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

Chapter 285

Shortly after Shimame described her idea to the group of kami, the kami scattered with their new assignments and moved back into time.

Unaware of the supernatural activity around him, InuYasha lifted his head up from the ground and scowled.

"Damn, where did that asshole get off to this time?" he said. "Didn't think anything bigger than a mouse could run a trail this crazy." He stood up, walked behind a tree, and ran straight into Kazuo-no-kami. The hanyou stumbled to the ground, landing hard on his butt.

He leapt up almost immediately, claws extended in attack mode until he saw who it was. He knitted his eyebrows together and scowled. "What the hells?" he said, lowering his arm. "Where'd you come from?"

The kami, nonplused by the encounter, as if running into a solid wall of hanyou was an everyday occurrence, merely smiled at him. "Oh, I've been hither and yonder, all over the village today."

InuYasha shook out his sleeve, throwing off some dead grass he had picked up when he fell. "Doesn't mean you ought to turn yourself into a wall," the hanyou said. He took a step to get around the kami, but Kazuo moved to block his way. "Get out of the way. I've got to stop a stupid fool before he tries to do any more damage."

"I..." Kazuo rubbed his hat over his head. "I can't let you go quite yet."

"The hells," InuYasha said. He glared at the kami. "What do you mean, you can't let me go? Seiji's out to kill his wife and maybe Miroku and Sango while he's at it." He started to move again, but Kazuo grabbed his sleeve.

"I know all about Seiji and what he's up to," the kami said. "That's why I'm here."

"I should have known," the hanyou said, freeing his garment. "This day's been too damn weird to think it was just human craziness." He scowled even deeper at Kazuo, who returned his look with a sheepish grin. "Besides, I thought you said you weren't supposed to manifest like this."

"Sometimes," the kami said, "important moments call for extra intervention."

"You're not going to let that piece of worthless dirt get away with whatever he's got planned, are you?" InuYasha took a step forward, looking as threatening as he could. It was a look that had disturbed more than one strong youkai, and even discomforted a minor kami or two in his own past. Kazuo, to his credit, did not step back.

He shook his head. "Absolutely not. One day, if you come to the family shrine, and bring some of Daitaro's sake, I'll tell you the whole tale of everything I set up to get rid of that piece of trash." He sighed. "But alas, even I have to answer to higher powers. The land kami - well, she's decided my plan wasn't elaborate enough, and she pulled rank."

InuYasha crossed his arms, still angry, but thinking. His ear twitched. "Sounds like the kami are as bad as humans with their ranks and who's boss."

Kazuo shrugged. "Where do you think people got it from?"

"Dunno," the hanyou said. He shook his head. "Never thought about it. Kami have mostly let me alone or worse."

"Oh, I bet they've been more involved than you can begin to realize," Kazuo replied. He started to rub his head again, saw InuYasha's eyes follow his hand, then he dropped it back into place. "We just don't show our faces very often."

InuYasha let out a short, bitter bark. "Couldn't prove it by me, but whatever. Let me guess. Seiji's wild path through the night was part of your plan?"

"More or less," Kazuo said. "I was hoping you could chase him down to the river. I had a surprise waiting for him there."

"A surprise?" the hanyou asked.

"There's a river being," Kazuo said. "Kami, youkai, it's hard to say. He usually takes the form of a giant catfish."

The hanyou nodded. "I've heard of him. He's supposed to eat the wicked."

"He's rather looking forward to Seiji getting into the water." Kazuo looked towards the river. "But the way things are going, it might be a bit tricky."

"Wouldn't it have been easier if you just let me catch up with him? Or better yet, let the elders take care of him tomorrow?" InuYasha asked. "Tameo had plans, I think, about getting rid of the bastard."

Kazuo manifested his hoe, and leaned on it. "It would have been, but when I looked at the lines of destiny that rippled out of letting you just take his head, whether you did it tonight or tomorrow . . . they were all bad. I told you that I was making a place where you and Kagome-chan could be safe - maybe not all roses, but where you could be at home. The bad feeling that you taking Seiji out would start small - but they would grow, and make my promise fall apart."

"Feh," InuYasha said. "Destiny." He made it sound like a bad word. "You don't think I could take care of Kagome and me?"

"Oh, I'm sure that between the two of you, you'll manage well enough," the farmer kami said. "It's just that I . . . "

InuYasha sighed. "Whatever." He shook his head. "So what's next?"

"We give Shimame-no-kami time to get everything she wants to happen. She's trying to round up a lot of witnesses. If there's one thing a land kami understands, it's ceremony with a crowd of people," Kazuo said. "I'm not sure how much more they understand of humans, but they like crowds. She'll let us know when she's ready."

"The hell with that," InuYasha said, and pushed past Kazuo. As he moved, he ran smack into an invisible wall, which he hit hard enough to throw him back down.

"Sorry, friend," Kazuo said. He reached out a hand to help the hanyou to his feet. "Not my doing."

InuYasha rubbed his forehead. "Me and the land kami - we're going to have words when this is over."

Shimame-no-kami, either unaware of InuYasha's ire or not particularly worried how the hanyou would react to her interference, hovered near the fire near Momoe's house.

The building was totally consumed, and what was left was burning low, but as the flames died down, the crowd who had gathered around it was restless and began to burn hot.

It centered on the cluster of women who had gathered around Momoe.

"Why did he do this to me?" she cried, leaning against the arms of Yaya, Isamu's wife. "All that work. How am I going to clothe my grandson?"

"It'll work out," a calm voice said, resting a hand on the distraught woman's shoulder. Momoe looked up to see Hisa, who had come down from Daitaro's house once the word spread. "We'll make sure you have enough, Momoe-chan. I promise you that."

Tameo, looking at her, nodded, then went back to monitoring the fire.

"They are bonded closely together, are they not?" Shimame said. "I never quite noticed how even across the ko, they are united."

"That is how people live, Shimame-tono," Daikoku said. "It's like a garden. Not every plant is a peony or a willow, but they together make a community, even the little weeds. Much more than we of the August Fields." Seeing Momoe, he hovered behind her and touched her with his hammer. For a moment she glowed. "This child of the earth deserves a run of good luck."

"I say we grab him tonight," Haruo said. Eiji's brother had a streak of black soot across one cheek. "I'm getting tired of Seiji thinking we're just pushovers. How many things are we going to have to put up with from him?"

"How do you know he did it?" Isamu said. "By the time I got here, that's what everybody was saying, but I don't know how we know."

"InuYasha smelled it." Masu pushed back a bit of burning log that was threatening to roll away. He looked up at Isamu and wiped his forehead off, streaking a bit of ash with it. "And you know how good his nose is."

"Who else would have done it?" Furume said, moving next to her father. "If Hisako-obaasan was here, she'd crack that man in the skull with her stick."

"I think I'd help," Denjiro replied.

There was some nervous laughter.

"It's almost the right moment," Daikoku said, looking around him.

"I agree, Daikoku-sama," Shimame said, as she walked through the crowd unseen. "They are very . . . well, you can feel it. It's like a building thunderstorm."

"With a little luck, I suspect we can get half the village up there," the luck kami said. He tapped his hammer, and a stream of light poured out of it. It landed first on Furume. "She's the one who found Maeme. Let's use her to start this fire."

Unaware of the kami watching their actions, Furume looked up at her father and the men around her. Her face grew stricken. "What if Seiji's heading to Houshi-sama's house?"

"Houshi-sama's? Maeme is up there!" Benika, always nosy about what was going on in the village, had come to see what was happening. She clapped her hands to her face. "We need to get up there. That poor woman! She doesn't need this."

Kimi had also joined the party to put out the fire. She looked up from where she had beat an ember down. Daikoku touched her with his hammer. "My parents are there . . . " She dropped the blanket she had been using. "Okaa . . . " she said, then began walking at first, then running up towards the hill.

"That was a good choice," Shimame said, leaning in Daikoku's direction. "I know she is well liked."

"Wait a minute," Haruo, her brother-in-law said. "You can't go by yourself."

In a few minutes, the entire crowd was streaming up the hill.

"You wanted witnesses, Shimame-dono? I think you'll have plenty," Daikoku said.

"Then let's go. I'm sure Yoshio is ready for a change of duty. It's time for my play to begin." Clapping her hands, Shimame gave Daikoku a rather interesting look, and the kami disappeared from sight.

Unaware of the crowd beginning to head up the hill, Kagome was nearing her home.

"I can't believe he just left me," she said. Surprisingly, she was still holding Sango's cat, Chika, and had been since Eiji had handed it to her since the men went to check on the fire near Momoe's house. Even though she absentmindedly petted the cat, her face was agitated.

"I do not like being left behind," she said.

"Obviously," said her companion, Daitaro. The old farmer, after returning from the fire had grabbed his sake jug, his favorite hoe, a long knife and the young miko who had insisted on following the village guard to Miroku's house. "You're a strong-minded woman, Miko-sama. That's good in a miko." His tone was slightly amused, slightly conciliatory.

She stopped walking a second, and raised her lantern. "You know I have fought far more dangerous people than Seiji."

"I remember," Daitaro said. "And how a certain silver-haired man often tried to tell you know and what the result was. Your . . . disagreements . . . were hard do miss."

"I faced Naraku down," she said. "Does he really think I could just sit at your house knowing that . . . that . . . that . . . man was heading towards Sango's house?"

Daitaro nodded, and tried to hide his grin. "Ah, there are moments we men . . . well, my Chime would say, we don't always think ahead." He coughed into his hand when his urge to laugh got too strong. "I was thinking that InuYasha might have started to outgrow that . . . but since my wife says I still do that, maybe it's not so simple."

They reached the verandah of the hanyou's house. "That's . . . that's InuYasha," she said. Kagome moved the cat to her left arm. Chika looked up at the young miko, blinked twice, and made herself comfortable. "I'm sorry, Daitaro-ojiisan. I am talking out of turn. I shouldn't be letting you have to put up with my irritation."

"Sake and a good party loosen the tongue," the old man said, smiling. "Anyway, walking you up here gives me a chance to see what happens."

She gave the old man a smile. "Waiting is hard."

Kagome handed Chika to a surprised Daitaro, and walked into her house. "And making sure young ones don't do something they'll regret is hard work, too, eh, cat?" he said.

The cat mewed, nodding.

"We'll do our best. That's all I can promise." He stroked the cat's back. "I hope that'll be enough for InuYasha. Sometimes women do things just as much without thinking. I don't know who can be more stubborn when they get their minds made up."

At this, the cat washed her paw.

A moment later, Kagome returned with her bow and quiver. "Let's go see what's happening."

"A good idea," Daitaro said, and handing the cat back to the miko, they headed off to Miroku's house.