Alicia and Chinami remained where they were as Jacob ran after Yūgure. Watching her friend go after the nekomata made Alicia feel a little squeamish, like her stomach was twisting itself into knots. She tried to shake the feeling off. It persisted, however.
Maybe I really do love Jacob…
She didn’t know if this feeling was love, but she wouldn’t deny that she was jealous of how protective Jacob seemed of Yūgure.
“Is something wrong with Kuro?” asked Chinami.
Alicia focused back on the present. “She’s not acting any differently than she has since I’ve known her.”
“Really?” Chinami stared in the direction that Yūgure and Jacob had left. “Then I guess the attack on our village changed her a lot. She used to be so talkative and was always smiling.”
Alicia knew well how traumatic experiences could change people. When Belial had attacked her home in Hell, forcing her to hide in the human world, she had been much more melancholy. She wouldn’t talk to others, wouldn’t get close to people, and because she was always on the run and fighting against his forces, she had been forced to learn how to kill her heart to survive. It had not been pleasant.
“It seems like you really do know Yūgure,” Alicia murmured.
“Of course!” Chinami puffed out her chest. “We were neighbors back in the village! I know both her and Kuriyama!”
“And what’s Yūgure’s relationship with Kuriyama?” asked Alicia.
“Kuriyama is Yūgure’s older brother.”
“Older brother…” Lips twisting into a frown, Alicia recalled the battle with Kuriyama last night. “But… he doesn’t seem to be a nekomata. That power he displayed was not a nekomata’s at all.”
“You are right about that,” Chinami agreed. “I don’t really know what’s going on with Kuriyama either, but I do know that back then, Kuriyama was definitely a nekomata like Kuro.”
Alicia accepted the woman’s words at face value. Chinami seemed to know Yūgure and Kuriyama from when they were younger.
Just then, Jacob and Yūgure returned, walking down a set of stairs and onto the sandy beach, holding hands. Alicia’s frown deepened as the knots twisting her stomach became even more intense. Taking a deep breath and shaking her head, she pushed those feelings aside for the moment. Right now Yūgure needed someone to lean on. That someone clearly had to be Jacob.
It still didn’t mean she had to like it.
“Kuro, are you okay?” Chinami asked. “You ran off so suddenly. I was worried. I didn’t upset you, did I?”
Yūgure shook her head, though she also wrote on her notepad. Please don’t call me Kuro anymore. My name is Yūgure now.
“Ah. Sorry.” Chinami rubbed her cheek as though bashful. “I’m so used to calling you Kuro that I haven’t called you by your new name. I’ll call you Yūgure from now on.”
“We’ve decided to meet with Kumiho,” Jacob said.
“Really?” Chinami’s eyes widened. “That’s great! We can go right now!”
“No, actually, we can’t,” Alicia said, putting a reign on Chinami’s parade before it could even begin. “I’m not sure if you are aware of this, but the three of us are here on a school vacation. We can’t just wander off on our own. At the very least, we need to somehow make it so we won’t get in trouble with our teacher.” She paused. “You are a fox yokai, right?”
“That’s right.” Chinami nodded.
“Then do you think you can use an enchantment on our teacher to… convince her to let us leave the resort?”
Chinami’s smile suddenly widened into a mischievous grin. It really made her look like a fox.
“I can do that,” she said simply.