*It goes without saying that Inuyasha – the story and all related characters – belongs to Takahashi Rumiko, published by Shogakukan. The animated television series was written by Katsuyuki Sumisawa. I claim no ownership or association to either the anime or manga titled Inuyasha. This was written by a fan solely for the enjoyment of other fans.*

QUICK WORD FROM DAYSTORM: Hey, everyone! :) I was so excited to post this chapter once it was written that I only did a quick read-through searching for spelling errors rather than bother with a proper edit. Because of that, the writing was a little more choppy than I would have liked. So I've taken the time to edit it to my usual standards and have now reposted the corrected version. For those who've already read this prologue, the story itself is the same so it's fine if you don't want to go over it again. For those who haven't read this yet . . . I really hope you enjoy!

Best,

DayStorm

Prologue

SESSHOMARU'S DESPERATE BARGAIN


The heat tore at Rin, searing over her skin like liquid.

She did not scream. She was beyond screaming now, the toxin moving through her body sapping her strength to where the girl could scarcely move. She was not tired. It was the strangest sensation, to be so very weak but not actually exhausted. The toxin worked like a sieve, draining her strength to where she were simply fading away.

I'm dying, Rin thought faintly. She turned her attention down, past the hard-scaled neck of Ah-Un to the older girl slumped against the weathered wood of the Bone Eater's Well. Kagome had blood seeping from a vicious cut on her shoulder, staining her lovely white top black in the moonlight. Even from so above, the jewel shard in her fist shone like a star. It was one shard. Only a splinter of pale crystal but it was so bright!

Kagome was waiting as she'd been commanded to do, despite her brutal injury. It was her job to take the demon parasite with her into the Well where the gateway would refuse to allow it's demonic aura through. The aura would be destroyed, thus purifying the parasitic ties the creature held with all those who had been stricken by its toxin.

This was Rin's only chance. The demon had pierced her flesh with a quill soaked in clear venom. A poison that worked to kill mortals by slowly but unerringly unmaking them. The very fabric of Rin's existence was unraveling as the poison moved through her. She was losing herself. She wasn't dying, in the exact sense of the word. She would simply be . . . gone. There would be nothing left of her.

But for this to work, for the toxin to be driven from her body, the demon could not be killed.

It needed to be entirely destroyed. It had to be driven into nonexistence itself. Thus, the Bone Eater's Well. The power of the gateway between worlds would sift out the demonic like grain from straw. But first, they needed to capture him! And to do that, they needed to find him. One of the throng of demons down below contained the parasite. Which one?

Inuyasha was there. A powerful red blur only just managing to avoid the hoards of demons dropping down on him from the sky; slithering out of the forest in waves of destruction and reeking death. His immense fang-sword – the tessaiga – was only just a blur of energy to Rin's eyes. However, it was not Inuyasha's fierce, brutal strength that drew her attention.

It was the other. A flicker of white in the deepening dark. Swift, coiled power. Unstoppable as a winter storm and as coolly unforgiving. Sesshomaru.

Rin closed her eyes tightly and shivered, clinging even harder to Ah-Uh. Save me, Lord Sesshomaru.

He was her savior. Her hero. Rin did not doubt he could do anything he set his mind to. With the clear, unwavering faith of a child she believed in him. Her Lord Sesshomaru had come here – and brought her with him – to rescue her.

And he would.

To her mind, it really was that simple.

Scalding heat swelled again, scorching the late evening air with white fire. Rin gasped, unable to breathe over the terrible heat. Power and light scored over the earth, ripping and rending the ground into deep gullies. Kagome called out an incomprehensible command, speaking to . . . someone. Rin could only just make out her voice. She hadn't understood the words or where they were being directed. But the two half-brothers heard her and that's what mattered.

Red and white bolts sprang apart, Inuyasha leaping to bring himself closer to Kagome while Sesshomaru lunged straight for the thickest hoard of slithering demons. Rin wanted to cry out but the weakness inside of her was spreading quickly. From her blood, where it steadily cooled her body so that the girl felt chilled . . . it was moving deeper. Reaching with greedy, grasping fingers towards her soul. Hot tears, the only warmth left to her, slid over her cheeks.

Sesshomaru roared, his Bakusaiga sword sparking brilliant green in the darkness. He whipped the blade downward, releasing a current of demonic power. Icy cold sprayed all around, so driving that it reached all the way to where Rin waited. Ah-Un moaned nervously and flew up higher to escape the hellish cold released by his master's original blade. Rin moaned too, but only because she was too weakened to command the dragon to fly lower. Her entire body had begun to numb.

Rin winced into one of Ah-Un's necks. I'm dying. Oh, Lord Sesshomaru! Hurry.

It was as if he'd heard her. Peeking out through her drooping lids, Rin saw Sesshomaru swing around. He met her gaze and despite the distance between them, she could still see the clear gold of his eyes. Sesshomaru snarled and drove the point of his sword into the gaping maw of a demon rearing up directly in front of him. The creature erupted in flames and died in smoke.

"Foolish," Rin sighed. It was the first thing she'd said in hours. It hurt her throat a little but to talk, and the word felt strange in her mouth. Foreign. Like she couldn't quite remember exactly what it was supposed to feel like to speak. But a part of her had recognized the need to talk, now. Right now. She was dying, fading so fast that she needed to speak if only to feel that she were still living. She still existed.

A bolt of flame red shot over the broken earth of the field, swinging his immense fang-sword in a neat arc. Inuyasha diving to stop the tide of demons emerging from the trees to the north. Kagome lifted her bow, and Rin could see the pain it caused her to lift her ravaged arm high enough to make use of the weapon. The simple iron-tipped arrow started to glow a soft, clean pink as Kagome's spiritual power infused the readied bolt. She released the shot, which lanced straight and sure into the mass of demons. Dispelling the creatures, which screamed and wailed as their bodies succumbed to the cleansing energy of Kagome's power.

Sesshomaru's familiar voice cut through the horrible keening.

"Fool!" he shouted. "Where is the parasite?"

Kagome froze. Inuyasha, startled, spun around. He hissed at Sesshomaru, but the older brother was not even looking at the human priestess. Instead, his gaze moved across the field. Scanning the multitude of still-living demons swarming in preparation for another assault. Even Rin found the strength to lift her head from Ah-Un's neck. None of them knew what form the parasite had taken, so they couldn't tell if the creature had been mistakenly destroyed.

To find the demon, they had been relying on the potent, cloying scent it emitted when roused.

Only now there were too many of the creatures, and they were packed so tightly together that it was near impossible to pull any particular scent from the air. Sesshomaru lifted off the ground, flying towards the multitudes. He sheathed his Bakusaiga, choosing instead to use his claws to destroy the demons that rose up against him.

Poison wafted from his hands. Between his own strength and the potency of his poisonous claws, the surrounding demons stood no chance. He made short work of them, hacking each that did not carry the parasite's scent. Methodically dismissing each one as he searched for the demon they actually wanted.

Where was it? Where was the parasite?

Rin's right hand, which had been clenched around a tuft of Ah-Un's prickly mane loosened. Her arm slid over the two-headed dragon's neck. It was so strange; to feel her skin dragging over his hard, smooth scales but to have no strength to move her own fingers.

"I'm sorry, Lord Sesshomaru," Rin muttered thinly. "I think . . . I'm going away now."

She let her eyes fall closed. Inside her chest, the warmth was leaving her and she felt as if she were floating. As if there was something inside of her that was made of smoke and it was being pulled by the wind. She would not fly apart. No. Her final moments would be to simply dissolve until there was nothing remaining of the little orphan girl adopted by a demon.

"Rin!" a voice called her name. She hummed in her throat – or thought she did – but did not move.

"It's dead," Inuyasha shouted, his voice trembling with disbelief. "The parasite's dead!"

No.

No, it couldn't be . . . if the creature was dead then the toxin seeping through Rin's blood would never be cleansed. Sesshomaru tilted his head back, eyes flashing furious gold. They shone in the moonlight like amber glass. He launched himself straight up into the air, kicking off from the ground with all the strength he possessed and took flight.

Ah-Un hissed harshly as a shadow fell over the girl. Sesshomaru took Rin's limp body in his arms, holding her securely to his chest. She was still awake, her eyelashes fluttering weakly but she did not move more than that. She was only just breathing, a whisper of air from between her slightly parted lips. Her skin had turned ghostly pale. Translucent in the moonlight. Sesshomaru's sensitive ears caught the alarming flutter in her chest as her heart succumbed to the demonic toxin.

A stiff breeze slammed into them, tossing Sesshomaru's long white hair back. Rin, smaller, trembled with cold and snuggled into his chest. Unconsciously seeking the warmth from his body. He smelled clean. Even to Rin's weak human senses, he had always smelled clean. Crisp. The wind through tall grass. Lord Sesshomaru's smell.

"I'm sorry, Rin," Sesshomaru said as he shot back down towards the earth. His eyes narrowed in fury. Rin continued to shake, her little body wracked with icy chills. Inuyasha was only a red bolt as he leapt into the swarm of demons, having sheathed his tessaiga in favor of his claws as Sesshomaru had done. He was fighting to hold the demonic hoard away from the Bone Eater's Well and Kagome – the girl having collapsed against it; sick and dizzy from having lost so much blood.

Sesshomaru could smell it, harsh in his throat. Blood continued to seep from the vicious cuts in Kagome's shoulder but it was not the only scent wafting from her skin. There was fear there, too.

So, she was aware that she would die if her wounds were not treated.

No matter.

Sesshomaru shot towards the girl from the future, Inuyasha's human companion. His more-than-friend. Sesshomaru flew towards her, knowing that she were not able to avoid him. His speed more than any human could match. Rin moaned against his chest. Her heart thumping, the sound drumming in his head.

"I will come for you, Rin," he swore to the girl. A promise, his oath. "Trust me. One last time, you must trust me."

Rin's eyes fluttered, her lashes lifting so that she could look up at Sesshomaru's impassive face. Only the fire in his molten gold eyes betraying his thoughts.

My lord? she thought, bewildered by what he'd said. Her failing heart gave another hard lurch.

Sesshomaru was right. Kagome could not have avoided him but she did see him coming. She hefted herself up, struggling to stand but managing it through her weakness. Propping herself against the side of t he Bone Eater's Well. Sesshomaru's eyes lit with red, startling Kagome rather than frightening her. She was not expecting an attack from him. Not now, when they had been fighting together.

Baring his teeth to expose fangs, Sesshomaru struck Kagome with enough strength to fling her over backwards. She gasped, air leaving her lungs in a whoosh. She stumbled over the side of the Well, falling into the darkness of the Bone Eater's Well and the invisible gateway to the other world. The very gateway that would not have allowed the parasite to pass through.

Kagome sucked in a rush of air, only to release it in a scream of denial as she felt the gateway drawing her in.

At the same instant, Sesshomaru pressed the unresisting form of Rin into Kagome. Pushing with all his might against the little girl and the adolescent priestess. Pushing them – both of them – through the swirl of energy that would transport them to another place. Another time. And clear Rin's blood of the foul toxin in the process.

Pain tore through Rin's small body with enough force to wake her from her stupor. Her eyes sprang open, dark gaze widening with disbelief as fire ripped through her. She screamed, feeling the energy from the Well pulsing in her blood. Disbelief because she could also feel the poison being cleansed. The parasitic poison fading like a fog burned away by the rising of the sun.

Kagome's arms closed around Rin's body. No thought went into the gesture, it was only just impulse that made her hold the girl close. Sesshomaru kept his hand – open, fingers splayed flat against Rin's chest – where it was. He pressed hard, forcing Kagome to take Rin with her through the gateway. He would save her life the only way he could think to do it.

"No!" Rin screamed. A combination of pain and returning-life waking her fully from the toxic lethargy. "No! Lord Sesshomaru!"

The last thing she saw before the magical darkness pulled her under was Sesshomaru's red eyes lit with gold fire and the clean, crisp white of his hair tugged by the nighttime wind.

I will not leave you, Rin . . . we will meet again . . . .