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

Chapter 308

Kagome groaned as InuYasha cradled her.

The men in Daitaro's yard stared and the hanyou and his burden for a moment, suspended somewhere between surprised and shocked before they started moving to surround the two.

Shinjiro was the first to pull himself together, seeing the worry and a touch of fear in InuYasha's eyes. "Kaede went up the hill maybe half a hour ago," he said. "Just before I came out to see what was going on. "Do you want to lay her down here? I know Haha nor Chichi would mind."

"Home. Take me home," Kagome said. Her voice was barely above a whisper.

InuYasha looked down at the young woman in his arms, his ears lowering at his reaction to her distress. "I'll get you home. It won't be long, Kagome. Once Kaede gets a look at you, she'll figure out what's wrong and give you some medicine."

InuYasha shook his head. "Thanks, but you heard her. She wants to go home," the hanyou said. "She's got a monster of a headache. It'll be quieter. That'll help more."

"What happened?" Kinjiro asked. He tapped his hoe.

"She was helping Miroku purify Seiji's house. Purification worked, but it left her like this. Now I just need someone to go get Kaede for me. Don't want to leave her alone." His ear flicked. "I just stopped long enough to ask. I know there's a real crowd up with Sango. She doesn't need that."

"I told Haruo that I'd keep watch in case that stupid Yoshimi tried to come up the hill," Genjo said, "but maybe this one," nodding his head at his brother "would let him be peeled away long enough to go."

Before Shinjiro could reply, Choujiro stepped up. "I'll go," he said, giving the sick miko a fond look. "Might as well go pack up my tools while I'm at it. I'm sure you're not going to be wanting to hear me work until she feels better."

"Thanks." And with a quick nod of his head, the hanyou started back up the hill.

"Now that's not how I expected today to go," Kinjiro said. "I better go tell my okaasan. She'll be giving me more than that look of hers if I don't." He patted Aki on the head. "Be good for Daitaro-sama, boy." He looked up at the two brothers. "And you two, treat him right. He's grown up some in these last few days." Turning around, he walked off. "Maybe some day, I'll get to get back to my work."

The three grownups and the boy watched him walk off.

Aki tugged on Choujiro's sleeve. "Can I go with you, Choujiro-ojisan? I can help you put your tools up."

Choujiro looked at the brothers. "Don't ask me, son. You need to ask Shinjiro. He's the oldest brother, and is in charge while his father's away."

"You hear that, Genjo. Respect your elders." Shinjiro said.

His brother rolled his eyes.

"Go ahead, Aki, but remember Kagome-sama is feeling sick." He looked up at Choujiro. Make sure he gets back here before you head to home, and he finds one of us before you head home."

"Of course," the woodworker said. "Let's go, boy. We don't want to keep Kagome-sama waiting any more than she has to."

The two walked off.

"So now what," Genjo asked.

"I'm going to go work on those weeds," Shinjiro said, "Until my lovely wife calls me for lunch. Pretty soon, I suspect Hisa-obasan and who knows who else will be coming up the hill to check on Kagome-chan. You can wait and watch for them if you want. I'm going to get some work done."

Shaking his head, Genjo went to follow him.

While InuYasha headed up the hill, in the forest where the kami watched, Kiyoko put down the basket she was carrying, and slipped a finger gently under his chin. "What happened to you? Your kosode is ripped, and what happened to your face?"

Reluctantly Yoshimi looked up. His chin was bruised. The side of his face was bruised and the eye around it was starting to blacken. He had a long scratch along the cheek on the other side of his face. He winced as he straightened up like the side of his body was battered as well.

Her eyes were concerned, taking in all his injuries. His eyes met hers, marked with grief, and fear, and even embarrassment. "My..." he said, then swallowed. "Anii-ue went crazy yesterday. It was a rough day after I left you."

She took his hand, and laced her fingers in his. "I can see," she said, nodding.

He swallowed hard and coughed. Kiyoko reached into her basket and pulled out a flask of water. Nodding his thanks, he unstoppered it and took a drink, and handed it back. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. "It was such an awful day."

"What happened?"

"He got drunk and pushed a miko down, and the village guard arrested him. My sister-in-law tried to kill herself. He escaped and went to kill the man who rescued her. He beat me up and knocked me out when I tried to talk sense to him."

"Where is he?" Kiyoko asked. She took out a cloth and wet it with some of the water, and daubed at his face, but he grabbed her hand.

"Such drama," Miyoko said, fanning herself. "It's like the plays they put on in Izumo during the Tenth Month. I always enjoyed watching those."

"You should check with Benzaiten when you go to the August Fields, cousin. Sometimes she has excellent dramas at her place," Shimame said, fanning herself. Her voice held just a trace of superiority. "Speak to Daikokuten or Bishamon. They'll tell you when she's getting ready to put one on."

"Does she? Now that's something I will have to investigate. How is Daikokuten these days? I heard you had an...interesting time with him yesterday." Miyoko gave her a knowing smile, with the slightest touch of cattiness. "He simply adores us land kami..."

"Let's watch this drama unfurl," said the family kami to Miyoko's right side. With a nod, she turned her attention back to the humans below them.

"Don't waste your energy on a piece of trash like me," Yoshimi said. "I'm sure they're going to drag me to the headman. Probably kick me out of the village."

"Oh, he loves his self pity," Yoshio muttered.

"Hush," Shimame said. "Let it play out."

"I'll waste what I want," Kiyoko said. She started cleaning his injured face once again.

For the first time, he caught the flash of determination in her eyes that she was known for in her village. In some way, he found it comforting. He was always more of a follower than a leader.

"Ah," Miyoko turned to her entourage. "See, Kiyoko is full of fire! I told you none of the available men in the village would do. She needs to be the strong one."

One of her kami lowered his head and found his toes quite interesting.

"So what happened?" she asked.

"One of the guys who was there said he jumped into the river. I don't know if he's drowned or run off. I wasn't there to see."

Kiyoko held the cloth in her hands for a moment, thinking, her eyes furrowed, while she considered. Suddenly, she stood up. "Come home with me. Now. You don't need to go through any of this."

"But, but..." he said. "Your mourning period's not up yet. What will your headman say?"

"The headman will be delighted," Miyoko said.

"Are you sure?" Shimame asked.

"Oh, he was far more worried about Kiyoko's farm making its rice quota than anything else. Plus, he's trying to stop two of the families from causing a feud. He doesn't want any more headaches. He'll be absolutely happy he doesn't have to worry about that any more." The kami beamed at the events unfolding.

Kiyoko continued reassuring Yoshimi. "He won't say anything. There's a small house, a house for a farmworker near the main house. I'll put you there until the tenday is over. You can stay there and get better."

Yoshimi looked truly surprised by this offer. "Are...are you sure?" he asked. "You want to bring someone with my luck home with you? There'll be talk about what happened here."

"So? If we have to, we'll give you another name. I'm not letting you get away. You don't even need to stop by your house. I have everything you could need – clothes, tools, food, and a warm bed."

He wrapped his arms around her, but winced when he pulled her close. "I don't deserve you."

"No you don't," Shimame muttered. "But do you deserve what your future is going to be?"

"Oh, there will be a lot for you to do to make it up to me. Shall we go?"

Nodding, and thankful to not face the village guard or even his nephews, he let her lead him away.

"Thank you, thank you," Miyoko said as Kiyoko lead Yoshimi away from the clearing and out of the village's care. "Perhaps one day, we too will be able to return a favor."

And with a quick whisk of her fan, she and her entourage were gone.

Shimame sighed, then turned to the three family kami in front of her. "Now, no more chaos for a while, please. I'm going to the August Fields and visit a special onsen I know about. If any of you create a need for my intervention before I come back, I will send Fugen and Bishamon after you."

Opening and closing her fan, she was gone.

Hitoshi looked at Kazuo. "Do you think you can stay out of trouble for a while?"

Kazuo rubbed his hat back and forth a few times, looked thoughtfully off into the distance. "We'll see," he said, then tapping his hoe, he too was gone.

In the yard in front of Miroku's house the women sat contentedly sewing in the yard, Nakao, no longer active in role of babysitter, now had become the catsitter as Chika, Sango's cat had claimed his lap. The cat was doing a good job of distracting him from some of his darker thoughts as she purred to his touch. One of the twins had curled into Yaya's lap, and had fallen asleep, and her sister was curled up on a quilt next to Sango. Hisako had put down her share of the sewing and was busy amusing Sango's baby boy with her fingertips.

"Woo, woo, woo...here comes the butterfly!" she said, dancing her fingers in a zigzag in the air, until she gently poked him over his tummy, which caused the little boy to giggle.

Sango looked up from her stitching and smiled. "You have a way with little boys, Hisako-obaasan," she said.

Hisako looked up and smiled at the Taijiya. "I've had a lot of practice over the years. My own children, and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, too." Naoya grabbed her finger while she talked. "You get a bit of practice with all those little ones. Now if my otou was as easy to amuse..."

"I think you amuse him plenty," Koume said, looking up from her needlework. "I just don't think you're amused by what amuses him."

The old woman gave a barking laugh. "You're probably right about that. But then, two can play at that little game, and I do."

The door to the house opened up, and Kaede, looking rather tired stepped out alone.

"How...how is Maeme?" Koume asked, sticking her needle into the cloth she was sewing.

The old miko walked over to Sango, but looked back at the smith's wife. "I gave her some more medicine, and I suspect she'll sleep a while. I think she was more than soul sick from how her man was treating her. Between being battered and bruised, I suspect it's been a long time since she got enough rest. Her aura looks better today. Not right, but better." She handed Sango some packets of herbs. "Try to get her to drink at least two more cups of this today."

Sango took the packets from her and patted the mat next to her. "Come sit down. I've made a fresh pot of tea."

"Tea sounds lovely right now." Kaede beamed a smile at Sango and got ready to sit down.

"I'm sorry, Miko-sama," a man's voice said, which stopped her before she could sit. "But I've been sent to fetch you."

All eyes, but especially Kaede's one eye turned towards him.

"Is there a problem, Choujiro-sama?"

"It's the young miko. She needs your help."

Kaede sighed deeply. "That's enough. You can tell me on the way there." She picked up her basket and joined him.