- Kowareta -

Dark brown hair. Thin, arched eyebrows. Almond shaped eyes, one light green and one dark. A straight nose. A pair of lips slightly parted in awe.

I stared intently at my reflection, still amazed that nothing had changed in my appearance. I could feel the pulse of the jewel shard in my neck and, despite the fact that it was the only thing keeping me alive, I felt completely normal. I had awoken on the bank of a slow moving river, a canopy of trees casting shade over me. My original clothing had been replaced by a lovely kimono of purple and blue. The similarity in color to Naraku's own wardrobe did not slip past me. My personal effects were hidden deep within my pockets and my hair had been twisted into a luxurious updo and secured with a single, long pin. I turned my neck and saw the charm placed in my hair. It was crafted from onyx and rubies and shone brilliantly in the sunlight: a black spider with gleaming red eyes. A scowl tugged at the corners of my mouth as I ripped the pin from my hair and threw it into the river, pulling my hair down and letting it fall over my shoulders.

I sat by the edge of the bank, pushing my sleeves up to my elbows and submerging my hands beneath the cool water. A shiver ran up my arms and down my spine. I could feel an incredible amount of power flow through me. I raised cupped hands and splashed water onto my face, enjoying the freshness. Bringing my hands together and lowering them back into the water, I froze. My right wrist bore a new scar – a thin, jagged circle of red just below my wrist bone. My beaded bracelet, one I had worn since I was a child, was gone. 'Impossible,' I thought, my mind clouding with anger. I glanced around me, searching the trees for any other sign of humanoid life and finding none. "Naraku." My voice was a low growl. My hands curled into fists and came crashing down against the surface of the river, the liquid surface solidifying and sending crystal shards flying into the air around me. I panted, seeing red at the corners of my eyes. 'How dare he.' I was furious. I stood quickly and swung my right arm in a semi-circle, crudely clearing a section of the trees that surrounded me, their stumps cut into jagged lines. "Naraku!" I screamed into the air, knowing that – wherever he was – he could hear me.

As if on cue, a swarm of demon bugs floated into the clearing from the wreckage of trees. I cut through half of them with a single stroke of my arm, destroying them in a flurry of still flapping wings. One saimyosho flew close to my face and I stared into its beady red eyes. I could detect the familiar scent of Naraku's miasma on it and snarled. I snatched the flying insect out of the air and crushed it in my palm. Poison leaked from its carcass and dripped down my hand and wrist. I felt a sting momentarily and my skin puckered but the damage was quickly gone, my skin showing no signs of its effects. I tossed the insect onto the ground and looked at the remaining three siamyosho floating above my head, just out of reach. "Take me to him." The insects paused briefly before turning and flying off ahead of me. I followed them without a second thought.

After nearly an hour of walking through the forest, the siamyosho finally led me to an abandoned palace. Its outer walls lay crumbling in heaps and the buildings and huts in the courtyard had been burned to the ground. The castle itself stood tall even though the roof had caved in and thick, leafy vines wrapped their way up the cracked, moss-covered stone walls. I looked around but found myself alone. The siamyosho had flown off and disappeared over the treetops. I sighed in aggravation, inhaling and exhaling loudly.

"Now, now, Amaya, is something wrong?" His steely voice came from the shadows, echoing around the deserted courtyard.

"Do not play with me, Naraku. You know what you have done." Silence followed my reply. "My bracelet. I want it back."

It was then that he stepped out of his hiding place. He was cloaked in the skin of a white baboon, his face completely hidden behind a mask. "What bracelet?"

I charged at him, my wrist held up in front of his face, and answered, "The one you stole from me!" Naraku quickly reached out and grabbed hold of my forearm, examining the scar on my wrist with keen interest.

His voice took on an amused tone. "Interesting. When did you notice it was missing?"

I ripped my arm from his grasp and focused on the two black pits in the mask where his eyes should've been. I breathed in his scent and noticed it was there, but something was different. Without warning, my arm shot out and I sliced off his head. The baboon cloak floated to the ground and within the fabric was a small wooden puppet. I lifted the object and saw the long, dark hair tied to its core. I held it in my hands and deftly snapped it in half. "I'm not stupid. Show yourself."

I instantly felt his presence behind me, his body pressed firmly against my back. He smoothly pushed my long hair over my shoulder and pressed his nose against the back of my head, inhaling deeply. His breath was hot on my neck as he spoke. "No, I suppose you're smarter than I gave you credit for." I felt a single finger against the nape of my neck, just over the shard, and immense pain shot through my body. My skin was on fire but I couldn't move. "In fact, I'm impressed. It takes most people much longer to detect my puppets." A slender hand wrapped around my throat and tilted my head back until I could look up into his searing red eyes. His gaze held no humor, only an intense calculating expression. "I wasn't wrong in choosing you. You really are something special." The way he said 'something' made me feel like an object and less of a person. I gulped as his grip tightened around my neck. "You will not do that again. I will come to you in whatever form I see fit. Understood?" I could only blink in affirmation. I felt defeated in his embrace, as if all of my determination was washed away from me. "I did not steal your precious bracelet. It's of no use to me." He held me tighter and leaned closely to my ear, whispering, "I already have you."

He squeezed his hand even tighter and tears formed in my eyes against my will, my breath now completely cut off. My knees were growing weak but I refused to fall. I would not let him have that victory over me, no matter how small it seemed. Using what little strength remained in my limbs, I spun in his arms and placed my hands against his chest, pushing him away but it was too late. He was already gone. I stood completely alone. The pain had ceased upon him releasing his control over the shard, reducing it to a dull throbbing beneath my skin. I scanned the area quickly, looking for any sign of him, for a clue of which direction he had gone. His scent lingered but it was already growing faint. He had disappeared so quickly and I was embarrassed by my lack of skill in defending myself from him. I raised my hand and let it hover over the base of my neck for a moment before resting it gently over the jewel shard, unable to feel it through my skin. It would be completely undetectable to someone else, to anyone else but myself and, unfortunately, Naraku.

I lowered my hand and held it in front of my chest, cradling it in my other hand. I stared at the scar on my wrist. It didn't make any sense. I had been wearing it when I died… Right? I couldn't remember. My mind grew foggy the harder I tried to focus on the events leading to my death. 'The river. The girl. Naraku's voice in my head. Sesshoumaru. Nothing.' I closed my eyes and replayed it all again. 'The river. The girl. The imp. Naraku's voice in my head. The attack. Sesshoumaru. The sudden clarity. Nothing.' Why couldn't I remember? I cried out in frustration and lashed out at a run-down hut in front of me, casting a spear of water at it and blasting it to pieces. I didn't feel any better. I wrapped my arms around myself and sank to the ground, my emotions and thoughts a raging wave of confliction. I hadn't wanted to die, yet I had. I thought I had crossed over to the Land of the Dead, but I hadn't. Naraku had come for me, had saved me, and now I was trapped. I could go where I wanted, I could do as I pleased, but he would always have an unspeakable amount of power over me. He would always win.

It had been weakness – selfishness – that led me to accepting his over. I would be at his beck and call until he no longer needed me. I let my head fall into my hands and wept.

'What have I done?'

As the day came to an end, the sun slowly sinking below the horizon, Rin grew hungry. After building herself a fire she asked for permission from her Lord to find something to eat and, as always, he responded with a simple nod of his head and continued staring up into the darkening sky. Rin departed the clearing while humming something tuneless and Jakken scoffed at her 'annoying human tendencies.' Without breaking his gaze, Lord Sesshoumaru ordered him to go with the girl. Jakken quickly sputtered his acknowledgement and immediately followed Rin on her search for food. Now alone, Sesshoumaru let out a sigh. He knew his companions would be back shortly for he could smell a patch of mushrooms and a berry bush nearby. It would not take Rin long to find these things for her dinner. He spared a glance over at Ah-Un, knowing the beast would stay put until Rin and Jakken returned, and departed the camp. He had some thinking to do.

Sesshoumaru walked through the forest for quite some time before stopping at a hot spring. He thought of Rin and supposed the child could use a bath. She didn't smell, but after a few days she might. The human child had an itch for rolling around in flowers and dirt that she could never seem to scratch. Finding mud puddles was her new specialty and with the snow having melted and the Spring rains falling more often, there was no lack of them. He moved on with his walk but decided that he would bring Rin here tomorrow. Perhaps she could convince Jakken to join her; the imp did smell.

It had been two days since the confrontation with Naraku's incarnation, Mikkusushiai. The demon had claimed that Naraku had taken Ruin yet, when Sesshoumaru found Jakken and Ah-Un, Rin had been safely located with them. She held no sign of any injuries and was happily skipping around and finding as many newly bloomed flowers as possible, singing a made up song about sunshine and rain. Sesshoumaru had fumed inwardly. He had let that pathetic demon's words spur him into action and for nothing. He had been worried for Rin without reason. Sesshoumaru did not enjoy feeling emotion without due cause, and not at all if he could help it.

Mikkusushiai's words replayed in Sesshoumaru's memory as he continued to stroll under the moonlight. He'd spent most of the night walking in circles, most unlike himself, and letting his mind wander. 'He has what you want.' What I want? The only thing I want is ultimate power. Naraku could never have that. 'You can never get it back.' There is nothing he can keep from me. 'She is under his control.' This is when he had thought of Rin. It was not unlike Rin with her susceptible human mind to fall under the mind control of a demon. It had happened more times that he liked to admit to himself but, after all, she was only a child and a mortal one at that. 'She is his treasure now.' Those words had stumped Sesshoumaru time and time again. Who could Naraku have that could be a 'treasure'? Who was this 'she'?

There were very few females in Sesshoumaru's life and he appreciated the lack of feminine drama he was subjected to. If his mother was any reference, female demonesses were nothing but a headache in beautiful robes. He quickly counted his mother out of the equation. Naraku wouldn't have the patience to deal with her and, if he did, he could keep her. There was Rin but she had not been the answer. Kagura had been hinting for quite some time that she would enjoy nothing more than Sesshoumaru defeating Naraku if only to enjoy her own freedom. He suspected that she was harboring more than just respect for his strength and cunning, but Sesshoumaru paid her little mind. There was no attachment to the Wind Sorceress and Naraku could not steal from Sesshoumaru what was already his. He briefly remembered a woman so enraptured with him that she had allowed demons to ravage her soul upon her death in order to be with him. This woman, being less than a full demon and much like Naraku in his own ascent to power, had disgusted him instantly. She vowed to earn his love by destroying his half-breed brother but was eventually destroyed, returning to her rightful place with the dead. Sesshoumaru would never say aloud that he thought she'd played her flute beautifully.

Sesshoumaru stopped in his tracks, one foot slightly in front of the other. The dead. Realization flooded him like ice water. It can't be. Sesshoumaru reached into his inside kimono pocket and retrieved a small object. Holding it up to the moonlight, he studied the piece of jewelry carefully. The bracelet was simply made and consisted of thin strands of silver intricately woven around jade beads. It seemed perfectly ordinary except, with his acute senses, he could detect the small pulse it emitted in his hand. "No." Sesshoumaru was vaguely aware of the fact that he had spoken aloud. He stared openly into his palm, disbelief marring his normally stoic features. His long fingers curled around the bracelet and he debated destroying it then and there. He could so easily be rid of it. It would require such minimal effort, such little force, and he could finally be rid of it. He could, once and for all, sever the ties with her.

He closed his eyes and titled his head to the sky, lowering his arm to his side. 'So,' he thought, 'Naraku thinks I will come to rescue her.' He opened his eyes and looked up at the moon. For a moment he was taken back to a time where he had fewer concerns in the world, a time when he had shared his evenings with her in the pale moonlight, when he knew the feeling and warmth of her soft skin. She had smiled at him then. Amaya. He could so nearly recall her delicate features and bubbly laughter. He almost remembered the feeling of holding her in his arms.

As soon as it came, the vision was gone and Sesshoumaru stared at the bracelet in his hand once more. He would not go after her. He refused to give Naraku that satisfaction. He shoved the bracelet back into his inner pocket and marched forward with a sense of resolve. He would continue on his route to absolute power and he would destroy Naraku and all others who opposed him. He summoned his energy and was soon flying above the treetops. He cleared his mind and focused solely on his mission. There was no room in his life for interruptions in his quest. There was no room for Amaya.

He would seek her out only to see if she was truly back from the dead and, if she was, Sesshoumaru would have no choice but to kill her again. This time, he would see an end to her for good.

It's baaaack! It's been nearly a year since my last update and I'm so thankful to those who have continued to follow and favorite this story despite its long hiatus. I'm sorry if this chapter is a bit rough or the writing seems off, but I'm trying to get back into the swing of things and would really appreciate any feedback! I wrote this all in the span of a few hours and couldn't wait to post it. I apologize for any grammatical errors. Please review and let me know what you think!