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The House Beyond the Barrier

Chapter Text

And just like that he was gone. Inuyasha had jumped into the dark abyss of Tessaiga’s Meidō Zangetsuha. The group stood stunned and paralyzed as the giant starry hole closed behind him.

After a few moments of silent shock came a flood of cries of grief, angry rants of Inuyasha’s insanity and verbal speculations of how he could return. Those who hadn’t had the willpower to speak collapsed on the ground, staring at the spot where the giant hole had once appeared.

Everyone who witnessed the spectacle was affected and stricken with some sort of emotion. In a matter of minutes, they had lost both Kagome and Inuyasha to an unattainable realm. Although it took everything in him not to show it, even the notorious stoic demon Sesshomaru could not fully conceal the shock and underlying grief he felt over Inuyasha’s unexpected and rash decision. As the group contemplated the possibilities of Inuyasha and Kagome’s return, Sesshomaru was convinced that all hope was lost for them.

It wasn’t too long ago that he and Inuyasha were in the Meidō Zangetsuha together when Sesshomaru demanded that Inuyasha prove his rightful inheritance of Tessaiga. It took everything in Inuyasha to find a way for both him and Sesshomaru to escape the dark abyss before it sucked them into the Underworld. In the end, it was Sesshomaru’s discarded sword Tensaiga that showed Inuyasha the path of escape. With Tensaiga at Sesshomaru’s side, Inuyasha would have to not only find Kagome, but figure out a way for them to escape the abyss on his own. Sesshomaru learned that Inuyasha was brave, determined and stubborn, but this was a feat he would not be able to get out of…alone.

“Lord Sesshomaru,” a distraught Shippo, overcome with tears and inconsolable grief, called to him, falling at his feet. “Please, Lord Sesshomaru, is there anything you can do to get them back with Tensaiga?” he pleaded.

Sesshomaru snapped out of his own thoughts and looked down at the deflated young fox demon. The boy had always been a sniveling whiny creature to him, but today he just looked like a crushed little boy who had lost his whole world and everything in it.

“Yes, Sesshomaru, is there anything you can do to free Inuyasha and Kagome?” Miroku questioned, looking over at him with his arms around Sango in comfort.

“Lord Sesshomaru, can you bring them back?” Rin asked, with tearful eyes.

“And why, on earth, would he ever want to do that? Inuyasha has been the bane of Lord Sesshomaru’s existence since his birth,” Jaken hissed at Shippo.

“Please, Lord Sesshomaru,” Shippo spoke over Jaken.

“Silence, Worm!” Jaken snapped at Shippo, insulted at being ignored.

“Stop, Master Jaken. Why are you so heartless?” Rin scowled at him.

Before Jaken could lash back at Rin, Sesshomaru silenced him. “Tensaiga is nothing more than a healing sword now. I cannot create a Meidō portal to reach them…and even if I could, there is no guarantee that my portal would be anywhere near where they are.”

Shippo sobbed at Sesshomaru’s words and fell into Miroku and Sango’s legs. Miroku sighed and bowed his head, as Sango put her hand on Shippo’s back in comfort.

“All we can do is wait, I guess,” Miroku said.

Sango nodded.

“There’s really nothing we can do?” Rin asked, looking down in despair, as Kohaku put his arm around her in comfort.

Sesshomaru looked down at her. Even she was distraught by their disappearance, and she barely knew them well. It bothered him that he couldn’t do anything to bring them back for Rin’s sake. Within these past few months, Sesshomaru learned the heart of sympathy and grief. It was a painful path that Rin was not a stranger to having lost her family to bandits, but Sesshomaru wished for her never to feel such a feeling like that ever again.

Kohaku gasped and looked up with widened eyes.

“What is it, Kohaku?” Sango asked, in concern.

“Lord Sesshomaru, what about your mother?”

Sesshomaru looked away. “The Meidō Stone,” he said, under his breath.

“Huh?” Rin questioned.

“Sesshomaru’s mother?” Miroku asked.

“Sesshomaru’s mother may have the means to track and free Inuyasha and Kagome from the Meidō Zangetsuha,” Kohaku said.

When in the Underworld, his mother had used her Meidō Stone to locate and track Sesshomaru and me, and offer an exit portal for us from the realm.

"The Underworld? You were in the Underworld?" Sango asked in concern.

"Yes, Sister. It's a long story, but I think the Meidō Stone can work," Kohaku said.

“Really?” Shippo asked, in excitement.

“Are you mad? Lord Sesshomaru would never call upon his mother again for assistance, especially for such a lowly matter like this,” Jaken yelled at Kohaku.

“Shut up!” Shippo hissed at him.

“You shut up!” Jaken hissed back.

“Lord Sesshomaru, if your mother can be of any assistance, please. We beg of you,” Miroku pleaded.

Sesshomaru was silent as he thought. It wasn’t a bad idea, but how? It took everything in him to go to ask his mother for help with Tensaiga and how to master the Meidō Zangetsuha in the first place. He had been desperate and couldn’t afford to let his pride get his way of asking for his mother’s help. Although their relationship had been tense since his youth, Sesshomaru knew that his mother loved him and would gladly help him if he needed it, as long as he didn’t upset her. But, this was another situation entirely. By asking help with this matter, his mother wouldn’t be providing help to Sesshomaru, she would providing help to Inuyasha, her late husband’s son by the woman he loved most in the world. It would be a real gamble getting her assistance in this matter. Plus, how could he even bring himself to ask for the Meidō Stone to help Inuyasha? He had been declaring his hate and vowing to put Inuyasha to his end to anyone who would listen for centuries. How could he go back on his word and try to save him?

Rin broke his thoughts. “Lowly matter?” she asked silently, looking at Jaken. “That’s Lord Sesshomaru’s brother.”

“Do you know nothing? Lord Sesshomaru hates Inuyasha with a passion. It has been a gift that he offered himself to the darkness to save Kagome. It’s less work for Lord Sesshomaru.”

“How dare you say that, Master Jaken?!” Rin erupted, as the crowed scowled in disappointment at Jaken’s comment. “Family is family! Just because you say you hate someone and want them dead doesn’t mean you really want that!”

Sesshomaru looked at her in shock. He couldn’t believe what she had said.

“What are you saying, Rin? That Lord Sesshomaru’s been lying to himself and all of us for all these years?” Jaken lashed at her.

“I hated my brothers and told them that I hated them all the time, but I would give up anything to bring them back if I could!” Rin shouted, tears streaming down her face.

“Rin,” Lady Kaede called out to her, as Kohaku held her close.

Before Jaken could open his mouth to say another word, Sesshomaru walked over to Rin, hitting Jaken hard on the head as he passed by. In all his travels with Rin, he had only seen her get upset once, when she thought he had perished during his battle with Magatsuhi. She never once talked about her family. It was unlike her.

Sesshomaru placed his hand on Rin’s shoulder and she looked up at him. Her eyes were bloodshot and stained with tears. Sesshomaru looked deep into her eyes for a moment and without a word got up and turned away. It was settled. No words needed to be spoken between them.

“Lord Sesshomaru?” Kohaku asked, puzzled.

“Jaken.”

“Yes, mi lord,” he responded, rubbing the lump forming on his head.

“Take care of Rin until I return.”

“But, mi lord? What about me? I should go with you.”

“Take care of Rin, Jaken,” he said again, before transforming into his true form, a fluffy white dog, and leaping into the sky.

“Lord Sesshomaru!” Jaken called out to him in sadness, letting his body fall limp on the ground.

“What? Where’s he going?” Shippo asked, frantically.

“I don’t know,” Miroku responded.

“He’s going to help Inuyasha and Miss Kagome,” Rin said, with a smile, wiping her tears, as she watched Sesshomaru fly away in the distance.

Chapter Text

Time was against him. If Sesshomaru was really going to try and save Inuyasha and Kagome from the dark abyss of the Meidō Zangetsuha, he didn’t have a great window of time to work with. For all he knew, it could have already been too late. He was confident that Inuyasha would be able to sustain himself in the dark abyss for a while, but Kagome could have already been sucked into the Underworld by now. With no information to go by, moving as quickly as possible was his best option. In his true form, he soared through the sky as quickly as he could to his mother’s palace in the sky.

When Sesshomaru reached the hilltop beneath his mother’s palace, he soared upwards to the palace’s entrance. Sesshomaru preferred to stand at the hilltop and wait for his mother’s presence before attempting to enter her home, avoiding the risk of having to explain his visit to her guards and handmaidens if she was not there, but time was of the essence.

Sesshomaru’s mother, Inukimi, had two homes, her palace in the sky in the Central region of Japan and the castle in the lands of the Western region of Japan where Sesshomaru was born and raised. When Sesshomaru’s father, Inu no Taishō, had married his human wife, Izayoi, Inukimi was outraged that his father chose to leave the Western Lands to live with his new wife. His father’s intentions were harmless, as he only wanted to give Inukimi her space and keep their love life out of her sight, but she didn’t see it that way. No one was going to “flee” from her. So, to spite Inu no Taishō and intimidate his new wife, Inukimi made a statement by building a palace in the sky in the region of Japan they chose to reside. Rumor had it that despite being unaware of Inu no Taishō’s exact place of residence with Izayoi in the area, she wanted Inu no Taishō to always be able to smell her scent wherever he roamed in the land. With her personality, it was most likely true. Inukimi was vicious that way.

With Sesshomaru traveling the many regions of Japan for centuries after Inu no Taishō’s death, Inukimi traveled back and forth between residences to live in leisure at her palace in the sky and oversee matters in the Western region with Inu no Taishō’s troop leaders. She traveled between residences several times during a lunar cycle.

Beyond the clouds, Sesshomaru landed before a golden gate guarded by two dog demons, Lodi and Reichi, two longtime members of his father’s troop.

“Lord Sesshomaru,” they greeted him, opening the gate on each end with a bow. “Welcome home.”

Sesshomaru huffed as he transformed into his humanoid form. “Save your breath. This is not my home,” he muttered, walking up the stairs.

Every twenty steps or so dog demon guards stood at each side of the stairs and bowed to honor and greet him. Most of their faces were familiar. Many of the guards he had known as a pup under his father’s leadership, while some were new, possibly pups of older troop members. Regardless of whether he recognized them or not, Sesshomaru avoided eye contact with everyone and walked up the stairs in a steady quick stride.

When he reached the top of the stairs and the courtyard that displayed his mother’s throne, Sesshomaru knew for sure that his mother was not there. He could smell her scent all around, but the strong scent of her actual presence was missing.

“Welcome, my lord,” Doroshi, his mother’s head handmaiden greeted him with a bow.

“My mother is not here?”

“She is not, my lord. She headed back to her homeland a few days ago.”

The castle of the Western Lands was the only home she had other than her palace in the sky.

“When will she return?”

“I cannot say, my lord. Maybe in another week or two.”

Sesshomaru huffed. He didn’t have that long to wait.

“My lord, is there anything I can do to assist you in her absence?” the woman asked.

Sesshomaru thought for a moment. It was farfetched, but perhaps she could help.

“The amulet around my mother’s neck, the Meidō Stone. Might it be here?”

Doroshi put her index finger over her lips as she thought. “I reckon not, my lord. She never takes that necklace off, except for bathing and sleeping.”

“I thought as much,” Sesshomaru sighed. It was the last gift his father ever gave his mother before he died. As much as she swore to despise him, Sesshomaru knew different and that she would never part with that amulet and leave it unattended. The more he thought about his mother’s personality and her tendencies, the less confident he became in actually getting her help in this matter at all. There was no way she would part with that stone under any circumstance, but he couldn’t help but try.

“Is there anything else I can do for you, my lord?”

“No. Thank you.”

“Please know, my lord, that my lady’s residence is welcome to you. She said so. I would be happy to draw you a bath or prepare a room for you.”

Without a word, Sesshomaru transformed into his true form and flew West towards home, his home, the Western Lands.

***

Sesshomaru preferred to fly in his humanoid form, but with time against him, his true form had to work. A journey that took three days flying in his humanoid form would only take a few hours in his true form, if he pushed himself hard enough.

As he traveled, he thought of how he could convince his mother to lend him the amulet. The cold hard truth wouldn’t work for her. He needed to find a way to make the Meidō Stone about him and not Inuyasha. As much as he had many issues with his mother, he knew that his mother would do just anything for him, as long as he didn’t upset her.

As Sesshomaru thought of his options, he questioned his own motives for his actions. It was for Rin. He was trying to save Inuyasha and Kagome for Rin. As much as he tried to convince himself that that was true, deep down he knew that he was doing it for Inuyasha too. Despite all that he had said and once felt about Inuyasha, he came to respect him as an individual and as a brother. Although he would never openly acknowledge it, he remembered the times when Inuyasha tried to help and save him. It counted for something.

All Sesshomaru knew was that he did not work so hard to master the Meidō Zangetsuha and bestow it on Inuyasha for him to swallow it all up recklessly for a woman. “That fool,” Sesshomaru muttered to himself.

Sesshomaru reached the castle of the Western Lands by nightfall. He was relieved that the guards on duty recognized him after all these centuries. They bowed down below as they watched him fly overhead. He was in no mood for an interrogation and didn’t have the time to for it.

Most of the castle lanterns were out, but he could see that the lanterns in his mother’s room were still on. “Good, she’s still awake,” Sesshomaru said, as he landed in the Eastern Courtyard just below her wing of the castle.

Sesshomaru quickly transformed into his humanoid form and proceeded to the Eastern Gate. The two guards on duty greeted him with a bow. He nodded and walked past. Although manners were not Sesshomaru’s strong suit, he made the effort with the troops in the Western Lands. They were his father’s best troops, many of which he knew as a pup, sparred with and even went on deadly missions with.

Sesshomaru walked in and smelled his mother’s scent. She was there.

Sesshomaru walked down the hall to her room and paused at the door. Sesshomaru huffed. He left like a small pup running to his parent’s room after having a nightmare. It was humiliating. All this for Rin and a brother he didn’t even really like. He wished to be anywhere but there.

As Sesshomaru lifted his hand to knock on the door, he heard footsteps behind him. He turned to see two of his mother’s handmaidens walking toward him, one with a cup of milk and a plate of cake, and the other with a jar of some sort of lotion or ointment. 

“Good evening, Lord Sesshomaru,” the young maidens greeted him in unison.

“My mother is inside?” he asked, at a loss for words.

“Yes, my lord,” the maiden with milk and cake answered.

“We shall let her know you are here,” the second maiden continued, walking past him to open the door.

Sesshomaru watched them, as they entered the room. He sighed as he waited in the hallway, rehearsing a spiel to tell his mother in his mind.

“You may enter, my lord,” the one maiden, whispered to him, as she opened the door wider.

Sesshomaru walked past her and into his mother’s living quarters. It looked the same as it had been centuries ago, with the exception of the purple drapes that hung across the windows. Sesshomaru walked in and saw his mother lounging on her large gray couch in the center of the room. Her hair hung down past her shoulders and she wore a golden nightgown. The amulet hung around her neck.

“Sesshomaru, my, am I surprised to see you here…and without your human entourage too. Have you finally caved in and eaten the little roaches?”

“As I said before, don’t be absurd,” Sesshomaru answered.

His mother smirked. “And that little demon… what of him? Have you finally discarded him for revealing your true feelings on matters? How astonishing was he?”

Sesshomaru growled. He hadn’t been in her presence for more than a minute and she was already annoying him. He didn’t want to prolong this encounter. It was best for him to just get to the point and leave.

“Mother, I am in need of your Meidō Stone.”

Inukimi huffed. “How foolish are you, Son? You have a Meidō creating sword. You don’t need my stone.”

“I do not possess that sword anymore,” Sesshomaru answered.

Inukimi laughed. “What do you take me for, some fool? I see the sword right there, right next to that new one everyone’s been chattering about. Don’t insult me.”

“Bakusaiga.”

“Lovely,” she answered, uninterested.

“Tensaiga is nothing more than a healing sword now.”

“What are you talking about? Not too long ago you were in my face seeking guidance on how to master the Meidō Zangetsuha technique. Your little demon would have cried me a river of tears if I hadn’t revived that little girl pup, a casualty in your pursuit of mastering the technique.  All of that and you tell me that Tensaiga is only a healing sword. Preposterous,” she said, flipping her hair.

Sesshomaru was silent as his mother laughed and rose from the couch. Her maidens had bowed as she stood to her feet.

“She’s expired again, hasn’t she?” Inukimi asked, walking toward Sesshomaru. “That little girl pup you toted around like a hand purse is no more and you’ve sought to trap me into giving you this stone to revive her for a second time. That’s it. It must be.”

Sesshomaru remained silent. He learned from an early age that it was not wise to interrupt his mother, especially when she felt she was onto something.

“If you recall, Son, I told you that it was her last chance. I said it and I meant it,” she said calmly, standing in front of his face. “If you cared about her so much, which you clearly did, you would have cared enough to protect her better and not throw her in harm’s way.”

Sesshomaru didn’t look away. He stared back at her, his face hard and cold. He wouldn’t let her get to him. She didn’t even know what she was talking about.

“Responsibility was never your strong suit, Sesshomaru. I mean, look. I’m here doing your job overseeing the Western Providences as you dance around and babysit humans,” she laughed. “I’m doing your job, and you have the audacity to ask me for the one thing that will keep you distracted?”

Sesshomaru knew she had a point. He had abandoned the Western Lands long ago. If his mother hadn’t stepped up and filled in, he wouldn’t know where the lands would be now. Under his mother’s leadership, it wasn’t like when his father was governing everything, but she did direct the troops in addressing critical matters and kept regional business afloat.

“You, of all people, want me to part with the last token your father ever gave me,” she said, turning away from him, clutching the amulet around her neck. “Such gall you have, Sesshomaru. It pains me that you may have gotten that from me,” she said, walking back to her couch.

Sesshomaru had enough. No story on earth would force his mother to let him borrow the Meidō Stone. He knew he was out of options and either way he spun it, he’d be humiliated. Either his mother would assume that he was pining over a dead human girl or know that he was trying to help Inuyasha. He would lose either way.

“For the reason I seek it, Father would approve of you lending it to me,” he said.

“Ha! To save a human child for the hundredth time? Yes, of course he would,” she snarled.

“To save his son.”

Inukimi looked up at him with a serious face. “You’re not one to get yourself in any trouble you can’t get out of, Sesshomaru,” she said, her left eyebrow elevated, as she looked over her son in concern.

“Not me, Inuyasha,” he said, ashamed for even mentioning his name.

Inukimi paused and looked away. “Inuyasha?” she said, playing with the ends of her long silver hair. “What could he possibly need the Meidō Stone for?”

“He jumped through the Meidō Zangetsuha strike and is trapped in the Meidō.”

Inukimi looked at her son with a smirk. “You’re kidding me. You really did it? You attempted to kill your own brother,” she shook her head. “What kind of monster did I raise?”

“I did not attempt to kill Inuyasha,” Sesshomaru responded, referring to this particular time.

“It was an accident then?”

Sesshomaru glanced at his mother’s handmaidens standing near the wall. He didn’t want them there. If they knew the truth, it would be around the castle and throughout the Western Lands by morning.

“Leave us,” Inukimi instructed her handmaidens, watching Sesshomaru glance at them.

“Yes, my lady,” they said in unison, before leaving the room.

“Better, Sesshomaru?”

He huffed.

“It’s a sound proof door. They can’t hear what we say,” she added.

“Tensaiga is only a healing sword now because I relinquished the Meidō Zangetsuha technique to Tessaiga.”

“What? You did what?”

Sesshomaru remained silent. He could tell that his mother was aggravated.

“After all that work and pain you put into mastering that technique, you freely gave it to your brother, the half-demon you ‘despise?’” she questioned him, putting her hands in a quotation motion at the word “despise.”

“It was Father’s intention all along that I master the technique, give it to Inuyasha and claim Bakusaiga as my own,” Sesshomaru said, clutching the handle of Bakusaiga.

Inukimi shook her head. “Well, you can’t make this up. It sounds just like a plan of that old dog.”

Sesshomaru agreed to himself. No, no one could make any of this up.

“So, what happened? He sucked himself in?”

“He jumped in.”

Inukimi looked at Sesshomaru for a moment and then laughed hard, practically falling from the couch. Sesshomaru never understood why his mother laughed at the oddest things.

“Not fell in or got sucked in, but jumped in? Ha! What a waste. Why?”

“He jumped in after his woman. She was sucked in by an enemy and Inuyasha went after her,” Sesshomaru answered.

“Hmm, how admirable,” she said, drying her tears of laughter with the corner of her nightgown. “And you care, why? Hadn’t you wanted him dead for centuries now?”

Sesshomaru was silent. He knew this would come up and he knew that he didn’t have an explanation to justify it.

“It’s at times like these that I would love to be in the company of that little demon of yours,” she said, taking the Meidō Stone amulet from around her neck.

“Come here, Son.”

Sesshomaru walked over as she gazed into the stone, his mind pondering what she was doing. Was she really going to lend him the amulet?

“This is only for your father,” she said, looking into Sesshomaru’s eyes.

She didn’t have to say it. Sesshomaru already knew it. Her love for his father would always outweigh any hatred or animosity she felt for him.

After a long silence as she looked into the Meidō Stone, Inukimi spoke. “He’s there,” she said, pointing the amulet to her son.

Sesshomaru watched as he saw his brother battling demons and calling for Kagome.

“I can open a portal for him here,” Inukimi said.

Sesshomaru looked up and sighed lightly. Although he refused to admit that he was anything like his brother, he knew that they were similar in at least one regard. “It’s futile. He will not leave without Kagome.”

“Isn’t that familiar,” she said, as Sesshomaru snarled. “Are you sure, Son?”

 “Yes, he will not go without her. Can you find Kagome?”

“Kagome? What a unique name.”

Sesshomaru huffed at his mother’s comment and gazed into the stone again. “There,” he said, pointing at a spot in the Meidō.

“What on earth?” Inukimi said.

“The Shikon Jewel,” Sesshomaru said.

“She’s talking to it,” Inukimi said.

Sesshomaru’s eyes narrowed. This couldn’t be good. What did Naraku do?

“Can a portal be opened for Kagome? If we can reach her and bring her back here, when we open the portal for Inuyasha, he will willingly come back.”

“What a clever, concerned brother you are,” Inukimi smiled at him, as he ignored her.

Inukimi tried. “I cannot open a portal for her. It will not let me. There is a force blocking me.”

“The Shikon Jewel,” Sesshomaru muttered.

“Are you sure you that you don’t want me to try and get Inuyasha?” she asked again.

“He will not go.”

“Are you sure, Sesshomaru?”

“Yes, he will not go without her,” he repeated, thinking back on how he would not have left the Underworld without Rin. Kagome was Inuyasha’s Rin.

“Then take this,” Inukimi said, taking the Meidō Stone amulet from around her neck.

Sesshomaru turned to her. Although he was shocked, he wouldn’t let his face show it.

“If Inuyasha is anything like you and your father, he will reach that girl. When he does, it would be your father’s wish for you to release him,” she said, looking at the stone.

Sesshomaru looked at her. She was being genuine. “Are you sure?”

“Take it.”

Sesshomaru took the stone and placed it around his neck.

“A thank you would be nice,” she said, as she watched her son turn to leave.

“Thank you, Mother,” he responded, not looking back.

Inukimi huffed and rolled her eyes. “I was rather fond of that little demon you traveled with. He conveys the courtesy I thought I raised you to have.”

Many honest responses rolled through Sesshomaru’s head, but it wasn’t worth it. “Goodbye, Mother,” was all he let himself respond.

Inukimi sighed. “I hope you are not traveling all the way back to the Central region now. If you are concerned about your brother, he is working to find that girl. The girl is not drifting anywhere and Inuyasha is holding his own just fine. There is no need to rush back. You can release him anywhere at any time.”

She was right. It would be futile. He was already very tired from the battle with Naraku and the travel to the Western Lands.

“Stay here for the night and leave in the morning. I’ll have my handmaidens prepare your room.”

As much as he wanted to accept, he wouldn’t let himself. “No.”

“Why must you always be so spiteful and stubborn? Just stay one night. I won’t force you to stay here,” she said. “You can freely leave in the morning.”

 Sesshomaru huffed and kept walking.

“You look like you could use a good night’s sleep anyway. I’m sure you’ve been sleeping outside on stones all these years. God forbid you set foot in a human household.”

Sesshomaru paused and turned to face his mother. There she was again with her hollow words and contradictions. “Weren’t you the one who taught me not to seek aid from humans, Mother?”

Inukimi smirked and looked away. “Who said anything about aid? Overthrow the house and take what you need,” she laughed. “I never taught you to be foolish, Sesshomaru.”

Sesshomaru scowled. “Typical,” he muttered to himself.

“Son, stay,” she ordered, standing from her throne.

Sesshomaru looked into her eyes. He could tell that she desperately wanted him to stay. Why? He did not know. Concealing her emotions was an art, a talent that he had inherited from her. It was rare for him to ever see them, which made him question her motives. It had been centuries since he had even been home, and all he would be doing would be sleeping. He needed to relax, and a hot bath and a warm futon would do the trick.

“One night,” he responded

“Excellent,” she smiled, composing herself, forcing Sesshomaru to regret his decision entirely.

Inukimi walked over to the side door and opened it, allowing her handmaidens to enter. “My son will be staying the night. Prepare his room,” she instructed.

“Yes, my lady,” the two maidens responded in unison, before scurrying off.

Without a word, Sesshomaru walked toward the main entrance of his mother’s room.

“Go head to the bathhouse. I’ll have the girls bring over some soaps and fresh clothes. They’ll prepare your meal and room while you’re in there.”

“I’ll get my own meal,” Sesshomaru responded.

“Hunting at this hour, Sesshomaru?”

He remained silent.

“But everything’s sleeping at this hour,” she responded, watching him leave.

“Not everything,” he answered, sliding the door closed behind him as he walked out.

Chapter Text

Wild oversized hare were Sesshomaru’s favorite game to hunt growing up in the Western Lands. As a pup, he would hunt for them in the fields outside of the castle grounds after midnight regularly. Unlike regular hare, wild oversized hare came alive at night. It was through hunting them at night that Sesshomaru learned how to enhance his senses and utilize unconventional techniques to dominate his prey, as wild hare were extremely fast and unpredictable in their movements.

Outside the castle entrance, Sesshomaru transformed into his true form and ran into the woods.  Sesshomaru needed to eat in his true form. Consuming meals in his humanoid form could never sustain him. Consuming human food like rice, vegetables and meats in human-sized portions was equivalent to a human eating a single edamame bean as a meal. He was a 40-foot dog demon in his true form after all. He needed meat and bones, and lots of it. Eating in his true form, he could easily consume the amount of food needed to sustain a large dog and morph into his humanoid form as he chose.

Sesshomaru ran through the woods to a familiar location he used to hunt growing up. It was a dark and secluded area surrounded by towering trees and mid-sized shrubbery. It was an ideal environment for oversized wild hare to feel safe and be exposed.

He changed his run to a walk and sniffed the air. Although he was overwhelmed by the scent of different dog demons living in the area, he managed to catch the scent of hare nearby.

Sesshomaru spotted his target, a speckled wild hare grazing near a bush. It was the size of a small cow, with ears as tall as stalks of adolescent bamboo. He steadied his breathing and watched his prey cautiously, careful not to make a sound. The hare was completely oblivious of its surroundings and it was all his.

When ready, Sesshomaru pounced, his mouth open. The creature cried and squealed in defeat, but not from his doing. A beige dog demon in its true form, almost half the size of Sesshomaru, had jumped across him and caught the hare before him.

“Yes! I got him,” the small beige dog demon gave a muffled shout, oblivious of what he had done. The oversized hare struggled and squealed in his mouth, as blood dripped from its body and onto the dog’s fur.

Hunting in true form for a dog demon was a gruesome sight. It was bloody, messy and sickening to most non-dog demons witnessing the spectacle. It was because of this very image Sesshomaru had just witnessed that made him abandon his entourage of Jaken, Rin and Ah-Un regularly. He did not want them to see him like that, especially Rin.

Sesshomaru growled and exposed his fangs to the dog. The beige dog demon’s eyes widened and dropped the hare on the hard ground with a whimper.

Sesshomaru’s eyes narrowed as he looked at the startled dog demon. He watched as the young demon trembled in his presence. He was a very young dog demon, no more than maybe two centuries old. To the human eye, a century for demons would make them look closer to five years old, as a century in demons years was equivalent to five human years. Being less than a decade over four centuries old, Sesshomaru’s age was equivalent to about 20 years old in human years.

“You got it, Akihiko?” an excited voice called in the distance beyond the trees, unaware of Sesshomaru’s presence.

Sesshomaru barked and glanced behind him. There stood three other young dog demons, a gray curly-haired dog demon with floppy ears, a slender white dog demon with brown patches, pointy ears and a long tail, and a large brown dog demon with pointy ears. They were all small, around the same age as the beige demon that stood before him. Walking from behind the trees, they all froze in a gasp at his presence.  

“Akihiko!” the slender white dog demon with brown patches managed to shout in a panic at the beige dog in front of Sesshomaru.

“He-he-here,” the beige dog, now known as Akihiko said, nudging the lifeless hare toward Sesshomaru with his paw. “Ta-take it.”

Sesshomaru softened his eyes and closed his mouth. “I don’t want your food,” he huffed, as he began to walk off.

“Bu-but, it’s yours…fair and square,” Akihiko stuttered.

Sesshomaru ignored him, as he transformed into his humanoid form and walked past the other three young dog demons that stood watching the spectacle near the trees. To his surprise, the three dog demons he passed all gasped. The gray curly-haired and large brown dog demons immediately bowed their heads at him, as the slender white dog demon with brown patches, with the long tail stood frozen.

“Bow, idiot,” the large brown dog snapped at the frozen dog, slapping his head down with his paw.

Sesshomaru paid them no mind and walked off. He wasn’t surprised to see these young dog demons out and about after midnight like this. They were young, and hunting late at night was the thing to do even when he was young. What surprised him was that they seemed to know who he was. Being close to two centuries old in age, they would not have been alive to know who he was in the Western Lands, as he had been gone from the area for close to two centuries.

Sesshomaru listened attentively to the young group as he slowly walked away.

“Do you know who that was? That was Lord Sesshomaru,” he heard one of them whisper.

“Lord Sesshomaru? No,” another said.

“Yes, fool! That was him. I’m sure of it.”

“And how do you know that, Saicho?”

“Who else has a giant moon on their forehead just like Lady Inukimi? He looks just like her…the male version of her I mean,” he responded.

“Hmm, maybe you’re right.”

“Of course, I’m right! That was definitely him!”

“Really?” a timid voice questioned.

“Aw, Akihiko, I felt so sorry for you. We almost saw you shit twenty bricks right here,” the voice Sesshomaru registered as Saicho’s laughed with the others. “You should have seen your face.”

“Shut up,” he, Akihiko, responded, joining his peers in their laughter.

Sesshomaru walked a few yards before standing behind a large tree out of sight. As a dog demon, he had impeccable hearing, even being a few yards away. He assumed that the group would have been more cautious before speaking of him, given that he was sure that they should have been able to still smell his scent in the air, but they either didn’t care or were too young and ignorant to know better. But in their defense, the area held the scent of many other dog demons in the area.

“Why do you think he’s here?” a new deep voice asked.

“I don’t know, Hiroto, but it worries me.”

“Worries you? Why?” Akihiko asked, in genuine concern.

“Oh, come on, Hiroto,” Saicho hissed.

Sesshomaru heard the sound of flesh tearing and loud chomping noises. He was sure they were eating the hare.

“No, Saicho, his presence quite worries me too,” the new voice agreed. “Lord Sesshomaru only arrives when there’s trouble.”

“Trouble?” Akihiko asked, with a trembling voice.

“Oh, not you too, Kenjiro,” Saicho sighed. “Relax, Akihiko.”

“No, Lord Sesshomaru only arrives when trouble is afoot,” the voice Sesshomaru registered as Kenjiro responded.

“Yes, the last time he arrived was during the Panther Wars,” the voice of Hiroto agreed.

“Mmhm. It was really bad for us then. He led the dog demon army of the Western Lands against the Panther demons,” Kenjiro said.

“That was like two centuries ago. We weren’t even alive then,” Saicho munched.

“I was alive then,” Hiroto said.

“Like you remember anything,” Saicho snarled.

“It still happened,” Hiroto said.

“My father said we lost a lot of troops during that battle. He said that the war was so bad that even Lord Sesshomaru forced himself back to help,” Kenjiro said.

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes. That was inaccurate. Although he had left the Western Lands, no one ever had to force him to come back to support his father in need.

“Forced himself back?” Akihiko asked.

Sesshomaru listened to silence. No one said a word for a few seconds. He wondered if they had finally caught his scent and decided to abort the conversation.  

“Do you not know anything about Lord Sesshomaru?” Kenjiro finally asked, breaking the silence.

“Uh, well…I…”

“Seriously, Akihiko? Have you been living under a rock?” Saicho asked.

“Lord Sesshomaru isn’t a common topic in my home like he is in yours. My father is a blacksmith. We're not fighters like your families are,” he said. “That’s why you’re here teaching me how to hunt properly. Remember?”

“Okay, okay. Well, just because of that, you get a pass,” Saicho said. “We’ll fill you in.”

Sesshomaru felt his heart beat faster as he awaited their conversation, pondering what they would say. He never imagined that he would be a conversation piece in anyone’s home. Sure, he was the son of the great dog demon general Inu no Taishō, but nothing more. What had those who had known him been telling their pups and those who did not know him? He could only imagine. He was sure it wasn’t favorable, especially if his mother had anything to do with it.

“We’ll fill you in. Lay down and eat this,” Hiroto said, followed by a thump of what sounded to Sesshomaru like the hare’s leg or rib cage.

“Well, Lord Sessho --

“Let Kenjiro tell it,” Hiroto interrupted Saicho.

“Oh, shut up. I’m doing it.”

“You suck at telling stories! Let him do it,” Hiroto barked.

“Whatever. Go, Kenjiro,” Saicho huffed.

Sesshomaru waited in anticipation.

“Well, uh, where do I start?”

“See, he doesn’t even know what he’s doing!” Saicho blurted.

Sesshomaru sighed in frustration, eager to listen. The dumb bullshit regarding who told the story agitated him.

“Shut up!” Hiroto scolded Saicho. “Start with General Inu no Taishō.”

“Okay,” Kenjiro began, clearing his throat. “Well, General Inu no Taishō was the overseer of the Western region of Japan. He was a fierce warrior, the fiercest ---

“He defeated everyone he came across and had these three cool swords, one of which could kill hundreds of demons in one swing,” Hiroto interjected.

“Tessaiga,” Sesshomaru whispered to himself, following along.

“Yeah. He was a badass general,” Saicho added. “The greatest.”

Sesshomaru agreed. There was no one greater than his father in battle. That was why defeating him in battle would have been the greatest achievement.

“Wow,” Akihiko said. “I knew of him, but I didn’t really know that.”

Sesshomaru shook his head in disgust. Everyone in the region should have known of his father and his greatness, whether they were alive or not. He was a legend. He scowled at such ignorance.

“Well, General Inu no Taishō had a son named Sesshomaru.  And…well --

Sesshomaru caught himself holding his breath, as he awaited the rest of the sentence. He felt foolish. As if the thoughts of these brats really mattered to him.

“Some storyteller you are, Kenjiro,” Saicho spat. “General Inu no Taishō had a son named Sesshomaru with Lady Inukimi. My old man told me that everyone was convinced that Lord Sesshomaru was going to be the perfect successor to oversee the Western Lands having General Inu no Taishō as a father, but he betrayed the land and turned against everyone.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened. He couldn’t believe that came out of the brat’s mouth. He betrayed the land and turned against everyone? What was he talking about?

“He betrayed the land?” Akihiko asked.

“Sadly, yes. He even killed a number of our troops too,” Kenjiro answered.

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes thinking in the archives of his long memory. He was no stranger to murdering others, but he would never “betray” his own land by killing troops, his father’s troops. Never.

“What? Impossible. General Inu no Taishō’s son would never let that happen.”

“I swear on everything,” Saicho.

“I guess you’re about to lose everything,” Sesshomaru muttered, in aggravation at the damning allegations.

“How can you? You weren’t even there,” Hiroto said.

“My brother told me,” Saicho said.

“So what?” Hiroto asked.

“He was in the troop. He knows these things.”

“Psh,” Sesshomaru muttered, hoping that the little brat would mention the name of his brother somewhere in the conversation.

“My father said something similar too actually,” Kenjiro said.

“What?” Sesshomaru asked himself.

“He really betrayed us?” Akihiko asked.

“Well, ‘betrayed’ is a strong word. I guess you can say he…I don’t know,” Kenjiro tried to explain.

“Would someone just tell me what happened?” Akihiko asked in anticipation and concern.

Sesshomaru agreed. This conversation was prolonged long enough.

Saicho began. “My brother, he’s around the same age as Lord Sesshomaru, said that Lord Sesshomaru was in his training group as a pup. He said that he was a little awkward and shy, but nice.”

“My brother said that same thing too.” Hiroto said. “He said that Lord Sesshomaru was in his group when they went on training missions. He said that he was cool, a lot like General Inu no Taishō in personality actually.”

“What was General Inu no Taishō like?”

“I don’t know. Nice. We never met him,” Saicho answered.

Sesshomaru thought about his father. He could not imagine himself being anything like his father. He had always been compared to his mother in looks and temperament. Inuyasha was more like his father in personality than he was. With that comment alone, he knew that the information he was about to receive from this group would be faulty. Nonetheless, he preferred to listen.

“Whatever. Proceed,” Hiroto said.

“Anyways, my brother said that Lord Sesshomaru, after only a short time of training, maybe 50 years or so, just disappeared for like a year or two,” Saicho continued the story.

“Disappeared?”

“Well, not literally. He was alive, but he just never came on missions or trained anymore. No one even saw him around the castle. He was just gone.”

Sesshomaru caught himself holding his breath again.

“My brother said that when the troops asked about him, General Inu no Taishō would drop the subject and say that he would be back,” Hiroto added.

“Did something happen to him?” Akihiko asked.

Sesshomaru breathed deeply as he looked out into the distance.

“They say that he was sent away to learn the ins and out of overseeing the region,” Kenjiro said.

Sesshomaru exhaled.

“But that was all bullshit,” Saicho continued. “Who would be better to teach him that than General Inu no Taishō? Something happened.”

Sesshomaru bowed his head and looked at the ground.

“What happened?”

“No one really knows. It was a big secret General Inu no Taishō kept locked down,” Saicho answered.

“I heard it had to do with a human,” Hiroto said.

Sesshomaru inhaled as he watched the breeze move the stray leaves at his feet.

“A human?”

“I don’t think it was about a human. My father thinks he was really sick and they wanted to keep it quite so that inhabitants wouldn’t panic and think he was going to die,” Kenjiro said.

“Poppycock. It definitely had to do with humans and I know that for a fact,” Saicho said.

“’For a fact?’” Sesshomaru questioned, raising his head and listening attentively.

“What do you know for a fact?” Hiroto asked.

“Well, I don’t know this personally, but my brother said that a little after Lord Sesshomaru stopped attending trainings with the troops, Lady Inukimi was really pissed. Rumor has it that she went out to a village in the middle of the night and ate some humans whole,” Saicho answered.

There was a long pause. Sesshomaru’s eyes opened wide in anticipation of their response.

“What?” Get out of here. That’s insane,” Hiroto blurted.

“I’m telling you,” Saicho answered.

“My old man actually mentioned something about that one time. Nobody talks about it or brings it up, but it happened,” Saicho said.

“Seriously?” Kenjiro asked

“So, let me ask you, who does something extreme like that without reason, especially when you have alliances in surrounding areas that are witnessing that? You lose alliances that way.”

“I guess.”

“It was a no fucks given attack that just so conveniently happened when Lord Sesshomaru was absent from the troop. That’s no coincidence,” Saicho exclaimed.

“I guess you have a point,” Hiroto commented.

“Well, what did General Inu no Taishō do?” Akihiko asked.

“That’s the thing, he didn’t do anything. Everyone who knew about it played it off like nothing ever happened,” Saicho said.

“Wow.”

“How old was Lord Sesshomaru when all this happened?” Kenjiro asked.

“He around our age at the time or even younger,” Saicho said, still chomping on hare pieces.

“Hmmm.”

“So then what?”

“After some time, Lord Sesshomaru came back to the troop. But the thing was, he was very different,” Saicho went on.

“Different?”

“Well, not looks wise or anything like that, he was just --

“An asshole,” Hiroto answered.

Akihiko gave a nervous laugh. “What?”

“He became a real evil bastard,” Hiroto said calmly.

Sesshomaru’s eyes narrowed.

“My brother said that he was a totally different person. He refused to associate with anyone. He wouldn’t work as a team player and did things all on his own, dangerous things that could get him and others killed,” Hiroto said.

“He did not talk to anyone, and when he did, he was really arrogant, snobby or just plain rude. He was really proper with everything too and even wore prestigious attire that identified his rank and high status,” Saicho said.

Sesshomaru looked out into the distance.

“He was really difficult to work with, but no one could deny that he was the best in the group,” Hiroto said.

“He ought to be. He trained constantly,” Saicho commented. “He was always training, night and day.”

“Yeah, my father said that same thing. It was like he was obsessed or something,” Kenjiro added.

“That’s why I know something happened. You’re a decent individual, then you unexpectedly leave, your mother terrorizes a village, you come back as an asshole and then train every day like a lunatic.”

Sesshomaru looked up at the bright moon in the sky. It was a calm night.

“I guess so, but didn’t General Inu no Taishō do anything about it?”

“My father said he tried to teach him the value of life, friendship and compassion, but he was too far gone,” Kenjiro said.

“He had no regard for anyone but himself. On missions, if he wasn’t going off to do his own thing, he was putting the lives of others at risk,” Hiroto said.

“And General Inu no Taishō let that happen? Akihiko asked.

“Well no. My brother said that they got into it a few times during missions. General Inu no Taishō would lecture him about his disregard for others and Lord Sesshomaru would explain how there was no benefit in helping the weak.”

Sesshomaru breathed deep and looked off into the distance.

“Wow. He thought the troop was weak?” Akihiko asked.

“He thought everyone was weak. He thought he was better than everyone expect General Inu no Taishō. Everyone else was dead weight and meaningless,” Hiroto said. “He was an asshole.”

“How could his son be like that? I mean, I know something might have happened when he was younger, but his actions were so…extreme,” Akihiko asked.

“They’re not extreme. Have you met his mother?” Hiroto commented.

The group laughed. “Well, that explains a lot,” Kenjiro commented. “She can be pretty evil.”

“How the hell did General Inu no Taishō end up with her anyway? I don’t understand it,” Saicho whispered.

“Opposites attract, right?” Hiroto asked, rhetorically.

“My old man said it was arranged. Lady Inukimi’s father, General Seijiro, was the overseer of the Western Lands for many centuries. He thought it best for his daughter to marry his best warrior, General Inu no Taishō, to strengthen the lands,” Saicho said.

“Oh, makes sense, I guess,” Hiroto said. “Genera Seijiro was a hardcore elitist, right? I guess he raised Lady Inukimi to be that way and then she trained Lord Sesshomaru that way.”

“My old man and brother think that after the incident with Lord Sesshomaru happened, especially if humans were involved, it caused her to forcefully drill her elitist ideals into him...survival of the fittest maybe,” Saicho said. “Depending on how broken he was, Lord Sesshomaru could have bought into it everything.”

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened as he looked back in the direction of the group in distain. “Broken,” he huffed.

“I guess, but Lady Inukimi hates humans and weak demons. Lord Sesshomaru hates everyone,” Kenjiro said.

“Well, we all know he’s kind of fucked up.”

Sesshomaru huffed as he looked forward. What did they know? What did anyone know?

“It’s too bad General Inu no Taishō couldn’t do anything about it?” Akihiko said.

“Well, he tried. That counts for something. His mother on the other hand…” Hiroto muttered.

“What happened with his mother?”

Sesshomaru huffed. He could feel his blood boiling even now.

“Well, despite being an asshole, Lord Sesshomaru had established himself as a great warrior in the region. Nonetheless, everyone was afraid of him. He was a lethal fighter, who was reckless and merciless with lives. On top of that, he didn’t care to help anybody,” Hiroto spoke.  “My brother said that even though General Inu no Taishō was in charge, it became a real challenge keeping and getting new alliances because Lord Sesshomaru’s reputation was a liability.”

Sesshomaru listened. The opinions of these brats didn’t matter.

“His mother devised a plan to arrange his marriage to strengthen the power of the Western Lands. If he were to marry and have a family, he wouldn’t come off as threatening,” Hiroto said.

“It makes sense, I guess,” Akihiko commented.

“My brother said she scheduled many meetings with prominent dog demon families around the region, but everyone invited declined any potential arrangement.”

“They all said ‘no?’”

“Mmhm.”

“But why?”

“Apparently, Lord Sesshomaru was always rude and belittling during the meeting,” Hiroto began. “One day, his attitude cost him a really great rewarding arrangement for the Western Lands. He insulted the girl’s father, who said that he was unfit to rule anything. Lord Sesshomaru didn’t care, he wasn’t interested in the girl anyways. But his mother was furious.”

“Shiemi,” Sesshomaru caught himself saying.

“No one really knows what happened, but rumor has it that Lady Inukimi, in a fit of rage, told Lord Sesshomaru off and said that he was unfit to succeed his father and would never be like him,” Saicho continued on.

“Some say that she even brought up that secret incident when he was a pup and said that it only happened to him because he was weak and is nothing more than a weak demon pretending to be someone greater.”

“Damn, that’s awful,” Akihiko commented.

“She said something like, ‘you can…you can hide weakness…I don’t know,” Hiroto tried to finish Lady Inukimi’s words to her son.

“You can hide weakness all you want, but weakness never dies,” Sesshomaru said to himself.

“So, what happened?”

“Obviously, Lord Sesshomaru was pissed, but his mother made it worse. The next day, she held a public tournament among any interested troops to find a successor for the Western Lands. The troops would battle, and the one who remained until the end in one piece would win.”

“What? No way,” Akihiko said.

“Ask anyone of the troops from back then,” Hiroto said.

“It’s true,” Saicho agreed.

“She held it right out in the main courtyard and sat on her throne watching the battles. The warrior who survived would be the successor to the Western Lands,” Hiroto said.

“That’s brazen! She really did that?” Akihiko asked.

“Mmhm. Lady Inukimi has balls of steel,” Saicho said.

“How hateful,” Akihiko added.

Sesshomau looked up into the night sky at the stars sparkling bright.

“Well, Lord Sesshomaru heard about it and went,” Hiroto said.

“What!”

“Yeah, he went. General Inu no Taishō heard about it too, and tried to shut it down, but Lord Sesshomaru accepted the challenge.”

“That’s crazy,” Kenjiro commented.

“He went in there and slayed everyone...without a word or a weapon,” Saicho said.

“Without a weapon?” Akihiko asked.

“Yup. It was a no fucks given slay,” Saicho responded.

“And then he left without a word,” Hiroto said.

“What?”

“Yeah, my brother said he slayed everyone, left and never came back. He said that it was a big fuck you to his mother and an execution for those who chose to participate, as it was treason in his eyes,” Hiroto went on.

“I can’t believe that. What about General Inu no Taishō?” Akihiko asked.

“He was devastated, of course, but what could he do?”

“And Lady Inukimi?”

“My old man said that she didn’t even care.”

“Where did Lord Sesshomaru go?”

“I heard he traveled the regions searching for the fiercest and most powerful demons to defeat,” Saicho said. “My brother said he was probably trying to prove that he wasn’t weak like his mother said. He only came back to assist with the Panther Wars.”

“He only ever comes back to assist with the Panther Wars, actually,” Kenjiro said.

“So, there’s going to be another Panther War now?” Akihiko asked, in concern.

“I really don’t think so. They’re done.  Lord Sesshomaru and his brother killed the Panther King. I don’t why he’s here.”

“To lead?” Kenjiro asked.

“I doubt it.”

“Well, I heard he wields that new crazy infectious sword now. He wouldn’t have an issue,” Saicho said.

“No, I doubt he’ll ever lead this place…at least with his mother around,” Hiroto said. “I sure as hell wouldn’t.”

Sesshomaru sighed.

“Lord Sesshomaru has a brother?” Akihiko asked.

“Yeah, Inuyasha. He’s a half demon who lives in the Central region,” Hiroto answered.

At the mention of Inuyasha's name, Sesshomaru grabbed the Meidō Stone amulet from around his neck and gazed into it. There was no update on Inuyasha. He huffed and placed it around his neck. To him, drifting in the dark abyss didn't seem like a bad idea right now. 

“A half demon? But doesn’t that mean –

“Yeah, Inu no Taishō married a human,” Hiroto completed Akihiko’s question.

“Really?”

“Yeah. It was shortly after Lord Sesshomaru left the Western Lands. The region thought that it was a way to payback Lady Inukimi, but he really did seem to love her. You can’t help you fall in love with, I guess,” Saicho said.

“Can’t Inuyasha lead?” Kenjiro asked.

“Are you crazy? Lady Inukimi would never let that happen. No one would, not even Lord Sesshomaru. He’s a half demon. He can’t defend us like a full demon can. I doubt he’s ever set foot in the Western region before,” Saicho answered.

“How’s that even possible? Doesn’t he live here in the Western region?” Akihiko asked.

“General Inu no Taishō moved to the Central region to live with his new wife. Staying in the Western Lands with Lady Inukimi was dangerous,” Saicho commented.

“He retired?” Akihiko asked.

“No, he just oversaw everything from a distance, kind of how Lady Inukimi has been overseeing things now,” Saicho said.

“Right, Lady Inukimi moved there too. Did she attack them?” Akihiko asked.

“She moved down there, but she never knew exactly where General Inu no Taishō lived. Apparently, it was some top secret place in the Central region. Not even his head troops knew about it, even his new wife. He died before he could even tell her about it.”

“What’s the point of having a home and not ever telling your wife?” Saicho asked aloud.

“Have you heard of a surprise, idiot? He just died before he could give it to her, I guess.”

Saicho huffed.

Sesshomaru listened closely. He had known that his father had a home in the Central region near Inuyasha’s village, but he never knew where. He wondered.

“I think only General Inu no Taishō’s closest and most trusted friends knew about it,” Hiroto continued.

“Maybe Lord Sesshomaru knows.”

“I doubt it. I heard that he’s been a vagabond for years. ‘It’s hidden well, but in plain sight,’ just like something similar to the riddle of General Inu no Taishō’s tomb location,” Hiroto said.

“What legend of his tomb?”

“Seriously, Akihiko?” Saicho asked.

“Saicho!” a voice called in the distance.

“Oh, shit, it’s my old man. I can’t be here,” Saicho said in a panicky voice.

“Us neither. Let’s go!” Kenjiro whispered.

Sesshomaru listened to the group run in the opposite direction. He looked out into the dark distance before closing his eyes. He gripped the handle of Bakusaiga and grit is teeth.

With a huff, he opened his eyes and walked forward into the night as far away from the castle grounds as he could.

“Stay only one night…for her? Never,” he said.

Chapter Text

He couldn’t shut them off. The words of the young dog demons ran endlessly through Sesshomaru’s mind. Although those boys weren’t there to witness the events they spoke of, Sesshomaru had to admit that they weren’t far off in their details. It surprised him.

As much as he refused to be affected by the words of those brats, his mind betrayed him. It was one thing to have his own recount and interpretation of his experiences growing up, but it was another to hear about them in the perspective of outsiders looking in. He couldn’t help but feel rage. It was through the words of those boys that he could vividly see the influence and manipulation of his mother. He vividly saw how the ramifications of her influence and insincerity forced him to cause great pain and disappointment to his father. It all made sense to him now. It confirmed the favoritism his father displayed towards Inuyasha over him, the son he never truly met, even in death. If it hadn’t been for that fucking human, everything could have been so different.

Sesshomaru walked until he reached a spring. He set his clothing on the rocks by the water, detached his mokomoko from his body, and let it drift in the water. As the coldness of the water stunned him, he welcomed the sensation. He wanted nothing more than to take his mind off everything in his brain.

It didn’t work. Sesshomaru stared into the distance and reflected on his past.

***

It was true. Sesshomaru’s mother and father did not see eye-to-eye on their views of weaker demons and humans. They came from two different words. His father was a great dog demon general of war, who saw the strife and friction between humans and demons on his missions, while his mother was the heiress of the Western Lands, a being who stayed within the borders of her father’s castle, basking in luxury and entitlement.

It was no secret that Inu no Taishō empathized with weaker demons and humans. He genuinely felt that humans were generally good at heart and were not a threat to demons. In fact, he pitied weaker demons and humans, and he showed them great undeserved compassion at times. He felt that as a more powerful being, it was his service to help them.  He wholeheartedly believed that humans and demons were meant to live in peace together, as brothers, regardless of their race or status.

Sesshomaru remembered his early lessons training in his father’s army. As wars in the lands were few and far between, a lot of the troop’s missions involved assisting weaker demons and humans in the area with cumbersome tasks they could not complete alone, like moving large masses, repairing structures and diffusing disputes. Most of the battles that occurred in missions involved protecting a weaker demon or human from someone greater than them. It was his father’s way of life. Despite the widespread demon disdain towards humans, Inu no Taishō ensured that his troops lived up to his ideals that all beings were equal and it was their duty as beings to help one another.

Sesshomaru revered his father. As a ward in his father’s army, he wanted to be just like him. More than anything, he wanted to make his father proud and become a leader worthy of inheriting his title and status as a great and powerful dog demon. Sesshomaru enjoyed his lessons with his father and the other troops, taking everything in. He remembered training with his father and his troops being one of the most enjoyable times in his life. He even enjoyed the missions, helping others. More than anything, he enjoyed seeing the gratitude on the faces of those he helped. It was rewarding.

It was shortly after training in his father’s army that Sesshomaru realized his mother did not hold such sentiments. His end-of-the-day recaps of his day to her had unpredictable outcomes. While she was more than pleased to hear his reports of how he had exceled in his combat skills for the day, she was not pleased to hear his excitement about aiding weaker demons and humans on his journeys with the troop. Usually when talk of such missions came up, she quickly lost interest and sent him away.

Puzzled by her odd bouts of emotions during his end-of-the-day recaps, his father shed light on her upbringing. Sesshomaru learned that his mother detested weaker demons and humans. She saw humans as what most other demons saw them, weak insignificant beings who were only fit to be a main course on a platter. To her, weaker demons were only fit to be servants, as their weak power was a great shame to bear. It was how she was raised. It was true that his grandfather, General Seijiro, overseer of the Western Lands, harbored those same sentiments and ran his army accordingly.

Sesshomaru learned that it wasn’t until after General Seijiro’s death that his mother learned the true sentiments of his father towards humans and weak demons, as the army had done an overhaul under his command. Those who agreed with his father’s ideals and the way he ran the army stayed in support, while those who disagreed left. It was rumored that close to two-thirds of the troops left under his leadership and found work elsewhere in the region, while the rest remained. Despite the turnover, his father’s army had flourished and became more reputable than ever before in the Western region, gaining more and more alliances over the centuries. His father instructed him to ignore his mother’s attitude and keep being excited about what he was doing for the Western Lands.

Sesshomaru thought of his mother. Despite the army’s success, it was a disgrace for his mother to learn that her powerful and influential husband harbored such foolish sentiments, but she let him be. It bothered her to learn that the dog demon army’s time and resources were being wasted on insignificant missions to help nobodies in need, but despite her disappointment, Inukimi respected her husband’s rank, wisdom and skill on the battlefield. She knew that he was the best suited dog demon to lead the troops of the Western Lands and defend its inhabitants. His mother’s only mission was to ensure that he, Sesshomaru, knew the place of humans and weak demons, and regarded them as what they were, nothing. Her son would oversee the Western Lands with power and might, and not be swayed by the illusion that those beneath him were worth a damn, especially humans. She made sure of that.

Sesshomaru sighed at the next memory that graced the forefront of his brain.

It was a rainy evening, and he and his father had just returned to the castle from a mission. They had helped a human village defeat a mole demon who had invaded the area and was destroying their crops. When he saw his mother, he explained how they had successfully defeated the mole demon and the humans were happy. He also explained that the mission had taken a lot of time and he and the troops would have a lot of work tomorrow repairing the bridge over the Western River. It was a mistake to mention. He remembered the conversation that followed like it was yesterday.

“Your father is training you well and your skills are improving greatly, Sesshomaru. Are you satisfied with your father’s trainings?” he remembered his mother ask.

“Yes, Mother,” he responded.

“You are on route to becoming a great leader of the Western Lands someday, surpassing your father’s greatness in every way,” she continued.

Sesshomaru remembered feeling on top of that world at the moment. His mother was a woman of very few words and little enthusiasm. It had always been difficult to read her, so it meant everything to him to hear that she was proud of him and thought he would be great.

Before she could even get the last syllable out of the word “way,” she continued. “But heed my words, Sesshomaru,” she began, in a serious tone, “Your father holds a great weakness,” she warned.

Sesshomaru remembered feeling shocked and concerned. His father was the strongest being he had ever known, the most powerful of them all. What weakness could he possibly have? Sesshomaru remembered pondering what it could possibly be. “Weakness?”

“Your father’s concern for those beneath him, those humans and small demons he aids on his journeys, they are a distraction, a weakness he cannot seem to overlook. One day, those beings he works so hard to save will be his demise,” she said calmly, as she stroked his long silver hair with her claws.

Sesshomaru remembered giving her a blank stare. His father had always taught him that every being was equal in value and it is the duty of more powerful beings to help those less powerful. How could helping others be anyone’s demise?           

“Heed my warning, Sesshomaru,” she continued. “Regard for those beneath you cannot benefit you in any way. It is futile. It is a distraction that will only inhibit your judgement and leadership as successor of the Western Lands. Your solemn duty is bringing the dog demon clan to its next level of greatness.”

The more she spoke, the more his mother’s words confused him. His father was the greatest demon he had ever known and the dog demon army was triumphant under his command. He didn’t understand.

“Remember this, my son,” his mother added. “A demon without distractions can do nothing but succeed,” she said, before walking away into another section of the castle.

Sesshomaru scowled at the memory. It was the beginning of the end for him. His father specifically told him to ignore her, but as a pup, he could not help but contemplate and question his mother’s words. Day after day, they circled in his mind, just like these memories were doing to him now.

Business continued as usual. He went through his days with his father and his troops, engaging and completing missions. Everything was the same, except Sesshomaru’s mother’s words echoed through his mind. He began to see how his father diverted dog demon clan missions at hand to address situations that didn’t pertain to anyone but those involved or help in the advancement of the clan. Over the years, he noticed that it was taking longer and longer to complete region-related missions as the troop was always side-tracked helping others. It didn’t bother him. He liked being busy, but he noticed it.

For as long as he could remember, he had always seen everyone as equal, but over time, he began to see the effects of the differences in power between humans and demons, and powerful demons and weaker demons. As Sesshomaru grew older and took on more combat responsibilities in his father’s army, he began to see the repercussions of the troops’ displays of compassion towards others who needed help. Although his father’s army had made a lot of alliances with those it helped in the region, it also made a lot of enemies as well. Sesshomaru noticed that the more the troops helped a human village or weak demon defeat a being greater than they, the army made more enemies. Those the troops helped to defeat were now not only the enemies of the humans or weak demons, but now the enemies of his father, new oppressors the troops would eventually need to deal with. Sesshomaru also began to see that those they helped who were less powerful were never able to return the favor or give anything back.

It didn’t take long for his mother’s words to click. He could see that beings were not all equal. There were tiers of classes, with humans being the lowest class and powerful beings, like himself and his father, being the highest class. He even began to see the tiers of power within his father’s troops. Sesshomaru began to realize that his mother was right. There was no benefit in helping the weak. They would never be able help him in return, and even if they could, their help would be so minuscule that it would be pointless.

Sesshomaru could see how his father’s bouts of compassion could be considered a waste of time and energy, but he proceeded with business as usual. Sesshomaru had trusted his father more than anyone. He was a great wise demon who would never steer him wrong. He needed to get his father’s reasoning to end the confusion. When the time was right, he would bring it up to him, but that day never came.

Sesshomaru’s blood boiled as he continued to reflect. It was through his cursed encounter with the human Hitoshi that led Sesshomaru to cling to his mother and her ideals. He shook his head at the memory of the human he encountered long ago. He refused to let that memory resurface from the recesses of his mind. He absolutely refused.

***

Recovering from Hitoshi, Sesshomaru had changed. It wasn’t so much the wounds that affected him. Sesshomaru cringed at the next memory that resurfaced in his brain.

“A human, Inu? Attacked by a human,” he heard his mother scowl at his father in the other room. Sesshomaru lay motionless in his futon.

“He’s fine,” his father responded. “He just --

“He can’t even walk,” his mother calmly stated.

“It's okay. He will be fine, Inukimi. I will –

His mother huffed. “My son was just attacked by a human and you assure me that it’s okay?”

Sesshomaru heard silence.

“And what manner of training are you teaching these troops of yours that your son could not defeat a human? They are the weakest fucking class on the grid. They have no real power, and yet, my son is like this,” she spit venom at him with her words, in a calm tone.

“Inukimi, I know you are upset, but –

“Answer me, Inu. How is it that our son, under your leadership is in this state? How is it that my son has been rendered bedridden by a walking clay mold? Humans are weak and easy to defeat, and yet my son is here,” she went on.

“Not all humans are the same. This particular one –

“No, they are the same. They are all at the bottom of the list. They are weak nobodies. Explain to me how my son, who is at the top of the list, is immobile right now? What the fuck have you been doing training him?” she asked, still in a calm tone.

Sesshomaru remembered feeling a knot form in his stomach.

“Oh, that’s right…you haven’t really been doing a lot of training. You’ve been helping these vermin fix their houses instead of stepping up as a leader and teaching him how to fight.”

Sesshomaru remembered hearing a long silence.

“My son is weak because of you, Inu. How the hell is he going to defend these lands now if he can’t even defend himself against a feeble human?”

“My son is not weak.”

“Well, the circumstances at present confirm differently.”

After a long pause, Inu no Taishō spoke. “I will train him.”

“Silence. You’ve done enough of that already…training him to regard everyone as equals. We are not equals. If you had trained him to be mindful of his status, this would have never happened in the first place,” his mother said, in an aggravated voice.

“I will provide him with a rigorous training in combat and defense,” his father replied.

“That’s what you should have been doing all along instead of helping every inchworm and their mother do who knows what.”

“I will start as soon as he recovers.”

“As soon as she recovers,” she laughed. “And how long will that be? What are you going to tell the troops?”

“I’ll tell them the truth.”

“You will do no such thing. I refuse to allow them to view my son as some weakling. He is the legacy of the Great Dog General Inu no Taishō. You will not say anything of the sort.”

“Then I will –

“You will say nothing. Sesshomaru is training.”

His father was silent.

“Do you understand, Inu?”

Sesshomaru heard no response.

“And what of that human?” his mother asked.

“He remains in his village,” his father responded.

“You cease to surprise me, Inu. You really do.”

“We will address the matter –

“I will address it. You can’t do much of anything right these days,” his mother said.

That was it, the conversation that changed everything for him. It was the day that Sesshomaru saw himself for who his mother saw him…weak. It was the day that he committed himself to accepting the identity of weakness in his great and powerful father. It was the day be accepted beings as who they were in rank of power and developed a disdain for everyone beneath him. He refused to be humiliated again by anyone less than him. He was going to be the greatest and most powerful dog demon alive, come hell or high water.

Sesshomaru sighed as he thought on. Everything changed after that day, even his relationship with his father. He no longer looked at him in awe and admiration as he had done in the past. Although he revered him as the greatest dog demon, he could not help but pity him for being blind to his own weakness. Sesshomaru even developed feelings of resentment towards him for causing him to be weak. It was his fault that he was in this predicament in the first place. It was his mother who had been trying to warn him all along.

Sesshomaru remembered not sleeping that night. The pain of his injuries was not the only thing keeping him awake. Sesshomaru laid awake with a heart full of resentment for everyone he had ever met and everyone he had ever known. First, it was towards his father, then his father’s troops for being so blind and stupid, and then towards his mother. It shouldn’t have made sense for him to have resentment towards her, as she had warned him, but he did. She was a liar. Her words were like pillars of sand, hollow. “Oh, Sesshomaru, you’re on your way to being a great leader of the Western Lands... Oh, Sesshomaru, you will make this land proud and be an honorable leader one day… Oh, Sesshomaru, you are an excellent and skilled warrior,” he remembered her telling him over the years. It was a farce. Her words meant nothing. He had learned her real sentiments toward him that evening. She thought he was a disgrace, a weak embarrassment.

Thinking about the true sentiments of his mother, Sesshomaru began to question the comments of every single being who had ever praised his skills. What did they really think? For all he knew, they were just like his mother…liars just trying to save face in the presence of his father. Was he really weak? Did others see that and pretend? He did not know. To him, no one could be trusted. In a night, Sesshomaru had developed feelings of resentment towards everyone. By that morning, Sesshomaru became a whole new being. The kind-hearted and weak young dog demon everyone had known was gone. He awoke that next morning with a mission to surpass his father in power, strength and might, a pursuit he would work at all costs.

Day by day, Sesshomaru conditioned himself to numb any feelings of mercy and compassion towards others. His only pursuit and concern was for power and greatness. He was cold to everyone and avoided idle conversations. When he was forced to speak, he was compelled to express his superiority and exert his high rank and status. He trained himself to conceal his emotions. He refused to show concern or empathy towards anyone. He didn’t want to feel anything for anyone. The less he knew about another being, the better he’d be at disregarding them. With a hardened heart, he would not succumb to the distractions of his father.

Upon his recovery, Sesshomaru restricted himself from having a real puphood. While other young demons spent their time enjoying the company of their friends, Sesshomaru stood by his father, studying him as he trained to excel and exceed his rank as the greatest dog demon who ever lived. He was a perfectionist, practicing every day, learning new techniques, studying his strengths and eliminating his weaknesses. Sesshomaru wanted to fight so good that he wouldn’t even need to transform into his true demon form to defeat an opponent. Despite the resentment he felt toward his father, he couldn’t deny that he was the greatest warrior he knew and was the only one qualified to train him to be the best.

Despite the resentment he held toward his mother, her comments of identity and rank fueled him. “You are the son of the great dog demon Inu no Taishō, Sesshomaru. You should never lose to any one beneath you.”

Sesshomaru remembered the rigorous training process he put himself through in addition to the one his father provided. As he grew more experienced and confident in his skills, he would regularly leave the castle grounds to test his stamina and skills on anyone in his way. With a hardened heart, he became a ruthless warrior who saw his opponents as nothing but mere training dummies he could practice on as he aimed to defeat the only one worthy to fight him, his father, Inu no Taishō. As his wins increased, so did his ego, arrogance and thirst for defeating opponents fiercer than the last. Sesshomaru embraced the words of his mother, believing wholeheartedly that everyone was beneath him and there was no one who was worthy to defeat him except his great and powerful father.

***

Sesshomaru finished bathing and walked on. Although he had been lost in his thoughts for hours, he still couldn’t turn them off. Memories of the past filled his head. As he traveled back towards Inuyasha’s village, he did all that he could to distract himself.

After walking for a few hours, he leaned against a tree in the daylight and tried to sleep. He slept for a few hours before he was on the move again. After walking on some more, he transformed into his true demon form and sought prey in the woods. He feasted on wild boar and other large-sized creatures before heading onward again. As much as he tried to distract himself, his memories did not cease to choke him.

Sesshomaru took a break to check on Inuyasha. His brother did not seem to be making any progress. It had already been a full day since he had been in the Mediō and he was still fighting and searching for Kagome. He was impressed by the resilience and determination of his brother, all for a human girl. He couldn’t help but accept that fact that Inuyasha was the son his father was truly meant to have. After hearing those boys the night before, he knew good and well that he was only a disgrace to his father growing up.

Sesshomaru reflected on training with his father. It didn’t take long for his father to realize he had changed, in fact, it was blatantly apparent to everyone he had ever encountered. It wasn’t a show or an attention-seeking tactic. Sesshomaru just chose to act as he chose and refused to give concern to anyone else's thoughts, even his father’s. It didn’t take long for Inu no Taishō to notice his son’s ruthless manner of fighting and vicious taunting in battle. Sesshomaru knew it disturbed him, but it didn’t matter.

As an intervention, Inu no Taishō did all that he could to encourage him to be kind and compassionate again. Sesshomaru remembered receiving many lectures and side-talks from his father, but when his father’s spiels began, Sesshomaru would usually remain silent and eventually walk off. To him, it was only his father’s weakness talking.

Sesshomaru remembered the last battle he shared alongside his father before the Panther War. They were defeated a ferocious demon who had invaded the Western Lands and had been terrorizing surrounding villages. The fight was quick against him, as the demon was not as ferocious and fierce as he had portrayed himself.

Once apprehended and pinned to a tree by his father’s fang, a move his father made did more often than he should have in battle, Sesshomaru was disappointed to see his father placing the demon in a deep sleep instead of killing him.

“What a waste,” Sesshomaru muttered.

“Let’s go,” his father, instructed Sesshomaru and his troop.

“Go? Let’s finish him off,” Sesshomaru demanded.

“No, Sesshomaru,” his father said.

“Why let him live only to sleep for an eternity? He’s a waste of space,” Sesshomaru scoffed.

“Sesshomaru, have you such little consideration towards life, my son?” he asked, putting the final touches on the demon’s sealing.

“He is nothing, and yet you insist on salvaging his pathetic life?” Sesshomaru complained. “Ridiculous.”

“Sesshomaru,” his father said in disappointment, as he watched Sesshomaru look way in disgust. “Where have I gone wrong with you?”

Sesshomaru huffed. It was then that Sesshomaru saw his father’s weakness more vividly than ever before. At that moment, his relationship with his father was never the same again. A wall of tension and mutual disappointment had been built that neither were able to tear down. 

***

Before he knew it, it was evening again.

After checking the Meidō Stone for the fourth time that day, Sesshomaru leaned against a tree and prepared to sleep. The comments of the young dog demons from the night before still haunted him. Thinking about it, Sesshomaru was more so bothered by their presumptions of how his actions affected others and disappointed his father than the actual actions themselves. It wasn’t until now, centuries later that he could really see what his father meant in life.

With a hardened heart and a disdain for everyone, Sesshomaru was a voluntary loner. He did not associate with anyone. His interactions with others were few and far between, usually with brief answers and snarky comments to his family, troops and those he engaged in combat with. It was beneficial for him to be an obsessive trainer, as he was usually too tired after training to engage with anyone anyway.

Everyone was a liar in his eyes. He could not see the benefit of companionship with those who were not genuine and held fake confidence in him, like his father’s troops. Ironically, despite his resentment towards humans and weaker demons, it was through the companionship of a weaker demon and a human that he felt genuine acceptance.

Associating with a weak demon imp like Jaken and a vulnerable human child was considered absolutely shameful for a powerful demon like himself. Many centuries ago, he would have never imagined himself being in the company of such a weak demon like Jaken. Although his mother always said that weak demons were best suited as servants, as one who was hell-bent on surpassing his father and held disdain for everyone he encountered, he refused to accept help from anyone. No matter how he treated him, Jaken was not a servant to Sesshomaru. Jaken was the first being who had ever displayed genuine confidence and admiration towards him. After he defeated the powerful demon who was controlling the land he was controlling, Jaken was willing to give up everything to follow him. It surprised and impressed Sesshomaru. In the company of Jaken, for once, he felt like he had a supporter, a confidant, a friend even.

Given his demoralizing past with the human Hitoshi, Sesshomaru held a great distaste for all humans. The eradication of their presence on the earth would suit him just fine. He would have never given the light of day to a little human girl, but Sesshomaru had experienced something similar with her as he had with Jaken. Despite being nothing but rude and dismissive to her when she came to his aid, unsolicited and unwelcomed, she was relentless in trying to assist him. Day after day, she would come to check on him and give him food. Being untrusting of humans from his own experiences, he refused to accept anything from her. Despite all his tactics to scare and intimidate her, she would not stop, even when her own kind had turned against her and she came to him beaten. It was when she smiled at him that he saw her genuine concern and respect for him. She even seemed to genuinely like him, for no absolutely reason at all.

Even the wind sorceress Kagura had an effect on him. On the status rank of beings, she was probably lower than a human. Being an incarnation of Naraku, a low-life, pathetic half-demon, Sesshomaru had no interest in her. She was less than nothing. In a sense, she wasn’t even a real being. She was nothing more than a puppet for that lunatic to manipulate. Nonetheless, Sesshomaru came to learn that Kagura held great confidence in him. She was wholeheartedly convinced that he could defeat Naraku and be the only one to do it. Her words seemed hollow at the time, as he saw her as a devious associate of Naraku, but her actions showed support for him. It was through Kagura’s unsolicited aid that helped him ultimately defeat Naraku. She led him to the location of Tokijin after it was too powerful for Kaijinbō, she showed him to location of an alternate way to enter the Netherworld after the path through the phoenix demon Tekkei’s blood was no more, and even gave him Gakusanjin's crystal that helped mask demon auras to help him find Naraku’s heart. Kagura held the utmost confidence in him, and displayed it in her actions. Sure, it was for her benefit, but with the confirmation of Rin, it was evident that she had developed genuine romantic feelings for him.

Sesshomaru even saw genuine concern even in his brother and his friends.

As night fell, Sesshomaru felt more alone than ever. He missed the company of Rin and Jaken. He wondered what they were doing and if they were thinking of him. He was sure that Jaken had been panicking that something happened had to him, while Rin assured him that he was alright and would be back. He enjoyed their company in his own way.

Sesshomaru contemplated returning to the village, but he wouldn’t let himself. He had not been able to free Inuyasha and Kagome from the Meidō yet. With the Meidō Stone around his neck, he could release them at the village, but he did not want to share the nature of the Meidō Stone to the villagers and explain how he got it. He did not want to think of his mother anymore for any reason. He would wait.

Sesshomaru tried to distract himself by hunting, but it did not seem to ease the void. His soul had been consumed with internal turmoil and regret regarding his actions regarding his father. How was it that he felt absolutely no remorse for slaughtering his father’s troops when it happened, but felt a certain way about it now after those young demons, who didn’t even witness it, brought it up? He wondered what his father thought of him.

After that incident, he had only seen his father a total of four times within a span of a few years. He saw him once when he helped him defeat the panther clan in the Panther War, in which they did not speak, once when his father informed him that he would marry the human woman Izayoi and was moving out of the region, once when his father informed him that his human wife was pregnant and he would be a brother, and then a final time when Sesshomaru asked his father to relinquish his swords after his battle with the powerful dragon demon Ryūkotsusei. Each encounter was brief and dry. Only facts were stated and then it was over.

After a nearly sleepless night, Sesshomaru, plagued by emotions he could not seem to suppress, decided to visit Bokusenō, the wise Magnolia tree demon, one of his father’s most trusted companions. If anyone knew anything about his father’s thoughts, it would be him. He might even be able to shed light on his father’s “top secret place” in the Central region. Although his father informed him that he was moving to the region, the whereabouts of his residence was not even disclosed to him…for good reason, he presumed. A visit with the wise Bokusenō was a good idea.

Chapter Text

Eager to put his mind at ease, Sesshomaru traveled as quickly as possible to the woodlands of Bokusenō in the Eastern Lands. Even in his true form, from where he was, it would take him close to a day and half to reach Bokusenō, including breaks.

As Sesshomaru traveled, he remembered the first time he had ever met Bokusenō.

After overhearing his parent’s conversation after the incident with the human, Sesshomaru braced himself for the rigorous training that would be set before him by his father as he recovered. Different scenarios and methods of training ran through his mind. Based on the injuries he sustained, he presumed heavy training in defense and deflection.

Shortly after his full recovery from his injuries, Inu no Taishō woke Sesshomaru up from his futon. It was well into the early morning. It was dark and crickets were still chirping outside his window.

“Sesshomaru,” his father touched his shoulder.

Sesshomaru opened his eyes to see his father dressed in full armor. It was unlike him to be fulling dressed like that at that hour.

Sesshomaru moaned, confused and disturbed that his sleep had been interrupted.

“Let’s go. We must leave at once.”

Sesshomaru muttered. He didn’t care to question his father. He knew he had no choice in the matter.

Sesshomaru rose from his futon and put on his armor on as well. After having been out of commission for weeks, he immediately felt his armor’s weight and moaned. It would be another thing he’d have to get used to.

Fully dressed and armored, Sesshomaru was surprised to see both his parents waiting for him outside of his door. Sesshomaru snarled at their sight and narrowed his eyes. As a married couple, they were rarely found together, except on public occasions. It was odd.

“Say goodnight to your mother,” Inu no Taishō instructed.

Sesshomaru remained still. He had already done so only a few hours, against his will as well. Why did he have to do it again?

“Let’s go, Sesshomaru,” his father repeated himself, a bit frustrated.

Sesshomaru didn’t argue. As scary as his mother could be, his father could be even scarier when provoked to anger. “Goodnight, Mother,” he muttered, letting her pull him into her embrace.

“My son,” Inukimi sighed as she ran her claws through his long silver hair.

Sesshomaru huffed and pulled away.

“Let’s go,” his father said, leading the way.

Without a word, Sesshomaru followed his father throughout the halls of the castle and outside to the courtyard. Every night the castle halls were guarded by troops on patrol in shifts throughout the evening, but on that night the castle was surprisingly empty. Sesshomaru saw no troops as he followed his father. Even more surprising was that his father didn’t seem to be alarmed. Sesshomaru was sure something was up. Was it the rigorous training he had been expecting for so long? Despite his mind of questions, he remained silent.

At the courtyard, Sesshomaru followed his father’s lead and transformed into his true form. They leapt into the sky and traveled east until the sun was high in the sky the next day, a direction Sesshomaru had rarely traveled in such a long distance. Traveling predominantly in the dark, he had no idea where he was really going.

When Sesshomaru felt like he was about to fall out of the sky from exhaustion, his father finally directed him to land in a wooded landing filled with tall towering trees. Sesshomaru had never felt more relieved.

“How are you feeling, Sesshomaru?” his father asked, transforming into his humanoid form.

Sesshomaru looked at his father, contemplating the reason for his question. Was this to see if he could handle such a rigorous workout? He wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of letting him think he was tired. “I’m fine,” he said, transforming as well.

“Go check for water through there,” his father said, walking past him, as he put his hand on his shoulder.

Sesshomaru looked up at him, unable to read the expression on his face. It seemed to be a mixture of anticipation, concern and sorrow. Ever since the incident with the human, his father had been melancholy, which made his disposition not so surprising.

Without a word, he slowly walked through the trees.

“I don’t see anything,” he muttered, back to his father, after walking for a while.

“Keep looking,” he heard his father respond in the distance.

“Uh,” Sesshomaru huffed, continuing to walk forward through the trees.

“Father, there are nothing but trees here,” he called back, after walking a bit further.

There was no answer.

“Father?”

Thinking about it now, he couldn’t really smell his father’s scent anymore. It was faint.

“Father?” he called out again, unable to mask the strain and panic in his voice.

Alarm surged through his body, but he tried with all his might not to let it show. Sesshomaru pondered whether this was a part of a component of his anticipated rigorous training or a serious matter.

As he began to turn back, a deep voice called out to him. “Are you who the Great Dog calls Sesshomaru?”

Sesshomaru froze, trying harder than ever to mask his fear. “Who are you?”

“I am Bokusenō.”

Sesshomaru breathed as he composed himself. He refused to show fear. He would not be weak. As he had recovered, he had come to terms with the fact that he would rather die than let himself be labeled as weak.

“Why do you hide in the trees? Come out and fight me,” he said, slow and steady, trying to mask his shaky voice.

“I do not wish to fight you…and I am not hiding,” the deep voice said.

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes. “Then show your face.”

“I have been. Look up,” the deep voice instructed him.

Sesshomaru could feel himself turning red as panic and fear smothered his whole being. He exhaled as he slowly looked up to see an old man’s face in the center of an old tree trunk.

“You’re a tree?”

“I am Bokusenō.”

Sesshomaru was silent for a moment as he looked up at the old tree. “What kind of tree are you that you can speak? And how do you know my name?”

“I am a magnolia tree,” he answered. “Your father told me about you.”

“My father?”

“Yes.”

“Where is my father?” Sesshomaru asked, still unable to catch his scent.

“I’m sure he’s left by now.

“Left?”

“He’s probably on his way home.”

“Home?”

“I’d presume so.”

Sesshomaru looked into the tree’s face, gauging his motives.

“What do you want with me?”

“Nothing. You’re in my territory, remember?”

Sesshomaru huffed. Alongside weak, he did not like feeling stupid. “Why did Father leave me here?”

“Sit down and I’ll tell you,” Bokusenō said.

Sesshomaru huffed. “I’ll stand.”

“If you insist,” Bokusenō answered.

Sesshomaru sighed as Bokusenō began.

“Your father and I go way back…”

As Bokusenō spoke, the area began to move. He felt as though all of the trees were circling around him. He shook his head and closed his eyes for a second, trying to shake off the feeling. He was sure Bokusenō hadn’t noticed, as he kept talking.

Sesshomaru began to lose grip on his balance. He rocked on his feet, as the trees spun around him faster and faster. The best thing he could do was take Bokusenō’s offer and sit. He tried his best to sit normal, but he couldn’t help but let himself drop to the floor. Bokusenō kept talking.

“What’s wrong with me?” he asked himself, trying to shake off the feeling plaguing him. Had he not fully recovered?

Bokusenō’s voice faded in and out. Soon, Sesshomaru could not hear a word. Not long after that, Sesshomaru felt his eyes roll back in his head and he was out for the count.

***

“Uh,” Sesshomaru moaned, as he lifted his head off the hard ground.

“You’re awake,” Bokusenō said.

Sesshomaru squint his eyes at the old tree. His vision was still blurry and he felt sick.

“What happened to me?”

“Only you would know that,” the old tree answered.

“What?”

“The effects of demonic energy attacks affect everyone differently,” he answered.

“Demonic energy attacks?” Sesshomaru managed to ask before vomiting at the base of Bokusenō’s trunk.

“I don’t mind. It’s supposed to rain today anyway,” the old tree commented, looking at Sesshomaru doubled over by the base of his trunk.

“Wha-what did you do to me?” Sesshomaru asked, wiping his mouth with his sleeve.

“I absorbed some of your demonic energy.”

“What?” Sesshomaru asked, unable to control his shocked reaction.

“I gave it back to you,” the old tree responded.

“What? How can you do that? You’re just a tree.”

“Once, I was just a tree, but over time, I developed the power to absorb and contain demonic energy. Now I am Bokusenō.”

“What do you want…want my energy for?”

“Did you not hear anything I said yesterday, Sesshomaru?” the old tree asked, a bit disgruntled. “Your father asked me to train you to resist demonic energy attacks...to train you to build an internal barrier within yourself to resist some of the most deadly attacks demons can face. Was it not a demonic energy attack that caused you to be incapacitated for an extended period of time?”

***

Sesshomaru remembered his training with Bokusenō. His father was not exaggerating when he promised to give him a rigorous training. For two years, Sesshomaru served as the ward of Bokusenō in his territory, building a resistance to demonic energy attacks of all types. He developed a resilient internal barrier within himself that served him well in life, especially during his time on Mount Hakurei and against the monks that held Rin after they found her and the other children after she was abducted by Ongokuki.

Living away from the Western Lands, in the territory of Bokusenō, Sesshomaru learned the essentials of survival in the woods. Hunting every day, taking care of himself and sleeping outside every night as he listened to the sounds of nature became home to him. The luxury of living in the castle with servants and futons was no longer a necessity. Being away from his family and troops served his plan well, as the distance helped him build a wall between him and everyone else.

Bokusenō saw Sesshomaru at his worst and praised him at his best. Sesshomaru appreciated his wisdom and how forthcoming he was with information that was useful to him. Bokusenō became the only being Sesshomaru trusted completely with everything and sought his counsel regularly, even when his training had ended and he returned to the Western Lands. It was through Bokusenō that Sesshomaru came to accept the information his father tried to share with him about life. He knew Bokusenō would never steer him wrong.

***

Sesshomaru reached the forest of Bokusenō in the late morning. He slowly walked past the regular trees as he approached the location of his mentor and father’s companion. At the sight of Sesshomaru, the old wise tree spoke.

“I see you have finally obtained your sword, Sesshomaru,” the deep voice of the old tree said as Sesshomaru stood before him.

Sesshomaru unsheathed his sword and held it before Bokusenō. “Bakusaiga. It’s mine.”

“So you finally relinquished your covetous over Tessaiga. This sword you possess is far greater than the likes of Tessaiga,” Bokusenō responded.

“I know,” Sesshomaru answered, sheathing his sword.

“The predictions of your father always impressed me. He was a great wise demon.”

“What did Father predict?”

“Many things…the outcomes of wars, climate changes, the future of his sons…many things.”

Sesshomaru caught himself holding his breath. “What did he say about his sons?”

“Many things.”

Sesshomaru waited for a continuation he would not get. “That’s all you care to tell me?” he asked, frustrated by the tight-lipped answer of the old tree who was usually very free-flowing with information.

“If you wish to seek those answers, you should ask your father yourself,” Bokusenō responded.

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes. Had the old tree finally gone mad? Was he rotting from the inside out?

“Father is dead,” Sesshomaru responded.

“Yes, but the medallion you carry around your neck can take you to him.”

Sesshomaru looked down at the Mediō Stone amulet that hung around his neck. “The Meidō Stone? This can take me to him?”

“The Mediō Stone can open and close portals in the Netherworld. Is your father’s tomb not there?” Bokusenō rhetorically asked.

Sesshomaru processed Bokusenō’s words. It was true. Through the Meidō Stone, he would be able to visit his father’s unattainable tomb in addition to releasing Inuyasha.

Without screening his words, Sesshomaru spoke. “Inuyasha is trapped in the Meidō with his human companion. A portal will not open for the human, as it seems like it has been blocked by a force from the Shikon Jewel, which is in the Meidō along with them.”

“The Shikon Jewel,” Bokusenō repeated, as Sesshomaru sighed. Sesshomaru knew that a spiel was coming.

“That cursed jewel. It brings nothing but misery and misfortune to all it comes in contact with,” Bokusenō said.

Sesshomaru reflected on the audacious Naraku and the Shikon Jewel’s influence over his manipulation. Many lives were disrupted and lost all because of that damn jewel.

“I advised you to keep Inuyasha from it, but you refused,” Bokusenō said.

Sesshomaru felt his heart beat fast.

“I did not force him to do anything he did not want to,” Sesshomaru answered, refusing to accept any part in the devastation of the jewel in Inuyasha’s life. “I gave him the information and he ran with it,” he added, looking away from the old tree.

“Is that what you tell yourself, Sesshomaru?” the old tree asked.

“I did not force him to do anything,” he repeated, a tad more defensive and annoyed than he had hoped to convey. “And his predicament in the Meidō was all his doing. He jumped into Tessaiga’s Meidō Zangetsuha to save that human girl.”

“Uncanny. Your father’s predictions are really something,” the old tree said. “I knew you’d be able to master Tensaiga, but even I had doubts if you would actually relinquish its power of the Meidō Zangetsuha to your brother in Tessaiga.”

“Father predicted such a thing?” Sesshomaru asked, looking at him.

“He did. He understood you.”

Sesshomaru looked away as he listened.

“Although you possess the appearance and temperament of your mother, you possess the heart of Inu no Taishō, Sesshomaru. Nothing can ever change that,” Bokusenō continued.

“I am Sesshomaru. I possess no such thing,” Sesshomaru huffed.

“You are the great Sesshomaru who protects a fragile demon and a young human girl. You are the great Sesshomaru who is mindful of his brother’s plight in the realm of the Meidō,” Bokusenō stated.

Sesshomaru huffed. There was nothing he could say. Bokusenō could always see through his bullshit.

“Where is your entourage, Sesshomaru?” the old tree asked, looking around Sesshomaru.

“I left them in a village in the Central region,” Sesshomaru answered.

“Hmmm. It is for the best,” Bokusenō said.

“For the best?” Sesshomaru asked.

“Most assuredly. Bakusaiga will bring a lot of action to you if it has not done so already. The accompaniment of such an entourage, particularly that young human girl is ill advised.”

Sesshomaru thought for a moment. The old tree had a point. Within these past few days of traveling, he had been challenged by a number of demons who had heard of his power with Bakusaiga. They were easily defeated at his hand, not worth dwelling on, but it was proof that challengers were present.

“Show me Inuyasha in the Meidō medallion,” Bokusenō requested of Sesshomaru, breaking his thoughts.

Sesshomaru took the amulet from around his neck and held it close to Bokusenō’s face. Sesshomaru’s eyes searched the realm to and fro, but he could not find Inuyasha anywhere.

“He is not here,” Sesshomaru said, in a mixture of confusion and a miniscule amount of alarm. “But, he’s been in the same spot for the past three days.”

“What about the human?” Bokusenō asked.

Sesshomaru searched for her location as well, but she was gone too. “She’s gone. So is the Shikon Jewel,” he answered.

“Hmmm,” the old tree said.

“Have they perished?” Sesshomaru asked, uneasy with his words.

“Doubtful,” the old tree responded. “Had they perished, you would be able to track their souls in the Underworld, but you cannot. They must have escaped.”

“Escaped? Escaped the Meidō? No,” Sesshomaru responded.

“Yes. It is possible.”

“The Shikon Jewel’s powers were holding Kagome. In three days’ time, Inuyasha couldn’t even reach her. It’s impossible.”

“Kagome? What kind of name is that?” Bokusenō asked.

“They could not have made it, Bokusenō,” Sesshomaru reiterated himself, ignoring his comment about Kagome’s name.

“The only option is that he escaped, Sesshomaru.”

“Impossible.” Sesshomaru refused to accept it. “Not without help.”

“You’ve spent your whole life underestimating your brother, Sesshomaru. You should learn that Inuyasha is stronger than you think.”

It was true. Inuyasha never ceased to surprise him. The weak half demon he expected his brother to be from birth never seemed to manifest. Thinking it over, Inuyasha could have very well reached Kagome and found a way to escape back to the village. Bokusenō had already confirmed that he wasn’t dead. There was only one way for Sesshomaru to find out.

Sesshomaru turned to leave.

“Will you return to your homeland? Bokusenō asked.

Sesshomaru paused and closed his eyes. The thought of setting foot at the castle in the Western Lands again made him ill. He didn’t want to see his father’s troops, the many beings with thoughts of him or his mother. To him, he had no home in the Western Lands anymore.

Sesshomaru turned to Bokusenō, remembering the main purpose of his visit.

“Bokusenō, did Father mention his arrangements for him and Izayoi after she gave birth?”

“Arrangements?” the old tree asked.

“Do you know where he arranged for them to live?”

“Why do you ask? Do you intend to marry, Sesshomaru?” Bokusenō questioned.

“I am looking for a place to reside outside of the Western Lands,” Sesshomaru said, looking into the distance.

“Your father built a home on a mountain overlooking the plains of the Musashi Province.”

“A mountain overlooking the plains of the Musashi Province? It cannot be,” Sesshomaru responded. “The mountains overlooking the plains of the Musashi Province are completely bare.”

“The location is concealed by a barrier.”

“A barrier?”

“Yes.”

“Where on the mountain is it located?”

“I do not know the location, but the Lord of the Southern Plains of Edon does,” Bokusenō said.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened. “Why would the Lord of the Southern Plains of Edon know the location of Father’s residence? Neither me nor my mother even know where it is. What would it matter to him?” he asked, in a frustrated tone.

“The mountains overlooking the plains of the Musashi Province are a part of the territory of Edon, guarded by the dragons of the Southern Plains of Edon,” Bokusenō replied.

Sesshomaru’s stomach dropped. “What? But the plains of the Musashi Province are a part of the Central region. That’s Inuyasha’s village.”

“Yes. That is true, but not the mountains.”

Sesshomaru was silent for a moment as he processed Bokusenō’s statement. “The Southern Plains of Edon, that land of the dragon demons? That can’t be.”

“It is,” Bokusenō replied.

Although Bokusenō had always been a trustworthy fellow, his information made no sense. It seemed as though old age was truly beginning to attack Bokusenō’s brain. The dragons of Edon were notorious for their ruthlessness, hostility and privacy. Despite his father’s reputation, he would not be able to make a deal with any one of the inhabitants of that region. Entering the region of Edon in general for a non-dragon demon was a challenge all in itself, but entering the Southern Plains of Edon was an impossible feat. The dragons of the Southern Plains of Edon were the fiercest demons in all Japan. With their stature and fire breathing abilities, even the great Sesshomaru kept his distance from them.

“No.”

“It is true, Sesshomaru.”

“How did Father make such a deal?” Sesshomaru asked, challenging Bokusenō’s information. “He trained me to stay away from such demons at all costs.”

“I don’t know. Your father was a very persuasive demon. He had many alliances.”

Sesshomaru huffed at the mention of alliances. Nothing infuriating him more than the aid of others. It was ironic that he sought to help Inuyasha.

“You scowl at alliances thinking that one is weak to ask for help, but that is not so, Sesshomaru. Your father did not need help. He was powerful all in himself, but he knew the value of friendship.”

“But why the lands of Edon?” Sesshomaru asked, dismissing Bokusenō’s alliance comments. He knew that no one from that land would ever befriend him.

“It was for the protection of his human wife,” he responded.

It made sense. Izayoi was already a target to his mother, but once knowledge of his father’s marriage to his human wife spread around the lands, she would be a target to demons all over. In addition, Izayoi had already lost favor with humans with Takemaru hot with anger and jealous over her relationship with his father. Under the protection of the dragons of the Southern Plains of Edon, others would think twice about bothering them, particularly demons. But why would his father allow himself to be “protected?” Sesshomaru could not wrap his mind around the information shared, but he wasn’t surprised. He had always been convinced that Izayoi had made him weak and affected his judgement.

“Beyond the barrier, was Father’s residence complete?”

“Yes. 200 years ago he had a home built there. Whether it still stands there now, I do not know.”

“Hmm,” Sesshomaru said.

After a long silence, Sesshomaru spoke. “If Father made these arrangements, why didn’t Izayoi reside there after his death?” Sesshomaru asked, pondering why Izayoi hadn’t resided in his father’s residence on the mountain. Sesshomaru was aware that Izayoi raised Inuyasha in poverty as a young child.  “Wouldn’t Myoga or Tōtōsai have told her?”

“I am sure they would have told her, but it seems that your father only entrusted this information to me,” Bokusenō responded. “The secrecy of this arrangement was of great importance to your father. As a tree, there are not many I could have told.”

Sesshomaru looked away. “I’m sure that’s not the reason he told you.”

“I do not know the details of the alliance forged between your father and the Lord of the Southern Plains of Edon, or the exact location of his home. If you really seek it, you must speak to the Lord of the Southern Plains of Edon,” Bokusenō said.

Sesshomaru looked at the old tree before turning away to leave.

“Sesshomaru,” the old tree called out to him.

Sesshomaru stopped and looked back.

“You will exceed your father in many ways, Sesshomaru,” Bokusenō said.

Sesshomaru paused for a moment before he walked away, heading toward Inuyasha’s village.

***

Sesshomaru had much to think about after speaking to Bokusenō, something he usually always had after an encounter with him.

As he thought, he was confronted by a praying mantis demon seeking to challenge his power with Bakusaiga. Sesshomaru defeated him easily without even drawing his sword and walked on in frustration.

Grasping the handle of Bakusaiga, Sesshomaru reflected on Bokusenō’s comments about Rin and Jaken. Jaken wasn’t as defenseless as he seemed and had reasonably good intuition of various matters, even though the follow-through of his plans almost always fell through. Rin, on the other hand, was completely defenseless. Traveling with him now, with his new reputation, she would be the primary target of his enemies. He couldn’t put her life in danger anymore. He had already done that too many times already and she was too precious to lose. Plus, with a plan to visit the Southern Plains of Edon brewing in his mind, he would never take her there.

It would be a risk for even him visiting the Southern Plains of Edon. The dragons of Edon were a ferocious breed. Although his father trained him and his troops to never cower from anyone, he taught them to be mindful of the power of those demons, never underestimate them and to avoid them at all costs.

Despite all training and reason, Sesshomaru was set on visiting. He was in search of complete independence from the Western Lands, his mother and his past there. As much as he enjoyed combat, a life fighting pathetic demons who wanted to challenge his power was not what he wanted to do day in and day out. He wanted to disappear from his past and be off the grid. If visiting the Southern Plains of Edon was the only way for him to uncover the location of his father’s house, no matter the danger, it was a risk he was willing to take. With Naraku defeated, Tessaiga forgotten and Bakusaiga obtained, what else did he have?

Chapter Text

“It’s been almost a week, Master Jaken. I’m starting to worry about Lord Sesshomaru,” Rin said, as paused from picking grain in the field to check for Lord Sesshomaru approaching in the distance.

Jaken slammed the basket of grain he held on the ground. “This is your fault! Your mention of his stupid half-breed brother set him off and he’s never coming back!” he yelled. “Now, I’ll be subject to live here with you like a common human,” he sobbed.

Rin glanced at the surrounding villagers who witnessed the spectacle.

“But Lord Sesshomaru went to help Inuyasha,” Rin responded. “I know it.”

“He did not, stupid! He would never help him! That’s why Inuyasha has returned days ago and Lord Sesshomaru is still not here!” Jaken snapped. “He probably went off to forget how you betrayed him by even suggesting such a foolish action in front of these pathetic humans and that insolent Shippo.”

Rin gasped. “Betrayed him? But I was sure Lord Sesshomaru was –

“You know how Lord Sesshomaru is about his pride. You publically diminished his credibility and tarnished his reputation in front of everyone. He will never come back now,” Jaken cried. “And he left me with you as punishment for allowing it to happen,” he fell hard to the ground.

“But, Master Jaken –

“Silence!” he yelled, wallowing in his own self-pity.

Rin dropped her basket of grain and headed to the woods. She faced the direction Lord Sesshomaru had left and looked for any sign of his return. She saw nothing.

Rin huffed and bowed her head in defeat and shame as questions flooded her mind. Was she mistaken? Had Lord Sesshomaru truly abandoned them because of her statements about Inuyasha? It had been almost a week, the longest Lord Sesshomaru had been away from them at any given time. She should have kept her mouth shut.

Rin remembered when she had heard that Inuyasha had appeared. She remembered greeting him and asking where he had gone. She specifically asked him if he had seen Lord Sesshomaru, which he responded “no,” very puzzled and confused. Maybe she had imagined it, that Lord Sesshomaru was willing to help Inuyasha, the brother he “loathed.”

“Rin,” she heard a familiar voice call out to her. It was Kohaku.

“Kohaku,” she said.

“Hey. What are you doing out here?” he asked.

“Nothing,” she responded, deflated.

“Looking for Lord Sesshomaru?”

“Mmhm,” she admitted.

“I’m sure he’ll be back soon,” Kohaku said, putting his arm around her shoulder in comfort.

“But Inuyasha’s already back. He should be too,” Rin sighed.

Kohaku put his arms back at his sides and sighed.

“What if I was mistaken and Lord Sesshomaru really had no intention of helping Inuyasha. What if he just got angry by my comments and just left? Inuyasha even said himself that he did not see Sesshomaru where he was,” Rin continued.

Kohaku thought for a moment. “Lord Sesshomaru didn’t have the means to get into the Meidō like Inuyasha did. It might have taken him time to find a way.”

“Huh?”

“I don’t know Lord Sesshomaru like you do, but I don’t think he would ever abandon you, Rin,” he began. “I don’t know if you remember anything after everything that happened the day we visited the castle in the sky, but Lord Sesshomaru’s mother had an amulet stone that gave him access to enter the Mediō.  We were dragged in by a hound and Lord Sesshomaru went in after us through his mother’s amulet.”

“I remember,” Rin said, remembering bits and pieces of that day.

“You would not know this, but his mother was able to use that amulet stone to track us in the Meidō and open portals for us to leave.”

“Really?”

“Yes. The amulet could even –

Kohaku caught himself before he said anything further. He didn’t want to mention that it brought her back from the dead too.

“If Lord Sesshomaru sought out that amulet stone from his mother, it might take a while,” Kohaku continued.

“Hmm, I guess so. They had a weird relationship,” Rin agreed.

“You’re telling me,” he smirked.

Rin giggled.

“What if he went for the amulet and his mother refused him? He would have to look for another means to access the Meidō to draw Inuyasha and Kagome out. That could take a while, Rin.”

“But they’re back. Inuyasha is here and Miss Kagome is in her own time. What if Lord Sesshomaru is still looking for them?”

“It’s a possibility,” Kohaku admitted. “But, Lord Sesshomaru is resourceful. He will be back.”

“But when?” Rin sighed, in a defeatist tone. “What if we are mistaken and he really didn’t search for Inuyasha? What if he just left because he was mad at me?”

“That’s absurd. Why would you even think that?” Kohaku, turned her body toward him so that she looked into his eyes.

“Master Jaken said so.”

“I’m sure he would think that, but Rin, Lord Sesshomaru really cares about you. He went into Naraku just for you. He would not abandon you,” he said. “He will be back, and I’ll be the first one to tell you ‘I told you so,’” he smiled, as he hugged her.

Rin smiled in his shoulder, still very doubtful. Her doubt shocked even her, as she had always had the utmost faith in Lord Sesshomaru. His long absence just threw her off.

“Come on, let’s go,” Kohaku said, guiding her back towards the village.

Rin smiled. “Okay,” she answered, letting Kohaku lead the way.

***

Since the defeat of Naraku, Lady Kaede allowed Inuyasha’s group and Rin and Jaken to stay in a vacant storage hut near the edge of the village for the time being. It was cramped, but nice. Rin enjoyed being with everyone. Even Jaken seemed to enjoy the company of others, even though he wallowed in depression most days and did not talk too much.

That night, the group enjoyed a surprisingly good meal from Miroku, who cooked beef tips and rice balls. As she ate, watching the group chatter and laugh to one another, Rin couldn’t help but think about Lord Sesshomaru. She wondered where he was and what he was doing. She wondered if he missed her, Master Jaken and Ah-Un.

During dinner, Rin’s eyes shifted to Inuyasha. Although he smiled, engaged in the conversation and had his share of cracks on Miroku’s cooking, he was distant. Behind his smile, Inuyasha looked melancholy. Rin couldn’t help but notice him escape right after dinner. 

Rin left shortly after Inuyasha into the night. She followed him across the village and through the woods to the Bone Eater’s Well. Rin hid behind a tree to watch him, as he gripped the edge of the well and looked down. She knew that he was looking for Miss Kagome. She felt his suffering as she missed Lord Sesshomaru.

“I know you’re there, Rin,” she heard Inuyasha call to her.

Rin gasped, startled. She had forgotten that Inuyasha was part dog demon and had an impeccable sense of smell like Lord Sesshomaru.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, looking at her.

Surprised, Rin lost her words. “Uh, I –

“You can tell me,” he said, looking back into the well.

Rin sighed. “When you were in the Meidō searching for Miss Kagome, did you…”

Rin paused.

“Did I what?”

“Did you see Lord Sesshomaru anywhere?”

Inuyasha looked at her. “Didn’t you already ask me that, Rin?”

Rin was silent.

“No, I didn’t,” he answered.

Rin sighed.

“Why would you think he’d be there?”

“After you jumped into the Meidō, Lord Sesshomaru left. I thought he might look for a way to help you and Miss Kagome escape.”

Inuyasha let out a light chuckle.

“Lord Sesshomaru is really kind,” Rin said. “I’m sure he would help you if he could. I know it.”

Inuyasha looked back into the well. “I didn’t see him there,” he answered, solemnly.

“Okay,” Rin said.

As she began to turn away, a question boiled in her chest that she fought to ask. It was stupid, but she was compelled to. “Inuyasha, if Lord Sesshomaru had the means to try and save you and Miss Kagome, do you think he would?”

Inuyasha huffed and made a long pause. As Rin turned away, thinking he had refused to answer her, he spoke. “I don’t know.”

Rin’s ears perked up. “You don’t know?”

Inuyasha sighed.

“That means that there is a possibility he did try to help you,” she smiled.

Inuyasha rested his hands on the well for a moment in silence. “You see a side of Sesshomaru that no one ever sees,” he began. “He only shows his cruel hard edge to the rest of the world, but there is that other side that you see.”

Rin was silent, interested to hear Inuyasha continue.

“That side you see, I’ve seen it once too.”

Rin’s eyes widened and an uncontrolled smiled appeared on her face. “Huh?”

Inuyasha looked down into the well.

“Growing up wasn’t easy for me as a half demon. Everyone was either too busy being afraid of me or trying to find ways to get my mother and me to leave the village,” Inuyasha began. “No one cared to get to know me.”

Rin sighed.

“Growing up, I spent all of my time with my mother. She protected me and shielded me from the hatefully people out there who wanted me gone,” Inuyasha sighed. After a long pause, he continued. “She protected me for close to 60 years, but she died.”

“60 years?” Rin asked, confused about the number he threw out.

“As a half demon, I age very slowly, not as slow as full demons, but slow enough,” he answered. “Although I was close to 60 years old when my mother died, I still looked like I was only eight years old.”

“Wow. How old is Lord Sesshomaru?” she couldn’t help but ask.

“I don’t know. Many centuries old, I’d say,” he answered. “He’s looked the same way since I was a kid.”

Rin couldn’t hide the shock on her face.

“Anyways…after my mother died, there was no one to protect me from the villagers anymore. With her gone, the villagers got bold and actively tried to run me out of the village.”

“Really? How could they do that?” Rin asked, angrily.

Inuyasha shrugged. “One day, a band of villagers came after me with stakes and flames, forcing me to leave. They said I wasn’t welcome and wanted me gone.”

“What?”

“I didn’t struggle. I was too scared to struggle. But somehow, one of the villagers ended up jabbing me with a pitch fork.”

Rin gasped.

“I was struck in the stomach. As I fell over, there was a flash of light and a tall man in white with long silver hair appeared and struck them all down.”

“Lord Sesshomaru? He saved you?”

“When I woke up, I was in the woods on the ground next to him. He said he was my brother and that I was the son of a great dog demon.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. He said that although my blood was mixed with that of a weak human’s, I carry the blood of our powerful father, something I should be proud of and accept,” Inuyasha said. “He said I should never let humans get the upper hand. He said that I should learn what demonic powers I possess as a half demon, perfect them and defend with them.”

“Lord Sesshomaru said that?” Rin asked, unable to hide the smile on her face. She knew that she wasn’t wrong about him. Lord Sesshomaru was kind.

“He taught me about my claws and how to channel my demonic energy through them to use two techniques, the Iron Reaver Soul Stealer and Blades of Blood.”

“Iron Reaver what?” Rin asked, in confusion.

“Sesshomaru thought it was a stupid name to call it too.”

Rin laughed.

“If it wasn’t for Sesshomaru, I wouldn’t have known how to defend myself against attacks when I was younger. Who knows where I would be now,” he said, still looking deep into the well. “He wasn’t there all the time, but he was around. He was my brother.”

Rin’s smile faded. “So, what happened? Why did you start hating each other?”

Inuyasha sighed. “Sesshomaru knew that I wanted nothing more than to be a full demon. I wanted to be just like him and our father. He said that it would be a great honor to my father if I could become a full demon,” he said. “One day when he visited, he told me about the Shikon Jewel. He said that if I obtained it and wished upon it to become a full demon, it would grant my wish and I would be a full demon like him and our father.”

Rin listened intently.

“I was all for it. I wanted nothing more than to be a full demon. I tracked the jewel and found it in a temple in this very village. In my attempts to steal it, I was stopped by the Kikyo, the priestess of the village responsible for guarding the jewel.”

“Lady Kikyo,” Rin repeated, thinking of Kohaku’s relationship with her. She remembered how nice and caring she was.

“I fell in love with her,” Inuyasha continued, looking at the moon. “I wanted nothing more than to be with her. After meeting her, if I got my hands on the jewel, I would have wished to become full human to live happy with her.”

Rin listened. Even then, she could see how much Inuyasha really loved Lady Kikyo.

“That same day, I told Sesshomaru that my goals had changed and I no longer wished to become a full demon,” Inuyasha said. “To say he was furious is an understatement.”

Rin gasped.

“Among other things, he said, ‘You have every opportunity to be great, but you choose to be weak.’ That was the last thing he said before he left,” Inuyasha said.

“Oh,” Rin said, solemnly.

“That was it. When we encountered each other after Kagome freed me from the tree, Sesshomaru was never the same. Then, it all really went downhill from there after he found out that our father left me Tessaiga.”

Rin sighed.

“Since then, I’ve seen glimpses of his kind side in given situations, but whether he’d go out of his way to find a way to save me and Kagome from the Meidō, I don’t know,” Inuyasha said.

Rin understood.

“This is nothing to be repeated or dwelled upon,” Inuyasha said, looking into her eyes.

Rin nodded, as he walked toward her.

“Good. Let’s go. It’s getting late,” he said, escorting her back to the village. “Jaken is probably having a heart attack looking for you.”

Rin laughed. He probably was.

“I don’t know how you can stand him,” Inuyasha muttered.

“He’s not so bad,” Rin laughed.

***

Rin slept soundly that night. Her thoughts and dreams were filled with Lord Sesshomaru and Inuyasha when they were younger. She was happy that the most unlikely source was able to verify that Lord Sesshomaru was who she knew he was all along, a kind and caring being. She knew in her heart of hearts that he was searching for Inuyasha and Miss Kagome and would return to her. She couldn’t wait for him to realize that they were okay and return to pick up her, Master Jaken and Ah-Un.

Chapter Text

Sesshomaru reached Inuyasha’s village by the late afternoon. He found Rin and Jaken in the field with the other villagers tending the field. Those he knew from Inuyasha’s group, Sango, Miroku, Shippo and Kohaku were visible, but Inuyasha and Kagome were nowhere to be seen. Sesshomaru was sure they were gone for sure, especially with the sense of depression he felt in the air... until he smelled a familiar scent in the wind. “Inuyasha,” he said under his breath.

“Sesshomaru,” he heard a voice behind him call out to him.

Sesshomaru turned to see Inuyasha standing behind him. His eyes widened. He was alive.

“I thought you were dead,” he commented, nonchalantly.

“Hmph, it’ll take more than that to kill me,” his brother answered.

Sesshomaru huffed. He was the same ole Inuyasha.

“How did you get out?” Sesshomaru couldn’t help but ask.

“Kagome made the only true and perfect wish on the Shikon Jewel and it let us go,” Inuyasha answered.

Sesshomaru looked at him reactionless. He had heard of the perfect and true wish of the Shikon Jewel. He wasn’t surprised that Kagome was able to wish it. Her powers and abilities didn’t cease to surprise him either.

“And what of the Kagome?”

Sesshomaru could see a hint of sadness appear on Inuyasha’s face.

“Kagome is fine. She’s safe in her own time,” he said, solemnly.

Sesshomaru looked closely at Inuyasha’s reaction. He could tell that he was distraught. He knew something had happened, which would explain the sense of depression in the air, but he didn’t press it any further. He honestly didn’t care.

Looking up, he could see Rin running toward him in the distance. “Lord Sesshomaru!” she shouted, as she ran to him, dropping the basket of grain she was carrying.

“Lord Sesshomaru what?” Jaken questioned Rin, before seeing his master in the distance. “Lord Sesshomaru!” he joined in shouting, tripping over his feet as he ran to greet him too.

“I just don’t understand it,” Inuyasha said, watching them run to his brother, as he walked off.

“Rin, I hope you fared well,” Sesshomaru said, ask she stopped before him.

“Yes, my lord. We missed you,” Rin answered, with a bright smile.

Sesshomaru looked down at her expressionless. He appreciated her comments.

“Lord Sesshomaru, you’re back!” Jaken said. “It has been so long.”

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes at him. He could only imagine what had been thinking and saying in his absence. He knew it wasn’t anything positive.

“Did you see, Lord Sesshomaru? Inuyasha has returned!” Rin smiled. “He appeared from the well in the woods a few days ago.”

“The well in the woods?” Sesshomaru asked.

“It’s what the villagers call the ‘Bone-Eater’s Well.’ Apparently, it disappeared when Inuyasha and Kagome disappeared,” Jaken answered.

“Miss Kagome never returned, but Inuyasha said that she is okay and with her family in the other world. I’m most glad.”

Sesshomaru nodded. “I heard.”

“Inuyasha is most melancholy…everyone is. We all miss Miss Kagome,” she added, looking at the villagers work in the field.

“I’m sure she’ll be back,” Sesshomaru said, looking at the villagers in the field.

“We were worried about you,” Rin said, looking up at him.

“Worried? I was not worried! She was worried!” Jaken shouted, defensively. “I knew all along that you would return to us. I knew you were on important business,” Jaken huffed at Rin.

“But, then why were you crying every night saying that Lord Sesshomaru was ‘a goner for sure?’” Rin questioned him.

Jaken gasped. “I never said that!”

“Yes, you did.”

“No, I didn’t, Rin!”

“Yes, you did, Master Jaken. Why do you always have to lie?” she asked.

Jaken rolled his eyes. “I know that Lord Sesshomaru can take care of himself in battle!”

“Well, I wasn’t worried about that. I was worried about his feelings,” Rin said, looking at Jaken.

“My feelings,” Sesshomaru asked, intrigued.

“Mmhmm. You looked really upset when Inuyasha jumped into the black hole and –”

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened.

“You idiot! You should know enough to know that Lord Sesshomaru would never care if Inuyasha lived or died. He doesn’t have the same emotions as pathetic humans like you,” Jaken said.

Rin glared at him. “Well, I just thought that he might have been upset.”

“You’re a fool.”

“I’m not a fool!” Rin shouted at Jaken.

Sesshomaru watched the two as they fought, until a familiar voice calling out to him became a distraction. It was Lady Kaede.

“Sesshomaru,” Lady Kaede greeted him.

“Kaede.”

“You have returned. I see.”

“How has she been?” Sesshomaru asked, referring to Rin.

“She’s been well. No issues,” she responded.

“Good,” he said, watching her bicker with Jaken.

“But, Sesshomaru…I implore you to consider letting the little girl stay here in the village,” she added.

Sesshomaru was silent, looking away from Rin, who was now distracted picking a weed that looked like a flower in a patch of grass.

“Under my care, of course,” Lady Kaede added. “She can live with me…I just... It’s not benefiting her living in the world of demons. It’s dangerous for a little girl.”

“How dare you imply that Lord Sesshomaru is unfit to take care of Rin!” Jaken squawked. He couldn’t believe that this woman had the audacity to even ask. Jaken knew that Sesshomaru would never give up Rin for anything under any circumstance. "She wouldn't even be alive if it weren't for him!"

“Jaken,” Sesshomaru silenced him. Jaken bowed his head and stepped back.

Lady Kaede was right. It was dangerous for her. Rin had been put in more dangerous situations than she ever should have been. Now, with demons challenging his power and his sword Bakusaiga, she would be in even more danger.

“Rin needs to learn the ways of her own kind, how to interact with humans and take care of herself as a human should. She has had minimal interactions with humans as it is,” Lady Kaede continued.

Sesshomaru kept his eyes on Rin.

“Rin is going to grow up and have her own life. If she isn’t trained, she will never know how,” she added.

Sesshomaru watched Rin for a moment longer before walking over to her from Jaken and Lady Kaede without a word.

“Get Ah-Un, Jaken,” he called back to Jaken, who scurried away immediately.

“Rin,” he called out to her, as she twirled the yellow flower-looking weed in her hands.

“Yes, Lord Sesshomaru?” she smiled.

Sesshomaru looked away for a moment, searching for the right words. When he had an idea of what he wanted to say, he crouched down to meet her eyes. Rin stepped back and crossed her hands behind her back, awaiting his response.

"I want you to stay in this village, Rin.”

“No!” Rin crossed her arms and shook her head in disapproval.

Sesshomaru’s stomach dropped. This was going to be harder than he had anticipated.

“Rin, I am not abandoning you in this village,” he paused, searching for the right words. “You need to stay here to learn the way of humans. It is something I cannot teach you. You must learn this for yourself.”

“What about Master Jaken? Will he stay with me?”

“Jaken will stay with me,” Sesshomaru responded.

“But I don’t want to be with humans, Lord Sesshomaru! They are evil! I want to stay with you and Master Jaken!” she huffed, in disappointment, looking away.

“…Not all humans are evil, Rin. That is something you will learn living here.” Sesshomaru paused and sighed. “That is something that I learned from you,” he added.

“You did?” she asked, quietly, still looking away from him.

“Yes, Rin. I learned many things from you,” he said, turning her face towards him gently with his hand. He waited for her to look into his eyes. They were glossy and filled with tears. “I thought many things about humans, but my thoughts changed when I met you,” he added.

This had been the longest he had spoken to anyone in more than five word responses at a given time, besides Inuyasha, his father’s troop and others he chose to taunt. “Now, it is your turn to learn from others who are like you.”

“But I will miss you,” she pouted, tears flowing down her cheeks, as she tilted her head downward.

Sesshomaru lifted her chin up with his claw and looked into her eyes. It pained him seeing her distraught, but it was essential. “I will always be here for you. I will never be too far away. You have my word.”

Rin was silent.

“Rin,” he paused. “I promise you.”

Rin nodded. “Yes, Lord Sesshomaru,” she responded, wiping her tears away with her sleeves

Sesshomaru sighed as he watched her. It disappointed him that he was breaking her heart.

“Do you wish for me to stay with humans forever, Lord Sesshomaru?”

Sesshomaru couldn’t hide the expression that appeared on his face at her question. He was taken aback. Forever? He hadn’t thought about it. Of course, he enjoyed her company greatly, but Rin’s safety was his main concern. He never thought about how long he intended for her to live with humans. Was he passing her off forever? Did he truly wish for her to have a human life? Would she really want to come back and be with him and Jaken after learning the ways of humans? What would she want? He didn’t know anything. He did not have an answer for her.

“I wish for you to learn the ways of humans.”

Rin sighed. After a brief paused, she spoke. "And after?"

Sesshomaru stood and looked away. “After learning the ways of humans, if you still choose return to follow our path, you may,” he responded, without thinking.

Although he could not see her, he could sense her face light up.

“Really, Lord Sesshomaru?”

“Yes,” he said, questioning his own answer.

He truly wanted to say “yes” and mean every word. Everything in is being wanted him to, but he wasn’t sure. The status of Rin as a human would never change. She would always be a target. As much as he wanted her to be with him as long as she wished, there was no place for her in his company. She couldn’t be with him anymore.

“Thank you, Lord Sesshomaru,” she said, softly, still quite upset.

Sesshomaru wouldn’t look at her. He was ashamed of the hope he gave her. He could lie to anyone in a heartbeat, but he never wanted to lie to Rin. He questioned why he even offered that option in the first place. It was stupid. He had to condition her to a life without him.

“As I want to give you a fair opportunity to learn the ways of humans and adapt to human life,” he paused. “My visits will be limited.”

“Limited?” she asked, in confusion.

“Humans are afraid of demons. I do not want my presence in your life to affect how you are treated by villagers,” he looked down at her.

“But I don’t care!”

“Rin,” Sesshomaru said.

Rin looked down in disappointment. “The village has treated Master Jaken, Inuyasha and Shippo just fine,” she muttered. “Lady Kaede made sure of it.”

Sesshomaru sighed and met her eyes again. “As I said, Rin, I will always be here for you and I will never be too far away if you need me,” he said, sincerely.

“But I'll always need you,” she looked down.

Sesshomaru lifted her chin up with his hand and looked into her large brown eyes. He wished she were smiling, but he took in her sad image. Although he did plan on visiting Rin sporadically, he didn’t know when or if he would ever see her again. With the journey to the Southern Plains of Edon on the docket, he didn’t know if this was the last time he would ever spend with her or see her face.

For the first time, he pulled her close to him and hugged her tight. He felt her return his embrace as her small hands squeezed his back. He took in her warmth. He never knew he could ever feel this way about any being, especially a human.

Sesshomaru let her go and stood up before escorting her to Lady Kaede, who stood next to a shocked Jaken.

“Rin will be staying in the village,” he said.

Jaken looked at Rin’s tear-stained face. “Lord Sesshomaru?”

“Say goodbye, Jaken.”

Jaken sighed and walked over to Rin, who draped her arms around him in a hug. Instantaneously, Jaken’s eyes poured with tears.

“Goodbye, Master Jaken,” Rin cried.

“Goodbye, Rin,” he sniffed.

“Goodbye, Ah and Un,” she nuzzled, her melancholy dragon companion, who purred at her touch.

“Take care of yourself, Rin,” Sesshomaru ordered her, as she nodded.

Sesshomaru gave Lady Kaede a hard look. She nodded. “I will take care of her,” she promised, “everyone will.”

Sesshomaru turned away, taking one last look at Rin before he left. Jaken and Ah-Un followed in silence as they left the village into the woods.

***

Sesshomaru led the way through a wooded path followed by Jaken and Ah-Un. They had been journeying for hours in silence since leaving Rin. Collectively, the group had gotten used to the chatter, hums and trivial games of the little girl on their journeys. It had become their way of life, and the absence of Rin had hit the group hard. They would need to learn to re-adapt to silence again as times before Rin.

“We’ll make camp here,” Sesshomaru said, halting next to an open area surrounded by trees.

“Yes, my lord,” Jaken said, in a low voice, as he scanned the surrounding area for firewood.

Sesshomaru sat down against a tree and watched as Jaken piled stacks of branches in the center of the area before him. Ah-Un curled up by a tree on the opposite end of the grounds and grazed on a large patch of grass.

“Are you hungry, my lord?” Jaken asked, as he lit the pile of branches he collected with the Staff of Two Heads. “I will look for something to eat.”

“No,” Sesshomaru responded, gazing into the fire. “Do as you please.”

“Yes, my lord,” Jaken responded, with a bow, as he scurried off into the woods in search for food. 

Listening to the heavy breathing of Ah-Un and gazing into the fire, Sesshomaru reassessed his decision. As much as he had assessed, contemplated and re-worked different solutions, there was no better option than the dreaded one he had chosen. He knew he made the right decision with Rin, but everything in him was screaming otherwise. Sesshomaru looked down in grief and closed his eyes hard, trying to control the internal turmoil that had plagued him.

Sesshomaru heard the shuffling of leaves through the trees. Jaken had returned, carrying a large leaf filled with an assortment of berries and nuts. He sat down in front of the fire across from him and set down his platter. He picked up a handful of berries and shook his head, his eyes filled with water.

“What is it, Jaken?”

“These are Rin’s favorite,” he blubbered.

Sesshomaru looked away.

Jaken sniffed the glob of snot dripping from his nose and gobbled the berries in his hand. “My lord?”

“Yes?” Sesshomaru asked, still looking away.

“Why did you leave Rin in the village? Had she upset you in any way?” Jaken gulped. He hadn’t had the nerve to mention anything to Sesshomaru about Rin since he had left her at the village.

“It was a mistake letting Rin travel with me. She belongs in a village. I’ve done nothing but put her life in danger,” he said, his eyes closed.

“But, my lord…” Jaken hesitated before continuing. “No one can protect her like you can,” he tried to plead.

As much as the little girl annoyed him to no end, Jaken had grown attached to her and genuinely missed her company. Furthermore, her presence significantly reduced the reprimands and harsh treatment he received from his master from time to time.

Sesshomaru opened his eyes and gazed into the fire again, pausing for a moment before responding. “I’ve put her in more danger than she should have ever encountered in her lifetime. She is safer away from me.”

“But, my lord –

“Jaken,” Sesshomaru said, sternly looking into his eyes, signaling him to be silent.

“Yes, my lord,” Jaken responded with a nod.

After what seemed like hours of silence, both Jaken and Ah-Un had fallen asleep while Sesshomaru sat awake leaning against the tree thinking. He couldn’t sleep. The image of Rin haunted him. Sure, Jaken was right. There was no one better than him who could protect her, but being with him was a liability. After the defeat of Naraku and the generation of his Bakusaiga, Rin would be the target. Bokusenō was right. Enemies seeing her with him would go after her to get to him. He couldn’t allow that. Rin was too important to him. Being in a safe human village, living a human life, was what she needed. Surrendering her to a human village was a sacrifice he needed to make, even if she resented him for it. Plus, he had a dangerous mission to complete. Soon, Sesshomaru drifted off to sleep, planning his quest to get answers from the Lord of the Southern Plains of Edon.

***

Sesshomaru awoke before Jaken and Ah-Un. He washed himself in a river nearby and combed his claws through his thick hair. He washed his armor with his hands and sighed in relief as he had took it off, relieving himself of its heavy weight. After a few moments of silence, the closest thing he would ever get to relaxation in this situation, Sesshomaru put his clothing and armour back on and returned back to the campsite. Jaken and Ah-Un were still asleep.

 Sesshomaru walked by Jaken and called his name. “Jaken, get Ah-Un. We’re leaving.”

“Yes, my lord,” Jaken answered, groggily. “I’ll get him right away.”

“May I ask where we are headed, my lord?” Jaken asked, as he helped Ah-Un stand to his feet and led him to Sesshomaru.

“To the Southern Plains of Edon.”

Jaken gasped. Even he knew the reputation of the inhabitants of Edon, particularly the dragons of the Southern Plains of Edon. “To what do we owe the pleasure of going there, my lord?” he stuttered.

As they walked, Sesshomaru brought Jaken up to speed on his plans of uncovering the location of his father’s house, ignoring the details of why. As anticipated, Sesshomaru had Jaken’s full, yet shaky support in the mission.

The Southern Plains of Edon were not far from their present location. It was about an hour and a half in walking distance. As they approached the territory, they noticed the weather getting hotter, the perfect temperature for fire breathing inhabitants. The closer they reached the region, the more Jaken sweat and trembled with fear. Sesshomaru looked forward, letting a memory of Rin lying on Ah-Un’s back singing songs rewind in his mind.

As Sesshomaru and Jaken reached the Southern Plains of Edon, they were forced to stop. Their path was blocked by a large dark cave entrance that made Jaken tremble. “Lord Sesshomaru?” Jaken quivered.

“This is the entrance,” he responded, taking a breath. He could smell smoke coming from within it.

As Sesshomaru contemplated the best course of action to proceed, three large dragons walked out of the dark cave entrance and surrounded them. Jaken gripped his Staff of Two Heads and screamed as Sesshomaru held onto the handle of Bakusaiga.

Chapter Text

“It seems like Sesshomaru has returned,” Miroku said, watching Rin and Jaken run in excitement to greet Sesshomaru across the field as he spoke to Inuyasha.

Sango looked over and gave a light smile as she saw Rin running toward him. “I’m glad,” she sighed.

Miroku sighed at her. He knew that she still felt guilty. Sango had told him all about how Naraku had tricked her into killing Rin to save his life. Although she had accepted her actions, Miroku knew that they still haunted her.

“All is well, Sango. Rin is alive and everyone is okay. Look at how happy she is,” Miroku said.

“I know…I just –

Miroku let his satchel of grain fall at his side as he grabbed Sango’s hands. “Stop, Sango,” he said, looking into her eyes.

She looked away as tears began to form in her eyes. “I’m just so ashamed of what I had done. How could I have been so stupid, Miroku? I knew Naraku was not one to be trusted and yet, I believed him.”

“Sango, please, you cannot blame yourself. Naraku got the best of all of us. You weren’t alone in this.”

“But I was the only one who almost killed a little girl, a kind, sweet, innocent and loving little girl who didn’t deserve it at all. Just look at her,” she said, watching Rin look up as she spoke to Sesshomaru.

“‘Almost’ is the keyword here, Sango,” Miroku said.

“Miroku…please. I know you’re trying to help, but –”

“Look at her, Sango. She’s happy and full of life. It’s over.”

“I just can’t forgive myself, Miroku” she shook her head, as tears flowed down her face. “Sesshomaru should have killed me.”

“For all practical reasons, he should have killed you,” Mirkou began, watching her look up at him with widened, shocked eyes at his comment. “Yes, he should have killed you, but he didn’t, Sango.”

“I know. That’s what I don’t understand,” Sango wiped her eyes with her sleeve.

“…Because you don’t deserve to die, Sango.”

“But, Miroku –

“Sango, listen to me,” he held her hands, “If the situation was reversed and it came to killing you to save Rin, what would happen?”

“Miroku, stop,” she tried to pull away.

Miroku refused to let her run. “Sango, you know exactly what the outcome would be. I’m sure, somewhere in him, Sesshomaru understood what you were going through, which may be why he forgave you.”

Sango sighed. “That moment replays and replays in my mind,” she let her head fall forward.

Miroku sighed and pulled her close. They held each other close for a moment before Miroku stepped back and grabbed her by the hand. “Come with me,” he said, leading her by the hand towards the woods.

“Huh?” Sango asked, as Miroku led her through the field towards the woods.

“Where are you going?” Shippo asked, watching them pass by.

“We’re taking a break. We’ll be right back,” Miroku answered.

“Yeah, well, make it quick. This work isn’t going to get done all by itself,” Inuyasha, who had returned to the field spat.

“We’ll be back,” Miroku reiterated.

***

Sango followed Miroku closely as they weaved and bobbed in between trees. Her eyes widened when they reached a cave opening covered in thick green vines and heavy moss.

“Where are we, Miroku? What are we doing here?” she asked.

“There’s something I want to show you,” he said, moving the thick vines aside with his hands.

“In a cave, Miroku? What is this all about?” Sango sighed, as she slowly entered the dark cave.

“Close your eyes,” he instructed her. “Don’t peek.”

Sango shook her head. “Miroku, I can hardly see as it is,” she said.

“Come on, Sango, close your eyes.”

“This better be good, Monk,” Sango huffed, as she closed her eyes, letting him lead her forward slow and steady by the hand.

Sango felt Miroku lead her around a bend. After walking a few more steps, Miroku stopped. “Here. Open your eyes.”

Sango opened her eyes in complete awe. The dark cave was glowing green.

“What is this?” she asked, looking around.

“Look up,” he instructed her again.

Sango looked up, surprised to see millions of small glowing green gems stuck to the top of the cave ceiling. “Miroku,” she gasped.

“They’re glow worms.”

“Those are worms?”

“Well, not really. They’re actually more like bugs, but –

“They’re beautiful, Miroku,” Sango gasped, unable to take her eyes off the cave ceiling.

Miroku smiled. “You like it?”

“Yes, of course.”

“I thought it would. I had been meaning to show you this place for a while. I was hoping that seeing it today would cheer you up.”

Sango smiled brightly at him. “Thank you, Miroku.”

He nodded and looked around the cave as well.

“How did you find this place?”

“I came across it walking one day.”

“You just walk into random caves, Miroku?”

“You never know what treasures you may find inside,” he answered.

Sango laughed. He was always looking for a get rich quick scheme.

“I’ve never seen anything so beautiful in my life?” she said, looking up at the glowing creatures.

“…I have,” Miroku said, facing her.

“What could that possibly be? I don’t think anything could ever possibly be more beautiful than this,” she said, still looking at the ceiling.

“You,” he said softly.

Sango couldn’t help but blush. “Me?” she asked, too embarrassed to look at him.

“Yes, Sango. You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever laid eyes on, and believe me, I’ve seen a lot of women.”

Miroku!” Sango cringed.

“But I mean it,” he continued, walking over to her and grabbing her by the hands. “You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen…and I love you, Sango.”

“I love you too, Miroku,” she responded, letting him kiss her.

Sango pressed her lips into his as he pulled her close by the waist. She felt butterflies flutter in her stomach at his touch. As he tilted his head to the side and kissed her repeatedly on her soft lips, Sango kept her eyes closed and enjoyed the moment.

Shivers ran up Sango’s spin as she felt Miroku’s fingers run through her hair. He had never done that before. She couldn’t help but let out a gasp. As her lips parted, Miroku took advance of the opening and let his tongue meet hers.

Sango’s eyes widened. She couldn’t believe it. The monk had just put his tongue in her mouth. He didn’t just put his tongue on hers… he was now rubbing his tongue against hers repeatedly. What was he doing? Their kisses had always been sweet, gently and brief, not like this. Despite how foreign it felt, Sango couldn’t help but enjoy it.

Sango followed the movements of his lips as they locked in between hers. The sensations he was making her feel made her weak in the knees. She clung to him for support, which seemed to fuel his fire.

At her grip, Miroku moaned and kissed her even harder and fiercer. He couldn’t help himself. He had kissed many girls throughout his lifetime, but nothing compared to kissing Sango, the woman he truly loved. Hearing a deep moan from Sango, he broke their kiss. Looking into her eyes, she looked like she had gone to another place.

“Are you oka–

Before he could finish his question, Sango pressed her lips hard against Miroku’s forcing them opened. Even he was shocked by her actions. Miroku accepted her deep passionate kiss for a moment before letting his lips trail down her neck. The sound of her unexpected gasp and moan was music to his ears.

Sango was sure she would collapse as she felt Miroku’s lips touch her neck. It was like shocks of electricity and butterflies shooting and fluttering throughout her body simultaneously. She couldn’t take it. It was in that moment that her knees buckled and she collapsed in his arms.

Sango expected Miroku to let up, but he did not. He held her tightly as he kissed her gently all the way to the ground.

“Mir—Miroku,” she managed to say, catching her breath, as his lips moved from her neck to her collar bone. She closed her eyes and took in the sensations, anticipating what he would do next.

He was so skilled in his movement, like a seasoned artist painting on a delicate scroll. She never knew any other person could make her feel this way. It was intimate. It was special. It had been done before.

Sango’s eyes opened wide at her thought. “Miroku.”

“Huh?” he asked, still kissing her chest.

“All those women from before…how many were there?”

“Women? What women?” he asked, absorbed in his kissing.

“Miroku,” she pushed him back abruptly, forcing him to stop.

“What’s wrong, Sango?” he asked, wide-eyed. She was just enjoying herself a moment ago.

“How many women have you been with, Miroku?”

“Sango, you really want to talk about this right now?”

Sango huffed. “Yes, I do. How many, Miroku?”

“Sango…”

“How many, Miroku?” she asked again, crossing her arms.

“Why does it matter? They are my past…and you are my future.”

“’They?’” she asked, getting a bit red in the face. Although she had presumed that he had had multiple lovers in the past, hearing him confirm it upset her.

“Uh…well… I didn’t mean –

“How many is ‘they?’”

Miroku sighed.

“Tell me, Miroku,” she insisted, getting a bit aggravated.

“I don’t know why it matters, Sango. It’s over.”

“Is it over?” she asked, reflecting on his lecherous ways.

“Sango!”

“Why won’t you tell me? If I’m going to be your wife, I have every right to know, Miroku.”

Miroku’s mouth opened. “My wife?”

Sango began to blush. “Well, I… I –

“I would desire nothing more than for you to be my wife and to bear my children, Sango,” he said, grabbing her hands with a smile.

Sango blushed even harder, as she looked away.

“Sango, I love you! I don’t think I’ve ever loved anyone like I love you!”

Sango couldn’t look at him. She could feel the passion in his voice.

“I’m sorry, Sango. Let’s go,” he said, standing up.

“Miroku?” she asked confused.

“How many women have I been with? Maybe five…maybe seven. I don’t know. Do I remember them? No.”

Sango felt heat run through her body. She couldn’t believe he even admitted it. It angered her that he didn’t even know how many women for sure.

“You’re not just another woman to me, Sango,” he continued, turning to her. “You’re the woman I love and…I don’t want to treat you like just any other woman. You’re special.”

Sango was speechless. “Miroku…” Despite being furious at him only a second ago, his sincere heartfelt words changed her disposition. “I don’t know what to say.”

“You don’t have to say anything. Let’s get back,” he said, helping her off the ground. “They need our help back at the field and I’m sure Inuyasha and Shippo are already complaining.”

Sango was silent. She fought within herself for the right words to say, but she didn’t have any. She sighed and followed Miroku towards the cave bend. Just before she reached the bend of the cave, she stopped.

“The field can wait,” Sango said.

“Sango?” Miroku asked, looking back at her puzzled.

Without another word, Sango walked over to him and kissed him on the mouth. He tried to resist, but soon succumbed to her influence and mesmerizing beauty.

“If I am not just another woman to you, treat me like the woman I am to you,” she instructed, looking into his eyes.

Miroku could barely speak. He had never been more surprised, impressed and captivated by anyone in his whole life. It ignited a fire within in. He kissed Sango passionately back to the center of the cave, letting his hands explore her chest and entire body.

***

“I’m thirsty.”

“Yes, I know. I tend to have that effect on women after the art of lovemaking,” Miroku smiled, proudly.

“Monk,” Sango cringed, glaring at him.

“I’m just kidding,” Miroku kissed her forehead. “Stay here. I’ll get some water from the village.”

“And some food too.”

Miroku smiled as he got up and put on his attire. “I guess I really did a number on you.”

Sango turned red in embarrassment. “Just go,” she smiled, watching her lover walk around the bend to exit the cave.

Sango covered herself with her clothing and looked up at the green glow worms twinkling on the cave ceiling. She had never seen anything more beautiful. She smiled as she remembered Miroku’s comment of her being the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. She couldn’t believe how much she loved him.

Sango closed her eyes as she reminisced about her special encounter with Miroku. Sango’s stomach fluttered with butterflies at the thought of him. For a lecherous monk, the moment she spent with him was everything opposite of what she thought it would be. He was gentle, patient, caring, and above all, loving. She knew that spending her life with Mirkou would be nothing less than bliss. She couldn’t wait to start. Sango closed her eyes and envisioned her future with Miroku as she awaited his return.

“Mirkou, is that you?” Sango asked, as she heard a faint noise coming from around the bend of the cave.

Instead of an answer, she heard a small gasp.

“Miroku?” Sango asked again, opening her eyes in concern, as she quickly and quietly began to put on her clothing, preparing to fight if need be.

“Miss Sango?” she heard a small familiar voice ask.

“Rin?” she asked, adjusting her outfit, as she walked around the bend to the entrance of the cave.

“Miss Sango,” Rin said, as she saw her appear into the light of the cave. “What are you doing here?”

Sango froze and blushed. “Oh, nothing,” she smiled, with shifty eyes. “Miroku was just showing me something,” she answered, unable to get the vision of Miroku’s naked body penetrating her repeatedly on the cave floor out of her head.

“The glow worms?” Rin asked, as she wiped her nose with her sleeve and sniffled.

“Huh?” Sango asked in confusion, lost in her thoughts.

Rin gave her a blank confused stare.

“Yes! The glow worms,” she answered, coming back to reality. “Yes, that was it. How do you know about them?”

“Kohaku showed me,” she answered, solemnly.

“Is there something wrong, Rin?” Sango asked, as she walked towards her.

Rin looked down. Sango could see tears streaming from her eyes.

“Oh no, what’s wrong? What happened?”

“Lord Sesshomaru...he...”

Sango couldn’t help but let different scenarios of tragedy play through her mind. She had just seen Rin and Jaken with Lord Sesshomaru not too long ago in the field. They looked so happy together. Sango didn’t know what to think.

“Lord Sesshomaru and Master Jaken left. Lord Sesshomaru wants me to stay in the village,” she said.

Sango was shocked. “I’m so sorry, Rin,” she said, pulling her close into a hug.

“All I want to do is be with Lord Sesshomaru and Master Jaken, but Lord Sesshomaru wants me to stay here,” she pouted.

“Did he explain why?”

“He said he wants me to learn the ways of humans. But…I don’t want to. I want to be with them.”

Rin’s comment confused her. Sesshomaru left her in the village to learn the ways of humans? It didn’t make sense. If Sango knew only one thing, she knew that Rin was very important to Sesshomaru. She almost lost her own life when she tried to kill Rin to save Miroku. She could never imagine Sesshomaru ever leaving Rin’s side for any reason.

“Now, they’re gone and I’m here all alone,” Rin added.

“You’re not here alone. We’re all here with you…me, Miroku, Kohaku, Shippo and Inuyasha. You’re not alone,” she touched her shoulder.

“But I feel alone,” Rin responded.

Sango sighed as she rubbed her back in comfort.

“Lord Sesshomaru said that once I learn the ways of humans I can return to him and Master Jaken if I choose to though.”

“That’s great, Rin,” Sango gave a shaky smile, uncertain if that reality would ever come true for her. If Sesshomaru was committed to protecting Rin, he would not let her return to his company.

“I guess.”

Sango could see the sadness and disappointment on Rin’s face. She couldn’t let her feel this way. She had to give her hope. “Well you know what you need to do then, right?”

Rin looked at Sango puzzled. “What do I need to do?”

“You need to learn the ways of humans. The sooner you learn, the sooner you can return to them,” she answered, feeling guilty for possibly giving Rin too much hope.

Rin’s face beamed. “Yes, Miss Sango!” You’re right! Once I learn the ways of humans, Lord Sesshomaru will let me stay with him and Master Jaken!”

“Yes, that’s the spirit,” Sango smiled.

“But what should I learn?” she asked, looking deflated.

Sango paused. “Everything about everything.”

“Everything about everything?”

“Yes. I’ll help you. We’ll all help you.”

“You will, Miss Sango?”

“Of course, Rin. We can teach you so much. I can teach you how to make vegetable dumplings and sew if you’d like.”

“You can show me how to make pretty outfits like that?” Rin asked, referring to Sango’s kimono and dress wrap.

“Yes. It will take some time to learn, but I’ll teach you how to make anything you’d like.”

“Thanks, Miss Sango,” Rin beamed, hugging her tight.

“You’re welcome,” she said, with a gloomy face behind her back.

“I need to get back, Miss Sango. I have so much to learn!” she smiled, running off.

“Would you like me to go back with…you?”

“Bye, Miss Sango!” Rin shouted, running off.

“Bye,” Sango answered softly, feeling more guilty than happy to see Rin so excited.

“Hi Miroku. Bye Miroku,” Sango heard Rin shout in the distance. Miroku had returned.

“What was that all about?” Mirkou asked, walking into the cave with a pitcher of water and a small basket of dumplings. “She looked happy,” he added, walking with Sango back around the cave’s bend.

“She wasn’t a second ago,” Sango said, taking the pitcher from Miroku as they sat down on the cave floor and putting it to her lips.

“No?”

“Sesshomaru took Jaken and left her in the village.”

“What?”

“Yes. I couldn’t believe it either. She was really upset.”

“I can imagine. She adores Sesshomaru.”

“I know. He told her that he wants her to learn the ways of humans.”

“Really? But he hates humans,” Miroku commented.

“Mmhmm,” Sango answered, absorbed in her guilt.

“He’s protecting her. I guess after everything that happened to her with Naraku, he just wants to make sure she’s safe.”

“I wasn’t much help in making him think otherwise,” Sango commented.

“Sango, you have to stop beating yourself up. Rin is fine and alive. We’re all alive. If the ruthless, unforgiving Sesshomaru could forgive you, you should forgive yourself as well,” Miroku said.

“But I think I made matters worse with Rin. I gave her hope that Sesshomaru will return to her, but I don’t really know. She was just so sad and I wanted to cheer her up,” Sango sighed.

“Come here,” Miroku instructed her, pulling her into his embrace.

Sango fell into his chest as they sat on the cave floor.

“I’m sure you told her what she needed to hear. She needs to have hope to move forward and grow here,” Miroku said.

“I guess, but I just feel like I’ve done nothing but everything wrong with Rin,” Sango admitted.

“What’s done is done, Sango. We can’t go back and change the past,” Miroku began.

“Well, Kagome can,” Sango managed to smirk.

Mirkou laughed. “That is true, but you, Sango, cannot go back and change the past. All you can do is more forward. If you want to atone for what happened with Rin, make up for it by looking out for her here in the village. She’s going to need you, Sango,” Miroku said.

Sango nodded. “You’re right.”

Miroku watched the glow worms as he played with strands of Sango’s hair.

“Thanks, Miroku,” she whispered to him.

Miroku smiled and kissed her cheek.

Chapter Text

Sesshomaru watched as three large towering dragon demons with long serpentine bodies slithered out of the dark cave entrance and surrounded him and Jaken. Despite how intimidating they looked, Sesshomaru held his composure. Jaken, on the other hand, could not help but scream and cry.

“Enough, Jaken,” Sesshomaru said, calmly, not taking his eyes off of the large red dragon demon who slithered toward him with piercing yellow eyes.

Jaken did his best to silence himself. He closed his eyes as the large green dragon demon slithered close to his face. Jaken trembled as hot smoke escaped from the demon's nostrils. “Ahh,” he shrieked, uncontrollably.

“What business does a dog demon have here?” the red dragon demon asked, sizing Sesshomaru up with his eyes. His mouth was as big and as wide as three Sesshomarus put together. His teeth were sharp and jagged, each about the size of Jaken’s body length.

“I need answers,” Sesshomaru responded, seemingly unfazed.

“Straight to the point,” the black dragon demon, who towered behind them, commented.

“And courteous,” the green dragon demon smiled, blowing smoke on Jaken. “He even brought us a snack.”

“No, no, please!” Jaken shielded his body with the Staff of Two Heads.

Without hesitation, Sesshomaru drew Bakusaiga.

The red dragon demon in front of him looked at the green dragon demon, who looked at the black dragon demon. All at once, they laughed.

“Could it be?” the black dragon demon asked. “Is this the one everyone’s been talking about…the one with the sword that destroys flesh?”

“I believe it is,” the red dragon demon answered, looking carefully at the sword

“Hmm…” the black dragon demon assessed the sword from behind.

“Maybe,” the green dragon pondered.

“Why don’t you try it on us?” the red dragon demon taunted Sesshomaru.

“Yes, come on, we dare you,” the green dragon demon chimed in. “I want to see how it’ll work on us.”

Sesshomaru huffed and sheathed Bakusaiga.

“Master, why?” Jaken asked, heartbroken. Sesshomaru was never one to cower away from anyone. Why would he ever put his sword away? Had Sesshomaru conceded to defeat?

“They are not made of flesh, but iron. My sword will not work here,” Sesshomaru answered.

Jaken was speechless. With Tensaiga now nothing more than a healing sword and Bakusaiga useless, they were defenseless. Sure, there was the power of the Staff of Two Heads, but compared to the fire-breathing capabilities of the dragon demons surrounding them, it was as good as useless too.

“Smart and sensible,” the green dragon demon commented to his brothers about Sesshomaru.

“You don’t fear us?” the red dragon demon asked, glaring into his eyes.

“I fear nothing,” Sesshomaru answered. He was prepared to live and get answers or die trying.

“We shall see,” the red dragon demon challenged him, trying to intimidate him, as he moved his face closer to his and glared into his eyes.

“So, what answers do you seek from us, dog?” the black dragon demon asked. “It is unusual for a western dog to seek answers from us. You’ve traveled a long way.”

“I knew he had an accent!” the green dragon demon laughed.

Sesshomaru cringed at the comment. He expected Jaken to rise up and provide his usual verbal lashing, but he could see that Jaken was too terrified. Sesshomaru was actually grateful for that.

“No one seeks answers from us,” the red dragon demon hissed.

“Well, some do…they just don’t live long enough to appreciate them,” the green dragon demon laughed even harder.

“Inu no Taishō,” Sesshomaru responded.

The three dragon demons were silent as they looked at one another. By their reaction, Sesshomaru was sure that they knew of him.

“And who is he to you?” the black dragon demon asked from behind.

“I am his son,” Sesshomaru responded. “What arrangement did he have with the Southern Plains of Edon?” he asked, watching the dragon demons’ eyes look at one another.

Jaken shrieked as the large black dragon demon who stood behind them jumped over their heads and landed by his brothers. The ground shook violently when he landed. They watched as the three demons mumbled and hissed at one another in disagreement before they each slithered into the large dark cave behind them.

“What was that about?” Jaken whispered. “Have they retreated?”

“Not likely,” Sesshomaru answered, his narrowed eyes on the cave's entrance. He tried to listen in, but he couldn’t understand their language.

After moments of listening to foreign whispering, the voice of the black dragon demon called out to them. “You may enter.”

Sesshomaru looked cautiously for a moment before walking forward. “Let’s go,” he told the trembling Jaken.

“But, Master…can I…can I stay here?” he asked.

Sesshomaru ignored his request. “Let’s go, Jaken.”

Jaken collected himself as best as he could and followed Sesshomaru into the cave's entrance with quivering legs.

Under normal circumstances, Sesshomaru would have let Jaken stay back. He would have actually made him stay with Rin in the village knowing that he might die here. Sesshomaru knew this journey would be dangerous, but he also knew that life without him would be death to Jaken and that he needed Jaken by his side for support. Sesshomaru refused to show weakness in front of others, especially with Jaken in his presence. Jaken would keep him focused. Without each other, they would be dead one way or another. Why not die together if they must?

As they entered the cave, they were overwhelmed by darkness and immense heat. The cave was pitch-black. They couldn’t even see the dragon demons who had entered before them. They were walking through was a tunnel of darkness.

“Wha…wha…wha…what if they're leading us to walk through their mouths into their stomachs?” Jaken whispered as he trembled.

It was a fair question. The dragon demons of the Southern Plains of Edon were known for their ruthlessness. That could have been the case, but Sesshomaru was confident that it wasn’t as he could hear the clanking of their iron skin against the cave walls in the distance.

“Light the Staff of Two Heads to see,” Sesshomaru instructed Jaken, as he unleashed his own poison claws that omitted a green glow. It was a weak glow, but paired with the flames of the Staff of Two Heads they could at least see the three dragon demons slithering before them.

“Look at those weak lights,” the voice of the green dragon demon laughed, looking back at them, his green eyes glowing in the flames of the Staff of Two Heads.

Sesshomaru huffed. He could only imagine how ridiculous they must have looked.

“If you wanted light, all you had to do was ask,” the black dragon demon said, blowing fire from his belly through the dark tunnel before them.

Jaken screamed and leaped onto Sesshomaru’s mokomoko. Outwardly unfazed, Sesshomaru kept walking, watching how the flames of the black dragon demon lit what seemed like candles along the cave wall.

The group walked for about five minutes before they reached sunlight at the end of the cave’s tunnel. Stepping out of the tunnel, they entered the Southern Plains of Edon.

“It’s beautiful!” Jaken gasped, with widened eyes.

Entering the terrain of the Southern Plains of Edon, they stood on lush grass in an area surrounded by full green trees and towering castle-like houses. Large dragon demons of all colors and sizes soared in the sky, as dragon demons in their true and humanoid forms slithered and walked on the grass below. It was nothing less than exquisite.

“What were you expecting, fire and brimstone?” the red dragon demon asked, looking at the faces of both Jaken and Sesshomaru.

“Well…we just –

“Yes,” Sesshomaru responded, interrupting Jaken.

The green and black dragon demons looked at each other and laughed. “I rather like him,” the green dragon demon said.

“I don’t,” the red dragon demon muttered. “If he doesn’t survive to meet Father, I’ll eat him myself,” he glared at Sesshomaru.

Jaken shuddered while Sesshomaru didn’t flinch. “Hmph.”

Sesshomaru was mindful of the reactions of the other dragon demons in the area as they followed the three before them. Some hissed and breathed fire, while others just stood and watched in curiosity. Sesshomaru could feel Jaken trembling as he clung to his mokomoko.

As they walked amongst the slithering dragons, a small dragon demon girl in her humanoid form ran up to the red dragon demon. She had auburn skin with piercing yellow eyes and braided red hair that was parted into two buns on top of her head.

“Who are they, Daddy?” she asked the red dragon demon.

“Pay them no mind, Tatsuo,” the red dragon demon answered, in a calm and endearing tone.

“Why do they look funny?” she ignored her father and looked at Jaken and Sesshomaru. “What is that?” she asked, unable to take her eyes off of Sesshomaru’s mokomoko.

Sesshomaru huffed.

“Pay them no mind. Go back and play,” the red dragon demon instructed her.

“But you said you were going to give me another flying lesson today,” she said.

“After,” the red dragon demon answered his child, slithering on. “I’ll be back. Go and play until then.”

Sesshomaru watched as the little girl huffed and began to walk off. His eyes narrowed as he felt her touch his mokomoko and run off giggling. She reminded him of Rin. In her humanoid form, she looked to be about a few human years younger than her.

“Tatuso is learning to fly already?” the green dragon demon asked. “Wow.”

“Time is flying by,” the black dragon demon said.

“Don’t remind me,” the red dragon demon muttered, slithering onward.

***

Sesshomaru and Jaken followed the three dragon demons until they reached the base of a steep jagged mountain.

“It’s at the top,” the black dragon demon said, turning to face them.

Both Sesshomaru and Jaken looked up at the monstrous mountain.

“What’s at the top?” Jaken couldn’t help but ask.

“Our Father, leader of the Southern Plains of Edon,” the green dragon demon answered, looking up.

“He can answer any questions you may have about Inu no Taishō,” the black dragon demon added. “We’ll wait for you there.”

“If you don’t make it in three days, we’ll know you haven’t survived,” the green dragon demon smiled at them.

“And I’ll be sure to devour your carcass,” the red dragon demon hissed near Sesshomaru’s ear.

In a flash, Sesshomaru took off straight into the sky with Jaken clinging on his mokomoko. He soared upward against the jagged mountain and landed at the top next to the opening of a large cave covered in vines and twigs.

“Very impressive,” the black dragon demon said when he reached the top. “I had no idea dogs could fly.”

“Yeah,” the green dragon demon agreed, as he landed next to the red dragon demon who scowled in disappointment.

“Well, Lord Sesshomaru is a very impressive –

“Silence, Jaken,” Sesshomaru said abruptly.

“Lord Sesshomaru, is it?” the red dragon demon smiled. “Look, brothers, we’ve been graced with a noble guest. If we eat him, do you think we will obtain any special powers?”

“Or his good looks, perhaps?” the green dragon demon gawked at Sesshomaru’s physique.

“I will find that out myself,” the red dragon demon answered, glaring at Sesshomaru.

“No one is eating anyone until we hear from Father,” the black dragon demon interrupted the chatter.

“Fine,” the red dragon demon snarled. “Let’s get on with it then. I told Tatsuo I’d be back.”

“Come,” the black dragon demon instructed Sesshomaru to follow as he slithered into the cave.

Sesshomaru followed the black dragon demon as the red and green dragon demons followed closely behind. Sesshomaru listened to Jaken cough as the heat and smoke intensified inside of the cave.

“Ryunosuke,” they heard a deep voice call in the distance. “Ryouhei and Ryuusaburou. Is that you?”

“Father,” the black dragon demon answered, slithering forward. “It is I, Ryunosuke, with Ryouhei and Ryuusaburou.”

“Yes, Father, it is I, Ryuusaburou,” the red dragon demon introduced himself.

“And Ryouhei,” the green dragon demon answered.

Looking ahead, Sesshomaru could see a large multi-colored dragon demon in his true form lying on a large stone in the distance. He did not move forward.

“What do I hear? Who else is with you and why have you brought them here?” the deep voice asked, referring to Sesshomaru and Jaken. “Have I not instructed you to be mindful of those who enter?”

“Yes, Father,” Ryunosuke, the black dragon demon, answered, “but we thought they may be of interest you to.”

“‘We’ nothing! That was all your decision to bring them here, Brother,” Ryuusaburou, the red dragon demon, hissed.

“I wanted to eat them, Father,” Ryouhei, the green dragon demon agreed, “Especially the green one,” he added, as Jaken shuddered and gripped Sesshomaru’s mokomoko tighter.

“What is the meaning of this, Ryunosuke?” the large dragon demon asked.

“He mentioned Inu no Taishō. This is his son.”

Sesshomaru heard a long pause.

“Inu no Taishō?” he questioned. “It cannot be.”

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes.

“No, Father, this is not Inu no Taishō. He is his son,” Ryouhei corrected.

“I know what I said! I may not have all of my sight, but I am not senile yet,” he scolded the green dragon demon.

Sesshomaru watched as the three dragon demons glared at one another. “Yes, Father,” they answered.

“Come here close, young man,” the intimidating multi-colored dragon demon instructed Sesshomaru. “Let me look at you.”

Sesshomaru breathed as he let two possible scenarios of what could befall him play in his mind. On one hand, he could walk forward and be greeted by a dragon demon who really just wanted to see him, or he could walk forward and get scorched to death because of some unknown vendetta this dragon demon he may have had with his father long ago. He didn’t know anything, but he wasn’t turning back now. This mission was important to him.

He was compelled to have Jaken get off his mokomoko and stay back, but he reasoned that it would be better if he were to die with him. Staying back, Jaken would only be able to live no more than a moment longer. He would be eaten alive by the green dragon demon Ryouhei.

Walking forward with Jaken still clinging to his mokomoko, Sesshomaru saw the large multi-colored dragon demon with silver piercing eyes lying on a stone at the back of the cave. He was a massive creature, far larger than the three dragon demons who had escorted them inside the lands.

“The one with the crescent moon. You must be Sesshomaru,” he said.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened.

“I am Ryūk.”

“You knew my father?”

“I did.”

So it was true. Bosenko was right.

“What business do you have here?," Ryūk asked, "I believe we’ve settled the score between families.”

“Settled the score?” Sesshomaru asked, confused.

“Enough with the mind games. I’m too old,” Ryūk sighed at Sesshomaru, as he transformed into an old man with auburn skin, multi-colored braided hair, silver eyes and a long multi-colored beard.

“What are you talking about, Father?” Ryunosuke asked, transforming into his humanoid form. He transformed into a auburn-skinned man with cropped curly black hair with large yellow eyes, along with his brother, Ryouhei, who transformed into auburn-skinned man with long braided green hair tied in a bun, with green eyes to match. Ryuusaburou, the red dragon demon, remained in his true form and moved next to the cave's exit, glaring at Sesshomaru.

“This is about Ryūkotsusei. You’ve come to settle the score regarding your father’s death,” Ryūk said.

“Ryūkotsusei?” everyone in the cave asked, puzzled.

“Ryūkotsusei? Wasn’t he the demon foe your father sealed before he died,” Jaken whispered to Sesshomaru.

“What?” Sesshomaru asked, as his mind spun. Ryūkotsusei had never even crossed his mind. He wasn’t even aware that Ryūkotsusei was from the Southern Plains of Edon. Yes, Ryūkotsusei was a towering dragon demon with a serpentine body, but he hardly resembled these dragon demons’ true forms. He was not as tall of the dragon demons in the cave and had flesh for skin instead of iron. Plus, although Ryūkotsusei’s facial structure resembled the dragons in cave, he had a second face of a white mask the rested on his forehead. There was no way.

“What does Ryūkotsusei have to do with anything?” Ryuusaburou asked, looking at Sesshomaru for some sort of answer.

“Everything,” his father answered.

“But Ryūkotsusei is dead,” Ryunosuke said.

“Yes, by Inu no Taishō’s son.”

“Him?" Ryuusaburou asked, exposing his jagged teeth, ready to charge at Sesshomaru. “He was the one who killed Ryūkotsusei?”

“Hold your peace, Ryuusaburou. Not this one,” the old dragon answered. “The one with the ears.”

“Inuyasha,” Sesshomaru said, in shock, as he processed the information.

“Inuyasha, is it? Yes. Him.”

“Let’s kill him now and avenge the name of our brother Ryūkotsusei!” Ryuusaburou shouted at his brothers, fueling their excitement.

“Settle yourselves. No one is avenging anyone. The score is already settled. Ryūkotsusei killed Inu no Taishō and Inu no Taishō’s son killed him. It’s over,” Ryūk said, calmly.

“Ryūkotsusei is of kin to you? He looked nothing like the rest of you,” Jaken's fear couldn't prevent him from asking.

“Why would he? He’s a half demon,” Ryūk answered.

“A half demon?” Jaken asked.

“Yes,” the old dragon demon answered.

Sesshomaru could not help but look shocked. “Impossible.”

“Iron dragon demons have the ultimate power. An iron dragon half demon can wield as much power as a powerful full demon in another class.”

“Half demon…” Sesshomaru muttered to himself. “His demonic aura…his gall…everything. It doesn’t make sense!”

“It makes plenty of sense,” Ryūk nodded.

“My father was not killed by a half demon!” Sesshomaru roared, losing all composure, startling Jaken who clung to his mokomoko.

“Believe what you want, son, but it’s true. Ryūkotsusei was half demon, the first of our kind,” Ryūk answered, ignoring Sesshomaru’s reaction.

Sesshomaru’s face flushed red in anger. He couldn’t process what he was hearing. Ryūkotsusei was not a half demon. He couldn’t be. It was impossible.

“Long ago, my brother, Ryūko, was leader of the Southern Plains of Edon before me. During his reign, he lost his mate, Zureika. She became very ill and died suddenly,” Ryūk began. “After her passing, Ryūko was so distraught and grieved that he couldn’t function. He became a shell of a powerful demon and ultimately left the Southern Plains of Edon to roam foreign lands aimlessly.

Sesshomaru listened closely.

"Our clan trailed him, but lost sight of him. One day, centuries later, he returned to our plains... with a human woman,” he paused.

Ryuusaburou snarled. “You should have killed her,” he hissed.

“Ryuusaburou!” Ryunosuke shouted at his brother.

“Her death would have prevented the tragedy of our brother’s life.”

“Ryuusaburou!” Ryouhei shouted as well.

“It’s true. Ryūkotsusei’s life was a tragedy,” Ryūk answered, honestly. “Under normal circumstances, she would have been killed instantaneously, but as successor to Ryūko after his collapse, it wasn’t a call I wanted to make.”

“Why?” Jaken managed to ask, invested in the facts of the story.

“When I saw her, she looked exactly like Zureika in her humanoid form. Absolutely identical,” he said.

Ryuusaburou growled in disappointment.

“I knew Zureika was long dead, but when I saw how…whole Ryūko seemed with her, I thought she could give him the healing he needed to fully recover. I allowed her to stay in the Southern Plains of Edon with a decree of her safety in these lands forevermore.”

“But... she wasn’t the woman he thought she was,” Jaken commented, his fear subsiding as he grew more intrigued by the story.

Ryūk lifted his hand to silence Jaken, who shuddered. “He was my brother. I could not deny him this happiness. After many centuries of being gone, he was finally back and content with life,” he said, with a pause. “He really did seem to love her after all.”

Ryuusaburou huffed. “How could he not, Father? She looked just like his dead –

“Stop,” Ryunosuke silenced his brother.

“The human, who we knew as Hannei, lived here in the Southern Plains of Edon with Ryūko in his humanoid form. With my decree, despite the resentment and disapproval of her presence in the lands, no one dared bother her,” he said. “Shortly upon her arrival, she became pregnant.”

Sesshomaru sighed. This was a joke.

“Zureika lived in the Southern Plains of Edon for nine years until the child was born.”

“Nine years?” Jaken couldn’t help but ask. “Isn't that a little long for a human?”

Sesshomaru was puzzled himself. He was aware that human women who were pregnant with half demon children carried much longer than women carrying human children, but nine years was way too long. That was closer to how long women carrying full demon children carried for…even longer.

“Yes, for nine years Zureika was with child and lived in the village,” he nodded. “It was a long time.”

“Upon the child’s birth, Ryūko died,” he paused in grief. “As leader of the plains, and in the best interest of the child, called Ryūkotsusei after my brother, I invited her to remain in the plains. I said that as the lady of Ryūko, she would always be welcome in the Southern Plains of Edon. She refused. She was uncomfortable residing in these lands alone without my brother.”

“But she had already been living here?” Jaken asked.

“Despite my decree, she didn’t feel safe without Ryūko by her side. She insisted on taking the child with her back to her own village, but I wouldn’t allow it,” Ryūko answered.

“Huh?” Jaken asked, confused.

“Our kind had never bred with humans. Ryūkotsusei was the first of his kind. No one knew what he was capable of. Even as an infant, he was far too powerful. We needed to observe him and his ways,” Ryūk said. “I told her that either she stay in the Southern Plains of Edon with the child or leave on her own accord without him. She chose the latter.”

As the old dragon demon spoke, Sesshomaru still couldn’t believe anything he was hearing. A half demon…his father was killed by the wounds inflicted by a half demon.

“After she left, we tracked her. She moved to the Plains of Musashi,” Ryunosuke stated.

“She didn’t live long after that,” Ryouhei added, looking at Ryuusaburou.

“Huh?” Jaken trembled.

“Accidents happen,” Ryuusaburou commented, as Jaken shrieked.

“You shouldn’t have killed her,” Ryunosuke said, shaking his head. "Father decreed her safety -

“The decree was only for her residing in the Southern Plains of Edon. She left... and I was hungry.”

Ryunosuke shook his head.

"She deserved it. Who leaves their child like that?" he added.

Sesshomaru forced himself to stay focused as his mind sought to wander to the rationale of leaving Rin behind in the village.

“I raised him as Ryūko’s son, just like he were my own. I raised him as though he were a full demon of the iron dragon demon clan,” Ryūk continued, ignoring his sons. “Ryūkotsusei was good. Although he had humanistic tendencies and feelings, he was strong and courageous.

“That he was,” Ryunosuke nodded.

“And funny too,” Ryouhei laughed. “Remember when he took Ryuusaburou's tail and -

“Shut up,” Ryuusaburou hissed.

“Ryūkotsusei was oblivious to being different," Ryunosuke said.

“He thought we all turned into humans once a lunar cycle and wanted to know when we all transformed. He was worried that we’d be lonely having to hide out in secrecy alone for protection,” Ryouhei laughed. 

“That would have been the least of my worries,” Jaken whispered to Sesshomaru. “I would have been wondering why I was the only one who had the creepy mask for a face.”

“Silence, Jaken,” Sesshomaru said, frustrated and not in the mood for jokes.

"It wasn't until he became of age to learn the lessons of iron dragon demons that he truly realized he was different,” Ryūk said.

“The flying incident…that’s what started it,” Ryuusaburou comment. “He wasn’t the same after that.”

“Yeah. It was all downhill from there,” Ryouhei added.

“Ryūkotsusei began questioning why he wasn’t as strong or as skilled as the others in the clan. He started asking why he didn’t have iron-clad skin like the rest of us, but flesh,” Ryūk said, looking away.

"I would have been asking about why I had two faces, one of which being a creepy mask," Jaken couldn't help but mutter in a whisper, annoying Sesshomaru.

“I dodged the subject as long as I could. We all did, but eventually I had to tell him,” the old dragon demon paused. “When I told him that he was a half demon, he was furious.”

“He was half powerful and have useless. He didn’t even have iron skin as an iron dragon demon. How could he not be furious?” Ryouhei commented.

“He blamed his human mother for being who he was, a weak and inadequate iron dragon demon," Ryūk said.

Sesshomaru knew the feeling all too well. He had blamed his parents for many shortcomings in his own life.

“Although he felt inadequate to the clan, he was superior in power compared to most demons in other classes,” Ryūk sighed. “Rage possessed him. He wanted to feel supreme, not less than. He reveled in his vanity of being supreme among demons with lesser power and humans.”

This was all too familiar to Sesshomaru.

“Ryūkotsusei was adamant about terrorizing the Plains of Musashi, the land of his mother,” Ryūk said.

“But she was dead,” Jaken said.

“He didn’t care,” Ryūk said.

“And you let him?” Sesshomaru asked, thinking of his father’s pursuit to save the Plains of Musashi.

“What could I do? He was three centuries old. I couldn’t tell him anything. Plus, humans have never been my concern,” he admitted. “He was too far gone to hear reason anyway,” he said, solemnly.

The cave was silent.

“Too far gone?” Sesshomaru asked.

Ryūk sighed. “Resentment for inadequacy and a feeling of neglect were not the only factors fueling Ryūkotsusei’s actions. Training Ryūkotsusei as a full iron dragon demon was a mistake.”

“A mistake?” Jaken asked. “You didn’t want him to be strong?”

“Being trained as a full iron dragon demon put Ryūkotsusei in various life-threatening situations for a half demon,” he answered.

“But wasn’t that a good thing? Weren’t you strengthening him?” Jaken asked.

“That’s what we thought,” Ryuusaburou said, blowing smoke from his nostrils.

“The more our clan put him in life-threatening situations, the more Ryūkotsusei’s full iron dragon demon abilities emerged to the surface,” Ryunosuke commented.

“It was as though he was a true full demon,” Ryūk said. “Thinking we made a breakthrough, we kept putting him in trying situations. Little did we know, we were doing more harm than good. Ryūkotsusei was becoming more and more erratic, violent and hostile towards anyone in his path.”

“What are you talking about?” Sesshomaru couldn’t help but ask, impatient and confused.

“Ryūkotsusei, as a half demon, could not contain his powerful demon blood,” Ryūk responded.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened.

“At first, we thought his behavior came from the frustration of being different from the clan, but after he began attacking the surrounding villages we knew something was wrong,” Ryunosuke said.

“He was only attacking them because he was not powerful enough to attack us... his own clan members...his brothers,” Ryouhei said, solemnly.

“What?” Jaken asked, shocked by the response. “Why would he want to attack you?”

“He wanted to attack everyone,” Ryuusaburou huffed. "He lost control."

“It was through a demon sorceress that I learned that half demons with powerful demon bloodlines need to have their blood contained to prevent their demonic nature from overtaking their human nature in life-threatening situations," Ryūk began. "She explained that if half demons' demonic nature overpowers their human nature too often, they will eventually lose themselves and become destructive to themselves and everyone they come in contact with.”

Ryouhei bowed his head.

“The sorceress explained that Ryūkotsusei would need something on him at all times to help contain his demonic blood. She suggested many things like necklaces and body armor to wear, but we knew it would never work,” Ryunosuke said.

“He needed something that could never come off,” Ryūk said. “The sorceress enchanted an old mask and –

“I thought he was born that way!” Jaken shouted in astonishment.

“Shut your mouth,” Sesshomaru ordered him, a bit taken aback himself.

“I subdued him and had the sorceress embed the mask into his forehead to control his blood,” Ryūk said.

“His arms were too short for him to be able to rip it off,” Ryouhei added.

“It was a good idea,” Ryunosuke commented, as Ryuusaburou blew smoke from his nostrils.

“For good measure, I had the sorceress enchant Ryūkotsusei and the mask so that he would never wish to have it removed from his body even if he could. She granted my request and allowed the mask to be his eyes and mouth piece.”

Both Sesshomaru and Jaken’s eyes widened.

“These dragon demons really live up to their reputation of being ruthless,” Jaken couldn’t help but whisper to Sesshomaru.

“We did what we had to do to save his life, but it was just too late. Even with the mask, Ryūkotsusei was already too far gone,” Ryunosuke said, solemnly.

“Your father came to me, seeking aid in stopping Ryūkotsusei,” Ryūk looked at Sesshomaru, who’s eyes narrowed. “I refused. I couldn’t control him. To control him would be to kill him and that would not be done by me.”

Sesshomaru looked away.

“I explained Ryūkotsusei’s situation as a half demon. To my surprise, your father mentioned that he was expecting a half-demon child soon himself,” Ryūk said, still looking at Sesshomaru. “I warned him to find a way to seal the child’s blood as it could overpower him or her. Half demons can be extremely weak and disadvantaged, and yet, just as powerful as a full-breed demon when backed into a corner. If not contained, they can easily lose themselves,” Ryūk added.

“The Tessaiga,” Sesshomaru said under his breath. Everything was making sense to him now.

“I warned your father that challenging Ryūkotsusei was like taking a gamble on his own life. I warned him that he may not survive,” Ryūk said, as Sesshomaru cringed within himself. “I warned him that although his skin was not comprised of iron like mine and was mixed with human flesh, it could very well be the toughest skin in the world.”

“You shouldn’t have sold him off to be killed!” Ryuusaburou roared angrily at his father. “We should have killed him ourselves, our way.”

“Ryuusaburou, stop,” Ryunosuke tried to intervene. “He was out of control. There was nothing we could do for him. He was too far gone.”

“He was becoming a killing machine,” Ryouhei added.

“He was sick, Ryuusaburou,” Ryūk said to his son.

“I know, but we should have killed him ourselves!” he responded.

“What did my father say?” Sesshomaru asked, unable to bear this disturbing family feud he was witnessing.

“Your father said that he must do what he must to protect the woman he loved, his unborn child and the village,” Ryūk answered.

“Yes, and you surrendered Ryūkotsusei to this dog’s father to be killed?” Ryuusaburou shook his head. "'Do what you must. I will not stop you or retaliate, me or my kind,'" he added in a huff. 

“That’s what I told Inu no Taishō,” Ryūk acknowledged his son's words, as the dragon demons shook their heads in disappointment. “He left, they fought and your father died after sealing him in a deep sleep.”

Sesshomaru breathed deeply.

"They say that he died from a fire, but I’m sure Ryūkotsusei was the one who did him in,” Ryūk commented.

“He did. My father was gravely wounded before he encountered the fire at the village,” Sesshomaru answered.

Ryūk nodded.“Inu no Taishō was an honorable demon,” Ryūk said.

“What?” Ryouhei and Ryuusaburou asked. Even Sesshomaru’s own ears questioned the comment coming from him.

“Why do you call the demon you sent to kill Ryūkotsusei honorable?” Ryouhei asked.

“He didn’t even do the job,” Ryuusaburou hissed.

“Rumor has it that it took all in your father’s power to only place Ryūkotsusei in a deep sleep. Knowing your father, I know differently,” Ryūk said to Sesshomaru.

“What do you mean?” Ryunosuke asked.

“It would have been much easier to kill Ryūkotsusei, but your father pitied my son and valued his life. I know that he chose not kill him.”

Sesshomaru looked away. He couldn’t deny that that sounded exactly like his father.

“Now, centuries ago, Ryūkotsusei killed your father. Only recently was he awoken and slain by your younger brother. I hold no grudge or grievance toward anyone in this matter. We both lost. The score is settled and I have no desire to stir up trouble with the son of my friend over this matter.”

“Your friend?” Jaken asked.

Ryūk ignored the question as Sesshomaru spoke. “I did not come for trouble. I came for answers.”

“What answers?” he asked.

“My father’s house.”

“Hmm,” Ryūk nodded.

“Are you aware of it?” Sesshomaru asked.

“Prior to the rampage of Ryūkotsusei, Inu no Taishō visited these lands to see me. He sought to reside in our land of Mt. Sure overlooking the Plains of Musashi,” he began. “Brave among all others, he came to me to make a deal. He explained that he, as overseer of the Western Lands, had remarried and needed a safe place to live protected against the wrath of his first wife... and son.”

“Son?” Jaken asked, looking at Sesshomaru.

“Yes, his son. He explained that his son did not approve of his union with his new wife, for the obvious reasons. He wanted to take extra precautions with her safety from him as well.”

Sesshomaru looked away.

“We made a deal and I offered him land and residence there, free to come and go as he pleased, without fear of any issues with the dragon demons of the Southern Plains of Edon.”

“And what did he offer you in this deal?” Sesshomaru asked.

“Fur.”

“Fur?” Jaken asked, shocked by the response.

“Dragon demon eggs need optimum heat to grow to their full potential. We typically bury our eggs in warm dirt or sand for warmth, but there is always risk of suffocation if the eggs hatch early or unattended. With fur, we could wrap the eggs and let them grow to their full potential without risk of death.”

Thinking back, Sesshomaru remembered hearing of shipments of fur being sent away in bulk from the Western Lands shortly after his father left the castle. Being away from the castle and out of its affairs, the reasoning for the fur shipments never mattered to him.

“Where is the house on Mt. Sure? I heard it was sealed by a barrier.”

“Wishing to burn the house down?” Ryūk asked Sesshomaru, who gave him a hard look.

“Leave us,” Ryūk instructed his sons, who immediately slithered and walked away.

“What?” Sesshomaru questioned his statement.

“I know about you and your relationship with your father,” he said. “Your father and I, in our short time of knowing each other, became close friends, which is the only reason why you were let in here by the mention of his name.”

Sesshomaru listened closely.

“He told me all about your pursuits for power and your bouts of cruelty.”

“Cruelty! I’ll have you kno—

“Silence, Jaken,” Sesshomaru instructed him.

“You just reminded me that I’m just about due for a nice snack,” Ryūk taunted Jaken after his outburst.

Sesshomaru felt Jaken tremble and grip his mokomoko tighter.

“Your father requested that land mostly to protect his family from you, his eldest son. It surprised me to think you’d even make a trip to try and avenge him, but that wasn’t even your goal. You just want his house.”

“How dare you? I’ll have you know that Lord Sesshomaru loved his father,” Jaken couldn’t help but shout.

“Is this that so?” Ryūk asked.

“The relationship between my father and me is mine. I do not answer to you,” Sesshomaru said.

“Great. Then in that relationship, he should have told you all about his house and its location. Since he didn’t, you may leave. You won’t receive any help from me,” Ryūk smiled.

Sesshomaru huffed.

“How dare he?” Jaken snapped again, jumping off Sesshomaru’s mokomoko.

“Let’s go, Jaken.”

“But, Lord Sesshomaru –

“Now. Let’s go,” Sesshomaru said, calmly. There was nothing he could do.

“You should be ashamed of yourself for even coming here,” the old dragon demon added.

Sesshomaru huffed as he turned away with Jaken following right behind. As they walked towards to cave's exit, Ryouhei, the green dragon demon slithered in at top speed in his true form. “Father, it’s Tatsuo! She’s fallen! Come quick!”

In lightning speed, Ryūk transformed into his true form and slithered with his son outside of the cave past Sesshomaru and Jaken.

“What was that all about?” Jaken asked.

“Who cares?” Sesshomaru responded, annoyed that he was leaving just as empty as he had walked in.

Leaving the cave, Sesshomaru leapt into the sky with Jaken on his mokomoko. As he traveled toward the cave they entered through, Jaken spoke. “Oh, boy, look at that. It looks like someone fell from sky.”

Sesshomaru, still lost in his thoughts and upset at the outcome of the journey, ignored him.

“Oh, it’s a little dragon. I think it may have been learning how to fly.”

Sesshomaru was silent. He didn’t care.

“Aw, it looks bad,” Jaken added.

“Tatsuo! Tatsuo!” Sesshomaru heard a crowd of dragon demons shouting and crying below.

Tatsuo. That name sounded familiar.

Sesshomaru sighed and looked down below in curiosity. Down below he saw a group of dragon demons, standing around the body of a small little red dragon demon in her true form.

“My granddaughter,” he heard Ryūk shout, in deep sorrow.

Looking down closer, he could see Ryuusaburou, the red dragon demon, hovering over the young dragon demon’s body.

“I think that little dragon is Ryuusaburou’s daughter,” Jaken said.

Sesshomaru looked closely. It looked that way.

As Sesshomaru continued to fly, he felt a pang from Tensaiga at his side.

“Silence,” he said, continuing on.

“Yes, Lord Sesshomaru,” Jaken said.

“Not you, I was talking to Tensaiga,” he answered.

“Tensaiga? Does that mean Tensaiga wants you to save that little dragon?”

Sesshomaru huffed. “She is no concern to us.”

In that moment, he remembered the little dragon in her humanoid form touch his mokomoko and run off giggling. He remembered how she reminded him of Rin. As the thought of Rin crossed his mind, he couldn’t leave. Sesshomaru huffed and flew down towards the crowd of grieving dragon demons.

“Lord Sesshomaru! What are you doing? Why are we going down?” Jaken asked, in a panic.

Sesshomaru ignored him as he landed just behind the crowd.

“They’re going to eat us!”

“Silence, Jaken,” he said.

Sesshomaru walked in between the nosy, concerned and grieving dragon demons to the location of the little dragon demon girl. With all the commotion, the crowd hardly noticed him.

“Tatsuo,” he heard Ryuusaburou say, solemnly, letting his face touch the dead dragon demon girl’s head. "Why don't you ever listen?"

“I’m so sorry, Son,” Ryūk sobbed.

“Kill me. I must protect her in the afterlife,” the broken Ryuusaburou requested.

“No, Son,” Ryūk answered.

“Please, Father! I must protect her! Ryunosuke! Ryouhei! Someone, kill me now! I must protect her!” Ryuusaburou shouted in sorrow.

Sesshomaru took a breath and walked forward, unsheathing Tensaiga. At the sight of him and his sword, the crowd began to stir. He could feel the heat rising in the bellies of the surrounding dragons ready to attack.

“Let me save her,” Sesshomaru said, as he reached the side of the dead dragon demon girl.

“How dare you mock his pain! You cannot save her!” a dragon demon in the crowd shouted at him.

“I can if you let me,” he repeated to Ryuusaburou.

“Don’t listen to him!” a purple dragon demon in the crowd shouted.

“How can you save her with a sword?”  Ryūk asked, glaring at Sesshomaru, seething at the notion that he was hateful enough to give his son false hope.

“He’ll only mutilate her body!” another shouted.

“Stop!” Ryuusaburou shouted. “If you can save her, save her!” he demanded.

“Step aside,” Sesshomaru said.

As Ryuusaburou slithered aside, Sesshomaru extended Tensaiga and watched as the creatures of the Underworld appeared. With one swipe, he destroyed them all.

“What was that? He just waved his sword –

“Wait! No! Look! She’s waking up!” Ryouhei said, in astonishment.

“Tatsuo!”

“Daddy?”

“Tatsuo!” Ryuusaburou cried.

“My granddaughter!”

Without a word, Sesshomaru walked off.

“Wait,” he heard Ryūk call to him.

Sesshomaru kept walking.

“I said, ‘wait,’” Ryūk repeated himself, making Sesshomaru stop.

“Your father’s house is located on a cliff overlooking the Plains of Musashi. It is sealed by a barrier there,” Ryūk said.

Sesshomaru listened, his back still turned away.

“The house cannot be detected by demons. The barrier is nearly untraceable and masks demonic auras. It's a safe place. Even I cannot locate it, but I know it is there,” Ryūk continued.

Sesshomaru sighed and walked on. What good was a house he would never be able to track or enter?

“I don’t know the name of the one who erected the barrier. All I know if that the monk was from a village of powerful monks and priestesses in the Western Lands of your father,” Ryūk added, as Sesshomaru listened. “The creator of this barrier is most assuredly long dead by now, but I would presume that his successors will be able to help you track the barrier’s exact location and dissolve.”

“My father never mentioned a specific village or region in the Western Lands?” Sesshomaru looked back at the large multi-colored dragon demon.

“He did not,” Ryūk answered.

Without a word, Sesshomaru turned away.

“Thank you,” Ryuusaburou said, hugging his young daughter. “Thank you for saving her life.”

Sesshomaru paused for a moment before walking on.

“If we of the Southern Plains of Edon can be of aid to you in any way, you know where we are,” Ryuusaburou called to him.

“As the name of Inu no Taishō is revered in this land, so shall yours be too…Sesshomaru,” Ryūk added, with a nod.

Sesshomaru looked back at Ryūk.

“In his company, your father said a lot about you…many of things I thought he was mistaken about,” Ryūk paused. “But, Sesshomaru, you are everything your father said you would be. I was wrong.”

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened before he soared into the sky with Jaken clinging to his mokomoko.

“What did he mean by that?” Jaken asked.

Sesshomaru remained silent as he landed at the entrance of the cave tunnel. He did not know.

Before unleashing his glowing claws to see his way back through the tunnel of darkness the cave, Sesshomaru noticed a shiny piece of gold-colored iron lying in the dirt. It was the shape of a six-petal flower. He looked at it for a moment before placing it in his pocket.

“Jump off and light your staff, Jaken,” Sesshomaru instructed.

Jaken nodded and did as requested. “Yes, mi lord?”

Without a word, Sesshomaru led the way through the tunnel of the dark cave, reflecting on the day's events and pondering what to do next. 

Chapter Text

Jaken could not stop talking after he and Sesshomaru left the Southern Plains of Edon. His rambling drifted from being grateful to being alive to how astonished he was by the size of the dragon demons. As the topic of the Western Lands arose, Sesshomaru could feel a tightness build in his chest. It was getting harder and harder to breathe and he was feeling disoriented. With every step he took, he felt himself getting dizzy. Soon his hands began to shake. It was happening again. He needed to escape. He had to get away.

“Lord Sesshomaru?” Jaken asked, when he noticed Sesshomaru stop walking.

“Take Ah-Un and find a place to make camp,” Sesshomaru answered Jaken.

“Huh?” Jaken asked confused. “Where are you doing, mi lord?”

In a flash, Sesshomaru transformed into a ball of light and soared away through the trees. He couldn’t see straight and was growing weary. When he hit the hard ground, Sesshomaru tugged on his armor for air. He was dizzy, hot and his chest burned. Sesshomaru closed his eyes hard and breathed slowly, inhaling and exhaling deeply with each breath.

It had been centuries since Sesshomaru had had ones of these attacks. He was sure that Jaken’s talk of traveling to the Western Lands triggered it, but he was an adult now. Childhood terrors shouldn’t have been troubling him anymore. As he tried to convince himself that he was too old for this, the face of Hitoshi flashed before his eyes. Sesshomaru huffed and shut his eyes. He had never felt more ashamed.

Sesshomaru laid still for a while until he felt his body return back to normal. With a deep breath, he stood to his feet and began to walk to meet Jaken. As he walked back, he saw something. Through the trees…it was a human in long beige cloak. Sesshomaru stopped and clutched Bakusaiga. He heard rustling off to the side. His ears perked as he used his peripheral vision to assess the noise. There he saw the human in beige again. He tried to catch the person’s scent in the air, but there was nothing to smell.

When he looked to the left, the human appeared to the right. Sesshomaru grew weary trying to track him with his eyes. When he finally gave up and turned away, the human who stood before him had the face of Hitoshi. The being smirked and disappeared into the wind.

Sesshomaru felt his chest tighten again. He crouched down to breathe. He couldn’t help but gasp for air. Although so vivid, it wasn’t real. Hitoshi had been dead for centuries. His mother had killed him and his group of monks long ago. Sesshomaru wasn’t even in the Western Lands anymore. It was pointless for him to be like this anymore. Visions of Hitoshi were an issue of his past. He had them regularly while he was recovering from his attack and for a few decades after. Sesshomaru thought it was over. It shouldn’t have been happening now, centuries later.

As night fell, Sesshomaru let himself rest by a tree. He was still weary and disoriented to search for Jaken and Ah-Un. He wished to sleep, but no sleep would befall him. Instead, he sat awake thinking.

The last words of his father’s old foe Shishinki came to his mind. "I pity you, Sesshōmaru. What your father did was cruel. He was cruel, you hear?!"

Sesshomaru cringed. He came to understand his father’s actions regarding the inheritance of Tessaiga and Tensaiga, but this was different. Although there was no doubt that Hitoshi and his group of monks were long dead by the time his father married Izayoi and thought to build a house with a barrier, Sesshomaru couldn’t help but ponder his father’s motives in getting a Western monk or priestess to build the barrier. Why get a spiritualist in one region to erect a barrier miles away in another? He was certain that there were more than capable spiritualists in the Central region, and even the Eastern and Southern regions for him to choose from. Why the Western Lands? Sesshomaru knew that Ryuk was right. His father specifically chose a spiritualist from the Western Lands to deter him personally.

At the end of the day, no matter how anyone tried to spin it and say that his father had the utmost faith in him, Sesshomaru was not the son Inu no Taishō wanted. To Sesshomaru, it was evident that he would always be a disappointment to his father.

Sesshomaru let his head rest against a tree trunk as he recalled the moment he truly heard the true sentiments of his father. It was the night he met Lady Shiemi of the Eastern Lands.

***

“Why must we do this?” Sesshomaru asked, adjusting the fancy silk silver and gray kimono his mother forced him to wear for the occasion.

“How else will you strengthen this land?” his mother responded.

“Conquest. Defeat. Triumph,” Sesshomaru answered, arrogantly.

“Have I taught you nothing, Son? You need an heir produced by a strong alliance to strengthen these lands,” Inukimi answered. “The dog demons from the Eastern Region are comparable to us in might, rank and reputation in their region. An alliance formed between us will be fruitful for both regions.”

“Alliances,” Sesshomaru huffed.

“Inu no Taishō, have you nothing to say?” Inukimi muttered.

Sesshomaru looked at his father, who looked out of the windows, even less interested than he was.

“Of course you don’t,” Inukimi answered her own question, as she adjusted her hair piece.

“General Shinzō and Lady Shiemi of the Eastern Lands,” a guard announced, as he slid open the doors to the large great room.  

“Look alive,” Inukimi instructed her unenthused husband and son.

Sesshomaru watched as a very short plump dog demon in his humanoid form entered through the doors followed by a short young slender female dog demon in her humanoid form. She wore an elegant red kimono with an elaborate headpiece with a silk cloth that covered the front of her face. All Sesshomaru could see were her pink oblong lips and long gold earrings that seemed to be tangled in her hair. He wasn’t impressed.

Sesshomaru wished to be anywhere but there. It was the same old thing every few weeks. A prominent family would try to “sell” their daughter to Sesshomaru, who he would reject. Negotiations would try to be made between the parents, Sesshomaru would leave, regions and empires would be insulted, and then the whole thing would start again with a new family after some time. The only difference between this meeting and the ones held prior was that his mother was highly invested and interested in forming an alliance with this particular dog demon family. Sesshomaru knew that this time, he might be leaving with a wife, whether he liked it or not.

“Welcome,” Inukimi greeted the group, standing to her feet.

The short plump dog demon, General Shinzō, bowed to her. “The pleasure is all mine.”

“Let me introduce my husband, General Inu no Taishō,” she looked at her husband, who stood to his feet and bowed.

“It is an honor,” General Shinzō bowed.

“The honor is all mine,” his father responded, as Sesshomaru rolled his eyes and huffed.

“…And our son, Sesshomaru,” Inukimi continued, looking at Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru knew it was customary for him to stand and bow. Reluctantly, he stood to his feet and gave General Shinzō a bow.

“It is a pleasure,” General Shinzō responded.

Sesshomaru nodded and sat down. It was an inconvenience to him.

“Allow me to introduce myself. I am General Shinzō, overseer of the dog demons of the Eastern region. This is my daughter, Shiemi,” he said, gently guiding his daughter forward by the back.

Sesshomaru watched as the slender girl walked forward and bowed. She didn’t seem like anything special.

“It is our pleasure to meet you, Lady Shiemi,” Inukimi greeted her.

“The pleasure is all mine,” the soft, high-pitched voice behind the cloth answered.

Sesshomaru let out a chuckle, making General Shinzō look at him confused. She sounded like a mouse.

Inukimi shot Sesshomaru a hard look before looking to her husband for support. Inu no Taishō seemed to be elsewhere, an action rare for his father.

“Please excuse my son, General Shinzō. He is not feeling all too well today,” Inukimi said. “It took everything in him to be here today to greet you and your beautiful daughter,” she added, with a bow.

“I am sorry for your aliments, Sesshomaru. I appreciate you taking the time to come and meet me and view my daughter.”

“She’s under a sheet,” Sesshomaru responded, coldly. “We can’t even see her.”

“Uh, well. Yes,” General Shinzō said, a bit taken aback by Sesshomaru’s forward comment. “Please, why don’t you do the honors?” he invited Sesshomaru to stand near his daughter.

Sesshomaru looked at his father, who looked at him blankly. Sesshomaru stood from his chair and walked down to meet the girl. As he stood before her, he watched as she twiddled her claws. They were bony and she smelled as though she had bathed in luxury oils for days.

“Go ahead,” General Shinzō encouraged Sesshomaru. “May her beauty bring healing to your body, soul and mind,” her proud father added.

Sesshomaru pulled the edge of the cloth, exposing the young girl’s face. She had rosy cheeks and light brown eyes that matched her light brown curly hair. Her eyes were small and her nose long and pointy. Something about her face left Sesshomaru puzzled.

Lady Shiemi looked into Sesshomaru’s eyes for a moment before bowing her head. “My lord,” she said, looking into his eyes.

Without a word, Sesshomaru dropped the cloth back on her face and walked back to his chair. He could feel the heat radiating from his mother, as she watched the poor man look at both his daughter and Sesshomaru in confusion.

“Is there something about my daughter that displeases you, young master?” the confused and terrified father asked. It was evident that this alliance was a priority for him as well.

“Absolutely nothing,” Inukimi interjected. “As I stated before, you must excuse my son. He is not feeling well today. He –

“I don’t like her,” Sesshomaru answered, honestly, as he heard the young girl take in a breath of shock and humiliation.

“Please ignore my son,” Inukimi tried to provide damage control. “He is sick. It is hot and he is delusional.”

“Young master,” General Shinzō ignored her. “What is it that displeases you?”

“Your daughter is a beautiful girl who will make a fine wife to a great warrior one day, but not to my son,” Inu no Taishō answered.

“Please, General Shinzō, please ignore my husband. It’s the heat,” Inukimi said, glaring at Inu no Taishō.

“It is not the heat. My word is final,” Inu no Taishō told the confused and distraught general.

“But, Inu no –

“Enough. It’s done,” he silenced his wife, who crossed her arms in dissatisfaction.

Even Sesshomaru was surprised, by his father’s words. Sure, his father had usually been silent during these marriage arrangement meetings, but he never dismissed anyone on Sesshomaru’s behalf, especially on a high stakes meeting like this.

“Please, young master,” General Shinzō pleaded with Sesshomaru. “Please tell me what displeases you about her?”

“General Shinzō, as I said, your daughter –

Before Inu no Taishō could finish his sentence, Sesshomaru responded. “She sounds like a mouse and resembles that of a muskrat.”

The room went silent as both the poor young girl and her father dropped their jaws in shock. Inukimi slapped her hands against her legs and sat in her chair as the young girl cried.

Inu no Taishō stared at his son in shock and disappointment. “What the fuck is wrong with you, Sesshomaru?” he asked, more calmly than should have been expected.

Sesshomaru huffed and looked away. “You always taught me to be honest, Father.”

“A muskrat! You miserable shit! I should flay you!” the furious general shouted, unsheathing his sword.

“Please don’t over exert yourself,” Sesshomaru warned the plump general. “In your shape, I doubt you can even wield a sword long enough to flay a leaf,” he added, nonchalantly, listening to his father sigh in disappointment.

“How dare you?” General Shinzō shouted, charging at Sesshomaru.

With no sword of his own at the time, Sesshomaru unleashed his poisonous claws and lunged forward, piercing General Shinzō in the gut.

“Ahh!” he screamed in defeat, as he fell to the ground.

Inukimi huffed and looked away as Lady Shiemi ran to her father, screaming. “Father! Father!”

“And just like that we’ve made another enemy,” Inukimi said, nonchalantly, as she ran her claws through her long silver hair.

“Why must you be this way, Sesshomaru?” Inu no Taishō asked, as he walked toward the wounded general.

“He came at me first,” Sesshomaru said, exiting the room.

“Father? He’s dead,” Sesshomaru heard Lady Shiemi crying.

“Step aside,” he heard his father say.

“No! Stop! What are you doing?” he heard Lady Shiemi ask.

“Listen to him,” he heard his mother mutter, in aggravation.

“Step aside,” his father repeated, softly.

What happened after that, he did not know. It was no concern to him. Sesshomaru headed to the stream to wash the blood from his claws. Thinking about it now, his father most likely used the power of Tensaiga to resurrect General Shinzō, as Sesshomaru never recalled hearing of his death or remembered any war forming between the two families.

Sesshomaru crouched by the stream in confusion. He was surprised by his father’s response. In addition to directly asking him what was wrong with him as a being, his father had stopped everything regarding this arrangement before it even really began. There was no bartering or negotiating like the other times, and General Shinzō  had more to offer than any of the other families that came knocking. Why?

After moments of pondering, Sesshomaru headed back to the castle to his parents’ conjoined room. He was sure that they had returned from the great room already. Sesshomaru hoped to hear them discussing the matter at hand to uncover the mystery of what actually happened. Sure enough, he was right.

“It will not take a marriage to make this empire stronger, Inukimi,” he heard his father say. “Sesshomaru has what it takes to do it alone.”

“How foolish can you be, Inu no Taishō? Honestly,” his mother responded.

Sesshomaru held his breath. Even after all those years since the incident with Hitoshi as a child, his mother still felt that he was worthless and weak in spite of all of the progress he had made in excelling in battle. He was actually better than most.

“You have no faith in our son,” his father responded.

“This arrangement was essential for Sesshomaru’s success as a leader over the Western Lands. You knew this and let it slip. Do you wish him to fail?”

“Sesshomaru is strong. He will have no issues leading this empire. His union with that girl would not benefit him in any way. If anything, it would hinder him.”

“As it has been a hindrance to you being with me?” Inukimi asked, calmly.

Inu no Taishō was silent.

“That human you’ve been seeing behind my back…I’ve been such a hindrance to you and that wench,” she continued.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened as his heart pounded behind the door. He couldn’t believe what he had just heard. Human woman? Wench? Why would his father be seeing a human woman?

“Watch yourself, Inukimi,” Inu no Taishō warned.

“Watch yourself?” Sesshomaru asked under his breath, puzzled. Why would his father care if his mother called a human a wench? His mother called beings far worse than that.

“Don’t you threaten me, you miserable dog,” Inukimi responded, nonchalantly.

Even from behind the door Sesshomaru could sense the tension build in the room.

“Well, you got that right. I am miserable! I have been since the moment I met you!”

Sesshomaru’s jaw dropped. He knew his parents rarely agreed and did not show each other any real affection, but he never thought his father would ever say that. He was not as composed as his mother, but he always tactful.

“Good, now we’re getting somewhere. Let’s be honest,” Inukimi taunted him.

“Yes, let’s be honest,” Sesshomaru heard something crash to the ground. “I cringed in the disgust the moment I met you. The thought of even having to touch you to make an heir for the sake of this kingdom made me sick. I thanked the heavens that Sesshomaru was a boy so I’d never have to touch you again. I’m surprised I could even get it up for you,” he hissed.

Sesshomaru’s jaw couldn’t drop any farther than it already had. He had never felt more uncomfortable in his whole life. He had never heard his father ever talk like that to anyone, let alone say those things. Thinking about it now, his father reminded him of Inuyasha in his fits of anger.  

“You weren’t singing that tune two nights ago,” Inukimi laughed.

Sesshomaru closed his eyes, trying his best to block the image that played in his mind of his parents having sex.

“Meeting Izaoyi was the best thing that ever happened to me,” his father ignored her.

“If she’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you, then why do you still seek me in my bed?” Sesshomaru heard his mother ask.

“Forget it,” Sesshomaru muttered to himself, turning to leave. He’d figure out the details of this human woman another time. This conversation was going in a direction he did not want to travel.

“She loves me,” Sesshomaru heard his father say, before he left. “She builds me up, strengthens me and genuinely loves me, something you could never do… you and your soulless, callous, and hateful personality.”

“I never loved you, Inu?” Inukimi asked, still calm in voice.

Sesshomaru wasn’t surprised to hear his mother so calm. She never got upset. She never showed emotion, even in the worst of situations.

“You don’t have the capacity to love, Inukimi!”

“I love my son.”

“Don’t make you laugh. You don’t love him. You think you do, but you don’t love him at all.”

Sesshomaru’s eyes narrowed as he continued to listen in.

“How dare you say that to me? I love my son more than anything.” He could sense his mother smiling.

“You don’t know what love is, Inukimi. You think he’s a pawn in this big game of kingdoms to you. He’s been so fucked up in the head by all the bullshit you’ve been feeding him, I don’t even know –

“I advise my son in –

“You twist his mind,” his father interrupted her. How foolish are you to think that I haven’t heard what you’ve been telling him about me and my ‘weakness?’ Why are you trying to corrupt him?”

“I haven’t corrupted anyone,” she responded, nonchalantly.

“Is that why you insisted on naming him Sesshomaru? Were you so determined to birth a killing machine to eliminate all the beings you loathe in this world?”

“The only being I loathe in this world right now is you, Inu no Taishō.”

“Great! He’s looking forward to killing me one day anyway. Congratulations! You’ve done a great job mothering.”

Sesshomaru felt his heart pound. Kill his father? Sesshomaru only longed to succeed his father in power and greatness. Yes, his father would most likely need to die for that to occur, but he never wished for his death with malicious intent. He would give his father an honorable death. He would be slain fairly, at the hand of the son he trained in battle. Hell, there was even a chance Sesshomaru would die himself in the battle.

The room fell silent.

“Let him find someone to love on his own,” Inu no Taishō said, after moments of silence.

“Marriage isn’t about love. It’s a business arrangement. A union with a powerful ally will be beneficial to our lands. Look at the impact of our union,” Inukimi responded.

“I have a son I can’t seem to help and a wife who fuels his madness,” he responded.

“I’m sorry you feel that way.”

“It saddens me to know that you lack any confidence in our son’s abilities to lead,” Inu no Taishō said. “You are a walking contradiction and I can’t take it anymore.”

Sesshomaru heard the footsteps of his father walking towards the door.

“Where are you going?”

“If you knew anything about me, you should know where I’m going?” he answered.

“To your human wench I presume.”

“To our son,” he huffed, as he walked towards the door.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened as he ran faster than lightning and as far as he could away from the castle. He didn’t want to see his father, his mother or anyone. He headed to the mountains and stayed there until late in the night, processing everything he had heard.

When he returned that night, he was welcomed in his room by his loving mother, who, angered by his behavior from earlier, calmly lashed Sesshomaru with venomous words of her own. After suffocating him with words of dissatisfaction for his actions, she spit out the infamous words that plagued his mind for centuries, “You can hide weakness all you want, but weakness never dies.”

***

Reflecting on his past and the sentiments of his father, he understood clearly. To his father, he was nothing more than a problem, a damaged son who was fucked up in the head. Why would he want someone like that being around his precious new family…the ones he truly loved, a wife and a son he actually wanted.

But it still didn’t add up. Sure, his father thought that he wished to kill him, but he was sure that he made it very clear that he only wished to kill in honorably in battle. He never gave any inkling of malicious intent to harm him or his wife when they were alive.

The more he thought and recounted the words of Ryūk, the more furious he became. “He explained that his son did not approve of his union with his new wife, for the obvious reasons. He wanted to take extra precautions with her safety from him as well.” Sesshomaru shook his head. “Your father requested for that land mostly to protect his family from you, his eldest son.”

In that moment, Sesshomaru agreed with Shisinki. His father was cruel. He was well aware of the triggers he had faced at the thought of Hitoshi and spiritualists in the Western Lands. His father knew that Sesshomaru wouldn’t seek the aid of Western monks to open the barrier. He was too traumatized.

“Protect the land from me?” Sesshomaru scowled. He knew he wasn’t the greatest son, but Sesshomaru knew that he didn’t warrant this treatment.

Sesshomaru closed his eyes and thought of his encounters with Izayoi before his father’s death for more answers.

***

The day after the ordeal with Lady Shiemi, in an act of revenge and public humiliation, Inukimi made a mockery of Sesshomaru and held a tournament with willing troops to choose and elect a new overseer of the Western Lands. Her reasoning was that her son was too unstable and weak to run the lands, and in the best interest of the dog demon clan, it would be best for her to choose someone else to overtake the role in a fair tournament. When Sesshomaru found out, it was a bloody afternoon. The troops fool enough to enroll in the tournament were mercilessly slaughtered by the one they hoped to replace.

Furious, it was that day that Sesshomaru cut off all ties with his homeland in the Western Lands and set out to be the greatest and most powerful demon alive. With the training he learned from Bokusenō, Sesshomaru left the luxurious high life in the Western Lands and embraced the life of a vagabond.

Despite his interest in leaving everything behind, the conversation between his parents about his father’s “human wench” intrigued him. He knew it was true, as his father refused to deny it and admitted his love for her. Sesshomaru was curious to see who this woman was and what was so special about her to cause his father to fall in love.

Sesshomaru trailed his father to a human village one day. He stayed well back, doing his best to keep his scent undetected. He watched as his father was greeted by a tall human woman with long straight black hair. From her attire and the look of the village, Sesshomaru could tell that she was of nobility or of high status. At least, that was a positive. At least she wasn’t a filthy peasant, he thought at the time.

There was nothing special about her. She was an average-looking woman in expensive clothing. Nonetheless, he could see his father’s face light up when he saw her in the distance. He watched how loving and affectionate they were as they spoke to one another, something he never saw his father do with his mother.

Minding his father’s actions with this human was not his priority or wish, but when in the area, he would check in on her, whether his father was there or not. He neither was the slightest bit in interested in her nor had an urge to speak to her.  It was the curiosity of who she was and what enticed his father to fall in love with her that drove his actions.

Sesshomaru learned a lot about Izayoi. She was quiet, elegant and reserved. She was the opposite of his father, but they seemed to balance each other well. Sesshomaru came to learn that Izayoi was even betrothed to another for a time, a man named Setsuna no Takemaru. Sesshomaru watched how she jockeyed her time between her father and Takemaru. It was pathetic that his father was wrapped up in some love triangle with a human. The ordeal made Sesshomaru pity his father even more.

One day as he walked, Sesshomaru heard his father call his name. Sesshomaru stopped. He hadn’t seen his father in months since the bloody tournament at the castle with his mother.

“Father,” Sesshomaru responded, looking to him. His father looked the same as he always had, but there was a calm pleasantness about him. He was sure that his new human companion had something to do with that.

“You look well,” his father said, walking towards him.

Sesshomaru remained silent. Idle chit-chat wasn’t his thing, neither was it his father’s. They were beings of action. His father either needed or wanted something from him.

“What is it?” Sesshomaru asked, coldly.

His father sighed. He was no stranger to the cold chill of his son’s temperament.

“As you know, I’ve met someone,” he answered.

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes. As he knew? What did his father think her knew? Inu no Taishō never told Sesshomaru about Izayoi officially and Sesshomaru was never around to bring it up.

“Don’t act surprised,” his father said. “I know you know about Izayoi, and I know you’ve already seen her too.”

Sesshomaru was silent. Though he shouldn’t have been, he was surprised that his father knew what he did.

“I know you’ve been following her,” he continued.

“I’ve done no such thing,” Sesshomaru responded.

“You are my son. I know your scent above all others. I know you’ve been near her village.”

“I’ve been near a lot of villages. What of it?”

After staring at his son, Inu no Taishō proceeded. “I’ve asked Izayoi to be my wife and she has accepted.”

“Wife number two,” Sesshomaru said, after a very long pause. “Mother must be thrilled to share.”

“I will discuss the matter with her,” he answered.

Sesshomaru watched as his father looked back at him speechless. “What is it? Are you waiting to seek my blessing?” he asked.

Inu no Taishō was silent.

“Who you choose to marry is of no concern to me,” Sesshomaru continued. “But, if you wish to get anyone’s blessing, you might want to get it from he who they call Takemaru,” he dug at his father.

“Takemaru is of no importance,” his father responded, unfazed at the mention of his name.

“He is to your ‘betrothed,’” Sesshomaru said.

“Takemaru was once a suitor of Izayoi, but she ended their relationship to be with me.”

“Wonderful,” Sesshomaru answered, uninterested in the details.

After another long pause, Inu no Taishō spoke. “For someone just passing through, you sure do know a lot about Izayoi and her personal life.”

Sesshomaru growled. He didn’t like being boxed into a corner.

“Why has she been of interest to you, Sesshomaru?”

“What is this, an interrogation? What is it that you want, Father?” Sesshomaru asked, frustrated.

Inu no Taishō looked at his son long and hard, as though he were trying to read him. “Nothing,” he answered. “I just wanted to inform you of my intentions. I thought it would be best if I told you personally rather than you hearing the news through the grapevine.”

“How considerate of you,” Sesshomaru answered, sarcastically.

“We will be wed on the night of the full moon in the Woodlands of Bokusenō.”

Sesshomaru was silent.

“Do you know what love is, Son?” Inu no Taishō called out to him.

Sesshomaru remained silent. He didn’t care to know.

“Love is finding a home in someone else,” his father said, looking at his Sesshomaru’s emotionless face. “What I mean by that is…love is accepting someone unconditionally, whether they are good, bad, wrong or right.  Loving someone is having someone you care about more than yourself in every possible way. You will be willing to sacrifice anything and give up the world for their well-being and happiness. When you’ve found a person to love, you’ve found someone who challenges you to be a better person, someone you cannot live without and someone you will never regret doing anything for. The one you love will give you ultimate joy and happiness in every way,” he continued.

Sesshomaru listened to his father.

“I love Izayoi. She is my home,” Inu no Taishō said. “The love I feel for her is the love I want for you, Sesshomaru.”

Sesshomaru looked at his father blankly. He didn’t have anything to say.

“I wish for you to be at our wedding,” Inu no Taishō said.

Sesshomaru turned and began to walk away. “Goodbye, Father.”

“Will you be there, Sesshomaru?”

“Not all wishes come true,” he responded, walking off into the distance.

***

Was it from that conversation that his father presumed he may harm Izayoi? Sesshomaru shook his head. If he had wanted to harm Izayoi, he would have done it already. His father knew that Sesshomaru wasn’t a being of hesitation. It didn’t make sense and his father’s actions were absolutely unwarranted.

Sesshomaru wanted nothing more than to speak to his father. As he longed to speak with him, the words of Bokusenō came to mind. “If you wish to seek those answers, you should ask your father yourself.”

“The Meidō,” Sesshomaru said, reaching into his pocket for his mother’s amulet.

He looked at it for a moment before putting it away. There was nothing for him to ask his father. All of his answers were as plain as day.

After collecting himself, Sesshomaru rose from the ground and walked to find Jaken and Ah-Un.

***

Sesshomaru, Jaken and Ah-Un reached Mount Sure by the following day. Knowing full well that he probably wouldn’t be able to trace the barrier, Sesshomaru thought he would scan the area anyway. Maybe an unsuspecting clue would be left behind.

As he searched the area, he pondered why he still even gave a damn about the house. With all the aggravation and insult he faced, he would have been better off just building his own house in its own barrier. He didn’t want anything from his father anymore, but it was his pride getting in the way again. If his father made all that effort to build a barrier around his house to keep him out, if it was the last thing he’d ever do, Sesshomaru would find a way to break that barrier and set foot in that house. No one would tell him that he couldn’t do something….even his own father. That barrier had to come down.

After hours of looking and scanning the perimeter of Mount Sure near all of the cliffs overlooking the Plains of Musashi, Sesshomaru stood by a cliff and thought of his next course of action. He needed to get a spiritualist to dissolve the barrier, a feat more difficult than he cared to admit. He needed a plan to find a spiritualist. In addition to the whole returning to the Western Lands issue, Sesshomaru had to face the realistic divide between demons and spiritualists. Finding a capable spiritualist would be the easier part. Commissioning the service of one would be more difficult. For good reason, many spiritualists were not keen on helping demons. Sure, Sesshomaru had his methods of getting what he wanted from unwilling beings, but using force, scare tactics and threats on every spiritualist he came across would do him no justice. He needed a strategy.

After what happened the day before, returning to the Western Lands to find the successor of the person who erected the barrier was out of the question. He was having childhood panic attacks just at the thought of going to the Western Lands to check for a spiritualist. Plus, he didn’t care to ever return back there anyway, which was the only reason he sought to seek his father’s house in the first. He wasn’t going. He would find a spiritualist comparable in wisdom and skill elsewhere in Japan. Yes, it would take a lot longer, but at least it would give him and Jaken a new mission to tackle.

As he thought, dark clouds covered the sky. He heard rolling thunder in the distance as rain began to fall. Jaken jumped at the sight of lightening flashing in the sky.

“Ah!” Jaken shrieked.

Sesshomaru sighed, as he looked at Jaken. “Let’s go.”

“Yes, yes, YES! MI LORD!” Jaken jumped at the sound of thunder.

“Relax, Jaken,” Sesshomaru said.

“The lightening is so close to us. I’m sure it’ll –

In that moment, a bolt of lightning cracked in the atmosphere and illuminated the side of the cliff. Both Sesshomaru and Jaken’s jaws dropped as the light clearly outlined the hidden invisible dome that they had been seeking.

“Mi lord! Did you see that?!” Jaken shouted.

“I did,” Sesshomaru said, walking towards where the once illuminated barrier was revealed.

Sesshomaru held his hand out to feel the side of where the barrier was once illuminated. His hand went right through. “Interesting,” he said.

“That old dragon was right,” Jaken said.

“That he was,” Sesshomaru agreed with Jaken, walking around the perimeter of the once seen barrier. “Fetch some rocks, Jaken,” Sesshomaru requested.

“Rocks, mi lord?”

“We will use the rocks to outline the location of the barrier as a marking.”

“Yes, Lord Sesshomaru,” Jaken responded, as he scurried away to find rocks.

Sesshomaru smiled as rain fell on his head.

“It’s all done,” Jaken said, as he placed the last rock around the invisible barrier. “It’s a pretty decent size too.”

Sesshomaru adjusted some of the rocks at his feet to reflect what he saw from the once illuminated barrier.

“It’s stopped raining, mi lord,” Jaken said, peering over the cliff. “Some of the villagers have come back and are in the fields again.”

Sesshomaru kept assessing the placed rocks.

“Oh look, there’s Rin!” Jaken said, in excitement.

Sesshomaru’s ears perked up at her name. He walked over to the edge of the cliff and stood by Jaken. “Where?”

“Over there, in the field. She’s with Sango, I think.”

Jaken was right. It was Rin. From above, Sesshomaru could see her standing in the field with a basket picking what seemed to be berries with a human woman who was most likely Sango.

“Finish up here and come down,” Sesshomaru said, as he leapt off the cliff and flew down to greet Rin.

“Yes, mi lord,” Jaken answered.

***

“Lord Sesshomaru!” Rin shouted in excitement, as Sesshomaru landed before her in the field. “You’re back! I missed you!”

“Rin.” Sesshomaru let his eyes smile.

“Sesshomaru,” Sango nodded.

Sesshomaru looked at her.

“I’ve been looking after Rin with Kaede,” she said.

Sesshomaru was silent.

“I want you to know that I will protect her with my life,” Sango added.

“I doubt that,” he responded, as he smelled a different scent about her in the air. “You have other priorities,” he added, leaving Sango puzzled and remorseful.

“Ms. Sango has been great, Lord Sesshomaru. She’s been teaching me so much,” Rin said.

Sesshomaru looked at Sango, who looked away.

Sesshomaru never fully got over what Sango almost did to Rin. Although he understood her actions and forgave her, to an extent, he didn’t trust her or her judgement. He preferred that Rin stay away from her altogether, but Rin had the right to make her own decisions living here. Plus, as a woman, Sango would be a good resource for Rin as grew up.

“Why don’t I give you two some time to catch up?” Sango offered. “I’ll be over there, Rin,” she forced a smile.

“Okay!” Rin smiled.

“How have you been fairing, Rin?” Sesshomaru asked.

“Very well!” she exclaimed. “I’m learning so much! Cooking…cleaning…farming…sewing…and even Lady Kaede is teaching me medicinal herbs!”

Sesshomaru was actually impressed.

“I stay with Lady Kaede, but Sango and Miroku let me visit a lot. Kohaku is living with them now, but he’s thinking about moving out.”

“Why?”

“Miroku and Sango are to be married,” Rin smiled. “Sango wants me to be in the wedding with Kohaku. I’ve never been in a wedding before. Have you, Lord Sesshomaru?”

Sesshomaru’s mind went to the time when his father informed him that he was to marry Izayoi and his father wanted him to be there.

“No,” Sesshomaru answered, after a long pause.

“I’m not sure when it will be for sure, not too soon,” Rin said. “But Sango wants me to go with her to a neighboring village to look for a wedding kimono soon though.”

With the scent Sesshomaru caught on Sango, he was sure that if Sango were to buy her kimono too far in advance from their wedding, she wouldn’t be able to fit it.”

Sesshomaru zoned out as Rin began talking about the different types of flowers she wanted to pick for the wedding. As he watched her speak, his mind recalled the words of Ryuusaburou. “Who leaves their child like that?”

“Rin,” Sesshomaru said, when she took a breath from talking.

“Yes, Lord Sesshomaru?”

“I haven’t abandoned you here,” he said.

Rin smiled. “I know, Lord Sesshomaru. You told me that you want me to learn the ways of humans. Plus, Lady Kaede said that you and Jaken have been very busy.”

Sesshomaru looked away. He couldn’t have been more grateful to Kaede and her words to Rin.

“Where have you been?” Rin asked.

“The Southern Plains of Edon,” he answered, taking the gold iron piece out of his pocket and holding it in his hand.

“What is that?” she asked, looking at it closely.

“Here,” he said, passing her the iron piece. “It’s dragon demon skin made of iron…It looks like a flo –

“It’s a flower!” Rin shouted. “I love it! Thank you, Lord Sesshomaru!” she smiled, throwing her arms around him.

“Uhugh,” he responded, surprised by her unexpected hug. “You’re welcome.”

“Why did you go visit dragon demons?” she asked, as Sesshomaru watched her examine the iron piece.

“I was informed that their leader might know where my father’s house is located,” he answered, looking forward across the field.

“A house?” Rin questioned. “But didn’t your father live in a palace with your mother?”

“My mother and father lived together in the Western Lands when I was younger, but my father moved into a house in this region after he chose to marry Inuyasha’s mother.”

Rin continued to play with the iron piece in her hand. “Your father never told you where his house was?”

“No,” Sesshomaru answered. After a long pause, he was compelled to continue. “My father built the barrier to keep out both me and my mother?”

Rin stopped playing with the gold piece and looked at him. “Huh?”

Sesshomaru was silent.

“But why would he do that? You’re his son.”

After another long pause, Sesshomaru spoke. “He thought I would hurt his wife and Inuyasha.”

Rin gasped. “Why would he ever think that?” she asked, cross.

“He had his reasons,” Sesshomaru responded, reflecting on his thoughts from yesterday.

“No, he didn’t! You would never hurt them!”

Sesshomaru looked at Rin, surprised by her reaction. Her face was red and her arms crossed. He had always threatened to harm Inuyasha in one way or another. It shouldn’t have been a surprise for her to hear that, but he could see she was upset.

“You would never hurt them,” she repeated, a bit calmer.

“You think of me as what you wish me to be, Rin, not as I am,” Sesshomaru said, looking away from her. “I’m not…kind.”

“Yes, you are!” she exclaimed, dropping her basket of berries in frustration. Before Sesshomaru could rebuttal her statement, she continued. “You’re kind to me and you were good to Inuyasha!”

Sesshomaru looked into her eyes. “Inuyasha?” he asked, surprised by her statement.

“You looked out for him after his mother died!” Rin went on.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened as he looked at her. At his reaction, she sighed. “Oops.”

“Who told you that?”

“Inuyasha,” she sighed. “But I promised him I wouldn’t bring it up! I didn’t mean to! When you were gone after Inuyasha jumped into the black hole, I wanted to know if you went to save him! I just –

“It’s okay, Rin,” Sesshomaru stopped her rambling.

“Hmm,” she sighed, as Sesshomaru looked out into the distance.

Rin solemnly twirled the gold iron piece in her hand. Sesshomaru glanced at her.

“When my father told me that he and his wife Izayoi were having a child…I...I…” Sesshomaru paused, thinking of his emotions.

“You were angry?” Rin tried to help.

Sesshomaru continued to think. After a long pause, he answered. “I pitied my father. It bothered me that my great and powerful father had lowered himself and his great name to marry and breed with a human woman,” he said.

Rin was silent. She didn’t know what to say. As much as she understood Sesshomaru and that his words were not about her humanity personally, Rin couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for being a human. She would never let him know though. In this moment, she knew that it was best for him to speak freely.

“’Angry?’” he questioned her suggestion. “It infuriated me that my great and terrible father, blind to his own weakness, got himself killed by a demon he should have defeated all because of her.”

“Got himself killed by a demon? But I thought your father died in a fire?”

“My father died from fatal wounds inflicted by one of the dragon demons I went to see. He was as good as dead by the time he reached the village and died in the fire,” Sesshomaru said.

“One of the dragon demons you went to see killed your father?” Rin asked, astonished.

“No. He is dead now,” Sesshomaru responded. “One of the dragon demons from that land was terrorizing this very village you live in. My father’s house was built just above Mount Sure. With Izayoi and Inuyasha’s safety in mind, my father tried to put an end to the destruction and make peace with the leader of the dragon demons to stop his ‘son.’ In an attempt to subdue the dragon demon without killing him, my father was mortally wounded.”

“But why would he not want to kill him?” Rin asked. “He was terrorizing the village.”

Sesshomaru sighed. “The terrorizer was a powerful half demon who couldn’t control himself anymore. His demonic blood consumed him and he had become a killing machine. My father pitied him and died trying to save his life.”

“Your father was really… really caring,” Rin said.

Sesshomaru was silent. After all he had thought about his father and his actions the day before, it was hard for him to agree.

“After my father’s death, I vowed to forget about Izayoi and the child. I went about my life as though they never existed,” he cringed.

“But then…how did you eventually meet Inuyasha?”

“Shortly after my father’s death, I went to visit the old tree Bokusenō.”

“I remember him!” Rin smiled.

“In addition to him giving me Tensaiga as my inheritance, he informed me that I had a little brother, Inuyasha,” Sesshomaru paused. “He suggested that I honor my father and look after him.”

“And you did!” she smiled.

“I refused.”

“Then, how did you come to look after Inuyasha?” Rin asked, puzzled.

Sesshomaru looked across the field at the villagers working. “For months, I refused to see him. Inuyasha was insignificant to me, a reminder of the failure of my father and his despicable death. But, one day, I got curious,” he looked down. “I tracked Izayoi to the new village she was residing in and found him lying in a small bassinet in a rickety hut.”

Sesshomaru paused and looked out into the distance. “He looked just like my father, except he had these ears.”

Sesshomaru glanced to see Rin looking at him, deeply interested in the conversation.

“His mother was irresponsible. Villagers could have entered her home at any time and killed Inuyasha a hundred times over, and she wouldn’t have had a clue,” Sesshomaru said. “I owed it to my father to at least grant my brother an honorable death at my hands.”

Rin looked at Sesshomaru cross-eyed.

“I watched him to ensure that my opportunity to kill Inuyasha would not be snuffed,” Sesshomaru added. “After Izayoi died, villagers were after his blood even more, but Inuyasha was mine to kill, my way, in my own time. I was only protecting my objective,” he justified.

Rin looked at him blankly.

Sesshomaru glanced at her and looked away. After a long pause, he spoke again. “I did try to find Inuyasha and Kagome,” he admitted.

“You did?” she asked.

Sesshomaru pulled his mother’s Meidō Stone out of his pocket and showed it to her.

“What’s that? Isn’t that your mother’s necklace?” Rin asked.

“It’s her Meidō Stone. She gave it to me,” he answered.

Rin gasped. “I remember. Your mother used it to open a portal to the Underworld. A hound jumped out and…I don’t remember much after that,” Rin answered.

“With the Meidō Stone, I was able to track them, but I couldn’t release them,” he said. “I waited for some time to try and release them, but ultimately, Inuyasha escaped on his own accord.”

Rin smiled. “See, I told you that you were kind.”

“It is I, Sesshomaru, who will kill Inuyasha. It wasn’t going to be a Meidō.”

Sesshomaru glanced at her. His comment didn’t faze her one bit. She was convinced. She wouldn’t hear anything else from him about who he said he was. Her mind was made up. She never ceased to surprise him. She was an interesting human. He didn’t understand how she could think so highly of him.

“With the barrier blocked, what will you do?” Rin proceeded to change the topic.

“The leader of the Southern Plains of Edon said that a special monk or priestess would need to track and dissolve the barrier,” he answered, as he put the Meidō Stone back in his pocket.

“That’s great! Maybe Miroku or Lady Kaede can do it for you!”

Sesshomaru sighed as he looked outward. “My father made the barrier complex so that not even demons can detect it. It was only by sheer chance that I was able to notice it on the mountain today,” he said. “I’m going to have to find the successor of the monk or priestess who erected the barrier in the Western Lands or someone comparable in skill to find and dissolve it.”

“How will you do that?” she asked.

“I will search for someone to unlock the barrier.”

“So, you’re going back to the Western Lands?” Rin asked.

Sesshomaru could feel his chest tightening. He took a small breath before he spoke. “I will travel these lands to find someone comparable in skill,” he answered, as he did his best to collect himself.

“But wouldn’t it be easier to find the successor of the monk or priestess who made the barrier originally? You’ll save so much time.”

“Time is of no concern to me,” Sesshomaru responded.

Rin nodded. “When will you leave?”

“Mi lord!” Jaken gasped, entering the area with Ah-Un. “I made it!”

“Master Jaken!” Rin shouted, as she ran to him to give him a hug.

“Get off me, Rin…I can’t breathe,” Jaken gasped.

“Why didn’t you ride Ah-Un down?” Rin asked, snuggling against Ah-Un, who welcomed her embrace.

“Huh? I guess…I guess I could have,” Jaken nodded, as he thought.

“We’re leaving now,” Sesshomaru answered.

“Hmm…okay,” Rin said.

“Be well and take care of yourself,” Sesshomaru instructed her. “Stay close… to Inuyasha,” he muttered, reluctantly.

“Inuyasha?” Jaken asked, in shock. “Why him?”

Rin smiled with a nod. “Okay, Lord Sesshomaru.”

Sesshomaru looked down at her and let his hand touch her cheek.

“Will you visit?” she asked, as he turned to leave.

“I will visit,” he answered, looking back at her, before walking off with Jaken and Ah-Un.

Rin smiled and waved as they left the village.

***

“Where to, mi lord? The Western Lands?” Jaken asked, as they walked from the village.

“We will search the surrounding regions for a comparable spiritualist to dissolve the barrier.”

“But, mi lord…the best are in the Western Lands. Shouldn’t we start there?”

Sesshomaru knew that all too well. “We will start here in the Central region.”

“Yes, mi lord,” Jaken replied, confused.

Chapter Text

Kaede hummed as she stirred the stew in the pot. She looked up as Rin walked through the door carrying two baskets.

“Hello, Lady Kaede.”

“Hello, child,” she answered.

“I picked the vegetables and berries from the field as you asked,” Rin announced, carrying the baskets over to Kaede.

“Perfect,” she answered with a smile, as she looked into the baskets. “These look good.”

Rin smiled at the compliment.

“Set the baskets down there and take over stirring while I chop those vegetables. Do you remember how I taught you?”

“Yes, Lady Kaede,” Rin nodded, as she took the wooden utensil from Kaede.

Kaede smiled as she watch Rin slowly stir the stew. “Be careful now,” Kaede reminded her, as she search for a knife in her basket of cooking supplies. “Don’t let it splash.”

“Yes, Lady Kaede,” Rin answered.

Kaede watched as Rin slowly and carefully stirred the stew. She was surprised by how taken she had become with the little girl in such a short time. Watching over Rin was a gift. In her care, Rin had become the daughter she was never privileged to have.

Kaede’s fate as a spinster was sealed the moment she lost her right eye in the explosion caused by her sister’s arrow many decades ago. No one would take her as a wife. She was considered "damaged" and damned to spend the remainder of her days as a lonely priestess, living without the hope of companionship in marriage or motherhood with children of her own. Kaede’s only future was to excel in her duties and protect her fellow villagers. In a way, Rin had become her child to care for, the end to her loneliness and misfortune.

When Kaede finished chopping the vegetables, she helped Rin add them into the boiling pot of stew. “Be mindful of it splashing, child,” she warned.

“Yes, Lady Kaede,” Rin answered, as she slowly added the rest of the vegetables in by herself.

“Remember to stir from the bottom of the pot and add some of these spices,” Kaede instructed the young girl, as she handed her some spices of leaves to add to the boiling pot.

“Mmmhm,” Rin nodded.

Although a simple task, Kaede was astonished at how quickly Rin was learning and how efficient she was becoming in fulfilling her tasks. Within a short time, Rin was excelling at farming, cleaning, laundry and helping to prepare meals. For a young girl with very little interactions with humans, her progress was remarkable. It was as though Rin was truly embracing the opportunity to learn the human way of life.

“How was your day?” Kaede asked, as she watched Rin.

“It was great!” Rin’s eyes lit up, as she began sharing the details of her long exciting day.

Kaede listened, as she pointed to Rin to get the two bowls from the side.

“…And while Miss Sango and I were in the field picking berries Lord Sesshomaru and Master Jaken stopped by to visit!”

“They did?” Kaede answered, rather surprised, as she began to ladle the hot stew into the bowls.

“Lord Sesshomaru gave me this,” Rin showed Kaede the gold flower-shaped charm Sesshomaru had given her earlier. “It’s made of dragon demon skin. It looks like a flower!”

“That was very nice of him,” Kaede answered, passing Rin her bowl of stew.

Although she knew that Sesshomaru cared for Rin, Kaede did not expect him to visit her as he did, let alone give her gifts. Rin was truly a special girl to be able to warm the heart of such a ruthless creature like Sesshomaru. She couldn’t imagine Sesshomaru doing such a gesture for anyone. Although Kaede would never admit it, Sesshomaru was one of the most frightening and intimidating demons she had ever encountered. She could not understand how Rin was brave enough to spend any time with Sesshomaru. She could not understand how Rin could even admire and trust Sesshomaru more than anyone in the world.

“Mmmhmm,” Rin smiled, taking her bowl to the center of the room to eat.

Kaede grabbed two small wooden utensils and her bowl of stew, and sat across from Rin in the center of the room. “What did you do after Sesshomaru left?” she asked, before handing Rin a utensil.

“I finished picking berries with Sango,” Rin answered. “I was supposed to play Come Find Me with Kohaku, Shippo, Umi, Jinia and some others for a little while too, but…”

“No one wanted to play?” Kaede asked.

“Abi said she had to help her sister with something, Umi said he wasn’t feeling well and Wakasa said he had to come back home to his family for dinner.”

“I’m sorry, Rin,” Kaede said.

“They’re afraid of Lord Sesshomaru and Master Jaken. They always get weird after they come to visit. I noticed them while I was talking to Lord Sesshomaru in the field.”

Kaede was silent.

“It was okay. I played with Kohaku, Shippo, Jinia and Okahito instead. It was fun.”

“You didn’t care?” Kaede asked, a bit surprised at her nonchalant attitude over the matter.

“Abi, Umi and Wakasa will be back to normal in a few days. I tell them that Lord Sesshomaru and Master Jaken won’t hurt them, but they don’t believe me,” Rin responded.

Kaede wasn’t surprised to hear Rin’s words. She knew that it would difficult for her to adjust in the village with Sesshomaru looming around. She was just grateful that his visits were sporadic and were becoming few and far between, at least for Rin’s sake.

“Sesshomaru and Jaken are very important to you,” Kaede commented, shamelessly.

“Lord Sesshomaru and Master Jaken are the best,” Rin smiled. “I can’t wait for them to visit again.”

"Aye," Kaede nodded.

“Kohaku!” Rin gasped, in shock at Kohaku’s unexpected entrance through the front door.

“Lady Kaede! You must come quick! It’s Sango,” he gasped.

“Of course!” she answered, setting her bowl down.

“Miss Sango?” Rin gasped, setting her bowl down too. “What’s wrong with Miss Sango?” Rin asked, helping Kaede to her feet with Kohaku.

“Aye, what is it?” Kaede asked, in a huff, as she struggled to get to her feet and catch her breath.

“I don’t know! She collapsed during dinner! You must come quick, Lady Kaede!”

Rin gasped, in alarm. “Collapsed? I’ll come too!”

“You will stay here, child,” Kaede instructed Rin, clutching Kohaku’s arm for support.

“But, Lady Kaede –

“Stay here, Rin,” Kaede repeated herself, as Rin sighed. “Finish your meal and head to sleep. I will be back soon.”

“Yes, Lady Kaede,” Rin pouted, as she watched her leave urgently on the arm of Kohaku, who practically dragged her out of the hut.

Kaede knew it was unfair for her expect Rin to eat and sleep peacefully after hearing that Sango, her closest companion in the village besides Kohaku, had collapsed, but she did not know the state of Sango and did not want Rin getting involved or upset. Rin had enough disappointment in her life at the moment. It was better for her to stay back. Kaede trusted that in spite of her worries, Rin would do her best to finish her meal and retire to bed mat as instructed. She was a diligent and respectful child by nature.

***

“What happened?” Kaede asked Kohaku, as she hobbled alongside him as they traveled to Sango and Miroku’s hut.

“I don’t know! She just collapsed as she was preparing dinner,” he answered. “She was unconscious when I left to get you. Mirkou stayed with her.”

Kaede sighed. That was unusual to hear. “Hurry, I must see her quickly.”

Kohaku did his best to escort Kaede as quickly as possible to Sango and Mirkou’s hut. Upon entering, she saw Sango lying on the floor with Miroku kneeling next to her with a wet cloth pressed to her head.

“Mirkou, I’m fine,” Sango protested, trying to swat the cloth away.

“Sango,” Mirkou said, sternly, as he pushed her hand away.

“Sister!” Kohaku said, loudly, in a mixture of shock and relief.

“Kohaku… Kaede…” Sango said.

“Are you alright? What happened?” Kohaku asked, both surprised and relived to see her awake.

“Kohaku, I’m fine. I just got a little dizzy for a moment,” Sango answered. “It was nothing.”

“It wasn’t nothing,” Mirkou said, looking at Kaede. “She’s never collapsed like that before without cause…at least I’ve never seen it.”

“Me neither,” Kohaku added, holding his sister's hand.

“Miroku…Kohaku, please. I’m fine.”

“We will let Kaede determine that,” Mirkou looked into Sango's eyes.

“But –

“Yes, let me check to ensure that you are alright,” Kaede agreed. “Collapsing in such a way is unusual.”

“I’m fine, but if you insist,” Sango huffed, as she glared at Miroku.

Kaede hobbled toward Sango and felt her forehead. “Are you tired? Have you eaten anything today?”

“Yes, I’ve eaten, and no, I’m not tired right now,” Sango responded.

“How long have you been feeling dizzy?”

“It’s nothing. I just felt light-headed for a second.”

“Answer the question, Sango,” Miroku looked at her, sternly.

“Here and there for the past week,” Sango said, softly, “but it has been very hot these days.”

“Why didn’t you tell me, Sango?” Miroku asked, gripping her hand in concern.

Kaede could see the hurt, concern and anger in his eyes. He could see how much Miroku cared for her. For a moment, his reaction made her resent the circumstances in her own life that rendered her alone without someone to cherish and love her like Miroku did Sango.

“It was nothing, Miroku. I didn’t want you to worry,” Sango responded.

“You didn’t want to worry me? You’re worrying me now. You should have told me,” Miroku looked at her, more so hurt than upset.

“What have you eaten today?" Kaede tried to stifle the tension building in the room. "Has anything changed in your daily routine? Have you been experiencing anything out of the ordinary?” Kaede asked, looking at Miroku for his support in answering Sango's unanswered questions.

“Other than a few dizzy spells, I’ve been okay. It’s just the heat.”

“She had an upset stomach a few days ago too,” Miroku added.

“It was something I ate... but it went away and I’m fine now,” Sango glared at Miroku for sharing.

“Hmm,” Kaede nodded, as she looked at Miroku and Kohaku. “May I have a moment alone with Sango? I will call you back in a few minutes.”

“Of course, take all of the time you need,” Miroku said, kissing Sango’s forehead. “We’ll be right outside.”

Kaede nodded and knelt beside Sango.

“They’re just overreacting,” Sango assured, Kaede. “I’m fine.”

“Maybe, but it’s good to be sure,” she responded.

“I guess.”

“When was your last lunar cycle bleeding?”

Sango blushed. “Uh... I don’t know. It should be happening about now.”

“Hmm,” Kaede nodded. “Have you been intimate lately?”

Sango’s face turned bright red. “Intimate?”

"Aye."

Sango looked away.

“I’m an old woman. Nothing you say will surprise me.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” she answered, in a low voice.

Kaede sighed. She knew good and well that Sango knew exactly what she meant. Playing ignorant was doing nothing but only prolonging and heightening her evident embarrassment.

“Have you engaged in sexual intercourse of any kind within the last lunar cycle?” Kaede asked, directly.

Sango covered her face.

"It's nothing to be ashamed about, child," Kaede answered.

“Miroku and I have been together, yes,” she answered softly, as she uncovered her face and slowly looked at Kaede. "No one knows."

"Aye," Kaede nodded. “Do you have any wine?”

“Wine?” Sango asked, a bit taken aback by her random question. “I didn’t know you drank.”

“Aye, wine,” Kaede answered. “And no, I don’t drink. I want to conduct and examination that will require wine.”

Sango rose to her feet, slowly, and grabbed a bottle of wine. “Here,” she handed the bottle to Kaede.

“And a large bowl, one you won’t need anymore?”

Sango rose an eyebrow at the question before leaving again and returning with an large bowl that she tried to hand to Kaede.

“Please urinate in the bowl and give it to me,” Kaede instructed, handing the bowl back to her.

“What? No!” Sango protested.

“Sango, please. It’s an exam.”

“What type of exam is this? You want me to… in a bowl,” Sango shook her head in disgust.

“You must trust me, child.”

Sango sighed and stepped away. Kaede shook her head. Even the patient old woman was growing weary of Sango and her actions.

After a few moments, Sango returned and handed Kaede the bowl. “Here,” she said.

“The wine.”

“Sango handed Kaede the wine and watched as she poured some into the large bowl. The mixture popped and bubbled.”

“What’s happening,” Sango asked, concerned.

Kaede swirled the mixture in the bowl and looked at Sango. “I believe you are with child,” Kaede said, with a smile.

“With child?”

Kaede nodded. “Aye.”

“It can’t be,” Sango said, with widened eyes.

“I believe it is,” Kaede responded, showing her the result of the concoction in her hand.

Sango was silent, as she looked at the mixture. “I’m with child? You can tell that just by looking at these bubbles?”

“Aye, child,” Kaede nodded, with a smile.

“I’m with child,” she said, softly, rubbing her stomach.

“I’ll prepare some herbs for you to take daily until you give birth. They will help strengthen both you and your baby.”

Kaede watched as Sango nodded. She could tell that she was still in a state of shock.

“I must be on my way now. I will call in Miroku and Kohaku.”

"Kohaku! He doesn't know -

"Well, he will now," Kaede answered her question, knowing full well that Kohaku was probably not as ignorant as she had assumed.

Sango nodded, with a smile, as she looked at and continued to rub her stomach. “Yes.”

Kaede smiled and stood beside Sango. “Congratulations,” she said, before leaving the hut.

“Kaede!” Miroku stood to his feet, along with Kohaku.

“How is she, Lady Kaede?” Kohaku asked.

“Sango is just fine. She wishes to see you both,” Kaede answered, before proceeding to walk slowly back to her hut.

"May I assist you, Lady Kaede?" Kohaku asked, before entering the hut after Miroku.

"No, child. Go to your sister," she smiled.

Without a nod, he ran into the hut. Kaede smiled, as she heard shouts of joy erupt from their hut as she walked away.

Upon returning home, Rin had cleaned the dining area, cleared the bowls and removed leftover stew, only leaving a small dish for Kaede to eat upon her return. Although, the dining area wasn’t exactly cleaned to her standards, Kaede smiled at how thoughtful Rin was. She didn’t expect her to leave a bowl.

Kaede cleaned the few spots Rin had missed and slowly walked into Rin’s room. There she saw Rin curled in a ball on her bed mat. Her eyes were closed with her thumb in her mouth. She looked so innocent and peaceful.

As Kaede placed a blanket over the young girl, Rin turned to her with wide eyes. “How is Miss Sango? Will she be okay?”

Kaede nodded. “She will be just fine, child.”

“What happened? Why did she collapse?”

Kaede sighed. It wasn’t her right to inform Rin of Sango’s pregnancy. Sango would have to inform her herself. Plus, Kaede was tired herself and did not want to be up half of the night answering a million questions from an overjoyed and child.

“She was feeling light-headed, but she is okay now.”

“Great,” Rin answered in a yawn. “I was worried.”

“We all were,” Kaede answered, pulling the warm blanket over her small body. “Now, go to sleep, child.”

“Goodnight, Lady Kaede.”

“Goodnight, Rin,” Kaede responded, rubbing Rin’s back gently before leaving the room.

***

Kaede let Rin sleep-in the next morning. She prepared and set Rin’s breakfast in the dining area and headed out to begin her day. Rin found her hours later in a communal area chatting with some other women who were doing laundry.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Rin asked, standing before her. “Miss Sango just told me.”

“Hello, Rin,” some of the other women welcomed her.

Kaede noticed as some women remained silent and preoccupied themselves with their work. It was fear. She knew that, just like the children Rin talked about the night before, they were afraid of Rin because of her association with demons…particularly Sesshomaru, and his reputation.

“Hello,” Rin smiled at them, before looking seriously at Kaede.

“Come with me, child. I will explain,” Kaede said, standing up, slowly. “Excuse us, ladies,” she said, as she carried a small basket with her.

“Yes, of course,” a few women responded.

Kaede walked silently with Rin for a while toward Jinenji’s village.

“Why didn’t you tell me, Lady Kaede?” Rin asked.

“It was Sango’s news to tell.”

“But –

“I know you’re excited, but an announcement regarding a woman being with child is a private matter.”

“Private?”

“Aye, child. Mother’s shouldn’t share that they are with child until they begin to show in their bellies.”

“But, having a baby is great news,” Rin asked, very confused.

“It is, but sometimes…” Kaede paused. “Sometimes mothers want to keep the news a secret for a while.”

“But why?”

Kaede sighed. She would have to find a way to explain.  Although she knew that Rin knew about death, Kaede did not want to discuss it with her right now. Rin had experienced enough loss in her life. She wanted Rin to be excited for Sango and her baby, not worried. She tried her hardest to answer as best as she could. “Sometimes a baby can get sick while he or she is really small growing inside his or her mother and isn’t born. The less people who know about the baby, the less people there will be who are sad if the baby isn’t born for whatever reason,” she answered.

“Why would a baby get sick?” Rin asked, solemnly.

“It is hard to tell. Anyone can get sick for any reason.”

“Hmm,” Rin sighed.

“It is a fact of life, child. There is no reason to be down,” Kaede said, watching Rin’s face. She felt guilty for even bringing up the subject.

“Do you think Sango’s baby will get sick?”

“I hope not. We are going to do our best to make sure Sango’s baby is the healthiest he or she can be,” Kaede answered. “We’re heading to Jeniji’s field to pick up some herbs to keep both Sango and her baby strong.”

Rin smiled. After a moment of silence, Rin spoke again. “Lady Kaede, what happens to babies when they can’t be born?”

There was no skirting around the conversation. Kaede thought she’d have at least a few years before this conversation would need to take place, but the time had come. “When a girl reaches a certain age, she will bleed from in between her legs every lunar cycle for a short period of time.”

“Bleed?” Rin shrieked.

“It happens to all girls when they become women. It is a sign that they are able to bear children.”

“Really?” Rin asked, quite astonished.

“Aye. A woman will bleed every lunar cycle until her time has passed for her to bear children... when she is an old woman like me. I am not longer able to bear children, so I no longer bleed,” Kaede explained. “When you become a woman, you will bleed,” she told Rin.

“Will it hurt?”

Kaede remembered her share of lunar cycle bleeding pain as a young woman. It wasn’t fun, quite painful, but Rin didn't need to know that right now. “It can be uncomfortable at times, but there are many herbs that can help you with.”

“How do you have a baby?” Rin asked, looking at Kaede.

Kaede sighed. This was not a conversation she wished to have at this moment, but she would need to have it eventually. “For a short time during each lunar cycle, women will bleed if they are not with child. If a woman does not bleed at all during a lunar cycle, she may be with child if she has had intercourse,” she paused, trying to find a good way to explain everything. As she thought, she watched as Rin looked at her with bright wide eyes.

"Intercourse?"

“Women are born with flowers in between their legs.”

“Flowers?” Rin asked, surprised and excited, as she pulled up her kimono to try and see her "flower."

“You can check later,” Kaede instructed her, as she helped her pull her outfit back down.

Rin nodded and folded her arms behind her back and continued to walk with Kaede.

“Every woman has a flower in between her legs. It is over near where you pee. Its opening is a hole that goes deep into your body,” Kaede said, as Rin listened attentively. “While every woman has a flower in between her legs, every man has a… a… rod in between his legs.”

“A rod?”

Even Kaede knew it sounded crazy, but she went with it. “Aye. Men use the rod to pee mostly, but the rod also contains a special nectar that women’s flowers need to create babies.”

Kaede watched Rin’s face. She expected her to look all kinds of confused, but she seemed to be understand…or at least seemed to look like she understood.

“If a man puts his rod into the woman’s flower and releases the special nectar, a baby will begin to grow in the woman. Intercourse is when a man puts his rod into the woman’s flower.”

“Does it hurt?” she asked.

“A woman's flower must open to accept the man's rod. Its flower petals are usually very tight. It can be uncomfortable when the tight petals have to part to make room for his rod to enter, but it’s usually only uncomfortable the first time the rod enters,” Kaede said. “After that, intercourse feels really good.”

“It does?” Rin asked.

“Aye. Intercourse can be a very good feeling, especially when you are having it with someone you really love and care about,” Kaede answered. “In fact, intercourse is such a really good feeling that many people have it when they aren’t trying to make babies.”

“Really?”

“Aye. For some people, intercourse is an expression of love…but one shouldn’t do it until she or he is mature, ready... and in love.”

“How does the baby come out?”

“When the baby is big and strong, the flower will open its petals and the baby will come out through the flower.”

“Really?” Rin asked, excited.

“Aye.

“What’s it like to have a baby?” Rin asked.

Kaede's world stopped at the question. It hurt her more than she ever anticipated it would. “I never had any children,” Kaede answered, trying her best to conceal her feelings. “All I know is how to deliver babies,” she answered, in a better tone.

“Deliver babies?” Rin asked, excited.

Kaede smiled as she explained her role as the village midwife and her stories about the many babies she delivered. Rin enjoyed every story.

Kaede walked on with Rin to Jinenji’s field and worked with him to pick many herbs. As they scouted the field for herbs, Kaede did her best to explain and teach Rin the purpose of each herb and how to administer or repurpose it. She was very attentive and interested.

Packed with herbs to last Sango a whole month, they returned to their village to Sango and Miroku’s hut.

Along the way, Kaede answered Rin’s additional questions about womanhood and being with child. She was surprised at her interest. She expected most children to be alarmed or disgusted, but Rin was excited. Despite being an innocent child, Rin had a sort of maturity about her.

Upon arriving to the hut, they found Sango folding linens.

“Miss Sango!” Rin smiled, as she greeted her with a basket full of herbs.

“Hello Rin. Hello Kaede,” she greeted them.

“How are you feeling today?” Kaede asked.

“Good. I was a bit light-headed again, but I am okay. I just can’t believe that this is really happening. I’m going to be a mother,” she exclaimed, in a bit of shock.

“You’re going to be a great mother, Miss Sango!” Rin smiled. “Lady Kaede and I got you a whole bunch of herbs to keep you and the baby strong. This one will strengthen the baby’s bones…this one helps the baby’s brain…and this one will help you feel better,” Rin added, pointing to various herbs in the basket.

Kaede smiled. She was impressed by how much Rin had remembered. Kaede was sure that if Rin wished, she could become a fantastic midwife’s apprentice one day.

“Well, thank you very much,” Sango smiled, taking the basket of herbs from Rin.

“Although I am not a mother, I have delivered many children within this village. I would be happy to guide you through your pregnancy if you wish it, Sango,” Kaede said, as Sango sifted through the basket of herbs.

“Yes! Of course! I wouldn’t want it any other way!” Sango answered, looking at her, as she touched her flat stomach.

Kaede nodded.

“Can I help?” Rin asked Lady Kaede.

Kaede looked at Sango. “If you have no objection, I –

“Of course,” Sango smiled, touching Rin’s hand. “I would love for Rin to help.”

Rin smiled and continued to explain the various herbs in the basket and how to use them. Kaede was ready to jump in when needed, but Rin was doing a great job.

In the middle of explaining the herbs, Kohaku walked through the door.

“Kohaku,” Rin said, with a smile.

“Hi Rin. Hi Lady Kaede. Hi Sister,” he greeted them

“What are you doing here?” Sango asked. “I thought you were at the creek.”

“I was. I just need my net,” he answered, walking inside.

“A net?” Rin asked.

“Some of us are at the creek fishing,” he answered.

“Fishing!” Rin’s face lit up.

“Yes. You should come,” Kohaku said.

“Why don’t you run along,” Kaede said. “I’ll finish explaining the herbs to Sango.”

Rin nodded and left the hut with Kohaku after he retrieved his net.

“She’s wonderful,” Sango said, watching her leave with her brother. “I would be so lucky to have a child as sweet and as kind as her.”

“She is something,” Kaede smiled, with a nod.

“How is she adapting to the village and human life? Kohaku said she had been adjusting pretty well.”

“She’s doing very well. Kohaku has been a great friend to her.”

Sango nodded. “He really cares for her.”

“I am just concerned about her interactions with the other children though,” Kaede pulled some more herbs out of the basket.

“The children? Kohaku said that the children love her,” Sango asked, confused.

“Rin has mentioned that some of the children have been avoiding her,” Kaede said.

“Avoiding her? Why? Rin is such a sweetheart.”

“It’s her interaction with Sesshomaru and Jaken,” Kaede responded.

“Oh,” Sango said. “I can understand their concern, but Sesshomaru would never harm anyone in this village because of Rin. Plus, Inuyasha and Shippo are here! They’re demons too.”

“Shippo is a child for them to play with and he looks harmless. Sure, Inuyasha is rude and obnoxious at times, but he is not like his brother. Sesshomaru looks threatening…and his temperament doesn’t help either. Plus, I’m sure Sesshomaru’s reputation of being a ruthless, cold-hearted and dangerous killer to both humans and demons alike is not a secret to these children or their parents. Rin's association with him can be understandably alarming.”

“I understand,” Sango sighed. “I'm sad for her.”

Kaede nodded.

“But, everyone will see. Rin’s heart will shine brighter than Sesshomaru’s reputation. Plus, Kohaku is here. Rin will never be alone,” Sango answered.

Kaede nodded. “How did Miroku and Kohaku take hearing the news about the baby?” she asked, changing the subject.

“They were both very happy. Miroku is so excited to become a father,” Sango smiled. “He’s wanted this forever.”

“I’m glad.” Kaede nodded. “With this news, what are your plans for the wedding?”

“We haven’t discussed it, but I think we will wait until the baby is born to have the wedding.” Sango answered. “It will be too stressful right now and I want to feel like myself when I marry Miroku.”

“I understand. It is a smart decision,” Kaede answered, pulling more herbs out of the basket to explain.

“Sesshomaru knew,” Sango said.

“Sesshomaru knew what?” Kaede asked, in confusion at her random comment.

“I think he knew that I was with child,” Sango answered, looking away to think.

“He is a full dog demon. I’m sure he could smell the difference in your scent,” Kaede answered. “Inuyasha might be able to smell a difference in your scent as well.”

Sango nodded. “I guess,” she paused. “Come to think of it, I haven’t seen much of Inuyasha lately.”

“You haven’t?”

“He’s around, but he’s been keeping to himself a lot.”

“I’m sure Kagome’s absence has a lot to do with it,” Kaede remarked.

Sango nodded. “I agree. I don’t know what I’d do if I was separated from Miroku.”

Kaede sighed. She was well aware of what Kagome meant to Inuyasha.  Although she accepted it, Kaede was still unsure of how to feel about Inuyasha’s relationship with Kagome. Sure, she respected and even loved Kagome in her own right, but what about Kikyo? Yes, Kagome was a reincarnation of her elder sister, Kikyo, meaning that Kagome had Kikyo’s soul, but they weren’t the same. Kaede remembered the happiness in her sister after meeting Inuyasha. Inuyasha was Kikyo’s, Kikyo died, and then Kagome arrived and seemed to rightly take her sister's place. It was a confusing situation that even she didn’t know how to process. Despite her own sentiments, for her late sister’s sake, she needed to make sure that the love of her sister’s life, Inuyasha, was okay.

“I’ll talk to him,” Kaede answered, before continuing to explain the herbs.

Chapter Text

Within three months of traveling from village to village in the Central Region of Japan, Sesshomaru and Jaken had not spoken to a single monk or priestess for the job of detecting and removing the barrier of Inu no Taishō. Sure, they encountered many spiritualists during their travels, but Sesshomaru refused to entertain them.

The routine was the same each time. Sesshomaru would walk with Jaken into a village. The villagers would scream and run. Sesshomaru would head toward the local shrine or temple. Monks, priestesses or a mixture of the two would run out, and before they could even begin to throw sutras, chant, or perform some other mystical act, Sesshomaru would turn away and leave without a word. “Let’s go, Jaken,” he’d say every time. Sesshomaru would turn away, Jaken would follow and the crowd of spiritualists would cheer as if they valiantly saved their village by scaring away a threatening demon. Little did they know, Sesshomaru never left scared. He always left disappointed.

Skill was the issue. To Sesshomaru, no one seemed to exhibit the skills needed to open the barrier, let alone detect it. His father was no fool.  With all the excellent training Sesshomaru had received from Bokusenō, if Inu no Taishō truly wanted to keep his son from breaching that barrier, he would have solicited the services of an extremely powerful spiritualist. To Sesshomaru, he wouldn’t need a show of chants and flying sutras for him to detect a powerful spiritualist. He would be able to sense the power of a strong spiritualist before an act was even done. Sure, during his travels, he could sense the power of many strong spiritualists, but he knew that it wasn’t strong enough.

The more they searched and traveled, the more frustrated and hopeless Sesshomaru became. No one seemed to be strong enough. As spiritualist after spiritualist failed for Sesshomaru, Jaken did his best to encourage him to reconsider his decision to search outside of the Western Lands.

It was out of the question. Sesshomaru was not going to the Western Lands. He had to find a spiritualist in another region. Even if he had to make two powerful spiritualists join forces to get the job done, he wasn’t going home.

Sesshomaru knew that Jaken meant well in his suggestions, and was most likely just as frustrated as he was in the search. He knew that Jaken deserved an explanation for his decision, but Sesshomaru refused to share. Although Sesshomaru was undoubtedly the most powerful dog demon in the lands, surpassing his father in skill, wisdom and might, he crumbled at the thought of returning to his homeland. How could he tell Jaken that he was physically paralyzed at the thought of searching for a spiritualist in his homeland... all because of an incident that happened between him and a little human monk boy centuries ago? It wasn’t going to happen.

Amidst his frustration, Sesshomaru longed to retreat from his journey and visit Rin. He came close many times, but he chose to give her space. Rin needed time in the village alone to learn, grow and become the person she was meant to become without him. It was for her benefit, despite how much he missed her presence. As promised, he would visit her, but sporadically. It just wasn’t the right time now.

Sesshomaru smelled the scent of smoked meat. Only humans smoked their meat. “A village is up ahead,” he told Jaken, who walked behind him next to Ah-Un.

Sesshomaru didn’t hesitate when he reached the trees bordering the perimeter of the village. He parted the trees in his path and walked through to the village.

“Wait for me, mi lord!” Jaken called, as he tied Ah-Un’s reins around a thick tree trunk on the outskirts of the village.

The village was small. For early morning, there were a lot of villagers out and about. As expected, those who saw Sesshomaru and Jaken shrieked and shouted, “It’s a demon! Run! It’s a demon!”

Unfazed, Sesshomaru walked on. Upon assessing the village buildings, he chose to proceed toward the tall building that looked like temple. As he approached, he smiled. He could feel spiritual energy upon him. It wasn’t unbearable, but very strong for not having even seen an actual monk or priestess around.

Sesshomaru could hear Jaken’s teeth chattering. He knew that Jaken could sense the energy too. Maybe, just maybe, this was it.

As they approached the temple, a group of monks in long brown robes and pointy straw hats ran from the temple’s entrance and formed a horizontal line before them. They had enchanted staves covered in sutras. The force of the power these seven monks had was incredible. Sesshomaru was surprised that he could feel himself growing a bit weak with them only standing before him.

“Get back, Jaken,” Sesshomaru instructed his companion, who immediately ran a few yards back.

As Sesshomaru walked forward alone, the monks began to chant. A whole new wave of energy formed that Sesshomaru felt himself fighting to withstand. It was very strong, but bearable. Bokusenō had trained him very well. This was it. This was the group he had been looking for.

Sesshomaru stopped and looked at the leader, who stood in the center of the line of monks. “I need a service,” Sesshomaru said.

The monk and his followers ignored him and continued to chant louder and louder.

Sesshomaru huffed. “I said, I need a service,” he repeated.

The monks continued to ignore him as though he weren’t even there. They just stood with their eyes closed, gripping their staves.

“I’ll wait,” Sesshomaru responded to their actions, standing in place. Sesshomaru had spent days sitting in Bokusenō’s presence as he attempted to drain his demonic energy. This was nothing to him.

“What manner of demon is this that he can talk in our presence?” one of the monks in the line asked.

“Quiet!” the leader hissed. “Don’t break the chain!” he added, before he continued to chant.

Sesshomaru rolled his eyes and huffed. “The sooner you give me what I want, the faster I’ll leave.”

The monks continued.

“Fine. I’ll wait,” Sesshomaru looked at each of the men in the line.

***

“Thanks for inviting me to the creek, Kohaku,” Rin smiled, as they walked across the village towards the wooded path that led to the creek in the woods.

“Of course. It’ll be fun. A whole bunch of us are going down there. I would have invited you earlier, but I didn’t know where you were,” he responded.

“You have to ask? I was with your sister and Lady Kaede.”

Kohaku nodded. “Of course. Where else would you be these days?”

Rin laughed.

“Another check-up?”

“Mmmhmm. Everything’s good. Your sister and the baby are doing well.”

“I’m glad. Sango’s really excited. Miroku is too.”

“What about you? Aren’t you excited too, Kohaku?”

“Eh, I don’t know. I’m happy for them.”

Rin looked at Kohaku. There was something on his mind. She wanted to ask more questions, but she didn’t press it. She knew Kohaku very well. He would tell her what was on his mind when he was ready…one way or another.

Rin could hear the sound of laughter, running water and splashing from beyond the trees. She was so excited. She couldn’t wait to see everyone and go fishing. Living in the village, she hadn’t gone fishing since her time traveling with Sesshomaru and Jaken. Although she had gone to the creek with Kohaku and the other many times and wanted to fish, she spent her time socializing and playing games with the other girls who went instead. In the village, it was the men’s duty to hunt and fish. As a “woman,” it was her duty to clean, prepare and cook meals, and take care of children. Today was her time to embrace nostalgia. She missed being free in the woods with Sesshomaru and Jaken. It had been a little over three months since they had left on their journey. She missed them terribly, but knew they were busy.

“Hi guys,” Kohaku said, as he walked from behind the trees to the creek. “I brought Rin along.”

“Hi everyone,” Rin smiled, as she followed Kohaku from behind the trees.

There she saw the group of village children she regularly associated with. Besides Shippo, there was Abi, Umi, Okahito, Wakasa and Jinia.

The majority of the group greeted her with a welcome, except Okahito. “Uh, why did you bring her?” he grumbled.

Rin sighed as Shippo scolded the young boy. “Shut up, Okahito! Why did we bring you here?”

“Yeah, who knows why we brought you here, Okahito,” Jinia commented, as she walked toward Rin. “I’m glad you’re here,” she put her arm around Rin and led her towards the bank of the creek.

“I’m glad I’m here too,” Rin smiled, looking at Okahito, who glared at her.

Rin didn’t understand what Okahito didn’t like about her. She hardly said two words to him since she had been in the village. She never even noticed him until one day when he randomly started making fun of her. He always had something to say about her clothing, her big eyes or her hair. He always had something to say about her hair, whether it be the side bang ponytail she sported every day or the cowlick she could never seem to do anything with.  Rin did her best to ignore him, but his words did hurt sometimes. When he wasn’t verbally attacking her, he would throw pebbles at her, pull her hair, trip her while she was walking or push her. He always had a thing about pushing her. She didn’t understand it. She only wished to know what she ever did to make him hate her so much.

Although Rin chose to ignore him instead of getting him in trouble, one evening during dinner with the group at Sango and Mirkou’s hut, the issues with Okahito came up when Sango noticed a scrape on her arm.

“What happened to your arm, Rin?” Sango asked.

“Huh? Oh, it’s nothing. I fell earlier,” she answered.

“Fell?”

“Mmmhmm.”

“She didn’t fall. Okahito pushed her,” Shippo said.

“Pushed you?” Inuyasha asked.

“It’s nothing,” Rin answered, continuing to eat her meal.

“He shouldn’t be touching you at all!” Inuyasha said.

“I’ve talked to him about it,” Kohaku said.

“We all have. He’s always bothering Rin,” Shippo said. “He doesn’t have a life.”

“He doesn’t bother me. I just ignore him,” she answered.

Rin sighed as Shippo began to share all of the times he witnessed him bothering Rin.

“Maybe it’s time that I talked to him,” Inuyasha growled.

“Isn’t he the boy whose mother died not too long ago?” Miroku asked.

Kohaku nodded. “Yes. He lost his mother to an illness a month ago.”

“Oh, how sad,” Sango said.

“Yes, very sad, but no excuse,” Inuyasha snarled.

“I agree,” Miroku said.

Rin sighed.

“It sounds like he likes you,” Sango said.

“What?!” both Inuyasha and Shippo asked.

“Likes her? He sounds like he hates her,” Shippo said.

“I don’t know, Rin. It sounds like he might like you,” Sango said, as she sipped her soup. “Boys can be weird with their feelings.”

“I for one have no issue expressing my feelings. I am very forward and direct with women I fancy,” Miroku said, proudly.

“A little too direct,” Sango shot him a hard look.

“It worked on you,” he smiled.

“Shut up, Monk,” Sango hissed, before continuing. “Unlike most girls, some men…and boys have a hard time conveying what they really want to say, so they convey it in other ways.”

“If I liked a girl, I would get her flowers,” Shippo said.

“If you manage to successfully like a girl,” Inuyasha laughed. “Didn’t you fall for a demon boy disguised as a girl that one time?”

“Shut up, Inuyasha!” Shippo yelled. “That wasn’t my fault!”

“Yeah,” Inuyasha laughed even harder.

“At least I’m brave enough to tell a girl how I feel! You were too scared to tell Kagome anything!”

Inuyasha went silent.

“Shippo,” Sango whispered, and gave him a hard look.

“Sorry,” he said.

“No, Shippo. You’re right. There were a lot of things I should have done differently with Kagome, but I didn’t. Now, it’s too late,” he said, standing up.

“Inuyasha, stay. He didn’t mean anything,” Miroku said.

Inuyasha ignored him and left.

“Shippo, you know that Kagome is a sensitive subject for him,” Sango said.

“I’m sorry. He was provoking me!”

“I’ll go talk to him,” Miroku said, setting his bowl down and getting up.

“I’ll come with you,” Shippo said.

Rin looked at Sango.

“Don’t mind him. Inuyasha’s very sad that Kagome is gone.”

“Hmm,” she responded, remorsefully. In that moment, she wondered if Sesshomaru had felt as sad as Inuyasha did about Kagome in her absence.

“But, Shippo has a point. Inuyasha treated Kagome in ways very similar to how Okahito seems to be treating you. He never physically touched Kagome, but he made fun of her all the time,” Sango said. “And, as you know, he really cares about her. I think that just like Inuyasha, Okahito may have a hard time expressing his feelings.”

Rin didn’t know what to think. She hadn’t thought about Okahito at all. “What should I do?”

“Be you,” Sango answered. “Be nice to him and ignore him if he makes fun of you. I’m sure doesn’t mean it,” she smiled.

Rin smiled and continued eating her soup.

***

“Yes, it's so much fun when you come, right Abi?” Jinia said. “We love playing games with you while they fish.”

“Mmmhmm,” Abi agreed. “I have a new game for us to try. My sister taught me. It’s call tongue-twisters.”

“Tongue-twisters? What is that?” Jinia asked, with a confused face. “I wanted to play a betting game.”

“We can do that too. We can bet who will catch the most fish,” Abi responded.

“What a waste. We all know it’s going to be me,” Okahito exclaimed.

“You wish!” Shippo yelled. “I bet you won’t catch a thing like last time. I’ll win.”

“We all know who won’t catch a thing…Umi. He can barely see in front of his face,” Okahito laughed.

“I can see just fine,” Umi snorted.

“Stop, guys,” Kohaku said, walking towards the creek with his net.

“I bet Kohaku will catch the most fish,” Jinia said, proudly.

“Of course you would,” Abi smirked and mocked her with kissy faces.

“Shut up,” Jinia hissed, giving her a light nudge.

Rin chuckled. It was no secret that Jinia fancied Kohaku. Everyone knew it, even Kohaku. Whether he felt the same, no one really knew. It was on Rin’s list to ask him what he felt about Jinia, but it was never the right time. Since the announcement of Sango being with child, he had been a bit distant.

“We’ll see who catches the most fish,” Kohaku said, preparing his net.

“Yeah. It’ll be me!” Rin exclaimed.

The group was silent.

“You?” Jinia asked. “Why would you want to go fishing?”

“Yeah. Why would you want to do that?” Abi asked, confused.

“It’s fun,” Rin said.

“Fun? You know how to fish?” Jinia asked.

“You can’t fish! You’re a girl!” Okahito yelled.

“So what if I’m a girl!” Rin yelled, back.

“Yeah! So what if she’s a girl? Sure, it’s boring to fish, but she can do it if she wants,” Jinia said.

“Yeah!” Abi agreed.

“Girls aren’t allowed to fish,” Wakasa chimed him.

“Shut up, weed,” Jinia spat. “Who asked you?”

“Rin can do whatever she wants to do,” Shippo said. “It doesn’t matter if she’s a girl.”

“She probably doesn’t even really know how to fish,” Okahito added.

“I do to!”

“Then prove it!” Okahito shouted.

Kohaku huffed. “What does it matter if she fishes or not. This is just fun.”

“Yeah,” the silent Umi agreed with a sneeze.

“Shut up, Kohakpoo!” Okahito spat. “Let her prove it!”

Kohaku sighed and looked at Rin. “You don’t have to prove anything to him.”

“Yes you do! Show him what girls can do!” Jinia shouted at Rin.

Rin smiled at the girls and stepped into the creek.

“Here, take my net,” Kohaku said.

“No, thanks. I don’t need it,” she answered.

“What?” the group asked, puzzled.

Okahito laughed.

“No net?” Umi asked.

“Rin, how exactly are you doing to catch any fish?” Jinia asked, a bit frustrated.

“With my hands,” she answered.

“Look at this genius,” Okahito laughed, as he got in the creek with her. “Now I know you’re gonna lose.”

“We’ll see,” Rin responded.

“Are you sure you don’t want a net?” Kohaku asked.

Rin shook her head.

“Okay, on the count of three, start catching,” Shippo shouted. “One…two…two and a half…three!”

At the count of three both Rin and Okahito worked to catch the fish in the creek. Unfortunately, there were none to be found.

“I don’t see anything!” Okahito shouted, in frustration.

“Don’t stand in one spot! Look!” Wakasa answered.

“Whoever catches the first three fish wins,” Umi added, with a snort.

Both Rin and Okahito scanned the creek for fish, Rin with her hands and Okahito with his net. After some time, Rin shouted. “I got one!”

“What?” the group responded astonished.

“I got one!” she repeated, holding the flailing fish in the hands.

“Unbelievable!” Wakasa said.

“Way to go, Rin!” Shippo shouted.

Okahito grumbled. “Shut up!”

Rin threw the fish to the side of the bank near Kohaku. It flapped and flapped until it eventually fell back into the water before Kohaku could get it.

“Oh, look, I see one!” Abi shouted. “Right there, by your foot, Rin!”

“Yeah! Get it!”

“No fair! That’s cheating!” Ohakito shouted.

“Yeah!”

“Shut up, Wakasa,” Jinia muttered.

Rin crouched down carefully and caught that fish as well. “I got it!”

The girls and Shippo cheered. “Yay!”

“One more, Rin! You can do it!” Shippo shouted.

“Look at poor loudmouth Okahito. He has a net and all and still can’t catch a thing,” Jinia laughed.

“Shut up!” he hissed back.

“Oh, look! I see one!” Abi shouted again. “Rin, it’s right there!”

As Rin crouched down, the crowd gasped as Okahito shoved her to the side and captured the fish with his net. Rin fell face-first into the water.

“I got it!” Okahito shouted, loudly, as he held up his net with the floundering fish.

“Okahito! What did you do?!” Jinia yelled, as Kohaku and Shippo shouted Rin’s name in a panic, and jumped into the creek.

“Huh?” Okahito questioned the commotion.

Abi shrieked. “Rin! Oh no!” she cried. “Someone get help!”

“I’m going!” Waskasa shouted, as he ran through the woods back to the village.

“Blood!” Umi squealed, as he collapsed backwards onto the ground.

Abi, Jinia and Shippo all screamed. Even Kohaku gasped at the sight of her.

***

Early morning turned into the midday. As time passed by, Sesshomaru was surprised to feel no difference in the strength of the force of the seven monks. It was astonishing, but alarming. Despite being thrilled to find a powerful spiritualist group to break the barrier, spiritualists in general, particularly monks, made him tense.

Jaken, who was now lying on the ground, a bit woozy, in boredom, tried to speak. “Lord Sesshomaru, we’ve been standing here for –

“Silence,” he said, abruptly, watching the monks continue. He’d stand there for days if he had too. He finally found what he was looking for.

“Sensei,” a monk standing towards the end of the line whispered.

“Silence!” the leader answered, continuing to chant.

“I need to go,” the monk spoke anyway.

“You choose to go,” the leader corrected him, before continuing his chant.

“No, Sensei. I really need to go,” he said again.

Sesshomaru watched as the monk crossed his legs and smirked. This would be interesting.

“This is a matter of life and death! Either stay and fight or leave and die, risking all of our lives! Make your choice!” the leader shouted, chanting even harder.

Sesshomaru watched as the monk closed his eyes tight and continued to chant louder. Seconds later, he heard the sound of water failing and watched as the monk peed himself, splashing urine all over his surrounding comrades. Sesshomaru watched as the faces of the men next to him tightened in disgust and/or anger, but continued to chant nonetheless.

“Ew!” Jaken shouted.

“I admire your dedication, but it’s completely unnecessary,” Sesshomaru said. “I do not wish to kill you. I am in need of service, a service I will compensate you well for.”

The monks continued to chant.

“If you –

Sesshomaru felt his body jerk and stopped mid-sentence.

“Mi lord?” Jaken asked, confused, at Sesshomaru’s reaction.

Sesshomaru breathed. He felt something he couldn’t explain. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong.

“Louder, men!” the monk leader shouted, witnessing Sesshomaru’s reaction. “Stay strong, men! We’ve got him!”

“No, you don’t! Lord Sesshomaru!” Jaken shouted, in a panic, standing to his feet.

Sesshomaru turned and ran back towards Jaken.

“Mi lord!” Jaken shouted, puzzled, as Sesshomaru ran past him.

“Something’s wrong with Rin,” he answered, before morphing into a ball of light.

“Rin? What do you mean? Lord Sesshomaru! Where are you going? Don’t leave me here! Lord Sesshomaru!” Jaken shouted, as he ran and tried to follow Sesshomaru’s ball of light that quickly disappeared in the distance.

***

As Kohaku picked Rin up from out of the water, her mouth dripped with blood, which pooled around her in the water. She was conscious, but stunned.

“What did you do?” Jinia kept repeating.

“It was…it was an a-a-accident,” Okahito stuttered, in shock himself.

“You pushed her on purpose!” Shippo shouted at him.

“Rin, can you hear me? Are you okay?” Kohaku asked her, in a calm voice.

“Uhhh,” Rin moaned, as she cupped her bloody mouth with hand.

“What’s wrong with her?” Jinia panicked.

“Someone, go help Umi,” Kohaku instructed, as he moved Rin’s hands away from her face.

At his command, Abi ran to help the collapsed Umi. She fanned his face and helped him sit upright.

“This is not good,” Shippo shook his head.

“Rin, open your mouth for me,” Kohaku instructed her.

Rin scrunched her face and opened her mouth as wide as she could before she squealed and shut it closed with a moan. From what Kohaku could see, her teeth were coated with blood and her front top teeth were either cracked on an angle or missing.

“What is it, Kohaku?” Shippo asked.

“It’s her teeth,” he muttered, in aggravation.

“Wha—wha—

“Don’t speak,” Kohaku shook his head at Rin. “You took a nasty fall in the creek and hit your teeth when you fell.”

Rin looked at him blankly before her eyes widened and cupped her mouth again.

Kohaku sighed. “Jinia, may I borrow your ribbon.”

“Yes…yes, of course,” she answered. Jinia untied the bow of the ribbon that held the bun in her hair and handed it to Kohaku. “Here.”

Kohaku twisted the ribbon into a ball and looked at Rin. “Open real quick,” he instructed her.

Rin opened her mouth as wide as she could with glossy eyes.

“Keep his in your mouth,” Kohaku said, placing the balled up ribbon in her mouth.

“Ahhhhh!” Rin screamed.

“I know it hurts, but it’ll stop the bleeding.”

“Oh, poor Rin,” Shippo shook his head.

“Can you walk?” Kohaku asked Rin. “Nod ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for me.”

“Her leg is cut too. I don’t think she can walk,” Shippo answered for her.

Rin looked at Shippo and Kohaku and shrugged.

“Okay,” Kohaku said, as he grabbed her by the waist and lifted her out of the water.

Rin squealed in pain.

“Stop, stop! You’re hurting her!” Jinia yelled.

“I need help. We’ll have to find a way to move her together,” he looked at Jinia and Shippo.

“We can’t move her,” Jinia said.

“Ah!” Kohaku yelled, in frustration. “We need help.”

“Wakasa went to get someone,” Abi said, as she fanned Umi, who caught his breath.

“Maybe I can help,” Shippo offered, before transforming into a small plump balloon with two large eyes. “If you can get her on me, I can float her back to the village.”

“Okay, okay. We’ll do that,” Kohaku agreed. “Come on, Jinia, help me. Okahito, you too,” Kohaku ordered.

Stunned and shocked that he was even asked to help after what he had done, Okahito ran over to help.

“Grab her arm there…you grab her legs…and lift,” Kohaku instructed.

Rin shrieked, as she was lifted off of the ground.

As they began to place her on Shippo’s transformed balloon body, Abi screeched at the flash of red that darted out of the woods. It was Inuyasha carrying Wakasa.

“Inuyasha!” Shippo shouted.

“What happened?” Inuyasha asked, setting Wakasa down and running to the group.

No one had to say a word. Inuyasha gasped and wiped his mouth in shock, disbelief, frustration and sheer fear at the sight of Rin’s bloody face.

“Rin’s hurt. I think she fell on a rock in the creek and broke some of her teeth,” Kohaku said.

“She has a nasty gash on her leg too,” Abi added, walking over to join the commotion with Umi, who rubbed the back of his head.

“Fell on a rock?” Inuyasha gently tilted her face upward.

Rin shrieked and moaned.

“Sorry,” he apologized for causing her pain.

“She didn’t fall! Okahito pushed her!” Shippo shouted. “I saw him do it.”

“What?” Inuyasha asked, looking at Shippo.

“He did! They were catching fish and he got mad that she was catching more fish than he was without a net! He got mad and shoved her!”

“What did you do?” Inuyasha asked, glaring at Okahito.

Okahito gulped. “I-- I-- I didn’t mean to –

Pow! Before he could even get the words out, Inuyasha punched him hard in the chin. Okahito grabbed his face as the impact of Inuyasha’s hit sent him flying backwards.

Some gasped as Jinia and Abi screamed. Shippo had never seen Inuyasha so angry outside of fighting demons and protecting Kagome. He never expected him to actually punch Okahito… even though he deserved it. For a moment, Shippo felt bad for saying anything at all.

“You bastard!” Inuyasha yelled. “What the hell is wrong with you? Of all of the kids in this fucking village, you had to mess with her?!”

Shippo gasped at Inuyasha’s language. He had never seen him so angry.

“Inuyasha, stop!” Kohaku yelled. “Help me get Rin to Lady Kaede,” he redirected his attention.

Inuyasha huffed, as he watched the blood drip from the boy’s face.

“Okahito, your teeth,” Wakasa said, as he watched tooth after tooth fall from the waterfall of blood that fell from Okahito’s mouth.

“Good! I hope you lose every single goddamn tooth you have for what you did to Rin!” Inuyasha spat at Okahito, as he grabbed Rin and held her tight in his arms. He shook his head as he looked down at her. “This is bad,” he muttered.

“I know,” Kohaku agreed.  

“Sesshomaru is going to kill us all,” he added, as he leapt into the air.

***

“Kaede! Hurry! It’s Rin!” Inuyasha ran through the front door of her hut. Kaede was dusting the window sills with a wet cloth.

“Rin? What’s wrong?” Kaede asked, as she hobbled over to see the small child in Inuyasha’s arms.

Kaede gasped at the sight of her bloody face. “My child! What happened?”

Rin didn’t talk. She just moaned in pain.

“Some dumb kid pushed her in the creek. Her leg and her teeth are all messed up,” Inuyasha answered. “Sesshomaru’s going to kills us all.”

“Come now. Bring her over here,” she instructed, Inuyasha. “Set her down, straight up, and get me some cloth.”

Kaede could not entertain Inuyasha’s very real and valid thoughts right now. She had to focus on tending to Rin.

“Okay,” he answered, running in the back of her hut. “Where is the cloth?”

“In the… Oh, you stay with her. I’ll get everything,” Kaede responded.

Inuyasha sat next to Rin and held her small hand. “You’re going to be okay,” he told her. “I’m sure of it. Kaede is going to fix you up as good as new.”

Rin moaned and moved her hand away from her face. “Lord Sesshomaru,” she managed to say, in a gargled voice.

Inuyasha sighed. “I know you want to see him right now. I don’t know where he is, but when he comes back, you’ll be as good as new. You’ll be so good as new that you won’t even have to tell him what hap –

Inuyasha’s voice seized at the grip of claws around his neck. Inuyasha looked up startled. “Seessh-o-mmaaru,” he managed to say, as he looked into the red eyes of fury of his elder brother.

“What happened to her?” he asked, slamming his brother hard into the wall of Kaede’s hut. “Tell me!”

Inuyasha scratched at Sesshomaru’s claws. He couldn’t breathe. He was helpless at his brother’s mercy. His feet flailed below him. “Sees—sess-h ---

“Lord Sesshomaru,” Rin managed to repeat, in a gargled voice, before coughing blood onto her outfit.

At the sound of her voice, Sesshomaru looked back. He calmed himself and turned back to his humanoid form. “Rin,” he said, dropping his brother on the floor.

Rin shrieked and moaned in pain as he tried to touch her cheek when he crouched to her side. Sesshomaru immediately withdrew his hand and grabbed her hand instead.

“What on earth happened in here?” Kaede asked, as she hobbled into the main room of her hut. “Sesshomaru!” she gasped in shock. “I didn’t expect you to be here. Inuyasha!”

“What happened to Rin?” Sesshomaru asked, standing to his feet, red hot with anger.

Kaede rubbed Inuyasha’s back, who coughed as she tried to get air back in his lungs. She wasn’t surprised when he swatted her hand away. “I’m fine. I’m fine,” he shooed her.

“What happened to Rin!” Sesshomaru asked again, in anger.

“She –

Just then, the group from the creek entered Kaede’s hut.

“How’s Rin?” Jinia asked, before gasping at the sight of Sesshomaru with the others.

Kohaku walked in past her with Ohakito draped on his arm. His chin dripped with blood onto his outfit.

“My word! What happened to him?!” Kaede asked, motioning Kohaku to bring him over. “What happened to them?”

Sesshomaru glared at the boy with narrow eyes. His mind ran wild as he tried to understand why both he and Rin were covered in blood and injured from the mouth while everyone else seemed okay.

“Rin has a gash on her leg and I think she hurt her teeth. Okahito is missing some teeth too,” Kohaku answered.

Sesshomaru had had enough. He slammed his fist into the wall, making a crater-shaped dent. “What happened to Rin!”

The group went silent. They were all terrified.

“We were fishing at the creek and there was an accident,” Kohaku answered, slowly. “Rin fell on a rock in the creek.”

Sesshomaru looked at him and then at Inuyasha. “She fell on a rock,” Inuyasha corroborated Kohaku’s statement. “I wasn’t there, but –

Sesshomaru looked at Rin. Her eyes were closed as she lightly clenched her mouth in pain. Something was amiss. He could feel it. There was something someone wasn’t saying.

“What happened to him?” Sesshomaru asked, looking at Okahito, who looked down.

The group fell silent again. There was no explanation for Okahito.

“Inuyasha punched Okahito in the face,” Shippo said.

“Shippo!” Inuyasha growled, as he rubbed his neck sore neck. This was not the time or place for Shippo to be a blabbermouth. Sesshomaru wasn’t the one to be completely honest to right now. With that comment, how was he going to have to explain why he punched Okahito in the face? “Stupid,” he couldn’t help but mutter.

Sesshomaru looked at Inuyasha long and hard. “Why?” he asked Shippo.

Shippo shuttered at his look. “Uh… Inuyas –

“We had a disagreement and I lost my temper,” Inuyasha answered instead, as normal as he could.

“A disagreement? What kind of disagreement?” Sesshomaru asked, walking towards Inuyasha slowly, his poison claws peering from his hand.

Inuyasha swallowed hard and tried to calm himself as he held out his hands. “Sesshomaru, listen.”

“I’ve been listening,” Sesshomaru responded.

“Okahito –

“Shippo, shut up!” Inuyasha shouted.

“I will kill you,” Sesshomaru pulled his poisonous clawed hand back to strike.

The group screamed. Jinia and Abi ran out of the hut first, followed by Wakasa, who dragged a passed out Umi. Kohaku sighed at Rin before helping Wakasa remove Umi out of the hut.

It was then that Shippo realized the damage he may have caused with his big mouth. He felt foolish. He should have understood that Inuyasha was only trying to protect Okahito from Sesshomaru’s ruthless wrath. As horrible as what he did to Rin was, Okahito did not deserve to die. “Yes, she just fell in. That’s all.”

“Lord Sesshomaru,” Rin called, reaching for him.

Sesshomaru froze and looked at her. Rin held out her arm to him. He gave one last glare at Inuyasha before putting away his claws and walking to her.

As Rin tried to speak, Sesshomaru shook his head. “Don’t speak,” he said, crouching down next to her.

“Now that everyone is as calm as can be, what happened at the creek?” Kaede asked, looking at Shippo and Okahito for answers.

Okahito lowered his head.

“Rin just fell in the creek. Right, Shippo?” Inuyasha encouraged Shippo to agree, as he gave him a hard look. “It was an accident.”

“Yes,” Shippo agreed.

“Okay,” Kaede nodded. “And Okahito, what happened to you? Why did Inuyasha strike you, as Shippo said?”

Okahito looked at Inuyasha, who looked at him with wide eyes. As Inuyasha thought on his feet to deliver a believable explanation, Okahito looked at Rin... and Sesshomaru crouching next to her, who looked at him menacingly.

“Okahito?” Kaede asked, waiting eagerly for his response.

Kaede hated to pressure him, but she felt that she would be able to conduct damage control if Okahito admitted what truly occurred at the lake with Rin present with Sesshomaru. Kaede understood that Rin had a special control over Sesshomaru that no one else had.

Okahito wiped away some blood dripping down his chin and sighed. “I –

“He didn’t mean anything!” Shippo shouted on Okahito’s behalf to Sesshomaru.

At that comment, Inuyasha clobbered Shippo hard on the head. “Shut up, you idiot,” he whispered, unproductively, as Sesshomaru’s hearing was far greater than his being a full demon.

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes at the boy.

“I… I pushed Rin at the creek,” he said, looking down, as blood dripped from his mouth from his missing teeth. “She fell on a rock and broke her teeth.”

Inuyasha sighed and shook his head. It was inevitable… Sesshomaru was going to kill that boy, and then turn around and kill him next for trying to cover everything up. In that moment, he wanted to kill Shippo for being stupid.

“Inuy… Inuyasha punched me because of what I did to Rin,” he added.

Before Sesshomaru could react, Rin put her blood-covered hand on his arm. Sesshomaru glanced at her and sighed. He stayed where he was and looked at the boy with emotionless narrow eyes.

“I’m sorry, Rin,” Okahito said, still looking down. “I never meant to hurt you.”

Rin looked at him with sad eyes and sighed. “It’s okay,” she responded.

Kaede looked at Okahito and Sesshomaru. She was surprised that Sesshomaru didn’t make any attempt to get up and confront Okahito. He just sat beside Rin with an emotionless face. When she looked closer, she saw Rin's hand on his arm. She was right. Rin did have a special control over Sesshomaru. She was grateful. She only hoped that maybe Rin’s acceptance of Okahito’s apology would be enough for him to let the incident go altogether.

“Okay, since that is all out in the open, I need to tend to your wounds. Let me check on Rin first. Why don’t you go outside, but don’t go far. I will take a look at you next, Okahito,” Kaede said.

Okahito nodded, still looking down. He turned to leave after Shippo who ran out before him.

“Not you, Inuyasha,” Kaede stopped Inuyasha, as he began to leave as well.

“Why not me?” Inuyasha asked.

“I may need your help.”

“Sesshomaru’s here,” Inuyasha muttered.

“I may need both of you,” Kaede responded, as she watched the two brothers glare at one another.

“Rin, I’ll need you to open your mouth, sweetheart. As wide as you can.”

Rin sighed and opened her mouth.

“A little bit more, a little bit more,” Kaede said.

“Ahh,” Rin screeched.

"Okay, okay. That’s good,” Kaede said. “Now, I need to see what’s going on in there. I need to clean your mouth,” she said, pouring water into a cup.

Rin’s eyes widened.

“All I need you to do is put some water in your mouth a few times and rock your head from side to side.”

“Geez,” Inuyasha winced. He could imagine how painful this all was going to be for her.

Rin shook her head.

“Aye, just like that. Just do that with water in your mouth,” Kaede said, passing her the cup.

Rin looked down, as she took the cup. She held it in her lap and sighed.

“Rin?” Kaede asked.

Sesshomaru took the cup from her. Rin looked up at him with sad eyes. He didn’t need to say anything. His eyes said everything she needed to hear.

As Rin opened her mouth, Sesshomaru carefully poured water in between her parted lips.  When it began to spill, he pulled the cup away. Rin looked at Kaede and shook her head from side to side as though she were saying “no.”

“That’s it,” Kaede said. “Now, let the water fall in this bowl and do it again.”

Inuyasha looked away while his brother helped Rin. Rin looked like something Kagome once described as “zombies” from a “horror show” from her time. He missed her more than ever right now. He wondered what she was doing.

“That’s good. Now, open as wide as you can and let me see,” Kaede said.

Rin opened her mouth and Kaede peered in.

“Okay,” Kaede said.

“What is it?” Sesshomaru asked, in concern.

“See here,” she waved him to look.

Sesshomaru sighed as he looked into Rin’s mouth. Her front three top teeth were destroyed. Two were cut and jagged on rough angles and one was missing altogether. Looking at her reminded him of the time she tried to take care of him in the woods, when she smiled at him after she had clearly been attacked in her village. He remembered her bright warm smile from a mouth of some missing teeth. He never wanted to see her like that again, but he was seeing her like this now. Anger seethed through his body.

“Rin, nod ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Have you ever lost any of your teeth in the front of your mouth?”

Rin nodded yes.

Kaede nodded. “Do you remember if you lost all of the front teeth on the top of your mouth before.”

Rin nodded yes.

Kaede nodded. “Now, Rin, I need you to be brave for me. I need to take two of your teeth out.”

“No, no!” Rin shrieked.

“I must. They have to come out in order for you to get better. If I don’t, they will cut your tongue.”

Rin shook her head repeatedly and whined. Sesshomaru had never seen her like this. She was absolutely terrified, and for good reason.

“No, Lord Sesshomaru.”

Sesshomaru breathed deep. “They need to come out?”

Kaede nodded. “Aye.”

Rin shook her head and covered her eyes as tears fell down her cheeks. Sesshomaru caught a few tears with his finger.

“Yah know, Rin. I got my tooth pulled one time,” Inuyasha said.

Rin wiped her eyes and looked at him. “You did?”

“Yeah, I did. Tōtōsai had to pull out one of my teeth to repair my sword when I broke it. It really hurt at first, but I felt better really quick afterwards,” Inuyasha said. “You will be okay…and Kaede will do it all really quick, right, Kaede?”

Kaede nodded. “Aye.”

Sesshomaru glanced at his brother. He didn’t know what to think, but he appreciated the encouragement and support he was giving to Rin. She needed it more than ever right now.

Rin looked at Inuyasha and then at Sesshomaru before she nodded to Kaede.

“That’s my girl,” Kaede smiled. “Now, I need you to lean back against something so you are not exactly lying flat, and not exactly straight up,” she said, as she scanned the room for something suitable.

“She can lean against me,” Sesshomaru said.

Rin looked at him.

“If you’re okay with that,” Kaede responded. “Rin?”

Rin nodded and crawled on Sesshomaru’s lap. She leaned back against Sesshomaru’s chest and rested her head on his shoulder.

Kaede stepped away to prepare the tools for the job. She returned with an ointment that she rubbed around Rin’s nose and mouth. “This’ll help you feel comfortable during the procedure.”

Rin looked at Inuyasha with a frightened look.

“Well, you’re already doing better than me. Tōtōsai just pulled my tooth out. You have something to help numb the pain. You’re going to be okay, Rin,” Inuyasha said, glancing at Sesshomaru.

After waiting several minutes, Kaede flicked Rin’s mouth hard with her fingers. Sesshomaru glared at her, but she ignored him. “How does that feel?”

Rin shrugged.

“Okay, that’s a good sign,” Kaede answered. “Now, Rin, you’ll be able to feel what's going on, but this should help lessen the pain.”

Rin sighed with a nod.

“Okay, open as wide as you can,” Kaede said, placing two small devices in the side of her mouth to keep her mouth open.

Rin squealed at the pain.

“I’m going to do this as quick as possible,” Kaede said. “Now, close your eyes and try to relax.”

Rin did as she was told and screamed when the mallet hit her tooth.

“Ah! My ears!” Inuyasha moaned, as he gripped his hands to his ears. “Uh!”

Sesshomaru had never heard anything more horrifying, than the sound of Rin’s pain. The sound of her pain was worse than the ringing he was hearing in his ears from her screams. He wanted nothing more than to make it stop. He wanted nothing more than to make that boy Okahito suffer far greater than she was suffering right now.

As she screamed, Rin grabbed Sesshomaru hands. Her grip was hard and tight, as though she were clinging to him for dear life. Sesshomaru held her hands and listened to her scream and cry as the mallet banged against her broken teeth.

“Inuyasha, hold her feet!” Kaede called, as Rin began to kick her feet wildly.

“Ah! Okay!” he said, as she grabbed her ankles and held them down.

After several bangs from the mallet, Sesshomaru felt her hand loosen. His eyes widened as he looked at her. Rin’s eyes rolled back in her head, as she slouched into his shoulder. “Rin?”

Inuyasha let go of her ankles as they stopped moving. “What happened to her?” Inuyasha asked, in a panic.

“She’ll be fine,” Kaede said. “Her body is exhausted. I’ll continue. I’m almost done.”

“Good. I don’t think my ears could have taken any more of that,” Inuyasha commented.

“Silence, Inuyasha,” Sesshomaru hissed.

Inuyasha looked at his brother before walking to stand in the corner of the room.

Kaede finished banging on the last tooth. “It’s done,” she said, putting the mallet to the side.

Sesshomaru looked down at Rin in his arms. She was out cold and her kimono was covered in blood. Although he knew that she was okay, the sight of her alarmed him.

“She’s okay, Sesshomaru. She’ll wake up with a nasty ache, but she’ll be fine,” Kaede said. “She’s a brave little girl,” she said, check to see the status of Rin's leg.

“What of her teeth?” Sesshomaru asked.

“It’s not good,” Kaede said, parting Rin’s lips to reveal her teeth. Sesshomaru and Inuyasha looked at the gaps in the front of her mouth. “Rin has already lost her childhood teeth.”

“What does that have to do with anything?” Sesshomaru asked.

“The teeth she lost today were permanent. She will never get them back,” Kaede said. "Her leg is not broken. It's just a nasty gash. I'll dress it."

"I got it," Sesshomaru said, lifting Rin from his body. He let her body rest on the floor.

"What do you mean?" Kaede asked Sesshomaru, confused.

Sesshomaru ignored her as he licked the gash on Rin's leg.

"What are you doing?!" Inuyasha asked.

Sesshomaru looked up at glared at his brother.

Kaede gasped. "It's gone! The wound is gone!" she said.

Sesshomaru rolled his eyes and picked Rin up from the floor.

"You have healing powers?" Inuyasha asked.

Sesshomaru ignored him. “What are you saying? Are you saying that Rin’s going to permanently have missing teeth?” he asked, Kaede.

“Aye. Unfortunately, Rin won’t be able to grow any new teeth there,” Kaede answered.

“Rin’s going to look like a toothless old woman like you forever?” Inuyasha asked.

Kaede huffed.

Sesshomaru looked down at Rin in his arms.

“How will she eat... drink... talk?” Inuyasha asked.

“She’ll have to find a way,” Kaede said.

Sesshomaru burned with anger. “She will not!” he growled.

Without a word, Sesshomaru left the hut carrying Rin in his arms.

“Sesshomaru!” Kaede called after him.

“Sesshomaru! Where are you going?” Inuyasha ran after him.

Most of everyone who had left Kaede’s hut earlier had congregated outside of her hut when Sesshomaru walked outside. Some other villagers had joined the group too. At the sight of Sesshomaru carrying the bloodied and unconscious Rin, some gasped and screamed. Sesshomaru ignored them and kept walking.

“Sesshomaru! Stop!” Inuyasha shouted.

As Sesshomaru walked, those who knew Rin and the situation began to ask questions.

“Lord Sesshomaru, how’s Rin?” Kohaku asked, watching him pass with Rin in his arms. “Where are you taking her?”

“We heard so many screams,” Jinia said, gripping Abi’s hands.

Abi nodded in agreement. “Is Rin okay?” she asked, timidly.

Sesshomaru was so overcome with anger that he couldn’t hear anyone. Although he knew others were around him as he passed, he could see no one clearly. The only face he could see was Okahito’s in the distance.

Okahito quivered and looked away as Sesshomaru approached.

“Sesshomaru!” Inuyasha shouted, as he saw him approaching Okahito. This couldn’t be good.

As Sesshomaru walked, all except Sesshomaru, who was possessed by anger, heard shouting in the sky.

“Lord Sesshomaru! I’m so glad I found you! You just left!” Jaken shouted, as he flew into the village riding Ah-Un. As Jaken flew in closer towards Sesshomaru, his eyes widened as Ah-Un began to buck. “Whoa, whoa there. What’s wrong you two? I… Rin!” Jaken shouted.

Inuyasha huffed. This was getting worse and worse by the minute.

“Rin! What happened to Rin?!” Jaken shouted. “Is she okay?” he asked, looking at her still in his arms, covered in blood.

“Inuyasha, what do we do? What do we do?” Shippo asked, in a panic.

Inuyasha had no idea.

Sesshomaru, caught in tunnel vision, kept walking towards Okahito.

“Lord Sesshomaru, please stop!” Kohaku asked.

“Someone stop him! Please help!” Abi shouted.

“Okahito, run!” someone shouted to him.

“Sesshomaru!” Kaede shouted.

The boy stood paralyzed as Sesshomaru approached him.

Inuyasha ran to grab Sesshomaru’s arm, but he immediately shoved him away. Inuyasha flew a few yards before crashing to the ground.

The crowd screamed as Sesshomaru, without a word, lifted the boy by the collar of his outfit with his free hand and raised him up so he was eye level to him. The crowd gasped in terror.

“Sesshomaru, no!” Inuyasha screamed.

“He did this to Rin?” Jaken asked, with widen eyes. “Kill him! Kill him now, Lord Sesshomaru!” Jaken shouted, as Ah-Un continued to buck in anger at the sight of Rin.

“No, stop!” many of villagers shouted, in terror.

Sesshomaru glared at the young boy, partially transforming into his true form. “If you ever touch her again, I’ll kill you,” he said, cold and hard.

The boy’s eyes widened, as Sesshomaru unleashed his sharp fangs. He was too scared to even scream.

“Sesshomaru!” Inuyasha continued to shout.

“Sesshomaru, put him down! Please!” Kaede shouted, as she hobbled toward him.

Sesshomaru looked at the boy long and hard before throwing him to the ground.

The crowd gasped, as Sesshomaru continued walking with Rin in his arms.

“Sesshomaru, where are you going?” Kaede asked. “You can’t take Rin?”

Sesshomaru stopped in his tracks and slowly turned to look at her.

Kaede sighed. “Sesshomaru, please.”

“What do you mean, 'I can’t take her?'”

“Rin needs to stay here,” Kaede said. “She needs to be with humans.”

“That gall of this woman!” Jaken shouted.

Sesshomaru slowly walked to Kaede with Rin held tightly in his arms. He stopped two inches from her face before he spoke. “‘I will take care of her.  Everyone will,’” he mocked her. “Did you not say that too me?”

“Sesshomaru, I –

“You promised me, and yet, here I stand,” he looked down at Rin, still unconscious in his arms.

The crowd was silent. Everyone looked at Sesshomaru as he spoke.

“What happened to Rin was an unfortunate situation that –

“That will not happen again,” he finished her sentence, turning to leave with Rin in his arms.

“Sesshomaru, you cannot take her,” Kaede said.

“I can and I will!” Sesshomaru hissed. “She is not spending another day in this village with you or anyone else in this snake-pit you call a village. I should have never left her here in the first place.”

“You cannot take Rin. She must recover from her procedure. If you take her, she is at risk of getting an infection.”

Sesshomaru looked down at Rin. “I will take care her,” he responded.

“Sesshomaru, please.”

Sesshomaru continued to walk. He was not leaving her.

“Sesshomaru, wait,” Inuyasha said. “The old woman has a point. What if Rin gets sick?”

Sesshomaru huffed as he continued to walk. He knew that Kaede had a point, but he wanted to take her away. He needed to take her away.

“I have remedies to help Rin handle the pain when she wakes… and medication if she develops an unexpected infection. It is in her best interest for her to stay here.”

Sesshomaru didn’t care. He would take his chances and find someone more suitable to help Rin.

“Sesshomaru, I beg of you. Let her stay... at least until she recovers. Once she recovers, you will be free to take her with you,” Kaede said.

Jinia and Abi looked at each other with wide eyes.

Sesshomaru stopped in his tracks and looked down at Rin.

“I know that my word means nothing to you know, but please. Let Rin stay here in the village until she has recovered. Once she has recovered, I will send her away with you. I promise,” Kaede said.

Sesshomaru sighed and slowly walked back to Kaede. “Until she recovers,” he said.

“Aye. You have my word,” Kaede said, looking at Rin, sadly.

Chapter Text

The crowd watched as Sesshomaru walked with Rin in his arms back towards Kaede’s hut.

“Wait for me, Lord Sesshomaru?” Jaken shouted, as he mushed Ah-Un to follow after him.

Sesshomaru looked down at Rin as he carried her. He wiped some of the blood dripping from her mouth with his finger and sighed. He never should have left her in the village.

“Lord Sesshomaru! What happened to Rin? I can’t believe this happened! Those fools! That boy did this to her?! You should turn back and kill him right now!”

“Jaken,” Sesshomaru said, with a huff.

“Yes, mi lord.”

“Shut your mouth,” he said.

“Yes, mi lord,” Jaken answered, with a bow.

Sesshomaru knew that Jaken was just as angry as he was. Though he would probably never admit it, Rin was important to him too. Sesshomaru just couldn’t take any more noise. Rin’s screaming from her tooth extraction did a number on his ears. It was bad enough that he could still hear the commotion with the villagers and his angry brother even though he had walked a significant distance away. He just needed the illusion of silence right now.

As he walked, he felt Rin begin to squirm in his arms.

“Rin?” he asked, looking down at her.

“Rin! Is she awake? Is she alright?” Jaken asked, jumping onto his mokomoko to look down at her too.

“Lord Sesshomaru? Master Jaken?”

“Rin! Your teeth!” Jaken shouted with a horrid look on his face.

Sesshomaru flipped his mokomoko, making Jaken go tumbling to the ground.

“My teeth?” Rin questioned, as she moved her hand to her mouth.

“Don’t,” Sesshomaru said.

“Ow!” she scrunched her face in pain, as she touched her mouth, too late to stop at Sesshomaru’s words.

Sesshomaru sighed. It pained him to see Rin in pain. It was his fault for leaving her there in that village for a significant amount of time and not checking in on her. Maybe if he had checked in on a more regular basis, he would have realized the issues with Okahito and fixed them before all of this had happened. Looking down at her, he felt nothing but guilt and regret.

“Okahito?” Rin asked.

Sesshomaru huffed. “What about him?”

Rin looked at him without saying a word. He knew what she was asking.

“He’s fine,” he answered.

Rin nodded and held her mouth at the pain of trying to give a smile.

Sesshomaru sighed and looked at her. It astonished him that she could still find a way to be compassionate and pleasant in the midst of all chaos and misery.

“Once you recover, I’m taking you home,” he said.

“Home!” Jaken shouted with a smile. “Rin is coming back with us?!”

Sesshomaru shot Jaken a look to be silent and looked back at Rin.

“Home?” she questioned.

“Yes… with us.”

Rin scrunched her face as she tried to smile, but then relaxed into a solemn look.

***

“You’re real lucky, kid,” Inuyasha said, as he watched as some village bystanders help Ohakito up from the ground.

“Are you alright? Are you alright?” they asked him continually.

Okhaito moaned and held his cheek. “I’m fine.”

“I’m surprised he didn’t kill you,” Wakasa said.

“Yeah,” Shippo agreed. “I thought you were a goner for sure.”

Okahito was silent as he brushed dust off of his outfit.

“Are you sure you’re alright, Ohakito?” Abi asked.

Okhaito nodded as he watched Sesshomaru carry Rin away back towards Kaede’s hut.

Once it was established that Okahito was as okay as could be, a volcano of questions from nosy villagers erupted. “What happened to you?” “Did that demon do that to you?” “What happened to that young girl?”

As the questions flooded in, Kohaku noticed Lady Kaede. She stood silently amidst the crowd looking at the ground. “Lady Kaede, are you alright?” he asked, in concern, touching her shoulder.

Kaede nodded. “Aye, Kohaku. I’m fine,” she responded, coming back to her senses.

Kaede couldn’t help but replay Sesshomaru’s words in her mind. He was going to take her back. In such a short time, Rin had become everything to her.

As the crowd roared with questions, Kaede hobbled over to Okahito. “Come, Okahito, let me take a look at your teeth.”

“His teeth? What’s wrong with his teeth?” the villagers began to ask.

Inuyasha sighed and shook his head.

“I’m fine,” Okahito told Kaede, still brushing dirt off his outfit.

“Please, Okahito. Let me check. I need to see if some of your teeth need to be extracted.”

“Extracted?” some villagers gasped, with wide eyes. “What happened to his teeth?”

“Can’t you mind your own business?” Inuyasha hissed.

“Nothing is loose. They all came out clean,” Okahito responded to Kaede. “I’m fine.”

The crowd gasped. “His teeth fell out,” someone whispered.

“Don’t be stupid. Let her take a look,” Inuyasha growled, in frustration.

“Okahito, please,” Kaede said. “I really just –

Okahito’s face turned red. “I said I’m fine!” he shouted. “Everyone just get away! Leave me alone!” Okahito continued, throwing his arms in the air as he walked away, pushing the surrounding villagers to the side as be passed through the ever-growing crowd.

The crowd gasped and looked at one another puzzled as he stormed by.

“What that hell was that all about?” Inuyasha asked.

“What’s wrong with him?” Jinia asked, looking at Abi, who shrugged.

“Everything,” Shippo answered, shaking his head.

***

Rin’s response surprised Sesshomaru. By how upset she was when he first left her in the village months ago, he thought she would be ecstatic to learn that she could leave with him and Jaken.

“Rin?” Sesshomaru asked, eager to hear her explanation.

Rin swallowed a wad of blood down her throat before attempting to talk. “But the baby?”

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes.

“Baby? Rin’s having a baby?!” Jaken asked, in shock.

Sesshomaru looked down and glared at Jaken, who nodded and backed up in apology.

“Miss Sango is having a baby. Lady Kaede is letting me help keep her and the baby healthy until the baby's born,” Rin struggled to say, in her condition.

Sesshomaru looked at her. He knew that he was right when he smelled Sango in the field the last time he saw Rin. He knew she was with child.

“Lady Kaede has let me prepare herbs for her to take every day.”

Sesshomaru looked at her blankly.

“Lady Kaede said I’ll make a really good midwife one day,” Rin said, proudly.

“Midwife?” Jaken asked. “What’s that?”

“It’s someone who helps deliver babies,” she answered his question, looking down at him from Sesshomaru’s arms.

“Deliver babies?” Jaken asked. “What does that mean? You harvest the eggs and make sure they stay warm and don’t crack?”

Even Sesshomaru couldn’t help but look down at Jaken regarding his remark.

“What?” Jaken asked, nervous at Sesshomaru’s look.

Rin laughed at Jaken’s question. “No, silly. Humans don’t lay eggs. Human babies come out of flowers.”

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes as he looked to the side. He never cared to learn about the ways and lives of humans, but he knew that that was definitely wrong. However, he wasn’t going to correct her. With her assisting with Sango’s pregnancy, Rin would find out the real truth on her own soon enough.

“Human babies don’t come out of flowers, idiot. Humans lay eggs,” Jaken said.

Sesshomaru looked back at Jaken.  Clearly, he didn’t have much interest or interactions with humans either.

“No, Master Jaken. They come from flowers.”

“They do not, Rin!” Jaken said, getting aggravated.

“Yes, they do! Lady Kaede told me that all human girls have a flower in between their legs. When a girl is old enough to have babies and becomes a woman, a man puts the rod in between his legs into the flower. When the nectar from the rod comes out, it makes a baby that grows in the woman,” Rin said.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened. Maybe Rin wasn’t entirely wrong. He was impressed by how crafty Kaede was about explaining human reproduction in a seemingly innocent, yet accurate way.

“After a long time, the baby comes out through the woman’s flower. The midwife catches the baby from the flower,” Rin said.

“That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” Jaken laughed. “Flowers and rods? Ha! What a joke! Right, Lord Sesshomaru?”

It took everything in Sesshomaru not to hit Jaken hard on the head for mentioning him in this conversation.

“It’s not a joke, Master Jaken,” Rin said. “It’s true.”

“Rods?” Jaken laughed. “Humans don’t carry sticks in between their legs.”

“It’s not a stick. It’s a rod,” Rin corrected him. “And, yes, they do. Lady Kaede said so.”

“That woman doesn’t know anything,” Jaken huffed.

“Yes, she does. Lady Kaede said that most male species have rods,” Rin responded.

“Well, I certainly don’t,” Jaken said, crossing his arms and closing his eyes.

“But…” Rin sighed, before looking up at Sesshomaru. “Do you have a rod, Lord Sesshomaru?” Rin asked, innocently.

Sesshomaru glanced at her with wide eyes before looking away.

"Of course he doesn't, you fool!" Jaken shouted, insulted by her question.

“I have something like that,” Sesshomaru answered over him, still looking away.

“What?!” Jaken asked. “Lord Sesshomaru! How is that possible?!”

Sesshomaru felt his blood boiling on the inside. He knew that anatomies across different species were different, but every male demon had some sort of penis. It bothered him that Jaken wasn’t bright enough to read in between the lines of what Rin was saying.

“You have a penis, Jaken,” Sesshomaru hissed, glaring at him.

“Oh,” Jaken said, his face turning a reddish shade of green.

“A what?” Rin asked.

“Nothing!” Jaken said, abruptly.

Sesshomaru could tell that Jaken was embarrassed.

Rin looked at Jaken confused over Sesshomaru’s arms. Before she could ask another uncomfortable question, Sesshomaru redirected the conversation. “Do you want to be a midwife?”

Rin thought for a moment. “I think so. I like babies,” she said. “Lady Kaede said that I’ll know for sure after I help Sango deliver her baby. If I don’t like it… I don’t know. Jinia and Abi want me to be singers with them,” Rin continued.

“Jinia and Abi?” Jaken asked.

“They’re my friends. Jinia is kind of bossy and Abi is kind of shy, but I like them. They’re my best friends. I’m also friends with Kohaku, Shippo, Wakasa, Umi and…

Sesshomaru looked away. He knew she was going to say Okahito.

“Okahito,” Sesshomaru said.

Rin nodded.

“Why did he do this to you?” Sesshomaru asked, after a pause.

“I was winning at catching fish in the creek. He pushed me when I was about to catch another fish so I would miss.”

“Well, you were always good at catching fish,” Jaken said. “I can understand his frustration… but he had no right to push you, Rin!” he hollered.

“I know. I think he feels really bad about,” she responded.

“He should! He’s lucky that Lord Sesshomaru didn’t kill him!” Jaken shouted.

Sesshomaru shot Jaken a look. He couldn’t take the shouting. His ears were on fire.

“Thank you, Lord Sesshomaru,” Rin said, looking up at him.

Sesshomaru glanced at her before looking elsewhere. “This is his only chance, Rin.”

Rin nodded.

***

Kaede sighed. “Okahito has just gone through an emotional ordeal. We need to give him some space.”

“An emotional ordeal?!” Inuyasha shouted. “I almost got killed trying to save his sorry stupid ass and he just had an emotional ordeal?”

“Inuyasha, please,” Kaede pleaded.

“He has no right to be upset about anything,” Umi said.

“Okahito didn’t mean to hurt Rin,” Wakasa tried to defend his friend.

“No one said he did,” Umi responded, with a snort.

“It doesn’t matter what his intentions were! It happened!” Jinia yelled at Wakasa.

“Rin is damn-near toothless in the front! She’ll never get those teeth back!” Inuyasha bellowed.

“He’s lucky that Sesshomaru really didn’t kill him after that,” Shippo said.

“Hell, Okahito is not out of the woods yet! Once Rin wakes up and has to start adapting to life without her teeth, Sesshomaru might just lose it and –

“That demon’s going to kill him,” a villager said to another.

“Huh?” Shippo asked.

“That demon is going to kill Okahito!” another said in agreement.

“Hey! Wait! That’s not what I said!” Inuyasha shouted.

“Everyone, please settle yourselves and return to your day,” Kaede said.

“Return to our day? That boy was just attacked by a demon in this village, who is still after his blood, and you want us to return to our day?” an angry villager hissed at her.

“No way! We need to know what’s going on,” another chimed in.

Kaede held up her hands to try and settle the crowd. “Everyone, please. It’s alright.”

“How can you tell us that it’s alright? The little girl you’ve been caring for was attacked too,” someone snapped at her.

“And she is being held hostage by that demon as we speak! You all saw him carry her away!” another shouted, adding fuel to the fire of a growing group of scared, confused and concerned villagers.

“What?!” Inuyasha shouted.

Kaede was taken aback by the comment. “Rin is not being held hostage and she is not in any danger.”

“Has your eyesight finally caught up to your age, Kaede? That demon carried that girl away unconscious,” a villager shouted.

“Hey! Don’t talk to her like that!” Shippo snapped at the villager. “Sesshomaru really cares about Rin!”

“Rin is not being held hostage,” Kohaku said.

“She really isn't,” Jinia said, looking at Kohaku. “He’s her friend.”

Kohaku smiled. He was proud to hear Jinia’s comment. As much as he had tried to explain to her and the others that Sesshomaru was Rin’s friend, they refused to accept it. Now, she had finally accepted it when it mattered the most.

“Yes,” Abi agreed, with a nod.

“Please listen to me,” Kaede said calmly. “The young girl is fine. I have been caring for her per the request of Sesshomaru.”

“‘Sesshomaru?’ That demon, you mean?” someone shouted.

The crowd roared. The more Kaede spoke and tried to explain, the more agitated they become.

“How could you agree to care for a human on the orders of a demon?!” an angry villager shouted.

“Do you know what he will do to her?!” another added.

“Yeah! The heinous things he will do to her are just unspeakable!”

“This is getting out of hand,” Kohaku said to Wakasa, who nodded.

“Stupid, Okahito,” Umi snorted. "This is all his fault."

“Why won’t they listen to us?” Jinia asked Kohaku, who shook his head.

“Hey! Believe me, Sesshomaru can be a ruthless bastard, but he would never do anything to Rin!” Inuyasha shouted back to the crowd.

“Yeah!” Shippo agreed.

“Yes, he will! He attacked that little girl! Why else would she be unconscious?” someone bellowed.

“Okahito tried to stop that demon from attacking her and then that demon attacked and threatened him in return!” a villager babbled.

“Huh?” Abi questioned the villager's remark, looking at Jinia.

“That didn’t happen!” Jinia shouted.

“I saw it with my own two eyes!” a villager shouted.

“Bullshit!” Inuyasha shouted.

“I did!” the villager challenged him.

“Then you must be fucking blind!” Inuyasha responded.

“Inuyasha, please,” Kaede called to him, regarding his language. There were children around.

“The only one who’s blind here is Kaede!” someone shouted. “Under her leadership, we’ll all wind up dead!”

“Yeah!” others agreed.

“Hey!” both Shippo and Kohaku yelled.

“None of you were there!” Umi said, with a cough. “You don’t even know what happened!”

“Okahito is a hero! He risked his life trying to save that girl!” a villager shouted.

“That’s not true!” Jinia shouted, as Inuyasha told the villager to shut up.

“Okahito is nothing but a bully!” Abi shouted too, looking at Jinia, who nodded in agreement.

“Why are you denying the truth?!” a villager asked.

“That’s not the truth!” Umi yelled at the villager, before jumping into a coughing fit.

“You weren’t there! You don’t even know what happened!” Inuyasha shouted.

“Of course, he would say that! He’s a demon!”

“He’s a half-demon!” Shippo shouted.

“Half-demon, whole demon, semi-demon, whatever! He’s still a demon!” another villager shouted at Shippo.

“Demons can’t be trusted!” another shouted.

“Then why was Inuyasha trying to protect Ohakito from the wrath of that demon just a few minutes ago?” Wakasa couldn’t help but ask.

For a moment, the group looked at him speechless, surprised he even spoke a word. Wakasa was known for not getting involved in matters that didn't concern him and for letting situations play out.

“Yeah!” Jinia agreed. “Why would he help him?”

“Look at all of these brainwashed children!” a villager shouted. “Don’t be fooled! As a half-demon, that was only his human conscience surfacing!”

Inuyasha couldn’t control his shock at the comment. “What?!”

“He’s unpredictable! One day he’ll be helping us and the next he’ll be striking us down!” the villager continued.

“We’re not safe here!” another shouted, as the crowd roared in agreement.

“What’s wrong with them?” Kohaku asked.

“They’re delusional,” Umi answered. “They won’t hear reason.”

“They’re scared,” Wakasa said, looking into the faces of the crowd.

“If I were a human and didn’t know Rin and Sesshomaru, I would be terrified too,” Shippo said.

“Inuyasha has been nothing but a great help to all of us living in this village,” Kaede told the crowd.

“I say we rid this village of all of the demons! They cannot be trusted!” the villagers ignored her.

“Huh?” Shippo questioned.

“Rid the village of us?! We’re not the issue here!” Inuyasha yelled.

***

“Rin, you can leave this village when you are ready,” Sesshomaru said. “You’ve developed a life here. I will not force you to leave if you want to stay. If and when you are ready, just let me know.”

Jaken gasped. “But, Lord Sesshomaru, you just said moments ago that you were going to take Ri –

Sesshomaru kicked his foot back and hit Jaken, who flew backwards. Sesshomaru knew what he had said, and meant what he had said when he said it, but he realized that leaving the village now wasn’t what Rin truly wanted.

Rin smiled. “Okay, Lord Sesshomaru,” she said, before yawning.

“Rin, if you’re tired, go to sleep,” Sesshomaru said.

Rin nodded. “Goodnight, Lord Sesshomaru,” she said, before closing her eyes.

“What is she talking about? It’s not even night,” Jaken said, with a huff.

Sesshomaru ignored him and looked down at her before walking on towards Kaede’s hut. As he walked up the stairs to the main door, he heard something fall and clank on the hard wood.

“What was that?” Jaken asked, looking to retrieve the item.

“What is it?”

“It’s the piece of dragon skin you gave Rin from when we went to the Southern Plains of Edon and survived. It must have fallen out of her pocket,” Jaken answered.

Sesshomaru looked down at Rin’s outfit. Sure enough, there was a small hole her pocket. Her outfit, which had already begun to look worn and tattered, was now covered in blood too. Sesshomaru sighed.

“How negligent of her,” Jaken scowled.

“Give it to me,” he held out his hand to Jaken.

Sesshomaru placed the piece in his own pocket and carried Rin to her room. He and Jaken helped set her down on her bed mat and covered her with blankets. Sesshomaru watched as she snuggled in the blankets and put her thumb in her mouth.

“Mmmmm,” Rin groaned, as she removed her thumb.

“Well, I guess she’ll be breaking that habit soon,” Jaken said.

Sesshomaru sighed and touched Rin's head.

“Rin’s mouth doesn’t look terrible,” Jaken whispered.

Sesshomaru huffed. No, her mouth didn’t look terrible, but she would still have to learn how to live without those teeth. Sesshomaru cringed. “She shouldn’t have lost any teeth in the first place.”

“I wonder how your father made it,” Jaken pondered out loud.

“What?”

“Your father. I wonder how he made it. The way you said that he subdued his enemies with his fangs, and made those swords, your father probably had no teeth in his head at all.”

“My father had a mouth full of teeth, Jaken,” Sesshomaru said, standing up.

“Huh?” Jaken asked, puzzled. “Dog demons can regenerate their teeth?”

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened.

“Lord Sesshomaru?” Jaken asked in concern. “If I angered you in any way, I really didn’t mean to,” he trembled.

“Kureijī Tīsu,” Sesshomaru said.

“Huh?”

“Kureijī Tīsu, Crazy Teeth. We need to see Kureijī Tīsu.”

“Who?”

***

Kaede watched as the villagers grew more and more rowdy. She watched as Inuyasha and the others tried to verbally defend themselves against the aggravated growing crowd. “Please. Settle yourselves. Let us discuss this in the morning.”

“Discuss this in the morning?! You expect us to sleep with these killers here, Kaede?!”

“Killers?” Shippo asked, insulted.

“No one killed anyone!” Kohaku shouted.

“Not yet!” a bold villager shouted.

“I’m going to kill you, if you don’t shut the hell up!” Inuyasha yelled.

“See! We’re not safe here!”

“Nothing has changed. You are safe here,” Kaede said. “We all just need to calm down.”

“This old woman is leading us to slaughter by encouraging us to trust the demons present in this village! Demons and humans are not meant to cohabitate and live together in peace! It is a dangerous myth to believe, and even more dangerous for our leader to believe,” an angry villager shouted, as others cheered in agreement.

“Let’s face it! Kaede had her run as leader of this village, but she’s just too old! She’s been possessed by poor reason and dangerous ideologies!” someone agreed.

Abi gasped.

“We’ve heard of the great priestess Kikyo. She was the same way… just as corrupt,” someone added.

“Hey! Don’t you mention her name!” Inuyasha flipped out, marching toward the crowd.

“Inuyasha, no!” Kaede shouted at him. 

Inuyasha huffed and stopped, still fueled with anger.

“Kaede is no longer fit to lead this village!”

Shippo, Jinia, Abi and Umi gasped. “No!”

Kaede was speechless. Sure, she was getting older, but she never thought that an incident like this would bring upon this.

“Yes! She is unfit to lead!” another shouted in agreement.

“Lady Kaede is more qualified than anyone else here! How dare you?!” Kohaku shouted.

“Wake up, kid! She’s done! It’s time for new blood! Are you with me?” the most vocal out of the angry villagers shouted to the crowd.

“Yes!”

“We need a change! Kaede’s too old and senile to lead us to the next level!”

“No!” Shippo shouted, as the majority of the villagers cheered.

“They’ve all lost it,” Wakasa said.

“I’m scared,” Abi grabbed Jinia.

“Get out!” a villager shouted, before throwing a rock.

The rock hit Shippo square in the face. His eyes swirled wildly in his head before he fell backwards to the ground.

“Shippo!” Abi and Jinia shouted, running to his side, with Umi and Wakasa.

“Shippo!” Inuyasha shouted. “Who did that?!” he growled.

“Everyone, stop!” Kohaku said.

“Shippo, are you alright?” Kaede hobbled to his side.

“Get away from him, Abi!” a woman shouted, pulling her away from Shippo. “We must go!”

“Mother! Wait!”

“Don’t touch him! We’re leaving!”

“But, Mother!”

“Abi!” Jinia shouted.

“Now, Abi!” the woman shouted, dragging her daughter away from Shippo through the crowd.

“Abi!” Jinia continued to shout.

Another rock flew and hit Inuyasha in the side of the head. “Ah!” he shouted, as blood dripped down his cheek.

“Inuyasha!” Kohaku shouted. “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine!” Inuyasha responded. “You need to get out of here! It’s going to be a full-blown stoning here in a few minutes! Take Shippo, Kaede and the others and go!” Inuyasha shouted. “I’ll hold them off!”

***

The commotion from the main area of the village that Sesshomaru had been hearing in the background was growing louder and louder. He hadn’t been mindful of the conversation, as he was focusing on Rin and her state, but his ears perked up when he smelled Inuyasha’s blood. He was sure that the villagers had probably caught wind of Inuyasha’s role in Okahito’s misfortune. Knowing his brother, Sesshomaru knew that Inuyasha would rather die than defend himself against humans. If Rin was going to stay in this village out of her own free will, he had to put an end to whatever chaos had erupted from this situation with Okahito. This village was officially Rin’s home.

“Jaken, I need you to stay here with Rin,” Sesshomaru said.

“But, Lord Sesshomaru! My place is with you!” Jaken said frantically, his eyes budding tears.

“Jaken, your place is with Rin until I return. Watch over and protect her.”

Jaken sobbed. “Yes, mi lord.”

“Jaken, I mean it. If anything happens to Rin –

“I die. I understand,” Jaken said, solemnly.

Sesshomaru looked at his companions once more before leaving Kaede’s hut and heading towards the main village area.

***

“Wakasa, you heard him,” Kohaku said. “I’m not leaving you, Inuyasha.”

Wakasa nodded. “Come on, guys. Help me,” he said, picking up Shippo.

“Go, Kohaku!” Inuyasha said, blocking stones flying his way from the villagers.

“But –

“I said now!” Inuyasha yelled. “Think of Kikyo,” he said, in a calmer voice.

Kaede’s eyes widened at the sound of her sister’s name coming from Inuyasha.

Kohaku nodded and turned to help Wakasa and the others.

“Lady Kaede!” Kohaku called to her.

“Go, Kohaku. I must stay here,” she responded, looking at the crowd.

“I don’t have time for you to be stupid too, Kaede!” Inuyasha shouted at her. “Leave!”

“I’m staying,” she responded to both Kohaku and Inuyasha.

Inuyasha huffed. “Idiots!”

“Look!” Umi shouted, as he pointed in the distance.

Inuyasha turned to see Sesshomaru walking towards the crowd. “Sesshomaru!” Inuyasha shouted, in shock.

“Where’s Rin?” Kaede asked, in concern, after noticing that he was walking alone.

Sesshomaru ignored her and continued to walk forward.

“Get him!” a villager asked, throwing a large rock in his direction.

Sesshomaru used his green light whip to slash the rock into bits. As it broke, the pieces flew back toward the villagers, who screamed.

In the commotion, Kaede shouted to Jinia, Umi and Wakasa, who carried Shippo. “Go! Go!” she instructed them. “Quickly now!”

Sesshomaru continued walking forward with his light whip still active on his finger.

“Sesshomaru, no!” Inuyasha shouted, trying to defend the lives of the villagers.

Sesshomaru walked forward and stopped just before he reached the crowd. Everyone went silent as they watched Sesshomaru watching them with his piercing golden eyes. Everyone seemed too petrified to move.

That’s the demon who attacked Okahito and that little girl!” a villager from the crowd stuttered.

“Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s get him!” a brazen villager shouted.

“Stop!” Inuyasha yelled.

“Silence!” Sesshomaru hissed, cracking his light whip in the air. His ears were already bothering him from Rin’s screaming and these ignorant villagers were making him sick. Sesshomaru couldn’t understand how simple-minded and foolish these humans were. In that moment, he questioned the logic of even considering having Rin learn from such injudicious fools in the first place.

The crowd gasped.

“Don’t cower now! Let’s get him!” another villager shouted, holding a machete in his hand.

Sesshomaru cracked his light whip and knocked the machete to the ground. The crowd screamed.

“Silence!” Sesshomaru hissed again.

The crowd went silent at his command.

“Sesshomaru,” Kaede said. “These people are just scare—

“Whether you live or die means nothing to me,” Sesshomaru spoke over her to the crowd of terrified souls.

Inuyasha gave Sesshomaru a puzzled look. “What the hell are you doing?” he whispered.

“I honored my word not to harm anyone in this village for the sake of one living here,” he said. “When she was attacked, I attacked.”

Everyone remained silent.

“Consider yourselves lucky that Inuyasha was here to defend you and that a mouth full of teeth was all that I took from that boy, Okahito, and this village,” Sesshomaru said, as the crowd began to whisper to one another. “Don’t bother praying for mercy if it happens again,” he continued, as he slowly walked forward. The crowd parted as he walked by.

 Inuyasha was speechless. He couldn’t believe what just happened.

“You… you saved us?” a villager asked Inuyasha, timidly from the crowd.

Inuyasha was silent. He just couldn’t process what his brother had just said… what he had just done. Sesshomaru had painted him as a hero and himself as the villain in this whole situation. If he didn’t know any better, Sesshomaru had just saved his life.

“That’s what he said,” Miroku said, walking up next to Inuyasha.

“Mir-miroku,” Inuyasha said, surprised to see him there.

“I heard what happened and just witnessed everything. Are you alright?” he asked.

Inuyasha nodded. “Yeah,” he answered, watching Sesshomaru walk through the trees in the distance.

“Inuyasha saved this village from the wrath of that demon… his own brother.”

“That’s his brother?” some villagers in the crowd asked each other.

“Inuyasha turned against his own family, his own kind, to save this village and spare the life of… of - 

“Okahito,” Inuyasha said to help Miroku, still in a daze.

“Okahito, the boy whose reckless actions toward a fellow villager warranted death upon himself and everyone living here.”

“Is it true, Inuyasha? You risked your life to save us?”

“I –

“He did,” Miroku responded for him. “And you’ve repaid him with contempt and scorn. You've threatened to overthrow the very woman who has diligently protected and defended this village from harm as well. You should be ashamed.”

“We are! We are!” the crowd bellowed. “Please forgive us. We meant no harm.”

“We were just scared,” another justified.

Miroku held up his arms.

“Please, forgive us, Inuyasha. How shall we repay?” a villager asked.

Miroku smiled. “Well, I’m sure something can be arranged.”

***

Out of sight from the villagers, Sesshomaru leapt into the air. His mind went wild. Maybe there was hope for Rin yet.

Jaken was right. With the way his father played fast and loose with his fangs, he shouldn’t have had any teeth at all. Dog demons did not have the privilege of regenerating their teeth like some other species of demons. Once a tooth fell out, it was gone forever. And yet, his father had a full mouth of teeth, with the exception of one.

As a member of Inu no Taishō’s troop, all members were required to learn Pin Point. It was a non-lethal fighting technique dog demons could use to subdue their enemies. Dog demons would detach their fangs and thrust them into their opponents. No one was an official member of the troop until they successfully performed this technique. It was a type of initiation ritual. Every dog demon in Inu no Taishō’s troop had one missing fang from this technique, one that must never be replaced, as a symbol of membership and togetherness. Every other fang lost by this technique after initiation could be replaced by Kureijī Tīsu, Crazy Teeth.

Sesshomaru felt the gap from his initiation fang and kept flying forward.

What Kureijī Tīsu was, Sesshomaru didn’t know. He had heard stories of him being a flamboyant skeletal being with bone-like skin who resembled a giant seahorse. As one who boycotted the Pin Point technique altogether, Sesshomaru had never seen Kureijī Tīsu or used his services. All Sesshomaru knew was that Kureijī Tīsu had a special serum to help demons, at least dog demons, regrow strong natural teeth that were just as good as or even better than the originals. He was the one his father trusted for himself and his troops when fangs needed to be replaced.

If anyone could replace a tooth, it was Kureijī Tīsu. But, could he replace human teeth? Sesshomaru wasn't sure, but he was hopeful that Kureijī Tīsu could do something. For Rin’s sake he had to try.

The goal was set, but Sesshomaru pondered the steps of follow-through. For him, the ideal route would be to go straight to Kureijī Tīsu’s keep in the Western Lands, but Sesshomaru had no idea where he resided in the Western Lands. Kureijī Tīsu was on some sort of retainer and had always been summoned to the castle whenever fang replacement services were needed. That left Sesshomaru with three options: Option one, he could fly to Bokusenō to gather more information; option two, he could fly straight to the Western Lands and ask around to find the location of Kureijī Tīsu himself; or option three, he could fly straight home to the Western Lands and demand the location of Kureijī Tīsu from his father’s troop.

As Sesshomaru flew westward, he went through the illusion of weighing his options. There was really nothing to weigh. All roads led to option number three. Visiting Bokusenō would be a waste of time. Yes, Bokusenō was close with his father, but there would be no reason for his father to ever share any information about the demon who replaced his fangs. At the end of the day, Bokusenō would just send him back to the Western Lands to find answers on his own. If Sesshomaru were to roam around the Western Lands aimlessly looking for Kureijī Tīsu, he could be roaming for years. He wouldn’t allow himself to let Rin be impaired and wait for what could be years to find replacement teeth for her. Sesshomaru knew what it was like for him living for months without his left arm and learning how to adapt to life without it. Sure, Sesshomaru made it work, but the adjustment was difficult. If Sesshomaru could do anything to prevent Rin from going through that, he would.

Sesshomaru knew what he had to do. This was it. For Rin, he had to go home.

Chapter Text

Once Sesshomaru felt the gap from his initiation fang, he couldn’t stop noticing it. He kept finding his tongue resting in the empty gap. As he traveled forward through the skies towards the Western Lands, his mind traveled backwards.

***

“Sesshomaru,” Inu no Taishō said, as he entered his son’s room.

“Father?” Sesshomaru answered, looking up.

It was the night before Sesshomaru was scheduled to report to Far Grounds, the military training camp located deep within the woods behind the castle, as a new recruit to his father’s troop. He was rolling different outfits into a satchel.

“Do you have everything?” his father asked.

“I think so,” Sesshomaru responded, looking into his satchel.

“Tomoshiro will be over tomorrow morning to escort you to camp,” he said.

Sesshomaru didn’t react. He continued to roll his outfits and place them into his satchel.

Inu no Taishō watched his son. He could tell that he was nervous. “It will be okay, Son.”

“Why can’t you take me, Father?” he asked, not looking up.

Inu no Taishō sighed. He slid the door to his room closed and sat on Sesshomaru’s futon. “Sit down, Son,” he instructed Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru let his satchel go, sat by his father and looked down at the claws on his bare feet. Although going to the Far Grounds as a new recruit was the only place Sesshomaru had ever wanted to be since he was a small pup, nothing scared him more than going there, especially without his father by his side.

Inu no Taishō sighed. “I would want nothing more than to escort you to camp, Son. It would be my greatest honor to do so, but for your best interest, I will not,” he said.

“But why, Father?” Sesshomaru asked, solemnly.

“I am the general of this troop, Sesshomaru. It will be hard enough going through this process on your own, but you also have an extra layer of challenges. You are my son and the successor to oversee the Western Lands as General one day,” he answered. “Although many may already know your name and who you are, I don’t want to make you an even bigger target than you already will be with my presence. My presence will not benefit you, neither will your mother’s.”

“I don’t care. I want you to be with me,” Sesshomaru said. “Plus, Uncle Tomoshiro is Lieutenant General of the troop. Him escorting me won’t be any better,” he sobbed.

“You are a smart one,” Inu no Taishō smiled, as he shook his son gently by the back of the neck. “Yes, Tomoshiro is Lieutenant General, but you need some sort of security on your way to camp. Tomoshiro has strict instructions to drop you off at a certain point, so not too many will see you two together. Plus, his presence won’t be as great as mine,” he smirked.

Sesshomaru sighed.

“I’m sorry, Son,” Inu no Taishō said. “It has to be this way.”

“What will training camp really be like?” Sesshomaru asked, after a brief pause.

Inu no Taishō signed with a nod. “It will be intense… the hardest thing you’ll probably ever go through. You’ll be trained both physically and mentally, pushing your body and mind to limits you never thought you had.”

Sesshomaru breathed. He knew that training camp would be hard, but hearing his father, who could do almost anything, say it made him even more nervous.

“But, it will be the most rewarding experience you may ever have,” his father added.

“Would you do it again?” Sesshomaru asked.

“Go through training camp?” Inu no Taishō asked.

“Yes.”

“No,” he responded, after a significant pause.

Sesshomaru looked at him.

“I won’t lie to you, Son. Training camp is hard. Would I do it again? No. Do I treasure my experiences in training camp? Yes.” 

“You do?”

“I treasure my training camp experience second above all others. I would not trade the experiences I’ve shared with my brothers for anything. What I share with them is… special,” he responded, looking out into space. “Above all, Sesshomaru, I wish you that. There is nothing like the bonds you’ll share with your brothers.”

“Your brothers?” Sesshomaru asked.

“Your training group members. They are the ones you’ll train with and complete missions with. You won’t grow closer to any other group of beings,” Inu no Taishō answered. “Your uncle Tomoshiro is my training group member. He is not my brother by blood, but he’s my brother where it counts.”

Sesshomaru was silent as he processed his father’s words.

“You’ll learn teamwork, loyalty and friendship with them. Those are the most valuable lessons you’ll ever learn in life.”

“It’s really worth it?” Sesshomaru asked.

“Without a doubt,” Inu no Taishō answered, looking at him. “It will be hard, but I promise you, it will be worth it,” he said, standing to his feet.

Sesshomaru breathed. Although simple and brief, his father always had a way of calming his soul and setting him at ease.

“I will see you tomorrow morning before you leave,” Inu no Taishō said, walking towards the door.

“Father?” Sesshomaru called out, as his father reached the door.

“Yes, son?”

“What experience do you treasure above all?” he asked.

“Do you have to ask?” his father answered, with a smile, before sliding the door closed behind him.

Sesshomaru smiled as he continued to pack his satchel. He didn’t have to ask.

***

Sesshomaru could barely sleep that night. His whole being was overwhelmed with anticipation and nerves. He lay awake on his futon looking at the crescent moon outside of his window.

“It will give you strength,” he heard a familiar voice say.

“Mother?” Sesshomaru asked, startled, as he sat up. “What are you doing here?”

Inukimi stood in the corner of his room by the door.

“I figured you’d be awake, Sesshomaru,” she said, looking at the moon outside of his window. “You’re a lot like your father. He doesn’t sleep when he’s anxious. I was sure you wouldn’t either.”

Sesshomaru looked at her blankly. He didn’t know that about his father. He wondered if he was anxious and was awake somewhere too right now.

“Just like it had done for your grandfather Seijiro and our ancestors before him, the moon will give you strength. We hold the mark,” Inukimi continued.

Sesshomaru was silent. His mother had always been a woman of very few words, seemingly unfazed and emotionless towards everything. It surprised him that she was even in his room, talking to him about the moon, let alone his grandfather General Seijiro.

“You are the heir of two great generals from two great dog demon families, Sesshomaru. Their blood runs through you,” she said, still looking at the moon. “Remember this,” she said, glancing at him before walking out.

Sesshomaru remembered feeling hopeful after his mother’s unexpected visit. He was even able to get a few more hours of sleep before he awoke in the morning. Thinking about it now, it upset him to learn that her words really meant nothing.

The next morning, Sesshomaru awoke to what seemed like a typical day. He went through his usual routine and headed to the main dining area of the castle. There, he was met by his mother, father and Uncle Tomoshiro.

“Sesshomaru,” his father welcomed him.

Sesshomaru walked forward with his satchel draped on his arm.

“Look at you. You’re looking like a true new recruit,” Tomoshiro smiled, punching him in the arm. “How do you feel?”

“I don’t know,” Sesshomaru said, looking at his father.

Inu no Taishō put his hand on Sesshomaru’s shoulder and nodded. “I’m proud of you, Son,” he looked into his eyes.

Sesshomaru looked up at him blankly.

“Do you have everything, Sesshomaru?” Inukimi asked.

“Yes, Sesshomaru. You should be sure. You won’t have the liberty of coming back to get anything you forget from camp,” Tomoshiro said.

Sesshomaru nodded. “I have everything,” he answered.

“Good,” his father said.

“Well, we better be on our way if we want to get you there on time, Sesshomaru,” Tomoshiro said.

Sesshomaru looked up at him before looking at his father.

“He’s right,” Inu no Taishō agreed, looking at Tomoshiro. “You’d better be off.”

Sesshomaru sighed and nodded. “Yes, Father.”

“Come here, Son,” Inukimi said.

Sesshomaru dropped his satchel and walked to his mother. Standing before him, she took his hand and held it to his forehead. Sesshomaru looked at her puzzled.

“Remember what I said,” his mother looked into his eyes.

Sesshomaru nodded. “Yes, Mother.”

Inukimi pulled her son into her chest and ran her claws through his long silver hair. After a moment, she pulled herself away.

“I’m proud of you, Son,” Inu no Taishō said, throwing his arms around Sesshomaru. “It will be hard, but it will be worth it,” he whispered, as he tightened his grip.

Sesshomaru closed his eyes tight and held onto his father, letting his head fall in his shoulder. They held their embrace for a long while before Inu no Taishō pat his son’s back and pulled away.

“Okay,” Inu no Taishō said, his face flushed and filled with emotion. “Let’s get you off,” he added, picking up Sesshomaru’s satchel and handing it to Tomoshiro.

“Don’t cry now, General,” Tomorshiro whispered with a wink to Inu no Taishō.

“Get out of here,” Inu no Taishō smirked, as Inukimi rolled her eyes. Although strong and menacing, he wasn’t gifted to hide his emotions as well as he wife could.

“Let’s go,” Tomoshiro said, escorting Sesshomaru away by the back.

Sesshomaru looked back to see his father and mother standing next to each other watching him leave.

“It’ll be okay,” Tomoshiro said, as he walked with Sesshomaru.

As he escorted Sesshomaru throughout the castle walls and outside toward Far Grounds, Tomoshiro went on about how training camp would be a great experience. Sesshomaru did his best to listen, but he couldn’t help but drift away in his own thoughts. The closer they got to Far Grounds, the more nervous he became.

When they reached the gates of Far Grounds, Tomoshiro signaled the guards on duty to open the wooden gate to let them pass.

“Lieutenant General Tomoshiro. Master Sesshomaru,” they greeted them.

“It’s just Sesshomaru now,” Tomoshiro said. “This one has just enlisted. I’m dropping him off.”

The guards looked at each other and smiled. “Congratulations,” they said to Sesshomaru.

“Thank you,” he replied, timidly, tightening his grip on his satchel.

“Thank you, sirs, Sesshomaru,” Tomoshiro corrected him. “Don’t forget.”

“Yes, Uncle Tomoshiro,” Sesshomaru responded. "Thank you, sirs."

“Where’s General Inu no Taishō?” one of the guards asked.

Sesshomaru sighed and began to walk ahead. Even the mention of his father’s name made him upset.  As Tomoshiro did his best to explain the rationale behind Inu no Taishō’s absence, Sesshomaru’s eyes led him to large paw prints engraved on large stone in the distance. He had walked past those paw prints many times when he entered the area with his father as a small pup, but this time, they weren’t just paw prints. They were his future.

“They’re huge, aren’t they?” someone said next to him.

Sesshomaru looked to see a young dog demon in his humanoid form standing next to him. Sesshomaru remained silent as he assessed him. He was tall with shoulder length hair that looked snow white with brown highlights. Sesshomaru wasn’t too sure because he was covered in mud from head to toe. It looked like he had just fallen down a mudslide.

“Can you believe we’re here?” he asked.

When Sesshomaru didn’t respond, the boy looked at him. “You don’t think so?”

Sesshomaru didn’t say anything. Living in the castle, he hadn’t had much experience socializing with others his age. As an only pup in the large castle, he spent most of his time by himself reading.

“Come on, you have to think this is awesome, right?” the muddy boy persisted. He seemed to need a response.

“I guess so,” Sesshomaru finally acknowledged him.

“I’m Koji,” the boy said, throwing his hand at Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru looked at his hand and then at boy. It was covered in mud. There was no way he was touching him.

“What’s wrong with you? Have you never heard of a handshake?” Koji asked, grabbing Sesshomaru’s hand and shaking it.

“I’m… Sesshomaru,” he answered, as he felt the mud from Koji’s hand slush on his palm.

“Nice to meet you, Sesshy,” Koji said, with a smile.

Sesshomaru scrunched up his face. No one had ever called him that. “It’s Sesshomaru,” he corrected the boy, looking at the mud that covered his hand after the handshake.

“Yeah, that’s what I said, Sesshy,” Koji said, looking back at the paws.

Sesshomaru looked at him shocked.

“Who’s your friend?” Tomoshiro asked, looking at Sesshomaru next to Koji. His facial expression could not hide how shocked he was to see how muddy the boy was.

Sesshomaru looked at him and at Koji. “This is… this is –

“Koji, sir,” he said, extending his hand. “You must be Sesshy’s father?”

Sesshomaru cringed, more so at the mention of his uncle being his father than at his new nickname. It made him miss his father more. He should have been there.

Tomorshiro gave Koji a cross-eyed look before looking at Sesshomaru. Sesshomaru refused to look at him.

“I’m not,” Tomoshiro answered. “I’m just a family friend escorting him to camp.”

“Oh,” Koji said, with a smile. “That’s nice.”

Tomorshiro looked down at his hand. It was covered in mud from Koji’s handshake. Sesshomaru looked at Tomoshiro and then at Koji, who stood there smiling.

The first sound of the horn went off.

“Ah, that’s the first form. It’s almost time for us to be up there. You coming, Sesshy?”

Sesshomaru looked at Koji. He was flabbergasted.

“Sesshy?” Tomoshiro finally asked.

Sesshomaru remained silent.

“Well, this is where I leave you, Sesshomaru. I’ll see you throughout the process,” Tomoshiro said, putting his clean hand on Sesshomaru’s shoulder. “Stay strong. You’ll do great,” he said.

Sesshomaru nodded. “Thank you, Uncle Tomoshiro.”

“It was nice meeting you… K –

“Koji,” the muddy boy answered happily.

“Yes,” Tomoshiro responded before turning away. Before he fully turned away, he turned back to Koji. “One bit of advice, Koji… wash your hands before you go in there. And keep them clean.”

Koji gave Tomoshiro a cross-eyed look before looking at Sesshomaru. Sesshomaru looked at him blankly, waiting for Koji to say something, but all he did was shrug and walk off. Sesshomaru walked next to him.

Sesshomaru watched as other young dog demons in their true and humanoid forms walked in next to their families. They walked with their mothers, fathers and siblings. Watching them, he missed his father more than ever. Sesshomaru was grateful to be walking up with someone, even if it was Koji.

“Where’s your family?” Sesshomaru asked Koji in a low timid voice.

Koji looked at him. “Ah, my father’s working and my mother refused to come.”

Sesshomaru was surprised. “Why did she refuse?”

Koji paused. “My father knew I enlisted, but I didn’t tell my mother. I knew she’d be upset. I’m her only pup, you know. My father thought it was admirable for me to join, but my mother was really upset when I finally told her. She wanted me to take on the family trade and become a blacksmith. I’ve been training my whole life to become a blacksmith,” he responded.

“Why did you enlist then?” Sesshomaru asked.

“I really want to save someone. That would be so awesome,” he said, his face lighting up.

“I guess so,” Sesshomaru said, timidly.

“What about you, Sesshy? Who was that who dropped you off and why did he say that he’ll see you throughout the process? Doesn’t he know that no one can see us until our training is complete?”

Sesshomaru glanced at him. “He can. He’s my uncle Tomoshiro.”

“So. Just because he’s your uncle doesn’t mean anything. He can’t just come in during training.”

“He’s Lieutenant General Tomoshiro.”

Koji stopped walking and looked at him. “That was the Lieutenant General? Your uncle is the Lieutenant General?”

Sesshomaru remained silent and kept walking.

“That’s awesome, Sesshy!”

“It’s Sesshomaru.”

“I know. That’s what I said, Sesshy.”

Sesshomaru huffed and continued to talk with him towards the center of the camp. There stood troop members in a horizontal line greeting recruits and their families, and providing them with information. It put Sesshomaru at ease when he recognized a few troop members. It was good to see some familiar faces, even if he didn’t know who they actually were. Sesshomaru watched as the troop members pointed new recruits in different directions, and parents and siblings embraced their loved ones goodbye.

“Come on, Sesshy,” Koji said, as he walked up to the troop members in the line.

Sesshomaru followed him.

“Where should we go, sir?” Koji asked the troop member in front of him.

Sesshomaru recognized his face.

“Stand in line over th… Master Sesshomaru!” the troop member lost his train of thought at the sight of Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru looked up at him blankly.

“It is very good to see you here,” the troop member said. “You can go stand in line over there.”

Sesshomaru adjusted his satchel and walked over with Koji to stand in line. As he walked, other troop members turned to acknowledge him. Sesshomaru lowered his head and walked close to Koji.

“Wow! Who would have thought you’d be so popular with a lieutenant general as your uncle?” Koji exclaimed.

Sesshomaru was silent. Koji didn’t know the half of it.

As they stood in line waiting for the rest of the new recruits to get in order, Koji made idle chit-chat with Sesshomaru, asking him all different questions under the sun. Sesshomaru gave him short one word answers, which seemed to satisfy him. Koji took the answers and babbled on. Although Sesshomaru had no interest in divulging information, he appreciated Koji as a distraction. It took his mind off being nervous.

“You don’t talk much, Sesshy,” Koji said.

“I guess not,” Sesshomaru responded.

The second and third horns sounded. It was time to finally go.

“Alright new recruits, follow me!” they heard a booming voice shout from the front of the line.

Sesshomaru breathed.

“This is it,” Koji said, with a smile.

Sesshomaru walked next to Koji, following the others through Far Grounds. As he walked, he listened to other recruits chat and cry. Everyone was having a different experience. Sesshomaru didn’t know what he was feeling. In a weird way, he was just glad that Koji was by his side.

“Hey, look! There’s General Inu no Taishō!” a recruit towards the front of the line shouted, pointing to the side.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened as he looked. There he saw his father with a group of troop members. He was standing with his arms crossed in front of him looking at the crowd. Sesshomaru looked at him. He was sure his father could see him even though he didn’t make it noticeable. Sesshomaru couldn’t help but smile. His father was there to see him off.

“Hey, look, Sesshy! Your uncle’s there too,” Koji said, waving.

Sesshomaru let his smile fade and walked forward.

“General Inu no Taishō is the best general ever,” a recruit towards the front of the line said.

“Yeah! He’s awesome!” another agreed.

“My father said he’s the best general the Western Lands ever had,” a recruit from behind commented.

Sesshomaru couldn’t hide his smile. He was glad that others who didn’t even know his father held him in such high regard and admiration.

“I heard his son is one of the new recruits this year,” another commented.

Sesshomaru’s smile faded and nerves set in.

“No. Really?”

“Who is it?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did you hear that, Sesshy? General Inu no Taishō’s son is among us as a new recruit,” Koji smiled, as he nudged him.

Sesshomaru remained silent. He just wanted the topic to end. He didn’t want anyone to know who he was.

“Do you have any idea who he is?” someone from behind asked.

Sesshomaru sighed and kept his eyes on his father until he couldn’t see him anymore.

“Hey! Look over there,” a recruit from behind shouted. “It’s the Pen.”

Sesshomaru looked to see a large wooden dome-shaped building with a large wooden door to his right.

“What’s the Pen?” another recruit asked.

“The Pen is the place where troop leaders come together to strategize and discuss top secret army secrets,” the recruit answered. “It’s a sacred place where only initiated troop members can enter,” he added.

“I heard that if a non-initiated member enters, they’ll immediately go blind,” a recruit in his humanoid form, with long silky black curly hair and blue eyes commented behind Koji and Sesshomaru.

“Really?” some nervous recruits asked.

“Mmmhmm.”

“That’s not true,” someone shouted.

“It is,” the curly haired recruit said.

“It is not, you liar!”

“It is to! My father is a troop member!”

“So what?!” the recruit challenged the other. “That doesn’t mean anything!”

Sesshomaru knew otherwise. Yes, the Pen was a sacred place for troop members, but non-troop members didn’t get blinded if they entered. If they did, Sesshomaru would have been blinded already. As the recruits bickered, Sesshomaru remembered visiting the Pen with his father as a really young pup.

As a pup, Sesshomaru felt so special when his father let him enter the Pen. His father would let him sit on the large round table in the center of the room and watch him interpret diagrams and charts. They were only drawings and shapes to Sesshomaru at the time, but even as a young pup, he knew they were important.

“What do you think, Sesshomaru? If the beaver demons are trying to attack us here, where should we go?” he remembered his father asking him, when he was really small.

Sesshomaru remembered pointing to some random place on the chart and shouting, “There!”

Sesshomaru remembered how his father would laugh, pick him up and tickle him. “You’ll make a fine General one day,” he remembered his father telling him.

The arguing of the recruits brought him back to reality.

“It does to!”

“Whatever,” the other recruit ended the war.

Sesshomaru watched as Koji turned around and looked at the defeated recruit. “Hey… I believe you,” he said, with a smile.

“Thanks,” the recruit smiled.

“I’m Koji. This is –

“Sesshomaru,” Sesshomaru said before Koji could let anyone believe his name was Sesshy.

“I’m Riichi,” the curly-haired boy answered.

“And I’m Isao,” the gray-haired recruit with cropped hair and gray eyes walking next to him said.

Sesshomaru listened as Koji, Riichi and Isao chatted about being future troop members as they followed the line of recruits. They did their best to welcome him into the conversation, but Sesshomaru didn’t have much to say.

“He’s shy,” Koji spoke on Sesshomaru’s behalf.

As they walked on, a group of yellow birds chirped and flew overhead. As some of the recruits barked at their presence, troop members marching along the side of the recruit line silenced them. Out of nowhere, a large beige dog demon with floppy ears and brown patches in his true form leapt into the air and swallowed two of the birds whole. Yellow feathers flew everywhere as the hyper dog demon landed on the recruit walking right in front of Koji and Sesshomaru. Sesshomaru watched as they fell hard to the ground.

“Woah!” Koji yelled, looking at Sesshomaru.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” the large dog demon apologized.

“Get off of me!” the angry recruit shouted. “What’s wrong with you?!”

“Hey, hey!” a troop member shouted, walking over towards the commotion.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” the dog demon continued to repeat. “I just wanted to get the birds,” he apologized.

“Wow,” Isao muttered behind them.

“He really wanted to get those birds,” Riichi added.

Koji laughed.

“What are you laughing at, you filthy mutt?!” the angry recruit barked at Koji, as he pushed the rambunctious dog demon off of him to stand. “Haven’t you ever heard of soap and water?” he hissed.

Koji looked at him confused. “Relax. It was a funny situation. I didn’t mean to –

“Shut up!” the recruit barked. “And what are you looking at?” he hissed at Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru looked at him blankly. He didn’t know what to say. He didn’t even do anything.

“Obviously, he was looking at you. Someone just fell out of the sky onto you. What else or who else would he be looking at?” Isao said on Sesshomaru’s behalf.

Sesshomaru glanced at Isao. He was surprised he spoke for him, but very relieved.

“Shut up, smart ass!” the angry recruit hissed.

“Hey! Relax!” Koji snapped. “It wasn’t a serious thing.”

The angry recruit ignored Koji and focused on Sesshomaru. “What! Do you think you’re someone special with your fancy clothes and that pile of fluff you have on?”

Sesshomaru was taken aback. What was wrong with his clothes? He didn’t think they were fancy. And he always wore his mokomoko everywhere. No one said anything to him about his outfit on his way to camp, not even his father or his uncle. Sesshomaru began to feel himself getting self-conscious.

“What’s your problem, man?!” Koji snapped, pushing the recruit away hard. He fell backwards, but rose up quick. Sure enough, Koji’s handprint was left on the chest of the angry recruit’s outfit.

“Why you!” the angry recruit growled, as he threw a punch at Koji. It hit him hard in the eye.

The surrounding recruits gasped as Koji’s eyes rolled over red and he charged at the boy with sharp claws. Sesshomaru’s eyes widened. In an instant, Koji had transformed into someone else, a seemingly lethal maniac. The smiley Koji was nowhere to be found.

“Enough! You two, come with me!” the surrounding troop member shouted, dragging Koji and the recruit away with two arms.

“Wait, but –

“Silence,” the troop member shouted to Isao for speaking out. “You two come with me, and you transform,” he instructed the beige dog.

Sesshomaru watched the large beige dog immediately transform into his humanoid form, a tall stalky boy with dirty blond hair.

“It was my fault. I’m really sorry. I just –

“This is not a playground! This is training camp! Get your mind right!” the troop member yelled.

“Yes,” the apologetic boy responded.

“Yes, sir!” the troop member screamed in his face.

“Yes, sir,” the boy corrected himself.

“So I can hear you!” the troop member shouted.

“Yes, sir!” the boy shouted.

“Now, move!” the troop member commanded Koji and the angry recruit.

Sesshomaru sighed as he watched Koji walk away. His only “friend” at camp was taken away. He was now alone.

“You idiot!” Isao muttered to the boy. “Look at what you did.”

“I’m… I’m sorry. I just couldn’t help myself,” he responded.

“And you!” Isao pushed Sesshomaru lightly in the back. “What kind of friend are you? You didn’t even stick up for him! You didn't even stick up for yourself!”

Sesshomaru looked back at him shocked. In his whole life, no one had ever spoken to him like that, let alone shove him. He didn’t know how to respond.

“Isao, calm down,” Riichi said, tucking his curly bangs behind his ear.

“I’m sorry,” the blond boy kept repeating.

“Shut up already!” Isao snapped. “We got the point!”

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened as he looked at the apologetic boy.

“Isao!” Riichi elbowed him in the side.

“What! We got the message already!” Isao huffed, as he scratched his ear.

“Ignore him,” Riichi said to Sesshomaru and the blond boy. “I’m sure they’ll be okay. It’s just not a good strike to have on your first day at camp.”

The blond boy pouted.

“What’s your name anyway?” Riichi asked.

“I’m Eito,” the blond boy responded.

“I’m Riichi. This is Sesshomaru and this crab right here is Isao.”

Eito nodded.

“Hey, are you okay, Sesshomaru?” Riichi asked.

Sesshomaru nodded, as he snapped out of his daze. “Yes.”

“I hope you didn’t take what that idiot said to heart,” Isao said to Sesshomaru.

“I didn’t,” Sesshomaru lied.

“Your outfit is pretty fancy though,” Eito said.

Sesshomaru looked down at himself.

“What does your family do?” Eito asked, looking at his outfit.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened. “I… I –

“What does it matter? There are a whole bunch of recruits dressed up nice here,” Isao interjected.

Sesshomaru breathed. He had never been more grateful for an interjection in his whole life.

“But, I’ve haven’t seen anyone here go as far as to wear their mokomoko,” Eito said.

“He has a point,” Riichi agreed. “I only wear mine for weddings and funerals.”

Sesshomaru looked down. This was the end. He would have to explain himself soon enough. Now, life at Far Grounds would be that much harder with others knowing that he was the son of General Inu no Taishō.

“Well… Sesshomaru’s smart. We all should have brought our mokomokos,” Isao said, after a small pause. “They’re a part of our bodies. They can be used as fighting weapons. He wanted to train with his.”

Eito’s eyes widened. “That’s so smart! I should have brought mine,” he said.

“Yeah, I forgot mine at the last minute,” Isao said.

“Me too,” Riichi said.

Sesshomaru breathed. His secret was safe. As he walked forward, following the line of recruits to the section of Far Grounds he had never been before, he felt himself jolt forward.

“You’re welcome,” Isao whispered, after shoving Sesshomaru forward.

Sesshomaru turned to him with a confused look.

“Don’t think I don’t know who you are,” Isao whispered, with narrow eyes.

Sesshomaru slowly turned forward and kept walking.

The line stopped. Sesshomaru and the rest of the recruits watched as troop members pulled recruits out of line and sent them off in different directions towards the large wooden building that stood in front of them.

“I hope we can stay together,” Eito whispered to Sesshomaru, Isao and Riichi.

“Yeah, me too,” Riichi said.

Sesshomaru looked at Eito. Although he didn’t say anything, he hoped so as well. He hoped that he would be near Koji and far away from that angry recruit.

“You, there,” a troop member said to Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru clutched his satchel and walked in the direction the troop member pointed to and stood behind the recruits in line. Before leaving he looked back at Riichi, Isao and Eito. Eito waved as both Riichi and Isao were instructed go in another direction. Sesshomaru waved back at Eito before turning to face forward.

“Move, recruit,” another troop member shouted at him. The line of recruits in front of him where already heading into the building.

Sesshomaru breathed and walked behind the other recruits, down the hall, to the left and into a large room filled with futons.

“Find a spot and unpack!” a troop member shouted at the group of recruits.

Sesshomaru stopped and looked around the room. He didn’t know where he should go.

“Find a spot and unpack, recruit!” the troop member shouted at Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru looked at him before walking on.

“What do you say, recruit?!” the troop member asked.

Sesshomaru looked back at him. He could feel himself breathing hard. His mind went blank. He knew that he needed to say “yes, sir,” but nothing was letting him.

“I asked you a question, recruit!” the troop member shouted, getting close to his face.

“Yes, sir,” someone whispered, as he walked by Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru looked.

“I didn’t ask for your help, recruit!” the troop member glared at the brown-haired boy who had helped Sesshomaru and walked off.

Sesshomaru looked at the troop member. “Yes, sir,” he finally answered.

“Get of my sight,” he responded, still glaring at the brown-haired boy.

Sesshomaru walked in and scanned the empty spots. He kept walking down the long aisle until he caught the back of the boy who had helped him. He was unpacking his belongings on the futon he chose. Sesshomaru stood there still looking at him.

The boy glanced behind him and then continued to unpack. “I know I have a nice ass, but I’d prefer if you didn’t stand there looking at it,” he said.

Sesshomaru’s mouth flew open. He was shocked by his comment.

“Don’t just stand there. Put your stuff down,” the boy said, as he continued to unpack.

Sesshomaru slowly walked over and put his satchel on the futon next to his.

“It’s Daichi, by the way,” the brown-haired boy said, not looking up.

“I’m Sesshomaru,” he said, timidly.

“You better get with it, Sesshomaru. They’ll eat you alive here,” Daichi said, glancing up at him, before swiping the long brown bangs out of his face.

Sesshomaru looked at him blankly before scanning the room for Koji.

“Oy!” a troop member shouted, as he entered the room. He was very short compared to the rest of the troop members around, but very intimidating with his dark hair and dark eyes to match.

All recruits, including Sesshomaru looked up.

“Quickly, stand in a line in front of your futon! Now!” the troop member shouted.

Sesshomaru looked at Daichi, who dropped his belongings and stood in front of his futon.

“Come on,” Daichi told Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru put his belongings down and stood next to Daichi in front of his own futon.

“I am Sargent Katsumi!” the short intimating troop member shouted. “My goal is to train each one of you to become troop members of the dog demon clan of the Western Region of Japan!”

Sesshomaru breathed. This was it, what he had been anticipating his whole life.

“Starting now, you will treat me and all other troop members with the utmost respect and obey all orders quickly, thoroughly and willingly without question! You must earn your chance to be a troop member here!” he continued.

Sesshomaru could feel his heart beating in his chest as Sargent Katsumi walked down the aisle greeting the new recruits. He could hear his heart beating in his ear. He was sweating in fear as he listened to Sargent Katsumi screaming questions at the recruits and them responding in screams of answers.

Sesshomaru glanced at Daichi with his peripheral vision. Daichi was looking forward with a stone face. Sesshomaru did his best to mimic Daichi in every way, but he could do nothing but panic when Sargent Katsumi moved closer and closer to him. He could feel himself trembling and his ears were beginning to ring.

Sesshomaru swallowed hard when Sargent Katsumi stood before him. He could hear himself blowing air hard out of his nostrils. He was sure Sargent Katsumi could too.

“Look who we have here… royalty,” Sargent Katsumi laughed.

That cat was out of the bag. It was all over.

“Look at you,” Sargent Katsumi said, shaking his head with a smile. “Look at you with your impressive kimono and your mokomoko,” he said.

Sesshomaru nearly jumped out of his skin when Sargent Katsumi got close to his face. He did his best to calm down and breathe evenly.

“There’s no point to ask, but I will” Sargent Katsumi said in a calm voice before screaming, “What is your name?”

“Sesshomaru!” he tried to yell, his voice cracking.

“Sesshomaru what?”

“Sesshomaru, sir!” he shouted.

“I can’t hear you!” Sargent Katsumi yelled.

“Sesshomaru, sir!” Sesshomaru shouted.

“Is that how you start a sentence, recruit?! What is your name?!” Sargent Katsumi yelled in his ear.

“My name is Sesshomaru, sir!” he screamed back.

“Who do you think you are, Sesshomaru?! Do you think you’re royalty?!”

“No, sir!” Sesshomaru shouted.

“Is that what you think you are?! You think you’re royalty?!”

Sesshomaru opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out.

“So, that is who you think you are! You think you’re royalty here! I get it!”

“No, sir!” Sesshomaru managed to finally say.

“Oh, yes you do! You think because you’re the son of the Great General Inu no Taishō, you’ll have it easy through camp! Don’t you?!”

Although he knew that no one would dare turn their head to look at him, he could feel eyes on him anyway.

“This is my camp, Sesshomaru!” Sargent Katsumi screamed. “Your old man isn’t here to save you! These clothes and this mokomoko don’t make you anything here! You’re no one here!” he screamed in his ear.

Sesshomaru felt himself choking on his own breath. He couldn’t stop trembling and was having a hard time fighting his emotions. At the mention of his father, he felt a strong urge to cry.  He shut his eyes quick to stop the tears.

“Open your eyes and tell me now who you are!” Sargent Katsumi shouted.

Sesshomaru could barely talk as tears fell down his face.

“Oh look, you’re crying! The son of the Great Inu no Taishō is crying. Let’s all look and behold our new future fearless leader,” Sargent Katsumi said. “Look, everyone,” he shouted.

No one moved.

“I said look!” he screamed to the other recruits.

Sesshomaru couldn’t stifle his crying when everyone looked at him.

“Now, eyes forward!” Sargent Katsumi yelled to the other recruits, who immediately snapped their heads forward.

Sesshomaru could feel his nose starting to drip with snot. He was too terrified to move. He didn’t even have the heart to sniffle.

“Look at you. You’re just a big snotty crybaby,” Sargent Katsumi snarled, in his ear. “You are no one here, Sesshomaru! You are a big snotty crybaby and you’re no one here!” he yelled.

Sesshomaru tried his best to breathe steady. He was getting light-headed.

“Tell me now who you are!”

“I.. I’m –

“You will address yourself as ‘This Sesshomaru!’” Sargent Katsumi shouted.

Sesshomaru didn’t know what to say. He was going to say that his name was Sesshomaru, but using “This Sesshomaru” instead threw him off.

“Are you slow, Crybaby?” Sargent Katsumi asked. “Speak!”

Sesshomaru opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out but sobs.

“Now!” Sargent Katsumi screamed in his ear.

Sesshomaru scrunched his face. “This Sesshomaru… This Sesshomaru –

“This Sesshomaru is no one here! This Sesshomaru is a snotty crybaby!” Sargent Katsumi shouted.

Sesshomaru looked at him dumbfounded.

“Say it! Who are you?! Tell me now!”

This wasn’t happening.

“Stop crying and tell me now or I will kick you right out of here!” Sargent Katsumi screamed.

“This Sesshomaru is no one here! This Sesshomaru… is a snotty crybaby!” he finally responded, closing his eyes.

“Open your eyes and say it again with pride!”

Sesshomaru opened his eyes and stared into the hateful eyes of Sargent Katsumi.

“This Sesshomaru is no one here! This Sesshomaru is a snotty crybaby!” he repeated.

Sargent Katsumi laughed and pat his face. “Good. Now, take that off and keep it out of my sight,” he told Sesshomaru regarding his mokomoko.

Sesshomaru cried as he detached his mokomoko from his body and put it on his futon.

“I said out of my sight, Crybaby!” Sargent Katsumi yelled.

Sesshomaru balled up his mokomoko and tucked it under a sheet.

“What do you say?” he yelled.

“Yes, sir!” Sesshomaru sobbed.

“That’s more like it! Now, shut off the water works and get back in line!” he yelled, before moving on to Daichi.

Sesshomaru stood back in line. His face was red and tear-stained, and his nose was dripping snot. He was still too scared to even wipe his face. He just stood still facing forward as Sargent Katsumi went down the line “greeting” new recruits. As he stood, he could feel the eyes of everyone looking at him. He was humiliated. He was not just another new recruit anymore. He was now the crybaby son of the Great Dog Demon General Inu no Taishō.

Sesshomaru could barely move when Sargent Katsumi instructed everyone to break form and continue unpacking. He just stood there, watching everyone look at him and whisper.

“You know, you’re not any of what he said you are,” Daichi said, looking at Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru swallowed.

“Wipe your face,” Daichi said.

Sesshomaru wiped his face with his sleeve.

“He’s just fucking with you. They’re instructed to make us feel like shit. Don’t let it get to you and don’t let him define you,” Daichi said. “He’s probably overcompensating because you’re someone important and he’s just… so short,” he said in such a low whisper that Sesshomaru could barely hear what he said.

Sesshomaru smirked at Daichi’s comment before he sniffled and laid on his futon. As he let his ears rest, he heard the whispers of recruits talking about him. He kept his eyes shut and did his best to drown out the noise.

The horn sounded. It was time for orientation.

Sesshomaru sighed. He didn’t want to go anywhere.

“Come on,” Daichi said.

Sesshomaru looked up and followed him.

Sesshomaru and Daichi followed the other recruits into a large room where all of the other recruits who had been divided came together. Troop members instructed them to sit where they wanted.

“Where do you want to sit?” Daichi asked.

Sesshomaru sighed. He didn’t know or care.

“Let’s go over –

“Sesshy!”

Sesshomaru looked up. It was Koji running towards him.

“Quiet, recruit!” a troop member shouted. “Stop running!”

Koji smiled and changed his run to a brisk walk.

“Sesshy?” Daichi asked, looking at Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru didn’t care. It was the best sound he could have possibly heard in that very moment.

“What happened to you?” Sesshomaru asked.

“I don’t know. The troop member took us to the front of the line to walk there,” Koji said. “What a jerk, that kid.”

Sesshomaru looked at him. Although he kept his face still, he was so happy to see him.

“Why didn’t you tell me that you are the son of General Inu no Taishō?” Koji said, nudging him. “No wonder everyone knew who you were.”

“Yeah, why didn’t you tell us?” a familiar voice asked.

Sesshomaru turned to see Isao, standing with Eito and Riicho. Isao winked.

Sesshomaru didn’t have any words. Before he could think of anything to say, another spoke for him.

“Maybe because he was trying to hide the fact that as the son of such a great general, he’s nothing but a weak crybaby. Isn’t that right, Crybaby?”

Sesshomaru looked over to see a group of recruits surrounded by the angry recruit who got into a fight with Koji.

Koji growled.

“Who the hell are you?” Daichi asked.

“I’m Mitsue. This is Oni, and this is Washi. Who are you, his guard dog?” Mitsue asked.

“I’m nobody’s guard dog,” Daichi hissed.

“So, Crybaby, are you too weak to stand on your own two feet?” Mitsue asked in a laugh. “I heard all about your special welcome from Sargent Katsumi today. I think “Crybaby” as a nickname suits you just fine. Doesn’t it boys?”

“Shut up, you ugly wrinkly dog!” Isao shouted.

Mitsue narrowed his eyes. He was definitely insulted.

Sesshomaru hadn’t seen Mitsue in his true form, but just by looking at his humanoid form, he looked like he could possibly be a wrinkly dog by the way his humanoid skin was positioned on his body.

Before another fight could break out, a surrounding troop member ordered the group to settle themselves and sit down.

Mitsue smirked. “Let’s go, boys,” he said. “See you later, Crybaby," he laughed with his new friends, as he walked off to the other side of the room.

“Bastards,” Isao spat, glaring at Mitsue and his entourage as they walked away.

“Daichi,” Daichi introduced himself as he sat down.

“Isao,” he responded. “This is Koji, Eito and Riichi.”

“What’s this whole ‘crybaby’ business about?” Eito asked, as he sat down with the rest of the group.

Sesshomaru looked away and sighed.

“Sargent Katsumi’s welcome speech to Sesshomaru,” Daichi said. “It was pretty bad.”

“You cried?” Eito asked.

Sesshomaru kept his face away from the group.

“Eh, don’t feel bad. A whole bunch of recruits cried,” Koji said.

“I heard a new recruit even peed himself. Who knows what they are calling him,” Isao said. “At least you didn’t do that, Sesshomaru,” he laughed.

“No,” Sesshomaru said, still looking away.

“It can’t be any worse than what their calling this one,” Isao laughed, pointing to Koji. “They’re calling him… Clumps!” he laughed.

“Clumps?” Daichi laughed, looking at Sesshomaru, who couldn’t help but laugh himself.

“It is unjustified,” Koji said, as Isao laughed even harder.

“It is so justified,” Isao said, hardly able to talk from laughing so hard. “I almost got kicked out for laughing so hard.”

“What happened?” Riichi asked.

“So, Sargent Katsumi comes over and is asking Koji all of these questions when all of a sudden,” he paused to laugh, “a whole bunch of dried dirt just fell out of his hair onto the floor. It was like clumps of turds falling down,” he fell over laughing.

“Whatever,” Koji huffed, as the group laughed.

“Why are you so dirty anyway?” Isao laughed.

“I like the mud,” Koji responded. “What’s wrong with that?”

“Nothing,” Daichi laughed. “Nothing at all.”

“They call me Feathers,” Eito said.

Both Koji and Isao laughed even harder.

“Now, that was funny!” Koji laughed, looking at Eito.

Isao could hardly breathe from laughing so hard.

“Quiet,” a surrounded troop member quieted them.

“What happened?” Daichi asked, with anticipation of a good story.

“Sargent…Sargent Katsumi walked over…and asked him a question. When he… when he shouted, ‘yes, sir,’” Isao broke down laughing. “A whole bunch of yellow feathers flew out of his mouth,” he continued, holding his stomach in pain.

That group laughed so hard. Sesshomaru was surprised that he was even laughing.

“Mine was unjustified too,” Eito rolled his eyes, as the group laughed even harder.

“No, you deserve that,” Isao said.

“Did you get one?” Koji asked Daichi.

“Nah. He breezed by me,” Daichi answered. “What about you, Isao?”

“Eh, he breezed by me too,” Isao said, nonchalantly.

“You liar! He called you Eyelashes,” Koji blurted in a laugh. “Ha!”

Isao’s face went serious as the whole group erupted in laughter.

“Eyelashes?” Daichi repeated, trying to catch his breath.

Even Sesshomaru was struggling to catch his breath from laughing so hard.

“He said his eyelashes were so long that they’d slap him in the face if he blinked,” Koji laughed.

“My eyelashes are not long,” Isao muttered.

“Then, why would he say that?” Eito asked.

“Because he didn’t have anything else to say, obviously,” Isao hissed.

The group looked in his face. After a moment of silence, they all started laughing. He did have pretty long eyelashes, not long enough to slap someone in the face, but long enough.

“Shut up!” Isao muttered.

“Well, if it makes you feel any better, it can’t be any better than mine,” Riichi volunteered.

“Oh, yeah, Riichi. What are they calling you?”

“Lice,” he said.

The group looked at him with wide eyes. Nobody laughed and nobody moved.

“Do you have lice?” Isao asked, in a serious concerned tone.

“Yeah, do you?” Daichi asked.

Sesshomaru grabbed his hair and brushed it to the side away from Riichi. As he stared at Riichi’s hair, his eyes widened as he saw small flakes of white in his black curls.

“No! It’s just –

“Dandruff?” Eito asked. “The little white things in your hair don’t seem to be moving.”

“Ha!” Koji couldn’t help but laugh for a moment, before getting serious again.

“No, it’s dried aloe,” Riichi said.

Everyone looked at him horrified.

“See, I told you mine’s the worst,” Riichi said.

“Is it true?” Koji asked.

Riichi looked into the faces of the horrified group.

“No! I wouldn’t be allowed to enlist if I did. It’s just dried aloe in my hair. That’s all,” Riichi said.

“Are you sure?” Koji asked.

“Yes, I’m sure,” Riichi said.

“Dried aloe?” Eito asked.

“Yes. It’s a watery substance from a plant. I put it in my hair to keep my curls detangled. It gets white and flakey if I put too much and it dries in my hair,” he said.

“Oh,” Eito said.

“Yeah, that sucks. You have us all beat,” Daichi laughed with the rest of the group.

“Welp, Sesshomaru, if you think your nickname is bad, just remember that Riichi has you beat,” Isao laughed.

Sesshomaru laughed.

***

As Sesshomaru soared through the air, he caught himself smirking at the memory of his old friends. The most terrifying day at Far Grounds turned out to be the best day for him. It was the day he met his friends: Koji, Isao, Riichi, Eito and Daichi. Laughing together about their embarrassing nicknames and humiliation connected them in a strong way. Looking back on it, he didn’t know where he would be without them.

Despite finding jest in the nicknames given by Sargent Katsumi and having new friends to lean on, training camp was extremely difficult for Sesshomaru. It just didn’t seem to click.

Before being officially assigned to a training group, for the first six months of training, recruits were required to learn basic combat and defense techniques as individuals. Recruits were taught various lessons daily, including lessons in combat, defense, reading, writing, and military jargon and strategy, and were expected to successfully demonstrate their comprehension of the lessons and perform them with excellence by the end of the day. It was challenging for everyone learning, but if felt twenty times harder for Sesshomaru.

As the successor of the Western Lands, Sesshomaru was held at a higher standard. While it was okay for others to falter in their lessons, he had to excel at everything. If he struggled to deliver a technique effectively or appropriately, Sargent Katsumi and/or some of the other troop members were down his throat. They publically berated him in front of his peers, forced him to address himself in derogatory terms, and called his performance “the making of a weak leader.” The few times Sesshomaru did excel at his tests, it was still never good enough. Sesshomaru would be congratulated with comments from Sargent Katsumi like, “It’s about time, Crybaby” or “There may be hope for us yet.”

Koji and the rest of his friends did their best to comfort and motivate him through everything, but Sesshomaru’s reputation as a weak unpredictable leader spread around the camp among the new recruits, courtesy of Mitsue. Day after day, Mitsue would comment on how weak and horrible Sesshomaru was as a recruit. He told anyone who would listen that Sesshomaru was a danger to the region and that if his father knew what was good for the region, he would choose another successor to be General.

Sesshomaru’s friends did their due diligence in lashing at Mitsue and putting him in his place, but it didn’t erase his words or Sesshomaru’s feelings. It didn’t stop the negative whispers of other recruits towards him when he walked through the halls or when he got critiqued on his performance during exams. All Sesshomaru wanted to do was make his father proud. Sesshomaru was the future of the success and protection of the Western Lands, but no matter how hard he tried, he wasn’t good enough. The pressure was weighing on him and it was only a matter of time before he snapped.

It was a dodging drill. All recruits were required to leap from rock to rock over bodies of water and mud, avoiding the balls being thrown at them by troop members, and throw a spear at a target on a large tree trunk. It seemed like a simple challenge, but it was a great test of stamina, agility, balance and focus.

It was difficult. Most recruits slipped and fell in either the mud or water after a ball pelted them in the gut or the face. Most of the recruits who made it far enough to reach the target failed when their thrown spears missed the target mark.

Sesshomaru waited in line after Koji, Eito and Daichi. Koji seemed to lose all focus when he made it to the mud section and jumped into mud, disqualifying himself. Eito, surprisingly, made it all the way. He dodged each ball and successfully pierced the target with his spear. Upon congratulations, he said that he pretended he was catching a bird. Daichi dodged every ball as well, but missed the mark on the target.

At his turn, Sesshomaru dodged from left to right and right to left missing every ball thrown his way. He readied his spear and narrowed his eyes at the target. It was a clear shot. When he drew his arm back to throw, a rogue ball from the side came out of nowhere and hit him in the side. Sesshomaru lost his balance and toppled over into the mud.

“Ha!” he heard Mitsue and his goons laugh.

“Well done, Crybaby,” Sargent Katsumi snarled. “The region has now been overtaken because of your poor balance and focus.”

Sesshomaru sighed, as he picked himself up from the mud.

“It may be time to consider that you just might not be cut out for this,” Sargent Katsumi said, before calling the next recruit. “I’m willing to help you have that conversation with your father,” he added.

Sesshomaru stood to his feet and marched off.

“Sesshomaru, it’s okay,” Eito said, calling after him.

“Hey, where are you going?” Koji asked.

Sesshomaru couldn’t stop the tears from running down his face as he marched into the building and down the hall. Troop members tried to stop him, but he didn’t stop.

Covered in mud, Sesshomaru crouched in a corner and cried with his head in between his knees.

“Hey, man, what’s wrong?” he heard Daichi ask, as he touched his knee.

“I can’t do this,” he cried.

“You can’t do what, Sesshy?” he heard Koji ask, in concern.

“I can’t do this! I can’t be General!” he bellowed.

“Yes, you can. You’re going to be a great general,” he heard Eito say.

“Yeah. I don’t doubt it,” he heard Riichi agree.

“I can’t do anything right,” Sesshomaru cried.

“Did you see me out there? I could barely leap from one rock to another,” Isao said. “We were all struggling out there…except flyboy Eito,” he added, as some of the others laughed.

“You just got to keep practicing,” Daichi said.

“I have been practicing,” Sesshomaru cried. “It doesn’t work. Nothing works! I’m not as good as anyone else!”

“That’s not true,” Riichi said. “You’re better than a lot of people out there.”

“Yeah, man. They’re only hard on you because you’re the son of General Inu no Taishō,” Daichi said. “You got to ignore them and do what you have to do.”

Sesshomaru shook his head. “I’m just going to let everyone down.”

“You’re not going to let anyone down, Sesshy,” Koji said. “We’ll help you. We all will.”

“Yeah, we’ll help you,” Daichi agreed.

“Eito might suck at helping you, but the rest of us will do what we can,” Isao laughed.

“Oh, shut up. I can help too,” Eito snapped.

“Help him do what, choke on birds?” Isao asked, sarcastically.

The group laughed, including Sesshomaru, who coughed and wiped his eyes.

“Well, at least I can catch something,” Eito said with an eye roll.

The group laughed as Isao huffed. In his humanoid form, Isao was very short. He had a hard time catching anything, let alone reaching anything. In his true form, although much bigger in size, he had a hard time catching anything with his mouth.

“See, we all have challenges. We’ll work at them together,” Koji said.

Sesshomaru nodded. “Okay.”

“My mother gave me this,” Isao said, pulling a small smooth yellow stone out of his pocket. “She said to rub it when I’m stressed. It helps,” he said, handing it to Sesshomaru to try.

“It feels nice,” Sesshomaru said, rubbing it in his hands, before passing it back.

“I know. It relaxes me,” he said.

“I have something like that!” Eito smiled. “Look!” he said, throwing an old bloody bird foot at Sesshomaru.

“Ew, Eito! What’s that?” Isao shrieked, as Sesshomaru assessed it in his hand.

“It’s Tootie. It’s a piece of the first bird I ever caught,” he smiled.

“Why in the world do you have that, Eito?” Riichi asked, in shock.

“It’s a reminder,” he said, taking it back from Sesshomaru.

“Of what?” Daichi asked, his face scrunched in disgust.

“Tootie was a hard catch. I caught her mid-air jumping from a tree. I fell and broke my wrist and tail bone,” he said, as the group shrieked in pain at his memory. “But, I caught her,” he smiled.

“Why would you want to keep her foot though?” Riichi asked.

“Yeah,” Koji said, confused.

“Because she was a hard catch. I caught her when I really shouldn’t have. And, I recovered when I really didn't think I would have. I was stuck in bed for months, but I made it. Tootie reminds me that I can do the impossible, like make it through training camp and become an official troop member,” Eito smiled, looking at the foot.

“That… actually made a lot of sense,” Isao said, as the group nodded.

“Mud baths,” Koji said.

“Mud baths?” Daichi questioned.

“Mmmhmm. One of those clears my mind of everything,” Koji sighed.

“A mud bath?” Sesshomaru asked.

“Yup. I take one once a day.”

“That really explains a lot,” Isao said.

“How does that even help you? You get screamed at every day for being filthy. Mud baths are making everything worse for you,” Daichi said.

“No, they aren’t,” Koji answered, smoothing the fresh mud from when he jumped off the rock earlier into his skin.

“Whatever,” Daichi responded.

“I twirl my hair,” Riichi said. “When I’m nervous, I flatten my hair on my finger until it becomes straight and then work on curling it back up again. It takes my mind off everything.”

“Oh, Eito,” said. “That’s pretty cool.”

“What about you, Daichi? Do you have anything to calm you down when you get stressed here?” Koji asked, still rubbing the mud into his skin.

“Eh, it’s nothing,” he said.

“Come on. We’re all sharing,” Riichi said.

“Yeah, what is it?” Eito asked.

Daichi sighed and pulled out a long rope-like object from his pocket.

“What’s that?” Koji asked.

“It’s a rope. I braid it when I’m stressed,” Daichi said, in a low tone.

“You braid? Isn’t that what girls do?” Eito asked, looking at the neat pattern.

“No. It’s for everyone,” Daichi responded, calmly.

“Well, it’s a cool pattern,” Isao said.

“Yeah,” Daichi said, putting the rope back in his pocket.

“You just got to find something that will help you out too, Sesshy,” Koji said.

Sesshomaru sighed and looked to the side. “My mother said something about the moon,” he said.

“The moon?”

“She said something about the moon giving me strength,” he said, looking at his friends.

Isao laughed. “Of course! That’s it! You have to connect to the moon!”

“Connect to the moon?” Eito asked.

“Yes! Of course! He has to! He has a moon of his face for crying out loud!” Isao said.

“He does,” Riichi said, pointing at Sesshomaru’s forehead.

“You’ve got to connect to the moon, Sesshomaru,” Isao said.

“How will he do that?” Daichi asked.

“I don’t know. What did your mom say?” Isao asked Sesshomaru.

“She didn’t say anything,” he responded.

“Maybe you’ll have to go to the moon,” Eito said.

“He can’t go to the moon, you moron,” Isao snapped at Eito.

“I didn’t mean go there. Maybe he just has to go outside with the moon out for it to give him strength,” Eito responded.

“That’s a good idea,” Riichi said.

“Do you think it’ll work?” Sesshomaru asked.

“It’s worth a shot,” Daichi shrugged.

“But how? We can’t leave this place,” Isao said.

“I leave this place all the time,” Koji said. “How do you think I take my mud baths?”

The group looked at him blankly.

“You sneak out of here to take mud baths?” Isao asked.

“Yeah. How else can I do it?” Koji responded.

“Fine. Then it’s settled. After the last horn when everyone goes to sleep, we’ll meet here tonight. Koji, you’ll lead the way,” Daichi said.

“Okay,” Koji nodded.

“Yes! An adventure!” Eito smiled.

That night after the last horn, Sesshomaru lay awake in his futon listening to the snores of his fellow recruits. He turned to see Daichi lying in the futon next to him braiding his rope. He could tell he was nervous. How could he not be? He didn’t know what the repercussions were for leaving Far Grounds, but he was sure that they would be serious.

After a few minutes, Sesshomaru looked at Daichi who nodded. They slowly rose from their futons. Sesshomaru followed Daichi’s lead and arranged his pillow to make it seem like someone was sleeping in his futon. When all looked well, Sesshomaru followed Daichi slowly down the aisle, down the hall and to the agreed upon spot. Everyone was there waiting. Without a word, the group followed Koji down the halls to the outside. It was easy. It surprised Sesshomaru how easy everything was.

The group ran forward through the trees, transforming into their true forms. They laughed as Koji running through the woods, dove head first into a large puddle of mud. Mud went everywhere, splashing everyone. The group laughed and laughed.

“Come on, let’s find the moon,” Isao said, leading the way through the woods.

“Yeah,” Eito agreed, slipping on a clump of mud.

The group laughed again before following Isao. Sesshomaru had never laughed so hard. He was crying.

“Here,” Isao said, walking through the trees to an open grassy area. “This is perfect.”

Sesshomaru walked through the trees and looked at the moon. It was big and bright in the sky.

“Now what?” Koji asked.

“I don’t know,” Isao said, looking at Sesshomaru. “Connect to the moon.”

“I don’t know what to do,” Sesshomaru said.

“I don’t know. Just lay here for a while, I guess,” Riichi suggested.

Sesshomaru nodded and lay on his back, facing the moon. The others walked over next to him and did the same.

“Is it working?” Eito asked.

“I don’t know,” Sesshomaru answered.

“Do you feel any different?” Riichi asked.

“No.”

“Okay, we’ll stay a little longer. Maybe you have to charge,” Isao said.

“This is really nice,” Riichi said.

“Yeah,” Koji said.

“Thanks for helping me,” Sesshomaru said, softly.

“Of course,” Isao responded.

“Don’t mention it,” Daichi said.

“What are friends for?” Koji said.

“I’m glad you’re my friends,” Sesshomaru said, after a long pause, as he looked up at the bright moon.

“Yeah, we’re pretty cool,” Isao said.

“Especially me,” Eito smiled.

“As if,” Isao responded, as the group laughed.

“Let’s make a vow,” Riichi said.

“A vow?” Daichi asked.

“What do you have in mind?” Isao asked.

“Let’s vow that... uh –

“We’ll always be friends,” Eito exclaimed.

“The best of friends,” Koji added.

“No matter what we go through or where life takes us, we’ll always be friends,” Riichi continued.

“We’ll always be there for each other and support each other… even if we’re stupid,” Isao added.

“And we’ll never turn our backs on each other, no matter what,” Daichi added.

“Forever,” Sesshomaru said.

“Forever,” the others repeated.

“This is our solemn vow,” Daichi said.

The group lay underneath the moon talking about everything under the moon. They talked all night under the moon until their eyes shut.

The next morning, Sesshomaru awoke startled by the sound of loud barking. His eyes shot open and there stood seven large troop members in their true forms standing over him and the rest of his friends. Sesshomaru looked to see his friends who were wide awake too, trembling in confusion and fear. They messed up. They fell asleep under the moon and never returned back to camp.

“Come with us! Come with us now!” the troop members barked.

Sesshomaru walked in between the guards in his true form next to his friends, who trembled and sobbed.

“What’s going to happen to us?” Isao asked a troop member.

“Silence!” they barked at him, as he sobbed and shook his head.

Sesshomaru glanced at Eito to his left and Koji on his right. They didn’t say a word. Being in camp, there were strict rules to follow. Sesshomaru was sure that everyone was wondering about what repercussions awaited them at the end of their walk.

Sesshomaru and the others followed the troop members back to the training camp. Upon entry, they were met by Sargent Katsumi, Lieutenant General Tomoshiro, Major General Naoyuki, Colonel Aito and Lieutenant Colonel Fumihiro in their humanoid forms. In the center of them stood General Inu no Taishō and Sesshomaru’s mother, Inukimi. At the sight of his parents, particularly his mother, Sesshomaru could feel his heart beating hard in his chest. There was no reason for his mother to be there.

The troop members placed Sesshomaru and the other recruits in a line, with Sesshomaru standing in the center of the line in front of his father.

“Change,” General Inu no Taishō commanded the group.

“Yes, sir!” Daichi said first, in a shout, followed by everyone else, including Sesshomaru, as they transformed into their humanoid forms.

Sesshomaru watched his mother huff and roll her eyes. “They’re sloppy,” Inukimi said.

“My apologies, my lady,” Sargent Katsumi said with a bow. “This have been a very challenging group.”

“I can see,” Inukimi responded, glaring at him. “They walked right off camp under your watch and were ‘lost’ for a significant amount of time.”

“My lady –

“Do not speak to me,” she held her hand up and looked at Sesshomaru standing in the line.

“What is the meaning of this?” General Inu no Taishō asked, looking at Sesshomaru.

“Great General –

“Sesshomaru, what is the meaning of this?” Inu no Taishō cut off Sargent Katsumi to ask his son.

Sesshomaru breathed and looked up at his father. He could tell that he was disappointed.

“We snuck out of camp, Father,” Sesshomaru responded.

His father huffed. “And why?”

Sesshomaru lowered his head.

“Why, Son?!” his father asked in a yell. He was angry.

“To find the moon,” Sesshomaru tried to steady his voice with his answer. His father was absolutely terrifying when he was angry, and right then, he was very angry.

His father was silent. Sesshomaru didn’t dare look at him.

“General Inu no Taishō, if I may?” Sesshomaru heard Koji speak.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened. He could barely breathe. He couldn’t believe Koji had the nerve to even speak… to his father… his visibly angry father.

“Speak,” he father responded, holding a hard stare on Sesshomaru.

“General Inu no Taishō, we didn’t mean to sneak out. We were trying to help Sesshy -

“Sesshy?” his mother asked, as Sesshomaru sighed.

“…Sesshomaru find his strength in the moon, sir,” Koji continued.

“Find his strength in the moon?” Inu no Taishō asked, his eyes still on his son. “And what does that mean?”

“General Inu no Taishō, Sesshomaru was having a hard time in training, sir,” Eito spoke. “We were telling him all of the things that help us during training to get us through rough times, sir.”

“Yes, sir,” Koji agreed. “Like, I like mud baths, Isao has a cool stone his mother gave him, Eito has Tootie, Daichi –

“General Inu no Taishō, Sesshomaru informed us that he could find strength in the moon,” Daichi cut off Koji before he could reveal his braiding secret. “We only tried to take him to connect to the moon, sir.”

“Connect to the moon,” General Inu no Taishō said, glancing at his wife. “Is that true, Sesshomaru?” he asked.

“It is, Father,” Sesshomaru answered. “They were just trying to help.”

Inu no Taishō kept his eyes on his son.

“I’m sorry, Father.”

Inu no Taishō remained silent. After a long pause, he spoke. “And did you find your strength, Sesshomaru?” he asked.

“Yes, Father,” he answered, glancing at his line of friends, who hid their smiles.

“I surely hope so,” Sargent Katsumi said.

“And what do you mean by that?” Lieutenant General Tomoshiro asked the sargent.

“May I speak freely, sir?” he asked, more so the General than Lieutenant General Tomoshiro.

“Speak,” General Inu no Taishō responded, looking back at him.

Sesshomaru could tell that his father had calmed down in anger.

“As next in line to be General of this troop, Master Sesshomaru is just not where he needs to be as a recruit.”

Sesshomaru could feel his heart in his throat. His worst nightmare was coming true. Sargent Katsumi was telling his father just how horrible he was as a recruit.

“Master Sesshomaru is towards the low end of the class of recruits in his skill and studies when he should be well at the top of the class,” Sargent Katsumi continued.

Sesshomaru could not stop the tears from forming in his eyes. As the sargent continued, they dripped down his cheeks onto the floor. He had never felt more humiliated hearing Sargent Katsumi speak.

“Sesshy,” Koji whispered, looking at him.

Sesshomaru huffed. He knew that Koji was just trying to be supportive, but he didn’t seem to fully understand that dog demons, especially troop members, had impeccable hearing. At Koji’s voice, they all turned to see Sesshomaru very upset.

Sesshomaru did not dare wipe a tear away. He looked down as low as he could, letting his bangs fall forward to make it difficult for anyone to see his eyes.

“Sesshomaru?” Inukimi asked, surprised by his reaction.

“And that,” Sargent Katsumi said, pointing at Sesshomaru. “He does nothing but cry. That shouldn’t happen,” he complained.

Sesshomaru heard nothing but silence. He didn’t want to look at anyone.

“Many of the trainers are concerned about his future as the ultimate leader of this troop. His performance is unsatisfactory,” Sargent Katsumi continued.

Sesshomaru couldn’t help but really cry. He wanted to be anywhere but there.

“That’s not fair!” Koji bellowed.

“Recruit!” Major General Naoyuki shouted at Koji’s outburst.

“I’m … This Koji is sorry, but that’s not true. Sesshy is one of the better recruits in here. They’re just not nice to him,” Koji continued, as the troop members did their best to silence him.

Sesshomaru eyes widened as he looked at Koji. He couldn’t believe what was happening.

“This is a military training camp, not a summer camp. We are not required to be nice to you. We are required to make you stronger,” Major General Naoyuki spoke.

“Exactly,” Lieutenant General Tomoshiro agreed.

“Well, having someone address themselves as ‘Snotty Crybaby’  and ‘No One’ doesn’t make anyone stronger, sirs,” Koji responded.

Despite being upset that Koji spoke out of turn on his behalf, Sesshomaru couldn’t believe how brave and bold Koji was.

“This Daichi can attest to that too, sirs,” Daichi added. “While other recruits are addressed by and respond to their names, Sesshomaru must address himself with such names at all times.”

Although grateful for his friends, Sesshomaru wanted to ooze through the floor. He knew they were only trying to help, but their comments were making everything worse. The fallout of this situation would not go well for him. Sargent Katsumi would make sure of that.

Sesshomaru could feel everyone’s eyes on him. He didn’t want to look at anyone or say anything.

“Sesshomaru, is this true?” Inukimi asked, in a serious tone.

Sesshomaru could barely speak. He was so upset that he could barely cry.

“Sargent Katsumi,” Inu no Taishō said. “As it is gravely inappropriate for these recruits to speak out of turn like this, is there any truth to what they have said? Has my son been required to address himself in such a way?”

There was a long pause. “It is a tactic to help strengthen him in the process,” Sargent Katsumi stuttered. “He is just so –

Sesshomaru refused to look up. Beyond his sniffles, he heard his uncle asking, “Are you serious, Katsumi?”

“Recruits, you are dismissed,” Inu no Taishō said. “Lieutenant Colonel Fumihiro, please escort them back to their designated areas.”

“Yes, sir,” everyone said, with a bow.

Sesshomaru looked up to see his father looking down and his mother glaring at Sargent Katsumi. Sargent Katsumi’s eyes glared at Koji and Daichi.

“Why did you do that?” Sesshomaru asked, when they got into the hallway, tears falling down his face again.

“I was –

“Your father needed to know,” Daichi interrupted Koji.

“You just made everything worse,” Sesshomaru bellowed.

“Silence,” Lieutenant Colonel Fumihiro said. “What’s done is done,” he said, walking on.

Sesshomaru huffed and walked on in silence.

***

As night fell, Sesshomaru stopped for a hunt and made camp by a tree. There was no point in traveling, as it was getting dark and he wouldn’t reach the Western Lands until the morning if he traveled in his true form. He needed rest anyway. He needed his ears to recover.

Sesshomaru took out Rin’s flower piece of dragon skin out of his pocket and flipped it in his hand. He took a thin vine from the ground next to him and drove it through two of the holes in the piece. He tied the ends of the vines together and looked at it long and hard before putting it back in his pocket.

Thinking on what happened that morning long ago, Koji speaking out with Eito and Daichi was the best thing that could have ever happened. Later that day, the troop had a mandatory meeting with all of the enlisted recruits. Sargent Katsumi was nowhere to be found. Instead, General Inu no Taishō stood in front of all recruits next to Lieutenant General Tomoshiro, Major General Naoyuki, Colonel Aito and Lieutenant Colonel Fumihiro in their humanoid forms and explained that he would be overseeing recruit training for now on. He delivered a moving speak about togetherness and respect, and promised that he would instill those ideals in the training program.

Things got better for Sesshomaru under his father’s leadership as trainer. He developed his skills in all areas and his confidence, most importantly. Sesshomaru finally felt capable and supported. Nonetheless, the words of Sargent Katsumi ran through his mind from time to time. “Many of the trainers are concerned about his future as the ultimate leader of this troop. His performance is unsatisfactory.” Although a nuisance to come to the forefront of his mind, it drove him. Under his father’s guidance, he was set to make sure that he became a top recruit. He set out to dispel any thoughts troop members and his fellow recruits had thought of him, especially Mitsue. His first step was conditioning himself to control his emotions, his tears in particular. No one would ever be able to call him a “snotty crybaby” ever.

As time passed, Sesshomaru was fortunate to be assigned on a formal training group time with all of his friends, Koji, Isao, Riichi, Eito and Daichi. Everyone else seemed to be split up from their friends from individual training, but Sesshomaru guessed that his father saw the benefit of him having his friends by his side. He was grateful for that. He learned a lot of them.

In addition to learning his regular training techniques, he worked to adopt and Riichi’s confidence, Eito’s carefree spirit, Daichi’s calmness, Isao’s boldness and Koji’s bravery. The shy Sesshomaru never died, but over time, he developed a voice within his group. Sesshomaru was a being of few words, but said what we meant. He was focused, serious and very wise among his group.

In addition to his regular friends, their training group was joined by a Naoki. He was a quiet recruit who had a great sense of smell. He could smell anything or anyone from miles away. The group was skeptical when he first joined the group, but over time, it was evident that Naoki was a great addition to their team. Naoki was quirky and balanced well with Eito.

Once formal training groups were assigned, recruits were able to put their six months of individual training skills to use on general missions. Regularly, General Inu no Taishō allowed recruits to accompany the “real” army on missions. At first, missions consisted of only shadowing, but over time, General Inu no Taishō allowed recruits to be actively engaged in missions. Sesshomaru’s group was required to stay close to his father on all missions and take in how he handled business. Sesshomaru and his friends enjoyed missions and Sesshomaru was thrilled that his performance reviews as a recruit were becoming outstanding. It would only be a matter of time until the shadow of Sargent Katsumi and Sesshomaru’s reputation of being a weak and unqualified future leader of the troop would be erased out of everyone’s minds completely.

***

As Sesshomaru rested his head against a tree trunk to sleep, his mind roamed again.

“Your father had a great weakness.”

“Your father’s concern for those beneath him, those humans and small demons he aids on his journeys, they are a distraction, a weakness he cannot seem to overlook. One day, those beings he works so hard to save will be his demise.”

“Regard for those beneath you cannot benefit you in any way. It is futile. It is a distraction that will only inhibit your judgement and leadership as successor of the Western Lands.”

Sesshomaru’s eyes shot open in the darkness.  He breathed heavy and sighed. His mother’s damned words were the beginning of the end.

More than anything, Sesshomaru wanted to fix himself and repair his reputation. He didn’t want to be known as a risk for the future of the region. He wanted to be strong and have no weaknesses. He wanted to be just like his father, better than him. With his mother saying that his father had a weakness in his regard for those beneath him, he didn’t know what to think or what to believe. His eyes had been opened in a way he had feared. In that time, he turned to his friends.

Once official groups were assigned, recruits had more freedom. They were able to move out of Far Grounds and reside with their families, with a strict requirement to return back to camp every day for daily training sessions. Sesshomaru didn’t mind staying at Far Grounds, but when his friends all decided to go back to live and be with their families and other friends, he chose to return to the castle as well. Despite their separation, they always made time to regularly meet at their spot in the woods under the moon to catch up and talk about anything. That was the best place for Sesshomaru to get some answers from those he trusted the most.

From the castle, Sesshomaru transformed into his true form and ran through the woods the spot under the moon.

“There he is,” Riichi said.

Everyone was already there lying on their backs facing the moon. Naoki was there too. As an official training group member, it was only right to invite him. He was a good friend.

“How goes it, Sessh?” Eito asked, as Sesshomaru found a spot on the grass to lie between him and Naoki.

“Fine,” he responded. “How are you guys?”

“We were just talking about Koji and his love troubles.”

Sesshomaru smirked.

“It’s nothing,” Koji sighed.

“It’s everything,” Riichi said.

“He fucked up,” Isao added.

Koji sighed.

“What happened?” Sesshomaru asked.

“Izo broke up with me,” Koji pouted.

“Why?” Sesshomaru asked.

Sesshomaru was confused. Since Koji had gone to live back home, he had been in a relationship with a dog demon named Izo who had worked as an apprentice in his father’s blacksmith business. When Koji first announced that he had developed feelings for the boy who worked for his father, he explained that he was really confused because he had always liked females. After conveying his feelings to everyone at a moon night session, the group encouraged him to go with his heart and pursue a relationship with Izo, even if it cost him a lot relationships and acceptance from his family. It was difficult for Koji, but Izo was worth the pain he suffered for their relationship. After all they had been through together, and after all the sacrifices they made, it didn’t make sense for their relationship to end. It didn't make sense for Izo to break up with Koji because "Koji fucked up.” Koji wouldn't fuck up.

“I told him that I slept with someone else,” he said.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened. He was shocked. “Did you?”

“I did,” he said. “But, it was an accident,” he said.

“An accident? How is that an accident?” Daichi asked.

 

Koji was silent.

“I don’t understand,” Naoki asked. “How did you accidentally sleep with someone else?”

Koji sighed. “It doesn’t matter. It happened,” he said.

“Things like that don’t just happen, Koji. You don’t just accidentally put your penis into someone else,” Riichi said. “Were you drunk or something?”

Koji moaned.

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes. This didn't make any sense. Koji was definitely hiding something.

“What I don’t understand is how your ever got laid by anyone in the first place,” Isao said.

“Why would you say that?” Koji asked, confused.

“You are chronically covered in mud. I don’t know who in their right mind, other than Izo, who is just as filthy as you with all that soot you both work with, would sleep with you,” Isao continued.

The group laughed. Even Koji managed to crack a smile.

“You too, Eito,” Isao went on.

“Me?” Eito asked in confused, as the group continued to laugh. “I do pretty well for myself, thank you very much,” he answered.

“Well, we all know who is getting it… Sesshomaru,” Daichi laughed. “All those females at the castle every day, all day… How could he not be?”

“Lucky bastard,” Isao said.

Sesshomaru smirked. “It’s not like that,” he said.

“Don’t try to make us feel better about ourselves. We know you’re getting it,” Riichi said.

“It’s really not like that,” Sesshomaru said, with a laugh.

Yes, there were many females at the castle serving as handmaidens and other types of help, many of whom Sesshomaru found attractive, who actively worked to flirt with him or tried to seduce him, but Sesshomaru didn’t pursue them. Women made him nervous. His body, whether in his true form or humanoid form, would react in embarrassing ways that would turn him off completely. After a while, instead of working up enough courage or bodily control to enjoy the company of women, Sesshomaru focused his time on reviewing training techniques and getting lost in books. When a sexual urge crept up on him, usually in the morning or late at night, an erotic thought and a special massage usually did the trick.

At the castle, Sesshomaru would leave the main area of his room and slide the doors shut behind him when he entered his closet. He would pull a soft piece of clothing from his closet and sit on the floor with his pants at his ankles. He’d wrap the soft fabric around his usually hard, throbbing member and let his hand stoke the length of his shaft. Sesshomaru’s pace would usually start off slow and quicken as intense sensations would begin to set in. He would close his eyes and tilt his head back, biting the bottom of his lip as precum would leak out from the tip of his throbbing member and waves of pleasure would surge through his entire body. Sesshomaru would let out breathless groans as his balls would begin to ache, demanding his release. Around this time, he would be close. He would need to orgasm. Sesshomaru would clutch his member harder and stroke even faster. Within seconds, his mind would go black. His body would quiver as his orgasm would peak and squirts of hot cum would shoot into the fabric of his clothing.

Usually after one of these special massages, Sesshomaru would reassess if whether pursuing a relationship with someone was actually worth it, but after to listening to all of the relationship drama with his friends over the years, he was convinced that his mind was possibly far better than the real thing of having a relationship anyway.

“Maybe he’s not. If he was, he’d look as happy as Riichi,” Naoki laughed.

The group laughed. Sesshomaru had grown to become stoic, showing little to no emotion unless absolutely necessary. Riichi, on the hand, usually always had a smile on his face.

“Shut up. Leave me out of this,” Riichi laughed. “Plus, I’m not getting much of anything these days. Hanako is all moody and pregnant now.”

“I still don’t know how you’re going to be a father. My parents are having another pup right now,” Daichi said. “You’re going to be a father and I’m going to be a brother.”

“My parents are having another pup now too,” Naoki added. “It’s awkward.”

“I don’t know. It wasn’t like we planned it,” Riichi said. “It just happened.”

“How far along is she anyway?” Daichi asked.

“A few months I think. She has a long way to go. Like ten or so years,” Riichi responded.

“Good luck,” Eito laughed.

“Yeah, thanks,” Riichi responded.

“You know, you’re supposed to take it out before you explode, right?” Isao said, arrogantly.

“Shut up, bitch! I know how it works!” Riichi snapped.

The group was silent for a second. Riichi was usually even keel. No one expected him to lose it like that.

“Not clearly enough,” Isao responded, unfazed.

“At least I have someone to actually be able to cum in and not some pillow,” Riichi hissed.

“Ooo,” the group said, as Eito laughed.

“Touché. But, my pillow and I aren’t a few months pregnant now. Are we?” Isao responded.

“Fuck you, Isao!” Riichi sat up from the ground and charged at him.

“Woah, relax,” Koji shouted at Riichi, preventing him from charging. “He’s just being stupid. Calm down.”

“Stressed much?” Eito smirked at Sesshomaru, who rolled his eyes.

“I know it’s a full moon tonight, but everyone calm down,” Daichi said.

Riichi huffed and rolled his eyes.

“If it makes you feel any better, the girl I slept with is pregnant too,” Koji sighed. “I told Izo, and he left me.”

The group gasped. “She’s pregnant?” they asked. "You slept with a girl?"

“I messed up. It shouldn’t have happened in the first place.”

The late night conversation had many twists and turns. The topics went from sex to Koji’s drama, to Far Grounds gossip, back to Koji’s drama, great eats, hopes and dreams, and back to Koji’s drama. When the conversation began to die down, Sesshomaru took control of the floor.

Sesshomaru explained that he had always seen everyone as equal, but recently began to see the effects of the differences in power between humans and demons, and powerful demons and weaker demons. Sesshomaru suggested that maybe not all beings were equal and explained the tiers of classes his mother introduced to him, with humans being in the lowest class and powerful beings, like himself and his father, being in the highest class.

The group remained quiet as he continued.

Sesshomaru reflected on the missions of the troop and stated that although the troop had made a lot of alliances with those it helped in the region under his father’s order, he could see a trend in the repercussions from the troops’ altruistic efforts and initiatives. He commented that those they helped who were less powerful would never be able to return the favor or give anything back. Sesshomaru questioned if it was even worth it to help at all.

“Maybe there is no benefit in helping the weak. They will never be able help us in return, and even if they could, their help will be so minuscule that it will be pointless,” Sesshomaru said. “What do you think?”

“You’re being ridiculous, Sesshomaru?” Riichi said. “Absolutely ridiculous.”

“I’m going to have to agree with Riichi on that, Sesshomaru,” Naoki said.

“But, you have to see what I’m saying. Why do we waste time helping them?” Sesshomaru asked, directly.

“What kind of questions is that? Why do we ‘waste’ time helping them?” Isao repeated.

“I’m not saying that it’s wrong to help others who need it, but I think we spend a lot of time doing it with hardly any benefit to us,” Sesshomaru said.

“Benefit to us?” Daichi asked.

“Are you saying that we should only help others if we can get something in return?” Naoki asked.

“He didn’t say that, Naoki,” Koji said. “He just said that –

“I think he’s saying a whole hell of a lot more than that,” Isao spoke over Koji. “Beings should be classified by their power?”

“Beings are already being classified by their power and have been for centuries. It’s not a new thing," Sesshomaru said. 

"Sesshy's right. It's not a new thing," Koji said. "He was just explaining –

“I was just noticing different things,” Sesshomaru interjected Koji. “Within our troop… you can see the dead weight in some areas with certain troop members and –

“Dead weight?” Riichi asked.

“That wording was a bit harsh, but he meant to say that there are some troop members with weaknesses in various areas –

“You’re talking crazy, Sessh. What’s going on with you?” Eito asked over Koji.

“I don’t think he’s conveying what he’s trying –

“Are you serious, Sesshomaru?” Daichi asked, in shock, cutting off Koji.

“Here’s my view on this, Sesshy,” Koji said. “Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, but working together makes us strong. Teamwork is –

“You, out of everyone, have no right to say anything about dead weight among troop members, Sesshomaru!” Isao snapped. “Don’t you forget how you started here!” he added.

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes.

“How did Sesshomaru start here?” Naoki asked.

“He’s right here, Naoki. You can ask him yourself,” Koji snapped at Naoki.

“He had a rough start,” Riichi spoke over Koji. “Sesshomaru struggled with a lot of things at Far Grounds.”

“That’s an understatement,” Daichi said. “Recruits were making fun of him, telling him that he sucked and would bring us down as a leader.”

“It was really sad,” Eito said. “He was crying every day.”

Sesshomaru growled. Sesshomaru couldn’t believe what he was hearing from his “friends.”

“We all had challenges starting out here, but we overcame them together,” Koji said.

“Sesshomaru could barely do anything here!” Isao shouted.

“You could hardly catch anything, but now you can! What do you have to say about that?” Koji shouted at Isao.

“This not about me!” Isao yelled. “I’m not the pompous arrogant dick trying to exude some superiority over everyone here!”

“He’s not doing that at all, Isao!” Koji shouted.

Sesshomaru huffed.

“Are you deaf?! He just fucking told us that he classifies himself and his father as one of the most powerful demons!” Isao snapped.

“He did say that,” Daichi said.

“Oh yes, he did! I heard that loud and clear!” Isao said, sitting up. “By all means, sure, classify your father as a powerful demon all you want, but you have some nerve putting yourself up there too!”

“Who knows where you’d be if your father hadn’t taken over training initiatives at Far Grounds,” Riichi said.

“He’s right,” Daichi agreed.

“They’re right, Sessh,” Eito said. “Things only got better after he took charge.”

“Yes! That means that you’d still be shit if he weren’t in charge of training!” Isao shouted.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?!” Koji charged at Isao.

Without a word, Sesshomaru got up from the grass and walked off, transforming into his humanoid form. No one had even noticed that he had gone after Koji and Isao broke into a fight. Given how volatile Isao was and how threatening Koji could be when he was angry, the entire group’s attention went to breaking up their fight.

Sesshomaru was angry. Their words bothered him. Sure, he struggled under the leadership of Sargent Katsumi, but his friends made him believe that they had faith in him. He remembered all of their lectures about how they knew he would be a great general, but today they were singing a different tune. “Sesshomaru could barely do anything here.”

Sesshomaru huffed as anger build within him. They weren’t his friends. They were liars. They didn’t have any faith in him at all; they just pretended to have it. They were just like everyone else. He thought they were different, but they weren’t. They thought he was weak too. They thought he would be a liability to the region.

Anger encompassed Sesshomaru. He couldn’t get past it. He felt betrayed. Sesshomaru knew that those other troop members and recruits thought he was a weak, but it hurt him all the more knowing that his “friends” pretended to be in his corner when they truly felt the same way.

Sesshomaru pondered what their goal was. What was in it for them to lie to him? Sesshomaru snarled at his thought. They just wanted a spot on his leadership team. He thought that they probably thought that if they pretended to be his friend and confidant, he would be more likely to pick them to be a part of his leadership team if or when he became General.

Sesshomaru, enraged and walking in his humanoid form in the dark night, lost track of where he was going. Their spot under the moon was near Far Grounds, but Sesshomaru had been walking for what seemed like hours and had not seen any bit of the training camp.

Sesshomaru grumbled to himself as he walked on. He saw lights. He was near a village. He stood by a tree on the perimeter of the village and looked. No one was around. It was very late and he knew that most humans were probably sleeping. When he got bored with looking and began to turn to fly back to the castle, he saw a small human walk out of a hut from the corner of his eye. He narrowed his eyes and focused in. It was a little boy wearing a long white robe. He had a lantern in his left hand and a long staff in his right hand.

Sesshomaru watched as he ran towards the trees in the night.

Everything in his being told him to just turn around and leave, but he wanted to stay. He wanted to feel capable, dominant and feared. He didn’t want to be weak. He didn’t want to feel weak. He needed to feel powerful.

The boy was a human, a small human. Humans, especially the little ones were the weakest out of the group. He was an easy target. He didn’t want to do anything serious. He didn’t even want to touch him. He just wanted to scare him.

Sesshomaru walked slowly through the trees towards where the boy had run. He saw him urinating against a tree with his lantern and staff on the ground. Sesshomaru let himself transform partially in his true form and crept up behind the boy. He didn’t even care if the boy could hear his footsteps or the crackling of leaves underneath his feet. He was a small human. Sesshomaru would be able to handle this.

The boy turned and screamed as Sesshomaru growled and exposed his sharp fangs.

The boy quickly grabbed his staff and pointed it at Sesshomaru. Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes and grinned. “So, you want to play?” he asked, sinisterly.

It was then that it happened. He thought he heard someone shout his name before everything went black.

***

Sesshomaru shook his head at the memory and cast it out of his mind as he rested against the tree. He breathed for a moment in the darkness before letting his eyes close again. He wanted to think of something else, anything else, but his mind fast forwarded through his incident with Hitoshi and picked up where he returned to camp after his time spent recuperating and training with Bokusenō.

“Sesshomaru, you’re back. We missed you,” Eito said, as he walked up to where his group usually met before completing a mission. Everyone was there except Koji.

Sesshomaru remained silent.

“It’s good to see you, Sesshomaru,” Naoki smiled.

“You look good,” Isao said.

“Yes, you do,” Daichi agreed.

“If you’re looking for Koji, he’s not here,” Riichi said.

“I wasn’t,” Sesshomaru responded, coldly. He wasn’t an idiot. He could see that Koji wasn’t there.

“What he means to say is that Koji –

“Has been given new responsibilities and won’t be training with us anymore,” Daichi spoke over Naoki.

“Yes,” Naoki said, with a nod.

Sesshomaru didn’t react. He leaned against the fence waiting for the training session to begin.

“Hey! What’s your problem?!” Isao shouted. “Don’t you even care?!”

Sesshomaru ignored him. He didn't need to answer to anyone. Koji’s departure confused him, but it wasn’t his business. 

“Eh, give him some space,” Riichi said, calming down the group, mostly Isao.

Sesshomaru’s “friends'” comments at their spot under the moon changed everything for him. They weren’t his friends. They were just fellow recruits he was required to practice with and complete missions with until he was officially initiated as an official troop member. They were nothing to him anymore. He avoided all idle chit-chat with them and kept any necessary conversations short and sweet. He placed no regard for their welfare during missions, as he took a stance that everyone had the right and capability to defend themselves.

Sesshomaru’s visits to their regular meetings at the moon stopped. The training group encouraged him to go, after they noticed his absences, but he refused. As much as he did miss those nights, they were over for him. Despite being curious about Koji, his whereabouts and whether he was still attending the moon meetings, Sesshomaru still refused to attend, even though he had not seen Koji at all since the incident. Although he remembered that Koji was the only one on his side on the night of the moon incident, Sesshomaru had to move on and focus on him. He was training himself to conceal his emotions. In doing so, he refused to show concern or empathy towards anyone, even if it was Koji. Hell, Koji could have just been putting on a front to secure his spot on Sesshomaru’s leadership team if he were to become General on day. The way Sesshomaru felt so betrayed by everyone that night, he didn’t put it past Koji to do something like that. Instead, Sesshomaru used his free time to train night and day. Weakness would not be associated with him.

After a while, his “friends” gave up on trying to engage with him and went on about their lives without him. It was all they could do. It was all Sesshomaru would let them do. From the time Sesshomaru shattered his relationships with them and left the troop for good many years later, they only had three significant interactions that he could remember.

“Sesshomaru,” Riichi said.

“What is it?” he answered.

“I thought you should know that Hanako gave birth last night. I’m a father now.”

Sesshomaru kept walking.

“It’s a boy. We named him Kenj –

“Congratulations,” he said, still walking.

“Koji’s pup should be coming any day now too,” he added.

Sesshomaru remained silent as he walked off into the distance.

The next significant interaction was when the training group was performing Pin Point to get initiated as official troop members. The group was assigned to subdue giant praying mantis demons on the border of the Western Lands. They were tasked with extracting a fang from their own mouths and thrusting it into the demon to put it into a deep sleep. It was said that later after the initiation ceremony, troop members would come back and release the fangs out of pray mantis demons.

Each of his training group members had completed the task successfully: Isao, Riichi, Eito, Daichi and Naoki. They each thrust their fangs into a safe region on the praying mantis demons’ bodies like their stomachs or legs. When it was Sesshomaru’s turn, he pierced his fang right through the demon’s neck. Green blood squirted everywhere.

“What was that?” Isao yelled.

“Sesshomaru, you hit a critical artery,” a troop member yelled.

“He’s not going to make it, sir,” another troop member shouted to General Inu no Taishō, who sighed in disappointment.

Sesshomaru huffed. “I completed the technique. It’s not my fault, he moved to the left.”

“He didn’t move to the left! You did that on purpose!” Isao yelled.

“Prove it,” Sesshomaru responded.

Isao growled.

After a long pause and a look into space, General Inu no Taishō nodded at his son. “You pass,” he said.

Sesshomaru smirked and walked away.

“I know you did that on purpose, you sadistic –

“Why, Sesshomaru?” Eito asked.

Without a word, he walked away.

The last significant interaction he had with his training group was the one that changed his whole life. It was the day he learned of his mother’s plan to get a new successor for the region.

“Sesshomaru,” Daichi said, as he caught Sesshomaru walking.

Daichi wasn’t alone. Every one of his training group members were there, except Koji of course.

“What is it?” he asked, looking up, surprised to see them all.

“I don’t know what you did to piss your mother off this time, but she’s turned against you,” Daichi said.

“Turned against me?” he asked, confused.

“Your mother invited troop members to battle each other for the position of successor of the Western Lands,” Eito said. “It will be later today at the main courtyard.”

Sesshomaru looked at him.

“Lady Inukimi said that you aren’t fit to run this land and that she is welcoming the opportunity for others who deserve it to take it,” Naoki added.

“Did she?” Sesshomaru asked, looking at each of their faces.

“She did,” Isao said. “Some have already signed up,” he added.

Sesshomaru huffed. He could feel his blood boiling.

“We didn’t say this to upset  you,” Eito said.

“We just thought you should know,” Riichi added.

“I suppose you’ll be there too,” Sesshomaru commented.

“How could you even say that?!” Isao shouted. “We’re here telling you about it right now!”

“We’re your friends, Sesshomaru,” Eito said.

“I don’t have any friends,” Sesshomaru said, as he soared into the air towards the main courtyard.

That was it. After that day, he only saw his training group in passing on the battlefield of the Panther Wars. He never did see Koji again. He hadn’t thought about them until now, on his way back home.

***

Sesshomaru managed to get a few hours of sleep before he rose and headed into the skies for flight.

Before returning to his homeland the last time to retrieve the Meidō Stone from his mother to save Inuyasha, he hadn’t returned out of anger. He resented his mother, her actions, what she thought of him and how worthless and weak he made her feel. He never wanted to see her face again. He wanted to leave and prove her wrong, defeating the most powerful opponents alive. He wanted to prove everyone wrong. He wanted to surpass his father.

If Sesshomaru regretted anything, he regretted how reacting to his mother’s words and manipulation cost the troop a number of warriors, his father’s warriors, who his father taught, admired and respected. He slaughtered his brothers in cold blood because of it. It was because she was trying to wager his inheritance. It was because of his pride.

Before his mind went down the rabbit whole of assessing all of the reasons why he could not stand his mother, he stopped himself. If he really thought about it, his mother wasn’t the issue. If anything, he should have been thanking her. If it wasn’t for her lecture, he wouldn’t have uncovered the true sentiments of his so-called “friends,” who really thought he was weak like everyone else did. The heart of the matter was that everyone in the Western Lands, even the ones he trusted the most thought he was weak and unfit to lead. The only one who thought he was worth a damn was his father, but since he acted like such an asshole thinking that everyone was against him and that his father was a weak being himself, he pushed him away, only to have him turn on him as well and have him blocked from his new “redo” family with the house beyond the barrier. The only being in the whole world who actually gave a shit about him and had total confidence and faith in him, with no strings attached, was Rin.

To Sesshomaru, everything about the Western Lands was fucked up. As he thought about it, he was glad everything went down the way that it did. What joy would there be in governing a region that didn’t have faith in him anyway? At the end of the day, it didn’t even matter. Sesshomaru didn’t intend to stay there. He was planning a life elsewhere in the house beyond the barrier. The sooner he arrived, the sooner he could leave.

Chapter Text

Sesshomaru reached the castle of the Western Lands by morning. Just as they had done the last time he visited, the guards on duty bowed down below as they watched him fly overhead. Sesshomaru kept his eyes forward and flew over the castle to Far Grounds.

It hadn’t changed at all. The sandy field was still filled with various obstacle courses and training props, the same from his youth. Sesshomaru watched troop members and recruits down below practicing. Some were sparring with swords, while others were engaged in hand-to-hand combat.

Although he was aware that he had been seen, Sesshomaru was grateful that no one engaged him. Those who were practicing kept practicing, and those who were shadowing kept shadowing. Those who were merely walking about paused for a moment to look at him, but kept their distance. It worked for Sesshomaru just fine. He was in no mood for any questions or comments from anyone. He just wanted to get what he needed and leave.

Sesshomaru huffed and landed in the center of Far Grounds.  He transformed into his humanoid form and walked steadily toward the dome-shaped wooden building known as the Pen. It would be there that he would find the whereabouts of Kureijī Tīsu.

When Sesshomaru reached the large wooden doors of the Pen, he stopped. Sesshomaru, despite being adamant about not caring about the Western Lands and those within it, couldn’t help but feel nervous. He didn’t know who’d be behind the door. When his father was in charge, upon entering the Pen, all troop members knew that either his father, Lieutenant General Tomoshiro, Major General Naoyuki, Colonel Aito, Lieutenant Colonel Fumihiro, or all or a mixture of the group would be inside. They were his father’s leadership team. The Pen was for them and any other troop members they cared to invite. With General Inu no Taishō deceased and his mother supposedly in charge “taking care of his responsibility,” Sesshomaru had no idea who would be behind the door.

Sesshomaru sniffed the air to try and catch a lingering familiar scent around the door, but there it was superfluous. All he could do was enter blindly and hope for the best. For once, he hoped that his mother would be lounging behind the door alone. It would be then that he’d have a real chance of getting what he needed. If it were anyone else, he might have a real challenge. He destroyed a significant number of troop members in the past. Although he had did come back to support the troop and the region during the Panther Wars, he was sure that what he did was neither forgotten nor forgiven.

Sesshomaru took a breath and pushed the door. Of all the days, it was locked. The Pen was rarely ever locked when he was at Far Grounds. He’d have to knock… and wait for someone to let him in. Damn.

Sesshomaru sighed.

Sesshomaru felt like a real child pounding his fist on the door. His stomach turned in silence as he waited for a response. He hated that he was standing there like an idiot waiting to be let in.

What if they didn’t let him in? What if they could see him through some secret peep hole in the door and were laughing at him and how stupid he was for even thinking that they’d even consider letting him in. It was humiliating. He wished hadn’t knocked at all.

There was no use in dwelling on the “what ifs.” He needed to go in and handle what he needed to. The sooner he did so, the sooner he could leave and never return again.

Sesshomaru held his hand to pound on the door again, but stopped himself. He wasn’t doing this. He’d find another way to find Kureijī Tīsu. Yes, it would probably take a significant amount of time to find him, but he would make it happen. He didn’t need anyone. He didn’t need anyone to help him, especially anyone in there.

Sesshomaru put his hand at his side and turned to leave. His stomach sank for a moment as he heard the door unlock and creak open. Sesshomaru’s stomach sank as he looked back.

Sesshomaru stood still as he looked into the eyes of a familiar face. It was Naoki.

“Who is it?” he heard another familiar voice call from within the Pen.

Both Sesshomaru and Naoki’s eyes widened.

“It’s… it’s Sesshomaru,” Naoki said in a low, shocked voice.

There was a long silence within the Pen. Before he could process what might be going on inside, the large door opened wider. There in the doorway stood five sets of wide eyes looking back at him. It was Naoki, Eito, Riichi, Isao and Daichi.

“Sesshomaru,” Riichi said, looking into his eyes.

Sesshomaru stood in the doorway unable to move. He wanted to do something. He wanted to seem unfazed, unbothered and indifferent. He wanted show nothing, any type of dissatisfaction… anything! Instead, all he could do was smirk.

The group looked into his eyes for a moment shocked before they smirked right back at him.

“Come in,” Naoki smiled, opening the door wider.

Sesshomaru walked in and looked at the inside of the Pen. It was the same as it had always been. He stood in the center of the room and watched as the rest of his old friends stood around him.

“It’s been a long time,” Daichi said, with a nod, as he looked at his old friend.

Sesshomaru looked at Daichi. He couldn’t read his face. It was an art of Daichi’s that Sesshomaru worked to adopt for himself. In this moment, he was curious to know.

“It has,” Isao agreed, looking down as he played with his claws.

Sesshomaru didn’t want to feel nervous. He didn’t want to have that stupid smirk on his face. Sesshomaru wanted to ignore them and demand the information he wanted, but he was a slave to his own body. He couldn’t control what he wanted to do.

Sesshomaru glanced at Isao and the rest of the group. Although everyone seemed to have the same nervous smile on their face, he could sense a sort of tension in the room, not of anger or strife, but of something else… unfinished business. It was awkward.

“You look good,” Naoki said, trying to break the awkward silence. “You’re mokomoko grew longer.”

Sesshomaru watched at Isao rolled his eyes. If Isao were to speak, Sesshomaru imagined that he would have probably say something snarky to Naoki like “after all this time, this is what you have to say?” But, Isao just remained silent.

He imagined Daichi saying something sarcastic like, “look at that, a sign of adulthood,” but he remained silent too.

The lack of response and interaction from everyone made everything all the more awkward.

“Yeah, it’s dragging the ground now,” Riichi said, breaking the silence after Naoki’s comment.

Sesshomaru looked at his mokomoko.

“Soon it’ll be as dirty as Koji,” Eito commented.

Sesshomaru wondered where Koji had been. The last he heard about Koji was that he had been given new responsibilities and wouldn’t be training with the group anymore, which he didn’t, and that his pup was going to be born soon. Sesshomaru hadn’t seen Koji at all, not even during the Panther Wars. He was curious.

“Where is Koji?” Sesshomaru asked.

Sesshomaru watched as the group went silent and looked in different directions. He watched as Naoki shook his head and looked at the wooden floor, and Isao ran his claws through his gray hair and turned away.

As Riichi, who was straightening and re-curling his curly hair, opened his mouth to speak, there was a sound of a hard crash against the roof of the Pen. The walls shook and small pieces of wood fell from the ceiling.

“What was that?” Eito asked, his eyes wide, and his body in a stance prepared for an earthquake.

Daichi closed his eyes and shook his head.

Isao rolled his eyes as Eito and Naoki looked at the ceiling of raining wooden particles. “Not what… who.”

Riichi sighed and walked past Sesshomaru to the door of the Pen. Daichi huffed and followed him outside.

“Kenjiro! Saicho! Hiroto!” Riichi shouted. “Come here now!”

Kenjiro? Saicho? Hiroto? Those names sounded so familiar to Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru peered outside and saw three young dog demons in their true forms wagging their tails by the door. His eyes widened. They were the same young dog demons from the first night he had visited the castle months ago, all except one. Sesshomaru remembered them saying that they had family who knew him, but he didn’t imagine this.

“Transform!” Riichi shouted.

The three young dog demons immediately transformed and sighed.

“What did I say about you coming around the Pen?! Why don’t you listen, Kenjiro?!” Riichi yelled at the one with gray curly hair. They resembled each other.

“I’m sorry, Father,” Kenjiro bowed his head.

“We were practicing this really cool flying technique we learned today,” the brown dog answered.

“Of course you were, Saicho,” Daichi huffed.

“We were though,” Saicho said. “Kenjiro lost control and –

“Be quiet,” Daichi said, shaking his head in aggravation.

“No, I didn’t! We were trying to stop you!” Kenjiro shouted at his friend.

“Hiroto?” Naoki asked, with a sigh.

“Ugh. Saicho said that he thought he saw Lord Sesshomaru enter the Pen and wanted to check,” the slender white dog demon with brown patches responded. “We –

Sesshomaru’s eyebrow rose.

“That’s not true!” Saicho shouted in Hiroto’s face, who growled in return.

“It’s not?” Daichi asked.

“No, it’s not true!” Saicho shouted.

“So, you didn’t think you saw Lord Sesshomaru? And you didn’t drag them along to check it out?” Daichi asked.

“We weren’t dragged along,” Kenjiro responded. “We went to stop him.”

“Like we believe that,” Isao laughed, as Kenjiro looked down.

“You’re not allowed to be by the Pen,” Riichi said, looking at his son. “You’re not members.”

Kenjiro kept his eyes down.

“But that’s not true. Non-initiated members are not allowed to go into the Pen. There is no rule that says anything about non-initiated members being around it,” Saicho smirked.

“He has a point,” Eito nodded, looking at Riichi.

“Shut up,” Riichi snarled at Eito. “The Pen is serious. You’ll go blind,” he said, looking at the boys.

“Give it up, Riichi. We all know that’s bullshit,” Isao laughed.

Sesshomaru smirked. He remembered Riichi telling that same story the day he first met him on line on his first day as a recruit. Nobody believed it then either.

Naoki glanced at Sesshomaru inside the Pen and quickly looked away when he noticed him look back at him.

“Watch your mouth in front of my son,” Riichi hissed, not taking his eyes off of Kenjiro.

“Come off it, Riichi. You know their language is worse than all of ours combined,” Isao laughed.

“It is not,” Saicho said.

“Especially Saicho’s,” Isao laughed even harder.

“If Mother only knew,” Daichi huffed.

“Shut up! I learned it from you, smart ass,” Saicho responded.

“See. My point exactly,” Isao laughed.

“So, you weren’t lurking around here to see if you could see Lord Sesshomaru,” Daichi asked his brother.

“I said ‘no,’” Saicho responded in an aggravated tone. “We were practicing a new technique. Kenjiro’s just embarrassed that he can’t fly.”

“Why you!” Kenjiro growled.

“Stop!” Riichi scolded his son.

“That’s a shame. He’s actually here,” Daichi said.

Kenjiro looked at Hiroto with wide eyes.

“What?” Hiroto asked.

“Lord Sesshomaru? The Lord of the Western Lands. That Lord Sesshomaru?” Kenjiro looked at his father for verification.

Riichi looked at his son. “Yes, your Uncle Sesshomaru, Lord of the Western Lands, my training group brother,” he responded.

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes. Uncle?

“No way,” Hiroto said, looking at Naoki.

“Yes, Brother,” Naoki responded.

“He’s really in there?” Hiroto asked.

“Yeah,” Daichi responded.

“Bullshit,” Saicho said.

Riichi looked at Isao, who looked at Daichi, who peered inside. Sesshomaru caught Daichi’s eye. When Daichi smirked, Sesshomaru couldn’t help but smirk back. With a sigh, he walked to the door. The three boys gasped.

“It’s really Lord Sesshomaru!” Saicho shouted. “I told you I was right!” he yelled at his friends.

“What was that, Brother?” Daichi asked.

Saicho ignored him and blushed.

“What is he doing here?” Hiroto asked Naoki.

“Is there going to be another war?” Kenjiro asked, his father directly.

Riichi shook his head. “Relax. Your uncle is just visiting,” he responded, running a claw through his son’s hair.

“Aren’t you going to say something, big mouth?” Daichi asked Saicho, when he didn’t piggyback off his friends questions.

“So, does that mean Kenjiro has to call him Uncle Sesshomaru?”  Saicho laughed.

“Shut up,” Kenjiro glared at him.

“You’re a fool,” Daichi said, to his little brother. “If that were true, he’d be calling everyone here ‘uncle’… Eito, Isao, Naoki and me. Does he do that, idiot?”

“Whatever,” Saicho rolled his eyes.

“It’s just Sesshomaru,” Riichi answered the question. “Well, Lord Sesshomaru, I guess,” he laughed.

Sesshomaru smirked and looked away.

“You’ll have to ignore my brother,” Daichi smirked at Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru looked at the three boys, who made and effort not to look into his eyes.

“Why so shy now, big mouth?” Daichi asked. “Say something.”

“Hello,” Saicho glanced at Sesshomaru.

“Hi,” Riicho and Hiroto said.

Sesshomaru wanted to remain silent, but he managed to let out a “hello.”

“This is my brother, Hiroto,” Naoki shook his brother’s shoulder.

“This is Saicho, my little brother,” Daichi said.

“And this is Kenjiro, my son,” Riichi said.

Sesshomaru watched as Kenjiro glanced at him, twirled his curly hair and looked away. He must have inherited the same nervous habit Riichi had.

“I don’t think you’ve ever met my son,” Riichi continued.

Sesshomaru could hear a hint of aggression in Riichi’s voice. He knew that he was bitter that he never made the effort to see or acknowledge his son when he was born long ago. He didn’t blame him.

Kenjiro’s eyes widened and shifted as he glanced at Saicho and Hiroto. From his reaction, Sesshomaru knew that they remembered meeting him a few months ago. He saw sure that they feared that he would rat them out.

“No, not officially,” Sesshomaru responded.

“Hmm,” Riichi responded, clawing his son’s hair.

“He’s gotten so big,” Eito said, trying to break the tension forming. “I remember when he could fit in the palm of my hand.”

“Yeah,” Naoki agreed, catching on to Eito’s mission. “Kenjiro was so small,” he said.

“He was a little blob of curls,” Isao laughed.

“Ha!” Saicho laughed.

Sesshomaru watched as Kenjiro blushed and looked down in embarrassment. Riichi glared at him.

“What are you laughing about? You were so fat!” Daichi said.

“You were a butterball,” Eito laughed, in agreement.

Hiroto and Kenjiro laughed. “Saicho was fat?”

“He had like three chins,” Isao laughed.

“Yeah, you had three chins,” Daichi he said, with a smirk. “Greedy bastard drained our mother dry.”

“Shut up! I’m still her favorite!” Saicho shouted at Daichi.

“Great. Take that title and wear it with pride,” Daichi nodded.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Saicho shouted at him, in confusion.

“He’s not like you at all, Daichi. You two are like night and day,” Eito laughed. “You’re calm and he’s… not.”

“My parents had it right the first time. I don’t know why they even bothered to try again for him,” Daichi commented, shoving his brother forward.

“Maybe it was an accident,” Naoki said. “That’s what happened when my parents had Hiroto.”

Hiroto cringed.

“Ugh, that’s gross,” Saicho said.

“It is. Our parents had no business having sex in the first place. Their time had passed,” Daichi commented. “The way I see it, Saicho was their punishment.”

“Ew! Stop, Daichi!” Saicho shouted.

“What? It’s true. No business at all,” Daichi shook his head.

Sesshomaru watched as the majority of the group laughed. He just smirked.

“Aw, you don’t mean that,” Eito said.

“My parents having no business having sex?” Daichi asked.

“Stop!” Saicho shouted.

“What? Am I embarrassing you?” Daichi smirked at him.

“No, that Saicho was a punishment. You don’t mean that,” Eito clarified.

“Oh, I do,” Daichi replied. “I love him like nobody else, but he’s out of control.”

“He is pretty wild,” Isao agreed.

“Well, Hiroto and Kenjiro level him out,” Naoki smiled.

Daichi shook his head. “Don’t make me laugh. Those two are just as bad as him. The roof of the Pen damn-near caved in because of the three of them.”

“They are not,” Riichi replied. “Kenjiro and Hiroto have their moments, but they are overall level-headed.

Naoki nodded. “I agree.”

Daichi laughed. “Right.”

“If anyone is level-headed in that group it’s Akihiko,” Isao said, with a laugh. “He’s just like –

Isao stopped mid-sentence and looked away. Sesshomaru noticed as his training group members looked down. Something seemed off.

“Just like who?” Saicho asked, in curiosity.

“None of your business,” Daichi said. “Get out of here, all of you.”

“But –

“Now!”

As Saicho argued with his brother, Sesshomaru found it the perfect time to get what he needed. With everyone distracted, he walked back into the Pen and began shuffling through scrolls on the large wooden table in the center of the room.

“What are you looking for?” he heard Isao ask, a few minutes later.

Sesshomaru looked up and saw Isao standing in the room with the rest of his training group. As ordered, the three young dog demons had gotten lost.

“The map of the Western Providences,” Sesshomaru said.

“It’s over here,” Riichi said, pulling out a large scroll from a shelf against the wall next to the table. He opened it slightly and handed it to Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru opened the scroll and let his eyes scan the old drawings on the map. He closed his eyes and sighed in frustration. “This map tells me nothing,” he said.

The group looked at each other confused.

“This map shows the terrain of the region,” Riichi said, with a confused look.

“What are you looking for?” Daichi asked.

“Who are the inhabitants of this land?” Sesshomaru asked, looking down at the scroll.

“What do you mean?” Naoki asked, giving the rest of the group a puzzled look.

Sesshomaru scanned the drawings of mountains and water on the tattered map as his training group members walked around the table to look at the map.

“Well, we’re here,” Eito said, pointing to the center of the map.

“The bombfish demons are somewhere here,” Daichi said.

“And the bay creatures are around here somewhere, I think,” Riichi said.

“No, no. They’re not. They moved a few decades back over here somewhere,” Isao corrected Riichi.

“Oh, yeah. You’re right,” Riichi said.

“I know a human village is somewhere in between this area and that one,” Naoki said.

“And there is one over here somewhere too,” Eito added.

“Where is Kureijī Tīsu?” Sesshomaru asked, getting to the point.

The group looked at the map for a moment before Riichi scratched his head and let his index finger circle the northern region of the map. “I know he’s somewhere up here.”

“You do not know where exactly?” Sesshomaru asked, in a calm steady voice.

Sesshomaru watched as Riichi shook his head. “No, not exactly.”

Sesshomaru sighed.

“Your father did,” Sesshomaru heard a familiar voice say.

Everyone looked up. In the doorway of the Pen stood Lieutenant General Tomoshiro. His eyes widened. “Uncle,” he couldn’t help but say.

“Sesshomaru,” the Lieutenant General responded, as he walked over to the large table. “I thought I smelled your scent.”

Sesshomaru looked at him. He had not seen him since the Panther Wars. He wasn’t wearing his armor anymore, and he could see long strains of gray in his brown hair, but he looked mostly the same with a few more wrinkles on his face. Sesshomaru wondered if his father would be gray like this if he were alive, but pushed the though aside, as he wouldn’t be able to really tell since his hair was silver like his.

“It is nice to see that you have returned,” he said.

Sesshomaru breathed and looked down at the map. Tomoshiro was a lot like his father, a hard intimidating being. He didn’t dare look into his eyes.

“Your father knew this land and all its inhabitants like the back of his hand,” Tomoshiro said, scanning the map on the table with his eyes. “He didn’t need a map.”

Sesshomaru didn’t respond. He believed it. His father knew this land better than anyone.

“Who or what do you seek, Sesshomaru?” Tomoshiro asked.

Sesshomaru couldn’t bring himself to respond. He wished he wasn’t there.

“He’s looking for Kureijī Tīsu, I think,” Naoki said.

“Is that correct, Sesshomaru?” Tomoshiro asked.

“Yes, sir,” Sesshomaru answered.

Sesshomaru watched as Isao, Daichi and Riicho shot each other looks at his response.

Tomoshiro nodded. “Hmm,” he said, looking at the map.

After a long bit of silence, Sesshomaru asked, “Do you know where he resides?”

In that moment, Sesshomaru heard light shuffling and two thumps coming from the roof. Small wooden particles fell like rain onto the papers on the large wooden table.

Tomoshiro sighed and looked up at the ceiling.

“Are you fucking serious?” Daichi muttered to Naoki and Riichi, who shook their heads.

“You need to control those three,” Tomoshiro looked at Daichi, Riichi and Naoki. “They’re too old for this and I’m getting too old for this.”

“Yes, sir,” they each nodded.

“Did they crack the roof?” Tomoshiro asked, squinting at the ceiling.

Sesshomaru saw a long crack that formed in the center of the ceiling.

“I don’t know, sir,” Daichi responded.

“I’m holding you three responsible for having this repaired,” Tomoshiro growled.

“Yes, sir,” they bowed.

“Renegades,” Tomoshiro huffed. “How many times do I have to say that this is not a playground?”

Riichi sighed.

“Let me go see what happened,” Tomoshiro growled, as he walked towards the door.

“Do you know where Kureijī Tīsu resides?” Sesshomaru asked Tomoshiro again.

“What do you mean?” Tomoshiro asked, as he turned to Sesshomaru. “Knowing where the inhabitants of this land reside is none of my concern,” he responded.

“As second command to my father, it is your duty to know this territory,” Sesshomaru said, coldly.

“As Lieutenant General to the Great General Inu no Taishō, yes, it was my duty to know this territory and its inhabitants. Now that my general is deceased, my duties are no longer required,” he responded.

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes. “No longer required?”

“Let me say this again to you,” Tomoshiro said, walking over to look into his eyes. “I love this land and I loved serving this land under the leadership of your father. I have gladly defended and served this land as General and Overseer in the absence of one, but I stand down when one is present,” he glared into his eyes.

It was the same speech Tomoshiro gave Sesshomaru when he returned to help during the Panther Wars. Tomoshiro would not lead or direct. He forced Sesshomaru to serve as General and direct the troops the way he saw fit. Tomoshiro provided guidance, but he forced Sesshomaru to take the lead.

“I’m not winning this war for you. There are many lives at stake here and it’s up to you to defend us. You are fit to lead and more than capable of leading us to victory. I will help, but I am not doing your job,” he remembered Tomoshiro’s speech. “Either you step up and lead or leave.”

Sesshomaru looked away.

“Look at me,” Tomoshiro said at Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru huffed and looked into Tomoshiro’s eyes.

“I’m won’t force you to do anything you don’t want to. If you don’t want to lead and take your rightful place as Overseer of this land, then don’t. No one is forcing you,” Tomoshiro said. “I have no problem assuming the role of General under the sovereign direction of your mother, and training your brothers to take over as a team when I retire.”

Sesshomaru noticed Isao and Riichi looking at him. They changed their focus when they saw him look in their direction.

“You can’t have one foot in and one foot out. You need to make a sound decision regarding what you want to do,” Tomoshiro said, sternly. “…Based on all of the facts,” he added, looking at Sesshomaru’s training brothers.

Sesshomaru was confused. He had no idea what he meant.

“You need to inform him,” Tomoshiro said, looking at his training brothers.

The group looked at each other.

“You need to inform him,” Tomoshiro repeated, sternly. “It’s time.”

Sesshomaru looked into Tomoshiro’s eyes. He felt nervous. What did he need to be informed of?

“You stay here and listen,” Tomoshiro told Sesshomaru, sternly, as he turned to leave.

Tomoshiro gave Sesshomaru a long hard look before glancing at his training group members.

The group was silent as Tomoshiro exited the Pen and closed the door behind him.

“What is it?” Sesshomaru asked, after no one said a word.

“Koji is dead,” Daichi said, calmly, after a long pause.

Sesshomaru’s eyes shifted as he tried his best to process Daichi’s words.

“He was killed,” Daichi continued, still calm.

Sesshomaru could feel his mouth open slightly in shock. He just couldn’t think or process the words coming out of Daichi’s mouth. Sesshomaru felt himself close his eyes and shake his head. It wasn’t true.

“It’s true,” Riichi bowed his head, at Sesshomaru’s reaction. “Koji is gone.”

Sesshomau huffed. It wasn’t true. He wasn’t dead. He wasn’t killed. They were just saying this. They were saying this to get at him, to get back at him for leaving for so long. It wasn’t true. Fuck them! It wasn’t true! He wasn’t going to stay to hear this bullshit… some sick scheme they cooked up to guilt-trip into leading! No! Fuck that! Fuck them!

Sesshomaru moved to leave.

Eito put his hand on his chest to stop him.

“Get… out… of my way,” Sesshomaru said, as calmly as he could, as he tried to walk around Eito. He was beyond livid and just wanted to keep it together. He needed to calm down and just leave. He didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of seeing him upset by their trick.

“No, Sessh,” Eito said, pressing his hand on his chest.

“I said get out of my way,” Sesshomaru repeated, slapping his hand away. His calm demeanor was beginning to fade.

Daichi walked over and stood in front of Sesshomaru with Eito, followed by Isao, Naoki and Riichi.

“Sesshomaru, you need to calm down and listen to us,” Daichi said, looking into his eyes.

Sesshomaru smirked. Calm down. How dare they?

Sesshomaru could feel his blood boiling. Even for them, this was a low blow. And, his Uncle Tomoshiro was a part of this scheme too?! He wanted him to stand there and listen this bullshit?! He couldn’t stand this. Sesshomaru felt so betrayed. Tomoshiro was probably the one who concocted this whole charade in the first place. He knew what Koji meant to him. He probably had it all cooked up and ready to use if and when he returned home. Koji was probably alive and well making tins somewhere in his family’s hut right then. It was cruel. Maybe it was punishment for him killing the troops long ago. Sesshomaru didn’t know. He couldn’t think. His thoughts were getting jumbled and he didn’t know if what he was thinking was even making sense. All he knew for sure was that he felt nothing but hatred for every single person in that room, including his Uncle Tomoshiro, who had left. 

“I said, get out of my way!” Sesshomaru growled, losing all composure. He shoved those blocking the door.

The group clutched together and blocked his impact. Sesshomaru couldn’t move.

“Stop!” Eito shouted, as Sesshomaru struggled.

“Sesshomaru, stop! You need to listen!” Naoki shouted.

 Sesshomaru struggled and struggled until Daichi’s face turned bright red.

“Koji is dead!” Daichi screamed at Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru, surprised, looked into Daichi’s eyes. His usual calm demeanor and disposition were gone. His face was red and tears were streaming down his face. Sesshomaru was shocked.

Growing up, Daichi would tell others when he was upset, but he never displayed it. He always managed to keep it together. Sesshomaru never saw him cry, scream or even look upset when he actually was. It was alarming and out-of-character, but authentic. He could really tell that Daichi was really upset. It was by his reaction that Sesshomaru knew it was true. Koji was really dead.

Sesshomaru’s eyes fluttered, as the room went silent. The only sounds he could hear were of Daichi’s heavy breathing, the forming sobs coming from the rest of the group, and the sound of his own heart beating in his ear.

“Do you remember the last night we were at our spot near Far Grounds under the moon?” Riichi asked.

“…The night Koji told us about Azami,” Isao said.

Sesshomaru’s mind traveled back to that night.

***

“I messed up. It shouldn’t have happened in the first place,” Koji said.

The group was silent.

“Look, you’re going to have to go back and explain all of this because I don’t understand what happened,” Isao said. “How do you accidentally have sex with someone?”

“I thought you and Izo were doing good,” Naoki commented.

Koji sighed. “We are… I mean… we were,” he said, in a low voice. “He won’t speak to me now. He might even quit working as an apprentice to my father. He can’t… he can’t bear to even look at me anymore.”

“Seriously, Koji, how did this happen?” Riichi asked.

There was a long pause. “It doesn’t matter. It’s over. I have a pup to worry about now,” he responded.

Isao shook his head. “So, you ‘accidentally’ had sex with someone, blew up the best relationship you’ve ever had with another other than us and your parents, and now you’re going to be a father all in the span of –

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened. “When did this happen?” he asked.

“A while ago,” he said, solemnly. “I didn’t want to bring it up.”

Sesshomaru breathed. He felt a certain way about all of this. Sure, he could understand Koji not wanting to share what happened to everyone in the group, but he thought that he would at least tell him. They were really close and always told each other everything… secrets and thoughts they didn’t feel comfortable telling the entire group. That’s what they had always done. Sesshomaru felt hurt that Koji didn’t trust him enough to tell him something so life-changing.

As the group trailed off to pester Koji about what happened, Sesshomaru got lost in thought. Things weren’t adding up.

***

“She likes you,” Koji smiled, as the young dark-haired dog demon walked past them in the hallway carrying towels.

Her name was Rei and she was one of the handmaidens in the castle. Sesshomaru saw her from time to time in the hallway. Although Rei was usually very busy completing tasks, she was always pleasant-looking and would either smile or wave at Sesshomaru. He liked the attention and thought she was cute, but he ignored her. She made him nervous.

Sesshomaru remained silent.

“Aw, you like her too, don’t you?” Koji laughed, nudging him. “Look, you’re getting all red in the face.”

“Silence,” Sesshomaru responded, trying to hide his smile.

“You should talk to her,” Koji encouraged him.

Sesshomaru huffed. “No.”

“She’s cute… and she clearly likes you too. You should go for it.”

Sesshomaru ignored him as they walked through the halls of the castle to his room.

Koji sighed. “Eh, I know how you feel, Sesshy.”

“How I feel?” he asked, sliding the door to his room open and closing it after Koji walked in. He watched Koji pull out a board game and set it on the ground. Sesshomaru sat down across from him and helped remove the game’s marbles and chip pieces.

“They make you nervous,” Koji said.

Sesshomaru looked at him confused.

“Girls, I mean. They make you nervous,” Koji said. “I get it.”

Sesshomaru looked at him.

“The same thing used to happen to me with girls I liked,” he said, sorting out the marbles and chips. “It was way worse when I was around Izo though,” he laughed.

“Worse?”

“I was a wreck when I was around him. I was a stuttering fool,” he laughed. “I couldn’t put one sentence together and I dropped things around like I was crazy. He must have thought I was insane,” Koji laughed.

Sesshomaru sorted his chips and listened.

“It’s a part of life. If you really like someone, you’re going to be nervous and probably embarrass yourself to no end,” he said. “But, it’s all worth it.”

“You think so?”

“I do,” Koji responded. “It’s even better when they are just as nervous as you are. Izo used to rub the back of his head a lot when we first started talking. I thought he knew that I liked him was anxious to get away from me, but he later told me that I made him nervous too,” he laughed.

Sesshomaru made the first move of the game. As Koji pondered his move, Sesshomaru sighed. “What’s it like to kiss someone?” he asked.

“What? Is this some tactic to distract me from the game?” Koji laughed. “Uh, I don’t know. It’s pretty embarrassing the first few times. I didn’t know exactly what to do with myself, where to put my hands, how to move my head, where to… yah know… put my tongue and all that. With Izo, we had a hard time figuring out how to have our teeth not clang every time too.”

Sesshomaru’s eyes shifted. It didn’t sound great.

“But, when we finally figured it out, it was pretty nice,” he said, scratching his temple as he thought. “But, when you make out with someone… that’s amazing. I can’t even describe it… your mind goes blank and you get this amazing feeling that goes through your whole body.”

Sesshomaru listened. “Is that what sex is like?” he asked.

“Probably, but a hundred times better,” he responded, placing his piece down on the board.

Sesshomaru was surprised. “You’ve never had sex before?” he asked, placing his piece on the board.

“No, not yet,” he said.

“But, you and Izo have been together for so long… and you’ve been with girls too,” he said.

“Yup,” Koji answered, as he thought of his next move.

Koji set his piece down and looked at Sesshomaru. “Just because you’re with someone doesn’t mean that you have to have sex with them within a certain period of time,” he said. “There’s no rush. It happens when it happens.”

Sesshomaru placed his pieced down.

“What a stupid question, Sesshy,” Koji said. “You’re my best friend. If I ever have sex with anyone, besides the one I do it with, which’ll most likely be Izo, you’ll be the first to know,” he said.

Sesshomaru smirked. “That’s gross.”

“So, have I convinced you to talk to that girl, Sesshy?” Koji asked. “Obviously, you want to kiss her,” he laughed.

“Silence!” Sesshomaru huffed, trying not to blush.

“…And have sex with her,” Koji laughed even harder.

“SILENCE!” Sesshomaru repeated, as he threw a pillow at his friend.

***

It didn’t make sense to Sesshomaru. If Koji had sex with someone, he would have told him. If there was someone else, he would have known about that too. Things weren’t adding up right.

“What happened?” Sesshomaru asked, directly, over the rest of the group under the large full moon up above.

Koji sighed. “I just want to let it die,” he responded.

“Let it die?” Sesshomaru asked aloud. Those were harsh words.

“We’re not trying to be perverts or anything, Koji, we just want to understand what happened,” Riichi said.

“If it makes you feel any better, we’ll all share a sexual experience we’ve had,” Isao said.

“And that’s not perverted?” Daichi asked.

“Shut up, I’m just trying to be fair,” Isao responded. “We’ll each share something and then you tell us what happened.”

Koji moaned. “No.”

“Who wants to start?”

The group was silent.

“Come one, guys,” Isao said.

“I’ll go, I guess,” Riichi said. “Uh, Hanako and I –

“Ugh, just stop,” Isao said. “No one wants to hear how you and Hanako conceived your spawn. Someone else, please.”

“You’re such a –

“I did it with a turtle demoness one time,” Eito said.

The group went silent.

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Isao laughed, with the others.

“That’s so random,” Naoki laughed.

“Eh, what can I say? Exotic demons love me,” Eito smiled.

The group laughed again. Even Koji laughed.

“And how the hell did that happen?” Isao asked.

“She pulled me into her shell and then she –

“Alright, let’s agree to call bullshit on that and move on,” Isao cut him off. “Let’s hear a true story.

“But, it is true!” Eito said.

“Right,” Isao said. “Sesshomaru, why don’t you go? I’m sure you’re full of a whole bunch of stories,” he said with a smile.

Sesshomaru’s stomach dropped. Only Koji knew that he was still a virgin and never even kissed a girl before. “No.”

“Come one, we’re trying to help Koji.”

“Then you say something,” Sesshomaru responded.

“I’m going last. You’re up now,” Isao said. “Now, spill it.”

“I really –                                    

“Okay,” Koji cut off Sesshomaru. “I’ll tell you,” he said.

Sesshomaru felt really grateful. He knew that Koji only spoke up to save him from having to make up a story or admit that he was practically the purest form of a virgin. Koji was always saving him. He was truly his best friend.

“It was with Azami,” Koji began.

Sesshomaru’s eyes narrowed. The name sounded familiar.

“Azami, the girl who used to always beg you to fix her jewelry in your father’s shop like five times a day?” Riichi asked.

Hearing Riichi’s comment, Sesshomaru remembered Koji talk about Azami. She was a young dog demon who seemed to be obsessed with him. Koji had always been nice to her, but things got weird when Koji started seeing Izo. She became even more obsessed and possessive. It wasn’t until Izo cursed her out one day and told her that Koji was not interested in her and never would be did she back off. Sesshomaru remembered Koji feeling guilty for some time after that, and was concerned when she stopped her visits, but it was for the best. He was ultimately relieved. She didn’t seem right in the head.

“You had sex with her?! How the fuck did that happen?!” Isao asked.

“I told you it was an accident,” Koji said.

“Some fucking accident! It must have been pitch black or a bag must have been over her head for you to have that accident,” Isao continued. “And, the last time I checked, you liked dicks. So, that must have been some accident.”

“Shut up,” Riichi scolded Isao.

“Let him explain,” Eito said.

Koji sighed. “Azami came to my house.”

“Your house? She knows where you live?” Eito asked.

“She’s a fucking stalker. Stalkers know everything,” Daichi responded.

“She said that she had a broken anklet that needed to be repaired as soon as possible and asked if I could help,” Koji continued. “It was a real simple fix. The chain seemed to have been ripped off. I had the tools in the house already, so I told her to come in and I’d fix it.”

The group listened.

“She sat in our dining area while I fixed the piece. It was no more than five minutes,” Koji said. “We talked about how life was going and the weather. She wanted to know if I was home alone or if my family was around. I told her that they were at the shop and that I was heading there myself.”

“I wouldn’t have told her that,” Isao said. “I wouldn’t have fixed her jewelry in the first place.”

“Let him talk,” Daichi said.

“Azami went from being tolerable and pleasant to really cold and harsh. She started criticizing Izo and saying that I could do better,” Koji continued. “I was annoyed. I told her not to talk about him. I said that she and I could be friends, but she needed to respect Izo and my choice to be with him.”

“What the fuck? Be friends with that crazy muff? Koji, seriously?” Isao went on.

“Shut up!” Riichi snapped. “Let him finish the fucking story!”

Isao and Riichi argued for a minute before Daichi broke up the fight and let Koji continue.

Koji sighed. “I fixed the anklet and gave it to her. She had an attitude and told me that she wanted it on her ankle.”  After a long pause, Koji said, “When I… when I knelt down to secure the anklet on her ankle… she kicked me really hard.”

“Kicked you?” Riichi asked.

Koji sighed. “Yeah.”

“Where did she kick you?”

“Right in the nuts,” Koji said.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened.

“Wow! Are you serious? She kicked you in the nuts?” Isao asked.

“That’s crazy!” Eito said.

“I was gone. I fell out on the floor just dying,” Koji said.

Sesshomaru could feel Koji’s pain. He knew it was an extremely painful experience. During hand-to-hand combat training, he got kicked in the nuts by his opponent. It was the worst pain he had ever felt in his whole life. The initial contact knocked the wind out of him. He collapsed on the ground in a throbbing pain that radiated throughout his body. He couldn’t move and there was nothing he could do about it except wait it out. After that, he made sure to put extra protection in his genital region to prevent that from ever happening again.

“She started laughing at first –

“What? What an asshole,” Riichi said.

“Sadist bitch,” Isao muttered.

Sesshomaru felt rage. How could she do that to him?

“I guess when she saw that I was really messed up, she started apologizing,” Koji said.

“Of course,” Naoki said.

“How kind of her,” Daichi said, sarcastically.

“She kept apologizing and apologizing,” Koji said. “And then she said, ‘let me make it better.’”

“Make it better? How the fuck would she do that?” Isao asked.

Koji didn’t speak.

“Koji?” Eito asked.

“She, uh, she –

The way Koji was acting was strange. It made Sesshomaru anxious.

“She… she…”

He couldn’t speak. His words wouldn’t come out. The group looked at each other with confused looks.

“Koji, what did she do?” Daichi asked.

Koji breathed.

“Koji?” Sesshomaru asked, in concern.

Koji took a breath and spoke. “She started rubbing my dick with her hand.”

Mouths dropped open, even Sesshomaru’s, as the group looked at each other.

“She kept saying that she’d make it better,” Koji said. “I could barely speak because everything just hurt so badly, but I told her to stop and pushed her hand away.”

Still no one said a word. Everyone was just in shock listening to what he had just said.

“She ignored me. She pulled it out with her hand and started rubbing it… It hurt like hell. I thought I was going to pass out,” he said. “I told her to stop, but she just wouldn’t. I guess she mistook my cries of pain for cries of pleasure. Who knows?”

Sesshomaru was shocked. He could barely breathe.

“I didn’t want her to touch me… and everything hurt so bad, but… but… I got hard anyway,” Koji continued. “She got all excited and started saying things like, ‘oh, I guess I am helping,’ and ‘I always knew you really liked me.’”

Sesshomaru wanted to throw up. It was disturbing listening to this. He was no longer surprised that Koji kept this from him.

“Before I knew it, she just put it in her mouth.”

Eito gasped.

“I begged her to stop. I begged her, but she wouldn’t,” he said.

Sesshomaru closed his eyes. He was filled with rage, he couldn’t even see straight.

“I didn’t want any of it, but I couldn’t stop it. I was begging her to get off me and leave,” he said.

Sesshomaru listened to the various sighs of his friends as Koji spoke.

“At first everything down there hurt like hell, but then the pain went away eventually,” he continued. “In my mind, I didn’t want to feel anything. I was telling myself not to feel anything, but I could feel everything I didn’t want to feel.”

“What do you mean?” Naoki asked.

“Every good feeling you get when you have sex with somebody… I felt it with her… but I didn’t want to,” he responded.

Sesshomaru’s rage shifted to sorrow. He felt so sorry for his friend.

“I confused her, I guess,’ Koji continued.

“Confused her?” Daichi asked.

“I really couldn’t control anything that was going on with me. I was telling her to get off me and leave… in between… uh, I don’t know,” he said.

“That’s not your fault,” Naoki said.

“How can you possibly make someone believe that you really want them to get off of you and leave in between breathless gasps and uncontrollable body twitches?” he responded. “My eyes were rolling in the back of my head for crying out loud.”

“It’s still not your fault,” Naoki said.

“I was sure I was going to cum in her mouth, but she just stopped,” Koji said. “When I thought she was going to get up to finally leave, she just pull her kimono and sat on me.”

“What a fucking asshole,” Isao hissed.

“Fortunately, it didn’t last very long… Afterwards, she just got up, apologized and left. She didn’t even take her anklet,” Koji said. “I just got up and cried about it for forever. When I came to terms that what happened and it was an accident, I just cleaned up the mess left on the floor and did my best to forget about it.”

The group was silent. It was evident that everyone was completely stunned. Sesshomaru could barely process what he had just said.

“That was not an accident, Koji,” Naoki said, after a long bit of silence from the group. “She deliberately did that to you.”

Koji sighed. “She was just trying to help.”

Riichi began to speak, but he didn’t have the words to finish.

“Azami raped you,” Eito said.

The group went silent again. Eito had finally said what needed to be said.

“It wasn’t like that. It was an accident,” Koji said.

“Koji –

“Like I said fifty times, it was an accident,” Koji spoke over Riichi.

“Listen, just because you deny it doesn’t mean that it isn’t what it is,” Daichi responded.

“I’m not denying anything. I’m just… It was an accident! Just drop it!” Koji said, getting aggravated.

“Drop it? But, Koji –

“Yes, drop it,” Koji interrupted Naoki.

“Drop it?!” Isao shouted.

“It has absolutely nothing to do with you,” Koji responded.

“Nothing to do with us?” Isao asked, offended. “This has everything to do with us! You’re our friend and you just got attacked by some raving lunatic! And now, you have a pup on the way! She just fucked up your life!”

“That remains to be determined,” Daichi said after Isao spoke.

“That is true,” Eito said.

“What?” Koji asked, confused.

“Who knows how many others she’s done this to,” Daichi commented.

“Fair point. She could be pregnant by somebody else for all you know!” Naoki agreed.

“They have a point,” Riichi said.

Koji was silent. Sesshomaru sensed that Koji was in turmoil. He didn’t blame him.

“I doubt it,” Sesshomaru said.

“Sesshomaru may be right,” Riich said. “Azami was obsessed with Koji. She wouldn’t have gone after anyone else like this.”

“Well, you have to tell somebody,” Naoki said.

“No,” Koji answered. “It’s over. What’s done is done and I just want to forget it.”

“I can’t believe this!” Isao shouted.

“I have a pup to think about now!” Koji growled. “How it happened is the least of my worries.”

The group sighed as they processed his words. Koji was going to be a father. Sesshomaru couldn’t even believe it… any of it.

“Did you tell your family about the pup yet?” Naoki asked. “Did you tell Izo?”

“I need to figure out how to do that,” Koji responded.

Sesshomaru sighed. He pitied him and his situation.

“Not to dwell on this, but how did you let this happen?” Isao asked.

“What the fuck is wrong with you, Isao?!” Riichi snapped.

“It’s not his fault!” Eito growled.

“Look, I know what happened wasn’t his fault, but I just don’t understand how he couldn’t stop it. How couldn’t you get her off of you?” Isao asked.

The group was silent.

“I mean, she’s really short and is only so many pounds,” Isao continued. “We lift boulders five times heavier than her on a daily basis! I just don’t get it.”

Isao had a point.

“Have you ever gotten hit in the nuts before? It’s demobilizing,” Daichi said.

“I think everybody has one time or another, but still. Yeah, you’re out for a few minutes, and then –

“Just stop,” Riichi told Isao.

“All I want to know is did you want it to happen?”

The group erupted. “What?!”

“Isao!” Eito growled.

“No! I didn’t want it to happen! I told you I just wanted her to leave!” Koji shouted. “I told you that I couldn’t control anything my body was doing!”

“Then, help me understand. I wasn’t in your position, but if I were, I’m sure I would have at least made an effort to claw her fucking eyes out or something. It just seems like you just let her do what she did to you,” Isao said. “Alright, fine, you may have been out for the first few minutes or so, but she not only pet your dick, but sucked it and rode you for who knows how long and –

“Stop,” Sesshomaru said. “That’s enough.”

If Sesshomaru couldn’t hear any more of this, he knew that Koji couldn’t. Sesshomaru knew it wasn’t Koji’s fault.

The group went silent again. The only sounds they heard were the sounds of the crickets chirping all around.

“I didn’t want to hurt her,” Koji said.

“Hurt her?” Isao asked. “Fuck her!”

“I don’t know,” Koji shook his head. “I just don’t know.”

“It’s okay, Koji. We’re here for you,” Naoki said.

Koji nodded and looked at the moon.

“What is this? Am I the only one upset here?” Isao shouted.

“Everyone is!” Riichi responded.

“He just said that he let himself get raped because he didn’t want to hurt her, the fucking psycho who did this to him!” Isao shouted.

“Stop saying that!” Koji yelled.

“You need to face what happened to you!” Isao shouted at Koji.

“He is, you bastard!” Riichi yelled at Isao.

“He’s not!” Isao yelled, standing to his feet.

“Sit down and shut up,” Sesshomaru said.

“What did you say?” Isao glared at Sesshomaru.

“I said sit down and shut up,” Sesshomaru stood to his feet.

The group looked at him with wide eyes. Sesshomaru barely spoke. He only really spoke to Koji. To everyone else, he was an observer who provided a comment or a joke every now and then. He kept to himself and stayed out of the drama of others. It was odd to hear him challenge Isao.

“And what are you going to do about it?” Isao got in his face.

Sesshomaru readied his claws and slowly approached him.

“Stop! Everyone, just stop!” Eito shouted, as he held back Isao. Koji stood and watched as Daichi held back Sesshomaru.

“Come on, let’s all relax,” Naoki said.

“Yeah, let’s take a break and talk about… something else,” Eito said.

Sesshomaru huffed and glared at Isao as he laid back down on the grass with the others.

The conversation shifted from topic to topic. Although everyone tried to avoid talking about Koji, they kept finding a way to come back to it. When it got late and Koji was getting more and more frustrated, Eito suggested everyone turn in.

“Wait,” Koji said.

Everyone looked at him, expecting to hear him provide another bit of information about his situation.

“What is it?” the group asked.

“Didn’t you say you had something to ask everyone, Sesshy?” Koji asked.

“It’s nothing. It can wait,” he responded.

Sesshomaru could tell that the group, although silent and calm, was annoyed. Sesshomaru was annoyed at Isao; Riichi was annoyed at Isao and anxious about being a new father; Isao was annoyed at Sesshomaru and Koji; Koji was annoyed at himself and everyone’s opinions of the situation he experienced; and everyone annoyed at Azami for what she did to Koji. He knew it might not have been the right time to ask his questions out classes and weakness in humans and other demons.

“No, ask us,” Koji said. “We need a distraction.”

“No,” Sesshomaru said.

“Come on, for me,” Koji pleaded.

Sesshomaru sighed and took the floor. Why not? It was a distraction.

It was then that everything went to shit, and he stormed off into the night and encountered Hitoshi.

***

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened as his mind ran wild. What would that night have anything to do with Koji’s death now? That was centuries ago.

Riichi broke Sesshomaru’s thoughts. “Everyone was on edge that night and emotions were running wild,” Riichi said. “We weren’t right that night.”

“After Koji told us what happened, you asked us about weakness and power,” Naoki continued. “We didn’t… we should have –

Sesshomaru was taken aback. What did he have to do with this?

“We didn’t respond to you the way we should have,” Daichi said.

“We were… I was upset about Koji. He’s was in denial about what happened with Azami and I… I took it out on you,” Isao said. “And I’m sorry,” he cried.

Eito pat Isao on the back.

“You should have been able to come to us and speak freely about anything… You should have been able to come to me, but I lost it,” Isao cried. “Instead of really listening to you, I jumped on you and accused you and thinking you were better than us. It was my fault.”

“It wasn’t just you, Isao,” Riichi cried. “I wasn’t in my right state of mind either. I was panicking about being a father. Then, Koji confessed everything that happened with Azami and I lost it.”

Sesshomaru watched as tears fell from Isao’s face. He was confused. He remembered how heated Isao was, but he didn’t understand why he and everybody else was getting so upset about what they did to him that night. He couldn’t understand how the way they reacted to his questions centuries ago had anything to do with Koji being killed now.

Riichi put his arm around Isao as he cried, and nodded. “We all reacted badly, Brother.”

Isao cried for a few moments before he was able to speak. “When you stormed off, Koji and I got into a fight.”

“Koji fought with all of us,” Eito said.

“During the fight, Koji yelled at us. He told us that we were wrong to say what we said to you knowing full well that you were just asking a question and trying to get our feedback,” Naoki said.

“It’s all my fault,” Isao cried.

“We all had a hand in this,” Daichi said, looking at him. “It’s not your fault.”

“I was angry and left,” Isao continued speaking. “Daichi and Eito went after me, while –

“Koji, Naoki and me went after you,” Riichi said.

Sesshomaru’s stomach sank and his eyes shifted. He remembered that night so well. It ruined him. It was the night of Hitoshi. Koji, Naoki and Riichi went after him?

“I tracked you with my nose,” Naoki said. “It was challenging in the darkness, but we found you.”

“We saw you by a village looking at something. We didn’t know what until we saw a little human boy. When we saw you walking to him, we all had a weird feeling,” Riichi said.

“…Especially Koji,” Naoki said.

Sesshomaru felt his heart beating in his ears as he remembered the little boy that night. They were there? Koji was there? But, he was alone. He would have smelled their scent if they were there. Right?

“That staff he had,” Riichi shook his head. “It gave us all such a bad feeling,” he cried.

Sesshomaru froze. That night, that little human boy was wearing a long white robe and had a lantern in his left hand and a long staff in his right hand. Sesshomaru breathed in heavy. They were there.

“We didn’t know what to do. When you transformed and approached the human child, Koji called your name and ran over to stop you.”

Koji? That night, Sesshomaru could have sworn that someone called his name before he lost consciousness. That was Koji?

Sesshomaru breathed and looked away.

“It was too late,” Riichi started crying. “The stick electrified you or whatever it did and you went down.”

“There was a powerful force coming out of the stick that wouldn’t let you go. You were twitching and convulsing on the ground,” Naoki said.

“We were so scared,” Riichi cried along with Isao and now Eito.

Sesshomaru kept his face blank as he recalled the moment. All he remembered was feeling electrifying pain and everything going black.

“Koji called for me and told me to get your father. I left immediately,” Naoki continued.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened. “My father?”

“Yes,” he replied.

“When the force kept coming out, I didn’t know what to do,” Riichi cried. “But Koji… Koji, without a thought, ran over and bit the boy’s arm with the staff.”

Sesshomaru’s eyes flickered.

“The staff and the boy’s arm broke in his mouth. Blood went everywhere. But, when the staff snapped, Koji got electrified too,” Riichi broke down. “Both he and the boy screamed bloody murder!”

Sesshomaru breathed. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. This didn’t happen. It couldn’t have happened.

“I ran over to try and help, but… but… Koji managed to tell me to take you away,” Riichi cried. “I wanted to stay and help you too, but he made me go.”

Sesshomaru inhaled.

“I dragged you away into the woods as far as I could go. You were so heavy and you were still twitching and convulsing. . I thought I could carry you in my mouth, but even in your humanoid form, you weighed as much as you did in your true form… but with dead weight. I didn’t know what to do. I just dragged you by your foot,” Riichi cried, as Naoki put a shoulder around him. “As I dragged you, I could hear nothing but villagers shouting and Koji screaming.”

Koji screaming? He wasn’t knocked out too?

Naoki rubbed Riichi’s shoulder. “I should have been brave and went back. I should have done something, but I was just so scared,” Riichi cried, as he wiped snot from his face. “I just kept dragging you.”

“You did all you could do,” Eito said. “If you went back, who knows what could have happened?”

“That’s my exact point,” Riichi said. “Maybe I could have saved him too,” he responded.

Sesshomaru watched as the group lowered their heads.

Daichi walked over to Riichi and grabbed his face. “Listen to me,” he said. “You did all you could. Do you hear me?”

“But –

“Tell me you know this,” Daichi said. “You did all you could, Riichi.”

Riichi nodded and cried in his shoulder.

Sesshomaru watched the spectacle with flickering eyes.

“I got General Inu no Taishō and he followed me immediately,” Naoki said.

Sesshomaru lowered his eyes. No wonder he awoke on his futon sometime that night.

“When your father got there, you were in really bad shape. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so scared,” Riichi said. “I told him that Koji was still there with the villagers,” Riichi said.

“He told us to watch you and that he would get Koji,” Naoki said.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened.

“He barked a special call and took off into the woods after Koji,” Riichi continued.

“Along the way, we found them,” Daichi said.

“I wanted to come back and apologize,” Isao cried.

“We couldn’t believe it when we saw you and Riichi, and Naoki told us what happened,” Eito sobbed.

“We heard a large woosh sound with lots of screaming. Then, we heard loud barking,” Naoki said.

“And then, everything stopped and we heard nothing,” Isao cried. “We all just looked at each other terrified.”

“After a few minutes, General Inu no Taishō walked back to us through the trees in his true form carrying Koji in his mouth,” Naoki said.

“We all ran to him in excitement and relief, but General Inu no Taishō had this ominous expression on his face,” Daichi said, looking into the distance.

Sesshomaru breathed.

“He placed Koji on the ground… and he was just lying there. He wasn’t moving,” Isao cried.

“He was covered in blood from the human child’s broken arm and had all of these deep gashes… these burns all over his body,” Riichi sobbed.

Sesshomaru looked away. He could visualize what Koji might have looked like. It was horrifying.

“We asked your father if he was okay and he said that Koji needed treatment,” Daichi said. “Then, he walked over to you. You had finally stopped twitching.”

“Your father transformed into his humanoid form, held onto you and started crying,” Riichi said. “He just kept apologizing.”

“I thought you might have died, the way he was acting,” Eito said. “We all did.”

Sesshomaru breathed.

“Within a few minutes, your father’s leadership team came through the trees. Tomoshiro went over to your father, who was checking on you,” Naoki said, looking at Sesshomaru.  

Sesshomaru looked down for a moment. So Koji was killed, not recently like he had presumed, but centuries ago, on the night he decided to play fast and loose with that human child. Koji had died centuries ago, and everybody knew it, and kept it from him. Koji died centuries ago at the hand of the villagers associated with the human child he provoked. Koji died centuries ago trying to save his life. Koji died centuries ago and everyone led him to believe he was alive. Koji died centuries ago… and it was all his fault.

Sesshomaru had heard enough. He couldn’t hear anymore. He was done.

“We –

“So, Kureijī Tīsu is located in the northern region of the Western Lands,” Sesshomaru spoke over Naoki.

The group looked at Sesshomaru in shock. They could barely react as he gently pushed them aside and headed for the door of the Pen. The stood with their mouths ajar as Sesshomaru walked out and closed the door behind him.

Sesshomaru immediately leapt into the sky and headed north.

***

Rin stopped singing. Jinia and Abi looked at her puzzled.

“What’s wrong, Rin?” Abi asked.

Rin stood still and put her hand on her chest.

“Come on, we weren’t singing that loud. What? Did you blow a windpipe?” Jinia asked, with a laugh.

Rin didn’t react. She just stood in the middle of the field quietly looking out into space.

“Rin, what’s wrong? You’re scaring us now,” Jinia said, walking over to her.

“Master Jaken, I think something’s wrong with Rin,” Abi called out to Jaken, who had been leaning against a tree snoozing.

“Huh? What?” he asked confused, as he awoke in a daze.

“I think something’s wrong with Rin. She’s acting very weird,” Abi said, walking over to her.

“Rin, what’s wrong? Is it your teeth?” Jinia asked.

“Rin, say something,” Jaken said, rising to his feet. “What’s wrong with you?”

Rin heard every word and every question that everyone had asked her, but she couldn’t respond. She felt a feeling in her soul that she couldn’t describe. It constricted her. Something was wrong. She could feel it, but in a weird way, she knew that what was wrong had nothing to do with her.

“Rin, say something!” Jaken demanded, as he stood before her.

“Lord Sesshomaru,” she said, in a daze.

“Huh?! Where?!” Jaken asked, in excitement, as he looked around the field. “He’s returned. Where is he? I don’t see him!”

“What do you mean, Rin? Your friend isn’t here,” Jinia said, looking around herself.

“Yes, it’s just us,” Abi said, in concern as she looked at Jinia.

“There’s something wrong,” Rin said, snapping out her of daze.

“What?” Jinia and Abi asked, in confusion. “What’s wrong?”

“Master Jaken, I think there’s something wrong with Lord Sesshomaru,” she said.

“Huh? Don’t be silly. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Lord Sesshomaru,” he said. “He’s off handling important business. It hasn’t even been too days,” he huffed, in disappointment that his excitement in the return of Lord Sesshomaru was in vain.

“No, Master Jaken. There’s something wrong with Lord Sesshomaru,” she replied.

Abi gasped. “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know,” Rin said, looking at her. “But, I can… I can feel it somehow.”

Jaken laughed. “You’re crazy. It must be the heat. Let’s go inside,” he suggested.

“You need to take me to him,” Rin instructed him.

“Huh?” Jinia and Abi asked, looking at each other.

Jaken laughed and shook his head with a smile. “Rin, Rin, Rin… Lord Sesshomaru is perfectly fine. He’s off handling business. You know him. He’ll come back,” he said.

“But –

“And, even if what you are saying is true… which it certainly is not, how do you expect me to take you to see him? Lord Sesshomaru never tells us where he’s going when he leaves.”

Rin sighed. Jaken had a point. Sesshomaru rarely told them where was going before he left. He was always very independent and private.

“Hmm,” he sighed.

“I’m sorry, Rin,” Jinia said. “I wish we could help.”

“Yes, I wish we could do something to help,” Abi nodded, in agreement.

“Don’t worry about it,” Jaken said. “Lord Sesshomaru is just fine. He’ll return soon,” he said, as he sat down against the tree trunk again and closed his eyes.

Rin’s eyes widened. “Maybe you can help me!” she said, in excitement to Jinia and Abi.

 “Yeah? How?” Jinia asked.

“Help me find Inuyasha,” she said.

“Inuyasha?!” Jaken shouted, as his eyes shot open. “Why would you need that worthless half-breed?”

“Inuyasha can track Lord Sesshomaru’s scent!” she exclaimed. “He’ll be able to find him!”

“What?!” Jaken shrieked.

***

“Akihiko, you should have been there,” Saicho said, after telling his friend about the encounter he, Kenjiro and Hiroto had with Lord Sesshomaru at the Pen.

“Did he recognize you?” Akihiko asked, as he closed the door to his family’s den. He was on his way to his family’s shop to start his shift.

“If he did, he didn’t let on that he did,” Hiroto said.

“That would have been it for us,” Kenjiro said. “Adding that to the damaged Pen roof –

“That roof is fine!” Saicho said. “Tomoshiro is just overreacting like he always does,” he rolled his eyes.

“Not this time,” Hiroto said. “The roof is actually really cracked. I don’t know how you did it.”

“How I did it?” Saicho asked, offended. “The last time I checked, I wasn’t the only one up there. The three of us where up there.”

“Yeah, but you’re fat remember,” Kenjiro laughed.

“Shut up!” Saicho shouted at him.

“What?” Akihiko asked, in a confused laugh.

“Daichi, my father and the rest of them were talking about how fat Saicho was when he was a baby. They said he had three chins,” Kenjiro laughed.

“We’ll at least I’m not fat anymore,” Saicho huffed. “Too bad for you that you’re still a blob of curls,” he shot at Kenjiro.

Kenjiro rolled his eyes.

“Whatever! Call me fat all you want. My fat ass cracked the roof and let us find out where he’s headed,” Saicho said, proudly.

“Kureijī Tīsu is so random,” Hiroto said.

“Who’s Kureijī Tīsu?” Akihiko asked.

“He’s a demon troop members used to get their fangs replaced if they ever needed to use the Pin Point technique,” Kenjiro said.

“It’s a technique where you thrust your fang into your opponent to put them in a deep sleep,” Hiroto said.

“Apparently, Lady Inukimi forced Tomoshiro to fire Kureijī Tīsu from his duties after General Inu no Taishō died,” Saicho said.

“Oh,” Akihiko said.

“I wonder why he wants to visit him?” Kenjiro asked.

“I doubt Lord Sesshomaru would be need a replacement fang because of using Pin Point. From what I’ve heard, he’s not one for mercy,” Hiroto commented.

“It’s interested that after everything you’ve heard about him, Lord Sesshomaru didn’t really didn’t seem all that bad when you met him today,” Akihiko said.

“Who knows… Maybe he was on his best behavior because we were around,” Hiroto said.

“It’s plausible,” Kenjiro said.

Akihiko nodded.

I think we should go,” Saicho said.

“Go where?” Hiroto asked.

“I think we should follow Lord Sesshomaru to Kureijī Tīsu,” he said.

“What? Are you out of your mind?” Kenjiro asked.

“No, I’m being serious. We should go. Maybe we’ll be able to find out about him and why he’s –

“We shouldn’t. It’s dangerous. We’ve never flown that far of a distance before. Not to mention, our families will kill us if they knew!” Kenjiro asked. “Plus, what if Lord Sesshomaru finds out?”

“So, what? You said yourself that Lord Sesshomaru seemed really cool today,” Saicho said. “He even smiled a few times.”

“The key word is ‘seemed,’” Hiroto said. “And, we just said that he could have just been nice because we were around. Don’t you listen?”

“Or he was in a good mood,” Saicho said.

“Just because he was in a ‘good mood’ doesn’t mean anything,” Kenjiro said. “It doesn’t erase every bad thing everyone has said about him,” Hiroto said.

“Your father introduced him as your uncle today,” Saicho said. “He wouldn’t have done that if Lord Sessomaru wasn’t cool,” Saicho said.

“But, did you not see how pissed Kenjiro’s father got when everyone started talking about what Kenjiro was like when he was a baby? I don’t think I’ve ever seen Kenjiro’s father so pissed before.”

“Yeah, that was weird,” Saicho said. “What do you think that was about?”

“Clearly, Lord Sesshomaru didn’t make the effort to see Kenjiro as a baby,” Hiroto said. “That must have really bothered him.”

“Probably. Apparently, they were all really close back then,”Kenjiro said.

“See, this is another reason why we should go,” Saicho added.

The group looked at him puzzled.

“What’s the point of even going in the first place?” Hiroto asked.

“What do you mean ‘what’s the point’? To find out what he’s up to, of course,” Saicho said.

“What does it matter? He’s going to leave afterwards anyway,” Hiroto responded.

“Everything we’ve ever heard about Lord Sesshomaru has been hearsay from troop members or something our brothers and fathers have told us. Who knows what’s right or wrong,” Saicho said. “I say we find out for ourselves.”

“This is crazy,” Kenjiro said, shaking his head.

“You’re not even a little curious as to why he needs to see Kureijī Tīsu?” Saicho asked.

“I don’t care at all,” Hiroto said.

“Me neither,” Kenjiro said.

“You’re not curious?” Saicho pressed.

Kenjiro huffed.

“Not even a little? Saicho asked, with a grin.

“Of course, we’re all a little bit curious, but it’s none of our business,” Kenjiro said.

“But –

“What if we find out that he’s seeking Kureijī Tīsu because he’s missing a shit ton of teeth and decides to kill us all because we know?” Hiroto asked.

“Don’t be ridiculous. He wouldn’t do that?”

“You’re being ridiculous even asking us to go!” Kenjiro said.

Saicho growled.

“No, Saicho,” Kenjiro said.

“Come on guys. It’ll be an adventure!” Saicho pleaded.

“An adventure to our early graves,” Kenjiro responded.

“Fine,” Saicho huffed.

“I’m up for it,” Akihiko said.

“What? Akihiko, you can’t be serious?” Hiroto asked.

“Why not? It’ll be an adventure,” Akihiko smiled.

Saicho smiled. “Yes!”

“What about your shift?” Kenjiro asked. “Whose going to run your shop?”

“My father’s there,” Akihiko said.

“Don’t you think he’ll be missing you and wondering where you are?” Kenjiro asked.

“The northern region of the Western Lands isn’t that far from here. We’ll be back by dinner,” Saicho said.

“It’s fine. This’ll be my first offense disobeying him,” Akihiko nodded.

“…That he knows about,” Saicho laughed.

“Right,” Akihiko smiled. “I can do this,” he said.

“You’re the absolute worst person to even agree to this. You aren’t in training. You’re a blacksmith! What if something happens?” Kenjiro asked.

“We’ll be there to help him,” Saicho said, putting his arm around Akihiko’s shoulder.

“I’m not going!” Kenjiro shouted.

“Well, if they’re going, we’ll have to go too?” Hiroto said.

“What? That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard from you, Hiroto,” Kenjiro said.

“We can’t let Saicho take Akihiko out without us?”

“And why not?” Saicho asked.

“Because you’re an idiot and will probably get him killed,” Hiroto said.

“What! Shut up, Hiroto! That’s not true.”

“Look, I’m just stating facts. I don’t want that on my conscious if anything happens to Akihiko, and I know you don’t either Kenjiro,” Hiroto said.

Kenjiro sighed.

“Come on,” Saicho said. “You don’t want me to kill our good ole’ pal Akihiko, right?”

“Shut up!” Kenjiro shouted. “Fine! I’ll go! But, if we’re going, we’re going to do this right and map out the plan!”

“Yes, sir,” Saicho smiled. “Just make it quick. If we’re going to do this, we need to do it now. Lord Sesshomaru may have already left.”

“Shut up, Saicho. Don’t rush me,” Kenjiro hissed. “I need to think.”

***

Sesshomaru let his eyes focus on the clouds as he soared towards the northern region of the Western Lands. He guessed the different shapes they resembled… a tree… a dog… a flower… a fish… a circle. As he soared, he just kept his eyes on the clouds. It was all he could do. He knew that the moment he looked away and stopped thinking about what shape a particular cloud could be, he would think and reflect on everything he had just heard.

The further he traveled north, the more sporadic the clouds appeared. With fewer clouds to focus on, Sesshomaru’s mind forced him to remember what I wanted to forget.

He shook his head and tried to remember every single detail of the large map of the region on the large wooden desk of the Pen. When that became tiresome, Sesshomaru focused on Kureijī Tīsu and worked to determine where he would search for him first. He thought back on what others had said about Kureijī Tīsu growing up to help him plan good locations to check first.

“I don’t mind missing a fang,” he remembered Koji say. “I think it’ll be cool to lose it. It’ll be like my first battle scar.”

Sesshomaru shook his head and breathed. No. He would think of something else.

Kureijī Tīsu resembled a large skeletal sea horse. He was probably near water. From memorizing the details of the map, Sesshomaru knew that there were some large bodies of water in the northern region of the Western Lands for him to consider as a start.

“You really like the mud?” Sesshomaru remembered asking Koji one day, after he jumped into a large pile of mud on their walk.

“Yup! It’s the best thing,” Koji responded.

“But, why mud? You’re dirty and sticky all day.”

“I don’t know. I just like the way it feels,” he said. “It relaxes me.”

Sesshomaru was silent.

“Well, what do you like?” Koji asked.

“Me?”

“Yeah. You have to have something that makes you feel great,” Koji said.

Sesshomaru remembered thinking long and hard. “I don’t have anything,” he said.

“Come on, Sesshy. I know you know. You don’t have to lie to me. I won’t tell,” Koji responded, nudging him, leaving a muddy knuckle mark on Sesshomaru’s outfit.

Sesshomaru remembered cringing when he said it. “Bones.”

“Bones?”

Sesshomaru didn’t respond. He didn’t know why he was embarrassed, but he was.

“I like bones too. I really hare bones. I think they have the best flavor,” Koji said, nonchalantly.

“They’re pretty good, but venison bones have the best flavor. I like them the best. I also like boar bones and cow bones too. Goat bones taste weird too me, but I like the way they feel against my teeth,” Sesshomaru responded.

Sesshomaru remembered getting lost in his response and Koji laughing. “Wow, Sesshy, you really do love bones,” he nudged him again, leaving another muddy mark on his outfit. “Bones to you is like mud to me.”

Sesshomaru remembered smirking.

“One day, we should soak in the mud and naw on some hare and venison bones. It’ll be the best of both worlds,” Koji laughed.

Sesshomaru smiled. “Okay.”

Sesshomaru sighed.

That was enough. Sesshomaru couldn’t take it anymore. He lowered his altitude and landed in the woody area below. Maybe a walk would do him good.

***

“Look, there he is,” Saicho whispered. “Great tracking, Hiroto.”

“Yeah,” Akihiko agreed.

Sesshomaru was walking a few hundred yards away.

Hiroto nodded.

“I can’t believe you were able to find him after only getting his scent once in passing,” Kenjiro said.

Hiroto shrugged.

“Okay, everyone shut up and be cool,” Saicho said.

Kenjiro rolled his eyes and looked at Akihiko, who quietly laughed and walked forward.

The group watched as Sesshomaru walked forward a few steps and stopped.

“Why did he stop?” Saicho asked, in a panic.

“I don’t know,” Hiroto said.

“Do you think he knows that we’re here?” Kenjiro asked.

“Can he hear us?” Akihiko asked.

“Ugh, maybe he can,” Hiroto sighed.

“Shut up, shut up,” Saicho silenced everyone.

The boys shuttered as they heard the ground shake.

“What’s going on?” Akihiko asked.

“I don’t know?” Kenjiro answered.

“Well, well, well. If it isn’t the great Sesshomaru, lord of the Western Lands,” a deep booming voice said.

“Who was that?” Saicho asked.

“I don’t know,” Hiroto responded in a whisper, as he looked into the distressed face of Kenjiro.

“…And touting such a nice fancy sword like that too,” the voice continued.

“Who is that? Where is he?” Saicho asked, looking around.

The boys watched as Sesshomaru kept walking. He seemed unfazed.

“Oh, no, no, no,” the deep voice said. “Where do you think you’re going?”

The boy’s eyes widened as a large translucent green blob wobbled out from behind the trees and stood in front of Lord Sesshomaru. He was a towering demon, about the side of a large human hut.

“Get out of my way,” Sesshomaru said. “You’re embarrassing yourself.”

“Embarrassing myself?” the blob laughed. “Let’s just see how –

Sesshomaru didn’t wait for the demon to finish his sentence. He shot out his green light whip and slashed the giant green demon in the face from side to side.

The boys gasped.

“Did you see that?!” Saicho said, in excitement, trying to keep his voice low.

The demon screamed and held his face. “Ahh!”

“Now, get out of my way,” Sesshomaru said, walking on.

The boys watched as the demon held his face and moved to the side and let him pass.

“He’s bad ass,” Hiroto said.

“Yeah,” Akihiko said. “He didn’t have to draw his sword or anything.”

Saicho nodded as he looked back at his friends.

“Well, hurry. Let’s go while this demon’s distracted,” Kenjiro said.

The group nodded and scurried through the trees, trying to stay out of sight of both the demon and Lord Sesshomaru. As they scurried, they heard the demon’s loud booming voice.

“Oh, look what we have here,” he laughed. “Snacks!”

The group gasped.

“Mmm, yes. This is going to be great,” the demon said, licking his lips, as he reached down to pick up Kenjiro.

Kenjiro screamed and slashed at the demon’s hands with his claws.

“What do we do? What do we do?” Saicho panicked.

“Help me!” Hiroto shouted at Saicho, pulling Kenjiro back from the demon.

“Don’t touch him!” Akihiko shouted, as he unleashed a red light whip from his index finger, and cracking it in the air.

“Ooo, a brave one, are you?” the demon laughed, looking at Akihiko.

Akihiko glared at him.

Hiroto stood next to Akihiko and unleashed his own orange light whip. Saicho and Kenjiro did the same, Saicho unleashing a blue light whip and Kenjiro, a purple one.

“How cute is this?” the demon smiled. “It’s like a rainbow looking at you all.”

“Shut up!” Saicho said.

The demon gasped. “Shut up? How rude are you?” he said. “I think it’s time I taught you a lesson,” he said, reaching down toward the group.

“Back off!” Akihiko shouted, as he slammed his light whip on the demon’s hand.

“Great effort, but I barely felt a thing,” the demon laughed.

Saicho and Hiroto looked at each other before slamming their light whips on the demon together. Akihiko joined in on their second swing and hit the demon at the same time.”

“Ah!” the demon wailed.

Kenjiro watched with wide eyes.

“Kenjiro, get your shit together, we need you!” Hiroto shouted at him.

“Right,” he said, as he cracked his purple light whip in the air and cracked in on the demon’s hand with the others.

The demon wailed.

“I think we got him!” Hiroto said, with a smile.

“Yeah! I think you’re right!” Saicho said.

The demon wailed for a moment longer until his wailing turned into sinister laugher.

“What’s happening?” Saicho asked.

“Fools! All of you!” he laughed. “Did you really think your weak lights would stop me?” he asked.

The group’s eyes widened as the demon grabbed Kenjiro and lifted him up to his mouth.

Without a word, Akihiko transformed into his true form and leapt at the demon’s face. Saicho and Hiroto took Akihiko’s lead and did the same.

The demon screamed and toppled over as the three boys bit and tore at his face with their mouths and claws. When Kenjiro was able to slip from the demon’s grip as he was being attacked, he transformed into his true form and joined his friends in the attack. The demon screamed and screamed as green ooze squirted from his body.

“That’s enough,” a calm voice said.

At the voice’s command, the boys immediately stopped tearing at the demon and looked. It was Lord Sesshomaru. They gasped and jumped off of the demon’s body.

Sesshomaru looked at the demon, who continued to scream. His body was covered in his own green ooze and his face and stomach were covered with craters of missing flesh and bite marks.

“Did I lie?” Sesshomaru asked the demon, who continued to scream. “You embarrassed yourself.”

Without a word, Sesshomaru turned and walked away.

The boys looked at each other and transformed. They were covered in green ooze too.

“Wait!” Saicho called after him.

Sesshomaru didn’t stop.

The group ran up and walked beside him.

“Hey, wait!” Saicho said again.

Sesshomaru ignored him.

“You just saved us,” Saicho said.

“I did nothing,” Sesshomaru responded.

“But –

“You did that all yourselves,” he responded. “I only watched.”

“You watched?” Akihiko asked.

“You watched? We could have been killed!” Kenjiro shouted.

Sesshomaru didn’t respond.

“You didn’t help us!” Kenjiro continued.

“You didn’t need my help,” Sesshomaru responded calmly, still walking.

“Yes, we did,” Hiroto said. “We could have been killed.”

Sesshomaru was silent for a moment. “Possibly,” he said, nonchalantly. “And you could have killed him.”

The boys were silent.

“Do you think we killed him?” Saicho asked, glancing at his friends.

“Possibly,” he said, still seemingly unfazed. “But, unlikely,” he said, after a long pause.

The boys looked at each other and stayed silent.

“Guess what, guys? I finally got my light whip to work!” Akihiko said.

“Hell yeah, you did!” Saicho shouted.

“Yeah, you were awesome out there, Akihiko.”

“You really work well under pressure,” Kenjiro said.

“I didn’t think I’d be able to aim it right, but I did,” Akihiko smiled.

“All that hard work and practice finally paid off,” Hiroto pat his back.

Akihiko smiled. “I guess so.”

Sesshomaru breathed. The way the boys interacted with each other reminded him of being with his own training brothers.

“You’re really brave, Lord Sesshomaru,” Kenjiro said, breaking Sesshomaru’s thoughts.

Sesshomaru didn’t respond. He kept walking, looking straight ahead.

“It’s like you’re not afraid of anything,” Saicho added. “You slashed that mother in the face like BAM! BAM!” Saicho laughed.

“I wish I were brave like that,” Kenjiro said. “It was like you knew you’d be able to beat him even though there was a chance you couldn’t.”

Sesshomaru glanced at Riichi’s son as he walked and zoned out.

“I can’t aim it right.”

“Come on, Sesshy, yes, you can,” Sesshomaru remembered Koji saying.

“I can’t. I can’t control it. It just flings all over,” Sesshomaru responded.

“Come on, Sesshy. You’re just not focusing right. You can’t think of it as a whip in your hand that you swing –

“But, it is,” Sesshomaru said.

“Yes, technically it is, but it’s a part of your body. You have to think of it like… you are the whip,” Koji said. “Be the whip.”

“Be the whip?”

“Yes. Be the whip and try to hit my feet,” Koji said.

“I can’t do that. I’ll hurt you,” he said.

“You won’t. My feet are too fast for you,” Koji responded. “The goal is to practice controlling your whip at the movement of my feet.”

Sesshomaru gave him a concerned look.

“Don’t worry, Sesshy, you won’t hit me,” he said.

Sesshomaru glanced at him before he readied his light whip.

“Right! Left! Right! Left!” Koji shouted. “Come on, Sesshy, you got it!” Koji encouraged him.

Sesshomaru remembered smiling. He was finally getting it.

“Yeah, Sesshy! Now, faster!” Koji shouted. “Don’t worry about hurting my feet,” he reminded him.

“But –

“You won’t hit my feet, Sesshy. I’d bet on it,” Koji said, as he hopped left to right and then left to right. “Just worry about –

“AAHHH!” Koji screamed.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened as Koji held his foot and tried to conceal a scream.

Sesshomaru’s crouched down next to his friend and apologized. “You said I wouldn’t hit you.”

Koji laughed. “Yah know, Sesshy,” he winced in pain. “You only hit my feet because I told you that you wouldn’t be able to. You have a thing about proving others wrong.”

“That’s not true,” Sesshomaru said, looking at him.

“Maybe it’s not true for everyone, but whenever I tell you that you can’t do something, you just happen to be able to do it,” Koji said.

Sesshomaru looked down.

“It’s not a bad thing,” he said. “It’s actually pretty good. Whenever you’re faced with anything you think you can’t do, just imagine me in the back of your mind telling you that you can’t do it. It will be then that you will be able to do it. You won’t fail,” he smiled.

Sesshomaru smirked as he looked at his friend.

Koji was right. In every battle and every endeavor, Koji’s voice was in the back of his mind. “Sesshy, I bet you can’t.” With Koji in his head, one way or another, he could accomplish anything.

Sesshomaru shook the thought from his mind and returned to the present. He walked on and listened to the boys chat to each other.

In any other circumstance, Sesshomaru would have quickly parted ways with these four boys, but with his mind in turmoil, Sesshomaru chose to keep them around. He knew that keeping them around would be difficult, but he made the exception. Their presence and actions reminded him so much of his time at Far Grounds with his training brothers. It didn’t help that Saicho and Hiroto resembled and acted their brothers Daichi and Naoki and that Kenjiro was almost a replica of Riichi. But, it didn’t matter. For once, Sesshomaru just didn’t want to be alone. Plus, although the boys had arrived on their own and Sesshomaru was convinced that they could take care of themselves after they nearly killed that demon who attacked them earlier, the majority of them were his training brothers’ family. He didn’t want to leave them alone. He was actually interested to know why they were so far away from home in the first place.

“What are you doing here?” Sesshomaru asked.

Sesshomaru watched as the boys discretely looked at each other with wide eyes. He was sure that they didn’t know how to respond.

“Huh?” Saicho asked, trying to buy time.

“What are you doing here? You’re a long way from home,” Sesshomaru said.

“We’re not following you,” Saicho responded.

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes.

Sesshomaru heard a hard thud and Saicho whine in pain.

“Why would you say that, idiot?!” he heard Hiroto hiss.

“Ow, that hurt,” Saicho said, rubbing his head.

“We’re on a mission,” Kenjiro said.

“And what mission is that?” Sesshomaru asked.

The group was silent.

“We need to visit Kureijī Tīsu and bring teeth back for Akihiko’s father,” Hiroto said.

The group looked at Hiroto confused.

“Isn’t that right, Akihiko?” Hiroto asked.

“Sure,” Akihiko nodded. “He lost his teeth… one day –

“Chewing on a bone,” Saicho said.

“It was tragic,” Kenjiro said, with a nod.                        

Sesshomaru rolled his eyes. He had to admit that Hiroto was clever. He was like his brother Naoki.

Naoki was the best bullshitter. Sesshomaru remembered countless times when Naoki would come to training missions completely unprepared, and yet, make the lead troop members think he was overprepared. He could make anyone believe any bullshit he was trying to sell. It seemed like Hiroto inherited that skill as well.

“We need to get him some spares,” Saicho nodded.

“Spares?” Sesshomaru repeated.

“Yes,” Saicho smiled, feeling confident that he and his friends had seemingly put one over on Lord Sesshomaru. “It’s only a coincidence that we happen to be going to the same place you are,” he said.

Sesshomaru heard Hiroto sigh.

“How do you know where I’m going?” Sesshomaru asked.

In that moment, Saicho’s face turned red as he looked to his comrades for help.

“You told us,” Hiroto saved him.

“I did not,” Sesshomaru responded.

“No, you did,” Hiroto said, matter of fact. “We heard you.”

Sesshomaru listened as everyone chimed in with words of agreement.

Sesshomaru sighed. Whatever. He didn’t care.

“Well, since we’re going to the same place, we might as well just go together,” Saicho said.

“I never said where I was going,” Sesshomaru responded.

“You didn’t have to,” Saicho said. “You said ‘how do you know where I’m going?’ That confirms it.”

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes. “I never told you where I was going. That was a general question,” he responded.

“No, no,” Saicho shook his head. “You confirmed it.”

“I can see it from both angles,” Kenjiro said, with a nod.

“It was a general question,” Sesshomaru repeated. “I –

“No, it was a confirmation,” Saicho said.

Kenjiro laughed. “I can’t believe they’re arguing with each other,” he said to Akihiko.

“I know,” he laughed.

Sesshomaru huffed at their comments. They were right. It was ridiculous, but in a weird way, he enjoyed the debate. If anything it took his mind off of Koji.

“Fine. Tell us where you’re going,” Saicho said.

Sesshomaru ignored him.

“Just what I thought. I was right,” Saicho smiled.

Sesshomaru huffed and walked on.

“Since we’ve gotten that all cleared up, tell us, why you’re trying to visit Kureijī Tīsu,” Saicho said.

“That’s my business,” Sesshomaru said.

“Ha! He admit it!” Saicho laughed, nudging Hiroto, who pushed him away.

Sesshomaru rolled his eyes. Stupid pup.

“Just keep up,” Sesshomaru said, walking on, as the boys cheered.

***

“He is not where is usually is,” Rin huffed, as she reached the location Inuyasha was usually found throughout the day. “He’s not at the well and he’s not here either.”

“It’s okay, Rin. We’ll find him,” Abi assured her.

“I need to find Inuyasha now,” Rin responded.

“Rin! Wait!” Jaken gasped for air, as he ran to follow the group.

The three girls looked at Jaken.

“Did you find Inuyasha, Master Jaken!?” Rin asked, hopeful.

“No,” he gasped, as he collapsed on the ground.

“Mmmm,” Rin sighed.

“Why don’t we split up? We’ll cover more ground that way,” Jinia suggested.

“Yes! Good idea!” Rin smiled. “Abi, you check near the field. Jinia, you check near the huts. I’ll check near the barn, and you check around here, Master Jaken,” Rin instructed everyone before running off.

Wait! Rin! Come back!” Jaken shouted, before closing his eyes and falling on the ground in exhaustion.

Rin ran with Jinia and Abi for a while before they parted ways to reach their assigned search locations. Rin turned right and ran towards the large wooden barn area where the village kept the community livestock. She saw no one.

“Inuyasha! Inuyasha!” she shouted, as she searched around the corners of the barn.

Rin stopped in her tracks. There she saw the back of Okahito. He was placing logs of wood onto a large stump and slamming an axe though them. H seemed to be cutting firewood.

Rin watched for a moment. She hadn’t seen Okahito since the incident at the creek. No one had seen him actually. He had practically vanished from the village. She wondered if he was okay.

Rin proceeded to walk up to him, but hesitated. She sighed and turned away. She didn’t know what to say. Even though Okahito was responsible for the chain of events that occurred on that fateful day, she felt terrible. She had heard what happened to him from her friends… what Inuyasha did and what Lord Sesshomaru did and said. In a way, she felt guilty and responsible. At the same time, she had also heard how some villagers had made strides to overthrow Lady Kaede and stone Inuyasha and Shippo. She felt awful and, in a way, blamed Okahito for that fallout. She was conflicted on what and how to feel.

Before Rin followed her plan to turn and leave, she stopped.

“Hi Okahito,” she said, as he prepared to swing his axe on the log resting on the stump.

Okahito held his axe in the air for a moment before resting it against his leg.

“Rin?” he asked, not looking at her.

“Yes, it’s me,” she responded, walking toward him.

“You shouldn’t be here,” he said, continuing to swing at the log. “You need to go.”

Rin stopped walking. She was surprised by his comment. It wasn’t rude like his usual comments had always been to her, but matter of fact.

“I heard what happened to you,” she said. “I’m sorry.

Okahito didn’t react. He placed another log on the stump and prepared to swing. “Don’t apologize to me,” he said. “I’m the one who should be sorry.”

“It was an accident. I know it was,” she said, walking toward him again. Leaves on the ground crumbled under her bare feet.

“Rin, you need to go,” Okahito said, still not looking at her.

“But –

“Go!” he said, pointing in another direction.

As Okahito’s arm extended, the sleeve of his outfit slide back, exposing his arm. His exposed arm was covered in black, blue and purple bruises.

Rin gasped.

Okahito slide his sleeve back over his arm at Rin’s gasp and let him arm fall at his side. “Go,” he said again.

“What happened to your arm?” she asked.

“Nothing. Just go, Rin.”

“Okahito, no. You should have Lady Kaede take a look at it,” she said, walking over to him.

“It’s none of your business!” Okahito snapped,

“You need to let her –

“Just go away!” Okahito shouted, looking back at her.

Rin gasped at the sight of his face. It was no different from his arm. His face was swollen and covered in black, blue and purple bruises, and there was a giant lump on the side of his forehead.

“Go,” he said, looking away quickly.

“What happened?” Rin ran to him.

“Nothing. Just leave,” he said, walking away from his post at the stump.

“Leave? I’m not leaving! You’re really badly injured!”

“I’m fine,” he said.

“You’re not!” she replied. “You need to let Lady Kaede treat you.”

“You don’t listen! I said go! I don’t want your help or anything from you!”

Rin sighed and let him walk on. Before he walked too far away, she called out to him. “Who did this to you?”

“No one did anything,” Okahito said. “I fell.”

Rin looked at him. “Please, Okahito. Tell me who did this to you? This is wrong!”

“Leave me alone!”

“Was it…” Rin’s mind went wild. Did Inuyasha do this? Did Lord Sesshomaru? No. Jinia and Abi explained that Inuyasha only punched Okahito in the face and that Lord Sesshomaru only lifted him off the ground and threatened him. No, it wasn’t them. It had to have been someone else.

“Do you really want to know, Rin?” Okahito asked, looking into her eyes, as he walked back towards her. Her heart broke as she looked at his face. “I did this to myself,” he responded.

Rin looked at him confused. “Huh? I don’t –

“I should have never pushed you. I didn’t mean to hurt you,” he said.

Rin looked at the gaps of missing teeth in the front of his mouth as he spoke. So, Inuyasha really did knock them out.

“I know you didn’t,” Rin said, “I –

“Okahito, we’ve been looking for you everywhere,” a voice called out from a distance.

Okahito’s eyes widened as he looked back at Rin. “You have to hide. Go, now,” he whispered to her.

Rin saw fear in his eyes. “Huh?”

“I mean it, Rin! Go! Hide somewhere,” he said.

Rin nodded. She could see the fear in his eyes. She scurried away and hid behind a stack of hay by the side of the barn and discretely peeked to see Okahito. Rin watched as Okahito picked up his axe and continued to swing at the wood. She watched as three teenage boys around thirteen or fourteen, stood in front of him. The tall boy in the center was carrying what looked like a homemade pie.

“How are you feeling today, Okahito?” the tall boy in the center asked.

“I’m fine,” Okahito responded.

“Well, you look like shit,” the tall boy responded. “It looks like you really shouldn’t be swinging that axe around like that. You must be in some pain.”

“I’m fine,” Okahito responded, as he placed another piece of wood the stump.

“Set that aside and take a break,” the boy said.

Okahito looked at him. “I have a lot to do and –

“That wasn’t a request,” the short boy on the right said, walking close to him.

Rin’s eyes widened. She hoped that he wouldn’t give in to them. They didn’t look threatening, but the tones in their voices made her uneasy.

Okahito threw the axe as far as he could to the side and looked at the boys. Rin could see fear in his eyes.

“Good boy,” the short boy pat his shoulder.

Okahito winced.

“Ew, gee, I’m sorry about that. You must be in a lot of pain,” the short boy responded at his reaction. “We didn’t mean to do that you.”

Ohakito didn’t react.

“The way I see it, we didn’t mean to hurt you like that and you didn’t mean to bring havoc on our village by demons after your attacked that little girl,” the other boy on the left said.

Rin covered her mouth to hide her gasp. This was all because of what he had done to her.

“I didn’t mean to –

“Sssh,” the tall boy in the center shook his head, and rested his index finger over his lips. “No need to say anything. We understand. Right, boys?”

The other boys nodded.

“We were mad the other day, learning that it was you who caused the issues in our village –

“But, it’s settled,” Okahito said. “Inuyasha is going to defend the village from all demons.”

The tall boy in the center smiled at him. “Oh, yes. We heard. Demons are vile, unpredictable and not to be trusted, but because of you, all of our lives are in the hands of a demon in this village.”

Okahito sighed. “I’m sorry. It was never my intention –

“Oh, it’s alright. We understand. After some thought, we realized that maybe we were a little too… I don’t know,” the tall boy in the center scratched his head.

“Rough?” the boy on the left suggested.

“Yes,” the tall boy in the center nodded. “Yes, we may have been a little too rough.”

Rin watched at the other boys next to him smirked at each other. Something was off. She was nervous. She wanted to do something, but she didn’t know what.

“We decided to make you a little something to apologize for our error,” the tall boy in the center smiled.

“We made it ourselves,” the short boy on the right said in excitement.

“Oh, Piasu, we can’t take all the credit for this. We did have some help,” the tall boy in the center glanced at him. “Here, it’s a pie,” he said, as he held the pie out to Okahito.

Rin watched as Okahito got tense and took a step back.

“What’s wrong? Don’t you like it?” the boy on the left asked.

“We made it just for you,” the short boy on the right said.

“We found it really fitting for you,” the tall boy in the center smiled.

“Yes, we did. Don’t insult us. Have a bite. We made it just for you,” the boy on the left said.

Rin watched as Okahito kept stepping back. The boys walked closer to him.

“Come on, Okahito. Just one bite,” the tall boy in the center said.

“Please, stop,” Okahito said.

“Was that what that girl said when you pushed her, you son-of-a-bitch?!” the tall boy in the center boy shouted, as he lunged at him.

Rin gasped. The boys on the sides grabbed Okahito by the collar of his outfit and pulled him in. As Okahito flew forward, the tall boy in the center slammed the pie into his face. A brown sloppy substance dripped down his face. Okahito shrieked and tried to push the boy away.

“Eat shit, bitch!” the tall boy in the center shouted at him, as she slammed the pie in his face.

Rin gasped. As she got up to try and stop the fight, she crouched back down when an old man with a cane ran out of the house beside the barn.

“Stop this! Stop this! Get out of here!” the old man yelled, as she wobbled out of the house, waving his wooden cane overhead.

The boys ignored him, as they wrestled on the ground with Okahito, smearing the pie all around his face.

“I said, get out of here!” the old man yelled, as he hit his wooden cane across the back of the short boy on the right.

“Ah! Get off me, old man!” the boy shouted, pushing him aside.

The old man fell hard on the ground and squealed in pain.

“Father!” Okahito shouted.

“Run!” the old man yelled to his son, who struggled on the floor.

“Shut up!” the short boy shouted at the old man, kicking him in the side.

Rin gasped. She couldn’t believe the gall and ruthlessness of these boys.

Okahito somehow managed to push the two boys away, stammered to his feet and ran across the barn towards the woods. Rin was surprised that he could even move with the wounds covering his body.

“Run!” the old man shouted, as the three boys ran after him. “Run!” he cried.

When the coast was clear, Rin immediately stood to her feet and ran to the old man.

“Are you okay, sir?” she asked, kneeling next to him.

The man couldn’t respond. He just cried. “My son! My son!”

Rin sighed. She felt awful. She grabbed the man’s cane and did her best to help him sit up straight.

***

Using deductive reasoning, Sesshomaru concluded that Kureijī Tīsu was probably in a certain cove in the northern region. He and the boys reached the location in the afternoon. The location was odd. The cove was located in a random sandy, rocky area surrounded by lush green grass. It was out of place, but it didn’t matter.

Sesshomaru walked ahead onto the sandy bank of the cove. He stood at the bank for a moment and huffed. The cove was empty…not just empty, but abandoned.

“If you’re looking for Kureijī Tīsu, he’s not here,” a small voice said.

“Huh? Who said that?” Saicho asked.

“Down here,” the voice said.

It was a small sea snail. He sat on a broken white shell near the cove entrance.

“You can talk?” Kenjiro asked, as Akihiko let the snail crawl on his hand.

“So can you, oh my gosh! How fantastic! We both can talk! Great!” the snail said, sarcastically.

Hiroto and Akihiko laughed, as Kenjiro scrunched his face and rolled his eyes.

“Where is he?” Sesshomaru asked.

“Gee, I really don’t know,” the snail smirked. “Maybe a little something special will jog my memory.”

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes. Before he could say a word, Hiroto snatched the snail from Akihiko’s hand.

“How about you tell us or I’ll eat you,” Hiroto said.

“You wouldn’t,” the snail said.

“No?” Hiroto questioned him. He opened his mouth and put the snail inside, closing it shut.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened at Hiroto, as the group listened to the snail scream.

“Let me out! Let me out! I’ll tell you! I’ll tell you!” the snail screamed.

Hiroto opened his mouth and took out the snail, who gasped and breathed hard and heavy in his hand.

“You almost killed me!” the snail yelled.

“Are you ready to talk or can I really eat you now?” Hiroto asked.

“I’ll talk, I’ll talk,” the snail answered.

Akihiko, Saicho and Kenjiro shot each other looks.

“Good,” Hiroto said.

“Now, I don’t know exactly where he is. We weren’t friends or anything,” the snail said.

Saicho growled.

“All I know is that he got really sick. Something about his supply ran out and he was going to die if he stayed here any longer,” the snail said.

“Ran out of his supply?” Kenjiro asked.

“What does that mean?” Saicho asked.

“I don’t know. He was an odd character. How many skeletal beings do you know secrete a crazy slim that helps others grow teeth day-in and day-out?”

The group was silent for a moment.

“He secretes a slim?” Saicho asked.

Kenjiro gagged a couple of times before vomiting off to the side.

The group looked at him puzzled. No one really expected him to actually vomit like that.

“What’s wrong with you?” Saicho asked. “What he said wasn’t that gross.”

“I have a very vivid imagination,” he responded, wiping his mouth with his arm.

“I’m sure you do,” the snail commented.

“What type of supply was he talking about?” Sesshomaru asked the snail.

“Eh, I don’t know,” he responded.

Sesshomaru caught a whiff of something special. It had been years since he smelled it. There were a lot nearby. They were old, maybe a few decades or so, and altogether. Sesshomaru swallowed the salvia that formed in his mouth at the anticipation of an exciting discovery.

Walking forward, he saw a large deep hole, filled with the bones of hundreds of large four-legged animals. Sesshomaru’s eyes widened. There was nothing more exciting to him than aged bones. He loved bones. It took everything in Sesshomaru not to dive down and sniff, and chomp on every single bone in sight.

“One day, we should soak in the mud and naw on some hare and venison bones. It’ll be the best of both worlds,” Sesshomaru could hear Koji’s voice in his head.

Sesshomaru breathed and walked away from the ditch. He couldn’t go in there. He collected himself and returned to the group.

“Those bones in that ditch over there, what are they of?” Sesshomaru asked.

The group looked at Hiroto.

“What are the bones of?” Sesshomaru asked again.

The group remained quiet as Sesshomaru walked over to Hiroto.

“Where’s the snail?” Sesshomaru asked.

“I ate him?” Hiroto lowered his head.

“You what?” Sesshomaru asked.

“I ate him. I didn’t think we needed him anymore,” Hiroto said.

Sesshomaru huffed and walked back to the cove to think. He pondered how he could figure out what type of bones they were without going down there himself. They may have been a clue to where Kureijī Tīsu was now.

“Well, I hope you chewed him up real good before he went down,” Saicho told Hiroto.

“What does it matter if I did or not?”

“If you didn’t, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was still living and used one of your inside bones to cut you open.”

“Shut up,” Hiroto said.

“You found bones, Lord Sesshomaru?” Akihiko asked.

“They’re down there,” he pointed into the ditch. “They may be a clue to find Kureijī Tīsu.”

“Hmm,” Kenjiro said.

“What’s wrong?” Saicho asked.

“We don’t have the snail. That’s what’s wrong,” Kenjiro said.

“I’m sorry. I’ll make it up to everyone,” Hiroto said.

“Yeah, how, genius?” Kenjiro asked, sarcastically.

“You can start by telling us what type of bones those are down there?” Akihiko said.

“Huh?” Hiroto asked.

“We needed to ask the snail if he was aware of these bones and if Kureijī Tīsu was responsible for them,” Sesshomaru responded.

“Well, maybe I can try,” Hiroto said.

“How are you going to try?” Kenjiro asked.

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes at him.

Hiroto changed into his true form and jumped into the ditch.

“What is he doing?” Kenjiro asked.

The group watched as he sniffed and licked the bones. Sesshomaru cringed. He had never been more jealous of anyone, and yet relieved that he didn’t have to go down there.  

After a few minutes of scanning the bones in the ditch, he leapt out and transformed back into his humanoid form.

“Well?” Saicho asked.

“Cows,” Hiroto answered.

“Cows?”

“Yes.”

“How do you know?” Akihiko asked.

“Their scent and taste,” Hiroto responded.

“Scent? How can you smell the scent of a once living being from an old bone?”

Sesshomaru knew better than anyone that it was possible…. hard, but possible.

“My brother is Naoki. His nickname is Nose. The gift runs in the family,” Hiroto said. “Lord Sesshomaru, I’d bet anything that those bones in there are cows.”

Sesshomaru looked at him and back down in the ditch. It was odd, but he trusted the boy’s word. If he was anything like Naoki, he was probably right. But, he had to check, even if he didn’t want to, but kind of really wanted to. He couldn’t resist. They were possibly cow bones. He would know if Hiroto were right immediately. Cow bones were ones of his top favorite bones to naw on.

Sesshomaru transformed into his true form and checked the bones himself. Once his tongue touched the first bones, he was struck by bliss. They were cow bones for sure.

“Had fun?” Saicho asked Sesshomaru, when he emerged from the ditch of bones, with a laugh.

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes.

“Hiroto may be correct. I heard somewhere that cows’ milk has incredible properties that strengthen bone. If Kureijī Tīsu was a skeletal demon being, he would need some sort of sustenance to support him,” Kenjiro said. “If I could make an educated guess, I would say that Kureijī Tīsu ran out of cows to sustain him and moved elsewhere to find another source for cows.”

Sesshomaru was astonished. Kenjiro might not have been the best fighter or the bravest, but he was definitely intelligent.

“But, there are cows in the area. I can hear them,” Akihiko said. “He wouldn’t need to leave.”

“Only if he didn’t have access to that supply anymore,” Kenjiro said.

Sesshomaru thought to himself. “Stay here,” he said, walking off.

The group looked at each other.

“Fuck that,” Saicho said, following after him with the others behind him.

Sesshomaru followed the scent of cows to a human village a few minutes away. The scent had been blended by the scent of the boys who had followed him.

“You don’t listen,” Sesshomaru said, still walking forward without looking back.

The group remained quiet as they looked at each other.

“I know you’re there. I can smell you,” Sesshomaru said.

“Damn,” Saicho whispered.

“I can hear you too,” Sesshomaru said, still walking on.

“Fine,” Saicho said. “We’re following you. We’re a team. You can’t leave us.”

“We’re not a team,” Sesshomaru said.

“We are and you know it,” Saicho responded, as Sesshomaru huffed.

Sesshomaru led the group to the edge of the village and stopped. “I need you to stay her –

“Who are you and what do you want?” a human woman with a deep hoarse voice asked, loudly, with a broom in her hand. She was prepared to swing.

“She’s not afraid of us,” Akihiko whispered to Hiroto.

“Maybe she’s just old and doesn’t know that we’re actually demons,” Hiroto responded.

Sesshomaru was a bit surprised as well.

“I know what you are!” the woman snapped. “We don’t do business with your kind anymore,” he spat.

“Huh?” Kenjiro asked, puzzled.

“What do you mean by that?” Sesshomaru asked the woman.

“Shouldn’t you ought to know?” the woman asked, aggravated. “You dog demons withdrew your support from our village and left us to fend for ourselves without any word or warning.”

Sesshomaru looked at the old woman blankly. “What was our arrangement?”

“What? Do you not talk to each other in your neck of the woods?” the woman snapped. “Your troops would defend us against the rabbit demons eating our crops and we would provide cows every week for that ghastly creature living in the cove down there.”

Sesshomaru was silent.

“Ha! I was right!” Hiroto said, in excitement. “They were cows!” he slapped the hand of Kenjiro, who was just as excited.

“The creature living in the cove?” Sesshomaru asked.

“Yeah, that skeleton-looking seahorse thing that sucked the cows dry and threw their bones in a ditch.”

“Where is he now?” Sesshomaru asked.

“How the hell would I know? He’s probably dead by now. After we stopped supplying him with the cows, after you bastards stopped defending us against the rabbit demons, he started shriveling up.”

“Shriveling up?” Kenjiro asked.

“Yeah. He was getting brittle or something,” the woman responded. “He came over trying to ask for cows. We gave him milk a few times when he looks absolutely horrible, but when he started stealing our cows, we secured our fences and told him to get lost. Sometime after that, he was just gone.”

Sesshomaru listened.

“If he died, it’s your faults. We had a great deal going,” the woman said. “I don’t know why you wrecked it.”

Sesshomaru turned and walked away. The woman’s words cut Sesshomaru like a knife. “If he died, it’s your faults.” It was his fault. It was his fault that Koji died.

A wave of sadness hit Sesshomaru. He just wanted to be alone.

“Thank you,” Akihiko said to the old woman, as he ran off with the rest of the group.

“So, it was true. He was feeding on cows,” Kenjiro said.

“Do you think he’s dead?” Akihiko asked.

“I don’t know. The snail said that he left to find another supply. He might have just done that,” Hiroto said.

“Maybe? But, what if he was too weak and died on the way?”

“It’s possible, maybe even probable, but we can still try to find him,” Kenjiro said. “All we need to do is look for the closest human villages with cows in the surrounding areas. If he was so weak, he wouldn’t have traveled very far.”

“But, I doubt he would have made an arrangement with a human village,” Akihiko commented.

“No, but if he were desperate enough, which he clearly was, he would probably just steal the cows like I did here,” Kenjiro said.

“True,” Akihiko nodded.

“I will figure out what happened to Kureijī Tīsu. You’re going back home,” Sesshomaru said.

“What?” the group asked.

“But, you need us?” Saicho said.

“I don’t need anyone,” Sesshomaru responded.

“You needed us today? How else would you have known about the cow situation? You would have been nowhere without us!” Saicho added.

“I doubt that,” Sesshomaru said.

“Why waste time taking us back?” Kenjiro asked.

“You got here on your own, you can return on your own.”

“Precisely. We got here on our own and will return to where we came from on our own, at our own pace on our own journey,” Hiroto said.

Sesshomaru huffed. They were bold kids. He could see shadows of the memories of his time with his training group members.

“You’ll be in the way,” Sesshomaru responded.

“You know our brothers –

“And father,” Kenjiro interjected.

“Right,” Hiroto nodded. "You know our brothers and Kenjiro’s father better than anyone. They are probably already halfway here looking for us,” Hiroto said.

Sesshomaru was silent. He was amused by how clever, crafty and cunning they were. Nonetheless, he just wanted to be alone.

“Naoki is my brother. His name is Nose. He’ll be here so quick.”

“Yes,” Kenjiro agreed.

“How about this? We’ll travel with you until our brothers and Kenjiro’s father get here. When they come to get us, then we’ll leave,” Hiroto said.

“No, you’re leaving now,” he said.

“But –

SPLASH!

Everyone froze as mud splashed all over them.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened. He turned to see Akihiko twirling in a large pool of mud off to the side. He could hear his heart beating in his chest as he watched the young dog demon twirl in the mud.

Sesshomaru walked over to Akihiko in the pool of mud. Without a word or a care of keeping composed, he stepped into the mud and looked down at the young dog demon. The boy froze as Sesshomaru grabbed his chin and looked deep into his widened eyes. Those eyes… it was like Koji looking back at him.

Sesshomaru gasped with wide eyes as he let his chin go. Akihiko slipped and fell back into the mud.

“I’m sorry,” Akihiko apologized, struggling to get out of the mud pool. “I didn’t mean to get you covered in mud. I just really like mud. I can’t help it –

Sesshomaru shook his head and huffed. “Your father is Koji,” he said.

“Koji?” Akihiko asked, as he looked at the others in confusion.

Sesshomaru growled. It wasn’t making sense. Sesshomaru distinctly remembered Akihiko making it sound like his father was alive when he overheard them in the woods months ago. Was his training group members telling him that Koji was dead just a trick as he had initially assumed… a ploy to get him to return? It couldn’t have been. The way they reacted was so real. It didn’t make sense. Sesshomaru was losing it.

***

Rin did her best to help Okahito’s father. She ran to the water basins near the troughs for the livestock. After removing the sash of her outfit, she dampened it was water and went back to tend to his father. She pat the wet sash on his forehead and cheeks, and used it to wipe the dirt and grass stains on his knees. The man was barely aware of anything. He just continued to sob and cry for his son.

Rin didn’t know how long she had stayed with Okahito’s father, but after some time, she saw a figure stumbling back towards the barn. Rin’s eyes widened as panic and fear hit her. She was too far away to tell who it was and wasn’t exactly sure what to do. She kept her eyes on the moving figure, trying to decipher who or what it was.

“Okahito!” Rin shouted, as she recognized his face.

“Okahito? My son is here?” the old man asked.

“I will be back. I will get him,” Rin said to the man, as she gently moved his head from her lap to the ground.

Rin stood to her feet and ran to Okahito. “Okahito!” she shouted in relief.

“Rin,” Okahito gasped, when she reached her.

His face was smeared with manure and he smelled like it too. Rin couldn’t see if he had sustained any additional wounds from whatever happened in the woods, but she figured that he did by the way he was carrying himself.

“Okahito, are you alright?” she asked.

Rin watched as Okahito’s eyes rolled back in his head and he started to fall forward. “Ah!” Rin shouted, as Okahito collapsed on her. He had passed out. They both fell to the ground, as Okahito’s dead weight was too much for her too hold.

“Rin!” she heard Jaken calling her name. “Get off of her, your miscreant!” he shouted, as he ran towards her and Okahito on the ground with his Staff of Two Heads blowing flames in his hand.

 “Master Jaken, no! He’s passed out!” Rin shouted, trying to guard Okahito from the staff’s flames. “We need to get him help!”

“I’m not helping him!” Jaken exclaimed.

“Master Jaken, please!” she begged. “He needs help.”

“That’s true, but he doesn’t need our help,” he responded. “Now, let’s go. It smells awful over here,” he said, struggling to pry the boy off of her with the end of his staff.

“Rin! We found Inuyasha!” she heard Jinia call to her from afar.

Rin turned to see Jinia running up with Inuyasha, Miroku and Abi. She had never been more happy to see any of them.

“What’s going on here?” Miroku asked, as he ran up towards Rin, followed by Inuyasha, Jinia and Abi.

“Are you okay, Rin?” Inuyasha asked, picking Okahito up from off of Rin’s body and letting him fall hard on the ground to the side.

“I am,” she responded, looking at Okahito.

“What did he do to you?” Inuyasha asked, looking at the boy.

“Nothing,” Rin responded. “He –

“Look at those bruises,” Miroku commented, running over to Okahito’s side.

“Ew, what’s that smell?” Abi asked holding her nose.

“Miroku, what is that on his face?” Inuyasha asked.

“Rin, what happened?” Jinia asked, as Miroku checked Okahito’s pulse and ignored Inuyasha’s question.

“Who cares? He deserves every one of the bruises for what he did to Rin,” Jaken stated, as he crossed his arms.

“Did you do this to him?” Miroku asked, grabbing Jaken by his garment.

“I did not!” Jaken responded, startled. He had always been afraid of Miroku.

“It’s the villagers,” Rin said. “They did this to Okahito. Three boys.”

“The villagers?” Inuyasha asked, looking at the bruises on the boy.

“I wouldn’t put it past them,” Miroku said. “Look at what they almost did to you and Shippo.”

Inuyasha sighed. Miroku had a point. Something snapped in the villagers that day. No one really knew what they were capable of.

“Okahito’s father was attacked too. He’s over by the barn,” Rin continued.

The group all looked.

“This is bad,” Miroku said, looking at Inuyasha.

“I know,” he nodded.

“Is he dead?” Abi asked.

“No, he’s just passed out,” Miroku responded. “Inuyasha, take him. We need to get him to Lady Kaede right away. I’ll go check on his father,” he added.

Inuyasha nodded, picked Okahito up and jumped towards Lady Kaede’s hut.

“Will he be okay?” Abi asked Miroku.

“I believe he will make a full recovery,” he responded, running towards the barn to tend to Okahito’s father.

Rin gave Abi and Jinia a look of concern, before she ran with them towards the barn following Miroku. As she ran, the feeling she felt before surged through her.  She stopped short and breathed. In all of the commotion and concern for Okahito, she had forgotten why she needed to see Inuyasha in the first place. She needed to have him help her find Lord Sesshomaru, but there was no way for her to ask now.

Rin closed her eyes and held onto her heart. “Lord Sesshomaru, where are you? Come back,” she said under her breath.

“Rin! What’s wrong with you?” Jaken asked, catching up to her.

Rin took a breath. “I’m fine, Master Jaken,” she said, before running as fast as she could towards the barn after the others.

***

“I don’t know a Koji,” Akihiko said.

“Is your father alive?” Sesshomaru asked.

“Yes,” Akihiko answered, looking at his friends.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened. He could feel his blood boiling. His training brothers did lie to him. How could they? He felt a great urge to turn right around and burn that whole castle and everyone in it to the ground, with all of his training group members at the top of the heap.

“My father is Izo, the blacksmith.”

Sesshomaru stopped breathing. The world went silent. He couldn’t hear anything, but his heart beating in his chest and Akihiko’s words of “my father is Izo, the blacksmith” replaying in his head.

When Sesshomaru finally came to, he heard shouting.

“Kenjiro!” he heard Riichi shout.

“Saicho, you piece of shit! What’s wrong with you?” he heard Daichi shout.

The boys were right. His training brothers had been tracking them. Sesshomaru knew that they would be arriving soon enough.

“Sesshomaru! What were you thinking taking them? What’s all this green stuff ooz –

“Akihiko!”

Sesshomaru went deaf to everyone, as he turned to see who came to claim Akihiko. Standing in the distance in his true form next to Naoki, Daichi, Riichi, Isao and Eito was not Koji, but Izo.

Sesshomaru held out his arm to block Akihiko from walking forward as he walked towards Izo. Sesshomaru’s walk quickly turned into a run as he transformed into his true form and charged at Izo. He lunged at his face and clawed at him with his mouth and hands.

“Father!” Akihiko shouted.

“Woah, woah!” Riichi shouted, as he pushed Kenjiro aside to break up the fight with the others.

“Sesshomaru!” his training group members shouted, as they worked to pry him off Izo.

“Stop! Stop! Get off of me!” Akihiko shouted from behind. Naoki, Eito, Hiroto and Saicho were holding him back.

Sesshomaru didn’t care to look. His focus was on Izo. He felt nothing but hatred toward him.

“Sesshomaru, stop!” Daichi shouted.

Sesshomaru barked and took a moment to glare into Izo’s eyes. He didn’t see fear in his eyes, but something else.

“You worthless piece of shit!” Izo spat at him.

Sesshomaru growled.

“Fuck you!” Izo shouted, unafraid.

“Woah, woah. Everyone, just stop,” Eito said.

“So, you finally learn the truth and this is how you react,” Izo growled

“I should tear you to shreds,” Sesshomaru said.

“You ass-backwards clown, why are you mad at me?!” Izo shouted. “Do you even have an answer?”

Sesshomaru breathed. He couldn’t exactly pin point why he was mad at Izo. He barely knew him. For some irrational reason, seeing Izo claim Akihiko as his son sparked rage in him. Akihiko was Koji’s son. He knew it. Koji should have been able to claim his own son. Koji should have been alive.

“The only one you should be tearing to shreds is your own damn self,” Izo continued.

“Izo, stop!” Riichi said.

“Yeah, stop,” the others agreed.

“It’s your fault Koji is dead! Yours and yours alone!” Izo shouted at Sesshomaru. “Koji laid his life down to save your miserable worthless ass! He gave up and lost everything for you!”

Sesshomaru continued to glare at Izo. His words hurt, but he did his best not to react.

“You need to stop,” Daichi told Izo.

Izo ignored him and continued to speak to Sesshomaru. “I heard they were only able to tell you half of what happened because your bitch ass couldn’t stand to hear everything… everything you did. You couldn’t stand to hear about your paramount role in Koji’s death,” he hissed. “Well, let me fill you in, Lord Sesshomaru,” Izo mocked him.

“Izo, please. Stop!” Riichi said, looking at Sesshomaru.

Izo ignored them and walked close to Sesshomaru so that they were snout to snout and toe to toe.

“Koji didn’t make it the night you were attacked. Your bastard father led each one of them to believe that Koji was alive, when he wasn’t,” Izo said, pointing to Sesshomaru’s training brothers. “He wanted to spare you the ‘heartache’ of knowing that you were responsible for Koji’s death.”

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes. He was confused. “My father?”

“Sesshomaru, you just need to listen to us. We will tell you exactly what happened and explain everything,” Naoki said.

“Look at that. It’s insanity,” Izo shook his head. “You cause the death of a friend, treat everyone like shit, kill a number of your own troop members in cold blood, leave for centuries, kidnap our pups and yet, they still care for you.  It’s absolute insanity.”

Sesshomaru could barely process a word Izo was saying. His mind was still caught on his father’s alleged role in hiding Koji’s death from him.

“That’s enough, Izo,” Daichi said.

“Yes. It is enough,” Isao agreed.

The bickering between Izo and his training group faded from his mind as Sesshomaru felt his body jerk. He froze.

“Lord Sesshomaru, where are you? Come back.”

It was Rin’s voice. He could hear it somehow. Something wasn’t right. He had to go. He didn’t know what was going on or why he could hear her voice in his being like this.

Without a word, Sesshomaru morphed into ball of light and soared away, leaving everyone behind.

“Sesshomaru!” he heard Eito call his name before he was out of everyone’s sight.

Chapter Text

Although morphing into a ball of light allowed Sesshomaru to travel away exceptionally fast, the ability could only take him so far. It was an escape ability that would allow him to flee a dangerous situation in a quick time. It could take him a significant distance away from any given area. Sesshomaru used the ability in various ways for his benefit, but it would not be able to take him back to Rin’s village in the Central region from the Western Lands. Once his ball of light travel ability was used, he would have to wait a significant amount of time for it to recharge again. When Sesshomaru’s ball of light ability subsided, in the essence of time, he transformed into his true form and continued the rest of the way to Rin’s village.

Sesshomaru wouldn’t stop. He pressed forward and moved as fast as he could through the skies. The trip would take him a reasonable amount of time on a good day, but he could not stop. He would keep flying until he reached her village. He had to get to Rin.

What Sesshomaru was feeling was odd. It was very similar to what he had felt when he was compelled to leave the monks in the Central region to go and visit Rin, and learned that her teeth had been knocked out, but different. With this feeling, he didn’t really feel an urgency to see her like before. Sesshomaru had just heard her voice asking for him somehow. It was bizarre, but he didn’t question it. If Rin needed to see him, he would be there.

As Sesshomaru travelled, Rin’s welfare was the only thing on his mind. He hoped that she was well and was not injured. He had placed her in Jaken’s care and trusted him to fulfill that duty. If something else had happened to her, he didn’t know what he’d do. After everything, nothing could happen to Rin. He couldn’t be responsible for her misfortune too.

***

Rin caught up with the group and helped position Okahito’s father to lean on Miroku’s shoulder with his cane before escorting him to Lady Kaede’s hut for treatment. He was weak and a bit hysterical over his son’s well-being. As they led him to Lady Kaede’s hut, the group did their best to calm him down and reassure him that Okahito would be alright, but the man wouldn’t hear any of it.

“They won’t leave him alone!” the man bellowed, in sobs.

“Who won’t leave Okahito alone?” Miroku asked. “Who’s been doing this?”

“Everyone!” the man cried. “They won’t stop!” he kept repeating.

Miroku sighed and bowed his head. “It’s okay,” he tried to calm the man. “We’ll find a way to take of this.”

“You can’t. It’s my fault. They won’t stop,” the man continued to cry. “They won’t stop until he’s dead.”

Rin’s eyes widened at the man’s comment. “Dead?”

“Would you shut up?!” Jaken snapped at the man. “You’re stupid son got what he deserved! If he dies, he dies.”

“Master Jaken!” Rin shouted.

“It’s true! He got exactly what he deserved!” Jaken reiterated. “I’m surprised he’s not dead already.”

Okahito’s father cried.

“You’re going to get what you deserve once we get him to Kaede’s hut,” Miroku snarled.

Jaken snapped his mouth shut and trembled as he walked on.

Inuyasha was already waiting outside of Lady Kaede’s hut when the group arrived. Okahito’s father shrieked at the sight of Inuyasha. “Ah!”

“It’s okay, He won’t hurt you,” Miroku assured him. “He’s going to help you.”

“No!” the man shouted. “He was the demon who attacked my son first!”

Rin, Jinia and Abi each looked at each other.

“Get back! Get back, I say!” Okahito’s father yelled.

Inuyasha huffed. “I’m not going to hurt you,” he said, walking towards the man, who continued to shriek. Inuyasha grabbed Okahito’s father effortlessly and carried him up the stairs. The man squirmed and shrieked all the way into Lady Kaede’s hut.

Miroku looked around for Jaken, but he was conveniently missing. Rin and the rest of the group ran inside, with Miroku following behind.

Off to the side, Okahito lay with his eyes closed on a futon in the corner of the room. His face was clean. Lady Kaede was dipping white rags covered in a brown sludge into a pot of boiling water.

“Okahito!” Okahito’s father shouted, as she saw his son lying in the corner.

Rin was the first to run to Okahito and knelt by his side. Jinia and Abi followed her lead.

“Okahito,” Rin said, touching his hand. “Is he alright?”

“Aye, he is fine,” Lady Kaede answered. “He should wake soon.”

When Okahito’s father struggled to run to his son’s side, Inuyasha let him go. Being weak, he fell face forward onto the wooden floor. The group shrieked.

“Inuyasha!” Miroku shouted, running to help the man to his feet.

“I’m sorry! I didn’t think he’d fall,” Inuyasha said, extending a hand to help up the man.

Inuyasha huffed and crossed his arms when the man swat his hand away. “Fine! Stay down there then, old man!”

“Inuyasha,” Lady Kaede sighed.

“What?! He doesn’t want my help!” Inuyasha said.

Lady Kaede watched as Miroku escorted the man over to his son. The girls slid over to give him room.

“My son,” Okahito’s father said, bowing his head. “I am so sorry.”

“He will be sore a few days, but he is okay,” Lady Kaede informed the man. “He is very badly bruised. He is fortunate not to have any broken bones,” she added.

The man sobbed and cried out for his son. Miroku consoled him by putting an arm around his shoulder.

“Although some of these bruises are fresh, some are old. Okahito cannot sustain injuries like this continually,” Lady Kaede said, before looking at Okahito’s father. “What are your ailments?” she asked him.

Okahito’s father was so distraught that he could barely respond.

“What are his ailments?” she asked Miroku regarding the man.

“He was attacked by the same villagers who attacked Okahito,” Miroku said.

“He was knocked over and kicked in the side by the three boys who went after Okahito,” Rin added, looking back at Lady Kaede.

“What is going on?” Inuyasha asked, in an irritated one. “What did he do now?”

“He didn’t do anything! They came out of nowhere and attacked him,” Rin defended the boy.

“That’s really hard to believe,” Inuyasha huffed.

“But, it’s true!” Rin said. “Okahito was cutting wood and –

“Cutting wood?” Lady Kaede asked. “He is in no shape to be cutting wood. As I said, most of these wounds are old,” she added, looking at Miroku, who looked at Inuyasha, who looked at the old man sitting next to his son.

“What do you know about that?” Inuyasha asked, looking at the man with narrow eyes.

Okahito’s father was silent. He closed his eyes and buried his head in his son’s chest.

“Tell us, old man!” Inuyasha shouted.

“Enough, Inuyasha,” Lady Kaede said, walking over to the man. “Let me take a look at you,” she said, kneeling next to Okahito’s father.

Inuyasha huffed. “He knows exactly what’s going on. He probably –

“Inuyasha,” Lady Kaede said again.

Rin looked at Okahito’s father. She didn’t know what to think or exactly what Inuyasha was implying.

“That’s enough,” Lady Kaede said. “Miroku, please.”

Miroku nodded and walked over to Inuyasha. “Come on, let’s go,” he said, escorting him outside.

As Rin watched Miroku escort the aggravated Inuyasha out of the hut, Lady Kaede instructed her, Jinia and Abi to leave as well. The girls nodded and followed them outside.

“He knows something!” Inuyasha shouted at Miroku. “He knows something he doesn’t want us to know!”

“Huh?” Abi said.

“I think you’re right,” Miroku responded to Inuyasha. “He might have even caused some of those bruises to Okahito himself.”

Abi gasped.

“What?” Jinia said.

“Lady Kaede said herself that some of Okahito’s bruises were old. Who knows? He could have beaten Okahito with his cane for all we know,” Miroku said.

Rin’s eyes widened as she remembered how Okahito’s father wacked his wooden cane across the back of the short boy when he tried to run them off. No. It couldn’t be. He was so distraught by Okahito’s affliction.

“He could have been doing this for years and Okahito has just been covering it up,” Miroku said.

“Okahito,” Rin whispered to herself, in sadness.

“I don’t think so,” Jinia said. “Okahito never had bruises like that before. He’s been out swimming bare-chested with Kohaku, Wakasa and the others. He never had any bruises before.”

“Jinia’s right. He was just out swimming with the others a few days ago and didn’t have any bruises,” Abi agreed.

“Hmm,” Miroku pondered.

“So, he got them quite recently,” Inuyasha said, as he breathed.

“But, those boys attacked Okahito before,” Rin said. “They said that they gave him the pie to apologize for being too ‘rough’ last time.”

Miroku nodded. “Well maybe that’s it,” he said. “The villagers did it and that’s that. We’re just jumping to conclusions.”

Inuyasha shook his head. “Yeah, but what father would allow his son to cut wood all bruised up like that? That doesn’t even sound right. It sounds like Okahito’s father was making him cut wood all bruised as a punishment for something.”

Rin gasped and looked back at the hut. She wondered what was going on.

“I think I understand what’s happening here,” Miroku said. “Rin explained that when Okahito was attached, the boys mentioned something about him attacking a girl and causing the village to be ‘run by demons.’”

“What are they talking about? The village isn’t being run by demons at all,” Inuyasha said.

“No, but it is being influenced by demons,” Miroku said. “…by one demon in particular,” he added.

“What are you talking about? I’m not influencing anyone here!” Inuyasha yelled.

“Not you,” Miroku replied, bursting Inuyasha’s ego. “Sesshomaru.”

“Lord Sesshomaru?” Rin asked herself, under her breath.

“Sesshomaru!” Inuyasha shouted. “What the hell are you talking about? He’s not even here!”

“He’s not here, but Rin is,” Miroku replied.

Jinia and Abi looked at Rin for answers she didn’t have. Rin was just as confused as them.

“As long as Rin is in this village, Sesshomaru will have an influence on everyone in this village,” Miroku continued.

“You’re talking crazy,” Inuyasha huffed, as he crossed his arms.

“Aye. He has a point, Inuyasha,” Lady Kaede said, as she hobbled down the stairs of her hut.

“He does?” Jinia asked, looking at Rin and Abi.

“Aye,” Lady Kaede responded.

“Of course the old hag would agree,” Inuyasha huffed.

“Think back on what happened after Okahito harmed Rin. You punched him in the face. Then, Sesshomaru came and threatened not only Okahito, but this entire village,” Miroku said.

“Well, do you blame him? She’s missing half her teeth,” Inuyasha responded.

Rin sighed.

“The villagers were about to overthrow Kaede and stone both you and Shippo. The villagers were terrified,” Miroku added.

“But, nothing has changed from before! It was no secret that Sesshomaru would take action if something happened to Rin,” Inuyasha said.

“Yes, that had always been implied, which is why many chose to stay as far away from her as possible, but when they saw the first-hand effects of crossing Sesshomaru by hurting Rin, that implication became a reality,” Miroku said. “Sesshomaru will come after anyone who harms Rin in this village.”

Inuyasha huffed.

“And although you and I have been designated as the ones who promote demonic order in the village, an assignment that many are grateful for us to have, all out the influence of Sesshomaru, some villagers clearly feel that their lives are at the mercy of demons,” Miroku continued. “They’re blaming Okahito and they are punishing him for that because he was the one who started all of this drama… Hence, why he was attacked by the village teenagers today.”

“But, hurting him will not fix anything,” Abi said.

“Aye,” Lady Kaede agreed.

“No, but I would assume that in attacking Okahito, the villagers who feel this way may feel like they have some control over something,” Miroku stated.

“What do you mean by control over something?” Inuyasha asked.

“For all practical purposes, nobody is going to think twice if Okahito gets attacked. Inuyasha already pulverized him and Sesshomaru threatened to kill him. Okahito is free to terrorize,” Miroku said. “His father may have even punished him his own way because of his actions and what he caused.”

“But he seemed so sad when we brought him here,” Abi commented.

“Remorseful may be a better word for it,” Inuyasha said.

“The villagers may have caught wind of him punishing Okahito and took the liberty of doing it themselves,” Miroku said.

Rin gasped. “No! That’s wrong!”

“I’m only speculating,” Miroku said, looking at Rin. “We are not sure what really happened. Only Okahito can tell us that.”

“We have to find a way to protect him!” Rin cried.

“Okahito is not my favorite person, but I agree, we have to be able to do something,” Jinia said.

“Can you do anything, Lady Kaede?” Rin asked.

Lady Kaede sighed.

“No offense, but it’s very unlikely that she will be able to do anything about this,” Inuyasha said, shaking his head. “I doubt anyone will listen to her right now.”

Before anyone could rebuttal Inuyasha’s comment, Miroku agreed. “I agree. The villagers are likely to believe that Kaede caused this issue by entertaining such an arrangement with Sesshomaru, a demon, regarding Rin’s welfare in the first place.”

“Aye,” Kaede nodded. “It’s true.”

“Then, I’ll have to do it,” Inuyasha said.

“Do what, exactly?” Miroku asked.

“Convince them to leave Okahito alone,” he said.

“And, how will you do that? You’re probably up against the same villagers who were about to stone you and Shippo the other day.”

“So, what?! They didn’t!” Inuyasha shouted.

“Yes, only because Sesshomaru stepped in,” Miroku responded.

Inuyasha growled. “So, what are you saying, Miroku? Sesshomaru is the only one who can save Okahito?”

“I don’t know,” Miroku responded. “Maybe he can –

Inuyasha laughed. “I guess this kid is going to end up dead in a ditch somewhere because there is no way Sesshomaru is going to help him.”

Jinia and Abi gasped.

“This is all my fault!” Rin shouted, covering her face and running off behind the hut towards the woods.

“Rin!” Jinia and Abi called after her.

“You idiot,” Miroku said, looking at Inuyasha. “Why would you say that?”

Inuyasha moaned in guilt. “I’ll go after her,” he said.

“Give her some time,” Lady Kaede said. “This is a lot for her to take in.”

“Sure. I have an idea where she’s headed,” Miroku nodded. “Plus, I’m sure Inuyasha will need some time to come up with a decent apology,” Miroku added.

Inuyasha rolled his eyes and crossed his arms.

“Make yourselves useful and take Abi and Jinia home, as I check on Okahito and his father,” Lady Kaede said.

“Yes,” Miroku responded, waving the girls on to follow him.

***

Rin headed straight for the caves of the glow worms. It had become her special spot to be and think, especially when she wasn’t in the best of moods. Going deep into the dark cave alone scared her, but just sitting on a rock at the edge of the cave entrance was good enough. Looking into the cave from the rock she sat on, Rin could see green shadows dancing on the cave walls from around the bend deep inside the cave. They relaxed her.

Rin placed her hands in her lap and breathed. She felt responsible and guilty for everything that had happened to Okahito. Okahito was badly bruised and lying unconscious in Lady Kaede’s hut because of her. Yes, he was responsible for pushing her, but she was the reason why Inuyasha attacked him and Lord Sesshomaru threatened him. She was also the reason why the village rose to challenge Lady Kaede’s authority as leader of the village and why some were continuing to attack Okahito for what he had done to her. It was all her fault.

Before Rin could wallow into any more self-pity, she heard her name. She knew that voice better than anyone else’s. It was Lord Sesshomaru!

“Rin.”

Rin looked up with a smile. There, Lord Sesshomaru stood before her at the entrance of the cave. She hadn’t been happier to see him.

“Lord Sesshomaru!” she responded, standing to her feet.

Looking him over, Rin questioned whether she had been wrong to worry. He had looked the same, but…

Rin’s smile faded to concern when she looked into his eyes. She didn’t know exactly what she saw in his eyes, but something was wrong.

“Rin, what’s wrong?” Sesshomaru asked, at her sudden change in expression.

Without a word, Rin walked over, grabbed him by the waist and hugged him tight.

Sesshomaru froze. He felt himself crumbling. All of the emotions he had worked so hard to suppress were coming to the surface. He couldn’t stop them. Sesshomaru lowered his body and hugged Rin back. He buried his head in her shoulder. If he was going to lose it, no one would see it.

Rin expected him to let her go after a few seconds, but he didn’t. He held her tight with his head in her shoulder. Rin didn’t move, she stood where she was and waited for him to let her go. As she stood, she wondered what could have happened. She had seen Lord Sesshomaru get upset and have bad moods before, but she had had never seen him like this.

Rin’s eyes widened as she felt the shoulder of her kimono dampen and felt a trickle of something wet travel down her shoulder and around her armpit. Was Lord Sesshomaru crying? He wasn’t making any crying sounds, but the circumstances proved otherwise. Rin felt herself overcome with concern. She didn’t know what to do. Clearly, Lord Sesshomaru was upset. What did he need? What could she do? Would she be able to even to anything? All she could do in that very moment was be there.

As Rin felt another trickle of wetness travel down her shoulder, she heard Sesshomaru sniffle. He made a deep inhale and pulled away from her. Rin watched with wide eyes as he kept his face turned away from her as he stood up. She watched as he let his hands travel up his face and brush his bangs back. It looked like he was pushing his bangs back with his forehead, but Rin was sure that he was trying to discretely wipe his tears away.

“What’s wrong, Rin?” he asked, still looking away from her.

By the sound of his voice, Rin could tell that he surely was crying a few moments ago and was still really upset.

What was wrong? There was something wrong with him; that was what was wrong.

Rin breathed as she looked back at the cave, trying to think of what to do. Then, it came to her. “I have something to show you,” she responded.

“What is it?” he asked, still looking away.

“Mmm, follow me,” she said, turning towards the cave.

When Sesshomaru turned to see Rin walking away in to the cave entrance, he wiped his eyes and followed her.

“Where are we going?” he asked, entering the cave. He narrowed his eyes at the green shadows that danced on the cave walls.

“It’s a surprise,” she responded, with a smile. “Come on!”

Sesshomaru was cautious, but followed her around the bend of the cave.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened. The tall ceiling and the walls of the cave were covered with millions of green glow worms.

“Isn’t it great?” Rin asked, looking up at the ceiling. “They’re glow worms.”

Sesshomaru looked around. It was astonishing. He had never seen anything like this in all of his years of being on the earth.

“I like to come here when I’m upset,” she said.

Sesshomaru glanced at her and looked away. He couldn’t help but feel embarrassed about what had just happened with him.

Rin lay on the ground of the cave and looked at the ceiling. Sesshomaru sat on a rock off to the side behind her and looked at all of the glow worms. It was a really amazing place. It was relaxing.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Rin asked, still looking at the ceiling.

Sesshomaru looked down. He didn’t mind telling her, but he didn’t know what to say or where to start.

“You don’t have to if you don’t want to,” she said at his silence.

Sesshomaru smirked. He had said the same thing to her when he had asked her where she had gotten her bruises when they had first met by the tree he couldn’t seem to move from. It was when she first smiled at him for no reason at all. It was the first time that he felt like someone genuinely cared about him.

The thought upset him. It wasn’t true. Rin wasn’t the only one who genuinely cared about him. Koji did. Koji cared about him so much that he gave his life up for him. Sesshomaru closed his eyes and inhaled.

Rin didn’t press him. She just continued to look at the glow worms on the cave ceiling. Although she asked, she didn’t expect Lord Sesshomaru to say anything. He was always very reserved and private. She figured that just being there and showing him the glow worms was helping him enough.

After a long bit of silence, Sesshomaru spoke. “I caused the death of my best friend,” he said.

Rin was silent as she processed his words. She was surprised he even spoke. Rin tried to think of how to respond and what to say.

“I thought he had betrayed me, but I… I was informed that he was killed trying to save my life,” he continued.

“What was his name?” Rin asked, unable to think of anything else to say.

Sesshomaru looked at her. “His name was Koji. He was my training brother,” he responded.

“What’s a training brother?” she asked, sitting cross-legged in front of him.

“He’s someone I trained with when I was training to be in my father’s army. During training, you are required to train in groups. He was a member of my group. We call those a part of the group our training brothers,” Sesshomaru responded. “There were seven of us: me, Isao, Riichi, Eito, Daichi, Naoki and Koji. We were all very close, but Koji was my best friend out of the group.”

“Oh,” Rin said. Before she could ask another question, she watched as Sesshomaru stood up and walked off to the side. She heard him inhale before she spoke again.

“No one thought I was fit to succeed my father and govern the Western Lands… not the trainers, not my mother, no one… No one except my father and my training brothers,” he continued. “Everyone else thought I was a liability and would bring the Lands down.”

Rin could hear that he was really upset.  She was surprised to even hear what he was saying. Why would anyone think that Lord Sesshomaru wasn’t capable of governing the Western Lands? She knew without a shadow of a doubt that he could do anything.

“I thought my brothers were for me, until circumstances led me believe that they doubted me, just like everyone else,” he continued, still looking away. “I couldn’t trust them.”

Rin sighed.

After a long paused, Sesshomaru continued. “I needed to feel powerful… competent,” he said. “So, I… I set out to scare this human boy.”

Rin’s eyes widened. She was surprised.

“I wasn’t going to hurt him. I just wanted to scare him,” Sesshomaru said, his voice cracking. “But… it backfired.”

“Backfired?” Rin asked.

“He wasn’t a regular boy. He was a monk with enormous power to steal demonic energy. The boy stole a significant amount of my demonic energy and I passed out.  My father found me, and when I came to… I couldn’t walk,” Sesshomaru said. “Not only did my plan fail, it reinforced the sentiments of everyone who felt I was inadequate. Even my own mother said I was weak.”

Rin gasped. “But, you’re not weak!”

“I needed to forge my own path. I needed to prove them all wrong,” he continued. “I trained day and night to be the best. No one would tell me that I was weak.”

Rin’s eyes widened. It made sense. No wonder anyone challenging him or called him weak drove him nuts. It wasn’t pride like everyone thought, it was something deeper than that.

“I avoided everyone. I couldn’t trust anyone. But…” Sesshomaru paused and inhaled. “…but everything I thought about everything and everyone wasn’t true,” his voice broke again.

“Huh?” Rin asked.

“That night I was incapacitated by that monk boy, I should have died.”

“What?”

“I found out that I only survived because Koji stepped in and saved me while my other training brothers dragged me away,” Sesshomaru said. “It’s my fault that he’s dead. My actions killed him… my best friend.”

Rin’s heart broke. “I’m sorry,” she said.

Sesshomaru was silent. “What makes it worse is that… this happened centuries ago, and I only just learned the truth.”

“What?”

“I was informed that my father knew that Koji was killed and led everyone to believe that he was alive to keep it from me,” Sesshomaru huffed.

“That doesn’t make any sense. Why would he do that?” Rin asked.

“I have no idea!” Sesshomaru huffed, aggravated. “They said that he wanted to ‘spare me the heartache of knowing that I was responsible for Koji’s death.’”

“That doesn’t sound right,” Rin said.

“Who knows what went on in my father’s head,” Sesshomaru inhaled.

“But if he did do that, then, I’m sure he had a good reason for it,” Rin said.

Sesshomaru glanced at her. Her comment annoyed him. “A good reason,” he repeated, with a huff.

Rin sighed. “Well, why don’t you ask him?” she suggested.

“Ask him? My father’s dead, Rin,” Sesshomaru responded, even more annoyed. She knew this!

“But, you have your mother’s Meidō Stone,” she continued.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened. She was right.

Sesshomaru reached into his pocket and pulled out his mother’s Meidō Stone. As he pulled it out, he heard a cling sound as something shiny hit on the ground.

“My charm!” Rin shouted in excitement, as she ran over to pick up the shiny flower-shaped piece of dragon skin.

Sesshomaru watched her pick it up. “You made it a bracelet,” she said.

“I didn’t want you to lose it,” he said, crouching down to help her put it on her wrist.

“Thank you, Lord Sesshomaru!” she smiled. “It’s perfect! I’ll never lose it now.”

Sesshomaru glanced at her before looking down at the Meidō Stone in his hand.

“Do you think it will work?”

Sesshomaru looked at it. “I don’t know,” he responded.

“Rin! Rin! Where are you Rin?!”

Rin gasped. “I think it’s Master Jaken,” Rin said. “I’ll go let him know that you’re here. He’ll be so excited,” she smiled, before running off.

Sesshomaru kept looking at the stone. He knew that the Meidō Stone had great power, but he didn’t know how to really use it.

Sesshomaru stood and walked over to the rock he sat on. He held the stone in his hands and gazed into its starry center. He had no idea how to use the stone. He closed eyes in frustration and huffed. He wished to see his father. How could he do that? The only option he had was to travel to his mother’s palace in the sky, but he wasn’t up for the visit or concocting a plausible explanation that wouldn’t give too much away. He didn’t know what to do.

When Sesshomaru opened his eyes, there stood his father, General Inu no Taishō, in full armor. Sesshomaru’s jaw dropped and his eyes flickered. He was speechless. He wasn’t in the cave full of glow worms anymore. He was in another dimension, standing at the base of his father’s great tomb.

***

“Father?” Sesshomaru asked. He couldn’t believe his eyes.

General Inu no Taishō looked at him. “I am proud of you and your accomplishments, my son,” he said. “Bakusaiga suits you. It is a far greater sword than Tessaiga, forged from your own might.”

Sesshomaru could barely hear a word he said. He just looked at him. He couldn’t say anything. It had been a long time since he had seen his father and talked with him like this face-to-face.

“I know why you’re here, Sesshomaru,” Inu no Taishō said.

“What happened with Koji?” Sesshomaru managed to ask.

Inu no Taishō looked at him for a minute before he turned and began walking away. “Come with me,” he said.

Sesshomaru watched his father walk away for a moment before following him. As they walked, he noticed that they had walked into a different area, a different realm. They were in the woods of Far Grounds. It was an outer body experience. As Sesshomaru stood there in the present with his father he could see himself younger lying on the ground of the woods surrounded by Riichi and Naoki. His eyes were closed and he was convulsing uncontrollably.  His father was there too, holding his head up.

“Keep his head up,” Inu no Taishō told Riichi and Naoki, who both nodded, as he transformed into his true form.

Sesshomaru glanced at his father in the present watching the events from the past play out.

“Let’s go,” he said, as he followed his past self running through the woods towards the village.

Sesshomaru followed. Just beyond the trees, he saw eight adult monks with staves. Two other monks were positioned next to the injured boy who Sesshomaru had startled and were preparing to carry him towards the nearby huts for treatment. His arm was ripped off and there was blood everywhere. “Stay with us, Hitoshi,” they spoke to him.

Sesshomaru watched as his father from the past stood in his true form behind the trees. Sesshomaru expected him to run in full force and rip the staves from the monks’ hands, but instead, he hesitated. His father stood still for a moment assessing the scene before quickly transforming into his humanoid form before running into the village.

The surrounding monks shouted in his presence, but kept their staves on Koji, who seemed lifeless. Sesshomaru watched as Koji’s skin bubbled and burned from the light force coming out of the staves.

Inu no Taishō unsheathed Tessaiga and swung it towards the monks, making a loud whoosh sound that echoed through the trees. The eight monks instantly fell and the source flowing from their staves stopped. Sesshomaru’s mouth dropped. His father had just used Tessaiga’s Wind Scar to vanquish those humans. It surprised him. With the challenges he faced with Inuyasha over Tessaiga, he was sure that the sword would not be able to harm humans. He didn’t understand why it had worked.

Sesshomaru watched as his father ran to Koji and touched him. Sesshomaru watched as he sighed and checked Koji’s vitals. He watched as his father lowered his head on Koji and kept it there for a moment.

Sesshomaru looked at his father in the present.

“Koji was gone when I found him,” Inu no Taishō said, not looking at his son.

Sesshomaru’s mouth opened in shock. He didn’t have any words. Izo was right.

“Watch,” Inu no Taishō instructed his son, as he noticed Sesshomaru caught in his thoughts.

Sesshomaru sighed and continued to watch the scene play before him. His father transformed back into his true form and carried Koji in his mouth by the skin on the back of his neck through the woods. Sesshomaru and his father in the present followed behind Inu no Taishō as he walked back to where he had left Riichi and Naoki in the woods. Only now, Eito, Daichi and Isao were there too.

“Koji!” they shouted, upon his father’s arrival. “Is he okay?!”

Sesshomaru watched as his father set Koji down on the ground gently and looked at his body. “He needs treatment immediately,” his father responded, before walking over to check on Sesshomaru’s state.

Sesshomaru couldn’t believe it. His father just lied to everyone there.

Sesshomaru huffed as he watched as his father in the past looked down at his own body in the past for a very long time. Sesshomaru heard the sobs of his friends and listened as they asked about Koji’s burns and marks. They continued to ask what happened to him and begged for Koji to wake up and open his eyes.

“What should we do?” Daichi asked.

“How can we get them back?!” Isao asked, his shouts drowned by tears.

Inu no Taishō didn’t respond. He kept looking down at his son’s body and started crying. “I’m sorry… I’m sorry,” he continued to apologize, as he shook he head.

Sesshomaru glanced at his father in the present. His eyes were focused on the scene.

Sesshomaru watched as his training group look at his father in concern and confusion. In that moment, Sesshomaru watched as his father’s leadership team landed in the area. They had horrified looks on their faces when they saw Koji lying on the ground surrounded by Sesshomaru’s training group and Inu no Taishō kneeling on the ground rocking Sesshomaru in his arms.

“Inu no Taishō,” Tomoshiro said, running over to him. He looked down at Sesshomaru and put his hand on his face, in panic and concern.

“He’s alive,” his father said, looking at Sesshomaru.

Tomoshiro and the others breathed.

“Say nothing of the state of Koji,” his father added in a very low voice that Sesshomaru in the present could barely hear. “Take them back to the castle. Bring them to the Pen.”

The group nodded.

“Tomoshiro, take Koji to the Ice Lakes. Inform the leader of his state. He must be preserved,” he continued. “I will take Sesshomaru. Meet back at the Pen when you’ve completed your tasks.”

The group nodded. “Yes.”

Sesshomaru looked at his father in the present. It was really true. His father really let everyone believe that Koji was alive. It was despicable. No reason on earth could warrant a justification for that. The words of Shishinki echoed through Sesshomaru’s head. “Your father is cruel.”

“Let’s go,” Inu no Taishō told Sesshomaru, who was lost in his thoughts.

Sesshomaru glared at him for a moment before following him. As they walked, Sesshomaru watched as the setting changed from the woods near Far Grounds to the Pen. Everyone from the woods was there expect for Tomoshiro and Koji. His training group brothers sat on the floor, huddled together with tear-stained faces as Inu no Taishō and his leadership team stood around them.

“I need you to tell me exactly what happened,” Inu no Taishō said.

Sesshomaru watched as they all began to speak at once.

“One at a time,” his father said, calmly. “You will all have a chance to speak.”

Sesshomaru listened as each boy told their version of the story. It was mostly identical to what they had told him at the Pen: The group was talking in the woods, Sesshomaru asked the group about weaknesses, power and classes, the group didn’t respond well and told him that he had no right to say anything about others being weak, Sesshomaru walked off upset, the group went to find him, Sesshomaru provoked the human and Koji saved him.

Sesshomaru watched as Tomoshiro entered the Pen as Eito explained his version of what happened.

Inu no Taishō walked over to the bookshelf and sighed. “At this time, do not tell anyone of the incident with Sesshomaru and Koji. Do not even mention the incident to your families at this time either,” he said. “They are in the process of receiving treatment and I must inform Koji’s parents.”

Sesshomaru shook his head as he looked at his father in the present. He just couldn’t believe what he was saying. When his father refused to look at him, he watched as the boys looked at each other and nodded.

“They will escort you home,” Inu no Taishō said.

As the boys stood up, Inu no Taishō spoke again. “The Pen is open to you all if you need it to reflect on what happened or talk about it amongst yourselves,” he added.

Sesshomaru watched as the boys nodded and his father’s leadership team escorted them away. They weren’t even members yet and his father allowed them to use the Pen. It would have been a dream come true in any other circumstance, but no one reacted joyously to his father’s comment.

“Tomoshiro,” his father said, after everyone had left the Pen.

“The boy is all set at the Ice Lakes,” he responded.

“Good,” his father nodded.

“I don’t understand it,” Tomoshiro began. “We’ve never had any issues with the Machida Monks before. Why now?” Tomoshiro asked.

“We gave them cause,” Inu no Taishō responded.

“How? What did Koji do?”

“It wasn’t Koji. Sesshomaru provoked a human child, who retaliated. Koji tried to save Sesshomaru and got caught in the cross fire. It cost him his life,” his father said.

Hearing his father say those words made everything real to Sesshomaru. His father confirmed it with his own mouth. Koji was dead. He died that night. It truly was his fault. Sesshomaru was responsible for his best friend’s death.

“Sesshomaru? Sesshomaru knows better! Why?!” Tomoshiro asked, confused.

“It seems as though he was trying to prove something,” his father responded.

Sesshomaru stood by his father in the past and watched as he recapped the meeting with his training brothers to Tomoshiro.

“Where would he get something like that in his head?” Tomoshiro asked.

“Where do you think?” Inu no Taishō asked.

Sesshomaru sighed as Tomoshiro nodded. “Inukimi.”

“They have all been returned home,” Lieutenant Colonel Fumihiro said, as he entered the Pen with the others on his father’s leadership team.

“Good,” Inu no Taishō nodded.

“Are you sure we can trust them to keep this?” Colonel Aito asked. “They’re in really bad shape.”

“I don’t know,” his father responded.

“When will you tell them that the boy is dead?” Major General Naoyuki asked.

“I’m hoping that we won’t have to,” Inu no Taishō said.

Sesshomaru looked at his father in the present with wide eyes. What did he mean?

“What are you saying?” Colonel Aito asked.

“Shishinki,” he responded.

The room went silent. Even Sesshomaru could feel himself holding his breath.

“No,” Colonel Aito said, shaking his head.

“Shishinki is the only demon I know who has the power to access and restore souls from the Underworld. It will be through him that Koji’s soul will be saved and returned to us.”

“Inu no Taishō, we can’t,” Major General Naoyuki said.

“I cannot let that boy die!” his father shouted. “It’s out of the question!”

“We feel for him and his family, but that’s life, Inu. Beings die every day. We cannot bring everyone back,” Major General Naoyuki said.

“We are not gods, Inu,” Colonel Aito said.

“He cannot die!” Inu no Taishō shouted, slamming his hand on the large wooden table.

The group looked at him as he breathed heavy.

“That boy saved my son’s life in more ways than one,” his father said, in a calm voice, after a significant pause. “His death will destroy Sesshomaru.”

Sesshomaru pouted.

“Inu no Taishō, be reasonable,” Lieutenant Colonel Fumihiro pleaded.

“As you heard, it was Sesshomaru who engaged that human. It was Koji would saved him from sure death. This will destroy him,” his father said.

“We understand that, but Shishinki… He is not some low-end foe. He’s a lethal killer,” Colonel Aito said.

“He brought General Seijiro to his end,” Tomoshiro said.

Sesshomaru’s mouth widened. General Seijiro. That was his grandfather. He never knew that. No one ever told him that.

“I know,” Inu no Tiahso said.

“The risk is too great,” Major General Naoyuki said, shaking his head.

“It is a risk I must take,” his father responded.

“And what will be said to Sesshomaru if he must learn that both his father and his best friend fell at the cost of his poor actions? Will that not destroy him more?” Lieutenant Colonel Fumihiro asked.

“It won’t come to that,” Inu no Taishō responded. “For Sesshomaru’s sake, failure is not an option for me.”

“Inu, you –

“Either you are with me or you’re not,” his father cut off Major General Naoyuki. “There is no negotiation in me pursing this mission.”

After a long pause and aggravated sighs, the group nodded. “We’re with you.”

“Grandfather died at the hand of Shishinki?” Sesshomaru asked his father in the present.

“Come with me,” Inu no Taishō instructed his son, as he walked forward.

Sesshomaru followed his father as the setting changed. He was now back at the castle in his room. He was lying on his futon seemingly unconscious. His father, mother and a physician were in the room standing near his futon. Sesshomaru could see that he looked awful.

“How is he?” Inu no Taishō asked the physician.

“He is in and out,” the physician responded. “He awoke a few minutes ago. When I asked him if he could move, he said he couldn’t.”

Inukimi huffed, as she brushed Sesshomaru’s bangs out of his face.

“There is no need for alarm though. It may take a few days for him to get back to his old self again,” the physician said.

“But, he’s fine?”

“Yes, General. He will make a full recovery,” the physician said.

“Thank you,” Inu no Taishō said, escorting him out of Sesshomaru’s room.

“I will be back first thing in the morning to check on him,” the physician said. “He is very lucky, you know.”

Inu no Taishō nodded.

Sesshomaru followed as Inu no Taishō and Inukimi slid his bedroom door closed and walked into Sesshomaru’s study next door after the physician had left.

“He’s very lucky?” Inukimi asked. “What happened? What demon could leave him in a state like this?”

“He was attacked by a human in a village near Far Grounds.”

“A human, Inu? Attacked by a human,” his mother scowled at his father.

“He’s fine,” his father responded. “He just –

“He can’t even walk,” his mother calmly stated.

“It's okay. He will be fine, Inukimi. I will –

His mother huffed. “My son was just attacked by a human and you assure me that it’s okay?”

Sesshomaru knew this conversation all too well. It was the conversation that moved him to cut ties with everyone.

“And what manner of training are you teaching these troops of yours that your son could not defeat a human? They are the weakest fucking class on the grid. They have no real power, and yet, my son is like this,” she said, in a calm tone.

“Inukimi, I know you are upset, but –

“Answer me, Inu. How is it that our son, under your leadership is in this state? How is it that my son has been rendered bedridden by a walking clay mold? Humans are weak and easy to defeat, and yet my son is here,” she went on.

“Not all humans are the same. This particular one –

“No, they are the same. They are all at the bottom of the list. They are weak nobodies. Explain to me how my son, who is at the top of the list, is immobile right now? What the fuck have you been doing training him?” she asked, still in a calm tone.

Sesshomaru watched as his father sighed.

“Oh, that’s right…you haven’t really been doing a lot of training. You’ve been helping these vermin fix their houses instead of stepping up as a leader and teaching him how to fight,” Inukimi said.

Inu no Taishō opened his mouth to say something, but Inukimi continued.

“My son is weak because of you, Inu,” Inukimi said after a long pause. “How the hell is he going to defend these lands now if he can’t even defend himself against a feeble human?”

“My son is not weak.”

“Well, the circumstances at present confirm differently.”

After a long pause, Inu no Taishō spoke. “I will train him.”

“Silence. You’ve done enough of that already…training him to regard everyone as equals. We are not equals. If you had trained him to be mindful of his status, this would have never happened in the first place,” his mother said, in an aggravated voice.

“I will provide him with a rigorous training in combat and defense,” his father replied.

“That’s what you should have been doing all along instead of helping every inchworm and their mother do who knows what.”

“I will start as soon as he recovers.”

“As soon as she recovers,” she laughed. “And how long will that be? What are you going to tell the troops?”

“I’ll tell them the truth.”

“You will do no such thing. I refuse to allow them to view my son as some weakling. He is the legacy of the Great Dog General Inu no Taishō. You will not say anything of the sort.”

“Then I will –

“You will say nothing. Sesshomaru is training.”

Sesshomaru watched as his father looked at her. He couldn’t read his face.

“Do you understand, Inu?”

Inu no Taishō nodded.

“And what of that human?” his mother asked.

“He remains in his village,” his father responded.

“You cease to surprise me, Inu. You really do.”

“We will address the matter –

“I will address it. You can’t do much of anything right these days,” Inukimi said, before leaving the room.

Sesshomaru only remembered that last bit of the conversation. As he followed his father, he realized that it had actually continued.

Sesshomaru watched as Inu no Taishō followed his mother into the hallway and grabbed her wrist. With her free hand, she swung back and hit him hard across the face. “Don’t touch me!” she shouted, losing all composure.

Sesshomaru watched as the guards in the hallway standing at their posts glanced and quickly pretended not to see anything.

“Come with me,” his father growled, dragging her into another room down the hall. She fought to release his grip, but he was too strong for her. Sesshomaru’s eyes widened as he watched the spectacle.

Inu no Taishō shoved his wife away from the door as he slide the door closed.

“What is wrong with you!” she shouted, stroking her wrist.

“Shut your mouth and listen,” he growled.

Sesshomaru froze. His father could be very alarming when he was upset.

Inukimi’s eyes widened. For the first time, Sesshomaru could see fear in her eyes.

“Our son almost died today, and if it wasn’t for another, he would have,” Inu no Taishō said. “The human he encountered was a Machida Monk, one of the most powerful in this region,” he added.

Inukimi’s face changed from fear to concern.

“With their power, Machida Monks can barely even be considered humans. They harvest the power of various demons and force it back on others during an attack. Even the most powerful of demons have a hard time defending against them. Many die,” he added.

Inukimi breathed.

“Why he would challenge that human, I don’t know,” Inu no Taishō said, looking hard into her eyes.

“Sesshomaru challenged that human?” she asked.

“From what his friends had explained, Sesshomaru was upset after they reacted badly to a question he asked,” his father continued.

“What did he ask?” Inukimi asked.

“He asked them about their views on weaknesses in other demons and humans,” Inu no Taishō glared at her.

Inukimi’s mouth shot open.

“They accused him of being terrible in training when he first started and that he had no right to make such accusations about others,” Inu no Taishō continued.

Inukimi breathed as she looked away with wide eyes.

“Maybe he was trying to prove a point or just wanted to feel powerful, but he went over to their territory and antagonized the human. The human retaliated and Sesshomaru went down,” Inu no Taishō said, in a calm voice. “Our son would have died if it weren’t for Koji who stepped in immediately and attacked the human instead.”

“Koji,” Inukimi said, walking deeper into the room. “He loves Sesshomaru. He would do anything for him.”

Sesshomaru breathed.

“Was he injured as well?” Inukimi asked.

“Koji lost his life defending Sesshomaru,” Inu no Taishō said.

Inukimi froze. “What?”

“Koji is dead.”

“No,” she shook her head. “It can’t be.”

“Koji told Sesshomaru’s other friends to find me and to drag Sesshomaru away while he took the wrath of retaliation from the other monks in the village. The force was too strong… he’s gone,” Sesshomaru watched his father say, as he looked down.

Inukimi rested her head against the wall. “Does he know?”

“Sesshomaru does not know. No one knows except us, Tomoshiro and the crew,” Inu no Taishō said. “Sesshomaru’s training group was informed that he’s getting treatment.”

“Treatment?” Inukimi asked, confused.

“Tomoshiro took him to Ice Lakes to be preserved.”

“Preserved?” Inukimi asked, still confused.

Inu no Taishō sighed. “I’m going to Shishinki to retrieve Koji’s soul from the Underworld.”

“NO!” Inukimi yelled, almost immediately.

Sesshomaru stepped back, startled. His mother never yelled. She was never emotional. Her outburst was very unusual.

“I must go,” Inu no Taishō said, calmly.

“You will not!”

“I am going to Shishinki.”

“Please, Inu. I beg of you, no,” she cried, as she fell in his arms. “He’s taken everything from me. Not you too.”

Sesshomaru couldn’t believe what his mother was saying. His mother was really crying. He didn’t think she even had the capacity to shed tears.

“Shishinki will take nothing else from you,” he kissed her forehead. “I will get what I seek.”

Sesshomaru was surprised that his father willingly kissed her. Yes, he had seen his father kiss his mother in public for appearances, but never willingly like this, in private.

“Please, Inu. You can’t,” she pleaded.

“For Sesshomaru’s sake, I must,” he responded.

“We all cared for Koji, but –

“This will break him,” Inu no Taishō said, looking into his wife’s eyes.

Inukimi dropped her head in his chest. “There has to be another way,” she said. “I can’t lose you.”

Sesshomaru was surprised to see how emotional his mother was. It was like she was a totally different person. It actually looked like she cared about him.

“You won’t,” Inu no Taishō hugged her. “For the sake of our son, I will return.”

There was no use in arguing or convincing him otherwise. She conceded.

“Does his family know?” she asked.

“Not at this time,” his father said. “There is no need to upset them if we can fix this.”

“What’s the plan?” Inukimi asked, collecting herself and pulling away from him.

Inu no Taishō sighed. “The Machida Monks will retaliate soon,” he began. “I’ll have to –

“I’ll take care of it,” his mother interjected.

“Inukimi, let me take care of it,” Inu no Taishō told her. “These monks are –

“I am the daughter of a great general and the wife of an even greater one. It is not wise to underestimate me or what I’m capable of,” she said, looking into his eyes.

Chills ran down Sesshomaru’s spine. His mother could be just as frightening as his father.

Inu no Taishō nodded. “My troops can help you and anything you need is at your disposal.”

Inukimi nodded.

Inu no Taishō in the present looked at Sesshomaru, who was in a daze as he looked at the scene. “There is more to see,” he said.

Sesshomaru nodded and followed his father to a new setting. The scene transitioned to a small shack-looking hut in a location Sesshomaru was not aware of. Sesshomaru watched his father walk towards the front door. His leadership team followed behind him. Inu no Taishō and Sesshomaru in the present followed behind everyone.

“Are you sure you want to do this, sire?” Sesshomaru heard a small voice ask. It was Myoga on his father’s shoulder.

“I have to,” he responded, walking forward into the hut.

“Hmph,” a slender dog demon in his humanoid form said, as he turned to see Inu no Taishō and the rest of his leadership team enter into the front door of his hut. He had long silver hair and ice blue eyes. Sesshomaru hadn’t remembered ever meeting him before, but he looked familiar.

“InuHaru,” Inu no Taishō said.

“And to what do I owe this visit, brother-in-law?” he asked.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened. Brother-in-law? No wonder he looked familiar. He looked like the male version of his mother with blue eyes. He had no idea that his mother even had a brother.

“Come to try and kill me again?” he asked, backing up to let the group enter his home. “Come in, why don’t you,” he shook his head.

“Don’t be foolish,” Inu no Taishō responded.

Sesshomaru and his father followed everyone inside and stood against the wall to view the scene.

 “So, if not that, what reason would you have to travel all this way to see the bastard son of the Great General Seijiro?” InuHaru asked.

The group looked at each other confused. Even Sesshomaru had a confused looked on his face. Maybe that was the reason why he had never met or knew about his mother’s brother. He was illegitimate.

Before Sesshomaru could jump to any more conclusions, InuHaru continued. “Oh, no… not the bastard son of the Great General Seijiro,” he said. “My apologies. I meant the discarded first-born legitimate son of the Great General Seijiro who has been treated like the bastard son of the Great General Seijiro,” he corrected himself.

Inu no Taishō sighed as InuHaru looked at the faces of his father’s leadership team. Everyone seemed unfazed, except for Myoga, who looked confused.

“Oh, I must have confused you,” InuHaru laughed, as he looked at Myoga. “Believe me, I still get confused myself. You’re probably wondering how the legitimate son of the Great General Seijiro is standing here in some shack face-to-face with some nobody who has everything that should be his. How did that happen, right?”

“What is he talking about, sire?” Myoga whispered.

Sesshomaru watched as InuHaru smiled. “Do I hear that someone cares to hear my story… our story?” he glanced at Inu no Taishō. “No one ever cares to know our story,” InuHaru said, taking a sip from a bottle of sake.

Inu no Taishō sighed.

“Save your breath brother-in-law. I’ll do the honors,” InuHaru looked at Myoga on his father’s shoulder.

Sesshomaru watched as Myoga trembled as the dog demon’s eyes focused on him.

“I was the sun and the moon in my father’s house,” InuHaru began. “I was the first-born son of General Seijiro, Overseerer of the Western Lands by his first and only wife, Tsubaki, a full-fledged dog demon from the Southern Region of Japan.”

Sesshomaru scrunched his face. What? That made no sense. If he was the first-born son of his grandfather, how did his father get everything?

“Now, how is it that I, being all that, am standing before the Great General Inu no Taishō, the reigning Overseer of the Western Lands? Why does he hold my birthright?” InuHaru asked, rhetorically.

Sesshomaru was puzzled. He didn’t know. Watching the scene, it seemed that everyone was aware of the reason except for Myoga.

“It was all supposed to be mine. I trained for centuries under my father’s leadership team night and day to assume that role and hold the title of General and Overseer with honor. It was set and reserved for me. My father guaranteed me that it was all mine, but then who came along?” he asked, rhetorically. “The beautiful Inukimi, my little sister, with her fluffy silver fur, those big golden eyes and that damn moon mark on her forehead.”

Sesshomaru glanced at his father.

“Parents always say that they’ll love each of their pups equally… ha! Yeah, that may very well be their intention, but when push comes to shove, there is always that one pup they’d move heaven and earth for,” InuHaru said.

Sesshomaru could hear rage building in his voice.

“It was because of that damn mark of the moon on her forehead that compelled my father… to take everything that belonged to me and give it to her!” InuHaru shouted, throwing his bottle of sake at the wall.

Sesshomaru watched as the group jumped back, startled, as the glass shattered against the wall and alcohol dripped down its side.

“After all of those years, he had the audacity to come to my face… to my face… and tell me that he believed that his legacy would come through Inukimi because she possessed the sacred mark of the moon! He wanted me to honor his decision to give her my status as the first ranking pup in the household. Can you believe that?! All because of that mark, he wanted me to give up my birthright and rank as first-born to my little sister… a girl no less!” InuHaru ranted.

Sesshomaru couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“I had nothing against my sister, but I worked hard to get where I was to claim my rightful place as General of the Western Lands!” InuHaru went on. “I told that motherfucker bastard father of mine that if he felt that Inukimi deserved my birthright, she would have to take it from me because I sure as hell wasn’t going to it to her!” he continued.

Sesshomaru breathed. He couldn’t believe it.

With a flip of his hair, InuHaru seemed to have collected himself enough to return to a normal voice. “That’s where my dear brother-in-law, Inu no Taishō comes in,” he smiled, looking at his father.

Sesshomaru looked at his father in the present. He didn’t react.

“I noticed that my father had his eye on Inu no Taishō for a while. It was subtle at first… We were in different training groups, but I noticed that his training group kept being assigned to more advanced missions while my training group was held back more… he was given special invitations to visit the castle and schmoose with the bastards living in there… and he allowed him to hang around Inukimi when everyone else was required to stay away from her,” InuHaru said. “When you kissed Inukimi that one night and Father saw it and didn’t lose his top or say a word, I knew he was grooming you for her… to take my place as General,” InuHaru glared at him.

Sesshomaru looked puzzled. That didn’t make any sense. He knew that his mother and father were in an arranged marriage, but he recalled an argument his parents had in which his father said that he couldn’t stand his mother. It didn’t make sense that he would kiss her. But, recalling the last scene they had walked from, he could tell that his parents seemed to care about one another, but he didn’t really know what to think.

“I questioned whether it was all in my head until my father presented me with a challenge,” InuHaru said, smiling at Inu Taishō. “A challenge you know all too well, don’t you?”

Sesshomaru watched as his father sighed.

“My father said that he would honor my request,” InuHaru continued. “My father said that Inu no Taishō would fight on behalf of Inukimi for my birthright as General and Overseerer of the Western Lands. If I won, I’d be able to keep my rightful birthright and govern the Western Lands as General without any opposition from him. But, if Inu no Taishō won, he would not only claim my birthright as General and Overseerer of the Western Lands, but marry my lovely sister Inukimi as well.”

Sesshomaru’s mouth opened.

“And we all know how that played out, don’t we?” InuHaru said, leaning against the wall.

Sesshomaru watched as his father sighed.

“Look at your face,” InuHaru laughed at Myoga. “You can’t believe it, can you? Shit, I lived it and I still can’t believe it either,” he said in a serious tone.

Inu no Taishō glanced at Tomoshiro.

“I was all up in arms about everything that happened to me at first. It was the most… and I mean the most humiliating thing I had ever gone through in my whole life. When my father announced that Inu no Taishō was the rightful successor to the Western Lands, I probably lost a good ten centuries of my life from shock alone,” he said. “I thought about killing myself… then, I thought about killing my father… then, I thought about killing myself again… then, I thought about killing my sister… I thought about killing both my sister and Inu no Taishō, and actively made strides to do so… then, I changed my mind again… and when I started to revisit the thought of killing and seeking revenge again, my nephew was born,” Inu Haru said. “When I saw that my nephew was born with that same damn moon mark on his head, I came to terms with the fact that maybe that old bastard father of mine was right,” InuHaru continued.

Inu no Taishō glanced at Tomoshiro again.

“Although, I’m still bitter about it, I’ve accepted the fact that my father may have been right and that my nephew will be a far greater ruler than I ever would have been,” InuHaru said. “How is my nephew anyway?”

“He’s fine,” Inu no Taishō responded.

“Good,” InuHaru nodded. “Does he even know I’m alive or has my sister kept that from him as well?”

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes.

“Where can I find Shishinki?” Inu no Taishō asked InuHaru, ignoring his question.

“You have to be kidding me,” InuHaru laughed, uncontrollably.

“What’s funny about that?” Inu no Taishō asked.

“What? Is this some romantic gesture to whoo my sister? Has she grown tired of you after all these years? Is this some tactic to get her to put out for you or something?” he asked, as he laughed. “Don’t waste your time or your life for that matter. Pussy is pussy. Just find someone else on the side,” InuHaru added.

Sesshomaru’s mouth went ajar, but his father didn’t react neither in the present nor the past.

“Our mother is a lost cause,” InuHaru added, looking away. “Let it go.”

“What does finding Shishinki have anything to do with your mother?” Inu no Taishō asked.

InuHaru scrunched his face and looked at Inu no Taishō. “Are you serious?” he asked, looking into his eyes. “You really don’t know, do you?”

“I don’t know what?” Inu no Taishō asked.

“I can’t believe she didn’t tell you. She really is a fortress,” InuHaru said, shaking his head. “Our father died trying to capture Meidō from Shishinki to connect with our dearly departed mother. He ended up getting swallowed into Hell by one of his spheres.”

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened.

“Your mother?” Inu no Taishō asked, seemingly in a state of shock.

“Inukimi told you nothing?” InuHaru asked. “Wow.”

Inu no Taishō was silent. Sesshomaru looked at his father in the present, who kept looking straight ahead.

“Father wanted to get Meidō so he could see our mother again,” InuHaru said.

Inu no Taishō’s eyes flickered. Sesshomaru could tell that his father really wasn’t aware.

“Our mother was beautiful inside and out, the most beautiful and caring being you’d ever meet. She’d help anyone,” InuHaru began. “One day, she was tricked into helping a human group in her humanoid form. They trapped her and killed her for sport, and bragged about it. She was the demon they killed.”

Sesshomaru listened He knew nothing of his grandmother.

“It happened when Inukimi was really young, but she was old enough to know what happened, and that humans did it to her,” InuHaru said. “It broke her. She was never the same again.”

Inu no Taishō remained silent.

“After our mother’s death, my sister became the fortress she is now,” InuHaru added. “Being seemingly crazy in love with each other, I presumed that you cracked her fortress and knew all about our mother, but I guess not,” InuHaru said, leaning against the wall.

Inu no Taishō huffed and looked away.

Crazy in love? Sesshomaru was all kinds of confused.

“Our father made us both know what happened to our mother and reminded us to beware of humans and weak beings at all costs. They were weak insignificant beings with no place in the world. As ‘powerful’ beings, it was our job to dominate and lead,” InuHaru continued. “I didn’t believe or listen to a crock of shit my father ever told me after he asked me to give up my birthright, but Inukimi held onto that. Our mother was everything to her, and losing her was like losing everything.”

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened. It was no wonder that his mother spoke to him so strongly about humans, weaker demons and weaknesses. Sesshomaru looked at his father in the past. He looked like he was in a daze.

“I digress there, but after our mother died, our father did everything to find her again. He wanted to connect with her soul and see her,” InuHaru continued. “One day, he found out about Shishinki. It all looked promising, but one miss step cost him his life.”

Inu no Taishō looked at InuHaru.

“I was over the moon when he died. It served him right… that bastard,” InuHaru huffed. “But I would have loved the chance to see my mother again. She loved me like no one else ever did,” he said, looking out of the window of his hut.

“I’m sorry,” Inu no Taishō said.

“Don’t be,” InuHaru said, running his claws through his long hair.

“Where is Shishinki?” Inu no Taishō asked again.

“Look, I never thought I’d ever be saying this to somebody I wanted dead for centuries, but you’re my nephew’s father. Going after Shishinki isn’t worth it. Sesshomaru needs you. Just let it go,” InuHaru said, walking over to get another bottle of sake. “Whatever the reason, it isn’t worth it.”

“I’m going for Sesshomaru,” he said.

“Sesshomaru! My nephew, Sesshomaru?! You said he was fine!” InuHaru yelled. “He’s dead?!”

“He’s not dead. He is fine,” Inu no Taishō said.

“Then, what do you need Shishinki for?!” InuHaru asked.

Sesshomaru listened as his father explained the chain of events that occurred. He was sick of hearing it.

InuHaru sighed. “Shishinki is dangerous. He may look like a youth, but he’s not one to fuck with,” he said.

“I’m well aware of that,” Inu no Taishō responded.

“As long as you know,” InuHaru said, grabbing his gear. “Let’s go. I’m going with you.”

***

Inu no Taishō in the present looked at his son. “Sesshomaru, are you okay?” he asked.

Sesshomaru nodded. He was aware of the fact that he was having a hard time concealing and controlling his emotions watching everything play out.

As they walked, the setting changed. They were in the desert, suspended in midair. A battle was underway. Shishinki was there, throwing spheres of Meidō Zangetsuha through an iron staff with a gold ring and a moon at its tip at Inu no Taishō, his leadership team and InuHaru. They were all dodging his strikes left and right. Sesshomaru watched as his father dodged and jumped from rock to rock, wielding Tessaiga in his hand. It was amazing to see.

A sphere flew by that made Sesshomaru jump. His father smirked at him and continued to watch the events. When another was hurled in their direction, Sesshomaru composed himself and made no effort to move.

Sesshomaru listened as Shishinki taunted Inu no Taishō. His father didn’t respond. He remained steady and focused, dodging from rock to rock.

“InuHaru, look out!” Colonel Aito called from off to the side.

A sphere was being hurled in InuHaru’s direction. Sesshomaru watched as InuHaru looked left and right for a place to jump. He moved to jump to the large rock on his right. He landed, but his foot slipped. Sesshomaru’s eyes widened as InuHaru screamed and fell down many feet below into the valley of desert.

Sesshomaru looked at his father in battle. At the sight of InuHaru falling into the valley, Inu no Taishō unleased his claws and lunged at Shishinki in rage. Distracted by laughing at InuHaru’s fall, Inu no Taishō lunged and slashed him across the face. As Sesshomaru had seen in his own experience, part of Shishinki’s face cracked and crumbled away.

Sesshomaru watched as Shishinki screamed and he clutched his face. He lost his balance and fall into the desert valley himself.

“You got him!” Myoga cheered, from his father’s shoulder.

Inu no Taishō transformed into his true form and jumped down to the desert valley below. His leadership team followed his lead and met him in the valley. Sesshomaru and his father drifted down into the valley as well.

In the valley, Sesshomaru saw Shishinki face up on the sand. Although he was badly injured, practically paralyzed, with half of his face missing, Shishinki seemed to be breathing.

“Inu, look,” Lieutenant Colonel Fumihiro said. “It’s InuHaru.”

Inu no Taishō looked to see InuHaru. He was lying face down in the sand. He didn’t have to walk over to see that he was dead. Sesshomaru watched as his father sighed and bowed his head.

Inu no Taishō transformed into his humanoid form and grabbed the iron staff Shishinki still seemed to be clutching, kicking his hand away in the process. He looked at the pink glowing light and thought.

“What are you going to do? Cast me away?” Shishinki asked, in raspy breaths.

Inu no Taishō ignored him and unsheathed Tessaiga. He placed the Shishinki’s iron staff on the ground and slammed Tessaiga’s blade onto the staff’s glowing pink tip. Tessaiga glowed starry black and pink.

Sesshomaru watched astonished.

“You bastard!” Shishinki shouted.

Inu no Taishō ignored him as he assessed the sword’s blade. He held out Tessaiga and gave it a swing. From Tessaiga flew an oblong sphere.

“Ha!” Shishinki gloated. “You aren’t even fit to wield what you stole!” he laughed.

Inu no Taishō looked at his sword again and turned towards Shishinki. Looking at the broken iron staff, he noticed a large starry stone lying beside it. It must have come out of the staff when Inu no Taishō broke the staff’s tip on Tessaiga.

“What is that?” Major General Naoyuki asked.

“No! Don’t touch it!” Shishinki shouted.

Inu no Taishō gave Shishinki a large hard look before he bent down to pick it up.

“No!” Shishinki shouted.

“Shut up,” Tomoshiro spat at him.

“Sire, I think this is what you seek,” Myoga said.

“I do too,” Inu no Taishō responded, assessing the starry stone.

Sesshomaru looked at his father in the present, in shock, before looking back on the scene.

Inu no Taishō walked over to InuHaru. He turned his lifeless body over and sighed. “I don’t know how this works,” he said.

“Maybe put it on his chest, near his heart,” Lieutenant Colonel Fumihiro suggested.

“Okay,” he said, resting the stone on InuHaru’s heart.

Sesshomaru watched as the group’s eyes widened, and a white mist escaped from the stone and entered into InuHaru. It was exactly what Sesshomaru had witnessed when his mother used the Meidō Stone to revive Rin. In moments, InuHaru began to cough. He was alive.

“It works!” Colonel Aito exclaimed.

Inu no Taishō laughed and hugged Tomoshiro.

“You did it, brother!” Tomoshiro shouted.

“Did you kill me to test out your new rock?” InuHaru asked, still woozy.

Sesshomaru watched as the group helped InuHaru to his feet and began to walk towards the edge of the valley.

“Hey! You can’t leave me here!” Shishinki shouted. “Hey! Come back!”

“Fuck you,” Tomoshiro called back, as the group continued to walk.

So, that was how his father got the Meidō Stone and the power of the Meidō Zangetsuha into Tessaiga.

Inu no Taishō in the present looked at Sesshomaru. “There’s more to see,” he said, breaking his son’s thoughts.

Sesshomaru looked at him before following his lead.

Sesshomaru could feel a strong chill in the air when the setting changed again. They were in a dark area covered and surrounded by ice. It looked almost like an igloo with penguin-looking demons waddling about. There stood his father, Tomoshiro, and the rest of his father’s leadership team around a large slab of ice. Sesshomaru held his breath as he saw Koji’s lifeless body lying there on the slab.

Sesshomaru gasped and walked closer.

Koji lay on the slab of ice in his true form. His fur was blood stained and he could see spots of missing fur where he had been burned by the monks’ staves. Looking closer at him, he could see these gouges of missing flesh as well. Sesshomaru huffed hard. He had a strong urge to cry. He couldn’t believe it. He did this.

Sesshomaru watched as Inu no Taishō laid the Meidō Stone on Koji’s chest. He waited patiently with the others for the white mist to appear and for Koji to awaken, but it didn’t happen.

“What’s going on? Why isn’t it working?” Lieutenant Colonel Fumihiro asked.

“I don’t know,” Inu no Taishō answered, his eyes widened in panic.

“Did you put it on right?” Colonel Aito asked, adjusting the stone.

“I did! I put it on his heart!” Inu no Taishō snapped.

“It’s not working,” Colonel Aito confirmed.

Inu no Taishō huffed.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened. He was panicking right along with everyone else.

“Could it have only been able to be used once?” Major General Naoyuki asked.

“I don’t know,” Inu no Taishō said.

“Let’s see,” Lieutenant Colonel Fumihiro said, looking around the ice room.

Sesshomaru looked with narrow eyes.

“Excuse me, sir,” Lieutenant Colonel Fumihiro said to a nearby penguin demon. “Can you help us real quick?” he called him over.

“No, Fumihiro,” Tomoshiro whispered.

“Yes, certainly,” the aloof penguin-demon responded. “How may I –

Sesshomaru watched as Lieutenant Colonel Fumihiro discreetly stabbed the penguin-demon in the side with a dagger he had taken from his pocket. The demon squawked and went limp in his arms.

“You bastard!” Tomoshiro growled. “Do you know what you just did?”

“Shut the fuck up and give me the stone,” he said, looking around cautiously.

Lieutenant Colonel Fumihiro held the stone on the penguin-demon’s chest and watched as the white mist appeared.

“It’s working,” Colonel Aito said, surprised.

The group watched as the penguin-demon coughed and opened his eyes.

“Are you alright?” Lieutenant Colonel Fumihiro asked immediately. “You just collapsed,” he said, acting in concern.

“Huh? Why, yes,” the penguin-demon responded. “I don’t know what happened,” he said.

“Why don’t you get some rest,” Lieutenant Colonel Fumihiro suggested, pushing the penguin-demon back the way he had come. “You don’t look well.”

Tomoshiro shook his head.

“Why, yes. I might just do that,” the penguin-demon responded, waddling away, as he scratched his head.

Inu no Taishō looked down at Koji. “Why can’t he be saved?” he asked.

“It could be anything,” Major General Naoyuki said.

“Maybe you have to be saved immediately within a certain span of time,” Colonel Aito suggested.

“Or maybe his wounds are too significant,” Lieutenant Colonel Fumihiro suggested.

Inu no Taishō didn’t respond. He just looked down at Koji.

“I’m sorry, Brother,” Tomoshiro said.

Sesshomaru stood with his eyes wide. He couldn’t believe it. Koji should have awoken.

After a long bit of silence, Lieutenant Colonel Fumihiro asked the question of doom. “What’s next?”

“I have to tell his parents, and his friends,” his father paused. “…And Sesshomaru,” he continued.

Sesshomaru breathed and looked away.

“I don’t know how I’m going to tell him,” Inu no Taishō shook his head. “I have no idea.”

Sesshomaru lowered his head in grief. He did this.

“How long will it take to have Koji’s body prepared and taken to the crypt in the castle?” Inu no Taishō asked, after he collected himself.

“A few hours,” Tomoshiro answered.

“Can you –

“We got it,” Lieutenant Colonel Fumihiro answered Inu no Taishō.

Inu no Taishō nodded and walked away slowly.

Inu no Taishō in the present looked at his grieving son. “Sesshomaru.”

Sesshomaru couldn’t look at him.

Inu no Taishō walked over and called his name again. Sesshomaru couldn’t move.

Inu no Taishō grabbed his son and hugged him long and hard. The moment he felt his father’s embrace, two century’s worth of anger, sadness, grief, guilt, regret and tension poured out of him like a waterfall. Sesshomaru had never cried so hard in his life.

When Sesshomaru stopped crying, his father pat his back. “Let’s go,” he said. “We’re almost done,” he said, walking on.

Sesshomaru wiped his eyes with his sleeve and looked back at Koji’s body one last time before the setting faded away and another emerged.

***

“He’s not here, Rin,” Jaken said, looking around the glowing green cave.

"But he was just…” Rin looked around the cave. “He was sitting right there.”

“Right,” Jaken said, with a huff. “Let’s go. These worms give me the creeps.”

“But, he’s here somewhere. We have to find him,” Rin pleaded.

“Are you blind? Lord Sesshomaru is not here!” Jaken shouted. “We just scanned this whole cave!”

Rin pouted. “But –

“And, if I were to believe that he had been here… which I don’t… don’t you think he would have –

“But, Master Jaken –

“Enough! Let’s go!” Jaken shouted, grabbing Rin by the hand. “You’ve wasted enough of our time.”

Rin sighed.

“Come on,” Jaken said, pulling her along.

Upon leaving the cave, Jaken walked forward as he turned to drag Rin, who’s eyes were glued on the entrance of the cave. He gasped when he walked into something hard. “Huh? What?” he asked, turning his head to see what he bumped into.

Jaken hadn’t screamed so loud and frightful in his whole life when he saw what he had walked into. It was a giant paw attached to a large towering curly-haired black dog demon about 40 feet high. If that wasn’t bad enough, there were four other large dog demons of similar stature standing right next to the curly-haired one.

Rin turned and screamed too at the sight.

Jaken’s eyes rolled back in his head and he fell backwards as the dog demon, who’s paw was near his feet, began to sniff him all over.

“Master Jaken!” Rin shrieked, as grabbed Jaken’s foot and tried to pull him away. In that moment, she didn’t fear the dog demons. Her focus was on protecting Jaken.

The large dog demon sniffing Jaken directed his attention to Rin.

“Ah!” Rin screeched, as the large dog demon’s nose knocked her over and continued to sniff her. The heat of his nostrils blew her hair and every time he breathed, she felt like he would suck her into his nose.

“What are you doing, Riichi?” the large brown dog demon with pointy ears standing behind him asked.

“Does she look like him to you?” the shortest dog demon with gray hair and gray eyes asked.

“No, but… his scent is all over her,” the dog demon, Riichi responded.

“That’s a human, you fool!” the short gray dog demon with gray hair and gray eyes snapped at him.

“Riichi, you can’t be any more wrong,” the large beige dog demon with floppy ears and brown patches said.

“I know what his scent is,” Riichi snapped, still sniffing Rin. “If you don’t believe me, you check.”

“We should have brought Naoki,” the short gray dog demon with gray hair and gray eyes huffed.

“Izo needed him to help find Akihiko,” the large brown dog demon with pointy ears said.

“Poor pup,” the large beige dog demon with floppy ears and brown patches responded, shaking his head.

Rin began to laugh. “Stop! That tickles!” she tried to wiggle away from Riichi’s nose.

At Rin’s voice, Riichi’s eyes widened. He sat back and looked at the other dog demons. They watched as the little girl stood to her feet and straightened her outfit. As the dog demons all looked at her, she bent down and shook Jaken. “Wake up, Master Jaken!” she begged, as his eyes swirled around in his head.

When Jaken finally came to, he screamed at the sight of the large sets of eyes looking at them from behind.

The dog demons didn’t say a word. They just looked at each other, seemingly unsure of what to say or do.

“Get away from them!” Inuyasha shouted, breaking the silence.

“Inuyasha!” Rin shouted.

The dog demons looked at each other with wide eyes and they turned. There stood Inuyasha standing with his hand on Tessaiga next to a skinny monk in a purple outfit, carrying a large staff.

“It can’t be,” the large brown dog demon with pointy ears said.

“No,” the short gray dog demon with gray hair and gray eyes said.

“But he has… he has Tessaiga,” the large beige dog demon with floppy ears and brown patches said.

“He looks just like him,” Riichi said.

“It can’t be,” the large brown dog demon with pointy ears repeated.

***

Sesshomaru and his father transitioned to a setting back at the castle. They were in his mother’s room. Sesshomaru watched as the door slide opened and his father walked through.

“Inu!” his mother shouted, running to him.

Sesshomaru watched as his father put his arms around his mother and held her tightly. They had a really long embrace. She looked up at him and stroked his face as they gazed into each other’s eyes. When it looked like his father was about to kiss her, Inukimi pulled away.

“You returned,” she said, as she tucked her hair behind her ear.

Sesshomaru watched as Inu no Taishō reached into his pocket and handed her a large pearl necklace with the Meidō Stone in the center of a gold medallion. It was his mother’s necklace.

Sesshomaru watched as his mother gasped and looked at his father with wide eyes.

“I told you I’d come back,” he said.

Inukimi flung her arms around her husband again and held him tight. “You did it. You saved Koji,” she said, looking at the amulet.

“I could not save him,” Inu no Taishō said, turning away. “It doesn’t work on him.”

“What do you mean?” she asked, concerned.

“We tried it several times on others, but it doesn’t work on Koji.”

Inukimi sighed. “Are his wounds severe?” she asked.

“They are,” Inu no Taishō responded.

Inukimi walked to him and touched his arm. “The Meidō Stone, although powerful has its limits,” she said, solemnly. “I wish it were different.”

“You are aware of its power?” Inu no Taishō asked.

“Not all of it,” she responded, looking at the amulet. “There is a lot I don’t know, but I know some things,” she said.

Sesshomaru watched as he father looked at his wife.

“Was your father seeking this stone when he encountered Shishinki?” he asked.

Sesshomaru glanced at his father in the present. He knew that he was trying to see what she would say. He had already learned from InuHaru that that was the reason. His mother had never told him about her mother.

“Sesshomaru is going to be devastated,” she responded, after pretending to be distracted by the stone.

Sesshomaru watched as his father continued to look at his mother. He couldn’t read his face.

“I know about your mother,” his father said.

Sesshomaru watched as his mother’s eyes widened and shifted back and forth.

“I’m sorry,” Inu no Taishō said.

Inukimi breathed and continued to look at the stone. She didn’t respond.

Inu no Taishō continued to look at her. “I’m sorry if I gave you any reason not to trust me,” he apologized, genuinely.

Sesshomaru watched as his mother closed her eyes and walked to the side of the room. “What’s the plan with Sesshomaru?” she asked, changing the subject abruptly.

Inu no Taishō sighed. “Tomoshiro and the others are preparing Koji for the crypt. I will summon Koji’s family and friends to relay the news once everything is complete.”

Inukimi nodded.

“I was hoping you would come,” Inu no Taishō said. “I’m sure Koji’s mother will need some support.”

Sesshomaru sighed. He loved Koji’s mother. Hearing this news would break her heart. She never wanted him to enlist in the first place.

“Of course,” Inukimi responded. “And Sesshomaru?” she asked, after a long pause.

“I’ll find a way to tell him once he recovers,” Inu no Taishō said.

Inukimi nodded.

Inu no Taishō gave her a look Sesshomaru couldn’t read before he began to walk out.

“Will you help me put this on?” his mother asked, before he left the room.

Inu no Taishō looked back and walked over. He took the pearls from her hand and pulled them over her head, moving her long silver hair out of the way. They locked eyes for a moment before Inukimi breathed and stepped away.

“Thank you,” she said.

“You’re welcome,” Inu no Taishō looked at her, before exciting the room.

Sesshomaru followed his father into the next setting. He couldn’t wait to leave the setting he had just witnessed. The awkward interaction between his mother and father made him uneasy.

In the next setting, Sesshomaru’s stomach sank. He was standing with his father in the crypt below the castle. Present was his father, his mother, Riichi, Naoki, Daichi, Isao, Eito, and Koji’s mother and father. Even Izo was there, standing next to Koji’s parents. Koji’s body was lying on a giant rock slab in the center of everyone.

“My son,” Koji’s mother wailed, falling on Koji’s body.

Sesshomaru listened as his father explained the situation and all that had been done to revive Koji. Sesshomaru watched as Inukimi held up her Meidō Stone and spoke on its properties. He was filled with so much grief as he watched everyone cry, reach for Koji and hug each other. This was all his fault.

“We intend to tell Sesshomaru once he recovers,” Inu no Taishō said. “He is still in and out of consciousness.”

Koji’s parents nodded. “Of course,” they said.

“Is he okay?” Isao asked, in a panic.

“Sesshomaru will recover,” Inu no Taishō responded, with a nod.

Sesshomaru watched as relief hit the faces of his training brothers. Isao even started to cry. He could see that they really did care about him.

“What about Azami?” Izo asked.

Sesshomaru’s eyes narrowed. Hearing her name made him sick. It annoyed him that her name was even mentioned.

“What about her?” Isao snarled.

“Someone should tell her as well,” Izo said, solemnly.

“Azami? Who is that?” Koji’s father asked, looking at Izo.

“…His girlfriend,” Izo lowered his head.

“Girlfriend?” Koji’s mother asked, confused. “But, I thought –

“Azami is not Koji’s girlfriend,” Riichi said, shaking his head.

“She’s not,” Daichi agreed.

“What are you talking about?” Izo asked. “Azami is his girlfriend. He told me that she was his girlfriend.”

“Koji told you that Azami was his girlfriend?!” Isao asked, looking into Izo’s eyes. “Did those words physically come out of his mouth?!”

“Isao, relax,” Daichi tried to calm him down.

“No, I want to know! Did Koji tell you that?!” Isao snapped.

Izo was taken aback by his reaction.

“Did he?!” Isao got in his face.

“Calm down!” Riichi and Daichi shouted at Isao.

Izo shook his head. “He didn’t. He just told me –

“Of course, he didn’t!” Isao snapped. “He’d never say anything like that! She’s just some crazy bitch who’s been obsessed with Koji forever,” Isao growled.

No one said a word. Sesshomaru watched as his parents looked at each other, before looking at the rest of the group.

“Azami is not his girlfriend,” Daichi said, rubbing Isao’s shoulders to calm him down.

Sesshomaru watched as Riichi mouthed, “I’m sorry,” to his parents and Koji’s parents. His father nodded.

“But, she should know,” Eito said. “They’re having a pup together.”

Sesshomaru’s jaw dropped as the room got silent. He was surprised that Eito said such a thing.

“What?” Izo asked, his face turning red.

“Koji got someone pregnant?” Koji’s father asked, looking down at his son.

Sesshomaru felt awful. He knew that Koji wouldn’t have wanted everything to play out this way.

“Eito!” Riichi growled in his face. “What is wrong with you?”

“I- I’m sorry,” Eito apologized. “I just –

“Pregnant? Azami is pregnant?” Izo asked, in a state of shock.

“A pup?” Koji’s mother asked, touching her son’s paw.

Sesshomaru watched as all hell broke loose.

“It wasn’t his fault,” Eito said. “He would never touch her,” Eito said.

“Well, that’s real hard to believe… as she is pregnant! You can’t not touch somebody and have that being be pregnant!” Koji’s father shouted.

Sesshomaru watched as his training group went back and forth trying to explain what happened without really saying what happened between Koji and Azami. After tempers began to flair, Daichi spoke.

“Koji was raped,” Daichi said, in a calm voice.

The room went silent.

“What?! That’s impossible!” Koji’s father bellowed. “How dare you say such a thing like that at a time like this!” his father yelled.

“It’s true,” Riichi sighed, bowing his head.

Sesshomaru watched as the rest of his training group nodded.

“It’s true. He told us himself,” Naoki said. “…Not in those words exactly, but based on what he said… he was forced to do it against his will.”

“I can’t believe this!” Koji’s father said, turning away.

“Koji?” Koji’s mother asked, leaning over her son.

Izo was stunned. “What? He told me –

“He was in denial about that whole thing,” Daichi said. “He didn’t want to tell you because he was ashamed.”

“He barely told us,” Eito added.

Sesshomaru watched as his mother covered her mouth in shook.

“He would rather let you think that he cheated on you than admit that he was taken advantage of,” Riichi said.

“That girl raped him?” Izo asked, in shock.

“Yes,” Isao said.

Sesshomaru watched as Izo looked at Koji and started crying.

“Koji loved you,” Riichi said, touching Izo’s back. “You were it for him.”

“Yeah,” Eito agreed. “He would never go after Azami.”

“Who is this Azami?” Inu no Taishō asked.

After a significant pause, Daichi spoke. “She is a girl Koji used to fix jewelry for. At first, she was okay, but then she started –

“She was a psycho,” Isao interrupted. “She stalked him and harassed him. She even harassed Izo a few times too.”

“It was bad,” Riichi interjected. “He wanted to be nice to her, but with her behavior, we told him that he needed to cut all ties with her. When he did, she did this,” he shook his head.

“I think what Azami did to Koji was her tactic to keep Koji to herself. I think she banked on getting pregnant by Koji being her ticket to own him,” Isao said.

“She probably knew that Koji would want to do the right thing and be there for her and his pup,” Naoki said.

“It was her way of trapping him,” Riichi said.

Sesshomaru looked at his father’s face. He could see a mixture of sadness and shock in his eyes. Sesshomaru expected to hear Koji’s father erupt and anger break out, but it didn’t.

“I’m going to be a grandmother,” Koji’s mother cried. “My son left a piece of himself behind.”

The group looked at each other. No one had thought of it like that, but it was true. A piece of Koji was left behind.

“You’re right,” Inukimi rubbed her back.

“So, what’s the plan? Are we going to tell Azami?” Koji’s father asked.

“No!” Sesshomaru’s training group shouted, almost in unison.

“Why not?” Koji’s father asked, confused and startled by their reaction.

“Azami is a psycho. She did all this to get Koji. If she finds out…” Isao paused to collect himself. “…What happened to Koji… Who knows what she’ll do. She might hurt herself or the pup.”

“No! She cannot! She will not!” Koji’s mother shouted. “That pup is the only piece I have left of my son,” she ran her claws through Koji’s fur.

Sesshomaru watched as his mother rubbed Koji’s mother’s back and Koji’s father walked over to console his wife.

“They have a point. This girl doesn’t seem to be stable,” Inukimi said, looking at her husband.

Sesshomaru watched as his father turned away and walked over by the wall for a moment. He could tell that he was thinking.

“We will give Azami a special live-in position in the castle… a position close to my wife,” Inu no Taishō said. “In doing so, she will be under direct supervision at all times.”

“Yes, I will keep an eye on her,” Inukimi agreed.

“I need to be there! I need to be near her!” Koji’s mother exclaimed. “You can’t be with her at all times, but I can. Please.”

Inu no Taishō nodded. “We will assign you both live-in positions together in the castle. Therefore, you will be together at all times,” he said.

“Yes, thank you,” Koji’s mother smiled, holding her husband’s hands.

Sesshomaru remembered Azami being in the castle upon his return from Bokusenō. Although he committed himself to be estranged and unfeeling towards Koji and his other friends, seeing her made his skin crawl.

***

Sesshomaru saw Azami walking towards him in the castle hallway with a beaming smile on his face. He huffed and moved to walk on the other side of the hallway away from her. Despite moving over and pretending that he didn’t see her, she followed him over to the other side of the hallway.

“Ah, Sesshomaru,” Azami smiled. “How are you?”

Sesshomaru huffed and kept walking.

“Uh! What did I do to you?” she asked, offended by his reaction. “I was only saying ‘hello,’” Sesshomaru heard her call out to him as he passed by.

“Just because Koji got a big top secret assignment from your father and you don’t doesn’t mean that you have to be mean to everyone,” she said.

Sesshomaru rolled his eyes. He didn’t care about her or whatever assignment his father happened to give Koji. It wasn’t any of his business, and he was grateful that he didn’t have to see him every day.

“You should be nice to me, Sesshomaru,” Azami continued. “I’m having Koji’s pup, you know,” she said.

Sesshomaru felt his blood boil as he remembered how Koji explained what she did to him. He didn’t want to care, but her comment angered him.

“That’s the only thing you have of his,” Sesshomaru hissed, as he looked back at her.

Azami huffed. “Not for long,” she smirked.

“What are you talking about?” Sesshomaru asked, as he glared at her.

“Oh, you don’t know?” she asked, with a smile, as she flipped her hair. “After Koji completes his assignment and returns, he’s going to ask me to marry him.”

Sesshomaru could feel his mouth open in shock. There was no way. Although Sesshomaru made an effort to keep his distance from Koji, he knew that his other training brothers didn’t. If Koji thought to even consider that as an option, his training brothers would have laid in on him real quick. Plus, Koji was reasonable. He had the foresight to know that no benefit would come out of him being with Azami. If he had to co-parent with her, he would find a way to make it work. And, if neither of those other two scenarios were to play out, Sesshomaru knew that Izo wouldn’t stand for it. Izo was quiet and innocent-looking, but to Sesshomaru, he seemed like someone who could snap out of nowhere. If Koji planned to marry Azami, he was sure that Izo would have a hand in stopping it.

“He will not,” Sesshomaru said.

“He will,” she said, surprisingly aggravated by his comment.

“Hell will freeze over twice before Koji will marry you,” Sesshomaru said. “I can assure you of that,” he said.

“What?! Are you threatening me?!” she asked, in a shout.

Sesshomaru was taken aback. He watched as guards and others passing in the hallway looked at them.

“Don’t you threaten me!” Azami shouted.

“I said nothing to you,” Sesshomaru said, walking on to get away from her. “I’m just stating a fact.”

“You’re threatening me!” she said, following him.

“You’re insane,” he said, not turning back.

“Hey!” she shouted, reaching out to grab his arm.

Sesshomaru snatched his arm from her and turned to glare at her. “Don’t touch me,” he said.

Azami huffed. Sesshomaru could see how unstable she was. There was something wrong with her. “How can you say that to me?!” she asked, crossing her arms over the small bump of her belly.

“You’re absolutely –

“What’s going on here?”

Sesshomaru felt a hand on his back. It was his mother, standing behind him.

Sesshomaru glanced at his mother before taking a step away from her.

“Hello, Lady Inukimi,” Azami bowed.

“Sesshomaru?” Inukimi asked her son.

Sesshomaru didn’t say a word.

“Sesshomaru was just congratulating me on my engagement to Koji,” Azami smiled.

Sesshomaru shook his head at Azami’s comment. She was delusional and clearly unwell. He glanced at his mother, who narrowed her eyes and looked at Azami long and hard. Sesshomaru remembered being surprised by her reaction.

“Oh,” Inukimi responded. “I wasn’t aware that Koji asked you,” she said.

Azami smiled and covered her mouth before looking left and right. “Koji wants to keep it a secret right now, but after this little one is born and he returns from his assignment, we will be married when the leaves turn yellow.”

Sesshomaru looked at her like five heads had just sprouted out of her neck. She just changed her story. At first, she said that Koji was planning on asking her, but now he had already asked her. She was a liar. He knew that there was no way Koji would do something like that.

“Right,” Inukimi nodded.

“She’s insane,” Sesshomaru said, turning to walk away.

“I’m not insane!” Azami shouted. “I –

“Calm yourself, Azami,” Inukimi said. “It’s not good for the pup.”

Sesshomaru rolled his eyes as he heard Azami say “yes.”

“Fetch towels for my bath,” Sesshomaru heard his mother said, as he walked on.

“Yes, Lady Inukimi,” Azami responded.

Sesshomaru could hear her skipping down the hall.

“Sesshomaru,” his mother called out to him. “What was that all about?” she asked.

Sesshomaru stopped to look at her. “You couldn’t have found anyone else?” he asked his mother, with a huff.

His mother crossed her arms, as Sesshomaru turned and walked away when she refused to respond.

“Sesshomaru,” he heard a soft voice call out to him.

Sesshomaru turned to see Koji’s mother walking behind him near his mother. She was a bit sad, but smiled anyway.

“Sesshomaru, it is so good to see you,” she said, with a smile, as she held out her arms to embrace him.

Sesshmaru cracked a smile and returned her embrace. How could he not? She was Koji’s mother, and he did like her a lot. She was always really nice when he came over to visit Koji and typically went out of her way to make bones meals and snacks when he came over, knowing that he liked them so much. He felt a bit guilty that he had not visited Koji in so long for her sake. He remembered trying to come up with a believable excuse if his mother were to ask why.

Sesshomaru remembered how she gripped him tightly and held him a bit long.

“All is well?” Sesshomaru asked, trying to be polite for once.

“I’m well,” she said.

“I didn’t know you worked here,” Sesshomaru said, surprised to even see her there.

Koji’s mother smiled and wiped a stray tear falling from her eye. “Yes,” she nodded. “I’m assisting your mother.”

Sesshomaru nodded, as he glanced at his mother. She seemed really interested in every word Koji’s mother was saying. It was odd, as his mother always showed little interest in anything that did not pertain to her.

Sesshomaru looked back at Koji’s mother. She was looking at him from head to toe. She looked startled when she caught his eyes.

“You look well,” she said. “You’ve gotten so tall,” she sniffed.

Sesshomaru watched his mother touch, Koji’s mother’s shoulder. “Azami will need assistance getting towels,” his mother said, sternly.

Koji’s mother nodded. “Yes, of course,” she said. “It was so nice seeing you,” she smiled at Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru nodded and watched as she turned away. He wanted to turn and go his own way, but he couldn’t help himself. He had to ask. “How’s Koji?”

Koji’s mother stopped. Inukimi breathed and touched Koji’s mother’s back. It surprised Sesshomaru that his mother even touched her. His mother was a hard woman who showed very little affection towards others, especially who she considered “the help.”

“He’s in a better place now… with his new assignment,” Koji’s mother responded, not turning around.

Sesshomaru watched as his mother escorted her away.

***

Sesshomaru watched as Koji’s father shook his head and looked down at his son lying in the crypt. “But, what about all of this?” he asked, looking around the crypt. “Our son is gone. She, this Azami, will know eventually know that he’s dead,” Koji’s father said.

Sesshomaru watched his father paused and looked down. “If it is okay with you all, we can say that Koji has been given a special confidential assignment by me for the army… something very vague.”

The group was silent for a moment.

“It just might work,” Daichi said.

“She’s an idiot. She’ll think that she’s gotten this new special job in the castle all because of Koji’s new top secret assignment,” Isao said.

Naoki nodded. “Yeah, it might work.”

“You must all be sure. It will be harder than you think,” Inukimi said. “We will all have to keep it together to keep this ruse alive. Any slip up can risk the safety of Koji’s pup.”

The group was silent for a moment as they looked at each other.

“We’ll do it.”

“In an effort to keep this secret strong, we will keep Sesshomaru out of it,” Inu no Taishō said.

The group was silent.

“Due to the events that took place, Sesshomaru will feel an extra sort of grief because of it. He will blame himself, which will make it that much more challenging for him to be able to keep this secret.”

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened as he looked at his father in the present.

“I agree,” Inukimi said. “It is best that Sesshomaru believes the story we will feed Azami until the birth of Koji’s pup.”

“But, what of Koji’s pup after it’s born?” Eito asked.

“She’ll take it away from me!” Koji’s mother cried. “I know she will!”

“She will do nothing of the sort,” Inukimi rubbed Koji’s mother’s back. “I will make an arrangement everyone can agree upon.”

The group looked at each other. Sesshomaru was unsure of what his mother actually meant.

“Do we agree?” Inu no Taishō asked.

The group nodded. “Yes.”

Sesshomaru breathed. That was why he hadn’t known of Koji’s demise immediately. The purpose of his ignorance was to protect Koji’s pup. Thinking about it, he was never able to really learn the truth, because he had left the lands before the pup was even born.

***

“That’s what happened with Koji,” his father in the present said to him.

Sesshomaru remained silent. Knowing didn’t make it any better. It didn’t erase his role in all of this.

“They didn’t blame you,” his father said. “They blamed themselves.”

“Themselves?” Sesshomaru asked.

“You’re training brothers utilized the Pen more often than I had anticipated,” his father said, as the setting changed into the starry night. “They were suffocated by guilt… each and every one of them.”

Sesshomaru was surprised. Yes, he was upset by his training brothers’ reactions to his questions, but he didn’t blame them for what happened afterwards. That was his doing.

“You’re not alone in this, Sesshomaru,” Inu no Taishō said.

Sesshomaru didn’t react.

“I remember the night we found you when you and your friends left Far Grounds. You said you were looking for your strength in the moon,” his father said.

Sesshomaru remembered that night.

“Now, I know nothing about the moon. That’s your mother’s thing, but she always used to say that the moon works in mysterious ways,” he said. “The moon worked for you that night. It gave you your friends… and another on the way to be there for you in every way.”

Sesshomaru looked down.

“Through everything, they still care about you,” Inu no Taishō said.

“I hated them,” Sesshomaru admitted. “I thought they betrayed me. I thought that they thought I was who everyone else thought of me.”

Inu no Taishō looked at his son.

“I just wanted to be like you,” Sesshomaru said, looking away.

Inu no Taishō smiled. “That’s funny.”

“What’s funny about that?” Sesshomaru looked at his father, confused about where he found any humor in this.

“I always knew that you’d be better than me,” he said.

Sesshomaru did a double take look at his father.

“That was never a doubt,” his father said.

“How would you know that?” Sesshomaru asked.

“I always knew, but it was confirmed when I went to speak to Tōtōsai about Tessaiga,” Inu no Taishō responded.

Sesshomaru looked at his father confused.

“Some time after I obtained the Meidō Zangetsuha, I went to ask Tōtōsai about the sword’s new ability. I wanted to know how it worked and what its power was. When I commented on how Tessaiga would be a great sword to leave to you, he said two things. First, he said that because of your developed lack of compassion, you would not be able to wield Tessaiga infused with the Meidō Zangetsuha strike. He said that it takes a special being with compassion to wield such a sword and that you, at the time, would not be able to use it,” Inu no Taishō said. “He even went as far as to say that having you wield Tessaiga without its Meidō Zangetsuha ability was a risk all in itself, given your behavior.”

Sesshomaru huffed and looked away.

“Secondly, he said that the last time he had seen you, he sensed that you had a far greater sword of your own developing within you, one that would emerge when you were ready to wield it,” his father added.

“Bakusaiga,” Sesshomaru said.

“But, he explained that he feared who you may become wielding a far greater sword than Tessaiga without compassion,” Inu no Taishō continued. “I asked Tōtōsai and Myoga what I should do. Myoga suggested that I work on teaching you compassion and Tōtōsai gave me the means to do so.”

“The means?” Sesshomaru asked.

“He asked for a fang. He explained that he would extract the Meidō Zangetsuha ability from Tessaiga and place it on that sword he would forge with my fang to give to you. He explained that he would enchant the sword so that the sword would be unable to cut or unleash the Meidō Zangetsuha ability until you developed enough compassion to unlock it,” his father said. “He also said that he would put a special enchantment on Tessaiga to make you unable to wield it if you ever happened to get your hands on it.”

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened.

“Tōtōsai was so fearful of you getting your hands on Tessaiga that he actually made an enchantment that would discourage you from ever wanting to touch Tessiaga again,” Inu no Taishō said.

Sesshomaru sighed. He remembered the many burns he received after touching Tessaiga.

“When was this?” Sesshomaru asked, after a long pause.

“It was a while after I initially obtained the Meidō Zangetsuha ability. It was after your time with Bokusenō,” he said.

“Inuyasha?” Sesshomaru asked.

“What about Inuyasha?” his father asked.

“I thought you blocked me from Tessaiga so he could wield it,” Sesshomaru said.

“This decision was made well before Inuyasha was even thought of,” he said. “It was before I even met Izayoi.”

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened.

“I intended to leave Tessaiga to you, my only son. After you mastered Tensaiga, Tōtōsai would have removed the enchantment from Tessaiga and it would have been yours, along with whatever new sword you would obtain,” his father said. “But, things changed and Inuyasha was going to be born. As a half demon, I knew my pup with Izayoi would be at a disadvantage. I wanted to leave him or her something powerful for protection. On top of that, I learned that I would need something to conceal the pup’s demonic nature when he or she got older. With your own powerful sword in the works, you wouldn’t need Tessaiga, so I left it to Inuyasha.”

Sesshomaru’s mind was blown. He wasn’t an afterthought like he had always presumed. Sesshomaru stood speechless, recalling every word his father had just said.

“With Tessaiga now meant for Inuyasha, I had Tōtōsai reenchant it,” Inu no Taishō said.

“Reenchant it?” Sesshomaru asked.

“I knew that you’d livid after receiving Tensaiga, a sword that isn’t able to cut. I knew that you’d be even more enraged having learned that I left the sword to Inuyasha,” his father began. “I knew that once you found out that Inuyasha was left Tessaiga, you would go after him, with force.”

Sesshomaru listened.

“Knowing that you would go after Inuyasha with Tessaiga in his possession, I didn’t want him to retaliate from your attacks and kill you with Tessaiga,” Inu no Taishō said, as Sesshomaru huffed. “Therefore, Myoga suggested that Tōtōsai enchant the sword so that it could only be used to protect humans. Therefore, Inuyasha would not be able to attack you directly, unless you were harming humans,” he added.

Sesshomaru breathed.

“Since you had developed a strong distaste for humans after the incident with Hitoshi, and kept your distance from all of them… for the most part… I found the enchantment suitable. But, for good measure, I had Tōtōsai enchant Tensaiga as well.”

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes.

“I worked with Tōtōsai to ensure that Tensaiga could stifle or soften any lethal blows directed at you,” his father said.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened. He wondered how he had survived after getting struck by Inuyasha’s Wind Scar when he was first learning how to use Tessaiga.

“When I died, Myoga and Tōtōsai knew to give Tensaiga to you and hide Tessaiga from you in a place you would never find it until Inuyasha was old enough to possess it himself.”

Sesshomaru was speechless. He just stood looking out into the distance of the starry Meidō replaying his father’s words.

“What are you thinking, Sesshomaru?” his father asked.

“I’ve disappointed you,” Sesshomaru answered, after a long pause.

Inu no Taishō looked at his son. “You’ve made me far prouder than you ever could have disappointed me, Sesshomaru.”

“How can you say that?” Sesshomaru asked, not looking at him. “I… I –

Inu no Taishō nodded and sighed. “I was aware of what your mother had been telling you about demons, classes, power… and me,” he paused. “I don’t blame you for feeling or acting how you did.”

Sesshomaru lowered his head. He felt foolish.

Inu no Taishō looked out into the starry distance. “Your mother is a very complicated and complex being,” he said. “InuHaru was right... Your mother is like a fortress, one with a hard exterior to protect the precious treasures she has hidden inside.”

Sesshomaru tried to process his father’s words.

“I resented your mother for what she instilled in you,” Inu no Taishō said, with a pause. “… But, I didn’t understand her.”

Sesshomaru looked at him puzzled.

“The woman I married disappeared after her father died,” Inu no Taishō began. “Everything just… spiraled downhill and got worse after I was ordained to take over her father’s army. When my methods didn’t align with his, which caused a number of troops to resign, I presumed that she resented me for ‘dishonoring the legacy of her father.’ The loving, caring, and passionate woman I fell in love with just disappeared, only to come out again in glimpses.”

Sesshomaru listnened. The woman he fell in love with?

“I respected General Seijiro, but his ways were not mine. I saw the vision of the Lands I would oversee, and forming alliances with human villages and demons with lesser powers were pieces needed to achieve my goal,” his father continued. “I loved your mother so much, but I wouldn’t sacrifice the future of the Lands to appease her.”

Sesshomaru watched as his father sighed.

“I lost everything when I became General,” his father said. “I lost her.”

Sesshomaru was surprised. His father never talked about his mother in such a way. He had always presumed that they were forced to marry and just tolerated each other. Clearly, that wasn’t the case. His father actually loved his mother… they loved each other. It even seemed like he still loved her.

“I thought that your birth would mend what had been broken between us,” Inu no Taishō continued. “We both loved you, and sharing you brought us closer together… but not enough for us to be the way we were… for her to love me like she used to.”

Inu no Taishō sighed as he looked out into the starry distance and then looked at his son. “I wasn’t surprised when I learned that your mother was teaching you about weaknesses in humans and other demons. When she began noticing you aspiring to be like me, she panicked. She did not want you emulating me. She wanted you to grow up to reign like her father,” he said. “She needed to find a way to break the trust you had in me and make you think twice about following me. Telling you that I had a weakness, knowing full-well that you wanted to succeed me as a ruler, was her ticket.”

Sesshomaru listened.

“I wasn’t worried because I always knew that you would see reason as you grew older… but when I discovered that your incident was linked to her lessons to you, I...I…”

Sesshomaru sighed. He kicked himself for how he could have been so foolish.

“… I never confronted her about her role in your incident. After learning the lead-up to your incident from the recounts I told her from your training group members, she blamed herself. She knew her role in everything,” his father said. “Your mother put on a façade every day in public like everything was fine and that she had no care in the world, but she was deeply stricken with grief.”

“I tried to be there for her, but she…”

Inu no Taishō shook his head and looked away. Sesshomaru could see that talking about his mother bothered him.

“…She wouldn’t let me be there for her. She pushed me away,” his father continued.

Sesshomaru tried to imagine what his mother would have been like.

 “By the time you had returned from your training with Bokusenō, she had come to terms with her grief and collected herself enough to act like her usual cold self after I had become General,” he continued. “It was difficult for both of us when you returned with a new attitude, and disposition on life and others…”

Sesshomaru huffed and looked away. He felt even more guilty.

“…But in a way it brought us closer together. We talked… mostly about you. We discussed so many things… how to help you, how to conceal our secret about Koji, how to support your friends... everything,” his father continued. “I thought we were on the same page in helping you, but something snapped in your mother when she assessed the training I provided you.”

“My training?” Sesshomaru asked.

“Your mother was upset to learn that I continued taking you on missions that involved humans and aiding demons with lesser power. She felt that I should have altered my training and kept you as far away from all humans,” he answered. “You weren’t too keen on the missions yourself, as you developed a certain distaste for humans after your accident, but it was necessary for you.”

“Necessary?”

“As General and Overseer of the Western Lands, or any area for that matter, you cannot shun a particular group because of some bias or prejudice you may have,” his father explained. “You have to put your prejudices aside and make moves and decisions that will benefit the region you govern as a whole. I couldn’t have you shunning humans, or fearing them.”

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes. Fear humans? Never.

“I explained that to your mother multiple times, but she refused to listen. Instead of trusting my judgement and expertise, and let me train you, she took it upon herself to remind you of my ‘weakness’ with lesser demons and humans. She fed you the same information that got you into this whole mess in the first place,” his father said, trying to hide his frustration.

Sesshomaru sighed. It was true. Although he had made an effort to stay away from his mother, she regularly made remarks about his father and his judgement with humans and lesser demons. It did get to Sesshomaru’s head.

“I came to resent her. I felt that she was poisoning you and turning you against me out of spite. I thought she was jeopardizing your safety to be used as a pawn to hurt me,” he said.  “It was one thing to hate me, but using my son and putting him at risk to tear me down crossed the line,” he added, still looking out into the starry distance.

Sesshomaru watched his father.

“But, I was wrong,” Inu no Taishō lowered his head.

Sesshomaru was confused. How could his father be be wrong? Why else would his mother do this?

“Your mother wasn’t trying to poison you with thoughts to spite me… she was trying to guide you away from humans and demons in need because she was scared.”

“Scared?” Sesshomaru asked. He never knew her to be scared of anything.

“No matter how hard and cold your mother seems, she loves you more than anything,” Inu no Taishō said. “I saw first-hand that what happened to you and Koji affected her in ways I can’t explain. She didn’t want a repeat… she didn’t want to lose you like she lost her mother.”

Sesshomaru watched his father as he listened.

“One day, when it was too late, I remembered her brother’s comment about the death of her mother,” Inu no Taishō said. “Your mother’s mother was a powerful full-demon who was murdered for sport by the humans she was trying to help. Had she not even bothered, she may still be alive today.”

Sesshomaru remembered InuHaru’s comment about his mother and grandmother. “Our mother was beautiful inside and out, the most beautiful and caring being you’d ever meet. She’d help anyone. One day, she was tricked into helping a human group in her humanoid form. They trapped her and killed her for sport, and bragged about it. She was the demon they killed.”

Sesshomaru’s eyes shot open. It made sense.

“I didn’t realize it then, but your mother just didn’t want a repeat of what happened to her mother. She wanted you to harden yourself to humans and demons with lesser power so that you would never be placed in a similar situation again. She just loved you.”

Sesshomaru breathed and looked into the distance.

“But, I wanted to punish her,” his father sighed. “To spite her, I increased the troop’s missions with humans and demons with less power,” he said, with a pause.

Sesshomaru remembered the argument he overheard his father and mother having after the incident with General Shinzō and Lady Shiemi. He spoke to her vile and with such hate. Sesshomaru saw now that he really didn’t mean a word of it. It just wanted to hurt her.

“Meeting Izayoi wasn’t in the plan,” his father said.

Sesshomaru’s eyes shifted. He didn’t know how to respond or what to think.

“It wasn’t my goal to fall in love with her. I loved your mother, but… I knew that we’d never get to be where we once were… Izayoi filled a void that I…” Inu no Taishō paused. “…It doesn’t matter,” he said, looking back at his son.

Sesshomaru looked away and then back at his father. He didn’t want to get involved in his father’s matters, but a question burned within him.

“You told me once that Izayoi was your ‘home,’” Sesshomaru said, remembering the day his father told him the he was planning on marrying Izayoi.

His father looked at his son for a moment before answering. “She is,” he said. “I wish for you to find a home in someone one day,” he added.

Sesshomaru hesitated before speaking. “Then, what was Mother to you?” he asked.

Inu no Taishō looked at him surprised, before looking to the side into the starry distance.

“Father?”

“What do you fear Sesshomaru?” his father asked, changing the subject.

“Nothing,” he said.

“You’re running, Sesshomaru,” his father said.

“I’m not running,” Sesshomaru responded, coldly.

“I know you feel guilty,” Inu no Taishō continued.

Sesshomaru huffed.

“Son, listen to me,” forcing Sesshomaru to look into his eyes. “You are not alone in this. There were many factors that led to these events.”

Sesshomaru huffed and shook his head. “I am responsible for Koji’s death.”

“And so is your grandmother, your mother, your training brothers, Izo, that girl Azami, and me,” Inu no Taishō responded. “We all had a hand in his death.”

Sesshomaru looked at him. He was surprised by his father’s comment.

“So, it’s not all your fault, Sesshomaru. We all played a role in Koji’s misfortunate. It’s how we move forward from it that matters,” his father said.

Sesshomaru looked at him. He didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know if he even agreed.

“I’ll tell you what I told your training brothers. They blamed themselves for both Koji’s death and your demise,” Inu no Taishō said.

“They did?” Sesshomaru asked.

“They did,” Inu no Taishō said. “They were in the Pen every day for a year obsessing over what happened and pin pointing where and how they could have done something differently.”

Sesshomaru breathed.

“It’s easier to punish yourself than to accept that you made a mistake and learn to live with it. It takes a different type of courage to stop running and accept what you feel responsible for and can’t change, Son,” his father told him.

Sesshomaru couldn’t respond.

“The pain my never go away completely, but you have the power to let go of the guilt,” Inu no Taishō said. “You need to let go of the guilt.”

Sesshomaru shook his head.

“You can, Sesshomaru,” Inu no Taishō said.

“You all want me to come back and lead… be General and Overseer of this land,” Sesshomaru said, turning away. “How can I?”

“How can you?” Inu no Taishō asked, shocked by his question. “You –

“I killed your troops,” Sesshomaru said, looking back at him. “Did you forget that? I shamelessly slaughtered them like pigs in courtyard in front of Mother.”

Inu no Taishō nodded as he breathed.

“I can accept my guilt in this that all I want, but how can I lead those that I betrayed? They did not forget that… and they certainly won’t forgive it,” Sesshomaru said, honestly.

Inu no Taishō turned to look into the starry distance. “Tell me what happened that day?” he asked.

Sesshomaru looked at him. “You know what happened,” he huffed.

“Tell me,” his father repeated.

Sesshomaru sighed before he spoke. “It went to the courtyard and I –

“No, start from beginning,” his father interrupted him. “How did you come to learn your mother’s plan?” he asked.

Sesshomaru paused before he began. “It was the morning. When I was heading for a hunt in the woods behind the castle Daichi, Isao, Riichi, Eito and Naoki caught up with me. They asked me what I had done to upset Mother and said that she turned against me,” Sesshomaru said. “They said that Mother had invited troop members to battle each other for the position of successor of the Western Lands, because she didn’t think that I was fit to take over the land.”

“Mmm,” Inu no Taishō said.

“They said that it was happening later that day, so I went to the courtyard and fought,” he said.

Sesshomaru watched his father’s back as he continued to look into the starry distance. He wondered why he wanted to know.

“How did your training brothers know that you’d be off in the woods near the castle hunting in the morning?” he asked. “Since Bokusenō, you’ve always been an early riser, rising before sunrise to hunt before training. Wasn’t that a bit early for them to meet you… especially since none them even reside on or near the castle grounds?”

Sesshomaru was silent as he processed his father’s questions. Growing up, Sesshomaru was never an early riser. He had always struggled to wake up early, but that changed after Bokusenō made in rise early for training every day during their time together. After a while, his body was conditioned to waking up very early. And, his father was right. His training brothers did not live near the castle at all. Isao and Riichi lived reasonably close to the castle, but not near it. Thinking about it now, it was odd.

“In their visits to the Pen, your training brothers explained that you failed to speak to them anymore. How would they know to find you there? How would they know about any of the disagreements you had with your mother? I’m sure you didn’t tell them,” his father asked, still not looking back at him. “Why would they even make the effort to warn someone who chose to shun them?”

Sesshomaru breathed. It was true. Sesshomaru refused to speak to his training brothers unless absolutely necessary. He would never have a reason to divulge any random information about his sleeping patterns or personal training regimen to them. It didn’t make sense. Yes, Sesshomaru had issues with his mother, but he never shared those issues. How would they have known that he “pissed her off” with General Shinzō and Lady Shiemi of the Eastern Lands? It had just happened the afternoon before.

Sesshomaru looked at his father, confused as he processed each and every question he asked.

“And they told you that your mother invited troop members to fight?” his father asked, still looking into the distance.

Sesshomaru felt his body get hot. That was impossible. Although his mother was privy to troop information now, as she had stepped in to help oversee Tomoshiro’s leadership after his father’s death, his mother had no ties with the troops when he was younger. Everything troop-related came at the orders of… his father.  Sesshomaru breathed as he mind ran wild.

“How do you think that could be, Sesshomaru?” his father asked turning to him.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened as his father looked into his eyes. “No,” Sesshomaru said, shaking his head. He couldn’t believe it. “You wouldn’t,” Sesshomaru said.

“Shortly after it became public knowledge that your mother and I were exploring options for you to marry, I had caught wind that a secret force within the army was planning to rise up against order,” he said. “An arranged marriage to a powerful family of another region would not only strengthen our region, but solidify your position as successor to the Western Lands. There was talk about an uprising to remove you for your rightful position… a hostile takeover of sorts.”

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened. He had no idea.

“With your disposition and displayed leadership style during missions and training, although many were alarmed and uncomfortable by your future as a future leader, it was discovered that an anonymous group was rising and making plans to eliminate you before a marriage could be arranged.”

“What would it matter if I were married or not?” Sesshomaru asked, in confusion.

“If you were to be removed before a marriage arrangement, it would be up to me as General to choose an alternative successor within my troops. If you were to be removed after a marriage arrangement, my leadership as General to choose a successor would be conflicted by the leadership of the opposite family.”

Sesshomaru huffed. Bastards.

“Although there was talk about a potential uprising, there were no concrete facts on who was spearheading the initiative or was even involved in it. All we had was hearsay and presumptions of who could be involved. Without concrete facts, I couldn’t act,” he said. “Instead, your mother and I agreed to try and have your marriage arranged as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, you made that plan rather difficult,” he said.

Sesshomaru looked away, as he remembered how many marriage arrangement meetings he ruined by his attitude and comments.

“On a visit to the Pen, your training brothers explained they had heard rumors of the same uprising my leadership team and I were aware of. They were worried.”

Sesshomaru huffed. He was quick to think that they were only concerned about keeping their desired positions on his possible leadership team, but after hearing his father, he brushed the thought aside.

“They said that they didn’t have any information, just ideas, but I needed to act quickly because it seemed like an attack was coming quickly,” his father said.

Sesshomaru was surprised.

“After speaking with your mother, she worked it out to have a meeting set up with General Shinzō and his daughter Shiemi of the Eastern Lands,” he said. “As usual, your behavior throughout the meeting was atrocious. Your mother wanted me to step in and set you straight, but I couldn’t,” he said.

Sesshomaru looked at his father surprised. He remembered that meeting with General Shinzō like it was yesterday.

“I was initially all for this marriage arrangement plan, but I couldn’t commit to it. It felt like a way out. We weren’t addressing the issue, we were running from it,” Inu no Taishō said. “That’s all I thought about during that particular meeting.”

Sesshomaru remembered how out-of-it his father seemed during that meeting. He assumed that he was just uninterested, but now, he could see how his father was thinking about everything.

“My marriage to your mother was arranged, but I knew her before her father brought the option of marrying her on the table. I would have married her on my own free will because I already loved her,” his father said. “Of course, I would have loved for you to marry a woman from a powerful land to strengthen our influence within the region, but I also knew the importance of having a being with someone you love, who loves you back. In spite of her hostility towards me, I wouldn’t have been half the General I was without your mother,” his father said.

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes. He was confused again.

Inu no Taishō looked at his son’s reaction. “It pains me that you think so lowly of your mother, Sesshomaru,” his father said. “It will do you good to learn about your mother, the woman behind the fortress. You’ll be surprised, who you’ll find,” he added.

Sesshomaru glanced at him before looking away. To him, his mother had always been a heartless, hollow, cold and ruthless woman. It surprised him that his father spoke so highly of her and even conveyed that he loved her. For the majority of his life, they were barely together and showed very little affection. It was surprising.

“I couldn’t go through with it,” his father continued. “I told General Shinzō that his daughter would find love elsewhere and worked to find a plan to address the issue.”

Sesshomaru remembered just how that meeting played out. Sesshomaru killed the General and his father revived him.

“Your mother very disappointed with after that,” his father said.

Sesshomaru remembered his parents arguing after his father dismissed the marriage arrangement. He remembered the hateful things his father said to his mother about how he didn’t like her or care for her at all, and that their marriage arrangement was the worst. Before he could accuse his father of lying about how he loved his mother, Sesshomaru remembered how his father explained that he really loved his mother and did what he could to hurt her and punish her. It was in that very argument that Izayoi was brought up.

“When we separated, I pondered another way to address the issue with the troops. I needed a good way to identify all of the conspirators, deal with them all, and reinforce your unquestionable title and respect as successor of the Western Lands,” his father said. “Reflecting on how you killed General Shinzō, a prominent General in the Eastern Region, like nothing, and how I became General battling InuHaru… it dawned on me.”

Sesshomaru listened.

“I had a discussion with my leadership team, who was on board with my idea. We looped in your mother, who was strongly against it,” his father said.

“What was the idea?” Sesshomaru asked, not sure if he really wanted to know.

“… To piss you off hard enough to get you to eliminate the issue for yourself,” his father responded.

“What?” Sesshomaru asked, raising an eyebrow.

“You’re not so different from me than you think,” Inu no Taishō began. “I recognized me in you… You were me… a very long time ago… before I met your mother,” his father said. “You are always up for a challenge. You like to prove others wrong. You don’t like to let others win… You can’t help yourself.”

Sesshomaru’s looked away. He remembered the day that Koji successfully taught him how to control his light whip. “Yah know, Sesshy,” he remembered Koji saying, as he winced in pain, after his light whip hit his feet. “You only hit my feet because I told you that you wouldn’t be able to. You have a thing about proving others wrong.” His father was right. He did have a thing about proving others wrong.

“Speaking to your training group about your incident, I knew that weakness was an issue for you. You weren’t training night and day to be the best General you could be for yourself,” his father said. “That incident with Hitoshi labeled you as weak in the eyes of many, and you wanted to prove everyone wrong.”

Sesshomaru huffed.

“I also knew that your mother had a lot to do with your definition of weakness. I knew that she had been instilling her categories of weakness and inadequacy in you, and that she was the source of you believing that I was weak. I figured that if she turned around and said that you were weak, after learning all about weakness from her, it would have a great effect on you,” Inu no Taishō said.

Sesshomaru looked away. He couldn’t believe it. If only his father knew that he had already known what his mother thought of him from overhearing their conversations.

“The plan was, your mother would scold you for ruining the marriage arrangement meeting with General Shinzō and identify you as weak,” his father continued. “Words can mean nothing, but actions are everything. If she told you that, and then backed it up with an opportunity for someone else to take your place as successor of the Western Lands, all by the hand of your mother, I knew that you would be compelled to prove her wrong.”

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened.

“If an opportunity to legitimately earn the title of Successor of the Western Lands arose within the troops, ordered by a fed-up parent, I was sure that the underground conspirators would come to light,” Inu no Taishō added. “It would be out of character for me to do it… so I needed your mother to, as she had been considered second to me in this region.”

“No,” Sesshomaru said. “Mother would, but you wouldn’t… you couldn’t.”

“Your mother was against it. She said that it was wrong. She said that we were betraying you… that she was betraying you. She was concerned about your welfare in battle,” Inu no Taishō said.

Sesshomaru huffed. “So, she didn’t think I’d succeed.”

Inu no Taishō looked at his son. “Every good parent is concerned about the welfare of their pups,” he said. “Your mother was more concerned about your reaction after you’d succeed… and the reaction of the other troops,” he added.

“What?”

“It would be a sacrifice, but I knew that you’d be the only one who’d be able to fix this situation,” his father said.

“What about the troops who died?” Sesshomaru asked. “I killed them?”

“They were dead beings walking anyway,” Inu no Taishō said. “Do you really think I’d let them –

Sesshomaru’s mouth dropped. His father stopped talking and walked over to him.

“As I said, I wouldn’t have been half the General I was without your mother,” Inu no Taishō said.

Sesshomaru glanced at his father. Everything he thought he knew seemed to be so obscure now.

“When your mother finally came around to the idea, she cooked up something to tell you to push you over the edge. I told her that I’d take care of the rest,” his father said.

Sesshomaru sighed. It was a doozy. He remembered his mother’s words clearly. “You can hide weakness all you want, but weakness never dies.”

“I worked my channels to have the leadership team discretely spread the message around that your mother was planning a tournament to find a new successor to oversee the Western Lands. I didn’t inform your training brothers, to see how they’d react to the news. I wanted to know where they really stood with you.”

Sesshomaru breathed.

“They came around that evening to let me know of the rumors. I informed them of the plan and asked them to let you know first thing the next morning. I let them know where you’d most likely be in the morning, and they took it all from there,” his father said.

Sesshomaru couldn’t believe his ears.

“You came, took care of business and that was that,” his father said.

“But, I left,” Sesshomaru said, after a long pause. “It was for nothing.”

“That is still to be determined,” his father responded, touching his son on the shoulder.

Sesshomaru sighed.

“It is time for me to go,” Inu no Taishō said, as his son looked at him.

“Father,” Sesshomaru said, looking at him.

Inu no Taishō touched Sesshomaru’s shoulder and smiled. “Let go of your guilt,” he said. “There are extraordinary beings who care about you out there.”

Sesshomaru had no words.

“And know that I am proud of you,” he said, as he turned away.

Sesshomaru watched as he walked away in the distance. Before he was out of sight, he stopped.

“My heart,” his father said, looking back.

“What?” Sesshomaru asked, confused.

“Your mother,” he said. “Your mother is my heart… Broken as it may be, she is my heart.”

Sesshomaru looked at him as he remembered the question he asked about his mother. His mother was his father’s heart? His broken heart?

“If you are fortunate enough to find love someday, may your heart be your home,” he said, as he walked into the distance.

Sesshomaru watched as his father faded into the darkness as he reflected on his words. Clearly, he was speaking about his mother and Izayoi, but he had no idea what he meant.

Sesshomaru watched as the setting changed. With his father gone, he expected to return back to the cave of glow worms. Instead, he had arrived elsewhere. He was at the entrance of Far Grounds in front of the large paw prints engraved on a large stone.

Sesshomaru sighed. He was sure that his father forced him to return back to the Western Lands to reflect on the big decision he had to make. He sighed as he looked at the paw prints.

“They’re huge, aren’t they?” Sesshomaru heard a familiar voice say next to him.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened as she trembled. He was actually afraid to turn around.

Sesshomaru felt a hand on his shoulder. He closed his eyes. He was dreaming.

“Turn around.”

Sesshomaru slowly turned around. It was him. It was Koji, standing there smiling.

“Koji?” Sesshomaru asked, his eyes wide.

“Sesshy,” he smiled.

Sesshomaru didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when Koji said his name. He just threw his arms around his friend and hugged him tight.

Chapter Text

“Rin, Jaken, come here,” Inuyasha instructed them, not taking his eyes off of the four large dog demons, who continued to talk amongst themselves.

Rin helped Jaken as they ran towards Inuyasha.

“Get behind me out of sight,” Inuyasha said.

Rin nodded and helped Jaken move to follow his orders.

“Quit your yammering and tell us what you want!” Inuyasha shouted at the group, gripping Tessaiga.

The dog demons closed their mouths as he spoke.

“You must be Inuyasha,” the large brown dog demon with pointy ears said.

Inuyasha narrowed his eyes. “Who wants to know?” he asked.

“Obviously, we do,” the short gray haired dog demon rolled his eyes.

“Are you?” the beige dog demon with brown patches asked.

Inuyasha glanced at Miroku, who gently shrugged. Neither of them were sure of what to say.

“It’s a simple question. Are you Inuyasha or aren’t you?” the short gray haired dog demon huffed.

“What’s it to you?” Inuyasha snapped at him.

“Well, if he is, he certainly doesn’t have Sesshomaru’s personality. That’s for sure,” the beige dog demon with brown patches said.

Inuyasha’s eyes widened at the sound of Sesshomaru’s name. “Sesshomaru?” Inuyasha asked, preparing his sword.

The group looked at each other. There was no doubt he was Inuyasha.

“Have you seen Sesshomaru?” the large dog demon with pointy ears asked.

“We tracked him here,” the beige dog demon with brown patches said.

“What do you want with him?” Inuyasha asked.

“It’s none of your business!” the short gray haired dog demon shouted at him. “Just tell us where he is!”

“I’m not telling you anything!” Inuyasha shouted.

“I have no problem making you tell us!” the short gray haired dog demon snarled, walking towards him.

“I’d love to see that!” Inuyasha challenged the demon, stepping forward. “I can take you on, no problem.”

The dog demon barked in anger.

“I told you Lord Sesshomaru was here, Master Jaken,” Rin whispered to Jaken, as he shuttered.

Inuyasha’s eyes widened as the group of dog demons’ eyes got wide at Rin’s comment. Although she was whispering, they could hear her every word she uttered.

Isao glared at Inuyasha before walking past him. When he passed him, he gently kicked his back paw back, hitting Inuyasha.

Rin gasped and gripped Jaken.

“Inuyasha!” Miroku shouted, as Inuyasha flew against a tree and slid to the ground.

“Isao!” the other dog demons shouted at him.

Rin’s eyes widened as the dog demon called Isao walked over to her.

“Where is Sesshomaru?” he asked, looking down at her.

“Rin, don’t tell him anything!” Inuyasha shouted.

Rin clutched Jaken, as the dog demon’s snout moved close to her face.

“Stop, you fool!” the black curly-haired dog demon scolded Isao, as he transformed into his humanoid form. “Do you really think she’s going to answer you acting like that?” he asked, walking in front of him.

“Don’t tell me what to do, Riichi,” Isao responded, as the other dog demons transformed into their humanoid forms as well and walked around him to stand by Riichi.

Isao huffed and reluctantly transformed into his humanoid form too.

“Leave her alone!” Inuyasha shouted, standing to his feet. “She doesn’t know anything!”

“Go away! Leave us alone!” Jaken shouted, shielding himself and Rin with the Staff of Two Heads.

“Relax. We do not wish to harm you,” Riichi said, in a calm voice. “We’re only looking to find Sesshomaru. Do you know where he is?”

Rin looked into the faces of the four demons looking at her. They each reminded her a bit of Lord Sesshomaru. They didn’t look like him, but they were all fairly tall and were dressed in similar-looking amour.

“You’re Lord Sesshomaru’s training brothers,” Rin said, still standing behind Jaken.

The group looked at each other shocked.

“Yes! You know about us?” the dog demon who transformed into a being with dirty blond hair asked, in excitement.

“Huh? What?” Jaken asked, confused, as he looked at Rin.

“I remembered your names… Isao and Riichi and…

“I’m Eito,” the dog demon with dirty blond hair smiled.

“And I’m Daichi,” the dog demon with brown hair said.

“Mmhmm,” Rin said. “Lord Sesshomaru told me about you.”

The group smiled at each other.

“Lord Sesshomaru told you what?” Jaken asked Rin.

“So, he’s here!” Eito exclaimed.

“Rin, what’s going on?” Miroku asked, running over with Inuyasha.

“These are Lord Sesshomaru’s training brothers,” Rin said. “They’re looking for him.”

“Training brothers?” Inuyasha asked.

The group looked at each other, surprised by Inuyasha’s comment.

“You should be ashamed of how ignorant you are,” Isao huffed.

“Shut up!” Inuyasha snapped at him.

“You shut up!” Isao growled back.

“Where is Sesshomaru?” Riichi asked Rin.

“He was here, but I don’t know where he went,” Rin responded. “Lord Sesshomaru arrived really upset about something. I showed him the cave of glow worms to cheer him up, but then he disappeared.”

“Disappeared?”

“Cave of glow worms?”

“Mmhmm,” Rin said. “I ran out to tell Master Jaken that Lord Sesshomaru was in there, but when I came back he was gone.”

“Where is this cave of glow worms?” Daichi asked.

“It’s over there,” Rin said, pointing to the large cave mouth behind the group.

“Come on, let’s check,” Daichi said, running over with Eito and Isao. Riichi stayed with Inuyasha, Miroku, Rin and Jaken.

“What’s going on?” Inuyasha asked Riichi.

“It’s none of your business!” Isao shouted back to him, before entering the cave.

Inuyasha growled.

“Don’t mind Isao,” Riichi apologized. “He’s… high strung.”

“We can see that,” Miroku said, watching the dog demons run into the cave.

As they waited, Riichi couldn’t help but look at Inuyasha.

“Why do you keep looking at me?” Inuyasha asked, agitated.

“You just… you look just like the General,” Riichi said. “It’s uncanny.”

Inuyasha breathed and looked away.

“He’s not there,” Daichi said, as he left the cave with the others.

“Where could he have gone?” Riichi asked.

“Did Sesshomaru mention anything about going somewhere?” Isao asked Rin.

“Did he mention anything that could be a clue to where he might have gone?” Daichi asked her.

Rin looked down as she thought. “He said that he was responsible for someone’s death –

The group of dog demons looked at each other with wide eyes. “Koji’s.”

“Yes, that was it,” Rin said, as Inuyasha and Miroku looked at each other. “He was really upset because his father didn’t tell him and –

“Uh,” Riichi shook his head. “I wish we could have explained everything,” he huffed.

“Damn, Izo,” Isao closed his eyes and shook his head as well.

“Go on,” Daichi said, looking at Rin.

“Well, Lord Sesshomaru was really upset about his friend’s death,” Rin continued. “With his mother’s Meidō Stone he –

“The Meidō Stone!” Riichi shouted.

“Lady Inukimi!” Eito exclaimed.

“She wouldn’t give it to him… would she?”

“No! She would never let him have that!”

Miroku pulled Rin away as the group of dog demons got excited and started talking amongst themselves.

“Two of us will go, and two of us will stay here,” one said.

“Why stay here?” another asked.

“What if he comes back here?”

“But…”

“He could come back here! If Lady Inukimi refuses –

“Good point!”

“Who will go?”

“I’ll go.”

“Me too. I can’t bear to look at his face any longer,” Isao said, looking back at Inuyasha.

Inuyasha rolled his eyes. “Bastard.”

“Fine. Just hurry back!”

After a few moments of muttering, Riichi and Isao transformed into their true forms and bolted into the sky. Daichi and Eito stayed behind in their humanoid forms and turned to the rest of the group.

“Where are they going?” Miroku asked.

“If what you say is correct, Sesshomaru probably left to see his mother about her Meidō Stone,” Daichi said. “She is the only one we know who has one.”

“But, Lord Sesshomaru already has a Meidō Stone. His mother gave him hers,” Rin said.

Eito and Daichi looked at each other with wide eyes before looking into the sky.

“He has it?! What are we going to do?!” Eito shouted. “That’s why he disappeared! We should have known!”

“Uh… They’re too far away to call back, but I can try,” Daichi said.

“Forget them! He’s already in the Meidō! What are we going to do?!” Eito panicked.

“The Meidō?” Inuyasha asked.

“Let me think… let me think,” Daichi paced back and forth.

“Ugh! This is not good… this is not good at all!” Eito said. “Why could he just stay and listen to everything we had to say?”

Inuyasha and Miroku looked at each other, while Jaken looked at Rin.

“What’s wrong?” Rin asked the dog demons, confused and alarmed by their panic.

“We need to reach Sesshomaru,” Daichi said, as calmly as he could.

“If we don’t reach Sesshomaru in the Meidō soon –

 “He’s going to thrust himself into the Underworld!” Eito shouted. “…If he hasn’t done so already?”

“Huh?” Rin asked.

Jaken gasped.

“What?! Sesshomaru’s stupid, but he’s not stupid enough to thrust himself into the Underworld,” Inuyasha said.

“He may be distraught enough,” Daichi responded.

Jaken gasped.

“Distraught? Sesshomaru doesn’t seem like one who would get distraught,” Miroku said.

The way Daichi and Eito looked at each other made Inuyasha concerned. “What’s going on?!”

Daichi and Eito glanced at Inuyasha before looking at one another. They seemed to be contemplating whether or not to share.

“Lord Sesshomaru used the Meidō Stone to visit his father,” Rin said.

“General Inu no Taishō? …But, he’s dead,” Eito said, looking at her confused.

“Yes, but he can possibly see him using the Meidō Stone,” Rin said.

“What?” Eito asked.

“That can’t be so,” Daichi said.

“My friend Kohaku told me all about the Meidō Stone from when he and Lord Sesshomaru were sucked through its portal,” Rin said.

“Sesshomaru was sucked through the Meidō?” Eito asked. “That’s impossible. The Meidō is a place where beings go to die. The living can’t return.”

“You are mistaken. The living can return,” Jaken said. “The remarkable Lord Sesshomaru did,” he said proudly.

“Mmhmm,” Rin nodded. “I did too… but I don’t really remember anything though,” she said.

Daichi and Eito were stunned. “No. It’s impossible.”

“Inuyasha has been in the Meidō as well… multiple times,” Miroku said, looking at Inuyasha. “Apparently, Sesshomaru as well.”

Eito looked at Inuyasha. “Huh?”

“The Meidō is… complex. There are many facets and layers to it,” Inuyasha said.

“My friend Kohaku told me that there are many souls of the dead somewhere in the Meidō. Thinking about that, I thought that maybe Lord Sesshomaru might be able to see his father’s soul to find out what really happened with his friend,” Rin said.

Daichi looked at her, unsure of what to think.

“If Sesshomaru sought to go into the Meidō, it wasn’t to die. I can tell you that,” Inuyasha said.

“Right! Lord Sesshomaru would never leave me like that!” Jaken exclaimed.

The group looked at Jaken cross-eyed.

“You he might leave, but I doubt he’d ever leave Rin like that,” Miroku said.

Jaken huffed.

Daichi and Eito looked down at Rin, processing the monk’s words. What was so important to Sesshomaru about this little human pup?

“He’ll be back,” Inuyasha said.

Rin nodded. “Mmhmm. Lord Sesshomaru always comes back. We just have to wait.”

Daichi and Eito glanced at Rin again. Who was this girl to Sesshomaru?

Inuyasha looked at the dog demons’ melancholy faces. He wondered who they really were and why they cared so much about Sesshomaru.

“If what you’ve said is true, we’ll wait,” Daichi said. “I only thought the Meidō Stone could help resurrect the souls of deceased beings and could enable living beings to cast themselves into the Underworld.”

“Me too,” Eito said, looking into the sky.

“It’s fine, Eito. They’ll be back soon enough,” Daichi said. “I’m sure Lady Inukimi knows all about the stone and how to reach Sesshomaru.”

“Lady Inukimi?” Miroku asked.

“She’s Sesshomaru’s mother,” Daichi said.

Inuyasha was silent. There were so many things he didn’t know about Sesshomaru.

“She lives around here?” Miroku asked.

Eito nodded. “So to speak, yes.”

 “So, how do you know Sesshomaru?” Inuyasha asked, starting a conversation with the two dog demons. “What’s going on?”

***

Koji and Sesshomaru held each other for a long time before Sesshomaru pulled away. Although Koji was beaming from ear to ear, Sesshomaru was speechless. He didn’t know what to say. Should he apologize? Should he thank him? Should he say that he missed him? Sesshomaru didn’t know what to do. He didn’t have the words.

“You don’t have to say anything, Sesshy,” Koji said, answering Sesshomaru’s internal questions.

Sesshomaru breathed and looked into Koji’s eyes. Looking into his eyes, amidst the surroundings of the Meidō, all Sesshomaru wanted to do was scold him. He shouldn’t have been dead. If he had just stayed back and had not interfered, Koji would have been alive right then.

“There’s no guarantee that that’s true, Sesshy,” Koji sighed.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened as he looked at his friend. Could he read his mind?

“No, I can’t read your mind,” Koji answered Sesshomaru’s unspoken question. “I just know you. I know how you think.”

Sesshomaru breathed.

“I understood what you meant that night. I knew that you weren’t implying that you were better than anyone else in your talk about weaknesses and power. I heard what you were asking, but the others didn’t,” Koji said, looking at him. “They would have too… because they know you just as much as I do, but they were... distressed by what I had told everyone regarding me and Azami. I realized they weren’t listening to you when they reacted the way they did, and I needed to tell you that.”

Sesshomaru looked away. “You shouldn’t have gone after me,” he said, after a long pause.

“Sesshy, I know you blame yourself –

“You have a son,” Sesshomaru interrupted.

Koji nodded. “Akihiko,” he said, with a smile. “I know.”

Sesshomaru looked at Koji. He was surprised that he even knew about Akihiko. Koji could tell.

“I look over him,” he said. “I can see him in here.”

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened.

“I’ve watched over him since he was born. Him, my mother and father, Izo, our group… you,” Koji said.

Sesshomaru huffed.

“Yes, you, Sesshy,” Koji said. “Why would I not?”

“Why would you?” Sesshomaru growled, turning towards him. He was aggravated. He had had enough with the “everything is all good” and the “let bygones be bygones” charade. “You gave up everything for me, Koji!”

“Sesshy, listen to me –

“Why did you go after me?” he asked. “If you had just stayed back you would be alive today. You would be alive with your son,” Sesshomaru growled.

“Sesshy, I told you. There’s no guarantee that that’s true,” Koji responded.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Sesshomaru huffed, looking away.

“What do you want me to say?” Koji asked, shrugging. “That I regret going after you that night? That I regret saving your life? That I regret dying for my best friend? That I regret not  being there for Izo and my pup?”

Sesshomaru looked at him. He could tell that Koji was just as aggravated as he was.

“Look, Sesshy, my life was what it was for me,” Koji said. “If you were to ask me for a list of regrets to give you, I don’t have one.”

Sesshomaru shook his head. He couldn’t believe him. “Don’t tell me that you have no regrets.”

“I don’t,” Koji answered.

Sesshomaru huffed. “You’re lying to yourself.”

“Sure, I would have loved for situations to have played out differently, but for what life has dealt me, I regret nothing.”

“Don’t be foolish,” Sesshomaru snapped at him. “Azami isn’t a regret?” Sesshomaru asked, looking into Koji’s eyes, challenging his statement.

“…Not even her,” Koji said.

Sesshomaru shook his head. His late friend was delusional.

“I wouldn’t have Akihiko if it wasn’t for her… neither would Izo, my parents, Izo’s family, Saicho, Hiroto, Kenjiro or our brothers.”

Sesshomaru looked away. As much as he wanted to disagree, Koji had a point.

“When you asked me why I enlisted on our first day at Far Grounds, do you remember what I told you?” Koji asked Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru breathed. He remembered. “I really want to save someone. That would be so awesome.”

“You know,” Koji said. “I told you that I joined because I wanted to save someone. And, Sesshy, it was an honor for me to be able to save my best friend,” Koji added.

Sesshomaru could feel anger surge through his body at Koji’s comment. It was a foolish statement. “How did it feel looking down to see that the being you sacrificed your life for didn’t even know you were dead… that he didn’t even care to check up on you after not seeing you anywhere for decades?”

“Sesshy –

“How did it feel, Koji, knowing that the being you saved abandoned everything and everyone?” Sesshomaru continued. He could hear his voice cracking and feel himself getting upset again.

“Listen to me –

“The general you hoped I’d become after you saved me never came to be and –

“Shut up!” Koji shouted.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened, surprised by Koji’s outburst and comment.

“Just shut up,” Koji said, in a calmer tone.

Sesshomaru breathed, as tears fell down his face.

“Did it hurt looking down to see that you had abandoned everyone and went your own way? Yes, it did. It saddened me that you didn’t know the truth… that you felt that we had all betrayed you,” Koji said. “Did it hurt looking down to see you training your heart and soul out to prove to everyone that you were adequate? Yes, it did.”

Sesshomaru scrunched his face as he listened, trying to prevent himself from really crying.

“I didn’t save you because of who you are meant to be, Sesshy. I saved you because of who you are to me… who you’ve always been to me,” Koji said.

Sesshomaru was silent.

“Do you really think that I was thinking that I was trying to save a future general when I tried to help you that night? I went out there trying to save my friend. I didn’t think twice about it.”

Sesshomaru looked away, as more tears fell down his face.

“Even now, I would do it all over again,” Koji added. “I don’t know why it’s so hard for you to accept that beings love you for you and not for what you think you’re supposed to be, Sesshy.”

Sesshomaru cried, looking down, letting his bangs fall over his eyes. “I’m sorry,” he said, in a low voice.

Koji walked over and put a hand on Sesshomaru’s shoulder. “Don’t apologize. If the situation were reversed, you’d do the same thing for me,” he said.

Sesshomaru held his breath at Koji’s comment. If the tables were turned, he didn’t know if he’s do the same thing.

“Don’t even bother asking yourself if you would, Sesshy,” Koji interrupted his thoughts. “I know you well enough to know that you don’t hesitate when it comes to protecting those you care about,” he said.

Sesshomaru wiped her tears away with his sleeve. Koji hadn’t convinced him.

“I’ve seen you with Inuyasha when he was younger… that imp fellow of yours called Jaken… and that little human girl, Rin,” Koji said.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened, surprised by Koji’s statement.

“I told you I’ve been looking over you,” Koji smiled.

***

Time flew by as Daichi and Eito spoke to Inuyasha, Miroku, Rin and Jaken about their relationship with Sesshomaru. They spoke about their times at Far Grounds training together, and even touched on why Sesshomaru was extremely upset.

“That’s awful,” Miroku said. “I can’t even imagine how he feels.”

Inuyasha nodded. “Yeah,” he said solemnly, looking out into the distance.

“He was really upset,” Rin said.

“I should have been there!” Jaken wailed.

“No, you shouldn’t have. All you would have done was annoy him,” Miroku spat at Jaken.

“Hmph,” Jaken said, crossing his arms.

“So, this is where Sesshomaru’s been all these years,” Daichi said, looking around.

“Lord Sesshomaru wasn’t here. He was searching the lands for the precious Tessaiga that was left to his worthless half-breed brother,” Jaken said.

Inuyasha slammed his fist down hard on Jaken’s head. “Shut up.”

“Eww ohh,” Jaken moaned, as he rubbed the lump forming on his head.

“So, the Great General left it to you,” Daichi said.

Inuyasha didn’t respond. He just looked out into the distance.

“Very cool,” Eito said. “I’m sure Sessh was upset.”

“That’s an understatement,” Miroku said.

“But he has nothing to complain about. We heard all about his new sword,” Daichi said.

“Yes, the supreme  Bakusaiga,” Jaken smiled. “My master is undefeatable with such a weapon in his possession.

“Lord Sesshomaru doesn’t need a weapon to be undefeatable, Master Jaken,” Rin said.

Daichi and Eito looked at each other.

“So, who are you all to Sesshomaru?” Daichi asked. “You are his brother,” he said pointing to Inuyasha. “And you are his brother’s friend,” he said pointing to Miroku. “And you are?” he asked, pointing at Jaken.

“Why, I am Lord Sesshomaru’s most loyal and faithful servant Jaken… and Chief Minister to his newly established empire,” Jaken said, proudly.

Daichi and Eito looked at each other.

“Chief Minister to his empire?” Eito asked.

“What are you talking about?” Daichi asked.

“Lord Sesshomaru wishes to establish his own empire,” Jaken said. “It may take decades to amass the funds and resources to do so, but he’ll do it.”

“Sesshomaru already has an empire,” Eito said. “He’s slated to be General and Overseer of the Western Lands.”

“Huh?” Jaken asked.

“As Sesshomaru’s most ‘loyal and faithful servant,’ you did not know that?” Daichi asked.

“Well, I –

“We always knew that Sesshomaru was Lord of the Western Lands, but we didn’t know he was all that,” Miroku said.

“Yes,” Eito said. “We’ve been waiting on him for centuries to fulfill his role, but… I don’t know… he’s spent centuries… running from everybody.”

“Running?” Rin asked.

“Sesshomaru isn’t one to run from anything,” Inuyasha said.

“Well, he’s running from this,” Daichi said.

Inuyasha breathed. What he was hearing didn’t make sense to him.

***

“So, you know the truth,” Koji said, sitting on the stoop of the engraved paw prints.

Sesshomaru looked at him before sitting down next to him.

“I’m sorry you had to find out this way,” Koji added. “It’s a lot to take in.”

Sesshomaru swiped his bangs up from his forehead with a sigh.

“What’s next for you?” Koji asked. “…Now that you know the truth about everything.”

Sesshomaru glanced at him before looking out into the distance. “I expect you’re going to lecture me about taking my rightful place as General,” he huffed.

Koji looked at him dumbfounded.

“Everyone wants me to come back and take my rightful place as General of the Western Lands,” Sesshomaru said, with a pause. “But…

Koji nodded. “I understand.”

“How could you understand?” Sesshomaru asked, with a huff.

“Right now, you feel obligated to assume the role because of what many have gone through to get you here, but you don’t know if being General is what you really want to do,” Koji answered.

Sesshomaru looked down. “It is what is expected of me. It is what everyone has made sacrifices for me to do… you, my mother, my father, my apparent uncle,” Sesshomaru agreed.

“Yes, Sesshy, but you have a choice in this too,” Koji said.

“How can you say that?” Sesshomaru asked. “What choice do I have? It’s not about me,” Sesshomaru said.

“This has everything to do with you, Sesshy,” Koji said.

Sesshomaru huffed.

“What’s on your mind?” Koji asked directly, looking at him. “We could always talk freely.”

Sesshomaru sighed and stood to his feet. “I’m not my father.”

“No one is expecting you to be, Sesshy,” Koji looked up at him.

“Being General is more than having exceptional combat skills and knowledge. My father had a vision… a goal as General. He knew the ins and outs of this land, and made decisions to promote a prosperous future,” Sesshomaru began. “I… I don’t have anything. I have no vision… no goal. I don’t even have an interest in this land,” Sesshomaru admitted.

Koji listened.

“What kind of General would I be?” Sesshomaru added.

Koji nodded. “That’s fair,” Koji said. “But, what do you want, Sesshy?”

“What do you mean, ‘what do I want?’” Sesshomaru asked.

“It’s not a trick question,” Koji said. “If you were to know our lands well enough to have a vision for its future, would you want to assume the role of General?”

“I don’t know,” Sesshomaru said, looking down, after a long pause. “I don’t know how to uphold my father’s legacy,” he added.

“Sesshy, you don’t need to. As General, you’re your own general. It is up to you to make your own vision, set your own goals and make your own legacy. It’s not about your father,” Koji said.

Sesshomaru ran his claws through his hair as he thought. He reflected on his father’s words. “I respected General Seijiro, but his ways were not mine. I saw the vision of the Lands I would oversee, and forming alliances with human villages and demons with lesser powers were pieces needed to achieve my goal.”

“That’s what you need to figure out,” Koji said, standing to his feet.

Sesshomaru glanced at him.

“You accomplish anything you put your mind to, Sesshy. There’s no question about that. If you want to be General and Overseer of our Lands, you will make it happen. It’s just a matter of whether you want to do it or not,” Koji said. “But, just know that you have a choice in this. You aren’t obligated to do anything and no one will hold it against you.”

Sesshomaru huffed and glared at Koji.

“Maybe Izo will,” Koji smiled. “But, no one else will hold it against you,” Koji pat his shoulder.

Sesshomaru sighed.

“Take the time to learn if this is something you may want to pursue… for you… not your father, not for Tomoshiro, not for our brothers, certainly not for me… but, for you,” Koji said. “It will be more honorable to turn down the position after doing your due diligence to know what you’re letting go and why.”

Sesshomaru glanced at Koji before looking out into the distance. It was good advice.

***

The conversation died down as night fell. Jaken leaned against a tree trunk next to Rin, analyzing the betrayal he felt from Lord Sesshomaru not telling him about his role in the Western Lands, while Rin did her best to calm him down. Daichi conversed with Miroku about the powers of monks. With a grumbling stomach, Eito excused himself to hunt game in the woods.  Inuyasha sat on a branch in a tree above, thinking about his brother and what could possibly be going on with him.

Eito emerged from the trees in his true form.

“Did you find anything?” Daichi asked.

Eito’s stomach growled. “No,” he sighed. “I’m so hungry.”

Everyone looked at each other.

“Relax, he won’t eat you,” Daichi reassured the group. “We don’t eat humans.”

A sigh of relief swept through the group.

“Isao and Riichi should be back soon. We’ll eat later,” Daichi said.

Eito huffed. “But I’m starving now.”

“Eito –

“My betrothed, Sango, should have already made dinner by now… some rice, dumplings and sweet buns maybe. I can bring some back,” Miroku said.

“Lady Kaede should have dinner prepared by now too,” Rin said. “I can bring something back as well.”

Eito’s eyes widened with a smile.

“We appreciate that,” Daichi said, “but it will do nothing for him.”

“What do you mean?” Miroku asked.

“We’re 40-foot demons, weighing close to several tons. Human portions do nothing for us,” Daichi said.

“But it’s something,” Eito said.

“Eito, stop,” Daichi said. “Eating their food is like eating a crumb. Will a crumb hold you over?”

Eito sighed. “Okay.”

As darkness rose, a strong smell of meat roasting on a fire wafted through the trees. Eito’s eyes widened as he lay on the ground in his true form.

“Eito,” Daichi said, standing up, smelling the heavenly smell himself.

“I smell food,” Eito said, standing to his feet.

Inuyasha’s widened as he jumped down from the tree branch. This wasn’t good.

“Eito, control yourself. You won’t be able to eat that food. It’s not enough,” Daichi said, as everyone began to stand to their feet.

“But… it’s something,” Eito said, before charging through the trees towards the smell of food cooking in the village.

“Ugh… Eito,” Daichi moaned, before transforming into his true form and charging through the trees after him.

“Miroku, take care of them!” Inuyasha shouted. “I’ll go after them,” he said, before sprinting after Eito and Daichi into the village.

“Come on, you two. Let’s go,” Miroku rounded up Jaken and Rin.

***

“So, you can see us from in here?” Sesshomaru asked, changing the subject.

“Mmhmm,” Koji nodded.

Sesshomaru watched as Koji held his arm out and the setting changed. They were now in a heavily wooded area. A large mass of muddy water with hallow bamboo sticks scattered all around and sticking up from the water was off to the side. Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes.

“What are we looking at?” Sesshomaru asked, seeing no one.

Just then he heard footsteps off in the distance.

“Akihiko! Akihiko!” he heard, voices call out. It was Izo and Naoki.

Sesshomaru looked to see Izo and Naoki appear into the setting from behind a tree.

“Where is he?” Izo asked Naoki, looking around frantically.

They were both in their humanoid forms scanning the area. Izo looked wrecked. A look of panic and concern was plastered on his face.

“I don’t know. I tracked his scent here, but I… I lost it,” Naoki said, sniffing the air. “It just ends here.”

Izo’s eyes widened as he looked at Naoki. “What do you mean ‘it just ends here?!’” he asked, with anger and frustration present in his voice.

“I don’t know, it just ends here,” Naoki said, looking around.

Naoki looked long and hard at the muddy water and then looked elsewhere.

“Well, try again!” Izo shouted. “He couldn’t have just disappeared!”

“You need to calm down, Izo,” Naoki said. “He’s around here somewhere.”

“Don’t tell me to calm down!” Izo hissed, marching forward. “Your pup isn’t the one that’s missing!”

Sesshomaru watched as Naoki sighed and followed Izo out of sight.

Sesshomaru looked at Koji confused. “Aren’t we going to follow them?”

Koji kept his eyes on Izo with a look of sadness before shaking his head. “No,” he said.

Sesshomaru looked at Koji confused. “Why not? I thought –

Sesshomaru watched as Koji pointed to the muddy water. He watched as a hallow bamboo stick standing upright in the water wiggled a bit before shooting up into the air and off to the side. Sesshomaru’s eyes widened as a muddy creature emerged out of the water with a gasp. It was Akihiko.

Sesshomaru looked at Koji shocked, as Akihiko climbed out of the muddy water and stood at the edge of the bank.

“He’s clever isn’t he,” Koji said. “He knows how to hide when he wants to.”

“He’s a lot like you,” Sesshomaru commented, after a long pause, still shocked by what he had just witnessed.

“I think he’s more like Izo,” Koji continued. “I would have never thought of that.”

“No. He’s a lot like you,” Sesshomaru repeated, remembering Koji’s bravery, creativity and skills during their times together. “He doesn’t look like you, but he… he’s a lot like you.”

Koji smiled. “He looks like my mother, I think.”

Sesshomaru thought for a moment before he nodded. Yes, he could see that. He was just glad that Akihiko didn’t look like Azami.

“He has your eyes though,” Sesshomaru added, looking at Akihiko look in the direction Izo and Naoki had walked. “…And your love for mud.”

“You think so?” Koji smiled.

Sesshomaru could see how happy the comment made his friend.

“He’s brave,” Sesshomaru said. “For someone with no combat training, he has a lot of skill. He’s better than his friends, who are training members.”

Koji smiled. “Akihiko desires to fight, but Izo forbids it,” he said. “He fears for his safety and… he doesn’t want him to know anything about you.”

Sesshomaru looked down. He understood and he didn’t blame him.

“What do you wish for Akihiko?” Sesshomaru asked.

Koji looked out into the distance. “His happiness.”

Sesshomaru watched as Akihiko turned and sat by the edge of the muddy body water, cross-legged. With a sigh, he closed his eyes and put his head in his hands.

Koji sighed at his son. “You upset him, you know,” Koji said.

“I didn’t mean to upset him,” Sesshomaru said, as he watched his friend’s grief.

“It’s not your fault. I just wish… he must be so confused,” Koji said. “Everything he’s ever known to be true is about to be turned upside down.”

Sesshomaru looked at Akihiko. He knew the feeling all too well.

“Izo’s all Akihiko has ever known. He’s his father,” Koji said.

Sesshomaru huffed. “Your son should know who you are,” Sesshomaru responded. “Izo should have told him about you.”

“You don’t understand,” Koji sighed, shaking his head. “It was best that he didn’t.”

“You are Akihiko’s father, Koji, not Izo,” Sesshomaru said. “He deserves to know the truth.”

Koji shook his head. “You don’t understand, Sesshy.”

“What don’t I understand? Akihiko has a right to know who you are,” Sesshomaru said.

Koji huffed. “No,” he said, turning away.

Sesshomaru was surprised by his response. “You’re being ridiculous. Your son –

“To know me is to know what happened to me,” Koji said.

Sesshomaru looked at Koji. He was speechless.

“I would love for Akihiko to know me. I would have loved for Izo to be able to tell my son all about me, compare our similarities and differences, and tell him how much I loved him in life before I even knew him, still love him now and will always love him. That would mean everything to me… but I agreed with Izo’s decision,” Koji admitted. “It was the right decision. To tell Akihiko the truth was to tell him everything… everything,” Koji said, looked into Sesshomaru’s eyes.

Sesshomaru looked at Koji with a sadness he couldn’t hide.

“Don’t look at me like that,” Koji sighed, as Sesshomaru breathed and did his best to remove his expression. “I don’t want him to know what happened to me… how he got here,” Koji said.

Sesshomaru listened. He understood.

“It would have been better if he were able to keep believing that Izo was his father. He’s his father in every way that counts anyway,” Koji said, looking at his son. “But, now he’s going to have to find out everything,” Koji pouted.

Sesshomaru sighed. He didn’t want to ask, but he had to know. “What happened to Azami?”

Koji looked at him and shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said.

Sesshomaru was silent for a moment as he looked at his friend. “I doubt that Azami would willingly give up her son to Izo, of all beings,” Sesshomaru said.

“Well, she did… and I couldn’t be more grateful for that,” he responded.

“Koji,” Sesshomaru said, sternly, unsatisfied with Koji’s lack of disclosure.

“Sesshy, I don’t know. I don’t know what happened to Azami,” Koji said.

“How could you not know? My father just showed me scenes from the past. You can see everything in here,” Sesshomaru said, looking into Koji’s eyes.

“The dead are not without limits, Sesshy,” Koji began. “We can review and visit memories of our own pasts, and look upon those we have deep attachments to, but that’s about it.”

Sesshomaru looked to the side, bothered by his response.

“I did not see what happened to Azami. I was aware of her comings and goings as she was carrying Akihiko for those years, but after she gave birth, I lost my connection to her. I couldn’t see her anymore,” Koji said. “All I saw was your mother give Akihiko to my mother a few days after he was born. She told her to take him home from the castle as Azami no longer wished to be his parent,” Koji said.

“No longer wished to be his parent?” Sesshomaru questioned. He was confused.

“I don’t know, Sesshy. It was odd to me too. All I saw was my mother bringing Akihiko home and offering him to Izo.”

“What do you mean?” Sesshomaru asked, even more confused.

“My mother said that she and my father were only suitable to be grandparents and that they would be honored if Izo were to accept being Akihiko’s father in my absence… as it would be something I would want.”

“Was it?” Sesshomaru asked.

Koji looked at Sesshomaru. “You’ve never been one to ask stupid questions, Sesshy,” Koji smirked. “Of course, it was. I couldn’t have asked for a better parent for Akihiko than Izo,” he said.

Sesshomaru nodded and looked at Akihiko still sitting by the side of the muddy water. He wondered what “arrangement” his mother made with Azami to make her agree to give up all parental rights of her pup. There was only one arrangement he knew that would accomplish that goal. Death. He was convinced that his mother killed her. He was sure of it.

Sesshomaru breathed. “You haven’t seen her?” he asked.

“Seen who?” Koji asked, looking at Akihiko.

“Azami,” Sesshomaru responded. “You haven’t seen her in here?”

Koji looked at Sesshomaru confused.

“Here?” Koji asked, confused. “Azami isn’t here,” he responded.

“What do you mean?” Sesshomaru asked. “How could she not be here? Azami is dead.”

Koji looked at Sesshomaru. “Azami is not among the dead, Sesshy,” Koji responded. “I can assure you… She is still among the living.”

Sesshomaru raised an eyebrow. “Azami would not willingly give up her pup, Koji,” Sesshomaru responded. “My mother had to have coerced her somehow.”

Sesshomaru remembered the scene his father showed him in the crypt with Koji where his mother said that she would make an arrangement regarding Akihiko that everyone could agree upon. He had immediately jumped to the conclusion that his mother had murdered her, thinking that she was a heartless and ruthless being, but after speaking with his father, he was now not so sure what his mother was really capable of or who she really was. He didn’t know what to think.

“Where is Azami in the land of the living?” Sesshomaru asked, with wide eyes.

“I don’t know,” Koji answered. “All I know is that I haven’t seen her and she hasn’t been around Akihiko or anyone I have a connection to see since his birth,” Koji added.

Sesshomaru shook his head. “That makes no sense. My mother must have killed her,” Sesshomaru thought aloud.

“I doubt it,” Koji said, surprised by Sesshomaru’s comment. “Your mother saved Azami,” he said.

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes. “Saved her? From what?” he asked, unable to cover his surprise. “If it was while she was with child, I can understand that, but –

“Not from what… from who,” Koji corrected him, turning away.

Sesshomaru’s mind ran wild with possibilities. Anyone would have wanted to harm Azami, but who would have the nerve to do it? Isao?

“My mother,” Koji continued, bowing his head.

“Your mother?” Sesshomaru asked, shocked.

Koji sighed. “My mother tried to smother Azami after she gave birth to Akihiko.”

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened. He couldn’t believe it. “Your mother?”

Koji nodded. “Yeah.”

“Show me,” Sesshomaru demanded, still in disbelief.

“I can only show you my own memories, not those of another,” Koji said. “And, I can only show you my memories from when I was living,” Koji added, before Sesshomaru could challenge his statement.

Sesshomaru sighed. There were a lot of things that he did not know about the Meidō.

“I was watching over Akihiko. He was only a day old. He was so small and had these really big paws,” he laughed.

Sesshomaru looked away. He had many regrets.

“He was sleeping in a basket off to the side. Azami was sleeping on a futon. My mother crept into the room and looked at Akihiko,” he said with a pause. “I thought she was going to turn around and leave, but she looked long and hard at Azami. The next thing I knew… she had picked up a pillow from off to the side and was walking over to her.”

Sesshomaru saw the horror in Koji’s face.

“I tried to stop her, but I had no power. My arm went right through her. I had to stand there and watch as she walked over, holding that pillow close to her face,” Koji said. “But, before my mother could press the pillow down on her face, your mother came in.”

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened.

“Your mother snatched the pillow from my mother and told her that what she was doing wasn’t the way. She said that she needed to trust her to make things right,” Koji continued.

Sesshomaru listened. He was surprised.

“My mother started crying and put down the pillow,” Koji said. “Your mother wouldn’t let my mother kill Azami,” Koji said, looking at Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru was quick to assume that maybe his mother wanted to kill Azami herself, but he thought twice. Listening to his father, he really didn’t know his mother the way he thought he did.

“It doesn’t matter,” Koji said, looking at Sesshomaru. “All that matters is that Izo has Akihiko and that Azami is far away from him. Who knows what he’d be like if she was in his life?”

Sesshomaru breathed. He was right. It didn’t matter. He himself was grateful that Azami wasn’t around to influence Koji’s son. He knew first-hand that she was demented.

Koji turned away from Sesshomaru and looked at his distraught son. “I wish I could be there for him,” he said, with a sigh.

“You are,” Sesshomaru said.

“Being here watching him isn’t the same as being there for him,” Koji said. “In a matter of time, his world is going to come crashing down on his head. He’s going to hate Izo. He’s going to think he betrayed him. He’s going to… I don’t know.”

“…Feel lost… numb,” Sesshomaru said.

Koji looked at Sesshomaru.

“I know the feeling,” he admitted to Koji.

Koji put his hand on Sesshomaru’s shoulder. “I’m sorry.”

Sesshomaru breathed, walked over to Akihiko and looked down at him.

“My father showed me everything that happened… why it happened,” Sesshomaru said. “It helped,” he added, after a long pause.

Koji looked at Sesshomaru, then at Akihiko. “I can’t do that,” Koji said, after a long pause. “He doesn’t know me… I would only scare him. And even if he did know me, and I was able to show him what I could to put him at ease... there’s nothing to show him,” Koji said.

“What do you mean?” Sesshomaru asked, confused.

“Your father was probably able to show you the truth about everything through his own memories. I can only show Akihiko my memories. All of my memories are before his time and are superfluous to him,” Koji said. “There is nothing I can show him to justify the story Izo made into his life.”

Sesshomaru nodded as Koji shook his head.

“I can’t do anything, but watch how this call plays out,” Koji sighed.

“If you were able to speak to him, what would you say?” Sesshomaru asked, after a long pause.

“I don’t even know,” Koji admitted.

“Well, what would you want him to know?” he asked.

Koji looked at Akihiko and sighed. “I’d want him to know that… he was loved from the very beginning… by both me and Izo… that Izo concocted this story to shield him from the truth of what really happened to me,” Koji began. “I’d want him to know that Izo, although not by blood, is his father in every way… and would be even if I were alive to be there for him too.”

Sesshomaru nodded. “Then, let me tell him,” he said after another long pause.

Koji looked at Sesshomaru. “What?”

“Let me tell him,” Sesshomaru repeated.

“Don’t be silly.”

Sesshomaru looked at him. “Give me the words, and I’ll tell him,” Sesshomaru said.

Koji froze. For the first time, Sesshomaru saw sheer fear cover his face.

“Koji?”

“Uh..umm.”

Sesshomaru looked at Koji without a word. He watched as he breathed and closed his eyes as he thought. Sesshomaru couldn’t believe how distressed his was.

After a final deep breath, Koji nodded and looked back at Sesshomaru. “Okay.”

Sesshomaru nodded.

Koji glanced at his son, who still had his head in his hands, before looking at Sesshomaru. “Once you touch my hand, you’ll be visible to those in the land of the living. You will still be able to see me and hear me, but no one from the land of the living will. If you talk to me, they will hear you,” Koji said. “As long as you are touching a piece of me, we are connected.”

Sesshomaru was taken aback. He didn’t expect to tell Akihiko right then and there, but it didn’t matter. It would probably be better if he could sense Koji right there with him.

“What does that mean?” Sesshomaru asked, trying to understand his instructions.

“In other words, you will have access to return back into the Meidō realm with me as long as you are touching a piece of me. If you let go of me, you’ll instantaneously exit the Meidō and remain in the location you are presently in in the land of the living. You will not be able to see or hear me anymore until you re-enter the Meidō and request to see me,” Koji continued. “If I let go of you, you will return with me back into the Meidō realm. Upon re-entry, you’ll be able to exit the Meidō realm through a portal you create in the location of your choosing.”

“Will he be able to see you?” Sesshomaru asked.

Koji looked at Akihiko. “I doubt it,” he said.

“What does that mean?”

“If anyone touches you while you’re connected to me, they might be able to see me,” he said.

“Might?”

“The living won’t usually see the dead,” Koji said.

“Won’t or can’t?” Sesshomaru asked.

“It doesn’t matter,” Koji said. “He won’t see me,” he said, looking away. “Just don’t touch him.”

Sesshomaru looked at him and breathed. “Okay,” he said, extending his hand.

Koji breathed and grasped Sesshomaru’s hand. “I guess we’re doing this.”

***

“Aw, this is bad,” Inuyasha said, aloud, as he heard shouts and screaming from village area just ahead.

When Inuyasha emerged from the trees and ran into the village area, he dodged in and out of frightened villagers running for their lives. Near the center of the village, he saw Eito sniffing a bonfire that had a large pig carcass roasting on top of it. Daichi had just approached him when Inuyasha arrived.

“Hey!” Inuyasha shouted, running towards them.

“I’m sorry. It just smelled so good,” Eito said.

“You idiot,” Daichi hissed. “You’ve scared all these humans. For what? A crumb of burnt meat.”

“I’m sorry,” Eito repeated.

“Let’s just go back,” Inuyasha said.

Eito nodded and sighed. As he, Daichi and Inuyasha turned to leave, shouts came from behind them.

“What are you doing?! Stop!”

It was Lady Kaede standing in the doorway of her hut.

Inuyasha watched as she was pushed to the side and two village men charged inside. “Hey! he shouted, running over to her hut.

“Inuyasha! What’s happening?” Miroku asked, as he caught up to him with Rin and Jaken trailing behind.

Seconds later, the two men dragged the unconscious boy, Okahito and his wailing father out of her hut.

Inuyasha stopped short, shocked at what he was witnessing.

“Okahito!” Rin shouted, as she saw him being dragged out of Lady Kaede’s hut.

“Here! He’s here!” one of the men dragging Okahito out shouted. “They’re both here! They’re who you want!”

“Take them and spare us!” the other villager shouted at Eito and Daichi.

Inuyasha watched as the villagers threw Okahito and his father down the stairs of Lady Kaede’s hut.  Okahito fell face forward onto the ground while his father rolled down the stairs bellowing.

Rin gasped. “Okahito!”

“What are you doing?!” Inuyasha shouted, running over to them.

“Stay back, Rin!” Miroku said, before running to help Inuyasha.

Rin huffed and stood still.

“Take them!” one of the men shouted at Eito and Daicho, as he tried to drag Okahito by his arm towards them. “Take them and go, and plague us no longer!”

“What’s happening?” Eito asked Daichi.

“I have no idea,” Daichi asked, his eyes full of confusion and shock.

“Stop!” Inuyasha yelled, pushing the man dragging Okahito aside. “Get off of him!”

“No, take him!” the man continued to shout. “He’s the one you want! He’s the one who attached that little girl! Take him!”

Rin’s eyes widened.

Inuyasha looked at Miroku. This was a nightmare… a never-ending nightmare.

Eito and Daichi looked at each other before backing up slowly.

“No, take our sacrifice!” a spectating village woman encouraged the demons.

“And that one too! That’s the culprit’s father!” another spectator chimed in.

Okahito’s father shouted. “No! No!”

“What do we do? They’ve lost their minds,” Miroku asked Inuyasha.

“I don’t know!” he responded.

“They want us to help them,” Eito said to Daichi.

Inuyasha and Miroku looked at each other.

“He wouldn’t… would he?” Miroku asked.

“I really don’t know, but let’s not wait to find out,” Inuyasha said, punching the man trying to drag Okahito in the face.

Miroku nodded and did his best to loosen the man’s grip on Okahito’s father.

As Inuyasha and Miroku worked to stop the two men trying to drag Okahito and his father, Rin ran to the hut to check on Lady Kaede. She was leaning in the doorway of her hut, rubbing her side.

“Rin!” Jaken shouted, running after her, clutching the Staff of Two Heads.

“Lady Kaede, are you alright?” Rin asked, checking her side.

“Aye, child,” Lady Kaede nodded.

“What are you doing?” a spectating villager shouted at Inuyasha and Miroku. “Let those demons take him. He needs to be sacrificed! He caused this! This is why they’re here now terrorizing us.”

“No one is sacrificing anyone!” Inuyasha yelled. “You’re –

Miroku’s eyes widened. “Inuyasha, wait!”

“Yes! Finally! The monk sees reason!” the villager nodded in relief at Miroku’s comment.

“Shut up!” Inuyasha shouted at the villager before turning to Miroku. “What?! Don’t tell me that you’re going to stand for this!”

“Inuyasha listen to me,” Miroku whispered. “I have an idea,” he said, in a low voice.

“Then, go for it,” Inuyasha growled under his breath, too preoccupied to ask what it was.

“Common villagers, settle yourselves!” Miroku shouted. “Hold still as we speak with these hungry ferocious demons!”

Eito and Daichi looked at each other with narrowed eyes.

“What did he say?” Eito asked.

“I don’t know what he’s doing,” Daichi said.

“Speak with demons? You’re wasting your breath! Demons can’t be reasoned with! They’re worse than animals!” a spectating villager shouted.

“What did he say?!” Eito growled at the man, who shuttered when his eyes met his.

“You fool! Are you trying to get us all killed?” another villager slapped him in the back of the head.

“Shut up and back up!” Inuyasha shouted to the villagers. “If you touch them again, you’ll be the ones who will be sacrificed tonight,” Inuyasha threatened the two men near Okahito and his father.

The two men trembled before scurrying off. When they ran off, Rin ran to Okahito and his father to check on them. Lady Kaede hobbled down the stairs to help her.

“You demons, come with us,” Miroku shouted at Eito and Daichi.

Eito and Daichi looked at Miroku before looking at each other.

“I have a plan,” Miroku whispered. “Come with us.”

Eito and Daichi nodded and followed Miroku and Inuyasha towards the edge of the village into the woods.

“Watch them!” Inuyasha shouted at Jaken.

Jaken nodded and looked over Rin and Lady Kaede helping Okahito and his father with the Staff of Two Heads steady in his hands.

“What’s wrong with these mortals?” Eito asked.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Daichi said.

Miroku nodded. “Let me fill you in,” Miroku said, before clearing his throat.

“Just make it quick,” Inuyasha snapped. “We don’t have all year for your drawn-out stories.”

“To make a long story short, Sesshomaru has been caring for that little girl Rin. She had been traveling with him and Jaken for a while, but he chose to leave her in this village for her safety. Some stupid boy, the one that was thrown down the stairs before, pushed Rin, causing her to crack her teeth on a rock. Sesshomaru found out about it and threatened the boy… and essentially everyone in this village. Since then, the boy has been the focus of attack from most of the villagers here because of what he did,” Miroku said. “It seems as though, they think that you, as demons, are here to terrorize the village on behalf of Sesshomaru. That’s why they are offering the boy and his father up to you as a sacrifice.”

Eito and Daichi were speechless for a moment.

“Wow,” Daichi said.

“I was wondering why that girl was missing all those teeth,” Eito said.

“That’s why he was trying to find Kureijī Tīsu,” Daichi said. “He’s trying to fix that little girl’s teeth.”

“Who?” Inuyasha asked.

“Yes! That’s it.” Eito said.

“Who’s this little human girl to Sesshomaru?” Daichi asked Miroku.

“I don’t think anyone really knows,” Miroku said. “She just turned up one day traveling with Sesshomaru.”

“Whoever she is, Sesshomaru cares about her a lot,” Inuyasha said.

“He’ll do anything to keep her safe,” Miroku said.

“That’s surprising,” Daichi said, looking at Eito.

“You’re telling me,” Inuyasha said, before looking at Miroku. “What’s the plan?”

“Okay, so I think I found a way to not only keep Okahito and his father protected from the villagers, but to feed you two with a surplus amount of food,” Miroku said.

“What do you have in mind?” Daichi asked, as Eito’s eyes lit up at the sound of food.

“I’ll go and tell the villagers that the demons… you two… have come because Sesshomaru caught wind that Okahito and his father were being harmed. I’ll say that Sesshomaru is angry because he is the only one who can seek vengeance on Okahito, and because of that, he sent these demons to punish the village… you two,” Miroku said.

“What? Miroku, that’s asinine!” Inuyasha said.

“Hold on, hear me out,” Miroku said to Inuyasha. “I’ll say that we… you and I… the ones designated to promote demonic order in the village… have arranged a deal with these demons. If each family provides a large meal to please the demons and promise to leave Okhaito and his father to the devices of Sesshomaru, they will leave this village unscathed.”

The group was silent.

“Good, right?” Miroku asked.

Inuyasha gave him a dumbfounded look. “What is preventing the villagers from poisoning the food?” Inuyasha asked.

“They won’t,” Miroku nodded, proudly. “They’ll be too afraid of Sesshomaru to do that,” he smiled.

“What if they aren’t?” Inuyasha asked.

“Well, what would it matter?” Miroku asked, as Daichi and Eito looked at him cross-eyed. “They’re immune to poisons.”

“What?” Eito asked.

“We’re not immune to poisons,” Daichi said.

“Sesshomaru is,” Inuyasha said. “He has poisonous claws and fangs.”

“Yes, because he’s Sesshomaru and he was born that way,” Daichi said.

“Huh?” Inuyasha asked.

“I don’t know what you know about us dog demons, but we’re not all born the same,” Daichi said. He opened his claws, letting orange flames appear on his fingertips. “I am not immune to poison, but fire, on the other hand… I can handle that.”

“Oh,” Miroku said, his eyes drawn to Daichi’s flames.

“Well that ruins that plan,” Inuyasha growled, crossing his arms.

“Maybe not,” Eito said. “What if one of the villagers will be required to test the food? They won’t poison it that way,” he said.

“That won’t stop martyrs,” Inuyasha breathed. “We don’t want to kill anyone.”

“… Not if every member of each family must test the food… men, women and children,” Miroku said.

“That doesn’t prevent some nut from poisoning their dish and killing off the whole village?!” Inuyasha yelled. “What if there is someone out there who feels that this village would be better off dead than be a slave to demons?”

“They wouldn’t do that,” Miroku said.

“I wouldn’t put anything past this fucking village!” Inuyasha shouted. “Have you seen what they’ve been doing?!”

“That is true. They almost stoned you and Shippo the other day,” Miroku sighed.

“They almost stoned you?” Eito asked, shocked, looking at Daichi. “What’s wrong with this place?”

“Would you stop bring that up?!” Inuyasha shouted at Miroku.

“What? It happened. We can’t just pretend it didn’t,” Miroku said.

“Yeah, but everyone doesn’t need to know about it and hear it a million times.”

“Inuyasha, I know you’re ashamed, but  -

“I’m not ashamed!”

As Inuyasha and Miroku argued with one another, Daichi looked to Eito. “How hungry are you?” he asked.

“I’m dying,” Eito responded.

“Clearly,” Daichi huffed, as he rolled his eyes. “I can’t believe you ran into the village like that.”

“I’m sorry. I just needed to eat something,” Eito responded.

Daichi sighed. “Can you make it so that each family sacrifices one full-grown living animal from their livestock?” Daichi asked, looking at Miroku. “At least with that, Eito won’t get poisoned.”

Miroku looked at Daichi and Eito before looking at Inuyasha. “I guess we can spare a few animals,” he said.

Inuyasha nodded.

***

“You’re in the present, Sesshy,” Koji said. “Akihiko can see you, but he can’t see me.”

Sesshomaru looked at Koji and nodded. It was weird to hear Koji speaking loudly in front of his son, who didn’t respond. It was true. Koji could not be seen or heard.

“Just remember to hold me hand,” Koji reminded him.

Sesshomaru nodded.

“Akihiko,” Sesshomaru said, looking down at the boy.

Akihiko gasped and looked up at Sesshomaru with wide eyes. Sesshomaru heard Koji sigh and grip his hand. As explained, although Koji was right there, Akihiko could not see or hear him.

Sesshomaru stood in front of Akihiko waiting for his reaction. He was prepared for the pup to scold him, stand up and leave or wish him away, but instead, he just sat there, looking at him. It was hard to decipher what he was thinking.

After a moment, Akihiko sighed and looked down at the ground between his legs.

“You can’t expect him to say anything,” Koji said. “You have to say something, Sesshy,” Koji insisted, nudging Sesshomaru, his voice in a panic. Sesshomaru could tell that the silence was making him anxious.

“You can ask me anything,” Sesshomaru said, breaking the silence.

Koji groaned as Akihiko breathed. “What was that?” Koji snapped at Sesshomaru. “‘You can ask me anything?’ Who says that?”

Sesshomaru did his best not to react or respond to Koji, as Akihiko wasn’t aware that he was there.

“I don’t want to ask you anything,” Akihiko responded, in a low hoarse voice. “I want to tell you that you’re mistaken.”

Koji’s mouth snapped shut. Sesshomaru could feel Koji’s grip on his hand tighten.

“I don’t know who Koji is, but he’s not my father. My father is Izo, the blacksmith of West End Fields,” he said.

Sesshomaru listened as Koji breathed loudly. He could only imagine what he was feeling.

“And your mother?” Sesshomaru asked.

“What are you doing?!” Koji shouted at Sesshomaru. “His mother? Why would you even ask that?!”

Sesshomaru ignored Koji and watched as Akihiko paused to think.

“My mother’s name was Lumi. She died right after I was born,” Akihiko responded.

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes. He couldn’t help but glance at Koji. Lumi was the name of the love interest of Koji’s favorite hero in his favorite story, Red Flames.

“What? I didn’t name her,” Koji responded to Sesshomaru’s look. “Izo picked it.”

Sesshomaru discretely sighed and looked at Akihiko. “I have no interest in forcing you to believe differently in what you’ve come to know about yourself and who you are,” Sesshomaru said.

“What are you saying?” Koji asked, his hand trembling.

Sesshomaru gripped Koji’s hand and continued.

“If you wish it, I will only give you the information that I know and you can do with it what you please.”

“What are you saying?!” Koji shrieked, watching his son’s reaction. The boy looked up at Sesshomaru before looking down again.

“I can’t believe you!” Koji shouted. “This was a mistake! Just turn around and walk through the trees so we can leave. I don’t want you to just disappear in front of his face. Just go through the trees. We’re going back!”

Sesshomaru brushed off Koji’s words and gripped his hand tighter as he focused on Akihiko, waiting for his response. He wasn’t going to let Koji take him back into the Meidō until he was ready to go.

“Come on, Sesshy!” Koji said. “You’ve done enough damage!”

Sesshomaru glared at him.

“Come on!” Koji shouted.

Sesshomaru could see the pain, panic and fear in Koji’s eyes. Although he wanted to stay and wait for Akihiko’s response, he couldn’t bear to torture his friend. He had done enough of that in his lifetime.

Sesshomaru nodded and turned to walk through the trees. Once beyond the row of trees, Koji could let go of his hand, they would return to the Meidō, and Koji would give Sesshy a good verbal lashing about what had just happened.

“I never should have –

Koji’s rant was broken by Akihiko’s voice. “Who is Koji?”

***

Inukimi looked up, as her handmaidens escorted Riichi and Isao inside her chambers.

“Lady Inikimi,” Riichi and Isao both bowed upon entry.

Inukimi waved her hand to shoo her handmaidens away.

“This must be important if Tomoshiro sent you all this way to reach me,” she said. “Are we under attack?” she asked, seemingly unconcerned.

“We aren’t, Lady Inukimi,” Riichi responded. “All is well with our Lands back home.”

“Yes, Lady Inukimi,” Isao nodded, in agreement.

“Then, why are you here?” she asked, as she picked her nails.

“Sesshomaru returned,” Riichi said.

“I’m sure he’s just passing through,” she responded, still picking her nails.

Riichi breathed and glanced at Isao. “We told him.”

Inukimi stopped picked for her nails for a moment and then continued to pick them. “And?”

Riichi was taken aback by her response. He wasn’t expecting her to react this way. “Uh… he –

“Sesshomaru did what?” Inukimi asked.

“Sesshomaru ran off in the middle of us telling him what happened,” Isao spoke over Riichi’s stammering.

Inukimi looked up. A look of concern that she couldn’t seem to hide or care to hide was plastered on her face. “You didn’t explain everything?” she asked, with wide eyes.

“No,” Riichi said. “He ran off and left in the middle of us –

“How much does he know?” Inukimi asked. “What did you tell him?” she asked, standing to her feet and walking over to Riichi and Isao.

“We got all the way to the part where Koji died. Then, he left,” Isao said.

“He was really upset.”

“Of course, he was,” Inukimi huffed and looked away. “That’s all he knows?” she breathed.

Riichi breathed. “We caught up with him to finish explaining everything, but Izo showed up,” Riichi continued.

Inukimi sucked in her lips and closed her eyes for a moment.

“Izo got upset at the sight of Sesshomaru after all these years and blurted everything out,” Riichi said. “He told him that it was his fault that Koji died.”

“And you said what?” Inukimi asked, opening her eyes.

“Nothing,” Riichi said.

“Nothing?! What do you mean nothing?! You should have said everything!” she snapped, as she turned away holding her chest.

“We couldn’t say anything,” Isao said. “Izo and Sesshomaru were fighting each other and then he just escaped.”

“Escaped? What are you telling me?” Inukimi asked.

“Sesshomaru morphed into his ball of light and drifted away,” Isao said. “We tracked him here.”

“Here?” Inukimi asked “My home?”

“To the village below,” Riichi clarified.

“And?”

“We couldn’t find him there,” Riichi said. “…But a human girl said that he may be in the Meidō.”

“A human girl,” Inukimi repeated to herself.

“That’s why we’re here. We wish to use your Meidō Stone to find Sesshomaru,” Isao said.

Inukimi was silent. She seemed to have calmed down a significant amount from when the conversation had first began.

“May we borrow it?” Riichi asked.

“Who did Sesshomaru wish to see in the Meidō?” Inukimi asked, as she walked towards the window.

Riichi and Isao looked at each other.

“Who did he wish to see?” Isao mouthed to Riichi, in confusion, who looked back at him with wide eyes.

“It doesn’t matter,” Inukimi responded to her own question, with a breath.

“Lady Inukimi, may we borrow your Meidō?” Riichi asked again. “We need to reach Sesshomaru. We need to tell him the truth… everything –

“Before it’s too late!” Isao added.

Lady Inukimi continued to stare out of her window. “The moon is bright tonight… full and bright,” she said, almost in a daze.

“Lady Inukimi?” Riichi asked, trying to get her attention.

“I wouldn’t worry about that,” Inukimi said, still looking out her window and up at the moon.

“Worry about what, Lady Inukimi?” Isao asked.

“Telling him the truth,” she answered.

Riichi and Isao looked at each other.

“How can you say that?!” Isao asked, in an aggravated tone. “If he doesn’t know everything, he’s going to trust himself into the Underworld! You didn’t see him!”

Inukimi was unfazed by Isao’s anger. “He is in the Meidō… and probably already knows the full truth.”

Riichi and Isao looked at her confused.

“What? But… how?” Isao asked.

Inukimi turned to Riichi and Isao. “The Meidō Stone does more than just restore souls from the Underworld. It can also connect the living with the dead,” she said. “My son likely knows all the events that occurred that night and the days following from whoever he went to see.”

Riichi and Isao were too shocked to respond.

“There’s nothing you can do, but wait,” Inukimi said.

“Wait for what?” Riichi asked.

“For Sesshomaru to return… to thrust himself in to the Underworld… I don’t know,” she said.

“How can you say that?” Isao asked.

“What would you prefer I say?” Inukimi asked, turning to Isao.

Isao huffed. “I don’t know… something hopeful.”

“Right,” she said, flipping her hair and sitting on her throne.

Isao looked at her with wide eyes filled with anger and confusion.

“Trust that the moon is bright and full tonight,” she said, looking away.

Isao looked at Riichi who breathed.

“If there’s nothing else, you can let yourselves out,” Inukimi said, as she picked her nails again.

Riichi looked at her once more before looking at Isao. “Come on, let’s go,” he said, pushing Isao along. “Thank you for your time,” Riichi bowed.

“Yes, thank you,” Isao huffed with a bow, after Riichi nudged him.

Inukimi didn’t react as they walked out of her chambers and closed the door. Once they were out of the room, she breathed hard and let her head fall in her lap. She held her hand up when her chamber door creaked open. “Not now,” she said.

“Yes, my lady. I shall leave, but you have a message from home,” her handmaiden said. “It is from Lieutenant General Tomoshiro, my lady.”

“Of course it is,” she said, sitting up. “Hand it to me,” she said, extending her arm.

The petite dog demon quickly walked over to hand Inukimi the letter and left the room just as quickly. Inukimi opened the seal of the letter and read it quickly. She sighed and called out to her handmaidens.

“Yes, Lady Inukimi,” they responded.

“My presence is needed at home. Please prepare for my journey. I shall leave tonight,” she said.

“Yes, my lady,” they responded, before leaving the room.

***

Sesshomaru paused and watched as Koji froze and breathed heavy in the corner of his eye. Sesshomaru gripped Koji’s trembling hand and turned around to face the Akihiko. He sat down on the bank of the muddy lake next to the Akihiko and glanced at Koji, who sat down beside him.

Sesshomaru glanced at Koji before he spoke. “Koji was my training group member at Far Grounds, the training camp for those enlisted in the army.”

Akihiko didn’t respond. He kept his head down and listened. Sesshomaru watched as Koji’s eyes were glued on his son.

“He –

“Akihiko!”

Koji and Sesshomaru turned to see Izo and Naoki standing by the edge of the trees. Izo’s face was covered in a mixture of fear, anger and relief. Sesshomaru watched as Akihiko looked at Izo and then back down at the ground.

“Akihiko, where have you been? We’ve been looking all over for you,” Izo said, as he ran over to him.

Sesshomaru stood to his feet and glanced at Koji.

“I don’t think he even knows that you’re here,” Koji commented.

Sesshomaru discretely nodded, as he watched Izo pull Akihiko into his chest and hug him tight. As Koji watched Izo interact with Akihiko, Sesshomaru looked at Naoki. Naoki walked over slowly. He had a look of concern on his face, as he looked at Sesshomaru. It seemed as though there he was something he wanted to say, but he remained silent.

“What’s wrong with you?!” Izo snapped, finally looking up at Sesshomaru. “What were you trying to do now?!”

Sesshomaru didn’t respond.

“Just ignore him, Sesshy,” Koji said. “He’s not going to do anything. He’s just going to yell at you.”

“I don’t fear him,” Sesshomaru said, aloud.

“What are you talking about?!” Izo shouted, in confusion at Sesshomaru’s seemingly random comment.

Sesshomaru huffed as he glanced at Koji. He had forgotten that only he could see and hear Koji.

“You have a lot of nerve coming back here like this!” Izo shouted.

“Izo,” Naoki said, holding his arms out to try and silence him.

Koji gripped Sesshomaru’s hand and huffed.

“…Kidnapping my pup, not once, but twice!” Izo shouted, marching towards him, leaving Akihiko standing still.

“Izo, stop,” Naoki said.

“Don’t do anything stupid, Sesshy. He’s just going to yell in your face,” Koji said. “He’s just really –

BAM!

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened as Izo’s fist hit him hard against the jaw. He huffed as the sting set in and radiated against his jaw.

“Stay away from my pup!” Izo yelled, as everyone stood paralyzed in shock by what had just happened… by what Izo had just done.

“Maybe I was wrong,” Koji said, his mouth ajar.

As Izo turned to leave, Sesshomaru tilted his head and yanked at his hand in Koji’s hand. Koji gripped his hand tighter than ever, preventing him from moving it.

“Sesshy, no! Let it go! Please, Sesshy, just –

Unable to free his right hand from Koji’s grip, he used his left hand to grip the handle of Tensaiga. Even if his left hand didn’t have enough power to retaliate against Izo the way he wanted to, a hard hit with Tensaiga in his left hand would do the trick.

“Sesshy, stop!” Koji repeated.

“Sesshomaru!” Naoki shouted, as he noticed Sesshomaru’s left hand reaching around where his swords were. “Stop!” he shouted, as Izo turned to see what was happening.

“Sesshy, what are you doing?!” Koji asked, in a panic, as Sesshomaru began to unsheathe Tensaiga.

As Sesshomaru felt Koji begin to loosen the grip on his right hand, to most-likely take him back into the Meidō realm, he tightened his grip.

“Sesshy! Stop!” Koji growled at him.

“Stop!” Akihiko shouted at Sesshomaru, as he ran and gripped Izo.

Sesshomaru stopped immediately.

“What? Are you trying to kill me too?” Izo asked, looking at Tensaiga in his hand.

“Stop!” Akihiko shouted again, his eyes wide and terrified as he looked at Sesshomaru carrying his sword.

“Put it away!” Koji shouted at Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru sheathed Tensaiga and looked away, as he listening to Koji’s rants. “Are you crazy?! You were really going to kill him?! You act like you’ve never gotten punched in the face before!”

“Why did you take him?!” Izo asked, unafraid.

Before Sesshomaru could open his mouth to respond, Akihiko spoke. “He was telling me about Koji.”

Koji breathed as he looked at his son. “He said my name,” he said.

Izo’s eyes narrowed and turned red as he focused on Sesshomaru. “How dare you?!” he growled. “You have no right!”

Naoki threw his body in between Izo and Sesshomaru to block whatever brawl was about to occur. Naoki was familiar with Sesshomaru, but no one was aware of what Izo was capable of.

“I’ve never seen him like this,” Koji said, looking at Izo in concern.

Sesshomaru breathed.

“I asked him to,” Akihiko said, still gripping Izo.

Izo let his eyes fade to their normal color as he looked down at Akihiko. “You asked him?” he asked. “How do you –

“Who is Koji?” Akihiko asked Izo directly.

Izo opened his mouth to speak, but closed it shut. He glanced at Sesshomaru and then at Akihiko. “It’s complicated,” he responded.

Koji sighed as he looked at the look of horror that appeared on Izo’s face.

Akihiko let go of his father and let his arms fall to his side.

Izo looked at Sesshomaru before looking back at Akihiko again. Sesshomaru could see the panic on his face.

“Akihiko,” Izo began, with a red face and a crack in his voice. “I –

Sesshomaru could feel Koji grip his hand.

“Uncomplicate it,” Akihiko said. “Who is Koji?” he asked Izo again.

Naoki glanced at Sesshmaru.

Sesshomaru watched as Izo breathed.

“Akihiko, there is… I… you need… Akihiko, I…

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened a bit as he witnessed Izo’s floundering. He didn’t have the words. He looked at Naoki, who was just as shocked as he was.

“He’s losing it,” Koji said.

“Who is Koji?” Akihiko asked, seemingly agitated. “Is he… is he really my father?” he asked, directly.

Sesshomaru could feel himself get anxious from Akihiko question. He could only imagine what Izo was going through. He could feel in his right hand that Koji wasn’t doing all that well himself.

“Wha- wha- what did you say to him?!” Izo snapped, looking at Sesshomaru.

Koji gripped his hand and held it tight so he wouldn’t charge at him.

“You had no right!” Izo growled, his face red.

Sesshomaru didn’t move.

“It’s true, isn’t it?” Sesshomaru heard Akihiko say.

At Akihiko’s comment, Izo turned to him. “Akihiko, listen to me,” he began, reaching out to the boy.

“It’s true,” Akihiko breathed heavily, walking slowly backwards from Izo, in shock.

“Akihiko,” Izo said, reaching out to him.

Akihiko shoved his arm away. “It’s true,” he kept repeating, shaking his head.

Koji gasped and gripped Sesshomaru’s hand. “What do we do?! I don’t know what to do?!”

Sesshomaru had no idea. He was frozen, watching Akihiko back away from Izo.

“Akihiko, please, listen to me,” Izo walked slowly towards him.

Akihiko shook his head continually as he started to cry. “Who are you?”

Sesshomaru caught himself holding his breath at Akihiko’s comment to Izo.

“Akihiko, I’m…”

Izo broke down in tears.

Akihiko’s eyes widened at Izo’s reaction and turned to run.

He didn’t go far. Naoki caught him and gripped him by the waist so he couldn’t move. “Wait, wait, wait,” he said.

“No!” Akihiko cried. “Let me go!”

Koji clasped his free hand over his mouth. “What have we done?” he asked, shaking his head.

Sesshomaru sighed as he looked at Izo and Koji beside him. He breathed and walked over to Naoki holding Akihiko. Koji didn’t say a word as Sesshomaru pulled him along. He was too distraught and in shock regarding all that had happened to process anything.

Sesshomaru looked at Naoki, before looking down at Akihiko. Akihiko glanced at him before turning into Naoki’s chest. “I want to go home!” he cried.

Naoki looked at Sesshomaru and shrugged, as he rubbed Akihiko’s back.

“My offer still stands,” Sesshomaru said, after a long pause. “If you wish it, I will tell you what I know about Koji,” he said.

Sesshomaru looked at Koji, who looked back at him with sad eyes. He glanced at Izo, who sniffled as he walked over towards the Akihiko.

“We’ll both tell you about Koji,” Izo added, as he looked at Sesshomaru, with watery hateful eyes.

Sesshomaru glared at him before nodding. “Yes,” he said.

Akihiko kept his head in Naoki’s chest.

Naoki looked up at Sesshomaru and Izo, as he continued to rub Akihiko’s back. “Did you hear that? They’re going to tell you about Koji,” Naoki whispered to him.

Akihiko didn’t respond.

“Come on, Akihiko,” Naoki said. “I thought you wanted to know?”

Sesshomaru watched as Akihiko shook his head as he cried and Izo bent down to hug his back.

“What’s going on?” Koji asked, in panic, as he looked at his son and placed his free hand on his back.

Sesshomaru breathed. He didn’t have to imagine what Akihiko was feeling. He knew it. “He’s scared,” Sesshomaru answered Koji, aloud, forgetting that no one could see him.

Izo and Naoki looked at Sesshomaru with wide eyes. Before either one of them could scold him on his insensitivity, Akihiko stepped back from Naoki, looked at Izo and then at Sesshomaru. Without a word, he sat along the bank of the muddy river and looked back at them.

Sesshomaru glanced at Izo before looking at Naoki, who sighed.

“Will you be okay?” Naoki asked.

Sesshomaru didn’t know what he was asking.

“I have to get back to Hiroto and the other boys,” Naoki answered Sesshomaru’s unspoken question. “You’ll be okay here, right?” he asked, looking at Izo.

“Yes,” Sesshomaru nodded. He wasn’t going to attack Izo.

“Okay,” Naoki nodded, patting his shoulder and looking into his eyes.

Sesshomaru looked back at him with soft eyes.

“We need to talk, Sesshomaru… All of us,” Naoki said, not looking away. “What you think is not what it seems.”

Sesshomaru looked at him without a word for a moment before he nodded. He watched as Naoki walked over to Akihiko, said a few words and then leapt into the sky. Sesshomaru watched as Naoki flew away before he turned with Koji to sit by Izo and Akihiko.

Koji breathed as he sat down with Sesshomaru. “What are you going to say?” he asked.

“Akihiko, I… the thing is… I didn’t mean to…”

Koji’s eyes widened as he looked at Izo speaking. “Uh,” he moaned, preparing himself for the vomit of confusion Izo was about to spew forth at Akihiko.

Sesshomaru breathed. “Koji was the first being I met at Far Grounds,” he spoke over Izo’s stammering. “Living where I lived, I didn’t know much of anyone, especially anyone my age. Frankly, I didn’t care to know anyone,” Sesshomaru added, as Izo snapped his mouth shut and looked down.

“You did to,” Koji nudged Sesshomaru.

“Well, I did… want to know others,” Sesshomaru corrected himself at Koji’s comment.

“But I was shy,” Koji said, looking at Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru glared at Koji.

“Say it,” Koji said. “Don’t lie to my son,” he said.

Sesshomaru closed his eyes and huffed. “But I was shy,” he growled.

“Great. You’re off to a good start,” Koji smiled.

“You were shy?” Akihiko asked, not looking at Sesshy.

“A bit,” Sesshomaru responded, annoyed that he even had to answer the question.

“I didn’t think you’d be shy,” Akihiko said. “You’re very brave,” he said.

Koji smiled at Akihiko.

“Koji taught me to be brave,” Sesshomaru said, after a long pause.

Both Akihiko and Koji looked at him surprised.

“I didn’t teach you that,” Koji said.

“He did,” Sesshomaru responded aloud, more to Koji than Akihiko.

Akihiko looked up at Sesshomaru, waiting to hear what he had to say.

“I had a hard time starting camp,” Sesshomaru said, looking out into the distance. “I couldn’t grasp things the way others could… and because I was the son of the region’s general, everyone was that much more critical and harder on me…”

Sesshomaru paused.

“Koji… Koji…

Akihiko looked at him with wide eyes.

Koji watched as Sesshomaru stopped talking and looked down. “It’s okay, Sesshy.”

“Koji helped coach him in his training,” Izo said, seeing Sesshomaru’s reaction.

Koji smiled as he looked at Izo.

“He really cared about Sesshomaru,” Izo said, glancing at Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru pulled himself together and breathed before glancing at Izo. “Koji helped me perfect almost everything I learned in training… He taught me how to find my confidence in battle… and to never back down to anyone,” Sesshomaru said, looking at the ground.

Koji breathed. “Sesshy, I –

“He was the best,” Sesshomaru said.

Akihiko gasped and folded his hands in his lap.

“He was the best,” Izo nodded, in agreement, looking at his son, with an awkward smile.

“How did you know him?” Akihiko asked, looking at Izo.

Koji looked at Izo with anticipation.

“As you know, I never enlisted in the army,” Izo began, after a short pause. “I was needed at home to support my family and keep a steady income coming in. As much as I would have loved to enlist with some of my other friends, I couldn’t afford to take off time from work to train and be unpaid. It just couldn’t happen… so I continued working as a blacksmith and took a job… as a blacksmith’s apprentice… for the owner of the blacksmith business... in West End Fields.”

“West End Fields,” Akihiko repeated with a pause. “That’s ours… Grandfather owns our business.”

Izo nodded for a moment with his eyes closed. Both Sesshomaru and Koji could see that he was struggling for what to say next. “Grandfather… well… uh… Grandfather… your grandfather’s –

“Your grandfather’s only son had enlisted in the army and he needed extra help with the demand of the business,” Sesshomaru cut off Izo stammering over his words. “Your father served as an apprentice to help.”

“Grandfather’s only son?” Akihiko said, with a sigh.

Izo covered his mouth as tears fell down his face.

“Koji was your grandfather’s only son,” Sesshomaru said, as Koji gripped his hand.

Akihiko didn’t react.

Izo inhaled, trying to catch his breath as he shook his head. “I… I…I –

“Do you want us to continue?” Sesshomaru asked Akihiko.

Akihiko was silent for a moment before he breathed and nodded, not looking up.

“Akihiko, I –

“Koji trained during the day and worked part-time to help his father at night,” Sesshomaru told Akihiko, speaking over Izo.

Sesshomaru stopped and looked at Izo. Izo scrunched his face as he tried to stifle his tears.

“We worked together on a lot of projects,” Izo continued, in sobs.

“They hated each other,” Sesshomaru said.

Akihiko looked up at Sesshomaru and then at Izo.

Koji shook his head. “We did not,” Koji said.

“When they first started working together, Koji couldn’t stand Izo.”

“That’s not true!” Koji said.

“He used to complain about him all the time. He always used to complain about how he never used to put things away in the right section and was sloppy… and how he always had an attitude,” Sesshomaru continued.

“Sesshy!” Koji squeezing his hand.

“We had different work styles,” Izo said, wiping his eyes. “But we learned to work together.”

Koji smiled. “We did.”

“Somehow we became friends eventually,” Izo said. “Really good friends.”

Sesshomaru and Akihiko looked at Izo. They waited for him to continue, but he didn’t say anything else. He just stopped talking. Sesshomaru glanced at Koji.

“He doesn’t want to say it,” Koji said, looking at Izo. “He won’t say it.”

Sesshomaru sighed. Akihiko needed to know.

“One day, when we were expecting Koji to tell us more about how much he couldn’t stand Izo and his ways again –

“Who’s ‘we?’” Akihiko asked.

“Me and my other training group members,” Sesshomaru answered. “Isao, Riichi, Eito, and Daichi.”

“Oh,” Akihiko said, in a low voice.

Sesshomaru glanced at Akihiko before he continued. He didn’t really know what he was thinking.

“…When we were expecting Koji to tell us more about how much he couldn’t stand Izo and his ways again, he told us that he had developed feelings for him,” Sesshomaru said.

Izo’s eyes widened at Sesshomaru, before he looked away with a breath.

“I don’t know if he knows what that means, Sesshy,” Koji said, in a low voice.

Sesshomaru breathed. “To develop feelings for someone means that your feelings of friendship toward a particular individual have evolved or are evolving into love... romantic love,” Sesshomaru said, as he watched as Izo tensed up and breathe.

Akihiko didn’t react.

Sesshomaru glanced at Koji, who nodded.

“Koji really loved Izo and Izo really loved him,” Sesshomaru continued.

“Is that true?” Akihiko asked Izo, not looking up.

Izo breathed and looked at Sesshomaru before looking at Akihiko. He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. He looked to Sesshomaru for help, but Sesshomaru remained silent.

“Is it true?” Akihiko asked again, now looking at Izo.

Izo looked down and covered his face. “It’s true,” he said, as he cried. “I loved Koji… He was everything to me.”

Sesshomaru watched as Akihiko continued to look at Izo. He glanced at Koji, who watched his two loved ones. When he looked at Akihiko, he still couldn’t read his face. 

“You must have really loved each other a lot,” Akihiko responded.

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes at Akihiko’s comment. It was odd.

“We did,” Izo nodded, with a smile.

“Where’s my mother?” Akihiko asked, looking into Izo’s eyes, after quite a bit of silence.

Everyone went silent and Koji gripped Sesshomaru’s hand. “This isn’t good,” he said.

Sesshomaru agreed.

Izo looked at Akihiko in confusion. “Your mother?”

***

Riichi and Isao landed back at the entrance of the cave. No one was there.

“Where did they go?” Riichi asked.

“Idiots,” Isao huffed, looking around. “Can you track them?”

“Yes,” Riichi said. “Follow me,” he instructed Isao, as he ran through the trees towards the village.

When Riichi reached the point where the wooded area broke into the perimeter of the village, he stopped. “Transform,” he said, transforming into his humanoid form. “They’re here in the village somewhere. Let’s try not to bring attention to ourselves.”

Isao nodded and followed Riichi’s lead.

“Do you smell blood, or is that just me?” Isao asked, sniffing the air.

“I thought I was just hungry, but actually, I do,” Riichi said. “…This can’t be good,” he said, running into the village towards the smell of his training brothers.

Isao huffed and followed behind.

Riichi and Isao both stopped short with wide eyes when they reach the barn area near the outskirts of the village.

“What… the fuck… is going on?” Isao asked, looking at the spectacle playing before his very eyes.

Near the barn, Eito and Daichi were gnawing on the carcasses of several livestock. Torn pieces of flesh were scattered everywhere. Blood was stained all over the grass and the fur of Daichi and Eito in their true forms. It looked like a massacre.

“Come, have some. We can take as many as he want,” Eito welcomed Riichi and Isao.

Riichi and Isao were two stunned and confused to move.

“We’re doing the village a favor,” he smiled, as he licked blood off his lips.

“A favor?” Riichi questioned. “It looks like you just raided these people’s barn.”

“Not all of it,” Eito said.

“Doing the village a favor?” Isao questioned. “You’re slaughtering all of this village’s livestock.”

“It’s true. If you’re hungry, you might as well eat. I had one,” Daichi said.

“Liar! You had three,” Eito said. “I saw you.”

Daichi rolled his eyes.

“Where’s Inuyasha and the others?” Isao huffed.

“Understandably so, they couldn’t bear to watch us eat, so they went away,” Daichi said.

“I can’t believe this,” Riichi said, looking around. “How are you doing the village a favor? You’ve just made this barn a slaughter house.”

“We’ll clean up everything,” Eito said. “With Daichi’s flames and Isao’s water, this place will be spotless. Daichi will disintegrate the remains and Isao can wash away the blood.”

“Wash away the blood?! I’m not cleaning a thing!” Isao howled. “You’re eating! You clean it up! I don’t even like pigs or cows!”

“Can you not be like this today?” Daichi rolled his eyes. “We all know you like pigs.”

“I don’t!” Isao shouted. “And –

“Come on, Isao, take one for the team,” Eito pleaded.

“Take one for the team? Some team! You want Daichi and me to do all of the work cleaning up! What about you and Riichi?! What are you two going to do… with your chill paws and his monstrous eyelashes?”

Riichi glared at Isao.

“They can cool us down after all of our hard work… Eito can chill us with his paws and Riichi can bring a breeze with his eyelashes just by blinking,” Daichi laughed.

Riichi growled and lunged at him as he transformed into his true form.

“…Or they can supervise,” Daichi joked, with a laugh, as he play-fought with Riichi.

“What are you joking about?! They want you to clean up too, fool!” Isao growled, as he transformed into his true form.

“Lighten up, Isao,” Daichi said, pushing Riichi aside. “I don’t mind cleaning up. Plus, if you’re going to have to help clean, you might as well have some.”

“We can really have some?” Riichi asked, looking at a cow grazing off to the side.

“Mmmhmm,” Eito said.

“But, with reason,” Daichi said. “We’re not cutting off this village’s life supply. We’re just having a little something to hold us over until we can get back home.”

“How did you manage to pull this off?” Riichi asked, walking over to the grazing cow.

“Yeah, what’s this favor?” Isao asked, eyeing his own game to eat.

Daichi shared the story of Sesshomaru, Rin, Inuyasha and the village boy.

“Wow,” Riichi said, chomping on the shrieking cow.

“That’s why he was looking for Kureijī Tīsu,” Daichi added. “To replace Rin’s teeth.”

“I never would have thought he’d go through such lengths to help a human… a human child… a human anyone,” Isao said.

“So, what’s the story with that? Did he fall in love with the girl’s mother or something and has vowed to protect her and her family forever?” Riichi asked.

“We don’t know. They don’t even know,” Daichi said. “They just said that one day she was just traveling with him and that imp Ja… Ja… Jak –

“Jaken,” Eito said.

“Yes, Jaken.”

“I take it that there’s no word on Sesshomaru?” Riichi asked.

Eito and Daichi shook their heads.

“Us neither,” Isao said. “We did learn, however, that the Meidō Stone connects –

“The living with the dead,” Daichi said over Isao. “We learned that too.”

“Lady Inukimi said that he probably already knows the truth,” Riichi said, in a breath. “Whoever he wished to see in the Meidō probably already told him everything.”

“Rin said that he wanted to see the General,” Daichi said.

Eito sighed. “I wonder what he’ll do… how he’ll react.”

“Yeah,” the group nodded.

“I doubt he’ll thrust himself into the Underworld,” Riichi said.

“He won’t. Sesshomaru will be back,” Daichi said.

“Then, what?” Eito asked.

“I don’t know,” Daichi said. “I’m not sure how this’ll all affect him. You saw how he reacted when we tried to tell him everything the first time –

“…And then with Izo,” Riichi chimed in.

The group was silent.

“What do you think he’ll do to us?” Eito asked. “We didn’t tell him anything… even after he came back for the Panther Wars,” Eito added.

“How could we tell him during that?” Riichi asked. “We were in the middle of a war.”

Eito sighed. “I guess you’re right.”

“Well, he’s stubborn,” Isao said.

“That’s what worries me,” Riichi shook his head.

“We’ll just have to wait and see,” Daichi said.

“So, what’s the plan?” Isao asked.

“I guess… we’ll stay the night and see if he returns,” Daichi said. “We can’t go back tonight.”

The group nodded.

“I wouldn’t want to go back even if we could,” Riichi said. “I am not prepared to talk to Kenjiro about what happened with Sesshomaru and Izo… and Akihiko.”

“Poor pup,” Eito shook his head. “Do you think they found him?”

“I’m sure of it,” Isao said. “Naoki can track anyone.”

“He can,” Riichi nodded. “I just feel sorry for Izo. I don’t know how he’s going to explain everything to Akihiko.”

“Fuck him! He’s a fool! He’s getting exactly what he deserves!” Isao bellowed.

“How can you say that?” Riichi asked.

“We told him a million times that he should tell Akihiko the truth! We even offered to tell him together, but he chose to do this… to lie to Akihiko!” Isao shouted. “He has no one to blame, but himself.”

The group sighed.

“We did tell him,” Daichi agreed.

“We did! But, he only cared about himself!” Isao continued.

“We’re all just as guilty as Izo,” Riichi said. “We went along with this scheme. We should have said something.”

“It wasn’t our place to tell Akihiko, Riichi,” Daichi said.

“If I found out that my father pulled some shit like that on me… lied to me for centuries… oooo… I don’t even know!” Isao said, shook his head.

“Akihiko is not you,” Riichi said.

“No, but Isao does have a point,” Daichi said. “Izo built a whole fake life for Akihiko. He said that he had a mother… he made him believe he was in love with a woman. Everything Akihiko thought he knew about his father and himself is a lie.”

“Oh, I forgot about that,” Eito said. “Akihiko is going to not only have to learn that the being he thought was his father really isn’t his father, but that his mother is a rapist… which is how he got here in the first place, and that his real father and his fake father were actually lovers.”

“Izo’s not Akihiko’s fake father, Eito,” Riichi said.

“You know what I mean,” Eito said.

“I really feel for Akihiko though. He has a lot to take in and accept,” Daichi said.

“And it’s all coming from Izo… the idiot who can barely put two cohesive sentences together on a good day,” Isao rolled his eyes.

“Well, Naoki is there,” Riichi said. “I’m sure he’ll be able to help Izo explain something.”

“Yeah,” the group nodded.

“We just need to figure out what we’re going to say to Kenjiro, Saicho and Hiroto. They’re just as much affected by this as Akihiko is.”

The group nodded as they chowed on their bones.

Inuyasha sat on tree branch up above in the distance, watching and listening to everyone. He wondered who Akihiko and Izo were. For someone who had always embraced solitude and displayed regular bouts of cruelty, Inuyasha was surprised by how concerned these beings were about Sesshomaru. There were many things he didn’t know about his brother.

***

“If Koji is my father, where is my mother?” Akihiko asked Izo, directly.

No one yet had directly said that Koji was Akihiko’s father. Akihiko had deduced that on his own.

Sesshomaru watched Akihiko cautiously. Although he wasn’t displaying it, Sesshomaru could sense Akihiko’s anger.

“I don’t know where she is?” Izo answered.

Sesshomaru looked at Izo. By his reaction, he could tell that he really didn’t know where she was either. Sesshomaru wondered where Azami was. If she was still alive, as Koji had said, he wondered what arrangement his mother had made.

Akihiko huffed and looked away. “Of course, you don’t,” he said.

“Akihiko,” Izo said, touching his shoulder.

Akihiko yanked his shoulder away in aggravation from Izo’s touch. “You’re a liar,” he growled.

Izo inhaled hard as tears fell down his face. “Your mother wasn’t able to care for you, Akihiko. She –

“How would you know?” Akihiko interrupted Izo.

Sesshomaru watched as Izo bowed his head in sadness and placed his hands in his lap. He also watched as Koji touched Izo’s leg in support. Izo wasn’t aware.

“Clearly, this Koji didn’t love you as much as he said he did if he had me with her,” Akihiko said, in a calm voice.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened. He couldn’t believe what that pup had just said.

“Did you steal me from her?” Akihiko asked, as he glared at Izo.

Koji gasped.

“What? Akihiko, I –

“Could you not bear to face the fact that Koji didn’t love you like you thought he did and stole me from them both?!” Akihiko interrupted Izo, audible angry.

“Akihiko, please –

Sesshomaru was shocked.

“What if she’s out there looking for me?!” Akihiko asked, glaring at Izo.

“Sesshy,” Koji said, looking at Sesshomaru. Without words, Sesshomaru could tell that he was pleading for him to try and do something.

“You’re a liar… and a thief!” Akihiko hissed. “You’re probably responsible for my father’s death!” Akihiko exploded, standing to his feet.

“He’s not,” Sesshomaru said, in a calm voice, looking out into the distance. “I am.”

Akihiko huffed, as tears fell down his face.

“Do you wish to listen or jump to conclusions?” Sesshomaru asked, looking straight ahead.

“Sesshy!” Koji hissed, at Sesshomaru. “He’s upset.”

Sesshomaru ignored Koji and looked at Akihiko. The pup didn’t respond. He just cried along with his father.

“Sit down,” Sesshomaru said, calmly.

Akihiko breathed and let his body fall back to the ground.

“Koji was a decent being. He was kind… and well-liked by many… a skilled blacksmith who did really good work,” Sesshomaru began. “For many years, he did work for a woman named Azami, who –

Izo shook his head. “Sesshomaru, no.”

Sesshomaru breathed and continued. “... Who was obsessed with Koji. She was jealous of the fact that Koji loved Izo and didn’t want to be with her… In an effort to get Koji to leave your father and be with her, she –

“Please,” Izo begged.

“Why don’t you want him to tell me?!” Akihiko yelled at Izo.

“Because that woman raped Koji!” Izo blurted back in a yell.

Everyone went silent. Sesshomaru was shocked Izo even said it… like that no less.

Sesshomaru gripped Koji’s hand. Koji didn’t say a word. He watched as Akihiko’s eyes fluttered and more tears streamed down his face.

“What?” Akihiko asked.

Sesshomaru could see that Izo couldn’t speak anymore. “Azami had sex with Koji against his wishes,” Sesshomaru said.

“That’s not true… you’re just saying that,” Akihiko responded, his voice low and hoarse.

“I don’t just say anything,” Sesshomaru replied.

“Your mother was not well,” Izo managed to say. “She had a lot of problems.”

“It’s not true!” Akihiko shouted at Izo. “My mother and father loved me! They had me because they loved me! This didn’t happen! You just made this up because he didn’t love you!” he cried.

Sesshomaru continued to grip Koji’s hand.

“This was a mistake,” Koji repeated, as he shook his head.

Sesshomaru breathed. “It happened, Akihiko,” Sesshomaru said. “Your father had nothing to do with it.”

“He’s not my father!” Akihiko shouted, pointing at Izo. “He’s a liar!”

“Izo is your father,” Sesshomaru said.

Both Koji and Izo looked at Sesshomaru.

“No, he’s not! He’s –

“I told you that I would tell you all that I know about Koji,” Sesshomaru said. “Did I not?”

Akihiko nodded, as he wiped his nose.

***

Okahito moaned as Rin wiped his face with a damp cloth.

“Lady Kaede, he’s awake!” Rin shouted, waving her over. “Are you alright, Okahito?” Rin asked, as he opened his eyes.

“Rin?” he asked, confused, as he rubbed his head.

“Yes, it’s me,” she said, with a concerned smile.

“Okahito,” Okahito’s father called out to him from across the room. He was sitting against the wall playing with the ridges of his wooden cane.

“Father?” Okahito asked confused. “Wha-what happened?” he asked, looking around the room. “Where am I?”

“You’re in Lady Kaede’s hut,” Rin answered. “You’ve been badly injured.”

Okahito swallowed.

“You and your father were both attacked,” Lady Kaede said, carrying a large pot of boiling water into the room.

“By demons?” Okahito asked, in concern.

“No, child. By villagers,” Lady Kaede answered, as she sat down beside Okahito.

“You mean… those teenagers from the barn,” Okahito sighed, looking at Rin. “That was nothing.”

“The wounds and treatment you sustained from those boys were rather severe,” Lady Kaede said. “You must have had run-ins with them on multiple occasions.”

“You can say that,” Okahito said, glancing at his father, before closing his eyes.

Rin glanced at Okahito’s father. The way Okahito looked at him made her question if Miroku’s theory was right.

“I’m afraid your troubles are much more than just those boys you had encountered earlier,” Lady Kaede said. “It seems as though your run-in with the demon Sesshomaru had a negative effect on the villagers’ spirits towards you,” she said.

“Negative effect? What does that mean?” Okahito asked, his eyes still closed.

“They wanted to sacrifice us!” Okahito’s father bellowed.

Rin jumped at Okahito’s father voice. She was startled by how loud and upset he had gotten. Since he had been in Lady Kaede’s hut, he was nothing more than a fragile man.

Okahito’s eyes shot opened. “Sacrifice us?” he asked. “Who?”

“The villagers!” His father shouted, as he threw his arms up in the air. “Large ferocious demons came here looking for blood! They came here looking to slaughter everyone in this village! They wanted you!”

“That’s not true! They were here looking for Lord Sesshomaru,” Rin corrected Okahito’s father, in a calm voice. “They just assumed that –

“They wanted to kill us!” Okahito’s father yelled. “Villagers ran in here and threw us outside! They wanted us dead… eaten alive!”

“Sir, please,” Lady Kaede said, as she took the cloth from Rin’s hand.

“They want us dead!” the man continued, hysterical. “It’ll only be a matter of time until the demons come back and feast on our flesh or the villagers come in here and murder us themselves!” he shouted, standing to his feet.

“Settle yourself,” Lady Kaede ordered the man. “They will do no such thing. Miroku and Inuyasha –

“Don’t tell me to settle myself! Your life isn’t on the line, woman!” the man shouted at Lady Kaede. “They’re going to kill us!”

Rin looked up at the man with wide eyes. She was stunned. He was acting erratic and irrepressible.

“Father, please calm down,” Okahito pleaded, sitting up.

“Calm down?!” Okahito’s father shouted, throwing his cane hard in Okahito’s direction.

Rin screamed and ducked. The cane crashed hard against the side of the hut and bounced off the wall.

“Calm down?!” Okahito’s father shouted, as he hobbled toward him.

Lady Kaede jumped. “Stop!” she shouted.

“Rin, go,” Okahito said, as he struggled to sit up straight.

Rin shrieked. She could barely move.

Okhaito held his hands up. “Father, please stop,” he said, calmly. “Rin, go,” he repeated.

“How dare you tell me to calm down?!” the old man yelled. “This is your fault!” he shouted.

“Yes, Father, it’s my fault. I know and I’m sorry,” Okahito said, as calm as he could.

Rin continued to scream. “Master Jaken! Master Jaken!”

“Shut up your mouth!” Okahito’s father shouted at Rin. “This is just as much your fault as his!” he reached out to her.

Lady Kaede grabbed Rin and pulled her away from Okahito and his father.

“Leave her alone!” Okahito shouted, struggling to get to his feet.

Rin screamed even louder. “Master Jaken! Help!”

As Lady Kaede stood in front of Rin, shielding her body, Jaken ran inside, carrying the Staff of the Two Heads. “Huh? What’s going on?”

At Jaken’s voice, Okahito’s father looked at him and growled. “It’ll never end! These demons will just keep coming back and coming back until we’re dead!” he shouted. “This is your fault!” he kicked Okahito’s leg.

Okahito stumbled and almost fell to the ground.

“Ah! Master Jaken!” Rin screamed.

“Quiet, you!” the old man shouted at Rin, turning quickly to her.

Jaken gasped as Rin screamed.

“Get back, Rin!” Jaken shouted, as he held the Staff of Two Heads in front of her and blew some light warning flames.

Lady Kaede and Rin gasped, as flames flew into the man’s face, forcing him backwards.

“No!” Rin shouted.

Okahito’s father stumbled backwards and hit the floor hard. “Ah!”

Having fallen near Rin and Lady Kaede’s feet, Okahito’s father reached for Rin’s leg for support getting up. She shrieked and jumped back.

“Get away from her!” Okahito shouted.

The room went silent at the sound of a loud WHACK!

The group froze as the Okahito’s father fell backwards again to the floor. He’s eyes were closed and his nose was oozing blood. Lady Kaede, Jaken and Rin’s eyes all moved to Okahito, who stood over his father with his large wooden cane in his hand.

Lady Kaede pulled herself together and ran to the man. “Jaken, fetch Miroku at once,” she said.

Jaken nodded and ran out of the hut.

As Rin looked at Okahito in shock and surprise, his eyes rolled back in his head and he fell backwards onto the hard floor.

“Lady Kaede!” Rin shouted, running to Okahito.

“Rin, look over Okahito. I must check on him first,” Lady Kaede said, looking over Okahito’s unconscious father.

 “What’s going on?” Miroku asked, entering the hut. “What happened?” he asked, seeing Okahito and his father’s unconscious bodies on the floor.

“Okahito’s father attacked Okahito a few moments ago. Okahito struck back,” Lady Kaede said. “I think his nose is broken.”

“You were right,” Rin said, looking at Miroku. “It was like he became a totally different person.”

Miroku sighed. “Will they be alright?” he asked Lady Kaede.

“I would assume so,” she responded, looking down at the two on her floor. “For Rin’s sake and my peace of mind, would you allow Rin and Jaken to stay with you, Sango, Kohaku and the others tonight?”

“Of course,” Miroku nodded. “Rin is always welcome at our home. Jaken is welcome outside.”

Jaken grumbled. “I wouldn’t want to set foot in your filthy rat nest home anyway!” he shouted.

Miroku shot Jaken a hard look.

“But, Lady Kaede, you’ll need help here. Let me help,” Rin pleaded.

“I will be just fine managing everything here,” Lady Kaede nodded. “Go on,” she smiled.

Rin sighed and nodded. “Yes, Lady Kaede.”

“Come on, Rin,” Miroku said, escorting her out of the hut.

Rin nodded and looked back at Okahito before walking outside. Jaken followed behind at a distance. They walked across the village to the vacant storage hut where Sango, Miroku, Kohaku and the others stayed.

***

“Koji loved Izo more than anyone. There was no one for him but Izo,” Sesshomaru began. “Despite what happened to him, Koji loved your father. He wanted a life to him… and Izo wanted a life with Koji.”

Akihiko looked at Sesshomaru with a scrunched face.

“You always had two fathers, Akihiko… Koji and Izo,” Sesshomaru said. “It wouldn’t be any other way.”

Akihiko bowed his head.

“It’s true,” Izo said.

“It’s not,” Akihiko cried. “Koji didn’t want me.”

Koji gasped.

“That’s not true at all,” Sesshomaru said.

“It is,” Akihiko cried. “How could he want me after what happened to him?”

Sesshomaru sighed. “Koji would have preferred for you to come into the world a different way, but he did want you,” Sesshomaru said. “When he found out that he was going to be a father, all he cared about was making sure that you were safe.”

Akihiko looked up at Sesshomaru.

“He was really concerned about being a good father to you,” Sesshomaru said. “He didn’t even care how you got here.”

“Really?” Akihiko asked.

“Yes,” Sesshomaru said.

“In Koji’s absence, the best person to keep you safe was your father… your other father, Izo,” Sesshomaru said.

Akihiko looked at Izo.

“What happened to my mother?”

Before Izo could begin, Sesshomaru spoke. “It doesn’t matter.”

Akihiko looked at him dumbfounded.

“Does it?” Sesshomaru asked.

Akihiko shook his head.

Koji looked into Sesshomaru’s eyes for a second before Sesshomaru turned away and looked into the distance.

“Koji died saving my life,” Sesshomaru said. “I put myself in a situation that would have cost me my life, but Koji paid the priced instead.”

Izo bowed his head.

“I thought he had betrayed me along with my other training group members… but what I thought… was untrue,” Sesshomaru continued.

Izo looked at Sesshomaru and sighed. Koji gripped his hand.

“If I regret anything, I regret keeping you away from your father,” Sesshomaru said, standing to his feet.

Akihiko looked at Sesshomaru as he stood to his feet.

“He loves you very much,” Sesshomaru said, as he began to walk past Izo towards the trees. “Always remember that,” he added, as Koji smiled back at his son.

“Izo,” Sesshomaru said, passing Izo, extending his hand.

Koji’s eyes widened. “Sesshy,” he said, in a panic.

Izo glanced at Sesshomaru’s left hand before looking into his eyes. It was odd for him to extend his left hand when his right hand was free, but Izo didn’t think too much of it. “Sesshomaru,” he said, grabbing his left hand with his left hand.

Sesshomaru gripped Izo’s hand and looked into his eyes. Izo looked at him confused when he did not let go of his hand. Sesshomaru glanced at Koji, who stood beside him.

“He won’t see me,” Koji said.

“I won’t see what?” Izo asked.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened, as he looked at Koji. He slowly looked back at Izo. “What did you say?”

“What are you talking about? What won’t I see?” Izo asked.

“Izo?” Koji asked.

Izo’s eyes widened as he looked at Sesshomaru. “Koji?”

Koji laughed. “He can hear me. He won’t see me, but he can hear me,” he smiled.

Izo trembled. “What’s going on?”

“He can hear me,” Koji repeated.

“Sesshomaru, what’s going on?” Izo asked. “What am I hearing?”

“Father?” Akihiko asked, standing to his feet and walking over to Izo.

“I love you, Izo,” Koji said to Izo, with a smile.

“What’s happening?” Izo cried, tugging at Sesshomaru’s hand.

Sesshomaru didn’t let go.

“Father, what’s wrong?” Akihiko asked, grabbing his arm.

The moment Akihiko over looked at Sesshomaru in confusion, he gasped at the empty space to his right.

Sesshomaru immediately let go of Izo’s hand and walked away.

“He could see me! He could see me!” Koji shouted. “He saw me! Right?! He could see me!”

“It seems like it,” Sesshomaru said, as he walked through the trees.

Akihiko was too stunned to move or follow him.

Beyond the trees, Koji let go of Sesshomaru’s hand. In an instant, they were back in the Meidō realm, floating mid-air in the midst of the starry abyss.

“They could connect me with!” Koji shouted, in excitement. “Both of them!”

Sesshomaru nodded.

“My son could see me,” Koji smiled, shaking his head.

“I didn’t mean to scare him,” Sesshomaru said. “I didn’t think –

Koji threw his arms around Sesshomaru. “Thank you,” he said, gripping him tight.

Sesshomaru welcomed Koji’s embrace and held him tight.

“It’s time for me to go,” Koji said. “And, you need to return back to the land of the living,” he added, pulling away from him.

Sesshomaru’s heart broke at Koji’s words. He didn’t want to leave.

"It was good to see you, Sesshy,” he said, resting his muddy hand on his shoulder.

Sesshomaru wrapped his arms around his friend again and gripped him tightly.

Koji nodded. “Remember what I said.”

Sesshomaru breathed as he looked at his friend.

“Better yet, don’t,” Koji said, pulling away from him. “Forget it.”

Sesshomaru gave him a confused look.

“It’s pointless, Sesshy. There’s no point in you bothering to learn about whether or not being General is something for you,” he said.

“Why would you say that?” Sesshomaru asked, confused.

“Because it’s pointless. You’ll never find yourself or what you want to do. You won’t be able to get yourself together for yourself,” he said. “I bet you can’t.”

Sesshomaru huffed and smirked.

“Goodbye, Sesshy,” Koji said. “Thank you.”

“Bye, Koji,” Sesshomaru said, as the starry blackness faded.

At the sight of a bright light, Sesshomaru closed his eyes. When he opened them, he was back in the cave alone with the green glow worms on dancing on the ceiling.

Sesshomaru looked around. He wondered if he was really back… if everything was just a dream. He didn’t know. It wasn’t until he looked down at his muddy hand, that he knew that it was true.

Sesshomaru breathed and looked around. “Rin?”

There was no response. He had no idea how long he had been in the Meidō. It could have been days for all he knew. Rin was probably long gone, back at the village.

Sesshomaru tried to stand up and walk out, but his legs failed him. They wouldn’t move. He was just so exhausted. From his constant traveling and everything he just went through, he just didn’t have the strength or willpower to move.

Sesshomaru didn’t force himself. He looked up at the cave ceiling of glow worms and reflected on what he heard, what he saw, and what he needed to do.

***

“Rin,” Sango smiled, as she walked through the door of the vacant storage hut they considered home.

“Miss Sango!” Rin said, as she ran to hug her.

Sango looked very tired, but well. She was even sporting a relatively large bump in front of her stomach.

“Rin will be staying with us tonight,” Miroku said.

Sango looked at Miroku and nodded. She understood. Although she stayed out of sight and avoided all drama for the sake of her unborn child, she was kept abreast about the happenings around the village. Neighbors had filled her in on what had happened with Okahito, and the band of dog demons who entered the village. Sango could barely believe it.

“Yes, of course. You are always welcome here,” Sango said. “I will prepare a spot for you to sleep.”

Rin nodded. “Thank you, Miss Sango,” she did her best to smile.

“I made some dumplings, rice and some vegetable soup. Please help yourself,” Sango added.

Rin nodded and looked around the room. In the corner, she saw Shippo lying face down on a heaping plate of dumplings.

“He knocked himself out,” Kohaku said, walking behind Rin.

“Kohaku,” Rin said, turning to him.

“Hi Rin,” Kohaku smiled. “Sit down, I’ll get you a bowl. What do you want?” he asked.

Rin looked over at the pile of food in the center of the room. Everything looked and smelled so good, but she just wasn’t hungry. “I’m not hungry,” she said, shaking her head.

“Oh, none of that,” Miroku responded to her comment. “You must eat.”

“Yes. Kohaku, make her a bowl,” Sango told Kohaku.

“Yes, Sister,” Kohaku nodded.

Rin sighed and sat by the window next to Shippo. As she watched Kohaku place different food selections into the bowl, Rin listened to Miroku explain what just happened in Lady Kaede’s hut.

“Is Okahito alright?” Kohaku asked, pausing to look up at Miroku.

“I would assume so,” Miroku said. “Okahito and his father were both unconscious when we left, but Kaede made it seem like they would be fine.”

“Wow… I would have never thought of anything like this,” Sango said, rubbing her belly.

“I don’t think anyone would have. Okahito’s father just turned into a different person,” Rin said. She breathed and looked out of the window at the stars.

“Are you alright, Rin?” Kohaku asked, sitting next to her, as Sango and Miroku talked amongst themselves.

“I think so,” she responded.

“Okahito will be alright. He’s strong,” Kohaku said, passing her a bowl of dumplings and some rice.

“But the villagers… No one will leave him alone… and now… his father is hurting him too,” Rin looked down at her bowl. “It’s all my fault.”

Kohaku sat down next to her. “What’s happening to Okahito is not your fault,” Kohaku said, looking at her.

“But all of this is happening because of what happened to me. It was an accident. I didn’t mean for –

“I know you didn’t mean for Inuyasha and Lord Sesshomaru to do what they did. We’re all sorry it happened, but you can’t blame yourself. You had no control over any of this.”

Rin sighed.

“I know… it’s easier said than done,” Kohaku said. “Everyone… everyone is always quick to remind me that I had no control over Naraku’s control over me when I… when I killed my father… my group. I was manipulated by Naraku to commit such terrible acts… atrocities… I cannot erase or forget.”

Rin looked at him.

“Sister reminds me that the Shikon Jewel shard embedded in my neck kept me under Naraku’s control,” he said, looking straight ahead. “I know it was Naraku… but –

“Kohaku, what are you two talking about?” Sango asked, looking over at him in concern.

“Nothing, Sister,” Kohaku said, standing up. “I was just getting another bowl.”

“Oh… okay,” she nodded, looking back at Miroku in concern.

“Here, let me take your bowl,” Kohaku said, reaching to grab the full bowl from her lap.

“May I have another bowl?” Rin asked.

Kohaku looked at her puzzled. “You barely ate what you had.”

“…For Master Jaken,” she said.

“Kohaku nodded. “Yes, of course,” he said, walking away.

As Kohaku proceeded to walked back towards Rin with the new bowl, he looked at the door. “I’ll give it to him,” he said.

“No, I will,” Rin said, standing up. “I’ll let him finish my portion as well.”

Kohaku nodded and handed her the bowl.

Rin walked outside and saw Jaken a few yards away from the hut leaning against a tree. She walked over and saw him mumbling to himself.

“That worthless monk,” Jaken grumbled. “Ooo…I hate him.”

“Here, Master Jaken,” Rin said, handing him the two bowls.

Jaken took the bowls and opened his mouth wide to gobble all of the food down his throat.

“Master Jaken, will you come with me to check on Lord Sesshomaru?” she asked, as Jaken set the bowls aside on the grass.

“Where? The last I heard, he hasn’t returned.”

“In the cave. He was –

“We checked, Rin… all of us did… even those monstrous brutes. Lord Sesshomaru’s not here,” Jaken responded.

Rin looked at him blankly.

“Plus, I’m not going anywhere back there with them around. Have you seen those demons?” Jaken asked, shaking his head.

“They look just like Lord Sesshomaru,” Rin said.

“How dare you, Rin?! Lord Sesshomaru isn’t anything like those beasts!”

“They’re not beasts. They’re Lord Sesshomaru’s friends,” Rin said. “They want to find him just as must as we do.”

“Right… as they chomp on the bones of this village’s food supply,” Jaken huffed, as he crossed his arms. “No.”

Rin sighed. She wasn’t in the mood to even argue. “Fine. I’ll go alone,” she said, turning to walk away.

“Wait! You can’t go!” Jaken shouted, as Rin walked off. “Rin, come back!”

Rin continued walking.

“Ugh! You wrecked girl,” Jaken grumbled, as he ran to catch up with her.

***

Rin and Jaken walked across the village in the darkness. The only lights they had to see were the flames of the Staff of Two Heads, the stars and the full moon up above. As they walked near the barn to the path leading to the cave of glow worms, Jaken and froze and shut off his staff’s flames. With what Rin saw, she froze herself.

Lying out in the distance of the barn towards the trees were the four dog demons. Before Jaken shut off the staff’s flames, she saw that all of the dog demons were in their true forms, covered in dark wet blood, surrounded by torn pieces of animal flesh. She couldn’t help but gasp.

“Rin, let’s go back,” Jaken whispered, as low as he could.

Rin was too stunned to say anything.

“Rin, let’s go,” Jaken pulled her outfit.

“The other two came back,” she finally said, after she managed to overcome her shock.

“Great for them. Let’s go,” Jaken said.

“Should we –

“No, you fool! Let’s go before they come after us next!” Jaken whispered in a yell.

Rin thought for a moment as she sighed. Although everything she was seeing was begging her to turn back to Miroku and Sango’s hut, something inside of her was compelling her to press forward.

“Come on, Master Jaken,” she whispered, walking forward and far off to the right, way out of the range of the dog demons. “Let’s go this way. I think we might be able to connect to the cave path this way,” she said, pointing at a row of trees in the distance.

“Rin,” Jaken trembled.

Rin ignored him and walked on. Too afraid to proceed and even more afraid to turn back and walk back past those dog demons, Jaken followed her. At the end of the day, he would die anyway. He would either be mauled by ferocious dog demons or slain at the hand of Sesshomaru if he ever found out that he had left Rin to wander off like this alone and got harmed.

“Here. I think this is the way,” Rin said, leading Jaken through the trees.

Jaken could barely hear her. He was too shocked by what he had just seen. “If Lord Sesshomaru eats like that, no wonder he always eats alone,” Jaken said.

“You’ve never seen him eat?” Rin asked.

“In all my years of traveling with Lord Sesshomaru, I have never seen him eat,” he said.

Rin thought as she continued to walk. In all her time with Lord Sesshomaru, she had never seen him eat either. He always just got lost for a while and came back. She never questioned it, but hearing Jaken’s comment, made her wonder if Lord Sesshomaru really did eat like that.

“Look, it’s the cave, Master Jaken,” Rin said, pointing ahead.

Jaken, finally comfortable enough to use the flames of the Staff of Two Heads, lit the staff and shined it in that direction.

“Let’s go,” Rin said, walking cautiously into the cave next to Jaken. Entering the cave alone troubled her on any day, but entering it alone in the darkness was petrifying.

Jaken shined his light ahead and walked with Rin through the cave. He didn’t balk when she wrapped her arm around his arm. He welcomed her embrace as he was petrified. 

Rin and Jaken gripped each other tightly as they made their way towards the bend of the cave where the green lights of the glow worms danced on the cave walls.

Jaken froze. “What’s that?” he asked, shutting off the flames from his staff.

“Huh?” Rin asked, freezing in the darkness.

“That noise. Do you hear that?” Jaken asked, in a whispered panic.

Rin listened. Her heart beat fast in her chest as she hear the sound of… she couldn’t describe it. It was the sound of long deep, heavy moans that repeated every few seconds. It sounded like that of a goblin or ghost, but it was oddly familiar to her. It was as though she had heard this sound before.

“Let’s go,” Jaken whispered, pulled her back with their arms linked together. “Let’s go.”

Rin didn’t know what to do. Although everything she was hearing was begging her to turn back to Miroku and Sango’s hut, something inside of her was compelling her to press forward.

“Rin, come on,” Jaken pulled at her.

Rin closed her eyes for a moment to breathe. She broke her grip from Jaken and walked forward around the cave bend alone.

“Rin!” Jaken called after her, in a whisper of panic.

Jaken didn’t hear a response. He slammed the heads of his staff against his own head in frustration before he followed after Rin. He couldn’t leave her.

When Jaken turned around the bend, he stopped when he saw Rin just standing there. “What is it?” he whispered, looking around, frantically.

“It’s Lord Sesshomaru,” she said. “He’s sleeping,” she said, listening to his heaving breathing.

“What?” Jaken asked, in a whisper, moving her aside to see.

“He’s sleeping,” Rin repeated, pointing straight ahead.

Sitting on the rock where she had left him, hours earlier, Lord Sesshomaru sat with his head titled back and to the side, eyes shut and his mouth slightly ajar.

Jaken gasped. “This can’t be.”

“What’s wrong?” Rin asked, watching him walk over to Lord Sesshomaru.

“I’ve never seen him… I’ve never seen him sleep like this,” he said, looking upon the sleeping demon.

“Huh?”

“Rest, yes… but never sleep… like this,” Jaken said.

“Have you ever seen Lord Sesshomaru do anything?” Rin asked.

“Silence, girl!” Jaken shouted.

Rin remembered the sound. It was when she had first met Lord Sesshomaru in the woods when he was injured. Unable to move, he slept a lot. When she went over to check on him and drop off things for him to eat, she remembered him sleeping and sounding just like this. Thinking about it now, she realized that she had never seen or heard Lord Sesshomaru sleep like this sduring her travels with him. He was always awake or resting with his eyes closed. Maybe he never let himself sleep because he felt like he had to always watch over her and Jaken. She didn’t know, but he must have been extremely exhausted to be sleeping like this.

“Shh,” Rin snapped back at Jaken, covering her lips with her index finger. “You’ll wake him up.”

Jaken huffed. He watched as Rin walked over and sat down by Sesshomaru’s crossed legs, and looked at the ceiling of glow worms.

“What are you doing?” Jaken asked.

“Looking at the glow worms,” she responded.

“What?” Jaken asked.

“Well, I’m not leaving,” Rin said. “What if he disappears again?”

Jaken sighed and sat on the opposite side of Lord Sesshomaru. He fluffed a portion of his mokomoko before resting on it. “Fine,” he said.

***

“Inuyasha!” Miroku shouted.

The ears of the dog demons perked up. They turned their heads to see the monk in purple walking in the distance with a torch.

“Miroku!” Daichi called out to him.

“Dai –

Miroku froze. He couldn’t move. The sight of the field and the four dog demons covered in blood and gore petrified him. “Uh,” he uttered, as the four dog demons walked over to him.

Miroku held his torch out in front of him as a shield.

“Don’t tell us you’re scared,” Isao said, with an exasperated sigh.

“Shut up,” Daichi said, transforming into his true form. “Transform,” he ordered the rest.

Miroku breathed a little easier now that there weren’t four blood-covered dog demons with large bloody fangs standing before him. Now there were just four tall, blood-covered, seemingly human dog demons standing before him.

“We won’t hurt you,” Daichi said.

“Sorry about the mess,” Eito said. “We’ll clean it up.”

Miroku nodded with a tremble. “I…I’m sure you will,” he managed to say.

“We will,” Daichi said. “You have our word.”

Miroku nodded.

“What is it?” Riichi asked, looking at Miroku.

“Inuyasha… wh…where is he?” Miroku managed to ask, trying to stifle a gag from the sight and strong smell of fresh blood.

“We didn’t eat him if that’s what you’re implying by that… gesture,” Isao said.

“I… I wasn’t… I wasn’t implying anything,” Miroku managed to say in between deep breathes and gags. “I… I… I’m going to go,” he said, running off.

The dog demons looked at Miroku run off towards the trees. The looked at each other and shrugged.

“Humans… very odd creatures,” Riichi said.

“What were we talking about again?” Daichi asked, walking back to where they were lounging before Miroku arrived.

Miroku ran as fast as he could toward the trees. When he reached the edge, he vomited on the ground several times. The sight of what he had seen was horrid. He couldn’t take it.

“I didn’t think you were such a light-weight with images,” Inuyasha said, standing behind him.

Miroku groaned as he wiped his mouth with his sleeve. “Inuyasha… where did you –

“I was up there,” he said, pointing to the trees. “Someone had to watch them.”

Miroku nodded. “Good… good thinking.”

“I don’t think they’re a threat. They’re really just looking for Sesshomaru,” Inuyasha said.

Miroku nodded before turning to the side to vomit again.

“Uh,” Inuyasha tensed up.

“I don’t know how you could sit up there and watch that,” Miroku said. “It’s sickening.”

“Eh, it doesn’t bother me,” Inuyasha said. “What did you want?” he asked.

“Rin. Have you seen Rin or Jaken?” Miroku asked.

Inuyasha looked at Miroku for a second. He didn’t see her, but he thought that he smelled her scent a bit earlier. She was in the area. “They’re probably off looking for Sesshomaru again,” Inuyasha said. “Go back home. I’ll find them,” Inuyasha instructed Miroku.

“No, I’ll go with you,” Miroku said, eager to follow.

“No, go back,” he said.

“But, Inuyasha –

Inuyasha scrunched his face as Miroku vomited again.

“No, you have to go back,” Inuyasha said. “I’ll bring them back,” he said, darting off into the distance.

Miroku held his stomach and breathed before he let himself fall to the ground.

***

“Uh, Sesshomaru opened his eyes and inhaled. He was still in the cave. He must have fallen asleep. He wasn’t really surprised. He was exhausted.

As Sesshomaru moved to stand up, he was startled by an odd weight on his leg. He looked down. It was Rin. She was curled up in a ball with her head resting on his thigh. He was surprised to see her there. She wasn’t there before.

Before Sesshomaru went to contemplate what happened and how she got there, he heard bubbly snores coming from his right. He turned to see Jaken wrapped in his mokomoko. He watched as a bubble of snot drifted in and out of his nose each time he breathed.

Sesshomaru glanced at Rin and breathed. He detached his mokomoko and moved it to cover Rin, letting Jaken roll onto the hard cave ground. Surprisingly, Jaken didn’t wake up. Sesshomaru molded a section of his mokomoko into a large clump and gently lifted Rin’s head to replace his thigh. Rin continued sleeping.

When he stood to his feet, he smelled a familiar scent masked by an overwhelming smell of fresh blood. Sesshomaru breathed as his stomach growled. He was so hungry and the smell of fresh blood wasn’t helping his crave.

His focus on his stomach drifted as he wondered why he was smelling such a strong scent of blood in Rin’s village. Sesshomaru’s eyes widened as he looked back at Rin sleeping soundly next to Jaken.

“Relax. Everything’s fine,” he heard a voice say.

Sesshomaru looked off into the distance. There he saw Inuyasha sitting cross-legged on a rock in the shadows. He remained silent.

“You can go back to sleep,” Inuyasha said, looking up at the ceiling of glow worms.

“You were watching me sleep?” Sesshomaru asked.

“I have better things to do with my time than listen to you snore,” Inuyasha huffed. “I was looking after Rin.”

Sesshomaru rolled his eyes.

“Where did you go?” Inuyasha asked. “You look like hell.”

Sesshomaru could only imagine what he looked like to Inuyasha. He was covered in green ooze from the green demon back in the Western Lands and mud. He knew he looked wrecked.

“It’s none of your concern,” Sesshomaru said, trying to fight the hunger pangs in his stomach. With all that traveling, his stomach was surely empty.

“I could care less where you go or what you’ve been doing, Sesshomaru. It only becomes my concern when you have a pack of demons looking for you,” Inuyasha said, looking at him.

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes. “A pack of demons?”

“Yeah, they’re all out back in the field.”

Sesshomaru froze. It couldn’t be true, but that scent of blood…

“I never thought that anyone other than Rin, Jaken… and maybe our father could care for a jackass like you, but they certainly do,” Inuyasha said, looking back up at the ceiling. “They traveled all this way from your homeland to find you.”

Sesshomaru breathed. He just couldn’t believe it.

“I had no idea you had any friends,” Inuyasha continued.

Sesshomaru could barely speak. They came all this way? They tracked him all the way to the Central region… to this village?

“I know what happened,” Inuyasha said, after a long pause when Sesshomaru couldn’t respond.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened, as he turned away.

“…With your friend,” Inuyasha continued.

No one said a word for a long while.

“I know what it’s like to lose someone you really care about… and be… completely responsible for it,” Inuyasha said.

“What would you know about it?” Sesshomaru huffed, looking back at him. He was offended by his comment. “Losing a human woman to her own time doesn’t even come close to how I feel,” he said, too tired and frustrated to filter what he said.

“I’m not talking about Kagome,” Inuyasha responded, looking up at the glow worms. “I’m talking about… someone else,” he said, solemnly.

Sesshomaru looked at the sadness appear in his brother’s eyes… and in an instant, that sadness turned into anger.

“All I was trying to say was that I understand! That’s all!” Inuyasha shouted.

Sesshomaru turned his head to look at Rin as he heard her stir.

“Look, you’re right. Whatever happened with you back wherever you came from is none of my concern,” Inuyasha lowered his voice to keep from waking Rin and Jaken. “Just try not to be the stubborn jackass you are for a minute and listen to what they have to say,” Inuyasha added.

Sesshomaru breathed and turned away.

“Inuyasha?”

“Yeah, it’s me,” Inuyasha answered Rin. “Sesshomaru’s here too,” he added.

“Lord Sesshomaru!” she shouted. “I’m so glad you’re here! We were looking all over for you!” she smiled.

Sesshomaru turned to listen to her.

“Your training brothers came here looking for you too,” she added.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened. It was true. They really did come after all.

“They’re outside if you want to see them,” Inuyasha said. “But, I would warn you… it’s not a pretty sight.”

“What do you mean?” Sesshomaru asked. “Why do I smell the scent of blood?” he asked, confused about why there was such a strong scent in the village.

Inuyasha sighed. “Your training brothers helped us save Okahito,” Rin said.

Sesshomaru huffed. He could go a whole century without ever hearing that boy’s name again. It bothered him that the name of the boy, who caused so much pain and damage to Rin, was always in her mouth.

“Saved him?” Sesshomaru asked, intrigued.

“Your little threat to Okahito didn’t go over too well with the villagers,” Inuyasha said.

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes.

“The villagers have been attacking Okahito since you left because of what he did… to me,” Rin said.

Sesshomaru could sense a sort of sadness or guilt in Rin’s voice. That alone bothered him.

“So be it,” Sesshomaru responded, coldly. “Miniscule reprimands from the people of this village aren’t even close to what he deserves for what he did to you, Rin.”

“But, it was an accident,” Rin responded.

Sesshomaru huffed. He knew that she would defend Okahito to no end. It astonished him how she could always see the good in others.

“I don’t care too much for Okahito either, but the villagers have really done a number on him. They lost it on him. He’s barely recognizable,” Inuyasha said.

Sesshomaru didn’t react. He really didn’t care. He just wanted to get to the point.

“And he was saved?” Sesshomaru asked, wishing to quicken the part where it came to his training brothers. “Surely, my pack hasn’t feasted on his body or the bodies of the villagers. What of this strong scent of blood?” Sesshomaru and his training brothers didn’t eat humans.

“When your friends arrived looking for you, the villagers got scared at the sight of them. They assumed that they were here, summoned by you to terrorize the village,” Inuyasha said.

“Fools,” Sesshomaru huffed. “If I wanted to terrorize this village I’d do it myself.”

“They threw Okahito… and his father… out of Kaede’s house, where they were both receiving treatment for other wounds, and offered him as sacrifice for your friends to devour,” Inuyasha said.

“It’s true,” Rin said.

Sesshomaru glanced at her.

“Thinking fast, Miroku came up with a plan to tell the villagers that your friends, the demons, can here because you caught wind that Okahito and his father were being harmed by the villagers,” Inuyasha began.

Sesshomaru raised an eyebrow.

“He told them that you were angered because you are the only one who can seek vengeance on Okahito. Because of that, you sent the demons to punish the village,” Inuyasha continued.

“That’s ridiculous,” Sesshomaru shook his head.

“Miroku then told them that he and I, the ones now designated to promote demonic order in the village, arranged a deal with these demons. If the village provided a significant amount of livestock to the demons, they would leave from this village unscathed,” Inuyasha continued.

“Livestock?” Sesshomaru repeated.

“It looks like a blood bath out there, but it did the trick,” Inuyasha said.

Sesshomaru closed his eyes. He could only imagine what his training group did out there.

“This should stop the issue with Okahito,” Inuyasha said. “They should leave him alone now.”

“But it’s not just the villagers harming Okahito. It’s his father too,” Rin said to Inuyasha.

“What?” Inuyasha asked.

“Okahito’s father attacked him today. He threw his cane at him and said that everything was his fault,” Rin said.

“Damn him. Miroku was right,” Inuyasha huffed, shaking his head.

“We have to do something,” Rin said, glancing at Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru sighed in frustration and looked away. He wasn’t doing shit… not for that boy… not even for Rin. No.

“He’ll kill him,” Rin said, still looking up at Lord Sesshomaru.

“So be it,” Sesshomaru growled.

Rin gasped, but Inuyasha wasn’t surprised by his brother’s reaction.

“We don’t have to do anything. He’s getting exactly what he deserves,” Sesshomaru ran his claws through his hair, before picking up his mokomoko from off of the ground.

“He doesn’t deserve this, Lord Sesshomaru,” Rin said.

“He deserves exactly this and then some,” Sesshomaru responded.

“No. He doesn’t deserve this!” Rin shouted at Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes. He was surprised. Rin had never raised his voice to him like that ever before. She was always respectful and subdued, even when he deserved for her not to be.

“He does,” Sesshomaru growled, looking back at her.

Rin’s face turned red under the green lights of the glow worms. “You wouldn’t understand!” she shouted.

“What wouldn’t I understand, Rin?” he asked, looking into her eyes.

“Humans are evil!” she shouted. “They attack others for no reason!”

Inuyasha watched as Jaken opened his eyes and looked around. He was awake.

“They have a reason, Rin,” Sesshomaru huffed, annoyed at himself for even entertaining the conversation. He wasn’t in the mood for this right now.

“They don’t! Okahito is not doing anything to anyone… he hasn’t been!” she went on. “He –

“He’s an insignificant worm with no place in this world, Rin. That’s the reason,” he said, coldly, looking into her eyes.

Rin’s eyes widened as she looked back at him.

“If he dies… he dies,” Sesshomaru continued. “It’s none of my concern,” he snarled, turning away, thinking he won the battle of this conversation about this stupid human boy.

“Do you think… I’m an insignificant worm with no place in the world… Lord Sesshomaru?” Rin asked, after a long pause.

Both Inuyasha and Sesshomaru’s eyes widened at her comment.

Sesshomaru looked back at her. “Why would you ask that?”

“I wasn’t doing anything to anyone either,” Rin said, her eyes beading with tears.

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes. He was confused, shocked and concerned by her reaction. What was she crying about? What happened? What did he say? He wasn’t even talking about her.

“Rin?” he asked, watching her walk towards the cave exit.

“Rin?” Inuyasha called after her.

Sesshomaru went to follow her.

Inuyasha looked at him and held his arm out. “I’ll get her,” Inuyasha said to his brother. “She’s gone through a lot these past few days,” he said, running off before his brother could protest.

Sesshomaru was speechless as Inuyasha ran after her. He had never seen Rin so upset before… at him… ever… all over some worthless good for nothing human boy who caused her to lose her front teeth. It didn’t make any sense.

As his mind replayed their conversation, he wondered what he said that bothered her so deeply. Nothing said was directed at her. As he thought, he heard Jaken’s voice.

“Mi lord, you’ve returned! I’m –

“Get out,” Sesshomaru huffed, turning away from him.

Jaken was taken aback. “Bu..but mi lord –

“I said get out, Jaken,” he said.

“Yes, mi lord,” Jaken said, before walking towards the cave’s exit, deflated.

Nothing was going right. Everything for Sesshomaru was becoming more and more difficult. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another. When was finally able to wrap his head around what happened way back then in the Western Lands with Koji and his brothers, now Rin was pissed at him. He just wanted to chaos to end.

Sesshomaru heard noises. “I said ‘get out,’ Jaken,” he repeated, as he breathed hard.

“Sesshomaru.”

Sesshomaru breathed with widened eyes before he turned around. Standing before him in the green light of the cave were his four training brothers: Isao, Riichi, Eito and Daichi.

Chapter Text

“Rin! Rin!” Inuyasha shouted, as he ran up to her. She had just reached the entrance of the cave when he caught up to her. “Hey! Hey!” he said, touching her shoulder, forcing her to stop.

Inuyasha walked around to see the front of her face and watched as tears fell.

“What happened back there?” he asked, giving her a concerned look.

Rin sighed, looked down and wiped her eyes with her sleeve.

“Rin, what’s wrong?” Inuyasha asked, when she didn’t answer.

“Can we go back to the village?” she asked, with a sniffle.

Inuyasha looked back into the cave and sighed. “Let’s go,” he nodded. “I’ll take you back.”

Although Inuyasha was intrigued to know what really happened back there in the cave between Rin and Sesshomaru, he didn’t pester Rin for answers as he escorted her back towards the village. He just periodically glanced at her, trying to come to a conclusion for himself.

It was alarming to see how upset Rin was. To Inuyasha, Sesshomaru could do no wrong in Rin’s eyes. She seemed to unconditionally view him as some glorified, kind-hearted soul. It was alarming that one menial comment about a boy, though harsh, yet not far from well-deserved, made her fall apart. It was as though that menial comment opened Rin’s eyes to see the cold-hearted bastard everyone else saw Sesshomaru as. It was concerning, even to him.  

Walking with Rin, Inuyasha was mindful to lead her away from the area of the barn where the dog demons had feasted on the village’s livestock and the area where Miroku upchucked all over. Despite all his efforts, he found himself crossing paths with Sesshomaru’s training brothers.

“Inuyasha!” Eito shouted, from a distance, before walking over in his humanoid form, followed by the others in his pack.

Inuyasha sighed. Their appearance was ghastly. It could give even him nightmares. “Close your eyes a sec, Rin,” he whispered to her.

Rin nodded and did as she was told.

“What’s wrong with her?” Isao asked, looking at Rin standing there with her hands covering her face.

“Other than not wanting to look at your hideous face, she didn’t need to see all of that,” Inuyasha said, pointing to the blood and gore all over their bodies.

“Oh,” Eito said, as Isao growled at Inuyasha’s hideous comment. “Sorry.”

“Are you sure that’s all?” Daichi asked, looking at her with narrowed eyes.

“She’s fine,” Inuyasha said, guiding her away by the shoulders.

The group glanced at each other, not entirely convinced.

“Sesshomaru’s returned. He’s back at the cave back there,” Inuyasha added, walking on with Rin.

The group nodded and ran the opposite way towards the cave.

“Miroku was looking for you!” Daichi called back to him, as he ran.

“Yeah, thanks,” Inuyasha responded, walking on with Rin.

When Inuyasha was sure that the dog demons had gone away, she looked down at Rin. “You can look now,” he said.

Rin removed her hands from her face and continued to walk. She didn’t need to ask why he made her look away. She knew what Inuyasha was trying to prevent her from seeing what she had already seen before.

“Lady Kaede wants me to stay with you, Miss Sango, and the others tonight,” Rin said, when they reached the entrance of the main part of the village.

Inuyasha looked down at her. “She did?”

“Lady Kaede wanted to treat Okahito… and his father… alone,” she added, solemnly.

“Okay,” Inuyasha nodded, as he led her in the other direction.

Inuyasha glanced at Rin and sighed. Although he hadn’t spent a great amount of time with Rin, he had never seen her so… deflated.

“Look, I know you’ve convinced yourself that Sesshomaru is this perfect someone who can do no wrong, but he’s a real idiot,” Inuyasha said, looking straight ahead.

Rin looked up at Inuyasha, surprised by his comment. “Huh?”

“He’s stupid and he doesn’t think,” Inuyasha said.

“…But, Lord Sesshomaru is really smart, Inuyasha,” Rin said.

“Look! I’m not going to debate with you about who Sesshomaru is or isn’t! That’s up to you to decide! All I’m saying is that…” Inuyasha paused and breathed, removing the agitation in his voice.

Rin looked up at him startled, waiting for him to continue.

“All I’m saying is… whatever Sesshomaru said back there… he didn’t mean to hurt your feelings,” Inuyasha finished his thought.

Rin sighed.

“He’s a moron who says things without thinking sometimes,” Inuyasha said, walking on. “He can’t help it… he was just born stupid.”

“Lord Sesshomaru is not stupid,” Rin said.

“I know for a fact he is,” Inuyasha huffed. “…But that’s for you to decide.”

Rin sighed.

“I also know for a fact that Sesshomaru cares about you a lot,” Inuyasha added, after a pause. “You’re probably the only person in this whole world he cares about…. the things he does for you… he’d never do for anyone else.”

Rin glanced at Inuyasha.

“My point is… you’re not insignificant to Sesshomaru. You’re very important to him,” Inuyasha said.

“Do you really think so?” Rin asked, looking up at Inuyasha.

“Yeah, I do,” Inuyasha responded. “If you weren’t important to Sesshomaru, he wouldn’t go through such lengths to protect you and try to keep you safe. He would have never left you in this village or made the effort to check up on you if you were insignificant to him.”

Rin didn’t respond. She just sighed and looked down.

“I don’t care for the kid myself, but you can’t blame Sesshomaru for having no regard for Okahito,” Inuyasha continued. “Look at what he did to you!” he added, looking down at her and making a motion across his own teeth.

Rin sighed and continued walking. No one would ever accept that what Okahito did was an accident.

Inuyasha glanced at her and sighed. “Although he doesn’t deserve it, maybe you can cut Sesshomaru a break,” Inuyasha said.

Rin looked up at Inuyasha.

“Sesshomaru really cares about you and he didn’t mean to hurt your feelings,” Inuyasha said, not looking at her as he continued to walk.

Rin didn’t respond. She was surprised by Inuyasha’s comment.

“Is that okay?” Inuyasha asked, when she didn’t respond.

Rin breathed and nodded. “Okay,” she said.

“Okay,” Inuyasha said, as he escorted her back to the vacant storage hut he, Miroku, Sango, Shippo and Kohaku called home. 

***

Sesshomaru looked at his training brothers staring back at him in the green light of the cave. They were all in their humanoid forms drenched with blood. When he looked at them, his mouth opened in shock mostly by their appearance than their presence.

Noticing his reaction, Sesshomaru immediately closed his mouth and breathed.

“Inuyasha told us you were here,” Eito said, breaking the silence.

Sesshomaru didn’t say a word. He couldn’t.

“He was walking back towards the village with that little girl, Rin,” Eito continued. “She looked really upset.”

“So did that imp, Ja… Ja… Ja –

“Jaken,” Riichi helped Daichi.

Sesshomaru sighed and looked away.

“They were really eager to find you,” Riichi said.

“We all were,” Isao added, looking to the ground after he spoke.

Sesshomaru was silent. Just like with Koji, he didn’t know what to really say to them. With Koji, he had options to either apologize or thank him… but they were different. It didn’t really seem right to apologize, and it wasn’t appropriate to thank them either. He was at a true loss for words. Plus, it didn’t help that he was plagued within his own mind trying to figure out what he had done to upset Rin and bring her to tears like that. He just didn’t understand. He clearly said that the human boy was an insignificant worm, not her! Rin was not like him in any way! He just didn’t understand.

Sesshomaru’s stomach broke the silence as it grumbled. Of all the times.

“There’s a whole bunch of meat to eat outside… pigs, goats, cows,” Eito said. “The village gave them to us.”

Sesshomaru’s ears perked up at the mention cows. He loved cows, especially cow bones.

Sesshomaru breathed. Although he was virtually starving, he didn’t feel comfortable picking off the livestock in Rin’s village. He preferred to go out and hunt something elsewhere, but he knew that he was too tired to do so. He was conflicted.

“If you’re hungry, just eat what’s outside, Sesshomaru. They’re ours to eat,” Daichi said, looking at the conflicted expression that Sesshomaru couldn’t seem to hide. “Eito searched for game outside of the village, but there was nothing to be found to suffice us,” he added.

Eito nodded. “I looked all over.”

Sesshomaru breathed as his stomach continued to audibly grumble.

“The village gave them to us,” Riichi added.

“We left a lot of bones,” Isao said, glancing at Riichi, who smirked as they looked at Sesshomaru’s eyes flicker.

Sesshomaru sighed. He wasn’t going to fight it. He needed to eat and it was hard to turn away bones. Without a word, Sesshomaru walked past his training brothers, around the bend of the cave and outside. The group looked at each other and followed him.

Sesshomaru followed the scent of blood to the field area near the barn. Based on the appearance of his training brothers and Inuyasha’s comments, he was sure that he would be walking into the aftermath of a bloody massacre, but surprisingly, when he reached the field, it was… clean.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened in surprise. It was as though the one section of the field furthest from the barn had been rained on. On the dry section of the field, a few cows were grazing over by the fence and the bones of various animals were staked off to another side as well.

“We cleaned up as best as we could,” Eito said, looking at Sesshomaru’s surprised expression.

“‘We’ didn’t do anything,” Isao growled. “I cleaned up and washed this whole place down after what you morons left it wrecked.”

“Shut up. You didn’t even want to help,” Riichi said.

“And, I torched the remains,” Daichi added.

“Oh, shut up! …Like that even consists of work!” Isao spat.

“You shut up, fool! You and those water spout claws of yours barely cleaned this place up right! Look over there…. and there!” Daichi snapped back at Isao, pointing to different sections of puddles of blood in the grass.

Isao growled and shot water from his claws into Daichi’s face.

“You miserable…” Daichi laughed, before charging at him.

“Take whatever you want,” Riichi said to Sesshomaru, as he watched Daichi and Isao laugh and chase after each other. 

“Ah!” Eito shouted, as water from Isao’s claws hit him in the face.

Isao and Daichi laughed at Eito’s reaction.

“You’re stupid,” Eito growled, rubbing his face.

“I’m sorry,” Isao apologized, as he smirked at Daichi.

As Eito continued to wipe his face, Isao shot a blast of water at him, making Eito growl and charge after him and Daichi, who were both laughing hysterically.

Riichi left Sesshomaru to his own devices and joined in the fun when a splash of water was shot in his direction.

Sesshomaru looked at them before transforming into his true form to eat. They were no different from when they were pups… playful, stupid pups.

Sesshomaru ate four whole cows, one pig and all of the bones stacked off to the side. Although he could barely move afterwards, he was stuffed and satisfied. He lounged on the grass in his true form and watched his training brothers play off in the distance for a while before the play fighting stopped and each one of his brothers let Isao spray them with water to wash the blood and gore from off their bodies.

“Yeah?” Isao asked, holding his claws up at Sesshomaru when he had finished washing the rest of the group.

Sesshomaru sighed. “Why not?”

“Transform,” Isao said. “I’m not cleaning a 40-foot dog.”

Sesshomaru transformed and let Isao spray him with water from his claws. In the meantime, Daichi and Eito walked through the trees and returned with large branches to light a fire.

“Light this,” Eito said, placing the branches on the ground.

“Hurry, I’m freezing to death,” Riichi said, shivering.

“Okay! Okay!” Daichi said, shivering himself.

“You would assume that your water supply would be warm,” Riichi commented, looking back at Isao.

Sesshomaru agreed. The water coming out of Isao’s claws was ice cold. He did his best not shiver.

“It’s freezing,” Riichi continued.

“You’re surprised?” Daichi asked, with chattering teeth. “It matches that ice cold soul of his,” he laughed.

“Shut up!” Isao growled, spraying water in Daichi’s face.

Daichi laughed, as he wiped his face with his arm. “I’m just saying.”

“Say it somewhere else, fool,” Isao huffed as he continued to spray Sesshomaru.

“You’re all good,” Isao said, shutting off his water supply.

“Thank you,” Sesshomaru said, before walking to sit near the rest of the group by the torched flames in their humanoid forms.

“Isn’t that awkward,” Eito asked, looking back at Isao.

Isao was using the water in his claws to wash the blood and gore from himself.

“What’s awkward?” he asked.

“Washing yourself?”

“What?” Isao asked. “It’s a normal function in life!”

“No, I mean… washing yourself… with yourself,” Eito clarified.

The group laughed as Isao growled. Sesshomaru smirked.

“Shut up!” Isao huffed.

“What are you actually washing yourself with?” Eito asked.

“WATER, YOU IGNORANT FOOL!” Isao shouted.

The group laughed even louder. Even Sesshomaru found himself laughing.

“But… are you sure it’s water?” Eito asked.

“What the fuck else would it be, Eito?!” Isao asked, agitated.

The group caught their breaths and looked at Eito.

“What do you mean?” Riichi asked, wiping the tears from his eyes away from laughing so hard.

“Well, yes, it’s water, but it’s coming from your own body. Where is it coming from?” Eito asked. “Is it made instantaneously or do you have a special reservoir in your gut somewhere?”

Isao narrowed his eyes. “What?”

“That’s actually a pretty good question,” Daichi said.

“It’s not,” Isao said.                                            

“Where is your water coming from and how do you get so much of it?” Daichi asked.

“Where do you get your flames from?” Isao asked, a bit defensive.

“Flames are not the same as gallons of water, Isao,” Riichi said.

Isao sprayed his feet. “I don’t know where it comes from. Just be happy it works.”

“What if it’s really your pee converted into water?” Eito asked, after a long pause.

Everyone’s eyes widened as they looked at Eito and then at Isao.

Isao narrowed his eyes. “What?!”

“I mean, it could be,” Eito shrugged. “You don’t really pee a lot… and it’s a lot of water,” Eito added.

No one said a word as they processed Eito’s comment.

“For what reason… are you tracking my piss?!” Isao shouted, his face turning red.

The group laughed.

“Well, what about this… where do you feel where your water comes from?” Daichi asked. “I feel my flames form in my wrist.”

Isao narrowed his eyes.

“You don’t feel it coming from your wrist or your hand?” Daichi asked, at Isao’s reaction.

“I don’t know where I feel it from,” Isao said, shaking his head. “It doesn’t matter! It’s not pee!”

The group glanced at each other with weird looks on their faces.

“It’s not!” Isao shouted, at their expressions.

Daichi smiled really big before laughing. “Haha! Isao’s cleaning himself with his own filtered pee!” he laughed.

Isao shot his claws at Daichi and dowsed a whole bunch of water in his face, sullying in the flame.

“You idiot! Now, we have to get more logs,” Riichi wined, running his claws through his curly wet hair.

“Aw, we’re just joking. We don’t really think you low-key pissed on us,” Daichi smiled, standing up to find more logs.

“…Or do we?” Eito asked.

Isao’s face contorted before he ran high speed after both Eito and Daichi.

“Idiots,” Riichi said, under his breath, watching them run off.

“It’s plausible,” Sesshomaru said.

“It really is, but I’d prefer not to entertain it,” Riichi laughed. “I just can’t wait to find a hot spring somewhere.”

Sesshomaru glanced at him.

***

“It’s an easy solution. Just let Aika check you out,” Daichi said.

Sesshomaru watched as Isao’s face turned serious, and the rest of the group laughed, as they sat around the freshly lit fire.

“She’ll be able to tell you where it’s all coming from,” Daichi continued, with a laugh.

“Shut up,” Isao said, looking into the flame.

“What? She’s the best being to do it,” Daichi continued.

“And, I’m sure you wouldn’t mind her probing you,” Riichi added, with a nudge.

“Shut up!” Isao shouted, as he sprayed water at them.

Sesshomaru smirked as he looked at Isao. He didn’t know anything about this Aika being, but he could tell that Isao was bothered by talking about her. His face was red and he seemly overly aggrivated.

“If this flame goes out again, you’re getting new wood,” Riichi warned Isao, who rolled his eyes.

“But seriously…  Aika’s the best being to tell you what’s up with your water works,” Daichi smiled.

“I don’t need that idiot to tell me anything,” Isao snapped.

“She’s not an idiot. She’s a physician,” Riichi rolled his eyes.

“Yeah,” Eito agreed. “She’s smart.”

“She’s not a physician. She’s a nurse, you moron!” Isao hissed at Riichi. “She’s training to be a physician.”

The group looked at each other before laughing.

“How the fuck would you know that?” Daichi laughed.

Sesshomaru watched as Isoo’s face turned even redder and growled.

“Stalker much?” Riichi laughed.

“Shut up! EVERYONE, JUST SHUT UP!” Isao shouted.

“Alright…alright. We’ll stop,” Daichi laughed. “We don’t want to give our poor lovesick Isao a heart attack talking about Aika.”

“I’m not lovesick!” Isao barked. “I don’t even like her,” he said, looking down at his feet.

The group looked at each other before laughing. “He can’t even say it with a straight face! Haha!” Daichi laughed.

“I will drown you to death,” Isao glared at Daichi.

“Okay… okay. I’ll stop,” Daichi said, wiping tears of laughter from his eyes.

“Who’s Aika?” Sesshomaru asked, curious to know.

Isao huffed. “No one.”

“She’s some girl Isao refuses to admit he likes,” Eito answered.

“I don’t like her! She’s not even cute,” Isao said, looking down.

Sesshomaru smirked. He could see for himself that Isao couldn’t even say that with a straight face. He was working pretty hard to hide the twitch in the corner of his mouth.

Daichi laughed.

“She’s pretty cute,” Riichi corrected him.

Isao growled.

“A while ago, Isao managed to sprain his wrist on a mission. He said it was nothing, but when it started turning black and blue, we took him to the physician. Aika ended up checking it out,” Riichi told Sesshomaru.

Isao huffed.

“Ever since he met her, I’ve never seen him have to go to the physician more times ever,” Daichi smiled.

Isao growled. “They were all legitimate reasons!”

“An eyelash in the eye is not a legitimate reason to go to a physician,” Riichi said.

“For you it is!” Isao snapped at him.

“Shut up!” Riichi growled at him.

“You kind of walked right into that one there,” Eito laughed, as he pat Riichi on the back.

Riichi rolled his eyes.

“I don’t know what the problem is,” Daichi asked. “Just ask her out.”

“I DON’T LIKE HER, DAICHI! There is no point in asking someone out I don’t like!” Isao yelled.

“Eh… she’s smart. She won’t be stupid enough to say yes to you anyways,” Riichi laughed.

Sesshomaru watched as Isao’s face changed.

“Shut up, Riichi! Why would you say that?” Daichi asked. “You know he likes her.”

“I was just kidding,” Riichi smiled.

“I don’t care. It doesn’t matter,” Isao said, in a calm voice.

“Stop lying to yourself, Isao. You should just go for it,” Daichi said.

“I’m not lying to myself, Daichi! What?! You want me to go for it and end up just like you?! No, thank you!” Isao snapped. “I don’t like her anyway!”

The group went silent.

“Isao,” Eito growled.

“You’re an asshole,” Riichi said, looking at Isao, who sighed.

Sesshomaru looked at Daichi. His disposition had changed entirely. He went from being all full of laughs and jokes to serious and melancholy.

“Why would you say that?” Eito asked.

Isao sighed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it.”

“You did, but it’s fine,” Daichi said. “It is what it is,” he said.

Isao sighed and looked at the flame.

The silence became awkward. Sesshomaru preferred being around his playful, stupid training brothers. He didn’t know how to feel or fit in with the awkward silence.

Daichi sighed, as he looked into the flames. “Do you remember Jaina… Sesshomaru?” he asked, not looking away from the flames.

“Should I know her?” he asked, not recalling who she was.

“Eh, he was probably doesn’t. I don’t think he was talking to us then,” Eito said.

Sesshomaru shifted his eyes. He felt like a fool.

“Eh, it doesn’t matter,” Daichi said. “I had been talking to this girl, Jaina, since we became official members of the troop. She wasn’t a nurse or anything like that, but she gave prescribed medications and herbs. I saw her a lot because I was usually asked to pick up my mother’s herbs and birth medications when she was having Saicho.”

Sesshomaru listened.

“We started talking and then we became a thing,” Daichi said, still looking into the flames. “We were together for decades… a few decades… We were happy… at least I thought we were.”

Riichi shook his head.

“…Next thing I knew, she’s with Oda,” Daichi continued.

“Oda?” Sesshomaru asked. The name rang a bell.

“…The motherfucker from Far Grounds, who was annoying as shit and looked like he had two pans slammed against his head,” Isao said.

Eito and Riichi laughed. “What?”

“Don’t tell me he doesn’t look like a flounder,” Isao said. “Seriously, he does.”

The group laughed. Even Daichi managed to chuckle a bit.

“He should be caught and flayed like a flounder too,” Isao huffed, with a serious look on his face.

Daichi sighed and looked down.

“Oda got injured during a mission a while back. I don’t remember what happened to him or whatever… all I know is that he ended up getting injured badly enough to need medical treatment. He was rushed to the physician and was out of commission for a full lunar cycle or two,” Daichi said, looking into the flames. “That was it, I didn’t think about it. Jaina mentioned that he was admitted and she was giving him whatever herbs and shit he needed, and that was that. I thought nothing of it. Life went on as usual,” he continued.

Sesshomaru listened and watched as Daichi breathed.

“Shortly after Oda returned to the troop, a rumor started going around that Oda had hooked up with Jaina or something,” Riichi said.

Sesshomaru glanced at Daichi would didn’t react.

“No one took it seriously at first because Oda’s ugly as shit and no one would ever think that (1) Jaina would ever cheat on Daichi; and (2) Jaina would ever give Oda a second glance as beautiful as she is,” Isao said.

Eito nodded.

“But, then the rumors started to get specific,” Riichi said.

“Specific?” Sesshomaru asked.

“Jaina has a heart-shaped birthmark on her upper inner thigh when she transforms into her humanoid form,” Daichi said. “How would anyone know that?” he asked, rhetorically, looking into the flames.

Eito sighed and glanced at Sesshomaru.

“I confronted Oda about it first before I even went to Jaina,” Daichi said, looking away. “…He didn’t even have to say anything,” Daichi breathed. “I knew it.”

Sesshomaru glanced at his other training brothers, who looked down.

“I don’t even really remember what happened. I just lost it,” Daichi said. “I… I don’t know,” he said, lowering his head.

“We got a bark call from Lieutenant Colonel Fumihiro to meet at the Pen,” Isao said. “When we got there, he explained that Daichi had been detained for an assault on both Oda and Jaina, and was being held at Kowai’s Bastille until further notice.”

Sesshomaru looked at his training brothers with a smirk before looking at Daichi. His smirk immediately disappeared as his eyes widened. They were serious.

“Yeah,” Isao said. “We thought it was a joke too.”

Sesshomaru was beyond flabbergasted. Kowai’s Bastille was a place no dog demon ever wanted to go. It was a high security fortress that housed the most dangerous dog demon criminals under harsh segregated conditions. Those who were admitted to Kowai’s Bastille rarely got out, if ever. They were dangerous and uncontrollable.

“It wasn’t that serious,” Daichi said, looking at Sesshomaru thinking of scenarios of what could have happened in his mind. “They only put me there because I’m considered a ‘top-ranking troop member’ since I regularly do missions with Tomoshiro, and they weren’t sure how I would adapt in regular detainment.”

Sesshomaru was speechless.

“Plus, I was only there for two days,” Daichi added.

Sesshomaru gave him a confused look.

“Tomoshiro took care of it,” Riichi said, with a sigh.

“Yeah,” Isao said. “Oda could have fucked up your whole life.”

“He did,” Daichi said, looking into the flames. “He has Jaina.”

“What happened?” Sesshomaru asked, unable to quench his own curiosity.

“Apparently, Daichi confronted Oda about Jaina. When he realized it was true –

“I beat him up so bad that he had to go to the physician,” Daichi interrupted Riichi to continue to the story. “I wanted him to go there. I dragged him there myself,” Daichi said, calmly, looking into the flames.

Sesshomaru glanced at Riichi, who nodded.

 “I walked in and demanded to see Jaina,” Daichi continued with a pause. “The way she reacted when she saw him…”

Sesshomaru looked at Daichi with wide eyes as he shook his head. He was startling as he spoke.

“I could have strangled her to death,” he breathed, not looking away from the flames.

Sesshomaru looked at his other training brothers, who shook their heads.

“I was so pissed, I… I just threw him at her,” he said. “Dead weight and all.”

“I couldn’t even believe it,” Riichi said, slapping his hands against his knees and shaking his head.

“She fell backwards onto the rack of medication and herbs, and he fell on top of her,” Daichi said.

Sesshomaru’s mouth opened. He couldn’t hide his shock.

“I didn’t even run. I just sat there and waited for them to get me,” Daichi said. “They took me to Kowai’s Bastille, but my father and Tomoshiro, as troop members worked something out. I was released after a day. I had to pay for all the destroyed medication though… which I’m still paying off.”

The group was silent.

“She was fine… Jaina…” Daichi continued. “I was concerned that I really hurt her… the way she fell and all, but she was fine.

“And Oda?” Sesshomaru asked.

“He lived,” Daichi said, still looking into the flame.

“They went on to live happily ever after together in that rundown shack that motherfucker calls a home,” Isao huffed.

Daichi sighed.

“Well, not happily ever after,” Riichi said, looking at Sesshomaru. “… At least not for her.”

“What do you mean?” Sesshomaru asked.

“Ever since the incident, Daichi had heard not a word from Jaina or Oda, but now… out of nowhere, she’s been flocking around.”

Sesshomaru looked at Daichi.

“She reached out to me,” he sighed. “She wanted to know how I was doing, what I’d been up to and–

“See, that’s what’s fucking him up!” Isao shouted, looking at Sesshomaru. “She chose that flounder… so, she needs to stay with that flounder!”

Daichi sighed, as the others laughed.

“She fucked up!” Isao said. “She left like the best being ever for the ugliest, most inept motherfucker this land has ever seen!”

“I don’t know what she sees in him,” Riichi said, shaking his head.

“His dick must be out of this world because he’s lacking everywhere else,” Isao said.

Sesshomaru raised an eyebrow and glanced at Daichi, who closed his eyes.

“Isao!” Riichi shouted, as the group gave him a shocked look.

“What?! It has to be! I don’t know for what other reason she would want to leave Daichi for that creep!” Isao continued. “He’s quiet as hell, clumsy as hell, boring as hell and ugly as hell on top of that! He has absolutely nothing else going for him that I can see, so it has to be that!” Isao bellowed.

No one said a word for a moment until Riichi spoke. “That’s not true,” he said.

“Like hell it’s not!” Isao snapped. “Oda absolutely sucks! That has to be it!”

Sesshomaru looked at Daichi, who’s eyes were still closed. That was alarming all in itself.

“Shut the fuck up!” Riichi mouthed at Isao, as he pointed to Daichi.

Isao looked at Daichi and sighed. He finally got it. Before he could open his mouth to smooth over his comment, Daichi spoke.

“My dick works just fine,” Daichi said, his eyes still closed.

“I’m sure it does, Daichi, but I think what Isao means is that maybe you weren’t using it the way she wanted you to,” Eito commented, innocently.

Everyone’s mouth opened in shock at Eito’s comment. Sesshomaru looked to the side and did his best to stifle a laugh. He missed how inadvertently funny Eito could be at times. In the corner of his eye, he could see Riichi covering his mouth, trying to do the same thing. The only two beings who did not find anything funny about Eito’s comment were Daichi and Isao.

“I wasn’t trying to say that!” Isao shouted at Eito, his face red.

Sesshomaru could hear Daichi breathe.

Eito gave Isao a confused look. “I heard you loud and clear, Isao. I know what you meant.”

Sesshomaru could see that Riichi wanted to jump in and say something, but he was still trying not to laugh.

“No, you don’t!” Isao snapped. “You’re putting words in my mouth!” Isao tried to speak out of his ass to smooth over the catastrophe of what was happening.

“Oh, no, Isao. Don’t throw this back on me,” Eito smiled. “You said that Daichi doesn’t know how to use his dick. That’s why they’re all laughing,” he said, pointing to Riichi and Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru swallowed and did his best to wipe the smirk off his face. Riichi couldn’t help but laugh.

“No one’s laughing,” Riichi said, in a laugh, glancing at Sesshomaru.

“I didn’t say that!” Isao shouted, looking at Daichi, who’s eyes were still closed.

“It doesn’t matter,” Daichi said, opening his eyes and looking at the group.

Isao sighed. “I know you still love her, but she’s trying to fuck with you and your emotions to wiggle back in,” Isao said, after a moment of silence. “Forget her and find someone else. She’s not worth it.”

Daichi sighed.

“Isao’s right. She’s not worth it. Look at you, you’re all messed up about her,” Riichi said. “Love isn’t supposed to be like this. It’s easier said than done, but just cut your losses and move on.”

“Yeah,” Eito said. “Start over. Maybe you’ll find someone as special as Pita,” he smiled.

The group looked at each other before everyone but Sesshomaru and Eito erupted in laughter. Even Daichi managed to let out a laugh. Sesshomaru and Eito gave each other confused looks.

“What’s so funny?” Eito asked.

“What you found, my friend, is someone very special, indeed,” Daichi smiled.

Sesshomaru was confused.

“What are you implying?” Eito asked, in a serious tone.

The three dog demons laughed even harder.

“You married your food,” Riichi said, in a breath, as he laughed.

Eito narrowed his eyes as the group lost it again.

“What?” Sesshomaru asked in a laugh, surprised by the statement.

“I didn’t marry my food,” Eito growled.

The group could barely breathe.

“What does that mean?” Sesshomaru couldn’t help but ask.

“What does Eito love more than anything?” Riichi asked Sesshomaru.

It was an easy answer. “Birds,” Sesshomaru said, before pausing. “Did you marry a bird?” he asked, slowly looking at Eito.

“HAHAHA!” the group laughed.

“She’s a Fairy Pitta demoness,” Eito said.

Sesshomaru couldn’t help but smile. He couldn’t believe it.

“Haha! Even Sesshomaru can’t hold it in. Even he knows it’s fucked up!” Isao laughed.

“I don’t understand. We’re really happy together,” Eito said, shaking his head. “I thought you liked her.”

“Well, yeah. She’s great… she just –

“She might not be all there in the head,” Isao cut off Riichi.

The group laughed as Eito’s face contorted and he barked at Isao.

“Look, look… we get that you’re happy, but –

“Doesn’t Pita find it alarming that she’s married to someone who used to catch and eat birds for sport?” Isao asked over Daichi.

Eito didn’t say anything.

“It’s just beyond me how she even brought herself to even be near you,” Isao added.

“She loves me,” Eito said.

“She clearly does. No one’s denying that. We’re just trying to figure out how,” Daichi said.

“She got up one day and made a conscious decision to marry and spend the rest of her life with someone who spent his whole puphood catching, slaughtering and eating a variety of birds,” Riichi said. “What about Tootie? You have a memento of the remains of the first bird you ever caught for goodness sake! How could she –

“That’s why I say she’s not right in the head,” Isao said.

“…Unless she doesn’t know,” Sesshomaru commented.

The group got silent before all eyes turned to Eito, who looked down.

“You bastard,” Daichi said, with a smile.

“She doesn’t know!” Riichi shouted.

Eito didn’t look up.

“Holy shit! She doesn’t know! Eito! What the fuck!” Riichi exploded.

“How the hell did you pull that off?!” Daichi asked.

“Wow,” Isao said.

“It never came up,” Eito responded.

The group laughed and shook their heads.

“Eito, buddy,” Daichi said, putting his arm around him. “Never bring it up.”

“…And if it does come up, you better lie like a motherfucker,” Isao added.

“Why? I won’t lie to her,” Eito said.

“Well, you fucking better lie to her if that shit comes up!” Isao shouted. “I’d bet everything I own that if she ever found out you used to eat birds –

“Wait,” Daichi held up his hands. “You don’t eat them anymore, right, Eito?” he asked.

“What does it matter if I do or not?”

Everyone’s mouth opened wide.

“Are you fucking serious?” Isao asked. “I’m beginning to think that you’re the one that’s fucked up in the head, Eito!”

“Do you not see the problem with that?” Daichi asked.

“Huh?” Eito looked at him confused.

“You’re eating a species of animals of the same nature as your wife,” Daichi said. “It’s like us going out and eating dog animals. Do you see how fucked up that is?”

Eito was silent.

“Never eat another bird again. Just kick the habit cold turkey… no pun intended,” Isao said.

“Eito, if Pita ever finds out, she’ll divorce you at the drop of a hat… or murder you,” Riichi said.

“…Or herself,” Daichi said. “I don’t know how she’ll be able to live with herself.”

“Stop,” Eito huffed.

“I’m not even joking about that,” Daichi said, shaking his head. “How will she ever be able to live with someone who knows what she tastes like?”

“But she knows that I know what she tastes like,” Eito said.

The group was silent for a moment before laughing.

“Not like that, you fool!” Daichi laughed. “I’m talking about her knowing that you know what her insides taste like. Her flesh down your stomach.”

“Oh,” Eito said.

“Are you starting to realize how fucked up this is now?” Isao asked.

Eito sighed. “I love her.”

“I’m sure you do… in more ways than she’ll ever know,” Riichi smirked.

“Stop,” Eito said.

“One day, we’ll see her walking around with a missing arm or a leg, courtesy of her hungry, in love husband,” Daichi joked.

“Stop,” Eito repeated.

“Why did we agree to stand up for him to marry her again?” Riichi asked.

“Why did we agree to stand up for you when you got married?” Eito snarled.

Sesshomaru looked at Riichi.

“I married Hanako,” Riichi said, looking at Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru didn’t respond.

“It took forever,” Daichi said.

“It did not,” Riichi huffed.

“I don’t know why you didn’t just do it sooner,” Eito commented.

“I didn’t know if… you know… she was…it… the one,” Riichi said, shrugging.

“You had three pups already before you tied the knot,” Isao said. “It’s not that hard to figure out.”

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened. “You had three pups?”

“Well, technically two. One’s still in the oven,” Eito said.

“Kenjiro and Asumi,” Riichi said. “Asumi, our daughter, was just born about five years ago.”

“She’s cute,” Daichi said.

“She’s another big blob of curls,” Eito smiled.

Riichi smiled. “Yeah, I guess so.”

“Congratulations,” Sesshomaru looked away into the flames.

“Hopefully, you’ll come and see her sometime,” Riichi said.

Sesshomaru breathed. There was so much he missed and deprived himself from all because of his past. Sitting there with his training brothers, his old friends, made him question how we went so long without them.

“Speaking of little girls, what’s the story with your little girl?” Daichi asked Sesshomaru, changing the subject and the off tension building in the atmosphere.

The group was silent as they waited for him to speak. They had been waiting for this answer all day.

“Her name is Rin,” Sesshomaru said.

“And… who is she?” Isao asked.

Sesshomaru was silent as he looked at the moon.

“Well, she clearly means something to you if you travelled so far to find Kureijī Tīsu to replace her teeth,” Daichi said.

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened as he looked back at Isao and Daichi.

“We’re not stupid. Her teeth are all jacked and missing in the front,” Isao said.

“Plus, Miroku and Inuyasha told us everything.” Daichi added.

“Inuyasha is a whole other story to discuss,” Eito said, with a nod. “He looks just like the General.”

Sesshomaru sighed.

“He sure as hell doesn’t act like him though,” Isao huffed.

“I think Isao finally got a taste of what it’s like to be around himself,” Daichi smiled.

“I’m not like that clown!” Isao shouted.

The group laughed, except Sesshomaru.

“Well, she’s fully mortal, so she can’t be yours,” Riichi said, continuing the conversation about Rin. “Did you vow to protect her for her mother’s sake?”

Sesshomaru raised an eyebrow.

“You can’t blame us for asking,” Isao responded to Sesshomaru’s reaction. “We don’t know if you shacked up with some human somewhere.”

Sesshomaru looked at him. “That’s ridiculous,” he huffed.

“Well, how the hell would we know, Sesshomaru?! You’ve been gone without a word for centuries! Who knows what you’ve been doing or who you are anymore?!” Isao snapped. “You’re like a fucking stranger,” Isao added, crossing his arms.

The group was silent.

Sesshomaru breathed. Isao was right. How would they know who he was? They were nothing more than strangers to him too… all from his own doing.

Sesshomaru took a breath and sighed. “Rin was a mortal I resurrected through the power of Tensaiga,” he said.

“Tensaiga? Your father’s sword?” Daichi asked.

Sesshomaru nodded before he took a breath and took the time to explain his time away from the Western Lands… Tessaiga, Jaken, Inuyasha, the Shikon Jewel, Tensaiga, Rin, Naraku, Kagura and Naraku’s other incarnations and Bakusaiga. He divulged everything and left nothing behind. He felt like he was talking for hours. He hadn’t talked so much in his life.

“Wow,” Riichi said, when Sesshomaru finished speaking. “You’ve really been busy.”

Sesshomaru didn’t respond. He just looked into the dying flames.

“We missed you,” Eito said. “It’s never been the same without you and Koji,” he sighed.

Sesshomaru breathed as the atmosphere got thick.

“You were in the Meidō,” Riichi said, breaking the silence. “You saw your father?” he asked.

“I did,” Sesshomaru said.

The group was silent.

“I know everything,” Sesshomaru said, before he recapped the events that occurred that fateful night of Koji’s demise and the days after.

“Sesshomaru, we –

“I was wrong,” Sesshomaru said, with a breath. “I was wrong.”

The group was silent as they looked at him.

“I should have known that you’d never betray me or think that I was just like what everyone else had thought of me… weak… a liability to the lands,” he said, looking into the flames. “I should have known you.”

No one said a word. They all looked at him, their mouths slightly ajar.

“Had I known you, I would have never sought to challenge that human in a pitiful attempt to feel… powerful. None of this would have happened… and Koji would be alive,” Sesshomaru continued, lowering his head. “I should have known my brothers.”

“If it’s anyone’s fault, it’s mine,” Isao said. “I –

“We all had a hand in this,” Daichi said. “We didn’t trust each other to know who we really were. We all lost Koji because of it.”

The group bowed their heads.

“I miss him,” Riichi said.

“We all do,” Isao nodded, with a sigh.

“I saw him in the Meidō too,” Sesshomaru said.

The group gasped. “What?”

“He watches over us,” Sesshomaru said. “… and Akihiko.”

The group was silent. No one knew what to say.

“I can only imagine what that pup’s going through right now,” Riichi said, breaking the silence.

“Yeah,” Eito agreed.

“He seems to be fine,” Sesshomaru said.

The group looked at him with confused eyes.

“What do you mean?” Daichi asked. “You left before all hell really broke loose. In all the commotion after you left, Akihiko ran off and no one could seem to find him.”

“…Not even Naoki,” Eito added.

“Naoki and Izo tracked Akihiko in the Western Lands,” Sesshomaru said.

“How do you know? You left?” Eito asked, still very confused.

“Within the Meidō, Koji could show me the present.”

The group gasped. “What?”

“Naoki reached Akihiko with Izo,” Sesshomaru continued. “He was distraught, yes, but Koji made a way for me to speak with him and Izo in the present.”

“What? You spoke with him?” Isao asked.

“How?” Riichi asked, looking at the others.

“I don’t know,” Sesshomaru said. “But, together we were able to try and explain Koji and who he was.”

“Wow,” Daichi said, his eyes wide.

“I’m glad you were there, Sesshomaru,” Isao said.

“What happened to Naoki?” Eito asked.

“He went back to check on Hiroto and the other pups,” Sesshomaru responded.

Riichi sighed. “I have to get back to Kenjiro… talk to him, but I don’t know what to even say.”

The group sighed.

“Saicho and Hiroto too,” Daichi said. “They’re going to be just as whirl winded as Akihiko.”

The group nodded.

“The truth,” Sesshomaru said, after a long pause. “That’s all we can say.”

“‘We?’” Eito asked.

Sesshomaru was silent before he breathed. “We,” he repeated.

The group nodded and looked into the flames.

“So… what now?” Riichi asked.

“What do you mean?” Daichi looked at him.

“What’s next?” Riichi asked. “What are you going to do now, Sesshomaru?”

“Will you be General now?” Eito asked.

The group was silent, as Sesshomaru looked into the flames.

“I don’t know,” Sesshomaru responded.

“The imp Jaken said that you were to build your own empire elsewhere,” Riichi continued.

Sesshomaru sighed before he spoke. His training brothers listened as he explained his initial need to get away and start over by building an empire of his own away from the Western Lands, and recapped and explained his conversation with Koji.

“At least you’re willing to see for yourself,” Daichi commented, when Sesshomaru finished speaking.

“Yeah,” Isao agreed.

Sesshomaru sighed and looked at the moon.

“So, you’re coming back… back home?” Eito asked.

Sesshomaru breathed. “Yes,” he said, not looking away from the moon.

The group was silent as they looked up at the moon with Sesshomaru.

“Sesshomaru?” Isao asked.

“What is it?”

“If you choose not to be General, what will you do?”

“Live on my own accord,” Sesshomaru said, with a pause. “The house my father built for his second wife Izayoi is here in this region shielded by a barrier. I suppose there.”

The group was silent. No one was sure what to say. Sesshomaru broke the silence as he discussed the search for his father’s house, the Southern Plains of Edon and his quest for the monks. He even discussed Bokusenō and delved into his training with him as a pup.

Sesshomaru spoke freely. It was as though learning the truth about everything, unlocked the part of himself that forced his friends away. It was as though he wanted to tell them everything, as though he was compelled to. It was as though no time had passed from when they pups at Far Grounds.

Sesshomaru and his brothers talked the whole night. Sesshomaru did most of the talking, while his training brothers did most of the asking questions.

The fire went out and Sesshomaru could see the sun beginning to peak near the mountains in the distance.

“Wow, we were up all night,” Daichi said.

“Just like old times,” Riichi said, with a yawn.

“Yeah,” Isao nodded.

Sesshomaru sighed. He missed those nights with his friends.

“Remember our vow?” Eito asked.

The group was silent. Sesshomaru remembered.

***

“Let’s make a vow,” Riichi said.

“A vow?” Daichi asked.

“What do you have in mind?” Isao asked.

“Let’s vow that... uh –

“We’ll always be friends,” Eito exclaimed.

“The best of friends,” Koji added.

“No matter what we go through or where life takes us, we’ll always be friends,” Riichi continued.

“We’ll always be there for each other and support each other… even if we’re stupid,” Isao added.

“And we’ll never turn our backs on each other, no matter what,” Daichi added.

“Forever,” Sesshomaru said.

“Forever,” the others repeated.

“This is our solemn vow,” Daichi said.

***

“Yes,” Daichi answered

“Is it still true?” Eito asked.

The group was silent. No one was sure of what to say. Could one night change everything… all the damage that was done?

“Some vows can never be broken,” Sesshomaru said, as he stood to his feet.

The group looked at each other surprised, before they all smiled.

“Where are you going?” Daichi called out to Sesshomaru, as he began walking off. “Are you heading back to the Western Lands?”

“I will be back,” he responded, looking back at the group. “I need to take care of something first.”

“We’ll wait for you,” Isao said.

Sesshomaru stopped walking. His automatic response was wired to say “no.” It should have been “no,” but instead he said, “I’ll meet you back here.”

Chapter Text

As Sesshomaru headed towards the main area of the village, he saw Jaken leaning against a tree trunk in the distance sleeping. In the air, he smelled Inuyasha’s scent.

“You don’t look as wrecked as you did before,” Inuyasha said, sitting on a branch of a relatively tall tree up above.

Sesshomaru looked up. “Where’s Rin?” he asked.

“She’s sleeping. She’s fine.”

“Sesshomaru turned to head towards Lady Kaede’s hut.

“She’s staying with us tonight,” Inuyasha said, halting his brother. “Apparently, Kaede didn’t want Rin at her hut while she treated Okahito and his father.

Sesshomaru raised an eyebrow.

“From what Miroku managed to tell me last night, Okahito’s father is a pretty violent man for an old guy,” Inuyasha added.

Sesshomaru looked back at Lady Kaede’s hut, as he processed Inuyasha’s comment.

“I told her that you didn’t mean to hurt her feelings,” Inuyasha said, watching his brother look towards Lady Kaede’s hut. “She didn’t accept the fact that you were born a moron, but she could accept that you didn’t mean to hurt her feelings.”

Sesshomaru huffed, not looking back at him.

“What did you even say to her?” Inuyasha asked, jumping down from the branch he sat on.

“I wasn’t talking about her,” Sesshomaru responded, frustrated.

“All I remember was Rin confirming Miroku’s theory that Okahito’s father had a hand in harming him before the villagers reached him. She was saying that he didn’t deserve what he was going through and that we should do something to help him. You got annoyed… as you usually do… and said ‘no,’” Inuyasha said.

Sesshomaru huffed and rolled his eyes.

“I don’t know. You two went back and forth about whether or not the kid’s treatment was warranted. You said it was, she said it wasn’t,” Inuyasha thought back. “Then, she went on about humans being evil and harm others for no reason… and then, you pissed her off when you said that the villagers attacked Okahito because he was ‘insignificant’ or something like that.”

Sesshomaru sighed as he thought on the conversation.

“Then, it got weird when she asked if you thought she was insignificant,” Inuyasha continued. “That’s what threw me for a loop. It was clear that you weren’t taking about her at all. I don’t know how she could have misconducted you talking about Okahito with her.”

Sesshomaru thought as he listened.

“They’re not going through the same thing,” Inuyasha continued. “Yeah, they’re both missing teeth, but she’s not being attacked by the villagers here. No one has ever raised a hand to her that I know of.”

Sesshomaru’s eyes widened as memories of Rin’s comments swirled around his head. “…But I don’t want to be with humans, Lord Sesshomaru! They are evil!”

Sesshomaru’s mind went back. “Where did you get those bruises? …You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to,” he remembered asking and telling her.

Sesshomaru gasped before turning towards the old vacant hut Rin was said to be in.

“What is it? Did you figure it out?” Inuyasha asked.

Sesshomaru ignored him as he walked towards the vacant hut.

“Sesshomaru! What are you doing? She’s still sleeping, you moron,” Inuyasha shouted at him, in a whisper, as Sesshomaru approached the door.

“Sesshomaru!”

Sesshomaru opened the vacant storage room and walked through. Scattered across the floor were a slew of sleeping bodies. He saw Miroku snuggled up next to Sango, Shippo against the wall, Kohaku in the middle of the floor, and Rin lying against the wall next to a window.

“Sesshomaru, what are you doing?” Inuyasha whispered to him, by the door.

Sesshomaru ignored him and walked over to Rin. He crouched down and touched her side. She moaned and rolled over.

“Rin,” Sesshomaru said to her.

She didn’t respond.

Sesshomaru gently shook her. “Rin,” he said again.

Rin moaned again. “Huh?” she asked, confused.

“Rin, wake up,” Sesshomaru said, in a low voice.

“You idiot,” Inuyasha huffed and shook his head.

“Lord Sesshomaru?” Rin asked, wiping her eyes and looking at him. “What are you doing here?”

“Come outside,” he said, looking into her eyes.

Rin gave him a confused look before rising from her bed mat.

Sesshomaru walked outside and across the way, past Jaken’s sleeping body.

“Sesshomaru! What’s wrong with you?!” Inuyasha asked. “I told you she was sleeping!”

“Go away, Inuyasha,” Sesshomaru huffed.

“Don’t tell me what to do!” Inuyasha hissed.

“Lord Sesshomaru?” Rin called from the doorway of the hut. She was wrapped in a blanket.

Sesshomaru turned to see her. “Rin,” he said.

Rin looked up and walked over to him. Inuyasha huffed and leapt away.

“Where’s he going?” Rin asked, watching Inuyasha disappear.

“Come here, Rin,” Sesshomaru called to her.

Rin walked over and followed him a few yards away and around the corner to the village’s communal well. He sat down by the base of the well and nudged his head to have Rin do the same. Rin breathed and followed his wishes. As she moved, Sesshomaru could sense and uneasy feeling about her. She was still hurt by what he had said.

Sesshomaru was silent as Rin looked down. He was so eager to talk to her. He wanted to know about her past at her old village… he needed to know… but he didn’t know where to begin. Maybe he should have waited for her to wake up on her own. At least then, he would have had time to figure out what to say.

Rin didn’t know what to say. She just sat and waited for Sesshomaru to talk. They sat in silence for what seemed like hours before Sesshomaru found the right words.

“Rin,” Sesshomaru began, looking into the distance.

“Yes, Lord Sesshomaru,” she responded, looking up at him.

“Do you like living in this village?” Sesshomaru asked.

“Mmhmm,” she nodded. “I really like it here,” she smiled.

“What do you like about it?”

Sesshomaru listened as Rin spoke about how she enjoyed living in the village. She spoke of Lady Kaede, spending time with her friends, helping Sango prepare for her new baby, and even doing her chores.

Sesshomaru nodded.

“Tell me about your old village,” Sesshomaru said, after a pause.

Rin was silent. Sesshomaru could tell that she either didn’t know what to say or where to begin. He breathed and did his best to help her collect her thoughts.

“Where did you live?” he asked, breaking her thoughts.

“I lived in a hut with my mother, father, and two older brothers, Kygo and Kai,” she said.

Sesshomaru glanced at her. It didn’t seem like she going to provide any more information than requested. He breathed and hoped she would take the bait.

“Kygo and Kai,” Sesshomaru repeated.

“Mmm, Kygo is my eldest brother,” she said enthusiastically, before sighing. “…was my eldest brother,” she corrected herself.

Sesshomaru sighed.  After Rin’s village had been attacked by wolves and she expressed no interest to return or seek any survivors, he was sure that her entire family had perished in the attack.

“Kai was born a few years after him. I was the youngest,” Rin continued.

Sesshomaru listened. He wasn’t sure how to propel the conversation, but was fortunate that he didn’t need to as Rin continued.

“I didn’t see Kygo a lot. He spent a lot of time working with Pa,” she said. “Pa was a collector. He collected and refurbished things no one wanted and made them new again. While Pa worked to restore the items, Kygo traveled all over to collect them.”

Sesshomaru listened.

“Pa made such nice things,” Rin smiled. “He made me a doll out of chopsticks once. I named her Hina.”

Sesshomaru glanced at her. It sounded odd.

“I spent a lot of time with Ma and Kai,” Rin went on. “When Ma wasn’t teaching me to do chores, she let me watch her make kimonos. She made so many pretty ones by hand with pretty patterns, colors and sparkles. I always liked the butterfly ones,” Rin smiled.

Sesshomaru watched as Rin’s face lit up when she talked about her mother’s kimonos.

“When I finished my chores, if I wasn’t playing with Kai, I would watch her cut fabric and measure kimonos on the women who visited our hut. She would let me help sometimes,” Rin said. “I liked wrapping and making bows with the sashes,” Rin laughed.

Sesshomaru glanced at her, as she laughed.

“Ma always used to complain that I couldn’t cut the fabric straight. She used to say, ‘It’s those bangs of yours. Let me cut them. If you want to be a seamstress one day, you cannot have any obstruction in your face,’” Rin mocked her mother’s voice. “I cried when she tried to cut my hair, so she put my bangs in a ponytail off to the side instead.”

Sesshomaru looked up at the side ponytail on top of her head. She always wore it. Sesshomaru had wondered why she liked her hair that way all the time. This was why. The style reminded Rin of her mother.

“Kai didn’t have a lot to do. He couldn’t help out,” Rin continued.

“Why not?” Sesshomaru asked out of curiosity.

“Kai was born with funny hands. They were bent and stuck in a locked position. He couldn’t open his hands all the way or use some of his fingers,” Rin said.

“Hmm,” Sesshomaru responded, looking out into the distance.

“He couldn’t really help anyone or play certain games with the other kids. He got made fun of a lot and spent a lot of time at home,” Rin sighed.

Sesshomaru was intrigued.

“I played with him a lot through,” she said, enthusiastically. “We used to sings songs together, rhyme, and do a whole bunch of other things. We had a lot of fun together,” she said, with a sigh.

Sesshomaru glanced at her when he heard her enthusiasm dissipated.

“When things started getting busy, Kai spent a lot of time alone,” she said.

“Alone?” Sesshomaru asked.

“Ma needed me to help more with making kimonos… I couldn’t play with him as much anymore,” Rin said, with a sigh.

Sesshomaru nodded.

“With nothing to do, and no one to play with, Kai used to make up stories,” Rin said. “He used to scare me a lot. He made up a lot of stories about pirates, demons, killer humans and scary animals that ate humans.  His stories used to give me nightmares,” she said.

Sesshomaru looked at her.

“I had to sleep in between Ma and Pa a lot because I couldn’t sleep. Kai thought it was funny and I told him that I hated him!” Rin said, in a bit of a shout that startled Sesshomaru. “…I didn’t really mean it though,” he added, with a sigh.

Sesshomaru remembered how upset Rin got when Inuyasha jumped into the Meidō Zangetsuha and Jaken told her that him trying to save Inuyasha was a ‘lowly matter.’ “I hated my brothers and told them that I hated them all the time, but I would give up anything to bring them back if I could!” Sesshomaru remembered Rin shouting at Jaken, before she broke down in tears.

“Kygo told me to try and ignore Kai. He said that whenever he told a story, I needed to remember that it wasn’t true,” Rin said. “It helped. I was able to sleep… but Kai got mad when I wasn’t scared anymore and started being mean. He didn’t want to play with me anymore either.”

Rin stopped talking. Sesshomaru looked at her. She seemed…stuck.

“Rin?” he asked.

Rin breathed and sighed.

“What’s wrong?” Sesshomaru asked.

“One day, one of the elder villagers said that bandits may be in the area and were raiding surrounding villages,” she said, in a low voice. “I was scared, but Pa said that it was best to ignore him.”

“What?” Sesshomaru couldn’t help but ask. That didn’t make any sense. Why would anyone ignore a threat like that?

“Pa said to ignore him because he was an old senile man,” Rin sighed.

Sesshomaru breathed. Senile or not, it was still very bad advice on her father’s part.

“After hearing the threat, Kai started making up stories about bandits being in the village. He would run inside and tell Ma and Pa and Kygo that he saw bandits approaching,” Rin said, with a sigh. “They took him seriously and always checked, but every time… it was nothing. One day after he did it again, Pa got upset and scolded Kai. He even struck him a few times. He said, ‘This is not a game! Our lives are on the line!’” Rin mocked her father’s voice. “I felt bad for my brother, but he deserved it,” Rin sighed.

Sesshomaru looked into the distance.