The sound of a heavy wooden door slamming open told me my woman had arrived home in a bad mood. It wasn't a rare ocurrence. She didn't announce her arrival, which told me roughly where in the scale of annoyed she'd be. She wasn't shouting, nor did she immediately start complaining as soon as she was in the door, so it might have been much worse, but still, not good news. I heard the stomping of her feet getting louder, and quickly put away my ink pot and notebook. No sense tempting fate when Hatate was in a stomping mood. I moved to the bed and sat facing the doorway, knowing it was time to perform my most important task.
Sure enough, she marched through, ripping the ribbons from her hair in a huff. I felt a pang of... Well. Calling it love made me feel stupid, but there was no other word for it. Perhaps objectively she was rather plain, and more boney than might be healthy. I’d been trying my best to fatten her up, but although she consistently inhaled what I cooked her, it did next to no good. I could almost fully encircle one of her thighs with my hands, and I am not a large man. An ideal tengu beauty was not dissimilar to one of ours. Short, slim, graceful, dutiful and all that. ‘Slim’ she was, but aside from that, she couldn’t be farther from the perfect image. She was tall and ungainly, except when on the wing. She wasn’t graceful on the tengu geta, the mark of a true tengu lady (or so I’d been told), and didn’t seem inclined to practice. Her hair, far from a perfect waterfall of black as every girl wanted, was a plain light brown, messily cascading down her back. Not black, but not a colour that stood out, either.
And as far as her temperament went, it was... more polite not to say.
I knew all that — knew her on an intellectual level, but it changed absolutely nothing as I stared at her. She was mine. And she was lovely, even with a glare fixed to her face. Besides, she wasn’t without her own allure. In one way, she held the envy of many tengu— But no, that was for later. For now, I just watched her carefully.
Tossing her socks along the way, she went behind the folding screen to change into her nightclothes without glancing at me.
“Good evening,” I tried.
She briefly peeked out from behind the screen, scowling at me. “Today was terrible!”
Ah, and here it was. I smiled as she continued. “He barely even heard me out! And he had this smug smile on his face all the while I spoke. Ugh.” She slapped down her skirt over the folding screen to punctuate. “I was kept waiting for fourty five minutes. There’s no way he was doing anything important. He was just doing it because he could. Damn bureaucrats. Told me he’d ‘take a careful look over my proposals’.”
She stomped out wearing a simple long camisole, still mumbling complaints, came to a stop in front of me and glared down. Her stare both expected something and somehow blamed me for whatever she’d been complaining about. I simply looked up at her for a few seconds. It wouldn’t do to seem too eager. Hatate took initiative.
“I was leered at too, you know.”
I blurted out an unbelieving “Really?”, and she kicked me in the shin, hard.
“The receptionist. He kept staring, while he thought I wasn’t looking.”
“Sure you didn’t just have something stuck to your face?”
She kicked again, harder.
“It was at... chest-level.” She looked down. I followed her glance and stared at her breasts with a serious expression, as if I were considering a puzzle, and put a hand on my chin. They were barely visible, even under thin nightwear. She kicked a third time, and this time it actually hurt.
“Stupid,” she said, but I did get a brief smile. A success. But then she sighed, tiredness and worry bleeding through the annoyance. She was about to start complaining again, more seriously, but I forestalled her.
“I have something for you today.”
“Mm. It’d better be good.”
I retrieved a bottle of oil while she laid back on the bed, sighing. It hadn’t been cheap, and I don’t know if this was right, but it was worth the try. She eyed the bottle in my hands as I made my way back to her. “Massage again?”
“Yes, but this is a slightly different. Turn over, please, and bring out your wings.”
“My wings?” She eyed me suspiciously.
“This is feather oil. It’s scented and supposed to make them lustrous and healthy, or so I was told by the salesman”
She looked strangely at me over her shoulder, but acquiesced, lying back and undoing the straps over her shoulders without embarrassment. In a flash of magic too quick to see they came out, taking up nearly the entire span of the wide room. I nearly gasped, despite being more or less accustomed to the sight. I crawled over, kneeling reverently next to her.
There was an astounding amount of variety when it came to tengu wings. They varied in color, size, uniformity, shape of outline, and more. Hatate had won the lottery with hers. They were a shiny, flawless black, and wider by half than the average. Our home wasn’t small, but even so, if she fully extended them out, the tips would touch the walls. Even the exact shape of the wing tip in flight was apparently the subject of appreciation with tengu, if what she’d told were true. My own obsession with Hatate’s wings weren’t like that — I suspected I’d feel the same strange obsession over them even if they were considered unattractive. I lightly touched the backs of the upper feathers, away from the flight feathers. I’d expressed some admiration for her wings before, but I’d been holding back, more or less. Until I saw someone selling this oil. I couldn’t turn it down.
“You’re weird about this.”
“Even our guys aren’t this... excited... about wings, usually. Save a handful of deviants.”
“I only get like this over your wings.” It was a cheesy line, but true and delivered instantly with utmost confidence, so she squirmed slightly in place. I watched her long ears for the telltale redness, but it wasn’t there yet. I poured the oil liberally on my hands, feeling how strangely thick it was. The kappa salesman had told me it was similar to normal massage oil with a wink — a kept human paramour doesn’t stay secret long, around here — and told me how to use it. I let some pool on my hands and went to work, from the small feathers at the base near the shoulderblades upwards. Despite all the magic involved in flying and putting the wings away, the real thing felt strangely real and fleshy.
Slowly, slowly, I worked the oil around each feather. I enjoyed the feeling of her relaxing under my ministrations, but the reaction was a little milder than I was expecting. She’s responsive enough, I know that.
She guessed my thoughts. “I don’t know what you’ve heard, but the wings aren’t that sensitive.”
“Oh.” How disappointing. There was a pause as I slowed.
“That spot isn’t, anyway.” She delivered that line looking me in the eyes, wearing a strange look I couldn’t interpret, but the words were clear enough. I moved on to the flight feathers, pressing down on one of the smaller ones (though it was still near the size of my forearm), near her back. I pressed down on it, spreading the oil, and she twitched, flexing the wing in response. It looked like a reflexive action. I paused.
She said nothing, but tensed slightly. I assumed it was a good kind of tensing, and continued. To my disappointment she did not get vocal, to my, but there was much flexing, twitching, and grabbing of sheets as I worked my way out from her back, and I thought I saw her move as if she were breathing more wildly. Her reactions were most intense on the outermost flight feathers, and when I wasn’t grooming those, she simply laid there relaxing, breathing lightly — I felt silly for expecting her to... what, suddenly jump my bones from how good her wings felt? When I let go of that, though, I found I enjoyed tending to her in this way, although it took a surprising amount of time to do, going lovingly over each feather as I did. They felt smooth and pleasant to run my fingers along, and I found no broken barbs or dirt, despite having never seen Hatate maintain them. Or any Tengu, for that matter. There was no conversation as I went about it, but she seemed pleased enough, so I left it alone and concentrated on my work.
I felt regretful as I neared completion of my task. I could’ve kept going, and I didn’t get as fun a reaction from Hatate as I’d wanted. I reached the base of the wing again, and looked at my handiwork. They were certainly shiny now, and the air had a pleasant, minty scent to it. She looked over her shoulder, and I was happy to note she was quite red.
“Well?” I asked.
“They feel heavy. Heavier.”
“Did you enjoy it?”
She hesitated. “I did. But you missed a spot.”
“What?” I was sure I’d been thorough.
She turned suddenly, deftly avoiding knocking me over backwards, although the woosh of air as the wing swung above me nearly did it. And she looked at me.
Disheveled, flushed and lovely. The sun was low outside, and the light that shone in through the window brought the slow rise and fall of her chest into relief. One hand clutched the hem of her shirt, pulling it lower, while the other held my hand. The wavy curls spread out behind her, jet black wings framing her. She squeezed my hand once.
Belatedly, I realized she’d only been grabbing at the sheets with one hand. The other one had been nowhere to be seen.
I briefly considered the possible meaning of that.
She looked at me accusingly.
“The front, stupid.”
“Huh?” I replied stupidly, unable to tear my eyes from hers.
“A feather has two sides. You only did the back.” She spread her wings, and I stared. Of course. How’d I forget about that?
She flexed a wing, and I got cuffed on the back. I fell forward onto her — her nails dug into my back.
The parts I missed were left for another day, after that.
i got sick of writing it so i stopped