Disclaimer: The characters of Inuyasha are owned by Rumiko Takahashi, but this story belongs to me Ed (the cameraman) and the flower demons are mine too. Koto also happens to be the name of the announcer from Yu Yu Hakusho who happens to have cat (some say fox, sorry if you disagree, but the argument is still out there with proof for both) ears. Not that the character in this story is the same person, but just in case, I'm going to go ahead and disclaim her too. Better safe than sorry.
Chapter Eighteen: Endings and Beginnings
As the sun began to set, Kagome said a prayer for Joi as she placed the remainder of the flower demon into the shallow hole that would be her resting place.
Her family had been waiting for her on the beach near where they landed. Since there had been no dock, and they were unwilling to wait, they had climbed out of the submarine and swam to shore. Kagome was happy enough for that, since she and her friends were still covered in grime and blood.
In her joy at having her daughter safely returned, her mother had invited everyone to their home. The car had been packed and smelled dreadful after being cramped up with so many bodies that had seen so much battle. After the excited hugs and tears from her family when Kagome arrived home safe and sound, the tired and grimy girl excused herself.
It was wonderful being home, truly wonderful, but she needed to lay Joi to rest. So while her friends went inside to clean up, Kagome began to dig.
It seemed right to bury her in the earth near the God Tree. Kagome was sorry that she had not had the time to find Joi's family. Perhaps one day she would go back to the island and see if she could find them. Maybe let them know what had happened to the brave flower demon. Of course, that would be awhile. A long while.
She looked up at her friends that were there beside her for the somber occasion. Sango smiled gently at her, Miroku was at her side. It looked like just about everyone had come to say goodbye to Joi. Or at least pay their respects.
It was odd seeing them in clean clothes and washed hair. After being so filthy for so long, Kagome was certain she would become very compulsive about bathing and being clean.
Kouga and two of his clan came forward.
"I will always be here for you," the wolf prince said as he took her hands in his. "You will always be a part of my pack."
His two pack mates agreed.
Stowing away on the submarine hadn't made anyone happy. Except for Kouga. The wolf prince had taken the opportunity to escape the island as well. Blind loyalties kept his two pack mates at his side, though they missed their home and the rest of their pack. Inuyasha had tried convincing them to go back, but Kouga wouldn't listen. This new world held too many exciting things. Kagome hoped that the rest of his pack would be alright on their own. She suspected that a new leader would step forward, and that should Kouga stay away too long he wouldn't have a pack to go back to.
"For now, we must leave you to find a suitable place to make our home. Do not worry, fair Kagome, we will be back."
Kagome sighed as they disappeared in a cloud of dust. "That's what I'm afraid of."
Shippo edged forward and came to cry for Joi.
"She was really brave," he whispered.
"Yes, she was."
Shippo looked up at her with emerald green eyes. "You're still going to let me live with your family?"
She ruffled his hair. "Of course." Luckily her mother had loved the young fox kit at first sight, and was attempting to spoil him rotten with mothering already. In the car ride back she had decided that Shippo was a part of the family. The woman was fast.
Shippo ran back into the house to sit with her brother and Ed (who was apparently staying with them until he got a new job, unlike Koto who took off in a huff as soon as she stepped foot on dry land) in front of the television so that they could continue their video game. No more reality television for this family! She hadn't broken it to the young fox kit that he would be starting school soon. He would adjust to life off of the island.
Sango and Miroku were holding hands as they approached. In the submarine there was a proposal of marriage, more like a demand really, and Miroku had happily accepted. Each of them thanked Joi for the part she played in their escape.
"I'm taking Kohaku home," Sango said as she gently touched Kagome's shoulder. "I'll call you tomorrow. Get some rest, Kagome."
"Until we meet again," said Miroku as he took her hand and brought it to his mouth as if to kiss it. He made a face at how dirty and probably smelly it was. Dramatically he shook it instead. Kagome smiled. She was sure he had done that so she would smile.
Sango slipped her hand into Miroku's, and they turned to walk away.
Her two friends would be married by the end of the month, that had been part of the demand...er... proposal. Miroku had no family, and Sango had only her brother, so neither one felt the need for a large wedding. Kohaku would give her away (symbolically, of course, no one GAVE Sango to anyone), Kagome and Inuyasha would stand for them, and Shippo would be the bearer of the rings.
Kohaku and Hachi each gave her a smile before following Sango and Miroku back into the house. They had spent much of the trip back home telling tales about their adventures as they came to their rescue. No one pointed out that they had actually rescued themselves. Kagome couldn't help but return their smile.
For awhile she was certain she may never smile again. It was nice to see that she still could.
The last few weeks (Months? Years? It felt like forever!) had been a nightmare. She spent so much time terrified, exhausted, and in pain. And she would have to find a way to deal with the guilt of what happened to the last contestant. Though she had scared him off and only wounded him with her arrow (humans apparently do NOT explode into a billion sparkly pieces when they were hit), the man had ran from her... straight into the fire. She hadn't known about his fate until they had seen it on the little portable television they had and saw his grisly fate on the highlights episode. Ed was not the only cameraman.
Truly she was the last one standing. But that didn't make her feel less sick when she thought of his fate. And guilt. She felt so much guilt. Maybe if she had done something different…
Rubbing her eyes she tried to wipe that horrible image from her mind. When she opened her eyes, she saw a little, slightly grubby, girl was standing behind them with a bouquet of expensive looking flowers. She gave them to Kagome with a cheerful smile.
"Rin is happy sister is safe."
Kagome smiled. So this was Rin. She was adorable, especially with that one missing tooth. "Thank you. I'm glad Rin is safe too." Sister?
Then the little girl spread her arms out wide and ran as if she were flying back to the limousine that Sesshomaru was leaning against, looking just as cold (yet quite dashing) as ever. He gave her a nod, then got in the vehicle after the little girl and they drove off. The man was scary. The highlights episode also showed the destruction that Sesshomaru caused. Kagome vowed to never make him mad.
She wondered how he had managed to leave the island. And how did he manage to look so CLEAN?
Once everyone left, a figure in red dropped from the trees.
"Hi," Kagome smiled up at him. He had been watching her. She could feel him watching her since they arrived.
Before she could stop herself, she closed her eyes and leaned into him, glad he was just as filthy and smelly as she was. When his arms went around her to hold her close, she relaxed and sighed. Everything was going to be fine. Sure she would have nightmares, probably for years to come, but she would survive.
"So," she said conversationally, as if she wasn't pressed up against him tightly, "No more ignoring me at school?"
"Kagome..." he said in a slight whine, "I explained why... the other kids would have targeted you. Bullied you. I wanted you to be safe."
"Aaaaand you realize you were wrong now and won't ignore me at school anymore?"
"I wasn't wrong, I wanted you to have a normal..."
"And you realize you were wrong now."
"I wasn't..." He paused, the obediently said, "I realize I was wrong now."
"No more ignoring?"
He pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "No more ignoring."
Kagome stood on tiptoes and kissed him. She was never going to take another day for granted. She would appreciate baths and food and electricity. She would make sure those she loved knew that she loved them. She would be thankful for each day she had with Inuyasha, and their future together WOULD be long and happy. The check that her mother had been given for her to compensate for the 'misunderstanding' and winning the program didn't hurt either.
"I need a bath."
Kagome laughed and took his hand to drag him to the house.
The first star shone in the night sky, but Kagome didn't make a wish. She had Inuyasha, and she was safe and at home. Together they would make all their dreams come true.
As the stars fade, the tendrils of a flowering plant push through the dirt at the base of the God Tree and reaches for the rising sun with joy.
Kokoronagomu was pretty close in guessing Joi's fate. Though I promise I had that part already written!
Thanks for seeing the story through and your wonderful words of encouragement. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it.