The New Panther Tribe
Rin let out a hearty sigh as she sunk her body in the hot spring. She was sore everywhere. It had been much too long since she walked so far so quickly. She suspected Ayumi felt the same; the older woman had a lazy smile while she leaned her back against the rock. They both relaxed for a few moments, enjoying the silence, the warmth of the hot water around their tired bodies. Rin eventually broke the silence,
"Hmm?" The older woman did not open her eyes.
"I'm worried about Touga."
"Those things were talking about earlier… If his memories are purged…" Now Ayumi opened her eyes, understanding Rin's line of thought.,
"No wonder he was so curious. It felt strange explaining to a demon what demons feel like."
"Can we help him?" Ayumi sighed, and shook her head.
"Not really. The most we can do is giving him less to stress over. He needs his full consecration until he figures himself out." Rin didn't like the answer, but was not surprised by it. She didn't like being so powerless, even after all these years, she was useless to her demon companions. "Hey now…" Ayumi noted her slumped shoulders, "It not our fault. If anything, it is probably best that we are around him. To keep him in check, ya know?" Rin nodded in agreement.
"How far are we from panther tribe lands?" The younger woman asked, changing topics.
"We are very close, no more than another day of traveling at the pace we are going."
"Are you excited?"
"I am many things right now." Ayumi laughed, "Nervous is probably on the top."
"Everything will work out."
"I hope so, Rin, I really do."
He needed a plan, and fast. Sesshomaru was really beginning to put some serious distance between them. He was out-of-range for most of Tetsusaiga's attacks, except maybe the meidou. How would Sesshomaru get out later though?
Maybe he should just leave him there.
Inuyasha looked on in shock when another ball of light flew past him and gained on Sesshomaru. 'What the hell?' The two balls of energy collided and dived towards the ground, leaving a few trees uprooted from the impact. 'Who was that—' "Keep going, Inuyasha! Leave them!" Myouga shouted when Inuyasha slowed his pace. The hanyou looked down at the flea,
"What was that?"
"Something that no other being should be in the middle of." The flea said, his tiny body trembling in fear. The hanyou shrugged and figured he'd interrogate him about it later, before he dashed off in the direction of his father.
"You have blood on your haori." The female youkai said blandly while she examined her son. She could ignore his outward appearance. To the untrained eye, he simply looked like an angry youkai. It was his aura that made her get in his way; it was dark, with an almost maniacal edge to it. Sesshomaru snarled out some words, if it wasn't for her inu-youkai blood, she would have not understood a single thing. "Was that an attempt at speaking properly, Sesshomaru?" She shook her head, "What has you so angry, my son?"
"Touga. Rin is missing." His voice was clearly now, almost intelligible, though his response left her confused. Why was he suddenly raging about his father now? She could see her son getting angry over the disappearance of his human ward, but not to this point of near madness.
"Be clear, Sesshomaru."
"Father is alive." The female youkai froze in place, not believing her son's words. "Rin is with him. He took her and I will find him." The disappearance of her mediou stone had sudden became clear.
"My son… You need to gain control." She began walking up to him, ignoring his snarling and growls of warning. "Do not go up against such a formidable opponent with a hot head." He did not hear her anymore, what he saw was a threat, someone in his way. The female youkai dodged a few swipes of his claws before she pulled out a dart from her belt and stabbed the thin needle into her son's neck. The male howled at the unsuspected pain as he dropped to his knees. "It has been centuries since I last used one of those, Sesshomaru. I had hoped I would never need them again." He looked up at her, a clear expression of pain on her son's face before he fell to the floor, unconscious.
She knelt down on the soft grass, turning her son around on his back. She brushed away the locks of hair in his face, frowning at the torment he felt through his aura. "I cannot allow you to kill your father, Sesshomaru. It will not bring you happiness, I wish you understood." She ran her clawed hands through his fine hair, "This path of self-destruction you have been on… Perhaps with your father's return, we can finally make everything right."
"Touga?" The former demon lord heard the young woman approaching long before she announced herself. He looked at her over his shoulder,
"It is late." Rin nodded, but she strolled up to his right side, looking up at the midnight sky.
"I woke when I heard you." Her espresso-colored gaze focused on him, "I wanted to know how you were feeling."
"I feel fine."
"You keep saying that, but… I don't think you are being 100% honest with me." Rin stated as she playfully bumped into his side, a meaningful look on her face, before her tone shifted to something somber. "I am here, Touga, to listen. If you are having trouble with anything, we will both work it out." The youkai stared at the young woman; he could not phantom why until a thought occurred to him.
"You are not obligated to help me, simply because of my relation to Sesshomaru." He saw a few emotions flash across Rin's face, none were good.
"Touga—we should make something clear now." Rin turned to stand in front of him, standing tall despite their vast difference in height, with her eyes knowingly staring hard into his own. "Sesshomaru does not guide my actions. He has not for years. What I do now are my decisions and mine alone, like my choice to be here, beside you."
He searched her eyes for any hesitation or fault in her words. He found nothing but truth and a wisp of pain, "I apologize if I offended you. You are correct. You are your own person." The human beamed up at him before nodding and returning to his side, accepting his apology.
That smile of hers continued to leave an ache in his heart that he could not figure it out. It gave him faint visions of a young woman in a pink kimono, giving him an identical smile. 'Who is she?' He could also feel phantom touches from the woman on his tough skin, her hands soft. 'Izayoi.' The name rang through his mind, flooding his vision with vivid memories of the demon lord sneaking the princess away from her castle, laughter, love, and eventually, him standing over her corpse. He brought her back with a sword, a baby in his arms…
"Inuyasha…" The young girl perked up next to him,
"You remember! Inuyasha is your second son, he is Sesshomaru's half-brother." She clasped her hands behind her back, "He's really loud, likes to curse, and acts like he doesn't care about anyone but we all know better than that."
"Do they get along?" Touga sighed in disappointment when the human shook her head,
"They fight every time they see each other. I remember it being more violent though when I first joined Lo—Sesshomaru, by the time I was left behind, they were more civil towards each other."
"You have not told me your story, Rin. How did you end up in the company of youkai?" Touga had realized this quite a bit ago, but never had a quiet moment with the human to inquire about her origins. Rin blinked up at him, and then lowered her gaze to the ground.
"Well… When I was little, my village was attacked by bandits. My family… Pa, Mama, my brothers, they all died, there, in front of me. I ran, I ran and I ran, I was able to get away." The voice in his mind began to rumble at the scent of unspilled tears and sadness radiating off the young woman. "I had no one else. I arrived at a nearby village, and they let me stay in this make-shift hut… I couldn't speak. The villagers there would get angry with me a lot, and they would…" Rin brought her hands up, rubbing her arms with a small shudder.
"Did they hurt you?" (Disgusting.) She only nodded.
"I went into the forest to escape the villagers for a bit and find food. That is where I first found Lord Sesshomaru, he was badly hurt." A small smile ghosted her lips, "It was nearly the same way I found you. I gathered food for him, but he wouldn't eat it. He didn't understand why I was trying to help him." Her gaze lifted to the sky, "He asked me where I had gotten my bruises. It was the first time since my family passed that someone cared enough to ask… The next day, a wolf-youkai and his pack came by. He… He ordered his wolves to feed at the village." (Disgrace.) "I ran again, I tried to get to where Sesshomaru was but that time I didn't make it. I died that day."
"You were revived…?" The flash of steel swiping through small hell minions over Izayoi's body entered his mind; did his son revive the young girl like he had done with his former mate?
"I was, with Lord Sesshomaru's sword, Tensaiga. I joined him and Jaken that day." Slightly embarrassed, Rin continued on, "I have actually been revived a few times." The dark aroma of depression was fading from the young woman's scent, and Touga could not be more relieved. The rage it caused his demonic presence was difficult to keep under wraps, coupled with his own genuine anger that such a bright, kind being had to go through such turmoil. "I was resurrected by L—Sesshomaru's mother with her mediou stone." Touga's eyes widened,
"You know his mother?"
"I know where she resides, but I only spoke to her that one time. Is that a place you would like to go?"
"Yes, very much so."
"Then we can start heading there after visiting the Panthers!"
"And how close are we to our destination? I am beginning to smell… cat." Rin giggled at his statement,
"Ayumi said we are only about a day away." The young woman stretched her arms overhead and let out a silent yawn. "I'm going to try and get a little more sleep. Are you going to stand here, all night, alone?" He has been awake for the majority of the trip. A short rest would probably do him some good, but his mind was awake with fresh memories and hundreds of questions—he felt a hand slip into his and gently pull him from his spot. "Come on, Touga. A short nap should help with all the noise in your head." He barely heard her, just dumbly stared at their entwined hands as he left the petite woman drag him back to camp.
"You! What are doing here?!" A female panther youkai stared at the former demon lord in shock, but Touga did not react to her surprise. They had made it to the panther territory a bit sooner then they estimated, and were greeted with slack jaws and wide eyes.
"We are looking for a youkai named Tatsuya." The inu-youkai replied to the blue-haired panther. The female youkai narrowed her eye in mistrust,
"What do you want with Tatsuya?" This time Ayumi spoke up,
"Ah, it's more of my request, actually. We used to be good friends and Kiyoshi too."
"You must be that human I heard so much of. My name is Toran." She directed her attention back to the inu-youkai, "As long as he does not try anything, you three welcome here." Her mauve-colored eyes then shifted to Rin, "You… You are Lord Sesshomaru's ward, are you not?"
"At a time, I was." A young male youkai had stepped out of the large hut in the center of the territory and trotted up next to Toran.
"What's all the commotion—oh gods, Ayumi?!" The male panther ran up to them, snatched Ayumi up into a large hug.
"Kiyoshi!" The older woman hugged the panther in return, eyes glistening with joy. A larger male emerged from the same hut, observing the exchange between the two. "Oh, Kiyoshi, I have missed you so much. It's been too long, and you've grown so much!" Rin noticed the older youkai, a very handsome older youkai. 'Is that…?' "Tatsuya."
The older panther did not run to Ayumi like Kiyoshi, as if he did not believe what his eyes showed him. When he reached her, his large hands came up and cupped her face. "You are here." His voice was choked with awe, his gaze held all the adoration he still felt for Ayumi in the past 6 years. The older woman smiled up at her former lover, before his lips came crashing down on hers. Rin blushed at the obvious passion in their kiss and looked away as her hand partially shielded her eyes. Though a little part of her couldn't help but wonder what it was like, to be on the receiving end of such love. Her curious gaze snuck another glance at the two lovers before looking at Touga, what she didn't expect was to find him staring at her. Her face must have rivaled the color of a tomato that moment, 'Why is he looking at me?!', as she completely turned away from the three of them and looked up at the sky, hoping to would bring the blush down from her face.
"Alright, you two, you'll have plenty of time for that later." Kiyoshi said, laughter braided into his words. The two lovers separated, Ayumi was clearly embarrassed while the older youkai had a wide grin plastered on his face. "We were just in the middle of dinner; would you all like to join us?" Rin perked up at the promise of food,
"How long have you been alive?" Tatsuya sat at the head of the table, with Ayumi sitting on his left side. Touga sat on his right, and Rin was sitting beside him. Kiyoshi took his place next to Ayumi.
"A little over a week." The older youkai replied.
"Indeed. Who decides to revive the former dog general, and leave him in the middle of the forest?" Toran chimed in from her spot next to Rin.
"Have you been attacked since then?" Touga forced a chuckle,
"It is not surprising. No offense to you, Touga, but you left behind many more enemies than allies, the panther tribe was among those. Had your eldest son not revived a few of our important men and women here after they were slaughtered by our former King..." The panther gestured to the couple of other youkai sitting at the table. "We would have greeted you with one hell of a fight." The panther took a quick sip of wine, "Do your sons know you are living, and Lady Katsumi?"
"I am not sure. I have not encountered any of them." Touga replied before taking a bite of raw deer.
"I am sure Lord Sesshomaru has already caught wind of this. He has many informants across the main island." Toran dipped a piece of raw boar in a dark sauce as she spoke.
"I agree. Perhaps the goal of whoever has done this is to cause disruption in the west. There are very few things that would get Lord Sesshomaru to abandon his lands." Tatsuya sat back, a hand rubbing his chin, "There are not many youkai past three to four hundred years of age these days, but those that are alive, they know the true nature of your relationship with your son."
"Make him open, distracted and take his lands from under him while he fights his father to the death. It is a risky strategy."
"Or kill him after he is exhausted from battle. Sounds like a plan that would be concocted by the Imperial Dragon Clan in the south."
"Who are they?" The inu-youkai asked.
"They are an ancient clan of dragons, their former leader was a powerful daiyoukai named Ryukotsusei." Tatsuya responded. Rin saw the flash of recognition in Touga's eyes. She had heard stories of the dragon during one of her few visits to Sesshomaru's castle. It had been the last battle Touga won. "There was a disagreement about something; it dragged on for decades until you both had a massive battle that ended with you sealing the dragon to the side of a cliff. Only you, Lord Sesshomaru, and the Imperial Dragon Clan know what caused the bad blood between you both. I heard he had been awakened a few years ago and slain by your half-breed son, Inuyasha. It is possible they would wish to seek revenge."
"Unfortunately, there are many clans that would love to seek revenge, not just the Imperial Dragons. The Mountain Wolf Tribe of the East, the White Tigers of the North, the ruthless Hyenas of the South, even the Crimson Dogs of the West—All of these clans have vendettas against your family, Touga." Toran added, making sure all options were considered.
"That is very true and all of these clans also have stood long enough to know the negative effect your resurrection would have on Lord Sesshomaru." Tatsuya let out a heavy sigh, "You must tread carefully, Touga, you do not want to be on the sharp side of Bakusaiga." The rest of the panthers, who had been quiet until now, began mumbling in accordance, all of them fully aware of the dangers of Sesshomaru's blade.
"I do not intend to fight my son." The inu-youkai announced, still holding firm in the decision he made the day of his resurrection. Rin felt her lips curl into a small smile; she was glad that Touga did not want to fight Sesshomaru… The smile faded quickly, 'But it doesn't mean that Sesshomaru will not fight him.'
"Well, if my people have no objections… You have the strength of the Panther Tribe whenever you need it." Rin was relieved to hear the room voice their agreements to their leader's decision. They needed allies, though it was unexpected to find them in a room of felines! "Now, you must stay the night. I'm sure you all miss sleeping on a bed." Ayumi brightened up,
"Ah, yes, sleeping on the forest floor loses its appeal quite quickly." Tatsuya raised an eyebrow, his hand finding its way to her thigh where he squeezed tightly.
"Who said you will be the one sleeping?" Rin watched Ayumi turn red for the umpteenth time in the past couple of days and the sight did not fail to raise laughter in her.
"What happened after you returned?" Ayumi had her head rested against the strong, bare chest of her demon lover. Both laid on a large futon, in a room reserved for the panther king, Tatsuya. The panther had an arm wrapped around her shoulders, his nose buried in the head of her hair.
"The former king attempted a structured way of breeding to ensure the strongest of pups. It did not work… The most of the males who were mated could not bring themselves to have another mistress."
"Me? Be with another woman?" The panther scoffed, "No, I could not bring myself to mate with another." He placed a small kiss on her forehead, "The tribe ended up splitting apart. Toran went off with three of the elite elemental soldiers, Kiyoshi and I left with a good chunk of the army and common panthers, the former king was left with little. When a neighboring wolf tribe attacked, he fell with his few comrades. We all returned to bury the dead with a promise to put aside our differences and rebuild. I was named King, and here we are now."
"Sounds like you were very busy these past few years."
"Yes, I was, why do you think I did not hunt you down?" His lips moved down to her cheek, a soft kiss there, down to her jaw. "By the time I had the chance, years passed, I thought you had moved on as most humans do…"
"I am here now." He turned over, his body hovering over hers. The panther responded with a smirk,
"Yes, you are, and I intend on making up for time lost…"
"What have you learned?" Lady Katsumi stood in the main hall of her mansion. She had been pacing back and forth, waiting for the return of her informants.
"Nothing, literally." A female fox youkai replied, "My men say the lands that belong to those clans have been completely abandoned, save for the Imperial Dragon Clan, that informant has not returned nor has he attempted contact with us."
"That is very unlike Hideki."
"We did not like to think the worst, but he may have been compromised. It has been far too long since his last correspondence."
"Has the stone been found?"
"No, m'lady, I still have a team of men searching for it."
"He is in panther territory. They did not greet him with malice. The last I heard, he is not in any danger."
"Good." The female inu-youkai pursed her lips as she thought of her next line of action. "We have limited time before Sesshomaru awakens. I need a full report on Touga's condition. I need to know what those youkai are planning and if they had any part of this. Send as many men you need, but get me that information before tomorrow night."
Rin slid one eye open as she watched Touga rise from his futon on the other side of the large room, and leave through the main door. 'His late night brooding is just as bad as Sesshomaru's.' She thought, remembering all the times she stayed up with the demon lord when she was younger. Rin laid for wide-eyed in on her futon, staring up the ceiling, lost in her memories. Will things be okay after this passes? Her resolve to get answers from Sesshomaru was strong when this journey started, but she began to doubt her anger the more forbidden things she learned about the demon lord.
Rin had always known there was something painful he was hiding. Human, demon, hanyou, it didn't matter; those who shut others out as he did, who are cold and harsh—those people are made, not born. While loving was not a word she would use to describe Lady Katsumi, the female youkai did not appear to be terrible person, especially when she revived her to make her son happy.
Then there was Touga, the father that Sesshomaru did not like speaking of. He has not told her the things he has done to his son, but the soul-tearing guilt and shame in his eyes when he is lost in his thoughts, when Sesshomaru is mentioned, it spoke volumes. She glanced at the door, she did not like him alone with his thoughts in the same way she did with Sesshomaru. No one should suffer alone. Making her decision, Rin got up from the bed and walked into the hall. She began to hear noises from one of the rooms, and blushed hard when she realized what it was. She snuck down around the corner and found the exit of the large house.
Rin stepped outside into the darkness of the night. The moon was only a thin white crescent in the sky. She walked around the main area of the territory until she found Touga at the end of the village, standing at the top of a cliff that over looked the vast green of the western lands. "You followed me."
"You woke me." She took her usual place beside him.
"You always sleep so lightly?"
"If I am alone." The inu-youkai hummed in acknowledgement before directing his gaze back over the view in front of him.
"It is truly amazing… All this… was once mine." There was no pride in his voice. "I cared more for protecting dirt and faceless people than my own son."
"I'm sorry." The inu-youkai exhaled, "To see such a joyful reunion between Ayumi and her small family… I wish it could be same between mine." Rin was silent, unsure of the words to say to the old youkai. Instead, she choose to wrap an arm around his, and pulling her body close, her head leaning against his shoulder. His body tensed at first, but relaxed within a few moments. She knew inu-youkai were sensitive to touch, and preferred physical contact to words when upset. "You are pleased to see them together." The question came across like a statement, but she responded all the same.
"Yes, I am. Ayumi deserved to be reunited, to find her happiness again. She has done so much for me despite me being shoved without warning in her life." His aroma was different than Sesshomaru's; while the demon lord had a more woodsy scent melded with something icy and electric, Touga had a spicy tone mixed with the passion and fire of his youki. "It was the least I could do." Rin let out a silent yawn, returning her arm to her side. She did not want to push her boundaries with the youkai.
"We will leave tomorrow morning." Rin nodded absently, not moving from her spot. She was far too focused on the warmth the larger male radiated. The inu-youkai raised an eyebrow, "Usually at this point you would drag me back to rest." She mentally shook herself out of her stupor and looked up at the dai-youkai.
"It's such a beautiful night. I don't want to head back inside." Rin felt the heat on her cheeks again when she remembered the sounds she heard when leaving the mansion. Touga took notice and cocked his head to the side in confusion. She tried to not laugh at his expression. "I, uhm…. There was… They were… uhm… I heard…" She stuttered, completely failing at establishing a coherent sentence. It did not help that the inu-youkai turned his head to the other side while trying to understand her. It was just like speaking to a puppy. "Tatsuya and Ayumi were… together."
Touga did not understand, "Why would they not be in the same room?"
Rin gave him an exasperated look, "No, I mean… together." The inu-youkai continued to look at her blankly. "They were having…" Gods, she must look like a tomato. Again. " …sex." She said whispered the last word so low, she barely heard it herself.
"What was that?" Impossible that the inu-daiyoukai did not hear her. When she looked up at him, his face was still blank, but his eyes had a mischievous glint to them.
"You…!" Rin could not believe it. "You're messing with me!" Touga's lips curled into a smile, "You know exactly what I said!" which quickly turned to a large grin, his fangs bared. "Gods, you knew what I was talking about the whole time, didn't you? You can hear a lot better than me!" The daiyoukai began to chuckle at her anger, "You're laughing at me!" And it was contagious. Rin soon found herself giggling with him, relishing in the sound of his deep laughter.
"We should head inside." Touga said once their laughter had died down. Rin nodded and followed the daiyoukai back into the panther mansion, eager for morning to come.
End of Chapter 3
Author's Note: OMG, two chapters in two days?! What what! Don't get too excited though… Even though I am writing the next chapter already… lol.
Thanks to SessRinz and redsky0000 (Whoa, are you the same redsky that reviewed 4 years ago? If so, that's kray kray, welcome back! If not, well welcome aboard! Lol) for reviewing!
If you are wondering who the panther tribe are, re-watch Inuyasha Episode 75!
"Where's Inuyasha!" I swear he is totally super super close.
The last scene was fun to write. :D I don't have too much to say about this chapter honestly. Lol.
Reviews are loved. ;3