her new home

Part of her isn’t quite certain why she accepts the offer to live with him, and she almost regrets it when he gives her this new name. It feels awkward, like clothes that are too large and too heavy, and it makes her uncomfortable. She’s heard stories of what men will do to a youkai who has been named, especially one of her sort, and she spends the first evening in her new home waiting for him to make his move.

Her new master is cheerful, complimenting the dinner she makes, and she sits with her hands folded nervously in her lap the whole time, her shoulders hunched and her ears back.

“Ah, that was good,” he says, beaming. “Youko-chan is such a good cook!”

She manages to not flinch when he says her name. “Ah,” she says quietly. “I’m glad you liked it …”

“Mm, it was delicious!” He draws his pipe from his sleeve and she thinks: ah, now is when it’ll happen. She steels herself for it; if he orders her, she’ll have no choice — and it won’t be pleasant but at least he’s slim and smells clean, and he’s not unattractive. “Ahh, I think I’ll go to bed early tonight, since I don’t have to worry about the dishes …”

She pauses and glances up. “Master?”

He blinks at her and exhales smoke before he frowns. “Ah,” he says. “I told you, you don’t have to call me that. ‘Kan-chan’ is fine.”

“That’s–”

“It sounds cuter, don’t you think?” He grins at her. “Besides, just because I’m your master doesn’t mean I’m not your friend!”

“Friend?” She blinks.

“I’d like us to be, at any rate.” He taps ashes from his pipe. “I mean, it’d be awfully uncomfortable if we lived together and we weren’t friends!”

She grits her teeth and forces herself to relax. “Ah,” she says. “It’s good that we’ll be friends.”

“Right!” He stretches and yawns loudly, puts out his pipe and gets to his feet. “Good-night, Youko-chan.”

She waits, and she waits — and then he walks past her. She sees his hand reach out from the corner of one eye and she thinks this is it, this is how he’ll ask for her and she steels herself to —

He ruffles her hair and smiles fondly at her. She stares up at him, wide-eyed, and he lets go and moves towards the stairs. She’s so shocked that for a moment she remains frozen, and then she scrambles to her feet. “Hey!”

“Eh?” He glances over his shoulder. “Youko-chan?”

“You — come on!” She points at herself. “Weren’t you … ? You know?”

Kantarou’s expression is blank as he stares at her, but she refuses to believe that he actually doesn’t know what she’s talking about. He’s too sly and he knows too much about youkai; there is no way that he–

He thumps his fist into his palm. “Oh, I get it!” There’s a knowing look in his eyes now as he looks her up and down, and she knows that he’s sizing up her figure through her clothes, weighing the situation. Her shoulders tense. She waits for the command, but he just shakes his head and smiles.

“Youko-chan,” he says. “That’s no good, thinking that.”

Taken aback, she blinked. “Eh–?”

“We barely know each other, yet,” he says, wide-eyed. “I mean, you’re my friend, and we’ll be living together. It’s too early to make things awkward by doing *that*, don’t you think?”

Her jaw drops. “*Ehhh*–”

“Unless you’ve already fallen for me?” He preens, puffing himself up to his full height. “I’m flattered, Youko-chan, but I’d rather go slowly! Let’s get to know each other first, right?”

She stares at him. “You’re …”

“I mean, I’m terribly handsome,” he says, smoothing a hand down his front, tugging his gi straight. “And I’m charming! And you’re very pretty in this shape, Youko-chan, but I’d still rather we get to know each other, first!” He winks at her, grinning. “So be patient, all right?”

“Ah, you–”

“You can start by calling me by my own name, first of all. Don’t call me ‘Master,’ that’s really uncomfortable in a situation like this!” And then he points at her, this skinny young scrap of a human who’ll be dust before long, grinning cheekily, and she can feel her own lips quirk before she can stop them, answering his smile. His eyes light up further, and he nods. “Call me by my name.”

He doesn’t add her name to it, and so she’s free to decide what she wants, and she draws herself up. “… Kan … chan.”

“Right!” he says happily, and one would think he’d been handed money or better, the way he beams at her. “Youko-chan. I wouldn’t make you do that, you know.” He reaches out and flicks a finger against her forehead, so that she recoils and blinks rapidly at him. “So please don’t concern yourself with that.”

“Kan-chan,” she says, and it comes easier to her now. “I mean, I don’t really mind, it’s not –”

His head tilts to one side, and for a moment, his expression is so knowing that it startles her. “Yes you do,” he says. “If you actually wanted to, Youko-chan, I’d like that too. But I’d rather wait until then.” And then to her surprise, because it’s so very forward and unexpected, he leans and he kisses her forehead. He’s enough taller than her that he has to bend a little, and she blinks at him, stunned, the whole time. “Good night.”

She puts her hand to her forehead, watching him slip away, and up the stairs.

“Kan-chan,” she says. It’s surprisingly easy. “Kan-chan, good night.”

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