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An Arrangement by Archerdiana

Affinity

August 25th 1996

 

 

Taisho arrived five minutes after noon, in an imported convertible and having swapped the black suit for a gray shirt and pants. Kagome was already waiting downstairs, loitering by the sidewalk, unsure of what to do with herself.

 

He got down to open the door for her, but only gave a light bow as greeting. He was perplexed when he got in and found Kagome smiling shyly.

 

“Thank you for getting the flowers. My mother loved irises.” She said, nodding to the back seat where three large bouquets of fresh flowers were carefully put.

 

He nodded and after a moment of collecting his thoughts he spoke. “You have been through a lot. More than many can bear. I cannot imagine the strength this has demanded of you. My condolences.” 

 

“Thank you” Kagome breathed, touched a little by his speech. She turned to look at him, really look at him. After he had left she had wondered if he was truly an albino, but seeing him again in the sunlight was shocking confirmation. His skin was snow pale, and his hair fell in platinum locks. Tawny brows framed eyes of an amber, almost yellow tone. Look beyond, said a voice in her head very similar to Akari’s. He had a square, defined jaw and chiseled cheekbones. Small ears, a bit pointed. A long nose, slightly aquiline but on the thin side. Plump lips, she found herself noticing. An elegant neck and wide shoulders-

 

“It’s a family trait.” He said in a bored tone, pulling Kagome out of her musings. He hadn't glanced her way though he’d of course noticed her staring. Kagome stuttered for something to say but Sesshomaru beat her to it. “A dominant trait. All in my lineage have it. And any children of mine are sure to have the same coloring.”

 

It wasn't lost on Kagome that he meant any children they might have. Had he thought about that? Them and children? It was a startling idea that she pushed aside. “I was wondering if they had you dye your hair black for school. I heard they make blond kids do that." She said, feigning boredom.

 

He considered for a second. “I think my parents paid a bribe and forgot about it.” He peeked at her out of the corner of his eye and Kagome smiled and let a comfortable silence envelop them, taking in the scenery and the hum of the motor. 

 

Soon they reached the cemetery and in wordless coordination got down with the flowers and cleaning supplies. Taisho paused to fill a bucket with water at the entrance and then fell into step behind her. The graves stood unchanged, identical, but Kagome knew the way by heart. She stopped at three pristine slates, newer than the rest.

 

'Hello mom, dad, Sota. I’m here again.' she greeted mentally.

Next to herTaisho stopped as well, gave a bow and rolled up his sleeves. Then they both got to cleaning the graves, thoroughly brushing at the already clean stone. First they did her father’s, then her mom’s and lastly Souta. By then Kagome’s breath was labored, her moves erratic and tired. Afew dry sobs escaped her lips, her throat raw. To his credit, Taisho let her be, waiting patiently next to her,and offered his hand to help her up once she was done. 

 

Only after they had placed the flowers, lit the inciense and raised a prayer did Kagome meet his eyes. “Let's go for a walk” he said softly.

 

The foliage above was a bright green, an explosion of color in the high summer. In a month it would yellow and fall, but for now it swayed in the breeze, impossibly thick. They walked under the canopy lining the deserted avenue, a foot of distance between them.

 

“I lost my father when I was about your age." Taisho began. "He passed away suddenly after we had a terrible argument. It might be partly the cause of his death.” His face was a stoic mask. Not for indifference, Kagome knew. Sometimes after grief there was nothing left to say, nothing to feel.

 

“Life became very different; I’d been a child until then. My father had been an unorthodox head of clan, and his passing left behind utter chaos. As result of his immoral behaviour, our assets, our lands were endangered. Even the family name…” He sighed and involuntarily raised a hand to his temple, annoyed even at the memory. “At one point I had to fight to protect my role as head of clan.” He tried to force his grimace into a bitter smile for Kagome’s sake. “Death has a way to bring everything else tumbling down.” He concluded.

 

Kagome walked along in silence, feeling dry leaves crunch beneath her shoes. She hadn’t expected to find someone who understood, even a little. They advanced in silence, falling into rhythm.

 

Taisho released a long breath and trudged on. “Eventually I wasn't fighting for myself  or my father. It was about the Taisho name.” He stopped in his tracks and turned to regard Kagome face to face. “Your aunt is right. You are the last of your line. I will not shirk my duty. The decision falls on you, Higurashi."

 

Dramatic much, thought Kagome to herself. But she could tell, by the stubborn tilt of his chin that he was dead serious. She crossed her arms, suddenly bashful. “We don't know each other. How do I know you’re not…” she trailed off before blurting creep. How do I know you’re not a total weirdo? Kagome looked up at a passing blue car, embarrassed to meet Taisho’s gaze.

 

“I thought about it as well." He said, acknowledging the big leap of trust this would require from both of them. 

 

For a minute Kagome wondered if they could have found each other in a different way. If, under different circumstances, they could have become a couple. She tries to see him as a man, not an opportunity. But nothing comes to mind. Where would they even meet? What could they even say to each other? She always goes after different kind of boy on any case. Louder and much more lively.

 

Then Sesshomaru cleared his throat. "We’ll give it one month of meeting three times a week minimum. If after this trial period we have found nothing to cause mayor concern, we’ll proceed with the engagement. Then agree about our obligations within the marriage, draft a prenup and plan the ceremony.” Taisho explained, as if he were giving instructions on a regular procedure.

 

Kagome stood incredulous, jaw slightly agape. Taisho politely ignored the look on her face, and brightly offered “Shall we get lunch?”

 

 

---

 

They did get lunch. Taisho claimed to know a scrumptious soba restaurant nearby and within minutes he’d ordered for them both, poured Kagome a glass of red wine and pulled up his planner to schedule their next two dates.

 

“Hold on” Kagome finally managed to interject, still dumbfounded by Taisho’s quick pacing. “I haven’t agreed yet.”

 

“But you didn't refuse either” He observed.

 

“No...I” Well she could flat out refuse him. 

 

'But you like him', she realized, noticing for the first time a tightness in her ribcage when she looked at him. 

 

“I want to know why you would agree to this. I’d depend on you economically.” This part she mumbled, tackling the awkward subject they had both managed to avoid so far. “And besides, you’re a successful man, you should be able to marry a woman you fancy. I don’t get why you would do this.”

 

“Recently I was in a list of most desirable bachelors” He said wrinkling his nose in clear disgust. “It was appalling. It made me loose invaluable clout.” He admitted and Kagome giggled. 

 

He looked at her with that piercing gaze of his again. “Besides my heartfelt desire to honor my family line,” he stressed “I’m the youngest junior partner at my firm. Being married would give me some much needed respectability.”

 

Just then their waiter arrived with their food and placed the steaming plates of noodles in front of them. It smelled delicious but neither of them moved to eat. 

 

“So not only could you quickly get married, but you’d make a good impression by following an age-old omiai.” Kagome tried out her conclusion aloud, and it rang true in her ears: she was a convenient move on Taisho’s strategy to reach the top. He’s a businessman through and through. Kagome downed her wine glass in one gulp. “I’m sure there’s more convenient prospects” She ventured.

 

Taisho nodded and filled their glasses again. “There are. But I don’t want to owe anyone favors.” He didn't want in-laws lording over him, more like. “I’m not a chivalrous man, Kagome -may I call you by your given name?” She nodded and he continued. “I don't commiserate with people, and I didn’t feel pity towards you. I felt responsible.”

 

Kagome again found her glass empty, and he poured once more. Was that the third? “The business with that lawsuit against you-”

 

“I don’t want to hear it.”

 

“But you should. It’s one of my conditions. It wasn't your fault or your family’s that the school burnt up. It was a gas leak and your supplier should be responsible to check on their infrastructure.” Taisho pointed out in the arrogant tone he reserved for his area of expertise. “It shouldn’t fall on you to pay settlements.”

 

“My family’s plot of land is on sale already. The profit goes to the student’s families. We agreed on that.” Kagome explained calmly, keeping emotions off her voice. “I don’t want the money.”

 

Taisho nodded, but she could tell he didn’t even consider her point of view. “If you let this go, they’ll get away with it, and sometime in the near future another fire will break out that could’ve been prevented.” It was a low blow and he knew it, but he didn’t relent. “And you do need that money. You don’t have a penny to your name otherwise, am I wrong?” He paused for a second to examine her face. 

 

“Let me represent you pro bono on this. Fight, Kagome. There’s enough doormats out there. Let me defond you, and give the marriage a try. Otherwise quit, let those low class lawyers do was they please with your parents’ home, and forget about me while you sleep away your life on your aunt’s floor.”

 

Kagome’s head spun, and she tried to stabilize herself, gripping at her chair. 'Who does he think he is to make this demands of me?' she thought. 

 

But some part of her had already decided. They could make it work. Something about the arrogant man with white hair had captivated her. And she knew she couldn’t go back to wasting away in Akari’s floor, as he’d suggested.

 

“Let’s do it.” She heard herself say, sounding by far more convinced than she was.

 

 

---

 

 

That evening she didn’t sound as sure when she told Sango “I think I’m getting married.”

 

They’d just finished a run led by her, and Sango was on a good mood when Kagome approached her. She considered her statement while she softly patted her face dry with a towel “You think you’re getting married or you are?”

 

“I might?” Kagome croaked. “I’m likely to get serious with this guy in the near future. ” She said, unsure.

 

“So you’re not joining?” Sango asked, eyebrows knit in puzzlement. She’d advocated to take Kagome into the fold, and this must be disappointing news.

 

Get it together Kagome, she told herself. “I still want to... and here’s the thing, my great grandfather lifted a curse from his. He brought this old written pact between them-”

 

“Higurashi Tatsuki?” Sango interrupted. Of course she’d know that.

 

Kagome nodded. “He said it was epilepsy treatment but the contract between them seems like something way bigger. They signed with blood.”

 

“Bring that some time. I’m sure my father would love to take a look at it.” Sango said, mystified as well. “What’s his name again?”

 

“Taisho Sesshomaru.” Kagome said, nervous of her reaction.

 

“It doesn't ring any bells but I’ll do some digging.” Sango said while stretching lazily. “And you should do some digging too, on yourself. Are you going to join the taijiya and be married to an outsider?”

 

 

---

 

Notes:

On the hair dye comment: many Japanese schools require studentd with unusual hair colors dye it black

 

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