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Glance From Afar by Vixeria Snow

Prologue

The corridor was dismal and near-barren. Bare feet scuffling across uneven brick flooring and the struggled huffs of a person dragged by their hair could be heard reverberating across the broad expanse of the passage. Chained links rattled, occasionally clanking against and snagging on bricks below. Irritated and impatient grunts and mumblings of the handler accompanied the otherwise silent halls. The cracks in the walls indicated a poorly crafted foundation of the structure they currently resided in. The wooden beams above were rotting, nearly collapsing from the pressure of sustaining the already-decrepit building.

She was hauled into a large room, and although her eyesight failed her for the most part, she knew where she was. She knew her appearance was haggard, putting it mildly. Her hair was thinned, barely enough to cover her scalp, and balding from her lack of nutrition. Her eyes were crusted, nearly glued shut with deeply darkened circles beneath each of her eyes. She knew her eyes were infected from the feeling of pus oozing from the corners of her eyelids, but she also knew there was no hope of ever receiving treatment. Her priestess attire was beyond dirty, stained from years upon years of uncleanliness. One sleeve and pant leg was still intact, whereas the other half was in a tattered state, nearly shredded. The sash used to hold everything together was worn and falling apart, barely able to remain tied. Her shoes were long gone, having been broken decades ago. Her socks looked more like torn leg warmers, stretched and unable to remain upon her calves. The pads and heels of her feet were scabbed and scraped from her constant dragging across the floor. Bruises covered her skin where it showed, a fresh array of them on her left leg. Her skin was pale- deathly pale- and clearly sunken in areas that should be fleshy and pudgy.

She was thrown forward, nearly face-planting straight into the floor. Her arms and elbows scraped across brick, and she swallowed a hiss from the pain. Weakly, slowly, she pushed herself back into a kneeled sitting position. Her head was yanked back by her hair to force her face upward. She knew they were attempting to converse with her, but her mind wandered elsewhere. What little vision she had clouded over, and her ears tuned everything out, muffling all noises.

All of a sudden, all she could hear was the sound of her name being called by two beautiful and hyperactive children. All she could see were their faces as they looked up at her, full of hope, full of excitement. Their laughter was contagious—the scent of the potted flowers at the door permeating the entrance were all she could envision... all she could grasp.

-----

“Kagome, I can’t wait to show you my room!” the little girl exclaimed, pulling on her wrist and attempting to tug her in some unknown direction, “It’s down this hall!”

“Rin,” Sesshomaru admonished as they stepped up to the large double-doors that marked the front entrance of the palace. Stepping through the doorway, the first she took note of was of her shoes clicking against what she assumed was marble... or at least something akin to it. Rin stopped tugging on her sleeve, embarrassed for being called out on her impatient behavior.

With eyes as wide as dinner plates, Kagome considered the sight of the massive, modestly decorated foyer. Upon entering, the visage of two large, arched staircases was near the foyer’s back and wrapped around to form a bridge up top. She could see four passages: one to either side of the entrance where they stood and one above and below the bridge in the back. There were two guards, one stationed at the foot of each staircase, who bowed in recognition of their lord’s return. Sesshomaru didn’t acknowledge them and instead escorted their small group through the corridor on their right, guiding them to their quarters.

There had been a rather considerable debate -and argument- about their next course of action. Naraku’s defeat had been a welcome relief as it meant they no longer had to traipse across the countryside just to hunt him down. Sango and Miroku returned to Muushin to deliver the positive news before heading to the Slayers’ dead village. Kohaku had decided to rediscover himself before rejoining with his sister- or tying up loose ends in Kagome’s opinion. She, herself, had opted to remain in Feudal Japan, for she had fallen in love with the scenery and non-toxic life of the village folk. Sesshomaru had left Rin in their care for a time while he, too, cleared up some loose ends on his side. And for a time, everything was peaceful. That is... until they discovered Kagome couldn’t age.

They assumed it was because of the well’s magic and perhaps the area of time recognizing that she was of the future. But when seven years flew by and her skin was near-flawless, villagers began suspecting her to be an apparition. Even worse, a sorceress and a witch. Conspiring with evil and other such nonsense. It was then when Sesshomaru had made an appearance, also taking note of the not-so-peaceful village he’d left his ward in, and came to the conclusion of providing sanctuary for his ward and his half-brother’s entourage.

So, they packed up their belongings and left.

Inuyasha hadn’t taken kindly to Sesshomaru’s charity, as he less-than-graciously put it. He was sour about having to relocate and even more so that it was to his brothers. Though, for the record, he did stop complaining a little after half of the trip there. Still, he kept picking fights with his brother whenever possible, but on the bright side, they were no longer at each other’s throats. Physically speaking.

The first room they happened upon was hers. Stepping past the large double doors had Kagome’s eyes nearly bulging from their sockets. She had been given far more than what she even thought was possible for a person of her standing. The room itself felt as if it were nearly two stories tall. The windows stretched tall and wide, touching the ceiling and extending from one side of the wall to the other. The golden drapes that adorned them were made of some type of sheer material that cast the entire room with their hue. A futon was placed in the room’s center with a post with similar colored drapes at each corner. The futon itself was rather large, its width possibly fitting up to ten people side by side. The sheets and bedding were a mix of white and red, with splashes of gold embroidery that caught the light along the hems. A large white rug, even more extensive than the bed but not as far as filling the room, was placed right beneath the futon. Walking further in, she turned around and set her sights on the immense mural that covered the entirety of the wall. The mural depicted the branches of a sakura tree, its branches reaching out and twisting and tangling across the expanse. A silhouette of two figures sat amongst its strong branches, enjoying whatever scenery lay beyond the tree. Sakura petals fell about the wall with splashes of red, white, and hints of gold.

She turned to Sesshomaru, and he knew that she was beyond pleased with the room. “We will retrieve you for dinner,” Sesshomaru said as Rin pouted, obviously wanting to show her around as soon as possible. Inuyasha, Rin, and Shippou followed after Sesshomaru, leaving her to rest.

She quickly discovered three doors that were hidden among the walls of the room. She never would have noticed the shoji sliding doors if she hadn’t have walked right up to the wall. At first glance, the entire wall looked seamless, painted to portray a flawless surface. The sliding doors led her directly to a man-made spring, which she quickly took the use of. She allowed herself to relax for nearly an hour before she finally decided to exit the room. Of course, she hadn’t thought to find clothing first, but luckily she quickly found a set of clothing spread out on the bed for her.

She would, perhaps, never forget the intricate design of the attire laid out for her. The nagajuban was near-solid white with an almost-transparent silvery-white swirled pattern. The datajime was a deep blue with golden swirls embroidered into it; it was very decorative and ornate. The kimono itself was a deep navy blue, embroidered with golden flowers, and matched the datajime beautifully. The obi was just as lavish and reminiscent of Sesshomaru’s sash that he wore around his armor, golden with blue waves at either end.

A knock at the door had her scurrying back behind the shoji doors of the spring. “Priestess-sama? Lord Sesshomaru has sent me to assist with your dressing,” a young woman’s voice called to her.

“Please, come in! Your help would be greatly welcomed,” she replied, knowing full well that she would never be able to put on the kimono by herself.

A woman, perhaps no older than herself, walked in. She wore a black and white kimono and hakama with Sesshomaru’s family crest embroidered on her left sleeve. She quickly stepped forward, grasping the nagajuban with a kind smile on her face. Kagome came out of her hiding place and allowed the woman to dress her. “Call me Kagome,” she said with a smile of her own.

“I mustn’t; you’re an esteemed guest of the lord,” she replied, “to do so is an insult to his lordship.”

“Then you can call me Kagome behind closed doors,” Kagome said with a nod, “I’m not really one for formalities.”

“Yes, Kagome-sama,” the lady said with a small bow, “my name is Yuki, and I am only here to serve and assist guests in the guest wing.”

“So then the children, Rin and Shippou, would be here in the guest wing as well?” She asked curiously, “And Inuyasha?”

“The young lady Rin resides in the family wing with Lord Sesshomaru, and Inuyasha will reside there as well, for he is blood,” she explained as she wrapped the datajime around Kagome’s waist. “The young kit will reside in the nursery with the other children who are not yet old enough to be left unattended.”

“The other children?” Kagome asked as they worked on the kimono next. “There are others here?”

“Well, of course, my lady,” Yuki replied, straightening Kagome’s sleeves. “The children for the esteemed guests usually remain in the nursery so that the adults may move about the palace freely,” she began working on Kagome’s obi once she had fixed Kagome’s collar a bit. “Currently, however, you and the young kit are the only ones who are guests in the palace.”

Kagome frowned almost immediately upon hearing this. “Yuki,” she said strictly.

“Yes, my lady?” Yuki replied quickly, picking up on Kagome’s tone.

“I want Shippou brought to my room immediately,” she replied, “from now on, he will stay with me in my room.”

“Oh, but you mustn’t, my lady,” Yuki said with a shake of her head, “it is poor-”

“I don’t care,” Kagome replied, “he is my adopted son; I want him close. He will stay with me while we are living here. If you could relocate his belongings to this room, I would greatly appreciate it. And perhaps, add a small writing table for him.”

“As you wish, Lady Kagome,” Yuki replied, bowing when she finished and exited the room. About ten minutes passed, and Kagome leaned back to lay across the edge of the futon. It was quite comfortable. It was soft to the touch and sturdy. She daresay it may have been better than her own bed back in the future! Soon enough, the door to her room was nearly thrown open, and she was greeted with the sight of her happy, excited son, bouncing into her arms.

“Kagome!” He exclaimed as he nuzzled into her shoulder, “They wouldn’t let me leave my room!”

“I know, Shippou,” she replied with a smile, “how would you like to stay with me from now on?”

“Can I, really?” Kagome nodded in affirmation before she set him down on the futon and took a look around. “Your room is huge,” Shippou commented, about as wide-eyed as herself. He took a closer look around, seeming unsure about where to look first.

“I was thinking the very same thing,” Kagome said, “you know, Shippou, I was just thinking about how much you’ve grown since you first joined Inuyasha and me.”

“We’ve gone through a lot of stuff,” Shippou said sadly, twiddling his thumbs with a far off look. “And I haven’t even had my growth spurt yet. Papa said that it won’t happen until my mentality reaches maturity.”

“You know something,” Kagome said, looking at him from the corner of her eye, “I think it’s right around the corner.”

“You think so?” He said excitedly.

Kagome placed a hand to pat down his hair a bit. “Mmhmm,” she replied as-a-matter-of-factly. “You’re a lot more mature than most your age.”

His smile stretched from cheek-to-cheek right before another knock at the door was heard. “Lady Kagome, Shippou-kun,” Yuki’s voice was heard, “dinner is ready, and I have placed the order for Shippou-kun’s personal items to be relocated.” Yuki paused and stepped to the side to allow another woman into the room. She was practically an exact replica of Yuki. “This is Yumi,” she introduced, “she is my twin sister, and she will be your escorts throughout the palace. She will guide you to the dining hall. By the time you are finished eating, your room will have been altered with accommodations for your son.”

“Thank you, Yuki,” she hesitated a moment before nodding her head at Yumi. “Nice to meet you, Yumi. You can call me Kagome as well, and this here is Shippou.” The woman, surprised, bowed her head in respect.

“My lady, that is most inappropriate..”

“It’s alright,” Kagome said, with a smile, repeating what she had told Yuki, “you can just call me Kagome behind closed doors.”

Kagome and Shippou shared a look before they both stood from the futon. She knew Shippou was surprised about being called her son... the two of them not yet having that particular conversation. Shippou chose not to comment on anything for the time being. She was somewhat grateful because she didn’t want to presume anything. At the same time, she wondered what he thought about being called her son. Shippou hopped up to her shoulder, much to both Yumi and Yuki’s disdain, before continuing on their way.

----------

Wrenched sideways and forced to stand, she was once again dragged away and pulled from her happy memories. She stumbled as they passed several doorways, most likely taking her back the way they had come. She heard the man curse as his own foot stubbed against a particularly jutted out brick, and she had a small sense of satisfaction before she was yanked again. Their shuffling once again echoed down the hallway. There was, however, a new sound in the corridor this time... one that always made her skin crawl.

Kagome clenched her teeth in disgust as they passed a precariously left open doorway. The sounds of sex reached her ears as a woman cried out her false pleasure, a man grunting as he repeatedly raped her. The slapping noise of skin to skin resounded, bouncing from wall to wall—sloppy... gushy. No doubt the woman had allowed him to do so, but that was simply the way things were around here. You either give in, or not, the choice was yours, but if your decision was unfavorable...

It was times like this where she really wished she had just been left alone in her cell. The man, her handler, never participated in these acts. It was a blessing but also a reminder. One that she knew if she forgot... She’d no doubt be quickly made a prime example for other prisoners here.

Kagome was tossed into her cell again. The smell of mold and human excrements wafted up through her nostrils. Her palms and knees scraped against the uneven floor once more, probably forcing the already-ripped wounds to bleed further. Her hands stung more than her knees, but that was to be expected. There was moisture collected on the floor of her cell, which would no doubt infect her wounds.

Her head hung as bile began to build in her throat; she couldn’t even breathe clean air as she attempted to reroute her gag reflex. She tried to forget the sounds that she’d heard in the hallway. It was always hard for her to drown everything out. Sometimes she succeeded... other times.... not so much. Sometimes the sounds echoed forever in her mind, never dissipating and continuously reminding her of her place.

Above all of her torment, however, there was a small comfort. She reached into an inner breast pocket on her left side, listening to the handlers shoes as they echoed into her cell, slowly dissipating down the hall. Her thumb brushed the top of the woven strings of a yellow tassel, hidden close to her heart. Her heartbeat became uneven as she allowed tears to fall yet again. The tears instantly cooled on her cheek, streaking with dirt down to her chin. Her teeth clenched and unclenched in an attempt to calm herself further. She knew that if she sobbed, she’d probably catch unwanted attention. The people here were very temperamental, and she did not want to be on the receiving end. As she calmed, relief began flooding her being, the tears subsiding.

The tassel... it was unquestionably a comfort. Of all the items Kagome could have had, the tassel was one that survived, the only one that remained. It gave her the strength to continue forward. Peace in an otherwise chaotic environment. A lifeline she gripped and strove to keep hidden. It was representative of a time that did exist, of a life that was real. It, too, was a reminder that she had a home outside of the dark, corroding walls of her prison.

If this tassel were confiscated... she would break.

 

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