When Watanuki opened his eye again the color of the sunshine streaming through the window was a warm golden yellow. After everyone had a hasty lunch of soba noodles and miso soup the teenager felt his head feel once again very heavy and he nodded off to sleep. This need to keep resting was getting rather... tiresome. There was so much school work for him to catch up on. He wished he didn't need so much rest.
Tiredly he padded out of the sitting room where he had fallen asleep on the couch and meandered into the kitchen. The little clock on the stove ticked over the five o'clock hour just as he walked in. Hmm... five o'clock. He should start getting dinner ready. He'd been working ahead each time he cooked the last few days due to needing so much sleep, so there should be plenty of left overs he could easily warm up for dinner. He'd have to start preparing some more meals in the morning.
Watanuki rubbed his left eye clear of the sleep still in his lashes and smiled at Doumeki's mother. "Akane-san."
The older woman walked up to the refrigerator and opened the door. "Are you feeling okay?" She asked him as she pulled out a couple of containers.
"I think so," Watanuki replied. "Well enough to get dinner together."
"I was thinking..." Akane started with a small grin, "since everyone is up and okay, perhaps it would be nice to have an evening picnic for dinner."
"A... a picnic?" He asked in surprise, as if the idea of a picnic was one he'd never heard of before.
"Yes, wouldn't that be nice? The view of the sunset in the park is lovely this time of year. There's enough left overs in the fridge to feed us for another three meals!"
"I suppose," Watanuki started to agree. "I've never spent much time at the park. Never been safe enough before..."
"Oh!" Akane stopped short in surprise. She hadn't considered that. "Then we definitely should! Picnics are wonderful! There's no question about it!"
"Okay." His fingers twitched as the woman started to pull out lacquered lunch boxes and utensils for the food. Akane wasn't very good at packing a meal. "Ah, here, let me help!" He rushed over and snatched up the supplies.
"Yes, very good. I'll go round up dad and Shizuka-kun. They've been squirreled away in the library since we got home from the hearing."
Before the teenager even managed to set out each box and open the lids Akane was already out of the kitchen and heading outside. He supposed he was feeling well enough to go to the park. It wasn't that far, after all. It was closer than school, even. With both Shizuka and Haruka present he couldn't think of anything that could go wrong. He would take Mugetsu along, too. After the defeat of the Old Spirit Haruka had pointed the large fox to the lake, knowing that a pure source of energy would allow the creature to shrink back down to normal size. Ever since the fox spirit liked to get big then go for a swim, just because it could.
About ten minutes later Haruka and Shizuka entered the kitchen. Watanuki was already putting the finishing touches on his perfectly packed meals. Haruka set a book down on the kitchen table. Several bookmarks stuck out of the pages in different places. The bookmarks were visibly worn and lightly torn in places. The edges of the book were also faded and tattered with age.
"Is there chocolate cake?" Doumeki asked, poking his head over Watanuki's shoulder and inspecting the packed meals.
"Cake?" Watanuki grumbled. "Is there chocolate cake? No, there's no chocolate cake! You and Haruka-san ate all of it yesterday afternoon! You'll have to live with strawberry daifuku and be happy with it."
"What about brownies?"
"Brownies? I haven't made brownies in weeks. You're just looking for chocolate."
"So... is there any chocolate?"
Haruka pulled a couple of thermoses down from the cupboard. "How about some hot cocoa to take along with our tea?"
"I think I can manage some hot cocoa. In fact, I'll make it Mexican hot cocoa. I know we've got some chili powder around here."
Doumeki's ears perked up at that. He'd never had hot cocoa with chili powder in it before. "Where did you learn all of these recipes?" Akane asked. She was folding up a picnic blanket she found in the storage closet. "I've never even heard of some of the stuff you make, but it's all fantastic."
"The public library has a great section of cookbooks. It's always been one of my favorite things to do, trying foreign dishes. I would take in my notebooks for school when I needed to do research and jot down recipes from the cookbooks while working on my homework."
Haruka gave some thought to Watanuki's professed hobby. It was also probably very convenient to cook at home since he couldn't be out after dark anyway. The wards he managed to buy for his apartment when he was younger were strong enough at the time to keep his home safe after nightfall.
Doumeki helped wrap up the packed boxes of food and spun the caps on the thermoses tightly closed. Mugetsu squealed in delight when called and they all made their way down the path of the temple to head to the local park.
The streets weren't too busy but the park itself was filled with school children out playing. Classes had been out for a couple of hours already. Akane seemed to know the park well and found all of them a secluded area next to a small lake. She spread out the blanket and everyone settled down.
The time it took for Watanuki to eat half of his meal and sip some tea was enough to allow him to realize it was nice sitting outside and eating with other people. There were birds singing in the trees around them and the breeze was gentle and warm. Was this what it was like for normal people? It seemed like such a simple thing, being able to sit outside with others and eat without fear of harm, be it by spirits or bullies. Why was such a simple act so strange to him? He thought hard, a small frown curving his lips slightly, as he tried to remember.
Not even his parents had done this with him. Even then, it must have been too dangerous.
He must have been spacing out because he didn't realize someone was stealing from his food until he felt a rather insistent stab at a dumpling. "Hey!" He screeched, pulling his lacquered box away from Doumeki's insatiable reach. "You have your own food! Don't steal mine!"
"You have dango," Doumeki informed him tonelessly around a stolen slice of dumpling
"So do you!"
"I ate all of mine."
The teenager sighed in exasperation. Okay, so maybe he was only mildly annoyed. He wasn't even that hungry anymore. He dropped his chin in his palm and balanced his elbow on his bent knee and held out his half finished dinner. It wasn't like he couldn't eat at any time now. The Doumeki family never ran out of food. "Fine, here. I'm done, anyway."
Doumeki frowned a little and took one more half hearted stab at the food. It just wasn't as much fun if Watanuki didn't complain about it.
"Oh!" Akane spoke up with surprise. "I almost forgot! Dad, Uncle Hanako finally called back. He said the whole family up will be down next month."
"Next month..." Haruka rubbed his cheek in thought. "I seem to have forgotten what's happening next month."
"Me, too," Doumeki added.
"The family reunion!" Akane exclaimed with excitement.
"Oh, are we hosting that this year?" Haruka mused. "I've been more sidetracked than I realized. It'll be nice to have everyone over. Hanako-kun said everyone up in Hokkaido is coming down?"
"Yes!" Akane smiled. "Aunt Hikaru, Uncle Hanako and all of their kids and grand kids."
"What about Aunt Shino?" Doumeki inquired. "Isn't she in Singapore right now?"
"Yes, along with her husband and two kids. They've already booked their fight, so they'll be in a couple of days early."
"I haven't heard from your brother Madoka, either," Haruka mentioned. "Have you talked to him recently?"
"Hmm," Akane hummed as she took a sip of hot cocoa. "Yes, he emailed me a couple of days ago. He and Yaoko-chan will be able to come, too."
"I know he's only in Tokyo but his work recently has kept him away for longer. I'm glad he can get some time off."
Doumeki looked over to Watanuki, who's face was white and a picture of shock. "Oi," he probed.
"I... I didn't know your family was so big..."
"Oh, they are going to love you!" Akane gushed. "I'm so excited to have everyone come. I'll have to book a caterer early, everyone eats as much as dad and Shizuka-kun do. We'll have about sixty people total for the reunion but we always have enough food for a hundred. The whole event always lasts three days."
A sad, overworked part of Watanuki's brain fizzled and died. Caterer. She said the word caterer. Doumeki raised an eyebrow, knowing just how taboo such as word was. He mentioned getting take out just once while he was staying with the teenager in his tiny little apartment and it had resulted in an hour long rant about why takeout food was going to be the death of him.
"I'm sure Kimihiro wouldn't mind cooking, as long as there's help," Haruka said. "I have to admit that I'm getting a bit spoiled. Your brother Madoka-kun is very good at cooking, Akane-chan, I know he would love to help Kimihiro-kun with the food."
"Cousin Makoto-san is pretty good, too," Doumeki offered.
"But... but..." Watanuki floundered. "Then... then they'll..." He might have started to hyperventilate.
"If Kimihiro-kun cooks, everyone's going to eat twice as much food," Akane said thoughtfully.
There was a spazz attack coming, Doumeki was sure of it. He wished he had a camera.
"B-b-but... aah... Aaaaaaaah!" His body jerked forward and he was suddenly scrambling around like a robot with a shorted fuse.
"Hey, oi!" Doumeki lost an umph as Watanuki launched over him and scooted around behind him.
"What is that!" Watanuki screeched. He clutched tightly to Doumeki's shirt and pointed toward the small lake just a few paces away from them.
All eyes turned to the top of the water. The surface of it near the shore rumbled and boiled. Slowly and steadily a dark appendage lifted itself out of the water and clung to the dirt, pulling the body beneath it forward. Dark, soaking wet material clung to the appendages pulled back by the weight of the water.
Doumeki bolted to his feet, suddenly glad that he and his grandfather had both brought their bows.
The material worn by whatever the thing was that tried to pull itself out of the lake became more and more recognizable. Dark yellow stars and crescent moons patterned the wet sleeve. "Grandfather."
"Eh, it's all right, Shizuka-kun. Whatever it is, it isn't dangerous. Even Mugetsu hasn't made a fuss."
Watanuki hadn't even thought about that. The fox spirit was still curled around his neck in sleep. "Yes, but, it's crawling out of a lake!"Watanuki pointed out.
"Lakes are easy points of transportation in the spirit world," Haruka informed them.
The arms reached higher and a head of black hair came out of the water next. Shoulders and a chest followed. The creature grumbled to itself as it tried to right its stance. The thick kimono they could now see hung heavy like a rug on the slim being.
It paused. There was a shudder of electricity in the air, faint and tickling. Doumeki recognized the feeling, having experienced it the day he put on the wedding ring that once belonged to Watanuki's father. Watanuki recognized it as magic and, like magic, the creature was suddenly free of any dampness that should have been clinging to it.
"Well!" The spirit that pulled itself out of the lake exclaimed. The head lifted to reveal the face of a handsome man with an ornate set of spectacles. "That wasn't as graceful as I hoped it would be. I haven't traveled back to this world yet. Though, it was still dramatic, I think."
"We weren't expecting a guest," Haruka greeted amiably, blithely ignoring the unusual entrance. "What brings you to this lake? There's nothing very remarkable about it."
"Very true," the spirit of the man replied. "That's one of the reasons my entrance was so difficult. Still, it had to be here. I have trouble visiting my great-great grandson when he's at your temple, and I've needed to speak to him for quite some time."
"What?!" Watanuki yelled in shock. "But... I... you've never... I've never been visited by any family members! Not one! And you suddenly just pop up and expect me to believe you!"
The man frowned sadly. "Yes, I know it's been too long. I came as quickly as I could. You see, when we die, there is a set amount of time we have to wait before we can visit this world again. I couldn't stay and wait for you, even knowing what would happen. It is dangerous for a human spirit to linger in this world without moving on to the other side first. I would have been no help if I haunted your mother, then yourself until you needed my help."
"Your name, then," Haruka demanded. By this point he and Akane had both risen to their feet.
"You don't recognize me? You saw a picture very recently. I'm surprised you didn't recognize the name Reed."
"Wait, Mr. Reed?" Watanuki asked. "My mother always said you were my great grandfather."
"Sakura-chan always referred to me as great grandfather Reed because I was her great grandfather. Surely your grandfather must have spoken of me before, Haruka-kun?" The spirit, Mr. Reed, prompted. "Heaven knows that man was a thorn in my side for over sixty years. He must have complained about me in passing, at least."
"I can't say that I remember," Haruka confessed.
"Shocking," the spirit said. "Well, at any rate, please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Clow Reed, great-great grandfather of Watanuki Kimihiro."
There was silence around them. Watanuki looked to Haruka, only trusting in the older man's judgment. He learned himself a long time ago to never place his own trust or well being in any spirit's hands.
"... The Clow Reed?" Haruka asked quietly.
Mr. Reed spread his hands and smiled thinly. "The greatest magician that ever lived."
"By the gods."
Akane stepped up to her father and put a hand on his arm. "Dad?"
"It all makes sense. It's no wonder Kimihiro-kun's powers keep getting stronger. If he's your descendant..." He nodded to himself. "Now that I think about it, I do remember Grandfather Shizune complaining a few times. He only ever referred to you as 'that idiot wizard."
Mr. Reed chuckled. "Yes, and don't think that just because we're dead that he's stopped. He still calls me that." His smile fell. "He's right, though. He always was. Sakura's death was my fault, as well as Kimihiro-kun's condition. I meddled too much with things that should have been left well enough alone."
"The magic in your blood," Haruka said. There was no question in his voice.
"Yes," Clow confirmed. "It is inherited through the blood. As are the exorcist abilities passed down through your own family. By the time I was old enough to realize that my meddling would affect my blood, and that the abilities it granted would continue to grow stronger with age and time, it was too late. My grandchildren had already been born and there was no way to stop it."
"What did you meddle in?" Watanuki asked.
Clow shook his head. "Never will I repeat it." He pulled a large, thick tome from inside of his robes. "Just know that eventually you can learn to control it. It takes time, age, and discipline, but you are more than capable. Any children of our bloodline from now on would have to remain protected and hidden from all spirits until they grew old enough to learn the techniques detailed in this book." He held it out and showed the surface of it. "This is my gift to you."
"I..." Doumeki guided the speechless teenager forward so he could accept the gift.
"And here," Clow said after Watanuki took the book from the spirit's hands. He removed the glasses from his handsome face and handed them over as well. "Wear these always, for as long as you need them. Like your rings, these glasses will protect you."
"So... you really are then? My great-great grandfather?"
"Yes." Surprisingly, Mr. Reed's dark blue eyes found Doumeki's gaze. "One last thing." He pulled a rolled up scroll from a different pocket and handed it directly to Doumeki. "This is the cleanest solution I could find to fix Kimihiro-kun's little eye problem. It may not seem ideal right now, but it will prove to be the best solution in time."
Doumeki took the scroll and looked at it in his hand. The twine that kept it tied had two small trinkets on it. One of the trinkets was a piece of gold carved to look like a flaming sun, and the other was a piece of silver cut to look like a sickle moon.
"Will you be staying long, then?" Haruka asked the spirit.
"No, I'm afraid not." Clow folded his arms and hid his hands in his long kimono sleeves. "I'm afraid Shizune has some more lectures for me. This is all great fun for him, you must understand, outside of the dangers present. Our family clans had been rivals for generations by the time Shizune-kun and I got to know each other. A rivalry I took very seriously for a time. He has complete faith in the fact that Kimihiro-kun is safe with you. He also laughed at me for a week straight when we realized that intimacy was the only way to ward my descendant."
Watanuki's face burned. "My whole life history has been on display for you? Can I just dig a hole and bury myself in it now?"
Mr. Reed laughed, then, and jovially, too. "You are a treasured grandson, Kimihiro-kun. Always remember that." He turned and looked back to the lake. "I must be going now. Stay safe, all of you. Things should settle down from now on."
The spirit of Watanuki's great-great grandfather walked back into the water of the lake. He stared as the handsome man that looked so much like him sunk further and further into the glassy surface. With one final wave of goodbye Mr. Reed dunked all the way down into the water and disappeared.