AN: This chapter and the next are entirely the XxxHOLIC: A Midsummer Night's Dream. For those that asked or were wondering, Doreiku translates into Drake, as in a male dragon, in Japanese. That is not, however, the character's actual name. That will be revealed in time.
Chapter 3: The Invitation
A few weeks had passed since Doreiku and Harry had entered the shop and it was absolutely sweltering as Watanuki walked down the road from the store, the happy cries of children just released from the prison of school for the one month of summer dreams, such tantalizing dreams.
Watanuki didn't have any of those. The seer slowly walked along, his head hanging low due to exhaustion and the heat, mostly the heat though. He had finished placement exams for high school, having taken a year off, he would have been a year behind Domeki and Himawari, but luckily, he had managed to keep up with his education and was still in the same year.
"And, that's finally…over." He sighed with relief, catching his breath on his way to Yuuko's shop after running by the store for another hangover cure. Actually, that was what filled the two bags that he was carrying. Doreiku had told him before he had left that morning that he would hide it in his room and no one touched a dragon's things if they wished to live.
He took a deep breath in and snarled, "Would you just leave me alone already?!"
Hanging off of the seer there was a huge, one-eyed spirit clinging to his back and getting its smelly, squirming, slimy body all over him, unseen by anyone else thanks to his ability to attract spirits like cats to catnip. He tried to shove it off, but it didn't work and the teen began having trouble breathing or even moving, as if someone was trying to suffocate him.
Watanuki's breath was getting dangerously short, the spirit pressing everything but his screaming lungs and the punishing heat from his thought. Then, it vanished. That weight was completely gone as the spirit lifted away, taking all the horrible feelings with it. He stared, trying to catch his breath.
"It went away!" He gasped with joy.
"Need help with that, Watanuki?" Came the monotoned voice of Domeki. The boy turned around, clutching the bags. The archer was standing a few feet away with his usual stare. Watanuki was going to deny needing help, but reconsidered.
"Thanks," he handed Domeki one of the bags. The archer looked inside, "That's a lot of hangover cure's," he remarked, "I thought you said that Yuuko pretty much refused to keep any in the shop?"
"She still does," Watanuki replied as the two boys headed to Yuuko's carrying the bags, the spirit following at a distance, "Doreiku said he'll hide it in his room and Harry said he'll help. Yuuko doesn't go in there. Something about not touching a dragon's horde."
"That's probably wise," the archer remarked, "I did some research after we got back from that impromptu trip and found that dragons like that haven't really been seen in any great number in a long time. I also learned that they are very protective of their things, willing to defend them to the death unlike the dragons that are common in our folklore."
"That explains it. He's rather nice and tidy so I never have to go in there except to get him up in the morning and he's pretty pleasant, so maybe he's got a secret cubbyhole in there under his bed or something."
They rounded the corner down into the alley where Yuuko's shop was located. Watanuki took the other bag from Domeki and the archer walked home. Watanuki saw the spirit approaching him again and touched the fence, the barrier that Yuuko had placed repelling the spirit and sending it running with a final few grabs. He watched it disappear, grateful in a way that Yuuko was powerful enough to set up a barrier of this kind. He continued inside towards the shop with the bags. Doreiku was waiting with Harry.
"We'll take them," Doreiku said and the boys rushed the bags around to the back entrance where they could scurry upstairs without being seen.
Once inside, Watanuki shut the door behind him, gaining relief from the oppressive heat. Something was different, the mailbox was open with a letter inside. This was weird, Yuuko practically never got any mail, actually the only mail that he had ever seen in the house/shop was brought by Hedwig, Harry's owl. But hey! No junk mail or bills!
It was intriguing, Yuuko getting a letter and he grabbed the envelope out of the mail cage. There was a daffodil on the front of it and all it read was "Invitation," nothing on the back when the boy looked for an address. Then something else grabbed the seer's attention: Maru and Moro were standing at the end of the genkan, wearing their short, summer dresses, gesturing towards the hall.
"The mistress has been waiting for you," They said, their ever-cheerful youthful voices in perfect sync as usual when they greeted anyone.
"She needs me now?" He asked, slipping his shoes off.
"Yes," the girls replied.
Watanuki stepped into the shop proper and turned the corner, grabbing his apron before following the twins to Yuuko's receiving room and pulled back the crescent moon screened doors.
"Yay! Watanuki's back!" Mokona shouted cheerfully, bouncing all over the room, drawing a shout from Doreiku from upstairs that Harry was doing his homework and to be quiet. Yuuko was lying on her fainting couch in her red and white rose kimono with the large yellow bow in the front, her head turned away from the sliding door with her black hair cascading like a waterfall down onto the floor. There was, on the floor, a tipped over saké bottle next to her.
"Ha-ha! Watanuki's back! Hehe! Welcome home!" Watanuki ignored the bunny as it zigged and zagged around the room and Doreiku could be clearly heard telling Harry to put his homework aside for now, but watched Yuuko. She was not looking very energetic today.
"Yuuko?" The seer asked, leaning over the couch to try and look at the Witch's face.
"Hello, Watanuki," Yuuko answered despondently, turning her head to look at him. "Sake," she ordered, her voice grumpy, brisk, and demanding.
"HUH?!" His mouth dropped to the floor.
"Saké!" shouted Maru cheerfully, raising a hand.
"Saké!" repeated Moro, raising her own hand before grabbing her twin's and skipping around in a circle.
"Saké!" Mokona finished off, jumping into view and then falling out of sight, completing the chant and Doreiku and Harry came running down the steps to see what the commotion was about.
"Geez!" he stomped in anger, "It's only the middle of the day and you're already out of saké?!"
"I've run out of my favorite kind, be a dear and go get me some!" The witch whined, turning over to lean her arms and head on the armrest of her couch, her red eyes following the boy as he stomped over to the gigantic bottle and picked it up, shaking it in the witch's face.
"Maybe you should learn to pace yourself one in a while!" Watanuki huffed, "Anyway, I'm going to have to special order this so it'll take a few days. I hope you can wait that long." Doreiku shook his head and Harry muttered, "She's worse than the seventh years at school. Or Hagrid, I didn't think anyone could be worse than Hagrid."
The seer switched his brain into "taking care of Yuuko's neediness," and got ready for work, setting the bottle upright on the floor and throwing his apron on and tying it in the back. "Now, I'm here to serve you for the rest of the summer. Cooking, cleaning, gardening, which of these enjoyable tasks would you like me to start with?" he asked.
"All of them," Yuuko smoothly answered, her Cheshire Cat grin on display as Doreiku and Harry groaned. They had learned that Yuuko enjoyed pushing Watanuki's buttons if she could.
"WAH! I can't do all that!" He shrieked out, which apparently started an ache in Yuuko's head. The woman sat up and leaned up against the armrest, her free hand coming up to rub her temple.
"Quit shouting, Watanuki, you'll give me a headache," Yuuko sighed as Doreiku murmured to Harry, "No wonder, with how much she drinks before bed." Yuuko ignored him, and focused on Watanuki, "Now isn't true that I've granted your request? I've found a way of getting the spirits to leave you alone, isn't that right? You've been bothered by them a lot less, lately haven't you?"
Watanuki made a face and didn't answer her.
"And in exchange, you've agreed to do whatever work I need. This is the deal we made, wasn't it?" Silence. Yuuko smiled, knowing that she was always right. "Alright then, you can start today with tidying up my treasured storehouse."
The seer's mood dropped further. That was the worst and most tedious task the witch could think of.
"I'll get right on it," he sighed. "Oh, I forgot!" He took out the letter that had been in the mail box and handed it to his boss. "Here."
Yuuko took the letter and opened it while Doreiku and Harry moved further into the room. Watanuki watched the witch, curious to know what it said.
"Well, I must say that this letter seems more like a demand than an invitation," Yuuko remarked at last.
"Seriously? What does it say?" The heterochromic eyed boy asked. Of course, Yuuko gave him "that look," the one that looked like she was a cat who'd caught the canary. This caused Harry to gulp in nervousness.
"You want to know?" The Witch asked, twirling one finger around a section of her hair.
"No way!" The seer reconsidered, shaking his head. "You'd probably demand compensation for telling me. I'll just go clean." He rushed off to start on his first chore of the day.
"My, my… they learn so quickly," Yuuko softly laughed, tucking the letter into her kimono. "But make me some snacks and tea first!"
Doreiku shook his head and walked over to the witch. "You probably shouldn't push his buttons like that too much, Mom," he said softly.
Yuuko snapped his head around, still not quite used to this, "And why not?" she asked.
Doreiku and Harry shared a quick glance, and the silver eyed teen said, "Just don't."
Watanuki finished making the snack and got to work. Having set several blankets out on the lawn, he dragged objects and vases and a multitude of items he didn't even know existed out of the storehouse. There was even a piano (which he had to move all by himself until Harry silently began helping while Doreiku sent the laughing trio of Maru, Moro, and Mokona scattering with a growl of, "Leave." The heat was starting to irritated the silver eyed teen.)
Once everything was finally, finally, outside, the real cleaning began. Watanuki tied a headscarf around his hair to keep out most of the dirt and dust and got to work slapping dust out of the objects while Harry spritzed down his owl with ice water and gave her a drink. Doreiku was collapsed on the deck next to Yuuko, as much of his last eighteen months had been spent in the nice cool mountains.
"Gross! When was the last time you dusted?!" He growled at Yuuko as his boss sipped her tea.
"Never!" Maru repeated.
"Never!" Moro chanted.
"This is ridiculous!" He ranted, and did a furious little dance. "You don't even need all this stuff! Why do you keep it!?"
"In my line of work, one acquires many things. I never got around to throwing anything away and so it became…a collection of sorts."
"There's no reason to hang onto all this stuff! You're a pack rat!" His duster hit something round and black and he foolishly stopped to look at it. "Huh? What's this?" He tapped it again and the object laughed.
"Hahaha! Hey, that tickles!" Mokona jumped out of the box he was hiding in and leapt up on a vase. "You found me! Now close your eyes and I'm going to hide again!"
"No, you little rodent!" Watanuki swung his duster at the bunny and missed when it jumped, landing on his face and beginning to try and suffocate him.
"Geoff! Ian'teeth!" He exclaimed, but Mokona muffled his voice. He grabbed the bunny and tried pulling it off as hard as he could, but to no avail, pulling his face with it.
Doreiku raised his head at this. "Mokona!" The part-dragon's voice cracked out like a whip, "Enough!" He lowered his head back onto the deck, the heat making him cranky.
This startled Mokona just enough so that Watanuki could pull it off with a pop and it flew across the yard, Watanuki collapsing on the ground as Harry returned to see what was going on. Mokona rolled down the cobblestones and stopped next to the feet of a young woman, pretending to be a stuffed animal.
The woman was in a blue strappy dress, and her pale eyes were very sad. She had short brown hair and very pale skin and carried nothing else on her person. She looked down at Mokona and then looked at the shop as if she couldn't understand why such a thing was there in the first place. This look was so familiar to Watanuki, and he immediately knew that this woman was here to see Yuuko. He walked up and was about to greet her when the woman spoke first.
"Are you the one?" The customer asked softly.
"Huh?" The boy answered dumbly.
"They said if I came here, someone would help me."
"Oh, um…Yuuko's the one you want to see," the seer answered, looking at the witch. Harry disappeared inside and Doreiku hoisted himself up with a grunt, knowing where this was going, heading inside.
"Watanuki, let's go inside," Yuuko called, gracefully standing and heading into the shop, trailing her kimono behind her. Watanuki led the customer inside and set them both up in one of the rooms with a table and two chairs so he could serve tea. Doreiku and Harry stood in the hall almost as guards, but really listening in.
The woman didn't talk at all as he prepared the tea or served it, but instead watched the boy do everything, even to the point of following his hand as he set a teacup and saucer in front of her. The seer gave a small smile.
"What is it?" he asked. The woman looked down at her hands in her lap.
"Is it true, what I heard?" She asked in a soft whisper that seemed to be her normal voice. She was shy and timid it seemed. "Can Yuuko really grant any wish? No matter what?"
"Yeah, she can," the seer nodded.
"What you've heard about me is true: I can grant any wish that you might have." And now that the business part of things had started, Watanuki picked up the serving tray and left the room, expecting to go back and finish cleaning the storehouse, but was stopped by Maru and Moro who were eavesdropping again. He stayed, leaving the door open a crack to listen in. He then noticed Harry and Doreiku leaning against the wall not too far down.
The part-timer quirked and eyebrow at them. Doreiku answered him, "Things are going to get interesting and Harry hasn't seen Yuuko in action yet." Watanuki turned his attention back to spying.
"However, I always require suitable compensation for my services," Yuuko continued, adding the catch that got everyone.
"And there she goes," the seer murmured quietly, rolling his eyes in exasperation. "Getting sucked in like I did. She has a wish and now she's caught in the trap."
"Caught in a trap!" Maru gleefully chimed.
"Caught in a trap!" Moro repeated after her sister.
"You three, out!" Yuuko snarled, pointing and glaring at her eavesdropping servants. Watanuki shot to his feet and tripped against the door, throwing his tray into the air for it to be caught by a giggling Moro as he sank to the floor. Doreiku and Harry fist bumped each other silently, grinning. Draconic magic for the win!
"I'm willing to pay you anything you want," The woman said, ignoring the eavesdroppers. The she was smiling. "I'm so relieved. When I first heard about you, I didn't think it could be true, I didn't believe the man who first told me about your shop. I wasn't going to come, but then I happened to pass by and though I'd take a look."
"I don't believe in happenstance or coincidence," Yuuko replied, repeating the same mantra that Watanuki had burned into his very being at this point in time. "You didn't just "happen" to pass by- your coming here was inevitable, whether you know it or not. Similarly, it is inevitable that I grant your wish and so I shall. Is that understood? Tell me your wish."
"This is going to sound strange…I left my house a long time ago and when I came back, I couldn't get inside," the woman was a little frantic and confused. "I have my key and everything!"
The woman took out a golden key with a Celtic knot decoration on the top, twisted into a four-leafed clover. The teeth of the key didn't look normal either, more like for a puzzle box than a key to a house. Watanuki leaned around Yuuko's head to study it, intrigued. "Oh, please…please help! I need to go home!"
And so Watanuki got sucked into more trouble, this time with Harry and Doreiku following. Yuuko agreed to grant the woman's wish and by the end of the day, thanks to a dint of hard work by all three boys, the storehouse was cleaned and packed away and everyone was packed for the trip.
They were at the house the woman had talked about by mid-afternoon the following day, staring at the corroding gate with the same symbol on it as the key had. The mansion behind the gate was huge…and ugly, in Watanuki's opinion. It seemed like a crazy madman built it. One part was eastern style, the tower looked like a Gothic Cathedral, another part looked like the Taj Mahal, the front like a French chateau, and there was scaffolding everywhere. The huge front lawn seemed to be the only normal thing about this place.
"Well, this seems to be the right place," Yuuko stated, opening the rusty gate with a push and walking inside. Watanuki followed the witch in, sneakily thinking that Yuuko looked just as gaudy as the house, dressed in a dress somewhere between maroon, fuchsia, magenta and violet with dangerously high slits in the skirt and a gigantic choker necklace made up of rectangular chunks of amethyst that crawled up her neck.
The witch did manage to make gaudy look sexy, however. This was the common though on most of the boys' minds. Watanuki was in his normal school uniform. "We found the girl's house, now all we have to do is get in."
"Wow! That house is huge!" Mokona cried, popping out of Watanuki's bag.
"It certainly is, and the architecture is quite fine."
"It doesn't strike you as a bit ominous?" Watanuki warily asked, eyeing the house. Then he remembered something else. "Domeki, you're fine with spending part of your summer break here?"
"Yes," came the reply.
"Why?" Yuuko asked, her voice becoming seductive as a gloved hand came up to slide one of the dress straps off her shoulder. "Were you thinking that it would be just you and me?" The witch finished with a mischievous grin. Watanuki blushed as Harry and Doreiku groaned.
"You know that's not what I meant," the seer shouted, his voice echoing off the mountains. "GEEEAHAAAAHAH!"
"Oh, well," Yuuko grinned, replacing her strap. Before she could say anything else, Doreiku interrupted.
"This place reminds me of the Tomb of Horrors," The part dragon said ominously, "There'd better not be a lich in there."
Watanuki realized that he was being left behind and hurried to catch up. "What's a lich?" He asked the warrior.
Doreiku just answered with, "Ask me that some other time."
Watanuki sighed, "This is why you should have invited Himawari…"
"Speaking of invitations," Yuuko interrupted the seer's pity party and got back to the business at hand. "I found it rather odd that I was invited to this mansion on the same day that we found out the owner couldn't enter it. Interesting, don't you think?"
"Actually, I find it pretty freaky!" Watanuki snapped.
Harry sighed in exasperation, "How long will they keep this up?"
Doreiku answered the young wizard, "Until they are interrupted," he said as Domeki and Yuuko started to tease Watanuki. Doreiku then had enough. He unleashed a presence that would frighten anyone caught in it briefly. He caught the three off guard and they froze when he growled, "Children, that is enough." At this moment, when Watanuki and Domeki turned around, the silver-eyed teen didn't seem like he was a teen, but a disapproving elder. The presence faded.
Yuuko took the door knocker in her hand and tapped it a few times. A few moments passed and then the door opened without anyone pulling on it. Watanuki gazed in horror but both Yuuko and Domeki both started walking to the door like nothing was wrong. Doreiku and Harry followed.
"What the-!" The seer gaped.
"What's wrong?" Domeki turned to look at his erstwhile friend.
"That woman we talked to earlier said she couldn't get into her own house so how is it that we can walk right in?" The seer was surprised that no one was thinking that this was weird.
"So, the house doesn't recognize its owner, but it recognizes guests just fine," the witch mused. "Very hospitable when you think about it." And she and Domeki both walked inside with Doreiku and Harry.
"Wait!" The seer yelped, extremely creeped out. A creak startled him and he spun around. It was just a single seat chair swing on a tree branch.
The chair was made up of twisting metal formed into swirls that would've been pretty if the house wasn't so creepy. He hurried after his four companions, the door shutting itself.
Inside the house was just as strange as the outside. The front room was designed in an octagon shape with four staircases that led to balconies that led to other staircases in a looping pattern. In between each of the staircases on the other four walls were doors and stain glass windows rose above them. The floor was mosaic tiles and there was a single small table at the center of the room.
There was a note on it, one Yuuko picked up and opened while Domeki and Watanuki were still staring around the dim room. Doreiku pulled Harry over to Yuuko and said in a low murmur, "Don't leave each other's sight." Yuuko barely nodded to show that she understood his meaning.
"Welcome and thank you for coming," The witch read aloud. "Please proceed down the hallway directly in front of you." She looked up and indeed, the door in front of her was open and ajar. "I guess we go straight then." She smiled and started striding towards the door singing out, "Is anybody home?" Harry was close behind her.
"Hey! Hold on a second!" Watanuki yelled. "This is weird!" However, in the end, he ended up following the others, Doreiku after glaring at the house. They entered into a really long hallway, one that seemed to be made of granite, because the walls were a mix of marbled white and grey with little alcoves that held vases of flowers and was lit by bluebell shaped lamps.
"Am I the only one who's freaked out here?! He pointed back at the door but neither Domeki or Yuuko were looking.
"I am getting more and more disturbed," Doreiku said. "This is starting to get like so many of the tombs I ventured into during my training."
They came to the end of the hallway, a single door waiting at the end with another small end table and another note. Yuuko grabbed the note again and read it aloud.
"Please open the door and enter." She set the note down as Domeki reached for the door handle and pulled. Behind the door there was a black wall of stone.
"A wall," Watanuki deadpanned, giving Yuuko sarcastic eyes as he pointed at the obstruction. "Oh, shoot. I guess we have to go back."
"Why don't you try opening it?" Yuuko asked slyly.
"Me?" Watanuki pointed at himself. There was no other exit so she could amuse Yuuko. "Okay." He gently pushed Domeki out of the way and shut the door, immediately pulling it open again. When the door opened, the wall was gone, replaced by a parlor looking room full of tables, chairs, couches, drinks and people chatting.
The room had a dark wood floor and ceiling and the walls were a beige tan color and was decorated with green cushioned chairs and couches and wooden tables. There was a fireplace in one corner with a picture of the mansion hanging above it and on the other walls there were windows. The windows, however, showed the inside of the house.
Watanuki took a look at the people in the room. There were seven: a fat, older man in a suit that was sitting at a table with a skinny guy in glasses and a kimono, a tall blonde woman in an orange dress, a tan-skinned man in a frilly purple shirt, a short, plump, unattractive woman in a pink dress, a skinny old man with white hair wearing a blue robe over a white long-sleeved article of clothing all at another table and a laid back, scruffy-looking guy in a red jacket lounging on a couch by himself. They all were deep in conversation.
"It was chilling to think he would pass off a piece to me…," said the fat man in the suit.
"And that piece that I got last year leaves me just short of completing my collection," the tan in the purple frilly shirt said to his table mates.
"And how's your collection coming along?" The blonde woman asked the one in in the pink dress. The pink dressed one had to swallow all the food she'd crammed into her mouth before she answered.
"Oh, it's coming along fine. It should be finished soon." That's when Watanuki realized that everyone here but Yuuko's little group was similar.
"What are we doing here? You realize that we don't collect anything, right? He turned his head to Yuuko but the witch seemed unconcerned, and shut the doors behind them and then folded her arms demurely.
"Why don't we just go talk to them? It never hurts to make new friends," The Dimensional Witch answered the boy walking past him.
Doreiku hissed lowly, "Harry, Watanuki, Domeki," this caught their attention, "I want the three of you to listen to me right now. Don't talk to these people, especially those two in the back there." He gestured to the fat man in the suit and the one in the red jacket.
The part-dragon warrior continued, "Let Yuuko and I do the talking and Harry?" The green-eyed wizard glanced over at him from where Yuuko was waiting, "Don't go anywhere without myself or Yuuko. Something is very wrong here, and I don't like it."
They continued into the room, Watanuki hearing a quiet clink-clink-clink of metal as Doreiku walked. The seer raised an eyebrow at Yuuko's adopted son who simply put a finger on his lips to not say anything. The silver eyed teen handed Yuuko something as he fell in just in front of Harry. The witch needed no explanation.
"So, tell me about this collection of yours," the old man in the suit asked the skinny man in the kimono and glasses. "Have you been working on it very long now? Is it close to being complete?"
"I'd rather not say," the kimono man answered, brushing some of his brown hair out of his face. "I'm working on a rather difficult acquisition right now, you see."
"Looks like we have some new comers with us," the old man said, noting Yuuko walking up to the alcohol table next to theirs that was filled with glasses and bottles of champagne and saké. "And I'm sure I've never seen this lovely face before. What's your name, little girl?"
Yuuko picked up a flute of champagne before turning around and answering.
"You can call me Yuuko," She said, but Watanuki of course knew that that was an alias, but no one was ever going to drag Yuuko's real name out of her. "And I'm no little girl, old man."
"I like a girl with spunk!" He laughed. "So, tell us what it is you collect, Ms. Yuuko." Yuuko only took a sip of her champagne in response to the man's question. The old man scooted to the end of the couch, getting closer to the woman to have a conversation.
"I can only assume that you've been invited because you are a serious collector. Everyone here has a well-known collection." With this he nodded to the others at the opposite table. "Many of us convene regularly to compare notes and such. Surely we're all here in response to the same invitation." He reached into his suit pocket and pulled out the same invitation that Yuuko had received. "Read!" the old man offered.
Watanuki, curious, walked over at the same time Yuuko took the note and both leaned over to read it, which Watanuki did out loud while Doreiku and Domeki pull guard duty on Harry.
"Your collection is not yet complete. If you wish to complete it as any true collector does, please accept this invitation to a gathering at my home."
"Imagine the nerve! Insinuating that we weren't true collectors!" The Suit man started again. "Naturally, we felt compelled to come here and set this man straight. And if doing so adds to my collection, well I won't complain." He was smug as he was talking and Watanuki felt alarm. "Now what is it you said you collected?"
Doreiku pushed Watanuki behind him in a way that told the seer to not answer and guard Harry.
In response to the old man's questions, Doreiku held up Mokona acting as a stuffed toy to Yuuko.
A moment of quiet passed before the old man and the skinny guy burst out into laughter, and not the nice kind.
"What an embarrassingly common collection," the kimono guy remarked, his smile nasty. "Everyone knows a truly expert collection is judged by its uniqueness."
"And what is it you collect, boy?" The old man called to Doreiku, who growled.
"First off, don't call me boy. And second of all," he paused, "Duck," and something went spinning past the old man into the wall near his head. Everyone looked, it was a rather nasty looking dagger. Doreiku flicked his hand and the dagger returned, merely because there was a very thin, but strong wire attached. He put it away. Watanuki and Domeki dragged Harry away to look at the painting over the mantle. It looked like a party at the mansion filled with people.
"There's your answer." He said, not even flinching at Yuuko's glare.
The laughter continued, louder and crueler this time, but the two women were noticeably silent. The boy's tone warned them that things were going to get dangerous if they joined in.
"That's even more boring than hers!" The suit man mocked. "And the other three?"
"Good grades and progress reports like any good students should," Yuuko answered this time, clearly getting the message that Doreiku was getting pissed at the mocking.
"AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Good grades and progress reports!" The laughter was definitely cruel now, they couldn't stop and catch their breath. "Who invited them?!"
Watanuki was listening in, no wonder Doreiku didn't want them speaking. These people were nasty! Then his attention was drawn away from the painting as he was listening to the lady in the pink dress with the white collar.
"I wonder how the owner of this house knew who we were and how to contact us," She stared, her hands gesturing to the group as a whole. "Very strange. We've never even met him and out of the blue we get this cryptic invitation to a place we've never been."
"I don't understand it either," Frilly Shirt shrugged.
"Do you know what's going on?" Plump Pink asked Yuuko. She shook her head in response. "I just wish I knew what to expect."
"Listen to all of you!" The man on the couch by himself, Red Jacket, started talking, "If you ask me, the strangest thing is that you all showed up to some random guy's house just because he sent you a little note." Everyone considered the man's similar situation.
"Well, you showed up too," Frilly Shirt replied, his voice a little irritated.
"Correction, my friend," Red Jacket started again, sipping from his tumbler, "I'm just here for the entertainment. But if the owner of the mansion does show his face, he insulted my collection, we'll have a chat."
"Oh my," Plump Pink sniffed.
"Don't pay any attention to him," Frilly Shirt waved off Red Jacket. "Everyone here is an outstanding collector! That's certainly why we were invited here tonight. Why, when I think of the company I'm in, I'm nearly breathless in admiration!"
"Oh yeah, where was that pleasantness a minute ago?" Watanuki thought. "Oh now, you're just saying that!" Plump Pink wave him off, though she was smiling.
"At least there's one gentleman here," the blonde lady with the white and orange dress smiled. The white-haired man in the robes at their table nodded as well.
"Nonsense! I'm merely stating the obvious!" Frilly Shirt answered.
"We could say the same to you," Pink replied.
"Oh, stop it! I'm blushing!" Frilly Shirt said back.
"No, really!" Blondie put in.
"I agree," White Hair went on.
"Bunch of friggin idiots," Red Jacket muttered to himself under his breath.
At this point in time, Watanuki started to lose all sense of the conversations going on as the collectors all started talking and flattering and praising themselves and each other at once. The boy looked around and tried to make sense of everything going on, but a nasty black haze had permeated the room, covering everything in sight and making it hard to see anyone clearly.
The collector's faces had morphed into odd shapes, Kimono Man's lengthening into one that looked like a rat, and Suit Man's face resembled a pig's face. Blondie's eyes bugged out, Pink was coughing up what looked like smoke, White Hair seemed like he'd aged a thousand years, Frilly Shirt's mouth was twisting and had fangs, his tongue lolling out of his mouth and Red Jacket's jaw was lengthening and pinching.
"Uh, what's that smell?" The seer nearly choked as the scent of decay and death and manure hit his nose. He clamped his hand over his face and pinched his nose shut, looking around the room again. The collector's faces had deformed even more, looking like some strange painting.
"You're seeing something again, aren't you?" Yuuko asked through the rising noise of the chatter and self-praise. Her boss seemed the only one who still was normal. Well, her and Doreiku, he couldn't see Harry or Domeki right now.
"Yeah, I've never seen anything like this before!" Spirits were one thing, but people? This was not normal. "It's like some sort of haze."
"What you're seeing is their greed, vanity, and pride. The collectors are so full of all of these things it's making you sick." It only got worse and worse. He could barely breathe anymore, let alone see anything in the room, including the little girl peeking inside the windows at the gathering.
"What's wrong?" Domeki inquired, seeing Watanuki get worse. The seer looked at the archer, he and Harry were all distorted as well, but only due to the collectors.
"You don't see it?" He coughed out.
"Uh, no," Domeki replied and then grabbed a snack. The haze was making him look more disgusting then he actually was, but Watanuki's stomach churned and he knew he needed to get out of here before he lost his lunch and embarrassed himself.
"I can't take this anymore!" He groaned, looking around the black haze as best he could to find another exit or a restroom, where he could vomit in peace. The seer spotted a sign with a hand pointing to the left that read "Restroom," which indicated that a restroom was outside the only other door currently in the room. Watanuki stumbled over to the door and opened it, leaving the gathering and the only people he felt like he knew and wandered into the mansion.
Outside the parlor, the hallway was lit dimly, and even though he searched everywhere, Watanuki couldn't find a light source, so the seer just stumbled down the hall, hand over his mouth to keep his stomach contents inside until he had a sink or toilet to lean over. He kept following the signs on the walls, but something strange was happening. First, it was only one sign per wall panel, then two, then three and then suddenly the walls, ceiling and floor were covered in them.
He followed them, looking around at all of them and spinning to see the ones on the ceiling until he came to the end of the hallway which turned right. The "Restroom" sign on the wall pointed right so he followed it. About ten feet. Where he stopped because there was a staircase that went into the ceiling. There was no way to go forward.
He stood there, wondering what he should do. "This can't be right," his eyebrows furrowed, dropping his hand from his mouth, forgetting his urge to vomit. Right before he turned around and start back, the risers of each stair step started spinning, showing kanji that weren't there before hand. They kept changing as the risers spun, creating a whooshing sound that got faster and faster until the risers stopped spinning. Now they all read, "The restroom is under the stairs."
Watanuki looked at the writing, "Huh?" He looked to the side of the stairs and saw another "Restroom" sign and stuck his head around the staircase. There was a gap on the left side, big enough for someone his size to squeeze through. Foolishly, he tried going through face-forward and got stuck somewhat.
He had to squirm and wiggle and writhe for a few moments before he got free, falling flat on his face when he popped out. "GAH!" He yelped in pain, rolling on his back and clutching his squashed nose. As he was groaning, he found a small door tucked away on the floor. It was child sized and had a flower carved into the center of a circle that split the opening.
Watanuki grabbed a small handle in each hand and opened the door, ducking his head into the passage below. There was a small crawlspace lined with tatami mats on the floor.
"Do I have to do all this just to get to a restroom?" He growled, dropping down carefully and wriggling his body into the passage. And the door slammed shut. He panicked, trying to flip himself around and getting tangled up so badly that his back popped painfully.
After untangling himself, he combat-crawled down the passageway in a huff. Eventually he came upon another sign, hanging this time, that pointed down at the tatami mats. He smacked the mat trying to find a trap door. Then he heard wind and put his ear to the floor.
He moved left and the floor tipped, dumping the boy into a room made of tatami mats fitted together so that there was not a gap in them. Watanuki picked himself up and looked around. There were no exits but still the sound of wind.
"Huh?" He said, one of the walls behind him was different. It had a square mat in the middle of it, not in the corner like the other. He did a running karate kick and knocked the square mat out revealing a tiny doorway.
He crawled out and entered what looked like the entryway to a Japanese shrine, and it was raining. It didn't matter to him, so he walked down the long staircase that passed two floors of balconies, all covered in sutras and charms on them. When he got back to the first floor, he was inside again and had dried off somewhat.
This continued to be the pattern, first an unfinished cathedral catwalk, then miniature shrines holding Japanese kokeshi dolls, then the outside of an old Japanese town, next a catwalk that was suspended over dozens of floors and it veered to the right before straightening out again.
He looked around, feeling as though he was being watched. "It seems like…someone's watching me," he said to no one at all.
The next room he entered had only stone catwalks that looked like the Paris catacombs, the cathedral stain glass window that he had seen outside lit up on the right-hand side. The next room had only three walk ways that formed an image that looked like the Pisces zodiac symbol, the spaces filled with water and waterlilies. The next had four red cushions around a well pond that held exotic fish.
"Five…six…seven…eight…" He straightened up, trying to remember what he was doing. "Huh… I can't remember why I came down here…oh, yeah! That's right!" He ran out of the fish room and into a hallway that actually contained the bathrooms. They were very modern.
He went into the men's room and emptied his stomach into a sink, getting rid of all those nasty feelings from the parlor room. Watanuki also for good measure used the toilet and washed up afterwards not knowing if he would have to do all this again. All the lights in the room were small square ones built into the wall, or they were long bars that made diamond shapes on the ceiling.
He finished cleaning up and was about to dry his hands and leave when something hit him on the head, getting his attention.
"Huh?" The boy saw that a note a fallen from the vent above him and had landed on the counter. He wiped his hands and picked it up, opening it to read what was inside. "Dinner is served in the main dining room. The others have already been seated and your immediate presence is requested." At the bottom of the note there was a map that would be useful when Watanuki headed back to the dining hall.
He looked up at the vent, trying to see if someone was in there but it was too dark. But it confirmed it. "I was right," he glanced around in suspicion, "Someone is watching me."
Despite his trepidation, Watanuki needed to get back to Yuuko and the others…and he was hungry, if the noises his stomach was making were any sign. He followed the map as best he could, the construction of the house making it difficult to follow and he passed through new rooms and saw new things there as well as a few that he had seen before.
He felt as though eyes were on him the entire time, causing a great feeling of fear to run up his back. By the time this feeling of being followed reached its height, Watanuki was almost to the main dining room. He was walking down a hall with paper screened windows on his left and a forest of bamboo stalks on his right.
The lighting that came through the windows created strange contrasts across the floor, dimming the far ends of the hall, but leaving the section he was on pretty well lit. It was decidedly spooky, not being able to see clearly where he was going. He stopped, gripping the note tightly.
He thought he had heard something in front of him. He jumped as a disembodied sobbing floated quietly down the hallway.
"W-who's there?" He stuttered with dread.
The sobbing continued. It grew louder and louder, echoing down the hallway as every second passed and then started coming from behind the boy and he now had no idea where he should run to should a spirit came at him.
The floors started to creak as if someone other than him was walking on them. He jumped, the dread morphing into terror and absolute panic, like a horse being hunted by some large predator. He started to sweat. Then everything stopped.
Watanuki looked around to see if something was going to show up, or if it was over. He looked at the paper windows ready to continue down this damn hall when a giant silhouette appeared on the side of the windows and smack its hands against the screens, screaming at a volume to wake the dead.
He screamed, terrified and bolted down the hall, across the catacomb room, through the hallways, all the while screaming. He burst through a door, tripping over his own feet, then fell on his face, flipped over onto his rear, rolling completely out of control across the floor and finally skidded to a stop in pain.
Watanuki finally looked up, he was in the dining room, everyone else was sitting and eating at the largest table he had ever seen, a lavish meal sitting on the pristine, white table cloth.
On the left side, beginning from the furthest seat away, Red Jacket, Plump Pink, Kimono Man, Suit Man, and Frilly Shirt were stuffing their faces like savages, and on the right side, Blondie, White Hair, Domeki and Yuuko had much better table manners, though this was very marginal in the cases of Blondie and White Hair.
There was an empty seat for Watanuki, his place between Domeki and Yuuko held by Mokona's bag. He looked around as he didn't see Doreiku and Harry. He saw them leaning up against the wall near the right-side door in the room. Harry was chewing on something that was revealed to be jerky and Doreiku was glaring at the diners in disgust.
"Oh, Watanuki," Yuuko greeted the boy, pausing in her meal. "Why don't you come sit down?" Watanuki was too frazzled and ignored the meal, instead cowering behind the table and pointed down the hall.
"Listen to me!" He wheezed, "There's something really strange going on in this place!" But yet again, as usual, Yuuko didn't seem to care.
"You don't say?" His boss said, uninterested. "You should try this; it's delicious." Yuuko cut into the meat that was on her plate and took a bite.
Watanuki sighed and shook his head, wandering over to where Doreiku and Harry were at. Doreiku glanced at the seer out of the corner of his eye and handed Watanuki a bag.
"Where did all this food come from?!" The part-timer whispered, "Who made it?! Who set the table?! We haven't seen anyone who lives here!"
"Don't know," Doreiku replied, "Eat that first. It'll keep you filled until lunch tomorrow."
"What is it?"
The warrior lowered his voice to a barely audible whisper, "Magical rations for dungeons and extended explorations. It's useful. You don't have to eat it if you'd rather join that lot." He inclined his head to the table where Watanuki looked around and grimaced in disgust.
Despite the fine cutlery and plates that he had observed at the table, all the silverware unique and inlayed with red stones, it was ruined by the table manners of most of the diners.
Frilly Shirt inhaled salad like a starving rabbit, Suit Man slopped his drink like a common hog, Kimono Man nibbled on a green vegetable like a rat, Plump Pink acted like a squirrel stuffing rolls away like they were acorns, and Red Jacket dropped his meat into his mouth like a mother bird did with a worm for her chicks. It was revolting.
He couldn't see what Blondie and White Hair were doing, but they were probably just as disgusting as indicated by the mess around their places. Only Yuuko and Domeki were eating with any real table manners. The seer took the ration bag from the warrior and ate what was in there with as much decorum as he could muster.
"You're not the only one who thinks there's something strange going on in this house," Doreiku said. "Harry and I encountered something strange as well. Like we were being followed."
"Well at least somebody believes me," Watanuki muttered after finishing the rations, glaring at Yuuko from a distance, though the woman couldn't see him.
"So, anyone care to guess when our illustrious host is going to show up?" Suit Man asked loudly while everyone at the table was sipping the last of their drinks.
"Who knows?" Plump Pink answered, her mouth finally devoid of food. "Though I feel like I've heard a story like this before: a mysterious man who hosts secret auctions for renowned collectors…does that seem familiar?"
"I heard that, but I thought it was nothing more than a silly myth," Blondie smiled softly. White Hair wasn't paying any attention at all, staring at the spoon in his hand.
"That's all it is!" Red Jacket, rude as ever, interrupted. "You people are ridiculous to think of it as anything else. This isn't a secret auction house."
"Whether it's true or not," Frilly Shirt continued, "There's something strange about this place." Finally, someone else agreed with the three boys. Doreiku, as Suit Man started talking, flicked his hand and whispered, "Come on." And twitching his finger to make it seem like the right door wasn't opening, he, Harry and Watanuki slipped out and listened from just down the hall after closing the door, canceling out the illusion.
Something seemed to be rolling off the warrior in waves, it was faint, only Watanuki was able to detect it. He decided it would be best to ask later.
"I get the feeling that our mystery host is watching us," Frilly Shirt finished.
As he as speaking, the door opened by itself. The three boys moved further down the hall, but close enough so that they could hear the conversation.
"Well I guess that's his idea for us to leave the room," came Suit Man's voice. The three boys, seer, wizard, and warrior hurried down the hall quietly back to the parlor room.
Once they were back in the parlor room, Watanuki asked, since they were well ahead of everyone else, "Doreiku, there's something rolling off of you. What is it?"
At this the thing vanished, though the warrior replied lowly, "My frustration and anger are boiling over. I've locked it away for now but things will come to a head. Don't bring it up to Yuuko. I'm not in the mood for a lecture," he all but growled.
Watanuki gulped as the warrior said this, reminded that though Doreiku was a human, he had dragon ancestry.
"What's gotten you upset?" Watanuki inquired as they put five chairs around a table, drawing from the extras on the sides of the room.
Doreiku sighed, and hearing the collectors begin to approach, quickly explained. "Had I told anyone else that I trained with that this place reminded me of the Tomb of Horrors, we would have been out of here in the next instant and only have come back with my aunt, uncle, and grandfather in tow. I lost eight, eight, good friends in that damn tomb and I'll be damned if I lose anyone else!"
He then looked Watanuki in the eye, "If you hear something snap while I'm near, get Harry and hide."
The heterochromic eyed boy nodded as the door opened and the three quickly took a seat, well, Watanuki and Harry did. Doreiku stood in the corner emotionlessly.
The collectors all filed in and took up their premeal seats again and started smoking and drinking. Yuuko and Domeki arrived, Yuuko's red heels clicking against the floor. The archer quickly started drinking tea that was on the table as Yuuko turned to Doreiku.
"You left early. Normally you would at least wait for everyone else," she remarked as she sat down.
"Wasn't hungry," Doreiku replied stiffly. Yuuko snapped her gaze to him. Doreiku had never spoken like that before and she didn't like it. Seeing that he wasn't going to offer any explanation, Yuuko began smoking her kiseru pipe.
After a while, a haze formed in the room, different to the nasty one that made Watanuki sick. A smoky haze. Watanuki was startled out of his observations by Yuuko's voice.
"Well, Watanuki?" Yuuko asked. "Notice anything?"
He looked around and spotted what was off.
"It looks like we're one short!" Frilly Shirt said startled.
"Yes, where's the white-haired gentleman?" Plump Pink inquired.
"Probably just got lost on the way here," Kimono Man put in.
"I'm going to go look for him," Frilly Shirt stated, standing up and walking over to the left side door of the parlor.
"I'll come too," Blondie agreed, standing up from her seat. "I'd like to find a restroom to powder my nose in anyway."
Time passed and Doreiku seemed to have calmed down, though there was still tension in the room which caused the warrior to move himself in between Yuuko's table and everyone else. After a long while of relative quiet, Plump Pink spoke up, again, her mouth full of food.
"It's been a while and no one's come back yet," she said, eating an entire tray of snacks by herself.
"Our host seems to know every move we make," Suit Man said, puffing on his cigar. "I wonder where he's peeking in on us from." Watanuki kept his mouth shut, remembering Doreiku's warning.
"I'd guess that someone in this room is spying for him," Red Jacket insinuated, his crossed led bouncing in impatience.
"And what are you implying?" Suit Man responded, his voice going harder than normal.
"I'm implying that it's probably you-you've been pretty relaxed this whole time," Red was looking for a fight.
"I don't care for your tone," Suit was looking for one too.
"I had hoped they would calm down," Watanuki said softly to Harry, who nodded. Unfortunately, Red somehow caught what the teen said.
"Nobody asked for your opinion, little brat. Come to think of it, it's a little strange to have a kid like you here!" Red snapped.
Quick as a flash, Doreiku stood, his eyes flashing dangerously.
"And that woman you're with is a little suspicious too." Suit pointed his cigar at Yuuko accusingly, who was still smoking her pipe calmly.
"Why don't you all be quiet and take a look around," Yuuko answered, turning toward the itching to fight men and letting out her breath of smoke. "We've lost another one."
They all looked around the room. Plump Pink and her snacks had vanished without a sound.
"What the-?!" Kimono Man gasped, astonished at his companion's vanishing.
"Where'd she go?" Suit queried. A folded note fell from the ceiling. This was strange because the ceiling was solid. No vents or holes to drop a note from. The note fluttered to the floor.
Red walked over and picked it up, reading it aloud.
"This concludes our evening. Rooms have been prepared for all of you to stay the night." Red's voice got confused as he read the end. Suit and Watanuki walked over to him and read the note themselves. "Please do not leave your room tonight for any reason."
"What's going on?" Suit was getting mad again. "I thought we were having an auction tonight!"
On the right side of the room, the door swung open by itself again.
Red and Suit stormed out, slamming the door as they left in anger at not understanding what was going on.
"What do you think we should do now, Yuuko?" Watanuki asked his boss.
"Our host says we're staying the night, so we stay the night." Yuuko was completely calm about this and going with the flow which scared Watanuki. "Just keep your guard up. I have a feeling that something will happen tonight. Now you go to bed. I'm just going to stay down here a bit longer."
Domeki was up and leaving the room. Watanuki rushed after the archer, especially since he noticed that Kimono Man had vanished just like Plump Pink. Doreiku and Harry stayed behind, somehow knowing that, just like at dinner, there'd be no bedroom for them. Doreiku wanted to talk to Yuuko.
She got straight to the point. "What is going on with you? You've been hostile to others, short with me and rude as well! What is going on?!"
Doreiku sat down and sighed, not looking her in the eye. "This place is too much like the Tomb of Horrors."
"Enough with that tomb!" Yuuko snapped, but Doreiku raised his hand and she stopped.
"Yuuko, had I said to anyone else that I know that this place reminded me of the Tomb of Horrors, we all would have gotten out the instant I said it. What happened in there does not bare repeating."
Here he shook his head, "That story is too horrible to repeat, even to you and you know as well as I that I would tell you anything you wanted. What happened was too horrifying. Too brutal, too terrible, too scarring." His voice grew ever softer and it began to shake with sadness.
"I will only tell you this. I lost eight very good friends in that damn tomb and nearly lost two more. I don't need to lose anyone else."
He looked her in the eye and Yuuko could see tears forming as he said, "I know that you have some sort of plan, but please, be careful. For all of us."
He looked over at Harry, who was looking pretty tired. "Harry doesn't need to lose anyone else either."
Doreiku closed his eyes and took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He felt a hand on his cheek. He opened his eyes. Yuuko had put down her pipe and was staring at him with concern.
"Alright," she said softly, "alright. Let's worry about getting to bed. Come on." She grabbed her kiseru pipe and Doreiku hoisted Harry onto his feet and the three walked out of the room to find where ever they were spending the night.
A few hours later-
Watanuki had fallen asleep pretty quickly and he was dreaming.
His dream looked like black and white static on a television screen, but without the irritating noise that usually came with it. There was a man's voice instead, calling out to him.
"Are you ready yet?" He sang.
"Not ready yet!" A small girl's voice sang back.
"Are you ready?" He called again, playing hide and seek with a child.
"Not ready yet!" She called back. His vision cleared and he was able to see a brick wall, even though the black and white static didn't clear up. Watanuki could make out the rest of the hallway as he walked down it and turned left.
He was the man, looking around for the child that was in his dream. "Are you ready?" The man called again.
"I'm ready now!" The girl called back, finally hidden. Watanuki looked down the hall, the window was open to show the single seat swing he had been creeped out by when he'd arrived.
He turned around and headed back down the hallway, finding two cords and pulled on them, uncovering trap door stairs that lead into the ceiling. He went up them, and found himself in a room filled with boxes, too many to number, and he walked around them, searching for the girl.
Instead of finding the girl, he found a tiny wooden door, the only thing in this dream with color, with the Celtic knot clover etched in it.
The part-timer opened the door and crawled inside, finding another room with a table, a window with cute curtains and a bookshelf. The right-hand curtains looked odd, bulgy, as if someone was hiding behind them.
He found the girl. He poked the curtains and they giggled.
"You found me!" The little girl revealed herself, her pink dress and brown hair were colored in his black and white dream like the door, however, Watanuki couldn't see the girl's face. Something spilled from the girl's hands. They were small, colored bean bags.
"These?" The girl asked. "These are my bean bags! I told you I was going to start collecting something remember? Well, this is what I picked to collect and I've already got this many! You should start a collection too! It's really fun! It has to be something no on else is collecting or it doesn't count!"
Watanuki opened his eyes, groggily and looked around to see if he had awoken Domeki. However, where Domeki's bed was supposed to be, there was a wall.
"Hm?" Watanuki wasn't awake enough yet to notice the bad situation. He put on his glasses and stared at the wall. "What?!" He slapped his hands on the wall. "Domeki! Hey, Domeki!" He was terrified. Was this what Doreiku meant?
He grabbed the note, hoping that the words hadn't changed, but he was wrong.
"You are safe," It now read. "The words changed! Earlier the noted had said that both of us were safe here!" His uneasiness grew, "What happened to Domeki? Where's Yuuko? And Doreiku and Harry?!"
Out of the corner of his eye, Watanuki saw a new shadow on the wall, and something moved outside the window. He looked out and saw the little girl from his dream. The girl slapped her hands on the window which caused Watanuki to reach his limit.
He screamed and pulled the curtains shut and ran for the door. Watanuki grabbed the doorknob and started to pull the door open when he remembered that the letter had said not the leave the room for any reason.
Domeki wasn't here, though and there was a creepy little girl haunting the seer outside his window! He had to find Domeki and the others! Doreiku and Yuuko hopefully would know what to do!
"Get it together, Watanuki!" He reprimanded himself, his heart thumping, tightening his grip on the handle before yanking it open. He scrambled out of the room before he could change his mind.
Alright Guys, here's Chapter three! I must put out that this and my Harry Potter Highschool DxD Crossover are my main stories. Anything else is a side project and I get around to them when I have the inspiration to do so. Enjoy and if you so desire, review. I enjoy reading most of the comments. The flames that I have gotten, I have not and so have deleted those. Chapter Four will be out in a few days I expect. So I'll see ya'll then.