What an awful girl, Jaken huffed, glaring out of the corner of his eyes at the silent, smiling girl who followed his master. Sesshomaru-sama has the grace to revive her, and now she won't leave him alone!

Perhaps, Jaken hoped, he was ignoring the girl in the hopes she'd go away.

Yes, that must be it, he decided, and pushed the matter out his mind.

And yet, after a few minutes more of walking, his eyes turned toward the girl again. Sesshomaru-sama said he was testing the Tenseiga... but then why, why allow her to follow him?

Jaken frowned and sighed.

Sometimes, he wondered if he would ever understand Sesshomaru-sama.

---

Sesshomaru had not once looked at the little girl following him. He looked forward, always, and never behind. Despite this, he did consider the reasons as to why she continued to follow him.

Does she feel that she owes me a debt? It was possible. Perhaps this human had at least a shred of honor, which was more than the rest of her race could boast.

He had picked up another follower before, he remembered. Jaken's own perseverance in following him was somewhat amusing, and at the very least, he could be useful at times.

But a human? And a child, no less.

Why Tenseiga? Sesshomaru glanced at his sword and heirloom, forever reminded of its presence by its weight. Why this girl?

The Tenseiga gave no answers.

It never did.

And, not for the first time, Sesshomaru cursed his father for giving him such a troublesome sword.

---

Rin smiled absently, not caring about the toad youkai alternately peering and glaring at her, nor her still slightly torn, ragged, and filthy clothes, and definitely not anything else.

She just kept staring at her new lord, her savior.

And, for the first time in a long while, she felt like speaking again.

---

Jaken stared at Sesshomaru, absolutely flabbergasted. He couldn't believe it. It made absolutely no sense! It was simply... impossible!

Sesshomaru had stopped for the night.

He never stopped for the night.

Jaken glanced warily at the girl. Perhaps she was a witch, an enchantress who had placed a spell upon Sesshomaru-sama and tricked him into allowing her to accompany them!

"My lord?" Jaken ventured curiously, hoping that he might get some evidence of sorcery cast upon his liege lord. Sesshomaru continued to stare straight ahead.

"We will wait here for the night." Sesshomaru said flatly, and he still sounded like himself, at least.

"Is it for the girl, Sesshomaru-sama?" Jaken questioned, glancing back at the strange creature who busied herself with flowers silently.

Sesshomaru said nothing.

"My lord?" the toad youkai asked, hoping he had not said anything that would result in being Tenseiga's second subject... or the target of his master's foot.

"We will wait here for the night, Jaken." Sesshomaru repeated, but there was just the slightest hint of an edge to his voice this time.

Jaken immediately retreated, babbling foolish (and most likely ignored) apologies.

"Child." Sesshomaru spoke, without looking away from the moon. Immediately, the girl stopped playing with her flowers, skipping toward him silently, but with a smile that spoke for her.

"Your name." It was not a request.

The girl looked at him for a moment, then coughed slightly. Briefly, Sesshomaru wondered if she were mute. After all, she had not spoken when she visited him.

The illusion of silence was shattered as her mouth opened, and she spoke.

"Rin." Her voice sounded rusty, harsh, and unused, like a forgotten sword. "It's Rin, my lord. What is your name?" her voice was curious but unafraid, reaching out like a newly lit fire, and just as bright.

"This one's name is Sesshomaru." He said in reply, and finally looked at her. She looked as she was- returned from the dead, dirty and ragged. Only the injuries were missing.

"If you are to follow me, you must look presentable." Sesshomaru said, looking away. "You will find a river, and bathe. In the morning, you will change into new clothes." His voice was clipped and brisk, lacking kindness, but without harshness.

"Yes, Sesshomaru-sama!" Rin replied, and raised her hand in what might have been a salute. She skipped off toward the woods without hesitation, humming a murmuring tune that was not all unpleasant to his ears.

Sesshomaru didn't watch her leave, but he did listen. After a moment, he spoke again. "Jaken, go with her."

"M-me, my lord?" Jaken sputtered, gaping. Sesshomaru said nothing, but Jaken got the chill in his blood that only happened when his lord was irritated.

At least he's not smiling, he thought nervously.

He went off without protest... or at least, until he was in the woods.

Sesshomaru stood, alone save for Ah-Un. Finally, without a word, he turned and went back the way they had come.

---

Wolves, Sesshomaru thought disgustedly, stepping through what used to be a village. Obviously those that had attacked Rin (he didn't notice he had acknowledged her name) were from the same pack. Their repugnant stench infected the air, the ground, and most certainly the corpses of every human in this dirt-hole they had called a village.

The slaughter was brute force and violence, no finesse, no challenge. Humans were easy to kill; Sesshomaru was bored with the sight.

A new set of scents assaulted his nose, and he looked annoyed, his eyes narrowing. So, Inuyasha was here.

His youkai blood screamed for revenge; his mind remained calm, a trait he prided himself on- to be calculatingly distant where a fool such as his brother would have charged in heedlessly. Tessaiga had chosen, and Inuyasha, through fortune or a shred of skill, had injured him severely in their last confrontation. There was no need for another quite yet.

So he stepped through the slaughter, not avoiding stepping on corpses or blood, unheeding the smell of death. He was distant, removed from the massacre. He had a purpose, and small bothers such as the dead did not concern him.

He ignored the small huts, the raw, packed stench of humanity irritating him, and did not notice the fields stained with their tiller's blood, nor the foolish bravery of those corpses who had been men protecting their own.

But he took notice of the largest structure, and stepped toward it, certain he would find what he was looking for within. The sight that greeted him might have sickened a lesser creature.u

A man, his throat ripped by hungry jaws, slumped next to another human, this one a woman, mouth open in forever frozen terror. Her eyes were stricken with a fear that disgusted Sesshomaru.

There was one more scent- Sesshomaru peered past the man and the woman, and spotted a smaller hand, one stained with crimson. The dead girl's face peered almost shyly behind the corpses of her parents, he noted.

She was the same age as Rin. It was a fact he noted, and stored, and forgot with only a hint of difficulty.

He stepped past the bodies, his purpose concluded as he snatched a pretty little bundle, certain that the dead had no use for it.

---

Sesshomaru stepped into the clearing, and almost immediately (and naturally) Jaken rushed toward him, barraging him with questions. "Where did you go Sesshomaru-sama! Why didn't you take me with you! If you wanted to leave the girl, why did you send me with her! Do you want to get rid of me?"

"Jaken. Silence." Two words, and the tirade was cut down (Sesshomaru was generous- to another, he would have simply used the command without a name). Jaken mumbled apologies that were once again ignored, stepping backward. Rin stood next to him, smiling widely.

"Welcome back Sesshomaru-sama!" she greeted cheerily, her eyes open and bright.

Sesshomaru glanced at her for a moment, as if weighing some matter, and then tossed her the bundle in his hand.

"These are your new clothes. Change into them in the woods quickly. We're leaving."

Rin smiled brighter, and bowed. "Thank you, my lord!"

As she left, Sesshomaru could have sworn that the Tenseiga seemed to grow lighter against his hip.

And just like that, the world shifted ever so slightly, a single degree away from where it had been, and Sesshomaru's path had deviated.

Where it would go and what would happen along the way, Sesshomaru could never foresee.

Only one thing was certain.

Jaken would never understand his liege lord.