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

Chapter 289

A/N Sorry for the delay. I had a vacation that included my car breaking down, my husband having to go to ER because he dislocated his knee badly enough to need surgery, and being out of cellphone and internet connections. I even lost (but luckily found) my wallet at a rest stop along the way. Not exactly the trip from hell, but definitely an adventure I don't quite want to repeat the same way again. But now we're back on the twice a week schedule.

The kami hovered over the hill, looking at the two groups of people on the ground below.

"Well, you have everybody where you want them, Shimame-no-kami," Daikoku the luck god said. "You will certainly have witnesses."

"As angry as Masu is, we'll be lucky not to have a riot. That idiot Seiji," Yoshio said, pointing, "looks like he's ready to start one, too."

As the kami focused their attention to him, Seiji turned around to watch the crowd moving uphill in his direction. The lantern light bounced off his lacquered helmet and his leg protectors and his arm guards, as it heightening the shadows masking his face. The effect was eerie, like if he were some low ranking warrior night terror, a foot soldier from Hell. Laughing, a dark bitter sound, his voice still hoarse from earlier in the day, he lifted his blade in Masu's direction.

"Think you've got what it takes?" he asked.

"I believe Yoshio is right," Kazuo said. He tugged on his hat, getting ready to rub it across his head, but then caught himself. "If we're not careful, he's going to end up hammered by the whole group." He looked at Shimame. "I thought the idea was to keep blood guilt off the village as a whole."

Shimame waved her fan, and a gentle light passed over the assembly. "There. That should hold them for a bit. I use that magic when there's a festival and too much sake. Maybe it will help keep them from coming to blows until the right moment."

"Handy thing, that," Kazuo said.

"A little luck may be indicated, as well," Daikoku said. "This isn't just sake talking. I know these human reactions better than you, Dono. They pull on me for luck all the time, and I have studied them more."

The land kami gave him a grateful smile as he tapped his hammer and a sparkle of light scattered across the gathered crowd. The luck ran through the men and women gathered, and came to rest at first on the carpenter Choujiro, who was standing near to Masu. He stepped up close to the angry farmer and pulled on his sleeve.

"Be careful, Masu!" Choujiro said. "He's got a sword. We don't want to have your funeral today. Just his."

Masu paused for just a moment. "That scrap of iron against all of us?" He lifted his hoe. "There are a lot more of us than him. Let's show him who ought to be running away."

Several of the men raised their hoes and rakes and other tools in the air in answer. "No more bullying!" someone yelled from the back.

InuYasha took a step forward, but Miroku joined him. "Wait," the monk said. As he stopped the hanyou, Tameo the headman walked up and stood between Masu and Seiji.

"What the hell for?" the hanyou asked.

"This is a village matter. Watch the headman," Miroku replied. "But be ready."

Above them, the kami watched with interest as Miroku moved back to his place with a grumbling InuYasha.

"I have not paid attention much to the monk," Shimame said. "He has a certain . . . odd character . . . about him."

"You could say that," Kazuo replied. "But now, let's keep an eye on Tameo. That great-great- grandson of mine's got guts, I'll give you."

Tameo looked at Masu. "We have better ways of handling people like this, Masu."

Masu lowered his hoe, frowning. "Prove it, Headman. This last year . . . "

He was interrupted by a barking laugh from Seiji, and turned to look at the would-be warrior.

"I thought you were going to wait to play your games tomorrow, Headman," Seiji said. "But I see you joined the rest of them who are trying to interfere with me tonight. I have my rights. I'm here for my wife."

"Rights, heh?" Tameo said, crossing his arms. "I seem to remember other rights being violated. That's why I seem to remember you were sitting in my guest house. You must have wanted to hurry things yourself. So perhaps I should comply as well."

"Your hospitality left room to be desired," the fugitive said. "Especially the company you left me with. Jun and Koichi . . . they seemed rather unhappy with my conversation."

Above the conversation, Yoshio looked at Shimame. "Your magic is wearing thin, Dono. I don't know how much longer you'll be able to keep them from fighting."

The land kami took a deep breath, closed her eyes and waved her fan. "Long enough . . . I hope."

As if proof that the magic was thinning, Masu stepped forward, and the gathered villagers followed. "Shut the hell up, Seiji," he said. "Don't talk to the headman that way."

"You talk a brave game for a retainer, Masu. But we know who you are - Tsuneo's toady," Seiji said. "I don't care how many of them are with you. You're all fools. I'm here for what's mine, and nobody here is going to stop me."

Haruo pushed forward through the crowd to join Masu and Tameo. He also brandished the shovel he was holding. "That's no sword anymore. I've seen it. It's turned into a piece of rust. Look at the belly he's put on him in the time he's been back. He's not the only one here who's fought for one of the warlords." He looked at Susumu standing with Miroku. "And the village guard is here, too. Susumu, Eiji - you're not going to let him get away with this, are you?"

"What do you think?" Susumu yelled back.

"Yeah, look at him," Denjiro said, joining the other men at the front. "About time we taught him a lesson."

"So you've all come out to play," Seiji said, whirling around to look at all his gathered foes. "All the little boys who run when I say boo. I don't have time for you, boys. I have a man's work to do tonight."

"You can't claim what you threw away," InuYasha said. He left Miroku's side and took a step forward.

Seiji turned around and faced the hanyou. Although it wasn't visible to the villagers' eyes, InuYasha could hear the intake of breath the man took, and the deep, nervous swallow that Seiji attempted to hide behind more bravado. Seiji smoothed his anxiety, just visible for a moment, with a face of bravado, and he waved his sword, then took a defensive posture.

"So the monster has come out of its lair, too," Seiji said. "Been slammed to the ground by that little bit Tameo's trying to call a miko? I remember how she kept you on a short string back when you were taking advantage of Kaede-sama. Damn, even the monsters in this village let their women lead them around by their manhood. Or is that your leash she uses on you, Inugami?"

InuYasha barked a laugh and cracked his knuckles. "You must really have a death wish, Seiji," he said. "Haven't you caused enough trouble for one night?" As he spoke, Susumu and Eiji, followed by Miroku and Sango drew closer, forming a half circle around InuYasha.

"I have a wish about death," Seiji said, "But it's not about me."

"You will not touch Maeme-sama," Miroku said, tapping his staff on the ground, making the rings jingle.

"Tell him, Houshi-sama!" Furume, Masu's daughter yelled from the gathered crowd.

"You hear that, Tameo?" Seiji spit. He took a step in Miroku's direction. "You've got a woman-stealer in this village."

"I think . . . " the headman began. He took a deep breath. "No, I know. Maeme would be dead if it hadn't been for Houshi-sama. That gives him certain rights." He tugged on his chin. "If I were you, I'd walk back down the hill and leave. Go away where your shame won't follow you."

"Shame?" Seiji said, turning towards Tameo. "Shame? That worthless piece of woman-flesh you foisted on me deserved every mark on her body. The shame would be if I let some upstart think he can just walk in and take things that don't belong to him." He turned around once again to face Miroku. "Bring me my woman."

"No, Otousan." Sukeo stepped out of the shadows behind InuYasha and the others. "You hurt Haha-ue too many times."

Miroku rested a hand on the boy's shoulder. "Step back, boy."

"You're taking my son, too? You greedy bastard," Seiji said. He glared at his son. "These people aren't your friends. You're my boy. Get your ass over here, Sukeo, if you know what's good for you."

"I think not," Fumio said, stepping up next to him. Sukeo looked at his father and then up at the blacksmith, his face wavering between fear and uncertainty. "You stay here, son. Your otousan doesn't deserve a son like you."

Sukeo nodded.

There was a pop, one only those with spiritual powers could hear. Tameo and Miroku's heads shot up, looking for the source.

"Time for the next scene," Shimame said. "Make sure nobody gets killed." She clapped her hands and disappeared.

As her magic shredded and she moved on to do whatever it was she was planning, Seiji lifted his blade once again, and began to charge the knot of people surrounding his son.

"You assholes," Seiji said. "Give me my boy!"

Before he took three steps, Masu let out a loud cry and with Choujiro, Haruo and Denjiro following closely behind, he leapt at the man, knocking Seiji to the ground.

Seiji's sword flew out of his hand as the villagers piled up on him.

"You're not as tough as you think," Masu said, his knee pinning Seiji's right hand. Denjiro and Choujiro, aided by Haruo and Isamu, had other parts of the would-be warrior under their feet and arms. Eiji pulled out a piece of rope.

Somehow, Seiji lifted his head. "This is your fault, boy," he said, looking at his son. "You should have come when I called. Damn you and damn that trashy piece of ass you call a mother." Sukeo looked white, nearly ready to cry.

"I...I...I..." the boy said.

"You're an asswipe, Seiji," Haruo said, twisting the man's arm behind him. Seiji tried to spit on the man, but couldn't turn his head far enough.

InuYasha walked up, and kicked dust in the man's face. "Shut the hell up. This is nobody's fault but your own." He turned to Sukeo. "And don't you even believe him."

Seiji let out a wordless yell as Eiji tied him up. The boy gave a hesitant nod to the hanyou. Sango walked up, and put her arm around him. "Let's get back to my place."

"But Haha-ue . . . " Sukeo said.

"She's with Kagome," InuYasha said.

Sango looked up at the hanyou and gave him a relieved smile. "Is she? How did you manage that?"

InuYasha shrugged. "Luck, I guess."

"Damn all the miko and all the women in this village," Seiji said. "Every one of them is just a piece of shit."

The taijiya unslung Hiraikotsu and bopped him on the head with one end of the weapon. "That's for Maeme. Not as much as you deserve, but I have other things to deal with." She rested her hand on Sukeo's shoulder. "Let's go check on your okaasan."

Nodding, Sukeo let her lead him away.

As the crowd called out rude words of encouragement, Eiji finished trussing Seiji up. "Hey, Tameo, what do you want to do with this piece of trash? Should we take him back to the lockup?"

Undaunted and even angrier, Seiji lifted his head once more, glaring at the headman."I demand the river challenge!"

From above the villagers, there was a loud victorious cry. Kazuo had his hand on his crumpled hat, but he was grinning like he just had been given a special treat. "Shimame-no-kami pulled it off."

"She has her ways," Yoshio said. He looked at his fellow kami with a smug grin. "You really should stop by and play go with her. It's an interesting experience." He scratched the tip of his nose. "She doesn't like to lose."