The world is beautiful today.
Yesterday Inuyasha did something awful, and Kagome and Miroku and Shippou were done, and Kikyou found her when she collapsed in the mud and the blood and herself.
But today Kikyou and Sango are going to kill Inuyasha, and the world is beautiful.
Sango wouldn't hear of it at first.
"It's Inuyasha," she said, and, "It's Inuyasha."
Kikyou found her in the rain and held her to her cracked breast, and Sango shook and trembled. Sango had never really gotten a good look at Kikyou. From a distance, she had to admit, they did not look much alike at all. Their hair, their mannerisms, their voice, they were as different as different could be.
But their eyes, she thought, and their gentle touch, their calm acceptance when she buried her head in their laps and wept and thought how much like a mother they were. Kikyou was not, Sango was surprised to see, a Kagome that had been warped.
She was a Kagome that had been waiting for something.
Oh, Inuyasha, Sango thought, I don't know how you didn't give in to the temptation to pretend.
Kikyou took her to a temple and washed out her cuts and asked her what her name was.
"Don't you know?" She'd been amazed, really, because she knew so much about Kikyou, this woman-before-Kagome, this woman-after-her that had taken in her little brother and cast him out just as easily.
Kikyou gave her a look. Sango told her.
"Kohaku spoke of you often," she said, by way of explanation, "but he never referred to you by name."
(Funny, it didn't hurt anymore. Maybe she'd cried over it enough to clean it out.)
She was silent for a long time. "I promised I would not let his sacrifice by in vain. I will retrieve the Shikon no Tama."
Sango stared at her. "But it's gone. Inuyasha-"
"It is not gone. I can still feel it."
"Then," Sango said, in a rush of relief she had never expected nor experienced without crying first, "Inuyasha - we can save him?"
"Yes," Kikyou agreed with slight hesitance, "but not in the way you hope."
Sango had never been able to see what Kagome saw in Inuyasha - some failing on her part, perhaps, or some success on Kagome's. It didn't really matter; she didn't really want that insight.
Sango went a way for a while when Kikyou suggested it, and then she came back and whispered, "It's Inuyasha."
Kikyou looked at her. "I know."
When she set out, Sango clutched the hilt of Tessaiga, the only part of the sword that remained intact, and Kikyou clutched a broken and retied bow. Her arrows scattered, save one. But it didn't matter, because Kikyou overflowed with soul.
Her soul was some sort of spectacular, because a youkai mirror couldn't contain it, and a youkai-crafted body couldn't hold it. Kikyou had always wanted to be whole. She'd always fancied herself a piece broken off of the original, and if she could only recollect herself then maybe she'd be able to feel the rain on her skin again. It hadn't occurred to Kikyou that she was a mold, a shell, and now there was a hole in her breast and she was overflowing with dead soul.
"Let me talk to him," Sango pled. Kikyou looked at her.
And Kikyou nodded.
"My, my, my. You look dressed to kill."
Sango found him among Naraku's remains, seated as though they were his throne, and he looked like a tyrant. He was doused in blood from his claw points to elbows, and she wonder how the rain hadn't been able to wash it all away.
"Inuyasha," she said, and clutched Tessaiga's broken hilt tighter.
He didn't look like Inuyasha, though, nor sound like him. There was no crutch of a sword, no shackle of beads, no safety net of a human heart. The whole thing was like a horrible joke that had been pulled off wonderfully.
His eyes narrowed and he glared at her, and Sango wished he was the raving, blood-blinded beast she'd glimpsed before. She wished he had dog ears, or manic-red eyes, or that he really had killed her village.
She wished he'd never pulled her onto his back, ignoring the arm she had injured and she really, really wished she hadn't thought how warm and comforting it was, being carried like that.
"We won," he broke in suddenly, savagely, and strangely sullenly, like a child that wasn't getting it's way. "We won, Sango. We won. We won..."
"Inuyasha," she repeated, hoping for an excuse, even a flimsy one. "Why did you do it?"
He's fast, she thought dimly, when his hands closed around her wrists, and Tessaiga's handle was jostled from her grip. Her only protection, but then, it was a bit sad that the only thing she had to protect herself was a blunt, broken sword.
"I thought you'd understand," he bit out. "I couldn't kill Naraku like... that... but now..." And then his mood changed and he snarled and shoved her away from him. "You have no right to judge me! You did the same thing! You traded your body for revenge, you used the Shikon no Tama!"
"I'm not trying to judge you!" she shouted back. "I'm not even trying to understand you! Kagome..." she stuttered, "Kagome wouldn't have wanted this, Inuyasha, she-"
"Shut up." Her bones grated under his grip, and she was aware for the first time how fragile they really were. She'd always fancied her skin to be tough, her hands to be callused - but then, she thought, that was just the outside. "We'll never know what she would have wanted, will we? I- I... we won, we finally won, he's dead, we won, we won, we won..."
"Shut up!" he hissed, and pulled her into a hug, if hugs were supposed to be heart-crushing and back-snapping. It really wasn't like the way her father had held her, or her brother had held her, or Miroku had held her. It was uncomfortably like the way Kikyou had held her when she sobbed into her lap and gathered fistfuls of cloth in her hands and hidden under a curtain of soggy black hair.
Sango thought it wasn't fair, that his chest was as warm as his back.
We lost or We're lost. Sango didn't see much of a difference.
"Inuyasha," a voice said softly, and Inuyasha whipped around and Sango stumbled, and there was Kikyou at the crest of the hill, all broken bow and single arrow and undulated miko power.
Inuyasha's face changed, from surprise, to outrage, to stubborn refusal, and he said, "You can't kill me."
"I assure you," she whispered, "I can."
"Don't," Sango gasped out. "It isn't right."
"You're confusing what's right with what's good," Kikyou said quietly, almost to herself.
And then she shot Inuyasha, which was the right thing to do, and the worst thing she'd ever done.
"You used me," Sango breathed. Her chest was heaving and Kikyou's chest had a hole in it. "You let me distract him, you... I thought we had an understanding, I-"
"Misunderstood." Kikyou is weak because she is dead and finally feeling it.
"You used him. To destroy the Shikon no Tama."
"I also used myself," Kikyou said. She turned to her.
"It doesn't mean I loved any less."
There is no one left to see it, but the world is beautiful today.