Open Your Eyes
The woman in Inuyasha's arms didn't move, and her eyes were closed to the world. The wind stirred her hair but, aside from the external push, made no move of her own. Inuyasha didn't say anything for a long moment, his mismatched eyes trained on something beyond both the king and Kagome.
"Inuyasha…" Kagome said, but the Bandit King ignored her, his eyes locking on Hojo's father.
The man's eyes were on the queen nestled in Inuyasha's arms. "What did you do to her?"
For a moment, something flared in Inuyasha's eyes, but it was quickly suppressed. "I could ask you the same thing," he said coolly, his voice crisp like a day in October. "But you believe yourself to be innocent, so such a question would be futile, I suppose."
"What did you do to her?" the man demanded, sounding hysterical.
"She's dead," Inuyasha said plainly, and his next words were nearly drowned out by the false king's roar of agony, "She's at rest."
"How dare you? How dare you?" the man proclaimed loudly.
"She didn't recognize me," Inuyasha continued, lolling his head downwards to stare at his mother's face—pristine and gentle, as if she were sleeping. "She didn't know who I was when I came to her. She was desperate for death. Even if she couldn't say it, her soul informed me loud and clear."
"How dare you?" the man continued.
"How dare I?" Inuyasha questioned, lifting his face and staring at the man, a deadly calm in his eyes. "How dare I, you ask me? How dare you?"
The man dove forward and grabbed the front of Kagome's dress, hurling her upwards. She gasped in surprise, Inuyasha's name on her lips before she even realized she was in danger. She hated herself for that devotion to him, for that automatic assumption that she needed protection. The man above her throttled her for a moment before punching her cheek, exactly where Hojo had struck her.
"I will rip away your happiness like you did mine," the man vowed.
"You ripped away my happiness long ago," Inuyasha informed the man coolly. "Release the princess. You have no right to touch her. Your dreams are ruined. Your kingdom shall fall on this day."
"No!" the man screamed. "I'll kill you both! You," he said, shaking Kagome, "for taking away everything that was precious to me, and you," he said with a glare as he turned his attention towards Inuyasha, "for taking away my one true treasure."
Inuyasha regarded him coolly before gently placing his mother down, cushioning her body against the sturdy trunk of a tree. Standing fully upright, the wind rustling his cloak, he turned towards the king. The blood smearing his skin beneath his milky white eye was unnerving as he approached to the two people in the field. Kagome could tell right away what was waiting behind those eyes. She tried to speak.
"Don't say a word," Inuyasha barked, his words piercing her heart. "Don't you dare deny me this. I have lived for this moment. I have nothing else to look forward to until I extract my revenge. Do not say a word."
At this, he withdrew his sword and it glittered in his hand as he marched towards Kagome and the king. The man backtracked, holding Kagome before him like a shield as he tried to shuffle away, his eyes wide and ferocious like a wild animal's. Inuyasha seemed unconcerned and continued forward, brandishing his sword so the tip of the sword pointed towards the king's head.
With his other hand, Inuyasha wavered the air, his fingertips passing through something invisible before the man holding Kagome suddenly froze. He gasped for air behind her and Kagome stared as Inuyasha approached, not even acknowledging her existence, as the sword shot out and hit the crown nestled on the top of the king's head. It fell to the ground with a dull thud, rolling in the grass before disappearing from her view.
"You have no right to stand before me and question my motives. She wished to die, her soul was crying," Inuyasha told the man stoically, the tip of the sword pressed against his throat. The man's hold on Kagome loosened, and she jerked away, retreating instinctively towards the trees. She realized, belatedly, that she was approaching Inuyasha's mother's dead body and a chill ran through her. Inuyasha's face was still harsh as he stared. "I did merely what a king would do."
The man screamed out in his agony and Kagome was thankful that her back was turned. She knelt down before the woman as Inuyasha and the king fought one another in the field. She heard the sound of another sword being drawn. She stared at the woman she never really knew and felt strange.
She heard the sounds of battle behind her but she found it hard to turn around to face it. Revenge. It was a terrible, terrible thing. She knew that. But, at the same time, she couldn't deny Inuyasha this. Even if it killed her to know he was giving into these primal urges, she couldn't stand there and tell him he was wrong. He'd been wronged so terribly his entire life. This was the least she could do. Even if he hated her. This was her reality, and she had to let him find his own personal justice.
She heard the clanging of swords, the grunts of battle, and the hiss of agony as a sword sliced through flesh. Her heart raced and she turned around in time to see Inuyasha stagger backward, one hand gently touching his side, where blood was oozing out and staining his tunic. The words of protest died on her throat as he dove forward towards the king. Despite his valiant attempts to defend himself, it was obvious he was a broken man. He'd lost everything that he'd ever cared about. His kingdom. His family. His queen. There was nothing left in his eyes but the desire to kill and to hurt others.
He dove towards Inuyasha and the true king blocked and rolled away, a master of swords and magic. His hand gripping his bloodied side could no longer do the magic he'd been doing in the beginning. Swallowing, Kagome wondered if he would even accept her help should she offer it. Her heart throbbed and she wished that they were in a different circumstance. She wished that he loved her like she loved him.
She felt her heart swell and her eyes mist over. He fought before her, deflecting attacks from the sword with least earnest then he had before his injury. Kagome felt the magic tingling in her hands and raised them, staring at the false king as he tried to fight against the true king. Her eyes wavered. The king cried out and he whipped his head to the side. Kagome had no idea what she'd done, but she felt a chill run down her spine.
"I've lost it all," she heard the king say as he turned his eyes towards Inuyasha. "There is nothing more."
"No," Inuyasha agreed and then his blade pierced through the man's heart. The man choked in surprise, his eyes widening as the blade sunk through his chest and pierced his grieving, shriveled heart. Inuyasha betrayed nothing in his expression as the man fell to the ground. The man was dead before he hit the ground. Kagome felt tears roll down her cheeks and she wondered why she was crying. What reason could she possibly have to cry like this for a dead man who'd only wanted her to be dead instead? Deep down, even though she knew she had not been in control when it'd happen, she knew she was the cause of his unhappiness.
She looked up from the ground as Inuyasha approached her. He knelt and collected the forgotten crown in the grass. He stared at it for a long moment before tucking it under his arm and sheathing his sword. Then his mismatched eyes were on her and she could not move.
"Hello, Princess Kagome," he told her in a voice Kagome could not accurately describe.
"…Where are the bandits?" Kagome asked, her heart hurting at the title he gave her.
"They are fighting at the castle. With the rebellion, we outnumber them two to one. They will fall and the kingdom will be ours." He regarded her. "The trees told me where you were."
Kagome looked now at Inuyasha's mother. She looked as if she were sleeping. She watched as Inuyasha reached out a bloodied hand and touched her cheek, stroking away some limp black hair. She glanced at Inuyasha and saw such a look of tenderness in his golden eye that she was nearly heartbroken at the sight. Those eyes had been violet once.
Kagome looked away and sighed. "You've extracted your revenge."
"There is nothing more," Inuyasha agreed, his eyes indescribable again. He leaned backwards and slowly stood up. "I suppose it would be best to return you to your kingdom, Princess Kagome."
He leaned down and picked up his mother before gently lying her down before the tree. Kagome realized, belatedly, that he'd rested her against a weeping willow. The long branches created a small curtain and Inuyasha stepped back.
"Your mother…" Kagome began when it looked as if Inuyasha was to leave her there.
"Shh," he instructed, silencing her with a wave of his hand. His eyes fell shut and, instinctively, Kagome's did as well. She felt the gentle pulse and pull of magic and realized that feeling was coming from Inuyasha. She heard the ground shift and the trees sigh around her.
When she opened her eyes again, Inuyasha's mother was gone and all that remained was upturned Earth and a weeping willow. She glanced at Inuyasha as he dropped his hands and bowed his head for a moment in silent regard to his dead mother, who'd finally joined the rest of his family. He was all that was left of the great noble family.
"Let us take our leave," he said at last and turned away from where his mother was buried.
Kagome stood up and followed behind him. She watched the way the cloak wavered in the wind, bloodstained and battle-worn. He looked battle-worn. He looked empty and forgotten. He'd extracted his revenge, but, in the end, all he had was a kingdom.
"It appears you're truly the king now," Kagome told his back.
The man before her paused and shifted so he could regard the crown in his hand. He stared at it for a long moment before chuckling. It was mirthless and dry. It sounded fake and wrong to Kagome's ears and she shivered at the sound.
"I guess I am," he said after a moment. "I've spent my entire life yearning for the moment when I could reclaim my rightful place. I lived for this moment when I could avenge those who I've lost."
"Yes…" Kagome said, uncertain.
"And now I don't want it. It's never been what I wanted." He stared at the crown, his knuckles white. "I would rather have anything else. But not this."
"I should return you to your kingdom, Princess," Inuyasha cut her off.
Kagome's eyes narrowed and she frowned. She marched towards the man's unmoving body, spun him around and gripped his tunic. She tugged him downwards so they were meeting eye to eye. She glared at him and he stared at her mildly in surprise before his face closed off to a neutral expression.
"My name is Kagome. It has always been Kagome. I have been locked in a tower for weeks now, and they have never called me by name. I have nobody in my life now who will call me by name, except for you. You called me by name. But now you don't."
She released his tunic and took a step backwards, crossing her arms.
"To hear you call me a princess is painful for me." She looked away as she felt tears collect in her eyes. She breathed in deeply. "I do not care to know the reasons for why you rejected me. That is your business and your business alone. Regardless of that… I will… I will…"
She couldn't say the words. I will continue to love you. I still love you. I've always loved you. Those words wouldn't come. They fought in her throat before dying a premature death. She did not know what to do or what to say.
He stared at her and lowered his eyes.
"I will take you home now," he told her. He didn't say her name.
They walked through the forest in silence. Kagome said nothing more, for her words failed her. Her heart shriveled and throbbed sadly in her chest but she could not summon the words to speak to Inuyasha. The trees were silent. The wind had stopped.
When they emerged from the Enchanted Forest, Kagome could see the battle was over. She could see the fallen soldiers and the shocked townspeople watching from their windows. She could see her old home, where the windows and doors were firmly shut. After this, she would not see Inuyasha again. After this, she would have no home to return to.
Slowly, Inuyasha turned around, and his eyes were soft and unreadable. He took a step towards her and Kagome stiffened, turning her face away. His hand reached out and he touched her elbow.
"I do have reasons for rejecting you," he told her.
Kagome jerked away. "You needn't tell me."
"I know," he told her.
"It doesn't matter in the end. I am a mere nuisance to you."
"This is true," he confessed. "And you do not yet know what love is."
"Nor do you," Kagome said. "You told me that you had seen it wage wars and tear people apart. But all things can do this. Love can also heal."
Inuyasha said nothing so Kagome continued.
"I suppose you can easily assume I know nothing of love. I could be mistaking my feelings for you as I did with Hojo." She watched the horizon and refused to look at him. "I did not understand. But I know how I feel for you. More than anything else, I want you to be happy. I want you to be happy even if that happiness is not with me. And when I see you, my heart clenches because you don't seem happy. You seem so sad and lonely."
"I am a murdering, exiled, vengeful man," Inuyasha told her, staring at the horizon, too. Kagome glanced at him over her shoulder and closed her eyes. "You are pure. You cried for his death, despite everything that he's done to you. What could someone like you want with someone like me?"
"I don't think that's up to you to decide," Kagome said fiercely.
"Perhaps," he said. The wind ruffled his hair and he brushed it aside. "How do I know of love? How do you? How does anyone? What is love, anyway? There are different kinds and different forms. I suppose, in the end, it matters not."
He turned toward her and she glanced at him. He took a step towards her and she stiffened.
She closed her eyes. "Please don't."
"Hurt me like this. I know you do not hate me. You've done too much for me to hate me. But I also know that you do not love me or regard me favorably. That much is clear. Do not speak to me if you simply wish to hurt me. I cannot take it."
"Kagome…" he said quietly and Kagome started. She stared at him, her eyes wide, before turning away, displaying her back and cropped black hair. "Kagome…"
"Please," she begged.
"Kagome… if there… if I am still… if you still hold something for me inside your heart… I… you should know that… they are returned."
The words were so soft and so hesitant. It was almost as if Inuyasha had not been the one to say them. Kagome turned around in surprise, staring at him. He stared at her, his eyes still indescribable. He did not look like a king. He looked like a young man. A nervous, frightened young man in love.
Kagome blushed and looked away. Her eyes misted over. Hesitantly, she smiled. She nodded. "I do."
Equally as hesitant, Inuyasha opened up his palm to her, offering her his hand. She stared at it for a moment—calloused and bloody. Worn and weathered. Like hers. She grabbed that hand and it was a match made in heaven, for this is where she belonged.
"I'll take you home," Inuyasha repeated.
"I do not have a home." He glanced at her at her words. She stared at him seriously. "My home is where you are."
He blinked in surprise before he laughed quietly. "Is that so?"
"Yes," she said stubbornly, for he looked as if he were about to start patronizing her for her words. She stared at him, her eyes deadly serious. "Wherever you go, I will be there with you."
"You would follow me, Kagome?"
"Follow? Ha, hardly," Kagome said sternly. "I am not a damsel that follows after her knight. I will be here to support you, should you need it. But if you wish for me to leave, I will do so. I am not desperate for your love."
"You've changed," he said, turning to look at her fully. He reached out his free hand, bloodied from the wound at his side, and touched the side of her cheek. "There's something different about you."
"Is that a bad thing?" Kagome asked, surprised.
"No, just… something's different than before. You've matured," he said and shrugged one shoulder. "You look… I don't know. Like a tragic beauty."
"You rejected me. I was captured and imprisoned. They tried to kill me," Kagome said. Then she looked at her feet. "And I awakened my magic."
"Did you?" he asked, but didn't sound the least bit surprised. "How peculiar."
"You gave me some of your magic," Kagome said and glanced at him. "Hojo told me that was a sign of love among wizards."
"Did he?" Inuyasha asked evasively, as he began walking, tugging her along.
"Yes. Is it true?"
"I am a wanted man, Kagome," Inuyasha continued.
"Answer my question! And what do you mean? Those who were out for your blood are… dead… now."
"I have done many crimes to get to where I am. Even if I wanted to be king, it could never be so. If you were to follow me… or… accompany me, I mean, you will be hunted down along with me. I do not wish such a life for you."
"Who are you to choose my life?" Kagome questioned, sounding far calmer than expected. "Don't you dare take away my ability to make a decision. If your feelings for me are like my own for you, then you would not deny me something as human as that."
He seemed surprised to hear her say such a thing, but, slowly, he nodded his head and turned back towards where the battle had been fought and won. He looked kingly again, no longer a young, socially awkward boy confessing his love. Kagome could see it in his face that it was still there, but was being promptly hidden underneath more pressing matters.
"My mother is put to rest," Inuyasha said suddenly as they resumed their walk away from the forest and towards the castle. "And I have avenged my father and brother's deaths."
"Yes," Kagome said, for she wasn't sure how to respond to his statement. She didn't know what he wanted to hear.
He continued as if he had not heard her, "There is nothing more keeping me here. I will leave after saying my goodbyes to my troop. They will stay here and serve the new king. If you wish to come with me, then so be it. If you choose to stay, then so be it."
"You know my answer," Kagome told his back and stepped forward so she was walking at his side. He nodded his head and out of the corner of her eye, Kagome saw the barest hint of a smile on his lips.
"Who will be king, then?"
"If I forfeit the throne," Inuyasha said, "Kouga will be the next in line to be king. And he'll make a much better king than I, anyway. It's what he's wanted. A fair king in a free kingdom. He'll make it happen, I'm sure."
They walked down the streets of her old home in silence. Somehow everything seemed foreign and alien to her. It was as if she were no longer there and was simply passing through a dream she could never visit again. The world seemed lonely and distant, but she didn't feel nearly as sad as she thought she would. Soon, they were walking before the castle and the bandits turned their attention towards the two.
"Inuyasha is back!" Rin exclaimed as she saw the two approaching. "And the princess! Princess Kagome, we're so glad you're okay!"
The group of bloody, battle-worn bandits all turned their attentions towards Inuyasha and Kagome fully, smiling and happy to see their leader emerge with the missing princess.
"We thought you'd died!" Rin continued as she rushed forward, grabbing Kagome's arms and hugging her tightly as she did so. "We couldn't find you anywhere and then Inuyasha suddenly left to fight the king! We're so happy to see you two!"
"Sorry to keep you waiting," Kagome murmured quietly, awkwardly patting the girl on the back.
"Everything's good now!" Rin exclaimed and nodded towards Sango. "Sango said the cards were being vague so we weren't sure what to expect."
"Inuyasha!" Shippou cried as he ran towards the two and hopped onto the king's shoulder.
"I'm back," Inuyasha said, unnecessarily, but in no way unappreciative. He patted the little fox on the head before stepping forward towards Kouga, who stood in front of a large group of his own troop. The rebellion members were whispering but soon fell silent as the magic carrier approached.
Kouga stood up a bit straighter and nodded his head towards Inuyasha. "Your majesty."
"I have no intention of being king. You know as well as I that it can never be," Inuyasha said as he gripped the crown in his hand tightly. He lifted it and regarded it for a long moment before tossing the thing carelessly towards Kouga. The man grabbed in surprise and stared at it for a long moment. Inuyasha nodded his head, the closest he'd ever come to a bow. "I forfeit my crown to you, the next in line."
Kouga looked speechless for half a second, the words caught in his throat. Slowly, he inhaled and stood up even straighter before silently bowing his head in greeting to his cousin and placing the crown on top of his head. The men behind Kouga bowed and the men behind Inuyasha bowed, too.
Kagome stared in shock at the world around her and as Inuyasha turned around to walk away from his cousin, his mismatched eyes locked on her and she saw the gentle incline of a hesitant smile and the soft crinkling of eyes. He was smiling at her, a small, secret smile. Kagome felt as if her heart would burst.
"Well then," Inuyasha said loudly, addressing his bandits. "That's it then. You're free to do as you please."
"We are loyal to the true king," one bandit murmured.
Inuyasha mulled over these words before nodding. "And your loyalty is not unappreciated. I am no longer the king, however. He is your true king now," he said, nodding towards Kouga. "You are welcome to come with me, if you have grown so accustomed to this life. But you are no longer bandits."
"You are welcome in this kingdom," Kouga reassured.
The bandits looked amongst themselves, trying to see the truth swimming in their eyes. They looked back at their king, the one they had followed for so many years. Inuyasha nodded his head and stepped aside, unblocking the path to Kouga's side. Slowly, as if uncertain of their decisions, the bandits began crossing over, making their way towards a free world, where they were no longer hunted and prosecuted for crimes they had no committed.
Miroku, Sango, and Rin stood behind Inuyasha now, gripping their small bundle of belongings. Though he said nothing, Kagome could see the world of appreciation in his eyes. This was his family now.
He turned towards the bandits who now stood beside the new king. "May you live long and forever fortunate."
They inclined their heads towards their forgotten king, thousands of unspoken words hanging in the air between the leader and his abandoned followers. But there was no ill will. With another nod, Inuyasha turned back towards those who remained with him.
"We best be going, then," he said, striding to where their makeshift camp remained. He grabbed a horse and led it over to Kagome, who took the reins gratefully.
"Where will you go?" Kouga asked, sounding far more kingly now that he had a crown on his head.
Inuyasha thought this over for a long moment before shooting a small grin towards Kagome. "The sea, I think. There are plenty of new worlds to behold beyond the waters, I'm sure. Best we get out of your hair, for it'd be a shame if we dirtied your new reign before it even starts."
"Please travel safely, and should I need you…"
"…Please contact me," Inuyasha agreed with a small smile. "Take care."
With that, he mounted his own horse and looked over his shoulder to make sure Miroku, Sango, and Rin were properly situated. Kagome sat on her horse, right at his side. She didn't say anything, but there was understanding in their gazes as they looked at one another. She nodded her head and smiled and something deflated from his shoulders.
The sun was almost completely gone now, and the stars were beginning to tease the distant horizon.
"We will travel faster at night," Inuyasha told his group. They nodded their heads. "Farewell!"
And with that, the group of horses took off without another word. No provisions, no long goodbyes, no second thoughts. They just ran off into the dying sunlight, chasing after dreams that may or may not be there. The new king and his fellowship watched them disappear until they were mere speaks in the darkness.
"May you live long and be forever fortunate," Kouga murmured before turning around and facing his people. "Today was a terrible battle. Rest well tonight, comrades. For tomorrow, a new era begins."
From down the path, the travelers could hear the cheering and the celebrating and it warmed their hearts.
Sango's brown horse rode up beside Kagome. The girl turned to greet her. "It is good that you are well, Princess."
"Thank you," Kagome said, wishing the title would just be forgotten.
"I have discussed with the cards," she continued and smiled. "I drew the queen of cups and the wheel of fortune."
"When was this?"
"Recently. The time is immaterial. Go forward knowing that luck and love is on your side," Sango said before falling backwards beside Miroku and Rin. Kagome glanced over her shoulder and nodded her head, though she couldn't be certain if Sango saw her in the darkness.
She turned her attention back towards Inuyasha, who galloped at her side. Her heart warmed and she felt that forgotten stone around her neck glow warmly and perfectly against her skin. Her heart swelled for the umpteenth time that day and she knew that while this was quite possibly the most unconventional happily ever after ever known, it was her happily ever after.
Inuyasha must have felt her eyes because he turned towards her. "You okay?"
"Perfect," Kagome said. "I'm perfect."
Inuyasha raised an eyebrow at those words but turned his attention back towards the world in front of his eyes, a smile quirking his lips upwards.
They rode off towards their happily ever after, their eyes firmly opened towards whatever may come.