Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha or any of its characters, this purely for enjoyment.
Authors Notes: This story has been unfolding since I started watching the series. Over time, I have made adjustments based on new episodes, closer evaluation of characters and open discussions with fellow fanfic groups, authors and website hosts.
The prologue contains each characters POV, which will explain later chapters, but is not exciting reading. However, if you can hang around for the next chapters, I'll attempt to make it worthwhile.
Chapter 1: Thoughts and Desires
The air is thick with his stench, but as expected, there is no sign of Naraku. His ability to evade us at every turn is troublesome and only serves to frustrate the already hot-tempered hanyou. Recent events and basic instinct gives indication things are about to escalate. Inuyasha, Kagome, Miroku, Sango and Kirara all sense this. Shippo is aware but keeps quiet and simply observes the others. The young kitsune is smart enough to notice the change of mood and that each are preoccupied with their own thoughts.
The group finds a clearing in the forest where they can rest and decipher the information received earlier. Inuyasha enters first; arms crossed and nose rose high, using his keen sense of smell to identify the presence of any demons in the area. Miroku and Sango, both experts in detecting evil auras, stand quietly performing their own evaluation. Kirara, on alert for the first sign of trouble, her tails twitch as if testing the air. Kagome holds Shippo in her arms and watches her friends in silence; waiting for a sign that all was safe.
Inuyasha abruptly turns and strides to the end of the clearing. Looking over his shoulder at the others, that perpetual scowl seems fiercer than usual and everyone but Kagome appears taken aback by its sudden intensity.
"What the hell are you starin' at?" he says heatedly. "Get a fire goin' or somethin', I'll be right back!" with that said, he leaps back into the forest.
Kagome watches him go with sad eyes. She is used to his brusqueness, that doesn't bother her. It is the pain and uncertainty she sees in his eyes. Inuyasha is hiding something; she has known him long enough to realize that. She only hopes he will open up and allow them to help. Kagome feels a hand on her shoulder and turns to Miroku.
Despite his jovial expression, his eyes mirrored the same sadness as mine. Miroku, normally good at concealing his feelings, is not fooling me today. He feels the same as I, although for different reasons.
"Come Kagome, let's do what Inuyasha asks," the monk says with a sympathetic smile.
I follow him to the middle of the clearing; we will set up camp here for the night. I sit Shippo down, shooing him off to play, but the young kitsune will not leave my side. Rummaging through my backpack, I think of how we came to be here…
The morning brought an unexpected visit from Kikyou, accompanied by Sango's little brother Kohaku. Their alliance is not as strange as one might think, actually I somewhat understand it, but I will never say this to Sango. Although Kikyou prefers her solitariness, she and Kohaku appear comfortable in each other's company. They came to notify us of Naraku's whereabouts and brought news that Kouga has sustained injuries during a recent battle with one of Naraku's incarnations. Kikyou has discovered the reason for Naraku's dormancy, the self-procreated hanyou has managed to absorb and combine the powers of several of the most powerful youkai in the region.
Deep down I know there is something more. Kikyou shares information that is assuredly accurate, but she is not one to give everything away at once. Enough is provided to allow you to piece things together and draw your own conclusions. I have to admit, a hold a grudging respect for Kikyou's prowess as a miko. I can understand how her cool demeanor, level-head and calculating mind have kept her alive in these feudal times of demons and spiritual auras. If not for our awkward connection to Inuyasha, I am sure I could have learned a lot from this woman.
Once this is over, what will it mean for us? With no jewel shards to pursue, there will no longer be a need for me to remain in this era. That thought offers no comfort to me; tears form and I squeeze my eyes tight, trying to hold them back. I not ready yet…I not ready to leave, I doubt I ever will. I cannot bear not being with Inuyasha. I bury my face in my hands, my body starts to shake and I am barely holding it together…
"Kagome, are you okay?"
In response to Shippo's query, I scoop him up and wrap my arms around him.
"Yes, Shippo…I'm fine," I lie.
Sango observes Miroku offering comfort to Kagome. As always, so in tuned to a woman's suffering and the first to offer solace. With a small smile, she turns and picks up a bucket for water and heads to a nearby stream. Tagging along at her heels is her faithful companion, Kirara.
"Don't go too far, Sango!" yells Miroku.
Without turning around, Sango waves a response, already miles away in thought…
"Kohaku…even with Naraku destroyed, will I really be able to save you?"
Will he sustain life from the power of the shard, if by some miracle he can keep it? I'm not sure what fate awaits my little brother.
I have known for some time now of Kohaku's allegiance with Kikyou, but it's still hard watching them together. With Inuyasha and Kikyou deep in discussion, I notice Kohaku never leaves her side. He seems almost protective of her, hanging on to every word spoken, respect evident in his eyes. I cannot help but remember he used to look at me that way.
I feel no resentment, since Kohaku's memories have returned his love for me is obvious. I am still his "Ane-ue" and nothing…nothing will ever change that. To pursue Naraku alone is his decision, one I believe stems from the guilt of fathers death by his hands. Houshi-sama tried to explain that Kohaku might need to extract his own type of revenge. After all, we are not aware of all the awful things Kohaku has done while under Naraku's control. With houshi-sama's persistent appeals to give him time, reluctantly, I give in.
Reaching the stream, I sit down in the grass, close my eyes, and listen to the sounds of the water. Kirara jumps in my lap locating a cushiony spot burrowing deep into the folds of my yukata. Leaning back on my elbows I recall even as a child, whenever I was troubled, I had a tendency to seek out this form of nature. It is something about the constant aquatic flow I find comforting. My greater consolation, however, is Houshi-sama…my fiancé.
The proposal feels as strange now as it did when he offered for my hand. There were no passionate pleas or declarations of undying love, just a simple…
"Will you live with me and bear my child?"
How many times has he used that line on some other woman; how many times have I heard it? Houshi-sama is by far the worst flirt and kimono chaser, and yet…it did not keep me from falling for him and to think of refusing him never enters my mind.
Our venture to Mt. Hakurei forced me to realize the depths of my feelings for him, I knew then I wanted to spend what was left of my life with Houshi-sama. There are doubts of our future together just as there are doubts of our survival, but as long as he will have me, I will be here.
Kirara hops from my lap to my shoulder, her large eyes full of merriment, and purrs in agreement.
"All will be fine, Kirara," I say while stroking her head, "…you'll see."
Miroku in the process of building a fire looks up and watches Sango leave. More than anything, he wants to follow her, but decides against it. It is probably best to stay focused and the delightful Taijya is too much of a distraction.
Since Kikyou and Kohaku's visit, everyone is tense and Miroku senses an overwhelming premonition of doom. It bothers him more than he cares to admit. To confront and defeat Naraku means something different to each of them. To him it will end a curse of three generations and the chance to live a normal existence without the threat of impending death hanging overhead. On the other hand, it can lead to his death upon which the curse will end for good anyway.
Considered an optimistic, carefree and good-humored individual; an image I have perfected over the years. I am actually a realist; taught this early in life because of the "Kazaana", the curse that plagued my grandfather, my father and now me. As a boy, I trained to use a weapon before I possessed that weapon. I learned everything about a curse I had yet to obtain. I grew up with the reality that one day I will die by my own hand and if I choose to have a family, I will have sealed their fates as well.
A spark ignites and a small flame erupts from the pile of wood chips in the campfire. I stare into the flames thinking of my life since Sango's arrival and I look again in the direction she took a moment ago.
The dreamer in me proposed to Sango. Despite everyone's beliefs, Sango is the one woman I love and desire above any other. My flirtatious actions and infamous "child bearing" requests are only a façade. It is part of my lineage to appreciate feminine beauty, but I also recognize its weakness. One reason I have come to care so much for Sango is her strength…I love her strength. This woman has been through enough to reduce a man to nothing and yet she prevails.
The monk, Mushin, my surrogate father and mentor, predicted something like this would happen. I remember a few years ago… in a drunken stupor, after a night of womanizing and several jugs of sake, we stumble back to the temple. I struggle to support Mushins' wide girth, as he has indulged in far more spirits than I have. We end up in a ditch on the side of the road laughing like two children that just got away with doing something they shouldn't. Suddenly, Mushin goes silent; when he finally speaks, I detected a serious tone accompanying his slurs...
"Enjoy the various treasures, my boy. They'll come a day when you'll locate that one precious piece, carry it around with you and put the box away."
I did not understand at the time, I just took it as the ramblings of a drunken monk's word of wisdom, but now I do. I'll have to remember to thank Mushin for opening my eyes or I may have missed this opportunity. He had foreseen my meeting someone that has become the most important person in my life. Sango, to me, is that single wildflower growing in a field of exotic plants; it has a simple beauty that unknowingly draws attention and has the endurance to last more than a season. Destroying this cursed "Kazaana" takes second place to her happiness.
With the fire growing steadily, I look to the heavens close my eyes and offer a silent prayer.
"Kami, watch over us, keep us safe and give me the strength to live."
Inuyasha is running swiftly through the forest with no destination in mind. His thoughts are on the others back at the camp. They are not aware of Naraku's invitation, he has not told them yet, but he will on his return. Only a few days left and they have a right to know…they will have to prepare and have some say in the matter.
That bastard has caused so much grief to everyone around him. To rid this world of the likes of him will not be a problem for the hanyou. Ringing in his ears are Kikyou's words of caution, Naraku might have reached full demon status.
"Hmph! The hell with that!" Inuyasha snarled, "I'm takin' him down!"
Naraku's challenge is issued during Kouga's defeat some days before. Kouga, though stripped of his shards during a battle with Naraku's latest creation, is still alive. The combined efforts of both Kikyou and Kohaku were not enough to stop the assault. They had to deliver the injured wolf back to his tribe. Kouga fought every step of the way, claiming he could still put up a good fight without the shards. Ayame arrived, assessed the situation and took control. Kouga is now on the mend, and Ayame pointed Kikyou and Kohaku in our direction.
The challenge comes in the form of a summons to meet at the cave of Onigumo in five days. Once there Naraku claims he will dispose of us one at a time.
When Kikyou first informs me of this, my first thought is to keep Kagome safe. Send her home or maybe leave her with Kaede while the others and I go on, but Kikyou intercepts my thoughts…
"Kagome must be there," she states in a flat tone.
"Why?" I snap back.
"It will take all of us working together to defeat Naraku this time," she says coldly. "Since she has the powers of a miko…we will put them to use."
I have more to ask, but Kikyou has already turned away. Habits of old…I know not to pursue the issue, she makes it clear when a subject is closed. Dealing with her is like dealing with that damned Sesshomaru, you know when you are dismissed.
I continue running aimlessly trying to expel the feeling of unfairness. It's left to me to tell everyone what is going on and I have to come clean with Kagome. The others think I am confused about Kagome and Kikyou. The truth is I have known for quite awhile where my heart belongs.
I have loved Kikyou for so long and in a small way I always will. She is part of my past and one of the first humans (besides mother) to ever reach out to me. Nevertheless, I want and need to be with Kagome. The young woman from the future is a constant challenge to me; she has healed the wounds of my soul and re-opened my heart.
Our problem…she "is" from the future, a place where her family awaits her return. My time is here and now and I am not selfish enough to ask her to stay. The future seems to hold much promise for her. Kaede and I, on numerous occasions, have discussed the possibility of my crossing over to her time. Sadly, she has no clear answers. Just a bunch of crap about voids, upsetting balances and stuff I don't understand.
I finally stop running and now stand at the edge of a cliff overlooking a small village. Although the situation seems hopeless, I will not give up.
"I can't lose you, Kagome!" his words drift away in the wind.
Not too far away, two figures stand on a hillside, which has an extended view of the valley. They watch in silence as the campfire below illuminats the surrounding area.
"They appear safe, Lady Kikyou," says Kohaku in a low monotone, "…at least for tonight."
"Yes, Kohaku, but we can't become careless," she responds; eyes focused on the campsite.
They will keep watch until Inuyasha returns. Kikyou, not one fooled by Naraku's lies, considers the possibility of him trying to catch them off guard. She does not take his implication to pick them off one by one before the scheduled gathering lightly. The meeting shall take place in 5 days, but Naraku is devious and cunning, who knows what he can conjure up between now and that time. If things are as he says and he really believes himself invincible, it will take everyone pulling together. His own arrogance and conceit will be his downfall.
Kikyou and Kohaku continue their silent vigil until the familiar red haori appears. They watch as Inuyasha bounds into the camp and his friends quickly surround him.
"Ready, Kohaku?" Kikyou asks.
The young taijya takes a long lingering look at his older sibling standing close to the monk.
Kohaku turns and follows Kikyou down the hill.
Neither of us talks much and that is fine with me. We share the same goal; to destroy Naraku.
I observe the miko from behind. She walks at a steady pace; never appears rushed or seems hurried, but is lightning quick with her bow and arrows. I have watched her closely during our few battles together. The mask of stoicism she wears makes her hard to read. Her strategy is remarkable; Kikyou can anticipate her opponent about 2 to 3 moves ahead, however, what really impresses me…her ability to adjust to any miscalculations and her patience. If she appears at a disadvantage, I will not be one to misjudge the situation.
I start thinking about our mission; I know our next step is necessary but I am apprehensive about our destination.
"You know he won't trust you," I state.
Kikyou does not break stride and I increase my steps to walk beside her; my head bent.
"Actually, I'm counting on it," she says smoothly. "Kohaku…" she suddenly stops and turns to face me. "…you shouldn't trust anyone, remember…you'll live longer."
My head snaps up at her words to find her watching me steadily. Her face is impassive as ever, but I notice a light of mischief in her eyes. I laugh aloud before cuffing my hands over my mouth, but Kikyou has already turned away.
"Come, Kohaku," she says with a lilt in her voice, "don't waste time. We have to extend the invitation to the Lord of the Western Lands.
A/N: I would like to thank Iggy-Essence of Angst for her support, opinions and verbal sparring, you make me want to do better.
Please read, enjoy and review!