Been a while, hasn't it? I'm very sorry, and also very touched that this story has still been getting steady reviews. 100+ reviews? You guys rock hard core!
Two days of bliss passed between Yako and Neuro after her discovery… and then the hunger set in.
Neuro teased her over it mercilessly. He swore he couldn't tell the difference between her ravenous hunger now, and her usual gluttony, but Yako knew he was exaggerating. Never in her life had she been so hungry that she had to eat constantly. They decided to allow Godai to watch the office on his own so that Yako would be in a bit more comfort.
Every minute of every day, Yako had something in her mouth. Anything and everything that was in the fridge was gone in a matter of hours. As a joke, Neuro blocked her way to the pantry and the fridge, and handed her a newspaper instead. When she actually started eating it, and then started choking on it, he regretted his little prank and had to try to yank it back out of her mouth. In the bitter struggle that followed, Yako bit his hand twice, and still swallowed half the paper.
The most bizarre part was that, besides her growing belly, Yako wasn't gaining any weight, which could only mean that most of the food she was consuming was going to the baby.
"It makes sense," Neuro said, massaging his tooth-mark ridden hand. "The baby's growth is accelerated times ten. Human women already have bizarre food cravings during pregnancy, right? This is just the exaggerated form that you get to deal with."
"Yeah, thanks, Neuro," Yako mumbled sarcastically between bites of carrot cake.
"Don't worry louse, I still love you. Even if you've developed the personality of a vacuum cleaner…"
"Hey. You. Carrying your child here. He gets his outrageous appetite from you."
Neuro just rolled his eyes.
"Speaking of which, what should we call him?" Yako asked. She'd been going over names in her head since she'd first come to terms with the fact that she was pregnant, but nothing had sounded good…
Yako glowered at him, taking another huge bite of carrot cake. "I told you, Neuro. No."
"Then I've got nothing."
"You are so much help."
"I try, my dear dishrag. I try."
Thanks to Yako's monstrous hunger, Neuro was threatened with having to go to the grocery store every day. It was far too risky for Yako to be around grocery stores now, thanks to her monstrous cravings. But Neuro refused flatly. "Humans can call for food delivered to their houses, can't they?"
"They couldn't fit my order in a moving van!" Yako argued. But in the end, Neuro would not go shopping, for reasons he would not disclose, so Yako was forced to survive on takeout. Very quickly, they became the bane of the nearby fast food joints, who ran out of supplies for a day with just one order by Yako. After a week of this, news stations began to investigate. Deeply ashamed, Yako convinced Neuro to give up the takeout idea. She didn't want people snooping around in their private life and finding out things they shouldn't, such as her husband's connection to the underworld.
"You have to go to the store now!" Yako said, with an air of victory.
Neuro eyed her slyly, his green eyes shining and his toothy grin spreading from ear to ear, a look that would have caused anyone but Yako to wet themselves with fear. Yako's smile just faltered. "Do I now?"
His wife opened her mouth to insist that he did, but Neuro quickly turned his back to her, marching into their bedroom. He came out only a second later with a small book in his hand. He handed it to Yako, and though she really didn't mean to, she automatically brought it up to her lips, and would have chomped down on it had Neuro not snatched it away from her.
"Don't eat it, stupid louse!" he scolded, opening the book for her and holding it a safe distance away from her face. "Absorb it."
Now that the book was open, Yako saw what it was. A puzzle book. Neuro had taken a liking to them while they were on their honeymoon and couldn't be at the office to take cases. Since then, he'd kept them around as little snacks in between large cases. Since Yako's pregnancy had started taking its toll on her, he'd begun living off of them in order to be close to her in case she needed him.
The page he showed her was a rather complex crossword puzzle. Yako squinted at it, then raised an eyebrow at Neuro, confused. He pointed at the page. "Look at it, Yako. I trained you better than to be beaten by a page in a book."
Yako was still confused – and worse than that, she was bitterly hungry now – but she turned back to the page, frowning at the clues for each word. "Griffith of boxing? Some simians – oh, apes! Um… Term of address in colonial India? What? Neuro, I can't-"
"Just do it," Neuro said. He sounded really exasperated, and almost urgent, so Yako closed her mouth and looked at the puzzle again. After several minutes of quiet concentration and confused frustration, she began to piece together the puzzle. As she fit the last letters together, she realized something extraordinary. She was no longer hungry. Her eyes met Neuro's, and she could see from the look on his face that he'd been testing a theory, and now saw the answer in her reaction.
"Neuro, you don't think that…"
"I think you know what I think, louse."
"But if he… then that means…"
"Correct. Our son eats mysteries as well."
Yako sighed. "Why am I not even a little surprised?"
"However," Neuro continued, "the fact that you were able to consume so much horrific human food without regurgitating the lot of it means that he is also able to receive nutrients from it. It's just not as effective as a good puxxle. The same as myself, I suppose." He seemed quite taken with the idea. Yako had to swallow her disappointment. Was this child going to be like her at all?
At the end of a week, Yako's stomach had gone from a nearly invisible bump to a decent-sized swell. She had horrific back pain, and lesser aches and pains everywhere else, though, to both their great relief, a puzzle every hour or so took care of her hunger. After a few days, she'd stopped eating human food all together. This worried Neuro at first, though he dared not show it, but when he saw that his wife seemed almost better off that way, he disregarded his former reservations.
"I should have known that you were a mystery demon in disguise all along," he would joke with an amused grin. Yako ignored him on the outside, but on the inside she regarded it as a very high compliment, especially coming from Neuro, and stored it away in the happiest corner of her mind.
Despite how well the puzzle books were working for Yako, the constant diet of mini mysteries was taking its toll on Neuro. Yako could see it in his eyes, a dimmer green than she'd ever seen them before, and in his skin, already so pale, now nearly translucent. He hid it from her, as all men hide their wounds, but she knew him too well to be deceived. Still, she knew what sort of reaction she would get if she voiced her concern, and so she stayed quiet about it untilthe night she saw him slip one of the triangular clips out of his hair and grind it into bits with his pointed teeth. He had tried to hide it behind his hand, but Yako saw it. Worse, she felt it. It was like a wave coming off the explosion of a grenade, a sudden heat and feeling of energy passing through her that it almost knocked her sideways off the bed. She sucked in a breath, and she could smell it in the air and taste it with her tongue, a spicy odor that sent her into a fit of sneezes. Never had she experienced a reaction to Neuro's clips, but this time, no doubt thanks to the baby, she couldn't easily get over the feeling.
Neuro swallowed the pieces of the clip and looked over to make sure she wasn't suddenly ill. As soon as Yako could speak again, she stuttered, "Ne-Nuro… you have to find a new case."
"Don't be stupid, dishrag," he replied automatically. "Why on earth would I do that?"
He was staying home to watch after her and the baby. Yako knew it, even as she knew that he would never say it. She appreciated it, yes, and it made her feel one-hundred times safer, but she wouldn't sacrifice Neuro's health that way, especially when it was, in its own way, so fragile.
"It's been weeks since you've had one, Neuro. I can tell…" That had been the wrong thing to say. Neuro stiffened at her suggestion of his weakness.
"I am fine, Yako," he said, in a tone that suggested that the conversation should end there. Yako would not be deterred.
"It's not that… I didn't mean to say that you were… Neuro, you've never gone so long without a case. And Godai watching the office every day on his own? He hasn't had a day off since we told him about the pregnancy. That's not all right, Neuro."
"It isn't nonsense!" Yako insisted. "You should go back. I'll be all right here-"
His eyes turned to look at her, though the rest of his body was perfectly still. "You are awfully confident. You have no idea what to expect each and every day, and you have the nerve to say that you'll be all right. Don't make me promises that you cannot keep, Yako. You know how that… irritates me."
Yako frowned at him, her brown eyes flashing. He really was hungry, his mood souring by the moment. "Neuro-"
"If you're really so determined to get me out of your sight, then I'll sleep on the couch," Neuro sniffed. But he didn't leave the room. Instead, he jumped up onto the ceiling, settling himself right above her so that she could see him better than before, his eyes narrow with annoyance. Yako sighed.
He closed his eyes, pretending to sleep. Yako growled to herself and threw his pillow at him. It hit him full in the face, but he didn't respond. She threw her own pillow, which he caught and tore into pieces with his purple claws, sending stuffing flying everywhere, his eyes still closed.
She got no response, and she knew that she wouldn't for the rest of the night, so she settled back on the bed, grumbling insults under her breath. Despite her anger, she was asleep in a half an hour.
When she woke up the next morning, Neuro was gone, and a new pillow rested under her head. Yako searched the whole apartment, but she couldn't find him. In the end, she went back to bed and cried into her new pillow for an hour, her back hurting worse than ever. At the end of an hour, she was rudely interrupted by a sudden movement beside her on the bed. Startled, she leaped to her feet, scrambling back from the bed. The sheets writhed, something long and slender underneath moving around. Yako bit her knuckles to keep from crying out.
"I've been waiting for a chance to talk to you alone," a garbled voice spoke up, causing Yako to jump. A small head, smashed flat and wrinkled like a pug's face, poked out from under the covers. It kept coming, suspended on a long, snake-like body with mismatching legs sticking out of either side. The creature was covered in puke-yellow scales, and when it had wriggled all the way out from under the sheets, Yako was horrified to realize that, if it stood on its back legs, it would be taller than her. Her stomach churned as it crawled like a centipede along the ground towards her.
"What do you want?" Yako shrieked, backing up against the wall.
"Oh, don't be afraid, ma'am," the creature said, its wrinkled, ugly face stretched into a grimace that was apparently supposed to be a smile. Yako's heart stopped. The creature had razor-sharp teeth. "I only wanted to congratulate you."
Yako's hand went to her swollen stomach immediately, protectively. He must mean the baby. But how did he, how could he know that the child was that of a demon, and even more importantly, why would he care enough to visit the human world to say… congratulations?
"Why did you want to talk to me alone?" she asked. She was pressed up against the wall as far as she could go, and the creature was still advancing.
"Oh, Neuro wouldn't like it," the creature said cheerfully. "He's always been very private. It took us forever to find out that he had married a human girl. You can imagine we've been watching closely ever since, waiting for… and now here he is." Yako was confused, but the creature seemed beside himself with giddiness.
"You've been… watching us?" she squeaked. "You, and who else?"
"Oh, the entire guard! It is our job."
"Guard?" Yako repeated, alarmed. So a small army of demons had been watching them since she and Neuro had been married? Yako was now certain she would be sick.
The creature finally noticed the greenish tint to Yako's skin. "Oh! Oh dear… Did you not know, then? Oh, I shouldn't have said anything… I shouldn't have come…" He paused in the middle of the floor, to Yako's great relief, and started to back away. "I should go, before he returns…"
Yako opened her mouth to heartily agree when the door to the apartment slammed open. The worm demon disappeared with a pop, making Yako scream with surprise. Neuro was in their bedroom doorway in an instant.
"Yako?" He saw the sickly shade of her skin and the terror in her eyes, and was able to catch her as her legs gave way beneath her and she fell over.
"I-It… It… That thing… It was so gross!" Yako shivered, her lip trembling. Neuro looked alarmed, then confused.
"What thing? What are you talking about?"
Yako opened her mouth to explain, then froze. He… couldn't smell it? He couldn't sense it? Neuro could always sense when something was amiss. His senses guided him like the instincts of an animal, almost controlling him. If he couldn't smell the thing that had sat where he did now on the carpet, then that must mean that the demon that had paid Yako a visit, as well as the others that had been watching them for years, were much more powerful than her husband.
Before Neuro even had a chance to demand that his wife explain why she looked ready to have a heart attack, Yako passed out.