Sesshoumaru chuckled.

"Such audacity... Once again you presume to know, to understand…"

His claws crackled, glowing again as he drew back for a strike.

"The will of this Sesshoumaru is incomprehensible to the likes of you, filthy half-breed!"

Her powers flared in an instant, and she smeared her thick black and purple flames across his face as she twisted to dodge, the acrid heat from his claws just kissing her cheek as they missed her. She followed the momentum, letting it carry her over the edge of the cliff to the frozen riverbank below. A bed of purple flames softened her fall just enough, and she quickly scrambled to bury herself in the snow until she was certain he had left.

'You and your fucking mouth,' she chided herself.

Sesshoumaru snarled, rubbing his eyes against his sleeve to rid them of the flames. They clung stubbornly, blinding him and burning his nose, and took their time to dissipate. A quick glance over the cliff once they had shown no sign of the half-breed, and his damaged sense of smell couldn't pinpoint its scent; it had escaped.

Sesshoumaru glared at his own claws as if they had betrayed him. He would never admit, even to himself, why he hadn't followed through with the strike, why he'd knowingly aimed too low, but he did wonder why the creature had not used its lethal flames. Why these purple ones that did not burn? Did it fear to harm him and inciting an active hunt, or was it that the hanyou had not wanted to cause him injury at all?

He pushed the thoughts away. They were petty, senseless things, and he had no time to waste, especially not on a creature unwilling to harm a foe bent on its death. He took to the sky once more. After learning that the Sounga was lost to him, he'd re-doubled his efforts in search of his father's tomb and the Tessaiga. At least there was a clue to its location, and while Sesshoumaru had yet to parse the riddle out, he felt that he was close.

Kuroihi was sure she had frostbite somewhere as she trudged through the snow. Home was just around the corner now, and she could already taste that nice hot pot of tea she so craved. As she drew closer, though, she was met with the scene she always feared she would eventually come home to.

Blood splattered across the snow, cold and frozen over like the body that slumped lifelessly through her doorway.


She stood, blinking at the snow and frost covered body. He'd been dead for a while now, perhaps a day or so. She nudged him.

"Come'on, Jirou, get up…"

His whole body shifted, frozen solid.

'Gods, no, please…no… Why? WHY?!'

She ignored the burning in her eyes, examining the rest of the area to find his mate and fawnlings had suffered the same fate. All of them, strangely, were missing their eyes, same as the demons she'd killed when she'd left some time back.

It was her fault. She'd missed something. She'd allowed this to happen.

She carried each one of them carefully down to the clearing, burying them all together as best she could. She sat there in the snow for a long time, blinking at the headstone she'd placed even as the wetness in her eyes fell and froze on her face. Her skin was red and numb to the point that she didn't feel the cold anymore.

This was all her fault. It was always her fault.

"I'm so sorry Jirou. I..."

She tried to find something but could find nothing she could have done differently that would have prevented this.

"I'm sorry."

"Sorry for what?"

It was a female's voice, thick with a foreign accent.

Kuroihi blinked and glanced until she found the source. It was a small female in a general humanoid shape, though she was clearly not human judging from the amount of youki she had pulsing through her. Her clothing and armor further indicated her origin, and Kuroihi wondered absently what a person like her was doing here.

"Who are you?"

"Oh! Of course, my mistake."

She bowed, but in a different manner than Kuroihi was accustomed to.

"My name is Shoucheng."

"Shoucheng. Forgive me, but do I know you?"

She was in no mood for this.

"Oh, I would say not."

Her cheery smile did not fade. Kuroihi slowly rose from the snow.

"What is it you want?"

"Well, I had wanted you, but you see, you were gone when I came, so I had to wait. I don't much care for waiting."

It took her a moment, but Kuroihi finally put it together, and she suddenly wanted to throttle this female with her own insides. She forced herself to calm.

"You killed these people."

"Oh, no, I just took their eyes. Sometimes they die afterward, sometimes they don't. It depends on the creature, but really it was your eyes that I wanted, and now you're here."

Kuroihi frowned.

"My..eyes? What use could you possibly have for the eyes of a petty half-demon?"

"Ooooh, but you're not exactly petty, are you? Besides, your eyes can see the fire prism, and I want it."

"I don't know anything about a prism, but you need to leave before I decide you're not allowed to live anymore."

"But I can't go without your eyes, you see."

"And I will not relinquish them to one such as you."

"What a shame. Father will surely thrash me well for my failure." she whined.

"That is not my concern."

Kuroihi was growing tired of this woman's prattle, and deep inside, her demon demanded her death. Slowly she drew her tonfa.

"Tsk tsk, so barbaric, resorting to violence so soon. Ah well, I suppose I can take the eyes from your corpse, assuming there's anything left, that is."

Kurohi twirled her tonfa into a tighter grip, her youki wrapping them in spirals of her black and green fire.

Shoucheng giggled, reaching out with a single hand. Her palm sparked, engulfing her hand in ravenous black flames.

Kuroihi could only stare.

'What in the…?'