Chapter 23 – Full Circle


The swirls of gray fog were not what she was expecting upon waking up. It was a land devoid of anything but fog and the ground she stood on, which was also gray. She called out for anyone, someone. She'd even take hearing Naraku at this point because it felt as though she'd go mad in the silence. And all at once the silence cut by the click of shoes. She could make out a faint outline of someone, but the damnable fog was preventing a good look. She prayed the person was friendly. There was a faint murmuring around her now, like listening to voices at a far distance and through water.

"Kagome."

Suddenly the shadowy figure stepped clear of the fog, proving to be Tenmei… or what she thought was Tenmei. The woman looked the same, except her eyes were replaced with a field of stars and Kagome shivered at what she was possibly talking to.

"Tenmei. What's going on?"

"There are some things to clarify and rectify. The first of which is to finally lay your doubts to rest. They never meant for things get so out of hand, but they had to be sure you were the right choice. And so they set you a task. To finish what you had unknowingly begun."

"I don't understand. Who's 'they'? What did I do?"

She smiled. "It was ironic that, rather than making the choice yourself as they wanted you to do, you left it in the hands of another. You were born with the Shikon no Tama for a purpose. To correct what Kikyou had unleashed."

"Naraku."

"Correct. The priestess knew of the bandit's lust for her and did nothing to sway it. Her blindness paved the way for Naraku's creation and Inuyasha's heartbreak. He'll never admit it, Kagome, but she broke Inuyasha the day she pinned him to Goshinboku. And you have done very well to piece him back together in a better person than he was before."

"He's better?" She asked in disbelief, recalling all the times they got into arguments or something she said or did easily upset him.

"Yes. Inuyasha cares for you in a way he never did for her. All he saw when he looked at Kikyou was the miko and the Shikon. He sees the miko and the Shikon in you as well, but your kindness and care let him see past that. You gave him hope when he thought he had none. Why else do you think he gets so upset when you're away from him too long?"

"Because… I'm his hope?" She asked, although the question wasn't one requiring an answer. "So when I'm gone, he feels like hope is gone too."

"You're a smart girl, Kagome. Smarter than the Kami gave you credit for."

"What did I do?" She asked for a second time.

"You proved that you didn't have to be the one to solve your own problems."

"Huh?"

"I lied a little when I told you about Kikyou's resurrection. Technically I don't give permission to allow people to be resurrected. The skill came from Urasue."

"So Urasue actually did bring Kikyou back?"

"No… You did."

"Me?"

"Even back in the beginning, deep down you wanted only Inuyasha's happiness. And after hearing about the tragic end fifty years ago, you thought things would be better if Kikyou could come back. So even though Kikyou begged me to release her, your heart begged for reconciliation between them. And thus, Kikyou was resurrected by the power of your will."

"Then why is she different?"

"Because no soul can co-exist with itself. In order to do so, only a part of her was returned, the part that remembered only her final moments and perhaps a few fragmented memories; the part that begged to return. Because she lacked the emotions outside of what she felt during her death, she is incapable of forgiveness and compassion. You experienced this yourself when she tried to kill you and again when she attempted to take Inuyasha to hell."

"Why didn't she kill me?"

"She couldn't because it would be killing herself. You hold the majority of the soul and you both would cease to exist if she had killed you. In order for her to live, she must find a living body. Yours is the ideal choice because the soul is the same. However she became consumed with her obsession to personally vanquish Naraku."

"Isn't it her right?"

"She's doing it out of revenge."

"Oh… well then… if it's my fault she's alive…"

"That's not living, Kagome. That's existing on substance of other souls and hatred."

"Why did she need the souls? We've always thought it was because she didn't have a whole one."

Tenmei frowned. "If that were true, then you would need souls as well. Some souls are large enough to exist as half and yours did for a time. But then you saw what Kikyou's resurrection was doing to Inuyasha and you began to doubt her return was a good thing. With each doubt, you pulled a bit more of your soul back. Again, you did it out of concern for Inuyasha and a wish for him to be happy."

"So I did hurt him."

Tenmei sighed. "In a way, but it was never a deliberate act on your part. All you ever desired was everyone's happiness. You put that desire above your own and endured heartache every time things didn't go the way you hoped. No one is perfect, Kagome."

Kagome nodded. "So what happens to Kikyou now? I didn't really make a decision, did I?"

Tenmei laughed. "No, you left the decision in the hands of another."

"Who?"

"Inuyasha."

"Oh… so is this what death is like? All the fog?"

Tenmei looked shocked. "Death? Why ever do you think this is a realm of death?"

"Because even after everything, Inuyasha loves Kikyou still. He would choose her."

"Now I know the phrase 'love is blind' is true. He came as close as he could to professing his love and yet you still believe he wants Kikyou in some way?" She shook her head. "Would you believe that he worries most over which time you will be trapped in? That he fears he may not live long enough to find you in your time?"

"Huh?"

Tenmei waved her hand outwards and the darkness was replaced with the old exterminator's village but rebuilt. Miroku was keeping watch over several children with an older Shippou while Sango was talking with several men. Three of the children bore a striking resemblence to the couple. Suddenly two more children came barreling into the group and Kagome was suddenly afraid because the newcomers were hanyou children. Inu-hanyou. But her fear was short-lived as the hanyou were eagerly welcomed into the group and a game of 'tag' was begun with Shippou being the 'safe spot'.

Laughter tore her gaze from the children and she watched wide-eyed as Inuyasha appeared carrying an infant hanyou in one arm and his arm slung around herself. The pair joined up with Miroku as Sango disengaged from the men. Kagome could hear no words, but she could tell they were all happy.

"This is what he wishes for. Life with you, helping rebuild Sango's village and teaching the world that hanyou and youkai can be good and evil, just like humans. He may never say the words often, but he loves you deeply or else he would not have made you his mate. Your souls recognize each other, Kagome. And while Kikyou is a part of you, she was not the type of person he really wanted. His very soul balked at the idea of having to change; to make himself unhappy in order to appease another."

In the moments between her soul being made whole and the vision, she remembered her life as Kikyou and no matter how much the priestess had cared for Inuyasha, deep down the woman refused to accept him as anything but human and only because it would end her loneliness and her duty as the Shikon's guardian. Kagome mourned for her past self and all that was lost, but if it had never passed she would never have met Inuyasha or had her adventures. She would never trade those for anything, but she had been willing to give up her own dreams to make Inuyasha happy.

"You give him acceptance and options whereas Kikyou only gave him freedom at a price. You love him for who he is and that love has encouraged him to love others. Miroku, Sango, Shippou… they're his family now. A family you gave him. Without you, he's lost."

"Inuyasha… loves… me?"

"Hai, silly girl. Now come on, time to wake up. Wake up, Kagome! Kagome! Kagome!" Over and over her name resounded in the nothingness as she felt as though she were falling. Her eyes became too heavy to keep open and she let oblivion take her with the cadence of her name following.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

"Kagome!" Inuyasha clutched the limp form of his love, snarling at anyone who dared to venture close. Across the clearing, Sesshoumaru held an equally unconscious Tenmei in a rather uncharacteristically tender fashion. But his brother was the furthest thing from his mind. The minute Kagome answered Tenmei's question, Kikyou had screeched something awful and dissolved into ash. The missing pieces of Kagome's soul returned and Kagome instantly fainted. He had barely reached her in time to catch her before she hit the ground.

"Onegai…" He was so close to tears, just like the time he thought he'd lose her to poison. She was still breathing, and so long as it remained that way, he wouldn't lose hope that she would wake up.

"Wake up, Kagome! Kagome!"

Kagome murmured roughly, her eyebrows drawing downwards in discomfort. "Loud…" she managed to mutter, trying to figure out why her limbs felt so heavy.

Inuyasha blinked rapidly in surprise, then nearly crushed her against him in relief. She was alive!

"Baka, scaring us like that." He mumbled into her hair.

He allowed the others to come close enough to verify that she was truly awake, but tightened his grip any time they tried to touch her or she tried to move. Kagome threatened him with the command, but he knew with the way he held her, she wasn't going to go through with it. He had come too frightening close to losing her…again. But no more. He wouldn't leave her side for anything, except death, and even then he would probably try to bargain his way back to her. Naraku was still a menace, and while he'd been hoping to wait until the madman's defeat to properly mate Kagome, he couldn't say he was unhappy about it.

"Damn it Kagome," he half growled into her hair. "Don't ever hide shit like that again."

"Gomen, Inuyasha, I was just…just…"

"Just trying to do it by yourself. Yeah, I know. But you're always telling me friends are supposed to help each other." He pulled away to look her in the eye. "So let your friends help. We thought you were going to leave us."

Kagome flushed and looked away. "I tried to, but I can't."

"Why?" He sounded hurt.

"Because you're my family…"

"No… why did you try to leave?" He interrupted.

"Oh…well… be-because I couldn't stay and-and… and watch you run to her…"

With a low groan he pulled her back into his arms. "I'm a fucking baka, Kagome, but don't you know? I always come back. And…and Kikyou's not a problem anymore. She's at rest."

Kagome suddenly tugged at his hoari, revealing the shimmering kanji of her name over his heart. "I thought I was seeing things."

Inuyasha had the grace to blush as he pulled his hoari back into place. "Keh."

"But what is it? What's it mean?"

"Can't you read your own name?"

"Inuyasha…" she warned.

He chuckled nervously. "Ok, ok. It means you're my mate. And umm… it's for…a long while… if you have my kanji.."

"What the baka is trying to say," Sesshoumaru spoke up, causing all eyes to focus on him and the rather odd display he made sitting at the base of a tree with Tenmei firmly wrapped in his solitary arm and the white boa. "Is you're heart-mates. The kanji appears over the heart when a mating is done out of love." The youkai's tone and expression said that the very thought was repugnant, but when he looked down to the woman in his arm, the look became something else that no one dared to put a name to. He almost looked content.

For a time, everyone simply sat in silence, none in a hurry to leave, but rather savoring the moments of peace knowing something like it might not ever occur again…especially around Sesshoumaru. The youkai didn't move or speak until the void that brought Tenmei reopened of its own accord and a sexless voice commanded, "Return."

His grip around Tenmei suddenly tightened when she tried to stand and any protests she attempted were silenced by his glare. The others watched, helpless, and in the dark about what was going on.

Again the voice commanded. "Return!" And again Sesshoumaru held her back.

"I can't stay! They won't release me."

Silence.

"Sesshoumaru… I didn't give up my healing powers to your father's fang just for a wedding present."

He snarled. "You knew it would happen?"

"No," she shook her head, still trying to dislodge herself from his grip. "It was a safety precaution because I knew you feared…"

"Enough." He interrupted. "Will it still work?"

"Yes."

He released her and stood when she did. Tenmei pressed a soft kiss to his chin, wrapping her wings around them briefly. She looked to Kagome and Inuyasha.

"Keep her safe, Inuyasha, she has a destiny to fulfill. We'll meet again Kagome." Then without another word she left, closing the void behind her and leaving several confused people behind. Sesshoumaru, as usual, didn't bother to enlighten any of them as he too left.

"Uh, Kagome-sama, what just happened?"

"I don't know, Miroku."

"Keh, who cares? It's just my bastard of a brother and his mate."

"MATE?" Everyone shrieked, causing Inuyasha to flatten his ears and growl.

"She smells like him, remember? Plus she was marked. They've got their own crap to deal with and we've still got Naraku."

"True. Think they'll be okay?"

"Keh. I'm sure we'll run into the bastard again."


A/N:

A thousand apologies for such a long delay. This chapter was harder to write than I thought. I'm still not 100 satisfied with it so it'll be revised for the final release. I would like honest critique on this story. Real critiques, not flames that tell me I suck. Tell me where the story needs improvement. Now all that's left is the epilogue. And yes, Tenmei will be 'unveiled' and all the questions about her and Sess answered.

And I've just been informed that Fated Existence has been nominated in the IYFG for Best Drama. I want to thank Fenikkusuken for nominating me in the first place. She's got an awesome fic of her own and I recommend everyone to read it.

Belated Happy New Years to everyone who wished it to me.

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