It is easy for Kanna to slip away. She is not a traitor. Naraku does not scrutinize her comings and goings. And after all, it is true that Kanna does not leave with the intent of betraying her master. Her reasons are personal, though Naraku had always assumed that nothing was personal to Kanna.
She travels light. No provisions or shelter are needed, not even a change of clothes. She tries to leave the mirror, wanting to see with her own eyes for once, but her fingers persistently refuse to be severed from the object they have always held. No matter; she will hardly feel the burden of it.
She walks out of the stronghold unchallenged, and into the free wind. But it is not as they say; she doesn't sense Kagura here. Kagura whose life bled away through moist, crimson lips, Kagura whose heart pounded deep inside the castle when enemies came to call, Kagura who made tight fists to restrain herself, her long nails which dug into her soft, unused palms and made a row of red crescents. Kagura of the flesh, Kagura with warm skin and hair that could tangle, the lissome body that had stalked alongside her own. This Kagura was not here, and could never exist in the wind. Kanna could not believe that that body could so easily fall to nothing and assimilate into the air.
No. If that body had indeed died, then surely it would decay. It would have to continue to exist, dead, giving off the odor of rot and slowly becoming something that was not Kagura, that was not a body, but had all the physical weight and veracity that had once been Kagura's.
Kanna does not go to the place of Kagura's death. She has seen everything in her mirror, but no longer believes everything her mirror tells her. Seeking the root of things, Kanna goes instead to the place where they were created, where they had once lived together in silent companionship. Kanna goes to the abandoned castle with the long swipe of kaze no kizu torn through its center.
Almost appropriate, she thinks, surveying the devastation. The wind's wound, the wind's scar, carved into the body of the place where Kagura was born.
There are bodies here. There is death here.
Kagura's victims, her hapless puppets, lie strewn around rotting, all former allegiances forgotten. Men lie peaceably with wolves, all untouched in this place where nothing grows and beasts fear to tread, and all equally dead. Only the graves of the taijiya lie open, disinterred to lie beneath less tainted ground.
From inside the ruins, Kanna hears the familiar snap of a fan flicked open, and her back stiffens, wondering if she imagined it, if she is capable of imagining it, when the first corpse stirs.
This is Kanna's old home, the spawning ground for all wonders dark and macabre. And here, Kagura's slaves rise to dance one last time. First slow, then fast, unreasonably fast and whirling about her. Kanna is still the whole while, her body unable or unwilling to move to the fast tempo they set, only watching them and feeling a rising tension as the dead man's dance passes where she stands and surrounds her like the rising sea.
In between the dancers, Kanna catches a glimpse of her, directing them with her fan and partaking in the festival to which she is mistress. It seems that every time another dancer interrupts her view, the Kagura Kanna sees on the other side is somehow changed, now laughing and cavorting, now coldly domineering, and for an instant, her face leering with holes of decay, the skin eroding around the blackened flesh, like some other, deformed face superimposing itself over the one Kanna knows—but then only Kagura again, looking alarmed as the hordes of the dancing dead sweep her away with them.
Reluctantly, Kanna falls back on the crutch of looking in her mirror. What she sees there does not surprise her, though it is disappointing. The dead lie as dead as ever, and Kagura, her Kagura is absent. When she looks up again at the grisly festivities, she sees Kagura look over her shoulder at her, as if surprised but pleased to find her there.
For the very first time, Kanna lets go of her mirror. She isn't able to place it down nicely, but loosens her grip just enough for it to fall through her hands, flinching only slightly to hear the spine-jarring crash of its landing. She doesn't look down to see if it's broken. She will either look now, and the rebellion will end as quietly as it began, with her holding on to that mirror for the rest of her existence, or she will continue, and walk away without ever looking back. And she's already chosen.
Kagura takes Kanna's hands in her own-something they'd never been able to do before-and pulls her into a place like the eye of a storm, where the dances move slowly around them, and it seems like nothing can touch them.
Kanna knows that this is what she came for, more than she ever could have hoped for, but unfortunately, she also knows that it cannot be real. Her desire to be deceived is greater than her capacity for it. Faithless, she cannot help but say, "You died."
Kagura does not deny this, but wonders aloud what difference that makes, particularly to creatures such as themselves.
"Am I..." Kanna struggles to remember the word, so rarely used in her thoughts, "dreaming?"
Kagura shrugs. "I'm really the wrong person to ask. It's getting harder and harder for me to tell the difference."
Frustrated, Kanna allows herself to be led about the grounds. Banter was never her strong suit, and against Kagura's quick tongue, she knows her questions will go unanswered. As before, she relishes Kagura's presence, without being able to do anything but passively accept whatever Kagura wants to give her. She briefly wonders if she, without ever meaning to, has become a traitor now as well, and what Naraku will do about it.
But then, as she sees the corpses settle down at dawn, she knows that she has worried needlessly.
Naraku will never touch her. However, it is a revelation that brings her no relief.
The dead have nearly all returned to their natural state, now. "Are you leaving soon?" Kanna asks tentatively, only their fingertips still touching.
"Yes," Kagura says, exalted, her face full of sky.
"Take me with you," Kanna whispers.
"Oh," Kagura says, gentle to the point of being pitying, "but there's nowhere for you to go."
"Then take me to Nowhere," Kanna pleads, her voice still uninflected, giving no indication that she understands the gravity of her own words.
Kagura kneels before Kanna, buffeted by a wind that seems to be for her alone. "You don't say things lightly, do you," she asks rhetorically.
"Take me," Kanna repeats, not like a sentence in its own right, but a bit of something else broken off, a fragment that can never be understood on its own. Implied are things her tongue will never contort to say, things that will always remain trapped in the hole where her heart should have formed, things that don't belong in the wispy girl-body she made for herself.
Kagura's hand strokes her face, and Kanna feels something pass through her touch, something she's never felt before. Pain or pleasure, she should have screamed from it, but she had never learned to react to sensation. It reminds her slightly of when Kagome cracked her mirror, only more intense.
Ever so slightly, her breath hitches in her throat, as Kagura presses a kiss to her lips. Kanna is certain she is drowning, she is burning, she is being torn asunder, but can do nothing but try to complete her last sentence with a certain urgency, "...with you."
Her tongue is dry, and there's no more air. Words wither inside her unspoken, unrealized, to make way for the unnameable feeling that goes with Kagura's touch.
Kagura's hands, gripping her arms like birds' feet perching, leaving bruises that Kanna will later realize are not bruises at all, Kagura's mad hammer pulse, sounding from the one place it's never been heard before, Kagura's mouth, whispering apologies with one breath, and leaving searing marks on her flesh with the next.
Kagura, a void that air cannot fill. A void that Kanna herself could lose herself in, and never return from. She knows then that that's why she could see her-because Kagura had truly vanished into nothing, leaving a hole in the world. There was no body, no essence, no dust, no reincarnation.
Kanna, weakening, bends to kneel. She sees her arms traced with cruel black marks stemming from where Kagura had touched her, and does not fail to notice their rapid growth. It looks as if the flesh is simply dying of its own accord.
Her lips still tingle with the weight of Kagura's kiss.
She is neither surprised nor angry. It had been her request, after all. But now that her body is dying and crumbling away, she would have liked to cry, even just one tear slipping down her stony face, or if nothing so romantic, then a scream of agony born of the physical torment she so calmly endured. Wasn't there some sort of emotional compensation for her sacrifice? By making her own decision, she should be free. She should show some sign of humanity, something worth being mourned.
She should say, "I love!" and "I hate!" in between great wailing sobs. There is nothing left to hold her back.
But there is only Kanna, watching her body be destroyed in a sort of detached way, wondering how long it would take, wondering if there was something she ought to be doing about it, and even occasionally wondering if Naraku would consider it a betrayal. She still feels no animus towards Naraku, and hopes he won't think badly of her, but she has gone out and destroyed something he found useful, and had worked hard on making.
Vaguely, she wonders if she will die alone. It looks that way. But unlike Kagura, she has lived alone, touching no one. It's probably better this way. There's no one left in this world worth seeing again, anyway.
The beauty of the collapse of her body is a testament to Naraku's work. She watches the skin slip away, followed by the delicate winding musculature, until finally the bones blacken and crack, and without supports, fall away. She wants to see Kagura beckoning before she loses what little hold she has left on this world, but that too is a disappointment.
It takes her most of that morning to die. She has opportunity to watch birds and beasts go about their business as if her plight meant nothing, not even showing the consideration of wanting to scavenge her bones. Kanna herself waits patiently, as she often does when she knows Naraku is about to say something important and she should not interrupt, but has no strong feelings about it one way or the other.
But no words come.
When the midday sun beats down on the blackened husk lying mere feet from the place where it was created from nothingness, a strong wind blows. But Kagura is not there. Kagura isn't anywhere.
And, in absentia, Kanna is with her.