Beyond Distant Time
What's Broken and Shattered
"Inuyasha, stop it." Her voice brought him to a complete halt, the strange calmness frightening him.
A year. A measly year. A long, long year. It was their wedding anniversary. It was her twentieth birthday. It was exactly five years ago that he had been released from the Goshinboku. It was exactly fifty-five years since he was sealed there by her former incarnation. It would be exactly four-hundred and eighty years until she would be born.
And she couldn't take it anymore.
It felt strange. Like waking up after a dream and finding that you had been living someone else's life.
Miko. Kaede. The village.
There were no future, no ramen (except on special occasions), no chocolate, no bike, no first aid kit, no flashlight, no music player, no camera, nothing from the future.
The necklace was gone, because she stopped using it. She would quietly support him, and try to be the best wife possible.
When she looked in the mirror, she saw that she had aged, and her hair was longer.
She looked like Kikyou. She behaved like Kikyou. She had the same soul as Kikyou.
And then she done something so completely like Kagome, and the illusion shattered and she woke up.
She had been drowning in Kikyou, slowly dying, and she flailed against it with her entire being. And the result was a confused and irritable Inuyasha, who couldn't understand her sudden change of personality. And the more agitated he became, the stronger her doubts.
The doubts, which had been planted all those years ago when Kikyou was resurrected. The doubts that she had refused to acknowledge, and that she wasn't allowed to feel, now nibbled at her, pointing out each and every time Inuyasha waited for a Kikyou-response and how strange he became when it was a Kagome-response.
She remembered Kikyou's last moments, kissing Inuyasha as he held her tenderly. How the warmth of Kikyou's soul (since when was it Kikyou's? It was Kagome's and Midoriko's! Yet even the truth felt blasphemous to think) enveloped them, and how the soul had been carried away (it should have been returned to Kagome and Midoriko! But Kikyou made sure that her last part survived, and Kagome could sort of understand that, and then feel guilty that she wanted her own soul just to be whole again), and how Kagome wasn't allowed to think ill or be jealous of Kikyou.
She wasn't allowed on Mount Azusa to feel any negative emotions towards Kikyou.
She wasn't allowed to feel it when facing Naraku, or the jewel would have been tainted.
She wasn't allowed to feel it in her relationship with Inuyasha (after all, what could be more pathetic than being jealous of a dead woman?).
She wasn't allowed to feel.
Yet she couldn't help but to think. Couldn't help but to doubt. What if Naraku hadn't killed Kikyou? What if Inuyasha had a choice between Kagome and Kikyou? What if?
And she had unconsciously seen it. Known it. And remodelled herself to fit him and the choice he was never given. She had given up on the future, her family, her friends, herself.
And now she couldn't anymore. Now she wanted to be Kagome. She wanted her future back. She wanted herself back. She wanted her soul back.
She wanted Houjou, who brought her a bouquet of bellflowers when she mentioned Kikyou, she wanted Souta, who had wondered why she stopped teasing him, Yuka, who would try to set her up on a blind date, Eri, who would make fun of Kagome's lack of fashion sense, Ayumi, who would cheer Kagome on in her studies and everyone else who never heard of Kikyou.
"I'm going home." She met his gaze, not wavering for a second.
"But you are home," Inuyasha protested, his ears flat against his head. He knew what she meant, but he refused to believe it. Now when he didn't have the necklace anymore, the well wouldn't accept him, and if she went home, she would be out of his reach.
She simply turned and started to walk out of the village.
"Make sure to be back early tomorrow, there's youkai to be exterminated!" Inuyasha called after her, he seemed gruff and unconcerned, but she could hear the unasked question.
"Will you come back?"
"Kagome!" It felt like a heavy weight disappeared from her shoulders when Kagome heard her mother call.
It felt nice to meet someone who never knew Kikyou, and Kagome felt sick for thinking it, but she couldn't help but to bask in the embrace that was meant just for her. She had to firmly remind herself that Naraku and the Shikon jewel was no more, and that no one would get hurt if she indulged herself in this impure thoughts just this once.
"Who's that?" Kagome blinked as she saw a stranger enter their house before they did.
"Who? Oh, Tanaka-san." Her mother suddenly looked troubled. "You know how hard it is to keep this place going, and right now there isn't much money granted to minor cultural heritage sites such as this, so we had to rent out a room to college students."
Kagome blinked. The only room in the house that they could rent out would have been Kagome's old room. Oh. It made sense, because they had a hard time making ends meet even when Kagome did odd work such as babysitting and dog walking before being pulled into the past. A single mother with two children. An old man with heart troubles. A large, old and hard to keep presentable property. And that was before Kagome needed all the survival stuff. Before not just the family in the shrine was supported, but also the jewel hunting group in the past got their fair share of supplies.
"Anyway, you must be hungry, I'll go and make dinner and then we can catch up." Her mother saw the troubled look flash across Kagome's face, and hoped to distract her daughter.
Kagome walked up to the Goshinboku and stared at it, lost in thought. What did she have to offer her family in the future? She spent her entire first year in high school relearning the basics, because she hadn't been able to properly learn in the past, she spent her second year just barely managing a passable grade, and after her third year, it was clear that no college worth its fees would take her, not that she would be able to afford it without scholarships.
No one would hire her except for things like cleaning and pet-sitting, occupations that would at most balance out her presence at the shrine, and any job with higher wages wouldn't even consider her without at least a college education.
And so, when dinner was cleaned away and Tanaka-san was safely in Kagome's old room, studying, and Kagome had finished playing around with Souta and listened to grandfather's old tales, the two women found themselves sitting in the garden.
Kagome told her mother everything. Except her wish to remain in the future.
"You know, Inuyasha is your first, serious love," her mother started in that serene voice of hers. "One always believes that the first love is the last, and sure, you remember it forever, but in my experience the more time the lovers spend together, the more the novelty of love wears off."
"So our relationship will never be fixed?" Kagome asked, genuinely curious.
Unfortunately, her mother didn't catch it and hurried to comfort her. "Of course! All relationships can be mended as long as the participants work together on it."
Kagome forced a smile, remembering how content Inuyasha had been with her Kikyou. He would do anything to get those days back. "Thank you mother."
She then stood up and stretched. "Well, I better get back to the past."
"Take care." Her mother smiled, but it was a smile that held too much sunshine and wishes, a smile meant to give support even though she wanted nothing more than to hold onto her daughter, to cradle her and tell her that everything will be fine. Kagome answered with a smile of her own.
But when Kagome stood by the well, her smile dropped. She then steeled herself. This was it, there was no other choice. She had to make her relationship with Inuyasha work. She then jumped.
As she floated in the blue light, she once more felt the weight return. Once more feel the mistakes she did. Once more-
"What the-?" she breathed as her surroundings shifted.
She felt herself accelerate, yet she felt like moving through sludge, and she should have been in the past by now.
She panicked when glowing tendrils started to surround her, weaving into her body and flesh, but she couldn't cry out or move and all she could do was silently wait for it to be over.
It burned as the tendrils started to crawl underneath her skin, and if she had the presence of her body, she would have felt nauseous as they writhed like worms underneath her skin. A pressure seemed to build up within her, and she made a final try to stop whatever was going on. To rip herself out of the well.
To be free.
She hated the feeling of helplessness as darkness claimed her.
She awoke to birdsong, and relief flooded her when she realised that she must have entered the past. In fact, it all just seemed like a bad dream.
Standing up, she looked around for the handles she had carved into the side of the well. Not finding them in the darkness, she shrugged and climbed out using vines that she never noticed before (not that she ever had to notice them before). Once out of the well, she paused with a frown.
Ever since her true powers were unsealed, she had always been able to feel any holy and demonic persons in a large radius around her. When she usually was at the well, she would feel the ripples of Inuyasha, Shippou, Miroku, Kaede, Rin and Kirara in the village, but right now, it was silent.
Okay, so there was some minor youkai at the edges of her senses, but it wasn't familiar or malicious, so she ignored it. Looking around, she took a deep breath and gripped the Azusa bow tightly before she hesitantly moved forward. Maybe there had been an attack and they had to evacuate?
She then froze.
Because in front of her where Goshinboku should have been, covered in moss, thick and tall, it looked like the great tree had been severely pruned. And scrubbed clean of moss. It was surreal.
"Okay, what on earth..." Kagome trailed off, wondering what the hell had been going on during the few hours she'd been gone.
Glancing the tree one last time, she hurried towards the village. Hopefully she wasn't too late to help if there had been an attack.
She soon slowed into a walk, realising that it wouldn't do anyone any good if she rushed headlong into danger.
And walked some more.
And some more. Was the forest always this big?
And she should have come upon the village by now.
Kagome panicked, but tried to calm down. "Okay, it's okay, I just took a wrong turn somewhere and is lost. Tomorrow Inuyasha will sniff me out and he'll yell at me for being lost and things will go back to normal."
She didn't really convince herself, but it was the only viable option. The other option just wasn't feasible.
The forest then ended, and with a lighter heart, she expected to see the fields and houses of a farming community. Instead she only saw a vast field, and in the middle of that field, a group of warriors were walking, no trudging, through the tall grass. She saw one of them leaning against their pole, bearing the kamon they fought under, and she thought it weirdly disrespectful.
She felt disoriented, and there was something about the warrior's uniforms that her mind refused to accept, but she pulled herself together and ran after them, calling out. At the very least, they should know something.
As one, the company of soldiers stopped and looked at her, and something struck her as odd about them. Most of them looked deathly afraid, yet when they saw her, hope appeared in their eyes. She wasn't sure if she liked it. Especially not when she knew what happened to most women who met testosterone-driven, depraved soldiers. Still, she was clad as a miko, and that should protect her.
"Miko-sama, what fortune!" One of the soldiers greeted her as she caught up. "You must speak to our captain immediately!"
Kagome stopped, her mind reeling with confusion, and in her befuddlement, she found herself being herded towards the front, towards the riders.
"The fates must certainly be smiling on us, Miko-sama," Kagome blinked as the captain spoke and looked up.
He looked strangely familiar. Somewhere in the back of her head, warning bells rung, but she ignored them.
"I don't know, do they?" Kagome asked.
"Of course! Here we are, going to slay a foul youkai that bewitched our lady, but none of us are holy. Yet on the way there we run across you, Miko-sama."
"Ah." Kagome paused, her mind running circles. Could it be...? "Who is the Emperor of Japan?"
"Go-Saga-tennou of course!" The captain seemed taken aback with her question. Of course, as a miko, and thus a scholar, she was expected to know at least this basic type of information.
"Oh." As far as she knew, Go-Nara-tennou was the emperor in the Sengoku period. In fact, she seemed to remember a Go-Saga-tennou in the Kamakura period. But that couldn't be! It would be too ridiculous. Okay, so her life hadn't exactly been a study of logic before, and she was fairly certain that the armour the soldiers wore matched up with Kamakura armour, but lots of people didn't have the money to re-equip their soldiers with the latest trends, so all that meant was that it was sometime after those armours were designed.
Looking at the captain, another thought struck her. Please be wrong, please be wrong, please be wrong! "Who are you?"
Still nonplussed, the captain amiably answered. "Setsuna no Takemaru."
"All women who cavort with youkai are Izayoi!"
End of Chapter