The Power to Protect
"Have you someone to protect?"
Sesshomaru snorted to himself as he recalled his father's last words.
Why would he have wanted to waste his time protecting someone anyway? It was ridiculous. Sesshomaru owed no allegiance to anyone, human or demon. If he wanted something, he could get it on his own. Protecting another would only serve to hinder the rate at which he gained power. Power. Now that was something to be concerned about.
Sesshomaru strangely found himself trudging past the area where he had left Rin and Jaken for the night. With the exception of the screen of foliage, Sesshomaru's acute hearing could understand their dialogue as though he were sitting down next to them. Cocking his head, he paused to listen.
"Master Jaken," it was Rin, "I still don't really see why you think I can't trave around with you and Lord Sesshomaru forever."
"We've been through this before, silly girl," the toad-demon sighed. "You're human, someday you will die. It'll probably be before Lord Sesshomaru gains the absolute power he seeks and constructs his great empire since your duration in this realm is so short." He noticed the dejected look on his ward's face. "But I suppose you should make the most of your time; after all, as long as you don't get eaten by any ogres, dragons, or other demons, I'm sure you could still travel with us." Jaken was damned if he was going to make her ventures sound like some walk in the forest.
"I guess you're right." Rin leaned back against a tree to stare at the stars. "I'll just have to enjoy the time I have, huh, Master Jaken? Master Jaken?"
It didn't help the little girl's sudden sense of isolation that her only confident was now asleep, leaving her completely alone in contemplation.
Sesshomaru, however, had heard every word of it.
Rin still postulates her own death?
He had told her it was a foolish thing to wonder the first time she had brought it to his attention, but now - Sesshomaru ground his fangs - she even had him thinking about it.
In a miniscule piece of himself that he hated to acknowledge, Sesshomaru knew he was going to die, too. Then again, he had managed to live to see much of the world in his centuries of life, but, like his subordinate had said, Rin wouldn't manage anywhere near the longevity of a yokai, much less a daiyokai.
Sesshomaru also recollected the way Jaken had referred to the way humans were prone to perish as the prey of demons or by pure accidents of design. Events such as these would serve to abbreviate Rin's already brief existence.
Something inside the dog-demon ached. He needed to continue his walk.
"InuYasha, it's late and I'm tired, we should find somewhere to rest for to-"
"But look there's a nice house just over that hill, if we refresh ourselves now we can join the other in the morning all cheery and -"
"I said 'NO', Kagome!" InuYasha quickened his trudging. He was in an especially bad mood after Kagome had made them take a whole freaking detour to help escort some old geezer to the next village over.
Next time, InuYasha resolved, she can find her own damn way back from the Bone-Eater's Well.
However, the hanyo wasn't necessarily familiar with this side of the territory either. There was something about this place that caused the nerves to twitch and the nose itch. The fact that he couldn't sense any demonic aura made the atmosphere even more upsetting. It was as if they were being ba-
"SO I WANNA SLEEP AN' I'M HEADING OVER TO THAT HOUSE!"
"I toldja, we should-"
InuYasha slammed bead-first into the ground before he godt out the next syllable.
"Yes, of course, you may spend the night, honey," a kindly old woman with unusual blue eyes promptly let Kagome and InuYasha, still brushing dirt out of his mane, into her home.
"Thank you, ma'am!" Kagome smiled and bowed while her traveling companion just rolled his eyes accompanying the gesture with a grumbled, "Whatever."
"Please call me Kyoka. Oh, and I do have one small request, though," Kyoka said. "Would you be so kind as to leave your weapons by the door? Call it an old woman's paranoia, but I must insist."
"Look lady, I ain't -"
"C'mon, InuYasha," Kagome whispered to him, "humor her. What can she do anyways?" She then turned to their host. "Of course, we'll comply."
"Thank you, sweet dearie. Make yourselves at home, I'll retire to my own quarter now." Gently shuffling out of the room, she closed the screen door behind her.
"'Thank you, sweet dearie,'" InuYasha mocked in a falsetto voice as he slid shut the main screen on his Tetsusaiga and Kagome's arrows. "I don't trust that hag."
"Oh, relax, InuYasha," Kagome swatted at a fly as she settled down to sleep. "We'll be out of her in the morning feeling a lot better. Good night."
"Tch, that's what you -"
"I SAID, 'GOOD NIGHT!'"
The half-demon quietly sulked in a corner, watch the fly get its stupid self caught in a spider's web. Then having its guts sucked out.
Wonder if we're any different.
Will it hurt? Will I know I'm dead? What's after that?
Rin was still gazing at the nightscape as her mind wandered trying to process.
How will I die? Will it be like when those wolves...?
The child shuddered at the thought when the bushes suddenly rustled and she had to stifle a shriek.
But it wasn't a wolf like she had expected; rather it was small, cute puppy with long, floppy ears. And strange blue eyes.
Rin blinked stupidly for a second then broke into a full grin as she realized, from the wagging tail and pounding paws, that the pup wanted to ply (such a position she recognized from other dog-like beings).
She picked up the stick nearest her and threw it out into the brush to see if the little dog knew how to fetch. It did, and seemed to want more. Rin tossed the twig a few more times, but on the fourth round her new playmate didn't return it.
"C'mon," she urged, patting her knee, "give it here."
Instead the puppy turned and darted into the brush.
Rin started to follow it, then thought otherwise. What would Lord Sesshomaru think if he discovered her missing in the morning?
Suddenly, the pup pked its head back out of the bushes. Still holding the stick, it gave a pitiful whine begging the girl to come along. Its sapphire eyes sparkled with hope.
Taking one last glance at Jaken to verify that he was still asleep, Rin slipped off into the foliage.
I'll only be gone a short while, Rin reasoned. This little dog seems to come from that nice home up ahead. Maybe I can return him.
The silence was deafening and InuYasha loathed it. Heck, if it weren't for Kagome's soft snoring next to him, he'd have struck up a conversation with himself just to make some noise.
Somethin' about that old biddy ain't right. What kind of elderly woman lives out in the middle of nowhere with no one? A witch or a demon, that's freakin' who!
Then agai was he just beign paranoid? The tiny piece of reason that occasionally surfaced took one more attempt at a last stand. No towel had been thrown in yet.
All right, may I am a little paranoid. Maybe a few winks will help...
Leaping to his feet and reaching for a hilt that wasn't there, InuYasha was instantly alert.
"Damn!" he cursed when he remembered where Tetsusaiga was. "Kagome where are you?" The next scream told him. "I'm coming!"
Priorities first, the hanyo made a dash for Tetsusaiga when someone darted in front of him. Pieces of his haori went flying as InuYasha barely stepped back in time to avoid the razor-sharp claws of his attacker.
"Not so fast, my pup," spoke a craggy, familiar voice form the figure.
"It was a trap! Just what the heck are you?! And what've you done with Kagome?!"
"Heh, you want to know who Kyoka is, puppy?" The old woman stood, her disguise slowly melted, going from someone who could have passed for a hundred to one more of fifty; a graceful delicate fifty, but middle-aged nonetheless.
What made InuYasha double-clutch, though, were the two pricked ears, almost backward bending legs, and three bushy, auburn tails Kyoka had. A kitsune. A fox-demon.
"Wait...but how come...?" InuYasha was too perplexed to think any further.
"I am not a true demon. I am one who relies on the flesh and blood of young mortal girls to maintain my own youth. And as you can see," Kyoka held up one boney arm to demonstrate, "I am in need of repair."
"Yeah, well, save it, lady! Iron Reaver Soul-Stealer!"
The yokai smoothly side-stepped InuYasha's claws, but before he could bust his way through the wall to Tetsusaiga, he felt a tail tightly coil around his waist and drag him down.
"The sweet vixen you brought along would have been most useful alone, but to accompany her with Shikon shards, why I am most grateful!" Kyoka's fangs weren't the only things gleaming in the moonlight; InuYasha could see the glow of the jewel fragments in her throat.
He tried cursing, but she started hauling him along, his futile efforts to escape only making the bind of her tail stronger. It was becoming difficult to breathe.
The half-demon tried focusing his gaze. Kagome was caged with another small form lying unconscious beside her. His dog nose matched scents.
That's Sesshomaru's brat.
To say that Jaken's awakening was a rude one would be an understatement; to say he had it coming could be approved by common consent.
"I-I don't know where R-Rin is, m-m'lord," he pleaded, trying to speak around his swollen cheek.
Sesshomaru glared down at Jaken, that wasn't the answer he wanted to hear.
"Y-you know how that brazen whelp just goes wandering off by herself. It's not my fault she's left in my care all the - AWP!" The diminutive yokai was given a final punt for his idiocy before Sesshomaru sped off to find the missing Rin.
His keen nose almost completely overlooked it, but there was a trace of fox-demon in the wind. At first it smelled like it was fading, now it was growing stronger. Sesshomaru knew of only one kind of yokai that could alter its aura in such a manner. No longer was a demon gliding across the glade, something more resembling a comet streaked past.
"Hm, now the question remains, do I want to eat them raw and have you watch or should I sprinkle your blood on the maidens then feed?"
Rin was close to tears. "W-where's Lord Sesshomaru?"
"Ah, you child, I shall enjoy devouring you the most."
Kagome encompassed the little girl protectively in her arms. "Hey! You're not supposed to frighten kids like that!"
"Oh, you're a spicy one! You shall make a good chaser!" The kitsune didn't get to ponder her dinner plans much longer since the entire wall came crashing down.
"Lord Sesshomaru!" Rin cried.
The daiyokai raised his Tokijin and pointed it at the snarling demoness.
"Come for dinner, dog?" was the feral growl.
"I don't eat human food." Sesshomaru shot a blast of his focused yoki at Kyoka, just singeing her arm before she rolled away.
InuYasha had managed to wriggle out of her tail. Reaching for Tetsusaiga, he only went as far as being able to unsheathe it; another of Kyoka's tails slapped the blade out of his grasp.
A pulse suddenly vibrated through the air. Sesshomaru halted in mid-charge.
"What'er ya waitin' f-" InuYasha stopped short. He sensed it too.
Kyoka's features began to shift, elongate. Her glowing eyes were still visible as she was engulfed in a cyclone of demonic aura.
The modest hut was dismantled in a single snap when the thirty-foot fox-demon emerged. Kyoka meant killing.
InuYasha saw the way she was eyeing Kagome, not unlike the manner in which Shippo eyed a lollipop. He had to make the first move. "Iron Reav-"
The great tail swatted him like a flea, then a huge paw came crushing down on the hanyo. Kyoka was preparing to twist when a jolt of pain shot through her left shoulder.
Before she turned her fangs on the cause of her new gash, Kyoka whack InuYasha against a tree with her good claw. He didn't stir afterwards.
"Perish!" Sesshomaru tried getting in another slash, but the fox was ready this time. A surge of power was fired at the daiyokai. Tokijin knocked out of hand Sesshomaru was sent careening to slam face-down into his own crater.
Heh, that wasn't too difficult. Kyoka stalked over to the cage which still held her prey. She delicately reached for her most appetizing morsel.
Rin's scream for his aid wracked Sesshomaru's body as he struggled to his feet. Without sparing a second glance, he grabbed the hilt of the sword nearest to him. Human or demon blade, it didn't matter. At that instant only one thought coursed through Sesshomaru's mind.
He gripped th hilt and swung with every ounce of strength that he possessed.
Although she didn't feel the blade strike, the kitsune felt her body shatter from the very core of her being, simultaneously forcing out the Shikon shards and freeing Rin from her clutches.
As he started toward Rin, heartbeat returning to normal, Sesshomaru began to wonder how his Tokijin had managed to power up like that. Staring down at the sword he held, Sesshomaru's eyebrows arched. It wasn't Tokijin he had used to slaughter the demon fox. It was Tetsusaiga.
Yet it did not burn his hand? What was the difference this time?
"Lord Sesshomaru!" Rin rushed up to her guardian.
Relief washed over him in seeing that the little girl was spared any terrible injuries. The dog-demon then shifted his gaze over at InuYasha and his companion.
The stupid half-breed had leapt in trying to defend her against Kyoka's onslaught. If it wern't for his holding the Tetsusaiga's scabbard, he'd be dead.
You are weak, little brother, Sesshomaru though as he stared at Tetsusaiga then back at Rin. You need Tetsusaiga to protect yourself and that girl of yours.
InuYasha was slowly coming to, moaning as blood dribbled from his head. He looked utterly pathetic and helpless in Sesshomaru's eyes.
Gritting his fangs, the demon shaped the next words in his mind. It's because of your tainted blood you feel empathy towards humans and protect them with this blade...ridiculous.
Suddenly, sparks flew from Tetsusaiga's hilt and Sesshomaru was forced to relinquish it before it burnt his palm.
InuYasha's eyes fluttered open. "Hey! Just where th' hell do you think you're going, Sesshomaru?!" When his elder brother didn't respond and he felt his empty scabbard, InuYasha barked again. "An' where's my Tetsusaiga?!"
"Quit your yapping, half-breed. The blade's right where you left it." Sesshomaru kept walking, Rin at his heels.
InuYasha and Kagome shared a mutual blink of wonderment as mononoke and child disappeared back over the hill.
"Kagome," InuYasha sighed.
"Yes?" Kagome was expecting him to say something sympathetic...
"NEXT TIME WE KEEP WALKING!"
Sesshomaru and his ward were quietly strolling down a grassy knoll, trying to hunt down Jaken, when Rin broke the silence.
"Lord Sesshomaru?" she asked, gazing quizzically up at him. "Do you still want power?"
"Don't be foolish, Rin."
"Oh." The child was uncharacteristically quiet for a moment.
"We all have our objectives."
Rin paused, trying to grasp the full concept. Finally, she just smiled at Sesshomaru.
"I guess so!"she beamed. Rin laughed as she rolled down the next slope.
Indeed, Sesshomaru still desired great power. He always would. It was as much a fact of life as Rin's smile.
Such a foolish thing to ask, Rin. I shall always want the power to protect that which I treasure.