"How long?" he asked. The cloak wrapped back around him. If she could hear that, it meant she had some time left.

The wind was beneath her. Something was almost pulsating in her hand. It wasn't anywhere near enough, but she smiled.

"I don't see how that is any matter of yours, monk," she said, spitting the venom at him before it poisoned her.

"Kagura, we can help you." She heard the voice, but the world lay in front of her, and she didn't look back.

She mind was ahead, and her eyes were lost in a sea of stars. A cool breeze crashed against her, and pushed her higher, and she knew that tonight she could chart her own path. Tonight there was no need to return.

Kagura was not prone to self introspection, but there were times when it became impossible to avoid. When she had to ask herself if a few limited instincts and half inherited memories were enough to create a conscious.

She doesn't really care about the answer, but the process of finding it seems inevitable.

She doesn't want to die at all, and certainly not this way.

Her experiences of life are few enough, and she always thought the future was more important anyway. But she thought about it once or twice before, and she thinks about it now, as the feather rolls under her, and the sky runs through her, and she can pretend it is enough.

She remembers exhilaration. The first kill she made, eyes that had barely opened to the world overflowing and drunk on the sight of power and awe, and it had all been for her. Fan swirling around her, fleshless armies called to life; a timeless dance of wind and blood that she herself had created.

She remembers freedom from one sparkling night before she knew the limits of her own mortality, before she had even truly tasted the word captivity. The stars had been lined beacons pulling her in a thousand different directions, and the shinkon shards had been a compass in her hand, and it had felt like the most natural, easiest thing in the world that she would free herself of Naraku and follow whichever one she might please.

She had honestly thought Sesshomaru might help her. She still sometimes dreams he might. "Free yourself," he had said. And of all the reasons she had to hate that was the one that stung the most. Now only a dull ache, it had blistered and burned at the time, as face to face with her own futility for the first time, she returned to Naraku.

She returned to newly learned hatred, and fear. Returned to be taught what it meant to not be in control of herself. She had learned anger, fear, and pain, but she had never known loathing until she hung there, unable to even move, Naraku wrapping around her, pulling her back into himself, and she heard herself cry out. Heard herself promise not to escape, and it was disgusting to discover the weakness that lied within her own body.

She remembers her first taste of shame. It struck her as a new day dawned light on her captivity. On the chains that didn't have to bind her to him. On the stagnant air of that basement dungeon that amplified the sticky heat that was not her own, that was gripping her. On top of her and inside of her. Rolling over her, and she hated the stench, but there was no where to run to because it was her own as well.

Months later on a night that might have been a dream, that taint was almost eclipsed by what she had categorized as elation. If she had been herself that's who she would have been that night. Naraku's invisible strings jerked her home again, and she faced him, and knew she was not herself, even as heated promise burned inside of her.

"I'll do whatever you want," she said, and pride was all that was keeping her upright, and her desire for survival what allowed her to lower herself to the same gleam she saw in his eyes.

Pride is a dangerous thing, constantly in need of being catered to, of being lied to, and promised to, but Kagura found, without ever trying otherwise, that she was incapable of existing without it.

Pride was what allowed her to sulk away with her head still upright. What allowed her to debase herself by handing the shard to Inuyasha and saying "In exchange for your help," and what allowed her to not kill him from the sour thoughts his expressions stirred within her.

Pride was what allowed her to listen to the monk when he came to her that night, the night Naraku disappeared.

"Why did you choose help us?" He asked, and there were so many things she could have said, but she chose the only one that was true.

"I'm helping myself."

She had to laugh than because Naraku was gone, but her she could already feel the pain sinking into her muscles, the taste of death seeping into her mouth.

She didn't know anything that could live without a heart.

It was anything but pride that caused her push her mouth against his. Even in the darkness it was impossible to imagine he was anything, or anyone, else, but he had a heart still underneath all that human frailty, and rotting mortality, and in that moment her plan went no further than ripping it out of him.

"You want this?" he asked, and she scoffed because desire was what defined her entire being, and yet desire was the one thing she had no more room for.

"Idiotic fool," she said. The sharpness in her voice was the only thing keeping her standing, at least until his weight fell against her, and once again she was falling, eyes on the familiar pattern of stars.

The heart beat against her chest was not her own but she could pretend it was, and use it to push the empty shell she had become back to motion.

Once upon a time, against a different rhythm and with a different taste, but watching the same stars, she had wondered if it was that memory that would pull her back to life when Naraku came for her next.

"Naraku isn't coming back," he said, but she still needed something to bring her to life. The dirt on her knees, the moans where breath and wind met and enveloped each other, rising into the sky in a struggle to be the highest. Blood under her nails, and when she placed them against him she could feel the reverberations.

She placed her hands against her chest and felt it there as well. The memories, or maybe dreams, of that long ago night. The phantom itches of silver hair brushing her stained flesh, blood in her mouth from where she had bit down hard.

"Lie down," he had said. It was almost the another memory, save the fact that this time she was free. Free to pull back and wave insulted, and laughing into the night air, "It's not going to happen like that."

Free to push back against the unmoving body, and fight the way she had always been meant too.

Her fingernails broke his flesh, and his strength fought against her will, sliding against the blood that slipped between them and stained them both.

She wouldn't submit. And neither would he.

Head tilted up towards the stars, and a breeze had made love to her as it blew against the bare flesh.

"Free me," she had moaned.

"Free yourself," he had murmured against her.

And even as her body was becoming the wind around her, and heated night was pulling the chains from her mind, and leaving heated possibility in it's place she knew she couldn't.

Even now she can't forget how that knowledge had stung.

But the monk had told her "Naraku's dead."

"He won't be coming back."

The air blew straight through her, and it wasn't her voice, but the free wind that spoke.

"My heart?"

In her dreams (or were they still memories) Sesshomaru would stand up, and heat and life would sink back out of her. He had left her then, and a little bit of herself returned.

She hated herself for not having anything more to go on then the memory of wind in her mouth, sweat drying on the surface of her skin, and blood aching below.

"It's gone," he said. Who was it speaking those words? She didn't know. She almost didn't care.

Hollowness gripped her, as she had pushed him into the dirt, an undignified unveiling because her kimono was coming apart, hair was unraveling around her. In the heat of the moment she didn't even have to worry about the substance beneath such pretty trappings.

Her heart was not beating, but something was stirring inside her chest and she didn't know how long was left, just knew how much she wanted. Wanted to feel the wind against her back, blood on her lips, and eternity exploding around her. How much she wanted him. How much she wanted herself.

If she had a heart, if she were a real person, she could have left then, and who knows what she might have become.

She was not however, real, and whatever it was that was stirring against her chest as the stars faded away, and the sun didn't break, was not her own heart. Perhaps, she thought, it was nothing more than the wind.