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

Chapter 82

As they walked down the hill and toward the village they passed dry paddies where green barley was growing, later to be harvested before the fields were flooded and the rice planted. Other fields were being plowed or hoed. In one field within view of the road, one man looked up, elbowed his working partner as they passed, and called out a greeting.

Daitaro waved back and sighed. "That's what I ought to be doing," Daitaro muttered. "I hope we get this mess settled at Tameo's today. The apple trees have blossomed. It's time to plant the soybeans. Between taking care of the cattle and the planting, Shinjiro and Hitoshi can't do it all themselves. Chime and the other women won't be much help until after the wedding. I ought to be out there, too."

"What happened to that young man you had at your place?" Miroku asked. "Isn't he helping out?"

"Bah," Daitaro said. "I sent him back to his village. Not worth the feed. Atsushi, they called him. Industrious son. His idea of industry was to go hide in the hay. But even worse, he was afraid of the cows, much less Kuroya. What good is a man to help around my place if he quakes when the cow moos?"

InuYasha snorted. "I heard you judged a man by how he behaved around your bull."

"Why not? Knowing how to behave around an animal like that tells me a whole lot about the inner man," Daitaro said. "And Atsushi's inner man was more like a worm's. Let his own village deal with him." He spit.

A farmer was walking down the road in their direction. He was young, and carried a big bag around his neck and a hoe over his shoulder. He sang as he walked.

"Ah, snow so white,
white like a rabbit,
a rabbit which jumps
jumping a frog
a frog so green
like a leaf in the spring

"In spring I work hard
hard is my - "

Suddenly, he noticed the group of people walking his way and his eyes grew wide. He stopped singing and, he moved to the side of the road, dropping his hoe beside him. As the group passed by, he bowed low, not saying a word. Once they were clearly on the other side of him, he stood back up, reshouldered his hoe, and went on his way to the fields, starting his song all over.

"That's a rather rude song," Kagome said, as she heard the second verse. But something else had InuYasha's attention and he didn't notice what she said.

"What the . . . " He stopped and turned to look at the retreating form of the farmer and shook his head in surprise. "Keiji's never done that before. Bowed as I was passing? In fact, I think he tried as hard as possible to ignore me whenever I saw him before."

"He does more than ignore you," Daitaro said. "Don't know sometimes why Takeshi puts up with him, except he's worked for the family all his life. Not worth much more than Atsushi was. He likes to talk trash, and he talks a lot of trash about people like you and the kitsune kit that hangs around you. I've heard some of the stories he's told over sake."

InuYasha nodded. "I've heard some of the things he's whispered when he thought I couldn't hear," InuYasha said. Kagome rested a hand on his arms and looked up at him, questioningly. "You don't want to know," he told her. He looked back at Daitaro. "So why this now? He acted like we were nobles or something."

Daitaro looked thoughtful for a moment, scratched his head, until he realized the answer and grinned. "Oh, I bet I know why."

Miroku gave him a raised eyebrow. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

"Could be, Houshi-sama," Daitaro said. "It might be a really, really good time for you to recruit for you roofing party."

InuYasha's right ear twitched. "Someone want to explain it to me?"

"You've moved up in status, son," Daitaro said, slapping his arm in a friendly fashion. "The word about what happened yesterday has gone around the village by now. We've never had anybody singled out for a particularly public blessing by our kami, before." He gave the hanyou a grin. "And here Keiji found three of you. Now he's probably worried that the kami's going to get him for being such a baka. And you have the golden glow. I'm kind of surprised he didn't come up and try to touch one of you for good luck."

"Feh," InuYasha said, scowling. "He better not. He'll find out this luck charm bites."

"Don't be surprised if it happens," Daitaro replied. "Some of the villagers really see things in terms of good and bad luck. Never hurts to have the luck gods on your side. Goes as well for you, Houshi-sama, and you too, Kagome-chan."

InuYasha exchanged glances with Kagome and Miroku. The monk grinned and Kagome shrugged.

"I'm sure the Buddha would want me to spread the luck," Miroku said.

"I'd be careful about exploiting it too much," the old man said. "You'll only be golden so long."

InuYasha snorted. "Remember that, Bouzu."

"Let's just get where we're going," Kagome said.

Giving his wife's hand a squeeze, InuYasha nodded and they began walking again.

They neared another outlying house; like their homes, it was not in the main cluster of buildings that made up the village. An older woman doing laundry at the house, stopped hanging up her linens when she spotted them and scurried down the path to meet them.

"Ah, Miko-sama, Houshi-sama," she said. "Kaede-sama said you should be passing by my house this morning. I'm glad I saw you."

"What can I do for you today, Momoe-sama?" Miroku asked in a friendly tone.

The woman wiped her hand on her wrap skirt, fidgeting with the fabric, obviously a bit nervous. She took a deep breath and bowed again. "I would be most honored if one of you would do me the mercy of coming by and saying a blessing at my house. All my family's luck has slipped away, and I can barely sleep at night. Maybe there's some spirit there that you can send away, or at least ask the kami to restore our luck."

Kagome stood there surprised. Daitaro coughed loudly. Miroku, on the other hand, put on his best wise monk face.

"Luck, huh," InuYasha said, crossing his arms.

"Yes, please," the woman said. "Ever since the last rice harvest, it's been one thing after another. Surely there's some evil touching my family."

Miroku returned the bow.

"Ah, Momoe-sama," Miroku said. "We would be happy to. If there is something bad disturbing the peace of your home, we shall send it away. Perhaps this afternoon would be all right? We've got some business to do this morning."

"Oh yes, that would be very kind," Momoe said, smiling.

"Has anything happened?" Miroku asked. "Any word from Shouji-sama?"

Standing up, the woman shook her head. "No, nothing." She sighed. "Once he left, everything went wrong. Perhaps it was the spirit eating our luck who sent him away. Little Shou is a help, and so is his mother, but . . . "

Miroku nodded. "I will come by and chant sutras, and bring an ofuda to help."

"And you, too, Miko-sama, please?" Momoe said, pleading, bowing in Kagome's direction. "Houshi-sama has the ear of Kwannon, I know, but you have the ear of the kami. Everybody told me what happened yesterday, and how the kami protected you from that man. Surely he will listen to your prayers. Would you come and say a word?"

Kagome looked at InuYasha and Miroku, who nodded at her. She took a breath, and bowed. "Yes, yes of course I will."

"Thank you, thank you," said the older woman, obviously relieved. "I am sure you will be blessed for helping this poor woman. Thank you again." And bowing once more, she left.

Daitaro's face contorted as he watched her walk away, but when he was sure she was out of earshot, he doubled over laughing.

"Well," he said, catching his breath. "What did I say about people wanting your luck? At least, Kagome-chan, she didn't try to rub your tummy like if you were a statue of Hotei."

"What . . . what was that about?" Kagome asked, confused as she looked at her companions."Why does she feel unlucky?"

"Ah, that's a sad story. I'm not laughing about that," Daitaro said. His face grew more serious. "Momoe's son ran off last fall. She's not been the same since it happened."

Miroku nodded. "He told his mother he was going to do some work at a village east of here," he said. "But we're not so sure that was true. His father went there to give him his winter things, but nobody had heard of him, or the man who supposedly hired him. He may have made the story up to get away from here. Shouji was an unhappy man."

"He and his wife fought a lot," Daitaro said, nodding. "He would talk to some of the younger men about going off to be a soldier."

"Feh," InuYasha said. " I don't know if it was a soldier he went off to be. I always wondered if he was the reason the bandits attacked last fall. They knew where the village hid the extra rice. Almost got away with it, too."

Daitaro nodded. "There is that. You're not the only person who's wondered."

Kagome shook her head, and sighed. "So she thinks my prayers will do her some good?"

"Maybe not yesterday," Daitaro said. "But she does today."

"I'm not sure I'm going to like that," Kagome said. "It reminds me of when I first came to the village and everybody treated me so . . . I don't know, like something special or holy, because Kaede-obasan said I was Kikyou's reincarnation. It made me feel strange."

"Heh," InuYasha said. "You were strange. From a strange place, wearing strange clothes, doing weird things, like letting a certain hanyou free. I can understand them thinking you're special." His ear flicked. "And then you go away, and come back out of the blue. But me . . . I hope all this settles down fast. It feels weird."

"It does," Kagome said, nodding.

"So," Miroku said, to change the subject."You will be working with us in two days when we reroof the temple, won't you, InuYasha?"

"You think they'll actually let me work?" the hanyou asked, stuffing his hands into his sleeves. "You saw how Keiji acted."

"I will," Daitaro said. "Your back is in better shape than mine. And if Kinjiro shows up, he'll be happy to boss you around, blessing of the kami or not."

Miroku snorted.

"Don't laugh, Bouzu. He'll probably boss you around as well." InuYasha scowled at the monk. "You're not giving me much choice, I see."

"You always have a choice, my friend," the monk said. "Although it is true some choices are better than others."

That one got a laugh from Daitaro. "You might as well show up. You know he's not going to leave any of us alone until he gets that blasted temple done."

Miroku gave a small grin. "Probably not. But you know how I am."

"A schemer, it sounds to me," Daitaro said, "who understands his victims."

That got a grin out of InuYasha.

Miroku just shook his head. "Just think of the good karma."

The fields on the right side of the road gave way to the first houses.

"What's that in front of Kaede's house?" Kagome asked. Kaede and a man were talking in front of something with large wheels.

"Masuo's handcart," InuYasha said.

"Ah," Miroku said. "Good. We got down the hill before Masuo-sama headed out of town."

"Is that the father of those two children who showed up the other day?" Daitaro asked.

"Yeah," InuYasha said. "You know him?"

"I was one of the ones who brought him here for Kaede to heal when he had that run in with the spider youkai," Daitaro said. "He was a damn brave and lucky young man. I didn't realize he was the father of those young ones."

"Keh," InuYasha said, nodding. "I know he wanted to talk to Kaede-babaa before he left town."

"It's been a long time since he was here last," the old farmer said. "After he left, he never had another reason to show up at the village. I've seen him at the market a few times since then, but Kaede-sama, she doesn't get over there very often. It's been years since they've had a chance to talk. " He rubbed the back of his neck. "Not the best day for it, if Haname's still in her house, though."

Kagome took a deep breath when he mentioned Haname, but made herself smile and nod. "Well, it looks like we'll get to say goodby as well."

"So it does," said the old man.