Ameki watched as the clouds rolled in from the south. The dark and looming figures overshadowed the deep green forest and mountain range that splashed her view. She could smell the rain that would soon be upon the village. She wondered if Sesshomaru would be returning soon. He had left a mere week earlier, leaving the less than happy Jaken behind. She couldn't help but to feel sorry for the imp. After all he only wished to be reunited with his Lord once again. She could relate, after all there were many people she missed but the likelihood of ever seeing them again was nonexistent. Ameki found herself battling with her emotions more as each day passed by. She had promised Sesshomaru to be on her best behavior. He had fulfilled her mother's wishes, and so this would be how she repaid that kindness.
Her foolish acts of the previous week were anything but far from her mind. The memories were still fresh, but she found it increasingly easy to bar them from her mind, rather barring herself from trying something that dramatic again. When Ameki reflected on her actions, she gradually realized that they had stemmed from her neglect to properly give herself time to mourn. She had immediately thrust herself into the motions of a new life to keep her mind busy. She couldn't take back what had happened, or even what she had done in the act of lashing out against the forces that had willed it. However, she knew that she could assist Lord Sesshomaru.
Ameki’s cheeks slightly warmed toward her memory of him. She had acted such a fool, but instead of abandoning her in her grief he had reflected a bit of his own. Something she had thought uncharacteristic of him, and knew to almost be taboo among demons, especially demons as esteemed as the Lord of the western provinces. It was hard for her to imagine Sesshomaru as the monster InuYasha claimed he had once been. In fact, Sesshomaru seemed as if he were more docile than InuYasha himself. He was very intimidating, and Ameki knew that Sesshomaru had the potential to become the aristocratic assassin he was rumored to be, but in reality he had only showed her kindness. Kindness that she was afraid to offend.
Ameki caught sight of a few figures hurriedly making their way toward the village, covering their heads with anything they could find. The wind steadily gained speed as Ameki felt the first drop of rain since watching the storm boil over the horizon. It was going to be a long night, the rumble of the thunder held promise of that. It was no matter though. The storm seemingly summarized the feelings Ameki had been sorting through since Sesshomaru had left. She was giving herself the time she needed to properly grieve everything and everyone she had lost. She was thankful though. The people of this village had taken her in immediately. Oh how she had been so stupid. She couldn’t leave this world until she found a way to repay everyone’s kindness. Especially Sesshomaru’s.
Kagome had noticed the shift in Ameki’s mood, and had been more lenient with her suggestions on work within the village. Ameki had begged Sesshomaru to not impart the events of that night to Kagome or anyone else. Instead, Sesshomaru had decided to fill Jaken in. Ameki glanced over to where the imp smiled at the oncoming storm. Her brow slightly narrowed. It had been Jaken that had let it slip that Ameki had attempted to take her own life in an attempt to right things that were wrong. Kagome and Sango both knew, but thankfully they had tighter lips than the little toad it would seem.
Sango had offered an “Outlet” as she called it to the emotions Ameki had been feeling. Every morning when the sky lightened before sunrise, Sango helped Ameki refine her defensive skills and even helped teach her a bit of offense as well. Ameki truly felt that Sango’s lessons did help her focus more on the present, and less on what had happened. Neither Kagome, nor Sango had forced her to talk about the incident at the river. Instead she noticed how they had spent more time with her on a personal level, rather than the small talk she was used to throughout the day. When Ameki wasn’t alone with her thoughts she was either with Sango training, or with Kagome picking wild herbs in the nearby forest. She really enjoyed their company, and knowing she would be leaving upon Sesshomaru’s return slightly saddened her.
Ameki turned in for the evening. Staying in the rain would aid in nothing but to chill her bones. Ameki found it amusing that the longer Jaken spent within the village, the more chatty he became with its inhabitants. He still spoke little to InuYasha, and when he did it was mostly sneering remarks and name calling, which usually led to InuYasha’s threats of beatings on the little imp. Jaken would normally quiet himself, and find Ameki for protection. The ugly little creature had grown on her despite his shortcomings, in every way.
Sesshomaru’s journey to find Kohaku, Sango’s brother, was taking longer than anticipated. Jaken had assured Ameki that Lord Sesshomaru would be on his trail within the first day. Sesshomaru had said that he would return once he had retrieved Kohaku. Ameki wasn’t sure of their relationship, or how well they would get along, but she hoped that things worked out and this Kohaku person would be understanding. She also hoped that Sesshomaru was well. She wanted this to come to an end rather quickly. The hold Yakunan had on her frightened her more each night. Each terrible nightmare frightened her further, but it was her promise to Sesshomaru that kept her strong.
Ameki stifled a yawn as she made her way to a clearing at the edge of the forest. Today marked the ninth day Sesshomaru had been gone, and it would be the sixth day she would train with Sango. The clouds still hung low in the dim lit sky, signaling that the rain that had started a few days prior was sticking around. The sun hadn’t made an appearance since Ameki had watched the clouds overtake its rays in the sky. The last couple of nights had been rather peaceful concerning her dreams. She still had horrible visions of Yakunan in her dreams, but they were flashes and images of him. Her actual dreams were in a place of her own setting. She wasn’t sure if it had been the progress she had made toward proper mourning. Her routine of evening prayer at the shrine on top of the hill helped ease her fears, and accepting what happened to her family seemed to dull the effect that Yakunan had on her in dreams.
Sango’s genuine smile greeted her as she made her final steps to the area they had chosen to exercise. Sango raised from her position she had taken on the ground to stretch.
“I’ll have to fix that tear for you.” Sango motioned toward the small tear in the pant of Ameki’s suit Sango had given her. The pants were tight fitting, clinging to her as if it were a second layer of skin.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Ameki glanced up with an apologetic look.
“I’m not sure when that happened.” Sango shook her head and smiled.
“Don’t worry about it. The suit was going to waste. I had it made for my daughter, but she decided not to take up the family tradition.” Ameki slightly nodded, remembering that her daughter had simply wanted to live as a wife and mother. The thin fabric was surprisingly warm. The early morning air was chilly, and the overcast sky promised no heat from the sun.
“I must have caught it on something” Ameki slightly shrugged.
Each morning always began the same. They would start off with a bit of defense, and soon after Sango would begin implementing offensive strikes that Ameki would try to counter, but also memorize. Sango was a very patient teacher, and for that Ameki was grateful. Ameki had often trained with her father as a kid, and later on her uncle. However, her uncle had been more strict and constantly criticized her inept ability in balance.
“Step slightly forward with your right foot, but firmly plant the left as you stray backwards.” Sango came forward with her sheathed wakizashi. The medium length sword was ultimately intimidating with Sango as its wielder. For a middle aged woman, she was certainly strong. Definitely stronger than any woman she had ever met and this struck envy within her. If Ameki could have possessed such skills she would have helped her uncle defend their castle.
The wooden sword Ameki attempted to block with vibrated in her hand as Sango’s weapon clashed. Ameki quickly jumped back, recalling the last few days training, she was going to try her own hand at some offense. She was in no way prepared to take on a foe that intended to do her harm, but Sango had openly voiced her approval toward Ameki’s progress. She had praised her on her quick ability to learn new fighting styles, defense and offense alike.
Ameki maneuvered quickly, placing a well aimed imitation swing. As soon as Sango readied herself to block the decoy swing, Ameki simply altered her pattern catching Sango by surprise. Ameki’s wooden sword connected with Sango’s Wakizashi just above the hilt, slapping the sword from her hand. Sango’s surprise was instant, but was soon replaced by a knowing smile.
“Using my own tactics against me so soon?” Sango chuckled.
“I thought you would wait a few days to try and use that, but it looks like someone has been practicing.” Ameki nodded at Sango’s words.
“ Never underestimate your opponent, just as you said and yes I have been practicing. Jaken is useful enough, though he’s kind of slow so I didn’t know if it would work on you or not.” Ameki shrugged.
“In my younger days I might have sensed the change in your posture, but I’m gonna give you the credit you deserve. It was a quick switch, one that definitely took me by surprise.” Sango beamed toward Ameki. Ameki slightly blushed. Compliments was something she was used to as a princess, but now she was someone who was actually working toward deserving the compliments. It filled her with a sense of pride.
Practice was cut short, the rain had decided to rear its ugly head. Sango invited Ameki to her home for some tea, and Ameki accepted. Warm tea would no doubt help soothe the ache of her muscles. Miroku was gone, and the house was empty when they arrived. The fire in the hearth had almost died, but Sango quickly rekindled the flickering flames, and before too long a pot of tea was making.
“You know, I really can’t wait for you to meet my brother Kohaku. You remind me a lot of him when he first started training.” Ameki looked up from her sitting position across from Sango. Her attention had been on the small tear in her suit.
“Oh? He was slow?” Ameki asked with a sly grin. Sango lightly chuckled at her joke.
“Yes and no, to be honest though he just didn’t seem as if he was meant to follow in my family's footsteps. He was a shy boy, and scrawny. Not that you are scrawny. You have a nice feminine figure, and well toned muscles considering you were a princess. No offense, I’m just used to nobles kind of being pampered.” Sango slightly shrugged.
“He had a problem with his balance as well. I’ve noticed you struggle with that. Honestly, it's a simple fix.” Sango stood up and disappeared from the room, returning quickly with something that was wrapped in a worn cloth. Ameki’s quizzical gaze found the bundle that Sango untied in her lap. Ameki caught sight of the fire’s reflection in the steel blade that Sango presented.
“This is a Tanto blade.” She leaned around the side of the hearth and handed the blade to Ameki’s hesitant hands. Ameki’s eyes widened as she caught sight of her reflection in the polished surface of the razor sharp blade.
“I found it within my old home village a long time ago. It was among a few things I brought back from my village after it was destroyed. The Demon Slayer village I told you about.” Sango slightly smiled at her.
“This is beautiful…” Ameki’s words trailed off as her eyes trailed the intricate blade's smithing that was clearly noticeable. The tempering had left no trace, the surface was flawless.
“It really is…” Sango whispered.
“I want you to have it.” Ameki’s shocked expression quickly found Sango’s reflecting one.
“I can’t… I can’t accept this. You should keep it. It’s obviously very special to you considering it's something you have left of the demon slayers.” Ameki tried to reason.
“I have my memories, my training and I still have my brother.” Sango smiled sweetly at her own words.
“The Tanto is the lightest sword, and is meant to be wielded quickly. This will help with your balance, faster footwork and more swift strikes. The only downfall is that it's more of an offensive weapon. It lacks the weight needed to execute a successful block, but I’ve done more with less and I have faith that you will work around the obvious hinderance. You are fast, but the longer swords are putting you off of your balance.” She chuckled.
“I have the utmost confidence that with practice, your fast footwork could make for excellent dodging.” Sango smiled again. Ameki was in utter shock. This was a beautiful gift. One she didn’t want to accept, but knew turning down would insult Sango.
“Why would you give me something so important to you?” Ameki finally asked gaining the courage. Sango sighed, her face becoming more serious and settling into a solemn gaze.
“I’ve been where you are Ameki. There was a time, before I knew Kohaku was still alive, that I had lost everything. I lost my family, my home and my heritage. I was the only Demon Slayer left.” Ameki slightly bit her bottom lip at Sango’s words.
“I had a terrible vengeance in me, before I knew of Naraku’s betrayal and much more afterwards. It was the people that I still hold dear to me, InuYasha, Kagome, Miroku and Shippo, that kept me in line and pulled me out of the rut I had fallen in. I still struggled, and it only worsened when I discovered that my brother was still alive and being controlled by Naraku.” Sango took a deep breath and shifted the weight of her sitting position.
“I went as far as… trying to kill my brother…” Her words slightly trailed off as she lowered her gaze to the fire. Ameki listened intently and watched the way the fire’s flames danced around the reflection of Sango’s seasoned eyes.
“ I was going to kill myself afterwards… I wouldn’t have been able to deal with the pain of taking his life even if it was to free him from Naraku’s control, but I loved him so dearly and didn’t want him to suffer.” Sango’s voice began to shake.
“Though I realized only after InuYasha stopped me from killing him, that I could get him back. We later broke the hold Naraku had on him. It was much later, but he lived and I lived. Sitting here now reflecting on it I realize that if I had killed my brother and taken my life, that things could have turned out differently. Narkaku could still be alive even. We both, along with everyone else, played an important role in taking Naraku out. In some form or fashion it lead to a chain of events that would ultimately become his downfall. We lived, and in the end it was Naraku that died.” Sango’s gaze found Ameki once more.
“It’s alright to feel hopeless, as long as you realize that you play an important role in this life. There will always be people that will never give up on you, and eventually even if it is hard driven, you will succeed in fighting the emotions that constantly hinder you.” Ameki’s eyes had glazed over, mirroring the glaze that was present within Sango’s.
Ameki bowed slightly, raising the Tanto.
“Thank you, for your wisdom and this gift. I’ll do my best to improve my skills, and I promise to take everything you have spoken of into consideration involving my own struggles.” Ameki raised her gaze and found Sango’s softened one.
“I don’t mean to pry into your personal life, but I will always be here to listen. I’m sure Kagome and even InuYasha would listen as well.” Ameki smiled gently toward Sango, and bowed her head once more.
“Thank you Sango.”
Finding Kohaku was not as easy as Sesshomaru had thought it would be. He had been close, very close to finding the demon slayer, but the onslaught of rain that had appeared and continued for days had dulled Sesshomaru’s senses and washed away the evidence that Kohaku had been in the area. Without a fresh trail, or scent on the rapidly changing winds Sesshomaru was otherwise blinded and merely had to go by instinct. Instead of trying to find Kohaku, Sesshomaru sought out the nearest demons that seemed to be causing trouble in the region. Sooner or later he was sure that he would come across the man. Each new day that presented itself also came with an increasing anxious feeling that Sesshomaru found distasteful. He needed to make this journey, and he needed to do it before Yakunan could become organized once more. He took most of his frustration out on pesky demons that had proved no use in interrogation. Dispatching them as he seen fit, aiding in narrowing down targets that would be acquired by Kohaku.
Well into the second week of his departure from the village, Sesshomaru encountered a demon that he had crossed paths with before. The Ghostly apparition materialized before him, and the shimmering image solidified. Before him, a dark slender form stood. The Red eyes seemed to glow, and the soft voice carried to his sensitive hearing.
“We meet again Lord Sesshomaru.” The female spoke with a bit of irritation in her voice. Her long dark strands of hair seemed to sway in swirls above her head, as if gravity had no effect.
“Still feeding from the fallen mortals on the battlefield I see.” Sesshomaru remarked with a bit of distaste.
“They won’t be missed. It’s not as if these mortals come to claim the remains of those fallen in war.” Her putrid breath was enough to make Sesshomaru want to end her in that moment, but he had other uses for her.
“A demon slayer was here.” Sesshomaru stated as he caught the scent of decay. It wasn’t the human decay he zeroed in on, it was demon decay that was just in the beginning stages. With the the ground still wet it was hard to make an estimate, but from what he could tell the demon had found its demise within the last two days.
“There was indeed.” Her brow furrowed, and her tongue quickly flicked across the pointed teeth that protruded from her top lips, resting on the bottom.
“I kept him busy for a bit with my wraiths, but he came too close to discovering me. My sister wasn’t as fortunate…” Her demeanor went rigid.
“He killed her with a noxious gas that he released over the bodies, killing her almost instantly. She was inside one of the corpses when he began his assault, giving her no time to escape from the clutches of the poison.” A deep growl followed by a hiss between her clenched teeth was released.
“I let him finish off my wraiths, and I hid.” Sesshomaru listened as the demon before him imparted her overly informative explanation. All that he was interested in was the fact that a demon slayer had been here, and would no doubt return for her. He would still be close by, waiting for the demon to let his guard down, and gathering supplies to make more poison.
“He will be back for you. That’s all I needed to know.” Sesshomaru stepped around the demon that now gawked at him with an angry expression.
“No, of course Sesshomaru has more important things to deal with right now.” Sesshomaru continued walking, ignoring the obvious plea for attention.
“I have no interest in someone that would act so cowardly in the face of a threat.” He stated as he continued his stride.
“The nerve!” She shrieked.
“I’ll have his head, but this time I’m expecting him. I won’t be taken by surprise again.” Sesshomaru stopped and glanced over his shoulder toward the pitiful demon that was now putting on an act of vengeance, when it was clearly obvious that the leech of a demon would hide yet again to preserve herself.
“If you don’t stop interrupting me, I’ll make sure the there is nothing left of you for the slayer to find.” A sudden intake of breath, and an exasperated squelch was the only response he was given as the demon seemingly dispersed into a black cloudy haze that drifted away in haste.
“Hmph..” Sesshomaru began walking a few steps more before he took to the sky.
Far above the battlefield Sesshomaru hovered, taking in the sights that spread across his vision. There were three nearby villages. Two were moderately sized in comparison to the third, however, the smallest one showed signs of a recent disturbance. Smoke Billowed from the small town in a constant steady wave. There had been a fire, maybe multiple to produce such a vast billow of smoke. Something was going on, and his instincts told him that if he was going to find Kohaku sooner than playing the wait game on the battlefield, that would be the place to start.
A store house had caught on fire, and many forms dotted Sesshomaru’s vision as he approached the smoldering sight. People lined the streets, drawing pails of water from the well closest to the building. Sesshomaru could smell the burned vegetation from inside the building, probably a store house meant for the harvest. He landed in a small grove outside of the town, but atop a hill that gave him a direct view down into the bustling streets below. He searched the different figures that raced around the streets, none of them wearing the unique attire he was searching for. The rain had settled in this area, leaving only a slight haze, unfortunately the only scent Sesshomaru could decipher was the smoke that filled the area. It was a strong overpowering scent that masked most of everything else he could have normally smelled.
He hated acting like a mongrel, but in this case he had little other options. A deep inhale with his nose upcast was needed to discern any other scents that still lingered in the damp smoke filled region. A mental image of his brother, InuYasha, played through his mind. Even though he wasn’t sniffing the ground as InuYasha usually did, he imagined he didn’t look much more sophisticated sniffing the air. The thought made him slightly cringe, along with a certain scent he picked up under the suffocating smell of smoke. Singed flesh, and not just any flesh. Kohaku’s flesh.