The cheerful voice lanced across the almost too quiet drugstore, Green Drug, and penetrated into the silence with an uncanny sense of hype. Kakei, the manager, lifted his head and that smooth, easy smile touched his lips like usual. There was a grunt from the sofa as Saiga, his life-partner, woke.
"Not her again…"
It was well known to the two of them that Saiga did not like Ichihara Yuuko. Perhaps it was because their personalities were actually quite similar, at least to Kakei. Either way, he watched as his lover sat up and didn't even need to adjust his sunglasses. How he slept with them on, he would never even begin to fathom.
"Come now, she's not so bad."
"She is," Saiga insisted as their peacefulness was intruded by the effervescent Dimensional Witch. They'd had several dealings before, the most notable one being a vase that linked to a world of daffodils. That was why, naturally, he had sent Kazahaya and Rikuou to go fetch it for him.
"My dear Yuuko-san," he smiled as she settled onto the sofa, that little black thing she had made, named Mokona, bouncing on her lap.
They made the small chitchat, but Kakei knew that Yuuko herself never came to the Green Drugstore without a very dire need of it. But he could not see into the future of anything concerning Yuuko and her hitsuzen. He just wasn't that powerful enough, for the same reason that he could not find Rikuou's Tsukiko. He often wondered if he should mention Yuuko to Rikuou as a possible avenue, but had always had second thoughts at the last minute. Yuuko was extremely volatile and he had enough dealings with her in the past to know what a hefty weight Rikuou's wish would be. He feared the most that in order for Rikuou to find Tsukiko, he would have no choice but to give up Kazahaya as the payment.
Still, there were some perks to the business…
"How did it go, Yuuko-san?"
"Oh, very well, Kakei," she answered, her voice the low and mysterious tone he had learned to expect from her when she spoke of business. "The packages will arrive perfectly on time, you need not worry." There was a pause and he knew what to expect. "Now, as for the payment…"
"As usual, you can name your price."
And for the first time since he had met her, the Dimensional Witch's face grew grave. "I will be borrowing Kazahaya and Rikuou from you."
"Isn't that a little unequal a price for what he asked? Don't you have your own errand boys?" Saiga cut in, hitherto silent until now.
"I must admit it is, which is why in return, I'm going to lend you Mokona to even things out."
"What can that thing do that would be of any help?"
Yuuko leveled a smile on Saiga, which only made his partner squirm on the sofa. "Oh, quite a lot. I'm sure you will have uses for him."
"Is this venture you're doing so much that you have to have Kazahaya and Rikuou?" Kakei finally asked, having spent much of the last few seconds worrying and wishing his talent was powerful enough to see something dealing with Yuuko.
"This must be taken care of, Kakei and I can't do it myself. If I move to deal with the situation, my enemies will make a move on my territory, which will be unguarded. I can't afford to let that happen right now, not with how things are so quickly in motion. But Watanuki and Doumeki are not enough by themselves. Kazahaya and Rikuou's gifts are absolutely necessary for this mission, same as Kazahaya and Rikuou's gifts would not be enough alone without Doumeki and Watanuki there."
Kakei chewed his lip and by listening to Yuuko, he could tell that the situation was grave indeed. The Dimensional Witch's jobs had far more scope than his usually were. He did not involve himself a lot with the spirit realms and other worlds, preferring to deal with what he could in the world in which he lived. Yuuko was deeply embedded into higher level of work. It was much like a corporate and branch offices, where most of the true work was done in corporate places, the branches dealing with smaller issues.
"Very well," he said at last, knowing there was nothing else he could do. He had no choice but to agree.
He just hoped his little employees came back in one piece.