Part One - Twirling Stripes

The crowd bustled by, a river of shoppers laden with presents in brightly colored bags. Canned Christmas music played over the speaker system, and Sesshoumaru, former Lord of the Western Lands, sat in a dark corner of a coffee shop stirring his latte with a peppermint stick.

Those that floated in and out of the shop took little notice of the pale creature daydreaming as he stared out of the window. Occasionally he would turn his eyes back to the laptop screen and tap out a few words, but for the most part he sat silent and sipped his drink.

He was a ghost among the living.

Sesshoumaru swirled the stick through his coffee and ran it across his tongue, the peppermint cold and hot at the same time on his lips. "Rin would have liked these," he thought absently.

With a sigh he focused on the keys, and began to type. This project was turning out the be more difficult than he could have ever imagined. But there was a deadline to keep, after all.

. . .

What is love to someone like me? I'm still working that out.

Did I love Rin? Probably. I would protect her as much as I was able to, but all I know is that my life ended when she died, which spoke volumes considering the reputation I had worked to build all those years ago.

She was my comfort, my constancy in the waxing and waning of the world. I had grown accustomed to her and her ways. There was little I could do to stop her death, thanks to Naraku. I tried it all. Tenseiga, the Shikon Miko, nothing worked.

As much as I fought against it, Rin had become a free spirit and even I, the Great Sesshoumaru, was powerless to bring her back.

I believe I lost my sanity that day. In fact, I am quite sure of it.

It was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, as they sometimes say. Everything I had laid my desires on in this world was snatched from my grip - Tessaiga, the Meidou, Rin. All for the sake of a bastard hanyou.

So I left Japan. I wandered the globe for years trying to forget bright smiles and the smell of flowers. But she was everywhere I went, and even with demon speed I could not escape the reminders of her. Young girls laughter, fresh flowers, sakura blossoms, the smell of spring in the air...it all came back to her.

Even I had been unaware of how much I had cared for her. And it was the first time in my life I remember feeling fear for myself and what would become of me.

So I made a strategic decision and decided to retreat to find the fearless demon that died along side of a human child so many years ago.

I retreated too far, apparently, out of anyone's reach. And I didn't know how to get back. So I went about my business, dealing with the changing world at hand. The demons of my family hid their living spaces behind spells only visible to those like them. I spent some time with them, but very little. I had become accustomed to the world of humans, and elected to stay and continue wandering.

Along the way I found myself collecting things - an assortment of whatever struck my fancy. But they all reminded me of her in some shape or fashion. Something she would have liked, something in the exact colors she used to wear, something that reminded me of her.

And I suppose that was the greatest tragedy of my life. Before her, there was a hole in my heart I could not feel. After her, it was all I could feel. Apparently my greatest weakness was my own frail heart.

I had no idea of how to fix the damage, so I lived with it. Dealt with it. Adapted to it. It became part of me, so much that when anyone came close I retreated again.

I grew bored easily. I needed constant stimulation to keep my mind off of more painful topics, so I dabbled in various companies, human affairs, trades, collectibles, armories, and so on. I lent my services to armies and fledgling governments, anything that gave me distraction.

Finally, about 75 years ago, I started to write.

It was the day I realized I could not remember the sound of Rin's voice. I passed by a park where a young girl was playing when she suddenly laughed out loud. And it was then that I discovered I couldn't remember what her voice sounded like outside of my own head.

I tried to picture Rin then, and to my horror I discovered that I could not remember specific details like the pattern of her kimono or the differences in her many smiles.

I had spent several lifetimes trying to forget, and I was apparently successful.

That night I went home and began to write it all down - everything I could remember. Everything. It began to consume my waking hours; I found myself jotting down details every time they came across my mind. In bed. In the shower. While walking. I started keeping a notebook in my pocket.

Soon, I began to write down memories of people other than Rin. Father. Mother. Inuyasha. The Shikon Miko. Naraku. I wrote it all down, and discovered there was enough work to keep my mind occupied for a very long time.

One night when the memories would not come to mind, I happened across an editor in a bar. He noticed my tablet and asked to see what I had written. I let him. It made no difference anymore. They were tales of those long dead in their graves, written by the one time forgot.

The editor asked me to send him something, so I mailed off a small tale of how my idiot brother managed to get himself sealed to a tree for 50 years. I received a call the next day telling me it was the best piece of comedic fiction he had laid his eyes on. So, that is how I happened into this life. I furnish them with tales now and then of things I feel are fit to share. There is nothing of personal importance.

Until now.

I can't say why I decided to write of Rin. Perhaps it is time her story comes out, so that she is remembered by more than just me. It is time to share her story.

. . .

Far across town in a similar coffee shop on a similar corner, Kagome, the once and current Shikon Miko sits and wipes whipped cream from her lip before stirring her drink with the peppermint stick once more.

Canned Christmas music plays over the speaker system; a stack of textbooks sit at her side, but her eyes are focused absently on the twinkling lights shining through the window. Those that floated in and out of the coffee shop paid little attention to the dark haired girl decidely ignoring her homework.

With a sigh her eyes turn to the stack of books, and out her literature assignment. Her fingers slide across smooth paper as she finds her page, and begins to read.

It was the story of Inuyasha on the tree.

Time slowed and the noise fell to a mute as she turned the pages with anticipation. There was no way this could be fiction; it had to have been written by someone who had been there. Too many details were accurate - too many details that would have never survived in myth and legend.

She glanced at the front page for the author's name. Taisho Hishashi. Her eyes blinked as she read the name over and over again, looking for some sense of recognition. But none came.

Someone had survived all of this time to write this story. Was it Inuyasha? Was he here in this time? The well was still open to her, why would he have not come to see her? It was surely someone she knew, and Kagome decided to find out who.

Another glance at the front page gave her the publishing house, where she could begin to find her answers.