It was dawn when Kagome finally emerged from the woods. She was covered in dirt and blood, her clothes were torn, and she looked exhausted.
Slowly walking toward the castle Kagome saw that Midoriko-Sama was waiting for her. Straightening her shoulders and steeling her eyes Kagome let her resolve take over. She had just went through hell and back, and as much as she loved and respected Midoriko, there was no way she'd sit there and take a lecture.
"Midoriko-Sama before you say anything-"
"Get cleaned up." The shock was obvious on the young girl's face.
"That's it? That's all you have to say?"
"You look tired and I'm sure you're hungry. Get cleaned up and I'll have something brought to you."
"No training today?" Kagome asked incredulously.
Midoriko just gave her a sad knowing look, "No. Not today." Kagome gave her a small smile in appreciation. She stopped walking halfway into the building to turn around and look at her mentor.
"Midoriko-Sama I need you to ask the guards to do me a favor."
After taking a quick bath and changing her clothes Kagome set off to find Hojo's house. She remembered him saying that he was an only child. His father had died when he was a young boy, making him the man of the house much too soon. Even though Hojo's dream was to go to the continent and study medicine, he'd put his life on hold to take care of his mother.
Walking up to the modest home Kagome felt sick. Her palms were sweaty, her throat was dry, and she felt like she was going to pass out. How could she face this woman knowing she was the reason her son was dead? Taking a deep breath Kagome walked up to the hut and knocked. As she waited for someone to appear the only thing on her mind was, if Hojo had never met her he'd still be alive. She waited there holding her breath until an aging woman answered the door.
Her salt and pepper hair was hidden under a cloth scarf. She had on a simple yukata that any typical village woman would wear. Her apron was worn and stained from years of use. Her eyes looked tired and sunken in. It seemed as if she hadn't slept in days.
"Akitoki-san." Kagome started nervously.
"I know who you are. You are the woman who killed my son." Her tone was neither sad nor angry. It was easy to see that this woman had been through much in her life. She had given so much in this world, that she had nothing left. Her one reason for living was gone, and it made Kagome hate herself all the more.
"I wanted to personally apologize. I know there is nothing I could do or say to make you feel better. I take full responsibility for Hojo-kun's death, and if you hate me I completely understand. I'm so so sorry Akitoki-san."
"I do not hate you child and I do not blame you for his death. My boy spoke very highly of you. I hadn't seen him this happy since before his father passed. He loved you very much." For the first time the older woman smiled, and it broke Kagome's heart.
"Please know that I loved him too." Bowing deeply a tear slipped from her eye and landed in the dirt. Wiping the tear away Kagome stood and apologized once more. Turning to walk away she stopped when Hojo's mother called her name.
"Thank you. For staying with him and protecting him. Now I can bury him next to his father."
Kagome smiled sadly, "it was the least I could do."
Kagome sat in her room staring at the red rose Hojo had given her. Gently she fingered the soft petals thinking about all the things she had shared with Hojo. It scared her how deep her feelings for him ran in such a short time. It scared her to think of how delicate and short lived a human life could be.
She heard a soft knock on the door and allowed the maid, who was carrying a tray of food, entrance into her room.
"Thank you, but I'm not hungry." The maid set down the tray anyway and closed the door behind her. Kagome continued to sit and stare at her flower. A drop of water landed on the petal, lifting her hand to her cheek Kagome realized she was crying. She had been doing so much of that lately, it was pathetic.
Another knock sounded on the door, but before Kagome could shoo them away Midoriko walked in. Kagome quickly wiped her face and nose.
"Is there something you wanted?" Kagome asked.
"The maid told me you refused to eat. I wanted to check on you."
"I wasn't hungry."
"Kagome I know you're upset over Hojo, but-"
"How would you know how I feel?!" Kagome screamed. Her eyes burned at her efforts to keep her tears at bay. "You don't know anything!"
"I know a lot more than you think." Midoriko said coldly. "Don't presume to know me child. I was protecting this world long before you were even a thought. In our line of work you lose people everyday. Sometimes even people you know and you love." Softening her tone Mirdoriko took a seat next to Kagome on her futon.
"You did what you had to do Kagome. There was no other way."
"Wasn't there?" Kagome said quietly. She looked out the window as she let a river of salt and sadness flow down her cheeks. "I could've done something else. Anything else, but he told me to do it. I had been fighting that demon off for hours, and I was tired, so tired, but I wasn't going to let Hojo die. People in this world are depending on me to save them. What kind of savior am I if I have to kill the people I'm supposed to be protecting?"
"I went to see his mother today. I needed to apologize to her. I let Hojo down, but I wanted her to know I didn't give up on him. I tried Midoriko-sama I really did!" Throwing her arms around her teacher Kagome released all her pent up emotions. Everything she had was laid out before her teacher leaving her raw and exposed. It was in this moment Midoriko had to remember how young Kagome truly was, and it crushed her to know, that Kagome's pain would never stop, because things like this never got any easier.
From then on the young warrior locked away her heart. Her duty was her life, and her life was to her duty. She vowed that never again would she be battered down by death and guilt. She killed ruthlessly without so much as a second thought. All in the name of protecting the world.
As Kagome matured into a young woman, she was hailed for her beauty and her strength. Any demon or wicked human who challenged her was a fool, and met their end quickly.
"Kagome you should come inside it's getting late." Midoriko and her had been training all day. But she wasn't ready to go inside yet, she had too much steam to blow off.
"I'll be in in a minute." Midoriko tried not to let it show but she worried about Kagome. It had been almost two years since Hojo's death, and Midoriko noticed the steady change in her student. Everyday Kagome became less human, more emotionless, and more callous. Her striking looks and cold demeanor had earned her the name 'The Deadly Siren.'
But Midoriko knew there was still some hope left. No matter how deep she tried to bury it, a piece of the innocent little girl Kagome used to be still remained.
"You have lost your way Kagome, but he will bring you back. Only he can break the wall you have built around your heart. He will teach you more than I ever could, but you must be willing to learn. When the times comes you must chose. Either to stay in the darkness or walk into the light."
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