Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha resigned sigh or any other characters, names, or settings created by Rumiko Takahashi. I do own Keitaro (mostly) and Ryukasei and their histories, so nyah. All other ideas are mine. All mine, mwahahaha…

A/N: My first fanfic! Please let me know how you like it, or how it could be better. Also, ideas are welcome at this point… I'm new at this. Feel free to correct my bad Japanese as well. Cookies for you if you can guess who I (loosely—very loosely) based Keitaro on. Arigatou, and on with the show!



For the second time that clear morning, a sharp crack split the crisp late-spring air.


"What?" A dark-haired, handsome Buddhist monk rubbed the hand-shaped slap mark on his cheek, his features a study in wounded innocence. An irate young woman with long, dark brown hair shook out her hand, glaring at the monk.

"Keep your fingers to yourself, or lose them!"

"Sango, I'm hurt. Why would I do a thing like that?"

"Why wouldn't you do a thing like that?" the slender taijiya retorted, rubbing her backside where the monk had felt her up. Again. "And don't give me that crap, Miroku; you aren't hurt. Yet," she added menacingly.

Miroku sighed. So did fifteen-year-old Kagome, though without the Buddhist's look of long-suffering wistfulness. The silver-haired hanyou seated next to Kagome snorted rudely, recognizing both bluffs for what they were. Miroku and Sango went through this squeeze-and-slap routine every other morning, then again on the road between villages, then again when they got to a village, if the monk hadn't asked half the village girls to bear his children, then again once they were out of the village…

Thank Kami she's taking his attention off Kagome, at least, Inuyasha thought, growling a little to himself. The first time they'd met the lecherous Buddhist, he'd felt Kagome up, then asked her to bear his children. A good whack to the head had cooled Miroku's ardor… well, as much as anything could. He kept having to be reminded. Sango, at least, liked Miroku enough that she hadn't really attempted to take his head off after the first few times. Knowing Kagome, Inuyasha privately thought that, even if the hanyou hadn't been around to object to anyone manhandling her, the monk would have been missing some of his most cherished body parts if he hadn't had to divide at least some of his attention between two pretty girls.

The routine continued through breakfast, the morning bath (Miroku came back from attempting to spy on the girls with a large rock-induced lump on his head) and the first quarter-mile of walking through the forest. By that time, Sango was visibly having a hard time not snarling at the other three. The way she not-quite-absentmindedly stroked Hiraikotsu, her giant boomerang, did not bode well for certain monks known to possess wandering hands, or anyone else who got on her nerves today. Even Shippou, the young, eternally annoying kitsune, recognized the warning signs and kept Sango's giant lynx-youkai Kirara between himself and the irate taijiya. Only Miroku did not.

Everyone was so busy keeping clear of Sango that it was a while before Inuyasha, keeping guard at the back of the group, noticed anything odd.

Something's following us, he thought, glancing over his shoulder. Something really quiet. He gave the damp forest air an experimental sniff. The scent wasn't immediately distinguishable from the woodland smells, but it was definitely there. Shit. Smells… almost like a youkai, but… not. Like it's foreign, or something. Weird.

Still, somebody being quiet meant somebody trying not to be noticed, or somebody trying to set up an ambush. The hanyou grinned, flexing his long, clawed fingers. He hadn't had a good battle in at least ten hours. The day was looking up already.

Feigning ignorance for the benefit of their follower, he hung back from the others a little, pretending to notice something on the opposite side of the trail from their watcher. He strained his dog-ears for the inevitable sounds of something moving through the woods, but for a moment there wasn't so much as a bird twitter. Inuyasha began wondering if he were smelling things.

Crack. Sango smacked Miroku over the head with Hiraikotsu for the umpteenth time. It must have startled the stalker, because somewhere in the forest a booted foot snapped a twig in two.

Inuyasha caught the sound easily in his perked, pointed white ears, pinpointed the watcher's location, and bared his fangs in a grin. Gotcha, bastard.

In less than an instant, he had leaped from the trail into the bushes and bulled straight into something that went "Ooof!" and thudded painfully onto the soft forest floor, the hanyou right on top of it.

One clawed hand was at the stalker's throat before it could blink. Inuyasha grinned savagely, mostly in order to showcase his long, white, very sharp-looking fangs. All of them. Beneath a mussed tangle of long, pale hair, the hanyou's captive sensibly went very still. Inuyasha couldn't see much through all that hair, but he thought the youkai-thing looked young, male, humanoid, and no stranger to combat. A carved longbow and twin short swords strapped to his back confirmed that last assessment. His scent was completely alien, but through the mass of hair Inuyasha could still see the tips of pointed youkai ears. What the hell is this guy?

"Inuyasha!" Kagome's voice came from behind him, startled and anxious. "What happened?"

"He was following us," the hanyou snarled, glancing over his shoulder as the other five came into view, weapons ready.

The next instant, he had flipped completely over in mid-air and landed on his head with a painful crack. The former captive was on his feet, double blades hissing slowly out of their sheathes. Through the woozy ringing in his ears, Inuyasha could hear the slight gasps from the girls as the swordsman shook his silky, silver-gold hair out of his face.

Shit, the hanyou thought, vague anger surfacing through his daze, he's better-looking than Sesshoumaru!

"I don't want to fight you," the not-youkai told them softly, "but I don't really take to the idea of being mauled." He even sounded like Inuyasha's older half-brother, never needing to raise his voice above conversation level. There was that same cool, calm control in his bearing. He had the same sharp, unearthly good looks, the same elegance.

Still, there wasn't any way the two could have been confused. Where Sesshoumaru was tall, with a crispness to his movements and a tendency toward the dramatic, this young man was several inches below Miroku's height. He moved as if he were very at ease with his surroundings, and was dressed for camouflage and comfort of motion in close-fitting green and brown clothing. The garments looked weird, too; they were based on local styles, but were extremely foreign-looking nevertheless.

"Oh, yeah?" Inuyasha growled, picking himself up with as much of his shredded dignity as he could pull together. "Ambushes more your style, bastard?"

"I wasn't planning an ambush," the youth replied calmly. Steel glinted a little in his amber-brown eyes, though. "I was just curious as to why a collection of pretty girls—" he bowed slightly to Kagome and Sango, both of whom inexplicably blushed and giggled, "—and odd characters such as yourselves were tramping through the woods."

"Who're you cal—" Inuyasha began, but Miroku cut him off.

"We're a band of traveling—ah—clerics," the Buddhist told him smoothly. "We go from village to village performing miracles and exorcisms."

A faint smile appeared on the not-youkai's handsome face. "Mm. That explains why half of you are youkai."

"Weak youkai," Miroku lied glibly. "They barter their aid for protection."

Kirara hissed. Shippou yelled, "Hey!" Inuyasha clonked the monk upside the head.

"A taijiya and a Buddhist houshi I could accept," the blond youth continued. "Perhaps even the young lady's cat-youkai. But you, Miko-sama—" he turned the full effect of his amber gaze on Kagome, who flushed to the ears but seemed unable to look away "—do not belong in the sengoku jidai."

"What the hell are you talking about, asshole?" Inuyasha snarled, uneasy at how close the uncanny young man had come to the truth. "She goes wherever she fucking well wants to!"

"Inuyasha…" Kagome warned.

The amber eyes turned to the hanyou, and the smile deepened. "And you do, as well?"

Inuyasha's scowl darkened. Much as he would have liked to say 'yes,' the bead-and-bone rosary around his neck chinked mockingly at him. One word was all it took to render him helpless. Gods damn that girl and her fucking necklace!

"Er—ah—um, can we help you, Mr… um…?" Kagome ventured timidly. Inuyasha ground his fangs furiously at the girl's plainly smitten tone of voice. Damn it, Kagome…

The not-youkai started, then flushed faintly. "I'm sorry! I didn't think; forgive me. My name is Keitaro. May I have your names?"

Kagome introduced them all, blushing the entire time. Inuyasha made sure to look exceptionally surly when the girl introduced him. The glare bounced ineffectively off Keitaro's imperturbable mask of courtesy.

"Pleased to meet all of you," the blond youth told them politely.

"Were you just following us out of curiosity?" Sango asked, going a little pink. Had Inuyasha not been so put out, he would have been startled; he hadn't known Sango could blush. He did notice that Miroku looked a little disgruntled as well. The houshi was usually the one garnering all the attention.

"I was traveling through, and heard you," Keitaro admitted. "For a moment I thought there was a battle going on."

Kagome and Shippou snickered a little. Sango cast a dark look at Miroku, who was carefully examining his staff.

"Where are you headed?" Kagome wanted to know.

Keitaro shrugged. "Wherever there is news. Nowhere in particular."

Both girls pounced on that. "Would you like to join us?" they chorused. Miroku and Inuyasha gave them equally outraged stares.

"Hey—" the hanyou began hotly, but Kagome shot him a glare easily capable of halting an army in its tracks and mouthed a single word: Osuwari.

Inuyasha swallowed his protest; his pride refused to let this outsider see him beaten into the ground by a girl. A weaponless girl, no less. He could see Miroku receiving similar treatment from Sango. It didn't stop either man from leveling the blackest glares they could conjure at the blond swordsman, though.

Keitaro didn't miss the hostile looks from the two young men, but they didn't seem to perturb him much. Still, he hesitated for some reason. "I don't want to intrude—"

"It's no trouble, really," Kagome insisted.

"We could always use another fighter," Sango pointed out.

"And maybe we could help you out, if you're looking for something," Kagome added.

Keitaro's eyes flicked to Kagome, then, almost imperceptibly, to Inuyasha, and something seemed to decide him. He nodded. "All right. Thank you."

"Great!" Kagome enthused. Both girls converged on him, Shippou and Kirara trailing interestedly behind the trio as they walked on.

"We appear to have a problem," Miroku muttered under his breath as the two young men followed at a reluctant distance.

"No shit," Inuyasha growled, cracking his knuckles out of reflex. I'm not gonna let that asshole out of my sight, he promised himself. I'm not gonna leave Kagome to him.