The wind blew through Kagome’s hair. She clutched the mane of the two-headed dragon beast. Kimiko was sitting behind her, keeping her legs neatly tucked under herself. It was evident that Kimiko was accustomed to their current method of transportation whereas Kagome was trying awkwardly to hold on to her dear life to anything she could get a grasp on. They hadn’t been riding for long when the beast made a sudden jolty sprint into a thick pulp of raincloud. Misty droplets of water gathered on Kagome’s face and hair.
Kagome had to hold back her breath as they dived through masses of mist. It felt like they were swept against air and water in crashing waves one after the other. The cold clung to her skin and the pace they were racing against the wind made the priestess shut her eyes. The sheer force of the air made her eyes sting and water up.
As Kagome tightly held her eyelids closed, she could feel how the air around them grew heavier. It was harder to breath still and the flickering light of the sun dimmed behind her closed eyes. The roar of the wind around them died down and Kagome sensed they had passed through something. A bridge between what was mortal and immortal.
They had entered a realm of another existence.
Once she felt the tight grip around her chest ease, she drew in a much needed deep breath and opened her eyes. The beast's movements had slowed down and what she could see looming in the horizon flabbergasted her.
An overwhelmingly large structure, like a city, made out of clouds, or something resembling of clouds, hovered in mids of nothingness.
The two-headed beast roared and Kimiko firmly tapped the beast to its side.
“You will get your supper in due time, beast.”
The dragonesque creature steadily galloped the rest of the way up to a black iron gate at the edge of the city. The entrance was encased in a heavy, impregnable youki. The young human felt the spirit energy electrize even the fine hair on her arms. It called out to her holy powers, challenging them and fighting for dominance. Many had come there, seeking for victory but stumbled right at the gates. The city was protected by the ancient powers of the youkai, the strongest of their kind. Kagome felt that her mortal presence was not wanted in whatever place they had arrived to.
The gates complained in a deep metallic moan as they were dragged open.
All incoming demons had to enter through the gates since the city was shielded by a strong barrier of youki from above. The barrier breathed age, like it had guarded the city and the dwellers within as long as time had stood. Kagome felt literally in her skin that no amount of holy priestess energy could impale that barrier.
A guard in a complete armory, ready for any brave enough to to force their way in, guided them through the gates. Kimiko was a well respected member in their community, so the guard didn't even give a second glance to her escort who was a human and quite an unusual sight therefor.
Kimiko hopped off the beast and subtly gestured Kagome to get off. When their feed landed on the ground, the guard whistled for another nearby soldier to take the beast in. Kimiko halted the soldier and slightly bowed her head to make a request that went unheard by Kagome. The soldier gave a quick glance at Kagome and then disappeared to a nearby small storage room that was next to the gates. He came back with a black shawl and handed it to Kagome before taking ahold of the reigns on the beast.
“The Lady wants you to cover your face with this.” He said wrapping his hand tighter around the reigns, not explaining anything more.
Kagome tried to see Kimiko's face, but the young demoness had her back turned at her. Not wanting to rouse any alarms at the very start of her visit, she compliantly covered her hair and face with the musky-smelling garment she was given. With nothing but her eyes left visible, the small company set afoot.
Kimiko was escorted to her lodgings by an entourage of four guards; not because she needed the protection, per say, but because of her high status commanded attention. Her homecoming was to be embellished in the eyes of the common bystanders. Kagome walked closely behind Kimiko and observed her surroundings in awe.
They walked past buildings and structures she'd never seen before. The techniques and materials were of something fantastical she had never encountered even in the modern world, also the scale of the buildings and the whole city was grand. A stark contrast to the shabby camp she had stayed at previously mids the youkai. In the mortal realm, they lived like beats, in this demonic realm they seemed to live like gods. Even a beggar in this place would surpass the luxuries human kings had.
Now wherever she laid her eyes upon, the buildings were surrounded by gardens, fountains and temples. Every gate, door, pillar and roof was garnished with detailed engravings and every tree was draped with colorful orizuru. Gold and precious gems plated the exteriors like they were as common a building material as wood and stones were in the human realm.
“Keep up, will you.” Kimiko's buoyant voice commanded from some distance Kagome had failed to notice had grown between them. She had been so taken aback by all her senses that she didn't even realize being left back.
The thing that amazed her even more than the stunning architecture were the city dwellers that past her by. Elegant tall inugamis with pristine white hair clad in finest silks and satins. By their side, tanukis, shigikamis and all sort of demons wearing dazzling armour, wands, beads and masks. Children ran brushing past Kimiko's guard, laughing and howling.
Kagome tucked a rogue hair back and as her fingers were caught in the black mass dangling off her head, she realized she must've looked like a wind-blown mess under her disguise. A no-mark mids warriors and kings, out of place and time. A rouge brought up by the feeling of inferiority tainted her cheeks and she hurried her steps behind Kimiko.
After a relatively short walk, they arrived at yet another gate which surrounded a building Kagome could only describe as a feudal fairytale palace. The building look deceivingly demure in its dull white exterior, in contrast to other buildings they had earlier walked by that were extravagant carmine, deep onyx or even solid, unapologetic rhodium. But Kagome knew that it probably was just a testimony of Sesshoumaru clan's restrained taste on aestethics and display of true wealth that they didn't need to boast with noble metals on their exteriors. Kagome hadn't yet fully realized Kimiko's stature in the inugami community but she was beginning to understand that the Sesshoumaru clan was something to the likes of royalty here.
The elegant-looking hand-crafted metal gates opened, soundlessly, and the guards released Kimiko and Kagome to the reception of a welcoming house staff waiting by the gates. The young women were guided indoors and the guards headed back to their posts.
The house staff consisted of toads, ferrets, tortoises and of things and creatures Kagome could not identify. Everyone bustled about, one shouted something, another was easing Kimiko of her shoes while someone else was barking orders at lesser servants about baths, food and a fireplace. The human had never thought much about it, but she had never seen a servant inu youkai. All the busymen, servants, vendors, messengers and whatnot were always demons of different breeds other than inu. She loosened the shawl on her head. A sudden understanding dawned on her that the snootiness always exhibited by Sesshoumaru and the other inu youkai she had encountered had a strange basis in a twisted truth. It seemed that inu youkai were truly regarded as some sort of superior “master” race by all other demons. And Kimiko was crème dela crème.
A small knot twisted her chest. What a cruel joke to be born a half breed of a demi-god and a human which was even beneath the lowliest of the yokai servants. That which was the existence of Inuyasha. Being surrounded by this galore of luxury, Kagome, for the first time truly understood what that unfortunate mixture of blood had robbed from Inuyasha of his heritage.
She didn't have long to mull on those thoughts as a busy-looking older amami rabbit demoness ushed her to move.
“Through there.” She simply said and nudged Kagome forward.
“Wha--” Kagome tried to protest and search for Kimiko in all the hustle of swirling servants to no avail. Helplessly surrendering to the rabbit's guidance, she walked out of the entrance hall through a smaller, vacant room, through another room, and another and another until they had arrived to, Kagome assumed, to the servants' quarters. The demoness walked past Kagome to a sliding door closet at the back of the room. She pulled out an similar uniform to hers. She glanced at the uniform and then eyed Kagome from the top of her head to the bottom of her feet. Displeased with whatever mental measurements she had taken, the rabbit tossed the uniform back to the closet and dug out another one from the bottom of the closet, then she grabbed a pair of geta footwear and placed them neatly on top of the folded uniform.
“Follow.” She once again concisely commanded and exited the room. Kagome followed suit and tried to keep up with her guide's pace while they nearly ran through rooms and hallways. Sometimes they would pass by other demon servants who were stopped in their tracks to openly stare at Kagome and some even turned their backs to her to whisper and laugh. Kagome didn't have time to give those gossipy hines a piece of her mind, but she made a mental note of it.
Before Kagome was able to finish her reprimanding mental letter to those mockingmaids, they had arrived to the very back of the building and stood at a very sturdy sliding door. Having lived her whole life in a temple and being the granddaugher of a temple and imperial architect enthusiast, Kagome instantly recognized that the sturdier shoji was for lavatory – a bathroom door essentially.
The older woman demoness slid the heavy door open and Kagome was nudged into a dimly lit, damp room that had the dull and earthy basement smell to it. The only source of light was from a small dormer above a wooden ofuro. There was a shallow basin next to the ofuro tub and a shanky rack that had bottles of liquid and coarse cloths piled next to them.
Kagome was told to remove her clothes and hand them over. She was elated by the prospect of a bath, but not so keen on having one in front of a woman she didn't know.
“Umh. Could I please have some privacy?” The human woman modestly pleaded.
The amami rabbit looked perplexed at first but the expression quickly tightened into a scowl.
“You do realize this facility is usually shared by at least five servants at a time? You are as lone as you will ever be, so get in the ofuro, princess.” The snarky retort was like a bucket of cold water, enhanced by the swift hands that made quick work to remove the shawl from Kagome's shoulders. Not wanting “help” undressing, Kagome submissively walked to the darkest corner of the room while the demoness heaved the sliding door shut. Kagome quickly undid her clothes and tried to hurry to the tub without being exposed to that scrutinizing gaze of her sour companion.
As Kagome eased herself into the tub, the earlier mental remark of bucket of cold water realized itself into a tub full of icy cold water. All the fine hair on her body stood out, teeth began reflectively rattle and as she hugged herself tightly, she could feel that the small supple beads on the tip of her breasts had become like rock-solid tiny pebbles.
'I-i-it'ssss.. f-f-reeezingg' She clattered and shivered as the older servant poured some soap on top of her and began scrubbing down her skin hard with one of those coarse cleaning cloths that must have been a precursor to modern sand-paper. The human's trembling and wincing did not go unnoticed by the demoness who replied with much the same kindness Kagome had gotten used to from demons.
“Get used to it, princess.”
After getting rid of most of that stench that the human was encased in and burning those abominations of clothing of hers, the amami rabbit knelt in front of her mistress' bedroom and announced herself. Sliding the shoji open, taking one step inside the room, kneeling again and turning to shut the shoji, she finally faced her mistress and gave a deep bow.
Kimiko was sitting beside her bedroom door that opened a view to a blossoming garden which splayed beyond her patio. But even the view paled in comparison to it's mastress' beauty, anyone would have thought.
“So. What do you think of her?” The fluttering soft voice asked the amami rabbit.
The servant being addressed, poised herself to a straighten her back to a dignified straight posture.
“She would require a lot of training. It's obvious she's not not from a lineage of service. Not accustomed to hard work.”
Kimiko had already made similar observations. Whatever this human was, she was not a commoner. A mortal of great latent spiritual powers, someone who drew in the attention of Toga who usually gave no interest in anyone. The human woman even had managed to pique interest within Kimiko herself, something she could not even recall happening for a long time.
“Fuyuki. Not a word of her presence here to anyone. If I hear so much as a chirrup from petite aves of her being her, I'll have your tongue.”
Fuyuki instinctively grabbed her left hand which was missing one finger.
“She's not here to replace you. I value the work you've done for my family for centuries. She's here simply because I took pity of her situation. Think of her as your help. But if she proves to be a bother, I'll have no qualms over disposing of her.”
The rabbit demoness knew Kimiko's good graces were not easily achieved but very easily lost.
Kimiko waved her hand at Fuyuki to signal she was dismissed. The amami rabbit leaved as swiftly and silently as she had arrived.
The mistress of the household kept her serene gaze on the mellow garden that bent around the large castle and the surrounding gates. Soft breezes tickled the evergreen leaves on her ancient Sakura trees.
'He deserves to squirm a little.' She smiled to herself, flashing a row of pearly white teeth.
“What do you mean 'nothing'!” Toga bellowed to a toad servant that was huddling his shoulders upwards in a defensive gesture at his master's rage.
“A human can't just disappear from all planes of existence!” He growled and grabbed his minion by the collar of his armored suit.
“Find her.” He hissed between his gritted teeth and pushed the distressed green ranidae backwards.
The toad gulped audibly before nodding and hurrying away from Toga's sour field of vision with a squad of other servants. When the inu youkai was left alone, his shoulders slumped and he let out a miserable sigh.