One: the picture
"Come on, Sesshomaru!" Rin shook his arm with a small grin, her small hands clutching surprisingly hard to the fabric of his sleeve. He itched to yank his arm away from her grasp, her clinginess usually didn't make him feel this uncomfortable. Then again, his idiot of a younger brother usually didn't prowl through his belongings. Although, Sesshomaru should have known that removing his armor and Yukata was the most idiotic thing he could have possibly have done around his hanyou of a brother. He had originally took off the Armor due to his clothing being wet where Rin had paired up with the fox kit to 'prank' him with a pale of water. Inuyasha decided to be nosey when he fumbled with the metal and Sesshomaru hadn't thought twice about it until...
"Who's in the picture?!"
Inuyasha held the thin piece of paper in between his claws as his golden eyes squinted at the faded ink. The picture was barely half the size of Inuyasha's hand and he would have never have found it if he hadn't kicked his older brothers armor by accident. If the faded ink wasn't a clue to how old the image was, then the crumpled worn edges and the clear signs of how many times the paper had been folded repeatedly spoke volumes. It was obvious the photo, despite its worn appearance, was cared for; so why in the hell is it tucked inside Sesshomaru's armor?!
Inuyasha could make out his brothers stiff form in the photo and his ever-present mask of indifference. His silver hair was tied up in a samurai-styled knot on top of his head and his clothes looked more like the type that was seen in Kagome's time. What really seemed to interest everyone at the moment, though, was the figure who had their arms wrapped around the demons neck and was alarmingly close to the mans person; personal space didn't seem to be a issue. Inuyasha maybe a tad slow on picking up on such things, but despite the person wearing clothes more fitted for a man, this was irrefutably a woman who didn't lack in the department of curves. Her face was blurred to the point that facial features was unidentifiable, much to the room occupants irritation.
Sesshomaru clenched his jaw as the dark haired priest snatched the paper from his younger brothers fingers. He didn't have to lift a finger, though, when the miko hit the man rather harshly in the head. "Careful! You're going to rip it apart with how rough you're being!" She was gently as she pried the picture from his hands and Sesshomaru felt his jaw loosen. The miko must have noticed the tension in his shoulders, his eyes iced over more than they had been in the past two months.
"You're family now, Sesshomaru, like it or not." Kagome smiled as Sango bobbed her head in agreement, noticing the tension in the demon Lords shoulders as well. "And family has to look out for each other."
Sesshomaru bit his tongue as Kagomes words triggered a familiar saying that was preached to him:
Those who break the rules are scum, but those who abandon their friends are worse than scum.
He gritted his teeth in annoyance; how it was relevant to the miko's words was unknown. He was uncertain if he considered the people before him as friends... Let alone family; Inuyasha was a exception. The silvered haired hanyou wasn't as horrid as Sesshomaru first thought him to be, but there was still much work to be done for him to be considered capable of with holding the title of being the son of the Great Dog General. It would never be admitted aloud in any circumstance, but the dog demon considered Inuyasha a... dece- ok... brother. His hatred over the years was ill-placed and childish in mild terms. He wasn't going to apologize aloud for his attitude towards the hanyou, because it was unbecoming of a lord; but he could ease up on the half-breed. He was surprised that Inuyasha wasn't up in his face demanding answers.
There was no telling how many memories this situation was going to rip from the recesses of his mind, it all needed to stay buried.
People become stronger because they have memories they can't forget.
Sesshomaru leaned his back against the beam that helped support the hut, his head already pounding with buried memories he wanted to stay unearthed. He saw the curious stares still focused on his being and Rin's seemed to burn the most as she climbed into his lap.
Sesshomaru opened his mouth, prepared with the response of 'she bares no importance as she is no longer among the living', but the words formed a clot in his throat. That one simple sentence was all he needed to end the whole conversation and save himself from those memories... But it wasn't as simple as he wanted to make it out to be.
Myouga deemed it his place to help fill in the group once he saw the look cross briefly along Sesshomaru's face. But the flea flinched as he realized the harshness those words took on and he immediately averted his gaze from the silver-haired lord. He had been waiting years to pass along the information on to someone who bared some positive relation to Sesshomaru... This was the perfect chance and the flea refused to bypass it. He knew Inutaisho would want his eldest son to move on from the past, and allowing others to know of the dog demons loss was a step towards healing; or at least, that's what the old flea had heard.
The two words set off a melancholy mood across the room that had Rin clutch tighter to her lords clothing despite it being still damp. Shippo held the fur of his tail as he adjusted himself in Kagome's lap. He frowned when he looked over at Rin to see her pretty dark brown eyes slowly filling with tears; she was prettier with a smile.
"Who was she?" Sango's voice barely reached above a soft whisper as her eyes took on a look that made Sesshomaru scowl. He didn't need the annoyance of a flea seeing himself justified to speak up for him, his mouth worked just fine. "She's dead, ningen. There is nothing for you to know."
Inuyasha's ears involuntarily flattened at the unexpected harshness in his brothers tone. The past few months after Narakus' defeat, Sesshomaru hadn't been a complete ass and showed some emotion in his voice. He was still considered stoic in his expression, but little hints peaked through of his personality slipping through; looks like all that hard work back tracked about eleven steps.
"This Sesshomaru's business is not your own." Mentally, the lord winced at falling back into third person. He had been trying to kick that habit for several centuries now because it was improper for a lord to speak so foolishly. The habit had started a long time ago when...
Sesshomaru shook his head as he stood to his feet, forcing Rin from his lap. He wasn't about to go down that road... He refused to go down that road. He clenched his fists with the most microscopic frowns a person could master as the intense urge to grab the piece of paper made his fingers tingled at the mere thought. It had been four years since he had last laid his eyes on that photo and the opportunity to memorize the details of the image burned at his senses. Maybe just a peek would... no, he had vowed to himself to not look at the photo again... Parting with the paper was absolutely out of the question. Sesshomaru had lived for five centuries, that photo had been taken two-hundred years ago and he really didn't want to admit it... but he could barely remember the vivid details that he had used to admire religiously. He didn't want to forget... by kami, everything else was already gone; he needed to keep at least one kind of memento to prove that wasn't just a figment of his imagination.
He scowled as he focused on moving his feet so he wouldn't do anything he would regret. He only needed a few hours by a creek and the memories would be tucked safely back into their buried chambers. He would be able to retrieve the photograph with a clear conscious and not be torn to view the inked image once he returned.
Inuyasha watched as his brother did the equivalent of a child's tantrum as he walked out of the hut. The out of character action made a bolt of pity and sympathy go through the hanyou's body because he realized the agony of losing a loved one. He didn't know who the mystery girl was or her relation to his older brother, but she seemed like she had managed to capture some form of affection from the stoic demon; that was a major accomplishment that no one except Rin had managed to complete. Which is kind of depressing when Inuyasha though about it; Sesshomaru had been alive for half a millennia and had, to his knowledge, only cared for... two people.
"I didn't mean to upset him." Sango frowned as she played with the ring on her finger. Her curiosity came on strong on this certain topic and the urge to learn something new about the Lord of the West was all-consuming, but she should have had better control over herself than that.
"No. Don't apologize." Myouga jumped up on to the hunter's knee, landing smoothly. "Sesshomaru has had his time of silent grief, its time for him to get over it; that's why I intervened earlier."
Inuyasha narrowed his eyes at the flea demons words. That.. was really harsh. Kami, if it was anything else Sesshomaru was upset about, Inuyasha wouldn't have been bothered by it. But Myouga was basically saying it was wrong for the demon lord to grieve for the death of a loved one. What the hell?
"If Sesshomaru wants to grieve over the girl's death, let him. You can't just 'get over it' when someone you care about dies, ya dam pest."
Kagome nodded in agreement as she gripped on to the fire rat's fabric in a attempt to make sure that the hanyou didn't do anything rash. Myouga did seem to be really heartless on this matter.
Myouga sighed as he realized how this all may look, but everything would be explained. "Sesshomaru is the lord of the west and is five-hundred years old; he doesn't have time to mourn a lady that died two centuries ago. It doesn't help that he possesses no heir to secure the stability of the West. A Lord has at least one mate and child before they reach Sesshomaru's age. He needs to get himself together and take a mate by the next festival or he will be stripped of his title."
Kagome frowned, was that Myouga saying that? Or was there other people planning on taking away Sesshomaru's position? Either way, it all sounded like a horrid situation. Inuyasha seem to think the same since he was growling low in his throat as he glared daggers at the small flea with his silver ears pulled back.
"You can't force someone to find a mate within that short of time! The next festival is in four months! Once a demon mates, its for life! You know this, Myouga." Inuyasha snapped as he clenched his fists. This was one of those full fledged demon traditions Inuyasha despises; full demons were expected to find a mate by a certain allotted time; especially for royalty. It usually took decades to find a true mate, so some full demons took in a partner until they could find their other half. Was that girl Sesshomaru's true mate? The word mate and Sesshomaru put together didn't seem likely in his mind; mostly with how stoic and prideful the demon was. But he knew for certain that Sesshomaru wouldn't take anyone as a life partner if it wasn't his mate.
"Did you know the girl in the photo, Myouga?" Rin wrapped her arms around her knees, feeling sad for her Lord Sesshomaru. She hadn't really lost anyone really, really important to her; but she knew if she lost Lord Sesshomaru, she would be heartbroken. Was that why Lord Sesshomaru never smiled? He was sad the entire time. She clenched her hands on her knees before wiping her cheeks. She would make him the best-est flower crown ever then! Flowers always made her happy, it had to work for Lord Sesshomaru too!
"No, not personally. Sesshomaru stayed with the girl for five years in her home village, only returning to the Palace when Inutaisho would call for him. In the times he was here, he didn't speak that much of her. It seemed Sesshomaru spoke mostly to Inutaisho about her; however limited it was, it had caught his attention at how Sesshomaru was spending all his time at this village. Inutaisho allowed him to have his distance, knowing the pressures of being heir, but it wasn't long before he was wanting to meet the girl himself." Myouga sighed as he recalled the strange gleam in Intaisho's eyes when he spoke of the situation, he still didn't know what that was. "However, after calling Sesshomaru back for a battle with panther demons over land rights, we found out through Sesshomaru that the girl had passed away in his absence. He resented Intaisho after that for calling him away to a 'meaningless battle'."
"So she was a human? Sesshomaru hates humans." Inuyasha muttered the last part under his breath as he crossed his arms.
"Yes, to my knowledge, she was a full-fledged human. I don't know what Sesshomaru saw in her, but he has been licking his wounds for too long. He needs a mate or Inutaisho's legacy of the throne will be overthrown. I can't allow that to happen."
Shippo grabbed Rin's hand in his as he stood up. "Come on. We can go look for Sesshomaru." The sad atmosphere was getting a bit too much for him.
"Lets go to the field with all the pretty flowers!" Shippo didn't have time to blink before he was being yanked out of the hut and forced into a sprint with the ravenette gripping his wrist tightly in her excitement. He didn't think she would turn down seeing Sesshomaru, but maybe she didn't want to see him now because she knew he was sad. It was a possibility.
"Stay within the treeline, you guys!" Sango shouted after the kids with a frown. Kids didn't need their minds emerged in sad situations anyway.
"I'm going to go keep an eye on them." Kagome stood up as she patted her clothes free of dirt. Even with Naraku gone, it didn't eliminate all the demons that wished to do harm. She wasn't about to test the kids safety.