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

Chapter 208

As InuYasha finished the cup of tea that Yasuo served him, he heard a voice that wasn't Daiki's whining one.

"I haven't been around newborn babies before," the voice said.

His ear flicked and his head turned to see Kaede and Kagome walking up from the birthing house.

"She's so small," Kagome continued. "But her voice is so strong."

"That's the way it is with newborns," Kaede said. "So little and so big at the same time. You certainly are not going to ignore them."

"Ah, Kaede-sama," Yasuo said, seeing them walked up. "All is well?"

The two women walked up to the verandah, but didn't step up.

"Sayo is doing quite well," Kaede said. "Your daughter is eating, and seems perfectly happy to ignore her brothers for the moment."

"But . . . but . . . I can't just sit here!" came the wailing voice of Daiki.

"Oh yes, you can," Nanami's voice replied. It was very stern and determined. "You will sit on that bucket until the new rice cakes are made."

"It's probably a good thing she's ignoring them right now," Yasuo said. "It sounds like she might be needing that skill."

"A handy one for around here," Toshiro said, nodding.

"But Nanami-obaasan, I just . . . " Daiki said.

"That, or bad hearing comes in handy," his son replied. "I've been assured I was something like that at his age."

"Something." Toshiro nodded. "But once you hit a certain age you began to get a handle on it."

"I remember those days," Kaede said, giving Yasuo a knowing look. "So, I suspect there's hope for Daiki as well," Kaede said, agreeing.

"Soon, I hope," Yasuo said. "Soon."

Saying their farewells, the group left Daiki trying to talk Nanami into his freedom and headed to the next household on their list.

Sora, when she came to the door was very nervous when she spotted InuYasha, and he made no effort to try to follow his wife inside as the two women went to examine her sick boy. But as he waited, InuYasha discovered that Sora may have been nervous about having the hanyou around, but her children seemed to find him an interesting novelty.

His first sign of this was when the children stopped their playing behind the house, and moved forward, bit by bit. It was a stealth attack. One of them would roll a ball forward, or run with a toy animal or doll, sitting down just a little closer. Before long, the three of Sora's well children surrounded the hanyou as he stood there, his hands stuffed in his sleeves, leaning against a tree in front of the small, poor farmhouse.

The youngest boy eventually got the nerve to show him his toy horse, a small figure made of straw.

"Otousan made me it," the boy said proudly. "He makes the best horsies! My horsie can beat all the other boys' horsies any day."

InuYasha, not sure of what to say, said nothing, but his ears flicked, and then homed in on the conversation inside the house, Kaede advising Sora about when she could let her son go outside. The ear movement amused the little boy so much he started laughing. His sister put down her doll, and squatted down next to her brother and looked up, staring.

"He's got . . . " the younger girl said. Her eyes grew wide as InuYasha's ears flicked at the sound.

"Doggie ears! Move them again!" the boy demanded.

InuYasha sighed, but complied.

"Hurry up, Kagome," he whispered. "Please?"

In a different part of the village, Miroku walked down the hill with Chime and Genjo. As they turned down the road that led to the farmer's house, the monk looked around to see who else was around, but only saw a couple of villagers who worked for the family out in one of the outer fields. A cow lowed as they passed her pasture, but there was no sign of either Daitaro or Shinjiro.

"So," the monk asked, "how's your brother doing, Genjo? Neither he nor your otousan seem very visible right now."

"If they were," Chime said, laughing, "I'd be worried they were plotting something."

"They might still be, Okaasan." Genjo grinned.

A crow, sitting on the fence, saw them as they neared and took off, cawing.

"Now, bird, don't you go warning them," Chime said, laughing a little.

"You know how Chichi-ue is," Genjo said, laughing with her. "One never knows quite what's on his mind, but I think he's mostly trying to keep Shinjiro busy, at least until after lunch. The last thing I heard is that after taking care of the animals, they were talking about going fishing," the young man said. "It's at least a good way to get him out of the house for a while and maybe keep him from doing something he might wish he hadn't."

"There are times," Miroku said, "that I have been glad that my Sango and I didn't have to go through quite all this. And I'm most glad we didn't have to do it for InuYasha."

"Oh, I bet he would have been a hard one to distract," Genjo said. "So intense when he's focused."

"That's one way of putting it," Miroku agreed. "My wife just refers to it as grumpy. There are ways to distract him," he said, "but sometimes, if you do it wrong . . . " The monk rubbed the top of his head.

"I take it that you have done it wrong before," the farmer said. An amused smirk touched his lips.

"A time or two," Miroku admitted, "but I learned fast."

The road to Daitaro's house split off from the road to the village, and they took it, the way lined by rail fences on each side. Genjo tapped his hand on each post on the left as they passed.

"I hope your otousan remembers that he is under strict orders not to bring Shinjiro back with too much sake in his tummy," Chime added. "I know he has the jitters, but we need to be fair to Erime."

"Better than I was, I hope," Genjo said. "I vaguely remember that I didn't take your advice that day." He scratched the back of his head. "I have to admit I vaguely remember the whole evening. Unfortunately, I do more than vaguely remember the next day."

"I'm surprised Mariko didn't demand to go home that night," Chime said, laughing lightly. "I know your otousan didn't do it. You must have had a bottle stashed away."

"I did. Susumu slipped it to me the night before." He grinned at his mother, who rolled her eyes. "It wasn't as good as Chichi-ue's, but it did take away my fears pretty well."

"That Susumu." She shook her head. "He was always a cocky little rascal, ever since he was a boy. He'll get his day, with that household full of girls that he has, and a boy likely to take right after him."

"Are we the ones who gave you and Chichi-ue your day?" Genjo said, lifting an eyebrow at his mother.

Miroku snorted, then tried to smooth his face before Chime caught it, but she did in spite of his effort.

"Just remember you two, you both have children of your own," the older woman said, giving the eye to both the men traveling with her. "You'll learn all about this."

"I suspect we will, Okaasan, and I will remember this day when it happens," Genjo said. "And probably tell it as a story to my own children."

This made Chime laugh. "Be that as it may, all I can say is that what happened on your wedding day proved how much Mariko wanted to be married to you, silly boy. You are blessed."

He nodded, smiling. "We all are. Me, Shinjiro, and especially Chichi-ue. You put up with a lot, Okaa."

"Your father is a good man, Genjo," Chime said, giving him a pleased grin. "I wouldn't have him any other way. And look what he has to put up with!"

The monk stopped a moment, and the two he was with turned to look. He had gotten a very serious look, thinking about what Genjo had said. "It seems to me that all good marriages have that," Miroku said. "The putting up with each other. My poor Sango, she puts up with too much sometimes."

"Then," said Chime, patting his hand in a motherly way, "You need to make sure she knows you appreciate it. Her life has been, and will be, different from most of the rest of ours, just because of your calling, Houshi-sama. But she belongs to us now, me and Hisa and the other women. We'll do what we can to keep her from feeling so . . . well, different." She gave him a warm smile. "Especially now that we know she didn't know how much we thought of her. And she's worth it."

"Yes, she is," the monk said, nodding. "Yes she is."

They walked up into the house. It was pristine, the result of all the hard work that Chime and the others had done the day before. In one corner, there was a stack of mats waiting to be scattered around the room when the guests arrived. The wood gleamed with fresh oil, and the air was filled with the smells of cooking. There were colorful plaques, hanging from the rafters, each with a blessed ofuda. Fresh flowers adorned the god-shelf, and the normal barrels and bundles that a farm house kept out were stored away to make more room.

"Mariko-chan!" Chime called as she entered. "We're back!"

"She might still be in the garden, Okaasan," Genjo said.

"Ah, I wouldn't be surprised," the older woman said. "Weeds wait for no one."

"Too true." Genjo slipped his shoes off, and hopped onto the wooden platform, and walked over to the water bucket, where he filled the ladle and took a long drink. "I can go get her, if you'd like."

"Would you?" she asked.

Taking one more sip, he nodded and headed out of the house.

After he shut the door, Chime turned to the monk. "Thank you for being willing to add your blessing, Houshi-sama. It means a lot to us," she said. "I might be a silly thing for doing all of this, but after last time . . . " She slipped off her shoes. "It hurt so much when we lost Shinjiro's first wife. She was such a dear thing." She sighed, then stepped up on the wooden platform. "It marked my son for many years. I had just about given up on him ever wanting another wife, when he and Erime grew close."

"It works that way sometimes," Miroku said nodding. Slipping off his own shoes, he joined her. "I suspect it was not just Shinjiro who felt her loss."

Chime nodded, giving him a sad, little smile. "You are right. I loved her like a daughter." Her face, though brightened after a moment. "I love Erime, too and Mariko. It will be so nice to have Erime in the family. I just want to make sure I do everything I can to chase any bad luck away from them."

"It's not silly to wish the best for your family," Miroku said. He closed his eyes for a moment, and used his spiritual senses to feel the atmosphere. He opened his eyes back up and smiled. "You must be doing something right. Your house has a wonderful aura of peace over it today. "

The older woman looked at him and smiled. "I have tried. But I would still like your blessing."

The monk nodded and moved toward the center of the room. Lifting his hand in benediction, he chanted the Heart Sutra in a deep and rich voice. As the last tone faded, he pulled a paper sutra out of his sleeve, and held it between his hands.

The paper began to glow lightly, a soft reddish color. As the light moved past his fingers, lighting up his face, he began to speak:

"May all the past generations that lead up to Shinjiro's and Erime's birth, and all the future generations that will stem from their union be present at their joining today. May the spirits of their ancestors and descendants walk with them all the days of their life together. May they be a living link in a chain of life that moves from the timeless to the timeless.

"May they always live up to the expectations of their ancestors and the generations yet to come.

"May their joy and harmony send blessings back to their ancestors and transmit them down to their descendants.

"May they be filled with the compassion that is the foundation of all love.

"May the darkness that shatters lives never touch their souls, and their days travel down paths of peace.

"And may wisdom and mercy shine within their hearts, touching all they contact."

Slowly, the light faded. The monk handed the slip to Chime, who looked at it, and the monk, with some wonder. Her eyes glistened a little at the meaning of the blessing. She took it from his hand.

"Give this to Shinjiro," Miroku said. "He should put it at least in the room where he and Erime will spend their nights. It's a protection ofuda, with whatever poor blessing I can add to it."

"That was beautiful, Houshi-sama," Chime said. She walked over to the god shelf, and placed it reverently there. "I will be sure to tell my son what you did. Thank you very much." She took a breath and moved toward the fire pit. "Could I offer you some tea?"

"No thank you, Chime-sama," Miroku said, shaking his head. "There are some things I need to do today that I have been putting off, and it's high time I get to them."

"Then you must come by for tea later, tomorrow perhaps," she said. "Please, and bring your lovely wife and your children. After all, now, they belong to us. And I have some rice cakes just for them."

"I'll do that," the monk said. "I'll do that. Thank you. And thank you for being my wife's friend."

And saying his farewells, he left the house and headed into the village.