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“Wait wait wait.” Chen stammers. “What?”
“You—You mean, that Hakurei? The shrine maiden, Hakurei?” Noboru says.
“No, the village idiot Hakurei.” You’re met with a blank stare from the human, so you sigh. “Yes, the shrine maiden. And don’t give me those doe eyes. If anything, you should be relieved because that means I ain’t a wolf tengu. Less chance of me ripping you to shreds.”
Tewi covers her mouth in mock-surprise. “Weren’t you already going to do that?”
“That’s my backup plan. If he fails, that is.”
“I won’t,” Noboru replies gruffly. “And, um, my apologies for being so rude. I didn’t know you were the Hakurei god.”
“As long as you do now,” you say. Hey, maybe being that lanky shrine maiden’s god wasn’t such a bad gig after all. Despite appearances, it seems like she’s got a reputation—and a good one, too. Who would’ve thought? “So when are you going to gather up the humans and tell them about your dirty cat secret?”
“This cat is not dirty,” Daiki says.
“To humans, you are.” You turn your gaze to Noboru. “Well? I’m thinking after lunchtime, but any time before the sun falls is fine. You know those villagers get anxious when all the nocturnal youkai come out to play.”
“You want to do this… tonight?”
“Oh, are we playing ‘Ask the God Stupid Questions’ again? I love this game—next, you’ll ask me if water is wet. No wait, we can get even stupider!”
Noboru, closing his eyes momentarily, blows steady air through his nose. “I’m asking seriously. There’s no way I could get all the village elders to agree to this in one day.”
“What’s the hold up? Just tell them to come, and they will.”
“Humans have schedules,” he says, matter-of-fact. “The elders won’t come just because I told them to.”
“Then tell them to come, or else.”
“Or else what?”
“Must I spell everything out to you? Here, just do as I do.” You narrow your gaze at the boy and give him your best snarl. “Just say: Or else means or else.”
“You want me to threaten the elders?” He sputters out. “You’re crazy!”
“What I’m saying, human, is that you don’t have time to wait for the stars to align. Really. My patience is running thin. You want something to happen? Then you make it happen—none of this ‘waiting around’ business.” You take a step forward and crouch down—just barely enough so that your gaze is level with Noboru’s. “Frankly, I’m rather tired of you running around in circles, vomiting out malarkey, and being so pathetic. Where’s all your confidence from two minutes ago? Threw it into the void? By the time you get ready to do whatever you’re doing, all the other humans are going to die of old age. Am I clear, or do you need me to reiterate? This is going to be the second time, mind you.”
“No,” he grumbles, resignation seeping into his face. After a wild scratch at the roots of his hair, he concedes. “I’ll go talk to the elders.”
Daiki steps to Noboru’s side. “This cat will come with.”
“You can’t,” the boy snaps. For a moment, he’s lost in his own bitterness, demonstrating it with an awful frown. But as his frustration dissipates, he returns to his usual sullen countenance. Softly, he corrects himself. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to lash out at you, Daiki. But you really shouldn’t come—I don’t think I can persuade the elders with any youkai around. Don’t worry though. I’ll come back when I’m done.”
“...Okay,” replies Daiki, faking a poor attempt at nonchalance.
Ugly, you think, how quickly humans point their anger at their loved ones. You keep quiet—anything more out of your mouth, and his fragile ego is going to break again.
As Noboru leaves for the village, you think to follow the human, but you’re met with two cats and a rabbit. You reckon that Chen, with a face that says she’d rather be anywhere else, isn’t keen on human politics. Daiki’s silent, and Tewi’s raising an eyebrow that says, ‘Well? What now?’
[ ] Keep physical distance from the boy. You don’t want to see his ugly mug right now.
[ ] Tail the boy alone. Chances are, he’ll need your help like the useless human he is.