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“Oh, is this someone you also love Arc?” Suika delivered the comment with no hint of malicious teasing. It was as if she were asking what the time was.
“She’s special to me,” I avoided giving a straight reply and kept on walking. There wasn’t a better way to answer that, I thought. At that point in my life I wasn’t sure entirely what love was. If it was what I felt for Miss Keine or Auntie then it probably really was a good thing to feel.
“More special than me?” She looked up at me with doe-like eyes. Those eyes were easy to lose myself in. I almost stumbled more than once.
“I don’t know. Everyone is different,” I impulsively pat her on the head, mussing her still-messy hair. I gave her a heartfelt smile, “You’re pretty special though. I wouldn’t do all the things that I do with you otherwise.”
“Good to hear it,” Her face beamed with a bright smile and she latched onto my arm and began to hum a cheerful little tune.
“Watch the horns,” It was a nice moment and all but it wasn’t exactly comfortable to have those things poking into my sides. We walked along for a while, passing the occasional townsperson. I was sure that most of them knew who I was and I wondered what they thought of seeing me like that. I had to admit, Suika was adorable right then. A bright-eyed young girl who didn’t have a single care in the world. If it weren’t for the horns she might have passed off as my little sister or, depending on differing tastes, my smitten lover.
I couldn’t get her to let go even when I needed my hand to knock on the door. I used the other hand and couldn’t bring myself to complain about something so trivial. There was no reply for a good five minutes and I knocked again to make sure there was no one home. The door opened just as I was about to go.
“Yes...?” Keine opened the door with a muted yawn. Her hair was even more frazzled than Suika’s had been earlier and she was in her sleeping clothes. She rubbed her eyes and looked at us, a recognition slowly washed over her, “Oh, hello, what brings you here? Oh, where are my manners? Do come in. I’ll make us some tea.”
We sat in the small sitting room at the heart of the cozy house. Piles of scrolls and books crowded the available seating space. Keine went off to make tea, leaving Suika and I all alone in there. I would have never expected her home to be so... unkempt. Even if she usually dressed simply she had an air of being impeccably neat in all affairs. At school she was good at organizing our things and making us clean up after ourselves.
“Hey, I can see why you think she’s so special. She has pretty big ones,” My clingy oni companion whispered an inappropriate remark. “I won’t say I’m jealous, but even I feel like playing around with them.”
She was, of course, saying that because of Miss Keine’s slovenly appearance. I had pretended not to notice but several of the buttons on her top were undone... and there was nothing blocking the view. It made me shuffle around uncomfortably, and I tried not to think about my wonderful former teacher in that way. It made me uncomfortable when the guys had talked about it in school back then and it still made me feel the same way. I silently prayed that by the time she got back she would realize that she needed to close up. Otherwise Suika might actually bring the subject up and I wouldn’t know what to do.
“It’s not because of that that I think she’s special,” I started but then had second thoughts, “You know what? We can talk about this later,” I hoped to never bring it up with her again. “Well, try not to make a fuss. I don’t want her thinking I’m a pervert.”
“Oh, trust me. You’re not a pervert. I mean, you like me right?”
I failed to see how her logic worked. Before I could think of a follow up, Miss Keine returned with tea. She had also luckily done up her shirt and was looking a slight bit more awake.
“I’m sorry to intrude on you like this Miss Keine. I didn’t know that you were still asleep,” I bowed apologetically.
“Nonsense, no need to feel sorry about it. You’re more than welcome to stop by here anytime.” Keine smiled and poured the tea. She did some apologizing of her own, “Sorry about the mess. I was just getting myself organized before tonight. I’ll be very busy doing work then.”
“Tonight? Why are you working at night instead of drinking and having fun big sis?” Suika fired away like there was established intimacy between the three of us already.
“It’s just something I do about every month,” Miss Keine replied, looking a bit confused at being called ‘big sis’ by the oni.
I felt that perhaps something was missing here. I tried to fix that, “I’m sorry Miss Keine, this is my friend Suika in case you don’t know her. She’s tagging along with me today.”
“Oh, I know her. It’s curious to see her around these parts though,” She took a sip of her tea, letting the meaning of her words soak through to me.
“I love Arc and spending time with him, so I’ll go anywhere he goes,” The oni happily explained. She clung to my arm again, rubbing up against me like a very pleased cat to the legs of her owner.
“Well, isn’t that nice for you. I suppose this is whom your aunt was talking about last we chatted,” She said mostly to herself. It looked like she was curious about something, but refrained from asking. Instead she posed another question, “So did you have fun at the festival? Your friend get back home safely?”
“Yes, she did. And we had fun. I didn’t see you for the rest of the evening though, did you also enjoy yourself Miss Keine?” I drank a bit of my tea, savoring it.
“Yes, I always have fun at these things. I met up with a friend and we drank the rest of the night away. It was a pity because I was planning on asking you for a dance. I mean, you’ve grown up quite a bit since the last time.” She made me recall the fact that we had, in fact, danced once before. It had been only two or three years ago, but it seemed like a whole lifetime had passed since then. I was nervous but she was forgiving and patient. It was in preparation for another festival, she showed the class how the dance was traditionally done. I was her partner and I remember blushing myself beet red as everyone stared at us in the classroom.
“Ah~ I kinda wanted to dance with Arc too. Sounds like it would be very fun.” Suika rubbed her cheek against my shoulder.
“Oh it was a lot of fun for me last time. He’s quite good at it,” Miss Keine gave me a favorable review, “I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the best dancer of his generation. He’s got really agile feet and good coordination.”
“Oh please, you’re embarrassing me. I’m not very good. I tend to stumble a lot.” And that was true. I wasn’t very confident about my skills.
“I want to see for myself. Next time we have a party, you’re so dancing with me,” Suika let go of my arm and swayed her upper body as if she were dancing along to a lively tune. In her mind we were probably drinking heavily and dancing surrounded by everyone else.
Miss Keine giggled.
“It looks like you two are very close. That makes me happy,” She looked at me with motherly affection, “I often worried that you kept your distance from others at school. I thought that maybe you were scared of getting close to people, but it looks like I was wrong.”
“Ahaha~” Suika burst out laughing all of a sudden, “Hey, big sis, it sounds to me like you’d like to get close to him as well. I don’t mind, whatever makes him happy.”
“I’m sorry, I’m not sure I follow-” Miss Keine tried to play dumb. But I saw something I hadn’t ever really seen before: she was blushing as if being teased. For a brief moment before she regained composure I saw her in a completely different way - a girl only a few years older than me who wasn’t always the respected authority figure that I usually saw her as.
“Suika, don’t create misunderstandings,” I scolded the oni, giving my vulnerable teacher a break. She laughed, looking highly pleased with herself for bringing the topic up. I knew that she wasn’t trying to be a smart ass and that she actually truly believed that being happy meant sharing yourself with everyone you cared about. She was honest in that regard.
“Well, well. It looks like I should make us some more tea,” Miss Keine excused herself even though there was plenty left in the tea bowl. I looked at Suika with a gaze that told her to cut it out and she simply told me to take it easy.
Eventually Miss Keine returned with some more tea. She left soon enough, excusing herself to get dressed. Suika again made an inappropriate suggestion, “Hey Arc, do you want to go peep on her? I really want to see those things again. They were different than Yuugi’s but good as well.”
“I’m not going to do that. It’s not right. She’d think I was the lowest of the low if she caught me as well.” I thought I put it rather clearly for her to understand.
“Bah. I know you’re curious as well, even though you pretend not to care,” She smiled knowingly, “I wonder if you’d do it if it were Reimu? I mean, I know you’ve seen me and I’m cute and all and I’m happy with that but sometimes I worry about you. Loving people is all about wanting to getting to know them better and having fun with them. I bet if you went up to your teacher and hugged her from behind as she were changing, she’d be really really happy. And then you could have a firsthand experience with those things. Sounds good, right?”
I sighed, “It’s not as simple as that.” All sorts of inappropriate thoughts filled my mind but I still tried to explain to her that things weren’t like that, “She probably wouldn’t feel it’s appropriate. I mean, I don’t. I know you think we should all just be upfront about everything but sometimes people like to not do that. It’s just the way things are.”
“That’s boring. If you took my advice, you’d be way happier with your life. Like I am with my own.”
“Sorry that took so long,” Miss Keine returned wearing her normal day-to-day clothes, “I’m sorry for being a poor hostess. Can I get you anything to eat?”
“No thank you, we’re alright. Don’t worry yourself please, I’m more than satisfied just by being here.” Those manners were drilled into me from a young age. And for better or worse, I stuck to them in the majority of situations.
“Well alright, but I really don’t mind fixing something up for you. I always had hoped that one day you would pop in here for a while. You always were one of my favorite students,” She confided with a sheepish smile.
“I told you she liked you,” Suika whispered rather loudly in my ear, “You should go for it. I don’t mind joining in if you feel up to it.”
I nudged her away, muttering for her to shut up. It looked like Miss Keine hadn’t heard what she said. That was good.
“Geez, I don’t know what to say,” I smiled at Miss Keine, “I feel really lucky to hear that.”
“Hey, Miss Big Sis Teacher, I’ve got a great idea!” Suika piped in excitedly. I elbowed her gently hoping she wasn’t going to say anything too stupid. Her eyes twinkled, “But before I say it, could I please have a snack, I haven’t had anything all morning.”
“Well sure I suppose,” Miss Keine looked puzzled. She tilted her head quizzically at Suika but all the same went off into the kitchen to get a snack.
The oni had a wide grin on her face. And she hadn’t even been drinking. I felt a little apprehension at what was coming. She leaned in close, whispering a little softer this time, “I think you should invite her to spend the day with us. Tell her to come with us to the shrine and elsewhere, I bet she’d love to.”
“What are you talking about, I don’t think she’d enjoy that. She’d probably think she was in the way of something with the way you’re behaving.” Furthermore, I didn’t know what else Suika was capable of pulling. For all I knew this would end in another hastily-organized party. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to expose Miss Keine to that sort of environment.
“No, trust me on this one. It’ll be lots of fun for us. She’ll have a good time as well. I can tell that she wants to spend more time with you, I mean you heard how she thinks you’re her favorite student and all.” I was going to point out the difference between her statement and Miss Keine’s but decided against it. The excited oni continued, explaining her unassailable logic, “She doesn’t know how to ask so it’s up to you to invite her to something. I mean you like her and all, so what’s the big deal anyways?”
“I don’t know, I mean-” I was interrupted as Miss Keine came back with a small tray with crackers.
“If you’ll give me a moment I can make something better than crackers...” She began.
“No, don’t bother, I’m fine with these,” Suika said politely. Her attitude had taken a quick reversal from earlier. She was behaving and chose her words carefully. It was like watching anyone other than her ask something nicely, “Well I thought that since you two had some history it might be nice if you did something together. Isn’t that right, Arc?”
“Well, I’m having a swell time just being here,” I smiled and said to the confused-looking Keine. She looked like she wasn’t quite following where things were going. Suika nudged me slightly, whispering that her eyes were sparkling and I should go for it.
“Am I boring you? Please feel free to go if that’s the case, I’m just happy seeing you. But if that’s not the case, feel free to stay as long as you like,” Keine covered her bases, trying to be the best hostess possible. I couldn’t tell what she was thinking at all. Nor what Suika was thinking for that matter.
 Be polite and stay for a little while longer
 Ask her to spend the day with you