Chapter 1: The Wish
“Get outta the way, Kagome!”
She heard him say it countless times before, but this time it sounded different. Urgency strained his voice with a palpable fear that made her heart clench with dread. Before Kagome could turn and aim her loaded bow at her assailant, her body collided with something hard.
Inuyasha had appeared in front of her, shoving her aside before slicing the oncoming snake demon in half with the tessaiga’s blade. “I told you to stay with the others!” he yelled.
“I can’t stand by and do nothing,” she protested, getting to her feet. She notched an arrow to her bow and fired at the swarm of demons hurtling toward them from Naraku’s chest. She’d be damned if she stood back and watched while everyone fought for their lives. Kikyou had devised for them a plan that would destroy Naraku; it involved distracting the demon lord while the miko charged the purifying arrow that would pulverize him out of existence.
But the plan had gone astray; Naraku continued to regenerate his missing body parts and send out masses of demons faster than their group could kill them off. To make matters worse, Naraku already had in his possession more than half of the jewel. He had pierced Kouga's legs and Kohaku's neck to obtain the shards. The few remaining fragments hung on a slither of string around Kagome's neck.
A bead of sweat trailed down her forehead as her eyes flickered to the oncoming demons. With her arrow supply diminishing, she knew it was only a matter of time until she was rendered useless.
“Enough,” Inuyasha said, grabbing her arm to stop her from wasting another arrow. “Just listen to me for once, wench! Let Kikyou and I deal with Naraku. You’ll only be a distraction.” As he spoke, his golden eyes seared into hers and she had to look away. His words made her feel small, but she swallowed the sinking feeling in her chest and replaced it with anger, shrugging her arm out of his hold.
“Excuse me for trying to help,” she snapped.
“You know I’m only sticking to the plan. Kikyou needs us—”
“She needs us to distract Naraku,” Kagome interrupted. “She needs us to sacrifice ourselves until her arrow is fully charged. I get it, but it’s taking too long. Lives are lost with every second she wastes!”
Kagome’s gaze shifted to Kikyou in the distance. The miko was standing alone, her arrow aimed at Naraku as a globe of spiritual energy surged around her. She was chanting the mantra that would purify the demon lord into oblivion. But something was wrong…
“It’s not charging fast enough,” Kagome said upon seeing the strain etched on Kikyou’s pale face. “We need another plan. Who’s to say the arrow will work at all? Naraku will notice her long before she fires it.”
“We don’t have time for another plan,” Inuyasha growled out. “If you wanna help, you better do as I say. Take Kirara and get the others away from here. Once Naraku’s through with Kouga’s tribe, he’ll go after your shards. I can’t let that happen.”
“You’re asking me to run away?”
“No,” he said, shoving her in the direction of the cat demon. “I’m telling you to!”
With those words, he took off in a running blur toward Naraku. Kagome was left behind to stare after him in dismay.
Inuyasha knew that everything in this battle was resting on Kikyou’s arrow. The end goal was to protect her no matter the cost, which meant everyone would serve as diversions until the arrow was fully charged and fired. It was a risky plan, he knew, but it was the only option they had.
As he ran toward Naraku, he passed Sango who was hunched over a motionless body; she held her brother close as a river of blood spurted from his neck-wound. It was as if the siblings were in their own world, oblivious to the fighting around them, too distraught with their own pain to notice. It was an eerie and haunting image. He had to look away.
But what Inuyasha saw next wasn't any better. Miroku was in a contortion of pain, writhing on the ground as Shippo and Kirara guarded him from demon attacks. Not too far away, Sesshomaru was leaning on a rock wall, straining for breath as he clutched a gaping hole in his chest. In a sunken crater lay the wolf prince; his bloodied legs were limp on the ground. The putrid odour of death was making itself more palpable as Inuyasha neared the fray.
In the center of it all, Naraku was being swarmed by the remaining members of the wolf tribe; however, they looked like puppies compared to his monstrous, tentacle-wracked body, which grew more grotesque as he absorbed the shards he had previously stolen.
Inuyasha raised his sword to unleash a backlash wave. Massive tentacles were pierced by the onslaught of energy, writhing like worms as they were severed from the demon lord’s body. But despite the intensity of the attack, Naraku barely flinched.
"You disappoint me Inuyasha," he said, smirking as his body regenerated. "I thought you knew by now that nothing could penetrate this body. I will always rebuild myself. And don't think I didn't notice Kikyou aiming her arrow at me."
Inuyasha cursed under his breath as Naraku's red eyes locked onto Kikyou's figure. She remained impassive as she met his gaze, holding her ground as she continued to chant the mantra. The blue aura glowed around her as it charged the sacred arrow notched to her bow.
There was something sickening about Naraku's stare that made the hanyou's spine crawl. But when those blood-red eyes turned to Kagome, Inuyasha snarled.
"Your battle is with me," he yelled, hoping the demon lord would refrain from pursuing the girl. In his current position he had just enough time to reach either Kikyou or Kagome should Naraku plan to pursue one of them in a deadly chase. He gritted his teeth as his thoughts turned to Kikyou. 'Dammit, what's taking her so long?'
"What would happen if I interfered with her silly spell?" Naraku said, smirking. He stretched his arm and extended his fingers, preparing to shoot the miko on the cliffside when a sacred arrow pierced through the air, puncturing his arm.
At first, Inuyasha was relieved that Kikyou had fired her arrow, until he realized it had come from the opposite direction. Dread knotted at the pit of his stomach as he turned to Kagome who readied another arrow to her bow.
"I told you not to interfere, wench!" Inuyasha shouted, heart pounding in fear. 'If anything happened to Kagome...' He wouldn't let himself finish the thought.
“Ah yes, I almost forgot about you,” Naraku said. His tentacles thrashed to life while his calculated eyes darted back and forth between Kagome and Kikyou.
It was as if he was analyzing something. Inuyasha's blood boiled at the thought. Whatever it was, he wouldn't let Naraku go through with it. He lifted the tessaiga to unleash another attack—
And then he saw it.
Two of Naraku's tentacles inched their way as if to aim at both mikos on opposite sides of him. They were the size of enlarged stalactites, and he knew they would be just as sharp. Suddenly, the tentacles were air-born, hurtling toward both mikos at the same time and at lightning fast speeds.
In that instant, everything seemed to happen in slow-motion.
Inuyasha didn't think. He ran, not knowing where his feet were taking him. Pure instinct fuelled him on as he ran to the miko in the distance.
The world seemed to hold its breath, and in those precious seconds it was as if time had tried desperately to delay the death, but at the same time make it all the more excruciating. The silence was broken by a shrill scream that cut through the air.
The miko had fallen to her knees, her bow and arrows lay in pieces on the bloodied ground. The flying tentacle had impaled her body and come out the other end.
All Kagome could see was red. Blood dripped to the ground as it leaked through Inuyasha's haori. He had suddenly manifested in front of her and took the hit that would've promised her quick death.
The shrill scream that had filled the air only seconds before had come from Kikyou who was pierced through the chest by a tentacle.
"Inuyasha," Kagome whispered, hardly believing what was happening before her eyes. She caught him as he staggered toward her and carefully leaned him onto her shoulders.
"K-Kikyou," he breathed out, not noticing Kagome wince at the sound. He turned away from her shoulder to look at the miko in the distance.
A sudden pang of guilt and horror shook Kagome's core as she followed his gaze. It was then that the reality of Inuyasha's actions hit her like a freight train. Naraku had attacked both mikos at the same time, and Inuyasha was forced to make a deadly decision. He had saved her life only to lose Kikyou's—and it was Kikyou who was supposed to be protected—that was the plan after all. It was Kikyou who had the spiritual powers to destroy Naraku, and yet...
She couldn't understand why Inuyasha had saved her instead. Was it because she had the last remaining jewel shards? Did he hope that Kikyou would fire her arrow before Naraku attacked? Or was it something else?
She felt him pull away. "Don't move. You'll worsen your wound," she said, tugging the back of his haori to stay him. But he brushed off her hands and pushed forward.
"I need to see her," was all he could rasp out before she was staring at his retreating form again.
All of a sudden, she felt cold. Inuyasha's words earlier that day echoed through her mind.
'You're a distraction! Let Kikyou and I deal with Naraku. Don't get in our way.'
His words had been harsh; he had made it clear that she was a hindrance to their plans. If only she had listened. If only she hadn't interfered. Perhaps then, Naraku wouldn't have noticed her, and Inuyasha would've been able to devote his time to protecting Kikyou alone.
"Pity isn't it?" a deep voice rumbled behind her.
She snapped out of her thoughts and turned around, heart seeming to stop at the sight. Naraku's body towered over her. His lower half was still piecing itself back together as a sacred arrow protruded from his side.
'Kikyou shot him after all!' she thought, surprised that she had missed it. 'But why wasn't he dead yet?'
Then, she remembered Kikyou telling them before the battle that she must not be interrupted as she chanted the mantra and charged the arrow. But Naraku had done just that. How had he gotten to her side without her even noticing? She mentally chastised herself for not sensing his presence sooner.
"The hanyou has lost Kikyou for good," Naraku said with a cruel smile. "And it's all your fault."
"You're wrong," she said, taking a step back.
"Don't fool yourself." He extended his arm to pull her toward him, but she pushed it away. Her hand moved to the arrow case on her back and it was then that Naraku made his move. His tentacles slithered toward her and wrapped around her arms and legs, pulling her forcefully to his chest. She struggled against the tentacle binds but her efforts were futile. With cold, rough fingers, he tilted her chin up so he could inspect her face.
"You two look so much alike. It's no wonder Inuyasha took an interest in you."
She shuddered at the feeling of his calloused fingers on her skin and tried to turn away.
"It's too bad though," he said in mock pity. "If it hadn't been for your interference, the hanyou would've been able to save Kikyou instead of you." He let go of her chin and fingered the little glass jar around her neck that contained the final fragments of the Shikon jewel. "And to think, all this death took place for such small shards," he said, seeing his face reflected in the glass. "It's almost disappointing how easily I can take them from you. You should try harder next time. Kikyou would've done a much better job guarding the jewels." He crushed the jar with his hand as if it was made of paper.
Kagome ignored the jab and focused on prying herself free, but her struggling seemed to amuse him.
"But of course, you're no Kikyou," he said with a smile. "You're so weak and pathetic. You're nothing compared to her. Inuyasha was a fool to save you."
"You're the one who's pathetic! You hide behind your barriers and your demon hoards. You let puppets do your dirty work for you. This whole mess is your fault! If it wasn't for you, hundreds of people would still be alive today." She spat at him, only to receive a sharp slap across the face.
"Don't try to blame this on me you stupid girl! Look around, this is your doing! If you hadn't broken the jewel none of this bloodshed would’ve taken place! Your careless mistakes cost the lives of everyone who had ever sought the jewel."
He grabbed her face and turned it toward the direction of the hanyou holding the dying miko in the distance.
Inuyasha was hunched over Kikyou's bleeding body as she lay in his arms. Her eel-like soul collectors floated away as her life diminished. With his back turned away from Kagome and Naraku, he was oblivious to what was going on behind him. He was too far away to hear them, and too far gone in his grief to notice anything but the miko in his arms.
Upon sensing Naraku's dual attack, he had reacted purely on instinct with a mixture of horror and fear. It was only after he had felt the tentacle pierce through his back and heard the simultaneous scream from Kikyou behind him that he realized the consequences of his actions.
In saving Kagome, he had lost Kikyou's life.
Wracked with guilt, he held her body close as tears trailed down his cheeks. It wasn't until a drop landed on the miko below him that she opened her eyes.
"The arrow wasn't—" was all she could rasp out before the searing pain in her chest surged through her body. She gritted her teeth. "I'm sorry, Inu—"
"No," he said, cutting her off. "Don't be sorry. I should be the one apologizing. I couldn't—I couldn't save you."
He felt a cool hand on the side of his face and opened his eyes. Kikyou looked up at him with a forced a smile. It was the final gesture she could make as the pain made it difficult for speech. There were no more words; the only communication between them was conveyed using gestures, and in that single touch of her hand on his face, Inuyasha understood what she was trying to say.
'I forgive you.'
Before the final soul collector floated away, he leaned down to convey a gesture of his own. He kissed her softly—a lifetime of repressed words expressed in a feather-soft brush of their lips. Her eyes closed for the last time as a single tear trailed down her pale cheek.
Inuyasha remained still as her body went limp against him. He shuddered as his own wounds intensified. Before he could stop himself, hot pain erupted at the base of his chest wound, causing him to slump over the miko's dead body. The world reeled in and out of focus before turning black.
Kagome couldn't tear her eyes away from the scene. Naraku held her head in his grasp, forcing her to watch the tragic couple's last intimate moments together.
"Look what you've done," he whispered, causing her to visibly shudder at the sound. "It's your fault for breaking the jewel and destroying all those lives. If you had just listened to Inuyasha, if you hadn't interfered, he wouldn't have needed to save you, pathetic girl that you are. He wouldn't have taken that tentacle through his chest. He would have saved Kikyou's life instead of your pitiful, useless—"
"Stop," Kagome whispered under her breath, her eyes hidden beneath her bangs. Tears streaked her face as her body shook in suppressed anger. But Naraku ignored her and continued his tirade, thoroughly enjoying the pain he inflicted on the girl with words alone.
"—worthless, shameful life. You must be such a burden to him—to them, always having to be rescued; being so pathetic that you can't even save yourself. In shattering the jewel you allowed me to do what I do best—break people. Killing them is too easy; it's more fun to break a person down slowly. So I should be thanking you, Kagome. You helped me do this in more ways than one."
She shook her head to deny his words, but he went on.
"You helped me break that pitiful demon slayer by making available the shards I used to manipulate her brother's mind. And in doing so, I broke him, too. It's so nice to kill two birds with one stone, don't you think?" he mocked, gripping her tighter. "In saving the demon slayer and yourself through his kazanna, that monk incurred the fatal poison that spread throughout his body. Only time will tell when it will consume him. Aren't you proud that your friends are risking their lives to save your pathetic one?"
"Shut up," she said in a dangerous tone. She had enough of his voice.
"The shards you broke found themselves in Kouga's legs. I had to extract them to make the jewel whole again. Now his legs are useless. If it hadn't been for you shattering the jewel in the first place, I wouldn't have needed to break those revered legs of his. You should be proud though, he brought his entire wolf tribe to help protect you from me. He should've been thinking about himself."
His voice grew dangerously close, his breath hot like venom against her skin. "Tell me, Kagome, how large is the pyramid of corpses under your feet? Does it give you pleasure to know how many people have killed for you—died for you?"
"Shut up!" she screamed, but he kept at it, not noticing the surge of spiritual energy gradually building around her.
"You can add two more people to that list of corpses. Kikyou certainly made the list, did she not? It's your fault that Kikyou is dead. And if Inuyasha doesn't get patched up soon, he'll follow her shortly with that hole in his chest. You took away their chance of being together. You're the rift that tore them apart!" He leaned towards her ear, voice lowering to a bone-chilling whisper. "And it's your fault that Inuyasha is dying. It's your fault."
In that instant, Kagome snapped. A powerful surge of spiritual energy burst around her, causing the tentacles binding her arms and legs to disintegrate upon impact. Naraku had to take a step back.
He had not expected such a violent reaction from the girl. He had wanted to break her down, not rile her up. The aura radiating off her was almost identical to the one that had glowed around Kikyou as she charged the sacred arrow. But this miko's blazing aura—it was different; it was wild and uncontrolled. Clearly she did not have a firm grasp on her spiritual powers as Kikyou had on hers. But it was this aspect that made her truly dangerous and unpredictable. If he didn't get away now, Kagome would surely finish what Kikyou had started.
But before he had a chance to move away, her hands were upon him, holding him in a vice grip.
'Where is this power coming from?' he thought frantically as her touch singed his skin with electrifying heat that radiated through her palms. He tried desperately to squirm out of her grasp, but it was futile. His head was clamped so tightly he could barely move.
Kagome was in a blind fury; her eyes glowed white and her hair whipped wildly about her as if a strong wind had swept through the place, though there was none.
Naraku was caught in the aura that expanded as the girl's sealed powers were unlocked. His body was dissolving under the light that emanated from Kagome. He couldn't help the scream of excruciating pain that tore through his mouth as her powers flared to uncontrollable levels, disintegrating his body faster than he could regenerate. In seconds, he was thoroughly consumed by energy that exploded in a burst of blue light. His horrified screams lingered in the air even after he was purified into oblivion.
As soon as Kagome felt nothing but air between her hands, her eyes lost their eerie white hue and resumed their natural blue-gray. The aura died down and she slumped to the ground in exhaustion. Sweat and the disgusting scent of fried flesh lingered in the air and on her skin.
She didn't know how she had untapped the sealed spiritual energy within her. All she could hear before the spiritual powers took over were Naraku's whispered words as they hammered into her guilty conscience.
It's your fault that Inuyasha is dying...
With those words, her mind had seen the image of her hanyou as the tentacle impaled his body—the tentacle that was meant for her. She remembered the way he had staggered toward her, looked into her eyes and said her name—Kikyou's name. The image, the blood, and the sound had stirred something deep within.
Beside her, the jewel shards seemed to jeer at her from their position on the ground.
And to think, all this death took place for such small shards...
Naraku's words echoed through her mind as if he was still standing behind her, whispering the dark truths she refused to bring to the surface. Her thoughts turned to Inuyasha, worried about the bloody wound still fresh in his chest. She looked around the wasteland for the hanyou, but when her eyes found him, her heart seemed to plummet. He was still slumped over Kikyou's lifeless form, unmoving.
'No,' she thought. 'He can't be...'
You must be such a burden to him...
She shook her head, not wanting to hear Naraku's voice anymore. With much effort, she pulled herself up.
Unbeknownst to her, the shards left abandoned on the ground began to tremor as if they were magnetically drawn by the presence of the rest of the jewel. Like magnets, the shards melded seamlessly into one another of their own accord.
The image of Inuyasha's prone form was obstructed from Kagome's view as a round, white object manifested in front of her—it was the sacred jewel, and it was whole. It was floating in front of her as if tempting her to grab it.
But she needed to see Inuyasha. She needed to know he was all right. She wouldn't let anything—not even the sacred jewel—come between her and the one person she wanted to see the most. She pushed the jewel away.
But when her hand made contact with the jewel, a bright light shone through it and she shielded her eyes.
When she opened them again, the jewel was gone and in its place stood a ghostly figure that hovered effortlessly in the air. The figure had jet black hair that was parted at the peak of her forehead. She wore a timeless outfit of heavy gray armour underneath what appeared to be the white and red garbs of a miko. As the figure approached, it called her name.
"W-who are you?" Kagome asked.
"I am the spirit inside the Shikon jewel," the figure said in a soothing voice. "I am Midoriko."
"Midoriko," she breathed out, hardly believing the woman in front of her was the same legendary heroine of the ancient stories.
"You have done well, child. You have freed me from the eternal war raging within the jewel, and now my soul can rest in peace."
"But I haven't done anything to the jewel," Kagome said.
Midoriko's eyes sparkled with that age-old wisdom of someone beyond her years. "You destroyed Naraku who had tainted the jewel with his evil desires. Once he was gone, the battle raging within the jewel had also come to an end. When you touched the jewel, I felt the selflessness and purity of your touch. For the first time it was a touch that was free of greed or lust for power. Only a pure heart can touch the jewel and have the power to free me. And for that I thank you."
Kagome could only nod her head once. She had never intended to free Midoriko—she hadn't even known the ancient priestess needed freeing from the jewel. She simply touched it in order to push it away—the jewel had obstructed her path to Inuyasha when she needed to be at his side the most.
"Only the pure of heart can free me," Midoriko repeated. "And only the pure of heart can wish on the jewel. Tell me what you wish for, child, and it will be done."
"I don't want to wish for anything."
'That's not true,' a little voice in her head told her. 'You know exactly what you'll wish for.' Just one look at the fallen bodies of her comrades told her what it would be: to restore the lives of her comrades who had been killed because of her…
Kagome stopped in mid-thought. That wasn't right; their lives were destroyed because of Naraku, she told herself. But his words seeped into her mind again.
It's your fault for breaking the jewel and destroying all those lives...
He was wrong, wasn't he? She had come to this era and brought lives together, not tear them apart. If the jewel wasn't broken, she wouldn't have gone on this journey with Inuyasha and her friends. She had brought them together with her presence, and before she knew it, they had become a part of her family. Naraku was wrong.
You must be such a burden to him—to them, always having to be rescued...
She felt her heart drop as the guilt began to gnaw at her conscience. She tried to ignore the voice and focus on reaching Inuyasha, but it would not be ignored.
"Stop!" she cried out. Somehow, the voice was growing louder.
You're no Kikyou. You're so weak and pathetic. You're nothing compared to her...
She shook her head, hands flying up to cover her ears. The beginning of tears filled her vision.
Inuyasha was a fool to save you instead of her...
"Make it stop!" she cried out.
Midoriko was startled by her cries. Kagome looked like she was in shell shock, her body was shaking unconsciously. "What is wrong child?" she asked, moving in front of her to extend a helping hand.
But Kagome saw through Midoriko's ghostly body to Inuyasha in the distance.
If you had not interfered, he wouldn't have needed to save you...
"No, he isn't dead!"
How large is the pyramid of corpses under your feet? How many people have killed for you—died for you?
She shook her head, not willing to think about the answer.
It's your fault that Kikyou is dead.
It's your fault that Inuyasha is dying.
'God, please no!'
You took away their chance of being together. You're the rift that tore them apart!
She shuddered and forced down the bile forming in her throat. Naraku's words had hit their mark, and though she tried to deny it, she knew there was a truth behind his words.
You can't even save yourself...
It's your fault.
It's your fault!
"It's my fault," Kagome whispered, the epiphany making her eyes grow wide.
"What is it, child?" Midoriko asked. She rubbed the girl's shaking shoulders to soothe her, but Kagome didn't feel a thing. It appeared as if she was in a world of her own, her eyes transfixed on the carnage in front of her.
"It's my fault," she repeated like a chant, unseeing, unfeeling, as the tears trailed down her cheeks.
Midoriko followed her gaze as it landed on the hanyou's unconscious form hunched over the corpse of the priestess, Kikyou.
Then Midoriko understood.
"That is not true, Kagome," she said gently, hoping her words would reach the girl. "You've destroyed Naraku, and in doing so, you saved so many lives. You gave everyone a second chance at a life without Naraku."
"A second chance..." Kagome repeated in a daze. She focused her eyes on Midoriko, as if seeing her for the first time. There was a new spark of determination laced with weariness in her eyes. "I do know what to wish for," she said.
Her mouth opened, only to close. She had yet to determine how to phrase her wish but she knew what it would be just by looking at the motionless bodies in the battlefield. The wish would make everything better. It would give everyone the second chance they deserved—a second chance at a life without her—the life they should have had.
"I wish to restore the lives destroyed by Naraku," she started, eyes trained on the wasteland. "But at the same time, wipe away any trace of my existence from the memories of everyone I've met in the feudal era. That way everything will be as it should be; people in this era will finally have the lives they were meant to have—lives that didn't involve time-travellers and magic wells. A life without me. The life they deserved."
"Are you sure that is what you want, Kagome?" Midoriko asked.
"Yes," she said, not quite meeting Midoriko's gaze. "I'm a burden to them all. If I hadn't come to this era in the first place, the jewel would still be in my body and away from the hands of those who wish to manipulate it. If I hadn't shattered the jewel, it wouldn't have been used to destroy so many lives."
'It was the perfect wish. The only wish,' she thought. 'If I continued living in their presence, I could never live with myself knowing how much trouble I cause to them on a daily basis. Inuyasha was right, I'm just a distraction—a burden that got in their way.' How many times had he risked his life for her? It must have been countless times, much to her shame. If he wanted her out of the way, this wish would be the only way to do it permanently.
"So you wish to restore their lives but erase their memories of you?" Midoriko asked. "Are you sure this is what they want?"
Kagome hesitated. "Whether or not they want it, I wasn't supposed to come here in the first place. I wasn't supposed to fight monsters and demons. Time-traveling should be an impossibility. I shouldn't even exist in this era!"
"Be careful what you wish for," Midoriko warned.
But the girl was resolute. She would not change her wish.
Midoriko sighed. "If this is what you wish, it will be granted by the Shikon Jewel. But know one thing Kagome..." She made sure the girl was looking at her straight in the eye this time. She needed to know one crucial aspect about the jewel and the potential consequences of the wish. "I cannot control how the jewel will fulfil your wish since it has a mind of its own and works in mysterious ways. All I know is that your wish will be granted in whatever way the jewel sees fit. Are you sure you still want to go through with this, child?"
"Yes," Kagome said firmly. "But…would it be okay if I said goodbye to him one last time?" Her eyes trailed to Inuyasha in the distance.
Midoriko's eyes softened at the hesitant request. "Go to him," she said. "But hurry back to me. The longer you stay here, the harder it will be for the jewel to completely erase you from the memories of the people you encounter. I still have the Shikon jewel. When you touch it you will return to your era and the memories of you in the minds of the people here will be erased in whatever way the jewel sees fit. You must not linger here any longer, it will make leaving all the more difficult."
Kagome nodded and ran toward Inuyasha, ignoring her aching body's desire to collapse in exhaustion. She had to make sure he was still alive. She knew now what Inuyasha must have felt when he left her to see if Kikyou was alive. Love and concern had driven her to her feet. Was it the same feelings that had stirred Inuyasha to see Kikyou? It must have been, she thought. Only love could keep one going despite the pain.
When she reached the hanyou, she was hesitant to touch his slumped form, afraid of what she would find if she turned him over. But she had to make sure; he was half-demon after all, surely he wouldn't die so easily.
She reached down to pull Inuyasha away from Kikyou's body and leaned him against her shoulders. Upon seeing his face, she couldn't help the soft sob that escaped her lips.
He was still breathing, but barely. The wound in his chest looked even worse than before.
Tears pricked her eyes. She was so relieved he was still alive, yet a part of her told her otherwise. 'He's dying because of me,' she thought bitterly. 'But not for long. He'll be taken care of once I touch the Shikon jewel. My wish will be granted, and everyone will have their lives back.'
She stroked the side of his face hoping that he would open his eyes and look at her one last time. She felt him stirring beneath her, the subtle motions made her heart beat with hope. "Inuyasha," she said through the tears. "I'm so glad—" but the words caught in her throat, too overwhelmed upon seeing his golden eyes light up his pale face.
"I saw it, Kagome," he said, voice barely a whisper. "You and Naraku. The blue light. You killed him."
"Shhh, don't talk. I'm so glad you're alive, Inuyasha."
She watched him close his eyes and subtly lean his head toward her.
"S-stop crying," he rasped out. "You know I hate it when you cry."
"I can't help it," she said, forcing a smile through the tears. "I'm so happy."
"Keh," he huffed, sounding almost like himself again until a violent tremor wracked his frame and forced him to cough out blood. Kagome could only hold him steady as each bloody cough made her wince. When the coughing ceased, he slumped heavier against her. "It's over now, isn't it?" he asked in a weary tone, words muffled against her collarbone. "We won't have to fight anymore. We can go back to the way it was."
She nodded and smiled almost painfully, unable to tell him how close he was to the truth. A lump gathered in her throat at the thought. He had fallen unconscious again, the coughing fit having drained his energy.
"It'll be all right, Inuyasha, you'll see," she said, gently rubbing his back although he couldn't hear her words or feel her soothing touch. "The pain will go away. You won't have to risk your life for me any longer."
She carefully wiped the blood from around his mouth with the end of her sleeve and looked down at his pale face; it was covered with scratches, dirt and traces of blood from all the fighting, but it would always look so beautiful to her. She would miss him—his majestic silver hair, his adorable ears she loved to tweak, the sound of his voice, and his beautiful golden eyes. She would cherish the time she spent with him forever.
"I'm sorry it had to end like this," she whispered before kissing his forehead. "I don't want you to die. I don't want anyone else to die because of me." She wrapped her arms around his body in one final embrace, careful not to press too hard lest his wounds opened further. "I want you to live. I want you to be happy. I want you to laugh a lot. I don't know what exactly I'll be able to do for you here except to cause you more trouble. That's why I can't be by your side. Not anymore."
Her heart felt heavy. She had broken the promise she made to him two years ago when they first started out to collect the shards—to be by his side always. And for that she felt terrible.
"Forget about me," she said as she felt his blood soak through her garments despite the light pressure of the embrace. It seemed as if she was the one who was bleeding—her heart felt like it was slowly being ripped out of her chest.
With her voice barely above a whisper, she finally said the words she had wanted to tell him for years. Ironic that now was the moment she would confess—the moment when he wasn't even conscious to listen. The moment he was dying in her arms—and it was all her fault.
"I love you, Inuyasha," she whispered. "I'm so sorry."
She gently laid him down beside Kikyou's already cold body. It was all for the best, she thought sadly. She had come between him and Kikyou for too long. Naraku was right—she was the rift between them. She had witnessed their parting kiss as she lay in the demon lord's tentacle binds, and in that moment, she knew to whom his heart truly belonged.
Kikyou—it was always Kikyou. How could she ever compete with Kikyou? Kikyou who had died for Inuyasha in the past. Kikyou who died again because Kagome was a distraction—she pulled Inuyasha away from the woman he was supposed to protect. She wanted them to have their second chance, their happy ending, which was why she had to leave.
With much effort, she pulled away from the couple lying on the ground and made her way back to Midoriko who was patiently waiting for her.
Midoriko stretched her arm toward Kagome, and in her palm sat the Shikon jewel waiting to grant the girl her wish.
Nearing the jewel, she wanted to look at Inuyasha one last time—but she forced herself to keep moving. "Don't look back," she told herself, knowing that doing so would only crumble her resolve.
She reached Midoriko and hesitantly touched the jewel in her palm. Midoriko's other hand covered hers, and together they felt the jewel work its magic beneath their fingertips.
The jewel began to glow brightly under their palms, bursting into a million rays of blinding, ethereal white light, which streaked across the sky and consumed everything in its path. The light stretched out over the wasteland into the surrounding forests, mountaintops and beyond, never seeming to stop until it found what it was looking for.
The light seeped into the dead bodies in the battlefield, restoring them back to the world of the living. It penetrated through the minds of the people both on the battlefield and elsewhere, seeking the deepest recesses of their mind where the memory of Kagome still lingered—and where it found her, it erased, leaving a little something in its wake.
Then came the moment when time seemed to stand still—if only for a second. The light vanished, and with it went the time-travelling girl from the future.
Broken from the spell of momentary stasis, the birds continued their path across the sky as if time had never stood still. The farmers in the distant rice paddies continued to toil in the fields, and the merchants of the villages went about their business. The warriors on the battlefield awoke from their eternal slumber, blinking away the death that had only moments before sealed their eyes.
Not a single memory of the time-travelling girl remained, and life moved on.