Today it’s Subaru. There are days like this – days where the same person is the only visitor she gets. The last time it was Watanuki – all different Watanukis but all the same. Today it is Subaru.
The first Subaru comes early in the morning, before Watanuki. He has come to Yuuko’s shop many times before, each time for the same thing. Maru and Moro welcome him in like they always do and hurry off to provide food. Subaru smiles wanly at Yuuko and seats himself. They drink tea and make pleasant conversation. Finally, Subaru folds his hands in his lap and they stop.
“Anyway, to business,” he says. Yuuko nods. “I want you to take my memories of him.”
“You know the price, Subaru-san. Or should I call you Sakurazukamori-san?” Yuuko asks, not regretting the way Subaru flinches at her words.
“Tell me the price again. Please, Yuuko-san,” he asks, ignoring her words.
“The price is Hokuto. If I take your memories of the Sakurazukamori, then I must be paid an equal price. Only your memories of Hokuto hold the same value as your memories of him,” Yuuko tells him. Subaru nods and lowers his head. As usual, he lifts his hands and slowly takes of his gloves. He turns his hands to Yuuko, showing off the marks on the backs of them.
“Take these. You can have these,” he says.
“Very well. You know what will happen, Subaru-san. They will simply return to you. They always do,” she tells him.
“A momentary relief is worth it. A few weeks without being haunted by him will be worth it,” Subaru says. Yuuko nods and the pentagrams on Subaru’s hands lift off and float in front of her. Maru and Moro each take one and hurry away to place them somewhere. Subaru stares down at his hands. He blinks up at Yuuko.
“I’ve done it again? My memories are gone,” He asks.
“Yes. I imagine I will see you again Subaru,” Yuuko nods.
“So do I. I wish I knew why I keep on doing this,” Subaru says wistfully as he stands and walks away. Yuuko watches him leave, sure that soon he will be back again, again asking for his memories of Seishirou to be taken away. Subaru’s payment was never enough, although the pentagrams were worth so very much to him. They always went back to him and when they returned to burn his hands, the memories he didn’t want would follow.
The next Subaru came shortly after. He was broken in ways the first wasn’t, had suffered things that few other Subaru’s had. He looked at Yuuko with one emerald eye and one milky white one.
“Sumeragi-san, what brings you here today?” Yuuko asks. This Subaru doesn’t have time for idle chatter.
“I wish for escape, Yuuko-san,” he says and Yuuko knows that she will not see this one again.
“There is a price,” she tells him. He stares at her with one haunted eye.
“Anything you want, I will give you,” he whispers.
“Your relationship with Seishirou and your magic. That is your price,” she says. Subaru nods and Yuuko walks him to the door. He steps across the threshold and the magic that was keeping him here dissipates. Subaru disappears. Yuuko watches, unseen, as a tall man with a golden eye walks up and stares at the spot where Subaru was. He looks up and meets her eyes. Yuuko smiles and motions lightly.
“Where is he?” Seishirou asks.
“Gone, Sakurazukamori-san. He wished for escape and I gave it to him,” Yuuko says.
“I wish him back then,” Seishirou says. Yuuko shakes her head. A spell falls around Seishirou and he stumbles, eyes suddenly struggling to remain open.
“His price was his relationship with you. When you awake, Subaru will mean nothing to you,” she tells him. An angered cry seems to escape the assassin, but then he falls asleep and is swept back home.
Neither of them will ever appear before Yuuko again.
The third Subaru is much happier than the two before. He hurries inside, chasing after Hokuto. Behind him a youth with golden eyes follows. Subaru is no more than seven and his hands are unmarked. He has not come for himself this time, but is instead led by his grandmother.
“I was told to seek you out, Dimension Witch,” she says, “for Subaru.” Yuuko smiles genuinely.
“He will be lucky in this world. Very lucky. In so many others he is struck by tragedy,” Yuuko tells her. Subaru’s grandmother frowns and motions for Subaru to pay attention. Yuuko tells Maru and Moro to distract Hokuto.
“Subaru-kun, you have a wish,” Yuuko says. Subaru nods slowly, the wisdom of a child evident in his eyes. He looks around and flushes slightly when he spots Seishirou staring at him heatedly. Yuuko leans down to him and he reaches up to whisper in her ear.
“I want Seishirou-san to love me,” he tells her. Yuuko almost laughs in delight.
“He already does, Subaru-kun. He already does,” she tells him and he smiles so widely it is almost dazzling.
“Thank you, Yuuko-san!” he says – his grandmother starts, because Yuuko has not told them her name – and then he hugs Seishirou. Seishirou jumps slightly, before wrapping his arms around the delicate Subaru.
“And you, Seishirou-kun? Do you have a wish?” Yuuko asks. Seishirou looks up at her – his face is neither the cold hearted mask of the Sakurazukamori or the smiling face of the innocent vet, but a mix of the two – as if he’s startled. But then he shakes his head.
“No, no. I don’t,” he tells her. Soon enough, the four of them start to leave.
Yuuko smiles and waves as they walk to the exit. Hokuto is clutching several swathes of brightly coloured material and babbling excitedly to her grandmother. Subaru is clinging to Seishirou’s hand and watching the older man like he makes the sun rise. Seishirou has a look on his face that Yuuko has never seen on the Seishirou from Watanuki’s world. It is an expression of love and as such, can’t be seen on the emotionless Sakurazukamori’s face.
The fourth Subaru is older than the others. He too only has one green eye and the other is again the bright gold of the Sakurazukamori. He wears ragged clothes and Yuuko can almost see the blood on his hands. He gives her a tired smile as he greets her.
“I’m going to die soon, Yuuko-sama,” he tells her. Yuuko inclines her head gracefully, acknowledging the truth of his words. “After I die there won’t be another Sakurazukamori. The rite requires my death at the hands of the one I love most.” A bitter smile appears on his aged face and his green eye looks haunted. “But as we both know, the one I love most is already dead.”
“Yes, Sakurazuka-san.” This Subaru had fled from his Sumeragi past and had taken not only the title of Sakurazukamori, but also the name of Sakurazuka. “You have a wish.”
“Of course, I do, Yuuko-sama. Don’t I always?” he laughs humourlessly. “I wish to be bound to the Sakura Barrow. I will protect it, as the last Sakurazukamori. I will protect it forever,” he murmurs. Yuuko sighs. Only the Sakurazukamori is meant to bind souls to the Sakura Barrow. As such, the price will be high.
“Your eye, Subaru. Your eye and your penance,” she says eventually. He lifts a hand to the green eye, but Yuuko shakes her head. “No. The other. Seishirou’s eye is your payment.”
“I should have known,” he whispers. Their deal done, Subaru leaves. A few days later, he will die and Yuuko will be paid with a golden eye and Subaru will be penitent for the rest of his existence, even as he protects the Sakura Barrow.
Yuuko watches him leave and motions to Maru and Moro. Mokona – who has been sleeping until just now – hops up onto her shoulder.
“I think some sake is in order, Mokona,” she says.
Thankfully the next Subaru is much happier. He has his Seishirou firmly attached to his arm – this one is the Sakurazukamori of his world, but he has lost his Bet. Not that he knows that yet, Yuuko thinks, but it is obvious to her. It is blatant in the way that his eyes cling to Subaru and the way he almost growls when Yuuko’s eyes roam over a rare smiling Subaru’s face.
She had only planned on going out for a walk and maybe pick up some sake. Instead, she has stumbled upon another Subaru.
He hasn’t noticed her yet – he is only sixteen. Seishirou has of course and his spiritual energy is snapping at her and trying to drive her away. He isn’t an idiot and can obviously tell that he would cause her little trouble if she truly wanted to attack – and to Seishirou, why wouldn’t she? He doesn’t know who she is; to him, Yuuko is a woman with extremely powerful spiritual energy who is most probably a serious threat. Yuuko decides to mess with his head.
“Why are you glaring at that woman, Sei-chan?” asks Hokuto – Yuuko blinks, realising that Hokuto has managed to sneak up on her. Hokuto doesn’t appear to realise that Yuuko can hear her... or maybe she just doesn’t care.
“Oh, just thinking Hokuto-chan,” he replies, brushing her off. They fall into conversation and start to move away from the park. Yuuko also stretches and deliberately walks right past them. She waits until she is right next to Seishirou and then she speaks.
“Good luck with your bet, Sakurazuka-san,” she whispers, just loud enough for Seishirou to hear. He spins to stare after her. She raises a hand in parting and carries on her way. She gets her sake and starts on her way back. Of course, Seishirou is predictable and stops her as she passes the park again.
“Who are you?” he asks – words she has heard before, when she stood before a Subaru she never wants to see again.
“Not an enemy, Sakurazuka-san. Perhaps not a friend either, but not an enemy of yours,” she tells him, not looking up. Mokona wisely keeps quiet.
“How do you know of the Bet?” he asks, sweeping into view. His golden eyes are menacing of course, but Yuuko has stared into those eyes before and they have been far more menacing – most of the Sakurazukamoris she has met before have not fallen in love with Subaru like this one has.
“I know of many things, Guardian of the Sakura Barrow, and your Bet is one of them. As I said, I wish you luck. Although, Seishirou-san, if I were you I would think about how you will feel if you kill Subaru-kun. Personally, I do not want to see your hands covered in his blood again, but I know as well as any how much you hate to lose. It was good to see you Seishirou-san. If you ever need a wish, please, visit me,” Yuuko tells him and then she leaves.
Behind her, Seishirou’s eyes widen imperceptibly as his heart twists at the thought of Subaru dead. He cannot deny his love for Subaru now, and Yuuko will be able to rest easy, knowing that at least one more Subaru will find happiness with his special person.
There are no happy endings for this Subaru. The sixth is broken – Yuuko knows without being told that he lost both the Bet and Hokuto, but unlike the Subaru of Watanuki’s world, Hokuto’s death only broke him further. Yuuko has been brought here by his grandmother. His emerald eyes are wide and unseeing and he lies, useless, on a small bed. It breaks Yuuko’s heart to see him like this. She nods to Lady Sumeragi and dismisses her and then she gently goes Within Subaru.
His inside world is dark and pained. He doesn’t want to live. Yuuko walks up to the small broken representation of him and gently makes him look at her.
“Are you here to make me wake up?” he asks, his voice still that of a child.
“No, Subaru-san. I’m here to grant you a wish,” she replies. Subaru thinks for a moment and then he nods.
“I wish I could die. I wish Seishirou-san would kill me,” he says. Yuuko smiles brokenly at him.
“Your price is that first you must wake, and tell your grandmother why,” Yuuko knows that it isn’t a steep price, not exactly, but then his wish isn’t hard to grant. All it will require is calling Seishirou here and Yuuko knows that he would kill what Subaru has become without a second glance. Subaru isn’t interesting anymore and that makes him as good as dead.
Yuuko sits up and Subaru wakes. He calls for his grandmother – Yuuko wishes to excuse herself when the once proud Lady Sumeragi sobs and clutches her grandson.
“Obaa-sama, Yuuko-sama is granting me my wish,” he tells her. She looks at Yuuko and waits for him to continue. “I have wished for death, Obaa-sama. I have wished for death at the hands of my special person. He’ll be here soon, won’t he Yuuko-sama?”
“Yes, Subaru-san. Sakurazuka-san will arrive soon.” Yuuko stands and opens the doors in readiness. Lady Sumeragi sobs harder and begs Subaru to stop it. But he will not. Then there he is, Seishirou with his golden eye. He glances at Yuuko but knows not to harm her – not to even try – and approaches Subaru.
“Was it you who called me Subaru-kun?” he asks, his voice like that of the vet’s. Subaru pushes his grandmother away and he faces Seishirou. He lowers his head, almost bowing before he speaks again.
“I love you, Seishirou-san. And I want you to kill me,” Subaru says. Yuuko almost looks away, but she is too late and Subaru is dead in a swirl of sakura and Seishirou’s hand through his chest.
“I have granted your wish, Subaru-kun. Both of them, though you will not know it,” she whispers. Seishirou stares at Subaru’s face and slowly realisation comes upon him. He looks like he cannot believe what he has done and it breaks him. Yuuko leaves, unable to help, unable to hinder and unable to undo Subaru’s second wish.
He wished that Seishirou would love him... and the price was Subaru’s death.
Finally, Watanuki is at the store. He is being himself and Yuuko is able to pretend that she hasn’t had such a draining day. She orders him to make something really complicated – she isn’t listening to herself, and it will be delicious whatever it is – and drinks a couple of bottles of sake. Abruptly she stops. Maru and Moro have also stopped and their eyes have gone blank. Yuuko waits and eventually Watanuki, sensing the unusual atmosphere, appears. Mokona is clinging to his shoulder.
“What is it?” Watanuki asks. Sakura blooms in the centre of the room and two figures appear out of it. It is somewhat like Syaoran and Sakura, although this sakura is far more sinister. A gold eyed man crouches before her, cradling the still form of Subaru.
“The Sakurazukamori. I have been waiting for you,” Yuuko says. This will be the final visit of the day, she hopes.
“Save him. I know you can, so save him,” Seishirou says simply. Yes, it is too like Syaoran and Sakura.
“His name?” she asks, though it is merely a formality.
“Sumeragi Subaru,” he says bitterly. Yuuko wonders what has happened to him to make him resent the Sumeragi so much.
“You wish to save him?” she asks and Seishirou nods sharply. “There is a price. Are you still willing?” The echoes of her conversation with Syaoran play in her mind and she can only hope that this turns out as well.
“I will pay any price,” Seishirou hisses. His golden eyes flash furiously. It seems that this Seishirou learnt of love and emotions too late to save Subaru.
“His soul is already bound to the Sakura Barrow. It is bound there by your will, Sakurazuka-san.”
“Anything, just save him,” he growls and Yuuko relents slightly.
“For such a wish you will need to pay with the thing you value most,” Yuuko tells him.
“I have told you, I will pay anything.”
“I haven’t told you your price yet, Sakurazuka-san,” Yuuko says, smiling. “You value your connection to Subaru-san above all else. When Subaru’s soul returns to him and he lives again, that will be gone. Any connection you once had will be removed. He won’t remember you, Sakurazuka-san. That is your price.”
“I will pay it,” Seishirou doesn’t even think – a symbol of his love for Subaru. But this too is like Syaoran, paying with a relationship. Of course, she will also remove the markings on Subaru’s hands and the brand on Seishirou’s soul that he doesn’t even know he has. Every connection will be dissolved, every sign that the pair even knew each other will be lost to the four winds... except Seishirou’s memories. That will be part of his payment – a punishment for himself, for being unable to protect Subaru.
The deal done, Yuuko lets power grip her and she brings Subaru back, guiding his soul into his waiting body and subtly removing the figure and shadow of Seishirou that has plagued him all his life. Subaru opens his eyes and looks up at Seishirou.
“Who are you?” he asks and Yuuko is the only one who notices the tiny way Seishirou’s face falls. Then the sakura rise and the pair are swept away.
“Who were they?” Watanuki asks.
“They were people from another world, like Syaoran-kun and Sakura-chan. I doubt we will see them again,” Yuuko says. Maru and Moro resume their playing and Watanuki retreats to the kitchen. Yuuko is left with her thoughts.
The Sakura Barrow is powerful, she had never doubted that. But that it had the power to send two people and retrieve two people from another world? It must have been a very strong line of Sakurazukamori in that world, to have a Sakura Barrow as powerful as that.
Yuuko sends Watanuki home eventually. Regretfully, another Subaru does appear. This is the one she is most familiar with. He is the one of this world, Watanuki’s world, and he bears both the mantle of Thirteenth Head of the Sumeragi family and also that of Sakurazukamori. One of his eyes is green, the other gold. Yuuko dislikes him on principle, but she knows that his work is vital. She used to like him, once, before 1999, but then he became a Dragon of Heaven and eventually the Sakurazukamori.
“Hello, Yuuko-sama,” he says. His green eye looks at her with the old Subaru’s naïveté, while the gold watches her like a predator watches prey. It is Seishirou’s eye – like one of the many gold eyes she has, hidden away in the store.
“Subaru-kun. I should have known I’d be seeing you tonight,” she welcomes him in. They sit and he smiles like he used to, but instead of comforting her, it worries her. Subaru does not often visit. Here, he can see the weight of the murders he commits.
“I sensed the Sakura Barrow here earlier, Yuuko-sama,” he says.
“Yes, you did. It was delivering me something very important. When I had dealt with it, the Sakura Barrow took it away,” Yuuko replies.
“So you saw Seishirou-san, then. And another me, I presume. Were they happy?”
“If I said they were, would you leave?”
“No. I want the truth, Yuuko-sama,” Subaru says.
“What have you brought me this time?” Yuuko counters. Subaru sighs and then he slides a marble from his pocket. It is full of swirling mist. Yuuko nods and Moro appears to put it away.
“A few more items Subaru-kun and then you will have your truth.”
The smile that graces Subaru’s face is Seishirou’s and then he leaves. Today has been too much. Yuuko picks up some sake and knocks it back. Sleep won’t come easy tonight.