1I do not own InuYasha or any of the characters created by Rumiko Takahashi
Sango, her son Naoya strapped to her back, walked around the little house in the clearing with Kagome. The twins trailed behind the two women, and following the girls, Miroku and InuYasha brought up the rear.
"I think you're right, Kagome," Sango said. "If we could take down those three trees, this would be a really good place for your garden. It's not too far from the stream if you need to water, and the soil looks good."
Yusuko picked up something off the ground, then ran to Miroku. "Look, Chi-chi!"
Miroku admired the pebble the girl held up to him. "It's very pretty," he said. "You want me to hold it for you?"
The little girl nodded. The monk slipped it into his sleeve.
"Your sleeves ought to be getting heavy by now," InuYasha said.
"And I don't dare drop it when the girls aren't looking." Miroku sighed. "Yusuko, particularly, will want to see it later."
The hanyou snorted.
"Just wait, my friend. Your time will come." The monk walked ahead of him and picked up his daughters. He didn't see the suddenly frightened look on the hanyou's face.
InuYasha took a deep breath and calmed himself before he caught up with the others. "So you have all figured out?"
"I think so," Kagome said. "I know where the garden should go, and the laundry area."
Noriko reached out to Kagome. "Obasan!"
She took the girl from Miroku. "I think you have made a friend there," he said, handing her over.
Kagome smoothed the girl's hair, taking out a stray piece of grass. "Maybe so. You're my friend, Noriko-chan?"
The girl nodded and wrapped her arms around Kagome's neck.
"You'll need to take some trees out," Sango said to InuYasha. "But you'll want to build some outbuildings anyway. And I think Shinjiro or one of his brothers might be willing to plow up the garden. It's heavy work, putting in the garden the first time. He's the one who plowed up ours when we started ours."
"We'll talk with him after we talk to Kaede," Kagome said, looking at the hanyou who nodded at her. "I think she'll come by today."
Miroku leaned on his staff. "I wonder what she and Tameo have planned. I know they talked yesterday. But they haven't told me anything."
The group fell silent for a moment, which for some reason, disturbed Yusuko. "Down, Chi-chi!"
"Maybe we should go inside," Sango said. "You did say you wanted my suggestions on what you needed to get to get started?"
Kagome nodded. "There's so much I don't even know that I need."
"We'll get it figured out," Sango said, reassuringly.
The women headed inside. Miroku looked at InuYasha and smiled.
"What?" the hanyou said.
"I'm just imagining what a big load you'll be carrying home this market day." The monk, and his irritated daughter, followed the others in.
"But she's worth every bit," InuYasha said, and joined them.
Kaede made her way down the path to the edge of the village, carrying a bow and quiver, but also with her collecting basket under her arm. The early morning sunlight glinted through the branches of the trees as she walked down the quiet way. The path she walked was scattered with cherry blossom petals. Looking up, she could see the blossom time was nearly over and the trees were leafing out.
"What's that?" asked the small girl walking with her. Kaede paused and waited while Rin stopped and knelt by some early spring wild flowers, pale blue.
Bending over her shoulder, Kaede said, "Ah, that is Haru-rinndou. Isn't it pretty? I always thought they look like blue stars."
Rin looked at the stand of the small wild gentians as if trying to memorize them. "Can you use them?" she asked.
"Yes, girl. You can eat the leaves and the roots make a tonic," Kaede said as they resumed their walk. "But I like them because when they bloom, they remind me that spring has come and summer won't be long. I am glad the winter is over."
"Me too, Kaede-sama," said Rin. She began to sing softly.
"Spring, spring comes again,
the birds they sing their songs.
Though cold winds still blow
Flower time will not be long."
Rin looked down the path they were taking. "Are we going to see InuYasha-sama today?"
Kaede shifted her gathering basket. "Yes, dear. Tameo-sama wants me to talk to Kagome-chan about something. You, though, if you wish, could go visit Sango-chan if you would like while we're talking."
The girl tilted her head a moment, considering. "Maybe. Can you tell Rin more about Kagome-sama? InuYasha-sama seemed very happy that she came back. Rin doesn't remember her very well, though. She seems nice."
"Yes, I would say so. InuYasha had been waiting for her to come back a long time. You'll like her. She's very nice." She stopped a moment to adjust how the quiver was riding on her shoulder. "With luck, we'll be seeing a lot of her."
Rin skipped forward a few steps then waiting for the old miko to catch up with her."Do you think Sesshoumaru-sama will come by today? Rin would like to tell him about Kagome-sama coming back to stay."
"He doesn't tell me in advance before he comes," Kaede said. "Still, I suspect there's not much that passes by in this area that he doesn't know something about."
"It's been a month since he's stopped by. How will he know?" Rin looked pensive.
"I'm sure he has his ways," Kaede said. She watched the girl stoop to pick a wild flower. Rin turned it in her fingers, and chewed her bottom lip. "What is it, dear?"
Rin sighed, her dark eyes looking off into the distance. "Sometimes," she said. "Rin wonders if he's lonely. Master Jaken is with him, but still . . . "
"I do not know, child," Kaede replied. "Sesshoumaru-sama has his own ways of going through life that are not quite like the rest of us."
Even after three years, the girl missed being with the youkai that had saved her life during the year of the quest, and the miko did not like to see her become saddened missing him. Somehow, she wondered if Rin was ever going to become quite the ordinary girl. In some ways, Kaede thought, she was like InuYasha pining for Kagome. A distraction was in order. Looking around, she spotted a patch of plants with tiny purple flowers. "Look there, Rin." She pointed it out to the girl.
"Hotokenoza," the girl said, remembering it from an earlier lesson. "Shall we pick some?"
"Yes, that's a good idea." She handed her basket to the girl, who deftly plucked a portion, but not all, of the henbit growing along the path and put it into the basket.
"It looks a lot like mint," Rin noted. "But different."
"It does, doesn't it?" Kaede said. "You might call them cousins. Once the weather warms up, we won't see it again until it's cool, though, even though we see mint all summer long. That should be enough."
Rin nodded. "Cousins. Like you and Tameo?"
Kaede chuckled. "Maybe so, child. But neither of us get to hide when it gets hot. That would be a nice thing, to escape the heat."
Rin smiled. "It's nicer in the mountains when it's hot."
"Alas," Kaede said, with a wistful look. "This old woman has too much to do, and perhaps, is just a bit too old to head that way when it gets hot."
"It is a long way away," Rin agreed. "Rin has only done it when riding on Ah-Un."
Together, thinking traveling into the mountains in quite different scenarios, the girl and the old miko went on their way. Not long after that, they reached the little house in the clearing.
InuYasha, sensing the approach of Kaede and her charge, stepped out in front of the house. He stood there with his hands stuffed in his sleeves, and his ears focused straight on the old miko, as if he were trying to decide what type of news she was bringing.
"Hello, InuYasha. Kagome is here?" Kaede asked.
He nodded, his face somber and unreadable. "Where else would she be?"
"InuYasha-ojisan," Rin asked, tilting her head a little and looking at the hanyou curiously. "Why do you look so solemn?"
He shrugged, but her question broke through his mask a little, and he gave her a faint grin. "Not sure, kid. Why do you look so cheerful?"
Rin giggled. "Rin doesn't know."
"I'm not sure either, kid," he said, then turned and lifted the door mat. "Miroku and Sango are here, too. It might be a little crowded."
Kaede nodded, then she and Rin stepped inside. As InuYasha said, the room was fairly crowded. Miroku was watching his daughters playing with the rocks and sticks they had picked up, stacking them up and watching them fall. Sango was rocking a sleeping Naoya. Kagome was making tea.
"Come inside, Kaede-obaachan, Rin-chan," Kagome said, rising to greet them.
Sango, shifting Naoya from one arm to the other, made a space near the fire for Kaede to set down. "We can go if you need us to," she offered.
"No, no, my child," Kaede said. She slipped off her sandals. "It's probably good that you're here. That way, this old woman only has to tell her story once." Leaving her gathering basket in the entry, but holding onto the bow and quiver, she walked across the room to the place next to Kagome.
She unslung the quiver and bow. "I thought you might like to have a bow again, Kagome-chan. This is one that I put aside a long time ago to pass on."
Kagome bowed. "Thank you, Kaede-obaachan. You don't know how I've wanted a new one since I've gotten back." Kagome took the bow and quiver from the old miko's hands, and began to examine them.
Kaede looked at her calmly with her single eye. "Can you still make the sacred arrows?"
"What are you up to, Babaa?" InuYasha asked, moving back to his place. Rin followed and went to sit next to the twins, who immediately began showing her all their rocks.
"I don't know," Kagome said. She took an arrow out of the quiver and nocked it into the bow, and pulled back. The air began to tingle as the arrow began to glow with a bright, purifying light.
Noriko looked up. "Pretty!"
"Well, I guess that answers that question," Miroku said.
At that moment, Naoya, who was sleeping, woke up and started shrieking. Sango put him on her shoulder, and patted his back and bounced him. "Hush, hush, baby," she said in a soothing voice.
"Did I do that?" Kagome said, lowering her bow and relaxing the string.
"Maybe," Miroku said. "We're beginning to wonder if Naoya isn't showing signs of spiritual powers already. It's not the first time he's flinched at the use of reiki or youki."
After a moment the baby calmed down.
"You are very strong, Kagome-chan," Kaede said after the younger woman sat down. "I knew you were before, but some women lose their connection to their spiritual powers after they take a husband."
"Keh," InuYasha said, putting his hand over hers.
Kaede looked thoughtful. "So now that we have established that Kagome is still gifted with her spiritual powers, we can discuss what I came to talk about."
Kagome poured tea for the old miko.
"I'm not sure exactly how to begin," Kaede said. She sipped her tea. "I'll start with what you might have guessed, InuYasha. As expected, my cousin Tameo has told me that Tsuneo, or more likely, his wife Haname speaking through him, is very unhappy with the fact that Kagome-chan is back and staying with you. Tsuneo has hinted that he would like the elders ask you two to leave, but so far, he and Haname have found few supporters. If we don't choose a path that is right, the few supporters could change with time."
InuYasha stiffened, but did not let go of Kagome's hand until she pulled it away to pick up her tea cup.
"So what do you think we should we do, Kaede-obaachan?" Kagome asked.
Kaede sipped her cup appreciatively. "Tameo pointed out to me something yesterday. The problem with both of your positions here is linked to the fact that neither of you really have any binding ties here. You are not blood related nor adopted into any of the families. You have no official tie to the local kami. The fact that you are my sister's reincarnation and helped destroy Naraku has some weight, but it only goes so far."
"But . . . but," said Kagome. She looked up at InuYasha and then back at Kaede. "I've lived at the shrine here all my life. My grandfather is the priest where I come from. I've done work as one of the shrine miko since he decided I was old enough to help. What other place is my home?"
"Ah, but Kagome-sama, that hasn't happened yet," Miroku said. "You've lived here only in the world you came from. And the villagers wouldn't really understand how that works."
"Feh," InuYasha said. "She only saved them from Naraku. They certainly didn't give you a hard time settling down. They gave you the land and everything."
"That's because I offered them something they didn't have," Miroku replied. "They wanted a Buddhist priest here. Even if he is rather unorthodox."
"And there was talk about that, too, Houshi. Surprisingly, it was Tsuneo's family that were champions of that."
Noriko squealed when Yusuko knocked down her stack of toys. Rin picked her up. "Sango-obasan, may Rin take the twins outside to play?"
"That's a good idea, Rin-chan." Sango said, nodding. "All this talk isn't very fun for them."
The three girls went outside. Kaede took another sip of her tea, and gathered her words.
She put her cup down."Tameo suggested that our family adopt you in, Kagome-chan. You could become a recognized branch of our family. It would give you a right to be here that Tsuneo's people could not deny."
"Adopt me?" Kagome said.
"Is that possible?" Sango asked. "Most places don't allow the adoption of women that way. Usually they have to marry one of the villagers."
InuYasha's eyes narrowed, and he clasped Kagome's hand possessively. He didn't like the direction this was going in.
"There is one way," Kaede said. "The custom here is to take a woman in if she has some special gift or ability or possession to bring to the community if she has real reasons why she cannot or will not marry into a family here. In Kagome's case, it would be her spiritual powers. Tameo suggested to me that I take Kagome in as my apprentice to be the next village miko."