Re-wrote this epilogue so many times. Was never happy with it. And now that my laptop has been hijacked, I'm using someone else's computer and now I have no choice but to post my last version of the epilogue re-typed on here.
Sorry for the ungodly delay, and enjoy. PLEASE READ THE AUTHOR'S NOTE AT THE END!
WARNINGS! Religious like references, slight language
"Your Lordship." The young night walker bowed on her knees, silent as the grave. My hair fluttered in a sudden gust of wind, blowing the loose grass free by our feet and sending them scuttling against our legs, my eyes slid shut and chin pointed to the sky.
Nostalgia hit me; times of tall grasses and beautiful flowers; of glorious mornings filled with laughter and love; of days spent fighting and begging for the life of a man no longer within my arms.
My eyes opened sadly and my present time brought me back to the matter at hand. All the years of yearning and despair and anger returned. My shoulders hunched with the weight of it all and I didn't care to stop the snarl that formed on my face. I turned my head to watch the young pup with her head bowed.
"What?" I barked.
She stood straight, eyes boldly looking into mine with her long wavy green hair billowing in the residual tufts of wind. Her eyes glittered, excited. Between her toothy grin she uttered, "It's time."
My heart was soaring and as I stared into her eyes I could tell she knew; she knew how happy I truly was, despite my sour demeanor. In turn, that made me snarl more; petty argument, I know but I hated losing in anyway… Never did handle it well.
My hand reached up and rubbed down my face, regrets and hopes warring for place within my heart and all I could feel was the nausea rising in my stomach. Swallowing back thick bile, I looked back to the girl, not wanting her to see this. I nodded once, and the young pup smiled a big toothy grin and giggled, running off.
I scowled as I watched her retreating back. I continued to watch long after she was gone from my sight. I couldn't bring myself to move, so much was holding me in place. So much rode on the shoulders of what was about to pass. If it didn't work…
I sighed. When did pessimism start to rule me? When did that set in? How many years ago? How many daunting years?
Rubbing my hand back down my face to clear my head, I began to move forward and stopped. A mirror had caught my sight and a reflection stared back out that I didn't recognize. It took me a few moments to realize I was staring at myself.
The crown on my head, the rings on my fingers, the expensive fabric I was swathed in. My heart ached with grief.
How many years had I ruled alone?
Anger suffused as my determination rose, a twisted medley of what it once was. My drive now driven by fury and hate; hate for what happened, fury for not stopping it. Fury for suffering alone for so long. Hate for letting it happen.
A sliver of hope squirmed its way in and I hid my face in my hand, tears threatening my eyes. After all these years, it was about to come to an end. And as much of these years taught me not to hope, I couldn't fight my old nature in this; I couldn't deny him this. Deny myself.
Oh gods, how I'd dreamt of this day. Of all the nightmares and horrors and pain, this dream was my beacon of light. Heat filled my face with happiness and my heart galloped away and for a fleeting second I was terrified at how hopeful I truly was. If things went awry, I would shatter.
I didn't have time to brood though for the horns sounded throughout in the stone hallway, my ears perked. I sighed, expelling my emotions. I stepped from the throne room, cheers filling my ears. Shining eyes glowed at me in the moonlight.
Women crowed, children laughed, and men howled. Delight filled my heart and a razor sharp grin splintered my face. My devotion was now theirs. Years of teaching and learning and they were fully devout. Together, we all could do this. I suddenly felt confident.
My eyes roved over them all, stopping on my steward, right hand, and best friend. Starrk smiled at me, coming to stand by my side. He leaned indiscernibly closer.
"Are you ready for this?"
I looked at him with disbelieving eyes. "Certainly, brother, you jest?" I sniffed indignantly, carrying on with my act as he raised an eyebrow not believing it. He smiled lazily. I smiled a hurt smile. "C'mon, brother. You know I'm desperate for it. I've waited so long, so damn long and here it is within my grasp! … And I can't yet grab it. How do you think I am?"
His eyes softened and his hand petted at my hair. I batted his hand away, hating and loving the comfort at the same time. His hand fell slowly. We both looked to the still cheering crowd and our silence reigned.
"You know your people love you, right?" His question after so long a silence startled me. I caught myself staring at him in surprise. He was watching me from the corner of his eye. "Because it's true. You're a great leader, Grimm. Don't ever doubt that. You will lead us to victory today and you shall have peace."
I pointedly looked away into the crowd. "… I know."
That accession had confidence and pride rushing back into me and I lifted my head in a picture of strength and determination for my people. They cried all the harder and I let them for a while. Without looking away from them, I addressed Starrk.
"We shall have light and warmth again."
I smiled and lifted my hands to silence my followers, and with rapid succession, one by one fell to quiet. My eyes looked over everyone and my smile turned genuine, my heart reaching out to them.
These were my children, my family that I found and built and raised. How much of me was within them I wonder. I was their father and they were my perfect children, flaws and short comings and all. I could never have asked for more.
"My children!" All eyes riveted to me, my arms raised. From my point of view, they encompassed them all in a grand hug. They were closer to my heart than they realized.
They were what got me through it all.
My eyes softened. "I know we've had troubles, we've gone through hard times. There were times when we almost completely fell apart. But here we are! Stronger than ever before! We are strong and we persevere! We are NIGHT WALKERS!"
Cheering erupted all around, cries of happiness and pride. My smirk turned devious. How much of me was within them, indeed. I allowed them moments to revel in their heritage and held up my hands for silence.
"I know I am a strict leader, that I can be cruel when angered and easily done so, but know that I have done all to protect you and keep you safe. I know that I am not a patient man and I have never claimed to be anything else. Despite my short comings, do you still trust your king? Will you still follow me despite my flaws?"
Cheers cried again and my heart felt lighter, tenfold. I waited for the cheers to die on their own this time.
This was the… difficult part. "I know you've all heard of my depressing past. I know you've heard the stories of a world full of light and not just glowing red embers on the edge of the horizon a few hours a day. How could such fantasies exist? And despite many of you having never seen such a thing, your faith is most humbling."
I turned behind me and to the ornate pedestal, painstakingly handcrafted and built by myself. The dull, warm stone sitting upon the pillow throbbed gently upon my palms as I picked it up. Walking back to my people I held it up and they cried out.
"I know I spoke of a way to return the world to what it once was! I know that I said it would take true devotion and praise! And here we are, on the cusp of something great! We shall see the world restored once again!"
A grimace crossed my face and I spoke softer. "I know it will not be the same. Many that once were have perished in the trying years since the Great Dulling. But that is why we must be willing to praise all the harder to save ourselves from our ancestors' mistakes!"
I nodded to Starrk and he motioned with his hand and drums began to beat gently. My children whooped and started to sway gently to and fro.
"I believe today our prayers will be answered! Our faith will be rewarded! Today! The light that has slept for so long will finally reawaken!"
And with that, the entire crowd cried out and the drums started thrumming in earnest and they began dancing, huge bonfires catching up and circles forming. I could hear their pleas rising over the noise of it all. Some were crying, some were laughing, others were too far gone to have any expression at all.
I watched as they all gave their all into their worship and I smiled sadly as I looked back to the fire stone; his fire stone.
"… Ichigo… Look what I did for you, look at what I did. Please, hear us, please wake up. We've tried so hard, so hard. We're doing this for you. Oh gods, Ichigo. We all love you so much." I watched them in silence, my heart filling with hope and love as I petted gently at the smoothness of the stone. A nostalgic smile formed.
"Told ya I'd find you praise. Tch, doubt me. Looks like you're gonna eat your words." I sighed sadly. "I love you, Ichigo." And I kissed his stone, warmth covering my lips. I held them there, and began to plead. My eyes scrunched tightly in my desperation, my heart thudding painfully and fast.
Please. Please. Please.
We continued for I have no idea how long. It felt like hours but could have been minutes. I heard the drums escalating in rhythm and speed. The cries became louder and the dancing more erratic. Here it was; the moment of truth.
My breath came in and out far too fast and my head spun with lightheadedness. Please, oh please gods! Let this work! My breath stopped.
The drums were deafening, the stamping of feet more like the rumbling of an earthquake. And then with a unanimous cry, they all fell to their knees, heads bowed and then silence ruled all.
And it ruled. And ruled, and still nothing moved. My breath finally came back, in painful heaving gasps.
Nothing. Nothing. NOTHING.
Choking back a sob my forehead fell to his smoothness and I rubbed it to my face, seeking comfort.
My heart was shattering. Pieces and strips flaying off in bloody convoluted chunks. I was dying inside. He… he wouldn't wake up. He wouldn't listen to us. He didn't want to. In a sudden burst of anger I grit my teeth and holding the stone level with my face, snarling.
"Ichigo! Gods damn it! Wake your lazy ass up!"
And then suddenly everything went white and all I felt was burning heat all around me. I cried out in alarm and stumbled backwards. In some vague background, I heard gasps and exclamations from my children. And like that, it was gone.
Blinking the spots from my vision, I noticed that it hadn't left but had moved. Turning my sight to the right and on the balcony floor, a big human shaped ball of blinding light, lying; my heart kicked into overtime. Long luminescent strands of orange splayed about the ground, like a river of light.
My children were silent as the grave and I heard near silent footsteps approach.
"Is he alive?" Awestruck voice. Starrk. I was shocked numb and dumb, barely even able to shake my head in the negative, uncertain.
Reaching forward, wishing to grasp that which I longed for most desperately, his hand moved and I choked.
Elation settled somewhere between my heart and stomach and a blinding smile rested peacefully on my face.
My name. My name? Yes… I heard my name. How? So tired. No, not tired. Groggy?
"Ichigo.." A voice full of… adoration? "Oh, Ichigo."
Wait! Familiar! So familiar! No, it can't be. But, yet it is. How?
I must know. Move.
… Damn it, move! Listen to me body, I said MOVE!
Another twitch of the hand. Not good enough. A jerk of the arm. Better, now stand. Sit. Something! Who is calling me? My body was desperate to find this voice, to know, to understand; to comfort.
"Ichigo, can you hear me?" Gentle hands running down my side, across my brow; gently, lovingly, reverently beholding my skin. "Ichigo?"
My heart ached with the longing in that voice. I felt my body be shifted for me, turned to rest upon a lap, nestled in strong arms. A cool hand cupped my face, tilting it upwards. Soft lips grazed mine.
Who? I must… know.
My eyes slowly slid open and instantly my sight was filled with blue of the most beautiful kind. Wizened eyes hopefully stared down at me, cuffed at the brow by an ornate crown, blue locks spilling down to settle on my shoulders and entwine with my own hair.
Confusion struck me. This face seemed so familiar. Who? What was going on? What happened last? I remember… Vague dreams of light and fallen faces from ancient pasts. But what else?
Travelling. So much travelling. Falling weak, being lifted again in arms much like these. But the face… I can't remember the face. A name perhaps? My mind drew blank and frustration settled deeper.
Must remember. I dug deeper. Seireitei. I remember Seireitei and visiting the looking pools. But then, it becomes hazy. I remember pain, desperation, fear, pleasure. Then clouded memories of someone speaking to me, a blurry face filling my vision.
Then, it became clear as I fell away. Young blue eyes staring into mine, determined and frightened. Making vows as his blue hair fell down around his face.
My eyes shot wide open as everything fully rushed back. I looked back up to the face above mine and truly saw it for the first time. It was older, not in a bad way. More hard set and tired, more world wary but it was the same face, if more haggard.
I choked back confusion. "G-Grimm?"
His face softened and lit up with excitement. He nodded enthusiastically. "Aw, gods Ichigo! You're finally here! I was so scared you came back… wrong."
More confusion. "Wrong? Wuh-What's going on? How am I here?" The situation finally struck me full force. I jerked upwards and grasped his shoulders. "How is this so? I shouldn't be here!"
His lips silenced my frightened rant before it could begin. And the kiss grew deeper, not hurried nor desperate but basking. I lost myself and everything else slid to the background of my senses. I felt his hand running through my hair, pulling me impossibly closer. I'm more than certain I could have stayed like that for the rest of eternity but he gently pulled away, resting his forehead to mine, our breaths mingling.
I could see his tail swishing back and forth contentedly. I smiled but it slowly fell away as I let the situation settle once again. I gently felt at my chest, nervous. Solid, not a hole in sight. Shock filled me and I looked back into his eyes. "Grimm. I'm so confused. Why am I here?"
He smirked feral like a beast and my heart galloped away at the sight of it. "I told you I'd find you praise. Oh ye of little faith." He shrugged and sighed as if disappointed. I scoffed and slapped him upside the head playfully. He yelped but laughed and gripped my hand.
"Gods I never realized how much I missed your abuse." His smirk softened as he leaned closer, nose pressed to my cheek, breathing in my scent. I stopped breathing as my heart thundered on. Having him so close was doing wonders to my bodily functions. A blush covered my face, I know it did and I looked away.
I felt him chuckling more than heard it. He knew what I was doing. Grumbling, I said, "You know what I meant, Grimm. I died. I fell away from here, became lost within my stone. My light faded. How am I back?"
Feral smirk back in place he cackled, "And that's where it ended!"
Confusion filled me. "That doesn't make sense."
"No, no; it makes perfect sense!"
Irritation filled me and my eyebrow twitched. "Do explain."
Now his smirk was irritating me. "With pleasure! Ichigo, your stone dulled in my hands. I-I felt it cool." His voice wavered and all irritation fled me only to replaced by a deep sadness. "I was certain I had lost you, so certain. I damn near gave up on life then and there. I… I don't handle defeat well… At all.
"But as much as I wanted to keep you by my body, before I completely chose to die, I decided to lay you back down to rest besides your fallen brothers. I travelled back to where I found you and had just sat you back onto your pedestal and had turned to walk out when something caught my eye in the dark. I mean, beforehand I probably would have caught it sooner but I was so distraught I couldn't even see straight."
He shook his head in abject wonder and his eyes turned back to mine and a smile took form, his eyes shining with it. "I noticed that all the fire stones were dull."
I nodded. "Yes, they all dull and crack when the sun child that resides within dies. You already knew that."
He shook his head frantically. "No, no. That's it. They were all dull and cracked. It was so dark in there without your stone to glow. My eyesight is much better in the dark. I could see every crack lining the surface. It had me so confused for the longest time."
"But you already knew that happened."
"Yes but, yours wasn't. It was dull and dull only." He looked to the sky and back down. "I couldn't understand. But it clicked, slowly, but it did."
He lifted my head closer and he smiled against my ear. "I was hoping so desperately for you to be in my arms that I kept you from dying."
He pulled away and a loving expression struck me like a stone. "Remember what you once told me? 'Even if you were to praise me, it wouldn't stop me from fading. It would only be enough to keep me from dying. I would lie dormant and only so.' Or something like that. Do you remember that?"
My eyes shot wide open in shock as it finally sunk in. His smile grew and my heart started pumping blood as excitement flooded me. "So-So I'm not dreaming? I won't wake up to realize I'm really burning alone in the afterlife?"
He shook his head and laughed. "No, this is real. I'm real and you're living and breathing."
"But… But how?"
He shrugged nonchalantly. "I told you I'd find you praise."
I knew confusion was clearly written across my face and he simply pulled me up to my feet and lead me over to the edge of a grand balcony. The air rushed from my lungs as shock nearly felled me, his arms the only thing holding me up.
My eyes took in the entire spectacle in front of me. Thousands upon thousands of night walkers all stood watching with baited breath. Upon seeing me, a deafening roar filled the air. Fists raised to the skies and cheers rumbled the ground.
I looked to Grimmjow, all the blood gone from my face. He glanced at me, smirked, and then raised his hands to the sky and they cheered louder.
I felt a hand rest on my shoulder and I turned to see Starrk smiling tiredly at me. I blinked owlishly. He looked at the crowd and nodded. "That's how."
I turned numbly to watch once again. "Who on Earth are they?"
"My children." Grimmjow answered. I jerked to look at him.
He cackled like a beast, head thrown back. His fist pounded the railing and I felt slightly insulted by it all. He looked back to me, eyes gleaming. "Not literally!" Giggles still pouring from his mouth. "These are my people. I travelled the world to find them. And I brought them back together."
His arm motioned across the gathered body. I looked out past the night sky and the masses and saw giant trees of a variety I had never seen before. It was beautiful and serene.
"They look to me as their king."
My attention shot straight back to him. I smirked. "Well that certainly explains the attire."
He snorted but said nothing. I looked at him closer. He seemed so much… older. "Grimm. How long have I been gone?"
A pained grimace shot across his face before it was gone just as quickly. He looked to me from the corner of his eye. "A millennium, Ichigo; too damn long."
I choked. A thousand years? So long? Oh. Oh, Grimm. Sadness engulfed me once again and I held onto him. Trying to lighten the mood, I said cheekily, "Well, you've done really well for yourself, old man."
He laughed heartily. "Me? Old? My dear ancient sun child, you might have been asleep this whole time but you're just that much older as well. You have another thousand on me easily."
We laughed together and it felt so good and right and I wouldn't wish for anything else ever. He pulled me into his arms. "Though, my rule has been lacking in one account."
"Hmm, and that would be?"
"I've been ruling alone and I need someone by my side. And I fully intend to have you there no matter what."
Shock filled me. "Me? A sun child? Ruling side by side with the king of the night walkers over the night walkers themselves? Blasphemy!"
His face darkened and I smirked. "But then again, I suppose for you I would do anything to keep you close now that I know I can actually keep you."
A smile formed and he whispered in my ear, "Now I can finally show you what it means to have a night walker as your lover." My face flushed darkly and he laughed as he held up his hands to the crowd and the ever present cheers died away. In a booming voice, he called out. "Today! Today we have our victory!"
Cheering shook the ground. I held onto Grimmjow's arm. He continued. "How many years have we begged for this and now we have our victory at last!" Ah, he was purposefully riling them up. I smirked with pride. He was a good king indeed, I could tell already.
"And now, we finally have our kingdom complete! My love and other half stands beside me again at last." His voice was softer and the cheering quieted. "We will have a kingdom built between the night walkers and sun children through this union; an unbreakable tie of love and devotion."
My heart was racing and trying to break free from my chest, butterflies were battering around in my stomach. There was so much of him put into this. So much he did for me. I smiled and pulled myself closer to him.
"I know that they are no more but I fully intend to find a way to bring them back, even if it means one by one, I will find a way."
He… He intends to build back my people? I smiled warmly. Since when did Grimmjow become so mature, so utterly thoughtful; so truly devoted? How much he had changed over the years, but I loved him all the more for it, even if he was still blindly optimistic. I rolled my eyes and smiled, but I knew better than to doubt him. Once he set his mind to something, I'm more than certain he could do it. The cheering couldn't possibly have gotten any louder, but somehow it did.
"TO VICTORY!" He yelled, fists raised to the sky.
"TO VICTORY!" The crowd boomed and chills shot down my spine. My doubts were gone. We could do this and we would. I stood a little taller, a little more proud. We will win.
And the drums started again. The people began dancing and laughing and celebrating and I was filled with the urge to join them.
Grimmjow gripped my wrist gently. "What a welcome, right?"
"A welcoming to what?"
"Why, our main city of course. Hueco Mundo."
Shock filled me but then again, should I really be surprised? He brought the night walkers back together and raised this city back from the depths; once more a flourishing jungle, filled with strange trees that gently glowed in the dark. Much has changed indeed.
"The world is much different from what you once remember it. Many have died away but much more has taken their place. Animals and plants have adapted and grew stronger. But we intend to see the old days restored." He had followed my line of thought.
I nodded, understanding. "Is that why they are here?" I motioned to the writhing mass.
He shrugged. "Partially. They came here to pray like we do everyday, hours before morning should rise, hoping for a change."
"Well of course. They all hope to see it, dream of it even. No they can't bear to even think of missing it."
Confusion. "Miss what?"
All the faces in the crowd looked to the sky and I stared at Grimmjow, trying to understand.
He smiled at me, "Dawn." He looked back up to the sky and at the eastern horizon. Understanding filled me and I smiled and turned to watch as streaks of light broke the curve of the world for the first time in a thousand years.
Cheers full of tears and utter happiness filled the air and I closed my eyes reveling in the heat that flooded my senses and I grabbed his hand in mine, at peace and in love.
~.:. End of Dusk.:.~
I think I got a cavity from writing this. So much… sugar. Anyway, THANK YOU EVERYONE WHO READ THIS AND STUCK WITH IT TO THE END! I LOVED YOUR REVIEWS AND THEY KEPT ME GOING. YOU HAVE MY DEEPEST GRATITUDE 8) THIS IS IN FACT MY FIRST MULTICHAPTERED STORY I'VE EVER FINISHED. SAD, RIGHT? BUT I THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART AGAIN!
The sequel is already written and ready to post. It is MUCH shorter but the prequel is LONG. VERY LONG. And I have a few chapters of that written. But, sadly my computer is in use by someone else and all my info is stored on that. Even the original drafts and such are stuck there. As well as other stories I have in the making so everything else is put on hold. I was lucky enough to have this bad boy in paper copy. Good lord… So much paper.
But I am expanding my kingdoms and moving around a bit. New fandoms and what not but I shall still be posting here as well. My newest story is called STEIN HOUSE. Keep an open eye for it 8) it's a supernatural/horror/romance. I'm certain you'll all love it 'specially since it's Grimmpa and Ichichi.
End of the story rant now over… so with customary departure, ahem. TELL ME WHAT YA THINK! LOVE YA GUYS AND UNTIL NEXT TIME! ( 8D