Warsong Chapter Four: The Thief At The Waterfall

“Ahhh, dammit!” Katsume snarled. “We need a horse. I’m sick of walking all the time.”

“Hmph,” Yukiko snorted. “Here I was actually starting to think you were tough or something.”

“I really don’t want to hear that from you,” the Demon Slayer growled.

“Not my fault you have to walk,” Yukiko answered with a smirk.

“Wouldn’t be so smirky if you had to walk as well, would you?” Katsume muttered.

Yukiko looked down at her from where she rode on Inari’s back, the nine tails having increased his size to that of a horse to accommodate her. The foul look on the red head’s face was enough to make her laugh.

“Shut it,” Katsume growled.

“Come up here and make me,” Yukiko laughed.

“Oh, come on,” Inari muttered under his breath. “Not this again.”

In the three weeks since they’d left the village in the forest, all the two women had done was fight. If one said up, the other said down. If one said yes, the other said no. It was an ongoing battle of wills that he had grown very tired of.

“That’s it,” Katsume barked. “I’m coming up there, and you’re talking a turn walking, as of now!”

“Try it, you giant freak,” Yukiko shot back.

“Freak? Did you just call me a freak?” Katsume howled.

“If the term fits,” the small demon replied with a dismissive wave of her hand.

Inari grunted as Katsume leaped onto his side and started crawling up after Yukiko. In return, Yukiko grabbed a fistful of fur and planted a foot on the Demon Slayer’s face, shoving her back.

“Let go!” Yukiko yelled.

“Get down!” Katsume yelled back.

“You get down!” Yukiko snarled.

“It’s my turn to ride!” Katsume snarled back.

“He’s my companion! You don’t get turns!” Yukiko growled.

“He’s our companion, and I do so! Now, move it, pipsqueak!” Katsume growled back.

“Enough!” Inari bellowed, bucking them both to the ground and shifting back to his normal size. “I swear to Sora, all the two of you do is argue! My ears are about to start bleeding from all the yelling!”

“It’s her fault,” Katsume whined, pointing at Yukiko.

“Is not!” Yukiko snapped back, slapping her finger away.

Inari rubbed his head. “It’s both of your faults! Now pipe down and get along! Until you can, everyone walks!”

Infuriated with their childish behavior, the fox turned his back and trotted down the road, tails high in the air. Behind him, the two women stared in shock at his outburst.

“What’s gotten into him?” Katsume asked.

“Beats me,” Yukiko replied.

“Probably your fault,” the Demon Slayer sighed.

“Is not!” the demon girl snorted.

“Shut up!” Inari screamed back at them.

“Told ya so,” Katsume smirked.

“I hate you,” Yukiko glared.

軍歌

By the next day, the two had settled somewhat, though Inari wasn’t sure it was actually an improvement. The sullen silence that had grown between his traveling companions only seemed to wrack his nerves even worse, if that was possible.

“Sora, give me strength to endure these harsh trials you put me through,” he whimpered to the Moon Goddess.

“What’s that suppose to mean?” Katsume snarled at him.

“Nothing!” he cried, backing away from the angry woman quickly.

“Stupid nine tails,” she sulked. “Making us walk all this way. We could have been to the next village by now.”

“What’s that sound?” Yukiko asked, her head cocked to the side as she stared at the trees that lined the road.

“Hmm…” Katsume listened carefully, and after a moment, heard it as well. A soft roaring sound coming through the forest.

“Let’s check it out,” she told Yukiko. “Maybe it’s a demon we can slay.”

“Yeah, that sounds like fun,” the demon girl replied in a deadpan voice.

“Beats doing nothing,” the other woman shot back as she pushed through the underbrush.

Yukiko shrugged and followed, figuring that if nothing else, killing something might brighten the Demon Slayer’s mood. Since they had left the last village, her companion had grown steadily sulkier.

The roaring grew louder as they pushed ahead, and finally broke through the trees to spot a waterfall and a shallow river. In her haste, Katsume suddenly found herself teetering on the edge of the river, arms wind milling as she sought to keep her balance.

Torn for a split second between grabbing her and pushing her, Yukiko sighed and pulled her back. If the Demon Slayer fell in, she’d only be angrier than normal, and the smaller demon didn’t think she could take much more of that.

“Um,” Katsume muttered. “Thanks, or something.”

“Whatever,” Yukiko replied.

“Hey, a river,” Inari said with excitement. “Now we can refill the water bags.”

Katsume knelt, watching the fish that were darting below the surface. “Not to mention, eating something besides bread for a change.”

“Lucky day,” the nine tails hummed happily.

“It’s warm,” Yukiko told them, dipping a hand in the water. “That’s kind of odd, isn’t it?”

“She’s right, it is warm,” Katsume agreed, cupping a handful of water. “What’s up with that?”

“Ah, allow me to explain,” Inari replied, putting on his explorers cap.

“Where’d you get that hat from?” Katsume asked in surprise.

“And why does it have goggles on it?” Yukiko added.

“Never mind that now,” the nine tails told them, dismissing their questions with a wave of his paw. “The reason the water is warm is most likely the result of a hot spring near by that flows into the river. Which means…”

“A bath!” Katsume cried, cutting the nine tails off.

“Really?” Yukiko exclaimed. “A bath? Oh, thank Heaven!”

“Heh,” the Demon Slayer chuckled. “And about time to.”

“I agree,” Yukiko nodded. “You smell.”

“I… what??” Katsume bellowed.

“Now, now, ladies,” Inari said, putting away his hat. “No need to fight. You two strip down, and I’ll stand guard.”

Both women threw him a deadly glare.

Inari tried to smile. Somehow, he didn’t think this was going to go his way.

軍歌

Inari muttered under his breath as Yukiko went about setting up camp. Somewhere behind them, Katsume was already enjoying a warm bath in the waterfall. Not that Yukiko hadn’t wanted to go first, but the Demon Slayer had pulled Shoki, ending the argument.

“What do you think of her?” Inari asked suddenly, drawing the demon girl’s eye from where she was preparing a camp fire.

“Katsume, you mean?” she asked.

Inari gave her a baleful glare. “Who else would I be talking about?”

“Someone who isn’t rude, maybe? Or selfish? Or vain? Or arrogant?” Yukiko snapped each one out as she slammed a rock in place in the growing ring for the fire.

“Don’t hold back,” Inari muttered. “Tell me how you really feel.”

“I don’t get why you want her to come with us, okay?” Yukiko growled. “We were doing fine on our own. What do we even need her for, anyway? All she does is complain and slow us down.”

Inari chuckled at that. “Yes, we were doing just fine on our own, weren’t we? Remind me, how many days did we have to go without eating? Or better yet, how many demons did we slay without her?”

Yukiko glared at the small circle of stones in front of her. “I was getting better, you know.”

“No, you weren’t,” he said softly. “You were losing faith in yourself.”

“She isn’t making things better,” the demon girl snapped.

“On the contrary,” the nine tails smiled. “With her, you accessed a touch of the power hidden within you, and channeled it for positive means. I’d say she helped a lot.”

Yukiko stared at the forest, surprised. Her expression turned to a glare after a moment though, as she realized Inari was right. She had become stronger, to save Katsume from Rekko’s hammer, and the villagers from death.

“Doesn’t mean I have to like her,” she snarled.

Inari sighed. “Perish the very thought.”

“But,” Yukiko added after a moment, her voice low and soft. “I guess, when I think about it, she was willing to die to save others, and that’s a good quality. One I admire. Maybe, she isn’t so bad, really, and I should stop baiting her into arguments.”

Inari smirked softly at his friends back. “Maybe.”

“It’s just, wherever she goes, she can pretend to be human, and people accept her. That’s not something I’ll ever know. Yet, for some reason, she said she envied me. That I could be who I was. I don’t get that.”

The nine tails nodded his head thoughtfully. “Maybe, Yukiko, you have qualities she admires as well.”

“You think so?” she asked.

“I admire you a great deal,” he replied.

“You’re looking up my skirt, aren’t you?”

“A little.”

“INARI!!”

“Crap.”

軍歌

“Okay, what did you do with them, pipsqueak?”

Yukiko looked up at the Demon Slayer in confusion. Before her, a small camp fire was already burning, a small pot set over it. It hadn’t taken long for them to agree Yukiko should do all the cooking, Katsume’s sole attempt a nightmarish disaster.

“Do with what?”

“My boots, you obnoxious little pest! Where are they?” the Demon Slayer raged.

Yukiko stared at her. “I’ve no idea what you’re talking about. Why would I take your boots?”

“How would I know, you’re the master thief here,” Katsume snapped at her. “Maybe you got tired of walking around bare foot.”

“Then wouldn’t I be wearing them now?” she asked the red haired warrior.

Katsume’s face twisted in anger. “Give. Them. Back!!”

“I didn’t take them, you oaf,” Yukiko replied as she stood. “Not only would they not fit me, I don’t care for the style. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have my turn at a bath.”

Katsume practically foamed at the mouth as the small demon walked away. Still, even in her rage, she could tell the boots were nowhere to be seen.

“So, it’s hide and seek, is it?” she snarled. “Two can play at that game.”

Inari sighed where he sat nursing the knot on his head Yukiko had given him earlier. “Oh, brother.”

“You got something to say, nine tails?” Katsume barked at him, shaking a fist in warning.

“Yukiko was here with me the entire time,” he replied. “She never went to the river, and therefore, could not have stolen your boots.”

Katsume deflated a bit at that. “You sure you aren’t just covering for her?”

“If I had been involved, it wouldn’t have been your boots we’d have stolen,” he told her with a smirk.

Katsume sighed and sat down. “Yeah, yeah, okay. So, if she didn’t take them, then where did they go? Boots don’t walk off by themselves, you know.”

Inari shrugged. “Likely as not, they are under a bush somewhere. We’ll look for them after Yukiko returns from her bath.”

“Yeah, like she’s gonna help me.” Katsume pondered that a moment, then slammed a fist into her palm. “Why does she always have to be such a pest!”

“Her?” Inari asked.

“You tryin to say it’s me with the problem here?” the Demon Slayer growled.

He waved at her with a paw. “Oh, Heaven have mercy, of course not! You’re the most patient and kind hearted person I know.”

Katsume looked at him in surprise, then glared. “Sarcasm will only get you another lump, ya pesky fox.”

He grimaced. “Fair enough, though I would prefer you go easier on Yukiko. She’s got enough to deal with as it is.”

“Like what?” Katsume barked. “Seems like a right spoiled little princess to me, what with the way you’re always looking after her.”

“She has a power locked inside her that she can’t control,” Inari replied, suddenly serious. “A power that can be used to either save the world, or destroy it.”

Katsume’s face was a mask of shock. “Say what?”

“I wasn’t lying before, Katsume. She can’t remember anything that happened more than a year ago. The monks who found her and nursed her back to health, they are very powerful. The head of their monastery sought to learn the truth about Yukiko and discovered the power that lies dormant within her.” Inari moved to sit in front of the Demon Slayer as he spoke, figuring she should know everything.

“So, that’s why you’re here, huh? To keep her on the path of goodness or something?” Katsume asked.

“In a nutshell, yes,” Inari told her. “Yukiko wants to be a good person, and do the right thing, but her heart is fragile, and easily hurt.”

“This the part where you tell me to treat her with kid gloves?” the Demon Slayer inquired, clearly not convinced.

“No, Katsume Odo, daughter of Akio,” Inari said with a dark smile. “I expect you to help her grow strong.”

Katsume gasped at the nine tails use of her full name. “You… know who I am?”

“I know everything, and I know that the path of your destiny lies with Yukiko,” Inari said. “But that is all I can tell you for now.”

Katsume looked back at the forest where Yukiko had gone. The path to her destiny, Inari had said. Her eyes narrowed slightly. What connection could Yukiko possibly hold to the demon she sought?

Time would tell, she knew, and if Yukiko was in league with him, she vowed, the demon girl would die.

軍歌

Yukiko sighed as she stood under the waterfall, the warm water easing many tensions from her body. It had been some time since she’d last had a real, decent bath, and this was more than making up for it.

Still, she couldn’t help but wonder what Inari had really been driving at earlier. She had suspected for some time that the nine tails knew more than he was letting on about her powers, and her destiny.

She didn’t distrust him, but she did often wonder what his real motives were. She knew for certain he was on her side, was her truest friend, but she still didn’t like having things kept from her.

Shoving the thoughts aside, she waded across the shallow river and climbed onto the bank. Whatever the answers were, they would come in time, she knew. Until then, all she could do was focus on trying to stay true to her heart’s desire.

“The path of light,” she muttered to herself. “Can it really be mine?”

Shaking herself a little, she reached for her dress and got only leaves from the branch instead. Staring at them for a moment, she realized her clothes were missing. A quick scan didn’t reveal them on the ground, or anywhere.

“Inari,” she snarled under her breath.

Hesitating for a bit, she tried to figure out what to do now. The nine tails had obviously made off with her clothes, probably with the help of that damned Demon Slayer. Repayment for the boots Yukiko hadn’t stolen.

“Fine, then,” she said at last.

With nothing else to do, she pushed through the underbrush, heading back to camp. They could have a good laugh at her expense, and that would be that. She would be embarrassed, more than she was now, but then it would be over.

Reaching the road, she paused behind at bush, watching as Katsume stared into the fire morosely, her feet dirty from the absence of her boots. Of Inari, and Yukiko’s dress, there was no sign.

“Psst,” she called to the tall red head. “Katsume!”

Looking over her shoulder, she gave Yukiko a bored glare. “What is it?”

“Where’s Inari?” she asked.

Katsume shrugged. “I got tired of him whining, so I sent him to gather some firewood. Why?”

“Do you still have that kimono Lord Tso gave you?”

Katsume looked at her curiously. “Yeah. Why?”

“Can I borrow it for a bit?”

Muttering curses under her breath, the Demon Slayer stood. “Why would I let you do that? For that matter, why the hells you lurking behind a bush for?”

“Um, well,” Yukiko stammered as she stepped out from behind it.

“HOLYSHITWHYAREYOUNAKED!!” Katsume blurted, turning red as she first pointed at Yukiko, then turned her back.

“Inari stole my dress,” Yukiko sighed.

“Little bastard,” Katsume growled. “I knew I shoulda just punched him in the head or something.”

“About that kimono?” Yukiko pressed.

“Yeah, yeah, gimme a sec, will ya?” Katsume snapped, retrieving her bag and opening it. “Did you come all the way back here naked?”

Yukiko gave her a dark glare. “Well, duh.”

Katsume pulled the tattered kimono out and tossed it to her. “There you go. Now, for crying out loud, cover up, already!”

“Thanks,” Yukiko said, slipping it on quickly.

Before her, on the ground, Katsume continued digging through her bag. Yukiko cinched the belt around her waist and watched her for a moment as the Demon Slayer went from pawing through her belongings, to throwing them out on the ground.

“Where is it?” she said, her voice tinged with fear. “Dammit, where did it go?”

“Where did what go?” Yukiko asked her.

“My pendent!” Katsume cried. “I know I had it in here earlier.”

Yukiko tried to picture Katsume wearing jewelry, but couldn’t. “A pendent?”

“Yeah, my pendant,” Katsume told her, now desperate as she shook the empty bag in the air. “I have to find it. I just can’t lose it! It’s too important!”

“What’s it look like?” Yukiko asked, kneeling to sort through the other woman’s things in the grass.

“A gold chain with a red stone on it,” Katsume answered, looking around the camp site desperately. “I need it!”

“I’ve never seen you wear it before,” Yukiko told her, growing concerned as Katsume’s desperation mounted.

“I was worried it might get broken if I wore it in battle,” the other woman told her, tears beginning to form in her eyes. “It’s too precious for me to risk it.”

Yukiko had never seen her companion in such a state before, and now began to grow concerned as well. “Is it magical or something?”

“No,” Katsume said, kneeling in the grass, lost and afraid. “It was given to me, by someone very important. Someone I care about a lot. If I lose it, I won’t be able to forgive myself.”

Yukiko stared at her for a long time as Katsume began to cry softly, fingers still combing the grass in hopes of finding the pendant. Slowly, afraid the other woman would rebuff her, she reached a hand out and rested it on her shoulder.

When Katsume looked at her, Yukiko smiled softly. “We’ll find it. I’ll help you search. Don’t worry, we won’t leave here until we do.”

The Demon Slayer stared at her in surprise. “You… mean that?”

“Of course,” Yukiko told her. “If it’s that precious, how could we leave it behind?”

Katsume smiled slightly, wiping her eyes. “Thanks, Yukiko. I appreciate it.”

“Umm,” Inari called, returning to camp with an armload of sticks. “Why is she crying? And why are you wearing a kimono?”

“YOU!” Yukiko snarled.

“Crap.”

軍歌

“So, let’s assess what we know,” Inari said as he produced his detectives cap and settled it over the two welts on his head.

“Where did you get that?” Katsume asked.

“And what is it?” Yukiko added.

“Never mind that right now,” he told them, dismissing their questions with a wave of his paw. “We’ve more important matters to address at the moment.”

“Like how we’re going to punish whoever stole our stuff?” Katsume snarled, hands clenching into fists.

“Precisely,” Inari intoned. “Now, here’s what we know. The thief is highly skilled and stealthy. None of us saw, or heard, anything prior to discovering our belongings had gone missing.”

“Our?” Yukiko asked him with a good bit of doubt. “What have you lost?”

“I’ve got two lumps on my head because of this miscreant,” the nine tails pointed out. “I’ve likely got brain damage, and a diminished intellectual capacity. That’s what I’ve lost, thank you very much.”

“How can you tell?” Katsume asked with a dark smirk.

“Sarcasm will not help us in this situation,” Inari admonished her. “We must track and capture this thief if we wish to recover our property.”

“Yeah, but, why take the stuff he took,” Yukiko said thoughtfully. “It makes no sense.”

“She’s got a point,” Katsume nodded. “Boots, a dress and a pendant. Not what you call high end merchandise.”

“The pendant may have some value, but the rest seems random.” Yukiko shook her head, unable to make sense of it all.

“Perhaps our thief has a foot fetish,” Inari told them with a shrug. “Or finds the idea of watching nubile young women run through the woods naked appealing.”

“That’s just perverse,” Katsume told the nine tails with a dark and questioning look.

“True, but who can grasp the deranged mind at work here,” he sighed.

“Um, you, most likely,” the Demon Slayer told him.

“An unfair criticism if ever there was one, Katsume,” Inari sniffed. “Let us focus instead on the task at hand, the safe recovery of the stolen property.”

“Fair enough, but how can we do that?” Yukiko asked. “We don’t even know who we’re looking for, or if they are still around.”

Inari grinned. “I’m certain they are, and plan to lay a trap for our little friend. All I need the two of you to do is play along, and all will be well.”

“What kind of trap?” Yukiko inquired, suddenly suspicious of the fox.

“And what kind of plan?” Katsume added, equally as suspicious.

Inari sighed and put his detectives cap away. “Really, such distrust of me is hurtful, and undeserving. You do want to recover the things you’ve lost, don’t you?”

“Yeah,” they both sighed.

His grin this time was darker, and far too sinister for their liking. “Then have some faith in me, and work together.”

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” Yukiko groaned.

“You and me both,” Katsume moaned.

“I don’t,” Inari mused. “How strange. I wonder why? Oh, yes, I know, it’s because I came up with it, and I’m a genius!”

“Out with the plan, already, nine tails,” Katsume snapped.

He grinned wider and told them his plan, explaining everything carefully. There were a few details that didn’t appeal, but he was sure they could deal with that. After all, they were all grown ups.

軍歌

“So, which part of this plan do we have to be naked for?” Yukiko asked Katsume.

“The part that happens right before I break that perverted little nine tails in half,” Katsume replied.

They stood next to each other under the waterfall, waiting patiently for the signal Inari had promised to send when the thief was in sight. Not far away, on the shore, lay their clothes, but more importantly, the Demon Slaying sword, Shoki.

Inari felt the sword would make too tempting a target to ignore, and their thief would make an attempt for it. When that happened, he would signal them, and they would close the net and retake their belongings from the stealthy rogue.

Of course, they had to make it look convincing, and to that end, the shared bath under the waterfall. The nine tails had called it a clever ruse. Katsume called it him being a pervert.

“I’m still not convinced that he didn’t set this all up somehow,” the Demon Slayer grumbled.

“The thought has crossed my mind as well,” Yukiko told her. “Though, knowing how we would respond, the risk seems pretty high for him.”

“I’m not sure he’s taken that into account, if I’m gonna be honest,” Katsume said. “But if turns out that he really is behind all this, you can bet, he’ll wish he had.”

Yukiko couldn’t help but smile at that. “On the other hand, it’s comforting to think that our stuff isn’t in the hands of someone strange, isn’t it?”

“He’s pretty strange,” Katsume grumbled.

“True, but I don’t think he’d go to these lengths just to play peeping tom. It’s far too much work.” Yukiko shrugged. “But then again, you never know.”

“You’re enjoying this far too much,” Katsume told her. “You aren’t one of those girly girls, are you?”

“What??” Yukiko yelped. “Where’d you get that idea?”

“Never mind,” Katsume chuckled as the demon girls face turned bright red. “My mistake.”

“You really are vile, you know that,” Yukiko snarled.

A sudden whistle cut off their budding argument. The signal Inari had promised, and as they turned, they both glimpsed the blade of Shoki vanishing into the underbrush. In an instant, Inari was cleared of all charges.

“No you don’t,” Katsume bellowed, jumping from the waterfall to shore in a single bound.

Yukiko sighed and followed, wishing the Demon Slayer would stop and think just once before acting. Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time she’d seen Katsume take on an enemy in nearly nothing, or nothing at all.

“Some days,” she muttered as she followed the red haired warrior into the underbrush.

“Come back here, ya freaking thief!” Katsume screamed from ahead of her.

Dodging through the low hanging branches and brush, Yukiko did the best she could to keep up, trailing the larger woman closely. Somewhere ahead, Inari would be preparing to close the trap.

Breaking into a clearing, she ran head long into Katsume, who had pulled up short, staring at the sight before her in shock and horror. Sliding around her, Yukiko couldn’t help but mirror the expression.

On the other side stood Inari, in his larger size, snarling at the thief, who had stopping running and was already seeking an escape from the massive nine tails. It was the thief himself, however, that made the two women stare.

It stood only three feet tall and had green skin. A shock of dirty white hair fell down its back in a tangled mess as it backed away from the nine tails in fear. Clearly a demon of some sort, it wore Katsume’s boots, Yukiko’s dress, and had the missing pendant around its neck.

“You little…” Katsume growled, advancing on it, fists raised.

It squealed in fear and dropped the sword, covering its head as she made ready to strike. Yukiko caught her arm, however, and held her back. Getting a dark glare for the trouble, she held on anyway.

“Just, wait,” she said softly.

“For what?” Katsume barked.

“Hi there,” Yukiko said to the creature, “Who are you? Why were you stealing our stuff?”

The thing looked up at her, clearly terrified as it cringed back from the enraged Demon Slayer. It didn’t answer, but the tears in its eyes were plain for anyone to see, even Katsume, who finally stopped struggling.

“What is it?” she asked as Yukiko let her go.

“Ahem,” Inari put in, reverting to his normal size and donning his professors hat. “I believe I can answer that.”

“Okay, seriously, where do you keep getting those things from?” Katsume demanded.

“And why does that one have a tassel on it?” Yukiko added.

“That isn’t important right now,” Inari told them, brushing their questions aside with a wave of his paw. “What matters now is this little fellow.”

“This little thief, you mean,” Katsume said, jabbing a finger at the creature.

“Is a goblin,” Inari told her. “A minor demon, barely worth the title, really. They are known for their attraction to things they perceive as pretty, and often make off with them.”

“So, it stole our clothes, so it could wear them?” Yukiko asked in disbelief.

“It seems so,” Inari told her. “Odds are, the little guy thought you two looked good in them, and stole them in an attempt to mimic you.”

“Well,” Katsume said, balling a fist into her palm. “Let’s see how long he can keep up the imitation.”

“Hold on a second,” Yukiko told her, pushing her hands down. “He wasn’t trying to hurt us or anything. Look at him, he’s terrified of us.”

Katsume snorted at that. “Best idea he’s had all day then.”

“Just hush a minute, will you,” Yukiko sighed as she knelt before the goblin, saying, “Hey there, you got a name?”

“Um,” the creature whimpered. “Ger. Me is Ger.”

“Hi Ger,” Yukiko smiled. “I’m Yukiko. That’s Katsume, and this is Inari. I’m sorry if we scared you, but we need our things back. If you give them over peacefully, I promise, we won’t hurt you.”

“You promise?” Katsume bellowed, but bit her tongue at the dark glare the demon girl gave her. “Fine, whatever.”

“No hurt Ger?” the goblin asked, eyeing Yukiko suspiciously.

“I swear it,” she said. “So, come on, how about it?”

Slowly, the goblin nodded and began shedding the stolen items. “No hurt Ger. Ger give back goodies.”

“There now,” Yukiko told Katsume, turning to give her a warm smile. “Violence isn’t always the answer.”

“Goodies,” Ger sighed suddenly.

Yukiko screamed as the goblin fell into her bosom, groping and nuzzling. Inari and Katsume stared in shock for a moment. Then, the Demon Slayer burst out laughing hysterically as the demon girl tried to knock the goblin off her.

“Little bastard,” Inari sighed, removing his professors cap. “Some guys have all the luck.”

“PERVERT!” Yukiko screeched.

軍歌

“Ahhh,” Katsume sighed, settling back against a rock. “I tell ya, Yukiko, this is how people were meant to live.”

By her side, Yukiko snickered. “It is kind of nice, I admit.”

“Stick with me, pipsqueak, and every day will be like this,” the Demon Slayer told her with a sly wink.

“Naked in a river with you?” Yukiko asked a bit doubtfully. “Which one of us is the girly girl now?”

Katsume gave her a dark look. “I wasn’t referring to that and you know it.”

Yukiko grinned at her. “Yeah, I did, but the look on your face is priceless.”

They both laughed at that and settled into the warm water, letting it wash away their concerns for the day. All their differences aside, for the moment, they could relax as friends might.

Away from the river, through the forest, at the campsite, Inari sighed heavily. Next to him, Ger did the same.

“Don’t do that,” the nine tails said.

“Um, why?” Ger asked.

“Cause, it’s your fault we’re in this mess,” Inari told him.

“Oh, right,” the goblin grinned.

Inari shook his head, just hoping the girls didn’t take to long. He didn’t exactly like being tied to a goblin, then thrown over a tree branch and left to hang, after all.

Of course, there was the warming thought of them in the river. Not to mention the wonderful mental images he had of them running naked through the forest. Those would keep him smiling for some time to come.

“So, Ger get paid now?” the goblin asked.

“Shut up,” Inari sighed.

“You offer pay for theft,” the goblin insisted. “Ger steal, make pretty girls run around naked for you.”

“SHUT UP!”

“Nine tails no pay Ger?”

“No, nine tails no pay Ger! You got us strung up!”

“Ger is thinking blackmail now.”

“Crap.”

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