Dissatisfaction pooled low in Kagome's abdomen, fused with the liquid heat melting her insides as she promenaded along the gardens. Damn Sesshōmaru and damn Bokusenō and damn her. What she had told Sesshōmaru had been a lie – a lie she desperately wanted to believe but couldn't. She did not wish to remember, did not want to dwell in the past – but memory was all that remained. Nothing, Kagome had nothing else, no name to whisper, no body to mourn, no grave to visit. Crimson pain and whys were all she had, all she knew for a very long time.
Sesshōmaru had no right to come into her life, demand answers, rekindle the coals of recollection – but he did. Seeing him once more, perfection and regality and impassivity, uprooted old-felt aches, things she had striven to bury deep inside. It was improbable, she knew, an eidolon of overlaid sensation, of delusive lethe. A sip of time, of things that never die. What was could never be again – and what she felt now was a raindrop of pain, a snowstorm of rage. Meeting him again was one fluid gesture, like stepping back in time. Their talk was cold and burned like the sun. Try as she might, Kagome could not dismiss past indiscretions, could not forget stolen possessions. Once her soul started spinning again, feelings could no longer be restrained. She had swapped agony for oblivion, crushed the end within her stride. Now, it was coming back, more vicious, more potent than before, intent on devouring her whole.
Kagome was swathed in whorls and brushes of dreams with every step she took – an embroidery with silver-white threads, a painting of cherubic smiles and soft skin. It spun slices of sweetness, memories that should have been hers, now turned to ashes, nightmares. It had been too long since she had thought of the child she had lost, of what his or her face would have looked like – but now it was all she could think of.
"I know you are there, little ningen."
Mellow and sophisticated, the female voice washed over Kagome like spring-water on May's Eve, summoned her closer. Lips the shade of wild cherries, pure gold for eyes, voluptuous curves and sirenic skin – Sesshōmaru's mother was beauty personified, an otherworldly sovereign, very much like her son.
"Then you must also know I'm no little ningen." Honey in her tone but vinegar in her eyes, sweet and sour, Kagome tilted her chin back, refused to be ensnared by the hauteur of the female yōkai.
"Indeed." The gold of her eyes hardened, roved over Kagome's body, saw past flesh and bone. "I sense the change."
Inukimi then hummed, a sway of hips and silver strands. "Very well. What name do you claim then?"
Not one for decorum and overly tired, Kagome ceased all antagonism. There was no need to make enemies where none could be found. Sesshōmaru's mother seemed more intrigued than disapproving of Kagome's presence – or at least she gave that impression.
"Kagome. What may I call you?"
A sigh lathered Inukimi's chest, snaked within the swell of her cleavage. She tapped a finger to her chin, almost thoughtful. "What should you call me indeed? It has been such a long time since I have been called anything other than mother. The last person who uttered my name was my late mate."
Kagome reeled back at that but kept her composure. If what Inukimi claimed was true then she led a terribly…lonely existence. Her voice though was soft, unlike before, when the miko asked this in the least conspicuous manner she could muster. "You have no friends, no visitors, except Sesshōmaru?"
"I have neither need nor use for such." Inukimi shrugged, a graceful motion of her shoulders, then chuckled, as if she didn't care at all – and maybe she didn't. "You may use my name, yes. You may call me Madoka."
A curt nod and Kagome discarded all courtesies but the absolute necessary. "Why am I here, Madoka-san?"
Inukimi's mouth curled, hints of grin and carmine and satisfaction. "Sharp like metal yet blunt as well. You are an interesting female."
If Kagome didn't know any better, and who was to say she did, she could swear Sesshōmaru's mother was pleased with her, approving of her character. What Inukimi next uttered though, erased all such musings from Kagome's mind.
"Shall we play a game, Kagome? An answer for a question and a question for an answer?"
The way Madoka's lips gleamed, insidious crimson, told Kagome it wasn't merely a suggestion.
"I don't have a choice, do I?"
"You can always decline. You may even leave. My son will not be pleased but that is an answer for a question not yet asked."
Such delectation, such knowledge in Madoka's smile, kindness and cruelty both molded in one tilt of carmine. Kagome's reply, too, was an antinomy, both pleased and dismal.
"Fine. I will ask again then. Why am I here?"
Cocking her head to the side, Inukimi laughed, undulated with zest, her breasts soft vessels of its huskiness. "Because my son is cruel but awkward as all males are."
Inukimi's wiles were beginning to tire Kagome out at this point. She should have known nothing was ever that easy. The cunningness in Madoka's shiny depths, the willful smirk on her lips when she turned to acknowledge her told Kagome as such.
"I should have known this would be a tricky game. Sesshōmaru warned me I wouldn't like to make your acquaintance once in the past."
The wind carried Madoka's chuckle, breezed past Kagome's ears, all woman and taunt. "Did he now? He must have cared for you then – as much as one such as he can care. Then again, he lay with you. I think it goes beyond simple care? Consider this my question."
Kagome didn't take the bait but she did answer truthfully. "It was strictly a matter of a necessity."
Inukimi's eyes widened for a mere fragment of a second – then she erupted in peals of laughter, melodious, full of delight. "A necessity, you say? My son had need of you, of a human female? Now that is an amusing thought."
The woman could be as amused as she willed, it made no difference to Kagome, but she would answer her original question, all wiles be damned. "I will rephrase my first question. Why did he wish for me to speak with you?"
A huff and the snare of a smirk, gaiety slathered in Madoka's features, but didn't reach her eyes. No more of that laughter now. Something flashed in the woman's eyes, adumbral, pupils distended, emotions that didn't belong to one such as she. Kagome would have sighed, told her she wouldn't continue this game, if Madoka hadn't laughed again. It was not the same laughter, however.
"Because you lost a pup – and I know what that feels like."