The last installment. For some reason, these chapters are getting shorter with each posting. Enjoy, and thanks for the reviews!
My shoulder hurt when I finished getting dressed. I had just finished bathing and binding myself, making sure not to get my wounds wet, when I heard Shippou approaching. His tail shook nervously. "Are you going to go and fight, Sango?"
I ignored the question and pulled my hair up into a high bun to keep it from flying loose amidst battle. My shoulder burned, but I didnt care. I refused to even acknowledge it. Since Miroku had fallen unconscious and been placed in the storage shed (now an impromptu hospital, Kagome had called it before she and Inuyasha left), I had built up the ice around my heart. I needed to be perfectly focused for what I was going to do. If I let my heart waver, for even a moment, I would be too weak to finish it. 'Show emotion, Sango. Let them play you. Let them think they are playing you, and then strike. Be deception. Be a liar. Be swift and sure in your blows.'
"This is about more than Kahoku or revenge now."
Shippou crept closer to me. "Don't your wounds hurt, Sango?"
Yes, they hurt. Sometimes they even make me dizzy. I would not acknowledge it to Shippou, as much as I cared for him. I could not ease over his fears and still be numb, and above all, I must maintain that!
"Shippou-kun," I said gently, turning to him finally, my hand resting on my sword. "Please, go and find Kirara for me, will you? She went off for some privacy. Tell her that I will be waiting for her at the entrance of the village in twenty minutes. There is one person I have yet to say goodbye too."
Shippou's face scrunched up childishly. "You haven't said goodbye to me, Sango!" he said bitterly.
I knelt down and hugged him tightly, giving him exactly what he wanted. I had not said goodbye to you, Shippou-kun, because I expect you to still be here when I get back.
We had found Rin. She was largely uninjured from the collapse of the building. I was glad that Rin had not been hurt by Kohaku. I had been worried, so worried, that he would do something to her, and loose his only friend. Yet the question remained, why hadn't he struck out and killed her? She had been utterly defenseless! Was it because, as I hoped, some shred of my brother remained in his body, fighting against it? He could have finished off Houshi-sama and I as well, and yet he hadn't. He had simply escaped. Why? Hadn't we made ourselves enough of a threat to Naraku? Had he not been given orders to kill us of? Was Naraku so inhuman and vile that he sought to keep Houshi-sama alive because he wanted him to suffer the same fate as the rest of Miroku's family?
Miroku. I said it, but only in my head. Only in my head, Sango!
"How is he?" I asked Kaede. Not 'how is Houshi-sama?' or 'how is Miroku?' or even 'how is my friend?' Certainly not 'how is my fiance'! 'Him'. Completely removed and objective. I think Kaede saw right through me.
"He's still asleep but..." She paused for breath and then looked at me. "But he's not in pain from the poison he drank. I see he told you about it, finally." I sensed disapproval in her voice in that 'finally'.
"You knew before I did, then?"
Her nod was almost a guilty one. "When he came to me needed help, sometimes, healing, he was in such a condition that even the most heartiest of men should have had tears in his eyes, but Miroku was only calm. I asked him about it, and he told me what had happened. He could not hide him from a true healer, Sango. You may know enough to keep him alive on the battlefield, but when I sew his wounds together without anything to relieve the pain and his face his simply bored, I know that something is amiss."
I lowered my own face. This time I was guilty. "All those times on the battlefield, when he had become wounded, I never noticed the change in his body language that told me that he wasn't really hurt."
"I expect that was because he was acting. He didn't want you to know. You are so strong when it comes to bearing physical pain, Sango. The scars on your back prove it to him. I think he was afraid you would call him a coward if you knew he had chosen this route." She smiled at me kindly. "And I think that knowing how much you could tolerate was part of the reason why he was so adamant you bear his child. Some women cannot stand the pain of childbirth, but I have no doubt that you would bear it beautifully."
I blushed. "Thank you, Kaede-sama."
"Are you going after Inuyasha and Kagome?" she asked me. Her sly old voice continued, "Though I think staying with Houshi-dono would be..."
Shaking my head, I interrupted her. "I am a fighter, Kaede-sama. I cannot sit here and watch him die, not when I know I could be helping to stop it. Staying here would do nothing for me, and it would not help him, unconscious as he is. I will not let Houshi-sama die." When I looked at her, her gaze had become proud. She was proud of me. Seeing it encouraged me that I was doing right. Houshi-sama was the one with the patience and skill to nurse me back to health. I am, much as I may sometimes dislike admitting it, like Inuyasha. I fight my problems. Houshi-sama fixes them with his head.
"If Naraku is defeated, the curse will be lifted and the kazaana will disappear." My voice was a growl. Keeping it deep and low meant that it could not waver from sadness. "And Houshi-sama will live."
Kaede nodded, stroking her chin. "To get the last shard from Kohaku-kun, Naraku will surely appear. Inuyasha and Kagome are already on their way there."
"Yes. Shippou has gone to get Kirara for me. We can catch up to them soon, hopefully. We will kill Naraku this time for certain, Kaede-sama. We must."
She didn't ask. She didn't ask why this time we had to win. I think she knew then. I couldn't bear to look at her after that. Taking a deep breath, I asked, Kaede-sama, "would you leave us alone for a moment?"
Taking Rin into her arms, and ordering Jaken to follow, she left me alone with Houshi-sama. Alone in the dim light of the storage shed I let myself cry again. I was frightened. I felt like everything rested on my shoulders--and they were too weak to keep from hurting when I lifted my boomerang. Pathetic. I was going to defeat Naraku? Ha!
But I had to!
I was glad that he was not in pain. His face was at ease, his eyes closed peacefully, his lips slightly parted as he steadily breathed in and out. If he was in pain and moaning, or squirming, or having trouble breathing... It looked like he was asleep. He looked peaceful...
He's always risking his life to save mine and Kohaku's.
Asleep. Like if I touched his arm, he might awaken and smile at me, and open his eyes I touched the arm with the kazaana, leaning over him. He did not waken. I wanted to say the words. I wanted to say them so much! But my throat closed.
Please, dont die.
So peaceful. Houshi-sama. My Houshi-sama.
I lowered my head to his, my long hair laying flat against his back. I barely felt his breath on my face. I was not nervous. I was numb. Maybe that was why I couldn't say the words. His lips were soft and warm, but they did not kiss me back. Why? Why had I waited so long to do this? Why wouldn't he wake up? Why wouldn't he kiss me back?
I lifted my head. His taste still clung to me, like I was bringing a part of him with me to defeat Naraku. And I was. I was bringing with him everything he had given to me. I could not say it. I vowed I would show it to him when he was able to kiss me back.
I was floating in a sea of emptiness. I could smell herbs. I knew that Kaede was near me, if not constantly. I let myself float adrift in that sea. Once, I felt like a hand gripped mine and pulled me ashore to reality for a moment. The smell of herbs was gone, replaced with a scent I knew far too well. Sango. Sango.
On that island of reality, surrounded in the emptiness, I dreamt of lips pressing to mine in a chaste goodbye, and I could smell tears. Then it was gone and only the smell of salty tears remained, and a lingering scent. The sea of emptiness became an ocean of tears, but still the island of reality remained, I half on its shores like a half-drowned victim. I was anchored there by the scent that clung my shirt, and the taste of Sango's tears on my lips.
Buddha, what had she done? What was she going to do? Her words slowly drifted to me, like the sweet song of ocean birds, and I clung to them against my heart.
'Its my turn now, Houshi-sama.'