Chapter 01

The weather was supposed to be sunny, but that was obviously a lie. Every inch of Doumeki was soaked and it didn't help that he hadn't had time to even change out of his uniform, complete with long sleeved jacket. Unlike most times when it rained, it was a rare warm rain so at least he wasn't shivering, but that was a small consolation. At least he could hide his annoyance at being dragged out with his bow in the downpour. Watanuki, on the other hand, couldn't seem to stop talking. He alternated with shouting at the sky and muttering something about "dire retributions" and "cruel jokes" under his breath.

Doumeki's face didn't even twitch and he just glanced around. It was slowly becoming twilight and they'd been standing on the street corner for at least an hour and a half. He wasn't sure he wished to aggravate his "companion", as Watanuki had been in a horribly wretched mood all that day, but frankly, he was bored and talking, or at least riling up the spiritual boy, alleviated it slightly.

"Oi."

"What?"

The word was snapped quickly, raw edges and irritation making the simple reply jagged. His golden eyes slid to look at Watanuki from the corner of his eye briefly and didn't miss that even in the warmish rain, the boy was shivering next to him. He looked, put simply, like a bad-tempered, drowned rat.

"Yuuko say anything more?"

A frayed nerve must have snapped apparently because Watanuki rounded on him so fast, he was like a mongoose seeing a snake. He was momentarily taken aback, though his face was such that only a faint widening of his eyes briefly showed it. "I already told you that she said wait--"

"I wasn't talking about that. I was talking about Kunogi-san."

He knew very well what they were standing on the street corner for. Apparently, they were errand boys with knives, so to speak, to pick up a package. The witch was convinced that the person they were going to see soon would be pursued by a demon or spirit or something. His purpose there then became obvious, what with his exorcism abilities and all.

"Oh." Watanuki seemed to briefly deflate and looked away, silent and brooding, which was so un-Watanuki like that he frowned slightly. That girl had shorter boy twined so tightly around her finger that it was literally scary. Every twitch of her smile sent Watanuki on some fool dance or in a puddle of depression.

So it didn't help when Kunogi Himawari began to act extremely strange. She was often nowhere to be seen at lunch and even missing randomly from classes, never at the same time as before. From what Doumeki understood, the girl was as straight A's in grades as Watanuki was, so the sudden change in behavior was somewhat alarming. Several attempts by Watanuki to talk about whatever it was that he was convinced was bothering her, was met by a blank stare and an unconcerned laugh.

And while Doumeki didn't exactly seek out Yuuko to ask her what she thought, that witch had that uncanny way of knowing. According to Watanuki, she'd gotten a rare serious face, the face she got when she talked about hitsuzen and fate and all that dangerous stuff, and said something cryptic about her being "in a dark place".

"...not a damn thing."

Doumeki blinked, drawn out of his thoughts by Watanuki's words. He didn't care to ask again what he had said, as between the last few words he caught and the boy's face, the answer was clear enough: No. He rubbed his chin in contemplation. He really didn't know Kunogi well enough to even guess what might be wrong. He didn't really even think Watanuki did. For all of his attentions on the girl, his "rival" seemed to really only knew the surface of his female classmate. As far as the archer knew, they'd never had any truly deep and introspective conversations.

Kunogi Himawari really didn't interest him whatsoever. Whether she was there at lunch or not was of no great importance. Really, the only one that ever drew his attention as anything other than background noise at school was Watanuki. His childish energy, the way he could simply say something to set off the shorter of the two of them, the fact that he couldn't seem to hide his emotions at all from Doumeki, intrigued him. Truly, ever since they met, he'd been interested in Watanuki. He'd never felt demons attach to anyone as strongly as he felt them from Watanuki and it was strange enough that he'd kept an eye from time to time on the boy during school, but it wasn't until Yuuko had shown up in the picture that it became anything active like it was now.

"Hn?"

"I said, you thick-headed JERK, why did you ask?"

He blinked as suddenly his vision was filled with pale blue and he was staring into the lively, crackling eyes of his supposed rival. Thankfully, the object of the reason they were out there had shown up into view and he didn't have to answer.

"Look lively, our man is here."

Watanuki turned around just as Doumeki realized his mistake. It was no man at all, but a woman. A very young woman who appeared to be in her early twenties, with light blond hair and a thin, lithe body was making her way toward them. Considering how uncommon true blond hair was in Japan, she had to have either died it to get it that color or she was half. Her outfit was as soaked as them, and unfortunately, hers happened to be one of those pure white, business attires with a tight skirt that fell to the knees and made it difficult to walk, especially in high heels. She was truly very pretty, he acknowledged, but the total fear on her face marred the image.

Doumeki knew that fear. It was the fear that he'd seen haunt Watanuki's eyes every time they went out on a "mission". And with a surreptitious glance at the boy beside him, he knew that whatever was following the woman, Watanuki could see it and it terrified the crap out of him. So much so that he was inching away, even slightly behind the archer.

"Where is it?" he hissed, raising his bow and drawing back the string, even though he held no arrow. The woman froze on the opposite sidewalk, as if what she had seen to be rescuers were no longer of the sort and clutched the peeling, wet brown paper bag in her arms as it were her only defense against the world and what was pursuing her. Even from the distance away they were at, he could see how she radiated fear and confusion.

"Behind her. Over her left shoulder."

Watanuki's voice was low, much like a whisper, but it was not drowned up by any loud thunder. In truth, with the exception of the pounding rain, the night was surprisingly very quiet. As it too held its breath with the woman as he aimed his sights along the empty space where his arrow would be held, aimed straight over the woman's shoulder. It was always far more difficult to shoot without an arrow, especially since he in truth was only getting used to doing this whole exorcism business, but when he loosed his power, he could tell by the faint sigh of his companion that he had hit his mark.

When he lowered the bow, the woman nervously ran across the street, and up close, she looked even worse. Her cheeks had run with mascara, from the rain or tears were hard to determine, and deep circles under her eyes were apparent even in the gloom of the rainy night.

"Are you from Yuuko-sama's?"

Her voice quavered as if she was freezing, or was finally pushed beyond her bearings until she was just running on pure adrenaline. It shook so badly that at first he had a hard time understanding her.

Watanuki nodded and Doumeki listened out of one ear to the conversation that truly didn't interest him. Yes they were, yes he would take her to Yuuko right then and she could be safe, yes she could tell her story then.

"Oi."

"MY NAME IS NOT OI!!"

Doumeki, as always, ignored the protest. "If you don't need me, I'm going home. I'm drenched."

"You can go!! It's not like I want you to be here in the first place!" Watanuki temporarily seemed to have forgotten the woman as their age-old argument began again.

However, Doumeki could hardly forget about her as she suddenly clung to him with a ferocious strength and tenacity that would have put one of those fanclub girls to shame. He was so stunned all he did was stare down at her, arms pinned to his sides. He didn't doubt he could break her grip if he tried, but he was really too surprised. The action even shut up Watanuki's tirade.

"Don't go!" she pleaded. "I don't know what you did to get rid of that...that...thing, but stay so that it doesn't come back! Please! Walk me to Yuuko-sama's, please!"

Neither of the boys failed to notice the "me" in that sentence and Doumeki could see the storm clouds gathering in those blue eyes. He sighed, feeling somewhat helpless in truth. He had no clue what Watanuki hated so much about him, but nothing he did seemed to be right to him.

"Fine, I'll walk you both back to her place." His mother was so going to be pissed at him for staying out so late in the pouring rain without telling her.

The trip back was accomplished in total silence, broken only by the woman's sniffling as she stood between them, alternately clinging to Doumeki's arm and clutching the package to her heart, as if it was all she had to live for. Which maybe was true? You never could tell with Yuuko's customers what they wanted or were giving.

Yuuko was standing just inside the gate to her shop and Doumeki couldn't be gladder to be rid of the mission. He leveled a gaze at Watanuki for a long enough to time while the two women talked that the boy turned to him like a striking snake. "What??" he hissed.

He shrugged and rattled off what he wanted for lunch the next day in the same manner as always. With an "I DON'T TAKE ORDERS" still ringing behind him at his retreating back from an enraged Watanuki, he headed off tiredly home and where his dry bed was waiting for him.

End chapter 1