Author's Notes: Well…I'm back. At long last. It's been quite a while. I apologize for frustrating all of you with that; I'm sure I've lost many readers because of it, but I just wanted/needed to focus on my other story until it was finished. I hope you can all understand. I appreciate your support, and am grateful that I only received a few hurtful reviews because of the fact that this story went on such a long hiatus. But I promised before that I would finish the story, and I meant it. I love this story as much as I love any of my works, and would never abandon it. I just felt, for a while, like if I tried to force the words it would not be my best work.
So, with that in mind, I hope you all enjoy this first chapter after such a long break. I'm going to be going back through the story, chapter by chapter, and revamping stuff, but I figured first I'd get a chapter out for all of you to read, and then focus on the editing, etc. It's a little slower than some of the chapters in this story, but the action will start back up again, I promise. This is mostly supposed to be a turning point for Kagome and her role in the story. Up until now she's been a main character, to be sure, but still kind of the weak bystander in the tale. I don't want that to be permanent. From here we'll see her character begin to evolve.
It's good to be back. I hope you all enjoy this new chapter. Blessings!
Title: Impossible Dreams
Rating: PG-13 (rated for language, violence, and implied sexual situations)
Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha.
DEDICATION: For Ted Dorsey, the greatest coach I will ever have, the most wonderful and patient mentor I will ever know, and the best friend I could have asked for. Thank you for everything you did for me in my life.
Since they had arrived back at the cave Kanna had not moved from where she was leaning stiffly against a corner wall, far away from everyone else. It was almost as though the doll-like child sought to remove herself from the world of the living, since she herself might as well have been dead. Her lifeless eyes gazed out across the circles of fires without seeing a thing, and her ears didn't seem to hear any of the comments from the other humans and demons as they'd look her way and speak in no uncertain terms about the poor, pitiful little girl who was such a victim of the cruel Naraku.
Throughout it all, for the most part Kagura would snarl at anyone who dared speak so about her sister, and otherwise shield the child with her own body to save her from the scrutiny of others. Some of her reason for this was, she admitted, not only to protect Kanna, but also herself from the embarrassment of having her sins so obviously on display before the world. After all, if it weren't for her, Kanna would not be in such a position.
Still…even without that reality, Kagura still felt annoyance and more than a little protectiveness whenever a group of people decided to stick their noses where they didn't belong.
Why were humans such stupid creatures, she would often wonder? Why did they always have to gawk and stare and point at anything remotely different than ordinary?
The wind sorceress felt her dark eyes narrow dangerously at yet another pair of stupid little women who walked by and tried to get a peak at Kanna. But the moment they saw Kagura they immediately flinched and ran away, leaving the woman to continue her line of thought in peace.
What was so special about ordinary, anyway? Why did it have to be considered odd to be unique? Why did all the humans in the cave glare suspiciously at the demons around them, and likewise why did the demons have to look down on the humans? Even when she herself had been nothing more than a mere mortal, before Naraku had found her, Kagura had found herself frustrated with the way all beings seemed to insist on simplifying everything until they'd managed to wrap life up into a tiny, controlled box complete with a shiny ribbon. Where was the excitement in that?
Why was it that if a man found something unique in life he immediately classified it as different, and either above or below him…but never equal? Why did so many long for predictable lives, where everything seemed planned from the beginning? And why did such people then frown upon those who would rather enjoy all that life had to offer?
A small smirk came to Kagura's face. "And why have I," she wondered aloud, "Suddenly become so philosophical?" She glanced over her shoulder at Kanna, at the way the little girl sat with her legs delicately crossed, her tiny arms hugging that treacherous mirror tightly to her chest. The wind sorceress sighed. "Perhaps this is why I never got along with people, even when life was normal…"
The sound of an argument reached her ears, and Kagura diverted her attention away from Kanna and towards Inuyasha and Kagome, feeling herself growl in annoyance as she saw the only two people in the world capable of finding the argument in everything coming towards her. It seemed that declarations of love and heated kisses hadn't dulled their tempers, either. If anything, the added turmoil of raging hormones and sexual tension had only made them worse.
"Do you even have a plan, Kagome?" Inuyasha snapped as they came close enough for Kagura to hear their exact words.
"No…but I promised I'd help, Inuyasha, and I've waited long enough," Kagome replied in her matter-of-fact voice. Kagura grunted at that in agreement, being reminded of the fact that Kagome had promised to help, but that they had been waiting far too long already for her to recover from her own injuries.
Granted, some of that was Kagura's fault…after all she'd been the one who had so brilliantly blasted both Kagome and Kanna out of a window several stories high with a gust of wind…but still, the wind assassin had been feeling her patience dwindling with each passing hour. After all, every moment wasted was another moment Naraku could arrive and take Kanna back or worse…destroy the mirror and any chances remaining for the little girl and a normal life.
She was brought out of her thoughts by Inuyasha's voice which was, as usual, loud enough to wake an entire forest of creatures…and just as annoying as all of those metaphorical creatures combined. "Keh! That's just like you, Kagome! Rush into a problem without a plan or a method of attack! Did it occur to you that you might just make the situation even worse?"
Kagome bristled at that. "Oh you're one to talk!"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You tell me, Mr. Rush-Into-Battle-Without-Thinking. As I recall, I've had to take care of you more than once after you foolishly charged into battle without a 'plan of attack', as you called it."
"I'm not the one who jumped out of a window, wench!"
"I didn't jump out of the window, baka!"
"Oh that's right! She threw you out," Inuyasha indicated Kagura for the first time as they came up alongside her, "Caused you to dislocate your shoulder, and that's why you're now rushing to help her!"
Kagome didn't seem to have anything to say to that, too annoyed for her brain to function properly, so Kagura finally decided to step in, straightening her spine with the pride she'd developed throughout her years of sin and shame. "If you want to get technical, little prince, then Kagome has not promised to help me, but rather my sister, who has done absolutely nothing to either her or you."
Kagome grinned in triumph and Inuyasha grunted at that as he crossed his arms, looking away. "Keh. At your request, woman. She's helping you as much as she's helping your sister."
This time Kagura was the one to grunt and look away and over at Kagome, who had knelt on the ground before Kanna to examine the child. Feeling her old protective instincts kick in, she had to fight the urge to shove Kagome away before she could do any real damage, instead crossing her arms and balling her hands into fists underneath the folds of her purple and white sleeves.
The atmosphere seemed to grow colder as Kagome lost herself in the gaze of the little girl sitting before her. She felt her heart nearly break as her very being rebelled against what she saw; children should be happy and full of spirit, not dull and devoid of life!
I have to help her, she determined then and there. I don't know how, and I don't know what will happen to me if I do, but I have to.
Leaning forward on her knees, which had gone numb as the cold from the earth seeped through the thin, worn out fabric of her blue dress, Kagome extended one of her battle-weary hands towards Kanna until she felt the tips of her fingers brush over the girl's cheek. Her skin was smoother than the finest silk, but contradicted the slow, even breaths she took by how cold it was. Skin that cold should only be found on a corpse.
Kagome shuddered at the thought.
"Tell me again Kagura," she began slowly, examining every line, crease, and curve of the child's face, "What is wrong with her?" She could feel the sharp, penetrating stare of the wind sorceress on the back of her head, but chose not to look over her shoulder. Those dark eyes might cause her to lose her nerve if she did.
"Naraku imprisoned her soul in the mirror. She is a lifeless body, a shell, without a mind or a will of her own. Her life is tied to the mirror. Break it, and she dies."
"But if you can't break it, then how am I supposed to retrieve her soul?" This time Kagome did look over her shoulder as a thought occurred to her. "Kagura…what if her soul is truly lost? What if I can't find it?"
There was a deadly quiet that passed between the two women, tension crackling in the air as a sudden gust of wind betrayed Kagura's inner turmoil, her hair flying out behind her before settling once more. She looked away. "Her soul cannot be lost. That is not a truth I am willing to accept."
"Keh, you can't change reality, you know that right?" Inuyasha challenged from where he was leaning against the wall, his arms and legs crossed in a casual stance. He eyed Kagura from beneath his long silver bangs, his amber gaze sharp and gleaming with an unusual amount of intelligence. "When a soul is lost, the person who once existed in the body is as good as dead. And you know as well as I that no one can bring back the dead, Kagura…not without dire consequences."
The wind sorceress glared defiantly back at Inuyasha even as she shuddered, the weight of the truth he spoke settling over her shoulders like a wet blanket. Yes, she knew the consequences…to be resurrected into a body of clay…Naraku had done such a thing before to create loyal servants. And Kagura would never wish such a fate on anyone, let alone her beloved sister.
Kagome watched the two above her for a few more moments before sighing and looking back at Kanna with a dejected frown. She wanted to help…desperately…but she didn't even know where to begin.
"If the child's soul is lost, there is a way to bring it back," A deep voice suddenly interrupted. Kagome heard Kagura gasp, though she didn't turn around, already knowing who it was.
The first-born son of the great Inutaisho eyed the scene before him with his usual sense of calm, his golden eyes revealing nothing of his inner thoughts, his mouth set in a grim, straight line. Rin stood to his left, her brown eyes warm with sympathy, and Jaken to his right ardently avoiding looking at anyone, as though they were beneath him.
"What do you mean, there's a way?" Kagome finally asked after Kagura failed to continue.
"Hn," he looked down at Kanna and narrowed his gaze slightly.
Rin suddenly clapped her hands in understanding. "He means by using his sword, don't you, Lord Sesshoumaru?" This time Inuyasha was the one to suddenly look unsettled, as though he had remembered something long forgotten.
"What good is a sword?" Kagome asked again, physically turning around at last to look at the others behind her, her face a mask of confusion. She glanced at Sesshoumaru's waist, and sure enough spotted the long, lean blade attached to his hip that Kagura had brought back for him from Naraku's castle. "How could slicing the poor girl in two bring her back to life?"
"You misunderstand, Miss Kagome," Rin commented finally, her eyes still bright and her voice full of confidence. "Lord Sesshoumaru's sword cannot kill. It is a sword of life!"
"A sword of life…?" Kagome and Kagura both wondered aloud at the same time.
"The tenseiga…" Inuyasha murmured, his eyes trained on Sesshoumaru's sword. Kagome jumped as the blade physically pulsed once in response to its name.
Ignoring all of them, Sesshoumaru merely took a step forward and pulled the sword from its sheath, holding it out before him, parallel to his body. It pulsed again, and he narrowed his eyes briefly before, suddenly, returning it to its sheath as quickly as he'd drawn it. "The girl is still alive," he stated in explanation. "My sword is of no use. Her soul has not passed into the next world."
Kagome blinked. "How can you possibly know that?" She demanded, looking back at Kanna as though expecting the girl to suddenly jump up and giggle, or show some other sign of life she hadn't shown before.
When Sesshoumaru failed to respond Inuyasha seemed to finally wake from his own stupor and stood up straighter as he spoke. "It is the job of a demon father to create weapons for his children, so that they may protect themselves, their honor, and their land. Our father was no different. He had a sword forged from his own fang for both of us, each with its own individual power. My sword, the tetsusaiga, has the potential to kill over a hundred demons with one stroke, and Sesshoumaru's sword, the tenseiga, has the power to save over a hundred lives. To do this, the tenseiga allows Sesshoumaru to see the demons of the underworld that come to carry away the souls of the dead. By slicing through these creatures, the blade summons the souls of the dead back to their bodies." Inuyasha looked over at Kagome, who gazed at him steadily. "Sesshoumaru must not have seen any of the demons, and that means tenseiga is of no use because Kanna's soul has not been taken to the underworld."
A long silence ensued, and Kagome felt herself blink several times as she processed the information she was told. She recalled the mighty weapons she'd seen adorning the walls of one of the rooms in the castle, and seemed to remember either Naraku or Kagura explaining to her that each of those weapons had belonged to one of the great demons of the royal family. But she had not known, or understood, just how powerful the swords of the brothers were until now.
"A hundred lives?" She whispered, looking back over at Sesshoumaru. He flicked his gaze towards her momentarily before making a soft sound of disgust.
"Hn…it is a useless sword."
"Useless?" Kagome felt her temper spark slightly at that. "How could saving lives be useless?"
"What good is a sword that cannot protect its owner?" Sesshoumaru retorted in his steady voice, and Kagome fell silent. "It is a blade that can't and won't cut mortal flesh. And the souls of the departed are of no use to me." He turned on his heel and walked away before Kagome could retort, Jaken at his side with his chin haughtily in the air.
Rin glanced at Sesshoumaru once before looking back at the others with an understanding smile. "Lord Sesshoumaru means well, Miss Kagome. He would not have offered to save Kanna if he did not." And with that the beautiful young woman turned around and hurried after her lord, who seemed dearer to her heart than anything in the world. It was a relationship no one could understand, the difference between light and dark…but it was very real, and reciprocated on both sides.
"Keh, well that was useless…and pointless," Inuyasha finally grunted.
"Sesshoumaru…" Kagura continued to stare after the demon lord, awe and respect shining in her eyes.
Kagome ignored them both and turned back around to look at Kanna again. So she wasn't dead. But how could her soul be saved from the mirror?
"Kagome?" She turned and saw the old priestess Kaede approach. "If I may, child, I might be able to help you."
Shrewd, cunning, and dishonest, Naraku had come to expect everything unexpected from his foes because that was how his mind worked. He looked at every situation from behind, finding any loopholes that a thief or a crafty liar could use. He approached life with a cynicism unrivaled by any he'd ever met…but then that was to be expected, considering the fact that he had been the ultimate traitorous, dishonorable foe when it came to defeating the great Inutaisho.
Ignoring the proper rules of war, he had gone behind enemy lines and planted spies to return and tell him of the King's battle plans, the spies also instructed to start a mutiny within the loyal ranks of the royal family.
And the plan had worked beautifully.
No one, not even a fierce dog demon with the strength of thousands of men in his body, could have repelled attacks from both sides of the front. And so, slowly but surely, Naraku had watched the great King…the man all had called invincible…fall to his knees while his loyal soldiers wept for his sake, and the sake of his wife and children who were waiting hopefully back at the castle.
He had done the impossible. He, Naraku, had overthrown the one being in the world deemed invincible! As a result he was feared by many, hated by all, but still obeyed without question.
Yet he had become restless. After the first few years, life had become dull and tedious. He longed for the thrill of the hunt…for the lust that had burned so brightly in his gut at the prospect of attaining more power. And so he yearned for someone to rise up and challenge his position…
Which was why he couldn't understand the stunned silence he'd slipped into ever since Kagura had escaped with Kanna and Kagome.
Why was he so surprised? Why did her treachery leave him feeling so lost and without any direction? Why did he feel as though the world had been swept away from his controlling hands?
Because, he realized, he had come to expect that she would stay with him, hate him, but still loyally remain for her sister. He'd expected that one day he would have to kill her for going too far…but he'd never contemplated the possibility that she might escape him, unharmed, with Kanna at her side.
His deadliest assassin.
Without her, all he was left with was an army of fools. Demons without discipline, and the clay bodies of the undead he had summoned back to do his will. Easily overcome by the likes of the Inutaisho sons, especially now that they had their mighty weapons.
"Kagura…" He grumbled her name as he rose restlessly to his feet and stormed away from his bedchamber and out onto the balcony overlooking the western plains. The warmth of the sun hit his pale face and he flinched back slightly. Where once there had been despair and desolation, now there was hope on the wind…small, and fragile, but still present.
He couldn't allow that.
Everything had been proceeding according to his design, until that moment when Kagura had escaped. That had been unplanned, unexpected, and unforeseen on his part. Why? What had he failed to notice before?
He thought back over the past several months, thought clear back to the beginning when he'd first heard the whispers of a rebellion. They had been nothing more than a cruel, stupid mob that could easily be swept away…until the mob reached Inuyasha, and then suddenly there had been purpose and order in their ranks. Without meaning to, the hanyou prince had become their symbol of hope and freedom. But why? And how? With his temper and his tainted blood, no human or demon would accept him as a leader.
His eyes narrowed.
"Unless someone persuaded them to," he murmured aloud. And then it was as though everything fit into place, and he could have torn himself in two for being so blind.
Kagome Higurashi. It all came back to her didn't it? She had somehow earned the trust of Inuyasha; somehow persuaded him to help those around him rather than simply think for himself. She had first freed him from the diamond shard, given him hope.
She was the perfect enemy; crafted, shaped, and molded by fate, chance, and time, as though God (if he chose to believe in such a thing) had meant for her to personally be his downfall.
Her mother had been murdered before her eyes, giving her a reason to fight, but because she had been spared and raised in luxury, her hate had not festered and turned bitter like all the former slaves around her. She still maintained a belief in the beauty of humanity, in its potential, and so she was able to purify the shards and charm her way into the hearts of all those around her. Inuyasha had fallen in love with her, Kagura trusted her, Sesshoumaru tolerated her, Kouga, the monk, and the woman exterminator were fiercely devoted to her, and even the slaves from her home had accepted her at last. Wasn't that proof of what she was capable of?
Naraku groaned and leaned against the balcony railing, putting his head in his hands in a momentary sign of frustration. How could he have been so stupid? The signs had been before him all along. Kagura had told him of the little girl that wanted revenge. He'd seen the young woman she'd become, with the unheard of power to shoot the sacred arrow of a priestess without the proper training, had seen the results of her ability to purify the diamond shards and merge them together once more (he glanced down at the partially complete jewel around his neck, now black once more), and had even felt the incredible potential for power radiating within her small body every time she got angry.
But even with all of that, he had not truly seen what it meant until now.
"You are growing careless," he reprimanded himself harshly in a growl. But it was true. He had thought only of the power he could gain by obtaining the Shikon no Tama, something he'd long since assumed lost after the priestess Kikyou had shattered it all those years ago.
And because of his blindness, he had missed the one thing that had proven to be Kagome's greatest asset of all: her heart. Emotions were so foreign to him that he often didn't contemplate their significance, and that, he now realized, was his true weakness.
Somehow, some way, Kagome had found it in her heart to forgive Kagura for killing her family. Somehow, she had managed to soften the wind sorceress as well, and together the pair had figured out a plan to escape.
Oh yes…he saw it now.
He had counted on her rage, on her anger, on her need for vengeance…emotions he understood very well. But he had not counted on her forgiveness, or her love, which were so foreign to him he couldn't even begin to understand what they meant. Yet these were the emotions that meant nearly every one of her allies was fiercely devoted to her.
Throwing his head back, he howled in rage, the sound echoing as a threat to all those who would oppose him. But even in his rage, he suddenly felt the numb shock in his body fade away to be replaced by the beginnings of a plan. A new plan, with a new focus…and a new target.
He would still obtain the Shikon no Tama in the end, but he would be patient. Kagura was meaningless to him now. He didn't need her. He cared not if she freed her sister; they had both served their purpose. No…he had a new servant he would seek.
"Kagome Higurashi." Her name rolled off his tongue with an excitement he had not felt in years. The thrill of the hunt. Everything he'd been yearning for. And she would be his. He would take her, and through her cripple Inuyasha and the others. And then, when she had served her purpose…when all her comrades had fallen…then, and only then, would he kill her too.
She was the key to everything. And she would be his.
"Relax your mind, child…clear it of all thoughts. Reach down within you until you feel the warmth of your spiritual power. Let it flow through your body."
Kagome took in several deep breaths, growing weary of the meditation exercise after nearly four hours of sitting on her knees outside in the cool breeze of the afternoon, but wanting to succeed in case Kaede was right and that was the only way to help Kanna.
"I still don't see how this is going to help, old woman," Inuyasha called from where he was pacing back and forth a few yards away.
Kagome opened her eyes to see Kaede sigh patiently. "The girl has spiritual powers, Inuyasha…very powerful spiritual powers, or else she would not be able to purify the shards as she has, or shoot purity arrows without training, or have created that barrier that Sango told me about. As such, she should be able to feel the auras of those around her, including Kanna's, if the child is truly still alive as Sesshoumaru says."
"So…if she can feel Kanna's aura and find out where the child is, then perhaps Kagome can pull the girl's soul back to her body."
Hearing this explanation again, Kagome once more closed her eyes, determined to succeed. She'd actually managed once or twice to barely scratch the surface, and had to admit that even now she was suddenly much more aware of the presence of both Kaede and Inuyasha. It was as though they were shrouded in colors that only her inner spirit could see…colors that were unique to each of them. While Kaede had a mild, patient aura, Inuyasha's was fiery and full of vigor and life.
She smiled at the thought.
"Good child, I can feel your aura reaching out to mine," Kaede praised. "You have made much progress in such a short few hours' time." Kagome opened her eyes again and saw the older woman smiling at her warmly. "With proper training, I think your power could rival some of the most powerful priestesses who have ever lived."
Kagome blushed at that and looked away. "Oh…somehow I doubt that," she stated modestly, finding it hard to believe that she, the pampered daughter of a slave owner, who could barely fire an arrow within twenty feet of her intended targets, could ever be considered powerful.
Kaede just shrugged her shoulders, clearly deciding it wasn't worth arguing about, though the smile didn't fade from her face.
The sound of footsteps could be heard crunching the grass and dirt, and all three of them turned to see Sango and Miroku approaching with Shippou on the man's shoulder. Sango was the one to speak. "Kagome, do you think you're ready to give it a try? Kagura is getting a little anxious, and irritable."
"Keh, that bitch can just wait. Kagome doesn't need to risk her safety on the likes of her until she's good and…"
"It's all right, Inuyasha," Kagome placated smoothly, not even looking at the hanyou, though she did hear him snort. She glanced up at her longtime friend. "I would be happy to proceed, if Kaede thinks I'm ready."
The old woman's eyes softened slightly as she looked at the girl before she seemed to contemplate something. Finally, she nodded her head, clearly agreeing with whatever she had been thinking. "I believe you are ready to try, Kagome."
"You're all crazy!" Inuyasha snapped, standing up from the boulder he'd been crouched on for nearly an hour, holding his newly restored sword to his chest. Kagome was beginning to forget what it had been like to see him without it, considering how closely he clearly coveted the blade. "You honestly think that a few hours of training makes her ready? I knew a few priestesses in my time, and all of them had to train for years before they were even allowed to fire arrows, let alone tamper with souls and auras! You all just let Kagome fire those damn arrows all over the place without a second thought, and now you're telling me she's ready to try and summon back a soul from a mirror that could potentially take hers as well?"
Unsure of whether or not his anger was out of concern or disbelief, Kagome was torn between feeling sympathetic and angry. Her cheeks flamed with the shame currently boiling just beneath the surface of her heart, and her eyes flashed dangerously. How dare he insult her like that?
But while she continued to stare pointedly at her hands, which were balled into fists at her knees, Kaede was the one to speak in her defense. "Kagome is immensely powerful, Inuyasha. I believe she can do anything with the proper amount of training. And as for this task, of course it would be preferable to have a few weeks to clear her mind, but we do not have that kind of time to wait. Naraku could strike at any moment, and so long as that little child remains bound to the mirror, Kagura is easily crippled by the enemy."
"Who the hell cares about her?" Inuyasha retorted.
"Actually Inuyasha, Kaede's right," Miroku spoke up, stepping forward a few paces so that he was between Kagome and the livid hanyou. "I don't agree with everything Kagura has done any more than you do, but at the moment she is a very powerful ally, and we can't ignore that simply for the sake of pride. But that also means she needs Kanna free of the mirror, or else all Naraku has to do is find the child and Kagura is once more under his control."
"I don't need Kagura as an ally, Miroku. With tetsusaiga, I can defeat anything and anyone."
The former monk just sighed and shook his head, clearly used to his best friend's behavior, and Sango took a step forward. "No one is invincible, Inuyasha; your father's death is proof of that." Inuyasha stiffened at that, but she proceeded anyway. "Naraku defeated him by treacherous and deceitful means, not honorable rules of war."
"Keh…what's your point, Sango?"
"Simply that, when dealing with a foe like Naraku, you shouldn't underestimate what he might do to be victorious, and take every ally you can get."
Inuyasha sputtered momentarily before finally huffing and looking away. Kagome sat back on her heels at that point, finally gaining control over her anger once more, and looked at Kaede. "I'm ready."
The old woman nodded. "Very well. Sango, tell Kagura to bring the child here, away from all the prying eyes of the people in the cave. Kagome needs as little distraction as possible."
The young brunette nodded her head and hastily retreated back into the cave while Miroku moved forward and smiled kindly at Kagome, Shippou hopping off his shoulder and onto the ground to embrace the woman he had come to see as a surrogate mother. "So your training is going well then?"
Kagome blushed but dared to nod slightly. "I think so. I mean, I've felt something a few times, and Kaede says she can feel a difference."
Miroku nodded encouragingly. "As can I. I was trained to sense auras, and while my training is not nearly complete, I can still feel a slight shift in yours. I'm impressed, Kagome."
She blushed again at his attempt to make her feel better after Inuyasha's loud rant displaying his lack of confidence in her. "Thanks, Miroku." She glanced over at Inuyasha, wishing desperately for him to give her some sign of his own approval, but the hanyou was studiously avoiding her eyes.
Giving up, she just sighed and looked away. She knew he was probably just concerned, but still…she grew so weary of the way he clammed up whenever something got him worried. Just once she wanted him to say it, rather than her having to just assume.
Kagura appeared a few moments later with Kanna carefully cradled in her arms, Sango following behind after assuring herself that no one was following them. Kaede indicated a place beside Kagome, and the wind sorceress reverently placed her sister in a sitting position, taking a stance behind the child should she choose to try and move away for some reason.
Glancing over at Kaede for guidance, Kagome blushed as all eyes turned on her, waiting for her to make the first move. "Um…"
Sensing her trouble, Kaede immediately stepped up to help, showing a surprising amount of authority. "I want everyone to move away so that your auras do not interfere." All moved save for Kagura and Inuyasha. Kaede ignored the woman, but sent a pointed stare towards the hanyou, who glared back stubbornly. "That includes you, Inuyasha."
"Keh, I'm not moving any further than this. In fact, I think I'm too far away." And he took a step forward to accent his point.
"Inuyasha!" Kagome hissed, her face flushing. Why did he always have to make everything so difficult?
"What?" He looked down at Kagome and frowned. "Do you think I'm just going to leave you here alone and without protection? What if you can't succeed, and you need someone to pull you back from the edge?"
Tears glittered in the corners of her eyes as she replied. "Why don't you have faith that I will succeed, rather than that I will fail," she whispered. That comment seemed to take him by surprise, because he didn't respond right away, simply blinking in shock.
"The fact of the matter is," Kaede spoke up to break through the tension, "That you and Kagome are too close, Inuyasha. Because of your," she coughed, "Current relationship, your auras are connected. Kagome won't be able to fully pull away and search for Kanna's soul in the mirror with you as close as you are."
"Then that also means she won't be able to get lost in the mirror too!" The hanyou retorted, waking from his stupor.
"I can do this, Inuyasha!" Kagome finally snapped, leaping to her feet. "So if you love me why don't you reciprocate a little of the faith I have in you!"
"This isn't about faith, Kagome! This is about what is realistic given your miniscule amount of training!"
"We can't afford to wait," she replied firmly. "Naraku could attack at any time."
"So lock the kid up until he's defeated!"
"We can't risk that."
"And since when was it all up to you? Don't I have a say in any of this?"
"No! It's my life!"
"And I love you, damn it!" Kagome blinked, swallowing her retort as Inuyasha continued. "Doesn't that give me any say in what you do?" He took a step forward and put a hand on her arm, forgetting for a moment his inhibitions about being affectionate in front of their friends. "I don't want to lose you Kagome…not now that you're finally…" He looked away and whispered. "…mine."
Her eyes softened, her anger immediately forgotten as she moved closer, putting her hands on his chest, feeling his muscles quiver under the tips of her fingers. "Is that what's bothering you, Inuyasha? You're afraid of losing me?"
A blush tinted his proud cheeks as the hanyou snorted and looked away, though he didn't pull away from her touch. "Keh…I'm not afraid of anything, woman."
But it was too little too late. Kagome had seen into his soul, and her heart was currently so warm and comforted nothing could have made her angry. Still, knowing how easily embarrassed and uncomfortable he was in front of others, she refrained from hugging him. Instead she reached up and tweaked his nose before walking away. "Liar."
He blushed a little more and snorted, but Kagome knew her point had been made as she turned back around and knelt before Kanna.
"Kagome…" She looked over at Inuyasha as he took a few steps back. He narrowed his gaze. "If anything happens to you…"
"I know, Inuyasha." She smiled. "It's going to be all right. Trust me." She saw his fingers tighten around the sheath of tetsusaiga, and marveled for a moment at the fact that men always thought they could solve their problems with swords.
Finally, sobering herself, she looked back at Kanna as she felt Kaede move behind her. "Alright child. Just as we've practiced. Clear your mind and search for your inner strength. Once you've found it, reach out for Kanna…search for her aura and pull it back with you."
Slowly, Kagome felt her racing heart slow to a steady rhythm. She felt the world expand until she was aware of not only the people around her, but also their auras, their inner beings. She could feel the distinction between Inuyasha's hanyou blood and Kagura's demonic fire. She could sense Shippou's innocent heart, and Sango and Miroku's inner strength It was a shaky calm, at best, because the auras would waver in her senses, but she pushed aside her own self-doubt and moved ahead.
She couldn't pull back now.
Opening her eyes, Kagome slowly lifted her gaze to look at Kanna while also clinging desperately to the senses around her. Kaede had told her that eventually, with enough training, a priestess could sense auras and power without needing to try…but since she was no where near that point, Kagome had to work a lot harder with what she was trying to do.
But if she had been expecting to look at Kanna and suddenly feel her soul cry out, she was disappointed. Nothing happened when she looked at the child, and Kagome almost wanted to sight in defeat, though she shoved the urge aside.
Had she honestly thought it would be that easy?
Trying to think on the spot while also continuing to clear her mind was proving to be very difficult, and several of her friend's auras wavered and fell away from her as she tried to puzzle out what she should do next, so that in the end when she opened her eyes once more the only aura she could still feel was Inuyasha's. Still, his blazing confidence and power were enough to give her the boost she needed, and she tried again, this time looking at the mirror rather than at Kanna.
And that's when she felt it.
Slight, like a wisp of cloud against an otherwise clear blue sky, but she felt it nonetheless. A small voice in her head cried out…a child's voice…and Kagome realized that the little girl was trapped within the mirror, and fighting to get out.
Feeling her anger at such an injustice spur her forward, Kagome tried to look deeper into the black mirror that didn't show her reflection. The child's voice became louder, more insistent, and she grew in confidence that she could indeed help. Reaching out with her mind, with her heart, she tried to embrace the little, frightened voice…to comfort it as she comforted Shippou.
But that's when she hit it. Something dark and sinister pushed her back, repelled her, keeping her away from the little girl that needed her.
So this was why she was needed to do this task. This was why Kagura could not. Because the barrier holding the child captive was the same dark magic that Kagome had sensed when purifying the diamond shards. And she was the only one capable of purifying it.
This wasn't a matter of pulling Kanna's soul out of the mirror at all, she realized. It was simply a matter of removing the barrier. But could she do it? It was larger and much stronger than anything she'd ever had to deal with before. And she and Kaede had not been spending the last four hours meditating for that purpose. Her mind was exhausted from all the mental training she had been putting herself through. Did that mean her body was just as tired?
Slowly pulling back, Kagome heard the child's voice panic, and wished she could reassure her that she wasn't leaving. But she could not, so instead Kagome decided to pull out as quickly as possible.
Releasing the control she was carefully keeping on her mind, she felt like the world suddenly shrank in size, all the auras around her vanishing as her shoulders slumped forward, her body mentally spent. Seeing this, Inuyasha rushed forward and pulled her into his arms protectively, daring anyone to tell him not to.
Kanna remained on her knees, not having moved, and Kagura was looking fearfully at Kagome, as though she expected to hear that the child's soul could not be saved.
Hastily seeking to reassure her, Kagome swallowed and looked up at the wind sorceress. "I know how to save her, Kagura. There is a barrier keeping Kanna's soul from returning to her body. Nothing more. If I purify the barrier, she can pass through and be free once more."
Kagura looked for a moment like she wanted to collapse, though admirably she remained on her feet, one of her hands moving to Kanna's shoulder.
"Where is the barrier, Kagome?" Sango asked as she and Miroku approached.
"It's in the mirror…or around the mirror…or something," she replied, feeling slightly silly for not having a more specific answer than that.
"How do you intend to purify it child?" Kaede asked kindly.
"I figured I'd just touch it; the barrier feels just like the kind of negative energy that surrounded the diamond shards I've purified before, and then all I've had to do is touch them."
The old woman nodded but frowned. "That may work, but this barrier is much bigger. It could be dangerous. After all, when you purify something, you are basically transferring your power to the source and in turn taking some of the negative energy into your body. With a barrier strong enough to have kept Kanna captive for so many years, it may be more than you're ready for."
Kagome frowned, recalling the way her arm would go numb with pain every time she'd purify a shard, and wondered how much worse it would be with a barrier that was so much bigger. But then, thinking about the frightened little voice she'd heard, she decided it was worth the risk. "I can do it. And besides," this time she looked up at Inuyasha, "You'll take care of me after if I'm really weak."
His eyes softened slightly, though she could see he was trying desperately not to argue. "Kagome…" There was a warning in his tone, but she finally saw him come to a decision within himself, because he just sighed and pulled her closer for a moment. "Of course I will."
Taking that as permission to pull away, Kagome moved back over to Kanna and reached out for the mirror. Touching the sides, she felt nothing, but knowing she was right about the barrier, she trailed her fingers all along the rim before one of her thumbs grazed the surface of the mirror itself, and that's when she felt it. The twinge of pain. Nodding in triumph, she took both her hands and placed them firmly over the surface of the mirror, and there was an immediate crack in the air, like something was being fried over a stove, and Kagome had to resist the urge to pull away as first her fingers, and then her entire hands, went numb and cold.
Kaede was right. It was a very powerful barrier. But she wouldn't give up.
Inuyasha watched from just behind as her hands started to glow, a pink hue surrounding her fingers, though whether it was to protect her or fight the barrier he did not know. And then, suddenly, her fingers began to disappear into the mirror itself, as though the glass had turned to water and she was falling through.
Hearing her grimace in pain, he instinctively put an arm around her waist just in case she decided to fall through completely, trying to offer her his strength, feeling helpless and not liking it one bit.
The barrier was much stronger than she could have imagined, and Kagome felt her body begin to shiver with cold as she felt the dark energy surrounding it try and invade her own body. She felt something warm and powerful within her rebel, surrounding her body, protecting her, and while she didn't know what it was, she was grateful for its presence, for the fact that it was keeping her safe.
She watched as her hands began to disappear through the mirror, the glass fading away to leave her feeling like she was pushing through thick mud, and she grinned in triumph, knowing she was going to win. But even so, she hoped her small victory came soon, because she couldn't hold out much longer. She was untrained, and unprepared, and at that point her body was still going on sheer willpower and her stubborn insistence that she couldn't give up.
And finally, just as she felt the numb feeling spread to her shoulders and chest, Kagome felt something break and fall away, the tension against her fingers snapping, and the crackling noise disappeared as the sound of shattering glass reached her ears. She was vaguely aware of Kagura gasping in surprise, of everyone moving closer to see what would happen now, but she herself didn't have the strength to lift her head.
Inuyasha felt Kagome fall against him in exhaustion, and felt her entire body begin to shake as though she were freezing. Looking down, he saw that her face was pale and drawn, and that her forehead was covered in sweat.
"Kagome?" He spoke her name in concern, shaking her insistently, watching as she tried to close her eyes and unwilling to let her do so in case sleep would mean her death. "Kagome…don't you fall asleep until I know what's wrong with you, do you hear me? Stay with me Kagome!"
His voice became more frantic, and he felt that unfamiliar pang of fear well up in his chest at the thought of losing her. She had become so near and dear to his heart so unexpectedly, and the emotions she'd brought with her still stunned him. But she made him feel safe, and secure, and loved in a way no one had since his mother had died, and he couldn't stand the thought of losing her now…or ever.
Shaking her body fiercely again, he watched as she focused her eyes briefly on his face, her lips quivering as she tried to smile. "I…told you I could do…it."
He tried to smile back for her, though his eyes were filled with a fear he was helpless to fight back. "Yeah…you did."
And then her body began to shake again, and he clutched her tighter to him, offering her his warmth, his strength…everything he had to give. He didn't know what she needed, but he hoped, somehow, she'd get it.
"Kaede, what's wrong with her?" He demanded as the old woman came to his side and looked down at the young woman in his arms.
She shook her head. "The barrier was strong, and she took in a lot of the dark magic it was made of in order to purify it. This is a natural reaction; her body is in a state of shock. But it will pass with time. Just let her rest for now." She did not add the reality that were Kagome any other person, she probably would have died. Her spiritual powers had instinctively flared to protect her, but if she'd been forced to hold on much longer, even they probably would have crumbled and she could have died.
Inuyasha absently stroked his clawed fingers through Kagome's soft, matted hair, feeling how damp it was where it touched her scalp. "Kagome…you're so stupid sometimes. You act without thinking. Are you trying to die young?" But even though the words were meant to be a reprimand, his voice was soft, and his gaze was tender as he cradled his treasure possessively to his chest.
She stirred against him. "Love you…Inuyasha."
His heart melted. "Kagome…"
"Sister?" His ears flicked towards Kagura, and he tore his eyes away from Kagome momentarily to see the wind sorceress showing a rare display of uncertainty as she held Kanna to her, rocking back and forth. "Kanna…please speak to me."
Kagome heard the child's name and immediately perked up as she turned to look at the girl in question. "Did it work? Is she alright?"
Kagura looked up and met Kagome's gaze. "She isn't speaking, but…she's breathing, and her skin is warm. Warm for the first time in so long. I…" Without knowing what else to do, she bowed her head low in a sign of respect. "I am in your debt, Kagome Higurashi."
She wanted to argue, to insist that there was no debt, but Kagome found she didn't have the strength. Once she was assured that Kanna would be alright, the last of her energy left her, and she simply turned her head into Inuyasha's chest and allowed the mercy of sleep to claim her.