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Dark Rivers of the Heart by Aspen Snow

Dark Rivers of the Heart

Dark Rivers of the Heart

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Embellish your darkest dreams, and you'll live like you never lived before

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Life. She couldn't remember when it was ever fair, couldn't remember when it was ever right, she couldn't remember when it was ever good.

She could remember pain and she could remember betrayal. She was lost and hurting, a far cry from the nave school girl she had once been.

Heartache. That had been inevitable, expected. She knew it was coming. Had always known. But it still hurt, made her feel raw, broken. She wanted to forget, she desperately needed to forget.

But she couldn't, she was scarred with the memories, burdened with them. Love, happiness, laughter, these were memories she couldn't remember, memories she would never find.

Hope. What was hope? A whimsical dream, a childish fantasy. It had no place in reality, no place in a world steeped in hatred and violence. Hope was useless.

So she had let it go. It had been remarkably easy to leave it behind. Too easy.

That should have been sad, should have been tragic that a girl as young she was had already lost hope, had already abandoned all claims to innocence. But it wasn't sad, it wasn't tragic, it was simply the truth.

And the truth hurt. Someone should have told her that life would be like this, someone should have warned her that life wasn't easy.

It was impossible.

She had learned the hard way. Isn't that how everyone learned? Painfully. She had made two mistakes, and they had cost her so much. But she had learned.

She had watched all her fantasies decay, watched all her idealistic dreams fade as she made the same mistake again, and again.

She had learned that there are some things in life that hurt so much they make you cry.

Love was not what she had dreamt it would be. It was worse.

So much worse.

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Beautiful. No, she wasn't beautiful. Beauty was superficial, unimportant, trivial. He didn't care for it, he didn't trust it. He had seen many beautiful women and beneath their perfectly crafted appearances he found emptiness. Their beauty masking the nothingness inside.

Strange. That was the word he had decided on, the description he was most comfortable with, the one he could understand. She was strange. Not unique, not intriguing, these implied that she had an effect on him, implied that there was something about her that appealed to him, which there wasn't.

Strange was almost an insult and this suited his view of the human girl. He liked to think that her specific blend of human stupidity had caught his eye, nothing more.

He didn't respect her, didn't admire her in any way. She was outspoken, a dangerous quality for a human girl to possess, especially one who relied on the protection of friends rather than her own strength. One day her rash words would get her into trouble, and there would be no one to protect her. Where would her fiery temper be on that day? Nowhere.

Because she would be dead.

She had stood before him in battle, she had believed that she could defeat him. Foolish. A smart warrior knew their own strength and capabilities as well as those of their enemy. A smart warrior knew when to fight, and knew when to surrender. Yet she stood against him anyways, stood before him ready to fight despite her weaknesses, despite her mortality.

Some might call her brave, he called her stupid. She would die young. She would lose her life in a battle she never had a chance of winning.

Her death wouldn't be tragic, it would be meaningless.

It would be nothing, because she was human, because she was foolish, because she believed there was something in this world worth fighting for.

When there wasn't.

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"You came for the sword." He didn't respond to her spoken observation, didn't even reveal himself. But she knew he was there waiting.

Watching.

Death had brought him to her, was probably the only thing capable of bringing him here. Death had given her power, one she wasn't used to wielding, and one he badly wanted.

Unfortunately for him she wasn't in a very giving mood. As much as she hated the sword, hated what her possession of it represented, she wasn't willing to give it up.

Not yet.

Maybe he sensed her reluctance to part with the sword, perhaps that was why he simply followed her instead of forcefully demanding the object of his desire.

He couldn't have the sword without her, couldn't touch it without her. And that was the only reason he kept her alive. She knew this, she knew that without the protection the sword offered she would be dead because she was an annoyance, an obstacle, a human.

The sword belonged to him, belonged in his family, not in the hands of a human girl from another time, another world. She understood this, but she held onto the sword anyways.

Held onto it because he had always been powerful, and she had never been.

So he would have to continue following her because the sword would be hers until she decided to give it to him. And on that day when he finally claimed what was rightfully his he would most certainly kill her.

Or maybe he wouldn't.

Whatever the case, she continued on in this world she didn't belong in, content with the knowledge that for the first time in her life she wasn't helpless.

And that she wouldn't let him take from her. She needed it more than him.

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He wanted to kill her. Could very easily kill her at any moment. But that would bring nothing but momentary satisfaction and permanent frustration. If he killed her now the sword would remain untouchable, useless.

She had to give it to him, she had to relinquish her control over it, she had to do this or he would never be able to touch it.

He was a warrior, royalty, his control was impeccable, unflappable. But he felt the rage nonetheless, felt the white hot surge of fury that coursed through him, felt it with such intensity that it was tangible.

His anger was palpable, it was in the air, and he had a hard time controlling it, he found himself struggling to bank down the sudden and sharp desire to kill this tiny slip of a human girl.

He had held these lands, his family's territory together with the strength of his bare hands, conquered and claimed with cunning and force, etched himself into history with his omnipotence, his power, his ruthlessness.

Yet here he was, subject to the whims of a single human girl. And there was nothing he could do to change that.

Nothing. And that made him angry, made him restless. Him following her made no sense, it was irrational, him stalking her would change nothing, accomplish nothing.

But his rage blinded him, made him act without reason, made him careless. And that was dangerous.

Dangerous for her, dangerous for him.

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"You could have at least helped" Kagome said tiredly to the demon she knew was watching her.

The youkai had come out of nowhere, sensing the easy prey that she was, anticipating her death and how she would taste. She should have been an easy conquest, a guaranteed kill, she almost was.

Even with the aid of the sword her movements were weak, slow, and ineffective. All the while she had battled the lowly youkai she had sensed him there, hiding just out of sight, watching her pathetic attempt at defending herself.

Perhaps he found amusement in her struggle and that was why he did not intervene, or perhaps he really hoped something else would just kill her. But he had a vested interest in her staying alive.

The sword. Maybe he had given up on her ever giving it to him, it had been months since that first day she had acquired both the sword and him as her stalker. Months in which he had done nothing but follow her quietly in the shadows, waiting. Perhaps his patience had run out, however this seemed unlikely to her seeing as the cool demon lord seemed to possess an endless supply of patience and restraint.

He hadn't killed her yet.

But now here she was, laying exhaustedly on the grass near the bloody remains of the hideous youkai that had tried to eat her, talking to a demon who would very probably rather have killed himself than do anything to help her.

And then the silence was broken by a faint rustling, she opened her eyes, and wasn't entirely surprised to see the demon lord standing before her in all his perfect glory.

And then all she could see were those eyes, those magnetic golden eyes that flashed briefly in anger, or maybe it was disgust.

"You are not worthy of the sword" he said scornfully, practically spitting the words at her.

"No, I'm not"

"You admit it" and his eyes flashed once more, but not in anger, in surprise.

"Yes" Of course she admitted it. Contrary to what he believed, she really wasn't stupid. The sword was nearly useless in her hands, her untrained and feeble attempts mocked the potent power which it held.

"Then leave it" was his firmly spoken command.

She smiled, arrogance was certainly a family trait.

"You don't deserve it either, Sesshoumaru." And he didn't. The sword was meant to protect, and he would surely use it to destroy.

He didn't say anything in response to her boldly spoken insult, he simply walked away, leaving her once again in silence.

She sighed wearily, silently wondering how long this game they were playing would last before someone finally gave in.

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Life never surprised him. Never. In his world a surprise got you killed. Anticipation had kept him alive all this time, had kept him in power, had made him invincible.

He anticipated his enemies, the moves they would make, their greed for power, their weaknesses, and their inevitable downfall. And he never made mistakes.

Until her. He had never anticipated her. And that irritated him, but he had moved past that, had to, because he was perfect, and he refused to believe anything to the contrary.

He had been prepared to follow her until her death transferred her control of the sword over to him, had been fully prepared to hate her for forcing him to embark on such a demeaning journey.

But then one day she set the sword down, sheathed in its scabbard she laid it in the grass at her feet and walked away.

Walked away and never looked back.

And that he hadn't expected, hadn't been prepared for her. He approached the sword warily, cautiously, perhaps she was just toying with him. But he immediately discarded that notion, she feared him too much to toy with him, she wasn't skilled enough to set a trap. And no amount of power she possessed would ever be capable of destroying him.

So he picked up the sword, not surprised when the familiar jolt did not shock him. In that moment, had it been within his nature to do so, he might have smiled.

Might have.

But he didn't. He had misjudged her, never in his life had he so wrongly characterized an enemy as he had her. To leave the sword as effortlessly as she did, to walk away from such power spoke of honor, spoke of selflessness.

Selflessness, he scoffed at such an ideal. She walked away from the only thing capable of keeping her alive, walked away from the only protection she had from demons such as himself. Forsaking her safety for others, forsaking her safety for any reason would only get her killed.

His hand tightened on the sword he sought for so long, confirming his final possession of it. He should have turned away, should have left that grass clearing and gone back to the life he had led before her, the life he knew.

But he didn't. He instead walked across that clearing in the same way she had, following her once more as he had done for so long.

She believed that she had done the right thing by leaving him the sword which rightfully belonged him.

And so he followed intent on showing her that she had not done the right thing, because only the strong survived.

And she had made him stronger.

He continued on in the shadows, silently stalking her, toying with her as a predator does with is prey. Everyday he planned her demise, anticipated the sound of her screams, the satisfaction of her death.

And everyday he let her live. Let her live not because he couldn't kill her, he could, he would have no qualms about ending her life, would in fact take immense pleasure in seeing the instrument of his endless frustration wiped away from this world.

He let her live because he watched her give her only food to a child she did not know, watched her hold the hand of a dying man she had never met, watched her smile in pure joy when it rained.

He let her live because he had been wrong, as he had so often been when it came to this one human woman, he had been wrong.

Her death wouldn't be meaningless. It would be remembered.

And it would be tragic.

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She had given him the sword because it didn't belong to her, because she didn't belong in this world. She had given it to him because she didn't want it.

It had protected her, had made her stronger. But she didn't want it if it made her like him. She enjoyed its power, desired it, craved it. Just like he did.

And so she had let it go because she wasn't like him, never would be, never wanted to be.

She had expected death, when that didn't come she expected to never see him again, or more accurately, sense him again lurking there in the shadows just beyond her sight.

But still he followed, still he watched, and still he did nothing. She should have been terrified, should have been scared that he refused to leave her alone. But she found herself oddly at peace.

If he was going to kill her, there would be nothing she could do to stop it, nothing at all. So she continued to live her life as if he weren't there, continued on in strange sort of happiness, only curious as to why he would follow her and do nothing.

She was nothing to him, nothing. Yet day after day he was there, devoting his time and his patience to her, it was almost as if he needed to see her, almost as if he cared for her in his own twisted way.

But that was impossible with a demon like him.

And as if his watching her lent him the ability to read her mind, he appeared just as her thoughts had started to drift down this new strange road.

He appeared as quietly as he had before, and this time she expected her death, was certain of it. So when he continued simply standing there, doing nothing, she met those intense golden eyes, and wondered why.

Why he did not kill her, why he followed. Why? The question hung in the air, posed quietly by her innate curiosity. It was there, in her eyes, a challenge, daring him to answer.

"I don't love you" she heard him say somewhat disdainfully, as if the words were beneath him. Which they were.

She was struck by the answer, strangely affected by hearing such words come from him. Love her? No. Of course he didn't. She had known that, always. Love was weak, it wasn't enough. Wasn't enough for him, wasn't enough for her. She didn't want love, not from him. He was cold, he was powerful, he was perfect. And she liked him that way.

"I'm human" she said, though it was unnecessary to make the distinction. If anyone was aware of her humanity it was him. He saw all her flaws, her weaknesses, her failings. In his eyes she was dead already, had been dying since the day she was born. She was beneath him. This she understood, this she accepted. To him she was simply nothing.

And that was freeing. He had no expectations of her, she could never let him down, never disappoint him, because she already was a disappointment in his eyes. She didn't have to smile for him, didn't have to laugh and pretend everything was fine, pretend she was happy when she wasn't.

When she had never been. She didn't have to pretend, because he didn't care, and never would.

"You're weak." Yes she was most definitely weak. A prisoner to her emotions, captive to the heart wrenching drama she unnecessarily created. She couldn't defend herself, she couldn't survive in this world on her own.

"I'll die." And she would, it wasn't a pessimistic observation, it wasn't fatalistic, it was the truth, reality.

"Yes"

"Then why are you here?" She questioned softly, almost as if she were afraid to question the demon's motives.

And she wondered, suddenly, as she stared into those hard, golden eyes, if he had ever been kind, if had always been so cruel.

Kind. What would kindness do to a man like him? What would he look like with a smile? And she looked at him, quietly waiting for an answer she wasn't sure he would give, and tried to picture him as someone other than who he was.

She speculated in the growing silence that beneath the cool indifference and precise ruthlessness was a man.

A man who dreamed, just like everyone else.

It was quiet, too quiet. They were alone, completely and utterly alone. The silence was deafening, thunderous as she anxiously awaiting the words he was so reluctant to speak.

"Why" she asked again. Not sure why she bothered when she knew he would continue on in silence, continue ignoring her menial presence. After all she was merely a human, he would not lower himself to answer her question.

But she had forgotten that life had this uncanny ability to surprise you, to make something happen that you don't expect, that you are completely unprepared for.

Because he did answer her question.

"I can't forget" he said almost offhandedly, almost as if those three words meant nothing, as if his admission didn't change anything.

But it did, and those three words meant everything. Love was empty, meaningless. She had been in love before. But love died, burned out, faded away with the blood, the betrayal, and the hate.

Had he said he loved her she would have walked away, unaffected and disappointed. He was not capable of love, did not know what it meant, didn't want to know. Those words, coming from him would mean nothing, they would just be three more words.

And they didn't suit him. He was a cold demon, merciless, a perfectly crafted machine of destruction. Love had no place in a man like him, a man who sought only power, and left a trail of death in his wake. Love was for the weak.

I can't forget. Those three words coming from one who had seen so much, accomplished so much, become so much, were more poignant in their impact than anything else could possibly have been.

And that made her smile, because in this world of change and uncertainty, in this time when every step she took brought her closer to a future that was unknown and terrifying, one thing would always be true.

She would be remembered. Remembered by a demon who hated her, remembered by a man disgusted by her weaknesses, her very nature. Remembered in spite of all this simply because he could not forget her.

And there was nothing more beautiful than that.

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I will still be here, if only you will remember me

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