The tea shop Sekibanki worked at was plain and unadorned, with only a few paper lanterns and a sign bearing the proprietress's family name out front. It didn't offer exotic sweets and lavish entertainment, only simple, honest tea. Despite that, it managed a fair pace of business, especially on market days like today.
It was those kinds of days that made Sekibanki wonder why she kept working at her job. A part of her had expected that her secret would've been exposed long ago: that she was a youkai, rather than a human girl with no family and a mysterious bandaged wound around her neck that refused to heal. Maybe they already knew, and didn't want to say anything about it. She tried to keep wearing the pleasant, meaningless smile of a waitress as she glanced at the day's last customers, waiting for them to finish so she could finally rest. Even with a youkai's endurance, double shifts had made her feet sore.
Once the day was finally done, she left the tea shop in a tired fog. She was so spent that she almost didn't notice the boy a block away, the only human who had seen her neck underneath the bandages, and the only human she would cautiously call a friend. She shook her head and jolted out of her thoughts.
"Hi," she said after a pause, half-looking at him.
"You look tired," he said with a sympathetic smile.
Sekibanki nodded and hummed in agreement. He'd never asked about where she lived, or if she even had a place of her own. They would just walk together for a bit, make small talk, and go their separate ways. Tonight, she was starting to wonder if she could even manage that. Without a word, the boy next to her gestured to a half-wall between two buildings, the perfect height for sitting on.
Sekibanki bit her lip, a little embarrassed that her state was so obvious to him. That was the thing about humans, they could read all the little quirks and facial expressions that most youkai never bothered to hide. Her pride told her to march on home, but her legs said otherwise. She nodded again and took a seat on the half-wall. She almost sighed with relief as the weight went off of
Message too long. Click here
to view the full text.