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Naraku, Inuyasha thinks, is a clever son of a bitch. He sat, safe and untouchable, while his heart ravened the countryside, absorbing youki and killing his enemies. At the opportune moment he swooped down and absorbed the heart again, gaining all the power it had stolen without doing so much as lifting a finger himself. Onigumo, Muso, Moryoumaru -- Inuyasha almost feels sorry for the human, offered freedom only to have it yanked back so many times.
But everyone's dead, and it doesn't seem fair to him that he should have to outlive everyone he cares about and quite a few he doesn't. He digs graves and makes promises (the only things he ever seems good at), and sets out to kill Naraku alone.
Hanyou are, by their very nature, mismatched creatures. Inuyasha took a little something from everyone he knew, using it to sculpt a personality for himself. Kagome was the kind one; Miroku, the honorable one; Sango, the strong one. Shippou was the one who tried his hardest; Kikyou was the duty-bound one; Kouga, the protectiveness; Sesshoumaru, the arrogance. Now that they're gone he can feel himself deteriorating.
Inuyasha was never the sort to continue to stand up in the face of tragedy. That was Miroku and Sango, who kept getting up in the morning despite the fact death dogged their heals - Or maybe because of it. The last time Inuyasha faced tragedy, he was put to sleep for fifty years. Inuyasha is getting tired.
With everyone dead the only thing Inuyasha has left is Naraku, the murderous one. He clings to it and sharpens Tessaiga, because without Naraku's death he has nothing.
Naraku, like death, is an elusive quarry when it wants to be. Inuyasha has been stalking Naraku since the day he was born, has both hunted and been hunted by him. Somehow, Naraku always slips past Inuyasha.
He tracks him down to an old battlefield, bodies of soldiers rotting and breaking away underfoot, and hacks out great sections of the earth. And it's just Naraku, now: Kanna's gone, drawn back into the hanyou's bulk. Naraku doesn't need nothingness personified when he can drag it with him wherever he goes.
Inuyasha strikes him with the Kaze no Kizu but flinches away at the last moment, as always. Kagewaki's face has been cast aside, no longer useful.
It is Kagome's face he sees now, or a perverted rendition of it at least. Her memory is desecrated everytime Inuyasha sees him, dragged up and strangled by the demon that killed her. Naraku took the best thing in the world and made it ugly, and it is Kagome Inuyasha is firing that Kaze no Kizu at, no matter how many times he tells himself it isn't. It feels a bit like betraying Kikyou, but worse, because this time he knows he's doing it but doesn't stop.
We're exactly alike, Inuyasha, he says, and laughs, as Inuyasha snarls.
We're nothing like. A blatant lie, and Inuyasha half-wishes for the time when it wasn't.
If you're so eager to see your friends again, I can arrange it, he says, using Kagome's bright, friendly smile to smirk at him.
Then why don't you? he snarls, sending another Kaze no Kizu at him, and death eludes Inuyasha once again.
Inuyasha does not know how long he's been hunting Naraku, nor how long it's been since his friends died. A fifty-year absence has forever skewered his sense of time. He does know that he is prematurely aging, even for a human - but he doesn't count his age in his years nor appearance, which both still traitorously appear young.
Inuyasha is getting weary and, worst of all (worse than any bodily injury he's ever sustained), he's getting tired.
If there's one thing he's thankful for (which he isn't), it's that Kagome, the real Kagome, took the Shikon no Tama with her to her grave. Naraku, the fake Kagome, will never have the jewel, will never use Kagome's purifying hands to taint it. Naraku will never be able to be a true demon.
Naraku is more human than demon, when Inuyasha thinks about it. Naraku is an example of everything that is wrong with humanity, all the lies and greed and hate that plague them. Humans are demons imperfected, and while demons acknowledge their nature and glorify it, humanity looks for excuses. What had Moryoumaru taught them, but that having a human heart was a weakness?
Somehow, Sesshoumaru's opinions didn't seem quite so ignorant anymore.
One day, Inuyasha thinks he can't go on anymore. He thinks it's too hard, too much, and all he ever wanted was a quiet, short life as a human in a human village.
And that's the day Naraku-Kagome appears, sits down next to him and pulls his head into her lap, traces her fingers along his forehead and pulls them through his hair, and Inuyasha is so tired he's willing to forget the part that is Naraku and keep the part that is Kagome.
He groans when he breathes in her shouki-tainted scent and pretends he is ignorant. Kagome... I'm sorry... He made a promise on her grave to avenge her, to avenge all of them - even Kouga, the bastard (he finds the anger is forced, now) - but he can't anymore. I'm just too tired.
Inuyasha has always been good at making promises, but he's better at breaking them.
Kagome murmurs, smiles, and reaches out to drag his eyelids down with gentle fingertips, closing them. She places her gentle hands on either side of his face and pulls him up, kisses him, the same wholesome little schoolgirl, soft and kind and forgiving, just like he would have wanted her to if he had ever had the courage.
she whispers, drawing him in, drowning him in flesh so that which was Inuyasha erodes completely.
And Naraku laughs.