XXXHolic Fan Fiction ❯ Taint ❯ chapter 3 ( Chapter 3 )

[ P - Pre-Teen ]
Chapter 3

Months passed, as they always do, too fast. Even with the constant hassle of dealing with Yuko's shop, Watanuki found himself wondering where the time had gone. Moments to reflect became more and more frequent with the lessening of customers. Watanuki became worried. Business was slowing down perceptively, and Yuko herself seemed under the weather. She hadn't had anything to drink for quite some time. Watanuki couldn't quite pinpoint how long it had been, but her sake was always untouched. Recently her sake was diminishing again, but Watanuki still felt something was wrong.

When she didn't have her habits it became different. The opium pipe sat untouched in a corner as Watanuki cleaned around it, trying to tell himself that she must just be feeling under the weather.


Yuko had entered the storage room right after Watanuki left for school. She made her way back to the slightly glowing objects.

"He's been coming here after school every day now."
The glow made no movement of heightening or diminishing.

"It's nice, in a way. I still feel sad, when I see him. How much longer until I have to say something?"
The handcuffed object gleamed a bit brighter for a moment.

Yuko smiled slightly. "It's all part of it, I know. I used to be detached from all ofit. Some would say it was the worst choice, some would say it was the best choice. Now, I'm not so sure myself. I'm directly in the middle, and it is a frightening place to be."

The object beside the handcuffed one glowed silvery, contemplating for a moment as an obvious air of annoyance crept over the handcuffed one.

Yuko's face took on a slightly pained look, and all four object's attention refocused to her, hesitant.

"I'll leave now." Yuko murmured. She walked slowly out. The objects gave inaudible sighs again.

Watanuki's schoolmates almost never noticed anything wrong with him, and today was no exception. Himawari gave him worried glances, and Domeki obviously knew something was up, but as usual, he didn't say anything. Classes drug on and on. When school finally ended, Watanuki knew what to do. Entering a flower shop, he looked around in bewildermentat all of the varieties, wondering which ones to get. A salesclerk took pity on him and walked over to assist.

"Sir? May I help you?"

"Um, yeah. I'm looking for some flowers, you see, my boss, she's not feeling very well, and.."
"Say no more, we have just the thing to cheer her up and bring you into the picture." The salesclerk winked at him, guiding him over to the counter.

"Huh? No, you see, it's just that-"
"These, sir, are the finest our shop has to offer on matters such as this."
Watanuki looked at the bouquet of light purple and red flowers, topped with a silk ribbon in the shape of a butterfly. He knew Hitsuzen when he saw it.
"Alright, how much?"


"Man, that much for a bouquet of flowers? It's highway robbery." Watanuki muttered, rouning the corner and running right into Domeki.

The other boy stared at him for a few moments. Then, "She'll like those." He siad, motioning his head towards the flowers.

"What? How do you know? You don't even know who they're for! What if I wanted them?" Watanuki stammered.

"Because they're obviously geared towards women." Domeki responded in monotone.

"Oh-right, they are for someone-but you don't know who!" Watanuki retorted, feeling himself begin to blush.

"Yuko-san. They're for Yuko-san."

For a moment, Watanuki seethed silently.

"Damn it! Why do you always know things?"

"She will like them though. It will be a nice surprise."

Watanuki gave up, striding off towards Yuko's shop. Behind him, Domeki smiled lightly.


Watanuki slid open the door of the shop. It was uncharacteristically silent inside, and no one was there to greet him.

He walked through the rooms until he got to the sliding door to Yuko's living area.

"How long will I be unable to tell anything?"
"Be strong, Mistress!"
"Mistress, be strong!"

Watanuki stopped cold. Yuko was unable to do the Yuko-esque things he had come to identify her with? So she wouldn't know if anyone needed help, or what was going to happen. The thought frightened him. He slid the door open, catching Maru and Moro in the middle of petting Yuko's hair and smoothing her dress.

Yuko looked up, weary.

"Yuko-san, I'm back." Watanuki tried his best to be cheery. "And look, I've brought you something!"
Yuko was steeling herself to reject the sake he had probably bought when he withdrew the bouquet from behind him.

Silence filled the room, then Maru and Moro awed appreciatively.

Yuko sat up as Watanuki walked over to her, holding the bouquet out in front of him.

"Here. You weren't feeling well, so I bought you some flowers." He explained, feeling stupid.

Yuko gently reached out and took them, running her fingers over the petals.

"How magnificent. Watanuki, they're beautiful."

"Um, good, I'm uh, glad you-like them.." Watanuki felt a blush creeping up on him, and realized he was acting quite similar to how he was around Himawari-chan. This embarrassment just seemed to happen, he had no idea why. It's not like...

"Watanuki. Come here." Yuko commanded softly.

Watanuki snapped out of his inner monologue and walked back over to her. She laid her hand on his own, smiling.
"Thank you. I'm very pleased with them."

Watanuki stood awkwardly, before bending down and giving Yuko a quick hug, then dashing out of the room again.

Outside the shop, he stopped to catch his breath, unaware until this moment that he had even stopped breathing. Why had he done that? Well, Yuko was important to him, and he hated to see anyone upset. It had just seemed like th right thing to do. A moment of silence within his inner monologue attempted to tell him otherwise, but he shut it out.

Still sitting in her chair, Yuko smiled, completely taken aback for the first time in years. She touched her stomach lightly. An almost sinister laugh ehoed through the room. Maru and Moro immediately began laughing as well. Yuko shookher head, laughing slightly. "Shaa, you on't have to act like that. All will happen in due time."

The laughter continued, melting down to a giggle. It was the way she always acted, Yuko mused. Not quite evil, not 'pure'. She just was. And soon, she would come and see for herself, along with the others.

Watanuki walked a bit aimlessly, ending up at the park. He sighed, feeling happy. He was lost in musing so far, he didn't even notice when Himawari wandered up to him until she put a hand on his shoulder, making him jump.

"Agh! Oh, Himawari-chan! I didn't see you."
"I know," Himawari chirped, smiling good naturedly at him, "You seemed really deep in thought. What's goin on? You look pretty happy."

Watanuki blushed, smiling as he looked at the ground. "Well, I bought Yuko-san some flowers, since she wasn't feeling well, and she really liked them. I guess, I'm just happy that she liked them so much, I wasn't really sure, you know, when I bought them, oh, I'm rambling, sorry.."

Himawari shook her head. "No, I think it's great that you bought her something to cheer her up! I'm sure she really really loves them! It's always nice to know someone's thinking about you."

"Yeah, you're right!" Watanuki laughed, grateful that Himawari understood.

"You two have such a great relationship." Himawari smiled. "Oh, I'd better get going home, I have some chores to do. I'll see you at school tomorrow, okay?"
"Okay!" Watanuki smiled, waving to Himawari as she left. "Goodbye, Himawari-chan!"
"Bye Watanuki-kun!"

Watanuki sighed, leaning back against the slide. Dusk was now all around. He sat, not really thinking about anything for the first time in a while. Suddenly, a wind blew across him. It was slight, but still left him with an unnatural chill. Looking around, he saw nothing, which worried him. Whenever it was easy to deal with, he usually saw something. But this time he just felt something. Suddenly terrified, he ran on acourse back to Yuko's.

Inside the shop, the laughter stopped abruptly. Yuko noticed something was wrong, and glanced at the ceiling, as if the source of the laughter would be there. "What is it? What's happened?"

There was no response. Maru and Moro ran back to her, huddling close. Mokona also bounced towards them.

The door slammed open, and then shut. Watanuki dashed inside, alnding in a pile at Yuko's feet. He scrambled to get up, accepting Yuko's hand. She winced as he fell against her, glancing back at the door in terror.

"What's going on, Watanuki?"
"T-There's-a thing, I don't know, it's just really-"
"Ssh." Yuko instructed him, peering towards the door. Now the full force of it hit her, and the lights in the shop went out.
No one made a sound as something traveled back and forth outside of the shop for a good five minutes. Then, as suddenly as it had come, it was gone.

"It's alright now. It can't get in."
"How do you know? I heard you talking about being unable to sense things, how can you still protect this place? And us?"
The comment dug open a raw insecurity, but Yuko shook it away. "You think I'm the only ward this shop has? There are many more...deterrents, stronger than me. I wouldn't say I'd rely on them completely, it's rude. But, they are here. And in times like these.."

Watanuki slowly stood up, still frightened but secure now that he was back in Yuko's shop. Maru and Moro lit candles, setting them down on the table.

"Watanuki. You're tired, aren't you."
Watanuki glanced behind him, not noticing it was a statement rather than a question.

"No, I'm...well, amybe a little."
Yuko's voice became even more ethereal. "Sleep. Come over here and sleep, you need to rest."

Watanuki obeyed, sitting down at her feet and instantly falling asleep. Yuko held a hand to his forehead. A black liquid substance trickeled up, trapping itself in a bracelet. Yuko handed the bracelet to Maru, who ran off with it. Moro and Mokona repositioned themselves next to her. Maru came back, taking a seat as well.

Yuko sighed as the rain began to fall, staring past the wavering candles into the wavering, and much more dangerous, dark.