of Death and Life
The next day was one of rest and rebuilding for those of the western palace. Many fires burned as they got rid of broken timber that could not be used for anything, along with any remains of Hisuhebi’s followers. The castle itself sustained very little damage to it, with the exceptions of the birthing chambers and the room where Kikyo had met her final end, the floor being the most challenging repair. However, taking into account the rare beasts who lived there, it was not the first time they had had to fix melted walls and flooring.
Kagome slept through that first day, not even stirring when Inuyasha carried her back to the lord’s chambers. They did manage to feed their pups, along with the help of two wet nurses that had already been summoned by Shikyomi when she had discovered that there was more than one baby. Kagome was worrying both her mates, despite lady Kogirei’s constant assurance that she was healing and would soon wake.
It was the following morning that Kagome finally woke. The room was surprisingly quiet as she allowed her eyes to adjust to the sunlight shining in through the silk curtains. Carefully, she sat up, surprised at how pain free the action was. Other than the odd twinge here and there, she felt reasonably well. Standing up, she walked to where the four bassinets had been moved, all of her little pups sleeping contently as the sun warmed their skin. Smiling, she brushed the forehead of her youngest child, his tiny ears twitching with the sensation.
Kagome turned toward the door, the sound of running catching her attention. Quickly, she closed the light robe she had on, even though she was positive who was going to walk in the door.
“Kagome!” Inuyasha said, his voice low in an effort not to wake their children. They did not like to be woken up and protested for an hour the last time he had done so. He went to her, taking in her standing figure and soft smile. “Are you alright?” he asked, wrapping his arms around her.
“I am fine.” Kagome replied, snuggling into his chest. Warmth spread through her as their mate came into the room, coming behind her and joining in their embrace.
Sesshomaru rested his head on the top of hers, taking in her sweet scent, unclouded by pain or blood like the last time he had held her. the bond opened between them as they shared everything that had happened while they were separated from each other, both nearly reeling when they realized just how close they had come to losing her.
“Hasumi came to aid you,” Sesshomaru said thoughtfully.
“How?” Inuyasha asked. He was grateful to the ancient bride, but was not sure if he wanted Kagome to experience much more of her life if what she has shone to them was a normal occurrence. The images of those woman was difficult to deal with, even though it was not the first time they had seen such depravity.
“The bow. Its name is Danketsu, meaning unity. When Shikyomi first told me, I thought that it stood for our union, us becoming mates and completing the bond.” Kagome sat on the edge of the bed, still slightly wobbly do to her convalescence. “Now I think that it meant more than that, possibly our bond connecting to theirs. I believe in that moment, Hasumi and I connected because we felt the same things.” She looked at them, her eyes steady and calm. “I also believe when I summon Danketsu again, the connection will still be there. The next time I hit him, it will work as it was meant to and strip him of his healing and resistance to reki.”
“You have a plan?” Inuyasha asked, slightly amused at how riled up she was inside when she could not stand up without getting tired.
Smiling when she felt his thoughts, Kagome replied, “Yep. After I shoot him, one of you hold him down, one of you cut his damn head off, and I am going to purify him out of exsitance. Miroku can even do an air cleansing over the spot when we are done.”
Sesshomaru smirked at her. “Perhaps we should discuss strategies later.” He ran his fingers through her long, dark hair, admitting to himself how relieved he was that she was well. “If you feel up to it, we will have the pups naming ceremony this evening.”
“Naming ceremony?” she asked. Kagome was almost embarrassed at herself that she had not even considered what to name their children, but there had been so much going on in the short time of her mating and pregnancy.
“It’s a tradition. The eldest of the pack gives the pups their names.” Inuyasha told her. “I’m kinda interested in seeing it.”
Kagome knew that he had missed out on so much. She was glad that they would be able to give him back some of what he had been denied as a child. “I love that they will get special names like both of yours.”
“Mine ain’t that special.” Inuyasha commented, not really thinking about it. It was just a name.
“That is not so,” Sesshomaru touched his face, his fingers trailing down his cheek until he raised his chin so they met eye to eye. “It was the name chosen by father on the battlefield where he gave up his life.”
Kagome wrapped around him, smiling. “It is a well-known name, spoken on the lips of many hearts saved and won in our fight to recover the jewel.” Inuyasha turned the reddest she had ever seen him, making her laugh. He mumbled something and slipped away from them, unable to handle their teasing, but somehow pleased all the same.
“You are free.” Kogirei told the impatient inu that she had somehow managed to confine for whole day and night while her broken bones knit firmly back together. There had been several ribs snapped, amazingly no vital organs had been pierced in the process. “Sesshomaru said that the naming is in a few hours, so quit lazing about,” she said playfully.
“How could this one possibly deny her small savoir any demand?” The lady teased, bounding out of the room before the grumbling could begin. Though she had had many visitors, being bed bound was possibly her most hated pastime.
She tracked down her two oldest grandchildren first, wanting to thank Rin for several flowers that kept appearing in her room. Shikyomi was thrilled to see Rin and Shippo dressed in silver robes, preparing for the ceremony. Rin had decorated her dark hair with a bright pink flower. She was in the process of tucking another one of white into the dark red hair of her new companion, who dressed in green.
Shikyomi was curious about the young inu. Though she had proven herself loyal to the western lord, it seemed she was mostly blown that way by chance. The girl had never really been around anyone other than her mother, who was lost to her now. Ayameko had only a basic knowledge of pack life and none of her responsibilities if she were to take over the northern post. She was considering taking the girl on herself when the snake was dead. The only other for such a task was Kogirei who had several charges already.
Ayameko looked up at her, her clear green eyes somewhat reminiscent of Shi’s own mothers. Her expression was lost and confused, as if she had no idea what to do with Rin’s pampering of her. This reminded her of her son, Inuyasha, who had had the same problem interacting in a pack setting. Yes, she thought, she would claim this child and make her into the fiercest guardian to claim loyalty to Sesshomaru and sit on his council. She grinned just thinking about the possibility of dumping all the pompous asses and grooming the younger generation herself.
After greeting them properly, she left to get ready. When she opened her door, she found Katsumi lounging on her bed. The battle wounds that now marked her face somehow added to its beauty. The eye that had been injured was fully white, blinded by the venom. The drops that had hit her skin fanned out from the eye, making white star shapes across her temple.
As she drew close to her, the smile she carried faded away. Her den mother carried a new scent, the subtle fragrance chillingly familiar. “Okaasan…”
“Shikyomi.” Katsumi stood, easily as ever, walking to her and placing a hand on her shoulder. “Do you have any requests for the naming of the pups?” she asked, her eyes conveying more than her words.
Shi shook her head, laying her hand over the older inu’s. “No, the honor is yours.” Katsumi squeezed her shoulder before walking away, leaving her to get prepared for the day to come.
The great hall was laid out grandly, Sesshomaru’s colors of blue, yellow, and white defined the room in silk banners. His pack stood on the dais, all dressed in sliver. The household gathered below them, dressed in varying colors of green, excitement filling them like an electric charge.
Inuyasha, Shikyomi, Sango, and Miroku each held a pup in the order of their birth. In the front, just to the left of them stood Katsumi dressed in long robes, a white circlet with blue stones upon her head. To her left stood Sesshomaru and Kagome as the alphas of their pack. Rin and Shippo were behind them next to four, white fur lined cribs, specially made tilted up so that the babies could be seen, but held safely inside.
Katsumi looked out at the room. “Today, the great houses celebrate the joy of new life. May they find strength in moments of weakness, courage in times of fear, wisdom when they have need of guidance, honor when they would fail, and grace when they would fall.”
Inuyasha brought the first born to her, placing him carefully in her arms. Holding him firmly, she looked down at him. His golden eyes and calm, fearless presence made her smile softly at him. “You shall be Tekeshi, formidable and brave heir to the west and its people.”
With that, she handed the child to Sesshomaru and Kagome who held him together. “We acknowledge Tekeshi, our son and heir to the west,” they said together. Kagome smiled sweetly at Inuyasha as she handed the pup back to him to be carried to his tiny seat. His eyes glowed happily as he placed the boy within, returning to Kagome and Sesshomaru’s side.
Shikyomi brought the next to Katsumi, the little girl glaring up at them both. It felt as though she was protesting, ready to do her own will. Katsumi’s voice held amusement as she spoke again. “You shall be Tetsumi, fiercely beautiful and strong.” She gave the pup a gentle hug before handing her over to her parents. Someday, this child would do great things, she was positive of it.
“We acknowledge Tetsumi, our daughter.” Kagome and Sesshomaru passed her to Inuyasha, the frown she carried disappearing with one twitch of his ears.
Miroku brought the third pup to her, the boy growling in disapproval the whole way. Katsumi could not help but chuckle when the child made a short bark like yelp when she held him. “For carrying your father’s temperament and strength you, little one, shall be Takeshi,” she grinned down at him before handing him over.
“We acknowledge Takeshi, our son.” The laughter was evident in Kagome’s voice. Both she and Inuyasha caught the humor their alpha felt.
Inuyasha stroked the pup’s head as he carried him to his crib. “Don’t worry, we’ll get them back sooner or later,” he murmured to the child. He could feel Sesshomaru smirking as he heard him.
Sango brought the youngest to the eldest, fully charmed by the quiet little boy. Katsumi looked down at him, his multi-colored eyes showing her reflection as he studied her in tranquil contemplation. “You shall be Toshihiro, the wisdom of the house of Chie shines in your eyes.” Something about this one tugged at her heart, memories of those long passed played in her mind. Almost reluctantly, she gave to pup to Sesshomaru.
“We acknowledge Toshihiro, our son.” He was also placed beside his brothers and sisters.
The adults moved behind the children. Sesshomaru patted Rin on the head as he moved passed, making the girl beam. Kagome also laid her hands on Shippo’s shoulders, as Inuyasha stood between him and Rin, letting them know that they were also loved and important to them. Sango, Miroku, Shi, and Katsumi joined them, their pack complete at thirteen. “Welcome to our pack.” They said together to the pups.
Those below them, including Kei, Hokoru, Tsuyoi, and Ayameko bowed before them, showing their allegiance to Sesshoamru and his house. Then the entire household cheered, rising to continue the celebration, the palace having a great feast and dance in honor of them.
The newly named babies soon went back to their quieter room to be fed and changed out of their finery before they were laid down to sleep, tired from all the stimulation. Kagome covered each of them gently, whispering their names with a smile. Katsumi had chosen well for them.
Stepping back, she looked to where Sesshomaru and Inuyasha stood, propped against the wall as they watched her. Something was off, both of them seemed almost sad to her. Shikyomi and Katsumi had also held an unusual undercurrent, a sorrow underneath the appearance of cheer. “What is it?” she asked, coming to them.
Sesshomaru shared a glance with Inuyasha, who nodded at him. “The eldest is passing,” he said steadily.
Kagome blinked, her mind instantly going over the last few times she had seen Katsumi. When she thought about it, she had not come near her since the battle with Hisuhebi, right up until the naming ceremony. “Why did she not come to me? I could have tried to heal her.”
“Probably because you would have tried to.” Inuyasha told her. “She knew you were already drained and would have given all you could to try to heal her, but you would have failed and been dangerously weakened again.”
Kagome frowned. “What of the Tensaiga then?” she asked after a moment.
“It has been used before by this one’s father.” Sesshomaru straightened, holding her close to him. Though it was hard for him as well, Kagome was one to do what she could right until the end, but they needed her strong now. “Obaasan has accepted it and in her way, asks us to as well.”
She buried her face in his chest, breathing deeply. Inuyasha joined them, all of them needing consolation, but Sesshomaru more so than him and Kagome. They both clung to him, giving comfort the best way they could, by reminding him that he was never alone in his trials, be they painful or joyous.
A short while later, Kagome stood in the courtyard, looking out over the waters below them. The scars left by the recent battle were slowly disappearing, new replacing what had been lost and broken. Life was replenishing again, though it was never quite the same as it had been before.
“You seem quite troubled, little bride. Were you perhaps unhappy with the naming?” Kagome looked up, spying Katsumi reclining in a large sakura tree, one leg swinging as she enjoyed the light breeze and the remaining heat of the sinking sun.
“No, you chose perfectly,” she replied, looking away from the inu.
“That is good.” Katsumi closed her eyes again, the blindness in the one not seeming to hinder her at all. “It was not as easy as Sesshomaru. Shi walked around this place calling him ‘my perfection’ from the moment he left her womb.” She chuckled at the memory.
Kagome smiled as well, easily picturing Shi doing so, but it soon faded away again as her troubled thoughts returned to her. “I might have succeeded, you know.” She whispered softly. It was no longer even a possibility, if it had of ever been. One look with a healers eyes revealed massive burns on the inside of the inu. Kogirei had treated what she could and lessened the pain where she could, but there was not much either of them could do to reduce the venom’s slow craw through her body. Having seen it working on the inside of her, Kagome was amazed that none of the agony was revealed outwardly by Katsumi at all.
Katsumi opened her good eye, staring down at the tender hearted priestess. Even if it had been fates design, Sesshomaru had chosen well in his mates, she thought fondly. “Be not troubled by things that cannot be changed.” She dropped from her lazy sprawl, landing neatly beside her. “Do you know how special the bond you hold is, Kagome?”
Katsumi followed her gaze to the lake, tiny ripples appearing on its surface as the wind picked up. “This ones mates passed long ago, but that bond has never closed. This one still feels their presence as closely as if they were standing right here, though this one cannot tell their thoughts or feelings. The love we shared remains.” She patted Kagome’s head, smiling at the teary eyed priestess, “fear not for this one. For an inuyokai, we often are without others when we pass, but we are never alone.” They stood for a moment more before rejoining their pack, spending precious time with those who would be left behind.
Night had fallen once more. Katsumi looked around her, taking in the picture of family. Kagome held her daughter out to Rin as the girl nearly trembled with the anticipation of getting to hold her for the first time. Shippo watched over the boys, Tekeshi, Takeshi, and Toshihiro laying on a pallet in the floor as they explored their surroundings. Shikyomi sat with the monk, both apparently out to make Sango blush and succeeding admirably. Inuyasha stood back as she did, watching the scene as if to immortalize it into his memory. Sesshomaru stood apart as well, his gaze on her.
Her lips turning up, she bowed to him slightly. Katsumi was charmed to see him return the gesture with a nod of his head. Stubborn to the last, she thought fondly. With that she backed out of the room, silently bidding most of them goodbye. She waited in the court yard, the stars dancing before her in their blackened curtain, beckoningly.
“You are leaving now,” Shi said from behind her. Standing before her was the only one who had always been with her. Many feelings rushed through her, part of her wanting to scream in fury, another to weep and beg for her not to go yet. Shikyomi did neither, knowing that both were purely selfish. Still, as many loved ones that had been lost to her, this bittersweet, heart wrenching feeling never became easier to bear.
“It is this one’s time,” Katsumi confirmed. She looked over her beautiful daughter and
thought of those who would be there for her.
She would not be alone anymore, their pack would continue to grow strong
and thrive, of that she had no doubt.
Truthfully, Katsumi was tired, had been so very tired for so long. Stepping close, she embraced Shi, her fingers gently gliding through her hair before she kissed her forehead. “This one’s mantle now passes to you. May your hunt be long and plentiful, my daughter.”
Shikyomi closed her eyes as she returned the gesture. “May your journey be swift and your reunions joyous, my mother,” she said lowly, committing to memory the image of her.
With a flash of her familiar grin, Katsumi was gone, the breeze washing over Shikyomi as she watched until even her aura faded from sight.
Turning she walked back toward the palace, finding Sesshomaru, Inuyasha, and Kagome in her path. Two of their gazes held open sorrow, but her sons flashed with the pain that she felt before he hid it once more. They bowed to her as she passed by, acknowledging her new title as eldest of the inuyokai.
This was as close as inu came to funeral rites. They celebrated life, only admitting death if they were the ones causing it. She nodded to them, then continued on. She did not stop until she came to her sanctuary, the room that held her paint and canvases. Clearing her mind, she lost herself to color and light, capturing those last moments and the final gift of her den mother’s smile.
Later that night, Shi made her way to her chambers, emotions wrung dry, though she had not shed tears. Not long after she had closed her door, a light knock sounded against it. Shikyomi sighed before sitting on the edge of her bed. “Enter,” she called out naturally. She found herself mildly surprised when Miroku walked into her room.
The monk laid his staff by the entryway and came to stand near her. She looked up at him questioningly, his usual flirtatious expression absent from him. “Is it so strange to offer company to a friend in need?” he asked, a half smile gracing his face.
“No,” she replied, half-heartedly attempting to return his smile. Shi was grateful, knowing that his offer had nothing to do with carnal wants, just the simple warmth of being held when your soul was cold. “It is a good night for the company of others. Come in,” she said as she patted the bed beside her.
Miroku nodded and stripped away his robes as she went to prepare for bed. Left in soft, cream colored pants, he lay his prayer beads and clothing down before doing as she had indicated. Propping up on her small mountain of pillows, he watched as she blew out the lanterns, leaving only the filtered moon light to guide her back to him.
As soon as she neared, he opened his arms, drawing her down to his bare chest. Wrapping her arms around his waist, Shi allowed him to hold her, giving her security and solace in one of her weakest moments. Silent tears trailed down her face, slipping past the firm grip she had held on them. Quietly, he held onto her tightly, sharing his heat and the only relief he could.
A while later, another walked into the room. Not bothering to ask permission, Kogirei climbed behind her, her petite arms hugging her. feeling a spark of humor light within her, Shi whispered, “this one’s tiny hero come to the rescue once again.”
Miroku chuckled at the small growl released by the fox, amused by the banter between old friends. “hush,” the feisty woman huffed, “you are lucky to have cuddle mates on a chilly night.”
“Yes,” Shikyomi agreed, turning to embrace her, Miroku curling up against her back, making extra sure not to let his hands stray. “this one is most grateful for both of you.” She closed her eyes and allowed sleep to claim her. tomorrow she would be strong again and strive to bring honor to the title given to her. tonight she would permit herself to be carried on the strength of those dear to her.
On a peak high above the sky castle, a lone inu lay, bathed in the light of the full moon, illuminating her pale fur in an otherworldly brilliance. She was pleased to see it so one last time.
She had few worries for those who she was leaving behind, they had phonminal courage and strength to call upon. She would continue to watch over them as she joined the ranks of their ancesters, certain of their successful future.Her breathing was now heavy and labored. Katsumi lay her head down on her massive paws, the pain from her shuddering body freeing her soul from its earth bindings. With a final sigh, her sky blue eyes closed and she flew away to be wrapped in the familiar warmth of those who had been waiting for her for so long a time. Her body faded, leaving nothing behind but the soft scent of blossoms, soon carried away by the wind.