Hi everyone! I'm so sorry about the long wait. School started, and I've been trying not to procrastinate. So far it has worked, but in exchange, I haven't been able to write or post anything. I hope you'll stick with me and this story. =)
Chapter 5: Secrets and Reflections
Rin talked endlessly over lunch (five fish that we managed to capture from the river) about her travels with Lord Sesshoumaru, who was in fact a dog demon. Despite the dangers she faced and the countless demons that challenged the great demon, Rin remained by his side. Sesshoumaru remained silent through the entire exchange, although he listened closely from his spot against the tree. When Rin offered him some fish, he refused. It did not bother her, however; she merely replied she would save it for "Master Jaken."
"Rin, who is Master Jaken?" I asked.
"He's a little toad demon that travels with us!" she informed me enthusiastically. "Actually...I wonder where he is. Lord Sesshoumaru, do you know where Master Jaken went?"
As if on cue, a loud, high-pitched screech reached our ears. "LORD SESSHOUMARU! There you are."
A tiny green imp with wrinkled, scaled skin ambled in our direction. He wore a brown robe and a black, pointed hat. In his hand, he carried a large brown staff that was almost twice as big as the demon himself. At the head of the staff sat two heads, one of an old man and the other a young woman, facing opposite directions.
"Master Jaken!" Rin squealed. "Where were you?" Rin bounded over to the toad demon and hugged him tightly. Jaken tried in vain to pry the little girl off of him.
"Get off me, you annoying girl! I must talk with Lord Sess—" Jaken's gaze landed on me, and it quickly turned from annoyance to disgust. "What are you doing here, you filthy human! Shoo! Be gone! You have no business here."
"Be nice, Master Jaken! She helped save Lord Sesshoumaru after he got attack—" Rin defended me.
"Attacked?! My Lord, what happened?" Jaken's tone changed rapidly once again.
"He was attacked by Mouryoumaru, one of Naraku's minions, I believe," I said as I walked over to the demon imp.
"I didn't ask you, insolent human! Now be gone, or feel the wrath of the Staff of Two Heads!" Jaken screeched, waving his oversized staff in front of him.
I chuckled and walked closer until I was towering over him, staring straight down. Jaken did not flinch and glared at me. "Those are some big words coming from such a small demon imp." I put my hand to my chin, feigning pondering. "I thought all imps were a bit…dimmer?"
Jaken's face scrunched tightly in anger. As he yelled, his body bounced up and down from the sheer force. "How dare you, you—"
A low, powerful voice spoke from behind us. Jaken ceased immediately, and his face registered fear. I glanced behind me and found Sesshoumaru resting serenely with his eyes closed. To the onlooker, he might've been sleeping. That voice was unmistakable, though.
"Y-yes, My Lord?" Jaken's voice, small and high-pitched, shook.
"Be quiet. You are being too loud."
Jaken said nothing but nodded quickly and retreated away from us. I sympathized. Sesshoumaru was frightening. I would do well to keep my distance. Rin seemed to be the only one who was not subjected to his biting rage.
Despite my self-warning, I walked back toward the dog demon to check on his wounds. Sesshoumaru did not move, but opened his eyes to watch me. I opened my mind to him to show him my intentions. When he made no move to stop me, I continued.
"You keep strange company, Lord Sesshoumaru," I said as I checked his bandages. At first, he remained silent.
"Jaken was the only one able to control the power of that staff," he said. I was surprised. It was the most he had spoken since he woke. I turned to watch Rin play "keep away" with Jaken's staff. The toad demon had some use, did he?
I checked the gash in his torso. It was still a light purple color, but it was receding. My purifying cloth was working. "And Rin?"
Sesshoumaru did not respond. I entertained the idea of probing his mind for answers, but decided against it. He was tolerant now, which might change if I invaded his personal space. I resigned myself after several minutes to the fact that he would not answer me. Maybe he did not know the answer himself, or he did not want to acknowledge the reason. I'm sure that a powerful demon travelling as a human child was sacrilegious enough.
"Your injuries are healing nicely. The miasma should be completely gone from your body by tomorrow morning," I said. "I request that you remain here for the night, however. Too much movement will impede your progress and possibly make the poison spread."
Sesshoumaru did not acknowledge me, but I took his silence as acquiescence. Satisfied, I sighed and decided to busy myself with washing Sesshoumaru's clothing. I watched Rin talking with Jaken, who had passed out on the ground. It was then I noticed the sun was setting.
"When did it get so late?" I wondered aloud. Everyone must be worried about me.
"Oh, it's not that late. Just in time for the sunset!" Rin exclaimed. She walked over to me and pulled at my hand. "Miss Kira, would you watch the sunset with me?"
I smiled at her. "Of course."
Rin coaxed me up and lead me over to the river and sat down along its edge, dipping her feet in the water. I followed suit. The water felt cool and refreshing against my worn and tired feet. We sat there in silence, admiring the color-changing sky as the sun made its way down. Soon enough, the sun dipped below the trees and the sky turned a magnificent violet, but we did not stir. The stars were just as beautiful, and the crescent moon kept us out of complete darkness.
I felt a weight on my shoulder and looked down. Rin had fallen into a peaceful slumber. I gazed at her, slightly envious of her pleasant dreams. In her innocence, she slept soundly at night in the presence of friends; I, on the other hand, relived my nightmares of my past alone. Even Jaken seemed to care for her, even if just by tolerance. Sesshoumaru was powerful enough to protect her from any dangers. I sighed heavily. At least she was happy.
Careful not to wake the sleeping bundle, I turned my head to find Sesshoumaru standing by the same tree, gazing at the starry sky. I gasped softly. In the moonlight, he was more beautiful than I remembered. His silver hair shone radiantly, giving the illusion of shimmering water. His figure glowed, basking in the moon's soft glow, giving him an otherworldly appearance. I noticed something strange. The left sleeve of his kimono lay limp by his side. So many mysteries surrounded the powerful dog demon. I slowly crept into his mind.
"She is asleep," I thought. "I will make my way back to the village and put her to bed. You and Jaken are welcome to stay with us."
Sesshoumaru looked at me. His eyes did not sparkle like his silvery hair in the light. They were cold, mistrusting. He did not say a word, whether aloud or telepathically. I could not figure out his thoughts, and I dared not search for them. Strangely, however, I did not feel threatened. Whether it was because of the moon's rays empowering me, I wasn't sure. I stood defiantly, careful not to wake Rin, and walked back in the direction of the village without another glance towards her companion.
Everyone was retiring for the night. The small houses lined in neat rows were quickly being filled by their owners. Their lantern lights flickered like fireflies in the distance. Some waved at me as I passed and bid me good night. I smiled and wished them the same, unable to use my hands. A few people stared at Rin, confused, but did not question me about her. Considering their muted responses, Sesshoumaru must not have followed. I sighed, grateful that I would not have to explain a demon walking free in the village.
I reached my hut at the farthest end of the village. Its outward appearance gave the impression that it was abandoned. That was how I preferred it. The fewer people that know I reside here, the better. My life was troublesome as it was.
I pushed aside the curtain with my shoulder and entered my home. It was small, meant for a single person to live in. I had no lanterns or candles to light the room; instead, four small windows (which I had carved out of each wall) high up on the wall were my only source of light. I learned early on that firelight at night left me quite anxious. The only time I used a lantern was during the night of the new moon. Firelight was better than no light during those times.
Carefully, I laid Rin down on my sleeping mat. She never stirred, sleeping soundly and peacefully the entire trek here. I found myself growing envious of her for the second time today. Tonight I would have nightmares once again. I dreaded falling asleep. From the first nightmare, I understood a little of what my mother had told me: being a goddess was a gift, but also a curse.
I sang Rin a lullaby that my mother had sung to me when I was young, like Rin. It spoke of finding strength in someone else's love, and thanking them for it. Back then, it held just a simple meaning for me; now, it brought to light all of the emotions and meanings Mother had when she protected me. Looking down at Rin, I thought I understood a little of what she probably felt. I finished and whispered good night in her ear.
I stood and turned around to change into my night clothes. I almost screamed when I saw Sesshoumaru standing behind me. How was he able to sneak up on me like that? Why hadn't I sensed his presence? His demonic aura was too powerful to conceal, especially at such a close distance. Was I that preoccupied with my thoughts of Rin and my mother?
The frigidness of Sesshoumaru's stare unnerved me. I could tell his body was tense, ready for an attack. He did not trust me, even though I saved his life. I moved to the side to allow him a view of Rin. He moved his gaze to her. His eyes warmed for a fraction of a second before the returned to me as they were before. I grew frustrated. I had no time to deal with stubborn demons. My body ached from the events of today and begged me to sleep.
I wandered over to my changing room without a second glance at the dog demon intruding into my home. When I emerged in my night clothes, however, the demon was nowhere to be found. I was perfectly okay with that.
I snuggled in next to Rin. I watched her for a few moments, and hoped that maybe her influence would chase away my nightmares. My mind wandered to the first casual conversation we had. She bore the same name and was the same age as my younger sister would have been. Was she really the same person? I could see her resemblance to my father, evident in her face and hair, but I saw nothing of Mother. No, her kind and innocent heart belonged to our mother. Other than her appearance, I couldn't be sure. I knew nothing of what happened to my sister after our parents left her in a small village to hide her from Naraku.
My mind was restless for answers. Abandoning any intention of going to sleep, I pulled on my coat and went searching for the only person I knew who might have my answers.
All lights were out in the village by now. Everyone had gone inside. The only sounds to reach my ears were my own footsteps and the soft wind rustling the leaves of trees nearby. I directed my mind outward, searching for the familiar demonic aura. I followed it to the spot I had first met Sesshoumaru.
Sesshoumaru was gazing down at the ground, as if there was something of interest. He did not move to acknowledge me, though I am sure he sensed me. I watched him quietly. He was back here, why? Was he looking for his own answers? Answers to what? I shook my head. I had too many of my own questions to worry about without trying to predict his.
"Enchanting, is it not?" I voiced aloud.
Sesshoumaru did not move, but glared at me from the corner of his eye. I returned his glare. His countenance was vexing.
"Why are you here?" he asked.
Getting right to the point, was he? I entertained the idea of telling him I was just being nosy. That would certainly put him off, and I would enjoy it. He was self-righteous and rude. He also would not be so willing to give me the answers I needed. I sighed.
"I could not sleep. I was wondering if you could answer a few questions for me," I said as politely as I could.
"I have nothing to say to you," he replied bluntly.
Anger built up inside me. My goddess energy immediately purred beneath the surface, eager for a battle. I pushed it back reluctantly. I needed to keep this as civil as I could. He would be gone by the morning, along with Rin. This was my only chance.
I ignored his blatantly refusal and continued. "I want to know about Rin's past-about how you came upon her. Surely you do not make a habit of picking up stray human children any time they cross your path."
"That is of no concern to you. What I do is my business," he said, his voice as icy as his eyes, and returned to gazing in front of him.
"I beg you, Lord Sesshoumaru," I said, bowing slightly. I needed his trust, even if just a sliver of it.
"Why do you ask me?" he asked. I could sense curiosity in his voice, and looked up. The sharp ice in his eyes softened slightly.
"If Rin is who I think she is, I do not want to bring up painful memories for her."
Sesshoumaru gazed at me for a long while. I did not move from my slightly bowed state, and stared right back into his eyes. A number of emotions ran across them, shielded by his icy mask. There was something significant there, something that concerned Rin. I felt a sensation of fingers combing through my mind and immediately pushed back. I glared with as much anger as I could at the dog demon.
"Answer my question, and I will tell you my intentions," I hissed.
"I have no business with you."
My goddess energy returned full force just behind my self-control. My fists clenched into tight balls in an attempt to keep it in. Anger and frustration were all I registered at the moment. This demon was truly testing my patience. If I did not need his information, I would have left my power run free and destroy him.
"Answer me this, Sesshoumaru," I demanded, dropping the honorific, "was Rin left in a village as an orphan?"
Sesshoumaru's eyes immediately shot toward me, sending the most deadly glare I had ever come across. My pulse quickened in anticipation.
"If you dare harm her, I promise you will not live to see the next day," he said, his voice barely above a dead whisper and dripping with malice. I could not control my anger anymore.
"How dare you accuse me of ever harming my own flesh and blood!"
In flash Sesshoumaru was in front of me, his only hand wrapped around my throat. I tried to pry his hand off as I was dangling from the ground, but his grip only got tighter. My breath was leaving me. I panicked. Suddenly, he released his hand and I fell to the ground, landing on my knees. I laid there for a few seconds trying to steady my breathing. I looked up. Sesshoumaru was staring at his smoldering hand. He looked down at me, his cold, golden eyes narrowing to mere slits. I glared back. For several moments our eyes were locked, each of us determined not to be the first to look away. That's when I saw something that made my eyes widen in horror.
No…that mark on his forehead.
I lie there, frozen, staring. In the middle of Sesshoumaru's forehead was a dark blue scar in the shape of a crescent moon. Why did I not notice this before? My mind was racing frantically as I looked back on the events of the day. Almost every time I spoke with the dog demon, he was looking away. When he was unconscious, his bangs had been covering his forehead, effectively concealing his scar.
The scar began giving off a dim, soothing glow. Despite that, I was shaking furiously. Not in fear of Sesshoumaru himself, but of what I might have just uncovered. Slow, I raised my hand to my mouth and gasped. My bracelet was glowing sympathetically to his scar, bright and soothing. I did not understand. Sesshoumaru was a demon; yet, my bracelet glowed happily. I recalled when I first encountered Sesshoumaru that it glowed in a similar fashion. This time, however, it felt full of life, and urged me to reach out and touch the scar, yearning for a connection.
No, I thought, dumbfounded. He cannot be the one! "Who…who are you?!"
"I should be asking you that same question," he said. He seemed just as perplexed as I was, looking back and forth between me and my bracelet. "What are you doing to me? You are no ordinary human."
"I am just as in the dark as you are," I replied, although this was only half true. I understood why my bracelet reacted this way: it finally sensed a kindred power, a power reciprocated only by those blessed by the Moon Goddess herself. Was the Prince nearby? My mind was too frantic to concentrate on this dilemma. "It might just be reacting to some demons nearby," I lied. I needed to get away from Sesshoumaru. I needed time to myself to process everything that just happened and uncover the meaning of my bracelet's reaction.
Sesshoumaru narrowed his eyes, but thankfully did not inquire further. Without another glance, he walked toward the village.
"Where are you going?" I asked, surprised by his sudden dismissal.
He stopped, but did not look back. "It is getting late. Isn't that what you said before?" he said and continued his trek back. I sighed as I stood up and followed him back.
I woke the next morning with the sun shining brightly in my eyes. I tried to turn away but was stopped by a small lump from under the sheets. I smiled. I maneuvered our bodies on the bed, careful not to wake the sleeping girl. I quickly dressed and made my way outside to the center plaza where I knew breakfast would be served.
"Good morning, Lady Kira," a middle-aged man greeted me as I approached him. He waved for a moment before going back to his task of stirring a vast stone cauldron sitting over a fire.
"Good morning, Misho," I returned his greeting. Something was off, and I looked around. I was one of three people waiting patiently for the morning meal. "Where is everyone today?"
"That demon you took care of yesterday cause quite some damage," he said without looking up at me. "Everyone is probably helping repair the huts or out to get new supplies."
I nodded. I should help, as well, as soon as I took care of my new charges. "Do you think you could prepare three extra meals for me?"
Misho looked up, confused by my request. "Of course, Lady Kira. Anything for you. But, I hope you don't intend to eat it all at once…"
"Of course not!" I laughed.
"Miss Kira!" Rin's high-pitched voice reached my ears, and I winced. She was bounding up the road and waving, her hair flowing behind her. She stopped just short of me and turned her chocolate brown gaze up to me. "Good morning!" she squealed.
I smiled down at her and ruffled her hair. It was strangely soft to the touch.
"Good morning to you, too, Rin. I see you just woke up. Did you sleep well?" She nodded. "That is good. Breakfast will be ready soon. Why not go ahead and play with the other children until then?"
Rin started towards where the other children were gathered. Some were playing tag, while others were splashing by the riverbed. They were experiencing childhood as it should be, full of peaceful innocence while enjoying playtime and laughter with one another. Something I never got to experience.
Rin stopped in her tracks and turned back to me. "Miss Kira, do you know where Lord Sesshoumaru went?"
I frowned. "I am sorry. I have not seen him yet this morning."
"Oh, ok," Rin's face fell, but was quickly replaced by a smile when she ran to go play with the other children. It must be a treat for her, to play with human children. I imagined what her daily life must be like when her only companions were a cold, silent demon and a loud, talkative imp who thought little of her. That must be why she was so full of energy this morning-the excitement was getting to her.
"Um, excuse me...Lady Kira? Wasn't that the girl you saved yesterday?" Misho asked.
I turned to him. "Yes," I paused for a moment, wondering how to explain why she is still here, "she is travelling with some companions when they were attacked. I told them to stay the night before heading off again."
"Ah, ok then. You are very kind, Lady Kira."
I smiled, unsure of how to respond. With no other business to attend to, I took my leave and wandered toward the forest.
It seemed only yesterday that I had come to this village. Their attitude towards me now was the clear opposite of what it was when I first arrived. I peered at myself in the crystal clear water of the river. My naturally blonde hair made me stand out. No one else I knew (except for my mother) had golden hair. My eyes were an icy slate blue, like a cloudy sky threatening to rain. My skin was paler than most. I thought it was due to the lack of outside play when I was a child; however, since I have been out of the castle, my skin as never tanned or burned in the sun. I assumed this was part of my immortality that Mother mentioned during my training.
I knew I was different, but until I stumbled upon this village, I had not realized just how different I was. My powers I could hide, but my appearance made people suspicious of me. The villagers had at first shunned me, calling me a demon temptress come to steal away the children. When I asked for food, they flat out refused and threatened to summon a monk to exterminate me. That had been the first time I cried since my mother's death. Never before had I felt such hatred from my own people.
The people's perception of me changed when a demon attacked and kidnapped two of the village children. Of course, they at first thought I was responsible for the demon and didn't believe me when I told them otherwise. To convince them, I promised to rescue the children. I easily defeated it with my goddess power. The children returned safely, along with the misconception that I was a priestess. The adults took this as a perfectly reasonable explanation for my appearance, and allowed me to stay with them.
The rest is history.
I paused along the edge of the forest. The piercing sound of a bell reached my ears. Breakfast was being served. I headed back to collect my ordered meals.
"Rin!" I called as I passed the group of children. "Come. Breakfast is being served."
Rin ran over and followed me back to Misho.
"You can go wait inside my house. I will bring your food to you," I told her.
"Ok," she replied, and went inside my house.
"Hello, Misho," I greeted. He handed me my bowl. "Are my other meals ready yet?"
"Sorry, My Lady. I need to feed everyone else, first," he replied sheepishly.
"That's alright. Please let me know when they are ready."
"Of course, Lady Kira," he said. I bowed and made my way to my hut.
I was not startled to find Sesshoumaru and Jaken inside with Rin; I had felt their presence as Rin and I walked back. Jaken did not acknowledge my presence. Then again, Rin was pestering him, wondering where he and Lord Sesshoumaru had been all day. Sesshoumaru greeted me with a stare that I could not decipher. Something seemed different about him, and then I realized he carried a new item of clothing with him: a feathered, pink boa that looked as soft as a cloud. Where had he gotten it? It seemed much too extravagant and fragile for a demon to possess.
"Hello, Lord Sesshoumaru," I greeted with a bow. Finally, Jaken realized I had joined them.
"Finally, you're here. How dare you keep My Lord waiting!" He chided. "And you, Rin-"
Jaken immediately ceased talking and looked at Sesshoumaru with bemusement, who had not shifted his eyes from mine. "Yes, milord."
"I have arranged meals for you to take on your travels, but not all of them are prepared yet," I said. "Here, Rin. This one is for you." I handed the little girl my bowl of food. She accepted it happily and began devouring it. Jaken gazed at her, disgusted and muttering about "disgusting human food" under his breath. I settled down across from Rin, watching her eat.
"Miss Kira, is something wrong?"
Should I tell her? Doing so might hurt her deeply; however, not informing her of her existing family would be lying and equally as immoral. I was still uncertain. "Oh... No, nothing is wrong."
"Are you sure? You seem pretty out of it," Rin frowned.
No, I chided myself, she deserves to know. I felt a familiar presence in my mind. I ignored him. I must gain Sesshoumaru's trust as well, if my instincts are correct.
"Yes, you're correct. I was lost in thought," I said, then inhaled deeply. "Rin, can you tell me...about your past? Before you began traveling with Lord Sesshoumaru?"
Rin blinked at me for a moment before turning away and gazing at the floor. "Oh, um," she started. Her reluctance made me panic.
"It's alright. You do not have to share it with me. I am just an adult being nosy, that's all," I smiled as heartily as I could.
"Oh, no, it's okay," she said. "Before I began traveling with Lord Sesshoumaru, I lived in a village where they treated me very badly. At first, I had a family that took care of me, and everyone was nice to me, but they were killed by bandits. The villagers told me that my real parents abandoned me when I was little and gave me to them. All of the kids pushed me around. I ended up living in a little shelter I built by the river, and most of the time I was left with little food."
"Yes, and she was a quiet child while she was in that village," Jaken interjected.
I was speechless. I sat contemplating her story. Sesshoumaru's aura intensified gradually with each word she spoke, causing the hairs on my body to stand on end. I looked at him. His countenance gave nothing away, and no one else seemed to notice the change.
Rin continued, "One day I found Lord Sesshoumaru in a forest. He was badly hurt, so I brought him some food to eat so he would get better. But for some reason he wouldn't take any of it…" Rin put her hand up to her chin and gazed at the dog demon. I smiled, surprised by her bravery. She approached a demon as proud as Sesshoumaru while he was injured and lived to tell the tale. Her kindness tamed even him.
"No one has tamed me," an angry voice spoke to me in my head.
"I wonder why Rin is still alive, then, after she found you injured," I returned with a hint of sarcasm. Sesshoumaru did not reply, but I felt his eyes burning into my head.
"One day, some of the villagers caught me taking some fish from the river. I knew it was wrong, but...," Rin trailed off for a moment. "They took the fish back and beat me."
I was not sure of what to say. Feelings of anger and hate rose up within me. My goddess energy raged beneath my skin. I wanted to find these people who hurt such a sweet and innocent child. On the other hand, I wanted to comfort Rin. But what was I to say? Apologize?
"Do you remember where this village was?" I asked as calmly as I could.
"We are sitting in it."