Watanuki set the tray carefully on the table in the porch. He had not spilled one drop of tea from any of the three cups, he wasn't about to start now.
Today was an especially bad day outside the shop; the spirits were so thick outside the gate that they blocked out the sun. It had been years since he'd seen Tokyo, but he could usually still see the sky. Within, the sun shone as Himawari picked up her cup.
"He'll be fine," she said.
"I know that." Watanuki sat in the chair next to hers. "I'm not worrying."
"No, of course not." She finished her tea.
Outside the shadows roiled and raged like storm clouds at sea. Times like these, he didn't know which decision was worse, that he and Himawari stayed together in the shop or that Doumeki interacted with the outside world for them. Every time he wondered: would Doumeki come back, this time?
He always had, every time. So far.
Yet the alternative to Himawari's curse and his own being in the same place was far worse: there would be in Tokyo two nexuses of supernatural energy, two beacons for spirits, one all-encompassing, one solely negative. Together, and together in the shop, they didn't balance out, but they were contained. If spirits gathered here, they gathered not elsewhere.
And in this alternate world, they would be parted and perhaps that was the greater tragedy.
There was a sound like a crash of thunder.
"There," Himawari said. With a smile, she added, "You see? Our conquering hero returns."
Doumeki had spirit goo in his hair -- it was really bad out there if there was goo. Sometimes Watanuki wondered what Tokyo looked like these days, but it was best not to think of that.
"Your tea's cold," Watanuki said.
"Tastes better that way." Doumeki grabbed Watanuki's cup off the tray.
Ten years ago Watanuki might have been offended. These days he still was, but he knew that was exactly what Doumeki wanted and refuse to give him the satisfaction.
"Drink your own tea!" Well. It was a work in progress.
Doumeki huffed, but let Watanuki grab his cup back. His empty cup. The nerve!
He punched Doumeki in the shoulder, making sure to make a sound. Himawari laughed. Her laugh cut short. Both the men stopped playing it up for her enjoyment. She got up and walked to the edge of the front yard. She reached out and stopped her hand a bare breath before the threshold. Doumeki was by her side faster than Watanuki, but Watanuki was the one to pull back her hand.
"How is Tokyo?" Himawari asked. It wasn't as if stepping outside the shop would have told her that. Her sight was still somewhere in the backroom; it had been the last deal Yuuko had made.
"Tokyo is Tokyo," Doumeki said. "It lives and breathes and exists in the world."
It was what Doumeki always said. Every time it sounded a little more like a lie.
"I suppose," Himawari said and stepped away from the gate. She turned to Doumeki. "You must be tired."
"I am. Watanuki can deal with my things," Doumeki said. He handed Watanuki said things, starting with his bow.
"Watanuki cannot!" He let everything fall, except the bow. Magical weapons were precious, especially these days.
Himawari laughed again. She'd laughed more in the past ten minutes than in the past ten months. Unlike Watanuki, she could theoretically leave the shop -- it was simply the practicality that was an issue.
Was she feeling well?
It was then that someone stepped through the gate. She was wearing what Watanuki could only assume was very elaborate cosplay, long leather coat and archaic goggles, all covered in a faint dusting of desert sand. Or perhaps she came from one of the other Tokyos the shop sometimes opened into.
Wherever she came from and whatever she was wearing, she was a costumer. She needed the shop, then, and had a wish to make.
Watanuki handed the bow back to Doumeki. Doumeki took it, his other hand resting near his quiver. Himawari stepped forward and pulled the costumer into a hug. The costumer made one of the most hilarious and dramatic faces Watanuki had ever seen at the contact. Himawari moved back.
"Welcome to the Wishing Shop!" Himawari smiled.
The costumer seemed to nice she was blind for the first time. "Yes. Hello."
"What do you wish for?" Watanuki asked. He had to ask. That was how it went. People came to the shop, they got their wish and the shop continued to exist, as long as it was needed.
She told him. It was an exceptionally pointed request. Quite frankly, Watanuki almost felt offended by how blunt it was, there was no place for anything poetic of any sort, neither justice nor irony nor anything else, in him fulfilling her wish.
As Maru and Moro went about fetching what was needed from the storeroom, Himawari spoke with the costumer.
"It used to be mine, you know." Himawari patted the costumer's hand.
The costumer, who was sitting next to her, asked, "What used to be yours?"
"The sight you're about to be given. It used to be mine."
The costumer drew back her hand. "That's nice?"
Himawari laughed again. "Not really. But you need a second sight and now you shall have it."
"Right." The costumer looked to Doumeki for help, but he studiously ignored her as he went through his arrows.
Maru and Moro returned -- without Mokona, always without Mokona now, but that didn't stop Watanuki from expecting Mokona to be there -- and the costumer was given her second sight.
She left, coat fluttering in the wind, and fled across the desert.
Once she was gone from sight entirely, which did not take long for Watanuki with the spirits blocking his view, but took longer for Doumeki, Himawari folded her hands in her lap. It was her 'I wish to have a serious conversation' pose.
"I love you," she said.
"Are you talking to me or to him?" Doumeki asked.
"Both of you. I love both of you."
"I love you too!" Watanuki said. His inner teenager was far more excited about this than he was. Why was this?
"Why are you saying this now?" Doumeki's face was unreadable. Ah. Yes. That was why.
"I've just sold my sight to a woman from a broken world. I think I'm past worrying about propriety," she replied.
"True," Doumeki said. "I care about both of you, unlikely as that is."
They both looked at Watanuki. He draped himself in his dignity. "It seems I'm outvoted. And in my own home!"