Living Memories

An InuYasha fan fiction

by

Douglas Neman

I haven't seen the final, more recent seasons of InuYasha which wrap up the show, so if there is any similarity between my story and these episodes, it is purely coincidental.

I'm pretty sure this story doesn't entirely agree with the canon of the television series (in particular, certain characters knowing or not knowing certain things at certain times), but hopefully that's not a big deal to you because it certainly isn't to me.

I don't know much about Japanese culture, nor do I know the Japanese words for certain things. All I know about InuYasha is what I see in the episodes dubbed in English which are shown on the Cartoon Network. Apologies if I get something wrong.

I don't give a rat's hooey about the love triangle (for all you shippers, yes, I deal with it anyway, and I treat it with respect), but I am fascinated by the soul connection between Kagome and Kikyo. As far as I can tell, not many other people share this fascination in the way that I do, because when I search for Kagome and Kikyo, all I get is love triangle stuff. No story that I know of (not even an episode of the TV series!) has come close to addressing the issue in any way that I find satisfactory, so I did it instead. You're welcome.

Dinner on the fire, Kagome allowed herself a moment to enjoy her surroundings. She and the others were camped on a hillside overlooking a valley. They were in a meadow with a single tree, with the forest a stone's throw away in three directions. A line of trees followed a small creek into the valley, although Kagome could not tell exactly where the creek went as she could see no water below. Across the valley, the setting sun bathed the spring evening with orange and red. A little way down the hill, InuYasha practiced using the Tetsusaiga. Behind her, Shippo was creating magical green and blue bubbles and watching them drift away on the same breeze which cooled her skin, rippled the grass, and brought to her all the smells of the land.

I want to remember this, Kagome thought. Please let this moment live forever, somewhere.

Miroku was scouting around their encampment for several hundred meters in all directions, and Kagome couldn't see him at the moment. Kirara napped on the soft grass beneath the nearby tree. Sango handed a cup of tea to Kagome, who smiled her thanks.

"You puzzle me," Sango said, admiring the sunset with her, letting her own cup of tea warm her hands. Her voice was relaxed and easy, yet deliberately low enough so that only Kagome could hear. "I've never seen anyone so happy and yet so sad at the same time."

Kagome looked at her, surprised. "I'm just enjoying the evening, that's all."

"I don't mean that," Sango smiled. "I mean the past few days. Something's on your mind."

Shippo darted past them, happily running off to collect more firewood. They didn't need any more, but letting him collect it made him feel useful. Kagome looked appraisingly at Sango for a moment, taking a sip of her tea. "Hmmm. Well, yes. Something is on my mind. There's something I really need to do, but I don't know if I can afford the time to do it when the search for the jewel is so much more important."

"Well, can you tell me what it is? Perhaps I can help."

Kagome walked to the nearby tree and sat beneath it. Sango sat beside her.

"I need to know more about Kikyo," Kagome said. "But I don't know whom to ask."

"Hmmm," Sango mused. "I think I know what you mean. You certainly couldn't ask InuYasha, and the rest of us don't know her. What about Kaede?"

"Kaede would be the perfect person to ask," Kagome said sadly. "Not only is she Kikyo's sister, she's a priestess, so she could answer my spiritual questions, as well. But Kaede feels so much pain when she talks about Kikyo. She covers it up well, and the men don't notice it, but I do."

"What do you mean by 'spiritual questions?'"

"I want to know about reincarnation. I want to know what it means. I...I really can't put into words what I want to know."

"Miroku could help answer those questions," Sango said.

"Yes, but then he would go blabbing to InuYasha."

"I would go blabbing what to InuYasha?" Miroku asked, walking around from the other side of the tree. Shippo walked next to him, holding firewood.

"Are you eavesdropping?" Kagome asked.

"No. I simply heard my name being used in vain. And despite what you may say, I am a monk of discretion and confidence. I do not "blab" anything to anyone. Why would you think that I would?"

Kagome was flustered. "Oh. Well...you know...guy talk."

"Guy talk?" Miroku asked.

"Yeah. When you and InuYasha talk guy stuff, don't you share everything you know?"

"Certainly not," Miroku said. "Especially since InuYasha doesn't understand most of what I say, anyway."

In the brief silence, the only sound was the breeze and InuYasha's distant yells as he practiced thrusting and parrying. Kagome figured he would be at it a while, so she took a chance.

"Okay, Miroku. Tell me about reincarnation."

Miroku sat next to Sango, who was grateful that her behind was against a sturdy tree trunk. Shippo dropped his firewood and hopped onto a low branch. Kirara, while apparently asleep, still managed to cock an ear in the direction of the conversation.

"What do you want to know?" Miroku asked.

"Well, some people claim that I'm a reincarnation of Kikyo-"

"Let me stop you right there," Miroku interrupted. "You pulled the arrow out of InuYasha, freeing him from the spell Kikyo placed upon him, which is something only Kikyo should have been able to do. The Shikon jewel reappeared by coming out of your body. And part of your soul reanimated Kikyo with no trouble. These facts prove absolutely that you are Kikyo's reincarnation. That is not in question."

"Okay...fair enough," Kagome said. "But I've met Kikyo, and I admit it's strange being in her presence, but we're not the same person."

"No, you're not," Miroku agreed. "You have the same soul. That's all."

"But what does that really mean?" Kagome asked. "I thought the soul was everything a person really is, the essence of an entire life."

"No," Miroku said. "The soul is, primarily, energy. It powers the body it inhabits. The soul has very basic qualities and personality traits; for instance, a soul who is basically kind and understanding will be kind and understanding in every lifetime, and a soul who is basically selfish and devious will be selfish and devious in every lifetime. The soul keeps memories, but these memories are buried very deep, and stored in a different way than a physical body stores memories.

"In this sense, a soul is not a single identity. You and Kikyo are separate entities, with different senses of self, life experiences, memories, tastes, and feelings. But you share the same life source, in the same way, perhaps, that two flowers on a tree share the same life source, even if they bloom in different springtimes. Or in the same way that a caterpillar wraps itself into a cocoon and becomes a butterfly."

"Did you just compare Kikyo to a caterpillar?" Shippo asked.

"Ummm...yes," Miroku said. "That's not the greatest analogy. Forget I said that one."

Kagome thought deeply, wondering if any of this information could help sort out her feelings, or if it was just making things more complex. She said, "When I stood in Kikyo's presence, I felt very strange. It was almost like being light-headed or floating, but I wasn't dizzy. It was sort of like being...happy. But not quite."

Miroku nodded. "Your soul recognizes itself, and feels wholeness when it is together. Remember, the Kikyo who is alive today is not the original Kikyo, she is merely a copy who exists using a fraction of your soul, taken from you. At a guess, I'd say Kikyo posesses about 10% of your soul, based on the number of other souls she constantly needs to stay alive. I also base that estimate on the fact that missing a portion of your own soul doesn't seem to have affected you."

"Why does she need so many other souls?" Sango asked. "Wouldn't one be enough?"

"One would be enough, if it were the right one. Her physical body is designed to be animated by her original soul. The other souls she takes in do not fit her body and her mind, so she needs many of them to draw enough power to live."

Kagome asked, "What if the well had taken me another 50 years further back in time, and I came face to face with the original Kikyo? Would I still feel the same sense of happiness and completeness?"

"Probably too much," Miroku said. "You might experience some sort of emotional overload. A soul is an extremely powerful being, more so than people realize. I'm not sure it's possible for a single soul to exist twice at the same time on the physical plane. The well brought you to a time when Kikyo was no longer alive. I don't think that's an accident."

Kagome sat in silence for several moments, thinking very carefully, wondering if there was anything else she needed to ask Miroku. Try as hard as she could, she could only think of one more question, and there was only one person who could possibly answer it.

"I need to speak to her," Kagome said quietly, her eyes not focused on anything in particular.

"What, to Kikyo?" Shippo asked. "Are you sure that's safe?"

"Are you sure that's wise?" Miroku asked.

"I'm only sure about one thing," Kagome said. "Something happened between me and Kikyo, something I haven't told anyone, and probably never will, and I cannot stay here searching for the jewel until I speak to Kikyo about it. There's something I must ask her before I go on traveling with InuYasha."

"Does this have anything to do with the love that InuYasha and Kikyo once shared?" Miroku asked.

"No," Kagome said simply. "At least I don't think so."

"Well, InuYasha won't be happy about having to go look for Kikyo, especially when we have a lead on a jewel shard to the southeast," Sango said. "It was hard enough just to convince him to stop for the night."

Kagome smiled weakly at her. "You misunderstand. I'm going to see Kikyo alone. I'll catch up with you after I've found her."

Miroku sighed. "InuYasha won't like it."

"I know," Kagome said.

"Where are you going?" Sango asked. "We don't know where Kikyo is."

"I'll just have to look for her," Kagome replied. "And Miroku, my search might go a lot faster with your help."

"How so?" Miroku asked.

"You once told me that you have experience hypnotizing people," Kagome said.

"I'm sorry, what does 'hypnotizing' mean?" Miroku asked.

"Sorry, I'm using 20th-century words again," Kagome said. "I mean, you can speak to people in a very calm manner, using your voice to place them into a trance, and once they're in the trance, they can remember things or do things they normally wouldn't."

"Yes, that's true," Miroku replied.

"And I've also heard that when in such a trance, a person can remember a past life."

Sango gasped, and Shippo just about fell out of the tree. Kirara's tales twitched.

"You want me to place you into a trance so that you can access Kikyo's memories?" Miroku asked.

"Yes."

"Very well, but may I ask what you hope to gain? Telling me might help me guide you."

Kagome breathed deeply. "Kaede told me that 50 years ago, Kikyo mentioned a hiding place, a retreat in the mountains which could shelter them in an emergency. It was the night Kaede lost her eye. Kaede was hysterical, and Kikyo told her of this place to reassure her that no matter what happened in the village, there was a place of safety. It's supposedly a shrine abandoned long ago and completely forgotten about by everyone, deep within a mountain pass which is hard to find by accident."

"Kikyo probably just told her that to calm her down," Sango said.

"That was my thought, also, and I said that to Kaede," Kagome said. "But Kaede said she believed her, and believes it still, because Kikyo was not the type of person to lie just to soothe someone's feelings, even a child's feelings. She valued truth too highly. Also, it would have been just like Kikyo to have five or six emergency plans and tell no one about them. As the keeper of the Shikon Jewel, she had to be as prepared as she could."

"You think Kikyo might be at this abandoned shrine?" Miroku asked.

"No," Kagome said. "I don't expect it to be that easy. But since I have no idea where Kikyo is at all, I might as well start there."

"Very well," Miroku said. "Let's sit by the fire."

The group moved back to the campfire, and Kirara stopped pretending to be asleep. At Miroku's instruction, Kagome sat facing the fire with her eyes closed. He sat beside her and slightly in front of her, and took her hands in his. InuYasha was still practicing with his sword further down the hill. The sun was almost below the horizon.

"Kagome, I want you to listen closely to my voice," Miroku said calmly. "Feel the warmth of my hands. Feel the love of your friends around you. Feel the warmth of the fire in front of you. Lose yourself in that warmth. Let it soak into your skin. Let it lull you to sleep, a sleep which floats around my voice."

Sango had to blink, and Shippo shook his head quickly. It was astonishing how mesmerizing Miroku's voice could be.

"I want you to open your eyes slowly and look at nothing in the entire world but the flames of the fire," Miroku said, and Kagome's eyes slowly drifted open. "See how the flame dances, yet stays always in one place. See the coals flicker as waves of heat flow through them, just like the ebb and flow of the life energy of the world. Feel the life energy of the world. Feel the fire give you life and warmth, just like a mother holding a baby in her arms. Now, making sure to keep yourself sitting where you are, slowly close your eyes and go to sleep."

Kagome's eyes closed. Her head and shoulders slumped.

"Now, I want you to think back through your lifetime," Miroku said. "When you were twelve years old. Ten years old. Nine. Seven. Even four years old. And as a baby, lying warm, snuggled in your mother's arms."

Kagome gave a tiny squeak of joy and held herself tightly, smiling at the memory.

"And before that, you were in the womb. And before that, you were in the spiritual realm, a soul, free of any identity. It's not frightening. In fact, it feels wonderful and liberating. You are completely safe; no one can harm you. And now, going back further, to another you, another life you lived as the one and only soul that is you. If you can sense this life, if you can remember it, nod your head."

Kagome nodded.

"Relive that life. It's not frightening. Yes, there is pain, but there is pain in every life. It won't hurt you; you're still safe with your friends, here by the warm fire. Let yourself remember that life. What is your name?"

"Kikyo," Kagome said, and Sango gasped. Shippo's eyes were wide and his tail quivered with fear. Kirara stared in wonder. For it had been Kikyo's voice which had come from Kagome's lips. Only Miroku wasn't surprised.

"You are Kikyo," Miroku confirmed. "Do you know what is happening to you?"

"Yes," Kagome answered, and her voice had the same tone that Kikyo used – simple, somewhat arrogant, definitely proud. "I am Kikyo, but no longer Kikyo. You are using a future reincarnation of myself to speak with me. What do you want?"

"Only you can answer that," Miroku said. "Your future reincarnation has a question for you. I will let the two of you share memories, and you can tell me when you are finished and are ready to return."

Kagome sat quietly for almost a minute, breathing deeply, her eyes half closed. Then she said, "I'm ready." Her voice was a mixture of Kagome and Kikyo.

"Very well," Miroku said. "Kikyo, say farewell to Kagome. Kagome, say farewell to Kikyo. It is a pleasant farewell, the parting of family who share a deep connection across time, a connection that no one can harm or remove. It is simply time for Kagome to depart. Kagome, you feel yourself moving on from the life that is Kikyo, through the spiritual world, into the womb of your mother, and you are Kagome. You are four, seven, nine, ten, twelve years old. You are fifteen years old. You are the girl who discovered the power of the well. You are the girl who met InuYasha 500 years in the past. You are here with us. You are awake. Open your eyes."

Kagome opened her eyes. "Wow," she whispered.

"Who are you?" Miroku asked.

"I am Kagome, and I'm perfectly awake. Thank you, Miroku. That was wonderful." Kagome's eyes were shining, but they were also haunted, as if she had seen something for which she had not been prepared.

Miroku nodded. "It was my pleasure."

"What's this?" InuYasha asked sarcastically. "Am I interrupting something?"

Kagome blushed and let go of Miroku's hands.

Miroku stood up. "No," he said. "We're finished."

"Finished with what, you lecherous monk?" InuYasha asked.

"InuYasha!" Kagome said, standing up. "Don't be snide. Miroku was helping me with something."

"Helping you with what? It certainly wasn't your homework!"

"InuYasha, sit."

WHAM!

"Wow," Shippo said. "That was a good one. Chin first."

"I don't understand!" InuYasha shouted, his voice muffled by the dirt.

Miroku placed the end of his staff on InuYasha's head and casually leaned on it. "Hey!" InuYasha shouted.

"We were trying to explain something," Miroku said. "If you don't understand, it's your own fault for not listening."

InuYasha pushed the staff off his head and stood up. "Fine! I'm listening!"

Kagome said, "Since I am the reincarnation of Kikyo, I asked Miroku to place me into a trance so I could speak with her. That's all."

There was complete silence. InuYasha blinked at her, about twenty different emotions crashing across his face, none more so than his reaction to Kikyo's name. A close second was his utter confusion. Finally, he shouted, "Sorry...what?!"

While they ate dinner, Kagome patiently explained what she had done, and that she needed to speak with Kikyo.

"What for?" InuYasha asked condescendingly.

"That's between me and her."

InuYasha stomped around, totally unable to comprehend the situation or to come to terms with it. "Fine!" he finally snapped. "Go see Kikyo! I guess the rest of us will just wait on you since we can't find the jewel shards without you!"

"It's all right, Kagome," Sango said. "The rest of us understand. You do what you need to do."

"Thanks, Sango. And it's okay, I knew InuYasha would behave this way."

"Just go already!" InuYasha shouted over his shoulder, not looking at any of them. Shippo sighed.

"Kagome, did you get the information you needed from Kikyo's memories?" Miroku asked.

"Yes, I did. She wasn't lying about the abandoned temple. I know where it is."

Kagome picked up her pack, her bow, and her arrows. But before she could do anything further, Sango took her to one side, draped an arm around her shoulders, and whispered, "Kagome, you can't hide it from me. What else did you see in Kikyo's memories?"

Kagome's eyes were full of sadness and quiet acceptance. "They truly loved each other," she whispered back. "Absolute love in its truest form. Through Kikyo, I felt the true love of an adult, not the crush of a teenager. It's something I need to spend a long time thinking about." Her eyes began to well with tears.

The girls hugged. "May you find your way," Sango whispered.

"Thank you," Kagome replied.

They pulled apart. Kagome quickly wiped her eyes and asked, "May I borrow Kirara?"

"You'll have to ask her," Sango said. "Kirara is owned by no one."

"Kirara, will you please take me to my destination?"

Kirara changed into her larger form and nodded for Kagome to get on.

"Thanks so much!" Kagome said, climbing onto Kirara's back. Kirara took to the air.

"Don't get yourself killed!" InuYasha shouted after them.

"Aw, you're so sweet," Kagome called back.

"I was talking to Kirara!"

"SIT!"

WHAM!

 

In order to keep her destination a secret from the others, Kagome first instructed Kirara to circle around the nearest large hill and out of their sight, then they headed southwest with all speed. The moon was about three-quarters full, the night was cloudless and their vision good.

They flew over torchlit villages full of people coming in from the fields. The hills became mountains as they progressed. They skirted the edge of a vast plain which lay among the mountains; Kagome guessed it had been formed by a volcano eons before. They soared over a lake, whose reflection in the moonlight was soft and magical. At the speed Kirara was moving, the air chilled Kagome. She wished for a jacket, but it was tolerable, especially if she bent forward and buried herself in Kirara's fur.

After almost three hours, Kagome saw a particular bend in a river, and the distinct mountain crest above it, which marked the pass leading to the abandoned temple. They flew low, following the pass for another fifteen minutes, and arrived.

The temple still stood, just as Kagome had seen it in Kikyo's memories. A soft, shimmering field of blue surrounded it, and Kagome felt an instant recognition of the barrier, and a wave of contentment washed over her. Her soul was together again. She knew that inside the barrier, Kikyo would be feeling the same sensation. She was also pleasantly surprised that she had found Kikyo so easily. Or maybe that's to be expected, she thought. Maybe we'll always be drawn towards one another.

"I'm afraid you'll have to wait here, Kirara," Kagome said. "I don't know how long I'll be."

Kagome suddenly realized how demeaning that sounded, and stroked Kirara's neck. "I want you to know that I appreciate you," she said. "We all do. The last thing I want is for you to think that we take you for granted, or that we just use you as a taxi service." Kagome gave the big cat a hug, and held it for several moments. Kirara, surprised by the burst of affection, nuzzled her in return. As Kagome headed for the barrier, Kirara looked after her in fondness, and wondered what a taxi was.

Kagome barely felt the barrier as she walked through it. Beyond stood the modest shrine. Weathered by time, it was still in relatively good condition except for the door, which had rotted near the hinges and lay on the ground, half covered in grass. The soul collectors flying around, each giving a faint glow, and the barrier itself were the only outward evidence of an occupant.

Kagome stood at the doorway. Two lanterns hung from the ceiling but neither was lit, and no soul collectors were inside the shrine, so she had to rely on the light filtering through the door and windows. The interior was sparse, but what little there was was neat and tidy. Kikyo's sleeping roll and her meager belongings lay in a corner. Kikyo herself knelt by a low table in the center of the room, facing the door. Her bow and arrows lay on the floor beside her, but her hands were in her lap. A half-eaten meal sat on the table before her.

"How did you find this place?" Kikyo asked.

"Do you know who I am?" Kagome asked in return.

"It took me a while to figure it out, but yes, I now know who you must be, although I do not know how you can exist in this time, nor do I know your full name. And as a warning to you, if I can figure out who you are, Naraku will be able to do the same, eventually."

"My name is Kagome Higurashi. I found this shrine by placing myself into a deep trance and looking through your memories." Kagome lowered her eyes in shame. "Forgive me. I did not intend to pry, and I feel uncomfortable that I did it. I never want to do it again, nor will I ever tell anyone what I might have seen. I only did it because I desperately need to speak with you."

"You have the ability to see my memories," Kikyo mused. "If I were the original Kikyo, then in that one area alone you would have the advantage over me, for time flows in only one direction. However, I am not the original Kikyo, I am someone who possesses a part of your soul. Therefore, if I truly wished, I suppose I could read your memories, as well. At least, the memories you possess up until the moment our soul split and I was created."

"May I come in?" Kagome asked.

Kikyo nodded and indicated the other side of the table.

Kagome leaned her bow and arrows neatly against the wall just inside the door, shrugged off her backpack and leaned it against the wall just as neatly, and sat down.

"Tea?" Kikyo asked.

"Please."

Kagome noticed then that Kikyo had already set out a second cup. Kikyo poured tea for both of them, and they sat in silence for a few moments.

"From what year do you come?" Kikyo asked.

"Nineteen hundred ninety-seven," Kagome said. "I can understand your ability to figure out that I'm your reincarnation, but how do you know I'm from the future?"

"I still have my sources in my home village," Kikyo said. "I learned of the mysterious girl from the future who climbed out of the well and pulled the arrow out of InuYasha. That is how I knew that your given name is Kagome, although I did not know your full name until you told me."

"I'm curious," Kagome said hesitantly. "How did you feel when you realized who I am?"

Kikyo gave a tiny shrug. "We live many lives. At first, I was puzzled as to why I would have reincarnated so quickly after my death; a soul usually waits longer than 50 years before trying life again. When I learned you were from the future, that actually made more sense, in a strange way. Do you know why you were allowed to travel backwards through time?"

Kagome shook her head. "I'm as clueless as you are."

"You speak so strangely, and act so differently," Kikyo said.

"Where I come from we have a saying," Kagome said. "'The past is like a foreign country; they do things differently there.' I guess that truth could apply in either direction."

"Evidently," Kikyo said. "Do all girls in your time dress so immodestly?"

Kagome thought about this for a moment. "Compared to this era, yes. This skirt I'm wearing is my school uniform."

Kikyo shook her head ever so slightly, looking baffled, and took another sip of her tea. Kagome realized that that was probably as close as Kikyo would ever come to rolling her eyes.

"But don't worry," Kagome added brightly. "My skirt has been blessed by a priestess so that it doesn't betray my modesty no matter what happens to me, from any angle."

"You could simply wear something more appropriate," Kikyo said.

"But then I wouldn't be comfortable," Kagome replied. "And I just don't see how women can function in tight ankle-length dresses."

"Loose ankle-length dresses exist," Kikyo pointed out, clearly referring to her own clothing.

"Too bulky," Kagome shook her head. "I like to keep it simple."

"As you wish," Kikyo said. "The priestess who blessed your attire to protect your modesty – was it Kaede?"

Kagome blushed. "Yes."

"And how is my sister?"

Kagome shrugged and felt slightly uncomfortable. "Old. Arthritic. Wise. Still going strong."

Kikyo nodded. It would be difficult to have a relationship with her sister now, with the divide of years between them, and due to the fact that Kikyo wasn't even really alive. Kikyo changed the subject. "Why did you come here?"

"I need to know why you took my jewel shards and why you tried to kill me."

It was Kikyo's turn to think for a moment. In particular, she thought it was interesting that Kagome hadn't demanded that she return the jewel shards. Yet.

"Let me look into your eyes," Kikyo said.

Kagome sat still and allowed Kikyo to look inside her soul, inside her heart, inside her mind, for that was what Kikyo was doing. Kagome knew this instinctively, just as she had known no fear in coming here in the first place. Except for the issue of clothing, the two women seemed to understand one another quite well.

Kikyo looked long and hard into Kagome's mind, then finally stood up and walked to a window, looking out into the moonlit forest and the soul catchers floating by.

Without turning around, Kikyo finally asked, "Can I trust you?"

"Don't you know?" Kagome asked in return.

"My heart tells me that I can, absolutely. But I am still afraid. Too much is at stake. Using reason alone, I can say that I don't owe you any answer, and that you should leave. But considering who you are, reason is not the only consideration, and I find that I have a strong desire to give you the answers you seek. I do not entirely know why. But then, I also do not entirely know why the universe has allowed you to come to this era in the first place."

Kikyo turned to look at Kagome. "Perhaps there is a reason," Kikyo continued. "I do not often find myself in the position of not knowing something, yet I strongly suspect that your arrival in this era is no accident. Also, if it were not for your presence in this era, I would not be standing here."

Kagome sat silently, giving Kikyo all the time she needed.

After a moment, the ambient light just outside the shrine became a bit dimmer, and Kikyo said, "I have instructed my soul catchers to patrol the area to ensure we are not overheard. Do not worry about the animal you brought with you; my soul catchers will not harm it."

"Her name's Kirara, and without even having to ask, I know she's on guard. She's very good."

Kikyo slowly walked in the direction of the door as she spoke. "To answer your second question first, I did not try to kill you. Had I intended to kill you, you would be dead."

"That's what I figured," Kagome replied, casually turning around and sitting cross-legged so that she, too, could face the door. "But I needed to hear you say it. Besides, if one of us were to kill the other, it would be incredibly surreal."

"Indeed," Kikyo said, slightly amused by Kagome's observation. "I had to appear to be your enemy. Naraku is short-sighted in some ways, but in others, he's no fool, and that brings me to your first question. The Jewel of Four Souls."

Kikyo stood in the doorway and breathed in the night air, looking out into the moonlight. The breeze rustled her clothing, her hair. Behind her, Kagome looked up at her patiently, her face illuminated by the faint light filtering into the shrine.

"I have a plan," Kikyo finally said. "No one must know this. Naraku is the most dangerous threat this world has ever faced. I am the only one who can defeat him, and even the tiniest betrayal of my plan would ruin everything and doom millions, for my plan depends on Naraku's inability to comprehend desires which are not his own."

"Then don't tell me any more," Kagome said. "To know that you had a reason for taking my jewel shards is enough. Do you want me to pretend to lose any others I find so that you can have them?"

"No," Kikyo said. "Regarding Naraku's lust for the jewel, I have done all I needed. The first bait in my trap has been taken."

Kagome rose to her feet and stood just behind Kikyo, looking past her shoulder into the night, and asked, "What are your plans for InuYasha?"

A tiny, ironic smile passed over Kikyo's face as she turned around. "He is mine forever. Do not interfere."

"But you're not really Kikyo," Kagome said. "What future could he possibly have with you? And don't think I'm asking just for my own interests; it's a valid question anyone would ask."

"I have a plan for my future with InuYasha, as well. I will not tell you what it is, and since I formed this plan after being resurrected, it is not a memory you can read."

"Does your plan involve taking the remainder of our soul?" Kagome asked. "Because if it does, we have a problem."

"Kagome, I do not know why you have come to this era, but know this: your life belongs to the time in which you were born. Whatever husband you take will be found there."

"Yes, my life belongs to the time in which I was born," Kagome agreed. "Just like my soul belongs in the body it chose to inhabit. You are actually a part of me, Kikyo. You are merely animated by a fragment of my soul. For now, I have not asked for that fragment back, but I may some day, and it is mine to reclaim any time I wish."

The two women looked into each other's eyes for a few moments, until Kikyo broke contact and paced slowly about the room. Kagome watched her. Neither woman was angry or afraid.

"Perhaps my existence is the result of a theft," Kikyo finally said. "And in that respect, I cannot defend it. Yet I have a right to live!"

Kagome looked at her sadly. "You did live. You became me."

Kikyo whispered, "And then I traveled back in time to be with InuYasha once more." She looked at Kagome. There were tears in Kikyo's eyes.

"He loves you very much," Kagome said. "I think he loves me, too. He loves both of us. We can both have him. But to be a single soul split into two parts who fight over him? That sounds like the sort of thing which would give Naraku pleasure if he were to know about it, and the very sort of internal division which turns the jewel to evil."

Kikyo breathed in sharply, seeing instantly the enormity of Kagome's statement. She closed her eyes and stood still for several moments.

Finally, Kikyo said, "Yes. You are correct. We should be one. And we will be, eventually. One way or another I shall be with InuYasha, in the end."

Kikyo approached Kagome and took her hands in her own. "You are safe from me," Kikyo said. "Whatever happens, and despite whatever appearances I may give in order to deceive Naraku, know that I would never harm you, nor any of InuYasha's friends. I will not take the remainder of our soul from you, for I have accepted my fate and my death. Perhaps, with your words tonight, I can accept it more easily."

Kagome smiled, and there were tears in her eyes, as well. "Thank you, Kikyo. That means more to me than I can ever say."

"You and I will discuss our entwined fate again once Naraku has been vanquished," Kikyo said. "Until then, you must never come here, nor speak of this subject, again. Go back to InuYasha and continue searching for the jewel."

"InuYasha and the rest of us are a decoy, aren't we?" Kagome asked.

"Yes. I'm sorry. There is no other way."

"That's okay," Kagome said. "We'll do our part, and I won't breathe a word. I just hope your plan works. In fact, I'm sure your plan will work. I think the universe brought me back to this time just so I could create you, and you could defeat Naraku."

"Perhaps," Kikyo said. "Or maybe the universe decided that it would take both of us to do it."

Kagome was deeply touched. "Thank you, Kikyo," she whispered, and hugged her with all her might.

Kikyo, quite taken aback, had no idea what to do at first, as she was not accustomed to such intimate gestures. But after a few moments, she smiled and hugged Kagome in return. The two women held each other for some time.

Kagome let her go, wiped her eyes, and gathered her belongings. As she did, Kikyo said, "One final thing: your archery technique is poor. You grip the bow far too tightly. A tight grip causes the bow to move around or tilt, and it is a common mistake. Rest the bow between your thumb and forefinger, and you will find that that is enough, for the bow isn't going anywhere. Archery, like so many things, suffers from a grip which squeezes too hard and tries to control too much."

Kagome nodded. "You got it! Thanks."

"Farewell," Kikyo said.

Kagome headed out the door with a grin and a wave. "Take care, Kikyo!"

Kikyo couldn't help but smile, despite the emotions crashing around inside her. The girl was wiser than she had imagined she could be, and she was certainly bubbly and full of life, and so refreshingly honest. Being her wouldn't be so bad, after all. As she watched Kagome walk through her barrier as if it wasn't there, she knew Naraku would never take her. The girl would handle herself just fine, even if she did still need some serious target practice. And a dress.

Kikyo called back her soul collectors and sat down to finish her meal.

Kirara purred appreciatively as Kagome appeared out of the barrier and climbed onto her back.

"Come on, Kirara," Kagome said. "Let's go home."

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