Fires burned everywhere. Explosions blasted the air, the sound ringing in her ears. No matter where she looked, plumes of burning orange filled her vision. A building to her left lit ablaze, people coming out, screaming at the top of their lungs as they, too, were lit aflame. Their screams chilled her bones.
Her brother. She had to find her brother.
She tried to call out for her brother, but the smoke she’d inhaled had destroyed her lungs. All she could do was release a retching cough. Just breathing caused fire to well up inside of her chest.
Despite the world burning around her, despite the intense pain wracking her small body, despite how everything was getting blurry, she continued to search for her brother.
That was when they came.
Exorcists. They wore the black and white cloaks of the Catholic Church. The cross was emblazoned on their front. They came in bearing swords and guns, pikes and flails, crossbows and spears, and all other manner of weaponry.
A threnody of screams rose up, screams of pain, of anguish. As the exorcists charged into the village, people began dropping like flies.
One person died as an exorcist used a light sword to cut them open from hip to groin. Blood splashed against the ground as they went down, screaming and flailing before even those subsided. Another person, a nekomata like her, received a mercifully quick death when her head was cut clean off. Her body fell to the ground in a heap. It twitched several times. Then it became still.
People died all around her, but she ignored them and raced through the village, avoiding the exorcists. She needed to find her brother.
As she ran through the village, she eventually came upon her home. It was burning. Fires blazed everywhere, scorching her skin, but she ran inside anyway, shouting for her brother.
She ran through the flames, coughing as smoke filled her lungs, burning her trachea. She couldn’t breath! She covered her mouth with her shirt, hoping it would filter out the smoke. As she continued searching through her house, she tripped.
Her nose exploded as she fell face first to floor. Tears stung her eyes, but they quickly dried up as the flames evaporated the water. Crawling to a sitting position, she looked down at her feet to see what had caused her to trip.
It was a hand.
A hand attached to a body.
A hand attached to a body with half of its face burnt off.
Her eyes widened. Her breathing became shocked pants. Everything was spinning. Vomit rose in her throat as she stared at the burnt face of her brother. He only had one eye left. That sightless eye stared at her, accused her. She needed to get away! She needed to run!
She screamed as she scrambled to her feet and ran out of the house. She didn’t even check to see if her parents were still alive. She needed to leave! If she didn’t leave now, then she would die!
She ran out of the house, racing down the street on all fours as her animal instincts make walking on two legs impossible. She didn’t know where she was going. She didn’t even know where she could go. She just ran. That was all she could do.
A scream tore from her throat as, without warning, something stabbed her in the leg. She stumbled to the ground. Her face hit the ground. The taste of dirt in her mouth was vile, but even worse was the agony ripping through her leg.
“Well, well, well,” a voice said from behind her. “What do we have here? A little lost kitten trying to find her way home?”
She turned around. A man stood before her. Cloaked in black and white robes that swished as he walked. He carried a gun in each hand. Inhuman eyes stared at her from a human face.
The man knelt before her, ran his tongue along the barrel of his gun, and then pointed that same gun in her face.
“How would you like to die to today?”
Jerking awake, Yūgure twisted her body and head around in panic, her mind frantically searching for something that wasn’t there. It wasn’t until several seconds later that she calmed down. Her village wasn’t burning, there was no exorcist trying to kill her, this place was safe.
Yūgure looked around her room, which was located several doors from Jacob’s. Her room wasn’t as large was his or Alicia’s, but it was larger than anything she was used to; her old room back in the village had only been half this big. There also weren’t many decorations. She had the basic furnishings, a bed, a nightstand, a dresser, a full length mirror… there was a bathroom attached to her room. That was it.
She would have asked Jacob if he would take her shopping for decorations, but ever since the attack on her village, she had lost her voice. It wouldn’t work no matter how many times she opened her mouth.
Wiping her face, Yūgure realized that her body was covered in sweat. Her white nightgown was caked to her skin. So much sweat was drenching it that her clothing had become see through.
She stood up and stripped them off.
Tossing her nightgown into a hamper, she wandered over to mirror and looked at herself—to be more specific, she looked at her chest.
Despite being sixteen years old, her breasts were quite small. If she compared them to a fruit, she would have said they were about the size of peaches.
'Jacob likes bigger breasts…'
While he tried his best not to stare, she had caught Jacob staring at Alicia’s chest several times throughout the day. In class. During physical education. He was always discreet, looking for only a second before turning away, but she noticed him.
Of course, he wasn’t the only one. Just about every boy in their class stared at Alicia’s boobs. She could see why. They were abnormally large. Every time the girl moved, her boobs would bounce around like a pair of babies in a bouncer. They were like a pair of water balloons inflated to the size of watermelons.
'If my boobs were bigger…'
Being only sixteen years old, she was an immature nekomata. However, even for her age, she was considered small. Other nekomata that she had known back in the village had bigger breasts at this age.
Turning away from the mirror, Yūgure went into the bathroom and wiped the sweat from her body, and then went back to her bed and laid down.
She couldn’t sleep.
An hour passed.
She still couldn’t sleep.
Yūgure was afraid of falling asleep, of closing her eyes and seeing the village on fire, her friends being killed. She didn’t want to revisit that nightmare again. It had been happening more frequently recently.
Perhaps it was because of her new location. When she’d been wandering Japan, she hadn’t been able to sleep much for fear that she wouldn’t wake up. It was only after several days, when she was thoroughly exhausted and incapable of remaining awake for even a second longer, that sleep finally claimed her. That exhaustion had kept her from having nightmares. Now that she had a comfortable bed and a safe location, she was free to sleep, and to dream.
'I need Jacob.'
Getting out of bed, Yūgure left her room and, after closing the door to her bedroom, looked around to see if anyone was present.
There was no one.
Tiptoeing across the floor, Yūgure slowly made her way toward Jacob’s bedroom. She was careful not to make any noise. Of course, the floorboards still creaked underneath her feet, but her steps remained light. With luck, no one would wake up.
She passed by Alicia’s room and paused. Alicia’s bedroom was located right next to Jacob’s room. Yūgure didn’t think that was fair, but she was the “lady of the house,” so there wasn’t much that Yūgure could do. Matilda had taught her that being a maid meant conceding any positions of authority to the master and mistress.
'I don’t want her as my mistress.'
Alicia hogged all of Jacob’s time, which meant he had less time for her. While Matilda had let her go to school as a means of adapting to human society, that wasn’t what she was there for. She just didn’t want Alicia having Jacob all to herself.
She reached Jacob’s room. Her hand was on the door. Now to quietly open it and—
“What do you think you’re doing?” Alicia’s voice came from her left.
With panic surging through her veins, Yūgure leapt away from the voice and turned around. Alicia was standing before her. Dressed in a sheer pink nightgown, her large breasts spilling out the sides, and her pink nipples visible behind the fabric, Alicia had crossed her arms and was staring at Yūgure with a delicately raised eyebrow.
“Well?” she asked. “What are you doing?”
Yūgure was silent.
Alicia huffed. “I can’t believe you would try to sneak into Jacob’s bedroom. As a maid, you should have more decorum than that.”
Yūgure narrowed her eyes.
“Oh, don’t give me that look. You shouldn’t be sneaking into people’s bedrooms. You don’t see Matilda sneaking into my bedroom, do you? That’s not how maid’s operate.”
It was clear that Alicia was trying to goad her. This must be some kind of psychological warfare. She thought that by goading her into anger, she would act reckless and do something bad. It wasn’t going to work.
“As your mistress, I command you not to bother Jacob while he’s asleep.” Alicia spoke with the commandeering demeanor of a queen as she pointed to Yūgure’s room. “Go back to your room and sleep.”
Yūgure shook her head.
Alicia frowned. Her hand was still pointed at the door to Yūgure’s room. “Go back to your room and sleep.”
Yūgure shook her head again, more adamantly this time.
Alicia’s eyes narrowed. “If you do not go back to your room right now, I will force you to go back.”
In response to the thinly veiled threat, Yūgure narrowed her eyes and crouched low. Her cat ears twitched, her tail writhed, and her nails grew as spirit energy poured from her body.
“Fine,” Alicia said, dark miasma wafting from her body. “If you want to be stubborn about this, then I’ll just have to put you in your place.”
Power poured off both her and Alicia. Their auras collided. The pale blue clashed with dark red.
Yūgure bent her knees and brought her hands together. All of the energy that had been flowing around her like an aura congregated between her hands, forming a sphere that crackled as she condensed the power further.
Yōkai acted differently than other types of energy. Angels, devils, and magicians relied on creating magic circles to use their powers. Yōkai had no need for circles. They could unleash their power in whichever manner they wanted, provided they had the willpower necessary to mould their spiritual energy.
Of course, this was a misnomer in some ways, as yōkai magic did not have the flexibility of other types of magic. Yōkai had limits. They could cast illusions, and they could create energy attacks that took various shapes, but something like controlling an element was impossible unless they were specifically attuned to that element.
Devils could train themselves to use a specific element, but a yōkai had to be born with that element or they couldn’t use it.
Yūgure’s element was fire. Nekomata had a predisposition for fire, and while there were some that were attuned to other elements, around four in every five nekomata would be fire element users.
The ball in Yūgure’s hand turned into a crackling flame. Meanwhile, Alicia had created a magic circle in front of her. Power poured from the circle like water leaking from a cracked flower vase. It was intimidating, but Yūgure had no intention of backing down. She wasn’t going to let Alicia stop her!
A split second before they unleashed their respective attacks, the door to Jacob’s bedroom opened up and the boy they were fighting over walked out.
“What’s with all the noise?” he asked, his words stilted by a loud yawn.
Yūgure and Alicia released their attacks, unable to stop them, their eyes wide.
Jacob didn’t even have a chance to scream as he was hit with powerful magic from both sides.
Poor Jacob, getting caught between two quarreling women. Well, it was his own fault, but that's what it means to be a harem protagonist. Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed the chapter. Please don't forget to give it your vote and share it on facebook and twitter if you can. Thank you for reading this chapter! Ja ne! (^-^)