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"I leave for not even one afternoon and I come back to find that my temple is being used for unsanctioned orgies!" Lady Hisui snarls angrily at the three of us. Yukihebi, Korigashi and myself are kneeling before the irate dragon in a small room that served as the temple's administrative offices.

Part of me was wondering if there was such a thing as sanctioned orgies at this temple, but given the Ryu's current temperament, this certainly wasn't the time to ask.

"As for you..." she glared at Korigashi. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't call the town guard right now and have you thrown into jail."

Korigashi could only look away sullenly.

"Lady Hisui.....I take full responsibility for what happened. Both Miss Yukihebi and Koragashi were under the influence of the liliraune nectar. Neither one would be in that position if I had followed through on my outstanding obligations with the Danuki. Whatever punishment you might have in mind for Yuki, I implore you to be lenient with her..."

The Ryu glowered at me and then Koragashi. It was enough to freeze my blood.

"You- I never want to see you set foot in this temple again." she almost roared at the Danuki before turning to me. "And as for you, I'm starting to have my doubts about you, young man..." I was genuinely hurt by those words, however tempered they might have been. The kindly Ryu had taken me into her home and had been playing matchmaker with me and the beautiful shirohebi she considered part of her family, and it seemed as though I had done nothing but repay her by bringing misfortune or scandal to her doorstep so far.

"My apologies, Lady Hisui....it was never my intention to get Miss Yukihebi in trouble." I replied meekly.

"Hanta...just.....be quiet." the Ryu seethed. "The more you talk, the more you may end up getting Yuki in trouble, do I make myself clear?"

For her part, Yuki appeared as though she had something to say but had thought better of it.

"Yes ma'am." I nod.

"Yuki- you are this temple's longest-serving miko, and as such, you are in charge of this temple in my absence. What you were doing was not only in violation of this temple's teachings, but a gross dereliction of your responsibilities." the Ryu began to say to her miko.

"I'll just let myself out..." Koragashi said quietly.

"Yes. Please....go ahead and do that." Hisui snapped. "Hanta- since you allowed her to darken this temple's doorstep in the first place, why don't you go with her and make certain this Danuki doesn't break into someone else's quarters? I need to have some words with Yuki in private."

The two of us couldn't get out of there fast enough, although I gently clasped Yuki's shoulder on the way out to try and reassure her. The way things had been going, I fear that even that small act on my part may have ended up making things worse for her.

"So....do you think I can collect my things from Mistress Yu-" the Danuki stopped to correct herself. "Yuki's quarters?"

"Koragashi- at this rate, I think you're lucky if you can get out of here without being arrested by the town guard or being on the recieving end of some lightning." I sullenly inform the nervous Danuki.

"Th-thank you, Hanta-kun, for taking the fall....or at least trying to-." Koragashi said, unable to look me in the eye.

"Don't thank me." I interrupted. "I did it for Yuki's sake, not yours. I don't want her getting in any more trouble because of me. She's absolutely right though- you're really nothing more than a yapping little dog that needs to learn some manners."

"I....I certainly learned a thing or two from Mistress today..." the Danuki said shyly before trailing off, her cheeks turning crimson.

I was going to say something to the Danuki, but lost my train of thought upon hearing the sliding door to the Ryu's quarters open up. Yukihebi emerges, sobbing. Whatever I thought I was doing to keep her out of trouble had clearly come up short. However, instead of heading my way, the tearful shirohebi begins making her way back to her quarters.

A moment later, Lady Hisui emerges and beckons to me while angrily glowering at the Danuki.

"Don't bother gathering your things, Danuki. I have the other maidens collecting them-"

"Y-you have my gratitude, Ryu-sama..."

-"for a bonfire......"

Korigashi's jaw dropped as she stammered incoherently.

"It shall serve as an excellent object lesson on the perils of avarice and materialism." the Ryu continued.

"Oh great and wise Ryu-sama...." Korigashi said as she dropped to her knees, her tone obsequious. "Perhaps some sort of donation could be made to your grand temple if you were to return my reamining inventory?"

"You'll thoughtfully throw a few gold taels our way if we fetch your luggage for you?" Hisui asked, her tone was now bemused.

"I would be happy to-"

"Not happening." Hisui cut her off. "Now listen and listen well, you extortionate mongrel. Neither me nor my miko are porters that you can merely boss around after flashing some gold. I think there's only one real way for that lesson to sink in..."

"Hisui-sama..." a voice spoke up. It was Fuyu, who quickly bowed to the Ryu before continuing. In her right hand was a naginata of her own. "The intruder's items have been gathered per your request."

"Excellent- you have a choice, Danuki. Leave here in shackles and head straight for the town jail until you can appear before a magistrate or stay with us long enough to watch your contraband go up in flames."

"But....but great and wise Ryu-sama-"

"What will it be, then?"

"I.....I prefer not to leave here in shackles, then...." Korigashi said churlishly.

"This way.." Fuyu said to Korigashi, the naginata now at a 45 degree angle.

"I'll be joining you shortly." the Ryu said to her serpentine miko. "See to it that you do not start without me."

The Ryu then turned to me.

"Well now.....it looks as though we'll be using some of that firewood a little earlier than I thought." Hisui smirked as she saw the Danuki was being led away by one of her miko.

"Wh-what's going to happen with Yuki?" I ask hesitantly.

"It's simple, really. She is being expelled from the temple grounds." she replies.

"L-lady Hisui...?" I ask, not quite able to wrap my head around the endearing miko's harsh punishment.

"Young man....I understand that this all got started when Yuki and the Danuki were doing what comes naturally to them as mamono- especially when exposed to the undiluted nectar, but I hold my temple's miko to a higher standard. As long as she's one of my shrine's maidens, Yuki needs to learn such conduct is unacceptable. I'm not asking for complete abstinence on her part, but far better discretion is certainly necessary."

“I….I understand.” I say to the Ryu dejectedly. “There’s nothing I can say to persuade you otherwise, is there?”

“I consider both Yuki and Shimo like family. While I do feel as though Yuki’s prior service to our temple entitles her to a degree of leniency, I cannot give her any preferential treatment. That simply would be unfair to the others.”

I can only hang my head. I brought this upon the beautiful serpentine maiden.

I could feel myself locked in the Ryu’s gaze. “Although I’m disappointed in Yukihebi’s conduct, that still doesn’t change the fact that I consider her family. However, I’m expelling her from the temple grounds so that she can further reflect upon her actions.”

“Lady Hisui- I can appreciate what you’re trying to do, but what if Miss Yukihebi feels as though there’s no redeeming herself in your eyes and does something drastic?”

“That’s where you come in, young man.” the Ryu once again had some silver taels in her clawed hand. “I’ll be deliberating on this matter for the next three days. While Yuki’s away from the temple, I’ll need you to chaperone her, and in three days I’ll need you to contrive an excuse to bring her back here.”

“You crafty minx….how very underhanded of you, Lady Husui.” I say as all of this is sinking in. If she was entertaining the possibility of Yuki’s expulsion over what she caught us doing together, she most likely wouldn’t be asking me to chaperone her for a few days. But I should also take care not to be too presumptuous, either.

“Yet I notice that didn’t stop you from taking the silver from this very underhanded minx…” Sure enough, I see that I’m now clutching the half dozen silver taels. It occurs to me that Lady Hisui is actually paying me to spend time over the beautiful albino lamia I’m so smitten with over the next couple of days.

“Well…I suppose that’s reflex. I never objected to the part where you’re handing me legal tender.”

"You still think I'm being too harsh, don't you young man?" Hisui asked.

I nod.

"There's another reason I'm being so firm with Yukihebi....but this needs to stay between you and me." she whispered in a conspiratorial tone.

"Yukihebi is still a virgin.." She continued, cutting me off while knowing full well I was getting ready to ask how she could tell that sort of thing.

"I know these things about the maidens in my service. In all honestly, before she nursed you back to health, I was beginning to think that she would end up a lonely old maid."

"Lady Hisui?"

"I have absolutely no objections to the two of you getting intimate..."

I knew I was blushing, even though the Ryu was being somewhat tactful in her words. "However....with that said, I take issue with what you and her were doing with that Danuki in her room. Yes- all three of you were being influenced by the undiluted nectar, but that sort of thing is more fitting for the pages of one of your pervy men's periodicals than anything, wouldn't you say? It may sound good on paper, but it's something I'm sure both you and her would regret soon enough."

"I'm not sure I follow..."

"Hanta-kun..." she said as she gently clasped my right hand with her claw. "I recall my first time with my beloved Ken like it was yesterday. Even now- how much of what happened in Yukihebi's quarters do you remember? If you are to take Yuki's Maidenhead, then it should be you and you alone. No Demon Realm nectar or trickster raccon-dog mamono to influence your actions and feelings towards her....just the two of you." she paused. "Depending on what the three of you did, it's also possible the Danuki could've imprinted her demonic energy on you... to the point where you'd essentially be hers."

"I....I think I understand, Lady Hisui." although I'm a little surprised mamono could get this sentimental.

Almost as soon as I had said that, the two of us turned around to see Yukihebi slither up to the two of us with a valise in one hand and her parasol in the other.

"H-hisui sama...?" Yuki asked, tears still visible on her cheek.

"You're just in time, Yuki. Hanta will show you out." Lady Hisui said coldly. "Perhaps while you're away, you can reflect on the error of your ways, young lady."

Yuki looked as though she was struggling to contain a tsunami of tears as the Ryu addressed her so dismissively.

"F-farewell, Hisui-sama and thank you for everything." Yuki said sadly as she bowed deeply. The way she said it, Yuki seemed so certain that she would never see the Ryu again. I could see Lady Hisui falter- just for a moment- upon hearing her Miko's parting words.

"Farewell, Yuki." she said as she left to incinerate the Danuki's belongings.


~*~*~*~*~*~*~


The first night seemed to fly by in a blur. Although the silver taels Lady Hisui gave me allowed me to buy a few nights at one of the inn's best rooms- complete with its own kitchen and fireplace- Yuki was too upset and tired and busy unpacking to fully appreciate her surroundings on the first night and we went out for some yakitori for dinner. Not too surprisingly, Yukihebi seemed distant and distracted.

The second night was a different story as I came home from a full day of work around the inn. I could tell right away that Yukihebi had gone out shopping earlier in the day.

"Welcome home!" Yuki cheerfully greeted as I made my way back into the suite. Right away, my nostrils could detect something savory cooking away.

"Hey Yuki- is that....tonteki pork I'm smelling?"

The pale lamia nods enthusiastically. "There's also some rice noodles. I remember how much you liked that dish at Shimo's wedding."

"That wasn't the only thing at your sister's wedding I liked on my tongue..." I intone lecherously as I wrap my arms around her from behind and give her a quick kiss on the neck. "I haven't forgotten that night, my sweet sweet honey fountain..." she coos sensually as she tilts her head back, giving me a quick peck on my cheek before playfully licking my right ear with her forked tongue.

"Ah...Nnng!" I blush as I'm only capable of offering little more than surprised gasps in response to her flirtations- especially with that magical tongue of hers. I finally regain my composure after a moment. "I was gonna suggest we go out for yakitori again, but this is MUCH better...."

"Hanta-kun...?" she asks softly. I notice that she's blushing furiously now. "I was wondering. Do....do you think I'd make a good wife?"

For some reason, my heart sinks like a stone upon hearing that. It's not an outright marriage proposal, but still. Even though I was certain that I was more than ready to forsake my bachelorhood to be with the beautiful albino lamia, it was another thing to hear it put in such stark terms.

Before I can stammer out a coherent reply, Yuki tries walking back her question.

"Ah...I'm sorry!" she almost bows. "I didn't mean to be so presumptuous. It's just....it's just isn't this what wives usually do for their husbands? I mean....I don't know too many married people. Well....there's Shimo, but she's been married for less than a month. I know there are novels out there where an unhappy housewife loses herself in a passionate affair with a stranger- not that I'd do something like that. I mean- that's a betrayal to the most precious husband that I'm supposed to love and cherish....But....but....in so many of the books I've read, the lovely, devoted housewife is there to greet her hardworking husband after a day's work and...and..." the nervous albino lamia looks like she's ready to hyperventilate.

She's just too cute for words I say to myself as I listen to the nervous lamia ramble on. I finally decide to halt her verbal ramblings by cupping her chin and kisssing her passionately. She lets out a surprised-soundling little squeak before her tongue once again flicks its way into my mouth. Very reluctantly, I break the kiss.

"To answer your question, Yuki.....No..." I said, uncomfortably aware that I'm now short of breath myself.

"Oh.....I...I understand..." Yuki pouts as she dejectedly looks away from me.

Once again, I put my hand under her chin so that she's looking right at me.

"If every night was like tonight, you would make a GREAT wife." I tell her as I look her in the eyes. As irrationally uncomfortable as I was with the subject of marriage, that was the most honest answer I could provide her.

"Y-you really think so?" she blushed.

"I am a man who knows what he likes. And what I like includes savory pork dishes and a charming lamia to greet me at the end of the day and keep me company...."

"A-anything else you like?" Yuki asks. Her blush was still there, but it was now accompanied by a mischevious grin on the corner of her lips.

"Oh...ah...Well....I already mentioned a charming lamia, right? Oh...I know! That same lamia wrapping herself around me and doing that thing you do with the thing of honey and your tongue." I say hurriedly. "By the Chief Goddess- I thought I had somehow found my way into heaven that night..." I say.

"If Hanta-kun is a good boy, maybe Yuki will take her favorite honey fountain to the gates of heaven once more....." Yuki teased. The bashfulness from moments ago was gone and she seemed much more confident and seductive as she teased me. "But only if he helps me clean up around the kitchen after dinner."

Seems like a fair trade I say to myself before it dawns on me that the two of us must sound EXACTLY like a couple of newlyweds to the casual observer. Hell- my boss mistook Yukihebi for my wife when she came by to congratulate me and leave me a bento lunch when I was first starting out. The sweet serpentine miko has a broad grin on her face as her hands are clutched together and her tail looks like it's kind of.....wagging. Not like a dog's tail, but there is a distinct back and forth motion. I'm not sure if that was something lamia in general did when they were in a good mood or this was just something exclusive to Yukihebi, but I quickly found it endearing. I almost wanted to shout Stop being so damn cute, already! but thought better of it.

"OK then....it's a deal..." I tell Yukihebi enthusiastically. I cringe a little bit as I realize that just outed myself as possibly the world's shittiest negotiator. Once we're done with dinner, the two of us made quick work of the dirty dishes and pans in the kitchen. Yuki volunteered to start a fire in the room's fire pit while I finished putting away some of the pans.

After a few quiet moments, to occurs to me that Yukihebi most likely used her own money to buy the groceries today. I call out to Yuki in the next room.

"Hey- do I owe you anything for getting the pork and noodles today?" I call out.

No reply.

I'm met with silence. Curious, I head into the main room that has the fire pit. Yuki has a little blaze going but I can see the flames reflected in tears that are now streaming down her cheek. The shirohebi is quietly sobbing.

"I-I don't know what to do now, Hanta-kun." Yuki said mournfully. "Hisui-sama was the closest thing that me and Shimo had to a family when I was growing up. She was like a mother to me. And now she never wants to see me again- I just know it."

"Miss Yukihebi- you're being too hard on yourself. If we give Lady Hisui some time, I'm sure she'll have calmed down and be glad to have you come back." I try to reassure her as I sit down next to her in front of the fire pit.

"I just don't know anymore. That temple has been my home for longer than I can remember." her soft voice began to trail off and crack. "Hanta-kun....." Yukihebi said, tears continuing to stream down her cheeks. "I....I feel so cold and alone right now."

"It'll be OK, Miss Yuki. I'm sure Lady Husui-"

"Can.....can you help keep me warm?" she pleaded.

"You have to ask....?" I reply without hesitation. "It would be my pleasure."

Just like on her sister's wedding night, Yukihebi softly begins to coil her serpentine lower body around me. As she does this, she gently embraces me in her arms, resting her head on my right shoulder. I can feel slight traces of moisture from the tears that had been streaming down her cheeks.

"Please...don't hate me, Hanta-kun. Please..." she murmured softly.

"Why would I do that?" I ask her as I return her embrace and softly pat her on the shoulders, genuinely bewildered.

"It seems like I've let everyone down. You must think I'm some sort of filthy degenerate after what I did with you and the Danuki...and all that perverse artwork I did." she said. In all honesty, I couldn't help but feel anything other than aroused when I thought about how Yuki had so thoroughly and sensually dominated Korigashi after the Danuki had been antagonizing her. And how the shirohebi made sure I had front row seats.

"Miss Yukihebi...you think I'm upset with you? You couldn't be more wrong." she was looking up at me now. "Try not to torment yourself over what happened. Clearly you were under the influence of the nectar..."

"B-but was I really? I just remember.....that I felt so full of rage...I don't think I've ever been that angry before. Maybe that's why Hisui-sama doesn't want me to come back. Hanta..." she said softly before trailing off as her body was racked with quiet sobbing.

"Yuki- please..." I said as I gently stroked her silvery hair. "Just know that I don't hate you, and neither does Lady Hisui. So please...I don't want to hear you talk like that." I tried reassuring her.

"I'm so sorry, Hanta..." she almost whispered as she shifted her coils gently. "I don't want to impose on you, but..."

"Impose? Miss Yukihebi....everytime you do this...." I gently patted her serpentine midsection that was still wrapped around me. "You remind me that somebody kind, sweet and generous is so very close to me. You've been my beautiful serpentine guardian angel the whole time I've known you. There's nothing for you to apologize for." I whisper.

The tears were still flowing from the beautiful lamia's eyes, but I now could see faint traces of a smile on her lips as she dabbed at her tears.

"I....I think I feel a little warmer already. You've been so good to me. Thank you, Hanta." she sighed quietly as she snuggled her upper body against me.

I was just happy to see Yuki's mood improve slightly and said nothing for several moments as I listened to her breathing softly.

"Yuki?" I asked quietly.

No response, save for her gently nestling her head against my chest at the mention of her name. She had finally dozed off.

Hmm...looks like I'm not going anywhere for awhile. I muse as Yuki's serpentine half is still wrapped around me. Good thing I don't have to be anywhere anytime soon. Yuki looked so serene as she slumbered, and the little smile that she showed me before she drifted off warmed me even more than the dying embers of the fire before the two of us.

"Sweet dreams, Miss Yuki..." I whispered as I gently kissed her temple. Thanks to her pale coils, I was treated to a view of the beautiful shirohebi peacefully slumbering as I began to drift off to sleep in front of the fire pit myself.

~*~*~*~*~*~

I woke up a little earlier than usual the following morning. Yuki had managed to unwrap herself from me in her sleep, although her tail was still casually draped over me as I woke up. The kind shirohebi stirred a little as I wiggled out from under her tail. Getting ready for the day, I washed up and changed into some fresher clothes before stopping to say goodbye to the sleepy lamia.

"Hey sleepysnake.....I'm off to work." I said as I gently peck her on the cheek. Before I get up to leave, I think of something. "I might go to the tavern for a little bit after work, so you don't have to wait up for me to have dinner tonight."

"Ah...OK then..." she said drowsily. "Have a good day at work, Hanta-kun."

After a full day's work, I grabbed a quick bite to eat at the inn's kitchen and made my way back to the Ryu's temple. Telling Yukihebi that I going to stop by the tavern for a little while was a lie, though.

It genuinely hurt me to see Yukihebi so distraught over her expulsion from the temple and I came back to plead Lady Hisui to allow Yuki back home a little earlier.

The place was unusually dark- it seemed as though fewer lanterns than usual had been set out. Were lighting the candles and lanterns one of Yuki's chores? I ponder. Already this place is suffering in her absence. Still, I knew my way around fairly well and was able to make it to the main temple building. As I quietly enter the building, I'm wondering if everyone had gone to bed early with the days getting shorter.

Off on the other side of the temple's atrium is a serpentine figure looking intently out the window. It's not pale enough to be one of the other shirohebi shrine maidens, though. Without bothering to conceal my approach, I make my way up to the Ryu as her back is turned to me. Knowing Lady Hisui is still most likely upset with me, I steel myself for what I'm about to say next.

"Lady Hisui....I know I may be out of line for asking, but could you PLEASE consider allowing Yukihebi back early?" I plead as I get down onto one knee.

"Excuse me?" the Ryu in front of me asks softly.

"I...it's just that I know you want her to learn a lesson, but she's taking this much harder than I thought and she's been so very sad-"

The Ryu turns around.

"Ah! Hello there....I didn't know this temple got visitors at such a late hour." The Ryu says warmly, seemingly disregarding everything I had just said. The voice seems to be a little higher in pitch than Lady Hisui's as well.

Before I can say anything, the Ryu closes the distance between us and wraps me up in her coils. "Especially such handsome visitors....come now, traveller. Won't you let me help you unburden?" I'm looking at the Ryu up close now as I'm restrained by her lower body. Although there is a more than passing resemblance, this is not Lady Hisui.

"Wh-who are you?" I ask nervously.

"I'm a Ryu, silly....with that hair and those eyes, I'm guessing you're a foreigner." she says as she presses her upper body against mine.

"But you're not the Ryu that resides at this temple..." I point out.

"True enough..." she says as she cups my chin. "My but you're an inquisitive one."

"I....I came to see Lady Hisui...."

Her expression darkens a little and her body tenses up for a moment.

"I'm afraid this temple's Ryu isn't accepting applications for a husband at this time. She remains devoted to the memory of her dear late husband, Ken...."

"What? No....that's not what I'm here for!" I say defensively. Whoever this was knew Lady Hisui well enough to give me almost verbatim her boilerplate response about why she remains single.

"On the other hand, I happen to know where you can find a very single Ryu if that's what you seek." she said, gently running a scaled claw through my hair. I realized by this point that I had stopped struggling and was beginning to enjoy the touch of this other Ryu who had yet to formally introduce herself.

"I wanted to talk to Lady Hisui about one of her shirohebi maidens..." I said. Almost as soon as I thought of Yukihebi, I found myself struggling to break free from the blue-scaled Ryu's grip, as enticing as it was.

"Oh my..." she lamented. "Have one of those troublesome little serpents scared away your customers with their incessant panhandling in town? I'll see to it that she has some harsh words for them about that...."

"No....that's not it..." I begin to say as my arms are now free. "It's something else..."

"We're all out of green tea, Yuwaku, so I hope you don't mind oolong....." I heard a much more familiar voice speak up as the door leading into the atrium opened up.

"Ah....Aunt Hisui! We have a visitor..." the blue-scaled Ryu said as she quickly uncoiled herself from around me.

"Hanta....." she said absently. She was starting to trail off and said nothing for a moment before she collected herself and continuing in a stern tone as she set down the tray of tea she was carrying. "I have concluded my business in the neighboring prefecture and its imperative that I talk with Yukihebi as soon as possible."

"Of course...what's going on?"

"Aren't you going to introduce us?" the younger Ryu pouted.

"Hanta- this is my niece Yuwaku. She's the Ryu in charge of affairs in the Awaniko Islands region...."

"And since it's so warm and tropical already, there's hardly any need for my services this time of year." the blue-scaled Ryu boasted.

"Yuwaku- this is Hanta. One of my shrine maidens thoughtfully saved him from certain death and they've been seeing each other ever since."

"I see..." Yuwaku's expression darkened.

"Wh-what do you need to see Yukihebi for?" I ask nervously, hoping to draw attention away from the younger, glowering dragon girl.

"I'm not at liberty to tell you just yet, but it's something I need to notify all my shrine maidens about shortly." Lady Hisui said. "In fact, on the off chance you see Shimo before I do, relay the same message..."

"Will there be anything else you'll be needing from me, Lady Hisui?" another voice spoke up. Yuwaku and I both turned to see an elegant, pale skinned woman in a light blue kimono standing in the doorway.

Almost as soon as I noticed the woman's presence, I felt the temperature drop noticeably and could see wisps of steam whenever Yuwaku and I exhaled. Apparently Hisui was conducting business with a Yuki Onna.

"That concludes matters for tonight, Lady Fubuki. I thank you in advance for your cooperation." the mature Ryu said to the soft-spoken youkai.

"Very well then. Good night, Lady Hisui." the Yuki Onna said as she bowed.

"Yuwaku- are you clear what your responsibilities for tomorrow are?" the mature Ryu asked, turning to her niece as the Yuki Onna showed herself out.

"Yes, Aunt Hisui! I am to go to the regional administrative offices and obtain all pertinent census information on any Shirohebi in this prefecture for the past two decades."

"Wait....Lady Hisui....what's going on?" I ask. Granted I had only been frequenting the temple for a few weeks, but I still thought it was unusual for so many mamono to be at the temple at the same time, plus there seemed to be something ominous about going through the census records for the Shirohebi residing in this prefecture for the last 20 years.

"Hanta.....what's the name of that merchant with the import-export business that you sometimes drink with at the tavern?" she asks me. "He was at Shimo's wedding, too...."

"Inken?"

"That's the one, thank you. The next time you see him, I want you to inform him that I'm seeking a consultation with him..."

"I....I'll let him know, Lady Hisui." I said, knowing that a forthcoming answer from her was unlikely.

Both Yuwaku and Hisui excused themelves, leaving me alone to stare out the window of the atrium into the night sky.

On the one hand, Yuki would no doubt be pleased to find out that Lady Hisui wanted her back at the temple. However, the enigmatic business Hisui had in the next prefecture along with the presence of the Yuki Onna, the other Ryu going through this prefecture's Census records and Hisui seeking consultation with Inken seemed ominous. It most likely had nothing to do with the extremely compromising position the Ryu found Yukihebi in with me and Koragashi.

Almost hesitantly, I departed the temple grounds and made my way back to the beautiful shirohebi waiting for me back at the inn.