Hiragana are a simplification of the kanji, and were very popular among women, especially aristocrats (women typically were not taught how to write kanji due to the years it took to master the complicated symbols). This form of writing would have been prevalent during the time that this story takes place.
History of Japanese Writing
Hiragana Writing Tutor
Other than what I've seen in IY, I know squat about the layout of feudal Japanese manors and palaces and the various duties of servants within them. I tried to research these things online but came up with nothing, so if my descriptions are inaccurate, tell me what I've done wrong or send me a link to a website that will.
The song that I refer to is the one that Rin sings often in the anime (Jaken even tries to sing it once but gets a nasty bump on the head from Sesshoumaru ). As close as I can reckon it, it goes something like this:
Yama no na ka,
Mori no na ka,
Kaze no na ka,
Yume no na ka.
Doko ni ru?
I can't decipher the rest of the song, at least not accurately, nor can I find my fansub for the translation. Basically, she's singing about different places she has searched (In the forest, in the wind, in the dream, etc.) for Sesshoumaru and wondering where he is. I don't really know what the rest of it is saying, though I figure it goes along the lines of "Where are you Lord Sesshoumaru, Jaken is upset...yada yada." If someone has a translation for her song (fansubs just don't cut it sometimes), please let me know!
By Jacki (aka Oritsu, Kena)
Chapter 1 – Fingertip Memories
Swirling clouds of pearl and ivory sailed gracefully across a sky of black lacquered wood. The tiny diamond and sapphire stars sparkled in the flickering light of the fire that blazed cheerfully and brightly in the iron brazier set into the floor. Rin tipped and gently swiveled the comb in the air, watching the gemstone nightscape catch and reflect the warm light. The twin of the first comb lay in a silk-lined box on the table she stood next to, and she grabbed it up as well, incorporating it into the dance.
Moving with a gentle ease, she began to sway and then pick up her feet and dance in slow, lazy circles around the room, the combs held high in her up-stretched hands. She hummed a song as she moved; each well-remembered and cherished note a comfort to her troubled heart and mind.
She had made this song early on in childhood, initially to ward off the loneliness and tears wrung from her eyes by the cruel words and fists of the villagers. Then her master had come and used the magical sword that he carried with him to cut the envoys of hell from her soul, and this song became a tune of hope and love, a celebration of her new life with her him and Jaken. When she had felt the urge to break the silence she had lived in ever since she had witnessed the death of her family, she had coupled words with the simple notes of her song. Each day of her new life was filled with praises to her master and the joy and abject adoration he had fostered in her heart.
A little over a decade had passed since then. No longer was she the fawning child, playing in the dirt, pulling fish from the water with her bare hands, and dancing and singing happily in the shadow of her beloved master as he looked on with a stoic grace. The filthy, homeless, mute little orphan girl had metamorphosed into a graceful and refined woman. All thanks to her master, who had so benevolently bestowed upon her a place in his own home but also a proper education, including not only reading and writing but lessons in courtly behavior as well.
The floorboards near the door betrayed his presence with a soft creak. She stopped dancing immediately, the folds of her yukata slapping lightly against her legs, and bent into a deep bow.
"How was your bath, Sesshoumaru-sama?" she inquired politely, her smile wide and dark eyes bright as he entered. His sharp golden eyes met hers, and he nodded almost imperceptibly in ascent. His face, framed by wet tendrils of silvery white hair, was emotionless as he moved past her towards the center of the room, seating himself on a small, backless chair situated next to the fire. He held himself with the mien of an emperor, back ramrod straight, shoulders back, head set at a proud angle.
Head bent in supplication, she followed, stopping behind him. She willed her hands to stop their shaking and inhaled deeply to still her pounding heart as her eyes unconsciously traveled down the smooth, muscled plains of his back and shoulders that were visible through the thin robe that clung wetly to his body. The body of a god he had, clear evidence of the noble lineage of his inu-youkai ancestors. Rin dug her teeth into her lower lip, hesitating, gathering the resolve to keep her focus on the task—no, privilege—at hand. The diamonds and sapphires on the combs sparkled as she brought them up and pushed them into the shining mass of hair. She worked slowly, carefully, sinking to her knees to reach the ends of the thick white hair that cascaded in a wet, tangled bundle down past his waist, nearly brushing the floor. Working diligently with one comb, holding the upper length with her other hand so as not to pull, she brushed out all of the biggest knots then moved upwards using both combs.
She sighed quietly to herself, loving the silky weight of his hair in her hands. Heat radiated in thick waves from his back, warming her busy fingers and sending a blush to her cheeks. She carefully guarded her motions, denying the urge to let her fingers brush against him. He preferred not to be touched, and though every nerve in her hands, her entire body, yearned to touch him, she would respect and honor his wishes without question.
Her hands worked from memory, pushing the combs down till the friction of his hair against the fine teeth disappeared, moving them back up to the crown of his head to move down again, slowing to work out any tangles. She reached forward and smoothed the long silky bangs back from his forehead. He tilted his head back, pressing against the combs. A low, nearly inaudible growl of pleasure rumbled in his throat; the sound sent a shiver of excitement running up her spine. She pressed the combs deeper into the thick silvery mass, letting the teeth massage his scalp. His brow furrowed slightly then smoothed, his jaw going slack, eyes slipping shut, the rest of his body relaxing.
She nibbled at her lip again, deeply honored and moved by this demonstration of trust. Sesshoumaru rarely ever let down his guard, even in his own home. Compliments, verbal or otherwise, were as rare as a blue moon, and she treasured this one in her heart, each pounding beat a strong tie that wrapped around it, incorporating it into her very being.
Thin wisps and curls of steam rose from him as the heat of the fire dried him. She inhaled deeply, the scent of her master—the dark, wet, green smell of the ancient forests—caressing the inner linings of her nose and mouth. She shut her eyes, savoring his scent and all the emotions and memories it evoked. The feeling of her fingers sliding through his hair was mesmerizing and she slowly drifted off into her thoughts.
Hidden deep within a cluster of bushes she giggled quietly at Jaken's vexation. Annoying the toad-like creature was a simple feat that always provided a maximum amount of entertainment and a constant relief from the boredom that ensued when Sesshoumaru-sama was away. This game also acted as an escape from the tortures Jaken frequently contrived for her. For the past few days, he had been after her to learn how to draw the hiragana. And after fidgeting through the first painfully boring lesson, she had vowed never to do so again.
"Bothersome girl, come out now!" Jaken screeched, punctuating the command with an impatient stomp. "Rin! RIN!"
She giggled again, hands cupped over her face to stifle the sound. With one hand she moved aside one of the branches of her leafy shelter. Jaken stood in a clearing some distance away, his back to her, Aun, the two-headed dragon that acted as their transportation and, at times, protection in tow. The beast's clawed feet pounded the earth as she was pulled this way and that by the frustrated Jaken, who was now searching for her behind rocks, in shrubs, and up in tree branches, screaming her name over and over again.
The scene was comical, and became even more so when Aun decided that she was tired of being led aimlessly around and dropped to the ground for a nap. Jaken turned three shades of a darker green and began to vent his anger on the unconcerned dragon. She watched with glee as he threw an all out temper tantrum, jerking on the thick leather reins, jumping up in the air repeatedly, and screaming shrill obscenities at the sleeping beast. It was all she could do to keep from opening her mouth wide and releasing all of the pent-up laughter from her lungs.
"Jaken." The trees near the fuming toad parted, and her master stepped into the clearing. Jaken immediately ceased his angry tirade and fell prostrate before the stately youkai standing over him.
"Sess...Sesshoumaru-sama," he groveled, round, protrudent eyes goggling up at his master's stern countenance. Sesshoumaru glanced around the clearing, gaze finally returning to the pathetic creature cowering at his feet. Interpreting the expression on his master's face, Jaken sought to explain himself.
"Forgive me, Sesshoumaru-sama. I've been trying to teach that troublesome brat her hiragana, but all she does is run off."
At the sound of her beloved master's voice, she immediately bounded out of her hiding place and ran over to where he was standing. Beaming, she replied, "Hai, Sesshoumaru-sama!"
Pain suddenly exploded through her skull and she collapsed to her hands and knees. Vision swimming in a mist of tears, she slowly pushed herself to a kneeling position and gently fingered the swiftly enlarging bump on the crown of her head. Jaken's voice rang shrilly in her ears.
"Stupid, bothersome, girl!" he fumed, staff raised above his head for another strike. Her current position gave him a few inches over her and he used them to his full advantage. Eyes nearly popping from his head, he loomed menacingly over her. The staff plummeted down to hit her again. She cringed, arms bent protectively around her face and head.
The blow never came. Hesitantly, she opened her eyes and dropped her raised hands. The staff was inches above her, the twisted, hideous face of the old man carved into the thick wood leering down at her. Sesshoumaru's long fingers were firmly wrapped around the neck of the staff. Jaken fearfully gazed upward into the youkai's stern countenance. He gulped loudly, released the staff, and fell to his knees.
"Gomen nasai! Forgive me, Sesshoumaru-sama!" he cried, small hands raised in supplication. There was a thump as the staff fell to the ground beside him. Grinning, Rin stuck her tongue out at Jaken, receiving an angry glare in return before he resumed his frantic pleading.
She smiled up at her master, eyes sparkling with affection. "Hai, Sesshoumaru-sama!" she called in a sing-song voice.
"Jaken will be your instructor and you are to obey him as you would me. Understood?
"Hai!" she replied, cheerfulness unabated by the stern command. Sesshoumaru's watery golden eyes met hers. Mildly perplexed, he stared at her briefly before swiftly walking past into the clearing where they had set up camp. Jaken rose to his feet and brushed the dirt from his clothes. He picked up the discarded staff, eyed the slumbering dragon with distaste, then cast his gaze on her. His beady black eyes narrowed wickedly and a victorious smirk stretched itself across his face.
"Here, Rin," he crowed and thrust Aun's reins at her. She took them from him and he stepped back, arms crossed over his narrow chest. The smile soon disappeared when after a gentle tugging of the reins and a call, Rin managed to bring the beast out of her slumber and onto her feet. Humming happily to herself, Rin set off after Sesshoumaru, Aun in tow behind her, Jaken following at a distance mumbling angrily to himself.
He was to keep her furiously busy for the next week or so, teaching her first how to prepare the ink, then showing her the correct way to hold the brush and make the basic strokes. Eager to please both Jaken and her master, she worked diligently at mastering the art. Within a few days she was able to write all three of their names quite neatly, and she proudly displayed her work to her master, pointing at each character as she pronounced it.
Jaken, impressed with both her uncharacteristic obedience and newfound eagerness to learn, had forgotten his grudge and praised her swift progress. Sesshoumaru never once complimented her work, but neither did he criticize it, and encouraged by his patience she continued her lessons with gusto. Often she would work so long and hard that, exhausted, she would collapse at the little portable workstation Jaken had set up for her—an improvisation of small, smooth-topped wooden stool he had taken from one of the villages they passed during their travels.
The little toad-like youkai eventually began to warm up to her, and instead of a sharp wrap or pinch to her hand for making a mistake, he chastised her gently and guided her hand in the correct way. Occasionally he would become frustrated and call her stupid or slow, but always in such a way that the word was more a term of endearment than an insult.
During these writing sessions, Sesshoumaru often watched from a distance, and on the occasions that Jaken was away on an assignment, she would go to him with her questions. More often than not, he would ignore her, golden eyes filled with mild disdain as he stood to walk away from her. In the rare occurrence that he actually paid attention to her he was a wonderful teacher, stern yet patient. She was mesmerized by the grace and beauty of his strokes as he wrote down the words that she wanted to learn to spell. Often she would dash about camp, pointing to this and that, asking its name and how to write it. Hours would pass during which Sesshoumaru would fill the top of page after page—the bottom portion meant for her to practice—until either she fell asleep at his feet or he grew bored and left her to practice.