Blurb: When the last one to hold the Shikon no Tama makes the right wish, the Jewel will be purified and disappear. Yet there is no such thing as an unselfish desire. Now, Kagome and Sesshoumaru must pass through Hell itself, to defeat the Jewel for good.
Author's Note: This is what happens when I read the ending of the manga, backwards. Taken in reverse, like the movie Memento, it seemed very sinister. SPOILERS FOR THE END OF THE MANGA.
Chapter 1: Memento
"Ah!" cried Kagome in delight. Sesshoumaru had made yet another visit to the village! And that probably meant that Rin had acquired another new kimono, small trinket or gift that the taiyoukai would never, ever admit to giving his little ward.
As the regal dog-demon soared overhead, an invisible imp must have bitten her and infected her with a need to make mischief, because she abruptly came up with a plan to piss Sesshoumaru off (in a nice, friendly sort of way). Cupping one hand to her mouth, Kagome shouted at the top of her lungs, "Big BROTHER! It's so nice to see you again!!"
White hair flashed in the sun as the inu-youkai turned and glared daggers in her general direction, before high-tailing it out of the vicinity. A taiyoukai did not deign to answer such ridiculous statements or linger in the area where crazy-human-priestesses were lurking about. Kagome watched him go, disappointed by his lack of reaction.
But in the end, her real message was not for Sesshoumaru - it was for Inuyasha. By calling Sesshoumaru her big brother, then she could send Inuyasha a not-so-subtle hint as to her feelings about him. Maybe one of these days, Inuyasha would actually get the point.
"Aw! He made an ugly face at me," pouted the priestess, turning to her half-demon companion. "And Inuyasha, so are you!"
"That sounded so very wrong," muttered the half-demon. Clearly, he was not comfortable with her saying such things. She wondered if it was because she had implied a sense of closeness with the taiyoukai, Inuyasha's despised half-brother, or because she had implied that she was in a relationship with him. She hoped it was not the latter. But deep down, she knew the truth. Inuyasha just wanted to be her friend, and nothing more.
After the Shikon no Tama had disappeared, she had returned to the future, while Inuyasha had returned to the past. And after that, it was like her worst nightmare come true - the Bone Eater's Well had stopped working entirely! She had finished high school, somberly determined to do her best in spite of it all. But when she received her diploma, she found herself staring at the bottom of the well and wishing...
Well, no, not really wishing... more like hoping... She was really rather frightened of making wishes, what with her bad experiences with the Shikon no Tama...
In any case, she had found herself staring at the bottom of the well and hoping that the time-traveling Well would allow her to pass once more. At last, after three years, it had. In the end, she had realized that she needed to make a choice. Kagome could not wait for Inuyasha to return to her, because her own feelings were the reason the Bone Eater's Well had closed in the first place. For a moment in time, she had wanted to be with her parents and friends, instead of her hanyou companion.
Now, she wanted to be with him, more than anything in the world. After three years, however, their relationship was friendly and awkward, all at once. On the one hand, Inuyasha had grown more stable and changed for the better. Settling down in a village had done wonders for his personality. On the other hand, his newfound sense of calm had made him far more attractive to the other villagers, and she noticed young women sending shy glances in his direction far too often.
Could she really compete for his affection? She wanted him to love her, and only her, but every time she opened her mouth to speak her feelings, something choked her and the words died in her throat. It wasn't that she lacked confidence - she knew Inuyasha once had strong feelings for her...
But every time, an unidentifiable something made her stop from professing her love to the white-haired, dog-eared boy. A warning, of sorts. A tiny part of her heart would caution her and question why she could not simply be happy with what she had, instead of asking for more.
Kagome was not a selfish person. If Inuyasha truly loved her, then this would make her deliriously happy. But if he wanted to move on to greener pastures, then that was all right too. It had to be, because she had already asked the gods for too much. Her purpose in the past had ended with the destruction of the Shikon no Tama, and yet she had prayed and hoped and begged fate to allow her to return. And finally, the gods had answered. How could she ask for more?
Watching Inuyasha smile and walk away, a chill ran down her spine and she turned toward the forest. Nothing untoward met her eye. How strange! For a moment, it had felt like an evil presence stood right behind her, staring over her shoulder.
Make a wish. The words entered her head suddenly. All you have to do is wish for it, and Inuyasha will love you in return.
But of course, Kagome shook her head. Wishes never did anyone any good. She wanted him to make the first move. Only then could she be certain her feelings were returned. Yes, only then.
After being given such a wonderful gift, after being allowed to live in the past with her friends and her love, she had no right to wish for more. She would wait patiently for Inuyasha to come to her.
"Congratulations!" shouted Yuka, with a huge grin. The weight of her diploma, nicely wrapped in a black cylindrical case, sat in her palm as if to prove it had really happened. She, Kagome Higurashi, had graduated high-school. Imagine that. Years ago, when she fought monsters and demons in ancient Japan, she had worried about merely living through the week.
Her mother stood beside her, a comforting presence, and smiled at the other girls. "And to you," nodded Mrs. Higurashi politely, "What do you all plan on doing in the university?"
"I plan on being an interpreter," replied Ayumi calmly.
Yuka jumped right in with her usual spunk and stated that she would become an announcer, while Eri chuckled at Yuka's expense. "I bet you can't even become 'Miss Campus'!" Eri responded.
"And you?" Ayumi, the more soft-spoken of the three suddenly asked, staring at Kagome with a piercing look. "What about you, Kagome?"
The black-haired priestess only smiled and shook her head. Her dreams were already over. Secretly, she wanted to grow up and become a knowledgeable miko, like Kaede, but that chapter of her life had ended, and she was left alone. Really, what would she do with the rest of her life?
Three days after the Bone Eater's Well had disappeared, Inuyasha had come for her in the darkness and saved her from Naraku's evil scheme. They had magically reappeared in the future, in a pillar of light, and she had been so relieved to see friendly faces once more, that she had leapt out of Inuyasha's arms onto the ground and rushed to embrace her mother. Crying and holding each other, Kagome and her mother had looked up at Inuyasha with grateful tears in their eyes, and then...
He had disappeared.
She could still remember the look on Inuyasha's face, as the Bone Eater's Well took him away, back through time to the Warring States Era. A ghostly light had surrounded him, making him look ethereal and more handsome than ever. Eyes open wide, Inuyasha had seemed startled but resigned to their separation. After all, hadn't they always known it would come to this? With her on one side of the barrier of time, and him on the other? The future and past had coincided for a little while, circling around to meet each other, but now that her mission in the past was complete, she had to stay in her native era.
A small part of her wondered what would have happened if she had only waved at her mother, if she had remained in Inuyasha's arms. Maybe then the Bone Eater's Well would have taken her back too. But in that split second, when she stepped down off the lip of the time-traveling well, she had not known she was making a permanent choice. She had not known she would never return to the past.
If she had only known, then maybe she could have weighed her options and made the right choice.
What was the right choice?
She loved her family, and she was glad to have finished high-school, making her mother and grandfather proud. But she loved Inuyasha too, and she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him, wherever that might be. If she had to live in the past, never to see her family again, then so be it. Yes, that was the choice she would have made.
And now, she would never have the chance to tell him how she truly felt. She had never even thanked Inuyasha for saving her life. The bitterness of it welled up inside of her, cutting off her air.
If I still had the Shikon no Tama, she thought sadly, Then I would be able to travel back and forth from the past. I know I did the right thing to destroy it, but I miss the Warring States Era. Sometimes, I wish...
With a gasp, she shook her head and cut off that train of thought. No wishes! For heaven's sake, after all she had been through in middle-school, she should have learned one basic fact by now - wishes never made anyone happy, only hard work did that! Wishes on the Shikon no Tama, the Jewel of Four Souls, were especially bad. Like Miroku-sama once said, it likely was not possible to make an unselfish wish. A wish, by its very nature, was the outward expression of desire, and desires were always personal, always selfish.
Waving goodbye to her friends, Kagome returned to the shrine in silence. There would be time enough to worry about her college education tomorrow. She had applied to a local, small school, since her grades were not that great, but she still did not know what degree she hoped to achieve. Part of her still was holding its breath, still waiting for Inuyasha to return, for the Bone Eater's Well to open again.
Surely, one day, it would. There was no need to make futile wishes - she could be patient. When the time was right, she would see her friends again.
The nightmare always began the same way - suddenly. It didn't matter what she just had been dreaming about, a black curtain would come down over the dreamscape in the blink of an eye, and she would find herself cloaked in darkness. She felt like she was sinking, alone, without bearing in an utter void.
Lost in the midst of this terrible darkness, she could run, but never get anywhere, she could scream, but never be heard. The pitch black surroundings overwhelmed and disoriented her. It would have driven her insane - if she hadn't known that she would wake eventually.
Eventually, Kagome realized she was crying. The tears ran down her cheeks in silence, and she touched her face in wonder. What was there to cry about? This was only a dream. A vision. She had been here before, and she had been frightened back then, but Inuyasha had saved her from the darkness.
As usual, this nameless fear nibbled away at her courage. With a whimper, Kagome stopped and shivered, looking around herself at the empty darkness. Slowly, the absence of all light and life drained away her energy and her optimism.
Alone, forever, in this place. Terror pounced on her and wormed its way into her gut, forcing her breath into shorter and shorter gasps. Her skin broke into a sweat, yet she felt numb.
Make a wish, a nameless voice informed her, And you can leave this place.
Confused, Kagome turned around, but nothing was behind her. Or perhaps, something was there, and she simply could not see it, because there was no light? A breath of foul air drifted over her face, and she imagined Naraku in the darkness, staring back at her, laughing at her blindness.
But no, she knew - she knew - this was not real! She would not wish for anything! Struggling to wake up, she screamed and opened her eyes...
... to hear her alarm going off in her bedroom. It was time to get up for school. In fact, it was past time - if she didn't hurry, then she would be late for first period. And after her terrible grades in middle-school she was determined to do better in high-school.
Throwing her plaid skirt, white shirt and dark green jacket over one arm, she rushed toward the bathroom to start her morning. The world flickered black for a moment as she looked in the mirror, but when she blinked, everything looked normal again.
"Kagome?!" a voice screamed out into the darkness. "Kagome can you hear me?"
Indeed, she could. But for a moment, Kagome was not sure whether she imagined it, or his voice was real. The earlier visions were so intensely realistic - how did she know for certain that this was not just another deception, perpetrated by the Shikon no Tama, in an effort to make her 'wish' for something?
"Inuyasha?" the dark-haired priestess called out tentatively, praying that her ears were telling her the truth... that her half-demon savior was really coming to rescue her, just like he always did. In the pitch dark, the Shikon no Tama pulsed and glowed more brightly, full of sinister energy.
How could she be sure? What if this was another trick? Full of despair, Kagome tried to focus on the facts of her situation. Since there was no way to tell if Inuyasha was really beside her, or not, she would simply have to ask herself - what would Inuyasha say to her, as opposed to the Shikon no Tama?
If this disembodied voice gave her good advice - words of wisdom that an evil Jewel would never bestow upon her - then she would know it was really Inuyasha who spoke. If the voice encouraged her to make a wish on the Jewel, even in a round-about way, then she would know it was false and the Shikon no Tama was simply trying to trick her again.
"Don't wish for anything, Kagome!" his voice continued, in a frenzy. "Wait until I'm by your side, all right?"
Closing her eyes in relief, she realized what she heard had been real. Only Inuyasha would say something like that. She would wait for him to come to her. There must have been a good reason for his suggestion. She would keep the faith.
As she curled into a ball, lost in the darkness, the light around the Shikon no Tama began to fade. Before long, the stone was engulfed in blackness, literally crackling with evil energy.
And when she opened her eyes again, Inuyasha was the first thing she saw. With a touch, she verified that he was real. The half-demon had truly come.
Inuyasha would save her from the void! Everything was going to be all right.
Grandfather and the old priestess Kaede both told me that when someone makes the 'right wish' on the Shikon no Tama, it would be purified and disappear from this world.
But I don't believe that, anymore. Kikyou wished to see Inuyasha one more time - and as a result, she was reincarnated in me, and I was drawn back through time to the feudal era, setting off this entire chain of events. So many people have suffered because of such a simple, reasonable request.
And Naraku, Kagome thought suddenly, Naraku must have wished to be loved by Kikyou. When the Shikon no Tama heard his request, it perverted his wish into something even more evil. And because he could never have her love, he decided no one else could either.
Which means... she thought slowly, staring up at the glowing pinprick of light in her darkness, There is no 'right wish' to make. The realization tore through her, despair lancing through her heart.
The Shikon no Tama lit up the darkness, a sinister swirl of color. As it slowly rotated in space, the arrow that she had shot straight through the center of the stone twirled lazy circles over her head, as if taunting her. She wondered briefly why the Shikon no Tama had not shattered this time, when her arrow struck home. Perhaps it was because she had believed that the stone would not crack?
"The Shikon no Tama," murmured the young priestess, misery almost pouring out of her, "It doesn't grant your real wish, does it?"
There was only one thing to do, and one choice to make. The Jewel had to be destroyed, for the good of the world. But she was frightened too - if she made a wish, what would happen to her? The stone was bound to grant her wish, but it always tried to twist things around in an evil fashion. Her plan was simple and straightforward - she would instruct the Shikon no Tama to destroy itself.
But would the stone actually carry out her wish, at such a high cost to itself?
And if it did, what would become of her? Kagome's very soul was tied to the Jewel - would she disappear, along with the stone?
Suspended in motion, she could not decide what to do, and the battle of wills continued. Until she knew for sure the right words to say, she could not afford to wish for anything.
"Mrs. Higurashi, I don't understand," said Yuka, with real fear leaking into her tone. "Even after she tried so hard to get in to High School, Kagome hasn't been to class once... Where is she?"
Kagome could hear her friends and see her mother and grandfather, sitting on the floor of the well-shrine, digging in the dirt. But the Bone Eater's Well was missing. She reached out to touch her mother and let the family know she was right behind them, and her hand went right through her mother's body. No one could see her. No one could hear her.
The darkness was closing in around her again.
The Well has been closed, whispered the Shikon no Tama. You no longer have anywhere to go.
Even without a voice, it sounded sinister in her mind, and she imagined the Jewel would look and sound just Naraku, if it had a body. After all, Naraku had surrendered his heart to darkness, contaminating and completely filling the Shikon no Tama with his own corrupted soul. So, in a way, the Shikon no Tama and Naraku were one and the same, at this point.
Just wish to return to that world, and you can spend the rest of your life there - happy. Or, you can spend an eternity, here with us - alone.
Heart racing, Kagome struggled to be free of the darkness. This sort of thing had happened before, right? She had been trapped in an illusion by Naraku before. The key was never to let the illusion get under your skin. Once you began to believe in the dream, then you were lost. And there was always something - something! - that could help her wake up. In fact, occasionally, she could break free of illusions by just crying out to her friends! If she was the only one trapped like this, then they might hear her, and... Well, they might be able to help somehow.
"Inuyasha!" she screamed, not really caring how pitiful it sounded. "Miroku-sama, Sango-chan!"
No one is there, the Jewel reminded her patiently, like a father lecturing a small child that refused to believe the truth. No one is coming.
She closed her eyes, since it made no difference. The world around her was pitch black. Holding her breath, she shook her head and tried to calm down. To panic would help no one. She had to stay focused, and not succumb to its lies. These visions of hope and security, followed by despair and darkness, these were just tools that the Shikon no Tama would use to eat at her sanity. She would not yield.
Make a wish, it told her.
Flatly, Kagome refused. "Inuyasha will come for me. I have faith in him."