File 157386905470.png - (786.46KB, 1000x1202, otsukare.png) [iqdb]
Right, where were we?
The sun is beginning to set by the time I reach the Hieda Manor. The manor itself is fairly empty... the servants are busy preparing dinner and readying the baths. It was similar in the village as I was walking here. I’ve heard that in the outside world, this is a time that’s very busy actually, and that when night falls people don’t go straight to bed. It sounds horrible.
In the slippers I was given at the gate, I step lightly over the mansion’s surrounding porch, making my way to the garden where I left Akyuu. I look at the sky absently and don’t think about much of anything. Am I pleased with myself for doing a job well done? I’m not really sure. I think that my backing down on try to resolve the Spring Snow Incident is still gnawing at me. It was a month ago now... Is this “that”? The ennui of adolescence?
“Watch your step, Taro.”
I look down at my foot, about to step off the rise to collapse me onto rocks below. I flinch, and bring it back, returning to balance in an instant. That voice...
... was Akyuu, of course.
“I should thank you,” I say, “I was about to shame myself!” I grin at her.
“That would be fine. Ruining the Zen here would give me a headache,” she says. Her hand is already on her forehead, though, and she’s slouching quite deeply.
“You’ve been hard at work,” I compliment her.
“I’ve been working,” she replies, almost with a musical quality to her words—she seems bitter.
“When will you complete the next manuscript of the Gensokyo Chronicle?” I ask her, stepping toward her so that I might look over her shoulder at her writings. “I mean no rush. I’m very curious!”
“At this rate...” she mutters, straightening up and looking over the scroll before her, “two... three years? Two. It’ll be two... three. Hm.”
She reaches into her collar, grabbing the muscle between her neck and shoulder—her trapezius. The press of her fingers tells me she’s squeezing it, and she rotates her arm gently. I sit on my knees behind her and put both my hands into her robes from her collar, holding on to that muscle and its double on the other side of her neck.
So, I massage her.
“Mm... Why, this is sudden,” she mumbles, her body swaying with my pushing and kneading.
“Ah. Ahh...” I give a voice to my realization. This is a little sudden, but... “I’m used to massaging old ladies when they’re looking tired,” I tell her.
Now she grumbles, “‘Old ladies’... Taro?”
She lifts the hand she’d been using to pinch herself and checks the knuckles against my skull.
“I’m as old as you, Taro,” she complains.
What! “You’re almost two-thousand years old!”
I’m right! She is!
“My soul’s... ugh, forget it,” she relents. But...
“What about your soul?” I don’t really understand. Honestly, my thoughts are feeling a bit spotty right now.
“You know what,” she says. Then, she sighs. “Maybe I do act as old as old as two-thousand, though...”
“Well, it’s alright! Mature women are charming!” I compliment her.
“Shut your mouth, Taro.”
I shut my mouth, and keep massaging. She’s stiff. I should probably massage her right hand, wrist, and arm as well, since she’s been writing all day.
“How was your first job, anyway?” she asks me.
“... Speak!” she commands. Oh!
“It went mostly fine, until some fairies came around.”
“Fairies...” she repeats, just a little angrily.
“I dealt with them swiftly. They’re just fairies. I think there was a youkai, too, but it didn’t turn into a fight.”
“Aren’t you lucky?” After saying this, I see her start to mass the lower half of her right palm. Yeah, I’ll definitely have to do that. Tewi does that after she’s penned too many writings for her rabbits and enterprises. Tewi isn’t strong, but Akyuu is very weak. Even massaging her, I feel like I have to be more careful. “Did the old man give you your reward?” Oh, she’s still talking.
Answer her! “Three mon.”
Then, she grabs my left hand, turning her head that way and squinting one eye toward me (not that she could really see me without being a rokurokubi).
“Three?” she repeats.
“Yes! I’m very happy with that!” I tell her, smiling brightly.
“You were owed twenty,” she says. I... What?
Akyuu heaves a rattling sigh while I fret at her back.
“That—... I keep records, you know? What record am I to keep here? If I say that Zouman short-changed you, I’ll be asked about it. If you ever let it slip that he gave you three mon, I’ll have to answer as to why the reward wasn’t properly conferred. Did he think I had to give you the reward? If I take money from the Hieda coffers, what am I supposed to say about that!? How do I explain that!?”
With her growing heated, I simply continue to fret. I haven’t really dealt with someone angry before.
“Uh,” I begin, “it’s fine if it’s three. I don’t need any money.”
“You are owed money, and three is not fine.” Is she scolding me!? “This... I don’t want you to look into it, ugh. Ugh! This... it should be so simple but this ruins everything!”
“I’ll make twenty... seventeen mon!” I tell her. “Then it won’t matter! You can just write the record and it’ll be done!”
“That’s nice of you, but regardless I’m going to need to send someone to ask about this. To see if it was a misunderstanding or... haaaahhh...” She heaves a sigh, her shoulders drooping. “I’m tired, Taro.”
“Can I help? I’ll ask Zouman about it and...” She shakes her head.
“You aren’t supposed to deal with money matters, you’re only labor.”
Akyuu begins to stand up. I watch her rise and turn, her right hand to me. “Get up,” she says.
I take her hand and stand in front of her.
She looks to the garden, and I look too. Silently, we just look at it.
“What really frustrates me,” Akyuu speaks all of a sudden, “is that I had a laborer do a job almost pro bono.”
“At... At least this is the first time,” I reassure her.
“It’s not the first time,” she replies.
Ahh... I can feel my face involuntarily shifting to show my dismay.
“I’ve actually made quite a few mistakes, or rather... I don’t really make mistakes. I remember too well for mistakes to take hold of me, but I guess... I’m... Hahh, I’m inexperienced and unclear-slash-naive.”
She says this with her hands on her hips, and I notice her thin arms from the fact that her sleeves are rolled up—probably to avoid being stained with ink. The way she said that last part... she was definitely repeating someone else’s words.
I fiddle with my fingers.
“It’s tiring,” she admits, with a dark and withering look in her eyes, “and aggravating. I remember especially... how to put it? Vexation, from the weight of responsibilities and expectations.” She looks at me, cocking an eyebrow. “You know, they wait on me hand and foot here in the mansion. I think it’s less because I’m weak and will die young and more because I have the most managerial work to do in this entire village. The gumonji is a deeply valued ability, Taro-kun.” She shows me an empty and open grin. My frown deepens.
“...” I look at my feet.
Then, I look at her, and put my hand on her head, petting her. She glares.
“... Don’t pet me,” she orders.
“I appreciate you, Akyuu,” I say. I smile, though my smile is getting dull as night comes nearer and nearer. “Everyone does. You are invaluable and tragic. I think you’re amazing, and I think I’m not alone in that opinion.” I put my free hand on my hip. “I will sort out the matter of the twenty mon,” I say, closing my eyes and putting more strength in my smile. “If the matter looks like it might come to you regardless, then I will earn forty... eighty mon, and deliver it to you. I don’t want you to be frayed from others’ failings. That is not fair.” I open my eyes, looking warmly at her impeccably straight hair as I palm my hand over it. “You should take rest,” I say. “If you need rest, I’ll take you somewhere! We... Haven’t you not been with the other village kids in a while? You don’t go to the temple school, so we only ever get to see you on errand days...” I stop petting her, and realize, “I’m babbling.”
“Yes, you’re babbling,” she confirms. “But... I appreciate the babbling. I only needed to vent. Don’t worry, I do take breaks, even if it’s only to sleep...”
Once more, we both look at the gardens. I feel myself nodding off a bit.
Akyuu has her arms folded, and she’s looking at me with a smirk. “I would really rather you not go on empty handed, but I can’t give you anything monetary without raising a fuss. Not even a single mon. Here—”
She puts a hand to my left cheek; a small, but dusted-black thing that she uses to pull my other cheek toward her. She then slightly raises onto her toes, and carefully plants her lips against my face, leaving a blush behind.
“For now, I hope my appreciation for your work and words is conveyed with this,” she says, closing her eyes and looking proud.
I touch where she kissed. It feels intensely warm... In my drowsy state, I’m almost unsure of what happened.
“Not... to say a kiss from the Child of Miare is worth only seventeen mon,” she assures me a sly glance and smile. I grip the hand against my cheek closed. Suddenly, I feel invigorated by a feeling of conviction, rising up within me.
I take Akyuu’s right hand into both of mine, squinting at it. I kneel, and kiss the back of it, holding the hand tight, especially where I had seen her hold it before.
Her back straightens, but she doesn’t say anything.
“Um...” I say my eyes unable to hold in one place for longer than a second, “you don’t owe me anything, but for that kiss I felt you were owed one in returned. So uh... it is given... Akyuu... -sam... A... A... kyuu...”
I look up at her face. It’s a deeper red than the twilight sky.
“Uh... haha! Yes! That’s... gentlemanly!” she stammers.
“It’s, uh.... tradition! Or-Order and business!” I insist.
“Wha—!? Sure!?” she agrees, looking away, but not pulling away.
I close my eyes and let go of her, holding both of my hands up and wide open, my face beaming. “I’ll go home now! See you later, Akyuu!”
When I open my eyes a squint, I see her mirroring my gesture as she says, “Yes! See you tomorrow!”
“Tomorrow”... I wasn’t supposed to be here tomorrow!
“See you!” she repeats, waving rather quickly.
“Yes, goodbye!” I answer, and I back away, waving as I go.
When I am passing the corner to leave her presence, I grab hold of the cloth over the left side of my chest. Before I lose sight of her, I see Akyuu doing the very same thing.
You said you wouldn’t be disappointed. Is the problem that the kiss was not romantic? Come now, you’re a child as well—you know. The Hieda girl is still young. Her old-life memories only relate to the Chronicle of youkai that the Children of Miare are tasked to maintain. Children, doing childish things... though they are getting past the age of simple “child” at this point, yes.
I honestly think it’s very cute. I doubt they had any real tension... they were just a pair of embarrassed kids, hmhm.
Indeed, this was a more entertaining portion of his life. Now then—
 You lied!
 Did he kiss somebody on... their lips!! Did he have a romantic kiss or not!?
 (Say nothing. Silently fume.)
Time remaining: ::Timer ended at: 2019/11/16(Sat)12:00