The Bell's Toll

By Zandrellia

Summary: The final chapter after "Family Honor" and "Family Reunion". Why wouldn't Tenseiga revive Kagome? Why was I such a cruel author and killed both Kagome and Sesshomaru? The answers lie within.

Sesshomaru inhaled slowly as he turned his stoic gaze to stare at his surroundings. Mostly he could see was the fog, a never-ending haze that stretched for miles. The sound of tinkling bells could be heard and he turned to watch as a young woman dressed in a fine kimono, she was obviously a princess of some sort from her dress and style, slowly walked past him without even giving him a glance. Tied around her wrists were red ribbons which came about into bows holding a large circular bell so that whenever she walked it chimed. Dangling down from her bound wrists were more ribbons, all red and each longer than the next the farther out they stretched. Smaller bells hung from the bottoms of these ribbons and so when she walked it was loud and almost echoed in the misty void that was this place. He watched her walk away, following the bridge he was standing on to wherever it led. His face contorted into a scowl and he stepped towards her direction to follow and demand answers when another chime stopped him. Looking down at his own hands his eyes widened in surprise as he noticed his own hands tied together with ribbons and a large golden bell atop. What was this place? What was the meaning of all this?

"So you have finally come." He spun around towards the voice only to stop quickly and blink at what he saw. His own father stood there smiling at him. "Welcome, my son, it has been a long time."

"Where am I?"

Instead of answering the question his father turned and started to walk down the bridge. Sesshomaru growled low and followed, not wanting to be left behind without answers. At the end of the bridge they stepped onto a platform which went around a small house. A sand yard surrounded the building and playing within the yard were two small children who stopped and bowed low to the two males as they passed. His father gave a small nod to the children but Sesshomaru, not accustomed to giving courtesy to children, merely followed as they went around the house to another bridge and crossed it. This continued for several minutes. With each bridge came another home, some large and extravagant and others small and humble. Various people seemed to live in these homes, each of different backgrounds and statuses. What was most confusing were the random homes which were that of youkai dotting between the human domiciles. Finally they stopped and his father slid open a wide paper screen door and stepped into one of the homes, removing his shoes and glaring at Sesshomaru until he followed suit.

It was difficult to remove his shoes with the bindings around his hands and he tried several times to remove them before resigning himself to using his feet to pull the boots off. "They cannot be removed." This voice was all too familiar and Sesshomaru felt the hairs on his neck raise before he turned to stare at the human woman standing some five feet away in a large blue kimono. Izayoi, his father's second wife and InuYasha's mother stood there with a small smile on her face. This was highly unusual. He stepped up onto the polished wood floor and nodded slightly to the woman out of habit taught by his father and then turned to the older man who was now seating himself on a cushion and preparing a pipe.

"What does she mean by: they cannot be removed?"

After a puff on his pipe his father merely laughed and shook his head. "I never knew you would end up the stupid one." His wife seemed a bit perturbed by this statement but still knelt between the two men after Sesshomaru had sat himself across from his father and poured them both hot tea. "There are no answers we can give you, it is not our place. Only one person may tell you the answers you seek." He stuck his pipe back into his mouth as he reached down to grasp the tea, giving a loving glance to the woman by his side.

"Where do I find this individual?"

Izayoi made a clucking sound of dismay at the disrespect Sesshomaru was showing his father. He had just arrived! He could stay a while more, at least. "Follow the thread of fate." She said this simply, as if it would clue him in on some great mystery, and then turned back to smile at her husband. Instead of staying Sesshomaru merely nodded to them both in one movement and then went to the doorway to retrieve his boots, struggling to place them on his feet. He would have to figure out what this thread of fate was and how it could help him. A nagging thought entered his mind that he should know what the woman was talking about but whatever it was left him as suddenly as it came.

He walked around for a while, watching the various people. While crossing another bridge, a laughing couple passed and the girl began to run from the boy in a moment of play. The boy reached out to grasp the girl's hand and pulled her to him, kissing her before releasing her to view the blush that spread across her face. Sesshomaru felt a pang in his chest and thought of Kagome who had been lost to him for some time after the birth of their child. While he stood there brooding a tugging feeling could be felt from his hands and he glanced down only to see that one of his fingers was being pulled slightly.

Deciding it was better than walking aimlessly, Sesshomaru chose to go back the way he had came and followed the direction of the pull. After passing several homes, including the one his father and Izayoi lived in, and many bridges he came find himself stopping before a small screen door on a very tiny home. Actually, it probably could have decently been called a shack without offence to anyone. It was the smallest of buildings he had seen in his entire time here, however long that was. The tugging stopped and he chose to proceed, opening the door and entering to stand on a dirt floor of the single room. There were no other doors or windows and no way for light to enter. In the opposite side of the room shuffling could be heard.

Someone was there in the darkness, watching him carefully. "Who are you?"

A sneeze and the person shifted again, wrapping blankets around them apparently. The figure inhaled raggedly and finally spoke. "Just a girl, just a girl, nothing special. Nothing to warrant the fine lord's attention, just a girl." Their voice came out raspy and deep and Sesshomaru had to wonder why they were in such a bad condition when everyone else here seemed so happy.

"How would you know that I'm a lord?"

More shuffling and then more babbling came from the figure. "He doesn't need me, doesn't need, has the child and needs no one else. Would have brought me back if he had!" Sesshomaru frowned at this, unsure what this person was talking about when the door opened again to reveal his father standing there with a strange look on his face.

"So you found her, did you?" Sesshomaru turned towards his father, wondering what he meant. "Get out here, girl, show him your face and stop blubbering. I brought you food. Izayoi says you're getting too skinny."

The figure sat still for a moment before pushing past Sesshomaru and running out onto the misty deck. At that instant he felt his world halt as he watched her reach out to grasp the little bundle of food that his father held out for her. She was dirty, extremely so, and also very pale and skinny. The mass of raven hair that had once been so clean and kept was now ratted and mottled together and she shook just from the effort of standing. "Kagome." As he called her name she stopped, hands wrapped around the cloth of the bundle, and turned to look at him. A scream came from her mouth and she collapsed, unable to hold herself anymore.

Sesshomaru went to her slowly, kneeling beside her and reaching out to stroke her hair gently, trying to convince her to look his way. "What happened to her?" Kagome squeaked and then scrambled up like an animal, taking the bundle with her and crawling back into her home.

"When she died during childbirth she made a sacrifice to save her child. You see, each soul must die in one of several ways. Those ways are signified by the color of the ribbons that bind our hands when we first arrive." At that his father pointed to Sesshomaru's still bound hands. "Red is the most common color. It means that you have died of the death which was fated to you at birth. Yellow is also, unfortunately, very common. It means that one has died before they were born and therefore were unable to take on the role in life they were meant to have. Black is not as rare as it used to be but still not widespread and signifies that one has died a terrible death by the hand of another."

Sesshomaru pondered these bits of information, staring down at the giant bell that rested on his hands. "Your Kagome's hands were bound in white. This means that she gave her life to save another, trading one fate for another's. Most likely she knew that the baby would die and so she pleaded with fate to give the child a chance and take her instead. They heard her plea and agreed. For a time she was happy here and visited us often as we live the closest to her of all her relatives, but after a while a depression fell over her."

"She believed that you had abandoned her. That all you wanted her for was to bear your offspring and that you had no use for her. By the time we realized what was happening she was already slipping into madness. We did everything we could but she just wouldn't listen."

"Why did she think that I had abandoned her?"

His father sighed and shook his head before emptying the contents of his pipe over the edge of the platform into the thick mist. "That would be my fault. She assumed that you would use the Tenseiga to revive her."

Sesshomaru grew angry at this and growled loudly causing a cry of surprise to come from the dark house behind them. "I tried! That blasted sword wouldn't do a thing! I wanted her back!"

The elder youkai held up his hands in defense before nodding. "I know. But there are some facts which cannot be accounted for when such tools are made. When one comes to this place and we find our hands are bound it is for one reason, to remind us of where we are. If there is nothing to hold you here you will merely float away in your memories and you, too, would become mad. The longer one remains in this bound state the more ribbons form." Sesshomaru nodded in understanding, thinking back to the woman he had seen before. "However, when one finally accepts where they are and are grounded by themselves the ribbons loosen and you are freed. There is one exception to this. White ribbons do not remain. The moment an individual notices their bound hands are clad in white they will untie. It is because you are paying a debt to fate."

"So, the Tenseiga would not revive her because she had already accepted her fate?" Sesshomaru stared down at his own two hands, brow furrowing in thought before he gave a sigh and looked towards the house. He knew what he had to accept before he could have his hands and hopefully have Kagome back again. "We are dead." The ribbons fell from around his hands and the bell crashed to the ground loudly. Without wasting another moment Sesshomaru went to her, closing the screen door behind him.

"Well done, my son, well done. Perhaps you are not as stupid as you seemed."