By Miss Kagura
Chapter One – Ryujin's Curse
Sesshoumaru listened to the rain battering the forest as he drew nearer to his group, trying to ascertain the source of his restlessness. After being separated from Jaken and Rin for the better part of two weeks, he had awoken to an odd, almost sad feeling. Anyone else might have dismissed it, but after traveling with his companions for so long, and knowing how incompetent Jaken was at times, he felt obligated to check in on them before returning to his hunt for Naraku.
Five seconds later, Sesshoumaru forgot who this 'Naraku' was; his stomach turned and he felt a combination of utter rage and genuine concern when he laid eyes on Rin, who lay cradled between Ah-Un's two heads, which kept her dry in the storm. She was feverish, had quite obviously lost weight, and was covered in dark, ugly bruises.
"Jaken!" Sesshoumaru shouted, waking the little youkai from his slumber. With one elegant finger pointed toward the girl, he growled at Jaken. "Explain."
The little kappa glanced over at Rin, then back at his lord, who he had never seen in such an odd mood. Sesshoumaru looked more than ready to kill him, so Jaken carefully chose his words. "Rin has become very ill, my Lord. We took her to a human healer, and it seems she is suffering from an incurable disease called Ryujin's Curse."
Sesshoumaru had heard the name of this particular illness before, as it supposedly only struck humans who spent great amounts of time around youkai. Most youkai believed it to be a myth made up by superstitious humans to keep youkai and human friendships and alliances from forming. Other than that, he knew little else about the disease other than the fact that it always killed those it struck, no exceptions.
"What have you done to treat her condition?" Sesshoumaru asked.
Jaken tripped and fell as he ran over to a bag filled with herbs. "I've taken the best care of her possible, my Lord! I've been very busy learning the locations of the best healers in all of Japan." He handed Sesshoumaru a piece of rice paper, masking an expression Sesshoumaru had never seen on the imp before. "Do you know what the monks said causes this disease?"
"Yes." Sesshoumaru replied unable to believe Jaken was expressing such interest and drive in helping Rin. Previously, Jaken had only treated her as an annoyance, and asked repeatedly for Sesshoumaru to leave her in a human village. Now, confronted with her illness, Jaken seemed to sing an entirely different tune.
Jaken scrambled after Sesshoumaru as he approached Rin. "Do you believe she got this horrid illness from us?" Sesshoumaru put Rin on Ah-Un's back and Jaken squawked. "Not like that, Lord Sesshoumaru! Look!" Jaken pointed out bruises where Rin had lay on the hard saddle.
The three youkai in the forest, including the two-headed dragon, found it hard to believe that such a delicate creature had become even more fragile. Jaken struggled against his own thoughts that it was extremely unfair that Rin had such an affliction in the first place. In the world of youkai, sickness was rare, and most physical pain was caused by fighting. Rin was not a fighter, not a bad person, and most definitely not someone who deserved such a terrible ailment.
Sesshoumaru picked Rin up from the saddle and did nothing as she went limp and rested her head on his shoulder. The slightest hints of death were already starting to taint her scent, a sign he didn't have long to find out if she really had this 'incurable' disease and how one cures the incurable. He didn't care how many other humans died from this disease, as long as Rin wasn't among them.
One week later, Sesshoumaru had but one healer left on the list compiled by Jaken. The others had all been given a swift trip to the afterlife, either incapable or unwilling to treat Rin and her 'deserved' sickness. His apathy toward most humans had grown into genuine hate at how merciless they were when it came to the sick child. Even he, the coldest, most terrible taiyoukai in all of Japan, had kindness in his heart for her.
Meanwhile, Rin's condition got much, much worse. She was barely conscious a few minutes a day, and hadn't eaten in two days. It was becoming fairly obvious that the disease was based in her blood, which refused to coagulate as it should have, leading to some of the bruises that marred her pale skin.
Sesshoumaru approached the village of one named 'Kaede,' and noticed immediately that the entire area reeked of his brother. There was even a sign in the woods that named them 'Inuyasha's Forest,' something that baffled Sesshoumaru, who could think of no reason humans would name a forest after his brother. He thankfully didn't sense Inuyasha anywhere, as the last thing he wanted was a confrontation with him. Having Inuyasha see him with a sick girl cradled in between his arm and right side would probably result in insults and vulgarity, two things Sesshoumaru already had very limited tolerance for.
Sesshoumaru sensed the miko and entered the hut, where he found an old woman sitting over a pot. The stench of Inuyasha was heavy enough in her hut it was fairly obvious that Inuyasha probably used this as his 'home.' A familiar bitterness tainted his tongue as he thought about his brother, who apparently preferred sleeping in a hut to sleeping in the nearby forest, as a full-blooded youkai would. "Are you blind, woman?" Sesshoumaru asked when the woman refused to acknowledge him.
Kaede stirred the pot. "Only in one eye, Sesshoumaru."
"You know who I am?" Sesshoumaru cautiously asked, unsure of whether or not he could trust the suspicious woman with Rin. "How?"
Kaede stood and motioned for him to lay Rin on a mat. Only minutes before, Shippou had screamed Sesshoumaru's name and ran away like there was no tomorrow. The only thing that persuaded her not to prepare to battle the taiyoukai was the fact that someone like Sesshoumaru would never waste his time killing an old miko or terrorizing a poor village. As she observed Rin's condition, she shook her head. She had seen the symptoms before. It was an incurable ill, and, she realized, the missing piece in the puzzle of the recently murdered healers.
Kagome entered the hut with her newly filled yellow backpack slung over her shoulder. "Where's Inuyasha?" She growled. "He came to my school today and threatened to beat up a guy just for giving me a gift and asking me to go out with him. I sat him through a street and into the sewer system. He seemed pretty upset." She hadn't noticed Rin's bruises yet, or the fact it was Rin on the mat. What she suddenly did notice was the fact that there was something standing behind her and it whatever it was made her skin crawl.
Slowly, and carefully, Kagome turned and made eye contact with Sesshoumaru, who was far too close for comfort. The last time she had been this close to him, he had drenched her in poison. Her mind registered the sick child with the taiyoukai and she knelt next to Rin, gasping as she lifted up one of her arms. "Was Rin attacked?"
Kaede shook her head. "No, it is a disease known as Ryujin's Curse. It is a fatal disease caused by—"
"Choose your words carefully." Sesshoumaru warned.
Kaede ignored his warning. "As I was saying…it is a disease that many believe is caused by keeping company with youkai. Myouga once told me it was the same disease that claimed the life of Inuyasha's mother."
Kagome had seen symptoms identical to Rin's once before. With one cautious hand, she pushed Rin's lips back, exposing a mouthful of bloody gums. She knew this disease; it had a name, one that no one in Feudal Japan would know. Of course they blamed youkai…the science required to understand so many illnesses didn't exist and wouldn't for centuries.
When the word rolled off her tongue, Sesshoumaru felt something in him cringe. Even the word, which he had never heard before, seemed poisonous and deadly. "Leukemia?" Yet, he felt relief, hearing it referred to as something other than a punishment for Rin's time with him.
The weight of an impending decision suddenly started to tug on Kagome's heart. Rin was going to die in Feudal Japan, and there was no disputing this fact. Leukemia was a vicious disease even in her time, but with no treatment, no doctors, and no hospitals, Rin had no hope. But what exactly would Kagome do? Rin probably couldn't pass through the well, and even if she did, the idea of Sesshoumaru knowing her secret terrified her. On top of that, there was no way her family could afford to treat an uninsured child for cancer.
Sesshoumaru watched Kagome's expression darken, but was quickly distracted by a very intense and very terrible smell approaching. Inuyasha stumbled into the hut, reeking of the contents of a Tokyo sewer, causing his brother and everyone else to shudder and pinch their noses. Even Rin moaned and covered her face.
"Kami, Inuyasha. Go take a bath!" Kagome said.
Inuyasha flopped down on the floor. "I already did. You 'sat' me into my bath. I'll bathe again in…three days." He looked up at his brother. "What the fuck are you doing here, Sesshoumaru?"
Sesshoumaru's eyes bugged out as he spoke with his pinched nose. His voice sounded strange and slightly nasal. "Bath. Now." His brother smelled like he'd been rolled in rotting meat, had been urinated on, and…he wasn't sure what else, but it was bad.
Inuyasha leapt to his feet and reached for Tessaiga, but abruptly dropped it and let it hit the floor with a clang as something familiar managed to get past his own stench and invade his nose. He knelt down and sniffed Rin, his face becoming uncharacteristically solemn and dark, and then picked up the sword and walked out of the hut without saying a word. "Inuyasha?" Kagome called out, following him out as he walked toward the pond to bathe. She couldn't seem to remember a time when Inuyasha capitulated to a request so quickly, especially when he was fuming from a 'sitting.' "Is something wrong?"
"First you 'sit' me through the street and into that river of shit and now you want to watch me bathe?" Inuyasha spat, refusing to turn and even look at her as she blushed and scurried back into the hut. He wanted her to believe he was still mad at her, which he normally would have been, but after smelling Rin, and realizing what would be happening to her, Inuyasha didn't really feel like he could be angry at Kagome for something so insignificant. It wasn't even that he liked Rin; Inuyasha knew her only as the peculiar little girl who followed his brother for reasons unknown even to Sesshoumaru.
When his mother died from the very same disease Rin smelled of, she looked terrible. Inuyasha had watched as Izayoi spiraled from indescribable beauty into a pale sack of bruised bones. Watching his mother die at such a young age had been hard enough, but watching her die like that had been frustrating and painful. It had come at a time that Inuyasha was just getting old enough to defend against the countless attacks on his hanyou blood. When his life should have been getting easier, everything suddenly got so much worse.
Inuyasha dove into the cool water, hoping the water would wash away the memories he didn't want to see again.
No one would take care of Izayoi. They said she had justly been stricken with the disease for bedding a demon, and giving birth to the monster that was Inuyasha. Izayoi's father, his maternal grandfather, had blamed Inuyasha for her death, and told him as much. He told Inuyasha how his daughter used to be a beautiful, vibrant little girl, how she was a hime, and how much she deserved better than to be mother to a hanyou boy that would be better off dead.
Inuyasha had believed that the myths about the disease were a lie, but the fact that Rin had somehow gotten it certainly made him think more about the issue. Was being around youkai dangerous for humans? He had never smelled that disease on anyone before, only his mother and Rin, two humans who spent time with youkai. Yet, Kagome, Sango, and Miroku all seemed to be just fine, despite the fact that two demons and hanyou traveled with them. Were they in danger too?
Back in the hut, Kagome helped Kaede brew some herbs and dug through the bag for a can of juice. Sesshoumaru watched from the corner of the hut, his concentration fixed on the younger miko, who seemed to know a lot more than she said. If Kagome had been anyone else, he simply would have dragged her outside and tortured her until she spoke, but her status as Inuyasha's bitch made the issue somewhat more complicated. On top of that, whatever held her tongue seemed to be something that worried her deeply. He could practically follow her thoughts as she wondered what she would do if Shippou was struck with such an illness, calculating the unrevealed costs of helping Sesshoumaru against the chance of helping Rin.
Kagome's assessment of the situation involved her looking at Rin as an innocent little girl though, as she would have looked at any girl who fit the description. Sesshoumaru could only look through his own eyes, even if he understood Kagome's unspoken reasoning. He did not care about 'innocent little girls;' through his eyes, he only saw Rin.
The only person who truly cared about Sesshoumaru was Rin.
The only person who truly cared about Rin was Sesshoumaru.
The incident involving the Meidou had been proof of this fact. Seeing Rin die again had made him think the strangest thoughts, and one cannot simply unthink those things and pretend they never entered his mind. Sesshoumaru would have taken her place in Hell if he thought it would have saved her, and he had never had thoughts of that nature about anyone. Those thoughts were a weakness. Those thoughts might kill him someday. Sesshoumaru knew that if he was only concerned with personal strength, he'd leave Rin in a human village and continue on his journey without her…or was she the thing that could make him strong? He didn't know anymore, but he hadn't failed to notice his body had no problem performing well above what he believed it capable of when Rin was in danger.
Kagome looked up at Sesshoumaru, as if asking questions without saying a word. She looked down again with a tight frown and put a pair of socks on Rin. "How long has it been since she has eaten?" Kagome asked.
"Two days." Sesshoumaru replied, his voice as bored and emotionless as ever.
She reached for the can and opened it, raising it to Rin's lips. "Rin? Will you drink this please?"
Rin barely opened her eyes and nodded as Kagome lifted the rim of the can to her lips. "Good, good." After a few sips, Rin turned her head away, as if she'd had enough. She put a blanket around Rin and propped her head up on a pillow before fixing her stare back on Sesshoumaru.
Kaede watched the strange exchange of glances between the two and noted how like his brother Sesshoumaru was. Stubborn, aloof, and unwilling to admit he was bothered by Rin's sickness, he was behaving as if he was simply taking care of something that belonged to him. Still, his eyes almost burned with the same unspoken affection Inuyasha had when he watched Kagome. She wondered if Rin was simply Sesshoumaru's 'Kagome,' someone for him to protect in exchange for unwavering love.
Kagome seemed to become more acutely aware of Inuyasha's absence and left the hut, only to find him at the edge of the village, sitting in a tree. He seemed thoughtful, an expression that seemed somewhat out of place on her hanyou. "Inuyasha, what are you doing up there?" She asked.
"I don't know how you can stand to be in that hut. It reeks of death." Inuyasha said, but the tone of his voice a foreign mixture of rudeness and melancholy. A bird chirped on a branch above Inuyasha, who absentmindedly stared at it. "Why should you have to help that stupid kid anyway?" Brief images of watching his mother vomiting blood flashed through his head as he thought about the tiny girl sleeping in Kaede's hut.
Kagome frowned; she was shocked Inuyasha could be such a jerk even when small child was so sick. "Inuyasha, sit!" Inuyasha found himself watching her walk away as he rubbed dirt off his face.
While Kagome and Kikyou tended to focus on what made them different from one another, Inuyasha all too often realized that there were more things that made them alike than either of them would ever notice. When she had been alive, Kikyou never failed to have a small group of children under her care. Even if he would never admit it, it had been something that attracted him to her. Seeing her care for children caused the strangest, but strongest reactions in him. Sometimes, long before Goshinboku, Naraku, and all the other things that tore them apart, he would watch her play and care for children and daydream about what it would be like if those were their pups.
However, it was Kikyou's concern and care for sick and injured people that made her so cold. She had to steel her soul to become emotionally capable of comforting those who were facing death. Inuyasha did not want Kagome to walk down that road. It would either break her or turn her into stone.
Inuyasha wanted his brother to take his dying brat and go as far away as possible.
A few minutes later, Sesshoumaru emerged from Kaede's hut and found Kagome sitting on the steps just outside, lost in thought, exuding waves of fear and anxiety. She didn't even look at him, and just stared forward, resting her chin in her hands. "I have this secret, and if the wrong person finds out about it, I don't even know how severe the consequences would be." She craned her neck to look at him. "You are the wrong person, Sesshoumaru."
"…But…" Kagome added after a moment. "I know more about the disease Rin has than anyone in the world right now, and I understand that unless I do something, she'll die. I don't think I can bear that burden on my conscience." She finally shifted and met his blistering gaze. "If she does die, can't you use Tenseiga on her?"
Sesshoumaru briefly looked down at the hilt of his Tenseiga. "It can only be used on a person once, and Rin has been resurrected before." He stated. He was relieved when Kagome didn't ask about when he had saved her before, as he considered that to be a rather private experience.
"If I were to help you, I would need things from you, too. For one thing, I'd need some insurance that you wouldn't do anything harmful or evil." Kagome said, almost laughing at his incredulous stare. He looked at her as if he, Sesshoumaru, would never do anything terrible. She rolled her eyes and continued. "I would also need some way to pay for Rin's treatment. Treating leukemia is very, very expensive and I can't burden my family like that."
Sesshoumaru was quiet for a moment, and then made a slight grunting noise. "The second demand is no problem for this Sesshoumaru, but I am unsure as to what you're implying with the first condition."
"Have you ever seen Inuyasha's necklace?" Kagome asked.
His amber eyes widened. "You will not subjugate this Sesshoumaru."
Kagome stood up and walked back toward the hut. "Is your pride really worth more than her life?"
Next Chapter: Comfort
Faced with Rin's impending death, Kagome reveals her secret to Sesshoumaru and attempts to get Rin through the Bone-Eater's Well. She also learns there may be some truth behind the myth of Ryujin's Curse.
Author's Note: I might not update this one for awhile. I need to finish chapters for several of my other stories.