Rin looked around her with wide eyes as she followed her lord into the opulent estate that was his home. She'd been there before, but only for a short stay and they had arrived after dark so that the details of his mansion were obscured from her vision. During that time she had also been confined to her rooms with only her nanny and Jaken to keep her company. It had been during the winter season when she'd come the last time and once heavy coats and thick kimono were delivered they had gone again, once more roaming the countryside.
Now, however, it was mid spring and near noon when they entered the village grounds on their way through to the palace like mansion that overlooked everything. She sat on Ah-Un's saddle, sharing the reptilian youkai with another passenger, the wind sorceress they had found three days earlier.
The Shikon no Tama was destroyed, Jaken had said when Rin asked him why the pretty woman had been so ill looking, and Naraku had been killed. She knew vaguely what the Shikon no Tama was from bits and pieces of conversation she'd picked up from Jaken, Sesshomaru and the red-clad man they sometimes encountered. Though she might not have understood the significance of the Tama, she did know that Naraku's death was a good thing. He had ordered her to be taken from her lord and had sent the double faced doctor, Suikotsu, after her.
She was curious as to how they had found the wind witch at all. Sesshomaru-sama had told them the woman was dead and she had not seen him wield Tenseiga over her body. Was it possible someone else could perform the same magic as her master?
She hadn't been able to ask the woman, though, because not long after she'd stumbled into their camp she had passed out and had not roused again since. Now she sat on Ah-Un's saddle, leaned against the two giant necks while Rin sat behind her.
The castle, as they approached, towered three levels tall with white paneled walls and black tiled roof. Various windows and doors let in air and light though she could see no movement behind them. As they came to the gates that separated Sesshomaru's private land from the rest of the village, several men in uniform greeted them, bowing low to Sesshomaru as they passed. They eyed her with a mixture of curiosity and disgust.
At the front entrance, four others waited to greet them, two women and two men all dressed in plain kimono and hakama. They bowed low to the ground as he approached and then stood with their heads bowed awaiting instruction.
"Prepare a room and place her in it. Jaken, summon Uta and Kiet. This Sesshomaru will speak with them in my office." With those short, clipped orders, he disappeared into the house without looking back.
One of the men took Ah-Un's bridle just as she slid off his back and onto the ground. The other gathered the female youkai into his arms and followed one of the women through the door way while Jaken grumbled and set on his way to find the two women Sesshomaru had sent for. Unlike the impish youkai, the servants of the castle did not question Sesshomaru's decisions but simply carried out his orders. The last gabbed Rin's arm and ushered her quickly through the halls to the rooms that had been assigned to her on her first visit. It was there she was left to herself and told not to leave that area. With a sigh, she slumped to the floor and conjured up new songs to sing.
Jaken was still mumbling under his breath when he reached the hut where Uta resided and knocked impatiently at her door. When the flap was pulled aside, the figure of an older woman, plump with graying hair, stood in his path. She was only three heads taller than himself, but her massive weight did not seem to hinder her in the least. Her hair had been pulled back into a braid and then balled on top of her head. A black star on her forehead, fangs, and pointed ears were the only things marking her as a youkai.
Inwardly, he shivered. Bat youkai had always caused his flesh to crawl, but the beady black eyes of this one in particular did nothing to ease his paranoia. And neither did the fact that when she spoke, though her Japanese was excellent, her voice carried the undercurrent of another accent. She was born in what would eventually become the Ukraine, but had relocated to the Japanese islands after her first few centuries and had finally settled in Sesshomaru's village.
"Lord Sesshomaru demands your presence at once," he informed her, forcing himself not to shiver.
She raised her brow, eyeing him closely. "Does he now?" The faintest hint of a smile tugged the corner of her lips.
He banged the end of his two headed staff on the ground. "Do not keep him waiting!"
She hissed and thrust her body forward as if to attack him and the imp yelped, jumping back several feet. "Why me!" He demanded of the heavens as he hightailed it away from her hut as quickly as possible, her cackling laughter following him as he went.
There was a knock on his door before the panel slid open to reveal Jaken. Behind him was another youkai, a young woman in floor length blue kimono. The material was bare, but gave a sort of radiant quality to her person that could not be ignored. She was pale skinned with long white hair that hung in curls down her back, just below her waist. She kept her brown eyes cast to the floor as she knelt by the threshold.
"I requested the scholar's presence," Sesshomaru stated in his monotone voice without looking up from the scroll he had been reading.
Jaken shook with nervousness. "I went to the scholar's home, my lord," he stuttered, trying to back away from the doorway without tripping over the kneeling woman. "I gave him your message, my lord, but...but..."
"If I may, my lord?" The woman spoke up from the other side of the door. "My uncle spoke with your messenger and took the liberty of guessing my lord's reasons for calling upon him. He sent me in his place, believing that I would be better suited for the tasks my lord may have in mind."
Sesshomaru said nothing, but gave the slightest of nods, indicating that she could stand and enter. As she did so, the imp took the opportunity to flee. The woman closed the sliding door behind her and knelt once more, waiting.
The inu youkai set the scroll on a large wooden desk, elaborately carved and stained with a dark laquer. The only chair in the room was the one on which he sat. It too had been intricately carved and was made of the same dark wood with gold upholstered padding on the seat. Inkwells, feathered pens, and open scrolls were scattered across the surface of the desk. On the wall behind him and running along side the desk were floor to ceiling book shelves on which were more cylinders containing scrolls, a few leather bound volumes and collections of nick-knacks from not only Japan but other countries across the globe. Three windows on the outer wall, paneled with glass, allowed light to come into the room, but there were also several iron lanterns that could be lit in the evenings as well as a tall wrought iron candelabra on one side of his desk that held six tapered candles. A matching snuffer hung from one of the arms.
"What is your name?" He glanced at her only briefly before dipping a quill into an inkwell and moving it across the parchment in smooth strokes.
"I am Umika, daughter of Jiro."
He recognized the clan now. Her grandparents had come from Europe not long after his father had become taiyoukai. They were inu, a clan known as poodle from France, if he recalled correctly. "You are a scholar as well."
She nodded. "Yes, my lord."
"I do not tolerate ignorance in my presence," he announced, finally standing as he left the ink to dry on the paper. He came around the edge of the desk and stood over her, looking down his nose at the top of her head. "The human child is uneducated. If she is to continue to follow this Sesshomaru, she must learn."
Umika kept her head lowered to hide her smile. "If it is my lord's wish, I will teach the child."
"You will begin tomorrow." He turned his back on her then, and walked away, indicating that she was dismissed.
Just as she had stood and was sliding the door open, Jaken entered once more, nearly barreling into her. She stepped aside and let him pass, nodding once to the woman who knelt outside the door and left.
"My lord, Uta has finally decided to show herself," Jaken huffed, glaring at the older woman who bared a fang at him.
"The child is in her room." Sesshomaru didn't bother to indicate that she should enter or that Jaken should leave them be. He had little to say to the youkai as she already knew her responsibility.
Uta nodded. "Are there any specific instructions my lord wishes to give?" Her voice was gravely and rough, but much more respectful towards the inu youkai than to his impish servant.
Sesshomaru was seated at his desk once more. "She is free to do as she will - within reason."
Uta nodded once more, secretly glad that she would not have to keep the hyperactive child locked in only the two rooms given to her. Large as they were, it was a cramped space for someone as curious and playful as her charge.
The old woman bowed again and then stood, leaving the tai youkai and imp behind in the study while she climbed the stairs to her charge's suite.