Chapter 18: The House Call
“Aruji, what are your intentions on that young man?”
In a certain office above a small stationary store, the Witch and her assistant, Kei, walked in without turning the light on.
The Witch flopped herself down on the couch.
“Fufufu, I’m a neutral party, you know? What kind of ‘intentions’ could I have?”
“… That’s true as well.”
Kei doesn’t deny the fact that his Aruji actually has no intentions to control the kid. He knows her mind better than … well, no one else could even entertain the idea that they knew her mind.
“But… you know, seeing a kid like that…if he’s going to get into trouble anyway, I might as well take him in… It’s that kind of thing.”
“… Much like Aruji’s own master (shishou).”
Kei quietly brought over the tea he had made while his Aruji lazily lounged on the couch.
He placed it softly on the table in front of her.
She snorted as she picked it up with one hand, blowing on it a bit, then said with a sneer,
“Hmph. Who’s like that meddlesome old codger? Anyway, it’s not a bad story if we’re talking about having him help out with the other brats, right?”
“Haa… so you’re going to be using him anyway.”
“Oh my, can you not put it like that? The work is easy with little risk, it could be considered a part-time job in THIS world. He can leave at any time with no strings attached, learn a lot and gain experience at his own rhythm, and be protected under my name as long as he wishes.”
“Don’t get me wrong, Aruji. I understand your intentions, but it can only look like a desire to monopolize a powerful person from another person’s standpoint.”
“Well, that’s inevitable. It IS like I’m trying to slap my nametag on him, right?”
“That is… certainly true. But Aruji, if he joins us, WE will be in quite the hot spot. News is going to spread about that boy whether we wish it to or not.”
“… Aruji. It’s not like you to pick a fight, not with the Saitou or the Association.”
“… Shall I tell you what you are thinking? Ahem. ‘Those foolish seers and diviners are stirring up a huge pot of unrest, and looks like that boy is likely to get caught up in the power struggle, so let me snatch him up first~.’ Am I correct?”
“Ooooh, excellent mimicry! That’s right. With this, too much power doesn’t flow to any of them, and the balance is still preserved, no?”
“Aruji, you… acting completely foolishly, but actually being this conniving… This is why you’re called a Witch, you know? It’s an insult to actual witches.”
“Mou-! Be worried first and foremost that it’s an insult to ME! … Well, it’s fine, though.”
Kei sighed heavily, placing a hand to his forehead.
“Haa… Aruji, if that’s the case, it would be best to say it clearly. Even if you say that six-tailed kitsune hasn’t been in this world for several hundred years, she is apparently still quite cunning. Aruji’s sly way of speaking won’t win her or the boy over.”
“Ara, come to think of it…”
“… Well, let’s let those girls handle it? He’s a boy in his puberty, so they’ll be good negotiators, kukukuku.”
Kei pinched the bridge of his nose. His Aruji was horribly incorrigible.
I’m apologizing again.
I mean, after all that fuss tonight, and now we have a guest.
“It’s fine. You owe him a lot, right? I don’t really understand all the details, but you can just explain them all to me later.”
Daiki-san helps me bring out the tea and snacks.
“Ku-ha! Ah, this tea really hits the spot! Mm… as I thought, the only place better than home is Kousei-kun’s house! It feels suuuper relaxing! Ah, no, Mr. Guardian, I don’t plan to stay the night.”
“Ahahaha… it’s fine. If there’s no place for you to stay…”
“No, no, no, that’s not at all why I came. I have some business with Kousei-kun. Normally I’d like to discuss it in private, but… it seems the situation is a little different from before?”
Saru-san’s sharp eyes glint as he notes Honoka nearby.
As expected, he can tell she’s a youkai.
Hm…? Is it just me or does Honoka seem suspicious of Saru-san? No, it’s like she seems kind of confused about him?
Still looking at Honoka, I say,
“It’s fine to talk about it here. What’s the business? It’s the wards after all?”
Saru-san took another long draught from the teacup after I refilled it.
“Yah. I thought it was about time you’d need new ones.”
“So, are those things something that loses effectiveness over time?”
Eh? Ah. Daiki-san is trying to understand… urgh. I really brought some troublesome things onto him, but rather than sitting around in shock, he’s actively trying to learn about things.
“Hm? No, not really, but see, I met this kid when he was little, and his powers were already that problematic… As brats grow up, their powers tend to change. While some lose their powers, others will have those powers increase. As I thought, from the day he picked me up, his powers have grown so much.”
Daiki-san reacted to that.
“I was just-! He was eating the offerings I threw out, so I fed him… It’s not like I let him in the house or anything.”
Oh… I forgot to set out the offerings today after offering them. Hm. It would be okay to eat them ourselves, I guess.
While I’m thinking that, Daiki-san sighed a little, saying,
“…Kousei-kun. You’re not going to be picking up every stray cat and dog, right…?”
It’s just hard to ignore a grown man who looked like he hadn’t eaten in ages!
And besides, I only gave him my bento. And then he waited for me to get back from school and gave me those wards. I didn’t actually let him into the apartment where I lived all by myself!
Yeah, Saru-san showed up a few more times over the years at that same spot to check up on me, and I always ended up feeding him, but that’s all!
…. No, I get it, it’s totally suspicious, huh…?
It turned out for the best, though. The only way I could have a restful time at home was thanks to the wards Saru-san made for me.
Really, I’m grateful from the bottom of my heart.
“Hm? Oh, were you lot expecting guests? This ossan feels bad for barging in uninvited~!”
Saru-san says, looking towards the front door.
“Guests? At this time?”
Daiki-san said with a frown.
“I’ll get it.”
“Eh? Wait, Kousei-kun-!”
Ignoring Daiki-san, I go to open the door.
This is another reason why I didn’t want Daiki-san to know. Now he’s going to worry about every little thing…
I open the door just a crack.
“Excuse me, who might you be?”
“Fumu. I am a guest who’s come calling on Kousei Ishikawa-san.”
Uwah, an arrogant woman’s voice… I don’t recognize it, though.
I open the door a little more and peer out.
The air feels like it became electrified just by letting this person’s presence in.
What is this…?!
“W-w-who might you… be?”
Ah, I forgot, I already asked that!
My voice squeaks as I somehow manage to stammer it all out again and my eyes adjust to … to what?
Ah… now that I get a good look, it’s a woman with a flamboyant look similar to that boing-woman, but if that woman was colorless, this woman is the exact opposite.
She’s wearing a bright red, skirt business suit with what looks like a white, winter long-coat trimmed with fur draped over her shoulders. Her face is done up with makeup, and her lips are the same red as her skirt suit. Her jewelry is gold and flashy.
… No, seriously, who ARE you?
I say, accidentally flinging the door wide open as I turn to see Honoka, pale and trembling, prostrate herself.
I turn back with a,
“Ah! She came in!”
“Hooooh, so that one was here after all. Hm? Should I not have come in, boy, no, master of the six-tailed kitsune?”
“Geh! No, that is, uh…!”
What do I say?!
“Fufufu, such an honest, naive one. I see, I see. Is that how the contract was made?”
Eh? Huh? What does she mean?
Is my stupidly naive (I’ll admit it!) demeanor reflecting badly on Honoka?
“No, I mean, for one of the Ookami to come to my house like this, this is obviously something I’m not prepared for!”
“Oh? Even though you have that Daimyoujin over there?”
What did she say?
Did I hear that correctly?
Turning my head slowly, my eyes follow her pointing finger to…
… Yeah, there’s no doubt.
She’s pointing at Saru-san.
I feel sweat drops forming on my temple.
With extremely polite language, I ask,
“S-saru-san… um… who might you be?”
“Hm? Sarutahiko-ookami, though?”
“What is with this situation?!”
The shock was too great, and my retort burst out of me.
Why are two of the great kami in my house-?!
Two of the seven great kami are in my house, drinking beer and sake and eating kaki-pi.
WHAT IS THIS?!
…Ah, Daiki-san, you don’t have to awkwardly join them, looking like you’re being forced to drink with a superior after work.
No good. His brain stopped processing information a LONG time ago.
Honoka is sitting there in seiza completely rigid, looking like she’s going to die from the stress at any moment.
Me? I’m in the kitchen.
With my hands busy and my mind running full steam while it’s keeping track of the menu and the order everything has to be done in, it’s the only way I can keep from just blanking out and shutting down.
With the excuse that I should make drinking snacks to go along with the beer, I ran away from the crazy situation happening in our living room.
I can hear them well, though, since the kitchen is just right there.
“Kukuku, hiding your divine aura, and ACTUALLY turning into a vagabond? Exactly what are you doing?”
“Hah, I can say the same for you. Looking like some money greedy stereotype. Hey young man, you’re taking such small sips! Drink more, drink more!”
Oh man, it totally just sounds like two old friends who haven’t met in a long time going on a drinking spree. Plus one poor subordinate who missed his chance to go home a long time ago.
… I’d better give Daiki-san a hand.
“D-Daiki-san, can you give me a hand bringing these out?”
… You sure got up fast.
What we’re bringing out is boiled and salted edamame, chicken tsukune, grilled mushrooms, and white fish tempura.
Even I’m amazed at how quick I got them done.
Ah, and one more… even though I was planning to make these for Honoka… I’ll leave some of it behind in the kitchen.
Plastic wrap, plastic wrap…
If I had known about all of this, I would have gotten fresh clams and prepared a menu and shopping list so I could have made fancier things…
… No. Who the hell could have known about having guests of THIS caliber over?!
Or like, if I had known about this, I would have a list of all the reasons why Honoka should stay as my familiar written up to be able to beg Inari-ookami to let her live.
“So? Why is the very busy Inari-sama visiting the house of a kid like this?”
As I set the small plates and chopsticks in front of them, Saru-sa – ah, no, Sarutahiko-ookami, said that.
With her sake glass half lifted to her mouth, Inari-ookami said,
“Ah? Ah, I’m here on business, see?”
“Fumu. Then, as I thought, that’s the one who has been sleeping underneath the wisteria all this time.”
“Fufu. Isn’t the bigger question here why Sarutahiko-sama is visiting a house like this?”
“Gahaha! I took an interest in that kid!”
…What a flimsy reason.
“U-um… so, may I ask what kind of business O-Inari-sama might have with me?”
I finish stalling – I mean, setting everything out and finally ask that question.
Not like I don’t know, but…
“You picked up something that once belonged to me… no. You already know the circumstances, it seems.”
“Everything you think comes right out on your face, after all, like how you think polite speech is a pain. It’s fine to just call me Inari-sama, or Inari-nee-san, fufufu.”
Saru-sa – Sarutahiko-ookami chokes on his beer as he tries to force back a burst of laughter.
Like I can just NOT use polite speech!
“Um, O-Inari-sama, it’s not like Honoka broke the seal, you know-?”
“So you won’t use Inari-nee-san, hm…”
“Kukuku. I see, Saru, he is in interesting boy.”
… Ah, mou, someone save me-!
“But boy, rather than my kitsune, don’t you think you’d be more suspicious on the one who broke the seal?”
Come to think of it… Eh? Huh? I’m the most suspicious one?!
“Well, I already know about the circumstances. Both the perpetrator and the one who set out to stop her are those sworn into my service, after all.”
Don’t do that! Holy heck, when Inari-ookami swelled up her bloodlust like that, I almost wet myself!
“What I want to know from you is whether you know of that one’s past, why you took her as a familiar, and how you managed to do it.”
At that last one, Inari-ookami’s eyes narrowed. I feel like I’m a frog being stared at by a snake.
“Um, yeah, Honoka told me about her past before we became master and familiar…”
“Fufufu, so Honoka really is her new name. How is it spelled?”
“…E-exactly as you think it would be…”
Inari-ookami found it quite funny.
Normally you wouldn’t laugh that hard over it, right? Wasn’t it a case where Honoka let a really, REALLY important rice paddy be burned down? To laugh at my poor naming sense… well, I guess even for a kami, 2000 years is enough time to let your rage die down, maybe?
“And, so why and how did you make her your familiar?”
“That’s… I… uh…”
Uh oh, my eyes are swimming.
“I… wonder how I made her my familiar…?”
… Ah, I shocked the great Inari-ookami into silence.
“… Rieko, no, Honoka, what is the meaning of this?”
So Honoka’s name was Rieko before I named her.
“I-it’s a good question. He was attempting to seal me back in the rock, I believe, O-Inari-sama.”
“Gahahaha! Kousei-kun, you never fail to be entertaining!”
Saru-saaaaan-! Please stop, we’re all confused!
“Well, there was nothing left of the rock, so it’s only normal that such a thing would fail, but to misfire into a familiar contract … no, that’s absurd!”
Ah, sorry, Inari-ookami. I have no idea.
Inari-ookami huffs a bit angrily, but takes a drought of the sake.
“Well, I understand. You didn’t plan to make her a familiar, is that it? I know you aren’t lying, at least.”
I’m so relieved she believed us, but so simply?
“We kami have the [Eyes of Truth], you know? It’s not strange.”
Oh. Thanks for the explanation, Saru-sa – Sarutahiko-ookami. But…
“… Is my expression that easy to read?”
“So then, let me change my questions. Why did you try to seal this ridiculously powerful six-tailed kitsune?”
Inari-ookami steered the conversation back on track.
“That’s… when Honoka felt the seal begin to go… somehow… I wanted to do something, since she said she didn’t want to go on a rampage…?”
“…Hold on. That makes it sound like you could converse with Honoka before the seal broke.”
“Huh? Oh, yeah.”
Inari-ookami started muttering things like, “Did the seal weaken?” and “Was the maintenance done properly?”
“For some reason, I could also hear the radio, and satellite television.”
Honoka timidly adds that information.
“Saru, have you heard of sealed ones being able to hear satellite television?”
“… First I’ve heard of it. Couldn’t it be because she was sealed directly under the wisteria?”
“… I see. I had wondered why Tsunato didn’t turn into a sea of flames, but you somehow kept your sanity these long years by being able to hear about the things going on outside. Or rather, I was wondering how you were speaking so well in the modern age.”
Sea of flames… I keep forgetting that Honoka was that type of youkai. The kind who could easily decimate a city.
“Then how was it that you were able to converse with this boy?”
Inari-ookami jabs a thumb at me.
I have nothing to say either.
Inari-ookami heaves a sigh and ruffles her hair in frustration.
“Fine, I get it. Boy, you should learn not to answer strange people.”
“She was singing anime theme songs. It was driving me crazy.”
I know, I know I should have ignored it, but do you understand how freaking annoying that is-!?
“… What… exactly is this relationship…?”
Inari-ookami looks at us like she’s looking at something seriously weird.
I think we’ve set a precedence. In what, I don’t know, but we’re definitely the first ones.
“Haa… okay, fine. So? What are you going to do with her, now that you’ve made one of the most powerful youkai your familiar?”
…So Inari-ookami is just going to put all that aside for now.
“What… uh… what does Honoka want to do?”
“Protect Kousei and the things he wants to protect.”
…! That’s-! I’m touched, but, like I thought earlier, it’s so embarrassing! Especially when you respond right away like that!
“Fwahahaha!!! No ulterior reasons and no ambitious plans at all! So? Inari-chan, what are you going to do with this ridiculous situation?”
Saru-sa – Sarutahiko-ookami slapped his knees while laughing uproariously.
“… Is it that funny?”
“Of course! Who contracts a six-tailed kitsune who was once a servant of Inari on a whim for no reason? Most people would fail the contract procedure and die, you know?”
I clutch my head with both of my hands.
Honoka spoke up suddenly.
Hm? Up until now she only spoke when spoken to or when she thought she should add some information.
“I-I know this is shameless of me, with the transgressions I have done against O-Inari-sama, but I have a request!”
<A/n: Thanks for Seren you donations! And of course the patrons.
Cursed chapters seem to easily surpass the word count I sort of aim for my chapters to be… and they still end in cliffhangers.
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wfb rotation next.>