CHAPTER 1: True Love's Curse

Kyoko smeared her eyeliner as she rubbed at her eyes with one hand while flipping through a large book with the other. She didn't care about the inevitable black circles that would halo her eyes afterwards. It would match nicely with her puffy, red eyes anyway. She ran out of tissues an hour prior and wasn't about to try cleaning makeup out of her clothing, so she bypassed using her sleeves.

Pages flew past her face as she scanned the words on them before flipping them to look at the next one below. She searched wildly through the book, the bangles on her left hand clinking with each swoop. Several more pages were pushed aside before she stopped somewhere near the middle. This one definitely looked promising.

She ran a finger over the runic characters at the top of the page and smiled weakly. Yes, this would cure her of this stupid affliction for sure. Making her way over to the small kitchen in her apartment, she washed the makeup residue from her hands in the sink before rummaging through her special pantry for the items she'd need. She made sure to keep these supplies separate from the canned soups and cereals in her actual pantry in the off chance that someone accidentally decided they were actual culinary ingredients.

Nudging the pantry door closed with her foot, her arms were full of bottles of strange liquids, paper packets and bundles of dried twigs wrapped in twine as she toddled her way back to the table where the book lay. She fumbled around trying to find the bit of chalk she used the day before during practice. Once she retrieved it from where it rolled under the armchair, she drew a circle and a few symbols on the tabletop. Pulling out her trusty, carved wooden bowl from under the table, she placed it inside the chalk circle and began pouring, sprinkling and breaking various items into it.

Half-burned candles soon surrounded the bowl and she lit them in the proper order as she carefully said the incantation from the book. She held her hands over the bowl and continued chanting for the required amount of time and watched as the ingredients in the bowl bubbled and fizzled until it was nothing more than a pile of black ash. Blowing out the candles, she lifted the bowl and carried it outside onto her balcony where she blew the ash into the wind. Exhausted from a combination of emotions and spellcasting, she promptly locked her balcony door, turned off all the lights in her apartment, and went to sleep.

The next morning, she instantly regretted falling asleep without dressing for bed. Her clothes were wrinkled and created uncomfortable pressure points while she slept that ached when she woke. In addition, her pillowcase was now stained with her makeup. She groaned and trudged to her bathroom to shower and change. Work was not going to wait for her to take her time to get her act together. Kanae depended on her to help run the shop.

"What happened to you after that delivery yesterday?" Kanae asked when she walked into the shop later that day. "I thought you said you were sick."

"For all intents and purposes, I was," Kyoko grumbled.

She told Kanae everything about how she stumbled upon her—now former—boyfriend's 'meeting' with a female member of his coven that was in no way professional, or proper for that matter. Her friend looked on with sympathy as she shared the excruciating details, cringing occasionally at the more graphic parts of her story. A buffet table was certainly not to be used in such a fashion.

"Well, good riddance to him," she said finally. "I always knew he was bad news."

"Why didn't you tell me?" she groaned.

"It wasn't my place to say anything," Kanae shrugged. "You're a grown adult, Kyoko. I can't make your decisions for you."

"Thanks," she drawled begrudgingly.

"Anytime," she gave her a sympathetic pat on the shoulder. "Now, do you want me to whip up something for you? I'm sure I've got a potion that can probably help."

"No need. I already took care of it."

"How?" Kanae asked, intrigued.

"I found a love avoidance spell last night."

"Kyoko," she warned. "You know love magic is extremely volatile and dangerous."

"Don't worry, I only cast it on myself. It's supposed to make me immune to love, I think. So no one will fall in love with me and I won't fall in love with them."

Kanae pondered this for a moment, then shook her head, "If this backfires, I'm reserving the right for a full fifteen minutes of throwing it in your face before I even consider helping."

"It'll be fine, trust me."

"Famous last words," she snorted. "Anyway, since you've been emotionally traumatized, I'll take care of the deliveries for today. Are you good to hold down the shop on your own?"

"You can count on me!" Kyoko said with a mock salute.

Kanae swept out the door with several packages in her arms and her car keys dangling from one hand. Once she was gone, Kyoko busied herself with dusting the cases and cleaning the glass until it shined. It was a slow day at the shop and she was grateful to not have to interact with a large number of people. She was still out of sorts from the day before, so her ability to keep her 'customer service' facade intact was not at its usual level of competence.

She felt the buzz of the ward on the door as someone walked in before she heard the chime of the bell. In the middle of organizing envelopes of dried ingredients, she looked up to see a tall man in a long, black coat come in. His dark, chin-length hair hung in his face like it was purposely styled to do so. At first glance, he looked mildly intimidating until she looked closer and saw the gold and white striped collar peeking out of a sage green sweater, navy slacks and the unassuming look in his eyes. He wasn't intimidating at all. Unless you count intimidatingly attractive.

The fact that she could look at him objectively and decide that, yes, he was indeed handsome without any of the accompanying metaphorical butterflies gave her hope for the spell she did the night before.

Pasting on her sunniest smile, she greeted him once he reached the counter, "Welcome! Is there something I can help you find today?"

He stood there in silence for a moment and just stared at her before he nodded quickly and reached into inside pocket of his coat and pulled out a piece of paper.

"I was given a list," he said, putting the paper on the counter in front of her.

She picked it up and scanned through each item, nodding at the ones she knew were in stock.

"I think I can put all of this together for you. If we're out of anything, we can order it and let you know when it comes in, if you'd like."

"That'd be wonderful, thank you," he almost sighed the words.

As she turned and began to open drawers to pull out the items, she covertly looked him up and down in the mirror behind the counter and inspected his clothing once more. They were perfectly tailored and looked fairly expensive.

"It's not often we get witches from uptown coming here," she remarked over her shoulder. "Did your local supplier run out?"

"My coven typically has our orders delivered, but we hadn't finalized the list until this morning and it was too late to put in an order for today," he sounded strained, as if he was having trouble getting the words out.

She ignored his awkward speech pattern and turned back to him to ask, "Warrens or Vandersud?"

"I'm sorry, what?" he was clearly looking at her face, but his eyes seemed to be out of focus until she spoke to him.

"Which coven, Warrens or Vandersud?" Kyoko asked again. "They're our only regular clients from uptown."

"Uh, Vandersud," he mumbled, scratching at the back of his neck and looking away nervously.

"I deliver to them all the time," she said, eyeing him warily. "I've never seen you before."

"Taking care of getting supplies is usually not my responsibility," he coughed, then shrugged. "But, I'm glad I agreed to help today."

"Oh? Why's that."

"Ah, because I get to meet the... lovely person who helps keep us stocked every week," he nearly choked on the second half of his sentence.

"Thanks, I guess," she looked at him strangely.

He nodded and hummed his agreement, clamping his lips tightly together.

"Here's everything except for the birch bark," she handed him a small cardboard box. "We'll be getting more later in the week. Since you typically get deliveries, I'll just arrange to take it to you by Friday. Sound good?"

He nodded again, his lips still resolutely fused together.

"Will there be anything else?"

"I'd love to— I mean, no. No, there is nothing else."

"Are you sure?"

He screwed his eyes shut and muttered a few words to himself that she couldn't quite make out. His hand grabbed onto one of the tarnished brass buttons on his coat and he ran his thumb over the surface in a clockwise pattern. After doing this for a few moments, he opened his eyes to turn a scrutinizing glare at her.

"Okay, seriously, how are you doing this?" he suddenly asked, sounding frustrated. "Is it some sort of affinity spell?"

"How am I doing what?"

"Maybe it's an enhanced glamour of some sort," he pondered aloud. "I don't understand how it's strong enough to affect even me."

"I'm sorry, but what are you talking about?" she stared at him like he had grown twelve heads.

"The entire time I've been in this shop, you've been driving me to distraction and it's taking everything in me to not blurt out how breathtakingly beautiful I think you are. If you aren't doing it on purpose, I suggest you figure out who, or what, has charmed you because I can't stop staring at your lips and wondering what they taste like," the words tumbled out of his mouth all at once, leaving him out of breath and flushed by the time he finished.

"I… uh…"

"And, apparently, that focusing spell did not last as long as I thought it would," he grumbled, clearly irritated. "Now that you've succeeded in making me embarrass myself, I'm going now. Goodbye!"

He hastily picked up the box in front of him and all but bolted through the door and she stared blankly as it slammed behind him in his wake.

"What was that all about?" Kyoko asked the empty space he left behind.

By the time Kanae returned from deliveries, several other customers—both male and female—visited the shop without incident. When her boss settled back behind the counter with her, she began animatedly telling her about what happened earlier. She looked at her thoughtfully before speaking.

"Kyoko, what spell, exactly, did you use?" she asked carefully.

"It was one from the books we have on reserve in the back. I'll show you."

She disappeared and returned quickly with a large leather-bound book in her hand. Opening it to the same page as she used the night before, she pointed out the spell.

"See? It says 'Love Avoidance' right there. I followed it to the letter."

Kanae looked at the page for a long moment before she blinked, and did it again for good measure.

"Well, the good news is the spell probably didn't backfire."

"And the bad news?" Kyoko asked hesitantly.

"You mistranslated this symbol," she pointed to one particular character in the title at the top. "When it's turned to the left it means 'avoidance,' but this one is turned to the right which means…"

"Seeking," Kyoko completed her sentence, looking horrified. "It was a love seeking spell."

"Not just any love seeking spell," Kanae corrected. "A true love seeking spell."

Kyoko groaned loudly and let her head smack against the countertop.

"Well, before I get into my promised fifteen minutes of 'I told you so,' let me first congratulate you on finding your true love."

True to her word, Kanae lectured her for a full fifteen minutes about the dangers of performing spells and incantations while emotionally compromised. Kyoko listened dutifully while bemoaning her own fate. She would mistranslate a spell and get herself into a mess of this caliber. Letting her own emotions get her into trouble was the hallmark of her personality and one would think she would know better by now. Apparently not. Kyoko was forever destined to get herself into self-inflicted scrapes as sure as the sun rises in the East.

Once the shop closed that evening, she joined Kanae for dinner at their favorite diner. They chatted mostly about inconsequential things in order to keep her mind off the bluder she made the night before. It worked, for the most part, until she was alone at her apartment. She took the book home with her, along with a few others, and spent the remainder of the night researching if there was any way she could possibly reverse the spell. For the second night in a row, she fell asleep still wearing the clothes from earlier in the day.

When she arrived at work, Kyoko was greeted with the sight of an ostentatiously large bouquet of lilacs, mallow, sprigs of witch hazel and… striped carnations? She carefully gave the vase that held it a wide berth as she entered the shop. It looked top-heavy and the last thing she wanted was to clean up scattered flowers and glass shards. Kanae had an unamused expression on her face when she finally looked away from the floral monstrosity to greet her.

"What's the deal with the flowers?" she asked. "I thought you weren't seeing anyone."

"I'm not," her friend said pointedly. "They're for you."

"They're what?!"

"Oh, yes, your mystery man from Vandersud has sent you the most confusing bouquet in the history of the language of flowers." she said, gesturing to the mass of intimidating foliage.

"Then, how do you know it's from him?"

She pushed a small, white envelope across the counter towards her with one finger. Kyoko opened the flap and slowly pulled out the card contained within. The card was embossed with a fleur-de-lis in the center and made from high quality paper. On it, a note was written by hand and contained only two lines of text.

"My waking thoughts have been consumed by you since yesterday," Kyoko read slowly, then frowned when she got to the second line. "Please, make it stop."

"He probably still thinks you've done this intentionally," Kanae said with a giggle. "You'd do well to explain to him what really happened. It's a shame he had to be another witch. If he was a normie, he would've just obsessively courted you and you'd just have to set up some wards to keep him away."

"That situation wouldn't be preferable either!" she whined in dismay. "And how am I supposed to explain anything to him when I don't know who—wait, who's R.T.?"

She flipped the card around to show Kanae the initials scribbled below the note. Her friend plucked it swiftly from her fingers to look at it again, laying it flat on the counter before her.

"I'm guessing he enchanted it so only the true recipient would be able to reveal the name of the sender," she said with a slow nod. "He's talented. Very impressive."

"Will you please stop being impressed and help me fix this?" Kyoko pleaded angrily.

"No, no, hold on a second, I'm thinking..." Kanae looked pensive, like she was trying to remember something important. "Oh! Oh my!"

"What? What?!" she asked frantically, trying to get an answer.

"You said he was tall, right?" Kanae asked for confirmation. "Long-ish dark brown hair and eyes? Obscenely handsome?"

"Yes, sure, whatever but what—" she began when Kanae interrupted her.

"Holy shit, Kyoko, do you have any idea what you've done?!" she asked, nearly hyperventilating.

"No, I don't, because you won't actually tell me what this is about!" Kyoko nearly screamed her reply.

"I was wrong when I simply congratulated you yesterday. I think this would be more appropriate," Kanae got up from the stool she sat on behind the counter and applauded.

"Not. Helping," the other woman ground out through clenched teeth.

"Kyoko, my dear, your true love is none other than the head of the Vandersud coven himself," Kanae tapped a perfectly manicured nail against the initials written on the note card. "Ren Tsuruga."

The words drifted into her ears, scrabbling to find purchase somewhere so she could fully comprehend them. Once they latched on, the realization forced a squeak out of her mouth. It continued and grew in pitch until it petered out into a croak when she ran out of breath. Her feet shuffled along the ground like a shambling, reanimated corpse until she reached the stool beside Kanae where she promptly collapsed onto it.

Kyoko was well, and truly, screwed.

BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND: Well now you know what I've been spending some of my break working on (when I'm not writing ridiculous fics about Ren being a sphinx). I've finally added some more meat to the bones of the oneshot I wrote for Ren/Kyoko week 2018. So many of you agreed that it absolutely must be it's own multi-chapter fic and I was spurred on to work on it.

As an added bonus, I decided to release three chapters at once. Since most of you have already read the first one, I couldn't just give you one extra chapter and leave you in the lurch until I get the time to updated it. So, here is a gift from me to you. Enjoy!