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

Chapter 267

While the wedding crowd moved into Daitaro's house, Fumio the blacksmith guided another group of people towards the hill on the east side of town. Instead of walking the usual way up, past the home where the wedding was taking place, he chose the back way, a route which took them past the village shrine and would lead them to Miroku's temple and home.

They had paused for a moment at the shrine, saying a brief prayer, but then Koume, Fumio's wife, rested her hands on the shoulders of Sukeo and Nakao.

"Come on, boys," she said. "I am sure the kami heard our prayers. Now it's time to go visit your okaasan."

The group filed off quietly, both boys caught up in their personal sorrows.

Twice Fumio started to say something as they walked, but hesitated. He scratched his head, and decided on words to break the quiet."So, Nahoi-chan got you to eat something?" Fumio asked Nakao. "It's not good to go too long without eating."

His voice sounded oddly out of place in this stretch of the path, a tree-lined stretch of road that rose up at a gentle pace that would take them to the temple. It sounded loud, and although spoken in a friendly tone, almost harsh.

The boy looked up, surprised at the sound, then nodded his head, not meeting the smith's eyes, almost as if he felt embarrassed by having given in and eaten. His face was still quite bruised; the dark patches and the evening shadow made him look even more withdrawn.

"She's good at that type of thing," Koume said, gently. Her voice was softer than her husband's as if she too found the sound of speech a bit jarring."And it's a good thing. The medicine Kaede gave you can be hard on an empty tummy."

"I guess," the boy said. He rubbed his hand across his stomach at her words as if it were already bothering him.

Koume sighed at how withdrawn the boy was behaving. "I know it's been a hard day, son, but your mother's safe, and now it's time for you to get better. Does your head still hurt?"

He shook his head no, but even as he did it, he winced.

"Don't be a baka," Sukeo said, giving his brother a little nudge on the shoulder. "If you hurt, you need to tell someone. How are you going to help Okaa-san if you're hurting too much to do anything?"

Fumio rested a hand on the older boy's shoulder. "He's just trying to be strong, son." The smith looked at Nakao. "Isn't that right?"

"I...I don't want to be a baby. I can handle it," Nakao said. He looked up at his brother, irritated by his brother's reaction. "What's a little headache? I'm not a baby anymore."

"No, you're not," Koume said, giving the boy a gentle smile. "But I'm sure your brother is just concerned. It's been . . . well, I've said that already. But on days like today, sometimes, it's easy to be too worried sometimes to be as nice as we need to be. Kaede-sama will still be at Houshi-sama's. If your head really starts to hurt, you should tell her. Your brother is right. It won't be . . . helpful . . . if you hurt too badly. Seeing you in pain may make your okaasan feel worse."

Nakao's eyes widened at that. "I...I didn't think . . . "

"Our job on this visit is to bring your mother some comfort," Fumio said. "I'm sure I can count on both of you two to try your best to make her feel as good as possible. She'll need you to help her feel more . . . hopeful. Right?"

Sukeo looked at his brother, then up at Fumio, who looked at him expectantly. He took a long breath, and nodded. "It's hard. Today . . . I . . . I will try to do my best."

"Good boy," Fumio said.

They passed the little temple, and all took a moment to bow respectfully, even Nakao, who found the motion uncomfortable.

"Do . . . do you think Miko-sama has some medicine that won't make me sleepy?" Nakao asked.

"I don't know," Koume said. "But we can ask."

As they made the last turn that would lead to Miroku's house, they heard a loud swooshing sound. They weren't the only ones surprised. A flock of birds flushed out of one of the trees nearby as the sound made its track, rushing away with irritated squawking.

"What was that?" Fumio asked. "That's an odd sound."

"I told you so. I knew you couldn't have forgotten," a man's voice said, just beyond the trees. It sounded like Miroku's voice. It was followed by the sounds of small children making noises of appreciation.

As they stepped into the clearing that surrounded the monk's house, they spotted a rather pleased-looking Sango standing in the area not too close to the house, and well away from the family garden. In the twilight, she was holding a large bone boomerang. Miroku, holding his daughters, looked even more pleased than his wife.

"I guess some things you just don't forget," Sango said. She gave the strange weapon a fond caress.

"Indeed, my lovely Sango," the monk said, trying to keep a squirming Noriko in his arms. Giving up, he let her down, and her sister quickly followed. As he watched them gather around their mother, he gave her a smile, but his eyes were serious. " I feel better knowing you have Hiraikotsu at hand. I'm not expecting any trouble, not really, but . . . "

"But it never hurts to be prepared," the smith said, walking up to the little family.

Miroku turned towards the group walking his way. "Ah, Fumio-sama. You've brought the boys. I'm glad. Their okaasan has been asking for them. And yes, I believe you are correct."

Nakao walked up to Sango. "What is that?" he asked, lifting a hand up, and reaching out just a little, but not feeling daring enough to touch the boomerang. "It's so big."

"It's called Hiraikotsu," Sango replied. "My father gave it to me when I was just a little older than you. It's a weapon to fight youkai with."

"You fight youkai?" the boy asked, honestly surprised.

"You don't remember?" Sukeo said, his tone once again a bit sharp. "She helped fight that big youkai that sent those shouki bombs all over the village."

Nakao shook his head. "I thought it was just InuYasha-sama."

"Oh no, son," Fumio said. "Sango-sama and Houshi-sama both helped defeat the monster. And Kagome-sama as well."

"I just remember hiding," Nakao said. "I was afraid the monster would eat us."

"A wise boy," Miroku replied, patting Nakao on the shoulder. "Hiding was probably a good thing. Are you ready to see your okaasan? I think she's been hoping you would come back."

Nakao nodded.

"Well, let's go then," Sango said. "Besides, I need to get the girls in before it's too dark."
Draping her boomerang over her back like old times, she reached for Yusuko, who was playing with an interesting rock.

"At least this awful day is nearly over," Koume said.

"But we're going to have another interesting day tomorrow, I suspect," Miroku said, grabbing Noriko.

Fumio nodded. "I suspect you're right."

"What . . . what is going to happen tomorrow?" Sukeo asked.

"The elders . . . will try to make sense of today," Koume replied.

The young man's face grew pale. "It's . . . it's not going to go well for my otousan, is it?"

"We'll have to wait and see," the monk replied. "We'll have to wait and see."

While Sukeo let the reality of what the next day might mean for his father sink in, at Daitaro's house, thoughts were far away from what might or might not happen to Seiji.

Daitaro stood up at his place before the assembled group, who were just getting well settled. "Well cousins, we have finally managed to make it here to this special day. I was beginning to wonder if Shinjiro would make it here in one piece -"

"He didn't dare not," Genjo interrupted. "Okaasan would have hunted him down and made him eat all the food she cooked if he didn't. At one sitting, too. Even if he were a ghost."

There was a ripple of laughter across the room, but Chime, who was readying the sake cups, merely shook her head fondly.

The old farmer snorted. "As I was saying, if he would make it here in one piece or run away screaming because his younger brother was enjoying teasing him too much."

"Maybe she would have made you eat all the food, instead," Mariko said, nudging her husband. "Even you couldn't handle that much. You would have burst."

Genjo rubbed his stomach and smiled. "But what a way to go!"
"Maybe I should have," Shinjiro said, smiling at his brother. "But I'd would have wanted to watch, so that wouldn't work out very well. You are saved, little brother."

Daitaro coughed into his hand. "But nonetheless, the day is finally here. Erime-chan, welcome to our family."

The old farmer sat down.

Tameo stood up next. "When Daitaro came and talked to me about what he and Takeshi had cooked up for these to people, I admit I was surprised. I think it hadn't donned on me how that little Erime-chan, who would come to our house with the other girls for sewing lessons and sometimes beg me for sweets had grown into a woman. When did that happen?"

"They have a habit of doing that," Takeshi said. "I tried putting weights on my girls' heads to keep them young, but it didn't work." He looked at Erime, and smiled. She blushed prettily, but her sister laughed. "It won't be long before your oldest granddaughter will be pulling the same stunt on you."

"Ssssh," Hisa said. "I'm not ready to think of that one."

"But now, here they are," Tameo continued. "Ready to start their lives together. Shinjiro, once again, we welcome you into the role of husband."

"For better or worse," Susumu said. Hisa gave him a look, and he swallowed. "Although, with Erime-chan, I'm sure it's going to be for the better."

"There is a song my otousan sang at my wedding," Tameo continued. "I have sung it at the weddings of my sons. If you'll put up with an old man whose voice isn't what it used to be, then as leader of our ko, and priest to the family kami, I would like to sing it to you. And may the kami bring it to be."

He cleared his throat, and in a much better voice than he would admit he had, began singing.

"Happy is the day
when a man brings home his bride,
then the sun shines on him,
and the gods give him a blessing.

"Happy is the day
when the man first holds his child,
then the sun shines down on him,
and the gods give him a blessing.

"Happy is the day
when the man sees his son wed,
then the sun shines down on him,
and the gods give him a blessing.

"May you walk in the sunshine,
with the gods' blessing
surrounded by the faces
of your grandchildren to come."

"Thank you, Tameo-ojisan," Shinjiro said, nodding his head in appreciation. "Today I do feel blessed."

"Well you have received the first blessing, Shinjiro," Chime said, as she looked at the young couple. "And you too, Erime-chan. Myself, I'm looking forward to the second one."

Once again, Erime blushed.

"Sometime soon for you, too," Mariko whispered to Kagome. "Then you'll really begin life as a family."

Kagome looked down at her hands, and InuYasha's right ear flicked. He leaned towards the young miko and whispered to his wife. "Are they going to talk to us about children like this until we have one?"

"Probably," she said.

He raised an eyebrow thoughtfully for a moment, then shook his head. "Feh. They're all like Miroku." He reached over and patted Kagome's hand. "Everybody wants to tease."