True Love Transends Life
Sango laughed out loud as snow fell from the darkening sky, lit by the gentle glow of the moon. It was the first snowfall of the winter and it couldn't have come on a more perfect day. It had only been a few hours before that her long time beau had finally proposed and they were set to be wed that spring.
"Isn't the first winter snow the most romantic thing in the world?" her friend and house-made asked with a wistful sigh. "I remember the first time Inuyasha kissed me was during the first snowfall."
"You remember that far back?" She laughed again at the icy look the other girl shot her. "Honestly, sometimes I wonder if that boy's ever going to ask you to marry him. I mean, Miroku asked before he did!"
The other girl glared for a second longer before her face lit up with excitement. "Oh!" she exclaimed, jumping forward, "You know what you should do? You should find Miroku and take a walk with him! It's beautiful outside and what better way to spend your engagement day?"
Sango's own eyes lit up at the idea. "You're right! I think he's at the tavern with Inuyasha. They said something about going to celebrate. Come on, let's go!" She grabbed the other girl's hand and both dashed to the front of the house to grab their heavy cloaks and boots.
They ran in the frigid night air across town to the Long Wood Tavern, slipping and giggling the entire way. By the time they came in the door, hey were both breathless from the run and the girlish excitement of the day and season. Their beaus were nowhere to be seen, but Miroku's retainer sat nervously on one of the bar stools, looking around expectantly.
"Hachi!" Kagome called making her way through the crowd towards him with Sango following behind. "Where's Miroku and Inuyasha? They said they were going to be here."
His dark eyes flicked from her face to the crowded room and sweat beaded on his forehead. "Inuyasha-sama left near half an hour ago, milady," he answered cautiously.
"And Miroku? Did he leave too?" Sango questioned watching as the man seemed to draw further inside himself, looking about ready to bolt.
"No, milady...he...ah...he's still here..."
"Well, where is he? I want him to come see the snow!" She couldn't help the way her mood was starting to deflate at the retainer's obvious trepidation. Something was going on. "Hachi, tell me or I swear I'll search every room in this tavern."
The man looked like he was about to pass out. "Ah, well, milady, he was drinking with Inuyasha-sama and I suppose he had too many..." she tapped her foot expectantly and he gulped. "He asked for a room and he hasn't come out yet...third door on the left, milady."
Sango wasted no time in twirling on her heels and rushing to the door, throwing it open. What she saw made her stomach twist in knots and the air rush from her lungs.
There, on a futon with several women around him, lay her half dressed fiancé. Said women were coddling and stroking his chest while he dished out compliments and even tried to convince them to bear his children. With her surprising entrance, all four bolted upright looking very much like deer in headlights. He stumbled to his feet, mouth opening and closing as he tried to think of something to say, some way to explain his situation.
"Don't say a word, Miroku," Sango hissed between clenched teeth. "I don't want to hear what you have to say. I never want to see you or hear from you again, is that clear? Goodbye, Miroku."
She twirled and stormed out, leaving him still searching for his haori. Deciding that it wasn't worth it, the man left his shirt and shoes behind and hurried out after her, but she was already gone.
Winter came and went in their small town. The snows melted and gave way to grass and other vegetation that quickly grew into knew life, springing forth the sweet smells of budding flowers. As always things were quiet in their town. Not since that first snow had there been any drastic occurrences and there likely wouldn't be again for the lecherous bride-groom had taken ill not long after that and had been bedridden for many months. The jilted bride had quickly packed her things and at first light had removed herself from the town's population, taking up residence with family in a town a few miles away.
It wasn't until one day in mid May, just as the roses were beginning to blossom that things began to turn towards the interesting again when a lone figure with a horse and buggy made his hurried way down a dusty trail. His mission was simple - at least in theory. He was to beg the distant once bride-to-be to return to his master's side so that he might relieve his grieving heart. The task would not be a simple one, however, and he knew it.
He had started at daylight and it was less than half a day before he made his destination, a small floral shop where he had heard she worked. Hopping down, he hurried quickly into the tiny building, blushing as several startled women looked up at him in curiosity.
"Can we help you?"
He cleared his throat and looked around the room. "My master is terribly ill and he asked that I bring Sango to him."
She slowly stood from behind the counter and made her way towards him. "Hachi."
His eyes softened as he looked at her. "Please, Sango-sama? Will you go to him?"
Taking a deep breath, she nodded resolutely. "Hai.."
It was afternoon before the two made their destination and she entered the home she thought to never see again. Her two friends stood outside of his room. Kagome looked up, tears in her eyes, before hiding her face against Inuyasha's chest once more. He said nothing, but followed her with his eyes as she went in and knelt by the young man's bedside.
Violet eyes, clouded with fever and sorrow opened and came to rest on her face. His own face was drenched in perspiration and she took the cloth from his brow, re-wet it and lay it back across his forehead. "Miroku," she muttered softly, "you're dying."
He nodded slightly, too weak for anything more, and turned his head away to cough harshly before looking back at her with those same mournful eyes. "I know," he answered, his voice rough and raspy. "I've known since I lost you. Without you, what reason do I have to live?"
She closed her eyes and shook her head, fists clenching in her lap as the scene from the last time she saw him played through her mind. "No. I can't do what you're asking. I can't forget what you did, Miroku, on our engagement night!" She whispered so as not to alert those outside the bedroom, but there was no less feeling in her voice, no less betrayal. "You embarrassed me in front of the entire town. You promised yourself to me and then you gave yourself to those other women. No, I can't forgive that."
She stood and hurried out, ignoring the startled gasps from her friends and the strangled cry from Miroku's retainer. The short time in that suffocating room had shaken her to the very core and she knew only that she had to get out. She couldn't stay in that house, couldn't stay in that town. She had to go, make her escape, and her feet carried her swiftly town the road towards her freedom.
Sango hadn't even made it out of the village when the deep, resounding gong of the mission bells reached her ears and she stopped, looking back with an almost terrified look. Coming slowly down the road past her was a horse and wagon, one lone and mournful man at the reins. Behind them trailed two very familiar figures, one hunched over as sobs racked her body.
People in the shops around her were coming out as the mission bells continued to ring. They all knew what the sound meant and the prepared to give their last respects as the wagon came to a halt.
"Put aside your reservations and duties for a moment and bid him farewell," Hachi's broken voice commanded. He seemed to be addressing the entire crowd, but his eyes were on her. "His suffering is over."
She swallowed hard and approached the wagon, ignoring the strange looks she was getting as she leaned over the short side at his peaceful figure. The man she had loved with her entire heart and soul, had agreed to marry, lay before her locked in the eternal sleep. His face, though pallid with death, was relaxed and just as handsome as the day she'd met him. Everything about him radiated serenity.
A gasping sob shook her small frame and she leaned over, gently kissing his lips, the warmth already beginning to fade from them. "Goodbye, koi," she whispered and took two steps away before her knees buckled and she collapsed to the ground.
Kagome rushed to her and gathered the weeping girl in her arms, stroking her back and making soft cooing noises.
"He died because of me," she gasped between sobs. "He died because I couldn't let go...I couldn't forgive and now he's gone! I'm the reason he's dead. He died for me!" She blinked and tried to gather herself together. "It's only right, then, that I should follow him."
That night she stayed in a room at the tavern, mourning the loss of her beloved. When she didn't rise in the morning, the inn keeper went to rouse her and found her dead on the futon. There were no marks on her and no evidence of poison in the room so the only conclusion anyone could come to was that she had died of a broken, guilty heart.
She was buried that day in a grave next to her one time fiancé at the very back of the mission's grave yard. Later, a beautiful grave marker was placed between the two, at the foot of their graves and which declared the love they had shared for one another, marking them as husband and wife as they should have been.
It wasn't until several springs later that the villagers began to notice the foliage growing over the head of each grave as it began to climb up the mission wall. A gorgeous vine of roses arose from Miroku's grave, blooming with healthy, bright red flowers each spring and yet from the head of Sango's grave came a gnarled briar vine. The villagers suggested that it was the guilt the young felt in her death that prompted the bare vine to rise from her resting place, but no one would ever know for sure.
In later years as Kagome tended the area noticed the rose vine had crept across and entangled itself around the briar as they grew towards the heavens. She looked at her love, the one who shared her own soul and smiled softly, pointing this out.
"It's a lover's knot," Inuyasha commented, returning her smile.
"They are finally as they should have been; together, each forgiving the other for their trespasses." She said a silent prayer and then took her partner's hand, leaving the past lovers to their rest.