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

Chapter 80

Miroku plopped down at his place by the fire pit. "It's been too long a day."

Sango nodded. "I'll agree with that," she said, stirring the soup pot. "The girls wanted to stay up until you got home, but they fell asleep about half an hour ago." She reached for a bowl.

"I'm sorry I missed them. Masuo, the man from Kagemura who came to pick up his kids helped me store what they sent us home with in the storehouse, and then I walked him to Tameo-sama's."

"Are you ready to eat?" Sango asked.

"Almost," he said. He bent away from her, giving her his back while reaching into his robes.

There was a soft mewing, and Sango's head shot up as she froze, ladle suspended above the pot.

"What have you got there?" she asked, trying to peek over her husband's shoulder. There was another mew, and suddenly a curious calico face peered over the monk's shoulder.

"This?" Miroku asked. "Oh, just a pretty little girl who needs a home. She heard rumors there was a kindhearted person who might know a thing or two about cats who lived here."

Sango put down the ladle, and the cat leaped off of Miroku's shoulder and walked up to Sango. She looked up at her with calm, curious green eyes, blinked them once, and began rubbing her head against Sango's knee.

Sango picked her up lifting her high enough to examine. The cat, very patiently, allowed it, and then snuggled up against her after her curiosity was satisfied. Nestling her in the crook of her arm, she stroked the cat, who settled down and began to purr. "A bobtailed cat?"

Miroku nodded. "Her name is Chika."

"How did you end up with her?" Sango asked.

"It's kind of a long story," Miroku said. "Can I have my supper?"

Chika cracked an eye and looked up at her as well. "Mew?"

"A cat," Sango said, scratching Chika behind the ears. "I've missed having a cat around the house ever since I sent Kirara off with Kohaku. I never had just a normal cat before."

Miroku coughed into his hand.

"She's not a normal cat?" Sango put Chika down and picked her ladle back up. "Don't tell me . . . " She gave the cat a probing look and then looked back up at her husband.

"InuYasha bobbed her tail, and Chika was what was left." Miroku picked the cat back up and began stroking the cat's head.

"Are...are you sure she's safe?" Sango asked, looking at her husband, unsure of just how to react. "I know the legend is all the youki of some bakeneko is in their tails, and we've run across that before at the slayer's village, but . . . "

"Do you think I'd want to put my family, our children in any danger?" Miroku asked. "She doesn't have any youki left than I can sense."

Sango chewed on her bottom lip for a moment. "She is a cute thing."

"I thought that since you knew a lot about youkai cats, you might know how to take care of a formerly youkai cat better than most people." Miroku looked up at her, hopeful.

"How do you think she'll behave around the twins?" Sango asked. She began dishing rice up for her husband.

"I guess we'll have to see," Miroku said. "I'm sure she's smart enough to find a place of her own if they're too much for her."

"She seems to have taken a fancy to you," Sango said, putting his rice bowl on his tray. She gave her husband a smile. "Such a sweet young thing. Should I be jealous?"

Miroku encircled his wife's wrist. "Nobody could ever mean more than you to me, Sango my dearest. You know that, not even such a pretty thing as Chika is."

Sango laughed, and pulled her arm free. "Maybe it was a good thing I put fish in the soup," she said. "But I would have added more if I knew I was going to be feeding two." She picked another bowl off her stack, and with her cooking chopsticks fished out some tidbits to put in.

"Save me some," Miroku said.

"Beauty has its price," Sango replied, "but I think there will be enough for the both of you."

"Good, good," he said, as Sango put down a small bowl of food for the cat, who walking up to it, sniffed it, and began to eat.

As Sango handed Miroku his soup, he smiled. "Now, I'm dying to know. What really happened today. Did Haname actually slap Kagome?"

Down the road from where Sango was feeding her husband, Kagome lay pillowed on InuYasha's shoulder as he idly ran fingers through her midnight hair, and her fingers just as idly played along the skin along his chest.

They both looked quite relaxed, but not quite ready for sleep.

InuYasha rolled over on his side, propping his head up on one hand. "So you learned the villagers were talking about you? Sounds like it was more than them talking about me liking pickles."

She leaned back against him. "That one makes me laugh," she said, wrapping his free arm around her. "I found out when I met Daisuke-ojiisan's daughter today."

"Hisako?" he said, snuggling her close.

"Yeah. She was coming out of Tameo-sama's compound when I was going in."

"She's a character," InuYasha said. "Pointed her walking stick at me one day last winter and told me not to let her father chase me off next time I brought him some firewood." He chuckled. "And then she made me take a bowl of sweet dumplings. I thought for a moment she was going to hit me with that stick."

"You bring him firewood?" Kagome asked, surprised.

"Sometimes. He doesn't have the back to do it any more." InuYasha. "Last winter he got the cough, and Kaede-babaa spent a lot of time going there. Some of us made sure he didn't run out of wood."

"I'd heard about him being sick. Kaede's still giving him cough medicine." Kagome laced her fingers into InuYasha's hand. "Today, when I met her, she was telling me about not believing the things Haname and Chiya were saying about us." She looked up at InuYasha. "Did you know they were talking?"

He shook his head. "Nothing in particular, though I'm not surprised," he said. "I haven't really been spending a whole lot of time where I could hear what that hag would be talking about."

The room began to darken as the fire burned low, casting them both in long shadows, with just a touch of red light reflecting off of InuYasha's hair. "Do you want to stay up for a while more? I can put another piece of wood on the fire."

"No, I'm really tired," Kagome said.

He kissed her forehead. "I wouldn't worry too much about Haname's gossip. Most folks are going to be like Hisako. They aren't going to believe stuff that's stupid. Anyway, nobody knows more of the gossip than Miroku. If anybody was saying anything to be worried about, he'd tell us."

This got a small smile out of Kagome. "He's going to find today's gossip pretty . . . interesting."

InuYasha snorted. "I bet. No doubt he's trying to get Sango to tell him every detail right now."

Kagome yawned. "You're probably right. Too bad she missed seeing all the exciting bits."

"Exciting bits, eh?" InuYasha said. "You never did tell me what happened."

"How about I give you the short version tonight?" Kagome said, burying head in InuYasha's shoulder. "I'm really getting tired."

He kissed the top of her head, and rolled on his back, but not relaxing his hold on her. "I guess."

She rested her arm across his chest."Joben's son Aki and his cousin Isao let out one of Daitaro's cows and got caught, and Daitaro got the village elders together to decide on a punishment. Haname got furious when she heard the news. When the men came back to Tameo's with the boys, Haname showed up, and had some sort of breakdown. She slapped me, like I told you, and Susumu and some of the others had to hold her down. I went to the Shrine garden, and Morio was there. He was trying to use magic to break my bond to you, but Shippou jumped him, and I got away." Kagome looked up at InuYasha. "This is the really odd part. Kazuo came out of the shrine, or wherever it is where he spends his time and stopped Morio."

"That doesn't sound really odd," InuYasha said. "We've run into kami before."

"I know. Let me finish," she said. "Kazuo told everybody that Morio had caused Haname's fit; he was trying to stir up extra business by trying to make as many people as possible trying to think the village was cursed because of us. And that he was the reason the bakeneko problem at Yume's village was so bad."

"Bastard," InuYasha said. "I hope Kazuo made him suffer."

"That was the oddest thing of all," Kagome said, sitting up. "He did something that messed with the yamabushi's mind. He took away his reiki, and when Morio came to, he was talking like he was a small boy. He kept asking for his mother. He didn't know where he was, didn't remember anything."

"He's still alive?" InuYasha said. "I thought you told me the kami took care of him."

"He did. Kazuo took away his magic, his intellect and . . . "

"And?" InuYasha said, scowling.

"His manhood, I think," Kagome replied. "Whatever it was, it hurt, and he doubled over when it happened. I've never seen anything like it before. He really became a small boy trapped in a man's body."

"Where is he now?" the hanyou asked.

"I think Joben agreed to be his caretaker." She lay back down. "He's going to have to have a watcher."

InuYasha gave her a hard look. "Are you sure? I don't like that he's still with that troublemaker."

Kagome nodded. "Very sure. Not only did I see it, I could sense he had no spiritual power left. But Kazuo did something else. He announced to everybody that you, me, Miroku, Sango and Shippou all were under his special protection."

"He said that?" InuYasha said. The suspicion in his face melted and was replaced by amazement. He sat up, and looked at Kagome, who was trying to contain a grin. "The kami said we all were under his protection, even me?"

Kagome nodded. "And there were a lot of people there who heard it. Tsuneo, Tameo, and a bunch of people who came running after Shippou made that awful sound."

"Shippou told me about that. He learned it from his uncle," InuYasha said, shaking his head. "Kazuo publicly put me under his protection . . . a village kami telling everybody that he accepts me? That's . . . "

"I imagine, the word's gone all over the village by now," Kagome said, lifting up a hand to rest on her husband's arm.

"Huh. Never been under a kami's protection before," he said. "Wonder what that's going to be like?"

"Don't know," Kagome said, laying back down. "But both Tsuneo and Joben apologized to me, with witnesses. Tsuneo wants to talk to you, too." She yawned. "I think he wants to help get our sheds built. Or something. I think he feels like he owes us because of everything." She yawned again.

InuYasha stretched out beside her, and wrapped his arms around her, and kissed her lightly on the forehead. "Go to sleep, woman."

"Yeah," she murmured, and snuggling up closer, she was soon fast asleep.

InuYasha though, stayed awake a long time, thinking