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Falling by Stella Mira

Dead Man

He steps beside her when Ogawa Kōga leaves the room, threads of tension coiling tighter, precipitant astriction. There is a touch of wildness in his profile, a predator’s anticipation as he waits for his prey, feral instincts in that gleam of gold in his eyes. Kagome watches the beat of his pulse on the hollow of his neck, imagines his jaws falling open as he scents his prey, as he relishes the taste of weakness and victory—and finally she sees it. The Prey. Kimura Natsuo.  

“Congratulations on securing the Flint contract, Taishō. I don’t know how you did it, but you must have pulled some strings to make it happen. We had all tried our hand in the past, but Flint had never shown any interest.”

Everything is addressed to him as if she is nothing more than a puppeteer’s doll—Kimura’s words, his gaze, his discontent. Kagome has never witnessed a person being so oblivious to another’s presence as Kimura is to hers, so glaringly obvious that she comes to pity him. For the prey to willingly approach the hunter…Kimura Natsuo is either weaker than she is or inanely desperate. It intrigues her more than it should, but she cannot deny the implications. Kimura is warier of her than he is of Taishō Sesshōmaru—and the Hunter knows it.

“Are you curious to know?”

Kagome shivers lightly but remains in place. The way he voices this is chilling with the last frost of winter, full of animal voracity, the first hunt of the dragon after a long slumber. Kimura’s smile is strained, his eyes glassy with images conjured—rows of hot-crossed fangs mere inches from his face, dripping saliva and hunger.

“I doubt you’ll tell me, so let’s leave it at that.”

His teeth are grazing the brittle flesh, teasing in the way of carnivores. She can trace the serous lines on Kimura’s scalp, cheeks, neck—a mélange of blood and ripped skin and bodily fluids. That tension mounts, reaches its zenith, and Kagome fathoms that his next line will be the first true bite. It is as swift as it is deadly.

“Give my regards to your daughter.”

Silence. Blood. Fear. Kimura’s eyes shift to her. It lasts no longer than one flap of hummingbird wings. It makes no sense—

“She told me you declined her invitation for dinner. Something to do with a full schedule this month?”

Kimura’s voice is pleasant but too casual, hints of fatherly concern, drowned under the ambition of man. She buries confusion in a tomb for irony then, to be exhumed later in privacy. Laughter bubbles in her throat, stale amusement. Kimura’s daughter is as much of a puppeteer’s doll as she is, but unlike Kagome, she has the privilege of her station, cannot be ignored in her ignorance. The juxtaposition is, indeed, laughable.

“Yes. If you doubt me, feel free to ask my assistant for a copy of my schedule.”

The dragon rears its scaly head again, snout bathed in warm blood, unsated. More. She hears the beastly roar, clamoring for more, perforating her eardrums. Kimura is a dead man, eaten alive, limb after limb, and she—she is the bait that lured him to his demise. The why or how or when is a mystery, hidden under the talons of the dragon, until he decides to tear into her flesh as well, to pour the secrets into the wounds with the first slash.

“That won’t be necessary.”

Sweat streaks down Kimura’s temples as he fidgets under the slit-gazed threat. But it is too late. The Hunt has begun and it will not end until he is nothing but a mass of gaping flesh and blood on the ground, into the dragon’s belly.

“I would not mind indulging your daughter at another time, though. Tell her to contact my assistant and choose a suitable date.”

Kagome stiffens as that baleful gleam licks her for the merest of moments, smears Kimura’s sufferance upon her skin, digs up an iota of her confusion. What is his endgame?

“Of course. She will be happy to hear this. If you’ll excuse me then.”

Kimura flees the gold-scaled menace then—but she is not as fortunate. His voice cuts across her cheekbone, smelted blood and heat, coalesces with that ball of pressure nesting low in her stomach.

“When Kimura’s daughter calls, make arrangements only for dinner, no matter her demands.”

 “Yes, Director.” Laconic, devoid of hue, all saturation of emotion. It will not do to show fear. Kimura is dead because he has given in to fear.

“Did you study the profiles of the Board members’ families as well?”

Kagome can tell he already knows her answer, yet it is not displeasure that curls the corners of his lips—a dragon smile, delectation above a gnashing of teeth.

“No, Director. I apologize for my negligence.”

“See to it that you do.”

Nothing more, nothing less. She fathoms an angle of the endgame then. The why and how and when are in the task he assigns her beyond doubt of certainty.

~~~~~

“I’m sorry for not calling sooner, but I’ve been quite busy, mom.”

It has been quite a long time since she has heard her mother’s voice that Kagome can’t even tell if she misses her now. Distance weakens all bonds over time, but closeness revives them in less than mere seconds. She needs to see her mother, to feel that bond, recall that there is a world outside the dragon’s lair.

“I’ll tell you all about my new job on Sunday. I’ll come pick you up at the train station. Love you, mom.”

She hangs up, light tingles on her fingertips, pure elation. It lasts for a while, this warm feeling, until she opens the file with Kimura Natsuo’s family information. Her eyes cannot see words, her mind can only process features, bone structure, black hair and blue eyes.

Another her.

“Kimura…Akiko.”

~~~~~

Skye’s Weekly Challenge: Victorious

 

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