Seigetsu Ren: Hi, I'm back. This time it took less than a year, for which I'm glad. For those who read my other stories, I'm currently revising A Different Journey (Inuyasha) and Another Promise (Love Hina), so if anybody is interested in helping with the beta-reading, please tell me through reviews or PM or email. I'm also thinking of deleting some of my older fanfictions, so if you want them to remain, please tell me in the poll I've set up on my profile page. That's all for now. Anyways, so that I won't waste anymore time on this, please let me thank my reviewers: Mistress-of-eternal-Darkness, Miyoshi Murasaki, iijie, Princesa de la Luna, GreenRainbow10, Montastic, Taz, and StreetRacerSakura. Thanks for reading and reviewing; I really appreciate it.
Disclaimer: I may come to own a manga if I can drag my lazy hand over my tablet, but unfortunately, that's not the case.
"What if I refuse?"
"Well, since when has this become a choice?" Naraku questioned in return, lowering his gaze into a sharp, piercing stare, "But for your sake, I'll remake Sesshoumaru once I absorb his powers. Do not worry, by then, he would be completely tame, just like your pet. You probably realize by now that this is the only way you can ever possess him, right?"
As much as Kagura wanted to argue, no words came out her open mouth. For once, the villain was not lying. The current Sesshoumaru would not hesitate to cut her in half to save that miko, and she couldn't say she liked it…at all.
Chapter 21 – The Lord's Shield
She rode the wind in the deep night, eyes gazing at the silver moon crowning the pitch black skies overhead. Whirls of clouds shifted lazily across the heavenly velvet, covering and uncovering the crescent of light, making ominous shadows that devoured the silent forests. But Kagura liked it like this, so calm and peaceful, devoid of metal ringing in battle, blood spraying like crimson paint across the field. Though the moon shone like a pond of rippling water, the dancer thanked its inability to cast her reflection. Her eyes were the colour she hated the most, the colour that was her destiny; she would draw blood or shed it, those were her only choices.
Absentmindedly, she touched her hand to her left chest. There was no movement, no sound against her flesh. She smiled as though imagining something there, something beating warmth through her cold, rigid body. Only then would she be able to move as she liked, skipping over blades of grass, sprinting in the autumn breeze.
"I will be free," she muttered, wrapping her fingers around an invisible object in her palm and holding it tightly to her chest, guarding it like her most precious treasure. The last word rolled off her tongue and into the distance, its sound fading ever so quickly that it seemed as though it had never existed. She laughed at the silence, at the lack of an echo. It didn't matter that others didn't believe; she did. She would make it come true – her freedom.
Kagome kneeled on the battlefield, unable to move, just staring at the two youkai brothers fighting each other to the death. She had cried with all her might in hopes of reaching Inuyasha, but nothing changed; the transformed hanyou, eyes bloodshot and narrowed, face scarred with two violet stripes, kept hammering his sword down Sesshoumaru's. The Lord of the West backed in his steps. However gracefully he was waltzing away, it was still evident that he was retreating. He was not returning a single blow, only hopelessly deflecting the attacks rained upon him by the larger, stronger sword forged from his father's fang.
"Kagome-chan, watch out!" Sango called as a stray rock flew in her direction. The taijiya dashed towards the girl in the last second and managed to shove the two of them out of the projectile's way.
The impact with Sango's body sent Kagome flying into the dirt. The two women rolled a short distance before they could come to a halt at the bottom of the rocky slope where Kikyou was seated, clutching the wound on her shoulder. Sango struggled to sit up so that she could monitor the duels nearby. The white-haired boy named Hakudoushi seemed to be playing with the two men who took turns attacking him, his flaming horse dashing to and fro at a speed far greater than his opponents. With a strike of his naginata upon the ground, a flash of lightning shot towards the monk along with a shower of boulders the size of human heads. Miroku managed to open his wind tunnel to vacuum the debris so that they didn't strike him square in the face, but while doing that, Hakudoushi rounded to his back and was about to strike him, only to be intercepted by Kouga.
"I owe you one, Kouga-kun," Miroku muttered with gritted teeth.
"Snap it off, Monk. It wasn't for your sake," the wolf demon replied. "Be careful not to suck in this white kid. He has Saimyoushou on him."
Hakudoushi grinned in response, "You spoiled the story, Wolf. I was going to trick him into sucking the Saimyoushou hive. Now, you leave no option but for me to kill you first."
The demon horse, Entei, released a ball of fire, nearly scorching Kouga. The wolf demon leapt back, only to come into the range of Hakudoushi's naginata. Miroku rushed forth and blocked the crescent blade with his staff; the two weapons repulsed in a loud ring.
"Houshi-sama!" Sango called, her screaming voice screeching at such a high pitch that the trailing syllable became lost. Kagome could see the overwhelming concern written on the taijiya's face, her desperate wish to come to the monk's aid yet her obligation to protect the two girls by her side. Kagome grit her teeth, staring at Kikyou whose eyes remain closed while pain etched itself on her face, then back to Sango who gulped down her tears so that they would not overflow.
She squeezed the taijiya's hand, causing the older girl to turn in her direction.
"Sango, I'll take care of Kikyou…and myself. I promise." Kagome asserted, the flickering lights from within Midoriko's cave playing across her countenance to be reflected off her hard, determined orbs. Sango hesitated, but returned her grip on the modern girl's hand.
"Please be careful. I'll come back as soon as possible."
With that, Sango ran up the slope to aid Miroku and Kouga in battle. Kagome let her eyes glance one last time at her vanishing figure before turning towards Kikyou.
"Are you really fine with this, Kagome?" the elder miko said in a barely audible voice. Despite the fading quality of her tone, her words still sounded dignified, as though commanding the younger girl to listen and answer thoughtfully.
"What do you mean? There is no way I can monopolize Sango when Miroku and Kouga are fighting for their lives. Here, give me your hand. We should get out of here too before another rock comes flying in our faces."
Kikyou did not take Kagome's offering hand. She just narrowly opened her eyes, focusing them on her reflection in hopes of reaching deep into her reincarnation's mind, "What I meant was…are you really fine with staying by my side, protecting me? You have no obligation to do so, so please think carefully about such a risky decision. No one would blame you if you were to run away. I can hardly take a single step in my current state, so I will only be a burden."
...and do you not feel hatred towards me, Kagome?
The younger girl felt that this was the true question the miko was asking her. She wanted to say, "no, I don't hate you", but she couldn't say it. She didn't want to lie, most of all, didn't want to lie to herself. In truth, when she thought deeply about it, she pondered – would everything be better if Kikyou stayed dead? Such a thought caused her to turn towards where Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru were battling. The way the hanyou lunged despite the scars his elder brother carved on his body, the way he clenched his fist so tight that they bled; all his involuntary motions made her heart ache. If not for Kikyou, Inuyasha would never have walked into this trap. If she didn't exist, perhaps everything would be okay.
"I…" Kagome began, trying to find the right words, but failing. She took a deep breath and tried again, "I have wondered if it would be better for you to die."
Kikyou smiled knowingly, "And you should. I have wondered the same."
For a second, Kagome thought that she would say, "But Inuyasha would blame me if you died". However, those words didn't come, because in the end, she figured that was not the reason she was here.
She would stay here, beside Kikyou, keeping the miko alive even at the cost of her life. She had finally decided that.
"But thinking more about it, I think it's better that you live."
"Because of Inuyasha?"
"That's a minor issue. Yes, Inuyasha would probably be happy if you lived, since you've made him the person he now is, not a despised hanyou, but a compassionate person who is loved by his companions. But that's something important to Inuyasha, not me."
"Then, I suppose you want to save me on your own accord?"
"Yes, because I respect you. To live your entire life saving people…that's something I can't do. Even now, you're still giving it your all to kill Naraku. It's not just hatred that's propelling you, right?"
Kikyou widened her eyes, "Why do you suppose that is the case? It is true that I hate Naraku."
"I wasn't sure before, but now I'm certain. Before, you had nothing to lose. You were thinking of returning to the dead, taking Naraku with you, right? But seeing you this time, I feel that you've found a meaning in this new life. You don't want to die anymore, but you're still pursuing Naraku – aren't you trying to reach a world without his evil?"
"Good and evil are eternally mixed. Even without Naraku, evil will still exist," the miko said with a light chuckle, "But you are right. I suppose I have reclaimed hope. No matter how slight the chances are, I wish to believe that if I can just erase a little bit of evil from this world, something more beautiful will await us in the future."
"That's why you confronted Naraku? That's why you didn't run away?"
"Yes. That must be your reason too, am I right, Kagome?"
The younger girl laughed a little while pulling Kikyou's arms over her shoulders so that she could carry the miko to a place of safety, "At first, I was just doing this because I thought it was my fault the jewel was broken. I guess even now, it's still a factor, but I think there are more important things to consider than that."
"Even though this was not your time, there was nothing here important to you, you have changed."
"Yeah. Inuyasha…and everybody else…I want to live with them, in a world where we don't have to fight anymore. And whatever era that world exists in will become 'my time'."
Kikyou glanced to Sesshoumaru whose keen eyes were focused on his half-brother, brows knitted while he concentrated on trying to save himself without killing his opponent. She certainly hoped for the same era Kagome was dreaming of, an era in which she could live with those who were important to her.
Kagura arrived in the midst of violet light rippling across the plain in front of Midoriko's cave. In the waves of luminenscence, Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru's battle raged on, with the hanyou in the offence, slashing the darkened Tessaiga towards the taiyoukai. The enormous fang crashed onto the ground beside where Sesshoumaru stood just a moment ago, shattering the rocky soil in a violent flash of yellow. The Kaze no Kizu ripped in the taiyoukai's direction, but he leapt away, narrowly parrying the blow. Kagura noticed that he was a lot slower than he usually was, barely skipping out of the way, and his prized Tokijin was chipped so badly that it didn't seem capable of taking one more hit.
If she had a heart, it would've been jumping out her rib cage. For once, she was thankful for its absence; at least she could just take a deep breath and turn away from the scene. Nonetheless, Kagura knew that time was crucial. She had none to spare. Walking away from the shelter of the forest, she made her figure visible, causing Kagome to gasp from where she was sitting with Kikyou.
"Ka…gura?" she muttered, pulling out her bow. The dancer stepped up to the girl in the blink of an eye and placed her hand on the red wood.
"Trust me, it'd be faster for a youkai as me to break this than for you to release an arrow. If you value your life, step aside."
Kagome gritted her teeth, not wishing to back down, but she heard ruffling sounds from behind her. Kikyou was struggling to stand up, using a fallen tree branch as her cane. The miko walked in front of her reincarnation to confront the newcomer.
"It would be easy for you to kill me in this state, Kagura, why are you hesitating?"
The dancer gave a bitter laugh, opening her fan to hide her contorted countenance, "Yes, it would be easy…but meaningless."
"So you figured?" Kikyou asked.
So you figured that Naraku would kill you either way?
"It is my destiny, and I've come to accept it. This has been a shitty life, but for a life working under Naraku, there has been some good moments. This will be my last one, so let me prove my worth."
Kagura said this to Kikyou in a low voice, almost smiling at everything she was saying. She touched the white feathers on her hair and removed both of them in a swift motion, causing her raven strands to cascade down her back.
"Please kill Naraku…" she muttered, placing the feathers in Kikyou's palms. They were light, but they were warm, glowing radiantly in the night.
"Aramitama, the Soul of Courage?" Kikyou whispered, shocked. By then, Kagura was already headed for battle. Only the side of her visage was slightly visible.
And please purify my soul, so I can finally be free.
How nice would it be, to live like Kikyou? Kagura thought this in her mind as she walked towards the light of the duelling brothers. It was almost beautiful to see the streaks of red and white dance, golden eyes glaring while the power of their youki clashed. This would be where she rested. It was not bad, she mused, but if only she could be gazed at by the taiyoukai like the way he looked at the undead miko, even if just a single moment, it would be enough.
Unfortunately, she knew it could not happen.
But that was perhaps how she liked Sesshoumaru to be, the cold, honourable youkai who lived only by his own will. If he would so easily bend by her wishes, then he wouldn't be the Sesshoumaru she loved. The Sesshoumaru who was as free as she had ever wanted to be.
Even though he didn't belong to her, it was okay.
He was still a dream she could see for the remainder of eternity.
"Naraku, aren't you going to return my heart now? Return it so I can die?" Kagura chided, knowing that her cowardly master was watching everything she was doing. This must've been her happiest moment; to defy all the things she hated, to embrace everything she loved.
Even if she were to die, she would be free. She would make it happen.
When Sesshoumaru was finally pushed to a corner, forced to use his Tokijin, Kagura was by his side.
Inuyasha roared, Tessaiga pounding on the inferior fang. The Tokijin bent and snapped.
Like butter, Inuyasha sliced his opponent.
The last time he called her name, like all the other rare instances, was melody to her ears.
While she took the blow as her lord's shield, Kagura smiled, and fell.
New AN (2016-07-13): This story is not being updated currently, as I am revising all the chapters. The earliest estimate for updates to resume is in the fall of 2016. Thanks.