Sesshomaru had never been inclined to whine – it was not in the Western Lord's protocol; but sitting in his war-room trying to ignore the child rumpling his fur when he should have been halfway through his battle scheme, it was impossible to stifle a small sigh.

"Rin," he warned, "you too are aware that I must focus on this draft." Sesshomaru deliberately pushed a squadron marker over a mountain range. Not where he would have set it, but so long as she thought it was an actual tactic…

"But there's nothing to do!" Rin whined. "I'm bored!"

The dog-demon's ears roiled at the octave her voice hit. "Ah, well, can't you go outside?"

"It's snowing outside, Lord Sesshomaru. Don't you remember the last time I did that and came back all sick and then Master Jaken got a cold and he couldn't stop sneezing, which was really gross 'cause it flew all over the –"

"I. Know. Rin." Sesshomaru's mane was starting to bristle. "I need a few moments alone, so go pest— er, talk to Jaken for a bit."

"But I like it here with you."

Sesshomaru knew better than to fall for that ploy. He averted his eyes from the lethal smile. "Out, Rin."

With the panel's closing snap, the daiyokai exhaled relief. He paused to absorb the tranquility of his settings; centuries old maps hung from walls beside tearstained scrolls – other demons' pleas for mercy. Over in a corner was propped a kwan-dao Sesshomaru had acquired from the Mainland many years ago. Its shaft was finely polished and its curved blade still gleamed wickedly.

Pacified, Sesshomaru turned back to the map on the low-rise table in front of him. Lifting his brush once more, he began to mark positions and dates.

The demon worked in happy silence for a grand total of two minutes.

"You stupid girl! Don't you realize Lord Sesshomaru's busy?!"

"But you're no fun, Master Jaken! 'Sides, I wonder what he's doing now. Move."

"Hey! Don't shove me!"

"You started it!"

"Spoiled brat!"

Rin was suddenly stumbling through the screen, arms flailing and knocking over the kwan-dao. Automatically, Sesshomaru sprang over the table and, sliding on his back, caught the spear before it found Rin. Unfortunately, he had been moving faster than both the blade and child, so instead of the floor, Rin landed on him – more specifically, on Sesshomaru's face.

Sesshomaru muttered something soft and harsh. Jaken cowered; the last time his master had cursed like that tsunamis and dead demons resulted.

Dropping the spear before he did anything rash, Sesshomaru then gripped the scruff of Rin's yukata. Standing, he held her at arm's length then plopped her on the floor like a sack of grain – right on Jaken's head.

"I'm sorry, Lord Sesshomaru." Rin really did sound apologetic. Sesshomaru's bleeding ears told him so. He marched to the main exit and started strapping on his armor.

Rin trotted up. "Where are you going? Can I come with you?"

"No, it's snowing outside. You'll get sick…again. Stay here."

"That's only 'cause I didn't dress warmly like you said."

Or leave me alone either.

"See what you did, idiot? Lord Sesshomaru can't stand your – ulp!"

Sesshomaru let his breastplate "accidentally" clunk on Jaken.

"Will you be back, m'lord?" Rin's turned drowning pools upward.

Not sparing a second glance, the demon applied the final tugs to his waist-tie and marched out.

The wind howled ominously outside. Jaken shivered and Rin sighed.

"So Master Jaken, wanna play charades?"


New children's kimonos clutched in his hand, the daiyokai's pant legs were ephemeral clouds as he flew home across the rumbling sky.

Why am I rushing? It's only snow.

Strangely, Rin's face came to mind.

Sesshomaru grumbled at his own foolish sentiment and forced himself to descend and enjoy the walk back. When he landed, the inu-yokai stashed the recently purchased garments under his armor and between his own robes, trying to reason that it was only practical.

Suddenly a sprig of vibrant blossoms caught his eye. They were frosted over, but blossoms' petals remained in suspended crimson beauty.

Rin would like these.

Melting the ice with pure yoki, Sesshomaru promptly plucked the flowers and proceeded to tramp through the forest until he approached a monk. The clean-shaven man sat erect in defiance of the white flurry and chilling wind, eyes closed as a chant droned out. His hands, clasped around a jade rosary, stiffly held the position of prayer.

The wind wailed louder and the monk braced himself, teeth rattling.

Why would anyone submit himself to such torture? Sesshomaru continued walking.

"You there, demon!" a gruff voice barked. "Where do you go?"

Sesshomaru knew the drill. "I don't heed humans."

"Indeed, and what are you doing with those young human clothes?"

The dog-demon grumbled. "Doesn't your faith preach about not being involved with worldly pursuits? Let me be."

"Of course, and I'm sure this is part of your regular routine."

Such an arrogant mortal. "I don't see you behaving as the rest of your race – toiling away in the fields, up thatching roofs, or severing as a foot soldier. It seems to me you frivol your already abbreviated life sitting in the snow or doing some other menial task that grants no reward."

The old man clucked his tongue. "Years you may have over me, but they have not provided you with the strength I know."

"The strength you know?" Sesshomaru turned around, an eyebrow arched.

"Why, yes," he scoffed, shifting his weight for once in the past twenty-two hours. "I am superior physically, mentally, and emotionally. My training has taught me to withstand all pain for it is merely a sensation limited to the body. My mind no longer recognizes all the faults of this corporeal prison. I realized it myself."

"So you invent your own challenges?"

"No!" the monk bellowed indignantly. "I am enlightening myself! Ah, demon, though you may know battle, does your ice blood let you know strain? Does your immortal body let you feel hunger? You may call them human weaknesses, but when I surmount them I know I am cultivating superior stamina which yields superior wisdom. With my training complete, I am lifted higher into the clouds."

I contest that not. Sesshomaru considered pitting the monk's "stamina" against his talons. Or better yet, Rin's incessant chatter and lugubrious whines. The dog-demon bet his own fur that mortal would be crawling out of there after only an hour. Maybe two at most.

Lightening crackled and Sesshomaru blinked.

"Tell me, monk" – his tone was smooth – "Have you any children?"

"Children?" he snorted. "Why no! Of course not!"

As I thought. "Your training is still insufficient."

Before the monk could retort, a warm gust breathed out of the winter sky. Sesshomaru caught the next cloud and, yes, he was rushing – a little.


"You're back!"

Squishing Jaken underfoot, Rin skipped up to hug Sesshomaru's soaked hakama.

"Here. Now you can go outside." The demon's voice was bland as he dropped the new yukata on her head. The little girl giggled, but Sesshomaru couldn't let her see his lips twitching.

More training, he mentally smirked.


A/N: Sesshomaru, just wait until you take on Kohaku!

Thank you for reading and please review.