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

Chapter 46

InuYasha, seeing Miroku walking up to the house, lifted up his water bucket and motioned towards the stream before heading that way. Miroku, returning his nod, followed him to the water's edge, a stone-lined bank where InuYasha had cleared off the weeds to make it easy to use. The hanyou got down on one knee, and laid the wooden bucket on its side to fill up.

"I was wondering when you'd show up," the hanyou said, looking over his shoulder at the monk. "But you're here sooner than I expected."

"Didn't interrupt anything, did I?" Miroku said, a small curious smile on his face.

InuYasha's ear swerved as a bird landed in a tree overhanging the water nearby. He turned back to the stream. "Just my lunch."

Miroku leaned on his staff, watching the hanyou watch his water bucket."I'm heading home for lunch myself. Maybe there'll be something besides cold rice when I get there."

"Nobody's stopping you," InuYasha said. After the monk made no move to leave, InuYasha stood up. "How'd things go with the man from Hiseo's village?"

"Quite well, actually," Miroku said. "He's very pleased we've agreed to go. I learned some more about what's been happening."

"Yeah?" InuYasha said. A leaf floated down the stream heading towards the bucket, and he bent over to flick it out of the way.

"Hiseo-kun was a good witness," Miroku said. "Ryou-sama didn't add much more. There are about three or four other people showing symptoms like Yume-chan, although she seems to be the worst off."

"Three more sick? Cat's been active," InuYasha said.

"It sounds like it," Miroku said, nodding. "But Ryou-sama was in a hurry to go home. Perhaps," he said, looking directly at InuYasha, "with youkai problems in his own village, he was nervous to know there are people like you that live here. It's a good thing Shippou's not here right now. I'm not sure how he would have reacted to seeing a kitsune, no matter how young the kitsune is."

"Couldn't blame him if he did react bad," InuYasha said. The bucket being full, he lifted it out and set it on the grass to drip off before he carried it home. "Kitsune are . . . well, kitsune."

Miroku chuckled. "We talked while I escorted him down the road for a time, then I headed back here. Thought I'd stop and check with you before I went."

InuYasha looked at his bucket, and decided it had dripped enough. He bent over and picked it up. "I guess it was a good thing Hiseo's father sent him here."

"That was the Buddha's blessing," the monk said. "They probably should have sent for us two weeks ago."

InuYasha nodded and started walking back to the house. "Maybe they heard you were expensive. After what you charged them that last extermination . . . word gets around."

"Heh, funny, friend. You saw how well off the manor was and how not as well the nearby village was doing. It was karma," Miroku said, leaning on his staff. "I doubt, in this case, if we would have wanted to charge the village any more than that the person they hired first. And we would have made them happy. We, at least, get results."

Miroku began to follow InuYasha toward the house. "Besides, Ryou-sama seems quite relieved to know we're coming. No doubt part of it is knowing he'll be home for dinner at his own house, but I got the impression the villagers were upset when the headman brought in the yamabushi and nothing good happened." He followed his friend back. "I think he might have been doing some relative a favor, but Ryou-sama didn't exactly say. Still, I don't suspect we'll make anything on this job, but it needs to be done."

"Feh," InuYasha said. "Too many crooks and cons in the exorcist business. Pretending to chase away youkai, pretending there are youkai to chase away. And too many people willing to believe whatever they say." He gave his friend a telling look. "This is what happens when there's a real problem."

Miroku laughed. "Don't lump me with those fakers. I'll have you know I always made sure the house had a proper blessing and left protective sutra behind. Ofuda that worked." The monk shook his head. "It was a fair trade, and it got them good karma. More than I can say for other people."

"Keh," InuYasha said, ready to change the subject. After all, he had benefitted from his friend's method more than once. "We'll want to get an early start," He stopped in front of his door. "Rather catch a bakeneko by daylight. They can be nasty at night."

"Don't I remember," the monk said. "I'm hoping we'll be on our way home before sunset."

"You and me both. I'm not ready to leave Kagome out here alone." InuYasha set the bucket down next to the front door of his house. " I still don't know if I trust all the villagers, even with Tameo keeping an eye on things."

"Have her come over to my house after she's through with Kaede tomorrow," Miroku said, reaching into his robes. He pulled out a small cloth-covered bundle. "You can pick her up there, and she won't have to stay alone at all."

"Yeah, good idea," InuYasha said. "I'll talk to her about it."

Miroku handled the bundle to InuYasha. "Sango sent this for Kagome. I forgot to give it to her with all the excitement about Yume-chan. She wasn't sure if Kagome would come over this afternoon. I think it's something to do with their sewing sessions."

InuYasha nodded, took the bundle, and picked up the bucket. "I'm not sure what she's planning to do, but I'll give it to her. You better get home and let your woman know what's going on. Don't think she'll like it if you spring it on her tomorrow morning."

"True, true. Sango really doesn't like it when I don't let her know what's happening." He turned towards the way home. "But it might be nice if Kagome could come over. Sango sometimes starts fussing over me, wanting to know if I need this or that. I'm sure she'd really rather be going, but with the children. And I really need to prepare for tomorrow. If Kagome's there, it'd be easier for me to get ready."

InuYasha nodded. "I'll tell her."

"See you in a while, then. Go eat your lunch." Miroku turned and left.

Lifting the door mat, InuYasha walked inside. The house smelled invitingly of food.

Kagome sat in front of the low table she used for kitchen work, and was slicing pickles. She looked up as he entered. "Did Miroku leave already?" she asked as InuYasha carried the water bucket to its place.

"Yeah, he stopped by on his way home, but he's gone now." He walked over and sat down at his place by the fire pit and pulled the bundle Miroku had given him out of his jacket. "He told me to give you this. Sango sent it over."

She wiped her hand on a towel and took it from him, and ran her hand across the blue wrap cloth."Did he tell you why Sango sent it over?"

"He didn't know. Said he thought it might be sewing stuff." He reached over Kagome's shoulder and picked up a slice of pickle. She covered the pickles with a towel, and gave him a look.

"Wait. You'll get your fair share," she said. "But I want some, too." Ignoring his pout, she unfastened the bundle and lifted up rectangles of cloth. "Ah, she got it cut out. The girls woke up too soon the last time I was there for us to get it done."

"What is it?" he asked, looking at the lengths of cloth, and then at their food trays already loaded with onigiri and soup.

"It's going to be a new kosode," she said, folding it back up. "For you, if you stop stealing my pickles. But I won't start on it until I go see her next."

"For me?" he asked, honestly surprised.

She nodded, putting pickles on his tray. "You need another one." Kagome handed him his food tray.

"But what about you?" he asked. "I thought I got that cloth for you."

"You did, but I think you need it more. That's what wives do, you know," she said, smiling at him. "They take care of everyone in their family. That, and give away extra pickles when the time is right at lunch." She reached out and put two more pickle slices on his plate, and then moved her tray in front of her, and popped a pickle into her mouth. "Plus, I already have two under kosode. I'll just make another one after I get through with yours."

He picked up one of the onigiri and began eating. "Maybe you're right about the kosode," he said. "Branch on the tree today snagged my sleeve and it got a rip."

"You'll need to let me look at it after we eat, and I'll see if I can fix it," Kagome said, drinking her soup. "If it's really bad, though, I might need Sango's help."

Nodding, he continued to eat. Neither spoke for a few minutes.

Kagome frowned, then reached over and touched InuYasha's arm."You're not upset that I wanted to make you a shirt out of that fabric, are you?"

He shook his head as he picked up his soup cup. "No. Just surprised. I was thinking. You can work on it tomorrow while we're gone," he said. "You ought to stay at Sango's until I get back."

"That's probably what I'll do," she said. "I suspect she'll enjoy having a hand with the kids with Miroku gone."

"Yeah. This is the first time we've gone out when she's had three to take care of. You might be right," InuYasha said, eating his last pickle slice. "The twins can be a handful, even without the baby."

"So I've noticed. And that was with me and Rin helping." She got up, and put her dishes into a wash bowl, then turned back to her husband. "You're finished?"

He nodded, and as she reached for his tray, he wrapped his hand around her wrist Kagome looked up at him. His right ear twitched, and he took a deep breath. "You could stay at Kaede's, too, if you'd rather. Promise me. Don't stay here alone."

Kagome set the tray back down. "InuYasha?"

He looked down at her hand and let go. "I just . . . I just don't know what some of the people here who don't like us . . . what they might do if they know you're here by yourself. By now, everybody in the village knows Miroku and I are going out of town."

She moved the tray, and moved next to him. "But you and Miroku have left me before, back on Market Day."

"Yeah, we did," he said, and wrapped an arm around her. "But Tameo had people up here. No way someone would have done anything. And you weren't being trained by Kaede yet, and wearing these clothes." InuYasha pulled her close and brushed the pad of his thumb across her cheek. "I hate it when I can't protect you myself."

"I could go with you, if it'd make you feel better," Kagome said, reaching up to cup his cheek

"I wish, but now's not the time," he said. "You have your training with Kaede, and she's got one sick kid and Sayo ready to drop any time now. You need to stay here. I just don't want anything happening to you."

She leaned up and kissed him lightly. "If it worries you that much," she said, "I promise. Now let me wash these dishes and you take off your jacket so I can see what the tree did to your kosode." Pouring water in the wash basin, she gave him a little smile.

"Poor kosode's going to have a battle scar," he said, unfastening the ties to his jacket.

"That's what happens when you get into fights with dead trees," Kagome said, washing out a soup bowl. "Was it a hard battle?" she asked.

"Not really" he said, shrugging out of the red garment. "Caught me off guard while I wasn't looking."

"Some dead trees are that way," she said. "Just sneaky."

"Feh," he replied. "But I won the fight.