DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fanfiction produced for entertainment purposes only. Inu-Yasha - A Feudal Fairytale and all related characters are the creations of Rumiko Takahashi. Shiyounin and Kinkaji are original characters of mine.

SPOILER WARNING: This story takes place after the end of the InuYasha manga, so it contains spoilers if you haven't read that much of Inu-Yasha yet.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story follows on from my stories 'A Feather on the Wind', 'Safe Haven' and 'A Shattered Heart'. It is the final story in this series. I hope that you have enjoyed reading this series of stories as much as I have enjoyed writing them.

 

Finally Safe
By Shadow's Mirror

 

A small figure stood on the edge of the cliff, his face lifted into the wind as he listened intently. The light breeze playfully lifted the reddish-brown ponytail that fell to beneath his waist, as well as fluttering the loose legs of his light brown pants and the long sleeves of his matching tunic. The action caused the red and gold fire design embroidered around the hem of his sleeves to move as if they were real flames.

The furry ears on top of his head twitched and so too did his long fluffy tail, but just once and then it was still again while his ears continued to twitch a few times more. Then they pricked forward and the small figure tensed, his eyes going wide as every fibre of his being strained to hear the faint news that the wind was bringing him. His bright emerald eyes narrowed.

Could it really be so?

Was Naraku truly finally defeated?

The wind had brought such news to him once before, but that had turned out to be nothing more than a trick Naraku had carefully planned to try and get something he had wanted at the time. This time... could this wonderful news be trusted?

There was only one way to find out.

- - -

The cave was dark, but the ball of fire that hovered above the small youkai's hand lit up the path enough for him to see where he was going. The light glinted off something at the back of the cave and he smiled. A few more steps and he was standing before a large mirrored disc, set in an ancient golden frame.

There was an old torch set into the wall to one side of the mirror and the small youkai carefully transferred his ball of fire onto it. With his hands free, he lightly stroked the mirror's frame before placing a hand on either side of it, his thumbs touching the mirror's surface.

As he peered into the mirror, a mist seemed to rise within it, obscuring his reflection. The mist swirled for a few moments before the centre cleared enough to show the image appearing behind it.

The youkai frowned as he studied the scene carefully.

Then he began to smile.

- - -

The sound of the reed curtain being pushed aside caused the woman fussing over the covers of the bed to pause. Her hooded head lifted and she turned slightly to look. The firelight made the delicate reddish-gold scales that covered her reptilian face shimmer, while its reflection in her slanted eyes made them look like forest-green emeralds ringed by rippling flame.

She curiously watched as a small youkai entered the room tail first, dragging something.

"Master?"

The one so addressed looked around and smiled. "Ah, Shiyounin. Good, you're here. I have news."

"You also seem to have something more tangible." The female youkai's short snout moved into a slight smile as the male youkai laughed softly.

"Yes. It's a little something I've been working on for the last fifty years."

"Fifty... Ah." The single word was filled with understanding and her eyes were even more curious as she studied the object that her master had finally managed to drag completely into the room.

"I had expected it to be... bigger... somehow."

The object in question was an hourglass almost a foot wide, but barely two and a half feet high. At least, it had the shape of an hourglass. Unlike regular hourglasses, there was no sand inside either of its two glass chambers.

"If it was any bigger, I wouldn't be able to move it." The male youkai grinned at his servant and then affectionately patted the top of it. "I couldn't have built it here. If he'd woken up and seen it... Well, that wouldn't have been a good thing."

"I suspect that is something of an understatement." Shiyounin shivered slightly and glanced warily at the small child sleeping on the futon beside her, then returned her attention to her master. "Your bringing it here now, however... Does that mean...?" Hope lit her eyes.

The male youkai smiled gently at her and nodded. "Yes. It means that Naraku has been defeated. I have confirmed it with the Mirror of Life. Which, in turn, means that it is finally time for us to do what we have been preparing to do for these past fifty years." His smile became very sweet and happy. "Along with a few extra things that have been added in more recent times."

With a smooth movement that barely fluttered her floor-length dark green kimono, the female youkai stood, revealing herself to be only a little taller than the hourglass. "I am ready to serve you, my master." She smiled at him. "My heart is filled with joy to have this day come at last."

- - -

When the hourglass was fixed in position in the centre of the room and the required markings had been carefully painted on the floor around it, the male youkai positioned himself in front of the object, both hands resting lightly on top of it. He took a deep breath, then let it out slowly as his eyes closed and he began muttering the needed chant under his breath.

It was an ancient spell, passed down for many generations through his family line. The original use for it was long forgotten, but Fate had decreed that this generation should find a reason for it to be cast again.

As the spell began to take effect, the youkai's hands began to softly glow and a light dusting of golden powder shimmered into place in the lower glass chamber of the hourglass. By the time the spell was fully cast, the golden powder had become a good-sized mound of fine golden sand.

Shiyounin eyed the sand doubtfully. "That is it? All of his power?"

The male youkai nodded tiredly. Casting the spell had clearly taken a heavy toll on him. "Yes. I know it does not look like much, but considering that most full blood youkai would have barely a dozen grains inside them..."

"Ah. Then his power was indeed as formidable as I have heard." Shiyounin shivered and eyed the sand with distaste.

"It was. But at least now... that strength will be used for something good."

Servant and master shared a smile at the thought.

The male youkai took a deep breath and slowly released it, then nodded. "All right. Time to begin." He no longer looked as tired as he had only a few moments earlier.

That time, he didn't close his eyes. Instead, he looked off to one side of the mystic circle he had drawn. He also didn't touch the hourglass, instead just holding out a hand with the palm facing it.

The hourglass rose slowly off the ground a little way before it began to turn.

When it was upside down, the sand began to flow from the top section into the bottom. As it did so, a golden shimmer appeared in the air where the youkai was looking.

By the time all of the sand had flowed into the lower section, a tall, slender and beautiful female youkai with waist-length reddish-gold hair stood naked and blinking in the spot where the air had been shimmering. She looked bewildered and a little afraid, until Shiyounin spoke softly to her.

"Be not afraid. This is a good place. You have been granted life in order to serve a very special purpose."

The female looked at her, curiosity in her long-lashed golden eyes. "What... is my purpose?" Her voice was soft and she seemed startled to hear it, her hand lifting to her lips as her eyes widened.

"I will tell you when all of your sisters have been born, for they have the same purpose as you."

As the two female youkai had been speaking, the hourglass had turned again and a second golden-haired woman was shimmering into being beside the first.

When the sand stopped flowing, the hourglass turned again as Shiyounin reassured the newly born youkai with the same words that she had used to calm the first born.

Seven times, the hourglass turned.

Seven times, a woman was born from it.

They were not identical, but they were all beautiful and had similar colouring, with long reddish-gold hair and golden eyes. Aside from that, they were also all naked and very confused.

Shiyounin calmed each of them by telling them they were safe and had been born for a purpose that she would explain to them when they were all assembled.

After the seventh turn, the hourglass lowered itself gently back to the ground. The small youkai anxiously peered into the lower section of it. When he straightened again, he looked satisfied. "That's all of them."

The seven women all looked at Shiyounin expectedly.

She didn't disappoint them.

"The seven of you were born to do one particular task. You are to go out into the land and gather up the children who have been left orphaned and alone by the senseless wars that both humans and youkai have been fighting now for many years."

"What are we... to do with these children?" The first born seemed to be getting used to talking.

Shiyounin smiled at her, then at the others. "You are to care for them. Protect them. Raise them so they will become good people. Teach them to respect life and to value the differences in people and youkai, rather than to fear them. Then, when they are grown, send them out into the world, to pass on what they have learned to others they meet. But, more than anything else... you are all to love those children like your own. They need that most of all. They are afraid, lonely and sad. Make those precious ones happy again."

As she spoke, the women began to smile. By the time she was done, they were almost glowing with happiness. They all nodded.

"It is a good purpose." The first born spoke for all of them.

Shiyounin smiled and nodded. "Yes. It is."

- - -

After seeing the women off on the beginning of their journey, Shiyounin returned to find her master sitting on one side of Hakudoushi's bed. He wore a thoughtful expression and she quickly crossed the room to join him, sitting on the sleeping boy's other side. "You are going to awaken him?" She looked worried at the idea.

"It is safe for him, now. Naraku can no longer harm him and he can no longer try and find Naraku to take his power for his own. The only problem is..." The male youkai sighed heavily.

"Giving life to each of those women was my spell's purpose, but it was the remnants of Naraku's power that formed their bodies. Fitting that the power that was used to destroy so many lives should be used to give comfort to those whose lives have been destroyed by others, as well as by himself. But each one... used up some of that power." He looked over at the hourglass

Of the mound of golden sand that had been in the lower section, barely a handful remained.

"To do what still remains to be done... I will need Hakudoushi's power as well."

"He still reeks of evil." Shiyounin spoke softly. "He will not give it to you easily."

The male youkai looked thoughtful. "Perhaps not. But... there is still a chance."

He reached out and lightly touched Hakudoushi's forehead.

The boy's eyes immediately snapped open.

Hakudoushi lay still, his eyes darting around and taking everything in. He frowned. "Who are you? Where am I?" His frown deepened. "What have you done to me? Why can I not move?"

The youkai blinked at that last question, then looked over at his servant. "See? I told you that you had tucked him in too tightly." She snorted softly in response.

He returned his attention to the boy and smiled gently. "You are in my house and you are safe. Naraku manipulated events so that the monk journeying with InuYasha would be forced to suck you into his wind tunnel. It was the only way that Naraku could get rid of you without endangering his heart in the process." As Hakudoushi scowled, the youkai continued to tell his story.

"Fortunately for you, I have some small skill in going to such places, so I was able to go there and get you out again."

"Why?" Hakudoushi's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Why would you do so much for me? What are you expecting to get out of it?"

The small youkai grinned at the boy. "Not expecting. Got. The gratitude of your sweet sister, who asked me to save you in the first place."

Hakudoushi blinked and then looked ever so slightly unsure. "Kagura?" He spoke the name very quietly.

"No. Kanna. But, I have no doubt that she asked it of me because Kagura would have, had she but known of my existence." His grin was now a gentle smile.

"Kanna knew you... but Kagura did not? Then you are known to Naraku." There was hatred in Hakudoushi's voice as he glared at the small youkai.

"Hmm... how to explain this? Kanna knew me... but only in her dreams and only as a voice. She never saw me. A voice in a dream that spoke to her and gave her comfort... Naraku would have no interest in that, even if Kanna told him of her dreams. To her, that was all I was. A dream."

Hakudoushi gave the youkai a scornful look. "But you still did her such a big favour? Like I would believe that."

The small youkai shrugged. "Believe it or not. It makes no difference to me. You asked and I answered. It is the truth, but I cannot blame you for not trusting me." He was still smiling sweetly.

"So where is she? I will ask Kanna about it myself." Hakudoushi frowned.

"I fear... that is currently quite impossible." He bowed his head, looking sad.

Hakudoushi went still. "She is dead." His voice was flat.

"She is. Naraku ordered her to fight, even though doing so was destroying her bit by bit." There was an undertone of anger in the soft voice that seemed to catch Hakudoushi's attention.

"What about... No, never mind." Hakudoushi looked away.

"Kagura? Naraku killed her, after he gave her back her heart. She died free of his control."

Hakudoushi didn't reply for a moment. When he did look back at the small youkai, his expression was cold and closed with no sign of remorse. "So Naraku and both of them are dead. That just leaves me, then." A small smile curved his lips.

"Before you go getting any foolish ideas of world domination or anything like that... I have to tell you that would be quite impossible. Sesshoumaru and InuYasha defeated Naraku. They would have no trouble at all doing the same thing to you. Your strength is far less than his was."

The matter-of-fact way that he said it was probably the reason for Hakudoushi's low growl, more so than the actual words.

"However... you do have enough strength to do something in particular." The small youkai tilted his head and studied Hakudoushi thoughtfully. "Your power is useless to you now. If you try to use it, InuYasha and Sesshoumaru will come after you. Your life would be lost. On the other hand... there is a way you could use your power that would be like getting one last bit of vengeance on Naraku. Not just for yourself... but for your sisters, also."

Hakudoushi frowned. "So there is something you want from me. I knew that you had not just brought me here as a favour for Kanna." He gave the small youkai another scornful look. "You cannot trick me with your pretty words. If you hate Naraku... that makes you my enemy too."

The youkai smiled. "At least hear me out. There is a chance that you might like what I have to say."

"Very well." Hakudoushi nodded. "But... release me, first." His eyes were suddenly sharp.

A slightly embarrassed cough came from the other side of the futon and Hakudoushi's head snapped around. He blinked and looked a little surprised at the sight of the female there, as if he hadn't noticed her before.

"You are not constrained by him. You are merely... tucked in." She looked rather apologetic.

Hakudoushi blinked again and looked a little confused. "Tucked in what?"

"In bed. You were sleeping and I wished you to feel safe while you slept, so I made sure that you were properly tucked in. Only... I seem to have overdone it a little. My deepest apologies. I will get you out while you listen to him."

"Very well." Although Hakudoushi still looked rather confused, he returned his attention to the other youkai as the woman began to gently free him from the confines of his bedcovers. "Speak."

The small youkai nodded, although he looked a little amused by the situation. "When Naraku was defeated, I was able to capture what was left behind of his power. There is not much remaining, however, if you were to add your power to it, there would be just enough to do something that would make Naraku, if he were alive, very annoyed. Yes, that is a great understatement."

He grinned at Hakudoushi. "Considering the effort Naraku expended to kill Kagura and Kanna, your restoring them both to life would be nothing short of the ultimate insult to him, surely?"

"You can... No." Hakudoushi's eyes narrowed. "You cannot fool me. You are trying to steal my power. Is Naraku truly dead? What of Kagura and Kanna?" He glared at the youkai.

"You are free now."

The soft words spoken in the sweet and low feminine voice made Hakudoushi tense, a look of shock flitting through his eyes for just a moment before his cold mask was restored. He quickly sat up and then moaned softly as his body protested at the movement.

He steadied himself with a hand on the futon, his other hand rising shakily to his forehead. "What... What have you done to me?" There was fury in his voice, but also a trace of confusion and something that could possibly have been fear. Maybe.

"Oops. You really should not try to move around so fast. You have been sleeping for several months. Shiyounin here has cared for you in that time, however your body will take a little while to recover from being unused in so long." The small youkai's voice was very soft and concerned.

Hakudoushi growled. "So I will need to remain here a while longer. Is that what you are telling me?" He struggled to stand but barely managed to throw off the covers. Even so, he growled again at the two youkai when they tried to help him. "Stop it! I will not stay here! I will go and find Naraku. I do not believe a word that you have... that you have..." He went still, his eyes locked on the very sad eyes of the female youkai as she gently pulled the covers over him again.

"What... are you?" Hakudoushi's voice was barely a whisper.

"A friend to those who need me. An enemy to those who would do evil things." She spoke very softly as she gently stroked Hakudoushi's hair.

He made no attempt to move away.

"There is a charm in your eyes. I can feel it. You have bespelled me." He sounded more like a very grumpy child than a powerful and evil being.

"Yes. I have the power to calm those who are unsettled. Those whose souls and minds and hearts are in turmoil."

Hakudoushi scowled, but it lacked his earlier anger. "I am not in turmoil. I know what I want to do."

"That is true. Both your mind and your heart know that. However... they are not in agreement. Your mind is telling you that this is a trick, while your heart..."

"Stop it." Hakudoushi frowned. "I will not listen to anymore lies."

The female youkai smiled gently at him, but it was the small male who spoke. "It's no lie. You know Naraku is dead. You would feel it. But with his death, you have a choice to make. Do you follow the same path as Naraku, which will lead to your death as surely as it led him to his, or do you choose a new road for yourself?"

Hakudoushi scowled at him. "Meaning, do I give you my power so you can destroy me."

"No. Meaning, will you give me your power so I can remake the two that Naraku destroyed." Twin emeralds looked into Hakudoushi's eyes, direct and unwavering. "I can do it. I can bring them back. They didn't have souls, in the usual sense of the word, so they haven't gone on to anywhere. They're still right here. Their essences. What made them Kanna and Kagura."

"I don't believe a word of it." Hakudoushi looked away. He didn't sound quite as certain as his words suggested.

"You're free to leave as soon as you feel well enough to do so. But when you go... you'll be all alone. Then what will you do? Try to gain the power you crave? The power Naraku craved? Are you just a younger copy of Naraku?"

"No!" Hakudoushi glared at the youkai. "I am not him!"

"Then prove it!" The youkai was suddenly glaring right back.

"Don't you get it? Are you really that much of an idiot? I have the power to bring you here from within the void that held you. I have had you here, sleeping and vulnerable for months. I could have destroyed you at any time. I still could. If I was to kill you now, then I could just take your power. The way I took Naraku's." His eyes narrowed and he sat up straight. "So, ask yourself this. Why haven't I done that? Why am I asking you for your help, instead?"

"I don't know!" Hakudoushi weakly thumped his fist into the bedcovers. Even that much effort made him tremble.

He looked away and began to speak quietly. "You have admitted to wanting my power. It is likely that you will simply kill me after you get it. You were correct, before. I do know that Naraku is dead. I also know that Naraku would have killed Kanna and Kagura first. They were nothing but tools to him. As I was. I could go back to what I was doing but... it is pointless now. I do not know how, but someone killed Naraku. If I make any move at all... they will surely kill me too. You are not lying about that. I know it to be true. Which means, whatever I do... it will end with my death."

He scowled as he looked at the small youkai. As he had earlier, he looked more like a child in need of an anti-grump nap than a powerful half-youkai. "So my choices seem to be to leave here and get killed, or to give you my power and get killed. If you truly can do as you say you can... tell me... what will become of them and me afterwards?"

"They will be free to go and do whatever they wish. Their lives will be their own. I do not wish them for my servants. As you can see..." He smiled and motioned to Shiyounin. "I have the only servant I need, already. Shiyounin and I have been together for a long time. As for you... I would be taking your power, but not your life. You have my word on that, for whatever it is worth to you."

Hakudoushi frowned. "Why would you do this?"

"Revenge." The small youkai looked unwaveringly at Hakudoushi. "Naraku brought pain, misery, suffering and destruction to many families. Mine and Shiyounin's were among them. As I said before, he expended a great deal of effort to destroy your sisters. Neither of them deserved such fates. Restoring their lives strikes me as being a good way to get back at him. Even though he is gone now, and it seems like the chance for vengeance has passed, it is still something I can do."

"Oh." Hakudoushi nodded, suddenly calm. Revenge was apparently a reason that he was able to understand well. "Very well. Do what you wish. Even if you lie and kill me afterwards... Even if you lie and use my power for other means... It would still be better than dying at the hands of InuYasha and Sesshoumaru." He wrinkled his nose in distaste.

The youkai blinked. "Well... I suppose that is one way to think of it." He looked amused. "In that case... you might want to lie down again. This will not hurt, but it may make you a little dizzy."

He shrugged when Hakudoushi just scowled at him and remained sitting up. "Fine. Do not say that I did not warn you." He stood up and moved to a point between the hourglass and Hakudoushi.

One hand lifted, the palm held out towards Hakudoushi, the other hand did the same to the hourglass. The small youkai bowed his head and concentrated. His hands glowed softly.

A wave of dizziness flooded through Hakudoushi. He couldn't keep back a soft groan but he fought to stay sitting upright. His eyes were drawn to the hourglass. Much to his surprise, he could see golden sand forming inside the lower chamber. "Is that... my power?"

"It is." Shiyounin spoke softly, whispering in his ear.

When the light faded on the youkai's hands, the sand in the hourglass was almost three times what had been there before. Hakudoushi frowned. "That is not much."

The youkai smiled brightly at him. "No, it is perfect. There is just enough." He looked at Hakudoushi. "Thank you. Would you like me to bring Kagura back first?"

Hakudoushi looked away. "I do not care what you do."

"Well, it would likely work out best if I did. She is the wind, after all. It has not been easy keeping an eye on her location for when this time came. By comparison, Kanna was much simpler to watch over. She remained in one place." He moved over to the doorway and opened it. "In you come."

A gust of wind blew into the room, a small white feather whirling and dancing upon it. The wind crossed swiftly to Hakudoushi and blew around him, fluttering his clothes and hair. The boy's eyes widened in astonishment and he looked suddenly far more like a small child than he had before.

"K...Kagura." His voice was very soft.

"Yes. She has been waiting for this moment." The small youkai smiled.

The feather whirled to a clear spot on the floor and he held his hand up, again with the palm facing it. His other hand reached out to the hourglass. As his hands glowed, the hourglass lifted off the floor and turned.

As the sand flowed from the top chamber to the bottom, half of it faded away.

At the same time, the familiar form of Kagura slowly appeared in a golden shimmer of air.

The youkai smiled at her. "Hello."

Kagura smiled a little and nodded to him. "Hey. Thanks. That's a lot better." She turned and looked at Hakudoushi, then walked slowly over and knelt beside his futon. "Hakudoushi..."

"Kagura." The little boy looked like he wasn't sure what to do or say.

The youkai woman smiled a little more and made the decision for him by hugging him tightly.

"W...what are you doing! Stop that!" Hakudoushi tried to pull away but she wouldn't let him go.

"He explained it all earlier. That he needed your power to bring Kanna and I back. I didn't think you'd actually do it. I'm glad I was wrong about you, kid." She kept hugging him. "We're free."

He stopped trying to pull away and hesitantly hugged her back. "I guess... we are."

As they were reuniting, the youkai was casting his spell one last time. This time, however, he was casting it on a bowl of mirrored pieces that sat on a shelf on the other side of the room, as if it was just there for decoration.

When the sand in the hourglass had all faded away, Kanna was standing in front of the empty bowl.

She blinked and looked around, as if unsure where she was. Her gaze took in Kagura, still hugging Hakudoushi and she took a small step towards them, but then paused, her eyes locking on the small, and now rather nervous, youkai.

For a moment, she looked at him blankly. Then... she looked a little curious.

"Hello, Kanna. It is good to finally meet you... in person."

Kanna's eyes widened at the sound of his voice. Then she did something that she had never done in her previous life.

She smiled happily.

"Hello, Kinkaji."

At the name, Hakudoushi gasped. "What? Did she just say...?" He stared at Kanna, then at Kagura.

His sister kept hugging him, but her voice betrayed her amusement. "Didn't you know? He's Kinkaji. The Lord of the Eastern Lands. Otherwise known as the Lord of Life and Time."

"But... why would he...?" Hakudoushi was clearly very confused.

"Why would such a powerful and well-known Greater Youkai Lord help us like this? Well, there are two reasons for that. Firstly, Naraku made the mistake of seriously annoying him. Secondly..." She eased back from the hug and grinned at the boy. "He's in love with Kanna."

"What?"

As Hakudoushi tried to get his mind around that stunning revelation, Kinkaji's cheeks darkened with heat. "Ah, Kagura. Thank you so much for saying that loudly enough for the whole mountain to hear." He looked very embarrassed.

Kagura grinned. "You're welcome. Kanna? Why are you just standing there? You love him too, right?"

Kanna blinked and looked at Kagura. There was actual emotion on her face, now that she was free from Naraku. She looked surprised and a little embarrassed. "How... do you know that?"

"Because you looked happy when I said that he's in love with you." Kagura shrugged.

Kanna blinked again and then did something else that she had never done before.

She blushed just like Kinkaji.

Kinkaji's cheeks had just darkened even more, but he looked happy. "Speaking of love..." He looked pointedly at Kagura.

The female youkai nodded slightly. "I know. He's near." She looked at Hakudoushi. "Hey kid. Don't go anywhere. I'm going to go let someone know that I'm alive and then... I'll come back and get you."

Hakudoushi blinked. "Why?" He frowned.

"You don't want me to?" Kagura arched an eyebrow.

"No. I mean... It is not like that. I just... do not understand. What do you want with me?"

Kagura shrugged. "You're my brother and you gave your power up, so Kanna and I could come back. You'll need someone to protect you now. It might as well be me." She grinned. "Besides, I kind of like the idea of having a grumpy little kid tagging along with me wherever I go."

At the look of disbelief the boy gave her, Kagura grinned more widely. "It won't be so bad. At least we already know that you don't get airsick."

- - -

Leaving Hakadoushi to play chaperone for Kanna and Lord Kinkaji, Kagura headed off on one of her feathers.

She was overjoyed to find that Kinkaji's spell had restored her own powers as well as her body and her life. Flying had always brought her joy and flying with the feel of her heart beating steadily inside her was even more wonderful. But when she saw the one that she'd come to find... she found that there was something else a heart could do.

It could thump like crazy and make her whole chest ache with longing.

It took a lot of effort, but she managed to remain cool and calm as she swooped in and landed a short distance from Sesshoumaru. "Hey." She looked around in surprise. "What? No minions?"

Sesshoumaru spoke very softly. "Who are you?" He was standing very still and frowning ever so slightly. For him, that was the equivalent of a full angry glare.

Kagura smiled a little. "It's really me. Long story. Basically... Naraku's death meant it was safe for me to come back now. Kanna too. Hakudoushi's also alive. He was rescued from the void inside that monk's hand and he's been kept sleeping until now. He won't be a threat to anyone, though. He gave up his power to help bring me and my sister back."

She smiled more as Sesshoumaru kept frowning at her. "I know it's hard to believe, Sesshoumaru. Maybe this will make it easier for you. The one who organised it all... is named Kinkaji."

Sesshoumaru's eyes widened very slightly and then he relaxed and nodded. "He and I have met. More than once, although I did not recognise him at the time. He was disguised. It was only after that I realised his identity."

He studied her for a moment, then nodded slightly. "Your scent has changed, but it is still yours."

"Huh? Changed? Oh. That's probably because this time I wasn't actually born from Naraku. It was just a mix of his and Hakudoushi's power that made me." She shrugged, then arched an eyebrow.

"You know... Really, it's no wonder that you're still single. Most women don't like hearing that they smell." She looked amused.

Sesshoumaru arched an eyebrow all of a millimetre. At most. "My unattached state is of interest to you?"

Kagura grinned at him and slowly began walking towards him. "Your unattached state, as you put it, is very much of interest to me. It always has been. I was just... not free to do anything about it."

She stopped a short distance from him. "Until now." She smiled at him. "Just so you know, I like children. I hope to have a few of my own, some day. I'm also going to have Hakudoushi with me from now on. He's pretty much powerless and he'll need someone to look after him. I want to do it."

Sesshoumaru frowned slightly. "Even powerless... he could still cause considerable trouble."

"I know. He'll need someone to rein him in on occasion. I don't know what I'll be like as a big sister or mother, but I have a feeling I'm likely to spoil the kid more than anything else." Kagura shrugged. "I have a bit of a soft spot for him. Even when things were at their worst and he was undeniably evil, there were still times when he looked and acted just like a scared little boy."

She looked at Sesshoumaru and hesitated, then took a deep breath. No point in chickening out now. Time to get to the point. "I don't suppose you'd be interested in helping me to keep him from trying to take over everything in sight, would you?"

Sesshoumaru's eyebrow arched a little higher. "What would I get in return?"

Kagura shrugged. "I was thinking we could work out the details as we go along."

For a few moments, the youkai lord looked at her thoughtfully, then he nodded once. "Perhaps. Meet me by the river this evening. We will discuss it in more detail, then."

The female youkai blinked and then smiled. "I'll be there. Should I bring Hakudoushi with me?"

"No." He paused, then added quietly, "I will also be alone."

Kagura smiled. "So it will be just the two of us. I rather like the sound of that."

- - -

That night, Kinkaji stood on the balcony outside his bedroom, listening to the night sounds of the wind and the trees of the mountain his home was built on. A soft rustle from behind him made him smile. "He is sleeping?"

Shiyounin moved to stand beside her master and also looked out into the night. "Yes. He was quite irritated that Kagura had gone out to meet Sesshoumaru again." Her eyes twinkled as she spoke.

Kinkaji laughed softly. "Jealous already. He'll make a good little brother for her." He glanced at his companion. "Things worked out quite well, all around. Wouldn't you agree?"

Shiyounin nodded and smiled at him warmly. "Of course. I never doubted you."

"You always were a terrible liar." Kinkaji grinned as she just shrugged, not bothering to deny it. "I have to admit though, I was a bit worried myself there, for a while. I'm just glad that Hakudoushi acted the way I thought he might."

"Hmm."

Kinkaji looked out at the night again. "You're wondering, aren't you? Why I didn't just use my own power to bring them back. Why I needed to take Hakudoushi's."

"Yes. Your power is greater and it would not have been a permanent loss, for you. Your strength would have soon returned. It is your spell, after all." She smiled a little. "But... I believe I know the answer already." She glanced at her master, now smiling at him as she softly continued speaking.

"With his power gone, he is no longer a danger to anyone. He is merely a clever child. Also, the bond between him and his sisters has strengthened, because he gave up so much to bring them back. Kagura has even agreed to take care of him. Although... I suspect she is using it as an excuse. Or rather, a reason that he will accept over the truth. She truly wishes to care for him."

Kinkaji smiled back and nodded. "I agree. He understands doing things out of obligation much better than doing things out of love." He paused for a moment, then grinned mischievously. "I just hope that his mind doesn't collapse in on itself when he realises that Kagura is seeing Sesshoumaru because she actually has feelings for him."

Shiyounin laughed softly and nodded. "That will likely come as a shock to the child. Although, I suspect that Sesshoumaru's servant will be even more shocked."

Kinkaji grinned. "I'd say horrified beyond belief would be closer to the truth."

After their shared moment of mirth at the thought of Jaken's reaction, Master and Servant stood in silence for a few minutes, both staring out at the night in quiet thought.

"It's finally over." Kinkaji softly broke the silence. "It's hard to believe that Naraku is really gone."

"Yes." Shiyounin sighed softly. "It is most strange. Somehow, I always thought that this moment would feel more... momentous. Instead, life for the rest of us... merely goes on."

Kinkaji smiled and nodded. "I would say that is our ultimate triumph over Naraku, Shiyounin. He is gone... but we all live on. I have no doubt that he would be very annoyed by that." He grinned happily at the thought.

 

The End