Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha

Spoiler Warning: Manga Ch 470.

A/N: This story was written after ch 470, but before ch 471 came out. Hence, it is set in a future that diverges after 470's canon.

Where No Road Leads

There is a destination that cannot be found by any road, an impossibly peaceful meadow kissed by white sunshine and filled with pink sakura blossoms dancing on the wind. A traveler could scour the earth, the sea and skies for all his life and never discover this perfect, tranquil place. Yet, in the end, people make their way there all the same.

It was in this meadow that Inuyasha awoke, lying flat on his back blinded by the sun, and his first thought was that of…

"Kagome!" he yelled, sitting up, eyes darting around wildly. "Kagome!" A passing breeze sent a lone sakura petal caressing his cheek, and then it was gone. Kagome was nowhere to be found.

As his heart started racing, he wondered where the hell was he, anyway? Last he remembered, they had been fighting Naraku in the very forest where their adventure began. In the midst of battle, Tessaiga was thrown from Inuyasha's hands and he collapsed under the Goshinboku.

Now, in the meadow, there was neither any sight of the Goshinboku nor Tessaiga. But he couldn't worry about that at the moment. No matter where he was, he had to return to his friends. They needed him.

Springing to his feet, he ran across the grass shouting, trying to find any sign of them. "Miroku! Sango! Are you all right!"

No answer. He kept sprinting.

"Shippo! Kirara! Where are you!" Inuyasha stopped, twisting his head in all directions. Sniffing the air, he clenched his fists as sweat broke out along his brow. Only the bittersweet aroma of unripe cherries met his nose. There was no way of tracking them or knowing which way to go.

Inuyasha stood there, useless, his long white hair whipping behind him in the breeze. There was only one person left to call for, though he loathed doing it. But he had to find out what had happened, and this was his last hope. He cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled as loud as he could: "SESSHOMARU!"

A furred ear tensed, struggling to hear the slightest hint of a response, but the only sound was that of the wind blowing past him. Inuyasha growled, a fang piercing his lower lip. Wherever they were, Sesshomaru was the only one who could protect his friends now. But he knew he couldn't count on a heartless jerk like him. Inuyasha stared at his feet, muttering. "You better not let them get hurt, asshole."

And then he shot off across the meadow like an arrow from its bow. He didn't know where he was or where he was heading, but he wasn't going to stand around like an idiot; somehow he had to make it back to his friends. "Dammit, Naraku! What the hell did you do to them, you bastard!"

Panting, Inuyasha didn't even pause when he came to a wide river that cut so far across that meadow that its ends seemed buried in the horizon. He leapt across the river in one bound, and then, shocked, halted on the other side. As he'd passed over the clear water, he felt a change, a sensation through his body that left him feeling light and calm. All fear had dissipated, and now, inexplicably, he knew his friends were safe.

Suddenly, he didn't know what to do. A hard gust of wind on his back urged him ahead. Almost in a daze, he set out again, the urgency gone from his steps.

The landscape ahead of him curved upward. As he walked, a village appeared over the horizon like a mirage. He felt himself drawn to it, as though he were being called home.

It was dusk by the time he reached it, and when he did, he was too surprised to ask anyone where he was. This is weird, he thought as he passed by villagers going happily about their business. No one's even noticing me.

Indeed, there were no hateful looks, no lowered voices, and no outstretched fingers pointing at his ears. It was like the villagers thought he was one of their own instead of some hanyou outsider.

But then, as he went on, he finally felt the familiar sensation of a pair of eyes studying him. Out of the corner of his eye, Inuyasha saw that it was some kid—he couldn't make out the brat's face—hidden in shadow behind a wooden cart. He decided to ignore it (it was only a kid after all) but sensed its gaze still locked on him even after he'd finished passing by…

The runt was following him now, trailing him curiously. Even when he reached the outskirts of the village, he could still hear the pattering of little human feet. Finally, he came to a stop beneath a tree not unlike the Goshinboku, and turned around. "What do you want, twerp?"

A small girl looked up at him with innocent, wide eyes. "It is you! You're Lord Sesshomaru's brother!" She paused before adding, concerned, "How did you get here?"

Inuyasha's blood froze. She looked just like that little kid who had followed Sesshomaru around. But she couldn't be. Rin was…

Mind racing, Inuyasha tried to piece it all together. Before he had blacked out, Tessaiga had been knocked aside, and he fell down under the Goshinboku. In a matter of seconds, a blur of tentacles darted toward him while Sesshomaru charged at Naraku, and then…

"You mean…" Inuyasha choked, staring now at the little girl before him. "This is… the afterlife?"

Rin gave him a gentle, sad smile. She remembered what it was like to learn the truth. "Yes. When you crossed that river…"

"That's when I just knew, somehow, that Kagome and the others are okay. That I'm the only one who…" Inuyasha snorted to himself softly. "Maybe that bastard Sesshomaru is protecting them after all."

Rin perked up. "Lord Sesshomaru was there with you?"

"Yeah. We were in the fight of our lives, but… it must have turned out all right for them." Inuyasha slumped down against the bark of the tree and sighed. Here, in this place, his fighting spirit was gone, left far beyond the river that he had already crossed. Now, there was only acceptance.

Rin sat down, watching him silently. They didn't have much time.

Suddenly Inuyasha turned to her. "Have you seen…" his voice trailed off, and he tried again, quietly. "Is Kikyo here?"

"That kind priestess with the pretty face? No…" Rin saw Inuyasha's expression darken. "I'm sorry."

"No, it's okay. I figured as much. Her soul already moved on..." Inuyasha closed his eyes. To Kagome, he thought.

Rin didn't know what to say. "I'm sure if Lord Sesshomaru had been there, he would have helped Lady Kikyo. She was a good person. He wouldn't have let her died."

Inuyasha gave her a look. Boy, this kid was naïve. "Keh. You kidding me? You need a kind heart to wield Tenseiga. Sesshomaru would no sooner save Kikyo than he'd save me."

"But Lord Sesshomaru is kind."

"Listen, kid, trust me. I know Sesshomaru better than anyone. I was his own brother, and my entire life he treated me like filth. So tell me how that makes him nice?"

"I don't know."

"Exactly."

Rin looked at her hands; her thoughts seemed far away. "When I died, I went to…" her voice trailed off and she was silent for a moment. Inuyasha noticed her shoulders were shaking slightly. "I was in a horrible place. But Lord Sesshomaru tried to save me, and then I was able to come here." Rin caught Inuyasha's gaze and smiled, "So, I think he is kind."

The look on her face caught Inuyasha off guard and he thought about what she said. Sesshomaru had always seemed to take care of her. "Well, for some reason, I guess you were the exception."

Rin frowned. Inuyasha's voice had sounded almost bitter

For a while, the two sat together in silence. The sun had almost finished making its journey back down to the earth. Soon, night would be upon them.

Finally, Rin spoke up. "You know… Time doesn't move here the way it does when you're down there…"

Her voice snapped Inuyasha out of his own private thoughts. "What?"

"It moves a lot slower back there…" Suddenly she took his hand. Inuyasha stared at her. "I know you won't remember this, Inuyasha, but, if you can…" Her voice cracked. "Tell him that…"

And when the sun faded away, Rin was not surprised that Inuyasha did, too.

-

Inuyasha awoke lying flat on his back blinded by the sun, and the first person he saw was…

"Kagome!"

She was holding him in her arms. Her eyes were red and her cheeks tear-stained. "Inuyasha!" she sobbed, burying her face in his hair. "You're really back."

Inuyasha held her for a moment and sighed with relief. Relief for what, he didn't yet know, but somehow it was just a relief to have Kagome in his arms. "What happened?" he finally said, looking around him. He was lying under the Goshinboku, and crowding around him with concerned but smiling faces were his friends. Even Shippo had tears in his eyes.

"Naraku got you real good, Inuyasha. We thought you were gone for sure!"

Inuyasha flinched. The memories started flooding back to his mind… Naraku's tentacles ripping through his body… Feeling like his life was slipping away…

But now, Inuyasha grabbed at his chest, searching for the barest hint of a wound. There was none. Blinking, he realized the truth. He couldn't have died. Naraku must've just knocked him out.

In an instant, Inuyasha leapt to his feet, growling. "Naraku! Where is that bastard? I'll kill him!"

Kagome tried to hold him back. "Slow down, Inuyasha. You were hurt so bad—"

"Well, I'm fine now, and I'm ready to waste Naraku once and for all! Where's my Tessaiga?"

Sango had gathered it from the battle scene. "Here, but—"

Inuyasha grabbed the sword out of her hands. "That's all I need to know. Let's go!"

Miroku stepped forward, putting his right hand on Inuyasha's shoulder. "Inuyasha, you don't understand—"

"What's to understand, we've got to catch up with Naraku before the trail grows cold…! Wait…" Something wasn't right. "Miroku," Inuyasha stared up at him. "Your hand…" The prayer beads that subdued the Wind Tunnel were missing.

"I know."

Inuyasha's eyes went wide. "You mean, we…?"

Kagome beamed, fresh tears coming to her eyes. "Yes. Naraku is destroyed. Sesshomaru got him right after you were hit."

"Sesshomaru?" For the first time, Inuyasha noticed that in the distance far away, against the backdrop of a setting sun, stood his brother. At the mention of his name, Sesshomaru turned around, limping slowly, and began to leave.

"Sesshomaru, wait!" Inuyasha ran toward him until there were only a few meters between them. Sesshomaru stopped, back facing him. The brothers stood there in deafening silence—except for the sound of Sesshomaru's labored breathing. Defeating Naraku had taken something out of even him.

Inuyasha should have yelled at him then. He wanted to tear Sesshomaru apart. How dare he take away his victory? He was supposed to be the one to kill Naraku!

But instead Inuyasha's voice came out tired and small. "I died, didn't I?"

There was the slightest perceptible nod from Sesshomaru.

"And you saved me."

"Don't even think about flattering yourself, Inuyasha. I wouldn't dream of allowing Father's sword to fall into the hands of your band of lowly humans." He clutched Tenseiga at his side. "And I have no need of Tessaiga anymore. Tenseiga has become more than worthy in battle. I mastered the meidou zangetsuha and sent Naraku to hell. Perhaps you encountered him there."

And with that, Sesshomaru began limping away again. He never once looked at his brother.

Inuyasha watched him go, contemplating. "Sesshomaru, I don't think I was in hell. I… I don't remember what happened…"

Inuyasha didn't quite know what was coming over him. Maybe part of him thought it was the only way to repay his brother. Or maybe, on some subconscious level, there was more to it than that. But all he knew is that neither one of them was prepared for what he blurted out next.

"Rin says she loves you."

Sesshomaru almost stumbled, but not because of his bad leg. He turned and looked Inuyasha in the eyes, and whispered, "What did you say?"

"Somehow, I think she wanted you to know that."

And that was all that needed to be said. Sesshomaru's eyes softened briefly, and then he walked away for good, while Inuyasha returned to his friends.

Somewhere, in a place where no road leads, a little girl knows she has proven Inuyasha wrong. And she is smiling.

THE END

A/N: The descriptions of the afterlife (the meadow, flowers, and river) are based on drawings of the afterlife Rumiko Takahashi did in Ranma 1/2 vol. 22 in order to keep in line with her depiction. However, what the afterlife would be like once you go past the river is my own interpretation.