Ryuukossei sat in his chamber, lost in thought. He thought the Taishous would be done and over with, once he murdered the family patriarch. But the second generation was coming up faster than he had expected; the sons of the former Prime Minister had formed a formidable alliance with some of the most powerful corporate houses. Money was flowing in for their election campaign. Very soon they would become a contender to his throne. Sighing, he looked out of his window at the busy street.

Though he lived in the nerve centre of the city, Ryuukossei preferred his solitude. The lights in his office were always subdued; thick, tinted glasses adorned the windows; the carpet and plush leather sofas were all designed to muffle the harsh sounds of the city. From that safe haven, he would look for hours with detached amusement at the rats racing for survival. But today, tilting his chair back he closed his eyes.

In his mind's eye he could still see the staged car crash that killed the Minister and his young, second wife so many years ago. His sons were no threat to him then – the elder one was barely six and the younger just an infant. Stupidly, he thought the minister's widow would be crushed by the tragedy and go far, far away from all this mess.

But he was wrong and how. Bit by bit she rebuilt everything that was lost in the tragedy. Money, connections, favours – he couldn't see how she managed it all. And she brought up her sons admirably, making no distinction between her own and her stepson. Now, according to the rumours, she was pushing them into politics – into the power position that their father once held. In spite of his displeasure, Ryuukossei felt a grudging admiration for her. She certainly had the tenacity and the intelligence for politics. Yet she never desired any power for herself. She was a singular woman, that Lady Taishou.

He focussed his turbid eyes on the fish tank upon his desk. As usual the black molly was pecking at the larger fishes, undaunted by their size. It was claiming its own territory, irrespective of the fact that it was one of the smallest in the tank. Ryuukossei lazily dipped a hand and plucked the molly out, putting it into another tank. Immediately an eel slipped out from beneath a rock and ate it up. He let out a satisfied laugh. Small things who clamoured for territory deserved to be wiped out without a trace.

Kagome Higurashi was not nervous by nature. But today she was all jitters. After all, this was the day her boyfriend was taking her for the big meet – his mother and her trusted ally who brought him up like a father. She checked her reflection in the mirror for the hundredth time, a slight frown obscuring her radiant face. Dressed in a cream silk frock, with gloves and stockings to match, her long brown hair hung in modest curls around her waist.

"It's fine Kagome," Mama laughed, "don't worry so much, you are looking every bit the Higurashi heiress."

"Oh Mama, I don't want to look like the Higurashi heiress tonight," Kagome whined, "I want to look modest and classy and conservative…like I'll fit."

"You'll fit just fine," Mama asserted, "the boy wouldn't have been with you unless he thought the two of you had a future together."

Kagome gave her a watery smile. Thank God for the satin gloves that hid her sweaty palms.

It was exactly seven o' clock when Sesshoumaru's Aston Martin rolled into her driveway. He was always spot on time. Kagome gave her mother a squeeze before she flew down the stairs.

The elder Taishou heir was a man of few words, but his eyes could speak volumes. Tonight as he saw Kagome, they shone with appreciation at her understated elegance. He held the door open for her and closed it after her. Then they drove away.

"I hope your mother will like me," as soon as they were on the road, Kagome gave voice to her misgivings.

"Don't worry about it," Sesshoumaru said tersely.

Kagome sighed. Her whole future depended on tonight's meeting.

"What if Myouga-jiisan disapproves?"

"Why should he?"

Kagome couldn't find a suitable reply.

"My brother has come home, by the way," Sesshoumaru informed her.

"Inuyasha?" she had met him only once. She and Sesshoumaru were sitting by the pool when he had come with some papers for him to sign. At that time he was a lanky boy of eighteen. "Wasn't he studying abroad?"

A ghost of a smile appeared on Sesshoumaru's face: "He's done with his PhD. Now Mother wants him to go into politics. He will be the face of our campaign."

"Isn't he too young for that?"

"He's the same age as you," Sesshoumaru reminded her.

"What if he disapproves?" she asked, suddenly panicking.

"Naah, he'd never disapprove my choice," the note of pride was unmistakeable in his normally even voice, "besides, he likes you. He's told me himself."

Kagome leaned back in her seat, slightly reassured. Soon they were driving into the gravel driveway of the Taishou mansion. The old-fashioned gates closed behind them. The guards took their position again. The castle loomed large in front of Kagome, with its thick stone walls and ivy-laced windows. A butler discreetly opened the car doors and ushered her in.

Soon she was following him through a maze of corridors. Sesshoumaru walked silently behind her. Finally the butler came to a halt in front of a big room with a cheerful fire. There were old family portraits hanging from the walls and upon the mantelpiece. The room was decorated with thick curtains and old wooden furniture.

A lady rose from a corner. The light of the fire dazzled on her rippling white hair, the heavy necklace that she was wearing and the many opal rings upon her fingers. Kagome noticed that her eyes were deep amber, just like her son's. She was dressed in an elegant white gown and a boa draped around her shoulders.

When she saw Kagome, she came forward with a warm, welcoming smile.