Epilogue: Ever After
"I beg your pardon, my lord. I did not know you would be up so early," Natsumi's gentle voice came from the doorway. Her arms were full of clean, folded linen. "Shall I come back later?'
"No. Do what you must," Sesshomaru answered tersely from the desk in his old bedroom, where he had been alone for the past hour, working.
But as she moved quietly about the room, neatly putting bedlinen and clothes into the wardrobes, Sesshomaru could hear Inuyasha's voice in his head, reminding him to be nicer to people.
"My mate missed your presence yesterday," he remarked a little awkwardly, after cracking his head for something "nice" to say to their deputy head attendant, who had been capably assisting Isshin in many areas of responsibility since her promotion to this position some thirty years back.
"Oh," Natsumi said, surprised at being spoken to without being given an order. "It was my day off, my lord, but I found myself rather sorry not to be here instead, for the children were very trying at home."
"Are your two youngest here with you today?" Sesshomaru asked, scenting fresh traces of her children on her clothing, and even fresher hints of Kazuki.
"Yes, my lord, their father has taken them to the crèche."
Creating a crèche for the younger castle children had been an idea of Inuyasha's. He had seen that Satoshi, who had become chief healer upon Yoshi's death from old age nine years ago, was getting much too busy to have a troupe of small children tagging along with him whenever they were done with their formal lessons.
Natsumi gathered up in her arms the rest of the linen which was meant for Inuyasha's old bedroom, bobbed a quick bow to Sesshomaru, and walked quietly over to the room next door to continue with her work.
Alone again in his old bedroom – which he had partly converted into an office so that he could do his work within the royal wing at odd hours without disturbing Inuyasha's rest – Sesshomaru stifled an impatient sigh as he finished reading one report only to find more proposals and requests at the bottom of the pile. Though his ministers had taken much work off his shoulders over the years, some things still had to be personally handled by him.
Such as the request he was looking at now: the matter of Satoshi asking permission to take as his mate the dog demoness known as Momoka, Mamoru's sister from the housekeeping department. Ordinarily, when castle staff wished to take each other as mates, only their families and immediate superiors needed to be notified, and Sesshomaru and Inuyasha would be kept informed in general reports.
But now that Satoshi was chief healer, he reported directly only to the two demon lords of these lands.
Sesshomaru should have looked at these reports and requests yesterday. However he and Inuyasha had been so carried away with their sparring that they had spent the entire afternoon out in the field, clashing blades until Bokusen'o had roared at them to stop before they killed each other by accident – or worse, cracked his ancient trunk with a misplaced blow!
Their aggressive combat training reflected the nature of their pairing: passionate and often argumentative, but honest and uncompromising. Sesshomaru sat back in his chair as it sank in that he and Inuyasha had been mates for half a century now.
Fifty years of fierce fights and unquestioned loyalty to each other; fifty years of disagreement and harmony; fifty years of excitement and routine; mature discussions and childish jokes; peace and chaos; quiet respect and merciless teasing; times when they misunderstood each other to a ridiculous extent and times when they could almost read each other's minds. And love. Always love.
He wanted to slip back into bed with his mate, before they had to go downstairs for breakfast with his mother, who was visiting them.
Which was why he sighed now as he ploughed through the paperwork he should have completed before this day dawned. He did not want to look at it; he wanted to snuggle up to Inuyasha. It wasn't good enough to be in the same wing, just down the corridor from him. He wanted to be in the same bed, even in the same space his mate occupied, if only that were physically possible. He had not believed before embarking on life as Inuyasha's mate that he could truly desire only one person, and constantly seek to explore and enjoy more and more of that one person, for years, without growing bored.
Yet, here he was, still besotted with his brother-mate, still faithful to him despite their occasional squabbles, and perfectly pleased to be so. As that satisfying realisation dawned on him, he reached for his brush and seal and signed his approval for Satoshi and Momoka to become mates. That wolf had courted the bitch for more than long enough!
In the next instant, he nearly smeared all the ink in a wild gash across the document when a startlingly loud howl of terror exploded from the end of the royal wing.
Sesshomaru's heart almost stopped when he realised instantly that the howl had come from Inuyasha. He hardly knew how, but in less than one second, he had flown out of his office-room, barrelled past an equally startled Natsumi rushing out of the room next door, past even the guards tearing towards the end of the passageway, and crashed through the door of his and Inuyasha's bedroom at nearly the same time that the two guards who were posted outside that same door charged in.
The picture that greeted him was one that he would never forget: Inuyasha, beautifully naked, mouth agape and face white with shock, standing in the middle of the room clutching a balled-up bedsheet to his groin to preserve his modesty, and Lady Shirakumo standing calmly by the rumpled and now-empty bed, holding a vial of something in her left hand. Her right eyebrow arched coolly in response to the sudden invasion of the room by eight royal wing guards, the first demon lord and the deputy chief attendant.
"Mother!" Sesshomaru roared. "What are you doing in this bedroom? What have you done to Inuyasha? Inuyasha, what has happened?"
"She – she – gaaah!" was all Inuyasha could splutter out as his furry ears, pressed flat against his hair, twitched furiously.
"How did you get into the room, Mother?" Sesshomaru demanded, quickly draping a dressing gown around Inuyasha's creamy shoulders and stiffening as the scent of sex – at least, sex of a sort – registered with his thinking mind. "What the devil have you done to my mate?"
"What I ought to have done at least forty years ago," Lady Shirakumo sighed.
"What are you talking about?" Sesshomaru growled. "How did you get past the guards?"
"Let's continue this discussion in private," Lady Shirakumo suggested, looking around at the guards and Natsumi.
"Out, all of you," Sesshomaru ordered.
The staff bowed and exited briskly, shutting the door behind them.
"Mother?" Sesshomaru persisted, once he and Inuyasha were alone with her.
"How did I get in?" she echoed. "Silly boy – did you think that the secret passageway between your two old bedrooms was the only one in this wing?"
"Uh-h-h..." Inuyasha stuttered.
"Yes, darling," she purred, without waiting for him to utter a coherent word. "There's one between my room and this – your father and I had quite a lot of fun with it in the years before Sesshomaru came along. I've always been able to use it since I became your father's mate. So it was easy for me to come over, put a little spell on you to keep you asleep, then do what I needed to do."
"What you needed to do was molest me?" Inuyasha yowled, finding his power of speech at last. "You were stroking my dick when I woke up!"
"She was what?" Sesshomaru yelled. "Mother!"
"How else was I supposed to milk you of your seed?"
Inuyasha made a strange, strangled sound and looked rather as if he had just swallowed a large and unpleasant-tasting insect alive, while Sesshomaru seemed to have turned to stone.
"If your fast-improving magical defences hadn't broken my spell and woken you up, I would even have had time to insert your seed into my body," she continued.
"Aaaagh!" Inuyasha shouted, turning beetroot-red as the words came matter-of-factly out of the lady's mouth without so much as a blush gracing her snowy cheeks.
"Don't look at me like that!" Lady Shirakumo snapped, finally losing her cool. "You're the ones who've refused to glance at any of the females I've been parading past you for the last fifty years! I even asked that pretty young priestess from the village thirty years ago, remember, when she was still pretty and young? Oh yes, I was willing to have half-demon or one-quarter-demon grandchildren – but she and the pair of you decided that it would not be good for the children's mother to die so long before they would. Yet, you wouldn't consider any of the demonesses! So there appears to be no other way for me to get grandchildren other than to bear them myself!"
"Y – y – you were going shove my... my stuff up your... your thingie?" Inuyasha gasped in horror.
"I did consider going straight to the point and simply mounting you, but I was sufficiently considerate of my son's possessiveness with regard to his mate to refrain from that. Instead, I only used my hand and..."
"That is quite enough!" Sesshomaru thundered.
"Indeed it is quite enough!" Lady Shirakumo thundered back, in a full-blown temper now. "Fifty years I've been waiting for a grandchild, and that was after very nearly losing both of you forever to that accursed spider-lord. I have no intention of allowing my late cousin's and former mate's line to be lost thanks to the selfish behaviour of his sons! I theoretically might still have children of my own if you died, but your father is gone and cannot be brought back, and his line is not to be lost!"
"We will not use your magic to create any artificial children, Mother," Sesshomaru growled, glaring at the smooth stone vial she held in her hand, which held Inuyasha's stolen seed. "You know our tribe's traditions better than that."
"This is not magic," Lady Shirakumo sniffed. "This is medicine. I've spent the last seven years researching medical methods of impregnating a female without requiring the male to have intercourse with her, as the two of you are so intent on remaining faithful to each other. And I've found good, safe, practical and effective methods of achieving the theoretical concepts which have been outlined by healers for many centuries now. There – does that make you happy? You can have children without having to sleep with a female."
Inuyasha's ears were still pressed down, but he was calmer now, and listening carefully.
"I have even found the perfect female," the lady continued. "A young cousin of mine from my kingdom, Usugumo – I mentioned her to you before, do you remember? She vowed to the gods that she would never take another mate after losing her only love to a duel of honour more than a hundred years ago. She had no children of her own with her late mate, but I have spoken to her of the two of you, and she is willing to bear children for you both, as long as she is not required to sleep with either of you. My medical methods are acceptable to her. She is powerful, beautiful and of noble blood. She will bear you strong children."
"Would she be willing to live in the castle with us while she carries our children, and even after they are born?" Inuyasha asked cautiously, not trusting his voice to come out normal after all his hysterical babbling of a few minutes ago.
"She has indicated that such an arrangement would be acceptable to her."
"What of her claim over the children?" Sesshomaru asked.
"She will be there for the children if they ever want advice and help from their birth mother, but their upbringing will be entirely left to their two fathers."
Sesshomaru turned to Inuyasha, gently combed his messy hair into place with his claws, and asked quietly: "What do you think?"
Inuyasha turned wide, thoughtful golden eyes onto his mate, and finally said with a hint of a smile: "It sounds good to me."
"And to me," Sesshomaru answered.
"So it's settled, then," Lady Shirakumo said firmly. "It had better remain settled, or else I shall carry out my threat to bear my own grandchildren."
"Give that to me," Inuyasha snapped, snatching the vial of his seed out of her hand and going to the bathroom to pour its contents away as well as rinse it thoroughly, before trying to return it to her.
"Thank you, darling, but you had better keep the vial," she said. "It forms part of the medical equipment I'll need to complete the process. I shall send for Usugumo at once. When she is ready, one of you should fill that vial with your seed, then quickly hand it to me. I shall carry out the rest of the procedure with her. Which of you will be fathering the first child?"
"You go first," Inuyasha mumbled to Sesshomaru. "I'm still traumatised by having my seed 'milked' into that vial."
"Oh, but it was such a pleasure getting my hands on you," Lady Shirakumo sighed.
Inuyasha turned interesting shades of pale and red all over again. "This is such a screwed-up family," he muttered.
The Duchess Usugumo was a strikingly beautiful dog demoness with very similar colouring to Lady Shirakumo and the brothers. Her eyes were a paler hue of gold, but her hair was pure white, and she had one pink stripe over each of her cheekbones. She had no markings on her brow.
She was cool and calm like her cousin the queen, but gentler and much more proper in her overall behaviour. What Sesshomaru and Inuyasha most liked about her was that she treated them both with respect without grovelling before them, made absolutely no distinction of Inuyasha's half-demon blood, and most important of all, had a kind nature which shone out through her demon aura.
"Are you certain that you are prepared to become the birth mother of children who will ultimately not belong to you?" Sesshomaru questioned, when they were all comfortably settled around a table laden with food and drink in Inuyasha's old bedroom.
"My lords," she replied steadily. "One of my greatest regrets was not having children with my mate before he died in a duel. Now that it is too late to bear his offspring, I have decided that I would like to help both of you bear yours, but as they will not be the children of the only one I have ever loved, I will stake no claim on them. I will be as much of a mother to them as they require, but you will be their true parents. I am ready to state before all the chieftains of our dog demon tribe and all the ministers of your kingdom and your lady mother's that I will not attempt to be more to the children than you would have me be, neither will I stake any claim on your throne or lands. I have no interest in such things, as those who have known me all my life will tell you."
"So, what are we waiting for?" Lady Shirakumo asked.
Usugumo's first pregnancy lasted the full eleven months typical for dog demons. As demons have longer lifespans than humans, most demon races also carry their children for longer than mortals do.
It had been decided among the family that she would bear Sesshomaru's child first.
Inuyasha might have repetitively grumbled more than a few times over the eleven months of the pregnancy that this really was a very messed-up family, but when he and Sesshomaru at last held their firstborn child, a daughter, he was speechless with wonder for a few minutes.
As he carefully took her over from Sesshomaru and rocked her gently in his arms while a proud Lady Shirakumo looked on, he whispered in amazement: "I can't believe how tiny and beautiful she is. She's so perfect..."
The child snuggled against his chest, twitched her rosebud lips, and peeled her little eyes open just a crack to show the glimmer of deep gold. She was so fair that she seemed almost to be made of crystal – soft, snuggly, living crystal with faint magenta stripes over her plump cheeks and a diamond-like blue mark on her forehead. Sesshomaru stroked her amazingly fine white hair with his fingertips, careful not to let his claws touch her tender skin at all. He took a deep sniff of her unique scent.
She was his, all right, no question about it. His mother had worked a medical miracle.
"What shall we call her?" Inuyasha whispered, afraid to startle the baby.
"All the names we thought of before she was born – which one does she look most like?" Sesshomaru whispered back.
"Tsukiyo is a nice choice – she's luminous, like a moonlit night, so Tsukiyo should be it," Inuyasha decided.
"I like that."
A year later, Usugumo delivered Inuyasha's child, a boy, and his half-demon father fell in love all over again as he had with the first baby, the moment he looked down into that breathtakingly flawless face topped by a shock of white hair. A hint of one light-coloured stripe touched each chubby cheek. Unlike his sister, this infant forced his eyes open boldly and peered up at his two fathers out of rounded golden orbs that were so like Inuyasha's that Sesshomaru laughed.
The boy had no puppy ears, but regular demon ears at the sides of his head. Sesshomaru had hoped that Inuyasha's babies would have his furry dog ears, for he loved those twitching appendages on his mate's head; but Inuyasha was glad that his son would not have any sensitive, furry triangles atop his head to be pulled the way his had been when he was a child!
They named him Himizu, for despite his boldness and the impressive power of his demon aura, he was as calm and unruffled a baby as anyone had ever seen, like a crystal bowl of water cooled by ice.
"Look, Tsukiyo, this is your new baby brother," Inuyasha said to the girl, whom Sesshomaru was holding up, and who was staring fascinated at the newborn one. "When you grow up, if you prove to be the strongest of all the children that we have, then as the eldest child, you will rule this kingdom. And when you do, you had better be very, very good to your little brother from the very start, unlike your First Father with his own little brother when he was smaller."
Sesshomaru gazed at Inuyasha and said: "Even her foolish First Father eventually learnt to love his little brother very much. Tsukiyo is obviously a better demon than I ever was, so she will take good care of our Himizu. Perhaps they will even be mates."
"We can hope."
Over the next fifty years, Sesshomaru and Inuyasha had two more children by Usugumo, a boy for Sesshomaru and a girl for Inuyasha, before deciding that four was enough. The children grew up strong and beautiful. They respected and honoured their birth mother, but they loved both their fathers so wholeheartedly that the two demon lords of these lands found that they had exceeded by miles their hopes for a true family of their own.
Tsukiyo and Himizu did choose each other as mates when they matured.
Sesshomaru's son Kaguya, so named because of his brightly shining gold eyes and hair like white light, was selected by Lady Shirakumo to succeed her as the ruler of the dog demon kingdom of the far west.
Inuyasha's daughter Sekka, who was given her name because she had looked to them like a perfect little snowflake when she was born, spent the longest time trying to decide whether she liked her second brother Kaguya better, or a distant human cousin of hers – for Inuyasha had made contact with the descendants of his mother's brothers and sisters at last. Tender-hearted, adolescent Sekka fell hard for one of the handsome boys, and kept her doting second brother waiting for almost a century before her human sweetheart died of old age, and she had to return to her demonfolk.
"I'm afraid Sekka is a bit flighty," Inuyasha said worriedly to Sesshomaru. "She can't have got that from me – are you sure she didn't come from your seed instead?"
"I'm very sure she came from you," Sesshomaru replied dryly, looking at their beautiful, two-hundred-and-fifty-year-old daughter, who was the only one of the siblings to have the precious puppy ears gracing her crown. "Whatever happens, Kaguya has said that he is determined to woo his sister. He wants no one else."
"She doesn't want to hear any of that right now, as she insists that her human relations find it shocking that her brother would want to, as they put it, 'marry' her."
"She is a three-quarter demon who is more powerful than half the full demons we know. She will come around," Sesshomaru confidently assured his mate.
He was right. Eventually, Sekka got over the loss of her human boy, and finally turned more interested eyes in Kaguya's direction when Tsukiyo and Himizu gave her a nudge that way.
The children of their children blended Sesshomaru's and Inuyasha's blood in their lines, so that the two brothers truly became one in their descendants.
Tsukiyo proved herself strong, wise and even-tempered, a great demoness more than capable of ruling her fathers' lands, with her powerful and beloved brother-mate by her side. In her one thousand-and-seven-hundredth year of life, her fathers gave her the throne and assumed the roles of regents, proud grandparents and great-grandparents to the younger ones. It contented them in their later years to have more time to themselves – for they had never stopped loving each other fiercely.
With Tsukiyo's ascension to the throne, the Age of the Ashuras came to an end. The Era of the Warring Demons was succeeded by a new age of peace, and the line of the dog demons descended from both Sesshomaru and Inuyasha continued to rule the western and far western kingdoms wisely and well.
Their descendants never forgot them, the two great demon lords who had fathered them all. The stories of Sesshomaru's and Inuyasha's exploits and achievements, and most of all their love for each other, were faithfully written down and told over and over again, so that no one would forget them for as long as there were people in the world to remember.
And in every one of these tales, they lived, as good people do in all the best old stories, happily ever after.
- END -
Author's Note: The fairy tale has come to an end at last – in a good way, I hope. Thanks to all of you who have read it and reviewed it, loved it or hated it, and told me so.
There have been some difficult times in the writing of this story, especially when the plot I had in mind required me to hurt the characters. But life holds joy as well as suffering, and even fairy-tale life must take its course of dark moments and light.
Although I retained the Japanese names of the manga characters, gave Japanese names to my original characters, and held on to certain aspects of Japanese culture, this has really been a fairy tale with a quasi-European flavour. I incorporated elements of Western fairy tales into parts of the story, such as The Snow Queen for the legend of the sacred crystal, and Snow White for Kanna's mirror, while the demon lord's castle was, in my imagination, a Gothic-medieval-Arthurian-style building.
I also wanted to echo as much of Rumiko Takahashi's manga as possible, only making big twists to the manga storyline and backgrounds of the characters to stitch them into the quilt of this alternate universe. All credit for the Inuyasha manga and its characters of course goes to Ms Takahashi – I have merely borrowed what she created in order to turn it into something else here.
I previously had a long author's note in one of the chapters about why I translated Sesshomaru's name the way I did for this tale, but I've removed it because it was much too unwieldy. It would probably still be too unwieldy here, so I'm leaving it out for now. Perhaps I will put it up in my profile page one of these days (when I recover from writing this story)!