CAUTION: Contains Spoilers! Read at your own risk. The anime and characters included in this fan-fiction are under the exclusive ownership of their creators and Bandai Entertainment.
Ch. 3 – Recognition
Amon reclined on the office's couch, immersed in thought. The hunter's mood fit the darkness of the room perfectly; his arms were folded and his brow furrowed dangerously, as if to ward off anyone who would dare disturb his silent deliberation. Only the streetlamps and the occasional passing vehicle lit the room. Fleeting headlights glinted in his dark grey eyes, as if attempting to illuminate his mind with less disturbing thoughts. But the flicker in his eyes was hastily extinguished by his stubbornness to contemplate only the current situation and nothing else.
The conversation with Nagira had produced very little new information. All Amon's half-brother had been able to gather was that Seeds were vanishing and there had been a few sightings of foreign hunters in Tokyo since Factory's destruction. The exchange of intelligence had only furthered Amon's frustration. Not only was he unable to keep an iron grip on his emotions, he was being forced to ask outsiders for help. And Amon was not fond of people. There were few people that he willingly tolerated or trusted, most of whom worked for STN-J. The present circumstances would not allow him the convenience of contacting Michael. He couldn't trust those whom he had relied upon the previous day.
Even while working for Zaizen, he'd felt inclined to hunt alone. When Robin had appeared as Kate's replacement he was once again responsible to someone other than himself. Not one who was predisposed to baby-sitting fifteen-year-old craft-users, he'd shirked his new partner at every available chance. No ‘comrade's trust' again? Are you sure that isn't your fault? His internal voice mocked.
Ever since his Craft powers had emerged, Amon had been having trouble determining which thoughts were his own. His inner-world was in disarray, his thoughts a jumbled mess among those of invading, foreign voices. Yet, he was determined to handle this on his own, as he'd dealt with almost everything else in his life. Even Nagira, who had known Amon longer than anyone else, didn't know the whole truth. And Touko had never really asked it of me , he reflected. Though even if she'd asked, he probably wouldn't have told her anything either.
Touko. He hadn't thought about her for some time. It was perhaps for the best that he didn't think of her.
Their relationship had been one of silent understanding. Or that is what he told himself. No questions were ever really asked between them; it seemed to be an unspoken rule. The notion had occurred to Amon that perhaps Zaizen had sent Touko to keep tabs on him. She was, after all, his daughter. The cautious Amon had always held her arm's length. There was a well-fortified wall surrounding her emotions. Even their decision to end the relationship had been lacking in sentiment.
Why was he allowing for such thoughts to traverse his mind? Giving a firm shake of his head (as if to rid himself of that train of thought), he went back to formulating a plan of action.
Morning crawled sluggishly through Robin's bedroom window. An overcast sky tinged everything a dull grey. Days like this are made for sleeping-in , Robin mused, eyes half-opened to the dim light sneaking into the room. But there was too much to do today to lie around in bed, no matter how much she would like to remain there. So, with concerted effort, she shuffled around and got dressed.
Coffee was percolating somewhere in the office. Its scent pervaded every room of the building as Robin searched for Amon, but he was nowhere to be found. Nagira offered her a cup, telling her that her partner had left earlier to gather information. Robin's downcast eyes voiced her dejection; after a few moments of silence, she declined the cup of coffee and asked to borrow the bicycle she used to ride to deliver paperwork to Nagira's clientele. He acquiesced and watched her leave, hoping she would be safe alone. Amon had not given him any instructions on what Robin should do in his absence, but Nagira was pretty sure that the hunter would be angered if anything happened to her.
The bicycle glided along on the sidewalk. Before she had lived in hiding at Nagira's office, she had rarely ridden one. She preferred her Vespa over any other form of transportation. Nuns didn't ride bicycles often at the convent she had served in; it had been considered unbefitting. And it was also very awkward, given the long, conservative habits she had worn. But the messenger outfit Robin had rediscovered this morning allowed for much more freedom of movement and she had learned to manage a bike quite well during her stint as a courier.
Robin wasn't entirely sure what she was seeking. Perhaps she just wanted to be on the move, to not feel obligated to wait for Amon to reappear. She was tired of him ditching her, making her feel either burdensome or completely useless. Something was going on behind those cold, grey eyes; she could sense it. He was hiding something. For him to have any expression break through his mask of neutrality was almost unthinkable, but it had happened. She'd never known him to be anything but a very measured man. His now occasional changes in demeanor made her uneasy.
The world outside was as grey as her bedroom had been when she had first opened her eyes this morning. The dark clouds swarming overheard were swollen with rain. It looked as if it would start pouring any minute. Robin decided she'd better find shelter and pedaled faster.
She cycled along at a fast pace, but came to an abrupt stop as a very familiar face appeared from the shadows of an alley.
Shock and fear drained the color from Robin's face as she braked to a halt. “Doujima?!?!?” The young witch's emerald eyes widened and she backed away slowly, distrustful of the other woman. A streak of blinding lightning sprang from the clouds above and the low crescendo of thunder followed; the first warnings of an imminent downpour.
Doujima smiled briefly and put a finger to her lips, then motioned for Robin to follow her into the alleyway. After a bout of hesitation, Robin trailed after her, bicycle in tow.
“Robin, it's so good to see you again!” Doujima whispered enthusiastically. But despite her fervent greeting, the blonde-haired hunter appeared extremely wary, possibly more so than Robin. The fire-witch eyed her in curiosity, wondering why the other woman was so jumpy. She noted that Doujima was dressed fashionably as usual, but she had two new accessories: a sling and a cast for her right arm.
“Doujima, is everything all right?” she tried to ask in as calm a manner as possible. The blonde's apprehension was rubbing off on Robin despite her efforts to stay composed. The sky growled again and the first sprinkles began to fall sparsely to the ground.
“Mm? …Oh, you mean the cast?” Doujima shifted her immobilized arm, an expression of mild discomfort flickering across her face. “It's nothing. I broke my arm trying to escape yesterday.” Something was distracting Doujima; she would normally whine about something like a broken arm, not just shrug it off. The two women inched a little further into the alleyway, hoping to find some shelter to escape the rain shower that was sure to come. “Are you and Amon… did you escape together? We searched for you, and Solomon couldn't find your bodies. Although they found Zaizen's…” Doujima's voice quavered strangely.
Amon would be unhappy with her for doing so, but Robin answered anyway. “Yes, we escaped Factory together. We got out relatively unharmed.” She knew better than to mention the manner of their escape, and it seemed Doujima was satisfied with Robin's response. “What about… What about the others? Are they all okay?” The young witch was almost afraid to ask, anxiety growing in her eyes.
“W-well, Michael, Miho, and I… we got out safely. None of us is… terribly injured, just shaken up. But, Sakaki…” Her voice trailed off.
“W-what about Sakaki?” Now Robin's heart was racing and her eyes widened, afraid of what the answer might be. Please don't tell me he's dead!
Doujima shook her head, a mixture of emotions playing across her face. “We don't know where he is now, but… he's not dead.”
Without warning, the rain suddenly began to pour down in sheets. The two women stood there for a moment, the rain battering their trench coats and soaking their hair; they had found no shelter in the alleyway. But the rain was the least of their worries.
Robin couldn't shake the sinking sensation in the pit of her stomach. If Sakaki wasn't dead, then why was Doujima acting so upset?