To my lovely friend Kelly, who introduced me to this series. Enjoy!
The question had been forming in the back of Shion's mind for some time, that was obvious to Nezumi. The fact he had asked it so innocently, and was now standing confused as Inukashi fumed at him was the thing that had really gotten Nezumi going. It was just too damn funny.
Shion had been coming to Inukashi's inn for a few weeks now, washing her dogs so they would be clean for use when her customers rented them as blankets. In that time, Shion and the dog keeper had grown close over long chats about various topics, such as the weather or the way they thought the world used to be before the Last War. These topics usually were either uninteresting to Nezumi or things he had already thought about on his own, so he had taken up the habit of finding a nearby spot in the sun and napping while Shion completed his task. Occasionally, he would hear a debate that caught his attention, and so he would listen in and form his own opinion.
Today happened to be one of those days.
Except it wasn't a debate Nezumi was listening to, it was a lecture.
The previous week, Shion and Inukashi had been talking about their parents. Shion had been gushing about his mother and how much he missed her and what a great baker she was. Nezumi, who had tasted said baking years before, silently agreed that it had been pretty good. Then again, he had been on the run and starving the night he had tasted Shion's mother's cherry cake, and it could have sucked without him ever realizing it. He disregarded this unimportant detail as Inukashi began to tell the boy about her own mother. This was a story that Nezumi knew by heart, so he had stopped listening at that point. But after Shion had finished washing the dogs, Nezumi could sense that something about the conversation had stirred a new thought in the boy's mind. That very night, Shion had asked:
"Hey, Nezumi, were you really there to sing at Inukashi's mother's deathbed?"
The question had come rather suddenly, and Nezumi looked up from his book of Shakespeare to study Shion's face. "I guess you could say that. The wording you used makes the ceremony sound a bit more morbid than it actually was. Why do you ask?"
The white haired boy shrugged as he stirred the stew for that night's dinner, "I don't know, I just can't stop thinking about her. Inukashi's mom I mean."
Nezumi smirked, "Why, you got some secret dog fetish there? Wow, I'm a little hurt that some animal outranks me when it comes to your affection."
Shion's face had turned bright red to match his eyes, "N-no! That's not what I meant! It's just…I mean her mother was a dog so…"
"Yea, she was raised by a dog, and she's pretty damn protective of that so I'd tread carefully when it comes to that topic. Remember: she's got a legion of the dogs behind her whenever something pisses her off."
Shion had nodded and gone back to fixing dinner, but Nezumi could tell something was still on his mind.
Now, the question, weeks in the making, was finally being revealed.
The day had started off normally. Shion and Nezumi arrived at the inn at the same time as always, and after greeting the dog keeper, Shion went to go fill a bucket with water and soap while Nezumi found an acceptable napping spot. Once Shion had gathered his materials, he proceeded to wash the dogs while Inukashi began to chat with him about some uninteresting facts pertaining to the country that used to be called the United Kingdom. Nezumi had spaced out on the conversation, but was immediately drawn back to reality a short while later when he heard Shion ask: "Hey, Inukashi, about your mother…can I ask you something?"
Nezumi opened his eyes and caught a glimpse of the girl's expression: it was a mixture of surprised and defensive. "I guess, what do you want to know?"
Shion bit his lip for a second, obviously assessing whether or not to continue with what he was going to say. After a second, he cleared his throat, "Well…I've been thinking. Your mother was a dog. A female dog correct?"
Inukashi raised an eyebrow, "I mean she wouldn't be my mother if she was a male…"
Shion let out a nervous laugh, "Heh, I guess you're right. Anyway, I was wondering-and please don't take this the wrong way but-"
Holy crap, Nezumi thought, sitting up as the boy was about to finish, he can't be about to ask what I think he's about to ask…
"-But, um...technically…was your mother a bitch?"
It was too much. Nezumi started to laugh. It began with a small snort, then turned into an outright burst of "HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" as Nezumi rolled on the ground, clutching his sides. Unbelievable, Un-frikkin'-believable, he though as tears began to well up in his eyes, and this kid's supposed to be some sort of genius.
Shion turned to his companion, a look of confusion spreading across his face. "I don't get it. Nezumi, what's so-"
"WHAT THE HELL DID YOU JUST ASK ME?"
Inukashi's roar startled Shion and caused Nezumi to start pounding on the ground as his laughter intensified. "I just-I just asked if your mother was a bitch because-"
If looks could start a spark, Inukashi's would have probably caused a forest fire. "NO. My mother was not a bitch."
"No but's you little tramp. I can't believe it, you've been planning this insult all along haven't you?" The anger in her voice was causing the dogs surrounding them to perk up their ears in alert. They sensed their master was angry.
"Oh boy, you're taking this the wrong way," Shion said in a small voice.
"Damn right I am! You know what, my mother was anything but a bitch. You wanna know why?" She was slowly advancing towards him.
"I was honestly just-"
"BECAUSE," The dog keeper cut him off, "She taught me respect, something you obviously lack! She taught me to respect the Alpha dog no matter what, and she disciplined me with a bite on the back of my neck if I ever forgot that rule."
Shion was cowering as he spoke, "Inukashi, I didn't mean to disrespect your mother, I was just wondering."
I warned you, kid, Nezumi thought to himself, wiping away tears from his eyes. He hadn't laughed that much in a long time.
Inukashi, stopping only a few inches away from the boy, glared, "Well wondering can get you in a hell of a lot of trouble, huh?" she raised her hands at the dogs who had seemed to magically appear behind her in her fit of rage. They calmed down and returned to their original places.
Shion bowed to the girl, "I apologize for my question, will you forgive me?"
"Hm…well you do seem genuinely sorry. I hope this will teach you to think twice before you go asking things like that."
Shion nodded furiously, his white hair bouncing up and down. Nezumi gave a left over chuckle, which caused the girl to whip her head to focus on him.
"And you," She stated furiously, "are at just as much fault as snake-scar over here."
Nezumi stood up and brushed himself off, "Oho, and why might that be, Miss Sensitive?"
"Because you obviously lack loyalty, another trait my mother taught me." Inukashi pushed up her tattered sleeves and crossed her arms. "You're supposed to be our friend, or acquaintance, or whatever you identify yourself as when it comes to your relationship with us. If you were loyal, you wouldn't have been laughing so hard over there."
"Oh, so your mother was more loyal than a human?"
"You bet. After all, dogs are the most loyal creatures there are. You saw how mine responded when I was yelling. They knew something was wrong so they assembled behind me, just in case they needed to attack a potential threat."
"Well then," he smirked, "let me bring this fact to light: Dogs don't stay with the same mate, in fact they usually have multiple partners at a time. If that's the case, then how are they better than humans exactly?"
Shion began to rub his chin while Inukashi stood, dumbstruck. "He does have a point there, you know. I'm not saying that it's true for your mother, but if it is, doesn't that make her kinda unfaithful?"
The dog keeper's fists clenched, and she slowly turned her head to face him. "First you ask if my mother was a bitch, and now you call her a whore..."
Shion's eyes almost bulged out of his skull, "What?! No, I was just-"
"I thought you had already learned your lesson-"
"But, I was just-"
"-I guess I was wrong." Her voice was low and menacing, almost like a dog's growl.
Shion raised up his hands in defense, "But it wasn't me who said-"
"You little shit." The dogs had once again fallen into rank behind the girl.
"Nezumi, help!" the boy called out in fright.
But the cry was unheard by his companion, who had once again dissolved into a fit of laughter.
I honestly don't know how this little prompt fell into my mind, but I'm glad it did. It was a lot of fun to write for my first No. 6 story. Anyway, I'd love to hear your thoughts!