Higurashi Kagome sat in the middle of her new apartment. It was sparsely decorated: in the living room there was a couch, a TV stand with a TV, and a chabudai with a few zabuton scattered about it. That was pretty much it. Her bedroom had a futon, a desk, and a dresser. Her kitchen had a set of dishes, four glasses, four mugs, a sake set, a rice cooker, chopsticks and silverware, and a few pots; upon learning what her daughter was planning, Kagome’s mother had insisted on giving her some of the kitchenwares from the family home. In fact, most of what was in the apartment now had come from the family home.
Because Kagome had run away.
She’d been in a long-term relationship for eight years; she and her ex-whatever-he-was had been living together for three years, as soon as she graduated from undergrad.
At first, Hojo had been a loving, attentive boyfriend; her mother and grandfather loved how he walked her home from school every day, how he brought her gifts when she was home sick from school, and how he had helped her study for her biology classes (he was currently in medical school) in college.
He was sweet, and caring, and thoughtful, both in public and in private. They even applied to the same universities for their postgraduate work, and were both accepted at Tokyo University. When he went on to medical school, and she pursued a graduate degree in history, it made sense for them to move in together, somewhere close to campus, instead of living separately, so far outside the city.
That was when things started to go downhill.
At first, Kagome thought he was just raised a little more conservatively than she was. He expected her to cook, clean, and do the laundry. She had no problem with any of this, except that she had her own schoolwork and teaching to do, on top of all the household duties. When she tried to ask Hojo to take on even some of the chores, he scoffed and mentioned something about it being a “woman’s work,” and then would kiss her mouth and her ears and her neck and her shoulders until she was breathless and willing to do whatever he said.
When her masters thesis, a preliminary translation of the scrolls at the Higurashi Shrine, her home, took her away from him on a more regular basis, he became agitated, wondering why she had to go through with all this work anyway, since after she graduated, they’d be marrying and she wouldn’t be going to school or working.
Kagome had laughed then. She was a miko, and had been training regularly since she was a little girl. Her duty was not to Hojo, but to the family shrine. Her goal was to increase shrine income by teaching classes on various aspects of Japanese religious history, ranging from the intersections of Shintoism and Buddhism, to the importance of the shrine in Japanese culture, to the Japanese scrolls and meanings. Holding these classes in a shrine would mean students could study shrine scrolls and artifacts—she just had to translate and catalog them first. And if she could situate herself as one of the premier scholars on shrine and miko history, all the better. She could remain an independent scholar and stay in demand as a teacher.
Too bad Hojo didn’t like her plan. In fact, he thought it was ridiculous.
When her mentor, a kind hanyou professor named Imura-sensei, had suggested she apply to receive her doctorate from Tokyo U and continue her scholarship there, Hojo had humored her, but not without insinuating that Kagome wanted to keep pursuing her education, not to further her own wellbeing, as well as the wellbeing of her family, but for the “wellbeing” of Imura-sensei, as well.
Kagome tried so hard to ignore the digs and the sarcasm directed at her work. Once he saw how valuable the work she was doing would be to the shrine, she was sure he would come around. He surely knew how important her family was to her.
But then, towards the end of her first year of her doctoral program, he took things too far.
Kagome had been working late on campus with Imura-sensei and a few other students on a project. She forgot to tell Hojo, and she had forgotten to make dinner ahead of time so it would be ready when he got home.
That’s when the texts started.
At first, they had been polite: Where are you, Kagome? I thought you would be here when I got home.
Then: Can you please call me so I know that you are safe?
Not so bad, right?
Then: You forgot to make me something for dinner. How could you forget?
And then: I bet you’re with Imura-sensei right now. Is he better than me? Does he make you feel as good as I do? What are you doing right now to earn your As?
And finally: If you’re not home in fifteen minutes don’t bother coming home at all.
Kagome made her excuses and rushed back to the apartment, where Hojo had been waiting for her. He sat on the couch, arms crossed, his aura completely aflame with rage. Kagome had felt it even before she walked into the apartment; she’d hesitated going in.
But she did.
“Hi, Hojo,” she’d said tentatively, removing her shoes in the genkan. “I’m sorry that I was late and forgot to text you. We were in the middle of a project and it just slipped my mind. I’m so sorry.”
He had just sat there, on the couch, saying nothing. Finally, he rose, and crossed the room to her. Kagome had shrunk back, but just a little bit; she didn’t really believe he would do anything.
In fact, he leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. “It’s no matter,” he commented languidly. “When we get married, none of this will be important, anyway.”
She’d blanched. “What do you mean, Hojo?”
“When we get married,” he repeated, “you’ll be coming to live with me and my parents.” He waved his hand. “This is just a little dalliance anyway. Enjoy it while you can, Higurashi.”
She’d cringed when he used her family name. It was true, she always used his, but to hear the way he spat out her name was…
Kagome had shivered.
“This is my livelihood, Hojo,” she’d said quietly. “And my family’s. I won’t give it up just because we get married.”
And that was when he’d hit her.
More than once.
So much that she hit the floor with a resounding thud. And then he kicked her in the stomach, over and over.
“Who else is going to want you, a defiled miko?” he’d sneered. She’d lay on the floor, silent, unmoving, praying that if he thought she’d passed out he would leave her alone.
Eventually, he did. She heard him sigh, then put on his shoes.
“Maybe next time you will listen to reason, Higurashi,” he’d said. Then she heard the door open and close. She was alone.
Kagome had picked herself up off the floor, wincing. She ran to their room, grabbed whatever belongings she could fit into a few duffel bags (suitcases weighed too much) and then she ran. Right back to her family’s shrine.
That had been two months ago.
Since then, Kagome’s mother had thankfully taken charge. She went to the apartment alone and removed the rest of Kagome’s belongings. She helped Kagome find an apartment, far from Hojo, but close to the university. She gave Kagome some items from home; Kagome took a spare futon and her old dresser, and Mama gave her old sets of pots and pans, dishes, and silverware. Mama also bought Kagome a chabudai and a couch for the living room; Kagome used her stipend to buy a television and stand. That was it. That was all that was in the apartment.
But to Kagome, it felt more like home than any other place she’d been since she’d left the shrine.
Since that night, Hojo hadn’t tried to call or contact her. That was a blessing. She didn’t know what she’d say if he did. She sure was hell wasn’t going back to him, but she also sure as hell didn’t know what she’d do if he showed up at her front door. Hopefully it would never come to that.
She sat at the chabudai, on her laptop, scrolling through the graduate assistant positions available for the new school year. She had her teaching assistantship in the history department; that covered tuition and gave her a small stipend. But she couldn’t live on that alone, and the PhD program didn’t allow students to take on outside jobs if they had assistantships. She needed to find a second assistantship to increase her income so she didn’t have to move back home or take a roommate. She wanted to maintain her independence, and after Hojo, she didn’t think she could handle living with someone else. Not right now, anyway.
“Let’s see…” she murmured, scrolling through the available positions.
Library assistant? She shuddered. She spent enough time in the library.
Communications and Marketing. She scoffed.
Graduate Office of Admissions. Nope.
Team Manager, Kendo Team.
Kagome clicked on the link and read the requirements for the job.
Attend kendo practices and meets.
So long as they didn’t conflict with kyudo, that would be fine.
Record matches in ledger.
Calculate percentages of hits by the team, and places where they are hit.
Also no problem.
She could totally do this job.
She quickly opened another tab and looked up the kendo team. The face of the coach stared back at her.
Taisho Inuyasha. Celebrated head coach. Successfully recruiting top kendoka across the country. The team consistently finishing in the top three at meets for the past three years.
But…he was clearly a hanyou. Handsome, with silver hair, golden eyes, and cute, furry ears.
She was fucked.
She had nothing against hanyou, by any means. She had a number of youkai and hanyou friends. Imura-sensei, her favorite professor, was a hanyou. But as a miko, it could be dangerous for her to work for the team. There was nothing preventing miko and youkai (or hanyou) from working together, but Kagome knew there was always the danger of her reiki going off unexpectedly and harming someone with youkai blood. If they knew, they would never even consider her application.
Yet this job was clearly the one that Kagome was made for.
She went back to the assistantship tab, and looked at what was required to apply.
Resume and transcript? Easy.
Personal statement? No problem.
Recommendation? She’d get one from her kyudo coach.
Nowhere on the list of requirements did it state she needed to disclose her identity.
Is it a lie if I just don’t tell them? she asked herself.
Kagome needed this job. She needed it badly.
So she went back into her email and dashed off a quick note to her kyudo coach, asking him if he would please write her a letter of recommendation for the job, and promising that it wouldn’t interfere with her own practices and meets. She didn’t feel comfortable asking him not to disclose her miko status, but she hoped that he wouldn’t bring it up. There was no need, right?
Next, she went into her documents and pulled up her resume. She looked it over, emphasizing her work on the kyudo team and as an instructor of record in the History department. She also dressed up the work she’d done for her family shrine, focusing on how she balanced the budgets and calculated costs. A person who lives at a shrine didn’t necessarily have spiritual powers. She knew that. She could make this work. She had to.
Imura-sensei’s lecture on the politics leading up to the unification of Japan was interesting, it really was, but Kagome was struggling to keep her mind on the rise of Hideyoshi Totoyomi under Oda Nobunaga. That morning she had calculated her budget for the month; she had barely enough to pay rent and utilities. There wasn’t much left for food or other essentials. It was only the first week of the new semester, so she wouldn’t get paid until the end of April. She needed that bump in cash, now.
“Higurashi-kun?” whispered the person next to you. “You okay?”
Kagome whipped her head around to see Hayashi Kouga, a handsome ookami, looking at her, concerned.
Kagome shook her head. “I’m fine, thanks,” she whispered back, going back to listening to Imura-sensei closely, who was now describing how Hideyoshi became a lord. She took copious notes to overcompensate for the fact that she hadn’t been paying attention.
After class, Hayashi-kun tried to talk to her, but Imura-sensei motioned for her to stay behind. Kagome smiled apologetically at Hayashi-kun and went over to Imura-sensei’s desk.
Imura-sensei was a hanyou with large, blue eyes that radiated kindness; he was very tall and looked more like a mountain than a man. But his disposition was sweet, and Kagome knew his real interests lie in Japanese horticulture; the politics of the Warring States Era was a means to an end for him to also research classical herbs and medicines. Imura-sensei was a talented herbologist and had a real green thumb; now that she had her own place, Kagome was hoping he might show her how to keep a plant alive. She’d never had much luck in that department.
“You were distracted today, Higurashi-kun,” said Imura-sensei, not unkindly.
Kagome bowed. “Please forgive me, Imura-sensei,” she said immediately. “I’ve had a lot on my mind. I shouldn’t have let it distract me from my studies.”
Imura-sensei motioned for Kagome to sit in the chair behind the desk. She did so, and he crouched down so they were on the same level. “Higurashi-kun,” he said seriously. “You are one of the most talented students I have seen in a long time. I hope that you feel that you can talk to me if you need something.”
Kagome let out a breath. “Thank you, sensei. I’m working things out on my own. I think I’ve got a handle on everything. But if I do need help, you will be the first person I call.” He looked at her with unblinking bulging blue eyes. “I promise.”
He smiled gently. “I hope you will.” He looked to the door. “Now, it looks like someone is waiting for you.” Kagome followed his gaze and saw Hayashi-kun still waiting for her by the door. She sighed.
“Is that unwanted attention, Higurashi-kun?” asked Imura-sensei.
Kagome sighed again. “You know why.”
“I do.” This time Imura-sensei’s gaze was unyielding.
“I’ll take care of it. Thanks, sensei.” Kagome got up to leave the lecture hall.
“Take care, Higurashi-kun,” called Imura-sensei after her.
As she passed Hayahi-kun on the way out, she gave him a feeble smile.
“All right, Higurashi-kun?” he asked, leaning against the doorframe and grinning.
She sighed again. “All right, Hayashi-kun,” she said, walking past him.
He fell into step beside her. “That lecture was something else today, huh?” he commented, tightening his black ponytail.
“It was fine,” she replied. Kagome considered him; he was definitely handsome, with piercing blue eyes, black hair he wore in a sexy ponytail, pointed ears, and a body for days. But she also knew that underneath all those rippling muscles beat the heart of a pure youkai, and he was therefore untouchable.
“Where are you headed now?” he asked her.
“I have class, and then kyudo practice,” she replied easily.
“Do you want to meet up after practice?” he asked. “Maybe grab dinner and a drink?” He grinned at her, a gorgeous, lopsided grin.
Why did the gods have to be so cruel to her?
“I wish I could, Hayashi-kun,” she said, truly regretful, “but I have to get home tonight. I’m giving an exam in—” she looked at her phone “—ten minutes, and I have to grade them tonight and tomorrow night so I can return them on Thursday.”
“Maybe some other time, then,” he answered. With an easy wave of his hand, he left, saying, “See ya around, Higurashi.”
Kagome leaned against the wall, holding her hand on her heart for a moment. She hated this. She hated herself.
But after the incident her first year of high school, where she accidentally purified a youkai she kissed while on a date, she couldn’t take any chances.
As she rushed to her class, exams in her bag, her phone rang. Cursing, she picked it up, not paying attention to the number on the screen.
“Moshi-moshi, Higurashi desu.”
“Ah, Higurashi,” said an unfamiliar voice. “My name is Nakamura Sango. I’m the assistant coach for the kendo team.”
“Yes, Nakaumura-sensei,” Kagome said. “How are you?”
“Just fine,” Nakamura-sensei said hurriedly. “Listen, I would love for you to come in and interview for the team manager job. Can you come in this afternoon?”
“I’m about to give an exam,” Kagome replied, “but I’ll be done by 1:00.”
“Wonderful!” Nakamura-sensei exclaimed. “Get yourself some lunch after, and meet me at the dojo at 2:00. How is that?”
“Perfect,” Kagome smiled. “See you then.”
Nakamura-sensei disconnected the call, and Kagome found she was outside her classroom. The students were filing in, greeting her politely. World History to 1603 wasn’t the most interesting of classes, sure, but she did try to make it fun, and the students seemed to like her. She hoped they would do well on the exam.
Promptly at 2:00, Kagome knocked on the office door inside the Tokyo U. dojo. She was quite familiar with the dojo; in the winter months, the kyudo team held its practices there. It was the only facility on campus large enough to allow a matsu to be set 70 meters. Because of the prestige of the university and the kendo and kyudo teams, the university had spared no expense.
“Come in,” she heard from inside.
She opened the door and bowed. When she looked up, she saw a woman, probably only a few years older than Kagome herself, sitting behind the desk. She wore the light blue polo of the university athletic staff uniform, and her long brown hair was hitched up in a high ponytail. Her brown eyes were warm and soft.
“You’re Higurashi?” she asked. Kagome nodded. The woman stood up and bowed. “Nakamura Sango. Nice to meet you.”
Kagome bowed again. “Nice to meet you, Nakamura-sensei.”
“Please, have a seat.” Kagome sat in the chair that Nakamura-sensei gestured towards. Once Kagome was settled, Nakamura-sensei sat back down behind the desk and relaxed.
“To be honest, I’m glad you applied for this job,” she said, surprising Kagome.
“How do you mean, sensei?” Kagome asked.
“You’re an impressive kyudoka,” Nakamura-sensei said, “and don’t deny that you are,” she added when Kagome opened her mouth to protest. “We’ve never had an athlete apply to be a team manager before. Usually the schedules conflict.”
“I checked your schedule against ours before applying,” Kagome replied quietly. “And I also cleared it with my kyudo coach.”
“I know,” commented Nakamura-sensei, “he wrote you a very nice recommendation letter.” She leaned back and regarded Kagome intently, but her eyes were kind. “Highly irregular, though, don’t you think? Wouldn’t you want to put your efforts into your schooling and kyudo? And you’re a TA, too, right? Will you be able to handle everything?”
“Permission to speak frankly, Nakamura-sensei?” Kagome asked.
Nakamura-sensei nodded. “Permission granted.”
Kagome took a deep breath. She hadn’t necessarily been prepared to talk about this. But Nakamura-sensei seemed to genuinely care, and maybe her story would help her get the job. She would do anything at this point.
“Nakamura-sensei,” began Kagome, taking a deep breath, “I very recently got out of a—toxic—relationship.” She stopped, trying to choose her words carefully. “I had to leave. I didn’t have a lot of choice. Home is—not close. I can’t live there and commute. I thought about getting a roommate, but to be honest, I’m not comfortable living with anyone else right now. Not after what happened. So I needed to find another job that was an assistantship. I’m a TA in history, and they don’t let us have off-campus jobs. This one is perfect for me. I’m an athlete. I practice in this dojo. I understand what’s needed from a team manager, having seen our own kyudo managers work over the past few years. And I might be a history student, but I’m solid with math. I’ve helped my mother balance our shrine budget and map our expenditures out since I was 18.” She paused. “I know I can do this job, Nakamura-sensei, and I promise that I will be able to balance everything. If I can’t, and you want me to quit, then I will do so willingly.”
Nakamura-sensei leaned back in her chair and looked Kagome over appraisingly. “So you left the bastard who did—whatever he did to you, huh?” she asked. Kagome nodded, her chin up defiantly. Nakamura-sensei whistled. “You’ve got guts, Higurashi. I’m proud of you. How long were you in that relationship?”
“Eight years, sensei,” said Kagome.
“How long did you live together?”
“Good for you,” Nakamura-sensei said. “You’ve got the job.”
Kagome’s eyes lit up. “Nakamura-sensei, thank you. I can’t tell you—”
Nakamura-sensei held up her hand. Kagome fell silent. “You will keep this job only insofar as you keep your grades up, you don’t neglect your students, and you keep up with kyudo properly. Is that understood?”
“Oh, yes, sensei,” Kagome said eagerly. “I promise I will do my best, all around.”
Nakamura-sensei stood up, and indicated that Kagome should do the same. “I know that you are familiar with the dojo, Higurashi, but let me show you the kendo closet that holds all our training gear. And we will talk a little about expectations. You’ll meet Taisho Yash, the head coach, at the first practice you attend. The team physician, Deguchi Miroku, you probably already know?”
“Yes, sensei.” Yes, she knew Deguchi-sensei well. He was also the kyudo team physician, and a very nice man, although sometimes she swore he was flirting with the girls.
“Excellent. Now, come with me. How much do you know about kendo?”
Kagome’s first kendo practice as team manager overlapped with the end of her kyudo practice. Even though it was April, it was still a bit chilly, so Sanada-sensei, the kyudo coach, had decided they would hold a few more practices indoors. Kagome was still cleaning up after practice when she heard Nakamura-sensei call her name. She looked at Sanada-sensei, and he nodded. She grabbed her bow and quiver and raced to the other side of the dojo.
“Still in your gi and hakama, Higraushi-kun?” said Nakamura-sensei amiably. “It suits you.”
Kagome blushed. “Thank you, Nakamura-sensei. I’ll have time to change before practice, don’t worry.”
“Take your time,” Nakamura-sensei assured her. “We won’t start for at least another fifteen minutes. In the meantime…” she looked around. “Oi, Taisho!” she yelled. Kagome followed her line of sight and saw the head coach dragging equipment out of the kendo closet. When Nakamura-sensei called him name, he dropped the giant bag he was carrying, looking up. He scowled. Kagome thought it was the most gorgeous scowl she’d ever seen.
He stood up straight and strode across the dojo to where they were standing. Kagome’s heart caught in her throat. He was tall and impossibly handsome. His long silver hair was tied back in a high ponytail, two adorable ears poking up through the hair. His skin was tanned, and Kagome could see just how golden his eyes were. His features were strong, and were only accentuated by the keigoki and hakama he wore. (Unlike Nakamura-sensei, Kagome noticed, who opted to again wear the Tokyo University polo shirt and khaki pants.) The sleeves of his keigoki were pulled up, revealing well-muscled arms. Kagome swallowed thickly.
The man she knew was Taisho-sensei reached them and stood next to Nakamura-sensei. “Nakamura?” he asked. “What’s up?”
Nakamura-sensei gestured towards Kagome. “Taisho-sensei,” she said formally, “this is Higurahi Kagome. She’s the new team manager.”
Taisho-sensei turned his amber eyes on her and Kagome thought she might melt away on the spot. He didn’t seem to see her, though; instead, he just focused on her uniform. “You hired a kyudoka to be team manager, Nakamura?”
“Yes, and she’ll be great,” Nakamura countered.
“Keh,” said Taisho-sensei. “We’ll see.” He nodded at Kagome, who bowed in return, and then he went back across the dojo to pick up the bag that he had dropped.
“He’s a bit of a grouch, but he’s the best in the business,” Nakamura-sensei whispered. “You’ll get used to him.”
“Oi! Nakamura!” Taisho-sensei bellowed from across the dojo.
“Go get changed,” said Nakamura-sensei. “See you in a bit.”
Kagome headed to the locker room to change, and tried not to think about Taisho-sensei. Really, it should be illegal for that man to be a coach! How could anyone pay attention to his advice when those eyes of liquid gold were boring into them? Kagome felt a shiver through her belly as she unlocked her locker and took out her regular clothes. Her phone fell out of her bag, and she had a text from Hayashi-kun. Shoot. She’d forgotten that she’d once given him her number for a project they’d had to work on together.
Are you free tonight? Wanna grab a drink?
Kagome knew that she really shouldn’t, but she needed to get her mind off the kendo coach. Hayashi-kun was off-limits just as much, though. Why was every attractive man she met at least part youkai?
She stared at her phone for a long moment. It was just drinks. She didn’t have to do anything she didn’t want to. And she could explain if he pushed for something more.
Sure. I get out of kendo practice at 7.
She knew he’d sent the text a while ago, so she was shocked when he wrote back immediately.
7 it is. See you soon.
She smiled in spite of her fears.
Kagome had to admire Taisho-sensei’s ability to run a kendo practice. He was relentless, making the team go through kata after kata, having them scrimmage against each other, asking her to keep track of hits in her ledger as though it were a real match. He kept calling her “Hida-kun,” though, and Kagome wasn’t quite sure why?
She also really liked how he didn’t just give direction; he modeled moves for the students. It was impressive. The bokken was an extension of his arm, moving fluidly like a part of him. She found herself watching him, mouth hanging open, disbelieving at how beautiful he was: a silver samurai, like something out of the Sengoku Jidai. He would run through a kata with the students, showing them what he expected, and then watch them carefully, pointing out what they were doing well and where they needed work. He also joined in the scrimmages, usually taking the role of the uchitachi, carefully leading his students through the kata. He was a brilliant kendoka, teacher, and above all, mentor.
She was disappointed when the practice was over. It had gone so quickly, unlike her kyudo practices, which sometimes felt like they would never end! She watched as the kendoka mobbed Taisho-sensei after practice, asking him all kinds of questions. Quietly she packed up her ledger and other materials and headed over to Nakamura-sensei; Taisho-sensei was so occupied with his kendoka that she didn’t want to disturb him.
“Here are my notes from today, Nakamura-sensei,” Kagome said softly, handing over her ledger.
Nakamura-sensei looked at the ledger, surprised. “You took notes today, Higurashi-kun?”
Kagome was surprised. “Of course!” she replied. “I’m sure you and Taisho-sensei will want to know your athletes’ strengths and weaknesses."
Nakamura-sensei opened the ledger and looked at the copious notes Kagome had taken. “This is impressive, Higurashi-kun,” she said in a hushed tone. “You took excellent notes. I’ll be sure to review them with Taisho-sensei tonight.” She looked closely at Kagome. “You sure you haven’t done this before?”
“I’m sure, Nakamura-sensei,” she replied with a smile. “I’m just…”
“Thorough?” Nakamura-sensei suggested.
“I was going to say OCD, but I like your description better,” Kagome said with a laugh.
Nakamura-sensei smiled. “Hey, what are you doing tonight? Do you want to grab a drink? I’d love to get to know you more and find out where you got these incredible notetaking skills from.”
“I wish I could,” Kagome answered, “but I have plans tonight.”
“How about some other time?” Nakamura-sensei pressed.
Kagome smiled. “Sure, I’d like that.”
“Great!” Nakamura-sensei exclaimed, her ponytail bobbing in her excitement. “I’ll text you!” she added, then waved as she headed off to join Taisho-sensei, the ledger still in her hand.
Kagome grinned and pulled out her phone.
All finished here. Where do you want to meet?
It took a moment, but Kouga finally responded.
There’s a great bar a few blocks from the museum. I’ll send you the address. They serve food too if you’re hungry.
Sounds good. See you soon.
Her phone pinged once more with the address. Probably a little too far to walk at night. She’d get a ride share. With one last, longing look, she glanced back at the kendo coaches and their kendoka. She couldn’t wait to work more with this team.
“And so I took a leave from my teaching position and I decided to leave the tribe, at least for a few years, so that I could finish my degree,” Hayashi-kun was saying.
Kagome nodded with interest. She and Hayashi-kun were walking back to her apartment after a delicious dinner at the bar he had recommended. She hadn’t really been around to many of the spots surrounding the university, even though she’d lived close by for three years. Hojo had been frugal, and wasn’t into going out much. At the time, she hadn’t cared, but now she wondered how much she had been missing? She’d had fun with Hayashi-kun; he was charming, attentive, and interested in her work. He was all things that Hojo wasn’t. And she may have been crazy, but she was even tempted to kiss him goodnight. She didn’t dare ask him inside yet, but maybe a kiss wouldn’t be so bad?
“Well, here we are,” she heard herself saying when they reached her door.
“I had fun tonight, Higurashi,” Hayashi-kun said.
“So did I,” Kagome replied. “Thanks for asking me.”
Hayashi-kun grinned his sexy, lopsided smile. “No problem,” he said in a husky voice. He dropped his face down to her level, eyeing her lips. She shivered a little. “Do you think we could do this again sometime?”
“Maybe,” Kagome said. She leaned in and kissed him gently. His lips were soft and yielding under hers. She was a little shocked by how pliable he seemed, like he might bend to her very will. For someone who was so confident and cocky, he kissed like a sweet little pussycat. She kind of liked it.
Kagome pushed a little further, kissing him with more urgency. She knew that she shouldn’t—she really shouldn’t—but she couldn’t help it. He was so handsome, and so sexy, and so into her in a way Hojo had never been. All thoughts of her being a miko, and him being a youkai, flew out of her head. She was thrilled when Hayashi-kun started to kiss her back; this time, with all the passion and intensity she felt must have been building up inside him. She moaned; she couldn’t help it. He growled and ghosted his lips down her jawline and her neck.
“Do you—want to come in?” she asked him breathily.
“Fuck, yes, I do,” he grunted, his hands running through her hair.
Quickly she rifled through her bag and pulled out her keys. Shaking, she opened the door.
From there everything happened so fast. They kicked off their shoes in the entryway, and then they were a mess of fumbling hands and lips and groans, and suddenly Kagome found herself being pressed backwards onto her couch, Hayashi-kun nibbling and sucking at her pulse point as he gently laid her down.
“Wait,” she said, sitting back up. He looked at her, surprised.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “Did we go too fast?”
“Not even close,” she said in a hoarse voice. She crossed her arms and pulled her shirt up over her head. Hayashi-kun hissed at the sight of her breasts, flushed and heaving, in a satiny maroon bra. The contrast of the pale pink of her skin resonated against the darkness of her lingerie. Hayashi-kun looked up at her; she put one hand on each side of his face and pushed it into her chest.
Kagome moaned as Hayashi-kun nuzzled her breasts; he pulled down the cups of her bra and began licking and suckling and working her nipples. When was the last time a man had touched her like this? When had Hojo ever touched her like this? Her skin felt as though it was on fire. She reached around him and yanked at his shirt; he paused his ministrations long enough to allow her to rip his shirt from his body, then wrapped his arms around her and pressed her into a searing kiss, their naked chests flush against each other. Kagome could feel every hard muscle beneath his skin. She now knew how he spent his spare time, away from the classroom!
“Kagome,” he murmured in her ear, her chest fluttering at his use of her name, “I don’t want to do anything you don’t want to do.”
Kagome didn’t know what to say to that. How to say she hadn’t made out with anyone like this, maybe ever, and she sure as hell didn’t want to stop now.
“Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it,” she said huskily, and reached up to pull him into a deep kiss. He felt good, so good…
She didn’t notice her flaring aura around her, or her power pooling into her hands.
She didn’t notice until she heard Hayashi-kun yelp and leap backwards, his biceps and upper back smoking from where she’d touched him. She sat up on the couch and scrambled backwards, holding her hands in front of her in disbelief.
“I’m sorry, Hayashi,” she said over and over. “I’m so sorry…”
Hayashi-kun growled at her. “What the actual fuck, woman? What are you, some kind of a miko?”
Kagome flushed red and looked down at her hands, which were still tingling for unleashing her power. “Actually…yeah, I am.” She looked up at him, searching his face for a response.
Hayashi-kun’s eyes widened in surprise. “I can’t help it,” she said immediately. “I get…excited… and my power just takes over. I’ve been trying to control it for years, and I can control it during kyudo, but you got me so worked up, like more worked up than I’ve ever been, maybe. Just when I think that I’ve got it handled in general—” the tears were really threatening to take over now “—it’s not.”
Hayashi-kun stood up. “Did you bring me here to try and purify me? Do you think all youkai are evil and should be killed or something?”
Kagome got to her feet as well, her aura flaring in anger. “Not even close! Imura-sensei is a hanyou, you know. I would never try to purify anyone!” She paused. “Not on purpose, anyway.” Unable to control them anymore, the tears slipped over her cheeks.
She took a deep breath. “I like you, Hayashi. A lot. I had fun tonight. I got carried away. I’m so sorry. I should have been more careful. I should have been upfront with you about my miko status.” She took a shuddering breath. “This is on me. I hope that we can still at least be friends?”
Hayashi-kun peered into her face. She allowed him to inspect every inch of it, trying her best to remain open and amiable. The last thing she wanted was for him to think that she did this on purpose.
At last he let out a big sigh. “I don’t know, Higurashi. I’ll think about it. But you have to work on getting this under control. You could be a danger to your students, to your classmates, to your teachers…everyone around you.”
“I know.” He wasn’t wrong.
Hayashi-kun went to the entryway and put his shoes on. “See you in class on Monday, Higurashi. We’ll talk again soon.” He opened the door and left.
As the door clicked shut behind him, Kagome slipped to the floor, the tears overflowing at last, and she was powerless to stop them.
The incident with Hayashi-kun had rattled her in a way she was unprepared for. She spent the next few weeks fearful of going out, mostly sticking to her classes, her practices, and her apartment. Hayashi-kun had spoken to her in class, but always the model of propriety; he now looked at her fearfully, instead of sexily. She hated that. But once again, she’d done this to herself.
Why couldn’t she just find a nice human guy to love, or even just to have a good fuck? It boggled her mind.
She’d performed well at her most recent kyudo meet, even though she was distracted. The hassetsu never failed to focus her and while she wasn’t first in distance, she placed high enough in both to earn praise from her coach. And she’d enjoyed her first kendo meet, too, even if Taisho-sensei insisted on calling her Hida-kun (where did that come from, anyway?) and not by her own name. She and Nakamura-sensei were friendly, if not friends outright, and they had been spending some time together. In fact, Nakamura-sensei was the only person Kagome was seeing socially. For some reason, Nakamura-sensei felt safe, like she would be able to take care of any situation that arose.
The second meet, in Yokohama, was where Kagome first noticed the Nagoya coach. She was very beautiful, thin like a runway model, straight black hair in a sleek ponytail, where Kagome’s own ponytail was crazy and wild. She had walked over to Taisho-sensei; Kagome could tell his youki was restless talking to her, and he was becoming increasingly agitated. Nakamura-sensei actually had to get in between the two of them and separate them. The Nagoya coach—Maeda, Kagome thought was her name—walked away, and Taisho-sensei was fairly frothing at the mouth, he was so angry. He was always so confident, so collected, so cool…it was stunning to see him lose it like that.
When he gathered the team around after the second round, he spoke to them in low tones. She couldn’t hear him, but knew that she had to get her ledger ready. Sure enough, he shouted out for her:
And something in Kagome snapped.
Who the hell did he think he was, anyway? Not calling her by her name? She suddenly decided to refuse to answer to anything other than her own, real, name.
The silence was deafening.
“Oi!” Taisho-sensei shouted. “Did you not hear what I asked, boy?”
Boy? What the actual fuck? Kagome ignored him. She saw one of the smaller kendoka reach up and touch his arm; when he looked down, the kendoka spoke to him in low voice. She heard Taisho-sensei say “huh?” a few times, then look across at the team table, confused. She saw his amber eyes soften at the sight of her, and she thought she saw a look of interest cross them, just for a second. She felt herself blushing at the thought.
“Higurashi-kun?” Nakamura-sensei’s voice brought her back to reality.
“Yes, Nakamura-sensei?” she asked, her eyes still on Taisho-sensei. Why couldn’t she stop looking at him?
“Can you answer Taisho-sensei’s question?” Nakamura-sensei turned to the head coach. “Since he seems to have misplaced his brain at the moment.” Taisho-sensei finally tore his gaze away from Kagome to glare at his assistant coach.
Now was her chance to show him what she could do.
Kagome looked down at her ledger. “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.” Kagome read over the numbers again, running her tongue back and forth over her lips, lost in thought for a moment, then looked up at him, her blue-gray eyes confident in her calculations.
She noticed that she’d thrown him off his game. “Yes, well…” he sputtered, looking at her as though he was seeing her clearly for the first time. “How about where they are striking us?” he asked, a hint of triumph in his golden eyes.
Kagome smiled and consulted the opposite page in her ledger. She pulled out her phone, and, counting, did some calculations. “Sixty percent of the blows landed with to the kote, Taisho-sensei.”
He nodded curtly, apparently pleased by what he’d heard. He turned to his kendoka. “You heard Higurashi-kun’s calculations. What does that tell you about our focus for the next round?”
Kagome wasn’t really paying attention to the conversation between Taisho-sensei and his kendoka; she was too busy preparing the next page in her ledger for the next matches, and she had to consult the scoreboard to get the matchups. But she heard him say, “I think it sounds like we have a solid game plan, thanks to Higurashi-kun,” and she couldn’t help but flush with pleasure. She wanted—no, needed—this job, and she was glad that she was doing well and she’d be able to keep it. And, she liked pleasing Taisho-sensei, even just a little.
Down, girl, she thought to herself. Remember what happened the last time you kissed a youkai? You nearly burned his amazing, sexy, arms right off.
Instead she chose to focus on the next set of matches, her blue-gray eyes focused and taking in everything around her. She kept her pen at the ready, quickly jotting down the points scored for each match, whether it was in favor of or against the Tokyo U. kendoka. The time she had taken before the match to prepare her ledger made all the difference; she was able to quickly and easily fill in the points scored for each kendoka.
The swiftness with which the action took place was exhilarating for her. She loved watching the kendoka thrust and parry; she loved watching the footwork and the movement of their bodies. Her eyes followed each kendoka; her fingers, wrapped tightly around her pen, took quick and copious notes. She was so busy working that she didn’t notice Taisho-sensei standing beside her, observing her, watching her fill in her ledger. Then suddenly, she became aware of his youki close by, and she looked up, his golden eyes staring intently, first at her ledger, and then at her, a quizzical, amused look on his face. He gave her a small smile, and her heart skipped a beat for a second before she returned it, blushing again. I really need to stop doing that every time he looks at me, she thought ruefully.
Then Nakamura-sensei gave a shout, and she and Taisho-sensei followed her gesture to Norimitsu-kun’s match. He and his opponent were locked in a fierce battle for a final point, parrying and attacking and moving swiftly around the circle. It was beautiful; Kagome was so enthralled that she forgot she was supposed to be keeping notes, choosing instead to focus on the artistry of the way of the sword.
A buzzer sounded, snapping her back to reality. The match had ended in a draw; there would now be a final round, where the next point scored would decide the match. And, Kagome realized, looking at her ledger and up at the leaderboard, the first-place finisher in the meet. She quickly scanned Norimitsu-kun’s stats. He had a pretty wide variety of attacks, favoring the do and the kote. The variety would serve him well, as it should make him unpredictable to his opponent. He had done well so far; would he be able to finish the match and win the meet for his team?
The buzzer sounded again, and Norimitsu-kun and his opponent faced each other and bowed. Then they assumed their fighting stances, and the final match began. Kagome watched, as enthralled as the rest of the dojo, as the two kendoka continued to circle each other, looking for openings, trying to attack but being blocked at every corner. Kagome was breathless as she saw Norimitsu-kun thinking, trying to get an opening. And then finally, she saw him realize he had one. When the other kendoka raised his shinai to attack Norimitsu-kun, he ducked, whirled, and struck his opponent in the do. He’d won the match, and Tokyo U had won the meet.
The team erupted in joy as they rushed onto the mat to congratulate their teammate. Nakamura-sensei and Taisho-sensei threw their arms around each other in victory. Then, when Nakamura-sensei went to join the team, Taisho-sensei turned to Kagome, his golden eyes sparkling. He lifted her up and spun her around, and then.
Then he pressed his lips to hers.
A soft, deep, kiss. A kiss that sent shockwaves through Kagome’s lips, her chest, and pooled in the bottom of her belly. It was a kiss unlike any she had every experienced. Where Hojo had been uncaring and thoughtless, this was warm and almost loving. Where Hayashi-kun had been tentative, this was confidence personified. She felt lost in his arms, in the feel of his lips on hers, in the feel of his body pressed to hers. Again, she was forgetting the danger he was in! Fuck.
When he set her down, she literally felt weak in her knees. Who knew that was an actual thing?
She couldn’t help but continue to stare at him after he turned back to his team. How could she not? After that kiss? How could she not just want to drown in him, forever?
Then he turned around and saw her watching him. She tried—gods how she tried—to look away, but she couldn’t.
She just couldn’t.