Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Please note: this is Version 2. This is simply a rewrite. Read the following to understand why I did this.
Author's Note: A little less than a year ago, I finished this story. The posted date says August 25th, 2005 (now you all know why I keep track of dates!). However, as I went back approximately half a year after I posted the last chapter, I realized something. I had promised a sequel.
No, I have not changed my mind. I liked the way I chose to end it last time, but now that it's been months since I took off the first three chapters of a sequel I never really had inspiration for, the ending line is awkward. Incredibly awkward, and it needed to be changed. So, this is it. You'll notice that most of it seems to be the same at first, but there is a huge chunk I deleted, and I added some new content in to make it read a bit smoother. I did not export it because then you wouldn't be aware I had ever rewritten part of it and I also didn't want to completely replace the original version just in case, so instead I am adding this as an "alternate ending" chapter. Please be honest and tell me which ending you prefer. I may have a slight bit of repetition, but after spending 2 hours dealing with tenses on some of my other stories, my brain is a bit tired. So kindly let me know if there are any tense problems (although there shouldn't be). If enough people seem to like Version 2 better, then I will just replace the previous content in Chapter 18 with this and delete this as Chapter 19. (You may want to re-read a few chapters to remember what happened!)
It is later at night. Inuyasha and Kagome are in another room. Shippou is sleeping with Kirara.
Sango is lying beside me, her head in my lap. A blanket goes up just past her waist, and her black hair flows up over my lap, her breathing deep and even. Every once in a while, a whimper escapes her mouth. It is not one of pain, but fear. I reach out and stroke her hair to calm her. It works, and she settles back down, a faint smile on her lips.
However, I know the inner turmoil is not quite over yet. Sango may be strong, but dealing with something like this is enough to emotionally destroy any human. Killing innocent people may be a malicious thing to do, but taking the lives of innocent children is even worse.
While she is sleeping, I have wiped away the blood and bandaged the numerous injuries on her body. I hope that the cut on her leg is not infected. I have cleaned up other various other wounds on her body, but there is one that may take much longer to heal.
Tsuyuki took control of her mind and body. In the beginning, it was only her body, but as time passed, it began to influence her mind, even her own thoughts and emotions. Her actions became affected by her emotions, and that was when things started to become extremely dangerous. We figured out how to destroy the demon shortly after her mind began to be influenced by Tsuyuki, but we could not destroy it until we had completed a specific task. During that time, Sango was injured and unable to walk for a short while, and Tsuyuki took advantage of her pain to try and kill me. It did not work… however, Sango was worn out by that time, and we required a few days of rest before we could continue back to Kaede's.
Sango is the strongest person I know. She has cheated death and is able to fight off any number of demons without fear. But this demon, it was different. It entered her mind by her dreams and took almost complete control before we were able to arrive back at Kaede's in time to fight it. In fact, I didn't have the chance to fight. Sango had to do an internal mind battle, in a place known as the Dream Realm.
Even while she fought inside her own mind, Tsuyuki once again tried to use her to kill me. I kissed her, in the hopes that she would know how much I cared about her and that it might aid her in the fight. I was right, but the last fight momentarily took all the physical strength out of her. As soon as she 'woke', she collapsed in my arms.
"I… I made it."
Sango claimed victory, but I know she feels otherwise.
Three lives were taken.
Even Mushin-sama's. Why?
It used her to kill him, and it succeeded. Its intention was to make me hate Sango, but I could never hate her. At first, I could not accept his death, and at one brief point, I was angry with her even though I knew she hadn't meant for any of it to happen. Everything over the past few days had built up, placing too much pressure on the both of us, and arguing only served to deepen the rift between us.
"It couldn't have been prevented, Sango! So just shut up about it!"
Despite trying to control my temper, I was unable to prevent from lashing out at her, even while knowing it wasn't her fault. The constant battle and emotional support to keep Tsuyuki from forcing Sango to kill more innocent people made us tense, exhausted, and set the burdened stake of more lives at risk if we could not find a way to stop it.
I tried desperately to keep my partner from succumbing emotionally to Tsuyuki's control by offering comfort and encouragement whenever I could, but it wasn't always enough. I constantly told her it would be alright even when we both knew it wouldn't be, just to be able to offer her some sort of reassurance, but it didn't always work. At some points, during an argument, her temper would get out of control and she would yell at me.
The old Sango had trusted my words. But by the time we had figured out a way that we could fight it, Tsuyuki had destroyed her complete confidence as a person and a warrior. The fiery attitude had faded away to be replaced with intimidation, and her determination was crushed because to her it seemed that this was one enemy was the first demon she could not fight on her own, and by the end, barely fight at all due to her condition.
"Everything is not okay! I know that, Miroku! I know that better than anyone!"
Yes, she did know, especially now… and it pains me to see how much suffering she has had to deal with, that this demon was one she might have not been able to defeat, not only at the cost of her life but at the risk of others.
Even after successfully defeating Tsuyuki, she has changed. She is no longer the person she used to be before Tsuyuki took control of her body, and to some extent, control of her mind as well. I'm not sure if she can ever completely heal and become herself again.
She suddenly bolts up, her eyes widening in fear, then looking relieved as she realizes it is but a nightmare. Cold sweat is on her brow, and I gently wipe it away with a warm, damp washcloth. Before I can take my hand away and motion for her to settle back down, she grabs my hand and moves closer into, burying her head in my shoulder. She is not crying, but her entire body is shaking as she holds onto me.
"Sango?" I whisper, almost hesitant to ask. Although I am concerned about her, the worry that fills my expression will only remind her.
Her voice is so low I can barely hear it.
"I… I'm so sorry."
I say the only thing I can to calm her. "Don't be."
"I can't help but feel guilty. This - none of it was supposed to happen." Her voice, already low, goes even quieter as she practically clings to me. "Why wasn't I strong enough?"
I don't say anything this time, and she falls back into silence, still holding onto my robes as if I am her lifeline. I am the only one who can help her through this, who has seen Tsuyuki force her to spill blood, but I doubt my words will be of any comfort. Holding her like this is the only thing I can do, and I will gladly do it if I can see her smile again.
Just one more time.
She is afraid. She has not moved away from me ever since Kaede sent her into the Dream Realm. She believes she is alone, and I try to convince her that I will always be there for her. Unfortunately, it is not always enough, and it took Tsuyuki's malevolent plans to make me realize that.
It is not her fault. She knows that, however many times she outwardly denies the truth, and I know that. It was Tsuyuki's doing, all of it. But it will not excuse the fact that innocent lives have been taken.
So after she falls asleep again in my arms, I make a promise to her.
I will help her to heal as much as I can, no matter how long it takes or how defeated she feels. I will always be there for her, and in time, forgive her for the "accidental" death of Mushin.
Because she is my friend, my companion, my partner, and if all goes well in the future, my wife.
Version 1, posted: August 25th, 2005 (is no longer available)
Version 2, rewritten: June 9th, 2006