My Captain's Lady


Epilogue

Disclaimer: Twenty chapters and over a year and a half later, if you still think I might own this, please send me an email and I will address the ill state of your mentality myself.


One year later
Mimi had been feeling rather odd lately.

It was a strange feeling, deep within her, and she wasn't entirely sure where it came from or when it had started, but it made her feel different in some inexplicable way. It didn't actually bother her very much, only lingered in the back of her mind, surfacing during brief, unexpected moments. So she didn't say anything about it to anyone, dismissing it as nervousness or other such emotional consequences of a war even nearly one year after it had ended, until one day when she woke up feeling ill and couldn't eat anything all day. Taichi became concerned at once, and when Gennai came for his weekly check-ups, he convinced her to speak of it to the skilled diplomat. She felt ridiculous, but she felt she ought to say something now if only to ease Taichi's worry, though she kept insisting it was nothing.

Gennai didn't think so. He smiled at her when she, embarrassed and slightly put off by her lover's seemingly unnecessary and imposing concern, reluctantly named her symptoms, and he reassuringly told her not to worry at all, though he suggested waiting until Taichi was fully healed before mentioning anything. Mimi thought that best too, though she had a hard time keeping Miyako and Sora's ecstatic reactions from leaving the room when they were told. Hikari was the one who managed to convince the other two that they not rush off to declare the news, for Mimi was too shocked to realize that they had been suspecting her condition for weeks already to really argue against Taichi's knowing so soon.

That was when Hikari got the idea of asking Mimi and her brother to come home with her, to the islands. Takeru was joining her already, so he could see Gennai's people. From there, he and Lord Hida, for Iori had since been knighted for his bravery in the war, planned on going to what was left of Nimura's kingdom and then starting the assumption process. The plan was to leave within the fortnight. She had wished that they could push the departure back further so that she would have more time with Taichi, but now it occurred to her that he could come with her. He'd voiced the desire of leaving once before, and the sea air of the islands would be good for him. And Hikari was eager to show him where she grew up.

She told this to the king, and Yamato immediately agreed, though his expression betrayed a certain sadness at the departure. But the newly crowned monarch knew that the decision would be the best for all those concerned. Thus, preparations for the end were begun, and on the morning of the party's departure to the docks, Yamato and his wife went down to the ports with the others to say their goodbyes.

He paused, though, once they were just close enough to see everyone but still too far to be noticed. Sora couldn't wait for his nostalgic emotions to pass, so she left the carriage and went down herself, leaving the king standing back, watching it all unfold.

It was strange, to say the least. Almost surreal. He stared at the others, their faces bright and laughter abundant, amazed that this day had ever come. It seemed like only yesterday that the war had ended. Yamato remembered it clearly:

As soon as Daisuke's arrow killed Nimura, the archer had passed out from the loss of blood. Yamato barely had had time to reach him when he'd been thrust back by a familiar face: Koushiro. It was as if the redhead had a habit of appearing exactly when one least expected him. Nevertheless, he'd been there, and he managed to rescue both the crown prince and Daisuke.

He had immediately been followed by a surge of new reinforcements, led by none other than Iori, Sir Michael, and Ken, the boy Yamato had met with Willis all those months ago. Ken had apparently followed Koushiro and Willis's legions since they'd left the islands, convinced they would need him, and once he had reached Sir Michael and Miyako at Ilanda, he took both with him to mainland, where the battle raged, sending a message to Gennai that help was on the way. That had been the plan that King Ishida had tried to convince Takeru of. Leaving Miyako at the camp where Sora looked after Taichi, the others met up with Iori and Koushiro, who had escaped the battle to meet them and then led them back to the base just in time to save the others. With the new help and news of the king's death spreading across the base, the battle had quickly ended, and by nightfall, it was safe to say the war was indeed over.

King Ishida's body had been brought back to the fort, carried upon a shield, for a proper burial. Beside him they buried Lord Kido, whose body the soldier's recovered in the forests. They laid Willis to rest near Sam, and both Ken and Miyako spent several hours together by the young scholar's grave, alone, for the first few days they came home.

The other soldiers were also buried, one by one, while Ken and Iori attended to Takeru's injury. They didn't give him long, fearing as Yamato had when he'd first checked the prince's pulse that the prince was dead, but in fact he still breathed. They worked as quickly as they could to save him, though it was Gennai's care in the end that finally helped Takeru awake. The prince would recover; Nimura's aim had been too far from the heart to produce any serious damage, and Daisuke's arrow had distracted the king from lodging the blade any farther into Takeru's chest to kill him.

Daisuke himself suffered several broken ribs, knife wounds, and a dislocated shoulder, but he was also one of the first to recover. He'd been back on his feet and taking charge of the castle and the soldiers less than two months after they all had returned to the fort in their victory. Only Mimi recovered sooner than him, for apart from shock and a few nasty bruises, she was the least injured. Her spirit was the most endangered, though, and she did nothing but remain at Taichi's side day and night, helping Gennai as much as the diplomat would allow. Hikari, too, who Koushiro rescued from below the base where they kept the prisoners, stayed with Taichi, putting aside her fears and grief to help nurse her brother back to health.

And when the captain finally regained consciousness, the first face he was Hikari's. Yamato did not know what happened afterwards, for the brother and sister had been left alone for the rest of the day to reintroduce themselves, but he was certain since then that the siblings were finally ready to put the past to rest. The days that followed were awkward for both of them, still, but slowly the defenses came down and the affections were admitted and there was little to fear in terms of a new relationship between them.

Glancing at Hikari now, Yamato watched her with admiration, more than a little humbled by her spirit and newfound strength, qualities that he'd been certain lay within her all along, if only she was given enough persuasion to reveal them. But she did, when the time came, and he strongly admired her for it. He could easily see her brother's influence in her, even if they did not grow up together. The similarity was undeniable.

As though she sensed him, Hikari then chose to look up as well, casually glancing at him, and when their eyes met they exchanged a secret smile. Then she turned away, helping Takeru from the wagon the two had just arrived in. The younger prince was by no means ashamed by his needing assistance to do even the smallest things, and that Yamato was glad of, for he feared that his brother's spirit might be crushed because of recent events. He knew Takeru had had a hard time understanding Gennai and his people's persistent insistence that he take up King Nimura's throne. Iori wanted that most of all, convinced more than any other that Takeru was destined to reshape the world. Even after it had ended, Iori still had had a hard time convincing Takeru to accept, but the prince finally gave in. He seemed to finally see the good his position could possible do, and for that reason alone he agreed to the proposition, even if it meant that the whole world would know his mother's terrible secret when he publicly asserted his birthright to Nimura's kingdom.

Days earlier, Yamato had pulled his brother aside during one of the council meetings and had asked if he was absolutely certain he was ready for this. Takeru just smiled, "Trust me."

It was enough; Yamato had been persuaded just by those two words.

Once Nimura's kingdom had been settled, Yamato had taken time off to focus on Sora, and the courtship that followed literally reenergized relations between the two kingdoms. Several merchants ironically remarked on how easy trade was getting, and Taichi hadn't stopped teasing them about it, joking that if that was all it took to encourage economic growth, he'd have married Yamato long ago. But Sora got to him first, and with a little forceful persuasion by his best friend, Yamato cemented the romance with a wedding fit for a king.

During the post-ceremony festivities, the captain told his king that he did not intend to serve as Yamato's commander of troops. Yamato knew how much that upset Taichi; there was nothing the man wanted more. Except Mimi. And for her sake, Taichi rejected the offer. Though Yamato hadn't said anything, he was secretly relieved by the decision. No matter how much Taichi insisted, he was not better, and it would take more than a few months for him to be completely healthy again.

But he was glad, nonetheless. Taichi had at least relented to staying on court, where he had intended to serve as Yamato's advisor, as Jyou had to the late King Ishida. But then Hikari had come to him with a new idea, and despite how much Yamato wanted to say no, if only to keep his closest friend by his side, he knew it would be inexcusably selfish to dictate Taichi's life like that. And Taichi was exactly the sort of man no other man could control. Only one woman reserved the right to wring the former captain's pride into submission, and that was only with one knowing look, passed in near secret, before Taichi would miraculously change his mind about the subject in question. Yamato never stopped teasing him about it: the stubborn, free-spirited warrior could be tamed after all; they should have known only an ex-queen could do it.

With a sigh, Yamato slowly pulled himself out of the past and went down the docks to see if he could help. He took over Hikari's job, which was to help load the ships with the traveler's cases, and the girl smiled in gratitude and stepped away for a moment's rest. Silently, she gazed about the crowded dock, watching everyone work and bustle to make last minute preparations. Taichi was still not there; the last she'd heard, he'd been delayed at the fort in an argument with Mimi about the amount of gowns she was planning on dragging across the sea (his exact words).

Hikari smiled in reflex at the image that brought to her mind: Taichi, probably sitting or leaning against the wall with his arms crossed over his scarred chest, scowling in frustration at the pretty woman who darted about the room, packing and re-packing, pausing once in a while to bicker and snap, equally irritated. For two people in love as they were, they never seemed to be at a loss for a heated exchange of words, though it wouldn't be more than two minutes after the fight before they made up. Yamato once suggested that the frequency of their arguments was because Taichi had so lacked so much experience in apologizing that it all had to be let out somehow. But no matter what it was, no one at court tried to intervene. In fact, they were all more or less amused by the entire affair, often stopping to eavesdrop on the quips the couple threw at each other and then quickly scrambling for a distraction when Taichi discovered them listening. Everyone thought it highly fitting that the two of them found each other; apparently they thought the former captain was going to die alone. This rumor had not reached Taichi's ear, and they all thought it best that it never did. Mimi had heard it, though, and would often joke with Hikari that perhaps if she had received prior warning, she might have done better for herself. But Hikari knew there was no one else Mimi adored more than Taichi, no matter how many stupid things he said or did. She liked that best about her, about them. It gave her even more of a support, a consolation, knowing that if nothing else had turned out right, at least Taichi had someone like Mimi to love.

There was a cough and, startled out of her thoughts, Hikari looked back to see Daisuke approaching her. He walked with a slight limp now, though his injuries were healing wonderfully. There was also a scar on his arm, and it ran down his shoulder and disappeared into his tunic. She winced when she saw it, remembering the bleeding wound. And yet he was still a skilled archer, and he fully intended on regaining the use of his arm by the year's end. She had no doubt against it.

He smiled now, lightly, as though he were distracted.

"Ready?" he asked, coming to a stop in front of her.

"Yes, I think so." She hesitated, feeling awkward. "Are you?"

"Yes."

There was a bit of a silence there that she did not understand. They were never like this before, and now it felt as though he were actually hiding something from her. She stared hard into his wide eyes, but found no clues. Puzzled, she asked, "Is there something you want to tell me?"

He paused. "Yes, there's something…. I just- I wanted you to know I care for you. In case anything should happen, I want you to remember that."

Hikari smiled.

"Nothing's going to happen anymore," she said gently, repeating the words Taichi had whispered to her as a promise the night they met again.

He met her gaze steadily. "The future is uncertain," he took a breath, "and we may not always be so near. Or so close."

"What are you talking about?"

"Hikari, I love you," he blurted out suddenly, "and I want you be happy. You aren't with me, so I'm going to let you go. But you must let me go as well. There's no going back for us. It's different now. I hope we can still be friends, but…but I think it's time for both of us to start anew. To start over, fresh, different, with new people. You have Takeru now. He can look after you. He's promised me he would, and I trust him. You'll be happy with him, with Taichi and Ken and Gennai, and everyone else at home. That's where you belong. But me…" he attempted a smile, "I'm different. I belong somewhere different than you."

Then it struck her, like a blow to the face.

He wasn't coming back.

Hikari stared at her closest friend in a new light, shocked and hurt and stunned. She'd never imagined home without his silly companionship, and yet here she was, faced with the reality that he might actually choose not to be with her. Though she realized now with a heavy heart he had no reason to come home. He'd always dreamed of adventure and there was little of that to be had in the islands. And though they cared for each other, her feelings for him were not what he really wanted and there was no point on hanging on to that dream. It occurred to her that he'd been planning on leaving ever since they started out, during the war. Perhaps even then he knew he would be never more than a friend to her, and that was what decided him in the end.

Daisuke looked down and pulled out a small dagger from under his cloak. He unsheathed the blade partially so the hilt was revealed. It bore the blue emblem of the Ishida royal line. "Prince Yamato- I mean, King Ishida's asked me to captain for him. I accepted." He looked up cautiously, reading her stunned face with worry. "I know it's a surprise. But he says I'm good, and Taichi think so, too. This is everything I've ever wanted, Hikari. Captain of the King's Men. I could be really good at this."

But Hikari was shaking her head, still trying to swallow it all.

"Can't you understand?" Daisuke pleaded softly.

"When you're leaving me?" she asked in disbelief.

"Hikari, we have different paths. This is what life's dealt us; we cannot change it. Let's be happy for each other, all right?"

She looked down at her hands.

"Promise you won't forget me?"

"That's impossible." He put away his dagger and took her hands in his, "But promise me something. Promise me you'll think of me and smile and not be sad. I swear we'll see each other again."

She nodded, wanting to cry, but knowing it was for the best.

Daisuke saw Takeru approaching, moving carefully but slowly. He must have seen them talking and purposely walked slowly to give them time to finish. Daisuke smiled at the gesture, grateful, and when the prince looked up, they caught each other's eye and no words had to be said.

Daisuke looked back at Hikari, saying softly, "Someone's waiting for you. Go."

Without a word, Hikari leaned forward, taking his face in her hands, and kissed him lightly on the mouth. "Goodbye, Daisuke," she whispered.

He only returned the smile, placing on hand over hers and squeezing it. Hikari pulled away reluctantly, sadly, and turned back, leaving him behind. She stopped, thinking of what had happened, of what had caused it, before picking up her pace and running into Takeru's arms.

Mimi watched this all from the seat of her wagon. She was sitting up front with the driver, because there was no room for her within the compartment, a fact that Taichi had stressed several times in accusation. But she'd ignored him and left him trapped in the back with the boxes as her revenge for having to listen to his complaints, while she'd had a very pleasant conversation with the driver, speaking loud enough for Taichi to hear bits and pieces of their words.

But she let the conversation fade once they neared the dock. She saw everyone there: Yamato and Sora, who were now engaged in one of their marital squabbles about what to do with Takeru's horse until he returned; Iori, Gennai, and Koushiro, who, though visibly exhausted, oversaw the final preparations with exacting detail; Sir Michael, who had remained to help the Ishida court after the war ended and who nobly suffered Taichi's jealousy whenever the former captain found the ambassador within a ten-feet radius of Mimi; Ken and Miyako, whose developing friendship had surprised the court, but which Mimi strongly approved of when she saw how much they complimented each other in the wake of tragedy; Takeru and Hikari, who, oblivious to the rest of the world, shared a tight embrace as he spoke reassuringly into her ear to stop her tears; and Daisuke, who stood and watched it all.

She got down from the wagon and went to him.

He smiled when he turned, having herd her approaching.

"Good morning, Mimi," he greeted softly.

"It will be," she smiled back. "I know it."

He shrugged and looked away.

"I won't ask you if you're sure you don't want to come with us," Mimi continued, "but I will tell you that your choice makes me sad. I would have liked to get to know you better."

Daisuke nodded. "There will be more opportunities to visit and see one another. I'm sure of it."

"I can promise you there will be," she replied with a secretive smile.

"Shall I help you with the luggage?" he offered chivalrously after a moment.

"Well…" she looked back at the wagon. They both saw Taichi struggling to get out, snapping irritably at the servants who offered to help, stubbornly insisting he could do it on his own. Mimi sighed, exasperated. "Maybe instead you should-,"

"Of course," Daisuke grinned, interrupting the words that didn't have to be said. He trotted off to sweet talk Taichi into getting over himself, the only person besides Mimi, Hikari, and Yamato who really could with any success, while Mimi went to quell the argument between the king and queen.

"I'll take the horse," she said, interrupting them in mid-word.

"It's a stallion; it won't want to ride across the ocean in a ship," Yamato protested, while Sora rolled her eyes.

"It's Takeru's horse, and he wants it to go with him."

"I'll have it sent to the kingdom by road," the king replied.

"But that could take weeks-,"

"It's much better than forcing the animal to be confined within a boat for weeks."

Mimi grinned. "Which is exactly why I should take him. He'd have much more company with Taichi."

Yamato raised an eyebrow. "What are you getting at?"

"You know how much Taichi hates ships. We'll take Takeru's horse by the road, and then from there meet Hikari and the others by boat. That sea distance is much shorter."

The king shook his head.

"It's not the most economic thing to do, Mimi. I mean, it's best to get it all over with now. The horse will be fine without its owner for a few months-,"

But Sora understood what Mimi meant. The road was lonely and secluded, especially the one that led to Nimura's old kingdom. And somehow, the firm earth was a better foundation for unexpected news than a billowing sea. So the red-haired queen elbowed her husband sharply in the ribs. Yamato winced, nursing his healing arm, and scowled.

"What was that for?"

"I agree with Mimi," Sora said, ignoring his pain.

"But the plan-,"

"Nothing ever happens exactly to plan," Sora interrupted wisely, winking at Mimi, who smiled in response.

Yamato stared at the exchange that just passed in utter confusion.

"I get the feeling I'm missing something," he said finally.

Mimi took Raidon's reins. "We'll see you soon."

"Keep in touch," Sora said, kissing her cheek. "And tell me if anything- I mean, you know I'll be here if you need me-," she stammered, trying to speak without giving it all away while her husband looked back and forth between the two, fishing for an explanation.

Mimi just nodded, squeezing her hand in gratitude, before guiding Raidon back to the wagon.

Taichi had finally gotten down, and Daisuke was unloading the boxes. Mimi reached them just in time to hear Taichi telling the servants not to worry about handling anything with care; none of it was very important anyway. She cleared her throat and he winced, turning around to face her.

"Well, it isn't," he defended himself. "I don't understand why you need so many clothes anyway. All these new outfits and extra cloth and things," he shook his head. "What are you up to?"

"We're going by the road," she replied.

He blinked, surprised.

"But I thought-?"

"You'll get sea sick," she said calmly. "Besides, you need rest, and we can go at our own pace by horse and wagon than if we went by ship. We'll catch up with the others soon."

He narrowed his eyes in suspicion.

"You've thought this through," he noted.

She smiled.

"You are up to something," he exclaimed finally. "I knew it! What are you hiding?"

But she merely turned her back on him, calling to the driver to explain the change in plans. Taichi would not be fooled, however, and quickly reached out and took her by the arm. He pulled her back, pressing her close against him.

"You can't hide anything from me, Mimi," he said with a smirk.

"What makes you so sure I'm hiding something?" she replied airily.

"Fine. If you insist on behaving that way, then I insist on behaving this way." And with that he tightened his grip around her waist and kissed her.

"It won't work," she said into his mouth, but he caught her tongue and cut off her protests. She welcomed the kiss, slipping her arms around him while he let his mouth wander down her neck. Giggling, she tried to push him off, knowing she might give it all away if she let it continue, but he refused to give up the fight, trailing kisses low over her neck and collarbone. Only when she felt his tongue run dangerously close to the rise of her breasts did she manage to choke out, "All right! I'll tell you!"

He immediately separated, breathing hard, a wicked glint in his chocolate brown eyes.

"Well?" he prompted.

She leaned into him, lacing her arms around his waist. "There's a place, near the border of Takeru's new land, where my mother used to take me when I was little. I wanted to show it to you." She smiled up at him.

"Is that all?"

"Yes," she said.

He held her gaze steady.

"There's more you're not telling me."

"Taichi!"

"You just want me to kiss you again before you tell me," he went on.

"I can't believe you!"

"Me?" He reacted in astonishment. "I can't believe you!"

"Oh, you're horrid!"

"You're the one lying."

"I've done no such thing."

"But you won't tell me the whole truth. That's the same thing-,"

"You made that up!"

"I knew there was something going on! With all the looks Miyako and Sora have been giving me, and the way Hikari talked about 'new beginnings' or whatever, and how you're treating me right now…."

Mimi shook her head in exasperation and carefully mounted Raidon, settling herself into the saddle. Then she leaned over and helped him up behind him, though he made a point to seem very reluctant and moody about it. But she saw through his façade, noticing the pleasure in his movements at the thought of being alone with her, something that they had never had. Just the two of them, in some remote place, without the bustle of the court or eavesdroppers or even well-meaning friends who innocently interrupted at the wrong moments. Without the painful memories of the past. Without having to feel sorry to have survived with so many others hadn't. Without the fear of the future that had haunted him since he'd given up his title as Captain of the King's Men and assumed the simple role as lover and friend and brother. Just her. Just them. Nothing else seemed to matter.

Mimi took his hand and placed it around her waist and over her stomach, settling into him. He stroked her affectionately, kissing the top of her head. Content, she laced her fingers through his and he leaned down to meet her lips.

"Don't worry, Captain," she smiled after the kiss ended. "I'm a very careful rider. I won't let you fall."


The End
Author's Note: Oh thank , it's finally over. I feel so relieved. And actually rather saddened by it all. It's been great fun, and I offer my most sincere gratitude for all those who took interest in this story. I appreciate your loyalty, comments, and support. It wouldn't have been the same without you. I hope this ending meets expectations; I tried to sum everything up best I could with little threads left untied…. I highly doubt there will be a sequel because there's absolutely nothing else I want to add to this or can even think of adding to this. But now that this is over, I can focus on my other stories, which will soon be updated. So I can't think of anything else to say, except thank you once again, and happy writing.