XXXHolic: Hitsuzen

Coincidence or Fate?

≈No matter how trivial the meeting and the incidents that follow may seem, a relationship has been made. Even if it is for a short amount of time, a knot that has been tied does not unravel.≈

"Eh? Suzume-chan!?" Watanuki shouted in alarm as Doumeki also crouched down beside Suzume to check on her. Judging by the peaceful look on her face, and her steady, even breathing... Suzume was just sleeping.

"Calm down, Watanuki. Suzume-chan is just resting after using too much energy. She'll wake up in a little while, and be just as energetic as ever." Yuuko said reassuringly. "Her uncle, however..." The three of them glanced over at Hideki, who was white as a sheet and shaking like a leaf. He was mumbling incoherently about 'monsters,' 'foxes,' and begging for forgiveness. "Well, I'm sure he'll recover... eventually."


'Ah... it's so nice and warm...' Suzume thought as she snuggled closer to whatever it was she was lying on.

"Oi, that tickles." Doumeki deadpanned.

"... Eh?" Suzume said, freezing when she realized she had been nuzzling Doumeki's neck in her sleep while he carried her on his back. "Eeehhh!?" She cried in surprise and embarrassment, instantly wide awake after that little revelation. "I'm s-sorry, Doumeki-kun!" She said nervously, blushing shyly. "... Wait... when did I fall asleep? Weren't we just at the shrine...?" She asked.

"You fainted from exhaustion, so Doumeki-kun decided to carry you, how nice~!" Yuuko teased her, smiling like a Cheshire cat, as Suzume blushed cherry red.

"Anyway, Yuuko-san, are you finally going to tell us what happened back there?" Watanuki asked.

"I will once we reach Doumeki's house." Yuuko replied slyly.

"We're going to Doumeki-kun's home?" Suzume asked curiously.

"Yeah. It's the closest." Doumeki said.

"He lives at a temple that's ridiculously large." Watanuki added, sweat dropping. "But, Doumeki, are your parent's going to be all right with us intruding on them this late?"

"No. I'm the only one who'll be home for the next few days." Doumeki stated.

"Ah, but won't you get in trouble for having people over without their permission? We can just go to my house. I don't want to get you in trouble, and I can probably walk now..." Suzume said nervously. She was feeling kind of embarrassed being carried by a hot guy, especially after nuzzling his neck like that...

"It's fine." Doumeki said.

"It'd be better if you stayed at Doumeki-kun's tonight, Suzume-chan. You're going to be weak for a while after using that much power for the first time." Yuuko said.

"Wait, how weak? I'm supposed to go back to school tomorrow! I already missed so much because of being hospitalized..." Suzume protested weakly.

"You should be fine by tomorrow morning, but you'll be pretty vulnerable if your left by yourself tonight." Yuuko said.

"I see... wait, vulnerable to what? Where's my uncle!?" Suzume asked, glancing around when she realized she had no clue what had happened to the man.

"Oh, we just left him back at the shrine, don't worry. He's still alive, and his life isn't in any danger, but he did receive quite a shock since you used your kotodama to forcibly open his eyes for a brief moment...fu-fu-fuh~!" Yuuko said, smirking. Suzume sweat dropped. That didn't exactly sound too reassuring the way Yuuko was laughing...


{4:30AM—At Doumeki's home...}

"Wow~! That smells and looks incredible, Watanuki!" Suzume said, suppressing the urge to drool when Watanuki set the food down.

"Yes, our Watanuki is quite the talented chef~!" Yuuko said, sparkling with happiness as she popped the top open on a can of beer.

"Really? Hey, Watanuki, do you think you could teach me how to cook so I can have something other than charcoal to eat once in a while?" Suzume asked excitedly, staring at Watanuki with hopeful eyes.

"Uh, sure..." Watanuki said, sweat dropping as he smiled wryly and rubbed the back of his neck. "So, are you going to tell us what happened now?" He asked Yuuko, chagrined. Once they had reached Doumeki's house, Yuuko and Doumeki had started blurting out orders for 'breakfast,' and Watanuki had only just finished making everything. Well, at least it had given Suzume time to rest a little more before he served them.

"All right, but first I have a few questions for Suzume-chan..." Yuuko said, smiling. "First, Your name, 'Suzume,' isn't written as 'sparrow,' is it." Yuuko stated more than asked.

"No, it's not." Suzume said, slightly surprised. "Most people assume it is since that's normally how 'Suzume' is usually written, but my name is actually written 'Suzu-me' with the kanji 'suzu' for bell and 'me' for bud. My mom told me it was because I was found at a Buddhist temple that had a suzu bell for some reason. Apparently, they found me when they went to ring the bell, and I started crying." She explained.

"... My grandfather told me a story like that before." Doumeki said. "He said that about a year after I was born, he had a dream a small hand was reaching out to him for help, and a suzu bell was ringing. He woke up to the sound of a baby crying, and he assumed it was me. I was awake, but I wasn't crying, so he held me while he walked around our temple grounds and searched for the source. He was surprised to find that a baby girl had been left underneath the suzu bell. Her little cries reminded him of a ringing suzu bell, and she seemed to have sprouted up from the ground, like a bud. The only thing she had with her was a bla—"

"—A blanket with a frog sitting on a lily pad embroidered on it!?" Suzume asked urgently, almost dropping her chopsticks as she stared at Doumeki, shocked.

"... Don't tell me... that baby was you?" Doumeki asked. Suzume nodded vigorously.

"Yes! I still have that blanket and everything since it's the only clue I have about my biological mother." Suzume said, stunned.

"I remember my grandfather saying the baby had hair that was almost white, though." Doumeki said.

"Yeah, the teachers at all my schools kept making a fuss over it because they couldn't believe I came that way, so my parents started dying it a more normal color after a while..." Suzume said, smiling wryly as she sweat dropped.

"Wait, so you mean to tell me that you were found by Doumeki's grandfather!? And why does a Buddhist temple have a suzu bell!? Aren't they for Shinto shrines!?" Watanuki asked, confused.

"My grandfather was a Shinto priest." Doumeki said bluntly.

"Then why is this temple Buddhist...?" Watanuki asked.

"My, My. Coming back to this temple after all these years and meeting Doumeki-kun, who just happened to be with his grandfather when you were found, is nothing short of miraculous, no?" Yuuko said, smirking slightly, as she and Doumeki totally ignored Watanuki's question, much to his chagrin. "Now for my second question, you mentioned before that you saw a man wearing an ornate kimono with green hair when we were at the shrine?"

"Yes, when you told me to just say whatever came to mind, I relaxed, and suddenly felt... almost like I was half out of myself...? I mean, I felt like I was in my body like normal, but at the same time, I felt like I was watching as a spectator... I was suddenly in a dark place, and I was singing and dancing for a figure that was half hidden in the shadows as he sat under the camphor tree and drank sake He seemed to be a wounded, but as I danced, he healed. When I finished, he smiled and was suddenly standing before me, holding out little pouch. He didn't actually speak, but I had a strong feeling that he wanted me to take it, and he didn't seem dangerous, so I did."' Suzume said.

"And? What did you do with this pouch?" Yuuko asked.

"I put it in my... pocket..." Suzume said, eyes widening in surprise when she felt the bugle in her pants pocket that had been empty up until their visit to the shrine. "... Yuuko-san, this...?" She asked, confused and amazed as she pulled the mysterious pouch out of her pocket and held it up for Yuuko to see. Yuuko grinned.

"My, it seems he took quite a liking to you, Suzume-chan." Yuuko said mysteriously as she took the pouch and untied its drawstrings to open it.

"Who?" Watanuki asked curiously. "What's in the pouch?"

"The green-haired man that Suzume-chan saw was the spirit worshipped at that shrine—the spirit of that mighty camphor tree we saw." Yuuko explained as she removed something from the pouch, and handed it to Suzume. Suzume stared at the small item in her hand, not quite sure what to make of it. It was a small, golden suzu bell that had a delicate flower bud engraved on it.

"It's pretty..." Suzume said in admiration. The bell seemed to give off a gentle feeling of warmth and safety.

"Yes. That is the camphor tree's present for you, as thanks. The rest of this pouch's contents are his payment to me for finding someone to heal him." Yuuko told her. "The night before we first met at that hospital, the familiar spirit of that shrine came to me for help because the minor land god that was being worshipped there was being injured by a malicious human, and being tainted by the negative energy they were attracting with their curse. That land god was actually the camphor tree your uncle was using to nail the straw doll to, and he began to poison the tree without realizing it. The dance that you instinctively performed acted as a purifying ritual, and it washed away all of the malicious and poisonous energy from your uncle's curse. With your help, the camphor tree was able to completely heal itself again, and lent some of its power to the shrine familiar, which happened to be that fox-shaped spirit we saw." Yuuko explained. "The camphor tree's familiar then proceeded to chase off any remaining spirits, and devoured the meager amount of power your uncle had, rendering him unable to ever call forth a spirit again, in order to protect its master from harm in the future. Now your uncle's spiritual powers have been completely reduced to zero."

"Wow... so that's why you told us to go to the shrine? Because you knew that would happen?" Suzume asked, amazed. Yuuko smiled at her.

"Yep~! Thanks to Suzume-chan, I was able to kill two birds with one stone!" Yuuko said brightly. "Since Suzume-chan's name itself is a special, it helps amplify her kotodama ability. In Shinto and Buddhist ceremonies, bells are used for purification and to ward off demons. When Suzume-chan actively uses her kotodama, it's like hearing a suzu bell ring. That is why she was able to perform the ritual without any real bells, and since you ended up assisting me with a wish from another customer, part of your debt to me for this has already been paid."

"But you didn't even do anything this time. Wasn't Suzume-chan the one who did all the work?" Watanuki pointed out.

"That might be true if her wish had only been to save herself, Watanuki, but because she wanted to save two lives, she owes me twice!" Yuuko declared, holding up two fingers. "And the remaining payment due is... 1) You must strip that dye from your hair and stop altering its color from now on. 2) You must cut some of your hair and give it to me. After you do those two things, everything will be settled."

"I see... when should I—" Suzume started to ask when Mokona burst into the room through the open doors.

"I've brought what you asked me to, Yuuko~!" Mokona sang cheerfully as it held up a what looked like a bottle of shampoo.

"Oh, what a marvelous entrance, Mokona~!" Yuuko cheered. "And such perfect timing too! Suzume-chan, you can go wash your hair with this really quick. It'll remove all the hair dye without damaging your silky hair."

"Okay... should I ask what's in it...?" Suzume asked hesitantly as Mokona presented the bottle of mystery shampoo to her.

"... It might be better if you didn't." Yuuko and Mokona said together as they avoided her eyes.

"That answer really worries me somehow..." Suzume said, sweat dropping. "Well, a deal is a deal, so I guess I'd better get this over with." She said determinedly as she stood up. "Where's the bathroom, Doumeki-kun?"

"I'll show you." He said and started leading the way.

"My, those two get along well, don't they~?" Yuuko commented slyly.

"Don't they~?" Mokona asked, grinning.

"Yuuko-san, why do you want Suzume-chan's hair?" Watanuki asked curiously.

"Hmm... it's a secret~!" She said, winking coyly at him.

"Why are you answering everyone's questions but mine!?" Watanuki cried incredulously.

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