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[X] Jump on it. Who knows the next time you’ll get a chance to get a handful of soft, fluffy wolf tengu tail?
I picked up the card. It felt as dense and heavy as a piece of buried treasure. I set it back down, greeted by Ayu’s golden eyes, and smiled.
“I believe I will, thank you,” I said.
Ayu hopped from her seat over to my side of the booth, facing me. I raised my hand and paused when I saw the waitress looking at me.
“Just a few quick things to note, sir. You can pet her tail to your heart’s delight, but no hand-to-skin or hand-to-clothes contact. Tengu tails are very sensitive, so take care when touching. Other than that, have fun, sir.”
The waitress gave me a short, quick bow and then left us to our business.
“I’m a new girl here, so… please be gentle,” Ayu purred through the bashful smile on her blushing face.
I let out an incoherent wheeze as I reached out behind her and gingerly touched my fingers against the fur of her tail. Ye gods, it was soft. I stroked my hand along it from the base of her tail all the way to the tip. She let out a gentle hum and gave her tail a wag as I pulled my hand back.
“Do you like it, sir?”
“I love it.”
Ayu giggled. I put my hand against the base of her tail again, touching deeper this time. I felt the soft strands of fur cascade over my fingers like silk threads, and the way her tail wiggled happily in my gentle grasp. The fur sprang back to its full, fluffy shape as soon as my hand passed over it, as if preparing itself for another petting.
I felt the stress drain from me as I reached back up for a third pet. I sank against the booth, and Ayu closed her eyes and rested her head against my shoulder. Her tail made little swishing sounds as the hair brushed over the smooth surface of the booth. Parts of my body that I didn’t even know had been tense started to relax, and I could swear I felt my blood pressure dropping. I got a feeling for the shape and curve of her tail, the movements of my hand becoming natural as I drew long, sloping lines against it.
“I’m glad you like it, sir,” Ayu said softly.
“Mhm,” I murmured.
“Your hands are so gentle.”
“Thanks.” I smiled.
I blinked, suddenly feeling as if I had just taken the most refreshing nap of my life.
“How long do these sessions usually last?” I asked, keeping my voice low. If she told me I had just spend three hours petting her tail in quiet bliss, I would’ve believed her.
“Mm… you don’t want to ruin the atmosphere worrying about something like that, do you?” She said, a coy smile on her face as she sat up to take a sip of her latte.
“I’d hate to come up short when the tab came,” I said, starting to regain my senses as I found the most discreet way to ask if I was about to get scammed.
“Don’t worry, I’ll let you know… Goro.”
I let out another happy sigh as she said my name. Still petting her with one hand, I reached out to take a sip of my drink. I never would’ve considered having milk and honey with green tea, but I had to admit it was tasty, and it matched with the wonderful feeling of petting a soft, long, sandy-blonde tail. My hand was moving on its own now, keeping time with a steady, rhythmic stroking as if it had finally found its true calling.
Ayu and I took another sip, and I had a dim recollection of wanting to talk about something other than how good her tail felt. I cleared the honey and milk from my throat and looked down at her.
“Local tea, huh,” I said.
“Mhm. It’s good, isn’t it?”
“I didn’t know that was a big thing around here.”
“Sheesh, I guess I’m not the only newbie here,” she teased.
She reached a finger out and booped me on the nose. I shivered in my seat.
“Maybe you could tell me a thing or two, keep me from being too much of a tourist,” I said. I gave her an extra-long pet, my fingers sinking deep enough to feel the firm skin of her tail underneath.
Aya giggled, sat up, and took another sip of tea. The atmosphere felt more casual now, though that didn’t stop my hand from being permanently latched along her tail.
“It’s more of a human thing, they’re the ones who do most of the growing. Some humans get too into it, acting like it’s thanks to them that Amaden exists, and the rest of us should all… no offense, hee.”
“None taken. That’s the sort of stuff I want to know before I make a fool of myself here.”
Aya wiggled in her seat, her thighs nudging close enough to me to get me feeling a little tense again.
“Couldn’t you give me a hand with that, Ayu? Tell me how I can keep myself out of accidentally getting arrested?”
Ayu let out her soft, tinkling giggle again. “Really, I’m not the person to ask that sort of thing. I’ve never dealt much with the TA.”
“Oh, what am I going to do with you. But I suppose if you mess up and get arrested, you couldn’t see me again. So, okay.”
I blinked. The fact that I could be a repeat customer hadn’t occurred to me until she said it. She gave me a few friendly pieces of advice, punctuating each one with a soft sigh whenever my hand reached the tip of her tail. Expect lots of bureaucratic nonsense from the TA, don’t bring up the subject of “valley kappa,” and don’t refer to tengu by anything other than "tengu.” Calling one a “wolf” was asking for trouble, and calling one a “dog” was asking for bodily harm.
“Thanks. It’s good to know what I’m getting myself into here,” I said.
“My pleasure. You’re a sweet guy, so I’m sure you’ll do just fine.”
Ayu reached for her cup, then saw that it was empty. She glanced to me, then back at her cup, then slowly turned her head back to me.
“You know, Goro… well… I’m not supposed to do this, but,” her face turned red, “I like you, and… before you leave, if you wanted to go a little further…”
I breathed in deep through my nose. My eyes opened wide as Ayu turned towards me, sitting so close, her expression almost pleading. I felt my heart start to pound. I looked into her eyes, and then my gaze drifted. They found the big, round, perky pair staring right back at me. This is wrong, I thought, but I knew I couldn’t resist. They almost begged me to touch them, rub them, feel them up. I took a deep breath and reached my trembling hands towards her.
“F-forgive me,” I murmured, and touched the backside of her ears.
“Aahn,” Ayu moaned.
Her ears wiggled and twitched as I gave them a gentle scratch, and then her whole body started to wiggle as I scratched them again. My fingers ran along the short, thin hairs covering her ears, yielding to the slightest touch, each movement of my fingers making them shiver.
“O-okay, we need to stop,” Ayu groaned, and touched my arm. I pulled my hands back, both of us panting as she took a moment to straighten her mussed hair.
“Whew. Sorry, the manager would get mad if she saw me doing that. It was great meeting you, Goro.”
I nodded. “Thank you so much, Ayu.”
“I’ll take you up front. I’m here Thursdays through Sundays if you ever want to come back.”
“Thank you,” I said again, not knowing what else to say.
I had a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach, the feeling when you’ve just done something absolutely wonderful that you never want to speak of again. I made my way to the front, my mental math surprisingly turning out to be the actual total, gave a good-bye wave to Ayu, and emerged out onto the streets of Amaden.
I took a moment to compose myself, straighten my clothes, and shift the front of my robe to hide the recent “development” down there. With that done, I checked that all my paperwork was still with me. The way Ayu had talked about the Trade Association made it sound like they spoke a different language, only understood among themselves, and I wanted any advantage I could have on my side. Holding the “Mercantile Negotiation Permit” in my hands, I read over the fine print for the first time.
This permit entitles the bearer to conduct blah blah with all appropriate blah, including but not limited to TA-licensed distributers and wholesalers, agents of TA-approved purchasing and selling operations or programs, and/or blah blah, including raw, intermediate, or finished blah blah blah from blah such as mining, fishing, logging, and agricultural operations, and/or blah blah such as workshops, manufactories, warehouses, refineries, putting-out systems, finishing shops, alchemical laboratories not located on non-earth celestial bodies e.g. the moon.
I may not have understood all of it, but if I squinted and held it at just the right angle, it looked like I could explain how it matched up with what I was doing. The TA District Two building was within sight from here, so I made a straight shot towards it, trying to merge with the growing flow of people and avoid any glances at the bright signs and loud offers coming from the businesses around me. I broke away from the foot traffic like a fish jumping upstream and went through the wide double-door entrance.
It was cramped and spartan inside, the polar opposite of Furu-Furu, and the air was somehow stuffy despite the doors being wide open. Three crow tengu receptionists sat at the front desk, each of them currently occupied with what looked like other TA members. I took a look at the signposts, forms, and pamphlets littered around the tiny waiting stools in search of a quick hint that would guide me through the first step.
[ ] Chat up the fellow human waiting his turn at one of the seats.
[ ] Take a look at the basket of forms for one that might be relevant.
[ ] Scan the names of the pamphlets for something possibly helpful.
[ ] Read over those looming timetable-looking things hanging on the wall.
Time remaining: ::
Timer ended at: 2018/11/06(Tue)04:59