Prologue: Shikon no Tama
Cloying and deep, there was seemingly no end to it, and to the young woman floating in the blackness, the only light to strain her eyes on was the oddly glowing round bauble pierced by an arrow from the bow she was clenching tightly in her hands.
Her fingers flexed nervously against the bow as she stared fixedly at the stone; it was the only thing in that empty space to hold to, to fill her fingers with so that she knew that she still existed, still lived, though buried in the soulless void.
"You must make a wish. Until you do, life and light do not exist for you," an oddly androgynous voice lightly mocked the young woman-child barely lit by its tiny glow. "All of reality as you knew it waits for your wish. Is not the correct thing to wish to return home to your era, so that the continuity of events that have already passed not be compromised?"
Kagome lowered her eyes from it, a frown forking her brow as she searched through its deceitful words for the truth hidden within. She was weary; uncertain how long she'd been here in this tainted darkness, the Tama was trying to tempt her with what she wanted – to return home to the safety of her mother's arms, so she could recover from the shredding her heart and soul had gone through on her journey through the past.
But she was still aware that just because she wanted it, did not mean it was the correct wish. And there were other hearts that had been shredded in this story... perhaps the best wish was one to save another person's heartache at the expense of her own desires – what could be more pure than that?
Over the length of her travels in the past that history lessons had done no justice to, she had thought many times on what would be required to rid the world of the Shikon no Tama and it's unholy influence. What was really the right wish? It was impossible to know for sure. But it seemed to her that a wish that was as pure as possible was at least a step in the right direction. Because to do what she was now pondering would do nothing for her, and would actually most likely be detrimental to her.
But would it work?
To wish for Inuyasha's first love to return... it would cause her nothing but pain, and could very well cost her life, as well, for there was no telling what would happen to her once the jewel was gone and this void no longer existed. It was very possible that she would simply disappear along with the jewel, wished out of existence as much as it was.
It was certainly not a selfish wish – and so, supposedly, could not taint the Tama. Kikyou herself had always believed that an unselfish wish was what would be required, though her answer to it was selfish in the extreme, with her desire for Inuyasha to wish away who he was, merely to make him acceptable to humans.
It was a fallacy the older miko had never seen through, and Kagome was certain that particular wish would never have worked.
"I want to go home," she replied after a few moments, looking back up at the jewel, "but I'm sure that's not the right wish."
The jewel pulsed. "You want the hanyou to be happy, ne? Then perhaps you should wish for Kikyou to be at peace. Isn't that what he's always said he wanted? And then... his heart might finally be free to turn to you," it said, something sly twisting in the undertones of its voice. "But since it is only 'might', and he still may choose not to return your feelings, that wish would not be selfish."
Kagome thought about that, she really did. Much as she might have wished to believe what it was trying to say to her, though, it was too risky; because there was still a chance that she could gain her heart's desire from that wish, it was probable that would be enough to taint it.
"No. I can't wish for anything that would benefit me in any way – not even something that only might benefit me," she said firmly enough, though the weariness was beginning to show through in her voice.
"What will such a sacrifice gain you, little girl?" the jewel asked. "Have you not sacrificed enough for all those people? Is it really selfish to wish for the smallest thing for yourself? Surely," it scoffed, "the kami aren't that demanding, as to force you to give up everything for their schemes. A wish for yourself is your reward for completing your quest."
Head lowering, Kagome closed her eyes, a bittersweet feeling welling up in her. She had sacrificed a lot for her friends here, that was true. And she'd tried to do her duty to the kami, by reassembling the jewel she'd broken, hoping to keep it from being used by some power-mad being – like Naraku. There were times, like now, when she was drained inside, that she wondered; when would it end? Would the ultimate sacrifice truly be required from her?
She didn't want to die. And she didn't want to lose Inuyasha. She loved him, though lately she was just confused on that score – because she was no longer sure how she loved him.
Perhaps that was just a reaction to the pain he'd put her through for so long. It was quite possible that her heart had grown tired of the anguish, and decided to change its vision of what it wanted from the silver-haired hanyou.
But with things as intense as they'd been these last weeks, Kagome hadn't had the time to really consider much, her feelings being pushed aside because it was taking all she had just to keep going, as her spirit became more and more drained of life and hope.
As much as she wished the jewel's words were true, she knew that they weren't. The kami could, indeed, be that demanding. Simply look to Kikyou for the proof of that – or even Midoriko. As bad as Kikyou's fate had been, Midoriko's had been worse, in her opinion. Being stuck fighting a never-ending battle, fated never to find peace, or be reborn – and all because they were servants of the gods... servants that had, perhaps, not triumphed against their particular foes in the way the kami had desired.
For that failure, they had received fates that most beings would not consider fair.
But that didn't appear to matter to the kami – the opinions of lesser beings than they could never hold any interest for them.
Bringing her mind back to her current predicament, Kagome opened her eyes and gazed down at the bow she had acquired at Mt. Azusa... she had passed the test there. Her eyes ran up and down its clean lines, the thought that that particular test had been much easier than this one flitting through her mind. She acknowledged with a teary sigh that she couldn't see her way clear this time, unlike so many times in the past.
This time, there was so much at stake. All of reality. And even after all this time, she still didn't know for sure what wish the kami were looking for – what wish was the correct one. She wasn't a kami, wasn't a wisewoman. She wasn't even really a priestess by training, merely by power. Why she had been picked for this task was beyond her – she was merely a young girl from another world that was terrified out of her mind, heartsick and tired, with far too much on her slender shoulders.
Bringing her eyes up once more to rest thoughtfully on the tama, she watched the flickering lights within it, the raging of the light and the dark as Midoriko's trapped soul battled the countless youkai held within the jewel with her. There has to be something... it isn't even just for a wish, no matter who gets the benefit of the jewel's power – it's to release Midoriko. She must be so tired... and here I am whining about how I feel when she's been stuck in that place for five hundred years.
That firmed her determination a bit, pushing back her weariness and desire to find peace at any cost.
"If I make the right wish, all of this will be over, Midoriko will be free, and perhaps I will find peace, too, if the kami are merciful. And you," she addressed the jewel suddenly, "will be gone, unable to ruin anyone else's lives. It would be worth it," she sighed finally. "Even if I have to let go of my life."
A dark pulse came, then, from the tama, and Kagome could feel its sullen hatred; shivering, she hoped her fate wasn't to end in the jewel as Midoriko had. If she made the wrong wish, it very well could be.
"If you make the wrong wish, your fate will be just that," it said, voice no longer even. "Only the right wish will free you. But you will never figure out the right wish. There is the other side of the matter, however. If you make a wish that is neither right nor wrong, I might be destroyed – but not before being able to curse you with an ill wish of my choice."
Kagome's heart beat out a rapid tattoo at that, fright widening her eyes as she took in the words of the shikon no tama. Cursed? Is there truly only one way out of this intact? "Perhaps I should just wait... Inuyasha will come for me. I won't wish."
"Inuyasha will try to come for you. But he will not succeed. The gods have arrayed us as they have seen fit, and it is in your hands alone whether I am destroyed, or not. Choose, then, miko, and cast yourself into the crucible of fate. Right, wrong, or neither – there are three paths out of this place, but only one is the right one. You cannot avoid the choice any longer," it said with dangerous finality.
Tears lighting her cheeks with little flickers of fire from the dim light of the tama, Kagome lowered her head once more, everything inside her freezing in that one moment of time as she realized that the jewel was right – she couldn't put it off anymore. The time had come.
With no more chance to think over the matter, Kagome burst out with the only thing she had been able to come up with in all the time she'd spent thinking about it.
"I wish Kikyou would be returned to live the life she should have!" she yelled out desperately, terror clenching her heart with the fear that she had chosen wrongly.
A pulse of light washing outward from the jewel stunned her eyes, and she raised a hand to cover them, the brightness hurting her. Within a fraction of a second, however, the light disappeared, snuffed out as though it had never existed, and surrounded by darkness deeper than any she had ever experienced, she cried out in a panic, fearful at what it meant.
She could feel an oppressive hatred converge on her, and then a sibilant voice whispered to her as the black power of the tainted jewel tore at her.
"Your wish was neither right, nor wrong, wench, and I may now curse you for defeating me. Listen then, to your fate. For as much as you suffered for Inuyasha's love of Kikyou, now, you will know what heartache really is. I send you further into the past, to meet one who would love you like no other, and that you would love in return far more than any love you could ever have imagined. But..." here the voice became wicked, malevolence ripe within it, "you will be fated to lose it all after a very short time wrapped within each others arms unless you finally come to understand which is the correct path. You will have only one more chance to change the fate apportioned to you, miko."
As the last words of the tama faded away, another voice spoke out, its words following her down into the darkness of unconsciousness.
"Like grains of sand, the possible paths of time are once more endless and unknown, the future you knew erased, your fate tossed into the cauldron of eternity. There is, however, only one path that will lead you out of the darkness... this is your final chance for redemption, Priestess Kagome, as the Shikon no Tama told you."
A/N: And welcome to my new Inupapa/Kagome. This one is going to be totally different than any of my other much more light-hearted action adventure romances. This is more of an epic historical romance, and as such, will have as much action adventure and romance as there will be angst and even some disturbing darknesses.
It's also going to be a LONG story, as well – just think of paperback historical romances of a thousand pages or even two thousand from your favorite authors, and you'll begin to get the idea. The plot is twisting and there is a lot of intrigue, and that is why I will be posting no more than once a week on this, and maybe slower as the plot thickens and develops. BUT – unlike most of those who have started such Inupapa/Kagome stories and abandoned them, I will NOT be doing the same – even if it takes me two years to finish this story. After all, a comparable story published in paperback form takes the author at least a year, and they are getting paid for their work, which I am not. I'm only doing this for my own enjoyment, and for the entertainment of those who enjoy reading what I write.
I'm also doing research on the backgrounds for this story so that it will seem more in keeping with a historical perspective, as you will be able to tell as we move through it, which takes time. So, all in all, don't get to thinking I'm abandoning this story just because I haven't posted in a bit – sometimes life happens, or even writer's block, and I refuse to rush this story – I think it's going to be what some would call my opus. (Although, on that line, I am not only going to write this, and then stop writing – I have many, many partially written stories to keep me going almost to my deathbed.) But that said, this story is probably my favorite so far that I've written, and I want it to be the best I can make it.
Anyway, I hope everyone enjoys the story in the way it is meant – for entertainment purposes only. I will go ahead and post the prologue, and then the first chapter, so that everyone can get a good idea of at least part of the plot, and then, for at least a while, I will be posting once a week thereafter for as much as I already have written.
And special thanks and appreciation for TruGemini – she has been wonderful helping me out with reading over things as I get them done, sort of like a sounding board for ideas and plot twists and turns, and I couldn't be any more thankful to her, so I want to share the spotlight with her – thank you, love!