Drowning in the Sun, Part 4
Haru (Spring)
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I lay dying
And I'm pouring
crimson regret
and betrayal

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I waited for him at the crest of the hill, bathing in sunlight until I felt warm to the core. He was a bit late, but then that wasn't unusual. I rolled the heavy pearl of light idly around my palm, mindlessly studying the brilliant patterns it threw back onto my skin, translated from the sun.

This jewel: my precious charge, my beautiful jailer. For as long as I must guard it, I can never be a normal human woman. Always my first thoughts must be of protecting and purifying it. To do so I must remain utterly pure, never knowing a man's love, denying my heart's deepest yearning to be a mate and mother. Always before such things had brought a vague, muted pain -- for no man had ever borne anything for me other than fearful respect. But Inuyasha...since meeting him the hurt and longing had become acute and unavoidable. With him, I knew I could be happy. I wanted to be with him.

I smiled when he approached, that he might not sense my unhappiness, and found that as soon as he returned in kind, it disappeared. My life was caught up in that faint half-smile and made whole.

I spread a coarsely woven blanket out on the hip-high grass, and then the meal for us to share. Afterward, lying back upon it we were visible only to airborne insects and any creatures of the air that happened to pass overhead. We lay in a small private room, four walls of pale green with a ceiling that was an endless window of sky. The only sound was the wind occasionally dragging lazy fingers through the waving grass.

He fell asleep, and I was amazed again at the implied trust, making himself vulnerable out in the open, knowing that I would stay awake. His arm was hot around my waist, his breath stirring the hair at my nape. Most endearing were the small growling noises he made occasionally as he dreamed. Platinum hair wove around my fingers almost of its own will, coarse and satiny at the same time.

We lay thus a long while, until I found he'd awoken, trailing a clawed finger along my jaw.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" I asked him idly. "Spring has always been my favorite season, so full of blossom and promise."

She lay against me, staring up at the shifting patterns the capricious wind made of the early spring clouds, absently toying with a lock of my hair twisted around her finger. I cared nothing for the turn of seasons I had seen so many times; my eyes could only behold her, to whom nothing even of this blooming season could compare. Her head lay pillowed on a cloud of black silk, dusted generously with the sweet-smelling cherry blossoms carried everywhere by the wind, adding a subtle layer of sensuality to her already-tantalizing scent. Her hand found mine, and I sighed, for the sun had passed its zenith, and even now inched closer to the horizon, to the time of her leaving. I wanted to freeze this moment forever; I wanted it never to end. I would have given up everything to spend the rest of my life with her. And...

"Kikyou," I said softly.

Her eyes turned questioningly toward me, a faint smile still on her lips.

I spoke the next words carefully. I had to know.

There was a degree of softness I had never heard in his voice before. He was also greatly more serious than I'd yet seen him, the expression on his face almost grave.

"What would happen," he asked, "if you used the jewel to turn me human?"

I sat up and turned slightly away, caught off guard. "If you willingly asked such a thing," I began wonderingly, not daring to hope, "it would probably be purified, and disappear." I took back my hand and pressed it against the other, that he might not feel them shake.

His expression still gave away nothing. "And you? What would happen to you, should it cease to be?"

My voice was muted by the tightness in my throat. "I would be only a normal woman, freed from this duty."

He seemed to absorb that for a while, though it must have been mere seconds.

Abruptly he sat up, recapturing my hands, and drew me to my knees in front of him. "Kikyou," he said again. He said my name like no one else, in a way that made me shiver. The amber depths of his eyes opened up to swallow me in flame. "Use the jewel to turn me mortal, and live with me as my wife."

Tears sprang to my eyes, hope a sharp pain in my breast. "You really want this?" I said disbelievingly. "You would give up the long years of your hanyou's life, for me?"

His hands left mine to slide up my arms, pulling me nearer as he leaned in to whisper, "I give them up willingly; they would mean nothing without you."

I want us to be together as a man and woman, not as a hanyou and miko who must slink away in the forest and meet only in secret. I want to make a life with you, to have children with you, to grow old with you.

I could not speak, I could only throw my arms around his neck and hold on. His arms came again around me, and he whispered his love into my ear.

I turned my face into his neck, feeling the tears on my check, and gave the words back. Then I said, "Tomorrow, at noon. The jewel's power will be at its fullest. Meet me here..."

I kissed him then, or he kissed me. He shed the jacket willingly, but hesitated when I loosed the ties of his shirt. "Kikyou, we--"

"Shh," I said. "Are we not already pledged? What could happen in a day?"

He made no more protest. We shyly explored what gifts love had to offer, with restraint enough to save the last for the morrow's eve. I can say naught else about that time other than it was sweet to me.

Bittersweet, almost, for I would never hold him in this form again, no more to lose myself in the silver hair, under the touch of clawed hands that could be so surprisingly gentle. The so-familiar golden eyes would be lost to me, replaced by the darker human brown I barely knew. It seemed somehow wrong, that after having sought acceptance his whole life as a hanyou he would need to be human for us to be together, but it was the only way! I loved him, whatever skin he wore, I hoped he knew that.

I pushed the nagging thought from my mind. Tomorrow I would be his wife, and I could imagine no greater joy.

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It was the little one's voice that enlightened me, as the pair left my miserable cave at sunset. The high, squeaky tone reached my ears where the elder voice had not. "Neesama! You're going to marry him? Use the Shikon no Tama to make him human?"

No reply was audible, but the wind carried to my ears one last childish statement: "You mean, the jewel will disappear?"

She means to purify it; She intends to turn some half-youkai human and lie with him. Such a waste of power, and woman. I won't allow it -- She is mine! I will have the woman and the jewel both, but profaned and beautifully dark.

No time remained; if it were going to be done, it would have to be tonight. I opened myself to the darkness, let it take me alive.

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That morning dawned even more beautiful than the one before, or to me at least it so seemed. In breathless anticipation I bathed and dressed, combing my hair until it shone, preparing a breakfast I could not eat.

The sunlit walk to our meeting place seemed endless, miles longer than before. I suppressed the urge to run, not wanting to arrive sweating and breathless. I wore my best clothing and did not want to mar it with dirt or sweat.

Better to have worried about gaping rends and bright-red blood.

I should have sensed him coming, should have felt the malevolent attack approaching. Instead, lost in my own mind I was naming our children. How easily I had played into his hands.

What a fool I was; He was youkai to the core, and I'd underestimated his guile at great cost. My heart died, crushed under the weight of falling dreams, once secretly shared with only one other. Using my love for him to gain the jewel's power was unforgivable.

I had surrendered into his embrace willingly, to be one with him. And as such, I lost the ability to be one with the shikon. Only an untouched maid could do so, and while I was maid enough still, I was perhaps no longer so untouched. It did not reject me outright, but I was no longer so closely attuned to it; my senses were as any other mortal's when he struck me down, and I knew at once that the wound was fatal. Passion had cost me my very life.

Blood or betrayal stained my vision red, and I could only grope blindly for the jewel I had dropped, gasping as the fingers were cruelly stepped on, though physical pain barely registered then.

His callous laughter cut deeper than the claws, a weapon whose edge was the voice that had promised unending love only a day before. He mocked me and left me to drown slowly in my own blood, but I had other plans.

I was a miko without peer. Love abandoned me, and soon would life, but steel enough remained. I would surely be hastening my own death, but I would not let him have this victory. Each step was a small eternity of pain, but I knew my body and its limits. I could reach my bow and strike him down before my time ran out.

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The purifying arrow pierced my heart swiftly, impaling me cruelly to the immense tree looming taller than all else in that wood, pinning me helplessly to the rough bark. The white-hot feathered shaft burned with a fire that blazed across every nerve, but the pain was nothing compared to that inflicted by its brethren earlier that morning, as the one for whom I had come prepared to give up both near immortality and the power I had craved my entire life had turned and loosed them at me without warning.

I belatedly grasped at the jewel as it fell from my nerveless hand, but my eyes could see only the miko who stood before me, bow still in hand, expression cold as death. The sad face that had smiled ruefully at me so long ago was as gone as if it had never been.

How could she?

In the end, she was like every other human, hating without reason, betraying me because of who I was. Oh, even Ofukuro had left me, dying too soon, killed by her own weak humanity. Humans. How I hate them.

And then the world slipped away.

Kikyou--

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The ground comes up to meet my knees abruptly, as great razored teeth bite again into my chest and back.

The jewel lies near my limp, blood-spattered hand: still the same pure, blazing white, lit with a soft glow, burning away the steadily dripping crimson that seeks to mar it. I had time then, to fully realize that I was dying.

My anguished voice howled unrecognizably in my head, shredding forever the cherished images within, of the one I had loved, of the two of us together leading normal human lives. Our quiet, hopeful dream...that had only ever been mine alone. The hate that choked me then came with an unimaginable vengeance, an emotion the dark twin of the strongest one I'd known until that point, the profaned and twisted side of Love.

Oh, what terrible hatred. The last vestige of who I had been cringed in horror and then disappeared forever, swallowed by the overwhelming tide of night-dark rage. The jewel flared in my palm, emitting an obscene, violet light. As it darkened, the gasping agony of my torn flesh and punctured lung receded, the respite too great to have been merely imagined. I closed my eyes and tried to breathe more shallowly, as the lung filled with blood.

Such a choice. To die so young, holding the power to save myself in my hand all the while...or to heal myself and live forever as a prisoner to my own Hate, unrecognizable to even myself, perverting and corrupting the soul of the jewel I had been asked above all others to guard.

No. Better to die than to unleash that kind of evil on the world. I hated Inuyasha with my entire being, but I wanted no one else to suffer as I suffered, and I vowed that I would not be the one to turn the jewel.

The jewel glowed suddenly white again, as faultless as if the dark had never touched it. I nearly sobbed with the return of the pain's full force, but as my vision blurred with tears, the jewel seemed to reach out wispy tendrils of snow-white mist. They encircled me like a mother's embrace, the pain and all other sensation beginning to fade away as it took my sorrow into itself. Ah, daughter, a female voice whispered, heavy with sadness.

Better to die. Better to forget.

"Oneesama!"

Kaede. Small hands grasp at my shoulder. "Your wound, we need to--"

"It's too late for that," I whisper. I'm sorry, Kaede-chan. I won't be able to protect it anymore. I never wanted to pass this on to you -- No! I won't foist that burden onto another young girl's shoulders. I won't take away your chance at a normal life.

I won't let this happen to you.

"Kaede! Listen to me! The shikon...burn it with my remains--"

My voice fails me, everything growing dark as though the sun is setting, though it is only morning. I can barely feel her clinging desperately to my arm.

Inuyasha...why?

My last breath becomes a wordless sob as I pitch backward, falling, without ever hitting the ground.

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Afterword:

Kikyou:
I love you, my Inuyasha, but hate you still. The two emotions have lain side-by-side for so long that they are now hopelessly entangled. I can't even remember what it was like to love without the hate...it's only a fleeting, liquid dream that runs through my cold, dead fingers whenever I foolishly try to grasp it.

At first, I hated you for the obvious reasons, because I thought you betrayed my love and caused my death. Then I hated you because you had not trusted me enough to question, leaving me to Naraku while you pillaged the village. Now, I hate you because you love her instead, and I am faced with the full realization of all I have lost, seeing the man you have become under her tempering influence. You are stronger, more temperate, no longer hiding hurt and vulnerability beneath an abrasive, uncaring surface. You've become strong enough to care for others openly instead of holding selfish ambition determinedly before you like a desperate aegis. You've become the man you would have been with me...the husband who was the only dream I dared to harbor for myself.

I wish for your death now, though my soul quails against it -- for I could not bring myself to kill you even before, when I hated you, when I thought you'd betrayed me utterly. I did not merely contain you for fifty years by accident. I wish for your death now because it is the only way we can be together.

Inuyasha:
I would have much time, later, for self-recrimination, on that long quest to kill Naraku, as though doing so could in any way absolve me of my guilt.

I should have seen it...I should have realized that it was not her. Her scent, that unmistakable smell, was not present at all. Naraku was able to assume her form, but he couldn't fake that. Kikyou, who judged mainly with her eyes, cannot be faulted, but I, who use my other senses so much, cannot escape blame. If I hadn't been fooled, I might have saved her...I might have been able to stop him...or failing that, if I had been able to prevent her hatred of me, she might have been able to heal herself with the jewel without its corruption, his other goal. My Kikyou...so brave, to face her own death to preserve its purity, even after such a seeming betrayal.

Had I trusted her, she would be alive.

Why did I not question her motive to kill me then, that morning, when she could have killed me easily so many times before and did not? What had she to gain? Why did I not wonder why an archer of such consummate skill would miss, if indeed she had finally decided to kill me?

Instead I let wounded pride and hurt take me over, and savaged the village with the brunt of my anger, intent on stealing the jewel she had left behind.

While I did so, he killed her.

At first, Kagome, I loved Kikyou in you. In you I saw what she could have been without the shackles of a miko's duty, carefree and courageous, exuberant and happy. I saw how free her soul should have been, were she ever allowed to be only a girl.

But only at first. Soon enough you were just Kagome, and I hated myself for allowing thoughts of you to overtake memories of her. And how could I let myself love you, when I had so abysmally failed her? I tried to prevent it, but you would not let me leave, though you forced nothing.

I will free Kikyou or die trying, and do what little I can to make amends to her, to ease her grief and suffering. I can do no less. Only then, when that is done, can I love you freely, if I'm still alive.

Kagome:
Lying awake at night, I wonder what will happen to the sliver of my (our) soul that she still clings to, harboring it away in that cold shell of clay and gravesoil. What will it be like, when it finally returns to rejoin the rest? Will it have been changed from the journey? Will I still be me? Will I then be her? Us? Does Inuyasha toss and turn at night with thoughts like this on his mind?

I can't hate her. She tried to kill me, she certainly hates me, and I know that I'll always have to share part of his heart with her, but I know her, in a way even Inuyasha does not. For all that I hate it when people compare us, we're much the same. I want to cry for their tragedy even as I'm insanely jealous. I can't say that I would not feel the same as she, were our positions reversed. The only difference between us is that somehow I'm able to trust him where she could not...but perhaps that is only because I have before me their dark fable as a haunting example.

I hope that she can find rest; I wish even that there were a way for her to be again with him, for her own broken heart, and his. I wish there were some resolution for us three that did not leave one miserable, because I know he can't be happy if either of us is not. Perhaps the real relationship to be resolved is not Kikyou and Inuyasha, but the one between her and I, our fragmented soul's past and present. If the soul can be mended and made one, his heart would no longer be forced to divide.

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End Part 4

Hope you enjoyed this piece at least half as much I as did writing it.

Song lyrics by Evanescence

Sango )