Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha, nor any of the associated characters. But it ain't because I don't want or wish to do so.
Chapter 22 - Epilogue...
The last kiss of the setting sun, graced the edge the enormous cliff overlooking a vast and beautiful forest. It was a peaceful and serene time broken only by the sound of laughing children. Nearby, could be seen five youkai. One boy nearly eleven years old, a set of twins girls around eight, another boy of about six, and one more about three. Playing with them, were three inuhanyou, two girls eleven and eight respectively, and a boy of six, and four kitsune hanyou, two girls, four and two, and two boys, six and one. A small, flustered, but underneath it all happy, gami youkai was in the midst of the happy group, blindfolded and trying to catch the laughing children who circled around the hapless youkai.
A two headed doragon, and twin tailed neko youkai lay near the group, helping to keep a protective eye on their charges. The neko purring quietly to the doragon, who quietly rumbled back. Near the two was a small and well loved neko doragon who was busy trying to catch his father's tail. The two had been together more often than not over the past two years, and Itaru had been born almost six months ago.
The little neko doragon, had his mother's eyes, and from his head to just past his front quarters, he had her fur. From just behind his front quarters he was covered in his father's scales, but maintained his mother's light cream colour. Just has Kirara, he had two tails, but like Ah-Un, they were scaled, and had points at the tips. The diamond marking on his forehead, and the black marks around paws and tails, were also a gift of Kirara's blood. He also, had his mother's ability to change his size and just like her, he was as cute as a button in his smaller form, but quiet formidable when he transformed. He was not all that big yet, when he did change, but it could be seen that one day he would easily top his formidable father and powerful mother.
The forest ran almost to the edge of the cliff face, but there was a small clearing where the trees horseshoed around leaving a small gap at the edge of the cliff. It made a perfect spot for watching the setting sun, while providing a protected place for the children to play and have fun.
This evening, found a hanyou sitting back against a tree, holding a Taijiya in his lap, his hand rubbing her all too swollen belly as their fourth pup, soon to be born, kicked in restless abandon anticipating its day of freedom. The pride and love of the hanyou being readily shown in the loving embrace and gentle caress of his hands, as he let a low rumbling growl fill the air to soothe his mate and restless pup.
Nearby, against another tree, the Great Lord of the Western Lands could also be seen sitting holding his equally pregnant mate. She was expecting her second set of twins, this time it seemed that they would be boys. Both seemed just as anxious to be brought into this world as the Taijiya's pup. A soft rumbling growl, almost like a purr, could be also be heard coming from the Taiyoukai, as he held both of his hands alongside his mate's swollen abdomen. He had found that this went a long way to soothing his unborn pup's and giving his mate some peace from their exuberance.
All in all, it was a peaceful and happy scene and their lives seemed to have followed a similar path. Both couples had the things they most wanted and had fought so hard in life to have. Someone to love, a life they could stand proud of, friends who cared, homes to shelter them, and families to cherish and shower all of their compassion on.
Lives that later, centuries down the road, one little Miko would stand before her mother, brother, and Ojii-san, and tell her tale for her family to hear. A tale that started on the day of her fifteenth birthday, and spanned more than five hundred years.
She would finally introduce them to the Taijiya that she had often spoke of, and the kitsune who had become a son to her. She would tell the tale of one hentai houshi, who eventually died after a long, and happy life, a hentai until his last breath.
Most of all, she would introduce her mother, mate she had to thank for her very life and soul, the unexpected brother-in-law, that she still held in her heart, and to the hundreds of grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren, as so forth, as well as all of the extended family, who by then encompassed the entire globe.
Far to the east, in a rice field, a hunched and seemingly old and tired figure stood. She paused for a moment to see the setting sun, and for the briefest of times she actually enjoyed the colours that graced the approaching night sky. But she didn't have time for such pleasantries. Such leisure time was for those who could afford it.
There was still a little daylight left to the day, and she had to finish this last quarter of the field or her lord and master would not be happy with her sloven and lax behavior. As she limped along, gleaning the precious seeds that fed the mouths in her humble shack, she found herself remembering better times, and brighter days. Days that she had taken far too much for granted, with little grace and no gratitude.
She had, had the good life once. Power, status, someone who cared for her, a sister, and a village that respected her. But she had let her selfishness get the better of her. She had longed for something she thought she didn't have. She had wanted to let go of her responsibilities and to lead a life just like all of the other women she saw daily in the village. She could wander as she chose, and had the freedom to speak to whomever she wanted, hunt if she needed to although more often than not, it was the gifts of others that put most of the food on her plate.
She had time for a garden, and could stop and smell the flowers, or just sit and enjoy a beautiful sunrise, or sunset. Sure, she had responsibilities. She had to use her skills as a miko offering healing to those who counted on her skills and abilities, and to protect those same people and something of great power. Something that she had been entrusted with, and was supposed to be responsible for. Unfortunately, at the time, she only felt the burden of the status she held. With all her being, she wanted to live another life. A life she thought was simpler and more rewarding. Now, she had that life, and found that it was far from the simple and rewarding life she had longed for.
As she stood there watching the beautiful colours of the setting sun, she recalled the path that had led her to where she was now. After having been forced to move from that first village, she had wandered. Wandered long, and suffered much. Cold rain, freezing snow and ice, strong winds, and broiling sun. All had been things she never paid much heed to, while she had traveled the lands as an undead miko.
Finding food by scavenging in the forests, and streams, learning how to survive on even the meagerest of morsels. She would occasionally find a village that would allow her to stay, but only for a short time. Then they would learn of her and her reputation, only to force her to leave once again.
Where she had once been able to pass through the thickest of forests unscathed, she now found that she could not even travel the normal roads without some kind of scratches or other injuries becoming normal. At one time, she had gotten what she thought was just a simple scratch, but had turned out to be the biting sting of a poisonous plant.
Once the fever and infection had passed, she was even weaker than she had been before, and the muscles of the leg that had suffered the injury had been seriously damaged by the poison. As had become habit, the next community that she came to, offer just enough aid to help her to recovered by her own means, but the hand of welcome and kindness was never given. The local healer had taken enough pity on her to help her recover from the worst of the injury, but it was clear that her leg would never quite be the same.
This was repeated over and over again, for nearly six years. Then she had found a small village, far off of the beaten path. One that was willing to allow her to stay, but only if she found someone willing to take her in.
Where before she had stood tall, proud, almost aristocratic, she now hobbled about, and her body was covered in scars from her experiences. There happened to be a man in this community, who appeared to take sympathy for the ex-priestess' plight. He gave her a room to stay and shared his food with her, treated her latest round of injuries, and provided her with another set of clothes to replace the current overly worn set.
The man was middle aged, and had been looking for a long time for someone he could take as his wife. Like any man of the times, having a wife and strong sons allowed him a small level of prestige that among the impoverished meant much, even if it didn't seem like it.
Unfortunately, he had something of a crude reputation for having a temper, not being one that most women found pleasing in his manners and behavior. But for him, Kikyou presented the perfect opportunity to not only get himself a wife, but to have children, and not have anyone worry about his behavior or temper. She could not scream. In fact, she could not speak at all, so who would hear her efforts to scream if he should lose his temper?
For her part, she was given little choice on a number of levels. She was the next best thing to an old spinster, an old woman with no hope of finding someone who would take her as a wife. She had a sordid past, that darkened her door at every turn, and this one was no exception even as remote as the village was. It turned out that this man knew her, and of her nefarious dealings with Naraku.
It was how he ultimately convinced her to stay with him. If she married him, she had shelter, and a husband to see to her needs. They would have a family and she would get her 'ordinary' life. If she refused, he would let everyone know who she was, and in a short time, she would once again find herself wandering with no where to go.
With no choice in the matter, she ended up married in less than a month. A year later, she gave birth to their first son. Now it was five years later, and she was mother of three, one girl and two boys. She was middle aged by the standards of the time, but almost elderly by her appearance and health. She had more scars to show from the passage of time, many of which because of her husband's unpredictable temper. She still limped from the old poison injury to her leg. Her left arm was not what it once was, because her husband had broken it in a fit of rage. Her hours in the spring and fall spent in the rice fields had left her permanently hunched over, and her once graceful and elegant hands were gnarled with the years of hard labor she had come to recognize as the bane of the 'ordinary' life.
As the sun began to take the last of the light with it, and its sister moon graced the heavens with her beautiful ethereal light, a hunched, broken, and sad once was miko, let a tear fall glistening in the moonlight, as she cursed herself, finally accepting that she had made her own choices, and gotten what she wished for, not what she had truly wanted. She would die old, crippled, and forgotten, and no one would shed a tear for her loss, or miss her. The only memories to be left of her and that would grace the pages of history, would be how she had failed and fallen so far, never to come back and fix the mistakes she had chosen to make.