Continuing Tales

Tales from the House of the Moon

A InuYasha Story
by Resmiranda

Part 35 of 42

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Tales from the House of the Moon

"When you die they make a list
of every love you never kissed,
of each regret and each mistake,
every choice you failed to make."

- Barenaked Ladies, "Next Time"


And now there is memory.


...not a memory of how she came to be standing here on the shady bank of the burbling stream, for she has always been here, but a memory of before.

The memory is a name.

Of course, like any name, that is not all that it is. The one who wears it now has worn many others, and will wear many more. It has many meanings to many people. This one is hers. No one will ever know this name as she does.

She turns, looks over her shoulder to the flowery, sunlit field, and calls:


Her voice doesn't echo across the meadow; instead, it is swallowed by the sunlight, seamlessly slipping into eerie silence. A tiny thread of doubt winds through her. The memories are fuzzy, and the name tastes sweet and strange.

"Sesshoumaru?" she calls again, squinting at the bright world beyond the bowed shade of the mossy slope where she stands. There is no answer for her. The name was a quiet one, she remembers, but for some reason unknown even to herself, she feels certain that he would respond were he there.

She suspects that she is waiting for him. But the name seems as though it was a dream, and she wonders if it was real -

"Ah, no more yelling," Inuyasha says from behind her.

She turns back to the gentle slope and the winding creek. At its edge, Inuyasha sprawls lazily on his back, dangling his toes in the water. His head is pillowed in his hands, his black hair spilling over his arms. He is craning his neck to see her.

"Um," she says. "I was just... I'm waiting for him?" She is not quite sure of what she is doing, or why she is here.

Inuyasha waves a hand. "Keh! He's always late. You should know that by now, Kagome."

Kagome feels a flash of annoyance. "Well," she says, "why do you think I'm calling him, then?"

Inuyasha just snorts.

"Don't be rude, Inuyasha," Miroku says. "It's been a while. Give her a minute or two."

The former monk's hands are busy, Kagome notes, and there is no seal now. He sits crosslegged on a boulder a little ways away from the water, whittling away at a block of wood as he carves something that she can't identify, and for some reason she thinks that he looks older than she remembers. Which is silly, since he is as old as he should be.

Feeling a little dizzy, she shakes her head, as though to clear it. Is this the dream? she wonders. It seems real, but then so do the memories - this name is mine, and this one is hanyou, and that one is a holy pervert, and - and they are so dim and strange that she cannot look directly at them before they slide away.

"I think... I should go look for him..." she says, not at all certain, which is strange, because she was almost certain a moment ago. Perhaps she only remembers being certain, though, so who is to say that she ever knew anything at all?

"Bah!" Inuyasha barks. "I'll never know what you see in him!"

Sango looks up from the game of go that she is playing with herself and lobs a stone at him.

"Ow!" Inuyasha announces to the world, rubbing his head - she'd managed a good hit right above his temple. "That hurt!"

Sango is unimpressed. "Stop that!" she admonishes him. "The only reason we're still here is because you wanted to wait. The least you can do is be civil."

Inuyasha pauses in the act of throwing the go stone back at her and blinks. Taking advantage of his confusion, Miroku leans over and plucks it from his fingers before gently lobbing it back to his wife. Inuyasha does not appear to care.

"Oh yeah," he says. "I almost forgot."

Sango pulls her best exasperated face. "How could you forget!" she cries, brandishing the stone. "That's why we've been sitting here killing time!"

"Hey, I've been here longer!" Inuyasha snaps back. "It gets fuzzy, okay?"

Sango makes a frustrated noise, and Kagome can see a little smile on Miroku's lips as he carefully shaves off another curl of wood. It is a loving smile, affectionate and warm. In her mind, the name she might remember or might have dreamed seems to flare up, like fire, and she turns again to look over her shoulder -

"I guess you don't want to come with us," Inuyasha says.

"Um," she replies, turning back. He is standing, stretching out his muscles. Sango is packing her game, and Miroku is carefully stowing his carving in his sleeve. Inuyasha looks up at her with his dark eyes.

Somewhere deep inside her, more dreamy memories stir, but they are not about the name that slides on her tongue, but instead -

- long afternoons and blood and cookfires and flying and furry ears and swords and curses and spiders and dogs and foxes and wolves and the walking dead and broken jewels and groping hands and sisterly hugs and white hair and fear and happiness and past lives and past thoughts and past hopes and all the things that are gone -

"Well?" he says, and her breath trips over itself. For some reason, her fingers are shaking as she fiddles with her sleeves.

"What?" she replies, but her voice is dim, and she watches as the summery past rises up to meet her -

"Are you coming or not?"

Her feet twitch, but she does not move.

Wasn't this how it had always been? This was where she is meant to be, is it not? It feels so right, and they're all here -

- except -

"Where is Shippou?"

There is a shuffling of feet.

"He'll catch up," Inuyasha says. "Don't worry about him."

And she thinks, It was not like this.

And now she really notices the differences.

Now Sango is slightly plumper, slightly more matronly - but you were always a girl, Kagome thinks, except for that time when you weren't - and she seems almost at peace. There is a kusarigama shoved into her obi. She does not carry hiraikotsu, and Kirara is nowhere to be seen.

Now Miroku has no seal upon his hand, but there is still a hole in the center. He no longer wears his holy attire though his clothes are the same color as the robes in which he always traveled, and his staff is still with him, but it is tarnished and misshapen in places. He looks middle aged, and he was never that way in the dream - or is this the dream?

And now Inuyasha is human.

Which is not how it was, until the end.

- and over and over, all her memories tumble together, torn and treasured and -

"You look different," Kagome finally says, helplessly.

At her words, they become still.

"So do you," Inuyasha says, after a moment.

So Kagome looks down at herself, and she thinks, But this is me...

"I - " She glances back up at him, feeling a little breathless, and a little sad. "I was in love with you..."

And for a moment there is a little bit of pain in his face, a little bit of the anger she saw when they met for the very first time, and now there is one thing that Kagome knows for certain: she never wants to see that expression on his face again.

Then it is gone and he nods. "Yeah," he says. "Me, too."

And now she remembers it all, so she realizes that her hakama are the same shade of green as her school uniform, as are the threads running through her haori, but everything else is of another time. There is even a wakazashi at her hip. So she looks at the one who was named Inuyasha, and she thinks, This was the color I wore when I was with you. But the clothes are different. So is the hair. So is the face.

So is the heart.

Her legs are trembling beneath the weight of some knowledge that she doesn't understand. She takes a step back and shakily lowers herself to the ground.

"Um..." she says slowly. "I need to wait for Shippou. And... him... I think I need to stay here - "

To her gratified astonishment he just smiles - the genuine smile that was so rare when they traveled the world together - and bounds up the slope. Before she can say anything, she is wrapped in his arms, and the embrace is so sweet and warm that she thinks she might cry, because even though the heart is different now, it still remembers the time when it wasn't. But for once, it is all right.

Then he withdraws and stumbles back down the banks, and why did she not notice how the colors were so pale and bright, and how did she not see the little bridge that crosses the stream? They could wade through the shallow water if they wanted to, but instead Miroku kisses Sango and takes her hand, and Kagome can only watch as they step onto the bridge -

- and she thinks, insanely, that they step up into -

- and fade.

"Catch up with us!" Inuyasha calls, and he turns, and steps onto the bridge -

She cannot watch. She holds onto the ground, as if she will fall off, and shuts her eyes so tightly that she sees stars.

A gentle hand falls over her own.

She opens her eyes, and Inuyasha is no longer there.

Kagome turns.

And sitting there next to her, looking sweet and sad and peaceful - the way she must have looked in life before Kagome had known her, the way she must have looked after Kagome had returned her to her love in that strange thing that might have been a dream - is Kikyou.

"Kagome," Kikyou says.

The world stops.

In the sudden cacophony of silence Kikyou's voice echoes all around, and in it all the things that Kagome does and does not want to know are gently laid bare.

It is the saddest thing she has ever heard.


By the time Sesshoumaru landed, Kagome was dead.

He touched down maybe twenty meters away from her body, but there was no doubt in his mind; he had seen too many dead bodies to make a mistake so fundamental. Her heart had ceased, her lungs had stilled, and her brain had already given its last commands, though the final moments between consciousness and death had probably been mercifully obliterated by lack of oxygen. She had crumpled gracelessly. Her haori was crimson with blood.

In the distant part of his mind where he still had some semblance of function, Sesshoumaru hazarded that her death had been caused from asphyxiation. The angle of the dagger was just right as to have severed a major artery as well as slice open her windpipe; it wasn't a stretch to guess that she had probably drowned in her own blood. She was most certainly dead.

Why, then, did he keep waiting for her to sit up?

Kagome - no, the body that had been Kagome - stared at him with glassy eyes.

The tiny part of him that still functioned started screaming. In the darkness of his head the ragged sound echoed against the nothingness.

Sesshoumaru waited for her to blink.

In a world that was entirely apart from him, there was noise and shouting. From the corner of his eye he saw villagers running slowly, so slowly, as if time had condensed into this one tiny moment, and they swept into the field towards -

- Sesshoumaru shifted his gaze and saw the young woman who also wore miko clothing stagger where she stood. A dagger identical to the one now buried in Kagome's throat dropped from her fingers.

The sorceress was very alive, and though the vile spirit had been destroyed he could sense that she still retained a great amount of power. Now he could feel it swell and crackle, unleashed and erratic in her pain.

In slow motion the false priestess lifted her hand to the bloody gash in her arm.

But, god, why wasn't she dead? Wasn't it supposed to go the other way? Wasn't the sorceress supposed to be dead instead of Kagome? Wasn't the god supposed to be sealed instead of obliterated? How did the story go?

Well. The story said she would win, and she had. Even though the false priestess still had a power that set his teeth on edge, the darkness was lifted up and away from the village. She'd only had to kill one of them to break the hold, and she did. Kagome had succeeded.

Except she hadn't, and he had almost known that. He had turned back because of that damned story. He had run and run from her before his wild thoughts tripped over a memory. He remembered that she wished that this story would part from reality, like the others, and he had thought: all the other stories went wrong except this one.

Now there is nothing left to go wrong except the ending.

So he came back because it wouldn't have been right to let her go into battle without that warning, but he had been too late and she had been barreling headlong into the wrong ending so he had... intervened.

But that had just been an excuse. It was not a reason. It wasn't why.

Now she was dead, just as he thought she would be, and he had been fine, just fine with that, because he had learned long ago that postponing the inevitable only meant more grief in the end.

He had forgotten that knowing she might die and seeing it happen were two different things entirely.

And the world slowed so much that it was as though he had stepped outside of time, and there was so much shouting, and so much blood, and her eyes were open, and still Sesshoumaru waited for her to wake up -


- and Kagome feels as though she has opened her eyes, and then opened her eyes again.

Kikyou - she was never there. It feels wrong.

This cannot be the dream because it is real, and yet -

"Why aren't you going with Inuyasha?" she asks, feeling almost angry, irrational, why are you throwing away my sacrifice for you -

"He can wait a little longer," Kikyou says softly. "You cannot."

But I've waited so long, so long already -

Kagome shudders. It ripples through her, shaking her grief and sadness loose.

They echo in her body, and she can hear the truth in them.

"It wasn't a dream, was it?" she whispers.

Kikyou shakes her head.

Memories tumble down, of fires at night, of cold caves, of other golden eyes, of strong hands and striped skin and a foolish desire for forever, but there is no forever because -

I tried. I tried so hard, I worked so hard, but there was one second and I failed.

No no no.

"I'm dead, aren't I?" she asks, her voice choked and shaking with all the tears threatening to drown her words in her throat. This isn't how the story went, this was not how it was supposed to go, that had all been lies, this wasn't meant to happen. But it had.

She had really, truly died.

No no no.

Then Kikyou's face melts into a look of such sorrow and compassion that Kagome thinks she might breathe again, but the other miko turns away, to the serene little river, to the cruel little bridge.

In the pastel sky the pastel sun sparkles, and the lovely lying peace of the beautiful world-between-worlds stirs her grief and rage together in her gut, and she is going to scream with the weight of it all. Her fingers curl, and Kagome feels the pretty pastel grass crush and tear beneath her hands, her fingernails dragging little furrows behind them.

It was all a waste, everything was wasted, everything had broken, and it was all her fault.

Her throat closes on the wounded cry that she cannot suppress, and then Kikyou's hand closes around her fingers, soft and soothing.

"There is a choice," Kikyou says, and Kagome can also hear tears in the voice of her other self, of the one who was and was not her, who had twined so intimately with her that there was always a little wish to return -

Kagome struggles to comprehend. "A choice? You mean - like Inuyasha said - I have to choose to go back or go on? Is that it?"

But Kikyou is shaking her head again, and Kagome thinks she can see her lower lip trembling, just a little.

"Yes, but you have already made your decision. This one is not yours."

Kagome cannot understand. It hurts too much. "What do you mean?" she cries.

There are definitely tears in her eyes now. "This one," Kikyou tells her, "is his."

And the blood drains out of the world, leaving it suddenly barren and pale, and Kagome knows.

She knows.

Her voice is dust. Her heart is stripped bare, and she cannot not find the strength to seek the answer, but in the end she speaks the words.

"It's me, isn't it?" she asks. "It's me. I'm the madoushi, aren't I?"

There are no sounds around them now, or perhaps she can't hear them over the roaring in her ears, and now it makes so much horrible sense that it cannot be true but, oh, it is...

"I'm the one everyone will remember as evil."

She doesn't have to see Kikyou nod to know it is the truth, and the fairytale crawls treacherously across her mind: the sorceress could not be killed. If a fatal blow were struck, the god would revive her.

The god would revive her.

And -

- he is the god, he is the god, he is the god is the god is the god he will bring me back or let me die, and...

Oh, no no no...

And now, softly, Kagome wishes - so, so desperately that she might actually choose death if she can only do this one thing - she wishes that she had told him the things she'd kept in her heart, the only secrets she hadn't wanted him to find, but in the end it doesn't matter what she wishes for. All that matters is what she has done.

And it isn't fair. It isn't right.

"If he chooses me, they'll seal him away. They'll put him in a shrine." Her eyes are burning with tears unshed. She can feel her face collapse into an ugly look of agony.

There is a pained silence. "Yes," Kikyou finally whispers.

"And if he doesn't, I'll stay dead."

The other miko nods, but Kagome can't see her very well through the tears, and oh, god, even if this were not a choice that would seal his fate, it is so cruel to ask him to make this decision, because all that sword had ever brought him was grief, and if he... oh, if he feels anything at all, then this choice is just a choice between grief and grief again, and it is her fault, all her fault this time.

How will I face him? she screams inside the emptiness, and with revulsion she breaks herself, tries to put herself back together into someone who isn't so stupid and selfish, who would not have failed him so badly, and all the jagged pieces are torment -


- and now he couldn't gloss over her suffering, couldn't forget her blood-stained face, couldn't go on with the way things had been and still pretend that there was some small hope left that she would whirlwind her way back into his life again someday.

There was a certain lovely horror to it all. She hadn't been able to kill her opponent. She had spent a month learning the skill she needed, but in the end she could not break and remold her own will enough to be a killer; instead, she had faltered at the last possible moment, and he was glad, because at least she had died as herself -

- at his hip, Tenseiga weighed heavy -

- and this had always been an outcome. He had considered, in the murkiest parts of his brain where the wildness still ruled him, killing her himself. It would have been easy, and it would have made everything so much more simple, but now it was even simpler because the decision had been made for him.

Now he could return home and slaughter his enemies, and keep his firm grip on the power for which he had fought so hard, and would never again have to think about the strange woman from the future who had so thoroughly upset everything that was him.

She would never come back.

There was a gust of wind across the grey field and then -

- everything was grey, and he could see the future in front of him, rolling away beneath his feet, spreading out like the landscape of a dead country.

He could see it all. Here was the monotony of each bloody, useless fight that he would win, and over there were the stupid, petty squabbles of the youkai who fought amongst themselves for a little parcel of his power; on the stifling breeze he could smell the tedious conspiracies that would brew behind his back, and he could even feel the dull weight of the hours and hours of drudgery inside that stifling little study, and all the dragging centuries of nothing that waited for him -

And suddenly Sesshoumaru wanted nothing more than to crawl out of his own bones and escape.

The wind tossed his hair and high above the clouds swept across the sky. The villagers were reaching the false priestess now, crowding around, pressing inwards, and there were already hands reaching for her arm as they clamored to tend to the wound that the real priestess had left in her flesh. None of them seemed to take any notice of him.

They certainly didn't take any notice of Kagome who had been so good and so naïve and who had tried so hard to fight for them.

Here was her payment, and she had been so damn foolish -

- but then again, so had he.

Really, she had been such a fanciful whim.

Inside the slow and weary moment, he took one step forward, felt his boots slide on the dry grass, felt the wind in his clothes, and she was still there, dead and dead and dead and dead.

There were always choices, and none of them easy, but he had always known that.

And he could break away from his father's shadow by turning around and walking away, back into the grey future, or he could follow in his father's footsteps and lose all he held so tightly for the momentary pleasure of her, and that was unthinkable, because he did not lose -


There is only one thing left to say.

"Why?" she wants to know, needs to know.

Endless drowning seconds pour over her before she hears Kikyou swallow.

"Because..." Kikyou says, voice low, and stops. "Because... there are some things we are fated to do. Because history is written by the ones who are left alive. Because that's the way the story goes."

That's the way the story goes, that's the way it goes, the story the story the story of my life -

They love the sorceress, Kagome thinks to herself, and they hate me. They think that I am the evil one, and because they are the ones who will tell the stories that is what the world will remember.

And he will suffer because I didn't see it in time.

Now her eyes are spilling over, her tears falling over her broken heart, and she cannot see, cannot hear, cannot think -

She feels Kikyou's arms close around her.

"Don't cry," Kikyou says, brokenly, crying a little herself, and Kagome doesn't know why, doesn't understand, even though she does. She presses her face to Kikyou's shoulder and shudders beneath the pain, sobs out all her sad and shattered hopes, and she thinks that, under all of this, that she might finally comprehend all the things that Kikyou had known.

She herself had erased all that betrayal, all that hatred and sadness, and now it is Kikyou who holds her, strokes her hair, and Kagome cries, suspended between life and death, between the past she once wanted and the future she now craves, between inconsolable nostalgia and impossible love, and she waits for the moment in time when all will be decided, the moment when they will either win or lose -


- but, then again, what was winning, anyway?

Briefly, Sesshoumaru closed his eyes and saw flames.

He could kill all his enemies. No, he would kill all his enemies. He could send all his servants away. He would send all his servants away.

And he could burn the House of the Moon to the ground with his own hand, and then leave his father's lands and never return, because none of that feels like losing any longer.

Maybe it never had. Maybe his wounded pride had always just been salt on all the gaping wounds that would never fully heal.

And now there was another bloody, ragged wound, and it might be the one that would kill him, except this one -

He'd spent his whole life looking for power, and then he was powerless. His mother died of disease he could not fight; his father turned his back and would not listen. And his poor little girl had been taken out of his hands, and he could never close that wound, but right here, right now -

Kagome had wanted him to win, so he would.

He stepped forwards.

His feet seemed leaden, but still he walked. He was so tired, but so close, and really, she had been nothing to him, nothing, but it had pleased him to be with her, had pleased him to want her, and now, it seemed, it pleased him to need her.

And Sesshoumaru always did what he pleased.

He came to a stop. Her body was at his feet.

And he hesitated.

The wind gusted again.

And then, dimly, Sesshoumaru registered a strange, stinging pain in the fleshy swell at the base of his palms.

It felt... familiar. Old.

For a long moment he didn't move, didn't want to move, didn't want to confirm what he already knew, but he had to, had to. Very slowly, he lifted his right hand, uncurled his fingers, and found something that he had not seen since he was just a boy.

Sesshoumaru stared.

In the grey light his claws were stained dark red.

And then he watched, the roar of his heart in his ears, as across his palm four bloody, ragged holes silently, seamlessly knit themselves back together.


And -

"What will you give him to hold on to?"

"A promise."

- there is the sudden sound of breath -


The world came back, and there was so much blood in her mouth that she nearly choked. Desperately she turned and coughed up a stream of already-clotting blood before gulping huge droughts of air. The knife that had killed her lay next to her hand.

The knife that killed her -

She had been dead, and now she was not, and from the muddy ground Kagome looked up, frantically, needing to see him -

He was a few feet away, Tenseiga clutched in his bloodstained hand, and the expression in his eyes was almost enough to kill her again.

He needed he wanted he longed for -

Time was short, so short, running out so quickly, and she forced herself to say the thing she had found between life and death.

Kagome looked him in the eye, and she struggled to put all her determination, all her fast devotion into her voice -

"I will find you," she said, and -

Well. That's all there was.

And years and years later, Kagome would still wonder: if she hadn't said that, would he still have been distracted at the crucial moment?

He only had a fraction of a second, but it was long enough for her to see his face melt, almost imperceptibly, from yearning to confusion, and then he learned what she meant.

Kagome saw the hilt of a knife bloom from his chest.

She could feel his youki revolt, unleashed, rearing up savagely as it fought the spell. For a moment he swayed where he stood. Blinked once, slowly, his eyes strangely far away, and Kagome dared to hope that the sorceress - oh god, she could feel the sorceress behind her, could feel her weakened strength struggle - hoped that the sorceress wouldn't have enough power and the story wouldn't end the way she'd thought it would, because he was so strong, so very strong, just like his brother, just like his father -

- and both were dead -

- but oh, please, maybe -

She saw his hand twitch, slightly, as though to pluck the dagger from his body, and then -

- there was another, in his arm. It sparked with its sealing spell.

Sesshoumaru went down on one knee, and now she was on her feet, stumbling to him, could hear shouts behind her. His eyes were glazed over, his breathing labored, and she could still feel him struggling against his fate and -

- another, glowing white hot, in the soft hollow of his shoulder.

Sesshoumaru fell.

Slowly, slowly, like falling through the sea, Sesshoumaru's eyes slid closed and he felt himself hit the ground, paralyzed, sealed, imprisoned.

He heard her scream his name as she scrambled forward, felt her fingers barely brush the hilt of the blade in his chest as though to free him, and then she choked as though being gagged, her warm, living weight lifted from him, beyond the reach of the hands she sought to weave into his clothes. He heard her struggle as they dragged her from him, her frantically muffled voice rolling through the air, striving to reach what her body could not.

He thought he heard the clash of battle. He thought he heard the devouring flames. He thought heard his enemies raging, his lands in ruin, and all his pride destroyed.

But really, it didn't seem to matter much.

He thought he heard her crying.


Pain happened.

When Kagome regained consciousness her head ached so badly that she could feel each heavy beat of her heart throb inside her brain. She was slumped against something hard and unforgiving. Not every part of her body hurt, but the places that didn't just seemed to add insult to the places that did, and she just wanted to go to sleep again and forget -


Her eyes flew open.

She was inside a hut; there was little light, but what little there was still sent a stab of agony through her skull, and it took all her willpower to refrain from groaning. She couldn't open her right eye either, and it hurt to try.

Kagome winced at the ache of her eyelid, which pulled even more bruises on her face from a dull ache into a ripple of pain. She gasped.

There was a rustle, and someone laughed.

Kagome tried to stay very still, wishing that she hadn't given away her state of consciousness, but it probably didn't matter.

She could still feel everything. Bruises, abrasions, the burn of the ropes that bound her, and with her, very near, the power of the madoushi flaring in response to her own, and somewhere else - oh, god, so far away - she could still feel Sesshoumaru's youki spiking feebly.

In the pit of her stomach, Kagome felt something heavy and cold as stone settle down.

"Your youkai is quite pretty."

The stone-cold something shifted, grinding into her guts. Slowly, her neck screaming in protest, Kagome turned her head.

The madoushi sat near her, staring leisurely at the fire. She was lounging as though she didn't have a care in the world. Bloodstained bandages wrapped snugly around her left arm. As Kagome watched, the sorceress slid her gaze from the fire to her captive. She appeared to be waiting for an answer.

Kagome said nothing. Even if she had an answer, she would not have spoken.

After a moment the madoushi just shrugged and jerked her head towards the door.

"You can feel him, can't you?" she asked.

Kagome remained mute, but she felt the muscles in her face jerk involuntarily.

Yes, I can feel him, she thought, and for a moment the ache of longing overwhelmed all other pains.

The sorceress must have read her reaction in her face because she smiled, and for the second time Kagome had to marvel at how benign she seemed; she might have even appeared benevolent, if it weren't for the hard, unsmiling eyes that hid behind that beatific mask.

"Yes," the madoushi agreed, "I can feel him, too. He's quite powerful, you know."

Yes. I know.

"Almost couldn't get him to stop moving," the madoushi continued, studying her face. "I nearly passed out with three. Probably couldn't have done a fourth."

She sighed a little. "He's still not sealed," she added. "You can feel him fighting it, so his mind is probably wide awake. But he is paralyzed, so I guess we'll just have to make a little shrine to keep him safe. And immobile, of course, just as a precaution in case the spells weaken enough for him to move."

For a moment, Kagome saw him, in the dark, oppressed by spells and prayers and holy energy and the powerful binding lodged in his body, seeping through his blood.

You're going to seal him in a shrine, Kagome thought, and he's going to have to wait, awake, for someone to free him. For years. Centuries, maybe.

Her stomach lurched.

Sluggishly she ran her sticky tongue over swollen lips, and tasted the blood that had dried on her chin.

"How many more are you going to kill?" she asked in a cool, cracked whisper.

The madoushi looked at her with vague surprise, as though she had forgotten that Kagome was capable of speech.

"Oh, no one at the moment," she said airily, recovering smoothly. "No point right now. I can't convert raw suffering into power all by myself. I'll have to find a new companion..."

The madoushi trailed off thoughtfully. "Besides," she continued, appearing to contemplate something of great import, "things are going well for me. I just saved a village from the menace that had given them the plague, after all. They were quite upset with you, as you can tell."

Kagome didn't answer. She swallowed dryly as the sorceress chuckled again.

"Good thing for you that I was there, eh?" she said. "Otherwise they probably would have beaten you to death."

Around the cold in her belly a small wisp of warm anger curled upwards. "Why didn't you just let them?" Kagome croaked. "Why didn't you seal him completely? It would be easy."

The madoushi sighed. "Yes, it would be quite easy, but I have a much, much better idea."

Kagome watched as the sorceress slid gracefully across the floor, and sat in front of her victim. Desperately, Kagome hoped that the girl would come just a little too close, maybe within reach of her aching limbs, but she stopped several feet away.

The madoushi looked at Kagome for a long moment, as though trying to think of how to tell her some very bad news. "You took a great deal away from me, and it will take me a long time to get it back," she finally said. She sounded as though she were speaking to a child. "So killing you would be too light of a punishment. After all, you've already been dead once today!"

She laughed just a little, as if she had made a cute joke.

"So I think," she continued sweetly, "that I will let you live. In your world."

There was a long moment while Kagome's brain tried to comprehend what the sorceress was saying.

"You mean the well?" she finally asked. "The world on the other side of the well?"

"Very good!" the madoushi said, clapping delightedly. "You are going back to your world, and he will stay in this one."

And Kagome almost blew it by saying that they were, in reality, the same world, but the madoushi continued, and for once she did not make a stupid, horrible mistake. Her tongue tripped and stuttered to a stop inside her mouth.

"I know you can't come back unless you have a mission, so... maybe someday you'll get back through. By that time, though, I'll be gone." The madoushi smiled. "You see?"

Slowly, Kagome blinked. "What?" she muttered after a moment. "That's worse than death?"

For the first time, there was a flash of anger in the sorceress' eyes. "Don't play stupid with me," she snapped. "Anyone can see the way you are. You should have seen his face when I killed you."

...longing, yearning, needing...

"And then you were so valiant when you tried to save him! It's the stuff of stories," the madoushi continued, her voice colored with a dark cynicism. "So we shall make this story just a little more tragic. Instead of killing you, I shall do my best to separate you forever. It will be so romantic."

Kagome tugged at her bonds, wanting nothing more than to injure the stupid, horrible girl who said such horrible things in that sweet little voice. But she'd had her chance to kill her, hadn't she? And she had failed.

Romantic, she thought bitterly. What a stupid, cruel romance. Fourth-rate melodrama, at best.

With a tiny, shuddering sigh, Kagome closed her eyes and refused to reply. There was a slight flutter on her cheeks, and after a moment she realized that she was crying the secret, silent tears that only come when there is nothing left to do but cry.

There were no more words, so she said nothing as the villagers lifted her up and carried her out of the hut. She made no noise as they passed into the well house, was silent as the men groped her, remained mute when the madoushi whispered to her about the shrine she would build for the youkai still sprawled in the muddy field outside of the village.

Kagome didn't make a sound until they tossed her over the lip of the well and into the future, and then she screamed so loudly that her throat tore and bled as the ending rose up to claim her.

Tales from the House of the Moon

A InuYasha Story
by Resmiranda

Part 35 of 42

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