A/N: So I finally got the courage after *years* of writing this story to post it. What started as a simple "cliche" plot to exercise my writing without stressing me, became a long drawn out story with endings I had never intended. This was definitely a break from my writing, so it is not as up to par as I imagine my other stories to be. Expect lots of fluff and typing errors. I have combed through it and yet I'm sure many still remain. As always I have completed this project to my satisfication (may not be to yours), so expect weekly updates until the completion. Currently at 24 chapters with some encore drabbles. I hope you enjoy!
Everyone was quiet, except for the few sympathetic appropriately timed sniffles that managed to raise their volume right between the whispers of the solemn crowd. Only one person spoke breathlessly reading from a script that had occupied all of one hour of his time to devise. The passion in his voice was obviously rehearsed with the intonation of his words matching a flowing pattern as if he were reciting a haiku. The words flowed together seamlessly, the common overused expressions pointedly in place among with other flowery words that could be used to describe any person for any occasion. Only a few lines in his speech contained any real value relative to the person, whose ashes lay smoky and dry within its dull clay pot that was successfully disappearing under fertile mounds of soil that the ceremony was dedicated to.
Only a few people were in attendance, a miserable testament to the kindness and compassion of the soul that had departed their world. Even the weather deemed this day to be one intended for family picnics and kite flying, not one where the heavens themselves seemed to mourn her loss from the race of mankind. Instead the sun shined with only the occasional cloud spotting the bright blue sky like a fawn venturing into the pasture without a hunter in sight.
She wanted to make the excuse that the beautiful day had swayed other people into the belief that it was undeserving to mourn on such a bright day. Her friend and mentor deserved better than that after all, but she knew better.
Sighing, she tuned in to the last words that the hired orator spoke and then watched as the number around her dispersed.
To her eyes it was as if the world were merely blinking the dust from its eyes at her friend’s death. It was unfair.
When the last of the people whose guilt ridden conscious bade them to come were invisible to her, she truly looked up to the small numbers of those who were left. Of these people she knew them all by name, being so few and so close to her as well. These people were the ones that truly mourned.
Either way it no longer mattered. Kaede was dead and business had to continue as usual.
The meeting was about to begin. The chairs carefully angled and the reports stapled, approved and resting beside a complimentary pen adjacent to each specially arranged chair. Some snacks rested listlessly on silver platters in the center of the long oval table. Tradition dictated no one person should be above the others, thus there was no designated seating arrangement and the chairs were all angled to face others.
Discussions of importance were meant to grace the air of these rooms with the bodies of warm blooded beings filling the seats.
Today the department supervisors and the investors of Shikon no Tama Incorporated would meet to discuss the induction of a new CEO. The investors themselves were anxious over the chance to wrest more power and money for their egos to hoard.
Kagome could not be more disgusted.
Kaede had built the company from the small inheritance of her family into a company that provided jobs to hundreds of families with healthy incomes and spare revenue going to worthy charities. Recently the company had invested their money into a researcher and his team that had invented new software chips that increased speed and power efficiency of computerized systems. Electronics companies were clamoring to acquire the chip for their products thereby boosting their sales. In return, although a small company, Shikon no Tama, made a sizeable fortune rapidly with hopes of becoming a major power in the corporate world.
Kaede herself took a small fraction of a typical CEO’s paycheck, dedicating the rest of it to her employees and donations.
Kagome had worked for Kaede for six years before her boss’ untimely death. Four of those years had been spent in a paid internship while she worked towards her undergraduate and graduate business degrees.
Kagome had worked tirelessly to excel in school to land an opportunity at a paid internship. Her luck had been on her side the day she was hired for the prestigious Shikon no Tama Incorporated. Kaede’s kindness and guaranteed assistance with college tuition and her boss’s legendary compassion to her employees had made her open position competitive. Whatever Kaede had seen in her though had impressed the old woman. Only a week had gone by, for which Kagome later found out was the appropriate time period to interview all the applicants, before she received a call from the CEO personally with an offer for her to work there.
Kagome had toiled relentlessly from then on doing her best to prove to Kaede that she was the appropriate choice for the job. She moved up quickly from the lowly intern bouncing from office to office with the occasional mail room trip, to the personal assistant to the CEO. Although the company was a fair size, Kaede had never taken on a vice president. Her personal assistant was the next highest position, allowing Kagome the ability to be the acting CEO until another was voted upon by the board.
Having worked beside Kaede for six years, Kagome took on the job relatively seamlessly, knowing the system as if it were her own small apartment. Like Kaede, Kagome received a sizeable income, but a majority of it went to support her family’s shrine and her brother’s college education. The rest of it went to supporting herself and her son. She lived a relatively comfortable life in an apartment big enough for her and her son with comfortable furnishing and comfortable living. Being frugal, Kagome did not allow her son, Shippo, many luxuries because she was saving for his own college fund as well as putting some money aside for herself in case of emergencies.
With relief, Kagome was proud she had taken such steps as she could easily be out of the job with the induction of a new CEO. She had already warned her mother that she and Shippo may have to move in for a time. Her mother of course was happy to accommodate her and her grandson at any time. Still, Kagome was expecting things to be rough for a while until she could find a new job.
The door opened to the meeting room and a tall woman with straight dark brown hair stepped through. She had serious dark brown eyes but a sweet smile. Today she was dressed more professional than usual as she made to arrange her chair at the end of the oval table closest to the large window.
“Hey, Kagome. Are you ready for today?” Sango Taijiya the head of legal affairs was only a few years older than Kagome, with a sharp mind and confident attitude. She too had been handpicked by Kaede to join her corporation and excelled in her position until she was elected to the head of the legal department.
“I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.” Kagome replied giving a weak smile in Sango’s direction. Sango knew instantly that Kagome was just as unsettled as the rest of the employees in the small corporation. Kaede had been a micromanager but one who did so seamlessly that it seemed more a mother’s gentle guidance than a manager who was too involved. However, Kaede’s involvement only extended into the hiring process and the occasional review of progress. She rarely fired anyone, because most of her employees felt guilty if they did not give all that they could. Kaede in return, never asked for anything more than her employees were willing to give.
Sango had been working for Kaede for a year before Kagome joined the corporation. They had instantly become fast friends and as a result they were close to Kaede as well. Sango had been one of the few employees to truly and whole heartily mourn Kaede’s death, a feeling mutually shared between the two women.
“Don’t worry Kagome, Kaede will have taken care of everything. I’m sure of it.” Sango was just as anxious which Kagome found odd. Being the head of legal affairs, Sango had been Kaede’s personal legal counselor. If she was not even aware of what existed in Kaede’s will then there was a greater chance it had not been updated recently.
“Is Miroku coming?” Kagome changed the subject quickly, ready to forgo the anxious feeling rising in her belly. The change of conversation would hopefully pass the time until the board members and the department heads arrived.
“Of course, but you know that pervert. He’s probably ogling his new secretary.” Sango rolled her eyes before changing her gaze to the meticulously stacked papers, watching as her fingers restacked them nervously.
On top of the stack a sealed manila envelope rested, its contents burning to tell them what was inside. The law, however, forbade them from opening it until all the board members and heads of department were present to witness the transfer of power to a new CEO.
“You know, despite what you think, I think Miroku has been tamer recently. If things go well today I foresee an engagement in your future.” Although Sango was a strong and confidant woman she was shy when it came to relationships, which is why everyone thought it strange when she fell for the man who was the most voracious flirt in the company. However, within the body attached to those wandering hands rested a heart that was compassionate and true. Sango, interestingly enough, was the one woman Miroku had never groped until he had finally wooed her and begun a relationship.
That had been the first sign they were meant for each other. The rest was a series of interesting stories and twists that made them into soul mates. Everyone else in the company knew they were meant for each other and waited with breaths held for the day they would finally marry.
“He is still a lecher.” Sango replied, under her breath. Kagome giggled in response before laying the last tray of snacks on the oval table.
“But he is only a lecher for you.” She said and watched the blush rise to her friend’s cheek before an innocent smile graced her lips.
At the moment the morning hour began marking eight. On cue the door opened revealing a few men and a few women in business suits as they walked in carefully talking in hushed voices. Their conversations bordered on speculations and memories, the name of their former CEO frequent among their vocabulary.
They took their seats quietly a few hands reaching out and catching a quick snack before the business meeting began.
Miroku arrived with a few of the female department heads sending Kagome a wink and Sango an innocent smile as her sharp eyes watched him with interest. He wisely sat down next to a few men as Sango nodded approvingly.
Within a quarter of an hour all the investors and department heads had taken their seats with the exception of Sango and Kagome.
There was only one other chair that remained empty. It was a chair that had belonged to an investor Kaede had only ever mentioned in passing and who no one else in the company had ever met. Whoever the person was, they never attended investor meetings nor did they make their appearance known. All Kagome had was a mailbox number and that was where she sent the invitation. When everyone else who had responded had arrived, the crowd of business executives quieted on their own, each impatient to learn what was within that sealed envelope.
Taking her cue, Kagome stepped up and a deafening silence filled the room. Chairs rolling on the wood halted and wrappers crinkling and murmurs desisted. Everything was quiet as if everyone was holding their breath.
“I’m sure you are all anxious to proceed with this meeting but I think it only proper we take a moment of silent remembrance for Kaede who was more than a CEO for our company. She was a friend to anyone who sought her out and kind person. She donated a majority of her salary to charities, saving little for herself although she worked more hours than anyone present. We will all miss her and it is solemnly that we move on knowing her legacy will be carried on.” Some of the greedier and less noble investors rolled their eyes before bowing their heads in mock contemplation. The heads of the department heads and the few investors who were more compassionate did this without question.
Kagome in turn bowed her head and counted her breaths thinking of all the things she wished she could have shared with Kaede. Her death had been so sudden it had caught everyone by surprise. The woman had seemed healthy, although obviously elderly. She was over the typical age of retirement yet still worked with as much zeal as her younger employees.
She had left the previous evening at her usual time with a few kind words to Kagome as they walked to their cars together. The next morning Kagome arrived at the office to find it empty.
Now Kaede had always arrived at her office at least two hours early since she had started the company. She claimed she enjoyed the early mornings for getting her best work done. She had also never missed a day, to anyone’s recollection. Now if Kaede were not at her desk, a note would have been left for Kagome with her whereabouts since the older woman knew how Kagome worried.
With her desk still as perfectly ordered as it had been the night before and no note in sight, Kagome immediately began investigating if Kaede had even arrived for the day.
She checked the garage with Kaede’s own private parking space empty and called her home number waiting for the phone to ring endlessly until an automated answering machine requested her information and message. Stopping before the beep, Kagome went into the office and into Kaede’s private drawer where there was a key to her house. It was the only spare as Kaede was a meticulous woman and never one to forget her keys. When Kagome had become her personal assistant Kaede had revealed the location of the key if there was ever an emergency situation where it might be needed.
Kagome had never had a need to use it or even to travel to Kaede’s house ever. So the drive to Kaede’s private property was filled with trepidation as she pulled into the nice suburban neighborhood of pleasantly large houses and green yards.
The key shook in her hand as she inserted it into the lock. Everything inside the house was as clean and organized as the woman who owned it. However, Kagome had little time to care about the decoration as she immediately began calling for her mentor and when she didn’t receive a response, managed to find the master bedroom where the figure of her boss lay within the bed, still and quiet as if in sleep. If not for the lack of movement within the older woman’s chest cavity, Kagome would have believed she was just resting. However, her fears when confirmed when she felt for a pulse and found her mentor’s skin cold and quiet.
Paramedics arrived later once Kagome was able to call them through tears. They too confirmed what she already knew, that Kaede was dead and had been for some time. The only consolation was they theorized she had a quiet heart attack while she slept meaning she died peacefully. That was the most anyone could ask for and Kaede deserved nothing less.
After that, Kagome informed the company and the legal department put in extra time to find how the proceedings would continue. The sales department and executives were put to work contacting clients to the change in operations. The investors had immediately begun an aggressive attack on wresting power from Kagome. However, Sango had delved into company policy and defended Kagome’s right to intervene as the personal assistant and become the acting executive officer until another was named.
Now Kagome was ready to relinquish that power and only hoped that it was to someone she respected and could trust to continue Kaede’s work faithfully.
“Thank you for your consideration. Now, Taijiya Sango, our legal department head will discuss Kaede’s will and company policy that will dictate the future of Shikon no Tama Incorporated. Thank you.” She bowed respectfully before taking her seat at the end of the table. Sitting herself down calmly she tried not to look as anxious as everyone else. She tried not to think of how her life was about to change in a few moments, maybe for the worse. She hadn’t even told anyone outside of her work and her mom because she was afraid to worry anyone else.
Sango stood up and bowed before everyone else, listening to the intake of their breaths as everyone inhaled in unison.
“Thank you Higurashi-san. Before Kaede-sama died she left a will in my hands to open upon the event of her unfortunate death. It was sealed when she brought it to me and I signed a form stating that I would only open it during a meeting such as this.
“As most of you already know, in Kaede’s contract as acting CEO it stipulated that she would pick her successor who would be designated in her will or her retirement settlement, whichever came first. So according to law and the contract signed by the acting board at the time, witnessed and notarized, we must abide by Kaede’s choice and respect her wishes.
“Without any further anxiety, I will open the envelope.” With long practiced fingers Sango’s hands reached for the envelope opener and sliced through the thick paper of the glued seal. It wasn’t an easy cut as the paper was thick with tape and wrapping hiding the contents within. After a few agonizing minutes where mouths ceased to chew, fingers lay still, and chairs were silent, Sango pulled out a stapled document. There looked to be other things within the envelope, but all eyes were trained on the perfectly white paper.
Sango’s analytical dark eyes scanned the contents, her eyes only widening slightly, her lips parted with the tiniest movements as if reading aloud. Everyone leaned forward in the seats, the shuffle of tailored suits making the softest sounds.
Finally Sango made to speak, her lips parting and the air rushing through her throat as it molded perfectly with sound into words.
“Kaede-sama left a letter for us. It reads: If you are reading this letter then I have passed on to the spirit world. I know not the circumstances that would lead to my death or the events transpiring after. However, per agreement with the investors when my contract for executive officer was written I had a stipulation put in that I would decide my successor upon the event of my retirement or death, whichever occurred first.
“I made this stipulation because I love my company and the employees that work for me. I firmly believe that happy employees mean a better work experience. So I wanted my successor to value their employees as much as I have and have the kindness and compassion to think of others. However, my successor must possess a keen intellect and strong constitution to weather the business field that may ask more of them than it did of me.
“That is why I have chosen my personal assistant, Higurashi Kagome to become the new CEO of Shikon no Tama Incorporated. I know she is young, but she is experienced enough to overtake this position. I have prepared her for my position and am confident she will be a better CEO than I ever was. Because I know she thinks of others before herself, I have repaid her what is due to her. I also leave my house and all my other worldly belongings to her on the event of my death. I know she will treasure them and honor them as I have.
“To my investors, I know you will respect my wishes and the law. I expect my attorney to see to my last wishes and needs in this respect and oversee that my last will is done.
“Kagome, I know you can do it. I have faith in you.” Sango stopped to look up to Kagome, her voice still echoing off the white walls.
The room was quiet before the room exploded with conversation. Some members spoke of their concern for her age and inexperience. Others agreed with Kaede’s choice, while still others were not particularly happy but would respect her wishes.
Kagome was simply stunned. She had never expected to be promoted indefinitely and the prospect intimidated her. Kaede had been correct. The company was evolving into a corporate power which meant her responsibilities would extend to networking with other business executives, a prospect that within itself was daunting.
“Kagome.” Kagome blinked, her blue eyes making contact with Sango’s deep chocolaty brown. In contrast to Sango’s serious but stunning eyes, Kagome’s were light and wondrous, their depths going so deep her soul seemed to stretch out like the ocean’s waves.
“Will you accept this position?” Sango asked, her voice becoming low and wistful as she waited with wide eyes that begged Kagome to accept. As Kagome looked to the faces of her friends she saw that same longing, the same need and want. They wanted her to be their new CEO because they believed she would follow in Kaede’s footsteps.
However, only half the room looked at her with hope. The other half stared her down, daring her to accept the job, daring her to do so against their will. The investors had always hated how Kaede kept them on a tight leash and wanted to replace her with their own mindless puppet.
Their commanding stares were their undoing. Kagome was a stubborn woman and she knew if she gave up her position, then her friends would suffer and she herself would be out of the job. She was already the CEO in everything but name, would anything be truly different afterwards? Deep within her a small voice screamed that everything would change, but she quieted it and decided to live ignorantly for the time being.
Furrowing her brow together and straightening her back she stood and held out her hand to Sango. Beside her, her lawyer friend’s eyes lit up as she saw the intent in Kagome’s eyes. Just before the voices of the board began to rise in protest, Kagome cut them off.
“I will accept this position, Taijiya-san.” With a handshake, the deal was sealed. Sango would not rest until Kagome had achieved a contract of far more freedom than most CEO’s and the support of her department supervisors.