They meet over ashes.

Kikyou has always been a pale child, but today she is as death, blanched with smoke and white ash and the bloodless terror that is the responsibility she has inherited. Her eyes are wide in shock, red and crying from the smoke. She tells everyone it's the smoke, anyway.

A baby rests mute and sullen in her arms. She is several months old, full-bodied and expanding with life as is the way of babies that age. She looks far too heavy for the spindly-armed child who holds her so resolutely. Kikyou's body shows the strain, but her mind is elsewhere.

It is supposed to be a sacred place to burn the dead. Two pyres burned here, her mother's, and some other woman, a princess perhaps, some sort of nobility. Lightheaded from the opium in the air, Kikyou stumbles around the brink of the top of the world, caring little for death or life. All is mist here, the sacred mist devoured by the gods and made divine, the mist of drugs, the mist of body and soul. It is distant enough from her own world that Kikyou is willing to believe that it borders another.

Kikyou weaves through the crowd barely noticed, the silent child and her silent baby no concern to those wailing piteously for their lost Lady. She overhears talk of the Lady's son, a monster they fear. Defensive of her honor now that she is dead, they claim that the Lady Izayoi was raped, make their own tragedy of it. Kikyou finds this talk unsettling, and slips through a cold stone outbuilding of the temple to avoid them.

She comes out on a new vantage, the air a little freer away from the crowd, but still pressing and soft. The hills roll off in severe curves, obscure and indefinite through haze and distance. It is the highest up Kikyou has ever been. Her heart pounds, big and fierce in her chest, then skips a beat as she sees that she is not alone. A person—a child, like her—stands there, hair like a billowing cloud, clothes filthy, fists clenched.

For a moment, Kikyou thinks he is some sort of divine being. But before she can say anything, he turns to her, his breath hitching in frightened little gasps, and she knows that he is human. Just as normal-looking youkai can't fool her, she is certain that despite his strangeness, this is a human boy. Clutching the baby closer to her in reflexive mistrustfulness, she sits near him.

"I won't run," the boy asserts.

Kikyou only nods, resisting the urge to stare. It's not a matter of mere politeness, but the etiquette of animals, which they both understand more than they'll ever understand humans.

When he is a bit more at ease, she sneaks a quick glance at those alien yellow eyes of his. "No one else there understands," she says, unfairly, but with a child's conviction. "It was your mother too, wasn't it."

"They say to me," he says, voice gone flat from holding everything back, "that they will not recognize me as her son. They say it was a tragedy what happened to her at my father's hands, but that doesn't make me kin of theirs." He thinks a moment. "I don't blame them for lying like that. Mother cried all the time because of me, because I was different, so I don't blame them for not wanting that burden."

"We're not just different," Kikyou says with conviction, "we're better. My mother told me that." Her chin is held high and proud, and dripping with new tears. "Don't ever let anyone tell you that being better is something you should mourn, she said." Kikyou rises to her feet slowly, and carefully balancing the baby's weight, leans forward to kiss the 'monster' on the forehead.

Inuyasha would always remember that scent, but he wouldn't be able to place it until sixty years later, confronted once again with a being that smelled of Kikyou and ashes.

"Take care of yourself," the doomed little girl says, carrying off the burden of her sister and her village and her power, and her differentness, off to forget her own advice and live as just another girl wanting to be 'just another girl,' normal, un-special.

Some trace of what she'd tried to say would stick with him, though. He decides later on that he is better than humans, better than most youkai, even. Deserving of power and respect.

Time fogs the already cloudy memory into a sheet of white grief for his mother, but the heart of her words remain. When he hears about the Shikon no Tama, he knows that it should be his. He deserves it.

He's better.

From the moment he makes that decision, they're both dead as far as fate is concerned. Everything else is only their elaborate funeral dance.