1I do not own InuYasha or any of the characters created by Rumiko Takahashi

Chapter 58

Tameo stood in front of Sango's house, his arms folded and his eyes carefully assessing the situation. His lips pursed together, he stared at the boy kneeling in front of them, trussed up in a heavy rope. He was flanked on by Tsuneo and his son Joben.

"Let Tsuneo-sama hear what you told me," the headman said.

"Ojiisan," the boy said, not meeting his grandfather's eyes. "Please . . . "

Tsuneo ignored him. Keeping his face solemn, but not giving away what he thought, he looked up at Daitaro and Kinjiro. Daitaro was scratching his cow behind the ears, while Kinjiro met Tsuneo's gaze straight on. "So, what happened?"

"I had come here to walk my woman to visit Sango-sama, and was heading up to check up on InuYasha-sama's place," Daitaro said. "You know that he and the monk are off to get rid of the youkai plaguing the village where those children came from."

Tsuneo nodded. His son Joben, standing behind him muttered, "Monk ought to be taking care of his own village."

The older man turned to his son with an angry look. "Be silent. Man should be taking care of his own children." He turned back to Daitaro. "And then?"

Daitaro dropped his hand to the cow's harness."I saw this young one running like all the ghosts at the Bon festival were running after him," Daitaro said. "Someone's been coming over here and doing pranks for the last three or four weeks. The day before, someone ruined my last batch of sake. Knowing he shouldn't be here, and definitely not running like that, I chased after him." The cow lowed, and he turned back to her and gave her head another rub. "Lost him in the woods, but his trail was easy to follow."

"I had gone up to the hanyou's house to work on Kagome-sama's garden," Kinjiro said, jumping into the conversation. Joben spit at the mention of InuYasha, and his father gave him a hard shove. "When I got there, I found Daitaro's cow. As I was leading her back, your grandson there, ran into me, Daitaro-sama fast on his heels."

"So," Tsuneo said, "How do we know it just wasn't your cow getting out on its own?" he asked Daitaro.

"I backtracked. About halfway down, I found Isao-kun knocked out cold and brought him back here so the women could check him out. At the cow pen, I found a vest hooked on the gate," Daitaro said. He held it up. "You recognize it?"

Tsuneo took the garment, opened it up, and ran his hand across the blue and red fabric. "Haname made it."

"So now the question is what do we do with this boy?" Tameo said.

Tsuneo took a deep breath, looked at his son, and then his grandson. "Maybe even more important - what are we going to do when Haname finds out?"

Daitaro lifted the strap to a flask suspended from his shoulder, and unstoppered it, taking a drink, then offered it to the others. "Have a drink," he said. "I told Shinjiro to tell her when he went for you, but to wait until you had time to get up the hill. I suspect she knows by now. I gather we're in for quite a storm."

While the men deliberated, Kagome looked up at the doorway. "Haname?"

Shippou jumped on her shoulder, trying to hide behind her hair. "She doesn't like me," he whispered. "Once, she almost put an ofuda on me, but Miroku stopped her."

"Why?" Kagome said.

"She said I got her laundry dirty after she hung it up. But I swear I didn't. It was her grandson. He hid behind a tub and threw mud clods at it." Shippou dropped his head. "Nobody wanted to believe me, either."

Kagome pulled him in her lap and ruffed his hair. "I'm sorry, Shippou-kun." She watched curiously as Kaede lifted the door mat to reveal the angry face of an older woman.

Haname was no taller than Kaede, and much thinner, but carried as much presence as the old miko. Even in her work clothes of stained brown wrap skirt and faded head-scarf she carried herself with the aura of a woman who expected to be respected . . . or else. And this was one of those "or else" moments.

"It's all your fault, Kaede," Haname said, her voice loud and shrill. "Letting that strumpet of a girl live up the hill with that . . . that . . . thing. I hear she's parading around in miko clothes, too, even while she lives with that silver-haired monster. I'm amazed the kami haven't given us the plague yet."

Kagome could feel her cheeks start to burn and her anger rise. She moved Shippou off of her lap, but before she could stand up and say anything, Kaede stepped outside, and dropped the door mat behind her. Still, she could hear them just as clearly. Her hands clenched, and she had to fight to keep from standing up.

"Is she talking about you and InuYasha?" Shippou asked, his voice still quite soft. "She shouldn't say stuff like that." He tried to stifle a sneeze but couldn't.

"Be quiet, Shippou-kun," Kagome said.

"What do InuYasha-sama and Kagome-sama have to do with what's wrong, Haname?" Kaede asked, working hard to keep her voice a neutral tone.

"If it hadn't been for them, none of this would have happened!"

"What happened?" Kaede said. "InuYasha-sama is with the monk, Haname. I know he didn't do anything that could give anybody any problem today."

"Daitaro caught my grandson at that monster's house and Shinjiro just came by and told me Tameo got my man out of the fields and they all are going up to Daitaro's to decide what to do to him, and it's all your fault. My poor Aki-kun!"

"Don't believe her," Shippou whispered. "He's always doing mean stuff."

"Aki-kun got into trouble up at InuYasha-sama's house?" Kaede asked. "Doing what?"

"I don't know . . . Shinjiro said something about one of Daitaro's cows. And Isao-kun got hurt. I didn't catch it all. But if you hadn't been so adamant about having that youkai stay - "

"Hanyou," Kaede said. "InuYasha-sama is a hanyou. He is half human."

"That doesn't matter," the angry woman said. "If you hadn't convinced Tameo that he ought to have a house here, he would have moved on and none of this would have happened. You know how Aki is. A high-spirited boy. And now what will happen to him?" She paused for a moment. "It does us all no good, having youkai around the village. It's bad luck. Look at what's happening to my family! What will we do?"

"High spirited," Kagome said. "Is that what she calls it? All that work in the garden - Kinjiro's going to be so mad."

"Be calm, Haname," Kaede said. "What's wrong with Isao?"

"He got kicked by the cow, I think," Haname said. "Maybe if he's hurt badly enough, Aki-kun will stop playing with such a wild thing."

"She's lying," Shippou said, and sneezed again. "Isao never gets into trouble when Aki's not around."

Kagome stood up, her fists clasped to her side and started walking to the door, not sure of what she was going to do but knowing she needed to do something, when Kaede stepped back in. She took one glance at the young miko and took her by the shoulders.

"No child, just no," she said, her voice soft and low. "Listen to me. I know what you want to do, to give her a piece of your mind, but now is not the time. Haname is the wife of the man who leads the third most important family in the village. Don't give her the opportunity to make life hard for you. Take a deep breath."

Slowly, Kagome's hands unclenched and she nodded, taking deep breaths as she looked up at the miko. Unable to vent her anger where it belonged, she felt it turning into the need for tears and her eyes grew damp. Kaede sighed.

"I am going to go up to Daitaro-sama's with Haname so I can see if that poor boy needs any help, and we can find out what really happened. Haname's an unhappy woman. Life has made her bitter in many ways, but after her anger dies down, she is usually fair. Right now she's panicked for him and frightened. She'd twist anything you say now into something hurtful."

The younger woman nodded. "But what she said - does she really blame you?"

Kaede shook her head. "She has a biting tongue, and always has," the older woman said, and gave her an encouraging smile. She picked up her bow and her emergency basket. "I'm used to it. Sometimes, I can even pay it no mind." As she moved back toward the door, she told the younger woman, "Put away what you can, and leave the unfinished medicine where it is."

"You think it'll be all right to go to Sango's house?" Kagome asked. "And what about the children? They ought to be coming back from Tameo's soon."

"Why don't you go there yourself?" Kaede suggested. "You're more likely to hear what really happened there anyway. And you can keep an eye on Yume and Hiseo."

"You think there'll be any problem?" Kagome asked.

"Not really," Kaede said, lifting the door mat. "But because Tameo put you under your protection, Tameo's honor is involved here, and the village elders will treat it seriously."

"InuYasha's going to be so upset if they did much damage while he was gone. He's been worried about this." Kagome said.

"Well, let's hope we can get it worked out and taken care of before he gets back," Kaede said. "With luck, it will all work out."

And with that, she left.

Author's note:

Someone said they were having trouble knowing who belonged to whom in the families I've talked about.

This is a list of not quite everybody, but of the most important people I've mentioned so far and who they are related to:

Tameo (village headman) He is Kaede's cousin.

his wife, Hisa

son: Susumu who is married to Emi - they have several children, including Yorime, Suzume, and Aomi

son: Kinjiro who is married to Matsume. Matsume is expecting.

Other families:

Toshiro, one of the village elders and head of the second most important family. He is a widower

Son: Yasuo. Married to Sayo. She is due to give birth in the very near future. They have several children

Takeshi, nephew of Tameo

Daughters: Erime and Tama

Daitaro, cousin of Tameo

Wife: Chime

Son: Shinjiro, who is a widower and soon to marry Erime

Tsuneo, village elder and leader of the 3rd most important family. This family does not like InuYasha being in the village.

Wife: Haname

Son: Joben (married to Akina. Aki and Setsuko are his children.)

Daughter: Chiya (Chiya is married to Michio, who is a cousin of Toshiro's. They have Nori, Masato and Asuka as children)

Other villagers:

Choujiro, one of the poorer villagers, who is not related to any of the three main faimilies. He is married to Yurime, and has a son, Daichi

Daisuke, one of the oldest villagers