EDITED AUTHOR'S NOTE – PLEASE READ, ESPECIALLY IF YOU'VE READ "DOG SKIN": Alright kids, I don't like putting this sort of thing at the beginning of a story, but I'm getting really, really irked by the constant (usually anonymous) reviews accusing me of ripping this story off from SublimeTrickster's "Dog Skin". Sorry, no – I'm not a plagiarist. Don't you think that if I were, I'd have the presence of mind to at least not put it on the same site as ST's story? If you would read my original author's note (see below), you would see that both of us have based our stories off of the same Grimm's fairytale, hence the vast amount of plot-based similarities. I've read ST's story. I love it. It's on my favorite's page. But no, I'm not ripping her story off. We've talked about it and agreed that our directions and styles are sufficiently different. My only regret is that I was not aware of her story before I started receiving nasty reviews. Please, if you're going to send me something so inflammatory, check out your facts first. Both ST and I have mentioned this "situation" in our author's notes and I hate to have to resort to doing this little self-righteous blurb at the beginning of this story, but it's preferable to my other option, which is disabling my ability to receive anonymous reviews. I know that this note will not completely stop everyone, because obviously, I'm preaching to the choir that actually reads these things, but I hope it will help. I'm not actually a defensive nasty person – I'm quite nice once you get to know me. Please read my story and judge it on its own merits, review and we'll talk. I answer every signed review I receive. Thank you for listening to my rant. Happy fanfiction reading!
A/N: An Inu/Kagome fic! Never has there been one of those! Haha… Well, perhaps not one like this. This is an AU based on the brother Grimms' fairytale "Thousandfurs", also called "All-Kinds-of-Fur". You don't need to know the tale to understand my version.
Slight warning: The rating is mostly precautionary. There are adult themes. Fairy tales often contain very shocking elements such as rape, incest, murder and cannibalism. Of course, not all of these things will be in THIS story, but I'm just trying to give you an idea.
Chapter 1: The Dying Queen's Wish
Once upon a time, in a land faraway, there was a magnificent kingdom ruled by a stern king. He was married to a beautiful queen with long dark hair, flawless skin and a gentle character. Prince Sota was their heir, a young boy of ten. They also had an older daughter, a princess named Kagome, who had an appetite for adventure. This is her story.
Frost crept across the windowpanes as Kagome held her sick mother's hand in her own and watched as her chest rose and fell with labored breaths. Her eyes moved over to her father, who was sitting on the other side of the bed with his head in his hands.
"She'll be alright. Won't she, father?" She had no hope, but this was a conversation they had gone through many times over the past weeks.
The king glanced up at his sickly wife, taking in the clammy, pale skin and her violent, intermittent shaking. "I don't know, Kagome."
Kagome nodded, watching the candlelight flicker from the sconces on the walls. The large luxurious chamber, once the site of so many happy meetings between mother and daughter, was now somber and filled with unshed tears. She felt the need to escape. She stood up, placing a hand on her neck and cracking the joints. Several hours in the same position had done nothing for her comfort.
Prince Sota, her little brother, came in at that moment. He had been in his room to get some sleep, but Kagome thought he looked even more tired now than before he had gone to rest. He was the queen's baby boy after all. She knew this illness was hardest on him, although he hardly said anything about it.
He stood inside the door, looking at her, clearly wondering if it was time to change the watch. They never left her alone these days and each child was a mixture of envious and relieved when they gave up the watch to the other. They couldn't bear the thought of missing their mother's last moments, but they didn't want to witness it either.
Rubbing at the sore junction between her neck and shoulder, Kagome murmured something about getting rest herself and walked out of her mother's room, giving her brother a squeeze of the hand as she passed. The guards standing outside gently closed the ornate oak doors behind her.
She turned to face one of them. "Where is Myoga?" she asked, her voice scratchy with hours of silent tears.
"I believe he is in the front parlor, Your Highness."
"Thank you." She smiled weakly at him. "Make sure someone calls me if there's any change in the queen's condition."
"Of course, Your Highness." The guard bowed at the waist, his knuckles white as his hand gripped the pole of his glaive.
Walking down the hall, she found the flea demon exactly where the sentinel said he would be. The diplomat looked small and insignificant on the delicately carved center table in the small room. The rich hues of burgundy enveloped the princess as she sat down on one of the settees surrounding the table. Dark red drapes hung loosely by the sides of the two large windows, showing the chilled landscape outside.
The demon was reading some very boring documents about the border patrol. He had to move along the page as he read the long parchment, something that usually amused Kagome to watch.
"It's so gloomy outside," she said with a sigh, the smile long gone.
Myoga nodded in agreement and looked at her distracted visage. "Was there something I could help you with, Princess Kagome?"
The girl shrugged. "I suppose I just didn't want to be in that room anymore. I needed a friend." She held her hand out and Myoga hopped onto the soft pads of her fingers.
"I am honored that you would seek me out, Princess," he said, bowing.
Kagome nodded and leaned back into the over-stuffed cushions, letting her hand rest on her knee.
She and Myoga had become friends the second he had arrived at her father's palace fifteen years ago. Sure, she had been only two, but the way her mother told it, they had immediately taken to each other. The flea put up with her childish habits and listened to her constant chatter. In return, she protected him when he was caught drinking the guards' blood.
As she grew up, their conversations had become a bit more two-sided and Kagome found an excellent mentor and friend in the little demon. The consideration with which he treated her made the princess forget that Myoga was not actually one of her father's subjects. He was a diplomat between her human kingdom and the demon kingdoms, the one who advised her father on how to keep peace. With all the demons surrounding their kingdom, Myoga was one of the most powerful beings of her father's reign.
"Myoga, are you ever going to leave us?" she asked.
"Not if I can help it, Princess," he responded. "As you can imagine, there isn't much use for a flea demon like myself in the demon world."
"Why not?" she asked, eager to talk about anything other the queen's condition. That was all anyone ever talked about these days.
Myoga smiled softly at her attraction to the world beyond her borders. "I am no warrior, Your Highness. Neither can I handle a scythe or a pen. I can only advise and orate. Demons have little need for such talents. We prefer to decide matters on our own."
"You have importance here."
"Which is why I do not wish to leave, Princess. True demon diplomats are few and far between." He puffed out his chest a bit in importance.
"You know, demons don't have much use for humans either," she mused. She had never thought about demon politics, preferring Myoga's stories about his childhood in the countryside. "Why do they let us live? They could easily kill us all."
Myoga settled down on her palm. "I believe that you think all demons hate humans. I assure you, Princess, that we do not."
"Of course I don't believe that," she said, waving aside his comment. "But some do and some of them must be in power."
"Which is why I have the job of keeping peace, Your Highness." He smiled up at her. "A job that I would not trade for anything."
A thought popped into Kagome's head. "If you're our link to the demon world, the demon kingdoms must have human diplomats."
"Yes, Princess. Actually the human diplomats can sometimes become so immersed into the demonic culture that they begin to take on demon traits like long life and youth. Of course, when that happens, a new diplomat must take their place, since the old one could be considered a youkai." He scratched his head. "Although I have never heard of it happening to demons in the human kingdoms."
Kagome smiled and tapped him very gently on the top of his head. "Probably because you guys are so darn stubborn."
"Perhaps, Princess," he replied, returning the smile. If Kagome had studied it, she would have found it was not nearly as broad as usual. After all, how would she know what other demons were like?
Instead, she let him get back onto the table and pushed herself out of the chair. Walking over to the window, she peered out into the snowy fields that surrounded the castle. "When everything settles down around here, will you take me to the demon lands, Myoga?" Perhaps it was her mother's sickness, but Kagome felt the sudden need to have a change in her life. She couldn't just get out of her mother's room, but the kingdom.
"Ah, Princess," he started uneasily, "that would be most difficult to accomplish. As soon as the queen recovers, the king shall give you and your dowry to a worthy human prince." His kind tone from before became slightly harsh. He shuddered to think what would happen if the king knew that Kagome was asking questions about the demon world. Already, Myoga had said more than was appropriate. This conversation, if known, would just cause long, tedious fights among the royal family.
Kagome frowned and leaned her forehead against the cold glass. Her breath made large spots of fog that faded slowly. "You said humans could travel to demon lands. I'm a princess. Shouldn't I be able to visit? Show my father's goodwill?"
Myoga cleared his throat. "Princess, I said that human diplomats lived within the demon kingdom borders. They are tolerated and even liked because of their own tolerant attitude. You, however, would encounter much mistrust. You are not a diplomat and therefore could contribute nothing to their society." He was shifting his weight from foot to foot, something Kagome knew he did when he was hiding important information.
The truth was, she wouldn't be trusted because she was a princess, and her father's daughter no less.
"Liar," she said, a bit more severely than she intended. Taking a deep breath, she tried again. "Surely the demon lands have humans that aren't diplomats."
"Yes," Myoga answered coldly. "They're called prisoners of war."
"Prisoners?" she gasped, lifting her head from the glass.
The girl had never seen bloodshed. The last war her kingdom had been involved in was one when she had been a little girl. They had absorbed a neighboring city state in a bloody, but thankfully short, series of battles. It was called the Toba War, after the city that had been crushed by her father's army, but she knew nothing else about it.
"Yes, Princess. Prisoners." He sighed and adopted a gentler tone. "Just because most demons don't hate humans, does not mean they like them. Diplomats are the exception in most cases."
"But we don't treat them horribly!" Kagome protested. "What reason do they have?"
Myoga gave a small growl of frustration and hopped quickly over to the windowsill she was leaning against. After taking a moment to catch his breath and to think of the proper way to put his words, he looked up at her. "You don't understand, Princess."
"Than help me understand!" she spat.
Sighing, his answer came slowly. "Humans hate demons, Your Highness. Have you truly never noticed that no demon lives within your father's borders, save myself? It is illegal for demons to enter your father's lands without diplomatic orders or special circumstances."
"That's not true," Kagome whispered, aghast.
"I assure you, it is, Princess. Your father hates demons," he muttered.
The conversation had not taken the turns he had expected. It disturbed him to know that while the queen was suffering, he was distressing her only daughter.
Kagome was compassionate and intelligent, but naïve in the ways of the world. He considered with a twinge of annoyance how much had been skated over in her education. Obviously, the girl knew of nothing that slandered her kingdom's name. He hated to be the one to shatter her innocent viewpoint.
The young girl in front of him had been a wonderful gift. Moving to the kingdom of the most powerful and rabid youkai-hater had been difficult, but the princess had helped immensely with the transition.
Kagome sat down hard without her usual grace on the windowsill. "That's not true," she repeated. Her voice seemed breathless and unbelieving.
Her father had never treated Myoga with any malice, or even slight contempt. Sure, they weren't exactly friends, but she wasn't sure her father knew the meaning of the word.
But he was still her father. To think that he could be so prejudiced against half of the world's population was horrible to conceive.
Slowly, she rose out of her reverie. "How could I not know?"
"The youkai situation is not a favorite topic of conversation in this kingdom, if you had not noticed, Princess. Your father learned his dislike of demons from his father, as he did from his father. This has gone on for a hundred years and it will not change anytime soon." He finished with another shudder, again contemplating the consequences for telling the princess about this.
Kagome studied her hands. "What happened? Why do humans hate demons?"
Myoga jumped up on her lap and patted the tip of her thumb. "It is best you didn't know."
She glared at him. "Don't make me order you, Myoga." The youkai might not be her subject, but he still had to bend to the commands of the royal family.
"No one ever believes me," he muttered to himself. He lifted his head to meet her gaze. "Very well, Princess… A hundred years ago, another princess like you went to the demon lands to the west. She met the demon king and fell in love. In the end, the princess mated with him and became the demon's queen. That's all."
"That doesn't sound too bad," commented Kagome. "Sounds kind of romantic actually."
Myoga shook his head. "No, Your Highness. As romantic as it might have been for the princess and the king, her human father was furious. He was convinced the demon king had tricked her and put her under a spell. A war broke out when the human king attacked, dividing human kingdoms and the demon ones. Naturally, the demon king crushed his opponents. Afterwards, the demon kingdoms wished to keep their peaceful, good relations with the humans, but the humans had become embittered. They believed that their women would be carried off to live with the demons."
"Oh. Why don't the demons hate us then?" Kagome was lost as to how this story could have escaped her attention for her entire life. More curious was the fact that she had never asked.
"Out of respect for the demon king, who was the most powerful of them all," answered Myoga. "His mate, the human, still lives in his halls. Her kindness is legendary."
"They're still alive?" Kagome asked in awe.
"Of course, Princess. You know that I myself am over seven hundred."
"I thought you were kidding!" She thought back to the first time that she had asked him that question when she was six years old. As she got older, she realized that Myoga must have been pulling her leg.
Myoga laughed in the soft wheezy way Kagome had gotten so used to. "I assure you, I was not kidding with you, Princess. I just told you that we are practically immortal."
"But seven hundred!" She began to laugh with him, the first time she had felt this type of amusement in days.
"There are many youkai older than I am," Myoga observed.
She studied his aged appearance and arched a sculpted eyebrow at him.
He caught her dubious look. "Most have a longer youth than I do, Princess. The demon king I was speaking of earlier still appears to be no older than thirty-five in human years, when he actually about five hundred."
"Do all youkai look so different from humans, like you, my friend?" She imagined large cats, dogs and lizards wandering around fields, talking with human voices and possessing human-like eyes.
"Indeed, no." He waved his two top arms to dismiss her ideas. "While many demons have forms that tap into their animalistic sides, most appear vaguely human. Their eyes frequently take on strange colors, as does their hair. Royal demons have markings upon their faces. I once heard a human diplomat describe them as 'perfection in all things'."
"Hmm… I would like to meet some of them," Kagome murmured as she looked up at the ceiling's scrolling designs.
His face grew serious once again. "Princess Kagome…" he warned, "I cannot allow you to entertain such thoughts."
Unfortunately for him, Myoga's words were in vain. The princess had engrossed herself in the image of a demon paradise, where beings more beautiful than angels roamed palace halls and they intermingled with humans who had ascended to immortality.
Perhaps she would find an angelic demon for herself.
Myoga searched her faraway look, finding it eerily similar to the one she had when she had seen her first pony. "What are you thinking, Kagome?" he asked with suspicion lacing his voice. He only used her name without her title when he felt the need to assert his old, venerable wisdom over her.
She snapped her eyes down to the tiny youkai. "Nothing," she lied.
But Myoga felt he already knew what was happening in her mind. "They are not puppies, Princess." He paused and considered this. "Most of them aren't, anyway. Demons can be vicious and bloodthirsty. Do yourself a favor and get married to a nice, human prince."
"One of those insipid fools that come around every once in awhile?" She put her free hand up to her forehead in a dramatic pose. " 'Oh Princess… You are my dearest love, even though I have never met you besides at those long, tedious balls!'" Dropping her hand she sighed. "Is it too much to ask for me to fall in love before I get married?"
"Then you certainly will not want a demon, Princess," Myoga observed. "Demons hardly know the meaning of love."
"What about the demon king and his human wife?"
"Mate. They are called 'mates', Princess Kagome. And I must admit, they are an exception. But that does not happen often."
"It doesn't happen much among human royals either, Myoga," she commented with a sigh of frustration.
The flea couldn't think of anything to say to cheer his friend up. "Perhaps you should go back to visit your mother once again, Princess," he muttered in a depressed tone.
She nodded, a bit heartbroken that her best friend would not support her plans. Bidding him a soft goodbye, she left the room. She could hear Myoga sigh in frustration as she closed the door behind her.
She smoothed the red kimono she wore as she moved down the hallway. For a princess, Kagome wore quite simple clothing and this one was no different. Baronesses and duchesses alike snickered behind their dainty fans at the princess's repellence for cutting edge fashion. Personally, Kagome thought they all looked like vain peacocks instead of courtiers. During her nightly meetings with her mother, Kagome would sit at her knee and allow the queen to smooth back her hair, whispering that the ladies of the court were simply jealous.
'My little kitten,' she would say, repeating her old pet name for her daughter. 'You must learn that you will be the object of many envious stares and slanderous quips. You must also learn to rise above these things. You are a princess above all else and you have a destiny that no one can even imagine. My Kagome will go far in this life.'
How Kagome wished that was true now. She wanted nothing more than to be walking away from the queen's bedchamber with joy in her heart, instead of towards it with despair. Without her mother, she felt that she could never go anywhere. What would she do if her mother died, like so many of courtiers said she would? Who would support her then?
She found herself facing the two guards sooner than she expected. Nodding to them, she placed her hands on the gilt door handles, took a deep breath and pulled them open. The room seemed even darker and more solemn than before. Kagome noticed Sota's eyes were glistening with unshed tears as he stood by the large bed. She rounded the corners of the bed to get to his side.
"Sota? Are you okay?" She placed an arm around her little brother's shoulders, feeling the tension in them.
"The doctor was just in here, Sis. He says he can't do anything more for mother. She's going to die." He choked out the words and spun towards her, burying his head in Kagome's shoulder. He could hear her heartbeat speed up as his words sunk in.
The princess stared at the queen over the prince's head. Her breaths were slowing down and although her eyes were open for once, they were glassy and unfocused. The lingering hope that had lived in Kagome for the past few weeks died suddenly and her own tears began running down her cheeks.
"My husband?" The words were barely there, but in the deathly silence of the room, they seemed to echo loudly.
The king's head snapped up to attention. "My queen…" He reached forward and put his hand over his wife's. "You should rest."
Kagome and Sota watched as their mother shook her head slowly and smiled. "You know I am dying." To Kagome's surprise, the queen's smile grew wider. "You'll be fine without me. But I ask that you promise me one thing."
"Anything." His gaze had fallen to the floor but his voice was filled with a sudden strength, determined to fulfill his dying queen's last desire.
"Don't marry anyone unless they are as beautiful and virtuous as me."
Sota arched an eyebrow and was about to ask a question, when Kagome touched his arm, shaking her head to stop him. No matter how delirious the queen might seem to be, they owed her this last favor.
The king was equally taken aback. "My… my queen? Um, yes. Of course."
A soft wheezing sound told Kagome that her mother was attempting to laugh at his expression. "I do not want you to… settle for the next woman you see simply because you are in grief. Only when you believe someone has surpassed your deceased wife do you know that you have finished mourning."
Kagome and Sota looked at each other. For once, they didn't really agree with their mother. Not to mention the fact that their father wasn't much for mourning anyway.
The queen shifted her gaze to her children, who immediately stepped up to the edge of the bed and lay their hands on her arm. She smiled at her son and daughter and closed her eyes.
A minute later, the queen stopped breathing.
Three months had passed since the queen had been placed in the mausoleum with her predecessors. Kagome's tears had ebbed only somewhat and she was still wearing black when her father called her to an official audience. Everyone wondered what he could announce so soon after his wife's death. Official audiences included the courtiers and advisors, and they were normally only called when the king had an announcement that would affect the entire kingdom.
As she walked down the long hallway to her father's throne room, Sota joined her. "Hey, Sis. Have any idea what this is about?"
"No. I've asked a couple courtiers and even Myoga. No one knows."
Her brother lowered his voice to a whisper. "Father has been acting very strangely since Mother died. It's worrying me."
Kagome simply shrugged. "You see him more than I do, Sota, but I'm sure he's fine."
The guards bowed to the royal siblings as they entered the large, stark room with their father sitting at the other end. The normally echoing chamber was full of men, women and children dressed in their finest clothes. Ever since the queen had died, the finery had been packed away. Now, the courtiers tittered amongst themselves happily.
She was rather sickened by their willingness to forget about her mother, but she didn't have time to dwell upon it. So the princess curtsied to her father, who nodded in return and stood to address the crowd.
As they settled down, Kagome moved to the side and quietly greeted Myoga as he hopped onto her shoulder.
The flea didn't answer. He just kept his head bowed and his hands tucked inside his sleeves.
She frowned, but figured that he had been stuck in council with the other advisors and her father for the past seven hours. That always put him into a bad mood. She turned back to the dais where her father stood.
The king began to clear his throat, calling attention to all those who continued to talk. He smiled at all the people filling his grand hall. "I am pleased that all of you could be here for this announcement. As you know, I lost wife and queen three months ago." The courtiers had the grace to force their expressions into ones of solemnity, grief and empathy. "What you may not know is that the queen, in her last moments of life, asked a favor of me. She requested that should I ever consider remarrying, that I choose a woman equal to her in looks and virtue."
This statement caused widespread arched eyebrows and questioning whispers. Kagome and Sota were no exception. They stared at each other, shocked that their father would divulge such private information like their mother's deathbed wish.
The king continued. "I mourn my wife's death every day, but our kingdom needs a queen and I cannot deny them that simple request. But I must also honor my promise to my first wife."
Five men Kagome had never seen before came into the throne room at that moment. They were dressed in the blue silk uniforms of the palace guard, but had no weapons by their sides. The king beckoned to them, waiting silently until they reached the platform.
"These men have been searching for a woman of equal beauty to my wife. And now I ask, have you found any woman comparable to my dead queen?"
The man in the center stepped forward and bent at his knee. "We have searched far and wide, Your Majesty, but we have found no one suitable."
"Thank you. You are dismissed." He waited until they had left until he continued again. "It is with this information that I have come to a difficult, but necessary, decision."
Kagome became aware of Myoga's small movements on her shoulder. She looked down to see him shaking his head and whimpering. Never had she seen the flea demon so upset. Considering he ran at the slightest sign of trouble, this wasn't unusual, but this didn't look like fear. It looked like Myoga was angry and trying to suppress it.
"Of all the women in the world, no one can match my wife. Except one. On this basis, I have chosen my next wife. It is one of you." He stretched his hands out to the room.
There was a scattering of gasps. The single women in the crowd began to primp as well as they could without their beauty implements. Gentle rustling of silk could be heard as they fluffed their skirts and hair. Whispers echoed as the women asked each other if any makeup was smeared or on their teeth. Kagome just rolled her eyes. One of these women was to become her mother?
The king turned to his daughter. "Kagome," he said quietly. "Please come here."
She furrowed her brow slightly but stepped forward as her father requested. Myoga still sat upon her shoulder, and Kagome swore she could hear the tiny youkai growl. She met Sota's eyes and frowned slightly when she realized her brother was not approaching the throne with her.
The king grasped her hand. "I present to my courtiers, the future queen. Princess Kagome."
The girl placed her free hand over her chest, feeling the air escape her lungs and its refusal to return. Despite the pressure on her heart, Kagome felt like she was floating without her body, without legs to plant her to the ground.
Finally, the nausea hit her full force and she fell to the floor.
The people of the royal court had been holding their own hearts in shock, but sprang forward when they saw the princess fall. Even the woman who had so scorned Kagome felt her pain now.
One of the more powerful lords stepped up to the dais and knelt before the girl, gently pulling her up by her elbow. He kept his eyes, however, on his king. "Your Majesty, please. With all due respect, this does not keep with your usual wisdom. This is your daughter. You cannot marry her."
The king, who had been watching everyone's movements without moving himself, stared at him. "I promised my dead wife. Kagome is the only one who can compare to her."
Another courtier, a lesser lady in simple silk, spoke up. "What about the Princess Kikyo of the neighboring kingdom? She is almost the spitting image of Princess Kagome."
"Almost is not good enough," he responded coldly. "Not to mention that Kikyo has none of my wife's virtues."
Kagome, stunned, leaned up against the lord that had helped her up.
"Ah, Your Majesty," spoke up Myoga, who had re-materialized on her shoulder. "I must agree with the lord and lady. This is a mistake."
The king waved his hand, turned and sat down in his throne. "You said all of this to me during the meeting with the council, Myoga. Don't be so stubborn. Do you not agree that Kagome is the mirror of her mother, in appearance as well as soul?"
The flea shifted nervously. "Well, yes, Your Majesty. But…"
"Then it's decided. Kagome will be my bride. The wedding will be in two weeks." He closed his eyes briefly. "This official audience is over."
The crowd muttered amongst themselves as they slowly began to move out.
Kagome's scream echoed throughout the hall, despite the number of people remaining. She shook herself from the lord's grasp and stomped up to the throne.
"You can't do this! I'm your daughter! It's sick!"
The king frowned. "I can and I will. You are not my daughter if I say you are not. You are disowned and you are now my betrothed." His face melted into a wicked smile.
Hands curled around her arms and gently pulled her away from the king before she could retort. "Don't anger him, Princess," whispered a few of the courtiers.
"Listen to them," warned the king. He leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. "I expect to see you again at the evening meal with myself and the advisors. Think about what you want as a wedding gift, my dear."
Kagome's lip quivered with suppressed rage, but she didn't dare say anything. She had seen her father's anger and it was a force to be reckoned with. She could do nothing but slowly turn and walk out of the room.
Quick footsteps followed her until her brother stood beside her. "Sis, I had no idea about this."
"I know you didn't," she whispered in return. Tears threatened to fall, but she would not allow it. Surely, the king would come to his senses.
"Father's gone mad," he stated simply.
"Maybe, but he's still king. He can do whatever he wants."
"Princess?" Myoga called softly from her shoulder.
"What?" Kagome wasn't feeling especially warm towards the flea at the moment. True, he had had no chance to tell her, but he still had known. Why hadn't he stopped her father from making this reckless decision?
"May I suggest a course of action that might save you?"
Sota quirked an eyebrow. "My father's word is law. You can't stop this, except by overthrowing him. Although, I have to admit, I'm thinking about it." He whispered his words, so they would not reach nosy courtiers.
Myoga shook his head. "Much simpler than that, Your Highness. Acceptance of the wedding gift seals the engagement, as you both know. I simply suggest that Kagome ask for something that will be impossible to obtain."
Kagome smiled faintly, her heart feeling light again. "That's a pretty good idea, Myoga. Well then, what should I ask for?"
The three stopped in the hallway, considering the question. The youkai finally spoke. "I believe I have an answer, Princess. As you know, your father is quite frugal with his treasury. If you request expensive gifts, he would most certainly refuse."
Sota was staring into the distance with a thoughtful frown. "Gold," he whispered.
"What?" asked Kagome. "No, no, the gift has to be something that looks like I've accepted the idea of marrying him. We don't want to anger him, after all. That would just cause more problems."
"I agree, Sis. But I'm not saying that you should ask for gold coins. Ask for something made of gold."
"Let's talk somewhere more private," suggested Myoga, who could hear the king moving out of the throne room and down the hall to where the siblings were standing.
Kagome moved towards the parlor where she and Myoga had their discussion on the day the queen died so many months ago. After the three of them had entered the small room, she dismissed the guards and closed the doors.
"Well, Kagome?" The king leaned forward slightly over his dinner plate, peering at his daughter and future wife. "Have you decided on what you want for your wedding present?"
She willed herself not to shudder at the sound of her father's voice. Forcing herself to meet his eyes, she curtsied. "Yes, Your Highness."
The princess considered calling him 'father', but that would just be asking for a yelling match. As it was, her demands were fairly steep and she wasn't sure she would avoid it anyway. She let her gaze travel over the faces of the advisors, noting that Myoga sat at her father's left hand. His usual space at his right hand had been left open for her.
"Are you going to tell us, then, my dear? Or will you just stand there?"
Kagome straightened her spine. "I want four items for my wedding gift."
The king laughed heartily. "Four? Well, we are getting used to this idea, aren't we?" He leaned back into his chair and clapped his hands together. "Tell me what you want, my dear."
Taking a deep breath, Kagome began her list of demands. "I want a kimono that shines like the golden sun, a kimono that glows like the silver moon and a kimono that glitters like the diamond stars."
A general murmur of surprise swept across the table as the king stared in disbelief. "You expect me to have kimonos made of gold, silver and diamonds? Is this what I'm hearing?"
"Yes. And I have a fourth request as well."
The king narrowed his eyes. "I'm not sure it could beat a kimono of diamonds, but go ahead."
"I want a cloak made of a thousand types of fur from the creatures of this kingdom. It should be able to cover my body and my hair."
His eyes were in dangerous slits by the time she finished. "The kimonos I can understand, but why the cloak of fur?"
Kagome shrugged and tried to appear nonchalant. She had expected this question. "I think that if you truly want to marry me, you should prove your intentions by completing this task for me. Then I'll know that you plan to treat me as a queen should be treated."
She expected him to yell and shout about her injustice. She expected him to accuse her of trickery. She expected him to call off the wedding. She did not expect him to suddenly have a quirky little smile of amusement.
"Very well, Princess. I will obtain these items for you."
Hiding her shock proved to be very difficult. "Okay…"
He patted the table to his right. "Now, come and eat some dinner. You must be starved. The servants told me you didn't eat any lunch."
She slowly moved down the length of the table towards her chair. The sympathetic gazes of the council followed her the entire way. They knew how traumatizing the experience must be for the princess and they felt helpless to stop her father's insanity and sinful acts. Every one of them had fought against the king's decision, but in the end, he was still the king and they were still just the advisors. And the king did not take their advice on this matter.
A servant pulled the chair out for her and she nodded in thanks as she seated herself. Her eyes met Myoga's and he gave her an encouraging smile. She just stared back.
The king smiled at his daughter. "You will make a wonderful queen for the Nakao kingdom, my love."
She shuddered visibly.
Frowning now, the monarch continued, "You have requested a wedding gift. That seals the marriage agreement. Why do you show your future husband no gratitude?"
"Excuse me, Your Highness, but only when you give me the complete gift will our agreement be binding."
"Ah," he laughed. "You go by the letter of law. You will be a strict queen, but a good one."
This time, Kagome managed to stop her shuddering. Why did he keep referring to her future leadership? It was unnerving her. She realized with a jolt that it was precisely what he wanted. The king wished to break her spirit in this matter, for her to lay down and accept his proposal.
She glanced at Myoga once again, noting that his kind smile had completely disappeared.
"Princess," he began. "In preparation for your ascension to the throne, I believe we must have a talk about foreign policy."
"Naturally," she returned. "We shall talk right after supper, alright?"
The king looked between the demon and the princess, but they were both eating again with their heads down. There was no sign that their brief discussion meant anything beside what they said.
But the sovereign had a sixth sense about these things and he knew in that moment that his daughter's extravagant request had nothing to do with her wishes to be taken care of, and everything to do with the fact that she didn't want to marry him. And the flea had something to do with it. He decided that he would complete his princess's gifts if it meant he had to clean out his entire treasury. He was the king and he was damned if he'd allow a little girl and filthy demon to trick him out of what he wanted.
Myoga and Kagome had entirely different thoughts than the king. His agreement to the gifts meant that they would have to fall back upon their secondary plan. They were going to run, run to where the army of a youkai-hating king would not be allowed.
They would cross the border to the Taisho kingdom, their demon neighbor.
Kagome stared in disbelief at the three kimonos and the fur cloak. "They're… they're everything I imagined and more, Your Majesty," she whispered.
And truly, they were. The gold and silver kimonos were spun of the genuine precious metals, so finely that they were as light as any silk kimono. The diamond kimono had thousands of tiny diamonds sown into the silvery material. Each had an obi of thick silk in complimenting colors. Next to these works of art, the fur cloak of a thousand furs looked grotesque.
Even so, the princess had to marvel at the skill of the kingdom's hunters.
A tug on her heart reminded her that now was not the time to be starry-eyed over the beautiful kimonos. She had much to do. How could two weeks pass so quickly? Kagome felt as if it were two minutes ago that she and Myoga had been planning their escape.
The king leaned over her shoulder and she instinctively pulled away, but he caught her arm. "Now that everything with this ridiculously expensive gift is settled, we will get married."
Kagome blinked in surprise. "When?"
"Tomorrow!" she cried in surprise. When her father had announced two weeks ago that he intended to marry her, Kagome hadn't really believed everything would be ready for the set date.
"Yes, so you better go and get a good night's sleep."
She gathered the kimonos and the cloak into her arms and prepared to leave the library, but the king grabbed her arm again. Kagome bowed her head and kept her eyes on the patterned carpet beneath her feet. "As you suggested, I should sleep, Your Majesty."
The king placed a kiss on her temple, despite her rigid posture, and then let go. "I shall see you tomorrow." He smiled at her, although she still avoided his gaze. "There's another kimono in your room made of white silk. Not quite diamonds, but I believe you should wear something more conservative for the ceremony."
"Of course, Your Majesty. Thank you for everything," she murmured before giving him a small curtsey and escaping into the hall.
Once outside the suffocating room, she breathed a sigh of relief.
'I have to leave tonight,' she thought to herself as she glanced at the guards and began walking down the hall. As she did, Kagome studied every foot of the distance between the library and her bedroom. Her childhood had ended abruptly two weeks ago, but that didn't mean she wouldn't miss her home.
She ran her fingers along the mahogany walls as she meandered down the corridor. Kagome would like to stay if it didn't mean marrying her own father, even she still had to be in the same house as the tyrant. She wondered if demon palaces were anything like the Nakao kingdom's dark, streamlined architecture.
Pulling open her bedroom doors, Kagome noted that only one guard stood outside, instead of two. With a sigh, she entered her chambers.
She noticed the gorgeous heavy silk kimono on her bed, completed by a silver flowered obi. Silver hair combs lay on top of it and delicate sandals sat on the floor.
The princess sighed in frustration as she went to her closet and pulled out a small yellow bag she had acquired from one of the servants. Tossing it onto the bed next to her wedding kimono, she folded the three precious kimonos from her father and pushed them to the bottom of the bag.
"Come on in, Myoga," she called.
He thanked the guard that opened the door for him, waited for the door to close and watched Kagome as she fussed over her packing.
"Are you okay, Princess?" he asked, noticing that she was compulsively tucking her hair back. Except for her nervous tic, she was the picture of composure.
"Well, aside from my creepy encounter just now, I'm fine. I think." She frowned as she looked over her dresser's contents. "I really can't take any of this, can I?" she asked, holding up gilt hairbrush. A few strands of raven hair wove through the bristles, which Kagome promptly pulled out and let fall into the trash bin.
"No, Princess, you can't," agreed Myoga. He glanced at the partially packed bag and frowned. "You are bringing the kimonos?"
Kagome shrugged. "Nakao coins will be useless there. Perhaps I can sell them."
The flea scratched his head. "Only if necessary, Princess. A human girl in a fur cloak will attract enough attention as it is without dragging possibly the most valuable clothes in the world into the situation." He hopped over to her bed and inspected the wedding kimono. "Will you not take this one?"
The princess shuddered. "Never. That one just seems so tainted. The other three were made by my request, but that one just seems to remind me of Father's…" she trailed off.
"Sins." The flea looked up at her, aware that she was even now hesitant to condemn the man who helped give her life.
"Yeah… I guess so." She moved over to her large bay window and hugged herself. "It looks cold outside."
Large snowflakes drifted lazily down to the ground, creating a frozen waste of the palace grounds. Her father had never been one for gardens.
"You have a fur coat," he pointed out.
She nodded. "I just have a few more things to pack and then we'll be ready. When do you think we should leave?"
"As soon as we can, Princess. Your brother will arrive when he's ready. We want to get as much distance between us and the palace as possible before morning." He jumped over to her bag. "What else were you planning to bring, Your Highness? Most commoners have only one set of clothes, so I don't suggest taking much more."
Kagome shuddered at the thought of wearing the same clothing every day. "I know, I'm going to wear a simple winter kimono and bring a yukata for warmer weather. That's all." Her face broke into a grin. "Well, that's all for clothes, that is."
Myoga gazed at her with a critical and suspicious eye. "What are you planning, Princess?"
With her Cheshire cat grin still in place, she lounged in a cushioned chair next to her dresser. "When Mother died, I inherited certain duties that Father is too busy to deal with. Namely, the care of the Artifacts."
The flea cried out in surprise. "You surely can't be considering taking them with you, Princess? That could, and would, be considered treason. If our escape plan failed and your father caught us with the Artifacts, I doubt that he would spare our lives."
Kagome scoffed. "I don't know why. They're completely powerless."
"But they are the heirlooms of the kingdom," he argued. "The last time they were stolen, civil war erupted over who should be king: your ancestor or the thief."
"Nevertheless," she retorted, "they're coming with me."
"Is this some sort of revenge on your father?" questioned Myoga.
She licked her dry lips. "Perhaps, a little. But remember that my mother was the only child of the previous king. The Artifacts belong in her family, not his. And therefore, they're mine."
"I suppose," muttered the flea, not wanting to fight.
Kagome stood up, opened her top drawer and pulled out a small drawstring velvet bag. She dumped the three Artifacts out onto her hand and inspected each one, muttering about them in turn. "The gilt arrowhead of my ancestor, a powerful miko. The hilt of a legendary sword." She held up an pink half-orb that once was about marble-sized, before it had been broken into two pieces. "And the Shikon no Tama. Half of it anyway."
Myoga still felt nervous about the whole situation. The only thing that kept him around was his strong bond to Kagome. No matter how cowardly he was, he could not abandon the girl who had become his closest friend, almost akin to a daughter. "It all looks like it's in good order, Princess."
She placed the Artifacts back into the pouch and closed it with a smooth movement. As she went to place it in her bag, she looked at the flea youkai. "Do you know the story behind the Artifacts, Myoga?"
"If I remember correctly, your ancestor destroyed a powerful half-demon with that arrowhead. The handguard is from Tetsusaiga, a sword that could kill one hundred demons with one swing. And the Shikon was created by a priestess's very soul. No one knows where the other half is."
The princess nodded. "It's a pity that nothing more is known. But they say that the Artifacts will one day fulfill their destiny, whatever it may be. Perhaps I'm their destiny."
He knew that she was trying to reassure herself about her thievery, but couldn't offer much comfort. He was just as uneasy about it as her. "It's a vague story, Princess. Nothing more than a legend. None of the Artifacts hold any power beside sentimental value."
There was a knock on the door and Kagome shoved the Artifacts into her bag and put the bag itself out of sight. "Hello?" she called.
"Just me, Sis."
"Come in, Sota."
Her brother came in and shut the door tightly behind him. "Father has gone to bed. If you want to do this, now would be the time." He grinned as he looked outside. "You're lucky your room is on the first floor. This would be a lot harder if it wasn't."
Kagome rushed forward and embraced Sota so hard that his breath left his lungs. "I'll miss you," she murmured, trying to hold back tears.
He patted her gingerly on the back. "It's okay, Sis. Once I'm king, I'll find you and bring you home. I promise." He pulled away slightly and smiled. "That bastard can't live forever, right?"
"Well, it's true. He's forcing my sister to run away with his insanity. I have a right to be angry." As was typical with Sota, his face didn't display any of his true emotion. But it rather comforted Kagome to know that he wouldn't break down in front of her.
The prince went to the door and threw his sister one more lopsided smile. "Just wait for the signal and then go."
"What's the signal?" asked Kagome with intense curiosity.
Sota's smile grew wider. "You'll know, Sis. Just get out while the guards are away from their posts, and you should be home free."
"Love you, Sota."
"Love you too, Kagome." He pulled open the door and stepped into the hall. "Goodnight, Sis. See you tomorrow," he said, putting on a rather good show for the guard.
The door clicked closed behind him and the princess immediately turned and threw on the cloak. Then, she went to the small fireplace and grabbed a handful of soot. She rubbed it onto her arms, hands, face and neck.
Myoga watched in silence as the ashes of last night's fire hid Kagome's beauty. With the fur cloak and her unique 'make-up', the princess looked little better than a scullery maid did.
Finally, she rose and turned to pick up her bag. "Ready?" she asked as she tied back her hair and covered her head with the hood.
The flea hopped up and tucked himself under her hood next to the nape of her neck, from where he could speak and be heard. "I'm ready, Princess."
Kagome went to the window and pushed it open, shivering as the wind blew into her room. "Call me by my given name from now on, Myoga. I'm not a princess anymore." She leaned her head out, listening for her brother's signal.
The now former diplomat snuggled into her thick, silky hair, but jumped when a loud crash rattled through the castle. "I believe that must be the signal," observed Myoga as he listened to guards shouting orders both in and outside of the palace.
"Sounds like he smashed that huge window at the far end of the palace. It's the only thing that could make that much noise." She studied the castle grounds once more for straggling soldiers and hefted herself over the lip of the windowsill. "Thanks, Sota," she whispered.
The wind howled and the snow pelted her face, creating white spots in her soot-covered skin. She began to sprint towards the side entrance in the castle walls. It was the farthest, but least guarded of all the doors and she made a beeline for it.
"Well, here we go," muttered Myoga as they slipped away through the shadows.
A/N: Wow, that was long for a first chapter! Although, I did combine two previously separate chapters to create this first one. Considering that all this is about two lines in the original tale, I got a hefty 18 pages out of it. I know that the whole incest bit is gross, but that's the tale, so I didn't want to "Disney-fy" it. The story has a high rating for a reason after all. Next chapter – Inuyasha arrives and Kagome has to see if her disguise works.
For all those who are wondering about my sequel to The Broken Miko, it's coming. The first chapter is almost done. I'll be pretty busy until November 1st, when my first law school application is due.