A General's Reasoning
By Shadow's Mirror
"My Lord, there appears to be a large number of youkai ahead. Rather surprising to see so many in one place around here." Jaken's voice was low and a little nervous. "Perhaps we should find another way through?"
That Sesshoumaru did not immediately dismiss his minion's worries was proof enough of the strength of his own concern about the unknown situation ahead. Not the slightest of frowns betrayed his thoughts, however, as he silently scanned the area ahead with barely a flicker of his eyes. His attention was caught by one particular figure and he spoke softly. "No. This is the battle we heard of last week."
Jaken blinked. "The one between those valley youkai you know and the mountain youkai? I thought that was up in the mountains somewhere?"
Sesshoumaru nodded very slightly. "The first battle was. It seems the second is to be here."
"Hm. I guess this must be the valley concerned, then. What do you wish of me, My Lord?"
A mere heartbeat's consideration was all that was needed. "Rin."
"Yes, Sesshoumaru-sama?" The little girl had been trotting around them happily, looking at everything they were passing, but now she obediently trotted back to the silver-haired Youkai Lord's side.
"Go with Jaken."
It was a familiar command that generally meant for her to go look for food for herself, so Rin nodded happily, not noticing the knowing look Jaken was giving their Lord. "Yes, Sesshoumaru-sama! Come on, Jaken-Sama!"
As the two headed off, Sesshoumaru spoke softly, so only Jaken with his youkai hearing could hear him. "She may approach when you return. They will have no interest in her."
"Oh yes, Sesshoumaru-sama! As you wish." Jaken nodded and followed Rin off to find her some dinner as Sesshoumaru continued on towards the youkai army's camp.
He had only gone a few more steps when the one he had spotted sensed his approach and turned.
The Youkai General's look of astonishment faded to a genuinely pleased smile as he moved to greet his visitor. "Greetings, Great Lord Sesshoumaru! This is a rare honour indeed."
Sesshoumaru nodded slightly in acknowledgement of that fact. "I received word of this matter. The mountain ones are causing trouble for you again?" He didn't really sound all that interested.
"Just a little. There's a small group stirring up trouble with everyone, including the human villages nearby. I thought we should step in before they got them so riled up that it created problems for everyone."
Another nod. "You do not expect it to be a long war, then?"
"Oh no. We nearly had them at the first battle, but we were on their own lands and they knew the area better than we did, because of it. This time we'll be meeting them on our lands. This will end things."
As the General enthusiastically launched into his plans for the upcoming battle, Sesshoumaru seemed to be barely listening, as if his questioning was due less to his interest in the upcoming battle and more for some other reason. Such as learning where it would be safe to travel.
While it was only meant to be a short battle, the Youkai General had planned his side of it so thoroughly that he was still talking almost an hour later, when he suddenly lost even the slight amount of attention his visitor was giving him.
Sesshoumaru turned his head only slightly, but it was enough to silence the one he was speaking to. Thinking the attack might have already begun, the youkai general looked to see what had caught the Great Youkai Lord Sesshoumaru's attention and then stared in shock.
A little girl dressed in a neat orange and white checked kimono was trotting towards them, a cloth-bound bundle in her arms.
A little human girl.
A little human girl being followed and complained to by none other than Sesshoumaru's easily recognised servant.
"Rin! Wait for me! Honestly, how can one human child move so fast? Rin! You cannot disturb Sesshoumaru-sama! I, Jaken, forbid it. Oh. Sesshoumaru-sama. Forgive me, Sesshoumaru-sama! The child would not listen to Jaken at all! Oof! Rin, why did you stop, you silly girl? I almost ran into you and who knows what Sesshoumaru-sama would have done to me if I had!" He shuddered at the thought.
Sesshoumaru ignored his servant and looked down at the child. "What is it, Rin?" The soft tone of his voice was almost as surprising to the watching general as the words themselves.
The little girl smiled up at the powerful Youkai lord without even a trace of fear. "Sesshoumaru-sama, Rin found these. Are they good to eat? Rin has not seen them before and Jaken-sama did not know either." As she spoke, the child carefully unwrapped her find to reveal several dozen wild mushrooms.
Jaken frowned at her. "Well really! I can hardly be expected to know every single type of fungus in every single forest!" He caught the faint flicker of Sesshoumaru's eyes towards him and immediately backed up a step. "But I can learn them! Yes! Yes I will learn them all!" He dropped to his knees and looked up with disturbingly wide eyes that had the general shuddering internally. "Oh please do not kill your most humble Jaken for not knowing everything there is to know about fungus, oh mighty Sesshoumaru-sama!"
Much to the general's surprise, and slight disappointment, Sesshoumaru again ignored his servant and focused on the child. He did not go so far as to bend down, but the faintest of frowns crossed his face as he studied the items in question. "Poisonous."
The little girl's bright smile faded to disappointment. "Oh. Thank you, Sesshoumaru-sama. Rin will throw them away." She turned to go but Sesshoumaru spoke again.
"No. Bring them. We are going now. There is a river on the other side of the forest."
The general blinked in surprise. There was something in the Great Demon Lord's tone that suggested… gentleness. Towards a human child? No, surely not. Yet the way the girl looked up at him, her smile so bright again as her eyes held such trust… Then the words sank in.
"You are leaving, My Lord? I thought perhaps…" He trailed off as Sesshoumaru glanced at him. It was only a glance, but he somehow knew it would be dangerous to go on.
"The Great Sesshoumaru-sama does not involve himself in petty squabbles between lower youkai!"
Jaken's voice was a little too confident. A little too smug. A little too annoying.
Surely Sesshoumaru-sama would not object if he hit his minion. Just once?
The servant seemed to know what that mild tone of voice meant and immediately cringed. "Forgive my impulsive reply, oh great Sesshoumaru-sama!" He bowed so low his nose touched the ground.
The general decided that a little humility might be in order to keep himself healthy as well and bowed in respect to the Great Youkai Lord. "Safe journey, Sesshoumaru-sama." He knew it was the right choice when the other nodded slightly before turning to go, the little girl and annoying green minion falling in behind him.
He watched as they headed off, his disbelief rising as the little girl's voice floated back to him, carried on the wind.
"Are there fish in the river, Sesshoumaru-sama?"
"Oh good! Rin is hungry." She looked at the bundle she was carrying. "Rin should throw these mushrooms away."
Sesshoumaru held his hand out to her and Rin looked up at him. "Sesshoumaru-sama wants Rin's mushrooms?" She looked worried. "But Sesshoumaru-sama said Rin's mushrooms are poisonous."
"Only to humans."
"Oh!" Rin smiled happily as she gave him the bundle.
A moment later, to the general's growing amazement and continued disbelief, a mushroom was silently tossed over Sesshoumaru's shoulder. It was met with an overjoyed squeal of delight from Jaken as he gave a little jump to catch it.
"Oh! Thank you, My Lord! Your humble servant Jaken is most thankful for this unexpected bounty." He took a bite. "Mmm tasty."
Sesshoumaru did not reply, but it seemed to the general that he might possibly have also been eating.
Shaking his head, the Demon General turned to organise his troops for the battle ahead, muttering to himself. "I guess that explains it. He keeps the kid around because she finds him snacks."