AN: Way to frickin' long.
Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha or Interview with the Vampire! Please don't sue!
He spends his days at the movie theater. It amuses him to no end, watching people getting paid to pretend they are other people. He can't determine whether it's hilariously stupid or extreme genius, being able to make a living by mimicking another person's life.
Sometimes he stands outside and just watches the people that come to watch the movies rather than the movies themselves. He loiters and studies the people and wonders what exactly fascinates them into watching fake reality so much.
As time passes, and the years tick by, he begins to realize that's exactly why people spend hours upon hours, dollar upon dollar, to come see these mockeries and exaggerations. A fake reality is a lot easier to deal with than reality itself.
Around him there had been corpses. Corpses with surprised looks on their faces. In his hand there is his sickle, unstained, and he stumbles blind across the bare ground. His sister, the houshi, the kitsune, the hanyou, the miko, and the wolf. All staring into eternity.
He doesn't dream much, thankfully. Periodically he'll doze and somewhere between dreams and reality he'll hear them talking to him. Most of the time he can't understand what they're saying but sometimes they scream the scream they were robbed of and he jolts awake.
Luckily they are few and far between and time has dulled the ache. It is a cold stone in his heart now, the ember having sunk through the decades to lose its fiery pain.
He only cried for them, once. Back then, it had hurt too much to cry. Instead it had just choked him, as if he had breathed in too much smoke.
Still, his back will start to itch, an itch he cannot scratch, and that's when he gets up and goes to see a movie.
The light had taken them. He doesn't know any other way to explain it. There was supposed to be blood but there wasn't any. They just lay, cold and lifeless, as if someone had come and blown out the candles of their lives with one small breath.
The light, he thinks, had been like the hand of a god.
He reads the newspaper daily. He has always been intrigued by the past and through the centuries he has cut out different articles, slapped them to the wall, and watch history repeat itself.
Man has a bad case of not learning from its mistake. A man might learn to not make the same mistake twice but mankind bumbles through history as if there isn't any.
It would almost be funny, if it didn't hurt so much.
To his right there is Naraku, squirming in his bonds. Naraku fights and wiggles but makes no sound. The Shikon glows in his hand, useless for the first time. There is one little piece missing from the pink jewel and in his back he feels a throbbing.
He visits him once or twice a year. It's like an anniversary or a holiday, a special event to escape normality and mediocrity and let legend become reality for twenty or thirty minutes.
Naraku only gives him a sullen glance. In the beginning, he had fought and rampaged and gnashed his teeth. The struggles had faded into hated glares and nasty words. Now time has sunk onto the shoulders of the hanyou and his anger has dissipated into a sort of childish funk.
"Back again, I see," says Naraku. "Another year past already?"
"Another year, another century," he responds. "Does it go by faster or slower for you now?"
Naraku smiles unpleasantly. "How could time possibly go fast in a place like this?" He gestures to the cave around him and the shimmering barrier that keeps him detained.
"Point taken." Kohaku yawns and leans back. "The world has gotten faster now. You should see the way they run. They're like locusts, running, running, eating everything."
Naraku snorts condescendingly. "They? Aren't they your people?"
"They were once yours too," Kohaku points out. He shuffles into his bag and pulls out the potatoe chips.
Naraku inches closer, his eyes trained on the bag, and Kohaku grins. He is tempted to wave the bag in Naraku's face and goad him with it, but torturing never humored him much. He tosses him one and the chip soars easily through the barrier to land at the hanyou's feet. Naraku doesn't thank him but Kohaku doesn't welcome him either.
"You were once mine too," says Naraku. His tongue curls around the chip and he winks. "Or did you forget that?"
Naraku is being rude. Kohaku stands up. He tosses the bag at Naraku's feet. "Keep those. I hope the salt stays on your tongue and you cannot rid yourself of it, not even with the cave mold."
Naraku grabs the bag in one hand and in his movement, Kohaku sees it, a flash of pretty pink clutched in the hanyou's right hand. The Shikon no Tama, waiting to be completed.
"Thirst doesn't bother me," says Naraku snidely. "I'm immortal now, thanks to you."
"Good. Then you can suffer through eternity."
Naraku munches on the chips, a disturbing little grin on his face. "Just like you."
Kohaku gathers his things and begins to trudge his way out of the cave. Naraku rises. "Will you come back?"
Naraku can't stand being bored for so long. He needs the visits.
Kohaku doesn't answer but he knows he will. After all, Naraku's the only one who really understands. Naraku is the only one who remembers.
In his state of shock he hadn't realized the voice until it became a faint buzzing in his ear. He looked to Naraku, wondering if he is using the Shikon shard in his back to communicate with him.
"Do not worry about him," said the voice and this time Kohaku recognized it to be female. "I cannot kill him but I can keep him imprisoned."
Kohaku rubbed his face. "Who-"
She appeared before him and she is not alive nor is she a ghost. She glowed with a pink light.
Kohaku stared at her. "You."
Kohaku works and lives like any other human being. He owns an apartment, pays bills, drives a car, has a nice bed and desk, and often cuts himself while chopping vegetables. He is an accountant and, when he is not at the movies, he sits in his little stuffy office and plays with numbers. This time, he has named himself Hisao, long-lived man. It seems a fitting name.
His co-workers smile at him and drink coffee with him and talk about their lives. Kohaku listens more than talks. It's interesting to hear all the little problems that come with a life that only lasts 70 years.
One day, the pretty secretary who brings him doughnuts and never forgets his dry cleaning, asks about his family. Kohaku smiles at her. He knows he can't tell her that he had killed most of them nor can he tell her that his sister got her soul taken away after years and years trying to save him. It would be too hard to explain. Making a fake life is so much easier than the truth.
But he likes her so he gives her a half-truth. "They died," he says, "a long time ago."
She nodded, a haughty tilt of her head.
He would have bowed except he was still busy staring.
"I am sorry," said Midoriko, "about your companions. They were a needed component. Sacrifices must be made."
"Sacrifices?" He blinked. "Then you…"
Midoriko didn't answer him. But she had at least managed to look sad.
Magazines are another big thing that enthralled him. Especially the magazines that have to do with celebrities. Not only were people fascinated by the fake lives the actors pretended to be, they were also fascinated with the lives of the actors themselves.
His co-workers will talk about it at lunch: who is dating who, who is leaving who, who just had a baby, who just bought another house. When Kohaku asks them why they care about a person they have never met and more than likely never will, they look at him as though he is crazy.
"Because they are living the dream life," explains the pretty secretary.
Kohaku doesn't quite buy that. The actors have the same problems as everyone else does. They just have more money and more people happen to notice their problems.
It does make sense though, he supposes. It was much easier to focus your attention on a stranger's problems. That way you never have to fix your own.
"I want you to kill me too."
Midoriko looked at him. Then she shook her head. "I need you alive. You are the only one capable of stopping him."
He didn't respond. He tried to cry but the tears won't come. He clutches his sickle instead.
"I only have one wish of you, Kohaku."
Naraku is reading 'Interview with a Vampire'. Kohaku nearly drops his bags at the site. Naraku looks up and slowly lowers the book.
"Back so soon?"
"I thought you hated that book."
"I read it when I'm feeling sorry for myself," says Naraku. "It helps to know that someone else suffers like I do."
"Always the victim, huh?"
"I am a god confined."
"Of course you are."
It feels good to barb the hanyou sometimes. It helps to know that he is trapped behind the barrier and after 500 years he has been unable to break it. But Naraku does have the Shikon and Kohaku is the missing piece to the almost-completed puzzle. He had been the only one to have any actual power over the hanyou after the wolf had had his Shikon shards stolen. That was why Midoriko needed him. That was why she had spared him alone.
She had poured all her power into that one little shard and kept it dormant. The only power Kohaku had been granted was immortal life and that was simply because Midoriko needed him alive always to guard the jewel.
"I gave her the idea to write that book," says Kohaku to his forever companion. "An unwanted everlasting life. Everyone else always thought it was the best gift to live forever."
"Isn't it?" Naraku rolls the Shikon between his fingers.
"I wanted to die," says Kohaku. "Instead I got to live forever."
Naraku hums low in his throat. He smiles. "Irony is the best tasting fruit."
He did what Midoriko asked of him. The world depended on him to.
He lived in the tiajiya village by himself, close to Midoriko's cave where Naraku is kept so he can keep an eye on him. He buried his companions in a little row, even the wolf whom he barely knew, on the outskirts of the village and he gives them flowers daily.
When he slept at night, he would be awoken by the outraged cries and Naraku would curse him, curse Midoriko, and yelled that when he got out they would all be sorry. Kohaku had dreams for weeks about waking up with the hanyou standing over him. He couldn't call them nightmares. Nightmares were something you wished would never happen.
Kohaku remained alive because the world needed him to. Naraku remained alive because even Midoriko couldn't kill him, not when he had most of the Shikon in his clutches. The Shikon had been too polluted for her to cleanse, which was why she did the last ditch effort of confining its powers into Kohaku's shard. Kohaku's shard isn't corrupted nor is it pure. It is quiescent and murky.
By making Kohaku immortal, Naraku had become immortal by default.
Despite that, immortality does have its limits. Kohaku still has to eat, drink, and sleep like a mortal human. Once, as an experiment, he had remained awake for days on end. He had gone four days before he collapsed from exhaustion and in those four days he had felt terrible and sluggish.
He had stopped eating once. He became stick thin and skeletal. He was unable to do any sort of work and his energy was nonexistent. Still, he would not die and finally he forced himself to eat just to stop feeling bad.
He poisoned himself once. He went to sleep and hallucinated. Sango was there and Kirara and she wiped the sweat off his brow with a smile and told him she forgave him. That was the first and only time Kohaku had cried and the last time he poisoned himself.
Months have gone by and he is alone on the edges of a vast and dangerous land. Naraku, restless, continued to throw himself against the barrier and called out challenges to anyone who would listen.
Finally, they are answered and Sesshoumaru came striding into the village.
He wouldn't listen when Kohaku told him not to go. He threw the child to the side and entered the cave. The little toad followed him.
Kohaku never saw the battle but he knew. You could enter the barrier but you couldn't leave the barrier. Unable to move with his speed and unable to escape the miasma, Sesshoumaru was done for.
When the noise ceased, the little girl cried out his name and ran into the cave. Kohaku stopped her. She was the only one he was able to save.
Naraku, tired and panting and slightly beaten, coughed. Blood splattered onto the floor. But he grinned at them and the blood on his lips made Kohaku's blood run cold. "I am a god!"
If Kohaku had ever considered entering the barrier and putting an end to the hanyou, those thoughts died that day. With Sesshoumaru absorbed, Naraku was even more powerful than before. Kohaku would never be able to win.
Over the years a few unlucky people had stumbled upon the hanyou and entered the barrier. They had never gotten out. The area was unconstructed for exactly that reason. People kept disappearing. People were reluctant to build on the area, believing it was cursed. Naraku was a blessing in that way. Kohaku didn't have to fight to keep him hidden.
Piles of junk littered the space the hanyou resided in. Even objects, once they passed through the barrier, were unable to be thrown back out. Over time, they began to rot, especially the books.
Lately, Kohaku brought him magazines. They fared a little better under the damp conditions. Naraku tends to enjoys reading the nature and current event magazines. It is his lifeline to the outside world, besides Kohaku.
"I used to be one of the greatest threats to man," he comments to Kohaku.
Kohaku thinks Naraku is just being arrogant but holds his tongue. "And?"
"And now the greatest threat to man is man itself." Naraku laughs in that timeless way of his. "They don't even need my help anymore. They accomplished what I would have done much better. The torturer and the victim all in one. And that's the sting of it."
Kohaku rolls his eyes. "You need to get out more."
She stayed with him because she had no elsewhere to go. He made a grave for Sesshoumaru and Jaken, even though there is no body to place in them. Rin was grateful despite that and she helped him put flowers on all nine graves.
She became a farmer and lived alongside him, just like husband and wife. Together they plowed the fields and harvested the wheat and made bread and did the laundry. Together they sat around the fire at night and ate dinner and talked about times past and how happy they had been, and if only, if only they had tried it a little harder maybe they could be happy now too.
As the years passed by, they grew. Rin sprouted and blossomed, a flower under rags and dirt. She became a woman and her smile lit up the landscape.
It was the most beautiful thing Kohaku had ever seen. He knew he wanted to marry her.
One night, he reached for her hand. "Rin-"
But she drew back before he could even begin. She looked at him, sadly. "I'm sorry."
"I loved someone, once." Kohaku is leaning against the wall and staring into space.
Naraku glances up from the magazine he is reading. "The taijiya."
Kohaku shakes his head. "Someone else."
"Oh?" Then Naraku understands. "Ohhh that girl. The youkai's brat."
Kohaku doesn't bother correcting him. It would only make the hanyou amused. Besides, it isn't that far from the truth.
"Why did you bring her up?" asks Naraku, curious for another open wound to slither his way into.
Kohaku shrugs. "Just feeling a little nostalgia."
"She was so upset when I absorbed that bastard," Naraku smirks. "I can still taste her tears."
"I could never compare to him," says Kohaku, "no matter how much I did for her. He was always more important. She was in love before I even met her. But, still, I was happy then. Happy with her. Even if she didn't love me back. I guess it's a ripe day for things like that though."
Naraku laughs and twirls the Shikon in a melodramatic pose. "Oh how the mighty have fallen."
Kohaku smiles, humorously, and throws a card into the chamber. "Happy Valentines Day, Naraku."
He hadn't been aware of his immortality until she began to grow old. Slowly, she began to slow and stagger, while he remained strong and active. Wrinkles formed at her eyes and mouth. His skin remained young and firm.
The work fell onto him to handle and Rin spent most of her time indoors, making baskets and tending the fire.
She had become very sick and at night Kohaku sat by her bedside so she wouldn't wake up alone. She moaned. "I want Sesshoumaru-sama."
Kohaku wiped her tears gently away and ignored the brilliant pain in his chest.
She recovered but the fever had left one eye blind. She wobbled about on her cane and her hands shook unsteadily.
He was awoken one night when he heard her footsteps. He ran outside and she was hobbling across the grass towards Naraku's cave.
"Rin!" He ran after her. "What are you doing?!"
She turned to him then and across her face he had seen the years crawling by. "I'm going to go join my lord."
Kohaku knew she hadn't been referring to Buddha. "Why? Aren't you happy here?"
She smiled at him. "I'm dying."
"We can fix you," said Kohaku, wild, desperate. " Somehow. I can go to the villages nearby."
She closed her eyes. "I am not immortal like you."
Her words crawled into his bones and he felt silent.
She resumed her journey to her death and, in the midst of it, she stopped and looked back at him. "I never did ask," she said, "how you became immortal."
Kohaku, miserable, swallows. "I made a promise."
"Ah." She turned back around. "I hope you find happiness someday then, Kohaku."
Kohaku watched her go and tried not to listen to Naraku's raucous laugh.
He never thought to search for reincarnations. There wouldn't be a point. They wouldn't be the same people.
The only same person is Naraku. He will never change. He will never grow old and leave Kohaku alone. He will never be gone.
Strangely, that comforts Kohaku a little.
He left the village because he knew Naraku wouldn't be going anywhere. At 200 years old, he was in a war. His ship sunk and in the turbulent water he wanted to die.
When he awoke, he was on a beach, the only survivor of a deadly attack. He dug his fingers into the sand. "Why won't you let me die?"
I need you alive.
It is the only way to stop him.
"I don't want to be alive."
Midoriko was silent for a long moment.
The shard is not pure. There is nothing I can do.
"Let me die."
"Then let him die."
I cannot kill him.
Kohaku ground his teeth. "Then I'll figure out something."
He searched for a hundred years. Across the globe, through countless texts and countless dialects. He found nothing.
He came to rest at Naraku's cave, haggard and decrepit.
Naraku stares at him sprawled across the floor.
"I'm sorry," says Kohaku at last. "I'm so sorry."
He isn't sure who he is apologizing to. Naraku or himself or Rin or his sister or her dead companions. Maybe all of them.
"You look ridiculous with a beard," says Naraku.
Kohaku laughs and rolls over and actually feels a little better.
Memory doesn't stop there. Memory doesn't stop at all. Memory is China and India and the great oceans. Memory is Russia and Pakistan and the Great Alps. Memory is the long, long years passing by, one country to the next, one historical event to the next, 500 years stacking up like a pile of books.
Memory is the fine thread stringing it altogether, the thread that leads him home time and time again to the incomplete jewel.
Memory is that, hopefully, one day there won't have to be another memory.
Today it is sunny and warm. Today it is a park and an ice cream cone and a wooden bench he can sit on. Today there are children running around and Kohaku enjoys the scenery of families being families.
It doesn't hurt anymore to watch. It's like an old wound that constantly throbs. Eventually you get so used to the ache you forget its there entirely. Instead it's a soft feeling, a kind of content sorrowful kind.
Kohaku blinks. Next to him there is a little girl in a yellow dress. She is bright and brilliant and she smiles at him.
"Hello," he smiles back.
"Does it hurt?" she asks suddenly.
"Does what hurt?"
"That shard in your back."
Kohaku freezes. "You…you can see it?"
She nods and climbs up on the bench next to him. She lays her hands on his back. Kohaku doesn't move.
"It's dark here," she murmurs. "Bad booboo." She remains a moment longer then she pulled back. "Oooh pretty pink now!" She jumps down. "All better!"
She beams at him. Kohaku stares back at her. Could it be…
A woman calls out, "Kagome!" and the little girl turns and waves.
She smiles at him once more then skips away. Kohaku's ice cream falls unnoticed onto the pavement. From his back, the Shikon shard pulsed beautifully.
"I could end it, you know."
Kohaku stopped peeling his apple to look at him. "What?"
"I could end it all." Naraku smiled devilishly. "You don't want to live anymore, right? Well I don't want to be trapped here any longer. It will be a mutual exchange. You get what you want and I'll get what I want."
"Oh." Kohaku lowered his knife and apple. "Oh that."
"I'll make it a quick death. You won't feel a thing."
It had been so very tempting. It would have only take a few steps to cross that boundary then Naraku would take care of the rest. Kohaku could finally die.
"And what will you do exactly?"
Naraku's hands tightened around the Shikon. "I want to be remembered."
"Nobody else does," Naraku hissed. "I didn't even get to kill them. Only you know what I achieved."
Kohaku smiled in a self-deprecating sort of way. "Then you already got your wish, haven't you?"
There was a sparkle in Naraku's eyes. "But you haven't."
Kohaku stared at him for a long moment. Then he sighed. "Not yet," he said. "Not yet."
She had purified the shard.
Kohaku stands at home in his bathroom and stares at himself in the mirror.
She had purified the shard. Kagome.
Throughout his body he felt like he had been given an electric shock. He felt powerful, indestructible. He felt like he could take on the world.
He felt pure.
"Midoriko." He had never called on her before. "Midoriko."
"What?" Her voice is stronger, clearer.
He only asks one thing of her, like she had only asked one thing of him 500 years ago. "Now?"
She is silent for a bit. "Yes," she says finally. "But you must listen to me very carefully."
He had thought he was finally getting what he wanted. When he saw him, he knew.
He smiled and for the first time there was nothing holding this smile back. He strode towards him and Naraku drew himself up.
"We'll end this tonight," said Kohaku.
"Ohhhh." Naraku laughed. "Have you come to your senses, at last?"
Kohaku smiled. "I have." He stopped for a split second at the edge of the barrier. Then, he crossed it.
"Yessss." Naraku's tentacles encircled him and pulled him closer, held him like a lover would. Miasma swirled around them. "Come to me, my pretty."
The tentacle dug into Kohaku's back. He stiffened then relaxed.
Naraku laughed. His tentacle circled the shard. "It's mine!" he cackled. "Mine at last!"
Kohaku stirred against his chest. He drew up his hand. Naraku saw the flash of metal. The boy's sickle.
"I'm so sorry," said Kohaku. Then he plunged his blade into the hanyou's chest.
Naraku drew back with a shout and his tentacle instinctively curled and removed itself from the boy's back. The shard burned against his flesh and it glittered a glorious pink. The Shikon roared to life in his hand and Naraku felt like his entire body was on fire. He screamed and screamed and screamed.
And now there is only dust. Dust and a lifetime of nothing. Naraku kicks at the ground where the boy had died. Kicks at the ground with his human foot.
A year has past. Naraku is dressed in a coat to protect himself from the cold. He drinks coffee given to him from a homeless shelter.
He is worn and ragged. And mortal.
He had underestimated the boy. He had thought he had been getting what he wanted, that the boy had finally gotten tired of living and to hell with the consequences.
The purified shard had burned away his youkai parts, leaving behind only a mortal man. A mortal man who is incapable of great things. He could kill but he would be no better then any other human murderer. Nobody would even bat any eye at it. He had lost all his power.
Instead he is left with the memory of a time when he was mighty and able to bring down empires. He is left with the memory of paradise lost and immortality taken away. He is left with nothing, not even a stupid boy to trade stories about the past with.
Nobody knows who he really is. Nobody knows he was once a being feared by many. Nobody thinks he any better then the street bum he has become. Only he remembers and nobody will remember him.
Naraku sits on the street, the Shikon No Tama a cold marble in his pocket now, and waits for the day when there won't be another memory.