Chapter 11: Aftermath of the Broken Seal Incident
There was a man sitting amidst the wisteria, perched on top of one of the wisteria’s supporting poles.
Although the poles didn’t look like they could hold anything more than a songbird.
Cloaked in dark, black clothes and wearing a white oni mask, everything about him screamed “suspicious”.
With a deep voice he sighed, then chuckled.
“Kakaka. What a marvelous sight. A sea of flames!”
He said imperiously, spreading his arms wide in sheer rapture.
Just as he’d fully spread them out there was a sound that cut through the air.
The suspicious man; his mask and body, were sliced through into many pieces.
Flutter flutter flutter.
Suspended for mere milliseconds after they were cut, the pieces fluttered down amongst the wisteria blossoms.
Perched atop the wisteria’s supporting structure, watching, was the colorless woman. She smiled a grim smile as the pieces fell.
At that moment her assistant landed lightly atop the pole the suspicious man had been perched on.
On his hands were black gloves.
Each finger of the glove of his right hand was connected to the corresponding finger of the glove of his left hand with a length of thin, flexible wire.
The way he held it in front of him gave no question as to what it was that cut the suspicious man into many pieces.
But neither the colorless woman nor her assistant were minding the pieces that were, while spurting no blood, falling. Their eyes were glaring at the jewel-like orb that was glowing an ominous, sickly purple, floating in front of them after it was sliced out of the suspicious man’s oni-mask.
“Oh my. A face I haven’t seen in a little while. If it isn’t Nagi-chan and her little Kei-chan. Ah, Nagi-chan is known as the Colorless Witch now, are you not? Fufu, you’ve gotten quite the illustrious name for yourself.”
The voice that was emitted from was the orb was different from the deep, raspy voice the suspicious man had spoken with. It was man’s voice with a mellow with a refined tone.
It also sounded a bit hollow, as if the speaker was at the other end of a long, concrete tunnel.
The colorless woman, that is, Nagi, narrowed her eyes, saying,
“It would have been better if the little while was longer still. Don’t think everything will go according to your schemes, Puppeteer.”
“Won’t you call me Hiroyuki-nii like before?”
“Your jokes aren’t particularly funny.”
“Ufufu. Maa, it’s not like everything is going according to my plans. It was surprising that the sealed spirit resisted its berserk impulses at first. It has thrown my schedule off by quite a few minutes.”
Nagi glanced at the scene of violence raging down below them.
It was true. The town would have already begun to burn if something hadn’t delayed that monstrous six-tailed fox. But even after finding out just what that something was, it wasn’t like Nagi felt particularly comforted.
Switching her gaze back to glare at the orb, Nagi spat out,
“… Just exactly what are you trying to do, setting Tsunatou ablaze?”
“Now I wonder…-“
Nagi and her assistant Kei flinched at the sudden, unnatural sounding explosion. The harsh, grating whooshing sound made them wince even more.
Looking over, they saw a pillar of light erupted from amidst the dense wisteria blossoms, blowing strands of flowers and supporting structure upwards.
It blasted through the barrier around the park, shattering it, and even dispersed the clouds above.
The sheer violence and awe-inspiring power that had suddenly manifested shocked them all into silence, even the Puppeteer and his voice piece.
Several minutes went by before they could comprehend what was going on, and just as suddenly the power dispersed, leaving no trace of what had occurred, from what they could see.
There was no more fire, no more sounds of battle, and no more six-tailed kitsune in sight.
Even the rain had stopped.
Silence passed by in the silvery moonlight as everyone struggled to understand what just happened.
And then, although she didn’t know what had happened, Nagi let a sneer cross her face.
“It seems like your plans have been ruined.”
There was nothing from the crystal for a moment as the Puppeteer collected his thoughts together.
“Hm. It is a shame that the side benefits didn’t occur as well, but I must apologize. Your assumption is unfounded, since my main goal has already been accomplished.”
Nagi’s expression became stormy in an instant.
“Ufufu. I wonder what the Association will think of Tsunatou’s Inari Shrine after this.”
Something glistened as Nagi swung a hand towards the glowing orb in rage.
With a twinkling sound the orb shattered into many pieces.
Nagi spat at the shards angrily.
Her blood boiled with fury.
At around that time, in a different location far from the Colorless Witch and the Puppeteer, Daiki-san was hurrying home.
It was such a violent storm, and then reports that lightning hit near the house… he was anxious.
Even though it was the dark, early hours of the morning, he didn’t wait until a decent hour to set out.
He couldn’t sleep anyway, so when the storm cleared with a violent rumbling he set out from the police department immediately. His moped was … un. It was better not to risk taking the flooded thing. Aaah… he’ll have to check it and file an insurance claim…
In the end, he was half-running towards his new home.
A bit winded, Daiki-san rounded the backyard as soon as he reached the house and heaved a sigh of relief when he saw that the storm doors had held.
There was still a light on inside… was Kousei-kun unable to sleep without one? Daiki-san chuckled at his imagination.
Probably not. It’s in the living room anyway. Kousei probably just forgot to turn it off. Maybe there had been a power outage and he just didn’t notice it was still on.
With a small sigh, Daiki-san unlocked the front door and walked in.
The entryway is completely sopping wet.
No way… Kousei-kun couldn’t have gone out in the middle of that storm…?
Feeling a small panic welling up, Daiki-san quickly cast off his shoes and walked further into the house.
Looking into the living room, he spotted Kousei sleeping peacefully on the couch, and a feeling of relief washed over him.
At the same time, he was struck with a feeling of shock.
Because sitting in a relaxed seiza in front of the couch, looking down at Kousei was a girl.
Third year in high school, or a younger college student?
That’s the kind of age she looked like.
Her hair was a light color –dyed? – and for a second…
Daiki-san rubbed his eyes. He thought he saw something on her head and at her rear, but maybe his eyes were just playing tricks on him.
No, more importantly, what kind of state of dress is thaaaat?!
That T-shirt and no pants… whaaaaat?!
Without a hint of surprise, the girl turned her head and looked at Daiki-san.
With a coy smile, she tilted her head and placed a finger to her lips.
Her mouth formed a single syllable.
Daiki-san was dumbfounded.
I just fell asleep…
I crack open my sore, weary eyes and search for the sound that had just woken me up.
Eh… Daiki-san is home? What the. It was fine if you just came home tomorrow, you know?
He’s such a worrywart~.
No, take a deep breath.
I rewind my mental VCR and think hard.
Let’s see, I got home, pulled a T-shirt on Honoka, left her in my bed, then thought about eating something easy for dinner, but fell asleep on the couch.
With the current situation, it seems like Honoka woke up and was watching me sleep.
A little creepy, but that’s fine. It makes sense.
Then Daiki-san, worried about me and the house, started running home as soon as the storm stopped (probably) and just walked in (probably).
Right, ok. I get it.
I understand the situation. I understand the situation, but….
Daiki-san just walked in on me with a girl with no pants on in the living room late at night with no one else home.
“…I can explain.”
Crap, that no-good, sleazy-guy statement just slid right out of my mouth before I can stop it.
I mean, when someone says “I can explain”, he usually can’t!
Although that’s true in this situation as well for me as well!
I’m seriously struggling to come up with something here!
While I’m panicking, Honoka calmly makes a formal turn in seiza, sitting perfectly straight, then gracefully bows.
“Father, I will be in your care.”1
WHAT IS SHE DOING.
Daiki-san’s eyes have turned into tiny dots!
Of course I’m going to panic from this!
“Uwah! Don’t make this situation worse!”
“Eeeh~? But doesn’t it feel like that’s where the mood was going?”
“You don’t need to worry about the mood!”
“Nono, don’t they say that, if there’s a mood to follow, it’s always better to follow it?”
“Don’t learn useless things! And why aren’t you wearing anything down there?!”
“Eh… because I didn’t have anything worth wearing. Even this garment is yours, right?”
“Then just take whatever you can find from my room! Just put something on!”
“Oh? Oh? Is this ‘youth’?”
This infuriating fox!
I just did a manzai-comedy routine in front of Daiki-san!
I steal a glance over at him.
He’s just standing there,.
You can tell the wheels are still turning; he’s still not sure what to think of the situation.
I’m not sure what to think about the situation.
Even so, I still have to try to explain it.
“U-uh… this is Honoka. I… picked her up?”
“Hi hi, I’m Honoka! Kousei picked me up off the streets since I was homeless and it was raining. Sorry for my appearance, everything I had is unwearable now.”
Well yeah. Since whatever you wore before you got sealed has probably disintegrated a long time ago.
But, ok, we’ll go along with that story of you being homeless.
To be honest, I’m beginning to lose my touch on reality.
Hahaha… what is believable anymore…?
Thankfully, that seemed to appease Daiki-san, and he finally moved a little.
“I see… so this isn’t…”
I yelled, but Honoka just went,
“Hahaha! No way, no way. Impossible.”
… Well thanks.
I give her a kind of dirty look.
“I see. I still don’t really understand the situation, but it seems like the two of you were out in the storm. Take turns and warm up with the bath, and then we’ll talk.”
Right when he said that, Daiki-san’s stomach growled loudly.
“…Daiki-san, did you not eat dinner?”
“I did, but that was a while ago…”
Ah, he’s embarrassed.
Well, I’m used to hearing him get up at night and rummage through the fridge sometimes, so it’s not really anything you need to act shocked about, Daiki-san.
“…I could… make dinner. I forgot to eat in the chaos earlier too.”
Although it’s already 1 am.
Well, today, or yesterday, was special in many ways, so I guess I shouldn’t mind it.
While I filled the tub, I instructed Honoka how to use the body wash, shampoo, and conditioner.
Since she’s pretty smart, that took about 15 seconds.
Daiki-san, sitting at the table like that is really imposing…
He’s sitting at the table, arms crossed with a frown on his face.
Seriously, what am I supposed to tell him?
‘Teehee, I picked up this older girl, can she live with us?’
Mou-! If only Honoka was in an animal form or something!
She’s a youkai, right? She’s a kitsune, right?
Then why didn’t she transform into a fox or something?!
I’ll admit that Honoka probably won’t be the type who’d be satisfied with being treated like a pet, though.
“… I won’t say anything about your taste in girls, but there’s a limit to how much aid someone feels is polite to accept. For all you know, she could just be after your father’s money – … you’re giving me a look like you really don’t think it’s possible, huh?”
“I mean, even if my father is rich, it’s not like we really see much of that… although the house and the appliances are kind of exceptions, I guess…”
Don’t worry, they really are exceptions. If you don’t bother him, he’ll forget that we exist in a week.
“Even if it wasn’t money she was after, girls, well, people in general who’d accept this much help from a stranger without even batting an eye can’t be well bred.”
“…She told me to go away at first, though. And I talked to her around town everyday since we moved in…”
Daiki-san lightly smacked the kitchen table.
“When was this! How long have you been seeing her?! Father won’t allow it!”
“When were you my father?! Am I your sheltered, unwed daughter or something?!”
Oops, that totally just slipped out. I cover my mouth too late.
“…Well, seriously though. I understand taking her in for the night, especially on a night like this, but you aren’t seriously considering letting her stay long-term, are you? This isn’t something you should decide on a whim, you know? You’ve only known her 3, 4 days at most. I can’t say that would give you the best grasp of her character.”
I avert my eyes.
I mean, Honoka doesn’t really have anywhere else to go…
And who said 4 days wasn’t enough to understand her character? Do you have any idea of what happened in these 4 days?!
Of course I can’t say that, so I just sit there, my mouth pressed tightly together and cheeks puffed out a little in discontentment.
“…Well, I can’t deny that she’s gotten you to loosen up more than I’ve been able too. So that’s why you’ve been making tsukkomis recently. Tsk.”
“What is it, what is it? The two of you talking about me behind my back~?”
Honoka put on a cutesy anime voice and propped her elbows on my shoulders, scaring me.
“Of course we are, since you’re suspicious.”
I said, half-glaring at her.
“Ehhh how mean~”
“No, isn’t it obvious? Why are you acting like you’re insulted?”
“Fufufu, Kousei can already see through a woman’s act. I’m touched.”
“What the heck do you mean by that?! AaaAh, you didn’t dry your hair properly. Did you use the dryer?”
“Eh? No… which thing was it?”
I roughly rub her hair with the towel she had draped around her shoulders.
I glance over at Daiki-san.
He’s looking over, like he’s half surprised but half come to terms with things.
Though exactly what he came to terms with, I’m not sure.
“…Daiki-san, I think, instead of opening up to her, she just irritates me so I have to say something.”
“…Well, that’s a type of fated relationship too…”
Honoka just laughs as she hangs off of me.
After a bit she asks,
“Hm… by the way, what are you making?”
“That’s… hamburg steak.”
Oooh, she’s drooling, she’s drooling.
Hahaha! I’m super smart after all!
See, this is Honoka’s first meal in 2000 years. She’s only been able to hear about food, and so I thought looong and hard about what food is well known for being a popular family dinner.
Chicken curry was my first idea, but the necessary time to simmer the stew is… un. Not possible.
My second idea was inari-zushi, but making the vinegar rice… fresh, fluffy, well cooked rice is necessary, so also impossible.
On the other hand, hamburg’s most time-consuming part is preparing the ingredients.
As for those ingredients…
Un. The onions are a bit burnt because I had it at a higher heat, but a slight charred flavor also has its charm. A more rustic flavor for the sauce would be good… Alright. Everything’s in the bowl.
“I’m going to take a bath, but if you two could finish the preparations, it won’t take too long after I finish before it’s served.
It’s a little upsetting, but now is the time to use the quick-cook setting on the rice cooker. Even though the taste will suffer. Really, it can’t be helped. Even though the taste will suffer.
Daiki-san freaks out a little.
“Huh?! But there’s no way we can make hamburger steaks as good as yours-!”
“…Saying that even though you don’t know anything about Honoka…”
Well, he’s right though. I don’t think 2000 years of suspended animation(?) helps your culinary abilities.
“This is why people who don’t cook are… If I prepare the ingredients, even a kid can help mix it all together and make patties that taste really good.”
Seriously. If you don’t freak out and just break everything into easy steps, you might not cook restaurant quality food, but it will be edible and taste more or less right. But people who can’t cook just freak out and refuse to even read a recipe. It’s really easy to graduate from a non-cooking life, you know?
Although I was a non-cook who was like that in a previous life…
By the way, it’s not like my hamburg steak is super tasty compared to others, although I do think I fry them better than most, probably. It’s just, I alter the taste depending on if we’re eating it with sauce, stewed with tomatoes, if I’m adding green peppers, etc. I think most people just make the same, basic hamburg and then eat it however they want, so it can’t be helped that Daiki-san likes mine better, since I pay attention to how the flavors all blend together.
Oh, and I use butter to fry the onions, so it has a richer taste. Daiki-san is a guy who likes umami best, I think. I always make rolled eggs with dashi and only a little bit of sugar for him.2
“Anyway, you only have to shape the patties, and keep an eye on this sauce.”
I mold together a patty, slap it from hand to hand to drive out the air, then show them.
“Like this. It’s like molding clay.”
“… And what if the sauce catches fire?”
“… … Then… put it out?”
“Isn’t it bad to put out cooking fires with water?!”
That’s oil fires.
Daiki-san is the type that has a phobia about being in the kitchen, h-uh?
“…Then use the fire extinguisher. Or baking soda.”
Seriously, Daiki-san. I’m only going to take 15, 20 minutes at most in the bath.
What do you think is going to happen in that short amount of time?
The heat is at the lowest setting, too.
Although I would also have misgivings about leaving a gas stove lit for that long if nobody was watching it, I really don’t think it’s something you have to freak out this much about.
I don’t really try to calm Daiki-san down. It’s already 1:20 am, you know?
I’m kind of … really, really tired.
In the bathroom I take off the damp clothes I was wearing.
Although I had changed when I came in, I didn’t thoroughly towel off so these clothes are also kind of wet.
I see the T-shirt I lent Honoka sitting in the clothes basket.
Right now, Honoka is wearing some clothes that I had bought after the move but hadn’t worn yet. Which is good, because that includes some boxer shorts. I don’t know what I would have done if we didn’t have any brand new clothes…
We’ll have to shop for women’s underwear at least.
The gloomy aura that seems to be hanging over me at the thought of it is just your imagination, I’m sure.
After Kousei entered the bathroom, there was only the sound of Honoka and Daiki-san, slapping the hamburg steaks between their hands.
Slap slap slap
It was an awkward silence, at least from Daiki-san’s side.
To be honest, he had suspected that Kousei had been forcing himself to act “properly” all his life, but he had thought that it would take a lot of work to pry his true personality out of his shell.
But then, here came a girl and dragged him out of it in no time at all.
It’s not really like Daiki-san was feeling bitter about it or anything. No, it was definitely good that Kousei wasn’t acting so reserved. If anything, Daiki-san wished Kousei would stop looking like he was caught doing something wrong every time he said something.
But you know… having a girl change him is kind of…
Even though Kousei and this girl said it wasn’t like that, if they started going out but then broke up, or if she really did turn out to be the kind of person that took advantage of other people… well.
Any progress made would definitely be set back if she did that kind of betrayal.
Not that Daiki-san knew enough about her to say she’d definitely betray Kousei, but it’s still a worry.
“ – shed.”
“You’re smashing it, you know.”
With a light-hearted tone, the girl in front of him nodded at his hands with a slight smirk of amusement.
Daiki-san looked down and it was true. He had unconsciously smashed his hamburg into a mess.
She placed her finished hamburg on the plate and said,
“You don’t need to be that worried about things… well even if I say that, I’m totally suspicious, right?”
“Well, suspicious or whatever, I don’t know anything about you.”
“Yeah, it’s totally normal to worry about it. Conversely, if you didn’t worry, I’d be concerned about your abilities as a guardian, I think.”
“… Well, thank you, I guess?”
Daiki-san was a little confused, but he could tell that she was honestly just saying what she was thinking. It was just his intuition, but his intuition was rarely wrong when it came to a person’s character.
There was a reason he had gotten by in criminal investigation despite being unfortunate when it came to data analysis and putting a case together.
Although, even if his intuition is like that, just like in the office, if you can’t back it up with evidence it’s useless.
And so he was still going to be cautious of her.
As they finished off the rest of the meat mixture into hamburgs, some (Daiki-san’s) looking more misshapen than the others, Daiki-san discretely looked the girl over.
Long, silky, golden brown hair. A slim body with long limbs. Narrow eyes, a small nose, and a slim face.
She had the air of an older lady, but the mischievous smirk she seemed to always have also made her feel younger.
To be honest, just by appearance Daiki-san would say she was just out of high school. But there was also an ancient feel to her.
Truly a mysterious woman, made even more suspicious because her appearance was so striking.
For some reason, Daiki-san thought, ‘black widow.’
The unworldy appearance and bearing of a dangerous woman who hunted men. Like a spirit or youkai that tricked men and lured them away to their doom.
…Why did he think that? Daiki-san frowned a little.
“Hm… Daiki-san. Do you believe in youkai?”
Honoka suddenly spoke up, raising her eyes to meet his with that slow, bewitchingly eerie smile.
The question was so completely unexpected, yet had been exactly what he was thinking about. His blood went cold.
Daiki-san didn’t think they DIDN’T exist.
Previously, because he had never experienced anything like youkai before, because most people had never experienced anything like youkai before, it was common knowledge to just assume that youkai were myths made up by people long ago.
In college, though, a new theory was popular among the young and many researchers, so he revised his thinking to embrace the idea that youkai were creatures that did exist, but that they had gone extinct long ago.
But now, having met Kousei and taken to being his unofficial guardian, Daiki-san had begun to think that the reason hardly anyone saw youkai was simply because less and less people had “spiritual” based Blessings. (In common society, though, this is a more unpopular belief that’s often whispered as a rumor, so Daiki-san tended to keep his thoughts on this to himself.)
Did he believe in youkai?
Did he believe they’d impact his life?
… Not really. Outside of Kousei’s odd behaviors, anyway.
Daiki-san felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up at the unknown meaning behind her “hm…” and what she said next made him shiver.
“It would be better if you were the type who considered them.”
<a/n: … Another long one? Weird.
And now “Cursed” is going to take a little longer to update. It’s not going on hiatus, but my short attention span for obsessing over any one thing has hit its limit, so Cursed will not be updated every blog update like it has been.>
- This is a kind of a formal “intention of marriage” that a fiancee/girlfriend would make, insinuating the intent to be taken into the family. It also insinuates a lot of other things, especially in this case, where it’s kind of like… subtly admitting that they “clinched” the deal. Which they didn’t, but … Honoka.
Hamburg – it’s translated into a lot of different things, like hamburger steak, salisbury steak, etc, but going by ingredients, basically… it’s a mini meatloaf in a patty form. Seriously. I prefer hamburg to meatloaf, because the fat/juices from veggies gets a chance to cook out instead of making everything soggy, and I’m the person who likes the edge pieces, so I like having a bigger sear-to-juicy center ratio.
Inari-zushi – also inari sushi. Often translated to tofu sushi, which just sounds weird. It’s a thin slice of tofu fried (like a pita, it naturally forms a “pocket” when cut in half and the thin, fried “crust” is gently separated from the opening), marinated in soy sauce, dashi, mirin, sugar, sake… well, exact ingredients differ depending on personal taste. Then, you stuff each pocket with sushi rice, which is vinegared rice. Variants, like adding veggies, meat, or whatever to the rice exist and are also delicious.
Umami – Although it technically means “deliciousness”, umami is the officially recognized “fifth” taste. I don’t know why culinary experts took the Japanese term, but I’m okay with it. Salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami. It refers to a ‘meaty’, protein-y flavor. Savory is the closest we get in English, but it’s a ‘rich and savory’ flavor. Apparently the tongue can discern whatever glutamates… I’m not even going to try to explain it. Unsalted meat stock, unsalted butter, using animal fat to cook; that’s the kind of added flavor we’re talking about.
Dashi – dashi is a seafood-based broth stock. It can be made with just about any seafood, especially dried seafood. Most commonly bonito fish and a type of those seaweed things. Not the wakame. Whatsit called. Dunno. Too lazy to look it up.
I like cooking. 🙂