“This is a simple concept people!” The low-grade growl that came out of the temperamental hanyō always put Jakotsu’s nerves on edge.
Sure, most of the time Mr. Taisho would explain concepts in ways he could understand, and so Jakotsu was actually passing pre-calculus (the last math class he thought he’d ever take!) but… then a tirade would happen. Inuyasha Taisho never actually yelled, never made students feel unsafe, but he sure let them have it when they didn’t meet his exacting standards (and they usually didn’t).
Jakotsu scoffed. Something had to be done. Everyone knew about Mr. Taisho’s giant falling out with his former fiancée, but that was what… his freshman year… so over three years ago? And still, Mr. Taisho seemed to perspire misery. Sure, he disguised it by being cantankerous, but it was the way that he stared off into the distance when he didn’t think anyone was paying attention that put his sadness on such obvious display.
“Let’s try it again.” Mr. Taisho’s ears pinned back and Jakotsu pressed his pencil to his notebook, taking notes as his teacher tried to explain trigonometric functions one more time .
It was clear. Mr. Taisho needed something—no, someone . He needed a matchmaker, and Jakotsu knew he was up to the task.
“Class dismissed.” The silver-haired hanyō slumped down at his desk as the class filed out.
Jakotsu chanced a glance back at his teacher. Yes. Clearly Jakotsu needed to put his considerable skills to work. For the sad sack teacher in front of him, and for all his hapless classmates that could use a boost to their math instruction.
“Psssst. I need you.” Jakotsu could feel her roll her eyes through the back of her head.
“You can do better than that,” his best friend deadpanned, but she turned around.
Kagura was Jakotsu’s favorite, because even at the age of 17, she had fashion sense. Kagura wore a purple ruffled blouse and tight black pants and gunmetal gray ankle boots. She had ruby red lipstick on, and cascading jade earrings that set off her violently crimson eyes.
“Only you could pull off that many jewel tones, my dear.” Jakotsu gave her an appraising look. “But… no. I’m on a mission .”
“Great. Have fun.” Kagura went to turn around, but not before Jakotsu had caught her wrist. “Come on, Kagura… you know you are curious. About my mission? The one I was sent on from god?”
“No.” Kagura shook her head, but her smirk told Jakotsu he had her attention.
“ Noooo .” Kagura made a motion to turn around and flee, but Jakotsu was still holding her wrist.
“Hear me out!” Jakotsu begged. He needed her help!
“He’s the surliest hanyō in existence and you’re not going to find some poor hapless female to set him up with Jak!” Kagura huffed.
Okay, so clearly she’d read his mind. But that didn’t change his mission; that just made his mission more important.
“There’s got to be someone who would think his… rough around the edges way of dealing with everything was charming…” Jakotsu whined.
“You mean find someone to put up with him being an asshole,” Kagura drawled. She wasn’t exactly wrong.
“ Fine, yes . Someone who would find his roguishness cute. There has to be a teacher at this school that… would find that attractive. I mean… he’s not exactly bad looking .” Jakotsu tried to hide the thirst.
Mr. Taisho was a stone-cold hottie. Luckily the teacher also seemed to be completely disgusted by students. It meant that only the most daring fantasized about him.
“Gross,” Kagura replied, but behind her eyes, the cogs were turning.
“What about Ms. Midoriko?” Jakotsu offered.
“No way. She would purify him for looking at her sideways!” Kagura answered. And yes, okay. The French teacher probably would murder Mr. Taisho the first time he opened his mouth. That would not do. “Hmm. What about Ms. Abi?”
“Bitch,” Jakotsu spat. “She would call him hanyō trash. You know that the seniors are going to release birds into her classroom, right? It was a unanimous senior prank vote too.”
Kagura threw her head back and laughed through her whole person. “I suppose you’re right. I mean… who else is there? Who are we missing?”
All of a sudden, Jakotsu and Kagura stared at each other, wide-eyed. The image of a teacher popped into their mind. A teacher who had long wavy black hair that always seemed to have at least one cowlick. A teacher with soulful brown eyes that seemed to always look into her students’ hearts as she taught them. A teacher who dedicated everything to her students, including oftentimes far too many late nights.
Kagome Higurashi was the theater teacher at Shikon High School. She pushed her students, and never gave up on them. She made her most talented singing/acting students better, and made the worst of her students improve. Shikon High School had one of the best theater programs in the state for a reason , and that reason was Ms. Higurashi, who asked her theater kids to call her “Kagome,” stating that in the theater, all are equals. Her dedication, while understandable and appreciated by the students, definitely left the impression that Kagome did not have much of a dating life (or one at all?). She gave everything to the students, and seemed to not leave much room for herself to find happiness, if her late nights at the theater were anything to go by...
Kagome was the reason that Jakotsu and Kagura knew each other so well. Jakotsu was… well… he fit theater extremely well. He danced beautifully and he sang and… sometimes his makeup was better done than most women. But… certain parts of his life were not things he was ready to share with his classmates. But in theater, it was okay.
Kagura was a natural actress. She could play any role put in front of her, from Blanche in “A Streetcar Named Desire” to Helena in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Despite giving off a diva vibe (which was deserved in Jakotsu’s opinion!), Kagura was actually a pretty great person and a pretty great friend. Theater had brought them together.
“Jak, there’s no way in hell this is going to work,” Kagura whispered as they headed over to the auditorium after school. They were starting to build the set and pick costumes for Crazy For You .
“It will work. Kagome sees the good in everyone . And I’ve seen her crack harder nuts than Mr. Taisho,” Jakotsu replied.
“She will crack his nuts. What if he’s nothing but an ass to her?” Kagura whispered back. “This is a bad idea !”
“Well… what if… they didn’t know until…” Jakotsu raised a conspiratorial eyebrow, “...they were already in love.”
“How in the hell are you going to pull that off Jak ?!” Kagura asked, but the smile on her face told Jakotsu that she was already thinking about it.
“We’re going to… get them to fall in love first,” Jakotsu answered. “Trust me Kagura. We can do this. But… I am gonna need your help.”
“I’m in,” Kagura decided. “Because. Well… if it works? We’ll be school celebrities.”
“Mr. Taisho’s mood swings really are something .” Jakotsu mused.
“And well… I dunno. It… actually sorta works. Like… if anyone can break that super thick irritable shell, it’s Kagome. And… I kinda do think it’s a shell. Not just a personality flaw,” Kagura whispered. “It also would be… awesome… to see Kagome finally get something good in her life too. She… she deserves it.”
“What are you two talking about?” the stage manager, Shippō, called out upon seeing them.
“Hey Shippō! It’s nothing we can talk about now but… wanna grab fries tonight at the diner?” Kagura called back. “We could use your help.”
Shippō shot them a suspicious look through his red bangs, “Are you buyin’?”
Kagura rolled her eyes, but nodded.
Jakotsu and Kagura joined Shippō on stage and grabbed their tools, then waited for him to tell them where he needed them. They were still building some of the large set pieces, so all hands were welcome. That night in particular, everyone chipped in to get the balcony portion of the set built, which only left it to be painted. Kagome was there, covered in the sweat and sawdust from the effort, cheering her students on. By the time they all filtered out, everyone was starving.
“We still on for the diner?” Shippō asked, approaching Jakotsu and Kagura.
“Hell yes,” Jakotsu answered.
They piled into Kagura’s car and were off. As soon as they sat down, Jakotsu and Kagura got Shippō up to speed on what they intended to do.
“I’m in,” Shippō said immediately , throwing a fry covered in mayonnaise in his mouth.
“So, we need a plan. If either of them find out what we are up to before they are in love, it’s all over,” Jakotsu said, sipping his diet soda.
“Then a plan we will hatch!” Kagura winked.
That was how the triad of matchmakers embarked on their sacred mission to unite two lonely souls. For the good of Mr. Taisho, for the good of Ms. Higurashi, and for the good of the student body of Shikon High.
“Did you get it?” Jakotsu whispered to Kagura.
“Of course I got it,” Kagura growled, opening her bag and pulling out a test covered in the exasperated handwriting of a math teacher who was desperately trying to help her get it (she’d dropped math after that year…)
“Perfect!” Jakotsu beamed. He’d been studying sonnets for the past week to find the perfect one that a gruff hanyō might write.
“Did Shippō get the rose?” Kagura asked, only to immediately be interrupted by a white rose getting shoved into her nose. “Dammit fox! Demon noses are sensitive!”
“It’s what you get for doubting me,” Shippō answered.
As they bickered, Jakotsu did his best to copy the handwriting, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but never as sweet as you. — from your secret admirer.”
“There. Short, sweet, mentions his nose.” Jakotsu’s grin was sharp enough that he nearly had Shippō’s fangs.
“You think you can sneak into the office and put that in her mailbox?” Kagura whispered, as Jakotsu handed the note to Shippō.
“I’m a kitsune. That name isn’t for decoration,” Shippō huffed, then transformed in front of their eyes into a middle-aged woman.
“Damn Shippō! Remind me to never prank you!” Jakotsu whispered out the side of his mouth as he and Kagura made a hasty retreat to their pre-planned hiding place.
Kagome was a creature of habit, and that included arriving at the school at precisely the same time every day. She often came in with a thermos full of tea or coffee, wearing a cardigan over a colorful shell and a pair of khaki pants, or a skirt when she was feeling extra fun.
“Mission accomplished,” Shippō announced, joining them in their hiding place.
As they waited, Kagome walked into the school, right on time. She went to the office and checked her mailbox, right on time. And the three had to stifle their squeals of delight as they watched the look on Kagome’s face change as she tenderly pulled the note and rose out of her mailbox. Her puzzled look changed quickly to surprise, and she looked around to see if this ‘secret admirer’ was still in the office (Jakotsu, Kagura and Shippō all ducked just in time). Once they were sure it was safe to look again, they squeed to see Kagome smelling the rose, smiling a tiny hopeful little smile.
“Success of phase 1!” Shippō whispered, and all smirked as they headed to their classes for the day.
They all knew that Kagome was the easy one. Mr. Taisho was going to be a harder nut to crack.
“Well at least today your brains seemed to have grasped half of the things I said…” Mr. Taisho’s rasping voice was only half as grumpy as usual. Jakotsu was glad he was in a good mood. “Class dismissed.”
It was showtime.
“Um, Mr. Taisho?” Jakotsu approached his teacher, who was slumped in his chair, “Can you… tell me which chapters we needed to cover again?”
“Chapters 13 and 14, Jak,” Mr. Taisho answered.
“Thanks,” Jakotsu said, then swallowed. He had to act natural. “Ms. Higurashi was right about you.”
Jakotsu turned to walk out of the classroom. Slowly.
“Oh?” Mr. Taisho called—he took the bait!
“Oh… yeah. She went on and on about how you always put your students first.” Jakotsu turned around, trying his damndest to be casual. Sure, fine. Kagome had never said said that, but she would have. “Go the extra mile. Not many teachers do that for students…”
Jakotsu didn’t miss the little flicker of light that came to Mr. Taisho’s amber eyes. “Anyway. I am heading to the theater right now. See ya!”
“Jak!” Mr. Taisho barked. “Let me know… if you… need anything else. I’m… happy to help.”
“Okay!” Jakotsu was worried his smile would cramp his face for how big it was.
Well well well… the way Mr. Taisho had responded to even the mere mention of a compliment from Kagome was… very interesting indeed. Almost like… he’d noticed her already. This was good. This was very very good.
“I think we can move directly to Phase 2,” Jakotsu whispered to a waiting Kagura and Shippō.
“Wait… you mean.” Kagura’s eyes grew wide.
“He… he smiled when I mentioned her. He never smiles ,” Jakotsu answered. “I think… Mr. Taisho might already have a crush .”
“This is excellent! ” Shippō exclaimed, still making sure to be quiet enough not to attract attention. “So… does this mean operation cookie jar is starting right now?”
“Think we can do it?” Kagura raised her eyebrow conspiratorially.
“Oh yeah. I mean… we shouldn’t take advantage of Kagome like this but… it’s for… a higher purpose,” Jakotsu whispered. “I’ll take care of it. Oi Shippō. Do dog demons have anything against chocolate?”
“No.” Shippō rolled his eyes.
“Good,” Jakotsu chuckled. “I’ll be right back.”
Jakotsu got up theatrically, and made his way over to Kagome’s office. The closer he got, the more effort he put into his steps, trying to look as pitiful as he possibly could.
“Ms. Higurashi?” Jakotsu called weakly at her door, knowing she was probably hunched over her desk, her nose in a script. (Jakotsu was also happy to see the white rose sitting neatly in her vase.)
“Jakotsu! You know you can call me Kagome!” Kagome looked up, “Oh my. You look a mess. Are you okay?”
“Yes. Just… low blood sugar. I’ll be fine. Gonna go to the vending machines and grab a candy bar.” Jakotsu shrugged pathetically.
“Oh. Do you need me?” Kagome narrowed her eyes in concern. It was exactly what he was hoping for.
“Yeah… Shippō asked for you.” Jakotsu pointed across the auditorium to the kitsune and Kagura, still sitting in the corner talking.
He would only know tomorrow if his plan worked, but he knew Kagome, so he was confident that it had.
The next morning, exactly three minutes before Kagome was set to arrive at school, Jakotsu sat himself on a bench near the staff parking lot. He sipped his thermos of coffee and breathed in the crisp morning air.
“Jakotsu?” Kagome’s voice “surprised” him.
“Ah! Ms. Higurashi!” Jakotsu waved.
Kagome strolled up to him, a brown paper bag in her hand.
“Here. Low blood sugar is no joke!” Kagome handed him the bag, and he could smell them. Fresh cookies. Kagome had baked Jakotsu cookies.
“Thank you Ms. Higurashi!” Jakotsu beamed brightly at his teacher.
Yes. Kagome deserved happiness. And even as he felt bad for using her… just a little… it was ultimately for her .
“Will I see you tonight in the theater?” Kagome asked as she headed the rest of the way into school.
“You sure will!” Jakotsu replied, overjoyed that the plan was working out so perfectly.
“Did you get them?” Shippō whispered as he walked into the school.
“Smells like white chocolate cherry,” Jakotsu whispered back. It was not the first time he’d gotten to sample Kagome’s baked goods.
“Perfect!” Shippō exclaimed. “Here’s the note. I did a pretty good job getting her style just right.”
“You’re sure he won’t come barging in to thank her for the cookies?” Kagura asked, having appeared out of nowhere.
“Nope. He’ll probably smile. Then stalk around near her without getting up the nerve to actually talk to her,” Jakotsu answered. He’d studied Mr. Taisho carefully, and he was confident that this was the case.
“Okay. You should bring them in. The fewer scents the better. And rub that note all over the paper bag…” Shippō whispered.
Jakotsu did as told, and they snuck into the office and stuck the little bag of cookies into Mr. Taisho’s mailbox.
As much as they wanted to stick around and see how he’d react, Mr. Taisho had a lot keener senses than Kagome. So they just had to hope, just had to trust.
If they’d been there, they would have seen the look of surprise on Inuyasha’s face. They would have seen his eyes grow wider when he read the little note, which simply said “Thought you could use a pick-me-up. From: Kagome” And they would have seen him take a deep sniff of the cookies, but mostly of the brown paper bag that still held her scent.
Later that day, in math class, Jakotsu could not have been smugger if he tried. Mr. Taisho was in the type of mood that Jakotsu had never seen before. He was smiling, even allowing himself a chuckle, and he bantered back and forth with his class. It was as if the lightbulb inside his heart had been turned on. It was… glorious.
Jakotsu, though, could not get complacent. He couldn’t tell Mr. Taisho that the cookies he’d eaten were actually not for him. But… he had plans for that too. It was all worked out. And soon, they would be able to commence Phase 3.
“So..?” Kagura met Jakotsu at the entrance of the auditorium.
“Let’s talk inside.” Jakotsu’s cheshire grin told Kagura all she needed to know. “I need to… make sure Kagome doesn’t screw this up.”
“Better do it soon. Hurry. Shippō is on his way to Phase 3.” Kagura shoved Jakotsu forward.
Jakotsu jogged up to Kagome’s office, finding her there, still with the now slightly wilted rose in the vase.
“Kagome?” Jakotsu called, bringing her eyes to his. “Uh. About your cookies….”
“Were they okay Jak?” Kagome’s eyes were full of concern.
“Oh! No, not that. I… well… Mr. Taisho looked really depressed.” Jakotsu made sure that he looked guilty but also concerned, “So I gave him the cookies and said they were from you.”
“I-Inuyasha?” something changed in Kagome’s eyes at the mention of Mr. Taisho. They grew brighter, and a little pink appeared across the bridge of her nose.
“Yeah. He looked really down today. So I told him you made cookies for him…” Jakotsu admitted. “Sometimes… you can just tell when someone needs cookies.”
Jakotsu smiled inwardly. Kagome always knew when someone needed cookies, or a word of encouragement, or a wake-up call. Mr. Taisho needed all of those things.
“Maybe… since he really did need those cookies… we don’t… have to tell him they were for me,” Jakotsu grinned.
“Just… just this once Jak.” Kagome’s face turned even pinker.
“Our little secret.” Jakotsu winked, then left Kagome’s office. It took everything he had to keep the maniacal giggles inside. It was time for Phase 3.
On our way.
Jakotsu’s phone pinged right as he sat back down with Kagura.
The two looked casually at each other, as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening.
“...Downright dangerous for kids to be playing with booms!...” Jakotsu giggled as he heard Mr. Taisho’s grumbles.
“Oh! Don’t you worry, Kago-I mean… Ms. Higurashi doesn’t let us do it. She usually does it herself!” Shippō was laying it on thick.
“You’re damn lucky I stay after to grade…” Mr. Taisho burst into the theater with Shippō, stilling the air as he came in. “Where is Kago-Ms. Higurashi?”
“She’s in her office, Mr. Taisho,” Kagura called. “But she’s had a tough day. We made her a couple of bento boxes, to make sure she got dinner. Sometimes she forgets to eat when we’re getting this close to a show.” Mr. Taisho shot Kagura a look, but her eyes did not betray her thoughts. “Want to bring them up to her? We need to get working on the costumes anyway.”
“I s’pose.” Mr. Taisho ran his fingers through his silver hair, and Jakotsu inwardly squealed when he saw a little pink brush the bridge of the hanyō’s nose.
“Thanks Mr. Taisho!” Jakotsu popped up, and thrust the bento boxes into the hanyō’s hands. “Her office is in the top left corner. Come on Kagura . Let’s go to the costume shop. You need to be fitted.”
“I’ll come too!” Shippō called, and all of them scurried away, leaving a confused Mr. Taisho with two perfectly crafted bento boxes—an excellent first date food—in his hands.
“You… think it worked?” Shippō whispered as quietly as he could.
“Yes.” Kagura smiled, “So… what is Phase 4?”
“Step back and let them stew,” Jakotsu replied.
The ingredients were all there. The secret admirer cards, the rose, the cookies, the date. If Ms. Higurashi and Mr. Taisho were going to find each other, the rest was up to them.
“Oh my god!!!!” Kagura squealed, rushing up to Shippō and Jakotsu as they pulled books for their morning classes out of their lockers.
For Kagura to squeal it had to be something truly monumental.
“Spill.” Jakotsu said.
He thought, nay, hoped he knew what Kagura was going to say, but wanted her to confirm.
“I caught them! Kagome and Taisho sittin’ in a tree…” Kagura sang. “K-I-S-S-I-N-G!”
“Mature,” Shippō drawled, but then he matched Jakotsu and Kagura’s squeal.
A month had passed since Mr. Taisho brought a bento box dinner date up to Kagome’s office (Jakotsu certainly called it a date), and the theater kids had begun to see a lot of Mr. Taisho. He grumbled endlessly about ‘shoddy craftsmanship’ or ‘dangerous conditions’ and stayed after to reinforce the sets. Kagome found his presence a welcome nuisance, often shooing him away with a quick “they won’t learn if you jump in to rescue them, Inuyasha. ”
Math lessons, too, had gotten progressively better and brighter as the month went on. Mr. Taisho smiled a whole lot more, and when he didn’t think anyone was looking, he’d stare soppily off into the distance and sigh. (He was fooling no one.) His declaring that “all quizzes could be open-book from now on” was what really sealed it. Mr. Taisho was in love, and the whole class was rewarded.
Kagome never lost her care and love for her students, and still spent a lot of late nights in the theater at rehearsal, but… Shippō had caught her on more than one occasion looking guiltily down at her watch, as if she had somewhere to be. Jakotsu, Shippō and Kagura had taken to scuttling her out of the theater, promising to behave (and they would, now that Mr. Taisho had taken his place as their unofficial tech director…).
Jakotsu, Kagura, and Shippō still wondered if Kagome ever found out who her ‘secret admirer’ was, or if Inuyasha discovered the cookie flavored ruse. The rest of the school seemed to know their secret, but neither teacher seemed to really pay much attention to the gossip.
“So… you think they’ll invite us to the wedding?” Shippō asked.
“They better. After all, what would they have done without us?” Kagura replied, laughing.
“Probably been sad and lonely their whole lives,” Jakotsu shrugged.
“Good thing we were there. Maybe we should start a business.” Kagura continued to chuckle. “The Matchmakers of Shikon High. Open and ready for all your love needs.”
“Oh god, please no. I would rather peel all the skin off my body than try to set up that creepy chemistry teacher,” Jakotsu gagged.
“Okay fine. Matchmakers of Shikon High—only for people who truly deserve it,” Kagura countered.
The three students kept laughing, because in their minds, no one was more deserving of love and happiness than Inuyasha Taisho and Kagome Higurashi.
Artwork commission by opal-lines