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An Arrangement by Archerdiana

Opportunity

Mainichi Shimbun. April 2nd 1996

HIGURASHI SHRINE FIRE: FIRE AT SHRINE AND MARTIAL ARTS SCHOOL KILLS 8.

At least 8 people died and two are injured after the martial arts studio caught fire due to a gas leak in the Setagaya district.

The fire department says facilities were not prepared for an emergency, and the fire spread briefly to neighboring buildings before being contained.

The owners of the martial art studio and their youngest son perished in the fire. However, 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. "I don't see the point in going. My dad had no lawyer friends." she said to her aunt walking beside her.

"The man offered to represent you pro bono. That means for free! At this point you've got nothing to lose, child." Aunt Akari responded. Some days ago 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 in a tight spot economically, who hadn't gotten along with her sister, but was determined to help her niece. And Kagome needed all the help she could get. She was supposed to be celebrating her college graduation and attending job interviews at this time in her life. Instead she had lost her home, her family, and Akari sometimes suspected her will to live too.

Then there were the legal issues. Five students had lost their lives in the fire -five youths who had only 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 sleek office building. “Good afternoon! We have an appointment in the fifth floor!” Akari said confidently to the concierge.

 

---

 

The women were ushered into a small meeting room to wait. After a while a man opened the door, introduced himself as Taisho Sesshomaru and began his explanation. He wasn’t a family friend of the Higurashi, 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 tried really hard not to stare while he talked. 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. But 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, eager to keep in his good graces.

“There is more.” 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, but his gaze bore on Kagome searchingly and she couldn't fathom what he was looking for in her.

Akari gasped, and the spell was broken. Kagome turned to find her examining the piece of paper front and back incredulously. “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 Kagome, who read it twice meticulously.

“...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.

“Your grandfather didn’t have a sister. Or daughters.” Aunt Akari reminded her niece. She had been closer to her in laws than her sister, after all. Kagome looked at her puzzled. “The contract remains unfulfilled: you are the first daughter born in Tatsuki’s line.”

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 heir that she was supposed to marry according to a contract. An arranged marriage from before they were born.

“That’s just crazy.” She said aloud. 

Akari gave her an admonishing look; then she turned to Taisho, all sweetness and smiles again. “Thank you for sharing this with us, Taisho san. We will fulfill our 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 on a forcedly soft tone. “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.”

'That stung', Kagome thought to herself. She watched, breathless as Taisho gave a non committal answer, but agreed 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.” Kagome 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 the nearby newsstand. “First of all, don’t judge people on just their looks, the man was born with that coloring. And he’s still a fine piece to look at.” 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 starkly 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. But it felt stuffy and caged. She changed out of the borrowed formal clothes. As soon as her sneakers hit the pavement outside, Kagome started walking at a quick pace. 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. The bright pink microfiber pants were not her style, but they were good quality. The whisper of the fabric rubbing at every step was annoying. She tried to focus on anything else, so 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. And I might just become a housewife out of necessity, she thought bitterly, eyes glazed over.

Someone behind her 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 greeted Kagome from the open gate in the enclosure to their right. Kagome waved at him tensely and followed him inside. Sango walked behind and locked the gate after them.

Inside was a large yard with some ten people, divided in smaller groups, training. At the center lied a small shrine and altar, and to the back the living quarters. 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, however.

“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.

“So I’m supposed to show off in the middle of the street?” Kagome retorted annoyed. Really, what is up with this girl? she thought frustrated. Sango was around Kagome’s age or older; about an inch taller, and hell bent on being the toughest teacher to her students.

“Kagome’s right, it’s best to be discreet with these things.” The guy, Kohaku, offered. He was unmistakably Sango’s brother, they had the same tall athletic build, same features; even their tan and light freckles was similar. But Kohaku was cool headed whereas his sister was not.

“I’ll take over Kagome’s lesson today.” He informed her sister and 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 his arm as if reaching for it. He let his arm drop 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. She’d grown up Higurashi, learning about youkai and the spells to bind and defeat them. She respected it as a tradition yet unlike most of them she didn’t believe youkai roamed the shadows. It was no use discussing that with Kohaku, so she excused herself and went to join Sango’s drill.

 

---

August 25th 1996

 

The days after Taisho’s visit were a different sort of living hell from 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 Kagome had enough. “Don’t you think if he was such a catch he’d have a wife already? He’s in his late thirties for goodness's sake, he’s had time. 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. Just don’t put out under any circumstance, to be sure.”

“What?” Kagome said bitterly, pushing away Akari’s brush. “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, don’t make me go after this man I don't even like-”

“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. "But you're lying if you think this is a bad opportunity. Rich bachelors don't just up and propose to marry you. You may look down on me for thinking about the money, but that can get you stability -you could go to therapy, have a life. With the recession as it is you can hardly make it on your own these days."

Akari paused and looked away. "And this has at least roused you enough to get out of your futon.” 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. And for the last months she’d been losing her niece with no clue how to reach her.

Kagome swallowed hard and forced on a smile. “I'll give it a try” she whispered.

---

 

Notes: Apologies on the many mistakes this fic surely has. It's a spur of the moment project but I hope you enjoy!

Set in '96 as that's the year the manga originally came out. The overall fluffy story has some graphic horror scenes peppered througout. You have been warned. 

 

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