Contrary to popular belief, Kikyo wasn't lost. She knew, as she climbed up sharp mountainsides and floated alongside rice paddies, exactly where she was going.
Nowhere. She was a wanderer, but she wasn't confused; she knew the lands like the back of her pale hand. She was familiar with every river and brook, every tree's gnarled bough. She walked on: the beautiful soul stealer, searching for nothing.
Funny, she could never find it.
One day, she went to him again.
Was it morbid curiosity? 'How is he now?' She wasn't sure why she went; she just felt the urge to see him before he died. How many seasons had it been?
It was fall. Crimson leaves brushed the cold sky as tree limbs swirled in the fresh air. It was a sunny day, with the occasional heavy, yellow-tinged cloud. Kikyo drifted towards the village, wondering why the earth looked so beautiful when it knew it would soon die. But she supposed that the leaves didn't know that they would shrivel up and fall, and that was why they were so happy, spiraling in the wind. Ignorance is bliss.
Then, why did she want to see Inuyasha and kill off her last splintering dreams? Would she be happier if she simply turned around and never witnessed the truth? She wasn't sure, but her feet pressed on anyway.
She waded into the village. The townspeople didn't know whether to run or pray, so they backed away and whispered amongst themselves.
"The great priestess, the jewel's guardian."
The hut was in front of her. She knew that it was his, and Kagome's.
"The dead soul-stealer. Evil incarnate, she'll kill us all."
The dirt seemed hard and cold under her bare feet, and the air suddenly stilled. She was at the front door.
"She's after the demon. Watch."
The door swung open. It was the other girl--the better girl. Kagome. She was staring at Kikyo open-mouthed, her slightly rounded stomach straining against her kimono. She was pregnant. "Inuyasha!" she called.
Kikyo heard rummaging from beyond the wooden walls. The air in the home smelled like firewood and hot food; Kikyo was hit with a sharp pain in her heart. 'That should be me,' with a hand entwined in Inuyasha's. 'That should be me,' pink with life and carrying his child.
Inuyasha visibly stiffened upon seeing Kikyo. "Why're you here?"
He still looked the same. Kikyo smothered the urge to reach out and, just once more, touch him. "I wanted to see you," she said in her calm, low voice.
A few seconds passed, in which the air swelled with the couple's silent message. 'Go away. This is our new life, and you are old.'
"I mean you no harm," Kikyo stated. Her foot lingered on the doorway; they didn't invite her in.
Inuyasha's eyes burned with remembrance; however, above the memories a content expression lingered. He no longer questioned his choice, and Kikyo could see that. She missed his indecision; if he wasn't sure there was still that sliver of hope, and surely she thrived on that nearly as much as she relied on souls. There was no future for her now: only a dead-end past, a blossoming dream severed by fate. A sinking feeling dragged down on the dead woman's chest. "I apologize for intruding." Her voice was trembling. 'Remember me, Inuyasha.'
Kagome was the one who stepped over the threshold and embraced Kikyo. 'I won, and I'm sorry you lost,' her hug said. Kikyo could feel Kagome's bump press against her stomach. Then Kagome withdrew her arms and fluttered back to Inuyasha's side, a sad smile tugging on her lips. "Goodbye, Kikyo." Inuyasha was silent.
Kikyo thought that, since the woman was her reincarnation, perhaps, in another life, she was happy and fulfilled and human. Maybe, in some obscure way, she was still with Inuyasha. For the first time, Kikyo had the urge to unite with Kagome and live out the life she almost had.
But barriers stood: life and death, future and past, fulfillment and emptiness. Kikyo could part all the layers and see that, at the core, her and Kagome were separate. That stung, because then Inuyasha didn't choose another version of herself; he'd chosen a different woman altogether.
Before they could shut the door, Kikyo turned around and walked through the village, her head held high. The villagers parted, forming a clear path before her. She slipped into the dying woods, while Inuyasha hugged his new wife in their new home, surrounded by life.
'Closure,' she thought as she walked towards nothing. The word seemed almost as empty as she was.
Sixty-three years later, Kagome died. Kikyo read gossip on the lips off travelers, hobbling down barren roads.
"The greatest Miko!"
"The loveliest Miko!"
"The strongest Miko!"
Apparently, the world had forgotten about her.
It was winter. Kikyo padded barefoot overtop the snow, towards the dead woman's funeral. Kagome's embrace stood out in her mind, and Kikyo wondered if it was worth it: a colourful life in exchange for a swift death.
Hundreds upon hundreds of people had turned up for the procession. Kikyo watched from beneath the naked trees. She preferred the woods' shelter over the burial's crowds. They were putting her to rest before the Goshinboku tree, from all those years ago. Kikyo's numb fingertips traced an invisible arrow in the frosted air.
There were Kagome's children: four of them, three grown boys, and a girl--the new priestess. Kikyo felt her own barren womb shrivel and blacken. Finally, Inuyasha rose from the sea of people and stood up high on a tree root.
His face hadn't changed that much: an extra line here, slightly rougher skin there. His posture, though, was completely different: his shoulders stooped, and his walk was slow. Age hadn't drained his vitality--life had. The crowd was silently before the hanyou.
"Kagome," his voice was the same, "Was the most caring person I knew. She was my love, my life, and I won't forget her. Ever." He stepped down from the makeshift podium, having said all that he felt was needed.
Kikyo turned around and receded into the forest. She'd seen all she wanted to see. The pain in Inuyasha's eyes sent a sharp shoot of hurt through her heart. It was his turn to wander. She thought, as she wove in between black branches, that Kagome was the lucky one.
Kikyo silently walked on, frozen and unchanging, wishing for events that had never happened, could never happen. The sharp cry of winter birds fed her jealousy. 'They don't know how unfair things are.' Nature did little to fill Kikyo's hollow soul.
A hundred and two years passed. Kikyo walked on.
It was spring. The snow was gone, leaving thick mud and shoots of short grass in it's wake. She reached up and felt a tree bud, hard and deep green, ready to spring to life. She hated this season, when the earth bloomed and burst with light, while she carved a black path through the sweet air. The world was mocking her.
She saw, standing amidst scattered branches, a demon. He was large and white out of the corner of her eye, and regarding her casually. 'Sesshomaru,' she remembered from long ago, although the past seemed so close that her fingertips strained to touch it.
He sauntered towards her with a heavy sort of grace. He looked like Inuyasha; yet he was different, and Kikyo remembered how alike Kagome was to her.
"Priestess." He greeted. He didn't bow; she didn't expect him to.
"Sesshomaru." She was silently glad that she had met someone to whom she could voice her 'remember-when's.' Sesshomaru was even older than her, and she felt ancient.
He regarded her, his expression detached and disinterested. "You fought admirably in the final battle."
'The final battle.' Nobody called it that anymore; few people remembered Naraku as more than a legend. "You fought with enviable strength as well."
A moment passed where the pair regarded one another as doorways to a frozen past, passages back to a time when the world was fresh with adventure.
The demon's long hair spun with the wind, pristine and snow-white even as mud swamped the earth. He seemed untouchable and beautiful. His bright eyes searched her face. "How long has it been?" He asked. He knew how many days had passed--he just wanted her to acknowledge that yes, I was there.
"One hundred and seventy years."
Sesshomaru nodded slowly. His eyes shot to a scrawny tree to their side. In a controlled, fluid motion he severed a ripe bud with a claw. A slight, cold smile landed on his face as the green ball fell down to be sucked up by the mud. "Tell me priestess, what have you been doing all of these years?"
The taiyoukai nodded.
Kikyo raised her strong jaw and peered at him with clear, dark eyes. "What have you been doing?"
Sesshomaru blinked, his smooth skin still as ice, and answered. "Rin died."
"Humans do." The dead woman offered no sympathy. "How long ago did the event occur?"
A flash of regret swept over his face. "It does not matter. She was old; she was happy." He cocked his head to the side and narrowed his eyes. "Have you heard from my half-brother?"
"No." Kikyo was sad for a moment: she felt a sort of kinship with the old, old demon before her, and all he see in her was Inuyasha. "Is that why you sought me out?"
"I did not seek you out."
'Was it fate then,' Kikyo wondered, 'That drew us to this spot?' She thought not: luck was never so kind. "What were you doing here?"
Spring birds chirped around them. The blue skies were open and fresh with clean light; again, Kikyo was struck with how she stuck out of the world. Sesshomaru replied, "I was not doing anything."
They were both so ancient, and had done anything that needed to be done. If only happiness stayed with you, instead of lingering tauntingly in the vague future. They were walking towards pointlessness, for they had no promises to keep, no tasks to fulfill.
She didn't smile--perhaps she'd forgotten how--but her eyes brightened a bit. "I haven't been doing anything for a long time."
He nodded; he understood. Kikyo thought that at that moment, if she were human, she would be happy.
Three hundred and six years later, Inuyasha died.
The word reached them through Miyoga, who'd appeared unannounced one summer morning, proclaiming his faithfulness to Sesshomaru. The demon killed the irritating flea, of course, but not before hearing of his half-brother's death.
"How long do half-demons usually live?" Kikyo asked. They were walking, as always. Soft grass flattened beneath their feet, and the hot sun spilled golden hues into the thick air. Only that time was different: they were walking towards something. A funeral.
"About this long." Sesshomaru hadn't shown sadness since hearing the news. He'd witnessed far too much death for it to affect him. It was the tediousness of life, really, that chipped away at his soul. "Inuyasha's death is not unusual."
Having nothing to say, they drifted in silence. After the first hundred years or so they'd used up all of their words, and emptied all of their memories. Silence with someone else, though, was preferable to silence alone. They still ambled through time together.
The funeral was notably smaller than Kagome's. Inuyasha's heroism had faded into legend, drudged up in bedtime stories and folk songs. Only a few people attended: his grandchildren, twenty life spans down the family line.
They watched from beneath the trees. The humans' words seemed cheap and shallow--they did not know the half-demon who'd lived a hundred times more than all of them combined. Before all of the villagers had spoken Sesshomaru broke away from Kikyo and strode towards the service. The priestess trailed after him.
The men and women parted with gasps before the taiyoukai. He was regal and strong, as he stood before the freshly churned earth and straightened his shoulders. He wasn't sure who to speak to--the townspeople didn't deserve his thoughts, and the priestess knew everything already--so he closed his eyes and spoke to whoever had cursed him with the duty of watching the world begin and end, over and over. "Inuyasha was my brother, and I never knew him. I'm glad I didn't, now, because he would only be another thing to dwell over." The bluntness of his words amused Kikyo, who stood near the rim of the woods. "Do you wish to say something, priestess?"
Kikyo nodded and joined him, before Inuyasha's grave. Following suit, she closed her eyes and turned her face towards the sky. She didn't need to think about her words. "I still love him." He was gone, yet Kikyo's heart still beat to his memories. She'd finally found her nothingness in the love a half-demon's bones. What could mean less than searching forever for the love of a dead man? But her sense of 'nothing' didn't rival death after all; she was still bound to the world, surrounded by unwanted beauty and the fate's taunts. She existed for the sake of existing; like Sesshomaru, she gave up looking for any meaning beyond that. There wasn't any.
Her statement didn't shock the taiyoukai--he knew of her feelings. Together, they wandered away from Inuyasha, the last link to a dead era, and welcomed the shadows of the forest. It was, after all, the only thing that they had. With a forgotten past and a dead future, they dwelled in the present and tried to forget.
Contrary to popular belief, they weren't ghosts. Tales and myths spun as people sighted them--
"On the bridge!"
"In the feild, over the meadow..."
"Amidst the flowers, I swear."
They knew exactly where they were going: nowhere.
'Perhaps,' they prayed, 'One day, hell will swallow us up.'
But fate would not be so kind. The living envied the dead, for Inuyasha and Kagome had found the one thing Sesshomaru and Kikyo had given up searching for, all those years ago. Without an ending they couldn't complete their stories. There was no point to living if you didn't die, and they so achingly wanted a reason.
"Sesshomaru, the humans are advancing rapidly."
The taiyoukai took in the apartment buildings, rising like concrete mountains to scrape the moon. "Yes. They are."
At least they could always spiral into each other's nothingness, burrowing into the illusion of peace.
They still haven't been set free.