The News From Back Home
"So," Miroku said. "How are things in the old village?"
The two men walked along a graveled path in the garden behind the Buddhist temple's sacred enclosure that led towards the living quarters in the back. They stopped under the spreading branches of an old cherry tree, enjoying the shade in the afternoon heat. InuYasha, who looked tired, and was dusty from travel, leaned against the trunk.
"About the same. I heard the tax surveyors came out again from Odawara, and without me and Sesshoumaru there this time, they were able to get the survey done. Don’t know if it’ll really change anything, though. Tomeo, the old headman, just shrugged it off. Not much he can do about it.” He crammed his hands inside of his sleeves. “Tomeo did tell me that some bandits tried something at the same time the Hojo’s men were there, and the soldiers with the surveyors ran them off. Serves’em right, stupid bastards.”
Miroku decided he was tired of standing and sat down. “Well, at least they got some good out of the surveyors being there.”
“Yeah,” InuYasha said. “Otherwise, it all looks pretty much the same. They still haven’t found a priest willing to take over your little temple. People are still asking if you're going to move back. Kaede took in an apprentice. You remember Yurime?"
Miroku nodded. "The headman's granddaughter?"
"Yeah. She always liked hanging around with the old woman. Now Kaede's teaching her all her medicine and stuff." InuYasha's ear twitched, and he sighed. "Asked her if she wanted to come here, and she turned me down again."
"I’m not surprised to hear that. I don't know who's more stubborn, Kaede-sama or Mushin," Miroku said. "And I wonder if our family will be saying the same thing about us one day."
"Probably," InuYasha said.
Just then, a small, silver-haired boy dashed out of the house and ran up to the two of them. "Daddy! I missed you!" he said, running up and grabbing hold of his father's red-clad leg.
"I missed you too, little guy," the hanyou said, kneeling down next to the small boy who wrapped his arms around his neck. "So, what did you do while we were gone?" he asked.
"Played with Naoya," Atae replied. "We built this big castle behind the house, with a roof and everything. Aunt Sango gave us a sheet for the roof and we played Peach Boy and Kintaro, and he showed me his new top, and then Takao and Saburou came over and we made horses from some sticks and we killed the Oni king dead and rescued the princess,"
InuYasha marveled that he could say all of that in one breath. "Is that so?" he asked, then looked up at Miroku, who was chuckling.
"He really was very good this time around. Two of the village boys came over and played with them. Shintaro's two youngsters." Miroku said. "From the sounds of things from their playhouse, it sounded like the Oni King never got beat up so bad."
"Is that wise?" InuYasha asked.
The monk shrugged. "He's got to live in the world, too. You can only protect him so far. Shintaro and three other families send their sons here for school anyway." He rested his arm on his friend's shoulder. "They already think you're a minor kami, especially after they saw you kaze no kizu that youkai last fall. Nobody in the village would dare harm him."
"Feh," InuYasha said, straightening up. "Sometimes, people act harsh when the person they thought was special turns out to have feet of clay." He picked up his son. "Ready to see if Mama's ready to go home?"
Inside the house, there was a rattling of tea cups and the noise of children playing. The two women sat by the fire pit, drinking tea and sharing some rice cakes. Next to Sango was a small pile of wrapped packages.
“So what else is news? I’m glad to hear that Harue finally had a baby. I know she had tried so long,” Sango said.
"You remember Hanaya?" Kagome asked, sipping her tea. She watched the twins playing with their little brother Tadeshi, who was still a toddler, and their sister Kiyome, who was busy dressing and undressing her doll. Yasuko was trying to sew, but gave up as Tadeshi kept reaching for the cloth.
Sango turned around. "Just a minute. Noriko, go check on your little brother. I think I hear him waking up in the sleeping room."
The girl nodded, got up, went to the back.
"Let me think a moment. Hanaya, who was married to that man from up north?" Sango asked, suddenly smiling. "She taught me that soup recipe that InuYasha hates so much."
Kagome giggled at the memory of the soup tasting as Naoya pulled on his mother's sleeve. "Can I go down to the village?" he asked. "Dai has my top."
Sango nodded. "Hurry back. I need you to get the water for dinner."
He dashed out of the house.
Kagome watched the door slide shut "Remember her oldest daughter? The one who always found a reason to come by the Kwannon image and leave flowers if Miroku was home?"
Sango frowned, remembering. "Oh yes. Lucky for her she was so young when we left."
"Well, the women were all talking about her. It seems she ran off with a fish merchant down in Edo. Hanaya is very upset. She wanted her to marry one of Tomeo's nephews and stay close to home. Edo's not very far away, but how often does a farm wife from the village have a reason to go down there? She's worried sick that the young man's family will throw her out and she'll end up working at a teahouse."
"That's too bad," Sango said. "She was a pretty girl. I hope it all works out." She picked up a sweet cake from the tray in front of them.
"The winter cough took Tei-sama," Kagome said. "I know she never quite approved of me marrying InuYasha, and wouldn't let me help at the birth of her last child, but her husband and children are really devastated. She was a good woman, as far as I could tell, outside of the fact that youkai scared her."
"You're right," Sango said. "One night when the twins had a fever and Miroku and InuYasha were out of town, she stayed with me because it was just more than I could handle." Noriko came back carrying her brother, and Sango took him from her. "I'm sorry to hear that." She loosened her kimono and began to nurse the baby. "I'll have Miroku chant some sutra for her."
"That would be a good thing," Kagome agreed. "But I'm worried about Kaede. The ache in her legs is getting worse, and she's taken in Yurime as her apprentice. I think Yurime is doing all the kagura dances and other things at the shrine now. She doesn't have much spiritual power, but you don't need it for that. Kaede's teaching her what she can about healing."
"Yurime always liked being around Kaede. What bothers you about it?" Sango asked.
“I think she's finding it hard to manage on her own any more. We went up to the shrine to offer flowers at Kikyou's shrine, and it was all she could do to make the stairs," the younger woman said with a frown. "I wish we could get her to come here."
Sango sighed. "I don't think she'll ever leave the village, Kagome. We might think of her as family, but I know the whole village does too. And they'll take care of her." Sango shifted her son to the other side.
"I know," Kagome said. "It's just not being able to be there to take care of her bothers me, I guess." She took another sip of her tea, then put her cup down. "I hope you like the threads. The seller we used to buy from has retired. I'm not sure I like the silks the new dealer is selling quite as well. It's his nephew, but I think he's passing off cheaper stuff for the better."
"I'm sure it will be fine, Kagome. And certainly good enough for my daughters to practice their embroidery with." Sango looked at her friend with a sharp eye. "But how are you doing? You seem tired. Perhaps you should have stayed home this time."
Kagome ran her hand over her swollen tummy. "I don't think I'll go back out until after the baby comes. It was a bit harder than I expected. So many changes! So much news. I'm glad to be home where nothing much happens."
"Well, Rin tells me Ginhime got her first tooth, and Naoya lost one," Sango said. "I guess things change, even here."
"Yeah, I guess you're right." She stood up, not quite as gracefully as usual. "But still, it feels good to be home."
Just then, InuYasha slid the door open. "Ready to go?" he asked.
With a final round of goodbyes, they headed up the last leg of their journey to their own house.
Miroku watched them walk out of sight. He turned to his wife. "I'll tell you InuYasha's news if you tell me Kagome's. I would be willing to wager you learned a bit more than I did."
Sango laughed, and handing her son to her husband, walked back into the house and began cooking her evening meal.