Continuing Tales

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 9 of 60

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Most things break, including hearts. The lessons of life amount not to wisdom, but to scar tissue and callus.
– Wallace Stegner.

Katsuro was waiting for Naraku's head to explode. He wasn't taking the explanation of why he couldn't take the shard from the woman very well.

Katsuro had gone to her cell early the day after their return to Naraku's castle in order to figure out what had happened in the forest. After linking his mind with hers, it didn't take long to learn what had happened even though she tried to evade him and hide the truth.

Now he was forced to deal with Naraku's wrath.

"Explain to me how this happened? I thought the crown gave you complete control over her."

"I have control of her. However, I can't touch the shard. The soul is blocking me from manipulating the woman to do anything but sense the presence of the shard. Kikyo's soul is residing separate from Kagome's, only in the same body."

"Well you better figure out a way to get that shard or I'll just kill her."

"That might now turn out the way you want it to. If you kill her and take the shard, it will remain pure as a result of the spell put on it by the priestess Kikyo."

"Damn that woman!" Naraku snarled, "There must be a way…find it."

"I already did, but first, I want something from you."

Naraku's red gaze turned on the lizard youkai standing in the shadows.

"And what would that be?"

Katsuro's jagged teeth glinted in the dim light.

"A trade."

Later that evening, the House of the Moon sat in quiet splendor, sparkling in the light of a full moon.

Small feet padded quietly through the hallways, pausing outside of the Lord's room and then continued on to the garden.

Rin tip toed out into the moonlight and looked up at the diamond-studded sky. She loved to look at the stars, especially since the days had continued their inevitable crawl into summer, she could venture outside more often. It had become almost a nightly ritual. She resettled a blanket more firmly around her shoulders and continued on to her favorite spot. It was a tree that flowered in early summer and held its bloom until early fall. The blooms were just pushing their way out and the fragrant air added to the comforting experience.

The young girl settled under the tree and stared up at the stars. Since bandits had killed her family, Rin believed that they resided in the stars, looking down on her from time to time. She came to the garden and talked to her mother about anything and everything, especially Sesshomaru. She found solace in the thought that her parents would be happy knowing she found someone who protected and provided for her.

When a star would streak across the sky, Rin took that as a sign they were still listening and agreed with whatever she was saying.

Picking a nearby flower; she let its delicate fresh scent tickle her nose.

"What do you think Mama, do you think Sesshomaru-sama would like these in his room tomorrow?" she squinted at the bloom in the darkness, "Hmm, I don't know. He doesn't like anything that smells too strong."

She looked up and caught the glint of a star as it twinkled rapidly.

"I think so too Mama."

With a smile, she tucked the flower behind one ear.

Rin would never admit to anyone at the House of the Moon that she was often lonely. Being the only child in a house full of serious and deadly youkai put a damper on childish behavior. In fact, she hadn't been around other children in years and wasn't even sure what children her age would be like. Not that she minded, since her desire to be around other humans died along with her family all those years ago. Just being able to stay with Sesshomaru was enough for her. Rin wouldn't change a thing about her life.

The grass rustled nearby and she turned to see a figure in white approaching.

"Rin, what are you doing out here by yourself?"

"Oh…hi Hoshi. I just came out to look at the stars."

Rin stared at the housekeeper's mystical kimono. The star pattern on the fabric seemed to shift even more in the moonlight. Her twilight hair and shimmering kimono struck quite a figure in the changing light as the moon danced in and out of the clouds.

"You should not wander outside alone. Sesshomaru-sama has many enemies that could attack the House of the Moon at any time. If we don't know where you are, then we cannot protect you."

"I know Hoshi, I'm sorry. I just like to come out here." Rin bowed her head in respect, duly chastised.

Hoshi studied the girl for a moment before sitting in the soft grass beside her. She was aware of another set of ears off in the shadows, but knew that understanding could only be gained through listening and respect. Hoshi knew that Sesshomaru was struggling with how quickly Rin was aging. She was no longer an eight-year-old girl. In the next few years Rin was going to be going through several changes and she wondered how Sesshomaru would respond to a pre-teen human girl.

Hoshi barely suppressed the laughter that bubbled in her mouth.

'Oh I can't wait!' she thought merrily before turning her attention back to Rin.

"Why do you like to come out here so much?"

Rin paused for a moment, usually keeping her feelings about her family to herself, but soon relented since she trusted Hoshi almost as much as Sesshomaru.

"I like to spend time with my mother."

"Your mother? What do you mean child?"

Hoshi's surprise was evident, having never heard the girl mention family before. All she had ever learned of Rin's past had been what few words Sesshomaru had let slip and Jaken's rambling. Sesshomaru had remained bizarrely silent on the events that had brought Rin into his life and the subsequent years they traveled together before settling in the west.

Rin looked back up at the stars and smiled. "My family is up there and I come out here to remember them and make sure that they don't forget me."

Hoshi's gaze lifted and took in the glittering twilight above. She smiled as memories sprang to life, memories of days gone by and friends long gone.

"I also have a friend who lives among the stars."

Rin's eyes flew to Hoshi.

"Who do you know that lives up there?"

"An old friend whom I miss very much."

Rin tucked her small hand into Hoshi's and looked back up at the night sky.

"I miss my family sometimes."

Hoshi squeezed back and softly replied, "It's okay to miss someone you love when they're gone. Remembering them in death only honors how important they were in life."

They continued to gaze at the twinkling sky in silence, only Hoshi was aware of the eyes and ears that had witnessed the entire exchange.

Sesshomaru turned and made his way back toward his room. Rin was safe in Hoshi's care. He had heard Rin leave the house and followed her silently, just as he always did, since she started her nighttime visits. He always supposed that she just enjoyed looking at the stars. It surprised him to learn that she felt a connection to her family when looking at the night sky. It was something he understood all too well.

Sesshomaru soundlessly entered his room and crossed the moonlit floor, slipping out of his haori as he went. Stopping at the window, he looked up at the moon, bathing him in a soft blue light.

He wasn't sure how long he searched the sky before he pushed down the unwanted feelings and forced away the memories that haunted him.

He fell onto the bed and ruthlessly forced his mind into sleep.

A few days later, Sesshomaru was once again sitting down to have tea with Rin. Half of his brain was listening as she chattered on about Jaken getting stung by a bee in the garden while the other half drifted through a number of topics. He had long ago mastered the ability to split his mind into multiple channels of thought in order to complete various tasks in as little time as possible. It was one of many things of value his father had taught him in preparation of becoming his successor as Lord of the Western Lands.

As she finished pouring tea into Sesshomaru's cup, a servant came to the door.

The youkai bowed and spoke in muffled tones.

"My Lord, Hoshi requests your presence immediately."

"Can it wait?"

"No my Lord, she said it was an emergency."

Sesshomaru stood and looked down at Rin. "Continue without me. I'll return when I'm done."

She smiled brightly, "Yes Sesshomaru-sama."

He left the tearoom wondering what could be so important that Hoshi interrupt the only part of the day everyone knew he kept for himself.

As he passed a servant in the hall, he instructed that Rin's teacher, Shizuka, be sent to keep her company.

He entered his office and immediately knew that something was troubling his housekeeper. She stood stiffly at the window with her arms in her kimono sleeves.

"What is it?"

She turned around, brow drawn over troubled violet eyes.

"One of the staff just collapsed. I believe she was poisoned."

"Poisoned? By what?"

"She had been eating, I believe it was something in the food."

Sesshomaru's eyes narrowed slightly, the only indication of his troubled thoughts.

"I brought everything she was eating here for you to inspect." Hoshi held her arm out and gestured toward his desk. She added solemnly, "My mind is troubled. Why would an enemy of the House of the Moon harm a servant? I'm concerned that this servant may not have been the intended target."

Sesshomaru walked over to the food and picked it up, smelling each piece in turn.

"I don't smell anything out of the ordinary. Are you sure it is poison?"

There was another smell, faintly lingering in the air but it was something he could not place. It had a musty, hot smell that was unnatural when dealing with food. Whatever it was, he sensed imminent danger and wanted to get to the bottom of it before someone else was injured.

He continued to look at the items on his desk, a plate of meat, a bowl with rice, an empty teacup and a hunk of bread. His brain twitched as a feeling of unease slithered down his spine. His instincts were telling him that something was wrong, very wrong, but he didn't know what. His gaze fixed on the unfinished meal as his mind ran in several directions.

"Hoshi, have the entire food stores examined. Until we know the cause, find alternative sources of food for the house."

Voices sounded in a distant part of the house just as Sesshomaru's eyes came back to rest on the teacup. They narrowed even more as his thoughts swirled around an elusive target, closing in on the source of his unease.

"Hoshi. Rin drinks a special blend of tea correct?"

"Yes, she likes the taste of mint, so we add that in with green tea just for her. I think it's catching on though since some other members of the household have started drinking it as well. Why?"

Sesshomaru picked up the cup and inhaled.

His stomach dropped heavily. 'Mint.'

The cup smashed against the floor as Sesshomaru streaked out of the office and raced back to the tearoom, bowling over several servants along the way.

He reached the door of the tearoom and spoke urgently, "Rin don't…"

As he turned the corner, the sight that greeted him was like a punch in the gut. He had gone to extreme lengths to protect her and had failed. He felt frozen in place, not knowing what to do. His eyes took in the scene, all the while replaying the last few moments he had spent with her. He scrambled to remember every word she had said about Jaken's bee sting and her morning lessons, committing the sound of her voice to his memory.

He closed his eyes for a moment, willing a different scene to greet him upon opening them. A memory flashed of Rin after he revived her with Tensaiga. Wonder shining from the brown depths as a reflection of him was mirrored in her eyes.

Failure crushed down on him like a crumbling mountain.

Shizuka cradled Rin, fear and sorrow in her eyes as she rocked the little girl in her arms. Her glazed eyes turned to Sesshomaru.

"I came in and she was just lying here. I thought maybe she had fallen asleep…" Shizuka's voice was hollow as it trailed off.

Sesshomaru walked over and plucked Rin's body from the fox youkai and strode out the door, past a stunned Hoshi and out to the garden.

He sat under Rin's tree and held her as he stared at the flowers blowing in the breeze. They were the same flowers she had picked for his room that very morning.

Her breathing was shallow and her heart rate slowed to a crawl. He could barely hear it now. She wasn't dead, but he knew it was only a matter of time.

Her spirit was already beginning to ebb, and with it his heart.

The Wind and the Mountain

A InuYasha Story
by Mearasama

Part 9 of 60

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