Crossover Fan Fiction / InuYasha Fan Fiction ❯ The Journey to the City of Endless Night ❯ Chapter Sixty-Nine ( Chapter 69 )

[ X - Adult: No readers under 18. Contains Graphic Adult Themes/Extreme violence. ]

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Chapter Sixty-Nine
 
Sesshomaru rested his cheek on Rin's hair while they relaxed under the warm afternoon sun. Rin had asked to sit outside, and he had acquiesced. Not far from camp was a small alcove on the edge of the trees, and Sesshomaru found its privacy appealing. Rin sighed, shifting in his lap. She leaned back into his chest, and moved her wrapped foot on the pillows. Sesshomaru eased his arm around her petite frame, holding her close. There was a nice, comfortable silence between them, and the Demon Lord felt content. After the excitement and turmoil of the day before, Sesshomaru enjoyed this simple moment sitting with his Rin.
 
They had traveled only a short distance that day, and had then spent the morning setting up camp. Sesshomaru hadn't minded the truncated trek because it would mean that Rin spent less time in the jostling wagon. He was also grateful that the old man had said they'd stay here until the juggler's group caught up with them. Perhaps when they resumed heavy traveling, Rin's ankle would be healed. Either way, Sesshomaru appreciated the chance to rest.
 
Inhaling, Sesshomaru drank in Rin's clean, lily scent. He reflected on the events of the day and night before, trying to comprehend the emotions they had stirred within him. Never one to let his feelings best him, the Demon Lord struggled with the confusion and turmoil they caused. He hadn't felt such a wide array of emotions in such a short time span before. Rage, irritation, disdain, and hatred were the ones most familiar to Sesshomaru. Sorrow, remorse, bereavement, and anguish were more foreign to him. Most unknown, however, was fear, desperation, helplessness, and panic. It was this last set that had him concerned the most.
 
After witnessingRin's absolute terror upon seeing the despicable wolf-demon that had killed her, Sesshomaru had been consumed by a blinding rage. He had wanted to exact retribution on the wretch for what he had done, and to compel the same level of fear in him that Rin experienced. The Demon Lord felt nothing but disdain for the wolf-demon. As he had watched his brother face off with the worthless creature, Sesshomaru had felt his hatred only continue to grow. It boiled inside him, and he knew if it had not been for Rin, nothing could have stopped him from tearing the cur apart. It irritated Sesshomaru that he hadn't obtained justice for her, making certain that the coward could never threaten her again.
 
Rin pulled him from his dark thoughts when she squeaked. Her melodious laughter filled his ears, and she whispered, “Sesshomaru-sama, please don't hug so tight.”
 
Sesshomaru blinked, easing his grip. He hadn't realized that he had been so tense. He sighed, and nuzzled his nose into her hair. He thought to himself, “This Sesshomaru didn't mean to, Rin.”
 
Rin knows, Sesshomaru-sama.” She reached up, and brushed her fingers across the stripes on one of his cheeks. A serious frown crossed her face, and concern filled her warm eyes. The little girl's soft voice echoed in his head, “It's okay, Sesshomaru-sama. Rin understands.”
 
The Demon Lord frowned. How had she heard his thought? From his understanding, Rin had to initiate the mental connection for it to work. He asked, “How, Rin?”
 
Rin's nose wrinkled in confusion. “How what, Sesshomaru-sama?”
 
How did you hear this Sesshomaru's thought?”
 
Rin's brows furrowed. “Rin's not sure. She just did---like she did last night when you found her, Sesshomaru-sama.”
 
She had heard his thoughts last night before establishing the telepathic link first? He hadn't noticed in the midst of the chaos, and had assumed that she had started it. How was this possible? He was not a sorcerer, so it baffled him that he could contact her with his thought alone without her assistance. Sesshomaru mused that he would have to ask the wolf-woman at Rin's next lesson.
 
Sesshomaru pursed his lips. He replied, “Interesting.”
 
Rin snuggled against him, and sighed. She said, “Thank-you for letting Rin sit out here, Sesshomaru-sama. It's much nicer out here than in the tent. It's too dark in there.”
 
You're welcome, Rin.” Sesshomaru sighed, and shifted, disentangling himself from Rin's petite form. The Demon Lord settled her injured foot into his lap, absentmindedly brushing a clawed finger across it. He closed his eyes, drinking in the quiet. Light bird song filled the air, and Sesshomaru enjoyed its pleasantness. It was such a contrast from the excitement of the day before.
 
Sesshomaru still had so many conflicting feelings to resolve. He could still see his transformed brother defending his mate from the wolf, and then how his markings had remained once he had reverted back to a hanyou. It pained Sesshomaru, arousing emotions he hadn't experienced in centuries. His reaction had come as a surprise, and he hadn't liked what it had brought out in him. The Demon Lord had felt his tight control on his feelings ebb even further.
 
In his peripheral, Sesshomaru saw Rin stretch her arms over her head. She leaned back into the cool grass, idly plucking it. The little girl hummed softly, staring up at the sky. Shifting more, Rin reached for a blue flower nearby, grunting with the effort. She managed to brush her fingertips across it, but just couldn't pluck it. She breathed, “Almost.”
 
Rin sat up to catch her breath, and winced. She chewed on her thumbnail in thought, and sighed. A determined frown crossed her face. In another attempt, Rin twisted, and struggled to reach the flower. She whispered, her voice strained, “Just a little bit more.”
 
A little brown bird landed close by, and hopped towards Rin. It pecked at the grass next to the flower the little girl wanted. The small bird sang softly, tilting its head to one side. It preened its feathers, then hopped closer. Sesshomaru watched with mild interest as Rin's eyes grew wide. She smiled wide at the tiny bird, and said, “Hello there.”
 
Sesshomaru shook his head, focusing back on his thoughts. Before yesterday, he hadn't realized just how much Inuyasha resembled their father. It had been like looking into his face. Even though the Demon Lord hadn't seen it in nearly two hundred years, he could still see it clearly. For the briefest of moments, it had seemed like his father was still alive. Once the illusion had faded, however, Sesshomaru had been overcome by a deep sadness. In some ways, it had felt like losing his father all over again.
 
On the edge of the Demon Lord's awareness, Rin giggled softly, and murmured, “Thank-you.”
 
Disturbed from his thoughts momentarily, Sesshomaru noticed that Rin had succeeded in getting the flower. It rested on the ground next to her. She seemed preoccupied, looking around the small clearing. Another small sparrow hopped near the little girl, chirping every so often. Rin held out her palm, feeding it some stray seeds. Sesshomaru arched an eyebrow. He looked back down at her foot, and resumed his contemplation of the day's previous events.
 
Sesshomaru knew that his brother had the same stripes as their father when he transformed, but to see them coupled with Inuyasha's gold eyes made their similarities so apparent. The half-demon had the same dark, thick eyebrows as their father, in contrast to Sesshomaru's own thin ones. Inuyasha even had the same oval face with a strong jawline. The only difference seemed that Inuyasha's face still had some of the softness of youth. It seemed that his younger brother had inherited more than the Tetsusaiga from their late father.
 
Despite all the similarities, however, Sesshomaru attributed one trait solely to his father. He had always pulled his hair back, as far back as the Demon Lord could recall---all except for one stray lock no matter how hard he tried. It was an odd detail to remember, but he had always thought of it fondly. It had always amused Sesshomaru to watch his father brush the offending lock aside. He knew that he had done it mostly when flustered or lost in thought. The characteristic belonged to his father alone, and not the intimidating Inu no Tashio everyone else faced.
 
The trills of the birds grew louder, accompanied by Rin's joyous laughter. Curious again for a moment, Sesshomaru watched the little girl feed a small group of birds. They warbled merrily at her, pecking gently at the seeds in her palm. Rin said, “You're welcome.” She glanced at him, then leaned down towards the gathering of song birds. She said, her voice a hushed whisper, “Will you help Rin now?”
 
Sesshomaru idly wondered what the little girl was up to this time. He figured that she was amusing herself, and decided to leave her be. He watched a few more moments, while she picked more grass, offering it to the birds. A couple sparrows snatched it up and flew off. Rin waved at them with her other hand. Sesshomaru tapped his claws lightly on her bandaged foot, continuing with his pondering.
 
All the feelings he had spent centuries burying had resurfaced. In all the years since his father's death, Sesshomaru hadn't truly grieved. He had ignored all of his feelings, focusing only on the anger it had brought out. He felt such remorse, knowing that the last time he had seen his father, they had exchanged words of anger. Sesshomaru realized that he had acted childishly back then, furious at him for leaving him behind. His father had been a constant, towering figure in his life, and in an instant he had disappeared. How had he not noticed how bereaved he had been back then?”
 
The Demon Lord mulled over the last conversation he had shared with his father. He hadn't understood why he had demanded to know if he had someone to protect---or why that had mattered. Sesshomaru understood now. He hadn't been able to truly fathom the compulsion to protect until she had found him. Before Rin, Sesshomaru had seemed to drift without a purpose. He had chosen the path of Supreme Conquest, certain that it was his destiny. Now, Sesshomaru knew he'd do anything to keep this little human girl safe---no matter the cost.
 
Sesshomaru glanced up, and watched as Rin twirled a flower in one hand. It was a different one than from before. It was a soft pink. He wondered where she might have gotten it. He hadn't felt the little girl shift, so how had she picked it? Rin set it down, slightly hidden behind her. She pulled some grass, and wadded it up into a small ball. Sesshomaru pursed his lips, befuddled by her behavior.
 
Rin rested her palm back onto the ground with the ball of grass sitting in the middle of it. A meadow lark snatched it up in its beak and flew off. Another sparrow landed, hopping into her empty palm. The little girl lifted her hand and whispered, “I need some red ones, please. When you come back, I'll have more grass for your nest.” The little bird warbled in answer and flew away.
 
Furrowing his brows, Sesshomaru frowned. Her behavior with the birds puzzled him, but he wouldn't disturb her. It had been awhile since he had heard her laugh so. If anything, his Rin had become very unpredictable since becoming a sorceress. It certainly did make things interesting. The Demon Lord mused that it wasn't always a good thing, either.
 
Sesshomaru stared down at Rin's bandaged foot, brushing a claw across it. He thought about the last event of the day, and the disturbing feelings it evoked in him. Just as he had finished preparing to re-wrap her ankle, she had disappeared. Sesshomaru had stared at the spot she had been in for a brief moment, shocked. Fear had consumed him, next. Not even when she had vanished after using her Will the first time had the Demon Lord felt so afraid. He had felt something entirely new, too. He had been utterly helpless, unable to use any of his senses. In his desperation, Sesshomaru had turned to the wolf-woman for aid.
 
Out of the corner of his eye, the Demon Lord saw Rin hold up her hand, letting a meadowlark land on her palm. The bird had something red clutched in its beak, and dropped it into her hand. Rin picked it up and set it down on the ground next to her. The meadowlark moved to perch on her finger, and the little girl brought it close to her face.
 
Rin smiled, and said softly, “Thank-you. If you see the sparrow, tell him Rin would like one more yellow one.” She pulled up some grass, offering it to the bird. “Rin hopes this helps your babies.”
 
The Demon Lord closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. He drifted back into his thoughts, tuning his surroundings out. Poledra had pinpointed a direction first, and in his panic, Sesshomaru had sprinted towards the location she thought Rin might be. The Demon Lord had hoped to reach her before any harm could come to her. As he had searched for her, Sesshomaru had had so many scenarios flash through his mind. He had seen her surrounded by bandits, cornered by the wolf-demon and his pack, and Grolims preparing her for one of their terrible sacrificial rites. He had feared that he might arrive too late, only to find her lifeless body. Sesshomaru had been totally out of control, and he hadn't liked it.
 
Finally, when he had found her, Sesshomaru had felt such utter relief course through him. Rin had been unharmed, and he hadn't been too late. All he could do was show her how much he cherished her, and prove it to himself that she was real, by hugging her. Sesshomaru knew he had gotten lucky that time. She could have been so easily taken away from him. Later on in the tent, she had confessed her fears, and in return, Sesshomaru had felt a need to tell her how proud he was. Rin, a human girl, was one of the strongest individuals he knew, even if she didn't realize it. How could he ever send her away when he needed her?
 
“Sesshomaru-sama?” Rin asked softly to get his attention.
 
The Demon Lord looked up, and blinked in surprise. A sparrow sat on each of her shoulders. They clutched flowers in their beaks, one red, the other yellow. A meadowlark perched on the little girl's finger. Rin tilted her head towards it, and it burst into triumphant song. The sparrows swooped down towards Sesshomaru's lap, and deposited their flowers, then resumed their spots on her shoulders. Their jubilant whistles joined the meadowlark's lyrical warbles.
 
Sesshomaru noticed that her other hand was hidden behind her back. He asked, his voice cautious, “Rin?”
 
A light blush coated her cheeks, and Rin revealed a small bouquet of wild flowers. They were red, blue, yellow, pink, and white. She outstretched her hand. “Here, Sesshomaru-sama.”
 
Tentatively, Sesshomaru accepted her gift. He picked up the blossoms the sparrows had given him, adding them to the bouquet. The Demon Lord didn't quite know how to respond. He gently set the flowers down, and rested his hand on her cheek. He cupped her chin in his hand, and found sympathy in her warm eyes. Somehow, the little girl had picked upon his sorrow.
 
Sesshomaru whispered to her, “This Sesshomaru is grateful, Rin.”
 
Rin reached up with her free hand, and rested it on his cheek. He felt the pads of her fingers gently brush his stripes. She replied, “Rin's glad, Sesshomaru-sama.”
 
The birds trilled, and Rin giggled softly. She pulled some grass, making it into a small wad. She said, “Rin didn't forget your grass.”
 
Sesshomaru arched an eyebrow, feeling amused. He watched Rin prepare a few more balls of grass. The birds chirped happily, and the little girl shook her head. His curiosity grew, and he wondered what they might be saying to her. Rin brought the hand with the meadowlark perching on it to her face. She said, “Thank-you for the flowers.”
 
The little bird sang loudly in reply. It turned on her finger, its bright eyes focusing on Sesshomaru. Its light melody seemed to be directed towards him. There were rich trills and a simple exultation in its song. Joining it was the sparrow's joyous chirps.
 
The longer they sang, the more relaxed Sesshomaru felt. He found their bird song pleasing, even if he did not understand it as Rin did. The lightness of their music eased his troubled mind, allowing his dark thoughts to fade. The Demon Lord smiled slightly to show his appreciation.
 
Rin's soft laughter joined their song. She asked, “Would you like to know what they're singing, Sesshomaru-sama?”
 
Sesshomaru nodded, his curiosity besting him. “Yes, Rin.”
 
“The meadowlark is singing about flying.” She listened closely, then slowly translated, “He says, 'May the sorrow that burdens thy heart be lifted so that thee may take to the skies once again on joyous wings.'” The little girl struggled with the formal, poetic language. She continued, “And wherever thou goest, may thee soar as thou didst on thy first flight.”
 
Sesshomaru's eyebrows raised in surprise. He hadn't expected birds to be so poetic. He asked, “And the sparrows?”
 
Rin smiled wide. “They're singing about flying, too.” The sparrows sang louder, and she giggled. She looked at both birds, and told them, “I'll tell Sesshomaru-sama, don't worry.” The little girl looked at him, and said, “They're saying, 'We hope that you'll find freedom from your cares in your next flight.'”
 
Sesshomaru snorted. Sparrows were not nearly as poetic as the meadowlark had been. It amused him that the birds were so preoccupied with flying. Somehow, however, that didn't surprise him. The Demon Lord said, his tone bemused, “Interesting.”
 
Rin gave each bird their clump of grass. The birds trilled one last time, took their grass, and flew away. The little girl waved at them, and called out, “Thank-you for everything.”
 
Sesshomaru watched the birds circle above until they disappeared. He looked down at the flowers they had gathered for him. Lifting his head, the Demon Lord's eyes met Rin's. This little girl would never cease to amaze him. He sighed, and figured that many more surprises like this would be in store for him---hopefully for many years to come.
 
A comfortable silence settled between them, and Sesshomaru closed his eyes, enjoying it. He felt Rin move, and her arms go around his neck as she hugged him. Her head rested on his shoulder, a contented sigh escaping her lips. He eased his arm around her, his fingers threading through her hair. It felt good to share a simple moment with his Rin.
 
Rin pulled back, and shifted her leg, wincing. Giggling, she said, “Sesshomaru-sama, my leg's asleep.”
 
Sesshomaru chuckled softly, unable to help himself. He gently massaged her foot, trying to get the blood flow back. He smiled slightly when she giggled more. He asked softly, “Does it feel better now, Rin?”
 
Rin nodded. “It tingles and feels funny, though.”
 
A great snowy owl circled the clearing on silent wings. Sesshomaru frowned as he watched its slow, spiraling descent. It was very unusual to see an owl during the day, and his curiosity grew. Finally, the bird landed. It preened its feathers, then fixed its unblinking gold eyes upon the Demon Lord's own. Something seemed familiar about its gaze, and Sesshomaru felt certain that he had seen this particular owl before. Then, he remembered the wolf-woman transforming into an owl the night before. It had to be her.
 
The owl hooted softly, then a blue nimbus flickered around it. The wolf-woman's image and the owl merged, and then Poledra was standing in its place. She smiled softly, and said, “One is glad to see you in much better spirits today, Rin. Do you think you're ready for a lesson?”
 
Rin nodded, and smiled wide. “Yes, Poledra-sama.”
 
“Good.” The wolf-woman sat down by them, and crossed her legs.
 
Sesshomaru shifted Rin's foot carefully back onto the pillows. He moved to sit facing Poledra, and said, “Before we start the lesson, this Sesshomaru has a question.”
 
Poledra nodded. “Alright.”
 
“This Sesshomaru is not a sorcerer, but he contacted Rin with his thought alone. Rin hadn't initiated the connection. How is this possible?”
 
The wolf-woman laughed. “It's rather simple. You are not a sorcerer, no, but because Rin is and she has spoken to you this way, you have come to believe in it. My daughter had a room she told a couple men was a magic room. When they needed to talk to her and she was not there, they would go there and talk to her telepathically. They could have done it anywhere, but they needed the reinforcement of belief. You believe Rin can speak to you with her mind, and therefore, you can in return, without her starting it. Does this makes sense?”
 
Sesshomaru nodded, his brows furrowed. “This Sesshomaru believes he does, yes. It is centered in one's belief, then.”
 
“Mostly. My mate believes all humans have the ability to be what we call talented, but simply never discover it. It can be because they don't believe in it, I suppose. There are many reasons why one can never use the Will and the Word, while others can and do. You won't be able to use it, but you can speak with Rin telepathically without her starting it because you do believe. I don't think you will be able to send your thought out to anyone at random, however, and I certainly wouldn't suggest it.”
 
“That makes sense to this Sesshomaru.” He asked, “So then, what will this lesson be about?”
 
A serious expression crossed Poledra's face. She said, “First, one thinks we have much to discuss.”
 
Rin's smile faded, and she bowed her head. The little girl whispered, “Rin's sorry about last night, and promises not to do it again, Poledra-sama.”
 
The wolf-woman sighed. “Rin, dear, you have to stop feeling guilty. You didn't do anything wrong.”
 
“But Rin made a mistake with her Will.”
 
“Yes, you did, Rin, but that's all it was---a mistake. You didn't mean to translocate yourself like that. It wasn't something you did maliciously, now was it?” Poledra said, her voice firm but warm.
 
“No, Poledra-sama.” Rin sighed. “Rin still shouldn't have done it.”
 
Sesshomaru said, “Rin, this Sesshomaru told you last night that what happened with your Will was an accident, and that you should not let it discourage you.”
 
Poledra nodded. “Your pack leader is right, Rin. You should be proud of your accomplishments, and not dwell on your mistakes.”
 
Rin nodded. “Yes, Poledra-sama. Rin understands.”
 
The wolf-woman moved closer, and cupped the little girl's chin in her hand. She studied Rin's face, and shook her head. “No, Rin dear, I don't think you do.”
 
Sesshomaru began to protest, but Poledra shook her head. She raised her hand to stop him, and her voice echoed in his mind, “No. Let me handle this. She must get past this.”
 
The Demon Lord frowned, but nodded. He watched warily, waiting to see what the wolf-woman would say to Rin. He agreed that the little girl had to get past this guilt. Sesshomaru hoped that Poledra would get through to her, but not pressure Rin too much. For now, he'd allow her to intervene, but if he felt that the wolf-woman had gone too far, he'd step in.
 
Poledra's gold eyes bored into Rin's dark brown. She said, “Rin, I think it's time we discussed something very important. Up until you were blessed by the Master with your Will, you were a just a human girl. Now, all of that has changed, and it confuses you, right?”
 
Rin nodded, and whispered, “Yes, Poledra-sama.”
 
“I've also noticed that you've had a troubling tendency to apologize for things that concern your Will. You're afraid you'll upset or disappoint your pack-leader because of the things you do with it.” Poledra paused, and tilted Rin's head up with a finger on her chin. “Rin, this behavior needs to stop. You are not doing anything wrong. Nothing you're dong with your Will has made your pack-leader angry with you.”
 
Rin bit her lip, and tears shimmered in her eyes. Sesshomaru felt tempted to step in and stop the wolf-woman, but he agreed with her. He hoped that she'd get through to the little girl where he had not. She said, “But Sesshomaru-sama hasn't liked the things Rin's done with her Will.”
 
Sesshomaru started to speak, and once again Poledra silenced him by raising her hand. Her voice sounded in his mind, “Wait. I'll let you respond when I'm finished. We need to have this discussion.”
 
Sesshomaru's eyes narrowed in display of his displeasure, but replied, his voice firm, “This Sesshomaru will allow it.”
 
Poledra sighed. “Rin, dear, of course your pack-leader has not liked some of the things you've done with your Will. It's only natural.” She tucked a strand of Rin's hair behind an ear. “But that doesn't mean he's angry with you. You're changing, a little more everyday, and that frightens him.”
 
“But Poledra-sama----,” Rin began.
 
“Let me finish dear.” The wolf-woman smiled softly. “Even though he doesn't always like what you're doing with your Will, that doesn't mean he isn't proud of you, too.” She moved closer, and put her arm around Rin. “I believe I've told you once before that punishing yourself does no one any good. You have to stop feeling guilty. You'll have to accept that you're gifted, and that no matter how much you apologize, it will not go away.” Poledra rested her cheek on Rin's hair. “You want to know something, Rin?”
 
“What, Poledra-sama?” Rin asked softly.
 
Sesshomaru clenched his hand, feeling jealousy rise within him. He should be the only one to sit with his Rin that way. He grit his teeth together, to prevent himself from interrupting again. He suppressed the urge to growl, and took a deep breath. The wolf-woman was making excellent points, after all, and he hoped that Rin would actually listen. That didn't mean, however, that the Demon Lord liked Poledra embracing the little girl.
 
Poledra said, “You remind me so much of my daughter, Polgara. She felt so inadequate for so many years as a child, and much like you, struggled to understand why she had been given the Will and the Word.”
 
Rin looked up, her eyes curious. “She did?”
 
“Yes. Polgara had a twin. Her name was Beldaran, and she was not gifted with the Will and the Word.” Poledra paused, the shade of sorrow in her golden eyes. “She was blonde, unlike Polgara. Polgara was convinced that Beldaran was far more beautiful than she, and until she was sixteen, she rarely bathed or did any upkeep on her appearance. She didn't see a point, as she thought she was some hideous creature. It was foolish, but it was how she felt.”
 
Rin's brows furrowed. “But how does that have anything to do with her being a sorceress, Poledra-sama?”
 
“Polgara was very close to her sister. Beldaran, the beautiful blonde, sweet tempered, ordinary girl, was the center of her life, and she felt that everything about herself was wrong. That included the gift of her Will.” Poledra sighed. “Just as Beldaran's destiny was to remain ordinary, to be the Rivan Queen, and mortal, it was Polgara's destiny to be gifted with her Will. Much like you, Rin. The Master chose both of you.”
 
“But why, Poledra-sama?” Rin asked. She looked down. “What if I wanted to be ordinary again?”
 
Poledra laughed softly. “Oh, Rin, you were never ordinary. Not since your pack-leader used his sword on you and restored your life.”
 
Sesshomaru's eyes went wide. How did the wolf-woman know this? Everyone now knew of Rin's death thanks to the confrontation with the wolf-demon. Sesshomaru had only told his brother how he had revived Rin. He was certain that the little girl hadn't told the wolf-woman, either. It stunned him that she would know such an intimate moment in his and Rin's lives.
 
Poledra's calm eyes met Sesshomaru's. She said, this time aloud, “He doesn't know.” The Demon Lord had noticed that the wolf-woman had a tendency not to speak the old sorcerer's name. “The Master told me of your circumstances. Do not worry, I will not share this information.” She looked down at Rin, a gentle smile on her lips. “So, you see, Rin, you've been special for a very long time. Your Will is simply a new addition to that. It's no different than having brown hair and brown eyes, or that I'm a wolf, or that your pack-leader is a Demon Lord. You can't be afraid of who and what you are. That can make you vulnerable.”
 
Rin bit her lip. “But Rin still made a mistake, and wishes she could take it back.”
 
Poledra sighed. “You're learning. It's only natural to make mistakes.” She ran her fingers through Rin's hair. “I'm proud of your progress. The Master is proud of you. Your pack-leader is proud of you. Rin, dear, you should be proud of yourself, too. You have learned so much in such a short span of time.”
 
Rin looked up, and nodded. “Rin never thought of it that way, Poledra-sama. She'll try to look at the accomplishments and not the mistakes from now on.”
 
“Good. Please, name one accomplishment.”
 
Sesshomaru watched Rin closely, as she thought. Here they would find out if the little girl was listening. Her eyes lit up, and she said softly, “Rin can help Sesshomaru-sama in battle with her whip.”
 
“Good. Another.”
 
“Rin can shrink herself and other things, and reverse it.”
 
“Excellent.”
 
Sesshomaru said, finally breaking his silence, “Rin, the wolf-woman is correct. You should be proud of all you've learned. To improve in anything, you must have self-respect, otherwise the doubts will cause further mistakes.”
 
Poledra nodded. “Your pack leader is absolutely right. You must have self-respect to understand your gifts. I want you, every time you start to feel guilty or that you've made a mistake, to think about the things you've done right. List the skills you've learned, and what you can do with them. The more times you tell yourself what you've done positively, the less you'll dwell on those shortcomings. You're learning, so you'll make more mistakes as you go along, but the good will outweigh that, believe me. Do you promise to do this for me, Rin?”
 
Rin nodded. “Yes, Poledra-sama. Rin will think of what she's doing right whenever she thinks badly of herself. She promises.”
 
“Good.” Poledra let go of the little girl, and turned to face her. Cupping Rin's face in her hands, she said, “Would you like to know another skill that you will make you stronger?”
 
“Yes, Poledra-sama.” Rin smiled wide, an enthusiastic gleam in her eyes.
 
“Alright, today, I'm going to teach you how to make a barrier.”
 
“A barrier?” Sesshomaru asked.
 
“Yes.” Poledra moved to sit cross legged. “It is an important skill that can help strengthen one's mind, sometimes more than anything else that can be done with the Will and the Word. It can take more concentration than anything else, too.”
 
“What kinds of barriers can be made, Poledra-sama?” Rin shifted her foot on the pillows.
 
“There are several different types. Some are mental in nature, such as erecting a screen to keep hidden from other's searching minds. Some are physical to keep those types of attacks at bay. This kind of barrier isn't used as often in battle, especially with others capable of using the Will and the Word, because it takes all the energy of a person, and because it can make your location obvious. That being said, we're going to start with one so we can build Rin's endurance. Eventually, she will be able to learn how to combine both physical and mental barriers as well.”
 
“How, Poledra-sama?” Rin asked, her nose wrinkled in concentration as she listened to the wolf-woman.
 
“Basically you're going to focus on something and bring it into the physical.”
 
Sesshomaru pursed his lips. “Interesting. How will we test her barrier?”
 
“Typically, it is best to not even try touching a barrier such as this, but I don't think you or I shall be in any danger.” Poledra frowned. “To test it, we'll have to physically attack it, but that's the only kinds of attacks we'll use. It should endure anything we try.”
 
Sesshomaru nodded. He thought about how Inuyasha had been so interested in Rin's lessons. Perhaps there would be a benefit to allowing the half-breed to participate. “This Sesshomaru would like to invite the half-breed for this lesson. His sword is capable of breaking barriers, and I would like to see if he is able to break this one.”
 
Poledra nodded. “One thinks this would be beneficial. My only concern is that we make sure Rin is not harmed as we test her barrier's strength.”
 
“Of course. I'll make sure that he understands this, and before we try anything, tell us if it is something that is safe.”
 
“Good. Please invite him.”
 
Sesshomaru squeezed Rin's hand gently. He said, “This Sesshomaru shall be back shortly.”
 
He stood, feeling anxious about leaving Rin, even for a few short moments. Squaring his shoulders, the Demon Lord turned towards camp to find Inuyasha.
 
On his arrival, Sesshomaru found his brother, the miko, and the fox kit engrossed in another card game. He made his way towards them, and said, his voice crisp, “Half-breed.”
 
Inuyasha looked up from his cards, and Sesshomaru was grateful to see that his stripes had disappeared. A soft smile crossed his brother's lips, and he greeted jovially, “Hey, jackass.” He set his cards down and stood. “Well, what do you want?”
 
Sesshomaru resisted the urge to roll his eyes. The Demon Lord turned his back, and started back towards the clearing Rin waited in. He said over his shoulder, “Follow me and bring Tetsusaiga.”
 
Inuyasha ran to catch up, his movements clumsy as he tried to secure Tetsusaiga to his hip. “Something wrong, Sesshomaru? Why do you need me and Tetsusaiga?”
 
Sesshomaru knew he could explain it to Inuyasha before they got there, but he wanted to return to Rin quickly. Besides, he found his brother's urgency amusing. Glancing at the half-breed from the corner of his eye, Sesshomaru replied, “You'll see when we get there, half-breed.”
 
They arrived at the clearing Rin and the wolf-woman waited in. Sesshomaru resumed his seat by the little girl. Inuyasha remained standing, his stance wary. He had a hand on Tetsusaiga's hilt, and scanned the area for danger. Unable to resist, Sesshomaru chuckled softly at his brother's antics.
 
Inuyasha's eyes narrowed, and he glared at the Demon Lord.
 
Sesshomaru returned the glare, daring his brother to speak first. Finally, Inuyasha's patience wore thin, and he snapped, “Well, jackass, why did you drag me out here anyways?”
 
Sesshomaru answered nonchalantly, “I believe you expressed interest in Rin's lessons, did you not?”
 
Inuyasha relaxed and cocked his head to one side. He said, “But you've told me to mind my own business about those. Why invite me to one now?”
 
“Because this Sesshomaru thinks it could help Rin---nothing more.”
 
Poledra stood, assessing the half-breed. Her unblinking gold eyes bore into Inuyasha's, and she nodded. The wolf-woman said, “One thinks you are suited for your task.”
 
Inuyasha's nose wrinkled in confusion. “What are you talking about, wolf-wench?”
 
Poledra laughed softly. She said, “One welcomes you to Rin's lesson today. Please, take a seat.”
 
Inuyasha sat down across from Rin and Sesshomaru, a wary expression on his face. His ears twitched , and he asked, “What will you teach the pup today, if you don't mind me asking.”
 
“Barriers,” The wolf-woman replied.
 
Inuyasha's ears rose up on his head, and his eyes went wide. “I see. So that's why you asked me to come out here and bring Tetsusaiga. Why didn't you just say so, jackass?”
 
“This Sesshomaru had his reasons, “ the Demon replied, his tone amused.
 
Poledra said, “Alright, Rin, I want you to watch very carefully how I do this. To see if your pack-leader and his brother can attack without being harmed, I'll erect a barrier first.”
 
“Yes, Poledra-sama.”
 
The wolf-woman took a few steps back from everyone. Poledra stopped when she reached a small mound of dirt. She drew a circle around herself, enclosing herself in it. Poledra called out, “When I raise my hand, my barrier will be up. Use only minimal attacks to test if it will injure you or not.”
 
Sesshomaru nodded. He stood, watching the wolf-woman closely. Inuyasha followed suit, his eyes wide, and his expression intent. At first it seemed as if nothing had happened, however, there was a soft shimmering that flickered around Poledra. She raised her hand slowly, signaling that they could attack. Sesshomaru nodded to Inuyasha, letting him know that he'd attack first.
 
Sesshomaru charged the wolf-woman, and struck her barrier with a swift punch. It repelled him forcefully, but the Demon Lord maintained his footing. Sesshomaru looked at his fist, and found it unharmed. It hadn't hurt him, but it had pushed him away.
 
Inuyasha's ears twitched, and he evaluated the wolf-woman's barrier. He followed Sesshomaru's example, rushing her. He threw a hard punch, only to be met with the same resistance the Demon Lord had. Inuyasha was flung backwards, did a back flip, and landed soundlessly on his feet. The hanyou dusted himself off, and shrugged his shoulders. It seemed he had also been unhurt.
 
The barrier shimmered, and faded. Poledra asked, “You were unhurt?”
 
“Yes. It only pushed us back,” Sesshomaru replied.
 
“Good.” She smiled. “Rin, do you think you can do that?”
 
Rin frowned. “Rin can't make the circle here, and she can't walk to yours.”
 
Poledra nodded. “Eventually, you'll be able to make barriers without that step. It helps you anchor your Will to something physical when you learn, and if you have time, ward away your allies to keep them safe.”
 
Sesshomaru knelt down in front of Rin. He whispered, “This Sesshomaru can take you to the wolf-woman's circle if you want.”
 
“Thank-you, Sesshomaru-sama.” Rin lifted her arms, wrapping them around the Demon Lord's neck.
 
Sesshomaru supported the little girl's weight, and carefully stood. He carried her to the circle Poledra had made, and set her down inside, mindful not to disturb it. Rin let go, and smiled at him. She giggled softly, and a pillow appeared in each hand. Sesshomaru shook his head, chuckling. He took each pillow, and placed them under her injured ankle.
 
Inuyasha whistled softly, and Poledra laughed. He asked, “Did the pup do that?”
 
The wolf-woman said, “Yes, Rin translocated those pillows.”
 
Sesshomaru tucked a strand of Rin's hair behind her ear. He smiled softly at her, then turned to rejoin his brother and the wolf-woman. He nodded to Poledra. “You may begin.”
 
Poledra said, “Okay, Rin. Now concentrate and you should do just fine.” She turned towards the brothers. “I will let you know when she is ready. As this is her first time, do not use strikes right away. Touch it first, and we'll go from there.”
 
“This Sesshomaru understands,” the Demon Lord replied.
 
“Alright,” Inuyasha seconded.
 
The wolf-woman turned her back to them, and said, “Are you ready, Rin?”
 
Rin nodded. “Yes, Poledra-sama.”
 
“Once your barrier is up, you won't be able to hear anything or speak to us. Don't worry, things will be alright, and you can always reach me or your pack-leader with your thought,” Poledra explained. “Alright, Rin, go ahead.”
 
Rin closed her eyes, and took a few deep breaths. Sesshomaru watched her closely, fascinated. The little girl folded her hands in her lap. Her forehead wrinkled in intense concentration, and a tight frown crossed her face. As time went on, the air around Rin distorted, like a translucent curtain around her. It wavered a few times as the little girl struggled to maintain control. Finally, it seemed to stabilize, the sunlight that filtered through the trees glimmering off of it.
 
Poledra said, “Rin's barrier is now in place.”
 
Sesshomaru nodded, wordlessly crossing to the shimmering barrier. He reached out tentatively, and placed his palm onto it. The Demon Lord felt it repel him immediately. Glancing inside, Rin seemed to be unaware of his presence. Sesshomaru pushed aside his aversion to her not being able to communicate with him physically.
 
Rin's okay, Sesshomaru-sama. Test her barrier the way you did Poledra-sama's.”
 
Sesshomaru gasped. Somehow she had still known it was him touching her barrier. Rin hadn't opened her eyes. The Demon Lord replied, “Just let this Sesshomaru know when it is too much.”
 
Rin will.”
 
Sesshomaru looked towards Poledra and Inuyasha, and nodded his head. He said, “Begin, Inuyasha.”
 
Inuyasha eyed him carefully, his ears erect. He stepped towards Rin's shield. The half-demon cracked his knuckles, then drew his arm back. He slammed his fist into the shimmering barrier, only to be pushed back a few feet on the sheer momentum of his punch. The hanyou smiled. “Seems the pup did it after all.”
 
Poledra said, “You may hit a bit harder.”
 
Sesshomaru took his turn next. He felt apprehensive, but the little girl hadn't flinched from the half-breed's blow. The Demon Lord punched the barrier hard, and felt it repel him. Inside the shield, Rin did not move. He pursed his lips, hoping he hadn't harmed Rin, although she didn't react to his attack, either. Sending a probing thought out, Sesshomaru asked, hesitation in his voice, “Rin?”
 
Yes, Sesshomaru-sama?”
 
It---it did not hurt you?”
 
No. Rin's fine, Sesshomaru-sama.”
 
Good.”
 
Poledra said, “You may try more elaborate attacks if you wish.”
 
Inuyasha nodded. “My turn.”
 
He pushed aside his haori on one shoulder, and thrust his hand into it. He flung blood at Rin's shield, only to have the attack neutralized. The blood razors ricocheted harmlessly aside. It flickered a deep blue momentarily, before it resumed a translucent appearance.
 
Sesshomaru outstretched his hand next, releasing a torrent of poison. It coated the barrier in an eerie green, but did no damage. His poison burned away, leaving the flickering shield in place. The Demon Lord was amazed by the strength of Rin's barrier. It didn't even seem to waver, or weaken.
 
Poledra nodded in satisfaction. “Use stronger attacks.”
 
Inuyasha nodded. He said, “Alright.”
 
The hanyou sliced his claws at Rin's barrier, streaks of power crashing into it. The attack left deep gashes in the ground. As it hit the barrier, it flashed brightly. Slowly, it faded, seemingly absorbed by the little girl's barricade. It stabilized, revealing Rin inside. She still sat with her eyes closed, and her hands folded in her lap. An intense level of concentration crossed her face.
 
Poledra said, “Rin is doing extremely well with her barrier, even better than one expected. She's not even affected by any of the attacks, nor is she terribly fatigued.”
 
The Demon Lord pursed his lips. “Interesting. How long has Rin maintained her barrier?”
 
“We're approaching a half an hour at this point, mostly because you've been waiting a few minutes between attacks.”
 
Inuyasha's ears twitched wildly. He cleared his throat. “Uh, I don't know if I want to use the Wind Scar. I know you said that the pup is doing well, but I don't want to take the chance of hurting her.”
 
Sesshomaru nodded. “Agreed. This Sesshomaru does not think it is safe; however, I still would like you to try breaking her barrier with your Tetsusaiga.”
 
“You mean my red Tetsusaiga?”
 
“Correct.”
 
“Before we get to that point, one thinks we should try other attacks,” Poledra interjected.
 
“Alright.” Inuyasha nodded. “Your turn, jackass.”
 
“May this Sesshomaru use his whip?” Sesshomaru asked, his hand raised. The tips of his fingers glowed slightly.
 
“Go right ahead.”
 
Sesshomaru flicked his wrist, his whip lashing out. It smacked Rin's shield, which flared a deep blue. His whip bounced off innocuously. The Demon Lord withdrew it, watching in fascination. The globe surrounding Rin returned to a flickering translucence. It seemed impenetrable, and it amazed Sesshomaru that the little girl could produce something so strong.
 
The hiss of Tetsusaiga being withdrawn from the sheath brought Sesshomaru out of his trance. Inuyasha stood with a fully transformed sword. He said, “I'll just hit it with the blade this time, alright?”
 
“Go ahead,” Poledra said. “We'll save your barrier breaking technique for last.”
 
Inuyasha nodded. He rushed Rin's gossamer curtain, the blade over his head. In one motion, he brought the full brunt of Tetsusaiga down on the barrier. He grunted, and was repulsed immediately. The force sent him airborne, and the half-demon landed unceremoniously on his back. Inuyasha shook his head, and breathed, “Damn. That girl has one tough barrier.”
 
Sesshomaru smiled to himself at his brother's comment, feeling proud. He drew his Tokijin, certain that Rin's barricade would repel his blade. He looked towards Poledra, who nodded her approval. The Demon Lord ran at the shimmering sphere, and slammed his blade into it. He clenched his teeth, feeling it push him away. Sesshomaru did a back flip so to remain on his feet, and caught his breath.
 
Poledra said, “Excellent. Rin has truly learned this skill, and rather quickly. One last attack, and we should allow her to rest.”
 
Inuyasha brushed his pants off. He picked up the discarded sword, and held it up. Slowly, the blade took on a reddish tint, as if it was bleeding. Finally, it shone a deep crimson. He said, his voice cautious, “You're sure you want me to try this?”
 
Poledra nodded. “Rin should withstand it, even if her barrier does not.”
 
“Alright, if you say so, wolf-woman.” Inuyasha adjusted his grip on his sword.
 
Sesshomaru placed Tokijin back at his waist, watching his brother closely. He was interested to see if Inuyasha's Tetsusaiga could penetrate Rin's barrier. He knew that the red sword was supposed to break through any barrier, no matter how strong. Even though it had failed against one of Naraku's, the Demon Lord thought this would be a good test for Rin, and hopefully a boost to her confidence.
 
The hanyou raised his blade high, and raced towards Rin. He brought the full force of the scarlet blade down on her shield. At first it seemed to sink into the barrier. Had Inuyasha broken it? Sesshomaru watched as the sword stopped. With a flash of cerulean blue, Tetsusaiga was rejected. The half-demon gave a cry of pain, and flew backwards to land on his back again. His sword reverted back to its rusty form. The half-breed shook his head in disbelief. His ears twitched and he frowned. Rin's shield hadn't just repulsed the red blade's attack, it had canceled it.
 
“Shit. Did you see that? I could feel her barrier weaken, and then it felt like the hilt of Tetsusaiga was on fire. How did the pup do that?” Inuyasha looked at his singed palms.
 
Poledra said, “Her barrier is a physical manifestation of her Will. Her Will is strong, so that means her barrier would be strong.”
 
Sesshomaru looked from his dumbfounded brother to the sphere surrounding the little girl. His Rin had defeated the Tetsusaiga. He was certain, that if Inuyasha tried the Wind Scar, that it would fail as well. He felt extremely proud of her, and underneath that, a smug satisfaction at seeing Inuyasha's sword thwarted. Again, it seemed that Rin would never cease to amaze him.
 
Poledra broke him from his thoughts. “Rin will drop her barrier now. She has mastered this skill well. I would like to try a mental one in the next lesson. She must learn to protect her mind as much as her body.”
 
“Agreed,” Sesshomaru replied.
 
Slowly, as if it was melting, the globe surrounding Rin faded. Once it disappeared, the little girl opened her eyes and smiled. She said, “Rin did it, Sesshomaru-sama! Rin can make barriers!”
 
“This Sesshomaru knows.” He crossed towards her, and knelt down. He whispered to her mind, “I'm very proud of you, Rin.”
 
Inuyasha shifted on his feet, an awkward expression on his face. He said, “Pup, that's some barrier you have there.”
 
Rin giggled softly. “Thank-you, Inuyasha-sama.”
 
The half-demon bit his lip. “I don't suppose I'll get invited to the next lesson.”
 
Poledra laughed softly, a richness to it. “That is up to Rin's pack-leader. However, one thinks it would be helpful if you were present.”
 
“Well, jackass?”
 
Sesshomaru frowned. He shifted to sit cross-legged next to Rin. The Demon Lord surmised that it might help Rin if the half-breed was involved, but only if Inuyasha understood that he was in charge, and thus had the final say. Sesshomaru fixed his brother with a penetrating gaze. He said, “This Sesshomaru shall allow it.”
 
Inuyasha nodded. “Alright.”
 
The fox kit bounded into the clearing, careful to avoid the Demon Lord. He stopped in front of Inuyasha, hunching over to catch his breath. Shippo's bushy tail twitched in excitement. He jumped up, and landed on one of the half-demon's shoulders. “Father.”
 
“What is it, runt?”
 
“Mother said that dinner will be ready soon, and that I should come get you,” Shippo said, his words rushed together.
 
“She did, did she?” Inuyasha arched an eyebrow. “Alright. Let's go then.” He looked towards Sesshomaru. “Just let me know when you'd like me to join the next lesson.”
 
“This Sesshomaru will, half-breed.”
 
The hanyou turned towards camp, and walked away. The fox kit babbled at him, his voice excited, “You should have stayed at camp. I won the game just after you left.”
 
“I'm sure you did, brat.”
 
Once they disappeared from view, Sesshomaru looked towards the wolf-woman when she sat down across from him and Rin. He knew that she would have something to say about the lesson, and waited to see what that might be. The Demon Lord was curious as to when she might hold the next one, as well. Rin had done very well this time, impressively so. Sesshomaru mused that Poledra would like to add to that momentum by holding another one sooner than later.
 
“One is extremely pleased by the outcome of today's lesson, Rin. You mastered a difficult skill rather quickly, and with minimal mistakes,” Poledra began. “I would like to hold another lesson as soon as possible.”
 
Sesshomaru nodded. “What skills did you have in mind for next time?”
 
“I'd like for Rin to learn how to put other's minds to sleep, among other mental skills that will help her to learn a mental barrier.”
 
“This Sesshomaru finds that acceptable.”
 
Poledra leaned forward, cupping Rin's chin in her hands. “Now, Rin, dear, I'd like you to list your accomplishments again. You've added to that list today, and I'd like you to focus on that.”
 
Rin blushed. She said, “Okay, Poledra-sama.” She bit her lip, her eyes lost in thought. “Rin can translocate things.”
 
“Good.”
 
“She can talk to Sesshomaru-sama with her thoughts.”
 
“Another.”
 
“Rin's eyes brightened. “Rin can make a strong barrier.”
 
“Yes. One more.”
 
The little girl's brows furrowed, and she chewed her thumbnail. She said, a strange hesitancy in her voice, as if she was unsure, “She can use her Will to make fire.”
 
Sesshomaru's eyebrows shot up in surprise. He had been present for all of her lessons, so when did Rin learn this? The Demon Lord knew that the wolf-woman would not teach her a skill without his approval. He thought about the fire Rin had built without a flint the night before. Had the little girl learned it on her own, and if so, why did she lie when he asked her about it? Sesshomaru started to ask, when Poledra stopped him.
 
No. I don't want to upset her. Just wait for now. I'd like to find out more, too, but let's not pressure her. Let me know if she mentions it again.”
 
If you think that is what is best.”
 
Poledra said aloud, “Good, Rin.” She stood. “I want you to keep focusing on these things. I'll let you know when I will hold another lesson.”
 
Rin said, “Yes, Poledra-sama.”
 
The wolf-woman walked away, leaving Sesshomaru and Rin alone. The Demon Lord slipped his arm around the little girl's shoulders, and pulled her close. He kissed her temple, and whispered into her ear, “This Sesshomaru is extremely proud of you, Rin.”
 
Rin hugged him, and rested her head onto his shoulder. She said, “Rin knows, Sesshomaru-sama. Rin's proud of herself, too.”
 
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Chapter 68
Chapter 70
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