Author's Notes: This is a sequel to my other Inuyasha story: Phantom Pains, and takes place roughly a month or so afterwards. Phantom Pains does not need to be read but it'll help. Hope you enjoy, inspiration comes from the Prophecy, Shakespeare and of course, Babbitt the House Elf. Thank you, and please review.
Disclaimer: "If we shadows have offended, think but this and all is mended,
That you did but slumber'd here while these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme is no more yielding then a dream."
-Midsummer's Night Dream
"What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason!
How infinite in faculty! In form and moving, how
express and admirable! In action, how like an angel!
In apprehension, how like a god!
The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals!"
Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2
The Paragon of Animals
By: Lady Erised
Chapter One: Much Ado About Nothing
"Yeah, Shippo, what is it?"
Inuyasha turned to glimpse the Kitsune from the corner of his eye. He had to be careful, from his perch in the trees he had a clear vantage point to the Hot Springs where Sango and Kagome were currently bathing. As it would have it, Shippo had tucked himself right by the side facing them. Had he turned to face him, Inuyasha was certain to be greeted by an outraged "sit!" Something he was very keen on avoiding tonight. His chest still hurt from earlier today when he had played with a nest of kittens they had come across earlier.
Inuyasha chuckled at the memory, how was he suppose to know cats didn't float?
"I got a question…"
"Oh? What is it?"
"How do you know when you're in love?"
Inuyasha felt his cheeks redden a little, as his body stiffened. He swallowed hard, battling down the uneasiness. "Why don't you ask Miroku about that…" He began. "Or the women? That's something girls are always harping about anyways."
"Kagome just laughed, and Sango got all quiet and red." Shippo pouted. "And Miroku, he told me-"
Inuyasha's blush deepened as Shippo repeated it, he would have to talk to the Monk soon. "Why do want to know?"
"I dunno." He replied. "I just…do."
For a moment, he stumbled over answering the question. Shippo was too young to ask such questions. Then, he remembered when he had asked…
Sesshoumaru's cold golden eyes burned through him, making him regret the question. Sesshoumaru had been the only he could have approached with the question; it would have been too odd to ask his mother. He only vaguely remembered that his older brother had replied, and remembered painfully the instance, if not the exact words. His brother hadn't given him an answer but a rebuke: love was something weak, something human and something he should never pursue.
Inuyasha bowed his head again. "Love is when…you feel the impossible, like you can do it or overcome it. Its overcoming everything- even yourself- and finding out there's more happiness on earth then you could have dreamed of. It's discovering everything's right." His eyes darkened for a moment, as visions of a lost Priestess came into play across his mind. "And sometimes, being in love means letting go, even if you don't want to; even if you know it's a mistake, sometimes you have to let go."
Shippo stared at him for a long time, his face drawn into a serious expression. Then, like water breaking a dam, Shippo's face screwed up and exploded into laughter.
The next sound heard was Shippo's enraged yelp as he was flung from the tree to the ground.
And coming to rest at the feet of two travelers who peered down at him easily.
"Rin!" Shippo chirped happily, as he crawled around to sit up right at her feet.
The exclamation and meaning behind it, brought the whole group into action. Kagome and Sango both skirted from the water to dress, as Miroku stood to keep an eye on the women as they dressed, for protection's sake only. Inuyasha bounded down from the tree and landed squarely behind Shippo without missing a beat.
"Alright," Inuyasha challenged. "Where is he?"
Inuyasha frowned, glaring down at the small figure that had been standing with Rin and was now staring up at him evenly. He sniffed the air between them. The boy was a Water Demon, and had his scent all over Rin. Any trace of his brother on the human was faint, and old. His frowned deeper. "Where's Sesshoumaru?"
The boy coughed, and hiked up his robe to fall to his knees before Inuyasha. He gave Rin a stern look who stared back at him blankly. She turned to stare at Inuyasha and shook her head. Jaken's teachings were firm in her mind, but soon, under the boy's unwavering glare, she inhaled, and kneeled as well.
"Lord Inuyasha of the Western Lands, I am your humble servant." The boy began. "I come on behalf of your brother."
"Who the hell are you?"
"My name is Zen, Honorable Lord."
Miroku had stepped forward, kneeling gently to help Rin up. He gave her a gentle, reassuring smile. "Inuyasha will do fine, Zen. What business do you have with us?"
"And why didn't Sesshoumaru come himself? It's not like him to rely on errand boys."
Inuyasha arched a brow. "The hells are you talking about? This reeks of Sesshoumaru! All this pompous ceremony to keep us off guard…" He gave Rin a dark look. "Where is he, girl?"
Rin blinked and looked at Kagome. "He sent us away."
Kagome exchanged nervous glances with Sango and Miroku. "Away?"
"He wanted us to come and find you." Rin answered. "He said you'd guard us…"
"You're here alone? Not even Jaken's with you?" Miroku asked, as he stood. He walked over to Inuyasha, to lower the voice. "I don't like how this sound…"
"Feh," Inuyasha dismissed, folding his arms over each other. "I knew Sesshoumaru would do something like this eventually. He's gotten tired of her so he's thrown aside and expects us to baby sit!"
"Inuyasha, quiet!" Kagome hissed, brushing back hair from Rin's face. "Where is he now, Rin?"
Rin was shaking her head. "He would have moved by now. Zen was tracking…"
"Enough Rin." Zen ordered firmly. "Sesshoumaru's whereabouts aren't their concern, his request is." He turned to look at Inuyasha. "If you won't help us, tell us now so we can leave!"
Inuyasha narrowed his eyes, looking to Rin. "Sesshoumaru ordered this?"
"Of course he did!" Zen started.
"I'm not asking you, Puddle." Inuyasha snapped, returning his attention to Rin and easing his voice slightly. It was the best he could do. "He told you to look for me?"
Rin looked at Zen for a moment and remained silent. Kagome reached over, taking her small hand into hers. "Rin, it's important that Inuyasha knows." Rin blinked, and looked down at her hands compared to Kagome's and then her small eyes trailed up to the Shikon jewel that adorned her neck. It was glowing softly. Rin swallowed a little.
"Something's wrong with Lord Sesshoumaru." She whispered. "He's become tired. Jaken is leading him back to the Western Lands."
"Tired?" Miroku repeated, pulling the half-demon by the arm to a corner, to speak where the others couldn't hear.
Kagome ignored them to pull Rin into a hug. Zen made a disgruntled sound, but remained still under Sango's glare. Rin stiffened a little, but only for a moment, before throwing her arms around Kagome's neck. Kagome had never seen the girl so uncomfortable. She must be terrified. "Don't worry, Rin. Inuyasha will take care of it. You must be so scared."
Rin bit her lip. "Lord Sesshoumaru…"
"It's okay." Kagome repeated, and then added a small lie. It was all she could think of to reassure her. "He'll be alright, I promise. Inuyasha will…"
"That's enough Rin." Kagome felt Rin stiffen then pull away, as she ran back to the Water Demon's waiting arms. Zen folded her to him, giving Kagome the smallest of glares. "You don't need to worry, Priestess. I have her."
Kagome stopped herself from correcting the boy. "Who were you again?"
"My name is Zen."
"I didn't mean that." She said, looking to Sango for backup. "I mean who are you to Sesshoumaru?"
Sango stepped forward a little; even in her common garb she had more presence then Kagome. Enough to make Zen retreat a few steps, "I am nothing to Sesshoumaru." Zen told them. "I am Rin's guardian."
"But what about…"
Rin looked miserable suddenly, and turned her head to stare at her hands, and the dirt. She rubbed her neck gingerly. Kagome inhaled again. There was more to this, she knew, but she would find no answers while Zen was near.
"Kagome, Sango, come on." Inuyasha said as he approached them. Miroku was behind him, a dark look on his face. Very rarely did the Monk's features betray anything but joy or lust, and Kagome had long since learned when Miroku was nervous; it was wise to worry.
Inuyasha was staring at the ground, refusing to meet anyone's gaze. As Kagome neared him, he stiffened a little, looking at her from the corner of his eyes. He spoke in a very low tone while they waited for Miroku and Sango to talk, and Sango to change.
"Miroku believes Sesshoumaru is in over his head." Inuyasha deadpanned, his face never turning upward. "Otherwise he would have left Rin with Jaken."
"It makes sense, but why would he send Rin to us?" Kagome refused to think about what could be strong enough to cause Sesshoumaru to worry.
"Ain't it obvious? Sesshoumaru knows we're the only ones who wouldn't hurt Rin." A blank smile and a weak joke. "He knows you'd never let me."
"He sent her here…" Kagome began, her words being plagued by the serious of the revelation. "To protect her?"
"Heh, Sesshoumaru wouldn't care to protect her. He probably sent her here so he wouldn't have to deal with…"
"What? Having to answer to her?"
"No." He said darkly. "Coming back to her."
Kagome's stomach fell deeper. "You don't think Sesshoumaru thinks he's not going to win this one, do you?"
"I don't know what he thinks." Inuyasha said fiercely. His hand went to the Tessaiga, as he growled. "But we're going to ask him."
He threw Kagome unto his back, just as Miroku and Sango mounted Kirara. They paused for a moment, to decide how best to carry Rin before Zen intervened. He held her around her waist, saying he could travel with her faster through the waterways then they could carry her. Inuyasha could tell none of the others cared much for leaving Rin in his care but time was limited. It took Rin's soft assurance to appease them, even though Sango said firmly she would take up the rear of the convoy.
None of them noticed that Shippo had eased away from the main group almost as soon as Zen and Rin had arrived to study something lurking in the trees nearby.
Wayward demons were nothing new to Shippo. He had often observed demons lurking just beyond their encampment; they had sensed either the Jewel or the Tessaiga and had come to lust after the powers but being too cowardly to take action, had contented themselves in the looking.
This demon was different. It seemed familiar. It was Fox demon, sleek and aged but still powerful. Shippo squinted into the black night to catch a familiar eye looking back at him. Shippo smiled a little, "Tama!"
Tama bounded from his hiding spot, transforming into a human form as he did till he landed in front of Shippo. He clapped his hand over Shippo's mouth and squatted down. "Sssh, cousin. I shouldn't be here."
Shippo pulled away and looked to the group. "What's wrong?" His frown deepened when he saw a blanket of scar tissue covering one of Tama's eyes. The skin around one of Tama's eye had always been darker but now, it was thick and calloused, like a burn. The rest of Tama's robes were also worst for wear. He looked like he had been running for sometime. "What happened?"
Tama attempted a weak smile. "Nothing your old Cousin can't handle." He looked over Shippo's head. "Tell me, where is your father? I need to speak to him…"
"He's dead, Tama."
The old Fox's smile faded, his face twisting into sorrow. Slowly, Tama took Shippo into his thin arms and held him firm. "I'm sorry, Shippo. You should have sought me out."
"It's alright." Shippo lied. "Besides, I'm taken care of now…I have friends."
"So I see." Tama said, idly. "Inuyasha."
"You know him?"
"I know the family." Tama licked his lips, nervously. His eye kept fidgeting from one side to the other, as he feared someone was following him. "Did I hear right? He's going to his brother?"
Shippo nodded. Tama arched a brow. "Tell me, cousin…does Inuyasha carry the Tessaiga?"
"Yeah, why do you ask?"
"I would ask a favor." Tama gripped Shippo's little shoulders fiercely. "I know Sesshoumaru, and his desire for the Tessaiga. He's planning something, and only you can help me stop him."
"Oh that." Shippo dismissed. "Sesshoumaru's tried to get the Tessaiga before. He's never succeeded."
"This time will be different."
"Do you know something, cousin?"
"Only that you must be very brave for our family." Tama cooed, cupping his hand to Shippo's cheek. "I have been hunting Sesshoumaru, but I need to make sure he doesn't call on his brother to aid him." Tama's face was serious and scared. "I cannot defeat them both. Not yet."
"Don't worry, Tama. There's no way Inuyasha would help Sesshoumaru. Especially in a battle."
Tama smiled. It was the same smile Shippo always remembered on his kinsman face, the same smile that once made his father happy- despite whatever had gone wrong. It made Shippo homesick to see it. Gingerly, the younger Fox embraced the elder. Tama laughed a little.
"I know." He whispered. "And don't worry. I'll be around for a while, just out of sight. Promise me you'll keep an eye on things for me. I'll come to check on you every chance I get. Do you promise?"
"Good…now go. You don't want to be left behind."
Shippo rubbed his sleeve against his face, and turned to the group. When he looked back to bid Tama goodbye, the Fox was gone. Shippo smiled a little, keeping the old Fox's grin in his mind eye as he ran back to rejoin the group.