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

Chapter 269

There are many dwellings in the August Fields to house the myriad beings who have a right to live in that realm; all the minor kami who aid their families and their lands, their sacred trees and wells and mountains, all the major kami who care for the land and sea and air. Sometimes, the deities live there year round as long as time flies, sometimes, they spend most of their time on earth and only attend matters of the kami court; others seem to be both places constantly.

The dwelling Kazuo was ushered into by a pretty maiden in a flowing silk robe housed one of that last type.

It was a pleasant enough place. Kazuo found himself standing in a room of rich polished wood, dark with age. Light cascaded through well-made shoji windows. It didn't have that royal polish of one of the highest of the high, Spartan except for a few beautiful things of the best quality that made them feel spun out of light and shadow, but it was far larger than Kazuo's own little corner of the August Fields. It looked nothing like one would expect the home of an important spirit to live; in many ways, it looked like the dream home of a prosperous peasant. Food stores filled cabinets, barrels and vats filling the domo and shoved against one of the walls. Piles of fabric in brilliant colors of silk took up one corner, enough to be stock for a fabric vendor. Tools and toys decorated walls. There were well-made mats on the floor and good arm rests for those who sat on them. Fine chests lined one wall, filled with all manner of goods, overflowing their drawers and piled on the tops. Giggling maidens dressed in bright blues and red sat around the fire, cooking out of multiple pots. Others worked near the window at the loom and spinning wheel. The air smelled of food and spice and happiness.

"I have brought him as you asked, Dono," the maiden said, bowing.

Kazuo, following the maiden's lead, bowed very low.

"Very good, Kiku-chan," a warm voice said.

Leaving the two alone, she hurried back to her loom.

"I was wondering if you were going to show up," the figure in front of Kazuo said. They could have been brothers, these two deities; pleasant looking men, men of the people who understand sweat and work, although instead of a hoe, the speaker had a hammer in hand, and looked more like a merchant than a farmer. "You've been busy, I see, with your charges. Quite a web you have woven. And taking such good advantage of this rare day the Heavens have sent you."

Kazuo, relaxing a bit, straightened up and nodded. "A web? I'm not sure if I would call it that, not really. I prefer to think of it as baiting a trap. I had to do that a lot when I was a farmer. Rabbits, rabbits. They could do so much damage."

"I have heard that," said the kami. He smiled, and bid his visitor to sit down on one of the mats while he took another.

Kazuo settled down where he was directed, and put his hoe down politely alongside of him. "The thing about traps, even if they are for rabbits, is everybody is free to choose another route, but if they go the way I think they will . . . Well, they made the choice. I can't make them go that way."

"But you suspect . . . " the kami said. He placed his hammer carefully down, then rested his chin in his hand.

"I often caught the rabbits that were troubling me," Kazuo said.

The other kami waved his hand, and like a map, the village was laid out in front of them. At different places in the map, colored lights burned.

"Let's see," said the kami, pointing to the location of the monk's house. "This is where that woman who you want to rescue is?" The light there pulsated dark purple, like an old wound as he pointed to it. "She has had a sad fate to this point. Very little luck at all for a long time."

"That's right," Kazuo said. He pointed to a place right next to Tameo's house, and a dark, ugly cone of light grew, shifting from green to bright red, all the colors of hate and envy and anger mixing into it. "This is where her husband is for the moment."

The kami rubbed his chin, tugging at a well-groomed beard. "Your trap has things that can go wrong."

Kazuo sighed. "It was the best I could do, O Father of Luck. I had been working on this for a while; it wasn't until these two came together that I was able to complete even this much. " He pointed at Daitaro's house, where two lights glowed, one pink, one red. Their light seemed to blend together as it lifted above the map, turning at last into a point of rose light.

The luck kami scratched the back of his neck, then tugged on his beard again. "They are an unusual source, friend. Such a strange destiny. Yes, yes, I think . . . " His voice dropped off for a moment as he studied the map, and he looked up at Kazuo. "You've been quite busy, I see. Clever how you have your trap spread. The woman there with the hanyou - she arrived and suddenly, you're trying to resolve all the problems in the village in one month?"

"Well," Kazuo said, with a grin on his face. "So much power in such a little body. And she has such a good heart and attracts so many things to her. I thought it was a stroke of luck."

The luck kami burst out laughing at that. "Well, friend, let's see if we can make the rest of your trap work just as well. First, let's see about that wedding."

Grabbing Kazuo by the sleeve, the kami tapped his hammer on the ground, and the two of them disappeared.

For a while, the map continued to reflect the village back in the human realm. A bright golden light surrounded the spot that represented Daitaro's house.

One of the women cooking looked up. "The master doesn't take long to get busy, does he?"

"I suspect the bridegroom there is going to have a very good night," said her companion. "Master is good at blessing staffs, you know."

"Especially his own," said one of the weavers.

As they twittered their laughter, the map winked out of sight.

At Daitaro's house, nobody noticed the comings and goings of the kami, not even Tameo who was familiar with the touch of Kazuo's reiki, and not even Kagome, who was paying more attention to Chime, who was pouring sake into cups and placing them on a tray, but as the kami's unseen blessing touched the gathered families, a feeling of contentment settled across the room.

After pouring enough for everybody else, she took a very old cup, black, and larger than any of the others, and poured the wine into it. Daitaro, watching her, got up and walked to the fire pit, as did his daughter-in-law Mariko. Chime handed the tray of cups to Mariko, and the large cup to her husband.

As the woman passed around cups of wine to everybody there except to the young couple, Daitaro stood there, looking a long time into the wine cup.

"They say my otousan's ojiisan married a girl from far away, a village near Kyoto."

"So it's going to be that story," Chime said, smiling at her husband.

"You've heard this before?" Kagome asked Genjo.

The young man nodded. "Although he never tells it quite the same way twice."

InuYasha leaned towards Kagome. "That's the way he is with all of his stories."

Genjo snorted. "You've noticed that, have you?"

Daitaro glanced at his youngest son and guests, and they quieted, but not before Kagome stifled a giggle. He turned back and looked at the bride and groom.

"Yes, my ojiisan's otousan married from far away. They forgot to tell me why he took a bride from so far away," the old farmer said, looking up, "but she brought two things with her when she moved to our village." He swirled the wine around in the cup he was holding. "She brought this cup, and a secret recipe for sake." Daitaro grinned. "My great-grandfather must have been a wise man." He held the wine up. "Look how big the cup is! Her people knew how to appreciate good sake."

Laughter went around the room.

"So," Susumu asked, grinning. "Is that why you think your sake is so special? The recipe comes from Kyoto?"

Daitaro shook his head. "My ojiisan hated that recipe. So instead, my otousan said he went to the little people and made a trade. You know nobody makes sake like the little people - or like to drink it better. Chichi-ue said Ojiisan traded them a barrel of his otousan's sake if they'd take the recipe out of his head, and make him forget it forever."

"Forget it forever?" Tameo asked. "How come I never heard that version? I just heard he had the best formula in the village. Although I've been told my otousan had the real recipe, and yours . . . well . . . "

"That's just what Ojiisan wanted your otousan to think," Daitaro said, grinning. "But Chichi-ue learned the real secrets."

This made Hisa-sama chuckle. "Don't worry, husband," she said, patting Tameo's hand. "You make excellent sake."

"It must have been a really bad way to make sake," Masayo commented.

Daitaro nodded. As he watched, Mariko finished distributing the last of the cups. "Funny, though. As much as Ojiisan hated that recipe, the little people loved it. They gave him a cup of their own sake, a very potent brew, and, although he was in no way a lightweight when it came to handling his sake . . . "

"Like someone else we know?" Ushimi asked.

"Only Daisuke-sama handles his sake better," Daitaro said, "Or so Hisako-obasan tells me."

"I bet that old woman could give you a run for champion," Mariko said. "I've seen how much she can handle at festival time."

The women laughed at this, but Daitaro merely sighed. "Some people have the gift," he acknowledged. "But as I was saying, Ojiisan, even though he was no lightweight, fell asleep after merely one cup. When he woke up, his head pounding, he stumbled home, and immediately brewed a new batch of wine. It wasn't the way his otousan taught him to do it, but the results were good enough to serve to anyone, even if he came from the daimyo's castle. He always said the little people gave it to him."

"I thought you said it was good enough for the imperial court," Kinjiro said.

"We did serve it to a courier from Kyoto once," Daitaro said, nodding. "He told Chichi-ue it was the best sake he had tasted in a long, long time."

"Maybe from the road from Edo to here," Kinjiro said, not impressed.

There were snickers and dark looks for that remark.

"Anyway," Daitaro said, holding up the cup in his hand, "this batch I made with special care." He walked across the room to stand in front of Shinjiro and Erime. "Every step of the way, I had you two in mind," he said, handing the cup first to Shinjiro. "With the cup that my ojiisan's okaasan brought from far Kyoto, drink it together, your first sharing as husband and wife."

Shinjiro took a sip, closed his eyes, and swallowed, handing it back to Daitaro, who handed it on to Erime. Her hand shook a little as she closed around the cup, but she took it, and took a big swallow.

"That's my girl," the old farmer said. "You're not a lightweight like some others in this room."

There was a little ripple of laughter, and Takeshi laughed loudest. "Lightweight, am I?"

"Yes," Daitaro said.

"Too true, old man," Takeshi said, and then raised his cup. "Here's to Shinjiro and Erime. May you always be happy, even in a household where the sake maker makes a brew strong enough to stun his bull."

And then, to the surprise of his host, he downed the entire cup.