Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
Arc 2 Storm
Chapter 5 Reunion
* * *
I looked for a place that I could get into with what money I had and walked through the door.
A man puffing on his pipe at the reception desk leaned forward over the counter. He held out two boards lined with men’s painted figures.
“Which one will you choose? If you are a hawk, I recommend choosing from here, and if you are a cat, I recommend choosing from here. The ones marked with an asterisk are the ones I can show you right now.”
A hawk was supposed to represent the one who inserted his penis. Cats would be the ones who received it.
Did I need to specify that this was a place to buy men? If I wanted to know how Ideal felt, I would be a hawk. But as a cat, I also wanted to learn the tricks of pleasing him.
“Do you have any who can do both?”
“Oh, we can all go either way. You don’t seem to be used to this kind of thing though, so I would recommend this one here.”
The man pointed to a picture from the cat’s side with his finger. He made a tube with one hand and grinned as he put his finger in and out of it.
“He’s real aggressive. He gets on it and squeezes it, whether you’re a hawk or a cat. Quite the little succubus, that one.”
A succubus was a fictional being that appeared in vulgar stories, a weak spirit that seduced people and squeezed the sperm out of them. It was often used alongside ‘slut’ to demean a person, but apparently it was considered a compliment in this type of establishment.
I’d heard the word ‘succubus’ was taboo among the demon tribe. Probably because the names were too similar. I was thinking I could learn some great tricks from a whore who bore that kind of title.
“Okay then, I’ll take that one for the night.”
“Alright. Pay in advance.”
“Is this enough?”
I put my entire wallet on the counter. The man checked inside, nodded, and pointed to a hallway leading to the back of the store.
“The red door on the right.”
There were several doors in the hall. The red door was the third one from the front. Nervously, I stepped toward it.
“Manager, I’ll be back in the morning.”
In front of the hallway there was a door that looked like a waiter’s dressing room. Just before I passed by, the door opened from the inside and a man came out.
“Oh, you’re a customer? Have a good time, eh?”
The clerk, in the same uniform as the man at the counter, froze as our eyes met. He stared down at me, eyes widened to their limits, and a look of disbelief on his face as if he had just seen something incredible.
I was startled when I heard my name come out of the man’s mouth. I didn’t recognize this man with golden hair and green eyes. However– when I looked closer, I remembered his face from a distant memory.
“No way, Lan… Langetsu?”
“Hey! Manager! I’m renting an empty room! And I’m taking a break!”
Langetsu took my hand and began pulling me toward the end of the hallway.
“Huh? Lan, what are you talking about all of a sudden?”
“I’m borrowing this customer, too!”
“Hey! Wait a minute!”
Langetsu and I ran through the sounds of men moaning together and entered a room with a blue door at the far end. We immediately locked the door and sat down on the bed as if we were both going to fall down. I was completely out of breath from all the running and pulling.
“Shuka-san, you really are Shuka-san! You’re alive?!”
“Ah… You look so different now, Langetsu. You’ve grown so much, I didn’t recognize you at first,” I whispered to Langetsu, who had whispered to me in an emotional voice.
Langetsu was from my hometown and a former subordinate of mine. The last time we met was twenty years ago. At the time, I was twelve and Langetsu was fifteen. It was amazing how we’d gotten to know each other so well in such a short period of time.
“You’ve changed a lot in twenty years… Shuka-san looks worn out…”
Langetsu’s hand traced the shape of my cheek as if to check it. I no longer remembered what I looked like twenty years ago. But I guessed Langetsu still had the me from twenty years ago in his mind. Just as the Langetsu I remembered was the one from back then.
“I heard that Shuka-san failed his mission and was erased. At first no one believed it, but first five years, then ten years passed without any information about whether Shuka-san was alive or not… Why didn’t you let us know that you were alive?”
“…I just couldn’t. There was a lot going on…”
It had been impossible for me, who was cursed and possessed a broken body, to make any kind of announcement to my hometown. The curse of making others feel disgusted was vicious. If I had entrusted a letter to someone, they would have torn it up in front of my eyes, and if I had asked them to send a message, they would have only taken my money and beaten me up. It wouldn’t have mattered how good of a person they were.
“What do you mean, ‘a lot going on’?”
“It would be quicker to show you.”
It was a private room in a brothel. There was only me and Langetsu in the room. In my hometown, it was customary to soak in a large bath with many others, and we weren’t shy. I took off everything I was wearing.
Langetsu gasped when he saw the scars all over my body. It was dimly lit in the store, but you could see that my bones were bent and crooked in several places. Langetsu looked at everything with a shudder. The whip wounds running down my chest, the burn marks on my back, the evidence of the curse, burned in black on my ankle; everything from top to bottom.
“This is terrible! It’s too terrible, this is… Why…?!”
His voice trembled with anger. Even after twenty years, he was still the same. Langetsu was compassionate and always angry for the sake of others.
“That day, I failed my mission—”
I told him my story. I told him how I had failed to complete the request of a nobleman. That I was tortured. How I was cursed. How I’d lived for the last twenty years.
“—so now I’m receiving help and the curse has been lifted, but only temporarily.”
I was deliberately vague about how the curse was being suppressed. This wasn’t just about me, Ideal’s honor was also at stake. Langetsu, perhaps sensing this, didn’t try to delve any deeper into the matter.
He nodded and prefaced by saying, “Can I ask you one thing?”
“I still can’t believe that Shuka failed his mission. It’s true that this was Shuka’s first assassination mission, but everyone thought you could pull it off. There must have been a reason.”
“…It was twenty years ago. Telling the village the truth now would only cause confusion. So I’d like you to keep this to yourself for now, along with the matter of my survival—”
I lowered my voice and put my mouth to Langetsu’s ear.
“The target was a child. A scrawny kid, maybe five or six years old, who hadn’t had enough to eat.”
“Killing a child… isn’t that a taboo in the village?!”
“Yeah. I think someone set me up.”
In the village where I was born, there were intelligence agents from all over the world and we occasionally took on assassination requests. However, considered taboo since ancient times, it was forbidden to ‘take part in power struggles’ or to ‘kill children and innocents’.
That’s why I had intentionally failed the mission. I had never regretted it. If I could do it over again, I would make the same choice.
“What happened to the child?”
“The child was the child of a noble with an unknown father. He was badly treated at home and would have starved to death or been killed by someone in the near future, so I kidnapped him. The child was a human child, but I thought it would be dangerous to leave him in human territory, so I gave him to someone I trusted from the demon tribe. After that, I don’t know.”
“I see… Hope he’s doing well.”
I was about to pull myself away, thinking that our private conversation was over, but Langetsu tugged on my arm and stopped me.
Langetsu, not caring that I was naked, took me into his arms and hugged me tightly. Hugging was not a custom in our hometown. However, we would embrace each other when we were very strongly moved.
“I am very proud of you for not breaking any taboos, and for enduring that curse, and continuing to live. Very impressive, Shuka-san.”
Langetsu’s body trembled slightly. For the past twenty years, I’d given up hope of ever going back home. Still, the strength in his arms told me that I did well to stay alive, and that was enough for me.
“Thank you, Langetsu. I’m sorry I worried you.”
I put my hand on Langetsu’s back, and returned his embrace. The warm joy of meeting my fellow countrymen in a land far from home filled my heart with a sense of wonder.
“So, Shuka, what brought you here? Are you just gathering information?”
“Er, ah. That’s… how should I put this…?”
“—Wait a minute, sir, you can’t be causing trouble here!”
“What was that? That was the manager’s voice, wasn’t it? Is there a problem?”
While I was struggling with whether I should tell him the truth, suddenly there was a commotion at the entrance of the store. Before we could even disengage ourselves, the commotion was approaching.
I thought it had nothing to do with this room, but as I was listening for any sign of trouble, suddenly the locked door was unlocked from the outside with a clang. Before I could stop it, the blue door was opened and a dim light illuminated the figure outside. It was someone who shouldn’t have been in such a seedy store.
“What are you doing here— Shuka-san?”