Sesshomaru recounts to Mana how he and Yuta first met.
host when he chose to be. Now was not one of those times.
"I'm surprised you're still alive, Yuta," he said dryly after they had sat down to eat.
Mana was busy alternating cramming her mouth with fish and guzzling down tea, but
Yuta left his food untouched, preferring instead to glare at Sesshomaru. "I would have
thought you'd have the good sense to off yourself by now."
"I could say the same thing about you."
Sesshomaru ignored him. "If you were beheaded, it wouldn't matter how much mermaid
flesh you'd consumed. You'd be dead for good." He went on with a taunting gleam in
his eyes. "All it would take is one clean, hard strike to your neck-not soft like I did to
you last night."
Mana, who had hardly seemed to be paying attention from the enthusiasm she put into
eating, suddenly swallowed loudly. He thought shredding someone's throat apart was
Yuta grunted. "Mana and I didn't come all the way up here looking for mermaids so we
can learn how to die. We want normal aging lives, not some easy way out."
The gleam in Sesshomaru's eyes went out, and his face paled slightly. "The girl's
immortal, too?" He stared at her for a prolonged moment, his thoughts far away. "I never
believed another one like you was possible. Usually when someone partakes of the
mermaid's flesh, they become a Lost Soul-or die."
"Yeah," Mana said with her mouth half-full. "Yuta and me-we're the lucky ones."
Then without missing a beat she dived back into her meal.
As Sesshomaru watched her, his mind drifted. For this girl to have survived the
mermaid's flesh.... She was special....
"Well," Mana said abruptly. tearing him away from his thoughts, "Aren't you going to
tell me how you two met?"
Yuta sighed. It'd be best to satisfy Mana's curiosity quickly so they could move on to the
more important issue of mermaids. "We met about 500 years ago, I guess it would be. It
wasn't too long after I first realized what eating the mermaid's flesh had done to me. I'd
been traveling from village to village, searching for leads on mermaids when-"
Suddenly a garbled noise interrupted him. Mana said a few unintelligible words before
swallowing her fish and trying again, this time more successfully. "No, no, Yuta, not
you! I can listen to you drone on anytime. I want to hear Sesshomaru tell the story."
"Hey, since when do I drone-"
"Silence, Yuta. Let's give the girl what she wants." Sesshomaru's eyes were gloating.
Yuta scowled. Sesshomaru turned to Mana and spoke in a softer tone. "I shall tell you
how it happened, if you wish."
"Yes, please!" Mana smiled, and Sesshomaru noted with satisfaction how her attention
toward him grated on Yuta's nerves.
"Very well. It began some time after the long battle with Naraku had finally ended..."
"Narak-who?" Mana asked.
"Hm," Sesshomaru said with distaste. "I see he hasn't been recorded down in human
history. Interesting, considering the downfall of that vile hanyou practically marked the
beginning of the decline of demonkind. But no matter. All you need to know is that my
travels had ended, and I had returned to the West with my servant Jaken and... Rin."
Mana's interest instantly piqued. "You mean the human girl, right?"
Sesshomaru gave a slight nod.
"What was she like?" Mana leaned forward eagerly.
Sesshomaru's mouth tightened. He remained silent for a while under Mana's close gaze,
but slowly the words trickled out. "She was always smiling... and bringing me
Sesshomaru clenched the wilting flowers in his hand, the ones Rin had bestowed to him
the previous week, remembering how fresh and beautiful they once were, and felt the
brittle stems crack beneath his grasp. "Rin."
"Yes, Lord Sesshomaru?" The girl, no longer quite so little, but as innocent as always,
stared up at him, eyes sparkling.
"Stop picking flowers for me."
Rin's heart sank, and because she wore her heart on her sleeve, her expression did too.
"Don't you like them, Lord Sesshomaru?"
She looked hesitant, daring to inquire further. "Why?"
Sesshomaru crushed the dry, browning flowers in his fist, dropped them to the floor at
her feet, and left. His words trailed out behind him: "Because they always die."
Rin watched him go sadly, and then picked up a broken petal, considering it carefully
between her fingers until finally a smile returned to her face. "Then I will just have to
pick new ones for you, Lord Sesshomaru," she whispered.
Rin decided that she was old enough to go out alone unsupervised. She didn't need to
drag Jaken or Ah-Un along with her. She was in Sesshomaru's lands after all, and Rin
never questioned her safety when Sesshomaru was nearby.
"I'll find some really good flowers this time, even better than those old ones," she said as
she headed out among the fields where the wildflowers grew. "That way, Lord
Sesshomaru will like them and be happy."
When it came to flowers, Rin was the most impeccable judge. She scrutinized one bloom
after another, finding none that were up to her new standards. Further and further out she
ventured, intent on nothing but her mission, unaware of just how far away she was going.
Finally, she came to the edge of the fields that gave way to the forest on the outskirts of
Sesshomaru's lands. Her eyes wandered over the wildflowers there, and her forehead
crinkled in disappointment. She was running out of flowers to check, and she still hadn't
found any perfect enough to present to Sesshomaru. What if she had to go home empty
handed? She knelt down next to some pink hotaru-bukuro blossoms and looked at them
thoughtfully, holding the cascading petals against her palm. They were beautiful, no
doubt, but the downward-facing buds gave Rin the impression of one bent over in
mourning. No, she decided, too sad-looking. These flowers had to make Lord
She walked further on and suddenly stopped. Up ahead nearby a large, old tree was a
patch of pure white blossoms. She ran over and fell to her knees by them. Sasuyuri! She
held one of the blooms against her palm and smiled. The petals were pointed so that the
flowers looked like dazzling stars bursting across the field. They were perfect. Lord
Sesshomaru would be so pleased!
She bent over and began gathering bundles of them. She had about half an armful when
something rustled nearby in the trees. She stopped and jerked her head up. There was
nothing there. Must have been the wind, she thought, but the branches and leaves were
still as death, and yet the rustling continued. "Hello?" she called out tentatively as her
pulse began to quicken. No answer. More rustling. She started to back away. Why
hadn't she brought Ah-Un along?
The rustling grew more violent. Suddenly two trees were thrust apart, their trunks
snapped like twigs. Rin screamed. A hideous beast burst out from between them, and
lunged toward her.
Rin sidestepped his grasp, throwing her arms up in fright. The flowers flew out of her
hands. She fled, heart pounding. But the monster was faster and larger-double the size
of a full-grown man. She could hear its long strides resounding like drumbeats as they
struck the earth. It was right behind her. It knocked her to the ground with a massive
clawed hand, and her mouth filled with the bitter taste of dirt and blood. She cried out,
helpless as the beast hovered over her. There was no room to escape. The foul mix of
hot breath and saliva spewed onto her face from its skeletal snout and jaws. Its glassy,
fishlike eyes spied her greedily, anticipating the kill. In a second she would feel those
jagged teeth rip through her body. Rin squeezed her eyes shut, and thought of
Suddenly she heard a deep, powerful voice yelling, "Get out of there!" There was a
whish as something zoomed through the air. The monster roared in agony, clutching at
its face. Rin's eyes flew open. A dagger had been launched through the beast's eye!
A young man charged out of the forest, brandishing a spear at the monster. The beast,
half blind and bellowing in fury, lunged for him.
"Run away, kid!" the man yelled as he blocked the beast's blows with the hilt of his
Rin watched in horror, panic-stricken. "I can't leave you!"
"Just do it! I'll be fine!" He grunted, receiving a hit that shattered his spear into
splinters. The monster swatted him away like a fly-his body soared through the air and
landed next to Rin with a thud, and didn't move. Rin gasped, but then the beast was upon
her. She tried to squirm away. It caught one of her legs and held her down with one arm.
The other it raised high above its head, ready to send it smashing through her chest.
As its claws connected with flesh, Rin cried out. In that second the man had thrown his
body in the way, shielding hers. He looked up at her with straining eyes as he coughed
blood. The monster had thrust its claws through the man's chest as easily as one would
skewer a pig. The man wheezed one last time and collapsed.
Before the scream finished leaving Rin's lips, the monster had grabbed her by the neck.
It lifted her up in the air and opened its jaws, ready to bring them down upon her skull.
But suddenly Rin felt herself being hurled to the ground. She crashed into the dirt,
grazing her cheek painfully against a rock, and looked up in time to see the monster
falling to its knees. Sesshomaru's poisonous claws were sticking through its torso.
The monster twitched uncontrollably for a few seconds before finally it stopped moving
altogether, a deep green poison bubbling from its wound. Rin tried to catch her breath,
which was coming out in short gasps, dully aware that it was over. Sesshomaru had
saved her. She was safe. But that poor man...
Sesshomaru glared down at Rin with a displeased look on his face, the monster's vile-
smelling blood staining his white robes. Rin choked, filled with shame. She had been
foolish to wander so far alone.
"You risked your life, and for what," Sesshomaru said, picking up a tossed flower from
the ground and crushing it in his fist, "These trifles?"
"No!" Rin cried. "It wasn't that. I just... I just wanted to make you happy."
The anger in his eyes wavered, but only for a fraction of a second. "You're bleeding. Go
home and clean yourself up." Abruptly he turned to go, which signaled for her to follow.
"Lord Sesshomaru, wait!" Rin ran to the fallen body of the stranger. "This man, he
protected me." Gingerly she touched his face, trying to find any sign of life.
Sesshomaru gave him one sidelong glance. "That man is dead, Rin, by his own folly.
Knives are of no use against a Lost Soul." His pupils flicked to the monster's carcass.
"Only poison can kill them."
Rin's eyes welled up with tears as she stared at the man's still face, the color now gone
from it. Though it was streaked with dirt and sweat, he had soft features. Yes, the man
had been handsome when he was alive...
"Lord Sesshomaru," Rin's voice choked, "It's my fault this man died. Please... will you
bring him back?"
Sesshomaru said nothing as he watched her cling desperately to the body. His shoulders
tensed. Finally, without ceremony, he pulled Tenseiga from his side and gazed at the
blade intently. There was no pulse from the sword. No pallbearers from the afterlife
appeared by the body. Tenseiga was not reacting to this man. But why...? Sesshomaru
narrowed his eyes.
Whoever this man had been, there was something unusual about him. Sesshomaru
almost regretted that he would never learn his secret. Sesshomaru looked down at Rin,
his voice unapologetic. "I can't." Then he sheathed Tenseiga and started to walk away.
"Lord Sesshomaru! At least let's give him a proper burial, then. Please."
"That man is nothing but a foolhardy peasant."
"I don't care. He tried to save me. I'll bury him myself if I have to." She began pawing
frantically at the ground.
Sesshomaru frowned, watching Rin struggle. Her little hands barely made an impact on
the hard earth. "How utterly ridiculous you are behaving. At that rate, it would take you
Rin only clawed at the dirt more forcefully in response. Sesshomaru sighed inwardly to
himself. Humans and their foolish ideals...
Rin didn't look up, but suddenly she felt Sesshomaru's presence beside her. Without a
word, he crouched down and began digging, too...
That night Jaken got a deadly glare from Sesshomaru for not keeping Rin out of trouble.
All through the night and the next morning, Rin's thoughts were occupied by the
mysterious young man. Who was he, and what was he doing there? Why was he willing
to sacrifice himself? Didn't he have a family?
At this last thought, Rin cringed with guilt. What if she'd been responsible for breaking
up a family?
Sesshomaru seemed to read the somber looks on her face. "That man was nothing but a
lowly fisherman. I smelt it on him. A nomad, too. No one will miss him."
'Except for me,' Rin thought. She decided to go back to the grave and pay her respects to
him. This time she led Ah-Un along with her through the fields.
She neared the grave, picking hotaru-bukuro along the way to place on it. There were no
signs of the skirmish from the previous day. Sesshomaru's poison had gradually but
completely eaten away the monster's carcass, the Lost Soul as he had called it. She knelt
at the grave's edge, and set the flowers down while Ah-Un grazed in the background.
Rin lowered her head, trying fruitlessly to keep the tears from falling. It was all her fault.
If she hadn't been so careless yesterday, he would still be alive. How she wished he were
Suddenly a bit of the fresh soil crumbled. Rin looked at it, holding her breath. It moved
again. "Ah-Un!" she called nervously as the earth below it began to cave in. Suddenly a
human arm shot up through the dirt, followed by another one, and that's when Rin began
to scream. Frozen in place, she watched as the top of a sandy head of hair emerged after
the arms. By the time a pair of eyes broke through the ground and blinked at her, Rin
was near hysterical.
"Oh shit," the man said as soon as his mouth was free when he saw Rin screeching and
backing away. The man-the previously dead man-pulled the rest of his body up out of
the grave. "No, don't be scared, kid. I'm not gonna hurt you."
He made no move toward her, and Rin stopped, still cautious, staring at him. "What are
you?" she stuttered.
The once-dead man took a deep breath. "I'm immortal."
For a while Rin was speechless, but after she had calmed down the first words out of her
mouth were, "But how...? You're not a demon."
"No, I'm not. I used to be a regular person just like you, but then... I ate the flesh of a
"Yes. They say eating the flesh of a mermaid grants eternal youth and longevity. But in
reality, the mermaid's flesh is like a poison. A whole group of us tried it. We were fools.
I was the only one to survive, and as far as I know, I'm the only person who ever has.
Everyone else died or transformed into a monster like the one you saw yesterday."
"You mean that monster used to be human?"
"Not more than two days ago he was human. You see, I can't stay in one place for too
long, or people tend to notice that I don't age. And they become fearful of me. There's a
village on the other side of these woods. I hadn't been living there for long when I
overheard that one of the fishermen had got a hold of mermaid's flesh. Before I could
warn him, it was too late. He ate the flesh and became that beast, and went on a rampage
before escaping into the forest. Many people were killed. I decided to try to track him
before he hurt anyone else. And just when I was getting close, he attacked you." He
paused. "What happened after I died, kid? How did you escape?"
"My name is Rin...." She paused when she saw his reaction to her name. "What?"
"Nothing. You just surprised me. I met a Rin not too long ago. It's a pretty name."
"Who was she?"
"The daughter of an island headman. She was lovely but... I had to leave her."
"Did she know you were immortal?"
"Then why couldn't you stay together?"
Yuta was silent a moment. "If we had, it wouldn't have ended well for either of us."
"Because she would die, and you'd go on living?"
He was taken aback. "Yes." This girl was strangely astute about the matter.
"Hm." Rin had a thoughtful look on her face. His answer had upset her. "It seems to me
that by leaving her, it didn't end well either way."
The man frowned. The subject was making him uncomfortable, and she still hadn't
answered his question. "What happened yesterday with the monster?"
"Oh. Lord Sesshomaru saved me. He killed the monster, and helped me bury you."
"This man killed it by himself? What kind of weapon did he use?"
"Just his claws. He told me that the monster's only weakness was poison."
"Claws? You mean... this Sesshomaru is a demon?"
"Not just any demon. He's the lord of these Western Lands."
The man's eyes widened. He'd never heard of a demon befriending a human before.
"You're lucky to have someone like that looking out for you."
Rin smiled. "I know."
"Well," he said, standing up. "I'm glad you're safe, Rin." He patted her on the head. "I
thought that when I'd wake up, you'd be.... Well, anyway, I've got to keep moving on to
the next village until I find a mermaid. It's my only hope to get rid of this curse. So
Rin watched him leave. Somehow, it felt wrong to see him go. She'd never met anyone
like him before. "Wait!" she said, running up to him. "Maybe Lord Sesshomaru can
The man turned around. "What?"
"Lord Sesshomaru is very wise. And he identified the Lost Soul yesterday, so must know
all about mermaids. I bet he can tell you where to find them."
"Hmm." The man thought about it. It was better than starting out cold. And even if this
Sesshomaru demon couldn't help him, at least it would give him a chance to talk to
someone else immortal. "What's he like?"
"Oh, he's very brave, and very kind." There was such sincerity in her voice. Something
about this girl made Yuta feel that he shouldn't leave yet.
"All right then. Let's go."
Rin called Ah-Un to her and then they were off.
"Oh wait," she said. "I almost forgot. What's your name?"
Rin smiled warmly. "Yuta," she said, giving him a little kiss on the cheek. He stared at
her cheerful face in awe. "Thank you for saving me."
If Sesshomaru was surprised when the corpse that he had spent the previous night
burying walked in with Rin looking alive and well, he didn't show it. Rin introduced him
to Yuta and explained his story. When she was done, Sesshomaru wanted to address
Yuta in private, so then Rin left to go find Jaken-"He must be bored without me"-and
then the two men were alone.
Sesshomaru contemplated what Rin had told him. "So, that's why Tenseiga didn't
respond to you..." It all made sense now. "You're an abomination."
"So you don't even realize it. How pathetic. Allow me to explain. Like a human, you're
a weak creature who perishes from the slightest injury. And yet, like a demon, your
body persists in living." He narrowed his eyes. "You're an imitation that walks between
worlds. No better than a despicable hanyou."
"This abomination saved that girl's life."
"/Tried/ to save her. You failed. If I hadn't caught the scent of blood on the wind,
she would be dead right now."
"Listen, think whatever you want of me. I don't care. Just tell me where I can find a
mermaid, and you'll never see me again."
Sesshomaru looked like he was willing to take him up on that offer. "There are two types
of mermaids. A select few have two legs and walk on land. Their magic makes it almost
impossible to tell them apart from humans. Their true forms are only revealed in the
"I met one like that. Isago. She got away."
"And then the rest of them live in clans underwater. But their territories are shrouded in
secrecy. You can never be sure of where a mermaid lives until you see one."
"So what you're saying in a very roundabout way is you can't help."
Sesshomaru's gaze pierced him. "Listen well. I'm going to tell you exactly what you
need to do. I'll even offer you my assistance."
Yuta's pulse quickened with hope.
"For someone in your condition there's only one thing for you to do..."
"Lop off your head and end your miserable existence." He raised a clawed hand, and his
knuckles cracked. "Shall I assist you?"
For a moment, the two men stood there in deafening silence. It took every ounce of self-
control Yuta had to keep from punching him, but instead he just scowled. "I don't know
why someone like her can stand you. I'm leaving."
"With your weapons broken? A creature as defenseless as you won't last two days
unarmed." Sesshomaru opened a wooden chest and handed him a finely crafted harpoon.
"Of course, it won't do you much good if you can't even defend yourself against one
measly Lost Soul."
Yuta bit his tongue, but grudgingly accepted the weapon. He needed to replace the spear
that the monster had broken anyway. As he walked away, Sesshomaru called after him.
"Think about what I said." And then he was gone.
Sesshomaru closed the chest with a clang. That peasant should have accepted his offer.
It was the best help he could have given him. What a fool.
Mana stared transfixed now at Sesshomaru. She had finished eating her breakfast (and
half of Yuta's) while Sesshomaru told the story, and then she'd sat quietly, hanging on
his every word. But now something compelled her to interrupt him.
"You don't really think that, do you?"
"You don't think Yuta should have killed himself. I mean, not anymore, right?"
Sesshomaru glanced at Yuta. "My opinion hasn't changed."
"But if Yuta had taken your advice, then I wouldn't even be alive right now. He saved
me from a pack of mermaids. That's how we met."
At Sesshomaru's questioning look, Yuta explained. "They appeared to be nothing more
than a village full of old women. They'd held her captive since birth, raising her for one
purpose. To feed her the mermaid's flesh in hopes that she would become immortal.
And then, to eat her and have their youth restored."
Mana broke in. "But if Yuta hadn't found out their plan, I would've never escaped. So
there's always a reason to keep on living."
Sesshomaru said nothing.
Yuta cleared his throat. "Okay, so now we all know how everybody met. It's time for
you to tell us what happened to Lake Ningyo and the mermaids, Sesshomaru."
"No, wait, Yuta," Mana said. "Sesshomaru didn't finish telling the story. There must be
more to it than that. You two act as though you knew each other for a while. You
couldn't have just left him then."
Yuta sighed. "What does it matter?"
"Aw, c'mon Yuta, I want to know what happened after you stormed out. Sesshomaru,
you'll tell me, right? Was it a long time until you saw each other again?"
"He never left," Sesshomaru said.
"Sesshomaru's lying. I left," Yuta said, and then added with a mumble, "I just never
made it past the river."
Sesshomaru gave him a look. "You should have kept going. Why didn't you?"
There was a pause as Yuta gave it some thought. "I guess you could say I met a Rin that
I wasn't ready to leave yet..."