My name is Higarashi Kagome. I'm a seventeen-year-old high school student. I live on the grounds of a public shrine. I'm a miko-in-training—well, sort of. I have a little brother named Souta, a mom, a very fat cat called Buyo and a grandpa, Higarashi Sr., who's tended the shrine since HIS grandfather taught him how.

If you'd asked me who I was a few days ago, that's exactly what I would have told you. I probably would have skipped over the part about falling into a time-traveling well and meeting up with a bunch of people that lived a couple hundred years before my time, but other than that, I would've been truthful. I would've smiled and been as friendly as I could've, maybe invited you over for dinner. Now, I'm sad to say, I'll never get the chance to invite ANYONE to dinner again. Why? Because everything's so incredibly different now. Everything's changed.

Okay, maybe not everything. Technically, I AM still related to my family, and I am still friends with our little rag-tag group in the feudal era. I'm still a seventeen-year-old miko.

The difference? I'll never be able to age another year. Seventeen forever? Torture, I know. I'll never get to finish learning how to drive. I'll never go to college and get a job. I'll never be able to tell that stupid, ignorant hanyou how I feel about him. And why is this?

Plain and simple, it's because I'm dead.

Yes, you heard me right, minna, I'm dead. I'm not crazy—at least, no more so than when I was alive. You're probably wondering what in the world is going on here, aren't you? Once you die, you die, and that's the end. You die and your little soul flutters to Nirvana. That's what you've been told all your life, and hey, maybe for most people it's true.

But not for me.

I can remember perfectly the day I died. It was at the hands of a demon, of course—one of Inuyasha's most recent adversaries. A troll-like thing—big, hairy, with really huge teeth. Ugh, if you'd seen him you'd never forget him—or his smell—even if you had died, like me. The thing looked like something out a science-fiction novel.

Anyway, Inuyasha'd had the thing pretty much standing on its last leg. It was all cut up and battered, and I'll admit it—we were all pretty sure it was not going to live to see another day. And we were right, in a sense—our protective hanyou-friend succeeded in killing it—

But not until after it got a chance to take a swing at the rest of us.

The thing had spines—how cliché is that?—that could go flying, and could obviously be concealed as well. It shot them in our general direction, snapping Miroku's staff, making Kilala jump aside, and putting a nice dent in Sango's boomerang as she shielded herself with it. Shippo and I weren't quite so lucky. A spine came right at us. I protected the little kit with my body—what else could I do? Reflexes are reflexes, and despite the fact that I was killed in doing so, it was worth it. I'd have given my life for any one of the others.

Now, if anyone's told you death is a relief, they were lying through their teeth. Death is the most painful thing I've ever been through. First there was the feeling of an extremely sharp spine going straight through my stomach. It was like fire spreading throughout my veins—it burned just like fire, but maybe a hundred times worse. I fell to the ground with a heavy THUMP, and, needless to say, that did nothing to lessen the pain.

I vaguely heard the sounds of a sword clashing in the background, Inuyasha talking, and then another thump, louder than mine, as something very heavy connected with the dirt. I knew the demon was dead without looking—which was a good thing, as I couldn't lift my head.

There was a rush of footfalls as all my friends ran to my side.

Shippo crawled out from under me, his fur sticky with blood, and I felt a stab of fear for a moment before I realized that he wasn't bleeding. It was my blood. He was saying something, looking terrified, his eyes filling with tears. Looking about, I noticed everyone was crying—silently, or was it just my ears? I could hear only a muffled sound as I felt two arms encircle me and lift me from the cold, hard ground.

It was Inuyasha that was talking.

He was crying too, saying something in an anxious tone—I couldn't make out the words; my ears had given up listening, and my eyes were following suit. I was dizzy, in a state of complete unreality—it was unlike anything I've ever felt before. I was only aware of three words Inuyasha whispered as he kissed my forehead and wiped the blood away with his sleeve.

"I love you....."

He'd said it! I was elated, though all I could do was smile weakly. I opened my mouth and gurgled—more blood came then speech, I'm sure. I couldn't hear my voice either, but I could feel my mouth move and see—blearily, but could see—Inuyasha close his eyes as more tears ran down his face and splashed onto mine. He attempted a smile for my sake, though it was cheerless, and Sango and Miroku said something softly from behind him.

Then everything went black.

I know it looked peaceful to them—my body just went limp to their eyes. But to me it hurt like hell. My soul was ripped from my body, and it felt worse than if someone had reached in and pulled my heart out of my chest. The whole world spun and I cried out in unheard agony, completely blinded by pain. When I opened my eyes, you can imagine how surprised I was to find myself a few feet away from where I had been a moment before, unharmed and on my knees on the ground.

A few feet away, Inuyasha was cradling my body as he had been a moment before, but everyone was crying much harder than when I had been watching. I could see them—my dying eyes hadn't been able to, but I could without them. I walked over hesitantly, knowing they couldn't see me—it was a gut feeling, you know, and common sense. I was dead. Of course they couldn't see me.

But I could see them.

Miroku was weeping and holding Sango up, his arms tightly around her shoulders as she sobbed into his. Shippo—dear, sweet little Shippo—was nuzzling my pale face and wailing like the child that he was, pleading with me to wake up as though I was just asleep. Kilala was mewing uncertainly, licking my hand. Inuyasha, though his crying was by far the most subdued of all, had grief apparent on his face. There was no anger as he had when he spoke of Kikyou's death, no terseness as when he spoke of his mother's. There was nothing but incredible sorrow. Watching him, I wished more than anything in the world to comfort him, to sit up and tell him that it was a joke, and I was sorry.

Neither would happen.

And as I watched them, I realized just how much I would miss them. I'd miss Sango's smiles and her fury as she whacked Miroku in punishment. I'd miss Shippo's whining and his childish love, his fluffy tail. I'd miss Miroku's lecherousness and my arguments with Inuyasha and the curse of the praise beads. I'd miss being able to help them find the Jewel Shards. I'd miss Sango's ritual trips to the hot springs and Kilala's mewing voice at night.

Transparent tears rolled down my transparent cheeks and were lost, as I was, as I always would be. This was terrible. Would I be condemned to being a ghost forever, to follow my friends and know that they'd never hear my voice again, never be able to talk to me? Would I have to watch Shippo grow knowing I can't help, watch Sango and Miroku get married knowing I can't give them best wishes?

Would I have to watch Inuyasha for the remainder of his nearly boundless immortality, knowing that I'd never gotten a chance to finish the rest of mine fulfilling my promise?

I'd told him a while back that I'd stay by his side, and I had meant it. Could I do it now, even if he would never know that I had?


My funeral was very quiet and subdued. It was a brilliantly sunny day—there was not a single cloud anywhere in my line of vision. A soft summer breeze ruffled the knee-high grass of the clearing in which we stood. It was full of flowers—beautiful, colorful flowers—more kinds than I could count. They'd laid me out nicely in a hand-built box that had been a gift from some carpenter of Keade's village, along with some herbs and a prayer amulet. Drilled in the rich birch of the coffin's lid was a tribute to me—a thank you from the village and a loving farewell from my friends.

Oh, my friends.

They stood along the edges of the field as a villager covered the box back up with dirt, shovel by shovel. The tears then were more calm and gentle than they had been on the battlefield. Inuyasha wasn't weeping at all, in fact—I was proud of him. He was trying to be strong for them, of course—particularly for the wailing kistune that clung to *his* shoulder.

He would never cling to my shoulder again.

Once the villager finished his task and left, everyone stood in place, stationed around the fresh patch of dirt. Miroku leaned against his repaired staff, his left arm around Sango's shoulders, murmuring a respectful prayer with his eyes closed. I listened, feeling oddly out of place—most people don't attend their own funeral, after all. I couldn't even mourn with them. I couldn't comfort them, because it was ME lying in that coffin.

Miroku finished his prayer at last. Kneeling before my grave he set down a white flower and stood again, looking down and speaking.

"I never expected to perform a service for you, Kagome-sama. May you have peace."

Sango was next, soon after. She followed the priest's suit solemnly, saying something herself.

"I'll miss you, Kagome-chan. I hope you're happy, wherever you are."

Shippo leapt from Inuyasha's shoulder, repeating the motions of everyone else. His flower was a bright-hued daisy—the kind I'd taught him to make ringlets out of that day last spring. He said nothing aloud, but more tears splashed down his cheeks, so I guessed he was saying something silently. He joined the other three. They all glanced at the hanyou whom had been silent the whole time and nodded, looking away and leaving the clearing together.

"We'll be at the village, Inuyasha....."

"We'll have some dinner waiting....."

The silver-haired boy said nothing for the longest time. I watched him sadly. He was battling with himself over everything—with self-blame, with mourning, and with guilt. His face was still dry, mercifully—I knew that if he started crying again, I would too.

It was with the utmost reverence that he walked over and laid a flower on top of the others and sat down beside on the grass. "Why'd you go and leave me like that, baka?" His voice was soft and affectionate and sad—so, so sad. "We all need you here. Me, the brat, Sango, Miroku—we all need you." He paused, his hair covering his face. It was so quiet I could hear the wind blowing over his breathing.

And then there were tears again. His shoulders were shaking with them though they were silent. "I'm sorry, Kagome. I sh-should've protected you. If I'd just been a little''d....." His voice trembled with concealed tears that I shed for him. "I'm s-sorry. I hope you can forgive me." He stood and disappeared from the clearing as all the others had, leaving me along with my grave. Though no one could see me do it or know why, I dropped to my knees and cried, knowing that no matter how hard I fell to the ground I couldn't leave an imprint.