Author's Notes: Here is the final part to "Captive Butterfly." I thank you for your patience with how long it has taken, and you have the gratitude from the bottom of my heart for reading this story. Thank you to everyone who has read it from the beginning, to those who joined us along the way, and to all who read it after its completion. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it. Until We Meet Again!
Epilogue: Duty, Time & Angels
"Hi. It's me again. I'm sorry it has taken so long for me to sit down and have a proper chat with all of you. A lot has happened in the last seven months, and it's been an adventure trying to keep up. Where do I even start…? At the beginning I suppose, right?
"After that night…it was a struggle. We buried those who had passed on, as we tried to help those who had survived. All of us came together, male and female, and agreed upon rebuilding on the other side of Mirror Lake. We wanted to be close enough to never forget, but far enough to move on.
"All the previous rules from the former village have been abandoned, and we have created a new system in its place. One of the first things that we decided upon was to be rid of the band system for good. In other words our generation will be the last to wear the 'circles of separation' as Eriol has so eloquently put it. And of course, all the males are on equal status with us now. In fact, Naoko made sure to burn away the old history and re-write it anew, and as far as I know she's still working on it.
"Nakuru has set up an orphanage of a sort and looks after all the children who didn't have a parent survive the revolution. All of us pitch in when we can, but she seems to be managing just fine. And somehow, Kero and Suppi managed to escape all the chaos and help keep track of the children too. Sometimes I swear they're more intelligent than any of us!
"Oh! And you'll never guess what happened to Yoru, or knowing how all of you were, you probably already knew, but…she has been reunited with her partner Taro. Which meant that Minoru and Ryou were ecstatic to be with their mother again. They hardly ever leave her side now. But after such a long separation, who can blame them?
"Kaho and Touya are together again too, and they've been practically inseparable. We were all afraid that Ame would feel awkward around Touya, but it was as if he'd never missed a day of her life. She recognized who he was before we even had a chance to re-introduce them. It also seems that Kaho may be pregnant again; they say that if it's a girl they're going to name her Aya.
"Chiharu has become an excellent cook and gardener; she's the one everyone runs to with questions on either of them. Takashi captivates the children with his wild stories, most of which Chiharu is quick to straighten out before things get too carried away. Their daughter, Keiko, is tottering around now, clinging to her mother's skirts and always covered in dirt from playing in the gardens.
"Naoko is still our historian, and has been doing a lot better lately. As you know, Kumori had been severely ill during that epidemic that raced through the encampment that year. Well, he never fully recovered, and the flu he caught over the last winter sapped the rest of his strength from him. It was really hard for Naoko for a long time, but after her daughter, Amaya, was born she was kept too busy to think for a while. She's held together with a lot of poise and dignity; all of you would be so proud of her.
"Rika, Terada, and Ruri are doing just fine. They've set up a new school of their own to educate both boys and girls when they come of an appropriate age.
"Tomoyo has become the Healer for the entire village with Eriol right by her side. He's caught on to everything rather quickly, and the two seem ready to prepare Kisho to follow in their footsteps. He's already trying to get into everything! And of course Tomoyo still finds time to design increasingly elaborate outfits for everyone. Somehow I don't think that will ever change...
"Meiling and Rae have set-up a training center for everyone so that they know how to defend themselves should the need ever arise. Both our village and the Li clan's style are taught. And of course they still argue constantly, but it seems to be an odd way of showing how much they care about each other. Although, if you tease them too much they both turn as red as a cherry, and take out their embarrassment on the closest available object or person. We've learned to be quick on our feet.
"As for Syaoran and I well…after that night we helped to organize things again, and as a result we were elected the co-leaders of our new village, by the council that was quickly set-up and put into place. We have also visited the old Li clan village with Meiling, and helped to lay the rest in peace. That was a hard day for all of us. We don't believe that anyone else besides Syaoran and Meiling truly survived..."
A sudden gurgling noise filled in the hushed silence. Sakura turned, smiling, and scooped up a bundle from the basket lying in the grass next to her. She folded down a corner of the blanket to reveal the vivid amber eyes and honey-colored hair of a nearly three month-old baby. As she cradled the little one in her arms she turned back toward the gravestones in front of her.
"This is our daughter Kohana. She wasn't due until mid-summer, right around now actually, but thanks to her brother, Eishi," she continued as she lifted a blanket from the other bundle still tucked into the basket to see the bright emerald eyes and chocolate brown hair of her son peering back at her as a smile reached across his face to mirror her own. "They ended up coming much earlier than we had expected. They gave us quite a scare."
"As did you," a familiar voice answered from behind her as arms wrapped around her shoulders.
"I was just fine Syaoran," Sakura answered back with a knowing and content smile as she soaked in the warmth of his presence. Aware that, even after all of this time, he could still make her heart race with just a simple touch.
He kissed the top of her head. "It's time to go. Meiling and Rae are waiting to start the ceremony."
"Alright, just give me a few more minutes." Sakura turned her full attention back to the burial-resting place in front of her as Syaoran patiently took a seat next to her.
"It looks like I need to leave now before Meiling stirs herself into a panic." She smirked. "Today is the first full binding ceremony, the one called 'marriage,' by Syaoran's and Meiling's clan. All of us since that day, that have wished to, went through an informal ceremony, but this will be the first time we do it the proper way. Wish them luck! I'll be sure to visit again soon when things have settled down a bit more… We love and miss you all so much." Sakura felt her heart squeeze painfully when she looked specifically at her parent's resting spot. Syaoran wrapped his arms around her again and held her tightly, keeping her together, and she leaned into his embrace for a few moments as she collected herself. At the same moment Kohana began to squirm in her arms as she tried to reach out for her mother, as if she were sensing her mother's distress. Sakura kissed her daughter's forehead lovingly and tenderly told her, "I'm alright. Don't you start to worry too," before beginning the motions to stand up.
Syaoran released his hold on her and was immediately on his feet as he reached down to scoop Kohana from her arms. He held his daughter in the crook of one arm while he reached out with his free hand to help Sakura to her feet. Once she was stable she bent back down to grasp the basket still lying on the grass by its handle. Immediately Eishi began trying to reach for her. Sakura smiled gently and eased him from his straw container and held him against her, Syaoran claiming the empty basket from her when she was done.
She took one last look at the peaceful area before her and whispered, "I'll be back soon. I promise," before turning around and following a patiently waiting Syaoran back across the now-familiar path to their village, their daughter in his arms, and their son in hers.
As they walked away, a pure white butterfly fluttered across the grass in the light breeze that had begun to blow softly. Ever so gently it balanced on the foremost gravestones, and remained there until the new family was gone from sight into the surrounding forest before taking off through the sunlight and making its way up into the clear blue sky and out of sight, leaving not even a whisper behind.
Footnote: For any curious bees out there who are interested in the translation of the kids' names:
(Touya & Kaho) Ame: rain
(Rika & Terada) Ruri: lapis lazuli; bright blue; azure
(Tomoyo & Eriol) Kisho: rare; very precious
(Naoko & Kumori) Amaya: night rain
(Chiharu & Takashi) Keiko: adored one
(Sakura & Syaoran) Kohana: little flower & Eishi: noble figure