Disclaimer: The Inuyasha characters in no way, shape or form belong to me. They are the creations of Rumiko Takahashi.
¨Sesshomaru stood staring pensively at the horizon. The wind swept his long, silver hair into hissing tendrils that danced among the flowing sleeves of his kimono. His fingers stroked the fur upon his shoulder, mimicking the wind's gentle touch. He ignored the shrill complaints of his faithful retainer Jaken and the youthful arguments from his young ward, Rin. His acute demon senses were focused on something else, some taint upon the air.
He glanced back at his charges. Au-Un lay resting peacefully at the entrance of the small cave where Rin vainly attempted to engage Jaken in play. They could feel nothing, but he could not simply ignore it.
"Jaken, take care of Rin," Sesshomaru ordered quietly then he began to walk back down the side of the ridge toward the forest they had left earlier.
"But- but- but wait! Lord Sesshomaru!" Jaken wailed after him. "Where are you going without the services of your loyal retainer?"
Sesshomaru had to wonder if the little imp actually expected a response, for he never gave one. Deep in the forest, the aura seemed to grow stronger. He sniffed the air, but caught not even the fading scent of a demon. This was something he had not yet encountered, but he, lord of the Western Lands, had no need to fear the unknown. Sesshomaru did not know fear.
A glimmer in the distance caught his eye. In an instant, he stood before the strange object. A mirror, small, square and unadorned, hung against the trunk of a large oak. Intrigued, Sesshomaru approached, gazing into the smooth surface. The glass was hazy and offered no reflection.
What sort of mirror is this? Sesshomaru wondered to himself. There was no demonic aura emanating from it, nor even any scent of a living creature. It obviously poses no threat. What a waste of my time, Sesshomaru thought wryly to himself and turned to leave.
Yet again the breeze stirred around him, tainting the air with a sense of wrongness. Returning to the mirror, he studied its clouded facade. Frustrated with the futility of that effort, he reached out and touched its surface. His eyes widened with surprise.
"What do you mean, you ain't got no Ramen!" Inuyasha exclaimed angrily at Kagome who sat on the bank of the river holding her now very emaciated back-pack up for the half-demon's inspection.
"I haven't been home for almost a week. You don't expect me to be able to bring a whole month's supply with me each time I come, do you? Besides, the way you gobble it up, I don't think the company makes enough to feed you," Kagome snapped back at him, her irritation apparent on her lovely face.
"She's right, Inuyasha," Miroku the monk stated as he came up behind the arguing pair. "You can't expect Kagome to sustain us all. You're a half-demon. Why not try your expertise in the river and see how many fish you can catch?"
Inuyasha turned to glare at the monk, but a short while later, he, Miroku, Sango, Kirara, Kagome and Shippo all relaxed around a cheerful fire picking the sizzling white flesh from the spits. Well, in Inuyasha's case he simply downed the entire thing in one bite before snatching another- but to each his own.
"Ah, Inuyasha, an excellent catch," Miroku praised as he picked his teeth with a small bone.
"Indeed, thank you," Sango added, scratching Kirara's ear as the cat demon inserted a satisfied mew.
"Mmm-hhmm! Thanks, Inuyasha," Kagome added. She pulled out a book and sank back to read her latest assignment. "I'll never get this read in time for that test next week!" she whined aloud as she did.
"I told you hundreds of times, you ought to just give up on that eduma- education crap. You don't need it here, fighting demons and finding jewel shards," Inuyasha argued heartlessly.
"Hmph!" was Kagome's reply.
Kirara began to growl and her fur stood on end. Inuyasha narrowed his eyes and put a hand on the Tetsusaiga. The others were instantly alert.
"Wh- what is it, Inuyasha," young Shippo whimpered as he dove to hide behind Kagome.
"A demon," Inuyasha growled, now on his feet. "A strong one, that's coming straight at us."
The others were on their feet by now as well, and following the half-demon as he ran toward the stream, clearing it in one leap.
"Damn it!" he hissed as he landed. His nose searched the air.
"What is it, Inuyasha? You didn't hurt yourself, did you?" Kagome asked, a note of concern in her voice. Her words simply earned her a dry glare from the half-demon.
"No, stupid, I mean that demon's not alone. I smell Sesshomaru, too, coming closer," Inuyasha shouted over to them. Damn it! What the hell is going on?
He drew his Tetsusaiga and stared worriedly into the forest. He didn't tell the others that Sesshomaru's approaching scent reeked with fear, almost terror. And as the demons drew even closer, he could smell the salt of tears. What kind of demon could possibly make his stoic older brother shed tears of fear?
Inuyasha did not have to wait long for the answer to that question. Trees began to shake violently, some completely uprooted by the passing of a massive form. He and the others looked upstream to a small gorge where the trees ran almost to the edge. There was a cry, a small, white blur fell into the stream followed by several trees as the giant demon finally emerged.
It was a giant spider, moving its jointed eight legs with deadly precision as it scaled down the side of the gorge. Red, hate-filled eyes scoured the river and sighting Inuyasha apparently satisfied its search. The half-demon prepared to strike.
Kagome's eyes did not remain on the demon, however. She watched the small white form splash into the river and then bob back to the surface with a sputtering gasp, only to be dragged back down.
Why is it that so many people live by rivers in the feudal era, yet none of them can swim? Kagome wondered to herself as her instincts took over. She dove into the current, catching what she found was only a small child, and swam back to shore. Inuyasha made quick work of the demon, killing it with the Wind Scar, and landed back beside his companions.
"Why'd you go jumpin' in the river with all your clothes on?" he growled at the dripping and shivering Kagome. Tetsusaiga returned to its sheath.
"And where's Sesshomaru? You said he was coming too," Sango questioned. She had still not released her hold on her hiraikotsu.
"Um, guys, I think I can answer that," Kagome added quietly. Everyone looked down at her, and Inuyasha sniffed the air, his eyes widening with shock.
In her arms she held the small child no more than four or five years old whom she had dragged from the current. He clung to her with pale slender arms that still shook, and he sobbed softly into her neck. Red demon marks stretched across the bare forearms and an oddly familiar white fur was draped over his shoulder. Long, silvery white hair swept down his back, dripping little rivers. His white and red kimono was also dripping and covered in dirt where he had apparently fallen. An extremely familiar sword nearly as tall as the boy had managed to stay tied to his waist.
"Sesshomaru!" they all exclaimed in unison.
At the mention of his name, the boy lifted his white head and turned a beautiful, pale face to them. A blue crescent moon on his forehead and the familiar magenta stripes on his cheeks confirmed their suspicions. Amber eyes, swollen with tears, studied them all. That face, which usually regarded everything with such a cold detachment, had opened and released a flood of emotions, the most dominant of the moment being despairing terror.
Managing to control his sobs, the child asked, "How- how do you know my name? Where is father?"
"I can't believe this!" Inuyasha exclaimed.
The others relaxed and sat down trying to appear less intimidating.
"I know," Miroku said.
"I wonder," Sango muttered.
"What a perfect chance to kill that bastard!" Inuyash finished. He drew Tetsusaiga again and made as if to charge Sesshomaru.
The boy let out a whimper of terror and buried his face back into the base of Kagome's neck.
"SIT BOY!" Kagome barked. Inuyasha reacquainted himself with the ground, while Kagome jumped back, hugging the little Sesshomaru tightly against her chest in defense.
"Don't you dare," Kagome warned him while he angrily tried to get up. "I don't know what happened, but Sesshomaru's just a babe, now. Innocent. You couldn't kill a child could you? He's scared to death and defenseless."
"Kagome's right, Inuyasha," Sango agreed.
"No matter what he's done in the past, we cannot take advantage of this situation and kill Sesshomaru while he has no chance of defending himself," Miroku added sagely. Sango looked admirably at him until she felt his hentai hand on her butt. Her slap echoed, and he rubbed his cheek with a self-satisfied smirk on his face.
Inuyasha growled. "But think of all the people he's killed. He's tried to kill me and all of us a number of times. Just cause he's shrunk down doesn't mean he can just walk."
"Inuyasha, he's your older brother," Kagome argued. "Your father died the day you were born, so Sesshomaru has had plenty of opportunities to kill you as a child, and didn't. Don't tell me you're willing to sink even lower than your brother by attacking him as a child?"
"Damn it, Kagome, why'd ya have to go and say that?" Inuyasha whined, and he sank to his haunches in a sulk. Tetsusaiga returned to its sheath.
Shippo jumped up on Kagome's shoulder and remarked, "You know, he is cute as a pup."
Amber eyes peeked up angrily from Kagome's shoulder, and Sesshomaru growled, "Who are you calling 'pup,' kit? My father is lord of the Western Lands, you cannot speak to me like that."
The group let out a collective sigh, and Sango muttered, "Well, now we know he's always been arrogant."