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

Chapter 261

Tameo sighed when he saw what Hisako was doing. "I did not need this today, to be honest."

Miroku tapped him on the back. "I don't think most of us did, for that matter. But I have reason to suspect a kami is involved with this. I saw a big burst of spiritual light, right in the center of the village."

Tameo rubbed his temples, the way one does when a headache is coming on. "I wouldn't be surprised. I just wish they'd ask before doing."

"Indeed," the monk replied.

Together, the headman and the monk followed the group towards the lockup.

"What do you think you're doing, Babaa?" Seiji croaked as he watched her draw close. "You think because you outlived most of your family, you're important or something? Bet your husband died just to get away from you. Stop putting ideas in my woman's head."

"You bastard," Hisako said. She slapped at the bars of the window with her walking stick. "You beat that woman to the point that she wants to die, and you have the audacity to call her your woman? She walked into the river to get away from you and you talk about my husband?"

Seiji's hands clenched the bars tighter. "She did what?" His voice dropped to something just above a whisper, coarse and disbelieving. "That worthless . . . she tried to kill herself?"

"Jumped in the river, she did." There was a triumphant look in the old woman's eyes as she gave him the news. "The monk rescued her, and InuYasha-sama. Everybody knows now. And Houshi-sama has claimed a life-debt."

"He has no right!" Seiji smashed something inside the cell. "That clumsy bitch. Always falling over things and getting hurt."

"Hurt in the shape of a hand print. Right." Benika said. "And not just one. Just like that son of yours is all purple because he fell over the wash tub."

Seiji kicked the door of the cell. "Let me out. She's my woman."

"Bah," Koichi said. He squatted down next to the building, looking down at the ground to hide his amusement. "She's the monk's now. He's claimed life debt. He rescued her."

"Damn it, Tameo," Seiji croaked. He tried his best to sound imposing, but his voice cracked. "She's mine. You can't do this."

The headman, followed by Miroku as well as his sons, reached the lockup. "Save your voice, Seiji. The elders are going to meet tomorrow, and then we will decide."

"Fuck that," the caged man said. "Let me out now."

"After they see what you have done to your wife, Seiji-sama, you might wish you could stay in the lockup," Miroku said.

"And fuck you, too, woman-stealing ass of a holy man," Seiji growled. He hit the door again. "You don't touch Maeme."

"I'd be surprised if she ever wants another man to touch her in her whole life," Miroku said.

Seiji slammed against the door one more time, but said nothing.

"Be glad I am so patient," Tameo said. "I could send for InuYasha-sama. He has the first claim. You attacked his wife. He helped rescue yours. I'm not so sure that he'd want to wait for the elders to convene. All these conflicting claims. Well, we'll sort it out tomorrow."

"Don't you let that freak near me," Seiji said. His voice was barely above a whisper.

"Then you'll be quiet and wait." Tameo turned to the rest of the crowd. "Go home. And that means you, Hisako-obasan." He nodded to Susumu, who walked up next to the elderly woman. "Today we will shed no blood. We will not spoil Shinjiro's wedding. Do you want to bring the kami's bad luck to us all?"

"Come on, Hisako-obaasan," Susumu said. "Your otousan's probably waiting for his supper, anyway."

"He can wait a few minutes more," she said, before turning to Tameo. "We will have justice tomorrow," Hisako said. "Real justice this time."

"Real justice. For Maeme, for her sons, and for all of you who have been misused by our . . . " Tameo turned back and looked at the lockup. "By our guest."

"There better be," Masu said. "My children still have nightmares."

"Justice. Tomorrow. Today, go say your prayers that we have the wisdom to do the right thing. And that Shinjiro's wedding will not be marked by this . . . "

"Piece of crap?" someone from the group called out.

"This person in our lockup. Go home. I have to get ready for a wedding. He'll wait until tomorrow."

"But not any longer," Hisako said, and tapping her cane three times against the lockup building, she straightened herself as tall as she could, she and Susumu walked out of the compound, the villagers who sided with her following.

"We'll be here in the morning," Benika said as she left.

"And we'll listen," the headman said.

"You'll need to do more than that," Denjiro said. "Not sure all the men in the village will able to stop that old woman if you don't."

And with that, he too left.

"I think," Tameo said. His posture collapsed a little as if a huge weight had just lifted off is back.

"What?" Kinjiro asked.

"I think I need a cup of sake," the headman said.

"It looks like Haha-ue agrees with you," the younger man said. "She's got a cup in her hand ready for you."

Tameo looked towards the front of his house, and his wife stood there, smiling.

"A wise woman," Miroku said.

"Wise women are a gift from the heavens," the headman said. He glanced towards the lockup. "Even if some men never learn that lesson." He patted Miroku on the back. "Come share a cup with me, Houshi-sama. Maybe in the time we have left before the wedding starts, we can figure out something about your houseguest."

Elsewhere, at the house of Takeshi, things were just as busy as they had been at Tameo's, but on a much more pleasant note. Takeshi and his son Masayo, having cleaned up, were now banished outside, while the women of the household prepared.

Takeshi was playing a drum and singing.

"For love I journey,
they tell me it's worth the pain,
even though you make me
walk over rocks and sharp thorns
Yoi yoi ya yoi.

"As the road winds on,
For love I will show no fear.
Hide the oni, please,
and keep the foxes at home.
Yoi yoi ya yoi."

"Listen to him, Okaasan," Tama said as she put on her wedding clothes. They were new; she and her mother, sister and sister-in-law had made new clothes for everybody to wear. "Is he going to do that until we get to Daitaro-ojiisan's house?"

"Probably," Ushimi, donning her own, properly sober kosode, dark blue with a swirl of flowers along the skirt. "I think it's in retaliation for songs sung at his own wedding."

Sakami, Masayo's wife, giggled. "Maybe it was a good thing he didn't hear some of the songs that my brother sang while we were still at my mother's house."

"Don't give him any ideas," Ushimi said. "He knows plenty of songs himself."

"I will not shed any tears
even in this dark forest
even in this dark,
I hear love makes its own lamp.
Yoi yoi ya yoi."

Erime was putting on her robe of white and blue, when she looked up. "You don't think he'll sing the rabbit song, do you?"

The women all giggled. It was a well-known fact that this was a song that Erime particularly hated. Tama gave her sister a smirk. "The rabbit is white . . . "

"Tama!" Ushimi said. "Don't tease your sister."

"I'll remember that," Erime said, tying her sash. "Your wedding day isn't that far off."

"Moon, you are so drunk
dancing with the midnight clouds,
you must be in love too,
but don't get me lost tonight.
Yoi yoi ya yoi."

The women, new clothes on, hair combed and hanging long instead of underneath their farm wives' head scarves, were nearly done. Ushimi walked over to the screen, and picked up the silken robe that was her family's wedding treasure. "It's time to put this on, daughter."

Erime swallowed and nodded once, and let her mother guide the robe over her arms, then fuss over her as she adjusted the sleeves.

"How beautiful," Sakami said, smiling at her sister-in-law.

"Like a princess," Tama said.

"Ah, love, I will climb
up this mountain path tonight,
stumbling on my way,
Beloved, do not forget –
light the stone lantern."

"I'd like to hit him with that lantern," Tama said. "What do you think, Okaasan?"

"That it is probably a good thing for you not to hit your brother, but Erime - just perfect." Ushimi held the box she had packed earlier in the day, now wrapped in a bright red and blue carry cloth. "This is the day where you really become a woman, daughter. You are leaving your mother's house and moving into the house where you will become Chime's daughter instead. May the kami brighten this day with every blessing." She handed the box to Erime, who looked at her mother with moist eyes.

"Now, let's join the rest of the family," Ushimi said. "It's time to go to your new home."

Kagome and InuYasha were the first guests to arrive at Daitaro's house. The family, all but Mariko were outside. Genjo was standing next to his brother, who looked very fine in a new suit of dark cloth. He seemed far calmer than when she saw him last.

Daitaro, too, looked stately, even, having taken off his everyday work clothes and wearing an equally good looking suit of clothes. There were no stains on his knees, and they were full hakama, not the half length farmers' pants he usually favored. He even had a new eboshi hat for the occasion, and instead of his almost always present jug strapped across his chest, he had an obi of red and black with a fan tucked into it. He could have passed for a merchant, or even, if someone gave him the swords, a lower-ranking samurai. His eyes glittered a little, a sign he had been sampling his wedding sake, but just enough to make him mirthful.

"Ah, our cousins from up the hill have made it down," he said, spotting the young couple. "Now we're ready for everybody else to show up!"

"We made it," InuYasha said.

"I was hoping you'd get here first," Chime said, coming up to the couple. "Such a long and strange day! Come with me, Kagome-chan. We'll leave your husband to keep an eye on Daitaro and Genjo. I keep thinking they're going to tease poor Shinjiro to the point he's going to run away and call it done."

"Would I do that to you, Okaasan? After all you've done today?" Shinjiro said, crossing his arms.

"Only if your otousan and brother drive you to it," she said, then she led Kagome into the house, leaving InuYasha with the men.

"Ah, women," the old farmer said, looking back at the door of the house fondly. "My old woman, she thinks she knows everything."

"That's because she does, Otou," Genjo said.
"Eh," Daitaro said. "Maybe."

"You know Genjo's right, Otousan," Shinjiro said. "She knew when you got back from Miroku's that you'd head right for the rice cakes."

"Just wait, son." Daitaro said, patting the young bridegroom on the back. "In a few years, you'll swear your woman will know what you think before you think it."

"Mariko did it in a few months," Genjo said.

"Keh," InuYasha said. He grinned, a toothy look that his adoptive family didn't find unnerving at all. "Might not even take that long."

"You're learning about that magic women have, eh?" Daitaro said. "They look at our faces and somehow can see behind our eyes."

"Oh yeah," the hanyou said. "Oh yeah.