Inuyasha looked up uninterestedly as a beautiful woman entered his tent. She was plucked, powdered, perfumed and prepared to perfection. She gave him a demure smile as she pulled the tent flap shut behind her, then knelt gracefully in front of him, waiting for him to speak.
"So listen," he said, crossing his arms. "I could not possibly care less about this or you. Please do us both a favor and shut the hell up until the bell rings and I'm rid of you. That'd be great."
The woman's smile did not falter, but it got considerably more strained. "Excuse me?" she said meekly. "Is this a test?"
"Nope! Not a test. Shut up."
Inuyasha unfolded his arms and leaned forward, narrowing his eyes. "Were you raised to talk back?"
The woman blushed, looked down, and shook her head forlornly.
"Great!" he said, leaning back again. "Shut the hell up." The next several minutes passed in awkward silence, broken only occasionally by the sniffling the girl was clearly trying to suppress. Right before the end of the hour, Inuyasha passed her a handkerchief, then immediately regretted it because of the hope and excitement that sprang into her eyes.
"Just wipe it up for the other men and get the hell out!" he shouted. This could not be over quickly enough. She hastily dabbed her eyes and passed the cloth back, rising as the bell chimed.
Inuyasha rubbed his temples and closed his eyes. He heard the tent flap rustle once as one girl left, then all too soon again as another one entered. He didn't even want to look up.
"So listen," he said, still rubbing his temples. "I could not possibly care less about this or you..."
"Really!?" Inuyasha opened his eyes, startled by the excitement in this new girl's voice. He saw her blushing and clapping her hand over her mouth. She was beautiful, like the rest, but there was something not quite polished about her. She was clearly shy about her outburst, but it didn't take long before she mumbled behind her hand, "Did you really mean that?"
"Yes. This is a stupid way to find a wife. I don't even want a wife."
"That's great! I don't want a husband. Do you mind if I take this off for a second, then? It's killing me." Inuyasha watched in astonishment as the woman removed her ornate hairdo from her head. Her real hair cascaded around her shoulders softly.
"I didn't even know those were fake..." Inuyasha gaped.
"Made by the finest craftsmen! Can you imagine spending your life arranging fake hair so that stuck-up girls can trick a man into marrying them for their braid potential? And they are not cheap. Worse, they are hot, heavy, and very uncomfortable. Wanna try?"
"I'll pass, but thanks."
"I don't blame you," she smiled, casually kicking off her shoes as well. Then she leaned back on her arms and sighed. "Oh, that's so much better."
"Are the other girls this... normal?"
"Nope. They act like that even when no one is watching. They probably even go to the bathroom with perfect posture."
Inuyasha laughed in spite of himself.
"What's your name?" he asked. It was the first time that day he had bothered.
"Kagome," she answered. "And you are Inuyasha of the Western lands, prize of this festival. The girls must be terribly disappointed that you don't actually care about it."
"Yeah, they cry a lot..." Inuyasha responded guiltily.
"So why are you here? You like breaking hearts?"
"No! My parents said they'd get me a new sword if I sat through the whole thing."
"What about you?"
"My parents bribed me, too."
"Freedom. I don't just have to sit through the festival, though. I have to get a guy to request me when it's done, and then go through the whole trial period. If he still wants to marry me when that's over, then my parents will acknowledge that I'm capable of getting a guy on my own and they'll stop arranging matches for me that I'm forced to ruin."
"You ruin your matches? How?"
"You know. Humiliating the men I'm matched with?"
"What do you do to them?"
"I challenge them to an archery contest and beat them soundly. Then they leave in shame. It's really costing my parents a lot of powerful friends. But that's what they get for making me marry ancient or hairy or misogynistic men."
"Wow." Inuyasha was impressed.
"Yeah. But that's a lot easier to do than this. Since I'm actually trying to attract these guys I have to act all prim and proper like I'm supposed to now. It's horrible."
"I'll bet. Is it working, though?"
Kagome shrugged. "We'll see at the ceremony. But if the leering is any indication, I would say yes."
For some reason, picturing men leering at Kagome bothered Inuyasha. She shouldn't have to be here...
"Wait, what are you doing?" he asked.
"I'm putting the headdress back on. It's almost time."
"Already?" The other sessions had passed so much more slowly.
"Yeah. Could you help me with this? I have to look presentable, you know."
Inuyasha obligingly leaned forward and smoothed Kagome's hair back into her wig. It was soft and silky. "There," he said finally. "You look perfect."
She smiled and winked, then rose as the bell chimed. "Goodbye, Inuyasha," she said. "And good luck." The tent flap closed, making the tent feel suddenly empty.
Moments later another girl entered, smiled and knelt before him.
"Hey," he said. "I'm Inuyasha. Tell me about yourself. What are your hobbies?"
"I love brushing my hair, getting my make-up done, smiling for crowds..."
"Nevermind. Shut up."
"Just shut up."
"There's... nothing else you want to ask me?"
"Nope. Wait, yes. ...is your hair real?"
A/N: So I'm accidentally writing multiple stories at one time now. The one with the most reviews next time I'm in the mood to write will get another chapter published, so if you want this one, then you'd better say so. :)