Post-Manga. Shopkeeper!Watanuki. Oneshot. Beedle the Bard's version of 'The Three Brothers' is not entirely accurate. The one who the three brothers met that day was not 'Death' but a mysterious man claiming to be a wish-shop keeper. And he demands a price.
I disclaim any ownership of Harry Potter or xxxHOLiC.
Clad in a pristine white apron over a loosely worn kimono, with a matching white cloth to tie around his head of jet black hair, Watanuki dusted the treasure room methodically. He moved mechanically from shelve to shelve as he passed each of the numerous aisles. Sighing, he dragged his finger along the ornament currently before him (a jade dragon statuette with eerie glowing red eyes) and nostalgically reminisced how it had come to the shop. With a soft smile, he turned to the next treasure. He was quite certain it had been from Yuuko's time, for he did not recall having seen it before. It was a plain oaken box, just wide and long enough to fit an A4 sized paper, though it was about two inches high. There were no splintered strips of wood, and even the ink black insignia stamped on the front had not a single indication of fading. It was as if the box was fresh out of the factory. Tracing his finger on the emblem in front (a circle within a triangle and a single line cutting vertically down the centre), he pondered what it meant; a symbol was like a signature after all. Intrigued, he picked the box up, flipping it around. Carved into the back in a haphazard manner, the characters barely recognizable were the words, "Master of Death" a broad smirk broke out on his face. Things were about to be interesting.
Three figures, all of male build, gathered under the luminescence of the twilight sky.
"I do hope this ends not in a wild goose chase once again." A grumble came one of the figures.
"Relax, my brother. I'm quite sure this is it," the gruff voice of the largest replied.
A pregnant pause ensued as the group of three continued their way, trekking along in an almost awkward silence while the sun edged its way below the horizon.
Trudging along, the crunching of grass underfoot echoed in the silence, when at last, they came upon a long winding river, glittering red as its water flowed with strong vigour. Almost instinctively, the largest of the three whipped out his wand, muttering a spell as they approached the bank. Coming to a halt at the edge of the raging river, branches soon burst through from the earth, thick and thin alike twined together, arching into a bridge across the river. It slammed into the opposite bank, giving a grinding sound as wood impacted soil. Before long, the unnatural phenomenon came to an end, the leafless trunks staying still as the cool night about them.
"Stop showing off, brother. A simple magical boat would have sufficed just as well." The youngest of the three scoffed, slightly peeved at his eldest brother's swank performance.
A haughty smirk in place, the eldest started his way across the magically created bridge, the other two huffily following behind.
Landing on the soft grass, the last of the three barely gave a glance behind as the branches pulled out of the earth, shrinking back into the soil from whence it emerged from. Instead, his attention was focused upon the scent of tobacco hanging in the air. Perplexed, he allowed his eyes to scour the area, widening them with a jolt as he noticed a lone man posed upon a large flat rock. Three of them exchanged a mystified look, and then simultaneously approached him. He was a queer figure indeed; garbed in Chinese styled shirt and pants, which was lavish with floral patterns. In one hand was a bottle of fire whiskey gingerly held by its neck, whilst his body tilted back slightly, leaning on the other hand which was pressed flat against the rock. His legs were crossed under him. Taking a delicate swing of alcohol, jet black hair swept slightly and he tilted his pale face upwards with the motion. Then lowering it back leisurely, he continued gazing off into the distance. Ignotus was about to take another step forward when abruptly, as if sensing their presences, the man spun his head towards them. His gaze fell upon them and those heterochromic eyes appeared to pierce each soul; one a deep ocean blue and the other an intense gold. Framed by round eyeglasses, they swept from one brother to the other, taking their features in with slight inquisitiveness. Then, a smirk materialized on his exotic features.
"Well, good evening. I wasn't quite expecting this many of you," he commented offhandedly, still in a unperturbed pose, as if he had been expecting them.
Confused, Ignotus turned to his two brothers, only to find their own expressions mirroring his. He knew the same thought was blitzing around all of their minds: who was this man?
And as if reading their thoughts, the enigmatic stranger continued, "My name would be of no use to you." He paused, ostensibly in contemplation then, "I am a shopkeeper."
All three brothers couldn't help but wonder the significance of that.
Seeing the deeper furrows on each brothers' faces, the male clarified, "my shop is one that grants wishes."
Jackpot! The wish-granter!
Immediately, as if on instinct, Ignotus whipped out his wand, barely noticing as his brothers did the same, then swishing it, he cast a rope-binding spell. Thick course rope flung out from the tip of his wand, snaking around their target's body whilst the man tensed and grew stiff. Pointing his wand at the wish-granter, he heard the low baritone of his eldest brother.
"You. So you do exist!" And with conceit, continued, "Now you have no choice but to grant each of our wishes!"
It was a palpable threat, yet why did the ensnared man's smirk persist? He tried to dismiss the ominous shiver raking his spine.
"State your wishes then, o brothers three."
If any of his brothers held similar sentiments as him, they did nothing to show it.
Gleeful, brother Antioch stepped forth almost possessively, "Then make me a tool, that will win every fight, every duel."
The seated man nodded his head (in understanding?) and bent to pick a wooden box lying at his feet. Lifting the lid off, he pulled out a wand, elaborate designs weaved in an exotic pattern around it. Clutching it delicately, he ran his finger down the smooth Elder wood once, before holding it up in a silent offer for the first brother to receive.
Ignotus did not need to look to confirm the sceptical (yet slightly nervous?) look which was doubtlessly stamped on his brother's face.
With a tentative reach, Antioch grasped onto the handle of the proffered wand.
And the transfer succeeded without a glitch.
Almost too quickly, Antioch was shoved aside as the second brother seized the shopkeeper's attention.
Almost gleaming with unbound anticipation, Cadmus gushed out his demand, "Gift me the power, to bring back the dead!"
This time, the exotic enigma pulled out a sizable stone (just big enough to fit in the palm of one's hand, in fact) and gave the instructions to turn it thrice in hand.
The gleeful, near savage look in his eyes caused Ignotus' stomach to do a twist.
Were they walking into a trap?
He must have been pondering deeply for quite a while as when he was pulled back to reality, he had an eyeful of the shopkeeper's face.
"What is yourwish then, child?"
Not for the first time since their meeting, Ignotus felt wave of ill-omen surge through him. Seemingly reading his thoughts, the foreigner's more youthful face split into a Cheshire grin.
Snapping out of his nerves-induced stupor, he attempted at a firm assertion,
"A… J-just a t-tool that al-allows me to go f-forth… without be-being followed"
So that no trap of yours would work.
Here, a glint shone in the stranger's eyes, as if knowingly, and Ignotus deliberated if it were merely a trick of the light.
Promptly, the wish-granter pulled out the last item from the box: a silvery large cloth, flowing in the air as though it were softer than silk.
Receiving it, his suspicion was almost dismissed as he gave an almost-gasp when he realised it for what it was, an invisibility cloak. And it was of quality-grade too, if the texture was anything to go by.
"Well then, let's now discuss the price!"
At the tenor of the shopkeeper's voice, Ignotus' head snapped up, staring dumbly as the words were processed in his mind.
Price…A price… A price.
"Price?" Antioch's befuddlement echoed his own thoughts.
"Of course, did you think wishes came free of charge?" he scoffed, rather matter-of-factly, as if it were the most apparent verity in the world. Judging from his expressions, it might as well have been.
Needless to say, Antioch took this as an insult, his face swelling a livid red.
"What price? The price you earned will be your release."
However, Ignotus examined with scrutiny - with a sharp scrutiny. The man had his hands clasped afore his chest, without the thick fibres of any rope in sight. Backtracking, his eyebrows nearly shot off like the captain of the Appleby Arrows on his Quidditch broom.
None of them had so much as twitched their wands since the rope-binding spell had been cast. Yet the wish-granter had dug out Antioch's wand from the box with unbound hands.
The foreboding feeling nagging at the back of his mind now inflated into a disquieting unease.
Ignoring Antioch's outburst, the wish-granter continued in a serious tone, "the three of you will never meet again; even if you search fervently, nor even with the aid of magic. Death will claim two of you before your time. You reap what you sow."
Languidly, he glanced pointedly at each brother, so unperturbed that Ignotus did not dare doubt such degree of magic would be beyond this anonymity before him.
"Isn't that overcharging?" There was a displeased, even indignant pitch in Cadmus' voice.
"Of course not,"
Ignotus' apprehension grew tenfold.
He furthered his rejoinder, "the price is completely equal."
And as Antioch moved to send a deleterious spell towards him with his newly acquired wand, the wish-granter disappeared, the smirk seemingly the last to go as the crimson spell hit nothing but air.
"After all, these items will return to me, one day."
First try at this crossover. A bit of a prelude of sorts to a multi-chapter fanfiction I plan to write. Thus, I added that teaser at the end. This one-shot was rather shabby, but that's not entirely unexpected seeing as I haven't written for over a year. (Despair)
But, leave a review? (Please?)