Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha, only the genius Rumiko Takahashi could create such a blend of comedy, drama, and angst. This is also my first foray into past-tense writing in a while, so if you see any present-tense slip please free to point out the mistakes.
Spoiler Warning: major spoilers to the manga chapter 374 Wind.
She Was Smiling
It seemed as if I could not run fast enough, could not reach the source of that scent. Finally, my keen eyes spotted her, sitting in the middle of the grand field of flowers. She was on her knees, sitting back on her heels, trying to keep upright, fighting the obvious pain as her body disintegrated. It was strange, though, her expression carried pain but wasn't a grimace, there was wonder in it, fear and elation all at once.
The toxins were so powerful that her body was dissipating into vapor, but even so she refused to give into the pain, and sitting there in the rising sun she never looked more beautiful.
Why does it have to be this way? Why is it in this late hour that I see her in her fiercely independent glory?
She sat there, looking up into the air, a slightly blank look in her eyes, yet despite the confusion and pain, there were hints of a smile. Then she started to look down, and those hints began to fade. What was she missing? Now that she finally had her freedom, what could break this unbreakable youkai of the wind? Then I understood.
She felt she was alone.
In the next instant, I stood before her. So many thoughts swirled in my head, I wasn't sure what to do. How many days had I remembered her? How many nights had I wished to see her face? And now here she was . . .
. . . dying.
It isn't fair.
"Sesshou . . . maru . . . ?"
Her words, like the singing of the wind, jerked me from the raging torrent of my thoughts. She looked at me, eyes wide, a not unpleased shock clear in her face, and suddenly I wished I had this before, and wanted it again. For her to look in shock and amazement and joy.
Yet I couldn't find the words to say anything back. I, the great taiyoukai Sesshoumaru, Lord of the Western Lands with power almost beyond anything on earth, feared by the amalgamation Naraku and countless youkai and humans, could not make myself speak. It was all I could to do turn a softer gaze to her. My body felt numb, unable even to reach out my hand to her.
Finally, my tongue loosened, and I explained, "I came following after the scent of Naraku's shouki."
Her eyes drooped a little and I felt my heart wrench at the disappointment that showed in her features, yet even that did nothing to dull the beauty of the smile that spread on her lips. "Heh," she breathed out.
Her lungs were burning away, but still she struggled against the pain, trying to rise above it. The pride I felt at this made my throat tighten. Then her head drooped down and she spoke with a tone thick with disappointed bitterness. "You'll be disappointed." She misunderstood what I said, I could tell as she finished, "Naraku isn't here."
A beat passed in the still air. She didn't understand? I never said I was looking for Naraku. I smelled his poisons, and thought – hoped – that it was . . . I had to make her understand. "I knew that it was you."
Her eyes snapped open again, and a smile almost came to my face. The two of us stood there for what seemed like an eternity, just feeling the other's presence. It was she who spoke next, and when she spoke again, it was filled with hope and trepidation. "I . . . see . . ."
She pulled in another breath, a muscle tensing under her eye but allowing no other outward sign of pain before she added, "You knew . . . and so you came?"
The tearing at my heart became more than I could bear, and I reached for Tenseiga. It's strange, for so long I cursed my father for giving me a sword of healing, and yet now Toukijin felt like unwanted deadweight. I wanted to heal her, but the sword . . .
As my fingers brushed over the handle, I did not feel the pull, the yearning, the energy that I did when I revived Rin. Were I a lesser youkai, I might have snarled or shouted an obscenity. Tenseiga is not able to save her . . . I let my hand fall back to my side, again cursing the blade. What good is a healing sword that can't save—
She tensed, interrupting my silent diatribe. I didn't want to ask. I didn't even want to know, even though it was already clear. Yet I asked anyway. ". . . Are you going?"
"Yeah," she replied.
Were I a lesser youkai, I would have exploded, Damn it, you're going to die and that's all you can say?! Like this is it and you expected it? You deserved so much better than this!
But then she surprised me, she spoke again, gently and with a peace that at that moment seemed so out of place, with a smile that shouldn't have been there. "It's fine."
I felt like stepping closer, like reaching down and taking her in my arm, but then I was peripherally aware of my brother's arrival, and my body tensed. Damn my pride and my image.
Then she looked up, with slightly drooped eyelids, looking more dignified than the highest nobles in my father's court, more radiant than any of the assembly when my father married Izayoi. In that brief moment, I saw the pain vanish from her completely, and the corners of her lips turned up, and she breathed out, "In the end . . ."
". . . I was with you."
Those final four words, and the smile that was almost too pure to rest on a creature of earth, almost broke me, for a moment I thought I felt tears in my eyes. Then there was a burst that was strangely breathtaking as her disintegrating body finally yielded to the shouki and she fell over backwards.
An eternity passed in the next fraction of a second. There was a deluge of images of what might have been, but now never will be. I, taiyoukai Sesshoumaru, Lord of the Western Lands, felt such sadness and regret and despair that for the briefest of instants I thought I might fall right there. I saw times before, so many lost opportunities, so many times I should have – would have – done differently. But her last gift, the last thing she graced me with, was a smile, and I turned away from my brother's entourage.
A wind whistled about the field, and I heard some reverential whispers from their number before Inuyasha himself called out to me. I knew he felt emotionally troubled, because there were traces of that forced gruffness he always tried to protect himself with in his voice, but something about the situation somehow overrode that and there wasn't truly even any faked hostility in his voice.
In that next moment, many things happened.
I wanted to turn around and slice him apart, to curse him for daring to presume that he understood me, my situation, anything. How dare than hanyou presume to know . . . yet . . . didn't he? Hadn't he, too, lost the first love of his life to the malicious designs of Naraku? He had even been alone for that time of grief, for I was too far away and too busy to ever bother coming to him. Who was there to even offer a shoulder to cry on?
I could hear the others breathing beside him, particularly his current choice. Then I wanted to curse him again, because he had found – again – what had taken me so long to see that I could have had. His was still there beside him, and mine was torn from me. But was it through anyone's fault that Kagome was alive? Was it through anyone's fault that she healed his wounds? Even more barbed: if I destroyed her because mine was gone, how far beneath him would that place me? If I did not deserve to lose what was mine, did he deserve to lose what was his?
At long last, I paused and turned my head to look over my left shoulder. What words would he have for me in these darkest moments of my life?
Kagome reached for his arm and cautiously asked him, "Inuyasha?"
Now he spoke, his voice edged and determined, as if he wasn't sure he could finish what he had resolved to say but now was committed. "Did Kagura . . ." He hesitated, and I waited patiently. "Was she . . . suffering?"
The gusting winds gave one final burst and I looked up to spot one of her feathers dancing on the currents of the breeze.
"I was with you."
"She was smiling."