"Hehe" Shinobu managed a chuckle out of her sweet panting as her thick locks of hair stuck against her forehead while sweat made ger uniform stick against her entire body, giving a delicious treat to Nik's eyes. Her haori had already been placed away while her knees quivered softly as she kept her smile.
Nik wasn't any better. Though he did not feel that much tired to have such visible effects, his body was hurting. Every single inch of his body hurt like hell and he finally tapped out before falling on his butt unceremoniously.
"Good fight, I guess."
Nik smiled while Shinobu still kept standing, unable to fall or stand straight. Her joints felt like they might explode at any moment. Even though this session merely a spar, to Shinobu, who loved getting victory every single time, couldn't help but give her all, exhausting her strength in her hyper-agile moves and startling acrobatics.
"Breath of War God *huff* sure is amazing."
Shinobu whispered while Nik shook his head.
"Sorry to burst your bubble, but Breath of War is only great against demons. I used Breath of water..."
The surprising words finally made Shinobu fall on her own butt, too, as the revelation made her go daze for a few seconds before she started chuckling.
"I retract my praise. It isn't the Breath of War God that is amazing, but the Pillar of Passion, did I get that right?"
Shinobu took out a handkerchief from the pocket of her pants and wiped her face while Nik nodded and grinned broadly.
Finally, with an evil grin, Nik stood up and made his way towards Shinobu. His towering figure looked nothing short of demonic as Shinobu had already predicted his actions and yet, she could do nothing about it but 'reluctantly' grant him the victor's privilege with her heart beating in anticipation. Of course, even though Nik tapped out, his current vigour showed that he was far from defeated.
In one gentle swoop, Nik picked Shinobu's lithe figure gently and grinned with a whisper Sweet his words finally pulled a crimson tinge on Shinobu's cheeks as she too, was brought where Saya and Rei looked at the spectacle with astonishment before gently placing her down.
Almost fifteen minutes of silent meditation later, Shinobu opened her eyes and stood up while stretching her waist before shooting a look to Nik, who had already opened his eyes by now with his pupils filled with renewed vigour. Looking towards Shinobu with an expectant look, Nik inquired, "When... is the time of lunch?"
Smiling, Shinobu looked outside the training hall with the open gates leading her sight to her own exotic, flower-based backyard, "Should we try eating outside? It won't be healthy, of course, but many dishes are amazing."
Hearing her words, Nik immediately stood up and sent his Guild Master a rather indecent message Don't wait up, Daddy's gonna be late.
While Nik liked to collectively call the entire political structure of this World as Nobles, the truth remained that the structure remained as deliberate as any other world's structure. The Capital, although, did not house the Emperor's palace, it still housed Shoguns and Daimyos. Usually, all the Shoguns cl.u.s.tered around the palace, being the political leaders that they are, their need in the imperial court remained extremely dire, but they still had their own mansions based within the capital.
Then came the true nobles Daimyos. A level lower than the Shoguns yet as important as the Imperial Ministers. Each Daimyo controlled over a selected land and kept the entire empire productive. Of course, a thin leash still remained over these nobles' necks in the form of regular taxes and slavery. So, when Nik witnessed not a single peasant as he did in the village, Nik wasn't surprised. Men and women wore exotic clothing filled with rich texture and prints. Some wore clouded kimonos while others sported multi-coloured flower-based yutakas.
But even these noble figureheads, or the crowd connected to the Daimyos and the Shoguns through matrimony or illicit relationsh.i.p.s continued reveling in the joy of tasting dishes. A concept that Nik reckoned to be constant across the entire multiverse. But ko matter status or political power, the moment their eyes landed on the calmly smiling Shinobu, everyone gave way. Through their inner connections, almost everyone within the capital knew of the existence of the mysterious alliance that slew demons with extreme prejudice and keeping the regular citizens safe.
The Demon Slayers.
They were as notorious as their the rumours painted them to be, especially a silver-haired youth that almost killed a shogun right in front of the entire imperial court before the matter was settled silently. No matter the ranks of the demon slayers, each of them must be respected that is something that is conveyed to the younger generation time and again. Fear the demons. But fear and respect the Demon Slayers. Fear for their demonic strength and respect for their conviction to rise to that very strength despite their mortality.
"You are enjoying this, aren't you Shinobu?"
Nik smiled and whispered as he, too, felt his vanity being satisfied when he observed the veiled looks of envy within the eyes of men and exposed look of longingness within the eyes of women. The opposite looks for Shinobu filled her own vain self, too.
"You bet, I am."
She whispered in kind and led the way at her own sweet pace. Even though carrying a sword without becoming a Samurai or Ronin The warriors class and the mercenary class of the society happened to be a massive crime, the guards present within the crowd turned their gazes away, completely oblivious while sampling the Sushi present in the stall.
"Ah, here we are."
Shinobu smiled and looked at the wooden lodging with multiple group of people entering and exiting without any care. A soft blush marked every customer exiting the place while the look of expectations within the eyes of those entering the place remained unhidden.
"Today, we will eat at Mitsuri's place."
Shinobu smiled as Nik raised his eyebrows at the information. Since everything would get cleared up eventually, Nik did not interrupt and entered the place when a burly man with his muscles almost ripping out if clothes struck fear into the hearts of many and bowed lightly towards Shinobu.
"Exclusive and ask Mitsuri to cook herself. Tell her that War is here."
Shinobu smiled and bypassed the man as the burly bear's gaze hardened over at Nik. Of course, he simply nodded and followed Shinobu to the guarded stairs. As if recognising the notorious Pillar od Insect, the guards smoothly sidestepped while Nik gazed at the packed restaurant filled with the noise of clattering plates and the combined murmurs of the customers made Nik realise one thing.
Maybe, just maybe, the klutzy, curvaceous, dazed, pinkette might be a good cook.
Of course, as Nik followed Shinobu, the guards eyed him suspiciously for a moment but Nik had already bypassed them and followed the stairs, leading his vision to a serene area with less than 20 tables, all empty save for one while the decor of the room spoke nothing of lavishness. It was as plain as a village room could be. But the varnished furniture did speak volumes about the total turnover of the restaurant. And from Shinobu, Nik already knew that a certain occupation did not pay any tax Demon Slayers, of course.
"Ah, isn't that Obanai? Hmm? Nik, do you see any tree or ledges? Ah, there isn't? Is that why you are sitting on a chair akin to humans, you snake?"
Once again, Shinobu's unrivalled remarks passed through Obanai's thin defences as he glared at the gentle beauty, who, in fact, did not even look towards him after unceremoniously mocking him and occupied the table nearest to the door leading to the stairs downwards.
Nik smiled and waved at Obanai. Of course, Nik's presence only agitated the Pillar of Snake who failed to react on time as the slithering, pure white snake coiling around his neck slowly made its way down towards the vat of milk wine, leaving Obanai's neck empty.
"What are the two of you doing here?"
Obanai couldn't help but voice out his questions with a frown on his forehead, but Shinobu once again, paid him no heed and looked at Nik.
"If you are wondering why there are no waiters... well, when Mitsuri cooks, she just wh.i.p.s up whatever she feels like. So, every dish is a new one."
Shinobu's words finally pulled a reaction out of Nik who couldn't help but gulp, not in anticipation, but in fear.
"So... she IS a good cook, right?"
"The best." Obanai snarled a reply and finally, Shinobu looked at the Pillar of Snake and placed her index over her plump, full lips and smiled broadly, "Hush, you. A single youth should not interrupt a couple's discussion."
That did it!
Obanai almost flew into a literal rage when Nik also looked at the youth and actually showed an apologetic smile. Although Nik wasn't a fan of this particular pillar, he also did not relish in insulting him time and again. Back then during their previous meeting, Nik only flexed his strength to establish his strength, that is it. But strangely, Shinobu's words, coupled with Nik's 'pitying' gaze made Obanai silent.
For a single moment.
Clenching his fist, Obanai stood up and picked up the vat that contained the milk vine for his partner before walking past their table and going down the stairs, leaving the 'couple' alone.
"Well, that wasn't so hard." Shinobu's smile broadened as Nik looked at her with a strange expression before he himself couldn't help but smile softly.
"So, 'honey', what should we do now that we are alone?"
Nik smiled and leaned forward slightly as Shinobu gave him a mischievous look and tapped on her nose.
"You tell me? Although I am informed that Tanjiro's nose is quite enhanced, my own senses aren't that bad.
I smell a demon on you. And not the cutie in my estate."
Nik's smiled almost fell, but he managed to keep his calm and match Shinobu's gaze, "Would you believe that I am a kind soul that wish to save the demons that can be saved?"
His words pulled a nod out of Shinobu, "I believe. But something tells me... that this demon is a female. And that too, at the level of the Imperial Concubines."
Nik coughed softly and defended himself.
"I... still haven't seen the imperial concubine. So, I wouldn't know."
Shinobu finally rolled her eyes as Nik smiled and continued.
"Of course, this inquiry, unfortunately, happened to be marked as a forbidden one. How about we start from the first question I asked of you?
What does Wisteria taste like?"
Nik's purple pupils shimmered while a mild blush touched Shinobu's cheeks as she averted her gaze and looked a bit hesitant before finally letting out a defeated sigh and stated softly.
"Oh. Is that so? Strawberry? Who knew"
"Now!" Shinobu cut him in between and looked at Nik with her eyebrows finally arching up in embarrassed rage.
"It is your turn, 'honey'. Get started."
Alternative Title: A forbidden question answered.