Warsong Chapter Eighteen: Conversations Had Within A Bath House

Katsume stared up at the night sky, rolling all the various bits and pieces of information they had gathered over in her head. It wasn’t enough to form a clear picture, but she had hoped, it might give them at least some idea of what the picture might be. Either it didn’t, or she wasn’t smart enough to figure it all out, but she kept doing it anyway.

Next to her, Yukiko watched with a bit of concern. After several minutes of the tall, powerfully built red head just staring at the stars, the small demon girl gave a quiet sigh, and poked her right in the boob.

“What the hell?” Katsume squealed, half coming out of the warm waters of the natural spring. “Why’d you go do a thing like that?”

Yukiko grinned at her. “You looked like you were thinking really hard.

“Cause I was,” Katsume shot back.

“I didn’t want you to hurt yourself.”

Katsume slowly cut a glare over at her. Yukiko gave her a wide smile, and fondled her breast. With a look that was a mix of boredom and irritation, Katsume slapped her hand away. Yukiko smiled even wider.

“Sometimes, you really are a total pain in my ass, you know that?” Katsume grumbled.

“That’s why you love me, isn’t it?” Yukiko snickered.

“Questioning that now,” the Demon Slayer snarled.

Yukiko shrugged, making Katsume glance away. The demon girls nude body, sheathed only in the waters of the bath house inn they had run across, held a new appeal for her these days. One she tried hard not to think about too much.

“It isn’t like you to spend so much time thinking,” Yukiko was saying, oblivious to Katsume’s issues. “Honestly, I don’t know why you don’t just talk to me about it. Two heads are better than one, or in your case, half of one.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Katsume muttered. “I’m not that bright. I get it. Real funny. Ha ha.”

“So,” Yukiko urged, poking her in the boob again. “Talk to me.”

Katsume glared at her for a moment, then deflated. “Yeah, okay. I guess you got a point. Just stop poking me in the tit, will ya?”

“There’s plenty there to poke,” Yukiko told her with a straight face.

“Like your one to talk,” the red head shot back.

Yukiko glanced down. “I guess. Never really thought about it.”

Katsume resisted the urge to say she had, and instead cleared her throat. “I was just trying to puzzle out what all we’ve been dealing with. This Onihone guy, what’s going on with you, how it all connects to Orochi, and this Priestess, Ai, we’re looking for. It feels like there’s something connecting it all, but I can’t get a sense of what it is.”

Yukiko dropped the finger she was about to jab Katsume with, and considered what she had said. “Well, it’s just a guess, but I think Onihone is hoping to get control over what ever this darkness inside me is.”

Katsume blinked a few times, then face-palmed. “Gods, that’s obvious, isn’t it?”

“Well, kinda,” Yukiko replied, putting a finger to her chin as she took a turn staring up at the stars. “To what end, I don’t know, though. It’s not something I can control, after all. So, unless he knows how, or has some idea of how, I think it’d just end up being more dangerous to him than helpful.”

Katsume flushed a bit, finding Yukiko’s pose and expression adorable. “That’s a good point.”

“It’d help if we knew who he was,” the demon girl continued. “His name means demon bone, so it’s reasonable to assume he’s a demon. Not like the Rekko or Tong, though. More like one of the Twelve Sacred Demons, or even more powerful than them, since they were afraid of him.”

“Or, he’s a really powerful sorcerer, who just took that name because it sounds intimidating,” Katsume grunted.

Yukiko frowned a bit. “That’s also possible. Since Junto and Kamachi were working for him, it makes sense he’s the one that freed the Twelve Sacred Demons from the Atochi shrine. At least, that’s a reasonable guess. Probably, if I’m just gonna speculate, he was wanting to use them to try and bring out my inner demonic powers.”

Katsume blinked several times again. “Hey, you’re pretty good at this.”

“At what?”

“Logical thinking and stuff.”

Yukiko gave her a sideways look. “Coming from you, that doesn’t mean much.”

Another scowl crawled over the Demon Slayer’s face. “Keep it up, pipsqueak, and I’m gonna drown you.”

Yukiko groped her breast again. “Or suffocate me.”

“Knock that off!”

“There’s worse ways to go, I suppose.”

Katsume put that thought out of her head quickly. “My point was, those are some decent thoughts you’re having there. I hadn’t considered all that.”

Yukiko shrugged again, and leaned back, staring up at the night sky. “Well, it’s all speculation, really. We don’t know enough to really be sure of anything. Only that there’s some dark, demonic power inside me, and this Onihone guy wants me. It could be he just wants to kill me, because he’s afraid of what I could possibly do.”

“Nah, that doesn’t make sense,” Katsume told her, waving her thought off. “If that was the case, Junto and Kamachi would have tried to take you out while you were out of it. Instead, they focused on me and Kieskei. We were in the way of them getting you.”

“That’s true,” the other woman pondered. “Plus, Junto said he’d become a general of hell if he delivered me, which backs up my though that Onihone is a demon. A powerful one, at that.”

Katsume considered that for a moment. “Okay. So, let’s say he is. Why doesn’t he just nab you?”

Yukiko rolled that around a moment, then shook her head. “I’m not sure. Maybe he’s waiting for something? For me to fully access my powers? It’s hard to say. There’s a reason, I’m sure, but without more information, all we can do is guess.”

“I suppose,” the Demon Slayer sighed. “Still, at least we’re getting some idea of what the picture these pieces make is gonna look like.”

“Yeah, but I’m not really liking the image I’m seeing,” Yukiko snorted.

Katsume glanced down at her, then dropped an arm over her shoulders. “Relax, will ya. Long as I’m around, ain’t nobody getting their nasty fingers on ya.”

Yukiko rested her head on Katsume’s shoulder. “I know. It just worries me, all the danger you, and the others, are in because of me.”

“We’re kind of in danger every day, anyway,” the red head pointed out. “I mean, I’m a legendary Demon Slayer. There’s probably a huge price on my head down in the thousand hells, and tons of demons looking to kill me, ya know?”

“Sounds legit,” Yukiko deadpanned.

“Your a real killjoy now and then,” Katsume huffed.

“I’m being serious, and you’re being goofy,” Yukiko shot back. “The harder you try to protect me, the harder Onihone is going to try to kill you. That scares me.”

Katsume took a minute to look at the real fear and uncertainty in Yukiko’s blood red eyes, then hung her head slightly. “You worry too much, pipsqueak. I’m not so easy to kill. Besides, I’d rather die protecting you, than live knowing I wasn’t there for you when you needed me.”

The demon girl’s expressions softened at that. “I know. I get it. I really do. By now, though, I had hoped you’d know. I’d rather you be alive, than anything in the world. Even if costs me my life, I want to know you are safe.”

“Knock that kind of talk off,” Katsume warned.

Yukiko pulled away from her, shoved herself to her knees, and moved to face her, so she could look her in the eye. “I won’t. You’ve become very important to me, Katsume. You know that. You know how much I care for you. How much I love you. You are the only person I’ve ever known who gets me. Who makes me feel normal. Like I can have a life, and friends, and family. I want to protect that, and I’m willing to fight, and even die, for it. Don’t try to tell me you don’t understand it, either, because I know you do.”

Katsume tried to hold her gaze, but ended up dropping her eyes, glaring at the water to her side. “I do. You know I do.”

“Because of your fiancee, Osamu,” Yukiko nodded.

Katsume choked, then laughed nervously. “Yeah. Osamu. Of course. I’d do anything for him.”

“I know you would,” the demon girl agreed. “That’s what love is, after all. I bet you’d run into a burning field for him.”

Katsume gave a wide eyed stare at nothing. “Yup. Of course. Wouldn’t even think about it.”

Slowly, Yukiko’s serious expression faded into a smile. “I envy you, you know. Having someone who loves you, and that you love that much. It must be an amazing feeling.”

“Uh… yup. Sure is.” Katsume really didn’t want to be having this conversation any more, but could see no way out of it.

“I just wanted to remind you of that,” Yukiko sighed, settling back into a sit. “So, you know, you would think twice about risking you life for me. You have someone precious to you, someone you love with all your heart, waiting for you. I know you care for me. I know you love me, as a friend. But Osamu, and what you two share, that’s what should be in the forefront of your mind. Don’t risk yourself so much for me, Katsume, when you have him to consider.”

Katsume sank into the water, giving Yukiko a black glare, until only her eyes remained above the surface. Frustrated with not just the small demon girl, but her own conflicted heart, she blew some bubbles, and dunked her head.

Yukiko cocked her head to the side, wondering what had gotten into the Demon Slayer for a moment, before the tall red head exploded back up, and tackled her, taking them both into the shallow end of the pool. Yukiko struggled a moment, then went still, looking up into Katsume’s verdant eyes as the Demon Slayer’s body pressed against hers.

“I’m gonna say this once, so pay attention,” Katsume told her, lips only inches from Yukiko’s. “Osamu is my fiancee, and I do love him, so much. I will go home one day, and be his wife. You, though, are every bit as precious to me, and I could never live a happy life if you weren’t a part of it. I’m with you, to the end of this road, Yukiko. Nothing you say is going to change that. So, enough is enough. We’re together, till we win, or we die. Got that?”

Yukiko swallowed hard. “Katsume…”

“Say it,” the Demon Slayer demanded, the look in her eyes intense, and unreadable.

“I got it,” Yukiko finally managed to get out. “Till we win, or we die, we’re together.”

Katsume gave a slight nod, kissed her forehead, and levered herself off the other woman. “Good. Now. I’m starving. How about you?”

Yukiko lay still, staring up at the stars, her heart hammering in her chest. What was this feeling? What was this heat? What was this clench in her soul, that made even the burning kernel of hate fade, screaming, into nothing?

“Yeah,” she finally said. “Starving.”

 

“So, if I can ask, what is it you know of Lady Yukiko’s origin?” Kieskei inquired.

Inari paused in his active lounging with in the pool. “Everything. I know everything.”

“However, you cannot tell us anything, correct?” the devil hunter continued.

Inari frowned. “I cannot, no. I am bound by Divine Edict.”

Kieskei nodded slowly, rubbing his chin. “To what end, though?”

Inari realized where he was going, and sighed, settling in the pool. “It is rather simple, really. Should I explain what it is I know, Katsume, and your own, sense of free will, and the choice to stand by her, will be jeopardized. Having seen what she is capable of, and knowing now the immensity of the danger you are in by remaining with her, the choice to do so must be yours.”

“A choice we have both already made,” Kieskei pointed out.

Inari nodded. “Yes, yes. That’s not all there is to it, however. You know only a small part of the larger whole. In knowing the whole, you may feel compelled to flee, thus usurping your freely made choice. Or, you may choose to fight even harder, again usurping that freely made choice out of a sense of obligation to Heaven.”

“That doesn’t make a lot of sense, you know,” Kieskei chuckled. “As an Atochi, my choice is already made. I would fight and die beside her against even Orochi himself.”

“Are you certain of that?” Inari questioned, giving the devil hunter a dark look. “What if you learned that Yukiko was the key to Orochi slaying the Gods? What would you do then?”

Kieskei blanched. “That’s absurd! Yukiko would never have any part in such a thing!”

“But, for the sake of argument, let’s let the hypothetical question stand at this. If killing her would save Heaven, could you then do that?”

Kieskei began to argue it, then saw where this was going, and settled back, his face troubled. “Knowing too much may cause us to act in ways we cannot, at this time, say with certainty we would or would not do.”

“Precisely,” Inari nodded. “Saving Yukiko is something you must do, because you want to do it. If you knew more, you may change how you see her, or your own role in what is to come, if it comes at all.”

Kieskei gave him a surprised look. “If it comes?”

The nine tails shrugged. “The future is not set, at least, not from our point of view. We can change it with every decision and choice we make. The Gods are aware of this, and that is why they often do not tell us what to do. We must choose our own future, and the path we will take. Knowing too much makes us feel as if we have only one road to follow, when there are countless paths before us.”

“I see,” the devil hunter mused. “So, in other words, there may be something terrible on the horizon, but we could do something, or make a choice, that causes it to never come to be, and we’d never be the wiser for it.”

“That’s why prophecy is such a load of garbage, yes,” the fox agreed. “It can suggest, but nothing is ever certain. People who live a hundred years from now may look back and see only heroes, or villains, or cowards, but to them, the present was always set to happen the way it did. For us, however, it is not the same. We cannot know, or we will determine the future not by choice, but by lack of it.”

“That’s pretty deep,” Kieskei sighed. “But, I get it, more or less. Nothing is predetermined, and to keep it that way, we can’t know too much, too soon. This leaves me with another question, though.”

“Which is?”

“You know what is, and what could be,” Kieskei replied, casually pointing a finger at the nine tails. “Yet, you are here, helping us.”

Inari gave a slight shrug. “I limit my involvement to aid, but not to actually helpful advice. I can, for instance, help in a battle with my magic, but I can’t tell you that the battle is coming, or to go left instead of right to avoid it.”

“That’s tricky,” the devil hunter said.

“It really is,” Inari laughed. “Trust me, I care for all of you. I’d love nothing more than to say things about all kind of things. However, my role here is very specific. I am to be consul for Yukiko, and nothing more.”

“Yet, you advise all of us,” Kieskei replied with a smug look.

“At times,” the fox agreed. “It’s all pretty complicated, let’s say. There’s limits to what I can do, and even more on what I can say. However, within a certain margin, I’m free to act as I please.”

“But always with the goal of keeping Yukiko on the path of light.”

“Obviously,” the fox said. “That is my primary purpose here.”

Kieskei considered that for a moment as he reached back and calmly nabbed Ger by the nape of the neck, moving him from the bamboo wall that separated them from the women’s bathing area, and dropped him back in the water.

“So, do you believe Yukiko is meant for the path of light?” he finally asked as the Goblin spluttered about by his side.

Inari smiled gently. “I believe that there is no other path for her. Yukiko is light. There is no light without darkness, mind you, so she has that in equal measure, but she is, with no doubt, meant for the light. She is kind, warm, generous, giving, and loving. She is made to walk this world, healing it, and bringing peace. Her heart is overflowing with light, even if her soul is tainted with darkness.”

“But not enough,” Kieskei offered quietly.

“Not even close,” Inari nodded. “She will struggle, and I am certain, there will be times she will falter. That is what it is to be human, and that is the path she has chosen. She may be a demon, but she desires to live her life as a human might. She will find her way, and I hope, if I accomplish nothing else, that I can fill her heart with enough joy, that when her finale temptation to embrace the darkness comes, it will be no temptation at all.”

Kieskei’s eyes narrowed at that. “So, there is to be a finale temptation?”

“There is always a final temptation, my friend. For everyone. We all must choose how we will live our lives. We all have to decide between the light, and the dark, with in us. Yukiko will be no different.”

“She has already chosen, though.”

Inari’s eyes grew sad. “No. She just thinks she has. There are greater temptations ahead. Darker days. She must face the black in her soul, and either submit to it, or cast it aside. I don’t know when that day will come. Even the Gods don’t know when that day will come. It will, though. It does for all people. Even you.”

Kieskei sighed, and leaned back to stare at the stars, dropping an arm to block Ger from reaching the wall again. “I see. I had thought you to be giving me a casual hint, but you meant it more in a metaphysical sense.”

“Sorry,” Inari shrugged. “There are things even the Gods can’t be certain of, my young friend. Yukiko’s final temptation may come and go with out even her noticing it. Or, she may wrestle with it, and fall to the darkness. Such is the nature of life.”

“I do understand that,” he replied, shooing Ger away. “I guess I was just hoping for some kind of a sign as to how I should be helping.”

“You are helping.”

Kieskei smiled sadly. “Inari, you know what I mean. I have feelings for Lady Yukiko. Very strong, very intense feelings. I am falling in love with her. That light, it blinds me to reason, and I wish only to be of service to her in any way I can. However, with what she faces, I am lost as to how to do this.”

“Thus, you must make choices, and shape the future with them,” Inari shrugged.

“Always it comes back to that, I see,” the devil hunter sighed. “Very well, then. I make a choice here and now. I will find the courage to speak my feelings to her. I will become her rock. I will fill her life with enough joy, there will be no temptation she cannot overcome. I will love her with all I have, and hopefully, be loved by her in return.”

Inari gave a gentle smile. “I am certain you can achieve that goal, young master Atochi. Like Yukiko, your heart is made of light, and I believe you two would be most happy together.”

“Do you think so?” Kieskei asked, doubtful.

“I do,” the nine tails nodded. “Nothing, in all this world, or any other, would make me happier than to see Yukiko be happy. If you can give her that, then I bless you, and your choice, and dream of the future it will create.”

Overwhelmed, Kieskei nodded. “Than, I shall be resolute. You have my word.”

“Fantastic,” Inari grinned. “Yukiko is more than a duty to me, Kieskei. She has become my great joy in life. My purpose. I love her as if she were my own child, and I will entrust her heart to you. She is precious beyond words to me, so I ask only that you cherish her, as I do.”

“Inari,” the devil hunter breathed, stunned by the passion in the nine tails voice. “I am lost for words at you devotion.”

“I know,” the fox sighed. “As a Heavenly Being, I often overwhelm mere mortals.”

“Uh…” Kieskei struggled.

“Hey, wanna peek on the girls while their naked?”

“And the moment is gone,” Kieskei groaned, casually knocking Ger back in the water.

“Want see boobies!” the Goblin whined as he bobbed to the surface.

“I think we should go get some dinner,” the devil hunter muttered. “Before you two get me killed by Katsume.”

“Hey, I like food,” Inari grinned.

“Almost as good as boobs,” Ger grumbled.

“Mother never told me there’d be days like this,” the young Atochi sighed as he stood and herded the two lecherous entities from both Heaven and Hell away, for their own sakes.

 

Kieskei wandered into the hall a few hours later, trying to decide between calling it a night, and hitting the hot springs one more time. He quickly drew to a stop, however, when he spotted Katsume standing at the door of the inn, talking to a man, dressed in dark riding leathers.

Hesitating a moment, he saw the intense look on the man’s face, and the sad expression that crossed Katsume’s, before he handed her a letter. Reluctantly, she took it, and nodded. Bowing, the man vanished into the night, leaving her to close the door, and open the letter.

Uncertain if he should approach, Kieskei simply waited in the hall as she read it, then crumpled it in her hand, and turned, face darkening. It took no effort on her part to spot him, but they simply stood, staring at each other for a moment, he in worry, she in surprise.

“My apologies,” Kieskei finally said. “I wasn’t trying to spy.”

Katsume’s expression shifted to one of sadness again. “It’s fine. It’s nothing.”

He found himself hesitating again as the Demon Slayer moved down the hall, and passed him by. Something in her body language, the sad, distant look on her face, however, forced him to turn.

“Katsume, if there’s something…”

“There’s not,” she replied, her voice neither sharp, nor sad, just dull. “It’s not something you can help me with. Like I said Forget it. it’s nothing.”

“Still,” he pressed. “I like to think we’ve become friends. If something burdens you…”

Katsume gave a sharp laugh. “Yeah, we have. We are friends. That’s not the problem. It’s something else.”

Kieskei frowned. “Katsume, I’m trying.”

She half turned, glancing back at him. “I know. I’m sorry. I’m not trying to be rude. It’s just… not something you can do anything about. We should focus on getting Yukiko to this Ai chick.”

“About that,” he said slowly, looking at the floor. “I’ve decided. I plan to speak my feelings to her.”

Katsume’s hand silently tightened on the wad of paper she held for a moment, then relaxed. “That’s good. You should.”

“If you don’t want me to,” he started.

“Ain’t a choice anymore,” she said, sounding weary as she tossed the letter over her shoulder. “You do what you feel you should.”

Kieskei caught it, and slowly unfolded it, reading the simple, one sentence message. “It is almost time. What does that mean?”

“Almost time for me to go home,” Katsume answered, her shoulders slumping. “Almost time for me to marry Osamu, my fiancee, and take up my father’s place.”

“Oh,” he said quietly, understanding what she meant. “I didn’t know there was a deadline. I’m sorry.”

Katsume gave a slight shake of her head. “It’s fine. I probably should have told you about this. When the next messenger comes, it will be to take me home.”

“Is that what you want?”

“What I want doesn’t matter in the face of my obligations, Kieskei,” she sighed. “That’s how this works.”

He looked at the letter again for a moment. “Then we will avoid the messenger.”

Katsume gave a sharp, bitter laugh. “Knowing Iwao, he’ll send Naoko. Trust me, there’s no way we’ll avoid her. She’s like a damn hunting dog, that’s gotten the scent of a fox.”

Kieskei leaned against the wall. “Then what do you need?”

“More time,” Katsume told him. “More time to find Orochi. More time to get strong enough to slay the king of the thousand hells. More time to avenge my parents so their spirits will rest easy. More time to be able to go home, and face people, and tell them I did right. I just need more time than I have, and I’m not gonna get it.”

Kieskei flinched as Katsume punched the wall, her sad expression exchanged for one of rage, though that quickly faded back into melancholy as well. Unsure what to say, he stood, and gave her time, but didn’t miss the irony of his action.

“Then, know this, my friend,” he finally said. “If you cannot do it, I will. I will bring you Orochi’s head, no matter how long it takes.”

Katsume gave him a slight smile. “I have no doubt you would, but that ain’t the same as doing it myself, ya know?”

“No, I suppose it isn’t,” he answered, feeling somewhat deflated. “Still, as your friend, and to repay the debt my family owes you, I will do this for you.”

Katsume turned to him, and smiled. “Thanks, Kieskei. If it comes to it, then I will leave it in your hands. Until then, let’s just keep moving, yeah? We don’t have a lot of time, bu we still have some.”

“Of course, Lady Oda,” he answered, bowing before her. “As you will.”

“And don’t ever do that again,” Katsume said, though not in anger. “Especially in front of Yukiko.”

“Sooner or later, you have to tell her who you are,” he pressed.

Katsume turned and walked down the hall. “As later as possible is fine with me. That’s one thing I would rather she never learn.”

“Why?”

Katsume paused, glancing back. “Because you were right, Kieskei. I am in love with her. Not that it matters. That’s something that can never be, for too many reason to list. But, I want to at least keep her as a friend. If I can have that, I’ll take it, and if she knew, I might not get even that.”

“You underestimate her,” he told her. “She would not see you differently.”

“Everybody does,” Katsume told him as she walked away. “Everybody always does.”

Defeated by the resignation in her tone, Kieskei leaned against the wall, and studied the simple letter once more. The future cannot be known, he thought, remembering Inari’s words. Our choices must make it.

So, what choice should he make here? In the end, he found he did not know.

 

“This is a nice place,” Yukiko sighed, sitting on the wide porch that surrounded the inn. “I’m glad we stopped here.”

“As am I,” Inari agreed around a mouthful of food. “Even better that there was some minor water demon haunting the place, and we get to stay for free after dispatching it.”

“I think you’re taking a bit to much advantage of the owners generosity,” Yukiko chided.

“Funny, I don’t,” the nine tails replied before burying his face in a bowl of rice, flavored with plumb.

Yukiko grimaced and shook her head, looking back out at the night sky. “Hey, Inari, can I ask you something?”

“Of course,” he said, spitting rice everywhere. “I am here to serve you, my dear.”

“Do you think I’ll ever know what it’s like to be in love?”

Inari stopped eating, and stared at her in shock. “You’re seriously asking me this question?”

“Well, yeah,” she answered, kicking her feet in embarrassment. “I mean, that’d be nice, I think.”

Inari dropped what he was holding and scampered to her side. “Yukiko, there’s things I’ve been waiting to tell you until I thought you were ready, but that time has come before I was prepared.”

She gave him a disgusted look and picked rice off his face. “I’m having a hard time taking you seriously right now.”

“Never mind all that,” he all but shouted, shaking his head and throwing more rice around. “I need to explain some things, involving birds… and maybe bees.”

“Say what?” Yukiko struggled, now picking rice off herself.

“Okay, let me start with explaining that, when you are attracted to someone, you may feel a warmth, down low,” he said.

Yukiko went red as a beet. “Never mind! I don’t want to know!”

“Men feel it, too,” he pressed on. “This is perfectly natural. Though, how men feel it, is different than how women feel it.”

“Please, stop talking,” Yukiko begged, covering her ears.

“This is important stuff!” Inari demanded. “You need to know how it all works, and how babies are made! I can explain it! I have charts! I can show you!”

“What the hell?” Katsume growled from where she stood in the doorway.

“Ah, it’s not what it sounds like,” Inari fluttered, trying to wave the Demon Slayer down.

Katsume crossed the room faster than he felt should be possible, and punted him over the fence, and into the hot springs beyond. Yukiko watched him go, red faced, as Katsume seethed beside her.

“Damn perverted nine tails,” Katsume shouted.

“That is so not what I was asking about,” Yukiko grimaced, and hugged herself in embarrassment.

Katsume looked down at her, found herself staring right into the demon girls generous cleavage, and felt her anger vanish in an instant.

“Yukiko, you ever wanna know about that sort of stuff, you ask me, okay?”

Yukiko wanted to vanish into a hole. “Yep, nope, not gonna happen.”

“Why?” Katsume asked, utterly nonplussed.

“I just wanted to know if he thought I’d ever be in love,” Yukiko blabbered quickly, jumping up and waving her arms at Katsume. “I didn’t ask about that kind of stuff! I wasn’t trying to learn that kind of stuff! So, stop talking about that kind of stuff!

Katsume blinked several times. “Oh. I thought… he was.. oh…”

Panting, embarrassed beyond belief, Yukiko staggered into the room and fell on the futon. “I’m gonna go to sleep now. Goodnight.”

“Yeah, um, okay,” Katsume sighed, burying her face in her hand and mentally punching herself for jumping to conclusions, and then saying something that sounded way different than she had meant it to sound.

Well, not that different, she admitted.

“You.. uh… want me to hold you… or anything?” she floundered.

“Nope!” Yukiko yelped.

“Okay,” Katsume sighed, and went to fall across her own bedding.

Damn nine tails.

Outside, Inari slowly lifted his head out of the water, looked around at the dozen naked women, who belonged to a religious sect making a pilgrimage, and then sank back down, preferring to drown than be beaten to death by Priestesses.

He almost got it anyway.

©-2018 Cain S. Latrani

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