“Nakamura, tell me again why you’ve arranged for this scrimmage?”
Sango rolled her eyes. “Taisho, you don’t really need me to explain this again, do you?”
Taisho Yash crossed his arms and looked hard at his assistant coach. She’d insisted on dragging the kendo club out the night before a meet to scrimmage against the Nagoya University team. Something about building connections across teams and between kendoka. He’d grumbled and moaned about it, but knew this could give them an advantage in the meet the next day, since they would get to see one of their top competitors up close. So, he’d allowed Nakamura to have her way. Just this once.
The dojo at Shizuoka University was smaller than what they were used to at Tokyo U., but it would be sufficient for the meet the next day. The two teams squared off against each other, Nakamura barking out orders, her long brown ponytail swaying as she dashed between the teams. Nagoya’s assistant coach, Maeda Kaede, was smaller and quieter than Nakamura, but she walked among the team’s kendoka softly, offering advice in low tones, watching her athletes with a sharp eye. The kendoka clashed one at a time, the shinai making clattering sounds that reverberated in the dojo as the bamboo swords hit, over and over. And although he didn’t dare admit it, Yash knew Nakamura was right. Scrimmaging would light a fire under his team and help them succeed at the meet tomorrow.
Yash watched his team go through ji-geiko with the Nagoya kendoka, slightly impressed. The Nagoya team was good, better than he’d anticipated; his team was going to go through some kata before he let them go for the night, that was for sure.
“Your team is acceptable, Taisho-sensei,” said a silky voice behind him. He turned slightly, frowning at the female standing behind him. She was very thin, like she would blow away with a strong gust of wind. Her long black hair was slung in a low ponytail, and her black eyes raked over his form pointedly.
Yash straightened up and met her gaze steadily. “Non-team-members aren’t allowed in the dojo after hours,” he said coolly.
The woman adjusted her ponytail and walked around him slowly, taking him in: his long, silver hair; his amber eyes; his golden skin; the furry ears twisting madly this way and that on top of his head, trying to detect whatever they could about her. He felt like a piece of meat hanging at a butcher’s shop. He wasn’t sure how to take that.
“Good thing I’m not a non-member,” she said, just as coolly. She held out a business card in both hands and bowed. “Maeda Kikyo, Nagoya University kendo coach. This is my business card,” she said formally.
Yash felt a little bile come up in his throat. This was Nagoya’s coach? This skinny, cold woman? He staggered a bit, but recouped enough to bow back and accept her business card. He made a show of examining it before pulling out his own card case and slipping it inside, removing one of his own cards and presenting it to her. “Taisho Yash, Tokyo University kendo coach,” he replied.
Maeda-sensei took the card and examined it politely. “I know who you are, Taisho-sensei,” she said, slipping his card in her own card case. “We will crush you tomorrow.”
“Shows what you know, Maeda-sensei,” he retorted. “I’ve got two of the top kendoka in the country. We will crush you.”
Maeda-sensei merely continued on her way past him and headed towards her assistant coach, who Yash had heard was her younger sister. They spoke in low tones for a moment, then she waved her team over. Maeda-sensei spoke to them softly, looking at Yash every so often, causing him to turn red with rage and confusion. Her team laughed at something she said.
“Oi! Team!” he barked out. “Over here!” His kendoka looked up in surprise; Nakamura’s eyes narrowed. They made their way over to him. He could scent the confusion on his team, and he knew he had to calm the fuck down quickly. His ears twitched in the direction of Maeda-sensei and her team. Even with her soft tone, he could clearly hear her talking with her team about them. About what they’d seen, and how they would use that to their advantage at the meet.
“This is no friendly scrimmage, team; they’re here to scout us out,” he said quietly when the team finally gathered around him. “Let’s run through some kata, and then we’ll have a team meeting at the hotel before bed. I’m calling this for the night. Get your bokken, and put your shinai away for now.”
“Yes, sensei,” chorused his team, and they shuffled off to change out their swords.
Sango stayed close to him after the team dispersed. “What do you sense, Inuyasha?” she said in a low tone, using his full given name.
He flinched at her use of his full name, but chose to ignore it. “I don’t trust her, Sango.”
Yash crossed his arms. “The coach.”
Sango looked across the dojo at Maeda-sensei. “I have a hard time believing she’s anything spectacular,” she murmured.
Yash frowned. “That’s why we keep an eye on her,” he replied. “She’s hiding herself well.”
“What does that mean?” Sango asked, surprised. “Is she—”
“—No,” Yash said quickly. “But there’s something…off…about her.”
Sango looked like she wanted to talk more, but the team returned with their bokken and looked expectantly at their coach through their men.
“All right,” Yash said to his team. “Let’s do sanbon-me. Miyamoto-kun, Sato-kun, Tanaka-kun. You take the role of uchitachi. Ito-kun, Hashimoto-kun, Norimitsu-kun, you’ll take the role of shitachi. Let me see what you’ve got.” The team broke off into pairs and began running through their kata, Yash watching closely to make sure they followed each step of the kata, the uchitachi carefully leading the shictachi. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed Maeda-sensei watching his athletes closely, too.
He had to get her the fuck out of there.
“Nakamura, watch the kata,” he said abruptly, and turned on his heel. He stalked over to Maeda-sensei. She eyed him interestedly as he strode towards her, her black eyes cooling.
“Maeda-sensei,” he said coldly, “why the fuck are you watching my team go through kata?”
Her eyebrows raised, but otherwise, she betrayed no indication that she noticed his strong language.
“Your athletes are quite talented, Taisho-sensei,” she said simply.
“They are,” he answered. “Stay the fuck away from them.”
“Duly noted,” she replied. She turned to her assistant coach. “Kaede.” The young coach looked up at Maeda-sensei. “Round up the team. We’re leaving.” She turned her attend back to Yash. “Taisho-sensei, until tomorrow. When Nagoya beats your ass into next century.”
His eyebrows almost shot off his face. He struggled to retain his composure. “Not even close, Maeda-sensei,” he growled.
It was almost as if she noticed his shock and reveled in it. “Until tomorrow, Taisho-sensei,” she said, all silk and smoothness and cream. She motioned to her team, and they followed her out of the dojo. Yash was left sputtering in her wake.
“Yash,” said Sango, coming up behind him. He whipped around, somehow shocked by her presence. “Nakamura,” he said, relief flooding through his body.
“So,” she commented blandly, tightening her high ponytail with both hands. “That went well.”
Yash grimaced and swiveled to watch his kendoka run through their kata. “Remind me to never let you plan practice again.”
Sango looked at him, amused. “Maeda-sensei is something, huh?”
Yash’s grimace became a full frown. “Something,” he grumbled.
The meet was going well for Tokyo University, Yash thought. His first three kendoka advanced cleanly and quickly, the extra kata he’d thrown in the night before for good measure clearly paying off. His athletes were focused and attacking and parrying with determined effort. Perhaps they were trying to overcome the embarrassment they’d suffered at the hands of Nagoya University the night before, or perhaps they were trying to assert their dominance as the new team to beat, or perhaps it was a combination of both. Regardless, after the first matches, Yash was disappointed in his kendoka. Some of the scores were much too close for his liking.
“Remember,” he hissed to his kendoka between matches, “remember the importance of zanshin. Finish what you start!”
“Yes, sensei!” his athletes chorused. Yash turned to his team manager. “Hida-kun,” he snapped at the young, mousy man who had the ledger open before him. Hida-kun looked up and peered at Yash through his small wireframe glasses. “Can you tell me where we concentrated our attacks this time around?”
Hida-kun pushed his glasses up on the bridge of his nose and peered at his ledger. “Looks like the do?” he said tentatively.
“Is that a positive, Hida-kun?” Yash growled. “Or are you guessing?”
Hida-kun shook his head and peered at his ledger. “Yes, the do.”
Yash sighed. He needed a new manager desperately. Hida-kun was nice enough, but grossly incompetent. A manager needed to be able to think on their feet, take excellent records, and offer split-second analysis. Hida-kun could do none of those things.
“Gather around, everyone,” he said. “Let’s talk about the next matches.”
All through the second round, Yash could feel her eyes on him.
Each time he stalked the length of the dojo, shouting commands and encouragements at his athletes, he felt her gaze burning into him. Each time he and Nakamura conferred, he felt her eyes raking up and down his body. And each time he pulled his athletes close to give them advice, he felt her eyes turn soft and seemingly caress his image.
It was really fucking uncomfortable, until it wasn’t.
Eventually he got used to her eyes on him, and at one point he even met her gaze, golden eyes piercing into black. He held her eyes with his own until she blushed and looked away. Surprised, he smirked and turned his attention back to the meet.
So that’s how it was, he mused reasonably. He hadn’t anticipated that she would be interested in him. She didn’t seem the type to be interested in a hanyou. But she had been taking him in quite intensely the day before. Maybe he was wrong?
To be honest, she really wasn’t his type, either. She was a little too thin, a little too tall, and a little too pointed. He preferred his women soft and petite: fiery, yes, but with a gentleness that would both soothe and excite his soul. But there was something about Maeda-sensei: she wanted to kick his ass, and he liked that about her. Despite his best efforts, he had to admit: he liked her confidence and her spunk.
He waited until she looked at him again, and he sent her a lopsided, fanged grin. She blushed again, but smiled a little back. Yash was so busy looking at her that he didn’t notice the round had ended and his athletes were coming back to the sideline. Nakamura hissed at him, and he pulled himself together and went back to his group. However, he kept looking over his athletes’ heads at her. She was the center of attention in the Nagoya University group. She was also his main focus, too, it seemed. He could barely give any feedback to his athletes.
When his kendoka headed off into the third round, Sango grabbed Yash by the wrist so hard it hurt. He yelped as she dragged him off into a corner where they wouldn’t be overheard.
“What the fuck, Inuyasha?” hissed Sango, using his full given name. Yash’s ears flattened against his head.
“What are you talking about, Sango?” Yash grumbled. “Everything’s fine.”
“My ass everything’s fine,” she spat. “I thought we were on the same page with Maeda-sensei. She’s not to be trusted.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Yash countered lazily, flicking his claws. “I don’t trust her, sure. But I don’t hate looking at her.”
Sango rolled her eyes so hard Yash thought they were going to hit the floor. “Keep your eye on the prize, Taisho,” she said sternly. “Playtime is for after the meet.”
“Fine,” Yash replied grouchily.
“Keep it in your pants, Taisho.” Sango was teasing, but her face was serious. “I don’t have time to clean up your shit.” She turned and went back to the team, Yash following slowly.
He thought about what Sango had said. He knew Maeda-sensei had been trying to get under his skin with the stunt she pulled the night before, and now, with watching his every move. He totally got that. But was it possible that she was, in fact, succeeding where last night he was so sure she would fail? Was he attracted to her?
“Sato-kun!” shouted Sango. “Your tsuki is crooked!”
Sato-kun quickly adjusted the tsuki, which protects the chin and neck, and turned back in line, his back slumped a little at having been caught looking sloppy. Sango grinned and then turned back to Yash, who had followed her back to the table. He busied himself looking over Hida-kun’s notes, and feeling disgusted. He couldn’t believe Sango had hired this fool.
After the match Yash quickly congratulated his team. They had done well—not great, as Nagoya University kendoka took the top two spots—but Sato-kun finished third and Norimitsu-kun finished fifth, so two top-six finishes wasn’t awful. He was going to have to ride the team a little harder before the next meet, but for now, he had other things to take care of.
Her back was to him; she was too busy congratulating her team on a job well done to notice his approach. He could scent her confidence and satisfaction; it was like a light and he was the moth, being draw closer and closer.
“Congratulations to your team, Maeda-sensei,” he said in a low, husky voice, causing her to jump.
“Tai—Taisho-sensei,” she managed to get out, looking at him in surprise.
“Do you wanna get out of here?” he asked her.
“I was not expecting you would ever want to see me again, after last night,” she commented coolly.
Yash ran a hand through his hair. “Yeah, well, me either, to be honest,” he admitted. “But let’s start over. Come grab a drink with me.”
Maeda-sensei frowned. “I don’t drink, Taisho-sensei.”
“How about a coffee, then?” Yash tried again. He wasn’t about to give up.
She sighed. “Fine.” She turned to her assistant coach. “Kaede, wrap up the meeting.” Her sister and assistant coach grinned and gave Maeda-sensei the thumbs up. Maeda-sensei turned back to Yash. “Give me ten minutes to collect my things. I’ll meet you out front.”
Yash grinned and reached out to squeeze her shoulder. “See you out there, Maeda-sensei.”
Yash frowned, his ponytail whipping around him in the wind as he waited outside for Maeda-sensei. She’d said ten minutes, but nearly twenty had passed. He growled, thinking that she must have stood him up. It was cold, and while the cold didn’t bother him like it bothered full humans, that didn’t make it awesome to hang around in, either. The wind nipped at his cheeks and nose, causing him to grumble and settle his face deeper into his leather jacket.
Then, just as he was about to give up hope and head out, the double doors to the dojo opened. There she was: the lights from the dojo providing an ethereal backlight against which Maeda-sensei stood. She had let down her high ponytail, leaving tendrils of hair around her face. Her jacket was navy blue and downy, with a light brown furry collar. Her hands were shoved into her pockets; her cheeks pink from the change in temperature. Her black eyes sparkled like charcoal, and she smiled when she saw him standing on the sidewalk.
“I’m so sorry,” she said breathlessly. “Did I keep you waiting long?”
Only twenty minutes in the fucking cold!
He smiled. “Not at all.” He paused. “Here.” He handed her a helmet. “You’re gonna need it.”
She frowned and turned the helmet over in her hands. “What is this?”
Yash scoffed. “What does it look like?”
“And what am I exactly supposed to do with it?” she asked him.
“Um…” He was a little perplexed. “You put it on your head. It’s to keep you safe.”
“Why would I need something to keep me safe?” she asked, confused.
“Because my ride isn’t typical,” he said, taking her hand and leading her towards the parking garage. Normally he traveled with the team, but he’d been running late that morning and needed to grab a few things from home and from the dojo, so he took his own transportation.
When she saw his ride, a sleek, black motorcycle, her face noticeably paled. “How about a rideshare?” she asked tentatively.
“What?” Yash strode over to his baby and threw one leg over the frame. “My girl is offended,” he said huffily. “And frankly, so am I.”
Maeda-sensei strode carefully closer to the bike. She reached out to touch its cool exterior, and shrank back a bit at how icy it felt.
“I don’t think I can do this,” she said. “You’ll have to find us another type of transportation.”
He couldn’t believe the words coming out of her mouth. “Are you fucking serious?” He ran his hands over the throttle. “This is a Kawasaki Ninja. It’s one of the fastest, most badass bikes you will ever see! Its ride is so sweet and so smooth you’ll never want to sit in a car ever again.”
Maeda-sensei huffed. “If you want to have coffee with me, you’ll find us another ride, preferably a car,” she said primly.
“I can’t just leave it here!” he protested. Her gaze was icy, so he rapidly thought of a new plan.
He texted Miroku, the team physician. He couldn’t believe he was about to do this.
I’ve got a date with the Nagoya U head coach. She won’t ride my bike. You still here?
The response was immediate.
So do I get to ride her or the bike?
Yash rolled his eyes.
Just get out here, you fucker.
He put his phone away and looked at Maeda-sensei. She was pretending to be very interested in the walls of parking garage.
“We can get a rideshare,” he said, causing her face to light up with delight. His heart fluttered. He would have to file that one away for later.
Within minutes, Miroku burst into the garage. “Sup, Yash,” he said to the hanyou. Yash nodded curtly. He turned to Maeda-sensei. “Deguchi Miroku. Honored, I’m sure.”
Maeda-sensei looked at him like he was something that had fallen off the bottom of her shoe. That was about right, Yash realized.
She bowed. “Maeda Kikyo,” she told him. She turned to Yash. “Can we go?”
Yash looked down at his phone and opened his rideshare app. He punched in their address, then tossed Miroku his keys. “Not a scratch,” he warned the doctor.
Miroku’s eyebrows twitched. “Not a scratch,” he promised, looking from Yash to Maeda-sensei amusedly. Yash groaned inwardly. He was going to hear it from the doc after this one.
Somehow, they had gone from heated arguments over their teams to heated sex in the bedroom. And gods, what sex it was! Kikyo (as he was now allowed to call her) may have been all ice when it came to kendo, but her body was warm and responsive, and he loved eliciting all kinds of sounds from her. She wasn’t a demanding lover, but she liked certain things, and he loved to give them to her. In particular, he found that she liked lifting her legs over his shoulders while he fucked her, and he had to admit that felt pretty damn amazing.
Early on during their sexual activities he’d also learned something interesting about her. Kikyo was a miko. And she hadn’t told him—nope, she’d kept that delectable little secret to herself—instead, she had shown him.
How had he learned that she only liked to do certain things in the bedroom?
When, in the heat of the moment, his youkai blood had gotten carried away and tried to flip her over onto her hands and knees, as per traditional inu youkai mating methods, she’d freaked out so much that she let loose an insane amount of reiki and purified him.
Well, not killed him, because he was only half-demon, but she turned him human for a good couple of hours.
And while he kneeled on her bed, black hair tumbling around him instead of silver, ears on the sides of his head instead of on top, senses dulled and confused, she’d taken one look at him in human form and positively tackled him to the bed. Then she had let herself truly go wild; that was the first and only time she ever rode him, and it was glorious. If his youki hadn’t been suppressed, he might have not-so-accidentally marked her as his mate—that’s how intense it was.
He had monthly human nights that coincided with the new moon, but he’d never told a soul about them before Kikyo, keeping to himself instead and hiding away once a month, doing his best to avoid plans that night. But Kikyo was different. He told her just about everything about himself, and she listened. Like, really listened. To everything. About his brother, his parents, the discrimination he faced as a hanyou, his love of kendo, how he trained his kendoka…everything. And when she found out he had a human night once a month, she immediately pulled out her calendar to see if she could make it to Tokyo. But with her schedule and the timing of the new moon, it was hard to arrange to be together on those nights.
Yash didn’t mind—he wanted to be with Kikyo, no matter what. But he got the feeling that she preferred his human side, and that if it wasn’t so painful for him, she’d purify him every time they had sex. She’d been like a different person that night. Perhaps that was because …maybe because while he could go all night on his hanyou stamina, she was often spent after one round? He wasn’t sure.
Or maybe it was something else.
Yash pushed that thought out of his mind every time it entered.
After their (one round of) lovemaking, Kikyo preferred to cuddle while talking about their days. For her, that day existed primarily of kendo.
Gods, did she love to talk about kendo. All the fucking time. It was all she thought about; he’d heard the idea of someone “living and breathing” their job, but Kikyo was the textbook definition of that concept. He wanted to nuzzle her breasts; she wanted to talk about how unfair the refs were in the latest meet. He wanted to stroke her narrow, milky thighs; she wanted to talk about which type of bamboo was best for shinai. Honestly, it was a little annoying, especially when he just wanted her to pay attention to him, for fuck’s sake.
But he had lots of ideas on how to distract her. He would tease her dark, wine-colored nipples, pinching them between the pads of his fingers (never his claws) and causing her to moan in the middle of a breakdown of her team’s practice. He would nip at her neck when she cited statistics, which would make her shove him angrily (she hated when he used his fangs or claws), but at least she’d be focused back on him. And he would run his fingers over her flat stomach while she asked him question after question about his training techniques, kneading the skin there and making her sigh. It all worked for a little bit, but ultimately, Kikyo always brought it back to kendo.
Kendo, kendo, kendo. It was making him hate his job. She talked about it relentlessly, and he just wanted to talk about them. About their future. For months, whenever he brought it up, she changed the subject effortlessly, causing him to think that maybe he needed to take drastic measures to get her to pay attention to him and his pleas take make their relationship more permanent. He decided that he would.
It wasn’t until March that Yash finally found an opportunity put his plan into action. She’d been a little distant lately, and he thought that he would take this chance to show her how he felt. He would surprise her after her team practice all the way in Nagoya; it wasn’t close, and it was kind of a drastic move, but Yash was a hanyou who liked adventure and taking a chance; he didn’t ride a motorcycle for nothing, dammit! The shinkansen would get him there in two hours, but it had been a while since he’d had a good ride on his baby, so he decided to fuck it all and take the bike out for a spin.
It was warm for early spring. The air was crisp, but not cold, against his body as he rode. His leather jacket seared tight to his chest, and his long silver hair flew out behind him in a streaming braid from beneath his helmet. The only other time Yash felt this alive was when he went through his own katas, or when he sparred with his kendoka or Sango. He depressed the throttle to go even faster, weaving in and out of traffic at a pace that would be dangerous for any human, but was thrilling for a half-demon. He couldn’t wait to get to Kikyo.
Yash arrived at Kikyo’s apartment just after 7:00. He knew she would just be getting home from practice, and would be tired and hungry. Once he got closer to the apartment, he’d called her favorite takeout place, ordering some ramen for himself and sushi for her. She didn’t like to eat noodles or fried foods, so taking her out to dinner could be challenging, but she did love her sushi. He’d arranged to have it delivered at 8.
When he reached her apartment, he paused and listened at the door. He could hear her moving around in the apartment; it sounded like she was putting some things away in the kitchen. He paused, then rapped sharply on the door: once, twice.
“Just a minute!” he heard her call. Delighted, he rubbed his hands together. She was going to be so fucking surprised.
The door creaked open, and there stood his Kikyo, all dressed up and looking delicious in a black, skintight dress and sharp black heels.
“Inuyasha?” said Kikyo tentatively. “What are you doing here? Did we have a date tonight? Did I forget?”
Yash growled and stepped past her into the genkan. “What are you doing, Kikyo?” he hissed, pulling at her dress. She frowned and stepped away.
“So we don’t have a date,” Kikyo said slowly, “and you decided to just show up unannounced?” She paused and shook her head, making an irritated sound. “You know how much I dislike surprises, Inuyasha.”
“Fuck all that!” he bellowed, causing her to take another step back. “What are you doing dressed like…like…” his hands gestured wildly, but he couldn’t find the words.
“Like what, Inuyasha?” she said in a deadly quiet voice.
“Like I don’t know what!” he finally exclaimed, words failing him. “You never dress like this for me!”
“I’m going out with some girlfriends,” Kikyo patiently explained, as though he were three years old, “and we are going to a club.” Her icy black gaze, smooth as obsidian, nearly froze his fiery amber eyes. “Do you ever take me to a club, Inuyasha?” she added coolly.
“Fuck no,” he spat. “You know I can’t handle the smells and the sounds!”
“Precisely.” Kikyo reached past him to grab her coat, which was hanging on a knob beside the door. “Now, if you will excuse me, I am running late.”
As she went to move past him, Yash grabbed her arm, holding her in place. “Hold on,” he said. “I drove over three hours to see you, and all I get is an ‘excuse me, I’m running late?!’”
She looked him up and down. Her face softened as his wiggling ears and his droopy eyes. She reached down and took off her shoes, then led him into the living room, where she sat him down on the couch.
“You’re right,” she said softly. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking.” She pulled out her phone. “Here.” She sifted through her contacts. “Let me tell my friends I can’t make it after all.” Once she was done, she put her phone away and smiled brightly at him. “So. You surprised me, Inuyasha.”
“I thought it would be fun,” he said lamely.
She laughed, and his ears perked up. She’s wasn’t pissed, after all.
She leaned forward and kissed him; his breath caught.
“It’s a good surprise,” she said.
His face lit up. She was glad to see him!
Quickly, he reached into his jacket pocket and felt the small box that had made it all the way to Nagoya safely.
“Kikyo,” he said.
She looked at him with those beautiful dark eyes. “Yes, Inuyasha?”
He ignored her use of his full name and cleared his throat. He wasn’t good with words.
“You make me really happy, Kikyo.” She smiled and nodded indulgently. He used this to gain confidence to keep going. “The past months with you have been really wonderful. I didn’t think I would ever find someone at all to love me, given my…background,” he settled on that lovely neutral word, “and that it’s you…it’s just more than I could have hoped for. So, I want to ask you…” he pulled out the box from his pocket and opened it. Kikyo gasped at the large diamond ring inside. “Will you marry me, Kikyo Maeda? Will you be my wife?”
Kikyo looked down at the box, then up into Yash’s smiling, hopeful face. He scented just a dash of trepidation, which was to be expected, and…indifference?
But he must have been imagining it, because she was smiling too, and threw her arms around him, kissing him madly. “Yes,” she breathed, “yes, I’ll marry you, Inuyasha Taisho.”
He groaned from happiness and want and rolled her over on the sofa so he was on top. He started hiking the minidress up over her thighs and hips, exposing her delicate lace thong. He pressed his nose between her thighs and inhaled sharply, her scent engulfing him. He was just about to tear her thong from her body (her thoughts about his fangs be damned) when a knock sounded at the door.
No, more like a banging, actually.
It was a sharp, angry bang, like someone was impatiently waiting to get in.
Kikyo fisted her hands in Yash’s hair. “Ignore it,” she said huskily, “and they’ll go away.”
But the banging persisted. Yash growled and pulled her dress back down. “I’ll make that fucker go away,” he said angrily, pushing up his jacket sleeves and readying himself for a fight.
Kikyo reached after him, grasping for his jacket, but he slipped out of her fingers and stormed towards the door. She fell off the couch with a clatter, still reaching for him, her face panicked and desperate. Yash ignored her and wrenched the door open.
Standing there was a man. A tall, handsome, human man with long black hair tied back in an impressive braid. His steely blue eyes widened in surprise as he took in Yash. He looked past him at Kikyo, who was disheveled on the floor. His beautiful face twisted into a grimace.
“What the fuck, Kikyo?” he spat. “Who the fuck is this? What the fuck did he do to you?” The man crossed the room in about two steps and helped Kikyo up off the floor, crushing her to his chest.
Yash stood at the front door, his hand still on the knob, unblinking as he watched the scene unfold. This man had not only shown up at Kikyo’s door, but he sounded…concerned for her…and now he was holding her like he was her lover, and not him! Yash growled instinctively in his throat and made to charge across the room.
Kikyo responded immediately, throwing up a reiki barrier between Yash and herself and the man. Yash whined and leapt back, fearful of being purified in the presence of an unknown male. She untangled herself from the man and smoothed out her dress.
Commissioned Artwork by kalcia
“I’m fine, Ban,” she said crisply. She looked at Yash. “This isn’t how I wanted you to find out,” she said to him.
“Kikyo,” Yash replied disbelieving, “what the fuck is going on here? Who is this guy?”
The man raised his hand in salute. “Bankotsu,” he said simply. “Everyone calls me Ban.”
“I don’t really give a shit,” Yash answered, almost spitting out his response. “Ban” dropped his hand and narrowed his eyes.
“What I don’t get,” Ban murmured, turning to Kikyo, “is why you have a hanyou in your apartment. What are you, crazy or something?”
“She’s my fiancée!” Yash bellowed, about done with this fucker and ready to knock the shit out of him. Even if Kikyo’s barrier purified him, he was gonna cross it and knock the guy senseless.
Kikyo went pale, but Ban started to laugh. Like, really laugh: holding his sides and barking like he was the one who was part inu youkai. He laughed so hard tears were rolling down his cheeks.
“Kikyo,” he said, still laughing and wiping tears away from his eyes, “please tell me this filthy half-breed is lying! What the fuck is he talking about? You never told me that you were also seeing a…” he looked at Yash’s ears with a sneer; Yash growled again and flashed his fangs, “…a neko hanyou!” He continued laughing as though this was the funniest thing he’d ever heard.
“I’m half inu youkai, you fucker,” said Yash harshly. “And I sure as fuck could kick your ass right out of here if I wanted to!”
Ban stopped laughing suddenly and made a tsking sound, waggling his finger right on the other side of the barrier. “No, no, hanyou,” he said teasingly, “not from that side of the barrier, you can’t.” He turned to Kikyo. “Can you please explain what’s happening?” A low sound rumbled in his throat. “Now.”
Kikyo took in a deep breath.
“I’ve known Ban for three years,” she said to Yash. “He’s my…” she turned to him. “What would you call this?”
Ban cocked his head to the side, pulling thoughtfully on his braid. “More than friends with benefits, but definitely less than married?”
Kikyo smiled softly. “We’ve always seen other people,” she said to Yash. “But lately Ban has been a little more—again, how to explain this? A little more possessive.” She flashed him a look that made Yash want to slash the guy’s handsome face apart. “I guess I wanted to rebel a bit.”
“So you picked a hanyou to rebel with?” Ban snorted. “That’s low, Kikyo—even for you.”
“I’m sorry, but you have a problem with me being hanyou?” Yash interrupted, eyeing Ban with even more intense dislike.
“I have a problem with all youkai,” Ban replied easily. “You’re scum, and you’re filth. You’re bad news.” He turned back to Kikyo and reached for her hand. Kikyo took it tentatively while Yash blanched from behind the barrier. “I’m sorry that I was so pushy before,” he said. “I’m in love with you, Kikyo. I should have just told you, instead of acting like an ass.”
At these words Kikyo’s eyes lit up in a way that they never lit up for Yash. “Ban,” she breathed, stepping forward into his arms. He tilted her head and kissed her tenderly.
“Oi!” Yash shouted from behind the barrier. “You ready to tell me about how I play a role in all this?” He pulled himself together, wiling himself not to cry right then and there. “Did I or did I not just ask you to marry me, Kikyo? And did you or did you not agree?”
Ban looked down at Kikyo, amused. Kikyo turned red.
“Yes, well…” she murmured. “I confess that I got a little caught up in the moment.” She paused. “And the idea of being engaged to the kendo coach of Tokyo University is really very appealing.” Her black eyes turned flinty. “Think of all the secrets you’ve already given me. What else would you give me.”
“Are you fucking serious, Kikyo?” Yash shouted, now pacing back and forth behind the barrier like a trapped animal. “You did all this to get the goods on my kendo team?”
She shrugged. “You are cute, Inuyasha, but you’re also a hanyou. You couldn’t think that any of this was serious.” She locked eyes with him, her gaze suddenly cold and steady. “Why would I ever want something more than a friendly fuck now and then with a half-breed?”
Yash shivered under her withering look, but held himself together. He wasn’t going to unleash his youki in the small apartment; she could purify him and Ban would try to kick his ass; Yash thought he could probably take him, but in his human form that would be a little more complicated. He was sure his face was a myriad of conflicting emotions. He felt anger; he felt hate; he felt infinite sadness; he felt pain. But most of all, he felt humiliation. He’d sensed something was off about how she felt about him from the very beginning—fuck, from the first time he met her!—and pushed it aside.
I knew, he realized with a jolt. I knew, and I fucking denied it all this time.
“Kikyo.” Her eyes betrayed no hint of emotion, but she continued to stare coldly at him. He held out his hand. “The ring.”
She slipped it off her finger and tossed it through the barrier. He caught it easily and returned it to his jacket pocket.
“Don’t talk to me. Don’t come near me. Don’t even look at me,” he hissed. “I won’t be able to control what happens if you do.”
She blinked and waved her hand dismissively. “Whatever,” she said. Ban slipped an arm around her shoulders and nuzzled her neck. Yash made a sound of disgust and left the apartment, his hearing picking up that once he closed the door, Kikyo was eagerly giving in to Ban’s ministrations.
Alone in the hallway, Yash took a deep breath and sank to the floor, his back pressed up against the wall. He fisted his hands in his hair, gripping it angrily, not caring if chunks were coming out, not feeling the pain—or rather, enjoying the feel of the pain, because he was so fucking stupid he deserved to hurt.
She’d lied to him. She’d fucking lied to him, and he’d bought it.
He was just another dirty hanyou after all.
They could keep the fucking takeout.
Yash threw himself into his work, training his team harder than ever before. He often kept the team late at practice, forcing them to run through katas and go over their shikake-waza until the students were sweating and ready to collapse from the work. Yash often joined them in training, too, using his own bokken and taking part in the kata and in the offensive and defensive techniques. Then, after the team finished for the night, Yash would stay and practice on his own. He started bringing his own swords to the dojo, practicing with them late into the night. The students would sometimes stay to watch him, admiring how easily and gracefully he maneuvered his swords, as though they were made of air and not steel. His students particularly admired his Tetsusaiga, a fang-like sword Yash inherited from his father. In ancient times, it had been rumored to be able to kill 100 demons with a single blow, but Yash didn’t necessarily believe in fairy tales. He believed in its heft and its power, and he loved to practice with it.
But, he missed having a sparring partner whose ability matched his. Sango would spar with him, and she was good, but she was human, after all, and that limited her ability to really give him a challenge. She ran out of stamina long before he did. Yash was getting desperate to kick someone’s ass, someone who would put up a good fight. So, he did something he never thought he’d do: he called his brother.
He and Sess hadn’t spoken regularly for years, but after Kikyo, Yash felt like it was maybe time to embrace the youkai side of him, instead of trying to hide it or feel ashamed of it. And what better way to do that than to bring in his full-youkai half-brother to spar with?
Sess had been surprised to hear from him, but came to the dojo. And then all the student athletes, and even Sango and Miroku, stayed to watch those battles. Because when Taisho-sensei fought his brother (or half-brother, as he liked to remind everybody), it was no-holds-barred, to-the-death fighting. The students fucking loved it. And so did Yash. It took his mind off Kikyo; it took his mind off everything. It allowed him to fight as he’d been raised: on instinct. He turned those sparring sessions into lessons for his students, too; he and Sess would often pause in their matches to explain technique, or lack thereof, and why they made particular choices during their battles.
The students ate it up. And it showed at their meets.
The first meet after Kikyo, she wasn’t there. Nagoya was competing at a meet in Osaka, while Tokyo U was competing in Nagano. So Yash had complete control over his senses, and over his team. They competed with a renewed vigor, attacking their counterparts with precision and accuracy. The Tokyo U team was becoming lethal and calculating; Yash couldn’t be prouder.
But the second meet, in Yokohama, she was there. He scented her crisp smell—linen and cotton, clean and spare—before he even saw her. Sango’d had to hold him back from crossing the dojo and saying and/or doing something he would sorely regret. But no matter. She found him.
“Hello, Inuyasha,” she said.
He barely looked at her. “It’s Yash.”
She ignored him. “Your team looks excellent, Inuyasha. What new techniques have you been using to train them?”
He crossed his arms over his chest and looked away. “Like I would ever tell you.”
Then he’d felt something pushing up against his youki, forceful and demanding. He looked at Kikyo in surprise. Her face was serene and calm, but there was no mistake: her reiki was trying to caress him, to manipulate him.
“Fat fucking chance that’s going to work, Kikyo,” he hissed. He growled and threw up his youki in defense. Sango, watching from a few feet away, quickly assessed the situation and realized what was happening. She stepped in front of Yash and placed a hand on his arm, as if to calm him.
“Taisho-sensei,” she said carefully, “remember where you are.”
Yash growled again, but dropped his youki. “Don’t fucking come over here ever again, Maeda-sensei,” he all but spat in Kikyo’s direction. “I don’t want to see your fucking face anymore.”
Kikyo’s gaze was all icicles. “Until next time, Inuyasha.” And then she was gone, leaving him sputtering in her wake with her promise of future encounters.
“That bitch,” was all he could grind out.
“She’s getting under your skin, Taisho-sensei,” said Sango softly. “Pull yourself together and get her out of your mind.”
Yash grunted and turned his attention back to the matches unfolding before him. Tanaka-kun and Sato-kun were both quick winners over their competitors; Norimitsu-kun was in a tie match, so everyone was watching to see how he would do. He also eventually pulled off a victory with a tremendous slash to his competitor’s kote that left the whole team cheering. Yash congratulated all three of them when they returned, but he patted Norimitsu’s men awkwardly, yet affectionately.
“Everyone is kicking ass today,” he said once the team had huddled around them. “Let’s talk about our plans for the next round. Hida-kun,” he said without looking, “where were we landing most of our blows in this round?”
Silence. The team looked at Yash confusedly; Yash felt the heat of anger at being ignored.
“Oi!” he shouted in the direction of the team table, “did you not hear what I asked, boy?”
Yash felt a small hand tugging on his arm. It was Miyamoto-kun, the smallest of the kendoka, but unabashedly the fastest.
“What, Miyamoto-kun?” snarled Yash.
Miyamoto-kun frowned. “Hida-kun isn’t our manager anymore.”
“Huh?” said Yash, confused.
“Nakamura-sensei hired a new manager with the new school year,” Miyamoto-kun told him, surprised that his coach was so clueless. “You must have forgotten, sensei.”
“Huh?” Yash turned in the direction of the table. Hida-kun, thankfully, was no longer sitting behind the ledger.
It was a girl. A stunningly beautiful girl. Her long blue-black hair was tied back in a high ponytail, a few tendrils escaping madly about her face. He couldn’t see her eyes, as they were glued to the ledger, where she was frantically writing, but her lashes were long, and black, and thick. Her shapely pink lips were pursed in thought, and then as she wrote, she ran her tongue back and forth over those lips.
Right. What was her name again?
“Higurashi-kun,” Sango said. The girl looked up. Yash’s breath caught. Her eyes were a blue-gray color he’d never seen before in human eyes. Like a stormy sea, he thought.
“Yes, Nakamura-sensei?” she said, her voice sending chills down Yash’s spine.
“Can you answer Taisho-sensei’s question?” Sango looked pointedly at Yash. “Since he seems to have misplaced his brain at the moment.” Yash glared back at his assistant coach defiantly.
Higurashi-kun blushed and quickly scanned her notes, then took out her phone and made some quick calculations. Yash watched her swift movements, impressed. She made Hida look like a sloth. Then he remembered: yes, she’d been with the team for a few weeks, hired to replace Hida with the new school year. What was she?... some kind of graduate student. Good with numbers. Excellent statistician.
“It looks like 35% of the blows landed were to the kote,” she said, “while 30% were landed to the men. Twenty-five percent of blows landed were to the do, while just 10% were landed to the tsuki.” She read over the numbers again, running her tongue back and forth over her lips (Yash could not stop watching her do that), then looked up at him, her blue-gray eyes confident in her calculations.
“Yes, well…” Yash was finding it hard to say anything in response. Hida-kun could hardly put together a sentence, let alone offer calculations on blows landed. “How about where they are striking us?”
Higurashi-kun consulted the opposite page in her ledger, counted quickly, and then did some more calculations. “Sixty percent of the blows landed to the kote, Taisho-sensei.”
Yash looked at his kendoka. “You heard Higurashi-kun’s calculations. What does that tell you about our focus for the next round?”
Miyamoto-kun raised his hand. Yash nodded at him. “We need to protect our wrists more, sensei,” he said.
“Yes, good,” Yash praised him. “What else?”
Sato-kun raised his hand. “We could do better landing blows to the tsuki and the do. They’ll be looking for attacks to the men and the kote.”
“Excellent,” Yash said. “I think it sounds like we have a solid game plan, thanks to Higurashi-kun.” He caught her blushing prettily out of the corner of his eye; she smelled of vanilla and lavender, mixed with a little bit of embarrassment and musk. He tried to ignore the last scent.
As the team ran out to their respective matches, Yash turned to Sango. “Where did you find her again?” he asked, disbelieving what he had just heard and witnessed.
Sango stared at him openly. “She applied for the job,” Sango told him with the patient tone one reserves for toddlers who are on one’s last nerve. “It might be a little tight with her kyudo schedule, but it looks like the meets are never on the same day. I thought her experience as a kyudoka might be useful. She knows her way around a meet. She’s been doing a great job for us, even if you keep calling her Hida and not her name.”
Yash turned, watching Higurashi-kun thoughtfully. Her steely blue eyes scanned each match carefully; each time a player either scored a point or had a point scored off them, Higurashi-kun quickly wrote down the point and location of where it was scored. He peeked at her ledger: it was carefully laid out in columns, which each kendoka’s name and the match number. No wonder she could make calculations so quickly, he realized. She’s so fucking organized. He felt a tiny bit of admiration for the kyudoka-slash-kendo manager.
She caught him looking at her; he offered her a small smile, which she returned. Yash felt a little quickening in his heart.
Suddenly, Nakamura shouted, and both Yash and Higurashi-kun followed her pointing finger. Sato-kun’s match was over; he had won. Miyamoto-kun’s was also over; he’d won, as well. Norimitsu-kun was the last one left; he and his opponent (a tall kendoka from Shizuoka) were locked in an epic battle of thrusts and parries, tied at a point a piece. The next point would win the meet for Tokyo U.
Yash watched his student as Norimitsu-kun parried, ducked, swiped, and then thrust his shinai forward at his competitor. The Shizuoka kendoka, also clearly quite skilled, parried and attacked at his own speed and will. Yash was enthralled by the battle taking place between these two young men. It was all he could do to tamp down his youki, which was chafing to jump into the middle of the fray. It was Norimitsu-kun’s match to win or lose; Yash could only watch.
The buzzer sounded, and the score was still tied. That meant the match would progress to an encho round, and the first kendoka to score a point would win. The referee gave the athletes a moment to collect themselves; Norimitsu-kun bounced around to keep his energy up. Then, the final round began; the clanging of the shinai resounded throughout the dojo, Norimitsu-kun’s match the last one left on the floor. Everyone watched with baited breath as these two evenly matched kendoka battled for victory. Yash even saw Kikyo out of the corner of his eye; her arms were folded, and she leaned forward, a hint of amusement on her usually cool face. Yash growled slightly at the thought of her even looking at one of his kendoka. But it was the last match, and it couldn’t be helped. Everyone in the dojo was laser-focused on it.
If Yash could have seen Norimitsu-kun’s face, he suspected it would have been flush with concentration and strategy. He could see his kendoka planning out different move techniques, only have the Shizuoka kendoka block him. Don’t get desperate, Yash telegraphed to his kendoka. Stay calm.
Then, suddenly, Norimitsu-kun had an opening.
The Shizuoka kendoka raised his shinai to try and attack Norimitsu-kun in the tsuki. Norimitsu-kun ducked, whirled, and jabbed the other kendoka in the do. The referee raised his hand and pointed to Norimitsu-kun, awarding him the point. He’d won the match.
And Tokyo U won the meet.
The team rushed the floor, grabbing and hugging Norimitsu-kun. Yash whooped and he and Sango hugged excitedly; then, Yash turned to Higurashi-kun. She stood, staring at him, her cool blue-gray eyes bright with excitement. He crossed behind the table to her and lifted her up, whirling her around.
He was so fucking grateful to her for all the work she’d put in. Her careful notes and calculations had saved them—had definitely helped them to victory. He was flush with the thrill of it all.
She felt so good in his arms; he could feel her breasts pressed against his chest, her small arms encircling his neck tightly.
He couldn’t help it. He pressed his lips to hers in a soft, sensual kiss.
And fuck, it was like a bolt of lightning sparked between their lips, shooting through his chest, his belly, and straight to his groin. It was intense and terrifying and he never wanted to stop doing it. He felt her twist her hands into his hair and respond, crushing her lips to his; fucking hell, it was glorious. Her musky scent was pulling him in.
Which is why he had to break it off. It’s why they both had to break it off.
So they did; they leapt apart as surely as the bolt of lightning they’d felt pull them together was now pushing them apart. He saw her blush; he felt his face grow hot as well. He couldn’t look at her, so he turned his head away, watching his team celebrate for a moment.
But then, he felt compelled to see her again, to look at her stormy eyes, her lush lips. When he turned, he saw her beautifully flushed face, her eyes wide with surprise, and her lips making a beautiful little “o” that made him instantly hard. Did she know how sexy she was?
He had to find a way to kiss her again.