To those I couldn't reply to: (If you review this chapter, be sure to look on my profile page for a response)
erica: Believe me, I get a goofy smile on my face every time I see you reviewed. I'd love to know which direction you thought the story was going to take. You have peeked my curiosity. I didn't really think of any other way for it to go. So please, enlighten me. And here is your reminder: Never quote a Brittney song again. (lol) Feel free to ramble. I love reading what other people have to say. I also love responding to all of my readers. Just because you don't have an account, doesn't mean you shouldn't be thanked. Review any time to any of my stories. I'll be there. By the way, once you're done reading this chapter, I suggest reading the end notes. ;)
IrishIndy: I'm glad you enjoyed the last chapter. Thanks so much for taking some time to review.
Chapter 25: Epilogue: Speechless
The cool breeze of March drifted quietly over the cemetery. Green leaves glistened in the sunlight as the branches danced for the first time since winter released it's hold. A majestic spirit seemed to take over, causing the grass to sway and the scent of flowers to carry with the wind. The sounds of the highway were hidden amongst the hillside and the chatter of others had gone silent. It was peaceful.
Kagome tugged her jacket tighter around herself as she gazed at the smooth, polished rock at her feet. The inscription spoke of love and loss, of the pain that had played at her heartstrings exactly one year ago to the day. She could still feel the heat of the fire as it touched her skin, desiring to dissolve her flesh. Her hand gently rubbed against a place on her arm, where a faded scar could still be seen under the fabric of her clothing.
She knelt down and gently traced her finger over the name inscripted. A shudder raced down her spine. The name was so familiar to her own. It was still hard to accept. "Hey daddy," she whispered. Her voice, although soft, choked with tears. "I can't believe it's already been a year. I miss you."
Memories swam in her vision, recalling the man who had taught her so much and had always been there for her. His expression as the fire consumed him still haunted her dreams, but it had gotten easier over the recent months. She no longer felt guilty about being happy. Her father would have wanted her to keep living, to find her happily ever after.
A bouquet of flowers was gently placed upon his grave as she smiled. Her eyes found the man next to her, watching as his silver hair spun with the breeze and a pair of doggie ears flickered upon his head. "Are you ready?" he asked her, his amber eyes finding her's.
She nodded and looked back at the name engraved, saying her final goodbye. Kagome had to let go, to stop trying to keep a grasp on hope, believing that her father would be there to walk her down the aisle someday. She had finally come to terms with his death. He may not be with her now, but she knew he was watching from the heavens. Suddenly, a warmth seemed to surround her and the scent of her father blended with the flowers. He was there, embracing her a final time.
Setting her fingers to her lips, she placed her kiss upon the stone. Inuyasha stood up beside her and waited patiently for his girlfriend to say farewell. She took her place behind him, flashing him a small smile, before slipping her hand into his and strolling down the hillside. Her family waited by their car. They no longer were burdened with grief and their gazes sparkled with happiness. It would be hard to allow time to move forward without the man who had brought their family together, but no matter what they did, the world would keep spinning forward. And they would continue to be there for one another, even when tragedy reeled its ugly head.
Kagome placed a tender kiss to Inuyasha's hand and rested her head against his shoulder, breathing a content sigh. So much had happened within the past year. From tragedy, to friendship, to betrayal, and love, the roller-coaster had finally come to a halt. She knew in her heart that as long as her half-demon was beside her, they were going to be okay.
In the weeks that followed the one-year anniversary of her father's death, Kagome dived into her studies. She needed to keep up with her homework if she wished to do well on her exams and receive admittance to the university of her choice. But that did not sway her new social life, revolving around her new best friends.
Almost every waking moment was spent together, whether it be clubbing or just staying the night at one of their houses, being together was what mattered. However, they had shaken up their regular routine for now, courtesy of Miroku, and Kagome found herself laying out by the pool, absorbing the sun's rays.
A content sigh slipped from her lips as she closed her eyes, listening to the sounds around her. Water splashed nearby as laughter filled the air. She smiled. Although Sango and Miroku bickered from time to time, they obviously loved each other. It was no wonder they eventually became a couple. Suddenly, a dark shadow slipped over her and she opened an eye to see what was blocking the sun.
Inuyasha stood before her with two glasses of cool lemonade in his hands. "Thought you might be thirsty," he said with a small smile, one he saved only for her.
She grinned and sat up straighter, taking the drink gratefully. " Thanks," she replied, letting the ice cold liquid slip down her throat. "Mhmm," she hummed with a sigh. "Delicious."
He shoved his hand into the pocket of his swim trunks and followed her actions, letting his eyes wander over the back of the house. "I never knew Miroku's mom was packing," he stated. "Don't know why the lecher didn't say something sooner."
Kagome peered over her shoulder, following his gaze. The large white mansion behind her was accompanied with the finest furniture, a perfect outdoor caretaker, and some of the most expensive cars she had ever seen. "Maybe he didn't want to bother with such things," she mused, turning to face her boyfriend once more.
"Keh," he scoffed, taking a seat in a lawn chair beside her. "Did you see the place he lives in? Its a complete dump. If I were him, I would've demanded some money."
"Inuyasha!" she yelled, reprimanding him. "Miroku was getting along just fine. He had a nice car to prove it."
He merely rolled his eyes and took another sip of his lemonade, letting his gaze fall upon the in-ground pool that had come with the package. Kagome fumed for only a moment before a smile touched her lips. She never could stay mad at him for long. Setting down her glass, she stood up and sat on the side of his chair, immediately laying her head against his chest and curling up beside him. Her fingers played with his hair as he wrapped his arms around her, keeping her close to him.
As the couple sat quietly in the afternoon sun, enjoying the warm carress of Spring's breeze, Kagome realized she was truly happy.
A familiar warmth filled the home as dishes clanked quietly and voice spoke softly. The smell of food hung heavy in the air and the sound of the television murmured from the living room. It was another evening at the Higurashi household, which Inuyasha had become quite accustomed too.
"Inuyasha!" a woman called from downstairs.
He pointedly ignored her as his clawed fingers moved quickly over his controller. Sweat beaded across his forehead as he concentrated on the figures moving about the television. The small boy next to him would grunt with discontent every few moments, growling at certain points in the game. Souta had always been a whiz at video games. It was discouraging to finally have met his match.
A thump of footsteps alerted the half-demon to an approaching person, meaning their period of isolation was about to end. However, he continued to focus solely on his character, using all his senses to try and destroy his opponent. "Inuyasha," she called again dangerously.
Just as he was about to deliver the final blow, the door swung open and an angry Kagome stormed in, shutting off the television and causing their game to end. "Aw, Kagome!" Souta wailed, dropping his controller with a pout. "I almost beat him!"
"Keh," the silver-haired boy scoffed. "As if you could beat me. I was just about to throw your ass to the ground."
Kagome crossed her arms and tapped her foot impatiently. "Inuyasha, watch the language around him, would you?" she said in a tired voice. His ears flattened against his head at her words as him and Souta both stood, straightening out their clothes as they did so. She could only smile and dropped her offensive posture. "I came to tell you dinners ready."
With a delighted glee, her brother practically ran out of the room, leaving the loud thump of footsteps as his only goodbye. Kagome shook her head and found her place at Inuyasha's side, easily slipping her hand into his. A blush rose in his cheeks, but otherwise he made no objection to her touch. He gently pulled her toward the door, guiding her downstairs to where the rest of the family was gathering for dinner.
"There you are," Ms. Higurashi called as she finished setting the table. "I was wondering when you boys were going to show your faces." Her eyes glinted with humor as she smiled.
"Oh, mama, you know men," Kagome said with a giggle. "They won't come around unless you've got food on the table or sports on the television." This earned her a soft growl from Inuyasha as he protested against her words. She merely squeezed his hand affectionately, letting him know she was joking, before they took their seats at the table. Gramps and Souta followed suit, the old man complaining about how complex video games were.
Just as Ms. Higurashi placed the last of the dinner dishes on the table so everyone could self-serve, a knock came to their door. Her brows furrowed in confusion as she wiped her hands on her apron. "I wonder who that could be." It was on rare occasion that they received late night visitors, especially since the shrine was on the outskirts of the city.
She disappeared around the corner, leaving the rest of the family to stay silent as they listened in on the conversation. Hushed tones spoke quietly for a few moments before Kagome's mother reappeared, looking more confused than before. "Kagome, there are two policemen at the door who wish to speak with us."
Setting down their eating utensils, Kagome and Inuyasha followed Ms. Higurashi to the hall, signaling for Souta and Gramps to stay put. In the doorway stood two men in uniform, refusing to come inside. "Good evening," the taller one spoke, smiling softly at them. "I'm sorry to interrupt your dinner time, but I was advised that this information was too important to leave until tomorrow."
"Well, spit it out already," Inuyasha growled, hearing his stomach protest with hunger. It didn't help that he could easily smell the food from the next room.
Kagome slapped his arm gently to reprimand him. "Please continue," she spoke to the officers.
The shorter one gave a curt nod before doing as she asked. "As you know, our police department has had almost every available officer on your case, trying without success to track down Naraku Onigumo. So far, we've had very few leads and most of them turned up dead-ends."
"However," the second man spoke up. "We recently received an anonymous tip from a woman last week. I apologize for not revealing this information until now, but our captain had insisted we keep you in the dark until we knew for sure if it led somewhere."
Ms. Higurashi crossed one of her hands over her stomach, letting the other one find a place over her heart. "What are you saying?"
A broad grin lit the officers' faces. "Naraku was apprehended less than an hour ago. We wanted to come in person to let you know that you're safe. Both him and his father are in jail awaiting their court dates and are surely to be given life-sentences."
The three of them stood still for a moment, letting this new information to sink in. Kagome's mother was the first to respond. She heaved a huge sigh of relief as her smile widened. "Thank goodness." Tears came to her eyes as her thoughts moved to the reason behind their arrest. She sniffled before turning around. "I'll go let Gramps and Souta know." Disappearing around the corner into the kitchen, muffled voices were quickly heard.
Kagome opened and closed her mouth a few times, trying to wrap her mind around everything. "You caught him?" she finally whispered in disbelief. Over the past few months, she was constantly looking over her shoulder, fear meeting her at every turn. The only time she felt safe was when Inuyasha was close by.
"Yes," the officer stated. "Naraku and his father will never harm you or come near your family again."
"Thanks," Inuyasha said when Kagome failed to speak. He wrapped his arm around her waist.
"It was our pleasure," the shorter man replied with a tip of his hat. "Take care and enjoy the rest of your evening."
The couple watched as the officers made their way down the shrine steps before Inuyasha quietly shut the door. He turned to look at his girlfriend, watching her expression carefully. "You okay?"
She nodded mutely. "They caught him," she whispered again.
"Yeah," he confirmed, bringing her into an embrace.
Tears came to her eyes as she clutched his shirt, feeling relief flood through her veins. She would no longer have to feel anxious, watching and waiting for Naraku to make his appearance. He was locked up, most likely for the rest of his life. And even if he managed to somehow be released or escape, Inuyasha would always be there to protect her.
As if reading her thoughts, he gently grasped her chin in his hand, forcing her to look at him. His amber eyes swirled with emotion, trying to convey exactly what he wanted to say. She smiled and stood on her tip toes, pressing her lips to his in a tender kiss. He immediately returned the gesture as they melted into one another, relishing in the bond they shared.
They pulled away for oxygen and embraced once more. Kagome wrapped her arms around him and pressed her face into his broad chest, inhaling his natural scent. He leaned down and placed his lips to her ear. "I love you, Kagome," he said, his voice husky with emotion.
When her entire world was falling apart, he was there to hold her. When she became confused with doubt, he was there to show her truth. When she was blinded by possible rejection, he was there to steady her. He showed her friendship, courage, happiness, and now love. This man had fought with her during the struggles she faced, so she would never have to face them alone.
Inuyasha had given her a voice. And now, he rendered her speechless.
She tightened her hold on him and smiled.
A/N: Sorry to say, but this story has officially ended. There will be no more chapters and no sequel. I hope you enjoyed the story as much as I have enjoyed writing it. By the way, anyone have an idea who gave the police the anonymous tip?
Many thanks to:
My amazing beta, Dani: She didn't help directly with this story, but since I began writing, my style and level has increased so much. I would never have come this far if it wasn't for her.
All of my reviewers. This story has gone far beyond anything I could ever imagined. I watched how many reviews I received during each chapter and you may not know it, but your kind words and asking me to update got me through the difficult days this year. There are too many names to list, but always know that it is because of you guys that I continue writing. Also, here's to those anonymous reviewers who took a few minutes to leave a small comment: mRs. Takahashi, Gfxdsfyhvfdrgiijm, riley s, bleachwhitewolf, babygirl555, crystal, inu+kaglover4ever, jacob, InuXKag_Angel X, feudalgirl inukag, twilightluver04, inu-youknow2112, nessa671, brownsugar1213, nj, Joey Silversword, and IrishIndy. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
All my readers. Even though most didn't leave a review, I am glad I had those who enjoyed the story enough to follow it from beginning to end. Besides, not everyone has the time to leave a small comment. You should know that I appreciate everyone's interest in the story. I hope you find my other work worth while as well.
Erica. If it wasn't for her, this story would most likely be left unfinished or on hiatus forever. When I was discouraged about that one chapter, she laid down the line, basically telling me it sucked and that I should leave it alone for a while to get my muse back. Well, she said it nicer, but it came along just the same. So thanks for getting my butt in gear and pushing me forward. You are not only a HUGE fan, but a great motivator too. It really is appreciated. ;)
As some of you know, when a story comes to an end, I tend to be an emotional person, especially when it is one of my favorites. However, this goes far beyond any of my already completed pieces. It was because of this story that I received most of my fan base and got my foot in the door when it came to great stories. I must say it is definitely not one of my best pieces. My writing has improved so much since I first started, as you may have noticed while reading. And although I am sad to see this one go, I am happy at the same time. With this one off my plate, I'm eager to begin new pieces that I'm sure you will enjoy. So please, put me on your alert list. For this story was only the beginning.