Author's Note: Another year and more I've let this sit? Is it possible? How dreadful. I've had a spring and summer from hell, but I'm determined to do this story justice. So, here I am again, hoping there are some readers still out there, and our heroes are hurtling toward the battle…and wronged women confronting their men.

Chapter 13

With a cumbersome tool too big for his little body to wield well and with the assistance of an out-of-breath but smirking monk, Jaken eventually wrested the remains of long, dark wooden box, locked and covered with sutras but splintered and easy enough to open with a blow of the shovel's head. Within, wrapped in moldering cloth and glowing before Miroku's eyes as brightly as a living demon, was a shining sword's tip.

As he rose, Miroku wrapped the precious fragment back into the tattered sheet, covered it with a few sutras, and folded it into his robes. He pretended not to notice Sesshoumaru's gaze burning into his back as he worked, but when he turned, he could not ignore the sight. The dog demon's eyes were bright fire, his fists had drawn blood from his palm with poisoned claws, and he was panting with effort. He labored to contain Daikano, the monk knew, only because he had insisted on it. Failing his promise to protect Rin, he was now going to allow Inuyasha, Kagome, Sango, and himself to gather to fight the damned bull. Miroku could feel his need to make amends. Was it possible such amends even extended to helping him reunite with Sango. Well, miracles happened; he had seen such with his own eyes when at last Naraku was defeated and when, soon after, his beloved slayer became his wife and then gave him children. How had he been such a fool as to throw it all away? He quickly made a vow to himself not only to win Sango back but to do what he could for Sesshoumaru and Rin. The daiyoukai's suffering was plain, and wasn't there enough suffering already in the world.

Jaken scurried over to the pack carrying the first two pieces and called to Miroku. "Hurry up, you fool," he squawked. "Can you not see Lord Sesshoumaru can withstand little more?"

Sesshoumaru snarled at the implications of his vassal's words, but took the cue even faster than Miroku. The bull would have his day, but the battle would not take place here or now. Knowing he could control himself around two but not all three pieces of the terrible sword, Sesshoumaru gripped Jaken by the collar and took to the sky. Pointing a long-taloned finger at Miroku, he snarled in a voice not entirely his own, "We will meet at the north edge of the forest of Inuyasha's village. Jaken will inform them…and your slayer, too. We will wait for you, monk. Do not tarry."

Miroku nodded his assent and took off through the woods. Sesshoumaru and Jaken would no doubt arrive far sooner than he, and the waiting would be difficult for them all. But he felt great strength and purpose in his soul. Even sake did not tempt him. He would pause for rest or food as little as he could. He would summon strength and courage from the depths of a disused body and mind. And together, he and Sesshoumaru, with the help of the others, would defeat Daikano and all return to rights.

As her arrow sank into a distant target, Rin suddenly sank to her knees. She was no longer wounded in body, and this was no bodily pain. She clutched her chest and felt a dark, wrenching anguish whose source she could not determine. She looked wildly around her and then at her body. No blood, no danger nearby that she could determine. And then it eased, slowly, until she was herself again.

"Kikyou?" she called but remembered quickly that her companion was visiting another village this day, tending to the sick. How the priestess had changed she had relinquished Inuyasha and her own life for him, then come back, once more, to life. In their time together, as Rin healed, Kikyou had told her of her strange journey, her reawakening on a hillside, with the name of Suikotsu on her lips. Had the two-minded mercenary found a way to defeat his own death and revivify the priestess? Kikyou did not know, but she no longer needed to capture souls, even as she was no longer truly alive. It was a miraculous existence, cleaned of vengeful thoughts, and she accepted it, for as long as it would last. Perhaps, she said, protecting Rin was the reason for her continued presence in the world. Rin drank of her generosity, though she still burned with the fury of the wronged. Though she knew the lesson Kikyou had learned was a vital one, she could not share the peace. "I cherish your friendship, Lady Kikyou, but if I live, Sesshoumaru cannot," she had simply said.

Sesshoumaru. The pain had gone, but she wondered. Was the pain his? She had fought with success the desire to touch his soul with her own for long, terrible weeks. He had not shut himself away from her, though he should hide in shame. Now, without truly intending to, her mind reached out to the mate who had left her ruined. Despite herself, she touched his aura - and felt herself sharply repelled! She fought the rebuff like a physical blow, but somehow she knew, without question, that Sesshoumaru was not doing so to harm her. Fearing to trust her instincts, but knowing she must, Rin ran back to the hut and began to pack her belongings. Inuyasha's village. She must go. She did not know why, only that she must. She would wait for Kikyou, then she would go.

Something terrible was brewing, and her mate—her beautiful, awful mate—was at the heart of it. Her time for revenge was nigh. And so much sooner than she thought, she would reap it.