A/N: Wow, where has the time gone? Senior year has kept me unbelievably busy. Lit club president duties, Christmas baskets, royal court practice for madrigal, scholarships, a new boyfriend and a promise ring, college acceptance letter, and monetary things...it's no wonder I'm a bit under the weather today. Seems like I scarcely have time to even breathe anymore – and don't even get me started on Creative Writing last semester...teacher wanted me to write a play before Christmas Break began. Thank goodness I've only a month left to go!

EDIT: And now I'm out of high school! Yay! I start college this month. There really has been a lot and I'm sorry this chapter won't be too long, but hopefully, it'll tide you over to the next one. I'm going to finish this fan fiction, I promise. I just have had a lot to do. But, at the end of this chapter, I'll talk a little about my original writing project and where and how to check it out.

Chapter Thirty-Four: The Debutante

The villa buzzed with activity. Since seven o'clock, prestigious families had been arriving at the gate and up the drive. The transformation over the entire mansion had been astounding, like something out of a fairytale. With the romantic lighting, long candles of white held in golden candelabras and with the delicate splashes of deep red about – a sign of the Tanaka family –, the ballroom was the jewel of the entire house.

Mia and Sage had shown up in rather defining style – skidding to a stop by the valet on Sage's motorcycle while still looking as elegant and refined as the other guests arriving in limos, if only a bit more flush-faced and friendly.

Kagura was keeping the house in order, i.e. ordering Jaken about, who was already at his wits' end. Most of the staff mused it was for their lady's personal diversions, but no one said anything of it. She kept Sango and Miroku hopping, and it did not go unnoticed to Miroku the sigh and longing look Sango gave at every pass of her room. It wasn't until an hour before the ball, which would start promptly at nine o'clock, that the pair was given leave to prepare.

"Are you all right, Sango?" asked Miroku as they made their way down the hall to their rooms.

"I'm fine. Just a bit tired." She passed a hand over her forehead. "I understand all the preparation of this, but still, Miroku, aren't you at all worried about tonight?"

"What do you mean?"

She stopped and Miroku did with her. Facing him, she reasoned, "We have no idea what Naraku might do in order to make Sesshoumaru look bad – but more than that, make Inuyasha and Kagome look bad."

"That's true. Still, as we have no idea," he placed his hands on her shoulders, "we shouldn't trouble ourselves too much with it. For now, Sango, we have to focus on what's going on right now, and let things fall where they may."

Sango moved her gaze to where his hands gripped her shoulders and then down to the floor with a nod. "All right... I should probably go help Kagome get ready," she said, starting to turn away but Miroku grabbed her hand and held her fast. "What? Miroku?"

He gave a soft grin and a laugh. "Kagome will be fine. But I know of another beautiful young lady who needs to get ready." He nodded at her door. "Go on, Sango. Relax for a little bit."

"But, Miroku – "

"Please...? For me?"

Sango worried her lip for a moment, then gave a slight nod. "All right. But at least check on Inuyasha, then. You never know what kind of trouble he can get himself in."

Releasing her hand with a flourish, Miroku dropped into a bow. "Your wish is my command, Lady Sango. I shall go see what Lord Half-Wit is doing." He flashed a playful smirk at her before taking her hand again and kissing the back of it. "My Lady..."

Giving a surprised blink, Sango watched Miroku as he walked down the hall, humming some random tune to himself. Looking at her hand, she moved it over her faster-beating heart. "That Miroku..." But as the dreamy, romantic thoughts began to tendril about her head, she allowed herself a quiet smile and made her way into her room.


Inuyasha frowned slightly at his reflection as he loosened the crimson tie that threatened to choke him. "Don't even consider taking that off," came Sesshoumaru's edged voice from behind him. Inuyasha simply frowned more.

"I...can't...stand...this...thing...!" growled the young hanyou as he finally yanked the tie off and tossed it to the floor.

"Surely you cannot be that much of a simpleton as to not be able to figure out how to wear a simple tie, Inuyasha."

"It's not that I can't wear one, it's just a fucking pain in the ass and I don't wanna wear it!" He shot a glare at his brother. "It's already bad enough I'm in this damn monkey suit – the tie's crossing the line, Sesshoumaru."

Before older brother could rebuff younger brother, Miroku stepped into the room. "Ah, Inuyasha, you look...heated." Miroku suppressed a laugh, but his lips continued to twitch into a semi-smirk.

"Oh, give it a rest." Inuyasha turned back to the mirror, brushing off his sleeves. The rich black of the tuxedo brought out the color of the hanyou's hair and complimented his gold eyes just as well. From ruby-studded cufflinks to shined dress shoes, Inuyasha really was a piece of work.

Miroku had always prided himself as the lady's man of the outfit – "outfit" being Inuyasha, Sango, Kagome, and of course his magnificence – but he had to admit Mia had done a splendid job of making Inuyasha the envy of all the men and want of all the women. If only he had more resisted the temptation of groping that luscious backside of hers...

Nevertheless, with the cleaned-up hanyou grumbling with the sourest expression mortally possible, Miroku couldn't help but feel the bigger man.

"So, are you ready?" he asked, dusting off his own tux. Inuyasha grumbled in response. "Wonderful! Now then, Kagura is already downstairs greeting people, Sesshoumaru, and Kagome is almost finished, Inuyasha."

"Almost finished? How much time does that woman need?"

"Ah-ah-ah!" Miroku raised a hand. "Never rush a woman, Inuyasha. Besides, I believe it was just a little hair and make-up trouble."

Inuyasha's eyes flashed with alarm. "Jakotsu wasn't brought back, was he?"

"No." Miroku smirked as Inuyasha let out a silent breath of relief. "Another stylist is taking care of that. I assure you, Kagome will be out soon enough, and surely she will be radiant."

Laying a hand on his friend's shoulder, Miroku steered Inuyasha away from the mirror. With expert speed that even the hanyou didn't catch, Miroku had knotted the tie tolerably at Inuyasha's throat and was leading him out of the room.

Miroku was giving Inuyasha a sort of "prep talk," but the hanyou's mind couldn't be further from his own body than it was now. A gnawing feeling tore at his gut and he knew something was going to happen tonight, even if he didn't know what exactly. So, dazed, he was lead down the hall with only a half-lucid thought in his distant brain to the ballroom.

Golden light sparkled and dazzled his eyes but it was like something out of a dream – everything was too bright and rich, too creamy and too...unreal. Sage and Mia waved from across the room, Sage giving a thumbs up. A few couples were swirling about the floor, like runny paint on canvas they blended before Inuyasha's vision.

He declined a glass of wine and kept his distance from the heart of the throng – more were standing around and chattering glibly than dancing to the small group of musicians tastefully tucked in the scenic corner to Inuyasha's right. The lulling tune sounded far off, yet it was comforting at the same time.

Reporters flitted about the room, being halfway conspicuous as a few more of the daring dogs – no pun intended – prowled closer to the lone hanyou; Miroku had disappeared when they had reached the doorway to meet up with Sango, who had been clad in a flattering emerald dress.

There were so many scents, so many sounds, and it was rather intimidating for Inuyasha – not that he'd ever admit that. He only recognized a handful of people but Inuyasha wanted nothing more than to get the hell out of there – even more than ripping that annoying tie savagely from his personage.

The music slowly faded away and the talking fell into a lull; all faces were turned towards the front where Sesshoumaru and Kagura stood on the marble landing, regal as ever. Sesshoumaru's eyes surveyed the crowd for a moment and he locked onto his brother's. Inuyasha felt the molten gaze and it tugged him from his foreboding reverie.

"Tonight we gather to celebrate my young brother's engagement announcement. Inuyasha, will you come up here?"

Normally, the hanyou would've snapped at being ordered – albeit, politely – to do something, especially by Sesshoumaru, but instead he drifted his way up there. He could feel the eyes of the guests on him, scrutinizing every detail; even so, he walked with shoulders squared and chin lifted high with pride. He turned to face the crowd, standing beside Sesshoumaru.

With a nod, Sesshoumaru announced, "And now, for my brother's fiancée."

A few seconds went by before gasps and murmured comments began to whisper over the guests. All heads were turned and tilted upwards. Some of the men stared in awe and a few of the women's eyes shown with jealousy. Inuyasha turned and everything seemed to freeze.

The soft pink of the dress brought out the softness in Kagome's features along with the deep blue-black of her hair. Where the rent in her dress had been, Mia had improvised with ivory ribbon that seemed to writhe along the new seam and then widely encircled Kagome's waist, accentuating her hips.

The Shikon no Tama glowed gently at her neck and seemed to illuminate that slight smile on her lips. She was poised at the top of the grand staircase, surveying the crowd with as much grace as royalty, but the same trademark nervousness made her undeniably Kagome.

With measured steps, a hand lifting the wide sweep of her gown, she descended the marble stairs – the whiteness of the lilies fastened to the banisters was even lighter than the marble. Finally, she came around and stood beside Inuyasha, letting the hem of her gown drop.

Sesshoumaru's voice clipped the awestruck people. "This is Higurashi Kagome. She and my younger brother will marry within the next four years, and as such, they will be able to claim Inuyasha's rightful inheritance."

Kagura lifted her wine glass, the claret drink the same color as her gown, and said quietly, "Why don't we all congratulate the happy couple with a toast?" She paused as everyone raised their glasses high, giving a half-smirk half-smile to the pair. "To Inuyasha and Kagome."

The guests murmured congratulations of the same, sipped, and clapped.

"Are we off display yet...?" growled Inuyasha in an undertone to his brother.

"In front of the grand audience, yes."

Inuyasha nodded before looking to Kagome and holding out his palm to her. The girl blushed prettily over the bridge of her nose before accepting his hand. He smiled slightly and lead her down to the floor. "You...look really nice..." he mumbled.

"Oh..." Kagome averted her gaze. "Th-thank you."

Leading her down to the ballroom floor, Inuyasha and Kagome were assaulted by various guests. The pair handled the accosting as well as they but, luckily for them, the Hishinumas, Shippou's family, had helped to drive them off.

"Back off! Give them some room! Don't make them suffocate!" Shippou had commanded while the pair slipped over to where the band was playing. (Kagome had also caught an odd mumbling from Shippou as she and Inuyasha hurried by. It was something that sounded oddly like..."boogie man hunter").

They shared a smile of relief but it was short-lived as a call of, "Kagome," caught their attention.

"Hm?" Kagome looked up and blinked. "Oh, hello, Kouga."

Inuyasha growled quietly as Kouga made his way over, dressed in a smart, navy tux with his hair held back in a loose plait. "What do you want?" the hanyou asked, narrowing his eyes. When Kouga stared at him curiously – stupidly is more like it... –, Inuyasha half-wished he was a dog again if, for nothing else, to be able to bite and urinate on the wolf-demon once more.

Oh the temptation to do so even now...

...Maybe his dog instincts were just a bit boosted.

...Stupid doggy affinity...

Kouga smirked. "You look lovely as ever, Kagome, but who is that mongrel you're with?"

Mongrel...? The hanyou's eye twitched. "I'm her fiancé, twit." Inuyasha snorted as their gazes met, daggers shooting between them. "Didn't you just hear the announcement Sesshoumaru made?"

Kouga picked at his ear for a moment before flicking a claw. "What? Oh, yeah, that, but I wasn't really looking. Announcements put me to sleep. So you're his brother? And you're marrying Kagome?"

"Yeah, that's right. That's usually what the terms 'fiancé' and 'engaged' mean, you shi—"

"Inuyasha...!" Kagome warned, giving him a look as her hand grabbed his elbow.

For a moment, Kouga's blue eyes moved between the couple until finally resting on the girl. "Oh, Kagome..."


In a flash, he'd grasped both of her hands in his, and Inuyasha was waving his arms to keep his balance. "Are they making you do this, Kagome? Is he forcing you into this?"

"Er, well..." Kagome felt sweat creeping down her neck. It's a bit more complicated than that, Kouga...

"If that's the thing," his gaze found hers heatedly, "you can stay with me – marry me, Kagome, and I will take care of you!"

Inuyasha went to pound a fist on Kouga's wrists but the wolf-demon moved his hands out of the way just in time. "Oh sure, and that little speech you gave didn't sound a bit self-serving in the least." He snorted again. "Keh, you make me sick."

Kouga glared at him, and a long growl was shared between them. "Your eyes..."

"Yeah, what about them?"

It was Kouga's turn to snort now. "They look really familiar...like I've seen them somewhere before with my beautiful Kagome."
"Your Kagome...?" hissed Inuyasha in disbelief. "Why you..."

The wolf-demon continued, processing this. "Yeah...and...your name is what, again? Inuyasha? Inuyasha... Inuyasha...that sounds so familiar." He turned to the girl. "Hey, Kagome isn't your dog's name Inu—"

"Kouga, how about we dance?" she said quickly. Both boys stared at her, and Kouga smiled.

"Of course." He snatched one of her hands and lead her out into the throng once more.

The girl glanced back helpless at Inuyasha. "Sorry," she mouthed.

Inuyasha crossed his arms tightly over his chest. "Oh sure, dance with the stupid wolf..."

It was just a stupid dance, right? It shouldn't matter if Kagome danced the first dance with him, right? She was only dancing with him so he wouldn't blab to the world that Inuyasha was formerly known as her dog, right? So why did it matter? She was still going to stick with him in the end...


Inuyasha shuddered at that questioning thought and instead stared at his feet as a moving piece started up by the band. Despite the fact Kouga was here, the ball didn't seem so bad. It could've been much worse.

When he looked up, Inuyasha could see Sango and Miroku were happily twirling around and around and even Kaede had shown up; the old veterinarian was over talking with Sesshoumaru and dressed in a simple, red dress.

Inuyasha was both glad to see her and glad that she'd chosen to wear something age appropriate.

He could still remember once, when he was a dog, seeing one dowdy-looking middle-aged woman strutting by him, wearing something that Kagome would've been able to pull off.

...He hadn't looked at a yellow fire hydrant the same since then.

Shrugging that memory off, Inuyasha felt himself gazing around the ballroom once more. He was pleased to see that Kagome's annoying school friends – Eri, Yuka, and Ayumi – had not been invited. Of course, they could've come if Kagome had wanted, but he figured his fiancée had the forethought that they would – well, the former pair, anyway – would use it as a dress-up day and probably be far more embarrassing than he could ever be.

And speaking of embarrassing, look at that Kouga. Whirling around with Kagome, as if he owned the entire ballroom, as if he was the one marrying her... Inuyasha growled.

Damn that wolf-demon.

If it weren't for this whole stupid ball, Inuyasha would've marched over there and socked that cocky bastard and send him flying from here to Croatia at least.

The music continued to be upbeat yet wistful and as much as he tried not to think of it again, the fact that his fiancée was dancing with Kouga made his heart drop down to the pit of his gut.

He could see their mouths moving, but he couldn't make out what was being said from here – and Inuyasha had never had the patience to be a lip-reader. The depression at that made his mouth droop into a self-pitying grimace that reached to his eyes. I wonder what they're talking about...


"So, you're really going to go through with this, Kagome?"

"Yes, Kouga, I am."

"Are you sure? I heard it was arranged."

"It is. But I don't mind."

"Kagome... Is this what you really want?"

Kagome chewed on her bottom lip reflexively, even though her mind scolded her not to muss up the lipstick there.

Was marrying Inuyasha really what she wanted?

By marrying him – that rude, arrogant, proud hanyou –, she would never have a chance to do any of the normal things in life. Heck, they hadn't even had a real first date yet, and, as she looked into Kouga's oceanic eyes, she knew that he would give her all the normal comforts of a regular teenage relationship.

But...it wouldn't be with Inuyasha...

"Yes, I'm sure, Kouga." The girl was whirled around, her gown billowing about her and drifting back to her as her partner drew her back in. She landed against Kouga's chest and he held her closely, his eyes intense.

"Kagome, do you..." The wolf-demon swallowed thickly. "...do you love him?" The girl didn't answer and her gaze kept to his lips. Kouga nodded, feeling the pang of rejection grip him. "Well," he said, trying keep an air of his normal confidence and nonchalance, "if he makes you happy, Kagome, that's really what matters to me."

The music stopped and Kagome hugged Kouga tightly. "Thank you, Kouga, so much... You're a good friend."

Kouga's lips moved into a wry smile. "I'll always be your friend."

"I'm glad." Then the girl pulled away, glimpsing back to give a smile, before making her way back to Inuyasha.

The wolf-demon watched her go before walking over to find a place to recline on an empty wall. He grabbed a glass of champagne as he passed a waiter and took a sip. Up from his right, he could see his friends, Ginta and Hakkaku, coming over.

"Hey, Kouga," greeted Ginta. "You all right?"

"Yeah," rejoined Hakkuku, " we saw what happened."

Kouga nodded. "Yeah, I'll be all right but...you think I could get some time alone to think." The two stared at him disbelievingly – and he wondered why he invited them with him – so he stared back. "Am I not allowed to think or what?"

"Oh, yeah, yeah," the stuttered together before disappearing into the throng.

Kagome... The wolf-demon thought, catching the girl talking with Inuyasha; the couple smiled. I hope that you really are happy...

He went to take another sip from his glass when, with a squeal, something bumped into him.

"Oh, I'm so sorry!" a female voice amended.

"It's all right, no damage done." Kouga peered down to see a vaguely-familiar head of red hair. "Hey...do I know you?"

The head waggled and then looked up, green eyes meeting his. "Oh! Kouga!" The girl smiled prettily. "I'm Tsukina's daughter, Ayame."

"Ayame...I remember you."

She smiled. "I'm glad..."

Kouga's gaze moved over to where Kagome was but both she and Inuyasha were gone. He looked to Ayame. "Hey...would you like to dance?"


Kagome laughed softly as she and Inuyasha glided along the ballroom. Initially, Inuyasha had started to ask her what she and Kouga had talked about, but a very drunk guest had tried to plant his lips on Kagome.

The man had been whisked off to one of the guest rooms to sleep off both that hangover he was sure to have as well as the throbbing in his right cheek he'd have from being slugged.

Inuyasha was still grumbling about it, and hence the source of Kagome's giggling.

"I still can't believe you hit him!"

"Why wouldn't I? Serves him right for trying to kiss up on unsuspecting women."

Kagome shook her head at that, but their shared mirth was ended when Miroku came skidding up to them – nearly knocking over the pair as he tried to stop.

"Sorry," he amended. "But, Naraku just showed up with a bunch of reporters and a guest." The young man's violet eyes flickered over to Inuyasha briefly. "Be prepared for a big entrance."

The couple nodded as Miroku hastened off, joining up with Sango at one of the side doors.

Inuyasha snorted. "Just like Naraku to show up gaudily."

Kagome glanced to her fiancée and she felt his grip on her waist strengthen. He's as freaked out as I am... She moved her eyes to where Miroku and Sango stood sentry; guests were mumbling and making starting to part. Reporters, dressed for the occasion, began to enter. I don't even know what this Naraku is even like... I almost wonder if what business I have here. Wasn't Naraku the guy that Inuyasha lost...

The hall had gone silent as Onigumo Naraku stepped through the doorway, clad in black but in clothes just as fine as Sesshoumaru's. His crimson eyes scanned over the crowd and smirked. "Thank you for inviting me, Sesshoumaru." The collective gaze moved to the elegant dog-demon and his wife who stood at the end of the parted throng. "And you as well...Inuyasha..."

Naraku's eyes flashed as they passed over the hanyou, and Inuyasha barely suppressed a growl.

"Come on, let's go stand over by Sesshoumaru and Kagura," urged Kagome, leading him over to the older couple.

"Yes, do join them, Inuyasha," hissed Naraku as the couple reached their destination. "And, I haven't completely forgotten my manners. I have an old friend..."

Kagome's eyes widened as Naraku held a hand behind him and a feminine hand slipped into his. Slowly, a beautiful, lithe woman came into view. Her simple cobalt dress still hung elegantly from her pale shoulders.

Or perhaps the elegance was from the woman herself who smiled coolly to the room. She began her promenade down the open strip towards them, and Kagome chanced a glance to her fiancée.

Inuyasha's eyes were wide for a moment, before sharpening in color and narrowing. Still, a mixture of sadness and anger played in his golden irises as they approached. His lips twitched and his hand also fractionally grew tighter and tighter around Kagome's.

Finally, Naraku and the woman stood before them.

"Inuyasha..." the woman greeted softly, eyes glittering as they met his.

Kagome's heart stopped and she knew before Inuyasha said a word in response.



A/N: Sheesh, so much formatting to do – and perhaps some editing. But look! I know it's been a year but I hope this chapter suffices. I will do better, I promise! –bows head before getting to her knees, and doing a low bow of apology- Sorry, sorry, sorry! –gets up- All right, well, I know, evil cliffy, but...you know you like it.

I hope you liked the Kouga scene – just wanted some "closure" about him and Kagome so that's why I mentioned Ayame and everything. Plus, it's also the fact I've grown rather fond of Kouga in the recent chapters of the manga. It also helps that my dear friend Jazz and my wonderful boyfriend Zach both like that cocky wolf-demon.

I think I do too.

Almost 2000 reviews on FF-dot-com. Wow. I am...just...wow. Thank you all so much.

Now, as for the original stuff, you can check out my FictionPress bio or my journal entry stuff on my deviantART account (both are linked on my bio). The series has no name yet there but there's a trio: "Synonymous with Destiny," "The Prisoner," and "The Lost." The last two are the most related – the first is just a tester.

Also, see my bio page for new fan art! Thank you all so much, hopefully I'll update OaL: Emancipated soon, but I appreciate your kindness, you patience, and most of all, your love for this story.

See you all really soon!

Moonlight Shadow

P.S. I hope you didn't have to re-read much.