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

Chapter 126

The group followed Hisa further into the room. "Kagome-chan, come and sit near Emi, and you, too, Sango," she said. "Come and meet Akiko, Fujime, Koume. Sora is still home with a sick child, so she won't be joining us today, and Sayo - I don't think Toshiro will let her out of the house until after the baby's born. Matsume will be here in a few minutes. She was making some treats, and it took a little longer than she thought."

"Erime," said Akiko, a woman about thirty. She put down her sewing for the moment and looked at the girl, her face marked with a welcoming smile and just a touch of mischief. "So, are you ready to join the grownups? I hope so, since you're about to be thrust into their ranks in two days."

Erime giggled and blushed, but nodded. "I think so. I hope so. Are you ready to have me sit with you, Akiko-obasan?"

"Maybe. But now you're a grownup. Are you still going to call me obasan?" Akiko said, making a place for her at her side.

"Probably, Obasan," the younger woman said, laughing as she sat down next to her.

Akiko chuckled and patted the girl's hand. "Is your mother coming?"

Erime sighed. "No, not this time. She said she was too busy getting the last bits of things done. I told Haha-ue she ought to take a break. She could sew just as well here or at home, but she says she always talks too much when she does."

Akiko, and the others near them laughed. "Oh, she knows herself too well. She does love to talk, and she's right - she ever has been good at using a needle and talking at the same time. Still, it's good you're here. What are you working on?"

The young girl blushed a bit, and pulled out some cloth out of her basket that was obviously in a fabric choice for a man, browns with yellow woven in a striped pattern. "I'm making . . . a kosode."

"Ah," Fujime said. A good twenty years older than Akiko, she smiled and nodded approvingly at Erime as she reached over and ran her fingers across the fabric. "I bet we know who it's for. Did you weave it?"

The girl nodded her head.

"Nicely done," she said. "My Haha-ue always told me a woman who can weave the cloth on her man's back is worth twice the price."

This caused Erime to blush a little deeper.

"Okaa," Akiko said, "we can't tease her too much. She might burst into flames."

Erime blushed even redder, but the laughter around her was happy laughter, and she smiled at the women she was sitting with.

Chime settled down next to her daughter-in-law to be, and with Mariko on her other side. Mariko unslung her baby and sat him in her lap as she settled down.

"Jinichi's getting so big!" Emi said as she walked over to them with a teapot in hand. "He's going to be able to wrestle his otousan soon."

"He already tries," Mariko said, picking up the teacup that Emi had filled for her. She turned to Erime. "Don't mind all the teasing." Lifting the cup deftly out of her little boy's reach, she managed to take a sip of the tea. "They did the same thing to me the first time I came. It must mean they're happy for you."

Erime smiled at her soon-to-be sister-in-law. "Akiko-obasan always did like to tease me."

"And everybody else," Chime said, pulling out her own sewing.

"Learn to be like your mother-in-law," Fujime said, cutting a length of thread. "She can talk as well as sew. And sometimes jab a bit without ever touching the tip of her needle."

As the women laughed, Hisa had Kagome and Sango sit between her and Emi's place.

"I'm glad you made it, Sango," Emi said, walking back with her teapot as Sango unstrapped Naoya from her back.

"Thank you for asking me," Sango said. Reaching into her basket, Sango pulled out a cloth to lay the boy on. For the moment he was wide awake and looked around at the gathered room with bright eyes. "I never . . . "

"Bah," Hisa said, interrupting. "You're always welcome here."

There were several nods around the room in agreement.

Fujime smiled as Naoya gurgled and stuck his fingers in his mouth. "My, my. He looks just like his father," she said, looking up at Sango. "I bet he's going to be just as much of a charmer when he grows up. What is he, a month younger than Jinichi?"

"About that," Sango said. "He's a sweet boy. Maybe he won't be quite so bad as his father, though," she said, brushing a finger through his fine baby hair, smiling. "My husband was never much around girls growing up. Naoya, well, he'll know what it's like to have a couple of sisters to keep an eye on." She patted him on the tummy. Naoya gurgled appreciatively, then tried to put his toes in his mouth.

"And, no doubt, they'll be keeping an eye on him. At least while they're younger," Emi said, threading her needle. "I know how that one goes. Poor Mitsuo, with two sisters watching everything he does, and a younger one to steal his toys."

Hisa, who was making another pot of tea, laughed. "You make that sound like it's a bad thing to have big sisters."

"Not at Mitsuo's age," Emi said. "Yorime and Suzume help so much. We'll have to see how it goes when he gets older. They aren't going to like it when he starts pulling brother rank on them and expects them to actually listen."

"Somehow or other, I suspect he might get a bit disappointed in that," Hisa said.

Kagome smiling as she watched the women banter, leaned toward Sango. "Tell me why I was nervous about coming here?"

Sango smiled. "You weren't the only one."

Nodding, the young miko took out her sewing and spread the kosode across her lap. As she started to thread her needle, though, Fujime gave her a careful look.

"And you, Kagome-sama," the older woman said, pulling her thread through the dark-blue fabric she was working on, "when will we be hearing news of your firstborn?"

Freezing for a moment, one hand on the needle, the other on the tail of thread she was pulling through it, the young miko blushed.

Sango started to chuckle just a bit. "Maybe you spoke too soon?"

Wide-eyed, Kagome looked at her friend, then across the room to Fujime. "I...I've just been married two weeks," she managed to say. "I haven't even thought about that yet." Ducking her head back down to hide her reddened cheeks, she concentrated her needle.

"And you call me a tease, Okaasan," Akiko said, nudging her mother. "Newlyweds, they have other things they're thinking about besides babies."

This made the other married women laugh.

"Hush," Chime said. "You're going to make Kagome-chan turn far too red and Erime, too." Pulling her needle through a length of dark cloth, she shook her head. "Give them some time to enjoy their husbands first."

Fujime turned the fabric in her lap to get a better angle for her next bit of stitching. "Ah, I remember those days. But it's what newlyweds think about that lead to babies, isn't that right, Hisa?"

There was some more laughter, and Kagome began to sew furiously. Trying hard not to laugh at her friend's reaction, Sango watching Naoya finally go to sleep, pulled out her own work.

Hisa took the kettle off the fire, and poured it carefully into her teapot. "Not just newlyweds, Fujime-chan. Otherwise, how would you have gotten such a full house?"

"True, true," she said, looking wistful. "My husband and I, we had fun back in those days. Akimori was such good looking man. Haruo really looks a lot like his otousan when we were that age." She sighed.

"He's still a good-looking man," Emi said. "Just more dignified." She reached over to a tray set in front of her and grabbed a rice cake.

"You mean he has grayer hair and a bigger paunch." She sighed. "But he's not quite as frisky as he once was," Fujime said, with a touch of regret in her voice. "He was so frisky in those days."

Akiko looked up at her mother, and shook her head. "Okaasan, I'm not sure I'm ready to hear about that" She cut the thread on the seam she was sewing. "In fact, I'm not sure if I'll ever be quite ready."

Her mother smiled."Your turn will come, Akiko," she said knowingly. "Enjoy your husband while you can."

Hisa decided it was time to change the subject and lifted up her teapot. "More tea, anybody? And we have some good cakes. Teruko made them. She said she was going to try to get by later."

"Haruo must have made her run late again," Fujime said. "That boy's always late. I'm really surprised some days she hasn't run back to her father's house."

"And Eiji is always too early," Chime said. "You've told me that yourself."

"And I," Akiko said, "am always right on time. How did you manage that, Okaasan?"

"Talent," Hisa said, taking a bite of one of the rice cakes. "Fujime-chan has excellent talents."

While Fujime laughed at Hisa's comment, Emi went around with the tea and cakes. While she was serving, Koume, who had been watching all the banter, put down her sewing for a moment while Emi poured her a cup of tea.

"So, Miko-sama," she said, picking up her tea cup and balancing it in the palm of her hand, "You've managed to bring quite a bit of excitement to our quiet little village the last few days."

Kagome looked up, not exactly sure of how to take those works. Koume, a little older than Fujime, was the wife of the village smith. She smiled pleasantly at the young miko, but her eyes didn't quite match her lips.

"I don't know if it was Kagome-chan who actually caused most of the excitement," Sango said, looking up from the blue fabric she was working on.

"True," Koume said. "But it certainly seemed to revolve around her and her . . . husband. A married miko. Sometimes, I don't quite know what to think of Kaede's ideas."

Sango raised an eyebrow at the hesitation in Koume's voice over the word husband. She looked at Kagome, who took a deep breath and was searching for the right words to say, and rested her hand on her friend's hand.

"InuYasha-sama is certainly not the blame for whatever craziness people put in their own heads," Hisa said. "And it wasn't just Kaede's idea to take Kagome as her apprentice. My husband and the other elders discussed it as well." She picked up her own sewing. "Plus, we all know that Kagome-chan has the gift. So why not? And the kami certainly approve."

Koume pursed her lips, but gave Hisa a nod. "There is that." She looked at Kagome again. "I'm sorry. I'm just an old woman set in her ways. But are you happy? Leaving home and having so much go on so quickly?"

"Yes," Kagome said, her posture relaxing a bit, and she managed to put on a smile. "I had wanted to come back for a long time, but I had to deal with a family obligation. It would have been nicer if the last few days hadn't had so much drama . . . "

"Drama. That's a good word. Like our little village was caught up in a play," Fujime said. "We're really not used to that. It has been rather . . . " She paused for a moment, tapping her chin. "What's the right word? Interesting? Unexpected?" She laughed, but not in an unfriendly way. "Anyway, it'll all give us something to talk about in the next few weeks, I'm sure."

"Indeed," Hisa said, taking a rice cake off the tray in front of her. She offered the tray to Kagome, who shook her head. "I think, though, once the dust all settles, it will all work out for the good."

"It already is working for the good, if you ask me," Hisako said, leaning on her cane as she walked into the house

"Ah, Hisako-sama, how good for you to join us!" Hisa said, stand up to help the older woman to her seat next to her and not far from Sango. "How is your father doing today?"

"Better, better," she said, settling down and resting her walking stick along side of her. "He actually took his medicine and ate enough today. He evidently wanted to impress our little miko-sama this morning when Kaede made her rounds." She gave Kagome a nod. "And he did what he was supposed to. It was nice for a change."

She looked across the room, "But you, Koume - you haven't been by all month. Did Otousan say something rude again?"

For some reason this made the woman laugh, "Oh, Hisako-chan, when doesn't he say something rude?"

Hisako laughed as well. "The day he stops is the day we know he's ready to pass on. So what have you being doing with yourself?"

"Dyeing. I'll have a lot ready for the next market day," Koume said. "Come by and see it. And you too, Miko-sama. My sister-in-law, she makes the prettiest cloth."

Kagome nodded, and smiled, a bit surprised at the invitation after Koume's original comments. "I will."

"Anybody that can get old Daisuke-sama to take his medicine is someone worth having in our village. Maybe a little excitement is worth it, if you ask me," Hisako said. "Emi-chan, could you bring me one of your mother's rice cakes?"

A/N This will probably be handy:

Some of the Villagers in A Tale of Ever After

Tameo (village headman) He is Kaede's cousin.

his wife, Hisa

son: Susumu who is married to Emi - they have several children, including Yorime, Suzume, and Aomi

son: Kinjiro who is married to Matsume. Matsume is expecting.

Other families:

Toshiro, one of the village elders and head of the second most important family. He is a widower

Son: Yasuo. Married to Sayo. She is due to give birth in the very near future. They have several children

Takeshi, nephew of Tameo

Daughters: Erime and Tama

Daitaro, cousin of Tameo

Wife: Chime

Son: Shinjiro, who is a widower and soon to marry Erime

Genjo, who is married to Mariko. They have a son named Jinichi

Tsuneo, village elder and leader of the 3rd most important family. This family does not like InuYasha being in the village.

Wife: Haname

Son: Joben (married to Akina. Aki and Setsuko are his children.)

Daughter: Chiya (Chiya is married to Michio, who is a cousin of Toshiro's. They have Nori, Masato and Asuka as children)

Other villagers:

Choujiro, one of the poorer villagers, who is not related to any of the three main faimilies. He is married to Yurime, and has a son, Daichi

Daisuke, one of the oldest villagers. His daughter is Hisako. He has a greatgrandson through Hisako named Mitsunari, but no other surviving children at the time of the story.

Fumio is the village smith. His wife is Koume. They are the parents of Kimi, Eiji's wife

Akimori is the husband of Fujime. They are the parents of Eiji and Haruo and Akiko.

Eiji is married to Kimi. They have a son named Yoshi

Haruo is married to Teruko.

Jun is married to Riki. They have a son named Mikio, and they work for Tameo and live at his compound.

Koichi works for Tameo

Denjiro is the husband of Sora. They are rather poor, and have several children. He does work for both Tsuneo and Toshiro's family.

Ryota, who is the best roofer in the village. He is married to Maki

Isamu is married to Yaya. They are fond of Miroku, or at least the Buddha.