Cards and poker chips scattered everywhere as Inu Taisho shoved the card table out of his way. His chair spun across the room and broke to pieces when it crashed against the wall. Ryoichi and his brother Ryozo, the only other demons present, had jumped to their feet as well, leaving the human men, who could not feel the tidal wave of jyaki, looking alarmed and clueless.

The Dog General slammed the solid oak double doors of the game room open with his shoulder and pounded down the hallway, the dragon demons hot on his heels. The epicenter of the jyaki wave was the Higurashi Shrine. Moments later the three stood under the torii gate, staring down in awe at the battle taking place on the shrine steps.

InuYasha, his jeans and tee shirt in tatters, breath coming in labored gasps, was doing battle with a great, shaggy white dog. The stone steps were running with blood and thick, noxious, acid-green ichor.

'Unbelievable!' Inu Taisho thought. Even in the most remote ends of the earth, no demon had been able to achieve transformation since the advent of the atomic age. Yet his little hanyou had somehow managed to get the mighty Tetsusaiga to transform. While he appeared to have forgotten every lesson he had ever been taught about swordsmanship, he was holding his own against the dog, which was fast, feral, and had to weigh a good 250 pounds. The dog was obviously youkai. Its overwhelming demonic aura literally vibrated with power and rage.

The dog rounded on InuYasha with blazing speed, ripping into the meat of his thigh with sharp, two-inch fangs. It was then that Inu Taisho and his two comrades recognized the dog's demonic markings.

"Sesshomaru!" Inu Taisho bellowed in shock. The dog was distracted as it rolled out of the reach of Tetsusaiga. A loud yelp split the air as the sword sliced through the upper part of the dog's left leg. Inu Taisho launched himself down the stairs, the slick soles of his huarache sandals slipping the blood of his sons.

Sesshomaru did not recognize his father's voice, or even the sound of his own name. He knew he was in a fight, he knew he was grievously wounded, and instinct told him that the arrival of the three humanoid demons on the scene could not mean anything good for him. Instinct was all Sesshomaru had, and instinct told him to run for his life.

Her daddy was calling her. She ignored his voice, choosing instead to concentrate on the prey she was stalking. She'd been bitten before. It was an experience she didn't like, so she learned to be alert and quick. She held herself perfectly still and then quickly lunged, grabbing the rattlesnake and snapping its spine in the air like a whip.

A half a dozen dogs were laying around in the shade of the gas pumps, panting, so Giddy knew his daughter was close. He limped across the dusty parking lot and nudged the bitch, Sheba, in the side with the toe of his combat boot. "Find your girl!" He commanded. Sheba, who was getting old like her master, lurched upright and made her way through the service bay to the back of the garage.

The lot out back was sun-baked and full of weeds and the rusting detritus of Giddy's derelict service station. The man followed the dog as she threaded her way through the minefield of broken glass and sand burrs.

Sheba came to a stop by what remained of an ancient cab-over Peterbilt, her tail wagging vaguely as she looked over her shoulder at Giddy.

Giddy walked around the gutted tractor, and spotted the girl, crouched in the dust with something hanging out of her mouth. Looked like the tail end of a snake.

Sheba walked up to the little urchin and bunted her with her snout, causing the little girl to giggle and swallow the tail of the snake. The motherly dog used her tongue to wash the scamp's dirty face, and looked at Giddy, seemingly for approval.

"Ready for dinner, babydoll?" She grunted and ran straight at him. He held out his arms just in time, picking her up on the fly and swinging her around as she laughed gleefully, exposing her sharp little fangs. Giddy winced as his back objected to the punishment. She wrapped her legs around his chest and her arms around his neck, flexible as a little monkey, and leaned her head on his shoulder, thumb in her mouth.

Followed by a retinue of dogs, Giddy carried his daughter across the street and up the stairs of the farmhouse his grandfather had built during the Great Depression. Some twenty years ago, Giddy had removed the wooden lower panel of the screen door his grandpa had built so carefully by hand so that the girl and the dogs could scamper in and out. He set his little girl down on the porch and watched as the seat of her overalls and the soles of her little bare feet disappeared through the doggy door, followed by the scrabbling paws and wagging tails of the dogs.

Giddy filled the enamel washtub in the corner of the kitchen floor with dog chow he bought in fifty-pound bags from the feed store. He set the girl on the counter so she wouldn't get into the dog's food. He got out a saucepan and a can opener and a can of pork and beans and a can of Vienna franks. She set to work opening the cans, taking great care not to cut her fingers on the lids while Giddy popped slices of bread in the toaster.

There were six mismatched wooden chairs around the kitchen table, but it had been years since anyone sat in them. The table was cluttered with old mail and things that needed mending and his guitar and banjo.

First, Maria died. His mother stayed on for a while, to help him with the older children. Years went by and one by one, the kids left home and got jobs and started their own families. Ten years ago, mom passed away, and he and the girl, who still had the appearance of a five-year-old, were all that was left. The two ate bachelor-style, over the sink and counter, to save on cleaning up. He didn't bother with dumping fruit cocktail in a bowl like he used to, or heating up creamed corn or French-cut green beans. He knew she was getting fruit and vegetables in her diet. Tommy Hotaka had been over just last month bitching about her pilfering melons and table grapes from his truck farm. Tommy was kind of obsessive natured. The other farmers in the valley had given up complaining years ago.

Giddy figured it was his own thieving that got him his daughter. Giddy came back home from 'Nam to find that his father had sold the station to Naraku, then destroyed his liver on the cheap booze he bought with the money from the sale. Naraku allowed Giddy to stay on and run the station, but business declined as gas customers started patronizing the new, modern, brightly lit chain stations closer to town. Locals still came when they needed a serpentine belt installed, or some spot welding, or to score a little coke, which brought in more money than the diesel fuel and gasoline he sold.

So, inevitably, Giddy got caught with his hand in the till. To teach him not to fuck with what belonged to him, Naraku took Maria on the dirty tile floor of the station. She was sick as a dog for six months. When the time came for the baby to be born, Maria was already thin and weak. Naraku was nowhere around when the quarter-demon clawed her way into the world. Maria didn't survive the blood loss.

Naraku did stop by long enough to name the baby Rin. He told Giddy the name meant "soldier on" in Japanese.