There was a good reason why the dog lived at Chie’s house, and it wasn’t just because Yukiko’s parents thought keeping a dog at the Inn was a recipe for trouble. Oh, no. Certainly, keeping animals at the Inn bode ill for those with allergies, but it'd be even worse if Yukiko was allowed to keep the dog. Yukiko was... she was off. A step and a half off the normal line. Yukiko’s parents had recognized, on a subliminal level, that Yukiko was not suited for keeping pets. Or at least, pets that might go and kill people at a moment's notice. Chie still remembered what happened to Yui Takabe in first grade. Yui and Yukiko were taking care of the class hermit crab, when... when... well, her memory was a little fuzzy on this, but she remembered the sudden flash of pincers, a shrill shriek piercing the air, the spray of blood spurting from Yui's finger—
Okay, it had just been a little scratch, but hermit crabs weren’t exactly violent animals, either. And when Takabe got a canary and brought it to school for show-and-tell in the second grade… as it passed from Yukiko to Katsuya Yamamoto, she could have sworn that both Yukiko and the canary’s eyes flashed red, and then the canary reached out for Yamamoto's face and went peck. And it wasn't like canaries were violent animals, either.
It was like a Midas touch. Yukiko could make even Muku, who was mostly lazy and goofy with a streak of greedy, become a different animal.
“Who’s a killer dog?” Yukiko cooed, laughing at Muku drooled and slobbered all over the kitchen floor. Chie, though, wasn’t laughing: beneath the veneer of slobber and dog breath, Muku was becoming leaner, his teeth longer, eyes sharper, angrier… “Who’s a little monster? Who eats little rabbits in one bite—”
“I’m just teasing him. Dogs don’t really understand what words you say, after all, they just recognize the tone. Look, he doesn’t even change if I go like this. Who’s a good dog? You’re a good dog! Muku’s a good dog! Muku, you’ll keep Chie safe, won’t you? If anyone comes in and tries to hurt her, you’ll gobble them up, won’t you? Yes, you’re a good dog…”
It was a kind of charisma, in a really, really demented way.
Either way, Chie made sure to keep Yukiko away from animals. Just in case. And some people, too, because after that incident with Hanako in the tent… well, Chie was beginning to think it best that she should watch Yukiko a bit more carefully. Just in case. Yukiko had once casually commented in Junes that people who pushed others into the Samegawa ought to be pushed into the river themselves. Then she picked up a cleaver and joked that maybe a stab might do a better job of leaving an impression on them than a push into the water.
Who knew what was going on in Yukiko’s head? Chie certainly didn’t. She was a little afraid to figure out, actually. After they awakened to their powers inside the TV, Chie was a little relieved: finally, an outlet for Yukiko’s instabilities! And then she caught Yukiko squinting at someone.
“Haven’t you ever wondered if you could use your powers outside the TV?”
After that, Chie redoubled her efforts, because Yukiko certainly hadn’t been trying to heal the man. Maybe she was overstating the problem, but when a girl could compel a canary to peck at someone’s eye? That was a Cause For Concern.
Except right now, she was thinking maybe she was wrong. Chie found Yukiko and Kanji in the practice building. The two of them were practicing projecting their voices—evidently because Yukiko thought she needed to be a bit more authoritative. For Kanji, it wasn’t really a problem: Chie could hear the roar of, “Get bent!” from the main building—but for Yukiko…
“Oh, Chie,” Yukiko said, smiling at her. “I was having Kanji-kun help me with projecting my voice. After all, if we’re going to be in the TV, I thought it might be good to have another weapon.”
“An intimidation tactic, maybe? If shadows are rejected human emotions, if I can find one that’s afraid of being scolded…”
Kanji was looking at Chie over Yukiko’s head. He looked just as bewildered as Chie felt. “Uh-huh,” Chie said. “Why don’t we stick with having Souji run at them and slice them up with his sword instead? Want to go home together?”
“Oh, sure,” said Yukiko. “Goodbye, Kanji-kun. Thank you for your help.”
How could Chie even think Yukiko would be that… off? Yukiko was the scolding type, not the murdering type. She was a healer, on top of that. Maybe that conferred some sense of automatic empathy.
Besides, it was a wholly unconscious thing. It wasn’t as though Yukiko went around actually stabbing people. In fact, the worst she had ever done was throw a shoe at someone.
Except there was a third year standing in front of Yukiko’s shoe locker.
“Hey, babe,” said the boy. “Want to go out?”
“I was just on my way,” Yukiko said, confused.
“Leave her alone,” Chie snapped. “Geeze, what’s your problem—”
“I wasn’t asking for your opinion, Satagawa.”
“What did you just call me?”
The boy left the shoe locker in favor of making a beeline for Chie. Chie was geared up to knock him out when a soft voice said, “Get bent.”
The boy turned. “What was that?”
“I said,” Yukiko said, bending down to open her shoe locker, “get bent.”
The air froze, became as thick as syrup. The lights flicked, rapidly, on and off, on and off, on and off. The boy’s eyes widened, so wide that the whites surrounded his irises, and grabbed onto his head. With a sickening crack, he twisted his own head almost a hundred-eighty degrees around. With a scream, he fell to the ground sobbing and groaning. Yukiko, having gotten her outdoor shoes on, stared down at the boy.
“Maybe we should leave,” Yukiko said after a second.
“Um,” Chie said, hastening to get her own outdoor shoes on. “Yeah. J-just give me a moment, okay?”
As they left, Chie could hear the wail of sirens headed for the school. Yukiko wrapped her hand around Chie’s and said, “I’ll always protect you, Chie.”
“Thanks,” she said, squeezing Yukiko’s hand. “I’ll always be there to protect you, too.” And to protect the world from Yukiko. This wasn’t what she had in mind when she said she wanted to be a superhero, but this was heroic in its own right.
“I’ll never let anyone hurt you,” Yukiko promised. “Never. Anyone who does will…”
“No, don’t say it!” Chie said quickly. “H-hahaha! No violence! We’ll be pacifists!”
“Oh,” said Yukiko, sounding a bit disappointed. Chie held onto Yukiko’s hand a bit tighter. “Well, I suppose there are other ways of—”
Chie kissed Yukiko. Hard. There were four people coming this way, and dear god, she didn’t want Yukiko doing anything to them. Better to keep that mouth occupied.
When the kiss broke, the same group of people were wolf-whistling them. Yukiko, her cheeks flushed and red, was looking a bit too shocked to really do anything at all—except lean in for another kiss. When the second round of whistles came in, Yukiko frowned, and looked to the spectators.
There was a sudden epidemic of sprained necks in Inaba, after that.