for a moment and lifted his head, scenting the air. He had a bright ring in his nose. Attached to the ring was a red and white rope that went around his head like a bridle. His horns were broad and looked quite sharp. For a moment, he shook his head, pawed the ground twice, then began running again.

"You're right," Kagome said. "I don't think I've ever been around an animal like that."

InuYasha nodded. "He's got a lot of power in those legs of his, and can hit hard. I wonder how he got out today? Daitaro usually makes sure his fencing is strong enough to keep him in check."

"Maybe something happened to one of the rails?" Kagome said, leaning back into InuYasha's arms.

The hanyou shrugged"I've seen him bust through some pretty stout rails before if there was something he really wanted on the other side." A mildly wicked look lit up his eyes. "Well, it is springtime. Somebody's cow must be ready for a bull," InuYasha said, giving Kagome a suggestive look. "The old guy, he gets impatient for the girls to come to him."

Kagome giggled."You mean, he's like Miroku used to be?" Kagome asked.

"Don't kid yourself about the Bouzu. He might be faithful to Sango, but his eye still lights up on all the pretty girls. Still, maybe Okuru is worse," the hanyou said. "That's his main job, you know, getting to be with all the cows. He expects it."

"Is that what happens?" Kagome asked, giving her husband a look just as suggestive. "The men, they come to expect it."

His lips turned into a cocky smirk. "Maybe as much as the women."

Kagome laughed and snuggled a bit closer to her husband as they watched the bull get a safe distance down the road.

"That should do it," InuYasha said, as he slipped his arm around Kagome's waist. Holding her tightly, he leapt from the tree and landed lightly on the ground below, barely making a twig crunch beneath his bare feet. He let his wife loose and started moving towards Daitaro's house. "Better go check in with the old man in case he doesn't know Okuru is out and about."

"You think it's safe just to let him go like that? Shouldn't you go and get him?" Kagome asked, looking up at her husband, a bit uncertain.

"Oh, if Daitaro-jiji's around, no doubt I'll get dragged into it," InuYasha said with a bit of regret in his voice. "It's a group effort to get that randy old bull back home. It usually takes three or four of use to get him to listen to reason. I can't knock him out; Daitaro would skin me if anything would happen to him. I wonder sometimes if he cares more about his bull than he does Shinjiro."

"I doubt that," Kagome said, following InuYasha down the path.

As they neared the front of Daitaro's house, a small group of women were working outside. There were boxes and chests and other furnishings scattered in the front, and a strong smell of scented oil permeated the air. Slightly to one side, a long clothesline had bedding draped across it, blue and green and red and brown coverlets dancing in the afternoon breeze as they aired out. Mixed into the smell of the oil were the smells of food, beans and rice, and something savory.

"It smells delicious," Kagome said. "I wonder what she's making."

"We have any fish left?" InuYasha said, scenting the air. "It's making me hungry."

Kagome, giggling looked over the work site. She recognized all of the women there: Chime, who was rubbing oil on the top of a low table, Ryota's wife Maki, who was washing dishes in a wash tub not far from the clothes line, and Mariko who was feeding her son as she sat on the verandah. A chicken wandered next to Chime. The woman lifted her cloth and chased the bird away.

While the chicken squawked about being disturbed, noises came from insided the house. "Where do you want this?" a voice said, in a complaining tone. "It's heavy. I'm glad it's the last piece." The voice sounded like Genjo, Daitaro's younger son.

Mariko turned towards the open door. "It wouldn't have been so heavy if you had unpacked it first," she said, returning her attention to her son. She gently brushed a wisp of hair out of the baby's face.

Chime sighed, clearly tired of what must have been one complaint too many. "Just bring it out here, son. Put it next to the spinning wheel. I want all the furniture out so I can give the floor a good cleaning."

"If I had unpacked it, then I'd have to make two trips," Genjo said to his wife as he walked out of the house with a large wooden chest. It was obviously an expensive piece for a farmhouse, with brass fittings and some delicate carving on the front. The wood looked old and well polished. "What did they send over for Erime? It feels like a box of rocks."

"What every bride gets to bring," Chime said. "Be glad her father sent it over and I didn't have to send you there to pick it up. It's filled with her linens and her clothes and her mirror and sewing things. You didn't think Takeshi-sama would send her here with nothing did you?"

Mariko laughed. "It's no less than my own parents sent when we were married." Her son, finished with his meal, let go, and she readjusted her top before putting the baby over her shoulder and patted his back. "Did you forget?"

"Was it this heavy?" Genjo asked as he walked over and put the chest down next to the others. "I don't remember your chest weighing this much."

"I suspect so," Mariko said, giving her husband a fond smile. "You complained about moving that one, too."

He sighed as he let the box down. Then, as he stood up straight and shook out the kinks in his back, he looked up in the direction of the road, and saw the hanyou and the miko walking up the path. "Ho," he said, waving. "What brings you this way, cousin? Better watch out, you two. Haha-ue's on a cleaning tear, and she'll be scrubbing you down, too, if you stand still too long."

There was a general giggle of laughter as the women turned to face the newcomers.

"I didn't expect to see you so soon, Kagome-chan," Mariko said. Just then, her son let out a loud burp. She moved the infant to her lap.

"I didn't either," Kagome said, bowing then smiling at the gathered women. "We were actually on our way home."

"But we saw Okuro barreling down the road," InuYasha said, tucking his hands in his sleeves. "I thought we'd stop and tell Daitaro."

"Kuso," Genjo said, shaking his head as he rubbed the back of his neck. "Moving all this furniture, and now I have to chase that stupid bull?"

Shinjiro walking down the path that lead from the barn to the house, stepped on the verandah to join the others. "Ah, so you've got the news already," he said, walking stiff-legged to lean against the doorway. "Otousan just started running after that black devil, and sent me to get you."

"He's heading towards the bottom of the hill," InuYasha said. "He almost ran us down."

"Glad you got out of the way in time, cousin. Chichi-ue thought he might be headed that way. Momoe's cow is about due to be in season," Shinjiro said, nodding. He moved off the verandah and began heading towards his brother.

"Not the only one anxious for his lady friend," Chime said, standing up and wiping her hands on a cloth. "How's your knee, son? Do you need more medicine?"

For some reason, this made Shinjiro's cheeks color. "Okaasan..."

Maki rinsed off a serving tray and began to wipe it with a dry cloth. "Your okaasan's only saying the truth," she said, chuckling.

"Maybe I'll just go back to the barn," Shinjiro said. "Back in the barn, the cows don't tease me as much."

"You teased me enough when I got married," Genjo said, grinning. "I guess people are making up for that. I ought to join in, but I guess I better go get the rope and prods instead." He started heading back to the area behind the house.

"Well, I knew we couldn't get through the warm weather without him getting out once or twice," Chime said. "Better today than tomorrow."

"Keh," InuYasha said. He looked thoughfully at Shinjiro and took a breath, turning towards the younger brother who was at the edge of the house. "You want some help, Genjo?"

The younger brother stopped, turned around and nodded. "It'd be good to have an extra pair of hands. Okaasan will take the prod after all of us if we let Shinjiro get hurt any more before tomorrow. And Okuro seems to like you."

"Good, good," Chime said. "You two go help Daitaro-chan. And Kagome and the rest of us can have a cup of tea and talk while we wait for you to get back."

The invitation surprised the young miko. "I don't want to be in the way," Kagome said. "You're so busy."

"Nonsense," Chime said. "We're almost ready to start putting things back. It'll be nice to take a break. She waved her hands at InuYasha and Genjo. "You two go. Don't let your otousan get too tired." Taking Kagome's hand she led her towards the verandah. "Have a seat and tell me all about Sayo-chan's new baby."

The men, knowing they were dismissed started towards the barn. Shinjiro began following them. "No, not you, son," Chime said.

"What?" Shinjiro said. "You won't let me eat anything while you're driving me crazy with your cooking. You won't let me go to the barn or go into the house. You fuss if I sit down and look bored. What do you want me to do?"

Chime pointed to the water bucket next to Maki's washtub. "You can fill up the water buckets. Hot baths for everybody tonight."

Rolling his eyes, the bridegroom began walking towards the bucket.