Disclaimer: I do not own Inuyasha and any related characters. I don't own WWII, and apologize for any historical inconsistencies on my part.
I . Coming of Age
"I'm really going to miss you, ane-ue," a young Kohaku wailed, as he clung tightly to his sister's legs.
"I'm going to miss you too, Kohaku," Sango said soothingly, patting the top of his head. "But I will be back to visit, I promise."
He continued his tirade. "Why do you have to go! You do so much work around here! Father and Mother and I, we're going to be lost without you!"
Sango sat down rather quickly onto the dirt around the front of their home, causing Kohaku to fall back on his bottom unexpectedly. "Listen Kohaku," Sango said in a serious voice. "I'll tell you a secret." Kohaku leaned forward in anticipation. "I don't want to go either. I don't want to put any more strain on the family, but they told me that this was a great opportunity."
"To be trained as a geisha?" Kohaku interrupted in a sceptical tone. "I thought you didn't like all that stuff, dancing and singing and everything."
"I don't like that stuff," Sango replied with a sigh. "But times are difficult, and if I can entertain, I can be hired out and make something of myself. If they really want me to, I will do it for them."
She shrugged her shoulders. "Besides, it's supposed to be one of the most prestigious houses to get into, but the man who came here said that they're accepting me without an interview, which is kind of hard to believe."
Kohaku tackled his sister with a hug. "That doesn't mean I want you to go!"
Sango laughed and hugged him back. "I'm really going to miss you Kohaku."
"Sango! Kohaku!" a deep voice startled them from their embrace. Both of them turned to see their parents standing in front of their home with feigned stern expressions on their faces. "Come inside, we are about to have breakfast, before we have to say goodbye to Sango."
It was a solemn mood that greeted the family, though the two children tried their best to keep the atmosphere light, everyone anticipated what would happen after breakfast that morning.
Once the dishes were put away and the prayers said, all members filed outside for the departure.
"Now Sango," her mother said, trying to maintain a firm tone. "I want you to come back to visit once you've completed your training."
"I promise Mother," Sango answered tearfully. "Of course I will. I don't even want to leave!"
"It was a hard decision for us to send you to the city as well, Sango. As much as we need you here with us, we still thought that it was an opportunity that we could not miss. You'll receive the proper education and training, and have plenty of opportunities," she continued, hugging her daughter tightly.
She pulled away and gazed at Sango's face one last time. "I will miss seeing you grow into a young woman."
Sango smiled before turning to her father and bowing. When she straightened, her father was looking at her in an odd mixture of pride and sadness. He placed a hand on her shoulder. "One day, you'll become the most beautiful and well-paid geisha in all of Japan, but you'll always be our daughter."
"Oh, Father," Sango cried, and enveloped him into a fierce hug. "I will miss you so much."
"And me!" Kohaku exclaimed, opening his arms towards her.
"You especially, Kohaku," Sango said with a grin, though she was crying. "I promised I'd be back remember? And when I do, you're going to be a handsome man, right?"
"Right," Kohaku replied smartly. "But I'll miss you in between."
The siblings held each other for a moment longer. "Kohaku," Sango whispered. "Take care of everyone for me until I get back, okay?"
"I will, but I won't do as good of a job as you do," he protested.
The sound of horseshoes in the dirt signalled the arrival of the carriage sent to escort Sango to the geisha house.
A man with a pressed black suit, bowler hat and gleaming leather shoes appeared from within the carriage, and stepped down to the ground in front of the family.
"Good day, Taijiya clan," the man said with a small bow. He was not that tall, with thick hair that rested waves just past his shoulders. "And I believe this is young Sango?"
She stepped forward.
"Ah, she's perfect! Just what I expected," he said in delight, his eyes travelling up and down, making Sango feel quite uncomfortable.
"Are you sure you want to charge no fees?" Sango's mother asked worriedly. "It must be expensive, all the training and-"
"I assure you it's not a problem," the stranger cut in politely.
"You don't think she's too young?" her mother continued questioning.
"At thirteen, she is of the perfect age," he answered firmly. "Enrollment has declined lately, and we desperately need to train more girls, so I looked to recruit some from the farther towns. Most families are more than willing to comply, what with the upcoming war."
He looked meaningfully at Sango's father. "Winter is approaching, and with it the planned attack on the American navy. It is no doubt that Japan will soon be pulled into combat."
Sango's father flinched at these words. "We are well aware of that fact. That is why we want the best for Sango."
"I'm sure you do," the stranger answered. "And I ensure you that she will be safe and well-educated there."
"I'm hoping she will," her father responded with a curt nod.
"Take care of yourself, okay ane-ue?" Kohaku said quietly, running up towards her and squeezing her hand between both his own.
For a moment, Sango could have sworn she saw a look of malice flash across the man's face as he observed them.
He fished in his pocket and pulled out a pocket watch. Examining it briefly, he dropped it back in and motioned for Sango to follow him.
"Well, I'm sorry I couldn't stay longer, but I believe this carriage still has more pickups to make. I'd like to thank you again, it's been a pleasure doing business with you," he voiced in gratitude. He bowed again, with a graceful tip of his hat, and gestured to Sango.
"Come along now, dear."
She waved goodbye to her family and mouthed 'I love you' before disappearing behind the white curtain within the carriage.
The ride had been awkwardly silent for a while now, save for the occasional uneven road which resulted in some bumping into and polite apologies afterward. The man hadn't seemed too uncomfortable though, it was as though he was used to the unwilling company.
"Well, Sango, I think we've been around each other long enough to strike up a conversation, don't you?" he said with a light chuckle. He held out his hand. "My name is Masuyo Naraku, an associate at the house."
She reached out and shook his much larger hand with her small one. "Pleased to meet you, Masuyo-sama. My name is Taijiya Sango, but I think you know that already."
He smiled, though it was more like a smirk. "Sango, that's a beautiful name. Are you excited to begin training?"
She looked to her hands which were now folded in her lap. "Yes, I am."
"You don't sound too excited. Do you miss your family already?"
"Well, I'm sorry Sango, but you won't be seeing them for a while, at least not until you finish your training and begin working," he attempted to console her. It sounded like false sympathy, as if he was mocking her.
"And you shouldn't be so weak. If you can't handle just a few hours without them how will you handle years? To survive you must be strong, and do what you are told."
She didn't want to continue this conversation anymore. She was beginning to dislike this man.
The man began to laugh, but not in the pleasant tone that he used when he was with her family. His voice, his face, everything about him became arrogant and unnerving.
"Is that all you have to say?" he asked in a chilling voice, eyes glinting dangerously.
Sango nodded quickly, not looking up.
"Look at me."
The statement made her cease movement and suddenly the noise outside the carriage stilled. Heat rose in her back, as she raised her eyes towards his face, intense and menacing.
Her lips parted, but no sound came out.
His arm raised.
"You are already not listening. You do what you are told."
A stinging pain formed where his palm had collided with the soft skin of her cheek. "I said, answer me."
Her face was still turned away from his, silent tears beginning to stream down her cheeks.
"No one's going to help you now, Sango. Your family is long gone. They wanted this. You're a weak, pathetic village girl. I'm going to change that. I'm going to make you useful. And this is only the first step."
She looked up at him again angrily, before scrambling towards the door of the carriage in a vain attempt to escape. Easily, he grabbed her by her yukata, pulled her back into the seat opposite him.
Infuriated, he held her by the collar and backhanded her across the face. This time, she cried out.
"Listen, you stupid wench," Naraku snarled, every word spraying her with spit. "You should be glad I'm taking you away from that Neanderthal village you call home. Forget about your worthless life before this."
He pulled her up so that his face was nearly level with his. "I am your proprietor. Don't forget that."
He threw her into her seat and she slumped to the side, supporting herself with both elbows.
"I own you."
Painted Prologue: Coming of Age - June 13th 2004
Masuyo - to increase the world
The prologue takes place in September 1941, three months prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. Sango is from a remote farming village, away from the urbanization of Japanese cities. A geisha house is usually very hard to get into, and requires interviews and large fees, which is why Sango is surprised she was accepted to one with no effort. There is a catch, however...