A/N – My first try at ModernDay!Sesshoumaru and Rin. Hope you enjoy. Neither samurai nor social workers were harmed during the making of this story.
Disclaimer – I don't own anything. Don't sue me.
Civilisation, the humans called it. Progress.
Twenty million people, crammed cheek by jowl into one city, this Eastern capital. They spoke of human rights and fundamental freedoms, but they were only rights for those who could afford them. For the poor, the dispossessed, the wretched creatures beneath human society's notice, life was not much different now than it was five hundred years ago.
Sesshoumaru knew. Rin had once been one of the despised ones, before she had abandoned her human life to follow him. Even now, so many years after her death, he caught glimpses of her among the dispossessed –
A woman, her face bruised, her eyes lowered as she held her infant close, rocking it, protecting it, singing to it in a thin, sad voice. He took a step closer, and she retreated, clutching the baby tightly, glaring at him fiercely…
A girl, no more than sixteen, her face a mask of thickly applied cosmetics, her movements sluggish and stiff. When she reached out to him, her lips were blue, her hands were shaking, and he could see the track marks in her arm…
A young child, filthy, crouching almost naked in the street, her eyes dark, and ancient.
"Rin trusted Sesshoumaru-sama," she had whispered, her shivering subsiding as he wrapped his warm pelt around her, "because of his eyes. Some of the villagers hurt Rin because they could, because they liked it, but Sesshoumaru-sama is not like that."
Children had always trusted him. Even wary, feral, stripped of all innocence and joy, they nevertheless seemed to see something in him –
"Sesshoumaru-sama is a youkai, but the villagers were crueler to Rin than Sesshoumaru-sama has ever been…"
"Why do you waste your time in those slums, Sesshoumaru?" the other great taiyoukai asked. Dressed in tailored black business suits, their markings and demonic characteristics magically disguised, they ruled their empires from their boardrooms, controlling their subjects with money and the threat of human discovery.
Sesshoumaru dressed in white and crimson still, refusing to disguise himself. He wandered as he had always done, Tenseiga openly at his side, not fearing exterminators – he was Sesshoumaru of the West, and all who crossed him died. He did not accumulate wealth like a zealous, grasping merchant, and nor did he insist upon complete control over every single youkai within his territory.
He simply was.
"Because I can," he answered them, dismissing their scorn and disapproval as irrelevant.
The other taiyoukai considered his refusal to adapt to changing circumstances reckless and self-indulgent. In the beginning, during the height of Tokugawa Ieyasu's purge, they had challenged him, demanding that he conform – when he refused, they tried to kill him, to foster rebellion in the west and overthrow him. Sesshoumaru had destroyed the rebel armies with terrifying ruthlessness and torn their would-be puppet into three still-living parts, sending one third to each of his fellow rulers.
Since then, there had been no more challenges, and Sesshoumaru had been left alone.
In her dreams, she remembered what it was to trust. In the night country of her fantasies, the secret garden of her mind, she had a beautiful, ruthless protector who would never turn on her, never abandon her, and never let her down…
In her real life, she was an orphan, and she had lost faith in father figures.
She was not sure how old she was. She thought she was some eight or even nine years old; the social worker who tried to take her away had told her she might even be as old as ten. She'd said that she would find Rin's records and check properly, but Rin had never given her the chance to find out. She'd gone, as soon as the woman turned her back – they'd found her once, but they would not find her again.
There were other children on the streets of Tokyo: cowering, shivering victims, and feral, vicious predators who banded together in gangs to terrorise the others. Rin was neither – Rin was a creeping, sneaking, shadow, searching for something she couldn't quite define.
She had only told one other person about her dreams. At almost sixteen, older, more sophisticated (more brittle) and more experienced, Ayako-neechan had smirked at her with vivid crimson lips, her black-lined eyes vague, bitter and empty.
"There's no protection without strings, Rin-chan. They all want something in return." Then, seeing Rin's face fall, she'd sighed and patted her head with drunken, clumsy affection. "It's a good dream, though…"
As much as she had wanted to protest, Rin knew that Ayako-neechan was right. It was not real, but it was a good dream, the only dream that she had. In a world where everything that she had could be taken away from her at the whim of an older, stronger street rat, it was the only thing that they couldn't take, the only thing that was truly hers, and she hugged it tightly to herself during the long, cold nights.
"Sesshoumaru-sama," she dreamed she said sometimes, on the very coldest nights when she'd had nothing to eat and she felt faint and dizzy, "Rin feels safe when Sesshoumaru-sama is with her. But those samurai, those things they shouted – is Sesshoumaru-sama good or bad?"
'Sesshoumaru-sama' was warmth, and strength, and a sense of detached irony and magnificent indifference. She heard a soft, whuffled laugh, and then a deep, flat voice. "This Sesshoumaru simply is, Rin."
Rin moved through the streets cautiously, flitting from shadow to shadow with eyes and ears alert for trouble. She was searching for a new hiding spot, because she had seen social workers near her old one yesterday, and some of the other kids told her that they'd been asking questions about her. Rin didn't remember much about her life before the streets, because every time she tried she found herself shaking, crying – she remembered shouting, and screaming, and being afraid all the time.
She never wanted to be that helpless ever again; she was stronger, now, she could live on her own and look after herself. She didn't need foster parents –
"Hello, Rin." A soft, coaxing voice, a neutral, non-threatening stance, and a kind-looking, motherly woman stood watching her, her hands open at her sides. "Your name is Rin, isn't it?"
Rin watched her, backing away slowly. "Yes," she admitted warily.
"We've been looking all over for you, Rin-chan," the woman said. She made no move to follow. "Are you hungry?"
Rin was starving, but she didn't tell the woman that. Shaking her head, she backed away further, unaware that she was creeping up on a brick wall until she thumped into it, flinching.
The woman sighed, seeing her fear. She had seen too much of it in too many little girls' eyes. "I'm not here to take you away, Rin. I just want to know that you're unharmed…" She kept talking in a rich, soothing voice, hoping to calm the little girl's fears.
"I'm fine," Rin said tightly, her voice high and thin with nerves. "I just want you to leave me alone."
"Aren't you afraid, out here on the streets? Don't you want to sleep in a real bed, without worrying about anyone trying to hurt you?"
But that was a mistake.
"The only thing I'm worried about is you!" Rin shouted, getting ready to run, and a man in a dark suit appeared from behind the motherly woman, his hands reaching out –
"No, Toshiyo!" the woman said, sharply, but it was too late – he may have meant no harm, but Rin knew only violence at the hands of men.
"No!" She screamed, kicking and struggling and biting. "Let me go!"
Toshiyo flinched, trying to restrain a whirlwind, and the woman sighed, seeing all her hard work destroyed. It would be impossible to gain the girl's trust now –
There was a blur of movement and Toshiyo suddenly choked; she whirled around, astonished, to see him lifted near a foot off the ground, his feet dangling, his hands clutching at his throat – or rather, at the hand that was holding him in the air. While she froze in shock, the little girl took the opportunity to run, disappearing into the surrounding streets.
"You, human," the…being said, his voice a flat, impassive monotone, "why were you attacking that girl?" Despite his apparent indifference, she got the sense that he was frighteningly intense.
Toshiyo tried to snarl, tried to choke up some useless, muffled defiance; it was ruthlessly quashed by tightening fingers and a distinct smell of melting flesh. Green mist swirled, and Toshiyo began to scream, and scream, and scream until his neck was melted nearly all the way through. With a disdainful flick of his wrist, the being tossed him aside and shook the gore off his hand. She gaped stupidly at him, at the ruined the ruined wreck of a man, tossed aside as if he was of no consequence. "You…you killed him!" she gasped, horrified. "Y-you killed him!"
He looked up, pinning her with utterly indifferent, completely alien eyes. "I will not ask a third time, human. What do you want with that girl?"
She cringed at the terrible menace buried under the soft, flat tone. "I'm… I'm a social worker," she stammered, terrified. "I – we – we've been watching Rin-chan for a while, now. We just wanted to make sure she was well…" She trailed off, intimidated, but she could not look away – she knew, instinctively, that if she looked away he would kill her.
"From now on," he said, very, very softly, "she is longer your concern."
She opened her mouth to protest, but shut it, quietly, when his hand began to glow green. He watched her for some time longer, and then suddenly turned away, casually stepping over Toshiyo's body as if it were utterly irrelevant.
"Wait!" she called, finally finding the courage to speak. "Who are you?"
He turned to face her. "I am Sesshoumaru," he said, as if it explained everything.
The name meant nothing to her, and she watched, confused, terrified and awestruck all at once, as he walked away.
Sesshoumaru followed the girl's scent, disturbed by the fear and desperation saturating it. It was not right. She should never be afraid of anything – not her.
He did not give his protection lightly, but he had extended it to the filthy, mute girl who had tried to help him in one of his most vulnerable hours. Even after her death, she remained in his mind's eye, forever skipping and dancing in his wake. And now this girl, a half-glimpsed echo of her memory, another wary, half-feral girl-child with old, old eyes…
"Rin feels safe with Sesshoumaru-sama…"
Sesshoumaru, who was neither good nor evil, or anything but supremely self-interested, could not bear the thought of her fear.
Rin cowered in her new hiding place, rocking back and forth, her arms wrapped tightly around herself as she shivered and shook. She'd thought she'd been safe on the streets, thought that she was clever enough, stealthy enough to escape forever…
This was the last of her hideouts, the smallest, dingiest, and most uncomfortable; she used it when there was nowhere else to go
She flinched, jumped up: and froze. It was the man from the alley, the one who had rescued her – who had moved so quickly and with such shocking violence. But something inside of her knew that deep voice, that flat, utterly indifferent tone. And deep, deep down, she knew the man, the being, who stood in front of her, watching with bored golden eyes.
He was here! He had come for her!
"Se…Sesshoumaru-sama?" she asked, hardly daring to hope.
For a moment, she thought she saw something very strange in his eyes, something soft, something…warm?
But then it was banished, and he was unreadable once more.
"Rin," he said, in confirmation, in affirmation, and in a tone of casual, absolute command. "Let's go."
A/N – Part one of two. Next part, dealing with their adjustments to the new arrangements, should be coming sometime in the future. Please tell me what you thought; feedback is highly appreciated.