1I do not own InuYasha or any of the characters created by Rumiko Takahashi
For a moment at Toshiro's house, things were approaching a moment of calm. Asami had rounded up all the children and somehow herded them into the house. The rooster strutted across the yard, keeping a watchful eye on a cat sleeping under a tree. From the back of his house, one of the workmen, Shigeru, from the sound of it was talking to the horses, and one whinnied back at him.
"Hard to believe this is my house," he said, leaning up against a post on the verandah.
Even the house seemed calm. The only real sounds drifting out were the sounds of Nanami ruling over the midday meal. The children of the family, eager not to be denied both their rice and the treat she promised for the end of the meal, murmured in soft voices as they ate.
"If it were only like this all day," the old elder said, stepping off of the verandah and into the sunshine.
"Done already, Otousan?" his son Yasuo asked. "I thought you'd still be eating."
Toshiro turned around to look at the younger man. Although smiling contentedly, Yasuo still looked fatigued, like he was the one not sleeping enough with the arrival of his new daughter.
"You look tired, son," Toshiro said. "Maybe more tired than Sayo-chan. And she's the one having to get up to feed your new little one."
"Sympathy, maybe. You're right," Yasuo said. "I didn't sleep very well last night. So, have you eaten?"
"I had Nanami-chan get me a little something early," the elder said. "With everybody so busy, I thought it might be a good time to check up on the gardens. I'm sure there's a weed or two that can use pulling. How is my new granddaughter doing?"
Yasuo smiled. "As beautiful as her mother," he said. "And with good lungs, too. I don't think Daiki-chan cried any louder when he was born."
"You make good children." Toshiro clapped his son on the arm, then turning, he began walking to the side of the building. "Loud, but strong."
"Maybe the goodness will rub off on Matsume." Yasuo followed his father. "The little one took to her almost like she was her mother." He cracked a grin. "Think Kinjiro can handle any of our family's loudness?"
"Might serve him a good lesson," the elder said, heading towards the tool shed attached to the back corner of the big house. "I hear sometimes he gets . . . well, impatient."
"Nothing teaches patience better than trying to deal with your own young ones," the younger man said, nodding. "Especially when you're gifted with a brood like mine."
"They'll be worth it though," Toshiro said, opening the shed door. He looked in, finding a hoe he liked. Picking it up off the rack, he hefted it. "You were worth it, after all."
"I'm glad to hear you think that, Otousan," the younger man said. For a moment he leaned against the wall of the house and rubbed the back of his head. "I'm not sure everybody agrees. The women kicked me out because I was too noisy. I was tapping too much. Sayo-chan told me to go eat."
"You get that way when it's meal time. Sort of like Daiki-chan." Toshiro grabbed a basket hanging on the shed wall. "They're eating now. You might want to go inside before Nanami-chan feeds it all to those boys of yours. She probably expected you to eat with Sayo-chan." He closed the tool shed. "She made that special fish you like so well."
"Did she?" Yasuo said. "Maybe she still likes me after all. I wasn't sure after this morning. Let me get inside before they eat it all down."
"You do that," Toshiro said, putting the hoe handle over his shoulder. "You know where to find me if you need me."
With a nod, the younger man headed towards the house. Toshiro watched him go and called out, "If you're smart, son you'll take a nap."
Yasuo waved at him, but Toshiro doubted he'd take his advice. Shrugging, he headed for the garden.
On the other side of the village, another moment of calm was being appreciated as InuYasha and Kagome neared their own house.
"Such a morning," Kagome said. "It feels good to be going home. I never expected a day like today. Haname, Maeme . . . "
"Been kind of wild," InuYasha said, nodding. "I hope this isn't the way every day is going to go from now on. Seems like one thing's been leading to another. One fire gets put out, and another one starts."
"You noticed that, too? I think that if those fires keep happening, we're moving to the forest," the miko said. Since they were alone, she grabbed her husband's hand and leaned into his shoulder. "This has been just about the craziest day of a crazy week. I don't know if I can take many more."
"Just let me know when you're ready," he said. He had a grin on his face, but there was a look in his eyes that let Kagome know he wasn't totally joking. "I know a good place or two."
"I'll keep that in mind" she said. "If Chime-obaasan wasn't expecting us, and I didn't have to give the blessing, we might have gone off exploring one of those this afternoon."
InuYasha gave her hand a little squeeze, and he sighed, a note of longing in his voice. "Yeah."
Their house grew visible as they walked. "Do you hear that?" Kagome asked.
"Hear what?" the hanyou said, swerving his ears. "I don't hear anything. Just the wind and some stupid birds."
"Exactly," Kagome said, breaking into a pleased smile. "Nothing. Nobody."
"Guess Choujiro went off for lunch," InuYasha said. He pointed towards the side of the house. "Look there." They could see the carpenter's handcart, and a growing stack of boards. "Man's put some work in this morning. I guess he'll be back later."
Kagome sighed, obviously hoping for some privacy. "Well, lunch is a good idea. I was too wound up to eat anything at Sango's house."
"Keh," the hanyou replied. "Miroku was just as bad. After Susumu left, he just didn't want to go back in until you showed up."
They reached the door. "I can understand that. I bet he just needed some time to relax after everything that happened. And think. But now, I think my stomach has decided differently. I'm ready to get cooking."
"Sounds good to me," InuYasha said. "Rather eat your cooking than Sango's, anyway."
Kagome gave him a pleased looked. "Stir up the fire, will you, and I'll get the pickle slices made."
"You can save the pickles for later." InuYasha lifted the mat door of their house and held it for Kagome to walk through. He grinned at the surprised look on her face. " I hear they're expecting me to eat a lot of them tonight."
"I heard that too," she said as she stepped through. "You think you'll get enough?"
He looked thoughtful for a moment and then shrugged. "I used to think that wasn't possible," he replied. "But from the talk, I think Chime's going to see if it's possible. I guess we'll find out."
"My husband - from fierce warrior to village pickle judge," Kagome said, laughing. Amused, but somehow pleased by that title, he went to work on the fire.
Lunch was light, rice balls stuffed with fish and some quick cooked greens. They ate without much talking, each lost for the most part in their own thoughts.
InuYasha, finishing the last of his onigiri began to move his hand in the direction of Kagome's tray and suddenly caught himself. For the first time since they started their married life there was no dish of pickles on her tray, and for the first time since they began eating meals along in their own house, there was nothing for him to steal from her tray.
He pulled his hand back, but not before Kagome caught him. She smiled, and gave him a little grin. He smiled sheepishly back at her. "You saw that?"
She laughed, but it was a gentle sound that didn't make him feel embarrassed, and as he watched she took the hand that wanted to take her pickle and put it over her heart. "It's been such a strange day. You've been harassed by Sora-chan's children, put up with Amaya-chan overreacting at Tsuneo's house, and all the things with Maeme, and didn't even get to steal a pickle from my tray." She dropped his hand, and reached up to brush his cheek. There was a hint of promise, or at least the hope of promise in her eyes. "Maybe this afternoon will be better."
"Yeah." His look returned hers with just the same sort of promise. "We'll see."
She stood up, and moved her tray towards the sink to wash her dishes. "But first, time to clean up."
Picking up his own tray he followed her.
As Kagome began to wash her dishes, Toshiro reached his family's vegetable garden, and began to survey the field. Early spring greens nodded in the sunlight. Other things, not quite so welcome, thrived along with the vegetables.
"I knew it," the old man said. "I've bet nobody's checked this place in a week." He started to sigh, but shook his head, and put down the basket he had brought. "Might as well enjoy it as long as I can."
He started to walk towards the nearest edge of the field when he felt a tap on his shoulder. "What is it now? Did someone . . . " He whirled around but nobody was there, and his words dropped off. "I could have sworn someone was behind me." Looking around to make sure one of his grandchildren weren't trying to prank him, he shrugged then bent down next to the mustard, and started pulling weeds.
Unseen by human eyes this time, Kazuo chuckled. "You always did like to tease him, Sadayori. Somehow I wonder how he put up with you."
Also unseeable by human eyes, a small frail farmer chuckled. The man looked very much like an aged version of young Sukeo, and with reason, since he was the spirit of the boy's grandfather.
"Even more fun now, I think," the man said. His voice was wispy, almost like a breeze. "I take my fun where I can find it. Not that much for a ghost to do. Sure don't want to stay around my house. What that poor excuse of a son does to my grandchild . . . And that poor girl he married . . . " The old ghost scratched the top of his bald head. "I've tried to help. You know how I've been pestering all the local kami. I think they run and hide when I come by, but you're the only one who's even been willing to listen to me."
"The land kami has mentioned that fact," Kazuo said, nodding."More than once." He laughed. "'Take care of him,'" the kami said, mimicking the voice of an exasperated woman. "'Whatever it takes. Just keep him away from me!' She's good at protecting the land, but human hearts - I think they frighten her."
"She didn't really do that, did she?" the ghost said, surprised. "And after all the offerings I sent her way when I was alive . . . "
"Oh yes she did," the kami said, nodding. "Stormed up to my little hole in the wall place in the August Fields. I don't know what you did to your family kami either. He won't even come out of hiding. I've been looking for him. He ought to be involved in this."
"Bah. He always has tried to stay in the background. He's not like you. What good is it to be an ancestor if you don't do anything?" the old ghost asked. He sighed. It was a winter sound, like wind blowing through bare branches. "I didn't mean for this to happen. I should have never gotten Toshiro to promise me to protect that worthless boy. But I was afraid, afraid of death and I knew he was . . . well, you know how Seiji is."
The kami looked at him sympathetically. "Deathbed promises. We don't always think right then," he said. "You meant well. You've always tried to do right. It's not your fault the way Seiji and his brother turned out. Even now, you're doing more than you think, old friend. We're here now, aren't we?" Kazuo rubbed his cap back and forth over his head. "It took a lot of plotting to get to this point. But the luck gods, they seem to be smiling."
"You're sure of that?" Sadayori asked. "What my karma was to have a son like Seiji . . . "
"I'm sure you've worked some of that karma off getting us to this point, old friend," Kazuo said. "Your grandsons are safe right now. And now we work on Toshiro. It would take the luckiest day of the year to budge that man. Loyalty is a virtue, but sometimes I wonder if he doesn't have it too much. Putting up with Shigeru, and Seiji and all the rest. But today, maybe, we can budge him off that. Just watch."
As they hovered nearby, Toshiro worked over his garden, and a small pile of edible weeds had started in the basket he brought. He dropped his hoe onto the ground as he bent over a planting of tatsoi. "Ah, I thought I saw you," he said, tugging at a weed. Lifting it up, he looked at it critically. "Maybe you're still young enough for Nanami-chan to put into the pot."
"And maybe you're still young enough to have some sense in your head, Toshiro-sama." It was a woman's voice, old and cracked with years. Something hard tapped his shoulder even as she spoke.
"You brought her here?" Sadayori said.
"Oh yes," Kazuo said. He crossed his arms, looking quite pleased. "She's a good one for times like this."
"I believe you. I'm a ghost, and she still makes me feel off balance," Sadayori said.
Kazuo laughed. "And I'm a kami and I understand exactly."
Unable to sense his two supernatural visitors talking, Toshiro merely frowned, dropped the weed, and stood up, turning to face his accuser.
Hisako, the daughter of Daisuke, looked at him with scowling eyes.