Disclaimer: I do not own the characters of Inuyasha.
The young woman so addressed turned slightly to look at the elderly woman who was moving towards her, then a slight smile just touched her lips for a moment before disappearing.
"Ohayo, Kaede-baachan. Have you come to pay your respects to Kikyou-sama?" she asked quietly. "I will go if that's so."
Kaede looked at the young woman before her fondly, taking note of the odd melancholy in her eyes. It was so rare to see her anything but smiling – though she was aware that there were times those smiles were only on the surface.
She'd often wondered why.
"Will ye tell me why your smiles aren't always real, Kagome-chan?" she asked softly. "Sometimes... I see a smile on your face, but sadness in your eyes."
Kagome stiffened a little when that question came, surprised that she'd been caught out. But then again... I shouldn't be. Kaede never misses much – I suppose that is part and parcel of being miko.
There was a silence for a few moments as she debated whether to tell Kaede the answer to her question. She had never spoken of the reason for her sadness to another soul – not in all the years she'd been living with it... but perhaps it was time to tell someone, and oddly enough, she felt as though the elderly priestess was the right person to tell.
She sighed deeply as she ran a finger over the monument she was standing in front of, and then said, "The woman that Inuyasha loved most in the world is dead."
Kaede blinked at her, her expression startled. "Ye are Inuyasha's wife, Kagome-chan. If ye believed that he loved Kikyou-oneesama most, why did ye agree to wed him?"
"En veritas?" she murmured. "Because the woman he loved most in the world died. But he is the one I love most in the world. I wanted to give him at least some happiness, even if it wasn't the ultimate joy he could have known with Kikyou."
"En veritas?" the old woman asked, frowning in confusion.
"It's another language," Kagome replied, staring at Kikyou's monument. "It means 'in truth'."
At that, Kaede nodded, understanding. "Still... ye wed him, believing that ye were not his choice – that if Kikyou-oneesama were alive, he would have chosen her?"
"I see. I understand your sadness, now, Kagome-chan. I... would also be sad in your situation. Ye hide it very well. I do not believe that Inuyasha or the others have any clue that ye feel this way."
Kagome bowed her head, nodding a little wearily. "Sometimes it takes a great effort to pretend. When I decided to accept his proposal, I did not know how hard it would be. I was young, and I loved him. I still do. But sometimes... I look ahead to my own death, and wish it would hurry. I am tired, inside." She shook her head then, pushing those thoughts away. "Still, the kami will call me home when they deem it fitting, and not before. And until then, I will continue to live the truth that Inuyasha's love is dead... and that mine is not, and love him as best as I am able."
Kaede looked over at the young woman, who wasn't quite so young anymore. She had aged, inwardly, though not really outwardly. But that wasn't so surprising... life was harsh, and caused much pain.
Kagome had known her fair share of it, and Kaede could only feel regret that it was so - no one should have to live with the knowledge that they were second choice.
Life was a cold, harsh mistress, and there was little comfort to be found in her.
A/N: And here's some more angst. I'm taking this from the Kaou arc, where the Flower Prince says that the woman Inuyasha loved most in the world is gone. Inuyasha never denies it, and Kagome was there, and heard what was said, though she never brings it up again after this arc.
Can you imagine how much hearing that had to hurt? Now that we've gotten that one out of the way, I'll go ahead and post the companion piece, and the readers can decide if they see my point or not.