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

Chapter 264

While the wedding party moved towards the main street of the village, Kinjiro stepped out of his house and began walking to the headman's house. He was dressed in something besides his usual farming outfit of short hakama and narrow sleeved kosode, and instead wore a crisp gray set of clothes. As he moved, he looked uncomfortable, treading carefully, as if wearing fuller and longer hakama was an oddity for him, which it was. His wife, Matsume, trying hard not to giggle as she watched him, followed behind. She was also dressed in better clothing, a fine kosode of pale blue and yellow, worked with embroidery. It favored her complexion, but did not quite hide the fact of her swelling pregnancy. Her long flowing black hair was set free from the usual head scarf, and with the lights of amusement shining in her eyes, she looked radiant.

Tameo, sitting alone for the moment on his verandah, watched the young couple as they neared him, and smiled, not the least because of the way his youngest son behaved about going to a social event. He decided, though, not to tease him. Instead, he nodded approvingly as they reached the verandah. "Someone, at least, is ready to go," he said, loud enough to be heard inside the house. "Maybe we'll be ready by the time Takeshi reaches Daitaro's house."

At this, Matsume did laugh, a soft pleasing sound.

Kinjiro gave his wife a stern look, but instead of being apologetic, she giggled again, hiding her face behind her sleeve. The young farmer crossed his arms, and his usual scowl when not working deepened.

"You are ready to go, aren't you, son?" Tameo asked.

"Are you sure I should be going?" Kinjiro asked. "The only men who're going to be here until we get back are Jun and Koichi. Riki-chan and Isao and Aki might make the equivalent of one more, maybe. I don't know what any of them would do if something went wrong. What if - "

"Yes, you should be going," Hisa said, stepping out of the house. "Chime-chan is expecting all of us. And she wants you to sing."

"Sing," Kinjiro said. He took a deep breath. "Sing."

For some reason, this made Matsume giggle. "You do have the best voice in the village, husband," she said. "Especially after a cup of sake." She took his hand and gave if a quick squeeze. "After today, you deserve a good evening."

He didn't say anything, but his scowl deepened a little, until his mother caught his eye. Sighing, he gave in, knowing there would be no arguing with her and he gave her a nod.

"Chime-chan adores your singing, son," Hisa said. "Enjoy tonight. Tomorrow's going to be rough enough as it is."
"Besides, Eiji and Haruo are making the patrols tonight," Tameo said. He nodded towards the lockup. "Nobody's broken out of there on their own yet. They'll keep an eye on things. I trust them."

"Nobody's broken out yet," Kinjiro said.

"And, it's going to stay that way," Susumu said, stepping out on the verandah.

He, too, was wearing clothing different than his usual, dark blue in contrast with his brother's gray, and was sporting a new eboshi hat.

"You're sure Emi said she needed to stay with Fujime tonight?" Hisa asked. She shook out her sleeves, and adjusted the fan she carried in her obi.

"That's what she told me," Susumu said. "She didn't think it was quite right to leave all our crowd to let Fujime-obasan and Kimi-chan try to keep them in line. Mitsuo . . . "

"True, true," Hisa said. "Riki knows his ways pretty well, but we all know what a handful he can be. Rather takes after his father." Susumu coughed into his hand. "If they're going to stay with Fujime until after the meeting tomorrow, I guess I shouldn't begrudge her Emi's help."

"Let's head out of the gate," Tameo suggested. "The wedding procession should be passing by soon."

The small group headed for the street.

At Daitaro's house, there was nothing left to do but wait.

"I hate waiting," Chime said. "I think that's the hardest part about having a wedding, the waiting."

She had made tea for Kagome, and for her daughter-in-law who had come into the house with a basket of fresh rice cakes.

Mariko reached over and patted her mother-in-law's hand."You can hold your grandson if you need something to do, Okaasan," she said. The little boy stuck a finger in his mouth as she shifted him, then opened his arms to the older woman as she passed him to the older woman. "He's always a handful after his nap."

Chime smiled up at her daughter-in-law, then turned to her grandson. Waving her fingers at the child, she got him to make an interesting gurgling sound, and then he popped more fingers in his mouth. "Very much like his otousan was. Funny how that works out."

"That's what I've always heard," Kagome said. "Although my okaasan always said I was more like my otousan than her."

Mariko reached into the basket she brought and took out one of the cakes. She offered the basket to her companions, but both refused. "I wonder, Kagome-chan, what your son is going to be like when you have one. I' bet he'll be even more of a handful."

For some reason, this made Kagome blush. "I don't know," she said, taking a sip of her tea to hide her embarrassment "InuYasha hasn't told me a lot about his boyhood."

"He'll be a handsome little thing, I bet," Chime said. She picked up her grandson and leaned him on one shoulder, bouncing him a bit, which seemed to please the child. "Especially if he gets his father's hair color. And better, he'll be surrounded by people who will think well of him." She looked up towards the front door. "From what I have heard, I don't think your husband had the best time of it when he was young."

Kagome nodded. "After his mother passed on . . . "

"Still," Mariko said, "He turned out well. Once he stopped being so grumpy . . . "

The young miko giggled.

"Oh, we did hear some arguments when you were going towards that old well the taijiya used to use," Chime said. She grabbed her grandson's hand, which was starting to wrap around a handful of her hair. "Mustn't pull Obaasan's hair. It's not nice." Mariko handed her a rattling toy, which the boy took, and jingled with much satisfaction.

"I hear you gave as good as you got," Mariko said. "I sometimes wondered what it would be like if all the village wives could have a charm like the one Kaede-sama put around InuYasha-sama's neck."

"Oh dear," Chime said, laughing. "The village would no doubt be filled with husband-sized holes. Can you imagine Chiya-chan and Michio?"

Mariko covered her face and laughed, but then sobered. "It might have been nice if Maeme-chan had been given one though."

Kagome sighed. "It might have indeed. She certainly could have used it more that I need it now."

"Why is he still wearing it, if you don't mind me asking," Mariko said, taking some of her tea.

"I talked to Kaede-obaasan about it," Kagome said. "She says it was a permanent thing. Maybe after she passes on, the magic will lessen, but she can't remove it, and I can't either."

"Ah," Chime said. "Magic has its own ways. Still, it looks good on him."
"It does, doesn't it?" Kagome said.

Singing came from outside, Genjo's clear voice obviously amused.

"If you tend the eggs,
you might get chickens,
lift it up,
lift it up."

Chime put down her tea cup. "Oh dear, what is your husband up to now?" she asked Mariko. She handed her grandson back to his mother and stood up.

Someone outside imitated a rooster crowing, a very good imitation.

"He's not doing that one is he?" Mariko said. "He better not be playing with a bucket of water. If he spills anything on his clothes . . . "

"If you tend the chickens,
they'll crow in the morning,
lift it up,
lift it up."

"Don't drop it!" Daitaro called out. "Your okaasan will have your hide if you do."

There was laughter coming from the men.

"What's going on?" Kagome asked.

"Oh, it's a game," Mariko said, putting her son on her hip and standing up. Chime was already heading for the door. "It can be a bit messy."

Kagome got up and followed.

"If you wake up from the chickens crowing
you can tend to your fields,
lift it up,
lift it up."

"You almost lost it!" Shinjiro said as the women stepped through the door.

Daitaro was sitting down, almost doubled over. InuYasha was off to the side, looking perplexed and a little nervous. Shinjiro was standing up, close to his brother, but out of immediate range, holding a rice measure, filled with rice.

All eyes were on Genjo. He was standing there, turning in slow circles. He held a hoe balanced across his shoulders, his arms spread wide to keep it from falling. On his head, he had an empty rice tub, which he was wearing something like a hat. He spun around carefully, and tried to grab the rice measure from his brother Shinjiro, who joining in the spirit of things, was doing his best to keep it away from him.

"If you tend your fields,
you'll get rice in the autumn
lift it up,
lift it up."

Genjo lunged towards his brother, but this time, the rice tub slid over his eyes, and he stumbled bumping into his brother, and the hoe went flying off his shoulders, almost hitting his father.

"Genjo," Chime said.

"Don't worry, Okaa," he said, smiling. "I didn't put any water in the rice tub. I won't get wet."

He grabbed the rice measure from his brother, and headed towards Daitaro, who handed him the hoe.

"Try not to hit any of our guests," the older man said.

"Would I do that?" Genjo said.

"You almost got InuYasha when you tried to balance the rice tub," Shinjiro said.

"Bah," Genjo said. He straightened the rice tub back up on his head, then deftly balanced the hoe back across his shoulders, his arms outstretched. The rice measure he gripped in his left hand. He looked at Shinjiro. "Get ready to hand me the shovel."

His brother picked it up.

Genjo, spinning slowly, started the next verse.

"If you harvest your rice,
you can afford to get married.
lift it up,
lift it up."

Kagome walked over to her husband, being careful not to get too close to Genjo's dance of the farm tools. InuYasha looked at her with some relief.

"Why is he doing this?" he whispered to her. "He made a joke about showing Shinjiro all the things he would need to balance being married, and the next thing I knew, he was putting the rice tub on his head."

"For fun, I think," Kagome replied.
InuYasha stuck his hands in his sleeves, and his ear flicked. "Strange idea of fun, if you ask me."

"I think, maybe the waiting's getting to everybody," Kagome said, placing a hand on her husband's arm. "Maybe this is his way of dealing with it. It's a balancing game?"

"I guess," the hanyou replied.

This time around, Genjo successfully managed to grab the shovel from his brother without dislodging the hoe. He looked funny as he slowly spun, arms outstretched, rice tub almost blocking his vision, measure in one hand, shovel in the other.

"My sons," Chime said, shaking her head. "Why?"

"Good husbands need good balance," Genjo said. "I was showing Ani-ue how it was done."

"Heh," Mariko said. "Is that why you dropped everything when we came out?"

"All that beauty," the young farmer said. "I got distracted."

"So now you are balancing everything a good farmer needs," Daitaro said, rather amused. "Are you learning anything, Shinjiro?"

"That my brother has a strange sense of humor," the bridegroom said. "Maybe he should have been a juggler."

"You might be onto something there," Daitaro said. "So now you're juggling everything a good farmer needs?"

"Almost, Otousan," Genjo said. He stopped his circling. "You want to do the honors?"

"You'd better not spill it," the old man said. "Don't make your okaasan unhappy."

"Please," Chime said.

"It'll be all right, Okaa," Genjo said. "You'll see." He began to turn again, and began the next verse. Daitaro got up and headed inside.

"If you can afford to get married,
you can tend to your wife,
lift it up,
lift it up."

"So much advice," Mariko said. "Has he been like this all the time I was busy?"

"He's your husband," Shinjiro said. "What do you think?"

Genjo laughed. "How often do I get to tease you?"

"He's as bad as Souta," Kagome said. InuYasha looked down at her, but happily saw no homesick shadow there. Instead, she was watching Genjo, fairly amused.

"If you tend to your wife,
you'll want to sleep late,
lift it up,
lift it up."

"I bet you won't want to come out and work early tomorrow morning," Genjo said to his brother. "I wouldn't be surprised if we don't see you until after lunch."

Shinjiro smiled. "Fewer jokes that way. Besides, I bet you'll be nursing an aching head and Mariko will be laughing at you," Shinjiro replied. He looked up at his sister-in-law, who was staring at her husband with a look between highly amused and irritated.

"Oh yes," she said. "Might even be a good time to bang the pots together."

"I could lend you one or two," Chime said.

The young farmer ignored all of that. "If you sleep late," he sang, circling around one more time,
your wife will sweep you out,
lift it up,
lift it up."

Daitaro walked out, carrying a cup. "The last thing to balance, son."

"And the tastiest," Genjo said.

"If your wife sweeps you out,
then drink some sake,
lift it up,
lift it up."

The old farmer held the cup to his son's mouth, tipping the liquid into the man's mouth. Genjo, arms outstretched and hands filled managed to get the entire drink down in one move, not spilling a drop or losing his hoe.

"Well, I can tell who's son he is," Chime said.

"Indeed," Daitaro said, smiling.

Genjo shrugged off his hoe, then dropped the shovel. "Now it's Shinjiro's turn. Let's see how well he can balance everything."

"You will not," Chime said, moving in to take the rice tub off of her son's head. "You're lucky you didn't put a bucket of water on your head like usual, or I would send you to Tameo's lockup to keep Seiji company."

"Okaa . . . " he said, smiling. "It's just for fun."

InuYasha looked at all of them, and shook his head. "This is supposed to be fun?" he asked Kagome.

"Well, it passes the time," she replied.

His ear swivelled, like he had heard something, then he turned and looked towards the village. "Just in time, too. I think we're about to have company."

"They're almost here?" Chime asked.

"Sounds like it," the hanyou replied, nodding. "I hear a drum and singing."

"Quick!" the older woman said. "Get all this put away. It's time!"

As Genjo reached down to pick up the farm tools, Shinjiro's lips curled into a strange little smile. "Time. I didn't think it would ever get here."