After The End: New Beginnings

The first day of the rest of her life

The next morning, Kagome awoke for the first time in three long years to the sound of a rooster crowing, with birdsong, barking dogs and playing children also working their way into her awareness, the feel and smell of the crackling cook fire rousing her the rest of the way. Opening her eyes, she grinned broadly to realize it hadn't been a dream, that she was actually back, and rolling over onto her back she sat up in her sleeping bag and cast her smile in Inuyasha's direction.

The hanyou, who'd been wide awake for the last couple of hours although he hadn't moved from his spot, sent Kagome a smile of his own in return before quietly murmuring a pleasant, “Morning.”

The sound of his voice drew Kaede and Rin's attention, the two having been working on breakfast preparations as quietly as possible so as to let Kagome sleep.

“Ah, Kagome, good morning,” Kaede greeted as the miko rolled up her sleeping bag and put it away within the storage chest, disappearing behind the changing screen with her day clothes.

Kagome smirked while changing, thinking how Inuyasha hadn't managed to avoid being in the same room with her as she undressed, after all, although she imagined the temptation to be naughty had been extirpated with Kaede and Rin both wide awake.

Indeed, Inuyasha's thoughts were preoccupied with all the things he had to do that morning, the 'mood' of last night the farthest thing on his mind in that precise moment.

Emerging from behind the changing screen, Kagome put her pajamas away in the storage chest and took a seat beside Inuyasha. “It's a good morning, indeed,” she agreed then, accepting the cup of tea Rin handed her.

Okay, today is the first day of the rest of my life, she thought happily, reflecting back on the cliché.

Letting the cup warm her hands for a moment, she took a small sip of the bitter liquid.

“You could have woken me,” she stated then. “I could have helped with breakfast.”

Scooping up bowls of miso soup, Kaede used the ladle in her hand to wave off Kagome's concerns.

“Nonsense, you are our guest,” the elderly miko replied with a friendly smile.

“But I thought Kagome-sama lived here now,” Rin chimed in, mildly confused. “Doesn't that mean she's not a guest?” the girl asked, as she refilled Inuyasha's cup of lightly steeped tea, the hanyou silently nodding his thanks.

“I don't know how long I'm going to live here with you specifically, Rin-chan, but you're right though, I don't want you two thinking of me as a guest while I'm here,” Kagome answered before Inuyasha could say anything.

He grinned at her words, quickly hiding it from the women by taking a sip of his tea. He wasn't stupid or paranoid, and knew there was no way in all the hells Kagome would ever leave Kaede's to go move in with one of the other families instead. Not even Sango and Miroku. If she were going to live with anybody then Kaede and Rin were the best, most logical choice by a long shot, and he would've known that even without the exchange that'd happened yesterday where the old miko had officially extended Kagome her welcome. So for her to hint at the concept of her time living under Kaede's roof being temporary, it could only mean that she was rolling the idea around in her head of one day having her own place. Not a bad idea at all, if you asked him. Inuyasha might not have felt all that confident in what the villagers would've thought of the idea of building a hut for a hanyou, but for their precious Kagome? A new hut, beside Kaede's, a little place she could call her own so that the old miko's one-room house didn't feel quite so crowded...that he could easily believe the villagers would have no problem with. And once Kagome had her own separate little hut built next door it would also mean that the two of them could share her dwelling, alone, in private, without the worry of Kaede and Rin in the same room.

Of course, some of the villagers might not find that idea quite as pleasing, but screw 'em. He and Kagome belonged together, plain and simple. Even if they were only friends he'd still want to stay with her, although he was fairly certain by that point that she wanted to be more than friends, which was just fine with him since he felt the same way.

Rin suddenly appearing in his face with his food tray pulled Inuyasha from his wandering thoughts.

“Thank you,” he stated politely, gesturing for her to set the tray down in front of him, which she did with a respectful little bow of her head.

Setting his tea down so that he could grip the soup bowl with both hands, he exhaled once and shook his head a little in an attempt to keep his mind focused on the here and now, as he took a quiet sip of his soup. He'd had three years to fantasize. Kagome was actually back now, sitting right next to him, and he didn't want to miss a minute of it.

“So what are your plans for today, Kagome?” Kaede asked as she passed Rin the next finished tray, which the young girl immediately served to Kagome.

Setting her tea aside as well, Kagome went for the rice first, letting the miso soup cool for a minute.

“Well, I guess first and foremost we've got to officially let the rest of the village know I'm back. Inuyasha had already said he could hear some people talking about it yesterday, and then we bumped into Hideaki-sama and Yumiko-chan last night. More like they were spying.” She chuckled a little at the memory. “The rumors are definitely spreading, so I imagine if we don't make some kind of an announcement soon you'll end up getting hordes of visitors wanting to see for themselves, Kaede-baa-chan.”

“If Yumiko-chan is already aware that you're back then probably half of the village is already aware,” Kaede replied with a light chuckle of her own. “Still, I agree that Haruto-sama should be officially notified, and the sooner the better.”

“I'll take care of it,” Inuyasha spoke up then, draining down the last of his soup in one big gulp. “I'll go talk to him before doing my perimeter check. Might be gone longer than normal if he agrees to the idea of me bringing back a deer, if he wants to host a celebratory feast tonight. I'm sure he will.”

He started eating his rice, but couldn't ignore the sight of Kagome staring at him from the corner of his eye, and finally, he turned to look her way.

“What?” he kind of half-snapped, unable to keep his lips from inching up into an amused grin as she openly laughed.

“Nothing, nothing...” she waved off with her chopsticks. “It's just so strange to hear you talking about making arrangements with the headman for a celebration when the old you would've done anything he could to avoid a village festivity like that.” She laughed again, and then sighed, the look in her eyes warm, caring. “I guess I'm just realizing how much growing up you've also done over the years. I'm glad.”

His cheeks tinted a light shade of pink at her words, and he looked away, concentrating on his rice.

“Feh...” he grumbled good-naturedly, glancing her way with another grin on his lips as she giggled.

Kaede and Rin passed knowing, amused looks to each other at the display, although in reality Kaede knew Kagome had made a very good point. Inuyasha had indeed come quite a long way in the almost four years since the day Kagome had released him from his seal on the Goshinboku. It just embarrassed him whenever you pointed it out. Kaede wasn't quite sure if it was the praise itself that unsettled him, or the reminder of how childishly he'd used to behave, but either way, pointing out his newfound maturity didn't make him rebel and act like the old him just to spite you, which was, of course, yet another sign of maturity, and Kaede for one was grateful for the changes in him. She believed Inuyasha was now showing them the real him, the walls he'd built up around himself over a lifetime of solitude and rejection slowly but surely crumbling down in the face of an entire village that not only accepted him, but borderline worshiped him. It was certainly a far cry from the loneliness he'd used to endure.

Kaede did not personally think of Inuyasha as a forest kami, of course, although she knew she couldn't really think of him as a human boy, either. He was a human boy one night a month, perhaps, but the rest of the time he had more of a youkai's mind and instincts, she knew, not that that was a bad thing. Inu-youkai were a fiercely loyal breed, ruthless to their enemies but unwaveringly faithful to anyone they considered friend and family, just like their mortal canine counterparts, and Inuyasha was the best of both worlds, being hanyou. He had an inu-youkai's mind and instincts, but also a human heart to go with them, and that only strengthened the bond between himself and his friends even more, as far as the elderly miko was concerned. He did still consider them people under his protection; they were all his to protect, his humans, from a canine's perspective, but even so he also had an emotional connection to the people closest to him that came straight from his human half. He wasn't just an inu-youkai protecting his humans, he was also their friend.

The four occupants of the hut finished the rest of their breakfast in peaceful silence, and then once he was done with his rice and tea, Inuyasha announced that he needed to get going. His eyes met Kagome's, his expression still full of happiness, of wonder.

“You don't have to wait for me here,” he told her politely. “If you wanted to go visit with Sango or whatever, I'll find you when I get back.” He tapped his nose for emphasis.

She nodded her understanding.

Slipping Tetsusaiga through his obi, he passed Kagome one last look as he stood in Kaede's doorway, nodded his head in determination, and left, mind set on getting his tasks over and done with as quickly as possible so that he could come back and be in her presence again as quickly as possible.

Kagome watched him go with a fond smile, and then once she was finished with her own breakfast, she offered to do the dishes for Kaede. Nodding with a pleased uplift to her lips, the elderly miko accepted Kagome's offer, as the future-born miko collected her and Rin's dishes as well her own and Inuyasha's, and took everything over to the water tub in the kitchen side of the hut, beginning her task.

“Rin, why don't you get started on weeding the garden?” Kaede suggested after a moment, and the girl, not stupid, took it as the polite dismissal it was, since she usually had a few other chores she did around the house first before heading outside to tend to the vegetable garden.

“All right, Kaede-sama,” she replied, grabbing her weeding basket, head scarf, and tasuki to tie back her sleeves. Exiting the hut, she left the two miko alone.

Kaede remained silent as Kagome finished washing, drying, and putting away their cups, bowls and chopsticks, and then once that task was complete, the younger miko grabbed a couple pieces of firewood from the stack and made her way back over to the firepit in the center of the room, taking a seat near Kaede as she added the new wood to the fire.

“It is truly remarkable, that you have returned to us, Kagome,” Kaede spoke up after a moment, breaking the peaceful silence. “I know we are all quite pleased to see you, someone more so than everyone else, I would imagine.”

Kagome adopted a whimsical smile as she poked at the wood in the fire.

“I'm quite pleased to be back, as well,” she stated. “I just couldn't stay away any longer. I had to come back. That decision finally clicked in my brain, where I wanted to be most of all, and I would have been miserable if the well had still failed to open.”

“I agree with what you said yesterday, that the well itself has most likely decided it will no longer work as a two-way portal. I am fairly certain, now that you've made this miraculous journey, that you will never again be able to return to your homeland, even should you want to.”

This is my homeland, now,” Kagome stated assertively, though not without a friendly smile in her eyes as she met the older miko's gaze. “Even if the well would send me back, there's no way to know it 'cause I'd have to try it in order to find out, and I'm never going into the Bone-Eater's Well ever again. That was the deciding factor. I'd always wanted to come here, but with the ability to go back and forth again. Yesterday, I finally made the decision to come here, permanently. I just had to be with you guys again.”

“You mean, you had to be with Inuyasha,” Kaede corrected with a grandmotherly smirk and twinkle in her good eye.

Kagome laughed lightly.

“It's that obvious, huh?”

“I think, even to Inuyasha himself, or at least I would hope so, after all this time. I could see the love you two were developing for each other long before either one of you would have admitted it out loud, and that love was not absent in either of your eyes yesterday afternoon. The two of you need to find some time alone to discuss things.”

“Oh, I know it, and I'm going to see what I can do about that later today, hopefully. I guess it'll depend on how crazy the 'welcome home' party gets.”

“Oh, I imagine Haruto-sama will most likely keep things under control, and just have a small feast in your honor at his compound with his family, although that doesn't mean other people won't get involved, stopping in to greet you,” Kaede stated. “I don't think you realize just how important you'd become to us, Kagome. The entire village mourned our loss of you when Inuyasha returned alone on that day, even though we had been reassured by him that you were safe, returned to your family. I know it will please everyone greatly to learn that you have returned to us for good.”

“I think I'm starting to realize how important I am...” Kagome admitted, “...if Hideaki-sama and Yumiko-chan's reactions to my return were anything to go by.”

Thinking back on an old memory, Kagome chuckled a little, and said, “Some of the villagers, those two included, had started bowing down to me as soon as word first spread that I was Kikyou's reincarnation. That'd bothered me, back then, but if Inuyasha can get used to being praised, then so can I. I've never had the attitude that I'm more important than anyone else, but I can't deny the strength of my spiritual powers, and being thought of by the villagers as Kikyou's reincarnation doesn't bother me anymore, either. It's true, after all. I've made my peace with that.”

Tilting her head in contemplation, Kaede studied Kagome for a moment, earning the younger miko's attention.

“What?” she asked, a bit of a chuckle in her voice at the suddenly serious look Kaede was giving her.

Kaede shook her head, as if to arrange her thoughts.

“Indeed, many of the villagers see you as Kikyou-onee-sama returned to them, but I do not want you to feel like you must live in her shadow. Her responsibilities may have been given to you upon her death in regard to Naraku and the sacred jewel, but nothing more, and now that those obligations are fulfilled, you are free to make your own life choices.”

Staring into the fire for a moment, she watched the flames dance, and then met the eighteen-year-old's eyes once more.

“Tell me, Kagome, did you have any plans for your future here in our village? Any dreams for what your life would entail? Besides our hanyou friend, I mean.”

Kagome blinked, not sure she knew what Kaede was hinting at.

“What do you mean?” she asked. Kind of sheepishly, she explained, “I mean, to tell the truth I never really thought about beyond just wanting to come back to be with Inuyasha again, wanting to be here, in his presence, and yes with the rest of you guys, too. I missed all of you terribly, but without knowing exactly what I was coming into I didn't really think that far ahead as far as the details go, you know?”

Drawing up her legs, Kagome wrapped her hands around her knees and stared into the fire, continuing with, “To be perfectly honest, when I first found myself at the bottom of the well in this time, I didn't even know for sure where I'd be staying. I'd hoped it'd be here, with you, but then of course, I hadn't known...”

She paused, hesitating.

“If I was still alive?” Kaede supplied, not offended. She chuckled a little. “I'm old, but not yet quite that old.”

“Oh, no!” Kagome rushed to correct, blushing a little. “It's just that, anything could have happened. Another youkai attack, or-”

Kaede laughed more openly that time, the sound cutting Kagome off mid-ramble, and the younger girl relaxed, chuckling as well.

“I do agree that you were jumping into the unknown, but such is the way of all leaps of faith,” Kaede stated then. “The reason I ask your plans is because if you did not have a specific path you wished for yourself, then I wanted to inquire as to whether you would be interested in becoming my apprentice for village miko.”

Kagome blinked, taken aback.

“Me? Village miko?” she asked, surprised.

“Who is better qualified?” Kaede countered. “I have been training young Rin with some things. She's a fast learner of herb lore and other things a village healer must know, but she lacks spiritual power, and of course, there's no guarantee she'll even remain with us once she comes of age. Our village is not without spiritual heirs, however Houshi-dono's daughters are still much too young to begin any kind of serious training, and although I am not quite that old...” she teased, “...I am old enough, and would love nothing more than for you to learn all that I can teach you while there is still time.”

Kagome felt truly humbled by Kaede's words, and she also had to admit that since she was Kikyou's reincarnation, and she did have spiritual powers, it'd actually be kind of stupid to not take advantage of that. It was like she had been born to be a miko, by the kami's own design.

Actually, I was... she reminded herself, since she'd been born with the Shikon no Tama within her body. Not only had she been born to be a miko, she'd been born to be the Shikon miko.

And who am I go to against the kami, right? she thought then, remembering the statement she'd made last evening at Sango and Miroku's house.

“I suppose studying to become a real miko makes a lot more sense than, say, learning how to weave bolts of fabric to sell on Market Day,” Kagome said then, nodding her agreement. “I honestly never thought about having some kind of a job; my only thought was coming be with Inuyasha. But the women here, they do work, don't they?” The question was rhetorical. “I should do something to earn my keep,” she stated matter-of-factly, “and it'd go against the kami, I think, to let my powers be ignored. I have them for a reason.”

Shifting her position, she corrected her posture, sitting on her legs properly, hands folded in her lap.

“Kaede-baa-chan,” she began then, meeting her eyes sincerely. “I know why you asked me my plans, asking whether I had a specific dream in mind for myself or not, making it clear you would let me do whatever I wanted if being a miko wasn't it. I know your sister longed to be an ordinary woman and lamented her life as a miko, and so you want to avoid me having a similar fate, but I am not Kikyou, and most importantly, the duty of protecting the Shikon no Tama is fulfilled, as you said. Being a regular miko, without the weight of the jewel on my shoulders, would not be so all consuming, and that you have given me the choice and ability to decline, instead of trying to guilt me into thinking it's my sacred duty...I truly appreciate that.

“My dreamfor my future, my desire in coming here, is to become Inuyasha's wife, but whether besides that I also weave baskets, make fabric dyes, or am a miko, it doesn't really matter at face value, I think. I mean, even if I weren't actively a miko I've still got the powers, and I will use them when needed. If a youkai attacks, I will defend this village. If something is tainted with jyaki or shouki, I will purify it. So I may as well learn the dances and the ceremonies, too, and especially herbs and healing. You've already taught me some; I still remember what you showed me during the mission, which herbs reduce fever, and how to make a poultice. I would be honored to become your apprentice and learn everything you can teach me so that I can one day become the official miko of this village, so long as you don't think the villagers will have a problem with me being their miko while also being married to Inuyasha.”

“Oh, that won't be a problem,” Kaede stated without hesitation, grinning proudly at Kagome. “Now that everyone has learned the truth of Naraku's trickery, and that Inuyasha was never our enemy, he is revered. You two are a good match; two beings both blessed by the kami themselves. The Shikon Miko, who vanquished the sacred jewel once and for all, and her inu-youkai protector, now protector of our entire village. Your union would be praised, I imagine. The few who did have a problem with Inuyasha already left us years ago; he has no enemies here and you certainly do not, so you needn't worry.”

Kagome sagged in relief at Kaede's unwavering reassurance. She actually really liked the idea of becoming a shrine miko, since that's what she had been planning on doing back in the future, anyway, no other skill or practice coming to mind that felt as natural to her, or as fulfilling, as being a miko could be. She had grown up in a shrine, after all, watching as her mother would play the role of miko during celebrations, doing the dances, saying the prayers. It was something she'd actually always kind of wanted to do, even as a child, even before she'd learned she actually had real spiritual powers. She honestly had no interest in learning how to weave fabric or baskets, or any other such skills beyond what was needed for maintaining a household in her new century, although she would if it were required of her, of course. She'd do whatever it took to earn her keep, to become a functioning, intricate part of society. But if the elderly village miko wanted her as an apprentice to take over for her one day, well, it didn't get much more intricate than that, now did it?

Even so, she certainly wouldn't do it if it would cause her and Inuyasha any problems. She was glad that, apparently, that wouldn't be the case. She knew that miko could be married and have families, but she also knew how most people felt about hanyou in the Sengoku jidai, even though she didn't approve. She was very glad, indeed, that at least their local villagers showed Inuyasha the respect he deserved. So she'd do it, she'd become an official shrine miko, and learn that century's ceremonies since they probably differed a little from the ones she knew from the future. That would be her career, her contribution to society. She didn't need to make things to sell on Market Day to help bring in money since Inuyasha had his extermination job with Miroku, and now that she was on board, hell, she could even go with them on occasion and help them pick up even more work. Traveling to the aid of another village...that actually sounded like something she'd like to do, too, although she'd probably only go on the occasional job every once in a while since the village was vulnerable whenever Inuyasha and Miroku were both away, so they'd actually need her at home at those times, come to think of it.

She supposed those kinds of details could all get hashed out later. Maybe Miroku could stay behind a few times so that she and Inuyasha could hit the road together instead, just the two of them. It'd be just like old times, except much more intimate.

She could feel her cheeks heating at the thought, and cleared her thought, trying to lasso her mind back into the conversation at hand.

“Well, now that that's all sorted out, I guess the only thing left to do is ask Inuyasha to marry me,” she joked, earning another laugh from her new sensei.

“Don't be too surprised if he's the one who asks you first. Something tells me the carpenters are going to be put to work building another house before too much longer.”

“I'd like that, a lot,” Kagome admitted, glancing out the window. “Hopefully Inuyasha gets done with his morning business soon and gets back so that we can squeeze in some alone time before tonight's activities,” she said, before rising to her feet and offering to go fetch Kaede some more clean water. She figured keeping herself busy with simple tasks would help pass the time, and besides, fetching water from a village well was something she needed to get used to doing.

At the headman's compound, Kazue, Haruto's wife, knocked gently on the office door frame. Haruto looked up from his paperwork at the familiar sounding knock, and put his ink brush away.

“Come in,” he called softly, casting a pleasant smile in his wife's direction when the door slid open.

“Ah, wife, to what do I owe this pleasure?”

“You have a visitor,” she stated, stepping aside and bowing respectfully as Inuyasha walked past her and entered the small building.

Surprised, Haruto immediately got up from his seat at the desk and bowed his head in respect as well.

“Inuyasha-sama, it is an unexpected honor that you grace us with your presence on this most auspicious morning,” he stated while his head was still bowed.

Such a comment used to make him fidget uncomfortably, but the hanyou was used to maintaining his composure those days in the face of such things. Clearing his throat quietly, Inuyasha remained outwardly calm, even managing to avoid crinkling his nose at the smell of wet ink because he didn't want to risk the headman misunderstanding the facial expression. He waited until Haruto lifted his head and met his gaze, and then gave his head a little nod in reply.

“Wife, please bring our esteemed house guest-”

“She already offered me tea; don't worry about it,” Inuyasha interrupted, his tone of voice polite enough.

Nodding his understanding, Haruto made a hand gesture towards the opened door, and bowing again, Kazue quickly slid the door back shut, leaving the two men alone in the office building.

“So, Inuyasha-sama, how may I help you?” Haruto asked the hanyou then, unable to keep the excitement out of his voice.

Inuyasha supposed the man already suspected why he was there.

“Keh, don't need no help with nothin'. I just figured, well, I'm sure you've already heard the rumors...”

Haruto's eyes immediately lit up as Inuyasha let his words trail off, his smile broadening.

“It is true, then?” he asked, desperate for confirmation. “Has Kagome-sama truly returned to us?”

His oldest granddaughter had mentioned at dinner last night how she'd heard the other girls talking about it that evening, some people having claimed to have seen glimpses of the mysterious girl walking either to or from Kaede's house. He had had plans to go and speak with the elderly miko himself that very morning as soon as he'd finished his paperwork, intent on verifying whether or not it was true.

“Yeah, it's true,” Inuyasha confirmed then. “She arrived yesterday, and she's here to stay. We just figured, the group of us, that she deserved a quiet day to settle in and catch up with old friends, first, before telling everybody else she's back. Not that we did a very good job keeping the secret.”

Taking a deep breath, he chuckled a little.

“I knew once Yumiko saw her that the rest of the village would find out, anyway, but I still thought coming here and telling you in person was the right way to do things,” he kidded.

Haruto chuckled a little himself at that comment.

“No doubt there are a scant few who have not already heard the news,” he agreed with a wry grin. “Still, I can certainly understand Kagome-sama's desire to become reacquainted with her closest friends, first, before being bombarded by everybody else wanting to greet her and praise her return. She is precious to us all, but in a different way than how she is precious to you.”

Haruto was referring to the entire inu-tachi with that comment, and Inuyasha knew that, but he still blushed mildly, quickly turning his head in the hope of masking it, as he focused his attention on the headman's work desk, and the shelves of scrolls behind it.

He wondered if the headman would be making mention of Kagome's return in the village ledger, but after their conversation the night before about the surviving records in her time being so vague, he wondered if perhaps not too many details were going to be jotted down, like she'd hypothesized. He wouldn't mention it, letting Haruto write down whatever he wished. He was sure there had to have been some mention of the Shikon Miko's return to their world, but maybe like Kagome'd hypothesized, her family had known all along, and kept those scrolls a secret from her. Either that or that particular scroll got destroyed over the centuries somehow or another. He supposed it didn't really matter. All that mattered to the hanyou in that moment was what Haruto planned on doing that night to honor Kagome's return.

“I suppose you'll wanna throw some kind of party,” he said then, stating it matter-of-factly and not sounding annoyed by the notion.

“Oh, most definitely,” Haruto agreed without hesitation. “I definitely think a feast should be held tonight in Kagome-sama's honor. I shall have my wife begin preparations immediately.”

Inuyasha's ears perked up at that, as he launched into his desire to take down a deer as his contribution. He could do it that morning, giving Kazue plenty of time to braise or broil the meat, or whatever she wanted to do with it.

“Don't worry, I'll just bring in the cuts of meat, so that none of the kids have to see a dead deer and your wife won't have to fuss with the butchering.”

“Always so courteous,” Haruto commented, relaxing his posture a bit as he adopted a whimsical smile. “See, this is why I never believed my father, when he spoke of what a monster you were. You asked me once, why I had been so quick to side with Kaede-sama in clearing your name of wrong doing. It's because I was there, and I remember.”

“Keh, I remember you, too, old man,” Inuyasha said, tapping his nose. “You were the brat who always followed me around, staring up at me in whatever tree I was in as I waited for Kikyou to finish her chores. Tried to chase you off more than once.”

Haruto laughed at the memory.

“Which only sparked my curiosity further, of course, since you never actually did anything to hurt me, like my father was always so convinced you would do. I just wanted to get a closer look at you; I was curious.”

Inuyasha leaned forward slightly, and wiggled his ears.

“You get a good enough look yet?”

Haruto laughed again, and Inuyasha smirked as he straightened back up. Some of the villagers never relaxed in his presence, almost falling over themselves as they bowed down before him, and that got a little annoying, rather quickly. But Haruto...him, he didn't mind. The old headman was respectful, but he was also one of the few who didn't speak to him as if terrified of accidentally angering a god. Once the formalities were over with, the two of them could actually speak like normal men to one another. In part, Inuyasha knew it was because Haruto was one of the few village elders besides Kaede who remembered him from before he was sealed. He remembered what it was like to see Inuyasha out and about, walking among them and socializing with their village miko. To the younger generations, he was the myth, the legend, the magical creature sealed away in the forest they'd used to fear, the monster they'd since come to accept was actually a good monster, but a monster nonetheless. Most people did not feel comfortable having conversations with monsters, good or otherwise, but to those few who remembered him as Kikyou's companion, he wasn't just a forest spirit, he was Inuyasha.

Hashing out the rest of the details for that night's celebratory feast with the headman and his family, Inuyasha excused himself a few minutes later and made his way back up to Sango and Miroku's house, to fill them in on the details as well. He'd already stopped at their place first, after leaving Kaede's, to let Miroku know that he'd take care of talking to Haruto one-on-one.

After filling them in on what the game plan was, the hanyou asked them to please inform Kagome, and then he was off. He would have gone back to Kaede's to tell Kagome what he and the headman had decided on, himself, but Inuyasha knew that he wouldn't want to leave her presence again if he did, and so he'd decided that he'd rather just stay away and get the rest of his tasks taken care of so that when he did return he wouldn't then have to turn around and leave again. In fact if he could swing it, he'd probably like to start bringing her with him on his morning patrols, just to have her with him. Now that he finally had Kagome back, he wanted to be away from her as infrequently as possible.

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