Sever the Red Cord
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters of Inuyasha.
It was done.
Naraku was defeated, the Shikon once again whole, and everyone's lives were now planned out.
But Kagome... she'd been left behind, instead, falling out of the fairytale she'd fallen into as Kikyou was once again awoken to life to live as her and Inuyasha had once intended, though he chose to stay hanyou, rather than become human.
With no further purpose there in that time, she'd said her goodbyes to her friends, and a very stilted goodbye to Inuyasha, then left through the well, never to return to the past again.
A brisk breeze caught a handful of leaves and blew them towards the ground as a figure in traditional miko robes moved gracefully across the yard of the Sunset Shrine towards the sacred tree.
Kagome sighed wearily as she reached the Goshinboku and sat on the bench at its base. Tilting her head back to lean against the tree, she closed her eyes and allowed the cool fall breeze to wash across her body.
It was a simple pleasure, and one of the only ones she had any longer. She'd learned to take what small happiness she could in the little things that her life of service allowed. For one whose life was lived for the people, a personal life of any type was nearly impossible.
It had been three years since she'd returned through the well, and in that time, her life had become something she'd never have thought it would back when she'd still been a starry-eyed fifteen year old living the adventure of a lifetime. But all such things come to an end at some point in time, and once she'd no longer been needed in the past, she'd been sent home empty-handed – she'd become superfluous back in that distant world that she'd helped save.
The problem was, her own era was no longer where she felt comfortable. She'd seen and done too much to be the same girl she'd been before falling into the Sengoku Jidai, and she was no longer really a part of her completely different birth world.
That fact had hit her hard after she'd returned home, her heart broken and nothing to show for all the years spent in the past except exceptionally strong reiki... which would be absolutely useless in any typical career this era could offer her.
After spending several months just grieving her broken heart and shattered dreams, she'd come to the conclusion that a normal life in her time was no longer possible, and finally dropped out of high school, instead training to become a shrine maiden so that she could take over the shrine from her grandfather.
She'd excelled in her studies at the shrine she'd gone to train at, and had finally returned home, a completely different person than she'd once been. Gone was the flighty, hyper-active young girl with big dreams she'd once been, and in her place was a true Miko, a sober, calm, quiet, and deep down, sad woman.
The fact that a true Miko was once again to be found at the Sunset Shrine had made the shrine incredibly popular, people coming from all over Japan for blessings and healings, even exorcisms.
Funny that... exorcisms... when I was traveling with them and watching Miroku with his fake ones, as well as his real ones, I never dreamed that I'd be the one doing them eventually, and certainly not in my own era, she chuckled, a rather melancholy sound. But then... at that time, I wasn't aware that there were still youkai in my time, just in hiding.
And of course, all the restless spirits... like my own, she thought sadly.
She sighed, then sat back up, opening her eyes again as she looked around the shrine in the slowly dying daylight. Nothing ever turns out the way we think it will, does it?
Standing, she smoothed her bright red hakama down as she turned to face the Goshinboku. After a moment, she touched the ancient tree with pained affection, her hand lightly laying against the scar where Inuyasha had once been pinned.
"You and I... we've seen so much, haven't we? Of course, you've seen much, much more than I have, but... I'm an anachronism, too, in this era, even though I was born here. And you're the only one that can really understand that, because of what you are..." she trailed off. She was quiet for a moment, and then finished, "Because of what you've lived through. Like me."
After a minute more, she dropped her hand and stepped back, running her eyes over the tree. "Yes... the shape of the world is so much different than what they teach us here in this time, but no one really remembers that. Not even most of the remaining youkai really remember what the world was like. And that's why I don't fit in here anymore. But at least... here, at the shrine, things that really have nowhere else to fit in, can find a home. Here, we can just be."
She stood there for a few more minutes communing with the tree, and then turned and made her way back to her house. It was time to change clothes and take a trip to the corner market.
Maybe I'll stop at the park first... I just feel like being beneath the trees today for some reason.
Fifteen minutes later a very different looking young woman stepped out of the house, dressed casually in jeans and a t-shirt, a denim jacket over the shirt for a little protection from the cool breeze. Sliding the door closed, she made her way across the shrine to the steps leading to the outside world, and stopped to stare out over Tokyo, her eyes sad, and far too old for one of her still tender years.
Sometimes, it was hard to believe that she was just nineteen, she felt so much older, so... burdened. The carefree laughter that had once been such a part of her was gone now, replaced by withdrawn sobriety. Oh, her caring nature was still there, and that was one reason she was so beloved by the patrons of the shrine – she judged none and cared for all.
But any one of those people could see that something was missing from the young woman, and with as loving as she could be, they would all be surprised to find that it was her heart that was gone. All she felt from that missing part of herself was a hollowness, an emptiness that echoed within her every second of every day without surcease.
With a sigh, the young woman turned her attention to the stairs, and began the trip down them, uncomfortable now that she was leaving the confines of the shrine behind. Sure, she knew how to function and survive here, but that didn't mean that it felt like it was the right place to be. She felt like a foreigner here now, and she knew that no matter how many years passed, that would never change.
It didn't take but a few minutes before she was entering the park that was just down from the shrine – all that was left of what was once Inuyasha's forest. Surprisingly enough, even though it was all that was left besides the Goshinboku and well itself from that time, she rarely came here – it evoked too many memories... painful ones. But for some reason, today, she just needed to remember how it had felt under the trees in a distant past that she'd never wanted to let go of.
Wandering slowly into the dense forest, she avoided the actual paths, instead going into the deeper parts of what was still a bit wild, before finding a particular clearing that she had come to before, and sinking down at the foot of one of the larger trees. Her knees up and arms around them in a pose most reminiscent of her time in the past, those dear to her that she'd lost in that long gone era would have immediately recognized her, even with the changes in her.
To the male that had followed quietly behind her and stopped just out of her sight, it was a pose that made him suck in air in a startled inhale that was just this side of too loud, and stare hungrily at her. He'd seen her just that way so many times, and though she looked different now in some ways, he would never mistake her for anyone else.
"If I didn't live through them, I'd think the last five centuries had all been a dream, and we were still sitting back in Sengoku Jidai on another shard hunt, wench," he finally said, stepping out from behind the bushes he had stopped behind. "You always did like sitting like that, though I always thought it looked uncomfortable."
Stunned, Kagome could do little more than stare at the person who had appeared before her. Dressed in modern clothes and looking a little older and a lot more mature, was a specter of her haunted past that she was not sure she could ever handle seeing again. But it looked as though she had no choice, and swallowing heavily, she determined to take what she could from this encounter – maybe she could finally get some closure from meeting the hanyou she'd loved once more. After all, he could tell her about her friends, and their lives. It had always hurt that she'd never known their fates...
He chuckled a little as he came to sit near her, folding himself up and draping his arms casually over his legs. "Cat got your tongue, wench?" He eyed her a little uncertainly – she wasn't acting like he remembered her to be, she seemed different, and he wasn't sure what to make of it.
Kagome didn't answer right away, instead forcing herself to regain control of her raging emotions. Once she'd managed to calm herself, she answered. "It has been a long time, Inuyasha-san," she said quietly, a formal note in her voice he couldn't miss.
It startled him.
"Oh, come on, Kagome, surely there's no need for formality between us," he said, watching the breeze play with her hair. "You never spoke that way to me before, so why now?"
She blinked, taken aback that he could even ask her that. "Things were different then," she finally replied when she realized he really didn't understand her formality. "I was young, and you were half-wild. We were companions on a quest. It has been over five hundred years for you, obviously, and three for me, though those three years may as well have been the same as the five centuries for you. I am not the same person I was then."
He frowned at her, uncomfortable with her changed manner. "Three years ain't that long, you know, wench. What happened to you? You – you're different."
Tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, Kagome shook her head, then looked up at the apex of the trees to the little bits of slowly darkening sky available. It would soon be dark, and she really should be heading to the store so she could get home. After a moment, she said, "Everyone changes, you know, Inuyasha-san. I am... a different person than I was then. I grew up." She stood up, watching quietly as Inuyasha did the same, and began to walk slowly back to the entrance of the park.
"Tell me about them," she finally said into the awkward silence. She didn't need to explain her request – he knew what she was asking.
"Keh. Kaede... she lived for another eleven years after you left," he said slowly, trying to hide the worry he was beginning to feel at Kagome's completely different demeanor. He didn't know what to make of it. "Sango and Miroku... they lived well, and fairly long. Had lots of children. They named their first daughter after you, you know."
Tears unexpectedly burned in her eyes for the first time in almost three years as painful warmth flooded through her. Oh, Sango... Miroku. I miss you both so much. "I'm more honored than I can say," she managed to get out, though her voice was tight with pain. "What about Kirara, and Shippo?"
"Actually, the runt and Kirara live together here in Tokyo. Shippo has done pretty good for himself with his kitsune magics. He's learned to help youkai hide their differences, so that humans don't notice us.
Somehow, she wasn't surprised at that. It explained why he didn't seem to be worried anyone would notice his hanyou traits. "So it's because of Shippo that youkai are able to hide in plain sight," she mused, a finger idly twining a lock of hair around it as she got lost in her memories. Her voice was quite distant as she said, "I should have guessed, really. He always was pretty good with his illusions. Even then, when he was still so young. I'd like to see him again sometime..." her voice trailed off.
Inuyasha looked over at her as they walked, a little confused by this new and very different Kagome. But at the same time, part of her is still the same... she still loves...
"Oh, believe me," he said wryly after a minute, "the damn brat will be all over you as soon as he realizes that it's safe to come see you."
She sent him a confused look. "Safe?"
"Yeah," he said, flicking a 'duh' look her way. "We couldn't come to see you until we were sure the well had closed, ya know. That would have screwed things up."
"Ah. I see. And you? What have you done with your life?"
He shook his head, a small smile crossing his face for a moment as he looked back over five hundred years of life. "A lot, actually," he chuckled, reaching out to tug a branch out of the way for Kagome. She smiled at him in thanks, but he was not happy to see that it was a false smile. She's changed so much... "Well, you knew that Kikyou was brought back to live the life she'd had stolen from her. It was your gift of the Shikon no Tama that allowed her that – she was very grateful, you know."
He glanced at Kagome, not sure what to make of her completely still features. He continued on anyway.
"We married, had children, she lived, and then died peacefully of old age when her time came. Our children have also passed on," he said, sounding sad for a moment, "though I have several great great grandchildren that are alive and well. After she passed, I traveled, fought, lived. The usual."
It was quiet for a moment between them, the only sound that of the cars on the street they were now nearing, and then Kagome said, "I'm surprised that you didn't choose to use the Shikon to return Kikyou to life, and extend it to match your own. You wouldn't have had to lose her again that way."
She was startled by a choking sound.
"Why the fuck would you think I'd do that, wench?" he shouted, suddenly furious as he spun to stare at her, stopping her cold. "If I did that, you wouldn't have ever been born!"
Kagome stared at him blankly. "Why would that matter? It's not like it would have messed up the time lines, since they'd already been changed."
Startled, Inuyasha blinked at her, a hurt look on his face. "Fuck'n hell, Kagome! I know that! That doesn't have anything to do with it. I wouldn't ever do anything that would stop you from being born. Why would you think something like that?"
She stared at him for a moment, that same blank look in her eyes, then shrugged and continued walking, this time heading for the shrine steps. She no longer felt like going to the market – she had no desire for food. No... she hurt far too badly and it was taking all of her hard won control from her rigorous Miko training to keep it hidden. All she could think of was getting home, and getting him to finish and leave so she could go lick her wounds in private.
"It wouldn't have been much of a loss, frankly," she said slowly, beginning the long climb up the shrine steps by rote, not paying any attention to her surroundings as she fought to push her clamoring emotions down. She had no desire for him to know how much his presence was hurting her. "Life is... not what I had expected. I honestly wish for nothing more than peace, and so far, the kami have seen fit to deny me that small boon. I'm tired... I think I would have preferred to have been erased this time around."
Aghast, Inuyasha stopped short and stared at her stiff back as she continued up the stairs. "What the fuck?" he almost whispered. "I can't believe you just said that to me, wench! I never took you for a coward – what part of life is so horrible that you'd wish oblivion on yourself?"
Kagome chuckled hollowly. "What's so bad about wanting peace, Inuyasha-san?" She gestured around herself to the shrine as he leaped up the last couple of stairs to join her at the top. "This is my life now. It's all I have, and all I will ever have. I am the miko of the Sunset Shrine – my life belongs to everyone but myself, now. And it doesn't even matter, because I have no desire to live life for myself anymore. Service is all I have left. If I didn't have that, I would fade away entirely. Most of the time, I wish I would."
Inuyasha choked at that, suddenly very angry. This was not how things were supposed to go at all. He'd waited five hundred years to see her again – to finally be able to be with her. Her soul and his were mates, and they would be in every incarnation – his and her own. She couldn't be allowed to be a shrine maiden – that would break the cycle between them.
He would show her what she was to him, what she was meant to be.
Grabbing her hand, he tugged her over to the Goshinboku, and turned her to face him. "Close your eyes, Kagome, and center yourself. I know you can, if you've actually trained to be a miko."
She frowned at him. "Why?"
"Just do it. I'm going to show you why you can't be a shrine maiden, and why I'm here. And then you'll understand. You'll understand everything – me, and Kikyou, and especially you."
Frown deepening, wishing he would just leave already so she could break into a million shards in peace, she closed her eyes, willing to do anything to get him to go.
He watched, and when he saw her breathing even out, he said, "Now, open your senses, and look with your inner eyes at me, Kagome, and tell me what you see."
Kagome opened her mind, spreading her senses out from her body to swirl around her and touch against Inuyasha.
When she felt his aura respond, she opened her eyes.
Inuyasha watched as her eyes opened, glowing pink, and waited breathlessly for her to notice what he knew was there between them. Then she'll know why we belong together!
It didn't take her long to see what Inuyasha had been talking about, and when she saw it, her heart exploded in pain, such fierce anguish welling up inside her that she stumbled backwards several steps before she was able to catch herself.
The red cord of fate! How could the kami be so cruel, she cried to herself. To tie me to a man who only wants me because I'm all that's left of his dead wife. I am Kagome, not Kikyou or anyone else!
She looked up at him, the pink glow fading from her eyes and stared at him fiercely, startling him. "And you think that means what, Inuyasha? Hm? My fate is my own, and not to be decided by such a thing as this," she said angrily, tugging on the now visible cord between them.
"Wench! This cord-" he tugged right back, "-means we belong together! Are you a kami to go against fate?"
Something in his words somehow calmed her, and she looked down at the red cord tied to his little finger, and her own. "Something like this... it's funny that you'd let a little thing like this direct your life, Inuyasha-san. You were always so against anyone having any say in your life, after all." She tugged again on the cord, looking at it thoughtfully. "They say that once the red cord has been severed from a couple, it can never be rewoven between them, did you know that?"
Her eyes flicked up to meet his, then, and he stepped back for a moment in shock at what was in them, then tried to reach for her to pull him into her.
"Don't you dare," he breathed, fearful and enraged. "Don't you even think it, Kagome...!"
She pushed away from him and reached for the cord tied around her finger, and holding his gaze with her own, deliberately tugged the tie, letting it fall as it unraveled from around her finger.
As it fell to the ground, it dissipated as though it had never existed, leaving nothing binding her to him. Inuyasha felt the shock wave all the way to his soul.
Kagome was already in too much pain to even notice.
Holding his gaze, Kagome stepped back even further, watching as his eyes darkened with anguish, panic, and shocked fear. "I am not Kikyou, and I will not be her replacement. You had your happiness with her, and that was your choice. But when you made your choice between her and I, you severed any connection between us, and left me free to make my own choices in life. And now I have. You are free to go and live the rest of your life in any way you wish – but it will not be with me. Goodbye, Inuyasha-san."
With that, her heart breaking into more pieces than she'd ever have believed possible, Kagome turned and made her way back to her empty house, to live the rest of her empty life, her only contentment coming in knowing that she would never again be taken for Kikyou in any way. Every part of her fate that had tied her to the miko of five hundred years past was finally gone, leaving only broken dreams behind.
She knew she would never see Inuyasha again – in this life, or the next. She had severed the red cord of fate, and destroyed that unfair tie between their souls for all time.
Because in the end, she was more than the sum of her soul. She was Kagome... and Kikyou and Kagome were totally different people...
With completely different fates.
A/N: A very angsty one-shot that wouldn't leave me alone, interrupting my work on another Inu/Kags two part story that I am collaborating on with Angelica Pierce. So... I decided to type it up so it would finally stop clamoring at me, and for all that, here it is. This is one of my few stories without a happy ending... I got it from reading a few older stories on some of the fic sights were Inuyasha chooses Kikyou, but then later, after Kikyou, he shows back up and Kagome just accepts it and takes him back. I say that's bullhonky. I don't know about anyone else, but from my point of view, Kagome wouldn't have accepted that. She was always far too adamant about not being Kikyou, or her replacement. I know I wouldn't have accepted that, so this is my take on that sort of scenario.