Butterfly didn’t deal well with jealousy, and he became jealous easily. He didn’t have many relationships. Not true ones. As a matter of fact he had exactly two, and he didn’t like the idea of anything interfering with them. Which was why he found the bone guy so annoying. It was bad enough that the first time Bone Monk had shown up he’d done everything in his power to make Butterfly and Spider feel inferior, but the revelation that Bone Monk used to occupy the role Butterfly and Spider now served was too much. The other yokai was a reminder that Owner had a past that didn’t involve Butterfly or Spider, a past to which some day Owner might decide to return.
Butterfly told himself that Owner would never just leave them. That he at least needed them to gather secrets. But that was getting harder to believe now that the Bone Monk’s visits were growing more and more frequent. Sometimes Owner would summon him for some favor that apparently Owner couldn’t or wouldn’t entrust to Butterfly or Spider. Other times the yokai seemed to appear unbidden and simply talk for hours on end with Owner.
“I don’t like him.” Butterfly had told Owner once. “Send him away.”
But Owner had just laughed like he always did, even when no one had said anything funny. “Now, now, Butterfly. Don’t be rude. He’s a friend of mine.”
That had made Butterfly cringe. Owner didn’t have friends. He had servants. He had guests. But never friends. Yet the way the Bone Monk and Owner related to each other was startlingly close to the way humans behaved with their friends. Butterfly didn’t like it. Why couldn’t Owner just be content with him and Spider?
Butterfly had thought Spider, at least, would be on his side, but Spider’s antipathy toward Bone Monk had at some point shifted into ambivalence. The part-human didn’t seem as irritated by the yokai’s jibes as he’d been the first time they’d met, and there were times when the two even exchanged something close to pleasantries. And Bone Monk seemed to reserve the worst of his insults for Butterfly.
“He wants to take Owner away.” Butterfly had warned Spider one day as the other man prepared soup for their guests.
“Then let him.”
“He won’t want us around then.”
Spider had just shrugged, not even seeming phased when Butterfly mentioned that this meant Owner wouldn’t be around to patch him up anymore. “I’ve been living on borrowed time for centuries. Anyway, Owner likes seeing me suffer too much to let me die that easily, and he doesn’t seem bored with you yet. I wouldn’t worry.”
Butterfly had gone off in a huff after that, but he’d begrudgingly accepted that the Bone Monk’s visits would be a normal occurrence. He wasn’t happy about it, but it was Owner’s inn, after all. No matter how much it might feel like Butterfly’s home too. Owner would have any guest he chose at the inn, and there was nothing Butterfly could do.
However, Butterfly’s patience was tested when the leaves started to change. As if on cue, Bone Monk’s visits increased until the yokai, and the nature of his conversations with Owner seemed to change. Whereas before they’d been light-hearted enough, now the two spoke in hushed tones. Sometimes they'd dart quick glances at him or Spider, and if Butterfly got too close, the conversation would break off entirely.
Butterfly did catch bits and pieces, though. The word “she” and a repeated name. More than enough for him to piece things together all things considering. Owner was sleeping with someone else. Or rather, he was probably sleeping with Bone Monk and this other woman. That, in a way, made it worse. Spider and Butterfly weren’t enough for Owner, so he had another three-way relationship on the side. Not just the casual sex that they both used to make guests lower their guards, but an actual relationship. Butterfly would have done anything, at least pretended to like anyone Owner wanted to join them. But Owner hadn’t even given him that option. Which could only mean one thing.
Butterfly waited until a time when Bone Monk had left and there were no guests before confronting Owner. The three yokai were resting in one of the Inn’s dens. Owner was leaning back against some cushions, reading a scroll and looking more content than he had any right to be, and Spider was next to him. They were both sipping tea. Spider had prepared heated sugar water for Butterfly, the only human food Butterfly could taste. Normally he liked it, but now he had no appetite. He would have found the moment peaceful, only Owner just had to ruin everything.
“You could have told us, you know.” Butterfly snapped. “We have a right to know.”
At Butterfly’s words, though, both looked up, eyes wide. He guessed they were more surprised at his tone than anything else. Butterfly couldn’t remember ever being angry at Owner before, but then Owner’s heartlessness had always been reserved for guests. It had never been directed at Butterfly before.
“I’m sorry?” Owner asked.
“Apology not accepted!”
“Butterfly...” For once Owner seemed uncertain. He exchanged glances with Spider, who shrugged. “I don’t know what-”
“Did you think I wouldn’t find out?”
Owner took a deep breath and let it out slowly, a flash of irritation in his eyes. This made Butterfly seethe. As if Owner had a right to be angry! “If I knew what you were talking about, then maybe I could answer that!”
Instead of humoring Owner, Butterfly turned to Spider. “Did you know?”
Spider closed his eyes in annoyance. When he answered, his voice came out in a growl. “Butterfly, neither of us has any idea what-”
"Owner’s going to leave us for Bone Monk and someone named Maple.”
Both of the others spat out their tea.