[A/N: Wow! I love all the feedback, guys! Okay, there's only a few more chapters left, but this is when the story gets good! Hang in there; you're in for a bumpy ride!]

Nanashi ran out of the small hut, a fierce expression on his face. Rin was following, trying to pull her loose yukata together as she ran. "Nanashi, stop! What were you talking about? What's wrong?" she demanded loudly. He stopped, turned on a heel, and grabbed her shoulders. He moved one hand and put a finger on her lips. "Stay behind…and be quiet. Please, I can't let anything happen to you," he said. Rin could fell the tears welling up in her eyes. "Nanashi…please don't leave me. I can help you. I can--"

Nanashi roughly pressed his lips against hers, and held the kiss for a few moments, as if he were savoring it. He parted their kiss and looked down at her longingly. "Rin, if something…happens…I want you to leave…and don't come back. If anything does…I want you to know…I love you, with all of my heart," he said teary-eyed. Rin was now crying mildly, but she was still relatively composed. "Nanashi," she said, reaching into her yukata and pulling something out, "Nothing will happen to you, as long as you have this." With that, she handed him a small, spherical ruby, surrounded by a thin ring of silver. "I've had it since I could remember. It's always brought me luck," she said, smiling slightly. Nanashi kissed her again, and he swiftly ran off.

Nanashi quickly maneuvered through the forest, the pendant Rin had given him hanging around his neck. He followed the scent of the smoking buildings of the nearby buildings, the scent of the villager's blood, and the smell of a dog demon. This dog demon was his own father, the Lord of the East, Higashi. "I'm coming, you sick bastard!" he growled angrily. He fingered the small pendant on his neck and ran through the rest of the forest, and saw a terrifying sight before him.

There were charred buildings all about, bloody bodies littering the ground, the shrieks of terrified villagers filling the air, and a colossal, black furred, green eyed dog demon standing in the center, sniffing the air, apparently responsible for the destruction.

"Hey you!" Nanashi yelled angrily. The dog grunted and turned to him and seemed to almost smile. In a flash of green light and smoke, he was transformed into an aged man with bright green eyes and gray-streaked hair. "So, Nanashi, I see you've accepted my subtle invitation," he said.

A low growl emitted from Nanashi. "Just do what you came for and get the hell out of here!" he yelled, forming his hands into fists. Higashi smirked a bit. "Ah, yes, young Nanashi. What I've come to do is test your skill. To see if a half-breed is worthy of my position," he said tauntingly. Higashi stared at him for a moment and noticed the small pendant. "And what is that, hmn? Another one of your useless mother's charms to protect you from evil spirits or what not? What is her name again? Was it Michiko?" he asked.

"My mother's name is Mariko you foolish, insolent imp!" Nanashi yelled. Higashi waved his hand in dismissal. "She's only a whore. Only a dredge to society. It's not as if it matters. And I remember it being Hoseki, a whore's fake name," he said, his voice like cooling bacon grease. "Don't say another word about my mother…" Nanashi growled. Higashi shook his head. "Still attached to humans, I see. Well, it seems you aren't fit to be a warlord. Not that that's a problem," he laughed.

Rin ran through the forest as quickly as she could, hoping that she was taking the same path that Nanashi had taken. Her feet were cut from stepping on the fallen sticks and thorns, she was out of breath and her chest felt like it was burning because of it. Overall, she felt like she was going through hell, but she had to find Nanashi. She had felt an aching feeling in her heart, and she just had to find him.

Higashi drew his sword. "It won't be much of a challenge to eliminate you, Nanashi," he taunted. He smirked a bit. "Or maybe it would be better to make you watch me kill the ones you love. Or maybe only that bitch with whom you are in 'love'." Nanashi was livid, almost panting out of anger. "Don't you dare say a word about Rin!" he seethed. Higashi ran his finger over the sword's sharp edge, drawing a little blood. "Just imagine, slitting her throat so easily. Or maybe I should run it through her, just so I can hear scream," he taunted again. Higashi looked up from his sword and at Nanashi. "You'd enjoy hearing your dear Rin scream, wouldn't you?"

Nanashi glared at him like he had just cut off his leg. "Don't even dare speak her name, you knave," he hissed. Higashi laughed a little. "Ha! For all you know, I could've already slaughtered the little wench," he laughed. Nanashi tensed up and looked up at Higashi, his eyes flaring. "I'll kill you for even mentioning that," he hissed. With that, Nanashi leapt into the air and threw a blind punch at him. However, Higashi quickly leapt out of the way and slammed Nanashi to the ground, making him scream in pain.

Nanashi rolled around on the ground in pain, gripping his bloody, broken leg, still shrieking in pain. Higashi chuckled a little at the sight. "You're full-blooded past life couldn't defeat me, Nanashi, so what makes you think that you can, half-breed?" he asked tauntingly.

Rin hid behind one of the burnt-out buildings, trying to remain still and silent. "Oh, Nanashi…Please! You have to be okay," she thought, shivering in fright. Higashi, standing only a few steps away, raised his blade, preparing to strike Nanashi. Rin gasped and covered her mouth. "No…" she muttered. "NO!!" she said, elevating her voice to a yell. She ran out of her hiding place and out into the open, so Higashi and Nanashi could see her.

Higashi smiled a bit and took a few steps toward her. "Oh, heh heh. It seems that the guest of honor has arrived," he laughed. Rin looked at him strangely. Another low growl emitted from Nanashi. "Don't you dare lay a hand on her!" he yelled. Higashi looked back at him and laughed, and Rin took the opportunity to take a step or two back. Higashi jerked his head back around and glared at her. "And where do you think you're going?" he asked, walking closer. Rin, too petrified to move, watched helplessly as he came closer. In a few moments, he was right in front of her.

Higashi roughly grabbed her chin so she was looking at him. He smirked a little and spoke. "Where is it, bitch," the growled. "What are you talking about?" she spat back. Higashi looked back at Nanashi for a moment, an amused look on his face. "Quite a little piston you have here, Nanashi." When he finished his sentence, he looked back at Rin and hit her in the gut, knocking the wind out of her and sending her to the ground.

"You know what I'm talking about, fool!" Higashi yelled. Rin coughed a little and looked up at him. "Pre-pretend I'm stupid," she growled. Higashi rolled his eyes. "The Tokijin, you ass," he hissed. Rin's heart sank in that moment. Her eyes darted around until they fell on Nanashi, who she could barely tell was mouthing the words "Don't tell him". Rin trembled for a moment, and finally answered. "I-I don't…know what you're…talking about," she said reluctantly.

Higashi's smirk faded as she completed her sentence. "Well well well. That's quite a shame," he said in a tauntingly calm voice. His eyes narrowed as he drew his sword. "Well, you were of no use. And perhaps watching you die will also change Nanashi's views on mortals," he said, raising his blade. "No, Rin!!!!!!!" Nanashi yelled in a desperately pleading voice. Rin cowered and swallowed hard. In another instant, Higashi struck with his blade. "RIIIIIIIIIIN!!!"