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

Chapter 83

The mat door rattled behind her as Kaede stepped outside to see who was calling on her now. As she looked at the farmer and the two children at his side with her patient single eye, the old miko smiled. Her face showed the fatigue from her overnight vigil with Haname, but her smile was genuine and warm.

"Well, Masuo-sama, I see you finally got a chance to stop by this old woman's house," she said, bowing her greeting. "It's been a long time."

"Finally," Masuo said, returning her bow. "Too long. I am sorry."

His daughter, Yume, pulled at his sleeve. "Miko-sama is nice, Otousan."

"Oh, I know, Yume-chan," He said, nodding. "She took care of me a long time ago when I got hurt by a youkai. You've heard me tell the story."

"That was this miko?" the girl asked, surprised.

"You didn't realize that?" Hiseo asked. She shook her head no. "I guess you were too sick when Otousan sent me here with you to hear that."

This made Kaede chuckle. "So you tell stories about me?"

"Of course," Masuo said. "If it hadn't been for you . . . "

Kaede cut him off. "I see you managed to do well for yourself after leaving here," she said. "I would ask you in for tea, but alas, I'm sure you've heard about the patient I have inside, and I'm afraid it would disturb her too much."

"Ah, that's no problem," Masuo said. "I don't want to trouble you, but I did want to give you my thanks." Turning towards his cart a moment, he grabbed something, then turned back toward the old miko. Holding a small bundle wrapped in a bright red and blue cloth out in front of him with both hands, he offered it to the miko.

"I owe you much," the farmer said. "This won't repay what I owe you, but it is a little token of my appreciation."

"What is it?" Kaede said, taking the bundle.

"A set of arrowheads for your bow," he replied. "One for every week you helped take care of me while I was ill."

Surprised at his generosity, she started to hand it back to him. "It's too much, Masuo-sama. I was just doing what I was supposed to do."

"No, no," he replied, holding up his hands up, palm out, refusing to take the bundle back. "If it hadn't been for you, I would have died and never lived to see today. I've had those for a while to give to you, but I never could seem to find time to get back to your village." He scratched the base of his shin, and gave her an apologetic glance. "And now I owe you even more, for caring for my little girl." He rested his hand on Yume's head. She looked up and smiled at him. "Please take it. I hope you will find them good fortune for your sacred arrows."

The old miko nodded. "If you insist."

"I'm much better, Otousan. Miko-sama healed me, just like she did you!" Her voice was filled with pride over that realization. "And then she let me go play, and I met Suzume and Yorime and Rin. Can we come back some day?"

"Maybe someday, child. You had a good time once you got better?" he asked.

She nodded. "And I remembered my manners, too."

Masuo smiled back at her. "Tameo-sama's daughter-in-law told me good things about you, girl."

She beamed back at her father.

"And I heard what a good brother you were to your sister," Masuo said to his son, resting a hand on his shoulder. "Carrying her all this way, and then keeping watch over her - that was an important job. You have made me proud."

Hiseo smiled up at his father. "I did just what you told me to do."

"He was a very good brother," Kaede said, agreeing. "You have raised him well. But you didn't need to give me anything. This is what I am here to do, and what I did for you, too, when you were in need. So, how are your injuries these days? Did you heal up as well as I expected?"

"Eh, you know how it goes when you're hurt badly." Masuo shrugged, and gave her a small, wry grin. "It aches me some in the winter. The scars will always be there, to remind me not to be quite so foolhardy ever again. But it's much better to ache than to not be around to watch the world spin around and see my children grow up."

Kaede nodded. "And your wife? She was very determined not to leave your side while you were recuperating. Very constant. I was impressed." Kaede said. "I always wondered what happened to her."

"She does well. We married not long after we returned. I'm still not sure if her father approves of me, even after all these years, but it's been a good match. Anybody who would put up how cranky I got when I was healing . . . She still cooks that soup recipe you taught her." He patted his tummy. "Maybe a little too often for my middle, but it's good."

The two adults laughed and continued to talk. Yume began to fidget and started looking around, bored with the adult talk. She spied a group of people walking toward the miko's house - the young woman who helped with the old miko, and a priest and a strange man with long silver hair.

She walked over to her brother "Who's that with Miko-sama?" she asked. "I've never seen anybody who looks like him before."

"Ah, that's InuYasha-sama. You didn't get to meet him, did you?" Hiseo said. "You were too asleep to talk to him. He and the monk were the ones that killed the monster who was making you sick."

"And . . . and does he have dog ears?" Yume asked, surprised. "Is...is he an Inugami?"

"I don't know," Hiseo said. "I know he's a good youkai, a hero. I bet it was him who killed the monster."

Yume's eyes grew big. "I never saw anybody like that before."

"Me, either," Hiseo said. "But I had never seen a kitsune up close before we came here, either. Things are different in this village."

Yume nodded.

Neither Kaede nor Masuo paid much attention to the children's chatter.

"And there's never been another one of those spider women by the Three Rocks since I killed that one?" Masuo asked.

Kaede shook her head. "You did a good job of getting rid of her. Evidently that was enough. It's much safer now."

Yume, ignoring the adults as much as they ignored her, stared fascinated at the people approaching. Surprising Hiseo, she pulled out of the handhold he had on her and began running toward the group.

"Good, good. At least I know I didn't get hurt in vain," the farmer said. "It was -" His thought was broken by the voice of his son.

"Yume-chan!" Hiseo yelled. "Don't do that. You need to come back here now!" He began running after her.

"I see our heroes are almost here," Masuo said turning to watch his children running towards the hanyou and his companions. "You have an unusual village, Kaede-sama."

"We do, don't we?" she said, nodding. "But it seems to work for us. So tell me, is Osamu still the headman at your village?"

Yume, with her brother in hot pursuit, didn't have to run far, just a little past the steps that lead up to the main village shrine.

"Miko-sama! You got here before we left!" Yume stopped in front of the group, catching her breath and bowing. "I was afraid we'd leave without getting to say goodby."

"I was afraid of that too," Kagome said. "But we made it in time."

"Who are these people?" Yume asked. "I don't think I got to see them before."

"This is Miroku-sama," Kagome said, nodding her head at the monk. "This is my husband InuYasha-sama." She touched her husband's hand. "And," she said, nodding towards the old farmer, "this is Daitaro-sama. He was the one who got your father to Kaede-obasan's house in time to save his life."

Yume bowed toward Daitaro. "Thank you for saving my Chichi-ue," she said.

Hiseo caught up with them. "It was you?" he asked.

"Eh, your otousan was too good to go to waste," Daitaro said. "And the woman he rescued, she was too pretty to let grieve to death."

"That was my Haha-ue," Yume said.

"Thought so," Daitaro said. "You look a lot like her."

Yume beamed, but then pulled on Kagome's sleeve. As Kagome bent down, the girl asked, "Is . . . is your husband an Inugami? I've never seen anybody with ears like that before."

InuYasha sighed, but Kagome gave a little laugh. "No, no he's not. But he does have Inu youkai blood."

"Oh," Yume said, looking puzzled, obviously not exactly sure what the difference was. InuYasha flicked his ear and Yume broke out in the giggles. "Your ears move!"

"Keh." He looked at Kagome, as if to say, 'you handle it,' and stuffed his hands in his sleeves. She rested a hand on his arm, gave him a little nod, and an encouraging smile, and turned back to Yume.

"InuYasha and Miroku both met you, even though you don't know who they are," Kagome said. "I believe they were the first to help Hiseo-kun take care of you when he got here."

Hiseo nodded. "That's right. Houshi-sama helped me get you into Kaede-sama's house."

"It's good to see that you are awake and feeling better." Miroku said. "Who would want to miss saying farewell to such a pretty girl?"

Not wanting to go any further down that line of thought, Kagome rested her hands on Yume's shoulders and gave the girl a look over. "You look much better, Yume-chan. It's hard to believe how much better in just two days."

The girl nodded. "Yesterday afternoon, not long after lunch, I took a nap, and when I got up, I started feeling really good."

"I'm not surprised," Miroku said. "That's about when we took care of the bakeneko."

"You got rid of it?" Yume asked. "How? Was it big and scary? Was there a fight? Did you get hurt?"

"She's feeling almost too good," Hiseo said. "She's been like this ever since she woke up, talking, talking, talking and running places."

Yume turned and gave him an irritated look and shook her head. "Uh-uh."

"Been giving you a hard time, has she?" Daitaro asked, chuckling. "Must have some play saved up from all the time she's been ill."

The girl laughed. "That's funny, Daitaro-ojisan."

"But maybe true," Hiseo said, taking his sister's hand. "Come on you, we need to get back to Otousan."

"But what about the monster?" the girl asked. "Don't you want to know?"

InuYasha sighed. "It was big and mean and made a lot of noise. It tried to hurt a girl, but we made sure it didn't. I cut off its tail, and that was the end of it."

"Just like that?" Yume asked.

"Just like that," InuYasha said, nodding. "I'm sure you'll hear more about it when you get home."

She nodded and turned to go, tugging on her brother's hand.

InuYasha reached into his jacket and pulled out a small bundle wrapped in a small square of cloth. "Wait a moment, Hiseo."

The boy turned back and looked at the hanyou. InuYasha unwrapped the bundle to reveal the small wooden figure of Kintaro that Hiseo had given him right before they left to hunt the bakeneko. The hanyou ran his finger gently over it and then handed it to the boy. "You told me that Kintaro would help me while I was gone. I think he did. Thanks."

The boy looked at the small toy for a moment, and wrapped his hand around it. "You really think Kintaro helped?"

"We got the bakeneko, didn't we?" InuYasha said, smiling. "Even when someone wanted to hurt Kagome and I wasn't here to help, the kami stepped in to make sure nothing bad happened. Wouldn't be surprised if Kintaro nudged him."

Hiseo smiled. " I'm glad I sent him with you. He helped me be brave when I brought Yume here. He's got good luck."

"Yeah." InuYasha rested a hand on the youth's shoulder. "Hope he keeps bringing you good luck. Luck's a good thing to have."

The boy nodded, and, like InuYasha, he lightly touched the little wooden figure before putting it away in his kosode.

By this time, Masuo had taken his leave of Kaede and pulling the hand cart, caught up with his children.

"I see you're on your way home," Miroku said.

Masuo dropped the pull bar and nodded. "If we leave now, we should be home in time for lunch," the farmer said. "I'm sure my wife's getting anxious to know how Yume's doing. It was hard enough for the little while she was here and we were there."

"She's doing very well, from the looks of things," Kagome said. "I can't believe how much better she is than when she arrived."

Yume smiled. "Kaede-sama and you took good care of me, Miko-sama."

"You might be better," Hiseo said. "But you still get to ride in the cart. It's a long walk home."

"Miko-sama, eh," said Masuo, his face rather surprised. "Married to InuYasha-sama and a miko both?"

InuYasha grew stiff. Kagome rested a hand on his arm. "Yes. I'm Kaede-sama's apprentice."

Masuo gave a surprise shake of his head, but then nodded, not willing to make anything of it. "Kaede-sama, she's a wise woman, and I'm sure she knows what she's doing. All I can say, is this village does things its own way, but it all seems to be working. I heard about what the kami did yesterday. If you have his blessing, who is just a little farmer to tell him he's wrong? Especially with everything you've done for us."

"Keh," InuYasha said, relaxing. He took Kagome's hand in his. "I'm glad it's over for you. Have a good trip home."

"And go with the Buddha's blessing," Miroku said, making a sign of benediction.

Masuo lifted up his daughter and put her on the back of the cart. "Come and see us sometime," he said. "We owe you a lot, and you'll always be welcome. And that goes for you, InuYasha-sama. Youkai blood or not, I owe you more than I can repay."

He grabbed the pull-bar to the cart. "Come on, son, let's see if we can get home in time for lunch."

Saying their last goodbyes, the three of them headed down the road.