Don't You Know Who I Think I Am?
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Chapter 8: I Will Follow You Into The Dark
"Love of mine, some day you will die
But I'll be close behind; I'll follow you into the dark
No blinding light or tunnels to gates of white
Just our hands clasped so tight
Waiting for the hint of a spark
If Heaven and Hell decideThat they both are satisfied; Illuminate the No's on their vacancy signs
If there's no one beside youWhen your soul embarks
Then I'll follow you into the dark"
"How is it that two beings who could never partake in a life together have fallen in love?" The dream eater loomed over Kagome, his black eyes narrowed and unreadable.
"You don't know what you're talking about. You know nothing of love." She hissed back. Although she could barely move, the young woman still possessed a fiery temper.
He grinned facetiously, fangs gleaming, wet, behind his pale lips. " Do you entertain ideas of the two of you living happily ever after? It's not in the cards, girl. You aren't even from the same…time, it seems. What allows you passage will one day pull you back to where you belong."
"I belong with Inuyasha." Kagome refuted stubbornly, a fierce blaze shining behind her heavily lashed eyes.
"Perhaps…" He touched a finger thoughtfully to his chin. "What a shame Inuyasha doesn't seem to think along the same lines as you. He can't fully give himself over to anyone, heart or body, can he? The stubborn halfling is torn in more ways than one. He can't even admit to himself that he loves you."
Kagome glared but kept her mouth shut. The more the demon tormented her, the weaker she got. She knew he was just draining her of energy. She looked away, closing her eyes, and wishing Inuyasha could take her from this strange place. Kagome could hear Ketsueki begin to talk again, but his words were cut off my a strangled sound, almost a scream. Almost in unison with the demon's pain, Kagome found out the reason for the dream eater's distress.
Kagome had experienced pain before. But nothing like this. It was burning, unforgiving, unrelenting. She doubled over, falling to the ground as if boneless. She wanted to scream, but couldn't find her voice. There was no air, no hope. It felt like her heart was being cut out of her chest. Her features were frozen, mouth gaping wide, eyes closed against the unseen force that was killing her. And then it was gone, leaving her sobbing for breath, shivering, and cold.
She could see Ketsueki standing above her. His expression changed rapidly from shock, to pure undefiled rage, to indifference. "So this is death. It seems your Inuyasha has found a way to kill me." The shadow laden demon gave her a long look. "But don't think I haven't taken a toll on you and your hanyou. You'll be lucky to make it out alive."
"What do you mean?" Kagome's whisper was harsh, her throat working hard to make the words.
But no sooner had she spoken then the figure of the dream eater faded to ash and dissolved into the air. Wide eyed, Kagome watched the space where the demon had faded to nothingness.
Relief flooded through her so intensely she though she might faint. Although her body was still shaking, recovering from the absence of such extraordinary pain, she managed to pull herself up into a sitting position. She settled against the tree and allowed herself a few minutes of rest to recuperate. When she closed her eyes she was harboring the hope that when her eyes reopened she would be surrounded by her friends.
Miroku helped Inuyasha travel back to where Sango and Shippou were anxiously waiting. Though Inuyasha wouldn't admit it, the wound in his chest was painful and not healing as fast as it should have. The long gash was still bleeding freely. Inuyasha kept his palm pressed down hard on the wound to staunch the blood flow. He resented having to have Miroku's help, but he actually needed it.
The journey back to the village was much longer than the previous trip, but with the Monk's patient help, they made it soon enough. Shippou saw them before Sango. He cheered, jumping into the air. "Inuyasha, Miroku!" The little fox kit cried as he ran for them. He stopped short when he smelled Inuyasha's blood and saw Miroku supporting half of the hanyou's weight.
"Is he alright?" Shippou tried not to be too nervous. Inuyasha had been injured countless times before and he had always recovered nicely. And this particular injury didn't look to be too serious.
Sango, who hadn't moved from her protective post over Kagome, was still cradling the girl's limp head in her lap. Kirara was huddled by Kagome's side in her large fire-cat form, keeping both Sango and Kagome warm from the cool night air with the noticeable amount of body heat she projected.
The young demon slayer sighed with relief when she caught sight of Miroku and Inuyasha. Thankfully, Miroku seemed to be unharmed. Inuyasha, on the other hand, looked to be troubled by a chest wound. Sango wasn't worried, though. She'd seen the inu hanyou much worse off.
"Did you defeat the dream eater?" She questioned softly, hoping to disguise the blatant relief in her voice.
Inuyasha snorted, giving her a look that seemed to say "of course!"
"That bastard won't be bothering anyone living ever again." Inuyasha assured her, collapsing to the ground beside Kagome."
"Indeed, we won't be troubled by him any longer." Miroku sank to the ground beside Sango. "Has lady Kagome awoken yet?"
Sango bit her lip and looked down at the girl before her. "No, not yet. But she should be waking up soon, right? Usually after the dream eater has been killed the girl's wake right up."
Shippou climbed into the monk's lap and looked up at him hopefully. Miroku regarded Kagome's sleeping form. "Yes, she should be awake by now…"
Inuyasha was trying to listen to the monk's words, but his vision was darkening and the world around him seemed to be spinning. Nausea built up in him and he was only hanging down to consciousness by a thread.
The last thing he remembered before sinking into a black sleep was leaning over Kagome and willing her to open her eyes.
"Inuyasha!" Sango yelled, startled, as the half demon suddenly fell over, obviously unconscious.
"What happened?" Shippou trembled fearfully.
Miroku was checking over both sleeping bodies, his face intent with concentration.
"Something is wrong…the dream eater is dead. Neither Kagome or Inuyasha should be suffering from the wounds inflicted by Ketsueki. It's almost as if…their souls are departed from their bodies and are somewhere far away."
Sango's eyes flew open and she simply starred at Miroku for a few uncomprehending seconds. "Their souls?" She echoed.
"Yes." Miroku nodded gravely. "Inuyasha and Kagome are fine physically, despite from that nasty gash in Inuyasha's chest. It's their souls that are missing. Perhaps it's some trick from Ketsueki he cast upon them before he died."
"What do we do?" Sango jumped to her feet, fists clenched at her sides. She wanted to take action. She wanted to do something and do it now!
"There is nothing we can do. We can only wait for their souls to find their way back to their physical shells. If they do, then they should both wake up and all should go as normal."
"And if not?" Sango asked as Shippou clung to her leg.
"Well, that doesn't bear thinking about. Let's just stay positive." Miroku looked down at his unconscious friends and hoped that wherever they were, they were there together.
When Kagome woke up the first thing she noticed was that she was not back with her friends as she had hoped - but she was somewhere different and for that she was thankful. Wherever she was, it was beautiful, if not somewhat mysterious. Green and golden grass as soft as cashmere drifted in a warm wind beneath her, delicately moving across what bare skin she had. A river murmured somewhere close by; Kagome could hear the moving water and somehow smell it as well. The scent was clear, brisk, and sweet. She was incredibly thirsty, so she got to her feet and went in search of the water source.
The river was gorgeous. The water was crystal clear and sparkled in the soft sunlight. Colors bounced in-between sun and water - some colors she had never seen before and could not name. Somewhat in awe, Kagome fell to her knees beside the river's edge and cupped her hands to drink from the rivers cool, refreshing waters.
It was delicious, and Kagome had to make a conscious effort to stop drinking even after her thirst had been quenched. She wiped her mouth and looked up into the sky. The heavens were bright, but the sun was masked by pink feathery clouds. It was striking, like a sunset in the middle of the afternoon.
Feeling replete and at ease, Kagome only barely wondered where she was and how she could return to her friends. As she idly pondered, she caught sight of a familiar figure on the other side of the river. She would have recognized him anywhere. With a sharp gasp, Kagome leapt to her feet and charged the river. The water wasn't very deep, about to her knees. The cool water gently pulled at her, and she crossed the river easily.
"Inuyasha!" She cried joyfully, scrambling up the bank. She fell beside his sleeping form and gently shook him.
After a few seconds he yawned and opened his golden eyes lazily. He blinked a few times until his vision cleared. Smiling, Kagome watched him and when he realized she was sitting beside him, he came to full alert.
"Kagome!" He sat up so quickly he nearly butted heads with her. "Are you okay? Where are we?" He grabbed her gently by her shoulders and glanced around.
" I don't know." All around them was soft grass, warm wind, and of course the winding river. Open space swallowed them and seemed to stretch on forever.
Inuyasha looked down at the wound in his chest. It was no longer bleeding but the gash was sill open and didn't appear to be healing. It still looked as fresh as ever, even though he only felt a mild discomfort from the laceration.
A strange look crossed his face and he stared intently into Kagome's eyes. The canine ears perched atop his head were fully erect, almost comically strained. "Are we dead?" He asked earnestly.
Kagome's face went slack with surprise before a thoughtful look replaced it. "I don't think so. I mean, I still feel alive. I don't remember dying. And where is this place? It doesn't look like heaven or hell to me." Then her eyes found the rather nasty looking wound spread across Inuyasha's chest.
"Inuyasha, are you alright?" She gasped, reaching out to touch him. As soon as her small, warm hand settled across his chest, touching the gaping injury, a soft light emitted from her palm and the wound healed almost instantly.
Kagome removed her hand quickly in surprise and then looked down at the offending appendage as if it had just spoken to her.
Inuyasha looked impressed. "When did you learn how to do that?"
"I don't know. I didn't think I could do that. It's almost like my spiritual powers are heightened by this place."
Inuyasha's ears flattened, close to his skull so that they nearly blended in with his head of white hair. "Where the hell are we?"
"I think the more important question is, how do we get out of here?" Kagome looked down mournfully at the sparkling river. "Although, it's so pretty I almost don't want to leave."
Inuyasha scoffed. "Whatever." He rolled his eyes, even though he, too, was awed by the beauty of the strange world.
"I know, I sound ridiculous." She smiled bashfully. "This place is just so perfect." She looked back up at him to find the solemn hanyou watching her with an intent, unreadable expression. His eyes blazed with the unidentified emotion, turning them the a dark lustrous amber hue, like burnished gold. Kagome found she couldn't look away from him.
"Are you really okay?" He asked, and Kagome found that, somehow, her hand was clasped in his, warm and protected.
"Yes, I'm perfectly fine." She gave him a sincere smile to prove her words.
His hand tightened around hers. "I'm really glad." He smiled back. It was small, miniscule, half-smile - but it was a smile nonetheless. And the sight of his smile was enough to send a rush of warmth spreading through Kagome from her head to her toes.
"I'm so glad you're here with me." The words were so true and resonated so deeply within her, Kagome started to cry. Tears welled up in her eyes and Inuyasha could smell the salty water immediately.
Alarmed, Inuyasha wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close to him. "Kagome?" His voice was laced with concern. "Please stop crying. I can't stand it when you cry."
Kagome snaked her arms around his neck and held on tightly, her face buried into his shoulder. She breathed in the scent of him, warm male musk and wild forest. "It's okay. I'm not crying entirely because I'm sad. I'm actually really, really happy. I thought for a while I would never get to see you again."
"I'm here now, Kagome." Inuyasha said earnestly, his voice youthful. He was never quite sure how to handle a crying woman.
Kagome laughed softly, making Inuyasha relax. If she was laughing, then he was doing something right.
"I know." She sighed happily, relaxing more into his embrace.
No one was around to see, so Inuyasha took the liberty to smile his quirksome, arrogant half-smile into her long dark hair. He smoothed her silky locks, gingerly, down her back. He didn't know that the hell Kagome put in her hair. She had so many bottles of scented soaps and mysterious girly products - but whatever it was, it worked. Her hair was always shiny, soft, and wonderful smelling.
"So what happened with Ketsueki?" Kagome asked eventually.
"He's dead, now. That's all that matters. Miroku and I took care of him." Inuyasha huffed, still bristling at the mention of the dream eater.
"Oh, Miroku. Is everyone at home alright? I miss Miroku, Sango, and Shippou so much." Kagome smiled sadly.
Not wanting to see her cry again, Inuyasha assured her quickly that everyone was perfectly fine. "They're probably just worried about us."
Kagome bit her bottom lip, catching it gently between her teeth. Kagome didn't know it, but Inuyasha loved it when she did that. He wasn't one to use the word 'cute', but it was the only one he could think of. He averted his eyes, choosing to watch the river rush busily by.
"I think Ketsueki is the one who sent us here. Right before he died he said something about taking a toll on us and that we would be lucky to make it out alive." The memory came rushing back to Kagome, making her stomach turn. She was so happy to be out of that demon's clutches. Even though, technically, she was still in his trap she was with Inuyasha now. And that was enough to make her feel safe and as if she could handle anything.
"What? You talked to him before he died" Inuyasha raised an eyebrow.
"Not in person. I guess it was his spirit or some abstract part of him. He brought me to a strange place and tried to…well, never mind that. It's not important anymore."
"So is that what we are?" Inuyasha questioned looking down at his hands to check if they were solid. "We're just spirits, souls?"
"That's a definite possibility. But if we're souls, then what does that make this place?"
Inuyasha looked around thoughtfully, his amber eyes gleaming. "I've heard of a place that spirits go to. It's an in-between place, not life and not death. It's where confused souls are sent to figure out a great truth before they return to the living or move on to death."
"So, we're stuck here until we figure out a great truth about ourselves? Why would Ketsueki send us here?" Kagome asked, doe eyed.
"Maybe it was all he could do. And we could spend eternity here, wondering around as we try to discover our truth, unable to die or return to the living." Inuyasha crossed his arms across his chest.
"Okay, you can stop now. You're painting a really bleak picture here." Kagome frowned at the pessimistic hanyou.
"I'm just being realistic." Inuyasha mumbled.
The pair settled into an awkward silence.
"Oh, you probably want this back, don't you?" Kagome looked down to see Inuyasha's robe of the fire rat still wrapped around her. She untied knot and offered the bright red mantel back to him.
Inuyasha smiled smugly. "Yeah, it comes in handy." He said as he tied the robe around himself.
"Thank you for lending it to me. I think it might have saved my life."
"I don't know how, but I had a feeling that it would."
The awkward silence drifted back.
Kagome pushed herself to her feet. "Umm…so what should we do now?"
Inuyasha stood up beside her. "I have no idea. I guess we should find some shelter. I don't know if this place has a night, but either way I'm not comfortable just sitting out in the open."
"Really, you're suspicious? This place is like paradise." Kagome smiled up at the perfect sky, the gentle wind tugging at her hair.
"Kagome, we're in an unfamiliar place. Anything could happen here and I'm not willing to take any chances. Not to mention a crazy demon who tried to kill both of us sent us here."
Sighing, Kagome relented. "Fine, fine. You don't have to be so grouchy about it. Let's go."
Unable to find a better course of action, the pair of lost souls decided to follow the river. Both Inuyasha and Kagome were used to walking around for hours on end in search of jewel shards or useful information about Naraku, but now they were wandering aimlessly, not sure of what they were even searching for. And it was putting Inuyasha on edge.
Kagome walked a few paces in front of the irritated hanyou, her walk brisk as she hummed contentedly to herself and watched the jewel-green leaves fall and race down the river carried by the fluid current. Inuyasha was grumbling behind her, arms crossed, and eyes narrowed.
"Why are you so happy, anyways? We could be stuck here forever and your prancing around like we're on a damn vacation." He admonished, ears twitching in annoyance.
Kagome looked over her shoulder and frowned. "I'm just trying to make the best of things. Sorry I'm not as miserable as you are." With a pert expression on her small face, she turned around and continued watching the flowing river.
"I'm just saying, this is such a fucking waste of time. We have so much to do back home. Jewel shards are all over the place and there's no telling where Naraku is or what he's up to. We damn sure haven't been able to find him, and now we're even further off the track."
Kagome spun on her heel, making Inuyasha come to a sudden halt. "Look, I don't really want to be stuck here either. Don't you think I want to find Naraku too? It's my fault the shikon broke in the first place, don't you think I want to go back and make amends for my mistake? God, can you just lighten up for two minutes and try to pretend like being alone with me isn't the worst fate ever imaginable." The young woman's brown eyes shone with inner fire, daring Inuyasha to say one cross word.
When the hanyou could do nothing but blink at her, unable to think of anything to say, she spun back around, her long dark hair flying behind her, and started walking again.
Inuyasha kept his thoughts to himself, wondering idly if the young miko could use the rosary beads in whatever world they were in. He thought back to the late dream eater. Even though he was dead he was still a pain in Inuyasha's ass. What had Ketsueki meant by sending them here? And what truth did he have to realize?
A surprised cry from Kagome brought Inuyasha out of his thoughts.
"Inuyasha, look!" Kagome pointed and Inuyasha's eyes followed the line of direction until his gaze rested upon what might have been the ruins of an old temple.
Though old and crumbling the building was still quite stunning to see. "What is it?" Kagome asked, her tone awed.
Inuyasha eyed the old temple suspiciously. "I don't know. It's the first thing I've seen other than grass and trees in hours, so maybe we should check it out."
Without thinking, Kagome stretched out her hand and Inuyasha took it, lacing their fingers together tightly as they approached the strange structure. The temple wasn't very big and the walls were made of a luxurious black and brownstone that shone dully in the fading light despite the cloak of time, dust, and natural corrosion. Part of one wall was in ruin, half was missing and there were small punctures in the roof. There was no door, just a high arch to mark the doorway. Cautiously, the pair entered the temple. Kagome gasped softly. The ceiling was high and decorated with broken mosaics. The walls were the same lustrous stone, though highly polished. Windows were carved artfully into the stone, allowing light to shine in.
Ancient relics adorned the ceiling, walls, and floor. A large iron chandelier hung from a looping chain from the glimmering ceiling, stirring gently as Inuyasha and Kagome passed underneath it. It was the most beautiful architecture either of them had either seen, though it was uncanny in its perfection. Inuyasha doubted that human hands had created it.
"Oh, wow." Kagome breathed, looking around. " I wish I could have seen this when it was new. Look how amazing it is now that it's falling apart."
"Yeah, it's impressive." Inuyasha commented offhandedly as he checked the premises, looking for any hidden dangers.
"You're so cynical." Kagome sighed as she watched the hanyou dig around.
"Well, it seems safe enough." Inuyasha ignored her previous comment. Their eyes met across the expansive room, both unsure of what to do or say.
"What do we do now?" Kagome asked quietly.
Inuyasha didn't have an answer. He turned his head to look out the high-arched windows.
"Are you hungry at all? I think I saw some kind of fruit growing on the trees."
"I don't really feel hungry, but maybe it would be good to eat something. The pair wandered back outside to inspect the unfamiliar fruit growing on the trees. Inuyasha jumped onto one of the thick tree trunks and plucked the curious fruit from its stem. It was small and pink in color. It resembled a cross between an apple and a peach but smelled similar to strawberries. "I have no idea what this is, but it doesn't smell poisonous." Inuyasha took a tentative bite and Kagome laughed when his eyes widened to a comical size.
"Is it okay?" Kagome called curiously.
"It's delicious!" Inuyasha dropped one of the small pink fruits down to Kagome. She caught it and took a small bite. It had the vaguely citrus taste that most fruit had, but it was simply the most delicious thing Kagome had ever tasted.
They picked a small pile and carried their dinner back to the temple. They sat on the massive temple steps and made a meal out of the delicious fruit.
"I think it's growing darker outside." Inuyasha noticed as they finished up their small yet filling meal.
Inuyasha and Kagome sat closely after they finished their peculiar dinner, leaning on one another as they watched the most glorious sunset either of them had seen. The sky exploded with brilliant, vivid colors. Golds, blues, purples, oranges, and some colors neither of them had a name for, lit up the glass sky.
Kagome didn't realize she was crying until she felt warm tears slide down her cheek. Inuyasha squeezed her hand gently. "What's wrong?"
Kagome smiled sheepishly and wiped her tears away, unable to bring herself to look away from the sky. "I'm fine. I don't know why I'm crying. This is just too beautiful. It's like the last sunset at the end of the world."
She pulled her gaze away from the sky and met Inuyasha's eyes. Kagome found that the warm amber of his eyes were just as mesmerizing at the sunset. She smiled softly and laid her head on his shoulder.
Inuyasha felt his cheeks flush but he allowed Kagome to rest her head. It occurred to him that if this was the end of the world, he didn't mind if Kagome was beside him. He rested his cheek on top of Kagome's head, feeling the soft luxuriousness of her hair. The pair watched the sunset in peaceful silence.
Inuyasha relaxed and his mind eventually began to wander back to Ketsueki. Something lurked in his brain, something important the dream eater had said but Inuyasha's memory failed him. The hanyou frowned. Maybe he and Kagome really would be stuck in this in-between place forever. He slowly realized that the thought of being here with Kagome forever didn't fill him with horror. In fact, the thought was almost a pleasant one. He looked down at the girl, half asleep, resting on his shoulder. Fireworks were going off in his head, a volcano like epiphany erupting behind his eyes.
"Kagome." Inuyasha whispered.
The young woman tilted her head so she could see his face and blinked up at him, nothing but trust and affection in her dark eyes. "Yes?"
"I love you."
"I love you too."
Miroku had built a fire and he and Sango had moved the unconscious bodies of their friends near it, side by side, to keep them warm. Miroku and Sango sat a few inches away, keeping vigilant guard while they ate a soup made up of vegetables and a rabbit Shippou had been successful in catching.
No one noticed at first when Inuyasha and Kagome began to stir. Inuyasha opened his eyes and saw the clear star-bright sky that was familiar. He turned his head to the side and saw Kagome watching him.
Their eyes met for a few intense seconds and neither of them said anything. Then Kagome whispered to him. "Do you remember?"
"No." He whispered back softly.
She smiled sadly. "Me either. It's like a dream of a dream I can barely recall."
"Maybe we'll remember one day." Inuyasha offered in an attempt to cheer her.
Her smile brightened. "Maybe." The pair sat up and watched their friends eating their supper, unaware of their waking. "I have a feeling this is what we were fighting to get back to though." Kagome recalled, images and emotions fleeting through her head so quickly she could barely capture a glimpse.
"I think you're right." Inuyasha reached over to briefly squeeze her hand, giving Kagome a feeling of déjà vu, and then the hanyou reached forward to clock Shippou on the head and steal his bowl of soup.
And for a split second, before everyone rejoiced upon their waking, and Shippou cried and yelled at Inuyasha, and before Kagome 'sat' Inuyasha on behalf of the fox-kit; before all the questions and worries, before life resumed as normal - Inuyasha looked back and held Kagome's gaze for a moment, and for that moment they were completely alone.
Yay, final chapter! Hope everyone likes it. Sorry it took me so long to post. I just really want to say thank you to everyone who's been reading and reviewing. It means a lot to me. I've gotten a ton of positive feedback for this story and I'm almost sad to be done with it. But I hope you guys really enjoyed this last chapter and if you're bummed about this ending I have more fics and a ton more on the way! Thanks again for reading, you guys are awesome!
By the way, the song I quoted in the opening is called 'I will follow you into the dark' by Death Cab for Cutie