Chapter Thirty-One

"Her soul was in my hands…" Kagome blinked slowly and stared straight ahead at the pale, dead face of her murdered sister. She swallowed the lump that formed in the back of her throat, desperate to quell the sorrow that no doubt would rear its ugly head when she retired to solitude to fully grasp her failure. "I didn't have the chance to-to make sure that she had taken hold of her body…I-If I had just concentrated a second longer…Rin might have had a chance…" She drew in a lung full of air that she felt that she didn't deserve, which she released with a low resounding sob.

Ura stood erect and proud behind her kneeling sister-in-law, not one to express sadness like a human was capable of doing but did so on the inside. Truth be told, she began to experience a pain far greater than the wounds she had received during her own bloody murder decades ago. Hope and faith, up till now, had been held so high, that when the realization of what had just occurred registered inside of her mind, she discovered that both of those things had been shattered into non-repairable pieces. The only physical indication that she was also shattered by Rin's situation was the subtle tremble of her bottom lip as she fought to contain her sadness.

Miho, however, was a different case entirely. She had already escaped the confines of the bath that everyone had put her in. After a lengthy embrace brought on by her own 'sister' upon finding out that she was no longer feverish or dying, she pushed herself out of Kasumi's arms and stumbled on weak legs from the stone tub all the way over to where Kagome was kneeling. She ignored everyone else and blocked her awareness for them by concentrating on an unusual orange glow that no one else had seemed to notice hovering above a body of a woman she had only just begun to understand. Of course, she too was in despair by the reality that hope for Rin's return to the world of the living was destroyed just seconds after Miho regained full control of her body. She felt hollow, empty and alone inside of her mind, and frankly, she hated the idea of it.

Despite what everyone else might think of her actions, Miho shuffled forward farther until she stood directly in front of Rin's resting place. In her eyes, Rin was one of the most beautiful women she had ever seen. Time had not touched her face, nor her hands or her feet as they were laid bare for the cool evening air to kiss. Rin's lips blushed in a soft pink tone, and her skin remained smooth as marble and void of rouge caused by the chaos of life. To everyone else, she was very plainly dead. To Miho, she was hanging on to the world of the living by a single thread that had reached its breaking point, and it was up to her create another.

Energy pulsed within her fingertips, forcing her to remember Kagome's words the minute that Rin's soul was detached from her own. I-I am…a priestess. Her eyes widened as her powers coursed through every fiber, every vein and every limb as she grasped the notion that she was much more valuable to the dead woman lying on the stone slab after their separation than she was while they were connected by their spirits.

Miho took a deep breath, attempting to ignore the aura of despair that was prevalent in the space behind her. No one had called into question why she was invading Rin's space as it seemed her family was too stunned by the notion that they had failed to comprehend that Miho was acting rather strangely. The orange light had somehow escaped everyone else's notice, but she couldn't ignore its presence as the dim illumination hooked onto her awareness and refused to part with her. It beckoned her to pay attention to its company and could do nothing to break free of it. It was her energy that made her aware that the orange light was doing more than demanding her attention. It was calling her, drawing her closer to Rin's resting place and she allowed her feet to move freely.

'Ohhhhhhh…' A faint whispering wind caused her to jerk to a stop directly by Rin's side. Miho blinked rapidly, hardly able to contain her shock as the wind sounded slightly as if it were Rin. She gulped and drew in an even deeper amount of oxygen to maintain her steady balance, careful to remain calm so as not to bring any unwanted attention from the others. Something told her that what she was about to do next was going to require solitude and concentration that a crowd of onlookers would only stress and ruin her plan if they tried to interact with her now.

The orange orb flickered, dancing across the chocolate brown shade of her eyes and forcing a smile to vanquish her sadness. Her energy buzzed beneath her finger tips, causing her to raise them slowly and high above her head. She reached for the orange glow and focused her overwhelming powers to control the air surrounding her, Rin and Rin's free floating soul. "OH!" Miho's eyes widened considerably, fully understanding what it was that her powers were seeking to take hold of. Her hands converged with a cool mist and she curled her fingers to take hold of it, surprised by the soul's frailty. It felt as though one squeeze would shatter the air and destroy it, destroy her, but as she willed her powers to latch on, it became surprisingly easy to guide the spirit downward.

Kagome gazed, open mouthed and wide eyed at Miho's spiritual energy and her ability to spot Rin's soul before she had the chance to gain control of her own grief. She didn't even have to teach her to spot the glowing orb, which in Kagome's mind, resembled the brightest star that could rival any celestial body visible in a night sky. This magic was special and only a few could wield it, and even fewer could control it. She released a breathy laugh while her tears kept pouring from her eyes. Her sadness had vanished and was replaced with such relief that her tears were unstoppable from happiness and she couldn't care less.

Miho's trembling hands aimed down toward Rin's covered heart. Her soul was no larger than a child's ball, barely larger than a melon but weightless. Although it resisted her touch at first, it became familiar with her energy and allowed her to guide it. The moment of truth came a few seconds later as Miho's hands drove the spirit through Rin's robes, through her skin and deep within the lifeless body. She yanked her hands back after feeling the spirit disappear from her grip and fell backward as her energy was drained. The last thing that she saw was Kagome rushing to her aid before the black void took her.

"MIHO!" A collection of voices shouted behind Kagome as she rushed forward to catch the falling Priestess before the back of her head collided with stone steps. A rushing wind beat her to the lifeless woman. Inuyasha caught her before Kagome could even get close enough. "Got you!"

Kasumi rushed in next and crouched down next to her sister and folded her hand to fit the side of Miho's cheek, feeling for a sign of life. Thankfully, there was no fever raging beneath her skin, and while she thanked the gods for no illness, Inuyasha checked the inside of her wrist for a pulse. He sighed with relief when he found it and gave Kagome a reassuring smile as the only conscious Priestess in the room appeared by his side seconds later. "I don't know why she fainted, but she thankfully that is all that happened."

Kagome nodded in agreement before she offered an explanation. "She used up all of her spiritual energy, Inuyasha." She smiled weakly down at the unconscious woman while her husband stared confusedly back at her.

"What? Kagome, I didn't even see her using any energy."

"You didn't see the orange light?"

Kasumi's head snapped up, alarm clearly visible within her dark eyes. "What orange light? I saw no light!"

Kagome shook her head. "It makes sense now. No one else would have seen it but me…"

"Kagome?"

Kagome glanced over at her mate. "She found Rin's soul. It was so weak that not even you or Ura were able to sense it, but Miho saw it immediately. I was so struck by grief that I didn't even entertain the idea that Rin's soul was free floating!"

"How could she have seen it before you? You are clearly the stronger Priestess." Kasumi was glaring at her, no doubt angry by the situation.

"She had Rin's soul attached to her own this entire time! She must have been more aware of what it looked like. She was so attuned to its aura that there was no way she couldn't see it!" Kagome tore her eyes away from Kasumi, ignored her husband and looked up toward Rin's body with a grin so wide, Inuyasha was afraid it might break her jaw.

He followed Kagome's line of sight, but his nose caught the scent before his eyes caught the sight of her. Rin's scent. His eyes widened, stunned by what he was seeing.

Kagome stood, grin still obvious on her face as she looked on while the woman lying on the stone slab twitched her arms.

Pale eyelids parted to reveal soft brown eyes which stared up toward the roof for the briefest of moments before they turned sideways and found a room full of eyes watching them closely. Lips moved slowly, testing and uncertain of their purpose until she harnessed her vocal cords to form the softest of uncertain sounds. Next, she located her neck, which she used to turn to gain better access to her surroundings. The feeling in her hands came after the feeling in her feet. She clenched them into weak fists, gathering foreign material with her ice cold fingers. The rest of her felt numb to all sensation, but over seconds of concentration, the room began to heat and her body began to feel. It was her heart beat that warned her that something was about to go terribly, horribly wrong.

Kagome's grin vanished, replacing her happiness with horror as she saw the first traces of blood. She acted so quickly that she could have given Inuyasha a run or his money. "NO!" She shouted so violently that she felt the lining of her throat tearing in protest.

Rin's eyes widened, matching the same amount of horror as she felt it for the first time in decades. Blood, flowing freely from a spot on her abdomen and a pain so sharp and fierce that she couldn't contain her voice for another moment. She screamed. Her lungs expanded painfully, only just now aware that she was indeed, truly alive and expelled a gust of air with a force that she had never experienced before.

Kagome was on her before she could release another hair-raising shriek. Agonizingly hot hands mashed so hard on her stomach that she nearly gagged on her screams. Words like "fire", "hurry" and "Rin" alerted her to what was going on and who the person was that was trying to stop the bleeding. "KAGOME!" She managed to speak only one name, and that person stared down at her with terrified eyes.

"Don't leave us again! Do you hear me, Rin! Don't you DARE!" Kagome pressed into Rin's abdomen a little harder as fresh blood seeped through her clenched fingers. Ura appeared a minute later with a flaming torch that took one good blow to put out and she handed the glowing scrap of wood to Kagome. Replacing Ura's hands with Kagome's, the demon female pleaded with Rin to focus only on her.

Ura's amber eyes commanded attention and when she got them, her heart nearly broke as Rin's soft brown orbs began to lose their light. "Listen to me, Rin…can you do that? Listen! Kagome is going to burn your wound closed, alright? I need to you keep listening to me! Focus on me! Don't leave us, alright? Don't you dare do that to us! Don't you dare do that to Sesshomaru! Do you understand? DON'T YOU DARE!" She drew her hands away from Rin's abdomen and folded her bloodied hands to fit Rin's cheeks and kept her attention while Kagome pressed the glowing red tip of the torch onto the open stab wound now clearly visible. Upon hearing the necessary hiss of fire making contact with human flesh, a fresh scream erupted from Rin's throat.

Kagome physically shook to the core from the sound of agony that she was responsible for inflicting.

Rin went numb again, unsure if she was screaming because of the pain or because she was beginning to feel herself fading. She knew that screaming kept her awake and aware, but her voice was broken. Her ability to speak or communicate failed once her screaming stopped. The shouting drained her energy so much that even breathing became more of a chore. Her hands and feet lost all feeling, and her ability to access the muscles in her neck was gone, causing her head to fall carelessly to the side. She saw everyone now. Two sets of molten eyes that belonged to Inuyasha and Ura stared back at her, both clearly shocked by what was happening. She saw Shippo crouching next to an elderly fellow that could only be the monk Miroku, who was also visibly shaken. There was a body of a woman on the ground next to the stairs leading up to where she was. 'Miho?' Although she couldn't smile on the outside, she did so internally at having been able to see the woman's face for the first time outside of that body. Too bad Miho wasn't conscious. Another woman returned her gaze. This one she recognized also, but she had forgotten her name, and for the moment, didn't care. It was the sight of the short, green toad like demon with his hands clapped tightly over his mouth that made her visibly smile in relief.

"J-J…Jaken…" It was the only name she could speak before her ability to do so disappeared too.

Jaken's eyes were heavy with tears as he gazed at Rin's eyes for the first time in so long. His name on her lips, weak as it was, filled his heart with such joy and despair that he didn't know whether he should smile or cry. "Oh…Rin…"

His voice carried to her ears, and she smiled while her eyes filled with tears of equal enthusiasm. She wanted so much to embrace him, but there was no strength left to do so. When the darkness found her vision, she let the tears drop from her eyes to show everyone that she loved them so much, but Jaken was the last person she saw fade with the darkness. She watched as the toad demons hands lowered from his mouth, revealing to her a trembling bottom lip. He was so sad that it tore her heart to pieces before she lost sight of him…before she lost sight of all of them.

(In another part of the castle)

He ignored the shouts and the screams, knowing full well what they meant and he did not need to see what was being done. He couldn't make himself rush to investigate to source of those haunting sounds because he didn't want to face the probability that he might not like what he finds. Instead, Sesshomaru shut himself up in one of the many rooms in his home and muffled the sounds by stuffing wads of cloth into his ears. He remained this way for hours, locked inside of his mind while the world continued to carry on without him. The occasional scent of wandering company did little to shake him loose.

It was the scent of burning flesh that ignited his once dead curiosity.

Sesshomaru removed the cloth from his ears, which were then immediately assaulted by close and distant knocking, shouts, and the occasional bellowing of his name from the throats of his siblings. So they were searching for him, were they? Sesshomaru lowered his forehead into his open right hand and clenched his molten eyes closed as tightly as he could. There was a hint of a headache forming behind his left eye and it bothered him only a little less than the shouting down his hallways.

He ignored all of it, and instead focused on another matter. The charred flesh he caught wind of was faint at best, but all too familiar. Sesshomaru's head snapped up and he breathed in as deep as he could, testing the air with his keen senses. The scent of blood had been obvious hours before then, but now it was cooked human flesh that demanded his attention. He growled deep in his chest before he bolted and blew out the adjacent wall with his body trying to locate the source. He just barely caught sight of Ura and Inuyasha, who were too stunned to move by his sudden appearance, before he took off in the direction of Kagome's scent.

When he found the women, they were busy conversing amongst each other to notice him until he was just inches away. Kagome saw him first. Her face was deathly pale, as was Kasumi's but he had no care as to why that was. He gave them no opportunity to speak, but pushed past them and opened the closed door they were guarding. This was not where he had left Rin's body, but he sensed her somewhere inside.

Stepping inside, he saw a woman sitting in a chair next to a bed with another woman lying beneath sunset orange bed covers. He knew the woman sitting. It was Miho, as she appeared in much better health than he had left her in. Her skin was fare, but alive with a spirit he was unaware that she had. Her hair, seemingly freshly cleaned, was pulled back with a thin string, giving off an aura all too familiar to Sesshomaru. "Priestess." He mouthed just as Miho lifted her head and glanced in his direction.

Miho gulped; unsure of what to do other than stand and move as far away from him as quickly as possible, and she did just that.

Sesshomaru followed her movements until she was standing in front of the opposite wall, and he moved his vision over to the occupant snuggled beneath bed covers. The smell of seared flesh was strong in the room, and he knew without a shadow of a doubt that the woman he was seeing was Rin. All he could smell was burned skin, but he refused to back out. Instead, he moved forward and kept moving until he stood next to her.

Rin's face was untouched by time, still lifeless and pale. The rest of her was hidden beneath the blankets, but he had to see the source of the smell. Sesshomaru sat down in the vacant seat next to Rin's bed and he lifted the covers and pushed them down until her stomach was exposed. Her robes had been changed, so her skin was completely covered, but it could be easily moved, which was what he did.

His fingers lifted the thin, pink silk robe pulled it sideways to reveal her abdomen. How he didn't shout at the sight of it, no one would ever know.

Rin's flesh was bright red and blistered. The sight of it angered him to a point where his aura prompted Miho to dart quickly out of the room to hide. So she could tell how he was feeling now, huh? Good.

He clenched his jaw tight to keep from shouting and clenched his fists to keep from breaking any more walls. Instead, he moved Rin's kimono back in place and fought to control his temper. After a few minutes, he managed to calm down enough that he released the grip in his hands and discovered that his claws had buried themselves deeply into the skin of his palms. "Damn!" He growled. As he moved to lick them clean, he froze. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a flash of soft brown eyes watching him curiously. He turned his head slowly and felt his heart stop for the first time in decades.

She smiled weakly at him before she lifted a hand to cup the right side of his face. "H-h-hello…L-L-lord Sessho-m-maru…"

Author's Note:It has been a long time coming, but here is my newest chapter. This semester has been one hell of a ride so I am sorry for the ridiculous delay. The story isn't finished yet, so keep an eye out for more.

Happy early Thanksgiving!

I am thankful for all of you guys who have followed my fanfics for this long and I am thankful that I was able to write something that someone would actually want to take the time to read. I love you guys and I hope you all stay safe this holiday season!

OliviaAR