Hey everyone- thank you for the comments. Now I know that you are disappointed that this is not the ending chapter. nods I know- this is cruel, but what I am asking for is everyone's help on the ending.

I agree with Classic Cowboy that Kikyo should be punished more than that and I was planning on having something happen, but I thought that I should ask you guys what you think. I am hesitant to have Inuyasha hurt her that badly- the reason he let her go as much as he did is because he was more worried about Kagome or that was my intent- which I will make more clear when I edit… but Inuyasha did always had a blind spot for her and her actions so I am hesitant to have him hurt her- besides how much can he or anyone else hurt her- she's freaking dead. I was thinking that maybe Kagome could go into Kikyo's mind the same way that Kikyo did to her. Kagome could break down Kikyo's barriers- her hatred and revenge that gives her "purpose" and keeps her "alive" and maybe steal back her soul? I thought that would be appropriate- eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth- Code of Hammurabi and let the punishment fit the crime sort of thing, but I am afraid that is too extreme. Either that or she could maybe have some deal that says that unless the dead broad becomes a spy in Naraku's camp so to speak, Kagome can take her soul back.

Also, now that this, my first draft of my first fanfic, is almost finished, I am already thinking of ways to go back and improve my story.

1. I am going to make Kagome 18 instead of 16- the anime has been going on for 2 and half years now and so she should be 17... but since I guess I am increasing her vocabulary- thank you Rurouni Star- I better jump up her age. Also, about the contractions- I'll go back and take a look. My tendency not to use contractions comes from years of training. In academic writing, contractions are still considered rather inappropriate and that way was how I was originally taught to write. I am glad to know these things because I don't have a beta- I do it all myself.

2. I am planning on adding a whole new chapter in there at some point- and add a few more fluffy moments to take the pressure off, although hopefully without disjointing the story. I admit that I rushed the plot line and did not really add things because I just wanted to get it done, but after it is, I will go back and fix this issue and by doing so, make my story stronger. If anyone has any ideas of where I could go add things or whatever else, please tell me- anything will be greatly appreciated. (Thanks again to Rurouni Star!)

On another note- I will be returning back to school in a little over a week- time to get cracking so I can get my undergrad degree in 05- a year late, but so? I took two quarters off! I will still make time for my stories, so never fear! I'll probably write better since I will again be exposed to my peers and new knowledge, blah, blah, blah.

So enough rambling and I will appreciate any help that you would like to offer!

I'll be back with the real epilogue soon!

3/30/03- I'm back! Ahh… I know. I'm sorry. I had the worst block and just could not bring myself to write the ending, nor did I know what I wanted to say. I know- it's always good to know what you want to say before you write. Anyway, here it is.

Extra author's notes to Ch 19:

Classic Cowboy- Yeah IY shouldn't have let her off that much- do you have any ideas on what I could do that would be better and more appropriate?

Rurouni Star- Sorry about the contractions and big words. I've decided to go ahead and put it a few years farther in the future than I had so she's 18 instead of 16. Since the series is three years old, she would be getting older, but for some reason she seems to be staying the same age… As for contractions- I'm so used to typing it out because it is such a bad thing to do in academic writing that it just carries over into my recreational writing. I'm not angry or anything- I need feedback because this was my first fanfic that I ever started- not the first one I finished but the first one I started. As for the monologues, it was a device I was using that's all. But when I go back, I will check over Inuyasha's conversational style- even though he needs to be learning some new words some day, but that's not really up to me. giggle I meant to put some humor in- I did, but I found it difficult to find places to use humor. When I tried, those parts ended up getting cut because it just did not fit in the grand scheme of the story. Do you have any ideas of things I could go back and add humor without losing the flow and without disjointing the story?

Author's notes to ch 20:

1st thanks to all readers and reviewers… wipes away a tear Thank you all so much!

Nankinmai: I hope you think that this works out ok. I am going to go back and tweak everything later, so if you have any ideas, please tell me.

Angelstars: I'm so glad you got to see so much new IY- it's exciting! I want to read the manga, maybe someday if I'm lucky. BTW, I love anime music videos too… it's harder to download at school because they have this obnoxious firewall up that naturally pisses everyone off, but of well, what else can we do?

Lachesis: Wow you work as an editor? I am so excited that you are offering to be my beta… well I have been so bad about writing since I got back to school… I better wait on something like that, but I am overjoyed with your offer. I may take you up on it someday!

DiLLiRgA- I hope that you like how this comes out…. I know what you mean about Kikyo- it's very easy to simplify her character. I have this pet peeve about oversimplifying anyone… I call it pidgeon-holing, and I just don't like it. Of course, I mess up and all myself, but I try to be careful.

tsunami-chan: hehe thanks for reading- I'm glad to know that you enjoyed it!

Pt 19- Epilogue: Kikyo's monologue and the resolution

"It's only forever- not long at all. Lost and lonely, no one can blame you for walking away. Too much rejection, no love injection... Life can be easy; it's not always swell. Don't tell me truth hurts, little girl- 'cause it hurts like hell. But down in the underground, you'll find someone true down in the underground, a land serene, a crystal moon..."

- Underground, David Bowie from Labyrinth

(A few hours later…)

Kaede, Kagome and Inuyasha are all sitting in the little hut together. Kaede has an unreadable expression on her face and Kagome looks worriedly at Inuyasha, who stares into the fire.

Kaede takes a sip of tea and quietly begins the dreaded conversation. "Something must be done. We cannot simply leave this matter here. No one hates to see Kikyo-onee-sama in pain more than I, but we must act in some way." She pauses to examine the couple in front of her. "Please, tell me what you are feeling, Kagome-chan."

"I have mixed feelings on the issue. Part of me is extremely angry for what she did to me; I almost lost my consciousness, my life and yet I feel incredibly sorry for her. In many ways, she is me and I feel as if I've learned a great deal from this experience, from her. She dredged up feelings and thoughts that were within me, but that I can never have imagined doing or saying. I must admit that I'm a bit shocked at myself… but when I look into her eyes, I can now see the parts of her that are me. It's just really confusing." She buries her head in her hands. Inuyasha looks at her with sympathy before standing up randomly.

Kaede looks at him with alarm. "Inuyaasha, where are you going?"

He turns towards them both and simply replies, "Don't worry. I'll be right back."

Kikyo wanders nearby, because she has no place to go. She knows better than to assume that there would be no punishment for her actions.

Kikyo's thoughts/monologue (yes, another long monologue but I wanted to use it because it's a nice change… even if a monologue is more of a Shakespearean tool than a modern fictional one, but so? Variety is good.)

"Soon they will come to a decision as to what to do with me. Should I run from them? No, I cannot run from what I have done. So instead I will surrender to their judgment? That does not seem like me- how could I do that? Still, do I ever act like myself? I do not even know who I am anymore…"

"I know I am not perfect and that I no longer belong here. I understand why they feel uncomfortable around me, or more accurately, despise me. When I am there, I feel as if my actions are somewhat anti-climatic. Hearing Inuyasha put finality on our relationship hurt. Should I not feel- I am dead after all. I did ask him to come to hell with me. Perhaps that selfishness was more than a little unfounded. Seeing their happiness threw icy daggers into my heart and soul, yet it was strange because part of me was truly reunited with Inuyasha, my first and only love. She is so young and pure. In a way, she is me, since she is my reincarnation- we are part of each other. That I suppose should be some consolation, but I don't want consolation."

"I didn't want to be reawakened, to have everything brought back to the surface. I only wanted to rest in what I knew and to let my soul stay with that girl. Now we are both split and yet bound to each other. I suppose we are both angry with Inuyasha for saying my name when he saw the shell that Urasue made. I asked him not to say my name then, but he could not hear me. My peace shattered- I could not masquerade even in death that we had died together- and her heart felt betrayed. I understand that because that's how I feel now. I feel betrayed by the one I dared to trust. At that moment when he released me, he chose his past over his present. I suppose you could say it was the shock factor- after all, grief wells up quickly, overtakes us from behind and we are unable to stop it. I suppose all that matters little because I am here and so is she… and he chose her. I guess it's poetic justice that he loves our soul and that we have no choice it seems but to love him in return."

"I am not of the present or the future- I am out of time. That monk that I had to kill- he angered me when he ordered me to return to the world of the dead. He sparked my fury, although I know my face at least looked calm as I turned his spell back upon him. I guess you could call it self-defense, but I wonder who was hurt more. I hear his words echoing in my mind as I wander, a vagabond. I cannot stay in a village and help out, because as he said, I do not belong there. I don't belong anywhere on Earth, not even with my love, not anymore. But I still have my mission to complete and after that is finished, I will have no purpose but to return to hell, to the dark loneliness and to let that girl, Kagome, have the rest of our soul so that she can live happily ever after with Inuyasha. That was a smart remark that she turned on me. Nothing ends… I don't end either, because I am not going anywhere."

"The world will look back and paint me as a wicked corpse if they knew. There are those who remember only my true life- when I was young, pure, kind and able to help others. I feel somewhat like myself but I was tainted by my anger and fury and my spirit went through it all over again when my soul reawakened. I do not change now; that is the way of the dead. I wish I could be different and escape but that is not the way of this world, or the way of the world beyond. Perhaps they would suppose this is a plea for forgiveness and pity, but it is only an explanation. They are alive- how precious!"

Inuyasha quietly enters the clearing. "Hello Kikyo."

Kikyo doesn't turn to face him. "You've come for me then?"

In a matter of fact tone, Inuyasha responds. "Yes." He looks away for a moment. "Kikyo, I'm not sorry about what I said to you earlier. You deserved it. I wish that I hadn't lost my temper."

Without looking up at him, Kikyo's face becomes amazingly vulnerable. "No, I understand; I think… What will happen to me, Inuyasha? Will you obliterate my existence? Would that be alright with you?"

He sighs and continues to look down. "I don't know what'll happen. I want to leave this up to Kaede and Kagome; I can't make this decision." Changing the subject, he looks her in the eye. "What do you want Kikyo? Is it truly that important that you continue to live this life? You are not as I remembered… as you were."

"You're right. I am different now… and there is nothing I can do about it."

"Aren't you tired… don't you wish to return to where you belong… to what you once were? Hasn't this gone on long enough?" She doesn't answer. "Come, come with me. I love you Kikyo… and I always will. I just… I can't stand to see you like this. I can't imagine how you can stand to exist this way! That was a different life… and although I treasure our relationship, the time that we spent together, how you began to teach me to love, to trust, to hope… time needs to begins again… for both of us." He takes her hand gently in his.

She looks at him with a sad, far-away look and nods.

(Back in the hut…)

In order to keep their minds as clear as possible, Kaede is teaching Kagome to meditate as they wait for Inuyasha and Kikyo. The young woman is having a bit of trouble concentrating on the lesson.

Opening her eyes and staring straight ahead, she wonders aloud. "He went to get her, didn't he, Kaede-baa-chan? He went to go find Kikyo so that we can get this over with now and forever."

Instead of scolding her, the mentor smiles sadly and nods. "Yes, child, I do believe he did. The longer we wait, the harder it will be- trust me."

"I do trust you, but why do I feel so apprehensive about this? What she did was unforgivable and yet I hesitate?"

"It is not that simple, Kagome-chan. Nothing is nearly as simple as we want to make it out to be."

"I suppose so." Kagome sighs and randomly taps her fingernails against the floor in a rhythmic pattern. At that moment, Inuyasha pushes aside the mat to allow Kikyo to enter before him. The dead woman stares at the ground as she comes in with he characteristic grace. No one knows exactly what to say.

Kaede bites the bullet and begins the session. "Kikyo-onee-sama, welcome. I am sorry about this."

"So am I." Kikyo nervously wrings her hands. "What will you do with me? Kagome, what will happen?"

"I don't know, Kikyo. This whole thing just seems very wrong somehow. I don't know what we should do. Every time that they ask me about it, I feel as if my brain is about to shut down in protest! Oh I understand that something must be done, but sheesh, why does everyone keep asking me when I don't know?" Gently, she turns to Kikyo with a sympathetic smile on her face. "What do you think we should do, Kikyo?" Both Kaede and Inuyasha are lost in silence.

Taking a deep breath, Kikyo bravely answers. "Well I assume that you will send me to hell. I put you in great danger because of my selfishness…" Kikyo smiles sadly. "I could not imagine that Inuyasha could love you instead of me. There was so much pain and so I formulated my plan… to destroy your relationship with Inuyasha by changing you and to get your body in the process, so that I could live with my love." Without stopping, she continues to blabber on. "You were stronger than I had thought. I searched through your mind and heart to find out what your mannerisms were- that's how I knew about the ear pulling and osuwari, all that type of thing. I assume that you might be somewhat curious. So what did I do? In order to subdue you, I fed you a dream. You grabbed the happy vision and ran with it, not that I blame you for it. If I could truly dream, I would have done the same thing. Unfortunately, I do not change… life does not go on." She sighs and gives the response to the direct question. "I am stuck in time and I deserve to be sent to the dark, loneliness of hell. In a way, that is what I tried to subject you to… except that you would have been trapped in the prison of your mind, not the cold walls of the lowest rungs of hell. This punishment fits the crime."

Kagome looks into her eyes. "Why are you here now, Kikyo? What was your purpose?"

"He called me." She points at Inuyasha. "I did not wish to come back but then I was here and I thought that he had killed me. The anger keeps me going- although I know that my perception had been altered… I cannot change." She sighs and her shoulders droop. She puts her hand on Kagome's shoulder. "Time has stopped for me, Kagome. Won't you send me back to eternity?"

"Is that what you want, Kikyo? What do you want?"

Kikyo searches her soul for the answer, but can only look into Kagome's eyes. As they stare into each others' eyes, a silvery-blue light begins to form between them. Both of them look at it with unbelieving eyes.

The flash triggers something is Kikyo's eyes. "Kagome, I want to be me, again. I want to be free- I want to change, but that is impossible for me now." A small pop is heard and a red light begins to fly out of Kikyo.

"What was that, Kikyo?"

Kikyo does not answer but pushes Kagome away slightly. "If you don't go away in a moment, you will take me back into yourself." Kikyo backs away but the light only lessens slightly. "That will not work if you want to send me to hell."

Kagome is silent for a moment before shining with frustration. "Damn Naraku… that his influence could reach into your soul, our soul, so completely!" She clenches her fist before turning back towards Kaede and Inuyasha to receive permission. They both nod and allow the young miko to choose, because she had been the victim. "Kikyo, I will give you your punishment."

Kikyo lowers her head even further and waits. "And?"

"You will not live to see the end of Naraku. The task of protecting the jewel and defeating Naraku now passes to me." She pauses for emphasis and Kikyo cringes. "Kikyo you won't go to hell. Your anger is gone now… That is what the red light was, wasn't it?" Kikyo nods sadly. "I thought so…so although I shouldn't forgive you... I know that your crime was serious and that I was in danger. Still, if we look for a Biblical example: Moses sinned and so did not get to see the Promised Land- but I will not condemn you completely. I know you in a way deserve to see Naraku defeated since he was the reason for your death… but you will see it through me. Lend me your power, Kikyo. Will you join with me so that we may both learn from each other and find peace? Or would you rather return to hell and give up the rest of the soul by force as you leave this world?" Kagome, Kaede and Inuyasha smile at Kikyo.

Kikyo looks up in surprise. "What? You would…"

"Yes, I would." Kagome backs off for a moment. "Why don't you say your goodbyes to Kaede and Inuyasha, Kikyo?" Kagome backs off.

Kikyo almost smiles and turns to the two silent people who wait nearby. "Kaede, my dear little sister… I love you. I wish that we could have had a better reunion and reconciliation. You were so precious to me- forgive me if I cannot still remember you as my little sister when you have grown to be much wiser than I." She walks towards her to give her a hug, which Kaede accepts.

Kaede's eyes fill with tears, but she manages to keep her voice somewhat steady. "I always looked up to you, Kikyo-onee-sama. I missed you terribly. I will be happy when you are again peaceful and at rest."

Inuyasha comes forward next and Kikyo smiles again to say goodbye. "Inuyasha, my love… I allowed my love to be tainted, but I do love you very much. I'm sorry that I could not trust you as much as I needed to. Please be happy and take care of Kagome."

"Don't worry, Kikyo. I love you too. You'll be free again- you'll be you again. You will always be in my heart..." He gives her a warm hug and places a chaste kiss on her forehead before backing off to stand next to Kaede.

Kikyo turns back to Kagome. "I'm ready. Thank you very much for your incredible kindness and forgiveness, Kagome. You have given me more than I deserve."

Kagome nods. "We will both be free… and live with the one we love, Inuyasha." They both smile at each other and move with an arm's distance of each other. Grasping each other's hands, they both close their eyes. The silver-blue aura surrounds them again and begins to overtake them. Kagome pulls Kikyo's shell towards her and the light begins to pour into Kagome, who is desperately trying not to pass out. A few moments later, the light blinds everyone in the room and both bodies fall to the ground.

Kaede and Inuyasha both run to Kagome's side and call out to her in order to wake her up from her trance. Kagome's eyes open and she gets up to look at the shell. Kikyo's mouth is twisted in a small smile. Everyone looks at each other with happiness.

Inuyasha kisses Kagome's hand. "Are you alright now?"

She smiles at him. "I've never been better." Still looking at the empty shell, she smiles. "You know what we should do?"

(That night…)

Out in the wilderness under the twinkling stars, Kagome and company sit in front of a blazing, humongous campfire. Kagome and Kaede carry the shell with the help of Inuyasha and lay it on the pyre to burn. As the shell burns, Kagome imagines Kikyo's spirit being set free- free of her anger, of her pain, of her loneliness and of her timelessness.

Right beside her, Inuyasha stands with his arm around Kagome. Sadly, he smiles in remembrance of the women that he has loved. Finally, she is the woman that he knew and yet now she is gone. Kagome looks up at him and understanding his feelings, she runs her fingers across his jawbone to comfort him. He pulls her closer and buries his face in her hair to reassure himself of the truth of her presence and love.

A couple feet to the left, Kaede intensely examines the fire and her face is almost unreadable. Inside, she rejoices that her sister is now herself again and also feels the death of her sister again as she calculates how long it will take the fire to consume all the fuel. The ashes will be reburied in Kikyo's grave since Kikyo's previous ashes partially comprised the shell. Still, the thoughts of organizing what must be done cannot drown out the aching loss. As if sensing her pain, Kirara jumps up to Kaede's shoulder and purrs into her ear. Turning to the little fire-cat, the old miko smiles and begins petting Sango's faithful friend. Time has a way of healing all hurts and they are all finding the courage to go on.

The fire burned on into the night and each was lost in his or her own thoughts. They look up and directly overhead, they see a shooting star fall down from the heavens and are reminded how wonderful it is to simply be alive. Kagome and Inuyasha look at each other and sigh. With open hearts, they snuggle closer and pray for the spirit of a former enemy and an old love…

And life went on…

The End

Ok, DONE- for now. I will go back and add a couple of chapters that I wanted to put it in but didn't do the fact that I wanted to write the plot more, so that'll be good. As always, I'll tweak and fix and if anyone has any ideas for extra chapters, etc, please tell me. Please Review!

(BTW, Condition of the Souls should start going again. I'm having a little block on that one too, but the ice is beginning to melt, so that's wonderful. Thanks again everyone! You are all the best!)