1I do not own InuYasha or any of the characters created by Rumiko Takahashi

Chapter 19

Kaede knelt in a garden patch well away from her house. This garden bed was the one she grew most of her vegetables in. Early greens were already beginning to be large enough to pick a few carefully chosen leaves. Weeds, too, were starting to take advantage of the rich garden soil. She pulled one.

"See this, Rin-chan?" she said, showing the plant to the girl.

Rin took it from her, poked at the small, pointed leaves. "Rin knows it, but doesn't know what it is called."

"We call it azaka," the miko said. "And when it's this small, it's good to eat. If we didn't pull it, it would grow up into a bush bigger than I am, and choke out all the things we've been planting. I hear some people make walking sticks out if its stalk when it's that big."

Rin held it up, turning in her hand before she handed it back to the miko. "Funny how little things get so big."

"Just like children," Kaede said, laying the plant next to her. She looked up and smiled at the girl. "I believe you've put on an inch in the last three months. Pretty soon, we'll have to get you another kosode to do the gardening in. Can't have you pulling weeds in silk."

The girl looked at her dress thoughtfully for a moment. "Maybe Rin should ask Sesshoumaru-sama for some linen," she said, then laughed at the idea.

Kaede chuckled. "He does have good taste, your Sesshoumaru-sama, but he's not quite trained for doing this type of work." She pulled another weed. "Lords like him don't get into the dirt like this very often, at least not to weed and plant." She straightened up. "I should have brought a gathering basket. Too many of these have sprouted the last few days. Why don't you go back to the house and get one for me? There's enough trying to come up that we can cook them."

"Do they taste good?" the girl asked.

"I think so," she said, pulling another. "They'll go good in the stew tonight."

Rin nodded, then stood up, brushed off her knees and dashed across the narrow paths separating the fields. Later they would be flooded with water for rice, but now they were green with young barley. The dikes separating the fields made convenient paths back to the village, and she ran across them sure footed. But before she got there, she spotted InuYasha walking toward the village, grinning at something a dark-haired woman in a beige robe and blue skirt was telling him. The girl wondered who it could be and then she realized it was Kagome. Waving she called out to them, and then ran up to join them.

"Good morning, Rin-chan!" Kagome said, smiling at the girl as they waited for her to catch up to them.

"Kagome-obasan! InuYasha-ojisan!" the girl said, stopping, and giving a small, but polite bow. "Rin was surprised to see you. You've come down from the hill. Are you well?"

"Yeah we are, kid." InuYasha said. "You're out early. You know where Kaede-babaa is?"

"She's working in her vegetable garden this morning," Rin replied, pointing. "The one over there."

"Thank you, Rin-chan," Kagome said. "We need to talk to her about something."

"Tell her Rin will be right back!" the girl said, then headed back toward's the old miko's house.

"You've come up in the world," InuYasha said as they walked on. "Now you're an oba."

Kagome laughed. "I'm not sure, but that makes me feel older, somehow. I've never been called an aunt before. You're sure you want to be with someone old enough to be an oba?"

"Long as you don't mind being with someone who's an oji," he replied.

Kagome flashed him a smile. "I don't mind at all. Long as you're not as old as Myouga."

InuYasha snorted. "I don't think even Toutousai's that old."

They headed down the path. A couple of villagers waved as they passed, and a few, like the old man wheeling his cart into the field and the woman carrying her laundry down to the river for a good wash, gave them curious, but not unfriendly looks. Still, as they walked, InuYasha's mood changed and he began to grow tense, watching over the fields as if he were expecting an enemy to pop up.

Kagome stopped to wave back at one of the villagers then turned around to see how tensely he was holding himself. "You should relax," she said. "Nobody's trying to run us out yet. Look how everybody we meet is acting."

"Feh," InuYasha said. "They're just used to seeing you with me. Wait until something bad happens."

She rested her hand lightly on his arm for a moment. "We'll deal with that if it happens, but it doesn't look like it's going to happen today. So there's no reason to worry about what might happen later. And besides, we have friends here. We won't have to deal with any problems alone."

He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Yeah," he said, resting his hand on hers for a moment. "If Kaede-babaa and Tameo are right, that'd be good. There are a lot worse places to live. I just . . . "

Kagome studied his face, the touch of pout fighting with uncertainty and concern. "InuYasha, we don't have to do this," she said. "I'd like to let Kaede know today, but if you're unsure we should do this, we can go home and think about it some more. We're not committed."

He shook his head. "No. We decided that Tameo's offer was good, right? And I know you want to learn what Kaede can teach you." His eyes grew determined, and he gave her the ghost of his trademark smirk. "Come on. We can't stay here all day. Kaede-babaa will be done before we get there at this rate, and we'd just have to run her down somewhere else."

Kagome gave him a brilliant smile, and they continued walking, not saying much until they spotted the old miko working in her garden patch.

Kaede, reaching over some young tatsoi greens, tugged on something growing there that she didn't like, pulled it out and then sat back and looked up. She smiled as the two of them stopped beside her, taking them in with her good eye. "Ah, children, it's good to see you this morning." She tossed the weed to the side. "It is a lovely day to be out and working in the garden."

"Oh my," Kagome said, squatting down and looking at the greens that were already growing. "I didn't know things could come up so early. Your garden's so much further along than mine. Did I get started too late?"

"Not really, child. These just come up very early. There's a lot that it's too soon to even think about." Kaede pulled another weed. "But as you see, the weeds are just as early. So, you two, have you been thinking about what we discussed yesterday? We could speak some more about it if you would like to."

Kagome stood up and moved close to InuYasha. "We have," she said.

"Keh," InuYasha said, nodding. "That's why we're here." He stuffed his hands in his sleeves. His ears flickered at the sound of two birds squabbling in the field nearby, almost ruining the solemn look he gave her.

"Be easy, InuYasha," Kaede said. She shifted over a bit to reach another weed. "You know I'm here to help ease your way. "

The hanyou nodded. "Yeah." He turned to Kagome. "You want to tell her what we decided?"

Kaede turned to look at the young woman. As tense as her husband was, Kagome was the opposite. "So, Kagome-chan, what is it you have to tell me?"

Kagome smiling, bowed politely. "We talked over what you said carefully, Kaede-obaachan. My husband and I have decided the plan you told us about was a good idea."

She looked up at InuYasha just in time to see his eyes grow wide when she said "my husband." Taking his hand, she gave it a quick squeeze, and then let go. "As you said, I still have my spiritual powers, and it would be a good thing to be able to use them in a useful way. And I have always been interested in learning how to heal people." She then bowed again, and deeper, to mark the seriousness of the moment. "I would be honored to be your student, Kaede-sensei."

"Well, well," Kaede said as she slowly stood up. She smiled at the couple. "I must say you decided that more quickly than I would have guessed. Three years ago, it might have taken you a week to get through your 'talking about it,' and it probably would have been a good bit louder." Brushing the dirt off her hands first, she bowed back to the younger woman, not the bow of a superior to an inferior, but the bow of an equal. "But I'm glad, child," she said. "I look forward to working with you. But please don't call me sensei. I think," she continued, chuckling just a little, "that I much prefer obaasan."

Kaede turned to the hanyou. "And you, InuYasha, you are willing for Kagome to do this as well?"

His ear twitched, but he looked at her calmly. "It's what she wants," he said, smiling at his wife. "As long as it doesn't mean you expect her to move out of our home and pretend to be a single woman, I'm not going to stop her if she wants to do it. No reason for her not to, as long as the village can deal with it."

The old miko nodded. "Just like we discussed, InuYasha, I will not come between you and your wife." She picked up her garden hoe. "I think next, after Rin gets back, we will go visit Tameo. My cousin is very persuasive in getting the village to agree to something once he has his mind made up. And with his bringing you into our family, this will be a matter of family honor. He takes that very seriously."

After the girl returned, and was instructed once more on which plants to pull, the three adults began walking to the headman's house.

"Have you met Tameo-sama before?" Kaede asked as they headed back toward the village.

"I've seen him," Kagome said, "But I have never talked to him."

"Ah. My father and his were brothers, and their father was the village headman back in those days," Kaede said. "After my parents died, his father took me and my sister into his home, and we grew up around each other. Tameo became headman when I was about thirty. Even that young, he managed to wrap the other village elders around his finger."

They entered the village's main street. A young girl, about Rin's age, her hair streaming behind her, ran up to them.

"Kagome-sama!" she said, bowing politely. "Have you seen Rin-chan?"

Kaede bowed back. "She's in the garden, Iya-chan. If you want to help her, she would probably like the company."

"It's all right? I have some news I want to tell her," Iya asked.

"Of course, if it's all right with your family," Kaede replied. "Good news, I hope?"

"Uh-huh," the girl replied. "Thanks!"

She dashed off to go the way they had come.

Kagome watched the girl run off. "Who's that?"

"Oh, that's Iya," Kaede said. "The daughter of Hiroya and Kichi. She and Rin are very close. They are always sharing little secrets with each other."

"I'm glad to see she has some friends of her own age," Kagome said. "It's lonely when you don't."

"Yeah," InuYasha said. There was just the smallest bit of sadness in his voice. "She's too good a kid for that."

Greeting a few other people along their way, InuYasha relaxed more, until one person who saw them coming turned and went the other way. Kagome shrugged, and gave his hand a little squeeze, but was quietly thoughtful until they reached their destination. It was the largest home in the village, two stories tall, and with several small rooms attached to its walls, rooms for the family's servants. There were two other houses close by, part of the family compound. Beyond the buildings and outbuildings, a trail ran up towards the hill beyond it.

A cat ran across the path, followed by a small girl. The girl looked up as the three people walking up, then forgot the cat and ran up to the old miko.

"Kaede-obachan!" she said, and threw her arms around the miko.

"Well, hello, Suzume!" Kaede said, ruffing her hair. "Is your grandfather home?"

The girl nodded. "He said he was staying home today cause he was really busy."

"Go tell him I'm here, and I've brought InuYasha-sama and Kagome-sama. I think he'll have enough time to see us," she said. "In fact, I think he'll be happy we came."