Seigetsu Ren: Wow, another half a year! I think you don't want to hear me apologize again, but sorry for the late update! Your support has brought me back, so please continue reviewing! My body runs on reviews, so no reviews would equal brain dead (collapses) Anyway, thanks for keeping my brain running and my fingers typing, Cold Kikyo, spedclass, Chrysolite Heart, grace, kidcrud, raccu, kikyogirl15, InuKik4Ever, Zero-Nightmare, AtemuManaLover, and Mandylion, cosmosxhikaru, and rsporganicdonut! Questions asked in the reviews would be answered in this chapter, so don't worry, they're all going to come in due time! By the way, the poll for the pairings of this fic is up on my profile page. Also, I'll be changing my penname to Seigetsu Ren, so beware of profile link changes. Thanks!

Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha, blah blah blah…

The journey thus far: After Kagome returns to the team, Inuyasha, Kikyou and their friends chase after yet another Shikon shard! They come across a deserted town where Sango catches up to the murderer of the villagers, her brother Kohaku! Their battle leads them into a forest where Naraku proposes a way for Sango to have her brother back under one condition. At that moment, Kikyou breaks through Naraku's barrier with her blood arrow, Akai no ya, and the team runs into the scene. Before Inuyasha's attack could reach Naraku, however, the evil hanyou escapes, telling Sango to meet him at his castle when she decides to accept the deal. Now, the journey will continue again. Are you ready?

A Different Journey

Chapter 42

The last light of dusk faded away into the crimson horizon, causing every figure on the wasted land to become shadows in the night. But under the dim campfire they lit, our heroes continued to work the soil; crushing it under their shovels and throwing it into mounds above the hole they made in the earth. Kagome and Kikyou's work was endless, carrying the bodies from their deserted homes to their grave. The make-shift stretcher they made out of Kagome's picnic cloth and two tree branches sagged dangerously under the weight of the corpses, but that was all they had; all they could do for the deceased.

"Let me help," Sango muttered, holding the middle of one tree branch that made up the stretcher. But the apologetic way she glanced upon the bodies made Kagome and Kikyou refuse her offer.

"You should just rest for a bit, Sango-chan. We can take care of the rest," Kagome told the taijiya. Sango was about to refuse, but when her eyes met with Kagome's, she knew that she was just a burden to them. They all knew of her guilt. They all knew of her feelings. If she insisted, they would just have to worry about her.

The taijiya nodded to Kagome's offer and took a seat on the side of the fresh mounds, watching her friends from afar as they dug and buried. Even as the land became occupied with the numerous graves, the stale scent was still fresh in the air. Wherever she looked, blood was still present; dyes on the walls of houses, caked on the dirt floor.

She couldn't wipe the memory away, the memory of chasing Kohaku and meeting Naraku. Every movement of her legs as she sprinted, every sweep of her arm as she attacked her own brother…they were embedded in her flesh, so deep that the moment she closed her eyes, she could feel her muscles twitch as the thoughts replayed themselves in her mind.

Should she have hesitated to pierce Kohaku's heart?

As she was sitting here, what was Kohaku doing? Was he repeating his sins on another village, on other villages? How many people were dying from his blade? How much of Kohaku's heart was dying with each life he had taken?

But could she stop him?

The shard that was sustaining his life was in Naraku's grasp. If she forcibly took Kohaku with her, he would just die. But if she left Kohaku with Naraku, he would be suffering worse than death. Was there really a resolution besides what the evil hanyou suggested?

"I'll be waiting for you in my castle, Taijiya. I'm sure you'll come…"

"Sango-chan? Sango-chan?"

Kagome's voice snapped her out of her thoughts. She turned to face the modern girl who was holding out a cup ramen.

"Is that for me?" she asked.

"Of course! You'd be hungry after such a long day. If you don't eat this, Inuyasha is going to steal it…" Kagome whispered, but the dog hanyou immediately retorted.

"Like hell I'd steal your inferior human food!"

"What did you say?"

"Inferior human, are you deaf or what!?"

A vein on Kagome's forehead popped up.

"You really don't know what Hell is until you've seen it huh, Inuyasha?"

"Excuse me for not being the epitome of Hellish beauty unlike you, Ugly Bitch."

"Die die die die die…"

A thunderous series of body slams ensued for the next few minutes as Feudal Japan experienced a huge earthquake.

"Now now, Inuyasha, don't be bitter over not getting an extra cup ramen from Kagome-chan. Isn't it better if you share mine?" Kikyou asked tenderly. Inuyasha flushed.

"I said I don't like human food!" he whined, making Shippou laugh at his girly voice.

Sango forced a smile as she took a bite into her ramen.

All the warmth from her companions weren't reaching her. She was shivering.

Her heart was still freezing in a lengthy winter.

They retired for the night beside the campfire that was dying down to its last embers, glowing faintly amidst the wavering tongues of smoke tendrils. The taijiya sat there, her eyes not blinking as she stared at the hot coal even though the prolonged exposure to that steady light was blinding. She didn't want to look at her friends. If she looked, her heart would flicker.

"The shikon shards…"

That voice haunted her, luring her to finally raise her eyes to her friends who were sleeping deeply across from her.

"I gave them to Kohaku, to sustain his life…it is only right if you…"

"…exchange this boy with your friend's shards."

"I can't!" Sango murmured aloud. She clapped her hands to her mouth as if to stop her voice, but the sound had already permeated the air. However, her friends didn't even stir. Even Inuyasha's snoring was still long and steady.

She couldn't help but catch a glimpse of Kikyou sleeping beside the hanyou. The half-demon's hand was shyly entwined in her raven hair. Atop the miko's chest, resting on her white gi, was the glowing fragment of a sphere hanging from a delicate chain. The Shikon no Tama! Though incomplete, the shards of Kikyou were already exhibiting a powerful aura. Just approaching them was enough for Sango to feel more guilt for what she was doing; its power of purity was amplifying the voice of her conscience.

But the faint darkness in the Shikon, the snickers of demons inside, they were playing on her heart too. Her hands reached out, touching the cool surface, connecting with that evil. It resonated with her desire. It was telling her that this was the only way. This was the right way. Even though she could see the shadow she was casting on the once pink-violet crystal, she held it tighter, tighter, until she gave a short tug so that it chipped from the socket of the chain and into her hand.

Kikyou shifted from the movement. Sango backed away a step, two, until she was subconsciously tumbling backwards. Her heart thumped quickly. There was no time. She had to save Kohaku. She didn't have time to explain!

Turning back, she ran for Naraku's castle.

New AN (2016-11-13): This story is not being updated currently as I am revising all the chapters. The earliest estimated date for updates to resume is May 2017. Thanks.