I do not own InuYasha or any of the characters created by Rumiko Takahashi
As InuYasha and the others in his group walked up to Tameo's office, they could hear a roar of laughter through the doorway, mostly made up of Daitaro's voice sounding rather pleased with itself, although it was joined with Tameo's distinctive chuckle.
Hisa, hearing the laughter, frowned and stopped the group at the door.
"Sounds like Daitaro's sharing the sake," Susumu said, watching his mother's reaction carefully.
"So early, too," Hisa said, adjusting her basket on her hip. She turned to face the group, keeping her face pleasant and friendly, but there was a certain set to her lips that said she wasn't really happy about the turn of things. "Wait here a moment, Kagome-chan, and you, too, InuYasha. I'll go in and let them know you're here. They'll need a moment to get ready."
"Do you want me to go in with you, Okaasan?" Susumu asked. As he looked at the door, another burst of laughter rang out. "You'd think Daitaro would get tired of those same old stories."
Hisa shook her head, giving her son a resigned smile. "I doubt he'll ever change," she said, walking up to the door frame and resting her hand on the well-polished wood. "He's been telling them a long time. Unfortunately, Tameo finds them just as funny as he does. At least they haven't started singing yet. They've probably just started passing the sake around." She slid the door open and walked in, closing it behind her.
Susumu shook his head and chuckled. "I do believe Chichi-ue and the others are in for it now."
"Hisa?" Kagome said, looking at him, quite surprised. "I've never seen her get angry."
"Oh yes. My Haha-ue seems soft and gentle, but she has mastered a certain look," Susumu said, rubbing the back of his neck. "I don't know how she does it, but it makes grown men cringe and turn into small boys who know they've been bad." He gave Kagome a wry grin. "She's used it enough times on me over the years. I'm glad it's not my turn to get it this time."
"I didn't think she could ever give anybody an angry look." Kagome said, unbelieving.
"Oh, I didn't say it was an angry look. But it works very well, nonetheless." He turned to the door, almost touching it, cupped an ear, trying to listen. All of them could hear her soft greeting, and then the voices dropped to a soft murmur.
"She must have given it to them already," InuYasha said, his ears pointing toward the door, not needing any hand to amplify the sound. "I believe Daitaro is apologizing."
Susumu laughed. "Yes, she has that way. I suspect he's giving her a guilty look as he puts the stopper back in his jug. I'm sure she had rice cakes or something like that in her basket, and she'll be putting them on the table to give them something to put in their bellies besides sake, then she'll pour out whatever it was that Chichi-ue brewed and called tea, and will put the kettle on over the fire to make something more drinkable. Everybody, except maybe Toshiro, will be sitting there, feeling like boys caught stealing treats and get suddenly serious, even though she would never raise her voice to them. It's almost like magic."
Kagome laughed, hiding her smile behind her hand. "You know your mother well, I see."
"Oh yes," he said. "I've seen her do this more than once."
"And to you, no doubt," Kagome said.
"She has me down to an art," Susumu said. "I've needed it too often, I fear, over the years. Her power . . . she can even get Kinjiro to stop scowling with that look."
Kagome laughed again.
Miroku leaned towards InuYasha. "Maybe," the monk said, laughing himself, "I should bring her with me this afternoon when I go around asking for volunteers. Nobody would be able to turn me down."
"Feh," InuYasha said, crossing his arms and giving his friend a scowl. "You don't need any help hustling. I've seen you in action too often."
The monk shook his head with an injured air everybody could read through. "So misunderstood. It's only for the good of their souls, you know."
"We know, we know, Houshi-sama," Susumu said. He grinned at InuYasha. "Maybe we need to talk to Joben about putting Houshi-sama in charge of making sure there's enough to take care of that poor man he's saddled with. He'd be good at it."
The hanyou nodded. "It would be good for his soul," he replied.
Miroku put on his professional monk face. "If I am called to do it, that's what will happen."
"But I wonder if he could do it without taking a cut for that temple of his," Susumu said, tilting his head and tapping his chin.
"Keh," InuYasha said. "That's a good question."
"A wise man once said that no snowflake ever falls in the wrong place," Miroku replied.
"What's that supposed to mean?" InuYasha said.
"Just that whatever - "
InuYasha held his hand up, interrupting the monk. "Wait," he, said, his ear twitching. "Someone's coming."
The hanyou turned to his left. Kagome turned and stood along side of him, and the others followed. What they saw coming their way was Kinjiro, scowling even deeper than InuYasha, striding toward them, followed by Tsuneo, somber and long-faced, half-dragging his grandson. Isao, squinting against the light, walked calmly on his other side.
"So, you made it here, cousins," Kinjiro said. "And you too, Houshi-sama? Maybe we can get this over now. This is my second wasted day in a row."
"Haha-ue's here," Susumu said. His glance to his brother was meaningful. "Don't get too close. She'll notice the sake."
His younger brother took a breath, and nodded, trying to work the scowl on his face to something a little less frustrated. "I should have known she'd show up. Something like this is just the type of thing she can't resist." He scratched his forehead. "Still, I bet it'll go better with her here. Daitaro, at least, behaves better when she's around. And Toshiro-sama has always respected her opinion. So why are you all standing out here?"
"She told us to," Susumu said, shrugging.
"Huh," Kinjiro replied, his scowl coming back. "She didn't tell me. I'll go let them know we're all here." Walking to the door and past his brother, Kinjiro slid it open and walked in.
"I'm glad Haha-ue is more tolerant of him than me," Susumu said, shaking his head. "I know what would happen if I did that."
Kagome chewed her bottom lip, trying not to grin. But Tsuneo and InuYasha, though, had ignored most of the talk between Kinjiro and his brother. Instead, they stood there saying nothing, but looked at each other thoughtfully, neither quite ready to speak, nor even sure of what to say.
Picking up on this, Susumu broke the silence first. "Were you waiting long, Tsuneo-sama? I didn't mean for us to take so long to get here," he said, giving the older man a small bow. "Multiple things happened on the way here."
Tsuneo wrapped his arm closely around his reluctant grandson. "Not too long. Sometimes, it's better to have some quiet time before things start to happen."
"I spoke with Haname-sama on the way here, Tsuneo-sama," Kagome said. Somehow she felt a connection to him - so much that had happened yesterday was not his fault, and she knew it. "That is one of the reasons it took us so long to get here. She is doing much better. Kaede-obaasan said she will be well enough to go home later today."
He nodded, and looked at the young miko with relieved, although sad eyes. "Thank you, Miko-sama. That is good to know. I wish . . . " He let his voice drift off, and suddenly, he was merely an old, worried tired man, holding on to a frightened boy.
"I know," Kagome said, nodding.
InuYasha stood next to her, calmly, his face serious but not aggressive as he watched all the interactions, his hands tucked into his sleeves. A soft wind blew, and caused the ends of his long silver hair to dance in the breeze.
Finally, Tsuneo's eyes went back to the hanyou. He swallowed, searching for words.
Aki, who had been staring at InuYasha all this time, began squirming in earnest, trying to break out of his grandfather's hold.
"I know what you did, boy," InuYasha said. "But I'm not going to eat you for it."
Kagome looked up at her husband, and lightly rested her hand on his arm. He turned his head at the touch, saw the uncertainty in her face, and whispered, "It's all right."
She nodded, let her hand drop and stepped back. InuYasha looked forward again and waited.
"You heard me?" Aki asked. His eyes couldn't get any wider.
InuYasha nodded. He flicked an ear. "I have very good hearing. But I'm not going to hurt you."
Tsuneo watched this, then bent over to his grandson, who was pushing closer to his grandfather. "See? All is well."
"But Chichi-ue . . . " Aki whispered.
"Your otousan isn't always right, Aki-kun," Tsuneo said. Something in the older man's look caused the boy to relax his squirming. "No matter what he told you, our family has wronged InuYasha-sama and his wife. Just because he is . . . different doesn't change things. We will do the right thing because it's right. This is just like I had to do when I was a boy. Ume-sama was different, too, but in another way. I did what I had to do and it made me stronger."
Aki, still clinging, swallowed hard, but nodded. "Yes, Ojiisan." He managed to get the words out without a tremble, but his voice was soft.
Tsuneo looked at his grandnephew Isao, who stood there watching his cousin and granduncle, grimacing from his aches, but holding himself up as tall as he could.
"I understand, Ojisan," the boy said.
"Good. Now all three of us, we will act like men," Tsuneo said. He straightened up, took a deep breath, and moved a few steps closer to where InuYasha and the others stood.
InuYasha watched as he pulled the boys forward. The old man bowed low, the bow of a petitioner, or a subservient to a superior. Isao was quick to follow, and after a moment's hesitation, Aki as well. The hanyou watched this, seemingly calm, but the way his ear flicked and the tightness in his shoulders and how he stood told those who knew him a different story. Kagome moved a little closer, almost touching.
"InuYasha-sama," Tsuneo said. "Yesterday was most unfortunate." His voice was rough, as if he were having trouble getting the words out. "Please accept my apologies for the behavior of my family toward your family. I hope you grant me the right to make amends." The older man stood up.
Taking a deep breath, InuYasha gave a short bow in return, then tilted his head, his amber eyes examining the man, seeing nothing insincere about him. "Keh," he said. "Sometimes . . . things we don't want to happen, happen anyway."
"They do, don't they," Miroku said, leaning on his staff. The rings jingled as he shifted. "More often than we would like."
Tsuneo was about to say something else, but the sound of a door being slid open interrupted. Kinjiro poked his head out of the doorway. "Are you all going to stay out here all day? Everybody is waiting on you. I don't know about you, but I have work to get back to."
Susumu, then Miroku began to laugh. Tsuneo started to move his boys forward.
As they passed the hanyou, Aki paused for a moment and looked up at InuYasha. The boy looked up at him with nervous eyes, and sucked his bottom lip for a moment. The hanyou gave him the ghost of a smile and uncrossed his arms.
"You're different than they told me," Aki said, then ran to catch up with his grandfather.
"That was interesting," Susumu said, then followed the older man inside. "Come on, cousins. Time to get this going."
Kagome nodded, and followed behind him. Miroku was about to go in, but InuYasha grabbed his sleeve.
"Wait," the hanyou said.
After the others were in, the monk turned to his friend, who was standing there, staring at his feet. Miroku couldn't quite make out his friend's face. "Are you all right, InuYasha?"
The hanyou shook his head and looked up. His forehead was knotted in thought, his eyes unsure. "All my life, no matter what happened, or who was hurt, I was always the wrong one. It didn't matter what I had done. I was blamed just because of who I am. Humans, youkai, both did it. But now . . . this just feels . . . the way he bowed . . . "
"You're living under village rules now, friend. You're not an outsider anymore," Miroku said. He patted his friend on the shoulder. "I've been trying to tell you that."
"But why?" InuYasha asked.
"The Buddha's favor. Kagome-sama's good influence. Destiny." Miroku shrugged. "Take your pick. It is because it is." The monk tapped his staff on the ground. "Just accept it. I suspect Tsuneo-sama's going to offer to do you a service, too, to get his honor back. You'd better be thinking about something he can do for you."
InuYasha nodded, looking somber, as he took his friend's words in.
Miroku decided he didn't like the look on InuYasha's face. "Now if you want him to help with the temple . . . " he said, with a wicked grin on his face.
Looking up and seeing his friend, InuYasha barked a short laugh and gave the monk a gentle shove. "Get inside, Bouzu. You know you'll have all the help you can use by the end of the day."
Grinning back at his friend, Miroku nodded. Together, they went inside to join the others.