Chapter 35:

Volume 2: Chapter 2: When Friendship Blooms - Part 3

Nephalem


Some time later, we had all adjourned to the living room. We sat around the couch, myself, Matilda, Alicia, and the girl.


The girl who I had caught in my bed was now dressed in a pair of too large pajamas and a T-shirt. Looking at her now, I could see that her skin was, indeed, a lovely shade of dusk. She also appeared to be quite young. It was difficult to place her age, but she looked at least a year or two younger than me. Her eyes were a bright yellow. Unlike normal eyes, her pupils weren’t round. They were slits. A pair of large, triangular ears sat on her head, covered in black fur the same shade as her hair, twitching intermittently.


I didn’t know why, but the girl had chosen to sit as close to me as physically possible. She was hugging one of my arms to her small chest. Alicia, sitting on the other side of the L-shaped couch, clicked her tongue.


“So…” Alicia began, crossing one leg over the other, “who is this girl?”


“That’s what I’d like to know,” I said.


“It looks to me like she is a yōkai,” Matilda exclaimed. She wasn’t wearing her maid outfit, though her black and white pajamas still made me think “maid” in my head. “She’s a nekomata, a cat yōkai.”


Yōkai were a form of supernatural creature found within Japanese mythology. There were many different types of yōkai, some that took the form of animals like nekomata, while others looked like ugly children and old hags. Of course, they existed in real life, but most people didn’t believe in yōkai anymore.


“What’s a nekomata doing in our home?” asked Alicia.


“Are you the cat that I brought home with me?” I asked, coming to what I could only believe was the most logical conclusion.


The girl, still staring at me, nodded once. I scratched my head. So, the kitten that I had picked up was actually a yōkai… and a girl. I thought she was a boy. That was my mistake. At least now I knew why she kept pawing at me when I called her “him.”


“Who would have guessed that we’d find a nekomata in our midst?” Matilda asked of no one in particular. “What shall we do?”


“Couldn’t we just let her stay here?” I asked.


“Jacob?” Alicia said, shocked.


I shrugged. “We already decided to let her stay here when we thought she was just a kitten. Does being a nekomata change anything?”


“Well…” Alicia scrunched up her face, then sighed. “I guess not. Though now that we know she’s a yōkai, there’s no way we can let her stay in your room.”


“We still have an extra bedroom,” I said. “We can let her stay there.”


The nekomata girl remained silent the whole time, but upon hearing my suggestion, she pressed herself against me even more, practically lunging in her attempt to wrap her arms around my torso. I was so startled that I nearly fell off the couch. Alicia also seemed quite shocked, for she leapt to her feet and gawked.


“What are you doing?! Get off Jacob this instant!”


Rather than heeding Alicia’s suggestion, the nekomata girl stuck out her tongue and blue the redhead a raspberry. Alicia’s face turned as red as her hair. She seemed on the verge of exploding.


“Let’s all calm down,” Matilda said, speaking at last. “Since we have already offered this girl a place to stay, it would be wrong of us to give her the boot. However, if she is going to stay, then she will have to stay in the remaining bedroom.” She stared at the nekomata. “Is that clear?”


For just a second, the nekomata looked like she might rebel against the idea, but it only lasted for a second. Her dusky skin became a shade lighter as Matilda continued staring at her. One second passed. Then two. Finally, the nekomata nodded.


“Good.” Matilda nodded in self-satisfaction. Her expression seemed to say, “and that’s the end of that” quite succinctly. “Now that this matter is concluded, perhaps we could have some of our questions answered.” She paused to study the nekomata, still attached to my arm. “You seem rather attached to Lord Jacob. I assume you know him from somewhere?”


The nekomata nodded once.


“How did the two of you meet?” asked Alicia.


The nekomata didn’t answer. She just stared at the devil princess, who started fuming when she realized that her question wouldn’t be answered.


“I would like to know as well,” I said at last, getting over my shock. “I don’t remember ever meeting a nekomata before.”


The nekomata’s ears drooped as though emphasizing her depression at me not remembering her. Trying not to feel too guilty, I thought about where I might have run into a nekomata.


I had met some yōkai in my time, mostly during my travels before Azazel found me, which had taken me across Japan. Thinking on it, there was one place where I might have met this girl.


“Are you from the yōkai village?” I asked.


The nekomata’s eyes widened. Then a sparkle entered them. She nodded once as her lips twitched to form a smile.


“Yōkai village?” Alicia tilted her head. “What’s that?”


“It’s a village located near Kyoto,” I answered. “It’s made up entirely of yōkai. They don’t allow humans to enter. During my travels, I had ended up there once by accident.”


“I see,” Alicia said, cupping her chin and nodding as though everything now made sense. “Then this girl traveled all the way here from this yōkai village?”


“Doubtful,” I said. “The yōkai village near Kyoto doesn’t exist anymore. It was destroyed by a faction of exorcists from the Catholic Church.”


“W-what?”


I noticed Alicia’s startled look, but most of my attention was focused on the young nekomata. She was shivering.


The attack on the village had happened three years ago. I had been thirteen at the time. During my wanderings, I had come across the village when it was being attacked and had done my best to help defend the village without revealing my powers. A number of yōkai had been saved by my hands. Perhaps this girl was one of them?


“Can you speak?” Matilda asked. The nekomata looked up again but didn’t say anything. Matilda sighed. “This seems to be getting us nowhere. Let’s all go to sleep and deal with this matter later. You two have school tomorrow, so you can’t afford to stay up late.”


“I suppose you’re right,” Alicia said with a reluctant nod.


With the nekomata girl so reluctant to speak, there really was nothing we could do. We couldn’t force her to speak. I mean, I’m sure Matilda could if the nekomata was capable of talking. She might have been mute. Either way, I didn’t think it was such a big deal if she didn’t say anything. She seemed harmless enough.


As I lay in bed, alone this time, my thoughts wandered to the nekomata girl. I wondered how I knew her.


If she was really from the yōkai village that had been destroyed, then what had she been doing all this time? Had she been looking for me, or was this all just a big coincidence? It was with these questions blitzing through my mind that I fell into fitful slumber.


Outside, the crescent moon shone brightly.


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I tried to reveal a little more about Jacob's past with this, while also letting you know a bit about the nekomata girl who's suddenly turned up in their midst. I hope I've done an adequate job of adding some intrigue.


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