The Flap of a Butterfly's Wings.
Sometimes, Watanuki wondered just how it was possible for a house to gather so much dust in less than a week. He grumbled, trying his best to ignore Yuuko and Mokona's chants and giggles as he kept to his housework.
Dusting, dusting, dusting, some days he thought that that was the only thing he'd ever do, besides running errands, of course. Then, a hint of blue, black and silver distracted him from the frenetic dusting he had been involved just a few seconds ago and he took a step back, looking at a painting he was certain hadn't been there before.
It was simply breathtaking: covered mostly in a field white roses except for the one that was by the border, only half of its red petals seen. On that rose, there was a blue butterfly. It seemed so real that Watanuki was certain that its wings were going to start moving any second now. He reached towards it, tracing the flower gently and then almost touching the butterfly before deciding against it, remembering that when someone touched a butterfly's wings, it wouldn't be able to fly anymore.
"I must be going crazy, working here," he muttered to himself. Before he could go back to dusting, however, the butterfly's wings did flutter softly, back and forth. When he felt his jaw drop, the butterfly moved from the rose's red petal to his still raised finger. Its wings fluttered a few times, slowly, before it flew from his hand, going through the open door towards the garden.
Watanuki knew he had to tell Yuuko. He started calling her name, turning to go towards the garden.
"Mmm," Watanuki jumped three feet back when he found out that Yuuko was already inside, leaning against the door, Mokona on her shoulder. The Witch smiled, holding the bottle of sake against her hip. "So it's time already. Watanuki, get some tea ready, please. And some snacks to go with it."
Watanuki blinked twice. "But you were already having snacks with the sake."
Yuuko nodded, walking towards her room. "Yes, but it wouldn't be nice to offer sake to a twelve years old." Then she paused and looked at him from over her shoulder, arching an eyebrow as she looked at him, smiling."Oh, and I'm adding the cost of the butterfly to your debt"
"It's a good thing that I have those fake kitty ears and tails ready! You should wear them, Watanuki!"
"Waitwaitwait, what?! Why should I wear them!? What about the butterfly!?"
"You have to wear them because you haven't lost your ears yet, Wa-ta-nu-ki!"
"He still has his ears! He still has his ears!"
"Moro, Maru, stop it!"
Ritsuka frowned, not really certain when he had given a wrong turn or why he had suddenly felt like it felt to suddenly step into a Battle System. He took his cellphone out, thinking that if the feeling continued for long, he was going to call Soubi and order him to answer if he was fighting alone.
Just as suddeny, however, he saw a butterfly over a rosebush, blue-black wings twitching slowly. He walked closer to it, curious, but then the butterfly moved from the flower, flapping its wings in front of him. Ritsuka knew that it was impossible for an insect to ask him to follow it, but the butterfly really did seem to be asking that of him.
Uncertain, he decided to follow it, even running when the butterfly seemed to increase its speed, soon flying into a weird, foreign house. Ritsuka looked around, but no one seemed to be there. He walked inside the house, cellphone back inside his pocket, wondering just why he was there. Would Soubi be there? The feeling hadn't completely gone away, but he wasn't so certain, now, that this was a Battle. He was about to knock on the door when it suddenly opened and two girls, younger than him but already earless, smiled at him, taking hold of his arms.
"Welcome! Welcome!" they said on chorus, pulling him inside, barely giving him a second to take off his shoes.
"Wait a second!" Ritsuka asked, trying to pull free. "Who are you?"
The girls kept on smiling, still pulling at his arms. "The mistress is waiting! The mistress is waiting for you!"
Ritsuka stumbled when they pushed them forward but he managed not to fall. In front of him, a beautiful woman wearing an expensive (and extremely revealing) kimono was giggling to a teenager (who at least did have his ears and tail) while a plushie seemed to be tugging at his ears.
Then, just as sudden, the woman's crimson eyes were focused on him.
"Welcome to my store," the woman said. She moved her hand in a gracious gesture, directing him towards a chair. Ritsuka felt distrustful, but he nodded, moving to sit down. The teenager then, with the weird living-talking plushie, moved towards him, pouring some sweet smelling tea. "Feel free to have some snacks, too."
"No, thank you." Ritsuka felt his ears pressed against his hair, but he made himself swallow around the distrust and nerves to instead sit up straight, hands over his lap. "Are you a member of Nanatsu no Tsuki?"
The woman smiled. "No. I'm a Witch. I grant wishes to the people who find my store."
Wishes. Ritsuka's frown deepened, even when he thought that perhaps he had fallen asleep on the train. He had had weird dreams, after all.
"What kind of wishes?"
"That's up to you," the woman smiled, moving slender fingers to pick up a pipe, taking a drag and then blowing out some gray-blue smoke. "Do you have a wish?"
Ritsuka gave a small nod. Did he ever! To see Seimei again. To ask him about their real names, what it meant. To ask him about Soubi. To understand Soubi. Sometimes, he felt as if the only thing he could call his own where his wishes.
But he didn't believe in something like this. For every action, there had to be a reaction, after all.
"So you just grant wishes?" He shook his head. "I don't believe you. What's the catch?"
"You're a smart boy," the woman smiled warmly before she gave a nod. "For your wish to come true, you'd have to pay something of the same value."
Ritsuka felt his throat tighten at that. What could be the equal value of his wish? What was his wish, anyway? Find out about Seimei? No, because he was going to do that by himself and he didn't need wishes. But, perhaps, the real Ritsuka...
His wish, he realized, was to not disappear. The equivalent exchange couldn't be that the real Ritsuka would be lost forever, or that his mother would never love him; that was already a reality. His phone beeped then and Ritsuka turned his attention from the Witch in front of him to dig through his pockets and bring his cellphone out.
If you are free tomorrow, we should go to the museum. Kio says
that there's going to be an exhibition that you might like. Soubi.
Just when he was starting to smile at the stupid text message Soubi had sent, Ritsuka froze. He was completely aware of what the cost of his wish would be. What he most feared wasn't only to forget, but also to be forgotten, so, for him not to disappear...
He looked towards the woman, but her crimson eyes were unreadable, the smoke almost rendering the whole place something from one of Soubi's spells.
He wouldn't disappear, but he wondered if Soubi would still remember him, if Yuiko, Yayoi-san, Kio-san... if everyone would just forget about him as if he didn't exist. Perhaps they just wouldn't care about him. Perhaps something worst would happen to them. Not disappearing was something he held very dear to him, surely for him not to disappear, it would involve something he cared as much.
Ritsuka took a deep breath and bowed his head towards the woman, one of his hands still holding to his cellphone tightly.
"Thank you very much," he muttered, knowing that this was a one time deal. "But I must say no. The price... I can't pay the price."
He was surprised, however, that when he looked up, the woman was smiling at him. She gave a soft nod while the girls stood up.
"Moro and Maru will see you to the door, then."
Ritsuka stood up but paused for a moment, even with the girls giggling excitedly and pulling at his wrists.
"Did I make the right choice?"
"There wasn't a right choice to make," the Witch said, but she was still smiling. "You just made the one your heart told you to do."
Watanuki blinked as the boy was taken outside, turning to look towards Yuuko. The woman not only didn't seem mad, she seemed quite happy that she hadn't had to make a wish, nor gotten anything in exchange which, as far as he was aware, was an extremely rare situation.
He was about to call attention to that when, from the painting, the same blue butterfly that had flown free when he had dusted it and that had came back a few moments before the boy didy, fluttered its wings twice from the painting before once again flying away. Watanuki felt himself pale.
"Ah! The butterfly!" He moved to stand up and catch it, but Yuiko's hand curled over his shoulder.
"That's alright. It belongs to that boy."
Watanuki stared confused at Yuiko for a few moments, wondering what she meant by that (because surely she wasn't just making a gift) before it hit him.
"IF IT BELONGS TO THAT BOY THEN WHY YOU WANTED ME TO PAY FOR THE BUTTERFLY FLYING AWAY?!"
"Aaaah Watanuki! Bring more snacks !"
"No! Absolutely no more snacks!"
Ritsuka looked around, wondering just why he was standing in the middle of nowhere. For a moment he panicked, because it had been a while since the last time he had lost space like that, and if he was having them again, perhaps he was going to forget even more, or perhaps the real Ritsuka was coming.
He felt his phone in his hand and he looked towards it, smiling a little when he saw Soubi's message there. He started walking as he typed an answer, somehow feeling less troubled by the fact that he seemed to have lost track of time.
He never noticed the butterfly flying behind his back.