When they slowly drove up to the blue light, they saw Mutsu standing there, holding it. And just as she had said, there was a narrow road right behind her. It was so narrow that it had been easy to overlook.
When the car turned to enter the small road, Mutsu turned around, light in hand, and started to walk ahead.
“She wants us to follow her I think.”
“Wow, she just started walking away completely without fear. Sometimes I wonder if she really is a girl.”
“Maybe there’s nothing particularly dangerous around?”
The car held a fixed distance from Mutsu and after a while the concrete path changed into a stone stairway.
It seemed that Mutsu had stopped because the blue light disappeared. Instead, a bright yellow light shone at the car. Mutsu had switched to the flashlight on her phone and was walking towards them.
“Can you give me a flashlight?”
Sousuke handed one over after getting out of the car. Mutsu stuffed her phone into her pocket and started climbing the stairs.
As they were walking the shrine path that didn’t even have any lanterns, the door to the shrine office suddenly opened.
“We can always rely on you, Mutsu-san.”
“I’m so glad that Mucchan is with us.”
When they peered into the pitch-dark shrine office, there was suddenly a hint of movement inside.
Mutsu put out her flashlight and they became enveloped in complete darkness. Sousuke and Hiroto became uneasy, thinking that she was planning to do something and stood still without moving in the darkness.
“Kitsune-san, it’s Mutsu.”
As Mutsu said this, the bushes nearby started to rustle in the darkness. In the blink of an eye, Mutsu, Sousuke and Hiroto were surrounded by something, but nothing could be discerned other than the constant rustle of the leaves.
“None of the men behind you is the one from before.”
“That’s right. These are my colleagues.”
“What! You have a kuda-gitsune with you. We are related.”
Pa-pa-pa. The garden lanterns around them lit up.
“We’ve brought sweets and alcohol. Could we stay here for a while because of work, please?”
Mutsu’s face, illuminated by the lanterns and with shadows flickering over it looked more dreadful than a youkai.
“Sweets? Is it castella cake?”
“This time it’s dango because the kuda-gitsune chose it. We’ve also brought steamed buns and alcohol and were also planning to cook a meal.”
Sousuke and Hiroto were surprised as they watched how several kitsune excitedly approached their car.
“Trying to tame them with food goes a long way, it seems.”
Mutsu and the guys took out the bags from the car together with the kitsune and entered the shrine office.
The lights turned on with a click, together with the heating. Mutsu looked around in a familiar way, finding the kitchen where she started unpacking the shopping bags.
“Mutsu-dono, what in the world is all of this? And also, will you be okay sharing a room with those men? We don’t have too much space.”
“Yes it’s fine. I’m sorry about all the trouble. By the way, I was planning to make dinner.”
“Oh? Are you here to fool around?”
“Of course not! It’s for work. But we’re hungry, so we’ll start working after we eat. I’m going to cook a meal, are you guys hungry? And how’s the thing I asked about before going?”
The kitsune followed Mutsu around on two hind legs, looking at what she was doing as if it was something unusual.
“We haven’t managed to do it yet.”
“I can’t reel any weird presence. Maybe it wasn’t near here? Your refrigerator is in good condition, and the stove. That’s great. Then we’ll have the sweets and alcohol after we’ve done investigating for tonight.”
“Mmhm, I see. That sounds reasonable.”
The kitsune scampered about next to Mutsu, taking out a chopping board and a saucepan, then it asked her if it was in the way. She laughed.
“What are you making?”
“A stew probably. They say that people eating from one pot become close and all.”
Mutsu cut vegetables with a rhythmic tapping sound and put them in the pot. Then she added water to cover about half of them and turned on the heat.
“It seems that Mutsu-dono is good at cooking. I want to eat a rolled omelette.”
Mutsu laughed and fetched three eggs and cracked them into a bowl.
“This is going to take some time. Can you be on the lookout for any strange things in the vicinity in the meantime? I’ll serve some deep-fried tofu too.”
After Mutsu said this, the kitsune immediately hurried outside.
“You’re good at dealing with them.”
Hiroto dropped by the kitchen after the kitsune left.
“Maybe it’s because I’m friendly?”
“Where is Sou-san?”
“He’s cleaning the room we’ll be sleeping in. We got some clean sheets from the kitsune, so he’s making our beds too.”
Mutsu had finished cutting up some spring onions and was in the middle of putting them into the bowl with the eggs. Then she slightly shifted the lid of the pot. The sweet and tender scent of boiled vegetables drifted up into the air. Then she quickly chopped some onions and started cutting up chicken meat.
“Hhmm, there is a decent amount of seasoning to choose from. Hiro-chan, add only the egg yolks. Put the whites over here and mix in a little soy sauce.”