When the village men went to the house that the witch lived in, they found no one there. Not the witch, nor her supposed-sisters, not a living soul. Most of their belongings had vanished too; but the villagers, who hadn't been inside the house proper til that day, didn't even notice.
It took three days for the villagers to find the house in the forest.
To their surprise, the snow hadn't reached this particular place; it was like a tiny pocket of eternal Spring. They went inside, hesitantly, for fear of bewitchment, but nothing happened. After they plucked up their courage, they ventured farther inside, but found no one there. There was some food in cupboards, some furniture, a bookshelf with no books, and, the oddest thing to them, a backyard full of disturbed earth and a few leaves. But there was no living creature in the house.
After a while, they had another story to tell. Once upon a time, a demon who only stayed in one place for a hundred years chose their forest to hide away in, and near the end, had his witch-companion appear to spy on the poor villagers. They'd bravely defended their homes, and the demon and his witch fled in a snowstorm, left to terrorize some other village, but never to return to this one. They didn't think of what could become of any other village; they only cared that they themselves were safe.
Incidentally, the blacksmith's son's jacket, half-frozen solid, was a conversation piece for a year.
"You're not going to live with me anymore?" Hanana asked, shocked. "But...but where did this come from?"
Her sisters stood before her, their own trunks of belongings still in the cart. They'd refused to unload their things after reaching their (at least, Hanana thought it was their's) new home, and...well. Hanana certainly wasn't expecting that.
"But why?" she asked. "This place is big enough for all of us! Not too big, or big enough so we'd all have our own rooms, but we shared a smaller space til just recently, right?"
After the whole mess with the enchantment had been explained to Hanana (and she in turn explained to her sisters, who were more confused than she was about it, largely because they hadn't even half the details of the story til this point), the enchantress had been generous enough to help with a few more things. "You can't stay here--not in the village, nor in this house," she'd said to them, folding her arms and casting a critical eye over all four of the group. "They still believe you to be a witch, you to be a demon, and you two to be...I don't know what, captives, sacrifices, apprentices. Ignorant and foolish people will never listen to reason or explanations, you'd be attacked before you could get a word out."
Hanana had paled at this and looked away, remembering what had happened earlier. Yukiki had squeezed her hand in response to this.
"The best thing to do is to leave then. That's what you're saying?" he'd said. "Sounds alright to me."
During the next few days, the four of them had hurried to get everything ready. The girls couldn't return to their home, but Samama had enough skill to magic most of their belongings into trunks and have them appear in the forest-house. Not everything could be put away, as time was short, but the necessities were taken care of, at least.
There was a city they could all go to, Samama had informed them. It was far away enough from the village so their story couldn't follow them, there were more opportunities for them there and higher chance of finding employment, and best of all, "There are plenty of strange people in cities. I came from that place myself--a snowman won't have to worry about rumors flying at all. Well, maybe a few harmless ones, but nothing like being called a demon or a witch."
And everything had been going smoothly til this point.
"Why?" Hanana repeated, looking from one woman to the other.
"Well..." Aruru looked off to one side, tapping her chin with an index finger. "It's true that we could share, but we're not sure it's quite appropriate now."
"Yeah." Eruru's mouth twitched a little, as if she were trying not to smile and half-failing. "You're going to be living with that man now, right? It doesn't feel right for us to be intruding on you two."
Hanana didn't react for a few minutes, shoulders slumping as she listened to her sisters, eyes wide.
"I'm sure the two of you would prefer to be alone. That's what generally happens, anyway."
"That's true. And it would feel a bit crowded with all of us in there, and that would mean we might accidentally walk in on something, like yesterday..."
Hanana flushed a little, remembering when she was trying to help Yukiki walk--even after waking up, he still hadn't gotten all of his strength back just yet--and had to catch him when he stumbled a little. She'd ended up with her arms around his chest, his arms around her shoulders, and then Aruru had come in to say they were ready to go. She'd then had to run off, blushing and shouting for her sister to not go looking for the two of them, while the red-faced couple hastily tried to explain they weren't doing anything like that.
"I told you, that was just--"
"Hanana, we won't be far away," Aruru cut her off, smiling gently and taking the pink-haired girl's hands in hers. "We'll be right across the road from you--it's not like we're going to be split up forever. And this means you can spend more time alone with your boyfriend!"
That was...a very weird word, Hanana couldn't help but think, blushing a little more.
"Speaking of which," Eruru suddenly said, frowning as she looked around, climbing back into the cart. "Where is he anyway?"
As if on cue, the shutters opened and a very tired, mildly-annoyed Yukiki stuck his head out. Hanana couldn't help but feel pleased that he still had his hood down, instead of putting it up the minute they were in public. "I don't think I'm going to like the neighbors," he said simply, voice deadpan. At everyone's curious stares, he went on, "Two of our windows are right across from each other, and one of them--he either paints or he's very messy--wanted to say hello. And then have his roommate say hello. And say hello again, and he won't leave me alone." The last few words were a groan as he started to massage his temples.
Aruru and Eruru hastily covered up their giggles. "Well, we'll leave you two to settle in--we've got work to do ourselves," Eruru said. As she and Aruru stepped forward, enveloping their sister in tight, warm hugs, she added "We'll come by later tonight, alright? Everything will be okay from now on."
"Yeah...it's going to be strange, though," Hanana admitted, a fluttery feeling in her chest again at the thought. I'm going to live with Yukiki. I'm going to live with him, not visit him or spend a few nights...
Hanana startled a little. She hadn't thought that Yukiki could still hear them. She looked over at him, smiling nervously--some part of her relieved that his own smaller smile was just as nervous, even if he did try to hide it.
Later that day, when the sun was setting and their neighbors had finished talking to them from the window (or bothering them, as Yukiki had called it), they were sitting on the small couch again, catching their breath and taking a break from unpacking. Even with as few belongings they'd been able to take, it wasn't easy or quick.
"You know," Hanana spoke up. "I don't think that cloak and hood suits you anymore."
"Oh, really?" Yukiki raised an eyebrow.
Hanana shook her head. "It doesn't. The enchantress was right; no one really cares what you are, so there's no need to try and hide."
"I'm not hiding," he muttered, eyes shifting for a moment. But then, a bit louder, he added "Then what should I wear?"
"Well, there was a nice hat in one of the shops we passed."
"You'd look really nice in it."
"...I'll think about it."
Hanana chuckled. That was a Yes and they both knew it. "By the way..." She leaned over, reaching into the smaller trunk parked at the end of the couch. When she straightened, she pulled out a familiar book, smiling over her shoulder. "I brought this with me."
Yukiki looked vaguely surprised, then amused. "You brought that? Why?"
"Well, it's sort of like our "thing" now, isn't it?" Hanana didn't let him answer, instead wiggling over so she sat against him, head against his chest as she opened the book. "Can we read this one here?"
"Mmm...any of them is fine."
Hanana smiled faintly as she turned to one particular story that she knew he'd like, shifting a bit to get more comfortable as she felt him put an arm around her to hold her securely.
"I love you."
"I love you, too..." Hanana smiled up at him. Yes. Yes, things would turn out alright in the end, definitely.