I spent the entire morning raking fallen leaves into piles in the yard. If I knew it was going to be this much work, I would have had the trees uprooted from the start. Five piles the size of haystacks now decorated the front yard really gave the autumn season feel. The aesthetics it gave the dorm did look nice. But was it really worth laboring over?
Landscapers should be coming around next week to collect the piles. Hopefully the wind wouldn't blow them into a mess.
"You've been out here all morning. Couldn't you have just burned the leaves instead?" Cresta asked.
"I'll forgive you for not knowing, but we live in California! One bad cinder and this whole state goes up in flames," I explained.
Cresta wasn't listening. The assassin walked up to one of the piles, taking particular interest in the leaves that crunched under her feet. When the wind knocked loose a few from the branches, she swatted at them on their way down.
"I haven't seen leaves in this color in ages," she said, bending down to grab a handful of orange and yellow leaves.
"Why's that? I can't imagine trees in Weyera are too different from Earth." I leaned on the rake, watching her crush the leaves in her grasp. The simple act of hearing them wrinkle excited her and a smile as warm as the sun. It must be nostalgia she's feeling.
She threw the handful back into the stack and sighed. "Most of Weyera's lands were charred black and red from the war. Civilizations like the empire live on lands raised into the sky by magic."
I swallowed hard. It sounded like they had their own version of a nuclear holocaust. In this world, technology had improved so much that a war would cause untold destruction. It sounded like what happened in Weyera, but with magic.
From what I understood in declassified documents from the United Nations was that we came into the picture when Weyera was mostly in ruins. The desperation in seeing their lands destroyed spurred them to take drastic actions, culminating in them tearing a portal to our world in search of help. It felt strange that I was glad humanity, for how destructive we were, played little part in further wreaking havoc in another world. But how long would that last?
My tenant her back facing me. She was trembling. I was about to reach out to her thinking she needed comforting when suddenly—
"Hup!" Cresta dove headfirst and disappeared into the pile of leaves.
"Don't you dare make a mess of that! I spent hours tidying the yard up," I shouted into the pile.
Cresta's tail stuck out, whipping back and forth like a pendulum.
"It's so comfy and dark in here. I love it!" Her voice came through muffled from within. The tail retracted back inside and in its place emerged her head. "Can we gather the piles into one big stack?"
How could I resist when it looked like she was having so much fun?
"You're going to break my back, but fine." I plucked a leaf from her head and went to raking the piles together.
Combining the stacks didn't take long combing the entire yard since it was all mostly in the same place. The mega-pile ended up being taller than my head and eventually became the size of a toolshed. Cresta couldn't be happier. If I didn't know better, she was a dog and not a cat.
It might just be that bestial netherfolks like her were more inclined to seek out enclosed spaces. Whether it made her feel safe or the result of a whim, as long as she was happy that's what really mattered.
"Damn, my arms are pooped. Yard work is no joke. I'd probably be worse off without those weight training sessions," I remarked, wiping the sweat from my forehead.
It had gotten eerily silent aside from the rustling leaves that yet cling onto branches for dear life. A slightly stronger gust might dump more hard labor on me tomorrow.
Pushing aside a handful of leaves part way up the stack revealed a rather blissful-looking Cresta, lying on her back and snoozing.
"Don't mind me… just going to take a little catnap…" she said, dozing off.
I returned to the dorm but not before reburying her face. A sweet smell lured me into the kitchen where Ange sat in front of an oven, watching whatever was cooking within more intently than if she were sex-starved and in search of prey.
"Ahem. What's cooking, good-looking?" I asked from the entrance, putting on as deep of a voice as I could to act suave. However, the succubus took one look at me and made a face so full of shaming intent that I henceforth vowed never to do that again.
"I adore you, but not when you act like that." She chuckled, then returned her attention back to the oven. "You're always cooking for us, so I thought I'd return the favor."
"This is the first time I had a woman other than my mom cook for me." I couldn't hide the joy in my face even if I tried.
A cookbook had been left open on the counter that showed a recipe for cupcakes. The mess in the kitchen was a testament to her working on this for as long as I was in the yard. I instinctively went to start cleaning up, but she moved to stop me.
"Oh, no. I'll clean my own mess, thank you very much." Ange tried to usher me out of the kitchen.
"Aw, come on. You're nice enough to make some cupcakes, I have to pitch in somehow with a bit of cleaning," I contested, then thought about my role for a moment and realized she won the argument.
Rarely do I ever let them help me. On the few occasions that it happened, the tenants pretty much forced themselves into the picture. I just didn't want them to feel inclined, otherwise it'd become a regular occurence when it was my job to care for them.
Wait a minute. Have I become hardworking? Am I a respectable, contributing member of society now? I wondered to myself with a bit of pride.
"They're done!" Ange exclaimed with uncharacteristic childish glee. She pulled out two batches from the oven. They were just the bread base in the pan for now, but appeared like tiny golden suns waiting to be frosted. She pointed to one pan in particular in which the color was a bit darker than the other. "This batch is for Cresta. I made sure to add her preferred flavor and ingredients."
"That's rather thoughtful of you…" I eyed her suspiciously.
Spongy and fluffy goodness.
I reached for one but Ange slapped my hand.
"W-What was that for?"
"They need to cool down in the fridge, at which point I can add frosting and toppings. Why don't you wash up first? You must have worked up a sweat in the yard," she said.
This fluffy and warm feeling in my chest, it was like a sweet marital life with Ange. I had an attractive woman cooking for me, a pet playing around outside the house, and an ungrateful teenager upstairs.
Not a bad life so far. Not bad at all.
I took Ange up on her suggestion and took a nice, hot bath until the water turned lukewarm. The issue of Remmy remained. I needed to get through to her, but slowly so as to not turn her away from us. Maybe Ange and Cresta had suggestions to give. They all lived in the same world after all, and I didn't know the first thing about Weyera.
Freshened up and ready to enjoy Ange's home baked cupcakes, I skipped downstairs with a spring in my step. When I came into the kitchen though, neither the succubus nor frosted cupcakes awaited me. Remmy was there, holding both platters. Ange entered just in time to witness the slime tip every single one into her gooey body. They floated around in her body for a moment before disintegrating.
"My… My cupcakes…" I mourned for the lost opportunity.
However, Ange became infuriated.
"I worked so hard to make those…" she said, her trembling hands clenched so hard knuckles turned white despite the tint of her skin color.
"You made them to be eaten, so I don't see the problem. Just make more." Remmy shrugged.
Her lack of decency left me too speechless to be angry. I was appalled. Has Remmy always been this discourteous? Even at the other caretaker's dorm?
This job had me living with people other than family for the first time in my life, but even I knew taking someone else's food was a big no-no. Like the worst unspoken rule between roommates you could ever break.
If Ange could get any redder she might light a fuse if it wasn't lit already. As the slime exited the kitchen, I had to put myself at the entrance to keep Ange from acting out on her anger. Sure I was peeved that I didn't get to eat her cupcakes, but my feelings on the matter— especially by the troubled look on Ange's face— paled in comparison to how she must be feeling, having that hard work taken away.
I'd never seen Ange so bothered before.
"I'm sure they were delicious! I don't mind that Remmy ate them at all," I said, guiding her over to the seat.
My foot kicked something hard. It was the trash can. I pressed the handle to reveal a full load of failed creations and ingredients.
It only now dawned on me. Making cupcakes shouldn't have taken more than an hour. I had been in the yard all morning, and Ange had told me she was making these since I was out there. She had to have poured her heart and soul perfecting them.
"I made them for you…" she muttered quietly.
"You know, not even Cresta's tried making something for me to eat yet. So, it makes me really happy that you were thoughtful enough to spend your whole morning on this. Seriously, Ange. Thank you," I said as sincerely as I could from the bottom of my heart.
Ange perked up, if just a little. She glanced over to the island counters that still had yet to be cleaned.
"All that's left of my attempts is a mess." The succubus heaved a sigh.
"What say we clean this up together? Then I'll have a word with Remmy whether she likes it or not. It's high time I try to get through to her before she ruins this family we've got going on," I said.
Instead of agreeing, Ange hugged me tightly and pressed me to her chest. "The mess can wait. How about you help me work out this frustration instead?"
The succubus licked her lips and sent goosebumps across my skin as a little something between my legs twitched with anticipation.