Rin stood at the edge of the hill, looking out over the valley of bright green grass and newly blossomed wild flowers that bent slightly in the breeze. Her hair, clipped back on one side like always, had grown longer until it reached nearly to her knees; the wind picked up several strands, blowing it over her shoulder and into her face. Her yukata was short, ending just at her knees for travel, but fancy nonetheless; it was royal blue with pink sakura blossoms embroidered on it; the sleeves were long and wide, hanging down past the hem of the yukata; the excess material whipped in warm summer air.
So many flowers...when she was younger, she would have been running through that field, picking an assortment to give to Lord Sesshomaru in a sloppy bouquet. A small part of her still wanted to do just that, but she held back.
Nine years she had been with Sesshomaru-sama now. For nine years she had followed him, obeyed him, been protected and taught by him. She had learned to read and to write and she had learned figures during one particularly messy winter some years before when he had forced her to stay at his home. Had she gone out in the blizzards and the snow storms she would have either been lost or died of illness. Jaken had argued vehemently that winter when Sesshomaru had ordered that he stay with her in order to make sure that those who served him did not harm her. Of course, Sesshomaru had not said it in so many words, but Rin knew now that that had been the reason.
It had been Jaken's idea that she receive an education at that time. It would keep her occupied and out of his hair, he had decided and someone had been found that could teach her. It was a luxury to have such knowledge and Rin knew this. Her childhood before Sesshomaru found her was becoming more and more of a blur everyday, but she knew that it was seldom lower class women were able to acquire schooling.
The light silk of her kimono brushed against her leg, bringing her back to the present. It was not very often that lower class women were found wearing fine silks and linens either or staying in fine palaces - for a palace was the only way to describe Sesshomaru's home.
"Rin, we are leaving."
She looked up and over her shoulder at the inu taiyoukai she had devoted nearly her entire life to. He still towered over her, although she had grown considerably, and he still looked the exact same as he had the day she'd awakened up in his lap.
She smiled brightly and started to turn and follow, but glanced back across the field of multicolored flowers again, her smile slowly disappearing. "Sesshomaru-sama, may I ask you a question?" She queried as her previous thoughts came back to mind. She had long ago begun to speak properly, leaving her former speech patterns behind with the rest of her childhood. At fifteen she was woman now.
He said nothing and she took this to mean his consent. With a deep breath she plowed on. "Sesshomaru-sama, why do you allow me to continue to follow you? Why did you allow me to follow you in the first place?"
He approached her, coming to stand next to her, and looked down at the top of her head. She blushed, feeling as if she had overstepped her bounds and refused to look up at him focusing instead on the field before her.
"The day you approached this Sesshomaru in the woods, you showed no fear. I could have killed you without hesitation and with ease, yet you came again."
She looked up, finally, glancing only briefly. "And you wanted to know why." She smiled slightly. "I remember being told that youkai were horrible creatures, purely evil and without conscience. I was told they maim, kill, devour humans and I was afraid. When I saw Sesshomaru-sama in the woods that day, I thought he was a forest spirit and that is why I was able to come so close. When I saw he was youkai, I couldn't bring myself to be afraid. Humans had called youkai evil, but had acted that way themselves. Perhaps youkai, then, were not so awful?"
She saw that he still stood, waiting, expecting her to continue. With a deep breath she did so. "I had been living alone in my parents hut at the edge of the village for several months. I survived on the fish that I was able to catch from the river. My parents had been killed by bandits. My elder brother was gone, fighting in the army for a nearby lord and was most likely dead. Even if he were not he wouldn't have returned to our hut though I waited for him, sure he would come. The villagers didn't try to help me. I had hidden in the bushes the night the bandits killed my parents and I witnessed it. Since that night, I had not been able to speak and everyone thought I was cursed so they wouldn't come near me and punished me for stealing their fish.
"When I found you in the woods, you were injured. I knew how it felt to be alone and hurt so I tried to help because I didn't want anyone else to feel like I did. Anyone else who came across you would have killed you or tried. I just know that wasn't going to leave you the way that I had been left."
He nodded and turned away starting back to where he had left Jaken and Ah-un without saying a word. Rin's eyes widened and she turned quickly, calling out to him so that he stopped mid-step and waited.
Rin sighed. "You have kept me all of this time because you were curious as to the nature as humans. You studied me, evaluated my actions, my thoughts, my feelings. I know. Jaken-sama says that once your curiosity has been settled, you will leave me to fend for myself once more."
She looked at the grass beneath her feet. The thought of him leaving her alone was terrifying to say the least. She had been alone before, when she was small, long before she met him and was quite certain that had Sesshomaru-sama not come along and allowed her to follow him - even if he had used Tenseiga to revive her as Jaken said he did - she would still not have survived another year before she died of starvation or the villagers killed her.
"May I still follow you?"
She thought she saw him give an ever so slight nod, but it could have been her imagination. "You may do as you wish." He still did not look at her nor make any move other than his mouth. The reddish and purple glow from the setting sun gave him an ethereal look, shining in his silver hair and catching the metal of his armor to make it sparkle.
She sighed again, thinking it over in her mind. "I will follow you for as long as you will allow me."
Having attained her answer, he nodded once and turned to leave, to hunt for their dinner. "Rin, return to the camp," he instructed over his shoulder as he left her in the now faded sun.
He could understand her actions now and mentally he cursed the village and the villagers who had treated her in such a way, his opinion of humans dropping a notch lower. Well, not of all humans. The girl who had traveled with him was more like a youkai now herself. She had learned to fight and could wield a dagger since his bumbling retainer could not be trusted to stay with her when he himself was not around. She had spent a winter in his castle, learning to read and write and work numbers.
But that was something that weighed on his mind. She had followed him for almost seven years, growing more attached to him and it was quite obvious that she had been in the presence of youkai. Many had seen her with him and others knew the rumors of the girl that traveled with the taiyoukai of the Western Lands. Rin would never be able to return to humans. They would never accept her into their villages or into their lives because of her association with him.
Another nagging problem was his title as taiyoukai. He should have mated and whelped an heir by now even though he planned to live for many years to come. His father had been proof enough that death could come suddenly. As it stood, were something to happen to cause his demise, his father's property and title would go to Inuyasha and just the thought of his dim-witted half brother becoming taiyoukai was enough to boil his blood. The hanyou was certainly not suitable enough to take on such a responsibility. His irrational and thoughtless behavior had proved it time and time again in the past.
No, Sesshomaru would rather see his lands burned and destroyed than fall into Inuyasha's hands. But the fact of the matter stood that while the youkai lord had yet to find a suitable mate and begat an heir, his half brother had been mated and already had whelped one child.
It as not Inuyasha's mixed blood that caused the youkai to believe the hanyou would be the downfall of the Western Lands. He was, after all, still half youkai and would, therefore, have enough youkai blood in him to take his place as second heir. If he were responsible, which he was not, it wouldn't have been so much of a problem.
His thoughts went back to Rin. She would not be accepted among humans after so long with him, but she might have a chance with youkai. They would accept her because he did and to defy him would lead to their death. If she were to find a suitable mate among his race, he could see that the title and the lands fell into her mate's hands upon his passing and she would be taken care of as well as any children she whelped. Her offspring would also inherit his lands. The mating would lengthen her life span to that of her mate's and insure her safety.
There was no other option. He would have to find her a suitable mate when the time came. Inuyasha would not inherit.
"Sesshomaru-sama?" Her light voice called to him and he stopped, turning to see that she had taken several steps to follow him and waited to see what it was she wanted. She blushed lightly and lowered her head. "Sesshomaru-sama, I've been thinking and I was wondering...Sesshomaru-sama, for as long as I have been with you, I have never asked for anything. You have given without comment and I have gratefully accepted all that you've offered, but my lord, may I ask a question of you and receive an honest answer?"
He did not move nor speak and she took his silence to mean that he would answer no questions, honestly or otherwise, that he did not feel the need to answer. But she had known that would be the case even when she asked.
She paused, holding her breath, knowing that she was pressing her luck. "What am I to you? What is my position? I know that Jaken is your retainer, but what am I? Sesshomaru-sama has many, many servants who do various tasks, but I do nothing except follow - nor am I asked to do anything. What is my place?"
He paused, wondering what he should say or if he should say anything at all, his expression never changing. He had known years before what his relationship to her was, but had never given any outward sign and, with his recent decision, it would eventually become obvious. But how to answer the girl...
He walked back to where she stood and put his hand on Tenseiga's hilt, pulling the sword from its scabbard. Holding the sword by the blade, he held it out to her and she hesitantly gripped the leather bound hilt, frowning because she didn't understand. "I received this sword as a part of my inheritance upon my father's death. When I have passed, the Tenseiga will become yours as well as the power to wield it. Do you understand?"
She did not, not completely, but she knew that it was the best answer she was going to get from him and so she nodded and let go of the hilt so that he could put the weapon in its scabbard once more.
Without another word he turned and left her, disappearing into the trees. With no one to see, his lips twitched as if he were about to smile. Let Jaken explain it to the girl.
Alone, her only option was to go back to camp where Ah-Un and Jaken waited for them. Smiling to herself that he actually had answered her, she skipped and sat down by the fire, smoothing the material of her dark blue kimono. She hadn't realized she had been humming until Jaken scolded her for making too much noise.
"What are you so happy about anyway?" He grumbled, still in a bad mood after an ill thought out comment had earned him a swift kick across the clearing a few hours before.
She shrugged and picked at a few wild flowers, twirling them in her fingers. "Sesshomaru-sama just gave me a special gift. He said that I was going to inherit Tenseiga one day." She frowned. "But I don't want to inherit Tenseiga because that would mean Sesshomaru-sama would be gone and I want to stay with him forever." Her features drew up in a deeper frown. She hadn't thought of that.
He nearly fell over, his mouth dropping open and eyes bugging out. If it hadn't been for the two headed staff in his hands, he would have lost his balance and toppled over in a dead faint.
"Sesshomaru-sama...the Tenseiga? To you?" He rasped, nearly speechless. And then his voice came back full throttle and he screeched at the top of his lungs. "Do you have any idea what that means, girl!"
Rin shrugged. "That he trusts me to take care of his sword?"
Jaken sputtered, trying to compose himself and found he was unable to do so. His voice was high and shrill when he spoke. "It means, girl, that he has accepted you as his heir! He has adopted you as his child!" He shook his head, covering his face with his hands. "Oh, why Sesshomaru-sama! Why would you give such a position to a worthless human child!" he wailed.
She blinked at his accusation, not sure whether or not he knew what he was talking about. Ah-Un plodded over and lay on the grass beside her and she absently reached out her hand to stroke Ah's neck.
"Adopted?" Her voice was quiet and unsure. "Sesshomaru-sama...is...my Chichi-ue?"
"Gah!" The toad demon wailed when the words came out of her mouth. He should have seen it coming. He should have known all those years ago when his lord first let the girl follow them.
Eh gads! If she were acknowledged as Sesshomaru's daughter then that would make him, the great Jaken, her servant as well! No more 'Jaken-sama' for him. She'd probably start to abuse him as badly as her new father. And, as if that weren't bad enough, he'd probably have to call her Rin-sama to show his lord that he acknowledged her new position.
"Aaaa-hhhhh! The disgrace of it all!"
He was still sulking when Sesshomaru returned with a lump of meat in his hand.
Rin jumped up from her spot. "Sesshomaru-sama?" She questioned before he could even come in the clearing. "Jaken says that you promising me the Tenseiga means that you're my Chichi-ue now. Is that true?"
He held the meat out to her. The lump had once been the leg and thigh of a hair, but had already been quartered and skinned. It was more than she'd eat, but the rest could go to the birds...or Ah-Un if he got curious for cooked meat again.
She took the offering and started for the fire, preparing to cook her meal while he cleansed his hand. After a long moment of silence, filled only by the chirp of crickets and a sporadic whimper from Jaken, he looked at her bent form as she stoked the coals and made a bed for her food. "You told me that you understood Rin, did you not?"
She stiffened and turned to look at him. "I…Well...I was afraid that if I said I didn't understand you would change your mind."
His golden gaze flicked to Jaken who sat hunched over, leaning against the staff of two heads, looking out at the woods. "And Jaken explained?"
Rin giggled. "Well, he mostly just cried about it, but he did mention that your promising me the sword meant you adopted me." Her features scrunched up into a frown and she turned a dark glare at Jaken. "And then he called me worthless."
The little toad youkai seemed to burrow deeper into his body, realizing that such an act on his part could possibly spell death if what the girl had said was true about inheriting the sword.
She turned her innocent brown eyes back to Sesshomaru. "Sesshomaru-sama, if what Jaken-sama says is true, may I call you Chichi-ue?"
The great youkai lord visibly flinched. He had never considered the child might want to acknowledge him in such a way. Then again he hadn't really planned on voicing his intentions either, but her question had been so sincere and innocent. She'd had a point before when she said she'd never asked him for anything so could he really have denied her the one thing she did ask? He may have been ruthless and cold, but he was nothing if not honorable.
"You may do as you like."
"Gah!" Came the defeated moan from Jaken as he slumped farther towards the ground. He could just see it now. 'Chichi-ue Jaken is being bossy and mean again!' and down would come the foot and he'd be squished once more and left to beg forgiveness from 'Rin-sama'.
The small youkai shivered. I'm living in hell.
The child giggled and went to find a leaf she could use as a plate while Sesshomaru stood by the fire, keeping watch over her and thinking. There were a few in his service who he would consider worthy of his lands and his title that would also be agreeable to taking a human mate. They would also have to understand though, it would be a bonded marriage and not political. Rin would not suffer as his mother had through her politically arranged marriage.
She should be staying at the castle more instead of traveling with me. There is much she will have to learn and only two more summers before she will be considered old enough to mate, he realized that was not much time and considered he should have begun planning long before this, but it had not been until recently that he had finally come to the decision.
She will also need a retainer. His gaze momentarily went to the side, landing on Jaken and then back to the girl that had been distracted by flowers. It will have to be someone who will be respectful of her and protective, able to fight away any dangers that may cross her path. They will also have to be gentle and have an understanding of humans and their emotions. Human emotions are so much more fragile.
Coming back to the fire, Rin stopped to secure a pink flower under Ah's bridle and a blue one under Un's bridle. The two heads looked at each other, taking in the other's decorations and then looked at Rin as she passed them and went back to her meal, taking the meat from the coals and placing it on the leaf she'd found.
Sesshomaru watched the interaction between the reptilian youkai and the young girl. Ah-Un was capable of transforming his form to that of a large and vicious looking being. In the years past Rin had seen the transformation on several occasions and showed no fear of him. It was quite obvious that the youkai was fond of her, never leaving her behind even when Jaken could not be trusted to watch over her. His own need for the reptile was small, but it seemed a perfect choice.
He sat at the base of a tree, lost in thought. He hadn't even noticed when the young girl approached him and knelt next to his armless sleeve. Slowly, he turned so that he regarded her with glowing yellow eyes.
Rin smiled and blushed, leaning in to kiss his cheek quickly before backing away. "Oyasumi nasai," she mumbled quietly and skipped away, retrieving a blanket from her pack and curling up by the fire.
The youkai lord watched her, ignoring the quiet whimpers of his retainer at her display of affection.
Good night…My child.