People called Kaneki many things. Some of his more grateful clients called him a miracle worker or simply a good man. Others, who either did not understand his craft, or ran into the dark manifestations of it, called him a demon (or some variation). Kaneki himself preferred to be called a sorcerer or wizard. There could be some neutral ground found with names like those.
However, out of all the names Kaneki had been called, he never expected to be called ‘magical cutie’.
Kaneki’s newest client was a man around his age who unfortunately happened to be the victim of a love potion. Kaneki considered love potions off limits in his practice. He hated the thought of someone being forced to love another. Not to mention, when the potions were made by someone inexperienced, they either had ill side-effects, or didn’t work properly at all.
This was the case for Kaneki’s client – Nagachika Hideyoshi. He was most certainly the case of a failed love potion. His request was sent to Kaneki through the mail a couple days earlier, explaining his symptoms. Although his letter was nearly incoherent and rambling at times – it certainly got the message across. Nagachika seemed to be experiencing bouts of uncontrollable affection. Included in the letter was a paragraph where Nagachika got off topic because he was distracted by how pretty the leaves were on the tree outside his window.
That was what brought Kaneki to Nagachika’s residence, a small house that was just out of town and beside a river. It was modest and well kept – a small garden outside that contained a few vegetable plants.
Nagachika himself was a good-looking man, with a mop of blonde hair that was brown at the roots, large brown eyes that crinkled with his wide smile and with skin that was tanned (and slightly burnt) from the sun.
After bluntly calling Kaneki the ‘magical cutie’ Nagachika visibly cringed and apologized profusely. Seconds later, he had a strange fixation with the button on the collar of Kaneki’s jacket, claiming it was so small and so cute and so adorable.
Kaneki took it in stride as he stepped into Nagachika’s house, grateful to see that the fallout from the failed potion hadn’t caused Nagachika to lose control of his life completely. The place was still relatively clean and Kaneki could smell that food had been cooked recently.
Nagachika led Kaneki over to a small table he had set close to the floor and took a seat on a dark cushion. “So how does this whole thing work? Can you cure me? And if you can, then how? This is getting ridiculous. I can’t keep living like this and – I don’t know – fixating on random things every few minutes.”
Kaneki sighed. “I’m going to need to conduct a body scan – don’t worry, it’s nothing intrusive. What will happen is I’ll put my hands over your chest. You’ll notice they’ll be glowing, but don’t worry about that, it’s normal. This way, I’ll be able to sense what type of magic is at work.”
Nagachika made a contemplative face. “How will you be able to tell?”
Kaneki smiled at his genuine curiosity. “All sorcerers have magic. This magic starts out in a raw form with no effect whatsoever. However, certain ingredients can be used to change the magic’s capabilities. In a way, these help to direct the magic and make it do what the user wants.” Eventually, if the user is familiar enough with the recipe they can command the magic without ingredients. The ingredients simply acted as guide. “Using my magic in its raw form, I’ll be able to bring it into contact with the magic that was used on you and determine what it is doing to you. That way, I’ll be able to make a potion to counter its effects and return you to normal.”
Nagachika blinked at him. “Seriously? Just like that?”
Kaneki nodded. “I brought a number of ingredients with me. They’re what I’ve most commonly used to counter the effects of these types of potions. However, if I need something I don’t have, I’ll either have to head back to my home and retrieve it, or go out and collect it. The former will take a few hours, while the latter may take weeks depending on how rare the ingredient is to obtain.”
Nagachika fidgeted with the hem of his shirt. “So, should I lay down then? Is here okay, or do you need to go somewhere else to do your magic-hand thing?”
“Here is fine. It shouldn’t take too long.” Kaneki knelt beside Nagachika and waited for him to lay down. Nagachika grumbled about his uneven floor, then watched transfixed as Kaneki’s hands glowed slightly as he gathered magic in his hands.
“Feels weird,” Nagachika murmured when Kaneki pressed his palms to his chest.
“But it’s really pretty. Has anyone ever told you that? It’s kind of like a pinkish-purple and I don’t know how, but that totally suits you. Cuz, you know, you’re really pretty too.” Nagachika squeezed his eyes shut. “Oh my god. Why can’t I shut up.”
Kaneki laughed a little. “It’s okay. I understand. It’s not my first time dealing with stuff like this. And no… no one has ever told me that before.”
“They should. And you –“ Nagachika slapped both hands over his mouth.
Kaneki shook his head at him. “I’m almost done. Try not to move around too much more.”
Nagachika remained still, hands clamped tightly over his mouth. When Kaneki moved back, Nagachika sat up, but kept his hands over his face, his eyes wide.
“Well, the good news is that I have all the ingredients I need to cure you. Do you have somewhere I can heat water?”
Nagachika nodded and gestured for Kaneki to follow him. There was a small hearth in the main room of the house with some wood stacked beside it. Nagachika started making the fire. However, the moment he uncovered his mouth, words started to stream out of it.
“We should go on a date. I mean – I like men. Do you like men? I really like men. Men are great. And you’re a really cute man. And I hope you think I’m cute, because you’re really sweet and you have a nice voice and your hair is really, really white and fluffy and oh my god don't cure me, just let me die. Fuck."
Kaneki couldn’t keep himself from flushing a little. “It – uh – it shouldn’t take long for me to brew the potion. Why don’t you just – uh…”
Nagachika nodded quickly and covered his mouth again, moving away from the hearth so that Kaneki could finish making the fire. That wasn’t exactly what Kaneki was going to say, but it worked. Kaneki hastily retrieved a small pot and some pure water from his satchel and put it over the fire to boil. While he did that, he also got out the necessary ingredients and ground them together in a mortar and pestle. Nagachika watched him the whole time, hands folded over his mouth.
When the water was boiling, Kaneki added the ingredients. Then came the hard part. Kaneki forced magic into the mixture. To little or to much would cause unwanted side effects or mess with the potion’s success in curing Nagachika. It only took a couple minutes, but afterwards Kaneki had sweat on his brow from concentrating.
“Do you have cup you can put it in?” Kaneki asked.
Nagachika nodded and ran off, returning with a cup and holding it out for Kaneki to pour the potion into. After waiting a while for it to cool, Nagachika downed the mixture.
“The effects should be immediate,” Kaneki murmured, starting to put his belongings away.
Nagachika cleared his throat and rubbed his chest, then spoke tentatively. “And what about the payment. I know you wrote that we would discuss payment when you got here…”
Kaneki shook his head. “There’s no payment necessary. I don’t charge victims.”
“Oh.” Nagachika shifted uncomfortably. “But you came all the way here… and you helped me, so…”
Kaneki smiled. “Are you feeling better?”
“I think?” Nagachika blinked. “Now that it’s gone, I kind of feel like my head was fuzzy and that I was looking at everything through a fog. But, that’s gone now. And I currently have no urge to talk about how much I love everything.”
“Then I suppose my work here is done.” Kaneki closed up his satchel. “If you have anymore issues, don’t hesitate to send another letter.”
Nagachika muttered something to himself. It sounded suspiciously like ‘fuck it’. He cleared his throat. “You know, I already humiliated myself plenty earlier, so I guess I might as well just spit it out.”
Kaneki paused on his way to the door, glancing back at Nagachika.
Nagachika was flushing, rubbing the back of his head. “The offer is still open. The date, I mean?”
Kaneki turned to face him. “You’re not just offering because you think you owe me something?”
Nagachika was flabbergasted. “No, I’m offering because – damn it – I already said it. Don’t make me embarrass myself again!”
Kaneki’s lips quirked. “Does this have to do with me being a magical cutie?”
Kaneki pursed his lips. “Okay.”
“Yeah, okay.” Kaneki smiled to himself, feeling his flush spread across his cheeks.
A grin split across Nagachika’s face. “Then, I guess you can call me Hide.”