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

Chapter 293

The group of three headed towards Miroku's home.

"It'll only take a few minutes," Kagome told her husband. "I promise not to stay and chat with Sango."

"Feh." the hanyou gave his wife a small grin. "I'll believe that when it happens."

The yard in front of the monk's house was already busy. Sango had set up her wash tub not far from her clothes line, and the girls were playing in the yard. Yusuko was stacking sticks and rocks into something only she understood, and Noriko was busy with her stick doll. Nakao sat under a tree. From time to time, he glanced at the girls.

"Oba!" Noriko said, spotting Kagome first. She stood up and waved her doll at the young miko. That alerted her sister.

"Chichi!" Yusuko said, dropping a rock onto her pile, and running towards her father.

"I was just gone a few minutes, my princess," Miroku said picking her up. "Did you miss me already?"

The little girl, a blue ribbon slightly out of place in her hair, nodded. "Haha said play."

"So you were playing with Nakao?"

Nakao, still showing his bruises, sat under the tree Miroku favored for his meditations. He was rather curled up into himself, although he lifted his head up at the mention of his name.

"Nakao sad," Yusuko said. "He gave me a rock."

"He has a right to be," Miroku said. "As long as he doesn't think he's the cause of it."

"I..." the boy started to say, looking up at the monk, but took a deep breath and looked at his hands instead.

"Let me check you out," Kagome said, walking over to the boy. "How's your head feeling?"

"Doesn't hurt much. I haven't taken any medicine since yesterday afternoon," Nakao said.

She held his chin, briefly to examine his cut. "I do believe you are healing. I'll be sure to tell Kaede-obaasan."

He nodded and gave her a fleeting smile. "I'm more worried about Haha-ue."

"I know," Kagome said. "But you getting better will help her a lot."

"Do you think so?" he asked.

Kagome nodded.

"Each day will get better," Miroku said. "You'll see."

The boy nodded, but there was doubt in his face.

At that moment, Sango stepped outside with her laundry basket. "I thought I heard you out here. And you brought Kagome and InuYasha?"

"He did because I asked him. "Kagome walked up to her friend, with Noriko in tow. "I wanted to check on your guests. How is Maeme-chan this morning?"

"Sleeping for right now," Sango said, moving next to her laundry tub. She tossed a few things in the water. "We gave her the last dose of medicine that Kaede-obaasan left for us. Sukeo is sitting watch with her."

Kagome looked back at where Miroko was squatting next to the boy. "I'll let Kaede-obaachan check out Maeme, then. But Nakao - he's been through so much the last two days." She dropped her voice, so the boy wouldn't hear her. "And then, with what happened to his otou...You don't think he's blaming himself, do you?"

"I'm not sure," Sango said. "I'm not sure. But children will do that. Look at Kohaku."

Kagome sighed. Noriko pulled on Kagome's sleeve and showed her a stick doll. "Play, Oba?"

"Not now, Noriko-chan. I have to go see Kaede-obaachan. But I'll come back this afternoon, I think. I'll tell you a story when I do."

"Dragon girls?" the toddler asked hopefully.

"Maybe," Kagome said, nodding.

Noriko ran back towards her sister. "Dragon girls, dragon girls," she chanted.

"I hope you realize what you're starting," a smiling Sango said, wringing out a small child's kosode. "They really liked that story. They ask me to tell it, but I don't think they think I tell it as well."

Kagome returned the smile, then grew a bit more serious. "I'll tell Kaede-obaasan about Nakao-kun. She might want to look him over. And I wanted to check his injuries before I headed down. That's the biggest reason I stopped by so early." She looked over at her husband who had squatted down next to Miroku. He wasn't saying anything, but his ear twitched. "I think we need to get going."

Just then, a soft, sweet voice called out. "Look at those lovely girls."

Sango and Kagome turned to see Daitaro and Chime walking up to the house.

"You're up earlier than I expected, old man," InuYasha said, standing up. "Last night was pretty busy."

"Too busy to sleep," Daitaro replied. He looked at his wife, a warm look, but teasing. "This one has plans for my morning. I'm her ox today."

Chime, smiling, lightly touched his arm. "Yes you are. It's the day we share the feast food with those who couldn't come. We'll be all over the village before the day is over."

"Feast food? You mean we left some?" InuYasha said. He chuckled and patted his tummy.

"Oh, we fixed more than even you, Genjo-kun and Susumu-sama could eat in one night," the older woman said, smiling.

"We tried," InuYasha replied. "But even I had to give it up."

"And my back will feel the entire weight of it," Daitaro said.

"Part of the price of being a new father-in-law," Chime said, beaming. "And gaining such a lovely daughter."

"Think of it as good karma," Miroku said.

Chime walked over to where Sango and Kagome were standing. "And I thought, Sango-chan, you might could use a little extra with the mouths you'll be feeding today."

At that signal, Daitaro unslung his pack, and Chime looked through the various bundles she had packed, and took out a good-sized bundle.

She took it and gave it to a surprised Sango. "I hope you'll enjoy this as much as we did last night. There's a little something extra there for your sweet girls."

Yusuko took this moment to tug on InuYasha's sleeve. "Inu-oji, up?" The hanyou picked the little girl up, but instead of going for his ears, Yusuko stuck her knuckle in her mouth and looked at Chime. "Chime-obaa stays? She plays!"

"Eh, not today," Daitaro said, returning to his pack. "I've got to take her to other places, too."

She peeked at Daitaro, standing there, with his pack and his hoe that he used as a walking stick and his everyday eboshi hat, and she wasn't quite sure what to make of him. Instead, she hid her face behind InuYasha's silver hair.

"Would you like to come in for a cup of tea? I've got the kettle on." Sango said.

"Oh, I'd love to, but we have too many places to go to today," Chime said, reinforcing what Daitaro had just said. "Maybe I could drop by tomorrow? Next I'm going to see poor Momoe. I'm sure she's still frantic about what happened to her storage building."

"That poor woman," Sango said, nodding. "She's had such a bad run of luck for a while now. Let me know if there's something I can do to help."

Chime nodded. "I will, I will."

Daitaro, with a small sigh, picked up his pack again.

"Heading down the hill now?" Miroku asked. "I'll walk with you."

"That sounds like our signal as well. I really need to check with Kaede-obaasan," Kagome said.

With a final wave, and a pout from the twins, the group headed down the hill.

In another part of the village, another early in the morning meeting was taking place.

Tameo, looking tired and perhaps a touch hung over from the celebrating at the wedding and the aftermath of Seiji's end, sat at his desk in his office. Hisa, not looking any more rested than he did, was tending to the kettle in the alcove behind him.

The sounds that drifted in were remarkably quiet for Tameo's usually lively home, no children playing or complaining, and especially no resentful man in the lockup trying to bully the people who lived there. A handcart squeaked by, heading out to the fields, and one of the workers, probably Koichi, complained as he stepped on a rock. But that was it.

Tameo looked at the faces gathered around him, sitting more or less around the desk in a circle. All older men, mostly graying or gray, all looking at him with patience, but also a little sleepy-eyed from the hour. Hisa moving with a silent grace, put tea and cups and a platter of small cakes on a tray, and began to pass it around. She remained quiet, either lost in her own thoughts or determined to let the men sort things out for themselves, then returned to her seat in the alcove.

"I'm sorry to call you here this early," Tameo said. "But with the events of yesterday..."

Toshiro looked at the teacup resting in the palm of his hand. His face, too, drawn and heavy-eyed, showed his fatigue, but there was no trace of hangover, just concern. "Yesterday was...well, something people will be talking about for a long time. At least we aren't meeting the way I thought we were going to have to, with Hisako-obasan leading a riot."

"With half of my field workers backing her up," Tsuneo said. "The young miko may have healed Haname yesterday morning, but I don't know if she would have been ready for that type of action. I don't know if I've ever seen Masu so angry." He reached out, and took one of the cakes Hisa had placed in easy reach.

"There is that," Tameo said, nodding.

"It's the type of thing that can rip villages up, and bring the eye of the Daimyo's men to fix it," Arimasu, father-in-law of Chiya, said. "When that happens, it's never good, and almost always costs us more in taxes or money." He shuddered. "We might even get stuck with one of those Odawara samurai here as headman."

Tsuneo made a sign against bad luck at the thought. "That's never good for a village," he said, nodding. "Life can get hard, fast, when that happens."

"Luckily for us, then, the kami intervened and we won't have that to deal with," Tameo said. "Seiji is no more, but we still have to decide about what to do with the problems he left us."

There was a knock at the door, and Susumu, also not looking particularly bright-eyed, slid the door open.

"I missed Daitaro-ojisan," Susumu said. "Genjo said he and Chime-obasan are out doing their second day presents."

"We'll catch him up later," Tameo said, nodding. "He'll probably agree with whatever we as a group decide on."

"Takeshi sends word that he'll get here when he can." Susumu shrugged.

There were knowing smiles. Toshiro chuckled. "Marrying off your daughter can make morning meetings a hard thing to face."

"He did enjoy his sake a bit more than usual," Tameo said. "I don't know if it was Daitaro declaring him a lightweight, or just nerves. Or that it was a good time."

"All three, maybe, Chichi-ue," Susumu said. "Akimori was already gone when we got there, but Haruo said he'll see if he can pry him away if you need him," Susumu said.

Tameo nodded. "Not surprised, with all the noise at his house. He really doesn't handle all that noise very well. I owe him a favor."

"And Fumio - " Susumu began.

"And Fumio is here," the smith said, pushing into the room. "Couldn't have kept me away."