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

Chapter 281

"Well," Shimame-no-Kami said, standing over the crumpled form of Yoshimi."That surprised me."

"It was a rather lucky punch," Yoshio said, looking at Daikoku. His eyebrows knit together in a suspicious, unapproving glare.

"It was, indeed," said the luck god. "But not one I actually helped out. Sometimes, humans can be . . . well, lucky, all on their own. The heavens don't always cause it." He stepped next to Shimame, then crouched down. "It was lucky for Yoshimi, here, too. I suspect he would have taken a much harder beating. The anger in that man . . . " Daikoku looked up at Kazuo and Sadayori.

"He always was hot-blooded," Sadayori said, looking down at Yoshimi. "I never could figure out why. They said my otousan had a temper, too, but he was never anything like my son. This one, he was more like I was, I think . . . persuadable, and not always good, but never one to go out of his way and hurt someone. Is he going to be all right?"

Kazuo scratched the back of his neck. "Going to have a sore jaw, I suspect. But as mad as Seiji was . . . " He looked up at Daikoku. "I didn't expect him to have quite that much fight left in him."

Shimame waved her fan. "So, now that you've let the cat out of its cage, Kazuo-no-kami, what's the next scene in this play of yours?"

Yoshio closed his eyes a moment. "He's heading towards his house, I believe," the kami said.

"I expect he's going back for his sword." Kazuo tugged on his beard. "I expected him to go back for his weapon, and maybe some ofuda or something- we know even if he's focused on getting his wife back, he'll be thinking about the hanyou as well. We'll want to make sure Maeme and the boys don't fall into his hands. They're surrounded by good people, but a little extra luck wouldn't hurt, either."

"That's easy enough to arrange," Daikoku said. He glowed for a moment. "Consider it done."

Yoshimi groaned.

"It would be good if he was gone before anybody found him here," Sadayori said.

"Don't you think he'll just run and hide?" Shimame bent closer to him. He was getting a bruise from where he had been hit, one to join the multiple other small wounds he had picked up over the day. "He's never impressed me as one with any backbone."

"He's always been a bit weak on that one," Sadayori acknowledged.
"No, he has another role to play in this little drama of mine," Kazuo said. He knelt down, and rested his hand on the young man's forehead. Light engulfed Yoshimi, and he arched up as the magic overwhelmed him.

"All better," Kazuo said, standing back up himself. "You know what to do. Wake up and do it!"

Yoshimi bolted up. "Wha . . . what . . . what have I done?" He got to his feet. "Damn you, Seiji! I . . . I . . . What do I do?" He looked at the two sleeping men. "No, I'm not even going to try. Maybe if . . . "

Shaking his head once, he too headed out into the night.

"Such a flair for the dramatic, Kazuo-no-kami," Shimame said, watching the young man head into the night. "So, what's the next scene?"

"Oh, I think that'll be up on the hill," Kazuo said. "I wonder if Daitaro has any sake left?"

With a quick clap of his hands, they were gone.

"Remind me never to follow a cat again," Eiji said to the small animal in his arms "I swear you must have been following a ghost. No creature could have gone around in such twisted circles as you went."

Chika rubbed her head against his chest, and purred.

"I ought to make you walk home to Sango-chan, cat. But I'm a nice person. Still, if you run away again, I'm going to leave you to the wolves and foxes," he admonished. "I have rounds to make. And my wife, well she promised to heat up a bath for me."

The little calico cat flicked her ear acknowledgment, but she made no other move, nor did she act in the least bit remorseful.

He laughed a little as he walked on.

"Neko, neko,
spotted cat,
can you bring me good luck?
Yoi, yoi, yoiya sa.

"My wife
will give you fish
if you help us prosper,
yoi, yoi, yoiya sa."

Chika cracked an eye at the song Eiji was singing, and rubbed her head against him once more.

"There are more verses than that, little one. You'll want to work for your supper," Eiji said.

"My storeroom
has lots of proud mice
just waiting to play with you
yoi, yoi, yoiya sa.

"Neko, neko,
spotted cat,
you'll live like a lord here,
yoi, yoi, yoiya sa."

The cat let out a soft mrr as he finished, which amused the village guard.

"Sango-chan, though, might have a thing or two to say to me if I ran off with you, my beauty, and I'm not sure who Kimi-chan would be more angry with, me or the monk's wife. So I think I'll just take you home."

The two of them were nearing the hill on the east side of the village, almost past Momoe's house, which, although not on the hill, was the house both closest to the river and the hill and the furthest house on that side of the village. Off in the distance, a dog, maybe at Momoe's started to bark.

"Dogs even out here," Eiji said. "Aren't you glad you're with me? I bet some deer got too close to Momoe's garden. Once he scares her off, he'll quiet down."

"Mrrr," the small cat replied, obviously unconcerned with the barking.

The dog got a little louder. The cat's ear tracked it for a moment, but then it faded. "See?" Eiji said. "All gone."

This got no reaction from the cat he was carrying. But as he neared the turnoff that would take him up the road that led to Daitaro's, Miroku's and InuYasha's houses, he noticed a glow near the fields that shouldn't have been there.

"Now what is that?" he said. "Momoe's otousan wouldn't be burning fields this time of year. And especially this time of night. But what . . . it's too big for a lamp."

He stood there, watching a little longer and the glow grew, turning from just light into leaping flames, and began to take the outline of a building. "What the hells . . . there's nothing out there but that old shack Momoe's ojiisan used to live in. Nobody's lived there for years. Why would it be burning?" He whirled, like he was thinking about returning to the center of the village, but then he stopped, and started running towards Daitaro's house. "Too far away to hit the watch tower and ring the gong. I hope Daitaro and Tameo aren't too drunk to help."
He turned up the path. "Who in the hell would set that old place on fire?"

Up at Miroku's house, the group there was totally unaware of anything happening down at the base of the hill. Things were quite quiet. Miroku's children slept easily on their pallet along one of the walls, and even the adults in the room barely spoke above a murmur.

Sango broke some of that silence, stepping out of the sleeping room as she slid the door to it closed. "Well, Nakao's fast asleep, and so is Maeme," she said, walking back towards the fire pit. "I told Sukeo he could lay down too, any time he wanted, but he'd rather keep watch, I guess."

"Boy's got good instincts," Fumio said. The fire cast warm highlights on his face, which made him look both somber and kindhearted as he stared into the fire. "I'm looking forward to getting him into the smithy once things settle down."

"There's going to be more than one boy who wondered how he managed that," Miroku said.

"Let'em wonder," the old smith replied. "None of them impressed me enough to try them out."

"I remember how you used to chase Eiji away," Koume said. "You let him marry your daughter but not touch any of your hammers."

"Still won't," the smith replied, smiling. It was a fond, but gruff look. "He'd either spoil the metal or break his hand."

Koume just shook her head. "We could take the boys home." She was working on a bit of sewing that Sango had offered her to pass the time, and looked up at the taijiya as she rejoined the circle. "I know it's getting a bit late. I'm sure you two would like a bit of quiet. I'm sure you've barely had time to catch your own breath with everything that happens. It takes quiet to think."

"Besides, Nahoi's looking forward to pampering the boys," Fumio said. He drank a sip of his tea, discovered it had gone cold, sighed, and finished it. "She's taken quite a liking to Maeme's youngest. We've got more room than you, too."

"That's true," Koume said, nodding. "All I need to do is push a few chests out of the way, and I'd have this much room in my weaving room. And we have plenty of room in the main house."

The monk sitting next to the smith shook his head. He was fingering a Buddhist rosary, as if he too needed something for his fingers to do to pass the time. He looked up, his face also somber, even if his eyes seemed a little tired. "No, it's all right," he said as Sango settled down next to him. "We can manage for right now." He glanced back at the sleep room. "Maeme . . . well, the boys seem to calm her down. Maybe she's afraid she'll lose everything when they get too far away. But perhaps, if you want to walk someone home, Kaede-sama might prefer to head home herself?"

The old miko was sitting next to the children's pallet, her head nodding, as she pulled InuYasha's trick of sleeping upright against the wall.

"She might," Sango said. "I tried to get her to let me make her a bed but she wouldn't hear of it. I know it's been a long day for her."

Kaede nodded hard once, then straightened up, and opened her eye. "I...I think, perhaps, I really ought to stay, at least until morning. Maeme-chan might wake up in a few hours, and if she's as confused as last time . . . "

"You could lay down while she does," Miroku said.

The old miko shook her head. "Perhaps . . . perhaps another cup of tea."

Sango nodded. "Tea it is," and she got up to fill her kettle from the water bucket.

"Speaking of days, I wonder who's going to remember today the most - Maeme or Shinjiro?" Miroku said, poking at the fire to prepare it to heat some more water. "They are both starting new parts of their life today."

"Probably Chime," Koume said, threading her needle. "She worked hard to make today special. I hope they're having a good time down there."

"I bet by now Shinjiro is," Miroku said, grinning.

Sango, returning with her water, gave him a small shove.

"Don't wake the children," he replied, grinning. "But you know it's true. And by now, I suspect InuYasha has finally gotten his fill of pickles."

"That I'll believe when InuYasha tells me himself," Sango said, putting the water on the fire.

"Ah, Shinjiro and Erime. I suspect they have indeed had a good time by now if they didn't fall asleep first," Koume said, knotting her thread. "I know I did on my wedding night - fall asleep right after they let us get away."

"I think I fell asleep first," Fumio said. "That was a long day. Somehow, weddings manage to be rather exhausting."

"Exhausting, and with too much sake," the older woman said.

Sango reached for her sewing basket, but as she did so, there was a knock on the door.