As always, I do not own these characters! They are the great invention of Rumiko Takahashi. (Well I guess I own Daitokage and Takahiro and whoever else I decide to create, but whatever.)

Six months later…

Rin awoke, the cold winter light of a new morning casting soft, golden rays across her sheets. She turned away from the cold air and scooted her body closer to the source of warmth next to her. Surely it wasn't already time to rise… The air was crisp and fresh and the bitterness of it startled her senses. As much as the light called for her to rise, she simply couldn't convince herself to begin the day. She had had such a pleasant dream last night…

She exhaled deeply, breathing in the soft scent of the comforter. How nice it was to lay here, cradled by the soft texture of the sheets. Slowly, her eyes fluttered open, her sight blurring slightly before coming into focus. Dark navy mixed with light cream floated before her eyes. Rin smiled.

"Good morning, Sesshomaru-sama," she said, sleep still texturing her voice with its soft freshness. "And how are you today, milord?" Even though she was no longer required to use such formalities, it was a force of habit by now. When she was tired or just waking up, it was inevitable that those would be the first words to come to her mind at the sight of Sesshomaru.

Rin yawned slightly and rubbed her eyes, trying to rouse her brain which was still foggy with deep sleep and happy dreams. She still couldn't help but feel a burning warmth pass through her every time she woke up by his side. She could tell that Sesshomaru had been awake for a while, but his hair was still tousled messily from sleep. His golden eyes were gentle as he gazed down at her. It was strange how this look still caused butterflies to flitter nervously in her stomach. What former life had she led to deserve such happiness?

He was leaning on his side, his head rested on his hand propped up by his elbow. The thin jinbei hung open, exposing the smooth skin of bare chest. "Good morning, Rin. How did you sleep?"

"Well," she replied as she rolled onto her side to face him. "How long have you been awake?"

"A while."

"You have quite a lot of work to do today, haven't you milord?"

"Yes," came the low reply as Sesshomaru reached out and brushed the loose strands of her hair and tucked them behind her ear. "However, I think I would like to spend a little more time with my mate." He lowered himself back underneath the sheets of the bed and put a hand low on her back, drawing her closer to him. Even after five months of sharing his bed, Rin still felt the heat rise to her cheeks when Sesshomaru did such things. Rin heard him chuckle softly at the inevitable reaction. She knew he loved watching her reactions.

Rin started to pull away in protest of his laughing at her, but he held to her steadfast. Putting on her best face of contempt, she turned her head away, knowing it was the one thing he couldn't control. In response, however, he rolled her onto her back and hovered over her, his amber eyes glinting playfully. He leaned his head in closely, and Rin waited expectantly for a kiss, already closing her eyes. Yet, it didn't come. Rin reluctantly looked back at Sesshomaru to see that he was smirking, waiting for her to take it from him herself. Her mouth curved into a frown of frustration. She raised her head to his, preparing for a kiss, yet he moved back once more. The smirk on his face grew wider as she leaned closer and he pulled away.

Such small games that Sesshomaru played still took Rin by surprise. Even after he had taken her as his mate, it still was a while before this aspect of his personality emerged. When he played with her like this, it was if he was a puppy again, young and cheerful, not the solemn, stern Sesshomaru she had known. It seemed as if every day a new aspect of Sesshomaru revealed itself to her. She suspected, however, these new sides were simply older parts of him just beginning to thaw.

A look of amused annoyance overtook Rin's face as she yielded to this game of cat and mouse. Again and again she would lean closer to him only to find he had pulled farther away. Finally, sick of Sesshomaru having constant control, she moved her own hand to the back of his head and began to run her fingers through his hair. Immediately he was placated by the gentle motion, seeming as if to fall into a trance. Finally, she raised her head once more to his as her hands moved to his ears and kissed him. This time, he did not pull away.

Even after she let her hands fall back to her sides, Sesshomaru continued the kiss, deepening it as he pushed her back onto the bed. Rin felt a small burst of triumph at having beaten him at his own game, and she moved her hands to his back, pulling him closer to her. The moment was broken, however, by the grumbling of Rin's stomach. Sesshomaru ended the kiss, rising to fetch the breakfast tray which was already inside the room. He brought it to her and set it on the low table beside the bed.

"You should eat."

Rin rose from the bed grudgingly, hating to leave the warmth and end the moment she and Sesshomaru had been sharing, but the call of the food was too strong. She pulled a heavy wool blanket around her as she went to sit at the table. Sesshomaru bent and brushed his lips lightly against her forehead before leaving through the door to his study which was ajar. Rin held the lacquered chopsticks in her hands, softly muttering "itadakimasu" before she began to eat the plain meal before her. She was a little dejected to find that her meal was so simple, only consisting of rice porridge and miso soup, but she knew that Azami had been given special orders concerning her diet.

After she had finished the meal, Rin rose and left the room through a sliding door opposite the one which lead to Sesshomaru's study. This door took her to her new room which was even more spacious than the last. It was here she kept her things and the futon which she occasionally slept on while Sesshomaru was away. This was her bedroom now, the room for the lady of the house, a fact Rin wasn't sure if she was quite used to yet. Rin untied the thin band which bound her hair loosely behind her while she slept. Loosening the knot of the belt of her sleeping robe, she let it fall to her shoulders.

The blackened gashes on her neck still surprised her when she looked at her reflection in the mirror. Even after six months, they had yet to fully heal. The edges still looked like charred wood after a fire, rough as sand to the touch. Kagome had said that they may never fully heal, so Rin tried her best to accept them as part of her now. She brought her right hand up to the left side of her neck where they were, the three long claw marks which had changed her life. She brushed the tips of her fingers over the deep lines, shivering a little at the touch. A high-collared kimono usually hid the scars, but alone with only herself, there was nothing to keep her from confronting the sickening sight.

Even as she cringed at the sight, her eyes drifted to the right of the scars to where another mark lay that had not been there six months ago. It was faint, only a light lavender color, but to her eyes, it was even more clearly defined than the blackened gashes from Takahiro's claws. A small crescent moon hung slightly crooked on her skin as if it were the sky. When it had first been made, two puncture marks from Sesshomaru's fangs had also marred the area, but with time, that wound had healed.

The sound of a door sliding open ended her reverie, and Rin turned to see Keiko entering from a door behind her, one that was the end of a small stairwell used only for the maid of the lady of the house. Keiko smiled at Rin, apparently still sleepy eyed. She slid the door to Rin's closet aside, pulling down several boxes from which to choose Rin's clothes for the day.

"Good morning!" Rin said as she pulled her robe back around her and walked over. "So, what's on the menu for today, Keiko-san?"

Keiko laughed before replying, continuing to open and close the many boxes with kimono folded neatly inside. "Well, it's pretty cold out today, so you'll need to wear something with a little weight to it. I was thinking this, milady?"

From the many boxes of clothes which now lined Rin's closet, she pulled from the top a silvery, sky blue kimono with white cherry blossoms on it. As were all the other kimono, it was simply stunning. Yet, Rin continued to make a face at Keiko. When her friend saw her expression, she replaced the kimono in its box. "I'm sorry, milady, were you hoping to wear a different one today?"

"That word!" Rin said, her playful frown becoming more pronounced.

"What word?" Keiko asked, puzzled.

"Milady! I've told you a million times that I don't want to hear you out of all people to use that term."

Keiko laughed at Rin's frustration. "All right, all right. I'm sorry! It's just a natural reflex, now that you're…" her words trailed off, but she smiled slyly and gestured at her own neck where on Rin's was the crescent moon. Rin blushed slightly because it was a mark that was to be kept hidden, not out of shame, but simply out of tradition. As Keiko was her dressing maid, she was pretty much the only one who knew about it.

Although there had been maids who had addressed her with "milady" before she had become Sesshomaru's mate, they were soon corrected and the term had been dropped. Now, however, they were required socially to use it at all times, even Azami who had never once addressed Rin as "milady" in all her time at Sesshomaru's estate. It frustrated Rin to no end because it perpetually elevated her beyond what she felt was her status. She hated how awkward it was to hear the people she had once worked with to sweep up ashes and soot call her "milady" again and again. Keiko and Azami were the only two she had managed to convince to continue addressing her still as "Rin-san" and "child," respectively, while they were in private. In front of others, however, they simply refused to be seen addressing Sesshomaru's mate with so little humility.

A memory floated to the forefront of Rin's mind, reminding her of the day when she had stood in her old room, being dressed by Keiko in a kimono of violet silk she would later meet Takahiro in. Keiko had used to playfully tease Rin about becoming the Lady of the Western lands, but never had Rin imagined that such a thing might actually come to pass.

"So," Rin prompted as Keiko began to dress her in the many layers of the heavy silk fabrics. "Have you gotten another letter yet?" She turned to face Keiko who had been tying an obi belt around her waist, finding that her friend's cheeks had flushed a burning shade of crimson.

"Just yesterday evening," Keiko mumbled, not meeting Rin's eyes.

Rin's face broke into a sly grin. "And… have you responded yet?"

"Why are you looking at me like that Rin?! There's nothing like that going on!"

"I'm sure, I'm sure," Rin said nonchalantly with a wave of her hand. "I mean, I'm positive those letters aren't the reason why you're blushing a most lovely shade of pink."

Keiko stammered for a moment before finally managed to reply with sarcastic formality, "Such words do not dignify a response!"

Rin laughed and hugged her best friend. Rin had returned to Kagome's village three months ago to visit the children for several days. Because of her new status of lady of the estate, she was able to coerce Azami into letting Keiko who had desperately needed some time for rest come with her. While they had been there, however, Keiko had met a tousle-haired boy who was carrying several bags of winter vegetables and was limping with a cane. She had helped him carry them back to his home and Yuushin had been writing to her ever since.

Rin was actually planning to make another trip to Kagome's village in a couple of weeks, though this time it was more for Keiko than herself. Perhaps Kagome could convince Kouga to bring Souta, Toshi, Shiro, and Yuna with him while he was there. She missed the four cubs very much and had yet to see them since she was trapped in the caves. The few northern wolves who had survived the collapse of the mountain had been given the option to assimilate into the southern wolf tribe or remain on their own. Sesshomaru had mentioned to Rin that the few of those who did not join the new pack were left fragmented and without an alpha to lead them, ultimately leading to their deaths.

Keiko finished dressing Rin, and after a hasty goodbye, left to complete the morning chores, leaving Rin alone. After she had returned, Rin continued to try help out with the chores as she had been used to doing only to find that Azami immediately scolded her ("It's no longer your place to be in the kitchens!"). Now she spent her days in solitude, mainly using the time to study the history of the inudaiyoukai which dated back dizzyingly far.

Looking out the window of her room, she could see a soft blanket of gleaming white snow covering the ground. Seeing as that she was already dressed in heavy winter clothing, Rin decided to go for a walk, pulling on a wool overcoat. Before she left, however, she pulled from a trunk next to the doorway the silver knife Sesshomaru had given to her so long ago. Ever since Takahiro, she refused to go anywhere without it tucked safely inside the folds of her robes.

Rin walked through the cherry blossom orchards, the trees now stripped of any petals by the winter frost. Snow outlined each branch, pitting pure white against the dark winter wood. It was peaceful now in the solitary woods, quiet except for the gentle crunch of snow beneath her feet and the soft whooshing sound of her robes lightly trailing the ground. She liked the solitude of these groves especially in winter when she the only living thing still moving through the sea of trees. Rin admired the way the world in winter managed to melt into shades of silent grey, black, and white, creating a tranquil melancholy.

Finding a spot relatively clear of snow, Rin spread her overcoat on the ground and sat down. She sighed pleasantly, wishing that she had remembered the fur mittens that Kagome had sent her. Wrapping her hands up inside her long sleeves, Rin reminisced about the days when her training with Daitokage would warm herself immediately. But, for now, her lessons had been suspended, something that Rin had slightly grown to miss. As strenuous as they had been, Rin missed Daitokage's playful banter. For now, while Rin was away from her lessons, he had returned to his tribe in the south.

Closing her eyes, she thought about the days that had led her here instead of keeping her in Kagome's village. She hadn't lied to Yuushin when she said she could have led a happy life with him; it was true. When he had kissed her in the firefly clearing so many months ago, she had felt calm. She knew that a life with him would have been simple and peaceful; it was the life that so many village girls aspired to. Yet, it was not the one she desired. When she had woken up to Sesshomaru's amber eyes that first night after her unconsciousness, she felt that she was home.

Yet, the life she knew she was supposed to want dangled in front of her, the one Yuushin had proposed. It wasn't until after she talked with Kagome that she realized what she had felt with Yuushin was normalcy. It was the life among humans that she had been offered so many years ago by Kaede that she was never old enough to decide upon when she had chosen Sesshomaru. Never again would she have to endure the whispers of the villagers on the market days like those she experienced with Keiko. Never again would she be snatched up by demons like collateral for Sesshomaru to pay for. No, she would live a simple life, a predictable one built upon a love that would grow from the collaborative effort of establishing a life together. After all this time, though, she couldn't help but long for the life she had, the one that she knew Sesshomaru was welcoming her back to. She realized then, sitting by the river, that she didn't want normalcy. Since she was five she had lived the life of an adventurer, and it was one that she could never leave behind.

Rin heard a soft thump next to her and opened her eyes. She knew who it was before she saw the long silver hair rippling in a slight breeze, shining brightly in the grey winter light. She smiled warmly.

"It's cold. Why are you outside?"

"I don't know," Rin said, patting the spot next to her. "It just called to me somehow."

Sesshomaru raised his eyebrows in amusement before obliging her and resting next to her. Apparently noticing Rin's cheeks when had grown pink from the cold, he pulled his white boa from around his body and draped it across her arms. Rin pulled it tight to her. "Thank you," she chimed cheerfully, but Sesshomaru didn't look at her.

"You must be more careful. You should be inside."

Rin smiled. No matter what her position was, as either mate or ward, he would always be sure to chide her. "I know. I'll be in soon," she responded as she looked up through the labyrinth of tree branches.

Sesshomaru moved his hand to her stomach, resting lightly on the silk which covered it. Rin laid her small hand on top of his large one, feeling the slight swell of her belly that for once was not from a large meal. This swell was the reason why she could hardly have any meat in the mornings, the reason for why her lessons with Daitokage had been postponed, and it was the reason why every morning when she woke up in Sesshomaru's arms, she had an extra surge of joy.

Rin looked to Sesshomaru, beaming with happiness. His eyes met hers, and though no smile crossed his face, his gaze was of warm contentment. The hand on her stomach enclosed around hers with a gentle, reassuring pressure. Their fingers intertwined, bound together for a new tomorrow.

First of all, I would like to thank everyone who read this story. It was the readers who gave me the greatest joy while writing this and kept me going through hard times. It was a pleasure to put this story out there, and I don't know what I would have done without you guys. The readers are the greatest source of strength for writers (or at least for me, they are), and there's no way I would have been able to do this without you all. Writing this story has been one of the highlights of my budding career and I have learned so much from it. Thank you all so much! I wish I could express my undying gratitude thoroughly enough, but I don't think there are words enough to do it justice! Again, thank you so very much.

As far as a sequel goes for this story, I'm not sure whether or not there will be one. I have had some passing ideas on what it could be, but right now, I don't believe that's where my immediate focus is. I have two ideas for stories coming up: one is a series of drabbles (well, longer than drabbles I suppose), and the other is a full story, both RinxSesshomaru based of course =) If you're interested in continuing to read my work, please add me to your author alert. I would love to see you guys reading my stories again.

It'll be a month or two before I actually start publishing either of these stories, however, so in the meantime, I'll be polishing up this story and going over all of your stories! So, now's the time to shamelessly plug for your own stories if you have any that you want me to check out. ^-^

As I can't say it enough, thank you guys for everything. You have been wonderful to me! I hope you enjoyed the story. (Kind of took off of Rumiko Takahashi's final words, didn't I there? ;P)

To the reviewers of the previous chapter:

courtneykramer94 – I'm glad that you loved it! I don't really have a sequel planned at the moment… Occasionally, I have a random idea pop into my head for a sequel, but I'm not sure if I'll ever fulfill it =) However, I will be writing another story in a couple of months once I manage to get my thoughts about it together. Please keep in touch so that you can read it! I'm pretty excited about it. Anyway, thank you so much for your support! It really has meant a lot to me.

irise15 – I'm so sorry that it took so long for the epilogue to be put out… I'm very happy to hear that it made your day though. Thank you so much for all the support that you've given me! I can't express my gratitude thoroughly enough.

Taria Robotnik – Of course a happy ending! I'm sorry for the delay on the epilogue. Thank you so very much for all the support that you've given me throughout this story. It has meant so much to me! I hope you enjoyed the epilogue as well.

Moonlight Mermaid – I hope you kept updated on the story! I want to hear your thoughts about the epilogue. I tried to include some good fluffy moments, because we always want Sesshomaru fluffy moments, don't we? Anyway, thank you so much for all the support you've given me. I've really appreciated it. Thank you for taking the time to review =)

kataang1996 – I'm glad to hear that you're okay! Congratulations on doing well in school! I know how busy it gets… I'm about to go on break soon, and it really can't come enough. And yes, you were the very first reader, and I'll never forget that! It means so much to me to have you review on the last chapter. Thank you so much for the support you've given to me throughout the entire story! It's great to have the readers from the beginning to stick with it until the very end. Again, thank you so very much! It has meant the world to me. I hope that you are well, and I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors!

fhclause – I'm so happy to hear that you like it! I felt that the fluffy part was rather short too, so I really wanted to include the epilogue with lots of fluff! I like fluff, haha XD Anyway, thank you so much for your review and support. It has meant so much to me =)

Wolflover235 – It makes me happy to hear you say that! I'm so sorry that it took so long for me to get up =( But I hope you enjoyed it all the same! Thank you so much for all of your support! It has meant a lot to me.

Darkmyr-InuYashaFan – I'm glad that you loved it! It makes me so happy to hear that you think so… I'm so sorry that I took so long to put the epilogue up . I hope that it you liked it as well, though. Thank you so much for giving me your support! It's what's been keeping me going throughout the entire story. Thank you again!

icegirljenni – Wooh! Okay, I've decided that I'm saving responding to your review over PM, as we always have so much to say about the story. You already know how much you mean to me, but I'll reiterate it. You have been the most dedicated reader and friend, and I can only wish you the most happiness in life that there possibly is. I know you deserve it =) Thank you so much for everything!

littlemomo-chan – Haha I'm glad to hear that you think it was suspenseful! I wanted it to be that way ;P But I also hope that the epilogue was also very satisfying, even if it took so long to get out . Anyway, thank you so very much for all of your support! It has really meant so much to me.

mteagle128 – It makes me very happy to hear you say so =) Thank you very much for taking the time to review!

trng0260 – Thank you so much for your compliments! I'm sorry that it took a long time to put the epilogue up though =(

SapphireEyesInTheSky – I'm so happy to read all of your compliments… It makes me sad that this is ending. I'm sorry that the epilogue took so long to get out =( But I hope you enjoyed it nevertheless! =) While I don't have a plan for a sequel to this story currently, I do have an idea for another story that's in the works, and I'm pretty excited for it! It'll be a month or two before I actually start publishing chapters, however. I'm keeping the option of a sequel open, but I don't know if I'll actually end up making one. Anyway, thank you so much for all the support you've given me! It's been fantastic having you as a reader =)

TrinaAnn – Thank you so much for taking the time to leave reviews! Your support has meant a lot to me =)

TheAnimeGirl – Really? You're so kind to say that! I hope that you enjoyed the epilogue as well =) It had a lot more fluff in it that the ending kind of skipped over . Anyway, thank you so much for your support! You've been a great reader, and I hope you'll keep in touch =)

S plus R lols – Your words made me smile so much! I'm really sad that it's coming to an end though… I'll catch up with your story within the next couple of days. I'm really excited to see what's going to happen with it! Anyway, I loved having you as a reader. Your review was always the highlight of my day. I hope that you're doing well, and I'm so, so happy to hear that you enjoyed the story! I'll let you know when I get the next story started =) Again, thank you so very much for all of your support. It's meant the world to me!

Medelie – What a beautiful proverb! I'm so happy to hear that you liked it! I hope though that you managed to catch the epilogue =) Thank you very much for all of your support!

gotaluvpenguins – Thank you so much for saying so! It means a lot to me =)

Blue Bunny22 – I'm glad to hear that you do! Thank you for taking the time to review!

Siliniez – I'm so sorry that I took so long in getting the epilogue up! I hope you liked it though =) Thank you so much for your review!

soulwritr16 – Thank you so much for all the support you've given me throughout the entire story! It has meant so much to me! I wish I could express my gratitude, but there aren't words enough to do so . I'm sad that it's coming to an end, but I do have another story in mind! So, if you keep up with me, I hope that you'll enjoy that one as well too. Again, thank you very everything!

Felinanee – Oh, je comprends! Ne vous inquiétez pas. Je sais qu'il n'y a pas beaucoup de temps. Je ne suis pas sûr si je le traduirai plus tard, mais, j'ai besoin de pratiquer mon français. Ça fait longtemps que je parle français, et maintenant, c'est très rouillé =( J'espère que vous puissiez me comprendre. They're my favorite pairing as well. It's impossible not to love them ! I'm so glad that you think I have talent. It means a lot to hear you say that . Merci beaucoup! C'est très gentil =) Je ferai de mon mieux. N'hésitez pas à écrire en français ! Je l'aime =) Peut-être je lirai fanfiction en français pour l'améliorer ! Encore, merci beaucoup.