XXXHolic: Hitsuzen

The Opening

{The next day, at Tsuji Academy…}

Once again, Suzume had joined Watanuki, Doumeki, and Himawari for lunch. Even though the two girls were chatting away very cheerfully, Watanuki was concerned about because of the comment Yuuko had made about Suzume being troubled the other day…

"Something wrong, Watanuki-kun?" Suzume asked when she noticed he was staring.

"Ah, no… I-I was just thinking that both yesterday and today, even though Suzume-chan mentioned before that she was better at making sweets, your bento seems to be very well made." He said a bit nervously, quickly coming up with an excuse. Her tamagoyaki were decorated with to look like bees with stripes and faces made of nori and white cheese for wings. And she had made her rice look like a flower garden using coldcuts cut into the shape of flowers with white cheese for their centers, and there was a little section of fresh cherry tomatoes and sliced cucumber.

"Mm-hm. It's very cute." Himawari agreed.

"Thank you, but that's because the only things I actually cooked were the rice and tamagoyaki. I'm okay with tamagoyaki because it's sweet, but… boiling rice seems to be my limit when it comes to cooking anything that isn't." Suzume explained with a wry smile, sweat-dropping. "Everything else tends to come out inedible…"

"I see…" Himawari said sympathetically while Watanuki sweat-dropped. Come to think of it, those were the only two things in there that actually needed to be cooked… Everything was stuff that came from the store precooked or could be eaten raw.

"It's good." Doumeki said, alerting them to the fact that he was he munching on one of the tamagoyaki bees.

"Stop stealing other people's food!" Watanuki snapped, cutting the air with his hand.

'When did he…?' Suzume thought, wondering how he had managed to take it without any of them noticing. Doumeki-kun was like a ninja when it came to food. "Well, I guess I don't mind." She said, unwrapping a second bento box. "I brought something extra today." She lifted the lid to reveal a small assortment of wagashi that were made to look like sunflowers, sets of bows and arrows, birds, and suzu bells. "In commemoration of our friendship." She explained with a smile. Each shape represented one member of their group. She hadn't really known what to make for Watanuki, but a blue bird seemed to fit him somehow.

"Ah! So cute~!" Himawari said with a bright and sunny smile when she saw them.

'You're the one that's cute~!' Watanuki thought with a silly smile, surrounded by a warm and fuzzy pink aura of affection.

"Oh! It's you!" A familiar voice said, intruding upon his little fantasy, bringing Watanuki back to the real world, as he and the others looked up to see who it was. "You two work at that shop, right?" The young woman from the other day said.

"Ah! Yes." Watanuki answered, surprised to see her at their school. "Actually, I'm the only part-timer…"

"I was just visiting." Suzume finished for him.

"And your both students here?" The young woman said, a bit surprised. "I'll be working here starting tomorrow. Educational training."

"Really?" Watanuki asked.

"Isn't fate an odd thing?" The woman asked with a smile."This happens to me a lot. They say I've got strong luck. When I think something will go a particular way, it always does. When I want something I always get it." She stated confidently.

"That's fantastic!" Himawari said.

'Luck can go both ways, though…' Suzume thought.

"This, too!" The woman said, pulling the tube out of her purse. "I don't know what's inside yet, but I know it's something perfect for me!"

'Yet...?' Suzume thought, feeling a sense of unease at her choice of words.

DIIING~DONNNG! DIIING~DONNNG!

"Oh, there's the class bell!" The woman said. "Well, I won't be at this school long, but any help you can give would be appreciated!" She waved goodbye as she walked away.

"Did you meet her at Yuuko-san's shop?" Himawari asked as they started tidying up their lunch spot.

"Yeah." Suzume said, quickly wrapping up a wagashi for each of them to take with them in some paper.

"What's that cylinder?" Doumeki asked. Suzume didn't look to comfortable seeing it.

"I don't know." She replied. "What about you, Watanuki?"

"I don't know, either." Watanuki said. "But Yuuko-san told her not to open it."

"Maybe, but she intends to see what's in there." Doumeki said.

"Ah, you think so, too?" Suzume asked.

"Huh? Why would you think that?" Watanuki asked.

"She said, 'I don't know what's inside yet.'" Doumeki reminded him. "The fact that she doesn't know yet means that someday she will know."

"… Ah!" Watanuki gasped, furrowing his brow. He shared a look of concern with Suzume. Maybe they should ask Yuuko about it later…

—¡–!–¡–!–¡—

{Yuuko's Shop}

"Educational training?" Yuuko asked, listening to the story of their second encounter with that woman, while she and Mokona munched on the candied yams Suzume had brought them. The thought her recipe was superb, because the flavor went well with one of Yuuko's favorite sakes.

"She's going to open it, isn't she?" Watanuki asked, concerned.

"I imagine so. You never noticed that tube, did you, Watanuki?" Yuuko asked.

"No, I didn't." He replied, waving his hand. "Not at all, until that person picked it up."

"It must have had a very severe seal if you didn't see it." Yuuko remarked as she took another bite.

"Is it… that dangerous?" Suzume asked, furrowing her brow.

"I'm going to meet her tomorrow. I'll keep her from doing it." Watanuki decided, worried about what might happen to the woman if she did.

"Yes, we should remind her that she shouldn't try to open it." Suzume agreed.

"I doubt you can stop her." Yuuko told them. "She probably won't listen to anyone's advice. She puts too much confidence in herself."

—¡–!–¡–!–¡—

{The next day…}

Watanuki and Doumeki were the first to arrive at the spot where they were meeting for lunch. Today the were eating by the side of one of the school buildings.

"How's your arm?" Watanuki asked.

"I start archery again next week." Doumeki replied in between bites.

"Isn't it a bit early for that?" Watanuki asked, little caught off guard. Even though he knew Doumeki could do it if he had to, since he had shoot an 'arrow' of spiritual energy to save Suzume, he was still wearing a bandage on his arm…

"There's a competition coming up." Doumeki said calmly. Watanuki furrowed his brow slightly in concern. "But I still need you to make lunch."

'Well, he did get his injury while he was trying to save me. I guess making him lunch as payment isn't too bad.' Watanuki thought with a frown. 'I'll have to ask Yuuko-san to lend me the bento boxes for a little while longer.'

"I think I'll have some fried chicken breast tomorrow." Doumeki stated abruptly.

"I'm not taking your order here!!" Watanuki snapped with a vein mark on his forehead.

"I see you two are getting along just as well as always." Suzume commented with a smile as she joined them.

"What part of this looks like 'getting along'!?" Watanuki asked, chagrined.

"Is this where you're having lunch today?" The woman with the tube asked as she walked over to them. Come to think of it, they still didn't know her name…

"Um… That tube of yours…" Watanuki began bit a hesitantly, wondering how he should word it so he didn't sound crazy…

"Please remember that the price for keeping it was your promise not to open it." Suzume finished for him firmly.

'Nice one, Suzume-chan!' Watanuki thought, giving her a mental thumbs up.

"I haven't opened it!" The woman said wryly, holding up the closed tube as proof. "Besides, it doesn't have a lid!"

KA-CHAK.

"Sorry that I'm so late…" Himawari started to say as she opened the door behind the woman, accidentally hitting her elbow with it.

"Ah!" They both gasped when the tube fell from her hand, but Himawari managed to reach out and catch it before it could hit the ground. The space around the tube seemed to warp for a couple of seconds after it was in her hand.

"Eh!?" Watanuki gasped as both his and Suzume's eyes widened slightly. Just now… What was that…?

"I'm sorry…" Himawari told the woman as she handed back the tube. To Suzume, it seemed to sound as though she was apologizing for more than just bumping into her. Suzume had a bad feeling about this…

KASHAAK.

The moment it was back in the woman's hand, the silk cord on one end of the tube untied itself, and it slid open. A small swirling cloud of what looked like some kind of black smoke came out of it, but Suzume and Watanuki had a feeling they were probably the only ones who could see it.

"Oh… It's open!" Watanuki said as a bead of nervous sweat rolled down the side of his face.

'That can't be good…' Suzume thought.

"Did I break it when I bumped into you?" Himawari asked, worried she might have done something bad.

"What is that?" Doumeki asked, furrowing his brow slightly. "It's like it's carved out of driftwood."

"I don't believe it! I think it's a monkey's paw!" The woman exclaimed. "I've seen this in the books before! A monkey's paw is supposed to grant wishes!"

"Uh… but it may not be the real thing!" Watanuki said nervously.

"Or worse, it could be real." Suzume said, furrowing her brow. Her grandmother had told her a story about a monkey's paw before. It didn't ended well for the main character.

"You never know. These things always happen to me!" The woman said excitedly, completely ignoring how nervous the two of them seemed to be for her. "Thing I buy for cheap… or things I've been able to dig up… They're things that people have told me I'll never find! It's just another sign of my great luck!" Watanuki furrowed his brow as a bead of sweat slid down the side of his face.

Things were turning out just as Yuuko had predicted…!

"I know! Let's test to see whether it's real or not!" She said.

"Hold on! Just because it's something rare, doesn't mean it's something good!" Suzume said earnestly, trying to stop her.

"Uh, that's right!" Watanuki said. "If you're not careful, it could turn out bad!"

"I'll be fine!" The woman said carelessly. "How about this… the students in educational training are supposed to take gym next period. So here's my wish. I wish that it would rain from now until tonight!"

SNAP!

One of the twig-like fingers on the monkey's paw snapped, and the wind suddenly picked up as the sky darkened overhead.

"… I think maybe we should get inside." Suzume suggested, feeling uneasy. They may have just opened Pandora's box…

—¡–!–¡–!–¡—

"… And thus, the rain." Yuuko concluded upon hearing what had transpired from Watanuki and Suzume when they both came to her shop after school that day. "Well, that monkey's paw is the real thing, so the rain was pretty easy for it." She was staring out at the rain as she smoked her pipe while the kids dried off after getting soaked on their way there. Watanuki had somehow ended up in a tug or war with Mokona over his towel. "However, it doesn't have an affinity for that woman. But I bet that she'll never admit it." Watanuki stopped fighting with Mokona upon hearing that. He and Suzume exchange a worried glance.

"If it doesn't have an affinity… what will happen?" He asked.

"That's all up to her." Yuuko replied. "One thing is for sure… 'like a rolling stone', we can't stop it now."

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