Diamonds, Taking Shape by Sage McMae

Chapter 1

“Would you not prefer a new tenssen?” 


“What about a katana? You do not yet have one of those. It would make a more fitting birthday gift,” Sesshomaru suggests. 

His daughter shakes her head. “No, Papa. I don’t need another weapon. I want to meet the author of Caged Bird, Kaliado.” 

Sesshomaru frowns. He thought Rin’s fascination with Isekai manga would dissipate over time. Instead, it seems that her interest in the novels has been piqued by the newest addition to her collection.

Caged Bird is a light novel series about a Phoenix yokai named Aya who wakes up in an unfamiliar land with her wings cut. Forced to journey home without the power of flight, Aya travels across the country on foot, searching for a way to return home. Along the way, she crosses paths with several other yokai, most of which become side characters in the story. The cast varies from a sagely old woman and a brash sidekick to an overly confident lecher, a solemn warrior, and a mischievous kit, all of whom cause more trouble for the heroine than they are worth in Sesshomaru’s opinion. 

He has read the novels out of necessity, not interest. His main priority is his daughter's wellness. Sesshomaru is aware of every source of media she comes into contact with. He’s very careful about the content she digests, especially the ones involving romantic plots, which is why he’s pleased that there has been no such development in Caged Bird. Though the author has hinted at feelings between the brash sidekick and the main character, the attraction appears to be one-sided. 

“I have checked the publisher’s schedule. The author does not participate in book signings or press tours,” Sesshomaru informs Rin.

“I bet if you told Kaliado that it was my birthday, she’d agree to meet me.” Rin gives him her best rendition of what she refers to as ‘puppy-dog eyes’. Sesshomaru prefers to call it by its real name: shameless begging. “Please, Papa. It’s the only thing I’ve ever asked you for. Please, please please!” 

He sighs. It is true. Rin has never asked for anything. Since the day he brought her to come to live with him, she has been content. Rin never complains about his late nights working or questions the fact that he doesn’t have a mate. His daughter accepts him for who he is. 

“I will speak with my assistant in the morning.” 

Rin cheers and claps her hands together delightedly. 


Locating the author proves to be more challenging than Sesshomaru anticipated. He has his assistant, Hojo Umeda, start with the publishing house. Golden Hour Publishing refuses to provide any personal details on their employees. They claim it would be a violation of Kaliado’s rights which are protected under law. 

Sesshomaru decides if Mr. Umeda is incapable of completing the task, he will. At first, he meets the same resistance that his assistant encountered. Their contact refuses to honor his request. Sesshomaru expected this. He calmly requests to speak with the editor of Caged Bird

His phone trills with a few beeps before he is connected with Mr. Kerusu. “Yes, I hear you’ve been inquiring about the Caged Bird series.” 

“I am,” Sesshomaru confirms. “I would like to request a meeting with the author as a gift for my daughter.” 

Mr. Kerusu doesn’t hesitate to respond. “I apologize, but, unfortunately, we do not host any events— public or private —with Kaliado. You are welcome to purchase tickets to our live reading event next month. Popstar, Miwa will be reciting Aya’s lines.” 

Sesshomaru scoffs. “My daughter has no interest in idols. If you are unable to secure a meeting with Kaliado, then I would like the opportunity to speak with her directly. Would you please share her contact details with me?” 

“As my coworker already mentioned, we aren’t at liberty to give out those details. We have a strict code of conduct. It is imperative that we honor the terms of our authors’ contracts and Kaliado has explicitly asked for privacy.” 

“I can assure you that any interaction we have will be held with the utmost discretion.”

“I’m sorry, sir, but I can’t give you that information. Thank you for calling Golden Hour Publishing. Have a nice day.” 


His nostrils flare in irritation. No one hangs up on Sesshomaru Taisho. No one.

He reaches for his cell to lodge a formal complaint against Golden Hour. Their blatant disrespect will not go unpunished. His hand hovers over the device as his gaze falls to the photo of Rin on his desk. It is his one personal effect. The remainder of the office is decorated with furnishing and stock artwork that the building manager provided. 

Sesshomaru doesn’t see the need to accessorize the space. After all, his sole purpose for being here is to work. Decorating his desk will not motivate him to accomplish his goal. His drive comes from the need to provide for his daughter. Rin is the only reason he agreed to work at his father’s company. If not for her, Sesshomaru would have been content to live the remainder of his days traveling the country, much like the heroine of the novels she loved so much. 

He has to find the author— no matter what it takes. 


The following day, Sesshomaru wakes early. He has his driver take him across town to Golden Hour Publishing’s headquarters. When Mr. Kerusu arrives for the day, Sesshomaru is already there waiting for him. 

He notes the way Mr. Kerusu’s eyebrows jump into his hairline when the woman at the front desk tells him who Sesshomaru is. 

“Mr. Taisho, it is an honor. My apologies for keeping you waiting. May I offer you a glass of water or some tea?” 

“No, thank you. I do not intend to take up too much of your time. I will keep this brief. I would like the contact details for Kaliado.”

Mr. Kerusu stares at him. For a moment, Sesshomaru is certain he has obtained the information he requires. Then, the editor speaks. 

“I appreciate your dedication to your daughter, Mr. Taisho. As a father, I understand what you’re doing, but as I’ve stated previously, we cannot share those details.” 

Sesshomaru changes tactics. He withdraws his checkbook. “I am willing to make a handsome investment in your company to ensure all future installments of the Caged Bird series are sent to print.” 

“That is very generous of you,” Mr. Kerusu says as Sesshomaru moves to the front desk to write out the slip. 

He tears the sheet out of the checkbook and holds it out for Mr. Kerusu. Right before the man can take the check, Sesshomaru lifts it out of his grasp. “It would be greatly appreciated if my act of goodwill was met with one of your own.” 

“Mr. Taisho, are you trying to bribe me?” Mr. Kerusu glances over at his coworker. The woman at the front desk looks nervous. Her eyes shift between the two men and her hand is poised over the phone. Sesshomaru wonders how quickly she can dial. He doubts she can move faster than him. With his heightened abilities, he can leap over the counter and yank the phone from the wall in less than a second. 

Of course, outing yokai existence to the world would cause quite a stir. Sesshomaru has no patience for political debates or the boring lectures he’s sure to receive from his parents. He opts to maintain his human facade. 

“I am merely asking you to reciprocate the same courtesy that I extended to you.” 

“I’m sorry, Mr. Taisho. No amount of money will change my mind. The terms of our contract with Kaliado are clear. No one outside of her Golden Hours Publishing team may contact her.”

“Not even an investor?” 

Mr. Kerusu shakes his head. “No.”

Sesshomaru scowls. Typically, greed motivates humans to operate as he wishes. He will need to try an alternative approach. Sesshomaru rips up the check, letting the pieces fall to the floor. “Are you aware of who I am, Mr. Kerusu?”

“Y-yes, Mr. Taisho.”

“Then you know what I am capable of.” 


Sesshomaru takes a step toward Mr. Kerusu, invading the man’s personal space. “If you will not turn over the details I have requested, you leave me with no choice. I will purchase your company, have my lawyers amend Kaliado’s contract, and speak with her myself.” 

Mr. Kerusu pales. “But s-sir, Golden Hour Publishing is owned by Hitomi Industries.”

His eyes narrow. Hitomi Industries is his main competitor. They started as a weapons manufacturer but over the past few decades, they have diversified their portfolio to expand into other markets including publishing and merchandise. Last year, they made the list as one of the top-grossing companies in the country, second only to his own. As rivals, it is unlikely Hitomi will let go of Golden Hour Publishing. 

Sesshomaru backs away from Mr. Kerusu. “I suppose an acquisition is out of the question?”

“The success of the Caged Bird series has increased our net worth. I doubt Mr. Hitomi will be interested in selling,” Mr. Kerusu confirms. 

“Is there nothing I can do to convince you to share Kaliado’s information with me?”

“No,” Mr. Kerusu answers. 

His trio of proven strategies has all failed. Sesshomaru has run out of options. It has been many years since he has been defeated. This incident reminds him of why he loathes losing. Even more unsettling is the fact that he will have to face Rin’s disappointment. The realization puts him in a foul mood.

On his ride into the office, Sesshomaru contemplates less reputable options for obtaining the information. He could hire someone to hack the publishing house or track the author down. Neither seems offensive to him, though his assistant disagrees. Hojo explains the lengthy jail sentence that awaits for committing either crime. When Sesshomaru threatens to fire Hojo, his assistant argues that he is just doing his job. 

That gives Sesshomaru an idea. 

He does end up firing Hojo, removing him from the Taisho Enterprises’ payroll. The next week when he starts his role at Golden Hour Publishing, Hojo Umeda’s bank account displays two transactions— an automatic deposit from Hitomi Industries and a private transfer from Sesshomaru Taisho. 


Hojo Umeda is walking to the metro station when Sesshomaru’s driver pulls his sleek, black sedan up to the sidewalk. He rolls his window down, earning a few curious stares as he waits for Hojo to approach the car. 

“Update,” Sesshomaru demands.

“I have to hand it to Mr. Hitomi’s lawyers. Kaliado’s contract is iron-tight. Any breach of privacy and the author is permitted to take her works— both published and in progress —to another publisher. Whoever Kaliado is, Golden Hour plans on keeping their identity a secret.” 

“There has to be something,” Sesshomaru mutters.

“I don’t have access to any types of records that would have the information you requested, sir. Personal information such as the author’s phone number and address are kept secure with HR,” Hojo explains. 

“What about the Accounting Department? They must have Kaliado’s address or bank information on file,” he counters. 

“That information requires security credentials that I don’t have.”

“What do you have?” Sesshomaru snaps.

Hojo digs into his satchel and withdraws a notepad. “I may have narrowed down the search.” 

Sesshomaru snatches the pad from his hands. Scrawled across the top are two words: Miss Kaliado. “Miss?” he questions.

“I overheard Mr. Kerusu talking to the chairman earlier. He referred to Kaliado as ‘she’.”

“Get out,” Sesshomaru snarls. 

By the time his driver rounds the corner, he is seething. In the past millennium, Sesshomaru has never once encountered a task as troublesome as this one. How difficult is it to track down one insignificant female? 


The week before Rin’s birthday, Sesshomaru is no closer to locating Kaliado than he was the day his daughter shared her birthday wish. Failure is unacceptable. Failing his daughter is a far greater sin. 

He is sitting at his desk on Monday afternoon, perusing replacement gifts online when his cell rings. “Taisho.”

Hojo's voice whispers from the opposite end. “Sir, it’s me.” 

“I am aware.”

“Right, right. Well, I found her. I found Kaliado,” he announces. 

Sesshomaru stands. “Where?” 


He has his driver park the car half a block away from Golden Hour Publishing. As anxious as Sesshomaru is to meet the woman who has managed to evade him for so long, he does not wish to alert her employer to his presence. Mr. Kerusu made their position quite clear. If Sesshomaru approaches Kaliado on their property, he may face harassment charges. He needs to be patient.

When she appears, he stills. Kaliado is not a Phoenix yokai as he expected. She is a human woman. The next thing he notices is that she isn’t just a human. She’s a miko. Her face is youthful, suggesting that she is roughly the same age as him— or at least the age he appears to be. The thing that captures his attention the most is her eyes. They are a spectacular shade of blue, the kind of calming color one sees after a storm. 

Now, her request for privacy makes sense. Despite the many advances of the modern world, one thing that remains unchanged is the divide between yokai and priestesses. 

Their reiki makes them targets for ambitious yokai. If a yokai is capable of defeating a priestess, it proves they are strong enough to overcome their greatest enemy. Subduing or injuring a miko will increase the rank of a yokai. Killing one will provide a rare benefit— access to the miko’s abilities. When combined with yoki, reiki can amplify the yokai‘s abilities tenfold. It can make even the lowest level yokai seemingly indestructible. For a miko with immense spiritual power, such as Kaliado, the threat is even greater. 

Sesshomaru lingers, watching her stroll toward the metro. She moves with clear intention. Her pace is quick but not in a suspicious way. She keeps alert, checking her surroundings with her peripherals. She’s a fighter. 

“Pull up ahead,” Sesshomaru directs his driver. 

His car slinks along the curve, slowly trailing behind the miko as she proceeds to the red line. It has been a long time since Sesshomaru has been on the hunt. The thrill of stalking his prey puts a rare grin on his face. 

“Stop here,” he orders.  

He goes in for the kill. 


Kagome Higurashi can feel the signature of a powerful yokai from inside the publishing house. She suspects a daiyokai— one from the inu clan if her instincts are correct. It has been a few years since Kagome has run into a hostile yokai but it never hurts to be careful. 

Outside, she glances around but sees no signs of the daiyokai. Her experience has taught her that just because she can’t see them, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Adjusting the strap of her purse, Kagome picks up her pace. Once she gets on the metro platform, she’ll have the added benefit of the commuter crowd. 

She’s less than a meter from the entrance when someone calls out to her. 

Kagome knows she shouldn’t turn around. She can sense the immense power this yokai wields. It’s one of the strongest signatures Kagome has ever come in contact with, yet she pivots around. 

Her eyes go wide as she takes him in. He’s taller than her, which Kagome expected based on his voice, but the height difference still takes her by surprise. His eyes are hypnotic. At first glance, they appear gold. As Kagome studies them, she realizes they have flakes of bronze and granite sprinkled throughout. The metallic glint would look sinister on anyone else but on him, it fits. His markings, which she assumes are cloaked from human eyes, are equally captivating. She wonders how many people have stared into this face before their eyes closed for the final time. 

“You are Kaliado?” He phrases it as a question but to Kagome, it sounds like a realization. 

“You’ve got the wrong person,” she lies. Kagome doesn’t make a habit of trusting strangers— especially not ones who corner her on the street. 

“I am aware this is an unconventional way to reach out, however, I have a matter of some urgency that I would like to discuss with you. My car is right over there.” He inclines his head toward the vehicle parked nearby. “I would be more than happy to offer you a ride home if you agree to hear me out.” 

His hand reaches out toward her and Kagome immediately throws up a barrier. “No thanks,” she refuses, backing away. 

The daiyokai hisses when his knuckles graze the surface of her shield. “I understand your aversion to conversing with someone of my… particular background,” he says, “but I can assure you that I have no intention of harming you.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that one before.” Kagome turns away, shaking her head. Will these jerks never learn? She’s not interested in being a ready-made sacrifice just so some power-hungry yokai can show how tough they are. 


She whips around at the familiar voice. “Hojo?”

The daiyokai’s brow creases in confusion as a young man in a suit comes running out of Golden Hour Publishing. “Higurashi, hi!” He waves excitedly as he approaches them. 

“Hojo, what are you doing here?” Kagome asks, glancing between the two men. 

“Looking for you,” he answers. “This is my boss, Sesshomaru Taisho. He wanted to meet you.” 

“He has,” Kagome states flatly. 

“Great!” Hojo beams. He doesn’t pick up on her wary gaze or cold tone. He never was very good at understanding social cues. “So you’ll do it?”

“Do what?” she questions, never taking her eyes off of the daiyokai. 

“Join us for Rin’s birthday party. She’s so excited to meet you,” Hojo says. 

“Who’s Rin?”

“Mr. Taisho’s daughter.” 

Kagome looks between the two men. It’s clear that Hojo doesn’t know who— or more accurately, what —his boss is. He is blissfully ignorant— the same way he was in middle school. She gives the daiyokai a skeptical look as she crosses her arms. “You have a daughter?” 

“I do,” he confirms. 

Whether he’s telling the truth, or simply using this as a way to gain her trust, Kagome can’t tell. Hojo appears convinced but his opinion doesn’t count for much. 

“I don’t participate in fan events.” 

“Miss Higurashi—,” Kagome ignores the shiver that races down her spine at the way he says her name, “my daughter does not make requests lightly. Nor do I. It would be a great honor if you would agree to join us this Saturday for her birthday. If you are uncomfortable with the idea of being around the other—,” again he pauses to rephrase in front of Hojo, “guests, I can arrange for the party to be held at a place of your choosing.” 

She raises an eyebrow skeptically. “You think giving me control of the location will persuade me to agree to this?”

“I can offer you money but I do not believe that will motivate you to accept,” Mr. Taisho returns evenly. 

“You could always offer to donate to Kagome’s family. They run the shrine on—.”

“Hojo!” Kagome slaps her hand over the man’s mouth. She’ll be damned if he drags her family into this. Kagome would rather be a daiyokai’s trophy than allow one anywhere near Gramps, Mama, or Souta. She glares at Mr. Taisho. 

“It would be my pleasure to become a patron of your shrine, Miss Higurashi. I am sure you could put a donation to good use.” 

Her hand drops from Hojo’s mouth. “That’s not necessary. I am able to support the shrine through my earnings from the Caged Bird series.”

“Kagome, Mr. Taisho is the most well-connected CEO in the country. I’m sure he could help with the building permits. My mother mentioned that the city has been giving your grandfather a hard time about the renovations to the old well house.” 

She grits her teeth. If Hojo says one more word about her family— utters a single syllable — she will punch him. 

“You may leave for the evening,” Mr. Taisho dismisses him. 

Hojo bows. “Have a good night, sir. Kagome, nice seeing you again. We should catch up soon.” 

Not likely, she thinks. 

He waves and disappears around the block, leaving Kagome alone with his boss. 

“I apologize for Mr. Umeda’s behavior. He is a dedicated employee, however, he lacks the ability to—.”

“Tell when someone doesn’t want to be around him?” Kagome interrupts, crossing her arms over her chest. “You two have that in common.”

He smirks. “Your cloaking skills are impressive. I have never known a miko to possess such abilities.” 

“Probably because we don’t. My reiki is hidden through a glamour talisman. I assume your yoki is too,” Kagome says, indicating the jade pin on his lapel. 

“You have a keen eye.” 

“Wait until you see my archery skills.” 

Mr. Taisho chuckles. “All in good time, Miss Higurashi.” He slips his hand into his right breast pocket and takes out a photograph of a small girl with doe eyes and brown hair. “Please reconsider. Rin has asked for nothing but your presence on her birthday.” 

Kagome stares at the picture. She has seen fans of her novels before— happy youngsters who rush into the bookstore to purchase the latest edition —but she has never had a name to put to the face. Her grandfather always said there was power in names. Kagome didn’t understand what he meant until now. 

“This is your daughter?”

Mr. Taisho nods. 

“She’s human.” 

“Astute observation.” 

“You’ll have to tell me that story,” Kagome remarks before she realizes what she’s saying. 

“Gladly,” Mr. Taisho responds, extending his hand. “May I drive you home?” 

Kagome takes a step backward, shaking her head. “Not tonight.”

“I understand. I will not hold you up. I am sure you are eager to get home. Please call me when you have made your decision.” Mr. Taisho switches out Rin’s photograph for his business card. 

They stare at each other. People pass by them on the sidewalk, unaware of the silent contest of wills that is transpiring. When he doesn’t move, Kagome clears her throat. “It would help if you left first,” she tells him. 

“As you wish. Have a pleasant evening, Miss Higurashi.” He gives her a curt bow before entering his town car. 

Kagome watches him drive down the street until the car merges onto the highway. With a sigh, she makes her way home. 


Sesshomaru drums his fingers along his desk. It has been exactly sixteen hours, twelve minutes, and thirty-six seconds since he met Kagome Higurashi. During that time, Sesshomaru has thought of very little else. He has never encountered another who matches him in both intellect and power. Necessity has morphed into intrigue. He checks his phone, eager to see if the miko has called.

She has not.

He frowns. Sesshomaru does not enjoy waiting to learn the outcome.

In centuries past, his battle strategies were honed and perfected until they ran like clockwork, precise and efficient. He knew each instance would end in his victory. As the years passed, the battlefront transformed from physical violence to business acumen. Sesshomaru learned that the same tactics he had applied in war served just as brilliantly in the boardroom.

He is not patient. He is methodical. Outcomes are not chosen by fate. They unfold as designed.

The intercom on his phone buzzes. “Sir, there is a woman by the name of Miss Higurashi at the front desk. She’s requesting a meeting with you. I told her that you don’t see anyone without an appointment but she is refusing to leave. Should I call security, sir?”



"Bring her in."

Sesshomaru doubts his new office assistant will last here but that is a problem for another time. His lips curl upward in a satisfied smirk. He did not expect her to be this bold. It is an intriguing development.

Pushing away from the desk, Sesshomaru straightens up and adjusts his tie. There is nothing out of place on his person but he finds himself compelled to make an impression. After all, the miko has already made an impact on him. He ought to even the score.

The office assistant knocks before entering. Sesshomaru dismisses him immediately, far more interested in his impromptu visitor than the ineffective human in his employ.

“Miss Higurashi, I was expecting a phone call. Is there a reason for your unannounced arrival?”

“You tracked me down at my workplace. I figured I’d do the same.”

“Of course,” he says evenly. Sesshomaru gestures to one of the chairs across from him. “Please make yourself comfortable.”

“I have conditions,” she announces.

“Right to business then,” Sesshomaru remarks, settling back into his seat.

“I want to bring my friends along.”

“I do not imagine humans can offer much help if a yokai were to attack you,” he comments.

The miko grins. “I didn’t say they were human.”

“May I know your friend’s names?” he inquires.  When she raises an eyebrow, Sesshomaru clarifies. “Our home is part of my family’s private estate. If their names are not provided to our security team, they will not be permitted inside.”

“Koga Matsuno and Kagura Nogami.”

He makes a note of both, fully prepared to send the names off for background checks. The miko may trust these two but Sesshomaru will not allow anyone around his daughter who has not passed inspection.

“Anything else?”

“Yes, at the party, I want you to refer to me by my pen name.”

Sesshomaru blinks at her brazen request. “Excuse me?”

“Only a few people know my real identity. I plan to keep it that way.”

Sesshomaru folds his hands in front of him, resting his elbows on the desk. “Very well, Miss Higurashi. I will ensure that no one within this office or guests of my private residence are aware of your true identity.”

“Thank you.” Her arms drop to her sides and her posture relaxes.

“Do you have any further demands?”

“That’s it.”

He considers her. “You do not wish for payment?”

“Visiting a little girl on her birthday shouldn’t require compensation. Consider it my gift to Rin for being a loyal fan of the series,” she tells him.

“I will send my driver to pick you up at your residence around noon,” he offers.

She purses her lips. “Nice try. I’m not giving you my address.”

“Yet I am to trust you in my home, where my daughter lives?”

“Listen, buddy, you asked me for the favor. Not the other way around!”

His nose twitches in distaste. “Buddy?”

Miss Higurashi rolls her eyes. “Just tell me when and where to show up.”

Sesshomaru shares his address with the miko. Her eyebrows jump when she recognizes what area of the city he resides in. He smirks. Surely, she did not expect him to live in an apartment like a commoner.

“I’ll be there,” she promises.

When she attempts to leave once more, Sesshomaru catches her. “Miss Higurashi, may I have your number?”

“What? Why?”

“You have mine. It seems only fair.”

Muttering under her breath, the miko approaches his desk. She snatches a sheet of stationery and scribbles down a 10-digit number. “There. Happy?”


Sesshomaru watches her go, pleased he has kept his promise. 


“Are you sure about this?”

Kagome stares past her reflection in the mirror. Kagura is standing in the bathroom with her arms crossed over her chest. Her friend’s lips are pressed together in a firm line, showing her disapproval. “I made a promise.”

“So what? You don’t owe this guy anything, Kags. For all you know, that picture you saw was a fake. He probably doesn’t even have a daughter. He’s just looking for an excuse to get you alone.”

“Yeah, what if he made all this up?” Koga chimes in. He leans against the doorframe. “You know the Taisho family.”

“Of them,” Kagura clarifies. “We don’t associate with them. Their Hitomi Enterprise’s main competitor. Honestly, I’m surprised I cleared their security check. I didn’t think they’d allow me in.”

“It was one of my conditions for attending,” Kagome explains.

“Still, that doesn’t mean he’s telling the truth about the kid. From what I’ve heard, the only Taisho who likes humans is the father,” Koga comments.

“He’s not lying,” Kagome tells them. She leans forward to apply her mascara.

“How can you be sure?” Kagura questions.

“When people lie their auras change. His didn’t.”

“Could that be cloaked by a kitsune charm?” Koga asks.

Kagome puts the wand away and shakes her head. “Illusion doesn’t work that way. Not even a master like Shippo has the ability to alter someone’s core essence.”

“I still don’t like it,” Koga grumbles.

“You don’t have to go.”

“And leave you alone? Nah uh. No way.”

“I’m here, Fuzzball,” Kagura reminds Koga. “She’s got more than enough protection with me.”

He scoffs. “Yeah, right! All you do is flip your fan and parade about all high and mighty like you’re better than everyone else. You can’t keep Kags safe. You’re just a spoiled, pampered princess.”

Kagura’s eyes narrowed. “At least I don’t run around with a pack of scruffy mongrels.”

“Who you calling ‘scruffy’? I happen to be the best-looking one here.”

“Did I say ‘scruffy’? Apologies,” Kagura says, unfolding her fan with a feigned smile. “I meant delusional.”

“Listen here, wind witch—.”

“Hey!” Kagome inserts herself between them. “You two are my best friends but if you don’t cut it out, I’m going alone.”



“Alone. Got it?” she repeats testily.

“Yes,” Kagura and Koga chorus.

Kagome smiles and links her arms with theirs. “Great. Let’s go!” 

“Hey, why did you put on makeup?” Koga asks as they walk out. “You never put on makeup.” 

She ignores him. 


“Do you think Kaliado likes cupcakes? What about cookies? Ooo, do you think she’d want to try some of chef’s sorbet?”

Sesshomaru observes his daughter dance excitedly around the room. She has been in a constant state of motion since waking this morning. The excitement of her party increased exponentially after he confirmed Miss Higurashi’s attendance. Rin has been eagerly counting down the hours until the miko’s arrival.

She is not the only one.

The more Sesshomaru discovers about the miko, the more he finds himself compelled to learn more. Her actions are as unpredictable as her choices. The friends she invited, for example, represent two different— but equally powerful —factions of the yokai world. Sesshomaru never planned on crossing paths with the northern wolf pack alpha or the eldest daughter of Naraku Hitomi. He wonders how the miko managed to find them. Perhaps they found her?

Initially, Sesshomaru was wary. For a woman who wishes to keep her abilities secret, her choice in confidants seems counterintuitive. He assigned Mr. Umeda to follow up on his concerns. His assistant found no proof of manipulation or malicious intent. The pair have been Miss Higurashi’s friends for nearly a decade— quite a long time for a human. Sesshomaru has no reason to suspect they will harm her. He will reserve judgment until after the party.

“Papa! She’s here!”

His attention snaps to the large window Rin is presently pressed against. Outside, a mismatched trio of visitors strolls up the walkway. On her right is the wolf, who wears his long hair up and a smug grin that displays a hint of his fangs. On the left is a tall woman with a pretentious air. The rouge on her cheeks and the color of her lips reminds Sesshomaru of his mother. Between them is the miko.

She does not wear luxury brands. Instead, she wears a simple sundress and cardigan. Her body is not draped with metal and gemstones. In fact, Sesshomaru does not see a single piece of jewelry on her. While her features have been accented, her face is not painted on. This allows her most stunning attribute to shine: her smile.

He is so mesmerized by her effortless grace that he does not notice Rin take off.

The front door swings open and she sprints forward. “Kaliado!” Sesshomaru is unable to reach his daughter before she has herself wrapped around the miko. “You’re here!”

“You must be the birthday girl.”

“I’m Rin.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Rin. These are my friends, Mr. Matsuno and Ms. Nogami.”

His daughter ignores the wolf and wind yokai. Rin is far too enamored with the miko to care about her guests. She grabs onto Miss Higurashi’s hand. “You wanna see my room?”

“Rin, perhaps, Kaliado and her friends would prefer something to drink to refresh them from their travels,” he suggests.

“Alright,” she relents, lower lip jutting out in a pout.

Miss Higurashi kneels down. “Why don’t you lead the way? I’d love to see how your house is decorated for the big day.”

Instantly, Rin’s face lights up. “Okay!” She practically drags the miko through the front door.

Sesshomaru studies Miss Higurashi’s confidants. The female eyes him with thinly veiled disinterest while the wolf glowers with pure loathing.

“I don’t know what kind of game this is but if you hurt Kags, I will end you. Got that, Taisho?”

“Please refer to Miss Higurashi by her pen name. She has asked that her anonymity be protected during today’s festivities. I gave her my word that I would respect her wishes. I intend to uphold that promise.”

“See that you do,” Miss Nogami mutters, gliding past him. She shows herself inside his home without another word.

The wolf grunts. “Whatever. Just keep your paws off her.”

Sesshomaru watches as he stalks inside. The wolf’s attitude reminds him of his half-brother. Inuyasha is an unmannered welp, though fairly predictable. Sesshomaru hopes he can manage his half-brother and this new addition to their guest list. He will not tolerate anyone who upsets his daughter on her day— regardless of who they are.

When he enters his home, Rin is already parading the miko around, introducing her to his staff and showing her everything from the cake their chef prepared to the pile of gifts his family sent over this morning. If Miss Higurashi is overwhelmed, she does not show it. She remains tethered to his daughter, quietly following Rin around with a genuine smile on her face.

Sesshomaru keeps his distance from the pair. Rin rarely engages with others, especially not those who she has just met. Her teachers have expressed concerns about her lack of social engagement in the classroom. Sesshomaru has never bothered to correct the behavior. Rin has always been selective about who she chooses to interact with. 

This is why Sesshomaru cannot ignore how happy his daughter appears with the miko’s undivided attention. Miss Higurashi seems to have her bewitched. Rin is so fascinated by the author that she does not notice her other guests as they arrive. 

“Is that a Bugatti?”

He glances over his shoulder as the haute couture of vehicles rolls into his driveway. It is a bold entrance for a bold person. In other words, his mother is here.

Miss Nogami seems impressed by the streamlined design until the woman behind the wheel steps out. She is dressed in a tailored pantsuit that matches the amethyst markings on her cheeks. The color, which would normally be considered garish, works well with her complexion. She struts up to the front door in her five-inch heels.

Her confidence is blinding. Sesshomaru is aware that he is not the only one who has noticed. Miss Nogami is utterly fascinated. She does not even notice when Sesshomaru’s butler goes outside to park the car. She drifts over to his mother, drawn like a moth to a flame.

“Kagura Nogami,” she introduces herself without hesitation.

His mother’s lips twitch. “Arisu Taisho.” She turns to him, amusement in her eyes. “My beloved son, you didn’t tell me you were inviting such an attractive female to your home this afternoon.”

“Miss Nogami is here with the author Rin requested,” he explains.

“I see. Then you won’t mind if I steal her away, will you?” She does not wait for his answer before proposing to Miss Nogami that they break into his wine cellar.

Sesshomaru leaves them to their antics. He can scent his mother's intention. It matches Miss Nogmai’s interest. He just hopes they keep their ‘tasting’ in the cellar. He is not prepared to review mating practices with Rin yet.

“That was fast,” the wolf remarks.

“Are you jealous?” Sesshomaru inquires.

“Kagura can do whatever she wants. It makes no difference to me.”

“You two are not courting one another?”

Mr. Matsuno’s eyes bulge. “Mate? With that princess? No way!”

“I find it strange the two of you would be close. It is not typical for elite members of opposing factions to develop such strong personal connections unless they plan to mate,” Sesshomaru says.

“Yeah, well, you can thank Kag— er, Kaliado for that,” Koga responds.


The wolf cocks his head. “Why? What’s it to you?”

“I am interested.”

“I won’t say I’m not flattered— you’re attractive —but I’m not looking to raise someone else’s kid. It’s a lot of baggage.”

“As entertaining as your incorrect assumption is, I was speaking about Kaliado,” Sesshomaru clarifies.


“No?” he questions.

“She came here because she made a promise. That’s it. Once this party is over, her debt is paid and you’re going to leave her alone. Got it?”

He stares Koga down. “You would do well to remember whose den you are in, wolf.” 

Sesshomaru holds his gaze for almost a full minute.

The wolf is the first to look away. Annoyed, he marches off, muttering under his breath. 

Sesshomaru locates Rin across the entryway in the living room. She is naming the various members of the Taisho clan for Miss Higurashi. As her finger lands on the patriarch, his father arrives.

Toga Taisho greets Sesshomaru’s staff with the same level of charm that he leverages in the boardroom. His charisma is only paralleled with his intelligence. He was the one to teach Sesshomaru about battle strategies and how to identify an opponent’s motivations so they could be used against them. He is as cunning as he is attractive and arguably more well-liked than his eldest son.

“Where’s my little one?” Toga asks the second he enters Sesshomaru’s home.

Sesshomaru inclines his head toward the living room. His father’s eyes go wide. “A miko?”

“She is here at Rin’s request. Please do not do anything that would embarrass—.”

But his father has already sauntered up to the miko to introduce himself.

“I’ve never seen my son take interest in a woman before. Of course, I can see why he’s smitten with you.” Toga winks. Miss Higurashi’s face turns red.

“Father,” Sesshomaru growls, “a word?”

“Later,” Toga replies, attempting to wave him off.

Sesshomaru grabs his forearm. “Now.” Then, to Miss Higurashi, he says, “Please excuse my father. I believe he was celebrating before his arrival.”

He leads Toga out of the room and into the privacy of the kitchen. “You cannot speak to her like that.”

“If you’re concerned about someone else staking a claim on her, I’d be more worried about your mother than me,” Toga responds, chuckling.

“I have no claim on her.”


“No,” Sesshomaru confirms.

“Then why are you so upset?”

It is not until his father raises the question that Sesshomaru realizes his grasp on Toga’s arm has tightened. Immediately, he releases his father.

Toga smiles. “You have a brilliant mind, Sesshomaru but you can’t prepare for everything in life. There is no contingency plan. Sometimes you just have to accept that there are things outside your control.” His father pats him on the shoulder and exits the kitchen.

Sesshomaru has less than a minute to compose himself before the next guest arrives. He can tell by the volume of the visitor’s greeting— and the uncouth language —who it is before seeing him.


His half-brother stands in the foyer with a box in hand. “Hey, where’s the runt? I got her present.”

Rin barrels out of the living room, dragging the miko behind her. “Uncle Yasha, look who Papa got me!”

Inuyasha stares at Sesshomaru. “You bought a human pet for your human pet?” He whistles. “Wow, this is a new low, even by your standards.”

Sesshomaru seethes. If Inuyasha believes he will tolerate such impertinence, the half-breed is about to receive a lesson in the form of Sesshomaru’s fist. He starts to approach his brother but the miko intervenes.

“I’m not a pet. My name is Kaliado.”

“Kal what?”

“Kaliado,” Rin repeats. “She’s my favorite author and Papa got her to come here for my birthday! Isn’t he the best?”

“Feh, whatever,” Inuyasha murmurs. He thrusts the package at Rin. “Here, kid. Happy birthday.”

“Thank you!” Rin drops Miss Higurashi’s hand to hold her present. “Kaliado, want to see my room now?”


Rin races upstairs. As Miss Higurashi slips past him, she gives Sesshomaru a small smile. He shifts, watching her until she disappears down the second-floor hallway.

Behind him, Inuyasha scoffs. “As if your life wasn’t complicated enough. Now you’ve gone and brought another female into your pack. I thought you didn’t like humans.”

“I do not.” He returns, despite knowing that his words are a lie. 


Kagome isn’t surprised that Rin’s room is bigger than her entire apartment, or that the little girl has furnishings worth more than her annual income. The Taisho family is one of the wealthiest in the country.

Despite her earlier suspicions, it appears that Mr. Taisho is a devoted father. He is attentive, patient, and watchful. Kagome could feel his eyes on them even when they weren’t occupying the same room. Normally, she’d be creeped out but, under the circumstances, she understands. She’s a stranger in his home. If their roles were reversed, Kagome would do the same thing.

“This is my wardrobe. Oh! And over here is my bed. This is my book nook. When I come home from school, I sit here and read.” Rin’s excitement hasn’t dissipated since Kagome’s arrival. She flits about her room, showing off every copy of the Caged Bird series that she owns and telling Kagome all about her best friend, Soten, who introduced her to the manga.

Kagome pauses at Rin’s bookshelf. Though she’s been working on Aya’s story for the better part of the last five years, it’s still humbling to see the product of her efforts in a child’s room. No amount of money can compare to the satisfaction she gets from seeing how much Rin loves the world she built.

The little girl tugs on her dress. “Kaliado, are you okay?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, I’m fine,” Kagome responds.

“You’re crying.”

“I’m alright,” Kagome reassures her. “It’s just…I’ve never seen my books displayed like this before.”

“Other authors write yokai as monsters. Yokai characters are always the villains in stories,” Rin points out. “That’s why I liked your books the best! Aya makes friends with everyone. It doesn’t matter if they are human, yokai, or hanyo.”

“Yeah,” Kagome agrees softly. “I liked that about her too.” 

“Will she ever see her family again?” Rin asks.

“I don’t know,” Kagome admits. “I haven’t finished the story yet. Would you like her to?” 

Rin shrugs. “I like the idea of her new friends becoming her family.”

“Why is that?”

“Because that’s what Papa did for me.”

Kagome swallows thickly. She knows Rin is adopted but the circumstances around her biological family have never been shared. Kagome didn’t think it was appropriate to ask. 

“Papa saved me. I shouldn’t have lived— that’s what the doctor said —but Papa got me out of the car wreck and brought me to the hospital. When they released me, he brought me here to live with him.” 

Kagome wipes the back of her hand across her eyes, erasing the evidence of another round of tears. She understands the pain Rin experienced. Her father and grandmother also died in a car accident. 

“He takes me to visit them whenever I want,” Rin continues quietly. 

“I’m sure it is a great comfort to them to know you are safe and provided for.” 

“Yeah, I still miss them sometimes.”

“You’ll always miss them. The best way to honor them is by living your life. Enjoy the gift you’ve been given,” Kagome tells her. 

Rin looks up at her. “Isn’t that what Aya told Coral after her village was attacked?” 

“You’ve got a good memory.” 

“When Papa told me you would be here today, I started rereading the series,” Rin says. “He also said you don’t do live events with your fans like other authors. Why is that?” 

Kagome pauses to figure out how to explain her situation in a way an eight-year-old can understand. “Well, remember when Aya comes across the Spider King?”

Rin nods.

“She thought he wanted to help her restore her wings but it was a trick. The Spider King wanted her Phoenix heart so he could live forever.”

“That’s why he keeps chasing after her and attacking her friends,” Rin says.

Kagome bites her lower lip. Maybe this wasn’t the right analogy to use.

“Is someone chasing you, Kaliado? Someone bad?”

She should lie. Her problems have nothing to do with Rin or the Taisho clan. Kagome starts to reply, but the little girl interrupts.

“Papa is strong. He’s the most powerful yokai I know. He can protect you, just like he protects me. Papa wouldn’t let anything happen to you, Kaliado.”

“That’s really sweet, Rin, but your father has a company to run and you to raise. It’s not his job to look after me.”

“But he would,” Rin insists. “Papa could adopt you! You could come to live here with us and we could draw every day and have sleepovers and eat dinner together. It would be the best!”

Kagome laughs. “I think I’m too old to be adopted.”

Rin taps her chin thoughtfully. “I know! You and Papa should mate!”

Kagome feels a wave of heat rush over her. She knows it’s common for yokai pups to grow up with an understanding of mating rituals. She wasn’t expecting Mr. Taisho to have shared the same lessons with Rin. Or that Rin would vocalize them so easily.

“Grandma is always saying he needs to settle down.”

“I don’t think she meant with a hu—.” Kagome cuts herself off. She doesn’t want to bring up lingering prejudices to Mr. Taisho’s human daughter.

“And Papa likes you! He said you’re really powerful like him.”

Kagome stares at her. “H-he did?”

“Yep,” Rin beams proudly.

Her head is spinning. Between seeing her work displayed, Rin’s grasp of mating, and sharing Mr. Taisho’s opinion of her, Kagome can barely think straight. Is that true? Does he really consider her powerful? She doesn’t know why the idea makes her oddly happy. And why is there a fluttering in her chest?

“Once you’re mated, we’ll be a family!”

It’s like someone slams on the brakes. Her head clears instantly at that sobering thought. If she doesn’t do something, Mr. Taisho is going to think she instigated this. He’s going to assume she didn’t accept a form of payment so she could manipulate her way into his daughter’s life and use him as a safeguard against other demons. After all, who better than a member of the Taisho clan to keep her secret safe? 

“Rin, I don’t think—.”

“I’m going to go ask him.”

“Wait! Rin!” Kagome runs after the little girl but she’s deceptively fast. She makes it downstairs far quicker than Kagome can in her heels and disappears around the corner.

Flushed from embarrassment and sprinting, Kagome gazes around for Koga and Kagura. The latter is nowhere in sight. She spots Koga in the living room speaking to Rin’s uncle, Inuyasha.

“Koga, we have to go.”

Her friend’s smile fades at the sound of her tone. He grabs her wrist. “Kags, what’s wrong? What happened?”

“Nothing. Nothing,” she insists, shaking her head. “Let’s just go. Please.

“Yeah, alright. Let me find Kagura and we can leave.”

“Hey, if you need a ride, I can take you,” Inuyasha offers.

Koga looks at Kagome. She glances over her shoulder, grateful when she doesn’t see Mr. Taisho or Rin. “Okay.”

“Come on,” he says to her. “My car’s out front.”

“Go on. I’ll meet you there,” Koga promises.

Kagome watches him head down to the wine cellar and follows Inuyasha out.

In time, she hopes Rin will forgive her.


“This is your fault!” 

Sesshomaru can barely contain his rage. His brother has been guilty of idiocy in the past, however, today’s actions are far worse than his usual annoying antics. Rin has been locked away in her room, inconsolable since the miko’s departure.

He has attempted calling the woman. She is not answering. There is no response to his text messages or emails. He is fairly certain the publishing house will request a restraining order if he continues to flood their channels. For the first time in his life, Sesshomaru is uncertain about what to do.

“You have gone too far,” he growls, poison leaking from his claws.

“No sparring in the kitchen,” Toga states calmly.

Sesshomaru’s eyes narrow. “You have no say. This is my home. It is my daughter who was affected by your carelessness.”

Inuyasha rolls his eyes. “She seems fine to me.”

“She has not come out of her room in over an hour,” Sesshomaru reminds him.

The half-breed shrugs. “Probably has a stomachache from all that cake.”

“Inuyasha, I warn you—.”

His brother scoffs. “Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it all before. I’m a disgrace to the family name. You are ashamed of me. I should be disowned. Am I missing anything?”

“A reason,” Toga interjects.


“What reason did she have for leaving?” their father inquires.

Inuyasha scratches the back of his neck and stares at the floor. “Uh, I don’t know. She just said she wanted to leave and Koga was worried so I offered to give them a lift.”

Sesshomaru’s nostrils flare. Of course, his brother would behave foolishly in front of the wolf. He should have predicted that the two most exhausting individuals at his daughter’s party would gravitate toward each other. Sesshomaru prays the wolf is a passing infatuation for Inuyasha. He does not wish to deal with their antics on an ongoing basis. 

“Your consequences have actions. You cannot ruin Rin’s birthday and expect me to do nothing.”

“I didn’t ruin squat!”

“Excuse me?”

“You’re forgetting that I’m the one who took Kaliado out of here,” Inuyasha says, smirking. 

“I am aware,” Sesshomaru snaps.

“Okay.” His brother shrugs. “Then I guess you don’t care that I know where she lives.”

Sesshomaru stills. “You dropped the miko off at her residence?”


“Give me the address. Now.”


Kagome sits, staring at the blank sheet in front of her. She planned on sketching out the next page of her latest volume tonight. Channeling her emotions into her work has never been a problem before but each time the graphite touches paper, all Kagome pictures is Rin’s disappointed face.

“Ugh, I’m an idiot.” She groans and drops her forehead onto her desk.

The only thing worse than leaving the party early would have been to stay. Kagome can’t imagine what she would have said to Mr. Taisho. It’s better than she cuts ties with his family now before she grows attached.

Except, she already has.

Today was the first time in recent memory that she’s been able to be herself. Usually, the only place Kagome can frequent without the fear of exposure or attack is her apartment or the family shrine. She doesn’t even visit Koga or Kagura much. It’s too much of a risk.

Today was different, though. Today, she spoke freely about her work. Kagome was able to talk to others without worrying about their motivations. She met one of her fans and saw proof of her book’s message reaching the audience. There were no threats. She wasn’t criticized for being a miko or expected to complete a ritual. Today, Kagome was accepted for simply being herself.

She opens her eyes, unsurprised to find her vision blurry. A tear falls to the floor with a soft plop.

It doesn’t make sense. Kagome shouldn’t feel a sense of belonging in a home that isn’t hers with people she barely knows. What she feels now isn’t real. It’s a product of everything she learned today. She just feels guilty for leaving so abruptly. This is remorse— nothing more.

Kagome pushes back from her desk. She goes to the bathroom and splashes cold water on her face. As she’s patting herself dry, a knock comes at the door.

With a sigh, she answers it. “Koga, for the last time. I’m fine. It was— Mr. Taisho?

“Miss Higurashi, may I come in?”

Kagome is so stunned to see him that all she manages is a nod. She steps back, allowing him into her apartment.

“Thank you.”

Mr. Taisho enters in three smooth strides. It’s surreal to see him here. His yoki fills every available space, slamming up against her reiki. The sensation causes her flesh to break out in goosebumps. Kagome has never reacted to a yokai’s energy this way before. She wonders if Mr. Taisho feels the same.

He scans her apartment, pausing when his attention falls on her desk. Along the wall above it, she has several character sketches and scenery trials pinned. “Your work area?” he surmises.

“Studio space is expensive so I do all my drafts and production here.”

“Cost-effective.” He continues to peruse. Kagome watches him move in slow, even strides. His footsteps don’t make a sound. The silence begins to feel overwhelming.

She clears her throat. “I’m sorry I didn’t say goodbye before I left.”

“Are you unwell?”


“Did someone recognize you?”


Mr. Taisho pivots around to face her. “May I ask why you departed so suddenly?”

Kagome exhales. He deserves the truth, no matter how uncomfortable or embarrassing it may make her feel. “I didn’t want to give you the wrong impression.”

“And what impression would that be?”

“I didn’t refuse payment so I could try to manipulate you. I just don’t like the idea of taking money for something as simple as going to a party. It seems wrong. But that’s beside the point. What Rin said was probably my fault. I was trying to explain why I don’t want people to know who I am. I never meant her to take it that way.” By the time Kagome finishes, she can barely look him in the eye.

“Miko, I have watched you quite closely. I do not believe you possess the ability to operate in a deceitful manner.”


“Dishonesty is traceable in mannerisms, vocal fluctuation, and scent. There are few who are capable of masking the truth from me.”

“So you have a built-in lie detector too?” She smiles, tucking her hair behind her ear. “I guess that’s not surprising. You’re an inuyokai after all.”


Kagome bites her lip. “I hope no one else was around when Rin spoke to you. I think I’d die on the spot.”

Mr. Taisho stares at her. “What do you have to be ashamed of?”

“Rin said she was going to ask you to…,” Kagome trials off. She can’t bring herself to say it out loud. 

Mr. Taisho steps forward. “Ask me what, miko?”

She shakes her head, backing away. “Never mind. It doesn’t matter.”

“If it caused you to run, it matters a great deal.”

“No, it’s ridiculous.” 

“I very much doubt that.”

Kagome hits her closet door. She starts to move around but Mr. Taisho’s arm shoots out. He plants his palm near her shoulder blade, trapping her. Kagome feels her reiki surging around her. It’s instinct. Being caught like this ignites her flight or fight response. Energy crackles around her like firecrackers going off during the festival season.

Mr. Taisho doesn’t withdraw. He doesn’t even flinch. He holds her gaze and leans closer. “You would stand and face me yet run away from a little girl?”

“I’m not afraid of you.”

He grins. “No, you are not.” 

“Rin didn’t scare me. What she implied did.” 

“Which was?” Mr. Taisho prompts. 

“That you and I should be mates.” Kagome holds her breath, waiting for his expression to change from curiosity to disgust. It doesn’t. Instead, he chuckles.  

Mr. Taisho straightens up and removes his hand from her closet door. “You are quite an intriguing woman, Miss Higurashi.”

Her cheeks burn. “I’m nothing special,” she mutters, brushing past him before he can notice. She busies herself with organizing her desk.

“I disagree. Not many dare to challenge me. Even fewer live to speak of it.”

“Yeah, well I doubt you’ve met many mikos.”

“Probably more than you have.” He winks at her.

Kagome drops her stack of sketchbooks. Cursing, she bends down to gather them. “Just how old are you?”

“By human standards, I am ancient. To a daiyokai, I have only just begun to approach my prime,” he answers.

She’s not sure how to respond to that so she turns away and dumps her sketchbooks into the bottom drawer of her desk.

“Do you have plans tomorrow evening?”

“No, why?” 

“I would like to take you out for dinner.” 

She gapes at him, unable to form a coherent response. There is no way she just heard him say that. 

“What you term ‘ridiculous,’ I consider a rather appealing proposal.” Mr. Taisho glances at the clock behind her. “It is late and I do not wish to overstay my welcome.” He moves away from her, stopping at the door. “Please consider it. You have my number. You can let me know what you decide in the morning.” He bows. “Have a good evening, Miss Higurashi.”


He blinks.

“You can call me Kagome.”

“Sesshomaru,” he returns.

“Good night, Sesshomaru.”

“Until tomorrow, Kagome.”


Author's Note: Written for the Pink Moon Observatory launch and cross-posted to Dokuga. Inspired by "The Lady with a Mask" manga, which I recommend!