Disclaimer: I do not own any characters from InuYasha.
Got a sequel to this, Forever Mine, takes place some years later and you get to see Inu and friends in it.
Rin left the scarred land and returned to the river. The stallion ran swiftly over the flooded earth and within a few moments she reached the curve she had washed up on during her escape attempt. As she rode on the river seemed endless and Rin began wondering how long it would take to reach the canyon. Knowing where Sesshoumaru was pushed her to the limits of her patience and she continually forced the horse to go faster. The miko's spell helped since both were refreshed and able, but Rin knew that the beast would soon tire of the pace.
Her spirit soared as the evening sun bathed the canyon she sought in a pale orange glow. Rin was slightly hesitant to enter the tear in the land, since night would soon be on her and she could easily miss the exit in the darkness. For all the reason and caution she had Rin's impatience was stronger and she led the wary stallion down the canyon's path. She allowed herself a slower pace as the shadows began outnumbering the light and Rin wished she had a torch with her.
The canyon was long and deep, at its bottom even had the sun been up no light could have reached beyond the steep and jagged walls. Rin decided to walk and lead the horse herself, allowing it some rest from the long day's journey. The dark silence that encompassed the canyon created an eerily menacing aura that Rin didn't like.
She pulled the small dagger from her bag and kept it firmly gripped in her right hand. A part of her warned her to turn around and wait for morning, but she ignored it and pressed on. Rin quickly regretted that decision. The sound of men shouting and laughing echoed through the topless canyon and ahead of her she could see small lights forming.
A camp? Who would have a camp in the middle of a canyon?
I should wait till morning. Who knows who they are? They could be bandits.
They could be merchants not wanting to travel anymore for the night. I can't know for sure unless I keep going.
No, I can't know. If they attack me I will never be able to get to Sesshoumaru.
And if I wait and they are bandits they could still come this way and find me in the morning. I have a better chance getting away from them in the dark.
I shouldn't risk it. I only have a dagger to protect myself. That won't help against an entire group of men.
I can't delay! Already Sesshoumaru is getting further away. I need to keep going.
Rin quietly mounted the horse, not wanting to give away her presence just yet. Slowly she directed the stallion forward, being careful to not move to close to the sides and risk being boxed in. The small camp soon became clearer and Rin could count a number of fires blocking the entire expanse of the canyon floor. A large group of men sat eating and just as many horses blocked the sides of the passageway. The only way to the other side was through the camp.
I should go back. They haven't seen me yet. There is no way through.
There is a way. It isn't easy, but if they refuse to let me pass I can get through. They will not stop me for continuing on.
But if they chase me and I miss the way up I will be stuck.
I will find a way. Nothing is going to stop me.
Rin took a deep breath and slowly exhaled, a low whistle escaping her lips. Here I go.
She kicked the stallion's flank causing it pick up its pace and make enough noise echoing in the canyon to announce her presence. A number of the men stood up and a few approached the horses. The closer she got the more they appeared to be bandits. What seemed to be the leader of the group walked into the middle of the path and halted Rin.
"Let me pass, I have no time to waste." Rin looked down at the bandit with an expressionless face.
"Come now, can't you see that you cannot just pass by without giving something in compensation for the trouble you are causing us." A smirk played on his face.
Rin cast a quick look over the camp and saw most of them men were on their feet. "Little trouble since your men are standing. Just move aside as I pass and I will not bother you."
"But everyone must give us something to pass by."
"I have nothing of value to give." Rin tightened her hold on the small dagger, which she was hiding in the horse's mane.
A few of the men laughed and the smirk on the leader's face became a full lustful smile. "Oh, a young woman always has something she can give." He took a step closer.
"Lay one hand on me and you'll die. My mate won't allow such worthless human scum as yourself to touch me."
The smile disappeared from the man. "You belong to a demon and call us worthless?"
"Get out of my way, now."
Some of the men began walking towards her and the leader was smiling again. "If you are willing to lie with a demon why not come here and find out what a real man can offer."
"I wouldn't even if there were a real man standing here." Rin pulled the reigns slightly as if to prepare to turn around.
"You little bitch. I'll show you what a real man is."
"Not in this lifetime." Rin dug her heels into the horse's flank and pushed him forward, knocking over a few of the bandits in the process.
The stallion ran at full speed as the bandits nearest mounted their own horses and pursued her. Rin had a slight head start and was slowly pulling away but she knew she couldn't miss the exit out of the canyon. She strained her eyes looking for the path to divide but in the darkness it was nearly impossible to see anything. Shadows created from her hunters' torches danced on the jagged stone confusing her eyes.
Suddenly, the bandits began laughing and calling out to her. "Bitch! You missed it! All that is up there is a dead end!"
She turned and saw the path as their torches lit it up. There was no other way to leave the canyon but that road and Rin knew she was in trouble. She was still distancing herself from the lustful stalkers but it wouldn't matter once she hit the end of the canyon. Frantically, Rin searched for something that could help her escape. The walls were extremely dangerous but climbable; however even if she got off and started they would catch up with her before she got out of reach.
The path began to narrow and Rin knew she was out of time when she caught sight of a small ridge high in the wall. It was thin and wouldn't be able to hold much weight for long but if she could reach it she could pull herself up and try to climb the steep wall. She looked back to see how far her pursuers were.
I just might make it. If I can just reach it...
Rin put the dagger into her mouth and slowly lifted her legs into a kneeling position on the saddle, keeping a firm grip on the stallion's mane. The ridge was fast approaching and Rin knew she had to time it just right or she would lose the distance advantage. Her eyes locked on the ridge as she slid her bare feet onto the saddle but remained low to the horse.
Just as the horse's head passed under the ridge Rin stood, chest slamming against the sharp stone and hands struggling to pull her small body up. Beneath her Rin could hear the cracking of the weak ledge. Quickly she forced her body over the edge and onto the stone sanctuary not stopping to look back at her pursuers. Her fingers assaulted the canyon wall searching for the next cleft strong enough to support her weight. Below she heard the bandits stopping and yelling at each other, though none dared follow her treacherous example.
She continued up, dreading the height of the canyon. Soon she heard more horses and the leader shouting orders. He was not prepared to give up on his pray. "Wench! Do you really think you can climb up the entire canyon?" Rin didn't answer, she focused only on her movements. "If you don't fall we're going to force you down!"
A whistling sound pierced her ears and the arrow that created it struck the stone beside her. She hurried her climb but remained careful knowing falling was not an option. More arrows flew at her trying to impede her progress to her mate. Rin's anger and impatience increased with every arrow that attacked. Suddenly, a sharp pain swiftly filled her as an arrow tore threw the taut muscles in her right shoulder. No sound escaped her lips and no change occurred in her struggle against the cliff side, Rin refused to let such a small pain stop her.
On the ground the leader screamed in hatred at seeing the wounded woman continue on. She was over halfway up the wall and showed no sign of fatigue or weakness. The dagger still clenched between her teeth allowed Rin a way to release the subtle throbbing that had formed in her shoulder.
Upon seeing that Rin wouldn't give up her fight with the canyon the bandits left her to fall and die. No longer fearing more attempts to dislodge her Rin stopped and rested against the wall. Blood soaked the pale green kimono and she knew that it needed to be removed as soon as possible. Taking a deep breath she forced her limbs to move and strain. Her fingers and toes were raw by the time she finally pulled her body over the edge of the canyon.
Rin rested against the cool earth just long enough to calm her racing heart. The moon was at the horizon but it would still be a few hours before the sun rose. She sat up and tentatively touched the place where the arrow entered her body. Even the gentlest of strokes filled the area with a burning pain. It was too awkward for her to try and remove herself so Rin headed northeast, praying the village wasn't far.
Without the horse and with the slow loss of blood her traveling was slowed and it was far into morning by the time she saw the village. She dragged herself to the main road, hand holding her now numb right arm, and tried to find someone willing to help her. She was fortunate, as an old man quickly rushed to her.
"What happened to you, child?" he asked, gently leading her to a large house near the center of the village.
"Bandits…in the canyon. They attacked as I tried to get through."
He looked at her shocked. "You came through the canyon? But the road leading out is blocked, how did you get through?"
Rin sat down on a small cushion in the front room of the house. "Do you mean if I had taken the main path I would have been blocked?" He nodded and she couldn't stop herself from laughing. "And here I thought the fates were just taunting me."
"How did you get out then?"
A weak smile formed on her lips. "I climbed the canyon wall."
The man's shock increased. "I've never heard anyone ever successfully climbing the canyon. You must be a strong woman. I'll be back in a moment. We have a houshi that lives here and is knowledgeable with medicines."
She nodded and watched as he left the house. It was warm, a fire still burning from the morning's meal. Rin felt her body fighting itself, parts of her wanted to relax while her arm tensed and twitched wishing the arrow to be removed. Her eyes were beginning to close in exhaustion when the old man and houshi returned.
The houshi quickly hurried to examine her wound. He was middle aged, a few gray strands hiding in his neat brown hair. "Miss, I'll need you to open your kimono. The arrow is too deep to pull out so I'm going to have to push it through. Once it's out you're going to bleed much more and I'll need access to the wound."
Rin nodded and used her left hand to open her kimono, the houshi helping when her own strength failed her. He positioned himself behind her and broke off the end of the arrow. She felt a slight pressure as he placed his hand over the wood still in her body. "This is going to hurt a lot. Would you like something to bite down on?"
Rin shook her tired head. "This will be nothing compared to what I have felt. Do it."
There was a slight hesitation before the arrow was thrust forward, destroying the last of her useable shoulder muscles, but other than her breath stopping momentarily Rin showed no reaction to the pain. The houshi quickly took a white cloth and wrapped it tightly around the wound in order to stop the bleeding. Unable to stand the exhaustion anymore, Rin entrusted the houshi with her body and passed out.
She was unsure how long she had been unconscious but when Rin awoke she found herself lying in a small room, the houshi sitting nearby. Her shoulder had been bandaged and she was dressed in a white robe. When the houshi saw her eyes open he came over and helped her up.
"Where am I?" Rin asked trying to remember everything that happened.
"You're at the house of the village headman. He saw you on the road and brought you here. I removed an arrow from your shoulder and you passed out."
"How long have I been asleep?"
"Not very long, it isn't even mid-day yet."
Rin smiled. "Thank goodness, I haven't delayed too long."
"I need to be going. If I could have my kimono back, please."
She was about to stand but the houshi held her firmly. "You shouldn't move for some time. That wound is still very bad."
She forced his hands away and stood. "I will be fine. I must be going now." Rin stretched her aching body, moving her right arm only by aid of her left, as it was still numb. The houshi's stood shocked since she appeared to be in no pain, though Rin had merely managed to block it from her mind.
"How are you able to move without pain? Anyone else would barely be able to touch such a wound."
"Pain such as this is easy to forget."
"So he has hurt you far worse than this?" She looked at him confused. "The demon that took you. You're running from that monster?"
Without thinking Rin lifted her left hand and struck the houshi hard across the face. "Do not speak of my mate in such a way. He never harmed me."
The stunned houshi rubbed his reddening cheek. "Forgive me, I didn't realize you had consented to be his mate."
"No, of course not, he is a demon so either he forced himself on me or I am a whore. There are no other options. Does it not even pass through your mind that perhaps he cares for me and I am happy to have this mark on my neck, binding me to him?"
"Since you came here hurt and alone, no, such an idea did not cross my mind. I would think a demon can easily take care of a few bandits."
"I want my kimono and then I am going to leave."
"For what? Why are you risking you health? That wound can become very threatening if not properly treated."
"My health is nothing. Once I find my mate he will heal me, so I must hurry before I lose his trail." Rin was ready to slap the houshi again if he didn't let her go.
"What if you die before you find him?"
"Then the fates are truly cruel. Give me my kimono or I will leave in this robe."
Seeing he couldn't change her mind the houshi retrieved her kimono from another room and allowed her to change. It was still stained by her blood but Rin didn't care what it looked like. She followed the houshi out to the front room where the village headman was. He looked at Rin ready to leave and hurried over to her concerned.
"Why're you heading out already. You're welcome to stay here until the wound heals."
Rin smiled at the worried man. "Thank you, but I have to continue my journey now or I will lose track of the one I search for. I am so close to where he was last seen that I cannot stop."
The man nodded. "If it's that important, then I wish you luck."
"Thank you again." She was about to leave when she turned back to the two men watching her. "Did either of you see a demon pass this way within the last day or so. He has long silver hair and travels with a small toad demon and a two headed demon horse."
The old man's face changed from concerned to shocked as he listened to Rin's question; the houshi merely shook his head. "I have felt no demons in this area for months."
"I see. Where does the path out of the village lead?"
"To another village, but it's a two day walk. I wouldn't recommend it considering your condition, but then, you aren't going to listen to me, are you?"
"Not at all. That is the way I was told to go, and though she could have been misleading me, I have no other clues to my mate's whereabouts."
"Good luck, you'll need it."
Rin bowed to them and left the house. She was still tired but she dismissed it and pressed on. She traveled the first day rather slowly, stopping to catch herself a rabbit for food. Her blood loss demanded she eat something and rest for the night. She scolded herself for the weakness but could do nothing to help it. Her pace was worse the next day, but not because of fatigue.
Rain pounded the ground before dawn even had a chance to stop it. Rin's kimono stuck to her body as she walked along the muddy path, her feet continually staining themselves only for the rain to clean them again. Her wound had re-opened and a small trail of blood ran down her arm. None of that mattered to Rin, the pulsing in her neck was stronger than ever before. Sesshoumaru was near.
She silently cursed the rain, as long as it poured her scent would be hidden and the stronger the emotions grew, the weaker Rin's sense of direction became. The pain was all around her, she couldn't find its source so she just continued forward. Her left hand held tightly to her right arm though she couldn't feel anything.
She walked on, her mind lost in a fever brought on by the pouring rain and her own diminishing health. Suddenly, she looked up to see a fork in the road. No one had given her instructions on which fork to take. She looked down both roads but saw nothing but the downpour around her.
"Sesshoumaru," Rin whispered, "where are you?"
The sorrow filling her was overwhelming her fevered body, which both burned and shivered as she stood in the torrent's path. The burning sensation filled the mark on her neck. Rin moved her kimono from her shoulder and let the cold water splash over the pulsing flesh.
Rin didn't know how long she stood there at the fork, her neck exposed to the raging storm, but a familiar voice brought her out of her trance.
"Miss, miss, are you all right?"
She turned and stared with glazed eyes at the man before her. It took her a moment to focus enough on him to recognize who he was. She blinked a few times to try and clear up her view of the houshi. "Why are you here?"
"I was worried you wouldn't make so I decided to follow you. It is a good thing I did. The village isn't far, can you still walk."
She continued to blink as she tried to comprehend his words. "Village…I need…Sesshoumaru…is near."
The houshi pulled Rin's kimono back over her shoulder and picked her up. "I am going to get you to the village."
Rin rested her weary head on the houshi's chest. "But…so close."
"You can find him after you rest."
"Sesshoumaru," Rin whispered his name one more time before falling into a restless sleep.
When Rin awoke she could hear the rain pounding against wood and feel a warm fire near her. She had been changed into a dry kimono and she could hear people talking near her, one of which was the houshi. She sat up only to get dizzy and fall back. It was too hot in the room.
"Miss, are you awake?" the houshi asked.
Rin nodded as best she could but kept her eyes closed. The suffering was almost completely embedded into her and she could barely stop from crying. He was so near and her body was stopping her from finding him. If only she knew what direction, she wouldn't care what her body was doing. Just a direction.
She felt a hand against her forehead and heard a woman's voice. "Houshi-sama, her fever's high. I'm worried she won't last the night the way she is."
"She's a strong woman, that much is certain. If she can hold on tonight, she'll recover. Keep giving her the medicine to try and bring down the fever."
Rin struggled to breathe, her lung felt heavy and her tired body didn't want to move them. She thought she heard the two talk again but couldn't figure out what they were saying.
He is so close! Why can't I find him? I need to go and find him. Please, let me go find him.
Time was lost to Rin, but somewhere in the night the woman screamed. "Houshi-sama, her wound is open!"
She heard the man's footsteps come toward her. "Then we need to re-bandage it."
"No, that bite on her neck, it's bleeding."
Rin's eyes shot open and she brought her hand to her neck. She could feel the warm liquid flowing from the mark. He is here!
Before either woman or houshi could stop her Rin forced her body up and bolted for the door. The raging storm quickly soaked Rin through, but her body was burning and it felt wonderful against her skin. Her mind was still plagued by the fever and she didn't know what to do other than scream.
"Sesshoumaru! Sesshoumaru! Sesshoumaru, I'm here! I'm alive! Sesshoumaru!" Rin repeated her cries to the laughing skies, her feet turning and stumbling across the ground. The houshi ran out and tried to take her back to the house but she fought his hold and continued to scream.
Her feet tripped over themselves sending Rin to her knees. "I'm alive. I've come back to you, Sesshoumaru." Rin's body collapsed the rest of the way to the ground, mud splashing across her face. The water felt cool against her body and Rin began relaxing. The woman had run out and was yelling at something.
Please stop yelling. I'm tired. I want to sleep.
The yelling increased until she heard the houshi's voice, then there was silence.
Finally, it doesn't hurt anymore. I can sleep. Rin's mind released itself before comprehending the meaning of her own thoughts.
Saka rushed to Sesshoumaru's chambers, a pitcher of water carefully balanced in her hands. I am going to have to speak with Sesshoumaru-sama about returning Rin-sama to us in the condition she was sent away in.
She stopped before the door. "Sesshoumaru-sama."
Saka quickly complied and set the pitcher down next to a basin on his table. Sesshoumaru sat in a chair next to his bed staring at the pale body of his mate who lay unconscious beneath the covers. Rin's poor health surprised Saka more than Sesshoumaru's decision to make her his mate. A part of Saka had suspected he would do so one day, but she never expected his sudden return with a battered Rin in his arms.
Rin had been in and out of a confused consciousness a few times since they arrived but it seemed to be mere fatigue. Sesshoumaru said he had healed her wounds but it seemed exhaustion still claimed her. Saka wished he would tell her what happened but Sesshoumaru merely sat in his chair silently watching Rin. She had tried to ask Jaken how Rin had been hurt but he said he didn't know.
She took the damp cloth from Rin's forehead and rinsed it out. They had all been soaking wet when they arrived and Saka didn't want Rin to get a fever. She replaced the cool rag and sat down on the other side of the bed carefully checking Rin's heart rate and breathing. When she was satisfied Rin was still doing well Saka looked at Sesshoumaru again.
"Sesshoumaru-sama, I don't understand how Rin could have gotten so ill as to need this much recovery time." Sesshoumaru didn't respond. "Would I not be able to help her better if I knew what has happened to her?"
"You need only concern yourself with ensuring she does not worsen." Sesshoumaru's voice had a hint of a growl in it.
"Forgive me, Sesshoumaru-sama, it was not my place."
He returned his attention to Rin no longer caring about Saka's presence. She went over to the table and picked up the bloodied kimono Rin had been wearing. "I will take this to be cleaned."
"Burn it." Saka turned to him confused but he didn't explain so she nodded and left.
She hurried down to the stairs and handed the kimono and orders off to a servant. Jaken was preparing the castle since Saka was to tend to Rin. She hunted the little green toad down determined to find out anything about their travels. Saka found Jaken in the main hall ordering a number of servants to jobs around the castle.
"Jaken!" The toad cringed at the sound of Saka's voice.
"What is it now, woman?"
"Jaken, you know something and you're going to tell me what happened to Rin-sama."
"I already told you I don't know how she was hurt." Jaken began to walk away but Saka grabbed him and lifted him to her face.
"Then what happened before Rin-sama was hurt?" Jaken fidgeted in her grasp.
"If Sesshoumaru-sama wanted you to know, you would know. So put me down and attend to your own duties."
"Why would it matter what happened unless he failed to protect his own mate?" The new voice shocked Saka so much she dropped Jaken to the ground.
A regal demon stood before her and just by his presence she knew he was as strong as, if not stronger than, Sesshoumaru. He looked at Saka for a moment then turned his attention to the toad on the floor.
"Where is Sesshoumaru?" his voice sounded old, but strong and commanding.
"Sesshoumaru-sama is upstairs. I will go tell him of your arrival." Jaken hurried to his feet and headed for Sesshoumaru's chamber only to be followed by the demon. "Please wait in the main hall."
The demon ignored Jaken and continued on, Saka following behind. She had no idea who this demon was, but she would be needed to take care of Rin should he challenge Sesshoumaru. Everything about this demon professed nobility and by his demeanor Saka wondered if he was one of the other three regional lords.
As they approached, the door to Sesshoumaru's chambers flew open and everyone halted. Sesshoumaru stared at the demon in his expressionless nature. "Noosu, what are you doing here?"
"I came to pay my respects to your new mate, Sesshoumaru." He sent a careful glance beyond the imposing lord to the room where Rin lay. "Unfortunately, you seemed to have failed to protect her."
A low growl escaped Sesshoumaru's throat as he stepped forward and closed the door behind him. "You are in my lands, I suggest you watch what you say."
"Sesshoumaru, do not think I come here lightly. Never did I expect you to take a human mate. Considering what happened to your father."
"If you have a point, say it and leave."
"I dislike warring among the lords, and your choice risks much. Already Azuma and Seinan are questioning whether or not you will succumb to the same weakness your father did. They desire your lands and if they decide you have become weak, they will start a war."
"Why are you here then?"
"Your father and I were the oldest of the lords because we were content with our own lands and did not go to war unless provoked. Your father's choice in mating a human proved his downfall, and will be yours too unless you do something to prevent it."
"Azuma and Seinan would prove a dangerous combination to fight alone, but if I were to be your ally they would not readily risk such a confrontation."
"Why bother yourself with this matter at all? It will have no impact on your lands."
"Perhaps not now, but a shift in the balance of power will eventually lead to trouble for everyone. I want to prevent that. I will not, however, be ally to anyone weaker than myself, so the solution is simple. We fight. If you are able to bring the fight to a draw or win against me I will give you my support, but if you lose I will kill you immediately and divide your land between we three remaining lords and maintain the balance."
Sesshoumaru was silent for a few moments, his stone façade not changing even a second, but finally he looked passed Noosu to Saka. "Stay with her. If she wakes do not tell her anything."
"Yes, Sesshoumaru-sama." Saka bowed and moved to the wall letting both Noosu and Sesshoumaru to pass. Jaken followed the two demon lords, neither objecting to a witness being present.
Saka entered Sesshoumaru's chambers relieved to find Rin still asleep. Saka prayed she would remain that way till the battle was over, since Rin would no doubt know something was wrong. Saka went to the balcony and watched as Sesshoumaru, Noosu, and Jaken all disappeared from her sight.
Rin stretched her stiff limbs, bringing her hands to her head only to have them stopped by what felt like a pillow. By the feel of it she was on a bed and a cover was draped over most of her body. Rin yawned and brought herself into a sitting position. Her body was still very tired and slightly sore, mainly in her right shoulder, but for the first time since she awoke from the curse Sesshoumaru's suffering didn't flow from the mark.
She quickly looked around trying to find her mate but saw only Saka standing out on a balcony. She didn't recognize the room, but if Saka was here she knew she was at the castle. She pulled back the covers and stood up only to get dizzy and fall back onto the bed. The noise caught Saka's attention and she rushed over to Rin.
"Where am I?"
Saka placed her hand on her forehead to check for a fever but smiled soon after. "You're in your chambers at the castle, Rin-sama."
"This isn't my room," Rin said as she looked around. It was larger than her own, and the bed she was sitting on was far too big for just her. A strong crimson blush formed on her cheeks as Rin realized this was her room, hers and Sesshoumaru's.
Saka put a hand to her mouth to suppress her laughter. "Yes, this is your room now, Rin-sama."
"I see." She let her eyes pass over the room again, a smile adding to the blush on her face. "Where is Sesshoumaru?"
The smile quickly faded from Saka's face. "He's taking care of some business. He'll return later."
"He did not say."
Rin became nervous at the vagueness of Saka's comments. Surely after everything that had happened Sesshoumaru wouldn't have gone far until she woke up. "Where is Sesshoumaru?"
"I cannot say."
"Tell me where he is!" Rin's voice was strong and forceful, shocking Saka.
"Rin-sama, I was ordered not to tell you by Sesshoumaru-sama himself."
Rin stood up slowly, taking care not to get dizzy again, and walked to the place where Saka had been standing on the balcony. She searched the landscape but saw nothing that gave her a hint of Sesshoumaru. She struggled to sense his emotions but only felt that he was focused on something, she couldn't tell what, but it was very important and…dangerous.
"Saka-sama, please, tell me, where is he?"
"Forgive me, but I cannot."
The sense of danger was increasing in her. "Is he fighting something? Is he in danger?"
"Rin-sama, I can't…"
"Damn it!" Rin screamed. "Don't treat me like I don't know something is wrong! I want to know where Sesshoumaru is and I want to know now!"
Saka stared at her a moment in shock from Rin's un-character outburst. Finally, Saka consented. "One of the other lords came and challenged Sesshoumaru-sama to a fight. If he wins the lord will ally himself with Sesshoumaru-sama."
Rin turned to look Saka in the eyes. "And if he loses?"
"He will be killed."
"How long has he been gone?"
"For longer than I would have wished."
Rin's body tensed and she looked out to the land again. Fear swelled in her body and she couldn't stop the tears from falling to the cold stone below.
Sesshoumaru will not lose. No one can defeat him. He will return to me as I returned to him.
But what if this demon is stronger than Sesshoumaru? What if he loses?
He will not lose! He cannot lose! Not when I am finally better.
Rin trembled slightly as the wind passed her and a sharp pain pierced her neck. She slowly brought her fingers to the mark and felt her blood flow over them.
"Rin-sama, you're bleeding. Come in and let me clean it up."
"No." Rin pulled her fingers away and stared at the red liquid staining them.
"But, Rin-sama, you have just recovered and I wouldn't want you to get worse."
"This bleeds when I need it to and I will let it do so until Sesshoumaru returns to me."
Her blood quickly tarnished the silken robe she wore but Rin let it happen, not taking her eyes from ground below. She didn't wait long before the bleeding stopped and a sense of relief filled her. Her gaze ravished the ground, and, finally, she saw a glimmer of silver approaching. It was moving slowly and slightly awkward for Sesshoumaru, but Rin couldn't stop her smile.
The closer he got to the castle the clearer his image was and Rin eyes were wide with fear. Blood stained his white haori and by the limp in his stride his right leg appeared hurt. He looked up at Rin who had been ready to run to him.
"Stay there, Rin." She nodded her understanding, and he entered the castle, leaving her sight.
She rushed to the door and opened it waiting for her mate to come. That moment felt life an eternity to Rin who wanted nothing more than to see Sesshoumaru again. Finally, he appeared in the hall. Despite his obvious injuries Sesshoumaru allowed no one to assist him and still maintained his regal appearance. Rin moved aside and let him enter the room restraining her desire to run to him.
He sat on the edge of the bed and looked at Saka. "Leave us."
She quickly bowed and left the room. Rin took a tentative step toward Sesshoumaru taking in the extent of him wounds. There were a number of small cuts near his neck and blood was covering his claws, but the primary wound was a large slice along his chest. His armor had been broken and his haori was tinged pink.
"Rin," Sesshoumaru said, drawing her gaze to his golden eyes, "wash your neck off."
"You're hurt. My neck is healed already, your wounds need to be cleaned."
"I do not like to smell your blood."
"I don't want to see yours!" Rin was becoming slightly hysterical at Sesshoumaru's request.
"Rin." Sesshoumaru commanded her calm attention. "I am a demon. These will heal soon enough."
"My neck is healed, but does that make the scent of my blood any better." When he didn't respond Rin walked over to the basin and found a rag floating in the water. She picked up the basin and carefully set it on the floor in front of Sesshoumaru. "When I see no blood on you, you will see no blood on me."
Sesshoumaru said nothing but began removing what remained of his armor as Rin kneeled before him and rung the cloth out. She held back her tears as he removed his haori and under shirt exposing a deep gash in his torso. His demon body had already stopped the bleeding but the wound was still severe and Rin was tender as she pressed the cloth to his chest.
She could feel his eyes watching her every movement, a slight confusion stinging in her mark. When she had cleaned the wound to her satisfaction she moved up to the cuts on his neck but his hand took hers, causing her to look at him.
"Rin, how are you here?" His voice was soft, almost hesitant.
"I couldn't let you suffer, so I fought the curse, and I won. I am not weak anymore."
"How did you know it wasn't real?"
A gentle smile crossed her lips. "Your mark. It bled and showed me the truth. I felt the pain you were in and I didn't care what was real. I just wanted to return to you again."
His face showed no change but Rin could feel the guilt returning to him. He released her hand and she finished washing the blood from him. Tears brimmed in her eyes but she didn't lower her head to hide them. There was no way his demon senses would not know, and she wanted to show him she was no longer ashamed of herself. She wanted him to see the strength he gave her.
When she was done Rin picked the basin up and took it back to the table, almost dropping it along the way. Her fatigue was not completely gone and her body was beginning to wear down again. She stood over the basin a moment trying to hide her weakness, but it was useless and she turned to see Sesshoumaru standing over her.
"Your body is still weak."
She lightly shook her head. "It will pass."
He reached past her and took the now pink cloth in his hand. Sesshoumaru gently pushed her collar over her left shoulder exposing part of her chest where the blood had dripped down. Her body trembled as the cold cloth touched her skin and he began wiping away the already dried blood. He stopped after the mark was cleaned and looked down with his cold eyes.
"Do you even want that mark?"
His question made Rin's breath stop in her lungs. "Of course I do. It connects me to you and I never want it any other way. Do you not want me to be your mate?"
"That mark may bring you more suffering. My enemies will target you and try to hurt me through you. They will see you as my weakness."
"Am I a weakness to you?"
Sesshoumaru washed the last of the blood from her body. "I thought you would be, but now, I understand."
"Understand what?" Rin asked as he dropped the cloth back into the basin.
"When I want to protect you, I become stronger. But even with that I could not protect you from the curse."
"You did protect me, because it was your mark that showed me the truth. If I didn't have it I would have died in that nightmare. And no matter what trouble it might bring I would never want to lose your mark."
Sesshoumaru lifted his hand to her face and her lips to his own. Rin didn't need the mark to feel his care and passion; they filled her with the kiss. Her already weakened legs threatened to give out just before he pulled away from her. Still his face only showed a slight exhaustion; not one emotion she just felt was even hinted in his expression.
"You are still weak. You should rest."
Rin managed an unsteady laugh. "You should rest more than I. Your wounds are severe despite your demon body."
"Then lie with me."
She nodded and moved with him to the bed. Her body trembled slightly since she had never before slept next to her mate. She was about to lie down when his hand rested on her shoulder. "I do not want to smell your blood."
Rin looked down and realized her robe was stained and his nose could still catch the scent. Her shaking hands removed the thin garment and tossed it onto the floor before sliding beneath the covers. A moment later she felt Sesshoumaru join her. His arm wrapped around her waist and pulled her against his bare skin.
Quickly Rin's trembling ceased and her muscles relaxed. His hold was strong and protective, yet gentle and caring. From the mark on her neck she could feel his desire, but unlike the night in the hot spring, this feeling was different. It was not a desire of lust, but a sensual desire to just have her near him. A desire she completely returned.The End