Author's Note: Good day to everyone! I honestly did not expect to be coming back to for anything other than a sequel maybe to my other story. However, I find the Itsuwaribito Utsuho fandom to be severely lacking despite its recent popularity. That is why I decided to come up with my own UtsuhoxNeya story to add to Akimei the Twisted's "Neya's Hair Combs." I really recommend it, it is adorable!

Pairings: UtsuhoxNeya, some HikaexIwashi if I can.

Genre: Romance

Rating: M

Spoilers/Setting: Spoilers up to chapter 117 or so. Takes place after they go to the Village of Lies and, presumably, get the final kokonotsu treasure (though I have no clue if it's there or not, but that's how it'll be in this story).

Notes: I do not own Itsuwaribito Utsuho, its characters, or plot because that all belongs to Yuuki Iinuma. Feel free to torch flame this story as much as you'd like, and I'll grab the marshmallows.


Chapter 1. Utsuho — Hot Springs

That feeling Utsuho had been left with was so steeply painful, he could not find the word to perfectly describe it. Empty. Alone. Lacking. Void. Incomplete. Ah, yes, incomplete was what he currently felt.

If Utsuho had ever read Shakespeare (had he not been Japanese and on the other side of the world) he would have wholeheartedly agreed with the line "Parting is such sweet sorrow." However, the "sweet" was not cutting it. It was bitter, bitter like poison. Leaving Pochi behind in the Village of Tanuki with that good-for-nothing-brat-with-a-stuck-up-attitude fiancé was one of the hardest decisions Utsuho had had to make in his life.

But what was he to do? Forever keep Pochi from the village and family that the mother had left behind? Just how much danger had Utsuho already placed on Pochi in the search for the kokonotsu treasures? As much as he acknowledged (believed, insisted, forced the tanuki to accept) that he was Pochi's family, he also had to think about Pochi's best interests.

A kicked rock tumbled along the dirt path the (now) eight of them were taking. Hika kicked up a few more pebbles, a pout on his face as he refused to talk to Utsuho. There had been some disagreement between the two when the decision to leave their tanuki-child in the village arose. Of course, Hikae was a steadfast vote for taking Pochi along, or simply staying in the village without them and serve as a protector. Needless to say, Nee-chan and Iwashi talked him out of it. Now all he had left was sulking. Oh well, he will cheer up by the time they run into the next leg of their journey.

Utsuho stared at his travel companions. Aside from Hika's bad mood, the others were quiet, trying not to look at him in pity…Well, Uzume the Bird Brain still blatantly stared with tears in the corners of his eyes.

It was kind of funny, though, now that he thought about it—when he first set off on his journey to save a thousand people with his lies, he quickly met Pochi, his first companion and family, and things stayed like that for a while before more people joined them.

First Yakuma, that annoying preachy doctor, then Nee-chan, an incompetent itsuwaribito (no, she did NOT trick him the first time they met!); Hika came after that in all his dangerous immortal glory while always trying to get Pochi's attention, and a long time afterward Iwashi joined up with the expectation that Utsuho would be her husband eventually.

Pfft! Like he can be a husband when he needed to save a thousand people or more.

Finally, there was Chouza, Uzume, and that kid Nee-chan hangs all over, Minamo.

Each person came to him and Pochi, now Pochi was gone, and they were all still there with him. That miserable feeling of incompleteness hit again as he though about it, and along with it came a deep, weary sigh.

"Don't worry, Pochi will surely be happy there, Utsuho," said Yakuma.

In his depression, Utsuho could only jump-kick Yakuma with half his usual enthusiasm.

Nee-chan turned around from where she was walking ahead of him to glare at his continuous poor treatment of Yakuma. No, he did not have the luck that with everything that had happened she would forget about him accidentally pushing Yakuma over a cliff. That's how far his poor mood bought him in leniency: silence. As long as she did not lecture him again.

A few hours later of wandering back out of the mountain forest, the group came upon Hihi-baa's hot spring inn a second time. They greeted the old monkey-like woman, who was surprised to see them all there and alive (without Pochi, Utsuho dully noted). By then, the others were eager to get into the hot springs and ease their aching muscles.

"Ah, hot rings! Gotta love 'em!" said Uzume.

"Hot springs," corrected the long-banged nanny, Chouza. "But I agree with you on that," he added while stripping his clothes and folding them into the cubby.

"What about your bangs, what are you going to do with them?" asked Yakuma as he, too, stripped of his haori* and kimono.

"I'm all prepared this time—brought a towel to cover my face."

"Haha, Chouza! You'll just run into things like that!" said Uzume.

"I'll be sitting down most of the time, idiot."

The two criminals kept jabbering back and forth, splashing a bucket of water over their bodies before entering the steaming waters. Hika did likewise, no longer sulking as much as before.

"You okay, Utsuho?" Yakuma asked the quiet itsuwaribito.

"Perfectly fine, Mom, so stop being such a NAG!" said Utsuho, pronouncing the final word with a flying kick to the gut that sent the doctor flying into the water. He then leisurely settled himself into the water opposite of Yakuma with a taunting grin on his face.

"UTSUHO-SAN!"

"It's Nee-chan!" blushed Uzume in joy, ignoring the warning to the other white-haired boy. "She's on the other side this time…in only a towel!"

"Please do go over there, Bird Brain," insisted Utsuho. "Then she'll stop lecturing me and will yell at you."

"No, Utsuho, don't encourage him—" Yakuma scrambled to say, nervous at the thought of someone peeking in on Neya and invoking her wrath.

"Getting yelled at is totally mirth it if I get to see Nee-chan naked!"

"That's 'worth it' and are you sure, Uzume?" questioned Chouza.

Uzume was already working his way up the fence blushing all the way. It was only then that Utsuho felt an inkling of regret for suggesting the muscle-brained idiot to peek at Nee-chan. Sure, Uzume saw Iwashi with a towel last time, but that covered more than what she wore on a daily basis in Utsuho's opinion. But Nee-chan…

"KYAAA!"

Splash!

BONK!

Uzume was lying unconscious on the stone ground of the hot spring, a vicious bump where the wooden bucket connected to his head. Utsuho's thought at that moment was:

'Well damn, now I need to go get a new bucket.'


Author's After-note: From here on out, italicized sentences are presumed to be thoughts. There's really no set length to any of these chapters, so some of them will be short like this, and others will be much longer. I hope I portrayed everyone in-character, because OOC is really annoying unless if it is really, really AU.

Also, a haori is like an overcoat that generally hangs loosely over the kimono. Yakuma wears a dark one with his sun design on the back, and another big example are the white cloaks the 13 Court Squad Captains in Bleach wear.

Last note, as these chapters are solely from a certain person's point of view, the general narration will include the way they refer to people when thinking and the dialogue will be how they refer to them when speaking aloud. For Utsuho, it's like so:

Yakuma: Thinking - "Yakuma" Speaking - "Yakuma", sometimes "Mom" when teasing.

Neya: Thinking - Nee-chan, sometimes "Neya" when being really serious Speaking - "Nee-chan", and if serious "Neya"

Hikae: Thinking - "Hika" Speaking - "Hika"

Iwashi: Thinking - "Iwashi" Speaking - "Hime-san"

Uzume: Thinking - "Uzume" Speaking - "Uzume" unless he feels he's being stupid so he'll call him "Bird Brain" (which is often)

Chouza: Thinking - "Chouza" Speaking - "Chouza"

Minamo: Thinking - "Minamo" Speaking - "Chibikko"

Found this list for how they refer to people aloud here: decteeze . dreamwidth 2743 . html

Take out the spaces, put "period-slash-org" between "dreamwidth" and "2743", and that should help. This site has given me way too much trouble in trying to post this address.