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Achilles, Heel! by Diafiedj23

Chapter 1

Inuyasha wrinkled his nose discreetly against the smell of ale and lust. Raucous laughter irritated his ears, and beside him, King Naraku raised an overfull glass of wine.

"To peace!" the spider proclaimed silkily as the gathered revelers cheered. "Tonight our honoured guest, Prince Inuyasha of the Western Isle, joins us to celebrate our new pact with the Inu no Tashio!"

Wild rejoicing filled the room as lords and generals of various station stomped their feet and hollered, and in spite of himself, Inuyasha smiled. The path to peace had been a long and slippery one. How long had his father worked tirelessly for this? Naraku had ever been treacherous and grasping, but at last the balance of power hinted at the possibility of a lengthy respect.

Inuyasha sat back as Miroku leaned past him, sharing a joke with the spider hanyou that made him tip back his head and laugh. The monk had been his closest friend and his father's most trusted ambassador for over a decade, and his skill at setting enemies at ease was surpassed only by his skill with women. Smirking, Inuyasha recalled that Miroku had charmed very many women since they had arrived to Edo.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Naraku turn a draw his finger through a silky lock of black hair. The woman at his side closed her eyes in submission to the caress, and Inuyasha's smirk twisted abruptly into an ugly frown. Recalling himself quickly, he looked away into the crowd and schooled his face to blankness. Kikyo of Edo was easily the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, and the resigned apathy on her face twisted in his gut like a knife.

How he loathed the man he was breaking bread with. Loathed his every breath, and loathed even more the sight of his filthy hands on such a pure and faultless girl.

Inuyasha had never been in love, but he knew as sure as the setting sun that he would die for her if she only asked it.

But Kikyo would never ask it, never dream to ask it. His dreams were twisted and desperate. In them she begged him to take her away to some safe place. In them she loved him as much as he loved her.

Sometimes, their eyes met and his breath froze in his lungs. Sometimes, he knew she did love him, as surely as the sun would rise.

But it was madness. Madness as sure as the insanity that lurked in his demon blood, sealed only by tetsusaiga's power. What would his father say? What would he tell his King, after so many years of working for this peace?

Golden eyes dull with resignation saw none of the merriment before him. Fate burned the air to ash in his mouth.

The party went on well into the early hours of the morning, but it was scarce midnight when his eyes followed Kikyo as she slipped back through a doorway that led through the servants quarters. How skilled she was, his heart ached, to be so talented at moving unseen and unheard.

Clawed fingers clenched into the arms of his chair, and Inuyasha forbade himself to follow. Only tonight. Just this one night left in Edo, and he would spare himself and his father the dishonour that called his name.

He closed his eyes, and it was a mistake. Her face filled his vision, the dark pools of her entrancing eyes sinking into his soul and clenching around his heart like a vise.

He opened his eyes, scouring the room. Naraku, filth that he was, had two arms full of serving girls, nevermind that his wife was a vision of loveliness. Miroku was occupied telling ribald stories to a few drunken officers.

With a flash of silver hair, the hanyou prince disappeared into the darkness that had swallowed Kikyo whole.

~Kikyo~

The shoji screen door slid open quietly, and Kikyo turned, heart beating wildly until her gaze landed on the western prince. Treacherously, her breath slowed to a halt, and Kikyo simply stared into those smoldering eyes that had burned into her these past three days. The door closed behind him, and she forced the air out of her lungs even as her hands trembled.

"You shouldn't be here," she heard herself say.

She may as well not have said anything at all, for she was sure the breathless waver in her voice gave away every desperately hidden weakness for him.

Gleaming orbs of gold held her captive, but Inuyasha neither retreated or stepped forward. She knew, in her heart, he was as helpless against this as she was. Turning her face away, Kikyo closed her eyes as tears slipped unbidden past her defences.

"Please," she begged, though she knew not for what, and she heard him hiss as if in pain at the word. In a breath, she felt his heat near to her. Not touching, but tangible and reckless. Something desperate and wild and holy that she could never taste.

"Kikyo," he breathed roughly, his voice raw, and her eyes snapped open.

"Inuyasha," she pled back, cheeks wet. "This… this cannot be."

The pain in his eyes reflected her own, and Kikyo saw that he already knew. And yet still, he was here. Was such knowledge enough to stall this tragedy between them?

Slowly, he raised a clawed hand to her cheek, and she shuddered at the gentle caress as his thumb smoothed over tear tracks.

"You do not deserve this," he whispered softly. "Naraku is the lowest worm, compared to you, Kikyo."

"I am no one," Kikyo answered. "A temple girl that was sold to a King for being beautiful. Go back to your Kingdom, Inuyasha."

His glowing eyes flashed in harsh rejection of her words. "It would destroy me to leave you here. Like leaving my heart behind."

His words choked her, for did she not feel the same? As if her heart would sail away on a ship tomorrow? "I am not worth the price you would have to pay. And I am bound to Naraku with far more than a ring. You must go."

His brow furrowed, and his fingers quested downwards, lingering at her collar in a silent question. "You can't mean… that's impossible Kikyo. You don't… you don't love him."

"All the same," she whispered, turning away. "I am bound."

"Let me see," Inuyasha demanded, his fingers gripping her shoulder. "Show me!"

She offered no resistance as he pulled her collar to the side, exposing skin and the truth. The breath he sucked in was horrified.

"You see?" She murmured dully. "I cannot leave this place. You cannot save me. No one can."

The mark that crept insidiously beneath her fair skin was ugly. Black and writhing, it reminded Inuyasha of nothing so much as ink twisting in clear water, and as his fingers brushed it it stung him like the bite of a poisonous snake.

White faced, he stared at the repugnant mating mark of the arachnid, and knew this was no bond of affection and equality, such as the one his father shared with his mother, Izayoi.

Never in his life had Inuyasha wanted to tear another's heart out so badly.

"No." He spat out. "No!"

Trembling under his hand, Kikyo pulled her collar back up, reshielding herself in modestly.

"We cannot circumvent fate," Kikyo told him. Told herself. "What is cannot be undone."

Fate. Inuyasha stared down at her woodenly, the weight of his family's talisman heavy against his chest. Had Kagome known, Inuyasha wondered, as she had given him the gleaming jewel in those last moments at the docks?

Clawed fingers shook as he slipped his hand into his haori, drawing forth the gleaming gem on it's chain.

"You do not deserve this fate," he said, as if in a dream. "I can prove it to you."

"W-what is that?" Kikyo breathed, eyes drinking in the otherworldly beauty of the jewel as Inuyasha stepped close, drawing the necklace over his head.

"The Shikon no tama, a blessing from the gods to my family."

"It's wonderful," she whispered, entranced by it's glow. "What are you-?"

"The Shikon possesses a quality of purity," Inuyasha admitted lowly, eyes soft. "Only those pure of heart can wear it indefinitely. You see - it's darkened, being around my neck. It was given to me temporarily, for protection."

Kikyo froze as he lifted the jewel over her head, slipping the necklace around her throat. "Wait-!"

The jewel flared to life, glowing so brightly it almost blinded her, and Kikyo gasped softly in awe. A moment later she hissed as the skin under her collarbone bubbled and shifted painfully. Yanking her sleeve down, she watched in shock as Naraku's hold on her was cleansed away. Her eyes darted back to meet Inuyasha's in shock as the ebb and flow of comforting holy power enfolded her. His eyes steady on hers, Inuyasha sank to one knee.

"Kikyo, queen of Edo," he whispered. "You were never meant to live and die in a place like this. Choose me. I will protect you until the day you die, and follow you evermore, even into hell."

"Inuyasha," she wept, flinging her arms around his neck as he crushed her to him. His mouth sought hers and her surrender was as sweet as her guilt was bitter. Surely the gods would curse her for her selfishness. Surely her love for this prince would be her undoing, as she would be his.

Kikyo knew as her Kimono slipped to the floor in a puddle of silks - as his fangs sank into the flesh of her throat and the pattern of pink cherry blossoms spread over her skin - there was no going back for either of them.

~The Western Isle~

Shallow waves crested quietly over her ankles, moonlight shining brightly on the quiet sea. This quiet, Kagome knew, was deceptive. It belied a stirring on the wind that chilled her in her bones. Shivering, she pulled her shawl over her shoulders.

She didn't know how long she stood there, only that as she did so, disquiet grew in her heart. But the cold twinkling of the stars fixed her in place, and somehow, she knew there was some sign she was waiting for. Some definitive measure that would spell the god's will onto that brilliant sky.

At last, the pulse of her heart grew taught, and she closed her eyes. Oh.

Faltering, fading; she stood there until the waning connection that tied her to Inuyasha flickered and died. Drawing a deep breath, Kagome let one single tear fall for the future that was beyond her now.

Inuyasha. I'm so sorry.

Under the light of the moon, Kagome stripped herself bare of her Kimono, reaching for the white and red that bound her to the service of the gods.

Taking up her sacred bow, she drew back the arrow and let it fly, blazing pink in a vow of fealty that all the stars in heaven witnessed.

As the last flicker of brilliant light died, the bow fell from her trembling hands.

Kagome sat down on the damp sand and cried until the sun broke the horizon.

 

INUYASHA © Rumiko Takahashi/Shogakukan • Yomiuri TV • Sunrise 2000
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