≈ If you believe in it, it is real, if you do not, it is fiction. ≈
"... What will it cost me?" Suzume asked nervously, wondering what it would be this time.
"That would be... sake, of course~!" Yuuko said, smiling brightly at her.
"Yay~! Sake~!" Mokona cheered, jumping up and down excitedly.
"Oi!" Watanuki shouted incredulously. Just how big of an alcoholic was Yuuko!? He'd never seen her act so carefree in front of a customer like this before, either.
"Is that all?" Suzume asked, blinking in surprise. "Come to think of it, last time you said it would cost me a lot to be healed, but so far, I feel like I got off pretty easy..." She said thoughtfully.
"Hm~ That's because Suzume-chan is a strong girl who is able to adapt to new challenges easily... But you are correct in thinking the price you paid was lower than it should've been. Since removing that harmful spirit saved your life, I would've required a price equal to the weight of your soul if I had exorcised it personally." Yuuko explained slyly.
"M-My soul...?" Suzume asked, paling slightly. Although she hadn't really believed in this stuff before, not that she knew for sure that it existed, the thought of losing it was quite frightening.
"Yes, but since I had Watanuki and Doumeki-kun do all of the heavy lifting, the payment you owed me was significantly reduced, so be sure to thank them properly too~!" Yuuko said, smiling.
"I see..." Suzume said, sweat dropping, as she smiled wryly. Thank God for Doumeki-kun and Watanuki-kun! "It seems like I owe you guys a lot! Is there anything I can do to repay you?" She asked, smiling gratefully at them.
"Got any food? We're out of snacks." Doumeki said bluntly.
"Don't you have any shame!? At least say please when asking someone for something!" Watanuki scolded him.
"It's okay, Watanuki-kun! I don't mind. Snacks are a pretty modest request after what you guys did for me!" Suzume said, smiling brightly at them. "My house is close by, so we can all go there to get the snacks and sake if you want." She offered.
"Just make yourselves at home!" Suzume said cheerfully as she welcomed them into her home. It was a surprisingly small and normal house for someone who had just inherited a large fortune, but it looked like Suzume had been living there for years... There were photos of Suzume and her grandmother and a couple that looked like they were probably her parents (even though they didn't look a thing alike) hanging on the walls, and the whole house felt very warm and inviting.
"Oh? This is a rather nice home you have here." Yuuko commented. Suzume smiled brightly at that.
"Thanks! I'll be back with the snacks and sake in a moment. Just sit anywhere you'd like." Suzume said hospitably as she hurried off into the kitchen.
"What do you think, Watanuki?" Yuuko asked once she was out of earshot.
"Huh? What do you mean, Yuuko-san?" Watanuki asked.
"About this house. Dosen't it have a nice atmosphere?" Yuuko prodded him.
"Now that you mention it, the air does feel purer inside of Suzume-chan's home..." Watanuki said thoughtfully. There wasn't any trace of malice or other tainted energies in her home. Watanuki actually felt safe here, like he did at Yuuko's shop...
"Huh...?" Watanuki said when he suddenly felt an ominous presence in the room. He slowly turned around to look behind him. "Not another one...!?" He screamed when he saw the grotesque spirit behind him. "Y-Yuuko-san! Do something!" He cried as he scrambled away from it.
"Like what?" Yuuko asked coolly as she watched the evil spirit float closer to Watanuki. "Calm down, Watanuki." Yuuko said carelessly, as though it were no big deal that there was a spirit in the house with them.
"Yeah, calm down!" Mokona chimed.
"Easy for you to say! You're not being attacked!" Watanuki yelled as Suzume re-entered the room carrying a tray of wagashi, a ceramic jar of homemade sake, three empty sake cups, and two cups of green tea for herself and Watanuki, since he hadn't seemed to keen on drinking sake. She froze when she saw the spirit, eyes slightly wide in surprise.
"STOP!" Suzume said sternly as she glared at the spirit. Watanuki's eyes widened in surprise when the spirit did just that. It froze, just an inch away from his face. "NOW, BACK OFF, AND GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!" She ordered it. Watanuki watched in amazement as the spirit followed her commands, as if it were completely under her control. He and Suzume both breathed a sigh of relief when it was gone. "Phew! Sorry about that, Watanuki. They just show up out of the blue like that sometimes!" She said, sweat dropping as she smiled apologetically at them, and served them their refreshments and snacks.
"I see. So they even show up in your home..." Yuuko said thoughtfully as she watched Suzume pour the sake.
"Does this have to do with what you said before about my uncle?" Suzume asked. Yuuko smirked.
"Yes. In fact, it has everything to do with it." Yuuko stated confidently. "You said that spirits will leave you alone if you tell them to, but they shouldn't even be coming near you to begin with. Like Doumeki, although your ability isn't as strong as his, you are unconsciously warding off evil spirits, so nothing harmful should even be attempting to touch you. The reason they are coming after you, is because someone is telling them to."
"!?" Suzume and Doumeki said, shocked. Doumeki narrowed his eyes slightly.
"Someone... you mean my Uncle..? That's a bit much, even for him." Suzume said, frowning.
"There is a relatively easy way to stop the spell caster..." Yuuko said. "But that's a horse of a different color, and the sake just covered me telling you about the curse and who it was casting it. Stopping it will require something more... Although this sake is the best I've ever had~!" She said, sighing blissfully. "It's a shame we're already out!"
"Yeah. It was good." Doumeki agreed as he continued to munch on the sweets, which were also being consumed at an alarming rate.
"Wha—When did you have time to drink it all!? Can't either of you show a little self-restraint!?" Watanuki scolded them.
"Haha, it's okay, Watanuki! I'm just glad someone enjoyed it." Suzume said, smiling. I helped my grandmother make that batch, and it's the last jar I had left of it. I'm glad it didn't go to waste, since I don't drink sake..."
"Oh, that reminds me, how old are you, Suzume-chan?" Watanuki asked curiously. "And these wagashi are delicious! Where did you buy them?"
"Thank you! I made them myself, actually!" Suzume said proudly. "And I'm fourteen-years-old."
"Oh, so you're a year younger than us, then... Wait, you made these!?" Watanuki shouted, amazed. "These are amazing! I tried making these once, but they didn't come out tasting nearly as delicious as yours!" He gushed.
"Oh, my~! You're making me blush, Watanuki-kun!" Suzume said bashfully. "It took me a long time to get to this level since I'm self-taught, but my current dream is to own a Japanese sweets shop, so I did my best!"
"Seconds." Doumeki deadpanned, holding out the now completely empty plate to her.
"Oi!" Watanuki said incredulously. Just how rude could a person be!?
"Um, I'm all out of wagashi, but I have some cookies that I made this morning too, if you want?" Suzume offered, sweat dropping.
"Do you have anything salty?" Mokona asked.
"I might have some chips, but I'm afraid I don't really have anything I can offer to guests that isn't sweet..." Suzume said, smiling apologetically.
"Eh? Why not?" Mokona asked, pouting slightly.
"B-Because... I spent too much time focusing on how to make different sweets, and never properly learned how to cook any real food... anything that isn't sweets or bread turns into charcoal in my hands..." Suzume said regretfully, blushing out of embarrassment as she avoided their eyes.
"..." They all said as they stared at her.
"Cookies are fine." Doumeki said.
"Is that all you have to say!? Don't you have any delicacy!?" Watanuki demanded incredulously.
"Hahaha. Don't worry, Watanuki, I'm not upset. One plate of cookies, coming right up!" Suzume said cheerfully as she left to fetch them from the kitchen. She had a feeling Doumeki had purposefully asked for cookies just to break that awkward silence. His words were blunt and sarcastic, but he was a pretty nice guy.