The middle-aged man was laying on his bed. He looked as pale as a corpse. Only his chest which was heaving up and down rhythmically affirmed to Rin that soul still remained within the skeleton.
“Father!....... Father! Wake up! It’s Rin! I’m back!!” Rin was sobbing as she clutched his pale cheeks.
The man finally opened his eyes; slightly though.
“Rin…” Kenji barely whispered.
“OH! Why do you have to fall ill?! Why YOU!?!” Rin roared in frustration.
Kohaku was consumed by the sadness that tormented his friend. But he could not do anything to ease her; and he HATED himself for that!
Kenji had been worried about his daughter’s future, ever since she had refused to get married and leave her ailing mother behind. The recent cancellation of her engagement made things worse. His worries developed multifold and his health was deteriorating at the same pace.
Kenji smiled feebly. “Do not worry, my dear…. This illness is not fatal…. I will not die that soon-”
“DON’T SAY SUCH THINGS!” Rin hastily interrupted at her father’s choice of inauspicious words ‘fatal’ and ‘die’.
Kenji’s smile only broadened. “Yes…. No matter what happens to me, I will cling to my soul till….”. Kenji paused, then went on wearing the most pleading face, with a tone shaking with desperation, “…..till I marry you off to a worthy suitor….. till I become a grandfather….. till I get a chance to play with my grandchildren….. at least once-”
Rin again interrupted her father at her father’s choice of inauspicious words: ‘at least once’. But this time with her hand, covering his trembling mouth. Words failed the sobbing girl, as her head shook in disagreement to the harsh words. Her whole body cringed at the overwhelming anguish.
Kohaku immediately turned away, unable to see his friend in such a distressed state; the poor girl was already going through the phase of unrequited love; she has not even recovered from that yet and now another misfortune has hit her. His eyes were burning with wetness of the gathered tears. His handsome was face contorted with agony. His hands were trembling to shred Bankotsu to pieces; to knock Sesshomaru out cold and drag him to the clutches of his beloved friend.
Two weeks rolled by. Kenji was getting better. He was almost back to normal in the third week. Kohaku’s parents visited once to inquire of Kenji’s health. Kohaku never left Rin’s side even once. Not when she really needed him.
It was just another normal day, when Rin was sent for to meet her father and mother. As she entered her mother’s quarters, she saw a happy, content couple waiting for her.
“Rin…. come to me, sweetheart!” Kenji said softly.
Having noticed a new twinkle in her father’s eyes, Rin smiled and ran into his waiting arms.
Several moments passed in sweet silence.
“Rin…. I wish to tell you something….” Kenji began hesitantly.
“…..You already know of your mother’s health condition…. And now…. mine has deteriorated as well-”
“father….” Rin dragged in a complaining tone, unable to bear the sick truth.
“Rin. We cannot deny that we are aging and nature is only taking its course with regard to our declining health” Kenji stated firmly.
Rin let out a sigh of defeat.
“You are our only child. All grown up….. We cannot defer this matter any longer, owing to our weakening health….. You must wed, my dear”
Rin finally knew what was coming. “Father, I cannot-”
“I know you cannot wed and leave us, especially your mother behind. So I have a deserving suitor who has agreed to live with us after our marriage”
Not again!! “Which fool would agree to something like that!?!” Rin was so frustrated that harsh words slipped out of her mouth.
“Do not be disrespectful, Rin! You will surely regret it once you know who the gentleman is!” Kenji said proudly.
Wha!?! Rin was shocked for a moment. Then her common sense suggested, Sesshomaru’d never mate-
“It is KOHAKU!” Kenji declared as pride and contentment filled his being.
Rin was choked; eyes widened; jaws dropped by 5 centimetres (if that was ever possible). Rin searched her mother’s face for explanation but she only found the same happiness and contentment there as her father’s. It took a moment for Rin to remind herself that she better resume her breathing before she died of suffocation.
“Kohaku’s parents have also agreed to it, dear Rin. They are very happy about this alliance!” Kenji was very excited. Rin painfully noted how the desperate and ailing father has recovered his health in an instant!
“Besides, you both will be staying with us only for few years. I mean, you both will have to leave and reside eventually with Kohaku’s parents, once our time comes to depart-”
“FATHER! You wish me wedded! FINE!!” Rin lost her control. She uttered those words before thinking. But she really didn’t regret it. Did she have a choice???
But she did regret the way she had expressed her consent, when she read the hurtful expressions on her parents’ faces. She bit her lips as she recalled how happy and relieved they were moments ago. They had been wearing such contented expressions, which Rin had always hoped and prayed for them to have for eternity.
“I’m sorry, father, mother…. I really shouldn’t have yelled-”
“It is fine, Rin. We can understand your feelings…. But, think about it…. Kohaku has agreed to your stipulation…. Most importantly, he is a perfect man; with most admirable virtues; your best friend FROM CHILDHOOD! He seems to understand you much better than we ever have! He has always been with you in your happiest and saddest times. We are also closely associated with his family for years and both families have a cordial relationship….. Now tell me, is it possible to get a better alliance than this?”
“…….” At the mention of ‘better alliance’ Rin’s thoughts automatically flew to Sesshomaru. A wedding alliance with Sesshomaru, howsoever impossible it may be, had not met even a single benefit so mentioned by Kenji. But the father missed one benefit, vital for any wedding alliance. That one benefit will dispel all the disadvantages of that wedding alliance and also surpass the benefits of any other wedding alliance. ‘LOVE’. Rin was in love with Sesshomaru; not with Kohaku.
“….. we just….” Kenji paused to ward off the pang in his chest, “…..we just wish to make sure, that our daughter is at safe hands… that she is truly loved and cared….. so that we may rest in peace….”
Rin knew she was defeated and it was high time she surrendered at least to make her father stop his moral blackmail of mentioning about his and her mother’s current state of ill-health and eventual death too often. She took a deep breath and smiled, “I give my wholehearted consent to the wedding…..”. But on the inside, she was crushed.
Kenji and Misao looked like they were the happiest parents on Earth.
Then Rin went and hugged her parents.
“uh… father…. What about Kohaku…?” Rin finally asked when she was reminded of him.
“He is waiting in the garden for you, Rin” PROMPT!
“?!?!” Rin was shocked for a moment. So this is all planned, huh?
Rin had been refusing to wed only to take care of her parents’ health. Now her refusal has only made the opposite impact. She had to give in if she has to upkeep their health. She steeled her heart and prepared her mind for the worst. She replaced her feelings for Sesshomaru with her parents’ welfare. From that moment on, she decided to live and love ONLY for her parents.
“Kohaku” Rin called in the most casual tone she could muster.
The man turned to face her. Then he slightly blushed. “Rin……... Uh….*fake coughs* Did-did your father….” He dragged.
Rin couldn’t bear her friend struggling so much, so she relieved him of the trouble, “Yes”
“oh!....um…. *clearing throat* what did you-I mean-UH-”
“I said ‘yes’ ” Rin said forcing a bright smile.
“HUH!?!? Really?!?! Why!?! I mean…uh…” The poor guy fumbled and stumbled. The shock expressed by his face was crystal-clear.
Rin ringled at her stuttering friend. She knew that it was new for him to make a proposal to a girl, especially who is too familiar to him.
“Silly Kohaku! Why would I refuse? You’re the most perfect guy a girl can ask for!” Rin said honestly. Yes. She knew every word of credit given by her father to Kohaku was true. Besides, had she not met Sesshomaru at all, she would not have hesitated so much to wed Kohaku. They were best friends after all!
Kohaku blushed again. “Oh Rin!” he began in a deep tone that caught Rin’s attention.
“I…um…I….” Then he swiftly turned his reddened face, hiding his eyes behind his bangs. “I….I love you Rin…..”
“……will you marry me…..?”
“……..” Rin was only listening. She was not thrilled; nor was she blushing; like how a girl who has been proposed to should. Because Kohaku knew that she was not in love with him and that she can never love him the way she loves Sesshomaru. She only found Kohaku in similar hopeless position as her, weeks ago when she professed her love to Sesshomaru. She did not want her friend to experience same the feeling of rejection.
To tell that Kohaku was surprised was an understatement. Before Rin knew what happened, Kohaku wrapped his arms around her and held her in a tight embrace.
“…..Thank you Rin….. I swear to love you and protect you…. till my last breathe”
Rin smiled, “yes”.
None knew for how long they were in that position. But it was sure quite long after Kohaku withdrew to meet her eyes. Rin was smiling warmly. Kohaku’s hand held her jaw. Rin knew what was coming so she mentally braced herself for the gamble. Kohaku’s eyes were searching Rin’s for approval; but his blush only got deepened in the process and he gulped nervously. Rin did not want to scare him away, so she shut her eyes. She felt him relax; his breathe was warm against her face. She painfully controlled her face from frowning and slacked her body from stiffening by mentally chanting for mother and father…. for mother and father…. for mother and fa- Her mental chanting was interrupted by a wetness on her cheek. Her eyes snapped open only to find Kohaku withdrawing his head. Rin blinked in confusion. Kohaku chuckled nervously as he scratched his head, not to mention his red cheeks. Rin raised an eyebrow as her lips curled into a teasing smile. So my gentleman of a friend couldn’t even get himself to kiss a girl on lips…..
A second passed.
Both friends began laughing hysterically. Unbeknownst to them, Rin’s parents were watching the scene and their hearts were overflowing with joy.
Back to the present time….
Sesshomaru was sitting in his father’s study concluding upon a pending task. And of course, Jaken was with them. Inu father noted his son’s change in demeanor and that he seemed…..glad….and content….like never before….
This seems to be a good development…. Hmm…. Perhaps, I will not have to abduct the girl after all…. Inu father smirked to himself.
“And father….” Sesshomaru was about to say that he has planned to visit village Edo, before they were interrupted by a servant.
“A message for you, Milord” the servant said as he submitted the letter and dismissed himself.
Ideally, Inu father should have kept it aside to listen to the good news he was expecting of his son to utter, had he not noticed the name of the sender. Curiosity-cum-anxiety got the better of him, so he opened and started reading it.
The clear glimmering expression faded as darkness masked the inu father’s face; eyes turned red for a flicker of moment; face visibly scowling; his demonic aura engulfing the hall, telling the other demons that he was horrendously displeased.
“What is it?” Sesshomaru couldn’t contain his own curiosity.
Inu father shot a fiery, vile, crimson-eyed glare at Sesshomaru which only perplexed the son furthermore.
“It is for you” inu father growled out as he unceremoniously tossed the letter at Sesshomaru and strode out of his study.
Sesshomaru was too mystified to lose his temper at his father’s ignoble gesticulation. He took the letter and read it himself before his whole world came crashing down on his head.Wedding Invitation of Rin and Kohaku.