Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha or any of the characters in the show. And, for those who wait until the end of the story to review, now is your chance!
A jolting bolt of power. Several, all about him like a coat of lightening. He outstretched his arm towards the ball of dust as if he could make it clear away faster while the energy coating him dissipated, calmed. His vision struggled to return to normal after that painfully bright assault on his eyelids. The sun was beginning to set, but it seemed darker than it should have been. And it was quiet for the battle that once surrounded them was at a stand still. After the light had faded he had noted Kagura's dance was over. He hoped because there was nothing left to destroy or she could have been right in guessing Naraku's demise would seal her own fate. He assumed the worst but had to be sure... "Kagura." Sesshomaru said loudly in no particular direction. She was blocked from his vision thanks to the commotion they had caused between them. In all his years of war and death Sesshomaru had never seen such a raw display of power. He could not deny that her easy control of the wind complemented his demonic powers in a way that made opposing the two an arguable decision. Perhaps he could use Kagura?
No. That was a ridiculous idea, he thought as she came into view, casually walking around the compressed smog toward him.
She looked, for the most part, unscathed, her lips in a serious, emotionless line. Honestly, Kagura did not know what to think. This had happened before but he had come back...and taken her life again. And like he said that night to her, his silhouette still behind the thin paper wall, kneeling, smiling, his melodic voice dripping with mockery: "You thought I was dead. You thought that, you were free, ha-" Kagura had clenched the fabric above her thighs so hard her knuckles had turned an unhealthy shade of white. "I will never leave you for you are mine. I will always come back, even when you're certain I've gone forever."
Sesshomaru's voice snapped her out of her reverie. She saw many questions in the deep complexity of his eyes after he glanced back to where Naraku once stood, noticing the dust had cleared. He need not voice what he was thinking. She didn't have to touch her chest to feel her heart beating within it. Strong and fast, it was there and it was hers again. She told him.
"Then why do you still look so unconvinced? He has been so depicted, not a trace of him remains, save for scraps of his clothing."
She unconsciously bit her lip at this. She raised her head, then followed his gaze to the considerably deep crater their attack had made. She went with him to stand by the edge of it, peering down into the grave marker. It smelt terrible, like burning hair. She stiffened at the sight of the gleaming jewel, directly in its center. The purple orb unmistakable against the rustic brown dirt and pieces of charred royal blue kimono. She glanced at Sesshomaru, who was staring what would seem to be impassively down at it. She couldn't tell what he was thinking so she didn't try. Without hesitation, she splayed her fingers and waved them towards her, causing the wind to stir. It mimicked her hand, sweeping up the jewel and quickly flying it into her palm. Sesshomaru heard it hit with a soft slap. She turned to him while closing her fingers around it, though just as she did, the ground gave a deep cough causing her to momentarily lose her footing. She withdrew her elbow from Sesshomaru's reflexive attempt to keep her from falling and had time to briefly notice he was as surprised as she was. "What-" She stopped, watching the demons that were surrounding them. Now dead, harmless-useless. They were dissolving. That's what it looked like, they were dissolving into dust and floating away like ashes thrown over the sea. Thousands of them, every single one of them. Not nearly as softly, the castle went next. Its walls shuddering loudly before pillar by pillar collapsing in on itself, to crumble and fold. Pieces of it, turning to dust and whisking away or scraping silently against the ground before soaking into the earth.
"We need to leave. Now," he said curtly.
Kagura had already drawn her feather, white and billowy. She threw herself onto it, Sesshomaru right behind her. And as they soared into the vast dark blue of the coming night, above what once was a foreboding castle, now smoke and ruins, Kagura felt her pulse in her throat and thought with careful hope that maybe her suffering would end that night.
The jump, farther down than she had expected, caused her to hit the bottom quite painfully sending her stumbling onto one knee. Kagome loudly sighed her discomfort and looked back up. Small slivers of sunlight sneaked in through the well house's cracked roof. It gave off just enough light that she didn't find herself in complete darkness. It was dusty down at the bottom, and stifling hot even in her summer attire.
She glanced back down to discover it had rolled into the corner. Kagome cautiously crawled over to it, grasped it with one hand, and brought it up to her face for proper observation. Immediately she felt much too tired to be down there, much too claustrophobic surrounded by musty air and cracking, dry wood. Her senses picked up the strange energy, the power that resided in this ball of plastic, mingled with the damp air inside to lead her here, alone, so far away from the house and her brother. A nasty trick, she thought hazily as she slumped forward, much too hot...too tired to fight the pull of this sorcery as it took her under. Fleetingly, Kagome noticed that she had dropped the ball, in all its normalcy, since this energy was hers now. Crawling on her skin, making her vision go in and out of focus and her head into a throbbing vessel of pain.
She could feel it all- the sand underneath her nails as she dug her hands into the earth beside her. The trembling of her thighs under her weight. The stale air filling her lungs steadily as she breathed. The heat on her forehead where thick pieces of hair stuck stubbornly to the sweat that resided there. And, eyes half open, head loosely hanging forward- she remembered.
Her adventures, victories, losses... The spell. Who returned these memories to her, bitterly sweet. Perhaps Kikyo to spite her. Or Kaede, because everything was okay now. Because it was alright for her to return.
Unless this was an accident. Unless the spell died along with-
Kagome let the tenseness in her body out slowly. She relaxed, but did not move from her spot in the sand for a long while. She would have to wait, perhaps forever and for a message she did not want to acknowledge. Kagome couldn't go back even if she wanted to see what had become of the feudal era. Naraku's rule meant nothing less than darkness and destruction, she thought bitterly. It's been months with no word. Inuyasha.
Inuyasha must be.
She didn't realize she was crying until the the small sliver of vision she had from her half closed eyes burned, then blurred. If you were to look at her, you would not be able to tell, to feel the intensity of her suffering as she sat so still, so alone at the bottom of the bone-eaters well. Absentmindedly, she felt her tears gliding down her skin to leave sticky, salty trails. Some, even dripping down into the sand, to sink, wet, into the ground. So distraught in her quiet, heart wrenched, stomach knotting with her racing mind, she did not notice the soft violet glow of a priestess that wrapped her tears in a blanket as they soaked into the ground, sending them down and down and deeper.
"You're disgusting," Inuyasha spat. Despite his harsh words, she only seemed to be drawn closer to him. "Fucking nuts," he said, more quietly since he was quickly losing ground. The cries around them were getting louder. They were hungry for his beating heart and warm skin. They wanted to take it from him and he was powerless, completely powerless to stop it. Gray and white embodiments of air, smoke in the forms of disfigured humans. These were the lost souls that craved a taste of life again. Their mouths so black, opened always, impossibly wide and the sounds that came...it was unbearable to hear. He had to avoid their eyes. A watery color, washed out like a blind mans but even if these creatures were blind, they did not need to see him to know he was there. They could feel him, like he could feel his own essence, now more than ever as they approached him. Like they were drawing him out of his own body, feeding off his life force.
Maybe they were, Inuyasha thought, now falling into a state of panic. He felt the wall behind him and pressed against it, wishing that somehow he could push himself straight through. He scraped his palms over the rough stone walls, small rocks making them sting as he desperately tried for an opening.
"My love..." he heard her say above the noise.
An arm reached out from the mob, not solid, coiling and moving like smoke inside its image. And thin, almost as if, if really wanted too, he could swat it away and it would return to being air. Harmless and invisible...
It reached toward the side of his face as if to caress it, then stopped, abruptly. It all did. It took Inuyasha a moment to realize that the noise was no longer pained screams but the frantic beating of his own heart that was to his content, still sealed within his body. He brought himself to raise his head and meet the eyes of the spirit before him. They were seeing, yet unseeing and drowning deep. A milky blue and white and gray, reminding him of a rain cloud, stretched over an overcast sky. Painfully slow it turned away from him, before the whole thing faced the other direction. He noticed, the others were no longer interested in him either, but took to looking at Kikyo. Mouths open wide, but with not a sound escaping them. He listened to the hot air shift with the sweeping motion of their movements. They went to Kikyo.
She looked at them, strangely. "I told you, he is yours to do with as you wish." Her face flashed with annoyance as they continued their advance, so close to her that Inuyasha could no longer see beyond the smoky haze of the souls to her irritated expression. "If you do not kill him, I have no problem doing it myself," their bodies swayed before her. "Get out, you useless servants!"
Then the screaming began, loud and angry. And the wailing, long and painful. A tortured cry. Inuyasha cringed and slid against the wall to further himself from them. From her.
A purple glow above him caught his eye. It seeped in from the painted murals on the ceiling and spread itself like a soft mist, throughout the room. It mingled in the spirits, entwining itself with them. Their white smoke swirled around the sparkling violet mist like a snake, scales glistening dancing to a tune only it could hear.
It seemed more concentrated at the door, almost in the form of a- a human?
A woman, in ancient robes and armor. A warrior perhaps. Her shape was not solid, but more solidified of a spirit than Inuyasha had seen in his time down here, with a fixed gender and clothing. Power emanated from her form in waves. The feeling was blissfully familiar and as he concentrated more he sensed that there were two auras here, although only one had taken shape. Both were strong, but one slightly overpowered the other. He found he could not take his eyes from her, in fear that she would vanish, such a convenient distraction. He could hear Kikyo crying out in anger, in horror over the cries of anguish surrounding her. "What are you doing? You answer only to me!"
He couldn't stop himself from looking over. He could not see much due to the crowding but he heard her clearly above the screams. "Stop!" her last resort, he guessed, "Inuyasha! Inuyasha I know you are there! Please!" the horror in her voice was thick and heavy. It weighed on Inuyasha's heart like baskets of wheat on a frail mans back. The way she said his name, the hope in her voice...he was torn. And he couldn't understand why since this was the woman who had bestowed this same fate to him only minutes before.
"Kikyo..." he said softly and took a tentative step towards the crowd of makeshift bodies.
"Inuyasha!" she cried again, with so deep a terror he actually considered trying to go to her.
He looked back to the doorway. The woman stood there still, though she was no longer looking at Kikyo but at him.
"Inuyasha, come," she said. Her voice was too beautiful to be real, so rich and smooth like a fine velvet, something you could touch. "You wish to leave this place, do you not?"
And after a minutes hesitation he clenched his fists and went to her. She slowly raised her hand and moved it in a slow circle around his head, spreading purple light about him like a crown. It enveloped him, fascinating, tingling his skin with the energy. As her power overwhelmed every one of his senses- it became all he could feel. It was a soft wool blanket. It was Kagome's hair on his face and neck. He could taste it on his tongue. He could smell it- it was cold, clean air and it was the flowers outside Kaede's hut. No longer could he see the suffocating walls of Kikyo's chamber but a calm, solid black, that took him in slowly and completely. He could not find himself within it all. Although, as the darkness swallowed him up, it was to Kikyo's shrill screaming. The sound of her suffering rang loudly in his ears for what seemed like a long time. Then everything went blissfully silent.
"Would you?" She said to him and he removed the jewel shards from a small silk pouch he was given from Kaede. He held them out to her and instead of taking them, she placed the jewel in her palm over his own. Their eyes met for a moment, a small rush of heat in between their hands before Kagura, reluctantly removed hers to set eyes on the completed Shikon no Tama. It was beautiful, gleaming with the moonlight. He moved his hand again, a gesture for her to take it.
"I have no use for it," she said shaking her head and taking a step back to emphasize her words.
"Nor do I," he said, but he returned his arm to his side again. "Although many demons could have sensed its power by now. We could have been followed here."
Kagura surveyed the trees behind them. Dark, foreboding. She then looked to the path ahead leading towards the village. "Then let us return it, finally completed, to those whose intentions are much more pure than our own."
"Hm," was all he said before starting on ahead of her down the wide pathway. They did not speak. It would be silly- stupid to be friendly. Yes, they were acquaintances with a common goal. Maybe this night, was to be their only night, and final night traveling together. Kagura was surprised to be displeased with the thought of it.
When they reached Kaede's hut she was already outside, waiting by the door. She must have sensed they were coming. Unlike Sesshomaru, Kagura did not quite catch what she said, but moments later Sango and Miroku were outside as well. Shippo, too afraid to converse with such a duo, sat with Kilala by Inuyasha's sleeping form, hearing everything from a comfortable distance.
"You killed him. How?" Miroku asked, his anxious voice seeming out of place in the face of two almost unnervingly calm demons. He was curious as to how two people could in one night put an end to something that he'd been trying to finish for almost a year now. Kagura glanced at him, amusement playing in her eyes. Sesshomaru did not answer either. He simply held out an elegant hand, hanging from a long and pale finger, the drawstring of the silk pouch. Sango took it, cautiously, and shook its contents out onto her hand. She was just as shocked as Miroku was.
"Ye want not a wish on the Shikon jewel?" Kaede asked, skepticism playing in her old voice.
Sesshomaru would have answered differently yesterday, but after seeing Naraku. What the jewel did to him was most horrible and unappealing.
"The jewel is a cheap way to gain power and a demon of my caliber would never use such unnatural methods to defeat his enemies. It would be a disgrace to my father."
"And I have no need for it. My freedom came hand in hand with Naraku's death." I want no proof that he ever existed.
There was a silence. A confused silence. "Then why bring it here, to us?" Sango asked.
"You do ask so many questions," Kagura said, a smirk playing mischievously on her berry lips. "Just be weary. Many demons search for this and are called by the evil within it, to the jewel. It would be wise to make your wish before sunrise, whatever it may be." She turned on her heel to leave and Sesshomaru glanced at her before walking a bit ahead.
How he detested humans.
He stopped on the dirt path, turning to wait just as she said, "That is, if you aren't ripped to shreds with greedy hands by then."
Sango scowled at her back as she walked away. The nerve of those two. She only noticed how tense this was making her after Miroku put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. She should have more reason to relax. Miroku's wind tunnel was gone and her family avenged. Though, not by her, it did not matter. Her sole purpose in life was to destroy him, now the only question that remained was, what to do now?
Sango held up the jewel to the moon so she could see it better in the inky night. Gorgeous. "Sango," Kaede said, and she wordlessly handed it to her. The old woman pinched it in between her wrinkling fingers. "It has been so long since I've seen the jewel in its entirety..."
Miroku's voice brought her back to the moment, "I think we know who should make the wish. As tempting as the jewel is, this is Inuyasha's call."
The three returned inside to find the said demon had awakened. Kaede smiled softly to herself at the sight of him- rubbing his face with his hands then blinking at the ceiling- before taking a seat beside the fire. At once, his friends were at his side, bombarding him with questions.
"Inuyasha! Where did she take you?"
"How did you escape?"
"Do you remember anything?"
"Kikyo... Where is she now? Will she return for you?"
What passed over his face then made them stop and the old woman looked over for reason of the sudden silence. He sat up and the covers slipped down to his waist causing him to notice he wore nothing but his hakama. He looked past his feet to his hitoe and kosode. The saya was there too, good. It held his Tessaiga. His chest gleamed with sweat as he swept his silver hair from his eyes and took a deep, shaky breath. "She won't be coming back for me," he said calmly as the sound of her crying out to him played on in his conscience. "Where's Kagome," he asked quickly upon seeing she was not there with them. "Did she go home?"
"We sent her home," Kaede replied.
"Why would you do that?"
As she had expected Inuyasha was furious with them after she explained. He went quiet, much unlike him. He didn't trust himself to speak, in fear he would say something unforgivable in its cruelty. How could they do something like that? Spell bind their own friend. His friend.
"You did this to spare her feelings like she's some weak little girl who can't handle herself? No way would she be that upset about me leaving," he said with difficulty, and positioned himself so he could lean back against the wall.
Kaede kept her eyes on the fire, "What would ye do if ye thought Kagome was dead, Inuyasha?"
This caught him off guard. He thought about it for a couple minutes and he understood.
Sort of. His fingers twitched against the blanket in frustration. He had to do something.
"What do ye think it was that took ye from Kikyo? Or perhaps who? It could have been Kagome, what month is it now? The spell was not one-hundred percent successful for it was not performed on a full moon due to the dire situation. I believe she could have her memories back by now. Or perhaps you gained aid from an old friend. Midoriko maybe?"
"What? You mean the priestess who's soul is sealed inside the jewel? Why would she help me?"
Kaede paused. "Inuyasha, how long was it you were down there with her?"
He thought for a moment, averting his gaze, eyes clouding over from the memory. "Years. Too long."
"Then ye may be surprised to find that not even a full year has passed, since ye have left."
He did not know what to make of this information so he just stayed quiet, hoping she would explain further. "Time varies with the realm, for example, Kagome's Era is many years ahead. Where ye were, the jewel was already completed, thus Midoriko's spirit was fully empowered again. Kagome could have drawn from that energy by sending her own powers through the earth to cross over into the afterlife. She is certainly strong enough, wouldn't ye agree?"
He ignored the question, thinking of that familiar feeling, the captivating purple glow, bursting with the abilities of a priestess, "How would she know to do that?"
"Oh, I don't know..." she said, turning back to watch the flame lick the wood. "Instinct maybe," she glanced to Inuyasha. "Accident."
"Well that's impossible," he clarified stubbornly. "If the jewel were completed and Midoriko's spirit was free from its entrapment within it, that would mean that someone would have to had already wished on the jewel. And for that matter, it would have to be for something pure since Midoriko survived and its evil counterpart would have had to vanish. Explain that one."
"You just think you're sooo intelligent, don't you Inuyasha," Shippo mumbled, but of course he heard. And of course he was intelligent. Kaede chuckled quietly and his skin prickled with irritation. "What?" he asked sharply.
"This is for you."
He looked up to see Sango, hesitant, the completed jewel resting in the bowl of her palm. He panicked for a moment, not knowing what to think of this. "How did you..."
"Kagura and your brother. Neither took it for themselves. They actually just left, not long ago," she glanced to the door. "Naraku is dead," she said passionately.
Inuyasha took this information in slowly, letting it sink in. Naraku was dead. His only regret was that he didn't get the chance to do it himself. And Sesshomaru? What was his deal? He obviously had some hidden ulterior motive for helping Kagura. Inuyasha was curious as to what it was but didn't inquire any further on the matter. He took the jewel from Sango's hand. He could feel everyone's gazes, carefully settled on him. Shippo didn't hide it, he was the only one. He looked angry. Like he knew what Inuyasha was going to do and was already punishing him for it. He sat on the floor by Kaede glaring as noticeably as he could and petting Kilala.
"What the hell are you looking at, runt?"
"A complete idiot obviously!" he retorted loudly. "I can see it in your face, I can't believe-"
"Shippo!" Kaede cautioned.
"It is yours to do with as you please," Miroku said steadily. His face betrayed nothing. Would he use the jewel for what he's wanted too for so long? To become full demon. To lose himself in his lust for power. Has nothing changed since then?
Inuyasha had no doubt about his wish as he closed his fingers around the jewel. According to Kaede, the future tells of purity.
He had been waiting for this a very long time.
"Alright, call me sometime this week-end," Kagome smiled and started up the big stone steps of her home.
"For sure," she heard one of them say. "Kagome?"
"Yeah?" she called back over her shoulder.
"Are you sure you're okay? I mean...you've been kind of quiet ever since yesterday."
"Have I?" she thought out loud. Maybe this was taking its toll on her. "I've been pretty busy, and it's kinda stressing me out," she lied. "Don't worry about it." And with a reassuring wave of her hand and wink, she kept on up the steps to the sound of her friends walking away down the sidewalk.
The sky was a vibrant red due to some trick of the sun and the air still warm from the afternoon heat. Damn, I probably missed dinner, she thought tiredly as she took her eyes from the long orange and yellow clouds, dragging themselves across the sky like she dragged herself up the steps. And my math...it should be against school policy to assign homework on the week-end. This reminded her of something, Inuyasha, becoming angry with her for some stupid reason or another concerning her school. It seemed more important to do it back then, just to prove that she was right and it was necessary.
After trekking up the stairs, which for some reason seemed much longer and higher than she remembered, she stopped, suddenly, on her way to the house. She saw someone she knew, standing under a tree near the entrance to the shrine. She cocked her head to the side and decided she had gone delirious. The crimson cloth of the fire rat and long silver hair highlighted by the sun, shifting with the breeze-was no longer hers to touch, and that sun kissed skin tinted pink in the light...but she could look. If only for a little while. She saw the side of his face as he glanced over to her house then back to peer into the streets. Kagome stood very still, in hopes it would last longer- her mind a sweet torment. A very unhealthy thing she was becoming. Then he did something strange. He turned around and looked straight at her. His eyes so real, gold and shining full of wonder and feeling. By the look on her face, he knew she remembered so he said her name and watched as she averted her gaze.
This was not happening. He was gone, wasn't he? Was this a trick? A sorcerers trap to lure her into her own painful demise? Inuyasha went to her and all she could think was that it was a good one.
His features were lit by the last rays of sunlight and he smiled at her, faintly she saw it. She just stared, stupidly at him as he brought a hand up to rest gently on her cheek. She then was certain it was him. Kagome felt an annoying burn in her eyes, the beginning of tears but she held them back, wanting so badly to see him, always, sear him in her memory like a brand.
"How the hell did you manage to get here?" she asked softly.
"The jewel," he answered just as quiet. Such a long time he's waited to see her again.
"No, how did you get out of-"
"Does that really matter?"
She trailed her eyes down from his own, along his nose, his mouth, his neck and reached out to wrap her fingers around the clothing over his arms. "Not really," she whispered into his chest after pulling him close to her. He hesitantly returned the embrace. "Don't do that again," Kagome warned, her voice breathy, almost angry. He was surprised at this since he could feel her hot tears soaking through the fabric of his shirt, dampening his skin.
"I won't," he said into her hair, allowing him self to run his fingers over, through to feel the jet black strands on his skin again. She was soft in his arms, reassuring, solid and real. "I will stay by your side like you've stayed by mine. Always."
Kagome was a lot of things then, so happy and angry, confused, worried, her shoulders relaxed, stomach tense. "The others, are they alright?" she asked after a long while, peering up into his face. The admiration in his eyes made her blush and find someplace else to look at. She's only seen that look once, maybe twice before. It drew the same reaction every time. If only he knew, how he would use such a thing against her.
"I'll take you to them," he said with a rush of excitement and before she could protest, Inuyasha had grabbed her by the hand and started to run them both towards the well house. She heard someone laugh, it was light and genuine. It was her as she struggled to keep up with him, leaping down the steps and tightening his hold on her hand as they jumped into the well to go back five-hundred years past.
That night, the sun set over the well house and darkness blanketed the shrine, as the undying light of destiny slowly faded in the well, leaving everything as it was in the beginning.