Disclaimer: Inuyasha belongs to Rumiko Takahashi.

A/N: Written for Minakiwi.

The Secret Key to the Meidou-Seki

One day, when Sesshomaru was lost deep in his thoughts, as was so often the case now that his time was not spent hunting Naraku, a phoenix with dazzling white plumage swept down on the wind and dropped a small scroll at his feet. Jaken yelped and ducked as the graceful bird soared past him like a white feather on the breeze. The phoenix let out a melodious cry and flew away just as quickly as it had come, disappearing into the horizon. Sesshomaru stood unmoved and untroubled by this strange occurrence, but Jaken spluttered as he got to his feet.

"Blasted thing nearly took my head off with its beak! What do you suppose that was all about, m'lord?"

Sesshomaru gave Jaken a glare and pointed his eyes toward the scroll on the ground. "Read me the note, you fool."

"Oh, of course! Right away, Lord Sesshomaru!" Jaken unrolled the parchment and read aloud its contents, which said: "Sesshomaru, I have a matter to discuss with you of great importance. Do come and see me in person. And remember, I hate to be kept waiting." Jaken looked appalled at what he had read. "Such an informal tone!" he chirped. "What kind of impertinent creature dared to write this?"

Sesshomaru snatched the note out of Jaken's scrawny hands and read it with his own eyes. He recognized the handwriting immediately, and proceeded to bring his foot down upon the imp's head, squashing his hat quite flat and pushing his face into the dirt. Satisfied that Jaken had been appropriately punished for his idiocy, Sesshomaru calmly said, "Stay here. I will attend to this matter alone." With that, he leapt gracefully into the air and began flying in the direction that the phoenix had taken. Jaken came to his senses in time to lift his head (where a lump was already forming) and see Sesshomaru fading into the distance.

Jaken sighed in disappointment. "Wherever could Lord Sesshomaru be going? And why did he have to leave me behind?" the imp sniffed as little tears began forming in his eyes.


When Sesshomaru arrived at his destination, he found the phoenix resting quietly upon the shoulder of the person who had summoned him. With its proud white head and slender neck, the phoenix looked quite as sleek and beautiful and haughty as its owner.

"What is it that you want with me, Mother?" Sesshomaru said abruptly.

"Straight to business right away, then?" His mother looked down at him with a smirk from her throne above the castle steps. "Can't a mother take some time to look over her only son?" Her eyes glanced him over and began to gleam. "You have a new arm, I see."

"Yes."

"And a new sword. What is its name?"

"Bakusaiga."

"It radiates strength. Truly you have attained your full power…" Suddenly a look of disappointment crossed her face. "Where is my friend the little youkai? Hiding behind your heels?"

"I left Jaken behind."

"To watch over your human girl?"

"Rin lives with her own kind now."

"A wise decision, Sesshomaru. However did you arrive at it?"

Sesshomaru hesitated before answering. His mother was the only person in the world who could make him hesitate. He hated that. "She's safer where she is now."

"Almost lose her again in battle, did you?"

He hated the way Mother could read him even more, as though his mind were an open scroll for her to peruse at her leisure.

"And tell me, Sesshomaru, when your girl was in danger, when you thought she might die, for good," his mother placed unpleasant emphasis on these words, "did you shed a tear on her behalf?"

Sesshomaru's face was tinged with annoyance. "You know I did not."

"Not in your nature, is it?" The phoenix cooed on her shoulder, and his mother stroked the top of the bird's head gently. "Doesn't Ou have lovely coloring? Simply marvelous creature, very intelligent. I don't know how I ever got along without her. She was a gift from the continent…"

"You did not summon me here just to make small talk, Mother."

"You're right, of course. But first, answer me this: What does your heart desire most in the world?" Sesshomaru was silent, so his mother went on. "Once I think you would have said your father's sword Tessaiga, but that is no longer the case. After your lust for the sword was gone, I think you most desired the defeat of your greatest enemy, but Naraku has vanished from this world. Perhaps then your greatest desire was the safety of your human girl, but as you said, she is well taken care of now. So what else is there that you wish for?"

Sesshomaru paused a moment before saying quietly, "There is nothing left in this world that I want."

"Oh, pooh. Come now, Sesshomaru, you can't fool your own mother. There is something still that you desire. I sense a great emptiness in you."

"You are mistaken."

The lady sniffed, pretending to be offended. "Tell me, Sesshomaru, do you recall the circumstances of our last encounter?"

"Naturally," Sesshomaru said, glaring into his mother's eyes, though he spoke dispassionately. "You tested me with Father's gift, the Meidou-seki, which released a hell-dog that attacked Rin, resulting in her death."

"Oh, do not look at me so coldly, son. The girl turned out all right, didn't she? But that is right, the circumstances under which we last met were… unfortunate, but necessary. Before your father died, he bequeathed guardianship of his precious Meidou-seki to me, and made me swear to test you with it when you came asking about Tenseiga." As the lady talked, she picked up the Meidou-seki in her hand, regarding it fondly. It was a black orb set in a gold medallion, which hung from her neck on a string of enormous iridescent pearls. The orb's ebony surface gleamed luminously as she shifted it in the light. "Do you remember what the little youkai said that day, when your girl died? He said that your countenance prevented you from ever showing tears, so that he would do it in your place. Do you recall that?"

Sesshomaru looked harshly at his mother, but said nothing.

"I wonder… much time has passed. You have faced more battles since then… perhaps more heartbreak… indeed you have faced the most important battle of your life. Have you not found reason since then, to shed a tear?"

"Do you think me weak, Mother?" Sesshomaru said with a look of disgust. "No tears have ever marred these cheeks."

"Of course not. Well, then… I believe you asked me why I summoned you here. I will be forthcoming with you, Sesshomaru. I called you here to discuss the matter of the Meidou-seki."

Sesshomaru glanced at the orb's black surface wearily. "What about it?"

"Perhaps you did not know… when your father entrusted the Meidou-seki into my care, he did not intend for me to bear it forever."

"No?"

The lady shook her head lightly. "He said that I was to loan it to you, for a time, when you were ready, if I believed you would have use of it."

"Indeed? Why now, Mother? What makes this moment in my life worthier than the ones before?"

"You have surpassed your father," she said with a nod toward Sesshomaru's re-grown arm, "and I believe the largest battles of your life are behind you."

"And what use would I have for this so-called treasure? You say, 'loan,' so you do not intend for me to keep it forever, meaning…"

"Meaning no, you are not going to keep it long enough to revert what should be a natural death for your little pet, when her time comes."

Sesshomaru's brow furrowed slightly. "If I am not to use it on Rin… the only other purpose the Meidou-seki serves is opening the portal to Hell. Surely you do not intend me to vacation there."

The lady's eyes glimmered with amusement. "Perhaps there is someone else you wish to save from Death's grasp."

Sesshomaru almost started in surprise. "Who?"

"That's up to you, isn't it?" the lady said, lifting the Meidou-seki over her head and placing it into Sesshomaru's hand. "However, I must warn you, the Meidou-seki is not so easily mastered. You need to find the key to use it."

Sesshomaru's hand tensed around the golden medallion. He had never seen his mother wield a key to unleash the Meidou-seki's powers. "What key? Where is it?"

His mother gave him a secretive smile, and shook her head. "That's for you to find out."