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“Let’s do something special to celebrate. Let’s go to Amaden.”
“Aww, but it’s so far away,” Yae mock-pouted.
“But you know what that means, right? We can get a nice, private room to ourselves. No interruptions from family members, no sudden messages, nobody from the Human Village coming to drop by…”
I pressed my lips to Yae, less of a kiss than a slow, gentle moment of connection.
“On one condition,” she whispered to me.
I let out a soft laugh through my nose. I already had a hunch what her condition would be.
I thought I had seen Amaden before, but that was late-morning Amaden, during business hours. This time I was getting my first glimpse of evening Amaden, when the bean-counters began to flood out of their offices in search of food and vices, and it made my previous vision of Amaden look downright reserved compared to the glowing signs and hawking voices I saw now.
The queue at Furu-Furu Tapas Bar and Tail Cafe was still thankfully short. As we approached the front desk, Yae pulled out a card from underneath her robe. She looked up at me with a smile I could only describe as devilish. It was Ayu’s business card, complete with a note from her saying “see you again~ <3” written in the corner.
“I never even knew she gave me a card,” I stammered.
“It fell out of your bag when you got home. You were already so nervous about telling me, so I just didn’t mention it. Ahem, is Ayu here tonight?” Yae turned to the waitress at the front desk.
The waitress pursed her lips and glanced to the side before putting on her business smile. She must’ve had different expectations when an out-of-town woman brought her man into a tail cafe and started naming names. Seeing neither of us looking particularly angry, she relaxed.
“As a matter of fact, she is! And I’m sure you’d both like a tail of your own to pet, isn’t that right?” the waitress said to me.
“Surprise him,” Yae said, still grinning.
“Erm, not too much of a surprise,” I added.
The waitress led us past the line of booths up front. Many of them were already occupied, including one where a wiry mouse-girl sat with a heavy scowl.
“Can you believe it? Honestly, as if babysitting at the temple wasn’t enough. You’d think being a top flunkey of Bishamonten himself would mean something would go right for me. Honestly!” The mouse-girl harrumphed loud enough to be heard several booths down as she petted the tail of a wolf tengu desperately trying not to look bored.
The waitress led us into a small maze of larger booths, all carefully positioned like miniature rooms to provide maximum discretion in as little space as possible. The booth was circular, letting Yae and I sit next to each other while leaving room for our soon-to-be guests.
We ordered some beer to start. We had barely any time to wait in excitement before Ayu came out to meet us with pitchers of beer and water along with empty mugs. Another wolf tengu girl followed just behind her, a striking beauty with silvery white hair. She was a smidgen taller than her partner, and when she leaned over to see us, I couldn’t help but notice she was more filled-out in the hips and buttocks region too. Ayu made a beeline towards me, but Yae caught her attention.
“Nope, you’ll be with me tonight, cutie,” Yae said.
Ayu’s smile went blank for a moment before she composed herself and sat down next to Yae. The other girl took her seat next to me.
“I’m Momo. I hope I’m a pleasant enough surprise for you,” she giggled, showing me a winning smile as if I’d already enchanted her.
“You’re a very pleasant surprise,” I said.
“That smile of yours… You’ve got something in mind, don’t you?” Momo said with a smirk that said she had something in mind too.
I looked back and forth between Yae and Momo. Yae blushed and took a sip of beer, starting to look a little nervous now that she was so close to the forbidden fruit.
“We were both hoping to get the chance to… give your tails a pet.”
Momo wiggled in her seat as she let out another soft laugh. “Is that right?”
“Goro’s got a very gentle touch,” Ayu chimed in.
“Ahem, you’re with me tonight, aren’t you?” Yae cut in, though her confidence was starting to falter.
“Oh goodness, sorry. I didn’t mean to ignore you.” Ayu, now comfortably back into her tengu hostess persona, batted her eyelashes at Yae and swished her tail in wide sweeps, making it impossible for her to ignore the sight.
“Mm, don’t you go ignoring me either,” Momo purred.
This time, it seemed, there wouldn’t be any small talk before getting to the action. She took my wrist in her hand with a loose, gentle grip as she turned towards me. She led my hand around her, behind her waist and down to the base of her tail. Her tail was thicker than Ayu’s, with long hairs that weaved through my fingers. Petting her tail felt like putting on a warm coat on a cold winter’s day.
Yae blinked, then picked up her mug of beer and drained it. She reached out slowly for the tail, wiggling her fingers to prepare them for the sensation. Ayu tilted her hips, bringing the target closer to Yae’s hand.
“Oh my, that’s soft,” Yae gasped as she made first contact.
“Nnh, you’re touching it so delicately,” Ayu murmured.
“Do you like it delicate?” Yae said. Her face was still flushed, but it was a different tint now, less embarrassment and more the alcohol hitting her.
“It, um, it tickles a little,” Ayu said with a demure smile.
“Hmhm, you aren’t going to let her outperform you, right?” Momo giggled.
“Outperform?” I said.
Momo pulled herself into my lap, sitting sideways and leaning against me. “You’re going to make me feel as good as she does, aren’t you?”
On cue, Ayu began shivering and letting out soft oohs as Yae stroked her tail with more confidence. Yae’s eyes went wide as the devilish grin returned to her face.
“Feel free to come back! Just, there’ll be a three-drink limit next time,” Ayu consoled us as we were gently but firmly escorted past the rear exit of Furu-Furu’s. The door closed shut behind us with a heavy click of the lock.
“Wow,” Yae breathed, her hair still mussed and sweat still beading on her face.
“Yeah,” I breathed, taking a few deep breaths.
“That was entirely worth it,” Yae said after a moment of pensive silence.
“Yeah. But let’s never tell anyone else about that, right?”
“Agreed,” Yae nodded, running her fingers through her hair to set it straight.
We took to looking for a place to spend the night as it started to get dark, exploring Amaden as if we were wandering along in the wind. I was still tipsy, but more than that, I was deeply drunk on the wonderful freedom. No matter where I went before, whether it was the Human Village or Magarimachi or any of the dozens of other villages, one day’s adventure became the next day’s gossip. I could never know if or when I was about to bump into someone who knew me and let all of Gensokyo know what they saw me doing. Here, though, we were faceless. I smiled down at Yae, and I could see the same thoughts written on her face.
We came to a street packed with ‘love hotels.’ The phrase was new to me, but there wasn’t much room to misinterpret a name like that. We passed by the gaudy ones with neon lights, and passed especially quickly by the grungy, cheap-looking ones, until we found a smaller one with a stylized antique look to it and a wooden placard that said “Pillow Book” hanging from the front of the roof.
“Ooh, ‘courtesan’ rooms?” Yae said, reading off the sign next to the receptionist.
“Those are our special rooms, behind a secret tunnel, just like the secret trysts of emperors from centuries ago,” the receptionist said.
Yae nearly melted at the thought. “Is one available?”
The receptionist handed us a key once we fumbled our way through paying up-front. “The tunnel has a two-meter clearance. Pillow Book is not responsible for any injury, mental distress, or loss of property suffered during passage through the tunnels. Second one on the right, and have a good night, you two,” he finished with a wink.
Elsewhere in Amaden, three figures met in secret, their bodies only visible as shadows in the dark room.
“So he’s already here?” said one figure. It had a man’s voice, clipped and precise but with just a hint of aristocratic bearing.
“Yes, he came here with his wife late this afternoon. We have them right where we want them,” said the second figure, a woman’s breathy voice that seemed to ooze control and influence.
“Excellent. It seems Goro was kind enough to do our work for us.”
“Woof, woof,” said the third figure. It was a dog.
“I’m well aware that it’s dark, but candles are expensive. Remember the diagram?”
The second figure sighed before speaking in unison with the first figure.
“’Free’ in Amaden means everyone is paying for it.”
To Be Continued