"What's it like…?"
It had been such an abrupt question, one that took Sango by surprise, blurted out during a pensive moment when silence was lying thick in the air. Away from it all, she and Miroku sat alone, hidden deep within the forest, Sango sitting down, leaning on Miroku, his armswrapped gingerly around her waist, hands gently laid upon her stomach; it was an affectionate gesture Sango found she minded little, since the monk had yet to revert back to his usual behaviorisms. That particular bad habit of his seemed to have little chance of happening without her consent nowadays, since, in deference to her wishes, Miroku had agreed to treat Sango with more respect than he had previously been doing, although they both agreed the occasional grope was necessary to keep up the façade they presented to the rest of the group, a false image of an immoral monk and an a continually-annoyed, continually-repulsed demon slayer, both of whom felt something for the other but refused to so much as acknowledge it. They both knew that Kagome's acuity would make her more susceptible to noticing that their relationship had progressed substantially over the passing of time, and took measures accordingly to ensure that they wouldn't be bothered with pointless questions and other unnecessary annoyances. Still, it was hard abstaining from showing any signs of affection until Inuyasha and Kagome were away in the future and Shippou was otherwise occupied, asleep or with Kaede. Sango, despite her diffidence, relished the feeling of being so close to Miroku that it was like they were two souls housed in one shell, their bodies pressed as close as they could be without combining them, their spirits free to wander the skies together. To not be able to feel that whenever she wanted was torture, to only be able to lock eyes with him across a campfire at night, only be privy to a small portion of his soul instead of the whole thing, agony. In a way, it was as though she was addicted to a narcotic, plunging deeper and deeper into addiction until she couldn't live without it. Their connection was far deeper than any physical relation, any lust-formed bond Miroku could have concocted in his head before he had met Sango. It was vast, endless, so deep, oh so deep… When either of the pair thought about it, it was like they felt a tugging on the bottom of their heart, suddenly aware of a new warmth permeating the vast expanses of their souls, a depth and a hollow space where a small portion of their spirit was missing, given away to the one they shared themselves with. The feeling was indescribable, so refreshing and wonderful, so addicting, so demanding that after a while, simply being in the presence of the other wasn't enough; it was constantly demanding more. Soon, they both realized, the others would find out,but then, at least, they would have to deny themselves completion no longer.
Tentatively, Sango lifted one of Miroku's hands from beside her, where it had moved to rest on the damp soil beneath them, and laced her fingers through his, absently stroking the cloth above his skin, stopping only when her index finger lightly brushed against the beads that bound Miroku's curse, a vortex of winds from hell that would rage on from generation to generation in his family, unable to be appeased for all of eternity. It was something she had been doing more and more frequently, absentmindedly tracing the path of the beads as they snaked across Miroku's arm, even wishing, sometimes, that she could take this burden from his back and place it on hers, thus saving him from his horrible fate. The kazaana had held Miroku's thoughts for a while now as well, and when Sango began to toy with his rosary he flinched away, yanking his hand suddenly from Sango's grasp as though he had been burned. Sango looked at him quizzically for a moment, and he forced an apologetic smile before hesitantly placing his cursed hand in hers once more. The silence now was overwhelming, thick and palpable, morose, even; and then Miroku asked the question.
"What's it like…?"
Sango blinked for a moment, unnerved by the trepidation in his voice. "What is what like?" she finally replied, easing herself up and turning around to face Miroku.
He looked away, finally turning back and locking eyes with Sango in a gaze so strong and inundated with emotions that she could find no way to look away, as though her eyes were trapped. "Death," he whispered, and then broke the glance that had held Sango so powerfully in its grips.
Her breath caught in her throat and she found herself swaying slightly in the melancholy wind that blew past, whistling and then wailing in her unhearing ears. Miroku's hand darted out and placed itself behind her back as a means of support, and with his eyes he entreated a response once more. Sango grew cold to even remember that day, and yet she knew Miroku needed this, simply by the way he made no attempts to dissemble his morbid curiosity. She had heard him stir at night, seen his whole body tremble as he became caught in the throes of pain, feeling the kazaana growing. Closer and closer together these instances were becoming, and Sango despaired to think about the fact that all too soon Miroku might be gone, swallowed in a tempest pouring forth from his own hand. Despite the pain, the fact still remained that he had little time left on this earth, and both of them knew it.
Sango sighed forlornly, and closed her eyes, bringing back the memories in one painful flood. "It was… dark," she began, "and I felt a sudden freedom, a lightness of the spirit as I felt my essence float away from my body. At first I watched as my body grew smaller and smaller, and then suddenly blackness surrounded it all, and I was… I just was; my spirit existed and continued to follow that invisible trail, flowing further and further away from life. Everything I'd ever known was forgotten, even my own name, or how to think… everything was just raw emotions, mostly a deep, overwhelming feeling of peace as I was freed from all my corporal aches, all of my troubles and worries. I floated through eternity, where there was no time and space, just other souls like me, trying to continue down the path to… peace… our final destination where it would all end… not oblivion, just… peace…"
Miroku seemed unaffected by her answer, calmed, possibly, if nothing else, though still his eyes revealed his curiosity as to one aspect of her story. "Why did you stop?" he asked, and Sango, shaken from the memory, had to sit for a moment before she could collect herself enough to answer.
"Something called me back," she answered, "or rather, something stopped me from leaving. I suppose it might have been my strong desire for vengeance that still weighed down my soul; that could have been what pulled me back to my body. But deep down inside, something else, something a part of me but not, told me that I had tasks left unfinished on this earth, things that I had to accomplish before I could move on. My purpose in life had yet to be completed."
Her eyes, half-open, half-closed, met Miroku's, and he was taken aback at how hollow they seemed, like empty pools that served only to show himself his own reflection. As suddenly as that unnerving, glassy quality appeared in her usually-luminescent orbs, it disappeared, and then Sango was once more looking at him. Miroku smiled faintly at her, leaning forward and lightly brushing his lips against hers, pulling them away before making them meet again in a soft, sweet kiss that, though chaste, still held meaning. After a moment, they both pulled away but continued to embrace, Miroku burying his head in the voluminous blanket of Sango's ebony mane, breathing in deeply as though he could somehow absorb her into himself that way.
"I'm glad you stayed," he murmured into her hair, inhaling once again, taking in the faint scent of jasmine that laced her hair.
"I am, too," she replied, further wrapping her arms around his chest, pulling herself closer to him.
"I know," he whispered, "but you don't know how serious I am when I say it. I wouldn't have been able to make it as far as I had without you, Sango. I mean that. You have been by my side through so much, and so many times I have clung onto life just to be able to see your face again."
A sharp intake of breath hissed from Sango's throat, and her eyes prickled as tears threatened to start accumulating in their corners; realization of something had suddenly hit Sango full-on in the face, and it pained her even more as she brought herself to share her epiphany. "Miroku… Don't do what I did. If the curse consumes you, leave and don't worry about me or anyone else that you have left behind."
"I would have no body to return to," he mused quietly, more to himself than Sango, "though I suppose my spirit could remain here, a phantom doomed to haunt the earth forever. But if it was your fate to return, simply because your fate had yet to be fulfilled, why do you think I could control what happens to me?"
Sango pulled herself from Miroku's grip, her rippling eyes meeting his, trying to say something, though Miroku couldn't quite figure out what it was. "I," she began, swallowing the saliva in her mouth once before continuing, "think my reason for staying was more than just Kohaku, but my destiny as well, my karma. I've told you this, though I still don't think you understand," here she paused once more, collecting her thoughts before continuing. "My fate, Miroku, and yours are intertwined. I have kept you here so far; you told me that…" She sighed again, irresolute. "My fate…"
Understanding dawned upon Miroku, causing him to feel awed, yet at the same time foolish for not having realized it first, himself. "Before we even met…"
"What has happened was supposed to happened, and now that we have done what was needed, you can find peace if… if it happens. Our destinies were the same, and now they are both complete, or nearly complete, anyway," she murmured, glancing downward into nothing, her eyes finally focusing on her stomach and their intertwined hands,"and we are just loose spirits floating around until we fall off the edge of the earth."
Miroku glanced at Sango reproachfully for being so morbid, yet felt inclined to agree. Though he knew there was at least one young tie keeping her attached to the earth, and that until that tie was safe and sound she would remain here. But, contemplating the leaves that danced about them, carried by the wind, he realized what she had said was true. He couldn't condemn himself to such a fate, knowing that his purpose in life was through. But, though moribund, he wasn't dead yet, and preferred not to dwell on those sorts of things for long periods of time. Gingerly, he moved Sango off of his lap and stood, helping her up tenderly before walking back to the village, stealing one not-so-quick kiss as they reached the edge of the forest, no longer caring who saw them.
Author's Note: This chapter was rather dark, I suppose, though really I don't know. It's dedicated to my friend Anna, whose grandmother recently died. I just want to say for the record that you don't have to agree with my portrayal of death here, just please don't complain about it if you're in a griping mood. But, yes, I suppose you've realized that this is the final chapter of Elementals. My first completed fic... Probably my best, too, since the other ones were mostly written when I first joined , and my writing style wasn't the same as it was now. (Part of the reason I removed them, but yeah...) Anyways, I'm just going to do one story at a time now, with the occasional one-shot thrown in there if I have writer's block or any other lack of inspiration. I'd also like to mention that this chapter is a preview of a story I'll be posting when I'm done with Other. It's called When I'm Gone, and is, obviously, a Miroku/Sango centered fic. If you read this really really closely, you might be able to pick up on a few things that will happen in When I'm Gone... one is more obvious than the other, and if you figure out the hard one, then you'll get cookies for sure, since I'd be really impressed. Thanks for all of the reviews, they've been really great. Ja ne.