Chapter 16:

0.16. Blossoming Feelings

We Got 'Shipped' by the Goddess


A restaurant where we make our own hotpot. The broth was bubbling with various ingredients, corn, mushrooms, carrot slices, sausages, lettuce, tofu, etc.

Boss hadn’t really spoken anything about Pu’er during the meal. It was getting on my nerves so when he finally brought up the topic when we were left with a few slices of bacon, I felt relieved inside.

And maybe a little scared?

Because he like literally dropped a bomb.

“Avner, do you like Pu’er?”
This is an example of how being part of the ‘alternative’, as in being an angel or demon can affect one’s real life.

I can’t simply tell my boss that I’m sticking close with Pu’er because her life is in danger.

Though, if I were to ask myself honestly, do I like Pu’er?

It’s not like I’ve never heard of angels and demons getting married– it’s just really uncommon.

Putting politics aside, am I fond of that girl?

Maybe?

I’ve not really considered it too deeply. To me, Pu’er is just that annoying boss in the office. She’s attractive as a woman, sure but..

“I don’t know..” I said.
My boss nodded slowly. He swirled the drink in his glass– it’s not alcohol this time, just some seltzer with lemon slices.

“I won’t try to cause conflict. Don’t worry. I just want to know your honest feelings..”

Yeah well.. this is a mess.

Imagine your friend owning the girl you like? That’s a grand suckerpunch to the face ain’t it?

Not to mention, I’m the scum of a friend here.

“It’s complicated. It’s not like I really like her but if she says she likes me then maybe..”
What I’m I even saying?

“I understand. In that case, I wish you good luck.”

My boss patted my shoulders with quite a bit of force.

He stood up and went to the counter to pay. After which he just walked right off.

I was left sitting there processing his words.

I’m sure my boss just needs some alone time to accept reality..

As for myself.. I’m not calm either.

From the depth of my mind, that ‘goal’ I had since the day I reawaken as a demon–

As someone that’s been married more than a hundred times (perhaps), over the course of 223 lives, I’ve always wanted to find my previous lover. Somehow it just felt crass to love someone different every time– it makes devotion seem fickle, somehow.

Subconsciously, knowing that I would again marry someone different, it made me avoid relationships– because that ‘goal’ was still there, informing my actions ever so slightly.

So when I found that grimoire with the knowledge to preserve memories.. I thought, this must be my chance!

Thinking that though I may not be able to find my past lover, if I could somehow bring my life now to the next, then I should definitely be able to..

I took out my phone and pulled up the translated document of the grimoire.

A ritual which requires drawing a satanic symbol on the ground using a mixture of different materials.. Mandrake roots, needles from a blood cactus, blood from an imp, elixir from the fountain of youth..

If I manage to get all this then.. Pu’er and I should be able to enter our next life together.

Doesn’t that mean it’s alright for me to fall for Pu’er?

Have I always liked Pu’er?

Why do I feel so conflicted?

===

Ever since that day, I’ve become a little more self conscious about my own situation.

I never really thought much about it when I decided to live in Pu’er’s apartment but now– it just awkward.

There are times when I’d catch her walking out of the bathroom, wrapped in nothing but a white towel. Normally I’d shrug it off. But lately, I’ve become drawn to her figure and need to spare willpower to not peek.

There are times in the office too when she’d come leaned close to me to pass me paperwork. Her white hair would fall like a curtain over my vision– pulling the stray strands over her ears, revealing her silky white skin of her nape–

Instances like these which cause my heart to race, throwing me into disarray time and time again.

She wasn’t doing it on purpose. Or rather, she'd been doing these gestures ever since I began working in the office. It’s only now that I realized how suggestive they were.

I was drinking a cup of Pu Erh tea at the pantry to cool off my mind. Just a few minutes ago when passing the papers, I accidentally touched her hands– which felt like a jolt of electricity running up my spine.

She even asked about why I flinched. I threw in a line and was somehow able to get away with it..

I’m not sure if she noticed my reddened ears.

“You look swell.”

Around this time, Steven would also come to the pantry to make himself his second cup of coffee.

“I’ve been wondering. Avner, have you been going out with our boss?”

“Hm? What makes you think that?” I hid my flutter with a tone of surprise.

“Ah well.. I just kinda think you and Miss Pu’er smell the same. The scent of her perfume lingers on you.. something like that.”

I hadn’t the brain cells to tell him that he was a twisted pervert as most of my mental load was directed towards suppressing any suspicious reactions that would give me away.

Blood rushed to my head and an inundating sense of shame and embarrassment overwhelmed my mind.

“What’s wrong? You went silent there?”

“Maybe because she’s been close to me the past few days,” I shrugged.

Steven showed a cocky smile.

“Good luck with that then.”
“Huh?”
Ugh.. I just admitted to him that I like Pu’er.. didn’t I?!

===

“Mister Avner, can you spare me a trip home? My sis just said she’s got something on and can’t drive me back.”

Kouhai approached me as I was packing my bag.

“Huh? What? Seriously?”

“Sorry.”

Kouhai clapped hirs hands together and bowed with a tongue cheekily sticking out. Xe doesn’t look sorry at all.

Shoot. If I knew this Pu’er and I would’ve decided to drive our own car today!
I was about to turn to her direction when I caught myself and stopped.

You know, maybe I’ll drive kouhai home first before coming back to pick up Pu’er. I’m sure she’s safe in the office.. if anything she can just call..

But there’s always that ‘what if’.

“Um.. Mister Avner?”

Ugh.. is there a reason to be worried about her to this degree? It’s not like she can’t fight if she doesn’t want to..

“What’s going on here?”

Duck!

I got stuck in my dilemma for too long. Pu’er had already settled the things in her office and approached us.

“E-Eh.. I need Mister Avner to drive me back home..” kouhai stuttered.
I snuck a peak at Pu’er.

She looked back right at me. The response she gave was beyond my expectations.
“Sure, why not? You’re alright with that right, Avner?”
Are you an airhead?!

No. No. No. I’m the one being too self conscious. To Pu’er, I’m probably just her temporary guardian..

The thought of it feels sour for some reason.

Kouhai looked at me then at Pu’er. Tilting hirs head, a wiggle of the ear.

“So the rumors are true?”

“Rumors?”

Kouhai checked the vicinity. There weren’t many people left in the office.

“That you two are staying together,” xe whispered.

“!!!”

Oh, so only now does this blockhead of a tea reacts.

“T-there a reason for that.. don’t take things at surface level..”
“Did your mom say anything about this?” Kouhai asked me.
Huh? I never told kouhai about calling Bleu mom.. oh, I did tell hir that ‘mom’ was staying with um.. my place last time didn’t I?

For the sake of it, I shook my head to deny it.

In response, I received a contemplative nod from kouhai-chan.

===

Kouhai is sitting at the back. Me in the driver seat, Pu’er to the left of me.

“Can we get something to eat on the way?” asked the elf.

“...”
“Avner, Bleu is going to cook something right?” Pu’er whipshered.

“Most probably..”

“Then we should just say we can’t.”

When did it become ‘we’?

“Sorry Lianne, I actually have plans for tonight set so..”

“Is that so? A date?”
“That’s not it. Don’t get the wrong idea Lianne..”
“What other ideas can someone get? It’s really clear now that you two are a couple.”
““...””

I didn’t know how to reply to that. Neither did Pu’er.

I silently drove to kouhai’s place and stopped on the street right in front of hirs apartment.

Xe’s not getting off.

“Lianne?”
“Where are you two going after this?”

“I’m going to drive Miss Pu’er to her apartment and then I’ll return home.”

“Then can’t you spare a dinner with me?”

“You sure talk a lot don’t you Miss Lianne,” Pu’er shifted herself to look at kouhai.

That smile on her face doesn’t show a hint of happiness in the least.

Kouhai wasn’t just going to back down either. Xe formed a cute pout with puffed out cheeks.

A telepathic battle between woman and elf! Who would win?!

Wait.. was there even a need to fight?
“Kouhai, my mom is still waiting at home. She’ll be worried if I’m late. Can you get off now?”
“..fine.”

Success! Ugh.. I’m such a swindler.
Reluctantly, kouhai grabbed hirs bag and stormed off. Xe didn’t forget to say ‘thank you’ before hopping off though.

The silent pressure in the car disappeared. Left was the awkward mood between Pu’er and I.

“Did you mean it when you said that?”

“...”

“I see..”
“Yeah..”

“Lianne has it tough huh.”

What? Are we on the same topic here?!

“Hm? What?”

To my bewildered expression, she tilted her head in puzzlement. Her smooth silver hair fell over her shoulder, my heart skipped a beat.

“N-no.. nothing..”
“Bleu makes a good wife, I do agree with that uh.. I don’t mean that I like hir.. I mean.. well..”
“I get what you mean..”
“Haha.. y-yeah..”
“...”

Don’t tell me Pu’er has a crush on Bleu.. not realizing that xe’s actually a she!

Makech
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