Ryuukossei sat in his chamber, lost in thought. He was a broken man. The Taishous had beaten him to the race…his only son dead…everything had turned to poison.
He looked at his fish tank. A swarm of tetras had pushed the bigger fishes out of their territory. Strength in numbers…he had forgotten an important lesson. Who knew this slip of a girl had so much spunk in her?
Myouga had come last night. To offer his condolences. Even a common bitch will fight back when cornered, he had said, and you had cornered a Higurashi. What he said was true enough – Kagome had fought back where Lady Taishou had bowed down to fate. Maybe that was the difference between a princess and an heiress.
He watched the traffic idly as he leaned back in his chair. Nobody knew about the disease that was gradually rotting away his memory. Very soon he would have to depend on others for performing even simple, daily tasks. He would have had to give up his office anyway. Now that his son was gone, what was he holding on to? Murder, blackmail, bribery – all had come to nothing. He could almost see Inu no Taishou sneering at him, mocking him. Everything had turned to poison.
At that moment on the road below, Sesshoumaru was driving Kagome to the hospital.
"I didn't know you had it in you – all this manipulation and deceit," he said.
Kagome laughed: "Blood will out, I guess."
"I think at heart we are too similar – you and I. That's why we need a stable force in our lives – you know, a bit of warmth and integrity and sunshine."
"Rin is perfect for you. In time you will grow to love her."
Sesshoumaru chose to remain silent. Kagome was hardly surprised; she didn't expect an answer to begin with.
"I'm building an extra wing in the house, so we can all live comfortably," he said instead.
"You hate me that much, huh?"
"Not you," he looked at his own reflection, "That night when I noticed that things had changed between you and Inuyasha, I was furious. I lost my cool and said many things, which cannot be forgiven. And then before I knew, my brother was lying in the hospital, his life hanging by a thread, and all I could think of was that those were the last words I had spoken to him. I couldn't sleep for nights" he sighed, "I don't want that to happen again. Ever."
"Oh you'll get over it," Kagome said, "but I agree with you. An extra wing might be a good idea."
"You know, he was right that night. There is no difference between me and Ryuukossei."
"Now that's taking things a bit too far," Kagome began to protest.
"I had formed a Party in college. We were engaged in student politics…that's how I know. This game has always brought out the beast in me. That's why I refused to be the face of this campaign. I wanted to remain away from all this – happily cocooned in my world of academics. I should have stuck to my decision."
"I don't think so. Inuyasha will always need your support."
They had reached the hospital. Sesshoumaru went ahead to visit his brother while Kagome stayed behind to say hello to an acquaintance. Dr. Suikotsu was emerging from Inuyasha's cabin. On seeing Sesshoumaru, he appeared startled.
"I'm sorry but you can't go in there," the doctor said, extending his hand across the door.
Sesshoumaru raised an eyebrow: "Pardon?"
"There is an important…erm…procedure being performed on him right now."
Procedure? What were they doing to his brother?
"I thought my brother was fine."
"I'm afraid his condition has worsened. Kindly stay out of the cabin."
Sesshoumaru was getting alarmed now. What was the doctor playing at?
"Out of my way, doctor."
"I'm sorry, I told you I can't permit-"
Kagome was coming up behind them.
"It's alright, doctor. He knows."
"Oh!" Dr. Suikotsu's face relaxed into a genuine smile, "Thank God! I did not cherish the possibility of incurring Lord Taishou's wrath. The patient is fine, please go in."
The visitors pushed open the door to the cabin – to find the occupant standing at the window, clad in his flaming red silk robe. At the sound of the door, he turned around with an ugly scowl on his face.
"What the hell?" Inuyasha barked, "I've been made a prisoner in this cabin for the last two days and none of you came to visit!"
"Oh but we were out to gather sympathy votes for you, Inuyasha," Kagome said innocently, "we couldn't very well do that by saying that the bullet had missed all the vital organs and arteries and you were up and running within a day."
Inuyasha narrowed his eyes: "Do I detect a hint of regret that the injury wasn't more serious? And I haven't exactly been up and running, stupid. It's still a bullet wound. Geez, woman, show some respect!"
Kagome was coming up with a repartee but Sesshoumaru intervened, "Inuyasha, I want to apologize for the way I behaved the other night."
Inuyasha looked surprised: "What night?"
"The night you got shot. The night I insulted you."
Inuyasha scrunched up his face in remembrance: "I'm sorry but my memory is awfully fuzzy around that night, what exactly had you said?"
Chagrined at the thought of repeating the whole conversation a visibly uncomfortable Sesshoumaru opened his mouth, but before could say anything he caught a hint of a twinkle in Inuyasha's eyes. He snapped his mouth shut.
"That's not a very apologisey thing to say!"
"I'll go see to the discharge papers. Kagome, you stay with the idiot."
No sooner had Sesshoumaru left the cabin, than Kagome was locked in a tight embrace with her husband.
"Oi," Inuyasha said gently, "what took you so long?"
"Umm, I got caught up in a couple of things."
He snorted: "I know what you've been caught up in. They've allowed me a TV in here, and you are a veritable daytime soap opera star. I didn't know you could be so devious."
"Well I had to do something."
Kagome took a deep breath as she snuggled against the unhurt side of Inuyasha's chest.
"It was when you said you had lost your interest in politics – that things were not going the way you wanted to. I wanted to help you, but I didn't know how to. Then Ryuukossei tried to murder you, and I became desperate. I knew I had to remove a couple of thorns from your path."
"You did it all because of me?"
Kagome nodded: "You know the strangest thing? I think it was your love that gave me the strength to do it."
Inuyasha looked with amazement at his wife – his butterfly with wings of steel. He would never even begin to measure the extent of her devotion to him. It was not as obvious as Rin's, but it ran as deep as the very foundations of the earth. Devotion that could even challenge the Gods in the sky. Devotion that he would return with his heart and his life.
"I don't know how I can ever repay your favour," he said aloud.
"Favour?" Kagome blinked.
"Isn't that what you call it?"
A conversation floated into her mind…she had been so stupid back then. She didn't realize what drove a person to take another's side against all odds.
"Would you stop with your sarcasm for a moment?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact I know other gainful employments for my lips," he kissed her softly, "and my tongue." The kiss deepened.
"Oh, I've missed you," Kagome murmured softly.
"I'm just glad I found you," Inuyasha replied.
"By the way, Ryuukossei isn't contesting the elections."
The elections…it brought him back to reality – so much bloodshed, such unnecessary waste of lives…
"Who bailed out Kouga, by the way?"
"A friend of jii-chan's. I went to receive him from the police station. I had intended for him to come with us and stand on the podium – you know, to show mutual support. But he said he had to take care of Naraku first. I didn't know he would be suicidal."
Inuyasha shook his head sadly: "He could be a good spokesperson for his tribe. He had a lot of potential."
Kagome smiled: "You know, you are the only one who's worthy of following in your father's footsteps. You can usher in a new era of hope for this country."
"All I can do is to try. But if you promise to always be there for me, then who knows…I might even succeed."
"I've already promised, till death us do part."
Inuyasha suddenly felt whole – complete. With her in his arms, he could take on the entire world. As he looked outside, he noticed the purple flowers blooming in the thorn bush below. Love sure finds its way to blossom, he thought, even on the harshest branch. The way he and Kagome had come together, in such a barren landscape, amid such threatening storms, he had never hoped for their feelings to strike such strong roots and send out such lovely flowers. And yet they were here, in each other's arms against all odds. It was nothing short of a miracle.
Grandpa Higurashi was raking the leaves around the Goshinboku. Years before, two children had been playing there – they were barely a year old but he had seen them frolic like soul mates, rolling in the grass, decorating each other with the fallen leaves…seen how they cried heartbreaking tears when Izayoi took her son away at the end of her visit.
Something had come over him that day – an image…no, a vision…the children all grown up, and their love that could bring down even the mightiest of mountains. He wanted to bring her to the Goshinboku, the day she kicked up such an awful fuss about marrying him. He wanted to tell her everything, but she would not listen. Oh well, lessons learnt the hard way are harder to unlearn. The old man smiled to himself, as another gust of wind scattered the leaves all over again.