Rurouni Kenshin Fan Fiction / InuYasha Fan Fiction / Crossover Fan Fiction ❯ Never Ending ❯ Never Ending ( Chapter 1 )
[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Summary: Her duty was never ending, tying her forever to the quest that should have ended a few centuries before. She was like a shadow, always moving, until she found him. Then she fell in love, and now she must break the ties that held them. [Kenshin/Kagome; One-shot]
Disclaimer: I hold no claims to Inuyasha or Rurouni Kenshin. They belong to Takahashi Rumiko© and Watsuki Nobuhiro©.
Hands tightened their hold around her naked thigh and stomach, both pulling her closer to the body next to her. They were the same hands, which she'd come to admire, no matter what others thought of him. They were the hands that had often protected her, even though she should have been able to protect herself—she had for so long. The same hands that belonged to a man in the Meiji Era, who'd gone through so much in order to suddenly wander across her. The day that proved to be the end of her vow, and it was all because of his hands.
The sweet, wonderful, hands that roamed her the night before like a wild fire for the first time.
The man behind her pressed his face into her shoulder, obviously trying to get closer to her, to take in her scent more easily. He sought comfort from the woman who he'd roamed with for the last year, the same woman who commanded his attention, even when he slept. Her sweet scent entangled him further into her enchanted web, almost like it was a sweet, sweet song to his senses. Even unconscious he knew that, but he didn't care anymore. Not even now, because it was just her and him and nothing could change that.
She sighed, placing her hands over the ones that trapped her within his embrace. So warm he was. So sweet and innocent, even if he had spent so much time spilling the blood of others. He seemed like an entirely different person then when she'd first heard of him years ago. War was something that had always come and gone while she wandered alone, but this had been filled with it before the revolution. It was not hard to believe that he had been apart of it, but she was happy that he'd decided to help others instead. To never dirty his hands with blood again.
If only she could be so lucky.
She shifted quietly; bringing the hand on her stomach up to her chest, over a small scorch mark. It was round, perfectly shaped all around, like the full moon that often hung in the sky whenever she decided to glance there. However, it held a different purpose, even if she would never tell her recent lover where it was from. What it meant! She knew he was curious about it, almost since the exact moment he'd seen it, since it was directly above her heart, and looked like she'd been branded. She could only wish that was the true reason she held such a scar from the past.
A long ago past that seemed like a blissful dream now—a dream that faded with each passing day. It was like a memory that continued to slip away from her grasp as she tried to hang onto the soaked surface. Each and every time, though, she'd find herself off balance and falling away. Drowning in her own loneliness during the day as she remembered things from everyday routines, sights, and sounds. Drowning in a sea of tranquility during the night that ended as soon as she opened her eyes to the yearning sun.
Someone had once told her that the past should stay in the past, and she'd thought that true until she'd fallen down that stupid well. Because she'd been there to help save the past in order to carve the future. She'd been so confused about what that actually meant until the moment they'd finally put an end to their foe. The moment that her world came crashing down around her. For in an instant she had changed from the somewhat ordinary girl of fifteen to the endless wanderer who would never be able to find peace.
Like Kikyo, her mind spat at her. She agreed with it, for Kikyo had once walked the earth as another somewhat ordinary woman. She'd wanted the same things that other women wanted, but Kikyo had been given a great responsibility. One that had her killed in the process. Then, after fifty long years she was resurrected and walked the earth as nothing but a shell from the past. Kikyo, as long as she fed on the souls of other women, would have lived forever if she had not been struck down. She would have been an image of the past that would never wither away because her body could not. But no, that right had been reserved for her.
Higurashi Kagome, the woman who had stopped aging at the age of nineteen. The woman who had been alive since the Sengoku Jidai until the moment in time that she found herself now. The woman who had found her power had increased and then diminished as time went on and demons faded away from the eyes of man. The woman of legends! The woman… who housed a powerful item within her body—an item that ruined her life!
On pure instinct she pressed herself closer to her companion, wondering where her life had gone so wrong. When did she do something so wrong that she deserved to forever protect and survive a jewel of any kind? When did she do something so wrong that the souls inside said jewel decided to make her watch her loved ones die? Why did she deserve to never be able to keep a companion for long, in fear that they might find out her secret?
A tear fell from her eye. Why was she cursed to fall in love again…? Why was she so cursed that she'd break the very vow she'd given herself for a former samurai to become her companion? Why did she have to open her, what she thought to be, stone heart to him? Her face fell more as she thought about it. She was cursed. She was cursed by an item called the Shikon no Tama, a pure item that had to be handled with care.
An item that would once again force her to give up that which she wanted desperately. For that was truly what she wanted. She wanted to stay there in the room she'd rented for the night with her new lover and she wanted to forever be held by him… but…
Her duty was never ending.
She could not suddenly unbind the chains that the Shikon no Tama used to hold her with. She could not release herself from the duty, which she'd come to know meant loneliness. She could not suddenly jump into the arms of a handsome man who'd once risked his life for her simply because she did not want to go through life without him. She knew that her heart wished for these things to suddenly disappear from her past and allow her to be with a man who'd slain many, but they never would. They were apart of her very essence and her duty was more important than her wishes and dreams. The jewel would never grant them for they were selfish things and so she held onto what she knew had to end soon.
She'd come to understand that the moment she realized the Shikon no Tama had sealed off her path to the future. She'd found at that moment that she'd forever have to run away from that which she wanted. She'd had to as soon as she realized she brought too much chaos to the new Taijiya Village, started again by Sango and Miroku and Sango's apprentice. So she'd left and wandered like she'd come accustomed to after so many years. The thing she wanted in life were too selfish for her to have, thus she needed to stay away from it all by running. Running…
She held herself so that she did not suddenly run away, like she always did. She'd ran away when Inuyasha had went to Kikyo; she'd ran away when Kouga demanded she be his mate; she'd run away when a young man a few years back wanted her as his bride… and she'd continue running. No one could ever know her secret; except for the select few she knew would keep it. They'd know as soon as they found she didn't age. They'd know and they'd wish to know her secret, which she could never tell them. Then they'd try to kill her and would be killed in the process, thus she would be considered a monster. So, she'd promised herself that she'd never become too emotionally attached, that she'd run when she felt death snapping at her heels.
She'd been holding herself since the moment she'd found him cute. She'd been stunned, since she'd missed Inuyasha since his death. She knew she should have still been mourning her first love's death for a very long time with her eternity. She knew, but at the time she felt that perhaps that was time to leave, to never turn back in fear that he might catch onto her. However, she'd been so lonely since Inuyasha's death, since he would have lived at least seven hundred years or so according to his elder brother. At the time she'd told herself it was for the best, she would have hated the fact he'd died if he'd stayed by her side longer, but things changed. She'd met him.
It had been raining; cold and bleak like the many that she'd seen. She'd been standing with a hat covering her face—she'd found long ago it was easier to blend in if she didn't have her future items—outside of a small town. She'd been debating whether to enter or not when a rather large man had come to her, telling her that he wanted something warm to cuddle with. She'd been disgusted that he was trying to get her into bed with him he'd been so dirty and she'd turned her nose to him. It had been the wrong move and from her long experience she should have known that.
As she went to walk away, deciding at that moment that she would find somewhere else to stay for the night, he'd grabbed her arm. Her first option was to give him a nice roundhouse kick in the face, the second was to possibly repel him with her miko barrier, and her third was to fling him over her shoulder. She wasn't sure which would hurt him most, which wouldn't hurt because of his size, or which would fail because she didn't know his abilities. And then, as she tried to pull her arm away from him, snapping at him that he shouldn't treat women in such a way, he made his first appearance.
Himura Kenshin. The wanderer who'd once been known as the Hitokiri Battousai.
She stopped struggling when he'd finally began to speak, saying something about how forcing women was wrong with a “that it is” at the end. She'd always seen that as something that only he'd do—something that made him who he was. Even in the rain she'd been able to see his red form, and the sword he drew from its sheath. She'd been confused to find that it was a sakabato, and wondered why he'd carry around such a thing. True, to most it would seem useless, but to one who did not wish to kill it was the weapon of choice. It was a weapon that seemed almost perfect for him.
With her assailant's attention drawn elsewhere she'd quickly did the only thing she could think of: she bit into the male's hand. He'd screamed and released her, yelling about how she was a bitch and should die for hurting someone as powerful as he was. It had caused her to snort, quickly moving away from him before he was able to backhand her. She hadn't known that Kenshin had merely drawn his sword as a distraction at the time, but almost instantly she had had a hand clamped onto hers and they began to run. The man who'd wanted to keep her for the night gave chase, but her savior had been crafty and tricked him by making him think they'd disappeared. It was a simple trick that involved hiding, but it worked perfectly on one of his intelligence.
They'd been drenched by the time the other man mumbled something about looking in the morning and stomped away. Of course, she had been better off because she was wearing the hat Miroku's descendants had given her many years ago, extremely worn but useable, but he was completely soaked. She'd blinked at him, wondering why someone would be so kind, but there would always be people like that. Her first hand experience from the Sengoku Jidai to the Meiji Era had been to stay away from men, though. So why had one saved her? Her first thought was, he's going to expect something from me. Men are all the same.
It was amusing now that he'd proven her wrong. He'd sheathed his sword before he'd grabbed her hand in their escape, and merely gave her a stupid grin. He'd said something about that being exciting with “that it was” attached to the end. She'd blinked at him, wondering why he was being so nice to a stranger. The years had made her more cautious and suspicious of others. Then he'd simply asked if she would be all right on her own and once she nodded he began to walk away. Walk away as if he'd done a good deed and there was nothing else to be done, which confused her. However, she'd smiled when she heard his stomach growl and asked him if he'd like something to eat. Though he'd protested at first at having her spend her money on him, he eventually gave in.
She didn't know why, but she'd found she laughed when he joked or acted stupid, and she liked the way he was. So, she'd tailed him once he'd left and soon joined him once she discovered she had been noticed. He'd said that he didn't know where he was going, he'd know when he found it, and she'd smiled, saying that she was doing something similar. Together they'd simply become wanderers' with company. He said he'd protect her while she traveled with him and she told him that she would buy him food, since he barely had any money. She had some old coins that were worth a lot, so it wasn't hard to keep going in this era and it wouldn't bother her. He'd protested about it, but she'd eventually been able to make him see that it was for the best, before she'd smirked and added, “that it is.”
Kagome closed her eyes to the memory that came with it, how he'd smiled at her, his eyes brightening for no reason. His stupid grin replaced his smile once he'd learned that he would be fed everyday, instead of starving himself for a couple of days until he worked for money, though. She was sure he often wondered where she'd gotten such coins, she had around two hundred from the Sengoku Jidai still, after all, but he never questioned her. He probably just thought she'd gotten them from her family or something. It was better that way.
Kenshin shivered against her skin and she looked down to find that she'd somehow managed to remove the blanket they'd been using that night. It was rather cold outside. She'd be careless to let it stay there, especially when Kenshin pulled her closer, trying to take in her heat. A small smile formed on her lips as she turned to look at his calm face, moving in his arms so that she could roll over. Afterward his arms once again tightened around her, while she rested a hand on his chest.
Could she…? She'd once told herself that she'd never be able to love, that no one would ever love her because of something. Kenshin, though, treated her like he loved her. He'd whispered it into her ear during their lustful activities the night before, but had they truly been his own words? Had he merely been caught up in the act that he'd felt the need to reassure her, to make sure she didn't push him away? She wasn't sure, and she wasn't really sure if she wanted to find out. Finding out would be the hardest part. Because then it would haunt her once she…
She nodded, placing her forehead against his skin. It will be better this way, she said to herself. Her fingers spread out to cover as much skin as she could, wanting to feel him for the moment. Her mind was in a knot. She knew that she had to break her connection with him, or she would end up telling him about who she was really was. About her entire adventure and that she could never age, and he'd probably laugh at her. Kenshin usually listened to what she said and gave advise to certain things, but she was sure he'd laugh upon hearing such a thing. It seemed farfetched, after all.
Another tear managed to find an escape at the corner of her eye. She reached out to pull the blanket over them in that instant, wanting to find something to do in order to distract herself. Especially since she wasn't able to sleep since the night before, thinking about what she was planning. She was sure he knew, that he was wondering why she had been acting so strange, but she couldn't tell him. Telling him meant facing the truth.
Her duty was never ending. One day he would die and she would live on forever, protecting an item that still radiated its awesome power, but was hidden within her soul. She didn't think she could bare watching him grow old while she stayed so young, loving him, yet falling apart knowing that within the blink of her eye he would be gone. It had happened before. One minute she would be simply walking and the next it would be a few weeks later. So, she could only be faithful to her duty. It was never ending, as was she, but he was not. He would die…
She didn't deserve him…
She managed to get the blanket covering them as the sun began to rise once more and sighed. She closed her eyes, wrapped her arms around his body, and rested her ear against his chest. She wanted to know that he was still alive, that his heart still beat. That she wouldn't have to watch him die, but she would know that the last time she saw him he was alive and well. To know that she loved him and hope that somewhere within his heart he loved her as well. After all, a year with a person was a long time.
She stayed there, knowing that Kenshin would not wake for some time. Knowing that it had to be done. Kenshin would understand someday, even if he was angry at her at first and sought after her. A drifting thought passed through her mind, perhaps that was why he said such words to me… Maybe all he wants is for me to stay and be loyal to him for the rest of my… his life.
They were the words that broke the camels back. She shot up, trying not to wake the sleeping man who searched for her warmth once she was gone. She touched his cheek to show him she was still there and he calmed, but wrapped himself in the blanket tighter. She began to dress afterward, fumbling with the ties and putting on her sandals faster than she thought possible. All the while a quiet, choking sob could be heard coming from her throat, tears streaming from her eyes. She did want to stay with him, but she didn't want to see another person die. She didn't want to see another man she'd come to love slip away from her grasp.
She didn't… Does that make me a bad person? Kagome wondered.
She shook her head, telling herself that in this case it didn't. She was protecting him from her. He needed to be protected from her. He'd been hurt by Tomoe already, he didn't need his heart broken once again. He didn't need to know of the blood she had many times tried to wipe from her hands, nor the nightmares that haunted her. He didn't need to know the eternal lifespan she would have, nor did he need to know of the memories that flickered in her head. He didn't need any of that, and that was why she would protect him. He wouldn't like it, she was sure, but he would come to understand… someday.
She stood at the sliding door for a moment as she told herself that this was the only way. The sun was shining into the room by then, but her body stopped it from hitting him in the face and possibly waking him to find her leaving. She forced down the sobs that were still heaving in her chest, silently praying please understand. Please, please don't hate me once you find I'm gone. Please… Kagome sniffled, “I love you. Try to understand…”
He mumbled a little, scratching at his nose as he began to blink his eyes open. He smiled to himself. Today was a wonderful day, the day when he'd finally be able to ask Kagome to stay with him forever. His little tenshi was too good for him, but she often told him he was too good for her. They would be too good for each other together. He would protect her and she would smile at him, bringing him happiness that he didn't quite understand.
He felt like he was fumbling in the dark.
The thought made him smile, wrapping his arms around nothing as he came to realize that he wasn't holding anything. Not a person, not an article of clothing, nothing but air. He blinked, where is Kagome? Surely she did not go for a walk this early? It is dangerous, that it is.
Concerned as to where his tenshi could have gone, Kenshin turned his head this way and that in order to make sure she was no longer in the room. It meant that she either went to bathe or she went to merely get some air. Yes, for Kagome had once said that she loved to merely walk through the trees of a forest and listen to the sound of nature around her. It made her calm. Perhaps she had thought about doing that this morning, since she'd been rather tense the night before. Until… well. Kenshin gave a small smile, before grinning to himself.
He felt like the luckiest man alive. Not because Kagome was generous or always wished to make him happy, but because of what he felt. Because he knew the feelings that were rushing through his veins, even though he'd been mourning for nearly a decade before he'd found her. It was so strange how love decided to strike individual beings, but he was happy it had once again come to him. After all, who could not love Kagome? She was everything. Everything a man could have hoped for, even if she was only a wanderer like himself.
Kenshin yawned, his smile lazy as he thought of the things he could do from that point in time. He hadn't actually meant to sleep with his companion, but she'd began crying for no reason. He'd asked her what was wrong, told her that she could tell him anything if she wanted to, and she'd suddenly flung herself into his arms. He'd tried to comfort her the best he could, but he soon found her gazing at him with a strange look. Then her lips had fell onto his, and he'd told her she should think before doing such things, before she shushed him in order to continue. He'd been caught up in the moment, but he was sure that she didn't care. She'd merely needed him and he was happy he'd been able to help her the way she needed him.
His smile faded into a frown as he thought about it. He knew from the night before that Kagome hadn't been a virgin, simply because she'd told him afterward while sitting in his lap. He hadn't really noticed within his passion, so he asked her why she hadn't been married to the man. Her answer had been because the man, Youko had been his name, had died trying to steal something. She'd mumbled that she hadn't really loved him, that he'd merely comforted her after one of her friends had died. He'd felt ashamed at having bringing such memories to her, but was happy to hear her laugh and tell him that it didn't matter. That most of the memories were good ones.
Still. Perhaps the reason why she wasn't by his side at the moment was because she felt ashamed that she'd done such a thing with him. That she'd so easily forgot the emotions that this Youko perhaps gave her to merely feel him. It made him frown deeper, feeling the Battousai side of him, as if it wanted to make her forget everything about that other man. He held it back knowing that there would be no good from it, and glanced over to see if Kagome had left anything behind.
Everything the miko carried was gone. Her bow and arrows, her clothing, the small bag that she carried her money within—everything she had was gone. That meant one of two things. Either she'd gone to bathe or… or she was just gone. His frown deepened, hoping that it was not the latter of the two.
After all, he had told her he loved her. He meant it. Surely she had not thought that he didn't and had merely taken advantage of her weakened state of mind. He would never do such a thing to her. She had to know and understand that by now. She had to. He'd come to understand her so well, so it would only be logical that she understood him as much, if not more. He'd always told himself that he needed to be less open with others, even if he trusted them, but Kagome had somehow made him tell everything.
Like he needed to tell her in order to survive.
He stayed there, merely sitting in order to wait for her until he was sure that she was doing something other than bathing. It never took her that long in order to do such a simple thing. After he was sure he stood and quickly put on his clothing, slipped his sword at his side, and made sure that he had everything he needed. Once sure he went to the door, knowing that the innkeeper would have the room checked by noon to make sure they had left and then rent it out again to whoever wished for it. There would be no reason for him to go tell him that they were leaving and no longer needed it.
Kenshin slid the sliding door behind him, looking around the small town that they'd come to reside in for the night. His violet eyes made sure to leave no person unchecked for his tenshi, before beginning to walk away from the inn. The sound of his sandals against the dirt road echoed loudest in his ears as he looked down alleyways and made sure to check the face of every person who past him. It would do him no good to walk by her and have her completely `freak', as she put it, when she found out he was gone.
It was a rather large town, with many people moving about, and more beginning to wake. However, he took no notice to this, searching silently as he went. He moved around people, looking at faces and over their heads in order to try and catch a glimpse of her. With each passing moment he became more concerned, wondering where she could have went.
Perhaps she is merely gone… left without telling…
He stopped, blinking as the thought once more occurred to him. Kenshin knew there was a possibility that she was either ashamed with herself or that she simply did not wish to confront him. Perhaps she was merely waiting a few hours in order to calm herself, or maybe she'd decided that it was time to… separate herself from him. He bit the inside of his lip. Perhaps that was the reason for her mood last night… No, he thought, Kagome is too kind for such a thing, that she is.
Gripping the sheath to his sakabato, he continued forward, determination beginning to fill his body. He would find her. She was still there! There was no reason for her to feel even a bit of shame because of her actions, nor was there a reason for her to suddenly slink away. She wasn't the type to simply stay with a man in order to sleep with him before leaving them. And she'd never showed even a hint of such behavior.
So caught up in his thoughts he didn't realize that there was an elderly woman walking in his path. He wanted to stomp about, demanding the gods themselves to bring back his tenshi. He knew that such a thing would not bold well for him, since it would probably do nothing in the end. Merely have him stared at like he was going crazy or something, but not bring back his tenshi. Kenshin frowned again, his face having been a near emotionless mask before as he tried to make sense out of the situation at hand.
He was jolted out of his silent rant when he felt someone else bump into him. Looking down he quickly brought his hands up in defense, “Oh, I'm so sorry. I wasn't paying attention as much as I should have been, that I wasn't!” He noticed the elderly woman before him was merely smiling, shaking her head slightly as she bent to pick up the basket she'd dropped.
“That's quite alright, young man,” she said.
Kenshin sighed, “Please forgive me, I did not mean to rude. I'm merely looking for—”
The elderly woman put her hand up to silence him. Once he stopped talking she nodded, saying, “I understand. Do not let this old woman keep you if you're looking for someone. After all, I'm sure that youngsters have more important things to do then stand in the middle of the street apologizing to people they bump into.” She suddenly brought her hand up to clasp her chin between her fingers, “You're the young man who came with the miko, are you not?”
Kenshin smiled, “Kagome-dono? Yes, she is a miko. She was not in,” he sidestepped the thing he was going to say, continuing, “I could not find her this morning, that I could not.” His smile faded when he noticed the slightly sad look the woman was giving him, and asked, “Have you seen Kagome-dono this morning?”
“I believe so,” the woman sighed. “The miko that came with you yesterday was about this high,” she motioned with her hand and got a nod, “with wavy black hair, blue eyes, a bow and arrows, and a small scratch mark on her neck near her shoulder, was she not?”
“Yes,” Kenshin said, slightly worried about why the woman would be asking him. His mood went spiraling down a dark road as he thought about what the woman could have known. There were so many things that could have happened to a woman as beautiful as Kagome. Any man would have been able to see such a thing, and many of them wouldn't give a damn if she wanted to go with them or not. They wouldn't care if she was a holy woman who would not whore herself around like so many others.
The woman nodded. “I saw her this morning. She was quite distressed, it seemed. Continued looking back as if someone was going to jump out at her at any moment, if I remember correctly. She went straight toward the end of town, running as she neared it, like she wanted to get away from something as fast as she could.” She frowned, “Almost like she was afraid someone would stop her from leaving. I believe she was crying, as well. There was a slight fog this morning, though, I could be wrong about that. However, she ran right past me, almost like she didn't even know I was there. I'm sure it was the same woman, though.”
His breath caught in his throat. “S-she's gone?”
The woman nodded sadly, “I'm so sorry, young man. If it will help any, she ran off toward the western exit and left that way. I believe she was following that road there,” she pointed to one off to the west. “I didn't really know if she was frightened or merely wished to leave without disturbance because of something that happened during the night. I thought perhaps you, since I remembered you from the night before, might like to know where she was going. In case she wished for you to follow.”
Kenshin nodded, “Thank you. I believe that will help. I shall follow her, that I will.”
The woman smiled a little, “I hope you find her, young man. She looked almost like she was breaking her own heart. I don't remember a time where I've ever seen such a look, nor do I wish to see it again. It was saddening to know that she was… running, even when it was clear she did not want to.”
He nodded dumbly this time, gripping his sakabato's sheath between his fingers again. Once again thanking the elderly woman, he turned so that he could begin following the path that his tenshi had taken. He would not allow her to get away so easily, even if she wanted to run away from what had happened. A fierce look formed in his eyes as he said, “I will find her, that I will.”
Without looking back he began walking, his feet moving forward, though he barely seemed to notice. His mind was on one thing that would probably haunt him for the rest of his life.
He might not find her… no matter how far he searched.
The elderly woman smirked, tiny fangs shining in the light of the day as she watched the former samurai walk away. Her tiny-clawed hands gripped the basket she was holding, before she allowed one to slip away from the handle. It sank into the cloth that she'd bought and quickly found a small round orb wrapped within it. Bringing it up to her face she watched the sight of the running miko as she tried to run away from her fear. “Poor, poor, little miko. Such a shame you were cursed to live forever. Midoriko will soon see that as a mistake, though, so do not worry. Allow your heart to guide you, for you will see your newest love soon enough. I have seen it and everything I see comes true. You cannot escape your destiny.”
He walked forward, his eyes happy, yet sad, as he once again had the image of a young miko spring up in his mind. It had been nearly a year since he stopped searching; dread filling his body when he came to realize he might never find his tenshi. He'd bumped into Kaoru while he was searching, which was what brought him into the situation he was currently in. Trying to understand why he was always thinking of his tenshi when his heart was beginning to once again reopen to the little tanuki he lived with.
If it weren't for his searching, though, he probably wouldn't have ever met Kaoru, Yahiko, Sanosuke, or any of the others that he now knew. The people that he now cared for and wished to protect, even if his heart still yearned for a single face. A face that he was beginning to believe would never again show itself, no matter how much he wanted it to. The face of the woman he had once wandered with.
Sanosuke walked beside him, almost like the man was making sure he'd do all the work. He was, after all, carrying all the rice when Sano was supposed to be helping him. It showed just how much the former fighter-for-hire really wished to help him, how much he just wanted to sit around and do nothing. Even that reminded him of Kagome, for she would have done the exact opposite. She would have told him that she would do it all and try, even if he ended up helping her in the end.
He knew he was unworthy of many things in life. One of them being the fact that he wished to find peace, which he'd thought he'd found many times, only to have it ripped away from him. He knew he was unworthy to even glimpse at a woman as pure as Kagome, yet he had come into contact with her and had fallen so hard. Kagome had once told him that he wasn't unworthy of anything that he should be able to have whatever he wanted, though he knew they were only words. He was unworthy of many things, which was why the world ripped Kagome away from him. He did not understand why it decided to give him the company of Kaoru, though, since he should have been unworthy for her as well.
Especially with the amount of blood he'd spilled on his hands.
Sano turned to Kenshin as he sighed, wondering what exactly had gotten into the former Hitokiri Battousai. It wasn't uncommon for Kenshin to act similar to how he was acting at the moment but he seemed depressed almost. Like he was thinking about something that he just didn't know how to approach. An idea came to him, maybe Kenshin was thinking about his relationship with jou-chan? Maybe he didn't know how to tell Kaoru how he felt? “You should just tell her,” he said, knocking the former samurai out of his thoughts.
“Oro?” Kenshin asked, turning quickly to Sanosuke.
“You should just tell Jou-chan how you feel,” he replied, smirking a little at his intelligence. He was sure that was what was bothering Kenshin, since there really wasn't anything else that might be. Kenshin would thank him for the rest of his life once he gave him the advice he needed.
“Kaoru-dono?” he blinked.
“Yeah,” Sano nodded. He turned, his eyebrows knitting together at what he saw. Blinking a few times, he said, “That's not something you see everyday.”
Kenshin frowned, “What do you mean, Sano?”
Sano pointed toward a crowd of people. “The last time I saw a miko was when I was a little kid. I thought wandering mikos' were a thing of the past and they only stayed with their villages now a days.”
“Wandering miko?” Kenshin felt his breath catch in his throat. He turned to where Sanosuke was pointing and felt his heart stop at what he saw. There, not even twenty feet away, stood the woman whose face continued to haunt him. She was smiling as if there was nothing else in the world she could want, but he saw the sadness in her smile as she looked about the people around her.
“Miko-sama, please bless our home!” someone called out from the crowd.
Another pushed the person aside, “Miko-sama, could you please help my family? My son is ill and we haven't been able to figure out what has sickened him.”
There was a panting man, “Please, miko-sama! My wife has been ill as of late and I'm not sure she'll make it another night. She says she feels death and I do not wish to lose her so early in life. Please, miko-sama?”
Kagome lifted her hands to silence them, “Please, I will come to all of your needs. That is my duty and I shall do it to the best of my ability.” She smiled at them a little brighter, her attention only leaving them for a moment when she realized a ball was soaring toward her. People parted as it came flying, but she merely stood there, allowing the training Sango had given her to lift her into the air and kick the ball back to the children who were playing with it.
Sano whistled, “Wow. Look at that. Too bad she's a holy woman…” Taking a glance at the redhead at his side he frowned, “Kenshin, you alright, man?”
Sano blinked, “You know that woman?” He tilted his head a little to the side to watch the expression that was floating across Kenshin's face. Maybe I was wrong… wafted through his head. Could it be, from the shock and happiness in Kenshin's face, that the emotions from before were because of the woman before them? His eyes narrowed a little, wondering if she was truly a holy woman, or merely an imposter. Then again, she probably was and he'd get hit upside the head later for thinking otherwise.
Sanosuke decided to merely glower at the ground. He'd noticed the way that jou-chan looked at Kenshin, and how the former samurai was beginning to return to her feelings. From what was happening, though, he was sure that the reason why Kenshin hadn't earlier was because of something else. Or someone else. Now it seemed that Kaoru would be given up because of the love shining in Kenshin's eyes toward this Kagome. Kaoru deserved happiness, but Kenshin deserved it as well, didn't he? Kaoru would bounce back, but it appeared that it had taken Kenshin a long time to do so, only to recoil within seconds. It couldn't be helped if that was what was supposed to happen.
His head shot up at the sound of the rice hitting the ground, one of them splitting open and rice spilling out over the ground as Kenshin took a step forward. He was ready to yell at Kenshin for being such a klutz and dropping the food he'd planned to eat. As he opened his mouth, though, he saw the uncertain look in Kenshin's eyes, almost like he was afraid the woman would suddenly disappear. It made him wonder why the woman hadn't been with Kenshin when he'd come to know Kaoru and showed up out of the blue. Perhaps she'd run away because of some reason and never returned, leaving Kenshin alone once again.
He didn't know just how close he was to the truth.
His heart thumped wildly against his chest, making him wonder why exactly it still did that. Wasn't he starting to return Kaoru's feeling slowly, softly so he didn't rush into anything again? Why didn't heat rush through his body when he gazed at Kaoru? Why did he leer at Kagome like he couldn't wait to strip her when she deserved so much better than that? He was unworthy of them both; it was clear from how he treated them both. Especially when neither ever wanted anything in return, though he'd always given something.
“Kagome-dono,” he whispered, taking another step forward. He told himself to go slow, to make sure that he was seeing what he believed he was seeing. That Kagome wouldn't suddenly end up being so completely different woman before his eyes. That she was truly there, flesh and blood, not a figment of his imagination. That she would be incased in his arms should he go to embrace her.
Sano grumbled, before hitting Kenshin in the back of the head. The former samurai turned to him confused and he snapped, “What the hell are you waiting for? Go to her before she decides whom to help first! Who knows how long you'll have to wait should you not hurry up and get over there!”
He nodded dumbly, wondering what had gotten into Sanosuke all of a sudden. He was glad for his assistance, though, because if he had waited any longer he would have had to wait all day more in likely to speak with her. By then she probably would have ran out of town and he wouldn't have been able to follow her. He would have felt guilty about leaving the people he'd come to care for without telling them where he was going. Especially when this place almost felt like home to him lately.
He turned quickly, beginning to run, stumbling a few times as he went. His hands hit the ground whenever he did, quickly pushing him up off the ground before he slammed against it. It would have done him no good to end up lying in the road when the woman he loved was so close. “Kagome-dono!” he yelled, watching as she turned with an elderly woman, speaking softly with her. She turned, blinking in surprise, before shaking her head. “Kagome-dono!”
Kagome stiffened, standing straighter than normal as she thought I know that voice. Once again she turned around to find the people who wished for her help were still standing around her. They parted for someone as a person began pushing through them, her name coming from somewhere near the separation. Her eyes caught sight of red hair while the elderly woman at her side tugged at her sleeve.
“You cannot deny your destiny… it is fate, poor little miko…” She tugged again at the miko's sleeve, smiling a small smile as she watched her face change from shock to confusion. Her tiny claws sank into the girl's skin without her noticing, just barely allowing a bit of poison to enter her system. To merely keep her still, instead of running off in order to deny what was coming. To deny what she knew the girl felt within her heart after so many years of torturing herself.
“K-K-Kenshin,” she stuttered, her eyes widening. Before her was the very man she'd told herself she'd never see again. Her heart ached to reach out, to brush his hair with her fingers, and touch his skin without hesitation. To gently place her lips onto his own and run her fingers over his unprotected chest once she stripped him of his clothing. Heat flooded into her body, flushing her face and down into her kimono as she remembered the last night she'd spent with him. The first and only time she'd ever touched him.
Sano turned to find Kaoru standing with a grumbling Yahiko, and frowned a little. He nodded at her, turned his attention back to Kenshin, and waited for the question he knew would come sooner or later. Especially since jou-chan had just began to completely show her feelings for Kenshin. He knew he could expect the waterworks later on once she was alone.
“Who's that miko, Sanosuke? I don't think I've ever seen her before?” Kaoru asked, straightening out her kimono a little. She took a glance at the miko who had a small bag strung over her shoulder. She also carried a bow and a quiver of arrows on her back, but looked as if she was extremely frightened by something. Her eyes turned so that she could see Kenshin standing in front of her, the people around them having spread out to watch.
“Kenshin said her name is Kagome. I don't know what's going on, but I think he knows her,” Sano explained lightly, trying to keep Kaoru's tears at bay. He saw Yahiko send him a questioning look, but ignored it, watching the miko as she simply stood there.
Her nose wrinkled up a bit, “I told you to call me Kagome. Why must you insist to keep calling me miss, Kenshin?”
He panted a little from hearing her voice. “It is proper to a woman of your status, that it is.”
Kagome smiled a little, gazing into his eyes. She tried to rip her gaze away, knowing that she'd once more find herself falling into their violet depths. A sob almost escaped her chest as she thought of what she'd have to do, even after this small meeting. She had a duty. “I don't think you've ever truly believed that, Kenshin.” She smirked, “That I don't.”
He smiled, stepping closer to her. “I searched for you.”
She nodded, “I know. I thought you probably would. I made sure to hide my tracks… I didn't want to hurt you.”
His eyes changed a little, almost until they looked golden in color. “You hurt me more by leaving, instead of telling me what was wrong; that you did.” He turned his face away, trying to come to terms with the fact that she was indeed standing before him. “I looked everywhere for you after I realized you weren't going to return to my side. I wanted to know why you left so suddenly when… when we… I thought that maybe…”
He looked so flustered and confused. She'd done that; she knew she'd done that. She wanted nothing more than to suddenly jump into his arms and kiss him fully on the lips. She didn't care if it wasn't proper, or if it was out in the open. She wanted to. A tear slid from her eye as she thought about it, barely noticed by anyone around her. I cannot quit the duty that was given to me, she whined. It wouldn't be fair to keep him when he should grow old and die with a woman he could truly love. Why? Why do you wish to hurt me so? Why must you make me cross paths with him once more? Why!
There was a tiny voice in her head, one that she had not heard for many years. …We do not wish to hurt you, guardian…
Guardian? She'd only been called that by the souls within the Shikon no Tama. They hadn't spoken since the time when they told her of her duty. That she would have to protect it not only with her life, but also with her soul and body. To stay alive forever in order to keep it from the hands of evil and so that it couldn't be brought back into the world without a proper guardian again. She almost gave a bitter smile, shaking her head lightly, yet you do…
That was not our intention, guardian. We knew of your open nature with any around you and thought you would not close yourself off to the world. That was your doing, not ours. We expected you to be surrounded by those who loved you and to continue on with life without having to run as you have.
She ignored the voices, knowing that they would simply try to make her see their reason. It was not fair that they continued to think she would simply fall into their peaceful world because she needed to. She'd tried everything in order to kill herself about a century ago, but nothing worked. Not weapons, not poison, not acid, not starvation, and not anything else that she could think of. Many of them simply hurt her, while other times one of the souls within the Shikon would take over in order to keep her alive. Her soul kept the evil soul from rising to even give off a spark of demonic energy, for it was forever sleeping as long as she held the jewel.
It was not fair that they continued to take her happiness.
She didn't want her happiness taken anymore. She wanted to be able to stay with a person and grow old like they did. She wanted to be able to die with a person she loved, a person who could love her in return. At that moment that person was the redhead before her, but she knew that he would simply laugh once he heard her story. No one in this era would ever believe her story. Not even the man she'd come to love, the yearning for him still fresh in her heart.
“I-I-I am sorry,” she whispered. Tears filled her eyes, “I didn't know what else to do. I'm bound to the duty I've been given and I cannot allow anyone to come… To break me from my duty would be… The person I… I can't… I just… Please…”
Poor, poor, little guardian. You heart cries for the man before you, yet you deny what it wishes simply because of what you've come to believe. You should have listened to us in the beginning. Then you would—
Hush… now is not the time, another voice whispered above the chorus.
Kagome tilted her head down so that she could no longer see Kenshin's face, even through her bangs. The tears she'd held back so far began streaking down her face one by one. Each one of them was like a small path that would one day lead her to peace, the pain fading with each small drop. A sob caught in her throat a couple of times, before she finally let out a soft whine.
“Poor, poor, little miko…”
“Miko-sama?” people asked uncertainly. They glanced about each other, wondering what had caused the miko to cry. Some were slightly disturbed by the sight, never having seen such emotion from a miko, while others tried to sympathize with the girl. Each one of them had the same thing running through their minds, and it was almost like Kagome could hear each and everyone at that moment.
“Poor, poor, little miko… You heart must ache so…”
His arms wrapped around her while she continued to sob. He held her, his head resting on top of hers as she buried her face into the front of his clothing. One of his hands gently laid on the small of her back, while the other came up to cradle the back of her head. His mind changed back to one of peace as he was engulfed by the familiar scent that had haunted him for so long. “Shh, Kagome. Shh, it is alright.”
It is unfair what we have done to you, Kagome. It is unfair of us to ask so much of you at such a young age. It is not our right to do such things. I believe it is time for a change. Especially now that your heart bleeds, and your sense of duty turns you more and more toward madness. The voice was strong, yet soft as it sang out from the piece of her soul the Shikon no Tama had locked onto. It was a woman's voice, one that hushed the others without even raising her voice. It was almost soothing.
Who are you…? Kagome thought, clutching Kenshin tighter against her. “I don't want to run away,” she whispered against him. Her grip became tighter, “I don't want to.”
Kenshin felt his heart soar, “You don't have to. You don't have to do anything you don't wish to, that you don't.” He held Kagome closer, knowing that she was confused and needed him. He wasn't fumbling in the dark anymore, but Kagome was beginning to. A smile formed on his lips, he would help her find her way out. He'd found the way without her, after all. She would need his help, his protection.
You're wrong, Kagome thought. You're so wrong… but I wish you were right.
She almost thought she could feel the now silent voice smile, though. Right before it spoke once more, the voice echoing in her head as she continued to allow tears to wash over her face. I am Midoriko, the miko who created the Shikon no Tama as a prison to a powerful demon long ago. I did not think this would eventually happen to one of its guardians. She almost felt like the smile became bigger. I did not think the Shikon would be created, either. I thought I was merely sending us both to hell, where we would forever battle one another. Neither side gaining an inch…
I chose you, child. I am the one to blame for your sadness. It is not right to put such a burden on one so young, so pure. It is not right.
His hand slipped a little, becoming bolder as it slipped over her backside. She didn't seem to notice, and for that he was glad, though he was positive most of the women around him thought he was a pervert. His hand moved to her thigh, gently raising it a little as he held her. He wanted nothing more than to suddenly pull her against him, rush off, and remember…
Your heart aches for so little, child. You wish for only the things that all those around you wish for. That is not selfish. That is the gift that you have, the gift that proved you were worthy of the duty as the Shikon no Tama's guardian. Now, though, I feel I have made a mistake by going so far. By allowing this simple task to completely rip a life to pieces. You have been through so much. You deserve to have your hearts desire.
There was a long pause, as Kagome gently lifted her somewhat dry eyes so that she could gaze into Kenshin's. Her heart pleaded, screamed that the words were fulfilled. Not only her heart, but her soul, as well. Both wanted nothing more than to finally be released from the never-ending duty she'd been given. From the duty that just continued, no matter how much she tried to make it stop. To simply end it without anyone having to ever know or miss her.
Kenshin pulled her a little closer, beginning to lift her off the ground. His hands itched to wrap around her thighs and completely lift her up, wrapping her legs around his waist. Only so that she was gazing down at him, so that he could carry her to wherever he wished to go. Everything was fuzzy, almost nonexistent around him as he gazed at her. Her eyes were glazed over and he knew she wasn't completely with him, but… He'd missed her.
Your love should be more important than your duty, child. It should be that way with all who truly deserve it. It is not fair that we take away something you asked for. The only thing you asked for from others, even when you did not receive it. I have seen, and I know. You have not loved in so long and I am happy to see you have chosen another to finally hold your heart in their hands. This Kenshin. You deserve the wish you have wanted since over a year ago. There was what felt like another smile, that you do.
Sano noticed that Kaoru had been silent for a very long time, merely staring at the sight with blurry eyes. Yahiko was looking toward the ground with mild anger, but he knew the kid would get over it. He was more worried about jou-chan, especially when she finally turned toward the sacks Kenshin had dropped. He stiffened, knowing that he'd probably be blamed for it.
“Is that what I think it is…?” Kaoru asked, looking at the rice spilled all over the ground. The rice that was bought with very good money, at a somewhat high price—it had been bought with money from her wallet. Money that she knew did not need to be simply flung around like she would never run out. “Sanosuke…”
“It wasn't my fault! It was Kenshin's, I swear!”
I am sorry, Kagome. I am glad you have found another to love, but I apologize for keeping you so long. Your love should be `never ending', as you like to put it. You should be allowed to live, grow old, and die like everyone else with the person you love. So, I will give you that.
I do not lie, child. I shall never lie. I will give you your desire, for it is the one that you truly wish for. However, I will give you more for all the years that you have been tormented by the duty we gave you. I shall make your love truly `never ending' by allowing your soul to be connected to his as a demons would be connected to its mates. You shall die, yes, but your soul will be reincarnated within a few years of his own and they shall find each other, meet, and love once again. You shall love forevermore with your samurai. No matter what happens, you will always find love in each life with his reincarnated soul. Yes, they change, but they shall be similar enough to recognize one another.
Yes, I promise. Then the voice faded away, and her tears started anew. She almost felt like she knew when it happened, though she wasn't completely sure if it had truly happened at all. Remember to always love him.
“Kagome? Kagome!” he began to shake her. He would have shook her shoulders if it wasn't for the fact that he had lifted her up above his sakabato, her legs wrapped around his own. He watched her blink, as if coming out of a distant dream, and look down at him.
“Kenshin?” she whispered.
“Yes,” he nodded. “At least one would hope so.”
She smiled, tears once more coming down her face as she wrapped her arms around his shoulders. She leaned down, and began to rub her cheek against his own. Her lips touched his ear, causing the former samurai to shiver, and smiled. “I don't think I'll run away this time, just so you know.”
He shifted so that he was staring into her eyes once again. “Are you sure? You left quite suddenly the last time, that you did.”
“Yeah,” she smiled. “Because I've come to terms with how I feel.”
He gave her a confused look.
“I love you,” she said.
He almost felt like his heart had stopped. However, he smiled, suddenly beginning to spin as he laughed. She clung to him, giggling into his ear as he did. “I love you as well, my tenshi,” he whispered. He took notice finally to the people gathered around them and smiled again. It meant he would not have to explain to others that the woman in his arms belonged to him and no one else. He was sure no one would try to take her, since some of them were suspicious about whether he was the Hitokiri Battousai or not. Most of them would steer clear simply because of that.
Her lips touched his for a fleeting moment, and though he tried to follow she managed to lift her head to high for him. Her eyes were shining brighter than he'd ever seen them, but he was glad that he was privileged enough too. His hope of reawakening the desire between them over a year ago was crushed to pieces at her next words. He wanted nothing more than to make love to her, to run his fingers across every piece of her body. She crushed it beneath her foot, though; as he was sure she would crush it many times in the future.
“I believe it best I help these kind people, Kenshin. Now. Um,” she blushed, “I did, after all, tell them that I would. I believe it is my duty.” She smiled at his frown, but waited for him to put her on the ground. She knew what he was thinking, what he wanted. She also knew there would be time for that later. She wouldn't even think of leaving now that she knew she would no longer live forever, but begin aging normally as she should have been allowed.
Midoriko couldn't have granted her wish any better. Finally she would be loved and she would be allowed to love her dearest in return.