InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ A Conspiracy of Friends ❯ Chapter 1
I do not own InuYasha or any of the characters created by Rumiko Takahashi
A Conspiracy of Friends
The conspiracy had begun before InuYasha realized something was up.
They had begun their plot about the time Rin and he had started the spring garden. He didn’t know who had started it, if it was Sayo, Toshiro’s daughter-in-law, who had been the first woman Kagome had assisted at birth, or Hisa, Tameo’s wife, who had acted like Kagome’s protective aunt almost from the day she had come back, or perhaps Chime, Daitaro’s wife, who had pretty much adopted InuYasha into her family. It was the type of thing she and her daughters-in-law might cook up.
It had been weeks since Kagome had gone on her rounds with Kaede. After the hard time she had with the Ryuukan, with the coughing and fever, the old miko had decided that Kagome’s health was more important than her visiting sick villagers. Sometimes Kagome would walk down to the village to talk with the old miko, if Kaede had any patient in her hut, she was speedily sent elsewhere.
“Walking is good for you, child,” Kaede would explain. “Being exposed to something that could make your time harder or hurt your child is not.”
As often as not, her forays in the village would end up at Hisa’s house, where he spent most of the visit with Tameo or Susumu, catching up on the latest news, or visiting Amaya and Haname, while he walked around with Tsuneo or his farm boss Masu, or chatting with Kimi and her mother Koume, talking about the latest fabric Nahoi was weaving, and he found himself talking with Fumio in his smithy or sometimes with Eiji or Haruo, or sometimes a visit to Sayo’s, which led to interesting discussions with Toshiro.
But as these last weeks went by, and the time for the baby’s birth grew closer, there were fewer trips down the hill. Instead, he’d come home from hunting, and find Chime and Erime and Mariko sitting around the fire pit, having a sewing party. Or Amaya and Hana, with a pot of stew and a package of Haname’s rice cakes. One day he came back from a meeting with Susumu and found Asami, one of Toshiro’s workers, doing the laundry.
“What are you doing?” he asked, watching the teenager at work.
“Oh, it’s bad luck for a woman near her time to do the washing,” Asami said. “Sayo-sama sent me over to lend a hand.” She gave the hanyou a big smile. “It’s so much nicer here without having to run after Daiki.”
“I bet,” the hanyou said, remembering what an active little boy Yasuo’s oldest son was.
This had gone on for several weeks before he felt brave enough to talk to Kagome about it.
All the female visitors had gone for the day. The house was spotlessly clean. His very pregnant wife was sitting in her place by the fire pit, stirring a pot of stew. For the moment, she glowed with contentment.
“Kaede said it’s going to be any time now,” Kagome announced. “Baby’s getting into position. It won’t be long, Chichi.”
For some reason, that sent a shiver of anxiety up his spine, but she looked so happy, he didn’t want to spoil it. Instead, he gave her a smile and a gentle hug.
“So who came by today?” he asked, putting his sword in its sword rest.
“Well, Sango and Rin came by after you went down to talk to Choujiro about making a chest, and after lunch, when you went hunting over near Tsuneo’s, Kaede stopped by to check on how I was doing and she brought Kimi and Yaya with her, and Kimi brought a pot of that stew you liked so well. Mariko came with them and insisted on mopping.” Kagome rested her hand on her swollen middle. “I’m not really in shape to do it myself, and Chime must have told her something when she was here yesterday.” She gave her husband a beautific smile. “Hungry?”
He nodded, and got up to wash his hands at the washbasin. His ears must have given him away, because when he sat back down, she tilted her head. “Something bothering you?”
“No,” he said. “I’m mostly just trying to figure things out. It’s just that...well, why are they all coming? Everyday somebody’s over here. You haven’t had a day without one of them dropping by for weeks now.”
“They’re just being nice, InuYasha,” she said, dipping up a bowl of rice. “I really don’t feel like getting out much right now. My balance is off. And I’m always having to go pee.” She put a dish of pickles on his tray. “Sayo sent these. You know the customs here. Most women go home to their mother’s the last month before the baby, to save them from heavy work and chores and maybe just to pamper them.” She dipped up a bowl of stew for her husband. “This smells wonderful.”
He took his tray from her hands. “Still doesn’t explain why they’re always here.”
“Well, I got the impression that some of them decided if I can’t go home to Mama, well, they all are going to do what they can to mother me, instead.” Kagome took a sip of her soup.
“A whole village of mothers?” InuYasha asked. “You all right with that?”
“Mostly, I think.” Kagome sucked on her bottom lip. “I’m so big and uncomfortable right now, and the company helps keep my mind off things, and the work helps means a lot...except...”
“Except?” InuYasha popped a slice of pickle in his mouth.
“I kind of miss the quiet. And just sitting here with you.”
“Feh,” the hanyou said. “You’re doing that with me now, aren’t you?”
“But..” Kagome lifted up her rice bowl.
“But what?” he asked.
“Have you noticed that ever since our anniversary, the village men keep finding reasons to ask you to do this or that, just about every day?” Kagome held her chopsticks in midair, thinking. “Go to a meeting. Help with a project. Hunt down a trouble-making deer. Something. Do you think they’re doing it on purpose, trying to keep you out of the house?”
“Huh, hadn’t thought of that,” InuYasha said. “Maybe they think they’re making it better for you?”
“I guess,” she said. “They mean so well, the women. The women who go home to their mothers’ homes don’t have a lot of contact with their husbands until the baby comes. Chime, Hisa, Sayo, Haname….I have a village full of aunts. And I do appreciate it. But I wish you were around more. Some husbands may stress their wives out. Others cope by keeping away. Everybody assumes this is a woman’s only thing. But I feel better when I can feel your youki nearby.” She reached out and took his hand, and gave it a little squeeze.
“Maybe tomorrow I should stay home and chop wood.” InuYasha drank the last of his soup.
“Would you?” Kagome’s eyes lit up.
“If all your...obasans will put up with me.”
He was hard at work on his woodpile the next day when the women started showing up. The first was Amaya, who had somehow pried her son Isao away from Susumu to carry a heavy bundle to the hut. She herself carried a basket. Isao was shooed out the the little house shortly after he delivered whatever it was he was carrying.
Hearing the chopping he wandered over to the side of the building where Inuyasha was working. The hanyou had a workspace with a neat rack of cut firewood lengths, a pile of cut logs, and a couple of trees waiting to be segmented into lengths. The boy watched as InuYasha put a log segment on the trunk segment he used as a chopping block, heft his maul, and split the log into halves. Taking one of the halves, he got ready to split it again, then looked up to see Isao watching him.
“Women kick you out, too?” the hanyou said, letting the maul go, splitting the half neatly.
The boy nodded. “Haha-ue didn’t want me to see what was in the bundle I carried for her. Women’s things, she told me.” He shrugged. “Felt heavy to me, like it was wooden.”
“Seems to be a lot about bringing babies into the world they don’t want us men knowing anything about,” InuYasha said.
“I guess,” the boy said.
“You going back to the headman’s house?” InuYasha asked. He put another piece of wood on the stump, split it.
“Tell Susumu I’m trying to stay home today. If he’s got any errands for me, they have to wait.”
The boy nodded, and went down the hill.
InuYasha was stacking the wood he had split earlier into his wood rick when the next group showed up at the house, Chime, Daitaro and their daughter-in-law Erime with her small daughter on her back. Daitaro didn’t even try to follow the women into the building, and instead walked around to where InuYasha was working.
“Staying close to home today?” the old man said, watching the hanyou stack his wood.
“Something like that,” InuYasha said.
“How’s that woman of yours doing?” Daitaro found a piece of log he liked, and set himself down on it, and lay the hoe he always carried next to him.
“Chime’s been up here almost every other day for the last two weeks,” InuYasha said, putting the last split in its place. “Hasn’t she told you?”
Daitaro looked at the jug of sake he usually carried with him, and thought about it, but left it hanging. “The women, they don’t like to tell us men much about what’s going on this close to a birth. I think they think it’s unlucky.”
“I believe that,” the hanyou said, picking up another log segment to slip. “Kagome’s tired, and uncomfortable. She was telling me about how her back was aching yesterday and this morning. I think she’s ready to get this over.” He hammered his maul home, and the piece of wood split.
“And you, too?” Daitaro asked. There was just a touch of humor in the old man’s face, but also considerable sympathy.
InuYasha dropped his maul and came and sat down next to the old farmer. “How did you feel when Shinjiro was ready to be born?”
“Nervous as the hells,” Daitaro admitted. “About six weeks before he came, they whisked her off to her mother’s place two days away. My otousan had the hardest time keeping me at home. “It’s not good for the wife to have to put up with husband foolishness,” they told me. “It can make the birthing go wrong.”
“Never seemed to stop Sayo,” InuYasha noted.
“She’s blessed to be a brood mother, that one,” Daitaro said, nodding. “Didn’t seem to slow Erime-chan down too much, either. Shinjiro spent most of his evenings at Takashi’s her last month, and that granddaughter of mine is pretty perfect, and no man was more afraid of a birthing than he was. After we lost his first wife while she was carrying him, he was really afraid for Erime-chan, but she took to birthing like a duck goes to water.” The old man sighed, and offered his sake jug to the hanyou.
InuYasha shook his head. “I don’t know if I’m just imagining things, but it seems like Tameo and some of the other men keep finding things for me to do lately.” He looked at Daitaro. “Like they’re trying to keep me away from home or something.”
Daitaro rubbed the back of his neck. “Maybe. I wouldn’t put it past them. Probably just trying to help keep you from getting too nervous or something. Maybe their women are encouraging it, since they can’t send your woman home to her mother.”
“Is that why they keep coming over every day?”
“Most likely,” Daitaro said, nodding. “Be glad your house is as small as it is. Otherwise, someone would have probably wanted to stay over at night.”
“How long are they going to do this?” InuYasha asked. His ear flicked at the sound of laughter coming out of the house.
“If that wife of yours is willing, maybe for a month after the birth. Be glad of it, son,” Daitaro said, patting the hanyou on the shoulder. “That first month is hard. Baby doesn’t sleep much. Woman is going to be tired all the time. And the newness of everything.”
“Kind of overwhelming, isn’t it?” The old farmer gave his friend a sympathetic smile. “Those days when it was just you and her, well those days are done. Now it’s you, her, and all those women who have stepped into the role of aunt and mother. In a few days, it’s you, her, and that new child. Changes your whole life.” He stood up. “It’s worth it, though. And now you’ll get to learn what being a husband really means. You have the easy job. Think about what she’s going to be going through.”
InuYasha stared down at his hands. “Yeah. Did...did you ever feel...scared?”
“Every time, son, every time. Don’t tell Chime that, though.” Daitaro took a deep breath, remembering. “If it gets too bad, come down and see me. Spring’s here. Old Okuro’s going to be getting restless. I’m sure we can find something to take your mind off things.” And with a wave, he headed down the hill.
InuYasha stayed close to home for the next three days. His stack of split firewood grew higher and higher. Once he left to take some of it to restock Kaede’s and Daisuke’s firewood supplies, and once he went fishing, much to the pleasure of Jiro and Akemi, who admired his fishing technique, but something was going on with Kagome. He could tell it in her scent. Occasionally it was tinged with pain, and she got more anxious when he wasn’t near enough for her to feel his presence. So he was once again attacking a log with his maul in the late afternoon, when Amaya stepped out of his house and walked around to his workplace.
“InuYasha-sama, Kagome-chan asked me to come get you,” she said simply. “I think...I think it’s time we send for Kaede-sama.”
Taking a deep breath, he put down his maul, and raced to inside of the house.
Besides Amaya, Mariko, Daitaro’s other daughter-in-law, and Asami were there. Asami was rubbing a place at the small of Kagome’s back.
The air was tinged with the scent of pain. Kagome’s pain. “That’s the place,” Kagome said. She took a deep breath and let it go. Looking up, she saw her husband, and gave him a smile. It was her reassuring smile, but for some reason, he didn’t feel very reassured.
“Could you leave us a little bit?” Kagome asked the women. “I need to talk to my husband.”
Mariko and Asami filed out, both giving the hanyou smiles as they went, but his eyes were only on his wife.
InuYasha knelt next to her, and pulled her gently to him, kissing her forehead. “You...Your pains have started?”
“I love you, Koibito,” he said simply, and rested his head on top of hers.
“You’ve been with me through three births already,” Kagome said. “You know what’s going to happen.”
He nodded. “Once Kaede decides it’s really happening, she won’t let me back in.”
“It’s a woman’s mystery, bringing new life into the world.” Kagome looked up at him, saw the worry and love in his eyes. Taking his hand, she gave it a small squeeze. “I know you’re strong enough to knock the wall of the house in, but promise me.”
“Promise what?” he asked. His ear flicked in nervousness.
“You’ll stay near, but stay out. As long as I can sense you near, I’ll be all right. Please?” Her eyes glistened as she looked up at him. He could see her own anxiety there, awareness of the fight ahead, and determination. And love. Always so much love.”
“I promise,” he said, nodding. “I promise.” He gave her a small, almost snarky grin. “I guess this is payback for all the times you had to stand around and watch me do battle, and couldn’t fight. I always got strength knowing you were there. This is my turn.”
“Exactly.” She gave him a gentle, short kiss. “Now go get Kaede and tell Sango and Miroku. Miroku’s going to come sit with you.”
“You’ve had this all planned?” He gave her one more kiss.
“Of course,” she said. Her breath caught as another pain started. “I love you. Now go.”
Kaede, who must have sensed his youkai as he approached, was standing in front of her house with a basket in hand as he walked up.
“So, InuYasha, it’s time, is it?” she asked. There was a slight smile to the corner of her mouth, perhaps because of how the young man in front of her was moving between being almost panicking and trying to remember to act calm. But she had seen the same behavior in many young men before, and took it all in stride.
“Kagome thinks so,” he said, sticking his hands in his sleeves. “She’s the one who sent me.”
Rin stepped out of the house. “Is the baby coming, InuYasha-ojisan?”
The hanyou shrugged. “Kagome thinks so.”
“And we shall find out once we get there,” the old miko said. “Do me a favor, Rin-chan, and go tell Hisa-chan. We’ll never hear the end of it if we have yet another birth of someone she has under her wing, and not let her know. You may come back with her, if you like, although Sango might have you babysitting if you do.”
The girl nodded, and took off.
“This will probably be a long night, InuYasha,” Kaede said. “You know that, don’t you?”
“Keh.” InuYasha took a deep breath, and his ear flicked. “After spending the night waiting for Sayo’s girl and sitting on Kinjiro when it was Matsume’s time...I understand.”
“Good. As long as you understand,” Kaede said, nodding. “Just because she’s your wife doesn’t mean you can intrude on what’s going to happen. These are women’s mysteries, and a man barging in could cause problems with the kami. If you were smart, you might think of going to Houshi-sama’s house, or to Daitaro’s.”
“Can’t do that, Babaa. Kagome said she needed me near, even if I can’t be in the room. Something about how she feels when she can’t feel my youki.”
She took that information to account. “Well, if it helps her. But if you get too agitated and your youki becomes a problem, I may ask you to move further away, or even leave. Can you deal with that?”
“Feh.” InuYasha frowned. “What do you take me for? I’d do anything to make this as easy as I can for her. She’s my wife.”
Kaede nodded in approval. “Maybe it’s because this old woman remembers a time or two in the past, when a hotheaded young hanyou overreacted. One time I even had to seal him in so he’d let his wounds heal properly.”
InuYasha blushed a little at that memory. “I was young and stupid and afraid,” he admitted.
“Little did I know that day, that one day that you would admit that, or that I would be going to help with what I’m doing tonight,” Kaede said. “Let’s head to your place.”
By the time InuYasha had escorted Kaede back up the hill, he found the conspiracy had preceded him. Someone had built a fire near the house, and a pot of soup was heating over it. Sitting mats and a few logs suitable for makeshift benches had been moved into position. A table had been set with food and the makings for tea. Daitaro and Genjo had claimed two of the mats. Miroku was sitting on one of the logs.
“I will go see how things are going. It is possible this is a false alarm,” Kaede says. “Sometimes with the firstborn, that happens.”
The hanyou nodded. “Will you let me know?”
“Either I or one of the other women. Now let us attend to our business. For me, bringing new life in the world. For you, the initiation into fatherhood. You have those scoundrels to help you get started,” she said, nodding at the three seated men. Kagome’s job is harder tonight, but fatherhood has its own hardships.”
She walked into the house.
He walked over to the men, and crossed his arms. “How did you three manage to show up already?”
“Blame the women,” Daitaro said.
“Mariko sent Asami to tell us that Kagome was going to send for Kaede,” Genjo said.
“But she was there when I left,” the hanyou said, sitting down.
“She had already come back,” Daitaro said.
InuYasha shook his head. “Why do I feel like all the women of this village have been plotting against me?”
“I wouldn’t call it plotting against you,” Miroku said. “More like plotting for you.”
Genjo patted his shoulder. “Happened to me, too. There was a storm blew up and Mariko couldn’t get out of the village to go home.”
“I remember that,” Miroku said. “That was a nasty piece of weather.”
“All of a sudden, I had a dozen aunts in the village I wasn’t related to show up. Some of them had their husbands in tow to keep me from doing anything stupid while we waited.” Genjo stretched one of his legs out. “I’m not sure, but I think Haha-ue arranged it all.”
“Don’t look at me,” Daitaro said. “I’m not spilling your okaasan’s secrets. But she was extra nervous, after having lost our sweet girl. I think she made extra offerings to the land kami to make sure everything went well, and then that storm blew up. She thinks to this day it was an answer to her prayers, so she could attend and know everything was going right.”
“Maybe so, maybe so,” Miroku said, nodding. “After everything that’s happened in this village the last year that had the kami involved, I wouldn’t be surprised. This village has pretty active kami.”
“It has been a wild year,” Daitaro said. “May they see fit to give us a calm year, and a bountiful harvest.”
“Keh,” InuYasha said. “With a new baby in the house, I agree with that prayer.”
Not long after this, Hisa, Tameo, Eiji and Kimi walked up the hill. Tameo carried a pack and Hisa a basket. Hisa hurried into the house after making her greeting, but the rest of them took seats around the fire.
Tameo plopped down on one of the logs. “Welcome to your initiation into adulthood, InuYasha-kun.”
“I’m a couple hundred years older than you, old man,” the hanyou replied.
“Yes, but you’re really not an adult until you have your own children,” he said. “Or raise some, anyway.”
The sun was beginning to set. Kimi went over to the firepit, and poked the burning wood, checked the stew pot, and gave it a stir. “Have you eaten anything, Inuyasha-sama?”
He shook his head. “Not since lunch.”
“Well, my job here tonight is to make sure you and whoever is keeping watch with you has enough to eat and drink. It’s going to be a long night. It’s better not to do it on an empty stomach.”
“That’s my little Kwannon,” Eiji said.
“And what’s your job, Eiji?” InuYasha asked. “Is your job to make sure I don’t go tearing into my own house when I can’t stand waiting any more?”
Eiji looked a little shocked. “I just thought since Kimi was going to come here no matter what I said, that I’d come along to keep you company and tell you amusing tales about all the trouble Susumu got into when he was young.”
Tameo snorted at that. “I could add some details, if you like. You only saw what a friend saw. I saw what a parent did.”
“Sorry, sorry,” the hanyou said, looking down at the ground. “It’s just knowing...”
Kimi dipped up some stew and rice, and added some pickled turnip to the tray. “Here, eat. You sound like a man who has missed his supper. The pickles are from Amaya. Nobody makes pickled turnip as well as she does.”
He ate what was put in front of him, as did Tameo and Eiji and the rest. He accepted tea when Kimi put some in his hand. He smiled at the appropriate places and even laughed a time or two as Eiji and Tameo told their tales. The moon, not much more than a slip, almost first quarter slowly dipped lower and lower. Kimi kept the fire burning bright. His ears stayed focused on the little house, but he could hear no loud voices, no sounds of panic, no cries of pain. He had been told that the women thought it shameful to cry out, a disgrace on their family, that if he heard those types of sounds, something dreadful had gone wrong. It reassured him a little, but not much. The night dragged on.
Miroku nudged him. “Are you still with us, InuYasha? You seem to be lost in a far off place.”
He lifted up his head and looked around at the faces looking back at his. Daitaro was getting very tired, but was doing his best to stay awake. Eiji was drinking yet another cup of tea. Tameo, for some reason had gotten his second wind and was looking at him bright eyed and expectant. Kimi was sipping her own cup of tea, looking up at him. Genjo had fallen asleep and was stretched out, using one of the logs as a pillow. No doubt he would get teased heavily come tomorrow. And Miroku, his oldest male friend, who had threatened him at first but became the most stalwart of companions after all the hell they went through during the shard hunt and the fight against Naraku was looking at him with concern and understanding. InuYasha remembered how he had to almost sit on him when Sango had the twins. All these people who were there for him on this hard night. It was almost hard to believe it was happening, but here he was.
He smiled at Miroku. “I was thinking about being a father. My old man died before I could remember him. I know they tell me he was wonderful and great, but he went out and got himself killed. I don’t want to do that to my child, to leave him and Kagome behind in a world that can be mighty cruel. What good does it do to be famous and respected and powerful when you can’t help the people who depend on you most? And now I have to learn how to be a father when I don’t think I know anything about doing it.”
“Sounds like you’re on the right path,” Daitaro said. “Wanting to be there for them. Wanting to be there more than fame or wealth or power. That’s the start.” Something struck him as funny and he grinned. “Be the opposite of Okuro.”
“Be the opposite of your old bull?” InuYasha asked.
“Oh, he loves his lady friends when they’re all bully for him. Doesn’t care a thing for his offspring though. Makes him a good stud. But he’s a lousy father.”
InuYasha barked a laugh.
“You and Kagome-chan will figure out most of it,” Toshiro said. “But you know if you have questions...”
“Don’t ask him, InuYasha,” Eiji said. “Look how Susumu and Kinjiro turned out!”
Kimi gave him a shove.
Suddenly, there was a cry. Not a woman’s cry of pain. A cry of new life, complaining about the strange new world it found itself in.
In a bit of time that felt like forever, but was only a few minutes, a tired, but pleased Kaede stepped out of the door. “Come, InuYasha, come and meet your new son.”
“Well, well, sounds like there’s another member of our village,” Tameo said. “Congratulations, InuYasha-otousan. Welcome to adulthood.”