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Falling by Stella Mira

Dragons Don't Exist

The secretarial buchō is an austere woman, terse in language, sparing in gestures. A stretch of wizened skin and silvery chignon at the nape of her neck, Mura Kaede is the type of woman Kagome wishes to be when time has swept her youth away.

“Here is your company ID, cellphone, and tablet. I took the liberty of transferring all data you will require for the time being, such as profiles of the Board members, the Director’s schedule, lists of our clients and suppliers, copies of contracts, and the like. The secretarial office divided all tasks pertaining to the Director among them up until now, but he requested you be given full responsibility of those tasks. Do not hesitate to ask for assistance from the senior secretaries should you find yourself in a bind. Acclimating will not be easy, I can assure you.”

Kaede smiles at her, her smile untouched by age, and Kagome finds herself smiling back, but she can see the shadow of reluctance dimming the older woman’s smile. As the head of her department, Kaede’s experience is vast, etched on the lines that frame her eyes, and Kagome can infer what hides beneath those lines, within that smile. It is a slice of kindness, a treat of pity, because Kaede will never voice the susurrations that follow Kagome’s steps from the moment she has set foot inside this building—not that she has to. It is painfully obvious for all to see, herself even more, that she is ineligible for the position given to her. A mere entry level employee becoming the Director’s personal assistant? Absurd. She should be tasked with making coffee and copies and other mundane affairs as protocol dictates in such cases—but she is not.

Kagome swallows the sigh twirling under her tongue, accepts her ID and gadgets, then bends her waist in the customary bow.

“Thank you, Kaede-san. I look forward to working with you.”

Her smile is as radiant as the artificial lighting in this office. Kaede inclines her neck, mere courtesy, not a single lock of hair astray. Kagome is well aware that the woman can see right through her smile as well. It is only fair, she reckons.

“Welcome to Taishō Inc., Kagome-san.”

She turns to leave but pauses as she recalls a portion of her cynic thoughts. “May I ask a question, Kaede-san?”

Polite, tight-lipped, Kaede stares at her with mild curiosity. “Yes?”

“How does the Director like his coffee?”

Even as she utters the question, Kagome hears herself chuckling in her head, insipid sound, too dry to even be called that. Kaede is studying her closely when she catches her gaze, but Kagome can’t quite tell whether in resignation or reproach—then the woman chuckles, identical in tones to the sound filling the auditorium of her mind.

“Strong—like everything else.”


Fifty minutes later, Kagome is in the kitchenette attached to her office. Ten minutes later, she is pressing the intercom outside his office. One minute later, she is placing a hot cup of coffee on a coaster atop his desk.

He doesn’t speak, doesn’t move, merely watches her, eagle-eyed, albeit lazy in his scrutiny, as if accustoming himself to this routine. The smell of coffee emanates from the cup, steaming intoxicant, bold aroma—an antithesis to its nature. It is not supposed to whet the senses, to mellow inhibitions, but this blend rouses strange effects, chisels the voice of eschewal. She wants him as much as she shouldn’t. Mistake. The word bounces back and forth between them, slick with danger, until she can no longer discern in whose eyes it dwells, only that it is irrevocably sentient. Desire can be nothing more and nothing less than what it is.

He moves then, yet still he does not speak—fingers coiling around the cup, bringing it to his mouth. There is the barest pause, half-lidded. Kagome waits for the first sip, the first taste, but it never comes, or if he drinks, it lasts no longer than a flutter of wings. He places the cup back on the coaster, intentions laid bare, memory awakened—one slow thrust—and she understands how deep his cruelty lies. Is that what I am to you? She doesn’t need to search for the answer, she already knows. No—below even that. Unlike her, the coffee is, at the very least, strong.

If this is a fairytale…then she has chosen to lie with the Dragon.


Skye’s Weekly Challenge: Fairytale


INUYASHA © Rumiko Takahashi/Shogakukan • Yomiuri TV • Sunrise 2000
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