Okay, this story is going to be alternating point of view every three chapters! That said, this one is in Inari's point of view. Please enjoy and leave a review! ;w;
Inari woke up when the first rays of sunlight broke through the trees and hit her face. It had been so long since she last slept in a physical body. She opened her heavy eyelids and was pleased to see that Rin was still there in her arms. She had grown quite attached to the girl and treasured her as much as she was treasured. It had been Rin who gave her the strength to present herself again, after all. Without the power of her wishing game from earlier and the brief stop at the roadside shrine, Inari would have only enough power to maintain her fox appearance.
Well, there was always another way to draw energy, but she wasn't about to do that. It was too cruel for something so vain as appearance.
She brought her hand up from around the girl and began stroking the side of her face. Perhaps it wasn't such a burden being attached to the comb. After all, without it she never would have met such a bright little girl. She would still be stuck in that secluded shrine.
Inari cut her thought off there, not wanting to think about that wretched place a moment longer. Being careful to not disturb Rin, she sat up and stretched her arms in the air, the sleeves of her uchikake sliding towards her shoulders. It was a foreign feeling to be confined to a physical body. She thought about resting within the comb for a moment, but her promise to Rin made her decide against it. Even if the girl was sleeping, a promise was a promise.
She glanced around the campsite, taking in the ashes of the fire, a sleeping Jaken and Ah-Un, and a standing demon lord just outside of the circle. "Good morning, Lord Sesshomaru," she greeted with a smile.
He held eye contact with her for a moment before turning away and leaving to do who-knows-what. "Jerk," she thought to herself, her smile betraying nothing. He was so cold even after she had generously told him several fortunes. Only one of them changed from him knowing about it, the one that foretold Rin's immediate death, and he was still so ungrateful. She supposed it was just the way he was. She would, hopefully, learn to tolerate his terrible exterior. Perhaps Rin could help her understand? After all, it seemed as if they would be traveling together for a while longer.
Inari could see it in the future, though she tried to block most of the visions. She could see their small group returning to a village where Rin would stay without Jaken or her lord. There she would live a rather simple life with an older woman - Inari didn't know who - and, in the next year, a girl with strange clothes and strong spiritual powers. She hoped that she would be able to be part of that life. It was impossible to tell since she could never see her own future. She could only guess where fate might take its observer.
"Wake up," Inari said softly while nudging Rin, "We need to clean before we leave today."
Rin groaned, trying not to wake up, but she slowly opened her eyes anyway. "Good morning," she said with a tired voice as she sat up. Inari lead her to the river and a little down it for privacy purposes. She hung up the outer covering of her uchikake to hopefully block out any eyes that might try to watch them, accidentally or otherwise. She knew Jaken would be waking up soon and looking for them. Then the two turned to the river and began washing themselves, or rather just Rin. Inari had no use for it; she didn't need to wash, even in her physical form, like those bound to the earth did. Perhaps if she had less energy and was still expected to have a physical appearance, but that was it.
Inari knelt on the shore, merely there to keep watch and company. "So," she began, "Tell me about this boy in your village." She had seen him in her visions and knew that he had feelings for the girl, but wouldn't act on them. Perhaps it was because she was so young?
"What boy?" she asked back, dipping her head underwater.
"The one in the village. He has freckles and is a demon slayer," the deity explained while smiling and pointing to her own face, though there were no freckles there.
Inari's vision changed from Rin and the boy talking about the beach to her asking if he knew the goddess. "Yes, Kohaku." The changes in her future visions always aided her in answering questions. It was rare that the future stayed the same once it was known.
She paused a moment before rinsing her face. "He's really nice but is gone a lot," she answered, looking thoughtful, "Sango wishes he would visit more."
"Is that all?" Inari couldn't stop her grin from forming.
"Yes, that's all."
"Okay then," she said with a nod. She would have to help the situation out a bit once they got to the village. It was simply too good to leave alone. When she was done with the bath she helped Rin put her kimino back on and then pulled down her hung up uchikake. Jaken was revealed to be coming towards them, like she had predicted. "Good morning," Inari greeted with a smile, putting the layer back on over her kakeshita. She really didn't enjoy talking with him when he insulted her and wanted nothing more than to be rid of her, even worse that he vocalized it, but she supposed she would have to play nice.
The demon frowned. "Rin, you know you're not supposed to wander unaccompanied," he said to the girl in question, attempting to chide her.
"But Lady Inari is with me."
Jaken cast his usual untrusting glare to the woman, but said nothing about it. "Come, we should return before Lord Sesshomaru does," then he turned away and led them back to the small camp.
Through the day they continued their journey. The two girls were on Ah-Un most of the time, talking about little things with no real weight to them: favorite flowers, seasons, foods, and so on. Occasionally Rin sang small songs, but Inari chose not to. She didn't want change the light-hearted song to something somber with her own song when they had such a good mood.
The group was half-way through an open field, Inari and Rin gathering a variety of flowers, when Sesshomaru stopped signaling for the others to as well. He was focused on something to the north and Inari followed his gaze. There, coming across the fields, she could see two nine-tailed foxes with red scarves tied around their necks heading towards them, one white and one black. The goddess frowned and allowed it to linger on her face. She did not want to see them so soon.
Sesshomaru's eyes didn't leave the approaching two and she suspected that she would have to inform him about them in case he considered killing them. "Lord Sesshomaru," she started. The foxes were halfway there and his attention was not leaving them. "They mean no harm."
He gave a small "hn" noise in reply, still not much one for words.
She stood tensely watching, Rin moving behind her and Jaken silently watching like Ah-Un was. The two stopped in front of Sesshomaru and sat before him, their heads held high. Obviously they could sense his power and knew that they had no chance against him. It was better to take a respectful seat than to stand and give the air of a challenge.
"Sotan, Tamamo," Inari started, addressing the white and black foxes respectively, "What are you doing here?" They were her vassals, fox sprites not demons, but she thought they would have remained at the shrine to protect it and the village. "And why are you like that?"
"We have come for you, milady," Sotan said, his male voice coming through clear and not animalistic in the slightest. "We are unable to take a more... proper form with the inuyokai looking at us," he added, gazing up to Sesshomaru. Said daiyokai gave no visible reaction and did not turn his eyes away from them.
"Good riddance, I say," Jaken muttered, not having more to add on the issue. He would happily allow the animals to take the burdensome woman away.
"Please excuse us," Tamamo started, "But we request you give the sacred object to us. It is important that we return with the harvest god." Inari frowned again. It seems that Tamamo did not correct that bad habit of hers; speaking about her master as if she was not there.
Sesshomaru glanced back at Rin who was standing next to the dragon, the precious object in her hair, and looked back to the sprites. "I refuse," he answered, surprising everyone present.
"Mi-milord!" Jaken shouted first, not one to keep his opinions to himself, "Why would you want to keep this wretched woman around?!" He was met with three glares this time, one from his lord for questioning and two from the sudden visitors for insulting their lady. He scrambled over to where Rin was standing. "Not that I'm questioning you or anything," he added, looking away.
If it had been any other time, Inari would have been greatly amused with how quickly he changed from asserting himself to groveling. Currently, however, she was too surprised at Sesshomaru's answer. Didn't he detest her company as much as his advisor did?
"We must return to the shrine. The village needs my lady's presence," Sotan tried, attempting to convey how important it was. "Please, reconsider!"
"Sotan," Inari said before Sesshomaru could be given the chance to repeat himself, which he surely wouldn't, "Return with Tamamo. I will stay with Rin until she decides otherwise." Her words were absolute, leaving no room for either of her vassals to argue. She watched as they tried to process what to do, find some way to return with their lady without disobeying her. Her maroon eyes showed that she was not willing to negotiate. It also would have been unacceptable for them to follow her, leaving the village her shrine protected utterly abandoned.
The two foxes exchanged glances before bowing their heads. "As you wish," they said in unison and ran back the way they had come.
Sesshomaru looked back at Inari, as if seeking an explanation, and she just smiled at him. It seemed to be all he needed, some kind of confirmation that they were just pests and nothing more. He continued on his intended path to the sea, Jaken right on his heels.
The goddess turned to Rin who climbed onto Ah-Un, and did the same. Once situated the questions started. "Who were those two?"
She considered saying that it didn't matter because they wouldn't be returning, but she wasn't sure if that was true. Her future sight was useless when it came to her vassals. They were some of the few her visions would show her. "They were spirits who guard a shrine. I know they may look like kitsune yokai, but they aren't."
"Do you know them well? What are their names? Why do they have so many tails?"
Such a curious girl! Inari knew that if she revealed how well she knew them that the questions would only stop when Rin was bored of asking. "I only know a little," she lied, "The white fox is Sen Sotan. He is a messenger for the god of the rice harvest and fertility. Tamamo is the black fox and she serves the same god. They have so many tails because they are so old." She watched Rin take in this new information and then look up at her to ask more questions. "I'm afraid that's all I know," she added, stopping any further questions. She didn't like lying, but Rin didn't seem to know that she had a sacred object in her possession yet. Inari would withhold the truth to preserve their current relationship for as long as she could.
That night Rin had gone to sleep without a problem, her head resting on Inari's lap. Jaken was asleep as well, positioned between two large roots of a tree nearby. Sesshomaru sat across from her, the fire between them again. It was becoming a regular occurrence for them to be like this. She was sure he hated it.
Inari's eyes settled on his golden ones, allowing herself to see visions of his future. She saw him traveling across the land, hunting for a poor beast of a man, one who let himself be consumed by demons on his deathbed. This man-turned-demon was challenging the daiyokai's control of his lands and terrorizing people for the goal of ultimate power. It was a story very much like one she heard three years ago, but couldn't place it.
She looked into a different part of the future, this time to that of the demon-man. He would give his body and spiritual power to demons as he slowly died of disease. A sad way to go, indeed, but perhaps if he was ended before the demons made a contract with him...?
She focused her eyes out of the future and onto Sesshomaru's face. He had the same indifferent expression as always, though he didn't seem as on edge as the last few times they met. "I can see a man becoming a great threat to the western lands," she said. His expression changed ever so slightly, asking her what she meant. His hands were folded into his sleeves and not at his sides ready to try and strike her. She assumed that she was allowed to continue. "Kashiro is his name and he is dying of an incurable disease in Akebi village. In two days he will make a pact with demons and become a plague on the land. If he was slain before the demons came for him, then perhaps it could all be prevented." She had said it all without any hidden intentions.
A moment of silence passed between them before he spoke. "Why have you told me this?"
A fair question, she guessed. "Because it is a threat to Rin that cannot be easily extinguished," Inari answered, her face as expressionless as his own. She did not want any harm being done to the girl she had come to treasure in such a short time. "But if you were to act now then everything would be avoided."
The fire continued to burn between them, consuming the small amount of wood used to feed it. She looked into the future again and this time saw Sesshomaru entering the house of the dying man and killing him. It was cruel, but would save many lives. Her eyes focused back on his. "Thank you," was all she said. They were the final words spoken that night.