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The Five Stages of Grief

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Denial

 

Watanuki Kimihiro doesn’t sense Doumeki’s death until he feels his presence fading away. The sake cup in his hand cracks, it’s a blue floral pattern, a gift from Shizuka and Himawari.

 

Already having come to terms with Yuuko’s passing, Doumeki’s death is something Kimihiro least expects. He expected Doumeki to die later, that man was stubborn and had stuck to him like glue with his constant visits, and later despite his ailing age. His former rival and long time best friend was somewhat a thorn at his side when he used to compete for Himawari’s affections. Back then, when Kimihiro loved Himawari, though he still loved her now even as he loved Yuuko and promised to wait for her when she reincarnated. It had taken months during their adventures for Watanuki to realize Doumeki had no desire to pursue Himawari. 

 

It didn’t change how irritating that man could be with his stoic and aloof attitude. The knowledge of Doumeki and Kohane marrying didn't come as a surprise to him, much like how Himawari is marrying someone else instead of him.

 

“He proposed to me today. Our wedding will be held this spring,” Himawari’s voice rings through his landline. He can hear how happy she is, even with the fondness and faint sadness swirling inside of Kimihiro. He is satisfied with Himawari for finding someone to love her for who she is, and that her bad luck doesn’t seem to affect her groom to be. Kimihiro had seen Himawari’s groom in his dreams. He can honestly admit that he is surprised to know he has an abundance of good luck to counter her bad luck.

 

“Will you be coming to our wedding? I miss the days we used to hang out, and I would like to introduce you to my fiance,” Himawari inquires, and Kimihiro feels regret that he’ll have to turn down her offer of meeting up again, but he can’t leave the store. Not when there might be potential customers that come in on that day.

 

“I can’t leave the shop-“ Kimihiro says with regret, and he hears Himawari’s exasperated fond sigh through the receiver.

 

“-you might have customers coming in at that time, I know,” Himawari says. Her sweet voice rings into his ear. Kimihiro intakes a breath, and an apology is on his lips when Himawari speaks.

 

“It’s not your fault,” Himawari assures him. “We know that your job is important and that you want to wait for Yuuko-san to come back,” Himawari says, and Kimihiro feels his shoulders sag. He doesn’t know why the weight is there, but he wants to make it up to Himawari.

 

“I’ll make something for you and your fiance. Can you describe what he and you like?” Kimihiro offers and Himawari makes a surprised noise from her throat. He can hear her smile through his landline.

 

“Thank you, Watanuki-kun!” Himawari chirps through the phone and perhaps, once upon a time, his heart would have fluttered from her gratitude. Now, it’s filled with fondness as he begins to write down the flavour of food that Himawari and her fiance like. His mind searches for the perfect recipe he can think to go and make for the soon to be wedded couple. A fond smile spreads across his lips. He’s glad that Himawari is happy.

 

The news of Doumeki’s death didn’t come from Kohane or from Himawari and her family. It came from Doumeki’s oldest son, Rei.

 

“Hello, Watanuki-san? My name is Doumeki Rei, and I would like to inform you of my father’s passing. He passed an hour ago,” Kimihiro’s hand feels numb as he holds the telephone receiver to his ear.

 

“How did he die?” Kimihiro asks, and maybe it’s the sound of his voice that prompts Rei to answer.

 

“He died peacefully. He was too stubborn to die, but all of us knew that he'd leave soon. It’s more of a feeling,” Rei says. He had more of his mother’s, Kohane’s , calm and gentle voice in comparison to Doumeki’s aloof voice that quickly set off his temper.

 

“Oh,” Kimihiro says. The word feels bland, tasteless, and in the blue yukata and black ravens, Kimihiro still feels something missing inside of him.

 

“I know my parents said you couldn’t attend their wedding and other events, but we would like to know if you could attend my father’s funeral?” Rei asks, and Kimihiro swallows slowly. He isn’t ready, ready to step out of the shop where he might forget Yuuko even existed.

 

“I’m afraid I can’t,” Kimihiro says, and Rei pauses before letting out a sigh. A sigh that feels heavy, with an added weight, to Kimihiro’s shoulders.

 

“I understand. Father often said, you are waiting for your special person to come back to you.” Kimihiro intakes a breath, his mismatched eyes widen at Rei’s words. He’s surprised that Doumeki would talk about him to his family, even with the knowledge he couldn’t leave the shop. Doumeki visited him as often as he could despite having a busy schedule as a Folklore professor and a family man.

 

“I’m sorry.” Kimihiro means it, with honesty laced in his voice. 

 

It’s not Rei’s voice that takes him by surprise. It is Kohane’s. “I know. Until then, we will try and visit you whenever our time ends.” Kohane's words ease the turmoil in Kimihiro’s heart, only by a minuscule. After they say their goodbyes, Kimihiro closes the shop. He walks to the bedroom on the floor above the shop. He feels Maru, Moru, Larg and Miugetsu looking at him worriedly before they follow after him. On the bed, behind the transparent silk curtains, and piled under magical beings, Kimihiro places his spectacles on the nightstand and closes his eyes. Rubbing his eyelids, Kimihiro takes a shuddering breath, his throat hot, but he doesn’t dare to grieve yet.

 

Shizuka Doumeki, the man that seemed unfazed by the threats they faced during the time when Kimihiro was the shopkeeper assistant and as the shopkeeper of this very shop, died peacefully tonight.

 

It doesn’t explain the hollow feeling in his heart or the denial that is mixed into it.


Anger

 

It is exactly five days after the funeral proceeding held in March for Doumeki, that Kimihiro gets to see Doumeki through a dream. Actually, the most likely case is that the man visits him through a dream, and Kimihiro guesses that it is Haruka that leads Doumeki to him.

 

He takes a seat next to Doumeki, who looks like he used to when they were sixteen. Free of wrinkles, moles, and sunspots. This Doumeki was from when they were sixteen before Kimihiro dropped out of high school at seventeen. Before Yuuko died on that day.

 

“I would ask how you came here, but I already have a feeling that it must be Haruka that showed you the way.” Doumeki’s gold eyes look at him, he leans back on the porch in a white yukata with bluebird patterns.

 

“Yeah, Grandpa showed which way I should go,” Doumeki says, and Kimihiro curls his hands into his lap. The black yukata contrasts with the white yukata that Doumeki wears.

 

“Shouldn’t you be on your way? Your family misses you. A spirit should not stay long in the mortal plane,” Kimihiro says, and Doumeki looks at him, tilts his head to the side and hums.

 

“It’s strange, you only called Himawari, Kohane, Yuuko, and Grandpa their first name, and yet you don’t call me by my first name,” Doumeki points out, and Kimihiro looks at him incredulously. His temper flares.

 

“I’m urging you to move on, and all you do is point out the obvious?!” Kimihiro shouts at Doumeki and Doumeki raises an eyebrow.

 

“Yes,” Doumeki answers. The former folklore professor hums as he observes Kimihiro. “You also haven’t been sleeping well,” Doumeki notes, and Kimihiro feels heat rising onto his face. A curl of indignation rests in his belly.

 

“Me sleeping shouldn’t even matter to you! You should have moved on and been happy with Kohane-chan instead of visiting me every time you had free time!” Kimihiro shouts, and Doumeki snorts at him.

 

“Kohane understood, and whatever we share between us is what only we know,” Doumeki says finally, leaving room for no argument. Kimihiro grinds his teeth, why couldn’t this stubborn mule understand it would have been alright to leave him alone?! That he had a family he should look after instead of him. It’s almost too easy to feel the anger rising in him.

 

“Rei-kun called me a month ago and said you died peacefully. Why did you still visit when you could have rested?!” Kimihiro asks, and Doumeki blinks at him. Kimihiro can see the surprise in Doumeki’s gold eyes as he frowns and sighs.

 

“The answer should be pretty obvious to you by now. Even Kohane knew,” Doumeki murmurs softly. He pats Kimihiro on the shoulder, the surprise in his gold eyes is gone before it’s overlapped by amusement colouring his eyes.

 

“You should wake up now. Grandpa told me you have a big day today.” Doumeki murmurs, and he pushes Kimihiro out of the dream, forcing Kimihiro to wake up. An angry groan leaves the shopkeeper’s lips. That infuriating man had driven him out of the dream. His personality and attitude didn’t change either, always liking to do whatever he wants! It grates on Kimihiro's nerves. Closing his mismatched eyes, Kimihiro tries to think of a way to get Doumeki to pass on.

 

Kimihiro ignores the warmth in his chest. He can figure that out later once he fixes the current problem.


Depression

 

Doumeki doesn’t show up on the second day after he appears in his dream. He doesn’t show up the following day, the one after that, or the next day after that. It takes two weeks before he makes an appearance, and with him is Kohane .

 

Kimihiro sucks in a breath, pale, as Kohane strolls to him. The butterfly kimono she had borrowed is draped over her form, she reaches around and wraps her arms around his waist, pulling Kimihiro into a hug, and Kimihiro’s mismatched eyes of blue and gold widen. 

 

“I finally get to see you again. Even when I couldn’t come to the shop anymore,” Kohane whispers into his ear, her face buried into his neck, but his hands are shaking. They tremble as he wraps his arms around her, pulling her flush against him. His face buried into her blonde hair. She smells floral like the last time he had embraced her.

 

“I’m sorry. I didn’t--I hadn’t-“ Kohane pulls away slightly from the hug, presses two fingers against his lips and halts any more words from coming out.

 

“We know , and none of us blame you.” Kohane murmurs. She caresses his cheek, her thumb glides over his skin. “You haven’t aged a bit.”

 

“I think I have, but...” Kimihiro trails off, but even then, Kohane understands.

 

“Don’t forget that there are people who love you as you . That they wish for you to be happy.” Kohane says with a serene smile, and Kimihiro blinks at her before chuckling a bit.

 

“How is it you are always wise?” Kimihiro asks curiously. Kohane blinks at him, her teal eyes looking at him. Searching before she giggles.

 

“That’s what Shizuka-kun wanted to say.” Kohane’s words surprise Kimihiro. His mismatched eyes look at Doumeki. Doumeki cants his head to the side, his gold eyes imploring at him. Speaking of which, Doumeki doesn’t seem affected by him hugging his wife.

 

“Are you telling me that this idiot was the one that told you to say those words?” Kimihiro asks bewilderedly and Kohane giggles. Her husband rolls his eyes, walks over and gently pats Kohane’s hair. It surprises Kimihiro how Kohane leans into Doumeki’s gentle pats.

 

“Someone needed to tell an idiot like you to take a break,” Doumeki says as Kimihiro feels a reflex of snapping back and tries to reign it in.

 

“Who’re you calling idiot, idiot?!” On second thought, he can’t restrain the reflex. A strange feeling curls in his stomach, Kimihiro brushes it off and with a yelp of pain when Doumeki flicks his forehead with his finger.

 

“That same idiot who used to forget to care for himself,” Doumeki says offhandedly. A fond tone in his voice, but even the words sound heavy to Kimihiro. 

 

Kimihiro feels a pull and all too familiar one.

 

He wants to stay asleep, to continue talking to Kohane and Doumeki. Kohane lets go of Kimihiro, and Doumeki lightly raps Kimihiro’s head.

 

“No matter how much you may wait, the world doesn’t wait for you. Time, on the other hand, will,” Doumeki says gently, and Kimihiro’s eyes widen. He can see Doumeki’s gold eyes, the softness in them.

 

Then he wakes up, surrounded by Maru, Moru, Mugetsu, and Larg.

 

Yet, even with the spirits and humans alike as his customers, and with his companions. Kimihiro can't shake off the feeling of being alone.

 

It doesn’t help the next day when Rei comes to his shop and offers to help around after work.

 

The feeling keeps growing until Rei notices and sets him down to speak with him about his parents.

 

Rei, with brown hair tied in a loose ponytail, and gold eyes. His blue dress shirt and black slacks. The fifty-year-old reaches over and wraps his arms around Kimihiro. Kimihiro’s eyes widen, surprised at the sudden gesture.

 

“You were crying,” Rei’s voice drifts into his ears, and Kimihiro sucks in a breath. Kimihiro didn’t feel the tears until Rei mentioned them.

 

“No one is going to see you. No one will judge you if you let it out now.” Rei says soothingly, and Kimihiro’s breath shudders. He drops his head into Rei’s pristine shirt, grips it in his hands and cries.

 

He misses them terribly. Yuuko, Kohane, Himawari, and Shizuka.


Bargaining

 

It’s been five months since Rei’s employment in the shop, and neither Shizuka or Kohane had visited Kimihiro. Kimihiro doesn’t blame them other than feeling relieved that they are happy in the afterlife.

 

Despite Rei being able to come and go in the shop, the eldest of the Doumeki family, he couldn’t exorcise a spirit.

 

He doesn’t have powers that concern exorcising spirits or repelling them. While he may carry the blood of his parents through his veins, he can't see them.

 

Kimihiro regrets that his mind starts comparing him to his father. While Rei is like his mother, Shizuka , on the other hand, knew the danger and could see them. He doesn’t want to put that burden on their son. Still, his mind can’t stop bargaining with the thought of seeing Kohane there and wanting the consistency of Shizuka being there instead of his ashes buried with the soil.

 

Kimihiro swirls his sake cup as he listens to Kohane-Rei’s humming. It isn’t fair that he’s comparing. Still, humans aren’t known to be perfect. Kimihiro knows he isn’t a saint when he oversees the shop, granting wishes to people and spirits that could pose a threat to others. Like that one time, a small girl with violet eyes who wished for the nightmares she dreamt of to end. Not noticing the regret of a guardian spirit with green eyes standing a few meters away from her. 

 

He had seen those two often. Sometimes those two souls are together, apart, one of them running away from the other, and vice versa. Yet, it doesn’t stop those two souls from being together or connected by a thread of destiny.

 

Just like how he, Yuuko, Himawari, Kohane and Shizuka are fated to be connected in every universe.

 

“I’m boring you, aren’t I?” Rei asks with a curious frown on his face while they have a conversation at the back patio. His words cut through Kimihiro’s thoughts, and Kimihiro shakes his head.

 

“I’m sorry. I guess my thoughts were somewhere else,” Kimihiro says apologetically with a slight smile on his face. Rei hums before smiling wryly.

 

“I make a poor replacement for my father, right?” Kimihiro opens his mouth to protest those lighthearted words when Rei waves him off with an understanding smile.

 

“Don’t blame yourself for it,” Rei says with a soft chuckle. “Dad talked about you too.” Kimihiro's eyes widen at hearing those words. He swallows and stares at Rei, puzzled but surprised that Shizuka would talk about him.

 

“He told you about me?” Kimihiro asks, breathless from the revelation. Rei nods.

 

“Yeah, he told me how you and Ichihara-san were close. How you used to have a crush on grandmother Himawari. How you cook delicious food and how you are an idiot who always risked your life for others without the care for yourself.” Rei says, and Kimihiro feels his eyebrow twitch.

 

“Oh, is that so?” Kimihiro asks as he poofs out the tobacco from his pipe.

 

“He also said that you are one special person, and even though he loved our mother, whenever he talked about you, he always had a smile on his face as if he was reliving those times through memories.” Kimihiro’s breath catches in his throat, his eyes widen at Rei’s words. Astounded that someone like Shizuka had kind words about him. His heart pounds, and it skips a beat before sinking.

 

“Why didn’t he say that?” Kimihiro asks, and Rei hums. The blond haired man stuffs his hand into his pocket, cants his head to the side.

 

“He didn’t want you to worry. In his own way, that is.” Rei’s words feel as if a ton and another ton drop into his stomach. “He also said you were waiting for her to come back, so he didn’t want to add another thing to your plate.” Kimihiro lets out a shaky breath, grits his teeth, and feels his eyes clouding from wetness behind his glasses.

 

“That idiot.” Kimihiro is surprised that his voice is stable. He didn’t question his mind when it’s started calling Doumeki as Shizuka , but the fact remains that Shizuka had loved him in his own way.

 

He was too blind to notice it, even when it was evident in front of him.

 

Kimihiro wasn’t surprised that Rei resigned in the next month with a smile, telling him that his first son will take over his duties since he’s more fit for it than he could be.

 

Kimihiro had been hesitant but understood that it was for the best. Rei could get hurt if he were to be sent on those dangerous errands he and Shizuka had taken since they were teens.

 

That night Kohane came to him in a dream with a message and a smile on her face.

 

“Shizuka-kun said he’ll see you soon,” Kohane says serenely, and Kimihiro wakes up. His heart pounds. He remembers the dream, but doesn’t dare believe it.

 

It takes precisely seventeen years later and the resignation of Doumeki Ryuuji. A 29-year-old, with a stoic face and warm teal eyes and raven hair, Kimihiro can feel the vast power from Ryuuji. Then a teen named Doumeki Sayaka shows up.

 


Acceptance

 

Kimihiro sucks in a breath after a week when he feels a presence entering through the gate. It’s a presence he hasn’t felt in years . Kimihiro hurries to the front door and opens, surprised by a bland face. Raven hair, gold eyes, in a familiar uniform he hadn’t worn since years ago. The boy looks at him with a dull look, his eyebrow raised. In his hand is a paper, the other a school bag.

 

“Is this the shop that grants wishes?” The boy asks, and Kimihiro feels a twitch from his eyebrow. Kimihiro wonders why every person that looks like Shizuka , except for Haruka of course, is blatantly rude.

 

“Yes, this is the shop that grants wishes. Please come in, and don’t forget to take off your shoes,” Kimihiro says irritatedly. The boy’s eyes glance at him, and he nods. He enters the shop after taking off his shoes, his gold eyes looking at the ornaments and the pale walls.

 

“Nothing seems to change.” Kimihiro stiffens and looks at the boy so quickly that he almost has whiplash. ‘ No way, why would he?’

 

“At least, according to dad.” The boy says as he looks at the walls, and Kimihiro’s heart falls.

 

“Rei-san told you about me?” Kimihiro asks. Brushing away the hope that appeared earlier and reluctantly leading to acceptance that the boy in front of him isn’t Shizuka

 

“Yeah. Dad and Ryuuji told me about you,” The boy says offhandedly. He follows after Kimihiro. They barely reach the consultation room when the boy speaks up and nearly puts a shock to Kimihiro’s core.

 

“Although I think you are an idiot for living in a fishbowl, dad and Ryuuji would be happy to know you are doing fine.” Kimihiro stiffens and turns around to look at the boy in surprise. Taking a breath, Kimihiro steps towards the boy looking at him more closely.

 

“What?” The boy asks him in that same bland, uncaring tone that it nearly brings up the trigger for Kimihiro’s temper if he didn't feel like a carpet had been pulled underneath him. He had brushed away that aura earlier, but he’s not going to. Not when the boy practically radiates Shizuka .

 

“Tell me, boy, what’s your name?” Kimihiro asks after finally finding his voice. The boy looks at him, raising an eyebrow before sighing.

 

“It’s Doumeki Sakaya .” Sakaya answers. Kimihiro silently swallows. Though it’s not Shizuka ’s name. Kimihiro, he is now sure, believes the boy in front of him to be Shizuka .

 

“Watanuki Kimihiro.” Kimihiro breathes. Sayaka nods.

 

“Did you cook anything yet? Dad said, you can cook Edo Ramen.” Sayaka asks curiously, and Kimihiro twitches, a familiar scowl laces his lips.

 

On second thought, Sayaka is as rude as his grandfather.

 

“What makes you think I’ve cooked?” Kimihiro counters with a scoff. Sayaka stares at him and heads for the kitchen as if already knowing where it is.

 

“What ingredients do I need to get so you can make that Edo Ramen?” Sayaka asks and ignores Kimihiro’s rhetorical question.

 

“That’s not the point!” Kimihiro shouts at Sayaka. Striding towards the teen before he could raid his kitchen.

 

This is the worst. Not only was Sayaka as blasé as Shizuka , but he is also as much as a freeloader as his grandfather.

 

In honesty, Kimihiro is relieved.

 

Shizuka had come back, reincarnated, restoring the balance that Kimihiro missed .