“Why don’t they ring?”
Kantarou looked up from his manuscript, blinked twice. “Haruka?”
Haruka pointed to the bells on Kantarou’s wrist. “They ring whenever a youkai is nearby,” he said. “But I noticed, they never ring when Youko or I are around.”
“Ah, this?” Kantarou lifted his hand up and covered the bells with his other hand. He thought for a moment, then brightened, as though he’d struck upon some great epiphany. “It’s because you’re mine.”
Haruka stared at him. Kantarou blinked back. “… What?”
“Well, it’s true, isn’t it?” Kantarou leaned one elbow against his desk, balancing his pen between his nose and upper lip. “I mean, after all, I named both of you, and you’re bound to me. That means you’re mine, so the bells don’t react.”
Though he seemed pleased by the explanation, Haruka continued to stare at him. “I don’t think I like that reason,” he said at last, leaning his shoulder against the wall. “It makes me uneasy, somehow.”
Kantarou turned to him, all wide-eyed innocence. “Aww, Haruka-kun,” he said, his voice pitched higher than usual. “It can’t be that bad. I’m a good master, aren’t I?”
Haruka just looked at him. “I hope you don’t want me to actually answer that,” he said.
“Ouch.” Kantarou rubbed the back of his neck, then sighed explosively, giving an exaggerated shrug. “Ahh, then again, maybe you don’t want to embarrass me, since I’m so kind and generous, giving you guys names and a place to stay –”
Kantarou sighed, dropping his pen into his hand and tapping the end against his cheek. The motion made the bells on his wrist chime gently. “But that’s the truth of it,” he said finally, his gaze downcast for a moment. “You’re mine, so …” He glanced up through his bangs, something unreadable in his eyes. “Is it that bad?”
For just a moment, he sounded quiet and almost sad — just a faint flash of something that Kantarou never explained, but that Haruka thought, from time to time, he recognized. Haruka stared at him, then sighed.
“… It could be worse,” he said at last.
Kantarou looked surprised, his pen hovering over the sheet. “You mean that?” he asked, somewhat tentatively. “Really?”
Haruka looked away. The weight of Kantarou’s gaze was oddly heavy, settled on his shoulders like a physical thing. “Really,” he agreed. “I don’t mind that much.”
Kantarou’s bells chimed faintly as he moved, and in spite of himself, Haruka looked back in time to catch a wide, oddly relieved smile. He didn’t say anything when he went back to work, and Haruka thought: maybe this is progress.