Hello again, it's time for an update: while I will still be trying to sneak in some writing, the next 2-3 months are going to be busy for me, but as always, encouragement and threats are great motivators, so if you feel the need (or simply need a place to vent some pent up rage) you are more than welcome to drop me a line. Hope all is well and enjoy the chapter!

Chapter Twelve

For the next day and a half, Hikyuu stuck around and, with Sesshomaru's permission, assisted in some of Nisshou and Kyokkou's training. Other than that, she mostly avoided Sesshomaru, knowing that he still disliked her, and also because Aras's hostility towards the spotted demon had not lessened. Unless Hikyuu was with one of the kids, Aras would growl if she approached Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru was undoubtedly pleased when Hikyuu announced she was leaving – she had done nothing during her time here that had impressed him enough to not care, still stuck on the time she had intruded with the others, his blood boiling every time he remembered her words back then.

"Do you know when Mother is going to come back?"

"Oh, knowing her, she'll be here in a day or so. She never could stay away from you two for very long!" Hikyuu purred, nuzzling Kyokkou as the young girl gave her a farewell hug. "Nisshou? Can I get a hug? I dare say you won't be seeing me again for a while."

"Where are you going?" Kyokkou asked as Nisshou reluctantly moved forward.

"North for the winter – there's no better time for me! Afterwards I plan on heading back to my original home on the mainland, where snow is not so seasonal. I have not been home in many years," she replied after hugging the young boy, giving him a loving nudge as well. She then turned to Sesshomaru, who was waiting semi-patiently off to the side to begin today's exercises. "Sesshomaru," she nodded respectfully, doing the same for "Aras," neither of whom returned the nod, merely staring with narrowed eyes.

"Take care!" she called to all of them pleasantly, despite the glares, as she trotted off peacefully through the dying undergrowth, her fluffy tail finally disappearing behind a thick bush.

"Come," Sesshomaru ordered them with little delay, turning on the spot and heading out to their usual training grounds, Aras at his heels without a second thought.

"So what's the plan for today?" Nisshou asked, trying to cover up his excitement with a straight face.

"You still need some pointers in your defenses," he replied casually, making it seem more extreme than it really was.

"When are we going to start something else? This is getting old…" Kyokkou mumbled mostly to herself, but wasn't surprised that the rest had overheard.

Sesshomaru made no reply, but her question reminded him of their mother.


Further to the north, where the earth rose into choppy cliff edges, Hikyuu climbed to a tall point and looked back on the land she'd come from, just able to see the rooftop of Sesshomaru's manor; she turned her head a few degrees to the left, looking upon the trees that served as their training grounds. From here, the landscape looked the same as in any direction, but she knew that's where they were.

Sesshomaru… she thought bitterly, her ears folding back with a forlorn sigh.

Her presence these two days had not been welcomed, and she could not blame the dog demon for feeling that way: the last time the leopard had been to the manor, she had technically trespassed, and at a most inopportune time as it turned out. She had panicked and made a break for it as soon as Sesshomaru caught on to her presence. She tried to outrun him, but the dog demon proved the faster and took her down hard, just seconds from ending her life…


"Why should I spare you?"

"Because Lenezma will never return if you do!"

"Why should I care? What do you know about me?!"

"I know who you are! You saved her, took her in and trained her, and stole her heart. I also know that something terrible forced you apart. But if it's true, if you really don't care about her, then you won't mind if I tell her what I've seen; I'm sure she'd be interested to hear that she needn't waste her time on you! That all of her fears were confirmed, that the memories that cause her to suffer the most were nothing but lies…!"

Hikyuu quivered from the memories, haunted by the scene she had witnessed.

"Why didn't Lenezma come here with you and the others?!"

"Because she is still scared!"

"Why didn't she come back to face that fear?!"

"Maybe she will, someday, but you have to be patient and give her more time… You hurt her. You damaged her greatly; do not think that she can so easily return to face you."

Again Hikyuu sighed, her eyes closing in an attempt to block the old memories. Oh Lenezma… what are you going to do? How are you going to get through this?

With one last sigh, Hikyuu turned and continued north, only able to hope for the best.


"So who do you want to start? Me or Kyokkou?" Nisshou asked easily as they arrived at the training grounds, the twins filing in front of him like miniature soldiers.

"Neither. You're getting too used to each other's styles and can predict the other's movements with little effort," Sesshomaru replied, deciding not to mention the twin factor between them. "Aras!"

Immediately the wolf jumped forward, snarling, but with a playful glint in her eyes. She would not hurt them intentionally.


Aras dove right between them, separating them momentarily before she leaped after Kyokkou, jumping and snapping at the young girl with her sharp teeth. After so many evasions, Aras would suddenly turn on Nisshou and begin the chase anew, running the twins in circles, missing every time whether she wanted to or not.

Before long, Nisshou and Kyokkou were maneuvering around the wolf beautifully, almost mockingly at times, and even working together against her, doubling the mockery with their laughter as this soon became a game to them.

After a double-teamed jump out of the way, the twins landed beside each other, watching with great anticipation as Aras stood several feet away, staring at them with that same glint, panting slightly with fatigue. Suddenly she threw her head back and a wall of fire erupted between them, the flames too thick to see through. The flames were definitely a surprise, but what was she planning?

Their eyes darted back and forth, just waiting for the wolf to come at them from somewhere…

There! They could just make out her white body coming through the flames!

… But it wasn't Aras.

Nisshou and Kyokkou pushed off of each other – an attempt to help their sibling as well as themselves – just barely jumping to the side and avoiding the sharp claws of Sesshomaru as he dove through the fire.

Nisshou's skills were finally being put to the test as a professional came at him.

Sesshomaru, like Aras, had no real intention of hurting them, but that did not mean he wouldn't risk it. And as he went for the young boy, Aras resumed her chase after Kyokkou, more seriously than before.

When the twins crossed paths, the oppressors switched targets: Sesshomaru was now after Kyokkou, while Aras snapped her jaws at Nisshou's heels.

Kyokkou bit back a yelp as Sesshomaru's claws just barely missed her, feeling the wind from his movements against her skin. This was nuts! Aras had worn them down – shouldn't he have come at them while they were at their prime?! At least then they would stand a better chance!

But as she thought such desperate thoughts, she glanced over at Nisshou, finding him keeping his cool as he dodged Aras's teeth by confusing her, jumping into the trees just long enough to run in the opposite direction. Lucky! Aras couldn't jump straight up like that, not unless she came to a near stop, and by then Nisshou would be long gone again.

He had it easy – they knew Aras too well to be caught by her, especially after how they'd grown since Sesshomaru had begun their training. Aras was intelligent, but she could not predict their movements as easily as Sesshomaru; he could read all her movements before she'd even acted!

Suddenly her eyes lit up.

Sesshomaru swiped yet again, just grazing the very end of her sleeve. Watching her closely, he aimed his next swipe to her left, seeing a slight veer in her movements.

He was tricked.

Nisshou, having just dodged Aras's efforts once again, turned to check on his sister just in time, watching with a grin as Sesshomaru slashed at her left, but Kyokkou had jumped safely away to the right, just out of reach of a counter attack. By the time he turned to face her, he only had time to watch her hands drop to the ground forcefully.

Even Aras stopped to watch as a wall of fire was suddenly thrown up between Kyokkou and Sesshomaru, flames licking at Sesshomaru's skin and clothing, forcing him to take evasive action.

But as he maneuvered around the wall, Kyokkou was nowhere in sight, and the wall dispersed.

He ducked swiftly as a body flew overhead, tiny claws glinting in the light. His hand reached out to grab her, but flames erupted at his fingertips. He turned in time to see Nisshou smiling cockily before rushing him head on.

Sesshomaru turned to face him, to take the charge when flames were suddenly thrown at his feet, forcing him to jump away, twisting in midair to avoid Nisshou's attack as he jumped after the dog demon with his own claws.

Before Sesshomaru could attempt to grab him, Kyokkou also came rushing at him, swiping with her claws engulfed in fire, surprising him only slightly before using his energy to leap into the air, avoiding her attack by a long shot.

As he floated in the air, he found both twins anxiously awaiting his descent, Aras sitting off to the side with her tongue rolling as she watched the show. It's time I brought this to an end.

Turquoise eyes blinked hastily as the white demon they had been so focused on suddenly disappeared into thin air.

Nisshou and Kyokkou glanced around swiftly, straining their senses, searching for his presence…


Aras barked excitedly as she trotted back onto the scene, tail wagging as she gazed up at the young demons, held up by the scruffs of their kimonos, dangling relatively helplessly in Sesshomaru's hands. He was calm and collected, but both Nisshou and Kyokkou simply stared at him with wide eyes:

"Whoa! How'd you do that?!" Kyokkou gasped in awe. "We never sensed you coming!"

"It is not so difficult."

"Really?" Nisshou also gaped, excited by the prospect of moving faster than the senses. "Is it just speed or is it something else?"

Sesshomaru flicked his eyes towards the sharp boy: "Mostly speed, but even if you trained nonstop, it would still take you many years to fully grasp the technique."

Perhaps it is best that they don't know it's something beyond speed, Sesshomaru considered as he set them back on their feet, something no one beyond my line can accomplish.

"Kyokkou, what made you turn on me?"

Kyokkou perked up at this question, confused but curious. "I don't know… You were predicting my every move, so I just decided to see if I could trick you, I guess… I remembered how Aras's wall of fire had confused us earlier, so I thought, if I could manage to get out of reach long enough, I could use it to throw you off a bit…" she replied honestly, a hint of shyness in her voice, as if embarrassed to talk about it or possibly be praised – or reprimanded – for it.

"Nisshou, what allowed you to dodge Aras so well?"

He shrugged slowly, as if suddenly wondering it himself. "I guess I just know her too well… I knew she couldn't jump straight up like me at that speed, so I was able to keep away from her most of the time."

"Right. Both of you knew Aras well enough to know her tactics and her limits and used that information against her; if you can figure out your opponent, you can stay one step ahead.

"That will be all for the day. Head back to the manor and rest – tomorrow you start offensive training."

"No way!"

Sesshomaru stared down at the young boy, meeting his defiant eyes easily. And he thought they'd be excited to start the new training regime…

"Nisshou…" Kyokkou whispered softly, wondering why he was suddenly so rebellious against Sesshomaru, whose orders he usually followed without question.

But he simply shook his sister off and kept up the glare: "We hardly did anything! You can't just get us all riled up like this and call it a day! And why don't you ever take us with you on patrol? The manor is no fun!"

His eyebrow raised neatly: "Fun?"

"Yeah! Fun! Wouldn't we get a lot more out of seeing you on patrol than sitting around that empty house doing nothing?"

For a moment, it was unclear whether or not Sesshomaru would actually fall for the boy's plights or threaten him and send them away. Either way, Nisshou was determined not to falter under his deep gaze, to prove that they were good enough to accompany him.

"Very well, you may come if you like… See for yourself just how 'fun' it is…" he faded off ominously as he turned his back on them and began to stroll off, both children curious of such dire words.

"Aras, you're in charge of keeping them safe and out of the way," Sesshomaru spoke lightly to the wolf at his side, wagging her tail in compliance. Kyokkou glanced wearily at her brother, but for once the boy did not share the look, running after Sesshomaru without hesitation.

She fidgeted in her place nervously, not wanting to return by herself, but apprehensive about the prospect of seeing Sesshomaru in action when he was serious about killing his enemies. The way he invited them scared her, but at the same time, she wanted to follow just as much as Nisshou.

Sesshomaru glanced back at her, aware that she was not following. He did not speak, letting her decide for herself, but as she met his gaze, it seemed like she had made up her mind. As soon as she caught up, he continued to head north. He knew where to go to find the best demonstration, but had no idea how either would react: Nisshou was obviously eager, and Kyokkou shared some of his enthusiasm, but what would they think of the onslaught he was about to show them? He doubted Lenezma had ever exposed them to much bloodshed – he knew her too well for that – but that did not mean they would be repulsed. Considering the demon blood in them, there was a chance that they would be enthralled.

The journey was quiet, the twins knowing to keep mum until they had found any victims. On the way, the paths were filled with curious smells, scents they'd never encountered before while a few seemed familiar, but the combination of animal and demon was so thick it stung their sensitive noses, unable to tell the difference at times.

They could see a clearing up ahead, Sesshomaru apparently heading straight for it, Aras still padding along between them easily, simply staring ahead without a care in the world.

Sesshomaru stopped at the edge of the trees, and before either could get near him, they were stopped by a gentle growl, turning to find Aras had stopped a few feet back, a new glaze in her eyes, one they were not used to.

This must be the stop, Kyokkou thought as she looked back toward Sesshomaru, finding him just as still as before. He was only about ten feet in front of them, but neither dared get any closer, almost afraid of Aras's new temperament.

It was then that Sesshomaru turned back to them, just as callous as ever as he motioned them closer, Aras moving ahead and once again stopping the twins when she felt they were too close.

As they gazed through the trees, they watched in awe as a strange pack of beasts lazed about in the field, several gnawing away at some fresh kill while others dozed in the sun light and pups played under their mother's watchful eyes.

The devils almost seemed canine, but bore several deformities that made them appear rather hideous, even the playful cubs with their ratty fur.

This was it? Was Sesshomaru planning on killing off the entire pack?

Both looked to him curiously, wondering if he was serious… Without a single word, the white demon stepped out into the clearing just as casual as ever. Aras stepped between them and sat on her rear, gazing through the shrubs with intense eyes, knowing what was to come.

Their eyes widened with the first high pitched yelp.

Blood sprayed left and right as the adults charged after their oppressor, only to be cut down by his poisonous whip and razor sharp claws. His eyes were so calm, uncaring as he slaughtered the beasts one after another with his own hands, even the cubs.

Kyokkou forced her eyes away, to hold back the tears; her eyes fell upon Aras, fidgeting restlessly in her spot. And as she stared, she came to recognize that strange glaze in the wolf's eyes, one of hunger, of the prospect of the hunt. She wanted to join him, to kill the devils at his side. Kyokkou turned to Nisshou nervously, afraid of what she might find, but was almost stunned to see him just as wide eyed and shocked, unable to look away from the killing spree. And with great regret, she turned back to the show just in time to see him draw his sword.

They had never seen him use it.

Without moving from his spot, he swung the sword, releasing a radiant blue light that shot across the field, striking the few that had the sense to flee, the sword's power ripping them to shreds.

In a flash, he was racing to the opposite edge, physically cutting down two more with the devilish sword.

Kyokkou watched in horror as he stalked back through the field, still bearing the sword at his side maliciously, and still his expression had not changed. He was neither excited nor angry, feeling no remorse for the damage he'd done… What is he? I've never known a demon to be so… so cruel and uncaring… I can't believe he is a friend of Mother's; did he show her these things? Did he train her to be the same way?

Aras whined at their feet, standing on all four once again, flicking her tail for them to follow.

There was a long hesitation before the twins followed the gray wolf out into the clearing, unable to tear their eyes away from the sight of blood and gore all around them, stepping over severed limbs carefully.

Aras met Sesshomaru half way, gazing up at him curiously before eyeing something on the ground. As Nisshou and Kyokkou approached, Aras stepped aside slowly, revealing a pair of injured cubs in the grass: both whined terribly in pain. The larger of the two had a large cut across his ribs, bleeding profusely, as well as one missing foot. The smaller one didn't look bad at all, hardly injured, but it was extremely young: he could barely stumble around, and his eyes were still closed.

Both trembled where they stood, staring horrifically at the helpless pups. Surely he wasn't going to kill them!

"Wh… What are you going to do to them?" Nisshou mumbled slowly, unable to take his eyes off them, his ears ringing with their cries.

"I'm not going to do anything," he replied rather callously, stinging Kyokkou even more despite the fact he wouldn't hurt them. But at the same, she feared the slight emphasis he put on the word "I'm."

And she was right to fear it.

"You are."

"What?!" both turned back to him incredulously.

"You wanted to see for yourself what these patrols were like – this is it. There is nothing fun about it."

At his side, Aras gave a faint whimper; she, too, stared at the pups, but not with the same malice as before. She was watching them with ears back, her eyes revealing her mourning.

"You have two choices to make: take pity and let them live, only to suffer and die slow deaths, to be picked off by predators… or have mercy and end their suffering now."

"But that's not right!" Nisshou argued in a heartbeat. "Mother has always told us…"

"Your mother knows what it's like. She patrolled these lands just the same when she was still under my care, and I'll bet nothing has changed. When she fights, she doesn't leave any alive, does she?"

Nisshou hesitated at these words.

"She doesn't let the injured get away, does she? Or rather, she doesn't take the risk of letting her victim suffer in death. She knows exactly how this works." His eyes narrowed carefully. "There is no helping or saving them – that defeats the purpose of attacking them in the first place. It may seem like a sign of strength to be able to kill them all, but it is also a sign of mercy… You would ask the same of anyone who left you in such a miserable state."

For several seconds, it was quiet between them, their eyes staring intently into the other… But Nisshou could not keep it up. Mother had always told them they should help those in need… did these cubs not count? Were they beyond help anyway?

The one would never walk right again, thus be unable to hunt effectively; the other would need milk, something that was not exactly available to them. They would be picked off by predators, granted they didn't succumb to their injuries first.

No… he could hear the sounds of vultures overhead already… they would not live past tonight.

Sesshomaru watched in stern silence, waiting for the boy to make a move, to take his words to heart and end their lives – he knew better than to think that Kyokkou would do it, and Aras would keep away so long as he commanded it. Sesshomaru was not afraid to leave them to suffer – he was not so keen on mercy as some others – but this decision was for them to make, to know for themselves what this life was like.

His eyes widened curiously, watching, to his amazement, as the cubs were calmed by sweet words… and then engulfed in flames.

Aras watched with sorrowful eyes, whimpering louder now as she listened to the fading whimpers of the pups, the small fire consuming their lives and burning them beyond recognition.

Kyokkou stood back up, tears in her eyes as she called the flames back, leaving the two bodies to lie peacefully in death. She turned away without a word and began heading back to the manor, refusing to meet eyes with the others, to let them hear her cry.

Nisshou's eyes wavered as he watched his sister go, sensing her pain; like Sesshomaru, he never imagined she would be the one to kill them.

With another whine, Aras leapt after her, running up to her side, to comfort the young girl… but without even glancing at the sympathetic wolf, Kyokkou put a hand out to stop her, shaking her head faintly before walking on alone.

"Kyokkou…" Nisshou whispered under his breath, still unable to believe that she killed them, burning their bodies black.

"Not even the vultures will want them now," Sesshomaru spoke up as the young boy glanced down at the deceased cubs once more. "It is merciful, despite how cruel it may seem."

The young demon remained silent as he stared, finally turning away in order to follow Kyokkou back to the manor, but dared not approach her. She would need some time to herself; this was the first violent act she'd committed, whether it was out of mercy or not. Kyokkou… maybe you were following Mother's words better than I… you helped those weaker than you in another way, and kept them safe from the ravenous birds… I… I'm sorry…

Sesshomaru watched them for a few more seconds, waiting until Nisshou had passed by Aras, who did not move from where Kyokkou had stopped her – she didn't even glance Nisshou's way as he passed. Now it was his turn…

As Sesshomaru approached the white and gray wolf, she finally turned to meet his gaze, but it was not the loving look she normally gave him. Her sharp yellow eyes were full of sorrow, obviously hurt by Kyokkou's rejection. She whined loudly, almost as if asking him "Why? Why did she turn me away?" Or perhaps the more accurate question she wanted to ask was "Why did you leave it to them?"

Without an answer, Aras shook her head quickly and raced off in a different direction – away from the children and the manor, away from Sesshomaru - and deep inside he knew she was heading for the southeast corner to Lenezma's garden.

Sesshomaru did not move for several seconds as everyone left him alone amidst the gore. He glanced back at the bloody scene, watching the vultures and crows descend upon the dinner he had provided, tearing at the severed flesh with their sharp beaks.

None of this had ever bothered him – not really, anyway.

He was about the same age as the twins when he had been first introduced to the sight and smell of blood, and the only effect it had on him was perhaps a tiny bit of dizziness from the overwhelming stench, having to cover his sensitive nose. It wasn't for several more years before blood had a graver effect on his instincts, but not once did it ever take over.

His eyes dropped a little to find patches of flowers scattered around the field, most splattered with the red liquid of life.

He remembered this field from another slaughter, one that took place several years ago under the moonlight, when another had killed all but the leader – that was his pleasure. And as he stared at the flowers, it only made him think even more of his companion that night, and what that night eventually became…

The memories haunted him powerfully, causing him pain as he recalled the best part: the first time he kissed Lenezma.

A deep sigh escaped his chest as he turned and headed south, deciding to continue his patrol in that general direction before slipping toward the garden, not only to retrieve Aras, but also needing its serenity to calm him.

Due to the frequency of his visits to the plain garden, the place did not hurt him– mainly because it was one of the few places in all of his domain that he shared no significant memories with Lenezma. The place still lacked grass when the feline left, but now it was growing into a beautiful sanctuary of the forest, one he visited quite often. It was in fact during one of these visits that Hikyuu and Len's other estranged friends had shown up in his land.

He shook those memories away, hating to reminisce on unpleasant times, to remember the leopard's words that had burrowed their way into his heart, only to turn rotten and infect him like a disease:

"Maybe she will, someday, but you have to be patient and give her more time… You hurt her. You damaged her greatly; do not think that she can so easily return to face you."

For years he held on to that promise, looking forward to every new day with the hopes that it would be the one, the day that Lenezma came back. For a time, he had even convinced himself that even if she hated his guts, it would be worth it – he deserved that fate, after all, after how he treated her. And after what the leopard had witnessed? It was little wonder why Lenezma sought out a new mate.

With clenched teeth, he forced the memories out again, looking ahead in order to focus on his destination, his surroundings, letting the forest sweep him up into its depths and allow him to forget, an act he was always grateful for, if even for a short period.


Nisshou sat alone in the room at the end of the hall, just beneath the large window, staring vacantly at the floor.

Kyokkou… why did you do it? If you had just given me a moment, I would have done it… I would have spared you that horror…

His fists tightened as he constantly thought back to the burning cubs, the sincerity and sorrow that he felt in Kyokkou, the tears, and the fact that she refused to look at any of them – not Sesshomaru, not Aras, not him.

They were twins – they had one of the closest bonds possible, not to mention he was technically her big brother – wasn't it his job to take care of her? To keep her from having to deal with such things?

He always gave her a hard time (another brotherly trait), but looked out for her and even Mother. He was the man of the family and knew he had to act like it – he had acted on this instinct before – but when Sesshomaru presented the task to them, it was something he just wasn't ready for.

His ears twitched curiously.

In one direction, there was an unnatural silence coming from Kyokkou's room. He thought he heard a sniffle once in a while, but wasn't sure – he was more concerned by the lack of noise than anything else.

In the other, from out the window, he could hear the gate opening, the return of Sesshomaru… That jerk…

It didn't matter at this point. Though he didn't really see eye-to-eye with the rude, emotionless dog demon, he had started to develop a sort of liking for the blunt bastard, actually finding himself looking forward to each new day of training. Despite his flaws, he had a lot to offer with an abundance of experience that Mother neither had nor would share with them. And it was reasons like this that they were here in the first place: Mother would not be severe enough with them, nor would she have put them in such a predicament.

At least Mother would consul them after such actions. Sesshomaru would probably sit silently in his room and watch the sunset like every other night, Aras sleeping at his side the entire time, never once considering what he had put them up against was unreasonable or that he should at least attempt to talk to Kyokkou.

He's such an ass…


Sesshomaru crossed the front lawn at an even pace, Aras trailing behind him with slouched features, her head hanging low, obviously still hurt from Kyokkou's rejection.

Ah-Un greeted the white demon as they crossed paths, Sesshomaru taking a moment to pet the twin dragon heads affectionately, muttering simple words before following his usual path up the side staircase.

The dragon gurgled softly as they looked upon the sullen wolf, eyeing her curiously. Aras met their eyes for a moment, whimpering lightly before shaking her head once and heading for the stairs. Ah tilted his head curiously while Un's ears lowered, watching his master and the strange wolf disappear into the hallway, whining low in his throat.


Kyokkou could hear Sesshomaru's footsteps as he entered the hallway, the sweet padding of Aras's paws just behind as always… They were quickly zoned out as Kyokkou snuggled closer with her knees, forcing away everything that came to mind. She simply wanted to sit and sulk – no thoughts, no memories… just sulk…


Her head popped up immediately, scared by the sudden voice in her room: Sesshomaru was there, standing in the doorway as casual as ever.

He shut the door behind him, leaving the two alone – not even Aras was present as he took several steps closer, stopping at the edge of the bed.

She didn't want to see him, to talk, but knew he wouldn't leave if she asked. As she waited for him to speak, she found he was not looking at her, but gazing down at the bed with a curious expression, his eyes actually revealing an emotion… what was he thinking about?

The instant his eyes turned back to her, they were normal again, or at least not as deep as before.

There was an eerie silence between them, Sesshomaru apparently not knowing how to start, and Kyokkou not wanting to speak at all.

She's stronger than I've given her credit for. Not only was she the one to kill those cubs, but now she refuses to cry or show regret… She has Lenezma's glare.

"If you aren't going to talk then get out."

His eyes sharpened. She has her sass as well.

"Why did you act today?"


"Why did you decide to end those lives?"

Her fists clenched instantly: "Because of you, you jerk! Why else would I do it?"

"I didn't make you do anything… so what did?"

Kyokkou calmed a little as she settled back in her corner, still upset but allowing him the benefit of being technically right. She was silent for a moment, Sesshomaru unsure whether or not she would answer him.

"What else could I do?" she replied sullenly. "Everything you said made sense… they would have died anyway, so I just thought I should let them go with a little peace… When I burned them, I had the fires go straight for their vital organs so that they might die as quickly as possible… It was the least I could do…"

Sesshomaru watched her cringe, knowing the visions were coming back to her.

In unusual silence, Sesshomaru knelt down in front of her and watched a single tear slip from her eye and down her cheek. Kyokkou gasped softly as she felt his touch, his thumb sweeping away the bead of water with an almost affectionate air.

"You should have let your brother do it."

"What? But why?"

"You're still too soft at heart; you won't end up like me."

Kyokkou stared back, initially thankful for the thought, but soon burdened by it: "… But you think Nisshou will?"

Sesshomaru did not answer immediately, meeting her eyes carefully. "I cannot say. Your mother has made a strong impact on your personalities, leading you in another direction. However, I do believe he has the potential if he so desires to choose this lifestyle."

Kyokkou shifted uncomfortably, unsure whether or not she liked the idea of Nisshou turning into a beast like Sesshomaru, and then thought of herself in comparison. "But I don't?"

Sesshomaru caught the feint hostility in her voice. He did not know whether or not she was offended or content with that thought, but something certainly perturbed her about the idea. And when she suddenly looked up at him, he could see the defiance in her eyes.

He sighed faintly. "You're too much like your mother."

Kyokkou blinked curiously at these words. "And what's that supposed to mean?"

"It means you're just like her. You're willing to learn yet hesitant to go through with it, you're defensive over those lower than you, you hate the thought of receiving help when you don't want it, and you…" he hesitated, feeling a pinch in his heart as he thought of Lenezma, feeling his pride bruise at the realization he'd faltered like this in front of someone.

Kyokkou could only stare in awe and curiosity, surprised that he had listed off all those things with mild hostility and yet had come to a blinding halt with what appeared to be frustration – almost sadness. And when his eyes met hers once again, the goldenrods had indeed changed, his overall attitude becoming mildly pleasant:

"… You have your mother's eyes."

Kyokkou was definitely shocked at this point. What was this? Was he complimenting her? Thinking of Mother? What on earth was going through his head? "Her eyes?" she repeated, too curious to let it slip.

Kyokkou had always found Lenezma's eyes to be beautiful, a pair of glowing sapphires that could light up your life or burn you to a crisp in an instant.

"They have the same glowing determination that she did, to prove she could overcome anything I threw at her. She often glared at me with strong defiance – much like you did just now. You're more like her than you realize."

She shied away from him at such sweet words, overwhelmed by the thought that she was like her mother, the woman she loved and admired more than anyone.

"Sesshomaru… do you really believe that? Do you think that I'll grow up to be like her?" she asked quietly, a hopeful light in her eyes.

Another moment of silent stares passed as Sesshomaru eyed her carefully, considering all of her traits, noting that hopeful glint as she leaned in close. "If you continue as you are, there is a good possibility of it."

"Good…" she whispered softly, leaning back with a much lighter heart than when he'd first come in. As he prepared to dismiss himself, Kyokkou began to speak, and he found he could not leave her:

"Thank you, Sesshomaru… That means a lot to me… Mother is so strong and smart; she always knows what to do and say, and Nisshou picks up so much from her that I often feel left behind… They're always the ones to protect me, but I… I don't want to be saved all the time! I want to be like Mother and be the one who protects others!"

For a moment, Sesshomaru nearly smiled. He was right: Kyokkou resembled Lenezma so much that he could see no way for her not to end up like the fiery feline. And for a split second, he probably did see Lenezma in her.

He reached out once more and tilted her chin gracefully, where her turquoise eyes met his warm goldenrods, sure that she could sense his hidden smile. "When you complete my training, you will."

Kyokkou watched as he stood up and turned away elegantly, a strong air about him as he strode away peacefully and out the door, shutting it neatly behind him.

Her knees folded against her chest and she wrapped her arms around them gently, staring at the door with a smile and a warm feeling in her chest. Thank you, Sesshomaru!

Once back in his room, Sesshomaru headed straight for the bed where Aras was already tightly curled, still upset it seemed. The minute he sat beside her, that strong air that Kyokkou had sensed in him vanished, misery taking its place.

His fingers massaged at his chest, caressing the same spot at his shoulder, feeling the same pains he always got when he thought of Lenezma.

Sitting with Kyokkou, listening to her pleas, watching her movements, her eyes... seeing so many of the features she inherited from her mother, he could not help but treat the young girl in a similar fashion: he had kept firm with her in the beginning, but as she broke down his blank stare, not only did he go on to encourage her, but he had touched her, tipping her chin – it was one of his signature moves against Lenezma.

To his surprise, it was not the fact that he had done all of this for the young girl that disturbed him the most; it was Lenezma and the hold she still had over him.

He knew damned well that he missed the fiery feline, that he wanted her back at any cost, to be with him once again… The fact that she had bore those children from another man hurt him deeply, a wound that would never heal, but it did not stop him from longing for her.

A soft whimper at his side drew his attention back to the wolf, finding her yellow eyes upon him as she crawled closer to him on her belly. She gave another soft whine before nuzzling him gently with her nose; Sesshomaru's claws soothed over her thick gray fur, scratching her gently along the ruff of her neck. It was times like these that made Sesshomaru wonder if she really could read his thoughts.

Slowly, she picked up her front paws and set them on his upper thigh, letting her head rest on her enormous paws, her ear half-smashed against his torso; she sighed forlornly in his lap, accepting his coaxing of her fur easily, hoping it might sooth her and maybe even Sesshomaru.

The dog demon's pain had indeed subsided, but it still lingered, just as it always would if he could not have her back, if Lenezma never returned to him…