Blast from the past…I'm posting this for the sake of nostalgia. It's REALLY old.

Inuyasha found himself on a road, and since he was on it he began to walk. For a while he walked without thinking, but eventually thoughts started curling up from the bottom of his head. He let them alone to curl as they liked for the most part. Thoughts were uncomfortable things.

He wandered down a path between rice paddies. There was no one working them as far as he could see, until they faded off into misty distance, but that suited him. After all, even if the ways of growing rice had changed but little between the Sengoku and the Meiji, the people, their dress, the sounds of their voices had changed enough that they never let a hanyou forget his displacement. If the onmyoujin who had sealed him had not been long dead, Inuyasha would have torn him to shreds. Human or not, he was hardly defeseless. Sleep 'til the emperor controls his Japan again, the magician had laughed. He had meant forever, but the emperor had gotten just enough power back in the course of the Meiji restoration to fulfil the terms of the spell. That or it had worn out. Inuyasha suspected it had worn out. Thirteen years, it had been, since he had woken up, and he still wasn't used to three hundred years' of changes. There were more humans. Fewer youkai. He avoided both.

The rice paddies had turned into forest, and it was dark. Inuyasha fought his way through trailing creepers that seemed to cling to him more fiercely than they should, like the hands of the dead. Kikyou. She was what he kept thinking about today. Kikyou he had loved. Had hated. Had caused the death of by softening her heart. Had ached for. Had…had not forgotten. Would not forget.

He pushed onward, shrugging greenery from his body and slashing at it with irritated claws, until severing a particularly strong vine he had been leaning forward against sent him stumbling through the undergrowth. He burst out unsteadily into a grove of plum and almond trees, and an empty space in their center where the light fell in. The grass was soft. The almond flowers were just finished opening, and the white plums were probably only days from being ready to fall. Inuyasha took a deep breath, looking around at the whiteness, and then shrugged and sat down with his back against the largest almond tree.

Kikyou… he didn't know why it was she who plagued his thoughts today. The other loss, the one he somehow minded even more, was still there, gaping like an open wound, but she was peaceful and left him to hurt in peace, for the most part. She didn't demand to be figured out. In reality, the two losses were spaced fifty years apart and three hundred years ago, but in his memory the losses were recorded only a few years from one another, and only twenty years cut them off from himself. It was not so long. But it was forever.

Inuyasha looked up. That had been the soft sound of a step in the carpet of dry leaves, just under the eaves of the wood. A human samurai boy, with hair like a fox's, he saw, and looked away again. It had been some while since he had seen a man with a sword. He felt like being angry at the boy for interrupting his thoughts, but the boy moved with an assurance that told Inuyasha that this was usually his place, and he had found it invaded.

The boy for his part made no complaint. He walked quietly around the edge of the glade and sat down not very far from Inuyasha, but not quite too close. He leaned against a tree, tipped his head back to look at the sky, and was so still that Inuyasha soon forgot he was not alone. His thoughts resumed.

If Kikyou had not 'come back,' he would have laid her to rest by now. No…that wasn't true. If she hadn't come back, she would still be a spot of hate drilling into his heart. Now he didn't know what she was, and that was what bothered him the most. He closed his eyes and leaned back against his own tree trunk, letting himself think of her. Of the set, distant look on her face when she shot still another arrow not meant to finish him. Of the familiar way she smelled, that even now he had to concentrate not to mix with grave soil in his mind. Of the first time they had simply sat…and…talked. And she had said they were not so different. Cold Kikyou, who could not let herself be human. Who almost never smiled. And that sad smile she had given him, when he had brushed off her comparison so bluntly and easily.

Who could really blame her for going after him as she had? Wounded to death, betrayed…Naraku had said in Inuyasha's voice that he would slaughter the village, and then Inuyasha himself had attacked it. He'd bought into the trick, too. No one could say she hadn't loved him, just because of that. Or that he hadn't loved her. He would cut down anyone who tried. They had each been going to give up the center of their lives for one another. Was that to mean nothing? Two people, who had been hardening their hearts as long as they could remember, in an act of trust with one who was a natural foe…senseless and even unexpected as betrayal had been, it had been too easy to believe for both of them. I was only wishing I was loved. She/he fooled me. It can never be made right.

He had woken up after fifty years thinking she had killed him. He had held it against Kagome, he had held it against Kikyou's memory…but he had not allowed himself to be weakened by it. Kikyou had been a mistake, his greatest mistake, but he was going to carry on as if she had never existed. Get that bead. Never be weak again. And then, all of a sudden, she wasn't. He didn't have to hate her anymore. She hadn't betrayed him all those years ago. But she hated him. She had died hating him, and her soul could not move from that spot. That was what she told him. But was that true? Could that be true? The first two times he had met the resurrected Kikyou, she had tried to kill him. The first time with furious arrows, the second with spells. But something had seemed to change. Even when she had said she wouldn't let Naraku destroy him, because he was hers to kill. She had been changing. Had she ever forgiven him? Could she ever forgive him?

"Who was it?" asked a voice from his left.

Inuyasha jolted. He had almost forgotten the redhead was there. "What?" he growled.

"Whoever you're remembering." The soft voice wasn't that of a boy, Inuyasha realized. Neither were the deep eyes.

"How did you…"

The redhead smiled faintly. "This is my memory-place. There has never been anyone else here before. Who do you come to remember?"

"Feh," said Inuyasha, looking at his toes. The redhead smiled a little and went back to contemplating the sky. It had a moon in it, but was a deep, improbable autumn blue. "I think she hates me," Inuyasha found himself saying. "Don't know how I'd tell the difference if she did. She hardly ever used to smile. She thought I killed her."

"Well," said the redhead, watching a few wisps of white drift across the blueness, "I did kill her."

Inuyasha had a second jolt, and sat bolt upright. Naraku? It couldn't be…

"Not your lady," said the other, calming him. "The one I come here to remember. These hands took her life." The redhead held up his hands to look at them, almost dispassionately.

Inuyasha felt sick. "What would you do that for?" he asked.

The redhead dropped his hands. "I didn't mean to."


The silence of the grove seemed likely to close in again, but then the samurai said, "she threw herself between me and an enemy. She'd changed her mind about wanting me to die."

"And you cut her down?"

The samurai closed his eyes. Inuyasha shut up.

"Did she love you?" the samurai asked after a while.

"Yes," said Inuyasha, and then wondered if he should have answered so quickly and easily. "I mean…well, yes. But she died hating me."

"How do you know?"

"She told me. She came back and told me. Even when I told her it wasn't me who killed her, she tried to kill me anyway, because she was stuck with the hate she died with."

The samurai was silent for a moment, as if assimilating this. "But if she died again, she could have felt again beyond the grave," he said. "And if she loved you, she forgave you then." He looked up and offered Inuyasha a smile. "I am sure she did."

Inuyasha found that he was neither able nor willing to accept this assurance. "But when she came back," he said, moving to his next offense against Kikyou. "When she came back I was already starting to love someone else."

"Had you forgotten her?"

"No. But I hated her. I thought she was the one who'd betrayed me." Inuyasha met the samurai's questioning purple eyes and then found himself pouring out all of it, from beginning to end: Kikyou, the shikon no tama, Naraku, fifty years asleep, Kagome and her place in the cycle of reincarnation, the clay-doll Kikyou, how she had acted, how she had died a second time.

The samurai listened to all of it, and when the story was done he nodded. "I am sure she forgave you," he repeated quietly.

"Why?" demanded Inuyasha.

"Because," said the samurai, and smiled a little, "she sounds so much like my Tomoe. And besides," he added before the hardheaded hanyou could shrug off such airy nothing, his ears twitching in irritation, "if she could forgive you so much even as a fixed ghost, you must have been important to her. Believe in her. Look in your mind. Is she smiling?"

Inuyasha was not sure what the samurai meant, but for some reason he tried to cooperate. He looked – after a moment's trying he closed his eyes to do it – and found Kikyou, standing beside Kagome, and… "yes," he said, "but it's a sad smile." A familiar one. Oh, gods, a familiar one.

"Are you happy?" asked the samurai's quiet voice.

"I – well, no."

"Then of course she is sad. You will have to find some peace before she will smile."

"I…" said Inuyasha at length, voice rough. "I always wanted to make her smile."

The samurai nodded. He seemed about to say something else, but then stopped, and cocked his head as if listening to something. Inuyasha strained his ears, but heard no sound but the breeze. "I have to go," the redhead said, rising. "But if there is anything you ever need, or if you just want to make me tell you my story as a fair trade, you can come here," and he gave an address in Tokyo. Inuyasha grunted. The samurai smiled at him and vanished into the trees, but Inuyasha could hear no sound of his feet on the dead leaves, or of his forcing his way through the forest. It was as if he had vanished into the scent of the white plums.

Inuyasha sat for a while, holding the two of them in his mind and looking at their faces. Yes. Somehow, he would make them both smile.

The sky was deep blue, the grass was soft green, and the flowers were a white that in full sunlight would have been too bright to look at. Around Inuyasha the glade grew foggy and began to fade away, little by little, until he was left with only the smell of almond blossoms, and then he woke up.

He blinked irritably at the moon – a full one, not the waxing crescent from his dream- as if blaming it for waking him, and then looked around. The tree he had chosen to sleep in that evening swayed in the wind, and he dropped to the ground, wishing there were more giant trees around here like the ones he remembered.

A thought stopped him and he froze, looking inside to see if Kagome and Kikyou were still with him now that he was out of his dream and the samurai's remembering-place. They were, and he breathed again. He still remembered that address, too, useless information that it was. Be funny to see what was really there. He'd bet anything it wasn't a dojo. Ah, what the hell. He'd go see. He'd been avoiding Tokyo too long, anyway, and after all, there was something he wanted to look for there. OK, if he was here in the mountains, Tokyo was…that way. He started walking. Somehow he felt Kikyou's smile was just a little less sad…

Himura Kenshin bent over his wailing infant son, trying to persuade him to settle down now that his catch-cloth had been changed. Slowly the boy's sobs slowed, quieted, and passed into quiet baby snoring. Kenshin smiled at Kenji, softly stroking his back, and thought of the dream he'd been woken from. He had dreamed that grove before, and had occasionally wondered about the presence of the almonds. As he turned away from Kenji's cradle he laughed suddenly at himself. This one is handing out advice even in his sleep, he thought. And inviting strange half-demon boys to the house. What would Kaoru think of that? He shook his head as he lay down again. Kaoru would say it was just like him. Maybe it was.

Wrote this ages ago. Hard to remember now, but I think I was musing on character types and the similarities of Tomoe and Kikyou occurred to me, while at the same time I was on a dream-meetings kick and had recently glanced over some Japanese history timelines. Also, the idea of Inuyasha turning up at the Kamiya dojo amused me heartily. This was the last Inuyasha thing I ever did, returning to a different facet and situation for the contemplative older Inuyasha I debuted on this site with. The practice with Kenshin here probably served as a sort of dry run for Cutting Them Down, which was shorter but better. Still, I found this enjoyable, and it took just an hour to polish up, so here it is. Would like to state here that it is not nearly beyond Inuyasha's maladroit abilities to wind up sealed for three hundred years this time – Kikyou's was supposed to last 'forever,' ne? – and that white plums bloom in the late winter and almonds in the early spring. Also that neither of these is actually a tree; they're classified as flowering shrubs. Big flowering shrubs.

I thought almond suited Kikyou nicely. Review?