Faces of Red

The first time she laid eyes on the endless maple of Sengoku Jidai, she was stunned by its beauty. The red so fiery with passion, so natural in its hue - it made her wish to just run deep, deep into the forest and immerse herself in its crimson heat, grasp the fallen leaves and scatter them into the air to light up the azure skies. And that was what she had done back then – dashed through the woods and threw herself into the burning colours that covered the undergrowth. She was even more delighted when she noticed the quiet gush of water nearby - tracing its sound, she reached this place.

Kagome stood on an outcrop of rock overlooking the deep canyon below. The dark surface peered through thick mist, glistening with condensing moisture. Crevices scarred the tall cliff face, coloured lichen seeking shelter within. At dawn, the sheets of fine vegetation were an emerald green, lending a refreshing tint to the cascade of water that flowed overtop them. By dusk, as it was now, the lichen was dark scarlet.

She felt a pang of pain thrust into her left chest as though an arrow had driven through her heart. Blood. This was what the colour reminded her of. In the past, she had found security and warmth and love in that mad red, but now, it faded to endless hurt.

Her hands were dyed...

...dyed with that hot, condemning crimson spraying her countenance time and again when she had to retrieve the arrows she had shot.

Killing and killing and killing, not only youkai she could dismiss as creatures born from evil, but also humans just like herself.

She thought she was prepared.

She thought she had accepted this.

She thought, so long as all the beauties of Sengoku Jidai remained – the crystal clear waters and untainted forests and pure friendships and…her love – she could bear the consequences. They were minimal after all, no electricity, no running water, no central heating and internet, but all those were bearable. She had gotten used to them during her travels.

And killing too. She had killed before. It was for the sake of justice, for defeating the ultimate evil, Naraku. It couldn't be helped. Each time, she had ensured that even her slain enemies were given proper burial. She felt better that way. It was how she respected life itself.

But now…she didn't know anymore.

The boy she had killed just hours ago was barely fourteen.

A soldier, and one who was about to kill her son, but…nonetheless…just a boy.

Like a record on slow-motion, the scene replayed itself in her mind. The cavalry swept down the hillside, trampling over all the crops they had planted and tended the entire year. They burned their houses, raiding their scarce grains, men and boys were murdered, women and girls were taken. Everything was red, either in flames, or in blood.

She had no choice, she reasoned. Kagome told herself she had no choice this time too.

She drew an arrow and fed it her prayers – sincere prayers that she would see a better world once it was released. The rush of violet energy seeped down the shaft, right to the very tip of the arrowhead, yet, the power of purity didn't bring her any forgiveness.

Her heart thudded. It hurt. It gripped her hand and asked her again and again if she was doing the right thing.

She let the arrow fly.

The countless times in the past when she was laughed at for her poor aim – she wanted all of it back. She wanted her arrow to somehow miss and wreck another kind of havoc she might have control over, that she might have hopes of resolving. Another Naraku. Another Shikon-no-tama. Anything but this.

The battles of the Sengoku Jidai.

But she was not fifteen-years-old Higurashi Kagome anymore. She was no longer a clueless school girl who stumbled upon this time, knowing next to nothing about what to do. This was not an accident. The Sengoku Jidai was now her time, and this was her battle. She had aimed and shot dead the fourteen-years-old boy in front of her.

Would that have been how Souta looked when he reached this age? She could only wonder, because she would never have the chance to see him again.

The still face of that soldier was haunting. His eyes were still open, such was the violence of his death. She stared upon him while retrieving her arrow. She almost didn't want to use the arrow again, but this was not possible – they hardly had enough steel to craft farming tools, let allow arrowheads. They were too valuable to sacrifice.

Everything in this place, of this time, were too valuable to her, but she almost wanted to cast them all away. She had even wandered back to this forest, these waterfalls, these natural beauties that had once lured her away from her modern home, but what brought her back this time was her impossible wish of going back.

Going back to when she was fifteen.

Never having stumbled upon the well.

Never having come here.

Then everything would've been alright. Everything she now experienced would just be a short chapter to memorize in her history textbook. She would've groaned about how boring the content was, how it was completely useless to remember all those important dates, but that would be all. It would leave no impact on her memory. It would not hurt her.

Though she would not have met him, not have bore his son, not have lived a life with them as her all, she would've gotten by. She might've dated like a normal school girl, went to university, got a good job, married, had kids - same number of loved ones around her, but in a peaceful, resources-rich era.

Would that have been better?

Was she naïve when she made the decision to abandon the future that was, by any logical deduction, scores more stable and painless compared to what she had now?

This was not a fairytale.

He was not an almighty prince, and she his princess, and while together, they would not live happily ever after without worries of mundane yet necessary things.

This was life. This was life in a hard time, when battles raged endlessly, starvation struck, poor technology led to inefficient production and she must spend most of her waking hours gathering water and firewood. Here, there was nothing romantic about the starlight. They were mere distractions that filled the night skies, too dim to use for work but lighted up the fields just enough to cast shadows. Though sleeping by his side, she could not drift off completely, for the shadows would flicker, sometimes just by wind, and she would snap her eyes open again in fear of attack.

Realistically, she was wrong in choosing to live here. She should be regretting. She should want to go home.

Turning away from the waterfalls, she traced the dirt path to the goshinboku well. Though littered with leaves and undergrowth, near invisible to the foreign traveller, Kagome knew this road like the lines on her palms. All those years ago when she came and left between the Sengoku Jidai and Heisei Japan, she had memorized every fork in the trail, every rock and tree stump along the way. Emotions flooded her, emotions from that past. There were times when she got into arguments with him and fled, there were times when she feared her upcoming exams and rushed back to study, there were also times when she fervently missed her family and returned to see them. Yet, each and every time she still came back, to this harsh, torn, ancient world.

What had brought her back? She had once thought it was the responsibility for breaking the Shikon Jewel, but later, she knew there was more. The question was, even that precious reason…was it enough for all the pain this caused?

She obtained her answer the moment she stepped into the clearing.

The heavens had turned golden, the sun a bright orb hanging on the horizon, its flames licking the snowy mountaintops in the far west. The hands of its warm rays wrapped every strand of dew-tipped grass in a halo as they swayed in the wind. Though the temperature was freezing, she did not mind, lost in the sight that surrounded her, sheltering her.

"Inuyasha…"

He leaned his body against the sacred tree, covering the arrow mark that would forever preserve her memory of their first meeting. Though knotted and bloodstained, his silver hair still shone with overwhelming grace, flowing down his battered crimson cloak.

Sometimes, Kagome struggled to understand why she loved him so much, from their first sight onwards through these years. The hanyou was not an idol-like character. His skin was not flawless porcelain, but dark and rough and scarred with wounds. His build was impressive by sheer size, but that too was without refinement - not carefully toned muscles from selective gym exercises but a disproportionately thick sword arm and a pair of massive calves more feral than human. The manner of his speech was equally crude, his temper fiery, consideration for others lacking. He was not romantic, was incredibly egoistic, and all in all childish, especially considering that he had lived more than two hundred years on this planet.

"What the hell are you doing here?"

"And what the hell are you doing here, Inuyasha? Worried about me?"

He turned away from her with crossed arms, giving a very fake snort of what she could only presume was his equally fake pride, "Your son is asking for dinner, and that's all I'm concerned about."

"If only there's anything to cook," she retorted as playfully as she could, but it came out as a remark of genuine worry. Her tone was too low, words too muddled, and upon hearing them, her own heart sank again.

"Well, there's fish. Some just swam up to my feet while I was strolling down that oh-so-wonderfully-cool stream and I picked them up. Can't really help it. They totally insisted on being eaten."

And here, she chuckled softly into her palms. Yes, she remembered. She remembered why she loved him so much, from first sight and onwards through the years. She remembered why she loved his disproportionate arms and calves and that thick skull, inflated ego, and childish manner of speech he had not bothered to improve on for more than two hundred years.

He was real.

And though he never spoke those exact words, his actions spoke them loud and clear everyday: he loved her.

"So why didn't you cook them then? Or is the great Inuyasha-sama secretly a terrible cook?"

"Shut up, wench."

"Osuwari!"

BANG

"Hey, I thought we got over this sucker body slam stage already!" he complained while dusting off the leaves from his clothes after scrambling to his feet. Kagome's chuckles had now become true laughter. She was doubling over, hands holding her stomach.

"Sorry…I can't help it…it's just too cute."

"Cute? Are you sadistic?"

"Well…maybe…just a little…especially when it comes to you," she struggled to answer between her mad giggles. When she finally settled down, she held onto Inuyasha's hand and leaned into his shoulder, "And…it was like the old times."

At this, he didn't answer. He just yanked at her hand and led her away from the goshinboku, away from all her deep regrets.

She did not resist.

She did not turn back. Not even once.

Because what lay beyond the well, no matter how wonderful, was no longer her home. This was.

Even as she forced in the sight of their village reduced to ashes, her friends and her son digging graves in the sun-baked ground behind their house now just slabs of brick and few remaining beams, she stayed standing.

Because he gave her hand a gentle squeeze and muttered under his breath, so quietly she almost wondered if he were actually speaking to her, "Admitting you're weak is what will make you stronger."

"We'll become stronger, together." She added.

Pretending to ignore her, he stretched his arms into the crisp, evening air, yawning deeply before turning his golden eyes to the ruins, "Isn't it nice to have nothing to leave behind?"

"What?"

"I'm splitting some land in the west with that idiot brother of mine...you know, the fricking kingdom of my late dad's? It's cold and the scenery is boring...like there's just rock and trees and lowlife youkai...but you're coming with me, because you are mine."

She smiled, tears brimming her eyes as she did so. Again, without a word, he had read her wishes and answered them. That was all she needed.

Even though it would be a cold and boring land, wars would no longer reach them. And most importantly…

…they'd still be together.

"You mean you're leading the way for the great Kagome-sama, because you are mine," she said.

"Yeah, yeah, whatever, Kagome-sama."

- End -


New AN: Hi all. This is Seigetsu Ren, writing this during my revision of the story in 2015. It was a pleasure to go back and fix up the little mistakes here and there throughout the work. Hopefully it makes for a better read now. Anyway, this is my first, and most likely only attempt at writing an InuKag fic, as at the time, my favourite Inuyasha character was Kikyou, and now...I just don't have much interest in Inuyasha anymore. Still, I found it interesting to investigate the possibility of InuKag's relationship after Kagome permanently settled in the feudal era. While the fifteen-year-old Kagome from the anime/manga was a fun character in her own right, I quite liked picturing her with a more mature personality, dealing with realistic problems outside of fighting demons and running from Naraku. I wanted to show the depth of her sacrifice to abandon her modern life for a much more minimal one with Inuyasha, and also wanted to tell a story regarding just what magic did the hanyou possess to enchant her into this decision. Hope you liked it; it was certainly an interesting exercise for me.