by Lonely Soul & Elysium
Chapter 2: The Masqueraders
The sun gradually rose over the tree-covered horizon, lighting up the sky with glowing, brilliant colors and the familiar smell of fresh morning dew filled the cool air. Akane impatiently stood beside a jasmine vine infested tree that was located before the Hiragashi's palace, wearing her beautiful and most expensive kimono. Kagome had just told her the news of her engagement the day before and convinced Akane that her mother would want them looking their best if they wanted to make a good impression with Lord Inutaisho and his son, InuYasha. Kagome also mentioned to be at the palace at exactly seven in the morning, so they wouldn't be late. However, it was already ten past seven, and Akane was starting to show signs of anxiousness. The carriage from Lord Inutaisho's palace that was planning on escorting them over there had arrived not too long ago, and the driver was a green, annoying frog-demon named Jaken who wouldn't stop talking to her and the palace guards. She tried ignoring him, but it didn't help because his voice seemed to get louder and louder as he blabbed away about random things.
Akane sighed and took a quick glance at the front doors of the palace, wondering what was taking Kagome so long. She was about to go in there and drag Kagome out herself and then knock Jaken out, but she calmly waited, not wanting to bring any unwanted attention to herself, because that would have been very unladylike of her. Many people who knew her were already against her learning martial arts and talked badly about her because no high-class woman should be allowed to practice such unwomanly and reckless things. They should be taught to have manners and be respectable around everyone, including themselves. But, her father, Tendo Soun, was one of the greatest martial artists around. Akane was the last born before her mother died, and he had no male heir. Her father didn't want to teach the Tendo's martial arts style to anyone outside the family, so ever since Akane could remember he had taught her everything he knew. After he died three years ago, she didn't want her father or his martial arts skills to be forgotten, so she continued on for him, knowing he would be proud of her.
Jaken suddenly hopped in front of Akane, causing her to jump in surprise. He stared up at her with his huge, yellowish eyes, and he held a long, deformed stick in one hand that had strange heads on it. To her, it seemed like he used it as a walking stick to help him walk faster. Akane looked down at him and forced a smile. "What do you want?"
"Where is Lady Kagome?! We need to get going or m'Lord will get impatient and think that it was me who took so long!" Jaken exclaimed in panic while he moved around in a circle, mumbling really fast about how his master will most likely disown him or kill him.
Akane rolled her eyes with annoyance and was about to tell him to be quiet when she saw Kagome, her mother and their personal maid and healer, Kaede, finally exiting out the palace doors. For the first time in half an hour, Jaken finally shut his mouth and remained still while the guards bowed their heads low at the sight of the Princess and Queen as they walked by them towards the carriage.
"Akane, you're here!" Kagome gave a big smile and waved her hand at Akane, trying her best not to run because her mother followed suit right behind her. She knew her mother certainly didn't want her young daughter acting so rude and uncouth around their guests. "I'm really sorry I took so long, Akane. My mother wanted Kaede to give me some herbs and such for medicine and enchantment spells for protection just in case anything happens," Kagome said, holding up a basket full of them.
"Well, I do not want my daughter to be attacked or harmed on the way by ruthless demons and humans," her mother said to Kaede who shook her head in agreement. "I'm sure Lady Akane here wouldn't like that either, now would you?"
Akane laughed and shook her head. Kagome and her mother were like family to her, and Kagome's mother has told her so many times before that she didn't need to act formal around her. "No, I wouldn't like that, and I was fine with waiting so no need to worry about me. I'll be sure to watch over Kagome and protect her from any harm," she added and then nodded in the direction Jaken stood. "And that's Jaken. He will be escorting us to Lord Inutaisho's castle."
Jaken seemed to come out of his trance state and took the opportunity to introduce himself and start talking again. "I am Jaken, the frog-demon, who was asked by m'Lord Sesshoumaru himself to come get Lord InuYasha's bride, Princess Kagome. I will be escorting Lady Kagome and Lady Akane to the castle, and do not fear for I will make sure no harm will come to either of them. Uh.. Oh yeah!" He hastily went on his knees and bowed, practically kissing the Queen's feet, finally remembering that he forgot to bow. "Please forgive me, m'lady! M'Lord will most definitely kill me if he finds out that I forgot to bow to the Hiragashi queen and princess."
Kagome noticed her mother's confused expression, as she stared down at the weird little demon who didn't stop talking and seemed to almost be dying before her, and decided it would be a good idea to interrupt him before their guards attacked him for going to close to their highness. "Well, uh, I think it is best if we headed off now, mother," she said, grabbing Akane's hand. "Let's go Akane."
"Now Kagome, dear, when you arrive at Lord Inutaisho's palace, please make sure you present yourself with class. I know you are not happy about this engagement, but I do not want to find out that you did not show any dignity and respect for yourself or Lord InuYasha. I've heard that InuYasha is a fine young man, and I am sure you will get along well if you just give him a chance, all right?"
Kagome nodded with compliance and held a fake simile. "Yes, of course, mother. Even if he turns out to be a disgusting pervert, I'll still try to be nice."
Her mother's eyes widen with disbelief at how badly her daughter was speaking about InuYasha right in front of one of Lord Inutaisho's servants. "W-what did you say, dear?" She calmly asked.
"Um, nothing!" Kagome quickly answered as she and Akane stepped into the awaiting carriage before her mother got on her case. "Come on, Jaken; let's get going before we're late."
Jaken jumped off the ground and into the driver's seat in record speed, praying that they'll make it in time."Yes, m'ladies!"
"Bye, mother and Kaede! We'll be back in a month!" Kagome shouted while she and Akane stuck their heads out the moving carriage's window and waved good-bye to everyone. "We'll miss you all!"
Kagome's mother and the old priestess happily waved back to the young girls, and watched as the carriage departed through the open gates and disappeared into the distance, hoping that everything would work out for the best.
As they started out to the Lord Inutaisho's palace, not much conversation occurred between Kagome and Akane. Jaken had casually asked Kagome why she decided to let Akane come to such an important affair with her, but before he got an answer, Kagome quickly changed the subject and randomly asked Jaken who his master was. Bad idea. He seem to forget his pervious question and started talking a mile per hour about his master, Lord Inutaisho's eldest son, the Lord of the Western Lands, Sesshoumaru. He talked about how he became Sesshoumaru's servant and how strong and powerful his master is and so forth. He definitely did not seem to be stopping any time soon.
After what seemed like hours of mindless blubbering from Jaken, Kagome grew wearier. Her eyes wandered from staring out the window, to looking down her lap at her sweating palms, and then nervously glancing at Akane. They were almost to Lord Inutaisho's castle and it was time to tell Akane her real reason for letting her come with her. She actually hadn't thought out how she would exactly say it to Akane, and she wasn't quite sure how she would take it. Hopefully she agrees, Kagome thought as she silently prayed to herself.
Akane looked over at Kagome who was seated across from her, staring at her hands. Something is most definitely wrong with Kagome. She's been awfully quiet since we left, and I think it has to do with the engagement, Akane thought as she speculated all the reasons. Maybe she's still nervous about this whole situation although she seemed to be in a good mood this morning. I guess I should ask her.
"Is something wrong, Kagome?" Akane asked, getting Kagome's attention.
Kagome averted her attention to Akane who had just asked her something she didn't quite catch. "Oh, what did you say?"
"What's wrong? Should I punch Jaken out or something?" The navy-haired girl pointed to the small demon behind her. "He seems to be talking way too much."
Kagome giggled at the thought. "Nothing is wrong Akane-chan."
She stopped her fake cheerfulness when she realized Akane knew she was lying. "Well, there actually is something that has been bothering me. But um.. If I tell you, will you promise to hear me out completely before saying anything?"
Akane nodded, wondering what could have caused Kagome to be so worried, "Okay, sure. What is it?"
"Well," Kagome started as she momentarily covered her mouth with her hand, "You see... I have this plan. I thought about it yesterday while we were talking in the gardens, and I would be very happy if you agreed to it."
Akane glared at her friend with narrow eyes. I should have known she was up to something. "It depends on what I have to agree with."
"It has to do with my engagement with Lord InuYasha." The young princess forced tears to fill her eyes to receive more sympathy from Akane. She lowered her head and with a cracked voice said, "As you know, I don't want to marry him because I don't know much about him, and I don't want to be in a marriage with someone I don't love." Kagome looked up at Akane straight into her eyes. "I was hoping that if you came with me today that you would trade places with me. You'll be me, and I'll be you."
Akane stared at Kagome with wide eyes. She watched the tears fall down Kagome's cheek and felt very sorry for her. She was about to say yes when she realized what the heck she was doing. She glanced to see if Jaken was listening and in a high whisper she said, "Are you crazy, Kagome?! Yes, I can understand that we don't know much about Lord InuYasha or his family. They could be murdering rapist for all we know, but we do know that they are youkai! We don't know what they'll do to us if they found out we tricked them! Besides, if I'm you, wouldn't that mean I'll have to marry the pervert instead?"
Dang. And for a second there I thought she would say Yes, Kagome thought. Well, I better make use of these tears and try once more. Kagome once again forced more tears out and covered her face with hands, trying to sound more desperate. "I just th-thought that you would agree s-s-so that you could find out if he was a per-pervert or not, an-and if he wasn't, then we would sw-switch back and tell them the tru-truth."
A sad frown appeared on Akane's face. Why do I have to be so nice all the time? I know those are fake tears but... Akane sighed and muttered, "Fine, you win. I'll do it but under one condition though."
The princess immediately stopped crying and hugged the life out of Akane. "Thank you! You're the greatest friend in the whole world! Now, what is the condition?"
The brown-eyed girl faced Kagome and sternly replied, "If InuYasha ends up being a bad guy, then we'll tell them that you don't want to marry him and leave. However, if he turns out to be a nice guy, then that's when we'll switch back and you will have to marry him no matter what."
Kagome nodded, not really caring what Akane said because she was sure she wouldn't marry InuYasha anyway. "Okay."
"M'ladies we have arrived!" Jaken called out from the front as the carriage gradually pulled up to the main entrance of Lord Inutaisho's grand palace, causing the girls to slightly forget what they were saying.
The girls stared out the carriage's small window in awe. It was unlike the palaces back at home; it was more beautiful and exotic. They could tell that youkai and humans had completely different tastes.
"Wow," Kagome quietly managed to say.
Akane whispered softly, "Kagome, is this why you told me to wear my most beautifuliest kimono?"
"Uh.. yeah.." Kagome nervously scratched the back of her head. "I wanted you to look like a convincing princess."
The carriage came to a halt, and the frog demon hopped from the driver's seat, swiftly opening the door for the two girls to step out. "Welcome to the castle of Lord Inutaisho, m'ladies! Please come out and I will escort you inside to meet m'Lord Sesshoumaru!"
Through all of this Jaken was hyper as ever and didn't notice the nervousness that had taken over the girls. He lead them inside as fast as he could and took them before a tall, silver-haired demon who had been gazing out one of the many huge windows in the room.
"Jaken," his voice smoothly said as his eyes averted the two young women standing behind his servant. "Are these the guests we have been expecting?"
"M'lord!" Jaken exclaimed with delight, bowing low to show respect. His short, green finger pointed to Kagome, "This here is---"
Oh no! He'll ruin everything! Kagome thought in horror. Her face held a fearful expression, and she interrupted Jaken by shouting at the top of her lungs, "I am Lady Tendo Akane!" She bowed at the amber-eyed demon before her, "Pleased to meet you, Lord Sesshoumaru."
Jaken's mouth was gapped open. "B-but! That is---"
Kagome kicked Jaken, giving him an evil glare, and smiled sweetly to Sesshoumaru, "Oh, I guess all that traveling or should I say talking made him tired! Heh!"
Jaken turned pale, and Sesshoumaru didn't even budge at her or Jaken's sudden outburst. He just glanced at her with his mysterious, cold eyes not showing any emotion, causing Kagome to look away. "And you are?" He asked, looking at Akane.
"Oh, I am Lady Hiragashi Kagome, the princess of the Hiragashi family," she bowed, trying to sound as elegant and convincing as possible. "Sorry for Lady Akane's outburst, she's a bit exhausted from the long drive."
He nodded still keeping his same emotionless expression. "My father, Lord Inutaisho, is not here at the moment, but he will be back in a few days. I am in charge until he is back, and my father has informed me that you, Lady Hiragashi, will meet InuYasha tonight during dinner and spend the rest of this month together." Without even caring if she would reply, the graceful and handsome lord glimpsed down at Jaken, "Take them to their rooms and tell the other servants to bring their belongings from the carriage up to their rooms."
"Yes, m'Lord!" Jaken got up from his bowing position before Sesshoumaru and faced the girls with confusion. "Uh, please follow me, m'ladies!"
Kagome and Akane nervously bowed their heads to Lord Sesshoumaru once more and quickly followed Jaken, leaving Sesshoumaru all to himself. Jaken had almost caused their plan to crumble, and they were surprised Sesshoumaru had not caught on to what was going on. They knew they had to be more careful next time and somehow force Jaken into not blabbing the truth to anyone.
As their retreating forms left the room, Sesshoumaru eyed the young women yet again, knowing that from the very beginning they were hiding something.
"What are they up to?" He asked under his breath to himself.
To be continued...
A/N: Thanks to dotHACKER and Sanci for being the only ones to review here. So, hope y'all like this chapter. It wasn't going too slow or fast was it? We know there's OOC, but remember it's an AU/crossover. Next chapter, will Akane and Kagome be able to keep up their act or has Sesshoumaru figured out their secret? Who will InuYasha fall for? When is their father coming back? And when the heck is Ranma going to appear? Hmm... Who knows... Oh wait, we do, and you'll have to keep reading to find out! See ya! .-