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* Aiko has been doing chores all day but is now standing outside by the road looking for her brother to come home
* Aiko has missed Kagemaru sooo much
* Kagemaru is walking home
* Gyoshoku came home early from the shrine today in anticipation, is sitting inside with Kumiko
* Kumiko is sitting by Gyo's side
* Hanaai is playing outside
* Amida looks up to his brother a whole lot and wants him to come back, but he's very interested in writing right now, laying on his tummy drawing in the dirt near where Hanaai is playing
* Hanaai is having a long discussion with her doll as to why the doll should eat her food properly
* Amida thinks Hanaai is very silly
* Gyoshoku is nervous, taps his foot in anticipation
<Hanaai> What're you writing, Am-chan?
* Kumiko takes Gyo's hand
<Kumiko> It'll be alright, Gyo...
* Kagemaru is hurrying home, trying to appear not to, but he really has missed his family alot while being gone
<Amida> I'm practicing the first blessing so I can write it with my eyes closed like chichi
<Gyoshoku> I know it will, but I'm still nervous
<Gyoshoku> every time he leaves I think he won't come back
* Aiko is anxious, too, is holding her hands behind her back to hide it
<Kumiko> I know... but he's coming now
* Hanaai moves over to Amida, still holding her doll
<Hanaai> you have to pull that line longer, though, right?
<Gyoshoku> maybe we shouldn't tell him...he's happy not knowing
* Amida snorts at her disdainfully and then fixes it
<Kumiko> I'll leave it up to you and your own conscious, Gyo
* Kumiko strokes his hand slowly
<Amida> I thought you were playing with your doll
<Hanaai> I was
<Hanaai> But she won't eat her food
* Gyoshoku squeezes her hand and sighs
<Hanaai> so I came to look at what you're writing
* Kagemaru is approaching home!
<Gyoshoku> he deserves to know..and he's too old to ignore the whispers anymore...but gods this is difficult
* Kagemaru is getting closer quickly!
* Kumiko nods
<Kumiko> I'm here to support you, Gyo...
* Aiko climbs up on a tree stump in a very unladylike way, and spots him
<Aiko> Maruppe!!
* Aiko jumps and waves
<Gyoshoku> I're always here *smiles at her*
<Amida> dolls don't eat, Hana-chan, they're dolls
<Hanaai> I know, bu--
* Hanaai looks over at Aiko
<Hanaai> Maruppe? Where?!
* Amida does as well
* Hanaai stands up and looks
* Amida jumps up and dusts off
* Hanaai spots him on the road and takes off running
* Amida runs too, and quickly overtakes his sister
* Kagemaru looks up. "Ai-chan!"
* Aiko is still on the stump, she's too ladylike to actually run anymore
* Hanaai tries her best to keep up with Amida
* Amida throws himself into a full body hug of Kagemaru
* Hanaai does too, just a few moments later
<Hanaai> MARUPPE!
* Kagemaru is attacked!
* Gyoshoku gets to his feet, hearing the commotion outside
* Kagemaru laughs slightly, the kids' enthusiasm is cute
<Gyoshoku> he's here
<Kumiko> I can hear, heh
* Aiko frowns at them, stupid little kids
* Kumiko gets up as well
<Amida> Maruppe did you bring me a present?
* Amida is still hugging
<Kagemaru> You only love me for the gifts I bring, I'm hurt, Amida-kun.
<Amida> noooooooooooooooooooo, but I do like gifts ^_^
* Aiko climbs off the stump and makes her way over to the clump, pulling her little brother off so she can hug Kagemaru
* Kagemaru chuckles "Yeah yeah, you little brat. And I did bring it, for your information."
* Amida jumps up and down, only temporarily miffed and being displaced "YAY"
* Hanaai clings to Kagemaru, Aiko's not going to remove her, nuh uh!
* Gyoshoku and Kumiko head outside and Gyoshoku waves from the doorway
* Kagemaru hugs Aiko back. "Hey Ai-chan, did you keep the brats in line while I was gone?"
<Aiko> *whispers* missed you, Maruppe
<Aiko> no one can keep these two in line
<Kagemaru> *whispers back* I missed you too, Aichan
<Hanaai> Mom can keep us in line too!
<Aiko> she has enough to do
<Hanaai> but she caaaaaaaan
<Aiko> now let go of him so he can go greet his parents you little leech
<Hanaai> Nooo!
* Aiko grabs Hanaai up and tickles her
<Hanaai> aaaah! I wanna hug Maruppe!
* Hanaai squirms
<Aiko> you can hug him later *tickles more*
* Kagemaru laughs and helps Aiko tickle Hanaai
<Amida> leeeeech, leeech, Hana is a leeech
<Hanaai> Am not!
* Hanaai lets go of Kagemaru and tries to go after Amida instead
* Amida sticks his tongue out at her and runs off back toward the house
* Hanaai runs after him
* Aiko laughs as they run off
* Kagemaru runs his hand through his hair
* Kagemaru also chuckles
* Gyoshoku laughs as well "Stop teasing your sister, Amida!"
<Kagemaru> Oh gods, it's good to be home, Aichan
* Aiko puts an arm around him as they walk back to the house
<Kagemaru> Though quite a bit exhausting *winks*
<Aiko> everyone's missed you so much
* Kagemaru puts an arm around her in turn. "I can tell... maybe I should go off like this more?"
<Gyoshoku> why did we name him after the merciful Buddha again?
<Kumiko> Because of that dream you had?
<Kumiko> and because we were hoping?
* Hanaai stops chasing after Amida and runs over to her parents instead
<Aiko> no, you should stay more and then you won't get tackled
<Gyoshoku> true, true
* Gyoshoku scoops Hanaai up and puts her on his hip "did the nasty mean boy tease my little flower?"
<Kagemaru> But I don't particulary mind being tackled, Aichan *winks*
<Hanaai> Uh huh *nods*
* Aiko laughs and lets go of him when they get closer to the house
* Hanaai clings to her father
<Gyoshoku> he's just jealous because you have good handwriting like your mother and he takes after me
* Hanaai giggles
* Amida runs around to follow Kagemaru
<Hanaai> But I can read what you write, daddy
<Gyoshoku> because you're very very smart *kisses her nose*
<Hanaai> it's real easy
<Hanaai> why do other people say it's hard?
* Gyoshoku sets her down
<Gyoshoku> because they're not as smart as you
* Hanaai is used to his handwriting, having learned from him and all... so, yeah
<Hanaai> oh... 'kay!
* Hanaai grins up at him
* Gyoshoku pats her head
* Kagemaru takes a deep breath, looking around
<Kagemaru> this place never changes, does it?
<Aiko>'s sooo boring
<Aiko> but now you're back and it will be fun again
<Aiko> it's always more fun when you and Saku-chan are here, but she's off on some mission for her houshi-baka
* Kagemaru laughs
<Kagemaru> Sakuchan is so much fun
<Gyoshoku> I heard that!
* Gyoshoku walks to meet Kagemaru and grin at him "Who is this tall stranger?"
<Amida> duh, it's Kagemaru!
* Kagemaru grins back. "Just a fellow wandering houshi, houshi-dono"
* Gyoshoku grins more broadly and then hugs his son briefly
<Gyoshoku> it's good to see you, son
* Kagemaru hugs back just as briefly
<Kagemaru> Good to see you too, chichi-ue
* Kumiko walks out to meet him too, accompanied by Hanaai
<Amida> Maruppe, how come you called him houshi-dono, and why did chichi say I had to call you Kagemaru when I go to Uncle Tendo's next year, and why did you bring a shakujou, and how come you get to dress like chichi now and I don't?!
* Aiko rolls her eyes
<Kagemaru> 'cause I'm old and wise, Amida-kun, and you're not *winks*
<Aiko> welcome home to the chatterbox
* Amida pouts a bit
* Kumiko hugs Kagemaru. "Welcome home, Maruppe..."
* Kagemaru hugs back. "Thank you, haha-ue... it feels good to be back."
* Amida walks over and tugs on Kumiko's kimono
<Amida> I'm hungry!
<Amida> you said we had to wait to eat until Maruppe got here and now he's here so I'm huuuuuuungry
* Kumiko laughs. "Fine, fine, let's go in, then."
<Kumiko> I wouldn't want my family to starve, after all
<Aiko> I helped with the fish, Maruppe, and Hana-chan made the onigiri and Amida got in the way a lot
<Gyoshoku> Amida should stay out of the kitchen, he's almost as bad in there as I am
* Amida sticks his tongue out at his whole family
<Hanaai> But Ami-chan makes good soup
<Hanaai> sometimes
<Hanaai> he did once, at least
<Amida> stop calling me Ami-chan, you know I hate it
<Amida> I'm not a little kid anymore
* Amida pouts
<Hanaai> But I wanna call you that...
<Hanaai> 'cause that's what I've always called you
* Aiko laughs
<Aiko> he's a cute little Ami-chan
* Amida growls and then runs inside to pout in there
* Kumiko smiles and turns to head back inside to finish preparations
* Kumiko also takes it on her to talk to Amida
<Hanaai> Daddy?
<Gyoshoku> mhm?
<Hanaai> Is it bad I wanna call him Ami-chan?
<Gyoshoku> he's just trying to grow up and it's hard with a little sister on one side and a big sister on the other trying to keep him small
<Hanaai> 'cause I called him that ever since I was soooo small *holds hand low to demonstrate her height at the time, which, judging by her estimation, was when she was about five months old*
<Kagemaru> It's good to be the oldest, ne, neechan? *smiles at Aiko*
<Aiko> oh, hai, we get to make all the others miserable, when they're not making us miserable that is
<Kagemaru> Mhm, mhm
<Kagemaru> at least we don't have older siblings to keep us down
* Kumiko heads inside and gives Amida a hug
* Aiko grins at him
<Aiko> come on, I got a bath ready for you and some clean robes, but they might be too small for you now, so I'll get some of chichi's
<Kagemaru> I grew, ne?
* Gyoshoku is still a half a head taller
* Kagemaru grins widely
* Kagemaru is taller than when he left, though
<Aiko> oh yes, and you've gotten a little bulkier too
<Kagemaru> Thank gods for that
<Kagemaru> At least I can take you down now, neechan
<Gyoshoku> I knew all that training would fill you out
<Aiko> psht, better not
<Kagemaru> Well, just you beware
<Gyoshoku> <gods, his eyes look just like Kurousagi's...>
<Kagemaru> 'cause you won't win if you attack me now, you evil girl *winks*
<Aiko> are you going to take your bath or not, because if not I will dump it on your head!
<Kagemaru> Fine, fine, I will
* Aiko grins "good"
* Aiko has always liked taking care of him
<Kagemaru> Where is it, oh mighty paragon of cleanliness?
* Amida sniffs in his mother's arms..isn't crying, oh no
* Kumiko strokes his back slowly
<Aiko> around by the river, smelly houshi
<Kagemaru> Alright
<Kagemaru> I will go to meet my watery doom, then
<Gyoshoku> go get some of my robes for your brother, Hana-chan
<Hanaai> Okay!
* Hanaai rushes off
<Aiko> so dramatic, these men *rolls her eyes*
<Amida> I'm not crying
<Kagemaru> What do you expect, I was brought up by him *nods at Gyo*
* Gyoshoku grins and bows
<Kumiko> I know you're not, Amida-kun
<Amida> I'm mad
* Kumiko nods slowly
<Kumiko> I understand
* Amida makes a pouty-angry face...poor children of Gyo, soooooooo stubborn and soooooo emotional
* Kumiko kisses the top of his head
<Amida> make her stop it, I'm not a little kid anymore!
<Kumiko> I know, Amida, I know... but she is
<Amida> I'm gonna go with Maruppe as soon as I have my birthday
<Amida> how come I gotta wait so long when chichi started training at 6?
* Aiko leads her brother around to the bath
* Hanaai goes to get robes
<Aiko> just leave your clothes under the tree, I'll give you your privacy..we can't very well bathe together anymore *winks*
<Kagemaru> Nope... no more dunking your head underwater because you're splashing me *sighs*
* Gyoshoku stands at the door and watches Kumiko with Amida, and then makes himself somewhat useful setting the table
<Kagemaru> and it's so fun, too
<Kumiko> Because we still need our Amida here
<Aiko> I'm a dignified lady now
<Kagemaru> Uh huh, right
<Aiko> and you're supposed to have grown up
<Kagemaru> Psht, grown up
<Amida> how come, though?
* Hanaai gets the robes and goes outside again... has a bit of a problem keeping them folded, though... so ends up walking in a mass of cloth, trying to keep it from touching the ground
<Kagemaru> I can meditate... I know how to fight, and purify youkai, and set up barriers... I know the rituals for weddings, funerals and other important occassions... I know most about how to be a houshi, but that doesn't mean I'm grown up, Aichan... we're still not all that old
* Gyoshoku finds Hanaai very amusing
<Aiko> I've had two marriage offers already
<Kagemaru> What, two already?
<Aiko> mhm
<Aiko> stupid boys, though, so I said no
<Kagemaru> I'm sure they did not know about your pickles
* Aiko hits him on the arm
<Aiko> you hush
<Kagemaru> ow *grins*
<Aiko> I'll have you know, they've gotten much better
<Kagemaru> oh, so they don't taste like an explosion of vinegar any more?
<Amida> you don't need me, I'm just in the way like Ai-chan said
<Aiko> explosion, you're such an exaggerator
* Hanaai spins around a bit, trying to lift the robes off her head... away from her eyes... silly robes, how'd they fall like that?
<Kumiko> You're not in the way, Amida
<Amida> I'm too little to train, and playing with Hana-chan is boring and stupid
<Kumiko> Sometimes, the greatest thing can be to do boring and stupid things, Amida-kun
<Amida> hrmph
<Kumiko> People don't always like the chores they get, but they do them anyway, to make other people happy
<Kumiko> and because they know that they'll eventually get a reward if they do it properly... the reward of having people trust them with greater things
<Amida> it's a whole four months until I'm 12, I'll never survive *sighs dramatically*
* Gyoshoku bites his lip to keep from laughing out loud
<Kumiko> Oh, please? For me?
<Kumiko> I'd be very very sad if my Amida-kun went and died on me
* Hanaai manages to lift the robes enough to see, and stumbles on outside
<Kagemaru> Yeah yeah... exaggerating is what I do
<Kagemaru> and now, if you'll excuse me, I have a great task to go through
* Amida sniffs
<Amida> ok, for you
* Gyoshoku is shaking with laughter
<Aiko> oh, of course, great houshi
<Kagemaru> the task of making myself clean enough that mom won't try to clean my face while we're eating together
* Aiko bows mockingly and backs away
* Kumiko kisses Amida's head again. "Thank you."
<Kumiko> Think you can live with letting Hana-chan call you Ami-chan, too?
* Aiko finds Hanaai walking down the path and bursts into laughter
* Hanaai looks out from between the clothes
<Hanaai> Aichan!
* Aiko calls back "Watch out, houshi-sama, there's a terrible kimono youkai headed your way!"
<Hanaai> *muffled* help me
* Gyoshoku sticks his head out the door, then realises she was talking to Kagemaru
<Kagemaru> Kimono-youkai?
<Aiko> look
* Kagemaru looks back and laughs
<Kagemaru> Oh, Hana-chan, you're so kawaii
* Aiko pulls the robes off of Hanaai and folds them over, laying them under the tree
* Hanaai smiles brightly once she's out of the robes
<Aiko> come on, little one, we have to help haha with dinner
<Hanaai> Ok!
<Amida> ...I guess...
<Amida> but I'm NOT gonna pretend to be that dolls daddy
<Hanaai> Maruppe can eat as many of my onigiri as he wants to
<Kumiko> No, no, of course not
<Kumiko> A man has to draw some limits, of course
* Amida nods seriously
<Kumiko> but she's small, and she's so used to calling you that
<Amida> I better go finish my writing..if it helps her, I guess I can just...make accom..accomodations?...
* Amida tries to use words he doesn't quite know
* Kumiko smiles and nods
<Amida> after all, a man has to put up with terrible things... even little sisters
* Kagemaru goes about bathing
<Kumiko> Yep
* Gyoshoku starts to chuckle and turns it into a cough
<Kumiko> Could be worse, you could have a lot more little sisters
<Kumiko> You're lucky you just have one *smiles at him*
<Gyoshoku> come on, Amida, let's go work on your writing before your mother starts trying to make me feel guilty for all the children I forced on her
* Kumiko shakes her head. "Gyo..."
* Gyoshoku winks at her
<Kumiko> You're horrible... *smiles slightly*
<Gyoshoku> you wouldn't have me any other way
<Gyoshoku> come on, son
* Amida jumps up and goes to join Gyoshoku
* Amida runs back after just a second and kisses Kumiko's cheek before running outside
<Gyoshoku> so damn much energy
<Kumiko> Yes...
<Kumiko> But at least he's in a better mood now
<Gyoshoku> you're a miracle worker, as usual
<Gyoshoku> and I love you *winks*
* Kumiko gets up and smiles at Gyo. "And I love you"
<Amida> chichi, hurry up before the girls walk on my writing!!!!!!
<Hanaai> Aichan, don't step there *tugs on her sleeve*
* Gyoshoku laughs and goes out to find Amida guarding his dirt patch from tromping sisters
* Kumiko adds some finishing touches to the meal
* Aiko acts as if she's going to, and then steps over it
* Kagemaru is washing, dum dee dum
* Aiko goes inside to help her mother
* Hanaai stops at the writing
* Gyoshoku helps Amida with his writing
* Hanaai looks thoughtful at one sign
<Gyoshoku> what is it, Hana-chan?
<Hanaai> I'm just thinking... hmmm
* Amida is trying to ignore her...little sisters are to be tolerated but not enjoyed
<Hanaai> 'cause... if you add a line here, and here, it'd say something completely else, right?
<Gyoshoku> that's right
<Hanaai> and that'd be, like, the opposite
<Hanaai> why're they so close signs?
<Gyoshoku> because they are about the same idea, but different sides of the idea
<Hanaai> Hmm... ok
<Hanaai> that makes sense
* Gyoshoku smiles at her
* Hanaai smiles back
<Gyoshoku> my smart little girl, if we're not careful, you'll end up a scholar
<Hanaai> Would that be bad?
* Gyoshoku thinks that would be great, but...
<Gyoshoku> not to me, no
<Hanaai> Hmmm... ok
<Gyoshoku> I'd be very proud if you were
<Gyoshoku> but I don't think you could find a place to study
* Hanaai bites her lip thoughtfully
<Hanaai> So... so if I wanna learn, I'd have to go away?
<Hanaai> Like Maruppe?
<Gyoshoku> if you want to really study, yes
* Hanaai takes her father's hand
<Gyoshoku> I know some things, but I'm not really a scholar
<Hanaai> Then I don't think I want to
* Gyoshoku hugs her
<Hanaai> 'cause I wanna stay here with you and mommy
* Hanaai hugs back
<Gyoshoku> you might change your mind some day, and if you do, we'll find some way to get you what you need
<Gyoshoku> you can stay with me and mommy as long as you want
<Hanaai> Good
<Hanaai> 'cause I'd cry if I went away, I think
* Amida tugs on Gyo's robes "Is this right?"
* Gyoshoku checks it and makes one correction
<Gyoshoku> good job
<Hanaai> Ami-chan knows much more signs than me
<Gyoshoku> he's older
* Hanaai nods
<Hanaai> what does that one mean?
<Gyoshoku> it means "simplicity"
<Hanaai> oooh
<Amida> 'snot very simple, though
<Hanaai> Nope
<Hanaai> You're very good at rememb'ring, Ami-chan *smiles*
* Aiko and Kumiko finish preparing the dinner and then put it all out on the table
<Amida> heh...thanks... *smiles back a little*
<Gyoshoku> all of my children are very smart, it must come from their mother
* Hanaai shakes her head
<Hanaai> I think we got being smart from you, daddy
<Hanaai> and being nice to eachother from mommy
<Hanaai> I mean... you're nice too
<Gyoshoku> well, thank you, I appreciate that
<Hanaai> but mom's like... like... a parag... para... someone really, really nice
<Gyoshoku> paragon
* Hanaai nods
<Hanaai> I almost said parrot
<Hanaai> but she's not that
* Kagemaru finishes his bath and gets dressed in the clean robes Hana got for him
<Amida> silly Hana-chan
* Kagemaru wrings his hair... keeps it fairly short, but refuses to shave his head
<Hanaai> Yeah, I know
<Hanaai> but mommy's really really nice, anyway
<Gyoshoku> she is, yes
<Hanaai> and Aichan and Ami-chan and Maruppe and me are too, right daddy?
<Gyoshoku> very very nice
* Aiko comes to the door "the food's ready, but you're all to wash your hands before you eat"
* Kagemaru walks back around the house
<Kagemaru> Me too, Aichan?
<Aiko> no, not you, you're clean all over, and you look so funny in chichi's robes
<Aiko> come in before you trip
* Kagemaru holds up the robes a bit
<Kagemaru> I'm almost as tall as him, though
* Gyoshoku takes the other two around to the stream to wash their hands
<Aiko> yeah, but he's still a lot bigger
<Kagemaru> Mhm... but I'm strong now
* Aiko nods
<Aiko> I'm sure you are
<Kagemaru> I'll arm-wrestle you if need be to prove it
<Aiko> no thanks, I trust you
* Kagemaru grins and heads in
<Aiko> besides I'm never arm wrestling with you again after the last time when you smushed a worm up in your palm first
* Hanaai washes her hands thoroughly
* Amida washes his too...not quite as thoroughly
* Hanaai almost loses balance leaning over and grabs Amida's arm to steady herself
* Amida steadies her without a word
* Gyoshoku is very proud of his children
<Hanaai> Thanks :)
<Amida> that's what big brothers do
<Hanaai> What'd I do without you to save me from the cold depths of this stream, Ami-chan?
* Gyoshoku washes his hands as well and dries them on his robe
<Amida> fall in and be wet and die of pemonia
* Hanaai nods seriously
<Gyoshoku> pneumonia
<Hanaai> and that'd be sad, right?
<Amida> yeah, I guess we'd prolly miss you
* Hanaai nods
<Amida> race you back to the house
<Hanaai> so, it's good you're here, Ami-chan!
* Hanaai hugs him
<Hanaai> nuh uh, don't wanna
* Amida hugs back
<Hanaai> you're too fast
<Amida> boring little sister *smiles as he says it*
<Amida> I'll give you a head start
<Hanaai> Hmm... ok!
<Amida> ok, go
* Hanaai takes off
* Amida takes off a few seconds later
* Gyoshoku walks after them
* Hanaai runs back, trying her best to win
* Amida catches her and then paces her so they tie, is really a nice little boy when he's not being sulky
<Hanaai> We both won!
* Aiko has missed her "twin" so much she sits beside him when he sits down, not even waiting for the rest of them like she normally does
<Amida> yep
<Hanaai> and dad's being slow today
<Amida> *whispers* it's cause he's old
* Hanaai giggles
<Gyoshoku> I heard that, and I'm not slow... I'm... mellow
<Hanaai> I bet Maruppe's faster than you, daddy
<Hanaai> but it's ok
* Gyoshoku smiles "he might be"
<Hanaai> because I love you lots anyway
<Gyoshoku> gee, thanks
* Hanaai smiles up at him
* Amida goes inside and sits across from Kagemaru
* Hanaai takes Gyo's hand and walks inside too
<Gyoshoku> come on, little flower, or your brothers will eat everything up
<Hanaai> Silly brothers
* Gyoshoku chuckles and sits at the head of the table
* Hanaai sits between Gyo and Amida
* Kumiko serves them all
* Gyoshoku manages to grope her as she goes by... discreetly, of course
<Aiko> oh... I'll help, I just forgot in the excitement
* Aiko gets up and helps Kumiko serve
* Kumiko and Aiko finish serving and sit back down
* Gyoshoku and family, eat, play, talk, and so forth and then Gyo and Kumiko put the younger two to bed
* Hanaai manages to get Gyo to tell them a story before going to sleep
* Aiko gestures to Kagemaru that they should walk outside while the bedtiming is going on
* Kagemaru follows her out
* Gyoshoku tells a long, complex story about dragons and evil fire youkai and rain and defiant neko-youkai
<Hanaai> Like Sakuchan?
<Gyoshoku> yes
<Hanaai> Mmk
* Amida falls asleep during the story
<Aiko> I'm so glad you're home, Maruppe
* Hanaai tries to stay awake as long as possibly, but falls asleep before the end too
<Kagemaru> I'm pretty glad to be home, Aichan
* Gyoshoku looks around
<Gyoshoku> where did the twins go?
<Kagemaru> Though it is quite tiring... so much energies floating around, you know?
<Kumiko> Out for a walk, I think
<Aiko> it is?
<Aiko> I didn't know we were so hard to be around
<Kagemaru> No, not hard
<Gyoshoku> ahh...well that's good
* Gyoshoku goes and sits beside Kumiko
<Kagemaru> Tiring, but not hard... it's very nice, really
<Gyoshoku> Amida called me old today
<Kagemaru> Hana-chan and Amida are so... so... *waves hand vaguely* lively
<Aiko> yeah, they're both brats
<Kagemaru> Mhm
<Kagemaru> Lively, cute, brats
<Aiko> oh yes, wonderful brats, to be sure
<Aiko> and Amida talks about you all the time, he's so proud of you
<Kumiko> My poor Gyo... *leans against him*
* Gyoshoku puts an arm around her
<Gyoshoku> I guess I am...when did that happen?
<Kumiko> Hmm
<Aiko> Hana-chan too, actually
<Kumiko> somewhere between having Aiko and now, I guess
<Gyoshoku> heh, I'm pretty sure I was still young for a while after that
<Kumiko> Hmm... probably, yeah
<Kumiko> You were still pretty young when we had Hana, too...
<Kagemaru> I'm a bit of a hero, eh?
<Kagemaru> The big, strong brother training to be a proper houshi
<Kagemaru> well... a houshi, anyway
<Gyoshoku> I think when Amida first looked at me and said "when can I go learn to be a houshi" ... that's when I turned old
* Kumiko hugs him
* Aiko chuckles
<Aiko> if you were too proper, I'd think something was wrong with you
<Kumiko> at least Hana-chan never wants to leave us
* Gyoshoku hugs back
* Kagemaru grins at her
<Gyoshoku> yeah... she's a homebody like her mother
<Gyoshoku> I'm sorry about the rest, I think they all got the wandering bug from me
<Gyoshoku> even Ai-chan, she's so restless
* Kumiko nods slowly
<Kumiko> I know
<Aiko> it must be so exciting, being out and seeing things
<Kumiko> and though I'll miss them when they go out, I want them to be happy more than anything
<Aiko> you're so lucky to have been a boy
<Gyoshoku> I know, so do I
<Kagemaru> You can come along, Aichan...
* Aiko raises a brow and looks at him
<Aiko> yeah right, and be a nun? no thanks
* Kagemaru grins slightly. "Fine, fine, point taken..."
<Kagemaru> But you have the wandering spirit, like me, and dad, and Amida
* Aiko nods
<Aiko> maybe I'll marry a houshi and we can wander together
<Aiko> any propects for me at the monastary?
<Kagemaru> Hmm... not anyone good enough for my sister
<Aiko> you hate every boy who likes me, just like Chichi
* Kagemaru laughs slightly
<Kagemaru> We want you all to ourself, Aichan
* Aiko sticks her tongue out at him
* Kagemaru puts an arm around her as they walk
<Gyoshoku> we've done the best we can for them...
<Kumiko> Yeah...
<Kumiko> I'm glad one of our children wants to stay home, though
* Gyoshoku pulls her up into his lap
<Gyoshoku> well, one of them had to take after you
* Kumiko leans her head against his chest
<Kumiko> I suppose, heh
* Gyoshoku rubs her arm
<Kumiko> and the others do too, don't they? Just in other ways...
<Gyoshoku> yeah...they do
<Gyoshoku> she just reminds me so much of you
<Aiko> how long can you stay?
<Kagemaru> Oh, a while, at least
* Aiko grins
<Kagemaru> I'm not in a rush to return
<Aiko> not having fun?
<Kagemaru> Ehh... I'm growing more and more understanding as to why dad took the opportunity to live away from the monastary
<Aiko> heh
<Aiko> why's that?
<Aiko> he never talks about it
<Kagemaru> It's a very confined place
<Aiko> oh
* Kagemaru runs his free hand through his hair
<Aiko> and a very serious place?
<Aiko> you were never very good at serious
<Kagemaru> they want to decide so much for you... how you're supposed to act, dress, cut your hair... think...
<Aiko> I notice you didn't shave your head
* Kagemaru grins at her
<Kagemaru> Nope
<Kagemaru> I refused
* Aiko laughs
<Kagemaru> Told them they were focusing too much on the outside
<Aiko> you're so funny
<Kagemaru> I got that one from dad, actually
<Kagemaru> He didn't want to cut his hair, either
<Kagemaru> or, you know, shave his head
<Aiko> and he's very good at getting what he wants
<Kagemaru> Mhm
* Kagemaru glances back toward the house
<Aiko> I remember when we were little how he'd talk us into doing chores..stuff we hated doing
<Kagemaru> Yeah, heh
<Aiko> he was sooo good at getting us to do stuff
<Kagemaru> he made us think we wanted to do it
* Kagemaru nods
<Kagemaru> then again, we were pretty good at avoiding it, too
<Kagemaru> we learned to talk him into things too, ne?
<Aiko> you were always better than me at that
<Aiko> and you could fool him, and I never could
<Kagemaru> Mhm, I'm a born liar
<Kagemaru> Or better at it than you, at least
<Aiko> smooth talker, I think is the term
<Kagemaru> Oh, yes, smooth talker
<Aiko> I think I'm cursed, I got dad's temper and mom's transparency
* Kagemaru chuckles
<Kagemaru> Poor Aichan
* Gyoshoku snugs his wife
* Kumiko snugs back
<Kumiko> I love our family
<Aiko> that's right, pity me! You're not the only one who can be dramatic *winks*
<Gyoshoku> so do I...
<Gyoshoku> bright and gifted and kind...every one of them
<Gyoshoku> we're very blessed
<Kagemaru> I do pity you, Aiko... such a terrible burden to carry
<Kagemaru> You're a very strong woman, and I deeply admire you
<Aiko> hey, no sweet talking your sister
<Aiko> that's against the rules
* Kagemaru looks at her all innocently
<Kagemaru> Who, me?
* Aiko laughs and hits his arm again
* Kagemaru laughs as well
<Aiko> that doesn't work on me
<Kagemaru> Fine, fine
<Aiko> I'm immune to charm living in this family
<Kumiko> Hai... very blessed
<Aiko> I plan to marry a completely uncharming man
<Kagemaru> No room for sweet talk in your future life?
* Gyoshoku kisses her
* Kumiko kisses back
<Gyoshoku> and I still love you as much as when we got married...both times
<Aiko> nope, plain and simple for me, thanks
<Aiko> I want to know where I stand with someone
<Kumiko> and I you
<Kumiko> I'm so glad Maruppe's back... he's growing up so quickly
<Gyoshoku> he really is
<Gyoshoku> I can't believe how tall he is
<Kumiko> before you know it, he'll be taller than you
<Gyoshoku> he might be, for all that
<Gyoshoku> and the training seems to have helped his confidence too
<Kumiko> Yeah... I'm so glad for him
<Gyoshoku> he seems happier...
* Kumiko nods
<Gyoshoku> he's really so gifted, but he was never a good student, too into finding short cuts
<Gyoshoku> I was hoping Tendo could help him with that, and he seems to be doing well
<Gyoshoku> how many times did I catch him cheating off of Aiko's paper, and she was so happy to help him
<Gyoshoku> and it's not like he didn't know the answers, he just didn't want to do the work
<Kumiko> Heh, yeah... she's always taken care of him
* Gyoshoku nods
<Gyoshoku> I still don't know if he understands that sometimes the more difficult way is better
<Gyoshoku> I hope so...I really do
<Kumiko> but you're not sure?
* Gyoshoku shakes his head
<Gyoshoku> his mother was so.....*sighs*
<Gyoshoku> and he's so like her, in his way
<Gyoshoku> always ready with an excuse, always testing the limits
<Gyoshoku> he's more gifted than I ever was, but even at his age I had more control than him
* Kumiko nods slowly
<Gyoshoku> I was already teaching
<Kumiko> but I think... no, I know... that we've brought him up well enough that he won't turn out like her...
<Gyoshoku> I'm more afraid he'll turn out like me
<Aiko> of course, there's always room for sweet talk from you *winks*
<Kagemaru> I'm glad to hear, oh sweet sister of mine
* Aiko giggles
<Aiko> you're a mess
<Aiko> didn't they knock the silly out of you yet?
<Kagemaru> I don't know what I'd do if you would no longer listen to the words coming from the bottom of my soul to praise your kindness... no, they didn't, noticed already?
* Aiko giggles more and hits his arm again lightly
<Aiko> you sound just like dad
* Kagemaru chuckles
<Kagemaru> I guess I take after him alot
<Kagemaru> much more than I take after mother
<Aiko> well, you're a boy
<Kagemaru> yeah, but Amida takes after her more than I ever did
<Aiko> he's just serious like her sometimes...he looks like dad, and he's wonderful at weasling out of things like dad, and he pouts..just like dad
<Kagemaru> I can pout too
<Aiko> oh, don't I know it
<Aiko> but you're more likely just to get back at someone
<Aiko> like the time you put ants in my futon
* Kumiko hugs Gyo. "I don't think he'd turn out like you either..."
<Kagemaru> Ehehe, still remember that?
<Kumiko> Because... you had all those issues with family... and trust... and stuff like that, right?
<Aiko> I still have the scar on my foot from when I jumped up and stepped back onto the shakujou
<Kagemaru> Poor Aichan
<Gyoshoku> well..yes
<Kumiko> and he has a family... you didn't...
* Gyoshoku nods
<Kumiko> he has a family, he has seen the good side of it
<Gyoshoku> but he knows he doesn't quite belong, he's always known
<Kumiko> yeah... but... *sighs*
<Gyoshoku> hopefully, though, he knows he's loved...very loved
<Gyoshoku> and I never had that
<Gyoshoku> until I met you
<Aiko> yes, that's right
<Aiko> your poor abused sister
<Aiko> maimed by your so-called harmless prank *sighs dramatically* now I'll never find love, for who could love such a hideously scarred woman?
<Kumiko> But you do now
<Gyoshoku> in abundance
* Kumiko smiles at him
<Gyoshoku> and if I could trade love when I was small to what I have now, I wouldn't
<Kagemaru> I'm sorry, Aichan... I guess you'll just have to shave your head and become an hermite now
* Aiko nods seriously
<Kagemaru> I will miss you, but be very proud to have such a holy sister
* Aiko falls to her knees "Oh, houshi-sama, would you bless me before I enter a life of holy prayer and servitude?"
* Aiko is very definitely Gyo's child as well
<Kagemaru> Yes, yes my child, I will
* Kagemaru nods all seriously
* Aiko bows her head and waits to be blessed, has missed being silly with Kagemaru
<Aiko> <no one understands me like he does>
* Kagemaru puts his hands over her head, bowing his head for a moment in a blessing gesture.
* Kagemaru stands still like that for a few seconds. "You know... there's a beetle on your collar"
* Aiko shrieks and jumps to her feet, turning around frantically
<Aiko> where? get it off!
* Kagemaru laughs and grabs her arm
<Kagemaru> Stand still, sister dearest, and I will
* Aiko stands still
<Gyoshoku> did Aiko just scream?
* Kagemaru picks it away
<Kagemaru> there you go
* Gyoshoku shifts Kumiko to the floor and stands up, worried
<Kumiko> I... think so...
* Kumiko stands up as well
<Gyoshoku> I'd better go check
* Aiko hugs him
<Aiko> thank you!
<Kagemaru> Now, what about an award for the brave houshi, who, with risk for his own li--
* Kagemaru hugs back
<Kagemaru> you know the rest
* Aiko is shaking a little, has an unreasonable fear of beetles
<Aiko> yeah, I know the rest
* Kagemaru strokes her back
* Gyoshoku grabs his shakujou and heads out to where he heard the scream
<Kagemaru> There, there, it's gone now, don't worry, Aichan
* Aiko shudders
<Aiko> I hate beetles
<Kagemaru> I know, I'm sorry, I should've just picked it away from you without telling you
* Gyoshoku half runs and finds his daughter and son embracing, she's clearly shaken
<Gyoshoku> what happened?
* Kagemaru looks up, sees his father
* Aiko looks around
<Aiko> oh...
<Kagemaru> Beetle *nods seriously*
* Gyoshoku blows out a huge sigh of relief
<Gyoshoku> oh, thank the gods
<Kagemaru> and, like the brave man I am, I saved my sister from the danger, risking my own life in doing so
<Aiko> I'm sorry I scared you *looks sheepish*
* Gyoshoku shakes his head and laughs a little
<Gyoshoku> what am I going to do with you two?
<Kagemaru> I don't know, father, clearly we are beyond all hope
<Kagemaru> I guess you will just have to send us off to a monastar--- wait, you already did that, never mind *grins and winks*
<Gyoshoku> ha ha ha
<Gyoshoku> you decided to go as I recall
<Kagemaru> I did, I'm just being silly
<Gyoshoku> in any case, I think maybe it's time to come in, since you never know when the evil beetle might return and I can't leave my son to battle such a monster alone
* Aiko frowns
<Aiko> alright
* Kagemaru grins. "Sounds like a plan, ne Aichan?"
<Aiko> yeah, I guess
* Kagemaru leans in and whispers "We can talk more tomorrow"
* Aiko nods
<Aiko> come on, then
* Aiko lets go of Kagemaru and heads back toward the house, feeling like a little girl who'se been chastened
* Kagemaru walks with her
* Gyoshoku follows
<Kagemaru> hmmm... remember when we'd run away in the middle of the night, neechan?
* Aiko grins
<Kagemaru> sneak out and go on moonlight adventures
<Aiko> like the time we convinced Saku-chan to take us hunting
<Kagemaru> oooh, yeah, that was fun
<Aiko> and scary
<Kagemaru> how old were we then, again?
<Aiko> um... 7... 8?
* Kumiko is waiting inside
<Kagemaru> something like that, yeah
<Kagemaru> and father got so worried *glances back and grins*
* Gyoshoku looks disapproving "try frantic with fear"
<Aiko> but it was soooo much fun
<Kagemaru> Yeah
<Aiko> and we came back all covered in rabbit blood and mom fainted
<Kagemaru> oh... yeah
<Kagemaru> poor mother
* Gyoshoku clears his throat "not funny then, and not funny now"
<Aiko> oh, it was a little bit funny
* Kagemaru nods
<Kagemaru> you got worried too, when you saw us all covered in blood, right, father?
<Gyoshoku> very, scared me nearly to death
<Aiko> you were so mad at Saku-chan, I remember
<Kagemaru> we were such brats
<Kagemaru> do Amida and Hana-chan do things like that?
<Gyoshoku> they aren't as close as you two
<Gyoshoku> and Saku's learned her lesson
<Gyoshoku> but, yes...Amida runs off sometimes...
<Gyoshoku> Hana-chan, not so much
<Kagemaru> she likes it home, ne?
* Gyoshoku nods
<Aiko> he ran off on me when I was supposed to be watching him
<Aiko> I kinda know what mom went through so long ago
<Gyoshoku> no you don't, because it's much harder when you're a parent, believe me
<Kagemaru> She said "kinda"
* Aiko smiles at her brother
<Gyoshoku> alright, alright, fair enough
<Kagemaru> That means she got a taste of it, even if she still doesn't understand the full width of it *grins back at his sister*
* Gyoshoku and the rest arrive back at the house
<Gyoshoku> just a beetle, Kumiko, no need to worry
<Kumiko> Oh... thank gods
* Aiko hugs her mother "I'm sorry I scared you"
* Kumiko hugs back
<Kumiko> it's alright, sweetie, I'm just glad you're not hurt
<Aiko> nope, Maruppe protected me ^_^
* Gyoshoku laughs "from the evil bug"
<Kagemaru> I'm such a heroic houshi
* Aiko blushes a little "I feel so stupid"
<Kagemaru> Beetles, spiders... I'll fight off anything for you, Aichan
<Aiko> I'm not afraid of spiders, that's mom
<Kumiko> Well... I have a pretty good reason to be
<Gyoshoku> hai, but now is not the time to discuss that
<Kumiko> I guess not... *yawns slightly*
<Gyoshoku> now is the time for all of us to go to bed, because tomorrow's a big day for all of us... we've been waiting to hold the birthday celebration for your return, son
<Aiko> yeah, I had to wait a whole 3 weeks, meanie
<Kagemaru> My poor Aichan, so mistreated
<Kagemaru> My poor Aichan, so mistreated
<Aiko> I couldn't have my birthday without you, though
<Aiko> so it was worth the wait
<Kagemaru> I have a present for you, too. *grins*
<Aiko> ohh, you do?
<Kagemaru> Uh huh
<Aiko> now I'll never sleep for wondering
<Aiko> *sighs*
<Kagemaru> I'd give you a hint
<Aiko> better not be about beetles
* Kagemaru laughs
<Kagemaru> but if I give you a hint, I think you'll end up thinking even harder about it
<Aiko> true
<Kagemaru> so I'm not going to
<Aiko> and in the meantime, know that I got you a present too
<Aiko> so there *sticks her tongue out*
<Kagemaru> We're so mean to eachother
<Aiko> cruelty through gift giving
<Aiko> at least we're creative
<Kagemaru> Yeah
<Kagemaru> Must've gotten it from father
<Gyoshoku> hey, leave me out of this
<Kagemaru> Well, mother's too nice
* Gyoshoku bites his tongue and doesn't say what he was going to about her ability to tease... has gotten so much better over the years
<Kagemaru> so we can't have gotten it from her, can we?
<Gyoshoku> I guess not
<Gyoshoku> now, off to bed before I change my mind and take back the gifts -I- got you both
<Gyoshoku> go on, shoo
* Kagemaru laughs
<Kagemaru> fine, fine, we're going
<Kagemaru> *whispers loud enough that it's clearly audibly* hey, Aichan, let's pull our futons close together and stay up half the night whispering to eachother?
* Aiko grins and stage whispers back "sounds like a plan"
* Gyoshoku and Kumiko have added two bedrooms over the years and the kids all sleep in one while they have the other
<Kagemaru> *still whispering* you don't think they'll get upset with us for it?
<Aiko> nah, as long as we don't wake up the little ones
* Gyoshoku yawns and shakes his head at his children
* Kagemaru gives his parents a hug each
* Gyoshoku hugs back
<Kagemaru> Goodnight, father... goodnight mother
<Kagemaru> it's good to be home
<Gyoshoku> it's good to have you home
<Gyoshoku> and sleep well, both of you
* Kumiko hugs back and nods
* Gyoshoku kisses Aiko's cheek
<Kumiko> Yes, sleep well
* Aiko smiles at them both and then heads to the back bedroom "goodnight"
* Kagemaru heads after Aiko
* Gyoshoku watches them go and then slips his arm around Kumiko's waist
* Kumiko leans against him
<Gyoshoku> bed?
<Kumiko> yeah
* Gyoshoku smiles and scoops her up in his arms, carrying her into their bedroom
* Gyoshoku slides the door closed behind them with his foot
* Kumiko smiles up at him
<Gyoshoku> those two are exhausting
<Kumiko> They are
<Gyoshoku> hard to believe, isn't it...they're as old now as you were when we met
<Kumiko> Yeah... wow
<Gyoshoku> and older than Kurousagi when she died
* Kumiko nods
* Gyoshoku shakes his head slowly and sets Kumiko onto her feet
<Kumiko> I felt like I was older at their age, though
<Gyoshoku> I felt like you were older, too *winks*
* Gyoshoku goes about changing from his day clothes into a sleeping robe
* Kumiko does too
<Kumiko> I guess... I had a larger responsibility than Aiko... what with my mother being gone and all...
* Gyoshoku nods thoughtfully "when I think about what I would do to any man who treated her like I treated you..."
<Gyoshoku> I was such an idiot
<Kumiko> you mean the proposal? *grins slightly*
<Gyoshoku> or the lack of one..or seducing you right out from under your father's nose, or the many little flings before I ever even mentioned marriage
<Gyoshoku> gods, I had so much energy back then...
<Kumiko> Yeah... *yawns*
<Gyoshoku> what was our record from that period of time, anyway... right before and right after the weddings... I think it was five times in a day... six?
<Kumiko> six, I think we managed once...
* Gyoshoku chuckles and shakes his head in disbelief
<Kumiko> hard to believe, ne?
<Gyoshoku> very
* Gyoshoku stretches and gets into bed
<Kumiko> oh, and when I was pregnant with Aiko, I think we managed four or five times some day... during that period, you know?
* Kumiko gets into bed as well
<Kumiko> such a long time ago
<Gyoshoku> oh yes...the seventh favourite month ever
* Kumiko kisses him lightly
* Gyoshoku kisses back
<Kumiko> and now our little girl is as old as I was then...
<Kumiko> it's unbelieveable
<Gyoshoku> and you're even more beautiful than the day I met you
<Kumiko> liar *blushes*
<Gyoshoku> it's true
* Kumiko strokes his cheek.
<Gyoshoku> because I know that every little line, every scar, every gray hair was for me, for our family, for our life together and for love
<Gyoshoku> nothing's more beautiful than that
* Kumiko hugs him tightly
<Kumiko> I love you so
* Gyoshoku hugs back
<Gyoshoku> I know you do, and I love you
<Gyoshoku> and I plan to spend the rest of my life showing you how much *kisses*
* Kumiko kisses back
<Kumiko> and I you...
<Gyoshoku> lucky me
<Kumiko> Lucky us
* Gyoshoku strokes her back
<Gyoshoku> gods I'm tired *laughs softly*
<Kumiko> Much happening today, ne?
<Gyoshoku> it was an emotional one, to be sure
<Gyoshoku> I'm so proud of our children
<Kumiko> I know... so am I
<Gyoshoku> and at the same time, I'm so scared for them
<Kumiko> Hm? How so?
<Gyoshoku> oh, it's just the normal parent stuff, I guess
<Gyoshoku> I want to keep them close forever and protect them from the world
* Kumiko nods slowly
<Kumiko> and finding that they're slowly breaking away anyway...
* Gyoshoku nods and tightens his grip
<Gyoshoku> so I guess I'll just have to cling to you instead
<Kumiko> Yeah... and I to you
* Kumiko snugs close to him
<Gyoshoku> I hope they find love like you and I share...I hope *sighs* so many things
<Kumiko> yeah... I know...
<Kumiko> and we can just hope, that's the worst, ne? we can just hope for the best for them...
<Gyoshoku> mhm, we can't live their lives for them, or make their decisions
<Kumiko> no, we can't...
<Kumiko> we can just be here for them, when they need us...
<Gyoshoku> I guess tomorrow's the day
<Gyoshoku> do you want to be there, or... should I talk to him alone?
<Kumiko> I don't know...
* Kumiko bites her lip
<Gyoshoku> on the one hand, if you're there, he'll know I never kept it from you, that you stood in support of everything... on the other, he might feel too constrained to ask everything he wants to ask
<Kumiko> yeah...
<Gyoshoku> this isn't a decision I can make for has to be what you think is right
* Kumiko nods slowly
* Gyoshoku would prefer she be there, but wants it to be her decision
<Kumiko> I think... maybe I should stay away... let him be free to ask... just... let him know I know... and supported it...
* Gyoshoku nods, a little disappointed, but covering it well
<Gyoshoku> alright
<Kumiko> you still have some of the things she wrote, right?
<Gyoshoku> hai..her prison writings, some poetry, a little of her history
<Kumiko> are you going to give it to him?
<Gyoshoku> I'll bring it and if he wants to know, he can read them
* Kumiko nods slowly
<Gyoshoku> maybe he won't, though
<Kumiko> Maybe... we can't know until afterwards
<Gyoshoku> maybe he'll realise that you're his real mother, the one who loved him and cared for him, made sure he lived and nursed every cold and every scrape
* Kumiko nods slowly
<Gyoshoku> but who knows...who knows?
<Kumiko> I hope he does... oh gods, this'll be hard on him, though, no matter what...
* Gyoshoku nods
<Gyoshoku> if I didn't think he'd hear it from the villagers anyway, I don't think I'd have the courage to tell him
<Gyoshoku> he looks so damn much like me, though...every time he comes back, it's more and more evident
<Gyoshoku> I can't believe he doesn't see it
<Kumiko> I know...
<Gyoshoku> but someone will say something, something careless
<Gyoshoku> and then it will be too late
<Gyoshoku> I have to tell him
* Kumiko nods
* Kumiko and Gyo go to sleep
* Kagemaru and Aiko talk for a long time, then go to sleep too
Second part
Third part
Fourth part
Fifth part
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