Disclaimer: All InuYasha characters depicted are the intellectual property of Rumiko Takahashi and are copyrighted by Viz. All original characters and the plot are my intellectual property. All names and places, either factual or imaginary, are used for the purposes of entertainment only. I am in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of InuYasha. Copyright infringement is NOT intended.
"I assure you, Mother, that I am fully capable of tending to my own affairs." Sesshoumaru's words were distinctly lacking in warmth. Their chill didn't make a dent in the formidable scowl marring his mother's elegant countenance, however.
She tapped a long, finely-curved claw against the manila envelope she held. "Oh? I think not, Sesshoumaru. How much time do you think your father will grant you after his demands are made public?" Her eyes narrowed while her mind turned to the male in question. "I still cannot believe the audacity of that youkai! He would have never-"
Withholding the urge to sigh, Sesshoumaru watched his mother pace the ornately furnished room while she continued to rant. Graceful, with the same silvery hair and golden eyes as himself, she could pass for a sister rather than his mother. A red, brushed silk blouse and a similarly colored knee-length skirt draped her curvaceous form; a perfect foil for her unblemished, pale skin.
Angry, her youkai markings were not as thinly delicate, but were now glowing slashes across her fine-boned features. "You," she began, after recovering enough to halt in front of her wayward progeny, "need to take this seriously. Do you even comprehend the full scope of the disaster looming on the horizon?"
Sesshoumaru stiffened in reaction to the implication that his understanding was flawed.
Just as she knew he would.
She smiled beatifically. "You will allow me to protect your inheritance, my son. I will find the woman. I know what you need in a female, after all. Your distinction as a future lord requires the youkai you will take to mate to be as refined of sensibilities as myself," she pontificated. "Along with being of the understanding that you, as a male, require certain... shall we say, largess on her part?"
Having been groomed for the purpose of taking over the reins of said responsibilities, Sesshoumaru wasn't completely uncaring as to their future. However, he was not to be outmaneuvered or manipulated. By either of his parents.
"As I have already stated," he declared in ominously stilted tones, "you will do nothing. I have matters well in hand, and you would only prove to be a hindrance."
The air of motherly regard vanished. In it's place, frustration simmered to the surface. She had to take a deep breath before asking, "If you have everything under control, then tell me now how you plan to outwit your father's demands that you mate? It is not bad enough that he has demanded you mate, but no, you must alsoproduce one of whom he will approve!"
Not to mention the fact that, on his own, he surely lacked the insight to properly choose a female, she thought.
Grimly amused, Sesshoumaru glanced at the small clock sitting on a marble table beside his fuming mother. Almost time, he realized with the first stirring of true interest. He turned his attention back to the matter at hand. "I will not be coerced into anything, Mother. You can trust in that. If Father insists on this ridiculous decree, then let Inuyasha take the title. I dance attendance on no one's whims."
Truly shocked, she gasped. "Sesshoumaru! You do not know what you are saying! I admit, I would prefer you to be free to choose your own mate, in your own time. But to allow Izayoi's pup to take your inheritance? I will not choose some weakling, nor would I saddle you with a nagging shrew. Cannot you sacrifice your pride, as I have done in the past for your sake, long enough to take aid from me, your mother?" she cajoled.
"What you have done, was at your own behest. I am not responsible for seeing to it that you are given suitable return on the investments you've made for me."
She huffed, piqued. Her arms crossed under her bosom. "Do not take that tone with me, Sesshoumaru. If you insist on throwing everything away, then so be it. I will not tolerate disrespect, however. I am first wife and honorable mate to your father."
Implied, therein, was the fact that, until such a time that he rose to his father's position, she was still his alpha female and he was answerable to her.
The reminder irked Sesshoumaru more than the mention of his father's demands.
Disdaining a suitably impressive display of temper, he said, "Our visit must be cut short, Mother. I have an appointment."
Arrogant, self-absorbed, and admittedly single-minded, she was, nonetheless, his mother. He wondered what she would think if she knew he was now heading to meet his mate-to-be. The one she knew nothing of. Most likely, she would cheerfully consign him to hell, but he would take his chances.
He had meant every word. He had already chosen a mate before she had made her demands, though, and he would not alter his plans for the sake of expediency. The decree had not come until he had already made up his mind.
It would actually prove quite useful to him, as now he would not be forced to reveal the depth of his own feelings for the female in question to obtain her hand. He had not given her any inclination to believe that he found her to be anything other than an annoyance. She was highly romantic by nature. A characteristic that he should have found cumbersome, but strangely he did not. It was, he mused, the reason he had not approached her with anything other than an occasional question.
Even unsure of his choice, he had been oddly protective of her tender feelings. In spite of his ruthless reputation, he had not wanted to chance hurting her with a rescinded offer.
Now, all that remained was to claim the woman. He smirked. The engine to his stream-lined luxury sports car purred to life and he left the estate.
Kagome, his unknowing prey, was stubborn and head-strong. The next few weeks were looking to provide some entertainment, at the very least.
"Kagura? Are you sure this is me?" Disbelief, combined with modesty, had Kagome tugging on her new top's scooped neckline. The black, hip-hugging pants weren't so bad, if a bit tight. The sandals had heels-not something she was accustomed to wearing-but they were tasteful and quite cute in her opinion. However, the décolletage on the shimmering gold top, trimmed in black beads, was outrageously low-cut and the embarrassed woman could see clear to her navel down the neckline.
Kagura, her adventurous friend who had invited her out on the shopping trip to celebrate their graduation from University, slapped Kagome's hands away from the blouse's front. "Leave it alone, Kagome," she demanded. "You look great. It's about time you started wearing clothing more suited to your age than those ridiculous school girl outfits."
"Oh?" Kagome took in the equally daring ensemble of a red, leather mini-skirt, scarlet peasant shirt and calf-high boots her friend wore. "I seem to recall a certain boy with a fondness for those 'school girl outfits,' particularly the skirts. Don't tell me you've gotten rid of all of yours."
Kagome laughed when Kagura fell silent. "So," she asked mischievously, "has Miroku worn out your skirts yet? Maybe you should borrow some of mine. Kami knows I've got plenty to spare," she joked.
Kagura rolled her eyes before smirking. "No, the pervert hasn't gone through my entire collection yet." She grinned wickedly. "But, it's a near thing. I've hope for him yet!"
Now it was Kagome's turn to blush and Kagura chuckled wickedly. "Come on, dear. Blushes at your age? Hasn't anyone gotten into those white little panties yet?"
Shocked, Kagome sputtered. "What? No! You, I..."
Taking pity on the tongue-tied woman, Kagura clucked her tongue. "Ah, well. We can't all be seductive patronesses of the divine code of sexual equality. I know you're waiting for 'The One.' To bad, really. I had such aspirations for you," she ended on an exaggerated sigh.
Luckily for Kagome, she was saved from having to continue that line of conversation by the appearance of Miroku. Dark-haired, with violet eyes and a handsome visage, he was a perfect match for the wind youkai, Kagura. Blessed with equally dark hair, a svelte figure and a vivacious personality that showed in her sparkling crimson eyes, Kagura attracted a fair amount of masculine attention.
Having known Miroku from an early age, however, Kagome hadn't been surprised at all that he had managed to capture the youkai female's attention despite his very obvious humanity. The man could charm the panties off a soured nun.
The real shocker had been when he had sworn off other women after only a single date with Kagura. A notorious pervert with a penchant for feeling up any 'legally available' female, he had never gone so long without his fingers doing his walking for him. As near as Kagome could tell, that was a miracle in-and-of itself.
Kagome wasn't quite sure how Kagura had managed it. She wished her friend would reveal the secret of her success. When asked about it, Kagura had merely smirked and proclaimed that the man was kept too busy to contemplate straying.
The couple bickered good-naturedly about the next stop. Walking alongside the pair, Kagome mused contemplatively about her situation. While she hadn't lied about not minding waiting for 'The One,' she did have some doubts about her ability to keep him once claimed.
How on Earth was she to interest a male when she didn't even know what she wanted in one, let alone how to go about getting him?
Roaring into the parking lot, Sesshoumaru leaned against the wheel briefly when a shaft of pain cut through his gut. Damn, he cursed, not now. He took a deep breath and then exhaled slowly. Maintaining his humanoid form was taking more out of him lately.
His clamoring instincts demanded more of him than normal. In turn, he was forced to expend precious energy on controlling them, along with his urge to transform into the more comfortable form of his inuyoukai heritage.
Certain, for the moment, that he had it under control, Sesshoumaru left his car and went in search of his prey. Once inside, he ignored the giggles of air-headed females and pointing fingers to scent the air. He smiled, a rather frightening display of fangs for the onlookers.
A few minutes later Kagome came into sight. He halted, taking in her changed appearance with masculine appreciation. Her clothing, doing nothing to hide her womanly figure, was a definite change from her standard uniform of jeans, sneakers and a top. Even her hair, once tucked behind her ears in careless abandon, had been cropped slightly to curl about her shoulders in becoming disarray.
It was her blue eyes, however, shadowed with insecurity, that drew him in and held his attention. Oblivious to the male attention she was receiving from the humans and youkai, Kagome was still uncomfortable in her new finery.
He was not so blissfully unaware, and he held back the growl of anger that threatened to overcome him. There would be plenty of time later to protect what was his. To do so now, before it was a fact, would be both foolish and counterproductive.
Sliding narrowed eyes over the wind youkai female, Kagura, if he recalled correctly, Sesshoumaru guessed the new look was her doing. The hair wasn't so bad, appealing even, but the clothing would be the first thing he would attend to once in charge of Kagome's welfare.
The monk placed a proprietary arm around Kagura's waist. The hidden youkai caught sight of the longing glance slanted by the lone woman on the pair. Sesshoumaru chose that opportunity to step out of the shadows and into their path.
Kagura was the first to react to the abrupt blockage placed summarily in their path. "What the hell do you think you're doing? Get out of our way!" she demanded angrily. She had almost twisted her ankle to stop before she collided with the large inuyoukai!
Miroku, the more diplomatic of the two, gave her a warning squeeze. "Ah, Sesshoumaru-sama. Is there something you need?"
Staring directly into Kagome's smiling eyes, he ignored them. Instead, the inuyoukai waved them off before making a demand of his own, "You will come with me."
Sputtering, outraged at being so casually dismissed, Kagura opened her mouth to unleash a verbal lashing, followed by a few well-placed wind spurs if that didn't do the trick. She knew who he was, but she'd not allow some freak to tell her what to do! She was the daughter of Naraku, Sheriff of the province, and was only a step below him socially.
Unfortunately, Kagome took all the wind out of her sails when she nodded. "Okay," Kagome said softly to the inuyoukai, maintaining her smile.
Miroku turned an incredulous look on her. "Okay? Kagome, since when do you let anyone tell you to go somewhere, let alone a male you don't know?"
Kagura kept her peace, eager to hear the answer to his question as well.
Kagome dropped her eyes to the ground, hating herself for blushing once more, before mumbling, "It's okay guys. I'll be perfectly fine with Sesshoumaru." She stepped to his side and gestured for him to lead the way, forgetting about her embarrassing wardrobe in her haste to leave before any more questions were asked.
Left behind, Miroku mouthed, "Sesshoumaru?" Wide, violet eyes turned on his girlfriend. "Since when did Kagome become so familiar with him?"
Intrigued, she could only shrug. Kagura's mind whirled with speculation, but even she could not answer that.
Kagome guessed that her friends were confused, but it wasn't as if she could tell them that she had always seen more in Sesshoumaru than any other. The son of a powerful inuyoukai general and a celestial inuyoukai bitch, his birth had been unprecedented. Too much power in one line, it had been whispered, would herald disaster. And in his case, the curse became reality.
Born in inu form, he hadn't managed to maintain a humanoid guise until puberty. Even now, however, his entire body was covered in the thick, silky fur of his true form. 'Freak,' she had heard him called. Even her friends, especially the youkai, delighted in maligning him. Others pitied him, something the proud tilt of his chin told her he would detest more than hatred.
To her, though, he was beautiful. Tall and muscular, even his thick fur could not hide his appeal. Instead, it was an attraction all of its own. There wasn't a time when she had seen him that Kagome hadn't wondered if it was as soft as it looked. Or as warm. Golden eyes and a pair of dark magenta slashes across each fur-covered cheek always drew her eyes to the moon on his forehead. A source of pride for his mother's clan she'd heard. The moon and markings always seemed to glow briefly whenever he looked upon her.
Not that such an occasion happened frequently, she admitted silently as Sesshoumaru led her outside and to his elegantly sleek car. He had only approached her once or twice with questions about her field: historical artifacts and their uses. Most of his questions centered around the Shikon No Tama and the supposed wish it could grant the user.
She had been surprisingly sad to tell him that it was only a myth. If anyone deserved a wish, it was him. He was stoic in the face of the ridicule heaped upon his head, only striking out against the worst offenders as his father would not allow him more.
If it were up to her, Kagome decided darkly while peeking out at Sesshoumaru from under her lashes, she'd teach anyone who was mean to him a lesson they'd never forget. Then again, he didn't need her protection. Despite everything, he radiated an aura of pure strength and absolute arrogance that took her breath away.
What would it be like to be so self-assured? So uncaring of the opinions of others?
Even his father wasn't as self-contained. After discovering the mistake it was to mate with Sesshoumaru's mother, he had turned her from his bed and found another. Izayoi, a human woman who bore him a hanyou, was his second wife. At least, the youkai and human community said behind closed doors, if the Inu General was to have flawed children, better they at least look somewhat normal.
Izayoi was known as a soft-spoken, kindly woman. Sesshoumaru's mother was arrogant as all celestial beings are, and sorely pressed by her lowered status in the face of sharing her mate with another woman. She was a favored patron of the university Kagome had attended, which was why Kagome knew so much about the inuyoukai family.
Too bad she didn't know everything.
Shifting his position closer to Kagome's, Sesshoumaru deliberately rubbed his arm against hers. He carefully watched her for any indication of disgust at his intruding on her personal space. Not to mention of his rather hairy person.
All thoughts of claiming her aside, he would not stoop to bedding a female who had to close her eyes when in his presence. Inherently vain, there wasn't a single youkai female of his acquaintanceship that had attempted to seduce him despite the rather illustrious title waiting to drop upon him or the obvious wealth of his family. None were willing to tie themselves to one who looked as he did. Nor would they take the chance that their children would be as afflicted as he.
Kagome, however, only smiled that welcoming smile of hers that made her eyes glow with an inner light. He repressed a scowl. He wanted more than her friendship.
"I have called you out here for a reason," he began slowly after both were seated in his car. "I have received instructions from my sire, rather specific ones, that involve you."
Confused, her brow furrowed. "But, I don't even know your father. I know of him, but that's it."
He shrugged. "They do not name you specifically, but involve you," he clarified, taking in her surprise with calculating, narrowed eyes. "My father has had a rather interesting legend come to his attention. One involving the gem that had been in his possession for over a century. Supposedly, a wish can be made upon the jewel, but only when in the hands of a pure-hearted individual."
Kagome gasped. "The Shikon No Tama?"
"Indeed. However, the scroll described the ritual of wishing in more depth than your books. Created from the souls of youkai and a human miko, only a youkai and another miko can harness the power. It is also necessary that the wish be made by someone other than the benefactor of the power. One," he stated slowly, carefully enunciating every word, "bound to the recipient bodily."
Innocently blinking, Kagome tried to follow his logic. "So they have to be tied together?"
"They must mate," he stated baldly.
Immediately, her jaw dropped as a light went on upstairs. "Wait just a minute here! I'm not a real one, I turned down the training! So... so, you will just have to find another miko for your father!"
Brow rising, Sesshoumaru savored the flash of approval he felt upon her rejection of his father. Legendary for his prowess among females, that she felt no such attraction for his sire only added to the fuels of his attraction. "I am speaking of myself, Kagome," he said silkily. "In order to master the jewel-for what purpose I am sure you can guess-I am offering you the position of my mate."
Stunned speechless, Kagome felt her world tilt on its axis. Mate? Sesshoumaru?