The Tree and The Flower

Sesshoumaru was not in the habit of waiting for anyone. So, when he stopped still in the middle of the forest trail he was walking, he surprised even himself.

"Is something the matter, my lord?" Jaken, always two steps behind his master's feet, spoke up immediately, eager to be of service.

Sesshoumaru ignored him, as he usually did, and turned his head slightly to peer over his right shoulder. It was graceful, as was every other movement he made, and with a precise decisiveness that gave one the impression that he thought over carefully each move he made before he made it.

The girl had been lagging all day, but now she stood completely still, staring off into the distance at something that seemed to cause her pain.

"Rin."

It was only one word, spoken with quiet, yet firm, tones that gave away no emotion. But the girl looked up sharply, and her brown eyes came back into focus before she scurried to catch up with the entourage.

"I am sorry, my lord." She spoke quietly, and without her usual high-pitched sunny-ness that embodied her entire personality.

Sesshoumaru turned back around and continued his walking, frantically searching the deep recesses of his brain, unable to find a reason why he ever stopped for her to begin with. Lord Sesshoumaru never dealt with humans. They were insignificant, weak, and died after only a short time.

'They are no better than plants. They sprout, they grow, they die, and they never serve any purpose to anyone.'

So, why, why, why did he even allow her to follow him? 'Because it is not worth my time to make her stop? To make her leave?'

Even as he thought it, he knew it wasn't true. 'Plants aren't…so bad.'

He peered discreetly back over his shoulder to see the girl falling slowly behind once again when Jaken's high, annoying voice rang through his sensitive demon ears.

"Hurry up, you stupid girl!"

Sesshoumaru sighed inwardly. 'Faithful, but incredibly annoying. Perhaps I should remove his vocal chords….'

Sesshoumaru saw Rin start in surprise, as if she had been awakened from a walking sleep, before she ran again to catch up.

He turned forward again, slowing his pace slightly, subconsciously. 'She is never like this. She is constantly dancing here and there, babbling or singing, or some nonsense. Now she is….'

"Wilted."

It left his lips in an unintentional whisper that died in the gentle spring wind, too frail for anyone to hear but the speaker and the breeze that carried it.

Rin, the ever blooming, ever glowing, ever cheerful flower was wilted. And Sesshoumaru wanted to know why.

'Why is irrelevant. It could be any nonsense…humans despair easily. They don't see a bigger picture than what surrounds them at any given moment. She could be upset over anything from the death of her family, to a splinter in her finger. No…the question is not why, the question is…'

Sesshoumaru attempted to stop his thoughts before they went any further, but found himself unable.

'How do I make her happy again?'

He moaned inwardly, and looked to the skies above him, showing through the leafy green treetops.

'I did not just ask myself that question. She is a human child. She is nothing. I need not concern myself with a plant.'

Something inside his being cringed, but he talked himself over it. 'That's right. A weed. Nothing more. She sprouted, and then she will die. There is no pleasure in weeds. Even Rin does not find pleasure in weeds, and she finds pleasure in everything, from those silly flowers she's always picking, to the weather.'

A memory of the winter before came back to him.

'Sesshoumaru-sama, look at the snow! Isn't it beautiful?' The little girl danced happily in the falling flakes, reaching to touch them with her tiny fingertips.

Sesshoumaru glanced at her, before continuing onward, listening to Jaken scold the child loudly from behind him.

'It is just snow, you stupid child. It is nothing more than a nuisance. A cold, soggy, nuisance.'

She continued to smile and spin about, catching flakes in her dark brown locks, letting them frost her eyelashes, or settle on her flushed cheeks.

'But Master Jaken, each flake is beautiful! And different!' The girl sighed happily up at the sky. 'They are like little bits of cloud, coming down to where I can reach them. I have always wanted to touch a cloud….'

Sesshoumaru nearly physically shook his head of the memory, but refrained. 'Yes…she seems to find something remarkable in everything.'

Perhaps that was why he found her company bearable. She was deep. She was only a child, and only a human, but she was quite deep. She never took anything for granted. She seemed to soak it all in…all her experiences and her surroundings, she soaked them all in and tasted each one slowly.

'She's mortal. She's a human weed. She won't live for long, so she has to take in as much as she can before she dies. She's very…fortunate.'

That stopped him in his tracks. 'Fortunate?'

Jaken walked into the back of his calves before stuttering a stream of apologies, and turning to yell at Rin to hurry up.

'I will live…so very long. Plants grow and die…thousands and millions of them in the lifetime of a tree. A tree can take things for granted. There will always be another spring, or summer, or fall, or winter. There will always be another time, and another chance. But a little weed…no, not a weed….'

"A flower." Thankfully, this utterance was also too quiet to reach the ears of his followers.

He continued walking again.

'That little flower will only see a small amount in her lifetime, so she wants to enjoy and appreciate every moment of it.'

Sesshoumaru changed his direction abruptly, struck with an idea that he hadn't fully realized quite yet. He only knew that he couldn't stand that the bright flower behind him should be wilted in any way. It didn't feel…natural.

He could hear Jaken scramble after him at the sudden change, thankfully not questioning his actions.

"Rin."

The little girl scrambled up to him at his call. "Yes, my lord?"

"Are you ill?"

"No, my lord."

"Are you tired?"

"No, my lord."

He was trying not to show concern, but the girl was being no help at all. He sighed inwardly in frustration.

"Are you…unhappy?"

'There…that wasn't so bad. It was a simple question. It means nothing.'

"I am not unhappy with you, Lord Sesshoumaru. I am just…thinking."

He didn't reply, just kept walking. The girl continued as he knew she would. 'Once she starts, she never stops….'

"I was thinking about my family, and how they died. And how it wasn't fair that they died. And I was also thinking of how I died, and how you saved me. And…how I wish they had been as fortunate as I am. I had you to save me, milord, but they did not. I suppose I shouldn't be melancholy, but be grateful. But I still feel sad sometimes that they were not as lucky as I."

She grew quiet again, lost in her deep little thoughts.

'She is too deep for a child. She is…much like I was when I was young. Always thinking….'

He could still see her from the corner of his eye, as he led the way to his chosen destination. 'She looks so different now, from when she danced in the snowflakes…so happy to be alive. I suppose…I suppose a stem so small as hers can only hold so much weight before it wilts, and leans, and falls over.' If he were truly honest with himself, he would have been impressed that the girl was as cheerful as she was, and still so fearless for one who suffered so much.

He had reached his destination without truly realizing where it was he was going. 'It looks just how I remember it from when I was young.'

He stood still at the edge of the small hill of cherry trees, and looked out over the tiny valley before him. The wind tugged playfully at his long silver hair, and it danced gently behind him whilethe white of his clothing glowed along with the white of the cherry blossoms.

Thousands upon thousands of tiny cherry blossoms.

"Jaken. Wait here."

The small demon beside him began to stutter in objection, but a look from his hard golden eyes silenced him.

"Come, Rin."

He walked carefully through the grove until he had reached the center. Rin was still behind him, staring at the ground in thought.

'Any second now. I can smell it coming. The wind….'

He waited a moment, until he was certain that a fresh gust of spring wind was on its way, before he looked down at the child.

"Rin." She looked up at him. "Look."

The little girl lifted her head to look at the trees surrounding her, and…his wind came.

Suddenly thousands of tiny, delicate white flower petals were lifted from their homes on the trees, and were sent swirling, blowing, dancing around them both.

Her eyes opened wide as she gasped. "My lord…." Her little mouth gaped at the sight.

Sesshoumaru watched her. The petals swirled happily in the wind, floating into her hair, onto her clothes, brushing her cheeks. It was like being surrounded by a flurry of…

'Snow.'

Rin glowed up at Sesshoumaru before giggling happily and dancing down the hill and into the valley of white, spinning and laughing and singing.

'Flowers live for such a very short time.' He breathed in deeply of the scents of blossoms and clean air. 'Trees are old and wise, but flowers…flowers know what it is like to live and die. To experience everything, all at once, and drink it in and hold it close to them, and know that it will not last forever.'

"How nice it must be…."

Sesshoumaru stood calmly by the trees and watched his flower dance in the wind, thinking on how deeply he'd miss her when she was gone.