I do not own InuYasha or any of the characters created by Rumiko Takahashi
Before InuYasha and Kagome, walking ahead of Miroku and Daitaro, got to the first building in Tameo's compound, Susumu and Joben reached them.
"Ah cousins, Houshi-sama, you're here," Susumu said, bowing his greeting.
A small child walked up as the hanyou and his wife stopped. He looked up with large serious eyes, thumb in his mouth and holding a brightly colored towel in the fingers of his other hand. Suddenly, without a word he turned around and ran towards the other side of the compound.
"What was that about?" Kagome asked.
"Don't you know, cousin?" Susumu said. "You've become quite impressive since yesterday. Little Mikio there must have wanted to see for himself. He doesn't say much, but he's a clever little boy." He scratched the back of his neck. "I suspect he heard about your from his brothers and sisters last night."
Kagome made a face, if not sure she liked that idea. As she looked around the compound, she saw the boy run to a woman hanging up laundry. The woman hugged the boy, picked him up and rested him on her hip and waved at them. A couple of other people were pausing in their work, looking in the group's direction.
"Feh," InuYasha said, picking up on Kagome's discomfort, and deciding to change the subject. "Kagome made an impression? What about yourself? You're getting ready for a battle?" InuYasha asked, pointing out the warrior gear that the younger man was dressed.
"Only with my Otousan and brother if you don't show up," Susumu said, making a mock woeful face.
The hanyou snorted. "No doubt Tameo still packs a wallop."
"You have no idea," Susumu said, rubbing his head. "And just because I'm taller than him doesn't mean he can't reach, either."
Daitaro and Miroku caught up with them. "I've seen what that Otousan can do," the older man said. "Took you long enough to learn how not to get the sense knocked into you."
"True, true," Susumu admitted. "Some of us need lessons repeated more than once."
Miroku laughed. "I know that one."
"A good thing you're just here," Daitaro said. "If you head to Odawara like that, they'll stick you in with the foot soldiers. No telling when you'd get back to your pretty wife. Look what happened to Joben's cousin." He nodded at Joben, who was chewing on his lip as if trying to decide something. "Been a long time since he's left."
Susumu glanced at Joben, waiting for him to say something, and when he didn't, Susumu shrugged.
"Then, cousin, I'll be sure to dress up like one of the merchants on market day," Susumu said. "Or maybe even as Houshi-sama's acolyte. I hear the girls there like monks better than merchants."
Miroku laughed. "Only until they realize merchants have more money than monks."
"Never seemed to stop you finding plenty of girls to talk to," InuYasha said, his voice a soft grumble, but still audible.
"Well, some of us do have that gift," Miroku said. "Am I the fault that so many lovely ladies wanted me to give them the Buddha's blessing?"
"Feh," the hanyou said, and was about to say something else when Joben suddenly bowed towards him.
"My apologies, InuYasha-sama for whatever my son did yesterday," he said with a nervous voice. "And . . . and . . . and whatever unpleasantness happened to your wife yesterday because of my houseguest. Please let me make amends to you."
He stood back up, but seemed more interested in his toes than meeting the hanyou's eyes.
InuYasha glanced at Miroku, who gave him a small shrug. He took a deep breath, not exactly sure what to say."We'll talk about that later,"
Kagome spoke up, breaking through the tension that suddenly hung over the group. "We would have been here sooner," she told Susumu, "But Kaede-obaasan asked me to stop a few minutes."
Joben looked up, and actually met Kagome's eyes this time, then bowed in her direction. "How is my Haha-ue this morning? Akina stayed with Kaede all night, and when I checked she was still sleeping."
"She is doing better," Kagome said, giving him a small smile. "I believe Kaede-obaasan will send her home this afternoon."
"How was she?" Susumu asked. "Yesterday . . . "
"Haname seemed normal to me," Kagome replied. "We had a small talk. She was tired, but not angry."
"Ah," Joben said, relieved. His face relaxed and he almost smiled. "I didn't know what to expect. I know Otousan will be glad to hear that."
"You, too," Kagome said.
He nodded. "Me, too."
"Let's get this meeting over," Susumu said. "If we don't get to the house soon, Kinjiro will come hunting us down. He wasn't in a good mood to start with." He began moving back to the house. "I wouldn't dally much longer. He packs a mean bow."
"He's not the only one," InuYasha said, looking at Kagome. She gave him a big smile.
"Maybe," she replied. "But I need to get to practicing again."
The group began to move to the main house.
In front of Tameo's house, Morio and Mitsuo continued their play under Emi's watchful eye. All of the sticks representing the various monsters they were play fighting had been knocked over, laying on the ground amid the rocks of their play castle like a mighty slaughter. Morio, with a satisfied grin, thumped a couple of small stones over.
He turned to the younger boy. "Let's do another fight!" Morio said. "We've got all the oni's treasure!"
"Yeah," Mitsuo said, knocking one more stone over with his toy horse. "What do we do next?"
"Next," Morio said, thinking a minute. He began sweeping the rocks into a pile, and beginning to heap them up like he was making a hill, "We'll go to the house of the mountain sage. He's supposed to give us . . . " The childlike man knit his brow in confusion. He sat back, and sighed, resting his cheek in his hand. "He's supposed to give us . . . something. What was it? I used to know. Why don't I remember what he gave me? I was there. He put something in my hand."
The tone in the man's voice, confused and frustrated, made Emi look up from her spinning. "Is everything all right, Morio-kun?" she asked.
The boy and the man ignored her. Mitsuo was too busy noticing how his new playmate was upset. He patted the man on the shoulder. "It's all right," he said in the tone small boys use to soothe each other. "I forget stuff, too. We can make something up."
Morio, chewing on his bottom lip, looked at the small boy. "You do? We . . . we can?" he asked, as if this was a totally surprising idea. His voice was very uncertain. "Is that allowed?"
Mitsuo nodded. "Sure. We're just playing." He thought for a moment. "What can we get? A magic sword?" the boy suggested. "InuYasha-sama's sword is magic. It gets real big." The thought got him excited and he got a big grin. "We can have one, too. We'll use it to fight the next monster!"
Morio, still unsure for a minute, slowly began to grin and nodded his head. "Yeah! Let's do it! A magic sword! We'll go to the mountain sage, and give him the king oni's head and he'll give us a magic sword." Suddenly, he tilted his head, and looked confused again. "But what will we fight next?"
"Let's fight a dragon," Mitsuo said. "A bad, evil dragon who stole the Emperor's daughter!"
"Is she beautiful?" Morio asked.
The boy shrugged. "I guess," he said.
"I thought all the daughters of the emperor were supposed to be beautiful," a woman's voice said from behind them.
Morio and Mitsuo turned to see Kagome and InuYasha walking up to them.
"Ah, Kagome-chan, it's good to see you," Emi said. "I'll go tell Haha-ue you're here." She got up and stepped into the house.
Mitsuo, though, looked up at the young miko. "Is that for true?" he asked. "They're all beautiful?" He scratched his head. "Nobody tolded me that."
Kagome nodded. "That's what Haha always told me," she said, bending low, looking at what they were playing for. "All the Emperor's daughters and wives and ladies in waiting are all always beautiful in every story." She grinned at him. "No exceptions."
"Oh," Mitsuo said. For some reason, he frowned at the thought."But they're girls!"
This made Kagome laugh. "Don't you think girls are beautiful?"
He shook his head. "Only Okaasan and Obaasan. The rest is yucky."
This made Kagome laugh.
"Smart boy," InuYasha replied, coming up to stand behind Kagome. Even while he talked to Mitsuo, he was watching Morio, not really paying much attention to the boy.
Morio was watching him back, his eyes widening as he took in InuYasha. He tilted his head to the side, perplexed then clutched the toy horse close to his chest in a nervous gesture. "Why do I think I should know you?" he asked the hanyou. "And why do you have hair like that? You're . . . you . . . you have dog ears!" he said, stuttering. "Like my uncle's dog. He's a big hunting dog with ears just like yours. But . . . do people have dog ears?"
Miroku, hanging back with the other men watched the four interact. "That's Morio? The yamabushi that was staying with you?" he asked Joben.
Joben nodded, and sighed. "That's him. I wish I had never seen his face, but now . . . "
"It was rather amazing to see what happened when the kami showed himself," Susumu said, coming up to Miroku. "Morio never had a chance to get away."
InuYasha's ear flicked, moving in the direction where the men were standing.
That made Morio's eyes grow even wider. "My uncle's dog never liked me," he said, his voice growing less amazed at the novelty of the hanyou, and more soft and guarded. "He always growls when he sees me. I'm scared he's gonna bite me when I go there." He dropped his eyes and focused on his toy. "Why do you have dog ears?"
InuYasha's brows knit together as he looked at Morio, his face nearly as troubled as the confused man. He rested a hand on Kagome's shoulder, ready to move her out of the way if necessary. "I was born this way, but I'm not going to bite you."
"Are you going to growl?" Morio asked, pulling back and making himself small.
"He can, but not if it's going to make you scared," Kagome said. She rested one of her hands on the hand on her shoulder.
"You're sure?" he asked Kagome. "You tried to be nice to me yesterday. You're still nice?"
The miko nodded. "Of course."
"It's all right," Mitsuo said. "That's InuYasha-sama. He's the guy with the magic sword. He's a good guy. He saved us from the bandits last year."
"A good guy?" Morio asked the boy. Mitsuo nodded. "But why does he have hair like that, and ears?"
Mitsuo shrugged. "Cause he was born like that?"
Morio looked around the courtyard, and began to stand up. "Joben-ojisan!"
Joben, who was talking to Daitaro, looked up. "I think we have a problem," he said and hurried toward the house.
Hisa stepped out on the verandah and noticed the situation that was developing. "Why don't you two come into the house? Kagome-chan, I have your robes."
Morio, in panic mode, began to cry as they moved into the house. "Don't let him get me, Joben-ojisan!" he said, running to his caretaker. "There's something weird about him. Why do I think he wants to hurt me?"
Joben wrapped his arms around the confused man. "It's all right, Morio-kun. That's InuYasha-sama. He won't hurt you. He's our friend. You're safe."
Kagome went inside. InuYasha watched for a moment longer as Joben led Morio, still crying, toward the front of the compound.
"Damn," InuYasha said. "What in the hells did that kami do to him?"
"Made sure he'd never pull another stunt like that again," Daitaro said. "From what the kami said, he'd been doing some rotten things for a long time." The old man shook his head. "I'm going to tell the men that it looks like Joben won't be joining us." He walked toward the office.
Miroku walked up the verandah and stood next to InuYasha. "No doubt Kazuo-sama wanted him to be an object lesson, from the look of things."
InuYasha looked once more at the retreating men and shook his head. "Been kinder to kill him," the hanyou said, then went inside to find Kagome.