The idea for this one-shot just popped into my head one day after reading yet another Kikyou-bashing fic, and refused to leave. I finally put it down in written form one day during a lull at my job. I find that there are far too few sympathizers with the tragic priestess, and somehow writing this from how I perceive her thoughts and motivations makes me feel a little better. I hope you enjoy it.
Irony and Introspection
It is the favorite plaything of Fate; tampering with the lives of people young and old, pure or tarnished, deserving or innocent. It is like a wayward child in it's unwavering unpredictability and often incomprehensible cruelty.
As sole protectress for the Shikon no Tama, my life's path was etched out and traced for me in the sandy dunes of destiny. From the moment as a small and wide-eyed girl, when I first shrugged awkwardly into the Shinto priestess garb, the life I had known till then was over; living my life for myself came to an end on that day as I tied tightly the final knot around my waist. I was to become the guardian of the sacred jewel, the healer, the hope incarnate for the village…I was no longer simple Kikyou, I was now…the chosen one without a choice.
I had no idea that the road my feet were carrying me down would eventually lead to what it did. I merely accepted that I seemed to be special with quiet resignation and muted indifference; that what people said about my unusual spiritual strength seemed to ring true, that I was the one destined to guard the Shikon. It seemed to bring happiness to those around me, such a notion, and indeed it brought me my own brand of tranquility to be able to provide such reassurance, even as it pulled me further away from close relationships with others. I threw myself into it with everything I had…mind, body, soul. With the help of my mentor, I honed my skills, learning effortlessly the care and treatment of wounds and illnesses, the elegant yet deadly skill of archery, the ways of one so gifted with such holy powers.
Though my training and position prevented me from pursuing life as I saw those around me doing, I accepted it, understanding that what I was doing was for the greater good. I accepted it, somehow realizing that the need of one never outweighs the need of so many. I accepted it, because soon…I had no choice. Soon, too soon, I became arguably the most powerful in the land. Soon…too soon…the responsibility for keeping the Shikon safe fell into my hands.
It was very difficult, staying forever on guard, never unwavering in my stance, remaining always strong and true, never losing my composure or allowing emotion to cloud my judgment. I was constantly waging battle against those who would use the sacred jewel for untoward purposes, those who sought to blacken it's depths with vile and evil intentions; incessantly using the divine power within me to rid the world of such blemishes. As time marched onward, more and more youkai, of all shapes, sizes and abilities began trying their hand at defeating me and claiming the sacred jewel for their own, challenging the legendary miko with self-righteous and arrogant motivations. I smote them all as befitting those of their ilk, purifying their very essence and ridding the world of such corrupted things. I grew stronger every day, more confident, more smug…grew further away from being an individual and instead becoming a figurehead.
Inevitably I became an island unto myself, not even my family could truly be there for me, as there were no others such as I, merely those who forever looked up to me as an idol, or for aid and succor. No one ever truly reached out to me, perhaps feeling as if I was someone who couldn't be reached out to.
I became lonely, yet this not a soul was aware of…not even my own. I knew not truly of the cavern within my heart until someone came to fill it.
I'm not sure why it was that I didn't purify him when I first sensed him lurking around me in the trees. Any other time I felt a demon so close, it had to be assumed they were after what I was so carefully guarding and needed to be dealt with swiftly. Perhaps it felt different, as there wasn't a pure evil intent emanating from him. Perhaps it was that smug arrogance on my part, realizing that he was hanyou, and thinking him no match for me. Maybe I somehow realized that it would irk him if I chose not to challenge him as I did all others. Or maybe it was just fate scratching another path into those same sands.
I remember the first time I acknowledged him. I pinned him to a tree with several true-flying arrows before he ever had the chance to react, meeting his golden eyes with mine and soundlessly turning away. I remember the slight smile that curled the corners of my mouth as I felt the surprise and irritation and shock seep out of him as I left him as he was…
I shot at him several more times, intentionally missing but getting close enough to drive home my point, letting him know just how impossible it was to hide from me. But he never did take the hint. I think I began to intrigue him as much as he began intriguing me.
He continued watching me. Peering at me through the cover of foliage or from behind the blockade of rocks. Observing as I drew water from the river or sent yet another youkai into oblivion. I always knew when he was there, his aura was powerful and unmistakable, the eyes glowing out from the shadows unforgettable. Soon enough, he seemed to realize this, or perhaps simply grew bolder in his burgeoning curiosity, and made no real attempt to hide himself. It befuddled me, both that I seemed unwilling to kill him, and that he seemed equally unwilling to discontinue.
I remember the first time we actually held a conversation. It wasn't the first time I had exchanged words with a youkai or even half-youkai, but it was certainly the first time it was with someone like him. I called him down from the trees, my curiosity finally piqued enough to address him as such. He came to sit next to me in the soft grass, staring out across the plain much as I was doing. I remember glancing surreptitiously from the corner of my eye and focusing in on the furry white ears that protruded from the depths of his long platinum hair, even as the rest of me remained indifferent in posture.
While the conversation that day was rather strange, it opened up doors that I, nor he, was even fully aware of.
From that day on, he would often speak to me as he followed, most often exchanging sarcasms with my equally sharp yet much smoother-with-delivery tongue, every once in a while finding himself victim to a flurry of arrows should he overstep his bounds with his remarks. But, rather than draw away, he soon began occasionally aiding in my everyday endeavors rather than observing, helping me carry kindling, assisting me with herb collection, all under the guise of nonchalance, as if he were doing nothing at all. I found myself beginning to look forward to his company more and more, even as I would retort to his cynicism with some stinging and clever remark, the warning bells within me going off louder and louder every time, as I found I rather enjoyed such exchanges, his presence near me…he was of youkai blood, his kind were who I was supposed to cast away, not draw nearer to me and that which I was sworn to protect. My logic and training plainly told me he was only after the Shikon, but something else within me wouldn't allow that voice to speak clearly, so I continued to fairly unwillingly allow myself the small luxury of feeling almost human once again, despite the obligations that kept me from truly feeling as such.
Gradually, we began searching out activities that would give us time to spend with one another, an unspoken and unanimously silent agreement of sorts. I began teaching him the various herbs and their uses under the guise of making him useful if he were going to trudge after me all day, and chatted with him as I did so. He would speak to me of some of his life's adventures in return, sometimes growing dark and brooding and ending his sentences abruptly if he treaded into territory he had not meant to. We grew closer in this way, slowly more trusting, though I never really lost my stiff composure and he never truly dropped his tough-guy attitude, and in that way neither of us would openly admit our feelings to ourselves or each other. Until the day we took a boat out onto the lake.
It began simply as a desire for escape, I needed to get away at times just as anyone else, and my choices were limited; of course, in hindsight, it may have been Fate yet again stepping in with the stick it used to draw those lines in the sands of my life. We slid silently out into the water, moving effortlessly around the willowed boundaries, allowing ourselves to relax in the wake of a gentle spring breeze, the soothing rocking of the boat, the musical lapping of the water. It was one of the more peaceful days in my life, one of the rare times where I felt totally relaxed and unhindered by the worldly responsibility that sat stubbornly upon my shoulders. He seemed equally at peace, several times sitting back against the back of the boat, his arms crossed loosely at his chest, his closed eyes and boyish features, finally unburdened with the semi-scowl that seemed present far too often, turned to the sky as the sun shone down upon them. The atmosphere between us was light, yet inarticulately different.
As dusk drew nigh, we rowed silently towards the dock. The evening seemed electrical, somehow, as the sun began setting with red and purple hues over the horizon. He leapt out of the boat first, pulling it closer to the dock, tethering it firmly, then watching as I began to step up to the weathered planks.
Maybe it was because I had allowed myself to relax, and too much, so wasn't as alert as I should have been. Maybe it truly was one of the extremely rare times when I honestly lost my footing as the boat slid slightly backwards at my departure. Or maybe, again, it was Fate giving me a gentle push.
I caught my sandal between the boat and the dock, and fell forward as the air rushed out of my lungs in surprise and I reached out with both arms to break my fall. Only I didn't hit the hard and splintery surface as I had anticipated; instead found myself falling into his arms as he instinctively leaned forward to catch me. It was the first time we had actually had close physical contact, and I looked up at him, stunned, my steely façade finally dropped fully in the element of surprise; he looked down at me with equally wide eyes, his outer shell of stone also temporarily shed in the moment…and then something in his eyes changed. They seemed to grow cloudy, and rather than releasing me from his grip and regaining his composure, I found myself suddenly smothered into his chest, so close I could hear his heart beating frantically. I realized with a bit of awe that it merely mirrored my own.
When I felt him nuzzle his chin against the top of my head, I lifted my face instinctively, barely realizing I had done so in the face of my adrenaline surge. Before I knew what was happening, his misty golden eyes had again locked on mine, and his face was merely a breath away for only moments, before those eyes closed and I felt his lips pressing delicately upon my own.
I immediately froze, stiffening with my shock. While I had been through many things in my life, lived as I'd lived and done what I'd done, I had never been kissed like this; family and grateful village women and children were of a different thing entirely. And as a miko, it was expected that I never would be. I remember only snippets of the crazy thoughts swooping and diving through my head, recall very clearly the sound of my blood pounding loud and tremulous in my ears, and how it had taken only moments before I had given in to it and finally brought my own arms up under his and returned both hug and kiss, feeling him stiffen and relax as I had mere moments before. We stood there like that, in each other's nervous and warm embrace, mouths pressed tightly together, for longer than we realized, for when we finally released one another, the sun had set well below the tops of the mountains we were surrounded by.
After that day, of course, everything between us was completely different. Those invisible doors had been thrown open much wider.
But my duty, who I was, who he was…would never permit it to be. I could only be human again if the Shikon was not an issue…we could only be together were I not charged with it's protection. I saw it, even if he did not. It was unfair, that I should have to keep myself from love that I deserved just as anyone else, because of the very thing that had always controlled my life, because the source of my love just happened to be an inu-hanyou.
The idea came to me one night, borne of desperate thoughts and wistful dreaming, as I lay at home in my bed, allowing the now familiar tear to roll silently down into my hair…that tear was the only evidence I ever gave of the true nature of the whirlwind of misery that first kiss had awakened within me…and it visited me most nights.
The idea of him using the jewel to become human at first seemed absurd to me, and I chided myself for ever entertaining such foolish ideas, actually almost blaming him for affecting me enough to come up with such bizarre notions. But as time passed, and our relationship struggled within the bonds it was forcefully confined inside at my gentle guidance, I couldn't help but dream about the fact that, with that act…I too could finally become human once again, and break free from the restrictions I had found necessary to put into place between us…and we could be together as we both so yearned for.
It took many days of thinking for me to finally decide how to breach the subject with him, a lot of soul-searching to decide whether or not I really believed he would care enough about me to actually entertain the idea. I finally did so in the most casual way I could muster, speaking softly yet firmly to him, knowing it was something out of the blue to him and picking my words carefully. He took it better than I expected, especially when I found myself opening to him more than I had intended in regards to how I wanted to be just a woman, nothing more, nothing less…he never realized, I think, that just being next to him often brought about such desperate longings, and given the situation, I really don't blame myself for confessing as much as I did.
It didn't take long for him to agree to do it, and I was elated beyond words, it was proof undeniable that he wanted to truly give himself to me, it was a decision that would allow us to be with each other for the rest of our lives, but I would not show my joy, not really…I planned to wait until after it had come to pass, so I could run into his arms and kiss him again, this time as something that could be, not something that should be…
We kept the plan to ourselves. I remember the excitement I forced into a quivering little ball in my stomach as I approached the Shrine of the Shikon and thought about once again taking it into my hands, rolling it around in my palms, noting one last time that it seemed to have a warmth all it's own. I remember the apprehension and nervous expectation at the thought of not only being freed from my proverbial prison, but free to feel love and be loved. I remember feeling free for the first time since I'd slipped into these red pants and white shirt and notched an arrow.
I remember the snarl that erupted behind me as I walked towards my destination, deeply lost in my thoughts and dreams of the future.
I remember the hot pain as impossibly sharp claws tore effortlessly through me, casting me heavily to the ground as they sliced through vital organs and connective tissues.
I remember the hot pain of a different and far more torturous sort that overcame me at the foreign yet sadly familiar snarling and mocking laughter that came from the hanyou as he stood cackling above me, the right hand of the man-demon I had allowed my heart to claim as my own coated in the slippery red sheen of my blood…then watched as he turned and left me to die where I'd fallen.
I remember seeing red—but not the dark and oily red of the blood that was quickly escaping my cooling body and soaking my clothing, saturating the earth around me. I had been betrayed. I had been led on. I had allowed myself to fall in love with someone, knowing that their true nature could only lead to motivations such as this, could only have desired to manipulate me so that they could take the Shikon from me. I had failed myself, and I had failed the human race by permitting something so detestable to possess the Shikon. I could not allow it to end like this.
Somehow through the sheets of agony I managed to rise to my feet, the outermost edges of my vision already growing murky with such massive and still growing loss of my life's essence. Somehow I managed to take one step, then another, as I made my way after the figure that I now hated more than the devil himself, clutching desperately at my heinous wounds in a hopeless effort to staunch the flow of life escaping me in seeping scarlet rivers.
Somehow, I managed to time it right, coming upon his fleeing form as he left the village in a flaming shambles behind him, the jewel clutched firmly in his clawed hand…the same claws on the same hand that had been used, on more than one occasion, to carefully brush away stray hairs from my face before helping draw my mouth to his with it's gentle guidance.
I wasn't sure then why he looked so surprised when I took aim and shot him. I wasn't sure then why I felt a maddening twinge of guilt at the look of utter broken-heartedness and confusion that washed over his face before anger and finally simple peace took over, as he slouched down against the tree I had just pinned him to, an arrow piercing the very heart he dared to pretend to give to me.
I remember speaking to my little sister, feeling horrible remorse at what my foolhardiness had brought down upon the heads of those who had come to depend on me, feeling more so as I gazed through my darkening tunnel of vision at the lovely young face now forever damaged and wrapped in quickly reddening bandages over where her right eye had once been.
I remember assuring those who wanted to find aid for me that I would not live, and that I felt as if I wouldn't want to were I even given the option. Then, I remember falling to the ground as the darkness finally overtook me, the last thing swimming into my diminishing consciousness the sound of his voice as he lorded his betrayal over me, and the vision of my home burning to the ground before me…
I have gathered, though secondhand information, that I was immediately burned along with the Shikon, as according to my dying wish. I remember nothing of this, and am thankful for such. It is such a shame that it managed to find it's way into existence once more despite my efforts, that the fate that befell it came about.
As I gaze at the two shadowy forms sitting so closely together in the moon's pale light and gazing up at the stars, I can almost bring myself to smile at them…it's almost like looking into a mirror of the past. I have come a long way, I suppose…
The pain. I remember the ethereal pain as I was wrenched from my restless eternal slumber and tethered to this body of bone and clay against my will, against the laws of nature. I remember feeling incomplete, partial and unsettled. I remember being disoriented and confused at first, and then seemingly filled by rage and hatred…it was foreign in it's strength, yet still my own. I embraced it as the only familiar thing to me, lost myself within it's maddening depths.
That first time I laid eyes upon him again, somehow still alive and healthy despite my dying efforts, my first urge was to throttle him, take his life and shred his heart before his eyes as he had done to me; it was greater only slightly more than my burning desire for answers, as my memories slowly seeped into me once more…for the reason why he could be so cruel to someone who could so completely give their heart to him.
So overcome with anguish was I, I did not notice again the look of sheer panic and confusion as I took this unforeseen opportunity and asked him why, as I brought him again into the sights of my purity arrow, he did as he had done, and left me to die. My goal was single-minded in it's purpose, I was blinded by pure emotion. Fate, however, stepped in again and prevented me from doing what I wanted through the actions of those around me. I remember not much of it after that, only the electrical disembodied pain as the soul I now possessed began seeping out of me, the cry he uttered awakening the comatose form I had only casually marked as being present, causing my spiritual essence to begin returning to her, it's original vessel. It was the first time I actually laid eyes upon the dark eyed, dark haired girl that reminded me of myself just a little too much. I immediately disliked her, both because she was reclaiming what I so desperately needed to fulfill my vengeance, and because she had some sort of obvious connection with him, and a part of me seethed at the idea that my heart should so share him…
I barely escaped with what you could not really call my life, plunging into the misty depths below as I fell from the cliff where I had just been reborn. He had reached to save me, and the feel of his hands upon me brought up some old memories that were ill-matched with those I had just been experiencing. I remember feeling just as sad as he seemed to look as I slipped out of his grasp, and he watched me plummet downwards. I survived the fall, of course, and became a wanderer, a restless and roaming spirit in physical form, depending on the silky-silent Shinidamachuu to bring me the spiritual energy to keep me going ever onward, towards the goal I had set for myself.
I found out soon enough the true reason behind what happened the day of my death, on the day our paths had again crossed.
I had, when opportunity presented itself that day, proclaimed to him my desire to be with him no matter what, the result of my simmering anger as well as my heart's stubborn refusal to discard the love I felt for him even after all that occurred…truly a fool was I. It had ended when again that girl had stepped in and tried reclaiming the soul that was mine, and I was forced to retreat or succumb, unwilling to forsake what I had been granted. I found myself approaching my sister, now withered with age from so many years gone by, a patch over the eye that had been lost in the chaos of his attack so many decades ago. As she relayed the story of manipulation and deceit as put into action by Naraku in her gravelly old lady's voice, it felt as if the black hole within me had finally sealed itself, but was replaced with a new black hole of despair and bitterness. The looks of confusion and hurt on his face that I had so often seen now made sense. That I should so be foolish…that I should be so manipulated…that fate had stepped in to prevent me from achieving happiness even as it dangled it in front of me, and was even so cruel as to give me a living death so as to be unable to escape such painful truths… The anger I felt for him dissipated, and I only felt a deep sorrow and loss, as well as a newfound rage directed at the one who had truly destroyed everything for me. A new directive formed within.
Much has happened since that day, our paths have crossed on more than one occasion. I am nearly always cold, unwilling and unable to allow myself to show how I really feel now, knowing it futile, relating to him in only the most formal and often indifferent of manners. He seems different somehow, softer, less offensive, more mature…I can tell he still cares for me, he has sworn to help put me to rest, after all…but he is confused by the notion that I am me, and…I am she. The girl, she is gifted with extreme holy power, as befitting someone who is my reincarnation, the embodiment of who I once was and hoped to be…
Fate once again plays with it's favorite toy, Irony, and it's nearly laughable in it's result. I can plainly see that they are in love with one another…she with him for the first time in her lifespan, he with her ironically almost as a second time within his. It was a love that seems meant to be…but I guess not meant for me…I was merely a step in the right direction. I take what comfort I can in knowing that, when I finally relinquish the tentative hold I have on my fragment of soul, I will return to her, and in that fashion, I will be permitted to be with him once again…to be with the one and only person who was willing to look to me and love me for who I was, not what I was, and accept the love I was more than willing to return…
It continues to haunt me even so, the unjustness of the situation, that I was so expected to bring comfort and love to others yet not granted the simple and basic luxury of my own…but the ghosts of the past are gradually being put to the rest that I am yet denied until my new self-imposed purpose is complete.
My focus now is Naraku, bringing down his ultimate evil and restoring a relative peace to this earth, bringing peace to myself as the true cause behind my misery…indeed, our misery…is brought to justice. This focus has allowed me to come to terms with my unfortunate destiny, one step at a time. And as each day goes by, the pain within me subsides just a bit more, though I know it will never truly vacate…while by any stretch of the imagination my life, and even my death, has been cursed with misfortune…I am finally discovering what it is like to be simply a woman…nothing more, nothing less. I am free to pursue what I wish, to aid those who require it but do not expect it, to go where I please with no regret, to do as I want to do without worrying about performing a duty that was thrust upon me…to behave just as any normal human can. While I cannot say that I'm truly happy, I'm much closer now than I ever was then, insofar as the way I lived my life.
It is truly ironic that, only in my death…was I truly able to discover what it was like to live, and be free.
As I turn to move away from where I stand, this hidden shadow deep among the trees, I see the form I know to be hers lean into him, resting her head upon his chest as I once did, long ago…a lifetime ago. I see him stiffen, then cautiously bring his arm up to her shoulders, pulling her closely, as he once did to me.
It seems I'm not the only one rediscovering what it is to live.