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Reflection

“See you tomorrow Kagome!”

“Yeah! And you better not try to back out again, you hear? You gotta live, too!”

“Besides, you still have to tell us how things are going with your boyfriend.”

“For the last time, I do not have a boyfriend!”

“But Hojo-kun…”

“Heard that I wasn’t interested in him in that way on our last date.”

“Oh…”

“Well, anyway, we gotta go. Have a nice day, Kagome and see you tomorrow!”

“Yup, see you guys,” Kagome smiled as she bid her three friends farewell, then turned and started walking up the steps to the shrine she lived at. But as soon as she did, the smile fell from her face, replaced with a sad expression. The smile had been fake to begin with, though her friends hadn’t seen through it.

Look at me

You may think you see who I really am,

But you’ll never know me

It had been that way for the last five years, ever since she returned from the other side of the well.

No, returned was not the right word. She could hardly speak of ‘returning’ if she only left for about ten minutes. Sure, at first she hadn’t been planning on coming back at all, she had chosen to remain by Inuyasha’s side. But he had explicitly shown her he didn’t want her there, so she returned. At first, she hoped he’d come and get her but as a few months passed and he hadn’t shown she had lost hope, so she tried to move on. She couldn’t dwell on him forever after all. She had a life to live, here in her time with her family.

She had never been really happy since though. She refused to show it to her friends or even her family, but even after all this time, her heart was crying. Crying because of him. Crying for him. For herself. For everything.

Every day, it’s as if I play a part

She refused to show her real emotions, though. She refused to show how much he had hurt her that day. She had sat him for it, of course, but no amount of sits would make the pain or the truth of his words go away. So she left. She left with the decision of never coming back unless he came to get her.

And now she was living the life she was supposed to be living from the start. Her place was here, not in the Sengoku Era. She wasn’t supposed to be a priestess fighting off demons alongside a young houshi, a taijiya and a rude hanyō. She wasn’t supposed to be a surrogate mother of a young Kitsune. Her place was here, in modern day Tokyo at the Tokyo University she was now attending as the twenty-one-year-old young woman she had become.

But no matter how often she told herself that, she couldn’t help but feel like she was merely fooling herself. In reality, though, what good was that attempt? It wasn’t like it changed the simple truth that if she didn’t belong somewhere, it was the era she was in now. While in the Sengoku era five years ago, Kagome had seen things her friends couldn’t even imagine. Hell, she’d seen things most of her elders hadn’t seen. She had seen more blood, death and violence than any cop or doctor; she was ready to bet her life on it. And because of that, she had matured much quicker than any of her friends.

Of course, she still met them and pretended everything was fine, but deep down she couldn’t help but think they were behaving much too childish for their age. Although, maybe it was her who was behaving much too adult for her twenty-one years?

At least for this world.

Still, no matter how she looked at it, one fact remained. No matter how natural she made it out to be, her life in Tokyo was one big act. She smiled, although she was everything but happy. She attended university and studied hard in hopes of getting a well-paid job later in her life although what she learned seemed all but useless to her. She still met her friends and pretended to be like them although she just couldn’t connect with them like she used to anymore, not since she fell down the well for the first time. She was actually wondering how they didn’t notice she was pretending the whole time.

Frankly, her life was but an act here. She was living a lie and she knew it. So why didn’t she do anything to change it?

Now I see

If I wear a mask I can fool the world

But I cannot fool my heart

Kagome sighed as she reached the top of the stairs and looked around the shrine grounds. The Sacred Tree stood tall as ever and the well house, also, still stood there, small, insignificant, and hiding her way to the life she had once wished she could lead. But that was but a faraway wish now and she didn’t even dare think it might ever come true.

She had noticed long ago that her façade was not noticed by anyone except her family. Everyone here bought her fake smiles without question. She was fooling them all. But no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t fool herself. She knew she didn’t belong here. Not in this city, not in this time. She knew it. So why couldn’t she just go back where her heart wanted her to go? Back to the Sengoku era, back to her friends, back to the danger…

She couldn’t believe she actually missed the fighting, of all things. But maybe it was because she knew she would always be safe since Inuyasha always protected her. Inuyasha

The young woman shook her head as she continued walking towards her home with a rather forlorn sigh. I need to stop thinking about it. About him. It’s in the past, period. I went, I came back and I’m not returning there. So I need to let it go, she thought to herself. Of course, she could always go back. But she didn’t dare. Going back would mean facing Inuyasha. And the half-demon had quite clearly told her he really had enough of her. If he had been so happy she was gone, then why should she burden him with her presence? Her place was here, not in the Sengoku era. She was born here, raised here, educated here and supposed to live here… and she was lying to herself again because she knew her place was anywhere but here.

Kagome shook her head again as she opened the door and entered the house.

“I’m home!” she said rather loudly to make sure everyone heard (if anyone was home) as she bent down to take her shoes off. But as she probably should have expected, she had the house to herself.

Some might wonder why at the age of twenty-one she was still living with her mother. If someone asked her, she said it was because she wanted to help her care for her grand-father, since her father had died when she was young and she couldn’t bear to leave her mother alone with him. But that was only half of the truth.

Most of the reason was that moving away would mean distancing herself from the well… distancing herself from Inuyasha. And that, she just couldn’t do to herself. She just couldn’t. So since he didn’t want her at his side as he oh, so gently told her five years ago, she came back… but she still tried to at least feel close to him, so she stayed at the shrine. Close to the well, close to the Goshinboku… close to him.

Sometimes she even thought she could feel his aura when she passed right next to the well house or when she went inside to get Buyo back when he went in there like on her fifteenth birthday (only this time she made sure not to fall down the well), but each time it had to have been her imagination, so she learned to ignore it.

Kagome shook herself out of her reverie once again as she fixed herself a cup of tea before going upstairs to her room. I’m definitely thinking too much about it all lately.

Who is that girl I see

Staring straight back at me

She dumped her small bag on her bed and sat down on it, her eyes travelling to the mirror on her desk. She sighed. She was getting that feeling again. That feeling she got every time she looked at her reflection anytime in the past five years.

The feeling of not recognizing herself.

Physically, she hadn’t really changed. She still had long, ebony air, still the same big, gray-blue eyes, the same girly features, even though they’d matured a little bit. And she had grown an inch or two. The only thing that had really changed was her attire. She wasn’t wearing miniskirts as often any longer, preferring sundresses or jeans. Today she had a cream colored sundress with short sleeves and black and white sneakers. Not really an attire meant to show off her curves or to attract the attention of cute boys, but it made Kagome feel at ease.

Still, she still thought that the person looking at her from the other side of the mirror wasn’t entirely her. No, scratch that, it wasn’t her at all.

Kagome sighed again. She’d been doing it a lot today, much more than normal. But then again, she was thinking much more about the ‘forbidden’ stuff than was normal too, so it was to be expected.

When will my reflection show

Who I am inside?

Unable to stop herself, Kagome wandered over to her closet and opened it. Pulling aside her every-day clothes, she reached into the far back and her hand closed on a thin piece of wood and an even thinner piece of leather. She pulled both items out and just as expected, she was staring at her old bow and a quiver filled with arrows. She smiled to herself as she slung both items over her shoulder. Her smile widened as she looked in the mirror again.

It still wasn’t perfect, but at least now she looked a little more like herself.

Making up her mind, the young woman went down the stairs and outside. She was headed towards the back of the shrine grounds where Grandpa’s shed full of supposedly historical junk was. Once she arrived, she turned and moved to the back of said shed and took her bow from her shoulder. Back here, no one would see her and that was exactly what she sought.

Slowly and carefully, Kagome raised her bow and notched an arrow. She took but a second to aim and released the arrow that flew through the air and hit her makeshift target without fail. She couldn’t help but smile… and wonder whether Inuyasha would be proud of her if he could see her.

She was practicing her archery skills more or less regularly since she left the Sengoku era and had become even better at it than she already was. She was even close to thinking that maybe Inuyasha wouldn’t have to protect her as much as he used to in the past. She’d be stronger now than she was in the past, able to stand her ground on her own.

Only her family knew about her archery practice. It was her little secret. She didn’t really know why she hid it from her friends; it just felt like something she should keep to herself and people who knew where her passion for it came from.

Frankly, she really started to love archery only once going back to Inuyasha’s era became impossible, at least in her eyes. It wasn’t like the well closed off after all. But then again, maybe it did? She hadn’t tried to jump in ever since coming back again last time. Was that why Inuyasha hadn’t come to get her?

The young woman shook her head. He didn’t come because he didn’t want her around, that was all there was to it. She needed to stop thinking such ridiculous thoughts.

Kagome hadn’t realized in her musings that she had released yet another arrow and only noticed it when she noticed a rather weird noise. Looking up, she saw a second arrow stuck in the target, right in its middle in fact. It had cut the first arrow in half, piercing through it and was now stuck at least half-way inside the target. Apparently, she had fired a Sacred Arrow without noticing. It would be a pain to get it back out. Still, releasing that one arrow made her feel better.

She always felt more like herself by target practice, and even more when she practiced to control her miko powers.

Yes, even though she knew she would probably never need them here, she still tried to learn by herself what Kaede hadn’t had the time to teach her. It just made her feel better when she did. More like herself. More like the real Kagome.

I am now

In a world where I have to hide my heart

And what I believe in

In all honesty, she knew why she was doing nothing to change the fact that her life was an act. She just couldn’t do anything to change it. Not in this world. Not in this time. Here, she had to hide. Hide what she thought, hide what she knew, hide what she felt, hide everything. And if she had to hide, how could she not be living a lie?

After all, in this time, yōkai and mikos were nothing but legends. Stories to scare or awe little children, depending on whether they were brave or not. In this case, if she ever revealed herself to be a miko, if she ever said that yōkai did exist, she’d be held as crazy. And even if she showed that her miko powers were the truth, no one would believe her. Magic was nothing new after all, only the concept that it only worked for kids being so. Adults always looked for a trick behind it. And with her it would be no different - if she ever told anyone the truth, she’d be labeled as nothing less than crazy. That was just how things stood in her time. The things she had seen in the Feudal Era were just nothing than legends and fairytales. No one believed in them. No one ever would.

But somehow, I will show the world what’s inside my heart

And be loved for who I am

She was getting tired of it. Tired of hiding. Tired of living a lie. Tired of regretting. Tired of wishing things had gone differently. She was just tired of it all. She wanted it to end.

Kagome lowered her bow, her desire to do some target practice leaving her. She needed to think and calm her thoughts. So putting her bow and arrows against the back of the shed, she quickly walked over to the tree that always put her at ease. The Sacred Tree. The place where she first met him. She smiled at the memory as she sat between the roots of the ancient tree. She couldn’t help but think back to six years ago, when she first fell down the well and found Inuyasha pinned to the very Tree she was sitting under now. Was he really only a few inches above where her head was now resting? How hard to believe that he was.

She hung her head. It was also hard to believe what she went through during that one year. Hunting for Jewel Shards, hunting Naraku, the evil half-demon, destroying the Jewel… the list went on and on. So much had happened… and all while she was at the side of one half-demon she had come to love more than life itself. Which is why she left without looking back as soon as she understood that she wasn’t wanted there.

But she couldn’t lie to herself that she really wanted to come back, either. Not only because of the hanyō and her other friends, but also because she had come to think of their era more as her home than the era she was born in. She didn’t really know why, it just was this way. Maybe because over there she got to just be herself and didn’t have to hide, unlike here in Tokyo. Frankly, she thought, I only tasted true freedom as I always thought of it over there. It was a sad thought, yes… but it was the truth.

And she realized that now even more when there were more chains tying her down. Chains because of secrets she could never reveal. Chains forcing her to live a life that didn’t feel real to her.

She was sick of it!

Who is that girl I see

Staring straight back at me?

Why is my reflection someone I don’t know?

She was sick of acting. Sick of pretending everything was fine when it wasn’t. Sick of not recognizing herself every time she looked in anything that could reflect her image at her. Sick of living someone else’s life.

She didn’t belong here, in this time. Her place was in the Mori no Inuyasha back in the Feudal era. Her place was by Sango and Miroku. And by little Shippo, the poor Kitsune who lost his parents at a much too young age.

She was the priestess of the Shikon no Tama, its last protector and the one who destroyed it. She was no one else. She was not the Tokyo university student she pretended to be. She was a miko and she was sick of being chained down and forced to hide.

Must I pretend that I’m

Someone else for all time?

When will my reflection show

Who I am inside?

Kagome was seriously starting to wonder if she shouldn’t just go back and be done with it. After all, if Inuyasha didn’t want her near, she could just be a miko of another village. She could even go live with Jinenji if she wanted, she was sure she’d be welcome there. Then at least she could be herself. She could live a life that didn’t feel like it was a play.

And she could also see her other friends. That the hanyō didn’t want anything to do with her was one thing. That because of him she left the others was another.

Of course, she loved Inuyasha and she left because he made it clear that her leaving would be what made him happy. But then again, she didn’t have to leave his era as a whole. A compromise had been possible, it would be enough if she just went to a different village.

Too bad she only thought of it now, but better late than never, right?

There’s a heart that must be free to fly,

That burns to know the reason why…

Why must we all conceal

How we think, what we feel?

She glanced up to the darkening sky. A storm was approaching, but she didn’t care enough to move back to the house and shield herself from the downpour that was sure to come soon. She was too deep in thought to even notice. Her mind was elsewhere entirely.

She noticed it only now, but living in her era made her feel caged. She couldn’t speak freely about her thoughts or her feelings. Or her beliefs for that matter. If she did, she’d be held as crazy and deranged.

What really surprised her was the realization that it had always been that way. But she needed to experience life in the Sengoku era and then be prohibited (by herself) to go back there for five years for her to finally notice. But that’s how it was. In her era, she was never truly herself. She couldn’t be. It wasn’t just because of what she saw in Inuyasha’s time anymore. She had always believed in things that people from her time thought as weird. Things that by all means were completely normal in the Feudal era.

It was like she was meant to live there from the beginning, only was born about five hundred years too late. But then again, there was the well that allowed her to go back, right? Why her and no one else?

Probably because no one else felt caged by time of all things. Time that kept her in an era she didn’t belong to, in a cage she was now starting to hate with a passion. She was just tired of hiding and acting. Tired of it all. She just wanted to be free again, like she was while in the Feudal era.

Like she was while at Inuyasha’s side.

Must there be a secret me

I’m forced to hide?

I won’t pretend that I’m

Someone else for all time.

Her mind was made up. She just couldn’t stay here any longer. She couldn’t stand it. Sure, she loved her family and the thought of leaving them forever somewhat stung. Plus, Inuyasha didn’t want her by his side. But she just couldn’t stand pretending to be someone she wasn’t any longer. She was sure her family would understand.

Understand that she had to return to where she truly belonged. To the Feudal era. So after going back into her home and penning rapidly a note to her family to tell them where she went and why, as well as apologizing that she didn’t at least wait for them to come back to say good-bye, Kagome closed the door to her house and strode confidently towards the well house.

For the first time in five years, there was not a hint of hesitation in either her mind or heart. It was time to go back. Inuyasha could say what he wanted; she would still stay in his era. If he really didn’t want her around, she’d make sure to stay out of his way, but she would stay there. She was just sick of pretending, so she was going to put a stop to it.

These were her thoughts as she entered the well house and sat down on the edge like she used to do so long ago, her feet dangling down the well. All she needed to do now was to push. And for the first time in years, for she had tried this before but never got the nerve to jump, no thoughts of hesitation entered her mind and she pushed herself down the well.

To her joy, it worked.

When will my reflection show

Who I am inside?

I’ve waited long enough to do this, Kagome thought as the familiar blue light surrounded her and she was transported back in time.

Rain hit her hard as soon as she landed softly on the ground, soaking her to the bone. Of course, she had to land in the perfect downpour. Just her luck. Or maybe it was a sign that she shouldn’t have come back? Suddenly, the doubts were back.

Well, it was too late now, wasn’t it?

Sighing, Kagome grabbed the lower vines that still grew in the well and slowly started to climb. It wasn’t long before she was outside and she couldn’t help but take in a deep breath and relish in the fresh smell of a forest in the rain. She was finally home.

When will my reflection show

Who I am inside?

Oh, how she missed all this. The sights, the scents, the feeling of the forest, everything. It was so good to be back - she saw everything as a sort of welcoming from Mother Nature. Some sort of welcome home gift. The rain wasn’t bothering her anymore.

She sighed, contentedly this time, as she turned and was about to walk towards Kaede’s village when she stopped. She stopped because she saw him. He was facing her though his eyes were shut tightly and she briefly wondered why, before deciding she’d ponder it later. She gulped. How would he react to her being back? And why did he have to be the first person to meet her here? Was fate this cruel?

“Inuyasha?” and of course, she just had to call the wolf out of its cave by saying his name. If she hadn’t, then maybe she could pass him without him noticing… yeah, right, whom was she kidding? For Pete’s sake, he was a half-dog-demon. He was bound to have noticed her by now!

His eyes snapped open at the sound of her voice and she saw him blink a few times. She couldn’t help but notice the hollow look in his eyes though, as well as the fact that he was much paler and thinner than what she remembered. It didn’t look like he got much sleep the past few nights, either. She couldn’t help herself. She started to worry. But before she could ask anything, he spoke first.

“K’gome?” his voice was so quiet she barely heard him over the rain, but she couldn’t help but notice that he didn’t sound angry at all. It was more like he couldn’t believe it was her. Was that it? She couldn’t help but hope that was it.

“Hai,” she replied, her voice just as quiet. Talking suddenly became very hard. “It’s… been a while, hasn’t it?” it took all she had to ask that one question, for his answer would determine what she did. She could either run back to the well and then pretend she never came here, or she could stay here in this era, by his side or not, whichever he preferred. But suddenly, the first option sounded really appealing. She probably shouldn’t have ever returned. She knew it. So why was she waiting for him to say it and break her again?

Inuyasha however stayed silent and when she dared to peek at him through her hair, she noticed his body went completely rigid. Almost as if he was afraid to move. She frowned. Something was definitely wrong here. She was missing something, and she was about to fix that.

Steeling herself, she took a hesitant step towards him. When he did nothing to stop her she released the breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding and slowly walked over to him until he was within her arms reach.

That’s when he finally moved, raising his hand to cup her cheek and she used the opportunity to make eye-contact. She didn’t expect to see the insecurity and near-fear shadowing his gaze, though. Why on earth would he be frightened?

“Inuyasha?” she asked again, confused that he still hadn’t said anything. He only stared at her with those frightened eyes of his. Eyes that held deep pain deep within them. Kagome had to fight the urge to cry when she saw him like this. What on earth had happened to him while she was gone?

Suddenly, she found herself pressed against a strong, albeit thinner than she remembered, chest. Inuyasha was holding her tightly and she had a feeling she’d have to zap him with her priestess powers if she wanted him to let go. But right now, she was too confused to push him away. Just what was up with him?

“Inu…?”

“You’re really here?” he interrupted her, his voice still as quiet as before, though this time shaking a little. Kagome blinked. She didn’t understand what he was talking about. It was almost like he wished she’d come back, but couldn’t believe it now that she had. But wasn’t it him that told her to ‘never fucking come here again because he fucking didn’t need her weak ass around to fucking slow him down’? Not that she truly understood where he’d be in a hurry to go at the time given the Jewel had been already destroyed, but his words back then still stung.

Still, he deserved an answer, she figured, so she nodded against his chest. What he said next made her hug him back. She couldn’t help but feel for him. Feel his pain.

“So then… it’s… this isn’t a dream… is it?”

“No, it’s not. I’m back,” she replied as his hold on her tightened. He really sounded like he had wanted her to come back. And what made her feel sick was the thought that the pain she had just seen in his eyes… she was the source of it!

Now, of course, it was him who told her (none too gently) to leave and never come back… but then again, maybe she overreacted? After all, it wasn’t unusual for Inuyasha to first speak and then think. Most likely, given how he was acting now, he never meant what he said that day, but she, being the sensitive teenager she was, took it to heart.

But if that was the case, why didn’t he come get her?

“I thought… I was afraid that… I might never see you again,” she heard him choke out as she tightened her hold on him as well, holding back her tears. Her eyes were wide by now as she held his trembling form. Inuyasha was crying. He was crying and he wasn’t trying to hide it.

“Did you… wait here for me? All this time?” she asked, somewhat afraid of his answer. When she felt him nod against her, it was all she could do not to break down sobbing. How she hated herself in that moment. She hated herself for hurting him so deeply. Her heart sank knowing that she did the one thing she never intended to. She had wounded him deeper than she thought she could ever make up for. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, struggling to keep the tears at bay. But she knew a simple ‘sorry’ wouldn’t cut it this time. No apology in the world would cut it.

But before she could say anything else, he shook his head and spoke first.

“Forget it,” he murmured. “All that matters is that you’re back where you belong,” he added. She inhaled sharply.

“Back… where I belong?” she dared asking in a small voice. So he really had wanted her back. She snuggled closer to him with a small smile on her lips, although the guilt was still fresh in her mind and heart. She had a lot of making up to do. “Yeah… I’m home now,” she spoke and she could swear he pressed her even tighter to him than before. Almost like he was afraid she’d disappear if he released his hold on her even a little.

He really had wanted her to come back. But she couldn’t help but wonder, although there was no anger in her thoughts. If he really wanted it, why didn’t he come and get me?

“I would have come to get you,” he said after they’d been standing in the rain for quite a long while, but she was hardly in any position to tell him they should move elsewhere, like Kaede’s hut, because he stubbornly refused to release his hold on her even a little. He was paying for it now, she realized, for he started to shiver slightly. What surprised her, though, was that he was apparently cold while she wasn’t and she was the ‘weak human’. But she didn’t get a chance to tell him they’d talk later and get him somewhere warm because he continued to talk… and he sounded like he was on the verge of tears again.

“I would have,” he assured her as he held her as close to him as he could. “I would have if I could. But… The well wouldn’t let me through… because… the beads… they… broke,” she had a rather hard time understanding him just as he had apparently a hard time talking, but she did hear what he said and her brows furrowed in confusion for a moment. What had the enchanted beads to do with it all?

Then in dawned on her. The beads were the only thing on his person that held any connection to her. There was nothing else. She had always wondered why Inuyasha could travel through the well while her other friends couldn’t, and now she had an answer to why that was.

He was somehow connected to her through the enchanted beads that worked only when a certain word was spoken. And it worked only when it was spoken by her. So they represented their connection. It made sense that without them, he wouldn’t be able to come get her.

And here she was thinking that he just didn’t want her around. How stupid of her.

“K’gome…” she heard him speak again and she pulled her head back a little to look up at him. His eyes weren’t void anymore, but now that she could see emotion inside of them, she was almost reduced to tears herself. There was just so much pain in his gaze. Pain she had inflicted…

“What is it?” she asked in a small voice. She didn’t know what to expect from him next. However, whatever she did expect, it wasn’t what he said.

“Would you… would you put them… the beads… would you put them around my neck again?” he stuttered out, his eyes holding a pleading look in them. She couldn’t say no to him. She couldn’t bring herself to do it. Especially not when she realized that even after what she did to him… he still wanted her back.

She nodded and he withdrew a little bit, just enough to take a bunch of loose beads out of his kimono and hand them to her. He didn’t let go of her entirely, though.

Kaede had never told her how to activate the beads to put them on someone, but she didn’t need to. Kagome knew what to do on instinct and soon enough, the familiar necklace was around Inuyasha’s neck once again. Now all she needed was a ‘magical word’. She smiled as she hugged him this time and said the first thing that entered her mind.

“Aishiteru,” she said quietly as she held him close and through her closed eyes, she could see the light of the beads, signaling they had registered the ‘word’. And she had a feeling they wouldn’t make him slam into the ground like they did when the ‘word’ was ‘Osuwari’. Though what exactly they would do, the two of them still had to find out.

“I love you, too,” she heard Inuyasha say and couldn’t help but sigh contentedly. She was indeed where she belonged again.

She was finally home.