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An Arrangement by Archerdiana

Opportunity

Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha or any of the characters.

 

 

Mainichi Shimbun. April 2nd 1996 

HIGURASHI SHRINE FIRE: GAS LEAK KILLS 8.

At least 8 people died and two are injured after the shrine and martial arts studio

caught fire due to a gas leak in the Setagaya district.  The district's fire department

says facilities were not prepared for an emergency. Fire spread briefly to neighboring

buildings before being contained. Owners of the martial art studio and their youngest

son perished in the fire.  Relatives of the victims are taking legal action against the

remainder of the Higurashi family.

  

 

  

August 21st 1996

 

The summer was at its peak and the streets of Tokyo were sweltering hot. Kagome felt overwhelmed by the heat, the upbeat music from the shops, the bright colors on people's clothes. She wanted really badly to scurry away to a dark, quiet room. Her aunt Akari was walking two yards ahead of her with dauntless resolve, unaffected by the heat.

 

They turned a corner and where suddenly submerged in a wave of salarymen in trite suits pouring out of the nearest subway exit. To close the distance between them she practically had to elbow a few of them aside. "I don't see the point in going. My dad had no lawyer friends." She hissed, trying to keep her voice down.

 

Akari clucked her tongue. "The man offered to represent you pro bono, and that’s exactly what you can afford right now: not a cent.” Aunt Akari responded, her cheery tone clashing with her words. A few days prior a man called, saying he was an old friend of the Higurashi and would like to help Kagome. She hadn't been home at the moment, else she might have called it a scam. Instead Aunt Akari had happily set an appointment at the address he'd given.

 

After the fire Akari had taken Kagome in. She was her mother's youngest sister, a divorcee who hadn't gotten along with her sister, but was determined to help her niece. And Kagome needed all the help she could get. Instead of a college graduation and job interviews She had a funeral and visits to the courthouse. Akari was determined to help the girl weather the loss of her home and family. But that required her having a will to live, and Akari sometimes doubted her niece still had that.

 

Then there were the legal issues. Five students had lost their lives in the fire -youths who had merely gone for a class that day. The families were seeking a settlement, claiming the facilities were faulty and the Higurashi negligent. Kagome hadn't once spoken up at the families accusations, merely bowing and accepting blame. She felt responsible for it, and the guilt was eating her away. ‘But so are the lawyers’ Akari thought. The girl would be left penniless if she let them have their way.

 

“Ah, we’re here.” Akari said, stopping at the entrance to a plain nondescript building. “Good afternoon! We have an appointment in the fifth floor!” Akari announced confidently to the concierge.

 

 

---

 

 

The women were ushered into a small meeting room to wait. It wasn’t long before a man opened the door, introduced himself as Taisho Sesshomaru and began his explanation. He wasn’t a friend of Higurashi Kenta, rather, their families had been amicable. Kagome’s great grandfather, Higurashi Tatsuki, had been a close friend of his great grandfather, Taisho Touga. What was more, Tatsuki had cured him from a deadly disease, earning the Taisho’s eternal gratitude.

 

Kagome listened, and tried really hard not to stare. Because Taisho was an albino, with skin white as porcelain and hair whiter still. Most unsettling of all were his eyes, golden as a panther’s.

 

“That’s really nice to hear, Taisho san. My grandfather always said we come from a line of healers.” Kagome said politely, noticing he was waiting for an answer. “Your offer to represent me is very kind. However, I had reached an agreement already. I will consider it and get back to you.” She concluded and began to stand.

 

“We are very grateful, Taisho san” Akari emphasized, trying to maintain good graces even if she had been thrown off by her niece’s answer.

 

“There is one more thing.” Taisho declared in the dispassionate voice he’d used the whole time. He opened the folder he’d been carrying since entering the room and handed the contents to Akari. His gaze bore on Kagome, both searching and evaluating. She felt a strange animosity growing inside her, even as nervousness made her stomach feel hollow.

 

Akari gasped, and the spell was broken. Kagome turned to find her examining the piece of paper front and back, incredulous of its existence. “Taisho san, I...this can't be…” She looked at Kagome, at the paper, and once again at Taisho before handing the paper over to her niece. As she read it twice, slowly, the clock ticked over their uneasy silence.

 

“...It’s a marriage contract for Tatsuki’s firstborn daughter and the male heir of Taisho Touga. And from 1887.” She paused, trying to think of something to say. “This is very interesting as well. Are you...her descendant?” She ventured.

 

“Dear, I don’t think your grandfather had a sister. Or daughters.” Aunt Akari reminded her niece. Kagome looked at her puzzled. “The contract remains unfulfilled: you are the first daughter born in Tatsuki’s line.” She contributed.

 

At this Kagome’s brain went into panicked hyper action. She was, in fact, the first Higurashi daughter in many generations. If this man had presented the contract he must be the Taisho heir. The rest was an impossibility. The mere thought of a century-old contract involving her, after the horror of the last months was outrageous. Laughable.

 

‘An arranged marriage.’ Kagome screamed inside her head. “That’s just crazy.” She said aloud.

 

Akari gave her an admonishing look; then she turned to Taisho, all sweetness and smiles again. “We appreciate this show of sincerity, Taisho san. Kagome will fulfill her end of the deal if you will. Of course, I-”

 

“No, you don’t get to decide over this, aunt. You’re not Higurashi and even if you were, this is nonsense. We don’t even know each other.” Kagome asserted. She tried to gauge Taisho for a reaction, any sign of complaint, but he just looked at her unimpressed.

 

“You’re right,” Akari said, forcing her tone into softness. “I’m not Higurashi. You are, and the last one, I might add. Here you have a chance at following your family’s legacy. Consider that. You should go visit your parents’ graves this sunday- if Taisho san is available of course. And there you can decide if you want to break a hundred year old contract over a matter as simple as getting to know each other.”

 

The sting of her words held Kagome back. Breathless, she watched as Taisho gave a non committal agreement to visit the grave. She barely managed a curt bow when he said goodbye. Only once back in the torrid street she finally regained her senses.

 

“I don’t appreciate you bringing my parents’ grave into this.” She said, resentment palpable in her voice. “Besides, we don’t know who the man is. And he looks so strange.” She couldn’t help but adding.

 

Akari looked at her nonchalantly from the corner of her eye and approached a nearby newsstand. “First of all, you were raised better than to judge people on their appearance.The man was born with that coloring, it’s not really his fault. Besides, I found him quite handsome.” She grabbed the morning edition newspaper and flipped a few pages.

 

“Secondly, I wouldn’t have done that unless I thought you were making a mistake. Perhaps you didn’t notice the name of the law firm, but they’re one of the four biggest in the country. And that man is the youngest junior associate.” She triunfally extended an open spread towards Kagome. There was a picture on the page about the trial of some corporation lawsuit. She didn’t need to point him out; Taisho’s white head stood out between the group of businessmen. “You should consider at least one of his offers”

 

 

---

 

 

Akari went back to work and Kagome to the one bedroom apartment she now shared with her aunt. It felt particularly stuffy. She changed out of the borrowed formal clothes in desperate movements. Her t-shirt snagged on her nape as she put it on, sticky with sweat. She hurried down the stairs, and as soon as her sneakers hit the pavement outside, Kagome dashed. Her route was forty minutes of walking, thirty if she hurried.

 

She’d bought only the most necessary clothes after the fire, mostly workout gear that she could afford. The microfiber pants were not her style and a tad short on her long legs. The whisper of the fabric rubbing at every step was annoying, and she tried to focus on anything else. She looked around. It was only a sleepy side street, but the aftermath of the recession was clear even there. Rows upon rows of shops gone out of business lined the way. Only a few chain stores here and there survived. Kagome saw no less than three entire office buildings that looked completely abandoned before turning a corner and going up a small path.

 

She felt the tingle of anxiety in her stomach. She’d graduated just that year with excellent marks; but that mattered little in a recession. All across the country unemployment was at the highest in years, and only a handful of her friends had secured long term employment. ‘I might take him up on his offer and become a housewife out of necessity’ she thought bitterly, eyes glazed over.

 

Someone behindher gave her a light push right under the scapula and it was enough to throw her off balance. “Nice to see you Sango.” Kagome said sarcastically from the floor.

 

Sango leaned on a parked blue sudan and looked down at her. “Unaware of your surroundings, bad balance and bad attitude.” She remarked dryly. “You’re not getting better.”

 

“Good afternoon Kagome. Welcome back.” A young man in his late teens greeted Kagome from the open gate in the enclosure to their right. Kagome waved at him tensely and followed inside. Sango walked behind and locked the gate after them.

 

At the other side was a large yard with some ten people, divided in smaller groups, training. A small shrine and altar lied at the center, and to the back a house and storage. It was the headquarters of the Taijiya, and despite being on friendly terms, Kagome was never at ease there. Like the Higurashi, they came from a line of youkai exterminators. Where her family had focused on spiritual practice, the Taijiya fixated on physical combat.

 

“You can train all you want, but it’s no use if you’re not listening to the feedback.” Sango pointed out as she came to stand next to her brother.

 

“I’ll try to be more defensive as I walked.” Kagome replied, trying to be conciliatory. ‘Really, what is up with this girl?’ she thought frustrated. Sango was around Kagome’s age or older; about an inch shorter, and hell bent on being the toughest teacher to her students.

 

Kohaku tried to hide his chuckle of amusement. The resemblance between the siblings was uncanny, although he was calm and cool headed whereas Sango tended to stubborness. “I’ll take over Kagome’s lesson today.” He informed his sister. Sango waved and walked away bored. He was younger than her, twenty one at most, but his father was training him as leader, not Sango -maybe the reason for the girl’s desire to prove herself. They headed to the mats and went over a few attacks.

 

Not an hour later Kagome was covered in sweat and breathless, but her mind was clear. Kohaku waited as she collected herself. A few tendrils escaped his short ponytail, but that’s about all he had to show after wrestling for an hour.

 

“I felt a big aura today. Enormous actually.” He confided in her. “But then it just…vanished.” He was staring into space, and he stretched out his arm as if reaching for it. He let his hand drop to his side and chuckled at himself. “It doesn’t make much sense. Did you feel anything?”

 

Kagome shook her head. “You sister is right, I’m not very aware of my surroundings.” She admitted with a tight lipped smile. “Besides, you know I’m blocked spiritually since the fire. I can hardly meditate.”

 

“Work on it. We need a miko on our side.” Kohaku gave her a reassuring pat on the shoulder. “Lately, youkai are stirring all around.” He noted.

 

Kagome fixed a polite expression on her face. Growing up Higurashi, she’d learnt all the drivel about youkai hidden among humankind. Of spells to bind them, of killing them off quickly, and of its many trinkets and baubles. There was value in it as a tradition, but the rest was nonsense. It was no use discussing that with Kohaku, so she excused herself and went to join Sango’s drill, hellish as it might be. She was exhausted by the end of it, and a big blue bruise was forming on her arm. She ran home to get there before her aunt.

 

 

---

 

   

August 25th 1996

 

The days after Taisho’s visit were a different sort of living hell for Kagome at home. Akari pestered her with tidbits about Taisho, about the success of arranged marriages and beauty treatments she should try.

 

Come sunday, Kagome found herself dressed in her aunt’s black skirt suit and a rather formal coiffure. She felt stuffy, and older, and unprepared. If Akari sensed her uneasiness that didn’t stop her from lecturing Kagome on how to make a good impression while she applied some make up on her.

 

Finally she had enough. “Don’t you think if he was such a catch he’d have a wife already? A man in his late thirties should be married already. He’s probably an insufferable prick.”

 

At this her aunt stopped her artful application of makeup, rolled her eyes up to the right and considered. “I think he wouldn't marry the kind of woman he dates. So a prick, yes. But now he wants to settle down.”

 

Kagome scoffed and then bit her lip, anxious again. “Auntie I know I’m a burden…” she felt a knot at her throat, and impossibly, more tears, “but I’ll work to pay you rent. Going after this guy is humiliating-”

 

“You’re not a burden Kagome, you’re the last that’s left of my sister.”Akari stopped her, and Kagome was surprised to hear the sincerity and the sadness in her voice. “And if this Taisho is a creep you don’t have to see him again. I’ll finish him if he tries something weird with my niece. But promise me you’ll give it a try. Besides, this has at least gotten you out of bed.” Concern was everywhere on her aunt’s face, and for the first time Kagome noticed it had etched itself into lines that didn't use to be there. She’d lost a nephew, a sister, and a brother in law. For the last months she’d also been losing her niece with no clue how to reach her.

 

Kagome swallowed hard and forced on a smile. “I will” she whispered.

 

 

---

 

Notes:

Set in 1996 as that's the year the manga came out. Also, no cellphones. This story will have horror as much as it has romance. There will be graphic scenes peppered throughout, including violence, dead bodies and cannibalism. You have been warned.

 

 

INUYASHA © Rumiko Takahashi/Shogakukan • Yomiuri TV • Sunrise 2000
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