A/N: Just a few to thank for reviews: MissKitty35, Esha Napoleon, and xxdarienchibaloverxx. And thank you to anyone who added this or its author to their lists. I've decided to make this the last one-shot in this series. Something tells me this should be it so I'm going to listen to it in order to concentrate on "ALV."
Disclaimer: I do not own the Inuyasha characters, manga, anime, movies, etc. They belong by copyright laws to Rumiko Takahashi et al.
What Ifs and Plot Holes
Delivering the Message
I need to kill that kitsune, Sesshoumaru thought, climbing the steps of the Higurashi Shrine. The thought had occurred to him more than once but for some reason he'd never gotten around to actually lopping off Shippou's head. Of course, part of that could have been the fondness his brother and sister-in-law had had for the mischief maker but another part could have been that it would have taken too much energy and time to track the fox demon down and nowadays time was money for a wealthy businessman who wanted to stay ahead in the game of commerce. Plus, the fur ball was good at knowing just when to stop his teasing so that the dog demon didn't get angry enough to forget that he wasn't supposed to be killing his allies.
Upon reaching the top, the dog demon made his way to the Goshinboku and stopped. Setting down the box he'd been carrying, Sesshoumaru gazed up at the flowering sakura and let the soothing affects of the tree wash over him. He'd hadn't been to the site since the Higurashis took over caring for the shrine and he wished that he'd never have had to come back. However, he'd made a promise and he intended to carry it out to the best of his abilities.
"Can I help you, sir?" a soft voice asked from behind him.
Turning, he gazed upon the woman who had given birth to the one who had defeated Naraku. The middle aged woman was dressed in black as if she had just been to a funeral. "Forgive me; it seems I have come at a bad time."
The woman studied him for several moments before gasping. Her eyes widened and tears gathered at their corners, one hand covering her mouth. "You are Inuyasha-kun's brother."
"Indeed." He no longer felt the need to add the qualifier of "half" to that relationship. "And you are my sister-in-law's mother," he added although he needed no confirmation. Their scents were similar and even after many years; he still remembered the gentle aura Kagome had always given out. Her maternal parent's was much the same.
"I am," Mama confirmed. "Please come inside. We were just setting up a memorial service in their honor. We figured that if they were still alive in this era, they would have come back to us before now. I am sure there is a lot that you wish to tell us."
"There is plenty," he replied, a bit unnerved that Kagome's mother wasn't acting like most of the humans he came across that new his real identity. They were terrified of him, and rightly so. She acted like it was normal for a demon to be wandering the shrine grounds.
Sesshoumaru followed her in reluctantly, making note of the small home. It was little wonder his brother had felt so comfortable here. It had been larger than anything else he'd known at the time but it had also had the warmth of a family. Something his brother had sorely lacked and desperately needed as a child.
A young man came in from the hall just as he was sitting at the table. By his features alone it was obvious that he was Kagome's kid brother. "Mama?"
"Ah, Souta. This is Sesshoumaru-san, Inuyasha-kun's brother. He's come to tell us about Kagome and his brother."
"I thought you hated your brother," Souta protested, wondering if his mother had lost herself in her grief. Why had she invited someone who had once tried to kill his sister into their home?
"There was a time that I did, young Higurashi. There was a time when I hated anything that was weaker than I was. Unfortunately, that was almost everything back then. I believed my brother to be a blight on our father's proud lineage and sought to wipe it out.
"Your sister changed that. In fact, she changed much during her quest and through the years she and Inuyasha were married. Many demons and humans became allies and friends because of the young miko who freed my brother and destroyed Naraku." Suddenly disquieted, Sesshoumaru took a sip of the tea Mama had placed in front of him while he spoke. Souta plopped down in an empty chair, his attention solely focused on the elder man's story.
"What happened to them?" Mama asked softly, a handkerchief already prepared.
"They married and had one child. Imouto said it was a miracle and they gave thanks everyday for Eiji. He was a bright boy and took after his parents quite a bit. I suppose the gods rewarded them with someone to carry on their work as normally a hybrid such as my brother was biologically supposed to have been sterile." Pausing for more tea, he withdrew a picture from inside his suit jacket. Sliding it across the table to Kagome's mother, he watched as tears spilled down the woman's cheeks unchecked.
"I'm sure you remember Shippou, the fox demon that began travelling with your daughter shortly after their quest began. He's become quite the artist and painted that along with others when Kagome imparted her request to me before she died. Sadly, Eiji was only a quarter demon and could not live more than a couple of centuries."
"What about Inu-no-niichan?"
"Kagome was his heart and without her…" Clearing his throat, Sesshoumaru sat the cup down. "I digress. Not many years after Kagome returned to my brother, she told me that she was not from the Feudal Era. I had already come to the conclusion that the land she was from was very strange and that the well was a portal but until she told me that she was from the future, I did not realize how truly unique she was. One day she mentioned that she hoped that one of her demon friends would let her family know what had happened to her. When she aged as a human and her time was near, I was the person elected to come to you. It was her last request and even though there were others she could have asked, I guess she trusted me to be able to do it without breaking down. Shippou knew he couldn't do it without weeping even now and you would not have been familiar with the others."
"So Sis aged like a human."
"Yes, although she along with the monk and slayer lived far longer than most humans of that day. I surmise it was because of all the youki they had been surrounded by all their lives. As I started to say, Inuyasha lasted only a few decades more. He could have lived to this time period but the others were his family, his pack as it were, and without them, without Kagome who was the center of his world; he didn't have the strength to go on. Dog demons are very loyal and once a family is decimated, if there is anyone remaining, that member will sometimes waste away. Shippou, being a fox demon and not formally adopted by Inuyasha was spared that fate. They were always more like siblings than father and son anyway. By that time Eiji had his own family and as it is expected that children outlive their parents, he did not die of grief either."
"I always knew he loved her. They were soul mates. It seems odd to say that considering Kikyo but I truly believe they were a pair. Not complete without the other." Mama blew her nose, unconcerned about who was in front of her.
"Yes, I knew that in the beginning as well. Every enemy they ever fought figured that out long before they did. I regret to say that I used that against them as did others."
"They fought each other all the time. I bet it took them ages to get married," Souta said, wiping away a tear.
"Only as long as it took Inuyasha to build her a home he believed was worthy of her. Having seen this place, I imagine he thought she deserved something equally as 'grand.'"
Bending down, he opened the box that he had set at his feet. "Inuyasha asked that I bring these here. He wanted to be buried under the Goshinboku but not until you knew what had become of them." He placed two ornate urns on the table. Elegant calligraphy was sketched into the sides, the names of the people whose ashes resided in them in bigger characters than the rest. "Their friends and Eiji are already there, as deep as Shippou could dig so that they'd never be taken by a mountain witch and brought back as the other miko was."
"What of Eiji's children and wife?"
"Eiji's mate is a full demon. She is a black dog demon from my mother's castle. She and their children are with Shippou at the moment. When he died, the children were still young in youkai years so she hung on for them. Eventually she was able to put the past behind her but I know that they still miss him. As they still miss Kagome and my brother. I am told to tell you that they will come someday soon to visit but for now, they felt that you needed to grieve their loss yourself."
Sesshoumaru rose, feeling that he had done what he came to do. "There are more pictures and letters inside the box. I will leave you to mourn in private."
"Do not be ridiculous. You aren't going anywhere. Family does not turn away family." Mama rose and opened a drawer for a new handkerchief. "It is good that you are wearing black already. Father is outside preparing the altar and we will go put these in their rightful place."
"I have already…"
"You mourn them now just as much as when they actually died. I can hear it in your voice."
Gold eyes widened, and he allowed a tiny smile to slip over his mouth. "I can see where Kagome got her nature. She always had a generous heart. Very well, I will stay."
"Say, Mama, how are we going to break this to Grandpa? He's going to think this is all an act."
"I understand well what has happened," a new voice said from the doorway. Several years older than the last time his granddaughter had seen him, the old priest leaned against the frame. "There will be time to hear more about their lives later. Let us give Kagome's friends and the rest of our family the chance to say their goodbyes for now." He wandered away, the stooped position of his back looking more pronounced than usual.
"As you wish," Sesshoumaru agreed and handed one of the urns to Souta while he carried the other. He followed the Higurashi family out to the shrine, his sharp eyes narrowing with the bright sunlight. People had begun to arrive and they mingled around the courtyard. Three young women of a similar build rushed towards Kagome's mother and embraced her while sobbing hysterically.
"Ah, that's the trio. Eri, Yuka, and Ayumi. Never remembered their last names," Souta whispered to the demon lord. "They were Kagome's friends all throughout school. I think they even met Inuyasha once or twice."
"Did they not find it odd that they were not invited to their wedding?"
"Mama made some excuse about it being a very private ceremony where only family was invited. Something along the lines of it being a tradition in your family."
"Close enough to the truth, I suppose."
"Yeah, that's what I figured. Whenever my friends asked about my sister, I always said she was living in a remote village or that she had moved away and gotten married. No one seemed to think it strange for the first few years. I guess after awhile, things started to seem strange. Sis was always big on family so her never visiting was very odd. Mama finally came to the conclusion that something had to be done. This was the only way that her disappearance could be explained logically and without suspicion. We said that you had told us that they'd been in some kind of freak accident and that their bodies hadn't been found. Some official from your home town had declared them dead even without any evidence."
"They would have agreed to this."
"I thought Nii-chan would have protested about being killed so easily but everyone thinks he's human so I guess it's the most logical answer."
"Indeed." His little brother would have chafed at the idea of being killed in an "accident" but there really was no other way to explain why the two had never come home to the shrine.
"Souta, Sesshoumaru-san, come here. I want to introduce the girls to Inuyasha-kun's brother." Mama held out a free hand, motioning to the guys to come to her. She probably wanted to be saved from the wailing trio still standing in her personal space.
The keening cry of one woman threatened to make his ears bleed but Sesshoumaru bravely tuned the noise out and stepped forward. "Ladies," he said, for the lack of anything better to say. There was nothing good about this introduction.
"You were Inuyasha-san's brother? Kagome said you hated him."
"A young man's immaturity. My brother and I put our past behind us long ago."
"That's good. Kagome always wished you'd stop fighting."
"So she told me repeatedly." She had at one point threatened to put a rosary around his neck like a dog collar if they didn't stop trying to maim each other. Considering the fact that all of her true power had been unsealed, he had eventually bowed to her demands.
"Higurashi-san said you were able to bring back their ashes," one of the other two said.
"I was fortunate enough to find them. They wished to be buried here at the shrine. It was the least I could do." The old priest interrupted long enough to take the urn from him and he gladly handed it over, uncomfortable with holding what once had been his brother. Souta made his escape, helping place his sister's remains next to her husband's. Another priest, likely a friend of Kagome's grandfather, cleared his throat to signal that they were to begin.
The demon lord let himself be pulled down next to Mama and he became her support as she wept for the two. It was clear to him that she had considered Inuyasha her own son and Sesshoumaru was thankful. He knew that the human princess who had given birth to his brother would have been happy that Inuyasha had found a maternal support in one such as her even if it had taken him centuries to find her.
Sesshoumaru tried to shut out the ceremony as he had done all those centuries ago but memories flooded his mind. He had been to too many funerals over the centuries and he hoped that he would never have to go to another that was for a family member. Kagome's had saddened him, Rin's had tormented him and his brother's had nearly driven him to his knees. It had made it glaringly obvious to him that his only blood relation besides his brother's grandchildren was his mother and she was not one he wished to have close dealings with. In her advanced age she was even more mentally unstable than she had been in her prime, and Eiji's mate kept her pups clear from the Lady of the West.
At some point people began to pass by them to say their final respects, bowing to the portraits of Kagome and Inuyasha before leaving to give the family time to mourn privately. He nodded his acceptance, unable to give a verbal response to their condolences. What could these humans know of the grief he suffered? He had been without his little brother for centuries. At most, these mortals would be without their family for a few decades before they too passed.
"Let's go in now, Sesshoumaru. We will leave them here until the incense has burned down all the way."
"I wish to remain a while longer, if you don't mind, Higurashi-san."
"Of course. Come inside when you're ready. Let's go, Father."
Sesshoumaru was left standing with Souta, both watching the scented sticks slowing shrink. "Did they suffer?" Souta asked suddenly, startling the other man out of his thoughts.
"Not that I am aware of. Imouto simply went to sleep and never woke up. Inuyasha disappeared one day and Shippou found him when he went hunting. It appeared that his heart just stopped working. There was nothing to indicate that he was sick or fatally injured. At least not physically."
"Do not be sad, young Higurashi. They lived full lives and were productive members of their village. Even after marriage and a child your sister continued on with her studies and duties as a priestess. It is in her honor that this shrine was begun."
"Yes." Turning away from the altar, Sesshoumaru contemplated the part of the Sacred Tree that he could see. "When things have calmed down, I will bring in people to dig up the courtyard in order to fulfill their wish in being buried underneath that tree. It once protected my brother for fifty years while he slept; I know that it will do so now for eternity."
"So long as they don't leave it torn up. Mama won't like it if she has to keep walking around a huge hole."
"If your mother's temper is anything like your sisters, I will ensure that they do not leave the job half finished."
"Like Sis'? Where do you think she got it?"
"I see," Sesshoumaru said and allowed another smile to grace his lips. He had done more smiling that day than he had in a year.
The two men began walking back to the house, each deep in their own contemplations. "Say, Sesshoumaru-san…"
"If you're Nii-chan's older brother, that kind of makes us family, doesn't it?"
"Did you not hear your mother earlier?"
"Then is it alright if I call you 'Nii-san' now?"
Sesshoumaru stopped abruptly and studied the young man. "You may as well."
A smile sprung to Souta's face and he was forcefully reminded of the times Kagome had sent such a look while addressing him the same way. "You remind me a lot of your sister."
"I'm glad. Well, let's go, Nii-san. Mama will have made something to eat by now."
I will be right there," Sesshoumaru said, silently getting used to the form of address. He watched Kagome's brother jog away before staring up at the sky. Kagome had asked him to take a message to her family here in present day Japan. She had also wanted to send him one while gifting him with the one thing she knew he was losing. He would always have his brother's children to consider family but they were more youkai than human and were not as close to him as Kagome had shown him blood relatives could be. So in asking him to tell her family, she had given them to him.
"Message received, Imouto."
Had he turned when the wind blew through his hair, he would have been able to see the outline of two people smiling his way. The man stood in a red haori and hakama while the female wore the traditional clothes of a shrine maiden. Both smiled and waved before fading away as the sun began to sink passed the horizon.
The time of Inuyasha and Kagome had come to an end.