119: Laundry Quandary

on December 17, 2007 in 05: The Weekend Shift

In Which Mackenzie Is Sworn To Secrecy

My impulse was to go after Barley immediately, but I was smart enough to realize that wasn’t the wisest decision. There was no way I was going into a human dorm in pursuit of an injured nymph, looking like I did.

I didn’t know how rationally she was thinking, but there was always the danger she’d have just enough presence of mind to start screaming for help and just let the rest follow naturally. I would get Two’s alice band back, or I’d replace it, but first and foremost I needed to do something about my appearance.

It usually didn’t take more than ten or fifteen minutes for the boxes to take care of a load of laundry, so I figured it should be just about ready, anyway. I headed back to Harlowe with a little trepidation, always expecting to bump into somebody who’d see the bloody streaks on my disarrayed clothing and jump to the wrong conclusion.

I didn’t expect to find Maliko sitting on top of the box with my now-dry bed stuff in it. Depending on the circumstances, that sight might have filled me with dread for the state of my linens… but she didn’t seem to be waiting for me in particular. She’d brought a hamper full of what looked to mostly be socks and undergarments, and a few shirts. That made sense, as the skirts the yokai girls wore were probably too delicate for an ordinary commercial laundry device.

Anyway, I didn’t immediately take that in because my eyes were actually pretty firmly stuck on Maliko. Not that she was much to look at… any question of my apparent attraction to females aside, I wasn’t that interested in fur and claws.

No, it was what she was doing that had my full attention.

At first, I thought she was sniffing a pair of panties. Then I realized she was licking a pair of panties, or specifically, the inside of the crotch of one. Her eyes were closed. Her usual look was one of either slightly vacant sycophancy or slightly vacant sadism. At the moment, she wasn’t “slightly vacant”… she was gone.

I cleared my throat. She jumped like I’d pinched her.

“You!” she shrieked. “What are you doing here? Why aren’t you in bed? Don’t you have someone to sleep with right now?”

“You’re, uh, sitting on my stuff,” I said, pointing at the box. “If you just let me get to it, I’ll let you get back to… whatever.”

“You cannot tell anyone you saw!” she said, jumping down off the box and tossing the underwear back in her hamper. Her short blue-gray fur bristled with righteous indignation. “I will kill you if you do!”

“Um, okay,” I said, too busy being fazed by the original sight to be fazed by her threat. While I couldn’t figure out why anybody would want to lick their own underwear, I didn’t know why I’d want to tell anybody that she did.

Even if I was in the mood to get back at the nekos for the nasty campaign posters, that would be a short conversation: “Maliko licks her underwear.”… “What? No, I don’t.” People would accept her denial by default. There were a lot of obvious jokes one could make about catgirls licking themselves… but that was just… too weird.

Though of course, I licked my boyfriend’s balls, which in its own way was probably almost as weird. I wasn’t going to volunteer that information but I also wasn’t going to judge her.

You know, much.

“You have to swear!” she insisted.

“Okay,” I said. She glared at me so I put my hand on my heart. “I solemnly swear I will not say I found you in the basement licking a pair of panties.”

“Anyway I wasn’t licking them,” she said. “I was… I was cleaning a troublesome stain. It is an ancient Yokano secret.”

“You were cleaning a troublesome stain,” I repeated. “On the inside of the crotch of…”

“It was a food stain!” she said, horrified. “Suzi is very clumsy and she knocked a cone of ice cream into the hamper and…”

“Okay,” I said. “Fuck. Chill! I don’t care what you were doing.”

“Good, because it is not your business in the first place,” she said.

She stood down and I gathered my clothes from the one box and my bed covers from the other as fast as I could, piling them back into the basket I’d left on the old wooden table. The sooner I got my stuff out of there the sooner she could start hers and the less time we’d have to spend in each other’s company.

Maliko had other ideas, though.

“You tell me how to work this now,” she said, kicking one of the now-empty large white metal boxes.

“Don’t you have washing boxes in Yokan?” I asked, a little surprised.

“I always had a… I mean, I do not know what the servants use,” she said, affecting an airy and disinterested tone which she couldn’t quite pull off. “I cannot believe it is anything as ugly as this!” She kicked it again for emphasis. “It would never be allowed inside the house.”

“You mean you’re not a servant?” I asked, and from the look she gave me, I was afraid I was about to be assaulted for the second time that morning.

“No, of course I am not!” she said. “I am Sooni’s friend! Her best friend! Better than Suzi or Baby Kai-Kai.” She made a sound like she was hacking up a hairball as she said Kai’s nickname. “I have been her friend for ever and for always and I have never been a servant!”

Okay, I thought… I now knew one topic to avoid talking about with Maliko.

Along with every other topic.

Why was I talking to Maliko?

“Well, work it out for yourself,” I said. “Get your good friend Sooni to help you.”

“But… I cannot ask Sooni!” Maliko said.

“Why not?” I asked. “If you’re such good friends.”

“Because she values my knowledge so much it would crush her to have me ask her for help,” Maliko said. It was interesting to see her eyes go through the same sort of motions when she invented this excuse as Two’s did when she was working something out. “Also, Sooni would not know, either.”

“Then maybe you need to get some new friends,” I said. I started to lift my basket, thinking that–stuffed as it was with my unfolded bed stuff bunched up on top of my clothes–it would cover the worst of the damage. I would have liked to change before going upstairs, but there was no way I was doing it in front of Maliko.

“Wait!” Maliko shrieked. “You have to help me!”

“Why?” I asked icily. “Why do I have to help you?”

That seemed to stump her.

Granted, I don’t think that was hard.

“You have to because you are… um… foolish?” she said.

“Goodbye, Maliko,” I said, picking up my stuff and heading for the door.

“Wait!” she said. “I mean… you do things for people. Because they want you to. Because you care.” She gave a little wail. “I do not know the Pax!”

I thought she meant “submissive”, but I wasn’t about to throw her even that much of a bone… especially since I had no reason to be submissive to her. I thought about saying “sucks to be you, then,” but I figured walking away was as much revenge as I really needed. “Goodbye, Maliko” said enough on its own.

“Come back here!” she yelled, her voice increasing in volume as I moved farther away. As desperate as she sounded, she wasn’t actually deigning to come after me. That said volumes about her attitude, and that was exactly why I wasn’t going to go back no matter what she said. “You have to help me because you are a… a helpful helper person! Who helps people!”

Okay, that stopped me. Because I was curious… and only because I was curious… I went back to the laundry room. The look of relief that flooded over her face when she saw me was frankly pathetic. Honestly, I wished she would look just a little bit less sad so I could maybe enjoy her pain without feeling guilty.

“Maliko, are you actually trying to say that I’m good?” I asked. Normally I would have argued the point, but I could almost believe that in relative terms, I was, at least compared to the likes of Maliko and Sooni. “Is that the word you were looking for?”

Yes!” she shrieked, near tears. “You are good and so you must help me. You are supposed to!”

Somehow, Maliko telling me what I was “supposed to” do was less endearing than when Two did it. Where had she got the idea that I was “good”, much less that I went around helping people? Okay, I had tried to intervene when they had been beating on Kai, but I hadn’t actually managed to do anything.

“Fine,” I said heavily, dropping my cleaned laundry down on the table. “I’ll show you once. But pay attention so you know how to do it yourself next time.”

“Fine. But you do not get to touch the underwears!” Maliko said. She turned her nose up haughtily. “Only I may do so.”

“I’m not touching any of it,” I said. “You can put your own damn clothes in. I’ll just show you what comes next.”

There wasn’t much to show… you put your stuff in the top of the box, ran a finger over the appropriate jewels for the options you needed, put ten copper in the slot, and closed the lid. Maliko had just been too intimidated by the unfamiliarity to try for herself. Though it was obvious she was lying about her position in Sooni’s household, I could well believe that she’d never used anything as crude as a washing box. Though it was prohibitively expensive to do so for common household chores, it was certainly possible to make a device like a wand that would simply cast a versatile, comprehensive cleaning spell on demand without recourse to even magically conjured soap and water.

It boggled my mind that people who could afford such an item would even bother making servants use it. Of course, they were rich enough. Anyway, who was I to question their ways when I hoped to make a living for myself by catering to their odd tastes? Steff had suggested I was greedy for seeking a career in enchantment. She hadn’t been far off the mark. There was good money in making expensive toys for people who were too high and mighty to even use them for themselves.

“That is all?” Maliko asked when the box began to agitate itself. “It will not damage the things or lose them? Or catch them on fire? Or turn them into monsters?”

I repressed the urge to laugh. She’d evidently heard some of the horror stories… myths, really… about poorly enchanted public washers.

“No,” I said. “It won’t.”

“And you are not leaving anything out to be… funny?” she asked. “I do not have to pay it again to get the clothings back?”

“No,” I said. “You do have to put five more copper in if you want it to run the dryer when it’s done. Otherwise you have to hang them up.”

She raised a tiny, fuzzy fist in about the least threatening gesture I could have imagined. It was only marginally improved when she opened her hand and popped out tiny, obviously manicured claws.

“If you lie to me…”

“Why would I lie?” I asked. “Didn’t you just say you thought I was ‘good’?”

“Maybe you have… wised up?” she said.

Okay, so in her mind, it seemed like “good” was the opposite of “smart.”

I wondered where she’d picked up that idea.

“One of these days, maybe I will,” I said. “Goodbye, Maliko.”

I waited a few seconds to see if I’d get a goodbye or even a thank you. She didn’t say anything, though, until I was almost to the door, and even then it was just, “Remember what you sweared!”

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One Response to “119: Laundry Quandary”

  1. fedback says:

    Ahhhb the japanese,no máster the universe they are weird

    Current score: 0