Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha or any of the publicly known characters, plot, etc. I'm just renting them from Rumiko Takahashi, Viz, etc. I do own the plot of this story and any original characters I've created. I will make no money from this fic; I write for my own enjoyment and the enjoyment of my readers.
Brighter than the Sun (Epilogue)
Taisho Sesshoumaru stood alone, in the small private cemetery owned by his family, gazing somberly down at two graves in particular.
Loving husband and devoted father
May their spirits rest together in eternity
Loving wife and devoted mother
May their spirits rest together in eternity
Sesshoumaru sighed; it was difficult coming here. A little less than five hundred years ago, he had come to embrace Inuyasha as a brother. Marrying a human and siring his own hanyou children had much to do with his change of heart. His wife was one of many things he owed to his half-brother. Without Inuyasha's strong words all those years ago, he might never have come to terms with the desires of his heart. He might have forfeited his one chance at true happiness because of his stubborn pride. He might have lost Rin forever. Instead, he had taken her as his mate and wife, and their bond had grown so strong that she had aged with him over the centuries. Yes, he owed Inuyasha a lot.
He sensed her approach, but made no move to acknowledge her presence. She stood by his side, uttering a silent prayer for the dearly departed. He was grateful, even more so when she gently took his hand in hers.
"I thought I'd find you here," Rin said softly. "I know how badly you wanted to go see him again. I'm proud of you, Sesshoumaru."
He made no response, pretending that sentiment didn't mean the world to him. He would never admit how right Rin was; he had wanted to see Inuyasha again. But the integrity of time needed to be protected at all costs, so he had restrained himself from any contact. For all intents and purposes, his brother had died forty years ago. The hanyou periodically appearing on this side of the bone eater's well was merely a specter of the past. And a very powerful one at that, prone equally to finding trouble and using heroism to get out of it. You did it again, Inuyasha. Five hundred years ago, you rid the world of a great evil. And now, you have allowed me to do the same.
"Just think," Rin declared, trying to cheer him up. "They have more than four hundred fifty years of happiness ahead of them."
He almost smiled at that. Inuyasha and Kagome had indeed been happy, their lives filled with laughter and joy. She bore him twenty-two children in all, and today those children and hundreds of descendants lived all throughout Japan, carrying on in their parents' proud legacy. Sesshoumaru cared for all of them as he did his own descendants. They had raised their families side-by-side for many years, never moving too far apart. Hanyou of two distinct lineages had played together as children, coexisting peacefully with the humans of Inuyasha's village, which had eventually grown to become modern Tokyo. Sesshoumaru never would have believed it had he not seen it with his own eyes. Where he had once thought of hanyou as lowly abominations, he now saw them as children of fortune. They combined the best of both sides of their heritage: the strength and determination of the youkai, and the kind heart of the human. In a world that no longer felt revulsion at their existence, they were truly blessed.
Sesshoumaru glanced down at his wife, squeezing her hand. She beamed up at him, the expression reminding him of the wrinkles that were just starting to make themselves known on her features. He too was no longer young. Not even full-youkai were immune from the inexorable advance of time. But he had centuries left to spend with her, and the thought filled him with warmth. It was heartbreaking to watch their hanyou children age past them and die, but he had never once regretted his decision to be with her. And he knew she felt the same way. In reality, they were the blessed ones.
Kagome yawned cavernously, stretching the sleep out of her arms and legs. Bright light streamed in through the cracks in the doorway. Ugh, slept in again. She heaved herself into a sitting position, an act made awkward by her huge belly. She was pregnant with her and Inuyasha's second child, and would probably go into labor any day now. She laughed; Inuyasha was not letting her go anywhere. He was fully intent on having a professional handle the delivery this time, though she was sure he'd be there by her side throughout. She wouldn't have it any other way.
Her husband had probably taken Izayoi to go play somewhere, to prevent he precocious three-year-old from waking her. Their second baby wasn't even born yet, but already she could tell the two children were going to be drastically different. Whereas Izayoi had enjoyed kicking her while in the womb, often as she was trying to sleep, child number two was relatively calm most of the time. He or she just made Kagome incredibly tired, hence her regular habit of slumbering well into late morning.
Fortunately, Inuyasha let her sleep whenever she needed to. Taking Izayoi outside was just one of the little things he did for her every day. He truly was an amazing husband, and had developed into a wonderful father. They were both still learning the skills of parenthood, and probably would be for a long time, but they were proud of how Izayoi was turning out. She was not perfectly behaved by any means, but no three-year-old was.
Grimacing, Kagome rolled out of bed and went to get something to eat. She was not surprised to find breakfast simmering near the fire; that was something else Inuyasha usually did for her. All of these little things added up pretty quickly. Grinning, she sat down and dug in. When she was finished, she toddled off to see what her husband and daughter were up to.
She found them in the first place she looked—a small field with tall grass and flowers where Izayoi loved to run and explore. Inuyasha reclined on his back under the shade of a tree at the edge, eyes closed and arms folded behind his head. Izayoi lay on his chest sleeping soundly, her cheek pressed against his breastbone. It was an adorable sight, and Kagome simply stood there enjoying it for a few moments. Inuyasha's nose twitched and he opened one eye to glance at her. He held one arm out to the side in invitation, and she lay down next to him, cuddling up to his side while being careful not to wake Izayoi.
"Sleep well?" he asked quietly.
She nodded. "Thanks for making me breakfast again, by the way. It was good. You might be a better cook than me."
They settled into a comfortable silence, each enjoying the tranquil moment. Izayoi stirred a short while later, and with a smile Kagome realized the peace was over.
"Hi Okaa-san!" she greeted excitedly.
"Hey, baby. Did you have fun with Otou-san?"
"Yeah! Is Otouto gonna come out today?"
Kagome chuckled at her daughter. Izayoi was so convinced her younger sibling was a boy that she had started referring to him as 'little brother.' And every day she asked whether he was coming out.
"I don't know, sweetie. Maybe," Kagome replied, giving her standard answer. Izayoi frowned in disappointment, and rolled off her father's chest. She leaned her ear against Kagome's belly, listening carefully.
"You come out soon," she demanded. "Nee-chan says so."
Inuyasha and Kagome barely managed to keep from bursting into laughter. Izayoi quickly lost interest in her disobedient 'Otouto,' and instead turned to her father with mischief in her eyes.
"Hey, Otou-san…got yer nose!" she cried, shooting her hand out and pretending to snatch Inuyasha's nose. She scrambled off, clearly expecting her father to give chase. Inuyasha passed Kagome a helpless look.
"Guess you'd better go get your nose back," she teased. He leaned forward and planted a kiss on her lips before leaping to his feet.
"Alright, you little thief!" he yelled, shaking his fist playfully. "Give me back my nose!"
Izayoi screeched with laughter as he pursued her around the field, always letting her slip out of his grasp at the last moment. Then, before he could catch her, she shifted gears again and began chasing after a butterfly, his stolen nose completely forgotten. Inuyasha grinned and shook his head, marveling at her short attention span. He gazed out over the tree line, basking in the sun's rays. He was sure Izayoi would soon tire of the butterfly and ask him to play another game.
Kagome, observing all of this from her spot under the tree, was struck by a profound sense of déjà vu; she could swear she had seen this before. Everything seemed so familiar, right down to the flowers waving in the breeze. She gasped as she placed the memory.
She was sitting in a field of lush green, the sun shining brightly overhead and bathing the area in soothing warmth. Birds and insects flitted about their business, and flowers of every color swayed in the wind. In short, the scene was breathtakingly beautiful.
A small form moved in the distance, drawing her attention. It was a dark-haired child, probably about two or three years old, teetering after a butterfly. It took her a moment to realize that the child had puppy ears perched atop its head. As she watched, the child lost interest in the butterfly and scampered over to a larger form which she recognized almost instantly.
There was no mistake; the scene spread out before her almost exactly matched the one from her dream, shortly before she lost their first child. The details were too perfect to mean anything else. Perhaps the dream had not been a dream at all.
But there was one key difference between her vision and what her eyes told her at the present moment—in reality, Inuyasha was happy. She watched as he scooped his daughter up in his arms and tossed her into the air a few times, joining in her gleeful laughter. Inuyasha's golden eyes held none of the crushing grief his counterpart's did inside her memory.
Now Kagome understood the meaning behind her vision. It was a premonition, a warning that a tragedy was about to befall them that could tear them apart. The ordeal they were about to go through could haunt them for the rest of their days.
That had obviously not come to pass; they had overcome their crises, recovered from heartbreak, and grown stronger in their relationship than ever. But they would never forget the one they lost. Kagome thought of it often, what their child would have been like. She smiled sadly, able now to ruminate on such things without shedding tears. She had come to realize that it was useless to cry over the past. Her family and friends made it easy to look to the future, which seemed brighter than the sun.
Beaming, she went to join her husband and daughter in their game.
A/N – *stares blankly at the page* Is it done?
Yes, folks, it's really done. My epic has finally reached its conclusion. I'm sad to see it go, but I also feel an incredible sense of accomplishment. And what a journey it's been. More than two years, 64 chapters, almost 400,000 words, hundreds of reviews, and countless hours of writing, brainstorming, corresponding, and editing. In short, it's been an absolute blast. I hope you've enjoyed reading as much as I've enjoyed writing.
I'm not sure what my next major project will be. I have several ideas, ranging from an angsty post-manga Miroku/Sango, to a canon action/adventure set mostly in the modern era, to a feudal era AU. I could even do the Sesshoumaru/Rin companion piece I set up with this chapter. I will probably take a break before starting a new project.
The promised editing process has been completed, so as of March 6, 2011, this story is essentially in its complete and final form.