Heart of Darkness
The next day, the group set off bright and early in their usual search for the jewel shards. Kagome said she didn't sense anything, and Inuyasha pushed her to search harder, eventually resulting in another sit.
Sango shook her head fondly at the two, and thought of her own heart. There was Miroku, the lecherous monk who had been the object of her affection for so long now, and then Sesshoumaru, a refreshingly forbidden love that would never be told to anyone—especially not the taiyoukai himself. Sango shook her head to clear her thoughts and glanced fondly down at Shippo, who had slept through everything last night, and Kirara, who were toddling along beside her.
But, no matter how hard she tried, she could not rid herself of the image of—no, not Miroku, but Sesshoumaru. He kept popping up in her head—the opaque and beautiful face with its demon markings. The expression was always the same—it was an expression of anger and frustration. It had been written across his face before he stormed into the forest a couple of nights ago, when she was his prisoner.
Elsewhere, Sesshoumaru was plagued with images of the taiji-ya, and it was annoying him to no end. He would distract himself by listening to Rin's joyous babbling, or Jaken's annoying screeching, but it never worked. She would always return to his mind. It infuriated him, the fact that he was turning out to be more like his despicable father than he would have liked.
Something struck the great demon at that second. Not only was he like his father, but like Inuyasha too. Sesshoumaru's body gave an involuntary shudder, and thought determinedly, I will not be like my father, and I will certainly not be like my worthless hanyou brother!
That's it, the taiyoukai thought, the next time I see her, I will kill her.
Little did he know that he had accidentally gone in a large circle, and that he was actually heading in Sango's direction now…
As Sango and Sesshoumaru unwittingly headed toward each other, the taiji-ya was recovering from both Sango's wound and the shock of Sesshoumaru's face appearing in her mind every time she let her thoughts stray. She was silent most of the time, wondering what would happen when the both of them met up. Chaos would ensue, obviously. But would he kill her? She interrupted his battle… he was probably angry and probably a little curious as to why she cared enough to stop him. Sango shuddered. How she dreaded that moment!
Miroku watched the cinnamon-eyed girl with unease. Their kiss had not been spoken of, and Miroku wondered as to why she suddenly found him so very repulsive—repulsive enough to push him away. He had always known she was not good at handling her feelings, and was liable to get flustered easily. But, the monk had always pictured her initial surprise, and how she'd squeak against his lips and soon start to kiss him back… well, let's just say that Miroku had planned everything out, from the kiss to what followed after.
Even Miroku's face had reddened at this possibility, and he coughed uncomfortably as he recalled it.
Even Kagome had been stunned into silence at what happened that fateful night. She had always pictured the monk and the taiji-ya to marry happily—the perfect picture!she thought. Despite the fact that she had awoken after the moment that destroyed her dream, Kagome still managed to figure out what had happen in the course of a few seconds. Horrified could never have described how she felt right then.
Shippo did not even have an inkling of what had happened that night, as he had slept through the whole thing, so he could not figure out why everyone was so sullen.
Inuyasha had heard every word, every noise, but had seen nothing from his position in the tree. Being the dense idiot he was, he had not yet put two and two together.
Sango bit her lip and gazed at the setting sun. "Perhaps we should find a place to sleep?" she suggested softly. "It is getting dark and," she shivered slightly, "cold."
"You're right, Sango," Miroku agreed readily. "I'm sure we'll come across a village in a mile or two." He grinned mischievously. "And I'm sure they'll be happy to let us stay in one of their fine homes.
Inuyasha snorted and shook his head.
"Yes… sir, your house is in need of my help. There is a demon in these walls…"
The rich man whose house Miroku and the others were going to be staying in gasped and whispered, "Really? Oh please, houshi-sama, exorcize it for us! In return for this, I shall allow you and your friends," he sniffed disdainfully at Inuyasha, Shippo and Kirara, "to stay here."
"Very well," Miroku announced. He whipped out a sutra, pinned it to the wall and said a few words. There was a raspy, choking sound and a translucent form burst from that wall and disappeared in a puff of smoke. The monk's friends watched with wide eyes, but did not say anything until the man of the house had left them before their respective rooms.
"There was actually a demon?" Kagome asked.
Miroku closed his eyes and sighed. "Of course there was a demon. There is always a demon."
"Miroku, are you feeling all right?" Shippo squeaked, hopping up to feel the monk's forehead. A vein in Miroku's temple throbbed and Shippo squealed and hurried to get behind Kagome.
"Goodnight," Miroku said, and swept inside the room. Inuyasha and Shippo bade the girls goodnight and followed Miroku. Kagome followed suit, except she, of course, disappeared inside her own room.
Sango stood motionless outside, deep in thought, so Kagome poked her head and asked, "Aren't you going to sleep, Sango-chan?"
The brown-eyed slayer smiled at her dear friend and whispered, "In a while, maybe. I'm going on a walk."
Though Kagome had to strain to hear it, she did, and smiled. "Okay."
Sango smiled back and excused herself to find a way out of the house and into the welcoming woods surrounding it. She did not want to run into the master of the house and get interrogated, and thankfully she did not meet up with him. When the taiji-ya stepped out, she took a deep breath of chilly night air and stepped into the woods, her Hiraikotsu still strapped to her back.
Walking in the woods was relaxing for Sango, and she happily leant against a thick tree when she tired. She knew she had been gone a long time, and hoped Kagome was not worried.
Just then, the sound of breaking branches alerted her. And Sango pressed herself against the tree trunk, sure she was hallucinating. But no, here was the man, the youkai, who plagued her troubled mind—Sesshoumaru. His elegant garb seemed to float around him in the moonlight, the slight breeze whipping his silvery white hair into motion. The demon markings on his cheeks and forehead seemed to glow, and his amber eyes were completely cold, masking the emotional turmoil within.
"Sessh… Sesshoumaru!" Sango stammered. The rough texture of the bark was pressing uncomfortably against her back, and a small branch was sticking into her slightly, but she ignored it.
There was a flash of something in Sesshoumaru's eyes. She was positive she had seen it—emotion. Relief, and frustration.
"What do you want?" Sango asked, still baffled about the feelings she had seen in this cold demon's eyes. "Did you come to finish your fight?"
"Taiji-ya," Sesshoumaru growled, his emotions back in check, "why did you stop the fight between me and that useless hanyou? I was going to kill him."
"You… you saved me," Sango said quickly, strangely off guard and feeling vulnerable, as if she might say something that she would not want to. "I was in your debt. By saving you, I repaid the debt." Immediately, she saw that 'saving' had been the wrong word to use.
Sesshoumaru's face contorted with rage, and he straightened up and hissed, "You think I need saving, taiji-ya? Saving from that weak, undeserving brother of mine?" Sango stood tall, but her knees were shaking. "Debt!" he raged. "I do not care. I saved you simply because Rin asked me too. There was no debt to me! If anyone, you owe your life to Rin." Sesshoumaru glowered at her.
Sango knew that his response would be something like this, but she still was not prepared for the rage that he now emitted. "I—"
Sesshoumaru glare that clearly said, 'I don't care,' stopped her in her tracks. "If not for you, the hanyou would be lying dead in a pool of his own blood right now," he said.
"But what if it was you who was dead? You who had lost?" Sango said.
"I would not have lost," Sesshoumaru seethed. "Filthy human, die for your stupidity!" He raised a poison tipped claw and slashed downward.
Sango immediately swung the Hiraikotsu in front of her to use it as a shield, but lowered it a second later when she sensed Sesshoumaru stopping. She glanced up at him to see his hand frozen a few inches above her head. Emotions dueled on the surface of his porcelain face, and he lowered his hand.
"Sesshoumaru?" Sango breathed softly.
Just then, a clawed hand hit the tree trunk above her head, burying itself deep. Sango flinched, and glanced up at the taiyoukai.
I can't do it. I can't kill her.
What's he doing? Why didn't he kill me?
Before Sango knew what was happening, the taiyoukai had pulled Sango off the tree trunk, and one finger had tipped her chin up. "What are you doing to me?" Sesshoumaru hissed.
Sango's face heated up, and she was thankful for the darkness. "I am doing nothing, youkai!" she snapped. "It is you who—" She stopped mid-sentence, and nearly gasped aloud. Stupid stupid stupid stupid. As soon as she said it she knew it was stupid stupid stupid. Idiot! I have all but told him! Sango thought miserably, and took a deep breath.
"You disgust me," Sesshoumaru whispered. "What could I possibly be doing?" Sango's eyes widened just a little, and he was sure he was not supposed to notice. His own words spun round his head. You disgust me… you disgust me… you disgust me… Sesshoumaru frowned at the level of hurt on her heart-shaped face and muttered, "I lie."
Sango strained to hear what he said, but missed it, as it had been barely audible. "Wh-what?"
Sesshoumaru glared at her. "I lie… you do not… disgust me," he repeated grudgingly.
"I… don't?" Sango asked, perplexed. She cleared her throat and began again, "What do you mean, Sesshoumaru?"
"Do not make me repeat it a third time," Sesshoumaru said, obviously vexed. "You intrigue me," he said with difficulty after a moments pause. She gaped at him, and quickly shut her mouth when he leaned closer. "I do not understand you. I do not understand what happens to me when you are around."
Sango stared up at him in disbelief. Surely he was not feeling the same torment as she?
"Witch. Stop it. Call off your spell," Sesshoumaru growled at her.
Sango, caught up in the fact that he was feeling the exact same as she, found herself rising up onto her toes and smiling softly at him. "I am no witch," she murmured bravely.
"Sorceress," he mumbled. Sango seemed to loom closer in his vision and he hissed, "Temptress."
"I am not a temptress!" Sango protested. But Sesshoumaru wasn't listening anymore. In the next second, the taiyoukai had succumbed to his newfound emotions by dipping down and kissing the human taiji-ya.
Sango went limp in his arms, positive that if he weren't holding her up, she would fall down. What's going on? Sango thought. How could I have pushed Miroku away but now allow Sesshoumaru? Why aren't I slapping him, as I did Miroku? Her mind emptied as one part of her mind made a decision—she liked this. And so, that part of her head made her return the kiss.
There was an unfamiliar rustling in the trees and a flash of red material, and the two broke apart. Sesshoumaru's eyes flashed, and he gripped Sango's shoulders, roughly enfolding her in a slightly possessive hold. She welcomed his embrace and leaned into it. "Come out," Sesshoumaru growled, "coward."
Inuyasha dropped down from a tree, a furious expression playing over his rough features.
"Inu… Inuyasha!" Sango exclaimed nervously. She went to pull away, but Sesshoumaru would not let her go. She glanced up at him in wonder and confusion, to see that his glare was fixed furiously on his brother.
"So, Sango," Inuyasha snarled, "couldn't sleep?" The hanyou's eyes traveled up to Sesshoumaru. "Thought Sesshoumaru would be able to help, huh?"
"Inuyasha," came a sleepy voice. "What are you doing? Where's Sango?" Kagome appeared through the trees and let out an almighty gasp when she saw Sango in Sesshoumaru's arms. "Oh, Sango, what are you doing?" she shrieked loudly.
A desperate and worried, "Sango!" could be heard through the trees, and soon you could hear the snapping of twigs and leaves under the feet of none other than monk Miroku. He arrived in the clearing, and bent over, hands on his knees, to rest. "What's… she… doing," he panted. Kagome didn't respond, and Miroku glanced up. His face contorted with rage and he charged forward, swinging his staff angrily. "Let her go, demon! Let go of my woman!"
Sango stiffened, and Sesshoumaru let out a soft growl. "Your woman?" he repeated.
"Yes, my woman!" Miroku raged. "Do not act as if she is yours to take, youkai!" He walked forward and extended his hand toward her. "Come on, Sango," he said gently. "Come to me."
Pink with pleasure at Sesshoumaru's anger, Sango chose to simply shake her head and whisper, "No."
"Sango," Miroku laughed. "Do not forget in whose arms you now stand. Sesshoumaru is our enemy, Sango, not your dearest friend. And you," he turned to the taiyoukai, "where do you get the right to be angered of the fact that Sango is mine?"
"I am not yours!"
Miroku stopped in mid-sentence, his attention on Sango. "What?"
"I am not yours. I am not a possession you own, monk," Sango repeated, this time braver.
"Oh, Sango, I did not mean to imply any such thing," Miroku began, wanting to take it back. He cleared his throat and continued, "I know well you are not a possession, and I do not think of you as one—"
"Then why do you claim me as yours?" Sango countered immediately.
"Because we are to be wed once Naraku is dead!"
Sango's eyes widened, and she glanced up at Sesshoumaru's opaque face. The taiyoukai looked at the girl and his expression clearly stated his silent question: Is this true?
Sango shifted uncomfortably. "Well, he asked me to bear his child, and I said yes, but—" The arms around her loosened and dropped to his sides, and he stepped back. The taiji-ya looked back at him in confusion, but he simply stared back at her, all trace of emotion gone.
Miroku smiled at his success and grabbed Sango's arm to pull her close. But, to his surprise, she slapped his hand away and faced him with the fury simply radiating off her. "Sango?" Miroku asked tentatively, unsure of what he had done wrong.
Trying to calm herself, Sango took a deep breath and looked past Miroku, to where she expected to see Kagome and Inuyasha standing. Instead, it was just Kagome who stood there. Her mouth was open and her eyes wide; she looked like a fish. Sango would have chuckled at this if the situation had been less serious. The taiji-ya turned around to Sesshoumaru and saw that Inuyasha was bellowing incoherent words at him. In the next second, Inuyasha had drawn Tetsusaiga and had bellowed, "Kaze no Kizu!"
Sesshoumaru jumped to the side and easily avoided the attack, ignoring Sango's wide-eyed fear of him getting hurt. No doubt he too felt betrayed. Inuyasha growled and raised his sword for another attack, but Sango stumbled closer and reached out to grab the sleeve of Sesshoumaru's ornate robe.
Turning to her, Sesshoumaru said coldly, "This is the second time you have interrupted a battle of mine, woman."
Sango's heart lurched. Since when have I been 'woman'? She looked at the ground and thought bitterly, Since when have I been more than 'woman'? "I'm… sorry," she whispered, daringly burying her face in the material of his sleeve.
He shrugged her off and sent her sprawling back into Miroku's arms. Miroku gave an, 'Oof,' and both tumbled ungainly to the ground. A confused Sango now lay atop the rather too cheery monk, and when Sesshoumaru looked back and saw this, the taiyoukai quickly turned back to the fight, a tiny flash of something in his eyes. Hurt.
Sango all but threw herself off Miroku and stood again, absentmindedly wiping off her kimono. She gazed intently at Sesshoumaru, recalling his words… and their kiss. Perhaps I should do something impulsive, she thought. No. That would probably make him even angrier.
Miroku, who had also long since stood, ventured to speak. "Sango… what is it? Suddenly, you do not wish to marry me? For the sake of… him?"
The battle between Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru stopped in mid-blow, Sesshoumaru's Tokijin hovering heavily by Inuyasha's throat, the Tetsusaiga stopped a bit further away near Sesshoumaru's breastplate. Inuyasha turned on Sango and snapped, "Yeah, Sango. Have you got amnesia or somethin'?"
Kagome, unusually silent all this time, cut in with a shaking voice. "Sango, please. Come back to me, and we'll go back. Let's go, hmm?" The girl gestured in the direction of the house and beckoned, giving an incredibly weak half-smile.
Sango blanched and looked up from where her gaze had fallen on her toes. It was Sesshoumaru who had spoken.
"Do not force yourself, taiji-ya. Go back. I never wish to see you again." Sango dropped to her knees as he said this and stared intently at the brown dirt. "Now, little brother," the taiyoukai said, "I shall send you to the depths of hell!"
"No!" Sango yelled. Fists pounded the ground. She stood, and bellowed in a rather shocked Sesshoumaru's direction, "I will not! Who are you, to tell me what I should do?"
Sesshoumaru nearly dropped his sword. Never in his life had he expected the human to be quite this spirited.
Sango turned on Miroku, hand outstretched, a finger pointing at the spot between his eyes. "And you, houshi-sama! Acting as if you own me when you flirt with every woman that crosses your path! How dare you!"
Miroku stared at her, mouth agape, as his mouth fumbled over incomprehensible words. Kagome once again looked like a fish, and Inuyasha looked maybe a little relieved. Maybe she doesn't love him, he thought. After all, she's blowing up at Miroku, same as always.
Sango strode up to Sesshoumaru and hissed at him, "I belong to no one." She stared him bravely in the face, and the taiyoukai stared down at her.
"So it would seem," he remarked. He seemed completely indifferent, but Sango saw emotion in his eyes for the third time that day. Relief. And maybe a little happiness.
So, never actually angry with him, she hugged the youkai. Right in front of everyone. It was a stupid, impulsive thing to do, but she did it anyway.
Miroku watched this exchange of emotions with horror and whispered, "You really do love him, don't you, Sango?"
Kagome's eyes were wide with surprise. Sango-chan loves… Sesshoumaru? Her gaze fell on the hanyou, who looked mad enough to kill. Inuyasha!
Her tears slowing, Sango smiled at Sesshoumaru. The taiyoukai stared back at her. But she saw a small smirking smile tug at his lips, and she also the pinkness in his pale cheeks. Sango buried her face in his chest and whispered, "Sesshoumaru…" He didn't resist. In face, the inuyoukai was quite happy to have her there, in his arms.
Inuyasha, standing behind the happy couple, stood stock-still, mouth wide. "Sango," he breathed.
Suddenly a gentle, lilting, mocking voice echoed in his head. She betrayed you, Inuyasha. It was Naraku's voice.
"No!" Inuyasha shouted, putting his hands on his ears. "Get out of my head!" The group turned to look at him in confusion, wondering what he was talking about, wondering whether the sight of his friend with his brother had made him go mad.
This was her plan all along. She hates you, Inuyasha.
"Stop it!" Inuyasha roared at the intruder.
Are you really going to stand there and let her live? She betrayed your trust, Inuyasha. She's lower than a dog.
Sango watched fearfully as Inuyasha curled in on himself, groaning. Sesshoumaru frowned and watched his younger half-brother warily, tensely—in case he had to defend the taiji-ya.
"San…go," Inuyasha grunted. He pulled his head up and Kagome saw tears sparkling in his eyes. "Get out of here! Now!"
"What?" Sango asked. "What's wrong?" She broke out of Sesshoumaru's embrace and walked toward the hanyou, hand outstretched. "Inuyasha?" she asked gently.
She doesn't deserve to live, Inuyasha. Kill her. KILL HER.
Inuyasha let out a scream and clutched his head, raking his nails over his cheeks, drawing blood. "Get out of here!" he bellowed at Sango. She stepped back but didn't leave, confused.
One second later, Inuyasha lost to the trickery of Naraku. He could barely control his body. All the hanyou knew was that one of his friends was in love with his brother, and he could not understand why. All he heard was the blood rushing in his ears, and all he saw was the image of Sesshoumaru, and Sango with her arms wrapped around him in a sure embrace. Inuyasha didn't know what he was doing—all he knew was that he had been betrayed. "TRAITOR!" Inuyasha bellowed and charged forward. He swung the Tetsusaiga blindly.
Sesshoumaru ran forward to protect Sango, but was knocked out of the way by none other than Miroku. All of her bravery gone at the thought of one of her dear friends ending her life, Sango had shut her eyes and braced herself when she heard the Tetsusaiga slice through someone else. Her eyes sprang open, expecting to see Sesshoumaru dying on the end of the sword, but instead, the taiyoukai was by her side, and monk Miroku was smiling down at her.
Inuyasha stood behind them, a horror-struck look on his face. He jerked the Tetsusaiga out of the young monk and stumbled backward. Miroku fell to his knees and coughed horribly—blood hit the ground.
"Houshi-sama…" Sango whispered. She dropped to the ground and wrapped her arms around him, letting loose racking sobs. Sesshoumaru stood staring at the monk, his hand on Sango's shoulder.
Miroku gave the inuyoukai a feeble, pained smile. "Don't give me that look," he croaked. "You can't die yet. Your happy life with Sango is just beginning." Then the monk turned to Sango and asked her one final request: "Would you… call me by my given name? Once, Sango, before I d-die…"
Sango was taken purely by surprise. "Houshi-s—" she began, but then stifled a sob and whimpered, "Oh, Miroku…"
The monk smiled, and whispered, "I wish you… the greatest happiness." Miroku drew one last, rattling breath, and his body went limp.
Sango's eyes widened and she wrapped her arms around him. "Houshi-s… Miroku…" she sobbed. "No…"
Kagome rushed over to where Sango sat. She dropped to the ground too and laid Miroku's body on the ground, with his head lying on Sango's lap. Kagome turned around to Inuyasha, tears sparkling in her ears, and shouted, "Inuyasha, how could you!"
Sesshoumaru stared for a long time at the body in Sango's arms and then he rushed toward his cowering brother and said softly, "What have you done?"
But Inuyasha was crying too. Tears were dropping freely from his eyes and he had fallen to his knees. "I didn't mean it… I'm sorry…" he blubbered. "How could I have done this? I never meant…! Oh, god, Miroku!" His racking sobs grew louder, becoming the same sound as Sango's wail. The hanyou's fist pounded the ground, his Tetsusaiga tossed aside. It was red with Miroku's blood.
Many weeks later, when Sango had finally started to recover from Miroku's death, she was ready… ready to leave.
"Good-bye," the taiji-ya murmured, tears brimming in her shining cinnamon eyes. She bowed deeply to Kagome, Inuyasha and Shippo.
"Good-bye, Sango-chan," Kagome said, sniffing back a small sob.
Shippo waved madly and said, "Bye, Sango!"
Inuyasha gave a shrug that was, at the same time, a wave good-bye. "Bye."
She turned back to Sesshoumaru, Rin and Jaken. They were waiting for her down the road. She gave her friends a final wave and ran off to meet her beloved and her new friends. She arrived at where they were and Sesshoumaru clasped her hand, nothing more, nothing less. Then they set off together, fingers intertwined, to start a new life.
Sango smiled to herself and one thought flitted across her mind. Thank you… Miroku.
Sun shone through the trees. A crowded graveyard was bathed in warmth.
A brown-haired woman leaned over a small grave, clutching a bucket of wildflowers. She placed them on the mound of dirt and bowed before the stone. It was unmarked, but the woman knew well to whom it belonged.
It has been six months since your death.
The woman sighed sadly. Her chocolate eyes had tears in them.
I miss you.
She looked up. A dark fringe shadowed her eyes, and there were tearstains on her cheeks.
"Houshi-sama," the woman said, "thank you."
"I have found happiness, houshi-sama, and I owe it all to you."
Her hands reached out and her fingertips grazed the stone.
"I left the group soon after your death." She sniffed back tears. "It was too painful. I went with Sesshoumaru, and he has treated me well." The woman wiped her eyes. "Do Kagome-chan and the others visit you often? I have not been in touch with them."
The woman glanced up. She looked behind her and gave a half-smile when she saw who it was, and turned back to the grave.
"I must go," Sango said to Miroku's grave. "But I will be back."
Bending forward, she bestowed a kiss upon the cold stone and stood. "I love you," she said softly, and smiled sorrowfully.
She walked away to where a demon with long silver hair, maroon strips on his cheeks, and a blue crescent moon on his forehead was waiting. He clasped her hand and looked back toward the grave. A small inclination of the head was all he offered, but he had never been one to show emotion.
A little human girl in a bright kimono and dark hair with a single pigtail poking out of the top of it appeared. She was smiling broadly, a cheery, toothy smile. A toad-like creature hurried after her, and ended up bumping into her back. She turned around and threw her arms around the green imp, much to the demon's horror.
He cried out and tried to push her off him to no avail. He groaned and gave up. "Rin, you insufferable bother!" the imp screeched.
"Jaken-sama!" the girl squeaked merrily.
Sango's eyes twinkled in merriment and she boldly wrapped her arms around the youkai's middle. He stiffened, and flushed. She laughed and teased him about it.
He snapped at her and she only laughed more.
"Sesshoumaru," she said, "relax. Blushing is not a crime."
"Blushing is for humans, and more specifically, women. Like you," he said stubbornly.
Sango pulled away and crossed her arms over her chest. She let out an indignant noise and stuck her nose in the air.
"Besides," Sesshoumaru said, leaning in closer, his amber eyes narrowing, "I like it when you blush."
Sango's face reddened terribly and she buried her face in her hands in embarrassment.
Rin watched with interest and amusement as the two bonded. Jaken turned away. He did not like this woman, or the way his lord acted around her.
As if hearing his companion's thoughts, Sesshoumaru pulled away from Sango and booted Jaken in the head with one shiny black shoe.
Sango and Rin tittered; they couldn't help but be highly amused.
And so Sango and Sesshoumaru walked off hand in hand, closely followed by Rin and Jaken, who was grumbling and rubbing his head, out of the graveyard, out of that village, and into the woods: into their ever changing home.