Sesshoumaru used to get into a lot of battles. He did it to test his strength and improve his skills, until eventually he reached a point where there wasn't a foe left that would improve him.
Sesshoumaru never found an enemy that could beat him.
Except for one.
When he finds her, or she finds him to be more accurate, she is young and dirty and silent.
Sesshoumaru wants nothing more than for her to go away. It is only until he finds her dead and silent for all eternity that he decides he wants her around.
That day, Sesshoumaru saved her for the first time.
It is Jaken who teaches her to speak again. Annoyed by her constant silence, Jaken sits her down and glares at her.
She blinks at him, as though confused by the strange sounds emitting from the toad.
Rin gets distracted by some flowers. Jaken drags her attention back, tries again. And again and again and again.
It is a few hours later before he snaps, patience having worn thin. "Say tree, you stupid fool!"
Rin starts to laugh. For the first time since they had left the village, she laughs.
Rin laughs harder, starts to relax, starts to heal. She squeaks, whistles, bleeps, begins to relearn what she has lost.
Days later, the squeaks, whistles, and bleeps have turned into words. Having found her voice at last, Rin chatters insistently.
Jaken begins to regret what he has done. He tells her to shut up several times a day.
Rin only laughs at him.
When Naraku captures her, Sesshoumaru leaves behind his quarry and goes to her instead.
He rescues her for the second time.
She is young and healed and whole, and easy to take care of. She is full of wonderment and adventure, eager to go walking through the country. She is content to pick flowers, braid them into Sesshoumaru's hair and around Jaken's neck. She is content to run through tall grasses and catch butterflies.
She learns to catch fish.
"You do it like this," says Jaken, crouching over the water.
Rin mimics him, a perfect little monkey. She absorbs his skills like a sponge and polishes on them.
At one point, she stumbles over a rock and falls. Jaken helps her up, berating her all the while.
She learns to climb trees.
"Sesshoumaru-sama," she says, "will you stand below in case I fall?"
Silently, he does.
"Will you catch me if I fall?"
Rin is free and happy and thriving.
She is at home in the wild.
When the youkai grabs her in it's clutches, Sesshoumaru comes running. He slashes the arm away and allows her to fall in a bed of soft grasses.
Rin isn't afraid of falling after that. If there was any danger in it, Sesshoumaru would have saved her.
She grows older. Soft muscles turn into whip wire and she climbs trees without problems. Sesshoumaru still stands nearby in case she calls.
She reaches fruit without having to rely on Jaken. Now, it is she who hands it to him.
She doesn't pick flowers nor does she chase butterflies. Instead, much to Jaken's distress, she scales mountain faces and dives down waterfalls.
Rin tests how far she can exert herself, tests the many enemies around her to make herself stronger.
Sesshoumaru is proud of her.
When she falls, and there is real danger this time, she panics and passes out screaming his name.
When she awakens, she is swathed in a youkai's white fur.
Rin grows older still. She sprouts like a weed, fills out and blossoms. She has become a woman now.
When her blood comes, Sesshoumaru tries to leave her at a human village.
"To be with your own kind," he explains.
Rin will be able to find a husband and settle down. Be able to reproduce and populate the earth like all the other humans wanted to do. Sesshoumaru thinks she will be happier that way. He wants her to be happy.
Rin chases after him when he turns to leave. Stubbornly, she clings to his remaining arm. "I won't go, I won't go, I won't go!" She begins to cry. "I want to stay with you, Sesshoumaru-sama!"
Sesshoumaru realizes, with a bit of surprise, that she prefers the company of youkai to humans. He shouldn't have expected any less.
She was the one who had tried to save him first after all.
When the two dead people capture her, Sesshoumaru tracks them down. Despite the barrier that hurts him and the knowledge he is likely falling into a trap, Sesshoumaru goes.
It is not his blade that slays the enemy but it is he who sustains the wound.
For her sake.
She is growing older and Sesshoumaru sees her start to slow down. She is falling out of the prime of her life. Her energy starts to fade and she has trouble keeping up.
She can no longer travel with them.
Sesshoumaru builds her four sturdy walls to put around herself. Secluded from the rest of the world, Sesshoumaru builds her a home.
Jaken fetches, or steals, Rin isn't sure which, items to furnish the little cabin. He gives her advice, even though he has never furnished a home. Rin accepts the advice, for she has never furnished a home either.
With a deep sadness, Rin settles in. Sesshoumaru and Jaken will travel, as youkai are adapt to do, and she will sit here and wait for their return. She will be alone for a long time.
The next morning, Rin goes outside.
Jaken is already gathering firewood, grumbling at the splinters he has to sustain. Rin helps him remove them, praises him on his "war wounds".
On the edge of her valley, Sesshoumaru stands. Rin smiles.
They will never leave her alone.
When the priests kidnap her, Sesshoumaru tracks them down.
He should have killed them but she is watching, so he doesn't. He figures the headaches will suffice as punishment.
Older still she becomes. Rin's hair turns from black to gray. Wrinkles crawl across her face and hands. Her movements are slower and Jaken gives her his staff to lean on.
Sesshoumaru spends less time traveling. He sits inside her cabin with her, though it makes him restless. In front of the fire, he tells her stories about what is going on in the rest of the world.
Jaken cooks the meals and does the laundry, takes care of all the household chores and tries to be quiet as Rin takes her afternoon nap. She sleeps more, ventures outside less.
The winter is a hard one this year. Sesshoumaru brings her fur coats and medicines to cure her whooping cough. She recovers, but slowly, and there is a pale parlor to her skin.
Sesshoumaru clutches the handle of Tenseiga, but he knows he cannot win. Eventually, he releases his hold.
If he could stop time, he would have.
When Rin goes outside for the first time in weeks, it is Sesshoumaru who trails her. It is spring and she hobbles to the flowering trees. She stands for a long time, watching the flowers blow in the wind.
She is very old. Her bones creak. Her hearing is almost gone. She squints to see the flowers.
Calm and serene, she hands Jaken's staff to Sesshoumaru. "I think," she says, "that Jaken-sama will want that back."
Sesshoumaru does not reach for Tenseiga. He knows it does not cure natural death.
"I cannot save you this time," he tells her.
Rin smiles at him. "I am happy this way."
Together, they sit under the trees. Rin lays her head in his lap, like she used to do when she was a little girl. Sesshoumaru strokes her hair and closes his eyes when she fades.
He buries her. Under the trees that she used to love to climb in, he makes her final resting place.
Jaken lays flowers and blows his nose. He clutches his staff tighter than usual.
They don't move for a long time.
"Will you search for her, Sesshoumaru-sama?" Jaken asks. "Her reincarnation."
Back on the road, Sesshoumaru pauses. He thinks for a moment, then shakes his head.
He has already learned the lesson Rin had taught him. She had taught him how to love.