Dark as Day
Chapter Twenty

"And thanks to the taijiya Tokyo was saved," the news anchorwoman said happily as she stared at the camera. Kagome and her family sat on the couch. The newswoman had spent almost the entire news hour explaining the odd events involving the Ring Leader and the demons.

Kagome smiled. It seemed like they'd finally acknowledged that the taijiya were not the enemies, but the ones trying to save the city all along.

"With the death of the Ring Leader, Naraku." The taijiya told the government of the true name of the Ring Leader. It seemed that Sango's father, Hiro, had been working overtime to ensure that all the mess was sorted out. Now, the taijiya were almost regarded as heroes.

Kagome Higurashi was glad that everything was sorted out. It seemed as if a chapter in her life was finally coming to a close. Her life's mission to destroy Naraku was realized, her family now knew about her profession (and her mother was NOT happy to hear about it), the city was safe, her father was avenged, Kikyou was safe and home with her family, and there was a new prime minister.

A week and a half had passed since the incident at the docks and yet her heart still called out for Inuyasha. At the thought of the hanyou, Kagome suppressed a tiny whimper and pulled her knees to her chest. She rested her head on her mother's shoulder.

Beside her, Kikyou sat awkwardly, taking in her surroundings like she'd only seen it for the first time. It took an entire night, it seemed, to explain to her family what had happened over the years with Kikyou, Kagome, her father, and Naraku. Her mother had taken it rather well, actually, despite her disapproval for Kagome's secret profession.

"Is everything okay, Kagome?" her mother asked above her, her voice vibrating through Kagome's body.

Kagome nodded numbly. "Yes…"

She'd been working hard all week at the HQ, helping cure the hybrids Naraku created with Inuyasha's blood. It was very easy to do, actually, just tedious work due to all the kidnapped people subjected to Inuyasha's blood.

The news moved on to describing those still missing from the kidnappings. Kagome's heart clenched when Inuyasha's appearance came onto the television. He was only there for a short moment, however, before the screen moved on to the next picture.

Inuyasha's picture had plenty of face-time over the past few days. After Hiro and the taijiya revealed that it was he who'd finally killed Naraku, he was portrayed as a national hero—maybe even international. With the fall of the central hub of demon activity, it seemed as if the entire world was mimicking the dramatic climax in Tokyo. Throughout the entire world, demon activity had dropped dramatically. With the fall of the head of the organization, it seemed that the other branches of the league of demons were falling apart at the seams.

Needless to say, Inuyasha was quickly becoming an idol. His story was covered thickly by all news stations and yet, he still hadn't been found. Already it seemed that Japan was springing into a nationwide manhunt.

Kagome held onto the hope that Inuyasha was still alive and that the blast had not killed him.

'He'd been human then, though.' The logical part of her brain kicked in and Kagome tried to shoo it away. Her brain was stubborn and continued to disprove all hope in Kagome. 'He was human, dying from blood loss, and who knows what else. He was right there when the blast from the bomb went off. The likelihood that Inuyasha's alive is so, so, soooo very slim.'

But she didn't want to give up hope. She hadn't before and she wouldn't now.

"How long until we can go home, Mom?" Souta whined from his corner, kicking his feet out as he worked on his seemingly endless supply of math homework.

"Tokyo is still shut down," Kagome's mother explained gently as she handed a bowl of rice to Rin, who chirped happily when the food came into her possession. "They're still trying to eliminate the smallpox virus. It may be gone from the majority of the humans, but there are still some who are sickened. They have to purify the entire city."

"So why aren't we there? We can purify," Souta said tensely, hating the fact that his priestly powers were being denied.

"Because," Mama clarified soothingly, spooning some rice into a bowl and handing it to her only son. "Kagome's been working hard at… her job… and she needed a vacation. Besides, they're perfectly capable of purifying the city without the help of some unknown family. It's nice out here, anyway."

It was nice. The family had migrated to the Southern part of Japan after the city was evacuated to ensure a healthy Japan.

"Hey, where is Kagome, anyway?" Souta questioned, looking around for his sister.

Kikyou glanced up from her magazine she'd been reading. "She's outside on the beach. She wanted to be alone to think."

Kagome's mother sighed lightly, looking out the window and staring a the retreating figure of her daughter.

"She's still fawning over that boy, too," she said gently, her brown eyes shimmering soundly. "I can't blame her, though. She really liked him and now with all the press coverage about him, it's impossible not to think about him."

Kikyou's eyes turned to Kagome's figure, too. "Yes," she breathed. "He would have done anything to protect her. He was devoted to her."

The concerned mother sighed and crossed her arms, leaning against the kitchen counter, feeling the heat from the rice cooker at her elbow. "It's so hard to find people like that. People who are willing to sacrifice anything. He truly was a hero."

"Yes," Kikyou agreed, sharing a look with her mother and smiling lightly. "He was a kind boy."

The two women watched the miko in the distance, wandering aimlessly down the sandy beach.

In the distance, Kagome walked slowly, enjoying the feel of sand beneath her bare feet. She sighed gently and shoved her hands into the pockets of the light sweatshirt she was wearing over her tank top.

Summer was in the air and she couldn't bring herself to enjoy the end of term. Inuyasha's face still haunted her mind. She knew that she should be happy, and she was, but that didn't mean she wasn't empty.

She was happy for the success of the taijiya and the death of Naraku. The future was looking bright and the downfall of the league of demons seemed evident. Soon, she prayed, the world would be in peace and the senseless war could finally come to an end.

Her blue eyes swept the horizon, watching puffy white clouds float across the sky in a lazy arch. She blinked slowly, and felt as if she were suspended in the air.

She sighed. "I wish I could see you."

Kagome was proud of Inuyasha. He'd killed Naraku and saved the city. He was a hero in the eyes of millions of humans, and thousands of demons, but she longed to see him again. She never got a chance to thank him or do anything before he'd jumped off the roof after Naraku. He'd sacrificed so much and all she'd been able to do was watch him helplessly, like a weak woman. She wished she could have helped him.

'Kagome,' she scolded, 'you were responsible for protecting and purifying the city, along with your sisters. You were not weak or helpless. You're a hero, too. Just unsung.'

And Kagome was perfectly fine with that. She hadn't gone into the demon hunters simply for the glory and honor. No, she'd joined in order to protect the people she loved and to avenge her father. She was an avenger and her duty was complete.

She sat down in the sand, content with watching the water lap at the shore of the beach, pushing seashells and empty crab shells with the current. She tucked her feet beneath her and baked under the sun, feeling the warmth against her cheeks but not truly registering it.

She felt the beginnings of a smile despite herself. She couldn't help but enjoy herself on the beach, on a vacation away from the hectic city that had caused so much grief and destruction for her over the years. She inhaled deeply and held the delicious sea air in her lungs.

She stood and continued walking down the beach. She liked to keep moving. If she kept herself busy than she couldn't be distracted by her saddening thoughts. She sighed again and crossed her arms over her chest.

The wind blew and brushed against her face, batting her black hair away from her pale face and bright blue eyes. She licked her dry lips and continued walking, kicking up sand as she went.

As she rounded a natural bend in the beach, she came across what seemed like a thousand miles of seaweed. She wrinkled her nose in distaste as a disgusting scent assaulted her nose. She waved her hand in front of her face.

"Ew, cooked sea creatures," she muttered to herself, toeing the moldy green seaweed with a look of revulsion on her features.

She moved her way through the seaweed, her bare feet stepping painfully on dead sea creatures and slimy seaweed. There was nothing exciting about this portion of the beach, save for the mystery of not knowing what was beyond.

As she turned a corner again, she saw piles of driftwood. Smiling, Kagome continued forward. She jumped along the bleached, flat food, inspecting every dip and curve carefully and mindful of the loose planks of driftwood. She avoided every rusty nail and each protruding knot like an expert.

As she jumped over a large dam of wood, Kagome saw what appeared to be a fort. She smiled despite herself. Children playing on the beach were notorious for building forts out of anything. It seemed to be no exception.

She trotted towards it, expecting to explore the large, make-shift fortress. She was about to dip inside when she realized that there was something inside.

At first she shrugged it off as an animal, ignoring the thumping of her heart and the pound of adrenaline shaking her body. She was surprised to realize she was no longer the only thing on the beach. She was used to the serene abandonment of the seaside.

Despite her logic urging her away from the shifting bump underneath the shadows of the driftwood, Kagome inched towards it, curiosity ruling her decision in the end.

"You better not be a bear," she warned the lump.

She knelt and climbed inside the fortress cautiously. Inside, there was a lump hidden behind a log and covered by a thick layer of sand and seaweed.

Kagome inched toward it and recognized the human shape of it. Perhaps a cast away?

The taijiya found that intriguing and slightly exciting. She reached out her hand and dusted off the sand from the bottom half of the person. Her heart stilled once she saw a large red sash, swaying in the light sea breeze that managed to breach the sanctuary.

With shaking hands, Kagome pulled away the seaweed, allowing hope to seize her. Once the water plant was removed from the creature, Kagome gasped loudly. She blinked a couple of times and shook her head, as if expecting it all to be a dream.

"Inuyasha?" she asked, feeling as if she'd just been dumped into some crazy sitcom unfit for primetime television. She leaned over and stuck her ear near his partially opened mouth. He was breathing. "Inuyasha!"

The said boy stirred and his eyes fluttered. His silver hair was no longer the deep ebony she'd seen him last as. The purification energy wore off ages ago, Kagome reasoned, as she gazed down at the golden-eyed boy.

He slowly opened his eyes and blinked a couple of times. He glanced up at her, taking in her appearance—a black-haired beauty with bright blue eyes framed by the bright sunlight above.

"Kagome…?" he murmured softly, his golden eyes sweeping her features. She nodded briskly, fighting back the tears she knew would fall sooner or later.

"What are you doing here?" she asked.

He blinked and stared at her, barely comprehending her presence.

Kagome laughed, in spite of herself and flung herself onto his bare chest. Timidly, she felt his arms encircle her and hold her close. With her head cushioned on his chest, Kagome could feel his pounding heart.

"You're alive," Kagome said happily.

"I am…" Inuyasha said slowly.

"But how?" Kagome demanded, pulling away and looking at him earnestly. "I saw the wave that the blast from the bomb you used made. There was no way you could have survived that! What happened? How?"

He stared at her, as if not comprehending what she was saying to him. She blinked, her blue eyes sparkling as she gazed at him. She'd never given up hope that he was alive—and the happiness she felt for having found him here, of all places, nearly overwhelmed her.

She wrapped herself tightly around him, resting her head against his shoulder. She contented herself with listening to his breathing and his steady heartbeat. Slowly she became aware that his hands were running along her back, committing each dip and curve to his memory.

Inuyasha screwed his face together in thought. "I must have…"

Kagome leaned in closely, eager to hear his explanation. Inuyasha licked his dry lips and sat up. The remaining shreds of his uniform tumbled into his lap.

His ratted silver hair stuck up in odd directions and stray pierces of sea debris littered his hair like an art mosaic. His body's cuts and scrapes were cured and covered up. There was no scar marring his body save for the smallpox vaccine scar, which was beginning to fade away. Save for the large clumps of his skin burned to a bright red and blistering, he looked completely untouched.

His face dawned with realization.

"Naraku took the blast. I…" he trailed off, looking ashamed. "I didn't mean to. I… used him as a shield."

Kagome stared at him and he looked down.

"I pushed the bomb towards him and quickly swam away, using the other side of Naraku's body as a shield. I scrunched up into a ball." He paused, trying to recall the memory that seemed so many years away now. "And I braced myself for the blast."

His body was burned. She could see the painful red marks littering his body.

"How did you get down here?" Kagome asked, amazed. He'd survived, but that hadn't explained how he'd migrated from Tokyo towards the southern part of Japan.

"The currents, I guess. The blast blew me in the opposite direction and I lost conscious. It's a miracle that I didn't drown, I guess. I must have been caught by the currents… I have no idea."

"You're… you're the luckiest man alive!" Kagome wept out and threw herself against him, crying into his shoulder. "I was so sure that you were dead!"

"Lucky…" Inuyasha marveled, his golden eyes wide.

Perhaps his luck had changed.

"So, you've been staying here this entire time?" Kagome asked in wonderment, staring at him and blinking slowly. Her lips curved into a smile.

"Well," Inuyasha scratched his head. "I only came to a couple days ago. I was in that huge bank of seaweed… and I found this place." He motioned to the small fort they were sitting in. "And I've been staying here, eating that gross seaweed all day."

"Kagome… I need to tell you." Inuyasha pulled her away and bashfully wiped her tears away with his free hand. "I didn't willingly go to Naraku. You have to believe me. I was blackmailed. He would have killed you and my mom if I hadn't gone with him. I had to protect you."

Kagome smiled serenely, her blue eyes reflecting the sunlight high above. "I know."

"You… knew?" Inuyasha asked in amazement.

Kagome nodded. "That night that you turned human. I knew that you couldn't be evil. You were in a delirium… and I knew you were speaking the truth. And," she said gently, "you didn't kill my family. And you took care of Rin."

"Not very well," Inuyasha admitted sheepishly.

"Everything is fine now, Inuyasha," Kagome reassured him, gently touching his arm. "Naraku is dead, Rin is safe, your mother is safe and secure in a hospital within the city, being treated for smallpox and improper blood transfusion, and you're alive."

Inuyasha nodded softly and gave her a tiny smile. "Everything is fine."

She cradled his cheek with her hand, bending towards him and brushing her lips over his. His eyes widened before falling shut. His hand snaked around her head, pulling her close and grazing over her mouth subtly, searching for the permission to continue.

Pulling away, Inuyasha blushed slightly and stared down at his lap. "What do I do now?"

"What do you mean?" Kagome asked quietly.

"Kagome, did you know my father was alive?" Inuyasha stared at her. He chose to ask his own question instead of answer hers. Kagome blinked. "Kagome?"

"Your father?" she asked in alarm. "No… I didn't…"

Inuyasha and Kagome spent the rest of the afternoon explaining what happened from their separation until that moment, supplying one another with necessary facts and trivial details. The sun was setting in the west once their stories came to an end.

"What do I do now?" Inuyasha asked again. Kagome watched the way the dying sunlight reflected off his beautifully silver hair. "They all know that I'm a taijiya now. It's only a matter of time before they find out I'm a hanyou, too, I'm sure."

Kagome frowned thoughtfully. "I'm sure it won't matter… after all, you're a hero. Everyone knows that you're the one that killed Naraku. Hiro and Sango made sure of that."

He stared at her, shock written clearly on his face. The idea of he ever becoming a hero was almost humorous in a way, in his eyes. He'd gone through life always just passing by, living in his mediocrity and never once exceeding beyond his expectations.

He'd passed through life like a shadow—never expecting to be noticed and never truly wanting to. And now, he was a hero.

"A… hero?" he marveled, his golden eyes watching the horizon as if it held all of life's answers. "Me?"

"I wouldn't be surprised if they gave you a national holiday," Kagome murmured, watching his reaction. "You're a hero to millions, Inuyasha."

"I never…" he laughed, almost hysterically. He paused and shook his head. "I never…"

"Everyone at the taijiya made sure you got the recognition you deserved. Sango and Hiro made sure," she repeated.

"Sango…" Inuyasha murmured, his eyes worried. "Does she hate me for attacking her?"

Kagome shook her head. "She understands now and doesn't hold anything against you. She's impressed that you managed to save me and kill Naraku. Though," she leaned in and whispered, "I think she'll be mad at your for using the unusable bomb."

"I think it's stupid that they give us something we're not supposed to use. That's the ultimate Pandora's Box, ya know," Inuyasha said with a snort.

"Yeah," Kagome agreed.

They sat in silence.

"So," Kagome said after a long moment. "Do you think you'll stick around?"

Inuyasha flopped down into the sand and watched as the stars peppered the night sky. He smiled lightly, taking in his surroundings like a new-born.

"Well," he said finally, closing his eyes. "Maybe I'll stay… for a while at least."

"I don't have a hold on you anymore," Kagome said gently, indicating the rosary Kikyou snipped off when Inuyasha was in Naraku's control.

Inuyasha stared at her for a long moment, his golden eyes unreadable. "Maybe."

Kagome inched closer to him, finding comfort in his warm presence.

"I learned something from all this shit," Inuyasha said after they'd basked in the silence of the night, watching stars dot the sky and the moon rise in its unearthly glow. It was waxing. Inuyasha wouldn't turn human for a long time.

"And what did you learn?" Kagome questioned, never breaking her gaze from the constellations dancing in the sky.

"Everyone's a shade of grey," he said and frowned. "As much as I hate that saying. No one is strictly one color."

"How very deep of you," Kagome said with a tiny smile.

"Keh," he snorted and turned his nose upwards. His eyes softened as he thought of his father. "It's just that… not everyone is strictly good and no one is strictly evil. We all have things that make us good but we also have things that make us selfish and greedy."

"Once again, how very deep of you," Kagome murmured, her eyes falling shut.

"I always thought that everything was strictly black and white."

"People only see things in one color because they're uneducated or blind to the truth. In this age of war, people often turn blindly to the things they're comfortable with. We trust the things we understand and fear the things that are mysterious to us. We don't want to think that the enemy has dimensions and different layers. We just want to see them as evil."

"Hm," Inuyasha agreed.

"That's the problem with war and leadership. People are so much happier believing what they're told. They don't want to have to think for themselves because then they might start questioning and growing confused. Especially if they find something that they don't like or understand. We all feel secure when we can rely on others, even if they're corrupted."

"Kagome…?" Inuyasha interrupted her. The girl stopped mid-thought and turned to him, confused. "Stop talking."

And with that, Inuyasha leaned in and captured Kagome's lips with his own, effectively silencing her. Kagome melted into his hold, feeling all the air rush out of her lungs and her words fly far, far away from her. Kagome didn't mind much, though.

Oh no, she didn't mind at all.

There were many evils in this world, and perhaps they were misunderstood evils, but in that moment, Kagome felt that everything the world was good and wonderful.

Lying against Inuyasha, she found herself lying against the ultimate shade of grey and enjoying it.

In the end, her entire world was grey. But grey wasn't an ugly color.

To her, it was the most beautiful color in the world.

The End