I don't own these characters; Sunrise does.
Epilogue: To the future
Natsuki lightly bounced Shinobu in her arms while waiting for the ceremony to start. As things got underway, she smiled and whispered to the now four-month-old. "Hey, there's Mommy. You see her standing with Auntie Haruka?" Natsuki asked in a low voice, doing her best to point at Shizuru. Shinobu focused on her mother's finger rather than attempt to find her mommy in the huge crowd.
"You know, I hope she answers you one day, just to scare the mess out of you," Nao remarked, sitting to Natsuki's right. She had her arms wrapped around Kenta, who was dressed in his best suit. Nao was wearing an expensive gown, which her boyfriend—Kenta—purchased for this occasion. He assured her that money was no object; his parents had afforded him a very generous allowance, but he was also looking for work. Nao, surprisingly enough, did not look to spend his money wildly, but the dress was a must-have for such a grand event.
They were attending Haruka and Yukino's wedding. The couple could not wait as they had been planning to at first, not after seeing how easily things could get messed up a few months earlier. So, instead of waiting until Yukino's final term as president was up, they married as soon as everything settled down. No one objected to it; in fact, most agreed that it was smart move.
There were rumors flying around that Haruka was going to like Shizuru and Natsuki soon, namely retire. Even though it was clear that Haruka enjoyed being an Otome, she loved Yukino more. Yukino was not going to sit around and be idle once she was no longer president of Aries, so Haruka would probably want to keep an eye on her beloved. She could not do that if she was still the Otome for the next president of Aries.
"Are you kidding? I can't wait until she starts talking," Natsuki informed Nao with a happy grin. She then cooed at Shinobu, as if that would encourage the infant to speak. Shinobu only yawned.
Nao only shook her head, not wanting to say how nice it was to see Natsuki smiling again. Even after Tomoe was captured and Natsuki seemed back to normal, a smile had been hard to come by for a couple of months after the whole situation. Yes, Natsuki would smile at the baby or at Shizuru, but never with a lot of people around. Lately, she had been smiling more and much easier.
It was possible that Natsuki's smile might have been because she finally felt completely and totally safe, which could have subconsciously been linked to recent news they received on Tomoe and Sakura. Now, Natsuki was not the type of person to want someone to suffer endlessly, but Nao was sure what happened with Tomoe and Sakura had to put Natsuki at ease. Tomoe, who was monitored every second of the day, evidently had a nervous breakdown in her cell about a month ago, doing nothing more with her waking hours than crying pathetically. Oddly enough—to Nao anyway—Shizuru did not seem surprised when they were all informed of Tomoe's current state. But, since Tomoe seemed to spend all of her time now bawling her eyes out, the First Couple of Garderobe and their daughter seemed safe from her.
Now, Sakura never seemed like much of a threat to Nao, even when she got the full story. Sakura seemed to need someone to help her achieve all of her goals; if she was on her own, she was harmless. Well, considering the little bit of information Natsuki and Kenta shared about Sakura, she would be on her own for a very long time. Nao was not too sure "under house-arrest" meant in the island chain Saxas and Sakura's home country were part of, but Nao was sure it did not mean the same thing that it meant in Windbloom. As far as she understood it, Sakura was trapped in a small room for the rest of her life given only the basic necessities of life and possibly tormented in someway on occasion, but Nao was not too sure about that.
"You know Shinobu isn't going to talk to you because like the rest of us, she doesn't listen to you and she's not going to start," Nao teased Natsuki.
"Are you kidding? My little miracle loves me!" Natsuki cooed as she pressed the baby to her, not caring that Shinobu might mess up her clothes in some way.
The principal was dressed in her best suit. Shizuru still found it quite impossible to get her wife into a dress, no matter what arguments or bribes or anything that she used. It would seem that Natsuki would only wear a dress if absolutely necessary, like when she had to wear one as a uniform. Natsuki claimed that she had been scarred by her mother and was always assaulted with bad memories when she wore a dress. Shizuru took it for the paper-thin excuse it, but left her spouse to her favorite pants suit.
Natsuki did allow her spouse to put Shinobu in a dress, provided it was not too over the top. The dress that Shizuru picked out was simple in her opinion, a light green with a few ruffles. They both agreed that the baby was adorable in it.
"Here, baby, wave hi to Mommy while you can," Natsuki said and she shifted Shinobu before lifting her up.
Shinobu looked where Natsuki wanted her to now. She focused her green and red eyes onto her mother and grinned. Shizuru saw the baby and smiled back, waving a little from her spot at the altar. She was standing with Haruka, who was dressed in a dazzling white and yellow wedding dress. Haruka's outfit was a huge surprise because most people expected her to show up in her Otome uniform since she prided herself so much on her position, but instead, she went with a very lovely, flattering gown.
Shizuru was wearing a yellow gown with white trim and it complimented her well. Chie was there too, but she was wearing a yellow and white suit; as it turned out, she was just as difficult to get into a dress as Natsuki was. Anh also stood with them, being very close to Haruka from their time as students at Garderobe. The princess was dressed in a gown identical to Shizuru's dress. Finally, there was Sara Gallagher, the first column, standing there in a dress just like Anh and Shizuru. They were all smiling, especially enjoying how happy they knew Haruka was.
Mikoto was overseeing the wedding ceremony again. Haruka and Yukino had been very impressed with the cat goddess' performance before and thought it would be nice for her to do the same for them. Mikoto was glad to do it; mostly, because she knew it involved free food. Well, and she liked an excuse to be around all of Mai's friends.
Looking out, Mikoto was able to tell that this ceremony was just as important as the last one she presided over. It often amazed her that there were so many people in the world and that they would all come together for one event. Of course, the thought made her rather happy. It was good for people to gather and enjoy each other and many people had gathered for this joyous occasion.
The bridesmaids entered wearing lilac colored dresses with white trim. Among the bridesmaids was Nadia Kruger; her husband was in the audience with his sister and he was also sitting with their two sons. Behind the bridesmaids was Yukino in a lush, full white gown with lilac trim. A veil covered her face, but Haruka would soon learn that Yukino was crying. Not that she was alone since tears flowed down Haruka's face as soon as she laid eyes on her bride-to-be.
The tears did not stop when Yukino came to stand by Haruka. No one thought anything less of the blonde general, of course. But, later on, there would be some teasing…especially from Natsuki.
The ceremony was short, but memorable. It went off without a hitch, which was more than Natsuki and Shizuru could claim. Everyone agreed that it was the picture perfect wedding. It was beautiful and perfect.
"The couple have written their own vows," Mikoto informed the audience. She then turned to Haruka, giving the blonde the signal to begin her speech.
The general had to take a deep breath and smiled awkwardly for a brief moment. Then, looking Yukino in the eye, Haruka found her voice. She gently took Yukino's hand before she began speaking.
"Yukino, you are the most wonderful person I have ever had the pleasure to meet and I am honored that you have chosen to spend the rest of your life with me. I promise to hold you close forever and love you for all eternity. I will stay by your side and see you through any trouble. I will be there to make you smile and to experience all the world's joy with you. I will do my best to make sure you want for nothing, especially affection. I will always cherish you. You will always be precious to me," Haruka stated with conviction.
Everyone was amazed that Haruka managed some very touching vows without a single misused word… and that only further led people to believe that she misused words on purpose. Tears flowed down Yukino's face. She was not the only person crying; many people in the audience and even Anh was crying.
Mikoto smiled and then turned her attention to Yukino. She tilted her head to the side a little, undoubtedly curious about the tears. But, Mikoto did not ask any questions. She merely motioned to Yukino that it was her turn to speak.
"Haruka, you are my soul-mate and my best friend. I can think of no one I would rather spend my life loving and being loved by in return. You are by far the strongest person I have ever known and having you by my side gives me strength. I want to give you strength also. I want to give you everything you need, want, and deserve. My only wish is to make you happy in life," Yukino proclaimed in a surprisingly strong voice.
By the end of the vows, half the audience was in tears, including Nao and Natsuki. The two sniffled and turned away from each other, so neither would see the other cry. After a couple of seconds, they turned and faced forward again.
"I think I have something in my eye," Natsuki lied as she wiped away her tears.
"Me too," Nao insisted.
The audience clapped when Haruka and Yukino were pronounced married and leaned in for their first kiss as spouses. There was a standing ovation when they pulled away. The newlyweds smiled and then everyone left to go the reception. Plenty of professional photos were taken at the reception before everyone was seated in the massive hall of the Presidential Palace in Aries. Closing out the wonderful ceremony, Shizuru stood up to make her toast to the newlyweds.
"Good evening everyone. I would like to keep my remarks short to avoid keeping Haruka-san and Yukino-san here any longer than necessary. I have known Haruka for a very long time and through her, I met Yukino, who I have also known a long time now. I do not believe I have seen two people so obviously made for each other, and that includes me and my Natsuki. Haruka-san and Yukino-san complete each other, always strive for their best because of each other, and they always support each other in every endeavor they undertake. Neither of them is ever alone because, as Haruka-san once told me, she could feel Yukino-san in her soul, buried in her heart, and embracing her always. I will not stand here and wish you luck because I know you two. You will fight for each other and you will fight for you love. This is to your happiness, your love. I hope that you to get everything you desire from life and everything you deserve," Shizuru said and she raised her glass. "Oh, and also make sure that our little Binkie has a playmate soon," she added.
Yukino blushed while Haruka puffed out her chest, as if silently proclaiming they would get to that soon enough. Shizuru smiled and everyone took sips from their glasses. The party was then underway. A lot of couples went to the dance floor, including Kenta and Nao.
Natsuki and Shizuru sat with Shinobu, even though Shinobu did not stay with them for long. Shinobu was a hot commodity being the newest baby around and also the first child of a very beloved couple. Everyone wanted to hold her, especially her two cousins. The little boys were not allowed to hold the baby; they were only six and four themselves. Nadia held the baby while her sons admired her.
"Natsuki's nephews are adorable," Shizuru commented. She had only just met the little boys. She and Natsuki were at the same table with Nadia. She and her sons were a couple of chairs away, cooing down at Shinobu. Shinobu stared at them, almost reminding Shizuru of Natsuki's "what the hell is going on" look.
"Yeah, and remember that Nico and Sebastian are your nephews too," Natsuki reminded her spouse, glancing over at her brother's children. The boys took after Nadia for the most part, making Natsuki think that Kruger genes probably were not as strong as she liked to brag. She wondered if she and Shizuru's next child would favor Shizuru more. She knew that Viola genes were very strong looking at Shizuru and Daphne, who definitely favored their father. She did not care, though. Just the thought of a second child put a smile on her face.
Shizuru nodded. "Yes, yes. This is a bit to get used to. As you know, my family is not quite as large as yours," she commented quite seriously, but she was smiling too. Thanks to Natsuki, she now had a huge family and Shinobu also had that family. She continued smiling as she watched how Nico Kruger and Sebastian Kruger marveled over their little cousin and continuously proclaimed "the greatest thing ever" with delighted smiles. They obviously loved their cousin already and Shizuru was so happy because of that.
"It's fine, babe. Oh, you did a great job on the toast too. I'm glad you didn't make fun of Haruka too much," Natsuki quipped.
Shizuru smiled, but did not say anything. They turned their attention to the party and saw that everyone was having a good time. Haruka and Yukino appeared to be looking for a way to escape, but guests that wanted to speak with them continuously halted them. Shizuru laughed a bit as she noticed what the poor newlyweds were going through while Natsuki started scanning the room for their wandering daughter, who went from her aunt Nadia to several other "aunts" when they noticed her.
Shinobu was pretty good when it came to her family, including the various aunts that were not related to her by blood. She tended to be very quiet, especially if she had something in her mouth to nibble or suck. She had even finally started accepting the pacifier, but only when she was tired or bored. Her newfound love of the pacifier did not stop the Viola family from calling her "Binkie." They noted that she still did not like it as much as other children, often spitting it out after only having it in her mouth for a couple of minutes. She much rather chew on her sleeves or nibble on one of her mothers' fingers.
Shinobu seemed to enjoy people-watching, often staring at whoever was holding her as if she was conducting a study. Everyone thought that was thoroughly amusing since she was only four months old. They could only wonder what was going on behind those mismatched eyes.
Shizuru and Natsuki's family and friends liked to speculate on whom Shinobu got her people-watching habit from. Most of the time no one could figure out whom Shinobu was most like. They could not wait for her to grow up a little and they could figure out if she was a mini-Shizuru or a mini-Natsuki…although both were scary thoughts for most of them.
Not too long after Natsuki found where the baby was, Shinobu was returned to them, out like a little light. Shizuru took charge of her, brushing some of her hair out of her face. They noticed that Shinobu had the making of natural highlights in her hair, but it was hard to tell. Only when the light hit her ebony tresses just right did they see hints of chestnut streaks running through her hair. Often, when the parents noticed the highlights, they wondered why Shinobu came out the way that she did. They did not dwell on it, though, and just dubbed her their "little miracle."
The couple left the party early to get Shinobu home, making sure to bid everyone farewell before they took their leave. People even still cooed at Shinobu, even though she was out. Others commented on how adorable it was that she slept with her mouth wide open; now, that was a trait Shizuru knew for a fact came from Natsuki. It took a while, but Shizuru and Natsuki made it out of the reception and home with Shinobu still sound asleep.
Home was still the principal's suite at Garderobe. They had been discussing where they were going to retire to, but they had not come up with anything solid. They figured that they had time, especially since Natsuki had slowed her own retirement process. She found that she could keep an eye on Shinobu and get a lot of work done at the same time. Whenever Natsuki could not watch the baby, Shizuru was right there. Natsuki figured that she had a couple more years in her and also that a couple of years might be good before Shizuru carried their next child.
Shizuru had pretty much switched her job at the school and no one really said anything. She was now a combat instructor. Nao, who did not seem to mind at all, handled her missions. Nao seemed much more confident in her own position thanks to Kenta's support and did not mind diving into Otome service.
The baby was laid down in a bassinet, which was out in the living room. Natsuki and Shizuru changed out of their wedding clothing into pajamas after having a quick shower. They then curled up on the couch. A movie was put on and they just enjoyed being close to each other, gently caressing each other and on occasion kissing whatever body part was closest.
"Natsuki," Shizuru said out of the blue.
"I love you and our daughter with all my heart," Shizuru replied.
A wide grin spread across Natsuki's face and she held onto her wife a little tighter. "I love you and our daughter too. I'm also looking forward to more kids."
Shizuru smiled softly and then gave Natsuki a deep kiss on the lips. Natsuki was surprised by the contact, but quickly got over that. She returned the kiss, which was brief, but passionate. They had their whole lives ahead of them and they were looking forward to it.
Well, here we are at the end of yet another story. Thank you everyone for reading my work. I hope you enjoyed it. I would like to thank my beta Ken-Zero for his usual outstanding work. I would also like to thank DezoPenguin, who might not know it, but was definitely the unofficial second beta for this story. Well, my hope is to one day do a sequel for this and also a couple of one-shots in this universe. We'll see how that works out. I hope you guys come back for any Mai Hime/Otome story I do decide to write. Well, I'm going back to my padded room now. Hasta…