There was once a little girl, blessed…

"Please!" cried the old man, tears glitter-shimmering down his cheeks in icy tracks. "She's just a child. Kikyou didn't mean no harm!"

"Precisely," insisted the old priest. Brushing at his kosode, he barely resisted wrinkling his nose. The stench of peasants was always so bothersome.

Quick as thought, he strode past the grieving father to shove aside a tattered shoji screen. Little Kikyou crouched, hiding. "How many children can kill a youkai with a single touch?"

"She didn't mean it!"

"Exactly," murmured the priest with a sort of awe. There was a death sentence in his smile.

"In all my years I've never found a girl with such potential." He cupped Kikyou's cheek, staring hard into her wise seeming eyes. "All this power and still so pure, so innocent. Magnificent."

"Please," begged the old man, snatching away his daughter. He hugged Kikyou close as the priest tug-tugged at her little arms. "Please. She's my only child."

"Have another."

There once was a little boy, cursed…

Inu no Taishou grimaced, wrinkling his nose in disgust at the stench of human blood and sweat in the air. He was left with the desire to scratch and claw at his flesh, lest the filth taint him.

And, to think, he had lain with such a creature.


Inu no Taishou turned and eyed the bundle in his wife's arms. "Is it deformed?"

She glanced down at the tiny face. Furry ears twitched on the baby's head and his tiny nose was perpetually wet. He was half-youkai and half-transformed.

"Only little," she consoled, smiling as the baby grasped her clawed finger. "He's beautiful."

Inu no Taishou tried to contain his annoyance, but his fingers drummed at his sword of their own accord. "I thought you'd still be angry."

"Make no mistake, I am," she murmured, deadly in her calmness. "But I know this one didn't suddenly conceive himself."

Inu no Taishou rubbed his jaw, feeling tired and weary. More than tired, he felt stretched thin and worn, as if he should have died long ago. "Am I to be forgiven?"

"By me," she said, offering the baby to her husband, "but I cannot speak for Inuyasha."

Inu no Taishou stared at his wife for a moment and the baby within her arms. He loved her as surely as the sun might set, but like the sun, she held a radiance he could not bear for long.

Time turns mountains into molehills and great lords into shadows. Somewhere within the depths of his waning power, Inu no Taishou longed for ignorance.

Sometimes blessings are just little pretty curses…

Kikyou is nine years old and the picture of wise serenity. She is also an efficient killer. Except- she only kills youkai, which means she protects the humans, which, in turn, makes her a hero.

Hero. The word is grain of sand or jagged shard of glass in her mouth. Heroes never play with dolls or help their mothers with the dishes. Nor do they blush and smile when little boys bring them flowers.

Heroes learn there are thirty ways to kill a youkai and that, sometimes, it takes thirty-one.

Sometimes curses are really just curses…

Inuyasha is seven years old and he is tired, but Izayoi refuses to stop running.

"Mama," he whimpers as she drags him by the hand.

Izayoi cannot hear, or perhaps does not listen. "Get away, get away, get away," she hisses until it becomes a litany. "We have to get away."

"Mama!" he cries, digging his little bare feet into the dirt. "I wanna go home. I want Mother!"

Izayoi stares at him with wild eyes. Inuyasha does not know that Izayoi's eyes were different before Inu no Taishou died. Before her family cast her aside for her dealings with a youkai. Before she realized she was just bit player in the grand scheme of things.

"She's not your mother!" she shrieks and wonders why the boy at her side shirks back.

"Listen." She trembles, her black hair is matted, and for weeks she has seen things are not really there. "I have son. A pretty, pretty son and he looks so much like his father." She gathers Inuyasha in her arms and rocks him slowly. "I do and I do and I do for him. But he never appreciates it. Never! But it doesn't matter. I protect him. I love him. I'll always love him. And I won't let her take him from me."

"But Mama!"

Izayoi lays a finger on his lips and kisses his forehead. "Daiyoukai never accept half-youkai. Never."

For a moment, Inuyasha thinks Mama must be wrong. Mother has always been kind. She always, always kisses him and hugs him and calls him sweet names. Mother is Mother is really Sesshoumaru's mama.

Sesshoumaru is seldom ever kind. So, maybe, just maybe, Mama is right.

Sometimes a curse is a blessing is a curse…

Weeks before she turns sixteen, Kikyou is allowed to return to her village. Her father is long dead, but it matters little. She is a powerful miko and above such petty concerns. Years of cloistered training have left her no more human than the youkai she fights.

In time, she meets her little sister. Kaede, Kikyou thinks with a serene smile. At least it is not a flower.

Months pass and Kikyou is so worshiped and reviled that it feels like drowning. Only her little sister, half-sister, although that scarcely matters, keeps her afloat.

"Onee-sama," Kaede calls, pulling back a bow. "I want to help defend the village."

Kaede's spiritual power is low, but her grip is strong and her aim is true. She will be an exceptional archer, if she ever sits still long enough.

"That way." Kaede blushes, shifting back and forth on her feet. "You won't have to be lonely. That way.." You could get married. That way, you could have children. You could smile for real, instead of to be polite. You would let me take care of you.

Kikyou tenses, sensing something powerful and dangerous on the edge of her awareness. "Kaede-"

Before she can utter another word, a man in black, heavily armed, drops to his knees in front of Kikyou. The man is human, but nevertheless she reaches for her bow.

"Miko-sama," he implores, pulling a jewel out of his sleeve. "I must ask a favor of you."

Sometimes there is no sometimes…

Izayoi dies early one winter from a fever that lasts too long. Inuyasha mourns when he is able, but most times he is too busy running. He travels from village to village; each is more different than the last. Unfortunately, the people are remarkably similar.

Hanyou. Unclean. Filthy. Tainted. Hanyou.

He forgets that once he was loved, once he was cherished, and once he had two mothers, father, and a brother. He forgets that he is anything, except a hanyou.

Never does he remember to go West.

Acceptance is a nobility reserved for the naive…

Inuyasha is sprawled on the ground with an arrow stuck in his thigh. He glares, defiant to the last, into the miko's pretty face. This is the third time he has tried to steal the jewel.

"Bitch," he mutters, eyes stinging, anger dying, "why don't you just kill me?"

Kikyou lowers her bow and turns away. They have done this so many times, wasted so much time. Beneath her kosode, the shikon no tama beats in time with her heart.

She walks away, ignoring Inuyasha as he hobbles behind her on his injured leg.

It's because I see myself in you.

Inuyasha understands and so, the next day, he decides to try again.