Chapter 2

Author's notes: Bumped up the rating to T for violence. Nothing major, just playing it safe.

Knock! Knock! Knock!

Rin and Kohaku both shot up off the bed to the heavy fisted bangs at their front door. There had been an eerie feel in the air that afternoon. Impending doom had been waiting to happen under the averagely lit clouds. The wind had come from the east with a chilling tranquility. Impalpable auras of a lurking shadow dragging fear along the hills. Implanted at the senses, Kohaku in particular seemed most aware of it. They gathered their crops and went to bed early. A few others with natural sensitivity had done the same. But whatever evil the wind had gotten whiff of had made it all the way to their home that night and now Rin looked back at Kohaku frightened.

Knock! Knock! Knock!

Kohaku got to his feet and quickly moved to stand by the door.

"Kohaku, no, don't go out," Rin quietly said alarmed.

He turned to her noting the worry in her face.

Knock! Knock! Knock!

He stealthily moved away from the door to go further into their little home and came back with a butcher knife in hand. It had been years since he wheeled a weapon but he was sure he could still handle at least basic defense moves.

Standing clear for an attack, Kohaku slowly began to slide the door open. His eyes looked through the gap and at first all he could see was darkness but then the clouds above them lit angrily for a few seconds and he could see a sloppy trail of blood painted a path directly to their home.

"Please," he heard a ghastly groan from below. "Please, help me."

Without bothering to check who it was Kohaku quickly slid the door the rest of the way and blindly grabbed a hold of whoever was out there and dragged the body in.

"Who's out there?" Rin asked stretching in the dark feeling for someone as Kohaku slid the door closed once more.

The ghastly groan came once again and Rin followed it in the dark and sat next to it as soon as she was sure she had come into contact.

"Rin, my child," it began. "I'm so glad they haven't come this far out yet." Rin struggled to give the voice a face but after a few moments of listening to the raspy breathing escaping the person beside her it had finally come to her.

"Mrs. Sato," she was a friendly elderly lady that worked beside her husband in the trade business. Every week her husband would come from some far land with new goods at the back of his wagon. It was from this couple Kohaku and she had first bought the seeds to which they found livelihood. "What happened?"

"Bandits," the elderly woman spoke and Rin suppressed a gasp. "They've taken over the town just half a mile to the north where I'm from," then a fit of coughs began to irrupt from the woman. Rin held on to her as she released the last of the phlegm from her throat. "I've come to warn you. These men have come from the east over the river that travels south of the mountains. A survivor from a town down by that river has informed us of these bandit's renegade. Go, run south, please. Twenty four miles from here there's another town. Go and bring back help," she croaked.

"We can't leave you here. You've been injured, Mrs. Sato. You won't survive the night," Kohaku pointed out.

"None sense," Mrs. Sato said. "It's just a flesh wound, no more than a scratch. I'll be fine but you two must go before the bandits find out I've escaped."

"Let us at least take you some place safer," Kohaku offered.

The elderly woman didn't say anything for a moment. You could hear her try to suppress another coughing fit in the dark and Rin couldn't take it anymore. This woman needed help and that small flesh wound she spoke about had managed to soak the hem of her robe.

"Please, Mrs. Sato, let us take you away from here," Rin said desperately.

"Okay," she finally relented. "But at the first sign of trouble you must leave me behind and keep running south.

Both Kohaku and Rin agreed to her circumstance.

They stayed away from the beaten road and chose to make their own way up the hill towards the forest through the tall grass. It was a slow progress with Mrs. Sato hung on one of each their shoulders but Mrs. Sato had made generous attempts to hold her own weight and leaving her behind was something Rin could not fathom at the moment. Kohaku had brought the butcher knife along with him and as the trip up the hill became more strenuous he was forced to tuck it away inside his robe.

Half way up the hill the elderly woman just gave out, her weight unexpectedly falling against Rin and Kohaku's struggles. Rin almost fell along with her. "Mrs. Sato," Rin cried out.

"I can't," she said worn and out of breath. "I can't, I just can't. Please, Rin, my child, just leave me."

"No," Rid said tears swelling in her eyes. It's sad to think that this woman was the closest thing she has ever had to a mother and she wouldn't bear losing her.

"Rin, I'm old, no one wants the old. Let me go, child."

"No, you don't understand," She said distressed.

"I do and this old woman can't do anything for you, not anymore. You have to let me go.

"I need you."

"You are beautiful, Rin. You can have anything you want. Remember that." But Rin shook her head side to side determined to make sure all three will make it.

"Mr. Sato needs you."

"He's waiting for me, my child," Rin let go of a strangled cry knowing exactly what she meant.

"Shhhh," Kohaku suddenly hissed and Rin tried to silence her persistent tears succeeding in at least quieting them. "Stay with her, Rin. I'll be right back." Kohaku soon disappeared into the tall grass heading up the hill. Rin remained silent in the dark beside the elderly woman as she laid dying. Somehow Rin had managed to find calm and she currently entertained herself with the horrific glare of the moon from her blood soaked hands. Every once in a while, she'd hear Mrs. Sato take in a ghastly breath and each time Rin was almost certain that was the last but the elderly woman, though she bid her time, took one after the other. Strangely enough the deathly wheezing coming from her was a bigger comfort than not. At least this way Rin knew she wasn't alone.

Foot steps were heard near by and she crouched further down, leaning in closer to Mrs. Sato. She lightly placed a hand over her mouth forcing the old woman to breath through her nose lessening the wheezing escaping from her throat. But it proved insufficient as Mrs. Sato began to retch and a fitful cough burst from her chest.

"Hey, you hear that," came a stranger's voice. Rin's heart leaped in fear at the proximity of it and she quickly tried to cover Mrs. Sato's mouth and smother the sound of her drowning lungs.

"Shhhh, please, Mrs. Sato, hold on," Rin said afraid that they were going to be found.

The grass parted and out came three men – bandits, Rin recognized – each carrying a weapon.

"There you are grandma," One began.

"You leave her alone," Rin quickly said getting to her feet and standing between Mrs. Sato and the bandits.

"We've got a winner, Boss," he continued. This man was of an average build and average complexion.

"We don't care much about your grandma, girly, she's as good to us dead," a rounder brawnier one said pulling his sword out and he approached Rin, his tall stature towering way above Rin.

Rin stood her ground, spreading her arms to the side protectively blocking Mrs. Sato from him as he neared. He stopped just inches away, savagely looking over her, his tongue sticking past his lips and giving them a slick coat of saliva. But Rin paid no attention, she just stuck her nose higher up in the air, matching his level of smugness. But she was afraid. Bandits scared her, but she couldn't show them that.

The bandit's brows furrowed slightly, nerved by the lack of fear Rin seemed to display. Giving her a taunting laugh he pushed her to the ground with a brusque shove. The laughter continued around her as she fell hard on her ass. As she tried to gather herself from the fall she heard Mrs. Sato release a frightening explosion of coughs. Under the moon's light she could see one of the men stand just above the elderly woman's head. "Stay away from her," Rin yelled as the sky lit and she could see the spew of blood water fall from the elderly woman's lips like a fountain. And just as the last second of light stretched across the grey clouds above the brawny bandit's sword flashed at her as the blade's tip came down on Mrs. Sato's chest. Everything had happened so fast. Rin had shouted at the top of her lungs, the coughing coming from the elderly woman had stopped and the light in the sky went out.

"That demon had no right coming up to you and challenging you, my Lord, didn't he know who you are? But the way you defeated him with just one swing of your Tokijin, it was spectacular, my Lord," Jaken babbled on as his smaller footsteps fallowed his Lord's, his pace quickened to keep up with him. "If you would have let me I would have taken care of that pesty problem for you. That was no more than a petty demon, nothing I couldn't handle," he continued but quickly he released a sigh. The thick, heavy clouds above them had managed to cover most of the moon's light. The lands lay in a labyrinth of unknown. He always hated this kind of weather. The winds were always too harsh for his small stature, the nights too dark without even the sparse light of the stars to keep his usually unanswered thoughts company. The wind rustled the leaves, giving the already intimidating forest a terrifying persona. The push of the air coming from the wind demons of the east extended the tall tree's branches towards him, as if reaching for him. His pace is forced to quicken a bit more to stay near the flexible abilities of his Lord's – his protection.

"A storm is coming, my Lord. Don't you think we should take shelter somewhere?"

Sesshomaru said nothing as he kept moving. Jaken sighed. Sometimes (only sometimes) Jaken really missed that girl – Rin. How annoying she was, following his Lord like she had any business with him as if she brought anything to the table. No, the most she ever did was waste his Lord's time, but… still, Jaken missed her. The bothersome hum she'd sing as she picked flowers for their Lord. He'd hate it when he'd have to spend the rest of the day trying to get that stupid little tune out of his head but now he could hardly remember how it went. Or when he would spend his afternoon tracking the girl halfway into a forest, his head ready to explode just thinking of how their Lord was going to murder him if he didn't find her, just to see that the girl had fallen asleep on a soft patch of grass. But now he spent his afternoons sitting on those soft patches on his own. Or when she'd wrap her small arms around him, her tears hitting his shoulders telling him how she was worried about him. Yeah, he remembers that day as if it was yesterday. He had gotten stung by Noraku's wasps and Rin had risked her life for his looking for that antidote. That stupid mortal human girl had brought tears to his eyes, and…

Jaken's thoughts had become interrupted. His face had rammed, beak first, into the back of Sesshomaru's leg.

"My Lord," Jaken said as he looked up to him. Sesshomaru had become frighteningly distressed. The calm that usually added up his expression was disturbed by an unknown threat. "What's wrong?" Jaken asked turning to face whatever it was his Lord had caught sight of. His eyes squinted as a cloud to the east lit a fair amount of earth and just as quick it was gone. "Can you sense something, my Lord?"

Sesshomaru remained silent for a while, as if confirming his knowledge then he said, "No, nothing," Turning back, Sesshomaru continued his journey further west.

Jaken's stayed behind a little longer, ignoring the reaching branches and the eerie darkness and just observed the eastern horizon. His Lord was right, nothing out of the ordinary… just a little bit of blood shed. Nothing to concern his Lord over.


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