Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha; this is only a fanfic.
Authors Notes: Hello everyone! The third installment of "The End" has finally posted and I apologize for the delay.
I must forewarn you… this is a Kohaku/Rin love story. There will be moments of angst, but it will not dominate this fic. I am focusing on romance, adventure, humor and angst (not necessarily in that order). I am trying to portray a Kohaku who is struggling to find normality in his new life. With his family, students, residents and Rin, it will hardly be that.
Summary: Seven years later, Naraku is dead and Kohaku has his life back. The once troubled boy is now a man and head of the slayers village. Continuing his father's teachings, the taijiya is highly respected amongst his students and peers. However, there is still a price to pay for atonement. Can Rin, a childhood acquaintance, now a beautiful young woman, help him settle his debt?
Chapter 1: The Taijiya Village
He was late again.
Rushing around, Kohaku grabbed his clothes and headed to the bath. It was the same every morning and his students teased him unmercifully about it. Although late, passing a window, the taijiya took a moment to enjoy the view.
Elevated high above the valley, the slayers village was the place he and his sister, Sango, had grown up. This was where their father had taught them the skills of demon extermination; a family tradition handed down many generations.
Kohaku never thought he would be the one to continue these teachings, he had assumed it would be his sister, Sango, as she had always been the stronger of the two. Kohaku was shy, timid and considered a mediocre fighter when compared to his sister. It was ironic that fate had chosen him.
For seven years, he had thought Sango… his 'Ane-ue' dead. Therefore, he was surprised when Miroku had found her living in a small village in the Northern Province.
Now reunited with his sister, he discovered that Sango had borne the monk two children in her absence. Miroku had discovered that he was a father and Kohaku, an uncle of twin siblings.
Suiren and Shun'ei were a handful and two of his top students. The duo was infamous at getting into trouble; actually, it was Suiren. Her brother, Shun'ei, was always on hand to bail her out. The two, teamed with Shippo's antics, made the slayers village livelier.
His niece and nephew did not reside at the village. Kirara transported the twins daily from their home near Mushin's temple. Their parents visited frequently as Sango oversaw the advanced class and Miroku maintained the village finances. The two stayed when new students arrived to help them settle.
After Naraku's defeat and Sango's supposed death, he and Miroku had begun to rebuild his ancestral home. It had been a lengthy process, but Kohaku was proud of the results. The fortress now housed more than twenty families with numerous students, both child and adult.
With the monk's guidance, he had learned the necessary skills to revive and operate the slayers village. Kohaku wondered why he bothered to continue to call it that. After all, he now housed and trained a few full-bloodied youkai and half demons at the fortress.
Since Naraku's demise, there seemed to be a change amongst the human/demon relations. Maybe it was a truce of some sort. The humans tolerated demons, especially half demons, more. Shippo, a full-fledged youkai, was highly respected in their community and Inuyasha was a constant visitor. Although with Kagome in the last stages of pregnancy, the hanyou did not come as often as he used to.
Turning away from the window, the taijiya hastened to finish dressing and headed outside to his morning class.
The courtyard was full and his senior student, Yoichi, had begun the warm-up exercises. All eyes turned to him and Kohaku gave a sheepish smile before addressing his students.
"Good morning, everyone. Sorry I'm late."
The group of children did not lift an eyebrow. This was a daily occurrence for their Kohaku-sensei. He was the best teacher and when he arrived, he really gave them a workout. As long as he showed up, they did not care that he was late.
The children did not know about the lingering nightmares that kept their sensei awake at night. They were unaware of the horror-filled dreams that took control of him; so overwhelming, he usually fell into a restless sleep just before sunrise.
Kohaku still dreamed of him… of Naraku. He thought the dreams would cease now that his sister had returned, but they had not. The taijiya could still see that scorching, crimson gaze; staring, mocking and laughing at him.
During the day, he barely gave the vanquished hanyou a thought. However, the nights and his slumber, the demon maintained control. In his dreams, Kohaku heard the screams and pleas of the people he had murdered as Naraku's puppet. He relived and could smell the blood from the carnage and chaos he had left in his wake.
Looking out over his class, the taijiya wondered. How would these children feel about him if they knew of his past… if they knew their sensei was a murderer? How would they feel about him then?
Standing with his arms folded across chest, Kohaku admonished himself. Miroku would not be pleased to hear him think that way. It seemed it was time for another of his brother-in-laws famous, or rather infamous, lectures. The monk would not tolerate such negativity.
Looking up at the sky, he noticed it was almost time for the twins to arrive. His niece and nephew came every morning for five consecutive days; two days they stayed home for spiritual training with their father and Mushin. It was also their time to help their mother with chores and relax as a normal family.
Both children were progressing very well. Suiren was beginning to master her emotions and Shun'ei was learning to release his. He had reversed their instinctive roles by having Suiren train alone while Shun'ei worked with a group. Strengthening their weaknesses was part of their training regime.
Walking through the throng of students, Kohaku thought of his father. The headmaster had not lived to see the destruction of his home. Would he be proud of the reconstructed village, would he be proud of him?
Sango had assured him that their father would have been more than pleased that they had continued tradition and his teachings. However, no matter how hard Kohaku worked, it would never compensate for taking his father's life and that of his comrades.
That memory was dreadful and the worst of the reoccurring nightmares the taijiya suffered. Now that his memory had returned, he had replayed that moment repeatedly in his dreams. Jerking awake, he shivered from the memory of the horrific scene and could not get back to sleep.
Shippo, Miroku, and Shun'ei were the only ones who knew of his malaise. Kohaku had asked the monk not to mention it to Sango; he did not want to worry her.
The kitsune usually prepared a potion to help him sleep, but Kohaku tried not to rely on that.
Miroku's presence was enough. The nightmares did not occur when the monk was around; however, his brother-in-law had his own family and responsibilities. Although he knew the monk would not mind, the taijiya could not continue to depend on him.
One night, Shun'ei had simply appeared at his bedside. The child appeared in a trance as a strange aura transmitted from his body. Kohaku felt the boy kneel and touch his forehead as the aura enveloped and calmed him into a gentle slumber. Kohaku awoke the next morning feeling refreshed and thanked his nephew. The child seemed oblivious, but bowed and acknowledged his thanks.
In his dreams, the taijiya often saw Kagura's face - the wind sorceress, an incarnation of Naraku's. The female demon wanted nothing, but to retrieve her heart and her freedom. She carried out the self-proclaimed hayou's orders under duress and against her will. She despised her creator and aided in foiling his plans whenever possible. However, this eventually led to her demise at his hands.
Kohaku also recalled Kanna - the stoic, soft-spoken demon who carried out his commands with detailed precision. Even her loyalty was not enough; Naraku would have killed her too, had she not destroyed herself.
Nothing had stood in his way… nothing, but as Kikyou had said, that was part of his downfall. Naraku had angered the demon realm with his brutal use of the youkai minions. They had finally decided against aiding him in his insurgence. With the humans as well as the demons against him, it was only a matter of time.
The day that Naraku was destroyed, Kohaku remembered the sky was full of youkai as they waited for the outcome of the final battle. They neither assisted the hanyou nor attacked the humans. As Naraku's body disintegrated, they simply turned and left.
Following the battle, Kikyou had allowed him and Miroku time to find Sango's body for burial. After three days, she came for him. However, it was not to retrieve the Shikon shard as he had thought. Instead, the priestess had purified and shattered the shard in his back; the remnants now flowed through him like the blood in his veins.
He was allowed to live, but with a warning from the priestess. Until a new keeper was assigned to the jewel, his life would still be in jeopardy. That was the last time he had seen Kikyou until a few months ago. Kohaku closed his eyes and recalled that time…
After practice one evening, the taijiya returned to the village and Shippo informed him that he had visitors waiting. Approaching the main house, the kitsune had cautioned Kohaku that a magic was present. The kitsune remained outside as the taijiya entered his abode to find four cloaked figures awaiting him.
Shippo countered the magic to reveal the identities of two women and two children. Kohaku's heart jumped in his chest as he recognized Kikyou. He stood and embraced her and then pulled back blushing. He asked many questions to which she gave no answers. Looking past the priestess, his eyes fell upon another person he had wondered about… Rin.
He stood staring in awe at the young woman. He knew she would be a beauty one day and he was right. Her dark tousled hair flowed down her back and her russet gaze shivered with intensity. However, the Rin he remembered was much livelier and her eyes were always merry. Approaching cautiously, he whispered, "Rin?"
Suddenly a bright smile lit her face. "Kohaku!" She flew into his arms; the force of her projectile had him bracing his feet to keep from falling to the floor. Hugging him tight, he heard her whisper, "You remembered."
His arms returned her embrace. As if he could forget the child, he had traveled with some years ago.
"Little Rin." Kohaku pulled away to look her over. "You've grown," he said and smiled down at her.
"I have," she told him and stood tall to prove it. Her head just reached his chest, he noticed. "You have grown too, Kohaku," Rin continued. "I never imagined you would be that tall, but I knew you would be handsome. So… this is your home!"
This was the Rin he knew, thought Kohaku as he listened to her chatter. He did not mind, he found it quite pleasing. He watched her move around the room, looking at everything. Such an inquisitive… child, but no… she was no longer a child. Her curvaceous form had Kohaku pulling at the collar of his uniform. He seemed mesmerized watching her move about. Suddenly, Kikyou spoke and he remembered they were not alone.
"Such a sweet reunion." The priestess seemed amused. "If I may now have your full attention, Kohaku," she said. "I am here because I have a request."
"Anything, Kikyou-sama; whatever you ask," Kohaku said, anxious to repay the woman who had saved his life.
The priestess raised a delicate brow. "Are you sure? You do not yet know what it is I require," she said reasonably.
"I trust you, Kikyou-sama."
It was that simple. He watched her lips tilt in a half smile, before turning to the two children still covered in their cloaks. Walking to the taller figure, she pulled back the hood and revealed a boy with dark hair and eyes. He was probably about the same age as Suiren and Shun'ei.
"This is Juun," Kikyou said. "He is my foster son; I took him into my care after his grandmother passed away." With her hand on the boy's shoulder, Kikyou said, "Juun this is my friend, Kohaku-san."
The boy bowed gracefully, as did Kohaku. However, on closer inspection he realized the boy was blind. His dark eyes never shifted or moved about, but stayed focused in the area of Kohaku's voice.
Moving to the next figure, Kikyou pulled back the hood to reveal another boy. This child's hair was long with silver strands that escaped the confines of his ponytail. The boy's head lifted and Kohaku looked into a pair of bronze orbs.
Kohaku had an eerie feeling as he looked at the boy; the child was definitely a youkai. Suddenly, his eyes widened in shock. He knew whose child this was, even before the boy reached up to tuck a strand of hair behind his pointed ear. The crescent moon on the back of his hand was proof enough.
"This is Awasumaru," Kikyou said watching Kohaku closely. "He is my birth son."
"Your… uh…" Kohaku was speechless. He would never have guessed the child to be a hanyou.
"Awasumaru… this is my friend, Kohaku-san."
The boy walked forward, gave a stiff bow and Kohaku responded.
"Well… ah…" Kohaku began a bit baffled. "This is a surprise." He wanted to ask Kikyou how she had come have children and with Sesshomaru no less, but decided it was a most indelicate question. Instead, he opted for the reason for her visit.
He felt Rin sidle next to him and take his hand. It seemed the most natural thing to close his large hand around her smaller one. Looking down at the top of her head, she looked up and gave a reassuring smile.
With her head tilted to the side, eyes closed and her face scrunched. She looked like the old Rin, his playmate. Forcing his eyes away from her, he turned back to Kikyou.
"How… how can I be of assistance, Kikyou-sama?"
"I would like you to take them as your students. I would like you to train my sons."
That had floored him. Kohaku's eyes strayed to the two young boys standing quietly. He had never trained anyone with an impairment before, and his brow furrowed as he looked at the one called Juun.
Switching his gaze to Sesshomaru's son, he wondered why he needed to train a boy whose father's skills were possibly unrivaled. Although, it was a strange, he knew he would not deny Kikyou her request.
"Why not test them, Kohaku-kun?" Rin said. "I assure they are not novices, they are actually quite good."
He turned, hearing the endearment fall from Rin's lips and decided he could not deny her anything either.
"All right," said Kohaku. "Come with me."
After stopping at the armory to allow the children to choose a weapon, Kohaku led them to a practice field outside of the village. The child, Juun, drew a straight staff and Awasumaru, a sword. That came as no surprise, until the boy went back for another.
Standing across the field from Juun, Kohaku held his staff ready. The boy had also fallen into a battle stance, but he had reservations about attacking a blind opponent.
"It's all right, Kohaku, attack him," Kikyou said from the sidelines. When he hesitated, she reminded him. "You did say that you trusted me."
Kohaku rushed the boy. The sooner he got this over with, the better. Swinging the staff, the taijiya aimed for the boy's arm without putting too much power into it. He never saw the boy move. He was so intent on cushioning his attack, Kohaku barley dodged the boy's strike aimed for his midsection.
Twirling to the side, the taijiya then flipped backwards putting distance between them. That was some move, he thought to himself. Smiling, Kohaku crouched low and charged again.
Juun's movements were smooth and fluid as they sparred. It took Kohaku a moment to realize the boy could hear and sense his movements, but it was also something else. This was exciting; this child could definitely become an asset to his class and he looked forward to training him.
Deciding to end this, Kohaku took the staff in one hand and twirled it overhead. He advanced on the boy allowing him to key into the constant movement of the staff. With Juun focused entirely on the sound of the whirling staff, Kohaku jumped up and released it, letting it spin on its own.
Juun anticipated and followed through to block the taijiya's feigned attack. However, Kohaku appeared from behind and caught the boy in the air. Closing his arms around the boy's waist, they both landed in the field.
"You may have lost your sight, young Juun, but your other senses are well honed," Kohaku informed the boy as he set him firmly on the ground. "I would be honored to have you as my student."
"Thank you, sensei," the boy responded, bowed and then followed Kohaku's footsteps back to Kikyou and Rin.
Next was Awasumaru. The boy did not take up a stance, but stood relaxed with both swords in one hand. The boy exuded confidence, but what was one to expect from a child of Sesshomaru and Kikyou.
Instead of a sword, Kohaku decided to use the 'kusarigama'. The two circled each other warily and then suddenly, with lightening speed, the boy attacked. As the boy was a half demon, the taijiya anticipated his swiftness.
Their blades clashed as Kohaku blocked with his weapon. Pushing Awasumaru back, he watched the boy somersault backwards distancing himself to regroup. Separating the swords, the boy clutched them in both hands and attacked again.
The ringing sound of metal rang in the air as they sparred. Kohaku saw that Awasumaru was ambidextrous. The strength of his sword arms was evenly matched and he displayed impressive fencing skills for one so young.
He noticed the boy had a loose grip on his sword when welding it and Kohaku keyed into his movements. He noticed Awasumaru only tightened his grip when he was ready to strike. He waited until the boy made another pass.
Awasumaru lifted his arm overhead to strike and felt the sword knocked from his hand. Before he could follow through with the other sword, the chain from Kohaku's weapon snatched it away.
The boy was expressionless as he stared at his empty hands. Having been disarmed, Kohaku waited for the boy's reaction. His father was a proud youkai, his uncle a hot head and his mother unpredictable. What was he to expect?
"Haha-ue!" The boy turned and yelled across the field to Kikyou. "Did you see that?"
Kikyou simply nodded and Rin burst out laughing. Turning back to Kohaku, the boy surprised him with a wide grin and his bronze eyes filled with mirth. "Gee, sensei, that was great. It's going to be fun training with you."
Shock held Kohaku still… he had not expected that sort of response. Returning Awasumaru's smile, the taijiya relaxed.
The group returned to the main house, Kikyou and Kohaku made the arrangements. The boys would start at the beginning of the new season. They had to stay at the village seven days for initiation and then they would travel back to the village every morning for class just as Suiren and Shun'ei did.
Kikyou was not forthcoming about her relationship with Sesshomaru, equally so about her son's birth or how she had regained her life. Respecting her privacy, Kohaku did not inquire further. As they prepared to leave, Rin pulled Kohaku aside to speak with him alone.
"When the boys return, Kohaku-kun; may I accompany them?"
Speechless, the taijiya could only stare into her rich brown eyes. When he finally found his tongue, he blushed becomingly. "Ah… I don't know, Rin-chan." He scratched the back of his head.
The smile left her eyes and Kohaku was immediately contrite. "I'm sorry, Rin-chan. It's not that I…." he paused. "It's just… well… propriety and all."
"Oh… is that all," Rin's eyes were shining again. "I'm not worried about that. I trust you, Kohaku-kun."
The taijiya was not sure he trusted himself, but he was pleased Rin felt that way and he would give her no reason to think otherwise. He would enjoy spending time with his childhood playmate. Why not let her stay, he thought. They could renew their friendship.
"How about this," Kohaku came up with a plan. "I could ask one of the families if you could reside with them for the time you are here."
"Splendid!" Rin clapped happily. "I knew you would work it out, Kohaku-kun. I can't wait!" She was ecstatic; she pushed up on her toes and kissed him soundly on the cheek. "Ja ne!" she shouted, ran down the stairs and joined Kikyou and the boys in the courtyard.
Yoichi announcing the end of the morning exercises snapped Kohaku back to the present. With a nod, the boy handed the class over to Kohaku.
"All right everyone!" he shouted to the students. "Grab a partner and we'll get started!"
As he walked the children through the sparring routines, Kohaku thought, in three days Awasumaru and Juun would join his class. He had not mentioned this to Suiren and Shun'ei yet, only Yoichi and the other head teachers knew. He did not foresee any problems, but he was prepared.
Another appealing thought ran through his mind as monitored the students. In three days he would see her… he would see Rin again.
To be continued…