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Bane of Generations

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Prologue

People rejoiced at Naraku’s defeat. It was the end of his tyranny, his devious plots of deception and the murder of innocent demons and humans alike. For many years there seemed to be a peace that the feudal age had not seen in some time. Even the human Domain’s had seemed calmed. Sesshomaru left Rin with Kaede, visiting her through the years to offer gifts. Rin often missed traveling with her lord, but finally accepted that her place was to be with the humans. She was accepted in Kaede’s village, more so than she had been in any other human village.

It wasn’t long into her coming years of womanhood that she had suitors lined up. Sesshomaru distanced himself from the village for some time. Kaede explained that she had asked Sesshomaru to not interfere in the human traditions, and it would be bad for Rin’s image to be seen with the Great Dog Lord. It took quite some time for Rin to come to terms and forgive Kaede for her actions, but ultimately it was InuYasha that had convinced Rin it would be for the best.

For years Rin turned down numerous suitors, Kohaku was among them. Kohaku had tried tirelessly to gain Rin’s affection whenever he had been around, but he would leave eventually. Just as Sesshomaru had many times before. No, she had wanted someone that would stay by her side, get to know her, and eventually she did find it. She found the companionship she had longed for in a young lord of a neighboring region. The Ambassador’s procession had been passing through Kaede’s village when the caravan was ordered to stop. As the story goes the Ambassador commissioned many paintings of Rin and returned to his lordship with them.

A month past before the young lord, Ichiro, decided to visit the village. Rin was quite bashful in the beginning, but the young lord eventually won her over with numerous letters that was exchanged through out the following months. Rin was married to Ichiro in the Fall of the next year. It was two years later than Rin birthed a daughter named Ameki. The following years were blissful.

Ichiru died 3 weeks before Ameki turned 18. Ichiro had no sons, and as a result his own younger brother fought for power of his estate. Rin had no desire to run the palace and neither did Ameki. Yuudai was not as kind as his late brother, and he ruled the palace and region with an iron fist. Rin wanted to leave with Ameki, but soon found out that Yuudai had other plans for his princess niece. Having a princess around would make for a good bargaining chip if he wished to cozy up to any of the lords in neighboring regions. Yuudai was eventually convinced that Ameki was becoming an old maid. Women and girls were usually married off at 15, and sometimes even before that, especially princesses. This meant that she would less appealing to the many lords of other regions.

Rin and Yuudai were at odds, but Yuudai eventually accepted that his brother’s family would be left alone and let live in the palace, especially since rumors of war started to spread. Yuudai began meeting with his council regularly. Rin began hearing rumors of the Western lands burning, and demons terrorizing humans, and human’s rising up against demons. The worst part, was that it was coming close to home, and the Great Dog Lord had been mentioned numerous times. Run hadn't seen or heard from him since the day of her wedding, and all she remembered that day was the faint white orb that seemed to hover above the clouds.

 

Yamato Castle

Ameki thought it strange that her mother, Rin, kept searching the North Western sky at night. She would bring her mother tea and they would set on the balcony and reminisce of simpler days. Ameki glanced toward the south where her uncle's army was garrisoned and ready to move out at dawn. War was pushing the regions borders, and she knew her uncle Yudaai would not surrender to anyone or anything that wished it. Ameki watched as her mother’s eyes saddened at the reddened night sky.

“Yuudai will only hasten the fall of this region if he sends his army to invade. He should simply send them to the borders as a defense.” Rin turned her gaze toward Ameki who had spoken.

“I suppose so…” Rin trailed off.

“That is what you are worried about isn’t it?” Ameki asked, gaining another glance from Rin. Rin chuckled slightly in Response and sighed.

“Yes, partly. Maybe you should be the one giving the orders around here. You have your father’s wits about you that's for sure. Your uncle Yuudai is too foolhardy.” Rin was only partly kidding as she turned her gaze back to the North West. The red glow low in the sky was no doubt the war front. Another region, dominated by the rogue Demons who had allied with wicked men and bandits.

Rin recalled her childhood once more, the bandits who had killed her family, and there after the demons who had slaughtered the village that had taken her in as an orphan. Those thoughts led to more memories that Rin actually considered to be precious. They were memories that could have been considered diamonds in the rough. She thought of her many journey’s with Lord Sesshomaru. Lord Sesshomaru had been a God in her eyes. Deep down he still was, but Rin knew he had made his decision to protect her. She didn’t hold any ill will toward the great dog demon any longer. After years of watching her daughter Ameki grow up, she had come to appreciate the chance at life Sesshomaru had given her.

“You are always so quiet when you look to the Northwest, even before these rumors of war.” Ameki said softly. Rin swallowed.

“I grew up there. It was, for a long time, my home.” Rin smiled at the memories of living in Kaede’s village. Kagome, the strange woman who always shouted the incantation that sent InuYasha into a dirt filled obedience, Sango and Miroku with all of their children, and even Kohaku. Kohaku had been her best friend. That was until he had begun competing for her affections like all of the other young men in the village.

“You’ve never said much about your past. Father would always tell me stories of how you were the fairest maiden in all of the north, but never anything else.” Ameki smiled as she reflected in her own memories.

“Ichiro always was one for flattery.” Both of them giggled at Rin’s comment.

“In all honesty though dear…” Rin trailed off before continuing.

“I was orphaned in the most unusual way. I later grew up in a small village where a priestess shaped and molded my mind. I had so many bad habits for a lady. I didn’t start wearing shoes until I was well into my 10th year.” Rin smiled fondly at those memories, but it only puzzled Ameki.

“I’m sorry you had to live that way mother.” Ameki tried to amend something that wasn’t her fault in any way. Rin only shook her head.

“It wasn’t terrible child. These shoes can be so uncomfortable sometimes.” Rin playfully wiggled her foot for dramatics causing Ameki to giggle into her sleeve.

The rest of the evening was spent by Rin sharing stories of her life in the small village in the land of Musashi. Ameki seemed completely enthralled in her tales of the half dog demon, InuYasha and his miko wife, Kagome. She explained their journey’s as they had been told to her over evening meals and working in the fields. Rin never once mentioned the one person that meant most to her. The only person she had ever shared her memories of Sesshomaru with was Ameki’s father, Ichiro. A part of Rin didn’t want Ameki to know she had been partially raised by a demon. Ameki knew of demons, but with the rumors of the demon uprisings, Rin feared what reaction Ameki would have.

Rin tossed and turned that night while trying to sleep. The castle was eerily quiet considering the battle was almost upon them. There were moments where Rin wanted nothing more than to pack and take Ameki as far from the castle as possible, but that would be cowardly. She knew that her daughter belonged there with her friends and family. Yuudai did not have a wife, but his concubine had given him three children, all of which Ameki adored.

Rin’s dreams were filled with fire. Demon’s and men alike slaughtered people she knew, villagers that would visit the castle, people within the castle, Ameki’s family… her family. Then there was Yuudai, mad with power, and too prideful to retreat. He kept sending men to their deaths in a hopeless battle, a battle that was impossible to win. The castle was in flames, and Rin couldn’t find Ameki, but she could hear her screams. She pushed her way through the heavy smoke that filled the halls, nearly tripping over bodies that littered the floors. Ameki’s screams were getting closer, but everytime she would go near the room the hall would appear as if it had lengthened placing the door farther away. Rin began screaming, a fit of tears escaped her and she had to force herself not to choke on the smoke. She began calling out for someone to help her, anyone to help her. That was when he appeared before her. Like a fierce wind that pushed the smoke away, and a sight that appeared and diminished her fear. Lord Sesshomaru.

Ameki heard her mother’s night terror from down the hall. She was used to it by now. The last few nights had been filled with her mother’s cries. She waited at her mother’s door, preparing herself for the anguished sight she would see once she entered. She placed her hands on the thin panel but froze as she heard her mother’s voice in a serene tone.

“Lord Sesshomaru, you came for me.” Rin’s voice had softened from her previous wails.

A week passed and scouts scurried to and from the castle with reports of the armies progress into the Northern region. Yuudai was constantly one edge and Ameki knew to keep her distance when he was like that. He would pace the court yard and bark orders to anyone and everyone, Ameki was no exception. She steered clear of the courtyard, and even took the opportunity to visit the village that lay below the castle in the rolling prairie lands.

Rin had taught Ameki to be humble among the people in the village. She had taught her to respect the workers who provided sustenance to everyone around them, and Ameki had always had a soft spot for the orphans in the village, now she suspected she knew why. A part of her must have always felt that side of her mother. She hadn’t known, but Rin had always been kind to them, and so had Ameki. She didn’t wear her finery into the village. She sported a simple purple yukata, but people immediately recognized their princess and bowed in her passing.

Ameki made her way to the far side of the village where a small grove of wild flowers grew. It was a place that her and her mother had often visited when she was a child, and became a place where she could find Solitude after her father’s passing. It had been a little over a year since her father had died. They had recently celebrated her 19th birthday, and Yuudai had thought it comical to arrange a celebration that was themed as a sort of “auction” to dance with the old maid on her birthday. It was all in good humor, but deep down Ameki did feel a bit insulted at her uncle’s jokes. Afterall, it hadn’t been that long ago that he had tried to give her hand in marriage to an older lord in a southern region.

Ameki sat among the many wild flowers and listened to the sounds of the babbling brook near the pathway. Behind her was the dirt path she had tread through the village and fields to get there. The little area was semi secluded by shrubs and wild bushes. No one from the village could see her, but anyone approaching the village would, and it didn’t surprise her when a courier clad in armor appeared from the tree line and beaten path.

The man, no, the boy was much younger than Ameki. She could tell by the small amount of stubble that stuck out in patches on his chin that he wasn’t a seasoned veteran by no means. He approached her, breathless in demeanor. His legs were shaking as if he had ran all the way from wherever he was coming from.

“Princess…” He said breathlessly. Ameki stood and quickly nodded her head, giving him permission to continue.

“You need to get back to the castle as soon as possible. It’s not safe, they are coming.” The young boy took a step forward and collapsed onto one knee. The view of the arrow protruding from his shoulder came into Ameki’s sight, causing her to gasp loudly and drop down beside him to aid in any way possible.

“What has happened?” She gently touched the arrow which caused the young man to wince and inhale sharply.

“They pushed us back over the borders in a retreat. They don’t rest, they don’t need it. For men it would be a three day march, but for monsters it could be only one. Don’t worry about me princess…” He trailed off as he attempted to catch his breath again.

“Tell lord Yuudai that we tried our best, and most men stayed to fight and lost their lives.” He bent over and lost himself into a coughing fit. Ameki tried to steady his shoulders enough for him to catch his breath once more.

“The rumors never mentioned demons fighting other demons, but both sides are attacking humans if they interfere.” Ameki was completely confused by his words. Her uncle had sent his army to dispatch of the demon/human coalition, but demons fighting demons?

“I don’t know what to make of this information, I’m sorry.” Ameki tilted the young man’s head up to look into her eyes.

“Please, don’t try to move. I’m going to go find someone to help you. I’ll bring the physician and some guardsmen.” Ameki smiled slightly, trying to ease the tension of the situation.

She sped through the planting fields and straight into the village only coming to a halt when she approached the physician’s hut. Luck would have it a few guardsmen were already there having the physician tend to wounds that had been inflicted during training.

When Ameki was sure the young man would be taken care of she found her uncle, Lord Yuudai. He was in his usual area of the courtyard where a few guardsman soared their arrows into dummies fashioned from bags of rice. Ameki wasted no time, and spared formalities.

“My Lord, the demons are near.” Yuudai cocked a brow. Ameki had succeeded in drawing his attention away from the criticism he was clearly prepared to bestow upon the new guardsmen.

“Where did this information come from?” Yuudai turned his form toward her and stiffened his shoulders.

“I was in the grove-” Yuudai held his hand up and sighed.

“You shouldn’t wander too far in times of war. I’ll have to speak with your mother about this.” Ameki was almost astonished at his lack of attention to detail. She had valuable information that a young man had risked his life for to deliver and her uncle, the Lord Yuudai, was more concerned about her visiting a grove.

“I understand my lord, but I intercepted one of your scouts. He was badly injured.” Yuudai clicked his tongue and motioned for her to walk with him.

Ameki explained the events that unfolded in the grove, and told him all of the information that had been given to her by the young man. Yuudai soon left to have the scout moved to the palace healer instead of the town physician. Ameki took his departure as permission to make her own.

Rin watched from the balcony facing the courtyard, and listened to the echo of words that bounced off of the tall courtyard walls. There was no doubt in her mind who would be commanding one of the demon armies. Lord Sesshomaru was close. She turned on her heel and briskly walked back into the palace. The thrumming of blood in her ears was proof enough that she was not prepared to lay eyes on the man who had made it possible for her to have a life. No, he did not hand her every luxury she currently had, but he had been kind enough, even with as reputed as his reputation was toward humans, to take in an orphan and protect her. He had not been the best guardian for such a young child, but he ultimately remedied the situation after leaving her in the village with Kaede. Those actions alone had made it possible for her to find her husband, and bring her daughter into the world.

Rin sorted through the possibilities in her mind. Two demon armies fighting against each other more than likely meant someone had attempted to overthrow Sesshomaru’s rule. Meaning that particular demon must have been immensely powerful themself. Rin’s mind wandered to her old home village. Kaede had died a few years after Rin’s marriage, and Kagome had taken over the Miko duties that were left in her passing. War ravaged the Northern Regions, but Surely InuYasha and anyone else who held sympathy for the humans would have protected such villages.

Rin tried her best to put such worries out of her mind. The Yamato Castle was now in the direct path of the war it would seem. Rin hastened her steps to the maid quarters. She wasn’t sure what plans Yuudai had for the upcoming invasion, but she was going to make sure that everyone in the castle that did not have to stay for honor would be gone. She burst through the doors, surprising a few maids who sat at a small table in the center of the room. One maid had been sipping tea, which was now evident on the front of her Obi. Rin wasted no time on formalities.

“Please, do not panic there is still time. Though I do say this with utmost urgency. Find anyone who wishes to leave the castle and take them to the village. From there gather the villagers and move farther south.” Rin spoke without taking a breath causing her to feel a tad light headed. She gathered herself before answering the onslaught of questions directed toward her.

Ameki made her way to the village once more. She didn’t want to leave these people oblivious, as her uncle was surely to do. Appearance was everything to him, and if he warned them of the upcoming invasion it would make him appear weak. His armies were not able to hold off the intruders in his region, and now everything would fall back to the castle front. He would want every man, woman and child to pick up a weapon before he would so easily lose. Ameki knew deep down that it had not been Yuudai’s fault that he was this way. Her father, Ichiro, had often told her stories of her grandfather’s great feats in securing this castle long before he had been born. Ichiro had also mentioned that his younger brother Yuudai had been molded more into his father’s image than Ichiro had been. Ichiro took most of his qualities from his mother, who had been a merchant’s daughter, before becoming the wife to the Lord of the Region. Yuudai was battle hardened, but Ichiro had charisma.

Ameki did not want to draw attention to herself, doing so might have caught her uncle’s attention. Instead she walked from hut, to house, to shop and told people individually of the possibility of a battle. A few individuals didn’t even seem surprised. Most of the commoners and peasants had already migrated to this region to escape their war torn homes.

“At this rate there will be nowhere left to go…” Whispered an old man that sat in the corner of his market stall.

“We will just have to keep moving papa. We made a good bit of coin while we were here though.” Said a young woman about Ameki’s age. She smiled sadly at Ameki and motioned the old man to the hut nearest the stall. Ameki noticed a few more people in the village that she had seen many times at the castle. They were whispering hushed words. A maid she recognized rushed up to a guardsman and embraced him. Parents began ushering their children to the road headed South East with little more than what they could carry on their backs.

The sight before Ameki saddened her. Everything, everyone she knew would either be relocating or waiting out the battle to return. She sent a silent prayer to the sky in hopes that the ancestors of the many individuals leaving would hear and guide them to safety.

Rin wanted nothing more than for her daughter to leave the palace. She went over the idea of running away with her in her head numerous times, but knew that forcing her daughter to abandon her home, her domain, would be wrong. Even if Yuudai had known that Rin were at fault, he would still punish the princess, and ban her from these lands. Rin guided Ameki, and the remaining people who chose to remain at the castle to the lower quarters that were reinforced with stone. Rin remembered many battles that had involved demons from her days traveling with lord Sesshomaru. The stone walls wouldn’t hold for long if the demons decided to target the castle. Most of the upper floors were made of wood and would vanish quickly in the flaming battle that neared the castle walls.

Yuudai had gathered the remainder of his forces and every man that had decided to stay behind. All were equipped with weapons from the castle armory, and where there was a shortage, peasants armed with field shovels and hoes. Most of the women in the castle now accompanied Ameki and Rin in the stone Corridors. It wasn’t long until the booming sound of thunder could be heard, and a battle broke out from all sides of the castle. Ameki stayed rather calm, being trained as a princess gave her qualities to stay strong in the face of her people. Rin, though rather terrified, was in awe of her daughter’s bravery as the beams and floor above them shook, and the loud noises from beyond the stonework could be heard.

The battle raged on for what seemed like an eternity in Rin’s mind. She continued her silent prayers, and even did her best to soothe the cries of the women surrounding her. One woman, maybe a few years younger than Ameki, was swollen with the promise of life. Ameki held her smallest cousin in her arms. Rin could see the dire state of their situation waning her daughter’s composure. Her eyes were more frantic than they had been in the beginning of the battle. Yuudai’s mistress, Soaku, comforted her other two children as their soft wails continued into her Kimono.

Among the many noises that surrounded them, Rin heard a familiar screech on the other side of the barricaded door. It was a sound that made her heart race in leaps and bounds. A sound that almost brought joy into her defeated heart.

“Staff of two heads!” out of the corner of Rin's eye she caught sight of Ameki throwing herself in front of a group of women that were huddled in the corner. Ameki's littlest cousin was now in Soaku's arms. The once barricaded door sent debris all over the stone room as it exploded. Rin huddled behind a few weapon stands that sat bare, giving her little cover from the smaller debris, but deflecting the large splintered boards that sailed through the air.

A small silhouette stood in the doorway, Rin began making out his little green shriveled features as the dust settled. Most of the women shrieked at the sight of him, but Rin noticed that Ameki stood strong, shielding everyone behind her.

“Rin!!! I half expected to find something similar to the old hag we left you with, but this is more pleasing to the eyes!!!” Rin watched as Jaken clumsily navigated through the debris, and bounced up to Ameki. Without hesitation Ameki brought her foot up and shoved the shrieking imp to the floor where she pinned him down.

“Hey, What are you doing you insolent woman!!! This is no way to greet your master!” Jaken choked the last few words out as he took in Ameki’s features.

“Wait.... You aren’t-” Jaken’s words were cut short as Ameki applied pressure to the foot she had lodged against his chest. Rin took that as her que to make her presence known.

“That is my daughter master Jaken.” Rin stepped out from behind the armor stand.

“Let him go Ameki.” Rin said with a light tone, trying to reassure her daughter with her softened eyes. A few of the women squealed in displeasure at Rin’s request. Ameki glanced back down at the wiggling imp beneath her foot, unsure if letting him go would be wise. Eventually she released him, stepping back with caution. The little imp coughed and cleared his throat as he stood.

“It figures the blossom wouldn’t fall far from the tree. She’s just as disobedient as you were Rin.” Ameki took a step toward the imp and replied.

“Disobedience would mean you were still pinned to the floor, but if that is what you want…” Ameki slightly raised her leg as a threat. Jaken’s eyes widened as he scurried a few steps backwards.

“That’s enough, the both of you.” Rin said with a stern tone. This was no time to be quarrelling. If
Master Jaken had arrived, then no doubt Sesshomaru was somewhere nearby.

“How do you know this toad mother?” Ameki asked with a puzzled stare.

“It’s a long story my dear.” Rin replied, turning back to Jaken.

“Why are you here?” Rin asked, hoping that Jaken would keep it short and sweet, and not like most of the long winded lectures she remembered from childhood.

“Lord Sesshomaru was right. He knew you wouldn’t leave the castle. Such a foolish woman you are Rin. Though I’m glad to see you are nothing like that prune of a woman we left you with. That much is a relief.” Rin didn’t have time to reply before a large Ogre demon burst into the room through a wall. The only thing resembling clothing on the beast was animal and demon pelts it had wrapped around its waste. A few of the pelts looked fresh. Jaken stepped in front of Rin with his staff prepared.

“What are you all waiting for?” Jaken screeched.

“Run through the door, escape this place.” He opened a bout of flames toward the ogre, sending it off balance as it tried to shield itself from the flesh searing pain. The ogre stumbled into the area where most of the women had previously been huddled, slamming into the wall. The whole room seemed to shake as stone crumbled under his weight. A few beams fell, separating Rin from Ameki. Ameki turned back in the doorway, just in time to see the roof collapse onto the area of the room where the ogre, the little imp, and her mother had been.

“Mother!!!” Ameki screamed as tears sprang to her eyes. The screams of the women fleeing down the hall behind Ameki faded into the sounds of the ongoing battle around them. Ameki stood in absolute horror as she watched the debris settle. The whole area was covered in heavy wooden beams and everything that had occupied the floor above them. Tears soaked Ameki’s face as her breath halted, and her heart shattered.

In the distance the battle raged on. The Great Dog Demon continued his attacks, and elegantly maneuvered around oncoming blows. Attack after attack would not, and could not slow his stride. The one detail that did cause him to halt, was the smell of salt and flowers that wafted through the thick smell of blood that surrounded him.

Chapter Text

~Ameki~

Ameki couldn’t find the strength to move from her position on the floor. The pain and utter shock of what she had witnessed had numbed her limbs. She felt as if she herself had been crushed by the beams that lay just a few feet from her. An orange glow from the outside now blanketed the room. The smell of smoke and something more vulgar entered her senses. The rubble before her began to shudder, and a low growl broke through to the surface. Ameki made no attempt to flee as she watched the large ogre tear back the rubble as it stood. She closed her eyes for just a moment. The previous scene she had witnessed replayed over and over again. Her mother’s frantic eyes were what she remembered the most.

Among all of the other noises that now filled the destroyed room, she could make out the small screech of the green imp, trying to remove something that had pinned him down. For a moment this gave her hope. The little imp, Jaken, had survived the collapse. She knew he was a demon, but maybe, just maybe her mother could have survived as well. She watched the still disoriented ogre fumble around with the debris that surrounded him. She took her chance and darted forward to the area where she had last seen her mother. She tried for a few moments to remove the rubble, eventually the effort wore on her as no progress was made, and she began calling out to her mother.

“Mother, please! Say something!” Her tears continued to roll down her cheeks as she struggled with all her might to push a wooden beam ten times her size off of the rubble that contained her mother. She felt the vibration from all around as the ogre turned its attention back to her. She looked back over her shoulder and slightly shuddered at the terror that gazed at her. The ogre’s flesh, though already grotesque, was now burned severely in places, and even seemed to hang from its body. The sight made Ameki’s already unsettled stomach churn even more. Her hand found her mouth as she masked an involuntary scream.

Ameki wanted nothing more than to run, but in the process of trying to clear the debris away, she had managed to pin herself into a small space where escape would not be easy. She heard the screech of the little imp once more as he crawled from beneath the rubble. The ogre’s attention turned to him for a moment. Jaken brought the staff up again, and slammed it against a few wooden boards that he had clambered atop.

“How dare you!!!” The imp screamed with tear filled eyes. He scanned the room, obviously looking for something. Jaken turned his attention back to the ogre.

“Lord Sesshomaru will have both of our lives. You have sealed our fate.” The ogre didn’t seem to be listening to the small emotional imp. Jaken released the flames once more, but was too late. The ogre backhanded the small imp through the hole he had made in the wall upon his entrance. The ogre’s attention was now back on Ameki, who had managed to wiggle from her position in the rubble, and now sat atop the debris.

The ogre lunged quickly, but Ameki threw her weight, sending her body into a roll down the pile of debris. Ameki could feel where her body rolled over the uneven obstructions on the way down. Her breath caught for a moment when she reached the bottom, and a sharp intake of breath sent pain like daggers through her side. She looked down, and noticed that the light blue yukata she wore was now stained with red and a small splinter of wood about the size of two fingers was protruding from her obi.

Ameki quickly turned, trying not to irritate her side anymore than it already was. The pain slightly caused her to wince as she took in the sight she had escaped. The ogre turned toward her after landing a blow to where she had once been. Ameki didn’t have time to retrieve her mother, and in the current situation, if she were still alive then hidden in the debris would be for her safety. Ameki needed to draw this ogre away from the room. Having an ogre stomping around on the debris her mother lay under would definitely not aid the situation.

Ameki grabbed the wood that protruded from her side and halted her breath. With one quick motion she pulled. As the impalement was released so did her voice with a small whimper. She threw the debris down, and rose to her feet quickly as the ogre stumbled toward her losing his balance on the obstructions before it. She raced toward the door where the other women who had previously accompanied her in the room had escaped. There was no sign of them now, and Akemi could only pray that they made it safely out of the castle. She took one last glance back at the towering beast that tore its way through the debris towards her. She bolted down the hall with all the stamina she could muster.

~Sesshomaru~

Sesshomaru could smell it. Something he had not smelled in decades. Rin’s blood. It was an overpowering scent that he could recognize anywhere. He turned his gaze toward the castle which was now in flames. Jaken had been ordered to get Rin out of there, and his failure would be met with death. Sesshomaru elegantly sidestepped a swing from his nemesis, even while distracted.

“What’s wrong Sesshomaru?” Yakunan sneered.

Yakunan was a brute of a demon, but powerful nonetheless. His scaled skin resembled that of a snake, but his eyes were that of a dragon. Yakunan had taken many names over the centuries, but his favorite was Jiaolong. The spiraled horns that were erected from beneath his long dark hair represented his legacy of the Horned Dragon’s from the Western continent across the vast Sea. His business here was simply domination. A game he liked to play an advantage with. Dragon’s were still not seen as demon’s where Yakunan was from, but Sesshomaru could see through his aura, to the real origin of Jiaolong blood. He was a Phantasm, a dark one, taking humanoid form to deceive all who followed him. However, in battle, his true form seeped through. The dark gray scales that lined his skin was brought forth to be used as his armor.

Sesshomaru ignored Yakunan’s question. Realizing he simply asked to try and get under his skin. No real concern was evident by the way he grinned maliciously. Yakunan had a reason for attacking this particular castle. In every other region the war had waged Yakunan had simply destroyed villages and farms, only elements that got in his way. No, he knew coming here would cause Sesshomaru an extent of distress.

“That human pet of yours?” Yakunan feigned ignorance and settled for a mock look of curiosity.

“I thought you got rid of her, along with all of your other weaknesses?” Yakunan laughed a hearty bellow.

“Well, either way. That must mean you still have other weaknesses hidden. I’ll find them.” Yakunan darted forward with his sword readied to swing. Sesshomaru dodged again, but this time he didn’t hesitate. Sesshomaru gained height with each step, disappearing into the fray that was taking place in the sky. Yakunan didn’t pursue. Afterall, this war was just a power play, and the game was just beginning.

If the smell of Rin’s blood hadn’t been the foremost thought in Sesshomaru’s mind, he was certain that he could have knocked Yakunan down to size. Yakunan was becoming arrogant, and this game of his was becoming tiresome. Sesshomaru made his way to the blazing castle in the distance, the village below it was completely decimated. The many buildings that lined his view were destroyed, and others were set ablaze. The main front of the battlezone was at the castle already. He could see the last of the humans trying in vain to defend what was theirs. He could see a few of his own soldiers trying to lend aid where it was needed, but the humans ended up turning on them as well.

Sesshomaru wasn’t expecting any other result. These humans would never join forces, or realize the demons were trying to aid them as long as they didn’t appear human. It was true that humans and demons were too different to coexist, many demons thought mortals to be below them. Sesshomaru had thought the same for many centuries. That was until he met the little mortal girl that warmed his fluff. Sure Sesshomaru still seen himself as superior, but through the years of having Rin at his side he discovered that there must have been more to the grand design of things. He was still seemingly heartless toward mortals, but the very few mortals that took the chance to get to know him, knew that he had a softer side. Not much of one, but it was progress. His father would have been proud, and Sesshomaru wasn’t sure how that made him feel.

Sesshomaru turned his attention away from the skirmish below. Their quarrels didn’t interest him. What did catch his attention was his servant Jaken, who was running back toward an opening in the wall on the western side of the castle, an area where the flames had not reached. He landed without sound, Jaken didn’t even realize he was there. He watched as Jaken tried aimlessly to remove the rubble that was scattered in the room. The scent of Rin’s blood was extremely strong in the area, causing Sesshomaru’s step to falter as he caught sight of something that turned his blood to ice. A small stream of blood pooled around a pale hand that was just barely visible at the edge of the debris field.

With lightning speed Sesshomaru moved. Jaken was knocked back once again by Sesshomaru’s motions. Within what seemed like a blink of the eye, the rubble was dispatched. Rin lay on the ground, her breath coming in small shallow waves. Her drooping eyes were slightly open, and the only thing she focused on was her lord.

“Lord...Sesshomaru…” She trailed off as Sesshomaru knelt down. Time seemed to stop around them as he gazed down at his precious Rin. The one mortal that could make him move mountains if she had only wished it. He had distanced himself soon after her marriage to the lord of this castle. He knew it would be for the best, and hoped that one day she would forget about him. Deep down though, there was a part of him that had been torn at the thought. Rumors of treason started in his ranks. Spies that had allied themselves with a new power in Edo spread through his ranks. He knew in the beginning what would happen, that anyone who wished to usurp him would no doubt exploit his weaknesses. Somehow though, through all of his efforts to avoid such a situation, here he was. He gazed down at the woman before him. She had aged gracefully, and still seemingly carried her youthful eyes. A trait that he had always been drawn to.

Sesshomaru’s hand snaked out to grab Rin’s chilled one. She managed a smile up at the great dog demon before her.

“You came for me.” She let out a small sigh and closed her eyes. Sesshomaru honed his senses in to listen to her heart, a heart that was quickly slowing. Rin opened her eyes once again, this time trying to gain a little strength in her actions and words.

“I would never ask you for anything after giving me so much…” She paused in her weakened state to gauge his reaction. Sesshomaru’s face almost seemed as if it were carved from stone, his eyes though, were warm and even seemed saddened. Rin felt a slight pressure on her hand that Sesshomaru held, and his facade faltered. A frown creased his brow, and his nostrils flared as he stared down at his dying Rin. This time he could not save her. This time he was not meant to save her, because she should not have been in harm's way. She was supposed to be safe. That is why he had left her with the humans. Everything had been in vain, and the Great Lord Sesshomaru found himself in an internal struggle with his failure.

Rin had seen Sesshomaru angry, she had seen him even smile. She had seen the many devious grins he had presented to Jaken in the past, but never once had Rin witnessed such sadness cross the great dog demon’s flawless face. It wasn’t a look that Rin approved of. The God in her memories was perfect beyond compare, and this sad demon before her did not sit well with her dwindling conscience.

“Because of you, I’ve lived a life that I would do all over again.” She smiled up at her lord.

“From my earliest memories, my family was perfect. I lost them, but I gained a companionship that changed my life. Lord Sesshomaru, I have no regrets. My life was made possible through your actions.” Sesshomaru’s pointed ear twitched as she spoke. She would groom his pride one last time.

“My lord, Thank you. For all of your sacrifices that I did not deserve.” A cough escaped Rin’s lips, and a shudder engulfed her body. A slight convulsion instinctively caused Sesshomaru to reach for his tenseiga, but he knew that it would not work this time. Rin had already been brought back by the sword once in her life when she had been but a small child, and a pack of wolf demons had taken her life. The sword had surprised him in those days, and had wished for the child to be brought back to life. The cold irony of the moment was the silence the sword left, and the void area where the sword did not pulse. His hand left tenseiga. This time, Lord Sesshomaru could not save her.

Rin soon recovered from her fit of coughs, but Sesshomaru could tell that she did not have much time left.

“I ask only one thing. My daughter…” She trailed off and looked to Jaken who had scurried back into the room.

“You choosing to leave me in that village gave me a chance at life. I have a daughter. My only child. She’s all that I have.” Rin smiled at the thought of Ameki.

“I do not wish to see her in the afterlife so soon. I want her to have a chance at life.” Sesshomaru’s grip on Rin’s hand tightened. Rin bore a child, and Sesshomaru had never known. It had truly been a long time since Sesshomaru had made the difficult decision to cut his ties. He expected her to have duties as a wife, and he wasn’t sure why he had never thought about her having a family, but the idea perplexed him. His Rin, having children of her own. It was almost too surreal for him. His memory flashed back to Rin’s warm smile she often carried as a child. Rin’s child had to be protected.

“I promise to protect her Rin.” Jaken’s eyes widened as he looked to his lord in utter shock. Lord Sesshomaru had promised, without hesitation to protect another mortal. Someone who was not Rin. The fact that Lord Sesshomaru had even voiced the promise had petrified Jaken’s mental state.

With the last of her Strength, Rin lifted her arm and cupped Sesshomaru’s cheek with her hand. With her last breath, she whispered…

“Always remember me?”

~Akemi~

 

Ameki’s eyes watered as she ran through the smoke filled castle. Bursting outside of the castle had sent a small bit of relief to her struggling senses, but what she saw caused a new discomfort. The ground was littered with corpses. Humans and Demons alike. Most of their faces were twisted in anguish, displaying the pain they had felt in their final moments of life. A few dismembered body parts were strewn throughout the area. Ameki lost what little she had in her stomach. She didn’t have much time to gather herself before the ogre appeared, taking out half of the wall beside what was left of the castle’s front entrance. A few demon’s were still fighting around the exterior of the castle. Ameki took off in the direction down toward the village. From the large steps she could see the battle raging below as well.

The ogre, though clumsy, began his pursuit in long strides. Ameki raised the bottom of her yukata to give her legs more room and took off toward the village down the long flight of twisting stone stairs. She came to the bottom, glancing back up to where the ogre tumbled and flailed as it tried to catch her. She turned back around to access the battle before her. There were no humans in sight. Only demons fought in this area. Each new demon she seen seemed to scare her a little more each time. There were humanoid creatures with features of bats, large furry varmints clad in armor, and even floating apparitions that somehow gained solidity in battle. Ameki took one more look at the burning castle with the ogre approaching in her peripheral.

Ameki ached at the sight before her. The castle was collapsing in on itself. The top floors were the first to go, setting in motion a chain of events that tore at Ameki’s heart. Her mother was still in that castle. She knew her mother would want her to flee. It’s what her mother had wanted from the beginning. She had heard the night terrors many times since the rumors of a battle surfaced. Rin had wanted to leave all along. Ameki turned her attention away from the sight that was now behind her. The ogre was gaining ground on her. She cut down a path that veered away from the blazing village and ongoing slaughter. Her feet beat hard on the dirt path that trailed into the vast farming fields. She didn’t know where she would go, but before she could even think of forming a plan, she needed to lose this ogre demon.

The sun had already gone down, darkening the sky. It had been the alarm for battle as the many eyes had scanned the orange glow from the forests nearby. The late hours of the night were upon her, and the darkened forests were no place for women at night. Especially women who were being pursued. Only when Ameki was sure that she was out of sight of the ogre, did she stop to take a rest. She could still hear the loud battle cries in the distance, the strange languages that were shouted and the animalistic sounds that echoed through the forest. Thankfully though, she did not hear the loud hulking footsteps that had chased her previously.

She sat back in the nook of a huge tree base, trying to conceal herself from anyone or anythings vision. Tears formed in her eyes once more. The horrors she had witnessed haunted her mind like the apparitions that manifested in the battle field. She could feel the weight in her chest growing. What had become of all those women? What had happened to Yuudai, and did his mistress and their children make it out? Rin knew her mother didn’t. That is what crushed her the most. It had been wishful thinking to suspect that her mother could have still been alive. Though with as helpless as the situation had turned out, Ameki was relieved that her mother wouldn’t have to burn alive in the collapsing castle, the place that was once her home.

Through Ameki’s grief she could still feel the stabbing pain in her side. She glanced down, realizing she couldn’t see well in the dim lit night. The only source of light was the pale moon’s glow that shown dimly through the canopy of trees. She lightly applied pressure to the area of her yukata just above her obi. The pain intensified on contact, and Ameki’s fingers were instantly warmed with thick liquid. The amount of blood was not dangerously high, but the scent would no doubt attract predators, or worse.

She could feel the fatigue pulling at her body and mind. The disaster and horrors that she had witnessed was wearing on her, but Ameki knew that falling asleep in a place like this could cost her what life she had left. Her chest hurt from breathing in so much smoke, her legs hurt from sprinting trying to gain good distance away from the ogre, and her heart hurt because of all that she had lost. She wanted nothing more than to just ball up and cry. She was nothing more than a helpless girl now. She had no one left to put on a strong front for, and so she let herself collapse inward. The guilt, the tears and heartache all came forward. She was feeling pain that she had only tasted with her father’s death. This pain was unlike anything she had ever felt, and it drowned out any physical pain that she had already forgotten.

She heard the crunch of boots landing on solid dirt on the opposite side of the tree. Ameki instantly quieted her low onslaught of whimpers and sobs as a new fear gripped her body. She was no longer alone. She instantly felt as if eyes from all over the forest pierced her hiding spot. She hunkered farther down, trying to hide from anyone who might be searching for the source of the previous sounds. Whatever was with her now, had come from the sky, and no human she knew could fly. Footsteps began their rhythmic pattern as they tread around the entirety of the tree. They seemed to pace a few feet from the crevice she had crawled into. She kept her head down, and dared not peer at what stood just a few feet away from her. She heard the low baritone of a male’s voice.

“There is no need to be afraid.” It sounded human enough, but demon’s were tricksters who could parade around in human form, and she was no fool. She stayed quiet and could only hope that the darkness would keep her concealed.

A few moments passed before the footsteps began again, only this time they were coming for her hiding spot. She expected to be grabbed and drug from the safety of the tree trunk, but all she felt was the cold sting of steel as something pierced her center. She could not take a breath as the shock hit her. Only pain bubbled in the area where she tried to expand her lungs. In her final moments she opened her eyes. Before her, knelt down, was a glowing image that etched itself into her final thoughts. A man that could have almost passed as a God, had she not known him to be a demon, knelt before her. His long dark hair seemingly swayed in the non-existent wind revealing his fiery eyes. This beautiful man withdrew his sword and whispered.

“It’s nothing personal...”

Chapter Text

~Sesshomaru~

 

Jaken's tear filled eyes were something Sesshomaru had become accustomed to in the many years the imp had served him. This time though was different. Instead of the usual dramatic wails that generally accompanied Jaken's tears, there was silence. Sesshomaru gently laid Rin's body against Ah-un’s back. The two headed dragon demon let out a low pitched groan. To the untrained ear it would sound like a typical beast sound, but Sesshomaru could hear the sorrow laced into it. Ah-Un had been very fond of Rin, and vice versa.

Sesshomaru quickly sent them on their way after giving Jaken a few instructions. Sesshomaru could feel his demon's anger boiling below the surface. His own beast inside wanted out. Sesshomaru had never been one to show much emotion, and for most of his life he had even succeeded in shutting out most of them. That had been until he met the little girl in the woods who had tried to nurse him while he had been wounded. From that point on things had changed. Slowly albeit, but nonetheless, he opened himself to emotions he had left with his own childhood.

Sesshomaru took to the sky once more. He could still smell the scent of flowers and salt. It was a fading scent, but still there. The closer he came to the forest, the stronger the scent became. He had smelled a hint of blood that slightly resembled Rin's prior to leaving the castle as well. Now the scent of the blood was what drove him. Rin's daughter had been wounded in the castle. The smell was only faint in the beginning, but now it seemed to blanket the area. It was a thick smell that could only mean a substantial amount of blood had been lost. Sesshomaru's nose did not fail him, but for just this once he wished that it had.

A feeling of dejavu washed over him as he landed. A young woman's body lay before him face down. Sesshomaru's sight quickly adjusted to the darkness of the tree cover. A pool of blood soaked the base of a nearby tree, and a trail of blood painted the scuffs on the ground where the woman had been seemingly dragged to her current position. Sesshomaru had already identified the other scent that was now fading. Yakunan had been the one to send this woman to her demise.

Sesshomaru felt the growl begin deep in his chest. Yakunan spared nothing in his pursuit of power. Maybe this was Sesshomaru's Karma for also having lived such a life. Just deserts was not something Sesshomaru was willing to accept, especially if it meant losing what was precious to him. An image of Rin as a child flashed before his vision, a vision that soon faded to red. Sesshomaru's demonic aura tasted the air around him, the air that was filled with precious memories and wasted life.

The pulse at his side pushed his demonic nature back, bringing his thoughts of maliciously ending Yakunan to a halt. Not all was lost, and tenseiga was there to remind him of that detail he had overlooked in anger. Sesshomaru's father had forged Tenseiga to protect his mortal mistress, and mother of his half demon brother Inuyasha. It could save a hundred lives in one stroke. Its counterpart, also created to protect her, was the tessaiga, a sword that could destroy a hundred enemies in just one strike. The two swords had been forged from their father's fang, and dispersed separately to the sibling in which their father saw fit to wield each sword. Sesshomaru had always seen tenseiga as one last cruel joke dispensed from his late father, but the sword itself had changed his life and was about to aid him once again.

The sword itself was useless without him. It had been his father's way of teaching him compassion. Every time the sword had beckoned him to save a life, it had been because a small part within his own heart had felt that which he could only describe, but never admit to, as pity. The sword continued to pulsate at his side. He drew Tenseiga, catching an image in the reflection of the blade that could shake even the strongest of elite demons. Sesshomaru's anger was apparent.

He let the sword rest in his outstretched hand above the woman's body. Slowly Sesshomaru attempted to veil his emotions, and quell the demon that yearned to break free. He did not want the woman to wake up to a monster, knowing that her last thoughts had been of one. He soon calmed, the sword allowing him a glimpse of two worlds meeting. Small netherworld imps came into view. Sesshomaru could see the chains of the underworld slowly tightening around the woman's body as the imps weaved a prison of eternal slumber.

Sesshomaru's stroke was precise, and the many phantoms that had come to claim their bounty seemed to disintegrate under the flashing stroke of the blade. Sesshomaru's view of the border faded, and this world's plain came back into focus. For a few moments nothing happened. The woman’s body lay complacent on the ground, and the familiar sound of a heartbeat did not start. Sesshomaru glanced quickly down at the silent tenseiga. He had done everything right, and the woman should have been released from death's grip. He felt the slight breeze that wafted through the forest underbelly still. In complete silence he honed in to his surroundings. He heard a slight thrum began. The sound grew, but it was not from within the woman, rather it surrounded her. The sound changed into the constant rhythm of a heartbeat, and then it sounded as if it had gained an echo. The sound settled, almost silent, even to Sesshomaru's excellent hearing. It faded into the woman's body. Nothing. Complete silence.

Sesshomaru waited. It was all that he could do. He wasn't sure what had just transpired, but he planned on finding out. That's when he heard the first beat, and then another. The heartbeat from within the woman was growing stronger and stronger. Before too long the rhythm surpassed that of a normal heartbeat. The beats were erratic and hastened as the woman began breathing on her own. He could hear her gasp for air. The sharp intake of breath was followed by a deafening scream. The sound was almost too much for Sesshomaru's sensitive ears. He took a small step away from the girl as her body shook with newfound strength. The once limp woman stiffened, and her arm extended twisting so that she could grab the back of her neck. Sesshomaru watched as a dark energy swirled in the area, seeping past and through her hand. Her body writhed, and more painful groans escaped her body before she seemingly began to claw at the area beneath her hair.

Sesshomaru stepped forward, kneeling down. The girl still hadn't noticed his presence. Her complete attention was on the area that was causing a great discomfort. Sesshomaru's hand gently pulled the curtain of hair to the side, causing the woman's hand to graze his own with her nails. In the center of her now sensitive skin, was something that eerily resembled a scale. Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes at the mark that had been placed on her. The horned Dragon,Yakunan, had no doubt placed the mark. Sesshomaru stared at the mark, wondering what it could possibly mean. He didn’t like it, the events leading up to the girl’s revival had been strange, and now the mark was present on her. It was no coincidence.

Sesshomaru didn't like being toyed with, and that's exactly what Yakunan was doing. The woman’s cries started to calm as the last of the dark energy swirled into the mark. Sesshomaru watched as a bright glimmer flashed across the scale, becoming void leaving nothing but a scale. The woman’s body shook as she calmed her breathing. Turning slowly she glanced up at Sesshomaru through disheveled hair. Through her bangs, Sesshomaru could see eyes that caused hesitation within his own being. Her eyes, Rin’s eyes, peered back at him and widened in fear. She slowly crawled onto her knees, sitting in an upright position as she stared wearily at the Great Dog Lord.

Sesshomaru could feel her unease, and he could sense her emotions on the verge of plummeting. He made no sudden moves, he didn’t even attempt to approach her. He stood quietly looking at the woman before him in the moonlight that peered through the opening of the trees overhead. Her eyes were very similar to Rin’s in the dark setting. The longer he observed them in her unblinking bout of terror, the more differences he noticed. Rin’s eyes had been a rich vibrant brown, pure in color. This woman’s eyes were the same rich brown, but the iris contained specks of green around the pupil. Sesshomaru’s senses were on edge, every sense he had was currently heightened knowing that Yakunan wasn’t far away. The woman didn’t move, and her breathing was almost non-existent, as if her terror had convinced her to try and hide in plain sight.

A part of Sesshomaru’s pride wanted to take notice of such a reaction to him. He knew he was truly a sight to be feared, but that wasn’t the emotion he wanted to evoke from this woman, he didn’t want to put fear into Rin’s daughter. She would be the only remnant of Rin that he had left, but also a constant reminder that he, Lord Sesshomaru, had failed. He had promised Rin to protect her daughter, something he hadn’t needed to do, but wanted to do because she had asked him. It had been Rin’s final wish. Many demon’s seen emotions toward humans as weakness, and he too had been in those shoes for a long time. However, Rin had not been an ordinary human. She was probably the first human that hadn’t looked upon him in fear, and it slightly saddened Sesshomaru that Rin’s daughter looked at him with such terror in that moment.

“What is your name?” Sesshomaru’s lips formed the words before his mind could process and stop them. Sesshomaru was not one to try and comfort humans, or anyone for that matter. It wasn’t a habit he wanted to form, but a part of him knew that his silence would only scare her more. That part of Sesshomaru was what had made him act so out of character. The girl finally blinked under his stare. Sesshomaru could see the muscles in her face draw in a bit toward her brow. She stayed silent. Sesshomaru felt that he had done his part and his demon nature, the one that still winced at any sort of compassion, begged him to walk away. He started to turn, but saw the tears beginning to form in the woman’s eyes.

Her features had hardened slightly, as if she were remembering something. She was no longer looking at Sesshomaru, but rather through him. Her vision soon focused once more, and her fist clenched on her lap.

“Why?” She asked. Sesshomaru could hear the crack in her voice as anguish entered her tone.

“Why do you want to know my name after destroying everything I hold dear?” Her eyes narrowed as her terror was replaced with courage. Sesshomaru did not know how to answer a question that was not his to answer. He had not been the one to destroy anything if it had not been a demon that opposed him. It was not his fault that the human’s chose to fight his army as well. He would not ask his men and women to back down from such an insult.

“What name did Rin give you?” Her courage faltered as Sesshomaru uttered her mother’s name.

“I…” She trailed off, but soon answered a question with a question.

“Who are you?” Sesshomaru paused as he decided how to answer. It was apparent that Rin had never told her daughter about their past. Surely the girl would have known, probably even worshipped him as Rin had seemed to so many times before. But alas, no. This woman had no clue who he was. His pride begged at such a question. He wanted her to know who he was, so she would know what he was capable of doing, but he settled for simplicity.

“Sesshomaru.” He answered.

 

~Ameki~

 

“Sesshomaru.” The name echoed in her memory. From somewhere she had heard the name uttered. In an awful voice the name rang through her memories again. The imp that her mother had known. He had been the one to say his name. She was almost sure of it. He had addressed him as Lord, meaning this demon was one of the strong ones. She was curious as to how her mother had such alliances with beasts and she had never known. Had her father known? Ameki could feel the puzzled look on her face, and she realized quickly that the Demon before her had not used his own title. Was he trying to mask his identity? No, she felt quite silly for even thinking that. He wouldn’t have used his real name at all if that had been the case. She squirmed uncomfortable under Sesshomaru’s stare. She knew he was waiting for something. She just wasn’t sure what.

She was still completely confused as to what had happened. She remembered her run from the castle, she remembered hiding within the tree, but from what? After that all she could feel was fear as her mind raced to recall the rest. Her frantic nature tried to surface. There were more important matters at hand. There was a demon standing right in front of her, and she couldn’t understand why he hadn’t killed her yet. What did he want?

“Ameki…” She whispered. She settled with giving her own name. At this point she had decided that giving him what he wanted might better suit her own interests, and he had asked for her name.

“My name is Ameki.” She stated again trying to rectify the shakiness her first response had exposed. Her voice was much stronger the second time. Sesshomaru didn’t move, or blink, or even seem to breath. He just continued to stare at her as if his eyes were piercing her soul. She quickly felt her discomfort growing. The silence was quenching her fears, leading her imagination to dangerous places. She needed to steer clear of anything that might cause her to falter. She didn’t want to appear weak, but she didn’t want to appear threatening either, especially since she would be but a small woman compared to a strong demon.

“How do you know my mother?” Ameki could feel her eyes trying to pull themselves to the ground. She felt intimidated by his stare, but she couldn’t help but to notice that his eyes didn’t seem to express danger, rather something softer. Her question had even caused a certain more human emotion to appear in his eyes, even if it had only been a moment, Ameki noticed it. It troubled him.

“This is a topic for another time. We need to leave.” Sesshomaru’s voice was a bit demanding. It had made Ameki want to obey, but the fire in her was not out yet.

“Why should I go anywhere with you?” Ameki’s tone recovered the anger that kept flashing in and out of perspective in her already unstable line of emotions.

Ameki instantly withdrew her anger as a flash of irritation presented itself in the demon’s eyes. Sesshomaru turned as if to walk away and stopped.

“We aren’t alone.” Ameki froze at his words. As if on queue she started to notice the glimmer of eyes peering out at them from the deep forest, some even took on red hues that chilled Ameki to her bones. The air around them, once filled with the warm scents of the scenery that decorated the forest, was now cold. Ameki could smell smoke, and a small hint of what could only be decay. The eyes didn’t appear to get any closer, rather they were watching, stalking. Sesshomaru stood still. Ameki watched as he scanned the forest board surrounding them. Ameki wandered if he knew the demons.

A few twigs snapping in the distance was all it took for Sesshomaru to spring into action. A blur engulfed the position where he had been standing. Ameki lost sight of the Sesshomaru, but instantly heard the forest erupt with sounds of battle. She quickly scurried to her feet, not knowing where safety could be found. The glowing eyes that painted the backdrop before her emerged giving form to their concealed bodies. Many had the appearance of animals, but some of them looked grotesque, like something right out of a disobedient child’s bedtime story. Floating heads with exposed horns made of bone, Wispy apparitions that seemed to glitch in and out of focus constantly twisting into a more hideous form than before and then there were many types of brutish demons not so different from the ogre she had previously encountered. The back of Ameki’s neck slightly tingled, but she ignored it. She tried to find a clearing for her to escape, but it seemed hopeless as every which way she turned presented her with a new horror. She had heard of demons, but before this day she had never actually seen one. It had all been absolutely absurd for her to process, and the more contact she made with demons the more she felt as if her sanity was slipping.

Ameki turned around, catching a white blur as it raced past multiple demons. The demons fell without further gain in her direction.

“Yum, a Princess…” She turned slightly to peak toward the direction where the hideous hiss of words had come from. Ameki shivered at the sight that approached her. A demon with the likeness of a snake slithered toward her, several more trailing behind him.

Ameki could feel a presence rush by her, the white blur manifesting images only momentarily as he cut down the oncoming serpents. Sesshomaru moved with such speed, and grace that Ameki was momentarily caught in awe of him. He was...protecting her? Sesshomaru’s speed nearly knocked Ameki off of her feet as he came to a halt behind her. She spun around and peered around him, their closeness made her uncomfortable, but the sight in front of them terrified her. Demons were closing in fast, and in that moment Sesshomaru seemed to be the only one that wasn’t focused on killing her. She decided to play the odds and moved closer to his back, almost touching the fur that wrapped around him and rested on his shoulders.

“Meido Zangetsuha!!!” She heard the words burst from Sesshomaru as his tall frame lurched forward into a swiping motion. His gleaming sword came into her view as the strike motion came to a rest. The many wails and screams that filled the atmosphere around them caused Ameki to clench her eyes shut. The wind around them picked up, and Ameki felt strong arms snake around her body, pressing her to the hard surface of Sesshomaru’s armor. Her feet left the ground. Sesshomaru took to the sky with her in his grasp.

A small squeak escaped her as she opened her eyes and and spotted the trees in her view getting smaller. She didn’t dare speak. The Demon she was pinned against didn’t look at her, and she only spared a small glance at him in fear that she would irritate him. Instead, she squeezed her eyes shut and simply stayed quiet.

He didn’t smell like the other demons she had encountered. She hadn’t been that close to them either, but the ogre and imp she had come into contact with had both had a unique odor that followed them. The Imp had smelled oddly similar to pond water, and the ogre had carried a rotten flesh smell. It had probably been from the pelts he had decorated his waist with. Sesshomaru’s scent was more wild. Like a forest after a light rain. Ameki would have never imagined such a pleasant scent coming from a demon.

Ameki’s feet adjourned the ground once more. She felt the grip around her release causing her to finally open her eyes. Their flight hadn’t lasted very long, but Ameki was relieved as she looked around to see that there were no glowing eyes in sight. Ameki turned around to take in her surroundings further. Sesshomaru didn’t speak, but gazed out at the orange glow in the distance. His long silver hair swayed in the slight breeze on top of the cliff where they had landed. His bangs parted, pushed to the side by a small gust revealing and image that Ameki had seen her mother paint many times. A purple crescent moon came into view. The dark contrast against his light skin was lit up by the moon’s light. Her breath caught as she raked her memory, recalling all of the instances she had seen her mother represent the mark in her work. His eyes seemed to be amplified by the light as well giving them a deep honey shade of Amber that almost seemed to glow. He was beautiful.

Ameki’s felt the heat rise to her cheeks as the thought crossed her mind. Sesshomaru’s eyes found her as she shifted with discomfort. She had been caught staring at him. It was the first time she had really taken in his smoothly chiseled features that adorned a marble texture. She quickly turned her attention out to the horizon before them, instantly dampening her thoughts revealing more sorrowful ones. She instantly thought of the well being of the others who had been in the castle. Had they made it out alive? What had happened to Yuudai? Her gaze rested on the remains of the far off castle. It had completely collapsed in on itself, and the remnants continued to burn. She could make out a few other burning structures, but the distance was already limiting her view and she was currently squinting to try and bring the tiny constructs into focus.

 

“Lord Sesshomaru!!!” She recognized the voice instantly. She looked around on ground level, searching for the imp, but didn’t see him. A thud came from beside her, causing her to slightly jump. A large two headed beast was staring at her. She froze in her spot, the slitted yellow eyes didn’t seem to show any signs of aggression, but Ameki kept her distance nonetheless. A small form slid down off of the beast and walked up, greeting his lord.

“Jaken.” She heard Sesshomaru greet him with a low straightforward tone.

“I’ve carried out your wishes my lord.” Jaken’s tone of voice fell compared to the excitement she had previously heard in his voice upon greeting his master. Ameki’s curiosity was instantly peaked, but she kept quiet. She was still uneasy about being around demons, but so far these demons had not tried to harm her. Sesshomaru had even gone as far as to protect her, and helped her escape from the horde of demons that had tried to ensnare them. She recalled Jaken had also attempted to protect them from the ogre in the castle.

Ameki’s thoughts spiraled from there and she quickly turned back to the horizon and found the castle once more.

“Mother…” She whispered quietly. Jaken cleared his throat.

“You’ve retrieved the girl my lord, I never doubted you.” She didn’t turn around as Jaken spoke to Sesshomaru, afraid that the tears that had formed in her eyes would show how weak she felt in that moment. She didn’t so much fear the demons anymore. Her mother had some knowledge of who they were, and she had seemed rather comfortable around Jaken. The memory of what happened in the castle armory replayed in her mind. Her mother’s frantic eyes had burned itself into her mind, something that would haunt her for a long time, if she lived for very long.

 

~Sesshomaru~

 

Sesshomaru could smell the scent of salt returning. The smell of her tears hinted to where Ameki’s thoughts had wandered to as Sesshomaru noticed her gaze was outcast toward the place she once called home. This made the events that were about to unfold more surreal to him. He had given Jaken instructions to fall back from the war zone, and travel west to the mountains where he would meet him with the girl. Jaken had taken Rin to a safe location, where he would further await instructions. Sesshomaru knew that Rin deserved a proper burial, in a place that he knew she would approve of.

However, Sesshomaru could not abandon his army. His general’s were currently giving the orders and directing the front, but the battle seemed to be going in Yakunan’s favor at the moment, and Sesshomaru needed to intervene. He needed to prove that he would not abandon them like so many had felt that he had done before in his past pursuit of the demon Naraku. This whole war had been because of his obsession to hunt down the demon. The lack of leadership he had failed to maintain during those times was ultimately what led to his weakened court and faith in his leadership. Most seen him as a hot headed youngling that inherited his great father’s empire simply by being his oldest son. Sesshomaru inwardly sneered at the thought of betrayal that so many had committed against him, and he would hunt down the one responsible for fueling those actions among his ranks.

However, Sesshomaru also knew that he couldn’t let his own emotions get in the way. That is why he had instructed Jaken to perform the burial in his absence. Jaken was to take the girl with him, and help her give her mother the burial that Rin deserved. Sesshomaru knew that he needed to keep morale up with his soldiers, and having their leader on the battlefield fighting with them was the best way to accomplish that. In the back of Sesshomaru’s mind he could hear the whisper of other reasons. He wanted to keep Yakunan distracted, so that Jaken could flee with Ameki far from this place.

“Accompany Jaken, and he will take you somewhere safe.” Ameki turned partially at Sesshomaru’s words, hiding her eyes behind bangs, only allowing the side of her face to come into Sesshomaru’s view. He could see a tear that had cascaded to her chin as it formed a droplet that barely clung to the surface, ready to fall. She didn’t say anything at first. Sesshomaru couldn’t read her body language like he had been able to read Rin’s.

Where could he possibly take me that would be safe from all of the horrors that happened here?” She finally replied. Jaken was the one to answer her.

“Please girl, your mother would want you far away from this.” Jaken surprised Sesshomaru. Usually the imp’s speeches reflected nothing of empathy, but Sesshomaru guessed that Jaken’s roughly forged fondness of Rin had something to do with the surprisingly sensitive statement he directed at Ameki.

This time Ameki turned toward them. Her bloodied clothing came into view, causing Jaken to gasp.

“My mother, what happened?” Ameki directed her question to Jaken, who now shifted uncomfortably. Sesshomaru needed to leave, but he needed to make sure Ameki left with Jaken and presented no resistance. Having her nearby would only be a distraction for him. He could protect her with distancing himself. His thoughts wavered as his resolve came into perspective. He had thought the same of distancing Rin from himself as well, and yet they had ended up in this situation anyways.

“Jaken will protect you, with his life.” Sesshomaru spoke, directing the last of his statement at Jaken. Jaken furthered his uncomfortable stance.

“Her final wishes were to see that you were safe.” Jaken said, returning his gaze back to Ameki.

Sesshomaru watched as Ameki’s body stiffened. She stood like that for a few passing moments before a quiver shook her lip.

“Where… Where is she?” Ameki’s voice sounded as small as she looked in Sesshomaru’s eyes. Jaken answered once more. Jaken glanced toward Sesshomaru before answering.

“I hid her so that we can take her somewhere far away from here as well. Somewhere Lord Sesshomaru thought would be more appropriate.” Jaken said with a long sigh as he finished. Ameki turned her gaze toward the ground and let out a long shaky sigh as well.

“I’m relieved that her body didn’t perish in the castle...but…” Sesshomaru could see that Ameki was having a difficult time holding her tears back.

“I don’t understand why you took her from the castle, I don’t understand any of this. One day I think I know my mother, and the next demons show up and she doesn’t even seem bothered to be in your presence…” Sesshomaru could hear the tone of her voice rising as the words rushed out in a climaxing hysteria.

“And that mark…” She pointed to Sesshomaru’s forehead.

“She painted that illustration many times… She made many scroll paintings for me to hang in my bedroom as a child, and that mark, was in all of them.” The new tears that had welled in Ameki’s eyes spilled to dampen her cheeks once more. Sesshomaru reflected on her words. Rin had painted his mark many times, and it presented him with a warm feeling. A feeling that he was not comfortable with having so close to the battlezone. Ameki continued.

“I’m so confused. She told me so little of her life, and now…” She trailed off for a final time. Her words no longer came as low sobs drowned them out. Jaken stepped forward, sensing Sesshomaru’s anxious nature surfacing. The view in the distance had intrigued him, and Jaken had noticed his attention had been diverted from the girl.

“We really need to get going. I will explain everything to you if you would just trust me. We shouldn’t keep Lord Sesshomaru waiting, he has other matters to attend to, more pressing ones.” Jaken still held the sympathetic tone that did not fit him well, but the urgency he normally carried when addressing Sesshomaru’s intentions returned.

Sesshomaru watched in his peripheral as Ameki attempted a jump onto Ah-un’s back. In her state that was weakened no doubt by her emotions of mourning she failed. She readied herself again, but this time Sesshomaru decided to assist her. He told himself it was simply to hasten their departure. He grabbed her waist gently and hoisted her up, catching her off guard causing her to slightly jump.

“Uhm, Thank you…” She replied slowly as she settled into the curve of Ah-Un’s spine.

When Sesshomaru was sure that nothing had pursued the fleeing Ah-un he turned his attention back to the battlefield. Clearing his mind of all distractions he focused on one thing. Yakunan.

Chapter Text

~Ameki~

 

The field that Ameki’s mother had been laid to rest in was more beautiful than she could possibly hope to describe. The wild flowers that grew were in abundance and diverse in variety. Rin had always loved flowers since Ameki could remember. They had spent many days together picking flowers for arrangements around the castle, and even tending the gardens. It had always been an escape for Rin, and Ameki had always appreciated her mother’s hobby. It hadn’t mattered the mood, flowers had always seemed to brighten and lift Rin’s spirit. Ameki hoped that these flowers would help her mother find peace once again in her journey to the afterlife.

Jaken stood beside Ameki, giving the grave a final appraisal. The large stone that adorned the surface was covered in flowers that Ameki had picked out herself. The mixtures of orange and purple petals seemed to pop against the gray surface of the stone. Jaken had directed Ah-Un in aiding to move the stone from the nearby forest. Ah-Un was extremely strong considering the distance that had been traversed to erect the stone in its final resting place, Rin’s resting place. Ameki reflected on her thoughts, adding to Ah-Un’s strength. The demon would have needed to be strong to fly them to such a great distance in the first place.

Ameki kneeled before her mother’s grave, pressed her hands together, and bowed her head. She heard the imp beside her shift his weight before kneeling as well. Ameki envisioned her mother in her thoughts. Her beautiful smile raged like a flame through Ameki’s mind, causing her to smile and tear up at the same time. She wanted to always remember her mother that way, especially after the last images of her mother that danced around in the shadows of her mind. Her mother had always had an infectious grin, one that could light up the most dull of occasions or locations. Rin had truly been special, and Ameki thanked her ancestors for giving her such an amazing mother, but now it was time to return her to them.

Ameki opened her eyes just in time to catch a glimpse of Jaken wiping a tear from his own leathery cheek. For a demon, the imp sure was an emotional toad. It was a characteristic that Ameki had never even imagined demons having. The stories she had heard had always frightened her as a child. The people in the village had spoken of demons as if they were all evil, and no one had ever tried to convince Ameki otherwise. Not even her mother. She found that odd, but given the fact that she was also among people who could only see them as evil brought her possible reasons into perspective. The lord of the region’s reputation would have suffered having been married to a demon sympathizer.

Ameki and Jaken returned to a small area at the edge of the forest where they could look out across the vast rolling fields of flowers. The meadow was simply breathtaking, and knowing that her mother would feel the same left Ameki with a sense of peace. The sorrow was still there, and would be for the remainder of her life. She knew that day by day she would become stronger, holding her mother’s memory as sacred, the same way she had done after her father’s death. Ah-un laid down, no doubt resting from the long night’s endeavors. The sun had risen in the East, and Ameki felt the fatigue setting in. The events of the day before and the long night had all happened so suddenly. Most of it had felt as if it had been a blur, and Ameki did very little to retrace her memories step by step. Clarity was not something she wanted to tarnish her feelings of peace with so soon. She would do her mourning one step at a time. Until then, Jaken relinquished his knowledge to her, opening up her mother’s past and letting Ameki unroll the scroll of knowledge that was her mother. Some details made her laugh, others brought her close to tears, but most of all she felt content.

Her mother had been through many hardships, but ultimately it had been Lord Sesshomaru that had saved her life, and had continued to care for her well being. Jaken spoke in the utmost respect for his lord. Ameki knew that his views were no doubt biased, but Jaken seemed to only speak the truth about Lord Sesshomaru’s feats, and even some of his darker qualities. Sesshomaru was the Great Dog Demon of the West. Ameki had read scrolls containing information and lore pertaining to the Great Dog General, but to meet the son of the Dog General made her wonder how much other lore was actually true. The InuYoukai were strong demons that looked over and protected these lands from chaos. It was rare that the Youkai had dealings with mortals, but in the process of protecting their land the mortals didn’t have to worry about rogue groups of demon’s terrorizing villages and destroying crop fields. The InuYoukai maintained order. It was beneath them to terrorize humans.

Ameki couldn’t help but to wonder if Sesshomaru had secretly loved Rin. Not in an intimate way, but in the way a pet dog loves their owner. Ameki slightly giggled inwardly at the idea of someone as fearsome as Sesshomaru bowing to a small child, but she didn’t discard the possibility that Sesshomaru did hold a deep fondness of her mother. It was the only way to explain his actions up until this point. Ameki began wondering what this would mean for her. Jaken had relayed the details of Sesshomaru and Rin’s final moments, and his promise he made to her mother to protect her daughter. Ameki wondered how this would change her already drastically changed life any further. How would she live? Where would she live? Would there be more demons? Ameki’s brow had slightly creased only relaxing when she heard Jaken clear his throat.

“Lord Sesshomaru could be gone for days. It would probably be wise to make a campfire and gather some food.” Ameki stood slowly and started off toward the woods, turning on her heel when she did not hear Jaken’s footsteps following.

“Are you not coming?” She asked. Jaken let out a yawn, and smacked his lips for dramatics.

“I’ll wait here for Lord Sesshomaru…” He said as his voice slowly drifted mirroring his eyelids over his yellow orbs.

“But you just said-” Ameki was cut off by a loud snore that clearly came from the small imp. Her brow knitted together in astonishment. Either the imp was playing her like a fool, or he was extremely exhausted. She shook her head and muttered to herself as she continued walking. The forest around her was vibrant with sounds. The animals and insects there sounded very happy, and how could they not be living so near to a beautiful field abundant in flowers? Ameki came to a stream that zig zagged through the trees, it was shallow in some parts exposing the fish that traversed the currents. Ameki sent a quiet prayer to her mother who had taught her at a young age to catch fish. They had often been chastised for catching the koi and catfish from the palace ponds that decorated the huge garden area. Ichiro had always chuckled at Rin’s little adventures with their daughter, but Yuudai had always looked down on such childish behavior.

Ameki hiked her dress, knotting the fabric so that it clung to her legs above her knees. She stepped into the chilled water and let out a small sigh as the liquid rushed around her aching legs, almost as if to massage them. One, two, three fish was her bounty for the evening, along with a few berries and mushrooms she had foraged. She toted the fish over her shoulder with a sturdy stick that easily slipped through their gills and through the mouth. It was how she had kept the first few fresh while she had waited patiently for others to swim into her reach. She had stuck the stick into the thick mud at the edge of the creek, leaving the fish in the water. She carried the berries and mushrooms in the crease of her yukata as she folded the bottom of it upwards against her body, exposing her now dry legs, but securing the edibles so that she wouldn’t drop them. Most Princesses were coddled, but Rin had made sure that her daughter could be self reliant when needed, and in that moment Ameki was grateful.

She arrived back to the place where she had left Jaken. His snores still echoed off of the closest trees. She shook her head slightly in disbelief. She would have to gather the firewood as well if she were to prepare the food. Something inside of her wanted to wake the lazy toad, but she instantly felt bad after having the idea. She hadn’t slept in such a long time, and there was no way of knowing how long it had been since Jaken had slept. She simply felt grateful for his companionship in the moment. Sure he wasn’t awake, but it just felt good to not be alone. Especially after everything that happened. After Jaken had opened up about her mother, she recognized the many different ways he expressed his own fondness of Rin, and even some irritation. It was to be expected though, especially after they had traveled for such a long time together. Tension was no doubt likely to surface. Especially if he had been this lazy and made Rin do all the work in the past as well.

The only thing that roused the slumbering imp was the delectable aroma that the fish gave off over the fire. Ameki noticed the waking imp and plucked a stick from beside the open flame. She offered it to him and smiled. Without a word the imp hastefully devoured the cooked fish. Ameki registered the instant regret that washed over Jaken’s increasingly red cheeks.

“Ahhhhhhh! Hot, hot hot!” He bellowed as he now danced in place swatting at his tongue with his hands and breathing with exaggerated quickened breaths. Ameki cringed at the sight, knowing that she should have warned him.

“I’m so sorry Jaken. Here…” She offered him a few berries and a mushroom that had already cooled. The imp glanced at her weerily and poked the mushroom. Checking to see if the temperature was acceptable. Ameki pulled the other two fish away from the flame and sat them to the side to begin cooling.

 

“Something tells me trouble follows you as well.” Jaken murmured as he consumed the berries one by one glancing at her out of the corner of his narrowed eyes. Something told Ameki that Jaken was already comparing his experience with her to those he had lived with Rin. That made her smile despite the obvious displeasure that radiated from Jaken’s scornful glare.

Ameki grabbed her fish after she was sure that it had cooled. She began eating as she watched Jaken continue cramming berries into his mouth. She instantly noticed that the texture of the fish was different than what she had eaten before. The cooks in the castle hadn’t prepared fish over the open fire though. It wasn’t a bad taste she thought to herself, and it was definitely more crunchy.

Ameki felt an instant pain in her shoulder, causing her to scream out and choke on the fish she was currently eating.

“Ha, you should have waited for it to cool, that’s what you get for-” Jaken’s eyes widened as he noticed the fresh blood that stained the shoulder of her Yukata, and the wound was quickly seeping. He instantly jumped to his feet to tend to the girl, glancing around frantically at what could have caused it. Sesshomaru would have his head for this he was certain. Ameki pressed her hand against the shoulder gritting her teeth. The sharp pain had seemingly come out of nowhere, and had momentarily disoriented her. After the pain subsided a bit Ameki pulled the collar of her Yukata over her shoulder to expose the mark. The gashes weren’t awfully deep, but they were serious enough to require treatment. Treatment that neither her nor Jaken could administer without the right ingredients. They slightly resembled claw marks, but there wasn’t a matching mark that should have torn through the clothing.

Jaken gasped at the sight of the wound, and looked around once more. Had an invisible demon of some kind attacked, and would it attack again? Jaken hurried over to where he had been sitting and grabbed his staff. He rushed back to Ameki and took a protective stance. He watched the area around them closely. Anticipating every direction someone could attack from. He heard another squeal from behind him. He turned to find a new mark appeared on Ameki, a much smaller one, but fresh. It was a small gash that appeared in the meat of her cheek. Jaken hadn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary. He couldn’t feel the presence of any demons, nor apparitions. Something was strange. Something odd was happening and if Jaken didn’t find out soon, he was sure Sesshomaru would get to the bottom of it when he returned, but he knew it would be without his help, because poor little Jaken would be joining Rin in a much more shallow grave among the flowers. Jaken Shivered.

 

~Sesshomaru~

 

Day broke as soon as Sesshomaru had dispatched the last of Yakunan’s men that had refused to flee. Most had retreated, but Sesshomaru had yet to see Yakunan. The battle had been intense, but Sesshomaru was not one to so easily fall to the weaklings he had been challenged by. Among the men he fought had been two of Yakunan’s generals. It would seem that honor had been cast to the side as both attempted to take on Sesshomaru at once. Sesshomaru was sure that Yakunan was simply staying back and observing the show from a distance. The only he reason Sesshomaru had not gone after him so soon was because he knew that would be what Yakunan wanted. Besides, Sesshomaru took pleasure in showing Yakunan how easy it was for him to dispatch his men. Sesshomaru had special plans for Yakunan, and he always saved the best for last.

“Very well done Sesshomaru!” Sesshomaru had felt his presence draw near before he had even spoke. Sesshomaru turned to face Yakunan who now stood atop a ruined castle rampart. Yakunan clapped his hands to add his usual theatrics he loved to display with witty humour. Although, Sesshomaru found nothing humorous about the demon before him. Yakunan displayed a cheesy grin that simply made Sesshomaru’s inner demon sneer. Sesshomaru wanted to rip the flesh from his face intact, so that he could make Yakunan stare at the grin he meant to mock Sesshomaru with.

“How did it feel to cut down men that used to be your closest allies?” Yakunan chuckled.

“They were never truly my allies if they joined with the likes of you.” Sesshomaru let a small hint of anger enter his voice. The sight of Yakunan was all it took to make Sesshomaru submit to his inner thoughts. He wanted Yakunan to know he was angry, but he would never make an uncalculated move in haste. He wasn’t the unruly mut that his half brother InuYasha was.

“Ah, mores a pity I suppose. Well, this was definitely fun.Way better than ransacking small human villages. Even swiped me a token.” Yakunan winked and flashed a fang filled grin. Sesshomaru became curious at his last remark. A token? Had he meant the demon head he sported on the spike tied to his back in the fashion of a banner? Sesshomaru observed the head a bit closer, he didn’t recognize the lowly demon on the spot. Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes.

“You taunt me with the head of one soldier while we stand among hundreds of the dead?” Yakunan was truly pitiful flaunting such meaningless feats. Sesshomaru had easily dispatched nearly two hundred of Yakunan’s men in the amount of time it had had taken him to fight both of Yakunan’s generals. They had been the only demons notable enough to consider worthy adversaries.

Yakunan contemplated Sesshomaru’s words with a smile detaching the head on the pike and throwing it to Sesshomaru’s feet.

“You take all the fun out of everything Sesshomaru. Maybe if you had lightened up in our first meeting we wouldn’t be here.” Yakunan spoke.

“You were the one who challenged me.” Sesshomaru replied.

“I simply wished to test my weapon against yours. Your cultures craftsmanship intrigues me, and I wanted to see if your blade could hold up to mine.” Yakunan shrugged.

“You were the one who became serious when I sliced through your fur. I thought it was decorative. How was I supposed to know you carried your tail around your shoulders?” Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes at Yakunan’s attempt at banter with the obvious hidden insult.

“I tire of talking.” Sesshomaru hissed.

“Yikes, tail still sore?” Yakunan barely finished his witty remark before Sesshomaru drew his weapon slicing the area where Yakunan stood. Yakunan’s quick reflexes afforded him the chance to dodge the attack, gaining ground on Sesshomaru who was now wide open to an attack. Instead of plunging his sword into Sesshomaru, he simply laughed a few feet from his ear. Sesshomaru glared at him out of the corner of his eye, but Yakunan pulled away before Sesshomaru could prepare another swing.

“You’re fast, I’ll give you that dog, but your speed is nothing compared to a dragon’s.” With that Yakunan appeared in front of Sesshomaru, knocking the sword from his hand. Sesshomaru’s disarmament left him with a free hand in which he sliced forward with his poison claws making contact with Yakunan’s shoulder.

Yakunan quickly stepped back, using his agility to spring him farther and farther as Sesshomaru charged forward claws outstretched. He dodged again and again until Sesshomaru managed to graze his face. Yakunan jumped completely free of Sesshomaru after that landing back on top of the rampart. With a bit of irritation Yakunan chuckled.

“Out to ruin my image I see? You must be jealous of my looks as well I suppose. You learn something new everyday with the Great Lord Sesshomaru.” Yakunan sheathed his sword.

“I tire of this as well Sesshomaru. I need to catch up with my soldiers and crack some skulls for their retreat.” Yakunan clicked his tongue and brought his finger up, as if to introduce another point he wanted to blatantly make. However, Sesshomaru was not ready for the fight to end. Not until he held Yakunan’s beating heart in his clawed hand.

Sesshomaru’s Energy whip lashed out, catching Yakunan off guard. Sesshomaru did not stop there. He continued his onslaught of attacks racing forward until finally he was able to catch Yakunan’s leg, causing him to fall to the ground with great force. Sesshomaru swooped in with his poison claw, ready to strike.

“As for my token Sesshomaru…” Yakunan quickly hissed. Yakunan’s eyes flashed a bright white, and Ameki’s face appeared in their reflection. Sesshomaru stopped, his poisonous claw mere centimeters from his chest.

“That’s right Sesshomaru...She’s mine now.” Yakunan used Sesshomaru’s hesitation to slip free and distance himself. Sesshomaru glared up at Yakunan with a distasteful scowl. What had Yakunan done? Was Ameki in danger? Had someone followed them without Sesshomaru sensing it? Yakunan soon answered his question with words that froze him to his core.

“Her soul belongs to me. I simply allowed her to return when you did your little sword trick because I wanted to have some fun with you.” Yakunan sneered in Sesshomaru’s direction. His playful banter had diminished.

“That little sword of yours won’t save her a second time, so killing me is out of the question, because now we are bound. It looks like we have a long road ahead of us Sesshomaru.” With that Yakunan took to the sky in his true form. A dark gray dragon that moved like a serpent, stirring the wind into a gusting gale that disrupted the dirt all around, leaving the stunned Sesshomaru in a dust storm.

Sesshomaru’s thoughts raced back to the odd occurrence that had taken place upon Ameki’s revival. He had known something was strange, and had suspected that maybe Yakunan had simply left that mark to taunt him, but now Sesshomaru knew. Yakunan had planned this from the beginning. It was why he had come to Yamato castle. He had intended to mark Rin so that Sesshomaru couldn’t harm him without hurting her. After his plan fell apart with Rin’s accident, he fell to the backup plan that was quickly formed. Sesshomaru surmised that Yakunan had killed Ameki and marked her because she was the closest thing he would have left to his Rin. Killing her had guaranteed that Sesshomaru would bring her back, meaning she was now leverage because the sword would not work on her a second time. Sesshomaru could not kill Yakunan without Killing Ameki, and if he were to then his promise to Rin would have been broken.

Sesshomaru grabbed his sword from the ground and sheathed it. His hand shook with the anger that surfaced. You are Lord Sesshomaru! He told himself. The shaking in his hand did not stop with such seemingly useless words. He, the Great Lord Sesshomaru, was limited to what he could do, because he was afraid of breaking a promise to a dead mortal woman. He instantly regretted referring to Rin in such a way. She was dead, because he couldn’t save her. His feelings for her had nothing to do with what Yakunan was doing. Rin had nothing to do with this any longer. No Yakunan was playing on a weakness. A weakness that he had gambled and anticipated would arise. Ameki… Sesshomaru had not even known of her existence until recently… So why was the thought of losing her angering him so?

Sesshomaru couldn’t stand to ponder on it any longer. He needed to release the built up emotions that were currently clouding his judgment. He needed the sweet release that his inner demon could give him. He needed the calming effects of the Western skies, the feel of the wind through his fur as he glided through clouds and peered down at the world below him, but most of all. He needed to make sure Ameki was safe. His inner demon came forth, sending a thunderous roar into the sky where his true demon formed chased it, as if he were an echo.

Chapter Text

~Ameki~

 

The afternoon slowly slipped into the evening hours as Ameki lazily gazed across the flower filled meadow. She leaned against Ah-Un who rested. The two headed beast had moved closer to Ameki in an attempt to protect her as Jaken scoured the area. After no threats had been detected they had all been left stumped at what could have possibly happened. Ameki had let Jaken investigate the wounds more closely. They were already beginning to heal. The blood hardened into a thick scab that was already flaking and becoming tender pink scar tissue around the edges. Ameki was truly confused and even Jaken had seemed baffled.

Rin’s stomach growled once more, the food she had prepared that morning was gone and Jaken was the one to blame. Jaken still stood guard, pacing a few feet away from where Ameki sat with Ah-Un.

“I do hope Lord Sesshomaru returns soon, but not too soon.” Jaken said anxiously. Ameki turned her attention to the small imp.

“How does that make any sense Jaken?” She asked with a hint of humor entering her voice. Jaken turned swiftly and pointed a small brittle finger at her.

“It doesn’t have to now pipe down.” Ameki raised an eyebrow and tilted her head in a playful manner as if to challenge him.

“The sooner Lord Sesshomaru returns, the sooner we can get rid of you.” He quipped. A bead of sweat rolled down the green imps wrinkly forehead as his gaze settled on the bloody shoulder of Ameki’s yukata.

“You better heal up by then girl, now be quiet and rest.” With that Jaken turned back around and resumed his pacing.

Ameki shook her head and turned her gaze to the evening sky. How did she end up in this mess? Her thoughts there after consisted of worry. She wasn’t sure where she would go, or what she would do with her life. Part of her wanted to return to her home, and find anyone that might still be alive, but deep down she just wanted to imagine that everyone else had made it out safely. She wasn’t sure that she wanted to know the truth. The thought of going back terrified her in more ways than one.

Ameki started to drift. Her tired and aching body welcomed the slumber that her mind promised. She tried her best to keep her thoughts happy as she fell asleep, afraid that nightmares would take over if she didn't. Ameki sighed in content as images of her mother and father crossed her mind. She imagined that their reunion in the afterlife would be beautiful, and one day she would join them too if she were permitted. For now, they had catching up to do. Ameki could feel the small smile peak at the corner of her mouth, her face muscles had taken on a mind of their own. She remembered times when she had been little and her mother had sung to her. She had voiced tales of heroics, and battles that were won, hearts that yearned for return, and goodbyes that were forever. One of her mother’s songs echoed in her memories.

Take on this journey with me by your side
When you are around I don’t have to hide
We traversed the land, I’ll sing of your stories
A white clad celestial, Or a demon full of worries?

Fate brought me to you,
Fate took you away,
Remember me kindly for thats what I pray.

Lord of the land, God of my heart
You saved me eternal from the very start
The clouds hung low in the western sky
I waited for you, but you never said goodbye

Fate brought me to you,
Fate took you away,
Remember me kindly for thats what I pray.

Amber, the color, that makes my heart whole
Far above the land, dominion, your role
A battle readied hand, a reckoned force to be
A warrior of the land, but a God to me

Fate brought me to you,
Fate took you away,
Remember me kindly for thats what I pray.

The crescent, the center, of the beautiful silver crown
The thought of you chases away all of my frowns
A guardian true, a protector for me
I will forever be grateful, eternally

Fate brought me to you,
Fate took you away,
Remember me kindly for that's what I pray.

Ameki opened her eyes to gaze into amber orbs. No doubt the same amber that her mother had spoken of in her songs. Ameki swallowed hard as Sesshomaru's eyes scanned her cheek and then her shoulder. Their first bit of eye contact had made her slightly self conscious. Ameki knew she was a mess. Her hair was unkempt, her clothes tattered and bloody. Somewhere along the way she had even lost a shoe. That was no way for a princess to be presented, even if her title didn't mean anything anymore. She was in the presence of The Great Lord Sesshomaru. Demon or not, he had saved her life and done right by her mother.

Sesshomaru stood from his kneeling position, the oblivious Jaken still searched the skies for his Lord in the near distance. Sesshomaru had made his appearance in absolute silence.

“Jaken.” Sesshomaru's voice was low. The green imp’s anxious frame froze for a few moments. Ameki saw the tremble creep into his movements as he slowly turned around to face them.

“Lord Sesshomaru… You've returned!” Jaken's voiced mirrored the tremble of his posture.

“Please hear me out my lord. We didn't see what attacked her, and it never came-”

“Your services are required.” Sesshomaru replied, cutting Jaken's rushed explanation off. Sesshomaru began walking and Jaken followed. Ameki turned her attention to the last few rays of sun that blanketed the nearby meadow. She could feel the familiar tug of sleep pulling her under.

When Ameki awoke the rays of sun were on the opposite side of the sky, and the birds were singing. Many different bird sounds, among other small animal sounds came from the forest. Ah-Un still lay beside her, the two headed beast had stayed by her side the entirety of the night it had seemed. She couldn’t help but to smile up at the hulking beast. How could something that looked so intimidating be so gentle? Ameki stretched her limbs, taking in the many different aches that had dulled, but new ones were in place, more subtle ones.

She blinked a few moments curiously, and stretched her right arm out once more. She didn’t feel the slight pain that should have been accompanied to the action. She quickly lowered the collar of her yukata and found the area where the mysterious gashes had appeared the day before, but all she found was slightly raised flesh that held a pinkish hue against the contrast of her pale skin. Puzzled she reached for her cheek. Instead of tender flesh, she felt a small tingle and a slightly smoothed raised surface where the other scratch had been. Jaken had mentioned in his hasty observations of the wounds that they had been healing quickly, but she had thought he simply meant that the bleeding had stopped.

Her mind raced, looking for any and everything that could serve as an explanation as to how the wounds had mended so quickly and so well without proper treatment. Had she been attacked by some kind of demon that didn’t leave marks for very long? She felt foolish, almost as if she had made up the possibility on the spot, which in reality she had. In either case, she was happy that she wouldn’t have to deal with the possibility of infection, or simply even the mild discomfort they had caused in her movements.

Sesshomaru was waiting for her. He had perched himself upon a boulder that faced the large meadow. He seemed almost lost in thought, but Ameki knew that he was probably aware of her. He was a demon after all, and Jaken had gone to great lengths in describing his lords abilities. Some Ameki had even brushed off as exaggerated in an attempt for the little imp to boast his master’s image. Ameki did wonder though how much of it had been true. The sight before her was beautiful, if beautiful was the right word to describe such a dark creature. Sesshomaru was a full blooded Yokai, and they often presented themselves in much more pleasing manners than the simple Oni did. Ameki half wondered who it was that the Youkai were trying to impress, and did appearance really matter that much?

Ameki cringed as she remembered the current state she herself was currently in. She needed to return to the stream and at least try to wash some of the dirt from her limbs and face. Her sudden motions to stand caught Sesshomaru’s attention. Ameki didn’t know whether or not she should state her intentions, but she did know that Sesshomaru’s gaze wasn’t leaving the pitiful state she was in. She settled her mind with a small reply to his gaze.

“I would like to try and freshen up in the stream a bit.” She stood awkwardly, almost as if she were waiting for permission. Did she have to have his permission? It wasn’t like she was a prisoner, was she?

“Very well.” Sesshomaru replied as he stood. At first Ameki was terrified that Sesshomaru had intended on following her, but she soon settled those thoughts as he nudged something from the other side of the boulder with his boot.

“Another minute…” She heard the sleepy groan billow out from behind the stone. Sesshomaru just stared down at what Ameki had realized was probably Jaken’s sleeping form. He was going to send the imp with her. This made Ameki cringe even more than when she had though Sesshomaru was going to accompany her.

“Now.” Sesshomaru’s voice was a bit lower this time, and something about it made the light splay of hair on Ameki’s arms stand on end.

She caught sight of a small form that jumped straight up and stiffened.

“Yes my lord!” Replied Jaken in an all too eager tone. He bent back down out of Ameki’s sight and soon appeared from around the boulder carrying something that was neatly wrapped in decorated rice paper. It was apparent that Jaken struggled to balance the package while he tried to walk. It was easily one third of his size. Jaken stumbled up to Ameki, and handed her the rather light bundle. Ameki surmised that it had not been a weight issue that had thrown Jaken off of balance, but rather the bulky shape of the package had been odd for him to try and carry with his small frame.

“What is this?” Ameki asked as she gazed down at the intriquiet designs that had been hand scribed onto the decorative paper. It looked rather fancy, as if it had come from an expensive shopping district meant for nobles.

“A present from Lord Sesshomaru!!!” Jaken bellowed.

“But don’t get used to it girl. You should feel honored. Lord Sesshomaru rarely presents anyone with gifts of such value… or any gifts at all.” Jaken whispered the last part more to himself. Ameki glanced back up at Sesshomaru who had turned away from them and was staring at something she couldn’t guess at in the distance. She wanted to thank him, because that seemed most proper. A part of her didn’t want to disturb him though, or approach and disrupt his thoughts in that moment. Instead she turned her attention back to Jaken.

“I am most humbled by these gifts, whatever it is that they may be.” She frowned realizing she had no idea what could be hidden by the beautiful wrapping. Jaken motioned to her as if to open it.

“Well, what are you waiting for?” Ameki crouched back down onto her knees and let the package rest on her lap. She untied the package which was adorned with a purple silk ribbon.

Upon opening the present she was presented with something that made the beating heart within her chest skip. She grabbed the neatly folded item and pulled it out, letting all of the other neatly wrapped clutters fall back into the indentation of the packaging. The design was beautiful, and she was in awe as she unfolded the Yukata. The Silken white material was decorated with pink blossoms down the left side. Each blossom was outlined with a darker, almost magenta colored thread that gave each flower a bold design that would no doubt stand out against the white base color. The obi that dropped from the bundle matched with the smaller more intricate blossoms that were much more darker against the pale pink base color.

Shock entered Ameki’s features, and Jaken beamed at her with a wide smile that proved he was pleased with her reaction. Ameki didn’t want to let the yukata out of her sight. She had lived in a castle her whole life, and had never seen such fine craftsmanship or taste in design in her nineteen years. Ameki turned her attention to the other items, among them that were not wrapped were a comb, and a small bamboo container that smelled awfully fragrant. Ameki soon realized that Sesshomaru had gifted her with all the items she needed to keep up her appearance. A part of her was absolutely ecstatic, but another much more dampened side of Ameki wondered if her current appearance really did bother him. How could it not? It had obviously bothered her. Maybe he was simply trying to lift her spirits considering all that had happened to her. Could it be that simple?

Ameki grabbed the last wrapped item, and instantly knew what it was. She opened the package to reveal the Geta sandals. The thick wooden base was a light color, and the threaded thong was made of the same silky white material as the Yukata. Ameki’s breath caught. She looked up and stared straight through the imp that was still beaming, her gaze settling on the form in the distance. She didn't know what to say or do, but she quickly hid the tears that were forming, and cleared the lump from her throat with a small cough. When she was certain that her emotions were under control she spoke in a whisper, knowing that Sesshomaru would hear her.

“Thank you my lord.”

 

~Sesshomaru~

 

He knew the whisper had come from Ameki, but the familiar sense engulfed him sending a wave of invisible chills down his back. In that moment she had sounded much like the child he remembered her mother to be. He did not turn around, instead slightly turned his head glancing sideways and nodded in silence. He listened as her footsteps moved farther away and into the forest. A smaller set of footsteps approached him. He glanced sideways once more and saw the two headed beast take off into the sky where it lingered just above the treetops. Ah-Un would watch over the girl.

“My lord, I think she was pleased with your gifts.” Sesshomaru nodded in Jaken’s directions. Sesshomaru had sent Jaken to pick out the finest clothing in the nearest market district.

“You did well in choosing Jaken.” Jaken’s smile grew even wider, and his eyes doubled in size as his master’s approval washed over him. It was rare that Sesshomaru ever acknowledged Jaken’s constant effort to impress his lord, but if Ameki was happy, then Sesshomaru was content and feeling rather generous.

They were currently in a northern region, one that had been missed by Yakunan’s game of war. Sesshomaru had kept track of the regions affected by the many battles, and would make sure that his foothold in those regions did not waver. As for the humans he had no say. They simply ruled themselves, but he was assured that if a certain princess was to arrive in the region, an unwed princess with stories of her clans decimation, she would be taken in hastefully.

Sesshomaru was not keen on the idea. Jaken had suggested the possibility to him the previous night. Sesshomaru had wanted Ameki to be farther away from Yakunan’s clutches, but he wasn’t sure if that was possible now. He was not familiar with the sorcery that Yakunan had delved into when he had seemingly marked Ameki. The extent his powers had on her were still unknown, and Sesshomaru had preferred to keep her close until he could figure out how to dispatch of Yakunan without hurting Ameki. One thing that Sesshomaru was in fact certain of, was that any injury that was inflicted onto Yakunan, manifested onto Ameki. Sesshomaru would have to rethink his strategy concerning Yakunan, because a simple wound to a demon could easily be a mortal wound for a human. Sesshomaru inwardly growled at the idea. Yakunan was playing on a weakness that Sesshomaru himself found quite distasteful, or at least he once had. A lifetime ago Sesshomaru would have simply sneered at the thought of protecting a human as his father had done. To fall for such a weak vessel, and put its safety above one's own had been an incomprehensible idea, and had caused great strain on Sesshomaru’s relationship with his father.

Sesshomaru had watched as his father’s legacy and life spiraled out of control. It had all been because of the human woman and the half demon spawn, InuYasha. InuYasha… the named rolled in his thoughts as tastelessly as it would have off of his tongue. The thought of his half brother hadn’t crossed his mind in some time. Though, there had not been a reason to since Rin had been married and moved away from his village. Sesshomaru’s pride had been too strong to ask the half demon for help after Yakunan’s uprising. Though his talents, though half wit as they might have been, could be used in this situation. Sesshomaru pondered the these new elements for a bit longer. Ameki would be a stranger to everyone in these villages and castles, but if he were to return her to his brother’s village, she would at least be around people that had known her mother. Human’s were very sentimental when it came to such things. In his last dealings with them he had been assured that Rin would be protected, and she had been. They had kept their promise. That is until she was married, and moved away from the people who had made those promises. Rin had become her own person though, and that couldn’t be helped. He would stew on the idea later, turning his thoughts back to Yakunan.

Sesshomaru heard the weighted landing of the two headed dragon, and soft footsteps approached from the forest soon after. He couldn’t recall how long he had been lost in thought, he had done that a lot lately. There was so much to reflect on, he glanced down the hill at where the flower covered stone was erected. The light footsteps came to a halt, causing Jaken to gasp near him. The imp had been oddly quiet as well, staring into the meadow.

Sesshomaru glanced to see where Jaken’s attention had been drawn to. He turned slowly and caught sight of Ameki. The Yukata fit her well, hugging her to expose the perfect swell of her hips on each side. The obi varnished her midsection properly holding the yukata in place while supporting her weighted chest… Sesshomaru halted his thoughts not letting them venture into despicable territory. His gaze rested on her face, framed by long locks of dark hair that cascaded well below her waist. Her bangs shaded the eyes that reminded him so much of Rin’s, but exposed the rest of her features that were moderately foreign to him. She carried her mother’s likeness in her eyes, and in the brown tint that was illuminated by the sunlight in her black hair, but the physical comparisons ended there.

Ameki’s scent drifted on the breeze so carelessly, finding a host that was Sesshomaru. The fragrant aroma was not so much different from the field of flowers that spread vastly down into the meadow. Sesshomaru stood unmoving as he usually did, but deep down he was quelling his demon which gave a low content growl. She was not Rin, but she was all that he had left of her, and he would not lose it. The familiar territorial side of Sesshomaru tried to surface, but he simply masked all emotion with a stoney expression.

Ameki was slightly smiling as she looked to Sesshomaru and then Jaken. Jaken was still staring at the girl with wide eyes.

“Now you look like a princess. Who would've thought that Rin’s daughter would be a princess?” Jaken blurted with a small chuckle.

“It’s a strange world knowing that someone found her constant banter to be enjoyable, especially knowing that person was a lord. You mortals are strange.” Jaken said with a quizzical look. Ameki’s smile broadened.

“You are quite the talker yourself Jaken.” Ameki replied.

“That’s master Jaken from now on Missy.” Jaken blurted shaking his staff in her direction.

“Oh forgive me. If that’s what you wish master.” Ameki’s playful tone eased the atmosphere around them, leading Sesshomaru into a more comfortable state of mind compared to where his thoughts had previously been. Sesshomaru would never admit it, but he had missed the constant bickering that Jaken seemingly enjoyed. At first it had been rather irritating, but Sesshomaru was often one to lose himself to his brooding nature. The constant bickering between Rin and Jaken had often kept him level headed, and allowed him to focus on what was ahead of him, and not so much about the past. It was much like a breath of fresh air to hear the witty quips Ameki threw back at Jaken.

Ameki turned her attention to Sesshomaru, her face turning serious.

“I want to thank you for these gifts, though I would like to compensate you in any way that I can.” Her words trailed off and her pale cheeks gained a hue of pink that matched the blossoms that were embroidered into her yukata.

“What I mean is, that I know they are gifts, but I don’t want to accept them without being able to do something in return. I could pay you, or…” Her voice trailed off as her eyes found the ground. Sesshomaru knew full well that she could not pay him, and she was currently realizing this as well.

“I could enlist myself into your services.” She looked back up and tried to mirror the stone faced Sesshomaru. Jaken laughed at her reply, not a small chuckle, but a full hearty laughter that rang off of the nearby forest, making the complacent Sesshomaru want to instinctively cover his sensitive ears. He stood still and waited for the imp to end his bout of laughter. Ameki narrowed her eyes at the small imp accusingly.

“What could a mortal girl possibly do for The Great Lord Sesshomaru?” Jaken straightened his back, as if to challenge her. He waited for an answer. Sesshomaru could see that Ameki was slightly flustered at his question. Sesshomaru knew that she had nothing to offer, and he hadn’t expected anything in return.

“I could...I…” Ameki trailed off, but didn’t have to continue. Sesshomaru would settle this here and now.

“The things that were given to you were a gift. That is final.” Ameki and Jaken looked at Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru’s used an even toned voice to state his decision. It would be bellow him to accept a gift from a human. His thoughts flashed back to a young Rin that offered the wounded Sesshomaru food. He had not accepted then, and he would not accept now.

“So what happens now?” Ameki’s voice washed through his mind, sending a ripple over the images of Rin that had snuck up on him. Sesshomaru didn’t know how to answer, because he had not decided what to do yet. It was Jaken who answered her.

“Now, we find you a new home. Surely one of the mortals around these parts will take you in.” Ameki looked questioningly at Jaken.

“Can I have a choice in what I do?” Jaken huffed and stomped his foot, not giving nearly the impact he had wished.

“Lord Sesshomaru didn’t save you to just let you walk blindly back into the world. We need to make sure you are in good hands.” Ameki frowned.

“I’m a grown woman, and am completely capable of finding somewhere suitable if I wish too.” Ameki replied. Sesshomaru’s curiosity peaked at this new side Ameki presented.

“I’m grateful that you helped me, but if any decisions are going to be made on my well being than I would like to be a part of that decision making.” Ameki turned her hardened gaze that was directed towards Jaken to Sesshomaru, letting her features instantly lose the edge of authority she had tried to maintain while addressing Jaken. Her eyes took on a hint of pleading, eyes so similar to Rin’s.

“What is it that you propose?” Sesshomaru asked, gaining a shocked side glance from Jaken. Ameki sighed and closed her eyes.

“If it's not too much to ask…” She paused, opening her eyes and steadying her gaze.

“My mother mentioned a village she had lived in before marrying my father, I think I would like to go there. That is if the war hasn’t destroyed it.” Ameki let her gaze fall to her clasped hands that rested below her obi. Sesshomaru could see that with each moment that past, she became more nervous of the answer that he would give.

“Very well.” Ameki’s gaze shot up, and a gleam entered her eyes. His answer had made her happy, and knowing that tugged at something within Sesshomaru. Something he would not dare address.

“But that’s so far away…” Jaken groaned. Sesshomaru did not care what Jaken thought on the situation. Jaken had simply wanted to leave her in a random village, and play on the odds that someone would take pity on her. Sesshomaru could accept the terms of Ameki’s wishes, because he knew that without a doubt InuYasha’s village would shelter the daughter of his past ward. InuYasha’s friends had taken a liking to Rin, and he hoped that they could extend those feelings toward Ameki.

Sesshomaru was not very fond of his brother, but he could respect that the half breed had surpassed Sesshomaru’s expectations where strength was involved. He had, after all, mastered Tessaiga and ensured that the sword grew in power, even exceeding their late father’s usage of the sword. The Tessaiga grew with the power of its master, which meant that Ameki would be in capable hands.

Sesshomaru was certain that Yakunan would need time to regroup his men, and build back up his numbers. This would give them the time they needed to take Ameki where she wished. Sesshomaru knew this plan was the best they had at the moment.

Chapter Text

~Ameki~

 

Ameki soon realized, after five days of travel, that Jaken had not exaggerated when he had said the village was a long ways off. Her sore feet begged her to question why they had not taken the easy route and taken to the sky with Ah-un. She had questioned Jaken on the matter when they had stopped to rest, his reply of “Lord Sesshomaru doesn't wish to rush to meet his brother again,” gained a nice little double decker knot that Sesshomaru had placed firmly on his head without hesitation. Ameki immediately dropped the subject once she realized the tension in the air was almost tangible and Jaken seemed less than eager to continue with an answer.

Sesshomaru wasn't the talkative type, not like the little imp. Jaken kept her company by sewing tales of his own feats before he had given up his life and promised his services to Lord Sesshomaru. Commanding an army of over two-hundred imps seemed unrealistic to Ameki, but who was she to judge? Just a little under a week ago she had been a princess, with a family and a home. Ameki enjoyed the little imp's far fetched tales of battles he had waged against the serpent demons in his home region. It wasn't everyday that mortals were presented with the opportunity of being in the presence of demons that did not wish to harm them.

On the eighth day of travel they came to a clearing. Sesshomaru stopped and scanned the area. In the distance lay a medium sized settlement, a farming community. Ameki took note of the figures that worked the fields. They were still a good distance away and hadn't been noticed. Jaken sighed and looked up to Sesshomaru.

“That's a lot of people my Lord, a lot of new people.” Jaken swallowed.

“Some will not recognize you, maybe I should take her since I'm far less threatening.” Sesshomaru cast a sideways glance down at the imp.

“My lord, please forgive me. All that I meant was that they might not act rashly against a little imp, but seeing a powerful demon such as you my lord might send them into frantics.” Jaken's brow grew wet, but the, sometimes, brash action of his lord never came. Instead he only replied.

“There’s no need. He'll come.” Sesshomaru's gaze leveled. Who is “He,” Ameki thought.

As if on cue a flash of red caught Ameki's attention. The bright color jumped from rooftop to rooftop and landed in the field where it then darted straight for them. Ameki's first instinct was to inch toward Sesshomaru, and slightly position her body behind his. Maybe it had been because he had saved her in the past, but she felt safer with a wall that was Sesshomaru between her and any possible threats. Sesshomaru didn't seem to mind, his focus was on the blur that was hastily approaching. Jaken let out an irritated sigh as he too watched the sight before them.

“Just as you said my lord. He’s still so predictable.” Ameki watched the flash of color, wondering if it was actually a person, or a demon. This “He” moved with speed much like that of Lord Sesshomaru’s, but not nearly as graceful. Where Sesshomaru seemed to glide effortlessly, the figure would slow and then seemingly gain speed again once pushing itself off of the ground.

The closer the figure got, the more features she could make out. Long silver hair, also much like Sesshomaru’s, became visible among the speeding figure. One more leap into the sky and the man landed on a fence post a few yards away from their group. A man, or a demon, or maybe both? Ameki was confused that a demon would be coming from a village, especially one that was so similar to Sesshomaru. The face was of a man seemingly in his prime, young, and his features displayed a sense of cockiness as he scanned them. Ameki peered around Sesshomaru’s stone frame. The man before them slightly cocked his head and observed her as well. His eyes were the same Golden Honey that Sesshomaru possessed, and his hair was the same silver strands that Ameki was so close to in that moment behind Sesshomaru. His skin was not as flawless though, Ameki could see the faint shimmer of oil that glazed his features, oil and sweat. This was something she had never seen on Sesshomaru, even in battle he had not broken a sweat.

“I knew I smelled trouble. I’m just trying to find out why you of all people would be making a visit?” Sesshomaru didn’t speak, in his place was Jaken to come forth with a ranted reply.

“Things never change with you InuYasha. You never address your brother with the respect he deserves.” Ameki felt her brow crease as Jaken uttered the words. Brother? This was Sesshomaru’s brother? She could see the similarities sure, but this InuYasha character was a bit more...rough… around the edges. He wasn’t nearly as groomed as the great dog demon that she stood behind. His robe held no designs, the cloth looked insanely itchy, his hair was a windswept mess and alas he did not wear shoes. Sesshomaru was royalty among his kind and presented himself so, which led her to question why this man did not.

Ameki caught sight of a small furry ear that twitched on top of his head. Her breath halted as she yet again made another comparison. Sesshomaru’s ears were smooth, hairless and came to a point at the ends on the side of his head. InuYasha’s ears were on the top of his head, and quite possibly reminded Ameki more of a dog than Sesshomaru did.

“Half-brother, half blood. Sesshomaru has only pointed that out to me numerous times.” InuYasha retorted with a smirk. Jaken's face grew red as he became flustered.

“You ungrateful mutt!” InuYasha only smirked with a pointy tooth grin as Jaken carried on in his outburst.

“Enough!” The sudden demand from Sesshomaru made Ameki slightly jump away, coming into InuYasha's full view. She watched as he sniffed the air like a dog.

“You, why do you smell kinda familiar? You kinda look familiar too.” InuYasha was talking to Ameki. She froze on the spot. She didn't know how to answer considering she had never even met him before. She was for certain that she would remember if she had. The adorable ears on top of his head would have been a dead giveaway.

“Uhmm… I think.” She paused and glanced past InuYasha to the tranquil village in the distance. Many flowers and shrubbery blanketed the area.

“I think my mother was from here?” InuYasha cocked his head to the side as he sniffed once more. His bottom and top eyelids retracted into a shocked stare. He stayed like that for a moment looking her over.

“Are you Rin's little brat?!!” InuYasha's reply gained a low sound that resonated from Sesshomaru. It had almost sounded like a growl, but Ameki could have been mistaken. Surely growling must have been below lord Sesshomaru, but she wasn't sure that the same would apply to his brother.

“How did you end up with this big stiff?” InuYasha asked pointing at Sesshomaru.

“Ameki will stay here.” Sesshomaru's voice was cold as he spoke, adding emphasis on Ameki's name. InuYasha tried to mirror his brother's glare as he replied.

“Alright, provided you give me a good explanation as to why you show up out of the blue toting Rin's daughter with you.” The two brothers were in a deadlock stare down neither one giving into blinking. Did they even need to blink?

Ameki was surprised that InuYasha knew who she was. Deductive reasoning soon made her realize that maybe InuYasha had made the connection through Rin's past with Sesshomaru, and also maybe her scent. She brought her wrist up to her nose where she slightly sniffed. All that she could smell was the faint aroma that lingered from her soap that Sesshomaru had gifted to her. Sesshomaru and InuYasha were still in a battle of gazes, but Jaken took notice of Ameki’s odd behavior. With a little frown the Imp broke the tension.

“What’s wrong with you?” Ameki jumped at Jaken’s question. She hadn’t realized that anyone had been watching. She felt silly that she had been caught, almost like a child doing something they weren’t supposed to do. Her cheeks heated as she rushed to make up an explanation.

“I thought I smelled something weird on my sleeve master Jaken.” Ameki lied.

“Hmmm, the only thing that smells weird around here is that mutt InuYasha.” Jaken seemed pleased with himself that he could insult InuYasha without repercussion. InuYasha was still enthralled with his little showdown he didn’t seem to want to lose with Sesshomaru.

“I don’t have time for games InuYasha.” Sesshomaru said, maintaining the cold tone that he had earlier when he had spoken as well.

“Oh, this was a game?” Retorted InuYasha. Though he seemed mature body wise, Ameki assumed that he still had some maturing to do in a mental capacity.

“Doesn’t matter I guess. You show up unannounced like you used to. I just figured you were looking for trouble.” InuYasha waved his hand in annoyance.

“Come on, it's not like the villagers are gonna try to behead you or anything. They are used to demon’s by now.” InuYasha winked towards Ameki. She was confused by his statement, but she figured she would soon find out what he had meant.

“Oh, and one more thing.” InuYasha turned back towards Sesshomaru using his two fingers to point towards his own eyes, then motioned toward Sesshomaru in a “I’m watching you” suggestion.

“Be on your best behavior. Don’t shake your fur and muddy up the place, don’t jump up on furniture, wipe your paws at the door and whatever you do please… Use the bathroom outside.” InuYasha smirked at Sesshomaru. Ameki watched as Jaken’s jaw landed on the ground. The look of astonishment and disgust was clearly present in his features concerning the way InuYasha had just spoken to his brother like he was a common household dog.

Ameki looked to Sesshomaru, a feeling of dread washing over her as she waited for his reaction. A simple slow sprouting smile was his only response. Jaken’s response however, was to back away. Ameki followed.

“Oh my… I know that smile.” Jaken murmured nervously. Ameki waited for what was to come, but instead of a brawl, it was words.

“I see that human woman finally taught you manners.” Sesshomaru’s smirk disappeared. InuYasha’s ears twitched at Sesshomaru’s response.

“Oh I see. You’ve got jokes now huh? It doesn’t suit you.” With that InuYasha turned around, hopped off of the fence and began walking toward the village. A loud exhale of breath sounded beside Ameki. She looked over to see Jaken’s skin returning to green from a bluish color. He had been holding his breath, waiting for Sesshomaru to pummel his little brother.

“That was... very intense.” He whispered. Ameki gave an awkward grin to the imp, not even understanding half of what had just happened.

The village was bustling with life, and no one seemed to mind the fact that a powerful demon was within their midst besides a few women who stopped what they were doing to ogle him. Sesshomaru ignored their coo’s and whispered comments. A few of the statements that Ameki overheard made her blush profusely. She assumed that these people would be used to demon’s by now considering one lived among them, or maybe… Ameki caught sight of a few women with pointed ears and bushy tails. She stopped in her tracks. It was her turn to stare. The women were beautiful. One of the two girls looked to be about Ameki’s age, and the smaller one appeared to be maybe around fourteen.

They caught sight of Ameki’s gaze and gave a warm smile. Ameki realized that she had been gawking and quickly gathered her thoughts and self, pushing forward to catch up to Sesshomaru and InuYasha. Ameki’s amazement got the better of her. This village seemed untouched by the war, and if it had been, they done a good job on repairs. Ameki noticed a few other people that didn’t quite seem… human. The possibilities reeled in her mind. These people were aware that there were demons among them, and they didn’t seem to be bothered. Then again, for the last week, Ameki herself had been traveling with demons. Something that seemed almost unfathomable in retrospect.

They came to a halt in front of a shack that sat on the left side of an archway that lead up steps to no doubt a shrine. The Shack looked as if it had been remodeled to add on rooms over time. Ameki could tell the original shack from the added on areas due to the appearance of aging on the wood. A straw curtain that covered the doorway dangled in the breeze. She wondered why they had come here. InuYasha turned to Ameki and directly spoke.

“Once the people inside realize who you are I can’t promise your safety.” Ameki froze and Sesshomaru shifted his weight. InuYasha chuckled and shrugged.

“They will probably squeal and do all kinds of things that will make Sesshomaru and I want to tear our ears off.” Ameki relaxed, realizing his previous statement had only been a joke. InuYasha turned back toward the door.

“Oh Kagome, Sango...We have a visitor.” InuYasha chided through the curtain.

“Visitors!!!” Jaken chimed in.

“Your manners haven’t changed, you have visitors!” Jaken corrected him in a patronizing tone.

The curtain opened. A miko stepped outside, followed by another woman. Both women were beautiful and Ameki was caught in awe once again. Ameki wondered if the water around here had been contaminated with a celestial essence of sorts. These women were clearly middle aged, she could tell by the way young wrinkles teased the edges of their eyes, and the stray strands of silver that could be seen in dark heads of hair. They both smiled warmly at Ameki, and gave a slight nod in Sesshomaru and Jaken’s direction. Ameki smiled back in return.

“Who do we have here?” The miko asked, directing her question toward Ameki.

“I’m...I meant hello.” Ameki shifted feeling out of place among these beautiful women.

“My name is Ameki Yamato.” She paused, wondering if she should give anymore information. She didn’t have to it seemed. The miko glanced toward InuYasha with a pondering gaze.

“That name sounds oddly familiar.” She brought her hand to her chin and glanced back up at Sesshomaru, and finally resting her eyes back on Ameki. The same dawning shocked expression that InuYasha had possessed earlier now displayed on her face as well.

“You’re… You’re Rin’s daughter!!!” The woman beside her mirrored the expression as soon as the miko blurted her response. For a second Ameki wanted to sniff herself again, it had become instinct to assume that people were sniffing her out. However, the women before her were clearly human, so she dismissed the notion.

“We received a letter from your mother when you were born, but I never thought the day would come.” The miko stepped forward with outstretched arms. Ameki wasn’t sure how she should act in this situation. The Miko grabbed her into an embrace and lightly giggled as she squeezed her. The woman that had been beside the miko began patting Ameki’s arm and smiling.

“You must be completely confused.” The woman beside the miko stated.

“Let me introduce myself. I’m sango, and this…” She patted the miko’s arm.

“This is Kagome.” Kagome pulled back and beamed at Ameki releasing her from the hug. Ameki smiled warmly at the two, slightly relaxing at their unexpected reactions. InuYasha had clearly warned her, and she should have heeded his words.

Sesshomaru and InuYasha disappeared after that. Jaken had stayed with Ameki during the events that followed. After Sango and Kagome had brought her into the shack, they did a little catch up on events. Ameki shared with them the fate of her mother, Rin, and her home and family. The two had been very sad to hear the news, and even cried with Ameki, comforting her in any way that they could. Ameki had even seen Jaken tear up while talking about Rin, but she knew that he would never admit to it.

Ameki was given the full rundown of how things happened. They had been surprised that Rin had never shared her past life with Ameki. Of course, they could understand the traveling with Sesshomaru part. Rin had been devastated when Sesshomaru had stopped coming to see her regularly, and they knew that she had held a bit of resentment for a long time. It had only been when she fell in love that she had forgiven Sesshomaru. It was then that she realized that Sesshomaru had only done what was best for her, and it had been InuYasha that had finally convinced her. However, they were completely puzzled as to why Rin had kept her home in the village a secret. They thought that maybe even the lord, Ichiro, might have said something.

Deep down Ameki knew that her mother must have had her reasons for being so secretive. Maybe it had been to protect Ameki from something, or maybe even just to protect Ameki’s father’s interests. After all, Ichiro’s brother Yuudai had been strict, and would have most likely done everything in his power to destroy his brother’s reputation to gain the title of Lord. Even if that meant tarnishing Ichiro’s wife’s name for coming from a village of demon sympathizers.

Ameki learned that Sango was a demon slayer, something she had only heard of a few times in her life. Demon slayers were very rare, and the fact that one sat across from her amazed her. Sango was married to a monk named Miroku, and they had six children. Five girls and one boy. Sango carried on about how Miroku had been a lecher in his day, but after their daughters came of age, he spent most of his time chasing off the lechers. It was almost poetic justice to Sango. She smiled fondly at something she was remembering. Kagome was married to Inuyasha, and had been for two and a half decades. They had one child together, Akio. InuYasha had wished for a son, but they had a daughter instead. They kept the name Akio, because InuYasha had often talked to Kagome’s stomach while she had been pregnant. He had used the name numerous times, and Kagome said that it would have felt wrong to change it.

Ameki was amazed to find out that InuYasha was much older than he looked. Kagome explained that he was only a half demon. This meant that he aged much faster than demons, but much slower than humans. Kagome didn’t even care to try and add up his age, she only mentioned that for fifty years of his life he had been bound to a tree. That fact alone astonished Ameki and made her mind whirl.

A good part of the day was spent exchanging stories. Ameki felt at peace knowing she could possibly have a life here, among a place that was left in her mother’s past. Jaken seemed oddly bored as he sat in the corner listening to story after story. Only when Naraku was mentioned did Jaken jump in to add a plethora of details pertaining to Sesshomaru’s involvement. Jaken got carried away, even winded as he spoke of his master’s heroic exploits and the ultimate destruction of Naraku. Ameki saw the shared glance of humor between Sango and Kagome as they sipped their tea.

Ameki was truly enjoying herself. She had made it a habit to search out and keep in touch with people in her old home, in the castle and the village. However this felt natural. They didn’t see her as their superior, they weren’t scared to speak with her. They spoke with her as if she had been a long time friend, and ultimately that is what made her realize that she was on the right path. Everything had been taken from her, but she did have something to gain. She could have a second family, a second chance right here in this village.

The back of Ameki’s neck began to burn. The burning was joined by a pinching sensation right at the base of her head and the top of her neck. She squeezed her eyes shut and placed her hand over the area, lowering her head. She tried her best not to gain too much attention.

“Hey are you alright? I know Kagome can sometimes get chatty.” Kagome playfully swatted at Sango.

“I’m fine, just a bit dizzy.” Ameki replied and returned her gaze downward.

“If it’s a headache I have just the thing.” Kagome stood and walked over to a linen bag that was in the corner. She removed something from a strange foreign container and crushed it inside her mortar. Sango grabbed Ameki’s empty cup from in front of her and refilled it with fresh warm tea. Kagome brought a white powder substance and stirred it into the tea. She handed the cup back to Ameki who slowly accepted it.

“I promise that will help ease the pain. Just sip on it, and once it cools drink the rest.” She smiled and returned to her sitting position across the fire.

They resumed their earlier topic of Akio’s whereabouts. She had wanted to become a great swordsmith and had taken an apprenticeship with an old demon named Totosai. From an early age Akio had formed an obsession with her father’s sword and his constant misuse of its power to impress her. She had vowed that one day she would forge a sword to rival the tessaiga. Sango mentioned that her son had taken up the trade, and was now a demon slayer, he was often gone with his uncle, Kohaku, on jobs. Her daughter Chinami was married and lived here in the village with her husband and a little one on the way. Her other four daughters had married and moved off, sending letters every month to keep in touch. Sango didn’t seem sad that her children were all spread out, she seemed rather happy that they were happy and living their lives. Ameki wondered if that was what her mother had wanted for her.

Ameki had never considered finding a suitor. She had been introduced to many men that had been potential suitors, but her father never forced her into political weddings like most princesses. It was her uncle that had intended to do that. That is until he realized that she was hopeless. It wasn’t so much her age as it was her motivation to marry. She had never found the spark that her mother had spoken of having with her father. That had been what she was looking for.

The pain in her neck dulled slightly, but it continued throughout most of the afternoon. Sesshomaru and InuYasha had yet to return. Sango left, knowing her husband Miroku would be returning from one of his trips.

“The food won’t cook itself, I’ve tried letting it.” She stated as she released the straw curtain letting it sway where she had once been standing. Kagome smiled and stood as well.

“I suppose I should cook something as well. Our snack we had for lunch is wearing off, and I’m a bit peckish, how about you?” Before Ameki could even reply Jaken jumped up.

“Yes, that sounds good. I’m absolutely famished. Ameki’s cooking is okay, but it's time for some real food!” Jaken rubbed his clammy hands together in excitement. Kagome rolled her eyes and made her way to a corner of the shack that held a trove of cooking supplies. Ameki scooted back so that she was against the wall and closed her eyes. Sleep had been somewhat elusive for her in the past week. Her last bit of good sleep had been the night before Sesshomaru presented her with presents. Every night following that was filled with bad dreams. Dreams that were cold, and filled her chest with an unimaginable pain. The face was what scared her the most. A beautiful face with fiery eyes, and a malicious grin that exposed fangs. The beautiful face would darken and contort into something that resembled a scaled beast. She woke up numerous times each night with the burning pain surfacing on the back of her neck. She had muffled her tears, but she was almost certain that Sesshomaru knew. How could he not? She had noticed that Sesshomaru had slowed his pace for her, knowing that she hadn’t received much sleep. It was the small things that he did that showed that he truly cared, and those were the things that Ameki noticed. Those were the things that Rin had no doubt noticed too.

 

~Sesshomaru~

 

Sesshomaru and InuYasha emerged from the forest to look out over the village. The afternoon hours were upon them. Their detour to visit Royakan, the guardian demon of the forest, had taken longer than anticipated. Sesshomaru was rather irritated with the Spineless demon. He had mentioned that his scouts would keep an eye on Yakunan’s army movements, but when asked about his personal involvement he simply withered in fear. Sesshomaru had always known that Royakan was was less that brave, but this was urgent. He needed to know of Yakunan’s exact movements and locations so that he could leave Ameki long enough to seek out knowledge. He wanted to understand what it was exactly that Yakunan had done to Ameki, and to do that he would need to visit a colony of Demon’s on the west coast. Demon’s that were more familiar with magic’s from the continent. He couldn’t trust some measly apparitions to do the scout work, no, he had wanted Royakan out in the field.

InuYasha sighed as he took in the view before him.

“He really was after Rin wasn’t he?” InuYasha let his guard down for the first time around his brother. He knew deep down that Rin’s death had saddened his brother, He could tell by the way Sesshomaru’s eyes changed at the mention of her name. InuYasha knew how it felt to lose people he cared for, and even though Sesshomaru paraded a strong facade, he could see right through it. His snarky comments were left in the dust as he watched Sesshomaru's subtle change in demeanor.

“Yes, and I plan on tearing out the hearts of everyone involved.” InuYasha didn’t reply. He didn’t blame his brother for the anger he felt. Sesshomaru was an arrogant bastard that InuYasha despised at times, but he wasn’t the monster he used to be. InuYasha had thought on it multiple times. What is a greater feat? To be born good, or to turn from wickedness and pursue good? InuYasha had watched his brother transform from a non discriminate killer, to a man who only drew his sword when necessary. It was a leap that InuYasha never fathomed he would live to see. InuYasha had never even dreamed that he could hold a civilized conversation with Sesshomaru, but there they were.

“You know, you did right by Rin. For a long time she resented you and sometimes I swore that her thick headed trait was something she got from you. I did my best to make her understand that where life was taking you, she couldn’t follow. She was convinced that she could follow you blindly anywhere.” InuYasha chuckled at the memory. Sesshomaru remained quiet.

“When she fell in love with Ichiro, she realized that it wouldn’t have been possible if you hadn't left her. Being on the move all the time was no environment for a healthy courtship. She also realized that what you were doing was to protect her. In gaining control of what was yours once again, you were protecting all of us.” Sesshomaru gave InuYasha a quizzical side glance.

“You can drop the act, we all knew you were culling the demon attacks on human villages. You’re pretty much the only white spectre in these parts.” InuYasha laughed.

“I’m not trying to buddy up to you, goodness knows we can’t allow our father happiness in the afterlife. All I’m saying is…” InuYasha paused.

“You aren’t a half bad person anymore. Personally, I don’t like you. I still think your face needs rearranging, but Rin had a certain effect on you. You stopped squishing everything with your prideful thumb and started acting like a man.” InuYasha inhaled and turned a cocky grin toward Sesshomaru. Sesshomaru simply narrowed his eyes in response.

“And as for Ameki, she’s welcome in the village. I can already tell you that much. Kagome isn’t going to let that one go. Ever Since Akio left with her apprenticeship Kagome has been looking for something to coddle. So yes, she will be safe here. We might not rise up to your standards, but we stand for something. I’m sure she will be comfortable. She won’t have all the luxuries of a princess, but she’ll have family, she’ll be able to live.” InuYasha paused.

“She’ll have everything you wanted for Rin.” Sesshomaru closed his eyes and exhaled as InuYasha spoke those last words.

Sesshomaru knew what would be best for Ameki, but that wasn’t an option any longer. She would not be afforded the same opportunities that Rin had as long as Yakunan lived, but the problem with that was that if Yakunan died, so did Ameki.

Chapter Text

~Sesshomaru~

 

Sesshomaru left Ameki and Jaken both in the village. Where Sesshomaru was going, it would be safer for the both of them. Jaken had wailed in disapproval over Sesshomaru’s decision, but all it took was one wry glance from Sesshomaru to change Jaken’s tune. Sesshomaru had departed three days earlier, and had told them that he would return within a weeks time. Without having to slow his pace for Ameki, he was able to make the journey how he seen fit. He took to the sky, and relished the feel of the wind that embraced him in welcoming.

Sesshomaru’s plans were simple. He would travel to the west coast and meet with his connections from the continent. They were Yokai such as Sesshomaru, but in their homeland they were called Yaoguai. Sesshomaru's father, Inu No Taisho, had once battled a demon from the continent. Many demon's actually, but so very few had been worth mentioning. One in particular that had posed a threat had been Hyoga. Hyoga was an ancient moth demon who sought to ensnare and devour the human souls of Nihon. After his defeat, centuries later, Menomaru later rose from his body and sought to do the same. InuYasha and his friends had been the ones to seal Menomaru's fate. The west provinces of Nihon were protected by Sesshomaru, and his allies helped him secure the west coast to avoid such happenings in the future. Jiaolong, Yakunan, had made his appearance not long after Naraku’s defeat.

In hindsight, Sesshomaru pondered the irony of his current situation. His father had many allies in Nihon and his influence had even reached the continent. The Great dog General had left merely two swords and an honorable reputation for his son's. Sesshomaru had spent most of his life trying to surpass his father, and taking the western provinces as his domain, as lord to those demons that resided within them. This also meant the foreign demons that resided on his coast. Many of them still stood in support of Sesshomaru, and he was about to use that to his advantage. He needed an upper hand on Yakunan and to do so, he would need to understand Yakunan's plan. He needed to view the bigger picture.

Sesshomaru arrived on the Island of Oki. It was the closest bordering island to the west coast, but still much farther away from the land of Musashi than he wanted to be. He knew this had been where Yakunan had started his inquiry into the past events surrounding Naraku. He had learned of Sesshomaru’s involvement, his obsession, and set in motion the chain of events that had led to war. A war that Yakunan had intended to create, weakening all of Sesshomaru’s allies so that he could bring some of his own allies to Nihon.

Sesshomaru knew this would be the best place to start looking for more information. If not, then he would have to travel farther South, which would take more time. In his father’s years of reigning over the land in his pure form, the western coast had been overrun by demons from the continent. By the end of Inu No Taisho’s life, things had settled. His compassion for humans had won, and agreements were brought forth. Hyoga had been one such demon that had disobeyed the agreements and went against the Great Dog General. After the demon’s became more organized over time, they kept to the small islands off shore of Nihon and traveled inland at will, but were warned that any trouble would lead to destruction. However, Sesshomaru knew of many demons that had disregarded the agreements arranged by his late father. Oki, Tsushima, Iki and many other island provinces were now more than just homes for demons fleeing the continent. Black markets, populated the many islands, but it was more than just that to Sesshomaru. It would be where he would find his answers.

Oki was a rather large Island, suitable for a demon trade hub. Many new faces entered his view as he walked the roads he hadn’t traveled in at least two centuries. The first time he had visited had been with his father, long before his infatuation with the human princess Izayoi. He had been much younger, and far more arrogant than he was in his current mindset. Seeing these foreign demons bowing to his father’s rule had done wonders for his pride, but now he simply didn’t care. As long as they did not disturb the order he was trying to maintain in his land such as Yakunan had, then he would let them continue with their trades. For now he wanted information, and he knew exactly where to find it.

Laquan was a well respected demoness from the continent. She had three other sisters, but she was the oldest. Laquan was a living vessel for all things related to spring. Her sisters, who remained on the continent, were manifested representations of the other seasons. Laquan had left the continent long ago due to the untimely demise of her daughter, and found sanctuary from the events that had transpired. She had long ago been a loyal ally to Inu No Taisho, and an advisor in situations concerning Hyoga.

Sesshomaru kept a steady pace as he made his way to the hidden grove on the outskirts of the port bustle. The grove served as a place where Laquan could have her solitude. The place was lavish with flowers and blossoming trees. The area surrounding the grove dulled in comparison to the green grass that splayed the ground like a natural rug. In the nook of the hillside was a trickling spring that welled from the depths of the stone, cascading into a miniature waterfall. The area was covered in a thick ivy that hung from the rocks. A single gourd hung from the tangled mess of vines. Sesshomaru halted his steps a few feet from the gourd. A small hole was present, as if it had been hollowed out to serve as a bird nest.

“Laquan, your services are needed.” Sesshomaru voiced in a low tone. He waited only a few moments before the entrance of the gourd illuminated to a bright white glow from a deep black. A material vapor began pouring out of the gourd as a small sprite exited. The sprite slowly approached the area where Sesshomaru stood. He examined the small white light as it closed in. The sprite hastened its speed and circled Sesshomaru a few times before settling into a less erratic pace and transforming in front of him. Sesshomaru could make out a figure forming in the bright light that grew in intensity. Long crimson hair came into view, splaying across his vision in the invisible wind. As the bright light dimmed, Sesshomaru found Emerald eyes gazing back into his amber ones.

“I’ve been expecting you Sesshomaru, granted I thought you would have appeared to me long before now.” Laquan was an ancient demon, but her youthful appearance made her seem if she were merely a woman in her prime. Sesshomaru knew the docile nature that Laquan held was what had caused her to flee the continent in the first place. War had taken her daughter, and driven her from her home. However, where Laquan lacked in motivation for combat, she made up with vast amounts of wisdom and knowledge. Sesshomaru nodded in reply, knowing full well that Laquan was familiar with the reason he had came.

“Jiaolong.” She stated.

“Or as you know him, Yakunan.” Sesshomaru didn’t nod or even acknowledge that she had been right.

“He’s not as ancient as his predecessors, but he is a formidable one.” Laquan motioned for Sesshomaru to walk with her. He followed as she tended to her natural garden. With a touch of her fingertip bushes bloomed, and wilting flowers seemed to reverse their flow of life, becoming vibrant once more.

“So tell me, Son of the Great Dog General, what is it that you wish to know about the dragon in our midst?” Her emerald eyes found his direction once more, and she scanned his features.

“I want to know the extent of his power.” Sesshomaru answered. Laquan raised a perfectly groomed brow.

“Anything in particular, or do you just want to know what the horned dragon’s are capable of in general?” Sesshomaru hesitated hearing her question. How was he supposed to answer a question that would reveal his intent to save a mortal woman? Laquan had never looked down on his father for eventually falling in love with a mortal woman, but Sesshomaru didn’t want to give the impression that he was following in his father’s footsteps. His pride gnawed at him. He was standing in front of someone that held the respect of many demons, and about to reveal that he was on a similar path his father had taken, one that had led to Inu No Taisho’s demise.

“Yakunan has placed a mark upon someone.” Sesshomaru vaguely answered her question with a statement. Laquan raised both eyebrows, curiosity filling her features.

“I assume by someone you mean a mortal?” She didn’t wait on gauging a response from him, she knew any attempt would be futile.

“I only ask because you seem to need the knowledge.” She turned her attention back to the flowers before her and continued talking.

“Dragon’s are a particularly mischievous and unpredictable kind. It’s usually better to have them on your side.” She moved a few paces ahead and focused her physical attention on the flora before them, while continuing her mental recollection.

“The horned dragon’s in particular have long been known for their unquenchable thirst that is destruction. When not waging wars against others, they often relish the pain and misery that is often felt by mortals in times of war. In my homeland the dark horned dragon’s are often seen residing within the smoke filled regions of battle.” Laquan turned her full attention back to Sesshomaru who had been listening to her words.

“The horned dragon’s are viewed as God’s of War to humans that wish to taste domination. Their presence within the heat of battle have been seen as an omen and many worship them. Some mortals go as far as zealotry to gain the Horned dragon’s favor in war, receiving a mark that brandishes them with immortality while on the battlefield.This mark can be placed onto any mortal willing or not, but the dragon’s usually only give the mark to those that wish to gain their favor.” Laquan tilted her head slightly letting her eyes wander as she spoke.

“It’s not to say that they wouldn’t force the mark onto someone, but that requires a much more complex use of power, one that's dark and quiet taboo among most dragon’s now days.” She paused and shook her head.

“I can’t say for sure that Yakunan would possess such knowledge considering he is merely a young dragon.” She looked contemplatively at Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru reflected on Laquan’s words. He knew that Ameki would not have willingly accepted the mark. He was sure that she was unaware of its presence, and as far as he could tell, she had no recollection of what had happened to her in the woods when Yakunan had taken her life.

“Care to elaborate how something like this could have happened if the person had not been willing?” Sesshomaru steadied his gaze, trying not to let too much emotion slip into his demeanor.

“Sesshomaru…” Laquan straightened her posture and matched his expression.

“You reek of shame, its unfitting for one such as yourself.” Sesshomaru could feel an inner twitch as she spoke.

“Protecting a human is not a weakness. Your feelings toward humans stem from the changes you witnessed in your father. He died protecting the mortal woman he loved, and your grudge toward mortals was born because he did not live to see you rise in power. You did not get your chance to defeat him.” Sesshomaru didn’t try to hide the frown that creased his brow as she spoke. Her eyes pierced him as if she had been reading his life clearly written from a scroll.

“Did you ever stop to think, that your father only grew in power trying to constantly protect something so fragile and easily erased from this plain of existence? He may have died, but he was not weak. Do you know of any other demon, besides your father, that could have sustained such injuries and continued fighting?” Sesshomaru’s claws dug into the skin of his palms as Laquan spoke to him as if he were a child.

“Your father’s fate had been sealed by Ryukotsusei, and any actions he took thereafter were simply his dying wishes, things he needed to do before his departure from this world.” Her eyes narrowed and her lips thinned in a stern expression.

“You seek knowledge from me, but don’t share knowledge of the situation in which my imparted knowledge could aid. I won’t force it out of you, I just want you to know that just because most demons couldn’t possibly find themselves affiliated with humans doesn’t mean I am the same way. There is a reason why those demons that do not respect mortal existence are not as strong as you or your father” The stern look she had given Sesshomaru faded and was replaced by a warm smile. Laquan had said her peace as if she had been counseling Sesshomaru’s father all over again. Memories of their first meeting quickly surfaced and disappeared as Sesshomaru relaxed. The lecture he had dreaded and tried to avoid was over. He had not completely ignored her words though, they would however, be something to ponder another time.

“I do not wish to speak of such things. I merely wish to understand what is happening.” Laquan slightly shrugged and let out a small sigh.

“Very well Sesshomaru.” She closed her eyes and opened them, revealing a hazy green glow from the very depths that Sesshomaru had not noticed before.

“In ancient times the horned dragons rebelled against other types of dragons. In my culture the dragons were beings of balance, all of them maintained counterparts. The dragon’s of destruction rebelled against the dragons of creation. The difference being that destruction was of demonic nature, and creation of celestial. The land was simply a battleground and the mortals were pawns. Life continued by will of creation, and life was taken by will of destruction. The Celestial dragon’s would create ways for life to sustain existence, but this angered the horned dragons. The Jiaolong as we know them now, horned dragons, continued to kill the mortals marking them upon death and claiming their souls so that the afterlife would not send them into the currents of time to be reborn. They used these marked souls and eventually returned them back to life as thralls. The extent of power they had over them was limited however, because the balance of creation that constantly influenced everything around us still had domain over anything living. The marking of the souls was merely a way to stop the cycle of life in an attempt to weaken the celestial dragons.” Laquan finished speaking, the dim green glow slowly disappeared from her eyes, returning them to the deep emerald color that had been present before. Sesshomaru had listened, and dissected each word with deep thought. This explained the mark, but she hadn’t gone into detail pertaining to Yakunan’s abilities over the marked individual. Sesshomaru inwardly sighed and spoke.

“The woman that was marked has shown signs of some kind of physical link to Yakunan.” Laquan arched an eyebrow at Sesshomaru’s words. She almost looked as if she were ready to emphasize on his use of revealing words, but slightly shook her head and steered her response from Sesshomaru’s clearly stated individual.

“I’m guessing by that you mean the Jìng fǎshù. It’s a common effect that is sometimes exhibited through the link of the dragon and the one marked. It’s a mirror spell so to speak and usually is only formed when the marked individual suffered great trauma before death. The ancient horned dragon’s used it to sustain their own livelihood when in battle with the celestials. It transfers damage inflicted onto the horned dragon to their thrall. Once a certain threshold is reached the thrall dies negating the damage dealt to the horned dragon. This effect only works one way. The horned dragons created many thralls and plagued the land with torture increasing the possibility that the Jìng fǎshù would form upon revival. A mark that was placed onto a willing person can be removed because they did not have to die to receive it, but a mark that was forcefully forged cannot be removed because the horned dragon has marked their soul upon death.” Laquan’s features took on a grim expression as she spoke.

“Yakunan killed this woman you know, and I assume you used Tenseiga to revive her?” Laquan’s grim expression changed to one of more serious nature. Sesshomaru nodded.

“What were the results? Did the Tenseiga bring her back?” Sesshomaru sorted his memories and recalled the moments following his strike with tenseiga.

“The Tenseiga did not seem to have an affect on her. The technique I used was precise, but the effects should have been instantaneous.” Sesshomaru remembered the strange events that happened after attempting to bring Ameki back. Yakunan had later shared his involvement, explaining that he had allowed her to return to the land of the living. Laquan's detailed recollection had shed some light on how that was possible, but what did that mean for Tenseiga's abilities? Had it worked or not?

“If you used the Tenseiga to kill the couriers of the underworld then I'm afraid that the chances of being able to do it again are non existent, even if Yakunan was the one who allowed her soul to return.” Laquan sighed and turned her gaze toward the ground, lowering her voice to a softened tone.

“The horned dragon's abilities to bring the marked souls back lays within destroying the underworld's hold on them, just as tenseiga does. The results are the same either way I suppose. The ability can only be used once because of the balance of nature. Returning someone to life once is already pushing boundaries, returning them to life anymore after that would upset the balance.”

Laquan's eyes narrowed.

“Although there is one bit of information that could possibly ease your troubles.” Sesshomaru stood unmoving, still processing the previous realizations that threatened his calm demeanor.

“The mark given to the unwilling still holds the powers bequeathed unto those who received it willingly. In essence wounds inflicted directly to her will heal quickly, she is less likely to be inflicted with human diseases and…” Laquan paused, most likely adding dramatics to her revelation.

“Her lifespan has been significantly increased as well. Provided Yakunan doesn't sustain a mortal wound or get killed this could give you time to find the solution you are looking for, but alas, I do not have those answers.” She paused once again, squinting her eyes slightly.

“The staff I gave your father, the Nintojo, could aid you in your search. I assume the staff is ultimately what led you to uncovering the secrets of your father's hidden resting place.” Sesshomaru inwardly sighed. The staff of two heads had exhausted its usefulness to him once he had found the Tessaiga, only to learn that he could not wield the sword. The staff had been stashed away where only Sesshomaru and Inu No Taisho knew. Sesshomaru had decided in the end that his father had wanted Sesshomaru to lead InuYasha there, in one of his many attempts to bring the brothers together. Sesshomaru had given the staff to Jaken, so that his vassal could use it to serve him. It had never occurred to him that the staff would have more uses to him.

“The woman screams whenever you have been misled, but the man laughs when your path is clear.” Laquan had given the staff to his father when she had learned that his mortal mistress was expecting. Inu No Taisho had sought knowledge to help him and Totosai forge the legendary swords. The staff’s abilities had completely slipped Sesshomaru's mind. Maybe Sesshomaru had been a little obsessed with finding Naraku, and he could have easily found him sooner if his pride and resentment toward the Tessaiga dilemma hadn't blinded him to the true uses of the staff of two heads.

Sesshomaru slowly nodded closing his eyes, and turning his body sideways in a gesture to signify his departure.

“Didn’t you want to know more about Yakunan’s abilities?” Sesshomaru opened his eyes and glanced back toward Laquan.

“Did you tell me everything about the mark?” A small smile played at the corners of Laquan’s lips.

“Everything that I am aware of Lord Sesshomaru.” She slightly chuckled.

“I’m going to assume that is all you wanted to know then…” She gave Sesshomaru a knowing look. He couldn’t fool the Ancient demoness of Spring. Afterall, it was her job to be connected to everything around her. It's how she influenced nature, and nature ultimately tells all.

“I’ll be on my way Laquan.” Sesshomaru began to walk away but stopped. There was one detail he wished to mention to her. It only seemed right since she had imparted her knowledge to him without anything in exchange.

“Laquan…” Without turning he spoke.

“Zhao Lun is in Yakunan’s company.” He thought back to the demon he had only glimpsed at. A demon that had terrorized Nihon once before in the past. Zhao Lun had come to Nihon in search of Laquan in the days that his father ruled the western skies. Zhao Lun had been the one to send Laquan’s daughter to Diyu, their culture’s “realm of the dead.” Laquan’s daughter, Yǔ nǚshén, had served as a Deity in many regions on the continent, though demon by nature, she was as docile as Laquan. Many mortals worshipped her for her gift of fertility to the land during trying times. Zhao Lun, being a demon of leaching, fed on the misfortune and famine like the Vulture he was. Yǔ nǚshén fell to Zhao Lun when she had refused to defend herself.

Sesshomaru could hear the the slight clenching of flesh, and the smell of Laquan’s blood drew near Sesshomaru on the wind. Sesshomaru turned to glance from the corner of his eye. Laquan stood dead still, the glow had returned to her eyes.

“I’ll dispatch him...slowly.” Sesshomaru spoke standing still for a few more moments until Laquan slowly nodded her head.

 

~Ameki~

 

Ameki awoke in a cold sweat, a searing pain resonated from the back of her neck, causing her to scream out. She grabbed the back of her neck, and at first had felt a rough raised area of flesh, but as she brushed over the area again with her fingertips, it was smooth. She had imagined it, just as her mind had dreamed up countless images that she had wished to forget. Some of the things that had presented themselves in her dreams seemed foreign to her waking mind, but the unconscious state she had previously been in had made them feel familiar. The image of the scaled demon appeared more than once, as if he had been watching her from a distance as she hurried away from the burning castle. She caught images of him flitting through the crowded battle zone. She had seen his eyes peer through the ogre that had chased her. He had stood in front of her, his fiery eyes were only magnified by the dark contrast of his scales against pale skin. He terrified her, and this seemed to thoroughly please him.

Ameki quickly pulled herself together as she caught sight of the candle light coming through the Straw curtain of her doorway. Kagome gently pulled the curtain aside and looked in, the candlelight illuminated her worried features. Ameki did her best to conjure a smile for the miko. This had become a habit for Ameki, and she felt terrible that it was because of her that Kagome wore such a worried expression. Kagome had invited her into her home and let her stay in her daughter’s unused room, but in return Ameki had only repaid her with nightly wake up calls due to her recurring nightmares. It had only been about a week since Sesshomaru had left, but Jaken had informed her that Sesshomaru usually took much longer than his given estimates.

Ameki could hear the bare steps of InuYasha’s feet as he left the house. This was normally a habit for him as well. Kagome explained that InuYasha was simply doing his nightly rounds, but Ameki found it slightly odd that he seemed to always do it when she had awoken from one of her night terrors. Ameki felt that she was bothering Sesshomaru’s brother, but Kagome had done everything to reassure her that this was not the case. She explained that it was something that InuYasha used to do for Akio. When Akio would have a bad dream, InuYasha would often go off on a patrol to assure her that nothing would harm her or Kagome. It was his way to show sympathy without seeming too soft. It would seem that even though InuYasha and Sesshomaru were considerably different, their pride had been one in the same.

“Another dream dear?” Kagome stepped into the room as she spoke.

“I’m afraid so. Though Sango explained that witnessing something horrible could cause this to happen.” Kagome nodded her head in agreement as Ameki spoke.

“I’m sorry you had to witness the things that happened. I can’t say that it will get any easier, but I do believe you will get stronger and be able to cope with it better in the future.” Kagome smiled warmly at Ameki. Ameki returned the smile and slightly shifted under her blanket.

“That may be so, but for now it's still fresh to me and I’m sorry that I keep waking the two of you like this.” Ameki’s smile faded quickly into a frown.

“Nonsense, This old bladder needed a break from sleep anyways.” Kagome chuckled.

“When I’m done taking care of that I’ll wash up and make some tea to help calm those nerves.” Kagome turned to leave but Ameki protested.

“Oh please no. Don’t go out of your way to try and comfort me. The tea isn’t necessary.” Kagome dismissed Ameki’s guilt ridden plea and walked out of the room. There was no convincing Kagome when she had her mind set on something, and Ameki was learning that very quickly.

Three more days past. Ameki spent most of those days tending the herb garden that Kagome had. The knowledge of herbs and their medicinal properties had imprinted on Ameki’s mind, and she was sure that she could put the knowledge to use in aiding the villagers if ever Kagome found herself over encumbered with work. She enjoyed the feeling of being useful for once. She had been a princess, a very important role for someone within a court, but her duties had been quite lacking where involving herself with people was concerned. Sure her late father had hosted dinner and festivities, and even her uncle had planned a few events where her presence was needed, but she had never really been able to find something that felt meaningful. She only wished to help make change instead of watching things change around her as she seemingly stood still.

Jaken wasn’t too much help in Ameki’s pursuits of the mind. He mostly sat under a shade tree and yearned for the return of his master. Ameki learned very quickly that the imps fascination with Lord Sesshomaru was bordering obsession. It was very unhealthy for what little personal life Jaken had, if he had one at all. She had tried to convince him numerous times that waiting for Sesshomaru would only make time pass much more slowly. She simply wanted the little imp to keep his mind busy so that maybe he wouldn’t worry so much. She could have sworn that his already wrinkled appearance had taken on a few more worry creases. Such was the way Jaken wished to continue his days, and so Ameki had finally given up.

Mid afternoon on the fourth day, Ameki had decided to broaden her horizons concerning the village. She wanted to get out and meet the people that resided within her new home. Spending her days in Kagome’s herb garden had sufficed as entertainment and Kagome had taught her many things concerning current medicinal trends, but what Ameki needed now was to feel like she was a part of something, and to do that she would need to get herself involved in something. She walked around the market area, observing the many stalls that lined the streets. It wasn’t nearly as big as the market districts she had grown up around, but it was definitely abuzz with life. Women rushed around with baskets buying produce from farmers that looked as if they had received less sleep than Ameki herself. Children played games of tag and Ameki had even seen a small group of children hiding among the many wares that merchants sat on display. She noticed a girl counting as she held her eyes shut. When she had counted to twenty she had opened her eyes and scurried off, immediately finding a small boy that had attempted to hide underneath a low lying table. Their giddy giggles filled Ameki’s heart with a feeling of warmth.

Ameki soon found herself at Sango’s house. Sango sat outside Polishing something huge that was oddly shaped. Ameki quietly approached, not wanting to disturb her. Sango’s keen senses immediately detected her and ruined Ameki’s intent on observing.

“Ah, Hello Ameki.” She beamed up at the girl from her sitting position on a stone.

“What brings you here today?” Ameki paused before answering.

“I thought it would do me some good to get out and explore a bit.” Ameki smiled back at Sango.

“Fresh air and bustling streets can do wonders for a busy mind.” She gave Ameki a knowing glance. No doubt Kagome had talked to her about her night terrors.

“Ah, yes. For the last couple of days I’ve kind of stayed close to Kagome’s home. I thought maybe I could get out and meet some new people, see if I could help anyone.” Ameki giggled awkwardly.

“It seems though that everyone is pretty busy, and I’m not really sure how to start a conversation.” Sango nodded as Ameki spoke.

“It can be hard adjusting to new surroundings and new people. I promise though that the people in this village are a one of a kind. I don’t think you’ll find a mean bone amongst them all.” Sango paused and tilted her head, a wry expression surfacing.

“That is if you don’t count InuYasha. He can be a bit of a bone head when he wants to be.” Sango began laughing and Ameki joined with a small giggle. InuYasha often stomped around like a child when him and Kagome had disagreements. InuYasha often mentioned something called Ninja food, that would instantly set Kagome off. This usually ended with InuYasha not eating, and storming out of the house like a dog that had been scolded. Pun intended.

“If you don’t mind me asking…” Ameki began.

“What is that?” She motioned to the hulking object that Sango continued to polish.

“This is my weapon of choice. The Hiraikotsu.” Ameki could feel the questioning look spread across her features as she tried to determine how such an object could be used as a weapon. She had seen many weapons before, but none had even resembled the “Hiraikotsu.” She wondered if maybe it was used as a shield of sorts, but in more of a bashing manner, considering Sango had mentioned it was a weapon.

“How do you use it?” Ameki asked. Her curiosity got the better of her, and her conversation with Sango so far had been the most promising social interaction she had received all day. Secretly she wanted Sango to humor her on the subject, even if it was just a plea for her to be able to socialize with someone.

Sango halted her rhythmic motions, setting the cloth she'd been using beside her.

“I could explain how its used, or…” She smiled a sideways grin.

“I could show you. I'm not as nimble as I was in my youth, but I won't let a little aging ware me out of shape.” She stood, letting the leather strap slide over her torso securing the Hiraikotsu against her back. She made it seem effortless, but something about the bone like material led Ameki to believe that the weapon itself was actually very heavy. Ameki was quite impressed with Sango's strength alone.

They made their way through the fields and down a path to a heavily wooded forest area. Sango stopped, halting Ameki in her tracks.

“This looks like a good a place as any. You might want to step back a little. The swinging radius is rather large. Wouldn't want to accidentally hit you. Jaken would never let me hear the end of it, and I dread to even think of what I would have to put up with concerning Sesshomaru.” Sango winked toward the retreating Ameki and nodded when she was comfortable with her distance. Ameki watched as Sango gripped the leather strap and leaned the large weapon in a slanted position on the ground adjacent to her. Sango's left foot snaked out with surprising speed granting her the pull she needed to thrust the large weapon with only her right arm, sending it airborne in one sweeping motion. The once odd shaped weapon now appeared to spin giving it the appearance of a circle with the fast motion as it blurred speeding toward the trees that were splayed out in the distance. Ameki's hand found her mouth that was now agape with disbelief. The weapon didn't lodge into the base of the tree as Ameki had assumed it would, instead it cut through the thick tree sending a loud cracking noise that echoed off of the near trees. It didn't stop there or even seem to lose momentum upon impact. It cut through three more rather large trees before the arcing motion returned it back on a path that was headed directly for Sango. Ameki gasped as the weapon soared through the air returning to the position where it had been dispatched. Sango's relaxed form jumped into action at the last moment before Ameki had feared the weapon would collide with her. Sango grabbed the strap seamlessly from thin air, and Ameki watched as the weapon found its previous position as Sango's catch halted its movement instantaneously slightly causing Sango's frame to slide backwards in the dirt upon impact. Sango now held the hairakotsu against her back, holding the leather strap over her shoulder.

Ameki was in complete awe at what she had witnessed. Sango had found Ameki's expression to be quite funny considering the laughter that erupted from her as she glanced back to glimpse at the frozen girl before her. She quickly recovered from the fit of laughter, returning the strap around her torso and fitting the weight of the hiraikotsu onto her back.

“Now we just need to drag InuYasha out here to hack up this wood. It will make for a nice little stockpile to have on hand.” Ameki shook herself from the shock that tried to petrify her. The thought of InuYasha hacking up the tree with his sword sent Ameki into her own little fit of giggles.

Upon returning to the village Sango caught a glimpse of her husband Miroku and gave an irritated sigh. The graying monk watched as a group of young women browsed the wares he had placed at his own market stall just outside of his and Sango's home. The many sutras that decorated the surface of the table were neatly organized, and talismans hung from the tables edge. The girls cooed over a talisman that Ameki recognized as a love charm of sorts. She had seen many girls from her home village wear the charms in hopes of finding a husband. Sango's voice broke Ameki's train of thought.

“I had hoped that one day he would go bald. That would fix at least half of the problem. Once a lecher, always a lecher.” She turned toward Ameki and smiled.

“I knew what I was getting into though when I agreed to marry him.” Ameki looked back to where Miroku smiled dreamily at the young women before him. No doubt Miroku was still trying to live in his glory days, when his features had been more youthful, and his hair had been the color of midnight. The women didn't seem to mind his seasoned appearance, and Ameki had to admit that he did indeed hold a certain attractiveness that was probably groomed from many years of physical training.

Ameki recalled the stories that Sango and Kagome had shared with her. Miroku was a powerful monk all on his own and had been a womanizer in most of his youth, but he had admittedly slowed down on the browsing once Sango had entered his life. Not completely, Sango had hastily shared. His family had been cursed by the demon Naraku, and a wind tunnel had been placed in his right hand. The wind tunnel had the ability to suck demons into a void where they were no longer able to trouble this world, but with that kind of power was hidden a much darker fate. The wind tunnel would eventually grow in size, unrepairable after a certain point sucking the one cursed with it into the void as well. Miroku's father and grandfather had suffered that fate, and Miroku had lived for years with the knowledge of what would happen to him looming over every choice he made. She could understand why a man that had known his fate had lived the way he did. He had been trying to live his life to the fullest, but what was his excuse now? Something told Ameki that the teasing grin he sent in Sango's direction meant that his efforts were to simply rile her up.

Ameki said her goodbye to Sango and thanked her for her earlier display of the Hiraikotsu's ability. She knew Sango had more pressing matters on her mind at the moment and decided to part ways. On her way back through the village she caught sight of Jaken. Well, she heard the shriek that had drawn her attention toward the direction he was in.

“Has anyone seen that foolish girl?” His whines had caused Ameki to physically restrain herself from rolling her eyes. When she had left Jaken he had been lost in thought. She didn't think that the imp would have noticed her absence, but clearly he had snapped back to reality from mulling over Sesshomaru's return. She let out a small sigh and made her way toward the imp that was frantically searching the market area.

“Master Jaken?” Ameki raised her voice so that she could easily be heard over the constant chatter that filled the market place.

“Oh, Ameki!” Jaken spun on his small foot and marched toward her, his furrowed brow seemed much lower than normal, meaning she was about to receive one of his famous lectures on disobedience. However, this was only partially the case.

“Girl, you are lucky that Lord Sesshomaru didn’t tear apart this village looking for you!” Jaken voiced rather loudly, causing a few heads in the crowd to turn. Murmurs broke out around them, replacing the rather joyous sounds of laughter that had previously filled the area.

“Master Jaken, please!” Ameki motioned her hands in a downward position, hoping that the imp would take the hint to lower his voice. Ameki had wanted to be involved in social matters, not become the center of town gossip.

“Are you shushing me woman?” The imp threw his small hands into the air and let out an exasperated cry.

“The audacity!” He feigned surprise and frustration in his over dramatic way. Ameki started walking, and pushed the loud imp along with her. She could feel the awkward way people’s eyes followed her. She awkwardly smiled to a few of them, and hid her face quickly to hide her embarrassment.

When she was sure that they were out of eye sight and ear shot of the market rabble she stopped, releasing her hold on Jaken as well.

“What do you think you are doing Ameki?!” He yelled. Ameki let out a loud sigh and mentally made a list that she was all too eager to recite to Jaken. However, she settled for a simple answer.

“You don’t yell about demons destroying villages in such a populated place! It can cause panic!” Ameki’s eyes were spread into a wide stare as she tried to convince the small imp of what he had done wrong.

“Why should I lie? Lord Sesshomaru is very capable of turning this village upside down. He could wipe it off the map if he simply wanted to.” Jaken narrowed his eyes accusingly toward Ameki.

“I’m sure he could master Jaken, but he hasn’t. I guess that means he has returned?” Ameki tried to change the subject knowing that Jaken’s impassioned views of Lord Sesshomaru were about to get them into some trouble.

“Of course he’s returned you idiot. Did you think he would just abandoned his most loyal servant?” Ameki creased her brow slightly, staring down at Jaken’s surprised and arrogant stance he had taken while calling her an idiot.

“Alright then, where is he?” Ameki asked. Jaken frowned.

“Well he’s waiting near InuYasha’s hut, by the steps up to the Shrine. Someone such as Lord Sesshomaru would never walk among the lowly peasants within this village.” Jaken’s words slightly irritated Ameki’s quickly slipping patience.

“He didn’t seem to mind taking in a peasant orphan…” Ameki voiced as she pushed by the little green imp.

Ameki knew that Jaken’s words were simply biased by his love for his master, and maybe that was truly how Jaken felt about his master. However, Ameki had glimpsed at a different side of Sesshomaru, one that Jaken didn’t seem to notice.

She raced past a few houses, and a few smaller fields towards the North Western side of the village with hastened steps. When she neared the few houses she approached she slowed her pace, catching her breath. She continued walking at a slower pace, not wanting to seem as if she had been in a hurry. Of course she didn’t want to keep Lord Sesshomaru waiting, but she didn’t want to look as if she had been rushing to meet him. She paused for a moment, her thoughts halting where they ventured to. She did miss the Dog Demon. She hadn’t realized it, but something within her was excited that he had returned. He rarely spoke, and always seemed to be deep in thought, but his eyes spoke Volumes to Ameki. He said more with his eyes than Jaken often spouted from his pointy pruned lips. She had also felt safe with Sesshomaru. He was clearly an extremely powerful demon, and had shown no intent to harm her in the beginning. He was a very intimidating man. Tall, beautiful and well shaped muscles for his medium build. The most intimidating factor about him would probably be the strange tattoo’s that lined his cheek bone and cheeks. There were two stripes on each side. The deep Magenta color really popped against the smooth pale skin that almost made him seem otherworldly.

She caught sight of the arch leading up to the Shrine. She had half expected Sesshomaru to be standing on top like InuYasha often did, but she caught sight of fur, sticking out away from one of the columns as she came closer. Sesshomaru was standing on the steps observing the few people that dared gawk at him from the doorway of a house on the other side of Kagome’s herb garden. His eyes were slightly narrowed, but upon Ameki’s slow approach his expression seemingly softened.

“Lord Sesshomaru.” She gave a small bow in greeting as she came to a halt a few feet from the stairs where he stood. Jaken’s small legs had not been able to keep up with the long strides that Ameki had taken in an effort to distance herself from him. His blatant disregard of the people around him was completely selfish, and she had needed to quell her instincts to step on him the way she had when they had first met. Sesshomaru nodded in her direction.

“I hope your journey was well my Lord?” Sesshomaru didn’t answer, instead he turned his attention toward the ancient forest that had once held InuYasha’s slumbering form, bound to a tree by the Miko who’s shrine occupied the top landing of the stairs. He descended the three steps to the ground and began walking. Ameki followed.

Their walk through the field was rather quiet. Ameki didn’t know what to say to Sesshomaru, considering he wasn’t really the talking type. Instead she cast her attention to the workers that worked the rice fields. A shallow layer of water stood in the fields in sections. The makeshift bamboo irrigation system that weaved through the field was being repaired by a few men that had turned their attention to gawk at Lord Sesshomaru. Sesshomaru didn’t take notice of their surprised stares or hushed whispers. Whatever they had whispered was sure to have reached Sesshomaru’s sensitive hearing, but he didn’t seem to care.

Upon reaching the forest, Ameki noticed Ah-Un lazing about a small clearing. A few bags were attached to the two headed beast. One head took notice of her, bringing the other’s attention to her as well. She walked up to the beast and gently patted the scaled hide that always seemed cool to the touch. Sesshomaru stopped and almost looked as if he was prepared to say something, but decided against it. Ameki soon realized what was most likely about to happen. Why else would Sesshomaru have returned other than to retrieve Jaken? Sesshomaru was going to say goodbye, and why shouldn’t he? It wasn’t like she was a small child that constantly needed his protection. The thought did sadden her. He was after all, a piece of her mother’s past that Ameki had just recently discovered. He was a demon, probably one of the strongest in the lands, and he had a war to finish. Ameki knew that her place would be in the village from now on, but she didn’t want to chance not ever seeing the man that had saved her life. She thought fondly of the dog demon that was now before her in complete silence.

“You came back for Jaken?” Sesshomaru slowly nodded.

“I guess that means you will be leaving again soon?” Sesshomaru’s guided gaze found Ameki’s hands that nervous fiddled with the front of her obi.

 

“Yes.” He answered cooly. Ameki released the material of her obi, and let her hands fall to her sides.

“Is this Goodbye?” Sesshomaru met her gaze once more, a slightly quizzical note entered his eyes.

“I mean, will you return or… It’s not like I expect you to, or want you to…” She blushed.

“That came out wrong my Lord. What I mean is that I don’t feel inclined to deserve your presence or anything. I realize that it's a privilege. I’ll forever be grateful for you saving me, and arranging my mother’s resting place.” Ameki could feel the heat in her cheeks, her next words came out with a slight quiver.

“Will I ever see you again?” Ameki closed her eyes, realizing that Sesshomaru would likely not answer such a confusing tirade of words, but to her surprise his voice came forth.

“It is not a goodbye.” She opened her eyes to look upon Sesshomaru’s godlike features. His amber eyes held a soft tone that was usually reserved for moments when her mother’s name had been mentioned.

“I will return to ensure that you are safe.” Ameki let a small smile creep into her features. She didn’t really have a choice considering Sesshomaru’s words had caused the instantaneous tugging sensation to envelope the corners of her mouth.

“My Lord, I don’t wish to be a burden. I realize how important you are. I would understand if you did not return here.” Ameki tried to glaze over her apparent excitement, by reassuring Sesshomaru that she would clearly understand if he did not return. Sesshomaru didn’t even seem to acknowledge her rushed words. He motioned toward Ah-Un.

“The contents of the bags should suffice until I return.” Ameki glanced back quickly, and then back at Sesshomaru questioningly.

“My Lord?” He nodded once again toward the bags. Ameki took the hint and quickly untied both bags from the two headed beast. Inside the first bag was a few Yukatas of unique design. Three different colors introduced themselves into Ameki’s view. Purple, red, and orange. The red Yukata was a crimson shade that was plain but magnificent. The orange yukata had small sunflower designs on the left side among the different shades of deeper orange and yellow that seemed to fade into the brown center. The purple Yukata was laced with a silver trim that seemed to shimmer the same way Sesshomaru’s hair did in the sunlight. Ameki’s clenched the bundle of clothing to her chest and beamed up at the Lord who was clearly pleased by her reaction. His stoney expression that he often carried had softened into a more relaxed manner.

Inside of the second bag was but one outfit. One that made her jaw muscles slack into an open mouthed gape. The Kimono Ensemble was magnificent. Ameki’s eyes instinctively widened as the Jūnihitoe, twelve layer robe, unfolded in her grasp. The outfit was rather heavy, something she had grown used to in her life as a princess of Yamato castle.

The formal wear of a noble lady had been Sesshomaru’s final gift. Her eyes scanned the material as her breathing hastened. She knew without a doubt that this gift had been most expensive. The Kosode, the first inner layer, was a simple cloth white robe that was extremely pleasant to the touch, and rather thin thankfully due to the encomposing layers it would lay beneath. The Red pleated Nagabakama was of a similar material, light and rather drafty. Ameki took notice that the material was well within adjustable size of her own waist. The next layer, the Hitoe, was a beautiful bluish green silk robe, followed by a series of brightly colored thin robes, Uchiga, that made up the Itsutsu Ginu formal layer. The Itsutsu Ginu would adorn the top layer over the Hitoe. The colors ranged from a variant of bright red, olive green, deep gold, and different shades of pink between the previous colored robes. This would give the appearance of many different layers in the ensemble. The Uchiginu, made up the next layer which was a beaten scarlet robe that would provide support for the outer layers. Ameki simply beamed at the peach colored silk uwagi that would be the final robed layer. Designs of flowers painted the collar in white thread. The top Jacket, the Karaginu that would be worn over the many layers of robes was a pale green that accented the peach Uwagi that laid beneath. The pale outer colors would serve to draw attention to the many vibrant layers that would be exposed underneath her Uwagi. The final piece of the fashionable noble wear was the mo, the long white train which would flow freely behind the many coats that was the jūnihitoe. The mo was the formal piece that signified her nobility rank. The white train held silver trim.

“My Lord…” Ameki’s breathless words caused her to take notice of the fact that she had been holding her breath. She lowered her gaze, letting her bangs shield Sesshomaru’s view of her eyes. She could feel the tears welling, as they threatened to release from the corner of her eyes. She felt foolish. A grown woman, crying at the sight of a gift. She didn’t want Lord Sesshomaru to think she did not like what he had presented her with, but she didn’t want him to believe that she was a spoiled princess that expected this sort of treatment. As far as she was concerned, he didn’t owe her anything. It was her that owed him her life.

“I don’t deserve such magnificent gifts my lord. I wouldn’t even know when to appropriately wear such attire in the village.” She lightly brushed away a tear that had escaped, and began its descent down her heated cheek.

“A princess should be afforded the chance to dress accordingly whenever she desires, the reason or location does not matter.” Sesshomaru’s voice had adapted a much softer tone than Ameki was used to. When she was sure that her eyes no longer threatened to betray her, she beamed the most vibrant smile she could muster toward the beautiful Lord.

Her… Lord Sesshomaru.

Chapter Text

~Sesshomaru~

 

Sesshomaru firmly planted his boots on the ground as he landed, peering off into the distance where a young man attempted to gain Ameki’s attention. Ameki wore peasant clothes, no doubt protecting the delicate fabrics of the gifts Sesshomaru had given her. He had inquired her on the subject once before when she had appeared before him in mere rags. Working in the fields was tedious labor, and the clothing that was worn became rags for the hands. Ameki did not wish to tarnish the clothes she had been given, and decided that they would be worn when she wasn’t helping the people of the village with their everyday tasks.

The clothing simply didn’t suit her in Sesshomaru’s opinion, but he had learned that it was not her clothing that set her apart from a crowd. It was her scent, her smile, the way she would hum a tune to keep her mind busy while her hands ached from manual labor, but most of all it was the pure happiness she presented him with when he returned to check on her. It had only been a little over a month since he had returned from the west coast, but Sesshomaru had found that everytime he left the village, he had found himself wanting to return sooner each time. Sometimes he had returned sooner.

“Lord Sesshomaru, are we ever going to leave the region?” Jaken wailed at Sesshomaru’s feet bringing his attention from the smiling woman in the distance to Jaken, the frowning imp.

“We will leave when the staff takes us from here.” Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes. Jaken slightly backed up, and began grumbling under his breath.

“Well, can we atleast not come back here every time?” Sesshomaru heard the imp’s words and decided to surprise him with an answer.

“She’s the reason we are on this journey, if you haven’t forgotten.” Jaken slightly jumped at Sesshomaru’s reply. He knew he had been caught.

“Right my Lord!” He corrected himself immediately.

Sesshomaru had already paid the guardian of the forest, Royakan, another visit. Royakan reported that his scouts, mere phantom wolves, had not spotted hide nor hair of the infamous Yakunan. When asked how far Royakan had dispatched his scouts he had given the Lord Sesshomaru a vague answer. A few bordering regions and the mountain range that separated Musashi from Akemi’s home region, Sagami, did not suffice. Sesshomaru had ordered him to send them farther, completely sweep all surrounding regions and then expand into regions bordering well past Royakan’s reach. This meant, Royakan himself would have to get out into the field.

A few other places the staff had led them seemed to be dead ends. Sesshomaru had spoken to a few of the demon’s among his ranks, asking if anyone had been the least bit familiar with Yakunan’s abilities. Alas, he had come up empty handed. He had returned to the village this time to do something that he had tried to avoid. His pride had won over, but his anxiety of the situation was starting to catch up. Demon’s would be less likely to aid a human, he knew this now. It wasn’t easy talking to demon’s about the mark that had been placed upon Ameki, even if those demons were beneath him. He recognized the look of disdain that crossed many of their features. No, It was time to ask a human for help. Humans were more likely to help other humans, and InuYasha’s wife Kagome seemed to know a lot about this world, and it was even rumored that she knew of the future too.

Sesshomaru turned his attention once more to the woman who politely smiled at the young man that continued to show off his muscles that he had most likely earned within the last season of harvesting. The small muscles were clearly visible to Sesshomaru’s keen eyesight. This Sesshomaru was far more impressive, he thought to himself. He noticed the way the young man kept drawing attention to himself while Ameki tried to continue her work. The young man continued to grab her attention with conversation, and exaggerated movements as he thrust the harvest into the small wagon that sat mere feet from them.

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes as the young man entered the personal space that Ameki had clearly designated. Her few steps backwards caused her foot to catch a stone that protruded from the soil, sending her backwards toward the ground. Before the stray fabric of her worn cotton kimono could even touch the dirt, Sesshomaru had appeared beside her setting her back onto her feet and steadying her balance. Ameki’s surprise mirrored the once cocky man before them. Her Surprise was transformed into pure happiness as she glanced up at the man that had diverted her clumsy accident.

“Lord Sesshomaru! You’ve returned!” Sesshomaru noticed the way her pupils dilated as she took in his features. This pleased him, though he couldn’t understand why.

“Oh how silly of me!” Her smile faltered as she gazed up at Sesshomaru.

“Thank you so much for helping me. I’m sorry I seem to be such a clutz. It must be these hot days and cool nights.” Ameki stepped away from Sesshomaru’s grasp, glancing back at the young man that still seemed bewildered. The young man seemed to be in shock, not understanding what had happened, or just purely from being in the presence of Sesshomaru. It didn’t matter to Sesshomaru anyways, at least the boy wasn’t trying to make unwanted advances toward Ameki any longer.

“My lord, this is Yuuto.” She gestured toward the man, that was only now regaining his senses.

“He’s been helping me with my section of the harvest. I agreed to take on his mother’s work since she’s a bit under the weather and he finished his work early.” She smiled at Sesshomaru and Yuuto.

“And Yuuto, this is…” She paused. Sesshomaru could tell by the hesitation in her voice that she wasn’t sure how to answer.

“Lord Sesshomaru.” Her breath caught as her choice of words concluded. Yuuto’s brow furrowed as he looked Sesshomaru up and down, taking in his clothes, weapons, boa, and finally resting on his hair and the face that it framed.

“He kinda looks like InuYasha...What region are you a Lord of?” Yuuto looked at Sesshomaru questioningly. A slight bit of irritation surfaced at the man’s spoken observation. Sesshomaru watched as Ameki quickly turned back around to see his reaction. A bit of panic was present in her eyes. She turned back around and sated the boys curiosity.

“He’s from a region farther West. I guess I’m going to take a small break Yuuto. I hope you don’t mind, or you can take a break too and we will pick this up again?” Yuuto was slow to answer, but finally pulled his eyes from Sesshomaru and focused on Ameki.

“Sure thing, sounds like a plan. I’ll go check on my mother and see if Lady Kagome has been by to visit her yet.” A smile presented itself on his face as he spoke to Ameki, but quickly faded as he turned his attention back to Sesshomaru and gave a tight nod.

When Yuuto was out of earshot Ameki turned her attention back to Sesshomaru. Sesshomaru could see the nervousness that seemed to radiate off of her.

“I’m so sorry my Lord. I didn’t realize he would… try to compare you to InuYasha. I thought that just hearing your title as Lord would put a little respect into his actions. Apparently I was wrong.” She blinked nervously as her words began tumbling out of her mouth as her apology came to an end.

“No need for apologies. You did nothing wrong.” Sesshomaru’s answer slightly alleviated some of the built up tension that racked Ameki’s frame. She attempted a small smile, clearly not fully accepting Sesshomaru’s words.

Maybe the time wasn’t right to tell Ameki. Sesshomaru had yet to reveal the knowledge he held concerning Yakunan’s hold on her. It wasn’t as if he could control her, so urgency for her to know the details of her situation wasn’t vital. Sesshomaru found the idea of letting Ameki in on his troubles weak. There was simply no use in confiding in her, and he didn’t wish for her to worry anymore than she already had to. He knew she was confused about what had happened to her in the forest, and he had also been informed by InuYasha that her nightmares continued. Sesshomaru had wanted her to remember things on her own, rather than telling them to her as if it were a story. It wasn’t something Sesshomaru was comfortable discussing anyways. However, he needed to give the Miko, Kagome, a full and complete explanation. It was the only way he was going to get answers, or find a path that could lead him to those answers he sought. He knew full well his pride was going to fight him every step of the way, but looking at the woman before him made him realize it was something he would have to overcome. He was Sesshomaru afterall, and obstacles were made for him to beat.

Ameki gave Sesshomaru a few details pertaining to the few days he had been absent on his most recent adventure. She had explained that she was training with Kagome to be a midwife. She had plans of assisting the Miko in delivering a baby that would be born soon. She seemed quite excited about the subject, which helped bring Sesshomaru’s brooding thoughts to a more bearable state. In the month she had resided in the village Sesshomaru had noticed an increase in her energy. She was more vibrant, constantly trying to keep herself busy, eager to help others and she even genuinely seemed happy. The death of her mother had taken a toll on her, but Sesshomaru knew that Rin would have wanted Ameki to return to happiness, and he watched as Ameki did just that.

When Sesshomaru would return, he tried his best to give Ameki odd details of his adventures. In honesty he wasn’t much for talking, but he attempted to hold a conversation with the bustling woman. He held back details that pertained to her for obvious reasons, but often gave names of demons he would visit. Ameki found it intriguing that demons held social structures much like humans did. Sesshomaru didn’t want to correct her on the superiority of such demon constructs compared to humans, so instead he let her paint whatever pictures of demon hierarchy she desired. It wouldn’t matter much anyways considering he wanted to distance her from such things.

Ameki had finished her visit with Sesshomaru. A brief visitation that seemed to manifest a tugging sensation within the muscles at the corner of Sesshomaru’s lips each time. Smiling was not something he was completely used to, but he found himself becoming more accustomed to the urge around Ameki. Ameki returned to the field to continue the work that she found pride in, and Sesshomaru set off to wait for the Miko at her home. He didn’t enter her home to wait for her. He knew the less time he spent away from a place that reeked of InuYasha, the better. He didn’t want the stench to settle on his clothing. Carrying the smell of a half-demon around wasn’t wise in the company that Sesshomaru had been holding as of late.

“Sesshomaru, it's a bit odd to see you here. I assume you are aware that Ameki is in the fields?” Kagome cocked a brow at him as she approached, carrying a basket with her medicinal supplies.

“We’ve already spoken.” Sesshomaru’s answer was simple, clearly not surprising Kagome.

“Ah, and I bet you already know that InuYasha is gone for the day. He’s assisting Miroku with a pest problem. They probably won’t return until tomorrow.” Kagome opened the straw curtain at the entrance of her home, and motioned Sesshomaru to step inside. At first he was hesitant. The strong stench left by InuYasha sprang from the opening making Sesshomaru momentarily compare the lethality of InuYasha’s scent to his sense of smell to that of Naraku’s miasma. His disdain became clearly noticeable as his muscles instinctively wished to flee, but he eventually stepped through.

InuYasha and Sesshomaru were not friends by long shot, but the tension between them had eased over the years. Sesshomaru had finally reigned in his pride as he watched his brother gain the strength that their father had no doubt wished for. Where Sesshomaru’s pride cut ties with the loss of the Tessagai, it gained stride in the knowledge that Sesshomaru didn’t need the Tessagia to be powerful. He knew that without the sword, his strength was all his own. This new pride took years of development, but watching from afar as InuYasha fulfilled his promise to protect Rin caused Sesshomaru to a gain respect for the half-breed. However, that did not mean Sesshomaru was inclined to like the smell. It was a rather pungent scent that solely belongs to InuYasha, and for years the scent had usually meant trouble. That wasn’t something Sesshomaru could get used to in a mere lifetime.

Kagome sat across the room, positioning herself directly across the open floor hearth from Sesshomaru. He sat down, straightening his back and steadying his posture. He gazed cooley across the flames at the aging Miko that mirrored his stare.

“I would offer you some refreshments, but I’m not sure that I would have anything you’d like. If I took InuYasha’s word for it I would need to serve you an army of men.” Sesshomaru fought the urge to physically smile at her comment. Sesshomaru actually found humor in the outlandish idea that he would devour an army of sweaty unbathed mortals. Demons on the other hand was a different story. While in his true hulking form he had devoured many over his lifetime.

“Nothing will suffice.” Sesshomaru voiced causing Kagome to cock an eyebrow.

“Very well. I take it you aren’t stopping by to check on the family. So let’s get straight to the point shall we?” Kagome rested her hands on her lap, waiting for Sesshomaru to begin explaining his reason for being there.

He began by explaining everything that Laquan had told him. He summed up the abilities of the horned dragon, Yakunan, and filled in the blanks where InuYasha had discussed the matters with her before. It wasn’t until Sesshomaru revealed that Ameki had been marked that he had gauged a reaction from her. The Miko’s eyes had widened well beyond possible comfort.

“Well, that definitely explains the poor girls nightmares. It only makes sense that she keeps dreaming of the man in the forest. I’m assuming the man she has described to me is Yakunan, but she isn’t aware of that. She isn’t even aware that she was killed.” Kagome’s wide eyes settled into a more solemn expression. Sesshomaru stayed quiet, waiting for any advice that she could offer.

“Sesshomaru, you aren’t thinking of killing Yakunan are you?” Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes.

“It's something that has to be done.” He answered coldly.

“I’m not arguing with that Sesshomaru. He has laid waste to many villages, taking many lives almost rivaling the numbers that Naraku claimed, but Ameki. She’s barely entered womanhood and has so much life ahead of her. I’ve never been one for the whole sacrifice one to save a thousand more.” Kagome’s irritation became present, which didn’t surprise Sesshomaru. He had witnessed irritation from the woman directed at him in the past.

“If what you said is true, then killing him will kill her. It kind of makes using Tenseiga on her obsolete. You wanted to save her correct?” Sesshomaru struggled with the many words that jousted his tongue. He wanted to make it apparent that this was the dilemma he had been struggling with, but he was Sesshomaru, and Sesshomaru did not carry his weaknesses on his sleeve.

“It’s why I’ve come here. To find another solution.” Kagome’s expression cooled from the fiery tirade of emotions that had previously been present.

“I see, I’m sorry for jumping to conclusions. It only seems right considering how fond you were of Rin.” Sesshomaru didn’t argue. It was no secret that he had cared for Rin. She, after all, had been the one mortal that was finally able to breach Sesshomaru’s defenses. The innocence that guided Sesshomaru to a path that was more honorable than just blind domination. If he hadn’t met Rin, he feared to think that he would currently be on a path similar to that of Yakunan’s.

“I realize this isn’t easy for an esteemed demon such as yourself. Asking a human for help concerning another. I want to help you, but I’m not sure there is anything I’m able to do. My spiritual powers aren’t what they used to be. I’m not the spring chicken I used to be. It seems with age comes physical pains that dull the spiritual connections when focused on. Not to mention putting up with InuYasha all of these years can have a toll all on its own.” Kagome rubbed her eyes.

“I haven’t seen battle in well over five years. InuYasha never lets anything that close to the village. I’m out of practi-” Kagome froze. Sesshomaru watched as Kagome’s features turned into that of clarity.

“I know of someone that can help you, actually, it's more like two people.” A new determination entered her demeanor.

“In the passing of time, new powers evolve in this world, and I have heard of these powers within mortal society that might be able to help you. The problem is, the woman detests demons. Can you see the obvious problem here?” Kagome asked Sesshomaru as she motioned wildly with her hands.

“I’ll figure out the details, I just need names.” Sesshomaru was straight to the point, not feeling the need to humor Kagome’s supposed paradox. Kagome sighed lowering her hands.

“Her name is Chiyoko and her twin brother’s name is Tomoko. They reside in the Northern region of Echigo, and Sesshomaru…” A serious look engulfed her features.

“They are rumored to possess great spiritual powers, the likes that this world has not seen in a long time, possibly since Midoriko. She won’t hesitate to try and kill you on sight, but her brother is said to be the reasonable one.” She paused to Gauge Sesshomaru’s reaction.

“I know you think that you can take care of yourself, and I don’t doubt that you can, but please. This could be Ameki’s only hope, so don’t lose all ability to think if worse comes to worst. You’ll need to seek out the brother first, Tomoko. It would be wise to have a human accompany you, and I’m not able to leave.” Kagome sighed closing her eyes.

“You should seek out Kohaku, and ask him to accompany you. It was Kohaku that saved the twins. They were trapped in the womb of their deceased mother in a demon attack. Kohaku had limited time to act, and extracted them from the body at the same time, making them indistinguishable from the 99th and 100th member to enter into the duties past down through the many generations of Priesthood. Chiyoko carries a deep grudge against all demon’s, but her brother Tomoko does not carry such resentment. That doesn’t mean he won’t attack you without provocation.” Kagome scratched her head.

“I assume I’m probably boring you with my long winded speech. You wanted to know names, I gave you names and a little information that might help you avoid conflict.” She gave a small smile.

“I really believe they might be able to help. Kohaku often travels the area, and takes pride in the fact that he was able to help them become who they are. I would say you could wait here. It's usually around this time every year that he comes back to visit his sister’s family, but I know you’ll probably want to hurry the process up and rush off to find him.” Kagome gave a small smile.

She was correct. Sesshomaru did need to find him, and soon. One thing was increasingly troubling him though. The region where the siblings resided, Echigo, was too far away for Sesshomaru’s comfort. He wasn’t keen on the idea of leaving Ameki for a prolonged amount of time, and that’s what this plan required. He could always take her with him. It would probably increase his odds of gaining a civilized audience with the siblings. However, that would mean revealing everything to Ameki, and sending her backwards into an out of control spiral, erasing all progress she had made in overcoming the events she had witnessed a month prior. Sesshomaru simply didn’t want to do that, but he couldn’t leave her here with the deviant young man Yuuto. His intentions toward Ameki had been rather clear to Sesshomaru, and he simply wouldn’t leave here for the lecherous man to corrupt.

Sesshomaru paused within his own thoughts, realizing that the emotions he was feeling in that moment were possessive. He didn’t want the peasant boy anywhere near Ameki. The sight of the two together in the beginning when he had first arrived had stirred the emotion then, but now that he knew he wouldn’t be present to keep an eye on the man he felt something else. Jealousy. How Despicable.

 

~Ameki~

 

Yuuto eyed Ameki wearily as she returned to the field. It didn’t go unnoticed either. Ameki felt awkward as she tried to pick up where they had left off, only he didn’t.

“You know he’s a demon?” Ameki froze. Of course Sesshomaru was a demon. It should have been obvious to even the most skeptical mortal. Ameki swallowed thickly and quickly glanced toward Yuuto as she kept her hands busy with the harvest.

“Yes, I’m aware.” She said politely, as if his question hadn’t caught her off guard.

“How do you even know him? I’ve never seen him around.” Yuuto picked up a bundle of carrots he had previously tied together and threw them toward the wagon. Ameki didn’t take her eyes off of the ground this time. Sesshomaru had often visited her away from the village, or near Kagome’s hut on the outreaches, away from most prying eyes. So it was no wonder that Yuuto had never seen the illusive Sesshomaru.

“He cared for my mother when she was a child, and saved me from something terrible that happened back home. He brought me here, at my request.” Yuuto didn’t answer for a while. She figured that he had accepted her answer, and she hoped that he would drop the now uncomfortable subject. It wasn’t long after Ameki had relaxed that Yuuto began his interrogation again.

“You seem awfully comfortable around him. Do you know what demons do to beautiful women?” Ameki sighed and looked up. What was Yuuto trying to get at? If this was his way of flirting, it definitely needed work. Ameki made a mental note to send him Miroku’s direction later.

“I know what he hasn’t done. He hasn’t hurt me, or threatened to. He hasn’t sold me into a demon black market. He hasn’t devoured me.” Ameki paused.

“He didn’t leave me for dead when he easily could have. He could have left me in those woods with all the other demons. He didn’t.” Ameki glanced up toward Yuuto. His face was contorted into a grim expression that soon changed into a tight lipped smile.

“No, He didn’t do those things, but that isn’t what I’m getting at.” Yuuto shrugged.

“I just meant, you’ve seen the half demon InuYasha right?” Ameki nodded, wondering where this topic would lead.

“Well, his other half is mortal. I’m sorry but I don’t know of a human woman in her right mind that would pair with a demon. I’m only asking that you be careful.” Ameki froze feeling instantly disgusted as Yuuto attempted to twist Sesshomaru’s intentions toward her. She stood from her kneeling position on the ground and straightened her back, using the authoritative tone she had rarely used at all in her past. It was never too late though, even if she were not a princess any longer.

“Yuuto. I appreciate your concern, but I seriously doubt the probability of what I assume you are trying to imply. Lord Sesshomaru holds no such desire. If you knew him, you would understand. He doesn’t particularly like humans, and I couldn’t imagine him trying to take advantage of any mortal woman, even if she were willing.” Ameki furrowed her brow as she spoke, sending Yuuto into a retreating motion.

“I’m sorry Ameki, I didn’t mean to offend you. I just don’t wish any harm on such a lovely kind hearted woman.” Ameki slightly softened her gaze at his words.

“It’s not I that you have offended. You offended the true nature of Lord Sesshomaru. If he knew how to laugh he probably would at such silly accusations.” Ameki shrugged.

“He’s different. I’ve seen demons that have terrified me to my very core…” An image of the dark haired demon with scales along the edges of his face flashed before her eyes. The back of her neck tingled with such memories, making the hair on her arms stand at their ends. Even the ogre had scared her more than Sesshomaru. Sure he had been a sight to behold, but his eyes had never held the pure evil that those other demons had portrayed.

“Sesshomaru is to be feared. Do not misjudge that fact. However, he isn’t like those demons that pillage villages and kill without cause.” She chuckled.

“And just so you are aware, Sesshomaru is InuYasha’s older brother.” Yuuta watched her curiously as she spoke, but finally just shook his head and continued his work.

The day was nearing its end. The sun sank low in the western sky, readying its meeting with the trees, making room for the moon to appear. Ameki carried the final two pale’s that would finish filling the tub in Kagome’s home. She had filled the tub halfway, and built the fire beneath the tub stoking it as needed. She caught sight of Jaken setting under the arch leading up to the shrine. After emptying the last bucket she decided to join him as she waited for the water to heat up.

“Master Jaken.” She greeted him as she approached his slumped form. Jaken pulled his sluggish gaze from whatever he had been staring at on the step.

“Oh, Ameki. You look terrible girl!” Ameki self consciously glanced down at her dirt smudged hands and filthy clothes.

“Ah yes, Sorry master Jaken. I’m preparing my bath as we speak.” Jaken coughed, trying his best to conceal his displacement at the sight of her.

“You should consider soaking until your skin is as pruned as mine.” Jaken held his hand up as an example. Ameki giggled causing Jaken the firmly bring his hand back to his lap.

“Have you seen Lord Sesshomaru?” Ameki asked, deterring the fact that she had just laughed at Jaken’s insult to himself. Jaken straightened his back and spoke matter of factly.

“He left the Miko’s hut a few hours ago and disappeared. He didn’t even take me with him.” Jaken frowned.

“I doubt he will be gone for very long Master Jaken. He’s been taking you with him on quite a few trips since we arrived here. I don’t see why the habit would die out so suddenly.” Ameki rubbed her chin, hoping that her words would ease the worry that crept into Jaken’s features.

“Being left behind reminds me of the days I had to babysit your mother.” Jaken said with a pout as he cupped his face with his tiny hands.

“I can serve Lord Sesshomaru far greater at his side, rather than sitting around doing a woman’s work.” Ameki chuckled at Jaken. He was being petty once again, his pride wounded that Lord Sesshomaru had disappeared without him.

“You’re so dramatic Master Jaken. It's quite adorable.” Ameki beamed a huge girlish grin toward the little imp. His face gained a few quick changing shades of red as as Ameki cooed at him as if he were a small baby.

“That’s enough Ameki! Respect your elders!” Ameki brushed his sudden outburst off.

“You need to learn to live a little Jaken. To do that you need to lighten up first. Then you need to find something to do that you enjoy while not in Lord Sesshomaru’s company. It will make the time pass much more quickly, and you won’t worry nearly as much.” She waited for another outburst from the imp, but when she glanced over at Jaken she caught a pondering expression, as if he had actually considered her words. She smiled to herself and rose to her feet.

“After I’m finished with my bath, you are welcome to take one as well. I’m sure the warm water would do miracles for your ancient joints.” Jaken had looked as if he were going to agree, but the inlaiden insult at the end of Ameki’s offer registered, returning Jaken to the slumped figure she had first approached.

The bath had been delightful. It soothed pains that Ameki had not even been aware of. She only noticed the difference as her body relaxed from the last few days of labor she had volunteered for. She chose the purple Kimono with the silver trim. The Silk against her freshly bathed skin felt as if she were being embraced by the celestials. Kagome was nowhere to be found within the hut. She had vaguely remembered Kagome’s breakfast babble. Chinami, Sango’s daughter, was close to full term and would be delivering the baby within the next few weeks. Kagome had emphasized on the importance of routine checkups so late in a pregnancy. Ameki silently disciplined herself for not accompanying Kagome. She was after all given the honor of assisting in the matter. Midwives were important people in society. If a physician or Miko was not readily available, midwives were called upon. Ameki remembered the stories her mother had told her, of the bond she had formed with her own ladies in waiting. She had said that if they had not been their to coax her and help her through, then she wasn’t sure that she would have been able to continue because of the pain.

Ameki caught a glimpse of silver as the wind tousled the straw curtain. Without hesitation she made her way to the door and stepped outside. She was well aware of Sesshomaru’s dislike for InuYasha’s smell, and so she made his visit convenient by joining him outside. She smiled brightly up toward the tall Lord in all of his glory below the moonlight. He truly was a sight to behold, and she cherished it more and more each time she was presented with it.

“My Lord.” She smiled brightly at him, the wind catching her dampened hair causing a few stray strands to cling to her face. Without warning Ameki felt the slight graze of Sesshomaru’s nails as he pushed the strands back, neatly tucking them behind her ear. Ameki’s breathing hastened at the out of character action, and for only a moment Ameki caught sight of surprise enter Sesshomaru’s features. He quickly withdrew his hand, returning his gaze to his usual cool indifference.

“Jaken was waitin-” Ameki quickly tried to avert Sesshomaru’s attention from her now blushing features, but noticed Jaken’s slumbering form that was now sprawled out across the steps. Small snores could be heard. She smiled at Jaken’s sleeping form. He had finally worried himself to sleep.

“My Lord, did you wish to speak to me?” Sesshomaru didn’t answer at first, and a quizzical look momentarily reflected in his amber orbs, as if he wasn’t sure why he had come. Ameki waited for a reply, but quickly dismissed it once Sesshomaru turned away to stare in the direction of the large moon that was slowly rising into the night sky.

“Come with me.” Sesshomaru began walking and Ameki followed. They walked quietly past the snoozing imp that murmured sweet nothings in his sleep. Ameki observed the way the wind seemingly danced around the demon before her. Their steps brought them to the edge of the forest where they gazed back at the town.

“We were being watched.” Sesshomaru spoke. Ameki looked at his questioningly.

“By whom my Lord?” Sesshomaru glanced quickly toward her, and then back to the village.

“The man that accompanied you in the fields earlier this evening.” Ameki’s eyebrows raised as Sesshomaru answered. Yuuto had been spying on them? Ameki’s cheeks flushed a bright crimson as she realized why the young man may have been lingering outside near her home. She had previously bathed, and the slatted window would have been the perfect spot to peek if one desired and didn’t mind standing on the tips of their toes.

“How long had he been present?” Ameki asked. Sesshomaru looked at the moist hair that slightly dampened the Kimono that Ameki wore.

“Do you believe he wished to evade your privacy?” Ameki glanced up to Sesshomaru, who now held her gaze instead of looking away. She thought back to her and Yuuto’s earlier conversation. He had complimented her, calling her beautiful, but the main target of his conversation had been Sesshomaru. If he hadn’t been there for very long, she surmised that he must have been watching for Sesshomaru.

“No my Lord, nothing of the sort. He’s simply…” Ameki trailed off, looking for words that wouldn’t offend or cause Sesshomaru suspicion of the man.

“Curious about you is all.” Sesshomaru cocked a brow, waiting for Ameki to continue. However, Ameki concluded that it would be wise to end her statement there. Sesshomaru however did not.

“Does he wish to court you?” Ameki didn’t even attempt to hide her surprise at Sesshomaru’s question. His gaze was curious, as if he was genuinely trying to understand.

“He hasn’t stated such intentions to me, so I’m not sure.” Sesshomaru blinked and continued, surprising Ameki once again.

“Would you find an interest in courting him?” Ameki’s slack jaw gaze noticeably caused the demon before her some minor discomfort. He shifted his weight, and quickly turned his attention back to the village. Ameki combed her mind, looking for any possible answer that she could give the curious Sesshomaru. His sudden interest in her personal life was definitely a change from the routine checkups he made an effort to continue.

“My Lord, I don’t really see him in that way. I’ve only known him for a couple of days. Our whole relationship…” She paused wondering if relationship was the right word.

“Is centered around small talk, things to pass time in the fields. I’ve given him a few details of my past, but I still don’t know much about him at all.” Ameki slightly frowned. Realizing that Yuuto had earlier overstepped boundaries in making assumptions toward Sesshomaru. Yuuto hadn’t known her well enough to dissect her personal life, or the people in it. A slight irritation stirred within Ameki. Now he was stalking Lord Sesshomaru?

“So, my answer is no. I don’t find interest in a courtship with him. I barely know him.” Sesshomaru slowly nodded.

“Why the sudden interest my Lord?” Sesshomaru turned his gaze back toward her. If he were capable of sighing, his eyes showed signs that he would have in that moment.

“I merely wished to know if I would be intruding on your life.” Ameki’s brows creased.

“My lord, you couldn’t possibly intrude. I owe my life to you.” She gave a small smile. Ameki saw the slight tension enter Sesshomaru’s frame.

“My intentions were to ask you if you would accompany me on a journey. I simply didn’t want to disrupt your life in the village.” Ameki’s curiosity peaked at his proposition.

“Oh..” She mouthed barely audible. Sesshomaru had most likely questioned her about Yuuto, because he hadn’t wanted to take her away from something that could have potentially been in the first stages of forming. She quickly tried to hide the bit of embarrassment she felt surfacing. Sesshomaru had thought that she was interested in forming a relationship with Yuuto. The thought made her feel a bit uneasy. She wasn’t sure a relationship was something she would have been comfortable with back home, much less here, in a new place surrounded by people she was only starting to get to know. The timing wasn’t right for such bonds to be formed, or maybe at all. She definitely didn’t find herself attracted to Yuuto. Sure he was kind to the eyes, but Ameki needed more than just appearances.

“My Lord, I’m sure the village won’t miss me for a few days. Where would we be going?” Sesshomaru turned his full attention to her.

“It will take more than a few days.” Ameki began fidgeting with the fabric of her Kimono.

“I see… I understand. I had prior arrangements for work, but I’m sure I can find someone to take my share in my absence.” She smiled up at him, watching closely to the fine detail as Sesshomaru’s shoulders relaxed. She assumed the question must have worried him. This trip must have been important.

“I will return you to the village when we are through.” Sesshomaru stated, seeming to hopefully alleviate any worries that Ameki had.

“Thank you my Lord. I’ll pack a few of my things.” She turned as if to walk away but Sesshomaru grabbed the the loose fabric of her sleeve, stopping her.

“I will need to discuss with you the nature of our journey.” His words were followed by a look that did not fit the features of the great dog demon. This was the first time Ameki had glimpsed panic in his usually determined eyes.

Chapter Text

~Sesshomaru~

 

Sesshomaru clung to the sleeve of her purple Yukata. The fabric was slightly more soft than he had remembered upon commissioning the outfit to be made. Ameki’s confused stare made him uncomfortable. How was he supposed to explain the situation to her? He didn’t want to reveal what had happened in the first place, fearing that the vibrant woman before him would transform into the horror stricken shell she had presented him with after his use of the Tenseiga. He knew deep down that it was inevitable, and the responsibility of enlightenment would be his considering he had been the one to promise Rin.

“My Lord, am I in some kind of trouble?” Her eyes searched Sesshomaru’s face for any hint behind the sudden change in his demeanor.

“No, not exactly.” He answered, pausing momentarily.

“It’s nothing you’ve done, but rather something that has happened to you.” Sesshomaru released her sleeve, trying his best not to spook her. He wanted her to understand the seriousness of the situation, but he had no intent to cause her discomfort considering the details that were about to be presented would no doubt shake her sunny disposition. Sesshomaru’s own discomfort tried to surface as it had previously, but he quickly quelled the rising emotion.

“Ameki. I need you to accompany me to the Northwest. It will be a long journey. I need to make arrangements before we leave and track down someone else that will accompany us. There is no need to pack your things in this moment.” Sesshomaru settled for simply calming the rushed girl that had tried to hurry off and ready her things.

He knew that the best place for him to reveal things to her would here within the village. It was where she was most comfortable, and he wanted her to be around people that would know how to comfort her. Sesshomaru was not rehearsed in such things. She needed to be around humans, her own kind. Beings that weren’t afraid of expressing emotions, he needed the Miko’s help. He would do the talking, but Kagome would be the one to comfort the girl.

After returning to Kagome's home they waited for her return. A dawning glance crossed Kagome's features as she realized what decision Sesshomaru had made. He would be taking Ameki with him, and to do that it was imperative for Ameki to understand why. Ameki's wide eyes never left the great dog demon as he spoke. Where Sesshomaru had found himself hesitant or lost for words, Kagome intervened to complete his thoughts. Sesshomaru, on a very deep and secretive level, was thankful for the Miko's help and cooperation. He realized in his situation that he was no longer watching out for the little girl that he could easily boss around. In fact, she was an entirely different person. This was the daughter of Rin. Ameki often held the same softness Rin had, and the same extent of understanding toward him, but she wasn't Rin. She was merely her offspring, an entirely different person that only shadowed his previous ward. However, she was something completely different and intriguing to him. Her Rin like qualities were only accented by other traits that Sesshomaru found admirable.

Sesshomaru had no time to reflect further, due to the shock ridden mess Ameki had become. Her eyes, though never leaving Sesshomaru had taken on a hint of terror, along with many other phases of emotion that had lead there. Her once flushed cheeks were now pale as Sesshomaru and Kagome finished explaining the situation. She had been killed, marked and never even knew about it. Sesshomaru grew uncomfortable under the changing expression. Ameki's eyes darkened as a low whisper escaped her lips.

“You refuse to kill him, the demon that continues to destroy your name, land, demons and humans alike, because of me?” She narrowed her eyes toward Sesshomaru. This was the first time Sesshomaru had ever experienced hostility from the woman he had saved. Ameki's expression spoke to him. He could tell she was not pleased by his obvious sacrifice to keep her alive.

Ameki stood, the anger was apparent as her hands took on a slight tremble.

“I'm going to need some time, to think all of this through.” With tears presumably fueled by anger she turned toward Kagome.

“Please excuse me Lady Kagome.” With that Ameki left. Sesshomaru himself was slightly shocked at her reaction. He had expected something more devastating to unfold. He had never seen her angry before, but he could feel the darkness manifesting around her as her anger grew, and it seemed to resonate within the room, even in her absence.

Sesshomaru resumed his standing position just inside of the Miko's door. Kagome slightly shook her head and gazed up toward him.

“She's hurt Sesshomaru. She probably didn't mean to bite your head off like that.” Sesshomaru didn't respond to the Miko. He replayed the events over in his head, wondering what had caused such a different response from Ameki. Without a word, he turned to make his way outside.

“Wait Sesshomaru!” He turned back to the Miko that had stated his name pleadingly. Her eyes were slightly widened as she spoke.

“Don't approach her, with young women it's smart to just let them be. She needs to blow off some steam. She's confused and angry. She’s not thinking clearly.” Kagome seemed to ponder her own words.

“If you are going to follow her, at least keep your distance.” Kagome's brow furrowed.

 

~Ameki~

 

Things were beginning to make sense. Kagome and Sesshomaru's explanations had stung Ameki. It wasn't the small revelation of pain that sneaks up on you, it was like the unsuspecting sting of a bee out in the fields only on a much larger scale. Sesshomaru had hidden things from her, things that could have been vital to help her maintain control of the many nightmares she continued to experience. Or at least help her cope with them. She had died, along with everyone else she loved, and yet… Sesshomaru had only arrogantly revived her. Was it arrogance? Had he intended on reviving her as some kind of game? Why revive her and no one else?

Ameki recalled the tale Jaken had spun for her in one of his ramblings. Sesshomaru had revived her mother, Rin, as a child and that was where their journey had begun together. She knew the tenseiga could only work once on a person, but it didn't explain why he had used it on her. She knew her mother had something to do with it, but where had her choice been? Could she not have been left for dead as her family was? They no longer had to suffer the endless trauma and the memories of that nights events.

Ameki took a deep breath to steady herself as she continued her walk through the village. She knew her anger was foolish deep down. She understood Sesshomaru's actions had stemmed from his care of her mother. She hid her shaky hands beneath the material of her sleeves and continued, making her way toward the forest. Underneath the moonlight Ameki could see the sprawling darkness that the forest presented her with, but the gleaming pond water caught her attention at the edge. She sat down, curling her legs to neatly tuck them to her chest. She just wanted to understand why she had been used. It hadn't been Sesshomaru's actions, but he had been the reason. Yakunan had killed her? She tried her best to remember such an incident, but her memories only grew into an impenetrable fog as she tried to delve deeper into what had happened after her escape from the Ogre into the woods. All she could recall, was the face of the man, demon, that plagued her nightmares.

Why had such a demon chosen to kill her? Why did that demon presume Sesshomaru would even care, and why had Sesshomaru actually cared? Sesshomaru, the almighty dog demon and son of the great dog general of the west, had chosen to save her life and even continued to spare Yakunan because killing him would kill her. InuYasha had made it blatantly clear that Sesshomaru didn't care for people, except her mother. Ameki's anger slightly subsided as the realization took hold. Ameki couldn't be Rin. That's probably the only reason Sesshomaru refused to kill Yakunan, and had instead embarked on a fool's errand to try and remove the mark. Sesshomaru was afraid of losing his last tie to Rin. Ameki realized she was that tie, and the only thing holding him back from serving Yakunan the justice that was rightly needed.

Ameki curled further into herself, pulling her knees tighter to her chest as she released an entourage of sobs into the silky material. She would be the reason Yakunan continued to kill innocent people, and destroyed homes and villages. She was what held back the only demon capable of ending Yakunan's frightening reign of terror. Yakunan had somehow known that Sesshomaru wouldn't kill him, if She held the mark. Was Sesshomaru really that transparent to demons? Had his whim for her mother truly softened him from the monster he was rumored to be in ages past?

She clenched her fist, feeling the sting as her nails scraped against her palm. She didn't want to be used by Yakunan. With every day that she kept breathing, Sesshomaru wouldn't lift a finger toward Yakunan. Yakunan had been the reason for everything. He had destroyed everything she loved, and was now using her as his life line. Ameki stood, her shaky composure was a bit more to balance than normal. She needed to distance herself from the village, from Sesshomaru. She hadn't noticed his presence, and could only hope to slip away without him following. Surely he was obeying her wishes by giving her space. Now it was time to do them all a favor, something she couldn't hesitate to do in fear she would scare herself out of it. She didn’t want to be selfish the way Sesshomaru was by keeping her alive.

The moon only partially lit her path as she raced through the forest, past the ancient tree that once held InuYasha and deeper into the woods. Branches, twigs and other from of foliage lashed out at her as she gained speed, hearing the rushing river in the distance. This could be her chance to save others from suffering what she had been through. This could save someone's loved ones. She knew every moment Sesshomaru spent on a journey to try and rid her of the mark, was a new chance for Yakunan to destroy another village, or kill an unsuspecting family of people or even demons. Yakunan would no doubt flaunt the leash he had on Sesshomaru, so Ameki would simple destroy the leash.

The water was cold as Ameki flung herself into the currents of the river. It shocked her, causing Ameki to instantly try and suck in a breath of air. Her lungs refused to expand farther, as the first bit of water caused her to gag. She surfaced and flailed her limbs, her body wanted to fight against the current that was swiftly carrying her to the falls, but her mind begged her limbs not to. This had to be done. There was no other way. Ameki closed her eyes and envisioned her mother's face, and the many faces of her young cousins that she had not seen since barricading themselves in the castle armory. The innocent faces with terror in their eyes. Ameki felt the sudden pull of movement as her body sped downward in a plummet toward the bottom of the rock filled falls. If she was lucky, it would be quick and painless, but if she missed the rocks the whirlpools at the bottom of the falls would no doubt pull her to the bottom. It wasn’t an ideal death, and the thought terrified her, but Ameki knew it was the quickest way to get things done away from prying eyes or anyone that would stop her.

The current was strong, and an invisible force seemed to pull her body downward upon impact. Her lungs were begging for air, but she couldn’t force her body to inhale the water. Her body had taken on a will of its own and refused to hasten its demise. Her mind pleaded with her lungs, but fear controlled them. She felt weightless in the water. Her mind was clearing quickly, as the urge to breath deepened. She envisioned her family, waiting for her. Her mother’s smile was even more beautiful than she remembered, but it slowly disappeared as Ameki felt the cold rush enter her chest. Her eyes opened, but all she could see was darkness and she could feel the twisted grasp of suffocation. Her body sunk even lower as her lungs filled with water, her eyes slowly rolling into the back of her eyelids. She was doing what was right, she was certain and could die with peace knowing that couldn’t she?

A face entered her vision, a face that didn’t hold a smile or a smirk or any kind of emotion. However the eyes were filled with pain, a darkened amber that caused regret to surface.

I’m sorry Lord Sesshomaru…

 

~Sesshomaru~

 

Sesshomaru caught site of Ameki in the distance. She had found solitude beside a pond that was spring fed and was the starting point to the irrigation system that sprawled across the vast fields. She had pulled her legs to her chest, and her head rested in the security of where the two met. Sesshomaru observed her like that for a while, but was soon interrupted by Jaken.

“My Lord, is she alright?” Jaken’s worried tone did not match the usually arrogant facade he paraded around on the regular.

“She will be.” Sesshomaru replied after a hesitant moment of answering. Jaken scratched his head and cleared his throat.

“My lord, something has changed. I wanted to tell you but you raced off and I didn’t get the chance to.” Sesshomaru peered down at the little imp that seemingly squirmed under his vision.

“The staff my Lord. It… The man laughed without warning.” Jaken spun the staff around so that the male side was facing Sesshomaru.

Sesshomaru observed the rough wooden architecture of the carved face. The mouth of the male was in an open position. One he had not seen in ages, not since he had discovered his father’s tomb within the black pearl that had occupied InuYasha’s eye.

“How long ago has it been since you heard the laughter?” Sesshomaru inquired after his lengthy observations causing Jaken to jump slightly.

“Well, my Lord it was just a few hours before sunset. You had taken off after talking to the Miko so I didn’t have time to tell you.” Jaken continued to squirm, expecting to receive some kind of reprimand for not being able to bring the news to Lord Sesshomaru sooner. Instead he only caught a thoughtful look from the dog demon, and a twitch from the corner of his mouth.

“Very well.” Sesshomaru responded, turning his attention to the hint of blood he now smelled on the cool evening breeze. Ameki’s blood.

Her form was still huddled beside the pond, and a strange feeling entered Sesshomaru’s chest. One he immediately dismissed upon realizing the change. He turned his attention back toward the imp.

“I assume you made arrangements for supplies?” Jaken’s shoulders slightly raised as his neck retracted in a defensive pose.

“What supplies my lord?” He asked nervously. Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes and found comfort in the cold stare he was so used to exhibiting.

“Ameki will be travelling with us, and there is no need for her to forage every meal along the way. She wasn’t raised as a peasant.” Sesshomaru spoke through tight lips as he watched the realization dawn on Jaken’s face.

“Oh, those supplies!!!” Jaken quickly corrected himself.

“I have them all packed up and ready to strap to Ah-Un. They’re in the barrel beside the arch because I didn’t trust these humans to safeguard it, you know, with their poverty status’.” Jaken scratched his brow in a nervous manner once more.

“Keep the currency, I dislike carrying around the extra weight.” Sesshomaru straightened the sleeve of his white silk kimono, and ran his clawed hand through his silver strands of hair pulling a few strands loose that had been caught by his armor. Jaken watched in awe as his lord seemingly groomed himself. It was something Jaken seen less and less of since the war had begun.

Jaken’s wide eye stare often filled Sesshomaru with pride, but in that moment it merely filled him with irritation. He wanted to be alone in that moment as well, mirroring Ameki’s reaction. He took one more glance at the the girl beside the pond, and made his way toward the opposite direction. Sesshomaru didn’t sense any threats nearby, and he was confident that any threats that did approach the village would sense him and flee for their lives.

Sesshomaru observed a few people hurrying to their homes, turning in for the night. He took a little time to reflect on things as his slow pace toward the Miko’s home continued. Ameki had not reacted the way he had assumed she would. She had not needed the comforting from the Miko, but the Miko’s services had been well placed in explaining things to her that Sesshomaru found difficult. Ameki had acted rather similar to himself upon learning news of such gravity. She had sought her solitude, and who was he to deny that?

Sesshomaru sought out the barrel that Jaken had spoken of, and retrieved the bags that had been stashed inside. With a low whistle, he summoned Ah-Un. The whistle had been feint, but the two headed demon would no doubt hear it and come… or so he thought. Ah-Un didn’t appear, causing a slight bit of confusion to enter Sesshomaru’s already jumbled thoughts. The two headed dragon had never disobeyed an order, unlike Jaken. Which was one reason Sesshomaru had decided to retrieve the bags himself and make sure that they found their way to the two headed dragon. Jaken was often forgetful in his old age. Sesshomaru whistled once more, but alas, the two headed dragon still did not present itself from within the forest. Sesshomaru threw the bags toward Jaken, sending the imp backwards onto his backside under their weight, and took to the sky. He rose above the forest, and opened his senses. In the distance he could sense the demonic aura of his dragon mount, but still close enough to hear his whistle. He whistled once more in flight, but the presence did not near the village, instead it remained in one area. This was strange Sesshomaru thought to himself.

He glanced back to see Jaken regaining his footing, much smaller, much like the aunts he often observed when he was walking along the ground. He peered over his shoulder to take one more glance in Ameki’s direction, to ensure that she was still safe while he went off to investigate. However, she was not there. He searched the surrounding area, wondering if she had set back off toward the village, but there was not a soul in sight within the roads bathed in night. He quickly changed his course, and landed where he had last seen Ameki. Her scent was still fresh as Sesshomaru had suspected it would be. It hadn’t been very long since he had turned his attention away from her to deal with the traveling preparations. His nostrils flared as he attempted to follow her scent. Instead of finding a trail that lead back to the village, he found a fresh trail that lead into the darkness of the forest.

Sesshomaru halted, recalling Ah-Un’s strange behavior. Ah-un was probably accompanying her. It's probably why the two headed dragon had not come on his command. He took to the sky immediately. Realizing the possibility that Ameki could have fallen and injured herself in the dim lit forest. He knew that Ah-Un would stay by her side until help arrived. However, the sight he approached had not been what he was expecting.

Ah-Un continuously flailed around in the vast bottoms that occupied the end of the falls. The dragon struggled to stay adrift in the water, or so it had seemed upon first glance. To Sesshomaru’s surprise he realized that Ah-Un was attempting to dive. Sesshomaru landed on the bank beside the dark body of water, sniffing the air. Ameki’s scent was feint, it drifted in on the breeze that came from the north, above the falls. He turned his attention back to the water where the two headed dragon that was clearly meant to fly, attempted to swim. He sensed the distress within the beast, and quickly scanned the water, wondering what must have spooked it. He attempted to whistle once more, gaining only a groan from the beast that surfaced and attempted a dive once again. Sesshomaru grew impatient, realizing that every moment he wasted on trivial behavior of his mount was more time for Ameki to be travelling alone in the woods. The girl had been foolish to take off on her own, and he intended on making her see the error of her ways, despite whatever mood she was in.

Ameki’s smell slightly grew stronger as Ah-Un’s distress deepened. One of the demon’s heads burst from under the water, with something in its mouth. Sesshomaru adjusted his eyes, focusing on the purple material that hung from its jaws. Ameki’s waterlogged scent filled Sesshomaru’s sense as his body went rigid. Without hesitation Sesshomaru joined the two headed dragon, only Sesshomaru elegantly dove and didn’t resurface. Sesshomaru could feel the underlying current produced by the continuous water from the falls that filled the body of water he was now searching. The purple material that Ah-Un had snagged was no doubt Ameki’s Yukata. She had presumably fallen into the river, and Sesshomaru inwardly begged that she had survived the fall from the waterfall. His eyes adjusted to the darkness of the water, and slowly shapes of boulders and debris from flooding entered his vision. A small bit of white came into focus shrouded by logs that had been lodged between two boulders. His speed within the water was reduced, but he was still faster than any human or the floundering beast above him.

Ameki’s body was caught between the log and a boulder, shielding her from being swept away by the current that seemingly drifted over the void in which her body had rested. He quickly pulled her up, and grasped her lifeless form to his own body, pushing off of the bottom and making his way to the surface.

Sesshomaru didn’t even attempt to hide his panic. Who was he going to hide it from? The beast that was just as worried for the girl as he was? Ameki’s head rolled back, exposing her neck as Sesshomaru jumped up onto the bank. Her body was limp, and made no attempt to gasp for air. He quickly laid her on the ground, and gently shook her.

“Ameki, answer me!” Nothing… Sesshomaru didn’t hesitate to try again.

“Ameki, answer me now!” He shook her with a little more force, but still to no avail. A low growl entered his chest as his panic filled gaze searched her for any sign of life. She needed air, how could he give her air? Sesshomaru paused, and silently shook the feeling that tried to overtake him. He would need to push air into her lungs, and there was only one way he had witnessed how to do such a thing.

He quickly tilted her head back and opened her mouth. Water pooled over the corners of her lips, and Sesshomaru instantly knew that there would be water in her lungs. He pushed down, holding back his strength, but firm enough to cause a sudden jolt, pushing some liquid from her chest. He watched as it spewed from her lips, but still nothing. She still needed air. Sesshomaru was going to lose her if she didn’t, and he knew that it was probably already too late. He however couldn’t accept that fact so easily, and pushed any reservations he had aside. He leaned down quickly, and placed his mouth over hers. With a strong exhale he forced the air into her lungs, and watched in his peripheral as her chest rose with the inflation of air. He held it for a moment, and then pressed firmly once more, removing his mouth and watching as more water was expelled from her mouth. He placed his mouth over hers a couple of more times and repeated the process, losing hope each time it did not work.

A small cough sounded against Sesshomaru’s mouth as he had prepared another attempt at forcing air into Ameki’s lungs. He instantly pulled back and watched as Ameki’s form shook with a series of coughs that expelled the remaining water in her lungs. Sesshomaru grabbed her shoulders, bringing her to a sitting position. Her eyes opened in a frantic manner as she fought to hold on to the air that was now within her. Her body began to tremble against the cool breeze and ragged breaths she attempted to take. The thin white robe she had worn under her Yukata was all that she had left and it was soaked, providing her no warmth. Sesshomaru’s panic, though still present, subsided to a manageable level, allowing him to quickly act as he saw fit.

His mokomoko was the only feature he retained from his true form while in his humanoid form. Yakunan had sought to insult him by referring to it as his tail, and though it was, it was also the symbol of his heritage. A strong and powerful heritage. The mokomoko released from its hold around Sesshomaru, unraveling from around his armor and shoulder. He Quickly grabbed his boa like tail and wrapped the shivering girl, hoping that it would provide her with warmth. She tried pulling away, but Sesshomaru’s strong arm halted her.

“Why?” She croaked, spitting more fluid from her mouth upon speaking. Sesshomaru released her arm and covered her limbs with the fur. She attempted to scoot away, but Sesshomaru held her in place, causing her to slightly squeal.

“Let me go!” She managed above her cries that erupted once her airways were free of any remaining water. Sesshomaru froze at her sudden outburst. He had just saved her life, he hadn’t tried to harm her. She was still furious with him for withholding information? Ah-Un now accompanied them on the bank. The two headed beast lapped at the water that clung to its scales.

“Please, let me go.” Ameki cried. Her body seemed much more defeated as fatigue took over. Sesshomaru didn’t speak, but rather observed her behavior. She appeared defeated, instead of the expected gratefulness Sesshomaru had thought she would display.

“I’ll never be Rin. I can’t be…” She continued to sob. She wouldn’t bring her gaze to the great lord Sesshomaru before her. His confusion at her words only grew as he watched the young woman before him collapse into herself emotionally.

“As long as I live, Yakunan can do as he pleases. You won’t harm him because of me.” She brought her hands to her face to mask the sobs that poured forth.

“I won’t be a pawn in this game, I owe it to everyone to return to the dead where I belong.” Sesshomaru’s breathing hastened at her words, breathing that he often done well to hide, surfaced in quickened bursts that slightly whistled through his flaring nostrils.

“You wish to die?” Sesshomaru asked, a hint of anger entering his tone. Ameki didn’t look at him as he spoke, causing his anger to steadily rise.

“You foolish woman!” He hissed. Causing Ameki to slightly jump and inch away from the sudden change in his tone. She remarked with a much lower tone, but the words could clearly be heard.

“You’re being selfish…” She brought her gaze up to meet Sesshomaru’s darkened glare which seemingly unfazed her as she spoke.

“You clearly do not know this Sesshomaru!” Sesshomaru countered.

“I never claimed to, I also never asked to be brought back as some kind of sick twisted pawn to be used in an attempt to manipulate you!” The dam of her glazed eyes broke, sending more tears down her already soaked cheeks. Her quivering bluish lips and chattering teeth seemed to spit the words out.

“How was I to know?” Sesshomaru Rebutted. Sesshomaru tightened his fur around Ameki’s shivering form, causing her to slightly jump.

“You saved me on my mother’s whim, and in an attempt to rectify yourself for not being able to save her. If she had known this would have happened, she would have wished me to stay among the dead.” Her words were much softer this time, causing Sesshomaru’s anger to slightly dwindle.

“You would have been brought back regardless of my actions. Yakunan would have attempted to use you either way.” Sesshomaru spoke, hoping that his words would make Ameki understand.

“Then let me go..” She found Sesshomaru’s gaze once more with pleading eyes.

“Let me help you rid this land of its burden.” She lowered her voice and ended her attempt at persuasion with words that reignited the anger.

“Kill me, so that nothing stands in your way of Yakunan.”

Sesshomaru could feel the demon beneath the surface howl at her plea. He wanted nothing more than to kill Yakunan, but at what price? The woman before him? He clearly couldn’t let Yakunan win at this game he had created. He wouldn’t dare bring his sword against the woman he had sworn to protect, and yet here she was begging him to. At this point, it was no longer about the promise he had made to Rin. It was about Sesshomaru’s ability to protect Ameki, and show Yakunan that he could still bring him down. It was Sesshomaru’s pride riding on the edges, not his word. Sesshomaru gazed with anger toward the pleading woman before him. Killing her would have been something he would have considered if he were still a pup, but he wasn’t the power hungry welp he had once been, and he wasn’t afraid to admit to himself that taking Ameki’s life was out of the question. Even the thought of such a heinous act caused something deeper to stir inside of him. Dare he admit it was pain?

“No…” Sesshomaru growled, letting a bit of venom enter his voice hoping to frighten some sense into the woman before him.

“I’m not Rin!” She shouted, causing Sesshomaru to quickly grab her shoulders, pulling her tightly to his chest in a strong embrace that caused her to squirm. Sesshomaru held her like that until she stopped her attempts to pull away. She was clearly out of control, or was he? He couldn’t decide at the moment in his hastened action. Her continuous yells echoed in his hearing. I’m not Rin! I’m not Rin!

“I know…” He growled, with a bit of sorrow escaping with the sound of his words.

 

~Ameki~

 

The pain that was present in Sesshomaru’s voice was clear, and drowned out the feeling of pity Ameki had been feeling for herself. She had truly overstepped the boundaries of sanity, bringing this mighty demon to his knees nonetheless. He had shown her such compassion, despite her not being Rin. What had she been thinking? Her mind slowly cleared of her hectic and foolhardy thoughts. Surely a demon of his standing would never have confused her with Rin, not one in his right mind anyways. Ameki realized this as she reflected on how he seemed so different compared to the stories she had heard of him in the village among Kagome’s friends. He sounded as if he were in a more merciful state of mind than he had been many years ago. It had been her mother that had eventually brought his softer side to the surface, and she was now gone. So Ameki could only wonder what caused this powerful demon to cling to her knowing that. Was this truly the lost puppy affect InuYasha had sneered about? Was Sesshomaru clinging to Ameki because he had become used to the human companionship, even in Rin’s absence? Had he truly longed to be in the company of a human once more?

“Sesshomaru…” Ameki whispered, hoping to gain his attention and praying that his tight grasp that had grew uncomfortable would loosen.

“I’m sorry.” Her tears had halted, and the sobs that had engulfed her previously were merely echoes as shaky breaths replaced them. She was collecting her thoughts as well as her physical self.

“I’ve acted carelessly in my hasty decision. I became reckless and could only think about others, but I completely disregarded your feelings on the matter.” Ameki sighed as Sesshomaru’s grip released her. She peered up toward the stone faced Demon that had previously pinned her to his armor to quell her fit.

“I did not consider how my actions would affect you.” She slightly bowed, trying to amend what she had taken out of focus.

“I do wish to live, but not at the expense of others.” She could feel the tears return, gravity pulling them toward the dirt as she resumed her deep bow.

“Not if it means being a weakness for you.” Heat returned to her face as she held her breath in the downward position she sat. She squeezed her eyes shut, forcing the tears that continued to form to stay within the confines of her eyelids. The hot liquid pooled in her eyes quickly, begging for release.

“Yakunan will pay for what he has done, but he will play by my rules not his own.” Sesshomaru’s voice returned to the usual flowing cool tone she was used to. Ameki rose from her bowing position, but kept her face tilted downward.

“I will accompany you, if you believe that these people can help us.” Ameki gulped as she spoke.

“I’m the reason he will continue to pillage these lands and murder without cause.” Her voice broke once more.

“No, Yakunan has gone into hiding.” Ameki’s gaze shot up at Sesshomaru’s words.

“The mark he placed on you has no doubt weakened him considering he is such a young dragon.” Sesshomaru continued.

“In our last battle, I easily left him wounded. Where in our battles before we were always skillfully maneuvered into stale mates.” Sesshomaru’s gaze softened as he found Ameki’s eyes. Ameki felt a little relief toward the information Sesshomaru shared with her.

“Promise me this.” Sesshomaru’s sudden mention of a promise brought Ameki’s full attention to him.

“You won’t try anything foolish again.” Sesshomaru stated, declaring the conditions of said promise. Ameki watched as Sesshomaru stood, the fur wrapped around her pulling her to her feet as well.

“Why make me promise that. Why would you care for me, knowing that I can never be Rin. You fulfilled your promise to her. I’m just another mortal to you… or should be.” Ameki gazed into the eyes that bore into her soul.

“No, you are the exception.” Sesshomaru’s tone was hard, but the hidden softness behind the word’s meaning poured from the windows to his soul.

Chapter Text

~Ameki~

 

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.”

 

~Sesshomaru~

 

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.

Chapter Text

~Ameki~

 

Ameki swayed back and forth as exhaustion took hold. Her hands slightly shook, loosening her grip on the tanto blade that Sango had given her a few days before. The numerous slash marks in the wooden post overlapped, making it nearly impossible to keep up with how many times she had laid waste to the already weathered wood. She wanted to fight, or at least be able to defend herself. Sango had awoken the hidden warrior beneath her feminine facade. It was in her blood after all, coming from a long line of battle hardened Lords. Ameki knew that a warrior couldn't be forged over night, but the years of training she took an interest in during her life in the palace had already given her a foot in the door.

Sango had already voiced her approval toward Ameki's prowess in defense, but Ameki had voiced her need to explore more offensive techniques. Sango had instructed her to become fluent and acquainted with her new blade, and that's exactly what Ameki did. Sango had left a few hours earlier, leaving Ameki to take out her aggression on the defenseless post that no longer belonged to a structured boundary. Ameki backed away, lowering her weapon, admiring her handy work. The post looked as if Kirara, Sango's twin tail demon cat, had used it as a scratch post.

Sango had been wise in giving her a smaller weapon. The bulky wooden sword Ameki had trained with previously had felt as if she were wildly swinging an over sized branch. The tanto however, was light, not bulky and cut through the air as elegantly as if it were an extension of her own hand. She wiped the sweat from her brow, and sheathed the tanto securely to her thigh.

Upon turning around she halted as a figure appeared from behind a close tree. She must have lost track of her senses, not realizing she had been watched or even sensing Yuuto's approach in the first place. His eyes scanned the front of her outfit briefly, then returned to her face with a slight smirk.

“I'd hate to offend you like that post seems to have done.” Yuuto began jokingly, starting a conversation as if he hadn't just been stalking her while she trained. She slightly smiled, taking a few steps and bending down to retrieve her bamboo water container. After taking a long drink she cleared her throat.

“It snuck up on me…” Ameki teased, trying to Address Yuuto's obvious intrusion.

“Ah…” He chuckled nervously, brushing his hand through his hair.

“Didn't mean to surprise you. I wasn't sneaking or anything, I just didn't want to disturb you. You seemed quite busy with your morning activities.” He shuffled slightly under Ameki's stare. She smiled. Yuuto was a good guy it seemed, a little protective over things that weren’t his, but good nonetheless. She walked over to the tree where Yuuto had been standing and knelt down to get her things. She pulled the cotton robe over her outfit, and securely fastened the front. It was time for her to move onto other activities for the day. Today would be more field work.

Yuuto’s mother had not taken kindly to the cool nights. Kagome had mentioned that her age played a vital role in her episodes of illness. Kagome had assured Yuuto that it wasn’t anything to worry about, but the cool temperatures at night could bring out joint and muscle pain. She warned that it would probably worsen once fall had ended and the winter months approached, but by then the harvest would be complete.

“Ready for the day?” Yuuto asked with a smile creeping across his features.

“Sure am, though there really isn’t much left to do in our area. If we hurry we could probably call it a day in time to spend the rest however we like.” Ameki replied, gaining an even wider grin from Yuuto.

He was a handsome young man. Ameki didn’t care to guess his age, seeing as he still lived at home with his mother. His father had passed a few harvest seasons back, leaving the two to fend for themselves. Ameki figured he was old enough to be out on his own, maybe even as old as her, but had stayed to make sure his mother was taken care of. Ameki smiled inwardly at the honor this man had portrayed in those very actions. She was roused from her thoughts as Yuuto spoke once more.

“Well, if we finish early enough would you be interested in some fishing?” Ameki glanced upward, gathering the rest of her belongings in her arms.

“Fishing?” She asked, a small bit of hesitation entered her features. It wasn’t from the lack of knowing what fishing was, it was the fact that he was asking if she wanted to.

“Yea, We could catch some fish, maybe even cook some for my mother so she doesn’t have to get up too much.” Yuuto eyed Ameki curiously, waiting to gauge her reaction.

“Or if you have other plans thats okay. I just figured you could use a break from your busy routine you seem to keep.” He smiled reassuringly toward her.

Fishing wasn’t a bad idea Ameki realized. It would give her a bit of familiarity once more. After all her and her mother had often fished in the palace ponds. Not so much for consumption needs as it was for sport.

“That would be alright with me.” She smiled up at him watching the all too wide grin returned to his face.

“That's great.” He beamed.

Fishing would be nice she decided. It could give her some time to make a new friend as well. She never shied away from the chance to get to know someone better. A sneaking sensation of guilt crawled into her mind though. She didn't want to give Yuuto the wrong idea. She wasn’t really interested in a courtship, and Sesshomaru’s past inquiry on the subject had made her uncomfortable. Could he sense Yuuto’s intentions for her? If Yuuto did have such intentions, she would eventually have to let him down lightly. It wasn’t anything against the man, she just wasn’t comfortable with the idea of a relationship. She never had been.

The sun adorned the middle of the sky causing the appearance of their shadows to shorten at a distance underneath them. Ameki had waited by the storehouse after they had finished their part of the harvest in the field. Yuuto had gone to fetch some things. To Ameki’s surprise they passed the stock pond at the edge of the village, and headed directly into the woods and beyond InuYasha’s tree. Ameki soon heard the river where she had foolishly made a mistake, and her conscience began tugging at her once more.

Yuuto sat his supplies down at the edge of the river bank and panned his vision across the glistening water.

“This spot is perfect. The current isn’t very strong and the fish will likely gather here to bed down.” Yuuto made his observation, tearing Ameki from her own inward thoughts. Ameki gazed out at the water as well, and began tying her dress around her knees, exposing the pants of the slayer outfit beneath. She kicked off her sandals and made her way toward the water. After wading for a moment she went still, the water barely reaching her knees, she spotted a stray fish not far from her location. She waited.

“What are you doing?” Yuuto inquired. Ameki glanced up long enough to mouth a shush and then turned her attention back to the water. She waited for the curious fish to swim up to her legs and investigate. The fish’s precaution was apparent. The small swimming strides it would make toward her were halted every few seconds, as if the fish were watching for the object in question to move.

Ameki waited a little longer before the fish had finally arrived at her feet, the tickling sensation hit her as the fish began pecking at her toes, no doubt mistaking them for something edible. She wasted no time, reaching out from her hunkered position, arms like lightning. Her fingers snaked out along the slimy skin, resting in the indentation behind the fishes gills.

With a smile and a giggle she brought the thrashing fish to the surface showing her trophy to the wide eyed Yuuto. His face soon faded into a smile.

“Well, look at that. The girl can fish!” He laughed, and Ameki joined in on the laughter as she walked back to the bank. Yuuto took the fish from her hand and threaded a rope through one of the gills, anchoring it with a stick that he stuck into the ground. He threw the fish back into the water, but the rope would keep him from swimming off.

“I was thinking more of using these poles, but whatever works for you.” He grinned and nudged the matching bamboo poles at his feet. Ameki felt the heat stain her cheeks.

“I’ve never used a fishing pole before.” Yuuto shrugged and picked one up.

“Well, it's always nice to learn something new. If you don’t like it you can always wade back out into the cold water. That seems to work for you.” He nudged her shoulder playfully, causing a smile to grace her lips.

“I guess there’s no harm in trying.” She grabbed one of the poles and inspected it. There were notches in the end to hold the thread in place, and finely wound thread adorned the hollow area at the tip. At the end of the string that dangled from the pole was a sharp metal piece that Yuuto explained was a hook.

“Won’t that hurt the fish if it sticks through its jaw?” Ameki had asked horrified.

“Well, killing the fish hurts to when we get ready to eat them.” He had pointed out. All of a sudden, fishing took on a much more grim meaning to Ameki. It wasn’t as if she didn’t know that the fish had to die. After all she had killed fish before, but she made sure that it was quick and painless. The thought of having a hook caught in the fish’s mouth seemed a little like torment before death.

She quickly shook the feeling and decided to give it try anyways. Yuuto showed her by throwing his own hook into the water. Ameki watched as the wound string in the tip of the bamboo came out and unraveled as the weight of the hook and bait pulled against it. When Yuuto was satisfied, he wound the string around a notch in the bamboo to keep anymore string from sliding out of the pole. She tried to come out with the same result, but had initially sent the hook in an all too short trajectory, the hook landing in the water right against the bank. Yuuto laughed, setting his pole down long enough to show her how to rewind the string using a thin stick. He wound the string and placed the stick inside the bamboo until the threaded part was inside, then clasping his fingers over the hole he pulled the stick free leaving the string inside and ready to cast once more.

Ameki was beginning to think that her way was a bit faster, and easier. That is until she felt her first bite. She felt the tug on the string and felt the repercussion of the action in the pole itself. Yuuto caught the movement out of the corner of his eye and excitedly yelled.

“Pull the pole back hard.” She did, feeling the pole and string tense up, pulling against the small notch at the end of her pole where she had set her line. Ameki felt her adrenaline spike as she rushed through her memories to recall how Yuuto had explained to reel in the line. She grabbed the small stick and began wrapping the string around a little at a time when the line would go slack. She struggled for a while, but eventually brought the fish to the edge of the water where Yuuto grabbed it, presenting it to her.

She was absolutely ecstatic. She had never used a pole before, but it was interesting and new to her. The fact that she had also been the first to catch a fish on their little trip had also helped to groom what little pride she had.

The rest of the afternoon was spent by Yuuto initiating a friendly competition to see who could reel in the biggest. By the time they made it back to the village, with a heavy rope of fish slung over Yuuto’s shoulder, it was getting dark. Time had slipped away without Ameki even realizing it. It was only when she heard the familiar sound of frogs croaking and nocturnal insects chiming that she realized the sun’s light was fading. They released some of the fish in the stock pond, the ones that were still moving after the lengthy walk from the river to the pond, and Yuuto had decided to cook the other.

“Would you like to have dinner with me and my mother?” He asked with a little bit of nervousness entering his features as he gazed down at Ameki. They were standing beside Kagome’s hut. Ameki had forgotten Yuuto’s implications that morning. He had said they would fish and possibly cook for his mother, but that little fact had been lost to her as they had rushed to complete their work in the fields.

Ameki didn’t want to turn him down. They had spent a fun day together, no awkwardness, just two friends fishing and trying to outdo the other. Surely agreeing to have dinner with him wouldn’t change the atmosphere of their relationship, especially if his mother was going to be present.

“I think I’d like that Yuuto.” Ameki smiled up at him. Yuuto smiled in return with a bit of a blush appearing on his features.

“Great, this way my lady.” As Ameki and Yuuto walked away from Kagome’s hut, she could have sworn she heard some grumbling from behind the straw curtain. She assumed it was probably Jaken, complaining that Kagome had not made it home to cook for him yet.

 

~Sesshomaru~

 

Sesshomaru’s eyes didn’t water from the smoke, but his sense of smell was greatly hindered by the sharp scent that seemingly brought fire to his nostrils.

“Demon!” A Female scream sounded off from beside Sesshomaru’s location. He had landed at the edge of the village, still partially concealed by the splay of trees and foliage that lined the perimeter. Sesshomaru caught sight of a recently disturbed curtain from where the scream had come from. The small hut near his location had seemed as if it had been desolate, but with Sesshomaru’s senses dulled he realized it had been in error. He had wanted to simply scour the village and get a closer look. Spotting Kohaku before entering the village would have been ideal, but now the plan was ruined. He knew before too long that he would be met with interference.

He stepped out into the clearing and readied himself as he continued in stride toward the center of town. He passed house after house, with no interruption. When he came to the center of the town he understood why. Men laid sprawled out on blankets, women tending their wounds. It looked as if some of them had actually sustained wounds from battle, but he had only sensed a fire previous to coming here. The storehouse directly across from Sesshomaru’s line of sight was still smoldering, and men still carried buckets of water disappearing into what was left of the building. Sesshomaru stood beside a hut, no one had noticed him thankfully, and no one had come running toward the commotion the female had caused earlier upon spotting him.

He scanned the faces of the men that were injured, failing to locate the one face he had come here for. The wind slightly shifted, making the sounds from behind him more noticeable. The slide of a blade being withdrawn from its sheath entered his hearing with all too vivid detail. Sesshomaru moved with such speed, momentarily blurring the faces that had once been so clearly defined in his vision. A masked man slashed through the area where Sesshomaru had once been standing, but quickly recovered from the miss and continued in pursuit of the blurring vision that was Sesshomaru. He knew he was too quick for the lad. He could tell by the slack in the man’s blade arm that he was fatigued. Even if he hadn’t been, no mortal could keep up with Sesshomaru’s speed. It just wasn’t possible.

Sesshomaru easily disarmed the man, but he didn’t stop. He continued to swing blindly with his fists long after his weapon had settled into the dirt. Sesshomaru grew increasingly tired, and finally caught the man off guard tripping him. Sesshomaru hovered over the man that now lay on the ground, giving him a cold stare that should have scared even the bravest men. It didn’t seem to have an effect on this man though, he seemed as if he begged for a new challenge from his defenseless state on the ground.

“Enough Hotaru!” A male voice barked from a few huts back, one that Sesshomaru had previously passed on his way toward the town center. The man on the ground narrowed his eyes from behind the mask, aiming his glare toward Sesshomaru. Sesshomaru stepped back, signaling his permission for the fallen man to get up.

Sesshomaru turned his attention to a few huts down, catching sight of the face he had been looking for. Kohaku’s masculine features came into view among the smoke filled environment. Signs of age was apparent, his facial hair hinting to his maturity by displaying a few gray hairs among the strands of black. He still held the youthful gaze, much as Rin had, but his features had been hardened and scarred by numerous battles.

“Kohaku.” Sesshomaru blatantly stated as a greeting, the best he would get. Kohaku nodded closing his eyes only momentarily.

“Best come this way before you alert the villagers.” He said with a low tone. Without a glance toward the man that had finally regained his footing, Sesshomaru made his way toward the hut. Kohaku stepped out, the extent of his injuries came into view. Sesshomaru noticed that his soldier and midsection had been wrapped, but at the edges near his armpit, Sesshomaru could see a slightly raised area of skin that seemed to pus underneath. This had been what he had smelled. Kohaku had been burned.

“Strange seeing you after all this time.” Kohaku voiced, gaining Sesshomaru’s emotionless stare.

“I have need of your services.” Kohaku raised a brow at Sesshomaru’s straightforward answer.

“Well, I should have guessed that time wouldn’t change you. Afterall the flow of time is different for humans. Twenty five years to humans must seem like mere days to you.” Kohaku smirked at his own words, Sesshomaru sat un humored at his attempt.

“Chiyoko and Tomoko.” Sesshomaru stated. Kohaku’s features slightly changed, taking on a more serious nature.

“What business do you have with them?” Kohaku asked putting up his guard only slightly.

“I need you to arrange a meeting with them, presumably one that doesn’t involve a fight to their death.” A snort sounded from behind Sesshomaru. The man that had attempted to fight him was a few steps back. Sesshomaru had kept his senses honed in on the man’s movements as he initiated his talk with Kohaku.

“This demon presumes he can beat those two in battle?” Another snort escaped from the man as a bout of laughter began. Sesshomaru resumed his stony expression, ignoring the incoherent sounds that escaped the man behind him. It would only further Sesshomaru’s irritation if he gave into the man’s attempted insult.

Kohaku raised his hand toward the man and narrowed his eyes once more as if to halt him, gaining instant silence from the previous bellows that had come from behind Sesshomaru.

“I’m not sure why you would want to gain their audience, but I doubt Chiyoko would ever agree to such a meeting.” Kohaku stated.

“Then arrange a meeting with Tomoko.” Sesshomaru voiced. Kohaku studied Sesshomaru’s features for a while, and then began his interrogation.

“What does this meeting pertain to?” Kohaku asked.

Sesshomaru thought of a way to answer. How would he break the news about Rin? He still wasn’t comfortable reflecting on the matter himself. Each time he thought of the innocence that was lost that day, an innocence that made him view the world a bit differently than he had in his younger days, something inside of him seemingly faltered. He would lose control of his demeanor. He would reveal too many of his weaknesses and that wasn’t something he liked to do, especially in the presence of others.

Sesshomaru had assumed that he would just find the slayer and demand his help. It was Sesshomaru who had taken the slayer under his care for a while in an attempt to keep him from Naraku’s grasp when he had just been a kid. As far as Sesshomaru was convinced, Kohaku owed him this with no questions asked.

“Consider this a request for a debt that is unpaid.” He narrowed his own eyes toward the curious Kohaku.

“You’ll get your answers once we return to your sister’s village.” Sesshomaru turned to walk away but was halted.

“Is this about Rin?” Sesshomaru didn’t know how to answer that question. He didn’t want to answer any questions. It wasn’t his way. He was a fight first ask questions if they survived kind of person. Or atleast, that's who he used to be. That’s who he had tried so hard to become once more, but had failed in each attempt imagining Rin’s sad gaze over and over.

“Her daughter is in danger.” Sesshomaru didn’t have to reveal anything, he simply wanted the urgency of the matter to already be apparent. He wasn’t one for talking, but if it came down to it, he would. He knew deep down his stoic ways weren’t always successful, and his stubbornness wasn’t always greeted with compliance. This wasn’t something he wanted to do, but if talking was the only way to convince the man without having to drag him back fighting with tooth and nail the whole way then so be it.

Sesshomaru watched as Kohaku’s dawning expression turned to one of contemplation.

“What kind of danger?” Kohaku continued, breaking the silence and glancing down toward the town center to make sure no one had taken notice.

“I’m sure you are aware of who Yakunan is.” Kohaku nodded quickly, his features darkening a bit at the mention of the feared and hated demon.

“He’s put some kind of mark on her, one that could prove fatal over time. I intend to figure out a way to remove it.” Kohaku’s face slightly paled at the mention of a mark. Sesshomaru noted the sharp intake of breath behind him. Sesshomaru was almost sure in that moment that both men knew what kind of mark it was, and the dark abilities that were exhibited alongside its presence. They were both demon slayers after all, and it was their job to know anything and everything about the demons they sought to slay. His guess that was these two had done their research on the Notorious Jiaolong, or Yakunan, and he wanted to find out what they knew.

“We’ll go, but we have something to finish here.” Kohaku stated with determination.

“I promised these people I would clear out the cave at the top of the ridge. It seems there are some Goblins using the village as target practice for their fire magics.” Without a word, Sesshomaru took to the sky and headed for the direction in which Kohaku had pointed. He would take care of this quickly.

 

~Ameki~

 

Yuuto walked Ameki back to Kagome’s hut. The Dinner he had prepared was only partially the reason that Ameki held such a huge smile on her face. Yuuto’s mother, Nagumi, had parted with a few embarrassing stories centered around the young Yuuto. With as innocent as the stories were, Yuuto still held a crimson effect to his face for the remainder of the evening. Yuuto held some of the leftovers he had prepared for Ameki upon their departure. Ameki really liked spending time with him and his mother. There was never a moment where awkward silence filled the small room, no uncomfortable prodding about her past life and she was made feel welcome. Talking to Nagumi had almost come as naturally as if she were talking to her own mother. It was an evening she had dearly needed and she was sad knowing it would end.

Their stride slowed the closer they came to the illuminated hut. Their laughter filled the silence of the lengthy walk back toward the shrine from Yuuto’s house. He continually tried to convince her that most of the stories his mother had told were embellished for humoring effect. He explained that Nagumi had always enjoyed making people laugh, sometimes at his expense. Ameki figured that some of the details were skewed for comical effect, especially the story where Yuuto’s eyes supposedly grew three sizes upon entering a fitting room filled with females in the town market. Nagumi had said he was only in his eleventh year when that happened.

Yuuto stopped a few yards from the hut, and caught Ameki’s sleeve with his free hand halting her as well. She turned towards him and stared up into his curious eyes.

“Did you have fun this evening?” Ameki beamed at his question.

“I had fun most of the day.” The question seemed to disappear from his eyes once he had his answer.

“You can definitely fish that's for sure. I don’t think I’ve ever carried a stringer that full before.” He chuckled making Ameki slightly blush.

“I used to catch fish with my mother. We didn’t use poles though. We just, well you seen me in the beginning.” She laughed slightly, noticing the sudden change in Yuuto’s features.

“I really did enjoy today Ameki. It was nice spending time with you.” He gave her a warm smile and slightly shifted his his position closer. Ameki took notice instantly, everything in her body pleaded with her to move away, but she didn’t. He gazed down at her with a slight blush brushing the surface of his cheeks.

Ameki’s pulse slightly hastened and she slightly closed her eyes, afraid of what was about to happen. She didn’t want to hurt his feelings by pulling away, but she would be placing herself in a situation that caused her discomfort if she didn’t. She felt him move closer, she clenched her eyes shut for a moment. She thought of the one thing that seemingly brought her comfort. Lord Sesshomaru.

She felt a hand ruffle the top of her head.

“We’ll have to do it again sometime.” She opened her eyes to see Yuuto’s playfully mischievous grin. Ameki realized that she had been holding her breath, and exhaled. He hadn’t kissed her thankfully. The tension that had built up in her shoulder’s released and Ameki’s relief helped her maintain her posture. She actually felt kind of embarrassed for assuming that Yuuto would try and kiss her. Afterall, even if he had courting on his mind it would be way too soon for that kind of contact. Ameki’s heartbeat was thrumming strongly in her chest. Her features were no doubt as red as Yuuto’s had been for the most part of the evening.

Yuuto walked her to the door and said good night, handing her the wrapped leftovers and turning around. Ameki sat in the doorway for a moment, staring at the crescent moon that hung low in the sky. Her cheeks radiated with heat, but for another reason as well. Long after Yuuto’s silhouette disappeared below the hill Ameki’s mind still wondered to where her thoughts had led in the moment she thought Yuuto would try and kiss her. As she had clenched her eyelids shut and tried to think of calming things, her mind had been curious. Curious as to how the kiss would feel on her lips, curious as to how the sensation would feel as the soft flesh met more soft flesh. The soft flesh she had imagine though had not been Yuuto’s. It had been the flesh that adorned the same beautiful crescent that lingered in the night sky.

She imagined that the lips she had anticipated were Sesshomaru’s.

Chapter Text

~Sesshomaru~

 

Clearing the Goblin layer had taken Sesshomaru less time than he had anticipated. He had assumed that the cavern would be full of the disgusting deformities, but only a few had been within the first chamber of the underground den. Sesshomaru’s senses, now that he was farther away from the smoke filled village, could detect no other beings within the place. He did however find a stockpile of bombs and other intricacies made from what smelled like gunpowder that humans often used in recent modern times. He had not had the opportunity to inspect such weapons and explosives, because he had not had any interest in acquiring them from the mortals.

He peered around the den, crates upon crates that the goblins had no doubt stolen stacked to his height littered the area. A small campfire was flickering closer to the entrance, a safe distance from such volatile substances. He looked over a couple of items, picking them up and inspecting the craftsmanship, but soon began losing interest. Goblins were creatures that loved anything that had to do with fire. They had a taste for hot destruction and even used a type of Pyro magic, but this den of goblins had been experimenting. Sesshomaru sat the round bomb he had been studying back down into the partially opened crate and made his way back toward the entrance. There was no reason to stick around, and every minute he wasted was risking Ameki’s well being.

Sesshomaru expressed more caution than he had on his first visit to the village, not wanting to gain unwanted attention. Upon arriving though, he realized that wouldn’t be possible considering Kohaku’s hut was surrounded by a small crowd as he seemingly explained the situation that was at hand. He motioned toward Sesshomaru who had halted and not cared to venture any further toward the crowd. A few people turned, their eyes widening for the most part, but none of them seemed to exhibit fear. That seemed strange to him considering their village had just been plagued by a small group of demons. Yet, they weren’t afraid of him? It must have been his appearance. Sure he looked strange, but he knew he was far more appealing to the eyes than those nasty little goblins had been. A few women even seemed to turn awe struck, which he was immune to.

After the group finally dispersed Sesshomaru vaguely explained the situation he had encountered within the den. Kohaku surmised that the village would likely clear the place out, and try to sale some of the wares to pay for the damaged storehouse. Sesshomaru didn’t care about the small details though, he only wanted one thing. That was for Kohaku to accompany him. Which he did eventually, after saying his farewells. As anticipated, Hotaru came as well. The cross young man often made snide remarks, which Sesshomaru ignored for the most part.

The journey back took four days. Four days that Sesshomaru struggled with considering his pace was slowed by the two mortals that accompanied him. If he had only thought to bring Ah-Un, but upon departing from the village his mind had been elsewhere. Ameki’s attempt on her own life had truly shaken the great demon. Sesshomaru had plenty of time to brood on the events that happened that night. He even felt the shame of trying to console the young woman, but he had to do something. He knew his usual antics wouldn’t and couldn’t work. For some reason though, he only wanted her to understand that she wasn’t alone in her grief. He felt the raw pain as well, he just knew how to hide it better. It had worked, and Ameki had finally come back to her senses, but at the cost of Sesshomaru’s pride. He had shown his weakness to a mortal, not just any mortal, but the daughter of his greatest bane.

Kohaku and Hotaru sprinted ahead of Sesshomaru’s pace, finally deciding to pick up their speed once the village came into sight. It was the afternoon of the fourth day, and they had only stopped long enough for the demon slayers to rest and take quick naps. During those short periods of time when Kohaku and Hotaru rested their eyes, minds and bodies, Sesshomaru decided to plot some plan of their future journey. Ah-Un would accompany them, Kohaku would ride with Ameki on top of the two headed dragon demon, while Sesshomaru felt generous enough to let Jaken cling to his furs in flight. He wanted this to be a speedy journey, but he also needed to exercise every precaution considering the fragile details of the situation. He would be heading into a potential battle if things didn’t pan out the way he wanted, and he would need to be able to keep a cool head if things went south.

Kohaku and Hotaru disappeared into the bustle of the village. Sesshomaru had decided to keep behind, slowing his pace near the shrine where Ameki resided with Kagome and InuYasha. InuYasha was nearby, his fresh stench was all over the place as if he had sought out every untouched patch of grass and rolled like the mutt he sometimes was. Sometimes. Sesshomaru reflected on his own use of the word sometimes. A few decades ago Sesshomaru had thought of InuYasha as a mutt in everything he did. Was he getting soft?

“Well, see you’re back and you found Kohaku. Took you a bit longer than I thought. Age finally getting to you?” InuYasha sat perched on the arch that led to the shrine on top of the hill. His crouching position nulled any positive thoughts that Sesshomaru had fathomed previously concerning the half demon. He was a mutt. He even looked like a mutt stooping on his haunches peering down at him.

“Where is Ameki?” Sesshomaru asked coolly, disregarding InuYasha’s insult. Sesshomaru watched as InuYasha’s ear twitched atop his head of silver disheveled hair. InuYasha smirked, seemingly contemplating something that Sesshomaru was unaware of.

“Might not want to be around her today, or actually…” InuYasha chuckled.

“Maybe you should.” He stood up shrugging, as he clasped his arms together. Sesshomaru inwardly scoffed at InuYasha’s games. He honed in his senses and began sorting through the scents that covered the area.

After finally discerning the other scents from the hideous stench of InuYasha, he found Ameki’s, along with another scent that made him want to inwardly cringe. The Farm boy. Ameki’s scent was a bit different than normal, a bit more musky than he had remembered. It dawned on him what the change was. She was in her week of menstruation. Sesshomaru glanced back up at InuYasha who held a smug smile and narrowed his eyes. No doubt InuYasha had known that the young woman was rather moody, and had intended to send Sesshomaru in to take the heat.

“I see…” Sesshomaru said, and then turned back around and began heading for the area where he knew Ah-Un would be within the forest.

It was a strong scent, and Sesshomaru was unsure of why he hadn’t sensed it before. Though, he knew all too well that InuYasha’s stench had been something that had imprinted on his senses, and the slightest detection of it would always register before anything else. Sesshomaru’s mood slightly darkened as he thought of the other scent he had smelled. The farm boy, Yuuto had been with her, or was with her. He didn’t know, but he didn’t like the idea. Ameki was his to protect, and he was beginning to think that maybe she needed protecting from the all too amorous farm boy. He knew what kind of devious thoughts crossed the minds of young men. He himself had experienced such thoughts in his earlier years, but he knew how to control such desires. A young whelp like the farm boy was definitely worth keeping an eye on.

He approached the area where Ah-Un usually rested upon their visits to the village. He still wasn’t comfortable with the wandering eyes and sometimes unsure looks that the villagers gave toward his loyal mount. The villagers were no doubt used to the presence of demons among them, but they weren’t used to that particular demon. Sesshomaru had decided that it would be best for Ah-Un to stay in a concealed area, not too far away from the village though because he was sure that Ameki would visit him and check up on him. She had grown fond of Ah-Un in the time they had traveled together. The thought slightly softened Sesshomaru’s previously darkened mood. She didn’t seem afraid of the two headed dragon at all, and she loved to rile Jaken up, much like her mother used to.

Sesshomaru lowered his guard, allowing himself to give a small sigh. That one little physical gesture was all it took to release some of the other physical tension he had built up. The urgency of everything was starting to weigh down on him. What would he do once the mark was removed from Ameki? Would he leave her in the village like he had Rin? That had backfired on him, and caused him such feelings that he had hoped to never feel again. The feeling of loss was not something Sesshomaru could cope with well. His resentment toward his father was proof of that. However, Sesshomaru was finding it hard to deal with Rin’s death. He had wanted to mourn, but he didn’t know how, and mourning only seemed to seal the facts in stone. Rin was gone, and that’s something Sesshomaru refused to face, but facts were facts.

He halted before coming to the clearing where Ah-Un was taking an afternoon nap. He could hear the low grumbles of the beast’s snore. The sun light seemed to sparkle through the canopy of trees surrounding the clearing, almost making the forest floor seem magical, or as if the stars had descended to the earth during the day, only to return to the skies at night. The breeze was moderately warm compared to the cool air that would appear at night. Fall was nearing its end, and soon these warm days would disappear. He needed to make the journey soon. Travelling in the cold months would be uncomfortable for the mortals that were to accompany him, and whether he wanted to admit it or not, Ameki’s comfort was important to him. She was important to him.

Sesshomaru stood, listening to the sounds of the forest. His thoughts reeled, finally resting on the one thing, the one person that could bring him comfort recently. Ameki, the young woman that was now his ward. She was kind, compassionate and reminded him a lot of her mother. There were differences that he did notice though. Where he would always view her mother as the child he once cared for, Ameki was a woman, and an intriguing one at that. Her eyes were something he found himself looking forward to on his arrival. She always held such excitement to see him. Her talks often kept his mind occupied, so that his thoughts didn’t linger to things he was uncomfortable addressing. It was Ameki who kept him from lashing out after Rin’s death. Knowing that he was needed still, had surprised him, but had brought out his loyal nature that he often hid beneath his hard exterior.

Tending to Ameki after the events that took place at Yomato castle had kept him from blindly slipping into a rage induced state. He had been angry over his failure to protect Rin, he had wanted to lash out and destroy every last demon that remained with the region that was her home, but hadn’t. He didn’t, because acting so carelessly was what Yakunan would have wanted, and it could have cost Sesshomaru everything. Including his life. Somehow Ameki had saved him, and he would make sure to do everything in his power to save her. He wouldn’t make the same mistake he had with Rin, he couldn’t afford to because the only thing keeping him grounded was now Ameki.

Sesshomaru heard the light footsteps, but had caught her sent before she approached. Sesshomaru had been lost in his thoughts for a while, he didn’t care to recall how long he had been standing in that one spot.

“Lord Sesshomaru?” He turned his head slightly, letting half of his features come into view of the woman that stood a few feet behind him. Her smell was… strong… and to his senses quiet exhilarating?

Sesshomaru didn’t answer her. This new sensation was trying to take over his senses. His silence seemed to linger as her words still played in his mind. The smell was slightly fading, but it was definitely there. She was nearing the end of her cycle, probably the final day, but the demon inside of him seemed to growl with content at the way the musky odor massaged his nostrils and heightened his feeling in more personal areas.

Sesshomaru scorned himself. He could feel the frown mold his features, and turned his attention back to the sleeping beast. He was supposed to protect Ameki from the farm boy, not his own inner demon. It was blasphemous for him to take pleasure in her scent. He had never allowed himself to immerse himself in the pleasured scent a mortal in heat exhibited, and he wasn’t about to start, especially not with Ameki.

Ameki stood in silence, waiting for a reply from Sesshomaru. He knew the silence was awkward, but he also knew that it was what she was used to when talking to him. He gathered himself, physically and emotionally, and turned. Her features came into view, and Sesshomaru struggled with the way her appearance made him feel. Her long dark hair lightly swayed below her hips, a few locks splayed over her shoulders adorning the red silk kimono he had given her. Her cheeks had more color in them than he had remembered, and her eyes were like that of a baby deer. Wide and full of curiosity. He noticed the way her lips were stained to match the red kimono, and even observed the light brown powder that spread across her eyelids accenting the deep brown eyes that held specks of green. She was beau…

“It's been a while my lord.” She spoke in a hushed tone, as if not to wake the sleeping beast a few yards away.

Sesshomaru pulled his mind away from the forbidden territory that was tempting to explore.

“Indeed.” He stated, giving as little a response as possible. He was curious though, as to why she wore the clothing he had given her so early in the afternoon. Normally she would still have her working clothes on.

“You Enjoy the dresses I gave you?” Ameki listened to his sudden question, a bit of surprise sprouting across her features as she nervously looked down, her cheeks gaining a few darker shades than they had previously been.

“Ah yes my lord…” She smiled up toward Sesshomaru.

“Sango’s daughter had a baby a few days ago, and we threw her a party that Kagome planned. We brought food and gifts to welcome the new baby into the village.” Ameki slightly smiled. Sesshomaru nodded. His mind calming from the slightly irritating notion that the Yuuto boy had been the reason for Ameki’s surprising appearance. He was oddly satisfied that was not the case.

Ameki grabbed the back of her neck, an instant look of discomfort crossed her face, but quickly faded. Sesshomaru felt his brow crease instantly, but quickly smoothed his features back to his usual marbled perfection.

“Does it hurt?” Sesshomaru asked, Ameki’s eyes finding his once more.

“Every once in a while, mainly just at night though.” She gave a slight shrug. Her eyes fell, as if she was afraid her admission would get her into some kind of trouble.

“We’ll remove it soon.” He tried his best to reassure her, but the look on her face showed the doubt that was evident in her mind. Ameki slightly smiled, and lowered her gaze once again. Her hand rested on an area of her leg that was concealed by the dress, but something slightly protruding caught Sesshomaru’s eyes.

“What is that you have hidden?” Sesshomaru’s eyebrow quirked as he motioned to where her hand rested.

“Oh…” She slightly turned away from Sesshomaru, shifting the fabric of the Kimono above her knee slightly. Sesshomaru caught the slightest glance of her skin before she released the fabric and turned back around.

To his surprise she presented a short blade. The make seemed light enough considering that Ameki handled it without struggle, the muscles in her exposed wrist barely reacted to the weight of the blade. The smile returned to her face.

“Sango gifted this to me. It’s a tanto blade she recovered from her home village of the demon slayers. She’s been helping me find ways to…” Ameki’s eyebrow twitched a little as she paused.

“Cope with things, and release some of my pent up aggression. Honestly it seems to work. I feel much better, and I practice with Sango before the sun rises every day. It’s a great way to start the day. My muscles don’t bother me as much from all the work in the fields if I warm up in the mornings with some exercises.” She smiled, her small rambling seemed to be an attempt to divert the topic from the mark that clearly bothered her.

This new bit of knowledge slightly surprised Sesshomaru.

“What type of exercises?” Sesshomaru inquired. Ameki turned back around, long enough to sheath the blade below her layer of clothing.

“Sango’s been helping me with my defense. I’ve been trying to learn how to protect myself better.” Sesshomaru would have thought it noble, if his pride hadn’t groveled knowing she felt the need to learn how to defend herself. Was he not enough? Did she not have faith that he could protect her? Did she somehow blame him for her mother’s death? He knew by Ameki’s nature that she would never admit to it. She didn’t like hurting other people's feelings, and would fib to warp the truth a bit. However, Sesshomaru wanted to know.

“Do you feel unsafe Ameki?” Sesshomaru’s question caused a look of confusion to cross her features. She opened her mouth as if to answer, but whatever reply she had prepared was drowned out by the loud pitch screeching that disrupted the once calm forest.

“Lord Sesshomaru!!!” Jaken’s form soon appeared from the underbrush surrounding the path leading back to the village. There was a bounce in his step that Sesshomaru was all to familiar with.

 

~Ameki~

 

Ameki wasn’t sure how to answer Sesshomaru’s question. She felt safe among the village, she felt safe when Sesshomaru was around. However, she had turned her attention more towards fighting as of recent. She wasn’t comfortable with the idea that everyone around her would be fighting for her. She wanted to do all that she could as well. She didn’t want to be waited around on like a princess. She wasn’t a princess anymore, and that part of her life was something that she wanted to forget, because that part of her life held some painful memories. Especially in the end.

Ameki straightened her Kimono, and slightly bowed to Sesshomaru, leaving the little imp to fill in his master on all of the current events. A strange flicker in Sesshomaru’s eyes, only momentarily but clear enough, almost made it seem as if he was sad that she was leaving. She didn’t like to stay around when Jaken addressed Sesshomaru after a lengthy absence. It often felt like she was eavesdropping on their business, even though Jaken mainly droned on about the uneventful days he spent in the village awaiting his master’s return. With one more quick glance, Ameki made her way toward the village. The sound of Jaken’s over excited voice slowly faded.

Ameki walked slowly, feeling the heat rise to her cheeks. She had finally seen him again. Lord Sesshomaru. She had dreaded his return for a bit, afraid that she would shy away from him, or fail to muster the nerve to approach him. Her thoughts had surprised her the night she had thought Yuuto would kiss her. She had imagined… The thoughts continued to cause the sneaking heat in her cheeks to turn to a mild burn. There was no way she could explain her sudden interest in the demon lord. Her mind had to be warped, or maybe it was the mark, drawing her toward the dark energies that radiated around him. Maybe somehow Yakunan’s desire to rid the world of Sesshomaru had somehow manifested on her end as something confusing, a different type of infatuation. Was that even possible?

She made her way toward Kagome’s hut. She was sure that no one would be inside considering the festivities were still underway. What she was greeted with however upon approaching the hut momentarily startled her. An older man stepped into her view. She hadn’t noticed his form leaning against the wall at the opposite corner outside of the hut. He wore an outfit that she immediately identified as demon slayer attire. This must have been Kohaku. Sesshomaru had found him… Her thoughts automatically shifted to the demon she had left in the clearing. She had failed to ask him how his journey had fared, and she mentally kicked herself. She had been so flustered, and had forced herself to go greet him once InuYasha had informed her of where to find him. She hadn’t been sure that she would be able to hide the sudden shift in her emotions toward him.

The man raised his head from his downward stare. Ameki felt a sudden sadness as the red puffy eyes came into her few. His pained stare seemed to look right through her, as if she weren’t even there.

“Are you alright?” Ameki voiced in a whisper. He continued to stare and gave no reply. Ameki shifted her weight under his gaze. She was beginning to feel slightly uncomfortable, not sure why this obviously sorrow stricken man looked at her.

“Is there something you need? Something I can get you? You don’t look well…” Ameki stepped forward, trying her best to comfort the man. He tore his gaze from her, sniffing sharply causing his nose to twitch as he shook his head. Ameki wasn’t sure why this man seemed completely lost. His eyes began to wander, gazing out toward the fields.

“Are you Kohaku?” Ameki inquired, hoping to get some kind of reply from him. He slightly glanced back toward her, fresh tears forming in his eyes. He shifted his gaze quickly away as fast as he had glanced.

“Yes.” He replied. His shoulders began to tremble, and Ameki could tell he was fighting to keep what little stability he had left to his frame. Something was bothering him, and not just a little. This man was distraught with something.

Ameki took a few more steps, he was now doing everything in his power to avoid looking at her. This confused her. Had she done something to upset this man that she had just met? This was Sango’s younger brother. A mighty demon slayer, and one of the best fighters all around. He was a legend among most regions, doing his part to help keep the demon nuisance at bay. He had been taken by Naraku as a young child, and kept alive by a mere sacred jewel shard from the legendary Shikon No Tama. He had been made to do horrible, despicable things, and had endured all of the painful memories that had resurfaced later. He had overcome those obstacles to become the esteemed slayer he was today. Yet, before Ameki, stood a man that looked as if he was on the verge of crumbling.

“Do I need to go get your sister?” Ameki asked once more, trying to figure out a way to help him. She watched as his fist clenched, she started to take a step back, worried that she had somehow angered him. That’s when she felt the presence behind her. Close enough to feel the heat radiating from his body. She quickly turned to look up at Sesshomaru, who kept his stare focused on Kohaku.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” The man’s voice seemed to take on a hint of anger as he stared at her lord. Sesshomaru didn’t answer. What hadn’t he told Kohaku? Ameki turned back toward Kohaku. A fresh tear had broken free from his eye, and his face had taken on a grimace. Ameki shifted her weight. Kohaku wasn’t talking to her, and all of a sudden she felt as if she were intruding once more. She wanted to back away, or atleast move from between them.

“Weren’t you supposed to protect her?” Kohaku’s narrowed his eyes, darkening the depths to almost look black in comparison to the light brown eyes that had held such sadness. Anger was quickly overtaking him. Ameki felt the air shift along with her own body as she backed behind Sesshomaru. She had heard the low growl that was almost inaudible, but the close proximity had aided in catching it. Sesshomaru’s face took on a darkened light as well. His eyes were like daggers, and Kohaku was his victim.

Ameki’s hands found the sleeve of her Kimono, her grip on the fabric tightened as the atmosphere around her grew with anxiety. Her anxiety. What had Kohaku meant? Were they talking about her...or…

“Rin is dead because you couldn’t get over your own prejudices toward humans. All you care about is your stupid demon war.” Kohaku’s voice came out in a hiss that sent goosebumps sprouting across Ameki’s skin. A slight whimper escaped as she heard his words. Of Course… Kohaku had been talking about her mother. They had known each other long ago. That fact had slipped her mind, but… why was he blaming Sesshomaru? She glanced up toward the demon, he was absolutely still, rigid even.

“You’re wrong…” The words came out before she had time to stop them.

“What you are saying isn’t true.” Ameki could feel a little anger of her own rise as Kohaku stood before them blaming Sesshomaru for something that had not been his fault. If the stories about Sesshomaru were true, then it only stood to reason that his compassion toward her mother was great. The pain she had witnessed in the formidable demon was great. Her mother’s loss was great. The pain Kohaku was feeling was understandable, but he had no reason to lash out at the one person who had cared enough to try and save her against all odds. He had no right to demean and blame the person that could have so easily walked away and left her for dead, but had instead honored the dying wishes of her mother. Something that was almost unheard of for demons. At least, demons that were as powerful as Sesshomaru.

“Why defend him?” Kohaku turned his attention toward Ameki. His eyes darted toward her from behind wet lashes. His face turning from anger, slightly softening as he looked upon her.

“His arrogance will get you killed too.” Ameki froze at his words, but it was Sesshomaru’s rigidness that seemed to thaw at his words. Ameki felt the wind from Sesshomaru’s streaking figure, and in the next moment Sesshomaru was face to face with Kohaku. Ameki had feared the worst, she was terrified that Kohaku had angered him to the point of no return. It seemed as if Kohaku was intentionally digging a knife into Sesshomaru’s already open wounds. Sesshomaru stood but a hair of an inch from Kohaku’s face. Through gritted teeth Ameki heard his words.

“I will protect her, it's why I sought you out. Not so you could berate me.” Kohaku’s anger seemed to falter as he looked into the angry demon’s eyes. It wasn’t fear that replaced it, but the sorrow returned, and his shoulders slightly slumped.

“ I could never understand her obsession with you, and now her daughter?” Kohaku peered around Sesshomaru slightly and glanced at the frozen Ameki. Kohaku backed away, rubbing his hands over his face, stretching the skin under his eyes.

“I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Why the two of you are...and were smitten with him I’ll never know.” He gave a half hearted laugh, the sound croaking as he turned and walked away.

Chapter Text

~Sesshomaru~

 

Sesshomaru wanted so badly in that moment to resort to his old ways and cut down anyone who dared harm his pride. He could relate to the grief Kohaku was experiencing though, and they had both blamed the same person for what had happened to Rin. Sesshomaru. How could he possibly raise his sword or claw against the one person who was willing to say it? He didn't deserve to have it given to him lightly, and Kohaku had served the words right to his very soul, raw words that he had thought himself. The pain in Kohaku's eyes had been the one thing that had saved the man from Sesshomaru's wrath. It was Sesshomaru's fault that the pain existed.

However, Sesshomaru could not and would not listen to Kohaku’s accusations concerning Ameki's safety. Things would be different this time, Sesshomaru was sure of it. He could protect her, and would continue to do so until her time came at a ripe and old age. It's what he felt was right. It was his form of penance. Or was it? Would he really consider Ameki's presence as a form of discipline because of his shortcomings? It almost felt wrong to think of such things. It was Sesshomaru who owed her, it wasn't a penance, it was a debt. He owed her a life, one that far surpassed the mediocre mess he had left for Rin. He owed Ameki a mother, something he couldn't give back to her. He owed Rin, and that was something he could do. Rin's final wish was not a penance.

Kohaku’s figure disappeared as he rounded a corner, the image of his slumped shoulders etched themselves into Sesshomaru’s vision. He heard the light foot falls approach him. From his peripheral he saw Ameki’s hand rise toward his arm but she stopped. Her hand lingered, contemplating whether or not to make contact. She had decided against it, and instead let her hand fall. Her soft voice seemingly caressed the wound that Kohaku’s words had prodded.

“Lord Sesshomaru…” There was a slight hitch in her breathing that signaled the impending tears. She was crying. The scent of salt was present, and brought Sesshomaru back from his inner turmoil. She was hurting once more. Hurting just as he was. He hated it. The constant feelings, the insecurities and the way Ameki’s apparent pain always made him feel. This is what it meant to be involved with humans. This is what his father had succumb to. He had probably felt just as small as Sesshomaru did in that instant. He was a power to be reckoned with, but felt so helpless when it came to quelling this mortal’s fear and sorrow, but damn it he would try and would continue to. This was a new challenge for him but he had never shied away from one of those. He would prove the odds against them, and overturn the outcome.

He shifted his weight slightly, gaining a better view of Ameki’s tear filled eyes. Eyes that reflected pain. Not for herself, but for him. The pulling sensation within his chest arose once more. Her eyes always tugged at something deep within him, but the tears only amplified the affect. He would rectify his shortcomings. Even if it was just for her alone. She kept his gaze as if she were trying to speak without her voice.

The footsteps and scent Sesshomaru registered next only darkened his mood further. The young farm boy rounded the corner where Kohaku had disappeared. He glanced back from the direction he had come before turning back to face them.

“Uhm, is that man okay?” He stopped, taking in Ameki’s appearance, and then slowly shifted his eyes toward Sesshomaru. His eyebrow raised a bit in concern.

“Am I interrupting something?” Sesshomaru wanted nothing more than to say yes. Maybe even shout the answer, but to his surprise he didn't have to.

“Yuuto, now is probably not the best time…” Ameki’s voice was swollen with the tears she fought to hold back. Yuuto’s brow continued to climb in height at the confirmation of his intrusion. .

“Forgive me Ameki… Lord Sesshomaru. I didn't mean to interrupt.” His tone had changed upon mentioning Sesshomaru’s name. Sesshomaru had picked up on it easily.

“Come by my house later if you aren't too busy. Mother would really like to see you.” Yuuto’s words were meant for Ameki.

Out of Sesshomaru’s peripheral he caught the slight nod of her head. Her acknowledgment to the farm boys request. Sesshomaru did not speak, or even care that Yuuto’s cheeks had gained a few shades of color at her response. He was obviously smitten with Ameki, but Sesshomaru didn’t get the same sense from Ameki. She had a friendly nature like her mother and saw his invitation as innocent. Sesshomaru did not. However, there was nothing he could do. It was her life to live. He would simply ensure that the boy did not make any unwanted advances on her. If he did, Sesshomaru would end him. It was as simple as that.

“I’ll make the travel preparations. Spend the rest of the day as you wish.” With those words Sesshomaru turned and began walking toward the arch.

He had caught sight of the sprouted questioning gaze Yuuto had gained before he had left. Ameki would no doubt spend most of the evening hours preparing to leave and giving farewells to the people of the village. That meant less time at Yuuto’s house. The thought would have normally caused Sesshomaru’s muscles to form a smirk, but his mind was elsewhere. He needed to find a way to remedy the obvious bad blood that was now between him and Kohaku. Sesshomaru knew very little about resolving differences. Especially when it involved mortals. He needed Kohaku’s help, it was vital to the success of their journey. He couldn’t let his pride get in the way of this. Not this. He would seek out Inu Yasha. He knew exactly where to find him.

InuYasha feigned ignorance as Sesshomaru ascended the steps to the shrine. He knew very well that InuYasha had been spying on them from up on the hill top. Every word said below the shrine was no doubt intercepted by InuYasha’s sensitive hearing. Even if he was just a half-demon, the quality of the demon blood that ran through his veins was pure before the human demon conjoining. His sight, smell, hearing and even taste was all very sensitive.

InuYasha’s back was turned as he knelt on his haunches like a dog. His attention was on the two graves that occupied the ground in front of the erected shrine. One belonged to Kaede. Kaede was the old Miko that Sesshomaru had entrusted Rin’s well being to. He had left Rin in the village with the Miko so that she could become more accustomed to a normal mortal life. Also because he knew that she would be safe there. The other grave belonged to a woman that he had only met a few times, Kikyo. Kikyo was Kaede’s older sister, InuYasha’s former love and a very strong Miko.

Fifty years before Sesshomaru had ever known of Naraku’s existence, InuYasha had fallen in love with a mortal woman. Half-demons did not fit in well in either worlds, the demon world or the mortal world. They were outcasts among both sides. This human Miko however, became very fond of InuYasha and he her. Kikyo and InuYasha had crossed paths a few times before their bond was forged. Kikyo had been assigned the duty to protect the Shikon No Tama, or Sacred Jewel. She was the only mortal known to be able to purify the malice and evil that was contained within the jewel. Many demons sought the jewel to increase their powers beyond comprehension.

Sesshomaru had never been one to seek power where he could not increase it in his own doing. However, InuYasha had sought after the jewel in hopes of becoming a full fledged demon. This led to InuYasha and Kikyo’s fateful meeting. InuYasha continuously tried to gain access to the jewel, but Kikyo never allowed it. She would always finish off other demons that sought the jewel, but she would simply halt InuYasha’s pursuit and leave him with warnings. InuYasha and Kikyo eventually formed a bond, one that would transcend death and even time. Kikyo, the woman that wanted nothing more than to live a normal life and InuYasha, the Half-demon that did not fit into either world.

Kikyo had inquired InuYasha’s need for the jewel, and once their relationship had progressed she had given him an alternative. She would use the jewel to help him become human. This meant he would have given up his demon blood had it worked. She wanted to live a normal life with him, and InuYasha had even agreed. However, neither of them were aware of the darker forces that had been spying on them and scheming from the start. Naraku, a coalition of demons that was formed when the human bandit Onigumo agreed to exchange his vessel for mobility and strength after his body was rendered useless.

Kikyo had harbored the broken and burned fugitive and cared for him inside of a cave that she visited daily. She pitied the man that would never move from that spot ever again. It was only shortly after she met InuYasha that Onigumo’s body had disappeared. He had become infatuated with the young miko. Obsessed by her beauty and compassion, and wanted nothing more than to be able to move from that spot and claim her as his. His dark desires had lured the many demons that sought the sacred jewel that Kikyo protected. In exchange for his soul and body, they promised him the mobility and strength he desired. However, once the merging of their beings was complete, Onigumo did not receive what he had bargained for. Instead, the demons that he had made the agreement with wanted nothing more than to kill the very woman he had exchanged his soul for.

Those dark forces worked behind the scene as Naraku. He sought to teach InuYasha and Kikyo the lesson that all others had been taught when dealing with the power of the sacred jewel. They were going to use it out of greed. Kikyo wanted a normal life and InuYasha had desired to be with Kikyo as a human. Naraku ultimately set the betrayal into motion. The betrayal that would ultimately claim kikyo’s life and cause a much darker emotion to form between Kikyo and InuYasha. The jewel would become darker with Kikyo’s feelings of hate.

On the day that Kikyo was to meet InuYasha with the jewel, Naraku had disguised himself as InuYasha, and mortally wounded Kikyo. He had taken the sacred jewel, and could have made off with it in that instant, but he simply wanted the malice within the jewel to grow. Placing the jewel back within the village, he appeared to InuYasha disguised as Kikyo, and had attempted to kill him. This began the chain of events that would eventually lead to InuYasha’s fifty year slumber. InuYasha, in his rage and feelings of betrayal rushed to the village and took the sacred jewel. Kikyo however, in her final moments of life, pursued him. She sealed him to the tree of ages, in the forest that became known as the forest of InuYasha. Her last request before death claimed her, was for the Shikon No Tama to be burned with her body. Naraku had not anticipated that the jewel would disappear from this world.

Fifty years after that event, a young woman appeared within this world from within the Bone-Eaters well. A well that was said to be able to transcend this realm and maybe even time. Many people discarded the remains of slain demons within the well, because the bodies would simply disappear. That woman, was Kagome. Kagome was later discovered to be the reincarnation of Kikyo, and she had brought the sacred jewel back to this time from within her body. Sesshomaru had only ever been able to meet Kikyo because of dark sorcery that was performed by a demon known as Urasue. She had attempted to bring Kikyo back from the dead using the bone and graveyard soil that was exhumed from Kikyo’s resting place at the shrine. She had intended to use Kikyo to regain all of the Shards of the Shikon jewel that Kagome had previously shattered with an arrow.

After using Kagome’s soul to reanimate Kikyo’s clay body that Urasue had made in her demon kiln, Kikyo killed Urasue and then quickly turned on InuYasha. Kagome called her soul back to her body, forcing Kikyo to distance herself before she died once more with unfinished business. Hence the beginning of the tragic priestess Kikyo, but was later returned to the afterlife by Naraku.

InuYasha often still visited the grave site. He had loved Kikyo, and in a way she was still with him. Kagome was her reincarnation. InuYasha had loved them both individually though.

Sesshomaru recalled the many stories Rin would impart to him when he would visit her. She loved to tell stories, and Sesshomaru couldn’t escape her need to share the local gossip, and give him details of his brother’s tragic love life. Sesshomaru didn’t mind at the time. He had simply enjoyed seeing her well, and happy within the village. He was content that she was getting involved with things that normal mortals tend to do.

Sesshomaru felt a slight tug in his chest as he approached his brother. His brother that was all too familiar with the mourning process.

“If you’ve come to me about Kohaku, I don’t think I can help.” InuYasha glanced backward toward Sesshomaru who halted at his words. InuYasha’s eyes didn’t give off the usual cocky gleam he was used to. Instead they were replaced by understanding, maybe even sympathy.

“Who will be able to resolve this then?” Sesshomaru voiced. InuYasha sighed as he stood from his crouching position, allowing both graves to come into Sesshomaru’s view. Fresh flowers had been placed upon both graves. Extremely fresh flowers. The stems had not even began to bruise or wither from tear.

“You have to. He’s just wrapped up in his feelings right now. I’m sure he will come around, but you getting all huffy with him won’t change things.” InuYasha said matter of factly.

“I don’t have time to play the wait game any longer.” Sesshomaru spoke.

“Then make him see reason. You are trying to do what he doubts you can do.” InuYasha shrugged.

“You have to talk to him. Convince him this is the only way you can protect the girl. Surely he will have to understand that.” InuYasha slightly scoffed.

“You’re gonna have to step out of your comfort zone for a bit and enter the real world. I can’t talk to him for you, I’m just setting you on the path to what has to be done.”

InuYasha glanced back once more toward the shrine and then made his way toward the steps. Sesshomaru stood still as InuYasha past him. Sesshomaru understood what InuYasha was telling him. It just wasn’t something that Sesshomaru was going to be, for the lack of a better word, comfortable with. He found himself becoming more social with humans than he ever thought possible. He had probably spoke to more humans as of late than he had in his entire life. The social scene had never been his calling, not even with demons. However, now his duties required him to cozy up to humans. He inwardly sighed. He was not the dote his brother expected him to be, but he would attempt to make Kohaku see reason. He had to.

Sesshomaru had always been a fighter with his weapons and claws. Now he would have to use his words. All of this was becoming extremely hard for him to swallow.

 

~Ameki~

Ameki walked slowly with Yuuto. She knew the questions were coming, she just didn’t know how she would be able to answer them. One question would lead to another, and she wasn’t in the mood to explore uncomfortable territory that would no doubt lead to confrontation. Taking a lengthy leave of absence with Lord Sesshomaru would no doubt upset and worry Yuuto. She was well aware of his feelings toward the Great Dog Demon, and she didn’t want to hear it, or chance him trying to convince her to stay. The only way she would be able to make him understand her reason for leaving, would be to impart all aspects of her situation involving Yakunan.

The back of her neck tingled as the demon’s name crossed her mind. She would never get used to the sensitive feeling that would come and go. Sometimes it was triggered, other times it was random. At night though after waking from her dreams, it lingered.

“You’re going with him this time?” Ameki inwardly rolled her eyes. She was too exhausted from witnessing the distress between Kohaku and Sesshomaru to get into detail in that moment.

“Yes, but I’ll return. Kohaku and Hotaru are coming along as well.” Yuuto slightly frowned, but Ameki noticed a bit of the tension leave Yuuto’s frame.

“Those are the demon slayer’s right? Sango’s brother and son?” Yuuto questioned. Ameki felt a bit relieved that his questions pertained to the other men.

“Yes. We’ll be visiting a far northern region.” Ameki replied.

“How far north? Like a region or two?” Ameki inwardly chastised herself for adding the “far” descriptive in her answer.

“It could take a while, I… have business to attend to.” Yuuto frowned slightly.

“Hmm… and you require an escort of a demon and two demon slayers?” Ameki slightly narrowed her eyes, but was quickly caught off guard by the small smile that krept over Yuuto’s lips. He slightly nudged her arm as they continued their slow pace.

“Chill, I’m only teasing. I won’t pry into your personal life. I only wanted to get an idea of when you would return. I know my mother enjoys your company. She’ll surely miss you… and the help you give her around the house.” Yuuto smiled to himself as he glanced off in the distance toward his home.

“She really does appreciated the help you give her with the launder and cooking.” He slightly blushed.

“I really appreciate it too. I know the reprieve you give her helps her joints and bones.” Ameki gave Yuuto a smile as he turned his attention back toward her.

“It’s my pleasure. It's nice knowing I can help those in need.” Yuuto beamed a wide smile toward Ameki.

“You really do have the kindest heart Ameki.” Ameki felt a slight tinge of heat enter her cheeks at his compliment.

 

“I try to do what's right.” Yuuto kept his smile as he added to her last statement.

“I assume that’s why you’ll be heading out with Sesshomaru this time? You have to do what's right somewhere?” She should have known he wouldn’t let it go. She didn’t want to get into specifics, but she didn’t want to be as vague with Yuuto as she had been before. He was nothing but nice to her, and she absolutely adored his mother. It just didn’t sit well knowing that he would constantly be wondering what she was up to her entire absence.

“I’m accompanying Lord Sesshomaru, Kohaku and Hotaru to Echigo.” Yuuto’s eyes widened a bit at the mention of the far Northern Region.

“That’s quite the journey Ameki.” Yuuto’s shoulder’s slightly slumped.

“It really shouldn’t take long considering we will have Ah-Un.” Yuuto raised his brow at the mention of Ah-Un.

“You mean that dragon you visit? The one that flies?” Ameki nodded.

“How is everyone going to ride on that demon? Granted he’s pretty big, but It’s gonna be a bit cramped don’t you think?” Ameki gave a slight giggle at his response.

“No, I’ll ride on Ah-Un with Kohaku and Hotaru, maybe Jaken.” Ameki imagined Jaken’s reaction to having to ride on the already crowded Ah-Un with three humans.

“Or maybe Lord Sesshomaru will let Jaken tag along with him.” Ameki added. Yuuto creased his brow.

“The little green toad guy is Jaken right?” Ameki nodded at Yuuto’s inquiry.

“So, Sesshomaru will carry him while he what? Runs?”

Ameki paused to think about how to answer his question. She just assumed that Yuuto would know that Sesshomaru himself could fly, but… then again Yuuto didn’t know much at all about Sesshomaru. Their first meeting had proven that much. Some time had passed since then, but Ameki often avoided the topic that was Lord Sesshomaru. She had been afraid that Yuuto would overstep his bounds once again, and Ameki would have no other choice but to defend Sesshomaru. She didn’t want to chance hurting her friendship with Yuuto. Especially since it was one of the first, outside of the people that knew her mother, she had formed.

“Well, Sesshomaru is really fast you know. He has some otherworld qualities.” Ameki couldn’t ponder any other response.

“I guess that makes sense. InuYasha is really fast and he’s only a half demon. I can only imagine how fast a full demon must be.” Yuuto shrugged, accepting her answer. Thankfully.

“Before you leave though, come by the house. You can say by to my mom, and…” Yuuto trailed off as they came close to a group of people in the nearing market district. His footsteps almost halting. Ameki paused her own travel, curious as to where his mind had taken him as his words had dissipated.

“I wanna give you something.” He turned his body toward Ameki, but averted his gaze. The heat was now apparent in his cheeks once more, and had began accumulating as his silence had taken hold.

“Oh?” Ameki inquired.

“Well, what do you want to give me?” She asked. Yuuto looked back up catching her eyes with a playful grin.

“It's a surprise. I used a bit of my money I made chopping up wood to get it. I think it really suits you.” Ameki grinned.

“Now you really have me curious Yuuto. You didn’t have to though. I’ll pay you back for whatever it is.” Yuuto just shook his head and cleared his throat.

“Now my lady… It wouldn’t be a gift if you paid me back for it.” Ameki playfully patted his arm.

“I know, but I also know you work hard for your money. You could be spending it on something for your mom or yourself.” She smiled.

“Oh, I buy mom plenty of things. I didn’t come up short this season. I actually had a surplus of coin to save up for the winter, and a little extra to get you a gift.” He raised his arm and ran his hand through his hair.

“I was gonna wait for the perfect time to give it to you, but since you are gonna be gone a while I might as well give it to you this evening.” He smiled and started walking once again.

“Now I’m really curious as to what it is. Was this your plan Yuuto? Draw me in with curiosity so I won’t forget to visit?” Ameki asked in jest.

“Oh no, you caught me Ameki. I guess that still means I won’t tell you. You’ll just have to come and see.” He smiled patting her on the shoulder.

Ameki soon broke off from Yuuto after exiting the market district. She made a note of all of the people she would have to give her farewell to. She wouldn’t be gone forever, but she didn’t want anyone to think she just disappeared without thinking of them. There was one matter that was pressing her conscience dominantly. Kohaku. The man had looked terribly defeated. It was her first time meeting him, and she wanted to rectify the situation. She didn’t want that to be the first impression she gave to him. She had instantly jumped to Lord Sesshomaru’s defense. Kohaku was simply having trouble processing what had happened, and she couldn’t blame him.

She had no idea what kind of relationship Kohaku and her mother had in the past, but it was clear that they were probably good friends. Or at least had been. She did know that they traveled a while with Lord Sesshomaru together as kids, but nothing about them ever came up where village life was concerned. Ameki didn’t care to pry into personal matters. All she knew was the man was distraught with the news, and she could sympathize. However, Sesshomaru was not to blame in any form or fashion. She wanted him to understand that.

Ameki approached Sango’s home. Hotaru was outside talking with Miroku. Miroku and Hotaru both seemed to be catching up. Smiles were apparent on both of their faces, and laughter echoed off of the closer huts to their own. Ameki’s approach brought their attention from something they had been discussing.

“Hello Ameki!” Miroku greeted her. She smiled in return and slightly bowed.

“Miroku, Hotaru hello to you both!” She replied in kind. Hotaru sent a slight nod in her direction. His eyes were clearly guarded, and had become so upon noticing her approach.

“To what do we owe this pleasure Ameki?” Miroku stood from his cross legged position on the ground and approached her motioning her forward. He clasped her hand and smiled down at her with his genuinely happy grin. He really was kind to the eyes for an older gentlemen. He had never been Lecherous toward her thankfully, but she had a sneaking suspicion that Lord Sesshomaru had swayed his decision making there.

Ameki cleared her throat and spoke, taking on a much more hushed tone than she had in greeting.

“I was actually hoping that I could talk to Kohaku. That is if you know where he is.” Miroku’s smile became more serene.

“He’s in the house with Sango at the moment. I think maybe talking to you will help him.” Miroku stepped back slightly, releasing Ameki’s hand.

“I think he feels regretful for how the two of you met. His remorse is clear in more than one area that's for sure.” Ameki slightly frowned.

“I may have become a little hostile toward him, and I for one regret that. I want to make amends, and maybe set things straight so we can get off on the right foot this time?” Ameki felt her eyebrows raise as she inquired Miroku’s thoughts. She wanted his opinion on the situation before heading in.

“He’s already apologized to Sango a million times for the way he acted in front of you. She’s been trying to convince him that you are an understanding person. I think it would help to hear it from you though.” He smiled down at her and she returned it.

Miroku turned and began walking toward the the house. Upon opening the straw curtain he announced their presence.

“Kohaku, you have a visitor.” He motioned for Ameki to step inside and so she did. Kohaku was perched against the wall with one leg stretched outward, and the other drawn in with his arm resting on it. Sango was positioned across the hearth refilling a few cups of tea with the fresh pot that she had seemingly taken from over the fire. Kohaku’s hooded eyes found her, and his posture slightly straightened.

“Hello Ameki!” Sango greeted her. Her cheerful voice was like music to Ameki’s ears. Ameki had half expected to walk into the atmosphere of a wake. Kohaku on the other hand looked as if he had simply been brooding. He had clearly gathered himself from the broken man she had witnessed him to be during his confrontation with Sesshomaru. Ameki exhaled the breath she hadn’t realized she had been withholding.

“Hello Sango. I really hope I’m not intruding?” Ameki asked. Sango shook her head and smiled as she finished filling the last cup.

“No of course not. We were actually just talking about you. You’re ears must have been burning.” She playfully chided.

“Ah, no… but I was getting an ear full. Yuuto escorted me back to the village. I wanted to come by and reintroduce myself to Kohaku.” Ameki sent a small smile his way, and in return he nodded straightening his frame even more. He stood.

He made his way toward her and slightly bowed.

“I’m sorry for my earlier actions princess. I should have acted more professional in your presence...” Ameki could tell that he wasn’t finished with his thoughts, rather he was forming a way to finish.

“I said some things that could have been taken the wrong way, as an insult even. I can assure you that anything that was directed toward you was not meant as so. I spoke out of emotion, and was clearly not thinking straight. I can only hope that you will forgive me?” He slightly looked up and the plea in his eyes was apparent.

Ameki almost felt sick imagining the amount of nerves it must have taken to muster that sort of apology. It was her mother after all that had found the ill fated end that had bothered Kohaku so.

“There is nothing to apologize for Kohaku. We all deal with grief differently. I knew where your emotions were leading you. Grief is a road well traveled in these times. I just wish we all weren’t so well acquainted with it.” Ameki gave a forlorn smile, but Kohaku seemingly relaxed.

“Thank you Ameki. That was spoken like a true Princess.” He gave her a relieved smile and then bowed.

“I’m no longer a princess Kohaku, so the formalities aren’t needed. They always made me kind of uncomfortable anyways.” Ameki slightly giggled and gave her own curt nod in his direction.

“Understood.” He stated as he reclaimed his former standing position.

Ameki caught sight of Sango who was absolutely beaming.

“Come join us Ameki! I’ll get you a cup as well. Its fresh.” Sango stood and walked to the other side of the room. Ameki found herself a comfortable position on the tatami mat and decided to dive into conversation, hoping to avoid awkward silence.

“So Kohaku…” She began as he too found a position by the fire.

“If it's not too forward of me, and you are comfortable talking about it, I’d like to know more about you and my mother.” Ameki gave a reassuring smile, hoping to let him know that it was okay to talk about it but it was also okay to decline. Kohaku slowly nodded his head, and slightly smiled.

“Rin…” He stated. The look in his eyes changed from uncertainty to something completely different. Almost the same emotion that she had glanced in Sesshomaru’s eyes when speaking of her mother. Though, there was a different sparkle as well.

“In my line of work, you grow accustomed to the idea that things always happen for a reason, even the smaller things can be building blocks for much larger things. It's all tied together somehow.” He sighed.

“However, I could never clarify to myself where Rin stood in my life. If I'm going to be honest with you, I cared for her greatly. She was my best friend.” Kohaku’s smile deepened as his memories seemingly traveled back. The fondness was apparent. They were indeed close it seemed.

“Rin for the most part was a wild child. She was always more of a risk taker than other kids her age, and even people that were closer to my age. So you can only imagine how often I found myself keeping her out of trouble.” Everyone in the room chuckled at Kohaku’s musings. It was nice for Ameki to connect with her mother more and now she could understand where her own adventurous and sometimes mischievous nature as a child had come from.

“You could certainly tell that her previous guardian had been a demon. She spent a lot of time correcting some of the other village kids who would whisper rumors about demons and what not. She had a very high opinion, one that couldn't be shook. As she grew older it made her seem a bit of an outcast. Some kids thought her weird. Her stories of her travels with Lord Sesshomaru.” Kohaku sighed.

“I sort of took her under my wing at that point. I spent most of my days trying to fit in as well. I trained, took on a few slayer jobs and done what I could in the village. See, most kids didn't believe her stories of Sesshomaru, but I knew they were true. I didn't mind talking to her about them either. It's what made her comfortable. Knowing that she hadn't imagined him and that he would come back.” His mood slightly darkened.

“That is until he stopped coming around.” Ameki’s features mirrored Kohaku’s as a frown and pinched brow arose.

“I knew about Kaede’s talk with Sesshomaru. At first he had seemed irritated, but she convinced him it would be safer that way. She even threw in a few “think about your image" lines to sweeten the pot for him. It wouldn't look right if he continued to visit a young mortal woman. It would also potentially put her in danger.” Kohaku glance toward Ameki for a moment, but returned his gaze toward the fire.

“It didn't stop him of course. He would come check on the village and linger on the outskirts for days at a time. He would never come in to see Rin though because of the agreement. He was loyal, I'll give him that much. He didn't see the way it affected her though.” Kohaku sighed.

“I think that may be part of the reason I was so hostile toward him. I feel terrible the more I talk about it. I’m kind of starting to realize it must have affected him greatly too.” Kohaku shifted his weight letting his legs glide from beneath him in a more stretched out position.

“That's beside the point now though. That's for another time.” He surmised.

“Rin, was a one of a kind beauty. I'm not afraid to admit that. I too was awestruck by the young, beautiful, caring and wild woman she became. I had never imagined seeing myself feel that way about her, but it happened. It happened all at the wrong time.” Kohaku chuckled.

“This is where my “everything happens for a reason” philosophy comes in.” Kohaku wiped his brow and smoothed the facial hair that had become dampened with a bit of sweat from being so close to the fire.

“I found myself completely taken with her. As did many other young men from the village. I however, felt privileged when it came to Rin. Most of those little weasels had made fun of her when they had been kids. I was the one comforting her when they would make her cry. I became quite the jealous man when they seemingly all of a sudden deemed her worthy of their attention. It was wrong of me, and I knew she could take care of herself. I also knew she had no intention of courting any of them, but that still didn't quell my competitive nature.” He chuckled once more.

Ameki hadn't realized that her composure had leaned in to listen more intently. Her face was now moderately burning due to her closeness to the fire.

“I tried to cut them down at every turn. I wanted to impress her, show her that they were half wits simply trying to help reside the effects that their hormonal bodies presented them with. I wanted her to know that none of them would care for her the way I did. However in the process, I pushed her away.” Sango slightly cleared her throat. She knew this would be difficult for her brother.

“I realized too late that I had isolated her again. In my attempt to make sure she didn't get hurt again, I had made it to where no one even attempted to court her. They were intimidated, because of me. I was a demon slayer after all. Soon after that, I found my first good bit of work. I knew it would take a while to complete. I also knew I was ready. I made the decision to leave the first time without telling Rin. I knew she was upset with me. From there we kind of drifted apart. Most was my doing, work kept me away.” Kohaku stretched and took the first sip of his tea.

“I received word that Rin was going to be married. I Didn't attend the wedding, however, a few years later I did receive work from the young Lord she had married. I even had the chance to see her again, in her new home. I always knew she was meant for greater things, but I had never imagined she would be the lady of a castle.” Kohaku smiled toward Ameki.

“She had a beautiful daughter too, and it seems that you were raised well enough. You seem very respectable. These things happen for a reason you see?” Ameki slightly nodded and smiled.

“ Yes, otherwise I might have been your daughter.” Ameki playfully teased, causing Kohaku to slightly choke on the sip of tea he had prepared to drink. His face took on a Mix of emotions before returning to a humorous nature.

“Yea, having kids in my profession is out of the question I suppose. Not everyone can be a multitask guru like Sango over there.” Sango chuckled at her brother’s joke.

“And to think only one of my children decided to carry on my legacy. We truly are a dying breed.” Sango sighed and smiled into her cup.

Ameki slowly nodded. She had heard the stories of how her and Kohaku’s village had been destroyed when they were young. Even younger than Ameki was now. The Terrible demon Naraku had been behind it. Another tragic story, of how the both of them lost their family and friends, and almost each other. Ameki felt the urge to cringe at the stories she had been told by Sango, Kagome and even InuYasha. The demon Naraku had sounded like a formidable foe, and the world was clearly better without him. A feeling of dread krept over her as well. Now the world faced a new threat. Yakunan, and somehow she was right in the middle of it all.

Kohaku’s attention was drawn toward the door, along with Sango’s almost instantaneously. Miroku opened the curtain soon after, and motioned toward Kohaku.

“Looks like our house is popular today. We have another visitor.” Ameki peered around the corner, and caught Sesshomaru’s gaze. He didn’t seem the least surprised that she was there. It didn’t surprise her either considering she knew he was able to sniff her out. However, she was curious, and a little uneasy on the fact that Miroku had motioned for Kohaku to come instead of her. Sesshomaru had intended to talk to him… and this made Ameki nervous.

Sesshomaru stayed put, clearly not wanting to come inside. It was rare that he ever went into a human accomodation. He seemed to prefer the outdoors much better. The human incense and many other odors, such as food and what not, was very strong to his senses. Ameki often wondered if his senses ever went into overload. She recalled a few times that InuYasha had complained of certain odors, or too many in one place which usually made him grumpy.

Kohaku made his way toward the door, straightening his previously relaxed shoulders, he stood tall. After Kohaku disappeared through the doorway all that was left to Ameki’s view was a swinging straw curtain. She quickly glanced over toward Sango, who’s brow was now creased mirroring her own.

“Do you think they’ll settle their differences?” Ameki asked quietly. She knew if Sesshomaru truly wanted to, he could pick up any sound he had wanted from within the otherwise silent hut. She simply didn’t see the point in both of the quarreling men to hear her inquiry. Ameki felt that it could do no good and possibly put more pressure on the situation.

Sango sighed.

“I really do hope they can. Kohaku already feels terrible for the way he acted. He’s just afraid that Sesshomaru won’t understand why he acted that way.” Sango motioned for Ameki to lean in, and as she did Sango brought her mouth very near Ameki’s ear.

“I’m not even sure if Sesshomaru is aware of the close relationship that Rin and Kohaku used to have. It really only began after Sesshomaru took his permanent leave.” The words were almost so low that Ameki couldn’t hear them, and she hoped that maybe Sesshomaru’s mind was occupied at the moment.

Ameki was relieved as soon as Miroku stepped inside. Neither Kohaku nor Sesshomaru were standing outside any longer.

“Maybe those two will sort things out on their walk.” Miroku chimed with a bit of forced cheer.

“They better. I haven’t seen action in years, and it's been even longer since I’ve gone up against Sesshomaru. I don’t think my joints would hold out for very long.” Sango’s words caused Ameki to stiffen. Sango’s smile led her to believe it was simply a joke, but it didn’t mean Ameki was comfortable with the joke. If a fight broke out amongst the village, or even near by involving Sesshomaru and the people here in the village that she cared about, Ameki would simply be torn between the two.

Ameki suddenly felt feverish. Her head began to spin a bit, causing her to place her cup of tea down rather quickly, and quite noisily. She clenched her eyes shut for a moment, and when she opened them Sango was infront of her.

“It was only a joke Ameki, I don’t think Kohaku would ever draw his weapon against Sesshomaru. Can’t say the same for Sesshomaru but…” Ameki’s hiss caused Sango to slightly move away. Ameki pressed her hand to the back of her neck, where the pain began to center. The dizziness she had previously felt faded, but the pain intensified in that one area.

“It’s burning…” Ameki voiced through gritted teeth. Her eyes were now clenched again as she envisioned the heat of a flame licking at her skin. Ameki felt Miroku’s hand, considering Sango had instantly rushed across the room, remove her hand from the back of her neck. Her hair was seemingly stuck to her skin around the burning area where sweat had accumulated.

“I don’t see anything, but…” Miroku’s voice quieted, and his weight shifted.

“Do you feel that Sango?” He spoke. Sango came back with a wet cloth, and slightly dabbed the area of discomfort.

“I can sense something, but I’m not really sure what it is.” She replied. The feeling of the cloth against Ameki’s skin almost felt like ice, causing her to wince with each touch.

“Has this happened before Ameki?” Sango asked.

“I know I’ve seen the area cause discomfort before, but this seems more serious…” Sango’s voice was laced with worry.

“It’s been intense before, but I don’t recall it ever being this painful.” Ameki felt a tear slide down her cheek as the wincing caused her to jolt away from the cool compress. The fire almost instantly dissipated from the back of her neck, but reemerged in the center of her hand causing her to let out a piercing wail that she could not muffle.

Chapter Text

~Sesshomaru~

 

Kohaku’s apology came out in a rush soon after the last person was out of hearing range. Sesshomaru had been trying to avoid the curious stares. His intentions had been for Kohaku to follow him to a more private area, preferably near the forest. However, it was clear to him now that Kohaku had no intentions of going very far before spewing his sorrows. Sesshomaru stopped as he heard the words.

“I’m sorry Lord Sesshomaru.” Those few words somehow alleviated a pressure above Sesshomaru’s brow that had been growing in intensity since they had arrived back in the village. Sesshomaru had never accepted an apology before, and he had never really given one either, besides a few times with Rin. Those had mostly been unspoken anyways. This was much needed though. More needed than he cared to admit. Kohaku was sorry, and hopefully that meant that he would be willing to help.

He turned toward Kohaku, who was now staring at him with a concerned look. The man was clearly nervous, or had been. Which also explained why the words had come out so hastefully.

“Very Well.” Sesshomaru answered. He took note of the slight tension that momentarily left Kohaku’s shoulders. It soon returned though, to both of their bodies as they heard the screaming commence at the other side of the village. Sesshomaru had picked up on the first scream. It had not been as loud as the second, which also drew the attention of all living beings that were between them and the hut that they had previously come from.

Sesshomaru burst through the door, completely destroying the curtain that had been in the way of his view. He registered Ameki’s bent over posture before anything else. She held a tight grip around her right wrist, the right fist was clenched. Another whimper escaped, before an intake of breath that rang another tirade of cries through the small area, causing it to seem even more claustrophobic than it really was. Sesshomaru knelt over the girl, bringing his attention up to Sango and Miroku with narrowed eyes. Miroku rushed to give him an answer.

“It started with the back of her neck. She said it was burning. We tried…” Another cry cut through his words as Ameki collapsed onto Sesshomaru’s right arm. He had noticed her composure slipping forward, and quickly halted her. Her shaking body soon came to a still which, for only an instant, caused panic within the great dog demon. He honed his senses into her rapidly beating heart, and the slow rhythmic pattern that her once hectic breathing was beginning to take on.

Kohaku was now in the room. He had stepped through the door as soon as Ameki collapsed. His eyes scanned the girl, and then his sister and brother-in law.

“What happened?” As the room exploded into rushed explanations Sesshomaru tended the area that he knew was most likely the culprit. He pulled the hair away from the back of her heated neck. There were no marks, but the area was visibly red, most likely from the aforementioned heat. The hand that she had been clenching now lay limp between the two of them, pressed against Sesshomaru’s leg and Ameki’s stomach. He pulled back slightly, taking in the view before him. Ameki’s head lay slumped forward, her features glistened with sweat, but all signs of the previous anguish were gone.

He gently pulled her hand up so that he could view it. Her fingers were still slightly clamped, but in a rested position. Sesshomaru’s hand gently pushed back the fingers, revealing a freshly raised burn within her palm. His eyes narrowed once more as he read the obvious inscription that had been burned into her flesh. Yakunan had decided to leave a message, but what it meant was lost to Sesshomaru.

The symbol for one hundred was intricately displayed across Ameki’s palm. If Sesshomaru had interpreted Laquan’s explanation clearly, this meant that Yakunan had used his connection with Ameki, and burned the symbol into his own hand, allowing it to transfer to the girl. Yakunan had meant the message for Sesshomaru, and in that moment he realized just how increasingly tired he was beginning to get of Yakunan’s juvenile games. A young dragon he was indeed, still fighting like a boy and not a man.

“Yakunan…” Was the only word Sesshomaru uttered, causing everyone within the room to become silent. They all looked at him questioningly.

“The dragon left a mark on her that serves as a link. I’m sure the miko would have told you by now.” Sesshomaru struggled with clenching his teeth while he spoke. He still struggled with not wanting to show too many emotions in front of mortals, even if it was anger. He preferred indifference above all.

“Kagome did mention a mark that you saw… when you found her. We’ve never seen it though. It slipped my mind, or else I would have come to get you. I’m sorry.” Sango gave a huge sigh, slightly in relief it appeared. Her relief however became a concerned curiosity as she caught sight of the symbol on Ameki’s palm.

“One-Hundred? What could that mean?” Sango asked. Miroku stepped forward and peered down at the mark as well, joined by Kohaku. Sesshomaru felt the overwhelming sense of being crowded, but if any of these mortals could give some insight into the mark, he was more than willing to endure.

“Does the number mean anything to you Sesshomaru?” Miroku asked, lightly touching the raised skin.

“It holds no significance that I'm aware of.” Sesshomaru replied, catching notice of the slight twitch behind Ameki’s eyelids.

“I'll help you Sesshomaru…" Sesshomaru glanced up toward Kohaku. He wasn't looking at the nervous forlorn man any longer. Kohaku's face had taken on a new emotion. One of anger.

“But we need to leave as soon as possible. Once Ameki is well enough.” Kohaku’s features turned contemplative, and Sesshomaru could almost have sworn that he glanced a dawning recognition while Kohaku stared down at the mark.

“Lord Sesshomaru?” Jaken’s voice drifted from the doorway. The imp peered around his master’s hulking presence and rested his line of sight on Ameki. His leathery brow gained height, and his eyes seemed to even portray a bit of worry.

Sesshomaru made no attempt to answer the imp. It did not matter though Jaken’s attention stayed on a Ameki.

“What happened to the poor girl?” Jaken’s eyes searched around the room. Looking for anyone that would answer his question.

Sesshomaru’s mind began drifting elsewhere. Sesshomaru had plans to leave the next day but Kohaku's sudden urgency motivated him as well. He would also have questions for Kohaku, seeing as he was a Demon Slayer and had been out in the world during Yakunan’s Reign of Terror. Anything Kohaku knew could be a great help to aid them in their journey.

“We should probably let her rest, I can make her a bed here or…” Sango halted as Sesshomaru shook his head.

“I'll take her back to the Miko’s hut.” Sango nodded her head in agreement with Sesshomaru.

“That's probably wise. If anyone can make her more comfortable, it will be Kagome.” Sango walked over to the doorway where the fallen curtain lay. A small sigh escaped before she bent down and scooped up what remained.

The next day came and so did another symbol. The symbol for ninety nine. Thankfully Ameki hadn't experienced as much pain with the next one. Her groggy state may have helped negate some of the pain, or at least that had been Kagome’s guess. Ameki had been ordered to stay in bed until she was back to full health, with little resistance. Her energy had been seemingly zapped from the previous day and Sesshomaru was thankful that she was willing to obey.

Meanwhile he had found the opportunity to talk to Kohaku, whom was unwilling to part with much information other than his thoughts on the symbols. He surmised that they could be some kind of countdown but to what he did not know. This only served to irritate Sesshomaru more causing his anxiety to climb. Sesshomaru had stayed in one place too long he needed to be out in the wild where he could be making a difference, maybe looking for clues or something other than sitting around waiting for the inevitable. He had exhausted most of his contacts, but there were a few he still needed to speak with.

Sesshomaru had wanted to avoid talking to his contacts while on his journey with The Mortals, but he certainly hadn't wanted to leave Ameki’s side in her condition. In a metaphorical way that is. He spent most of his time looming around the Villages edge passing the time with hypothetical scenarios. Much darker thoughts also teased the edges of his mind. What if the priest and Priestess they sought could not help them? The journey would take days and if Kohaku was right and the symbols were a countdown, then they did not have days to waste. Sesshomaru hated not having answers, or really anything that could help him at all. All he had was the rumor of the twins that could potentially help them and that was the best lead they had in the moment. It was a chance he was willing to take because it was ultimately their only option.

They were supposed to leave that day and start the journey to Echigo, but Ameki’s condition had stalled their plans. By late that evening Sesshomaru had found something else to occupy his mind. The farm boy Yuuto had decided to pay Ameki a visit. Kagome had willingly let him into her home. Deep down something in Sesshomaru had wished that Kagome had turned him away. Ameki’s rest was more important than social calls. Yuuto would no doubt try and cozy up to the girl in her weakened state and that would only serve to anger Sesshomaru further. Maybe Ameki would even welcome his presence. Sesshomaru thoughts on the matter only troubled him further.

Sesshomaru mind drifted back to the package he had noticed Yuuto carrying. It had been nicely wrapped in decorative rice paper and looked much too expensive for a simple farm boy. Sesshomaru recalled that often when mortals fell ill their acquaintances and friends would bring them presents in hopes to lift their spirits. Maybe that is what Yuuto intended to do for Ameki. Sesshomaru found himself over-analyzing everything lately. It was doing him no good to overthink things, but sometimes that's how you got answers. Or in Sesshomaru’s case, more confusion.

Night was quickly approaching and Sesshomaru gazed at the sunset as the last of its rays illuminated the bare fields. When Yuuto exited the hut he was smiling from ear-to-ear. Sesshomaru had to inwardly stop himself from rolling his eyes. It was very uncharacteristic of him but fit so well considering how he felt. A bit more annoyed and a lot more curious.

 

~Ameki~

 

The dress Yuuto had given her was absolutely gorgeous. The yellow fabric was very soft but a bit thicker than most of her dresses. It would serve her well in the upcoming winter months. She had ended up apologizing to Yuuto for not stopping by his house. She explained that due to the weather change she had been bedridden. Much like his mother her body had needed time to adjust. Or so that's the best explanation she could come up with on the spot. She hated lying to Yuuto. She thought him much too sweet for deception and the fib had left a bad taste in her mouth. However it was better than the alternative. She couldn't chance the foolhardy boy following her on her journey just to make sure no more harm came to her. He seemed the type to do exactly that. She was confident that she would be in capable hands. She knew that Lord Sesshomaru would protect her from anything that came their way.
It was strange to her how she could seemingly sense his loyalty. He was a very protective individual. It was a strong quality of his that made her feel safe and she was thankful for it because without Lord Sesshomaru she would no longer be among the living. He had saved her twice now. Her debt to him was ever-growing as was her gratefulness and unshakable opinion of the great dog demon. He was clearly rough around the edges but like many precious gems, he just needed a little work.

Ameki pondered for a moment the many stories she had heard about Lord Sesshomaru before meeting her mother. She then realized her mother had already started the process of working the rough edges and maybe she was meant to finish the work. She would try but that's all she could do. She had already begun by trying to match his loyalty. Surprisingly it wasn't something she had to force herself to do. Lord Sesshomaru had been nothing but kind to her and deserved the same in return. If not more.

Sleep that night came surprisingly easy for Ameki. Her dreams had even taken on a softer tone compared to most nights. She could almost have fooled herself that she was still living a normal life. However when she awoke another symbol had etched itself into her hand. Ninety-eight. The pain must have been minimal considering she hadn't woken from her sleep. At least the marks seemed to be less painful each time. She could find a positive in that however, she still did not know what they meant. And that fact made her weary. Each day a new number appeared and each day the number was one less than the previous day. Deductive reasoning suggested that it was some type of countdown. Everyone she spoke to on the matter seemed to agree.

Sesshomaru had disappeared the night before. Ameki was only made aware of The disappearance because of Jaken’s dramatic fit, and cries of loneliness. She wanted to speak to Lord Sesshomaru but she had no idea when he returned. Her energy had seemingly returned, and she felt better than she had in days. It was amazing the difference a good night’s sleep could make, however Jaken looked as if he hadn't slept a wink. He truly was hopeless and helpless without the great dog demon.

That day was a bit chillier than most had been recently, and it would be the perfect opportunity to sport Yuuto’s new gift. She did still need to visit his mother. Kagome entered the room as Ameki admired the way the dress fit. The thick Yukata was snug against her body, and felt as warm as the blanket she had slept with the night before. It was simple but Exquisite in her opinion, and had no doubt cost a pretty coin. She made a mental note to find a way to pay him back. He would likely reject any favors she offered, however it would be rude to reject a gift.

Jaken entered the Hut all starry-eyed. His Sunny disposition led her to believe that Sesshomaru had returned. Kagome did her best to shoo the little imp as Ameki continued dressing herself. He complained that she was clearly decent but Kagome wasn't having it. As she pushed the little green toad out of the door she spoke.

“A woman isn't presentable until she has every item of clothing on and that includes shoes.” Ameki could hear Jaken’s exaggerated huff from the other room.

She decided to do something simple with her hair combing it out and letting it flow down her back. The long strands cascaded elegantly past her hips to the middle of her thighs. Most days she would simply tie it back so that it did not become a nuisance while she was working. The cool chill that had been Sweeping in from the near window had sealed her decision on how to wear her hair. The previous evening Kagome had assisted her in bathing. Combing her hair had caused the room to fill with an exhilarating fragrance. The mixed aromatic scent of the soap that Sesshomaru had gifted to her previously caused a smile to spread across her features.

Sesshomaru was in his normal spot just outside of the village hidden by the thick underbrush of the forest but close enough to hear anything that might have been cause for alarm in the village. Ameki had wanted to test her strength and to do that she decided to visit him.

He was well aware of her presence but she always felt it polite to announce herself. Sesshomaru was prone to slipping into his brooding ways. Announcing herself would at least keep things from becoming awkward.

“Good morning Lord Sesshomaru!” He turned at the sound of her voice. He had been staring off in the direction of the river on her approach. However now his attention was completely on her, more specifically her dress. His eyes scanned the fabric from her shoulders to her ankles. A bit of the awkward silence that Ameki had tried to avoid arose nonetheless.

“If you require more clothing you need but simply ask.” Sesshomaru voice broke the silence and seemingly queued the background nature sounds.

Ameki glanced down at her dress, slightly giggling.

“Oh no, this was a gift. I Didn't buy it myself.” She gave him a smile, but his mood seemingly darkened. Not toward her, but something that had crossed his mind.

“I see.” Were his only words. She shifted slightly at his reply wondering if maybe he was curious as to who had gifted her the dress.

It was around midday when the traveling party had finally gathered at the edge of the forest. Ameki had spent most of her morning assuring the friends that she had made in her time in the village that she would return before too long. She wasn't able to give them an exact date or even an estimate as to when she would return, but made promises to return whenever she could. She hoped that it would all be over soon, but deep down she knew something this extreme could take time. She knew that one day she would return to the Village. Granted she survived. The Village had become her home and the people within, her family.

She understood that the world was a dangerous place, but she also knew that she was in the most capable hands. Lord Sesshomaru and two renowned demon slayers. That made her feel oddly at peace considering the path she was forced to walk. She knew the upcoming journey was going to be difficult, but it wasn't something she could just sit on the sidelines and watch. The symbol that had been burned into her hand each day was a constant reminder of what lay ahead. She was ready. Not to free herself of the devious plan that Yakunan had devised, but to avenge all who had been harmed and all who had been lost in his wake. She wanted to be there when Sesshomaru cut him down. However it seemed that Sesshomaru was hesitant to make a move against him as long as the bond existed between herself and Yakunan. That little fact was the reason they would be taking this journey. It was a mission to break the bond, the curse.

Sesshomaru was the first to take to the sky. Ameki watched in awe as his form took on an otherworldly glow, his figure began to levitate before ascending toward the clouds. Jaken clung to the fur that was draped over Sesshomaru’s shoulder at the base. He was seemingly unfazed at the new height they were gaining, he was simply content with being so close to his master. Ameki sat snug between Kohaku and Hotaru a top Ah-Un’s back. Her concerns for the beast were quickly replaced by surprise as he too ascended into the sky with the weight of three people. She consciously stopped herself from shaking her head in disbelief. The abilities of demons still surprised her and she didn't think that there would ever be a time where they wouldn't.

With each new day that she walked among demons everything seemed a little less like a fairytale, but still hard to comprehend. There were even times when she began to wake up in the mornings, still disoriented with sleep, that she almost felt as if she were still in the castle. She felt as if it were all just a bad dream. As bad of a dream as it may have seemed though with everything that had happened, she would always feel a slight bit of panic. If it had been a dream she would lose almost just as much. Every new friend she had made, every new skill she had acquired, every new memory she had created, every story about the life of her mother. She felt as if she knew her mother more now then when she lived with her in the castle. The one thing that brought her back to reality the quickest was the thought that Sesshomaru was a dream. He was an important part of her life now, an important part of her mother's life. One that she wasn't willing to let go so easily. Glancing up at him she slightly smiled. Anyone who didn't know the great dog demon could easily mistake him for a God. In his own culture, maybe he was. She wouldn't disagree with the idea or the possibility. After all, who was she to dispute such things. From her recollection of Jaken’s many tales, Sesshomaru possessed power beyond imagine.

Dusk crept up on them seemingly without warning. Ameki had been lost in thought for most of the day. Her eyes had vacantly scanned all the sights below them, but her mind could not recall them clearly because her mind had been distracted by the beautiful white Spector that led them. It was only when Sesshomaru’s figure began its descent that Ameki became aware of her surroundings. The stars were already shining bright above, the last of the sun’s glimmer teased the leaves of the trees like a memory, as the moon began to peak over the mountain range to the east, promising those same leaves a source of light once more.

The calm and collected Sesshomaru that Ameki had prepared herself to be faced with was nowhere to be found. Instead she was presented with a furrowed brow and narrowed eyes as she glanced up into his Celestial face. His attention was not on her though, rather something in the distance that he had sensed that she was unable to. She glanced around taking in her surroundings once more recognizing the same expression had painted the features of her other two traveling companions, the demon slayers. Kohaku and Hotaru steadied their gaze in the same direction that Sesshomaru had taken an interest in. Jaken, on the other hand, looked as if he was still enjoying a pleasant dream, sound asleep still cuddled in the fur at Sesshomaru’s feet.

Ameki found her voice.

“Is something the matter?” her voice was quiet trying not to disturb the silence that settled around them. The silence was uncomfortable, it was always uncomfortable, but she always knew it best to play by ear.

“There’s a strong presence nearby.” Hotaru whispered in reply. She glanced at him with question in her eyes.

“Another demon.” His voice had dropped lower.

Ameki felt a slight shift in the wind. The previous chill that she had felt, common for a fall evening, was now replaced by a warm breeze. A very humid warmth that caused sweat to gather on her brow. Whether it was from the nervous feeling that was gathering in her gut, or the change in temperature was indistinguishable.

Another demon was near and Sesshomaru did not seem enthused by the idea or comfortable with their presence. Ameki wanted to move closer to Sesshomaru. She was surrounded by capable men, but he was her safety. Within a blink of an eye he could cut a demon down, she had already witnessed it. He moved with such speed and grace, a blur to the human eye, and impossible for mere mortals. She didn't doubt the abilities of Kohaku and Hotaru but they were, after all, limited to being human. It wasn't necessarily a hindrance, but there was also the fact that she didn't have a personal relationship with them. She didn't know them. She was acquainted with them and she hoped that would change, but Sesshomaru would protect her. She knew he would, and it was confirmed by the look in his eyes as he glanced toward her, as if he had sensed her rising fear. It only made sense considering the sole purpose of this journey was to protect her. She knew it was the wish of her late mother, and Sesshomaru did not seem like the type that would make an empty promise. There was no other logic that could adhere to her opinion of him.

A dim light, steadily growing in intensity, appeared in the forest ahead of them. Both bodies that surrounded her stiffened, but Sesshomaru stood still, not moving.

“Ssssessshomaruuuu…” A voice seemed to drift, no, slither on the warm breeze. A low, almost seductive, female voice that caused Sesshomaru’s demeanor to darken.

Either he knew this voice and did not like the owner, or he was preparing for a fight. Ameki didn't know the answer, but she readied herself in the event that it would be a mix of the two. The demon clearly knew Sesshomaru...of that she was certain.

A foreign smell washed up from the area surrounding them, the sound of liquid could be heard bubbling, but from where? Ameki glanced around, her vision only aided by the pale light from the moon that was now visible, but still hung low in the sky. A dark form seemed to slither around them, something in the grass was moving, or coming from the ground. Maybe that would explain the bubbling sound?

“Ah-Un!” Sesshomaru’s sudden sharp words triggered a quick reaction from the two headed dragon demon. Ah-Un took to the sky once more, causing a jolt that sent Hotaru off of the back.

“Dammit!” Kohaku muttered through clenched teeth, as he swung his other leg over, sliding off and hitting the ground before the two headed dragon could gain any more height. Ameki was now alone on the beast, and watched with growing anxiety as Kohaku helped Hotaru to his feet. Her fear was not of the height she were gaining alone, but for the approaching light that was now visible. The Orange tint, and flickering flames caused a torrent of memories to surface within her own mind. The familiar smell of smoke was growing, and the flames seemed to gain speed and ferocity as they came into contact with the dark liquid that had seeped out of the ground.

The flames were heading toward Sesshomaru, Jaken, Hotaru and Kohaku and the ground below them was saturated with the volatile liquid that fueled the fast approaching flames. Jaken was now awake, very awake. His eyes wide with curiosity and fear, and his grip on Lord Sesshomaru’s fur was tight. She knew that Sesshomaru could evade the flames, maybe even survive them but…

“Ah-Un, get Kohaku and Hotaru!” She commanded the two headed beast with the most authoritative tone she could muster.

A beastly groan escaped, a hesitation on Ah-Un’s behalf.

“Now!” She spoke, more pleading than commanding. They hovered at a safe distance far above the ground, the flames growing closer by the moment. If the beast didn't move soon then Kohaku and Hotaru would be engulfed in the flames.

An explosion drew Ameki’s attention to one specific area. From within the explosion a form began to appear. A human form, or rather a demon parading as a human. The liquid on the ground igniting all at once, causing Ameki’s breath to catch as a scream of terror froze in her chest.

It happened within a blink of an eye, but Ameki had never even blinked. Before she could even draw air into her lungs, two bodies now joined her, disoriented, on the back of Ah-Un once more. Hotaru and Kohaku looked just as shocked as they regained their senses. The white blur that had delivered them now raced toward the figure within the flames. The area where they had all once been was now a lake of flames.

“Oh my, Lord Sesshomaru!” The familiar shriek brought Ameki’s attention to the little imp that now dangled below them, clinging to Ah-Un’s reigns as he dangled high above the heated flames. The heat that permeated from below them was very uncomfortable, and growing in intensity by the minute. Ameki wanted to go higher, but she didn't want to lose sight of Lord Sesshomaru.

Ah-Un followed his instincts, and moved them away from the scene. Ameki’s panic grew as she twisted her body, trying to keep Sesshomaru in her sight, but it was no use. Even if they had stayed, Sesshomaru’s figure had already disappeared in the flames.

Chapter Text

Chapter 15: Kintara, Maiden of Flames

 

~Sesshomaru~

She had always loved toying with Sesshomaru, but in that moment he had no desire to humor her. Kintara’s form materialized before him. Her dark eyes scanned the area around Sesshomaru’s form as he stood still, the flames licking at his limbs, but he stood strong and seemingly unfazed.

“You never put up a fight anymore Sesshomaru. You used to, but it seems your own fire has been dampened.” Kintara raised a perfectly groomed golden brow. Her gaze turning into one of a more humorous nature.

“If it's a fight you want, look elsewhere. I have not the time for your games.” Sesshomaru’s voice was cold, and noticeably so to the demon before him. Her brow raised, and a mock pout formed on her lips.

“We enjoyed this as whelps, but I guess you’ve outgrown your roots… The mighty Lord Sesshomaru too prideful now to entertain an old friend.” Kintara clicked her tongue, magnifying the heat around them.

The flames that once playfully teased at Sesshomaru’s body now took on a hunger, one that matched the look that was now displayed in Kintara’s eyes.

“I have business to attend to.” Sesshomaru spoke. His voice remained steady, but the underlying hint of annoyance was not missed.

“Playing fetch with the mortals again? I thought that was beneath someone like you Sesshomaru. At least, that's the code you used to uphold. You know, when daddy neglected you for his human toy…” Sesshomaru’s eyes narrowed at her words. The purr she added at the end would have made his stomach twist if it were possible.

Kintara was looking for a fight, for a taste of old times. The demoness that had mocked him for the last century whenever they would cross paths. The demoness that refused to aid him whenever he had called to arms. She had preferred the simple life, a drifter, exploring every corner of Nihon. There was no room in her agenda for aiding an old friend, and so he would leave no room in his to give in to her challenge.

“Come now Sesshy… Don’t be so cruel… What would your mother think?” Sesshomaru slightly huffed at the mention of his mother. He hadn’t bothered to contact her since before… Before he had left Rin in InuYasha’s village. His mother had aided him in supplying Rin with the sufficient clothing she would need while staying in the village. Ofcourse, he could have let the villagers do it, but he was sure that none of them would fit her with anything suitable. Having no care for “fashion” concerning women, Sesshomaru had turned to the one person that could get the job done quickly and sufficiently.

At the time his mother had teased him on the subject, but had pulled back with her playful jests rather quickly after realizing Sesshomaru’s resolve. Something in Sesshomaru knew that his mother had felt pity for him, knowing he would leave the human girl in the village. He had never wanted to reveal his emotions to his mother, or anyone, which had caused him to become disant. So he began paying closer attention to his duties, picking up where he had left off. He had not even dared to ask for his mother’s aid during Yakunan’s uprising. He was far too prideful to show weakness to his mother once again. Not after she had already glimpsed at the sorrowful demon he had become upon making his request to commision the clothing.

Kintara smiled sweetly toward the great dog demon. She knew the mention of his mother caused him discomfort. His mother had often been a thorn in his side since he had been a pup, and Kintara knew that well considering they had grown up alongside each other. Kintara, was a pureblood Phoenix demon. Her father Mitsuo, had fought alongside Sesshomaru’s father during the invasion from the Western Sea. Kintara lacked most qualities her father had exhibited. Discipline being the most needed. She had always been a trouble maker… and maybe that had been one of her better qualities to his young rebellious nature he had spent years overcoming. Sesshomaru had often found himself drawn to the young girl when they had both been young. She was his elder, but he was usually the one that had been scorned when they had been caught causing mischief.

She held those same dark mischievous eyes now. The only difference being, was that Sesshomaru had matured. He was a battle hardened seasoned veteran, and had no time for her childish games while he was already playing a role in someone else's. Sesshomaru took a step to the side, and began walking through Kintara’s illusion of intimidation. The flames were hot, but they weren’t deadly.

“Very well Sesshomaru…” The tone of her voice dropped from the playful tune he had sensed earlier. The anger seeped through, causing Sesshomaru’s guard to instantly rise. The wind around him picked up, causing the flames to grow, mimicking a cyclone as the flames began dancing toward Kintara’s form. Sesshomaru felt the heat around him spike, and smelled the faint odor of singed hair. A few of his perfect strands were reduced to nothing in mere moments.

Sesshomaru turned, eyes narrowed, ready to dodge her attacks. However, the sweeping motion she made with her arms was not directed toward him. Three fire balls were launched into the air, heading straight for the beast that hovered above the field on the forest outskirts. Sesshomaru didn’t hesitate. He reacted with lighting speed, knocking Kintara out of her cluster of flaming cyclones. Sesshomaru glanced up to see Ah-Un safely maneuvering farther away, the three orbs of fire had lost their power. They had been illusions as well. She was toying with him, not using her true flames.

“I tire of your games Kintara.” Sesshomaru spoke through gritted teeth.

“Oh come now Sesshomaru… I’m just getting started.” Another sweep of her arm sent a fireball speeding toward Sesshomaru. This time though, the flames were real, and Sesshomaru’s senses picked up on the smell of volatile substance within. Dodging her fire, Sesshomaru swept past her, breaking through her reforming wall of fire. The ground began to bubble again, and the sharp odor entered Sesshomaru’s sense of smell once more with renewal. Soon the clearing he had escaped to would be set ablaze. He had no choice. He took to the sky, and turned his attention back to the area where he had last seen Kintara. Her form was nowhere to be seen, but the cyclone of flame grew in size.

Sesshomaru dodged once more as a barrage of fireballs launched from within the swirling flames. She had created a wall of flame around her. His dodging motion brought him closer to where Ah-Un still hovered. He could see the fire's reflection in their eyes.. Ameki’s eyes were wide with fear. The two demon slayers watched the flames in anticipation of sighting the enemy. Ameki’s eyes however, were on him. Just him. She was saying something, but Sesshomaru could not decipher the sound over the growing wind and roaring flames below them.

Sesshomaru dodged once more, catching sight of the fire that seemed to strike out toward him. The flame itself looked as if it were trying to manifest a body. No doubt Kintara’s magics. Sesshomaru needed Ameki to be as far away from the situation as possible. What seemed like a game to Kintara, was very dangerous for mortals to be around. Kintara’s coolest flame could burn a mortal’s body, and she was well beyond that point. She was becoming angry. Forcing Sesshomaru to fight her. Sesshomaru darted, heading for the two headed dragon.

“Go!” He commanded as he spun around and headed for the flames. Ameki’s eyes never left him. He glanced back as Ah-Un took them further over the forest. She twisted between the two demon slayers, and leaned over trying her best to keep her view of him. She was terrified. Not for herself, but for him. Sesshomaru inwardly sighed at the sight. There was no need for Ameki to worry for him. Kintara wouldn’t kill him. Not only was she not powerful enough, but her intentions were not of that nature. Her displays that day were all merely an attempt to gain his favor. However, Sesshomaru had been in no mood to participate in primal traditions.

Sesshomaru burst through Kintara’s wall with his light whip at the ready. He caught sight of a partially formed figure, a shadow with the flame. Striking out through the heated blaze with his whip caused the partial form to shimmer and move. He pulled back as a whip of flame returned his previous blow. The flame caught him across his boa, causing a small hiss to escape his lips. The singed fur was blackened. He pushed off the ground, sending himself in a rush backwards as he whipped out once more, interrupting Kintara’s flame whip. His whip of light cut through the flames, but without making contact with her physical body, he knew it was in vain.

He continued gliding backward, gaining ground near a clearing that was untouched by her flames. Sesshomaru was not one to run with his tail between his legs, but there were more pressing issues at the moment, and this was simply wasting time. Sesshomaru burst free from the heat, and took to the sky, as did Kintara…

 

~Ameki~

 

Ameki fell into a fit of hysterics, only worsening the further they traversed. She knew it wasn’t safe to stay, but Sesshomaru had stayed. She knew he was a capable demon, but something inside of her still worried for his safety. It's true that he was almost invincible, almost being the key word. He wasn’t a mortal, but he wasn’t unkillable either.

"AMEKI!" Kohaku was half turned, his shout gaining her attention.

"Calm yourself. There is no sense in worrying about that stubborn demon. He's plenty capable of taking care of himself in battle." Kohaku's eyes softened as Ameki attempted to calm her breathing. She had been hyperventilating between her cries for Lord Sesshomaru.

"Kintara is a spiteful acquaintance of Lord Sesshomaru's." Jaken, who was now safely on Ah-Un's back as well, scrunched his face in a reflective manner.

"Actually, among demons they might even be considered friends." Jaken scoffed at his own words.

"Her family is well known among the Northern regions, and her father even enlisted himself to Sesshomaru's father ages ago. Though, I've only met her a few times in passing before. Each time something like this happened." Jaken raised a pruned finger as if to make a point.

"It's her way of saying hello!" Kohaku, Ameki and Hotaru raised their brows at the little imp.

"What kind of hello ends up burning down a forest? That demon was hostile!" Hotaru pointed out.

"No, no no!" Jaken slightly frowned as he spoke.

"Well….yes maybe, but that's just how some demons are. They initiate a challenge when coming into contact with someone they haven't seen in a while. You humans probably wouldn't understand. Much can be communicated through a swift battle." Jaken's scowl became apparent.

"However, I don't think Lord Sesshomaru was interested in getting reacquainted this time… He seemed…" Jaken trailed off.

"It looked to me as if he tried to avoid the fight." Kohaku intervened.

This only caused Ameki's anxiety to climb once more, but she could control her emotions. She needed to be stronger than the spiraling mess she was becoming. Sesshomaru knew the demon, and Jaken seemed semi confident that their quarrel was simply that of friends.

"Either way we are just sitting ducks up here." Hotaru voiced as he glanced back at the flames.

"Uh…." Hotaru stiffened. The rest of the group turned their gazes back toward the fray. The flames now washed outward in all directions. The burning field seemingly pulsed and the flames in the center took form. A huge hulking form with fiery wings that battered the wind, causing the flames to spread into the forest.

"Uhm… Ah-Un…" Jaken's voice cracked as he spoke in a nervous pause.

"Lord Sesshomaru said go… SO GO FAST!" He wailed.

The huge bird with flaming unfurled wings swept toward the forest. With each flap of its enormous wingspan, fire spread in their wake. Ah-Un's steady pace quickly increased to a hastened glide. The group clung to whatever they could grab hold of. Whether it be travel gear or scale. Ameki's body was securely positioned between Kohaku and Hotaru. One of Hotaru's arms was tightly wrapped around Ameki's mid section to ensure she did not fall off, or try and lean over and search for Sesshomaru.

"That's a Phoenix demon!" Kohaku announced over his shoulder, his eyes wearily watching the approaching bird. The birds sheer size aided in its fast approach compared to the small two headed beast that Ameki had once believed was a rather large demon. She realized just how wrong she had been. She had never seen anything like it before. To her, the huge ogre demon had been the most sizeable demon she had ever laid eyes on, but this… This was straight out of a nightmare.

This nightmare however, was far too real and quickly approaching. Ameki's grip tightened and her breathing halted as she took in the sheer size of the demon behind them. The Flames licked at the corner of the forest they were currently flying over. It wouldn't be long before the whole Forest mirrored the great Beast of flame. She quickly gathered her senses once more realizing that in her moment of newfound panic she had lost sight of Lord Sesshomaru. His figure had disappeared from her view shortly after the Phoenix demon had taken to the sky. Of course her efforts to see him were forced by sheer will. It wasn't as easy to look for her Lord with two babysitters keeping a restrain on her movements.

" We aren't going to make it!" Jaken wailed over the approaching noises from behind. The pelting of flame born wings upon the wind stanched any other sounds from their surrounding. The demon was closing in, and with it a suffocating heat. One that sent Ameki into a flood of memories. The castle behind her as she ran through the smoke filled air. Choking on smoke and sorrow alike. The heat from the nearby buildings had licked at her skin much as the heat threatened to embrace her now. Her hands clenched whatever she could grasp, she could feel herself falling. Not physically, but her mind was spiraling out of control.

The Flames roared below them, as if the fire itself were alive devouring everything in its path. Ah-Un continued to gain height and distance but in that moment it felt as if it were all in vain. The Beast could not outrun their flaming grave. Ameki's eyes began to water, as her horror refused to let her blink. She knew that behind her eyelids, a more terrifying memory would surface. Her vision began to wane, as the strong orange glow encased them all. The demon would soon be upon them, but Ameki would remember nothing. Nothing but the low growl that resonated among the flames.

~Sesshomaru~

The beast within sprang forth as Sesshomaru found air beneath his paws. A more carnal and animalistic nature took him over. He was still within power of reigning his emotions in, controlling his own demon nature, but releasing his inner demon was a feeling of bliss. One that came with few drawbacks, except one…

Ameki would see him. She would see him in his true form. Something he had oddly wanted to keep from her. It was nothing to be ashamed of, he was rather proud of his true form, but he knew deep down how terrifying he looked. He didn't want to intimidate her, she was comfortable with him much like her mother had been. However, desperate times call for desperate measures and Sesshomaru was losing patience with Kintara. It was already clear she had lost interest in being civil sometime back.

Sesshomaru was far from the monster he was once Associated to be. His aristocratic assassin days were over, but one thing was for sure. He wouldn't mind taking a page from the younger Sesshomaru's book, and Kintara would be the recipient of his younger teachings. She had crossed the line, a line he had made clear from the very beginning and now she would pay for her insolence.

Sesshomaru darted toward the Cyclones that trailed behind the large Phoenix demon. His form was pure but a tad bit of dread entered his conscience, enough to make him inwardly wince. Would he be fast enough even in his true form? His dread only grew which fueled his anger more. She was approaching Ah-Un quickly. Sesshomaru pushed harder against the hidden plain that demons were tethered to. His Demonic blood drew power from the seeping tethers around him. To the human eye there was nothing, but to demons, it was clear. Another world within the mortal realm, hidden to mortal eyes.

Kintara's hulking form was upon them. Sesshomaru could hear the wails of the terrified Jaken. He could hear the panicked shouts of the demon slayers, but the one voice he had honed his senses to detect was silent. Sesshomaru released another forceful growl, this one was much darker than the last, and for a moment he noticed hesitation within Kintara's form. He was gaining on her, and she knew it.

She was mere feet from the two headed dragon when the flames dispersed, along with her hulking form. The fire that engulfed the surrounding Forest slowly dispersed leaving charred wood and smoldering abandoned structures in its wake. Kintara's figure reappeared in the freshly burned field below them. She was so small, but her eyes were clearly narrowed as she gazed up at the great dog Lord. Sesshomaru could taste it, the need to knock her down to size, to put her in her place. She had been toying with him even as her anger had taken over. She wanted to test him, and test him she had. It was clear that she had questions from the beginning, now she had her answers. Whatever those may have been.

The urge to clench his Jaws around her small form swept over him. His demon blood pounded strongly through his veins, causing a loud reverb within his head. His anger was getting the best of him. The thought of killing her on the spot was too strong for him to keep at bay. He needed to pull away.

He reverted his form back to his familiar humanoid appearance. Instead of approaching the Phoenix demon, Sesshomaru closed the gap between himself and Ah-Un. The once wide-eyed distraught young Demon Slayer now held a hardened gaze toward the demon below them, as if he hadn't been on death's door only moments before. However, he wasn't Sesshomaru's concern. The woman he held onto was.

Ameki's face was calm, as if she were sleeping and hadn't experienced any of the terror that the group had moments before. Her breathing was even, and her eyes were closed. Her cheeks were tinged pink and her skin glistened with sweat from the heat of the flames being so close to her. Sesshomaru's racing thoughts seemingly quieted at the sight. She was alright.

"Speak with me a moment." Sesshomaru heard the words as if he had been standing right beside her. Kintara's voice had changed from one of distaste, to one of, interests? Curiosity?

Sesshomaru pulled his gaze away from Ameki's peaceful one. He was still too heated to approach Kintara after her stunt. She had openly defied him, and put Ameki in danger. Even if she had only been toying with him and meant the mortals no harm, there was no doubt in his mind that Ameki had been terrified.

"Leave…" Sesshomaru's cold tone could have culled any flame that Kintara could conjure.

"Sesshomaru, the girl...Who...what is she?"

Kintara's question puzzled Sesshomaru catching him off guard. Her sudden interest in Ameki unsettled him. Her use of what while referring to Ameki troubled him further.

Sesshomaru quickly descended, landing directly in front of Kintara, merely an arms length away.

"What business is it of yours?" He asked coolly, but with intentional sternness.

" Lord Sesshomaru I'm being serious." All signs of her previous mocking tone while addressing him were gone.

"Something is off about her, and if you haven't sensed it yet then the rumors must be true, you've become soft."

Kintara's gaze hardened.

"I felt something when I approached them. It was coming from her. It was a dark energy, and then it just vanished as if it had never been there, but I did feel it. It was real." Kintara sighed and backed away raising her hands in submission.

"I'll admit I got carried away. A younger Sesshomaru would have found it entertaining, but I'm telling you that whatever was coming from that girl was much darker than even what the young brash Sesshomaru could have been compared to." Kintara's gaze softened as Sesshomaru listened.

"What magic are you dabbling with involving that mortal?" Kintara took a step closer, but Sesshomaru's words halted her.

"The black Dragon." Kintara's pupils receded considerably at the mention of Yakunan. Her stone set face almost betrayed how she felt at the mention of the beast.

"He has a hold on her, and it's only going to get stronger." Kintara shook whatever had distracted her mind and stepped forward once again.

"Cut your ties while you can, or it might become your downfall."

Sesshomaru halted any response he had planned. Was she concerned? Scared for the great dog demon? The mighty Phoenix Kintara? Her true colors were seeping through revealing the young demon she had once been, the one that had sheltered him like an older sister.

"I have to do this. I have my reasons." Kintara's eyes slightly widened as Sesshomaru spoke.

"We all have our reasons for the things we do Sesshomaru. That doesn't mean we should get ourselves killed. Isn't that why you despised your father?"

Kintara. The only demon that had always been explicit and straight to the point when it came to addressing him. Even his most trusted allies would have never taken such liberties in bringing up the past. A past that was clouded with confusion and selfishness. Sesshomaru wasn't a saint by any means, but he was well on his way from being the adolescent brat that could see no color in the world.

"If you have nothing useful to add, I'll be leaving." Sesshomaru stated as he turned to walk away.

"I can't depart information if I don't know the circumstances of the situation." Kintara huffed.

“Let me in Sesshomaru…” Kintara’s gaze almost turned pleadingly. She was still there. The Kintara he knew. Ages of roaming the lands had toughened her skin, but her soft spot for the little silver haired whelp still remained.

“Ah-Un” Sesshomaru muttered. Above them he could hear the restless groan of the two headed beast.

“Rest.” He commanded.

With that the two headed beast descended, landing in a clearing that had barely been touched by the previous flames.

“What the Hell are you doing Sesshomaru?!” Hotaru protested. His eyes portraying the earlier panic he had witnessed, but they were also laced with hatred. Hatred toward the woman that stood before them.

“She’s an acquaintance.” Sesshomaru said cooly. Expecting that to quell the young man’s protests. It did not.

“An acquaintance that moments earlier was trying to kill us if you didn’t notice, My Lord.” The emphasis he put in addressing Sesshomaru was filled with sarcasm.

“Yet, she didn’t…” Jaken croaked matter of factly. Hotaru glanced back at the toad that was barely holding on to Ah-Un in disbelief.

“You were just rooting for him to kill her you ugly toad! Now you change your tune?”

 

“SILENCE!” Kohaku intervened, drawing both Jaken and Hotaru’s attention.

“Sesshomaru must have his reasons, as skeptical as I am about the whole situation. I doubt he would let anyone near Ameki if they meant us ill will.” He glanced back at the still woman. Hotaru’s grasp on her had tightened from the tension that had built in his frame. Her form seemed un-bothered by it.

“Or me!” Jaken chimed in once again.

“Lord Sesshomaru’s most faithful servant!”

Sesshomaru turned his attention back to Kintara, who looked as if she were fighting the urge to wince at the loud screeching imp.

“But if she did that for fun, imagine what she could do to a human village!” Hotaru blurted once again. Sesshomaru himself fought the urge to turn toward them. His business was with Kintara. Maybe he should have left them hovering above. No, Ah-Un had needed a break. He wasn’t the young demon he once had been when Sesshomaru had first acquired his services. He had been pushed to the limit trying to evade a fiery death.

Kintara’s sharp voice spoke up.

“If you haven’t noticed young mortal, there aren’t any villages around for miles. A few resting shacks along the road to the north, but no one was injured.” Kintara slightly frowned at the boys accusations.

“I don’t use my powers for Domination. You should know there are already enough demons out there that do.” Her voice darkened, but her attention returned to Sesshomaru once she was satisfied with the young man’s expression.

“Now, before we are interrupted once again, explain.”

 

~Ameki~

Once again Ameki was attuned to the searing pain on her palm. A few visions flashed through her mind, but her fatigue kept her from opening her eyes. She could feel it pulling her deeper into an unconscious place. She could hear the voices around her speaking. Someone had moved her body, and laid her on a softer setting. She couldn’t talk though, or move. Sesshomaru’s voice had echoed through her mind, calming her. His words were jumbled in her mind though. She couldn’t keep up or understand the conversation that was taking place. She tried without success until she had fallen into a deep slumber.

Her dreams were plain. As plain as the dreams she remembered from a time before her life changed. She knew she was dreaming. She knew what was real and what was fake, and normally that would be enough to help her wake up. This time however she didn’t. She felt strange, and a little heavy. As if something were keeping her asleep. She was in a beautiful grotto. The walls were covered in moss, and there was an opening in the rock above her that let in light from the outside. A peaceful stream created a beautiful calming ambience in the rather spacious room. She was sitting on a rock, admiring the shrubs that flourished with the sunlight through the ceiling.

“Trying to die on me already?” A familiar voice rang across the cavern walls, shattering the peaceful illusion that Ameki had been enthralled with. Her breath caught, unwilling to release in the same room that the voice occupied. Terror was quickly replacing the rather calm she had felt prior.

She searched the cavern briskly. Supporting her weight with her hands on the boulder below her as she swiveled her gaze all around.

“Stop…” She had meant to yell the word, but her body still refused to breath, or let the full ferocity of her words surface. It came out a small whisper barely audible to even her own hearing.

“No.” Came the reply.

“I need you. You are a part of the bigger picture dear girl.” The voice was low, and sounded as if it were coming from every direction at once. The sound would have suffocated her had it taken form.

“I don’t understand…” Ameki’s voice trembled, as another whisper escaped.

“In time.” The voice replied with disinterest.

“This is the second time you’ve come close to dying now. I can’t have you destroying my plans now can I?”

Ameki knew it was Yakunan. She had known from the moment the atmosphere changed. His dark energy was what kept her anchored to the dream. The more she focused, the more the dark tendrils came into view.

“He’ll stop you!” Ameki’s voice returned with a bit of vigor.

“I’m sure he’ll try, but there isn’t much he can do if he’s having to watch out for you.” A chuckle rang through the closing space. All images of the grotto were blurring from her view, darkened by the apparition that now stood in front of her.

“Stay safe. Don’t journey with him, or I’ll have to make a reappearance each time you try and rest.” Ameki swallowed hard at the ember eyes that gazed down at her from the black silhouette.

“I’ll do as I please…” Her courage was returning but quickly quelled as his anger became apparent.

“When I kill him, you will watch me. Every horrifying detail will be made explicitly available to you. You’ll be my guest of honor. Then, when I’m done tearing that dog from this plain of existence, I’ll…”

Ameki’s eyes opened. The stark horror in Hotaru’s eyes were apparent. His hands still grasped her arms tightly as he looked down at her. Ameki’s chest heaved with a fresh breath of air. She felt that she had not tasted air in centuries. Her body felt starved of it.

“She’s awake!” Jaken croaned. Kohaku spun around in the distance where he had been seemingly searching for something.

“You idiot! Hotaru yelled. You scared us!” Ameki, the terror of her dream still fresh on her mind, didn’t respond.

“You stopped breathing girl!” Jaken chimed in, his little beady eyes relaxed.

Ameki turned her head toward the makeshift campfire that was a few feet away from where she laid. The flames...they reminded her of…

“The demon… what happened?” She asked. Hotaru sat back on his feet and gazed at her in disbelief.

“This day is just one big shit show after another…” He groaned.

“Where’s Lord Sesshomaru?” She asked hoping to get some kind of answer from someone.

“Girl, one question at a time you gave us a scare.” Jaken replied.

“Lord Sesshomaru left with Kintara, the Phoenix demon.” Jaken grumbled something under his breath before turning toward the approaching Kohaku.

“See she’s fine, Sesshomaru won’t have our heads afterall.” Jaken beamed up at Kohaku with a too giddy grin.

“How long was I asleep?” Ameki inquired, still a bit disoriented and shaken.

“It's a new day, the sun’s about to rise. We were getting ready for Sesshomaru’s return when Jaken noticed you weren’t breathing. We thought for a moment…” Kohaku’s words fell short.

“Well, you know…” He averted his gaze and sighed.

“It’s been an alarming couple of days hasn’t it?” He ruffled his already disheveled hair.

"That's a bit of an understatement." Hotaru scoffed.

"He left with her?" Ameki's voice rose in pitch.

"Yea, we thought we were all gonna die one moment, and the next dog man was striking conversation with her. A civil one." Hotaru answered with disdain.

"It's Lord Sesshomaru, not dog man!" Ameki gave Hotaru her best attempt at a scowl.

"Hey now, that look doesn't suit a princess." Hotaru responded back.

"So you can address me as Princess but you can't use Sesshomaru's proper title, the one he still currently holds?" Ameki didn't have to attempt anything at that time. She could feel the frown crease her brow.

"Whoa calm down. Where did the attitude come from all of a sudden?" Hotaru's features steered from the teasing one that had appeared previously.

"I'm just trying to lighten the mood around here. We aren't exactly living the life at the moment." Hotaru huffed and stood up.

Ameki straightened her back, sitting upright. She attempted to smooth out her clothes as she inwardly tried to straighten her thoughts up as well. She didn't mean to be snappy with Hotaru. She just wasn't exactly herself, and Sesshomaru was gone. She wanted nothing more than to lay eyes on him. Just the thought of him helped comfort her, but she was still very uneasy from the dream. Images that no doubt Yakunan had planted in her mind teased her. He was showing her what was to come, but thankfully, her conscious mind could fight him off. It was while she slept that he gained control of her thoughts. She felt like a prisoner within her own body. It was frustrating and terrifying.

Yakunan had mentioned that he didn't want her travelling with Sesshomaru, which meant they were probably on the right path. That much at least gave her a little of her determination back.

~Sesshomaru~

 

"What do you mean gone?" Sesshomaru shocked even himself with the urgency in his voice.

The old demon Nimka, maybe even as old as Nihon itself, held his gaze. She was a hermit of a demon. Never venturing out into the world herself, but luring people and demons to her. She was a master illusionist, and could make anyone see anything she wanted. That's how she fed. Not on flesh or bones, not even souls. Her sustenance of choice was memories, knowledge. It made her very valuable to those who would need her aid. Her tiny pupils probably held every ounce of loyalty she had ever held for one side or another in wars past. She was neutral. It was how she lived her life. Serving both sides to any confrontation to maintain her own lifestyle.

"The sister has vanished, and the brother searches." Kintara sighed as Nimka spoke.

"Your journey to Echigo would have been pointless." She turned toward Sesshomaru.

"It doesn't change my plans. I'll search for them." Sesshomaru gave Kintara a side glance as he responded to her observation.

"So what? Are you going to find the priestess and reunite her with her brother? Then what? Do you think they will feel gratuitous and owe you a favor?" The mocking tone Kintara held only served to irritate Sesshomaru.

"Are you trying to help me or work against me?" Sesshomaru retorted.

"I'm trying to reason with you Sesshomaru. You need to understand that there are consequences to everything we do. Sure, you've shrugged them off before, but Yakunan is different." The irritation in her own voice was apparent.

"He's not like other Demon's you've been up against. In his own homeland he is considered a God." The pleading had returned. It seemed to be a recurring habit that Sesshomaru did not remember Kintara having.

"He is no longer among his own, and therefore is just a demon. That is all he is, and all that he will ever be."

Sesshomaru held Kintara's gaze for only a few moments before Nimka intervened. Her scratchy voice reminded Sesshomaru of an old Hag, which is exactly as she appeared to them.

"I can exchange more for… a taste…" Kintara stepped forward, prepared to share her own mind with the demon. However, Nimka shook her head. A toothless grin slowly crept into her features. A leathery hand reached out, extending a long thin finger toward Sesshomaru.

"You're joking…" Kintara scoffed.

"Sesshomaru would never allow anyone into his personal...huh?" Sesshomaru stepped toward Nimka, catching Kintara off guard. Nimka's tiny pupils dilated quickly with eagerness.

Sesshomaru inwardly prepared himself for what was about to happen. If this old Hag had more knowledge for him then so be it. He wanted it. The price would be steep, of that he was sure.

Chapter Text

~Sesshomaru~

 

As bold a move as it was to take the demons offer, Sesshomaru was certain that there was some knowledge he could gain from it. This demon was ancient. Her very Aura was tainted with a legion of other demons. Demons that had communed with her before. The vast knowledge she must have held was beyond even Sesshomaru’s comprehension. It was that reason alone that Sesshomaru had even considered letting such a grotesque being delve into his mind.

The process however, was much different than he had anticipated. Pain. He felt pain as the demon before him prodded his mind. Her invisible tendrils could be felt all over his skin as she leered at him through dusty lashes. Everything inside of him sought the relief of fleeing the situation. His own demon howled as the invisible tendrils threatened its aura. The demon within him begged to be set free, but Sesshomaru would not allow it. This had to be done… It would be done.

Sesshomaru’s vision faded as the pain grew. She was there. Prodding his mind, visions flashing before his eyes of encounters that had already past. Some were personal, some were shared, others were even… Precious? An image of a youthful Rin crossed his vision. Her big brown eyes seemed to search his face as she held his gaze. The small girl’s face beamed with a smile, and the image began to distort, changing into a faze of images. Rin’s appearance began to change, growing older. The childish face was now that of an adolescent, until reaching adulthood. The final image was gapped. Sesshomaru felt pain. Rin changing so quickly from a child to an adult, and then to a seasoned woman. Rin’s emotions seemed to change as well. The older she became, the more serious her demeanor was. Her eyes became shaded, no longer holding the happiness that they once did.

Is this how the great dog demon seen her? Was his mind filling in the blanks of his absence in her life, or was this demon somehow tricking him. Rin had been happy the last time he had seen her before her marriage. Her wedding day had been celebrated by all, including Sesshomaru. Though he had celebrated in his own way, keeping his distance and merely observing the union. After Rin had left the Region, Sesshomaru had as well. Trying his best to leave it all behind him. He had done it for more than one reason. Rin would be safer not having him around. It was made clear numerous times by the old Miko that used to consult InuYasha’s village. Hindsight though, proved that to be wrong. So very wrong.

There were rumors of an uprising among his allies. Yakunan had long before set the seeds of doubt within his ranks. He wanted to bury his past quickly, leaving all ties to Rin in secrecy. It was what he thought he had to do. Though at the time, he had known it was the only way. Rin’s happiness was all that Sesshomaru had ever tried to achieve. She would not know happiness entangled in his dangerous demon affairs all the time. Sesshomaru had even taken a leave of absence after cutting his ties with Rin. Leaving Jaken to spread his woes and sorrows over the death of the human girl. Jaken spread far and wide that Rin had died. It was to protect her. Sesshomaru himself mourned the loss. Not of a dead girl, but he had mourned the bond that he had with the young woman. Such a small mortal held such a strong reign on the great demon.

Sesshomaru’s vision began to blur around Rin’s image. A much darker atmosphere settled behind her. Whispers entered his mind.

“His freedom is more important than some mortal.”
“ He left her in a village.”
“She was never dead.”
“She’s going to be married.”
“Sesshomaru still watches her.”
“She doesn’t love the Lord.”
“She’s a village urchin not a princess.”

Many voices echoed in Sesshomaru’s head. Voices he recognized, some that he did not care to. The voices continued as if the demon released every sliver of knowledge onto him. All the while as Sesshomaru gazed at the image of Rin, he could feel the demon reaching into other parts of his mind. Matters he had long since dismissed. Century old battles flashed across the edges of his vision, his father, his mother. The demon was gathering everything she wanted, and in return was showing him...A nightmare. Everything she knew. The voices continued.

“A dog always remembers his first owner.”
“His loyalty to her is sickening.”
“He probably killed her on a whim.”
“He’s too much like his father.”
“I have plans for her.”

Sesshomaru could feel the heat of his anger surface at the familiar voice that rang through his mind, tearing red through his vision. Yakunan. He could feel the demon before him tightening the tendrils in his mind. The outside world, the real world was a mystery to him. All that was tangible to Sesshomaru at the moment was the ghost of memories displayed before him. Images of a castle appeared as Rin’s face faded. The castle where Rin had lived. The familiar voice continued.

“I will have what is mine. This is where we will end this war.”

 

Sesshomaru felt as if he were there, seeing through Yakunan’s eyes. He could feel the invigoration that Yakunan felt as he had discovered the home of Sesshomaru’s past ward. He could smell the aroma coming from the city below the castle. A melody of scents both food and recreation. His eyes however, lingered on the castle as he moved closer. It was late evening. Two silhouettes grieved near a fresh grave. One of them was Rin, and the other… Ameki.

Sesshomaru’s thoughts halted, and he could feel the resistance of the demon showing him the visions. This was how Yakunan had known about Ameki as well, even before Sesshomaru. However, something wasn’t making sense to him. If he had been so near to Rin before, why had he not killed her or marked her then?

The demon that feasted on his memories felt the confusion. Altering the scene before him. The grieving women before him faded, replaced by a void. One he felt all too familiar with. The border between this world and the next. It wasn’t the setting in which his father’s remains rested though, this was a different void. An afterlife for someone more attuned to its existence. Yakunan was there, once more. Communing with a being that far surpassed the size of Sesshomaru’s father. The being was as black as night, and demanded attention from everything else in the surroundings. It was guarding something. A hole in the world space. Sesshomaru could hear the faint sounds of what he assumed to be screams.

Sesshomaru’s vision blurred. The feeling of the atmosphere around him was almost unbearable. An uncomfortable pressure that seemingly sought to crush him, or deduce him to nothingness. He turned, glancing back at the vision behind him. Adorning the opposite side of the world space was yet another hulking figure, but instead of ebony black, the skin held tones of color that reminded him of a pearl. The beautiful iridescence put Sesshomaru’s mind to the test. He wanted to make these figures out, but their features were blurred. The white being also guarded a hole in the world space, but that hole radiated a peaceful melody. One that called to him softly, tempted him to follow.

Yakunan’s voice bellowed through Sesshomaru’s mind, breaking the trance like state that the melody had calmed him into.

“I want the knowledge of my fathers before me.”

The black being before him twisted becoming disfigured. It’s features still hidden, but two glowing orbs where the eyes should have been illuminated a fiery glow.

“Your journey here proves you are strong, and what you seek is possible.”

The voice sounded as if it were coming from all around. It was deep and raspy, much like it was a voice in unison with many more. Sesshomaru pondered as he gazed at the sight before him. It wasn’t long before a new unison of voices intervened.

“Possible, but with a price.”

Sesshomaru spun around to see that the large white beast’s eyes now illuminated an otherworldly glow. Almost as if the beast had borrowed the moon’s light.

“I’ll do what it takes”

Yakunan’s voice faded as did the vision before him. The demon that held him tight with its invisible tendrils was releasing him. He could feel his conscious mind returning, but he wasn’t ready. He fought to keep the vision before him in focus, but the voices were gone. He couldn’t hear what was happening.

Sesshomaru snapped back to reality as the demon before him took a step back. Her eyes, once shallow, were now wide and deep with fascination.

“Sesshomaru?” Kintara’s voice sounded weary.

“No, I need more.” He spoke. The demon before him slowly backed away. Nimka’s eyes rolled until all that was visible were the whites.

“What’s happening?” Sesshomaru asked.

“She’s returning to her slumber.” Kintara replied.

“She needs to rest until, well, until she’s hungry again.” Kintara added after pausing to think of a way of explaining it to him.

"Give it a day or two and she will awaken again." Kintara said as she gazed at the figure before them. Nimka's skin began fading into more ashen tones, as her body seeming twisted into a gnarled formation of roots. The process took a few moments, but after it was complete Sesshomaru and Kintara stood in silence. Sesshomaru didn't take his eyes off of the petrified mass before him.

He had needed more time, more information. It didn't make sense to him. What he had seen was like nothing he had ever experienced. His time in the border between this world and the next had been different. True, it was different for everyone, but that one had been unique to Yakunan. Which made its knowledge vital to Sesshomaru.

“Yakunan has come to her. Some of the memories I witnessed from his very eyes.” Sesshomaru’s voice was level, but his mind was reeling with the possibilities. This could be the answer, but it came with a wait time.

“Now she knows some of your memories as well Sesshomaru. I can only hope that you haven’t been trying to hide anything from anyone.”

Sesshomaru thought for a moment, taking in Kintara’s words. He wasn’t really the secretive type. Anything he did was always with purpose and he cared not who knew. However, things were quickly changing in his life once more. Once like they had with Rin. There were many demons, not just Yakunan, that wished for his demise, and some to see him suffer. If they were to ever commune with Nimka, they would certainly find out about Ameki’s existence. That is, if those memories were what Nimka took. He only recalled a few flashes of memories that Nimka had shown interest in. None of them had contained Ameki, that he knew of. However, he had been shown one of Yakunan’s memories containing Rin and Ameki. He still wasn’t completely sure how the exchange worked. He had never had dealings with Nimka before. He had known of demons like her, but never personally.

“Whatever you choose to do Sesshomaru, I’ll support it. I’m not sure how much aid I can lend, but if the time ever comes where you need it, you’ll know where to find me.” Kintara’s voice began to fade.

“Leaving so soon?” Sesshomaru spoke as he glanced over his shoulder at her dispearsing form.

“I’ve matters of my own to tend to. It was…” Kintara paused before fading, the remainder of her reply carried on a soft warm breeze that smelled faintly volatile.

“Nice to see you again…” She was gone.

Kintara had not lied to Sesshomaru about helping him find a starting point on his journey. He hadn’t found the answer he had sought originally, but he may have stumbled upon something with more potential. Yakunan had wished for the powers of his fathers before him. That could explain how such a young demon could wield such ancient and taboo knowledge. He needed to understand more of the situation, which meant he would need to bargain with Nimka again.

The idea made him feel uneasy and that was almost foreign to his short list of characteristic emotions. The more he pondered on the idea of sharing his memories with a strange demon he had just met, the more a sense of dread enveloped his already encumbered mind. Was he losing himself in this battle to Yakunan? Was he still able to think clearly? Was his mind as sharp as it needed to be or was he too distracted with other matters?

Sesshomaru huffed. This had been exactly what Yakunan had wanted. To send Sesshomaru on a wild goose chase while he gathered his forces and continued sewing deceit within Sesshomaru’s own allies. Yakunan was using Ameki as a security blanket, like the child Sesshomaru saw him as. It infuriated him, and at the same time it… intimidated him? Was Sesshomaru even remotely familiar with the emotion? Yet another emotion. What was he becoming?

 

~Ameki~

 

Ameki heard the distant twang of a bow, signaling that Hotaru had found his prey. They later feasted on a few rabbits that Hotaru had hunted early that morning. The cleaning process, which made her rather sick, left her with little to no appetite. She was sure that it had more to do with her dreams that previous night than the actual food. It smelled delicious, and looked absolutely mouth watering as the succulent juices escaped the cooking meat. Though, after only a few bites, she realized that her taste buds refused to reply in kind, leaving the morsel of meat rather bland.

Kohaku was sure that Sesshomaru would return, but the day progressed, and Sesshomaru did not appear. Even Kohaku looked as if he were rather bored, and had given up awaiting the great dog demon. His mind was elsewhere, watching the newly fed fire devour the freshly cut wood. Ameki occupied herself with a few things she had packed for the journey. One of those things being the tanto that Sango had given her. Kohaku had shown her previously in the day how to sharpen the blade correctly with a sharpening stone. He had shown her the correct way, and the wrong way. The wrong way would have produced a dull, or even brittle blade edge, damaging the perfect weapon.

Ameki was grateful for the distraction his lesson provided her with. So much was happening in her life at the moment, and this made things feel as if they were slowing down a bit. Just setting around a campfire enjoying the social environment. That was, until night came. Everyone rested peacefully, while Ameki lay wide awake staring up at the night sky. She had no desire in the thought of sleep, knowing that Yakunan would be there waiting for her. She didn’t want to return to his realm of dominion. She didn’t want him to continue where he left off when she had been awoken by Hotaru. She wanted his remaining words to be left a mystery.

“Rin, it’s not too late…” The words drifted over to Ameki’s hearing. Surprised she slightly pushed herself up onto her elbow, peaking across the fire at a sleeping Kohaku. His form was still, but his brow was knitted tightly above his clenched eyes. He was dreaming… about her mother. Ameki’s own brows furrowed as a sense of pity settled in. Kohaku had gone years without seeing his friend Rin. His outburst toward Sesshomaru back in the village had led Ameki to believe that Rin and Kohaku had once been close friends.

Ameki couldn’t imagine what his dream must have been about. Or rather, his nightmare by his increasingly erratic movements. His arms twitched, and his face clenched, before relaxing. It seemed as if it happened within a blink of an eye, before his form returned to a peaceful slumber.

Ameki forced herself to stay awake. Each time the drowsiness of her mind threatened to pull her under, an image of Yakunan would jolt her awake, giving her a newfound vigor due to the adrenaline coursing through her veins. She would not sleep. She couldn’t face what Yakunan had planned for her dreams.

Day broke once again. Ameki sat up, and yawned. Feigning the act of just having woken up. It would do her travelling companions no good to worry about her further. Her lack of sleep would be her little secret. After observing the new mark on her hand, she found her comb wrapped up in a silk cloth among her belongings. She would start her day by freshening up the mess she knew was present from a restless night. Hotaru set out again with his bow, just as dawn broke. Kohaku paced back and forth in the distance, his resignation from the day before forgotten. Ah-un still slept, his heavy breaths filling the peaceful morning with a rhythmic tune. Jaken however, sat in silence with a stone pout adjourning his features.

Sesshomaru had said that he wouldn’t be gone very long, but very long it would seem could mean days to a demon with no sense of time. Ameki sighed. The smoldering wood from the previous nights fire was just about gone. The smell of smoke was still strong in their surroundings, the earth was scorched in odd patterns across the field they occupied. A big portion of the forest to her right was left in devastation. The smell made Ameki’s nose twitch, realizing that she herself had adopted the stench. Her yellow Kimono, Yuuto’s gift, smelled of her surroundings, and no doubt the clothes she had stashed away in her bag as well.

All of these new revelations made her feel a bit thirsty. Reaching for her bamboo container, she took a small sip. The cool liquid eased the burning in the back of her throat, but only made her want more. Until it was gone. They would need to find a stream and soon to refill their water supply.

“Jaken?” For the first time all morning Jaken looked at something other than the ground at the mention of his name.

“What is it girl?” His ill mood was detected quickly by the irritation in his voice as he replied.

“Are there any streams around here?” Ameki asked.

“How would I know?” He answered exasperated.

“Well, I just figured since you’re a Kappa, you’d be able to sense those kind of things.” Ameki raised a brow as she spoke.

“Oh, yea, well… I’m not a mutt like InuYasha, I don’t just crawl around sniffing for stuff.” Jaken crossed his tiny limbs in an attempt to seem stern. In reality though, he appeared much more like a child that had been insulted.

Ameki shook her empty container at the gumpy imp for dramatics, and maybe even to get her point across.

“Fine.” Jaken stood up and began walking, his little legs moved slowly and even seemed a bit stiff. No doubt from him not moving much since Sesshomaru had departed.

“Eeeh, ahhhh” Jaken’s exaggerated, or maybe not so exaggerated, voice echoed through the field. He turned around.

“Well, what are you waiting for girl? I can’t bring the river to you.” Ameki refrained from rolling her eyes as she stood.

“I asked if there was water nearby Jaken, I didn’t mean to make you show me.” She retorted as she caught up with the aching imp.

“Well, I might as well take you there now. You could use a bath anyways. My little nostrils can’t take much more of that smell.” Ameki halted her steps at his words and put on an astonished expression.

“You don’t smell like a bed of Roses either Jaken.” Ameki feigned insult. Jaken, the stony faced imp, chuckled.

“In all honesty I could use a break away from Ah-Un for a bit. He can get a little gassy while he sleeps.” Ameki burst into laughter. A genuine smile arose in her features. Jaken had actually made her laugh, and it wasn’t at his expense.

“You have jokes, and here I thought you had such a dull personality.” Jaken scoffed at Ameki’s observation.

“That was no joke I assure you. That two headed beast may have one body, but he eats for two, and smells like it too.” Ameki began laughing again.

“Where are you going?”

Kohaku’s shout resonated off of the wooded area ahead of them. Ameki turned to see his attention was now on them.

“We are heading for a refill.” She shouted back as she waved her container.

“Wait. Let me go with you.” He replied as he dashed toward their campsite, grabbing his satchel. Ameki felt a bit awkward for a moment. She had planned on freshening up a bit, but with company other than Jaken it would be rather uncomfortable. Even with the toad she had doubts of her comfort, but Jaken was easily swayed to give her some privacy. She wasn’t sure that Kohaku would grant her that same kindness. Afterall, he seemed a bit like Sesshomaru when it came to being over protective. It wasn’t his fault she didn’t guess. It was just something that naturally integrated with the male ego.

Ameki decided to find time later to freshen up. Afterall, she had left her soap and fragrance at the campsite anyways.

 

~Sesshomaru~

 

Sesshomaru hated the waiting. It seemed to be the only thing he had been doing lately. Waiting. Waiting for answers, and solutions. He had found one, and yet there would be more waiting. He could go back, and let the others know that it would be a while, but leaving the area where his answers could be sought felt wrong. It was so close. He was so close. They could wait. He knew he wasn’t exactly known for arriving on time, and he didn’t care. Well, a part of him did care… He cared that Ameki had been unconscious when he had left.

Sesshomaru shook himself from his thoughts. Another day had passed. He waited. Surely Yakunan would have eyes and ears in the area, but he sensed no danger. No ominous aura’s. It was always better to be safe than sorry though. Yakunan had made a dire mistake leaving this demon alive, something Sesshomaru wasn’t sure about himself. Would he kill the demon that now held his memories? This demon didn’t seem to be a physical threat to anyone. No blood soiled the surrounding earth. It truly did just feast on memories. In a way though, this made the demon formidable to many. The knowledge it held, could turn the tides of many wars. Especially this one. He just needed to find a weakness, or some answers pertaining to Yakunan’s games.

The third day came, and Sesshomaru waited. He waited until the petrified roots before him seemed to thrum with life once more. The entangled mass slowly receded, revealing a face that sent chills down the mighty demons spine. The old hag that he had seen before, now held the appearance of someone from his memories. Someone precious to him. Rin. A much younger Rin. The Little girl that had changed the great dog demon’s life forever. The demon appeared just as Sesshomaru remembered Rin. Her small frame, and wiry limbs seemed malnourished. She wore the same pink peasant clothing she had been in when Sesshomaru had first met her. She looked exactly like the small orphan that had tried to help the wounded Sesshomaru in years past.

Something inside of Sesshomaru began tugging. An emotion he often quelled quickly. The demon before him sat in silence, with the face of an angel. Sesshomaru’s hand twitched as his nails dug into his skin.

“What kind of trickery is this?” He demanded. The small voice that answered made the demon within him wine.

“It’s your most treasured memory Sesshomaru.” The small voice that answered held every note in which the real Rin would have answered. The happy nature in which the demon portrayed only angered Sesshomaru further.

“Why do you appear to me like this?” Sesshomaru had to physically restrain himself from letting loose the low growl that was building in his chest. Rin’s memory would not be tarnished by some demon parading as her.

“I can assure you it’s not personal. I simply relish and thrive on those memories that are strongest to the bearer. This appearance gives me strength because it was a vital part of your memories. It was a turning point in your life, one you still continue to build on.” The demons face, Rin’s face, took on a more solemn nature.

“I don’t mean to offend you Sesshomaru. I did not think you would still be here when I awoke. I do give my sincerest apology if this causes you discomfort.” Sesshomaru wasn’t sure how to respond. Shape shifting demons weren’t exactly a good memory for him, considering his past with Naraku. Instead of furthering his interrogation concerning the demon’s appearance, he decided to move forward with his own motives.

“I need to see more.” He spoke calmly, relaxing his features from the previous tension he had felt.

Nimka slightly lifted her chin as she contemplated her answer.

“I have all that I need from you Sesshomaru. I have your strongest memories, and have had my fill.” Sesshomaru had prepared to protest, but Nimka stopped him by putting up a small hand and waving it about.

“However, the girl. Ameki. Yakunan has marked her, and I would like nothing more than to delve into her mind. More specifically, I want the memories from her time in the afterlife. She died that night, and I would very much like to know what she experienced.” Nimka clasped her tiny hands in front of her stomach as she fell silent, waiting on Sesshomaru’s response.

“She remembers nothing from that night. I doubt there is anything her memories could give you.” Nimka slightly shook her head at Sesshomaru’s reply.

“No, she doesn’t remember, because her body was not there. To physically remember something the body is required. Her time in the afterlife, as short as it may have been would not be revealed to her. However, it leaves a mark on the soul. That is what I want to unveil.”

Sesshomaru narrowed his eyes as she spoke. Nimka wanted to not only probe Ameki’s mind, but somehow her soul as well.

“I won’t let that happen.” Sesshomaru answered cooly.

“There has to be something else you want.” Sesshomaru wasn’t the bargaining type, but letting this demon, the one that appeared to him as Rin, anywhere near Ameki’s mind or soul wasn’t an option he wanted to agree upon so quickly.

“I can see you have your doubts Sesshomaru, but that is my offer.” Nimka’s gaze was level.

“I won’t allow it. Ameki’s soul is not to be tampered with.” Sesshomaru’s resolve seemed apparent, but her next words peaked his curiosity.

“I couldn’t tamper or harm her soul if I wanted to Sesshomaru. It’s not within my power. Someone much stronger already holds that right. It is within Yakunan’s grasp, however short lived that will be.” Sesshomaru couldn’t help but to wonder what her words meant. What they really meant.

“I don’t understand.” Sesshomaru replied.

“Bring her to me. I will choose a different appearance if that makes you more comfortable. I wouldn’t want the girl coming face to face with her orphan mother.” Sesshomaru slightly scoffed.

“That isn’t the issue Nimka.” His mood darkened.

“You said that the memories you sought were within her soul. How can you retrieve them if you can’t delve within?” Nimka’s little laugh caught Sesshomaru off guard. It was like music to his ears once more. Something about the girlish giggle sent a wave of emotions through Sesshomaru that he hadn’t felt since… Since Rin had asked if he, the great lord Sesshomru, would remember her when she died. The little innocent girl that Sesshomaru had felt such loyalty to without reason.

“The same way you and I are talking now Lord Sesshomaru. I may not be able to openly retrieve those memories, but I can coax them free. Yakunan may hold power over her, but he’s still young, and his powers aren’t as strong as his predecessors. His control over her is weakened by the mark he placed upon her. The very thing he sat out to do is causing him great struggle.” Sesshomaru listened intently, waiting for Nimka to continue.

A childish grin graced Nimak’s lips as silence followed.

“You were saying?” Sesshomaru inquired.

“I’ll reveal more when I have received more. Think about it Sesshomaru. I’ll still be here when you decide.” Sesshomaru’s brow furrowed.

“How do I know you’ll give me what I want to know?” Nimka shrugged.

“It’s a risk you’ll have to take Sesshomaru. Is the knowledge you could gain worth it?” Nimka inquired teasingly.

“No harm will come to her?” Sesshomaru inwardly sighed as he asked the question.

“There are always risks Sesshomaru. She may see something that frightens her. I can’t be the judge of whether or not it will harm her. Physically, no. Emotionally, it's a gamble.” Nimka’s appearance began to change as she spoke. The image of Rin began to distort, becoming something new, older, but yet still familiar. Princess Sara Asano. The mortal woman that had fallen in love with Sesshomaru in decades past.

“Why have you chosen this appearance.” Sesshomaru asked.

“A mortal princess that lost everything seems like someone that could accurately sympathize with Ameki don’t you think?” Sesshomaru wasn’t satisfied with her answer, but he wasn’t sure he was comfortable delving into the subject either. He knew that Nimka had seen his memories, and felt his emotions. He felt pity for the princess that had sacrificed everything to try and make him happy. Feeling pity for humans wasn’t something the past Sesshomaru had done often, but it was something that continued to flourish in him, even to this day. He felt the emotion more often than not. His fears of becoming soft like his father were no longer fears, but possibly… goals. After all, his father had been a formidable demon. Always fighting for what he felt was right, and to do that he had to embrace those feelings that Sesshomaru had, for so long, denied.

“Talk with her Sesshomaru. You know she has the right to know that she can decide as well whether or not to do this. She simply only needs to know the option is available. Let her have some kind of control back in her life.” Sesshomaru sighed out loud surprising himself.

How would he even begin to explain all of this to Ameki?

Chapter Text

~Ameki~

 

The water was frigid. Ameki instantly regretted her decision to bathe at night when the temperature dipped so low. However, she was not afforded the privacy she wished during the day, and had been forced to sneak off while everyone else slept. She had given herself what Kohaku had referred to as a “Spit bath” which had involved wetting a cloth and wiping down. However, that just wasn’t cutting it anymore. It was the third night since Sesshomaru’s departure. The stench that settled into her clothing was almost unbearable. She wanted nothing more than to rid herself of it. If that meant plunging into a river at almost freezing temperatures than so be it. The shock of the cold water would help aid her in staying awake as well. There were perks to her plan afterall. She wanted sleep to be the last thing on her already exhausted mind.

What she hadn't anticipated was the numb sensation her limbs began to settle into. After her body partially adjusted to the temperature, she began washing herself. Her limbs shook as she began pouring a bit of the fragrant liquid into her hand. She was sure more of it had spilled into the water than into her palm. She needed to hurry. The numb sensation was quickly growing, making her movements slower, causing her to exert more energy than she had to spare. Washing her hair was a chore in itself. Her long wet hair felt heavy, and the weight pulled uncomfortably against her cold scalp, but the fragrant smell gave her some comfort as the wretched stench of smoke was masked.

She lathered her hair the best she could before hurriedly continuing with the rest of her exposed body. Waist deep in freezing water was no place to take your time, and Ameki knew that all too well. The chattering of her teeth could probably be heard echoing through the silent forest.

"You're going to freeze." The cool voice rang over the sound of Ameki's clattering teeth, startling her. The weight her numb legs had been supporting aided in her strength giving away, causing her to plummet into the water. She resurfaced moments later, struggling against the cold, but successfully peeking her head just above the slow current.

Sesshomaru stood near a tree at the edge of the bank with his back turned. Thankfully, she thought. He was facing away from her lewd figure. Seeing him aided in returning some warmth to her body. Not only from embarrassment, but also from pure relief that he had returned. It was anyone's guess as to where he had been, and even in the back of her mind Ameki had been struggling with the thought that something could have happened to him. He had in fact departed with a demon that had previously been hostile. Even if Jaken had reassured them that she was an old acquaintance of Sesshomaru's, it hadn't eased all of Ameki's worries. She knew that things were quite different in the demon world, but Sesshomaru seemed civilized enough.

"I'm ss..sss..sorry m-mmy Lord." She managed, though speech was a bit difficult at the moment.

"Get dressed." Sesshomaru spoke softly as he took a few steps, stepping around the tree and out of sight.

Ameki made no argument toward the command. She herself had decided that her body could take no more. She was relieved to be out of the water, though the cold air almost made her second guess her decision. It was an icy wind that sent her body into a fit of convulsions. The stench was gone, but in the back of her mind she wondered if this level of suffering had been worth it. She quickly grabbed her sack of clothing, pulling out a thick wool towel that her numb fingers clumsily tried to hold onto. The towel helped shield her from the cold wind, but her body was still extremely chilled. Slowly drying herself the best she could she eyed the area where Sesshomaru had disappeared to. It was a dark area that the moon light had once illuminated, but was now shrouded by the clouds that had quickly stamped out the light.

Ameki gathered a few morsels of clothing. The Kimonos Sesshomaru had given her were too thin, her Yukata's were too thin. Ameki's body wanted something warmer, and her mind agreed. However, the thick yellow Yukata that she had previously worn needed to be washed. If she were to put it back on, her bath in the river would have been in vain. She settled for a thrown together outfit. A simple white robe, with a pale green Kimono to go on top. It wasn't as thick as the yellow Yukata, even with the combination of the two materials together, but it would have to do.

"Lord Sesshomaru?" Ameki called out after grabbing her belongings. Sesshomaru stepped out of the shadows, his eyes betraying nothing, even if he had been watching. A bit of heat found its way to Ameki's cheeks. She was sure that her Lord was more chivalrous than that, but the thought brought her warmth, and she welcomed it.

"I'm sorry I wasn't at camp. I sh-should have t-t-told them where I was." She fought against the shivers that still persisted as she spoke. The stuttering was inconvenient, but it couldn't be helped. Ameki stilled herself, trying to contain it as she spoke.

"I just couldn't find the privacy while everyone was awake."

"I understand." Sesshomaru's answer was simple. A bit of relief found its way into Ameki's mind. He wasn't upset with her, even though her little adventure into the night, and cold river was a bit foolish. Even she would admit that.

"The fire will warm you up." Without hesitation he stepped forward, taking her bag from her and sliding his arm around her midsection. Before she could protest they took to the sky, moments later landing near the campsite where everyone still slept as Ameki had left them.

Ameki didn't think she would ever get used to the sense of ascending into the sky. It was a sudden rush, and a feeling of being weightless, yet the fear of falling from such height teased the corners of her mind, adding a bit of excitement to the mix.

The heat from the fire called to her, beckoning with open arms of warmth, but Ameki paused. She turned back toward Sesshomaru for a quick glance. He seemed fine as he knelt down to place her belongings near a log. Something in her just wanted to make sure though. He had been gone for a while, and she knew all too well how quickly things could change. If Sesshomaru had in fact been through something she was unaware of yet, he didn't show it. He held the same calm and cool expression that always adorned his handsome features. The look of indifference was accented by his golden eyes that continually spoke volumes. Maybe it wasn't obvious to most people, but the eyes were something Ameki had always observed when meeting new people. You could tell a lot about someone by looking into their eyes.

Sesshomaru's eyes were often shaded. To most they would be impossible to read, but even the great dog demon could only hide so much. Ameki adored his eyes, and to her they were one of his most prominent and unique features. True, InuYasha had similar eyes, but up close they were two worlds apart in difference.

Ameki smiled slightly as Sesshomaru caught her stare. The light from the fire illuminated his golden orbs, giving them an Amber glow. He truly was breathtaking. It was no wonder Yuuto had been intimidated by Sesshomaru. How could any man not feel some kind of Jealousy over such a beautiful being?

Ameki broke free from her trance like stare, a little embarrassed that she had practically been gawking at Sesshomaru, and he had known. She settled down by the fire, welcoming the heat that caressed her cold skin. The shivering had caused the muscles in her lower back to seize, causing an ache that reminded her of the long days back in the village when she had worked in the fields.

Ameki's small vanity pouch sat close to her makeshift bed. Inside contained her comb, a few feminine articles and her favorite floral scents. She took the comb out and began the long de-tangle process. She watched as Sesshomaru searched the area, observing the sleeping forms. She wondered what was going through Sesshomaru's mind. She found that she was curious about that subject a lot. How did he see the world? He was a completely different kind of being that shared the same world as her, yet their perspective was more than likely different. Humans and demons were extremely different. Though, InuYasha had argued many times that their quarrels with each other proved that they were cut from the same cloth whether they wanted to admit it or not.

Ameki smiled. Of course someone like InuYasha would see the similarities, considering he was half demon and half human. Years of not belonging anywhere in the world was sure to put a lot of stress on him. In time though a sort of clarity had come from it.

"Lord Sesshomaru…" Jaken cooed in his sleep, causing Ameki to stifle a giggle, and more than likely Sesshomaru, an eye roll.

It wasn’t long before Ameki found herself fighting sleep once more. It was hard, laying down, and not succumbing to sleeps constant pull. She wanted nothing more than to keep her tired eyes open, so many things fought against her. The soft and rhythmic crackle of the fire, the slight rustle of leaves that could be heard in the distance. It was peaceful. Sesshomaru was there to watch over them. She felt safe, but she knew deep down that her dreams were not. She knew what would be waiting for her if she closed her eyes for too long.

Peaking over her blanket, she caught sight of Sesshomaru, resting. He was propped against a tree, still close enough for the fire to illuminate his features. He leaned against it, one leg outstretched, and one tucked, ready to react if something were to disturb them. His eyes were closed. Ameki doubted that he was asleep. Did demons even need sleep or was it just recreational? She figured they at least needed rest, but Ameki couldn’t bring herself to imagine someone as powerful as Sesshomaru, as otherworldly, having simple needs such as sleep. Did he even eat?

The thought perplexed her, giving her mind another reason to deter the impending sleep. She would fight sleep with everything she had. Even if she had to pinch herself, which she did. She held the pinch for a moment before releasing. The spot on her arm was sore, and would keep her mind preoccupied for a few moments at least. That is, until she simply couldn’t hold on any longer. It was too much for her exhausted mind and body. Days without sleep had caught up to her and fast, and the warmth she now felt in her bed beside the fire, quickly ushered her to a world filled with darkness.

 

~Sesshomaru~

 

He felt it, almost as instantly as she had fallen asleep. He had noticed the slight movements Ameki had made, he had seen her fight the urges that continually pulled her under. She had been fighting sleep. He already knew she had dreams that bothered her, but the severity of them must have worsened for her to have fought to stay awake so much. A few times Sesshomaru had almost wanted to command her to stop, and her pinching herself was as much as he wanted to take, however, it wasn’t long after that Sesshomaru sensed the calming of her heartbeat. Sleep was approaching fast, and Sesshomaru wouldn’t have to intervene.

He would now though. He could feel the demonic presence ignite within the mark on the back of her neck. It was almost as if Yakunan himself were standing before him. The power had grown in magnitude. Sesshomaru watched as Ameki’s sleeping form stiffened. Even as she slept he could sense the fear emanating from her. Yakunan’s audacity angered Sesshomaru. Yakunan must have known that Sesshomaru would be able to sense the change. It was a ploy, a play of power. Yakunan was teasing him, intentionally riling him up, and in the process possibly scarring Ameki’s mind. Sesshomaru could only imagine the horrors he was making her witness. It was no wonder she had fought sleep for so long. Had she even slept since he had left, and what had changed?

Sesshomaru stood from his relaxed position against the tree. He himself, yes the great Lord Sesshomaru, was exhausted. Not physically, but mentally. The transfer of knowledge between himself and the demon Nimka had taken more out of him than he would be willing to admit. Then he waited for her to reawaken, giving himself no time to recuperate. He quickly, but silently, made his way to the young woman’s side where he knelt down. She didn’t move, other than the small twitches her limbs exhibited. The Energy around the mark was swirling, and growing in intensity, as if it were coming from inside of Ameki. Sesshomaru instinctively wanted to reach out and swipe at the familiar feel of Yakunan, but he didn’t.

A whimper escaped her lips. She was stranded in a nightmare, one of Yakunan’s making. Sesshomaru clenched his jaw, the heat of his temper rising. The girl before him couldn’t seem to find peace, not while Yakunan existed. Sesshomaru himself couldn’t even find peace. Yakunan was more than just a thorn in everyone’s side. Thorns only hurt a little, an inconvenience really. No. Yakunan was much more. He was tearing the land apart, and the people and beings that lived within as well. Sesshomaru cared for very few people, but the more time passed, he realized that something within him had grown to care for this woman. Another mortal. Just as Rin had been. The very offspring of Rin. So much like her mother, and yet so different. She was her own person, and Sesshomaru had discovered that quiet early in their knowing each other.

Sesshomaru had spent years trying to figure out the reason he had cared so much for the young orphan girl. In time it became clear that she had been the one mortal that knew her place in the world, but still preferred to include him in hers. She was a human that didn’t look up on him in fear or disgust. She was a child, the most impressionable stage in a beings life, and yet she wasn’t terrified like most mortal or demon children. He was the literal monster from mortal bedtime stories, and yet, she preferred to sing him lullabies. She had fascinated him, cared for him. He found that his loyalty soon after migrated toward her. He needed her attention, and appreciation. Her opinion had mattered to him when no one else did. He truly became “Man’s Best Friend,” but only to that one mortal girl. Rin.

Now he found himself completely imbued with another presence that felt similar, but different. Rin had been a child, Ameki… Ameki was a woman. A woman that intrigued him. In the beginning he had only wished to honor Rin’s wish, but more and more he found himself simply wanting to make Ameki happy. Not because it would be what Rin wanted, but because he felt that loyalty growing once more of his own accord. It’s what he wanted to do. It’s what she deserved. She deserved to be happy, but because of him, her life had been torn apart. Everything, everyone she loved had been taken from her. Either killed, or lost to the numerous refugees that littered the roads and villages to the South.

Something inside of Sesshomaru felt remorse. He was hurting. Hurting for the woman who lay in front of him suffering. Her dreams were Yakunan’s playground, and Sesshomaru hated the thought of his enemy using her as his toy. Sesshomaru did reach out, touching the mark that swirled with Yakunan’s dark energy. Sesshomaru released a bit of his own, hoping that Yakunan could feel him, feel his anger, knowing he was there. He wanted Yakunan to know he wouldn’t leave the young woman’s side.

Something strange happened. The energy around the mark almost seemed to shy away from Sesshomaru’s own. Sesshomaru watched as the strands refused to come into contact with Sesshomaru’s aura. His physical touch yes, but Sesshomaru had released a bit of his own power toward the mark, in hopes to send Yakunan the message. However, he felt that Yakunan wouldn’t get it. He was weak. Nimka had been right. Sesshomaru’s power easily overtook Yakunan’s little show of trickery.

He watched as some of the tension left Ameki’s body. It was still there, but weakened. Yakunan’s hold on her was weakened.

“Ameki.” Sesshomaru whispered. At first there was no sign of her responding. Sesshomaru pushed harder with his power. The new flux of realization fueled his attempt, causing Yakunan’s energy to recede further, as if it were being syphoned back within the mark.

“Ameki.” Sesshomaru’s voice had gained volume, but not enough to disturb the others that still slept around them. Her eyes fluttered for a moment, her mind trying to gain consciousness. However, the exhaustion was keeping her under. She was tired, and Sesshomaru’s attempts to wake the girl would be in vain. However, he could help her sleep peacefully. All he needed to do was stay alert, and chase away her nightmare. It was funny to him in a way. Not the situation, but the thought of him, a demon, scaring away the night terrors of a mortal. If he were anyone else in the world, he might have laughed. The situation however, was far too dire to even consider.

~Ameki~

"Please, stop ...Please!" She begged. Yakunan's onslaught of dark imagery persisted. The waking world was just a faint memory to her now. Time seemed as it did not exist in these times. In these nightmares. She had no way of knowing how long he had tortured her, or how long it would continue. Her mother's lifeless form morphing into the countless other people she had lost. Yakunan's laughter sent a wave of nausea over her. She could feel the suffocating need to escape, but like in normal nightmares, she couldn't move. Only watch, and when he appeared before her, he wore a mocking grin of pleasure as he caused her pain over and over again.

The dream itself felt for a moment like it was about to change. A new dread embraced Ameki, as she prepared herself for whatever was to come. Except, it wasn't what she expected. Yakunan's grin turned to one of momentary confusion, before the image of him began to blur. He came in and out of focus, as Ameki watched. Each time his features appeared, he seemed more angry than the time before.

"No, this isn't how this is going to play out!" His yell was but an echo, sounding more distant than he had previously. Ameki instantly felt hopeful. Maybe her body was waking up, maybe she was somehow escaping his grasp. She focused, trying to forget everything that she had witnessed while in the dream. She focused on how the smell of the smoke had burned her nostrils, how the cold wind had whipped at her soaked flesh, she tried to move her limbs within the dream, hoping that her physical body would find synchrony, helping her to wake up. That's when she heard it, and looked around frantically. Her dream was changing, and something was behind her. She turned slightly, afraid that Yakunan had gained control once more and had planned something else. What she saw, though, was not only terrifying, but magnificent.

From the darkness emerged a large beast, the white mane seemed to glow against the shadows of her dreams, and the gaping maw lashed out threatening. She was frozen in terror. The image of Yakunan fled without hesitation. An annoyed look on his face was all that she could see before nothing.

Ameki… The voice, it was so gentle, and familiar. It made her feel safe. She was safe. Her dreams lingered with the beast only moments before changing. A new vision appeared, a more serene setting, and a garden that beckoned to be explored.

Morning came. The early dawn was washed, clouds covering the horizon, and a bitter cold that promised to stay. Ameki felt someone beside her, rousing her awake, but not quickly enough to see who the presence had been. By the time she opened her eyes, the person had gone.

The morning was spent hurriedly eating, and packing their things. Sesshomaru spoke of finding shelter. Jaken claimed that Sesshomaru could sense a snow storm coming. The hectic imp scurried around the campsite, resembling a small cyclone as he packed things adhering to his master's commands. Kohaku had insisted they continue their journey to Echigo, but Sesshomaru, without hesitation had decided to postpone the journey for a bit. He didn't explain the situation right away, but he didn't have to. It was his plan to make the journey, and everyone else would follow his lead.

Ameki admired that about Sesshomaru. He had an air of authority without needing to voice his claims. His very actions and more times than not, his lack of action, demanded respect. They were traits she only wished she could have obtained as a princess surrounded by her uncle's stuck up advisors and visiting nobles. They had always viewed her as left over baggage after her father had died. To them she was nothing more than trash left in the way for her uncle to take care of.

After leaving the area where scorched earth intermingled with flush forests, they travelled for half a day. The area Sesshomaru picked to rest surprisingly consisted of a few abandoned shacks, and an old mine. The mine appeared to be closed off, but the shacks looked as if they had recently been repaired. New wood, mixed with old in certain areas, presumably where weathered boards had began deteriorating. The repairs looked to be a few seasons old, but whoever had done them was now gone. The place was desolate. No one in sight. Kohaku surmised that this had been a mining camp, but with the recent war, and men taking up arms, it was closed down. Select few mines were kept open in neighboring provinces, those with more valuable materials and resources. While the young men prepared to protect their homes, the work was carried on by the older generation, those who were still capable anyways.

Thankfully there was still a pretty sizable wood stockpile. Unfortunately most of it was seasoned, meaning it would burn quickly. Kohaku and Hotaru set out to down their own green wood, something that would hold over night, and burn longer. With the wind picking up, and the clouds thickening, they made a point to hurry.

Ameki gathered her things from Ah-Un's travel gear, and made her way to one of the huts. Sesshomaru followed. The hut she chose was small, large enough to house maybe two people if they had chosen to live there. She decided choosing small would increase her chances for a bit more privacy. She didn't mind Sesshomaru's company, but she didn't think he would stick around to sleep later, which is what she wanted to avoid with the other two men. Her dreams had been terrible as of late, and the less she disturbed her travelling companions, the better.

The fire crackled filling the silence of the small hut. She continued feeding the fire the green wood that Kohaku and Hotaru had gathered, until she was sure that it would catch and hold. The small chimney area had been cleaned of debris, and she was ready to settle down for the night. The two men had chosen a different hut, one more spacious, so that Jaken could accompany them. Though, he had insisted on having his own, his desires had been quelled by the lack of green wood. They had only the time to collect enough to hold two fires overnight

Ah-Un had found himself a shed to take cover in. It wasn't much, but it sheltered him from the snow that had begun to fall. Sesshomaru sat quietly in a corner of the small hut, watching Ameki stoke the fire to her satisfaction. When she was through, she sat on the adjoining wall with her back against the surprisingly sturdy boards. She had yet to prepare her bed, but her mind was far from sleep either way. They sat in Silence for a while, before Ameki’s curiosity got the better of her.

“If you don’t mind me asking, where did you go?” Sesshomaru’s eyes flicked in her direction momentarily before returning to his straight stare.

“I had some business to attend to.” He replied simply.

“With the demon woman?” She inquired.

“Yes, with Kintara.” Another simple answer, but with elaboration on the demon’s name.

Ameki thought for a moment. Recalling the events that had happened before her sudden black out. The demon had been on the verge of burning the world, or so she thought in her panicked mind. So many aspects of the encounter still confused her, and all she wanted was a bit of clarity in the big mess she knew as her current life.

“You two knew each other?” She waited for an answer. Sesshomaru was known for his lack of socializing, and she figured this would be no different. She had almost given up on an answer when one came.

“Yes, our families were close.” This time Sesshomaru looked at her. She didn’t want to continue prying, but anything was better than silence with everything that was on her mind as of late.

“You grew up together then, is what you’re implying?” She pursed her lips as she waited.

“Yes, we did.” Ameki thought of a way to reply, but all she found was a bit of forced humor.

“Strange relationship you two have, huh?” She was hoping that the humor of her answer wouldn’t fall flat. If it had, Sesshomaru didn’t betray the disinterest.

“Indeed.” Was his only reply.

Ameki clasped her hands, the wind outside had picked up, and a bit of a draft entered the shack through the straw curtain covering the slats in the sliding door. The room was warm, for now, but she knew that keeping it that way meant she would need to stay on top of stocking the fire when needed.

Ameki had turned her attention to other things, while stoking the fire every now and again. She had caught the slight movements in the corner of her vision, as Sesshomaru shifted.

“Tell me about your life.” Ameki froze. Shocked. The words were so unexpected. She looked toward Sesshomaru who was no longer preoccupied by the opposite wall. He was looking straight at her. His eyes searched her face for some kind of response. He searched for a reply to his words.

“I’m sorry, I uhhh… What do you mean my Lord?” Ameki fidgeted with the sleeve of her kimono.

“Before Yakunan. I want to hear it.” Sesshomaru wasn’t demanding. More suggesting that it was okay to share.

Ameki had never really shared much about her life with anyone other than Kagome, Sango and occasionally Jaken. Sesshomaru had never shown interest, and so she had never really imparted much. She didn’t figure that Sesshomaru, a great and powerful demon would even be remotely interested in her bland humdrum life. Though, there were memories that were precious to her. Memories involving her mother. Memories she was sure that Sesshomaru would want to hear of. If he had cared for Rin the way he seemed to that is.

Ameki braced herself. These were happy memories she would share with him. There would be no reason to cry, though, the subject of her mother was still a challenge for her. She shared stories of her mother’s love for art, her love of music, how clumsy she was when she tried to dance. She shared stories of the Palace garden, and Rin’s favorite flowers and trips to transplant some wild growths. She imparted their weekly fishing in the pond, their sneaking out of the castle to explore the neighboring forests and much more. Sesshomaru had listened, his eyes never leaving Ameki’s. If Ameki had to guess at the slight expression change on Sesshomaru’s face, it might have been happiness. He was definitely interested in her tales of her mother, but…

“I want to hear more about you Ameki.” His voice was soft. Much softer than he spoke to anyone else. Ameki wasn’t sure what to say. There wasn’t anything really interesting about her life. Definitely nothing that would keep Lord Sesshomaru’s attention.

“I was… I was just in the way really. No one special.” Sesshomaru’s brow twitched.

“You were special to her.” His voice came again.

“Yes, she was my mother. I know she loved me, but…” Ameki paused.

“Things involving my life, outside of my mother’s will, weren’t that great.” Ameki gave a half hearted smile.

“How do you mean?” Sesshomaru asked.

His interest continued to surprise Ameki, but also made her feel a bit awkward. It was the first time that Sesshomaru had really talked to her about anything predating their meeting.

“I mean, I was a princess, and that's all. My father’s brother, Yuudai, took over rule after his death because my father didn’t have a son. It was a long standing tradition. Women were seen as weak and not leaders. My uncle didn’t think I had what it took. He just saw me as someone he could marry off to some sniveling Lord in an attempt to build alliances.” Ameki’s eyes widened at her use of the word sniveling.

“I didn’t mean that all Lords are, well….” Sesshomaru nodded.

“Human men are often arrogant. Especially those in power.” Ameki sighed in agreement.

“But you never married.” Sesshomaru observed.

“No, I didn’t. I didn’t want to. I’ve never had an interest in marrying someone for possessions.” Sesshomaru blinked. Something Ameki very rarely witnessed.

“I always wanted something like my mother had with my father. Those two seemed inseparable.” Ameki trailed off, remembering how close her mother and father had been.

"Only death had been successful in separating them, but I'm sure they are with each other now." Ameki paused, quelling the sudden rise of emotions that built within her chest.

"Maybe so." Sesshomaru's simple answer brought a smile to Ameki's face.

"Lord Sesshomaru?" He glanced back in Ameki's direction once more, permitting her to continue.

"What's it like? Your world? Demons that is." She waited as Sesshomaru slightly lifted his chin. In thought presumably.

"It's complex. Any answer I were to give you could be true or false. It's different for all." Ameki thought on his words. How similar his answer could have been to a human's. It was uncanny, but acceptable. It wasn't necessarily the answer she wanted, but she didn't expect Sesshomaru to become long winded as she had with her life.

"What about your life?" Ameki held his gaze, hoping he could see the hint of all of her questions she held in her eyes.

"You should rest," were his words.

"I'm not tired though." She replied. Sesshomaru slightly raised a brow. The expression almost made Ameki laugh. It was rare for Sesshomaru to exhibit such behavior.

"Fine." Was his reply.

 

~Sesshomaru~

Ameki's interest in his life had caused a bit of tension to enter his mind. It wasn't a life he cared to enlighten her to. There was much blood on his hands, many wars, many dark truths about him that he would rather her not know. His life was unimportant. All that mattered now was bringing down Yakunan, and returning her life to some sort of normalcy. He would continue his life as well, picking up where he left off. He would go where the wind took him. There would always be more conquests for him.

"Where do you come from? Your family?" Sesshomaru was confused by her question. He was born here, in Nihon. Far above albeit, but within the borders.

"I was born here as well as my mother. My father's lineage is more complex. He spent centuries roaming the continent, and was born there, eventually coming to Nihon. Here he established his foothold, reigning in my mother's domain after she fell complacent." Ameki's brow rose a bit.

"Did you know your parents well?" Sesshomaru could tell that her questions were steering into an awkward direction. He could give her simple answers, but was it fair? He would let her decide.

"Yes, I knew them." He answered.

"So, demons look after their children like humans?" He wanted to smirk at her question. All demons were different. His mother had been indifferent toward him the older he got. She had little more than nursed him as a pup, and let her handmaidens do the rest. The only time she socialized with him as a child was to hear reports on how he was doing in his disciplines and lessons.

His father had been different though. The young Sesshomaru had been visited many times by his wandering father. He had forged a relationship with him that was far greater than that of his own mother whom he actually lived with. After he was old enough, he departed his mother's domain within the sky, and had set out to follow in his father's footsteps, hoping to one day equal him in battle. Maybe even best him.

It was a strange relationship, but it was far closer to a bond than he had with his mother. That's why it had angered him, it had angered him when his father had fallen protecting a mortal woman and InuYasha. Sesshomaru had not had the chance to best him, to show him that he was his equal. Sesshomaru had spent countless years gaining his stripes, trying his best to make his father proud, and in the end… All he cared about was…

No. That's not what happened. Sesshomaru's thoughts intervened. He had lost the one parent that had actually cared for him. His mother's parenting was what had given him such a cold outlook on life. It was his father's warmth that he had always been after. His father's personal life only bothered him because it was what ultimately took him away.

"Sesshomaru?" Ameki's eyes searched his face. He had been lost in thought, and neglected to answer her question.

"They tend their children. Yes."

Ameki smiled.

"I'm sorry if I'm bothering you Lord Sesshomaru. You don't have to answer my questions. I just...I want to understand you a bit more."

"So you ask questions about demon parents?" He raised a brow.

"Well. The way you were raised can reflect up on who you are as a person. I just wanted a glimpse to try and put the pieces together." She lowered her gaze, resting her eyes on the fire.

There weren't many beings that had shown interest in his life. He wasn't used to sharing his past.

Ameki shifted her weight, reaching for the bag that sat in the corner. As soon as she opened it Sesshomaru's nostril twitched. Ameki began pulling out her things.

 

"Jaken…" She mumbled.

In his haste to set off at Sesshomaru's command, Jaken had thrown everything in the bag, except Ameki's mat. Ameki made a face as she pulled out a rolled up piece of cloth that contained three day old raw meat. The sour smell wafted into the room. She dropped it back into the bag and stood up. She walked to the door, sliding the wooden frame open and chunked the bag against the side of the hut. Closing the door she sighed.

"I guess I'll wash everything inside once we find water again." Sesshomaru noted the defeat in her voice. Of all the things she could have been upset over, she chose spoiled food.

"I can go retrieve Jaken's mat for you." Sesshomaru offered.

Ameki giggled a bit.

"No worries my Lord. I'll be fine." She gave him her best smile.

"You need rest." Sesshomaru pointed out.

"I'll lean against the wall and nap if I get tired." She reassured him. He knew she was lying though. She had already started her nervous fidgeting as the night progressed. He knew she would try and keep herself awake. Now she had an excuse.

Sesshomaru stood and turned toward the door. He would retrieve Jaken's mat for her. She watched him leave with curiosity, but said nothing. The cold snow pelted against Sesshomaru. The wind whipped his hair in all directions as he made his way toward the hut where the demon slayers and Jaken resided. Upon entering he caught Kohaku's attention. He had been stocking the fire. Hotaru was laying down facing the back wall, and Jaken sat against the front wall with a look of disdain. Jaken's ill mood quickly turned to one of joy at Sesshomaru's entrance.

"My Lord!" He squealed as he hopped onto his feet.

"Did you forget something Jaken?" Sesshomaru voiced coolly. Jaken's happy demeanor wavered.

"Uhm, I don't think so…" he looked around nervously.

"Ameki's mat…" Sesshomaru waited for the imp's reply.

"It's strapped to Ah-un's travel gear." Hotaru answered without moving. His back still faced them. Jaken seemed to melt with relief. His body had gone cold from more than just the weather outside.

Without a word Sesshomaru left.

 

~Ameki~

The familiar and daunting pull of sleep caused dread to enter her mind. Sesshomaru had recovered her mat and blanket without issue. She was warm enough, but the thought of what awaited her in her dreams chilled her to her bones. He would be there, waiting to turn her dreams into a prison.

"You should rest."

Ameki had tossed and turned, refusing to let herself get too comfortable. Sesshomaru's voice cut through the silence of the shack. She peeked over her blanket at him. He was looking in her direction.

"I'm sorry." She whispered. She closed her eyes. Trying to act as if she were going to sleep, but forcing herself to stay awake. She heard the floorboards creak, but refused to open her eyes. She heard a light thud beside her.

"Ameki." She opened her eyes once more to see Sesshomaru propped against the wall beside her bedding, mere inches from her.

"Your dreams have worsened?" Sesshomaru asked, holding her eyes with his own. She wanted to look away, ashamed of the truth. She was weak and she knew it, she just didn't want Sesshomaru to know how weak she was.

"Yes…" her answer was barely a whisper.

"Don't worry. Just rest." His words oddly calmed her. She did fear slipping into her nightmares, but Sesshomaru was confident. He was sharing that confidence with her. He was showing her compassion. The compassion she knew he held, even if he didn't show it to the rest of the world. The gesture made her feel warm all over, or maybe it was sleep's embrace. She felt safe with Sesshomaru so close to her. She felt secure in falling asleep. Even if Yakunan was waiting in her mind, Sesshomaru was merely a hands length away.

She slept, and for a while it was unhindered. That is, until she felt the world around her change. The dream was beginning, and what waited for her was a mystery. Ameki… That voice. It was familiar, very familiar but sounded as if it were an echo. Like her mind was trying to identify it, but the closer she got, the further it moved away. It matched in a sense of identifying as well. The owner of the voice was on the tip of her tongue. A part of her wanted to search for the owner, but something was holding her back. Fear maybe? It was all speculation. The dream itself was barely coherent, as if a fog had circumferenced her mind. A protective fog, not letting anything from the outside in.

Her body moved slowly, as if time itself had slowed down. Inside the barrier of fog she stayed. It was peaceful. Ameki… The voice rang through the fog again, tempting her to dare the borders. Drawing her to it. Fear again. She felt fear, but why? The fear halted her steps. There was something on the other side. It was lurking beyond the fog, scaling its borders, but unable to pass through. The shadows were calling to her. The voice changed, becoming one that she knew all too well. Rin.

Her mother’s voice beckoned. Ameki...please… Rin’s voice chanted. Her mother was there. She needed to see her. How she wished to see her face. The fog was hiding her features. The warm smile that Ameki remembered so well was just beyond the fog. She stepped forward once again, this time fear didn’t stop her. At the edge of the fog, she whipped the pale essence with her hand, searching for the voice or anything. She wanted to see her. To see her mother. She pushed forward stepping inside of the haze of confusion. The voice from before changed, but still called to her. She hesitated again, unsure of whether to continue. The shapes ahead of her began to distort, but she couldn’t make out the features.

She felt a slight caress of the fog, it seemed to pull her back toward where she had been safely within its borders. She didn’t fight it, knowing what was where she had come from, and not knowing what lay ahead. She let the mist guide her back. The sounds from beyond the fog turned grim. She could hear a woman’s scream, a woman crying for help. Ameki froze once more, back within the borders of the fog. It sounded like her mother, but she couldn’t move. Something was keeping her in place.

“Sesshomaru…” The voice was no longer an echo, but sounded as if it came from every direction beyond the barrier.

“You’re playing unfair.” The voice, Yakunan, snarled in distaste. Ameki soon realized what had transpired. She looked around disoriented, as if realizing for the first time that she was in a dream. Recognizing that familiar sense of being nowhere she had been before. Yakunan was hunting her, but he was calling out to Sesshomaru. Was Sesshomaru there somehow?

“Do you forget who holds her life in their hands?” Yakunan howled. His anger clearly seething into the dream, and probing the fog barrier. She could feel the area around her thrum with energy, seemingly knocking back the dark energy that had begun dissecting the protective fog. Yakunan’s voice became distant, though his anger was still apparent.

“You won’t win this way Sesshomaru. It will all be in vain, every last attempt…” His voice distantly trailed as the thrumming of energy around her transformed the scene. She was in a field, nay, a beautiful prairie, and far above the clouds arose a beautiful and fearsome creature. One with white fur, and the likeness of a dog.

Ameki awoke the next morning feeling rested. Far more rested than she had in the last few months. She attempted to stretch her newly recuperated body, working out the kinks and aches her sleeping form may have acquired. Bleary eyed, she looked around. The shack was empty. The fire had been freshly stocked, the green wood that sat on top of the flames had hardly been touched by the hungry kindles. She rose slowly, making sure that her body would react the way she wanted to after sleep.

Making her way to the door she stopped. A weird feeling engulfed her as a bit of her dream flashed back into her mind. Her dream hadn’t been as vivid as they usually were, and it was hard to even remember what had taken place. She remembered mostly just a misty vision. It really dawned on her in that moment, as she tried to recall her dream that she couldn’t remember Yakunan. He hadn’t been there to torture her within her dreams, or if he had, she couldn’t remember. Either way, she was relieved, and a little shocked that he had neglected her. Maybe something important had come up and he was preoccupied while she slept. Maybe she had caught a break for once.

She continued to the door, sliding open the wooden panels. Her breath caught. The cold air rushed inside, startling her groggy state of mind, but filling it with awe as well. Everything was covered in snow, and it continued to fall. It was absolutely beautiful. On the ground, she could see a trail leading from her hut, that disappeared a few feet away from the shack. Sesshomaru. He had left moments before she woke no doubt. It was only one set of tracks in the shin deep snow, and they were leading away after all. She couldn’t think of anyone else that would have left the hut, and then taken to the sky. He was gone. To where her mind could only imagine.

The day, and the snowstorm progressed. Sesshomaru finally returned around noon, baring gifts it would seem. The package he carried contained a thick Yukata. Not as fancy as his normal gifts were, but it would suffice in this cold weather, and Ameki was ever grateful. Giving her privacy to change into the new suitable attire, Sesshomaru had stepped outside.

The Yukata was a cream color, with s simple design of a black crane along the bottom. She wore her white robe underneath, and the long stockings that had been apart of the ensemble. The extra layers were sure to keep her warm in the ever churning snow storm. With her new attire she had assumed that they were going to continue their journey, but Sesshomaru had other plans.

He had re-entered the hut upon Ameki’s call. His emotionless face was greeted with a happy expression upon Ameki’s.

“Thank you so much Lord Sesshomaru!” She gleamed.

“It's important to stay warm.” Was his reply. The two sort of fell in silence as Ameki shuffled around the hut.

“Ugh, my bag.” She groaned, as she remembered the terrible smell that had accompanied everything inside.

“Do you need something?” Sesshomaru inquired, face still calm as he looked up at her from his propped position against the wall.

“Well, I’m a little hungry. The only food I had was in my bag, and I can’t stand the smell.” She answered with a bit of guilt.

Sesshomaru stood, disappearing for a bit, before re-entering once more. This time he held a bag, one that had been tied to Ah-un. Inside was an assortment of bread, dried meats and fruits. Once she had her fill, the conversation began.

“I need to speak with you.” Sesshomaru spoke plainly. Ameki looked up as she dusted the remaining crumbs from her clothes.

“Yes my Lord?” She searched his face, wondering what the subject would be.

“When I departed with Kintara, It was because she knew of someone that could aid me on our journey.” Ameki listened to Sesshomaru, curiosity indulging her forward to understand his words. He was imparting his experience while he had been away, something he very seldomly did.

“A demon called Nimka.” He continued.

“A demon that lives and trades off of the memories of others.” He paused seemingly waiting to gauge her reaction. Her demeanor didn’t change, so he continued.

“What I learned there was far more helpful than anything else I have come across.” He paused, probably by habit, never speaking too much at once. Ameki continued to listen, caught on his every word, trying to figure out what his journey would reveal.

“I needed more, but the demon only teased. Giving me a taste of the knowledge after finding something it wanted more within my own memories.” Sesshomaru blinked, again catching Ameki off guard. It was a rare occurrence, but maybe she just hadn’t noticed it before. Maybe she had just been paying more attention to his actions lately, or maybe it was because they had actually been spending more time together. When he didn’t continue, Ameki became curious as to what he meant by “Something it wanted more.”

“By something it wanted you mean?” She waited for his reply. She could clearly see the uncertainty in his eyes. An unspoken hesitation, not just physically, but emotionally as well. He was unsure how to answer, which caused a bit of unease to surface in Ameki. If Sesshomaru would hesitate to answer, she could only imagine what the demon had wanted.

“Your memories.” The answer finally came. As soon as the words left his mouth, Ameki sighed in relief. A bit of confusion entered his eyes at her reaction.

“I thought you were going to say the demon wanted your soul.” She almost laughed at how silly the answer had been. She had imagined that it would be so much worse by his hesitation.

“You shouldn’t take this decision lightly.” He explained, causing her to quiet once more.

“Sesshomaru…” She voiced.

“It will help us will it not?” Sesshomaru hesitated once more to answer, but finally did.

“Perhaps it could, but it isn’t promised. There are risks Ameki.” She became thoughtful. Wondering what the risks could be without asking if he knew. But in hindsight, whatever the risk, it would be worth it to her.

“Can it possibly help us defeat Yakunan, or atleast break this hold he has over me?” She asked honestly.

“I don’t have those answers, But Nimka has knowledge. Whether it's the knowledge we need I do not know, but it's more than we have.” His answer was honest, and to the point. Ameki knew Sesshomaru didn’t like not knowing things, and this was a path that would lead him to at least a bit more clarity. She could see that he yearned for knowledge, anyone could. Especially with as long as he had been searching, the depths he had crossed to find what he already knew.

“I’ll do it.” She voiced.

“You need to know the risks.” Ameki stopped him, trying to exert her own demanding air of respect that Sesshomaru often held.

“Please Sesshomaru, let me give back to you.” She leveled her gaze with the great dog demon. Had it been any other mortal, they may have winced at his stare. She however, did not.

“Very well, but the things you may see might weigh on your conscience.” He continued. Ameki could see the way Sesshomaru weaved his will on the conversation. He wouldn’t let her head into this decision without knowing the risks. She wanted him to know that she would do it, and she had. Now she would hear him out, and still decide to do it. No matter the cost. Not at this point. Not after losing so much but gaining so little in their journey.

“Lord Sesshomaru… The things I’ve been made witness, and put through…” Her previous courage diminished as she began to reveal the dire circumstances of her dreams.

“My dreams, I can’t see anything but my loss, and everyone’s loss. I’m made to relive it over and over again, with changing circumstances befit a dark dragon. If this can put us one step closer to bringing him down, then so be it. It's either this, or I die in the end anyway.” She answered honestly, letting the raw emotion enter her voice. It was her decision to make. Knowing the opportunity was out there left no room for turning back now.

The slayers and Jaken had been left in the dark on the subject. Sesshomaru had surmised that Kohaku would have his doubts with the plan, and cause resistance. It wasn’t something that Sesshomaru wanted to deal with, and Ameki had agreed. The others went on about their day while Ameki and Sesshomaru had departed. The snow storm still carried on, but it was no problem for the great dog demon that lived upon the wind. He expertly dodged and evaded the heavy fallen drafts of wind that wove their way through the sky, blanketing the atmosphere with a turbulent and bumpy nature. The wind was cold, like piercing knives against Ameki’s cheeks. The only way she found comfort from the wind was by burying her face in Sesshomaru’s fur that he kept around his shoulder in a boa fashion.

Ameki felt the impact as they landed in the snow. She slightly turned her face to see their surroundings, but Sesshomaru still held onto her. The area was blanketed in snow, as she had suspected. Nothing seemed unusual about the small area where they arrived. Though, Ameki did get a strange feeling. Like someone was watching them. It wasn’t long before a figure appeared before them, as if the being had come from within the snow itself. She was a beautiful woman. Her long dark hair was pulled back with a red ribbon. A lock of hair perfectly framed each side of her face with a single red band on each. Her dark shaded eyes gave off tints of blue, rather than the dominant brown. She was stunning, with flawless skin of ivory, and a smile to accent the natural beauty.

Sesshomaru didn’t react. Ameki was still close to him, his arm still wrapped securely around her. Ameki observed the woman before them once again. She was clearly a princess, her attire deemed her as so. The beautiful multicolored coat, and intricate train that accompanied it signaled her royalty. She appeared to be human enough, but Sesshomaru had mentioned that he had met with a demon. This meeting, was beginning to make little sense to her. The woman spoke softly, like a choir of celestial maiden’s her voice came forward, like a beautiful instrument.

“You’ve made your decision I presume?” Sesshomaru didn’t speak. Ameki looked up to see that his gaze was hardened, but his eyes were rather distracted. It almost seemed as if he were lost in thought, but Ameki knew better. Sesshomaru was always alert, and this meeting would be no different. At any moment he could spring into action.

“Yes.” He answered coolly.

“I mean the girl…” The woman answered coyly. Causing Sesshomaru to scoff in his own way of indifference.

“Come to me.” The woman spoke softly, her eyes taking on a bit of a glow. A glow that accentuated her beautiful features. Ameki could almost feel envious of the woman, if she had not been so confused as to what was unfolding before her.

“Are you... the demon Nimka?” Ameki asked calmly, not wanting to betray the bit of nervousness that had surfaced in her mind.

“Tis I.” She answered.

“But for now, I’m Sara. Lady Sara Asano.” Ameki felt Sesshomaru’s grip tighten for only a moment, before releasing. She turned back to glance at the glassy eyed demon. His emotions were unreadable, but his stance was steady. He was ready for anything.

“I don’t quite understand.” Ameki asked confused, forwarding the question to anyone among the targeted crowd.

“Someone from Sesshomaru’s past. She was within his memories, and I rather liked her.” Nimka’s answer confused Ameki, but she didn’t suppose anything made sense when it came to demons. Especially of the kind she had never heard of. A demon that fed on other’s memories to sustain themselves. Ameki couldn’t fathom how memories could suffice as sufficient sustenance for anything, even a demon. Yet, here before her stood the demon that wanted her memories, but appeared as someone she had seen from Sesshomaru’s memories. Someone he had known?

“Today young one, You’ll see beyond the gate way.” Ameki could feel the pull. Curiosity filled her mind. She was here to get answers. She would get those answers, and that is what fueled her. One last look at the stone faced Sesshomaru was all she needed to proceed. Nimka extended her hand, waiting for Ameki to take it.

She felt the pressure on her shoulder before looking up. It had stopped her in her tracks. Sesshomaru gazed down at her with questioning eyes.

“Are you sure this is what you want?” He asked. Ameki blinked, giving a slight nod. She tried to hide the small gulp that accompanied her answer. This decision wasn’t without its uncertainties, but she found herself wanting to reassure Sesshomaru more than she needed to herself.

“Yes.” She gave a small smile, and stepped away from his touch. She watched as his clawed hand fell to his side, before turning back toward Nimka.

“Please come dear. We’ve much to learn today.” Nimka’s smile was sweet, but the hunger in her eyes was apparent.

Chapter Text

~Yakunan~

 

He could smell it, the very threads of the netherworld. It swirled around him, communing with him. He was after all, a beast from its own making. It was his time. Time to inherit all that was rightfully his as the oldest son of his father Jaoquin. The dying dragon had lived many centuries, and his power had slowly began to recede back into the great abyss, only to be consumed by his son. Yakunan had completed nine trials that brought him to this one. The tenth and final one. He had entered the land of the dead through nefarious means, though as a dragon of darkness that was not beneath him. It had weakened him, and to continue through the gate to the underworld, he would need every last soul that sought judgment.

He spent days, maybe weeks even. Time was lost to a realm that was not bound by it. His strength slowly returned, and the calling of his blood only grew stronger. He could see it in the far distance. The Giant demon he would need to defeat to gain access to the final resting place of his father, the netherworld. An infinite space existing in and outside of time. It fascinated him. Every culture, no matter the diversity or belief would end up there, and the souls would be his for the taking. That is, if he were to defeat the guardian, and to do so he needed to finish off the last bit of awaiting souls to replenish his own self, and deplete the supply of the guardian. It would definitely tip the scale in his favor.

The Black dragons had held this tradition since the beginning of time. When the Patriarch of the generation dies, the eldest would rise up to take his place. Yakunan, Jiaolong, had been a unique individual though. He would be the youngest dragon of any generation to inherit the ancient powers. His father had gone many centuries without procreating and by the time Jiaolong was born, he was already nearing the end of his life, leaving Jiaolong and two sisters in his wake.

As with any black dragon, the rite of passing is drawn out over decades of trials and provings. Yakunan had begun these trials as a soft scaled whelp, but this was it. He was in the final days, and mere hours away from possessing all that his father knew. That was until everything went terribly wrong.

He could see the faint glow below the hulking demon that guarded the portal. It was barely visible from the seemingly infinite abyss. The souls, many of them, were… Released? He watched in horror. It was the only thing he could feel in that moment. Horror, and disbelief at what he was witnessing.

The guard of the afterlife fell dormant in battle, before him, a demon. A white ghost that reeked of sorrow. Jiaolong began to transform. His anger overtaking him. This couldn’t happen. He needed to defeat the guardian, not someone else. All of his time. Over half of his life would be wasted. He gained speed in his true and terrible form. Gliding through the remnants of existence within the realm of the dead. He was so close… Approaching the figure he gained speed as he watched the last of the souls disperse. He was ruined…

The demon stood up, holding something in his arms as he turned toward an opening to the outside world. He could hear a woman’s voice, beckoning the demon to leave. Sesshomaru… She had called.

“No!!!” Jiaolong yelled.

It was a child that the demon held in his arms, a small child that was still tethered to the afterlife. She herself was lifeless, but the thread of her soul was still intact. He could see it being drawn toward the guardian’s portal. The demon stepped through, back into the world of the living. The portal closed behind him. Jiaolong was left in darkness. No souls, no guardian to defeat, and a useless gate. He had needed every last soul to enter the netherworld, and that demon had robbed him of it.

Upon returning himself to his own land, he had little left to offer his family. His father was in the last stages of life, and it wouldn’t be long until his complete form along with all of his power would be sealed for eternity in the netherworld. Untouchable without the completion of the trials.

Jiaolong had refused to give up however. He would find a way to gain his father’s powers, but once he had, his first rule of business would be to hunt down the very demon that had halted the process. He would make Sesshomaru pay for making him go to such great lengths for something that should have been handed to him on a platter.

His father had been angry upon learning of his failure. He had demanded Jiaolong be banished from his lands, handing over the rule to his younger sister Lewin. Commending her to begin the trials of succession. However, Jiaolong would not see that happen, and he didn’t. His father found his death by Jiaolong’s very hands. A premeditated strike that killed his father, opening up a world of dark and unorthodox truths. Jiaolong set down a path of destruction that his kind had not seen in many centuries. Killing his own father had given him what he needed to gain what was rightfully his.

A direct link to the Ether realm. A place between the netherworld and the celestial realms, where both places could be accessed. There he met two deities. The forebearer of death and the bringer of life. Two beings neither demon, mortal nor celestial. Two beings that merely existed to maintain balance. Yin and Yang. They appeared to him as dragons. One with scales of ebony, and the other a translucent opal.

“I want the knowledge of my fathers before me.” He spoke calmly. Knowing that even he would be no match against these guards. They were not meant to defeat, and trying to do so would be foolish and pointless.

The ebony scaled dragon gazed upon him with fiery eyes, a gleaming hint of satisfaction lay deep within there depths.

“Your journey here proves you are strong, and what you seek is possible.” The raspy voice held echoes of eons. Just hearing the ancient sound both terrified and exhilarated Jiaolong’s sense of pride. He was the only dragon alive that had witnessed this. Delving into the Ether. It was Taboo among his kind, because it was only accessible through the killing of one’s patriarch. His kind may have been created and known for destruction, but loyalty to one’s family was honored.

“Possible, but with a price.” A new voice, equally as powerful answered from behind him. The sound made him flinch. Everything within him wanted to turn and gaze upon the magnificent being, but something else, a deep carnal hatred of the white dragons solidified his resolve. Without turning he answered shaking his earlier notions.

“I’ll do what it takes.” Silence. The world around him fazed in and out of view as time itself warped around the edges, unable to penetrate the Ether.

"Your desires will be granted, but the consequences will follow you." The white apparition spoke once more.

"I care not of consequences, only of what is rightfully mine." Jiaolong's voice carried with urgency and determination. He was so close… So very close.

"I will grant your entry to the world below, but be wary. One should not ignore the white call." The ebony dragon proclaimed.

" I care not what the white dragon has said. Life is full of consequences. Something everyone among the living must deal with throughout their lives. It is you who sheds Karma, and I will receive mine as you see fit when the time comes."

The world around Jiaolong began to rumble. The gate of energy behind the Ebony dragon flared with power. Jiaolong could feel it's pull. Every last ounce of his father's mighty power would be there waiting for him. He had assured that fact when he had killed the great dragon himself.

"Very well," replied both dragons in unison.

Yakunan stepped forward, gaining speed as the Ebony dragon shifted, revealing the gate to the netherworld.

There he found his true power, and so much more.

 

~Ameki~

She could see the terrible truth, feel the pain of the souls that received Yakunan's wrath. His plundering of the netherworld sealed the fate of many souls. Souls that would never find rebirth in reincarnation. Souls he rightfully claimed as his own to fuel his newfound powers. Ameki couldn't move, she wanted to, but her physical body would not adhere. She felt as if she were no longer tethered to it.

The vision before her changed. Yakunan was once again among the land of the living.

"The Great Dog General's son...Sesshomaru?" Lewin, Yakunan's sister, answered. Her eyes were shaded as she glared toward her brother.

"All of this to chase a dog?!" She screamed in anger.

"Now now Lewin, I spared you once, but I think my mind is perhaps reconsidering?" Her nostrils flared as she held his gaze.

"You may have killed our father, but I'm not on my deathbed. I'm not just laying around waiting to die. I won't go down so easily." Her hissed words didn't seem to faze Yakunan. A rather smug look crossed his face.

"Run along Lewin. I have much work to do. I'm sure there's a battle ground waiting for your appearance. An army of men that would pledge their lives to your beauty." Lewin huffed at his remarks.

"As should you brother. That is what father's powers should be used for." She replied.

"And they will, and so much more. I plan to usher in a new era for the black dragon's. We will reign again, and with the absence of the white dragon's, we will conquer this land and more." Lewin's face calmed as she held her brother's gaze. In a cool voice she spoke.

"Make excuses all you want, but in reality, you simply want to chase after the dog that hurt your pride. Do as you will, but be cautious Jiaolong. You are such a young vessel to carry around such ancient power. You will need discipline, or you risk losing control." Yakunan smirked toward his sister.

"You'll see Lewin. I will return with his head, and along with it the rule over his land."

Ameki could feel something with protruding familiarity. The vision changed once more. A beautiful visage lay before her. Her home. Castle Yamato in all of its glory. A beautiful sunset cast the last of the days light upon the bustling village below. The castle windows soon illuminated with independent light sources from within.

Two figures came into focus just outside of the main courtyard, in a small grove. Ameki immediately recalled the scene from her own memories, but with different perspective. Her father's grave. Her and her mother mourned over the fresh dirt and newly picked flowers. Ameki was almost engulfed with the sorrow of the moment, but a voice distracted her.

"I have plans for you…" Yakunan's voice came forth. Ameki was witnessing the moment from his point of view.

"My little soul that got away. You are untouchable by my mark, but you will die nonetheless, and he will watch." There was excitement in his voice. The sound made Ameki ill as Yakunan gazed at her mourning mother.

"You however, I'll have my uses for you." Ameki could see the reflection of herself through Yakunan's eyes.

"A dog's loyalty is strong, unwavering. He'll come to your aid when the time is right, and I'll have him at an impasse. I'll force his hand through you."

The monster had planned this long before Ameki had even known about her mother's past. Long before she had met Sesshomaru.

Ameki fought against the vision as it changed. The smell of smoke filled her senses once more, the pounding of heavy footfalls could be heard. She was seeing through her eyes once more, running through the forest, hiding in the burrow of a large tree. The familiar fiery eyes, and the pain that filled her chest as Yakunan's sword cut through her, only this time she could actually remember. There was no fog, or trauma blocking her mind. She was witnessing every moment, every excruciating detail.

"It's nothing personal…" Yakunan's voice rang through her memories. Her conscious mind was slipping away as her life fluids followed suit onto the ground around her. Yakunan's hand grabbed her hair, pulling her limp form across the ground, dropping her weighted body, sounding a thud through the otherwise quiet forest.

"He'll come for you my dear. Right about now he's feeling like a lost puppy. I want him to feel the pain. He's not above it like he would have everyone believe." Yakunan paced as Ameki fought to take in a shallow rugged breath, choking on the liquid filling her lungs.

"He'll smell you before long, so I must make this quick. Though, I'd love to drag it out if I could. You are quite the collectible, such a feisty spirit." With those words, Yakunan's nails pierced the flesh of Ameki's neck. Sending her into eternal darkness.

A small light, the size of a grain of rice was all that Ameki's mind could fathom. The light grew brighter, as she drifted through the darkness, gaining intensity the more time passed. Though, time itself seemed to slow, her mind unable to form any thoughts. A myriad of emotions swept away into the darkness as the light threatened to envelope her. It was a peaceful feeling, one of warmth and security. The light embraced her as a beautiful white dragon emerged from within. Ameki was formless, but an image of her appeared, along with another form. One of a beautiful woman with stark white hair, and an angelic face. Her crystal eyes gazed upon the image of Ameki. Reaching out the woman tenderly raised Ameki's hand, placing a kiss upon her palm. The flesh burned where the woman touched, reminding her of… Ameki's mind reeled with anxiety.

"The true battle begins when dormancy is broken..." the woman whispered, sending a burst of energy toward the image of Ameki, hurling her back toward the darkness.

 

~Sesshomaru~

 

The day waned, as did Sesshomaru's nerves. Seeing Ameki's petrified form, engulfed in the roots of Nimka was more than enough to put him on edge. The risks were all that he could ponder on. Yet, he waited. Hoping that Ameki was strong enough to hold on through the tortures and visions that would no doubt cloud her mind.

Nimka's eyes were void of life, though the demons life energy grew stronger throughout the drawn evening. Nimka was feasting… on Ameki's memories.

Night approached, the nocturnal woodland creatures began to move about, and fill the silence of the forest with their calls. The wind had shifted, calming from the snowstorm that was in its last stages. Nimka's roots had gathered a bit of accumulation.

The snow began to drift and fall off as the roots around Ameki began to tremble, sending vibrations through her body. A low howl can from the rooted demon. The face of Sara Asano began to distort into one of pain.

"Ses...Sesshomaru…" The small voice cried out from within Nimka's roots. Sesshomaru wasted no time. Within a blink he was beside her, ready to rip every single root away if he had to.

"I can't…" She gasped, regaining consciousness from her petrified state.

"Can't breath. He's here." Ameki's eyes were open, but only the whites were visible. She was still under Nimka's grasp. The familiar presence was quickly appearing. Yakunan had chosen now, while Ameki's mind was not in her own control, to make an appearance.

"Release her!" Sesshomaru demanded, sending a threatening glare toward Nimka.

Nimka didn't respond, her eyes returned from a void death like state to one of complete apprehension and terror.

"Now!" Sesshomaru growled.

"If I release her now, I'm not sure what will happen!" Nimka hissed.

Sesshomaru readied his claws.

"Wait, please listen. I can shield her from him, but it's causing great strain. If I release her too soon, it might not be without consequence. Her mind, and my own are still joined." Nimka's eyes glazed over once more.

"Lord Sesshomaru...please!" Ameki and Nimka's voice pleaded in unison.

The whites of Ameki's eyes became red with tears. The salty smell stung Sesshomaru's senses.

"Quickly then!" Sesshomaru replied. Focusing his complete attention on the struggling woman before him.

How was he to know this could happen? He thought Yakunan only made an appearance in Ameki's dreams. Sesshomaru's thoughts raced. He wanted to reach out to comfort her. He needed to do something. Anything.

The piercing scream didn't come from Ameki, but rather Nimka. The face of Sara Asano slowly turned to stone before him, the stone transformation was transferring to the roots as well. The roots that ensnared Ameki's body and mind.

Sesshomaru instantly reacted, cutting through the roots that held Ameki in their grasps with his claws. Grabbing Ameki he quickly distanced her from the fallout behind them. Clutching her firmly against his armor he peered down at the woman. Her eyes soon returned to normal, but seemed rather unfocused. They didn't search his features as Ameki often did, or even seem to dilate or adjust to the low light setting.

"Ameki…" Sesshomaru spoke softly. Trying not to hint at the bit of panic that teased his mind.

"Lord Sesshomaru…" She replied as her hand traveled upward, slightly wavering before touching his face. The foreign feeling of another being touching his face would have shocked him, had it not been for her next words.

"I can't see." Her voice held signs of confusion. Her eyes seemed to stare at nothing, while trying her best to squint and focus. Sesshomaru stood in silence, holding her as she struggled to regain her vision.

“Lord Sesshomaru…” Her voice was backed with a whimper.

“I can still see him.” A small gulp followed as she blinked back tears.

Sesshomaru tightened his grip on her. Yakunan. Sesshomaru’s aura flared around them. The anger building deep inside, fueling the sudden burst. If Ameki had not been so close to him, he would have growled, but even in his anger he maintained his self control with her so close. He needed her to be close for this to work. His aura would overtake Yakunan’s, and drive him back, and hopefully out of her mind. This felt different though. His presence couldn’t be felt, meaning there would be no aura to overtake. Sesshomaru tried anyways, hoping that something would give.

It did. As the last bit of life slipped from the crumbling stone face of Nimka, whatever spell Ameki was under broke. A light came back into her eyes, her pupils dilating as she blinked profusely, and lastly gazing up at Sesshomaru. The look on her face was of awe. He hadn’t realized how close he held his face to hers, or how tight his grip had become.

“Lord Sesshomaru…” She whispered once more. He pulled back while loosening his grasp around her. Her body had relaxed considerably, meaning she was no longer in diress.

“I can see your aura…and…” She paused. Her eyes widening as she took in the sight before her.

“It’s beautiful.” She gave a small smile.

Sesshomaru had heard her words, and witnessed the expression on her face. He himself had felt the relief after her quick recovery, but something irked him. Her scent. It was slightly different. Something about her was different and now she could see auras? Sesshomaru scoured her features, trying to make some sense of the little, but sudden change. The only difference he could find though, was the white strand of hair that had not been there before. A white strand that lay almost hidden among her bangs. The strand itself looked normal, like an aging follicle among an ebony crown. Anyone else would let it slide as a side effect of some kind of trauma, but that one hair. It was almost like Sesshomaru could pinpoint that as the change in her scent.

That one minor inconsistency Sesshomaru couldn’t shake from his mind, even after returning to where they had set up shelter in the old mining camp. It was no surprise that Kohaku would be fuming, and Sesshomaru didn’t care to indulge him in his feelings at the moment. He needed to know what Ameki knew. He wanted to know what had happened in the final stages to cause Nimka’s death. It was a rather outlandish turn of events and had been very unexpected. He also wanted to make sure that Ameki was alright as well, and in a sound state of mind once again. He had so many questions. Questions he wasn’t sure could or would be answered.

“Yakunan is trying to stop us.” Ameki voiced. Sesshomaru hadn’t even had the chance to inquire any details. She turned toward him, an urgency outlying the mood in her eyes. Eyes that seemed more alert than normal.

“I suspected as much.” Sesshomaru replied coolly, still trying to access Ameki’s well being.

“Every time I see him. When he comes to me in dreams, or whatever that was that happened today…” She trailed off.

“He tries to sway my mind. He wants to convince me to not go with you on this journey, but he can’t control my decisions. Which is a relief. That hasn’t stopped him trying though.” She paused once more, focusing on Sesshomaru, as if she were taking in his appearance for the first time.

“Each time I see him, he shows me things. Horrible things. What he’s going to do.” Her lip quivered as she spoke.

Sesshomaru slightly nodded, acknowledging her words.

“I think Nimka alerted him. Like she was trying to access something that she wasn’t meant to. He appeared out of nowhere, as if he had stepped out of a memory I was witnessing, but when he tried to approach me he couldn’t. Nimka was doing all that she could just to hold him back” Ameki paused, her eyes fell to the ground as her brow furrowed.

“He eventually got passed her though. He did reach me however, I fought against him this time. I didn’t feel the fear. I don’t know if it was because I wasn’t fully unconscious, or maybe he was weakened. Something inside myself though, fought against him. I could feel it.” Her eyes found Sesshomaru once more, filled with confusion.

“Something came from within me. The light was so bright I couldn’t see, and then I heard Nimka’s screams.”

Sesshomaru continued listening to her rushed words. He didn’t know what to make of her details about what had happened when Nimka had been in control of her mind, or in lack of control.

“I could see your aura. I couldn’t before. I think the link I had with Nimka somehow messed with my mind or something.” She swallowed.

Sesshomaru had known that Kohaku had been eavesdropping outside of the hut, but he had not cared. Sesshomaru found himself liking the idea of traveling with the slayer less and less. Kohaku wasn’t only nosy and foolhardy, but he was also becoming obsolete with discovering that the twin priest and priestess were no longer in Echigo. Their journey was changing. To where he didn’t know, but if the priestess was missing, and the brother was searching for her, then there was no chance that he would be willing to help anyone.

“Let me get this straight. You openly gave your mind over to a demon?” Ameki looked up, a bit startled at Kohaku’s sudden outburst as he slid the door open. At first Sesshomaru thought that she would reserve herself to silence, but that wasn’t the case to his surprise.

Her brow furrowed once more as she spoke.

“Yes, in fact I did of my own accord nonetheless, and I would do it again. It’s shed some light on our situation. Maybe not what we wanted, but I understand so much more now. It was clarity that I needed. I needed to know why this happened, and now I do.”

Sesshomaru’s brow involuntarily rose as she spoke. He had yet to talk to her about what she had learned, but apparently it had been an enlightening experience. At Least she seemed to think so.

“That’s not the point Ameki. I’m not going to tell you what you can and can’t do, but please just consider caution when dealing with demons. We already have one mess to clean up. We don’t need anymore.” Kohaku narrowed his eyes as he spoke. Ameki however, didn’t back down.

“That mess you are referring to is my life, and I will proceed as I see fit.” Only for a moment, as Ameki spoke, Sesshomaru caught a glimpse of something in her eyes. A small spark, or trickery of the lighting in the dim lit shack. He had definitely noticed something though.

Kohaku seemed a bit surprised at Ameki’s quip. He wasn’t dealing with naive villagers that would listen to his beck and call while dealing with demons. He was addressing a princess. One that was finally finding her authoritative nature it seemed. Her normally innocent and shy nature had been replaced by one of a determined woman. Sesshomaru found himself pleased by the outcome. Curious as to what had brought on the change more than anything.

Sesshomaru learned all that he could from Ameki that night. It was a drawn out conversation that took many turns in new discovery. Sesshomaru had been most shocked when Ameki had explained the scene she had witnessed through Yakunan’s eyes. The small mortal girl that Sesshomaru had carried from the land of the dead. Sesshomaru wondered if she was aware that the small child she had seen had been her mother. Surely Ameki must have put the pieces together, but she didn’t voice it if she had. Her vivid details had indeed shed light on Yakunan’s grudge toward Sesshomaru. Sesshomaru had interrupted Yakunan’s rite of passage, causing banishment among his family, forcing Yakunan’s hand.

Something had caused Sesshomaru concern though. Ameki’s telling of the events after Yakunan had sent her to the afterlife. The mysterious white haired woman. The white dragon. Sesshomaru was already putting things into perspective. He liked to stay three steps ahead, because three steps forward and two steps back is still one step forward. The new white hair that had the strange scent. Somehow that was connected to Ameki’s experience. He was almost certain. Ameki had mentioned that the woman had placed a kiss on her hand. In the exact spot where a new mark appeared each day, each number one less than the day before. She had spoken of something laying dormant, and after it was broken the battle would begin.

Sesshomaru wanted all things to be laid out before him. He wanted to expect anything that could or would happen, but in reality. He was confused. He hated being confused. He hated even more that he couldn’t prepare every way possible to protect the woman that sat across from him.