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[Jul. 9th, 2017|10:34 pm]

“And that’s where it gets kind of stupid, actually,” Genma said easily. “I think the director tried to put too many things in the story. It turns out there’s this crow that is bringing the bottles of plum wine. Stealing them from a brewery. Only it’s not really a crow, it’s a shapeshifter who fell in love with the man who lived in this apartment when it was new, a hundred years ago. So—” He stopped entirely. “Wait, you said not to tell you the ending.”

Ryouma looked at him like he’d gone completely crazy.

Raidou had relaxed, though. The tension melted away from his shoulders. He gave Genma a wry half-grin. “A lovesick crow? Really?”

“A lovesick shapeshifter crow,” Genma corrected. “Who thinks the main character is the reincarnation of her dead lover. There’s a little more. Want me to keep going?” He was wildly in the weeds now.

Kakashi gave Genma and Ryouma puzzled looks, then caught sight of Raidou, and the dawn of understanding lit on his face — as much of his face as Genma could see, anyway — giving way to frank amusement.

“You could,” Raidou said, with a teasing-fond note in his voice. “But I’ve seen The Feathered Princess. I know how that ends.”



Genma could feel his cheeks color. “You did? I thought that one was too obscure for anyone to have seen but me.”

Raidou jostled Genma’s foot with his own. “That’s because you’re secretly a snob.”

“That’s what Aoba says about my taste in beer, too,” Genma admitted, throwing his head back and draining his bottle. The warm light of the sunset had to be hiding at least a little of his blush, he hoped.

“So how do they both end?” Kakashi asked.

“Uh, well, The Feathered Princess ends tragically, because love stories set in Warring States Era Tea Country always end tragically,” Genma said. “Although you could say it’s a happy ending, since the lovers do get to be together at the end. Just together dead.”

Kakashi, connoisseur of romance that he was, took that in stride without a blink. “What about The Plum Wine Thief?”

“I’m guessing also tragically,” Raidou said.

“Actually, well, yes and no,” Genma told him. “It’s a horror story — those only work if there’s a survivor to tell the tale. I mean, it does end tragically for the main character. But the girlfriend survives.”

Kakashi gave Ryouma a pointed nudge. “Details.” Pakkun opened one eye to add weight to the demand.

Ryouma broke his accusatory glare at Genma long enough to say, “Renter guy gets killed by the ghost. He’s supposed to take its place in the haunting. Girlfriend burns the building down. She’ll probably never step foot in another bathtub, though.” Then he turned the heat on Genma right back up to broiling. “Why’d you ruin it?”

Ryouma wasn’t sitting at a good angle to have seen Raidou’s face. And he presumably didn’t know about Raidou’s dislike of horror movies. It wasn’t Genma’s place to betray a confidence like that.

“I must have fallen asleep during a double feature and gotten them mixed up,” he said. Which was so flimsy a lie the weight of a single grain of rice would have ripped it to shreds, but maybe Ryouma would let it slide. Or Kakashi would redirect, since Kakashi seemed to have clued in to the real problem.

Kakashi gave Raidou an expectant look.

Raidou just laughed. “I don't like horror movies. The lieutenant was trying to save me from nightmares.” He thumped Genma amiably on the ankle. "After he tried to give me them. I hope a drunken ghost sits on your head and sings.”

Ryouma sighed and fed Pakkun more beer. “We had you going for a while, at least…”

Pakkun licked foam from his whiskers and skewered Genma with a critical eye. “Your mistake was having a conscience.”

“It’s how I’ve actually managed to accumulate friends,” Genma told him with a laugh. “You should try it before you knock it.”

“Too messy,” Pakkun said. “Humans have to have all those inner voices. Dogs don’t need ‘em. We just know.”

What dogs just knew was a mystery Genma decided not to pursue. He picked up the snack bag and fished out a stick of dried sweet potato. “Next time I’ll try to remember important facts about my friends ahead of time, so I don’t have to trip over my own conscience halfway through and ruin a good prank.”
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