(Bleach — Urahara spoilers?)
What I want to know is,” she drawls, swirling her cup, “what do I get out of it?”
Urahara puts his hands together and looks wounded. “Yuuko-chan,” he says, “when have I ever stiffed you on a payment?”
She puts her lips to the cup and looks at him, eyes narrowed just so. She looks lazy-eyed and indulgent, sprawled across her divan like a cat (and there are rumors that the Dimension Witch was the one who first taught the Shihouin family the technique of shapeshifting), her long hair and clothes arranged artistically about her. Urahara meets her look and smiles.
“Very well,” she sighs, and looks down into her cup. “In exchange, I want you to make a helper for me.”
Urahara’s smile almost slips. “Hm?”
She gives him a look and sits up a little. Even though it bares the long expanse of her white throat, there’s nothing friendly or vulnerable about her posture. “I’ll provide you the raw materials, but I need someone who’ll help maintain my shop in my absence.”
He does not blink, does not move, does not even breathe. “Yuuko-chan …”
Yuuko smiles at him again, and there’s definitely teeth in her expression. “Something like that little girl of yours,” she said. “Ah, but you don’t have to barter souls for them. The shop will provide.”
“How cold, Yuuko-chan,” he says, though he smiles still. “Couldn’t you make them yourself?”
“Of course.” She slides a hand through her hair. It slides across her white skin in a sibilant hush. “But that isn’t the point. I make something for you, you make something for me. Fair, right?”
He ducks his own head then, the abashed and embarrassed boy before his elder (and there are stories about that, too, that the whole of Seireitai was formed by the power of a wish she granted).
But he needs this body — he needs this true-form that is no different from a living human body, more flesh and blood than a regular gigai and without his own unique signiture in its making. “Fair,” he says. “And in return–”
“In return,” she says, and her blood-red lips bow upwards into a smile, “I will grant your wish.”
(D.Gray-Man — no spoilers)
“I want to understand,” the boy says.
There is blood on his hands and blood pooling under his feet. Very little of it is actually his.
“Understand?” the witch asks. She is dressed all in black, so if there is blood on her as well, it cannot be seen. She walks towards him, and the low hem of her skirt just barely avoids trailing across the ground. “What do you want to understand?”
The boy closes his hands into fists. “Why this happens,” he says. “Why — even without Akuma, why people are so …”
She looks down at him. “You want to see the reason?”
“I don’t understand,” he says, and though he is a very young boy, his voice is heavy as that of an old man. “Why, how, what’s the meaning–”
The witch puts her hand on his head. He starts, but holds himself very still.
“No one can ever really know ‘everything,'” she says. “But you can at least learn ‘something,’ and that may be enough.”
Down her fingers trail, long and thin, and they press into the tender skin just under his eye. “But there will be a price.”
The boy swallows. Behind him, a body rolls over and gurgles thinly, even though the Akuma is dead. The thought bubbles up and floats by: that perhaps he’s gone from one deal with the devil to another.
Still, there’s very little left for him to lose here, isn’t there?
He looks at the witch and into her blood-red eyes, and he says, “I don’t care.”
“I am Bookman,” the old man says. There are liver-spots on his wrinkled skin and the dark circles around his eyes make him look like a wizened, unkind panda. “I understand you’re interested in apprenticing to me.”
The boy nods slowly. His head doesn’t quite hurt, though he thinks maybe it should — he can’t remember what the witch did to his eye, only that he woke with the bandage wrapped round his head and the gut feeling that something was just gone. He fists his small hands on his knees. “Yeah.”
“Very well.” The old panda puts his hands together and narrows those mean, hawk-clever eyes. “What’s your name, then, boy? You won’t be Bookman for a long time yet, there must be something to call you.”
The boy gingerly touches the bandages over his empty eye socket.
“Ravi,” he says.