Disclaimer: No, still don't own Inuyasha and friends. They belong to Rumiko Takahashi.
A/N: I must apologize right now for how long it has taken to update! School and family stuff got in the way, not to mention how long this epilogue is! I borrowed the name Kozue from an actual restaurant in Japan that I've never visited, so all the details are either invented or taken from the website. Well, that said, I hope you enjoy.
And special thanks to WinterzForgotten, a very talented and awesome author (who btw also makes excellent music vids with the Inuyasha characters see her profile on for links to those and her stories), who has been so kind as to beta read so much of this story for me, help with research and keep bugging me for more when I start to let homework get in the way of the story! Cheers, girl! And thank you!
Kagome yawned and stretched. Her movements took the sheets that had tangled around her in her sleep and cast them off her. A slant of golden light from the window told her it was already well into the morning. As the memory of the past night's events returned, Kagome laughed out loud.
She wondered how long it had taken Inuyasha and Miroku to get back after she and Sango had dumped the foul-mouthed hanyou onto the lecherous monk. They should be grateful that was all they had done to them... especially Inuyasha. Sesshomaru had seemed pretty close to killing him, life-debt or no, for what he had inadvertently taught Rin; and Kagome couldn't blame the demon lord in the least. She herself had been pretty upset.
But that was not why she had come back home. Her mother had been expecting her as soon as she had dealt with the brothers. Her mother had even been waiting up for her when she came through the front door, still giggling, some time after midnight.
Sitting up, Kagome decided she had been in bed long enough. The house seemed oddly quiet, though. Maybe it was earlier than she thought. Normally her little brother would be downstairs watching television or playing his game on a Saturday. On silent, bare feet, Kagome went to investigate.
Sota, as usual, was sitting on the floor in the living room. He stared blankly at the place where their television should have been sitting. Oh, that's right. Kagome thought with an annoyed smile. Sesshomaru destroyed our television.
"Sota, don't you have something better to do?" Kagome said. "You could always read a book, you know, or help Grandpa clean in the storage shed. You know back in the feudal era they don't even have TV. People do things to keep themselves entertained, find hobbies."
"Hmph, the feudal era has demons though. If we had demons, then we wouldn't need TVs either," Sota grumbled under his breath, but loud enough for Kagome to hear.
"Oh, Sota, speaking of hobbies and demons, what did you do with mom's phone?" Kagome asked, suddenly remembering her brother's activity from the day before.
He turned red and looked away from the space where the television used to sit. Sota scrambled to his feet and tried to dart out the door and up the stairs as he shouted out, "Um, what phone? What do you mean?"
Kagome chased him as he sprinted up to his room, snatched the phone, and then tried to make a break for it. Finally, she managed to tackle him and pry the phone from his grip. "No fair, Kagome! You're bigger," Sota whined, but he stayed on the floor, rubbing his sore arms rather trying to get it back.
She began searching through the pictures and replied, "You better be glad it's me that got you and not Sesshomaru."
Kagome smiled when she found the one. In it, Sesshomaru stood where she was at that moment decked in a pastel yellow kitten robe that was much to short for him, while his hand rested on the large furry pelt on his shoulder. His face had a serious look of intense concentration, and his stance was rigid and proud --all of which was completely spoiled by the frolicking kittens and the fact that the robe bared his pale legs nearly to the thigh.
Completely forgetting Sota, Kagome ran and printed off a copy from their home printer then deleted it from her mother's phone. She took the small copy she had made and tucked it into a drawer in her room. After all there was no need to destroy a perfectly good picture. And when would she ever get a chance at such a shot again?
Later that afternoon, Kagome sat reading some of the school assignments she had gotten behind on when her mother called up to her.
"Kagome, will you come here please?"
Kagome grinned and threw down her book, eager for any reason to put aside the boring work. She ran down the stairs and called out, "What is it, mom?"
"In here, sweetie," her mother said from the front door. Kagome followed her voice, curious now. At the door she saw a postman with a bored expression on his face holding a letter and a clipboard. He glanced up as Kagome approached the door.
"Are you Higurashi, Kagome?"
"Um, yes, that's me," Kagome replied as she cast an uncertain glance at her mother. What was this about?
The postman sighed as though his day had been far too long already. "Sign here, please."
Kagome took the pen and signed her name, and the man handed her the letter.
"The rest is out here. You'll have to get it inside on your own." He then marched off without so much as a good day or bow farewell.
"Well, that was not very polite," Kagome's mother remarked as she and Kagome walked outside to see what had been left on their doorstep. It was a couple large boxes. Together they managed to get them into the living room.
Once that was done, Mrs. Higurashi looked at her daughter and asked, "So, who is it from? Were you expecting anyone to be sending you anything?"
Kagome inspected the envelope, but like the packages it had no return address, just her name and address. "It doesn't say. Guess I'll have to open it and find out."
Tearing open the envelope, Kagome found a letter, addressed to her and written in a very elegant script.
"Kagome, I hope this will cover the damages that resulted from my brief stay in your home. I apologize if it is not an exact replacement, but it is the best my memory could provide. There is also something I would request of you. Meet me at Kazue tonight. I will send a car for you at 6:30. You will not be late. I have a reservation. S."
After she read the letter, Kagome reread it, just to make sure her eyes had not deceived her. Then she rubbed her eyes and read it again for good measure. Was this really from who she thought it was? They had not given their full name, but who else had stayed at their house and destroyed things other than...Sesshomaru.
"Well, let's see what's inside if we can't know who it's from," Mrs. Higurashi said when Kagome did not offer a name. Looking up from the letter, Kagome noticed her mother already cutting the packaging tape with a knife.
Both women curious, they peeked into the box and gasped in amazement. Inside sat an identical television set to the one they had thrown out just that past night.
"A television!" Mrs. Higurashi whispered. "But how?"
Kagome did not even bother to answer, her interest now on the other box. It was slightly larger. She took the knife from her mother and slit the tape and jerked the top open. Kagome reached inside and her mother started laughing when she saw what Kagome held. It was their bath curtain and a shower rod. Or an identical set at least.
"I was wondering what happened to ours. I was so sad to see it go because they stopped making these nearly five years ago," Mrs. Higurashi said as she fingered the material.
Kagome looked down into the bottom and blushed. There was small box and another envelope addressed to her. On top of it was a small, pink extremely familiar item. He remembered that after 500 years! She lifted it, the box and letter out and examined the rather thick envelope. Opening it, she found a thick stack of cash along with another letter written in the same immaculate handwriting. Inside the box was a small picture frame. Now thoroughly confused and embarrassed, she read the letter.
"Kagome, The money will cover the cost of anything I could not send. The frame is for the picture that is likely hidden somewhere in your room. I assume you know what will happen should you fail to keep it that way? And tell your brother he is the bravest human I have met aside from a certain miko. (And that if he ever tries such a stunt again, I will give him a personal demonstration of what a demon can do.) The car will arrive by 6:30. Until tonight. S."
"Kagome?" her mother asked. "Did Sesshomaru send this stuff?"
Kagome only heard partially what her mother said. She was just shocked that he was still alive. And he wanted to meet her? She highly doubted he wanted to kill her. Surely he'd had plenty of opportunities over the past 500 years to do it.
"Um, yeah, mom, I think Sesshomaru sent these. He didn't sign his full name, though," she finally answered once she realized what her mother asked.
"Then why did Sesshomaru send you a pad?"
Kagome blushed furiously and shoved the little, pink item inside the little box. "Um, it's a long story."
"Well, you have time," her mother replied, giving her a sly smile. "Besides, there are a few things I was wanting ask about this whole thing."
"Oh my gosh!" Kagome exclaimed suddenly and turned to her mother with a horrified look on her face. "Time! What time is it?"
"It's about 3 o'clock. What's the rush, dear? You didn't have to go back today, did you?" her mother asked, maintaining her calm and encouraging Kagome to do the same with a gentle pat on her back.
"Why that arrogant-" Kagome raged and her eyes blazed.
"Kagome, what-?" her mother asked, but stopped when Kagome shoved the first letter into her mother's hand and began to pace through the room.
"I'm sure he thinks it's funny too, only giving me three hours to get ready. I haven't even showered yet. And I'll have to do my hair," Kagome muttered while her mother read.
"Kagome, that's the nicest restaurant in town. You have to have reservations made months in advance and even those are nearly impossible to get if you do not have the right influence," her mother told her once she had read the letter.
Kagome paused in her pacing to give her mother a wry look for stating the obvious. "What am I going to do? I don't even have a dress for a place like that. And he only gave me three hours."
Her mother stood and put her arm over her daughter's shoulder. Waiting until she had Kagome's full attention, Mrs. Higurashi said, "Kagome, don't you worry, dear. I think I have the perfect thing for you to wear. You go get cleaned up and I'll bring it up to you in your room and help you get dressed."
Kagome took her mother's advice and soon stood clean, but nervous in her own room, staring at the most beautiful kimono she had ever seen. It was a rich shade of midnight blue silk decorated with subtle silver floral patterns and flecked with hints of gold. Kagome dressed as carefully as she could with much help from her mother so as to not snag the silk. After nearly an hour of labor, they had finally gotten her completely dressed. Kagome heard her mother gasp. Tears glimmered in the woman's eyes and she put a hand to her mouth.
"Kagome, you look beautiful."
Kagome blushed and looked down at her toes. She felt beautiful. "Are you sure it's okay for me to wear this, mom? I mean, it's so elegant. It must be special and I'd hate to ruin it."
"Nonsense, dear, you would never ruin it. And I would be honored for you to wear it. I used to wear it on special occasions when I was younger," her mother said as she came up and began to work a brush through Kagome's hair then swept it up into an elegant twist which left only a few spare tendrils to frame her face. That done, she applied a minimal amount of make-up to highlight the natural beauty not cover it.
Kagome sat at the kitchen table, fidgeting like a child before taking a class picture. It was only about five-forty and she was nervous not only about meeting with Sesshomaru, but also about being so formally dressed.
"Whoa, sis, where are you going dressed like that?" Sota exclaimed once he finally got the nerve to show his face after Kagome had tackled him for the phone.
Kagome was about to offer a snide reply when her brother suddenly noticed the new television her mother had just finished setting up and ran off to formally inaugurate the new TV into the family.
Her mother came in shortly after and sat down beside her.
"I guess Sesshomaru will probably be this formal too, huh?" Kagome asked, still thinking about her upcoming "date" with the youkai.
"Probably. You don't think he'd still be wearing that formal outfit and armor of his do, you?" Mrs. Higurashi asked, and chuckled softly.
Kagome made a face and said, "I hope not."
"I wonder if he still wears that big fluffy thing?" her mother continued.
Kagome frowned. Fluffy thing? "Oh, you mean his fur?" She snorted and laughed. "If he does, we'll have to get a table for three."
Mrs. Higurashi laughed softly. "So, what did happen that put Sesshomaru in debt to you?"
"What did he tell you about it?" Kagome asked. Her nerves were already calming as she thought back.
"To mind my own business," her mother told her.
They both giggled and Kagome told her, "That sounds like Sesshomaru. Well, I only promised not to tell about what happened here, not what happened in the feudal era." She gave her mother a knowing wink. "Well, he had an encounter with a cursed mirror and ended up as a little four-year-old child."
Mrs. Higurashi put a hand to her face in both shock and amusement. "Oh my. Was he really a child, or just in body?"
"All the way. He didn't remember who we were and kept demanding to be taken to his father. We took care of him until I was able to purify the mirror and return him to normal."
"So how does that equal out to owing you a life debt?" Mrs. Higurashi asked.
"I saved his life. He fell in the river, so I saved him. Then Inuyasha protected him from a demon attack. It was the cutest thing! Sesshomaru kept following on Inuyasha's heels trying to imitate every little thing he did."
Kagome smiled at the memory. Her mother laughed and said, "He must have been such a cute little child."
Kagome hugged herself as she remembered clutching the little youkai close. "Oh, gosh yes, adorable. When I pulled him from the river, he just clung to me for dear life, then that night he curled up next to me to sleep. Just like a little puppy."
Both women smiled for a moment at the thought, but Kagome grew serious as she remembered just who she was about to meet with. Grown Sesshomaru was completely different from the child.
"It's hard to believe he was ever so-normal," Kagome said aloud. "He's just so arrogant and mean as an adult. Makes me wonder what happened to him to make him like that."
"That reminds me. I was wondering how he lost his arm. He told the nurse and I that he encountered a rogue dog, but when I asked what happened, he just told me to ask you," her mother said suddenly.
Kagome blushed a little and said, "Oh, that, well, he-uh-he attacked Inuyasha when he was first looking for Tetsusaiga. We fought, he tried to kill us and even revealed his true form, but Inuyasha finally cut off his arm with Tetsusaiga and drove him off."
Kagome nodded. "He's a dog demon, so in his true form he's a giant white dog."
"He can turn into a dog? With ears and a tail?' her mother asked excitedly and clapped her hands together.
"Don't get the wrong idea, mom. He's not some cute puppy. He's bigger than this house and even his saliva is poisonous." Kagome couldn't help but add, "But yes, he has ears and long fluffy tail!"
Kagome shared stories of their encounters with Sesshomaru until six-thirty sharp when a car pulled up to the base of the shrine. The driver ascended the steps and knocked on the door. Kagome stood up, wondering at the butterflies in her stomach. It wasn't like this was a real date. She didn't even like Sesshomaru. For a second, she got the terrifying image of her and Sesshomaru sitting across from one another at a table for hours in silence, him just sitting there watching her with those intense gold eyes of his. Maybe 500 years had changed him, though she still couldn't picture him making small talk over an appetizer.
Kagome followed her mother to the door and peeked out at the uniformed stranger at the door. He must have been the driver of the car.
"Miss Higurashi, Kagome?" the man asked with a small bow.
Mrs. Higurashi smiled and glanced back to watch as Kagome slipped on her tabi socks and zori sandals. Kagome gave her a quick wave, signaling that she was ready. Mrs. Higurashi opened the door all the way and said, "Yes, my daughter is ready. May I ask what time she is to be brought back? And what exactly the itinerary for the night is?"
The man looked at her with a slightly amazed look on his face which he quickly tried to cover and answered, "My employer said that you would ask as much, and he instructed me to inform you that your daughter is in perfectly capable hands, and that she will be better protected now than she has ever been with that whelp. He wished for me to assure you that she will be escorted back at an appropriate hour, but that he cannot be more exact."
Now I know it's Sesshomaru, Kagome thought with a mental groan. She stepped forward and planted a kiss on her mother's cheek. "I'll be alright, mom." She leaned even closer and whispered, half serious, half joking, "And if he tries anything, I can just purify him."
"Well, you enjoy yourself tonight, dear. And if you think you'll be back late, call and let me know," her mother called out to her from the doorway.
Kagome descended to the street and the waiting limo with polite assistance from the driver. The dark tinted windows thrilled her. So often she had seen these pass, wondering what marvelously rich or famous person sat inside, and tonight she would be that mysterious stranger.
The driver opened the door for her, closing it after she slipped inside. It was surprisingly dark, and Kagome jumped once her eyes adjusted and she realized she was not alone. Across from her, settled leisurely in the soft leather, sat the same slender, black-haired young man from the hospital. He regarded her with a bored expression and a languid gaze.
She just stared at him, unsure of what to say or do. He was dressed in an elegant yukata of cream colored silk that nearly matched the flawless ivory tone of his skin. Kagome's gaze drifted over the dark blue and burgundy kanji that decorated the silk, noting a little to her surprise that it fit perfectly over both of his arms. It looked an awful lot like Sesshomaru, but this had to be just another employee...unless one of the arms was an illusion.
He crossed his legs, his dark blue hakamas nearly blending with the dark interior of the limo. Kagome could almost hear the rustling of the fine silks with his subtle movements and self-consciously began to play with the edges of her own sleeves. It was nice silk, true, but not nearly as elegant as what this man wore. If this was only Sesshomaru's employee, then she couldn't even imagine the finery the demon lord himself would be wearing.
She felt his eyes on her still and finally looked up again as the car started to move. "Um, hi, good evening," she finally said, uncomfortable with the silence.
"You do not recognize me," the man said finally, though the smooth, even tone of voice immediately gave away its owner.
"Sesshomaru," she said, peering more closely at him now that she knew it was him. It was strange seeing him with black hair and without markings. She wondered how long it was now since it blended too well with the leather to tell. So he was the one watching us at the hospital.
Dark, nearly black eyes held her with the same intensity that his gold eyes had back in the feudal era. His eyes never left hers as he moved his hands to his lap where he began to finger a thin cord he wore like a bracelet.
"Kagome, you are dressed more 'appropriately' than I have ever seen before. I must say I approve," he told her.
Kagome blushed. Was that a compliment? Well, as close to a compliment as she would get from Sesshomaru. "Um, you look nice too." Well, that was a stupid thing to say.
She studied his very human features and wondered how he had hidden or gotten rid of his demonic qualities. She still could not even sense his aura. That was when it hit her.
Like the sudden swell of an ocean wave flooding over her, an overwhelming tide of demonic energy crushed her senses. It was as though a veil had been lifted, and the young man before her shimmered and changed. His dark eyes became a bright, fierce gold, and the familiar crescent moon, maroon stripes, and other demonic markings suddenly flared in a stark contrast to his pale skin. His sable locks turned white and she could see them sweeping in a silvery curtain over the seat beside him, nearly spilling to the floor. Kagome could now see the odd white fur, still draped over his shoulder and just as intriguing as always.
Her mother's question about that 'fluffy thing' came to mind, and she now had the image of them at dinner with that fur seated in a third chair beside them hopelessly stuck in her mind. Trying with a near god-like strength, she managed to keep from laughing, though she could not help but smile.
Finally certain she had control of her voice, she asked, "I was wondering why I had not sensed you or any demons. How have you kept hidden so well? And why would you reveal yourself to me now. What do you want, Sesshomaru?"
Even with that amusing image and the fact that he did not have Tokijin at his waist (as far as she could tell anyways, who knew where he had been keeping that giant fluff on his shoulder), Kagome still felt wary about being this close to the demon lord who was no longer under any obligation not to kill her. She could clearly see the demonic marking on his wrists that curved down to the hands tipped with deadly poisonous claws.
Wait a minute! Hands? "Sesshomaru, how- when did you get your other arm back?"
Kagome was on her knees in front of Sesshomaru with her hands clasping his left one before she realized what she was doing. Sesshomaru simply looked down at her with a smirk on his face. She jerked herself away and settled back on her seat. Her eyes drifted to the partition that divided them from the driver.
"We cannot be seen or heard, Kagome," he told her as though guessing her thoughts. "No, he is not aware that his 'employer' is a demon, and, no, I will not explain to you how demons survived into this time or which ones or how many or any other foolish questions you may have. You still have access to the past and could alter what has happened if you know too much. As for my arm, it is enough for you to know I have regained it."
Kagome's jaw dropped and she stared at Sesshomaru. "I don't think I've ever heard you say that much at once in a normal conversation. You really have changed, though now I can see your appearance hasn't really. How are you able to do that? Hide your aura and your demon characteristics? And why do you want to see me now?"
Sesshomaru lifted the wrist with the bracelet. He tapped it with his claw and explained, "Illusion charm, a very potent one. Let's just say I happen to be friends with a rather talented kitsune. It masks not only my physical features, but also my aura and my scent."
"Which is why you didn't detect yourself at the hospital the other day," Kagome mused aloud. This was all a little shocking to say the least. When had things changed between them? Was Inuyasha still alive too? Could the kitsune he knew be her little Shippo? How had they defeated Naraku? Surely Sesshomaru would know all this.
As though he were reading her thoughts on a page, Sesshomaru called her attention to himself and said, "Kagome, I know you have many questions and I regret that I cannot answer them for you. And as for why I wished to see you, I have a favor to ask of you. But should we not save some discussion for dinner? We should be arriving at the restaurant shortly."
Kagome couldn't help but clutch tightly to the arm proffered by Sesshomaru as they exited the limo. In all her young years, she had never been anywhere near such a luxurious place. Her cheeks heated when she noticed that Kozue happened to be located inside a rather ritzy hotel. She thought her face would burst into flames at the looks they both received as they passed through the lobby to the elevators that would take them up to the level of the restaurant.
They joined an older couple who, Kagome guessed by their formal attire, were likely headed to Kozue as well. She and Sesshomaru positioned themselves at the customary elevator distance: as far away from the other passengers as was possible. Once the doors to the elevator had closed, Kagome risked a glance at the once again human face of her "escort."
His lips were curled into a shameless smirk and he remarked teasingly, "You do have our room key, do you not? I'm afraid I left mine on the dresser."
Kagome knew her cheeks were blazing, and the knowing chuckles coming from their elevator buddies did not help her embarrassment. Sesshomaru seemed to be enjoying her plight immensely, however.
Frowning up at him, she sweetened her tone and replied, "Yes, well, I guess you can't have both brains and beauty. What would you do without me to keep up with all the things that pretty little head forgets?"
His smirk faded and his dark eyes flashed. Kagome almost thought she felt a growl being suppressed, and she laughed inwardly. The other man began to laugh again at that, but Sesshomaru looked at the poor guy who immediately sobered up and edged even further from the young couple.
When the elevator reached the restaurant's floor, the other couple actually fled. Once they had gone, Sesshomaru leaned down to whisper in Kagome's ear, "I guess I asked for that."
That said, he straightened and led her by the arm towards the hostess. Kagome did not notice, still dazed by Sesshomaru's response. A death threat, or "Do not press your luck with me, miko" would have been more expected, even if she knew he did not mean them.
Her mind finally stopped its spinning once they were seated. The rich wood of the table matched the flooring and decor, and Kagome noted that the tableware was all beautifully handcrafted. However, she had little time to explore the interior design before the view from window beside their table stole her breath. Being forty floors up presented them with an unspoiled view of western Tokyo set against the backdrop of Mt. Fuji. The mountain stood out black against the deep reds, purples and blues as night descended.
Sesshomaru chuckled softly and the foreign sound called her attention from the scene outside their window.
"It is a rather impressive view, is it not?"
Kagome nodded her agreement, unable to form words for the moment. She was grateful when the waiter brought them glasses of water. Kagome continued to stare out of the window and sip water, trying not to notice that Sesshomaru was staring at her, until their meal arrived. They began to eat, still in silence, so Kagome decided it must be up to her to start the conversation.
"So, how did you remember what day we would be at the hospital? It's been five hundred years for you." She figured she might as well be blunt.
To her utter shock, his dark eyes dimmed with a sudden sadness and a whisper of a sigh passed his lips. He glanced out the window, looking up at the rising moon, and said, "It has been...a long time."
The moment passed and his face returned to the more customary emotionless mask. "I gave my word that that ningen would pay, and I have kept it."
Kagome paled and nearly dropped the vegetable she had just lifted to her mouth. "You didn't kill him again, did you?"
Sesshomaru smiled at that, flashing a set of dazzling white teeth, and took a bite from his plate of what looked like raw meat. "Was it not you who told me there are far worse things to do to him than kill him? Again." He continued to smile as he ate another bite. "I have been following him since he left medical school, keeping record of each of his indiscretions. What I have gathered on him will ensure that not only will he never practice medicine again, but that he will not be released from prison for quite some time. And you need have no fear of legal retaliation. I have lawyers making sure he will never be able to so much as look at your family name."
Kagome blushed and averted her eyes from him. "Um, thank you, Sesshomaru. But...but why are you doing this?"
"Because I took your words to heart," he said softly and returned his gaze back to the moon. "I am no longer crippled, Kagome, thanks to you."
Kagome stared at his left arm in wonder. How had she done that?
"It was not my arm that made me cripple," he added, his voice even and hardly louder than a whisper. She looked up and immediately his dark eyes trapped and held her. For a brief instant, the cold, hardness melted away and she saw a roiling mass of emotions, the most prominent being sadness, loss.
Like the bursting of a dam, her words to him came flooding back from her memory:
You and Inuyasha are both fools afflicted with the same curse. He doesn't see the strength he has where you do not see the strength you lack. You yourself claim to seek ultimate power, yet you refuse the one thing that would give you this. Instead, you see it as a weakness and a failing. It's not your arm that makes you cripple, Sesshomaru, it's your inability to love.
Kagome felt a warmth flood her and a genuine smile curled her lips. You have finally become the great demon you always wanted to be. You have finally learned to love. "Lord Sesshomaru, there is something more you wish to say to me?"
He glanced down at her sharply upon hearing the use of his title. "I have not been called that for years."
"Yet you have never been more deserving of it," Kagome told him quietly. Even as she spoke, she blushed and concentrated on her plate.
"Thank you, Kagome. And you are correct," he said as he looked at her with a blank face though his eyes held an urgent longing. "I have a favor to request of you."
Favor my ass, Kagome ranted to herself. More like a suicide mission.
She crept slowly up the hill, bent low like a beast stalking its prey. In one hand she clutched her camera and the other she used to keep herself from stumbling or striking any limbs or brambles that would alert him of her presence. Finding a comfortable vantage point, Kagome paused and wiped the sweat from her brow.
What was Sesshomaru thinking asking me to sneak up on his past self? And what were you thinking, Kagome, in accepting! 'Sure, I'd be happy to Sesshomaru. I'll get you a picture of Rin.' Feh!
Kagome glanced down at the thin cord tied around her wrist. After dinner, and after she had agreed to his request, he had given this to her. An illusion charm, much like his own, that would make her virtually invisible, with no scent or aura. He had told her she could stand directly in front of him and that even his past self would be unable to sense her presence or smell her. Then he told her what his location would be when she returned to the feudal era.
Not that she doubted Sesshomaru's word, she was just a little skeptical that this tiny string would protect her. Kagome squinted up at the sun, trying to judge its position in the sky. With a soft sigh, she shook her head and looked down at her watch. Much easier.
It was already half past three she noted in annoyance. This was taking longer than she had expected. Most of the morning had been spent convincing Inuyasha and her friends to let her go out alone, then she finally had to resort to sitting him and leaving him with her friends while she ran into the forest and slipped on the illusion charm. She had spent a good two hours hiking to the location where Sesshomaru and his entourage had stopped for a rest, then another thirty minutes to circle around so that she could approach downwind. Just because Inuyasha hadn't found her, didn't mean that Sesshomaru wouldn't.
Turning to the big-eyed, smiling, little object of her mission, Kagome watched what was going on in the little clearing below her. Rin wore a crown of flowers that tilted precariously to one side of her head. In her hands she clutched "Kagome" the doll, and both were currently spinning to some tune only Rin could hear. The two-headed dragon Ah Un lay on the opposite side of the clearing seemingly dead to the world except for the telltale twitching of its ears that let Kagome know it was alert for danger.
The toad Jaken was nowhere in sight, but the great white demon lord himself lounged beneath a tree, watching Rin with a failing disinterest. His face had no expression, but his eyes held a softness and warmth she had never seen in them before. Kagome started as she suddenly remembered why she was is in this dangerous position. If Sesshomaru caught her spying on him and his ward, she knew he would not be merciful. Lifting her camera as quietly as she could, she zoomed in and took several photos of the smiling child.
Satisfied with her work, Kagome was about to turn to go when she heard Rin address Sesshomaru. "My lord, could I play with your hair until Master Jaken returns?"
Hopelessly intrigued, Kagome leaned forward so she could get a better view. Rin now stood, hugging "Kagome" to her chest, eye to eye with the demon since he was seated. She studied Sesshomaru's face closely, knowing that if he were to have a response to this question, it would be a subtle one. His golden gaze met the girl's and she thought she saw his nose twitch slightly.
He's checking to make sure they are alone, Kagome thought, and she could help the smile that split her face. She lifted the camera and made sure it still had a few shots left. There was no way she could pass up an opportunity like this.
The white head dipped a fraction, but it was enough for Rin who giggled excitedly and sat "Kagome" beside her lord before she ran around to his side to gather a large section of the silky locks into her fists. Rin hummed as she worked the strands into a thick braid and soon Sesshomaru had closed his eyes and tilted his head against the tree.
Biting back a delighted laugh, Kagome snapped pictures of this rare scene. A short while later, Rin yawned broadly, abandoned the braid and crawled into his lap, snuggling her face into his fur. Sesshomaru cracked an eye at the change, but said nothing. Kagome snapped a final picture before he closed his eye again and drifted back to whatever rest he had been taking.
Pleased with herself, Kagome carefully made her way back to Kaede's village to tell them she would be back in a couple of days. Sesshomaru had asked for a picture of his ward, and he would get that and more.
The next day Kagome sat nervously in a leather chair, facing a rather stern-faced secretary. The older woman glared down her nose at her every time the chair creaked, but never said anything. Kagome felt in her purse for the stack of developed pictures and crossed her legs yet again. She stared at the office door and read the black letters that stood boldly out on the gold-plate sign, "Daiginkeiko Reizo".
She frowned at the name. It was very familiar to her for some reason, even before Sesshomaru had given it to her so that she could get the pictures to him, and she had to admit it fit the meticulous demon lord. Daiginkeiko... great silvery adored one... Reizo... cool, calm, well-groomed..., that's Sesshomaru alright!
Kagome shifted again and the secretary added a sharp clearing of her throat to her glare. Kagome tried to ignore it, but her patience was running low. What the hell was Sesshomaru doing? She had called ahead to let him know she was coming.
The secretary's phone rang and Kagome clearly heard Sesshomaru's voice on the other end.
"You will tell Miss Higurashi to go on in to my office as soon as she arrives. I will be there shortly."
"Yes, sir, Mr. Daiginkeiko. I'll do that," the woman responded in a hushed voice. She hung up and announced, "Mr. Daiginkeiko will see you now, Miss Higurashi."
Kagome stood up and smiled what she hoped came across as a sincere smile. She could almost feel the woman's angry embarrassment for having been so skeptical about Kagome's insistence that "Reizo" was expecting her. Her smile was met with a glare, so she quickly fled into the office. What had she done to get on that woman's bad side?
Once inside, Kagome looked around the empty office. The decor was simple, yet elegant--every bit what she imagined a room of Sesshomaru's would be. A large window filled part of one wall, and she noted that it led out to a small balcony. Odd, she had never seen one of those in an office before. Perhaps Sesshomaru liked to sit outside sometimes. Behind the desk was a bookshelf filled with various books, some that looked as though they were as old as the demon lord himself.
On top, mounted within a case of glass, was an item she knew had been with Sesshomaru awhile. Tenseiga, in its sheath, still gleamed like new in the florescent lighting, but what stood beside it stole her breath. "Kagome," a little worse for the wear, her face nearly blank and her kimono threadbare, stood with the help of a stand beside the Tenseiga.
Kagome fell into the large chair behind the desk, unable to believe what she saw. It was the same doll she had given to Rin not long ago, only this one had seen five hundred years. Before she had a chance to think on it, she heard the door open and Sesshomaru himself strode inside. She expected him to say something of greeting to her, but instead she heard the door open again, pause then swing slowly shut.
Doesn't he know I'm in here? Even if his big chair hides me, he'd at least smell my scent, Kagome thought as she swung the chair around to face him. He was still standing at the door with his back to her. He wore a pair of slacks and a shirt and tie. His long, black (she still couldn't get used to seeing him with that color) hair was tied back at the nape of his neck but the trailing end still brushed the backs of his calves.
Sesshomaru turned around and Kagome smiled and said, "Uh, hi, Sesshomaru."
His dark eyes widened and his nose twitched slightly as though he, too, was wondering why he had not caught her scent. He quickly fought back the shock and just stood staring at her.
Kagome stared at him in confusion for a moment before she realized her position.
"Oh, sorry, no one was here and I kind of wandered around to this side of the desk. Don't worry, I didn't touch anything," she told him in rush as she sprang up from his chair and edged around the far side of the desk.
He shook his head and said, "No, it is fine. Sit if you like." Sesshomaru leaned himself on the edge of his desk and indicated his chair with a sweep of his hand.
Kagome eased herself back into the chair and looked up at Sesshomaru. She blinked and nearly squeaked when the dark eyes flared to gold and his white hair and demonic markings suddenly appeared.
"I don't know if I'd ever get used to that," she remarked under her breath, but Sesshomaru chuckled, letting her know his superior senses had heard.
"I trust your adventure went well?" he said in a smooth, even voice, but Kagome could sense his anxiousness, as though it were taking a great strength to not just demand the photos right away.
"Why don't you see for yourself?" she told him as she reached into her purse for the package.
His hands trembled as he reached eagerly for the pictures before she had even put her hand inside, and again that longing, near hungry light welled up in his eyes. He pulled his hands nervously to his side and waited until she offered them. Kagome smiled gently. She could tell he fought to hide the slight shaking as he took them. His claws made quick work of the outer paper, but the pictures themselves he handled with a tenderness unexpected from a hardened killer.
Sesshomaru fought to contain the trembling of his hands as Kagome handed him the pictures, but he knew she had noticed. Surprisingly, he didn't really care. Here, in his own two hands, he held the impossible: a chance to transcend time and glimpse something he had thought he'd never see again. He ripped open the paper with his claws but froze. His breath seized and his heart seemed to forget to beat for a few moments when he saw the first image. The image blurred and for a horrifying second he thought even this glimpse of his Rin was being taken away, but he blinked and it sharpened. In his relief, Sesshomaru released the breath he had not realized he had been holding. His fingers lovingly traced the features of her face, lingering most over her brilliant smile. He felt warmth trickling down his cheek and blinked causing another moist drop to trail down his cheek. With a flick of his wrist he removed the foreign moisture. Was he actually shedding tears? Not even when his father passed had he wept.
As he slowly progressed through the pictures, he felt the tightness in his chest growing and found it harder and harder to prevent the moisture that welled up in his eyes. So long... too long... the years had nearly washed her face from his memory. Oh, he would never forget his Rin, but some of the details had been worn away like the features of a weathered statue. Time had snatched them up and he had been powerless to prevent it. Until now that was. Thanks to this compassionate miko. Thanks to Kagome.
Kagome tried not to stare at the unusual reactions her photos were drawing from the usually cold demon, though her heart stirred with grief for him. She wondered how long ago Rin had passed. The little girl was human after all, and she could not even imagine how hard it had to be for Sesshomaru to watch her mature, grow old and die while he lingered, unchanging--well, at least physically. Rin had definitely changed him on the inside.
Finally, he reached the ones she had managed to get of the two of them together and Kagome awaited his reaction with an excited trepidation. How would he react? Even Sesshomaru could not hide the slight shudder of his breath as he inhaled in surprise upon seeing the photos. Composing himself quickly, the demon glanced over at her and arched an eyebrow.
"You are definitely the bravest human I know, Kagome. Had I caught you back then, no number of promises of secrecy would have kept me from killing you," he told her. But a soft smile warmed his face. "But thank you."
His voice failed and he turned his back to her quickly though she noticed his chest heave silently as he fought to contain tears. Kagome stood up to leave him to his memories, but he called out her name sharply.
"Yes?" she asked quietly.
"My baka brother has a hard enough time protecting you without you being able to vanish on him. I believe you should return that bracelet."
"Oh, right.." Kagome said, and she absently handed him the string. Was Inuyasha still alive somewhere in her time? Had he ever been able to get over Kikyo and move on with his life? Or had he died together with Naraku in that final battle? "Inuyasha..." she whispered.
The name still on her lips, Kagome looked up at Sesshomaru, into that pair of golden eyes so similar to her beloved hanyou's. What did he know about his brother, her, their past?
Sesshomaru shook his head slightly and said, "Don't ask, Kagome. Your life is not merely a story to be told to you. It is something to be lived."
Kagome nodded in understanding, fighting back tears of her own. She would get her answers. She would just have to wait for them. Again she turned to leave, but Sesshomaru stopped her.
"Kagome, I- I- thank you."
"Anytime, Lord Sesshomaru," she told him with a swift bow. Then she left.
Fifteen minutes later, Kagome sat in the near empty train on her way back to the shrine on the other side of Tokyo. The strange events of the past few days swirled in a dizzying haze in her mind. And she had thought her life couldn't get any stranger.
She had been staring at the sign across the way from her for a full five minutes before she actually began to register what she had been reading.
"Donations for Daiginkeiko Children's Home will be gathered by Daiginkeiko Riezo himself at the following dates and locations:" Kagome stopped and nearly slapped herself on the forehead.
So that was why his name sounded so familiar. Kagome grinned broadly and thought, It figures that Sesshomaru would run the largest orphanage in the country after all those years of caring for Rin. She chuckled. And I'll bet he's great at fundraising, too.
Sesshomaru stood with his back to the door, clutching the pictures long after Kagome had left. He followed her aura with his senses until it moved beyond his range. For some reason, he was having trouble breathing and tears had begun to trail down his cheeks again, only this time he did not wipe them away.
He looked up at Tenseiga and "Kagome." Rin had chosen a good name for the doll after all. He smiled as memories flooded back, and he recalled when she had named the doll. That led him back to the day Kagome had taken these pictures. He stared at that smiling face, wreathed in flowers and the glow of innocence. He had been able to recall their location, but not his precious Rin; and he was angry at himself for it. Tracing the small image of her tenderly with the edge of his claw he promised himself that he would never again forget that smile, or those eyes, all the precious details that made up his Rin.
He heard the stirring of his secretary and knew the woman was coming to check on him and remind him of his other appointments. Unable to compose himself (and to some degree unwilling), he lashed out with his whip and slid the lock into place just as the woman tried to open it. When her attempt failed, she knocked and called through to him, "Mr. Daiginkeiko, sir, don't forget your 4:30 with Mr. Tanaka and the dinner with the directors of your charity."
Sesshomaru willed his voice to be firm and answered her, "Thank you, but I will not be able to keep any of my appointments for today. You will make my apologies and cancel everything for the rest of the day."
He heard her fidget as though she wanted to protest, but instead she answered, "Yes, Mr. Daiginkeiko."
Sesshomaru sank into his chair and spread the pictures across his desk. He remained staring at them well into the evening, committing every detail of her to memory. He had been given a second chance to hang on to her, and he would not take it for granted.
Presently, Sesshomaru stood up, gathered the pictures, storing them tenderly in his pocket, and then twisted his concealment charm as he hurried out of his office. He ignored the protests and shouted messages his secretary hurled after him. Stopping at a nearby drug store, he purchased several small frames and a bouquet of flowers. He sniffed the flowers absently as he thought of exactly which pictures he would place in the frames.
Silently, Sesshomaru boarded a train and stood in the empty space in the back, though for some reason, wherever he stood or sat on a train, there was always an empty space--even if the train was rather crowded. This thought pleased him and he grinned, causing several of the closer passengers to scoot even further from him. Though they couldn't put a finger on it, there was something unnerving about that man's smile, like seeing it only meant something bad was about to happen.
At a small town nearly an hour from where he had boarded in Tokyo, he finally exited the train to a chorus of relieved sighs. Allowing himself another feral grin, Sesshomaru walked from the platform and ascended to the station. The place was nearly empty as the train was on its last rounds for the night. No matter, he could always fly home. Sesshomaru walked at his steady, unhurried pace out of the town and toward the beginnings of a large wooded area.
The moon had already progressed well across the sky by the time the demon lord stopped. He stood in a small clearing ringed by lushly verdant trees that rustled faintly in the breeze. No one would be here. He had warded this sacred place with the strongest wards known to both youkai and humans to prevent any intrusion, but he still took a precautionary sniff of the air. Old habits died hard.
Satisfied that he was alone, Sesshomaru deactivated the charm. His empty hand strayed up to stroke the large fur that appeared over his shoulder. He stared down at what had brought him all this way--a simple grave, no magnificent shrine or elaborate inscription, just a small, gray stone that stood among the sea of wild flowers and lush grasses that lapped at the edges of the clearing. Two words were etched into its surface, as sharp and clear as the day they were chiseled: My Rin.
The demon lord bent to one knee, whispering his respects. He had considered no work of youkai or human to be sufficient, so he had chosen instead a living memorial of unmatched magnificence created by the gods themselves for her. Ever would these flowers bloom, filling the air with heavenly incense, and this clearing be free of evil taint. He added his bouquet to the pile of them at the base of the stone. The enchantment of the clearing did not permit them to wither.
Sesshomaru traced her name with his fingers. He allowed his emotionless mask to slip, and had anyone seen him, they would not have recognized the infamously heartless demon. His head was bowed and the moonlight created a soft halo as it played off the white of his hair. Large tears streaked down his cheeks and his face was twisted with an anguish that came from the soul of one who has known more loss than is just.
Her face had faded over time, but those pictures had brought it back into sharp focus in his mind along with many memories. He could recall her youthful antics, her endless cheer and unwavering devotion, unfortunately that had also brought back the pain of her death with a renewed vigor that even he was unprepared for.
He had taken her from death once, yet he in the end had been unable to defeat her mortal curse. It was the first time he had known true fear, and the only time he had been powerless to do anything. There had been no enemy to attack; she was simply there and the next moment gone, beyond even the aide of Tenseiga.
Rin had become a budding young girl, caught in that awkward moment between childhood and being a woman, a mere twelve years on this earth, and no more than a blink in the life of a youkai. She had been her cheerful self all morning, humming as she followed him with Ah Un's reins trailing loosely from her fist and "Kagome" tucked in the crook of her arm.
The next moment she cried out in pain. Sesshomaru turned and had scanned the area for threats with his sense immediately. Finding nothing, he was at her side in a flash of white. Her hands gripped her head and she was on her knees.
"Rin?" he asked as the first flutter of fear stirred in his chest. He pushed it back. She glanced about wildly, then her eyes rolled back in her head and she fell unconscious. Sesshomaru caught her before she hit and lifted her in his arm. He tried to ignore the growing pressure of fear building within him. Rin would be fine. He was Sesshomaru, Lord of the Western Lands, and nobody took what was his. He would find who was harming his Rin and destroy them. But first he need to find a safe place for her to rest.
"M'lord, what has happed to Rin? Was she attacked? I didn't sense any youkai, though," Jaken had questioned once he had finally noticed the situation.
Sesshomaru ignored him, this time not on purpose. He sniffed the air until he found his brother's scent and transformed into his ball of light to get there faster. As soon as he arrived, Inuyasha reacted, but a quick "sit" from the miko halted him. She ran over, concerned for the little girl. About that time, Rin woke up and tried to speak, but her words were slurred and she seemed to be very sleepy and dizzy, and for some reason the right side of her body did not move.
Sesshomaru's heart lurched. Something was wrong, terribly wrong with Rin. Not even when she was exhausted did she have such trouble forming her words. He could hear her labored breathing and the heavy note of pain that laced her usually cheerful voice. Her moans cut him to the core, and he struggled to decipher her fragmented sentences.
"Please, make it go away. It feels like a horde of youkai is battling inside my head," she finally whispered. Glazed, unfocused brown eyes opened and peered up at him. Terror now clawed at Sesshomaru and he extended her to them. Never had he felt so helpless. Here he was practically begging a human for aide.
The miko Kagome said nothing, but leaned over her checking her with her physical senses as well as miko ones. Sesshomaru studied Kagome's face with earnestness, willing her to heal his Rin.
Her face paled and Kagome stepped back. Her hands and voice shaking as tears filled her eyes. "I'm sorry, Sesshomaru. There is nothing..."
"Unacceptable!" he roared, his eyes flashing red for a moment. He ignored his brother who had edged himself between Sesshomaru and Kagome. "Take her through your well, miko. Your healers can save her. The medicine for humans is more advanced there."
He squeezed Rin to his chest while his claws ran through her hair in a form of comfort.
"It's too late, Sesshomaru, she's gone," Kagome sobbed as she threw herself against Inuyasha.
Sesshomaru started and glanced down at Rin. Her heartbeat had failed and her chest no longer rose and fell with breath. One instant she was there and the next she was gone. How had he not noticed? He kept his face calm. This was no problem, for he wielded Tenseiga. Laying her on the ground, Sesshomaru drew his Tenseiga and waited for the demons to appear. Nothing. He slashed at her anyway. But her heart did not resume its beat, nor did her sweet eyes flutter open to look at him. He was stone, no hint of the torment writhing inside him apparent. He never did notice when his brother and Kagome left.
That day, the mighty Lord of the Western Lands was defeated.
Sesshomaru wept over the small grave, the hole he had dug with his own claws, the place he had buried his most precious treasure. The years had shown him that this was not his doing. She had succumbed to an illness, something even Tenseiga could not reverse, but his heart never quite let go of the guilt. He had been her guardian and he had failed her. Where he had failed her, he was determined to save others. Because of Rin, he had opened the orphanage. Because of her brief, but sweet life, so many others had been saved, Sesshomaru himself the first of them.
He dried his tears and composed himself. He whispered his farewells to Rin and began to pace slowly, yet steadily back into the wood. The wind stirred and brought the sweet scent of the flowers to him. Then suddenly it began to blow a little harder and the scent of the flowers grew stronger and the sound of innocent laughter reached his ears. Sesshomaru did not turn to look back or even slow his pace, but a genuine smile curled his lips and his golden eyes glowed with a sudden peace.
"Such a foolish thing," he whispered to the winds. "I will never forget you."
A few days later, the secretary walked into "Mr. Daiginkeiko's" office to deliver the day's mail, but found it empty. This was nothing unusual for her rather eccentric boss: he did after all have a sword and an old doll on display in his office. She wandered over to the desk to lay them on top when she noticed a new frame sitting on his desk.
Both panels displayed an adorable little girl dressed in an old-fashioned kimono with a crown of flowers on her head. The secretary started and lifted it to inspect it more closely. She assumed it must be one of the orphans from his home because he was not married and had no family, that she was aware of in any case. She was about to set the frame back down when another photo, hidden behind the one of the girl, fell out and landed on the floor. She bent to retrieve it, and gasped at what she saw.
It was the same little girl braiding flowers into the hair of none other than Daiginkeiko Reizo. Well, he resembled her boss in any case. He was wearing a costume and a strange fur over one shoulder, and his hair was white, not black (probably a wig). His face had strange make-up, but the icy expression was the same familiar one of her boss. Whoever she was, this girl was important to Mr. Daiginkeiko. The secretary hurriedly returned the picture to its hiding place and put the frame where it had been. He may be kind to children, but she wasn't willing to risk her job to find out if he was just as forgiving to nosy secretaries.
A/N: Thank you for reading and I hope you were not disappointed. It was a long epilogue, but it had a lot to say. This may be the end of this story, but I do have ideas for other stories either linked or continuing from this one, so if you are interested, keep an eye out. I will NOT, however, be doing any more until after May 13 when I graduate and finally get that bachelor's degree. School and family are the two main reasons it took so long to get this posted.