1865: Kyoto, Katsura Inn
Kagome woke slowly, drifting up from sleep. The warm weight of a tail was draped across her chest, keeping her comfortable. Kagome smiled, and shifted slightly, arms snaking around the tall figure next to her, still sleeping. The covers were twisted; she could see the pale skin below his neck.
Kagome smiled. Sometimes it amazed her to think of how lucky she was, all through her long life. The fates had been harsh at times, but in the end, they had always smiled...
They were together, the two of them, and they had a very good life. That was all she really wanted, in the end. After all the twisted roads to get there, too...
Kagome paused. That had been years ago, now. But she still remembered it so clearly...
She remembered when they had left for the lands of the Dutch, so very long ago. The ship ride had been pleasant, certainly...but it had given them opportunities to talk, to share, to simply be together. Even with the kitsune that Tosa had sent, and the other ambassadors, they had found time alone. It had been the right way to go, to learn how to save the Japanese youkai. The gates had definitely been the correct choice – her premonition had been right.
It had also been a very good trip on a personal level...
Shippo had thoroughly enjoyed himself too, distracting the kitsune, having demanded to learn all sorts of kitsune tricks, which Ryakki had been only too happy to share. (sometimes, that hadn't been a good thing!) He had been all over the new information, playing, tricking sailors, learning things Kagome couldn't teach him. As long as he had the necklace she had given him before they left, he had been fine. Even the one time he'd forgotten it, he'd been good enough at illusion to simply scare the sailor into thinking he was a ghost.
It wasn't that he hadn't been able to make a human illusion then – it was simply that he couldn't have maintained it long enough. Sesshoumaru, of course, had never had that ability, so she'd helped him as well.
Kagome smiled. Shippo was all grown up now – and he was pretty successful, too. Tanuma had taken him under his wing in the south, and Shippo was having all kinds of fun in the game of information, the last time he'd sent her a letter. He would come to visit soon, he'd said...Kagome was, after all, his adoptive mother.
Delicately, she let her hand wander towards Sesshoumaru's sleeping face. He looked so peaceful, sleeping. There was something vulnerable about his closed eyes, the soft lids hiding the bright gold. The skin there was so very thin, and pale except for the bright magenta... He'd taken his necklace off the night before. He said falling asleep and waking up with it on was just too confusing. He had quite a collection of illusions, now that she'd given him...nearly one for every occasion.
Kagome didn't mind. Youkai were gone, a lot of them, and those that were left had grown accustomed to illusion. It did nothing to change who he was, just the surface. She did like being able to see him, though, the real him...
Kagome sat back slightly, resting her elbow on the sheets, holding her head in her hand, watching her lifemates chest slowly go up and down as he breathed.
That trip so long ago...Europe had been an eye opener, in more ways than one. While Tosa's emissaries, the Europeans (and occasionally Sesshoumaru) made pretty speeches at one another, she had learned far, far more than gateways...
It had to be attitude. Even now, Europe and Japan had different ways of doing things, humans and youkai both. They weren't quite as worried over the humans keeping their distance as Japan was. There were a fair number of bonds in Europe, like her own. People had been...far more accepting there. She and Sesshoumaru had started that trip in separate rooms, with Shippo next door to her...even if she'd taken to visiting sometimes, to cuddle. Still separate though.
She could still remember Shippo's mock outrage when he had found them kissing one day. 'Eww, gross! Cooties!'
By the end of the trip, Shippo was still in his old room, but somehow her and Sesshoumaru's rooms had grown into one. She had learned so much about Sesshoumaru then. She still continued to. He was her best friend...and more.
She remembered the elaborate parties, the time they had ridden with the hunt across the Scottish moor, in pursuit of rabbits, that time, not humans. Whatever the legends of the wild hunt said now, they were wrong, Kagome had found. Old days had been different game, but since the gates...things had changed among the sidhe. She remembered the different creatures, the same intricate court dealings that had been in Aizu, and the carefree sort of life that had been found there...
Slowly, a golden eye opened. Kagome watched, smiling. "Finally awake, lazy?"
The eyes was all the way open now, and sparkling mischievously. "Lazy, eh? Who's 'lazy'? It's barely even light out..." Sesshoumaru yawned.
That was true – it was still very early for most. But that didn't stop her. "You! Lazybones..." Kagome gave him a playful nudge, and Sesshoumaru caught her hand with his, smiling.
He gave her a fierce hug, and grinned, still looking mischievous. "Lazybones? Hah!" He laughed, low in his throat. "You know...there are benefits to being 'lazy,' at times." Kagome could feel the lightest brush of fingertips against her shoulder blades, down her spine.
"Blasphemy! You, supporting laziness?" She mock gasped in outrage. "Don't let other people hear that!" The blanket flew through the air, landing on Sesshoumaru, and Kagome flew after it, pretending to ambush him, laughing. Pillows fell to the ground, unheeded, as Kagome caught Sesshoumaru with a kiss.
...It was actually fairly late in the morning by the time they emerged for breakfast.
Over a late breakfast, Sesshoumaru passed her some of the days requests. A family wanted to cross the gate in Kyoto, apparently, and he'd arranged for that to be in the morning only – in a half hour they would be at the shrine, waiting. Kagome had long since blocked this day from her calender in the afternoon. Sending people across took only a moment, as did checking for mail left for her to get from the other side.
The gate in Kyoto was hers to watch, at the moment. She checked for mail according to the pre-approved schedule, three times a week, and sent anything in the way of a letter left with her through as well. Sometimes people, too, crossed when she went for mail. It was a bit like a bus, or an old time mail station...a very minimal fee to send a letter, and the cost went up a little bit if it was a large parcel. Nothing for people to cross while she checked for mail, of course. That had been deemed an 'essential service.'
Sometimes appointments were made, from either side for people to cross, like now, and those were always dealt with as soon as they could be. That cost a little extra because it wasn't at the scheduled time – the lords had spent a fair amount of time determining how the gates worked, and how to make a profit from it. (Choshu's idea – sometimes Kagome felt thing would be simpler if no one had any money) The gates were too important to be withheld to those too poor, or desperate, to find their way through, but you had to wait a few days...
She tended to check for mail at the same time as any extra appointments. Once a week, a major order would go through – packages, and things. Sesshoumaru helped her with those, lifting the heavier items. He also helped her to open the gate – most of it was her, but he helped to supply the necessary strength for maintaining the portal over a long period of time, as well as to add a little youki.
Kagome idly flipped through the worn book at her side, thinking. Breakfast was done; in a few minutes she should go open the shrine doors, both to the people who wished to pray, and to those crossing.
It had taken a long time, but she had actually organized the journal chronologically over the years, and had the loose papers bound.
"Funny, isn't it?"
"What is, Kagome?"
"Oh...everything. I was thinking about the trip to Europe, that first time, this morning. You remember, right?"
"Of course I do. You learned how to make a gate...and we found out a lot about the Empire." Sesshoumaru remembered the trip vividly – he'd rather enjoyed being, for the most part, free of obligations. The occasional court function, and studying a few times a week was quite relaxing compared to what his schedule usually was.
Which had been nice; it had left him time to send with Kagome. Very nice indeed...
"Yeah – they're a lot closer to humans there now, aren't they?"
"Not all of them – just the ones on the outside, and the gatekeepers. They're special. Just like ours..." Sesshoumaru smiled. Kagome was his special gatekeeper.
Kagome thought back to the first council after they had come back, and when everyone had been finally argued into acceptance of the gates. They'd spent so long hammering out a system...and exploring the newly discovered part of 'underhill' attached to Japan. It was possible to travel the underlands and get to the European Empire that way, but sometimes it was easiest to do that in the world above.
Underhill, so to speak, was now bustling. There were several towns, and a city near as large as old Aizu. Some were more conservative than others, and there were even some that were full of hanyou, and humans who also wished to go underground. It was large enough for all. Space behaved differently under there.
Aboveground...there was still a fair number of youkai. All of the lesser youkai had since perished or moved below, but a great many of the stronger, more humanoid youkai remained. A lot of kitsune had stayed above – it was more entertaining there, they said. Tosa and Satsuma had stayed too – Tosa had decided to go into business, last she heard. He was making a very tidy profit, to boot...
It had taken a little bit longer to convince the youkai council that humans would be needed in the equation, that they would have to have more than one gate...and to grant all the humans attached to the gates neutrality. It would hardly do to have them attacked by youkai!
She and Sesshoumaru looked after the gates – they had been put in charge. Over the years more miko, more priests and youkai, had done the same, followed her and Sesshoumaru's example and bonded, had agreed to help.
There were few enough of them, but enough for the job. It helped that some of them lived longer than normal, too. It was easier to train men and women who would stick around for a long time, enough that they could get really really good at what they did.
Normally, Kagome's gate was stationed in the Western capitol, close to Sesshoumaru's home. It was in a field, in a mound build around a dolmen, three rocks. Two posts and a lintel. It had been too romantic to resist, and she had liked the way the dolmen of Europe looked, like proper formal gateways...
She had switched with the Kyoto gatekeepers, Yaki and her Buddhist friend Arameki for the next few years. All because of this book...
Kagome closed the old journal, and smiled at Sesshoumaru. "I don't know about the other gatekeepers – but you're very special, Sesshoumaru." She winked, grinning.
"Now who's being silly?" Sesshoumaru gave her a hug. "Come on – lets get this done with so the afternoon is free."
He pulled out a necklace, and slipped it on, becoming nothing more than a guard for hire, to most. Kagome had spread many many necklaces among the youkai over the years, as had some of the other miko powerful enough to do so.
Kagome got up from the table, and together, they left to head towards the Buddhist shrine where the gate had been anchored. It had once been Arameki's – that was why he had chosen it as a gate location. Kagome was looking after it for him.
1865: Kyoto, Kamigamo Shrine, Nishimura House.
Kagome walked along the street, alone, leaving the shrine after the mornings work. Most people in Kyoto tended to walk in clusters, but she never had. Satsuma, true to her word, had trained her on her return from Europe, after giving her an exam...Kagome was always best with the bow, but she definitely had a mean roundhouse by now, among other things.
And in the worst case...she could always disappear. She hadn't ever needed to, but she could.
She thought back to the time they had returned from Europe; Kagome had been glad to come home, but some things that had happened that year still echoed, made her sad.
The well had closed while she had been gone, and no amount of forcing could open it...there was only a note left as explanation. "In time."
She missed her family, at times, but there was always hope in her heart that she might one day see them again. She knew when she had left for Europe, when she could return to visit them in 'her own time' (whatever that was now) and see them again...She tried to learn about the well in the meantime, curious as to why it had closed, and how it had worked in the first place...it had become a hobby, of sorts. One day...one day she might live to see it, if she was lucky, life to see her family again...
Ah – here she was.
Kagome slowly climbed the steps of the other shrine, swishing her red hakama restlessly, motions still carrying over the busy emotions of this morning. Working on the portal earlier had been hard – they had had to send through an entire extended family of forty two as it turned out, an entire small tribe of lesser kitsune that had decided they wanted to move to the under-lands, rather than bother with illusion all the time. A little more difficult - usually only a few people wanted through at once.
Some youkai, even now, wanted to leave. Fewer than at the time of the great migration (privately dubbed the 'year of the never ending headache' by Kagome – the portal sometimes gave her one when it was used that much...) but still, enough. They wanted to join relatives, or even wanted only to visit, could not hide, or disliked needing to hide. All sorts of reasons.
It wasn't that she resented them for it, really. Family was important, to youkai as well as humans. Hers was important work, one that needed a great deal of power and concentration, and she and Sesshoumaru did their part gladly. It was...just that she had hoped that today would go well. And that she would be operating on all cylinders, not just a third of them. Oh well – she'd managed before.
Sesshoumaru had decided to stay at home for the rest of today – they both had thought it was for the better. Kagome had, for once, worn a popper red miko uniform, while he did his part. After all – a traveling miko was not married, and he, currently disguised as a guard, or an invisible youkai...those did not need to come with her. He had, instead, lent her a bit of a boost against the days activities yet to come.
She was grateful to him for it - at least, Kagome thought, the slight tiredness should go away within the hour. For both of them. Youkai healing was something she had always appreciated.
They had learned, over the years, to use that link for many things. Kagome could even, at short distances and after much practice, send mental messages like a short range radio. Healing, power, feelings – it could be used to share a great many things. Occasionally that had been an embarrassment in the past, when they were both still learning – but by now it was normal, welcome. The day her mind ever became silent, was left alone, Kagome was sure she would feel more lonely than she had ever, ever been before. She had seen a youkai once, in Europe whose partner had died. The youkai had lost the will to live...he hadn't survived the unknown partner by much. She didn't think, if she ever lost Sesshoumaru, that she'd really want to live much either. But luckily for her, old age was far, far away, and there was little chance of an untimely death. She didn't think of it much.
Kagome resolved to make it up to Sesshoumaru tonight. She'd bring him something from the market, perhaps. She had been delighted when another Dutch trader named Klennard had finally, finally, reintroduced chocolate to Japan! In some ways, that made him her hero. Shippo had gone with her to the market and they had both bought crates of the stuff...!
Sesshoumaru had laughed at them both, but oh well. Kagome smiled widely as she thought of that, and of other things. My, she was in a reflective mood today...perhaps it was just that today was an important one.
Sesshoumaru had grown to like a few select 'human foods' as he insisted on calling them over the years. (Though he'd never admit it!) Maybe she'd get him marzipan, or raspberries. He loved those...all the sweet things of Europe had grown on him, when they had visited. The youkai there all had insatiable sweet tooths!
Kagome smiled, remembering the first time she had brought him things from the ships, remembering the day, spent with him mock grumbling, and her wandering carelessly though the market. It had been a good day, and a beautiful evening. Kagome remembered the many nights she had seen the moon shining on silver hair. It had been a fun day, and a wonderful night...
Slowly, Kagome mounted the steps of the shrine, a small smile in place. She had long ago read the journal from her 'present,' in its entirety, handed down from Meiji, seen it written where Amiritsu appeared, the woman who had helped Jinoue, and herself, so very much...
Kagome was here today to see her – and to thank her, if possible, in some small way. She had had her suspicions for a number of years now as to who it might be. But...she had wanted to make sure. The author of the journal - Jinoue – had met Amiritsu while running to put out a fire in the kitchen – she had, in fact, tripped over the visiting miko.
This had been admitted, rather bashfully, before moving onto a greatly detailed account of the new litter of kittens she'd helped nurse that same day. Kagome was grateful to note that there was a very specific date that this had occurred on.
Kagome scanned the buildings with her hand over her eyes. No one else was really in view. No possible Amiritsu's were running about the courtyard. And nothing appeared to be smoking, at least...not that she could see.
She took a second sweep of the buildings with her 'other sent of senses,' as she liked to call them. The people in the immediate vicinity seemed to be normal. No alarm, no sense of anything out of the ordinary. A bit of general worry from all the occupants over the state of Kyoto, but that was expected; nowhere in Japan could that worry be escaped. In 1852, the black ships had appeared, exactly as Kagome remembered from a long distant history class. Everything had changed, after, and if it hadn't yet, it would soon...
She'd started preparations for the coming revolution, herself...she'd have to try and do a few more things to prepare while she was at it in the next few months, or year. Networking, trying to remember where the most danger had been, brushing up on her own skills at hiding, and going to ground...she'd have to do it again soon. Only one more time to do that – she and Sesshoumaru had gone to ground before, they could again. Kagome had to admit, her skill with illusions was handy there. Walking the streets unseen was a very easy way to get herself and Sesshoumaru or anyone else out of town fast without a fight. And if it came to a fight, even with hitokiri, Sesshoumaru always won anyway – she wasn't worried.
Well...that was just the way of things, wasn't it? In the worse possible case, they could always nip over into the underground for a while. It wasn't a very good choice, because they wouldn't really be able to get in touch with the rest of the world, or help those on this side as well, but...at least the option was there, though she seriously doubted she'd need it, ever.
A lot had changed in her since she had helped Sesshoumaru to defeat Damia, and they had agreed to become the chief gatekeepers for the next 500 years. More had changed in the word around her, and within both her and Sesshoumaru. She had learned so much of her own power, from Kaede, from others after her. Sesshoumaru had learned with her, learned together about each other. Kagome might not have been very well trained even when she had met Sesshoumaru, but by now...she could do things she'd never thought she'd ever be able to do. Kaede had told her once she had near the power of Midoriko, and with more training, the same finesse of skill. Kagome was sure part of that was being overstated, but it was definitely true that she had had a few hundred odd more years to practice than normal...finesse was definitely in her repertoire now.
Kagome reflected on how much Sesshoumaru had opened up over the years – to her at least. He was still mostly the same surly, cold person to most of the rest of youkai kind, with few exceptions. About what could be expected, really. He wasn't as harsh, perhaps, but Kagome had never thought he would change, not even when they had finally managed to get both of their own feelings into the open.
She didn't want him to change, because she loved him for who he was.
Besides – seeing him snap at people when she knew he was only being that way to get them to work harder, not out of any particular meanness, was slightly entertaining...
She never would have guessed how good an actor he could be. Or that he didn't mind – actually enjoyed – the outings which required one or both of them to disguise themselves in some fashion. Little tiny quirks here and there – they made life interesting.
Kagome stopped scanning as a small flicker of more-than-usual-worry washed over one of the novices. She turned her attention towards it, letting her inner musings go. There would be plenty of time later. There was always time, if you made a space for it to come into your life.
She paid careful attention with her miko's senses as the person next to the flames panicked, and ran for water. Just like superman – she could see behind walls! Well, not really, but...walls were no barrier to sensing emotion...
A few minutes later, her distracted eyes picked up the plume of smoke, but mostly, she remained concentrated on her own view of 'inside.' There was no one else around, luckily, but she still would not stand by and see people hurt. Houses were easy enough to rebuild – people were harder, if they could be fixed at all. She'd have to watch, make sure the flame didn't spread...
In fact, she was concentrating so hard that she completely forgot to check behind her every so often.
Consequently, she was rather surprised to find that same, panicky novice miko behind her, having bowled both of them over without her noticing in time to move out of the panic-blinded girls way.
Kagome, after a second or so to catch her breath, looked over at the slightly plump, wide eyed girl stretched out in the dirt beside her, and then laughed softly. She might have known, all along...
"Anything I can help you with, miss...?"
"You can call me fire, er, I mean.. Jinoue. And there's a fire! You have to come help!" The girl was close to tears. Kagome closed her eyes, trying terribly hard not to laugh. She extended a hand, and hauled the girl to her feet, turning towards the fat plume of smoke.
Murphy. Or fate. Or some twisted sense of narrational humor.
"My name is...Amiritsu, I suppose. Now – what's this about a fire?"
2001: Outskirts of Tokyo, Sunset Shrine.
Mrs. Higurashi sighed as she watched her daughter disappear through the well, again. Europe...
She wondered when Kagome would be back this time. It seemed she hadn't been home for so long...and then she hadn't stayed very long at all. Sakura crossed her arms against the sudden chill. When would she come back? Even with airplanes and modern convenience, to travel that far was an event. They didn't really have the money for it, in their family, either.
Money – that reminded her. Chihero was coming by again in a week, in the evening. She'd forgotten it, with Kagome coming.
She glanced back at the well house, silent once more, as the wind picked up and she got her father back inside, out of the cold. The image of Kagome's cheery wave, and bright smile burned within her mind, and of the taller Sesshoumaru, hand's clasped tightly. She wondered...
She remembered Inuyasha, and how Kagome had once been rather attached to him. She had thought it was a nice thing for her daughter to be interested in someone a little more real, then, to be looking after Inuyasha. He'd needed it, poor boy...
She wondered what lay between her and Sesshoumaru. Whatever it was, she hoped Kagome would be happy. That was really the most important thing.
Sakura Higurashi opened the door a week later, and smiled. "Come in, Chihero..." The rain pounded on the outside of the building. Poor Chihero looked wet as a drowned rat...She paused, seeing a vague shape behind her guest, in the rain. "Oh! More guests! Do come in, its cold out there..."
And then Sakura Higurashi stopped, and got a good look at who it was.
"Mom!" Kagome gave her a fierce hug, eyes wet – or was it the rain? "I've come back...for good this time."
For good? Sakura Higurashi hugged Kagome just as tight, noticing little differences, more lines. This was not the same Kagome she had let go of last week...she was a lot older, now. How had that happened? Why was she back so soon...? What of Europe...? There was a great deal of explaining to do, she sensed.
But Kagome's eyes were the same, and her laugh.
And to Sakura, that was all that mattered.
Mwahahaha. Some things were plotted from the beginning – I wonder if some of you guessed. Probably did. I'm not that subtle. An open ending, perhaps, but those are always fun. Because stories don't end in real life – they just keep going.
I hope you've enjoyed this story as much as I've enjoyed writing it. This would be the last chapter of Unsung Silence. (Technically, the epilogue) It's come as far as I care to take it. I have no idea yet what else I'll write,(in terms of other stories, totally unrelated to this one. I will not be writing more of Unsung, or any sort of sequels, for a few of you who asked.) or if I will. There is a oneshot of Europe currently posted – I sincerely doubt there will be more, but feel free to look at the one if you like. (called 'Seals') University is quite a demand on my time, and I'm not particularly motivated at the moment to write anything besides perl. We'll see...
I'm still amazed at how many people have read this story...and then taken the time to leave me such lovely reviews. I appreciated them all, and I'm glad that some of you have stayed with the story from the beginning, infrequent updates aside. Thank you so much for reviewing, and leaving me feedback! Meant a lot.
I'm even more surprised that this story actually won a few things, but it did. For those of you who voted for Unsung Silence, and who put the story forward, thank you so much!