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Five Hundred Years Of Waiting

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"I could not help it: the restlessness was in my nature; it agitated me to pain sometimes." ~ Jane Eyre

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Kikyo knew she was going to die at a very young age.

How could anyone continue to live with such foresight?

Well...

She just did it as if it were an extension of her training. Kikyo lived her life effortlessly until the very end. It was the hardest secret to keep and the most difficult kind of meal to eat alone because she had no one to share it with. She knew no one with a heart nor stomach strong enough to endure the rumination of her plight.

"Lady Kikyo, why don't you ever smile?" Asuka asks her—which is an unexpected question from a shikigami. Kikyo inwardly scolds herself for thinking so cruelly. Of course, it's only natural when you spend an endless amount of time with anyone to ask inappropriate questions. Kocho looks up at her starry-eyed, she too waiting to be freed of her burdensome curiosity.

"Because..." Kikyo tucks a strand of hair behind an ear, thinks deeply for a reason. Searching and searching the dark caves of her memory, but settles with, albeit rather dryly,"There is absolutely nothing to smile about."

Misfortune remains the only persistent lover in Kikyo's life (her many lives). Sorrow lowers her lids and disdain dries her tongue.

Her servants are well mannered enough to conceal their disappointment. Kocho and Asuka look at each other, straight lipped, and nod.

Thunder crackles the gray sky. They wait for the downpour of rain for some time but it refuses to come. Like tree frogs, they squat under the shadeless leaves. Taking heed of the coming storm's bluff. The wind combs through the western lands, hurrying the thick clouds north.

Within the fierce current of air, Kikyo catches a sudden spike of energy. The grass in the west is tall but it isn't tall enough to hide prey. A demon had licked up her distinct stench. She could sense them, at a surprisingly eased pace nearing her.

Unfortunately, a child who can prophesy their own death is no servant to fear. Asuka and Kocho sense the aura too but they only show mild contempt. As if it were a floating displeasurable smell.

The demon stops ten feet away shouldering an aura stronger than the space that held them together. To a weak person, his presence has the potential to scramble the mind. For a long while, no one feels the need to speak, but the silence is pregnant with curiosity.

His footsteps close the gap. Their spiritual strengths meet to form a transparent wall. He lifts his hand, pinching a strand of hair from his face. Kikyo has only ever laid eyes on Sesshomaru once, but she knows him through the untainted mass of his power. It seeps from his skin like sweat.

She wonders if he remembers her.

"Does the smell of my corpse entice you?" Kikyo simply asks of him.

Sesshomaru flares his nostrils and narrows his eyes creature-like.

"I've smelled better deaths. However, none this pitiful." He speaks from the tomb of his chest.

"Pity? If you came all this way to belittle me, then you wasted a journey. Your pity will not inspire nor caution me." Kikyo says with a semblance of what all beautiful women should have. Confidence in tomorrow, her past, and the sun setting in the west.

And she knows Sesshomaru through a collection of shared memories. Kikyo's second curse is the burden of remembering the minute details of her experiences. She has hoped that she could get by without the past nipping at her ankles but the moon lulls beneath Sesshomaru's bangs causing her to feel a thousand heartbreaks simultaneously. It is childish to wish for an escape. The similar glitter in his eyes reminds her that. Kikyo catches herself, gathering her thoughts so that the evil wind could not break and scatter them.

"Well?" She urges him.

Sesshomaru's expression matches hers. He takes a deep breath, keeping his lips slightly parted. Kikyo counts to ten between his silence. Then eleven becomes twelve and thirteen...

"Your assistance." He finally speaks.

"Pray tell?"

The way he experiences walking through a field of flowers, death lingers around Kikyo like a residual haunting. So much so, Sesshomaru is sure that the form her spiritual energy takes is not fashioned around her as a shield but it is the shape of an otherworldly being seeking miserable company.

"A sick child." He reaches deep into his gut, breaking some ribs along the way with the cruelty of his pride.

"A sick child for you to eat?"

But out of all the many sensible human women it could have been...Sesshomaru feels cheated and disgusted. Death preserved with the sprinkled remains of sweet depravity. He doesn't take kindly to the broken shards of her words nor how boldly she presents herself. Imagining the many ways he could break off her limbs with the hunger of a starving artist, Sesshomaru curls his fingers into a fist.

No. He can't spread her body parts throughout the West. Rin is sick.

"Human children are a poor man's delicacy...Not of my ilk."

Rin grew on him like vines of ivy. It didn't matter how many times he cut and ripped at her potential, she would only inspire more beautiful metaphors for him to fix onto her.

"I would not have guessed..." Kikyo licks her dry lips and Sesshomaru cringes. His skin crawls with a hotness that could rival the sun. She is antagonizing him as if she knows his secret. And like a mad man, he internally accuses her of reading his mind and stealing his fears for her to devour. He sees himself wrapping his hand around her neck and squeezing until all the flies and vermin flutter from her mouth.

"I don't mind." She spits at the climax of his imagination. All the flies and putrid death fell from her lips and he released her lifeless body back into his daydreams.

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"You're full of terrible ideas, Kikyo."

She had reserved a special vanity for Inuyasha that liked the way he balanced her name against his teeth, at the middle of his tongue. It always made her skin feel pretty.

"Kikyo..." Inuyasha bellowed down into the shadows of the well as she scaled the cool walls with her boney fingers, brushing against the odd flowers that coursed like veins up the walls of dirt. Pure white petals that didn't resemble anything familiar.

"I'm not coming down to get you." He protested once more. Kikyo pursed her lips to reprimand him, but a ghost crawled over her. Slipping down her shoulders as she brought her nose to the heart of a flower. A supernal tingle as she inhaled. A swarm of butterflies erupting in her stomach as she exhaled.

Inuyasha said her name for the tenth time and she sneezed.

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Time and place sometimes work together in harmony. It felt right that day. Inuyasha helped her forget that she was born with an evil perceptiveness. The desperation of his voice had sewn together their bad luck. Hands, feet, torso, and a broken neck. They were very doomed and she allowed him to 'make' her forget.

It was the last time she had seen flowers like that and it was also the last time she recalls fully being enraptured with Inuyasha.

Staring up into the trees and sky, Inuyasha's eyes reflected the sunlight that spilled over him and into the well. The light barely touched her forehead. The damp confines of the well cooled her body, neck down.

Sesshomaru is similar to Inuyasha but simultaneously opposite. His voice doesn't echo the same way and his eyes are harder to look into. She imagines he is waiting to catch her in a lie.

He looms over Kikyo like an oppressive ghost as she smoothens Rin's sweaty curls of hair. His expression is the beginning of a story with no discernable ending. Rin's complexion can be compared to a clouded sunset. The unsteady rise and fall of her chest like a spring chill cutting through valley. Kikyo encloses Rin's tiny fingers inside of her hands. She has a slight fever, not once twitching in her sleep. She only shivers when her warm skin rivals Kikyo's icy touch.

"She just needs rest. Children aren't made for the abuse of the weather." Kikyo states bluntly. Sesshomaru holds his breath before releasing a short 'hm'.

"The seasons are changing. That's why she's sick. Dragging her around like a pet animal hasn't done her any favors." Kikyo looks at him over her shoulders. She tugs at the pitiful rag of a blanket wrapped around Rin's body. The rag isn't long enough to reach her knees. Kikyo scoffs.

"What a nuisance!" Jaken rasps. A-un sniffs at Kikyo's hair and Jaken swats at him with his staff. The little green man mutters something about 'catching fleas'.

"She's not a pet." Sesshomaru manages not to growl.

"Then what is she to you, Lord Sesshomaru?"

A-un sneezes against Kikyo's cheek. Snotty strands of hair stick to her face.

"That is none of your business, woman." Sesshomaru offers her no gratitude.

She stands up shakily. Wiping away the snot and dragon spit with her sleeve. She isn't the least bit thrown off by the stickiness of her face. The cold timbre of his voice throws her off balance. Sesshomaru towers over her like a massif but she dims the sympathy in her eyes. Stands straight like she too could sprout two heads taller to oppose him. Lightening slithers across the sky. A ground shaking thunder gallops behind it.

Sesshomaru is mildly surprised by her sudden shift in posture. He acknowledges that she is challenging him again. The right corner of his mouth twitches.

For Rin. If he cuts her down to cold chunks of meat, Rin won't get any better. Mortal women have consistently been the biggest threats to his legacy.

"Whatever she is to you, I couldn't care less, but if you wish for a swift recovery, I need specific herbs." It seems that favors are all Kikyo has ever done for people. She is starting to resent people and regret her ability of feeling remorse just to spite herself. Remorse got her killed. Remorse broke her heart and she wished it's affair with her misfortune would end.

Sesshomaru waits for her to say more. A-un makes a beastly noise of complaint at his master.

"If she dies, Mi'lord, think of it as an emancipation!" Jaken clicks his tongue.

"Come with me." Kikyo demands of Sesshomaru, though she chokes a little. Demons truly repulsed her. She cuts past Sesshomaru with a vicious flip of her hair.

Sesshomaru licks his fangs. The man in him is wildly incensed and begins to cruelly insult her but he swallows the daggers back down his throat. He hesitates and looks down at a pitiful Rin. Dirt is smeared down the bridge of her nose. Sesshomaru likes to think that all of his decisions are tactful. Yielding to Inuyasha's failed conquest is humiliating—beneath him like all the graves of his victims.

But he sincerely does not want Rin to suffer. For the first time, ever in his life—at least that he can remember, Sesshomaru can't find another solution to his dilemma. Cursing himself into a bottomless pit, he turns to follow Kikyo who had begun her search without him.

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Sesshomaru watches Kikyo scramble through the foliage attentively. She does not mention what exactly she searches for and he is too haughty to ask. They roam for a very long time. If the sun were out, he figures it won't be long before sunset. The bright gray fades to the sooty color of smoke. The tip of his nose catches a single raindrop before it starts to lightly mist.

"I find it quite hilarious, Sesshomaru…" Kikyo's voice warbles as she climbs down into a depression of brambles. He doesn't follow her into the mud. Sesshomaru stands at the top of soil, beaming down at her as she kneels into a patch of wet leafage.

He wonders what she finds so amusing about crawling around in the soggy dirt.

"I know your own lands better than you." Kikyo digs into the soil, harvesting ginger root. She holds up the plant victoriously in his direction. The warm breeze cuts around her figure, washing loose strands of wet hair across her face. For a very brief moment, he captures her in the right light, discovers the allure that had imprisoned his brother. Her cold aloofness makes her pretty. Kikyo isn't the prettiest woman he's ever set his eyes upon. At best, she is three steps above mediocre. Kikyo has lines under her eyes like an old woman who has lived for too long. Her young woman features are merely a symptom of never having the privilege to rot like an authentic mortal.

"Is that so?" His voice croaks as he laps up the strange mix of her scent and the rain.

"Clearly." She stands on her feet. Mud soaks into the fabric of her hakama. "Are you aware of the healing capabilities of ginger?"

Sesshomaru doesn't answer. Kikyo doesn't need him to.

"That's what I thought. Had you known, you wouldn't have needed me nor anyone really. Your quality nose would've led you here."

"You're patronizing me." He inhales sharply.

"I don't believe I am. I'm just curious—why me when you could've found any old village woman to help you?" She makes a sound like laughter, but she doesn't smile.

Sesshomaru thinks about how he wants to answer her. There is a reason. Sesshomaru doesn't make uncalculated moves. The misty rain collects like morning dew on his lashes.

"If you were an old village hag, would you help me?" He asks.

"Absolutely not. I only bothered this time because a human child is involved."

"Exactly." It had been coincidence that they happened to be within close proximity of each other. He did not gamble on the intense aura belonging specifically Kikyo. Sesshomaru just knew that her energy was potent and uncorrupted, so he acted upon instinct.

"Can I be completely transparent with you?" Kikyo begins to climb from the trench, but she slides in the mud. Sesshomaru continues to watch her struggle like a drowning beetle.

"I thought I was going to have to kill you." She gazes up at him with an expressionless face. Her eyes two dark holes in her head. There is no hint of malice in her voice. It is stated very plainly. A simple exchange of information.

Sesshomaru grabs her by the wrist with quick precision, yanking her up from the hole but his force also causes her to collapse brutally against the wet surface.

"It doesn't hurt to think highly of yourself. It's only damaging when stupid people act on their ambitions. Snakes are ambitious but sometimes they do swallow things they cannot easily digest." He isn't the least bit offended.

Kikyo remains on her knees. Startled but not shocked. She doesn't know why she expects anything that resembles generosity from a demon. She loosens her grip on the ginger roots and thumps them at his feet before standing.

Unmoved, he bends down to retrieve them, dirtying his hands.

"Boil it and brew her some tea." She doesn't meet his eyes again. "But first get her out of this awful weather. She will die eventually if you don't."

After that, Sesshomaru nods his head. When there is no more to say, he takes off in the opposite direction at a speed that causes the trees to bow and the bushes to whistle. He leaves Kikyo without any gratitude.

And that is the end of it. She considers going back and killing him simply for offending her.

But those kinds of feelings don't inspire her anymore. Like with most things, she is left underwhelmed. Kikyo stands there, under the misty downpour, contemplating the wasted day.

Life will go on completely indifferent to her good deed.

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A close death changes the way food tastes. Sesshomaru loved his father the best way he understood. He showed his affection through counter productive arguments and refusing to bury his pets alone when they died. They always died too soon—his father 'suggested' that his lifespan simply moves too slow, even for a turtle spirit.

Sesshomaru has killed many and buried his agony along with their bodies. The act of killing itself isn't gratifying. It's just something that he can do and not be forced to stand trial for it. He didn't wake up one night powerful. It took many beatings from his father—whom he never got the chance to surpass.

Before the old demon died, he swore that his son continued to lose to him on purpose. Sesshomaru insisted that this was never the case. Days of not eating, days of mourning brought Sesshomaru to the realization that his old man was right. He never desired beating his father.

And the awful truth that a human woman was capable of doing so made him hate any and everything soft. Tenderness is sinister and he can not be convinced otherwise— despite the fact that he walks as a hypocrite and continues to collect 'pets' like the little boy who liked to watch them grow old and die.

Inu no Taisho left Sesshomaru an inheritance of misery. A crumbling estate that the forest slowly eats whole. The walls that fall apart are broken pieces of Sesshomaru's heart that he is too stubborn to clean up after. He hates the existence of Inu no Taisho's house but is, unfortunately, still too craven to burn the stretch of land to the ground.

Preserving and destroying are too difficult choices. Apathy can save him one hundred more years of time.

As Sesshomaru stares out of a hole in a wall, eyes following the wild overgrowth of spring pouring into a lake-like puddle, he feels a nip at his neck.

"Spring...has treated you well, Sesshomaru!" Myoga gargles his words with a mouthful of Sesshomaru's blood.

"And you somehow managed to survive the winter I see." Sesshomaru plucks Myoga from his neck with enough force of his nails to cause the flea to choke and spit up flecks of blood.

"I've got two hundred more years left in me! I intend to outlive you!" Myoga wheezes.

"What do you want?"

Myoga is always the bearer of unwanted news. It's an unspoken agreement between them. If it isn't about the less than desirable politics of his father's peers, then it is gossip surrounding Inuyasha—which peaks Sesshomaru's interest more than he is willing to admit. He will never vocalize his curiosity. Amazingly, Myoga knows the heir of the West better than his own mother. Sesshomaru will never have to ask.

"For you not to squish me!" Myoga flails his tiny arms around.

Sesshomaru heaves a sigh, saliva bubbling at the back of his throat.

"Sesshomaru, you needn't ask...you already know what it is I've come to tell you."

"I will burn this place down myself before I hand it over!" Fighting is second to breathing for Sesshomaru, but he has trouble rationalizing murdering the very men who helped shape his values. It just doesn't sit well in his stomach.

"My honest opinion is that they aren't stupid enough to wage a war with you about it." Myoga sniffles.

"It's not about being stupid. They pity me. For made up reasons of course." Well, they act as if they pity him. Sesshomaru might be stuck in his ways but he has always been a practitioner of common sense.

"Lord Sesshomaru, I speak to you as an equal and not as an old man who has contributed to your upbringing. What is it that you wish to do? What do you expect out of all of this?" Myoga's hands are little but his gesturing is broad. He calls forth attention to the warmth emphasizing the mildewy stink of the estate. A pair of mating dragonflies hum past Sesshomaru's right ear, fluttering out of the dilapidated window growing a tongue of wild flowers and weeds.

The natural silence depresses the flea. He watches the changing emotions in Sesshomaru's eyes. Staring at Inu no Taisho's ghost, Myoga recollects Sesshomaru's birth, boyhood, and the first time he ever adored a living thing. A small turtle he had managed not to squish while sparring.

Very few people are capable of causing Sesshomaru to be speechless. People who know him at his most intimate.

"I do not know." Sesshomaru forgets to conceal his bitterness. His voice is thickened with pain. The consistency of his tone does not crack, but each syllable drags up his throat, cutting the soft path of pink flesh as the words make their way to his wet tongue. "I truly don't, Myoga."

"It's time to figure it out or you're better off setting this place on fire with you and everything you love inside of it." Myoga has no reason to lead him astray and has yet to abandon him.

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Chapter Text

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A good man dies differently than a bad man. Evil lives a long fruitful life when it is nurtured. Kikyo frowns, thinking bitterly that being a cruel person would've given her a much more rewarding life, but as she observes a tired looking old man tugging a wagon filled with fish, his dirty-faced grandson at his heels, she understands that goodness made up her bones. It wasn't taught to her. She grew into a young woman and goodness gave her the height, gait, and smile of fragility.

Though Kikyo is not vain, she is very aware that women like her aren't born at the beginning of every moon cycle. Unfortunately, history has eaten her up, spat her back out, and again, like she was born to do, Kikyo complies with a rage so quiet, bugs do not buzz about her head.

Asuka and Kocho stand at each of her sides, also watching the villagers weave and wheel about.

"Why here?" Kocho mutters.

"I had a hunch." Kikyo starts down the puddle ridden path.

"Your hunches are never wrong, Lady Kikyo." Asuka speaks up, but history would disagree. Kikyo's terrible murder is the cause of her precognition about things. It's always a feeling. Never a solid thought.

This village surrounds the biggest castle Kikyo has ever laid eyes upon. It stands at an oppressive height, towers looming over the ramshackle modesty of normal men. Good men who will die sooner than the mortal Lord governing the land.

A ruckus starts behind them. Like Kikyo, Kocho and Asuka are not easily shaken by surprises. They welcome neutral chaos every now and then. The villagers halt their bartering and gossip, clearing the way for a company of bear demons clad in glistening black armor. The hoard is small in comparison to their large leader, whose costume is more ornate. Kikyo has never seen so much gold in her life on one body. The leader's teeth is so large, his mouth is incapable of closing. Saliva drips from his fangs like drops of rain leftover from a storm. The humans lower their heads as though this is a common occurrence.

The vibrations of their thunderous footsteps shoot up Kiyo's calves. As they inch closer, the sensation climbs from her calves into her ribcage. There are worse things to be afraid of—if Kikyo still possessed the ability to feel fear like she used to, she might've grimaced. Instead she makes direct eye contact with the leader. The ugly parade carries on into the direction of the castle gates. Their eyes remain locked until he can no longer keep his head turned in their direction. Asuka and Kocho are of the same opinion when it comes to situations like this. The three of them know darkness.

And when you understand just how dark the world is, hardships cease to be obstacles.

"I wonder how long they plan to squat here." Kocho mumbles.

"Hopefully not too long. I wanted to stay here for a while." Kikyo is a threat to all demons, even to the most benevolent. Crossing paths with demons is never simple.

"If only we could be about our own business..." Kocho lightly shakes her head.

"We are about our own business." Asuka reminds her.

Kikyo stops watching their armored backs and observes the colorless expressions of the villagers. The goings on of people who rule is not her business but she can't help but feel like something is fundamentally wrong with this place. It has been wrong long before she came...

She makes up her mind.

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You're never supposed to forget where you come from. The beginnings of you cannot be easily discarded. One cannot pick where he starts, but the journey is always your own doing.

Ignoring Jaken's criticisms of Toran, Sesshomaru scratches the tip of his nose. She also pays the little green man no mind as they float from the sky into Lord Rokujou's garden. Sesshomaru has always hated spring. He can only describe it as inhaling the scent of 'too much' life. No one has ever been able to make heads nor tails of what he means by this—it's just a feeling he has.

"Winter eroded this place with its indifference." Toran says to Sesshomaru when they land. The decorated wooden columns of the pavilion appear rotten in some places.

"I wish the entire place had sunk in the snow." Sesshomaru retorts.

"Be glad it hadn't. It will greatly affect you the day it does fall apart." Like Myoga, Toran doesn't lie to him.

"My mind still has not changed, Toran." Sesshomaru hates posturing and despises men who do nothing but talk. She gives him a glassy-eyed look, like she also has breathed in too much of the spring air and wants to cry for it.

"One day, Sesshomaru, your opinion will be smaller than a grain of sand." She wipes at her watery eyes.

"Do you not have faith in Lord Sesshomaru!" Jaken balks on his own behalf. Sesshomaru knows that is not what she means. He pinches at a coil of his hair and folds it behind his ear, his expression unchanging. Cold and unflappable.

Toran does not dignify Jaken with a response. The art of persuasion is not a skill Sesshomaru has ever bothered to perfect. Weak men talked a lot and that is how he has rationalized rejecting almost every invitation to meet with his father's enemies. The amount of time they spend vocalizing their disagreements, that is time that could be put to use by destroying an entire lineage in one night and that would better get his point across than bluffing.

They never saved him the trouble—why should he? Sesshomaru frowns at his thoughts.

"I think you're the most capable person that I know and if you were a bit more ambitious, you could have..." Toran gestures with her hands at the overgrowth of flowers.

Silently, Sesshomaru simply concludes that there are better things that he could be doing with his time. He just wishes that everyone accepted that he only desires to eternally be unbothered.

They are interrupted by a human servant girl eager to please them. Sesshomaru understands her reasoning but isn't any less irritated. She urges them inside of a shadowy hallway. Slits of sunlight pock mark the wooden floor.

"Who would've thought I'd be helping you of all people." Toran's laughs emptily to herself. As the servant girl walks ahead, horrified by a demanding Jaken, Toran looks at Sesshomaru like she is searching for answers. He does not flinch away from the sentiment. His vision hooked and sunk on Jaken's shadow. The past is the past. Perhaps Rin has a lot to do with his newly discovered patience. He has yet to decide if he likes having the virtue.

"You don't owe me anything." It doesn't hurt too much to reciprocate her kindness. Toran nods her head, disagreeing with him inwardly.

They don't agree on very much. Sesshomaru thinks he is very ambitious.

"Lord Sesshomaru!" Tsutsuiji's voice rolls down the shadowy hall. He drags his weight with the click and crack of his talons, orb-like eyes swallowing the little light as he crosses the bright spots along the floor.

"And Lady Toran..." The owl demon says as if she is an after thought. "Let us hope another catastrophe does not fall upon us again this time."

The old owl speaks of the trial Sesshomaru had to stand after his failed war attempt. It was the last time Sesshomaru had participated in politics.

"If so, it won't be any fault of ours." Toran speaks.

"Yes, but trouble has always followed our Sesshomaru like a shadow—since he was a boy." Tsutsuji's informality offends Sesshomaru.

"Our implies ownership and you're not my father." Sesshomaru doesn't belong to anyone. Not even his mother's womb.

"I'm not your enemy, Sesshomaru." Tsutsuji sighs.

Sesshomaru presses his tongue against the roof of his mouth. For a moment, he measures how tired he is of being 'talked to'. What is there to gain from this interaction? If it is guilt, Sesshomaru is incapable more so than unwilling. If it is wisdom he is supposed to absorb, well, he has centuries of errors that have made him. Tsutsuji did succeed at one thing—Sesshomaru's anger escapes the cave in his chest, freeing up space for his heart to beat too freely. It thumps a violent ruckus of freedom.

"Anyone who hasn't shed blood on my behalf is an enemy." Sesshomaru's tone is a low growl. With his only hand, he makes a fist, claws piercing his skin hard enough to cause blood. The silence that follows after his grave statement could petrify a ghost—the already old owl ages a few more hundred years. His gibbous eyes sink into his skull.

Sesshomaru might be the heir to his father's bad luck, but he did not inherit Inu no Taisho's charm and mesmerism.

Tsutsuji sheds a few feathers.

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Kikyo can't remember her childhood. She spent much of it preparing to be the great woman forgotten by history. All of her achievements are pebbles at the bottom of a deep lake. If people don't remember, were they ever really achievements in the first place? She doesn't lie to herself—it is infuriating being reduced to a woman with a man-destroying grudge.

She had sent Asuka and Kocho to search for people in need of good fortune. It is the least she can do to make up for eating the souls of the dead.

As she waits, watching a group of children chasing each other, a cloud swallows the sun and throws a shadow onto the ground. It is useless to daydream about the days of her youth, but she desires at her own expense, to the point where she stops trying to recall real moments and begins to forge fake ones.

Among the playing children, one child sits sullenly in the mud under a tree. Kikyo immediately recognizes the little girl. The sallow droop of the child's face is what inspires Kikyo to approach her. So Sesshomaru hadn't allowed her to die in her sleep—she looks spiritless as she observes the kids enjoying themselves around her.

"So you can see me?" She says to an approaching Kikyo.

"Of course I can..." Kikyo doesn't hide how puzzling the statement is. The child doesn't bother to look at her. She continues to watch the children stomp through the puddles.

"That makes me feel better." She nods her head slowly.

"Why wouldn't I be able to see you?" Kikyo grimaces.

"They've ignored me all morning. So I thought I had died and became a ghost."

What a morbid way for a child to think. Kikyo wrinkles her nose. It makes her speechless. There is nothing an adult can say to a seemingly hopeless child. She tries to recall her name—Rin? Yes, she believes so. That's what the tiny green man called her.

"You're just a stranger to them is all, Rin." Kikyo sits beside her in the mud.

Rin gives Kikyo a somber doe-eyed look, shrugging. She doesn't say so but it gave her a better perspective.

"Once you learn that you are not entitled to people's kindness, things like this will cease to disappoint you." Kikyo reassures her.

Rin's shoulders sag.

"Where is your master? Did he leave you to your own devices?" Kikyo scowls.

"Lord Sesshomaru isn't my master."

"Lords are masters. What is he the master of?"

Before answering, Rin chews her bottom lip, contemplating the right answer.

"He is strong. That makes him the master of strength." Rin nods her head confidently.

"Is that so?" Kikyo's smile sits at one side of her face.

"I believe so."

"Where is he now?"

"Inside that big castle." Rin points to tallest tower.

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Lord Rokujou is an ugly man. His wealth had been acquired through cheating. No human lord wishes to conduct business with him for he is miserly and ill with greed. He did not inherit the castle. The great bear demon Gorou had given it to him as a reward for doing what he does best. Lying.

"How is your health, Lord Sesshomaru?" He coughs into his teacup. Sprinkles of spit wetting the space around his mouth. Sesshomaru thinks little of demons who exploit the foolishness of power hungry humans. Gorou might be partial to Rokujou's ruthlessness, but nothing good comes from a man who cuts at the feet of his peers.

At Sesshomaru's arrival, the room deadens. Like a cool-breeze, he assaults their senses with his unsparing hostility. Potent enough to cause their flesh to horripilate. Tsutsuji sits in a puddle of feathers and lowers his head.

"Clearly, my health is in good standing—much to your dismay I suppose." Sesshomaru is incapable of politeness.

"And why would you say such a thing! Your good health is of just as much importance as the rest of them!" Rokujou says with consternation.

"You're feckless, Lord Sesshomaru. It is in our best interest to worry about you!" Gorou speaks with the kind of confidence only gold can buy. The blood and skin under his claws, the aftermath of rape and jealousy.

People have a tendency to project their own insecurities within Sesshomaru's silence. They expect him to answer cordially or, preferably, violent to make a case for a war against him. By no means is he feckless. If he were, he would give them one of the reactions that they desire.

"How dare you speak so brazenly to his lordship!" Jaken reproaches the demon thrice his size.

Gorou digs his claws into the table, the tea cups lightly shaking and spilling over. Sesshomaru can taste Gorou's directed fury. Their fathers were former friends, but during their childhood, neither could kindle the same kind of fire for each other. Sesshomaru vividly remembers Gorou's father, Onikuma, spitting at his feet the day after Inu No Taisho's death. He recalls the time of day. The season. The specific smell of the flowers. The very direction in which the wind floated. Sesshomaru dangerously ventures into the recess of his mind. He was told that his father's life was unworthy of a ceremonial celebration.

"Lie with dogs and you will get up with fleas."

Oh yes. He remembers every bit of this humiliation because he agreed with them for the most part. His father was stupid. It was quite the realization then. Now that he is much older he wonders why the statement ever surprised him. Gorou is lucky that Sesshomaru does not possess the same animosity he had years ago.

"It must take one to know one, Gorou." Toran speaks blithely.

Aside from Toran and Jaken, Sesshomaru is surrounded by foul smelling strangers as far as he is concerned.

"Are we not adults here?" Lady Bunko, the full-cheeked deer demon, pats Gorou's beastly paw with a tiny hand. "We did not gather to sling mud at each other."

"I concur! Please have a seat." Rokujou excitedly agrees. Jaken and Toran comply with his friendly gesturing. Sesshomaru does not sit, not immediately.

"Sesshomaru." Bunko is young in the face but older than him. She manages to break his eye contact with Gorou. The room full of demons crane their necks with anticipation. If looks were capable of killing, the floor would be covered in dead bodies. Sesshomaru sits between Toran and Jaken reluctantly, giving up what little security he has.

"At this point, Sesshomaru, we are all beginning to the question the nature of your loyalty. Are you self serving? Spiteful? We cannot tell." Rokujou forgets that he is the soft-bodied human in the flock.

"I'm not too keen on the idea of taking orders from a spindly human." Sesshomaru doesn't blink. He has half a mind to spit back 'well clearly you don't know the weight of what you're asking for.'

"What good has it done sitting on all that ungoverned land? You do yourself a great disservice..." Bunko is the only one who speaks with a shred of empathy, but it's still salt in an unhealed wound.

"I simply see no good reason to give up what is mine for nothing." Sesshomaru's voice doesn't break, but he is deeply compelled to lose all traces of his coolness.

"And he won't!" Jaken barks.

"You won't be receiving nothing in return," Gorou persisted with venom. "You will be compensated with a position in my house. You're still a sufficient general. Even while being crippled."

Sesshomaru doesn't admit to a lot of things. Not even too himself but he is not in denial about his centuries long bereavement. The right corner of his mouth twitches.

"My answer is no today. It will be no tomorrow and no until the day I die..." Sesshomaru's throat rattles. With that being said, Gorou lifts himself to his feet, wheezing like his soul is too enormous to fit inside of his big body. He draws his sword and looks unto Sesshomaru with prideful glee.

Their rapid heartbeats pose the question and the answer is Gorou's salivating tongue. Such is the harmony of nature, demons of all creeds govern themselves as a functioning whole. Life begins and ends with a heartbeat. A dead body cannot exist without a murderer and the weak answer to their predators.

"Then you will die today!" Gorou spits foolishly. Similar to the way an artistsconstructs a masterpiece, every breath drawn, withheld, is calculated. Bunko's heart dips into her stomach. By design, Gorou claws his way across the table in an effort to answer their centuries old tension. Sesshomaru's body language sets the tide, in one sweeping motion he manages to force a petrified Jaken out of his way with the flat slide of Tokijin. The table cracks in half with Gorou's second lunge of massive weight. The tiny compact room swirls into melodic turmoil, akin to a buzzing hive.

Sufficient general...Seshomaru thinks to himself incredulously. He sees the beginning and the end glistening down his sword. Gorou has poor timing poor tact, and poor stance.

Sesshomaru whips his sword deep in Gorou's gut before he reaches the opposite side of the table. He digs the blade in and out until the bear's stomach is open. Blood pours out of him like a tea kettle and soaks Sesshomaru's arm. Into the toppled tea cups, athwart the table. Gorou's body goes limp as he spills to the side. Blood runs like a river onto the floor. Toran rises and belts a watery 'Why'. This angers Sesshomaru more than the blatant disrespect he's received the moment he stepped foot into this damned castle.

Blood curls around Toran's feet. With a glare of indifferent disgust, she beams down at Gorou pitifully.

No one knows what to say. Rokujou is only a man. He scurries behind Gorou's heavily armed men. Tsutsuji looks unfazed. He had more or less predicted this situation. Sesshomaru's spurts of violence are not unprecedented. Why anyone had expected otherwise is pure ignorance.

Like his father, Sesshomaru is stubborn.

"Sesshomaru...foolishness is truly your worst crime." Bunko shakes her head disbelievingly.

"Forgive me, Lord Sesshomaru, for speaking out of turn but I don't think you can afford the blood of a dead lord next to your name." Toran's most admirable trait is her honesty.

Sesshomaru does not acknowledge anyone. Grinding his teeth, he meditates with his anger, staring into Gorou's large dead eyes.

"That being said, he did, in fact, have it coming..." Toran trails into a silence.

He muddles over his thoughts for a moment, shifting his posture straight and whipping the blood off his sword. Specks of red splattering across Jaken's horrified face. Putting Tokijin back in place at his hip, he unsheathes Tenseiga. Contemplates all the consequences of dragging Gorou's lifeless body into the mountains and leaving his innards exposed for birds.

Sesshomaru rarely acts on his emotions. He knows better than that. He stomachs all the wrong things, suppressing them with tight lips. He takes Tenseiga and retraces the fatal cut in Gorou's gut. Several moments go by before Gorou takes a dry gasp for air. A husky growl builds up in his chest as he stands in a puddle of his own blood and splinted wood. He scratches at his face, looking around in silent horror until his eyes meet Sesshomaru's.

Then he releases an uneven laugh that condemns Sesshomaru to a troubled future.

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Kocho and Asuka do not return for an abnormally long time. Kikyo doesn't worry. She isn't in a rush. Her energy is dim but she enjoys the respite. With Kikyo's hand on top of Rin's head, they wander in circles around the village. It is alarming how quickly she gained Rin's trust, but better her than anyone else. Surviving isn't easy without a proper foundation of safety. Rin has gone whichever way the wind has blown for the majority of her short life. She has no sense of time or danger.

The gray sky slowly darkens as the day comes to an end. No Sesshomaru in sight. She wonders if he had purposely abandoned Rin. To alleviate the anger the thought causes, she ruffles Rin's hair.

"Are you not hungry?" Kikyo looks down at her.

Rin nods her head sheepishly.

"Why haven't you said anything? A closed mouth doesn't get fed." Kikyo reprimands her.

They stop walking in the middle of the rushing crowd. The day had lazily come to an end.

"I don't know." Rin shrugs.

A sudden crash disturbs the lull of the evening. With the rest of the villagers, Kikyo and Rin lift their heads in the direction of the noise. Groups of men and women squirm out of what Kikyo supposes is a teahouse. The wood fractures as a man is thrown out of the tiny building. His body hits the ground with a lifeless thump.

A hefty bear demon steps through the wreckage with unmistakable dissatisfaction. Someone from the inside, a woman, pleads with him for a means of rectifying whatever discomfort they might've caused him.

Kikyo surmises that the sitting lord of the castle allows this kind of terrorism. The villagers go on about their day with their eyes downward.

"I hope you know that I mean nothing towards you when I say this, Rin. Sesshomaru is painfully careless and stupid for leaving you alone." Kikyo mutters, sizing up the bear demon. His armor gives the illusion that he is much bigger. Another bear demon drags a begging woman out of the teahouse by her scalp.

"He said it wasn't any safer inside the castle." Rin shows no signs of fear.

Barely a breath of a second, the second bear demon throws the woman on the ground and flattens her head with his large foot. Her skull pops like a crushed fruit. The air turns unpleasantly quiet. Some of the villagers stop in their tracks but most press on. The further they are away from the situation, the less likely they are of falling to the same fate.

Kikyo has always hated demons. She hated Inuyasha even as she loved him. It wasn't unconditional. There is no such thing as unconditional love. The wind sweeps down the from the east, carrying the oddness of her scent in the direction of the demons. If she had looked away, they would've thought nothing of it, but Kikyo stands frozen. Her hatred has the same potency of a disease. It infects the breeze.

The demons notice her pale vacant expression. She is the only person with her nose pointed a little too high. The second demon steps out of the puddle of red pulp and walks in Kikyo's direction. His companion follows.

"Do you smell that, brother?"

"Yes. Unlike anything I've ever smelled before!"

Their mouths remind her of wet caves. Waterfalls of saliva between their large teeth. Kikyo has seen worse. The first bear sweeps his arm at a terrified couple in his way.

Rin's stillness is equal to Kikyo's. Perhaps, she has seen much worse too.

"This is no human. Yet..." The second bear inhales Kikyo's ire poisoning the air. "She is no demon. Death. I smell death."

"A death spirit? Or a ghost?" His brother chimes.

"More or less a death spirit." Kikyo answers.

They are both delighted and hungry for what she tastes like. Rin isn't at the forefront of their thoughts.

"I've never eaten a spirit before?" The first bear towers over her. They'd tracked the woman's remains through the dirt.

"And you shall never eat one." Kikyo deadpans.

The second bear encloses his large hands around Kikyo's face. He lifts her from the ground so that he can get a better look at her face, a better smell.

"No this is no spirit, brother. This is too easy for a spirit. Especially a death spirit."

"I suppose you're right." The first bear shoves Rin into a merchant's wooden buckets full of vegetables.

The pressure of his hands around her jaws would've killed her if she still had the fragility of a human. He brings her closer to his face, sniffing her hair and dragging his tongue across her forehead.

Kikyo is patient like a spider. If only they knew the fate of every man who has touched her. Yes, they would revere her as a death spirit, coming to collect hell's debt.

As his spit trickles down the bridge of her nose, she waits for the opportune moment. It comes when he looks her directly in her fathomless eyes. He finds nothing. Kikyo lifts her hand, stabbing her finger in his eye. Piecing through it and releasing a torrent of energy like ribbons of lightning into his skull. He doesn't get the chance to scream before he dies. The magnitude of her power, coupled with her rage, implodes his body. Chunks of him flies in every which direction. His brother howls a guttural scream. Blood coats his fur.

Kikyo lands on her feet. The entirety of her frontside washed in his blood and bits of his flesh. She picks a thick wad of meat from her hair and flicks it onto the ground. The villagers are more scared of her than they are the demon who mourns loudly for his brother.

She looks down at Rin who gapes at her with confused fearfulness, blood soaking her kimono.

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Chapter Text

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The castle erupted into chaos upon the news of a massacre of high ranked soldiers in the village. They had all, save for Gorou, quickly shoved Sesshomaru's crime of great disrespect into the back of their minds. For now. You don't threaten a sitting lord in his own home, let alone assault his guests.

The havoc gave birth to three stories of what had transpired at sunset. According to several of the traumatized witnesses, a black bird swooped down from the sky and proceeded to peck out the eyes of the Lieutenant it attacked first, taking the shape of a beautiful naked woman, fully satisfied with her blood lust as she consumed their innards.

But the second tale is less poetic, more prophetic than the fantastical bird demon hungry for the guts of villains. An older woman swore that she watched the criminal manifest out of thin air, like a ghost, enraged by the misdeeds of the bear demons occupying their village. After ravaging their bodies to nothing but clumps of meat, she cursed them all for preserving such evil.

The last story, the most believable of them all, yet still clearly untrue, speaks of a woman full of great courage stepping from the crowd to challenge Gorou's soldiers. Through her compassion, she channelled an unnatural power, granted by the invisible spirits that mourned the years of loss since the infestation of bear demons. With that bright light of power, she struck the demons down to meet their judgment in the afterlife.

Sesshomaru knew it to be Kikyo. He felt her burst of energy. They all did. It had changed the air flowing through the castle. The way the air changes before lighting hits the ground. He is more curious as to how she hid the magnitude of her soul so well. Tenseiga pulsates faintly.

The 'woman in question' had been apprehended and did not put up a fight. She let the hairy beasts carry her straight to the castle. Yes, his crime had been swept away like dust. Not that he cared but perhaps the old owl was right. Trouble could be the cause for the shape of Sesshomaru's shadow.

"Sesshomaru, I've had no qualms being an ally to you, but I don't want it at the expense of my reputation." Toran interrupts the flow of his thoughts. Human and demon soldiers shuffle up and down the halls.

"You act as though I coerced you into muddying your reputation with my name. It is not my fault you did not heed the gossip—I'm infamous for my temper." Sesshomaru retorts unfeelingly. He had not moved from the wreckage of his attack. A trail of Gorou's footprints extend outside the door. "Is it my temper, Jaken? I was cordial for the most part."

"The most cordial, Milord. Too cordial perhaps." Jaken tuts.

"If you intend on keeping your lands free of molestation, then you need to understand that murdering a powerful man at a conclave is the wrong step in the direction of diplomacy." Toran grinds her teeth together. "What if you were incapable of resurrecting him?"

"Milord isn't an idiot! He would not have killed the fool if he knew that he could not revive him! Have you not heard of strategy? Its the art of persuasion." Jaken happily boasts.

Sesshomaru quirks a brow because he had not considered the slaughter strategic. Gorou had said enough and needed to be silenced, is all. It was that simple, but Sesshomaru allows Jaken to dote.

The potency of Kikyo's presence tingles the inside of his nose, sating an appetite he didn't quite know he had. It's a feeling similar to drinking water after having gone days without it.

Toran and Jaken continue to squabble about the important details. Sesshomaru follows Kikyo's scent into the dark hall. The castle thrums violently. Gorou can be heard screaming at Rokujou from another room.

"Sesshomaru." Bunko steps behind him. Sesshomaru continues to walk and doesn't slow his pace. She grabs at his loose sleeve, choking upon the realization that he only possessed one arm.

"You will stop and hear what I have to say!" Bunko balls his sleeve in her tiny fist.

"I will not." The only master Sesshomaru yields to is himself.

"Have you not taken the time to consider that some of us are on your side?" Bunko holds on to him as though her very life depends on it.

"If any of you were on my side, there would be nothing but consideration for my feelings." His father has been dead for a very long time. Arguing over his scraps is petty. It has nothing to do with what Sesshomaru 'does not have'. All this posturing has been nothing but an attempted gesture of power. As it has been for the past few decades.

"Consider for a moment, what you want from me? Can you articulate it?" Sesshomaru's steady breathing unnerves her.

Bunko opens and shuts her mouth like a fish on dry land. There is no nice way to ask someone to give up their homeland. If Sesshomaru wishes for the old estate to crumble, then it is simply what he wants and he should be allowed to make that decision.

"We cannot be lawless, Sesshomaru. There's an order regarding such matters. You can't just disrupt the foundations on which we govern ourselves. You lost a war that you started. Your reputation went up into flames as consequence and you must respect that." She doesn't quite yell but her voice carries.

"Then I'm removing myself from the likes of your society. If you wish to argue politics over my father's house then go to his grave and take it up with his bones." He stops suddenly and she crashes into his side. "Please let go of me. The smell of you makes me want to vomit."

Struck by his coldness, Bunko frees him of her grasp.

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Kikyo could not summon Kocho and Asuka. She'd given the last of her power to rage. It feels good to have let go of her inhibitions in such a way. The excitement hasn't worn off, but that's a good thing. She doesn't want to feel like a heavy corpse just yet. Festering in the weight of dried blood in her clothes, Kikyo slowly paces back and forth in her holding cell.

"A black bird, floated down from the darkening sky..." Sesshomaru's sudden appearance shakes the lanterns hanging on the walls, changing the shape of the firelight. The shadows shrink.

Kikyo glares back at him. Her eyes don't shine. Blood tangles her hair.

"If I were an impressionable moron, I too would believe you to be a vengeful manifestation of a weak man's suffering." He cracks an upsetting smile. Kikyo's eyes widen, not catching a glimmer of light. Some of the patches of dried blood crack on her dull-looking skin.

"What's it like to be forgotten, Kikyo?" It's so nice to hear her name spoken without heartbreak. If only it came from a better mouth—he says it with the dead-weight of sixty years long gone.

"Not too bad, I suppose. I'm so terrifying that men can only conceive me as a fable. Not as a mere woman, but something far more sinister." She doesn't blink.

"The humans gave you up so easily." Sesshomaru's deep voice fills the emptiness of the dungeon. "Stupid creatures they are and always have been. Do you still consider yourself one of them?"

One of them. Kikyo sees that look Inuyasha so often spoke of. Sesshomaru truly has the natural ability at murdering souls with only so much as a glance. He does it unknowingly.

"I consider my feelings, which are undoubtedly human." She is tragically human. Sesshomaru will never be privy to the many times she has tried her damned hardest not to be. Seeing Inuyasha with that girl had undone the hard work. So she has stopped trying, as fate will have it.

"Sentiment. I see. Doesn't seem fair though, committing yourself to fickle humans. Your loyalty is unreciprocated. They think you're a walking abomination. Worse than a demon. A curse." A black bird. Sesshomaru thinks her eyes look empty like a crow's would.

"Lord Sesshomaru, it is very charitable of you to care about the state of my conscience. I do hope my precarious circumstances have not stricken you with grief." Kikyo curls her fingers around the cold steel bars, squinting up at him. She smells horrible. Sesshomaru can't discern if it's the residual effects of being dead or the blood soaked in her hair and clothes.

"I'm amused." And somewhat thankful that her misfortune had derailed the judgment of his father's peers.

"You know what isn't amusing? Leaving a child unattended in a village corrupted by demon politics." Kikyo's voice darkens.

"Rin is fine." He states coolly.

"Are you so certain that it impairs your common sense?" Kikyo has no recollection of what happened after she was detained. Rage had consumed her.

"Unlike you, she knows her place and listens to me. She will be exactly where I left her." Sesshomaru of the West—the prince of unflappability.

"She's a child." She hisses at him.

"A loyal child. Perhaps, smarter than you. You don't know her nor what she's gone through. She's very resourceful. Minds her own business." Sesshomaru steps closer. Her dead silence delights him. Kikyo's face contorts with revulsion.

"Kikyo. Believe it or not, I'm here to pay up my debt to you."

"A debt? I didn't think you owed me anything." The deep resonance of pain changes the consistency of her voice.

Instead of responding to that, Sesshomaru encloses his long fingers around one of the thick bars and squeezes. The steel bends as he pulls back with little effort. It groans as it twists out of shape.

"No act of kindness goes unrewarded, right? That's what they say?" Sesshomaru half means it. Kikyo gapes at the warped steel. The opening is big enough for her petite frame. Sesshomaru waits. Kikyo's hardened face softens. More pale than menacing.

"Do you like being a prisoner?" He snorts.

"I do not." She speaks pointedly.

"Then go." And that finalizes the undertaking. Kikyo wiggles her little body though the twisted metal. Sesshomaru steps out of her way.

As she straightens herself to match his composure, Kikyo thinks that she is either the luckiest girl in the world or the unseen force at hand has a mean sense of humor. Sesshomaru's smile had long faded but she can see the ghost of a simple man in his face.

"Now you're an accomplice in my escape. What will you do?" She lowers her chin, avoiding his eyes. A lot of Inuyasha shapes the appealing parts of his exterior. Whom she still loves a great deal, despite the tainted feelings. She focuses on the way his hair splits around his pointy left ear.

"I'm going to burn this place down." He states nonchalantly.

"You told me that I was stupidly ambitious last time our paths crossed. Likewise?" Kikyo catches her self mid-smile. Her soul is playing tricks on her again.

Sesshomaru walks away, quickly but in no hurry. When your mind is made up there is no rush—Kikyo supposes.

"Good luck with your stupid ambition, Sesshomaru." Her voice floats down the damp walls.

In the blink of an eye, he is gone. If she could draw breath, he would've taken it with him.

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Kikyo knows his threat to be true when she encounters a mess of bloody appendages on her way out the dungeon. Sesshomaru showed no signs of distress from battle which meant that he'd dismembered the guards easily. He is a demon after all. Demons hurt people indiscriminately. If Sesshomaru sets the castle on fire, many innocent people will die, but so will a few bad people. It takes too much of her energy to exercise her empathy. He had cut down all of her obstacles and she should at the very least be thankful for that.

Being dead after all isn't so bad. Kikyo doesn't want people to suffer but her feelings about the process of dying are no longer bleak. It's the best release one can hope for.

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Sesshomaru makes no grand statement about his plan to Toran nor Jaken. He just suggests very plainly that they should leave. They'd argue themselves into drowsiness and did what he had ordered them to do.

The castle dwellers, demon leaders blame the evidence of his second crime on the 'black bird'. A trail of death flowed out the dungeon. Her scent soaking into the walls, as though her inclination towards death were contagious. Rokujou's castle is undone by madness before Sesshomaru sets a candle to the walls. Then he knocks down a sconce. The wood catches fire quickly.

Being burned alive is the worst way to die. It murders history with a swiftness and there is no recovery of ash and rubble.

Sesshomaru takes off into the sky, not looking back. He heads to the tree he'd left Rin beneath.

And like he had instructed, Rin waits for him with an anxious Jaken. She is covered in blood, but none of it belongs to her.

"We have overstayed our welcome. It is time for us to go home." Sesshomaru opens his palms, gesturing for Rin to take his hand. Jaken scurries to his side and clutches at his pants.

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From the village below, Kikyo watches the fire erode one side of the castle. The dark smoke blankets the moon. The villagers look on in awe. There is an air of relief amongst them, like they'd been waiting a long time for something terrible to happen the leaders who rule above them. None of the villagers notice the same 'black bird' floating around them. Kikyo wonders if she had stepped out of the fire as a ghost—Rin crosses her mind.

Kikyo finds herself wandering back towards the tree, her soul beckons her in its direction.

When she arrives, there's still the footprints of playing children in the mud. Waiting for her is Kocho and Asuka with glowing white orbs in their hands.

Sesshomaru's aura hangs around the tree like a thick fog. It makes her dizzy, how strong he is. She melts to her knees and the two shikigami come to her aid.

"It was like you were there one moment and gone. We could not find you, my lady." Kocho urges her to eat the soul cupped in her palm.

"Were you scared?" Kikyo tries to maintain her stoicism and fails. Her bones begin to shake as she reaches for the glowing cloud of someone's afterlife.

"No, my lady." Asuka waits for her turn.

It is in character for Sesshomaru to hide a defiant act of kindness behind violence. Inuyasha swore that his half brother hated him but Kikyo also reasoned if that were to be true, Sesshomaru would've killed him while he was still in his mother's womb. Inuyasha refused to believe it and she could not blame him.

She doesn't want to believe that Sesshomaru went out of his way to do the right thing either.

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Sesshomaru's questionable good deed haunts Kikyo for many days. Time has passed but she can't help but feel like her present has been contingent upon it. At first, she entertained the idea that he'd done it on purpose, to have leverage over her, but that is ridiculous. Sesshomaru has nothing to gain from her. He wouldn't have lost anything either. Kikyo is repulsed with herself for only slightly feeling like she is indebted to a demon.

With her shikigami, Kikyo travels to The Great Lord of The West's estate. For closure? To balance the debt so that she can no longer feel burdened by it?

Inuyasha spoke fondly of his ancestral home despite having never been. Kikyo didn't know what to expect of a place with so much history. All big places inhabited by important people have gardens full of pretty flowers. Tall columns. Stones organized around different pathways to different doors.

What she and her shikigami find is place just as forgotten as her own name. When history dies, it really decays to nothing. It isn't what Inuyasha had dreamed up.

Where the walls have collapsed, the forest intrudes upon this place like a sickness. Trees twist out of the roofing. Dragon flies hover above the tall grass. No sight of Sesshomaru but his presence is everywhere. Stronger than her last encounter.

Kikyo takes one step forward and Sesshomaru drops down out of thin air with a hard thud. He lands so hard the ground cracks and depresses beneath him. His hair floats down like spiderwebs. Kikyo doesn't flinch but she is taken by surprise. He stands so close, she can smell his sweat and the flowers he enjoys lying in.

"Kikyo." He is without an expression. Beautiful placidity must be a wonderful state to thrive in.

"Sesshomaru." She has rigid posture while addressing him.

"To what do I owe the pleasure?" His ears twitch. She thinks she sees the corner of his mouth twitch as well, but it's subtle.

Demons don't appreciate sentiment. Kocho and Asuka stand beside her, equally as unimpressed as Sesshomaru.

"I'm here for Rin." Kikyo decides this is the most sensible thing to say. He wouldn't appreciate a 'Thank You'.

"For?" He hasn't blinked.

"Yes. For Rin."

"Hm." Sesshomaru quirks a brow, leaning away from her. He looks up first, thinking very hard about the absurdity of her presence. Then looks down to his side. His nose twitches. There is no harm in fulfilling the request.

"Rin doesn't need you." He finally blinks, looking straight at Kikyo. His pupils tiny needle points in the bright swirl of his amber eyes.

"I didn't say that." Kikyo shakes her head.

"I know you didn't. I'm simply reminding you." And he turns around, starts walking. Kikyo hesitates but she and her shikigami follow him.

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