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Falling by Stella Mira

Too Late

“You wish to absolve your contract? That is…most problematic—for you. Kagome…you can’t afford the fine with your current financial situation. Didn’t you read the contract before signing it?”

As always, Miroku is right. Kagome smiles, cynicism on the whiteness of her teeth, on their brilliant sheen, ivory vexation between parted lips. His lips, too, quirk into a wry smile—because he knows her answer before she gives it voice.

“I did…but I had no choice in the matter at the time. Isn’t there anything to be done about the fine? Installments perhaps?”

His smile lessens, straight lines tangent to a curve and somber words. “I wish I could help you out, but I’m afraid I can’t.” Then he asks the questions she is expecting, a frown above black brows. “Why would you wish to quit? You have made a name for yourself, you make good money…soon you’ll be able to pay off your student loan. What happened to make you change your mind?”

Kagome fluctuates between truth and lie, contemplates omission and silence, but she is too weary, has been worn too thin to choose pretense and prevarication.

“Taishō…Sesshōmaru.”

Shame slides across her tongue as that name spills forth, made huskier with remnants of slickness. Miroku siphons the accent of her voice, imbibes the sensuality of it. His eyes flash with recognition—and he knows more than she reveals, hears her screaming that name, feels the perspiration, the contraction of muscles, the scent of arousal meshed into the sound.

“What does he want from you?” Low, with traces of curiosity, and something else, darker, primal knowledge, his voice suggests more than his words.

Kagome laughs then, an insipid sonance, devoid of feminine lures. For the first time, Miroku is wrong, so terribly wrong.   

“He wants me to sleep with one of his potential clients to sweeten the deal, to gain him a profitable contract.”

Bitterness saturates the fleshly parts of her mouth, merges with hot saliva, and she near suffocates at the prospect, but Miroku doesn’t share in her laughter.

“I’d have told you to stay away from that man if I knew beforehand, but it’s too late now.”

Too late indeed… It hangs between them, the perfect guillotine, made of electrum and deliberate moves.

“Kagome…give him what he wants—for your sake.”

She raises her eyes to his level, full of numbness and shock and whys—but then she sees it, that umbra in his eyes, that tightness on his lips.

“You know something.”

It is more statement, less question, emblazoned on the blue of her eyes, athirst for answers she will surely loathe. Miroku’s hesitance, the way his gaze narrows, how the muscles of his jaw tauten, reveals as much. A sigh, half-disdain, half-resignation, deafening in its exhalation, and he is speaking, despite the aversion she sees reflected in the lines of his face.

“There was a girl working here a few years ago. Actually…she resembled you closely in appearance now that I think of it. Her name was Kikyō and she served in the upper floor.”

Kagome doesn’t miss the implications in his chosen tense, yet it is too early to come to conclusions, to suspect things that are simply too horrid to be spoken aloud. Miroku falls silent though, perhaps lost in the labyrinth of reminiscence, and she is forced to vociferate an iota of her suspicion, to make it real, palpable in the thickness of the air between them.

“You speak in past tense.”

He sighs that sigh once more, yet it is heavier, recalcitrant to its nature, as if it is not supposed to be a sigh but something else entirely. Kagome knows Miroku well enough to unravel the connotations spun in the sound—pity, disrelish, and the slightest touch of reprehension.

“I’m not aware of the specifics since I wasn’t her manager, but I do know this. She was involved with a Taishō, I believe his younger half-brother, quite seriously by the look of things at the time. She talked to her manager of breaking her contract and marrying him, saying he would pay the fine, but then—”

Pause, consuming, horripilation crawling across her skin, electrons gorging on her brain.

“She committed suicide.”  

Silver daubs the black of Miroku’s pupils upon utterance, forewarns of overlying events. Kagome is cognizant of what he does not say, half-lidded warning—of iterant past, things that will occur once more if she insists on this madness. Her throat feels unbearably dry, parched for truth, terrified of it, but she needs to know. Like a moth to a flame, she is drawn to the dark and its mysteries, infernal flame licking at her, melting skin and bone until there is nothing left to burn.

“Are you implying he was the cause of it?”

It is no more than a murmur, breathless, but she does not speak his name again—she cannot. Kagome is cogent of how it rolls off her tongue, low, lust-ridden, a sound too callous for this moment, in this context.

“I can’t tell for sure, but I’m certain he wasn’t pleased with her potential addition to his family register. A low class hostess gaining the Taishō name would have made for a pretty big scandal… But a dead hostess? No one would care…no one did—not even that brother.”

There is such disgust in that last sentence, spat in the alleged man’s phantom face. Miroku shakes his head, lights a cigarillo—the scent of wood, of vanilla and sweetened chemicals, inundates the atmosphere, filters through the air she breathes. Shivers slither down the slope of her spine, memory roused, desire rekindled. She traces the ringlets of smoke to their source, and her eyes stroke the contours of Miroku’s lips, longing, yearning for them…even if it is nothing but a poor substitute, a chimera of things she can never have. If Miroku notices, he doesn’t show it, but she knows he does. Brows knitted, she asks what he omits, perhaps more for her sake than for his, if only to extinguish that urge, the insanity roiling inside her veins.

“How could that be? Didn’t he wish to marry her—or was it all wistful thinking on her part?”

Miroku stares at her, long and hard, as if measuring how much to reveal, how much she can withstand. A strange gleam dwells in his eyes, but Kagome cannot distinguish whether it’s pity or recrimination or a mixture of both, only that he knows, that he sees too much. He takes another drag of his cigarillo, slow, titillating, an old-time tease, then he speaks.

“If I had to take a guess of what happened, I’d say he seduced her away from his brother then discarded her as if she was nothing. No Taishō has stepped foot in Le Roi Soleil since then…not until now.”

Realization weaves its tendrils around her mind, circulates in her bloodstream, chills as much as it scalds—but Miroku is far from done. Lips thinned, his stare pierces through layers of self-denial, takes her captive in bonds of cold-sharp-amethyst. You will listen, and you will listen well is what he says, and she does listen, but merely that, they are both aware.

“That man, Taishō Sesshōmaru, is dangerous. I’ve heard things, but nothing concrete, merely rumors. I know about Kikyō because I worked here at the time, though I can only speculate. Do you understand what this means?”

Kagome swallows thickly. Her throat hollows, filled with air she can neither absorb nor release. Miroku is a clever man, has worked in this profession for over a decade. If even he can only make assumptions at the course of events then—

“His methods are…subtle but effective. And final. He doesn’t get his hands dirty because he doesn’t have to resort to such. That man can ruin people to the point where they wish for death.”

His voice is soft but harsh, the softest and harshest tones she has ever heard from Miroku. That last word—death—grazes against the base of her neck, a sharp-bladed eidolon, the presage of end. Kagome cannot tell when he moves but he is close, much closer than a few minutes ago. Fingers smooth over her cheekbone, across her jawline, languid caresses. That decadent aroma slathers on her skin, drags over the curve of her mouth with each word he speaks.

“Give him what he asks. Once you satisfy his demands, he’ll sever all relations. I doubt he will bother you again afterwards. He’s the type of person who has no need for things that aren’t of use to him.”

Lips and teeth and the barest lick of tongue—he kisses her.

~~~~~

Skye’s Weekly Challenge: History

 

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