(AN: Sorry for this being a day late. Here’s Chapter 5.)
Later that day, in the main chamber of the Kanzaki family mansion, a guest had arrived to greet the family. Before Hatsuko and Kyosuke, was a girl with crimson hair done in a way towards beauty over function. Her clothes were very formal like, using traditional Chinese aesthetics as a base while taking cues from the styles of the Zhou Dynasty while still keeping it modern. She was on her knees, her right fist wrapped inside her left palm as she addressed the two.
“My family name is Yu. My given name is Ling. My style name is Xiuying. Please address me as Yu Xiuying. I thank you for allowing me to have an audience with you.”
Although the use of style names had gone out of practice amongst the general public of Chinese society. For Chinese Demon Hunters, the practice was revived and modified to be used in a way to also identify a Demon Hunter without revealing they are one. In public areas, they would address each other normally, replacing their style name over their given one. This doubled as preventative measures to avoid undesired third parties from figuring out their real identity. Compared to Japan, China didn’t have any kind of secret support organization like the DHCA. In terms of self-sufficiency and secretive nature, the Chinese Demon Hunters were much better at it.
“Thank you for your politeness, Yu Xiuying. I heard from a few people that you helped out my child. But, you also were the cause of my child’s injuries.”
Hatsuko’s voice was unusually cold that it made her husband glance at her. Xiuying did not flinch, she knew she had been the cause. She lowered her head while keeping the same pose as before.
“Yes, it is my fault that Hayate was injured. After much thought, I was foolish to have forced a duel on him then and there. I should have formally asked here. I regret my impatience has caused your family problems.”
“I see, you do regret your actions. Though I don’t doubt your sincerity. What do you plan to do for Hayate?”
“He saved my life despite having been forced into a duel. I don’t think it’s a debt that can be easily settled. I will do anything possible..”
Because Xiuying was not looking, a rather evil grin appeared for a moment on Hatsuko’s face. Her husband said nothing, quietly apologizing to a certain someone who was about to get the full brunt of this.
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Quietly, he was struggling a bit on his own. His right arm couldn’t be moved, and he already had difficulty walking without support. He was trying to clean himself in the bath with only his left hand. Frustrated at the hard difficulty trying to reach places he couldn’t reach, he could only sigh reluctantly.
I do not regret sending the maids away. He thought to himself as he continued to try to clean himself. Although there had been times in the past where he had been helped by maids, but that was when he had been stuck as a girl. It had been somewhat ingrained into him that it was normal for girls to be helped by several or more maids, while boys were helped by a single person. Fuumi had suggested to help him with bathing but he refused. Knowing Fuumi’s personality she would try to do it naked and panic for most of it, probably. Not wanting to have such a disruptive bath, he decided to take it alone without help.
“Maybe I should have had someone help me.”
“Then, I will help you.”
A girl’s voice that shouldn’t have been there, and he recognized her voice. He turned his eyes towards the door and was about to say something when it opened. There, a girl covering herself in a single towel, her crimson hair unbraided and left flowing. He immediately turned his head around to not look.
“W-W-Why are you in the men’s bath? No, more importantly, why are you here?”
“I…came to repay my debt to you. Your mother told me this action was the best as you were injured. She did say that you liked baths.”
Again?! Mother, when did you know I was taking a bath now?! And why did you do this again with another girl I met?! What are you planning?! His need to interrogate his mother was extremely high today.
“I-I-I do like to take baths but this and that are different subjects. Why are you helping?”
“I did say it was to repay my debt. Though that is half the reason, I came to appeal to you.”
He didn’t know when, but she had moved behind him and pressed herself against his back. With only a towel between them, her hands on his shoulders. He could feel her breath against his ear as she leaned closer.
“Please, allow me to help you. I can’t let my savior be troubled like this.”
“I-I understand, but this is troubling in its own way. X-Xiuying, I….uh….leave my back to you.”
“Yes. Also, please call me Ling. That’s my given name.”
“? I thought it was Xiuying…”
“Xiuying is my style name. It is something we use over there. My real name is Ling.”
The sounds of scrubbing noise could be heard, their conversation had abruptly turned silent. She was quietly just scrubbing his back. It was different from her earlier personality from before when they had been fighting. He wondered about this girl a little. She had given such a forceful personality based on that first meeting. Which one was the real her?
“Why…did you challenge me to that duel? I know it is for marriage. However, the timing of your appearance at that time.”
“It is a long story…”
She recounted how she was talented as a Demon Hunter and as a martial artist unlike her older brother. Because of certain old fashion traditions, her older brother had taken over the family after their father passed away. Her being under the new family head, she was expected to obey his orders. One particular day after her training, it had been decided that if she were to marry, she needed to marry someone who could defeat her in a duel. She was ordered to fight her supposed suitors in a duel and marry the one who defeats her despite her feelings on the matter.
Duel after duel, would-be suitors were all defeated by her. Her older brother grew satisfied for some reason and left the situation as it was. She had once voiced a complaint asking if he would do this to their younger sisters where he simply stated, “Of course not, they’re not like you, they’ll marry who they like.” She retorted back she wanted to do the same. He looked at her and gave her an order.
“If you want to choose your own husband. Find him and defeat him in a duel and bring him here. I will allow it when you do. You have a year.”
At first she traveled various parts of China to look, but was unable to find one to her liking. She decided to follow some interesting rumors about Japan. There was rumors of a Japanese Demon Hunter who was very active, who also shared the same age as her. She thought she have found him, she decided to go to the prefecture where his family was at. At the time of her arrival, along with an entourage of selected bodyguards by her older brother. She had planned to go to the Kanzaki mansion the next day. Due to her close proximity to an artificial forest when arriving, she sensed both Spiritual Power and evil energies nearby. She went to investigate and found Hayate being chased by a large group of demons. The rest happened as the two remembered after that.
“I…see. I think I am the same, L-Ling…I have to find my partner before my last year in school. I have not even started and the subject already weighs on my mind at times.”
“I am sorry. I didn’t even know you were the same. I was about to force you into the same thing my brother did to me.”
Another silence, followed by the sound of pouring water. Water rinsed away the soap on his back, then she noticed a detail.
“There are no wounds…”
“…My…constitution? I guess is the correct thing to say. I seem to heal faster than others. Although my right arm is of no use at the moment until I fully heal. I do not seem to have scars due to how fast I heal.”
“This is so…unusual.”
He felt a light touch on his back, it stroked down to where the stab wound he should have had would have been at.
“Ah! I’m sorry! I just….”
“It is okay, L-Ling. I will get into the bath first.”
He got up and kept himself covered with his towel before entering the bath. His back facing towards her. She quietly cleaned herself fairly quickly, and entered the bath too with her back to his.
“Hayate. When did you notice that demon that attacks us?”
“For a little bit, I sensed something was wrong at the time.”
“So…you took on my attack, purposely hurting yourself. To protect me…”
“Yes, I did.”
She felt incredible guilt, had she been less excited back then about finding someone who seemed like her equal. She should have taken a proper look at him. She had to make it up to him somehow, to make up for the trouble she caused. She turned around and hugged him from behind. It was a bit forward of her but she wanted her message to come across. She wrapped her arms around his stomach, pressing herself close.
“Let me make up for everything. I will do anything for you. And when I repay that debt…”
She moved one of her hands upwards as she continue speaking.
Her hand touched something that wasn’t on a boy’s chest. Although she touched lightly, a girlish moan was heard. Immediately, she jumped back surprised by that and saw a girl who was desperately trying to cover herself with the towel she had.
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“Fu fu fu fu…Hayate, my dear child. I hope you enjoyed mother’s present.”
“M-Mother! You lied to her! There was no need for her to bathe with me! And what do you mean by present?! You did the same thing before! You obviously knew this was going to happen!”
“I don’t know what you mean~~.”
The mother laughing at her own child after playing a prank, the child angry at the mother. This looked like a rather normal scene. Though to the one person who had been tricked, Xiuying was sitting there stunned a bit. It seemed this scene would continue further until the lone man in the room spoke.
“Hatsuko. Hayate. Our guest is confused.”
“Yes, we should leave our bonding time for another time, right? Hayate?”
“Mother, you think playing pranks is bonding?”
There was a slight annoyed look aimed at them.
The Kanzaki family seated next to each other reordered themselves quickly and acted like nothing happened. Hatsuko again took charge of the conversation.
“So, Yu Xiuying, I see you discovered our family’s, rather Hayate’s secret.”
“…That is your son? Or is it daughter?”
“Hayate is our son.”
“So, your son’s ability? Curse? In any case, what will you do to me?”
“Simple. You will keep the secret and stay here as our guest. You may stay in our territory for as long as you like. You can also help Hayate with demon hunts when those happen.”
Hayate looked like she got the gist of her mother’s intentions and added her own.
“As the Head of the Kanzaki family, she has recognized you as a honored guest that will help us. By supporting me, your debt to me can be repaid. Until the Head recognizes the debt has been repaid in full, you will stay here in our territory until that time.”
In other words, the debt was being handled by keeping Hayate’s secret and supporting as another Demon Hunter. Hatsuko had planned for Hayate to hunt with others rather than alone. She had already seen the pattern from the previous hunts that she put this into motion.
Xiuying also understood and corrected her posture, with her right fist wrapped in her left palm, she then spoke in a serious tone.
“I, Yu Xiuying, pledge to help you until this debt is repaid. Thank you for your kindness.”
“We have heard your pledge. So, Hayate.”
“You have a new housemate. Get along.”