I do not own InuYasha or any of the characters created by Rumiko Takahashi
A/N - This chapter marks the one year anniversary since I started posting A Tale of Ever After (First chapter was posted December 2, 2011 on FF). Thank you everybody who's been reading! I appreciate your coming along with me as I share this vision of life after the Jewel Quest for our two friends. I hope you will continue to enjoy it!
The route InuYasha took away from the battle site led them out of the pines. He was following a clearly marked, if narrow trail, some animal route going steeply up the side of a rise that was more rock and grass than forest.
"Is this where you were planning to bring me?" Kagome asked.
"One of the places I was thinking about, yes," he said, making a leap that had them bouncing across a short, stubby tree and onto the top of the ridge. He paused for a moment. "It's really isolated and away from everything. What do you think?"
Down below them was another mountain meadow. This one had no waterfall proper, but there was a spring bubbling out from the rock face, lined by moss and stone, and smelling lightly of minerals even from where they stood on the ridge. At the far end of the meadow, there was a gentle slope which led to a place where the trees began again and headed down the hillside.
"There's a good stream down in the valley," InuYasha said. "You can't see it here because of the trees. It's usually a good place to fish. We're a long way from the nearest village. Not even any hermits or yamabushi live near here. Or at least there weren't any nearby the last time I came through."
"It looks lovely," Kagome said.
He began half walking, half hopping down a fairly rough ridge. There were the occasional shrub or bit of grass, but it was mostly jagged and rocky.
"I can see why nobody comes here," Kagome said.
"It's easier from the stream side, but yeah, you really have to want to be here - it's hard for humans to reach, no matter which route you take. Birds, a few deer, rabbits . . . maybe a wild pig. I've never seen much else up here," the hanyou said.
As he leapt from boulder to outcropping, heading almost straight down, Kagome hugged his neck tightly.
"You're not scared, are you?" he asked, already knowing the answer. His hands held her to him securely.
"With you, never," she replied.
InuYasha hopped down the final bit of rock and landed in the meadow. It looked different once they reached the bottom. To the right forest covered the vista, following the landscape as it continued to rise. In front of them was the slope that led to the stream below. To the left, the spring shimmered. As InuYasha stopped and let Kagome slide off his back, she could hear almost nothing - the wind in the pines, the faintest sound of the water below. Somewhere a bird sang, announcing its presence, but that was it.
"Solitude," she said.
"Yeah," InuYasha said, wrapping his arm around her. "Kind of miss it sometimes down in the village. It never really gets quiet there, at least not to me."
Looking straight ahead, Kagome took in a view that made her throat catch. Hill after hill rose in the distance, some barren, some covered with greenery, but from where they stood, nowhere could she see sign of village or farmed field.
"It's amazing," she said. "What is this place?"
InuYasha put his arm around Kagome. "Don't know the name of it. I don't know if it even has a name, except maybe whatever the local kami call it. Unlike the guy back home, they don't make a habit of showing up to talk to me, so I never found out. Me, I just call it good. I come here sometimes just to think."
"I don't blame you," she said, walking around in a circle, looking up at the rock face they had come down and back at the vista in front of them. "Standing here, it'd be easy to believe you were the only person alive."
"Yeah. I don't think we have to worry about anybody bugging us here." He walked behind her and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her closer. "Your quiver's in the way."
She slung the strap across her head, and let it drop to the ground and pulled off the carry cloth. "I can fix that. Better?"
His hands snugged her close. "Much better."
They stood like that for a few minutes, looking at the view, looking at each other. InuYasha brushed his lips across hers and nuzzled the side of her neck, and Kagome could feel herself relaxing against him as his hands began to explore more than her waist. After a moment, he sighed.
"I better check to make sure nothing's going to sneak up on us. Two surprises in one day is more than I want. This place might be hard for humans to get to, but youkai are another story." He dropped his hands and stepped away from her, but not far.
"We'll need some firewood," she said. "Want to walk me to the trees over there so I can get started?"
He nodded. "Don't go in very far, all right? Not until I get back"
Kagome picked her bow and quiver back up, slipping them over her head. "Right."
They walked to the edge of the trees, and as InuYasha dashed off, she found enough deadwood to build a little fire, and headed back to near the spring.
Dropping the wood at a site she thought would make a good camp, Kagome picked up her carry cloth from where she had left it earlier, then walked around picking up some rocks. Passing a small tree standing near one of the pines, she started singing:
"In the center of the field
a little plum tree stands
a little plum tree stands,
in the center of the field
a little plum tree stands
do not take it lightly.
"Yo, pine tree,
standing so tall
standing so tall -
Yo, pine tree,
standing so tall
don't take the plum tree lightly."
She stood up and looked at the tree one more time, and picked up a rock at its feet."I promise not to take you lightly, little tree," the miko said, bowing, and then feeling silly, she hurried back to her campsite.
Humming the tune to her song softly to herself, she continued to work, making a fire ring with the rocks, and breaking the wood into usable pieces. Opening her carry cloth, she took out her tinderbox, and with just a little clumsiness, she managed to get the flint and steel to spark, and the sparks catch on a piece of tinder fungus. It didn't take long for her to blow it up into a real fire.
"Not bad, if I say so myself," Kagome said, feeding the little flame small bits of wood. "Only the third time, and the first time without InuYasha looking over my shoulder." She looked around. "Where is he, anyway?"
Shrugging, she took out a small jar she had been sure to bring with her, and turned it, examining it. "Looks like that made it here in one piece."
"What do you have there?"
Kagome looked up into her husband's eyes. "Oh, a surprise."
"Yeah?" InuYasha plopped down next to her. "What is it?"
She quickly recovered the container. "You'll find out . . . but not yet."
The hanyou chuckled. "I see you got the fire going. I told you that you could do it."
Kagome nodded. "That must mean I'm not just a helpless girl anymore." She smiled up at him. "What took you so long?"
"Never thought you were helpless, woman," InuYasha replied, smiling back. "I've seen you in action too many times. I know better." He held up a good sized fish. "Thought we might like some dinner."
"It looks delicious," Kagome said. "But I'm not ready to eat yet."
"If you're not ready to eat, how come you're not in the spring yet?" he said, laying the fish on the grass. "I expected you to be shoulder deep in water by now."
"Thought I'd wait for you," she replied, giving InuYasha a sultry smile. "More fun with the both of us."
It was a look that made him take a deep breath. "So what are you waiting for now?"
Kagome stood up, saw the fire in his eyes, and reached for her obi. "Nothing. But stay away from that jar."
"Why? Is it better than a bath with you?" he said, eyebrows arched as he began doing the same.
"You might think so," she replied, dropping her hakama, which she draped over the items that were in her carry cloth. Her chihaya soon followed. She looked over her shoulder. "Coming?"
He reached for the ties of his own clothes. "Couldn't keep me away."
As they walked to the spring he looked back over his shoulder, curious about what she might have brought. Kagome, shedding her kosode, noticed him and laughed. "Me or it?" She tugged on his hand.
Dropping his own kosode, he watched her bare form slip into the water. "Whatever you brought, it'd have to be pretty good to be better than this," he said. "Pretty good indeed."
"You can tell me later," she said, eyeing him as well as he stood there nude in the sunlight.
He grinned, and strutted into the water.
The water was hot, but not too hot for InuYasha's tastes. They scrubbed each other's hair, getting the last bit of detritus out, then just enjoyed the warmth.
"I wish my clothes cleaned themselves the way yours do, " Kagome said, bobbing in the water. "I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to wash my chihaya before we go. No way it could have stayed clean in that rain of bits."
"He did blow up really well," InuYasha said, nodding. "Dumb oni."
She moved over to sit next to him on a submerged rock. "You didn't have to fight him, you know. We had time to get away."
He pulled her close. "He'd have just kept wandering until he found someone who couldn't fight him back. Didn't want to give him the chance. That place looks isolated, but it's not too far from one of the main roads."
"You looked like you were enjoying yourself." She wrapped a bit of his silver hair around a finger and watched it unwind when she let go.
"Uh . . . " InuYasha said, looking at her hand. "Maybe it was something I actually knew how to do, and that felt good."
She looked up at him. "Easier than dealing with Aki?"
He chuckled. "Way more. I'd rather dodge oni clubs all day rather than try to figure out how to make a kid like him behave."
She joined in his laugh. "I bet you're not the only one in the village who shares that attitude."
He stared away into the water. "I just . . . " Shaking his head, he looked at her. "I thought we came here to get away from the village."
Kagome reached up and kissed his cheek. "So we did. Got anything in mind to take our minds off things?"
His eyes flashed and he gave her a cocky smirk. "Oh, I can think of a thing or two."
"Yeah? Like what?"
Suddenly, his arms were around her and he lifted her up out of the water. "You could tell me what you brought in that jar you didn't want me to see."
"Nope, not yet." She wrapped her arms around his neck as he began walking to the shore. "That's for dinner."
"Ah," he said. "It better not be sake."
That made her laugh. "I promise. It's not sake."
InuYasha let her down and she picked up her kosode. "I wish I had brought a towel," she said. "I didn't realize I'd be taking a bath."
"We'll dry," he said. "Nobody's around for miles. You don't even have to put on your kosode yet."
"But what if I get cold?" she asked, deciding to carry the garment rather than wear it.
"Oh," he said, his amber eyes filled with amusement and appreciation for the woman in front of him, "I suspect I can think of a thing or two."
She gave him a knowing look. "And we'd have to take a bath again, right?"
"Be worth it," he said, pulling her close. A drop of water ran down his bangs and landed on her chest.
"Maybe you should go shake off your hair. But make sure you do it away from the fire. I don't need a shower after just getting soaked." He chuckled as she walked over to the fire, stirred it and added some more wood. Picking up her hakama, she grabbed the carry cloth and wrapped it around her hair to wring some of the water off.
As he walked a safe distance away, he caught her looking at him and how her eyes drifted to more than just his face. Laughing, he bent over and shook off.