Fantastic Feudal Fusion by ladybattousai

The Bond Beyond Love

The Bond Beyond Love

Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love. – Jane Austen



For centuries, China was a great nation.  Built on the riches of the Silk Road along with its own resources and culture, it thrived with unimaginable prosperity and hubris to match.  But not all good fortune lasts forever, and eventually its success became its downfall.  As the West’s nautical prowess grew, the Silk Road turned to dust, and after the 1600s, a new threat emerged to wrack the land, massive overpopulation.  Wood, food and water dried up, and when the winters and famines set in, millions perished.  China faded to a shadow of its former greatness, and when it was at its weakest, the Western imperialists descended, starting the first Opium War.  Victory was swift, and after three years, the Treaty of Nanjing was signed, giving the British control over numerous ports, including Shanghai.


Shanghai, China


The first year after the Opium War

Leaning against the frame of an open window, a young woman waited.  She was dressed in a long robe and her hair was bound up in tight loops by hairpins that looked expensive, but felt cheap.  Her beautiful face was painted white, and her lips were soft like pink peonies in the spring.  Outlined in black, her gray eyes fell to a piece of paper in her hand.  She read over the writing again, reaffirming what she had already committed to memory.  But she couldn’t afford a mistake.  Not now.  Not ever.  And when she reached the end, she rubbed her thumb over the seal, a black blossom with half its petals missing.  Then, she tore the paper to shreds piece by piece and fed it down the glass chimney of her kerosene lamp.   The bits curled and blackened as the flame quickly devoured them.

Behind her, the battered door to her small, plain room opened and a bony girl with a gaunt face peeked in.  “Bai!” she called out sharply. 

The young woman looked to the side as she eyed her guest.

“Why are you still here?!  Mei is waiting for you.  She has to do your hair and make-up before the show…” the girl rattled on before her voice died away.  “Wait, your hair and make-up are already done?”

She nodded.

“Oh,” she said, puffing her cheeks as she sighed.  “Mei’s been spending too much time in the dens.  Your geisha fan dance is next, so head down as soon as you can, yes?”

She nodded again.

The door slid shut, leaving the woman alone once more, or so it seemed.  She shrugged away her robe, revealing the lovely kimono she wore underneath whose ornate pattern hid its stains and hard years well.  To the side of the room, there was a small closet and she opened the door.  Laid comfortably on her side, there was another woman tied up on its floor.  She was unconscious and her legs and hands were bound behind her.  In her mouth, there was a gag to keep her quiet should she wake up too soon.

“So it’s Bai and not Aiko?” the young woman whispered to the sleeping one.  “That’s hardly Japanese.  But I hope you sleep well tonight, because for you, tomorrow will be a very long day.”

She shut the closet door and walked over to the window to have one last look.  A glowing sea of orange lights, the sprawling city spread out before her.  Littered with dilapidated hovels, garbage-choked streets and its desperate people, the bustling port never slept.  Instead its chaos churned like waves.  Escaping would be an easy task.  All she had to do was leap down and melt away into its currents.

But, the young woman scoffed at the thought.  As if she would.  Instead, her cool expression lifted and she smirked.  This is what she lived for, and if the worst happened, it would be what she died for.

She headed for the room’s door, and as she took its shallow handle, she breathed deep and slid it open.  The hallway was narrow and dingy along its edges, and its walls and ceiling were thick with soot.  She could see the stairwell to the left and she followed it down from the third floor to the first.  Women and men rushed and staggered past her.  She could smell the alcohol on their breath and the musty scent of sex on their bodies.  It wasn’t the first time she’d smelled it either.  A few days earlier, she had snuck into the brothel for the first time, pretending to be a maid while she memorized the floor plan and learned about the girls.

When she reached the bottom, two older women descended upon her.  They each took an arm, squeezing it hard like angry mothers carting off their unruly child.

“Bai, you lazy girl,” they snapped and hissed.  “Your dance will begin at any moment.  Where have you been?”  One tugged at her kimono in disgust.  “What is this?  Did one of our customers give this to you?  The men don’t pay to see refinement.  They pay to see skin.  You might look like a geisha, but you’re a whore.  Remember that!”

She nodded and lowered her head shamefully, hoping to appease them.

They growled under their breath, seemingly satisfied, even though their grip stayed just as tight.

Women in various states of undress slipped past them, and ahead, the young woman could see that the tall stage curtain was already drawn.  Out on the stage, there was another girl.  Dressed in what was left of a British naval uniform, she was stripped down to her last article clothing, an oversized men’s button down shirt.   An energetic flute solo fluttered behind her, rapidly building up to a climax as it outplayed the din of glasses and chattering from the audience. Then the shirt was gone, and hoots and cheers erupted as the men clapped.  The curtain shut, and several stagehands rushed out, picking up the discarded clothes and ushering the naked girl off stage.

The older women pushed the young woman forward and prodded her onto the stage.  “Do a good job, Bai!” they ordered as the stagehands dragged out a new prop, the tacky façade of a cherry blossom tree.  Another stagehand approached her, handing her a pair of crudely painted fans.  “The westerners might not know you from a real Japanese geisha, but they know it when they see a bad dance.  You better do better than last night, or no supper!  Understood?!”

She nodded.

Both women began to leave, but then one of them paused.  Her sharp glare focused on the young woman.  Something wasn’t right.  A normally hunched and clumsy girl, Bai seemed rather tall and poised today.  She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but something was definitely amiss.

The young woman looked away surreptitiously, avoiding her stare.

“The show’s about to begin, Ling!” the other called out.  “Let’s go unless you plan on stripping too.”

Ling growled and walked off the stage.  She might be imagining things, but she would get to the bottom of this when the dance was done.

Alone on the stage but for the flautist behind her, the young woman took her pose and waited.  Her heart beat at an easy pace and her nerves were mellow.  Like always, she felt fearless. 

“For our next act, we have an extremely rare import from the mysterious land of Japan,” an announcer spoke up, his English thickly accented.  “Never has a woman such a this fine beauty been allowed to be seen by foreigners, for she is Aiko, a geisha.”  He paused, allowing his audience to murmur with curiosity.  “You honorable gentlemen will be the first.  And if her elegance and loveliness suits your fancy, one of you may have the honor of being invited back to meet her.  Enjoy.”

And with a sudden swell of light, the curtains flew open, revealing a crowded room packed with hungry, lewd men sitting around ramshackle tables laden with glasses of liquor.  A field of pale faces, there was hardly a Chinese man among them.

The flautist started to play a slow and delicate tune, and she began to move.  Grace followed her every motion as she beckoned her audience’s attention with gracious sweeps of her small hands.  Intrigued, their voices slowly died down as they watched her float across the stage, her tiny, elegant steps masked by her long kimono.  Her hips swayed and her hands followed, always demure.  Soon there was silence in the crowd.  The men watched entranced by the young woman who reminded them of a beautiful butterfly emerging from its cocoon. 

And when she was warmed up, she took flight.  Her fans flitted open, and gasps arose from the audience.  Opening and shutting, her fans fluttered and flowed through the air in perfect unison as her dance took on a more fervent pitch.  The flute followed, its flowery song matching her rhythm effortlessly.  Then every motion, every pulse moved to a frantic pace until it was a stunning blur of color and grace.  And when she couldn’t hold it any longer, when the music peaked, and when her audience had forgotten to breathe, she stopped their hearts with a spectacular finish.  On a sharp note, the music vanished, and she froze in place as still as a statue.  Her dance was done.

She heard the audience shudder as reality wrenched them back.  And despite her placid expression, satisfaction burned in her eyes.  Among the men, one man’s face mirrored hers, and from his elaborate uniform, she concluded that he had to be the one.  The one she was looking for.  Catching her look, he began to clap, and quickly a heavy round of applause surged from the audience.

The young woman turned and bowed, gracious.

And the curtains swung shut.

Ling stormed out onto the stage, livid.  “Bai!  What was that?!”

The young woman shrugged and lowered her head.

Ling grabbed her by the arm and hauled her off the stage.  “You were supposed to strip, you worthless girl!” she shouted.  “You didn’t take off one scrap!”

“But the men enjoyed it anyway, didn’t they?” the young woman whispered boldly.

Ling swung, and the young woman felt a hot sting on her cheek.

“How dare you defy me?!  There are dozens of girls like you.  Hundreds even.  Wastes of skin that nobody wants.”  She grabbed her by the jaw and yanked her head up.  “And now you refuse to do the only thing a disgusting girl of your station can.  Your family should have killed you as a baby.  You don’t deserve to live.”

The young woman stared back at her, her eyes gleaming with pride and defiance.

Ling’s mouth dropped.  This wasn’t Bai.

A man of a short and sturdy stature strode in.  The young woman recognized him.  He was the owner of the brothel.  “What are you doing to that girl, Ling?” he asked.  “You’ll bruise her.”

“This isn’t Bai, Master Jin,” she said, tightening her grip.  “I’ve never seen this girl before.  She’s an impostor!”

“It doesn’t matter,” he replied.  “Let her go.”

Ling stuttered.  “What do you mean ‘it doesn’t matter’?” 

“I mean that Commander Bennett has requested this girl, Ling.”

“He can’t have her,” she insisted.  “Something isn’t right!  After all, what kind of girl sneaks into a brothel?”

“Well that’s all the better then.  He’s offering five times what any of these girls are worth so long as he can keep her for a few days, and I never had to pay for her to begin with.  If he brings her back, you can beat and starve her however you like, but until then let her go.”

Ling growled and pushed her away, releasing her.

“Come this way, my dear,” Master Jin said genially, waving his hand toward the hidden hallway that led to the front of the brothel.

“You better hope that that westerner never brings you back,” Ling whispered spitefully to the young woman.

The young woman smiled at her and said nothing.  With Master Jin leading the way, she followed him through the hallway and down several steps.  Passing the stage, they wove between the tables.  The rowdy men laughed and drank, their memories of the dance lost in a haze of cheap scotch and bourbon.

After another hallway or two, they reached the door to his office.  He opened it, and inside was the officer she had seen in the audience.

“Commander Bennett, I present you, Aiko, our geisha,” Master Jin said.  “Is she to your liking?”

He looked her up and down, and nodded.  “She’s worth every pound.”


The commander lifted a heavy, jangling bag from his pocket and tossed it to him.

Master Jin caught it and hefted it a few times, pleased with the weight.  “Enjoy her, and if you like, keep her for a week.”

The commander chuckled, liking that prospect, and then turned to her.  “Shall we?”

The young woman nodded.

He took her arm genteelly, and they were led back to the entrance by a servant who had been waiting in the hall.

Bustling pandemonium pushed in around them as they stepped out into the city.  Parked in front of the brothel was a stately coach drawn by a pair of black horses.  The commander guided her toward it while the driver opened the coach door. 

She stopped.  A strange, familiar feeling overwhelmed her.  It was a sensation she hadn’t felt in years.  It felt like… nostalgia.  The young woman looked around.  The street was thick with carts and rickshaws.  On each side, imposing storefronts stretched on in every direction.  Butchered fowl and pigs hung from the market eaves with restless, caged chickens ruffling their feathers just beneath them.  People lurched about or lay in the alleys, succumbing to the opium epidemic that seized the city.  It was Shanghai, and it had never filled her with this kind of warmth.  This was different, an old happiness from a time almost forgotten.

“Is there something wrong?” Bennett asked.  The driver stepped back so that the commander could take her hand.

Shaking her head, she smiled meekly and started up the steps, letting him guide her.  Once she sat down inside, he followed her in, and the driver shut the door.

“Comfortable?” he asked.

The wave of nostalgia passed, and she answered him with a nearly perfect English accent, “Yes.”

He blinked, stunned.  “You can speak English?”

“I can speak it, yes, but I’m far from fluent.”

He looked confused, as if not knowing where to begin.  Though she looked like the wood block art he had of geishas, she was still a whore underneath all that paint, and most of the girls in that profession were hardly educated.  “Were you the daughter of some affluent Chinese family?”

“No, I’m Japanese.  English was one of the languages offered when I attended school as a child, but that was some years ago.”

“Really?” he said doubtfully, but as he watched her face, he could tell that she wasn’t lying.  “You don’t seem that old.”

“I have aged well.”

Bennett snorted.  “So did you learn to dance at this school too?”

“No,” she laughed sweetly.  “I attended another school later that trains girls in the art of being geishas.  We learned to walk and sit with the greatest grace.  We learned to dance, sing and play instruments like the shamisen for our guests’ entertainment, and to serve them tea using the same ancient traditions that have been passed down for generations.”

“A real life geisha.”

She smiled and bowed humbly.

He shook his head, still unable to get past the doubt he harbored.  “A Japanese geisha in a Mainland brothel, I cannot fathom how this could be.  Japan closed its borders two centuries ago.  With the exception of the Dutch, foreigners are loathed, and any who are found within its islands are typically executed with haste.  How would a woman of your purported stature escape such a hostile and bad-tempered society?”  He shook his head again.  “In all my years as a collector of Japanese antiquities, I have never heard of it let alone seen it.”

A flicker of anger lit in her gray eyes.  Western imperialists always had the mind that their society was the most civilized and reasonable, but the destroyed lives that littered the city told another story.  War and drugs seemed more barbaric to her than the reserved distaste the Japanese held for boorish foreigners.  Feeling her anger swelling, she quickly fought to extinguish it with a pleasant laugh.  “It is indeed rare, and in truth, I wasn’t particularly good at the craft.  I was too sensual and liberated; two traits that aren’t fitting for a geisha.  It would be an understatement to say that my teachers were never pleased.”

“So you left Japan?”

“I did, because escaping from Japan is much easier than sneaking into it.  Inevitably, I believe they were happy to see me go.”

“And you became a whore in a rundown brothel in Shanghai.”

“Not everyone is fortunate enough to choose their fate,” she said shrewdly.  “But if I live my life with regret then I’m wasting what life I have yet to live.”

He scoffed, but said no more.  Though he wasn’t willing to concede to her openly, he did agree that she was right.  And he was further impressed by the fact that she was able to find purpose in the most dismal of places.  It was a pity that she really was nothing more than a whore now and deserved no more respect than what the best escorts received.

They rode on in silence as their coach wove through the downtown streets toward the harbor.  Soon their way cleared up and they picked up speed.  Then the quick rhythm of the horses’ clopping hooves slowed to a stop as they came upon a heavy, cast iron gate.  To the side there was a small guardhouse, and a man in a naval uniform stepped out.  He asked the driver a few questions, inspected the coach, and then held his kerosene lamp up to the window to check inside.

Commander Bennett nodded to him.

All seemed well, and the guard turned back toward the gate and called out.

Rattling and whining, the gate slid down its track and the coach passed through, entering a massive, cement courtyard.  The young woman looked out her window.  The summer night was bright and clear, and she could see several big warehouses, undoubtedly filled with goods that were ready to be shipped out west.  A tall, concrete wall ran around the perimeter of the yard. ‘Three and a half meters tall,’ she judged.  ‘And if they were anything like the Spanish, it was topped with broken glass.’  Then she noticed a spot of light down it.  There was a guard with a dog on patrol.  After that, she spotted two more.  ‘Three patrols at least and probably no more than ten.  Nothing she couldn’t handle.  Dogs always liked her.’

Bennett saw her interest.  “Impressive, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is.  The British have every right to be proud.  The might of Her Majesty’s trading companies is unmatched.”

He grinned.  His ego was pleased.  “If that amazes you, then you haven’t seen anything yet.”

The coach pulled around to the front of a dignified looking building.  On either side of it were two long barracks that housed the soldiers and officers in between voyages.  The driver leapt down and opened the door.  The commander slipped out and turned to take the young woman’s hand.  The wave of nostalgia came back again.

“Are you ill?” Bennett asked when she stopped halfway down the coach’s steps looking perplexed.

“No,” she replied.  “I just feel like there’s something familiar, but I can’t quite place it.”

“Perhaps it’s been too long since you were last in the company of a real gentleman.”

She laughed, keeping her cynicism in check.  “Perhaps.  It’s a rare treat.”  She stepped onto the ground and he offered his arm for her to take.  With a sweet smile, she took it, and he escorted her up a flight of stairs and into the building.  Once they were inside, the familiarity vanished.  She couldn’t figure out what was triggering it.  It just didn’t make any sense.

Together, they walked through the lobby.  From the marble floor to the brilliant chandelier hanging from the ceiling, it oozed with opulence.  There were several officers at work, either guarding or doing paperwork.  When she and the commander passed, they always stopped and saluted, and he returned the gesture.  Soon they diverted down a hall and up three flights of stairs.  And despite the tightness of her kimono and her small steps, she kept up with him effortlessly, further waylaying the doubt he had had earlier.  She truly was something he hadn’t ever seen before.  What a prize she would be to keep.

They came to the last corridor and a set of mahogany, double doors.  He turned the handle and let her in.  Inside was a gorgeous office.  Beautiful oriental rugs were strewn across the wooden floor.  Tall bookcases lined the walls, and above them were the mounted heads of exotic animals from across the globe.  By the window was a large desk with a marble top.

“It’s quite magnificent,” she said as she started to walk around the room.  “I feel unimaginably privileged just to be here.”

“You should,” he said, and he approached her.  His mind was made up.  He wanted her.  “And for as long as you please me, you can stay here.”

“What about Master Jin and the brothel?”

“I told you.  I collect Japanese antiquities, and I don’t have a geisha, at least not until now.  I’ve more than paid this Master Jin what you’re worth, and if I choose it, you can belong to me now.”


“Forever.”  The commander leaned in and kissed her on her pink lips.  She tasted like honey, and he took her hand and guided her toward the back of his office and through another door.  Complete with expensive dressers and a plush, big bed in the center, it was his bedroom.  He kissed her again, and she matched his growing enthusiasm.  Even more excited now, he pressed her back toward his bed until she fell on top of it.  Then he was on her, kissing her face and neck and smearing her makeup.  The young woman welcomed him, sighing and giggling as his hands wandered.

“How does this come off?” he asked as he tugged impatiently at the obi sash tied around her ribs.

“Reach around and undo the bow at my back,” she said.

Bennett growled and felt around underneath her, oblivious to where her hands were going.  He was so distracted in fact, that he didn’t even notice the sharp prick in his neck.  A strange warming sensation spread throughout him and he started to feel drowsy.  He struggled to keep his eyes open and began to teeter.  Then with a good push, she shoved him over and he collapsed onto the bed, fast asleep. 

The young woman looked at the hairpin in her hand.  “That should take care of Romeo for the rest of the night,” she said under her breath.  Then she grabbed the lamp on the nightstand and slipped off the bed.  Quietly, she made her way to the washroom.  There she found a pitcher of water, a large, ceramic bowl and a washcloth.  She set to work cleansing her face, removing the thick makeup. 

After she dried her face, she reached behind her back and undid the bow keeping her kimono in place.  She tossed the obi sash on the floor and shrugged off the long dress.  Underneath, she wore a dark, sleeveless dress.  A silk sash was wrapped around her abdomen, keeping the robe-like garment in place while its bottom hem barely reached halfway down her thighs.  There were two long slits on either side of the skirt, one of which revealed a tattoo of a flower blossom missing half of its petals high on the outside of her thigh.  She picked up her discarded kimono and rummaged through its long, hanging sleeves until she pulled out a sandal from each one.  More adept for running than the fancy ones she had worn earlier, she strapped them on.  Then she picked up the lamp and snuck back into the bedroom.

Still in the same position that she had left him, the commander slept heavily.  She silently passed him by and entered his office.  Starting at the impeccably organized desk, she sifted through his ledgers and notes, placing them back exactly how she found them as she searched. 

“It has to be here somewhere,” the young woman whispered, scanning over his bookcases.  Then she smiled.  On a lower shelf, there was a row of leather-bound ledgers she hadn’t seen.  Reading the gold-leaf print on their spines, she found the newest one and took it.  Under the soft glow of the lamp, she opened it.  Inside were lists of merchandise, where they were being stored, what date they were meant to be shipped and what vessel was destined to take them.  Most of the inventory was opium, tea, spices and silk, but under antiquities, she found exactly what she was looking for.  She burned the information into her memory and then shut the book and placed it back on the shelf.

The odd sensation of familiarity returned.  The hairs on the back of her neck rose and she pulled the hidden dagger she had sheathed in her sash.  It was growing stronger, and she took a defensive stance, ready to greet it.  A shadow raced along the wall.  It looked like the driver from the coach.  The strike came unimaginably quick.  It wasn’t human.  Deep instincts inside of her, ones she hadn’t used in years, flared up in a brilliant, pink glow.  She swung her dagger, channeling her energy into it.  And as her knife clashed with his sword, an electric sizzle exploded into a flash of light.  She could see his face; a pair of stripes gracing his cheeks and a crescent moon on his forehead.

“Sesshoumaru?” she blurted out, shocked.

“Kagome,” he replied, certain now of what he had suspected.  But, her priestess energy was much stronger than he remembered, and he stepped back smoothly, abandoning the fight and letting her confusion cover it up.  The light faded to just that of the lamp’s

“You’re still alive?” she asked.

He snorted and sheathed his European-style sword.  “I did not leave Japan to die.  Besides, I could say the same about you.”  He gestured to her skimpy outfit.  “How do you expect to keep your virginity intact when you dress in this fashion?”

Still stunned, she looked down at her clothes.  “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?  I’ve always worn a short skirt.  It never bothered you before.”

The daiyoukai sighed.  “And you play too dangerously.  Your divine powers have no bearing on lascivious, human males.  It would only take one time and all those years of heartbreak will be for nothing.”

“I know what risks I’m taking,” she said icily.  “How could you think I wouldn’t?  I’m not the same child I was three hundred and fifty years ago.  I know what I’m doing.”

“Then what are you doing?  Why are you here?”

“I could ask you the same.  Why are you alive and why are you in league with these westerners?  The British have nothing but contempt for anyone from the Far East.”

He shook his head.  “You wouldn’t understand.  I was a lord, not a peasant.  I cannot honor a land whose rulers prefer to cower and hide while the world shrinks.  I cannot die for them either.  With the British, I’m now an officer.  A low-ranked one, but still an officer.”

“You’re a traitor.”

“Believe what you like, but I will ask you again, what are you doing here?  What are you searching for?”

“I can’t tell you.  I don’t want you to stop me.”

“That isn’t helpful.”  He closed the distance between them in a flash and grabbed her by the wrist.  The dagger clattered onto the floor.  “Why are you here?” he asked again.

Kagome gritted her teeth.  It was strange.  The longer she lived, the more her powers grew and matured, but his it would seem, have diminished more than she imagined.  He wouldn’t be happy with her when he woke up.  She clasped the hand he held her with her free hand and a faint white glow washed over him.  Her sealing spell worked fast, and the daiyoukai let her go as he stumbled back.

“You incorrigible bit…” he managed before collapsing on the floor.

“I’m sorry, Sesshoumaru,” she said and turned him over onto his stomach.  “Too many years have passed and things have changed.  I can’t trust you.”  She pulled a normal hairpin from her hair and pricked his neck.  Then she tossed the one with sleep serum in it on the floor.  Then as she knelt beside him, she took his sword and placed it in his hand so that it looked as if he had come to rescue the commander when she stabbed him with the hairpin. 

Satisfied that he would be safe from being accused of any wrongdoing, she stood up.  A pang of guilt tightened in her chest.  This wasn’t something you did to a friend, especially an old one.  But she didn’t have a choice, right?  She couldn’t take the chance with him.  Not after what had happened in Japan two centuries ago.

Voices echoed in the hallway.  They called for the commander and for another officer, most likely Sesshoumaru.

Kagome growled.  He must have warned them that something was amiss before he went to investigate.  She ran to the window and undid the latch.  The summer breeze was cool against her flush skin.  It was three stories to the concrete below, too far for her to jump.  Instead, she stepped out onto the ledge.  It ran along the side of the building, and she carefully slid sideways down it.  The frame of the next window below her reached the ledge, and she slipped down to it.  She kept this up until she was at the ground floor, and then she leapt down onto the concrete.

Like a bullet, she shot across the courtyard, heading for the nearest corner in the wall.  In the distance, she could hear dogs barking, and the bright lamps the guards carried raced for her.  At a full sprint, she was at the corner in no time, and without losing a step, she jumped up.  Kicking out, her foot connected with the wall, and then with equal speed, she pivoted toward the other side of the corner with her other foot.  Back and forth without losing an ounce of momentum, she made her way up the sheer wall until she reached the top.

Kagome grabbed the top of the wall, and felt a hot sting pulse through her hand.  She winced.  There was broken glass stuck in the mortar.  Ignoring the pain, she swung herself over the wall and landed hard on the other side.  Gritting her teeth to keep from yelling, she stood up and started to limp away.  Behind her, the cacophony of yelling men and barking dogs faded as she disappeared into the night.


In the garden behind a Buddhist temple, the leaves on a tree rustled.  A figure dropped down, landing clumsily on one foot as it tried to spare the other.  Keeping to the shadows, Kagome walked across the beautifully kept grounds.  The air was fragrant with late-blooming jasmine and the light breeze rippled the pond’s dark surface. 

Under the maple tree, there was a small, tool shed.  The lock was flimsy, and she cracked it without much thought.  Miroku’s teachings had served her well over the years.  Rakes, shovels, brooms and other tools were stacked neatly inside.  On a shelf, there was an old oil lamp and a dusty book of matches.  She lit the wick and set the lamp on the ground before she sat down to assess her wounds.  Bandaged around her hand was a strip of cloth she had scavenged during her flight through the city.  She untied it and carefully peeled it away so as not to rip up the clot that sealed her cut.  Reaching into her top, she pulled out a fresh strip and rewrapped the wound to protect it.  Next, she examined her ankle.  It felt swollen and sore, but not broken or worse, sprained.  She had been lucky that a cut palm and a sore ankle were her only injuries.

After climbing back onto her feet, she opened up the shed door and leaned against the frame.  The pale moonlight gave the garden a surreal and inviting look.  It brimmed with a sense of tranquility, something that she sorely needed after her stressful evening.  She felt drained, angry, and most of all, lonely.

“Sesshoumaru,” she whispered, remembering the sound of his name.  It was one that used scare her, and then it slowly changed.  It became one of awe, and then warmth.  Finally, it turned into giddiness and love.  But as she said it now, it only felt like loss, a feeling that hadn’t changed since the last time she said it two centuries ago.

Back then, Japan was in turmoil.  Worldwide trade was booming for the European conquerors, and they rushed around the globe snatching up colonies wherever they could, forcing the indigenous people to adopt their culture, language and religion, Christianity.  Though it already had begun to decline, China was still strong then, so the westerners looked to another nation to assimilate, Japan.

Spanish monks and priests wandered the country, spreading their religion and converting the people who would listen, usually peasants.  The samurai and lords wanted little to do with them and looked at them with suspicion and distaste.  But as the European influence grew stronger, the daimyo stepped in.  Foreigners, with the exception of a few Dutch merchants, were deported and anyone who practiced Christianity within the nation was executed.  Japan sealed its borders and turned its back to the world, and it did it successfully until now.

Kagome still remembered the history lessons from her childhood.  Japan wouldn’t hide forever.  In a few years, the Americans in their black ships would arrive off their coast, and the Japanese would have a choice.  Either sign the unequal treaties, or suffer through a violent war like the Chinese had.  The decision would be easy.  Japan would sign.

There were times that she hated her big mouth, and when the first foreigners were being ousted or killed, she let her pride get the best of her.  She shouldn’t have ever told him.  Keeping the knowledge of the future to herself was the one rule she always kept.  It terrified her to think that she might change what was meant to come.  But she was angry, and he was there like he always was.  What she hadn’t expected was for him to be angrier.

A youkai’s power flowed from the land it occupied, and the more land it held, the more powerful it became.  But as humans grew in numbers and determination, there was less and less room for demons.  Many of them simply disappeared, while others like Sesshoumaru were reduced to shadows of their former glory.  They had a bit of demonic essence and an everlasting existence that let them remember for eternity what it used to be like when they had it all.

So when she told him that Japan intended to close itself off rather than explore and expand its boundaries, it infuriated the daiyoukai.  The world was vast, wild, and ready for the taking.  It only took nerve and ingenuity, traits the westerners held in droves.  His people were supposed to be warriors, not cowards. 

Still a lord by human standards, he went to the daimyo.  Kagome tried to stop him, but he wouldn’t listen.  And when he was granted an audience, he attacked, accusing them of hiding like children.  He said that their fragility and fear were an embarrassment to the nation of Japan.  That true strength was not ignoring the threat, but embracing it and turning it into an advantage. 

He didn’t spare them, and as a result, they didn’t spare him either.  Because of his audacity and traitorous speech, his honor was spoiled.  And there was only one way to restore it, ritual suicide.

Kagome felt her face burning, and she reached up to wipe away the tears welling in her eyes.  When that ruling was handed down, it was the last time she ever saw him.  That is until tonight.

The first streaks of dawn hinted at the eastern horizon.  Kagome picked up the lamp and blew out the flame.  The monks would be up soon if they weren’t already.  There was a bathhouse at the north end of the city and she could scrounge up some food along the way.  She’d make her strike tonight and retrieve what was rightfully hers.  She’d deal with Sesshoumaru another day.


The last red hues of the dying sunset disappeared as the night’s black curtain descended across the sky.  At the roof’s edge of an abandoned fish market, Kagome watched and waited.  Below her was a good-sized shipyard.  It had five long docks, each with a magnificent trade ship moored to it.  The ocean rippled like silk around the vessels, reflecting the golden lamplight that dotted the docks.  To the side closest to the road were three warehouses.  Crossing back and forth between them and one particular ship were the vague silhouettes of dockhands.  With a man at each end, they carried heavy, wooden crates up the ramp onto the vessel and then down into its generous hold.

Soon the last crate was loaded and the dockhands dispersed toward the road, heading down it to their bunkhouses beyond her sight.  A few guards lingered behind, posting themselves at the gate when they weren’t patrolling the yard.  They didn’t seem particularly observant as they lit up their cigarettes and chatted.  They should have been.

With her single braid trailing behind her, Kagome dropped down from the roof and made her way through the alley toward the shipyard.  After crossing the road, she reached the wall and scrambled up to the top where she stopped, keeping herself as flat as possible.   There, she surveyed the yard.  If her timing was right, the last patrol should be returning to the guardhouse at the gate, and when she spotted the guard’s swaying lamp approaching the guardhouse, she grinned.

She slid down the wall and landed in the shipyard.  The instant her feet touched pavement; she raced across the yard, staying out of sight as best she could.  It was amazing what a motivated girl could do with a few hundred years.  When she was fifty-three, she was chosen to attend an exclusive school that trained geishas.  Then at eighty-seven, she was kidnapped by The Hidden Lotus, a clan of ninjas who intended to ransom her, but after she escaped from her restraints and took their leader hostage, they decided to recruit her instead. 

Kagome neared the dock, and as she passed the ship’s bow, a man approached.  He opened his mouth to shout, and she leapt forward, grabbing him by the arm and shoulder.  She flipped him onto the ground, and he hit the dock with a resounding thud.  Then as he lay there moaning, she knocked him out with vicious kick to the abdomen.  It was after four decades of espionage with the ninjas that she was commanded to sneak into an exalted martial arts dojo in order to steal its secrets.  Unfortunately for her, the master was awake at the time.  However to her credit, she ended up not having to steal them after all.  She earned them rightfully fifty years later.

Grabbing the unconscious man by his feet, she dragged him up the ramp and onto the ship.  She stowed him by the railing near the stern away from sight, and then headed down the steps into the cargo hold.  It was black and she felt around for a lamp.  There should be one somewhere.

There was the sound of a match, and the yellow glow of a lamp lit the hold.  Though his hair was black and his familiar facial markings were gone, she recognized him instantly.  It was Sesshoumaru.

Her mouth dropped.  “What are you doing here?”

“You’re not the only detective, Kagome,” he said coolly.  “The commander has a penchant for Japanese antiquities and this vessel is loaded with his entire collection.  Add in the fact that it’s scheduled to depart in the morning, it was a simple deduction.”

She scoffed.

“Now what are you doing here?  What’s so important that you’d risk this precious life of yours for it?”

The spite in his voice was palpable as he finished.  He was such a reserved man that even a modicum of scorn spoke volumes.  For a second time in a day, tears welled in her eyes.  “You’ve never forgiven me, have you?”


“Well, I haven’t forgiven you either!” she blurted out, wiping her tears away with the palms of her hands.  “You went to the daimyo even when I begged you not to.  And then I thought you were dead!” 

“I won’t die for cowards.”

She scoffed again.  “You are, and you will always be a self-righteous bastard.”

He snorted.

“But why did you let me believe that you were dead?  I mean, how could you?  I loved you!”

“And what does your love mean?” he asked.  “You embrace that word so readily with me as you did with Inuyasha, but when it’s time for the sacrifice, you balk.  You hide.  It is as if others are meant to sacrifice, not you.”

“I have sacrificed,” she said vehemently.  “I can’t love you that way, just like I couldn’t love Inuyasha that way.”

“It’s not that you can’t.  You won’t.  Even after three hundred and fifty years, you’re still a selfish, little girl.”

“You’re right, I am selfish.  I want it all.  After the jewel was wished away, I was flung back to my time and everyone I had come to know was gone.  There was nothing.  It wasn’t even as if they had died, because there weren’t even any graves or shrines to mourn them at.  It was as if they had never existed.  And I never let on to anyone how much it tore me apart inside to know this. 

“But somehow, the Bone-Eater’s Well knew, and after three years, it let me go back.  And just like before, it was a one way trip.  I had to give up one family for another.  But this time there was one difference.  Maybe it was a parting gift to ensure my happiness, but the well that transcends time shared with me its fate.  I was immortal, that is until I decided I was ready to stop.  Until I decided I was where I wanted to be and I was with who I wanted to be with the most, because once I have sex, my immortality will be gone.”

“But you never decided,” he said.

She shook her head.  “No, I did.  I made a choice.  I realized that I can’t choose one family over the other.  My mother, my grandfather and my brother are worth the same to me as Sango, Shippou, Miroku, Inuyasha and you.”

“You’re living to see them again.”

“I want to hear my mama’s voice again, and laugh at my grandfather’s crooked smile.  I want to see my little brother grow up to be a man.  And if that means giving up the intimate kind of love that you want… that I want, I will.”

Sesshoumaru was silent.

“I don’t expect you to understand.  Inuyasha didn’t.  We must have visited dozens of shrines in his quest to find another way.  But as much as it hurt, I was happy when he finally moved on.  It wasn’t a fair thing to ask from him.”

“And now you’re here, willing to risk your entire existence for some forgettable, ancient relic.”


Kagome walked toward him before he could reply and reached for his lamp.  He let her have it, and she made her way down the rows looking for the crate number that matched the one from the ledger.  There were stacks and stacks to search through, but when she found it, she sighed heartily in relief.  It was nailed shut for the voyage.

“Would you do the honors?”

He snorted, and dug his fingers under the lip of the lid.  His youki flared, letting his black hair turn to the silver she remembered.  The wood whined as the nails were ripped out.  Then he set the lid on the floor quietly.  The youki dispersed and his hair darkened again.

The crate was filled to the brim with straw and shavings, and Kagome reached in.  She felt something long and smooth and pulled it out.  Sheathed in its filthy saya, it was the Tessaiga.  Setting it aside, she felt around in the box once more until she felt another object.  As she raised it up, the straw and shavings spilled down, revealing Tenseiga.

At a loss, Sesshoumaru stared at the two swords.

“Just because I want to live to see my family in the future again doesn’t mean I don’t cherish my family from the past.  You can’t imagine how proud I was when Miroku and Sango’s children became a samurai household, and that they ended up choosing my last name as their own.  To think that they’re in all likelihood my ancestors is so amazing that I can’t even find the right words to express it.”  She held the Tenseiga up to him.  “And I cherish what these forgettable, ancient relics represent as well, because I did love Inuyasha and I do love you.”

He looked at the sword for a moment.  Like all youki-infused objects, its power faded a long time ago.  When he left Japan, he left his past behind.  He was done with it, but it would seem that it wasn’t done with him.  She cherished the past, no matter how painful and disappointing it was, because the love was there.  It couldn’t be the type that lovers shared, but the bonds were undeniable.  It was a deep, fulfilling friendship that spanned centuries longer than any intimate love could. 

Contentedness flowed through him, a feeling that he hadn’t experienced in years, one that he hadn’t even realized he missed.  Then he graciously took the sword.

Kagome smiled as she watched him turn it over in his hands.  When he finally looked up at her, she asked, “What do we do now?”

“I will not return to Japan.”

“I don’t want to go back either.  At least not for a few decades.  There are some revolutions coming that are best avoided.” 

“I tire of the British and their greed as well.”

“Then where should we go?”

“Any place with land.  If you dream of seeing your family again, I dream of feeling the strength I once wielded.”

“Hmm… we could go to the American West.  I loved Western movies as a kid.”

He raised a brow.

“Or we could go to the Amazon.  Or go on safari in Africa.  I’ve never seen the pyramids in Egypt or seen the extravagant cities in Europe.”  She sighed, her grin widening.  “We have one hundred and fifty years.  We could go anywhere.”

His hand reached to gently cradle her cheek.  “We’ll go everywhere.”

A/N: So this is my first and maybe only entry for Tangerine Dream’s Tournament Challenge.  How this works is that I’m competing head-to-head with another writer (the awesomely talented Priestess Skye) using the prompt at the beginning of this one-shot.  What’s expected is that you as a reader should read both of our stories, and then vote which one you liked best.  All votes should be sent via PM to Tangerine Dream.  Once they’ve been tallied, a winner is declared and that writer can move onto the next round.

Tangerine’s Profile:

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I do hope that everyone enjoyed this rather historical bit of fiction.  I tried to remember details from the World History class I took last fall, so if there are discrepancies… I’m sorry :P


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