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Blackberry Tea

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Once Shigeo entered Matsuos house the odd smells caught him off guard.

The odor and faint smell of mothballs and other unusual spices filled the air as well as the boys head, the smell was prominent but not overpowering. Shigeo had a feeling there must be a source of the smell. That source had to be deeper in the apartment.

 

Shigeo sat down at the door way to take off his shoes and take in the surroundings, the apartment was small as if the outside didn’t give that away. It seemed that Matsuo had put up weird striped wallpaper. Shigeo briefly wondered if the tenant would’ve even allowed that before brushing it off, it wasn’t his place to pry.

The floor plan was unusual, or at least not what the boy had expected. The entrance had a small hallway that led into the kitchen from the looks of it, cabinets and what looked like a stove top was in view. Shigeo noticed how one hallway light was broken and how one half of the wall had a polka dot wallpaper instead of stripes. When he finally decided to stand up after taking off his shoes he’d notice a welcome mat that looked like it came from a seasonal Halloween shop. It was placed a few inches away from the door, Shigeo gingerly placed his shoes on the mat, unsure where else to put them.

Matsuo had kicked off his shoes and dropped his little backpack in the middle of the hallway with a very audible thud. He seemed eager to be home, more comfortable. Matsuo seemed more loose and animated than when Shigeo had first seen him, when he invited the boy over he seemed rigid and uncomfortable. But now the man was smiling ear to ear calling out his arrival to his odd looking spirits. “Honey! I’m home! We have company-” His voice rose a bit, along with his voice brought his spirits who Shigeo heard eagerly thud, fly and hop over. 

A small blob-like four-legged creature hurdled down the hall from the kitchen around the same time Matsuo had disappeared. It had a big mouth and several eyes, and made animalistic noises once it saw the boy, it was about the size of a small alligator. The spirits ‘head’ (it didn't really have one it just had the body and legs.) examined Shigeos feet, not sensing any hostility Shigeo leaned over and dropped his hand for the spirit to examine. 

Another weird spirit flew over and Shigeo felt it landed on his shoulders, the weight was heavier than he expected but he endured. The spirits perked up at Matsuos voice that came from further in the apartment. “Cookie-chan, Gum-chan. Stop bothering the kid.” The spirit with multiple eyes scurried back off to where it came from, the spirit around Shigeo neck remained as he trekked on.

 

He examined the small kitchen and dining area, the weird wrapping paper was also on these walls. The smell of odd spices, decay and sweets mingled together strongest here and Shigeo scrunched up his nose at the weird combination. The kitchen part was relatively clean, while there was a mess on the dining table and the ground. Shigeo squinted. Was that, spirit droppings? He didn’t really want to examine further because he was positive that spirits didn’t… poo, since they don't eat they cant poo, right? The longer Shigeo stared at what looked like droppings the longer he became unsure. 

Now that he noticed it there was a lot of spirit residue left on the table floor and the seats of the chairs, making it obvious that this was in fact Matsuo’s home. He had weird wind chime-like items hung around and some dead plants that he must’ve neglected to take care of.  

 

He heard the chatter of Matsuo and another person, or spirit? Shigeo went to rub at his neck but realized the spirit was still there so he just pet it as he followed the voices.

 

“I just invited him for tea, It was raining out and the kid was soaked.” Matsuos voice was soft. Shigeo entered another room to be met with an even larger mess, the walls were solid colours here and there was pet-like materials all over the floor as well as messes that looked like they were done by puppies. Teeth marks on the legs of furniture and books that had been torn to shreds. It looked chaotic. There was a lot of antique, haunted and cheap knick knacks on the tabletops and shelves. Stuff that looked like they came from a cheap wiccan store or a fake psychic, possibly both. Overall it looked like an old antique shop.

 

Shigeo’s nose flared up as the smell of mothballs, cinnamon and decay evaded his thoughts. Shigeo realized it was a living room and on the couch sat Matsuo and a familiar spirit, Mogami.

Shigeos blood ran cold and his hands started to feel a little clammy. “M-Mogami-san?” 

The tattered humanoid spirit glanced at his direction, he had no pupils just blackness where the white should be. “Kageyama.” He simply said, nodding a bit in greeting. He looked more human, more clean and less scary from the last time Shigeo had seen him. Admittedly Shigeo hadn’t seen much of the spirit, the only way he knew Mogami was possibly still around was the faint aura he’d occasionally catch of him. 

“Pudding-chan has gone soft since the last time you saw him. He’s been living here with me for a bit now-.” Mogami bit his tongue, visibly looking annoyed. Even if he didn't have pupils he still had eyebrows and everything else that’d help him convey emotion. “Don’t call me pudding. And don’t word it like that.” Matsuo just hummed in response and just offered a knowing smirk. “Like what?”

The alligator-like spirit from before was in Mogami’s lap and Shigeo just noticed a shelf behind the couch filled with vials. Mogami huffed, his attention going towards the spirit in his lap as he petted it. It was weird to watch considering the spirit looked like it had eyes all over so in order to pet it Mogami would just place his hand on the spirits eyes. “Oh. you can take a seat, boy. I’ll make some tea, Puddi-” 

 

Mogami.” Mogami firmly said, staring at Matsuo.

 

“Mogami… can you get this brat a towel? He’s mostly damp but he was soaking before.”

 

Neither of the men moved, Matsuo just stared at Mogami with a patient smile. After a few seconds Mogami sighed, gently moved the spirit off of him and got up. He easily loomed over Shigeo as he disappeared into a different room. Matsuo pointed at the door where the other one had gone into. “That’s the bathroom, and the other room is our bedroom.” He explained before getting up himself. His eyes widen as he just noticed the spirit on Shigeos shoulders. “Looks like Gum-chan has taken a liking to you.” he sounded amused. 

Matsuo walked past the short boy to go to the kitchen, presumably to start tea. Shigeo blinked, the spirit named Gum-chan flew off his shoulders and nestled into a specific part of the couch. Shigeo went to rub at his shoulders immediately, the weight of the spirit actually kinda hurt, as the spirit weighed more than a cat. His shoulder blades kinda ached now. 

Shigeo stepped over the clutter of mess on the ground to sit on the couch with Gum-chan but Mogami’s sharp voice interrupted him. “Don’t sit there. You’re wet aren’t you?” Shigeo turned to face the spirit only to be met with a warm towel being thrown in his face. The towel fell into his hands. “Ah, thank y-”

“Mogami-chan do you know where the fancy tea set is?” Mogami’s face contorted into annoyance, and slight embarrassment as he quickly went into the kitchen. Shigeo could hear him harshly whisper-talk to Matsuo and some light clatter. 

 

Shigeo stared at the kitchen entrance, tension slowly leaving his body. Mogami had changed, for now. He was sure once they were all sitting down and chatting that he’d talk about his own beliefs and philosophies, about how humans are inherently bad and you have to experience pain to become tougher and blah blah blah. But for now he didn’t fear the spirit wrecking havoc. He wrapped the towel around his head, drying off his hair, his upper body and half halfheartedly dried his thighs. He then stood there, unsure if he was dry enough to sit on the couch or not. Mogami entered the living room again, gave Shigeo a look over and did some sort of motion. 

“You can sit.” He said, voicing what the motion meant. Shigeo sat down and oh boy was the couch softer than he imagined. He basically sunk into the cushions. Gum-chan crawled into Shigeos lap and so the boy obviously had to start petting it. He noticed Mogami wasn’t moving from the doorway. “What kind of tea do you want.” Shigeo thought about it. “It doesn’t matter, whatever tea you guys like I can have.” 

Mogami nodded, “You’re still the same I see.”  Shigeo is about to ask what that means but Mogami turns around to the kitchen again, leaving Shigeo alone with Gum-chan and Cookie-chan. Shigeo decided to examine the room a bit more. There was a small T.V on the other side of the room in front of the couch and coffee table. It was off. 

There was some photos that had just been stuck on the wall behind the couch below a wall-shelving unit. It was photos from an insta print camera, the expensive kind that Ritsu recently had been talking about. It looked like candid selfies or voyuer-esq pictures, featuring Matsuo and Mogami though some weird creatures were also in shot. 

 

They have weird taste. Shigeo thought to himself, he’s seen some other psychics stores and decor but the whole of Matsuo and Mogami’s apartment couldn’t even compare to those. He smiled a bit, the place kinda looked tacky but homey at the same time. A weird mesh, but so was Matsuo and Mogami. Cookie-chan gurgled and groaned below near Shigeos feet. 

“Knock it off.” Mogami’s voice sounded threatening and as if it was coming from everywhere, which shocked Shigeo out of his inner thoughts. At some point the spirit had re-entered the room and had shooed off the medium sized spirit. “Matsuo needs to feed that thing.” He grumbled once the spirit had tinkered off. He looked at Shigeo, and Shigeo looked back. Normally Shigeo was bad at eye-contact but with Mogami it was easy since. Well Mogami didn’t have eyes, or atleast isn't showing them in this form. 

“You’ve grown.”

Shigeo stared, the phrase not sinking in right away before his eyes flashed in recognition. Those were the same words uttered by his beloved master. “Physically and mentally,” Mogami continued, taking a seat on the couch. Leaving a gap of space between him and the boy. “You’re… not in your usual uniform.” Ah.

Shigeo looked down at himself, that’s right he wasn’t. “I’m a high school student, so I uhm… changed uniforms.” He explained, ceasing his petting on Gum-chan who seemed to have dozed off in his lap. As far as high school uniforms went Shigeos was nothing special, it was the fall uniform. On that day in particular he wore the usual white undershirt and tie with his schools colours and a cardigan with the school symbol on it. He actually liked the cardigan and felt a bit sad that he’d have to wash and dry it once he got home. 

“That makes sense there’s an older air about you. You’re more experienced... Though you’re just as short as ever.” Mogami said, though there was a slight hint of endearment in his voice. 

Shigeo pouted slightly which did earn a shocked look from Mogami, though any comment he was going to make was silenced when Matsuo re-entered with a tray and a mini tea set. “Clear off the table, dear.” Mogami gave Matsuo the sourest look he could muster but did as he was told. And the tray was placed on the coffee table. Cookie-chan hopped up to see what was on the tray and Matsuo just let him. “This is actually tea that Minegishi made with their own dried herbs and what not, they said it’s supposed to taste sweet.” Matsuo rambled on as Mogami tried to shoo Cookie-chan off again. Shigeo just nodded along.

 

“I brought honey and sugar because I prefer sugar but Mogami here likes honey, did you know he actually has a huge sweet tooth?” Shigeo shook his head, now that he thought about it. Could Mogami even consume organic material? He never thought about it, since it’d be hard to do but as Mogami reached over to brew his own cup Shigeo’s thoughts about spirits changed. “I don’t have a sweet tooth, honey just soothes my throat.”

Matsuo smiled and made a dismissive motion with his hand as he poured his own cup and Shigeos. “Honey or sugar?” 

“Uhm...h-honey, please.” A spoonful of honey was added to his tea. Once the three had their own separate cups of tea and settled into the couch was when Shigeo decided now would be the post appropriate time to question them. “So um...When did you two start dating?” 

Mogami sputtered on his tea which only puzzled Shigeos mind more about what spirits are capable of doing, Matsuo looked overly pleased, a creepy calm smile on his face. “Well after that whole world domination plan crumbled and Mogami was left loose… I sensed him around the city and more or less tracked him down.” 

Mogami butt in. “We are not dating, you misunderstand youngster. I am trapped here against my will this is very much not where i’d prefer to reside.” 

Shigeo’s eyes widen, two different stories told by two different people. “U-Uhm... But you guys act like you’re dating? You act like my master and Serizawa-san.” Matsuos eyes shone. “Oh? Reigen-san and Serizawa are together now? Send them my regards.” He totally just ignored what Mogami had said. Shigeo didn’t like ignoring people but if Matsuo was just going to ignore the spirit like that he might as well follow suit. “Right, will do. But that was… a few years ago though. The... world domination plan.” 

 

Matsuo leaned back, really getting comfortable as Mogami just sulked and pouted next to him. “It took a long time to track him down admittedly, maybe even months? I had a job at the time so it’s not like I could spend my days searching for a stray spirit all willy-nilly.” Shigeo nodded, mapping out the timeline in his mind. Maybe Matsuo had caught Mogami around the same time Shigeo was entering third year of junior high. 

“But I caught him, he was actually looming around Reigen-san’s office when I found him. It took about- what felt like an eternity for him to finally loosen up around me and for him to be trusted to be let loose.” Shigeo smiled, and even though they were talking about Mogami, the 20th century's greatest psychic, he couldn't shake the idea of him being trained like a puppy. 

“That’s false. Matsuo was terrified of my presence and was too afraid to let me loose out of those vials for a good three months at least. He didn’t even let me loose it just so happened Gum-chan had accidentally bumped my vial over.” Gum-chan stirred in its sleep and Shigeo had to carefully position himself to not disturb it. He took a sip of his tea. Thanks to Mogami’s input the series of events now tied in together more naturally and ultimately made more sense. 

Matsuo bashfully nodded as if to confess. Mogami swallowed a lump that must’ve been in his throat and to Shigeos shock the whiteness in the spirits eyes returned. He looked, almost too human now. “I...I didn’t feel the need to cause a scene when I was released. I saw how that freak changed.” Matsuo looked back at Mogami and pointed at himself. “Yeah you. You are a freak.” He grumbled, and now that he had pupils that were visible it was clear there was no venom behind his words. 

“Well like I always say, people surprise you.” Matsuo said, smirking into his tea cup. Mogami just hummed in agreement. 

 

Matsuo was the first to finish his tea and set it back onto the tray. “So Mob, what school are you at now?” Right, Matsuo wasn’t in the room when they discussed this. “Peppercorn high school. It’s an okay school, I wanted to go to White Vinegar high school though.” Mogami looked over with mild interest. “White Vinegar High school?” 

Shigeo nodded, his face warming up slightly. “It’s a high school that one of my friends goes to, Teruki-kun. Blond hair… terrible fashion.” Matsuo nodded, he clearly recognized the description of the kid. “Two troublesome brats… Why go to the same school as him?”  Shigeo shrugged, the motion must’ve woken Gum-chan up because the spirit started to move in his lap. Shigeo looked down, the spirit was stretching. 

“Teruki… Hanazawa Teruki?” Mogami asked, and Shigeo nodded. Had Mogami met him before? He couldn’t remember, he knew he told Hanazawa about the spirit at some point. “Oh. He sought me out one time. Wanted to fight me, that’s why I hung around Reigen’s office. To tease the punk, really.” 

 

“Huh? You met Teruki before? When?” Shigeos tea was getting cold. Mogami scratched and rubbed at his lower face, as if he was trying to remember. “Told me I hurt you, that I was an awful spirit and that he’d exorcise me or something like that. A Lot of energy and pride for such a tiny guy, I calmed the brat down though. And in the end sent him on his way with only mild injuries.” 

Heat rushed to Shigeos face. “Oh.” He looked down at the cup in his hands. He knew what Mogami was referencing because Teruki had also referenced it, that must’ve happened at least a year ago though. “You’ve been beating up Reigen-sans kids?” Matsuo asked, attention now off of Shigeo.

 

Mogami shrugged placing his tea cup down on the tray, also finished. “He came looking for a fight and I just gave it to him.” Matsuo shook his head. “You’re terrible.” Mogami scoffed.

“How many kids does that guy have now?” Matsuo asked, not directed at anyone in particular. Shigeo smiled, legally Reigen had none but it was a running gag that he was everyone’s father. Him and Serizawa of course. “Who knows?” Mogami grumbled into his palm. “Lately the esper kids that Teru has been training have been adopted in.” Shigeo reported. The esper kids referred to the kids at the awakening lab, Rei, Hoshino, Asahi, Daichi and Kaito. “Shou and Tome have been adopted in as well.” Shigeo went on, carrying out the inside joke that didn’t make sense to anyone else but him.

Mogami blinked. “That’s a lot of brats.” Matsuo smiled, he looked like he was thinking of something. “Pudding, what if we adopted kids?” Mogami didn’t sputter of over react just looked over at  Matsuo. It was silent for a bit and Shigeo begin to feel awkward, Gum-chan flew off him and onto Matsuo’s head, nuzzling into his scalp. “Ah.” Matsuo sounded more serious and slightly disappointed. “You’re right, why need kids when we have spirit babies?” Mogami didn’t say anything and neither did Shigeo as Matsuo cradled Gum-chan in his arms.

 


 

“It’s getting a bit late isn’t it?” Matsuo noticed, glancing at a very tacky wrist watch that Shigeo didn’t notice he even had on. Luckily Shigeo had finished the tea, it was delicious and overly sweet. “I’m not that familiar with the train system. Why don’t I just drive you home?” Matsuo offered, stretching his arms out as Mogami shuffled deeper into the couch. “You have a car?” Oops, Shigeo said that outloud. 

He just assumed that since Matsuo worked at a pretty low paying job and in a very small shady apartment complex that he just used bikes as transportation. It didn’t even occur that he had a car. “Yes I do. Sakurai sold me his old car after… well lets just say the car was cheap.” Mogami snickered as Matsuo stood up. Cookie-chan asleep a few feet away and curled up in itself.

 

“You got your stuff?” Matsuo asked as Shigeo stood up, brushing himself off. “I left my bag at the front.” Matsuo nodded, padding off to the hallway. Gum-chan followed his master closely behind. Shigeo went to follow before realizing he hadn’t said his regards to Mogami. He turned back and quickly ducked his head at the spirit who sat on the couch. “Goodbye Mogami-san.” Mogami just waved, looking disinterested as Shigeo left the Matsuo household.