Author's notes: This story is almost 100% complete, aside from a small but significant scene in chapter 4 that I need to finish. The rating on this is PG, but there is a somewhat lemony epilogue that will be made available on my website. If you are interested in that portion, feel free to email me and I will send you the link when I have posted the whole of this story.
I will attempt to post a new chapter each day, though I have to proof them for spelling and sometimes life gets in the way. As usuall, reviewers are a fanfic author's cheerleaders and I won't deny that it helps to have a few fans egging you on.
This was the first fiction I wrote, though not the first one I posted, so please bear that in mind if you find OOC-ness. :-)
The disclaimer: Of course, Inuyasha and all related characters, settings, episode references are not mine, but the wonderful brain child of Rumiko Takahashi. I seek no profit, only a way to express my own soul through her works. Thank you.
And without further ado:
Releasing Your Heart
His amber eyes opened with a start.
The early morning dew fell gently from the leaves of his oak hideaway, the sound nevertheless jarring to his sensitive youkai ears. It was not the dew, however, that piqued Inuyasha's senses. Her scent was strong, and as familiar to him as his own. She was very near.
He glanced around the campsite beneath him. Sango and Miroku lay in their bedrolls beside Kirara, the demon cat providing a pillow for her mistress and the monk. Below him, Shippou curled up against Kagome. Inuyasha hopped down beside her, leaning in to search her face. Her eyes were relaxed, peaceful. She would remain asleep. Slowly, quietly, he backed away from the camp before turning towards the tangle of trees and breaking into a swift run. He had to follow her scent.
* * * *
"Kikyou-oneesama." Kaede squinted her eyes at the figure that stood opposite. Could this be her? The expected soul stealers were nowhere in sight and the aura that surrounded this being was human and alive.
Kikyou looked past her sister into the fire of her hearth, the flickering flames reflected in her eyes.
"You are --"
"Back. Yes." She moved her gaze toward her hands, which were closed tightly over some object. "My soul was sent back into my body."
Kaede's eyes widened. How can this be?
Kikyou continued to stare at her hands as Kaede moved slowly into a sitting position, never taking her gaze off of her older sister's form. Finally breaking from the trance that seemed to hold her, Kikyo took a position on the floor across from Kaede and drifted off into her memories.
"Naraku had summoned me from a nearby village where I was tending wounded soldiers. As I made my way through the forest, I sensed strong youki. The sacred arrow I sent into the darkness hit upon metal, and in the next moment the sword's bearer came into the moonlight."
"It is you," Sesshomaru noted coldly. "the dead priestess who holds my foolish brother's heart." Kikyou reached for another arrow, but was stopped by his hand on her arm. His movement was swift.
"Inuyasha's weakness for humans will be his death, I will see to that. But the girl -- his companion -- she is more troublesome than her appearance." He looked into Kikyou's eyes with intent. "What are you to him?"
"I am the ghost of his past." Kikyou offered him no more.
"You hold a piece of the girl's soul. If I were to dispatch you into the next world -- Inuyasha would surely follow. Sorrow can be a source of strength, but it can blind as well." Sesshomaru pushed her away, and reached for the hilt of Tensaiga, swinging it before she could react.
Kaede's forehead knit in consternation. "Kikyou-oneesama, the Tenseiga is a sword of life, not death."
"He did not aim to kill."
Kikyou felt the blood pulsing in her veins, her breath was heated. Real. Alive. Upon opening her eyes, she found Sesshomaru staring down at her with a hint of pride.
"Yes, he would follow you into hell; but I want him weakened. The girl weakens him. Your existence will weaken him further."
"Sesshomaru gave you back your life... to cripple Inuyasha?"
Kikyo did not answer, but turned toward the entrance of Kaede's hut. "Inuyasha."
His eyes fixed on her, his chest heaving with exhaustion. Her scent is stronger. "So it's true."
Slowly, Kikyou closed the distance between them, meeting his eyes with a gaze of her own. Wordlessly, Inuyasha drew her into his arms, closing his eyes to savor the feel of her warmth and the long absent cherry blossom scent of her hair. Time stood still for them, broken only a gentle coughing from Kaede.
"Where have you left your comrades?" Kaede questioned him stoically.
He suddenly felt a heated rush suffuse his body. Kagome. Kikyou felt his arms withdraw from her as he backed toward the door. She watched in silence as he turned and retreated toward the edge of the village.
* * * *
Miroku snapped up from his prostrate position and glared side to side, seeking the source of his rude awakening. Sango rolled over, her back now to him, still lying comfortably in her bed roll. She wore a rare smile of satisfaction.
"Who did it?!"
Shippou, unable to hold it in any longer, burst into peels of laughter. "Miroku, you were snoring!"
Blushing bright red, the monk sat quickly back onto his blanket, crossing his arms in front of him. "Violence is not the answer," he pouted.
"But you did stop snoring," Shippou facetiously pointed out. He smiled up at Kagome, as she wiped the sleepiness from her eyes. "Shippou, that was a mean trick to pull on Miroku-sama."
Shippou's smile turned into a frown and he leapt up to her shoulder. "It wasn't me, Kagome. Sango slapped him!"
Kagome sighed, and looked around the camp, suddenly realizing his absence. The others began relaxing back into their beds as Kagome stood and walked toward the small nearby stream. She cupped her hands for a drink of its fresh, cold water before sitting back and looking at the night sky. The dawn was fast approaching and they would have to set out again. The Shikon-no-tama was still far from complete, at least the portion they had. There was no doubt that Naraku's piece was far closer to finished, meaning his powers were nearing their peak. Time was not their friend.
Inuyasha, where are you?
* * * *
The sun started rising above the distant hills, gleaming through the treetops. Sparkles of the orange sun descended upon Inuyasha's silver hair, his head bowed to the ground.
I promised my life to Kikyou, I can't just take that back.
He slammed a fist into the ground, sending up a flurry of pebbles and dust. Sesshomaru had indeed bestowed a mixed blessing. Kagome... he loved Kagome. Her heart was pure and she'd stood beside him more loyal than anyone he'd ever encountered. Yet Kikyou -- her life had been stolen by evil, and Inuyasha's own life suspended for fifty years. Surely it was no coincidence, their meeting again no older than the day Naraku separated them. Neither one having experienced the passage of the years. Fate must have had a hand in this.
"Inuyasha-sama," Myouga appeared on his lord's shoulder, a thoughtful expression on his face. "Kikyou sealed you to the tree. She was fast to believe you would betray her, while Kagome gave you her trust and freed you."
Inuyasha glared at the flea. "Baka! I know what happened, I was there." But it wasn't Kikyou's fault. She was mortally wounded, having barely the strength to come after me. She didn't have time to second-guess.
Kagome and Kikyou have the same soul. But Kikyou belongs in this time. Kagome --
The image of her tears as she leapt to rip him from the demon spider's web rushed to his memory. She'd cried for him, and protected him at his weakest moment. She'd also cried often at his angry words. She didn't deserve to be hurt. He didn't want to hurt her.
Inuyasha looked up to watch the sun emerge completely from the hills. The decision was made. He rose. Kagome will find peace. I'll see to that.. Walking towards the village, Inuyasha realized his heart was still heavy.
* * * *
Kikyou was closing a small red pouch as Inuyasha approached her. "Are you here to say your goodbyes?" she questioned stoically, putting the pouch down beside her and seeking his eyes.
"No." Inuyasha took her hand in his own, finally meeting her gaze. "I made you a promise, Kikyou, and I won't back away from my word. I will speak with Kagome."
Kikyou exhaled, her breath moving the hair from Inuyasha's forehead. She touched his cheek, gently, and met his lips in a chaste but lingering kiss. "Inuyasha..." She breathed his name into him, further awakening his senses. After a moment, they broke apart, arms embracing. "We must first return the piece of her soul that I held in my body," Kikyou finally spoke. "At the moment Sesshomaru returned me to life, my soul in this time was without a body, floating in the other world. Tensaiga recalled it to me, and pushed out the other."
Inuyasha shook his head. "No. Kikyou I must go alone. I cannot throw my choice in her face."
Closing her eyes in understanding, Kikyou backed away and reached for the red pouch she'd abandoned. "Then give this to her. She need only touch the jewel inside and her soul will rejoin its body." Accepting the soul, Inuyasha brushed her arm. "I will return to you tonight, Kikyo-chan." Then he turned away, again leaving the village.