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The Devil's Bed

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Chapter 6 Greener on the Other Side

“So how are things going between you and Izumo?”

Rin was snapped out of his thoughts from his mother’s sudden question. The area they were in was a playground at best for the lesser demons to nest in. Despite her initial attempt in taming Satan, she never lost sight of her kindness to them. They all loved her inviting warmth, curiously playing games with her as they abided by her will.

“I would say it’s going well,” he answered honestly, taking comfort in petting a jack frost minion beside him. “I’ve been doing my best to make an effort, but I can’t tell if it’s actually working or not. She makes it difficult to get close to sometimes.”

Yuri smiled warmly, tickling a Greenmen to the point that it sprouted flowers into the air with laughter. “Sounds like you have your work cut out for you.”

Rin wasn’t amused. “Thanks, Mom, very helpful. Isn’t there anything about her life before coming here you can tell me about?”

“Why don’t you ask her?” she inquired curiously.

“You don’t think I’ve tried?” he exclaimed with exasperation. “She won’t tell me anything. I know she’s been through a lot, I just wish I could do more to help her if she would just open up to me…instead of treating me like the bad guy.” He sighed. “Not that I blame her. I am Satan’s kid, after all.” He placed a hand over where his heart was. “Even if I may not seem like it now, I know the real me is there somewhere wanting to get out. The last thing I would ever want is Izumo to think I’m just like my siblings in the end.”

Yuri frowned at her son’s gloom, placing a reassuring hand on his back. “Rin, you’ve come a long way in suppressing the side of you that is your father. You have done everything you can to be kind, I would hate for you to give up now…especially on this girl.” He listened intently to her words, allowing her to continue. “I can’t say I know what happened to Izumo’s past, or imagine what she’s gone through. All I can say is that we try to make her stay here as comfortable as possible, and when she’s ready, there will be a time for her to trust you. I have a feeling she’s a good girl who’s just tired of getting hurt. I mean, she hasn’t killed you in your sleep, that’s a plus, right?”

Rin gave a wry laugh—oh if only she knew.

“Well, I sort of made a promise to her to see if we can get her some new clothes. I didn’t know if that was possible though.”

“Does she not have any? I thought Lucifer’s agents set up a wardrobe for her?”

He groaned from the reminder, recalling the lewd collection that was at her disposal. It was obviously done on purpose to allure him.

“Yeah, maybe something less…tight-skin and…revealing,” he offered. “She’s forced to be my wife, not some ‘escort’. Besides, I’m sure that the male Illuminati member is a pervert. I don’t want him to get any funny ideas.”

“Are you referring to the boy they call Renzo with the pink hair?”

“Yeah, apparently he has a thing for Izumo,” he bitterly commented.

Yuri scrutinized her son, quite intrigued by his tone. “Rin, you sound rather jealous.”

He shook his head, embarrassed by the thought. “It’s not like that, Mom!”

“I was only kidding!” She laughed.

Rin pouted irritably with a blush, not wanting to dwell on the matter.

“Do you think it’s possible though?” he asked, reverting back to his earlier question.

She tapped a finger to her lips. “I wouldn’t see how anyone would be opposed? I’ll see if the Hojo sisters can lend their assistance.”

He beamed, appreciating the effort. It was at least some news he can give to Izumo that he hoped would make her happy. Although he was pretty sure there was a high chance she would degrade the kindness either way. The thought alone caused his tail to sag with disappointment, a sigh erupting loudly from his lips. Yuri was quite familiar with her son’s turmoil, recalling the times when Shiro was difficult to deal with. The lesser demons cuddled around them, doing their best to mend their prince’s sour mood. Kuro even attempted to snuggle into his master’s lap, purring while he licked his hand. Rin instinctively petted him but continued to frown with trepidation.

“I need to blow off some steam.” He launched himself up with newfound energy. “I feel like all this stress is going to make me explode!”

“Are you planning to train?” Yuri asked, knowing full well his strict regiment.

“I haven’t done any since the whole wedding thing. And I’m sure Shura will bite my head off if she knew I was neglecting it during her absence.” He gave a long stretch, curling his tail.

Yuri cuddled her face into a snowman beside her. “She’ll definitely let you regret it.”

She waved him off, returning her attention to the creatures around her. Without needing to prolong his stay, Rin began to make his way out. He had his own personal training ground that wasn’t too far from the facility his mother used. Most of the areas in the west wing of the fortress were more for their benefit than anything else; it seemed like the same couldn’t be said for everyone though. Rin spotted Renzo up ahead, dangling his staff over his shoulder while whistling. He kept himself calm when approaching him, not wanting to seem bothered by his presence.

Renzo noticed the prince, delighting him with a cunning grin. “Yo there, your highness!” He gave a two-finger salute, winking smoothly.

Rin stopped to return the greeting, finding it odd how casual he was. Most humans would keep their distance from him, his very presence invoking fear of the flames he inherited. Demons were forced to respect him, knowing full well the rank he had on them. He kept his guard, not quite trusting Renzo’s motives. After all, this was the same guy who had a habit of harassing Izumo—even if he wanted to give him a benefit of the doubt.

Renzo walked up, scouting the area. “Izumo isn’t with you?”

Rin stiffened a bit, feeling uncomfortable in indulging him. “I’m giving her space today.”

“You really think that’s a good idea? Trusting to leave a girl like that alone to her own devices?”

“More so than she trusts you,” Rin jabbed, “I know you’re here under Lucifer’s orders, and you may have your own reasons for that, but Izumo isn’t your concern.”

Renzo chuckled, his emotions hard to read. “Yeah, you’re probably right about that. Hard to believe she’s a married woman now.”

Rin frowned at the reminder. “Not by choice.”

“When it comes between life and death—choice—is something we can’t afford. You best remember that.”

The prince didn’t appreciate the unfavorable advice, knowing too well that his family was to blame for that.

Renzo decided to lighten the mood. “Anyway, I didn’t come here for a fight, and I’m obviously trespassing in more ways than one, so I’ll take my leave.”

Rin debated on saying anything more, giving Renzo the opportunity to walk away. He was internally conflicted, wanting to seek out one form of clarity.

“Hey…!” He finally called out, his emotions winning over.

Renzo halted and turned around, giving him his complete attention.

Rin glowered, not sure why he was even bothering to ask. “What’s Izumo to you? She’s obviously more than just an assignment to you.”

Intrigued by the sudden question, he grinned. “Why? Did she say something to you?”

He didn’t answer, not wanting to give the wrong impression.

“You’re right though,” he answered, causing Rin to clench his jaw. “She is more to me, but not like I can pursue her can I? Or, are you giving me permission to? As you said, she’s not married to you by choice.”

Rin’s eyes flashed red, his throat seizing up for a rebuttal. His reaction didn’t escape Renzo’s notice.

“Don’t worry, not like any of my advances worked in the past. I doubt they ever will, but hey, thanks for letting me know my options.”

“She’s more faithful than you think,” Rin vouched, not sure why he had the need to defend her, “Even if our relationship is a ploy, I trust her.”

Renzo grinned from the optimism. “We’ll see about that.”

Without any further exchange, the Illuminati parted with satisfaction in his steps. The air became thick, enough to choke Rin’s lungs and set his demon heart ablaze for retribution. It roared and howled for a fight, practically smoldering him. He clutched his chest, doing his best to ease the unspeakable fury. A mantra to destroy was pulsating inside his veins, seething to be released. His demon was not one to take intimidation lightly, especially over something he possessed. This sort of instinct was too dangerous to keep around, especially when Rin had no control over it.

With a punch to his chest that could probably leave a human disabled, Rin growled with disdain. ‘You’re no better than him. What you feel is not mine!’

It mocked him in return, throwing more coal into the fire. The newfound chaos festered, with nothing left to do but to burn it out.


Izumo’s eyebrows twitched with irritation, her lips twisting violently into knots between her teeth. The slip of paper in her hand was starting to wrinkle from her tight grip, being the source of her current sour mood. Why? Why wasn’t Mike and Uke coming to her call? She was sure to have done the right diagram on the paper, the right words. After years of isolation and lack of communication, maybe her spiritual bond with Byakko had withered? The thought terrified her.

They were the only family she had left she could think to rely on coming to her aid, but if they weren’t answering her…

‘Those useless pups are probably dead.’

Izumo didn’t respond, pricking her finger once more with a needle and repeating her verse. “I humbly appeal to thy oh Goddess Inari. Follow my wishes, leave none unfulfilled!”

Once again, she was welcomed by silence.

Izumo banged her fist on the floor, scrunching the parchment in her hand. “Dammit!” She lifted her hand, intending to offer more blood.

‘You’ll pass out from the blood loss at this rate you stupid whelp!’

Izumo gritted her teeth, not wanting to admit she was right. She was back where she started, cursing the world around her once more. And as if to test her patience, a knock soon came from the door. Izumo became startled by the sound, knowing full well it couldn’t be Rin. Immediately wary of her uninvited guest, she quickly slipped the summoning paper underneath her pillow.

The knock repeated, this time with a voice. “Izumo, are you there? It’s me, Maria.”

“What the hell is she here for?” She was pretty sure she was still stocked up in her inoculations.

Could it be…Renzo finally snitched on her? Not wanting to seem too suspicious, she decided to answer.

She opened the door ajar, sticking her head out. “What do you want?” she asked bluntly, her face set to her usual scowl.

Maria gave her a pleasant smile, unnerving the girl even further. “I wanted to see how you were doing with your current arrangements.”

“Were you ordered to? Or did Pink head put you up to this?” she asked, testing her.

She shook her head. “I’m here on my own accord. Do you mind if we take a walk?”

“What for? I’m perfectly fine talking here.”

“Please, it’s for your own protection of privacy, I assure you,” she insisted lightly. “It’s easier for everyone to pry if left open like this.”

She guessed she had a point, especially if Rin came back.

‘This is foolish…but I don’t sense evil intent from her.’

“Fine, but let’s make this quick.” She stepped out and closed the door behind her, signaling her to lead the way.

Maria nodded, appreciating her cooperation. They started to walk down the hallway, making their way outdoors. Izumo had to admit that she was getting accustomed to her new home, much to her disliking. Not like she could make progress in finding her sister if she stayed locked away inside her room. Given how huge the vicinity was, she was sure secrets of her sister’s whereabouts were bound to make themselves known. It’s at least what she told herself.

They made it to the royal veranda which stretched out endlessly amongst a sea of flowers. Statues of demons and angels were split across the path, serving as columns that held a nest of vines around them. Despite the decor, given who the residents were, it was serene and completely barren for anyone to disturb them.

“How have things been with the prince?” Maria asked, once it was apparent they were alone.

Luckily, it seemed like she was oblivious to her secret. Perhaps Renzo didn’t snitch on her after all, which was odd, to say the least—she wasn’t going to complain though.

“If you’re wondering if we compromised our marriage, the answer is no. Why are you so interested in knowing anyway?” Izumo crossed her arms, putting up her walls.

“Well, considering this whole situation was against your will. I want…no…hope some happiness for you.”

“Hah….happiness? You’re joking right?” She looked away, the idea totally ludicrous to her.

Maria’s smile dimmed to a frown. “I expected that to be your reaction, but surely, the prince has been kind? From what I’ve seen, he seems the complete opposite of his father, much less his family. Perhaps it’s due to his mother? After all, she is human.”

Izumo actually almost completely forgot about that, considering her own lineage, she figured it was possible his human heart had some form of influence on his idiocy.

‘Yes, you should know.’

Izumo glared from the response.

“He’s….” She ventured some form of description that made sense. “He’s….special.” Yup, the best compliment she could give.

Maria chuckled at her perplexed tone. “He’s been good to you then?”

“Much as it’s hard to believe, yes, he has. He wants us to be friends, despite our situation.”

“As good as that is to hear, I fear he’s just going to make things worst if he doesn’t commit to you.”

“What do you mean by that? What is it that the Illuminati hope to accomplish with our union anyway?

‘Surely you’re not dense cub.’

Maria stared at her apprehensively—oh, hell no.

“You got to be kidding me?!” she shouted, causing birds to disperse into the air.

“I promise you, it’s for a greater purpose!”

“I don’t give a crap! Do you really expect me to be some sort of baby maker for another spawn of Satan? You guys are nothing more than a cult!” She berated angrily, feeling disgusted.

Maria flinched from the remark, remaining sympathetic. “It’s not a fate I would want for you, especially when it’s not out of love, but it is what is expected of you if you are to live. You have been the best candidate to offer to the prince, guaranteeing a future of peace like we always wanted amongst the people of Gehenna and Assiah.”

“And if I continue to refuse?”

“Then…to the Illuminati’s eyes, you would be considered obsolete.”

“This is insane…”

“Even so, I plan to do what I can to help you…even if it means lying.” Maria somberly confessed to her.

“What? Why? Wouldn’t that put you in danger as well?” Izumo did not understand her aim.

“Yes, but even I still have morals. It’s true, what I would want nothing more is peace amongst both realms, but not in the suffering of another. I just want you to know that. If they do presume to ask me a report, I will do everything that I can to convince them that you and the prince’s relationship continue to go unabated.”

“That won’t last for long,” she said.

“Maybe not, but I have hope. And although I can’t make any promises, I’ll do what I can to find any information about your sister.” This was something that caught Izumo’s attention.

She wasn’t willing to falter just yet though. “That’s…how am I supposed to trust you?”

“I can’t, it’s just something you have to take my word for.”

’She speaks with an honest heart….how annoying.’

No one was reliable before, why start now?

Maria held her hands together against her lap. “I’m here to help you, so don’t hesitate to call upon me. Meanwhile, you should try getting closer to the prince, for your own benefit of survival. I’ll be sure to keep tabs.”

“Do what you want…” Izumo hissed, not believing any of it.

“Should I escort you back to your room?” She sensed the conversation to be beyond her tolerance.

“No, just leave me be.” She tightened her hands into fists, her tone demanding the solitude.

Maria bowed somberly. “I understand. I’ll leave you to your thoughts then.”

The young woman walked off, the sound of her heels softly vanishing into the distance. Now alone, Izumo pinched her nose, trying to process everything she learned. Somewhat, she knew her purpose, but she felt like it wasn’t as simple as bearing an heir. There was more to this, and it seemed like she didn’t have the luxury to escape it.


Fatigue was something Shura was quite used to feeling, especially given her duties. She was exhausted from the mundane tasks of being Rin’s tutor, much less staying obedient in the eyes of Satan’s followers. If it weren’t for Shiro, she probably would be dead by now by her constant insubordination—not by lack of trying. With recent developments, her job has become twice as grueling; serving as Shiro’s alibi for his recent activities was definitely not an easy task either.

If it weren’t for her own connections with demons, she probably wouldn’t be playing her part so well. She supposed she had to thank Satan’s rule somewhat for her deal with Hachiro to be broken—most likely severing her contract to serve under him. Not that it freed her from anything besides being a babysitter to the spawn of Satan.

Who, speaking of, was currently blasting blue flames at a pile of charcoal dust where a training dummy used to be. Shura entered the secluded area, spotting him easily amongst the outburst of fire surrounding him. She had hoped to find him here, having created the space purely for him to hone his skills—but never to this degree of belligerence. Rin was never an aggressive person unless provoked, which could only spell trouble when he was.

“Hey! Mind simmering it down a bit, Sparky! I think you got it!” She bellowed, cupping a hand to her lips.

With one last punch of fire, Rin stopped and turned to his mentor. “Shura, when did you get back?” he asked, slightly stunned to see her.

His flames disappeared across his body, calming himself down. She walked over to him, inspecting the damage. The look she gave him said it all, he sighed, already anticipating her judgment.

“Go ahead, I know what you’re going to say.”

She crossed her arms. “So what’s got you all riled up this time?”

Rin bent down to pick up the pieces of his shirt, realizing he had burnt most of it to shreds. “Where do I even start?”

She lifted her hand, counting down the list with her fingers. “Oh, your arranged marriage, your father being a dick, your siblings being not that much better….or…” She stopped, her tone taking a graver tone. “Your demon.”

His body stiffened, swiping a hand over his hair.

“Last one, huh?” she said, reading him easily from his reaction.

“Usually he’s been tolerable, but today, he got a bit territorial.” Grabbing a broom, he started sweeping up the ashes off the ground—a habit Shura made him do after training.

“Territorial? Over what?

He fidgeted, not willing to answer. Shura, always the tease though, had her speculation.

“Oh my God, was it over your wife?”

“It sounds weirder when you say it aloud,” he groaned.

“I don’t get it though, you two are married—granted—not by choice, but still…!”

“It was that pink-haired guy, Renzo, I think is his name? He…I think he has feelings for Izumo.”

Shura frowned. “Is it something I have to get involved in backing him off?”

He shook his head adamantly. “No, no, I’ll deal with it.”

“You’ll deal with it?” She drawled in disbelief.

He clutched the sheath of his sword. “Izumo doesn’t have any friends, let alone people she could trust. I may not have feelings for her, or her for me, but I don’t want the other me to think she’s ours just because we’re married. And this Renzo guy, he seems intent on pursuing her despite that fact….and well, he didn’t take that lightly.”

“Which caused him to be a little unruly.”

“Yeah…and…Izumo has every right to be with another guy if she wants to.”

“Wait, so you’re okay with her cheating on you?”

“It’s not really cheating if we’re not really a couple.”

“No, I guess not,” she said with a shrug towards his logic.

“My main focus is just to make peace with her, that’s all.” Not like he was looking to make her fall in love with him. “It’s obvious she dealt with a lot, even if she doesn’t want to talk about it. I’m not looking to make her life more miserable than what my family has already done.”

Shura was secretly touched by his sentiment, causing her to pull his head under her arm for a noogie session.

“Ahhhh! What the hell are you doing, Boobzilla!” His face was completely squashed into her breast, trying his best not to get suffocated.

“Sometimes, you can be so dumb that it’s cute,” she said, deciding to lecture him. “But don’t be too dumb that it gets you killed, or else my ass will get it. You understand?”

He shoved her away, escaping her grip.

“Yeah, I got it!” he exclaimed grumpily.

“Starting next week, you and I are going back into the routine. We can’t make this other you a habit if you can’t control him.” Her face was calm but serious. His response was only a pout, which made her grin. “Besides, from what I could tell, you’re still a virgin it seems.”

His cheeks reddened. “Yeah, so what?” he rebutted.

She spluttered into fits of laughter. “What a dork! Has a wife, but doesn’t even get laid!”

He flared up, blue flames dancing around him. “Knock it off!”

She waved her hand, trying to control her giggles. “Alright, alright, settle down. Don’t get your undies in a bunch.”

He rolled his eyes, deciding to change the subject. “Anyway, since you’re here, I wanted to give this back to you.”

Shura was confused about what he meant but was soon surprised when one of her knives was pulled out from the back of his pockets. “When the hell did I give this to you?” she asked, snatching it away from him.

“You didn’t…Izumo took it,” he answered cautiously.

What?” Multiple scenarios played inside her head before it dawned on her. “Rin did she…”

He quickly interrupted her, not wanting her to think the worst. “Look, yes, she did try to murder me, but as you can see I’m still alive.”

Shura rubbed her forehead. “What could you be thinking? We should report this!”

“No! Look, it’s fine. Ever since it happened she hasn’t tried to do anything funny, I swear! Please, Shura!”

His plead took her off guard. “Rin…” She tried to warn.

“Look, the kunai is back with its rightful owner okay? No need to make a big fuss. I don’t want to make Izumo’s life any more difficult than it needs to be. I want her to trust me…I…it’s all I want.”

She closed her eyes in exasperation. “Fine…but!” She lifted a finger at him. “If she tries anything else…”

“I’ll handle it.”

“Yeah, that’s what worries me,” she said, tucking the kunai beneath her belt.

She had to admit though, it was pretty ballsy of the girl. Obviously, she was a lot more capable than she thought. Next time, she’ll be sure not to underestimate her—or else she’ll be asking for a death wish instead.


It felt like an eternity since Izumo sunk her body into the grass, sitting silently in hopes of prolonging her fate. It’s not like she didn’t expect anything else from the forced union, it felt silly to think it was for any other purpose besides popping a baby out. There was no way she could let Satan’s legacy continue. Deep down she wondered if Rin was even aware of this himself, or was he completely oblivious to it? Far as she could tell, he probably was unaware of her purpose just as much as he was of his.

‘Are we going to sit here until the grass grows over us?’

If that’s what it will take, sure.

“Nee!”

Izumo ignored the sound at first, expecting to be an animal of some kind nearby.

“Nee! Nee!”

Whatever it was, it sure was energetic.

“Nee! Nee! Nee!”

Curiosity and annoyance getting the better of her, Izumo huffed and decided to investigate the source. She crawled through the grass, looking in every direction possible.

“Nee!” The chirp came again, revealing itself amongst the flowers.

Welcoming her with a smile and wave was a small Greenman. She blinked rapidly, overwhelmed by its cuteness; never had she seen one up close before. It bowed at her, kneeling down to pop a purple aster flower from its stomach. Plucking the stem, it handed it to her, almost like a peace offering.

Izumo graciously took it, utterly baffled. “Um…thank you?”

It beamed, soon beckoning her to follow it.

‘This is how we die.’The Kitsune deadpanned.

Izumo compiled though, finding it to be harmless enough—not like Greenman was known in being hostile. Sensing that she was cooperating, it cheered with glee. It then sprinted off, making sure she didn’t lose him. Izumo kept up with its strides as it took her through loops and obstacles around the castle’s ground. They climbed up layers of stairs and jumped across multiple balconies. At this rate, Izumo was starting to think it was just playing with her. That was until, after one bridge crossing later, she found herself in front of a door. It was white, giving off a sacred glow with leaves all around its border. The doorknob made it seem like it was made out of crystal, shaped like a rose.

The Greenman encouraged her to go inside, its smile never faltering.

“Well, if you insist,” she said, accepting the invitation.

What’s the worst that can happen?

When she opened the door, light streamed through, nearly blinding her. Once her eyes adjusted, Izumo was in awe of the view. It was as if the Garden of Eden itself was before her, a large tree being at the center of it all. The greenhouse was contained inside a vast dome, an artificial sun hanging overhead. There was multiple shower heads sprinkling dust of rain over fields of flowers, giving them life. It was beyond anything a girl could dream of, almost like a fairy tale.

“Nee!” The Greenman brought her attention back, making its way towards a vine-covered gazebo.

She cautiously followed him, spotting a blonde-haired girl in the distance. Her hair was up in a bun, styled with pins of leaves and flowers. She wore a long white gown, with stitchings fit for royalty.

The Greenman approached the girl, tugging slightly on her dress. “Nee!”

“Oh Nee, you came back!” she chimed.

So that was its name? Izumo shouldn’t have expected much.

It seemed like the girl took notice of her though because soon enough, she gasped in what she assumed was excitement. “You’re here!” She picked up her dress, rushing right over to her, grabbing her hands. “I’ve been wanting to meet you, Mrs. Okumura!”

Izumo was bewildered by the girl’s forward greeting. “Wha….” She shook her head, trying to gain back her composure. “It’s Izumo kamiki, to….whoever you are,” she scorned lightly, quickly retracting her hands away.

“Oh, sorry, I should introduce myself.” She bowed with a tender smile, her face completely flushed. “My name is Shiemi, Shiemi Moriyama! And this is my familiar, Nee!” She directed at the Greenman, picking him up so he could sit on her shoulder.

“Nee!” It cried happily.

“I ask—asked him to bring yo—you here, and may—maybe share a cup of tea together!” She was practically tripping over her own words from how nervous she was.

Izumo examined her intently with suspicion, finding her very difficult to read. She felt familiar though, her memory a bit hazy of her voice. Was she part of the fortress as one of Satan’s disciples? Or was she some divine grace hidden away in the walls of the castle? Either way, she couldn’t trust her.

“For tea? Are you for real?”

Was this a joke?

“Yes!” She gleefully nodded. “I mean, you don’t have to, but it would be nice! I’ve been wanting to talk to you ever since you came!”

“I don’t even know you!” She exclaimed in disbelief at her odd friendliness.

“But that’s why I have tea prepared, so we can!”

Izumo was not one to be taken for a fool—she’s had enough of that from Rin. “No thanks,” she said, already making her way towards the exit.

“We—well, if it makes you feel better, I am a friend of Rin’s!” She added hastily, hoping it’ll convince her to stay.

She kept walking. “Doesn’t change anything.”

Shiemi ran in front of her, blocking her from leaving. “Please!” She clapped her hands together, almost in prayer. “It would mean so much to me if you could stay! I…I don’t get to see anyone much anymore. Since you’re Rin’s wife, I want to be friends with you!”

“Why?” Izumo asked, not quite getting it. “What’s Rin to you?” Did she sound jealous? Oh my God, she hoped not.

“He’s…a dear friend who’s helped me a lot. So, I want to help him,” she answered softly, blushing downwards.

“And making me your friend is how you’re going to do that?” Izumo questioned vexingly.

“I know it sounds silly!”

“That’s because it is.”

Izumo was starting to think she was surrounded by crazy people. Between this girl and Rin, she didn’t know who was worst in wanting to force her to be their friend.

“But, I’m sure I can be of help to you and Rin having a happier marriage! I even have snacks prepared!” She hurried back to the gazebo, presenting the tray of treats she had prepared for them.

Nee jumped onto the table, picking up a cookie for her.

Izumo grumbled at the cute gesture, doing her best not to let her blush show. “Ugh, fine!” She finally caved in. “And it’s not because you’re little plant guy is cute either!”

A moment of silence came over them before a demonic voice made itself known within the fox girl.

‘You’re pathetic.’

Izumo’s ears twitched, knowing all too well of her weakness.

Shiemi giggled at her reaction. “Thank you, Mrs. Oku—oh—I mean, Ms. Kamiki!”

She gave a heavy sigh, calmly making her way back over to an open seat. Shiemi stood awkwardly, barely containing her excitement.

Izumo gazed at her with mild confusion. “Well, aren’t you going to sit?”

She jolted. “Oh right!”

Shiemi slid into the seat opposite of her, quickly prepping their tea. Izumo patiently waited for her to pour each of their cups, observing her surroundings. Nee called out to her, signaling her to put the flower he gave her earlier on her head. She was hesitant at first, but couldn’t resist his eager glee.

She cradled the stem behind her ear. “There, happy?”

“Nee!”

“Anyway~” Izumo drawled, accepting the cup of tea Shiemi gave to her. “What is this place? I never knew such a place existed around here, especially not after Satan took over.”

“This is my private garden. It’s where I tend to my flowers without any disturbances, well, mostly.” She sipped her tea. “Not many know of it, not even Rin.”

“Huh? Why is that?”

“My new responsibilities make it difficult for me to make contact with anyone. In order to help forestall any more bloodshed or pain, I chose the path of Shemihaza. With her gift, I can command life with flora in hopes of aiding the world back into balance.”

Izumo heard legends of the Shemihaza, and the Grigori, but to meet one up close, it’s not exactly what she imagined.

“So why have me here then?”

Shiemi seemed startled by the question. “Oh, well…I never had a friend who was a girl before. Rin was the only other friend I have ever known, but seeing as you are his wife, I figured we could keep it a secret? He…he wouldn’t understand. Rin has always been one to be against fate, it’s one of the things I admire about him.”

The way she spoke about Rin unnerved Izumo. There was affection in her tone, one she was too afraid to even know. It gnawed at her, finding her role as wife to be insignificant in her presence.

“Are…are you in love with him?” The question came out before she could even stop herself.

Shiemi nearly choked on her tea. “What!? No!”

Izumo wasn’t entirely convinced. “I hate liars, so tell me the truth. I’m pretty sure it’s weird to have a girl like me suddenly be his wife when you yourself was someone he was close with.”

“That’s not it at all!” Shiemi exclaimed. “With everything that’s happened, even I know how lonely it must be for you.”

Lonely, how absurd.

She was used to the term, not like she had to be reminded. And yet, after meeting Rin, it began to lose all meaning to her—she hated that fact. To think this girl was influenced by him, didn’t make things better either.

“You sound like him.”

“Like who?”

“Like Rin…so willing to be kind and make friends, when you know nothing about that person.”

Shiemi gave a comforting smile. “That’s why we’re having tea together, aren’t we?”

The statement was direct with profound honesty. Izumo sat awkwardly without any comeback, distracting herself by eating a cookie instead. It felt so long ago since she was able to sit with someone like this, not since her childhood friend. They were just kids then, and a part of her wondered if she was even alive. The company she was keeping wasn’t ideal; being friends with a Grigori would just lead to complications she rather avoids.

Rin was handful enough.

‘What is this horrid taste?!’ The Nine-tails rioted, practically in agony.

Izumo wretched, holding a hand to her mouth. She forced herself to swallow, shivering in disgust. “What are these made of?”

Shiemi was way too gleeful to answer. “It’s my grandmother’s special herb recipe! Do you like it?”

“Like is a strong word….” Izumo muttered, resisting the urge to gag.

“Please have some more!” Shiemi picked up the plate, eagerly offering it to her. “I made plenty!”

‘She’s trying to kill us.’

Before Izumo could even remotely be kind enough to refuse, they were interrupted by an unpleased voice.

“Bride, are you sharing treats without me?”

Much to Izumo’s surprise, Shiemi glared at their uninvited guest. “Amaimon, I told you not to call me that!”

He ignored her for the most part, walking forward and grabbing a handful of cookies to shove into his mouth. Izumo recognized him right away to be one of Rin’s older brothers—the one who forced them to kiss. Did he say, bride? Was Shiemi also forcibly engaged? She kept quiet, not daring to provoke a demon king who was obviously unhinged.

“Those cookies aren't for you!” Shiemi scolded, snatching the treats away from him.

Amaimon just kept staring Izumo down, like a beast ready to kill. “You’re trespassing,” he simply said, turning to Shiemi. “She’s not supposed to be here.”

“She’s a guest, and you will treat her as such.” Shiemi’s voice was firm, never faltering in his presence.

If Izumo didn’t know any better, she would think this was an entirely different person. No matter what rank the demon kings were, they were always considered to be feared. It was rather a spectacle to see someone stand against one without any regard for their life. Safe to say, Izumo was impressed.

Amaimon growled, not thrilled at the idea of being scolded like some pet who pissed on the carpet. “This is our garden, Rin’s wench should be with him in his bed like a good bride.”

The urge to slap him was rising high in the vixen. Luckily, Shiemi beat her to the punch by restraining his crude words with some vines around his mouth.

“Amaimon, that’s enough. You can’t speak to people like that!” She gave a strong sigh of disappointment. “When will you learn, it’s not like I enjoy this.”

Izumo was stunned by the scale of power between them. “How are you…?”

Shiemi bit her lip, not sure how to explain. “Amaimon and I….have a unique contract.”

“Contract? Like a familiar?”

“Something to that effect,” she bashfully concurred. “Not that he’s happy with being called that. Then again, being called his bride is something I am not pleased with either. None of this was by choice, his relationship with me goes all the way back to the original Shemihaza.”

“She put him on a short leash, I’m assuming?” Izumo’s remark rewarded her a glare from the King of Earth.

“Yes, you can say that, but we try to make it work.” Shiemi gave Amaimon a remorseful look, deciding to dispel her vines. “Since nothing is worst than being someone’s puppet.”

In that regard, Izumo felt they were all not so different.

Amaimon pouted. “I best get my own batch of cookies for this, Bride.”

“If you can manage in being nice.”

He scoffed. “Then you best ask your new friend to leave. Either way, this place is forbidden. For her safety, you best escort her back to my weakling of a brother. They could be watching, and I can’t promise to protect you from their wrath.”

“Then I’ll be sure to be more careful. Thank you, Amaimon.”

His warning was sincere, despite his initial hostility.

“I’ll have a better approach for next time.” Shiemi promised with a humble smile. “Maybe then you can introduce me to something you enjoy, Ms.Kamiki.”

“Didn’t I just…” Amaimon shook his head, deciding to not even argue.

“Is this really okay?” Izumo asked, sensing her life was being jeopardized just by speaking with the girl.

“I won’t let them decide who I can be friends with, even if it’s against their rules.”

Chess pieces locked to play their roles.

“Nee, can you show Ms. Kamiki the way out?” Shiemi regarded the small familiar.

“Nee!” He beckoned Izumo to follow him, making their way to a door that was conjured up by wood and roots.

Once it opened, Shiemi quickly grabbed Izumo’s hand, nearly desperate. “You can’t tell Rin you saw me. You have to keep this between us, Ms. Kamiki.”

“Huh? Why?”

She just smiled. “You’re his wife, surely you know how he can be.”

Without further hesitation, she gently released her hand. Izumo passed through the dimensions, entering one of the many halls inside the castle. When she turned, she discovered Shiemi and the entrance to her garden to have completely vanished. If it weren’t for the world she lived in, Izumo would have thought everything that transpired to be her imagination. She stared at the empty space, conducting her next plan of action.

“Izumo? What are doing all the way out here?”

She whipped her head around, becoming startled. “Rin!”

He walked up towards her, examining the space she was staring at a moment ago. “Did something happen?”

She shook her head. “It’s nothing, I got lost.”

He was amused by the thought. “Hehehe, I get lost too around this place. Good thing we found each other.”

“I wish I could say the same about your shirt.” She sarcastically pointed out.

He blushed, remembering his state of wear. “Ugh, yeah, sort of got into an accident. Nothing to worry about though.”

She unintentionally ignored him, not sure what to make of her interaction with the blonde Grigori quite yet. Rin studied her, wondering if he said something wrong.

It didn’t take long for his excitement to take over though. “Oh, I have good news!”

This piqued her interest, considering good news was very scarce for her.

“I managed to set up a day for us to get you some new clothes. We’ll have the Hojo sisters help us, they’re human, so no need to worry about them being Satan’s demons. At least you don’t have to be in those uncomfortable outfits anymore.” He grinned, pleased by the success of his plan.

How he kept managing to surprise her was beyond Izumo’s comprehension. The lengths he was going through for her were inconceivable. After being isolated all her life, it all felt unnatural for her to even grasp.

“You…you didn’t have to do that,” she conceded with a softness that sent Rin’s heart reeling.

It was very unlike her, having grown accustomed to her usual fixated frowns of contempt. “Well, it’s the least I can do,” he said.

“Rin…why are you so…” She discarded her next choice of words, realizing it was pointless to even ask when it was in his nature. “I don’t get you, but…thank you.” She decided to finish instead.

He scratched the back of his head, not used to this side of her—he could get used to it. “Don’t sweat it! What are friends for if not to give the shirt off your back, right? At least that’s how I think the saying goes? Uh, speaking of, I should really get a new one myself.”

“Yeah~, best do that.”

He walked passed her but stopped once he noticed she wasn’t following. “You coming?”

“Oh, yeah…I guess.”

She kept herself behind him, digesting the events of her day. Everything felt like a bad fever dream. The weight on her kept piling up, and all she wanted was for it to go away.

“By the way…” Without faltering his stride, Rin flexed his eyes towards her. “Where did you get that flower?”

Izumo instantly drew a hand to her ear, Shiemi’s voice repeating inside her head, causing her to debate her next choice of words. She had no reason to get involved; not like she cared about a complete stranger she just met. And yet, one look at Rin, and she couldn’t help but feel docile to her word.

Deep down, she was sure there was a selfish reason why she lied. “It’s nothing…I just found it while wandering around.” But she dared not confront it.

End Chapter