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“Where is your mate, Miko?”
Kagome straightened her back, willing herself to be calm, not to show the youkai any signs of the trepidation that she felt inside at the unexpected meeting. “He had to help a neighboring village. Is there something you wanted?”
Sesshoumaru shook his head slowly, staring off to the west with a narrow-eyed glare. The rising moon reflected in his eyes. He seemed to be gathering his thoughts, and Kagome waited for him to speak. Hesitantly, he brought his gaze back to rest on her once more. “I require aide, for Rin. She is . . . changing.”
Kagome frowned, confused by Sesshoumaru's words. “Changing? What does that mean?”
Sesshoumaru stabbed her with a penetrating look, as though he thought she was being dense on purpose. Kagome lifted her chin defiantly. “It means, her body is changing. I ask that you explain these . . . changes . . . to her.”
Her eyes opened wide in understanding. “You mean, she's---”
Sesshoumaru made a noise almost like a growl. “Yes. Will you come with me?”
Biting her bottom lip to keep herself from laughing, Kagome stared at the youkai. “All right,” she agreed slowly.
He nodded. She followed him to the edge of the clearing. His two headed beast grazed. Sesshoumaru helped Kagome climb on, and they set out.
“The stars!” she gasped softly.
He glanced at her. Face upturned, eyes wide in wonder, Sesshoumaru watched her as she gazed at the heavens. “What do you see up there?” he questioned.
“I see everything,” she replied. “It's everything, unending . . . so many stars . . . .”
Sesshoumaru didn't answer. The same skies, the same stars, the same things he'd seen countless nights, thousands of times. Yet it held so much mystery for the miko . . . why?
They traveled into the night. `A pleasant evening,' Sesshoumaru had to allow. `When was the last time I took the time to savor anything? The whispers on the wind, the scent of the cherry blossoms in the springtime, the touch of another being's hand . . . ? So long ago I cannot recall . . . .'
Glancing over, he frowned. The miko slept. She started to slip to the side. Sesshoumaru shot over to her, steadied her. `Humans are weak,' he thought as he sank onto the dragon's back, supporting the miko with his arm around her to keep her from falling. `But this miko . . . even in her weakness, she exudes a quiet strength. Extraordinary.'
Was this what his brother saw in her? Was this what their father had seen in Izayoi? Sesshoumaru stared at the sleeping woman for a long time. He was surprised when the dragon landed on the ground before the doors to his home.
The miko awoke with a soft moan, her eyes blinking quickly, and she gazed around through shrouded eyes. She shook her head and yawned. Sesshoumaru lifted her down. “I'll show you to a chamber,” he offered.
She sighed. “The same one as before?” When he nodded, she smiled up at him. “Don't worry. I know my way there.”
He watched in silence as the miko shuffled toward the doors.
Kagome awoke to the sun streaming in the balcony doors. Someone had opened them while she slept. She stretched slowly and swung her legs off the futon. An overflowing bowl of various fruits stood in the middle of the ornately carved wood table had been placed, as well. Kagome took a persimmon and stepped onto the balcony.
It was almost noon. Birds soared high overhead calling out to one another mid-flight. Kagome let her head fall back, eyes closed, as she let the sense of peace soak into her. Her hectic life in the village seemed so far away . . . .
She frowned. She was so tired last night when she'd agreed to come with Sesshoumaru that she'd forgotten to tell anyone else where she had gone. She sighed. Best she have her talk with Rin and leave it at that. With any luck, she'd make it back to the village before InuYasha returned. Though she had little doubt that InuYasha wouldn't mind that she had come here, he would be upset that she hadn't waited for him . . . .
Suddenly, Kagome smiled. She had a feeling that her hanyou wouldn't be too upset, if she apologized nicely for worrying him . . .
With a giggle, she turned and headed out of the room to locate Rin for their little `talk'.
“Sesshoumaru tells me that you're a little confused on some things that are changing in your body,” Kagome said, careful to keep her tone friendly, open.
Rin shifted uncomfortably. They sat in one of the many private gardens behind the huge castle under a very old magnolia tree. “I don't understand,” she confessed, her face reddening as she twisted her fingers together in her lap.
“Don't be embarrassed, Rin. What's happening to you is a normal part of becoming a woman. You should be proud.”
The nearly thirteen year-old girl's chin lifted, and she peeked up at Kagome through her thick fringe of black eyelashes. “I should?”
Kagome smiled at the dubious note in the girl's voice. “Yes, Rin, you should. It just means that your body is changing so that one day you can get married and have babies with your husband.” Rin shook her head, her chin dropping once more. Her shoulders shook, and Kagome realized that she was crying. “Rin? What's the matter?”
“Lord Sesshoumaru! Please don't tell him!” she sobbed. “He'll send me to the village, and . . . I don't want to go!”
“Did he say he would?”
Rin sniffled and shook her head though the tears kept falling. Kagome dug into her pocket for the white linen handkerchief she always carried. “No, but . . . he'll think I need to be with humans . . . .”
Kagome reached over and dabbed the tears off the girl's face with the kerchief. “I don't think Sesshoumaru will ever send you away if you don't want to go. He saved you. He's seen to your needs this whole time. He wouldn't do that if he didn't care. He won't send you away unless you ask it of him.”
“You . . . you don't think so?”
Kagome smiled and held out the kerchief for Rin. She took it and wiped her eyes, heaving a shaky breath. “They scare me,” she admitted quietly.
“Humans . . . men . . . bandits.”
“Of course they do,” Kagome agreed softly. If her family had been slaughtered by bandits at such a young age, as Rin's was, she'd probably feel the same way. “Is there anything you wanted to ask me? About . . . anything?”
The girl made a face as her cheeks blossomed in another flush. “I . . . bled . . . .” she whispered.
Kagome tried not to smile at Rin's obvious discomfort. “That's natural, too,” she assured her. “You'll do that once ever lunar cycle. It only means that your body can carry a baby now.”
The look that Rin shot Kagome was very scared. “I don't want a baby!”
“Well, no, not yet. You don't have to have a baby yet. But someday you may want one, and you'll be glad then.”
Rin considered that with a tumultuous sigh. “You had a baby, didn't you? With InuYasha?”
“I did, and we're very happy with her. You didn't get to meet her, did you?”
“No . . . I wish I wasn't sick when you came . . . will you bring her to visit sometime?”
Rin seemed to cheer up with the promise of meeting Tajiko. She finally smiled, and Kagome could see that the girl showed the promise of growing into a truly beautiful woman. Her entire face glowed when she grinned, her eyes sparkled, and she was absolutely engaging. Fleetingly, Kagome wondered what life would have in store for the girl.
Rin hugged Kagome before skipping away to bathe. Kagome leaned back against the magnolia tree with a happy sigh.
She smiled to herself as she watched the girl run off. If anyone had ever told her she would find happiness in the form of a surly hanyou with a perceived lack of manners as well as the gentlest nature that he tried so hard to hide, she'd have thought they were insane. Plucking a flower from a bush next to her, Kagome lifted the stunning bloom to her nose and inhaled. Spicy yet light, the scent wrapped around her. She stared at the deep red petals. `The same color as InuYasha's fire rat haori,' she mused. `What a beautiful flower . . . .' She smelled it again. She'd never seen such a flower before. Maybe she'd ask Sesshoumaru what kind they were, where she could find more of them . . . they'd look pretty outside their hut back in the village . . . .
She yawned and started to rise. For some reason, though, the idea of moving wasn't quite as appealing as the sudden thought that a nap was more desirable, and for some reason, she felt almost dizzy . . . .
`I should see if Sesshoumaru will take me back soon,' she contemplated as she let head fall back against the tree. `InuYasha will return to the village, and I should be there before he arrives . . . .'
An odd feeling of lethargy seeped into her very bones. She couldn't quite keep her eyes open, the lure of slumber too enticing. `Under the magnolia tree,' she thought, `just a short nap, Kagome . . . just a little while . . . and then . . . home . . . InuYasha . . . .'
She lay down on her side, resting her head on her folded arm, as her eyes closed and she drifted off to sleep with the red flower in her hand.
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Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Torrent): I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga. Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al. I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.