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

Chapter 280

Kagome followed InuYasha out of Daitaro's house, holding up the lamp Chime had insisted she take.

"I...I don't feel anything," she said, looking around her. "But . . . "

InuYasha took a few steps forward, his ears twisting about as he listened to the night sound, his posture in high alert as he scented the air. He relaxed. "Smell Daitaro's cattle more than anything else." He grinned at Kagome. "But what?"

"I don't know," she said, shrugging. "Maybe it was the sake. It just feels . . . "

"Too much party?" he asked.

She shook her head, and began to walk down the path to the main route would lead them home or back west to the village, Kagome could hear the sounds of celebration going on. "I don't think so," she said, taking his hand. He gave it a little squeeze.

"Let's go see if anybody's walked up the road that shouldn't be here," he said.

They headed that way, getting a bit further from the noise. As they reached the roadway, InuYasha stopped, looking carefully around him.

"Everybody's been having such a good time," Kagome said, leaning against her husband's arm. "I don't know what I felt, but I hope it was nothing, and I'm just being silly." She looked around into the night and up at the sky. It was full of stars, with no clouds, for a change, and no moonlight to interfere with the view.

"Keh," InuYasha replied. "Better to feel silly than to get snuck up on by something we didn't expect." He knelt down a moment and sniffed at the pathway the way he did when trying to track scent traces, then stood, shrugging before he wrapped an arm around his wife. "I don't smell anything out of the ordinary. Eiji went this way, and I think Fumio and Koume must have brought the boys back."

"Want to walk around the house in case we missed something?" she asked.

"Long as we don't get too close to where they put Shinjiro and Erime. I don't really want to pick up any more of what they're doing than I have to," he said, giving Kagome a sheepish look.

"Uh . . . " Kagome said, coloring slightly and laughing a little. "I forget sometimes how good your senses are. Let's just walk over that way," she said, pointing toward a stand of trees that stood near the east end of the compound. "That ought to be good enough to let you figure out if you can tell if anything's around that ought not to be."

He nodded, and the two began walking in that direction.

"This has been the wildest day," InuYasha said. "Do people always act like this when they get together to celebrate stuff?"

"Ho!" Daitaro's voice boomed from the house. "Are you going to let him get away with that, Hisa-chan?" Loud laughter followed.

Kagome giggled. "They do sometimes, especially if everybody knows each other and are comfortable with their relationship."

"Does . . . does that mean . . . " The hanyou's ear flicked.

"Oh, you're accepted, InuYasha," Kagome said, leaning her head against his shoulder. "I know it's hard for you to accept, but we have been welcomed with open arms. Anybody who would feed you that many pickles really has to like you." She smiled up at him. "I guess this means we belong. And we won't be needing to run off into to woods just to find a place to stay."

He wrapped his arm around her waist. "I guess you're right. It's just . . . just . . . for a long time only you, and then Sango and Miroku really made me feel like I belonged. And now there's a whole house of them. That's going to take some getting used to."

"You had to know that Daitaro and Tameo thought well of you," Kagome said.

"Yeah . . . " he acknowledged. "But thinking well of someone and doing stuff like tonight . . . " He looked down on Kagome. "It's sometimes hard to get my head wrapped around the idea. They treat me like . . . like . . . "

"Like friends treat each other," Kagome said.

"Yeah. And kind of like people who look out for you . . . not exactly like parents, but . . . " He thought for a moment.

"I know what you mean," Kagome said nodding. "My mother's sister, my obasan, she was good about doing that sometimes, especially when I was younger."

"Yeah. Kind of like I am with Kaede-babaa, but not so close." He scratched his head. They had reached the trees on their walk. "Didn't smell any youkai on the way here. A rabbit or two. Some dogs like this spot." He patted one of the trees.

"I'm glad to hear that. I didn't want to have anything like a youkai attack to deal with tonight," she said. "Tomorrow's going to be bad enough."

"Yeah," InuYasha replied. He looked up at the stars. "Bad. But nothing he doesn't deserve."

Back at Tameo's compound, multiple eyes looked at Yoshimi, standing there in the gloom, the lamp he had threw warm highlights and deep shadows on his face, and capturing the eyes of his brother Seiji. While he looked doubtful and afraid, Seiji's eyes glittered, staring back at his brother with a dark intensity.

"Let me out," Seiji said one more time. "I know there's no lock. All you have to do is lift the bar holding the door closed. Hurry, before those fools wake up."

Yoshimi looked back to see Jun and Koichi sleeping soundly on the ground behind him. His hand on the lamp shook, and h took a step back, letting his vision of his brother's eyes fall back into the shadows. He swallowed, and took a deep breath. "You know, I thought today was going to be a pretty good day. I headed out early and went into the woods." His voice was soft and sad, wistful, with more than a touch of self-pity. "But my afternoon's been hell."

"Bah," Seiji said, "you were free to move around at least, while I sweated it out in here."

"It was a pretty day, a bit warm. I chopped some wood early, before it got too hot." Yoshimi scratched his head, then looked back into the shadows in the lockup. "Not the first time you had gotten in a fight and landed here. I really didn't think much about it. There were other things to do."

"Some brother," Seiji muttered. "I know how you spend your time in the woods. I bet you were more worried about meeting up with that piece of ass you visit on your wood chopping trips than what was happening to me. Everybody in the damn village knows why you can spend all day getting a single load of firewood." There was a noise from the lockup, like he was hitting something against the wall. "Why should I have expected any different? Nobody cared about what was happening to me. You, Maeme, that snot of a son of mine who never came back . . . "

Yoshimi ignored the self-pitying tone of his brother, and his eyes flashed. "Don't you talk about Kiyoko that way. We're going to be married after the next ten day." Although he kept his voice low, it was more of a hiss, and outraged. He drew himself up. "She's going to be your sister-in-law. Get used to it, Ani-ue, whether you like it or not."

"You? Marry her?" Seiji's voice rose, and then he began to laugh, a hoarse, raspy sound, not loud enough to disturb the sleeping men, but the cat looked up. Deciding there was more noise than necessary, the animal stood up and wandered off to find a different place to sleep. "Oh, I've heard all the stories about Kiyoko. Won't give a man a son, but likes her pretties. The talk is she worked her last husband to death. You think you're going to be any different?" He coughed, loud and hacking, then spit. "All these women, what good are they? Even the sex isn't worth it. They turn our sons into weaklings and they only think of one thing, what they can get out of a man."

"Shut up," Yoshimi hissed. "You don't know anything about her. And I'll get her farm, too. She's already said she's going to pay off my debts. She chose to do that. More than my own brother did. Maybe I should just go. I hear they're going to let the hanyou have your head tomorrow. Maybe that'd solve all our problems."

"I don't think this is going well," Yoshio said, making the gesture that allowed him to pull the other supernatural people he was with out of time. He looked at Kazuo, his long face concerned and nervous about how the events were taking shape.

Sadayori said, "Wait. You must not have spent a lot of time watching my family." The ghost shook his head. "What am I saying? I know you never spent a lot of time watching my family, or you would know how these two relate."

"How exotic," Shimame said, waving her fan. "You, Sadayori-sama, and your whole family."

Sadayori gave the land kami an exasperated look. "Just wait."

Yoshio shook his head. "I don't know why you just don't let the elders handle this. You know they expect to."

Kazuo gave the other family kami a hard look. "Because Tameo and Toshiro and Tsuneo don't deserve to have to bear the decision of what needs to be done to make things right. Because they'll lean on the hanyou, and he, for all of his battle experience, is peaceable when not attacked, and to spill a villager's blood even in justice is something he'd rather not do. Because Maeme might not get the justice she deserves otherwise." He rubbed his hat back and forth across his head. "Because . . . because . . . "

Daikoku laughed, and patted the kami on his back. "Because this is your style, and you've set it up, right old man?" He looked at Yoshio. "His sense of justice . . . ah . . . "

Shimame tittered. "After what you did to that yamabushi, I think it's clear you missed your calling. You should have been a writer of dramas, not a farmer."

Kazuo shook his head. "Let's get this over with," and clapping his hands, he moved them back into the time stream.

Yoshimi held the lamp up, high enough so he could look into the lockup. "I'm not ruining my life to run off and play bandit with you, Ani-ue. I just . . . just wanted to give you a chance. It seemed like the right thing to do. You are my brother."

Seiji sighed. "Fuck it all. Just let me out. Go to your woman. Live happy farming rice with her. She'll keep your bed warm. Just let me out. I'll go get my things and leave. Maybe head back to Odawara, and see if I can get work with the Daimyo's people. I still know a few people there. They owe me."

His eyes met his brother's. "I promise, if you let me out, that's the last you'll see of me. Just . . . just keep an eye on Sukeo. He's a good kid. Don't let them treat him bad because I'm not there to stand up for him."

"I..." Yoshimi said. "You promise to just go?"

"I promise. It's the last thing you'll have to do for me." Seiji's tone was imploring, soft, hopeful. "Just don't let me die by a youkai's hand."

Yoshimi looked back at the two sleeping guards, then put his lamp on the ground. Reaching for the door, he slid the bar off and opened the door. It squeaked as it swung open, and he turned around to make sure Koichi and Jun were still sound asleep.

As he turned, he had just a moment to see his brother's fist aiming for his head and he crumpled to the ground, a perfect hit much like the one InuYasha had landed on Seiji's chin the day before.

"Fuck you, and any promises I made," Seiji said, kicking his brother once for good measure. "I'm going to get that son of a bitch who has my woman, and make them all pay." He grabbed the lamp. "Oh, they'll pay, all right."

And with that, he headed into the night.