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

Chapter 294

Daitaro and Chime took the path to Momoe's house and left the monk and the hanyou and the miko to head into the village.

Things were beginning to stir, with people heading out to work in their fields. A chicken wandered down the middle of the street until a dog spotted it, and chased it, squawking back towards one of the houses. One woman was already hanging laundry up to dry.

Kagome looked up at InuYasha. "Rather peaceful. So, well, normal."

"It does seem that the threatened riot at Tameo's is not happening today," Miroku said. "I am sure the elders will be pleased about that."

"Not much reason for it." InuYasha shrugged. "Kami took care of the problem."

"At least part of it," the monk said. "The immediate threat is over, anyway."

As they passed the steps leading up to the shrine, they were met by a group of boys off to work.

"Good morning, Miko-sama, Houshi-Sama, InuYasha-sama," Akemi, carrying a hoe on one shoulder as he headed off to work gave a little bow. Chikayo and Jiro were with him.

"Not going fishing?" InuYasha asked.

"Alas, not this morning. Chichi-ue's putting me to work on the beans," the boy said. He sighed and looked down at the ground for a moment. "Is it true? What Haha-ue said happened?"

"Is what true?" the hanyou asked.

"That...that Grandfather Catfish showed up last night?"

Jiro punched Akemi lightly on the arm. "You calling my Otousan a liar? He was there and saw everything!"

"No, I just want to hear more about it. It was right near where we go fishing!"

A couple other farmers, Tetsuya with a hoe over his shoulder, and Aito, Jiro's father, who was pushing a cart with straw mulch stopped to listen.

InuYasha's ear flicked at the sound of the cart, as he watched the boys, and a tiny bit of a smile touched his lips. "Yeah, it happened. I was right there watching."

Chikayo looked a little afraid. "Is...is it safe for us to go fishing there? What if..."

"Did you think it was safe yesterday?" InuYasha asked.

"I guess so," Chikayo said. "We've all gone fishing and swimming over there. Nothing ever tried to eat us there but mosquitos."

Jiro nodded. "And black flies."

"Well then, you must not have evil hearts, and Grandfather Catfish isn't interested in you," Miroku said.

"My otousan said it was as big as a whale they caught last year down on the coast," Jiro said, scratching his head. "How can that be?"

"Kami can do things we can't," Kagome said. "Even change their size when they want to impress people."

"You don't think he stays that big all the time?" Jiro said.

"Wouldn't be any fish left to catch if he did," the hanyou said, crossing his arms. "I'll probably go fishing there this afternoon to see if he chased them all off. But I kind of doubt he did."

"Hey Jiro, time to go," his father said, frowning impatiently. "We've got a lot to do."

"Time to work," the boy said, with a sigh. "Maybe I'll get to see if you're right!"

"I can see what's going to be the talk of the village today," Miroku said.

InuYasha shrugged. "Did you expect anything else?"

Kaede had awoken later than normal. She was surprised by the brightness of the sunlight streaming through her window, since she normally arose at the crack of dawn. The first thing she realized was how quiet the building seemed – nobody snoring, or even breathing. As she pulled herself awake, her awareness was confirmed. Rin was not in her usual sleeping place.

"Ah, yes, Rin went with Tazu yesterday. I suspect they're at Fujimi's house this morning," she said, getting out of bed and moving by the fire pit. "Fujime's place was certainly filled with children, although perhaps she ended up at Kimi's once Chiya was moved. No matter, it was better than having her go through what was going on at Houshi-sama's."

She began to stir the coals in the fire pit, getting ready to make a pot of tea, when she realized something else was missing. Turning around to the far side of the room, she saw an empty straw pallet, the quilt and sheet strewn haphazardly. Her patient, Yoshimi, was gone.

"My, my," she said. "I wonder when he got up and left?" She sighed. "Let's hope he at least has some sense and won't be causing trouble for his nephews and sister-in-law today." Putting the water on to boil, she went to make herself presentable.

By the time the tea was ready, she felt the touch of familiar youki. " It must be time to really start the day, I see. InuYasha and Kagome approach." She poured a cup of tea and took her first sip, determined to get at least a little of it down before getting busy, then putting down the cup with a sigh, she walked to the door. Before she stepped outside, she made a soft prayer. "Please, Hazuo-no-kami, don't let this be as an exhausting day as the last few. I don't know how much more this old body can handle."

Unseen by her, a kami sitting on her rafter rubbed his eboshi hat back and forth over his head. "We'll try, Granddaughter. We'll try."

"Well, children, I see you made it down the hill in one piece this morning," Kaede said, letting the door mat fall down behind her.

"We did, indeed," Miroku said. "I came because I was hoping to ask your opinion about something, Kaede-sama. Something about Maeme-sama."

"How's your other patient?" the hanyou asked.

"I'm not sure. He was gone before I woke up," the old miko said. "Which is why I hoped to catch you, InuYasha before someone else claimed your time this morning. I do not know when he left or where he went to, and this might be a matter for the village guard."

He nodded. "I am pretty sure Susumu would want to know."

"Perhaps he went to his own place?" Miroku suggested.

"Perhaps," Kaede said. "He was unconscious during the…final events last night. He might be afraid of what the elders are going to do today. He was rather involved in ways he shouldn't have been. And I doubt he really knows what happened to his brother. Once he finds out..."

"Feh. He deserves something, for letting his brother out last night. Maybe we should let Hisako decide."

Miroku worked hard to stifle a laugh at that, Kagome shook her head. Kaede, on the other hand, merely sighed.

"I leave the judgment to others," the old miko said. "But I do think, InuYasha, that you ought to go to find Susumu or Tameo and let them know. Please tell them now. This old woman hasn't been awake long enough to finish her tea, much less get any breakfast."

He gave the old miko a quick nod of the head. Turning to Kagome he said, "Don't go anywhere until I get back. I don't trust what he might be up to."

Kagome nodded, and he was off.

"Come, Houshi-sama. You can ask my opinion while I drink my tea," Kaede said, and led the monk and Kagome back into her house.

At the headman's compound, Fumio the smith walked into Tameo's office. This morning, he, like Tameo and Toshiro, looked short sleeped, but he had put aside his smith's apron and hammer, and was dressed in clean farmer's garments of indigo and beige, ready to state his piece.

"Good man, showing up this early," Tameo said, nodding his head at the smith. "I was hoping you would. You were right in the middle of things last night, and spent a lot of time with Maeme and the boys. I'd like your insight."

As Fumio made his way into the room, Susumu made a polite bow to the gathered elders. "I'm going to meet with the rest of the guard," he said. "I'm sure Eiji is more than ready to stick me with the club."

"Or brain you with it, and resign after this last ten day," Arimasu said. Toshiro stifled a laugh.

Susumu nodded, with just the wisp of a smile as he grabbed the sliding door. "I'm sure the thought has crossed his mind. It's been a hard ten day."

"Can't say I'd blame him," Fumio said. "I've heard a thing or two from Kimi-chan."

"We'll call you if we need you," Tameo said. "Don't go too far."

He nodded to his father, and slid the door closed.

"Sit down, man" Toshiro said to the smith. "We can use your insight." He patted the mat next to him.

"That's why I'm here," Fumio said, "to fire up the forge here, instead of in my workshop."

He said down next to Toshiro. Hisa got up and brought him a cup of tea. "How are Maeme's boys?" she asked.

"They spent the night up on the hill, with their mother. Kaede-sama thought being together would do them good," Fumio said, accepting the cup. "Seeing how ragged they all looked after the events of the night, I agreed with her. My woman is going to head up there this morning, herself. I suspect Maeme-chan is going to need a lot of support. Sukeo is trying very hard to be the man. I've been impressed. Won't take much to make him everything his father wasn't."

"Such a sad chain of events," Hisa said, leaving the teapot where everybody could reach it. "There's more hot water on the fire if you need a second pot. I'm going to head to the house right now and let you men get to work. I want get some things ready to send to Maeme and Momoe, and then go check on Sayo-chan. I bet Nanami-chan is still not resting enough."

Toushiro gave her a nod, and a touch of a smile. "And you'd be right, Hisa-chan," he said. "I don't think she'll calm down and really rest until Sayo-chan is ready to move back into the main house."

"That sounds like her, but she's not as young as she used to be. It can't be good for her," Hisa said. She walked over to the door, slid it open and stepped out.

While the village elders were meeting in Tameo's office, another meeting was taking place behind it, in the space between the office and the outbuildings, near the path to the family shrine and its garden.

There was a small fire built there, and a kettle of water was heating on it. A stump served as a low table; someone had set up the makings for tea and a platter of cakes, very similar to what the elders had in their meeting. Isao, having been pulled out of bed early, squatted next to the fire and fed it a few bits of wood.

He yawned, loudly.

"It's not that early," Haruo said, leaning against the outbuilding wall, stifling his own yawn with the back of his hand.

"Speak for yourself," Eiji, his twin brother said. "Isao was up late and you're not coming off the night watch at the end of a very wild ten day. We have a right to be not quite awake."

Kinjiro, holding a hoe tapped it on the ground. "Whose idea was it that we all had to be here when we change the lead guard, anyway?"

"Tameo-sama's, I believe, back in the day when he was young enough to be one of the village guards instead of the headman," Ryota said. "If you have a problem with it, you need to take it up with your otousan." He bent over the teapot on the stump, ready to make a pot. "Is the water ready yet, Isao-kun?"

"Not quite," said the boy. He yawned again.

Kinjiro tapped his hoe again.

Masayo, looking worse for wear, stumbled in to the circle.

"You look like crap, Masayo," Ryota noted. "You really didn't have to come."

"Yes, I did. Just ask my okaasan." He squatted down next to the fire. "No tea yet?"

"Not quite, Masayo-sama," Isako said. "Water's not hot enough yet."

"Didn't expect to see you show up this morning," Haruo said, walking over to sit next to the young man. "I heard you had a really good time at Shinjiro's wedding."

"Don't talk so loud," Masayo said, obviously hung over. "It's amazing I'm here at all. It was a wedding banquet to remember. At least I'm pretty sure I remember it."

"Heh," Kinjiro said. "He almost danced himself into the firepit, but the luck gods were with him."

"Bah. I'm surprised you're even standing," Masayo said. "You drank more than me."

Kinjiro shrugged. "Burned it off when we had to run after Seiji and half the village after the dinner."

"Thought we might have to put Masu in the lockup. He was really, really angry," Eiji said. "I would have hated to do it. He had every right to be be angry after what Seiji did during the bandit attack." He rubbed his head over his right eye. "This has to have been one of the worst ten days ever. I am so ready to pass on the baton. Where is Susumu?"

"Chichi-ue grabbed him, I think," Kinjiro said. He kicked a pebble with one sandaled foot. "Went sending him off to collect straggling elders. Hope he gets here soon."

"You're not the only one," Eiji said.

"At least Hisako-obaasan won't be causing a riot," Haruo said. He stood up, walked over to the stump, and took a cake.

Ryota nodded. "At least not at the start of the day. Thank the kami for small favors."

Eiji leaned back on the building. "At this point we could have the riot of the century. At least it won't be on my watch."

"Well, look who's coming, finally," Masayo said. "He doesn't look much better than I feel."

A tired Susumu headed towards the little group of men.

"About time," Eiji said.

Susumu shrugged. "I can't just ignore Chichi-ue when he grabs me."

"He's worried about today?" Haruo asked. "I mean, I would have thought last night ended our biggest problem for today."

"There's always more for a headman to worry about," Susumu said. "Had me running all over the village looking for people to come to his meeting. A couple of them still managed to get away."

"The water's ready," Isao said.

"Finally." Ryota took the kettle from the boy and made the tea.

"So, can we get back to work?" Kinjiro asked. He tapped the hoe he carried on the ground.

"Fine by me," Eiji said. "More than fine." He stepped forward, and took the club of the lead guard out of his obi.

"You're sure you don't want to hold it another day?" Susumu asked.

"After last night, I just want to go to sleep. Your turn."

"You look like you could use it," Ryota said. He poured a cup of tea. "But then, so does Susumu. And Masayo. And Haruo. Even Kinjiro."

"So this is where you are," a new voice said.

The group of young men turned and looked as InuYasha walked up to join them.

Susumu smacked his head. "Good morning, InuYasha. You should have been here. I forgot to tell you. How did you know to come find us?"

"I didn't," InuYasha said. His right ear twitched. "I was looking for you. What's going on?"

"The ten day changing of the guard, if I ever get to do it," Eiji said. "We all get together to witness it for some reason."

"Tameo-sama's fault," Ryota said. "He set up the custom." He poured Masayo a cup of tea, which Masayo took with a nod of thanks. "So why are you here, if you didn't know?"

InuYasha crossed his arms, putting his hands in his sleeves. "Kaede-baaba sent me over. She wanted you to know that Yoshimi left her house before she woke up. She has no idea where he went."

"Not my problem," Eiji said. "Tell Susumu." He stuck the baton in Susumu's obi, yawned, and started walking away. "If you need me, don't come by until after lunch."