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I Fell for Myself by Stella Mira

There Are Ways

Bokusenō's forest was as it had always been – but Kagome could not see with the same eyes, could not hear with the same ears. The green, the voices, the light, everything was duller, quieter. That sentient, writhing pulsation, that torrent of sensation, of weightless time, slid against her skin, alive yet unfelt, ebbed under the crest of her unease, layers of cold sweat. It was Kagome who spoke first this time, she who greeted the ancient tree yōkai.

"Greetings, Bokusenō-sama. You have asked for me?"

Bokusenō opened his eyes, hummed, languid motions, like a pendulum made of foliage and wood. "Yes, come closer, child. There are things I must tell you, things you must know."

One slow step – and another. Close, and closer she came, until she stood under the shadow of prescience, the herald of unfavorable news. Kagome licked her lips, wished for this to be over in one clean-cut slash, urged the elder yōkai for such with her gaze. Intense. Piercing. A tempest raged in her eyes, turbulent and fierce and wind-ridden.

"Regarding my…our change?"

Bark bent, Bokusenō gave a slight nod – a single leaf swaying, earth-green tangling in her hair. "I am afraid I bear ill fortune for you, child. You will not survive the change if you remain as is."

His words cut through her like leaf-blades, sharpened into fine edges. Kagome took a step back, instinctive. One question churned inside her body, slithered and snaked like a living serpent, its scales hot and smooth, gliding against her viscera, flaying tissue and organs in its course. When she parted her lips, when she vociferated it, that serpent leapt out of her mouth, took her flesh and blood with it.

"I will…die?"

"I am afraid so. You yet possess a mortal body – unlike Sesshōmaru. The strain of the change will be too much for you."

Such heaviness, such somber verity, Bokusenō's voice held, that she found herself deprived of breath, of words, of life, as if the tree yōkai had reaped that delicate fruit before its time.

Sesshōmaru took charge then, disengaged himself from silence and mere observation, his presence a bulk of hotness at her back. "You implied ways to prevent this?"

Sesshōmaru's voice sundered the malaise sewn around her heart with wisp-like threads, unshackled the air trapped in her lungs. Kagome raised her eyes to the tree once more, awaited the answer he would give, the elixir for her salvation – but the old yōkai gave nothing of the sort.

"There are ways, yes. One will not be welcome and the other might not be a choice at all."

It rankled, his careful equivocation, his half-truths, for both she and Sesshōmaru. Perhaps the tree had no perception of time, perhaps he did not share the impatience of men, Kagome couldn't care which it was, but she needed to know. Sesshōmaru's anger was radiating, tangible, slathered on the slope of her back. He spoke for her again, aggression culminated in a growl of words, earned Kagome's gratitude with his action.

"Enough of your riddles. Tells us what must be done."

Bokusenō sighed, reproach and regret merged into a waft of wind – but he relinquished all subtlety, offered what they asked. He had thought to spare the miko a few last moments of peace, but nothing could elide the magnitude of her quagmire, he knew – and so he spoke of it.

"There are two ways to control the change, consume the power and not be consumed by it. Either through a mating bond with the male who shares the same change or by harnessing the Shikon's power."

Sesshōmaru stilled, ceased all sound and motion. Sultry, melting earth under her feet, Kagome lost sensation in her legs, felt as if she was sinking in quicksand. Inch by inch. It tried to devour her whole, to pull her into abysmal depths from whence she could never escape. Gripped by dolor, stretched thinly, she uttered what the tree merely hinted at, gave it substance – but still she sank, deep, and deeper.

"You mean I'll either have to mate Sesshōmaru or use the Shikon?"

His name rang amidst the falling leaves, the smelted ground, too late to take it back, to pretend she never said it. A spasm, tight muscle, close, much too close, she felt him on the curve of her back – but he was cold, teeth of ice gnawing on her flesh, an immovable, harrowing no.

"Indeed."

Wearily, merely to hear him say it, Kagome asked what she knew needn't be asked. "There is nothing else to be done?"

There was no hesitation on Bokusenō's part this time, no half-truths – only finality, grave, beyond doubt. "Only death."

Kagome tasted the end in the word, tired, too tired, allowed the quicksand to take her, to feast on her fate. "How long do I have before I…must decide?"

"I cannot tell, child – but not long. Perhaps a moon cycle, perhaps more…"

 

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