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Just in case, this is the prize short for Kizin, winner of the >>/gensokyo/16873 Village Life: It’s Never Safe at Work contest. It is also technically a follow-up to >>41058 A Dog With a Bone and >>41082 A Witch With a Broomhandle, but there’s little continuity to speak of else than the male insert, so don’t fret about not perusing those beforehand.

I confess the “horror” aspect hasn’t been touched on much for personal reasons, but had consulted that with ol’ Kiz and am therefore giving myself the biff chit.

In addition, this short has been cross-posted to AO3 with a handful of “enhancements” that would have been a little too obnoxious to do on THP. That version is available here: https://archiveofourown.org/works/47331199 . The text is otherwise the same.
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The flight shed its haircare casualties. Kokoro alit on the human town’s benighted thoroughfare. She brandished her naginata in case she’d sprouted an audience, picked a stray persuasion needle from a sleeve then tossed it away before it burned her tsukumogami flesh through. Her masks span round her body-form on ethereal cords, eyes darting over the street’s many dark egresses. There were illimited signs of no movement at all. Nary a noise stirred the stillness of the night.

Well, else than the din of the bloody riot on the far side of town. The stage platform was aflame; Kokoro could see the column of orange-litten smoke rising over the terracotta roofs. Humans crying; youkai cackling. This far away, it was an uninterrupted, harmonious sound; this far away, it was music. Chaos, ordered by strength. A theatre of emotions.

… Who could blame her? The dance had merely brought out the ineffable strings of people’s everyday masks. Who could blame ol’ Kokoro for pulling?

A youkai-hunter might. A youkai-hunter did, bursting out of a shadow inside shadows, gohei flashing. Kokoro whipped the naginata up to meet the flying strike on the haft. The crack of hardwood on hardwood thundered in her ears like a firecracker. Streamers lashed at empty air. Kokoro had ducked, now sweeping the butt of her weapon to wallop the young priest on the flank. To her bewilderment, it landed – launching Kokoro into a fit of glee and the youkai-hunter back into the blackness beyond the lanterns… where he vanished again, as Kokoro’s billowing hair momentarily stole her sight.

She froze, mid-slash, her face held in the completely serene expression of a creature blessed with a dozen spares to bemoan a defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. Hata Kokoro was famously stoic – especially on the subjects of stage play, ritual combat and Auntie Futo’s cookery; it wasn’t done to throw one’s naginata down in frustration because a laic had got a move over you. It would be off the particular beam, too, to go chasing the hunter around the town of his birth, which he knew like the veiny upside of his… hand, in the dead of a depopulated night. No, no, no. Not when she’d seen him smash through someone’s private residence for no decent cause but to catch her briefly flat-footed. That blackguard.

That cheeky Hakurei boy.

Nobody could quite pinpoint when the Hakurei shrine maiden had relinquished half of her title and decided to give Gensokyo another of her name to contend with, let alone when the contention had begun in seriousness. What had been soon well-known to the youkai of the realm was that future mischief may be met as readily with the Hakurei’s chronic complacence… or her son’s arrow-straight mind and staff-straight, well, staff. The newest member of the premier youkai-hunting clan was a man up to his Adam’s apple, thusly ill-disposed to the aesthetic displays of Spell Card combat; instead, he bore in a reminder of a more orthodox past on the tip of his thumb-thick gohei.

Somehow, the youkai had taken it all on the chin. Sometimes literally. Yet, for all that, there’d been not a single venomous snake lodged on the sly in the Hakurei offertory box. The young priest had brought a manly smack down on the rump of the realm’s matriarchal power balance, and there’d been hardly a flinch. You could find yourself believing the balance had even enjoyed it.

Which had left Kokoro with this lesser enjoyable part to play. Clashing with a now-consummate exterminator – on his native stamping ground – robbed of the vast, manoeuvrable stage of the sky. She’d tried taking flight, oh yes, but it’d only made her an easy mark for flurries of persuasion needles from the gloom below: now from this end of an unlit alley, now the opposite one, now the vacant window of a two-storey warehouse whose owner was, Kokoro rested assured, in for repairs shortly. And, as for Kokoro, she’d been in for this fate as drat instantly as the first frenzied punches had been thrown beneath the stage and the Hakurei shrine matron had turned her now faintly laugh-lined face up at the dark Noh dancer above. Almost as though Kokoro had almost done something exactly like this before…

She’d grabbed her nearby son by the scruff and aimed him at the mask tsukumogami like the muzzle of a Chinese Crouching Tiger, herself drawing a fistful of amulets and indicating the hitherto hidden youkai beginning to rampage in the crowd. The message had been glass-clear. These are mine to clean up. That one gets the stick.

The stick had hounded Kokoro crosstown, dogged as mastiff with a mouldy bone. Most every ambulatory resident had gone to witness her performance (aha!), meaning Kokoro had a free roam of the district with no distractions; on the flipside, this meant the roam was also the young priest’s. And he’d roamed it with his nose closer to the cobbles than she. She could’ve fled further: to the woods or over the fields, but… the turmoil she’d inflamed was a siren song. To leave such delicious, roused emotions behind would’ve been inconceivable. The mask at her youkai heart yearned to bathe in their warm, gossamer wash.

All of which led Kokoro to stand her ground. To twist on a heel, yell—


—and slice the hurtling amulet in half. The Hakurei boy appeared mid-air, as though birthed from the cut paper itself, gohei poised to give Kokoro’s skull a likewise caesarean. She parried the strike, followed the momentum through and slashed at the young man’s surprised – smiling – face. He jinked and flowed under the blade – despite its murderous speed – so preternaturally fast Kokoro’s eyes hazed over for a heartbeat. An amulet-wrapped fist cannoned up from below through the opening. Kokoro smote it back with a desperate knee, chased by her ankle-booted foot for good measure. The air where the young priest had been certainly learnt its lesson.

And then, once she’d recovered her balance and remembered to see with all the eyes at her disposal, she was yet again alone on the street. The guttering lanterns betrayed not a thread of a scrap of red-and-white robes. The night was death-silent (if you forgot the carnage in the distance); and, in so rare a reversal for Gensokyo, it was not the youkai’s.

Kokoro breathed. Her heart pummelled her ribs. Her masks grinned. Her hands trembled. Sweat slicked her grip on the naginata’s shaft. It was…

… It was terrifying.

How could it not be? Nobody wanted to die. Youkai couldn’t, either; not the traditional way. Still, being sealed – going back even for a time to that state of non-sentience, too dumb to even realise what is missing till the nightmare is all but over and the spirit thrashes itself free of its unwitting grave – no sane youkai wanted that. To be cognisant that a moment’s slip – a wrong tweak of the wrist, a blink of too many eyes concurrently – stood between it and oblivion…

… That was the emotion humanity christened “fear.”

Kokoro was “afraid.” A deep-seated part of her giddied at the idea. There was something rubbery about it: a kind of urgent, self-destructive curiosity to see how far the feeling could stretch before she tore off in two directions at once. How did humans not run around screaming themselves hoarse en masse, feeling like this every mortal day?

Kokoro stood on quaking knees, a heretofore unheard-of combination. Queasy from excitement and excited from queasiness, she nearly missed the peals of noise from down the street. These, however, weren’t the swish and rustle of Hakurei death; several pairs of sandals clopped instead on the cobbles. Torches fwoompfed, flourished against the night. Strident voices inspired silence and expired outrage.

“Get ‘er, fellows!”

“Gensokyo for humans, wahey!”

“Noh – no! Odori – oh yes!”

“There can be only waltz!”

Cudgels and pitchforks didn’t quite join in the chanting but did mince the air with dispatch for easier conversion. Kokoro’s vibrating knees fixed her hobnailed boots to the pavement as the raving mob drew ever closer. Fear did have its drawbacks.

And then, quite precluding propriety, the street flew away sideways.

There’d been no forewarning. No chivalry of a laboured grunt or crinkling streamers. The Hakurei priest had irrupted into soundless being right behind her, swept Kokoro up in his arms and lunged for one of the unlit side streets, where – in the best traditions of non-consensual back alley business – he pinned her to the grimy wall and slapped a palm over the waxing O of protest on her mouth. His fingers smelt of sweat, lacquer and insanitarily handled dango. He was big – surely bigger than warranted by his age – strong, scary and… not near as concerned with the struggling tsukumogami as he was with the alley’s ingress.

The mob shambled by shortly, halting to pick up her dropped naginata, waved their torches with intent, put out the collateral singed scalps – and then tromped on after the “runnin’, caperin’ menace.” The Hakurei priest sighed relief as their nonsense cries (“Gensokyo for humans and gods, fine, bigods!”) blended with the background rumble of the far-off bedlam. He dared a devilish smile and perambulated his gaze from the alley’s mouth—

—to a mask tsukumogami who had been farther acquainted than she would’ve liked with an emotion she wasn’t finding that much to her like after all. Kokoro was overwhelmed. Youkai generally don’t enjoy being seen in any stage of whelm; it looks bad on the rumour mill. It also doesn’t do to be tricked, outfoxed or toyed with like cornered prey by a blasé predator. Worse still when the predator was a human.

That was why Kokoro balled up her terror, fear and trepidation all in a neat, spiritual ball… and spat it – metaphysically – at the brash, young priest.

The brown, Hakurei eyes – his mother’s – shot wide as the rogue emotion sank its hooks into his soul. The hands restraining Kokoro’s body tightened their hold on her face and shoulder – then slacked, quivering in the onset of sudden panic. The youkai-hunter gaped at Kokoro’s expressionless (smug) face, glanced with apprehension to the mask presently on her head, and—

The palm on her mouth slid aside like the bolt of a gate. The Hakurei boy stooped, all teenage nerves and gracelessness – and kissed her.

No, not just just-kissed. The stunned Kokoro could only yip her surprise as the young man who’d meant her doom not a minute before tilted his head and wedged his tongue between her lips. The first, swirly steps of an amorous dance round her own occurred forthwith. He sealed their lips together end to saliva-wet end, even as Kokoro’s petite hands braced against his slab of a chest to shove it off – yet found they’d much rather it stayed there than not. Kokoro’s tongue betrayed her next, lifting for the boy’s to taste its underside and carry it along for the next twirl. It was a very enthusiastic tongue in the department of twirl. The boy’s, not Kokoro’s. Kokoro’s had to push to get a turn in crabwise.

No mask she possessed could express what she felt about this off-vertical dance, so none tried. Kokoro had kissed – had insisted on being kissed – before; whom she had never been kissed by, however, was a man who’d come as close to splitting her head a minute prior as Kokoro had to screaming it off herself. Admittedly, she was excited; admittedly, there were worse ways to unwind from a combat high (and not-so-combat fright) than a sloppy kissing session with a young, handsome priest; it nevertheless took an unfair deal of admitting, because her Hannya mask insisted she had lost by giving in. Was she or was she not a troublesome youkai? A runnin’, caperin’ menace? Well?

Air colluded for the first time in a while and ran out of the Hakurei boy’s lungs. He retracted his tongue from beneath hers and broke apart the kiss, although not ahead smooching several small, apology ones (Kokoro surmised) on her moist, quivering lips. She pursed these for the fourth, fifth and sixth, for no reason except it thrilled her to reciprocate. The Hakurei boy’s face withdrew among much stringing of mixed spit, seeming for all the world (i.e. alley) like a boy’s who had won a little buss from his crush and remained thus with nothing left to worry about in life.

On that principle, Kokoro slapped him mightily in it.

“Is that any way to respooond?!” she shrilled, kneading some feeling back into her hand.

The young youkai-hunter blinked down at her from above the swelling. He didn’t – save for that – look especially slapped. He looked as though he had been slapped – and thwacked, and kicked, and bitten no doubt – for so long, it’d become a regular occurrence for his face, like pimples. He did contrive to appear contrite, however, and there the credit was due.

“Um. Sorry,” he mumbled, the opposite cheek reddening quite without Kokoro’s intervention. “That was prob’ly what they call a force of the habit.”

“Habit?! Habit!” said Kokoro, whose mastery over other people’s habits extended at farthest to Auntie Ichirin’s, and hers didn’t even fit. “Who does thaaat?! Who goes in for a kiss when scared for their life?”

“Ah. So that was your doing,” noted the red-white boy (now a little redder). Then, he clicked his very deft tongue. “Uh. Chalk it up to having to sneak around over-judgemental parents, could be? With, yes, girls, ahead you wonder; so, the sentiments may’ve gotten mixed up somewhere; and you’re really cute besides, but that’s, well, besides,” he reeled off of a single, shallow breath. “Anyhow, Miss Kokoro – it is Miss Kokoro, isn’t it? – can we please keep it down and speak as people? Taichi to Kokoro? Man and woman, et sitra?”

The plea had had a rushed, rehearsed clip to it – but the compliment hadn’t, so Kokoro gave a quiet nod. The young priest – whose name was indeed Hakurei Taichi, because names had never been the Hakurei shrine maiden’s fastest friends – squeezed her shoulders amiably, pitching Kokoro dead amid the intrusive thought that he could’ve done away with the “ami-” and squeezed a tittle bit lower.

That kiss, reconsidered Kokoro, had been too good for its own good. Never mind that she was still atingle inside and out from close brushes with his gohei.

Taichi, who hadn’t read a clue of this from her expression – not least since she wore none – gave a nod back. “Good. OK. We wouldn’t want those to nab you, would we? That’s my job. Tec’nic’ly.”

“‘Those?’” questioned Kokoro, sotto voce. “Who’s these ‘those?’”

“The fine men and women what got the brunt of your… stunt,” Taichi decided. “This’s between us, you and me at this point, that’s what’s pertinent. The priest vanquishes the youkai. None of that ‘beatin’ the fox out ovvem with sticks’ bulldust. Agreed?”

Strange although it was to have it explained this long into their duel, Kokoro tentatively agreed: “Agreed…?” and only tacked on: “This isn’t my first caper, I’ll have you know!” after an amateur pause.

Taichi beamed a charming smile. “Nor mine,” he said. “That is why, Miss Kokoro. How’s about you and I lay low awhile? Those’ll circle round once they’ve bounced off the eastern gate; I’ve seen their art of war. They’ll march up and down twice or thrice, loud as you like, till someone catches a whiff of the evening’s cask from Geidontei and it’s conjointly ruled there’re youkai likelier found around booze. Well,” he supposed, “four times, credibly, after your trick.”

“And afterwards?” Kokoro wanted to know. “What happens then?”

“And afterwards,” said Taichi, grimly, “the priest vanquishes the youkai. Or,” he hurried on to add with a peek at Kokoro’s manifest mask, “if you’d but like, Miss Kokoro… you could run, hunker down at the Myouren-ji, keep your nose to the grindstone for a fortnight or two, and I could spin the yarn of our battle to your benefit. Could be persuaded to; I mean, I know how youkai-ing works.”

Kokoro experienced what stagewrights referred to with singular delight as a creeping suspicion. “You offer this to every youkai you fight, you fiend?”

“The cute enough,” Hakurei Taichi owned up. “The nice enough to listen, first and foremost. Not every youkai is and believe you me, Miss.”

“And how,” asked Kokoro, “would a nice enough one go about this persuading?”

The young priest tilted his head. “Well, I was thinkin’…” he said, bottom lip hanging heavy with hope.

And there it dawned. The sly, young Sun that’d enlightened the old maid flowers of Gensokyo.

After all, why not? The fall from the hot pan of combat into the fires of passion was a short one indeed; Kokoro’s had lasted the span of a kiss. And, if strength may be drawn from the hearsay ruling out a bruised ego; and, if one may corrupt a young, Shinto priest (a little) in so doing; and, if some dusty, creaky crannies could be scrubbed clean by male company acquired without recourse to the hassle and fuss of kidnapping…

… Well, Kokoro had to concede, why not? Youkai had cravings too, not every one ending in an inimical scream – ask but the many kitsune wives; and, when a strapping young man was giving you his fiery, undivided attention—

—yours was liable to slip.

Kokoro’s had: catching her mouth presently pink-lipped and wide open, tongue thrust out for the boy to take it onto his. Which he did with blasphemous relish.

The erotic dance picked up whence it’d broken off; Kokoro looped her arms behind the Hakurei priest’s neck while she endeavoured to keep step. She was a master kisser… by exactly no means, but Taichi threatened to make her one through lightning-fast practice. Saliva was swapped in kinky whirls; lips brushed on and slid all over each other. His thick, pliable tongue felt as though he might give a preserve jar an orgasm.

That fugitive thought tumbled down Kokoro’s sweaty front to jolt a certain area of her female anatomy awake, spilling teeny, nervous tickles in its wake. She pondered, as she fought off the young man’s attempts to lick her palate, who else had been in her shoes and hadn’t fought and with which parts of her body. Which terrible youkai had met her (small) death at the tip (and sides, and flat) of this precocious boy’s tongue?

Would Kokoro? – asked the startled-awake region of Kokoro’s femininity. Kokoro vowed to give it such a schlicking later if it didn’t shush.

Taichi gingerly removed his pastoral hands from her shoulders and conveyed them to the buttons of Kokoro’s plaid shirt; although, since he’d worked out what made her Hannya mask fade as well as he had her naginata’s trajectory, he kept her ire at bay with soft, wet smooches on the lips.

“Nothing—” Kokoro managed out edgeways, “—mm, in there, mm, of interest, mm, to you.”

“We’ll, mm, see,” he was adamant.

And the buttons popped, popped, popped…

Cool air stroked her sweat-damp skin. Kokoro’s nipples stiffened as the Hakurei boy drew the shirt aside from her bra-less titties. The youkai and the priest quit their canoodling to evaluate Kokoro’s veracity.

The two peculiarly-called, perky protrusions on Kokoro’s chest were, true, not overmuch to talk about. Whereabouts they lacked, however, as a conversational piece, they made up in aerodynamism. Which was nothing to scoff at if you’d seen Auntie Ichirin teeter to stay upright while dancing on her mandalas. At least Uncle Unzan remained handily employed thereby.

Kokoro cast her mind back to the myriad times the old nyuudou’s palms would glide all over Auntie Ichirin’s impressive, pendulous rack before he’d tipped her back into balance. Kokoro wondered if anybody else’d ever heard them practice the manoeuvre in her room in the wee hours of the night.

Taichi matched the pervert old-timer grope-for-grope as he gathered up what scant tit-flesh presented on Kokoro’s far less precarious bust. His long, tough, clumsy fingers snagged her utterly erect nipples, each instance sending tiny shocks, twitches and pinches of pleasure shunting down Kokoro’s uncovered belly. She clutched the boy and puffed her chest out, nothing daunted, nor about to be cowed.

“See?” she said, monotone as she might. “Nothing to suckle. Ha ha.”

Taichi cocked a slow brow, like someone who’s really clever on every other day – no, for real – turning over a retort that refused not to sound silly even between their own ears. His hands, on the other… flip side, didn’t idle; he stuffed their fingers under Kokoro’s muggy armpits – but for the thumbs, which persisted atop, if not atip, her erect nipples. The Hakurei boy mulled her table-thwacker of a joke while, slowly, with pointed deliberation, circling their gohei-toughened pads around Kokoro’s areolae. Her spurned lips were ajar by the third lap; her breath – halved by the sixth, and her belly – taut and twanging like a shamisen’s string by the twelfth. A clench downstairs and then a tug of fleeting relief presaged Kokoro’s panties soaking in more than sweat.

… This was why Auntie Ichirin rehearsed, even at the cost of beauty sleep. Once Taichi strummed his thumbs across the primed peaks of Kokoro’s breasts, no mask could’ve contained her fleeing composure. Her thighs shuddered under her skirt, which could have been accounted for by the rogue trickle now running down the inside of one. The pale tips of her bared titties didn’t so much tingle as they throbbed and ached.

Throbbed and ached for more abuse, that is.

Terrified at having been terrified for her youkai life by a boy-priest who was presently turning her on beyond belief (if not prayer), Kokoro was, nevertheless, not yet, not about to bow out. She pitched her chin up and glared at him from behind eyes only marginally less moist than the lining of her panties.

“… I was accusing you of b—being a baby, you bull-headed— bull!” she panted. “Suckle! Teats! Man-baby! Get it right!”

Taichi bullishly (or perhaps just Taichishly) withdrew his hands from Kokoro’s heaving, jittery chest; although, not even outside her current, flurried circumstance could she have construed the brief touching of his fingers to his mouth as anything else besides him sniffing the perspiration that’d coated them. This rascally Hakurei boy was smelling her armpit sweat and, a Kokoro some minutes into the future would confirm, getting hard from it.

The one yet of now demanded her wit be recognised in the face of her face’s witlessness.

Taichi, who’d stopped short someway of licking his knuckles, assured her, “I was mincin’ my words, figurin’ how to say this. Er. See, Miss Kokoro… Guessin’, man,” he figured how to say now, “grows back into wantin’ the teat at a certain age.”

Kokoro couldn’t mince any of hers ahead the boy leant sharply down. Which was why the word which did fly out, as his lips locked around the puffier one of her nipples, was a whole and wholly inaccurate: “Bastarrrd…!”

What the young priest’s hands had begun, his vastly more bucolic tongue outshone by half; and what it did shine in the main was the poor, pore-pitted areola of Kokoro’s breast. Circuit after circuit after circuit, it lapped her sensitive nipple like a prized race-horse. Saliva – Taichi’s and possibly Kokoro’s still – slicked its hot, bumpy way; all the while, his skilful lips scooped up and nibbled the meagre plush of the breast as a secondary tease. When they sucked, Kokoro tipped her head way back; when he flicked the tip of his tongue over the stiff peak of her teat, she laced her fingers through his warm, Hakurei-brown hair and gripped.

It wasn’t hardly that he knew what he was doing; it was that Kokoro’s body knew it also and, with each and every twitch of bliss from her happily beloved breast, pushed her hips out at the space between her and the boy in the fervent expectation of other pleasures. At but a few – fine, bigods, many – strategically deployed kisses, all the excitement of violence, positive and negative both, had been transposed onto an equally primitive fascination.

There was… something… certainly, so very exciting about those keen eyes and well-filled Hakurei reds and imposing gohei. The fact either of them could turn on the other at a priestly/youkai-ish flash, least of all.

Kokoro didn’t baulk; emotions were her rice and water and dance. She drank of the boy’s (while he drank the non-existent milk from her unmotherly breast) and let no frustration show (which wasn’t difficult) when the tactless motions of her hips were espied. The boy Taichi peered up, mouth full of Kokoro’s swollen teat, and proffered a hand palm-up: middle- and ring-finger upraised. The rude gesture managed to exude an aura of, “If you’d like to relieve some of that tension, these could be yours,” despite emitting mostly the sheen and smell of Kokoro’s sweat.

… Might as well, Kokoro thought with vengeance. Might as well smear it over with another, eh?

She hitched a haughty nod, not too unthankful, not too permissive, reached around the boy’s handsome head, rolled up her fancy skirt and snatched the obliging hand by the wrist. She chaperoned it down between her fidgety thighs, where she drew the drenched panties aside and touched the ends of the thick fingers to her slit. They stayed tantalisingly still – agog, yet unmoving despite that – leaving to Kokoro this final indignity of submission.

Fox-masked, she used her slimmer and less arousing set to spread her womanhood wide. Juices oozed and dribbled and debased Taichi’s priestly fingers even ahead Kokoro had eased herself down and her unostentatious labia descended their thick, knuckly length.

An agreeably drawn-out and dishonourable drop of the hips later, and her bare crotch was resting on the Hakurei boy’s palm.
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Kokoro was no stranger to sex. Of course she wasn’t; lust was as base an emotion as joy, sorrow and stultification. It didn’t behoove to be picky with your food when you were a mask youkai.

Above that, however, was Kokoro’s perpetual pursuit of performative arts. Noh was fine and dandy (so to say) and a mainstay of her repertoire, but an artist’s ambitions expanded geometrically with their ego. These growing pains had led her to confer with Auntie Futo, who had taken a macabre interest in the history of the country she’d forsaken and amassed a petty trove of books thereon.

And therefrom, Kokoro had learnt of her peers of old: the imperishable kabuki, the notorious yomiuri, yet to the greatest extent the bewitching shirabyoshi, who – it was writ in an impassioned hand – “of bodi as well as musik artes weldened.”

Auntie Futo had heard of these, she’d sighed – and bemoaned missing their era of prominence by centuries. “Natheless!” she’d inveighed, not one to be dissuaded by ephemerality of fashion. “Away hence, these dusty tomes, and let us to real study, Kokoro!”

“Away!” Kokoro had cheered, conceding to meet again in Auntie Futo’s chambers in half an hour’s time to further their grasp of shirabyoshi arts first-hand.

And there she’d joined again her industrious auntie, who in the meanwhile had procured a small drum and conscripted the assistance of one of Miko’s hale, male acolytes. And they had taken turns dancing for the stern man to the plainest (shira) of beats (byoshi); and then Futo had laid him out on the futon, so they may re-enact for themselves the descriptions from the book.

And there Kokoro had touched her first man… insofar as such firsts mattered for a mask-girl who’d sat on a thousand people’s faces before. Still and all, Auntie Futo had been the polestar of that dance. She’d instructed Kokoro on how to please a man with one’s tongue and mouth; she’d guided her good-spiritedly as they’d sandwiched the acolyte’s remarkable member between their vulvas; and, nearby the end, she’d mounted said member in Kokoro’s lieu, citing reasons of safety.

Kokoro hadn’t ever seen Auntie Futo go cross-eyed except once, when a booted Auntie Ichirin had punted her between the mobility parts, but the sudden and wholesale sinking of the acolyte’s ample penis in her womanhood had done the rare deed. The ancient shikaisen had bade the young tsukumogami “fffly,” lest the “mmmighty cooock” claim her virtue as well.

… How the acolyte may have meant to do that while bound and gagged and with Auntie Futo atop, Auntie Futo hadn’t revealed, but Kokoro hadn’t pried. Maybe the two had had a treaty.

In any event (and an event it had been), it’d be but Kokoro’s second caper in town as a hatted shirabyoshi ahead a sealed, perfumed letter would find its furtive way among her belongings. The letter would speak of a cultured gentleman who’d read of and recognised the act – and entreated Kokoro come honour the tradition with him at his manse. It’d smelt of ink, jasmine and romance.

Kokoro had come. Kokoro had come, as a matter of fact, frequently and liberally once the dance’d progressed from its upright part to the bedchambers, wetting the gentleman’s bed sheets and noble cock to the point of ruination. Her first true shirabyoshi performance had turned out nothing short of fantastic: slow and nightlong, the man feeding her his intense emotions throughout while his cock availed itself of her womanhood, and the no-longer-virtuous latter – of his awesome girth and curve in exchange.

Kokoro had known, slinking out of his demesne in the pre-dawn hours, that she had gained a staunch admirer… and perhaps, down in a particular place, become a little bit of one of his as well. Auntie Futo, at least, had been squealingly envious once Kokoro had relayed to her this happy conclusion.

Auntie Futo would’ve eaten her hat alive if she’d witnessed Kokoro now. A midnight tryst with a tough, young priest in a back alley sounded something right up her, well, back alley.

The Hakurei boy’s fingers curled inside her, unimpressed by her vaginal walls clamping down on their motions. Their rugged tips came unerringly against a spot which Kokoro had gleaned from her later dances was one a shirabyoshi could do well to instruct her partner to lean on. They pressed no further; there they stuck, the unburied knuckles dripping Kokoro’s warm secretions. Taichi’s preoccupied mouth squiggled an innocent smile – a telltale sign of guilt.

Kokoro, however, had, ha ha, danced this dance before. When it came to hip movement, she didn’t merely make a killing; she slayed the audience and stole each and every male watcher’s heart. The least she could do was to nudge her butt back, like this, so that her little joy button was mashed against his palm, and then jockey her hips, like so, to drive the fingers into the spot which—


—among others, had enamoured Kokoro to the shirabyoshi’s craft. The boy Taichi redoubled his man-babyish travail of her breast: now nipping the nipple eponymically with his lips, now pressing his tongue flush to then dragging it all up the areola. He deigned to cup the hand below, so that Kokoro’s love nub may be easier mashed into its heel as her vagina bounced on the middle- and ring-finger. Up and down and back and forth, she twirled her hips at the pleasure proffered to her by the young priest in place of a thrashing with a gohei. It would’ve been contemptible if her body weren’t pining for more and more.

Kokoro reined in her voice – if not her mask – when Taichi sucked hard on her tortured and blissed-out nipple ahead hauling his cruel mouth away to speak. Which he did, spittle twanging and snapping between his lips and her breast.

“Your pussy’s awfully into this, isn’t it, Miss Kokoro?” he said, Kokoro thought, not a touch unwarrantedly. “My fingers’re going numb from the squeeze. That the dancer’s muscles for you, what?”

Kokoro gave back exactly as kind a response as was warranted, meaning none but a glare. The Hakurei boy shook his head: yes, that was apt. He straightened out, bringing their faces level. Kokoro couldn’t resist puckering her lips as the young priest affably brushed on them his own, sticky pair – perchance by way of apology. Her breath sputtered against them as his fingers began, in a departure from the tease ratio thus far, to push against the squirming and grinding of her vagina.

“… You’re so cute, way you keep wantin’ after kissing,” he whispered, while Kokoro’s breathing quickened precipitously. “Were you not a youkai, Miss, I’d’ve asked you out, no hesitation.”

Kokoro willed out the fretful wantin’ of someplace else for something else for the nonce and a smooch. “I’m,” she huffed, “a dancer. There’s, mm, a card— a waiting list.”

The boy’s fingers hooked viciously – and, not unlikely, jealously – inside of what he’d styled somewhat imprecisely a lovable, hairy creature. What they hooked, rather more precisely, was a place Kokoro had come to style with perfect poignancy a shirabyoshi’s secret friend. Her knees buckled inwards at the gut-punch of fluttering pleasure spewing from her privates.

“My name on that list?” Taichi demanded of her flickering Ko-omote mask.

Kokoro fought for uprightness. “N—No.”

“My name ought to be on top of that list,” he insisted.

“You’ll, mm, wait,” she stood firm, wet kisses stubbornly punctuating the sentence, “till, mm, my real adorers, mm, have had their turn.”

The Hakurei boy issued a gruff sound, managing in efficiently few syllables to suggest that in his personal take this was bulldust. His fingers sped down below – sawing now back and forth, ramming their tips over and over into Kokoro’s weak spot – in reckless negotiation. Its attendant tune of shlap-shlap-shlap-shlap became soon reminiscent of a partner Kokoro had left to dance behind her by himself while she took a rest butt-up on the mattress.

She put forward a counterargument in the shape of an unsteady hand reaching for the Hakurei boy’s clan-red hakama. The girdle gave way to her questing fingers by inanimate concession; and, by and by, Kokoro’s arm was up to the wrist down the boy’s sultry trousers.

His hardy, long and utterly erect, teenage cock slid straight into Kokoro’s grip as though he’d aimed it there through strenuously developed abdominal muscles. The breadths of her startled, ringed fingers slipped down the glans, turning lousy with precum – then skidded on to plunge down a long a thick, curving shaft that seemed to go on and on and on. Kokoro was half up the forearm inside his clothes ahead at last she felt and cupped the boy’s overactive balls. A slimy line was running the span from her wrist up to where the leaky tip of his cock had nearly run up against the inside of her elbow.

… Auntie Futo would’ve gone so cross-eyed. The fact of the self-same opportunity being, in that fact, on Kokoro’s stage tonight clamped her vaginal walls down on what she might have called, had she perused a modern book, the unsolicited, aggressive fingerbang. Kokoro’s returned breath caught. An orgasm she’d glossed over mounting in her charge to unearth Taichi’s cock was a pulsing knot beneath her rigid belly, itching to be released – for preference, all over the boy’s jostling hand. Her clit was drawing messy circles on his palm, hauling her hips along, never consulting her masks in advance. Her inner labia gyrated on his knuckles like a well-lubricated ball swivel.

Kokoro would come… and she’d no sooner set on declaring just such a move, because that was a thing shirabyoshi had regaled their partners with, than the Hakurei boy’s bully instincts flared. His youkai-taming fingers stilled among her writhing vaginal walls; Kokoro’s Hannya ripped off a scream only she may hear and scarcely did over the roar of a near-climax roiling between her ears.

Taichi dragged his pussy-soiled fingers out into the open. Kokoro’s nether lips surrendered them by loath degrees, even slower to do so than Auntie Futo’s upper set had been to quit the trussed acolyte’s penis so that Kokoro may put the instruction to the test. She felt each knuckle out as a pang of loss. She clutched the blackguard boy (and his cock) for support.

The amoral reality of the situation – the dark alley, the incomplete orgasm – was jarred back into the forefront of her mind as Taichi’s fingers pulled free of her dripping pussy. Kokoro stood stock-still for fear of that any impetuous movement might throw her over the edge. Her agitated abdominal muscles squeezed down on phantom priest fingers.

Taichi flicked some of her lewd secretions off on her ground ahead he spoke. “… Miss Kokoro? I have this notion, if you’ll hear me out.”

Kokoro sucked back the drool liable to, well, drool, were she to open her mouth heedlessly. “… Whaaat?”

The young priest’s voice dropped artfully into the realms of husk and boudoirs. “We ought to have sex,” he whispered into the tsukimogami’s steaming-hot ear, “you and I.”

Kokoro scrunched her wits up about her Uba mask, although some of them protested this was not the time. “… Why should I?”

“On account,” explained Taichi, rather reasonably, “of those might peep or bumble down this side street when they make the return round. However. You don’t gen’r’ly tend to look at people’s mugs when you catch ‘em screwing, so… if we was to take our togs off and fuck like we both want to…”

He left the reasoning half-made, so that Kokoro may fluff it up to her preference.

Kokoro didn’t. Yet. “… Aren’t you too young for this?” she asked, fingers wrapped around palpable proof to the contrary.

“Nineteen this Summer,” boasted the boy. “Had sex afore this, too, Miss, don’t you get your knickers in a tangle.”

Nineteen! The fog in Kokoro’s head boiled. Had it really been that long? Well, but it would’ve justified the size, at least…

“With youkai?” Kokoro probed, including with those fingers. “Or just your naïve, harmless, mm, village wenches?”

Youkai, mm, was my first,” said Taichi, the stray kiss receiving a nigh-identical twin; “albeit, I’ve slept with a youkai masquerading as a village wench and neither one of us lost a head, Miss, iffen that counts.”

“Corrupt, mm, priest!”

Taichi smiled. It was of the sort felt rather than seen. “Allow me to fuck you, Miss Kokoro.”


“Take your bowtie off for yes.”

Kokoro stepped back… all right, had let a final kiss land and then stepped back, yanking her hand out of the young man’s loosened pants. He thumbed the waistband and dropped that half of his vestments to his ankles; then, having pulled the kariginu wholesale up over his head, he bunched them both up and tossed them into the shadows where, Kokoro would later recount, she never heard them flump to the ground.

Naked as if it were the most au naturel thing to be in the tec’nical middle of a busy town, the young Hakurei priest faced the dithering, horny, wavering and, perhaps not inconsequently, humbugged-out-of-her-orgasm Kokoro. His cock stood all but upright in the murk, explaining all by its substantial self the impious tones in which his “gohei” had been talked up by her fellow youkai. Say, at Myouren-ji. Say, by a certain tattle-tale Captain. Say, to a certain Buddhist priestess, who’d reacted with incommensurate affront.

… How far had his depravity reached? How far inside her would it reach if Kokoro didn’t put her foot down?

All that was put down were her panties and skirt, once she’d boldly aped the boy and begun stripping from the bottom up. She brushed her fingers up along her own, high-strung thighs and belly as she came back up – and shivered.

She tugged the bowtie loose… and left it dangling from her neck as she wiggled out of her undone shirt.

Nude but for it, as if it were the only natural thing to be down in a dark alley with a phenomenally handsome young man, Kokoro schooled her (she’d been told) cute face into a defiant glare. Taichi, for a grand first, rose to the bait.

He grasped and snapped the bowtie off and threw it, trailing straps, into the grimy darkness.

They were kissing – wrestling tongues, trading saliva like oomukade hunters the night before a battle, sweaty skin squeaking on sweaty skin – as they led each other aside in tacit step. A crate was sitting by one of the whitewashed walls, possibly housing somebody’s victuals, possibly very bored most days, but today got vastly more intriguing once Taichi helped Kokoro shimmy her bare butt atop. She lay back on the makeshift love-seat, looping one leg round his waist, while the young man laid his splendid cock out on her sweat-glazed belly. It vowed, writ in heart-beat and bulging veins, to leave no part of her womanhood unravished.

Kokoro’s body responded by remembering the orgasm of which it’d been bereft. The mask tsukumogami, unaware anymore which of her constituents she was wearing, reached around her thighs to spread herself wide for the Hakurei priest’s engorged gohei. Like a ten-mon asobi whore… or Auntie Futo in her millennial wisdom.

Taichi backed his hips out, maddeningly slow, to align the tip of his hard, human cock with the entrance of the proffered youkai pussy. Kokoro’s labia kissed his bare glans like her mouth had kissed his. The provocative, pre-insertion moment strung out over several of its successors, straining viscous desperation out of Kokoro’s womanhood.

At too long a length and altogether longer last, Taichi’s own patience for mischief was outweighed by a less sophisticated desire. He looked the impatient tsukumogami in the expressionless eyes, glanced to her unidentified mask, and acknowledged:

“Thank you, Miss Kokoro, for having me.”

And then, without waiting the return courtesy, he pried her clenched vaginal walls with his cockhead, and pushed and plied and dominated, inch behind blessed inch, till his sturdy hips smacked aground on Kokoro’s trembling butt-cheeks.

She was coming. She’d already been coming before he’d bottomed her out; she’d begun no later than at half-depth, once the young man’s pervading shaft had started pressuring the spot his fingers had earlier set a-throb. It didn’t ease off even now: fighting against Kokoro’s wringing walls with implacable girth and intensifying the orgasm thereby.

Thrown breakneck into it, it was everything Kokoro could do not to flail. She covered her mouth and resented the young man silently for not plugging it himself; she dug her nails into the wood of the crate and resented herself for not doing it to Taichi’s burly arm instead. Aroused thoughts flitted like lazy moths in and out her ears and through the tangle of blinding-white floss the inside of her head had become. Some murmured this was no more a true speciality dance. That it was sex – plain sex for the sake of sex and to appease a lustful, human priest. To please him, first and foremost. To give him the satisfaction of having given her such a sensational orgasm.

A part of her revelled in the toadying idea. The tsukumogami heart gladdening to be of use, perhaps.

Kokoro’s hips jerked in her climactic throes, prompting the canny Hakurei boy to lean over and trap them beneath his own. This ground his stiff, fully-sheathed cock on previously unassailed areas of her pussy – and recommenced the climax all over.

She’d had altogether three or so, each lending smoothly into the next – with a shameful, squirting accompaniment to the ultimate – ahead her body had had its fill. Kokoro blinked away the dying stars of ecstasy… to see the night sky overcast by the Hakurei boy’s adoring face. His mouth pinned down hers; and Kokoro responded as a tsukumogami would have on impulse: requiting the kiss, riding out the afterglow on the young man’s loving tongue and lips. His firm cock had backed out never a fraction of an inch, a constant and relentless reminder of what she yet owed the wicked priest.

… The wicked priest who kissed and fingered like a Heian prince.

“… All, mm, done?” Taichi mumbled around Kokoro’s sluggish tongue. “My turn?”

Woozy from the buzz of delighted nerves, she eked out a consenting nod. Taichi waited no further mating dance; he unberthed his hips from Kokoro’s tush and hauled his dick out of her orgasm-wracked womanhood.

The belated fruits of his fingers’ labour dribbled down her crack and over her butthole as his fat glans spooned them up from her deluged depths. Kokoro’s pussy panged end to end as its folds lost their grip on the young man’s curved shaft… and then with an altogether different emotion once he’d sunk his cock back to the family jewels between her swollen pussy lips. His priestly cockhead kissed the entrance of her youkai baby-room in tandem with his mouth doing the same to the tingly slope of her neck. He gave her half a cock’s leeway – plus a buss on the collarbone – ahead thrusting in once more.

Kokoro’s post-orgasm body arched up as his penetrating girth struck fiery echoes of said orgasm on the slippery walls of her pussy. Her prim labia gobbled him up to the hairy, veiny root, unperturbed by being stretched to their obscenest limit nor the disputable morality of the situation.

Taichi pumped a breathless, grunted compliment down her ear (“You’re, hng… so damn adorable, Miss”), and morality became a last month’s poem. She browsed through her intangible assortment of masks for a stage-appropriate one; and, once none volunteered themselves for an immediate (and sticky) audience, she gave the praise back with her body: slinging her dancer’s legs over the young man’s shoulders for even easier and deeper insertions. He put the proposition through the wringer by giving her a dozen and a dozen and then a harsh dozen more on top. His cock throbbed under her womb to the rhythm of his heartbeat as he crushed their shuddering bodies together, calming from his furore.

Kokoro’s instincts had been in error. That first scenic journey down the span of his dick? That hadn’t been “sex for the sake of sex.” Not yet. This was. This was; and, no leitmotif was required beyond the boy’s groaned exclamations. Kokoro’s body supplied its own anyway – in little, helpless gasps of maidenish pleasure.

Taichi grabbed the crate by the, well, crateness and, thereby buttressed, took up again the shirabyoshi-worthy drum of his loins on Kokoro’s behind. Her pussy and stomach muscles squeezed – harder than they’d been, anyway – once an errant stroke had crammed his cock at the spot his fingertips had rubbed raw. Kokoro couldn’t not notice him noticing; it was made somewhat obvious by the fact that, out of the following five, three insertions had jammed his entering glans into her shirabyoshi’s secret friend.

… This knave. This cocky Hakurei boy; even now, during “his turn,” he was bent on showboating his prowess. Only, this time around, it was the sexual sort, and the primary bent was his cock’s.

Worst of everything was that Kokoro loved it. The woman inside her swooned at the young man’s brawn; the shirabyoshi inside her frisked to his tune; the youkai inside her squeed with joy at such savage suppression. Who wouldn’t feel validated?

What youkai wouldn’t want that meaty gohei walloping her weak spots? Kokoro held on for dear small life, sensing another small death advancing. She—

“Can youhhh tell me,” Taichi’s panted inquiry gusted her distraction away, “Miss, hnnh, Kokoro, what the mosss— the most perverse thing you’ve ever done is?”

Kokoro fixed the young man with as steady of a stare she might precluding the sex slowing down. “… N—No.”

The answer was surprise. And then – a sloppy, boyish grin. “Then, I can but hhhope, Miss Kokoro,” he huffed, “that it is occurrin’ as we ssspeak. ‘Cause, on that then note,” he added dutifully, “I’m going to come inside you a mo’.”

“That, mnn, fast?” mocked Kokoro.

Taichi hoisted one knee onto the crate. “Y—Yeah,” he didn’t try to hide. “You’re too cute. Your tits are cute. Your everything is cute. Your muscles down there’s tight as nobody’s blessed. Can you give blowjobs?” he suddenly wanted to know.

Kokoro broomed up her scattered pride. “I give, mm, the best!”

“Then, after this’n,” wheezed the young man, “I’ll escort you to Myouren-ji… and you’ll give me a few. All fine?”

“A fffew?”

Taichi shifted. “Would be a shame t’ stop at one if they’re so good,” he explained. “An’, I want to paint that cute face white, Miss Kokoro. Want it etched’n my mind. ‘S a male thing, see,” he licensed, as though repeating what he’d heard elsewhere.

“What, mmn, are you doooing?”

Taichi braced… and then, in a heave and a hop, chased after Kokoro onto the crate. A manoeuvre which saw her legs spread open beneath him, and her peaking pussy – stuffed to full of his similarly compromised cock. The threat of coming inside wasn’t delivered on yet, no, but the throbbing and quivering under Kokoro’s bellybutton was as of a loaded crossbow’s. Had she been dancing atop, the (small) murder stroke would have been short and unmerciful. And then a different kind of Spell Card he would’ve been shooting.

… She too, probably, to be fair.

“A scholar woman told me ‘s called a matin’ press,” said Taichi, shoulders wobbling as he kneed his way into position. He leant over, laying the whole preponderance – another stagewright favourite – of his lower body atop Kokoro’s upturned hips. “Means I absolutely, ir-revo-cabily wwwant to knock you up, Miss Kokoro.”

“We aren’t even the sssame species, you dunce!” noted Kokoro, disregarding the bucolic language.

Taichi’s tongue flicked over his lips. “Yeah. Turns me on something moony. You turn me on. I’ve been to every one of your plays; did you know? I’ve dreamt about your legs. Think I’ve dreamt of this, too…”

Kokoro didn’t blush. Not because it wasn’t a thing Kokoro could do; she blushed as readily as swapping to the adequate mask. She didn’t blush now since she’d been Hyottoko-pink already by the second admission.

“… Then hie knock me up,” she declaimed, drawing on her time with Auntie Futo, “shalt thou dare, fiend!”

Taichi’s replying grin would’ve been infectious if she had been human. And had a cause to let him know he’d won their bout. He levered his hips up nevertheless, extracting his cock to two terrific thirds of its length… then brought them back down, sharply, on Kokoro’s with an unambiguous plap!

And the rest was sex.

To further persist in “a dance” would’ve been deceitful. There was no theme to it else than “salacious;” there was no beat but for the erratic plap-plap-plap of their loins colliding; there was no song except their bated breaths escaping in strained grunts and gasps. Kokoro gave up the pretence of artistry altogether and stared up into the young man’s eyes, seductively, or as seductively as Kokoro’s embodied pair got, and clenched her teeth.

The manly preponderance was one part; another was the terrifying and arousing sensation of being trapped; uppermost of everything, however, was the Hakurei priest’s intuitive mastery of copulation. No longer was he overtly trying; and yet, his young cock stimulated her youkai pussy’s frailties without fail. Kokoro’s body was over the Moon… if the Moon was an innocent crate stowed away down some dank, back alley in town.

And she was scaling nearer and nearer another climax with each up-and-down, entrance-to-cervix mating press. Taichi’s cock trailed her juices like a translucent shawl. His full thrusts jostled the breath from her chest. Her vaginal folds made love to his passing glans and fawned for release.

And then the Hakurei boy lost. He broke mid-insertion, groaning awfully as frenzied momentum saw his coming cock sawed back and forth several times along Kokoro’s pussy walls – ahead, with a heave, he shoved its spewing head up to the entrance of the mask tsukumogami’s womb. Hakurei seed gushed in teen-virile spurts into where, nineteen-odd years prior, the family’s matron had slugged a gut-wrenching, youkai-killing ying-yang orb. Kokoro thought she preferred Taichi’s pair.

Kokoro didn’t think overmuch beyond, because she was distrait with an orgasm of her own. The precipitate hilting of his manhood inside her would’ve ably done it; Kokoro, however, was a youkai with singular needs… and wants.

The Hakurei boy’s emotions poured forth together with his virility. The ecstasy of release, the vanity of “conquering” a woman, the unsubtle contumacy of doing “it” with a youkai. They flowed over from his momentarily unguarded mind in such magnitudes that the term “erupted” might have been more apt. There seethed the barely satisfied, male lust; and there, the nervous, tummy-thrumming appreciation of Kokoro’s beauty, and then the faintest tinge of something that the boy was afraid might be unrequited…

Kokoro mightn’t identify what emotion it was she was presumedly incapable of before the bodily half of her ecstasy swelled and whelmed over (that thing youkai outwardly didn’t like) the rest. She scissored her legs around the young man’s waist, all but tying her ankles in a knot, and looped her arms behind his neck, pulling his handsome face down into her scant (but not entirely un-padded) breastage. The wonderful, loath bliss of being used by him vied for space in the fluff with that of using the wicked priest for her own, squirting youkai ends.

And then was the fact he bred like a Heian prince, too…

They came in each other’s arms for what felt as forever: a bundle of jittery limbs, heads and other extremities and lips clumsily unable to find one another in the shamble. At the world’s end (so it seemed), Taichi disembogued himself from the clutching tsukumogami’s grasp and drew his undiminished gohei out of her deluged sheath. Kokoro’s belly twitched as he quit her, the aftershocks of orgasm sparking whenever his glans caught on her vaginal creases. What would have been a guaranteed impregnation had she but been human yielded his superb manhood with a moist pop! – and raring wetly for an encore.

Hata Kokoro, the Noh ace (and to-be shirabyoshi queen), who’d never stop the music when faced with such an indefatigable supporter, reached between their tired bodies to invite him backstage for one more private, not dance, but a performance—

Which was when, in the keen conventions of drama, her crimes did as crimes were wont to and caught up with her.
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Torches flared in the alley’s mouth. Shadows guttered. Voices drivelled.

“Came from in ‘ere, you’re sure?”

“—look, I got nuttin’ for gods, heh heh, but ‘em sort is shifty, you’vegodda—”

And then, one with the most trouble letting go of an idea: “Get ‘er, fellows!”

Shoes and cudgels and men with a vendetta flooded into the privacy of the gloom.

Kokoro’s youkai heart froze.

And there it was again. That exquisitely paralysing emotion. Fear. She—

The Hakurei priest moved like the word “jackal” sounds like it should move. Something happened. Something stole the light.

There was the impression of blackness and lidless eyes and then—

—the night sky unfolded.

Far below was the human town. Far below was the alley, flickers of torchlight flowing down its ingress like a gutter. Far below was the ember glow of the burning stage.

Far above was Kokoro. Naked and shivering like a leaf, yet safe in the solid arms of a young Hakurei priest. The expression “princess carry” offered itself in view of hitherto similes, but no princess, Kokoro suspected, would’ve starred in the sort of play she had.

Taichi craned to survey the scene they’d fled by the skin of their teeth.

“Close call,” he opined, serious as he pleased. Which wasn’t an overabundance.

Kokoro’s head worked overtime to remind her of certain realities. “… They’re going to find my clothes!”

Taichi gave a sagacious nod. “Yep. That’s to the good, innit? They’re going to find your togs, but no you inside. Going to assume you’ve been exterminated, like as like, and that I’ve limped off home to lick my wounds. I’ll corborra— corrobo— confirm the story later, of course. And there’s your youkai-ing, Miss Kokoro. Stroke of luck, could be, actually.”

He’d said it so blandly, as though he hadn’t blasphemed with every word, that almost Kokoro nodded along. A tic of nervousness did filter through, up from his Kokoro-carrying arms and marshalling for his face, because then Taichi said, among an unseemly expansion of country blush:

“Um. Miss Kokoro? Would you… maybe go on a date with me?”

The tic must’ve been mistaken. Had to be. “Tonight didn’t count?” she asked, weakly.

“No, no, no.” Taichi’s head shook with alacrity. “This is this; that is that. Tonight, the priest vanquishes the youkai till the youkai is satisfied – and you aren’t satisfied yet, are you, Miss Kokoro? – but… for me, I’d like a date. A normal one. You and me, out together, boy and girl, kind of stuff. You do still need to sit it out till the rumour’s done the rounds; but, in a fortnight, there’s a festival up on Moriya, and there’s to be stalls and a dance, and you’re a great dancer, Miss Kokoro, and I’ve never been on a festival date, not as such, and you’re a great dancer, and…”

He ran out of breath – and of excuses.

Kokoro stared. Mostly, she stared somewhat unwisely at her own feet, which was no errand for the faint-hearted, as hers were suspended over several fathoms of very thin and very fall-through-able air.

A date. How… quaint. Kokoro was basically a romantic, inasmuch as she appreciated romance from behind the safe separation of metaphor, but here was an invitation for a critical reading. Taichi’s bare emotions tickled her senses; and she realised, out of all the excitement, that perhaps the Hakurei boy’s mask, too, had been loosened by her dark Noh. That, simply, he hadn’t let it on because… he, too, wore many. Some graver and faster-stuck on than Kokoro’s.

… There was a dance card, even so; you didn’t honour art by hiding it away in dusty bedrooms and attics. A dancer didn’t choose her audience; a tsukumogami one couldn’t afford to. Yet… the list would’ve been disrupted anyway by her forced interlude. Wouldn’t it? There therefore ought to be no harm, surely, in bumping him up a few… many spots, no? Would there?

This strapping young priest who fought like a beast and… kissed like one, too? And seemed to really, really, really want her to say “Yes?”

An emotion was her answer.

Litten by the stars and distant fire, Kokoro put on a mask.
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Well done, well done, and merci. I enjoyed it--actually, there are some thing about this that make me wonder if they were points of fanservice aimed specifically my way. Funny, if so. I think you "got" Kokoro well and approached her character in a nifty way, and I also quite like how Taichi's character arc as it were has gone so far. Setting details were a nice touch too. With how this ended, I wonder whether you'll do anything more with Kokoro again.

So, did you like writing it? I know that when you were starting up the process it was like pulling teeth.
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>Funny, if so.
This was supposed to be a (somewhat) personalised prize; a gentle touch of pandering was apposite!
>I think you "got" Kokoro well and approached her character in a nifty way
Writing "youkai-like youkai" is definitely a kick, definitely in a body part... even if Kokoro never struck me as a particularly youkai-like youkai, by the series' purview. Nevertheless, I think it lent the piece that extra inch of novelty to elevate it above "just" a porn short. I think.
>how Taichi's character arc as it were has gone so far
As mother, as son with the sacred prostitution, eh? Just the clientele's shifted...
>So, did you like writing it? I know that when you were starting up the process it was like pulling teeth.
The start was an oof, for causes we discussed. No template for Kokoro in my head = mental roadblocks upon the slightest essay at constructing a scene/sequence of events. No sequence of events = no idea what the character ought to act like to facilitate it. Vicious circle. Well, but I went and did my homework, (re)READ THE FUCKING PRINT WORKS, read up on Japan's strange historical crossover of performative arts with prostitution, and something did emerge.

Thereon out, it was pretty fun. More vanilla-esque than most filthy smut I've done in recent memory, which helped things along, too. Truth be told, I had no idea Taichi had a crush on Kokoro until he, well, did. Always a funny feeling.

It was interesting as well to experience how my fiddling with illustrations fed back into the writing process. Which it did, to a surprising degree. There is potential there, perhaps.
>I wonder whether you'll do anything more with Kokoro again.
Not the pumpkin bun? Not even? Really. REALLY!
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Pumpkin bun if you want, I'm just remarking on the promise at the end here!

For me, I specifically just wanted to give you something challenging. I'm happy you wound up enjoying it.
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