A/N: Okay, this fic is going to be unlike anything I've ever written before (and probably unlike anything you've ever read yet... I hope! ^_^). It's AU, taking place in a very vast, urbanized, dark, futuristic Tokyo. For a better idea of what the atmosphere is like, think Final Fantasy 7 (the big city you start the game in... yeah, it's been so long since I've played it I can't remember the name... Vector?) combined with Noir, Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040, Gunnm and a teensy bit of Akira thrown in. Get the idea? Inuyasha-tachi live in a vast, sprawling metropolis that's positively choking on technology, crime and genetic experiments. This is probably going to be pretty long-I only have the first 6-7 chapters mapped out in my head at this point, but there is a general direction I'm heading in with this fic, so never fear-I will finish this!
Just a warning: things are going to be rather confusing in the beginning. That's the general point. If you're totally lost, however, drop me a line, or please elaborate in the review forum. PLEASE, MINNA-SAN, REVIEW THIS FIC!!! Since it's so totally different from anything I've ever done before, I REALLY need your comments to know if I'm doing this right!!!
Anyway, I'm a shipper of traditional pairings, so that means Inuyasha/Kagome, Miroku/Sango. Since I LOVE Miroku and Sango, there's going to be more of an initial focus on them, but don't worry, Kagome/Inuyasha fans, there will be plenty to keep you happy too! And for all you Fluffy and Rin fans, they will be in here, somehow... exactly when and how, I don't know yet... but they will be here!
Thanks again, minna-san! Because I love you guys so much, I'm actually putting up on my website (one of them, that is), the mp3 of the song whose lyrics I borrowed for the start this chapter (and for each following). The link for the webpage is at the bottom of the chapter. I always love it when people post lyrics that fit their stories, but it kind of sucks when the band is more obscure, because I can't find their songs easily on the internet. So... this makes it easy for those of you who actually want to hear the song! Besides, it gives me a chance to plug my favorite obscure bands, hee hee hee. ^_^
The Disclaimer: Inuyasha is not mine, it belongs to Rumiko Takahashi-sensei and all those various television and publishing companies. This author is merely borrowing. So don't sue me! I'm only a small, insignificant member of the college student population, with no rich daddy to bail me out if the lawyers come a-calling... I'm only a little poor college student, pay no attention to little me... (hovers around with Winnie the Pooh in front of the honey tree, trying to look harmless). HOWEVER... I DO own this story! (just not the characters... sigh...). Mwah hah hah hah!
PS. I'm taking a little liberty with people's ages here, to better fit with the scenario I've created. Kagome is still 15, but she's very close to her 16th birthday (like 3 months off). Inuyasha is 17, young for an assassin/hitman, but well, he's Inuyasha, so he just kicks ass. ^_^ Sango is 19, Miroku is 21. Kikyo is 19. Kouga is 24 (somehow I see him as much older than the others, even though he's immature), Sesshoumaru is 26. Kohaku is 13, Shippou is 12, Rin is 11. The ages of everyone else (Kagura, Naraku, etc.) I'll mention in the notes when they come up (meaning I haven't really decided on them yet, heh heh).
Dedicated to Aino-kaachan, for all her patience and support while I suffered through this chapter and for providing me with a helpful critique! Thanks so much! You're the best! :HUG: Also, thanks to Jed-san, via Aino-kaachan, for providing me with the great line about everyone's favorite sukebe bouzu... ^_^
Chapter 1: Let the Game Begin Darling, stop confusing me with your wishful thinking Hopeful embraces don't you understand? I have to go through this I belong to here where no-one cares and no-one loves no light no air to live in A place called hate the city of fear I play dead it stops the hurting I play dead And the hurting stops It's sometimes just like sleeping curling up inside my private tortures I nestle into pain hug suffering caress every ache I play dead it stops the hurting --Bjork, "Play Dead"
What the hell?
Kuyami Sango stared blankly at the screen in front of her, repeating the words over and over in her head. Despite the repetition, however, her mind wasn't able to completely grasp the significance of the message.Naraku wants Higurashi Kagome.
Running a hand through her long dark hair, Sango resisted the urge to bang her head against the table.
This really complicated things. A LOT. Ordinarily unconcerned by the wants and goals of the underworld mob kings, Sango took all her assignments at face value, asking no questions unless the money failed to appear. And her instructions were quite clear--dispatch Higurashi Kagome at midnight tonight. But this was different. This was Naraku. And Naraku was no ordinary mob king.
A mysterious man who lived in the shadows, Naraku moved throughout the Tokyo underworld scene like Moses, parting the waves of gangster bureaucracies without lifting a finger. He was both feared and respected, so much so that no one questioned the demands made by his organization's henchmen, even though not more than a handful of people had ever seen him. Sango was one of those privileged few, although she did not consider that to be much of a privilege. She would gladly put a bullet through his brain and rid the world of his pernicious existence, but that was impossible. He was too powerful, too well-connected, too well-protected for her to even touch a hair on his head without facing the penalty of unrequited death. Not that she minded the idea of dying--it was merely one of the hazards of the job--but Naraku had destroyed far too much of her life for her to recklessly throw it away. Unless she could drag him with her to the abyss. That was the only thing that would make it worth all the effort.
Heaving a deep sigh, Sango slumped back in her seat, casting her gaze out the window. Below her, the city of Tokyo glittered like a black diamond, shiny but not clean, never clean, despite the light drizzle of the early afternoon. She looked straight ahead, her eyes taking in the formidable skyscrapers across the road, half a football field away from her apartment window. Behind them sprung up more skyscrapers, skulking in the shadows like sharp-pointed, oblong monsters. They popped up everywhere against the horizon, as far as the eye could see.
The history books Sango's father had proudly displayed in his library marveled over the size and spread of the city even one hundred years ago. Somehow, Sango doubted it even was a fraction of the size that it was now, nearly 80 years from the turn of the 21st century, when most of those books were published. The Tokyo of then was different in other ways as well. Fewer skyscrapers (certainly they were less concentrated together), more spacious, more attractive. God, but her city was monstrous, too vast and too crowded to maintain a consistent level of upkeep throughout the metropolis. The only parts of the city that saw regular maintenance were the downtown financial district in sector three; sector one, where the wealthy made their home and ran their businesses (at least those who did not work in the financial district); and anywhere a major crime organization like Naraku's was centered.
That was another thing that had changed, Sango realized, recalling that the last history book she'd read on the subject of Tokyo in the early part of the century had not mentioned its having been divided into different sectors. Come to think of it, the legislation that passed enabling those divisions occurred over fifty years ago, when The Wolf Clan, Taiyoukai and several other criminal corporations had bought their way into the forefront of Japanese politics and business dealings. Amazing to think that they were now the lesser organizations, forced into the background by the ruthless and formidable Naraku, who'd single-handedly built an entire empire in the last ten years. If she didn't hate him so much, she might have congratulated him for his achievement. Very few people stood against the corporate machine and got away with it.
But none of this is going to help me solve this current dilemma, she told herself harshly.
With a last wistful glance out the window, Sango returned to business. Focusing on her computer screen once more, she ordered the system to enlarge the disturbing email message so it took up the entire screen.
:Maximizing message: the artificial female voice told her.
Numbly, Sango read the message one more time.
Naraku wants Higurashi Kagome. Come to the Hakurei Festival, 5 pm, for more. I will find you.
The missive was unsigned.
For the fifth time in two minutes, Sango glanced at the wristwatch on her left hand. Quarter to four.
Shit shit shit. She didn't have much time left to waffle. The Hakurei complex was clear over in sector one, and Sango herself lived in sector four. If she dallied much longer, she'd hit the afternoon rush in the transport system, and those could get backed up for hours between sectors. She couldn't afford to let time, or the lack thereof, to make her decision for her.
"Bring up the Higurashi data," she ordered the computer.
:Searching for Higurashi data. Minimizing email: the voice replied.
"Yeah yeah," Sango muttered, impatiently tapping her bitten fingernails against the cold metal tabletop.
Sango kept her eyes glued to the screen as the computer enlarged the files she wanted.
Higurashi Kagome. Fifteen years old, born January 18, 2062, Tokyo, Japan. Black hair, blue-gray eyes. 5' 3", 110 lbs. Blood type...
"Yeah, whatever," Sango said impatiently. She needed the more detailed stuff: surveillance footage of her home--a shrine, for god's sakes... who'd ever heard of anyone living in a shrine in Tokyo of all places?--, information on her comings and goings, family background, etc.
Unaware that she was frowning, Sango put her hand over the electronic sensor that allowed her to move around objects on the monitor and sifted through the various files clogging the screen. The surveillance footage was useful, but she'd gone through it several times already this morning, before the disturbing email had arrived. She minimized a picture of a smiling Higurashi, donned in her school uniform, waving good-bye to an older woman with short brown hair and a young boy, aged eight or nine. The mother and the brother, obviously. Sango felt her breath catch for a moment, as memories spilled over her. Family... Higurashi Kagome had no idea how lucky she was, to live a normal, happy life with her family, blissfully unaware of all the ugliness that surrounded her. For a fraction of a second, Sango wondered what it would be like to be Higurashi, whose major worries included exam scores, boys, and finding the right dress to wear to the party.
But then again, I'd be dead at fifteen, she thought wryly. Not exactly on the terms I'd want to go out on, either.
But what it really came down to was the fact that no matter how hard she looked, Sango could not find anything about Higurashi Kagome that bespoke of anything other than normalcy. While she never would have expected to find glaring evidence of Naraku's supposed interest in the girl from the files provided by her client, the fact that there was nothing out of the ordinary about the girl completely bowled her over. If she had more time, perhaps, and more of a way with utilizing the investigative powers of her computer, she would have done a thorough search on Higurashi Kagome. But with the set time for the assassination less than ten hours away, she didn't have that option.
Sighing one last time in resignation, Sango pushed her swivel desk chair away from her desk and stood up with an air of finality. So be it. To the Hakurei festival, then, she would go.
"Well Kirara," Sango looked down into the red eyes of her two-tailed cat--obviously the product of a genetic experiment gone awry--and continued, "it looks like I'm going to be make an unexpected trip today. Wonder what I'll find, ne?"
It had better be the goddamn informant, she thought darkly, walking across the length of the room to peer in her closet for something appropriate to wear. Otherwise that Higurashi girl doesn't have a prayer left in the world.
For some reason, the finality of it made her shiver.* * *
Across the city, in a small apartment in the heart of sector one, a young man sank down into his plush leather sofa, his arms laden with files. The curtains had been drawn against the slanting rays of the afternoon sun, giving the room a hushed dark quality. The only light illuminating the space emitted from his wide-screen computer monitor, casting the room with an eerie bluish glow. He didn't mind the dark--in fact, he thrived in it. The world was much simpler in the dark. It was the time when most of the insignificant insects that worked and lived in this city removed themselves from the streets, leaving the place to the rest, the unmentionables. Darkness welcomed them, the city's freaks, with open arms. Well, he welcomed it just as strongly--it being the only thing that wouldn't pass judgment on him and his lifestyle. Heh. He smiled, but without mirth. In his business, darkness was a staple, the most essential of forces.
Staring down at the files on his lap, he studied the smiling face of the young woman who looked back up at him. So innocent, those eyes. Sickening. It was rather disgusting how naïve most people were about life in this city.
Placing the picture on the cushion on his right, he flipped through the files, looking for the recent computer printout he'd made. Ah, there it was.
He skimmed the words hungrily, his eyes shining with a predatory gleam.
"So the Saimyoushou has made its move, has it?" he smiled smugly. "Sending a highly accomplished assassin after one young, defenseless woman. Feh. How pissed they'll be when all their well-laid plans get fucked up beyond recognition." He chuckled loudly.
He gave the rest of the printout only a cursory glance, already cognizant of what information it contained. His lips curled up in a grimace as the name of The Wolf Clan flashed into his vision. Those second-rate, whiny bunch of bastards. They were a joke--nowhere near the level of ruthlessness and brute strength of their corporation's founding fathers, and not even remotely near the level of the Saimyoushou. He scowled at the thought. Fucking bastards. The Saimyoushou had ousted his father's organization nearly seven years ago. Now his arrogant prick of a brother was in charge, sitting in his posh office filing his nails while maintaining indifference towards the world at large. His indifference even extended to that bastard Naraku, who had ruined everything. For that, he could not forgive him-not that he'd ever gotten along with his asshole of a brother to begin with, but this was going too far. He had broken all ties with his brother and with his father's ailing organization, choosing to strike it out on his own. Now, three years later, he was a one-man success, taking jobs when he felt like it, and involving himself in matters that held personal gain for him.
His gaze shifted to the image of the smiling girl on the sofa seat next to him. Poor thing, getting herself tied up in the middle of this ugly crime world. Too bad for her. He had need for her, information to extract. So did half the city's fucking crimelords. Sadly for them, they'd have to deal with him first to get to her.
"Welcome to the real world, Higurashi Kagome," he said softly, feeling for a moment as if her blue-gray gaze could see into the depths of his amber eyes.
Brushing off the feeling, he got to his feet and left the room, feeling the urge to polish his sword.* * *
Sango arrived at the Hakurei building in a very bad mood. She'd been stuck in the afternoon crush in the transports for an hour. God she hated traveling in those things during the day! Being crammed in with so many people always made her feel confined, dirty and somewhat exhausted. They were much easier to traverse at night, when most of her business "meetings" took place.
She gritted her teeth and pushed through the big double doors of the Hakurei complex, feeling herself get swept up with the crowd of people making a late sojourn to the festival on their way back from work. Once inside the cavernous front atrium, she quickly moved to the far right of the room, trying to get her bearings.
The Hakurei building was immense, doubling as a shopping mall on the lower levels and as office space and even posh apartments on the upper levels. The big front atrium was a wide-open space, extending all the way to the top of the 40-story building. In the center, a waterfall that began its descent from the 10th floor flowed down a long expanse of rock, culminating in a large koi pond that was the centerpiece of the room. The pond and its various trappings of flora and fauna were surrounded by a low wall of black and white marble--the same marble that covered the floor under Sango's feet. The immediate space around the atrium was open, with several benches strategically placed for heavily laden shoppers to rest their feet and gaze upon the magnificent display. A scant five feet behind them, hundreds of passersby circumvented the area, stopping in the various shops that lined the outer perimeter of the room.
Taking a momentary respite from her purpose, Sango allowed her eyes to travel up the expanse of the building, following the ascent of the two clear transport tubes at the far right and left corners of the room that traversed the length of the building. People shot up and down the tubes like bullets, their bodies a blur of color. In the Hakurei building, the transports functioned like the last century's elevators, able to stop on every floor, but at a far more efficient and pace. They even surpassed the old bullet trains and subway systems of the last century in velocity, yet without eliminating the irritating crush of the rush hour as the engineers had envisioned. For despite their speed, the transports could only accommodate so many people at once, and people were a never-ending factor in late 21st century Tokyo.
Sango's gaze moved from the transport tubes to the glass balconies that rimmed the perimeter of each level of the building. The effect was like a layer cake. Shoppers lounged near the terrace walls, looking down at the bustling crowds on the floors below, moving in a constant flow like a colony of ants going about their daily business. Somehow, this made Sango feel as small and insignificant as one of the aformentioned worker ants. In a city as tall and sprawling as Tokyo, that was a common experience, but not one Sango was accustomed to, having become as familiar with the winding streets and soaring skyscrapers as one became inured to the behavior and personality of a lover.
Shaking her head slightly, Sango forced her attention back to the task at hand. She could ogle at buildings tomorrow, once her assignment was finished. In the meantime, she had a festival to traverse and an informant to find. The festival itself was easy enough to locate, having been set up on the ground floor. About a hundred booths surrounded the room, halfway between the pond and the shops along the perimeter. It was easiest for Sango to start with the booths at the far right side of the floor, where she was standing already, and to work her way around till she had gone full circle.
The informant, on the other hand, was another matter entirely.
Glancing down at her somewhat disheveled apparel (the product of rush hour in the transports), Sango gave a little shrug. What did it matter if she was wrinkled and somewhat unkempt, so was just about every other teenager in the building. It was the latest fashion rage; one Sango was rather indifferent to for the most part. But it worked wonders at making her blend into a crowd.
Today, she had decided upon one of her more sober outfits--black nylon pants that fitted snugly through the thigh and flared out at the calf, and a black and gray top made of a stretchy, shiny material, with long black mesh sleeves that billowed out at the wrist into cascades of fabric. High, lace-up black leather boots completed the image. She loved her boots, whose clunky heels added two inches to her average 5 foot 6 inch frame. The best part was that she could easily strap her small boomerangs inside the boots, right above the ankle. The throwing weapons were made of a material harder and sharper than steel, and were undetectable at the weapons security checkpoints littered throughout the nicer parts of the city. The boomerangs were special-when thrown, the two ends would extend to almost two and a half times their normal size. They were one of her last remaining mementos of her father's, as precious to her as the few history books she had been able to salvage from his private study before everything went to hell.
No time to think about that. Better start making my presence known to the informant.
Adopting an air of mild interest, Sango plunged back into the throngs of people and allowed them to carry her towards the first booth, which appeared to be selling traditional fans, in a style dating back to the Meiji era. She peered at the fans for a moment, craning her neck over the shoulder of a middle-aged matronly-looking woman, then decided to move on. She had worn her trademark white ribbon, tied a few inches above the ends of her hair, in hopes that the informant, whomever he or she may be, would be familiar enough with her to pick her out of the crowd. Other than that, however, she did her best to remain inconspicuous, ever aware of the omnipresent danger she was potentially facing every day from other members of her profession (or of the general criminal underworld) whenever she ventured outside the safety of her apartment.
It was for that reason that Sango never went anywhere unarmed--she was far too aware of the consequences if she were ever tracked down and attacked. As good as her training was, not even the most devastating martial arts combo she knew could stand up to a gangster's bullet. Sango wasn't much of a connoisseur of guns, however, so instead she relied on her small boomerangs and metal-edged throwing cards whenever she ventured into public spaces. The bigger weapons--including her huge boomerang, Hirakotsu, which she used only on super special occasions--were saved for her more complex assignments.
Today, however, Sango had brought her small gun with her as well. It was one of the newer models sold on the black market, made of a synthetic material similar to plastic, but hard as steel. It was small enough to fit in the palm of her hand. She'd had to save up several assignments' worth of cash to be able to afford one. Today was the first time she'd actually taken it out with her. Yet another kind of weapon she could sneak past the various security checkpoints she encountered.
Subconsciously, her fingers drifted towards the tough canvas exterior of the small pouch she used as a purse. It hung just over her hipbone (attached by a chain to her belt), comforting her with its presence. She could feel the outline of her gun under her fingertips, hard and reassuring. Whatever came her way, she was ready for it.
Squaring her shoulders, Sango moved on. The next booth contained obis from across the ages, sporting styles from as early as the Sengoku Jidai to the present day. Fascinated, Sango allowed herself the momentary distraction of looking at the collection. Of course, none of the obis were actually from the Sengoku Jidai or the Tokugawa era, but there were several dating from the Meiji era and the Taisho era. Perhaps she would buy one someday. Traditional dress had always appealed to her, perhaps for the simplicity and serene beauty it promised.
As she turned around to try and find a passage through the crowd of people boxing her in against the booth, she felt someone brush against her shoulder, and a soft voice whisper into her ear.
Her heart froze momentarily. She snapped out of her trance to spy the retreating back of a woman with long black hair disappearing into the crowd.
Hardly daring to breathe, she took off after the woman at as fast a pace as she could manage without blatantly drawing attention to herself. God, but she was fast, maneuvering around the swell of humanity with the ease of an eel slipping around rocky fissures. Sango almost lost her once, when she headed towards a booth selling ukiyo-e prints. The woman had just stepped around a group of housewives chattering excitedly about the Tokugawa era reprint in front of them, and in the next instant, she was gone. Panicked, Sango whipped her head around frantically, looking for any sign of her swishing dark locks. Then, out of the corner of her eye, she saw it--a flash of red, moving over towards the far right corner of the building, where the transport tube was located.
Found you, she thought, taking in a deep breath.
The woman was now out in the open, clearly making her way over to the transport. Sango's eyes bored into her back, following each swish of her hair as she walked. God, but that woman had long hair! Sango had always been told hers was unusually long for most young women her age--tumbling down in thick waves to the small of her back--but this woman's hair was even longer, reaching down past her butt. Sango's eyes narrowed in concentration. What on earth was that hair tie she was wearing? Sango had never seen anything quite like it before. It was long, about the length of Sango's index finger, and white, with two long ends of ribbon sticking out at a perpendicular angle from the woman's hair. She wore the tie just below the nape of her neck, with two long strands of hair on either side of her face looping gracefully over her shoulders.
Kami-sama, who on earth is that woman? Sango wondered, her focus so intently fixed on her quarry that she failed to noticed the group of teenagers who suddenly moved into her path.
"Ow! Watch where you're going!"
"Huh? Oh sorry!" Slightly alarmed, Sango quickly bowed her head in apology at the sixteen-year-old girl she'd accidentally elbowed.
The girl sniffed, but acknowledged her apology with a slight incline of her head.
Feeling stupid, Sango hurried past her, praying that she hadn't lost the woman in the crowd. Her eyes canvassed the area in front of the transport, but there was no sign of the woman. She whipped her head around and searched through the throng of people clustered about the booths at the very back of the room, in between the two transports, but came up with nothing. The woman had disappeared.
"Kuso!" she hissed, barely resisting the urge to smack herself on the head.
Now what should she do? The strange woman was undoubtedly the informant. Given that she was so desperate to speak to Sango that she'd dragged her all the way over to this bloody building halfway across the city, it would follow that she wasn't purposely trying to knock Sango off her trail. Perhaps she wanted to direct Sango to somewhere more private, where they could converse more freely. But why? Were they being watched?
"Fabulous," she muttered under her breath.
Of course they were being watched! Naraku had agents everywhere; she wasn't so naïve as to believe that he wasn't suspicious of her movements. She'd done her damnedest to avoid his henchmen as best as she could, given that she hadn't parted with Naraku under the best of terms, but she always lived in fear that somewhere, he was watching her, smiling to himself over her antics.
No, no, no! You will not think about Naraku! Focus, Sango!
Heaving a deep breath, she willed herself to calm down.
Now, if you were the informant, where would you go to avoid detection from those that could be watching?
The answer hit her with enough force that she wished to bang her head into the wall in punishment for her stupidity.
The bathroom. Of course. And if memory served, there should be one down the hall to the right of the transport tube twenty yards in front of her.
Her heart thudding heavily in her chest, Sango made a beeline for the transport, trying to appear as normal as possible. She veered to the right a few yards from the transport tube and entered the long hall that boasted several cute boutiques that charged more for a purse than she paid in an entire month for groceries. She walked casually, pretending to window shop at all the stores she passed by.
Where was the bloody bathroom? She'd walked more than halfway down the corridor without seeing a single sign of it yet. Perhaps it was lodged between the boutique just ahead on the right side and the small café just past it.
Her intuition proved correct: between the two enterprises was a small alcove boasting a large potted palm tree--Sango couldn't help raising her eyebrows at the sight--and two doors adjacent to each other, sporting the familiar gender-based symbols.
She'd better be there, Sango told herself as she lackadaisically pushed open the door to the women's restroom.
The door opened up into a formally outfitted lounge area with plush armchairs, large mirrors and fancy marble countertops. The room was empty.
Sango's eyebrows shot up in a mixture of derision and surprise.
Is this extra room really necessary for the ladies to powder their faces between shopping excursions? she wondered.
To the left was another door, presumably leading to the toilet stalls and sinks. Sango felt her stomach do a back-flip as she pushed the door open. It swung inward to reveal... an empty bathroom.
Sango's jaw dropped in despair.
"Kuso, kuso, kuso!" she cursed, this time following through on her urge to beat herself senseless with her fist.
And she'd been so sure that the informant would come here, too...
"Great, just great," she sighed as she glanced at her watch.
Well, she'd lost her. Just what she needed to make an already bad day ten times worse. Her only option was to go back out to the festival and hope that the woman hadn't left yet, and was still looking around for her.
Heaving a huge sigh, Sango pulled the door to the lounge open.
And froze in her tracks. Before her was the woman she'd lost standing mere feet away, carefully applying her make-up in front of one of the mirrors.
What... what the hell is going on here?!
The woman obviously knew Sango was there, for without shifting her gaze from the mirror in front of her, she raised a hand, indicating for Sango to join her.
Haltingly, Sango made her way to the informant.
Less than a foot away from her now, Sango was surprised to see that the woman was much younger than she had originally thought, much closer in age to Sango herself.
"Pull out your compact," the woman said, her voice low and husky.
"Nani?" Sango stared at her like she'd just sprouted horns on her head.
Reaching for her lipstick, which was a dusky red color, the woman replied quietly, "You heard me."
Eyebrows raised higher than she had previously believed humanly possible, Sango complied. She dug through her hip pouch and pulled out the small round plastic container. Setting it on the counter next to the informant's, she hesitated a moment before popping it open. Her eyes met the dark brown eyes of the woman's in the mirror.
"So, you are here about Higurashi Kagome?" It was not a question.
"Hai," Sango reached for her eyeshadow brush. She rubbed it against the deep rose color she favored.
"Who are you?"
The informant's lips curved in a slight smile, and she raised the lipstick to her lips.
Sango had just about given up on receiving an answer and started the tedious task of applying eyeshadow when the woman spoke.
"Ah," Somehow, Sango couldn't bring herself to say 'nice to meet you.'
Kikyo didn't seem to mind. Taking Sango's silence as a cue, she continued, "You have been assigned to dispatch the girl tonight, is that not correct?"
Sango nodded imperceptibly.
You already knew that, Kikyo. I know you did. What are you leading up to?
She applied more eyeshadow on her brush.
"The girl is an innocent, caught up in a maelstrom way beyond her comprehension."
Sango closed her naked eyelid and began to lightly stroke the brush across it.
"Naraku became interested in her only recently. He has been delving into old texts, in search of power and information."
Sango nodded. This matched her experience of half a year ago.
"He believes her to be the key to one of the most powerful forces known to man."
Sango's hand halted in midair.
"What?" she glanced out of the corner of her eye at Kikyo, uncertain whether she heard her clearly. "What could that be?"
Kikyo put down her lipstick and reached for her blusher. "That is irrelevant."
Sango returned her eyeshadow brush to the compact and stared at her in stupefaction. "Do you seriously expect me to leave it at that?"
Kikyo didn't return her gaze. "I do not have to tell you any of this, you realize. I suggest you refrain from further questions if you want to hear any more."
Inwardly fuming, Sango glared down at her compact.
A moment later, Kikyo continued, "Naraku is not the only one aware of Higurashi's worth. There are others, many others, who seek her as well."
She turned and looked directly at Sango for the first time since the strange meeting began. "Like Naraku, they have power, and are intent on increasing that power. The girl is the gateway to obtaining their goals." She looked at Sango expectantly.
"And what do you expect me to do about it?" Sango spat, her frustration boiling over her internal reserve.
Kikyo merely raised an eyebrow, "That is up to you to decide."
Sango could feel rage begin to seethe through her veins. "Then why tell me any of this? Why involve me?"
Kikyo's smile was so cold that Sango felt positively chilled by it. "Because, Taijiya, you are already involved. You have been since the day your father died."
Sango stiffened at the mention of her past. How did this Kikyo know so much about her? About Naraku, even?
"Do you work for Naraku?"
Kikyo returned her attention to the mirror. Lightly dusting her cheeks with the blusher, she replied in an almost bored tone, "I work for no one. Like you, I have a score to settle." She frowned into the mirror, betraying an emotion beyond condescension for the first time.
Sango frowned suspiciously at Kikyo's words. Who was this woman, anyway, that she should know Naraku's plans so intimately, given that she even spoke the truth?
An awkward silence stretched between the two women.
Struggling to keep her irritation at bay, Sango demanded, "Why should I believe you? How do you know all this?"
Kikyo turned to stare at her pensively, her face betraying no emotion, like a mechanical doll. Sango felt her discomfort increase tenfold.
"Like so many others in this city, I have my methods of obtaining information. It is not courteous to ask one in the business about their informants, as you well know."
Sango scowled, and averted her eyes. Damn that cold-hearted woman, she was right. Sango would never question anyone about their methods any more than she expected someone to question her. It was just not done-at least, not among the top professionals, of which she supposed she could count herself a member.
Returning her gaze to Kikyo's, Sango asked, "If you have a score to settle with Naraku, why not take the girl yourself?"
A slight smile crossed Kikyo's lips. "I do not work in such direct ways as you or several other associates I know of. But I will tell you this: if you choose not to dispatch the girl tonight, you must remove her from her home. Others seek her tonight as well: some to use her as leverage against Naraku, some for personal gain. If I were you, I would force Naraku to bargain with me for possession of the girl," her dark eyes bore into Sango's. "Especially if I ever wanted a prayer of seeing my brother again."
Sango couldn't hold back the gasp that escaped from her lips. "How do you know about that? Who are you?"
But Kikyo was no longer paying attention to her. Gathering up her compact and lipstick, she deposited them in a small rectangular purse.
Sango clenched her hands into fists. "Answer me! Who are you? What is your connection to Naraku?"
Kikyo snapped her purse shut and looped it over her right shoulder. "I have already told you more than I should have, perhaps. But now is not the time to think about me. Your assassination is less than seven hours away. What do you plan to do about it?"
With that, she turned and walked out of the lounge, leaving a bewildered Sango staring after her.* * *
A short distance away, the man known simply as the "Furyou Houshi" among his ilk--though some of his more envious colleagues also referred to him as the "Sukebe Bouzu" when he wasn't within earshot--, smiled into his computer screen. Things were going to be become very, very interesting. He had to say, he hadn't had this much fun on a mission in a very long time.
"So, the game has begun," he told the smiling face of Higurashi Kagome.
In the great tradition of Sango-sama's fics... I bring you... ************************************OMAKE****************************
Omake basically means "extra"-for those of you who either don't know the word or haven't read any of Sango-sama's fics (bad bad readers! Go and read her stuff right now! All her stories are very well-written and well-plotted, in the style of Takahashi-sensei, and incredibly inspiring for newbies like myself ^_^). So... the omake of the chapter:
Sango frowned suspiciously at Kikyo's words. Who was this woman, anyway, that she should know Naraku's plans so intimately, given that she even spoke the truth?
An awkward silence stretched between the two women.
Struggling to keep her irritation at bay, Sango demanded, "Why should I believe you? How do you know all of this?"
Kikyo stared at her pensively, her face betraying no emotion, like a mechanical doll. Sango felt her discomfort increase tenfold.
Suddenly, she held up a finger and wagged it in Sango's face, her eyes arching up into happy little triangles. "That... is a secret!"
:Sango and the reader facefault to the floor:
(Meanwhile the author takes up a strategic position behind the nearest table, awaiting the barrage of rotten fruit, scuffed shoes--that happened at a Hanson concert once! Damn right!--and kitchen appliances).
Mwah hah hah, guess who's been reading too many Slayers fics recently... That, plus a combination of writer's block (it's taken me a over freakin' week to plunk out this stupid chapter!!!) and a very late bedtime (or perhaps I should say early) have contributed to this spat of madness. Sorry for that, minna-san; I couldn't resist. Too tired to use my better judgment. Ah well... ^_^
And now, the endnotes. The list of Japanese words for this fic is pretty short. I imagine most of you are familiar with the majority of them. Thanks go to Aino-kaachan for giving me the exact dates on the Meiji and Taisho eras. ^_^
Taijiya-"demon huntress" (in this fic, it's Sango's handle as an assassin)
Meiji era-period that saw the official end of the status of the samurai (those of you who have seen Rurouni Kenshin will know what I'm talking about) that lasted from 1868 to 1911.
Taisho era-the period immediately following the Meiji, it was the time when a large number of women feminists began debating the "woman question" in Japan (yay for Japanese history classes! ^_^). Lasted from 1912-1925.
Kami-sama-formal way of saying "oh god(s)" (it uses the -sama honorific)
[Chi]kuso-"shit" (although the American-released subs usually translate it as damn. Stupid American censorship laws).
Ano-basically means "um," "uh," and other such moments of stammering insensibility
Furyou houshi-"regenade Buddhist priest" (at least, I'm pretty sure that Furyou means regenade. Anyone who knows for certain please let me know. Also, "houshi" is technically a lower-ranking Buddhist priest, but that doesn't really apply in this story)
Bouzu-insulting term for a Buddhist monk or priest
Heh heh, did I surprise anyone by making Kikyo the informant instead of Miroku? I have plans for his first "real" appearance, and I think that the majority of you will enjoy what I have in mind. Suffice it to say, the next few chapters are going to be very fun to write. Although I must admit, the most fun scene to write was the exchange between Sango and Kikyo. Hope you guys enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. ^_^
So, on with the next chapter's preview: The hours to midnight are ticking away, and Sango hasn't decided what to do. Who gave her the assassination assignment anyway? How dangerous would it be to ignore it? On the other hand, can Sango afford to let a potential bargaining chip with Naraku escape from her grasp? And what about Kagome herself? How's she going to react to all the coming attempts on her person? When will Inuyasha make his appearance? How about Miroku? And who are the other people coming after Kagome? It's all coming up in the next chapter!
By the way, for anyone who might have noticed, "Kyoudan" means "assassin's plot" (at least according to the online dictionary I found the word in). Because I have far too much time on my hands, I've chosen to amuse myself by picking "creative" last names for the characters. If anyone is absolutely dying to know what they all mean (at least according to the same online dictionary I got the title from), feel free to email me. Otherwise, this evil author is leaving it up to you to look it up yourself!!! By the way, I think the most fun name I've come up with is Miroku's (probably I won't reveal it till chapter 4 though... sorry!). I'm sure you can imagine where that one is going... ^_^
Thanks for reading this fic, minna-san, and PLEASE review! I usually have major problems with writer's block, and if I know that a lot of people want me to churn out the chapters like mad, it really helps me force my way through the stupid writer's block. So please just take a moment of your time to let me know what you think of this effort of mine. By the way, my other fic is by no means abandoned, but since I'm struggling with major plot elements (thanks so much to Aino-kaachan for being a sounding board for my ideas!!! :big bear hug: ^_^), it's on indefinite hold for the moment. I've also got a few Sango and Miroku one-shots floating around in my head, as well as a somewhat amusing cooking fic in answer to Sango-sama's challenge... so you should be hearing from me pretty regularly. ^_^
And last, but not least, the link to the posted song of the chapter on my webpage:
The next chapter will hopefully be coming out next week. Right now I'm taking three history classes, two of which are upper level colloquium courses, so I have like 600 odd pages of reading per week, so I'm afraid I won't be able to update as often as I would like. Thanks for reading, and please review! Reviews tend to inspire this occasionally lazy writer... (HINT HINT WINK WINK NUDGE NUDGE SAY NO MORE SAY NO MORE)