"Miroku hurry up!" Sango yelled. Ever since they’d woken up this morning they’d been searching the castle looking for Inuyasha and Kagome. Hours of looking and they turned up with nothing, there were too many rooms and not enough time.
"Sango stop!" Miroku grabbed her wrist after finally catching up to her. Sango had been running like a chicken with its head cut off looking for Inuyasha and Kagome. As much as Miroku wanted to ignore it, the empty feeling in his stomach wasn't going anywhere. Something happened to the two of them and it was too late to stop it.
"Let me go you're wasting time!" Didn't he understand that it could be a matter of life of death right now? There was no time to rest.
"Sango I understand your worry, but you know as well as I do we’re too late. Whatever happened to them has already begun."
"That doesn't matter! What if they're hurt? While we're standing here catching our breaths they could be bleeding to death!" She was on the verge of hyperventilating.
"Sango, you need to calm down!" Miroku encouraged her to take deep controlled breaths, and Sango felt her racing pulse begin to slow. Before could plan out the next course of action a wave of guards and servants ran past them.
Sango saw a young boy she recognized and called out to him.
"Shippo! What's going on?" A small boy with big emerald eyes turned to Sango. His orange hair tied back in a small ponytail.
"Lady Izyaoi is coming back to the castle, but I fear her arrival is not for pleasantries."
"Miroku isn't Lady Izyaoi your aunt?"
"Yes, though I have no I have idea why her arrival would not be pleasant." Miroku said. Sango turned to ask Shippo another question but he’d already left to follow the rest of the guards.
"Let's follow them."
Everything was falling into place.
"Kanna!" A young girl clad in white walked into a small room. Her face emotionless, her eyes black as a night void of stars. She had no aura, no presence, for she was the essence of nothingness.
"Master." Her voice had no warmth. Kneeling in front of her master she delicately held a small mirror in her grasp.
"Show me the princess." He commanded.
Princess Kikyou would be the next to die. Her death would be the final push, the climax to his story. With her dead he would send the castle into chaos.
Slowly the dark haired man stood and his image began to change.
His wavy midnight hair straightened and his crimson eyes turned a dark violet. His pale skin tanned and his dark robes began to bleed red.
It was time.
'Inuyasha!' Kagome cried. No matter how hard she tried her body just wouldn’t follow her command.
Already she had slashed at Inuyasha. The scent of his blood clogged her nose and slippery feel of his sanguine fluid on her hands made her sick.
"Die Inuyasha." Her voice was robotic and not her own. She prayed that Inuyasha knew it wasn't her, hoped he understood she couldn't control herself, that she would never willingly hurt him.
Kagome clawed at Inuyasha again. He tried to dodge her as best he could but the halls were narrow and hard to move in. How could he stop her without hurting her?
Too caught up in his thoughts Inuyasha was struck in the arm with her deadly claws. His skin burned as her acidic nails burned through his clothes.
"Kagome stop this! You have to snap out of it!" He yelled. Facing her once more, Inuyasha made a beeline for her. He grabbed her wrists with one hand and pulled her to his chest with the other.
"I-Inu-ya-sha, g-get away." Kagome stuttered, her conscious finally seeping through. "I don't h-have control over m-my body." Her eyes faded from crimson to brown. Her skin paled and her brow creased in concentration. She wanted to break free.
But she just wasn't strong enough.
When Kagome stopped moving Inuyasha thought she had lost consciousness. Pulling away from her he saw her sorrowful brown eyes fade red once again.
Moving back in the knick of time Kagome only managed to knick his shoulder, instead of sever his head.
'Inuyasha!' Her voice rang loudly in Inuyasha’s ears even though her mouth hadn’t moved at all.
"Kagome can you hear me?" He needed to make sure he wasn’t imagining things.
'Inuyasha please you have to get away!' He heard her say.
"No! I'm not leaving, not without you!" Running towards her again he grabbed her shoulders and shook her hard. "Wake up Kagome! I know you’re stronger than this!"
Pain seared through Inuyasha's abdomen and he felt as if he was being ripped in two. His eyes dared to travel south and the sight that met him had him ready to pass out. Kagome’s acidic talons had disappeared deep into his belly. He felt her fingers twirling in his guts and let out an ear-piercing scream when Kagome ripped her hand away from his insides. Inuyasha clutched his bleeding wound, stumbling away from the possessed girl.
"NOOOO!" Kagome felt as if her nerves were being fried, and explosion of light burst behind her lids and she briefly experienced the sensation of falling.
Overcome by blood loss and unable to focus Inuyasha tripped over his own feet. He landed on his back with a thud and relished in the feeling of the cold tile cooling his heated skin. He waited for Kagome to finish him off, knowing he had no way to defend himself if she came at him again, but the blow never came.
Kagome sat on her hands and knees, panting and desperately trying to catch her breath. Her bangs clung to her sweaty skin and when she looked at Inuyasha her eyes had returned to their normal hue. She was back.
Even as his vision blurred and the girl before him began to fade, Inuyasha smiled. "Thank Goodness."
The last thing he heard was Kagome's desperate cry of his name.
Lady Izyaoi all but jumped from her carriage. She had to save her son.
She stormed into the castle. Her elegant robes and gorgeous hair flowing behind her.
A young girl in a dirty yukata approached her and bowed deeply. "My lady would you like to be taken to the royal family?"
"Yes, thank you." In a matter of minutes the young servant was knocking on a giant wood door. A muffled reply came from inside and Izyaoi entered.
"Oh Lady Izyaoi to what do we owe this pleasure?" Lady Ayako said with a smile.
"I fear I am not here for pleasure but business My Lady." Izyaoi said.
"And what business would that be?" Lord Hiroshi interjected.
"I want my son, Prince Inuyasha, to marry your daughter." she figured there was no point in beating around the bush. Seeing the shocked expressions of both the Lord and the Lady, she concluded that maybe she should have been a little more gentle with her announcement.
"What?" They spoke in unison.
"I want my son to marry your daughter." Izyaoi repeated slowly.
"What's with the sudden push for marriage?" Lord Hiroshi asked.
"The Takahashi’s and the Aomori’s would make a powerful union, this is no secret. My son is very shy and simply has not had the courage to ask for your daughter’s hand. That’s why I’m here, to ask in his stead." She said.
"Well I know Kikyou has certainly taken a liking to Inuyasha. He is a sweet boy with a good head on his shoulders, there joining would create a powerful kingdom indeed. I have no qualms about the match." Lady Ayako looked to her husband for confirmation, and beamed when he nodded in agreement. Soon her daughter would be married. She couldn't wait to see her darling grandchildren.
"I also have one more small request." Lady Izyaoi said timidly.
"And that would be?"
"They need to be wed today."
Kikyou sat in the castle orchard. The Sakura blossoms were starting to fall from the trees. The wind blew the petals and her hair around her face. She looked into the sky and suddenly her heart felt heavy.
Why didn't he love her? Why did Inuyasha pick that girl over her? The question after question danced in her head, not one with a single answer.
It hurt to be rejected when you threw yourself at someone. She’d reacted with anger at the sting, but only because it wasn’t in her nature to be vulnerable. Was it because she had been too forceful? If she had taken a more genial approach, would his heart be hers?
A single tear escaped from her eye without her permission and she instantly wiped it away. She would not cry. She was too strong for tears.
So why did she still feel the blasted moisture running down her cheeks?
Kikyou heard as someone walked toward her, the dying grass crunching beneath the intruder’s feet.
She didn't even have time to react.
Pain lanced through her shoulder and down to her chest. She cried out as she hit the ground. Her blood instantly staining her robes and the pink petals of the Sakura blossoms red. Dazed, she watched as booted feet walked into her line of vision.
She looked up to meet the eyes of her attacker when he laughed.
"Inuyasha?" She whispered painfully.
"Fool! Did you really think I would marry you? Ha! I want your kingdom, nothing more."
"No." More tears flowed down her face.
"I have no desire whatsoever to be tied to you." His tone was harsh, as if voicing the thought out loud burned his tongue. Kikyou sobbed, this couldn't be happening. She was so young, she still had so much to live for, she didn’t want to die.
"Why? Why would you do this to me?" She wheezed. Her wound was making it hard to breathe.
"What better way to get your lord father to wage war on the Takahashi Clan than to have their only heir slay his precious daughter?"
Kikyou's head dropped to the ground. She was growing weaker by the minute, and she knew that no matter how much she wished to live, there was no escaping the inevitable.
A vision of his kind eyes and shy smile formed behind Kikyou’s closed lids, and her only request before she departed this world was to see his face one last time. Even if he never loved her, she could die pretending that he had. She finally opened her eyes, waiting for the illusion of the young prince to grace her sight.
Her breaths were becoming shallow, her heart was beating slowing...it wouldn’t be long now.
When her swaying vision steadied, Naraku’s cold crimson gaze stared back at her and what was left of her heart broke.
'The Kami wouldn’t grant my wish.'
A single crystalline tear traced a path across the bridge of her nose and fell into the scarlet pool of blood below her face.
She was gone.
Miroku and Sango stood outside the grand room in complete silence, not even daring to breathe. Was the Lady Izayoi crazy? She wanted Inuyasha to marry Kikyou?
"Miroku what's going on?" Sango looked up at her violet eyed companion utterly confused.
"I have no idea but something is off." Without another word Miroku strode into the room with purpose.
"Hey wait!" She reflexively followed him into the room and all eyes fell on them. When Lord Hiroshi's cold eyes fell on her she looked away and shuttered.
"Young Miroku, it's nice to see you again." Said Lady Ayako.
"Always a pleasure to see you as well Lady Ayako. I don't mean to intrude but I need to speak to my aunt for a moment." he said calmly.
"Can it wait Miroku?" Finally looking at his aunt her brow furrowed at his intense gaze.
"Fine. I'll return to speak with you both of the details." Bowing to excuse herself Lady Izyaoi, Miroku, and Sango slipped out of the room.
"What are you thinking?" Miroku yelled. Sango had led them back to her and Kagome's room so they could have more privacy.
"I have no idea what you’re talking about." Izyaoi said clamly.
"Why are you having Inuyasha marry Princess Kikyou? What happened to 'if you’re not fond of her that's fine, I won't push'" Miroku quoted.
"That was then and this now, the circumstances have changed." The queen's voice dropped to barely a whisper.
"Like what? I don't understand." Miroku implored.
"Who are you?" Lady Izyaoi looked around Miroku to speak to Sango. She cleared her throat and bowed deeply before replying.
"My name is Sango my lady."
"She's a pretty one Miroku." Sango blushed and Miroku grinned, but his smile soon faded and he became all business once more.
"I don’t make this decision lightly Miroku, and I don’t appreciate you challenging my authority. I’m the head of this family, the leader of our nation, and what I say goes." Lady Izyaoi’s clearly left no room for discussion, but her nephew wasn’t backing down that easily.
Miroku grabbed Izayoi’s hand, gaining her full attention with his gentle squeeze. “What’s going on oba-san? I’ve never seen you act this way.” Sure his aunt ruled her kingdom with an iron fist but when came to Inuyasha or himself, he’d never known a gentler person than his oba.
The older woman squeezed his hand in return and let out a small sigh. Izyaoi went on to explain the strange letter and hesitantly told them of her common birth. She continued to explain how if Inuyasha did not marry Princess Kikyou her secret would be revealed.
"Does Inuyasha know?" Miroku asked.
"I don't know, though I'd rather not tell him."
"Don’t you think you should? What’s going to be your excuse for forcing him into this marriage?"
"You sound so sure that Inuyasha will object. In all honesty he could’ve gotten dealt a worse hand than Kikyou, what grounds does he have to say no?" Izyaoi questioned.
"Well for one he doesn't love the princess, and for two, I’m pretty sure he has found someone else."
"My friend Kagome." Sango said finally adding to the conversation.
"Kagome, who I assume is a servant just as you are?” Izayoi clicked her tongue at Sango’s affirmative nod. “You really think I would let my son be tormented the way his father was...by letting him marry someone who is not of royal lineage?"
"At least he'd be happy!" Miroku retorted.
"Or he'd be killed!" The queen pinched the bridge of her nose, lowering her volume and bringing her temper in check. "You don't know the strain our marriage put on the kingdom. The peasants and servants thought I was a whore and Toga was betrayed by some of his closest friends. I won't put my son through that."
Miroku moved closer to his aunt, the tears he saw brimming her eyes had him wanting to offer his comfort.
"I understand that you want to protect him, oba, but when this is all said and done the choice won't be yours to make." Miroku said gently. There was an urgent knock at the door and Sango stood up to answer it.
When she did she found Hamako panting heavily and leaning against the doorframe. Sango smoothly placed herself between and the opening of the door, effectively hiding Miroku and Izayoi from Hamako’s sight.
"Hamako what's wrong?" Sango said worriedly.
"Princess Kikyou is dead." The girl said gravely, tears falling from her round blue eyes.
"What? H-How?" Sango asked shakily.
"She was murdered, in the orchard. There was so much blood…" Sango reached out to the young girl, understanding her pain and wanting to bring her comfort. Hamako had been Kikyou's personal servant, and over the years Hamako and the princess had grown quite attached to one another.
"I'm so sorry for your loss Hamako."
"That’s not even the worst of it. Someone reported seeing Inuyasha leave the orchard right before Kikyou’s body was found. The guards found bloody footprints when they went to investigate. The wedding is off... and the Lord has declared war."
Sango quickly dismissed Hamako and turned to look at Miroku with wide frantic eyes.
They needed to find Inuyasha and Kagome now.