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

Chapter 279

As the kami watched the two brothers talking at the lockup in Tameo's compound, luck swirled around the village like an unseeable, golden river of light. Perhaps it was the last outpouring of the auspicious day trying to discharge all of its luck at once, to give everybody a taste of it before the moon rose, and it was gone and done. Perhaps it was the influence of Daikoku being in the village, or maybe both. Many things happened that hour.

Children went to sleep without a fuss. Women's spinning went smoothly without a snarl in the thread. Husbands found their wives smiling at them. Nobody spilled their sake.

Sora, her children fast asleep, and her husband as well, managed to find where her daughter had hid her sewing needles in the kitchen cabinet. Smiling, she settled down next to the fire and began stitching away at the kosode she was making. Her thread didn't tangle once.

Daisuke, coming home, managed to slip into his house and put his daughter's walking stick back into place and even find the jug of sake without waking Hisako. Sitting by the fire, he chuckled pleased to have pulled one over on the one person who put up with him the best.

Tsuneo found his newly healed wife in a rather playful mood, and allowed her to have her way with him under the blankets.

The wave of luck spread out further than that, going up the hill on the east side of town.

It washed over Eiji, who was feeling in a particularly pleasant mood as he left the wedding party at Daitaro's and stepped out into the night.

"Yes, here's to years where there's more than enough to keep us all well fed and well watered," he said as he reached the main path down the hill. "And maybe to the end of all the strange things that have been going on this last ten day." He stopped for a moment and scratched his head. "Now, where haven't I been yet? I need to walk by the temple and the shrine, check that all's well by Momoe's house, make sure Hisako-obaasan isn't stirring up more trouble, and check on Koichi and Jun. Wouldn't be surprised if those two had drunk themselves into a pickle."

He laughed a little at the thought.

"One more night of this, and it's Susumu's turn." He heard something along the pathway. The village guard froze. Lifting his lantern, he managed to shine some light into a cat's eyes. The cat paused and looked at him back.

"On patrol, too?" he asked. "You look like that cat that Houshi-sama brought home. Chika, isn't that your name? I hope you're looking for mice. Our fields always have too many of them."

The small cat, bobbed tail and all, walked up to the guard, and rubbed her head against him. He squatted down, and gently stroked her head. "So, should I take you home to your family, or let you wander off in the night?"

Chika jumped into his arms.

Eiji laughed, and stood up. "Well, that's one of the places I did want to check. I guess we can head that way first." Lifting his lantern high, he began walking up the hill.

They had gone about a third of the way to Miroku's house when the cat, who had been snuggling in Eiji's hold stiffened, and looked up. She mewed, and began trying to climb up Eiji's shoulder.
He stopped and let go of his grip. "Is something wrong, little one?" he asked.

She mewed again, jumped down, and began heading down the path that lead to the village and not in the direction of the monk's house.

Curiosity got the better of him, especially after the cat stopped for a moment to look back at him.

"Maybe I should check this out," he said, and lifting his lamp high enough so he could see better, he headed back towards the village.

At Daitaro's house, Masayo, Erime's brother, now quite tipsy, stood up and moved into the middle of the room, and began to pound out an interesting rhythm on his drum. He began to dance, in what would have been graceful circles if he had drunk less sake during the night.

"Don't fall into the fire," Takeshi called out, leaning back and grinning.

"Me, fall?" Masayo asked. "I'm as graceful as a cat." The luck swirling about touched him just as he missed a step. He would have otherwise fallen into the fire, just like his father said, but instead, the luck made sure he stumbled just a little. Recovering himself, he bumped into Mariko. "So sorry, Mariko-chan."

She merely laughed at him and gave him a little shove, which this time, just helped him into his next gyration.

"A cat that's been in the sake," InuYasha said, amused as he watched Masayo's antics. The hanyou was feeling rather mellow himself, with a full tummy and just a little hazy from sake, and a lot of the tension that he had been carrying had bled away now that he wasn't the center of attention.

"A drunk cat is a pitiful thing," Daitaro said, grinning at the hanyou. "One got into my sake tub once . . . "

"Don't even mention the sake sage," Kagome whispered.

The hanyou laughed.

Masayo began to sing with his dance.

"They say on a moonlit night,
they say on a summer's night,
yoi yoi, yoiya sa,
they say on a moonlit night
that the singing frogs
wrestle with the shrimp,
while the shorebirds place bets."

"They say a lot of things," Susumu said, draining the last of his cup. "Not all of them true." Mariko offered to fill his cup back up, but he shook his head.

"Like some of the stories you tell, son?" Hisa asked.

Kinjiro nudged him. "Especially the stories you tell to get out of farm work."

There was a wave of laughter about that. "Oh, if Koichi were here, he'd be happy to tell us many such stories."

Masayo hit his drum extra hard, trying to get people to pay attention to him. The motion made him lose balance once again, and he squatted down, which fit pretty well with his next verse anyway.

"Tell me why, oh little frog,
tell me why, you little frog,
yoi yoi, yoiya sa
tell me why oh little frog
you sing loud enough to wake me up
while the shorebirds screech and fly?"

"Birds are worse at dawn," Genjo said, picking up a last bite of food on his chopsticks. He looked at it a long time, then put it down. "Especially if they're roosters."

"Is this your song or mine?" Masayo asked. He put down his drum and leaned back, resting his weight on his hands, and raising an eyebrow as he looked at Genjo. "You could finish it if you'd rather do it, if you can move after all those pickles."

"Yours, yours, cousin," the young farmer said. He looked up at his cousin, hovering somewhere between mellow and irritated. Genjo decided that mellow was much better than getting his mother mad at him for saying something stupid. "Don't mind me. I was just thinking out loud."

"Wait until I tell Shinjiro you think you can think," Masayo said, grinning. Normally that might get a rise out of Genjo, but instead the young man laughed.

"Oh, he'll laugh at that one," Genjo said. "Maybe it's even true."

Pacified, Masayo struggled back to his feet, and began his dance once again. This time, Chime decided to move closer to her husband after making sure no pots were in the dancer's way.

"Tell me why, oh little shrimp,
tell me why, oh little shrimp,
yoi yoi, yoiya sa,
why your back is bent,
why your back is so bent
and the shorebirds circle around?"

"The better to get away from dancers?" Tama, Masayo's sister, said.

"Or," said Ushimi, his mother, "it was the dancers who did it?"

"Not dancers," Masayo said.

"The singing frogs this moonlit night
dressed up like sumo wrestlers this night,
yoi yoi, yoiya sa,
And threw me down on the ground,
and stomped me down on the ground,
while the shorebirds placed their bets."

The young man gave the drum one last tap, and collapsed in a heap.

"I would think it might be foolish to bet on shrimp against frogs," Tameo declared.

"Agreed!" Daitaro said. "I suspect some shrimp might even end up in frog bellies."

While they discussed the song, and Masayo managed to get back into his place with the help of his wife and father, the luck that was swirling around the house wrapped around Kagome as she watched the dance. She suddenly tensed and sat up very straight, looking around the room, not at anybody, but into the corners of the house and the shadows, as if something might be lurking there.

At first, nobody noticed what she was doing, and Daitaro started a long, involved joke about his bull. Uncertain, the young miko gave her husband's hand a hard squeeze.

InuYasha glanced over at her, and sat up straight, seeing how tense she was. "What's wrong?"

"I...I don't know," she said, turning her head to one side, then shaking it, then leaned in close to her husband, speaking just loud enough for him to hear. "I...I felt something. Something strange. I'm not sure . . . "

"You're not feeling sick, are you?" he asked, giving her hand a little squeeze.

"No," she said. "It's not like that." She sucked on her bottom lip. "It felt . . . it felt like . . . almost like there was some youkai around, but not quite."

The men around them laughed at something Daitaro said. "And then Koichi fell flat on his nose and I just knew Okuro was . . . "

The hanyou ignored the old man's story. "Youkai?" he asked, his voice very soft. "You're sure it's just not my brother somewhere nearby?"

"It didn't quite feel like youki," she said. "But almost. And besides, I know what Sesshoumaru's youki feels like."

InuYasha looked around the room thoughtfully, considering what something like a youkai attack might do to the people gathered here. "You want to go see?" he asked. "I'd hate to mess up the dinner, but . . . "

Kagome nodded. "Maybe we could step outside. I might be mistaken. But if there really is something out there . . . "

"I could smell it or hear it better outside than in," he finished. "Maybe even take care of it and nobody would have to know better. I'd hate to disturb them if there's nothing there. Everybody's having such a good time."

"Yeah," Kagome said, nodding. "This has been such an odd day, I wouldn't be surprised by anything that happened." Moving gracefully, she stood up. InuYasha, grabbing his sword, followed.

"Is something wrong, Kagome-chan?" Chime asked, who looked up from the fire she was tending, surprised by their movements. "You look pale, child."

The young miko shook her head. "I...I don't think so, Chime-obasan, but if you don't mind, I'd like to get a breath of air."

"Huh," Daitaro said, stopping his story in midstream as he looked at the two of them carefully. "I thought it would be your husband who'd need to get some air after everything my wife fed him tonight."

InuYasha patted his tummy. "It was a good meal. But Genjo may have eaten more."

"Maybe," Genjo said. "It's a close thing, one way or the other."

"Just don't complain tomorrow," Mariko, picking up some empty dishes, said.

Kagome chuckled and looked up at the hanyou, who, after trying to reassure everybody nothing was seriously wrong, had already moved into high alert. Luckily, most of the people were too busy enjoying themselves to really notice. She whispered to him, "Relax," and taking a deep breath the hanyou nodded.

The young miko padded her husband's arm. "Oh, he can eat an amazing amount," she said. "But I'm sure it's nothing. I just got a little lightheaded. Nothing a little air won't take care of."

Taking his hand, she led her husband outside before he could spook anybody.

Tameo looked at them thoughtfully as the young couple walked out. "I wonder . . . " he said. Shaking his head, he turned and listened to Daitaro tell yet another joke about chasing his bull.