Tsubaki and Anon (Pt. 1)
"How was work Anon?" Asked a woman's voice as I got through the door.
"Fine." I said, closing the door behind me and pushing it shut with the heel of my foot "kinda slow till summer kicks in."
"I'm getting an early start on dinner" The voice said, now getting closer.
From somewhere behind me a woman not that much shorter than me came out of the kitchen.
"We're having rice with some of that steak you bought, just cut up into strips."
Tsubaki ducked back into the kitchen, the sound of meat sizzling in a frying pan coming from it before the sound of the vent fan kicked in and its own humming drowned out the sizzle. I had "met" Tsubaki a little over a month ago and at that time had been worse for wear. Her rust colored hair that sat a bit above shoulder length had been past that point and matted with dirt and grime. Even with that soft fluff on her head she was still a good three or so inches shorter than me, and I barely broke the six foot barrier myself. She was overall, in a bit better of a condition than when I found her sifting through a dumpster on the edge of an alleyway.
Tsubaki's startled voice came from the kitchen.
"Something wrong?" I asked, poking my head in.
"I almost knocked the measuring cup off the counter" She said over her shoulder. "My tail almost knocked it over."
The small cramped kitchen had never posed an issue for me, but for a mamono with a massive fluffy tail like Tsubaki's it was a nightmare to navigate. Normally she would secure her tail with maybe a sweater tied around her was it or magic it away with her illusion magic. Something like this wasn't out of the ordinary, at least in this world. For the longest time humans had existed alongside mamono, or what others would call monster girls. A varied race of demi humans that were essentially humans with animal traits be it a cat-like tail or in the case of a centaur, their lower halves were that of a horse while the upper half was human. The only outlying oddity with their kind was that barring the dwarf, every species of mamono was wholly comprised of women. The reasoning behind it, or at least the real reasoning had been lost to time. Various myths and legends were passed as accepted fact to explain why things were the way they were, but in the modern era it mattered little.
"Couldn't you just magic your tail away?" I asked as I kicked my shoes off, letting them land left of the door.
"It's been a lazy day..." Tsubaki's thoughts seemed to trail as she spoke. "That, and after dinner I need to talk to you about something."
For a split second, my mind raced. What could Tsubaki want to talk about? What could be so important she couldn't ask now? Before I could let my mind run wild though I stomped on the brakes. In the short time I've known her, Tsubaki wanting to ask me something was her just wondering if it was ok if she bought something for herself. It was usually something small, the biggest purchase being the pair of glasses she had asked me for a week back. Before that she had complained it had been hard to read a lot of finer print, relying on me to usually tell her how to prep meals. Outside those glasses Tsubaki didn't have any real possessions, not surprising though considering when I first met her she was on the street pretty much.
It had been a day in late February when we met. It wasn't a particularly great day then either, the sky overcast and a light rain having started. I had been on my way back home when something in an alleyway caught my eye. There, in the alleyway she was digging through a dumpster that hadn't been secured. I just stood there watching her, homelessness wasn't a common thing in this world, so to find someone as dirty and disheveled as her was a curiosity. To make matters more interesting she was a Danuki, a mamono that was seen as the most industrious humanoid on the planet.
"uhh.." my own words were hanging as I looked for something to say. "You ok there?"
In almost one motion the woman's body went rigid, as if caught, her tail quickled swished through the air, with her head reappearing from the inside of the dumpster. The first expression I ever saw on Tsubaki's face was one of indignant contempt.
"I know what you're going to say." Said the danuki, a scowl still on her face. "The answer is no!"
That angry reaction had caught me off guard, like a deer in the headlights I was stuck looking for a response.
"Uh..." my voice trailed off, finding the right words seemed impossible.
The scowl on her face had started to ease up. "Nevermind." She said, "just go away."
I could tell she was done with the conversation. The danuki had started to pull away from the conversation and further down into the alley. I felt like letting her walk away was the wrong thing to do, like a bad end in a video game. I had to blurt something, ANYTHING out.
"You look like shit, at least come back to my place to take a shower and sleep in an actual bed." My words sounded less like a kind offer and more like a cheap pickup line.
That had gotten her attention. "I knew it!" She shouted, snapping back around. " I can read you like an earnings sheet. If you want an easy girl go get a ticket to wonderland!"
"I'm trying to do you a favor, CHRIST ALMIGHTY!" I fired back, "it's not like I'm was going to ask for sex."
"No, but you were probably thinking about doing so"
"Look...." Aggravation now seeping into my voice. "If anything I have more to lose. You could rob me in my sleep or worse."
"I would never, I'm not some thieving fox!"
The conversation wasn't going anywhere pleasant, my patience was running out and my options to bring it out of a nosedive were disappearing . I had one more option, if it failed all I could do is tell myself I tried and hope this woman found help eventually. I'd try my original offer, just with a different tone.
"Look, it's going to be freezing rain tonight." My voice softened, sounding more like a concerned parent. "At least consider the offer and take it. It's gotta beat whatever or wherever you're going to end up sleeping tonight."
The danuki stopped and stared at me with her gaze shifting between me and somewhere behind me.
"At least now she's considering it." I thought to myself.
"Fine." She said, locking attention back to me. "Try anything and we'll be switching places, I can assure you that."
I just nodded, this was the closest to a 'thank you' I was going to get.
"You're welcome." I said. "Now let's get going, the drizzling has been picking up and I'd like to get out of here before it starts to really come down."
The one day turned into two and that two into a week, it was more my own insistence than hers. It wasn't hurting me and it gave the danuki a safe place to be. Little by little I learned about her. How her name was Tsubaki, that she had hit a bad streak of luck that no amount of danuki cunning could beat. I had ended up giving her my room while I took the couch in the corner of the apartment that had been turned into a sort of living room. It's not like it was all bad, the couch was comfortable enough and I had just used the entertainment stand my old CRT rested on as my alarm clock table. I felt this set up worked the best. It afforded Tsubaki a bit of safety as the door to my room had a lock of its own and it allowed her some privacy to ditch the worn and beaten business suit she had been wearing and into some spare clothes I had that sorta fit. Eventually she just settled on wearing a baggy sweatshirt I usually used during the colder days and some sweatpants. Her illusion magic did help in hiding her tail till we found something that could accommodate her big bushy tail.
"Anon dinner's ready!" Tsubaki said, her voice bringing me back to the present.
"Coming." I grunted out, rolling the couch and making my way to the dinner table.
The living room was separated from the rest of the small apartment floor space by a low wall that doubled as a shelf. A few of my model kits had been placed on it in various action-y poses. Opposite of the wall and the room sat the table. Before Tsubaki I typically ate in front of my computer, or in front of the TV watching some old show. The table itself was something I had found on the side of the road. One of those square-ish folding tables you'd use to play poker or sit kids down at during a family gathering. The cheap table was contrasted by somewhat nice wooden high back chairs I had scavenged from my family as they were throwing out their old dining room set. Even with the table as small as it was it still sat somewhat sandwiched between the door leading in and the low wall.
"Dinner doesn't look too bad" I said, grabbing the seat facing the door
Tsubaki took the seat opposite me, one one towards the low wall. "Mhmm"
"Anything interesting happen?" I asked in between mouthfuls of rice and meat.
Tsubaki shook her head. "No." She said, swallowing the food that had been in her mouth. "Lahlah did come down and asked me to have you stop by and help her fix that computer of hers."
"That thing is ancient." I said, my left hand rising into the air and making a gesture. "She should upgrade to at least XP or something that isn't a win98."
"She uses it to just keep records. Does it really matter?"
"Just that if that thing dies, finding parts is going to be a pain~."
The rest of dinner continued normally. Small spurts of silence punctuated by brief conversations of how each other's day went or if anything interesting happened. Naturally my doings were more eventful than Tsubaki's, who had spent the day pretty much puttering around the apartment either watching TV or whatever else she did when I was at work. When we were finished and the clean up had been completed, Tsubaki had me sit down with her back at the table to discuss what she had hinted to earlier.
"Anon." Tsubaki said, taking her seat back from dinner. "There's something I need to talk to you about."
"Hoo boy." I nervously chuckled. "What about?"
"Nothing bad, I promise you."
Tsubaki let out a deep exhale. "I'd like to first thank you Anon for taking me in and letting me stay, despite how little I contribute."
"It's no problem. I said, making another hand gesture, this time with my right hand. "It's been kinda nice having someone else around. Only so much a TV in the background does for someone living alone who still isn't use to it."
"In any case Anon, there is something I've been working up the courage to ask."
I felt an eyebrow raise. "That is?"
Tsubaki looked down at the table, her expression saddening.
"Well, before we met I was the head of a trade company that was showing a lot of promise. When we met...I had lost everything."
"Ok... And?" I said with a hint of skepticism.
Tsubaki's gaze returned to mine. "It may be hard to believe, but it even made the news four months prior." she said.
I stopped to think, my eyes turning up to the ceiling as I thought. Had there been a company in the news like that? The gears in my head creaked as I tried to remember. I never was good at remembering names. Usually people and things I linked to events surrounding them so I searched for that.
My focus went back to Miyabi, eyes wide. "YEAH!" I exclaimed, "Yeah yeah there was! It was some big investment company that suddenly went belly up! Crap...what was its name?"
"DanDan day traders..." Tsubaki said, with a hint of pain in her voice as she spoke the name. "That was my company, and it sank almost overnight."
I just sat there skeptical of what I was hearing.
"I know that look Anon, if you don't believe me then let me show you."
Tsbuaki led me back into the living room and sat down at the PC I had tucked away in a corner on its own desk to the right of the couch. Waking the computer up, Tsubaki brought up my browser and then youtube. I watched her hammer the keys as she typed her own name into the search bar followed by DanDan trading. Tsubaki scrolled only four videos down before clicking on one of them, an interview.
"Here." She said "I did this one about three years back and you can SEE me in it!"
The video loaded and sure enough not even 10 seconds in the video cut to Tsubaki, a much cleaner, more professional one. Tsubaki let the video play for a bit, letting some of the interview play so I could hear her talk. It was about 3 minutes in she cut the video, turning back to me.
"Is that enough proof?"
I nodded. "So how'd you lose everything?" I asked.
Tsubaki shook her head. "I still don't know, it's like multiple bad things happened at once and the next thing I knew I was foreclosing on the company."
"Was this what you wanted to talk about Tsu?"
"No," She said as she looked up at me. "I wanted to ask something of you."
I seized up, my chest getting a bit tight. My mind raced with a handful of ideas of what she wanted. One of them was the real reason and if I could figure it out fast enough I could probably surprise her I thought.
"Wuzzat?" was the best response I could muster.
Tsubaki continued. "I'd like to repay you for all the help you've given me and I've finally have an idea."
"I'd like to use my skills as a financier to help you make investments and grow your bank. I know you aren't doing so well and me being here, asking for the odd thing isn't helping either."
"You're literally asking me for bank information." I said staring.
"I know I'm asking for something rather sizable this time, but..."
"Sizeable?!" I said in disbelief "You're basically asking for full control over my bank account!"
Tsubaki noticeably shrank into the seat as I shot her proposal down. "I figured it would be shot down...Sorry for bothering you with this."
It was a tall order, there was no two ways about it. I stood there looking at a hurt looking Tsubaki who had tried to offer me her help. I stepped back into my own thoughts as I tackled the issue. On one hand this was someone who was still a total stranger to me and could easily run away with my money. On the other was the fact that prior to her current situation Tsubaki had been the head of a very successful investment company. The concept of handling another person's finances wasn't alien or new to her.
I sighed, "Alright." I said. "I'm taking a massive risk here..."
"I promise you won't be disappointed!" Tsubaki said, perking up. "If possible I'd like to get started tonight. It'll take at least 3 days before we can start trading though."
Tsubaki spun back towards the monitors and began working her magic. With my help on filling out information Tsubaki set to work setting up an account on Etrade. The setup was quick and painless as Tsubaki said, the only issue was parting with the paltry 2000 I had managed to save up in my checking account. Tsubaki assured me that she would grow it, that while it wouldn't be making millions for me overnight it would still give good returns. Before it was all wrapped up, Tsubaki asked me for one last thing. My computer's password, which I gave on the condition that she wouldn't snoop around my files. With everything sorted and situated the rest of the night went like normal, with Tsubaki bidding good night before retreating to my bedroom and closing the door behind her and me flopping down on the couch. I set the sleep timer, rolled over and drifted off as the TV played behind me.