Moichido - One More Time
An Inuyasha Fanfiction by Aoikami Sarah
Note: This story contains violence, course language and adult themes. This story follows "Shinjite Ai No Tsuzuki", but can be read separately.
Written April 2nd – May 20th 2002
I'd love to touch the sky tonight Hold me
I'd love to touch the sky
So take me in your arms
And lift me like a child
And hold me up so high
And never let me go
Take me in your arms tonight
Hold me up so high
And never let me down
Hold me up so high
To touch the sky
Just one more time
- 1987 smith/gallup/thompson/williams/tolhurst : the cure
Dark clouds swirled around mountains and the battlefield below them. On one side, a behemoth staggered. Several yards from him a taiyoukai strode confidently forward. He didn't show his enemy the damage it had caused him. Instead, he smirked and raised the sword again.
"Now," he announced and crouched down, ready to pounce. "You die."
Sesshou-maru leapt up hundreds of feet into the air, wielding the Toukijin, narrowly missing the demon's swatting paws, which were as large as he was. Using the last bit of his strength, Sesshou-maru drove the sword to the hilt into the demon's skull. Both it and the taiyoukai fell to the ground. He made certain he had vanquished the hulk before dragging himself with his only arm into the woods. He leaned against a tree and watched the monster bleed into the ground.
"I've won," he breathed. "For now..." His strength was gone. Sesshou-maru leaned back against the tree and scoffed. "It seems as if I am doomed to follow in your footsteps, Brother." He closed his eyes and began to fall asleep. "At least... She's safe..." The hint of a smile brushed his lips before Sesshou-maru gave up.
One Year Earlier
"Sesshou-maru-sama! It is too dangerous!" Jaken waddled after his master.
"What do you expect me to do, sit back and let this happen?"
"Surely there is some other do-gooder who will put a stop to this menace!?" Sesshou-maru shot his companion a look and he panicked. "F-f-f-f-forgive me, Sesshou-maru-sama!"
"The only one capable of defeating such a foe has left this realm and taken with him perhaps the only weapon which would have made this an easy victory."
"You mean... your worthless brother?!"
Sesshou-maru was silent. He recalled his last meeting with Inuyasha.
"I'm leaving soon, and I'm taking the Tetsusaiga with me..."
He could smell the female inside the hut just behind his brother. She had the Shikon no Tama. That was it, then. They had defeated Naraku and won. Fighting Inuyasha for the jewel now would be foolish. He had seen him defend the girl before. He'd rip Sesshou-maru to shreds if he stepped any closer.
"Well then," he almost laughed. "Good riddance."
"It matters not. I must do what I must do to protect my territory." Sesshou-maru walked to the other side of the campsite and picked up a small bundle in his right arm. Rin moaned lightly but didn't wake. He walked away.
"Se-Sesshou-maru-sama! Where are you going!?" Jaken asked nervously.
He didn't answer.
It was a hazy night. Many people in the small village had their doors wide open to let the breeze cool them. The taiyoukai stood in one of the richer of these doorways and rapped loudly on the wall. Fortunately, the inhabitants reacted just as he had hoped. They were frozen with fear.
"You humans live in my territory. I am asking a favor of you which will keep you in my good graces forever."
The man of the house stood and stuttered back. "A-anything, Taishou!"
He knelt and placed the sleeping Rin on the floor. "Look after my girl. She is human and will bring you nothing but joy. See that she is kept healthy and happy."
Perhaps to show his seriousness, or perhaps because he knew that it might be a long time before he saw her again, Sesshou-maru stroked Rin's cheek with the back of his hand before he departed the scene.
Since Naraku's defeat and his brother's departure, there had been an imbalance in the world he lived in. In just under a year, Sesshou-maru himself began to feel the effects of this power-struggle. The lesser-youkai were afraid. They knew that Naraku was strong, and that he'd been defeated by a single hanyou. They were now joining together as they had done in years past to become stronger in the face of another opponent like Inuyasha.
There was no one like Inuyasha. The combined youkai were virtually unstoppable.
Sesshou-maru squinted and took to the air in search of a gathering of youkai. He could defeat such a mangy foe. How long could it take?
Ten Years later
The room fell silent as she entered. The portly man in the center of the room turned and frowned. "You're late."
"I'm sorry..." the young woman said, innocently. "I just wanted to..." she clutched a bouquet of wildflowers.
"I don't care. Get up there. You have a customer waiting."
As she walked by, the man grabbed her wrist and yanked the flowers from her hand. He sneered, dropped them on the floor and crushed them under his foot. The other women and customers laughed at her. She forced an unaffected expression on her heavily painted face, adjusted her obi and went upstairs to her room. There would be no time for crying now. She had a customer.
Light filtered through the trees. It was a cool, spring morning. Slowly, Sesshou-maru woke up.
The first thing he perceived was that it wasn't the same season as it had been when he defeated the behemoth. The second was that he was almost completely covered with undergrowth. He puzzled over this as his brain warmed up. It took the better part of an hour for it to come back to him. He had used up so much of his life force his body had shut down. He must have been sleeping for a long time. In no hurry, he pulled at vines that criss-crossed his legs as he thought. Sesshou-maru leaned his head back against the tree trunk. The way the light fell, or the direction he was looking in reminded him of something. His eyes widened. "Rin."
The village was quiet this morning. Not wanting to be seen, the taiyoukai zipped quickly between houses. He came to the door he had knocked on years ago. It was showing its age. Not wasting any time, he let himself in. All the rooms were empty save a tattered straw-filled mattress in a corner. He narrowed his eyes and stepped out into the daylight. Sesshou-maru questioned the first unfortunate person to fall under his gaze.
"Where are the people who live in this house?"
"No one's lived there for years, pal..." he realized too late what he was addressing. "Ye gods! Youkai!" Sesshou-maru was on him in a second. He held the man by the throat and lifted him into the air.
"Where did they go?"
"They're dead! Plague!" he managed to croak.
Horrified, Sesshou-maru let the man fall to the ground and he scrambled away. The town was silent, but not because the inhabitants were sleeping. He could just make out the worn, red paint on the door warning others that the house was contaminated. Many other houses within his eye-shot were similarly decorated. Sesshou-maru closed his eyes for a moment, then turned and walked into the forest.
The first thing he did was to assemble all the loyal youkai in his enormous territory to his castle. Many of them were still alive and under his obligation. They informed him of the state of affairs since his disappearance. There had not been any major groupings of rogue youkai since he left. The last one had been so massive, their numbers and strength were significantly diminished, but they warned that something as large as the behemoth was still growing. The fight between civilized upper-class youkai and soulless fodder youkai was far from over. These lesser youkai were also reportedly feeding on human negative energy. There had been a plague in the region to the south and of course a plethora of wars all around that had served as sustenance for the enemy. They would either devour dying humans outright or often use their souls or their chi energy to grow stronger; something that was far below the posh standards of greater youkai.
Sesshou-maru clenched his fist thinking of one of these bastards taking Rin like that.
"I shall stop them."
"We shall assist you, Sesshou-maru-sama!" cried the enthusiastic youkai court.
They were dismissed and Sesshou-maru decided to peruse his territory. Perhaps it would get his mind off... He stopped briefly next to a staff hung in honor on the wall. He sighed and looked around for a servant.
"You," he called to the nearest one. "Why is this here?"
The young female fox-youkai bowed. "My Lord, it is in memoriam."
"Then Jaken is dead?"
She bowed, still not meeting his eyes. "He went to look for you. We found him. I'm sorry, My Lord."
He turned and left for his inspection tour.
The trees seemed to move around her as she ran. Her lungs burned and her feet and legs were cut and bloody from thorns and rocks. She clutched her kimono closed, never looking back over her shoulder at the men who followed. Her limbs ached. Her heart struggled. She ran purely on adrenaline and the dementia that had been slowly swallowing her whole. Soon, her body gave out and she crashed to the ground face first. The men caught up with her moments later.
"Where do you think you're going, Pretty?"
She wheezed, unable to form a response.
"Ugh, Boss. This one's way far gone," another man commented. "She even worth the trouble?"
"She's an example. Show those other bitches what running gets ya."
"You gonna fuck her, boss?"
"Nah..." the pimp spit on her. "She's poison. Kill her."
His men stepped forward and rained blows down on her with wooden clubs.
High up in the canopy, Sesshou-maru sped along the branches. He sensed a fairly high level of evil energy and changed course. Landing, he was surprised to find nothing more than a group of humans. The woman on the ground was a bloody pulp. The men stopped beating her and threatened the taiyoukai.
"Do not be foolish," he advised them.
"Fuck off, buddy!" one of them sneered.
"This is my land. No one speaks to me in such a manner." Before they could come back again, they discovered that he wasn't human. Sesshou-maru slashed them with his claws so artfully he didn't get a single drop of blood on his white robes.
Sesshou-maru crouched down and looked at the woman's face. She was still breathing. She couldn't be more than 20 years old, but the beating and a disease of some form would take her in moments.
"At last..." she whispered through her own blood and smiled slightly. "I'm in heaven..."
"Because you came back... Sesshou-maru-sama..."
His eyes went wide. 'Can it be?!' he thought wildly. The girl moaned and lost her grip on her life. For a few moments, the taiyoukai remained very still, his eyes fixed on the battered body. He reached his hand out to touch her bruised cheek, but found that his hand was trembling. Sesshou-maru grit his teeth and scooped up the poor girl. Many of her bones were broken from the beating. He hoped that it had not gone on for very long and that her death had come quickly. Hefting the body over his shoulder, Sesshou-maru ignored the blood that sullied his garments and went home.
Stealthily, Sesshou-maru entered his private quarters from a side door and laid Rin's body down on a divan. He stood against the far wall and observed her for a while. Sesshou-maru was not one to rush into anything and this required a great deal of thought. He recalled what she had said to him, more the way she had said it.
'...You came back...'
Had she been waiting for him to return for ten years? If so, how would she react to him when he revived her? 'Why do I care?' He pouted. How could he revive her without letting her know he had anything to do with it? Twenty minutes passed before a suitable solution came to him.
Sesshou-maru motioned the first servant he saw into the room.
"What is your name?" he asked the same kitsune youkai who had informed him of Jaken's death.
"It is Hideko, Sesshou-maru-sama." She curtseyed daintily.
"I have a very important task for you."
"Anything, My Lord."
"I will seal off this annex of my palace. Do not allow anyone but myself to enter or leave here."
"Make certain that this girl is made healthy and happy. I will return in a week's time to check on her progress. If anything happens to her, you will pay for it."
"Y-yes, Lord, but..." she stuttered in awe and looked past him at the disgustingly bloodied human form on the divan. "Um... Sesshou-maru-sama...?"
"What is it?"
"... She's dead."
He crossed to the body and drew his sword. Hideko looked on in wonder. "There is one other stipulation."
"Do not tell her I have anything to do with this."
"... Yes Lord."
Sesshou-maru wished he could look upon Rin, revived and smiling at him the way she used to, but this was best. Her wounds would heal now, but her emotional scars would take time. He sliced into her with the Tensaiga and her body began to glow. Sesshou-maru turned and made a hasty retreat.
"Not one word of me."
"Yes Lord!" Hideko replied as he left the room.
The girl groaned and stirred. The kitsune stood very still and watched as she slowly opened her right eye. The other was sealed shut with dried blood. Rin raised her hand to rub it but stopped. "I'm... I'm alive?" she asked no one.
"Yes..." Hideko whispered.
The human turned her head and looked at the youkai. "Why?"
Hideko was struck by the devastated look on her face. She wrung her hands, waiting for the girl to realize the person she was talking to had a bushy tail and try to make a run for it. "I don't know."
Rin looked around the large parlor and tried to remember. She sat up. "I'm all dirty..." she muttered. A single decorative stick hung loosely from her hair.
'Poor thing,' she thought. 'Must be a little lost...' Hideko stepped forward and held out her hand. "Would you like to take a bath?"
Rin looked up at the nice woman and smiled a small, sad smile. "I'd like that... very much." She clutched her torn dress to herself and followed Hideko silently to the bathhouse.
Sesshou-maru finished closing the last of the connecting doors to the annex. The only way in and out was now through the side door or if one flew out through the center courtyard. He knew none of his courtiers would dare disobey him and Rin could certainly not fly away. As he mounted a large, subservient demon of burden and prepared to go to the northern edge of his territory he stared at the patch of green in the middle of the annex. He could imagine Rin playing in the little garden under the plum trees, but only as a small girl, not the woman she was now. Quickly, he urged his unholy steed onward.
Once Rin was clean and dressed in a new, sky-blue, court-style kimono it was dusk. The girl wandered out of the cedar bathhouse and down the long corridors of the annex. She smelled the cool, evening air and opened the side door.
In an instant, the fox youkai was at her side. She gripped her arm firmly. "Please, My Lady, you cannot leave."
"Can...not?" she asked.
"Our Lord has forbidden it. You are not to leave the castle."
Rin's large, sad, brown eyes burrowed into the demon. "Who is... Our Lord?"
"I am not at liberty to say." Hideko still held Rin's arm and Rin still held the door.
"Am I a prisoner?"
"You are an obligated guest. I am to make certain you are happy, healthy and that you do not leave." She tried not to make Sesshou-maru the subject of the conversation. "Please." Rin stepped back and Hideko let go of her arm.
"I just wanted to sit in the grass..." Rin pouted.
"Oh," Hideko smiled. "Come here then." She lead her down the hall to the large courtyard. Rin's eyes widened.
"It's so pretty!" Still, her smile was only a very slight one. Indeed, Hideko noticed that Rin's entire body posture was heavy. Her shoulders were slumped, her head bowed. She held her elbows as if she were cold.
"I'm sorry..." the youkai trailed off. "Your pardon, My Lady, but I have not been given your name."
Without facing her, she replied, "I'm Rin."
Hideko motioned for her to go out into the yard. Rin headed straight for the Koi pond. She seemed to become 10 years younger instantly. "What's your name, pretty youkai lady?"
"Hideko." She sat down beside her and as Rin watched the fish, Hideko watched Rin. "You know that I'm a youkai, but that doesn't frighten you?"
"Not all youkai are baddies," she smiled. "Some of them are really, really wonderful." As soon as it had appeared, her smile vanished. Rin's eyes teared up. Without so much as a whisper of a sob, the tears rolled down her cheeks. This was a girl accustomed to crying. Hideko bit her lip with worry. How could she cheer this human up and why did her master care about her happiness?
'Idiots,' Sesshou-maru thought. Just ahead of him were a few dozen youkai, many of them fairly strong who were holding a sort of meeting. The taiyoukai stood only meters away and listened in.
"I heard he's back!"
"Impossible! The behemoth finished him off a decade ago!"
"Yes, but look what happened to the behemoth!" the largest shouted and held a sword up to prove his point.
There was a good deal of growling in response to this. Sesshou-maru also growled irrepressibly as he saw the Toukijin flash in the moonlight.
"But with his sword, we can win!"
The youkai's cheering was interrupted as something blurred into their midst and the big one's arm was severed. Sesshou-maru wrenched the huge appendage free of its grip on his sword and pointed it at the group. "What was that?"
Some fell to their knees, others fled. "If you wish to live, remain where you are!"
All of the youkai obeyed him.
"You lot are piffle compared to the behemoth. I could mince you in a second even if you did combine into one hulking monstrosity. Answer me this; why do you conspire to gain strength in such a manner? What great threat are you facing? Midoriko, Kikyo, Naraku, Kagome and Inuyasha are gone. The world belongs to youkai!"
"It's not that!" the big one held his stump and quivered. "We've been disappearing!"
"What?" he asked calmly. "What is this nonsense?"
"I heard that too, Taishou!" shouted another. "Lower demons are just..." he looked terrified, his eyes followed his waving hand. "...Becoming nothing..."
"Rubbish. Rumors and rubbish," Sesshou-maru spat, but he took in what they were saying. They were scared. Whether this occurrence was real or not, it was making them a threat to his power. "The only thing you should be frightened of," he said as he raised his sword. "Is me!"
A week passed with little incident, but Sesshou-maru kept his distance from his palace. A note arrived for Hideko, instructing her to make certain Rin was asleep the following night. She slipped a powerful herb into her tea. Rin retired to her room and fell into a deep sleep and soon after, the taiyoukai appeared.
Sesshou-maru stood in the doorway and watched her sleep. Perhaps this plan wasn't the best. He couldn't very well tell if she was happy if she was sleeping, now could he? Just as he was about to leave, Rin moaned.
Sesshou-maru listened carefully.
"Don't. Not again. I don't want to..." She was curled into a fetal position which tightened as her nightmare progressed.
Sesshou-maru stepped closer. She used to fuss in her sleep when she was a child, but not like this. Back then, one stroke of her hair would quiet her. He reached out. Just as his hand touched her head she cried out and swatted at him, still totally asleep. In a flash, he was gone.
"What's the matter with her?" he barked.
Hideko almost pressed her head to the ground as she bowed at her master's feet. "I don't know! She's so sad all the time. I don't know what to do to make her happy! Please, My Lord, help me!"
"Silence." He paced the length of the parlor. "Find out what has happened to her in the last ten years. I shall return this time next week."
"Yes, My Lord." She was thankful when he left, but a new dread began to grow. She had to find a way to please Sesshou-maru.
The following day, Hideko deluged Rin with questions. Finally, after she answered glumly to "How are you feeling?" and "Nice day, isn't it?", Hideko went for the gold.
"Why are you so sad?"
Rin looked up at her from her seat just by the door to the courtyard. "I don't have anything to be happy about."
"Ohhhh!" Hideko cried. "But you are young, and have such a nice place to live!"
"That doesn't matter. All my life has been sad, so I don't expect this to last."
Hideko sat down. "Tell me about your life, please Rin-chan?"
Reluctantly, Rin told the fox demon about her parents' deaths, about how she found a youkai and traveled with him, but how he had gone away and left her with other people who too died. Then she hesitated.
"But that was years ago... what happened to you then?"
"I'd rather not talk about it." Rin stood up and went back into her room.
Hideko sat in the doorway a bit longer. 'She met a youkai...' she thought. 'Could it have been Sesshou-maru-sama?'
Later, Hideko brought Rin her lunch in her room. "What would you like to do today?"
"Surely there must be something you'd like to do? Do you embroider, or sing... play music?"
"I don't know how to do anything."
Hideko smiled suddenly. "Well then! I'll teach you something!"
Another week passed. When Rin was soundly under the tea's spell, Sesshou-maru came calling again. This time he checked in with Hideko first.
"Has she improved? I do not want to be disappointed."
"Yes, Sesshou-maru sama. And I have learned much. I hope you will not be upset by that."
He winced. So she knew. But he was sure Hideko could be trusted not to tell the rest of the court the motive behind his retaining a human in his private quarters.
"If it pleases My Lord, come here. You must see this." Hideko bid him to enter the sitting room. In the center of it was a low table which bore an ink stick and tray as well as several brushes and scrolls of paper. Pinned to the walls were illustrations of various quality. They started out simply but became more elaborate and more masterfully crafted as they went along. Birds and trees were the initial subject matter then on the wall to their right, the pictures were quite different. Sesshou-maru stared.
"She says that's her favorite wall."
It was cluttered with images of him. Some were crude, but again, their quality increased with practice. Some even included a very tiny depiction of Jaken at his side. One in particular was strikingly good. Sesshou-maru's likeness was very well represented, as if he had actually stood to model it himself.
"I still do not know anymore than perhaps you yourself know, My Lord. But I know that she thinks of you constantly and it gives her great joy to paint."
He stepped out into the hallway and into Rin's room. She was sprawled on her bed. He regarded her for a moment, then stepped forward. The back of his fingers brushed her cheek. Rin mumbled incoherently as she rubbed her face.
'Mission accomplished,' he thought. 'She's happy.' But a new shadow fell over his face. 'Why have I gone to such great lengths? Why am I standing here in the dark like an intruder in my own house?'
Rin rolled over and he shot out of the room. In the hall he clenched his fist. 'What in the hells am I afraid of!?' "Hideko! You didn't tell her the truth, did you!?"
"No, Sesshou-maru-sama! She's such a sweet, simple girl. She's never even asked once who's house this is or why she's being kept here!"
Sesshou-maru stormed out past a confused Hideko who swore up and down that she would do better for him next week.
Sesshou-maru tended to the business of his empire, but his mind wandered frequently these days. The courtiers were starting to notice. There were rumors that he was hiding something in his closed-off chambers and the smell of human - live human - was noticed by more than a few of his attendants. None would dare to ask him if he was harboring a mortal, but what if they did? What would he say? What could he say?
Late one afternoon he wandered away from the palace. His thoughts were unfocused and he was surprised when he stopped at last and found that he had been walking for hours. The ocean broke onto craggy rocks and sprayed up in his face. Sesshou-maru stood and looked out at the water and the setting sun.
"Why do I keep a human in my house?"
"She would die without your protection."
He narrowed his eyes. "Why does it matter if she lives or dies?"
"Sesshou-maru." The deep voice that spoke from within him was familiar. "You know the answers. Why do you still fight the truth?"
"I will not make the same mistake as you, Father."
"A mistake? Can fate make mistakes?"
"That's what you call it? I call it stupidity. You were weak, Father. You gave in to a human woman and your life came to an end."
"My life was over long before I laid eyes on her. You know that."
Sesshou-maru sighed. "Then you tell me, Father. What am I so afraid of?"
"The opinion of your peers, of seeming weak to others. Your strength will not diminish just because you love a mortal."
Sesshou-maru sank to the ground. He rested his chin on his knees. He felt very young, listening to his father speak. "Did you love my mother, too?"
"Yes, very much. You know her death was heartbreaking. I was very lucky to find two wonderful women in my lifetime. And very lucky to have two wonderful sons."
On the rocks, high above the ocean, Sesshou-maru thought for many more hours till the moon had risen, huge and ripe in the night sky. "Father, are you still there?"
"I am always there."
He nodded, stood up and headed back home.
Rin whistled to herself as she painted the next day. Her hand moved slowly and carefully over the parchment, picking out the detail in his long, fluffy tail.
"My! You're happy today!" Hideko beamed as she brought her some tea and biscuits.
"I had a wonderful dream last night."
Hideko choked a little as she took a sip. "Oh?"
"Yes. So I had to paint as soon as I woke up. I dreamt he was with me again."
"Yes. I was sitting right here, painting and he was sitting right there." She motioned with her brush to a settee on the far end of the room. "Just watching me, posing for this picture."
Indeed, she was painting him as if he really was sitting there. She bit her lip in concentration. "He's out there, I just know it..." Rin whispered. "He's probably looking for me."
"I'm sure he is." Hideko sighed and watched her.
It wasn't long before another week passed and the two women sat down to tea again. Rin was making a fuss about the pictures, as usual.
"Which one do you think is the best, Hideko-chan?"
"Oh I don't know. They're all so good!"
"Just look at them and pick one."
Hideko turned and studied the wall of Sesshou-marus. She was careful not to select her favorite just because it looked most like her master, but the best one really was striking. "It's got to be that one, the most recent."
"Yes. That one." She smiled. "Now drink your tea before it gets cold."
"You too!" Rin chimed.
They talked for a few more minutes before Hideko started to blink frequently. Rin stood up. "Do you really like this one?" She asked again and touched the painting.
"Yes..." Hideko yawned. "That's really good..."
Rin pulled the pin and rolled the image up. "Good. I'm sure he will too."
"What...?" Hideko made to stand but faltered and fell.
"I'm so sorry, Hideko-chan. Please thank your master for letting me stay here, but I really have to go find Sesshou-maru-sama."
"Thank you for everything!"
"Wait.. Rin...The master..." Hideko tried to tell her, but she ran out with her picture. Hideko was asleep before Rin even set foot outside the house.
Rin didn't look back. She ran as fast as she could until she was winded then found a cart path and followed it under the moonlight. It was cool, but her ornate robes kept her warm. She tucked the picture inside her shirt and smiled.
"Soon I'll find you, Sesshou-maru-sama. I'm just sure of it!"
Ahead she heard voices. A lantern bobbed along in the darkness. Humans. Rin's heart sank. She had no fear of Youkai, but almost all of her encounters with humans had been bad. They were sure to see or hear her even if she ducked into the bushes. Best to just act normal and hope they went away. She held her breath and kept walking towards them.
Sesshou-maru hoisted Hideko off the floor as soon as he arrived at the palace and shook her, but she was dead asleep. He dropped her and ran after Rin's scent.
Three men chatted as they walked. They were more than startled to find a woman wandering around in the dead of night, alone. They were sure she was a youkai, but she insisted she was a human who had lost her lantern. Then they took in her elaborate dress and decided she was worth a closer look. The tallest of them pushed the lantern in her face.
"Ho ho ho! Who do we have here!? You're no courtier! You're that whore, Rin. You've had her a couple times, haven't you Domeshi?"
"Oh sure, the one who cries all the time, right?"
"Yeah, that's her."
"I'm sure you've made a mistake..." Rin tried to imitate the fancy way Hideko talked. It didn't fool them. They laughed and reached out to tear at her clothes. She screamed and tripped over a root as she fled. Just as she expected them to drop down on her, Rin heard a whooshing sound and all three men scream in horror. When it was quiet, she stopped sobbing and looked up. Their crumpled lantern was a few feet away, the paper shade was on fire and just dying out.
"Are you all right?" he asked, urgently. Rin slowly stood up and turned around to face him.
Her eyes adjusted to the moonlight. Three bodies lay around him, unmoving. She could not see his face in the darkness. Rin hung her head.
"You heard what they said, didn't you?"
He nodded and she began to cry.
"I'm so ashamed!!!" She fell down and sat on the ground. "I never ever thought you'd find out. I didn't have a choice. It's all I could do to stay alive. And whenever I tired to leave they tried to kill me!"
His silvery voice was unaffected. "Those people I left you with died in a plague, didn't they?"
"Yes..." The breeze blew the lose strands of her hair around her. "I thought you were dead."
"I was dead."
She looked up, shocked. "You're ok now though, right? Or are you a ghost?"
"I'm fine, now."
"I was worried. I... I thought about you every day. But I knew you'd find me again." She pulled the picture out of her shirt and held it up. "I wanted to remember what you looked like."
"It's very good. Rin, why did you run away?"
"Well because I was looking for you... Hey..." she scrunched up her face and stood up. Rin walked around him so that the moonlight was to her advantage. She could see his face. "I thought I sort of felt you nearby. The other night, you were close, weren't you?"
"The palace is mine."
Her jaw fell. Her lip started to quiver. "But... if you... You rescued me. It wasn't a dream. It was you. And that's your house... then you are ashamed of me, aren't you!?"
"Don't be foolish. I... I thought... I thought you might have been disappointed in me because I left you."
She softened as she saw a strange expression befall his face. His brows arched upwards a little. "At first I was really sad. But then I heard about this youkai war and that two really big youkai had fought and died. I was sure it was you, 'cause I couldn't feel you anymore. I wasn't mad at you, ever. I missed you. Did you miss me, Sesshou-maru-sama?"
The Taiyoukai looked skyward and sighed. 'Father, forgive me.' "Yes Rin. I missed you very much."
She beamed and suddenly leapt forward, much like she did when she was a little girl. She laced her arms around his neck and hugged, hard. Sesshou-maru picked her up in his only arm and took to the air.
"Come. Let's go home."
Take me in your arms tonight
Take me in your arms
Just one more time