Disclaimer: I own Rhiodoru, Karameida, Zaniistar, Kishotaka, Niishi, Yuryu, Akaruihi, Tsuyoihi, Kiirohana, and Hissoriki. All other characters belong to Rumiko Takahashi.
Caution: ¤ Lemon Warning ¤
"Healer Hissoriki says that Inuyasha is going to be just fine, though he seems to have lost a good chunk of his memories," Zaniistar reported to Karameida, his voice soft.
The shaman propped herself up on one elbow, the blanket sliding down to reveal one smooth, round shoulder. She smiled gently. "Yes. It was a relief to see him up and about yesterday." She laughed softly. "I thought he was going to devour the entire kitchen. The cooks were horrified." She reached out a hand and ran her fingers over his silky green hair. "And Hissoriki is certain his memories will return with time."
Zaniistar nodded, though Karameida could tell by the way his emerald eyes roved over her face that his mind was no longer on the hanyou. He shifted closer to her under the blankets, sliding one hand up her back. She smiled, wrapping her arms around his neck.
When they had returned to the lair with Inuyasha broken and unconscious, his friends exhausted and weary with sorrow, it had been Karameida who had taken charge, seeing to their care. And once Zaniistar had rested, she had gone to him and heard the story of what had happened.
She had held him while he wept, his soul ravaged with the grief and guilt of Tsuyoihi's death. She had relived with him the horrors of Kiirohana's death, of Niishi's deranged cruelty and pitiful existence, ended so violently. She bore the guilt of the deaths of the other spirits deceived by Yuryu even as he did.
And then he had held her while she'd exorcized the terrors of her visions to him. He comforted her when she'd confessed her fears and frustrations, the dread and pressure of responsibility as she struggled to hold onto her position as shaman, as she fought to keep the lair from sinking into anarchy.
Together they had shared the pain, the fear, the guilt, the sorrow. And they'd shared the relief, the happiness, the triumph of their victory over Yuryu. And another victory that neither of them had anticipated.
The threat of Yuryu's presence, his plot for power, had done what Karameida alone could not. It had united the spirit dragons with a common purpose. It had brought them together, had given them a reason to work collectively to accomplish a goal. The problems of the lair and their faith in their shaman were by no means repaired, but the process of mending had begun. It would take months, even years, but Karameida would once again earn their trust and respect. They would heal.
She smiled softly as Zanii snuggled against her side, sighing as he wrapped his other arm around her. She laid her cheek on his shoulder, echoing his contented sigh.
They had shared so much, had found such strength in each other's presence. Words had not been necessary. Spirit dragons had excellent perception when it came to thoughts and emotions—even without their powers—and they had both known how the other felt.
She considered that for a moment. "We should invite Inuyasha and his friends," she said thoughtfully.
"Hmm?" Zaniistar mumbled, sounding half-asleep. "Invite them where?"
She smiled at the stone ceiling. "To our wedding, of course."
The dragon let out a startled yelp. Jerking up, he braced his arms on either side of her shoulders and stared down at her. "Our w-what?" he stuttered.
"Our wedding," she said again with a teasing smile. "What else?"
He opened and closed his mouth, but no sound came out.
She pouted impishly, trailing a finger down the muscles of his bare chest. "What, don't you want to marry me?"
He dropped onto his elbows and leaned down, his lips capturing hers with passionate insistence. His kiss was all the answer she needed.
: x : X : x : X : x :
Miroku couldn't help the smile that danced on his lips as he watched Sango tuck Kohaku into the large bed, smoothing back his hair and whispering softly to him. Shippo was already asleep, nestled in one of the spirit dragon's odd chairs with Kilala curled up beside him.
Miroku rose to his feet and padded across the carpets to pull a blanket over the sleeping pair, pausing to watch the softly snoring kitsune for a moment. With a fond smile, he again felt that surge of joyful relief at seeing Shippo alive and well. He could still remember the unbearable grief and guilt he'd felt when he seen the kitsune's body. He couldn't help but blame himself; it had happened while Shippo was supposed to have been in the monk's care.
Moving to wait for Sango by the door, Miroku considered all that had happened in the past three weeks. When Karameida, Akaruihi, and the other dragons had arrived right after Naraku's death, their Healer had immediately gone to Inuyasha. When the dragons were sure the others were relatively unharmed—Zaniistar, Sesshomaru, and Koga had all sustained some wounds in the battle with Naraku—three dragons, including Akaruihi, had taken him and Sango to bring back the bodies of Kohaku, Shippo, and Akaruihi's brother, Tsuyoihi. That's when they'd found the missing castle, everything burned away by Naraku's miasma, including Tsuyoihi's body.
When they had returned to the field where Yuryu had gone to steal Inuyasha's soul and utilize the power of the Shikon no Tama, they'd found only two dragons waiting for them, the others having already left for the lair. Upon arriving at the dragons' home, the first person they'd encountered was Sesshomaru, who had informed them with stoic coldness that Tenseiga wanted him to bring the fallen back to life. And so Shippo had been revived right there on the mountain plateau. Kohaku had been resurrected an hour later, a dragon Healer taking him away immediately afterwards to deal with the traumas he had suffered while under Naraku's control.
Then the terrifying three days while they'd waited to hear if Inuyasha would recover or not. Once the slow, agonizing process of the half-demon's healing had begun, Sesshomaru had simply left—not that they'd expected any heartfelt goodbyes from the dog demon—and Kagura had left with him. Koga had departed a day later on the back of a dragon who had volunteered to take the wolf-demon home. The day after, Kohaku had been released from the Healers' quarters with a clean bill of emotional health. His reunion with Sango had been tearful but joyous.
And then they had all settled down for the long wait while the Healers worked day and night to painstakingly piece Inuyasha's mind back together. Miroku had been rather surprised by the warm welcome they'd received from the majority of the spirit dragons, especially considering the circumstances of their last departure—but apparently all had been forgiven. Inuyasha had destroyed Yuryu, who had evidently presented a tangible threat to the dragon lairs. They were effusively grateful.
Blinking away the memories, Miroku smiled gently as Sango rose from beside Kohaku's bed, her eyes bright with happiness and peace. Together they slipped out the door, closing it quietly behind them. Crossing the stone hall, they entered the room they shared, Sango's hand sneaking into his.
They sat down side-by-side on the edge of the wide bed. Sango lifted his hand and traced her fingers over the palm of his right hand.
"It's really gone," she murmured.
Miroku stared pensively down at his hand. "Yes," he said softly. "The curse is lifted."
There was a moment of silence. "Now what?" she asked slowly, addressing the very same question that Miroku had been avoiding for the last three weeks.
"I really don't know," he said. "My only task has been finding and destroying Naraku for so long, I'm not sure I know how to do anything else." He turned his gaze to her, silently questioning.
"My family and village and the other demon slayers have been avenged now, and Kohaku is safe and well," she said, "but that won't bring back father and the others. I . . . I'd like to go back to the village and rebuild it. Maybe even begin training some new demon slayers. Those two sisters from the ninja village would surely like that." She looked up him anxiously, suddenly shy. "You—will you come with me?"
He raised his free hand and gently cupped her cheek. "Of course, my love. You really didn't think I'd let you leave without me, did you?" He leaned down to brush his lips across hers.
She laughed softly against his mouth, the sound awakening a hunger deep inside him. His second kiss was deeper and far less innocent. Sango's arms snaked around his neck as she opened her mouth to his.
Drawing back for a breath, he gave her a mischievous smile. "So, my dear Sango, shall we have our wedding here or did you have another place in mind?"
Her eyes flew wide open in surprise, but Miroku's head dropped down to capture her in another kiss before she could respond. Did it even matter when they were wed? They were already bonded in heart and soul, forever and all eternity.
: x : X : x : X : x :
Inuyasha sighed as he let the hot water soak into his muscles. These baths that the spirit dragons had come up with really weren't that bad. Sure, it took an army to get Kagome out of it for more than ten minutes at a time, but still. Since the bath-obsessive girl had bullied him into one of his own, he figured he might as well enjoy himself.
Relaxing against the side of tub, he closed his eyes, thoughts drifting. He'd slept through most of the day before and spent most of this day lazing about when he wasn't eating as much as possible. Hadn't the Healers given him any food at all while he'd been out of it? In fact, he was already starting to feel hungry again . . .
Aside from that though, he was perfectly fine—though he wasn't quite ready to test his mind powers anytime soon. His mind still tired easily. And it wasn't like he needed his mind powers for anything. Before meeting Rhiodoru, he could count on both hands the number of times he'd actually needed to use them.
The memories of what had happened with Niishi and Yuryu were still vague and elusive. Though he'd regained most of his memories leading up to Niishi snapping the collar around his neck, everything after that was a painful blur behind which lurked darkness and despair. Inuyasha wasn't at all eager to probe those memories yet. He knew he eventually would, but he wanted to wait until his mind was stronger, his emotions steady. It wouldn't be a fun experience, he knew that for certain.
Pushing those thoughts away for now, he contemplated the future, a rare occurrence for him. He really had no idea what his future was. He'd never exactly had any long-term goals. Finding the Shikon no Tama and becoming a full-fledged demon had been replaced by hunting down and destroying Naraku as well as finding all the Jewel shards. But both those goals had been accomplished, and, to be frank about it, he didn't have a clue what to do next.
Except Kagome. There. That was his goal. To be with Kagome. To protect her, to care for her, to love her with everything in him. Always. Forever. He would follow her wherever she went. He would never leave her side.
Speaking of Kagome, he looked up in surprise as the door to the bathroom opened and Kagome stepped inside, wrapped in a fluffy white robe.
Inuyasha blinked then felt a rush of heat flood his cheeks.
"Kagome!" he snapped at her while she turned to shut the door again. "What are you doing?" he demanded in embarrassment, horribly aware that he wasn't wearing a damn thing besides the droplets of water that clung to his chest and shoulders above the surface of the steaming water.
She turned to face him and he felt the words die on his tongue at the intense, smoldering look in her eyes. She also looked decidedly nervous, he noticed.
"Um . . .?" he asked, at a complete loss for what to say.
She walked up the edge of the bath, staring down at him as though he were about to sprout horns and spew fire.
Then she took a deep breath, lifted her hands, and pushed the robe off her shoulders to let it slide to the floor.
She wasn't wearing anything underneath.
Inuyasha gulped, blinking rapidly as he struggled to keep his eyes on her face. But despite his best efforts, his gaze slid rebelliously lower, caressing her smooth curves as he eyes leisurely took in everything from her head to toes.
Taking another deep breath, her face beat red, Kagome stepped into the bath and sank down into the water until only her head and shoulders were above the surface.
"Kagome!" Inuyasha gasped, very nearly scandalized. When had she become so brazen?
"Inuyasha," she said softly, a slight tremor in her voice, "l-last time, I . . . last time, I got scared when we—but I know I shouldn't have. And now, I—I'm ready now," she finished in a rush, looking at everything but him.
Inuyasha blinked a couple more times. "Kagome," he said slowly, "you don't have to . . . There's no rush or anything."
He watched the movement of her throat as she swallowed. "I want to," she said softly, finally looking up at him. He could see the desire in her eyes, but the fear was still there.
Maybe not fear, he decided, noting that she wasn't moving towards him. Nervousness. She was nervous.
Clamping down hard on the rising fire within him, he shifted under the water, moving right beside her. She flinched slightly when his wet hand touched her shoulder, but he slowly and irresistibly drew her to him, pulling her into his lap and simply holding her in his arms.
After a couple minutes, her muscles relaxed from rock-hard tension and she sank against his chest.
"You know," he said conversationally, "I just don't get why women have to plan everything. This kind of thing is way easier when it's spontaneous."
She gave him a sour look. "I wanted it to be romantic," she said defensively, "with the right atmosphere."
He looked around the bathroom, bemused. This was romantic? He wrinkled his nose in annoyance when she mentioned that atmosphere thing again. No matter how many times she explained it, he just didn't get it.
He moved one hand to gently rub her arm under the water. She gave a soft sigh.
He glanced down at her face, seeing the sadness she was trying to hide. "What's wrong?" he asked.
She stared down at the rippling water, reaching up one hand to idly stroke his ear. "I was just thinking that now that Shikon Jewel is gone, I won't be able to pass through the well back home."
Inuyasha frowned slightly. "Well, I might still be able to," he said bracingly. "I could always do it, with or without the jewel. Maybe I'll be able to take you through."
"Maybe," she said, though she didn't sound all that hopeful.
He clenched and unclenched his teeth hesitantly for a moment, then asked, "Do you want to go back home?" He rushed on quickly, "Now that the jewel is gone and Naraku's dead, there really isn't any reason for you to stay here anymore. If you want to go home," he swallowed nervously, "I'll come with you."
Kagome craned her neck around to look at him, frowning slightly. "But I thought you hated my time."
"I do," he replied instantly. "Well, most of it," he amended. "But I . . ." he growled slightly, at a loss for words. He was no good at this mushy talk. "If that's where you want to be, then that's where we'll go," he finally managed, his tone a little belligerent.
She was silent for a moment, then she smiled in a way that made him tingle all over. She reached up the hand that wasn't latched onto his ear and brushed her fingertips over his cheek. "Thank you, Inuyasha," she whispered, her eyes brimming with unshed tears.
He scowled. "For what?"
She shook her head and giggled. "Never mind. But you know, I've been thinking about things a lot, and I—I'd like to stay here in this time. I really like the healing that Kaede's been teaching me and I like to help people. I think I'd like to stay here and become a real priestess."
For a moment, Kikyo's face flashed in his mind's eye, but he was surprised to discover the only emotion accompanying the memory was faint regret for the dead woman. Not regret for their lost love for one another, but regret that Kikyo's life had been cut short, that her second existence had been wrought with such pain and bitterness. Beyond that, he felt . . . nothing.
"Are you sure?" he asked. She nodded. "Maybe," he said thoughtfully, "if the well still works, we could always go visit your family from time to time. And maybe . . . pick up some ramen?"
Kagome laughed, her eyes sparkling. "I'd like that," she said with a smile.
Inuyasha gazed down at her for a moment, then lowered his head and brushed his lips over hers. When she didn't withdraw, he kissed her again, softly, gently, lovingly. Her arms slid to encircle his neck as he deepened the kiss, trying to convey all his love, all his loyalty, all his need for her. Trying to tell her without words that she was his heart, his soul, his life.
Kagome shifted in his lap, turning to face him as she straddled his thighs. Inuyasha moaned softly against her mouth as her soft skin slid over his. Fire erupted through his veins and he closed his arms around her, pulling her tight against him. Lifting his mouth from hers, he pressed his lips against her jaw, then traced the skin with the tip of his tongue until he found the racing pulse in her neck. Sucking gently, he caressed the curves of her back with his hands, claws gently teasing her sensitive skin. Then he moved his lips downward, kissing the length of her collarbone before moving yet lower to the swell of her breasts.
When her hands began to frantically knead his shoulders, her fingernails digging in as she moaned, he pulled his head away. Tightening his arms around her, he stood up, a throaty chuckle escaping him at her startled squawk.
Stepping out of the tub, he carried her out of the bathroom. Crossing the lush rug of the main room, he walked over to the bed and gently laid her down on top of the down-filled blankets. As he stretched out beside her, propped up on one elbow with their hot, damp skin pressed tightly against one another, a small smile curved his lips, his golden eyes smoky as he gazed down at her. And then he opened his mind to hers and embraced her love even as he poured his into her.
She looked back at him, her soft, intense eyes filled with complete trust. There was no fear, no nervousness, no hesitation. She reached up and hooked her arms around his neck, pulling him down on top of her.
As his lips found hers again in a kiss more passionate than the last, and as her hands slid over him and his over her, and as she wrapped her soft legs around him with utter trust, and as they became one in every way, he knew that forever would never be long enough.
: x : The End : x :
Hissoriki (he-so-ree-kee) means "quiet strength".
I would like to thank everyone who read this story. Thank you! I really hope you all enjoyed it—in spite of the torturous cliffhangers. xP I would also like to specially thank every person who reviewed! Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make that big long list of reviewers like I did for Secret Love, Secret Power. However, that doesn't mean that I don't know the name of every person who reviewed. Thank you so much for your support! I read every single review I received.
Also, special thanks to Soozen (my editor) and Angelica Incarnate (my...consultant?) for all their help!
Again, like SLSP, I humbly ask that readers leave me one review upon completing the story, even if you don't normally, just so I know what everyone thought. And feel free to mention anything I might have done better or that you would have liked to see in the story. xD
Lastly, and possibly most important to a good number of people, I will address the issue of sequels:
There will not be a sequel to the SLSP/FLFH series.
The story is completed, the plot finished, the antagonists defeated. The remaining loose ends are intentional and left to the imagination of the reader. I will not be writing a sequel, nor do I give permission for any writer to write one for me.
However, there is the prequel, Wondering Hearts, Wandering Souls. Unfortunately though, I don't have the time for writing that I used to, so there is a chance I may never post that story and/or that I may never finish it. At this point, I do have some of it written, but I'm reluctant to start posting it because I'm not sure I'll finish it and that's not fair to readers. So...we'll just have to see.
Once again, a great big huge thank you to all readers and reviewers!
Until next time,
- Silent Sky
Dreams of your Soul, Truth of your Heart
All in the Silence of the Sky