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

Chapter 271

Unaware of the spiritual visitors watching them in the rafters, the wedding party watched with varying degrees of surprise and amusement as Takeshi downed his cup of sake.

Daitaro broke into a broad smile. "Strong enough to stun a bull," he said. "I wish. Maybe I should try that on Okuro the next time he gets out."

"Don't ask me to help if you do, old man," Kinjiro said, shaking his head. "That bull of yours is a handful enough."

"Maybe a long drink and a willing cow," Genjo replied, looking like he was actually considering it, having chased after his father's bull many times. "A willing cow always works best." He scratched the back of his neck. "He particularly seems to like that cow of yours, Kinjiro. Wonder what would happen if we doused her back with a jug or two?"

"A wet cow and a waste of something we ought to be drinking," Daitaro said, laughing. "But here's to our new family tie to you, Takeshi, and our new daughter." He picked up the ceremonial cup off of the low table where Erime had placed it, saw there was a little sake left in the cup, swirled it a couple of times, and downed it.

From her seat next to her husband's place, Ushimi looked at Takeshi. "Are you all right? You almost never drink like that."

"Never better," he said, grinning at her, then he returned to his seat and sat down. "Some challenges, even I can't pass up."

Masayo hit his drum and laughed.

"I don't think Takeshi-sama likes to be called a lightweight," Kagome whispered to InuYasha, but she couldn't quite stifle her giggle.

"Keh," the hanyou replied. "I think Daitaro-jiiji thinks we all are."

"I know I am," she replied. "I wasn't even old enough to drink back home. It all goes to my head."

"Not allowed to drink?" Daitaro said, turning toward the hanyou and miko. He shook his head. "What a strange place you come from."

"Not for another year and a little longer," she said, giving him a small, nervous smile.

Daitaro shook his head. "Well, lucky for you, we have no such foolish rules here. And especially at a wedding. We'll have to see if you're as lightweight as that husband of yours."

"Enough, husband," Chime said. "After we're finished with the miko's purification, we can talk about sake and drinking all you want. But let's finish the blessings first."

"Good idea, Chime-chan," Hisa said, giving Daitaro a glance that wasn't quite her notorious look, but leaned in that direction. "I'm excited, Kagome-chan. I know you've proven yourself to be a miko more than once, but this is your official act as a miko for our village. I'm just happy to be here to say I was here to see it."

"That's right," Tameo said. "Your first official act. I'll need to write that down in the village register when I get home." He lifted up his own sake cup. "That by itself is worth its own celebration."

"I forgot about that," the old farmer said. He returned to his place. "That's definitely worth a drink."

Sitting down, he smiled, and joined Tameo in toasting the young woman.

"I...I..." Kagome took a deep breath, looked at her husband, who smiled encouragingly at her, and lightly gave her hand a small squeeze. "Thank you, I think."

Even though Miroku's house wasn't that far from Daitaro's, the atmosphere at the monk's house was miles away in tone, where a quiet soberness overlay the voices of the people within, and there was no lightheartedness at all at the moment.

"I think the girls are about gone," Sango said. She had laid a blanket out in one corner for the girls to sleep on, and although Noriko was still trying to fight it, Yusuko was fast asleep.

"Should we leave?" Koume asked.

Miroku stood up and fetched a lamp. "I don't think so, not yet. Let's give the boys a little more time with their okaasan. It's a fair evening. Why don't we go sit on the verandah?"

"That's a good idea," Fumio said. "I bet those girls of yours get to be a handful when they haven't had enough sleep."

Miroku smiled at the blacksmith as he lit the lamp. "You sound like a man who's had some experience with that type of situation."

"You can say that," the blacksmith said, standing up. "Kimi, now when she was this age - I know she seems to want to be the goddess of mercy herself most days now, but I could tell you tales about how un-Kwannon-like she was when she was a small thing."

Koume stood up. "I can't imagine where she got that from," she said, shaking out her sleeves. "Although I know a certain blacksmith who needs a good night's rest himself."

Kaede, sipping a cup of tea as she sat by the fire pit, chuckled. "They should enjoy it while they're young. When they get older, sleep is not such a good friend."

Sango, checking Naoya, who was sleeping in his basket bed, smoothed the coverlet over the sleeping boy, looked up at the old miko. "You don't sleep well, Kaede-obaasan?" she asked, standing up.

"Oh, I sleep well enough most nights. Sometimes, though, life has other plans." She sighed a little, and shrugged. "It's the lot of my work, child."

"I can lay out a bed for you if you'd like," Sango said, moving towards her storage cabinets. "You look like you could use a rest."

"Perhaps later." Kaede looked in the direction of the back room. One of the boys, Nakao from the sound of it, was singing some bright children's song, not loud enough to make out the words.
"Please, Okaasan," Sukeo said, in a louder voice.

The miko took a sip of her tea. "I'm not so sure how much sleep this old woman will get tonight."

"Nor I," Miroku said, sliding the door open. "But for the moment, while the birds hurry home to their roosts and the crickets are singing, let us enjoy the evening."

He stepped outside. The other adults, all but Kaede, who was unwilling to leave the house in case she was needed in the back room, followed.

At Daitaro's house, Chime picked up the water bowl she had reserved for the miko's blessing."It's time, Kagome-chan," she said.

"So," said Daikoku the luck god, "the hanyou's wife is learning to be a village miko? I'm surprised nobody has tried to get her into one of the big shrines. She's got a lot of power."

"She does indeed. I've had to use extra power to keep her from noticing us here. But I feel sad for anybody that tries to come between her and her hanyou," Kazuo said. "It will require luck for such a one to get away from this couple with his head still on his shoulders."

"They are tightly bonded," the luck kami said. "By more than just affection."

"You've felt that, too?" Kazuo said.

"It's rather hard to miss," the luck kami said. "Perhaps it will be enough to keep any of the August Court from doing something rash, like trying to put her in a major shrine." He grinned. "With luck."

"Perhaps," Kazuo said. "Let's see how well she handles this situation."

Kagome let go of InuYasha's hand and she stood up. For some reason, her cheeks blushed a little as she walked across the room to the fire pit. "This is the final part of the ceremony," Chime said as she handed the bowl to the young miko. "Just a little sprinkle, Kagome-chan. And whatever words come to mind."

"After that, we can eat," Susumu said. "And after Daitaro-ojisan's sake, I need something in my stomach."

Kinjiro elbowed his brother, but most people in the room laughed, especially Daitaro.

"Soon enough, son," the old farmer said. " My wife, she's cooked enough that even you will go away with a full stomach."

In spite of being a little nervous, that made Kagome chuckle. She took the bowl from Chime with a small bow, and then, a little sheepishly, she looked around the room. Masayo began playing his drum once again, and sang a verse from Tameo's song:

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

All eyes were on her, but in a friendly way that helped her relax. Hisa nodded at her, and Ushimi gave her a broad smile as she looked. InuYasha nodded his head, encouraging her. Taking a deep breath, she straightened up, and gracefully walked to where the young couple were sitting, and bowed.

"This is a happy day, just like Tameo and Masayo sang about. I hope I can keep it happy for you. Kaede-sama was the one supposed to do this," she said, looking first at Shinjiro, and then at Erime. "But if you think I'm a good person for the task, I'll do the purification in her place."

"Of course, cousin," Shinjiro said, with a firm nod of his head. "We're honored. We're happy to be the reason for your first official act as our village miko."

"It's good, good," Erime said. "You've been so happy since you've come back to us; that it has to make the blessing special."

Up on the rafters, Kazuo's face lit up as he thought of something. "Watch this," he told his companion.

Kagome, unaware of the kami's conversation, smiled back at the couple and dipped her fingers in the bowl.

"I was thinking about what my ojiisan, who is a priest told me about water," she said. "Water is how we wash away the impurities of life," she said, looking into the bowl. "On one hand, it cleans the body. He told me that's why we use it as a symbol of cleansing the soul." She dipped the fingers of her right hand into the water. "I offer you this water as the sign of your starting your life together pure and clean. May the kami offer you a pure road ahead." She lifted her fingers out of the bowl and sprinkled them both three times. "May you be blessed all the days of your life together," she said with the first sprinkle. The second time, she said, "May you always prosper."

Kagome took a quick glance at Mariko, who was preparing the food trays, and who had teased her earlier about having children before she sprinkled the couple the third time. "May you be fruitful and have many young ones to bring up and make your life as a family complete."

Mariko, catching the reference to what she had told Kagome earlier, stopped filling a bowl with rice and snickered.

"Thank you," Erime said, then looked at her husband, who rested his hand on hers.

"I am now a married man," he said.

There were cheers than ran around the room.

Kagome bowed, and was about to turn when suddenly, a golden light surrounded the couple, and the air was rich with the smell of fine incense. The gathered group grew quiet for a moment, except for Tama, who ooohed loudly. InuYasha, his nose suddenly assaulted, sneezed.

"What . . . " Kagome said, perplexed, as the golden light began to fade.

"I told you she was a powerful miko," Daitaro said.

"Indeed, our little cousin is something special," Susumu replied.

"But . . . but . . . " Kagome said, knitting her brows together. "I didn't use my spiritual powers. I..."

Tameo looked around the room and up towards the rafters. "Well then," he said, loudly. "That must mean the kami really do approve. Even better." He turned to the newly married couple. "Welcome to married life."

Unheard by human or hanyou's ears, Kazuo chuckled as Kagome, somewhat unnerved, handed the bowl back to Chime, who was beaming at the turn of events.

"Such a beautiful blessing, Kagome-chan," the older woman said. "Everybody's going to want you to bless their weddings now."

As a slightly confused Kagome went back to her seat, Daikoku turned to his companion. "Do you always pull stunts like this?" the luck god asked.

"Whenever I can," Kazuo replied, his smile beaming brightly. "Whenever I can. Now, let's go to our next stop."

And with an unseen shimmer that nonetheless made the room feel a tiny bit darker, the two kami disappeared.