“S-seriously?” I asked, looking over at the bunny with amazement.
I had been warned that there were some issues between animalkin and the foxkin variants, but that was something that happened in Dioshin. As for the city of Chalm, which thought of itself as a place that benevolently protected slaves, I was a bit taken aback by this sudden proclamation. I felt a tug on my shirt and looked back to see Miki there with her head lowered.
“It’s okay, Master… I’ll just sleep outside.” She spoke, her voice just a bit shaky.
I gritted my teeth and stood up, putting my hands on the table. “No, if you’re not welcome here, neither am I.”
Miki looked up at me, her fox ears slightly lifting hopefully and her tail wagging just a bit. She wasn’t healthy enough to be sleeping outdoors. What were we going to do?
At that moment, the door was pushed open and the Guild Master walked in. “Deek, I just heard.”
I blinked. “Heard that Chalm is full of prejudiced people?”
The Guild Master looked like he had been slapped, while a couple of others had ugly expressions on their faces. The bunnykin girl was biting her lip, looking back at me with a strangely regretful expression.
“Just bear with us a moment.” The Guild Master bowed, showing me a bit of respect.
The Guild Master walked forward and grabbed the bunnykin girl’s arm, whispering some words into her ear. The two argued back and forth in hushed whispers while I remained standing, my arms folded in front of me, and a displeased expression I couldn’t take off my face. In truth, I had seen Chalm as better than this, so for them to show prejudice against this foxgirl, it really did make me feel sad, angry, and just a bit disappointed.
“Fine.” The bunnykin girl finally said, shooting us one last look and then turning away with a huff.
It was the Guild Master who approached me, lifting his arms with a complicated smile on his face. “Deek, please, sit for a bit. I’ve resolved the issue for now.”
“I doubt that, since she hasn’t apologized,” I said.
The Guild Master winced. “We deserved that. I will apologize in her place. I’m sorry. After hearing you were seen in town with a sickly foxkin, I came immediately. I knew there would be trouble.”
“What is this about?” I demanded, still feeling anger, even with his apology.
“I’m sure you’ve probably heard. Foxkin variants have a tie to the spiritual world. Other animalkin have a sensitivity to it. They can pick up on the otherworldly aura. I reckon this foxkin has a really strong one. They fear it instinctively, and over the course of time, it became a cultural norm to keep spirit foxes away. They call them bad omens which only bring disaster.”
The foxkin nodded sadly. “My own parents left me. You saw how Lydia was looking at me. She clearly hates me.”
“She doesn’t…” I wanted to say that, but I didn’t really know.
Lydia had been acting a bit weird since I had brought Miki back to life. It was very possible she was feeling this unease just like everyone else. I felt bad about it. There had to be some kind of magical item or ability that would allow me to diminish the effect for her. I’d start looking for something tomorrow.
“What about our stay?” I asked.
“I’ve… convinced her to let the foxgirl stay with you for now. She’s close with that bunnykin that went into the dungeon with us. He’s alive because of you, and she feels she owes you this much. As long as you take responsibility for the foxgirl and don’t flaunt her in public too much, things should be fine. I’m human, so I couldn’t begin to understand how animalkin feel on this issue. However, I hope that perhaps with your friend here, I can finally change the town’s mind on foxkin. Up until now, foxkin are the one type of slave we’ve never freed.”
“But Figuro brought her here hoping to sell her to you.”
The Guild Master sighed. “That guy always has been a bit of an optimist. He may seem like a shrewd guy who is only concerned about money, but as far as slavers go, he really does want the best for his slaves. He won’t sell to nobles who would treat their slaves bad, but he’ll quickly buy from them, even if he takes a loss. He’s that kind of guy.”
The door opened and Lydia came walking in humming to herself. In her arms were several bundles of supplies. When her eyes fell on the three of us, she cocked her head in confusion.
“I’m going to return to the Guild Hall. If anything comes up, send for me immediately.” The Guild Master explained. “Oh, and I’ll stop by the bathhouse on the way and make sure you don’t experience further problems.”
“A bathhouse?” I didn’t even know that was a thing!
The last few nights, we had been taking sponge baths. They gave us a hot bucket of water every night. However, it looked like this world had something called a bathhouse I hadn’t even been aware of.
“M-master…” Lydia suddenly said. “Can we go to the bathhouse?”
Apparently, she had a similar mind as me. “Yes, since Miki is still ashy from her death, it’d be a good idea if we all cleaned up tonight.”
“Master…” Miki, whose mischievousness had been muted since the incident, looked up at me through her lashes. “I am too weak. Master will have to bathe me.”
The packs in Lydia’s arms fell to the ground. She leapt forward and put her hands on the table.
“M-master will also have to bathe me too!” Instead of offering to bathe Miki herself, she went the opposite direction, it seemed.
After getting all of our supplies ready, the three of us made our way out. I asked for directions from a human guest. Excuse me if I was uncomfortable talking to the bunny innkeeper right now after her attempt to expel us from her inn. I just hoped she didn’t cause any more trouble until I could free my mansion and move into it. After that, no one could do anything to tell me who I could and could not live with.
As we walked, Lydia still shot various looks toward Miki, who I was carrying. Miki ignored the looks for the most part, but now I could see a bit of sadness in her mischievous smile. It hurt my heart a bit, but I didn’t want to shout at Lydia to be more respectful. It couldn’t be any easier for her.
I was relieved to find that the person currently running the bathhouse was a human, and then I felt sad that this made me relieved. That was the thing about prejudice. Once one person started it, it was really easy to escalate. Suddenly, everyone is prejudiced towards everyone else. It was a slippery slope once you started thinking in those terms.
“My biggest room only has two baths.” The keeper announced.
“Thank you, we’ll take it.”
It turned out that the bath here was nothing like the bathhouses in Japan. It was literally just a series of private rooms with no public bathing option. This was preferable to me as it provided privacy. Unfortunately, it also meant I might have to bathe the girls. I had hoped that the boy side and girl side nature of the bath would spare me from having to clean them. It might seem cowardly, but bathing two women my age was much too stimulating for a young guy like me. That was like level 20 and I was still at level 2.
“Since there are two tubs, I will share with Master.” Lydia declared.
“I cannot move.” Miki said, her face expressionless. “If I went into a bath alone, I would drown. I must bathe with Master.”
“N-no!” Lydia looked like she was about to cry. “In… in that case… you will bathe with me!”
Miki blinked, a flash of surprise on her face. “O-okay.”
I breathed a little easier. It seemed like Lydia’s desire to keep Miki from me overwhelmed her desire to stay distant from Miki. The two girls started stripping and I quickly looked away. I swear I didn’t look at all. Maybe a little. No, I was a perfect gentleman!
The bathtub was in the adjacent room, with a sliding door dividing the changing area from the two tubs, which were dug into the floor and lined with tiles sort of like little one-man hot tubs. I dived in the water before a certain something poked out its head. This was fine. Although, now I was thinking I needed more practice with Lydia so I could shake off my childish tendencies and finally step into the world of being a man.
I had two slave girls who were my responsibility now. I had a mansion. I was an important figure within a city and made a good income. All in all, that wasn’t bad for a guy who wasn’t even out of high school yet.
The girls came into the room and slipped into the bath next to me, or rather, Lydia carried Miki, holding her under both arms like a toddler. I distinctly avoided looking in their direction and only saw this out of the corner of my eye. The water was hot, and one couldn’t help but let out a moan as they entered. The two naked girls next to me were no exception, but the effect was too much to handle. That was when I realized I forgot my soap.
“Ah, sorry ladies, I’ll be right back.”
I jumped back out of the water and put a towel around me and then entered the changing room. It was hot and steamy in the bathing room, and the sound of two girls splashing next to me was a bit much. Thus, I took a breather, waiting a few minutes before I returned. Finally, I fetched my soap and headed back into the room. Although, it was only a single room over, I didn’t hear their talking until I slid the door open a crack.
Their conversation caused me to freeze and listen a little longer.
“Admit it!” Miki sounded nearly in tears. “Just admit you don’t like me!”
“Fine!” Lydia responded. “You’re right. I don’t like you one bit!”
There, she had finally said it. Lydia had something against Miki. I wanted to storm in and berate her immediately, but something caused my feet to stay planted and simply listen.
“I knew it…” Miki spoke sadly. “You hate me because I’m a foxki-”
“You’re too pretty!” Lydia suddenly exclaimed.
“Master is my master! I love Master, but then you came along and you got perfect short hair that is so cute! My skin is rougher, and my hair is blotchy, and my tail isn’t fluffy at all. Master has his hands all over you! Don’t deny it! You’re trying to take him.”
“I’m really weak… I was just…”
“You’re definitely faking it! You don’t need Master to feed you or bathe you at all!”
Miki lowered her eyes. “That’s… you wouldn’t understand. Everyone turned their backs on me. My own parents abandoned me. My last Master was an old, blind man who just liked to use me for an alchemy experiment! I’ve never been touched, or held, or loved by anyone else. That’s why… that’s why…”
“But Master is mine! I never even had parents. I was raised to be a courtesan, but I didn’t have the ability to make the cut. I was also thrown away, given to a master who hated women. It was Master who saved me from that fate.”
“I know…” Miki bit her lip. “When I saw the way you treated your Master that first day he bought you, I knew… I knew he must be a good master. That’s why I approached him! I approached him because I saw what you had, and I was jealous!”
“See, you admit it! You wanted to take him away!”
“No!” Miki shook her head tearfully. “I just wanted to… share…him…”
“Share Master?” Lydia looked confused for a second. “How do you… share?”
“Ah, well…” Miki suddenly blushed, but then she lifted her head. “Wait, is you being jealous the only reason you don’t like me?”
Lydia looked away and puffed her cheeks. “What other reason is there, isn’t stealing Master enough?”
“Bu-but… I’m a foxkin?”
“So?” Lydia looked genuinely confused.
“A-aren’t you afraid of me?”
Lydia nodded and then Miki let out a breath of relief. “Yes, I’m afraid you’ll take Master, didn’t I just say it?”
Miki’s nodding head froze. “Ah… I mean… you know I have more than one tail, right?”
Lydia looked even poutier. “You don’t need to brag.”
“They’re all so dazzling. Master will definitely leave me for you.” Lydia looked almost in tears, envy clearly shining in her eyes.
“Dazzling, what do you mean?”
“You have nine tails; each one is a different color. It looks like a bouquet. It’s so pretty. You don’t need to rub it in.”
For the first time, Miki looked completely stunned, and so was I. I had seen her 9 tails when she was in ghost form, but she was transparent and the colors were very muted. In her current body, she only had one tail. The rest of her tails were spirit tails. Miki even looked back to see one long wet tail before turning to Lydia with her mouth open.
“You can see my tails?”
“They’re hard to miss.” Lydia responded stiffly.
“And you don’t hate them? You actually like them?”
Lydia looked away. “I said quit rubbing it in.”
Tears began to fall down Miki’s face, a genuine smile, perhaps the first she had shown since I had resurrected her formed on her face.
“Ahhh!” Lydia began to panic. “Please don’t cry! If Master hears and comes back, he’ll definitely be mad at me!”
Miki lunged forward in the bath and then wrapped her arms around Lydia. This caused her to grow confused and even more flustered.
“Thank you!” She said, crying into Lydia’s chest.
“F-for what?” Lydia didn’t seem to be able to understand anything.
“You’re much prettier than you know.” Miki suddenly said, “You have bigger boobs than me, and your body looks more mature and womanlier. Master likes these things. I’ve seen the way he looks at you. Master definitely likes you a lot.”
I blushed, hearing her talk about such things. Well, she was an observant girl, I did like bigger boobs.
“Ah… you think?” Lydia grew flustered, blushing a bit.
“Big sister… let’s share Master together, okay?” Miki looked up at Lydia through her long lashes.
“Ah…” Lydia looked uncertain, but the sincerity on Miki’s face was too much to deny. “O-Okay.”
It seemed like I didn’t need to do anything after all. The girls worked everything out themselves.
I was standing at the door naked in the cold for too long.