In Terms of a Shadow
Summary: How dare he? He'd bought her, the jerk! Paid off her mother *knowing* she couldn't refuse the money and all he wanted in return was to marry her daughter. It sounded innocent - it wasn't. If that wasn't bad enough her betrothed was a beautiful, but heartless man who had no interest in her and regarded her, loosely, as his property.
Important Note: This story was inspired by "Goodbye Misao Makimachi...Forever Misao Shinomori" written by Nozhazuma. I've done another story with the 'arranged marriage' theme, but I was inspired to write this after reading Nozhazuma's story, so full credit to that author.
Life was funny sometimes. Not in a humorous way but in an odd, strange, disillusioned way. Life. My life. My poor pathetic life. My dreams, my hopes, my wants... worthless. They meant nothing now, I would never have them. I couldn't. They were taken from me. Stolen by the ones I loved more than all. The people I should have been able to depend on when everyone else was undependable.
What did you do when there was nothing to look forward to?
How do you escape the vacuum of despair where even hope cannot live?
What did you do when you were forced into intimacy with someone you didn't know? A stranger? A cold stranger? A dangerous stranger? A beautiful stranger, but one who you knew, deep down, despised you? Truly, utterly, saw you as 'beneath' them?
How could one hope? What was there to hope for?
I kept trying to tell myself it wouldn't be so bad. That I was being overdramatic and immature, my life wasn't really over. But each time I thought of him my heart darkened a little bit more and my fears raised a notch.
My life *was* over. Or it would be once he got possession of it.
I sighed heavily. Maybe I could leave him after I fulfilled my obligations. My lips quirked up into a smile. I dreamt of him last night. His hand under my chin, holding me, staring down at me harshly.
It had only been a couple hours. I couldn't escape. I wanted so badly to run away like a coward. Yet again, I told myself. 'This isn't so bad, you'll be okay'.
I wouldn't be okay, I knew, deep down, I wouldn't.
My head dropped just a bit lower.
I jumped when I felt the presence of someone behind me.
I opened my mouth to scream only to have a hand clamped over it and was spun roughly around to face the intruder. My scream died silently, and a glare took its place.
I stared up into his cold, gold eyes, his palm still pressed to my lips. He drew it away slowly.
"What are you doing?"
"Where are we going?"
"To dinner." He replied stoically.
"Really," I drawled.
He raised a brow but didn't answer. I frowned.
"I'm not interested, go away."
"I'm not asking."
I paused at that. 'I'm not asking'. It caused a shiver of cold terror to slide down my spine. What else wouldn't he ask for?
Perhaps something shown on my face. Perhaps he was merely perceptive.
"It's only dinner, Higurashi. Don't let your imagination run away with you."
He turned swiftly and walked to the door and waited there without another word. I stood, frozen to the spot.
"Go dress," he ordered and I followed the pathway up the stairs to my room numbly.
I slipped on a simple kimono, nothing fancy. Not for him at least. Why should I bother? We were getting married whether he liked what I looked like or not, and vice-versa.
I made my way back down coming into sight of him. There he still stood, waiting for me.
"Is that it?" He asked, voice critical as he traced his eyes over my figure.
"Yes," I replied almost huffily. He made me feel like I was wearing a bed sheet. This is the man I'm going to marry; I thought bitterly when he finally turned away without a word.
"Let's go then."
I followed him silently to the dining room. Why hadn't he just sent a servant to fetch me? As we walked I stared. He was dressed finely, finer than I. Long, silver white hair pooled gracefully down his back. He and I couldn't be the same age - not even close.
He must be older than me by... years?
"How old are you?" I asked directly.
That was... eight years! He was almost ten years older than me. I cringed. Great.
Wasn't it a bit late in life for him to be marrying? He should have been married for years now with a goggle of kids.
"What is your problem, now?" He asked as though he were familiar with my attitude changes. He almost said it like I was about to throw a tantrum.
"Nothing," I replied keeping my eyes averted.
The dining room was prepared and to my relief we were the only ones there. No company tonight.
It was weakly lit and quiet. It was a traditional dining room. Low tables, cushions, soft music. Now this seemed more like what I imagined Sesshoumaru to like. Quiet, traditional, just peaceful atmosphere that he would, more than likely, spend lots of time alone.
The tables were spread farther apart and the straw colored, matted floor was dotted with bright red seating cushions. It was beautiful.
Sesshoumaru sat without a word and our silent escort left us. A girl probably my age or a little older than my eighteen years came bearing a tray. On it was a tea set and two glasses of water. She served us silently and I found myself wondering again.
This was really the strangest eating experience I'd ever had. She bowed and left us quietly leaving me puzzled.
"You like quiet places?" I asked even though I was almost certain of the answer.
"Obviously," he spared me a reply although I could see conversation wasn't one of his interests. At least, not with me.
"Why'd you bother bringing me here? I mean, you're not one for talking so ... what was the point?"
His gaze finally flickered back to me, but I wasn't happy for it.
"I wanted to see how annoying you truly were before I exposed you to places with people I know."
I glared. "There's a very simple solution to that - I'll stay home."
He dropped his gaze. "You will come when I tell you so."
"Why do you have to be so high and mighty anyway? Would it kill you to be sociable? A tad bit polite? What right do you have to demand anything from me?!" I snapped, shattering our peaceful atmosphere. I hoped I was getting on his nerves.
"Keep your voice down," was his only reply.
Feeling my grip on my temper slip I slammed my fist down on the table and glared outright.
"I will not! I will be answered, thank you very much! I'm not a quiet girl, I don't take orders well, and I certainly don't like attitudes! You want a woman whose going to obey your orders, marry Kikyo!"
"Half-sister," I growled irritably not wanting to name a relationship with her at all.
He ignored the correction. "Your sister," he went on determinately, "is marrying my younger brother Inuyasha."
I stopped, surprised by the announcement. He had a younger brother and she was marrying him?
"Oh... was that in the will too?"
He flickered his gaze on me momentarily, but said nothing.
I sighed heavily.
Well fine, if that's the way it had to be. If I was going to be miserable, I would make sure he was too! Or... maybe I shouldn't be so mean? Maybe I was being childish again? Okay, no miserable, but annoyed was okay. I smiled to myself, ignoring his stare. He'd been watching me a while now. I looked away, propping my elbow up on the table and allowing my mind to drift.
I could already imagine our life together. A thousand 'what-if' scenario's popping up in my head. Would he be awake before me? Would we have breakfast together? Would we stand side by side at the sink, white foam seeping out of my mouth and him staring down at me almost as if to say 'you're doing it all wrong'? I frowned. Who was he to tell me I didn't know how to clean my teeth properly?
The woman reappeared carrying a tray, another woman beside her and then two more behind her. Amazing, how many people were there on staff here? They served us quietly and left.
Dinner was quiet from there out. We didn't speak at all. I ate quietly refusing to meet his gaze. He didn't protest in any way. One might have called the silence 'pleasant' had they not known how much tension was laced in the air between us. I had to marry this icicle?
I didn't dare say another word to him, even as I was brought back to my room. He followed.
I walked on as though I didn't know he was behind me. I almost swept through the door without a confrontation but his hand lashed out, snatching my wrist.
"Let go." I ordered.
He wordlessly tugged my wrist, pulling me backwards, snapping the door closed. I stared at the wood surface of the door, his hand still wrapped around my wrist.
He stepped up, closer to me. I could feel the heat of his body as his chest pressed against my back.
"Do you fear me, Higurashi? Does the thought of retiring to my bed chambers each night cause you to tremble?"
I clenched my teeth half in anger, half in nervousness. "Goodnight."
I snatched back my wrist and stepped into my room closing the door in his face. I *hated* that guy! It was so totally official. He was a jerk, and I hated him. My life was over. Why was my family doing this to me?
Family, I scoffed, some family they were shipping me off to be Sesshoumaru's baby bearer. So what if the great Masaharu family needed an heir, what did I care for his continued bloodline? I hated this. I hated it. It was making my blood boil.
I had slammed my door in a childish huff, never looking back. Not seeing or hearing that he'd followed me until I felt a hand on my shoulder as I stood there stewing in anger. I jumped, twisting and ultimately falling.
I hit the floor, embarrassed beyond belief and stared up at him, even angrier than ever. Now humiliated.
Stupid kimono, I thought. Stupid life. Stupid Sesshoumaru. Stupid...me.
"What do you want from me? Can't I have ten minutes alone, in peace?"
"Hate me if you want. I require one heir from you after that you may do as you wish. I won't force you."
"Really? Can I leave?" I was being far too hopeful.
He hesitated. "Leave?"
"That's right. Can I leave? Have the kid and leave you, go, never come back here?"
He stared down at me as though he'd never considered this possibility. "No - I do not take particular delight in marrying you but I will not allow you to disgrace yourself and me with such actions. This is your home, your future, hate it if you choose, but live it you will."
He turned and left me. I had never felt so alone. Here I was in the middle of every girl's fantasy and I was miserable. I was living in a beautiful house, and I was marrying a beautiful guy.
I heard the door slide open again and saw Sango, one of the maids enter.
"Are you okay, Kagome-sama?"
I nodded numbly. What else could I do? I, simple, unimportant little peasant girl was marrying the Lord of the Western Lands because he valued my bloodline. He needed an heir.
I frowned. An heir. That meant a male child. If our first child were a female I would have to have another. If I never had a male, well I wasn't sure what would happen but I doubted it would be good.
My family had sent me here after they had received a letter from the palace. Apparently my father and the father of the current Lord had been good friends and in repayment Inutaisho had left in his will that his son marry his best friend's daughter, me.
My father had died years ago leaving us dependent upon the income of the shrine to live. It wasn't much, so we were rather poor. My mother hadn't wanted to send me away, but when she'd been offered a significant amount of money to 'help out' she could not refuse.
I had, in a sense, been bought from my own family. Bought so that the great Sesshoumaru-sama could fulfill his father's wish in marrying me and bearing him a necessary heir.
How my older half-sister Kikyo fit into this was a mystery however. I knew who she was, my elder half sibling, but we never spoke. She was the product of an affair my father had had before he and my mother had produced any children together, very early into their marriage. My mother had been surprisingly forgiving about the whole matter, but maybe so because he died a few short years later after Souta and I were born.
This was awful. Just awful. I had only been here a day or so having arrived yesterday but I didn't like the circumstances any better. I'd been imagining how terrible this place would be all week, only to discover it wasn't the dungeon I'd imagined.
It was lavish and beautiful. So unlike the prison I'd thought myself to be in, but it was still not a happy place. It was quiet and no one spoke without being spoken to first. It was utterly depressing.
The 'wedding' was in four days since preparations were still being made. My Lord and Master, Sesshoumaru, had been by to see me a couple times since I'd arrived. I think he likes bothering me.
I sat down on my futon lazily. The room around me was startlingly bare. My chest for clothes, my futon, my vanity, and that was it. Lovely, I thought sarcastically. If it weren't for the exquisiteness of the furniture I might have thought myself at home again in my own sparse little room.
I looked up as the door slid open only to see a line of women flowing in. Wedding preparations. Great, I thought bitterly, just what I wanted to do, prepare for the lousy, stupid wedding I didn't want to be in.
This was so unfair. Why did bad things always happen to me? A nice, friendly person like me? Sure, I wasn't the greatest humanitarian or anything, but really!
Okay, so perhaps I'd killed more of my share of spiders and icky, crawly things, but that was totally different! They were... nasty! I had to kill them; I was doing a service for all of mankind! I hadn't tortured them or anything either! Just a quick *squash* and it was over. I was even merciful to the stupid bugs! Ah!
I was soon lost in the sea of females. Chattering here and there, drowning my ears. It seemed like forever before they finally left and I was alone again. Alone. Alone in the drab room. Was this to be my room?
Was this just a temporary room until I was moved to *his* room? Would we be sharing a room at all? I sighed.
I woke early, surprisingly so. It was still dark outside. It was one of those strange awakenings though, when you were suddenly wide-awake and didn't know why. I grabbed a robe, bathed, and dressed quickly. My thoughts wandered as my feet carried me around the halls. I wasn't sure where I was, where I was going or anything. I just wandered around aimlessly.
I was drawn to the sound of laughter. I spotted a small group from my place at the end of the hall. The doors were pulled open and I could see them lying around the large, open room. A white haired male, and several others piled around him.
"Hey! Come on down, party with us!"
I stared as I was apparently waved in to join the party. I reluctantly took one step and then another towards the room. As I neared I saw a young man that looked startlingly like Sesshoumaru.
"Have a drink!"
Another of his companions, a dark haired male, capriciously threw a bottle of sake at me, which I, luckily, managed to catch.
"Ooohh... she's a sharp one." Someone snickered off to one side.
"That kimono's a little tight honey, loosen up!" Another called, the room descending in snickering. A male, tall and lanky pulled himself to his feet, teetering over to where I stood. Before he reached me however a heavy arm descended over my shoulder, pulling me backwards.
"She's mine," a deep, dangerously possessive voice snapped as I was yanked
back against another body.
I was about to tell off my new 'companion' when I caught sight of his white hair and gold eyes. His gaze seemed to dare me to challenge his assertion that I was his.
He pulled me back, twisting the sake bottle out of my hand and throwing it at the approaching male, which he caught and wound back to his seat.
"Inuyasha," he drawled, his voice deep. "This is Higurashi Kagome. She and I are marrying in three days, you or any of your cronies touch her, and I will have your 'finer parts' removed. Understand?"
A few males snickered at the pale look creeping over Inuyasha's face. "Yeah, yeah," he waved him off and Sesshoumaru snagged me back pulling me from the room.
"Let go. Why are you always handling me?!"
He stopped turning back and staring down at me. "I haven't handled you yet, but I will... later."
I shivered at his tone and implication. Jerk. He'd be lucky if I let him-
"That's another thing," he snapped. "You're obligated to provide me an heir, so any plans you have of avoiding me after we're wed you may promptly abandon them. You are mine, I will have you."
I tried to keep my eyes from tearing up. I flung his arm away from me. "How can you be so insensitive? Traipsing around here declaring me your property and then telling me you'll do what you want with me! You're such an ape!"
He raised a brow. "An ape?"
Strangely enough he seemed more amused than offended.
"That's right! An ape!" He walked off while I followed after cursing him.
"Do you ever shut up?" He snapped, stopping to look back at me trailing behind him. I stopped too, seething.
"Would it kill you to be nice to me? Are you incapable of being halfway decent about conversation? How hard is it to say 'how are you Kagome' or 'good morning Kagome, how did you sleep'? Or something like that? I'm trying to be, at least, pleasant!"
"Pleasant?" He scoffed. "Bombarding me with your inane chatter and a million questions is supposed to be pleasant?"
"That's called friendly, you ape!"
"Desist with the name calling, woman."
"We're getting married. Couldn't you try a little to get along with me? Of all the people who live here I should be one of the people you trust, if only a little bit. You won't even give me a chance!"
He stared at me as though looking for any signs that I was not being perfectly serious. But I was. I was trying to get along with him, maybe bond a little before our wedding. Make myself at least a tiny bit worthy of earning his trust some day, he wasn't making it easy. Without a word he turned and walked away and not willing to let it go, I followed.
The walk was a long one and I noticed the further we went the quieter it got. He stopped at a doorway, sliding it open and standing aside. I took the cue and entered ahead of him. He followed me inside and closed the door behind him.
It was a bedroom. A beautiful bedroom, it must have belonged to a woman. Silk and bamboo fans hung on one wall and there was an elaborate painting across the sliding closet doors on the other side of the room.
"This room belonged to my mother." He said finally speaking up having moved hardly a step from the doorway.
From the look on his face the room was not someplace he visited often. Or... maybe ever. She must have been important to him.
"How did you lose her?"
Maybe it was wrong of me to ask how she died but I wanted to know. I wanted him to share something with me. Anything, it didn't matter what.
"Heartbreak," he murmured.
I turned to him; almost in disbelief such words had come from his mouth. "What?"
He turned to stare directly at me. "Do you love me?"
I paused. I couldn't very well say what I was thinking which was 'of course not'.
"Do not lie. It is a disservice to yourself and to whom you are lying. You do not love me, nor did my mother love her husband, my father. Their marriage was arranged, but they got along horribly. After the birth of my brother she met and fell in love with someone else." He trailed off and showed no signs of continuing the story.
I wondered then, maybe she wasn't dead at all?
"Is she still alive?" I ventured to ask, assuming I had thought she was dead far too soon.
After a lengthy pause he answered. "Yes. She ran off with him leaving my brother and me. She still lives."
I approached and his faraway gaze sharpened suddenly on me. "Are you angry with her for going?"
He answered, no hesitation. "Yes."
"Do you forgive her?"
I paused a moment. "Will you ever?"
I nodded sadly, sighing. "I'm sorry." For a minute he glared but I continued. "For earlier - when I asked you if you would let me leave. It was selfish and immature of me... I'm trying not to think that way. I'll- I'll do my best. I've never been anyone's wife before."
I met his eyes with a certain degree of unease half afraid I'd be rejected outright. His response was to wrap me in a gentle embrace. I smiled against his chest. We would both try then - and hopefully not repeat the mistakes of our parents, his and mine. Maybe we would be okay. Even if he was a miserable jerk.
I hadn't seen him for the rest of the day. I had my suspicions that he had purposely avoided me. That was okay though, I guess I didn't want to see him either. I wasn't any sweeter on him than I had been before. Maybe I didn't hate him as much but I still didn't like him. Maybe I didn't like him because I couldn't forget how soft his hair had felt against my fingers, or the warmth of his body against mine, but I didn't want to think about it.
The more I thought about it, the more I thought avoiding each other was a good idea even if it couldn't last forever. I had only three days left until the wedding.
I looked up at the call to see Sango running towards me. "Hurry, we need to get you dressed. Sesshoumaru-sama is having a luncheon party and wants to present you to them."
"'Present me', how nice." I scoffed. "Am I to be the only person presented?"
"I believe so. Please come, Kagome-sama. Sesshoumaru-sama has requested you bathe."
Kagome growled. "Oh, so now I smell too?! He is *so* going to get it when I find him the ape!"
Despite my previous anger I felt my troubles melt away as I sank into the hot water. It seemed to suck my unhappiness right out of me as I leaned back, languishing.
I was not prepared however for the sound of dropping cloth, or even the presence of another person. Let alone one I didn't want to see, or share a bath with. Well, maybe not a bath, I'd thoroughly scrubbed in the adjoining room, I was just soaking now, but that really wasn't the issue.
I just barely got a view of clear skin and white colored hair before they both disappeared beneath the water's surface. Granted, it was a big hot spring, but not big enough for me to be sharing it with Sesshoumaru! So what if we were getting married in three days!
What should I do?
I was caught, stuck, and unsure.
I fell back, stumbling slightly and dipping beneath the water clumsily before surfacing a moment later, sputtering out the water I'd inhaled.
"Do you find me so breathtaking, Kagome?"
I recovered quickly however, finding my voice again. He was some distance away, his back to me, and his wet hair clinging to his skin. Maybe he was breath taking, but I wasn't about to admit to that. Not in a million years.
"Breath-taking? Don't make me laugh."
"Women throw themselves at my feet for the opportunity to share my bed."
I scoffed. "What are they, blind, deaf, and dumb?"
I watched as his shoulders tensed in response. "Really now, Kagome, I don't see men lining themselves up for you."
This time it was I that tensed. "If you want a slut for a wife you're marrying the wrong woman."
He turned, glancing over his shoulder and into my heated, offended eyes. I determined not to think or even acknowledge his presence further and turned my back to him. Let him stew over there, him and all that damned arrogance. Who did he think he was always being such a conceited jerk?
I sighed raggedly. This was awful. Now I couldn't even enjoy a bath in relative peace. No, I had Mr. Bath-crasher here to keep me company, wasn't I so lucky? I scowled at the wall I was currently staring at, arms clutched over my breasts irritably. This was no longer enjoyable. All my tension returned. No relaxation would be found in the bath, I thought sullenly reaching for my robe.
I had a feeling he was watching me so I pulled it clear down into the water with me wrapping it around my frame. It was half wet when I managed to drag my heavy body out of the water, but I didn't care. It was probably more effort than I needed though considering I *was* marrying the guy in three days, it wasn't like it wasn't anything he wasn't going to see sooner or later anyway, right?
Still, I ignored the valid point and kept on with my righteous indignation. I glanced back once to see I'd been wrong. He wasn't looking at me after all. Still, off I walked dripping water after me.
[End Chapter One. ]
Author's Note: Hi, thanks for reading. Nice little story isn't it? I really liked this one. It's going to be short, only 2 or 3 more chapters (but don't hold me to that I could change my mind at anytime.)
As of: 8/9/03
Prisoner, My Prisoner- (whatever the next chapter number is) will be posted on Monday - (if I don't forget.)
Blind Stitch My Heart-I stopped working on this for a month but I've gone back to it. It's half done, unfortunately I'm not sure that chapter eleven makes any sense at all since it veers off suddenly. I'll finish it and you all can decide the matter.
Breath in the Pages- I've gotten a surprising number of emails about continuing this plus all the requests in reviews. I have decided to continue it *sigh*. It's more than half done, but because of the length of the first chapter, it will be a while longer since I match my chapter lengths in all my stories, (or I try to.)