For: originally, lj group iynokakera.
Prompt: Unknown only to self
"You have much to learn."
These are the words that gut her clean every time she hears them. They are like jerks of white hotness beneath her skin, like the sharp ripping of hair between curled fists–a shock that freezes even time. Have I not learned enough? Over and over again she is struck down by this meaning, and from her pedestal she plummets to the sweet earth and shatters.
Tirelessly, Kikyou picks herself up and climbs again, searching for transcendence.
She makes her first mistake by not making a mistake at all.
"Come here, Kikyou" the tall man commands. She goes, because he is her father's friend, and it would be impolite to not do as he bids. Standing before him she hardly reaches his chest, but when she kneels she is beneath him and the tall man's sticky smile tells her more then his words could.
"I like you," he says softly and tries to catch her, but when she tries to flit away he lunges at her with violence and clasps her tight with dirty, thick fingers.
"You have much to learn," he says.
His words are still inside her long after the blood on her father's blade is gone, and like his touch, she can't seem to wash it away.
Her mother praises the gods that her chastity is intact, but Kikyou does not feel all that innocent anymore.
When she bathes, she scours her skin till it aches crimson deep inside her flesh, just so she can taste something clean, something stripped of filth by pain, something purely beautiful.
All she tastes is blood.
Kikyou is sent to the temple for cleansing.
The monk of the temple is kind. He performs rituals and her parents are satisfied. Kikyou, however, is not. She asks and becomes accepted as one of the many apprentices to a powerful priest from the north.
Kikyou is a hard worker, the best.
But the aches and the shadows are still there, in her body, and they grow and grow and try to consume her.
"Kikyou," Tsubaki whispers in the darkness, and her voice is filled with pulsing excitement, "I know the secret to life. It lies in the heart of a serpent's belly, where power is determined through strength of desire not strength of blood, where a secret is the constant shadow of a lighter, more beautiful thing."
"Leave me be, Tsubaki," Kikyou says, and Tsubaki recoils with bitter hatred. While Tsubaki may want to be Kikyou's secret, Kikyou will never tolerate being a secret to anyone. Purity is all that she wants, needs, has.
"You have much to learn," Tsubaki spits.
Kikyou's face is grim, but satisfied. "Not more so then you."
She disappears one day mysteriously. Rumors spread of a powerful priestess in a village far to the north, but her face is nameless and her power faceless, and Tsubaki won't find her until years have aged them. Kikyou likes it this way. Her aches no longer ache.
Kikyou adopts a child and names her after the autumn trees and calls her sister. She is the symbol of the death of an old life.
Kaede grows up believing one day she'll be as beautiful and pure as her sister.
Kikyou scrubs the walls and the floors and her skin until they shine in the sunset, just like Kaede's bright innocent smile.
Kikyou does not think, "She has much to learn."
She thinks, "I want to smile like that."
She is naïve.
Kikyou is not sure which spurs her on more anymore: the need to be clean, or the need to stop having to learn. Then again, she is sure it doesn't even matter, because all she needs is to reach the top. She climbs and falls so often now that the two directions are blurred together, and Kikyou is never sure which way she is going, only that it always takes an eternity for her to get there. She is caught in a constant cycle of motion and it perplexes her and despairs her, for it means that she will never be purely, wholly good.
Kikyou's purpose, however, is always clear: to reach the end.
As always, she has much to learn.
When she first meets him, he is bleeding and she freezes: stands motionless, suspended in time. His face is broken, but his eyes, there is something beautiful, something deep that she can't comprehend, that she thinks she lost along time ago.
She abandons her journey to find out what it is, and when she finds it she wants to weep.
It is as if he is just a child.
Captivated by her, he draws near and seals his fate.
Suddenly, she is moving, and for once she is rising and falling and she doesn't care.
At the end, Kikyou comes to the conclusion she has desperately denied all her life-she is corrupt and has been corrupt and has corrupted everyone she knows.
She can see it in their eyes, this fruit of her work: in her sister's hollow black socket, in Inuyasha's cold dark glare, in Tsubaki's scarred white truimphant gaze. She has changed them all, and she can see that.
But when she looks into her blood–cause there it is everywhere and she can't not look at it–she sees herself for the first time, sees her beauty and her power and her selfish desires, except suddenly she has no regrets because this is life, isn't it, darkness and light forever intertwined, and what more can she do but give everything up to make right what she wronged?
She asks to be burned and her pure intentions shoot her straight to hell.
Her pedestal breaks and crumbles and she is crushed beneath it.
Her last memory is of the taste of blood in her mouth.
When she is alive again and there is no more blood to taste within her, she will remember and know– I was just too innocent to see that I wasn't searching for purity, I was proving it was there.
It was–though no longer is. It is why she died and now why she lives.
Her dead heart satisfied, Kikyou waits patiently to begin again.