After The End: New Beginnings

Market Day

The next morning, Kagome woke bright and early, or rather, dark and early since the sun hadn't risen yet, to the feel of Inuyasha's body still wrapped possessively around her own, and she sighed happily, content to lie like that forever.

She wasn't detoured even when she noticed his morning excitement pressing against her bottom, feeling flattered by his reaction to their proximity rather than embarrassed. She wiggled against him a little bit, deliberately teasing him, and she giggled quietly when he growled softly before tightening his grip on her.

“Woman, knock that off, we ain't alone,” he grumbled low, barely a whisper, but she heard him loud and clear since his lips were just a couple inches from her ear, his breath making goosebumps rise on the back of her neck.

“I guess now I know why you never held me like this before,” she teased quietly, making sure to keep her voice down since Kaede and Rin were both still asleep.

He chuckled quietly.

“You don't know the half of it. During the quest I took more cold baths in one month than I had before in a full year.”

She giggled again.

“I think you're exaggerating a little bit, but thanks.”

To her ultimate surprise, he growled softly again, and tilted his head up a bit so that his lips were just a hair's breath away from touching the shell of her ear.

“You're right, I hate cold baths. Most of the time, I just took matters into my own hands.”

Kagome felt more tingles at his words, and that time, they weren't isolated to the back of her neck. Smelling the change in her, Inuyasha smirked, kissed the side of her neck briefly, and then extracted himself from the sleeping bag before he did something he'd regret.

“Speaking of, I'm going to the river. I'll be back in time for breakfast, and I'll bring some fish so you can have a good meal for the long walk ahead.”

“Can I...can I come with you to the river?” Kagome asked shyly as she turned over to look his way, knowing exactly why he was going.

He hesitated, looking torn. A part of him, she could tell, actually liked the idea of her going with him. She knew which part of him that was, too. But he also seemed to look nervous, almost afraid even, and eventually, be it that fear or his sense of morals, something won out over the raw desire of his hormones, as he told her only that it wouldn't be a good idea, and then before she could protest he was gone. She sighed, wondering exactly how this was fair to her, even though she knew he meant well. Slipping out of her sleeping bag, herself, Kagome headed for the latrine to 'relieve' herself before Kaede and Rin woke up.

Inuyasha returned in time for breakfast preparation, and as promised, he had a couple of freshly caught fish in his possession. If he could tell by her scent what Kagome had done that morning he didn't show it, almost definitely because they weren't alone, she assumed. Besides, if he had dared to make a comment, teasing or otherwise, then his little trip to the river would have been fair game for her to make mention of in return. It didn't take that long for him to catch a couple of fish. Maybe the next time he went 'fishing' she should just follow him even if he told her not to. He had already admitted to it being one of his fantasies, after all. What was so wrong with a wife wanting to make one of her husband's fantasies came true? In that moment she forced herself to change the subject in her head, though, before she got herself all worked up again with no way to deal with it, knowing they needed to eat and hit the road. Today was Market Day, so she needed to focus on what needed to be done today. Of course, part of what needed to happen today consisted of maybe getting a room with her husband at the inn, and if so that'd be great, but if not she wouldn't worry about it. There would be other opportunities. She would make other opportunities.

Breakfast was uneventful, and filling. The fresh fish had actually been a good idea.

Getting her trusted old yellow backpack out of the storage chest, placing its various unneeded contents loose into the chest for the time being, Kagome was just about ready to get going when Inuyasha surprised her by asking her to change out of her yukata and into her miko robes instead.

“You sure?” she asked, honestly surprised. “Even though I am a miko, I'm your wife first,” she pointed out. “As a general practice I wasn't planning on wearing the robes except when I'm actually on duty.”

“Keh,” he replied. “You should be on duty as a miko for this run. It'll probably go smoother at the market if the peddlers see you more as a traveling miko than my wife. I'm actually glad Miroku's going to be with us. They're used to seeing me 'n' Miroku there together, and this way, it'll look like you're just somebody else who came along with us.”

His words didn't hurt Kagome directly, although they did upset her, but only from the point of view of being irritated with how closed-minded the rest of the world was. He wasn't being insensitive, and she understood that. Hell, he was being sensitive, wanting to spare her from a potentially bad situation.

“Thank the kami we don't have to put up appearances around the villagers here,” she said. “I mean in a different way we do, since it's 'Kagome-sama' this and 'Miko-sama' that, and that's a little weird, but it's a good kind of weird.”

“Yeah...” he agreed right away. “I'll take 'Inuyasha-sama' over 'filthy half-breed' any time.”

Kaede remained silent, letting the couple have their conversation as she quietly washed the dishes from breakfast, but in her head she found herself feeling extremely happy for those two, indeed, that the villagers here had come to recognize the hanyou and future-born miko for the kami-sends they truly were.

“Okay, well let me change real quick then,” Kagome said then, as she ducked behind the changing screen, which she'd moved back into its proper corner that morning while Inuyasha had still been out.

As she reemerged dressed in her miko robes, Kagome did have to admit that the ensemble allowed for better freedom of movement, and would probably be more comfortable for traveling. Inuyasha in turn told her that whenever they traveled away from the village, for whatever reason, he always wanted her in miko garb, so that any possible passersby they came across along the way would know that she was a miko. He apologized again, briefly, for his original misunderstanding, and proceeded to thank Kaede for wanting Kagome to train under her because now that the whole business of whether or not they could be together while she was a miko was resolved he was actually glad that she was recognized officially as a village miko. While he didn't know how well it'd go over with some people to learn that a miko was married to a hanyou, being a miko in and of itself, and wearing the miko robes, at least allowed Kagome to have another reason to be traveling with him. At first glance, most people would probably just assume that he was her servant in some fashion or another, the same as how some people viewed he and Miroku when they did their extermination jobs. If on the other hand she were dressed like a house wife… He'd rather she never had to find out first hand what other people besides their local villagers thought of the women who chose youkai partners.

“I can imagine,” she said. “While it doesn't please me, it's certainly not going to discourage me. My place is with you. Even if the villagers here didn't approve I wouldn't have let that stop me. Even if they chased us out with torches and pitchforks, I'd run away with you.”

He snorted an amused chuckle at her visual.

“Haven't been chased by a true mob in a good while. Usually just had people throw rocks at me and spit in my direction while calling me names.”

She stepped forward, and grabbed his hand.

“Do you want me to pretend we're not married?” she asked, the look in her eyes clearly revealing that she didn't like the idea, not one bit, but that she would go along with it if it was what he truly wanted.

He sighed, and appeared to think it over, before finally coming to a conclusion. He gave her hand a little squeeze before releasing, his lips quirking up in a crooked grin.

“Hell, they're gonna find out eventually, once we're buying all the stuff for our house,” he said. “Don't lie, but just don't go out of your way to show it. Let them draw their own conclusions, and then hopefully, with the robes, fewer people will realize the truth. A yukata is just asking for trouble.”

Kagome nodded her understanding and agreement to that. Things were different in that century, anyway, and so it wasn't like she could have ordinarily been holding his hand while they shopped, like two happy people in love in the 21st century might do. In the Sengoku jidai, even something as simple as holding hands in public was very improper, scandalous even. And kissing in public? That was downright pornographic. So it wasn't really like she'd been planning on oozing her love and affection for him in front of the market vendors, anyway, but she would definitely refrain from using expressions like 'my husband and I' when speaking to the vendors. The word 'husband' still sounded too foreign on her tongue, anyway. It was going to take some time yet to fully sink in. In the meantime, it was high time they were on their way to Miroku and Sango's house.

Kaede spoke up as they prepared to head out, suggesting that Kagome bring her bow with her and insisting that it was all right for her to borrow her quiver of arrows again. Not that she honestly expected them to come across any trouble on the short trip down to the local market village and back, and certainly not anything that Inuyasha couldn't handle on his own, but as a general rule of thumb Kagome should just always have her bow and arrows with her whenever they left the village for any purpose, just as Inuyasha wanted her to always be dressed in the robes of a miko. Besides, the more contact she had with the bow from Mt. Azusa, the better, so that it could once again resume forming its connection with her heart.

Making a reprimanding noise of surprise at herself for not having thought about bringing her bow, herself, Inuyasha sent Kaede an approving nod of thanks as Kagome quickly went to retrieve it and the elder miko's arrows, and then the couple was finally out the door, saying a quick goodbye to Rin, who'd gone outside after breakfast to pull more weeds along the side of the house.

Heading down the main street of town towards the small road that led to Sango and Miroku's house, it was more of the usual for the hanyou and miko as they nodded their heads to the few people who spotted them and bowed as they passed. Even though it felt like they were getting a late start that morning, that was really only because they'd both been up since before the sun. Arriving at the monk and slayer's house, it turned out they were right on time, as Miroku was outside, dressed and fed and ready to go but not yet actually waiting on them, as he was currently in the middle of trying to get his daughters to let go of his legs by promising them he'd buy them each a sweet treat for them to enjoy that night after dinner.

“Ah, Inuyasha, Kagome-sama, what perfect timing,” the monk stated in greeting as they walked up.

“Ah! Doggy!” Mizuki cried in joy upon spotting her favorite hanyou uncle.

“Uncle Inu!” Misaki chimed in, as both twins detached themselves from their father and rushed the half canine man.

“I guess we know who their favorite is,” Miroku grumbled good-naturedly, while Sango laughed from her place in the doorway, Ichirou in her arms. Shippou was standing beside her, an amused expression on his face as well.

“Not now, kids, we gotta go,” Inuyasha said, his voice calm but also firm.

“Go?” asked Misaki, clearly disappointed.

“Otou and Doggy go?” Mizuki elaborated, her lower lip trembling.

Rolling his eyes, Miroku knelt down beside where Inuyasha was standing and got his daughters' attentions.

“We're not going to be gone long. It's Market Day, remember? We're just going to the market, not an extermination job. I'll be back home this evening, in time for dinner.”

“Promise?” Mizuki asked, her would-be tears already drying up.

Miroku nodded, his face serious. “Promise.”

Inuyasha and Kagome remained silent, but they were each thinking that Miroku, for all his 'would you bear my child' nonsense back in the day, was actually a really good father. The twins ran back to their mother, at Miroku's instruction, and then Sango and Shippou both gave the trio their well-wishes for a safe journey before ducking back inside with the children.

“Keh, finally,” Inuyasha said mostly to himself as the three of them headed out.

The first few minutes of their walk through town was silent, the trio bowing their heads to the various villagers who greeted them along their way, and then finally passing the last house, officially leaving the village behind them, Kagome spoke up first.

“Wow, this is weird. Almost like back during the quest, except Sango-chan's not with us.”

“Or Shippou,” Miroku added. “Although he stays to help keep an eye on Sango and the kids whenever he's home and I have to leave. I prefer it when he's there, although sometimes he's off training.”

“Keh, can't be helped,” Inuyasha said, as their street met up with the larger, main highway that connected the various villages of the region. Turning, they continued on their way. “Could always send somebody else to pick up a few things at the market for you if that's all we were gonna do, but if a job comes in then that's it, we gotta go when the people need us, Shippou or no Shippou.”

Kagome glanced her husband's way, giving him a warm smile. He noticed her expression, and quirked a brow at her.


“Oh nothing...” she waved off. “Just like I said my first day back, it's just surprising, but a good thing, to hear you speak like that, and for me to realize how much you've matured. To hear you talk about having to go help people in need.”

“It's a job, Miroku charges,” he pointed out, cheeks a bit on the red side.

She waved that comment off as well.

“Still, you already said you help anyway even when they can't afford to pay anything. I'm proud of you, that's all.”

His blush remained, but he shrugged in his best semblance of nonchalance.

“What am I supposed to do? Hear about people in trouble and then just let 'em die? Can't go running all over Nihon 'n' back looking for people who might randomly need help, that'd leave my own villagers vulnerable for way too long, but if somebody comes asking for help and it'll only take a few days or so then yeah, I'll help.”

She smirked.

“You called them your villagers again.”

“So what? They are mine.”

Miroku only grinned as this conversation unfolded beside him, honestly pleased that Inuyasha was comfortable speaking so freely around him. In a way it was like the old quest days, indeed, the three of them walking together on the road, but in a very big way it was nothing like the old quest days. For one thing, Kagome and Inuyasha hadn't gotten into a fight yet, and he didn't imagine they would any time soon, either.

“Like I'm yours?” the miko asked her husband, a hint of teasing in her voice.

“Oh, you're mine in a whole different way...”

As if finally realizing that Miroku was walking beside him on his other side, Inuyasha bit his tongue and didn't say the rest of his comment, cheeks an even darker shade of red now. Kagome, who'd been fully aware of Miroku's presence the entire time and didn't care one way or the other, picked up where her husband left off.

“Just like you're mine.”

She reached over and gave the subduing beads a gentle tug.

Miroku chuckled, and Inuyasha shot him a glare, but the hanyou should have known better because staring right at the monk only caused Miroku to make a comment of his own, as if Inuyasha had verbally addressed him with his silent look, bringing the houshi into the conversation he had previously been content to merely listen to.

“So how is married life treating you, Inuyasha?” he asked then. “Did you and Kagome-sama have a pleasant wedding night?”

“Bouzu, you better fucking-”

“I'd be careful if I were you, Miroku-sama,” Kagome interrupted, her face and tone of voice both far too serious to actually be serious. “As you two already explained to Shippou-chan, I have to defer to my husband now, and so I cannot come to anyone's rescue should they incur my husband's wrath.”

She giggled and winked as she finished saying it, but even if she hadn't Inuyasha would have known she was obviously kidding, because there was just no way she'd actually let him beat on Miroku, no matter how much the idiot deserved it at times. But sighing in that moment, the hanyou could reluctantly admit that this was not one of those times. He'd had a very mature conversation with Kagome two days prior, so surely he could endure his friend's playful teasing. Miroku really was a genuine friend, he knew; his only real 'guy' friend, and acknowledging this in his mind, Inuyasha figured it wouldn't hurt anything to actually answer the man's question.

“Keh, if you must know, you nosy pervert, Kagome set us up in the babaa's hut the same as you and Sango did while your house was being built.”

“I'm surprised you even spent last night in Kaede-sama's house at all,” Miroku commented in return, completely serious. “I would have thought camping out in the woods would have been more...intimate.”

Even Kagome blushed mildly at that comment, but she was actually glad Miroku had broached the subject first, since she'd been trying to think of how to bring it up without an appropriate segue.

Inuyasha was still spluttering in embarrassment from Miroku's latest words when she spoke up again.

“Speaking of...I was wondering, Inuyasha, if while we were there today you wanted to, ya know...get a room at the inn?”

He stopped dead in his tracks, eyes wide, and turned to look at Kagome like she'd grown another head. He gulped.


“Bad idea?” she asked, her tone of voice timid. “I mean, if you think it'd cause a problem, I don't want to cause any scandals or anything, especially since we need to stay on good terms with the market village.”

Miroku grinned.

“If the two of you traveled swiftly, Kagome-sama, I believe it would take Inuyasha only around twenty minutes at his top speed to reach Edo, which has plenty of proper inns to choose from. Perhaps I-”

“Perhaps you should shut it, bouzu!” Inuyasha exploded, face burning brightly. “I'm not a fucking hentai like you, damn it. Kagome deserves her own bed, in her own house, not a room that's been used by who knows how many people. I won't do that to her.”

“Shouldn't that be my decision?” Kagome chimed in, causing her husband to stare at her again, but something about the genuine panic in his gaze caused her to lose her fire.

Miroku wasn't so quick to let it go.

“Now wait just a minute,” the monk argued. “Are you insinuating that I dishonored my own wife by having us spend our wedding night together at the market inn?”

“I...that's...that's different!”

Now Kagome and Miroku were both looking at Inuyasha with raised eyebrows.

“I just...I...that is, but...gah!”

He was quickly losing what little composure he had left. Hands flung in the air, Inuyasha turned away from his traveling companions, walking a few paces ahead of them while muttering stuff under his breath that neither human could quite make out.

Kagome sighed.

He couldn't be that worried about wanting to do right by her in regard to their first time being in their own bed in their own bedroom. If so, the look in his eyes when their gazes had met would've been more steadfast and determined, not terrified. Maybe he really was afraid of an angry mob chasing them out if they pushed that forbidden boundary, especially since she was dressed as a miko and all. Though on the other hand, she still remembered the look of fear that had been mixed with desire in his eyes that very morning when she'd offered to help him 'fish' before breakfast.

Shaking her head, Kagome knew that it didn't really matter what Inuyasha was afraid of, whether it was an angry mob or just wedding night jitters. The bottom line was that she wouldn't try to force him if he wasn't ready yet. Not if it was just going to make him freak out on her. How was that productive?

“Never mind,” she said then. “I was only offering in case you might want to.” She sighed again, and then gave him a reassuring smile when he tentatively glanced in her direction. “Waiting for our own house to get finished seems a bit ridiculous if you ask me, but if you don't want get a room at the inn tonight I won't force the issue,” she stated bluntly. “It was probably a bad idea, anyway.”

No, it probably wasn't. Not really. Especially if they traveled to a different inn, not using the one at the market town. But she would let him think she agreed if it would spare his feelings. It took a month, maybe even longer, to build a decent house like the kind in Kaede's village. He really wanted to wait that long? That was crazy! On the other hand, though, perhaps he was merely thinking that since they'd already waited three years to be reunited, what was one more month to do it right? She supposed she could understand that train of thought, and she certainly didn't want to come off as some kind of a wanton hussy that wasn't patient enough to wait any longer, herself. But despite not being able to do anything yet, by not waiting on the actual marriage, by getting that recorded with the headman right away, that at least gave them the right, in Inuyasha's mind, to cuddle like they'd done last night, and she would most definitely take cuddling over no cuddling, especially if cuddling was all she was going to get from him for the next month or so. So even though it was more like they were engaged rather than actually married she definitely did not regret marrying him right away, even if they couldn't consummate their marriage for a while yet.

Still, just because he didn't want to 'take her like an animal' out in the forest, or get a room at an inn, apparently, that didn't mean she would so readily concede to waiting an entire month before being with her husband. There had to be another option. She just had to find a way to persuade him without forcing him. For one thing, his desire to not do anything in the forest didn't mean they couldn't still go out into the forest again between now and their house being finished, just to 'talk' she could say. She'd see just how far she could get him to go without forcing him to do anything he didn't want to do. She would see if she could get him to want it just as badly as she did.

The 21st century teenager in her, fresh out of high school, knew that there were plenty of things they could do together before going 'all the way', which in and of itself would certainly help take the edge off, if nothing else, and besides that, all of her previous silent vows of not doing anything to seduce him were null and void as far as she was concerned, now that they were actually married. She had originally only thought that she wouldn't try to seduce him before they'd gotten things worked out, when they were still technically 'just friends' and it might've made things complicated if he'd given into his carnal desires and then regretted it afterwards. That was before she'd even known he had issue with the forest; she'd hypothesized that he might've just regretted it for the fact that he'd taken advantage of a friend. There was nothing to regret now as far as she was concerned, nothing to feel guilty over, now that they were married.

She was his wife, so if he ended up saying 'screw it', screwing her on the forest floor, Kagome would definitely not complain, but she hadn't forgotten that just last night she'd promised herself she'd try to persuade him with words, instead of her body. Blind seduction would be a nasty trick, and if he really did still regret it afterwards she knew she'd feel guilty for putting him into that situation.

Still, she had a plan. He might be able to hold out and keep telling her no, her attempts at loosening him up might be fruitless, but she wouldn't know unless she tried, right? She wouldn't be too aggressive. She wouldn't ignore his murmurs to stop and basically molest him. But if she promised him they wouldn't 'go all the way' if he didn't want to and got him to agree to do a few of those other things they could do instead, then maybe, just maybe, he'd wind up changing his mind once they were doing them. And even if he didn't, doing those 'other things' was still better than remaining completely celibate until their house was finished. That was the plan, but she'd have to worry about putting it into motion another day. Today, they had some shopping to do.

Unaware of the precise direction her thoughts had traveled, Inuyasha observed his wife through a side glance as they continued walking in silence. He'd been able to tell from her tone as well as scent that she was disappointed in him, but that she was doing her best to go along with his wishes. Miroku was uncustomarily silent after his one comment, as well, probably sensing the delicacy of the situation, which was definitely a bad sign as far as the hanyou was concerned because Miroku always teased unless he really did know that feelings would be hurt. His silence reminded Inuyasha of all the times the monk had refrained from saying anything about Kikyou after one of his notorious fuck-ups regarding the undead miko back during their early quest days.

Great. Now he felt like a total ass.

The truth was, he was moderately worried about how well them trying to get a room at an inn would go over with the innkeepers, although that wasn't his only reason for not wanting to try it, and neither was what he'd said about Kagome deserving better, although he definitely thought she did. But his main reason was that he'd planned on using the next month or so while their house was being built to psych himself up and hopefully work through his nerves and insecurities. Having her suddenly ask him if he'd like to get a room that night, he'd felt like a boy becoming a man before he was ready, a young warrior entering his first time in battle, if he'd had it dumped on him a month sooner than he'd thought and with no real time to prepare.

Perhaps he was over thinking things. Perhaps he was worrying about nothing. Perhaps he should just go for it since ultimately, eventually, he'd be out of excuses and unable to stall even a minute longer, anyway. Perhaps he'd find the courage to actually explain his insecurities to Kagome, too, so that she'd understand and help him work through his nervousness sooner rather than later, but not while Miroku was right fucking there.

A half-truth would have to do for now.

“What I think you deserve is only part of it, Kagome,” he confessed then, breaking the silence between them. “It probably is unwise to even try it, especially at the market village.”

She sighed, and he could tell that she didn't necessarily disagree with him.

“Yeah, I wasn't sure,” she admitted then. “It was just a passing thought.”

“Plus,” Inuyasha added, a bit of a blush staining his cheeks. “I think you're forgetting just how thin an inn's walls are, and how good my hearing is.”

Kagome's eyes widened at that, and Miroku laughed.

“Ah, that's right,” the monk chimed in. “Not to mention that nose of yours.”

“Feh, don't remind me.”

“Wait a minute...” Kagome spoke up, slowly putting two and two together. “Is that why you were always so against staying at inns during the shard hunt?”

He blushed darker and looked away.

It was Kagome who laughed that time, and said honestly, “I'm sorry, I never knew.”

“Keh, that's 'cause I never told you. If I would've tried to say that I didn't want to stay at the inn 'cause it smelled of sex and the sounds of people goin' at it were annoying you would've...”

He paused, biting his tongue at the subdued look she gave him. Crap, he hadn't meant to bring it up again like that.

“I would've said 'it', I know,” Kagome said, her tone and eyes apologetic.

“Hey now, I didn't mean nothin' by it. It's just true is all, but it ain't like I was tryin' to throw it in your face. I didn't say it before, so here goes...I forgive you, okay? I forgive you for each and every time you said 'it'.I'm not angry with you about it, okay? Remember, you wanted to take the beads off, and I'm the one who said I wanted to keep them, so obviously it's not that sore of an issue with me. Don't worry 'bout it.”

Kagome's smile brightened significantly at his words, realizing how hard it probably was for him to say such things in front of Miroku. He was also being completely honest, she knew. It wasn't exactly as if she could deny his accusation. She probably would have 'osuwari'd him if he'd said such things against staying at an inn back during the shard hunt. And considering what had now been brought to her attention, she realized that staying at an inn, at least for their first time, was definitely out of the question. He was clearly afraid in his own right, probably bridegroom jitters since he was a one-hundred-fifty-year-old virgin, and a hotel with literally paper-thin walls that smelled of other people's sex was definitely not the most romantic or comforting of environments, especially when the innkeepers might well give them nasty looks on top of it all, whispering hateful words he'd be able to hear on top of the other guests' moaning and grunting.

If I had his heightened senses, I probably wouldn't want to go near an inn, either, she realized.

Deciding to reassure him then that while she didn't object to the notion of not waiting until their house was done, she most certainly wasn't a total hentai who thought that sex was the most important thing hands down, she spoke back up in that moment with, “Honestly, about the inn, I also wasn't actually sure if you'd even want to spend the money. Especially since it's an unpleasant environment for you, anyway, and plus you're nervous about the innkeepers, then I guess it'd be a stupid waste of money to get a room for a night since we could certainly use the cost of a room to buy a bunch of different things for the house, instead.”

“This is true,” Miroku chimed in then, deciding to cut the hanyou some slack.

While he valued sex higher up on the importance scale, even he could understand the logic in holding off on renting a room if you honestly needed to spend the money on other things instead. After all, even he had only sprung for a night at the inn his and Sango's wedding night, because it had been important enough to him to spend the money for that first night together, but then after that they too had waited until their house was built to fully enjoy being newlyweds. Sure, they'd snuck off into the woods plenty of times for this and that, which he knew Inuyasha couldn't possibly be unaware of, but he would not rehash the argument of what Kagome 'deserved' in that regard. That was between the hanyou and miko. Miroku could completely understand why Inuyasha would be hesitant to make use of an inn, though, for various reasons. He chose to focus on the financial one Kagome had just voiced.

“While I am certain our local villagers will donate a lot of things towards your new home, you will undoubtedly be required to purchase many things for yourselves, as well, and while I would be happy to contribute some of my own financial earnings towards the cause, there are only so many coins even in my own possession before they too are all gone, at least until we are able to earn more. Under the circumstances, I agree that you should spend your money wisely.”

Thank you,” Inuyasha huffed out, sounding more exasperated than he actually felt. In reality he was mostly relieved.

Unaware of the hanyou's true feelings, Miroku would have made another joke about the couple camping out in the forest overnight, since, of course, that would be completely free of charge, but after what the hanyou had already said about Kagome deserving her own home and bed, he chose to let the subject go. He didn't want to push his friend too far. At the end of the day, believe it or not, the monk could admit to himself that it was really none of his business, and more importantly than that, he also knew that the more he teased and tried to push Inuyasha into Kagome's arms, the more resistant the hanyou would likely become, which would of course be counterproductive for the poor miko. So for her sake, he would refrain from teasing her husband beyond the breaking point. Perhaps she had her own plans that involved camping out in the woods at some point, and any jokes on his part about the subject could very well ruin those plans, he realized.

Kagome, realizing in turn that Miroku wasn't going to chime back in with anything else perverted, decided to be the next one to speak up in that moment, effectively changing the subject.

“Well then, now that that's settled, let's talk about something less embarrassing,” she said, giggling a little despite herself.

“Agreed,” Inuyasha spoke back up right away, shooting Miroku another glare when the monk chuckled as well.

The rest of their morning's walk towards the market village was filled with amusing tales of Miroku's various adventures in parenthood. At one point they passed a couple of men from their village along the road, the farmers having gotten an earlier start than our trio, their pace limited by the ox pulling a large cart of wares beside them. Goods from their village, to be sold to the various vendors for resale. The farmers bowed humbly and murdered morning greetings to the houshi, hanyou and miko as they passed, and after saying back a few pleasant greetings of their own our trio continued on their way, leaving the farmers farther and farther behind them on the highway.

“That's going to be us a month from now, only we'll have a cart full on our way back home instead of on the way to market,” Kagome said conversationally as the market town came into view.

“Home...” Inuyasha murmured softly, glancing Kagome's way with a loving expression. For once, he didn't mind Miroku listening in to what he had to say.

“Just you being by my side is my home, Kagome. I haven't had a home for three years, but now, I do. I could live with you in the forest and be at home. Still, you're human, and you deserve a real house, and even I must admit it'll be nice having an actual house to call home, now that I've got a reason for one. Now that I've got somebody to share it with.”

“I feel the same way,” she agreed, the look in her own eyes just as loving. “Even if we had to live in a cave I wouldn't have regretted my decision to come here. My home, too, is by your side. But a real house will be nice. I'm glad things worked out the way they did.”

“Yeah...” he agreed.

Miroku, smiling, remained silent.

They dropped the subject as the first of many vendors who'd parked their carts along the side of the road came within reach, and seeing a multitude of things they didn't need they kept right on walking, the vendors who recognized Miroku and Inuyasha and who had no qualms with Inuyasha's youkai blood trying their best to get the group's attention as they passed. It was quite the experience for Kagome, as she glanced around at everything with barely restrained wonder and excitement. It was like a flea market, but with the kinds of things for sale that her grandfather kept stored away. What had only ever been historic relics to her were now suddenly brand new, everyday objects.

More than one vendor asked her where she'd gotten such an unusual and well-made travel satchel, referring to her modern yellow backpack, and to spare any complications she answered only that she'd acquired it many years ago in a different region along her travels, and that she did not have the contact information of the person who'd made it.

The first hour or so at the market went by uneventfully, the trio staying together as our favorite couple more or less tagged along with Miroku as he did the shopping he needed to do first. This was no different to Inuyasha than his many other trips to market with the houshi, except, of course, for his lovely wife by his side keeping him company as the monk haggled with the peddlers for the best deal possible.

At one point Inuyasha leaned in and whispered to Kagome, “You'd think they'd learn by now that you can't swindle a swindler, but they always think they can get one up on him.”

Kagome giggled at his words, and then hanyou and miko both smirked as Miroku came away from the latest vendor again having acquired his item at a genuinely fair price, instead of the price the vendor had originally been asking.

“Maybe I should just let you do the talking for me when it comes to the things on my own shopping list,” Kagome said to Miroku as the three of them walked on, the carrying bag draped over Miroku's back nearly stuffed to capacity by that point with the various things Sango had asked for.

“I am only all too happy to help in any way that I can, Miko-sama,” Miroku answered, his game face already in place as they neared the traveling leatherworker's station.

Miroku knew he was their best bet for a quiver for Kagome without traveling to a larger city. Even though quivers weren't really in high demand in their particular region and the leatherworker made plenty of other items to keep business flowing, Miroku knew the man undoubtedly had to have the skills necessarily to make a quiver upon request. It would have been a little beyond Riku's capabilities, he knew, although he was certain their own leatherworker would have tried his best had they asked him, but Miroku understood Inuyasha's desire to get Kagome a professional quiver by someone who'd actually made them before. Judging by the quality of this man's other items on display, he definitely had the skills required.

Glancing Inuyasha's way briefly, the hanyou gave him a quick nod, letting Miroku know he'd reached the same conclusion and also agreed that they were at the right place.

Inuyasha didn't just stand back and watch as Miroku began talking to the leatherworker on his and Kagome's behalf, although he did meet Kagome's eyes with a silent look of agreement that among the three of them, Miroku was by far the best negotiator. Still, when it came to what type of quiver she got, Inuyasha stated it should be her decision first and foremost, and that if it was a more expensive design, so be it. He also said he wanted it to carry a decent amount of arrows, and be sturdy enough to help protect the arrows from breaking in the dreaded but unfortunately realistic possibility of her getting tossed about during a battle with a nasty youkai. Just because Naraku was dead didn't mean they'd never face off against a baddie ever again, especially given his and Miroku's line of work, and he'd much rather she be prepared and turn out to never need it than not be prepared and turn out to need it. Perhaps he was being paranoid, and he certainly hoped she'd never actually have to face off against any serious monsters ever again, but he was her protector and he took his job very seriously.

As they talked, it turned out the leatherworker was actually among the people who were not only aware of Miroku and Inuyasha's current role in coming to the aid of those who needed it, but he was also familiar with the tale of their heroics when it came to defeating the terrible evil that was Naraku and the Shikon no Tama. Hearing the dark hanyou's name leave Inuyasha's lips, he knew just who that monster had been. More than a few people from Kaede's village had boasted over the years during the various Market Days that the legendary warriors had chosen to call their humble village home. All except for their precious Kagome-sama, who had been unjustly taken away from them, returned to the mysterious other world she had originally come from. To learn now that the miko standing before him was indeed the miko of legend, the Shikon miko, who had helped to defeat Naraku and banish the Shikon no Tama from their world once and for all, he immediately agreed to make her whatever quiver she desired, free of charge.

Kagome wasn't looking to use her fame for free hand-outs the rest of her life, of course, and had no qualms with paying the man for his services, but he wouldn't hear of it. There was a brief back and forth of the most amusing reverse-haggling Inuyasha had ever seen until finally she relented and bowed deeply her sincerest thanks for his generosity. The way the man said it, were it not for her, he and a good deal of other people might not even be alive today. The least he could do was gift her with a new quiver, he said, after learning that the one currently on her back had been borrowed from Kaede.

When he asked her about arrows next she said that while she could make her own, she was indeed looking for some good feathers for fletching, and before she could argue he told her not to worry about a thing, and that he would have a large collection of feathers ready for her next Market Day, as well. Humbled and nearly speechless, she bowed again and mumbled her thanks once more before they left the leatherworker to his station.

“At least we have more money to spend now, so I guess that's a good thing,” Kagome relented, Inuyasha nodding his agreement.

Gradually, she collected the other items on her list, everyone else readily accepting their money. Maybe they knew who she and Inuyasha were, or maybe they didn't, but either way, they were in the business to get paid. Trying to save as much money as possible, Inuyasha told Kagome they'd skip the fabric because he was positive he could trade something simple like rabbit meat or firewood for inexpensive linen from one of the women in their own village, and Kagome readily agreed, knowing that the more they could barter for from a local villager back home, the better. While she still didn't like the idea of using her status to get things given to her for free, trading with meat or firewood was an excellent idea. Save the coins for the things they needed to buy with money.

With Kagome's shopping done, and with Miroku also stocked up on the various items on his list, including the promised sweet treats for his daughters, the trio were officially done with their shopping by early afternoon and agreed to hit the road. They'd skipped an official lunch, but had eaten more than a few treats here and there as they'd shopped, courtesy of Miroku, and so that was enough food in their bellies to make the journey back home.

The walk back was as uneventful as the walk there had been, and much less embarrassing as far as Inuyasha was concerned, since their various conversations remained in neutral territory the entire time. Just because he was looking forward to snuggling up with Kagome again that night didn't mean he needed to admit it out loud, but thankfully, Miroku never asked. Instead, they spent the majority of the walk going over the list of things they all knew would need to be acquired at the market town for their future house, versus the various things that could be procured in their home village.

Miroku, too, agreed that trading for goods from the villagers with food or firewood was a noble ideal. After all, even he, as a monk, did not purely accept things for free with no recompense. He paid for the villagers' donations by being a monk, by offering his prayers and blessings, and tending to the temple additions on the shrine grounds so that the villagers could go there and offer their own prayers to the Buddha. Inuyasha might call him a con-artist, and he would admit that he hadn't always followed the most noble of practices, but his spiritual powers were real, and his blessings were legitimate. Even back during the shard quest, when he'd used to lie about sensing a dark aura to gain them free room and board for a night, he had always left genuine ofuda with the homeowners or innkeepers upon their departure, ensuring that no dark auras could ever actually take a hold of those locations. And he had no intention of 'cheating' the people where he lived. The local villagers had wanted him to become their in-house Buddhist monk, so who was he to refuse them? And Inuyasha was their youkai protector. In a sense, he was already providing them with a spiritual service all his own, and deserved donations as his payment, for patrolling their borders regularly and keeping their village as safe as they were, but Miroku could still understand where Kagome was coming from.

There was a fine line between accepting the occasional gift, like she had already done that night at the headman's house, and taking full advantage of the villagers and expecting them to just hand her everything for free, all the time. It was a testament to her own sense of honor that she wanted to rightfully earn all that she gained. Her contribution to the destruction of Naraku and the sacred jewel had earned her an actual house; that was good enough. She wasn't going to protest their offer of gifting her and Inuyasha with their actual dwelling for free, but after accepting such a generous donation he could understand why she was feeling like enough was enough already.

“Speaking of our house,” Kagome spoke up then. “I suppose that's number one on our list of things to do tomorrow. Picking out the exact location for our house and letting the headman and builders know.”

“Absolutely,” Inuyasha agreed right away.

Escorting Miroku home and saying a quick hi and bye to Sango and the kids, Inuyasha and Kagome politely declined the offer to stay for dinner and opted for heading back to Kaede's. Kagome had done her best to keep up without complaint, but the truth was, she wasn't used to so much walking. She was exhausted, and just wanted to eat a light dinner and hit the sack. Inuyasha had no complaints, and settling down to bed that night, Kagome again relished in the simple pleasure of sleeping in her husband's arms. She had started to kiss him, but catching herself, she kept it chaste, much to his obvious relief. Too much intimacy with others in the same room would make Inuyasha uncomfortable, she knew, even though they had their privacy screen blocking them from view. It was best not to push him too far. If she hadn't felt so ready to drop she would've tried to get him to detour for a few minutes after parting with Miroku, but they'd gone straight back to Kaede's because she was honestly too tired to worry about anything else, that night at least. He was off the hook just this once. Tomorrow was going to be a busy day, she knew, what with trying to figure out precisely where their house should go, but in doing so that act automatically allotted them alone time in the forest together. Surely they could take a few 'breaks' while mentally drawing up the blueprints for their future dwelling. She smirked at the thought, looking forward to tomorrow.

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