Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha or any of the characters depicted within the anime or manga.

Edited: Jan 16, 2004.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ Chapter 1: ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The Great Lord of the West reclined on an abundant heap of pillows deep within his opulent quarters. Business was done for the day, and the youkai relaxed ambivalently, looking through an old book written by one of his ancestors. The fireplace nearby roared with more than enough light to allow him to read. Of course, he could likely read in the dark if he had so wished. But no, he hadn't had the servants build that fire because he had noticed the gathering stormclouds outside. No. There would be absolutely no reason to do that.

As the rain began to fall, Sesshoumaru listlessly turned the pages of his book. He was reading. Yes. That is what he was doing. Not listening to see if the rain would get worse. No, he was reading because the words of his ancestors would be useful to him in the future.

The lightning began to hit all around the estate, followed by inevitable thunder. Even through his impressive pile of pillows, Sesshoumaru could feel the shake of the land. The air smelled charged as his senses perked up.

A small cry came from down the hallway.

Sesshoumaru had told Jakken that he kept the girl, Rin, in the room down the hall in case he would get hungry one night. Then the Great Lord of the West would not have to walk far for food. But, more and more, he found he could no longer convince -himself- of that fact. Then, he told himself that he merely liked to be able to pick up her scent. Being a powerful youkai, he liked to know where -his- things were. If he put her on the other end of the estate, she might wander out into the woods, and get herself killed. This was not an option because she belonged to him, and no one takes away the possessions of Lord Sesshoumaru.

The cry became slightly louder as the rains pounded the land around the estate. Suddenly, they became muffled, as if the person crying had forcibly shoved her face in a pillow or blanket to stifle the noise.

"Jakken," Sesshoumaru said tonelessly.

The lesser youkai appeared from a shadow. It was amazing how useful that annoying little servant could be sometimes.

"Fetch Rin," came the order. Jakken bowed quickly and headed down the hall. He returned moments later, leading the red-eyed little girl. Her hair was a mess, much of it stuck to her face from crying. Yet, the bleary-eyed girl kept her head demurely bowed. Even young Rin knew, one does not stare at Lord Sesshoumaru

'I bet master will give her quite a tongue-lashing for disturbing his reading,' Jakken mused inwardly.

"Jakken. You are dismissed for the evening."

The toad-demon bowed deeply and left, leaving the little girl standing in the foyer of the Great Lord's personal rooms. As the door closed behind her, Rin's face bowed even further. She wished desperately to apologize, but she knew it would not be prudent to speak before her master.

"Rin-pup, come," came the toneless voice. Nonetheless, Rin already felt better. He never used his nickname for her unless he was both alone -and- pleased with the state of affairs. Few people in the world could tell when Lord Sesshoumaru was pleased, possibly none besides her. He didn't ever seem to become -joyous-, exactly. He was merely pleased with things, or displeased with things. And what pleased him or displeased him could range from your tone of voice, to the sound your feet made while walking, to the smell of the plants you brought home to eat. Barely six years old, Rin already spent a good deal of her time keeping track in her head of the lists of things which pleased or displeased her master.

The little girl padded into the main room, her bare feet cold on the marble floor. When she finally saw her master, she walked towards him, head lowered.

Wordlessly, and without looking up from the pages of his book, he motioned towards his side laconically, as if flicking away a small insect. The small girl bit her bottom lip and crawled up onto the pile of pillows. As she did so, she could feel Lord Sesshoumaru's soft tail brush past her skin.

"You will sleep here, Rin-pup."

'So that I don't have to listen to your annoying crying anymore,' Sesshoumaru explained to himself inwardly.

The little girl wordlessly obeyed, wrapping herself around a particularly lush red velvet pillow. She slept soon after, even though the rain continued to torment the lands around them. Lord Sesshoumaru turned the page of his book, listening to the sounds of her breathing. It was rhythmic, and rhythmic things could be calming, even to a youkai. After a while, he let his tail curl over the girl. It had been an accident, of course, but the warmth of her body suited him.

On that night, Lord Sesshoumaru decided to keep the girl that he had found several months previous. Certainly, humans were lower beings, unworthy of your attention in any sort of meaningful way, and often food. But, it could not hurt to keep one as a -pet-. Possibly it could be taught useful tricks, ones that Jakken often botched and other servants should not perform, such as mending his clothes, or caring for his hair. And, if she ever became infirm or too unruly, he would put her out of her misery quickly, as any good pet-owner might do.

Yes. That is exactly what he would do.

In the morning, before Rin awoke, Sesshoumaru summoned Jakken once again. The toad-demon grew a bit wide-eyed at the sight of the child still laying among the pillows. What had occurred here? Perhaps his Master had beat her until she passed out and then left her there. Yes. That must be it. Strange, though, Jakken noticed he didn't smell any blood.

"Take Rin to meet Reiko and Meiko this evening," the youkai lord ordered, as he stood looking out of the giant glass doors which led to one of the many gardens on his estate.

Jakken, who had been in Sesshoumaru's service long enough to understand the meaning of this command, immediately stuttered in response, "Demo...master...you intend to keep..."

Sesshoumaru raised one of his clawed fingers slightly to signal that his servant stop speaking. After a moment of silence, he continued, "I intend to keep it as a pet."

Jakken wasn't sure he understood, but that at least put the girl's status far below even the lowliest household servant. Perhaps his master merely found it amusing to keep a human pet the way humans had kept dogs at pets. Hopefully, at least, his master wouldn't take up raising a stable of stinky humans.

"As you command, master."


"Rin. Do not dawdle. I've got more important things to do this evening," Jakken stated sourly.

Rin hadn't meant to fall behind. She had merely never seen a house this large. The estate sprawled beyond her comprehension, so vast that she worried she might get lost. Plus, it seemed filled with beauty beyond comprehension. Every hallway, every room, had been so laviously furnished that Rin felt her eyes might explode. So large, but she hadn't really seen anyone besides Jakken-sama or Lord Sesshoumaru.

"Rin is sorry, Jakken-sama." The girl broke into a run to catch up to the toad youkai.

Finally, they reached a set of doors at the end of a long, dark, hallway. Jakken knocked firmly, but did not wait to be allowed inside.

"Reiko! Meiko!" Jakken commanded as Rin looked around. The place seemed like a large storeroom. Trunks, bins and large jars stood everywhere, hardly organized.

Suddenly, a figure appeared on top of one of the trunks. Soon after, it was accompanied by another similar figure. Rin peered at the strange creatures which resembled each other so perfectly that they must be siblings. Both stood taller than both she and Jakken, and seemed about the size of a pre-teen human. One had silver hair in a low ponytail, and black stripe markings on its face around the eyes. The other had the opposite, black hair in a high ponytail, and grey markings around its face. Both sported bushy black and grey striped tails.

"Jakken-sama. What can we do for you today?" chittered the black-haired one cheerfully.

Jakken put his hand on the back of the child and shoved her forward rather forcibly. "This is Rin. Lord Sesshoumaru's pet."

"Ah! A new addition to the household. Excellent Jakken."

As the pair of raccoon-youkai climbed down from the trunk, Jakken turned to Rin and stated, "Reiko and Meiko are Lord Sesshoumaru's chatelains. Since I assume you are too stupid to understand what that means, I will explain. They procure and care for all the things you see within this estate. Every futon, every vase, every piece of art, every candle is under their care. They make sure everything necessary to the functioning of this estate is brought here and available for Lord Sesshoumaru's use. Do you understand?"

"Rin thinks she understands, Jakken-sama."

"Good. Now. If you should need something, you should tell Reiko and Meiko. They will procure it for you. I stress -need-. All the accounts are approved by either Sesshoumaru-sama or myself. Frivilous requests will not be tolerated. Understand?"

"Hai, Jakken-sama."

"Fine. I will leave you here to become aquainted," Jakken said as he walked out the door. He had far better things to do with his time than attend to the needs of some pet.

As soon as he did, Reiko and Meiko pounced towards the little girl.

"Hi Rin-chan. I'm Meiko!" the silver haired one said in a bubblingly cheerful tone. "And this is my brother Reiko!"

"Oooo. Sister," said the other twin, curling his hands and setting his face on top of them, "Look at her clothing. Oh no. So dirty. Lets get her a new dress!"

Rin couldn't help but giggle as the two raccoon-youkai both chittered at each other in their private animalistic language, and then rain off to dive into various trunks looking for something suitable. They soon returned with a deep blue yukata with a yellow sash, as well as an orange and peach checked yukata with an olive sash.

Reiko and Meiko turned out to be extremely helpful in getting Rin oriented to the estate. As they fetched a few things for her room, they cheerfully explained that the household had several other youkai servants. But, most of them were not only noctournal (that means they only come out at night, Rin) but also knew that Lord Sesshoumaru believed his servants should not only unheard, but also unseen. It was unlikely Rin would run into any of them, since she would mostly be asleep while they were about, but if she did, she should bow as deeply as possible and then leave them be.

"Also, you should never go outside the estate walls. There are many fields and gardens and groves here, plenty of room to roam, but outside the walls you could get hurt or get eaten by one of Lord Sesshoumaru's many vassals!" Reiko said, holding up a small comb trimphantly, his sister's tail flicking from side to side next to him as her upper body stayed thrust into an overloaded trunk.

"Rin thanks you sooooo much, Reiko-sama, Meiko-sama."

"Oh sure, Rin-chan! You come back whenever you need -annnnything-."

With that, Rin attempted to bow, almost spilling some of the things with which the raccoon-youkai had overloaded her arms.

Finding her room again, however, wasn't quite as easy. It took her late into the evening until she finally stumbled upon the correct route by chance. Falling onto her bed, her new things scattered around her, Rin couldn't help but think how absolutely lucky she had been to find Lord Sesshoumaru.


"Rin picks the flowers, la la la. Rin picks the flowers, la la la."

Above, from one of the estate's room, Lord Sesshoumaru gazed out on the his lands, and of course, his pet. Over the past two years, she had grown some. An expected course of events. But, she had stayed obedient and faithful. Even when they went out to patrol his massive lands, she rarely strayed more than a few yards from his side unless ordered to do so.

Would she change with age, Sesshoumaru wondered. Were she to become anything like that human girl who followed around his half-youkai brother, stubborn and loud, he would certainly be unable to keep her. That just would not be fitting, to have some spoiled human woman roaming around the estate, trying to dictate things to the youkai living there. No, as long as she understood her place, things could continue as they had.

Last night had been another stormy one. No longer did he have to send Jakken to fetch Rin on such nights. The girl would pad down the hall of her own accord, and sit silently outside of his door until he commanded her to enter. A few times, he had never given the command, for he had been -far- too busy to do so. It was -not- because he wanted to see what she would do. Would she try to enter his room of her own accord? Would she plead for him to let her enter? Or would she go back to her own room and hide until the storm had passed?

But, in the mornings after the rains, he would find her still there, curled up beside his door, sleeping soundly.

"Rin catch the butterfly!"

"Rin!" Sesshoumaru said firmly, looking down from his balcony into the garden below. "Come."

The little girl found her master in his quarters, sitting at a low table. He appeared to be inspecting some metal objects on the table, knives perhaps. At his side lay an ivory comb. Rin knew this meant she was to brush his hair out.

Taking her place behind her master, she began to comb his long white pools of hair softly. She took great care in every task she had been assigned, Sesshoumaru noted. In brushing his hair, she never pulled too hard and moved quickly out of the way if he moved his head or changed positions.

"Rin-pup, tell me what you know of humans."

Abject fear suddenly permeated Rin's scent. The girl tensed for a moment and removed the comb from the youkai's hair. Sesshoumaru wasn't particularly sure he liked this smell on Rin. Generally fear suited humans, but Rin's natural scent seemed less invasive and alarming.

"Humans are bad, Sesshoumaru-sama."

"But, you are a human, Rin-pup, are you also bad?"

The girl had to think on this for a few moments before replying. "No. Rin knows that humans are too stupid to realize that they cause most of their own problems by making war with the youkai, by trying to take their lands or their things. Because humans are...hmm...word word word," Rin stopped for a moment trying to recall the big word Jakken had used about her that one time, "...rebellious. They don't know the right way of things. So they hurt themselves and each other and the land!"

Sesshoumaru contemplated this in silence as he lifted one of the blades and lifted it to his lips, licking the dull side quickly to coat it with his scent, as someone from the modern world might lick an envelope. The knives were traditional gifts that he would send Jakken to bring to the leaders of the youkai tribes that lived within his land. If they accepted the gift, then it was understood that they accepted Sesshoumaru as the lord of the land for yet another year. Refusal of the gift meant they wished to challenge his authority. So far, in his years as Lord of the Western Lands, no one had ever refused the gift.

Few people understood the full implication of being a noble youkai lord, especially not that half-wit brother of his. To rule your people, to keep the land safe and at peace, his vassals had to have faith in Lord Sesshoumaru's strength. Not only his strength as a warrior, but effectiveness as a leader and diplomat. They had to believe he would settle any problems brought before him fairly, justly. His stupid brother believed that he had wanted the Tetsusaiga merely for its power. But, this was untrue. He wished the sword so that he could use it to help his vassals. The stronger he was, the more the lands would be at peace.

And Rin seemed to be the only creature who understood this concept. The humans did not allow themselves to be ruled properly, wanting greedily to usurp the lands from the older and more knowledgeable youkai. They offset the balance of the world with their willful and greedy ways, causing their own pain.

Rin began to hum quietly to herself for a few moments until she realized she was being noisy. She was a remarkably cheerful pet. Even when she had been kidnapped, she seemed untraumatized by the event afterwards. When she did something that annoyed him, he rarely had to correct her more than once. She seemed quite adaptable, as well. Although she took to the outdoors and their patrols well, she also performed more tedious tasks with extreme patience and care. Perhaps she could be made even more useful to him.

"Rin. Come and sit here. Hand me those sheaths one by one."

"Hai! Sesshoumaru-sama."


The next morning, Sesshoumaru summoned Jakken.

"Teach Rin to read."

The toad-demon shifted his weight uncomfortably, but knew better than to question his master.

"What is it, Jakken?"

"If your Lordship allows her to read, she may get -ideas- from those books and..."

Sesshoumaru looked up from his position near the fireplace. He hadn't thought of that, but he couldn't let the inferior youkai know. "If she begins to have questionable ideas, then set her straight, Jakken. She is to live here, and it would be unseemly if creatures under my command were useless layabouts who spent their entire days picking flowers. She may organize my books and scrolls. Or perhaps spend her time taking dictation, if I need. Unless -you- would prefer to do these things, Jakken?"

Jakken scowled. Of course not. He much prefered being sent as an emissary to the various youkai tribes or assisting Lord Sesshoumary in managing the estate and affairs of the lands. Mere secretarial work was -far- beneath his station.

"As you command, Lord Sesshoumaru."


That same morning, Rin awoke from her slumber with a wide yawn. Today she would have yet another big adventure. Reiko had told her how flowers could be pressed between the pages of a book so they would dry and could be kept a very long time. Rin wanted desperately to try it out.

The diminutive human rubbed her eyes and stumbled to her wash basin which some unseen youkai servant had refilled during the night.

"Scrub scrub. Wash wash. Clean face for Rin!"

Something caught the corner of Rin's eye. Yellow. Something yellow. The little girl turned and saw a bright yellow-covered book. On the front a picture of a butterfly had been painted in silky blues. Rin looked at it wide-eyed, and then noticed a piece of parchment sticking out of the side. She pulled the paper out and examined it carefully. Was it? Yes it was! It was Lord Sesshoumaru's wax mark, the same one she had seen him put on so many letters.

Rin hugged the book to her chest for a long time before leafing through the pages. Every single one had a drawing of another butterfly accompanied by text. So many butterflies! She would have to find every single one.


The first few months of teaching Rin to read proved difficult. The child, Jakken observed for the millionth time, had an utterly rambunctious nature that seemed only controllable by his master. However, after Jakken revealed that it was Sesshoumaru himself that had commanded she learned to read, the tiny human took to the task with such zest that even the toad-youkai had to admit she surpassed expectations.

They had fallen into a good routine. He would teach her in the mornings until she became too restless, and then he would let her outdoors. After some time, he did not even need to actively teach her any longer. Jakken would merely stop by in the late morning and ask her if she had any particular questions, which she always did.

"Jakken-sama, how many trees are there?"

"Jakken-sama, how is cloth made?"

"Jakken-sama, why don't the stars fall down?"

"Jakken-sama, what do tigers eat?"

Rin favored books and scrolls about nature, and tended to shy away from any books written about humans. This seemed suitable enough to Jakken, since tedious questions about humans would be most annoying.

Rin had taken, as well, to origami. Jakken highly regretted allowing her to read -that- book, since he worried constantly that she might try to cannibalize the priceless books and scrolls of Lord Sesshoumaru for her silly paper creatures. But, when the absurd child handed him a paper frog one afternoon, a smile of delight across her face, he decided that perhaps the small expense of of origami paper could be added to the household account. Besides, the task kept the girl quiet and from running around obnoxiously, and that was all that really mattered.


Time passed. Seasons changed quickly. Sesshoumaru found that he favored winter now, no, he had always favored winter. The end of the cycle of life had always intrigued him. Few creatures truly seemed to contemplate winter properly. Humans feared it as a time of hardship. Other, more enlightened, creatures saw it as a time of hibernation. But he knew it as a test, a test that would serve to re-balance the lands. Some would survive, and some would return to the cycle. It was a challenge that nature issued every year to her creatures, and Sesshoumaru never disregarded a proper challenge.

Yet, these winter days passed in deep contemplation also brought a new sense of peace to the great youkai lord. He told himself that it was because wintertime settled the lands, as if the snow had a calming effect. Any creature with any sense would know that warring during winter was foolish. And since many youkai hibernated or became less active during the winter, there were less conflicts and problems to which he would need to attend personally.

Lord Sesshoumaru contemplated this as he stared into fireplace. These evenings passed so pleasantly. He was pleased with the peace he had wrought from his lands with such diligent work. His father would be impressed.

"Come, Rin."

She had been standing outside his door for some seconds now, he noticed. This was not unusual. These winter evenings had become far too cold for her frail human body, and since her room had no place for a fire, Sesshoumaru had taken to allowing her to spend her evenings in front of his fire. Winter's challenge, nature's attempt to rob him of his pet, had been overcome.

The human girl entered carrying her blanket and a few sheets of origami paper. After bowing deeply to her master, Rin took her place by the fire. Talking, she understood, would be uncalled for. Lord Sesshoumaru had been quite gracious enough to allow her the warmth of his fire. Annoying him with some trivial chatter would earn his ire, and rightfully so.

Sesshoumaru, who had already been looking in the direction of the fire, regarded his pet. She was already as tall as Meiko and Reiko. With those long legs, she could easily outrun Jakken, but tended only to do so if punishment were to be doled out by his staff. In the past six years, she had grown less rambunctious, less likely to chatter nonsensically to herself, quiet...but not devious or underhandedly so.

"Rin-pup, how fare your studies?"

Rin looked up from from a half-folded origami creature. "They fare well, Sesshoumaru-sama. Jakken-sama has Rin reading a book about the ways of the fox youkai. Rin finds that the noble youkai of the fox know a great many clever things. Rin hopes she shall have the honor of meeting one, one day."

Sesshoumaru curled his lips only slightly upward. Anyone else would likely not even noticed the faint smile which graced the stoic countenance. The girl smiled wildly in return and bent her head to continue her project.

"When spring comes, this Sesshoumaru must make a great journey to the East lasting several months," the youkai pronounced, looking again at the fire.

"May Rin attend Sesshoumaru-sama on his journey?"

"No," came the reply. The tone was neither harsh nor regretful, merely final.

For several moments, Rin looked quietly into the fire. Sesshoumaru inhaled the scent of her sadness. Like a good pet, she wished to follow her master, of course. That was all.

"Then Rin shall, for the first time, not look forward to the coming of the springtime."


On the pronounced day, Rin awoke far before the sun came up. She was unsure that she had even slept. Throughout the night, she had tossed and turned, with dreams and nightmares she believed almost forgotten. Since the time she had found Lord Sesshoumaru, she had never been away from him for more than a day or two.

"This journey must be extremely dangerous," she whispered to herself. Usually, she had been allowed to accompany her master and Jakken in patrols and on short journeys. But this one must be something more. Perhaps Lord Sesshoumaru would go to fight another youkai that had challenged him. Perhaps he would have to deal with some human force. Of the two, the latter worried her more.

After washing and nibbling a few nuts and a bit of dried gourd as a breakfast, Rin headed down to check on the pack animal which Lord Sesshoumaru would take with him for the journey. Afterwards, she headed back up to the estate-proper, to Jakken's quarters.

"You sent for Rin this morning, Jakken-sama?"

"Yes. I, too shall be travelling with his Lordship. So, you shall have to care for yourself whilst we are gone. Try not to get in too much trouble, but...should your simple mind become confused about something, Reiko and Meiko shall be available to set you straight."

"Thank you, Jakken-sama. Eh...uh..." Rin put her finger to her lip in thought.

"Yes, child, what is it now?"

"May Rin see Sesshoumaru-sama and Jakken-sama off on their journey later? As far as the walls of the estate?"

Jakken rolled his eyes. "If you simply -must-. Now, go and attend his Lordship, and assist him in any preparations he might need. And -try- not to annoy him, his mind is on the important matters which this trip concerns."

"Yes," Rin said, bowing slightly, "Thank you, Jakken-sama."


Sesshoumaru turned the paper dragon over in his hand as he walked. She had placed it among his things as she packed them. A dragon. He considered her gesture and found it slightly amusing. The human child wished to give -him- protection, of all things. The magical power of dragons had surely been something she had read about. But, this dragon was neither real nor did Rin possess any magic with which to enchant it. It was, simply, as it looked, a paper dragon which could afford no protection.

She had followed them to the wall of the estate, silently. Sesshoumaru, again, smelled the sadness that wafted from her like the coming of autumn. At the gate, she stopped, knowing that to pass beyond without his consent would be incorrect. No goodbyes were exchanged. The youkai lord had neither looked back, nor had she called out his name, or pleaded for him to reconsider. But he was well aware that she stood at the gates long after they had passed beyond the limits of her human sight.


Spring passed languorously for Rin. The thirteen year old spent her days in the easternmost garden of the estate, near to the same gate through which Sesshoumaru and Jakken had passed to begin their journey. Since the walk back to the main house took almost a half hour, Rin would bring her lunch, or would sate her hunger with whatever fruits or berries she could find nearby. At times she would fish, or read a book she had pulled from Lord Sesshoumaru's massive library, but mostly she found herself laying in the fresh springtime grass, staring up at the clouds.

Certainly, she had grown used to caring for herself, for spending time with only her own company. It was not as if those journeying had previously spent such an incredible amount of time speaking with her or playing with her in any sort of way that might imply companionship. Nonetheless, she had known that both Lord Sesshoumaru and Jakken were nearby should she wish to be in the presence of another.

When the sun would dip below the horizon, Rin would gather her things and return. She spent her evenings now with the twin raccoon youkai, who seemed to enjoy her presence. Their pleasant chatter took her mind off her absent master. Sensing this, and always glad to have an extra pair of hands to assist them in their duties, Reiko and Meiko eagerly taught the human girl the intricacies of the duties of a chatelain.

"See this thread here? Yes. So fine that it is almost invisible. It can be used for repairing elaborate tapestries," Reiko would explain.

"These vases come from a tribe of water youkai who live far within the barren mountains to the south. The water within them is so pure that even a man dying of thirst needs only drink a few sips to replenish his body," Meiko would point out.

"Oh look, Rin. These are the golden geta of a famous youkai noblewoman of Lord Sesshoumaru's ancestry. Would you like to polish them?" Reiko would ask.

And it was in such a manner that time passed, the blooms on the many spring trees growing from buds to heavy flowers. The fawns of the early season found their legs and began to creep into groves alone, testing their confidence. Brisk days grew warm and heavy, and the scent of the earth turned full and heady.

But, one evening after an afternoon of springtime storms, Rin did not arrive at the storeroom as the sun set. The twin youkai thought nothing of it. Perhaps she had merely become engrossed in a book and lost track of time. But as the evening continued, and Rin still did not arrive, the two chatelains became nervous.

"Rin-chan would certainly send word if she were not going to come and visit this evening, don't you think, Meiko?" Reiko asked his silver-haired sister.

"It really isn't like Rin-chan to cause us so much worry," Meiko conceeded.

"Perhaps she has fallen from the ladder in the library and hurt her leg!"

"No, no, I doubt that could be so. She has always been adept at climbing trees. Why, you know she climbs to the tops of the piles of things in here with much ease."

Soon after, the two chittering youkai decided it would be best to attempt to find Rin. They searched high and low within the house, finding little to betray that the girl had recently been there. However, when Reiko stepped out into the near-courtyard, to see if perhaps Rin had gone to watch the fireflies there as she would when younger, the black-haired youkai caught the merest tendril of Rin's scent.

And it spoke of pain.

"Meiko, Meiko. Come quickly!"

"Yes brother?"

"Do you...can you smell?"

The other raised her nose into the air briefly as her eyes widened. "Quickly. Let us go..."

They found Rin near the eastern gate, her clothes soaked-through from the massive storm which had drenched the area earlier in the afternoon. The small prone form of Rin lay in a puddle of mud, her skin bordering on greyish, her hair tangled and stuck to her young face.

Neither Reiko nor Meiko had even considered the possibility that she might stay out when a storm approached. The female youkai crouched down and put the back of her hand to the girl's neck.

"Quite hot."


"Aye. Fetch a cart so we might bring her inside. She must be taken out of these wet things immediately."


"Rin," the voice said calmly. Rin broke from her reverie. That particular violet had been so fascinating that she hadn't realized she'd fallen far behind.

Lord Sesshoumaru and Jakken had gone far up the path. Her little legs bolted. She ran towards them as they continued on their journey. But despite the fact that she went as fast as her legs could go, and Lord Sesshoumaru walked only at a normal gait, she could not catch up.

They disappeared from her sight just as she finally worked up the courage to scream "Wait!"

Lord Sesshoumaru was gone. Rin felt her insides burn as she collapsed on the wooded path in a black void of despair.


"Ill?" Lord Sesshoumaru repeated as the raccoon youkai in front of him nodded nervously.

"Yes, Sesshoumaru-sama. A spring storm came and Rin stayed outside during it. We found her in the easternmost garden with a terrible fever, very near to death," Reiko admitted somberly.

'A storm?' Sesshoumaru wondered to himself, 'Rin outside during a storm. Indeed the child is more foolish than...' His thoughts were cut off by a more pressing question:

"And now?"

Reiko lowered his head, as well as his eyes before answering, "As far as we can tell, she is through the worst of it, your lordship. The fever has lessened somewhat, but we are unable to persuade her to eat."

With an impeccably minute nod the of the head, Lord Sesshoumaru pronounced, "You are dismissed."

"Thank you, your lordship." And with that, the racoon youkai was gone.


Rin awoke covered in sweat, laying on her side. A slip of a moon could be seen through the tiny window in her bedroom, casting only the palest light. Rin looked at the moon in wonder, would its pale light be guiding her traveling master even now?

Rin moved one weak hand to brush away some of the hair that had become stuck to her face and then rolled onto her back, staring at the ceiling beams listlessly. Perhaps in a few minutes she could gather enough strength to walk across the room and fetch herself a glass of water. That is, if she didn't fall back asleep before accomplishing this task.

"You are awake," a toneless voice remarked.

Rin smiled to herself. Oh, another hallucination, another dream. Carefully and with great effort, she pushed herself up on her elbows to peer into the darkness of her room.

Sesshoumaru stepped out from the shadows, his flowing garments swaying softly as he headed towards the girl's bedside. Amber eyes which all but glowed in the waning moonlight peered down at Rin as if in question.

"Sesshoumaru-sama?" Rin's dry lips whispered. Perhaps she had hallucinated him because the moon marking on his forehead resembled so closely the moon within the sky.

The silver-haired man nodded slightly. Crouching beside her futon, Sesshoumaru turned his hand over. For a moment, Rin believed he might slap her, but then she felt the cool relief of the back of two of his fingers on her forehead.

"Your trip went well, Sesshoumaru-sama?" Rin finally managed in a weak voice as his fingers lifted from her skin and returned to their usual spot clutching the tail slung over his shoulder.

"That is not your concern, Rin-pup," he replied firmly, but without anger. Soon after, Rin felt a strong hand slipping underneath her, lifting her upwards into a sitting position.

"You must eat," Sesshoumaru commanded, and for the first time since she awoke she noted the sweet smell which had permiated her room. Turning her head slightly, she saw the small silver tray which had been placed beside the head of the bed. On it, steam rose from a small wooden bowl.

"What...is...?" Rin murmured as she struggled against heavy eyelids. 'Of course, she would not know about something so simple as soup,' Sesshoumaru thought to himself, 'Her entire life's diet has consisted only of fruits and nuts, berries and the occasional fish. The idea of cooking such strange concoctions would be as foreign to her as it is to me.'

The youkai lord dipped a porcelain spoon into the bowl and brought it to Rin's lips, "It is called 'soup', Rin. It will assist you in becoming well."

Trusting in her master's words, Rin sipped the thick broth that had been brought to her lips. The warmth slid down her throat and settled in her stomach. The next few minutes were spent in silence, with Sesshoumaru spooning the liquid into the girl. For once the young lord felt some small threadbare gratitude that in his youth he had known the human woman who his father took for a second wife, and had observed her human ways. Nonetheless, human remedies could not be left to chance, and Sesshoumaru had added a few magical herbs of his own to the concoction.

Halfway through the bowl, Rin eyes sunk closed. Barely audible even to his youkai ears, the girl whispered, "May Rin sleep now...Sesshoumaru-sama?"

"Yes. Sleep now."

Once again, a firm hand behind her back, and Rin had been brought down from her sitting position. Sesshoumaru sat looking at his pet for some time, watching her rhythmic breathing as he had done so many nights ago when she first came to his estate. She was now, as she had been then, ever-loyal and obedient. But the spark of wildness, her ever-burning flame for life, that which made her -Rin- seemed so distant now. The thought of losing the creature which had from their first meeting only ever sought to be by his side cause his mind to feel heavy and his chest constricted. Some emotion heretofore unknown to the youkai lord must be attempting to make its presence known.

Before it could do so and damage some part of his soul, Sesshoumaru stood and departed the room.


The next night, Rin was able to eat the entire bowl of soup. And the night after that, she fed herself. By the fourth day, she was once again strong enough to go into the courtyard and sit among her beloved flowers.


***Look forward to the next episode! A strange youkai lord comes calling from afar with devious and dangerous intentions.. All this and more when next we meet. Remember, reviews inspire quicker updates!